I'm thrilled today to have author Cheri Lasota guest posting at Jello World. I met Cheri some time ago through Authonomy, and she recently released her first novel, Artemis Rising, which I wholeheartedly recommend you all read.
Observations on book marketing from a converted enthusiast.
I used to be shy. Don’t quite know what happened…
I’ve been writing since I was a wee tyke, mainly because I was an introverted outcast that nobody wanted to play with. I lived my life in stories and it is there that I still remain. But along the way, as I grew in the craft and learned more about online and offline marketing, I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and was able to interact with people without becoming exhausted. This was a two-decade long process, but I’m here to tell you that it certainly needn’t take that long for you (even if you are the classic introverted writer).
Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way, but perhaps these five insights below will help your journey toward publication success run more smoothly than my own did.
Think of your book as a product.
When I finally figured this out (and yes, the moment was complete with choirs of angels singing and lightbulbs flashing obnoxiously over my head), here’s what happened:
- I learned how to cut fifty pages of extraneous crap from my manuscript. No, no! Not my darlings. Yes, oh yes. Snip, snip, snip… By the end, I was wielding my bloody red pen with terrifying glee.
- Marketing became a joy, not a masochistic form of exhaustive torture.
- Agent rejection letters became a reason to send out three more. Seriously, I was thrilled to receive these. It just meant I no longer had to wait for a reply from that agent.
- Critiques from writing groups, publishers, and friends became exercises in growing my craft. I took the good advice, ignored the bad, and stuck to my guns when it came to keeping my vision for this story intact. I didn’t take the opinions of others personally.
- I started to have the overwhelming desire to learn every aspect of writing: marketing, business development, and craft as well as ebook and website design.
Now doesn’t that all sound wonderful? It is! And you can do it too. But it isn’t an easy mental process. Our novels start out as our babies, our ‘lil dawlins. How to kick them to the curb and make them earn their keep? Make the decision to see your book as merely a product that will soon be for sale. And keep making that decision until you believe it, through and through. Every choice is a decision you make over and over. Until you choose something else, of course. But hey, you’re next novel…let that be your baby and let this one go. Never thought I’d say this but…Be Your Novel’s Pimp!
Take stock of what you love to do.
When it comes to all the things that make up a writing career, what do you love most?
- social networking
- book design
- socializing (commiserating?) with other writers
If it’s none of the above, you’re seriously in the wrong career. =) If all you chose in this list was writing, I hope you have a lot of cash on hand. Here’s the thing, you can do one of two things—especially as an indie author: learn to do it yourself or pay someone else to do it. Neither option is inherently wrong. But assessing your strengths and weaknesses will help you create a game plan for putting together a quality product (there’s that dirty word again!).
You’ve got to know what you’re good at and also what you love to do. Usually those are synonymous but not always. Once you know, you can focus on putting those strengths and talents to work for you as you go about selling your book.
Pay attention to what you aren’t good at.
As for me, I love everything but that writing bit at the beginning of the list in Section 2. Funny I should say that, right? I know that for me, the writing part is the most difficult and tedious. I’m an editor by trade after all. So here’s how I get around that tiny insignificant issue… I only write during National Novel Writing Month. Yup. It’s true. (I’m working on my second novel right now.) NaNoWriMo keeps me motivated, inspired, and away from my evil editor pen. I know this about myself and took a positive step toward working around it.
Ironically, I’m also not the best blogger. I tend to write very detailed, informative posts which take me a week to put together. Because of that, I procrastinate and don’t write them very often. I am very well aware of this. So I choose to focus more of my time on social networking and other marketing plans. If a blog topic just won’t leave me alone, I’ll carve out some time to get it written, but that might be once every two months or so. I’m fine with that.
Figure out what’s taking too much of your time and energy or what you aren’t currently skilled at. Can you spend less time on that task? Can you pay someone else to do it? Spend the most time on the elements of your career that bring you satisfaction, motivation, joy, and sales, and you’ll find that book marketing isn’t as hard as it first seemed.
Decide what you have the time and desire to learn.
I knew how to write, edit, and market by the time my book was about to be published (though I still continue to educate myself on all three whenever I have time). What I didn’t know and had a deep desire to learn was ebook design. At first, I was afraid to attempt it. But then, I found Lynda.com.
Never heard of it? Oh man, when I discovered it, I went hog-wild. It’s an educational website of online video tutorials for any software you can think of. I learned basic HTML, iMovie, InDesign CS5.5, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop CS5, and Illustrator CS5. And I hope to learn HTML5, Advanced Photoshop, and Flash sometime soon. You get unlimited access for $25 a month (and you can cancel at any time).
I sound like a saleswoman, but we no longer have an excuse for not learning these things if we want to. And I can’t tell you how much this knowledge has aided me in producing my ebook from scratch (with advanced HTML coding to design graphical titles and interactive features), creating and manipulating sales materials and graphics, and upgrading my website with new and improved design elements.
It’s empowering to learn a new skill. Don’t assume you can’t learn new computer skills. Take the time. Cultivate patience. Don’t give in to frustration. Ask questions. Google for the answers!
Assess, assess, assess.
I’m still stuck on this step myself. What exactly am I harping on? Well, all the book marketing time you use up isn’t going to amount to much unless you know which of your marketing avenues are paying off and which aren’t. As published authors, we need to analyze the time we spend on
- communicating on our social networks
- advertising on book lover sites like Goodreads.com
- working the traditional marketing angle (like beating the pavement at conferences and writers faires)
- cultivating ebook vs. paperback sales
Why? To ensure that you’re not wasting time on activities, which aren’t making you any money. It’s like paying thousands of dollars for an ad that’s directed toward an audience that isn’t even part of your target market. Stick with what’s working. In fact, double up on what’s working and spend much less time on what isn’t.
Here are some questions to get you thinking:
- Study your Amazon.com sales figures. Are your ebook sales far outclassing your paperback sales? Is the cost of shipping the paperback outweighing your actual sales?
- How many hours a day are you spending on Facebook and Twitter? Are you actually communicating with your target market on those sites or just your other writer friends?
- Do you know how to effectively use these sites for marketing or are you too lazy to read expert articles and learn from your friends on how to do it better?
- Are you paying attention to sales numbers each time you roll out a new marketing campaign?
Focus on the end result so you can fine-tune the time and money you devote to marketing. The end result of that? More time for writing. Isn’t that what we all want? Good luck!
SpireHouse Books launched Cheri Lasota’s first novel, Artemis Rising, in Sept 2011. The book is a YA historical fantasy based on mythology and set in the exotic Azores Islands. Currently, Cheri is writing and researching her second novel, a YA set on the Oregon Coast. Over the course of her sixteen-year career, she has edited fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and short stories for publication. Cheri also has twenty-four years of experience writing poetry and fiction. Learn more about Artemis Rising at http://www.cherilasota.com or buy it at http://bit.ly/ArtemisRisingNovel.