Friday, January 4, 2019

Celeste Barclay

Happy New Year and happy beginnings


Hello Reader,

I'm afraid my blog has been dreadfully neglected the last few months.  I keep thinking about it, but then, well, life happens.  I enjoy blogging, but just like journaling when I was in school, I never seem to remember to do it.  Or if I do remember, it's never at the right time to sit down and write.

What's kept me away from blogging?

New Releases

The past four months have been a whirlwind of activity!  Let me give you a little timeline.

August 31, 2018- Publish His Bonnie Highland Temptation The Clan Sinclair Book 2
September 2018-Write His Highland Prize The Clan Sinclair Book 3
Oct 1-15, 2018-Write, edit, publish Their Highland Beginning The Clan Sinclair Book 0 Prequel Novella
Oct 15-Nov 1, 2018-Edit and publish His Highland Prize (#1 New Release on Amazon)
November 2018-National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge to write 100k word book in a month.  I did it in just under three weeks.  Woowee!
December 3, 2018-Publish His Highland Pledge The Clan Sinclair Book 4 (# 1 New Release on Amazon)
December 2018-Write His Highland Surprise The Clan Sinclair Book 5
January 8, 2019- Publish NEW RELEASE His Highland Surprise

So yeah, it's been busy along with working and family and the holidays and etc...

Happy Endings

It's rather bittersweet knowing that The Clan Sinclair has come to an end.  It was always intended to be a five book series.  Adding the prequel novella was an unexpected add-on halfway in.  I haven't sent any kids off to college yet, but I imagine it's a little bit like the same feeling.  My characters are all grown up, have left home (sort of), and have families of their own. 

 I'm empty nesting!

The feedback and support I have gotten over the past four months since things really started to take off, has been incredible.  I can't believe how supportive and encouraging y'all are!  It's awesome to read the reviews and know that my stories that ramble around in my head are bringing you enjoyment.  My purpose is to offer a little escape from reality where you can imagine yourself as any or all of the characters and know you'll find your happily ever after. 

We need it.  We need the break from reality.  We need the break from responsibility.  We need the chance to use our imaginations.  

We're encouraged to imagine when we're children, but once we reach our teens, it often gets stifled with "serious stuff."  I like having a creative outlet, and I like sharing that with others.

So that leads me to...

Happy Beginnings

I'm granting myself the month of January off to get caught up on my own pleasure reading.  My list is growing by the day, and I'm antsy to hit my backlog.  The trade-off on not having an infinite amount of time every day is that something has to give, and lately it's been my own pleasure reading.

I have several books by Cecelia Mecca, Amy Jarecki, and Emma Prince to get caught up on along with Jayne Castel has at least one new release.

I'm going to be part of four anthologies!  There are two sets, each with a regular steamy novella and an erotica/kinky novella.  The first set has a pirate theme, and the second set will be for Christmas (still historical).  Look for these in 2019 and 2020.  I'm SUPER excited about the authors that I'm working with.  I feel like I'm sitting at the grown-ups' table now.

But most exciting (at least for me) is the NEW SERIES!  I already have the next four book series rolling around in my noggin, and it's dying to come out.  This will be a Viking series with five friends.  There is a brother, a sister, their cousin, and two of their friends.  So in total, three guys and two gals.  In true Viking form, there will be sailing, pillaging, and a good dose of things best done behind closed doors (or in remote woods or maybe even the hull of a ship).

New Series: Viking Glory

The plan for the new series is to release the first book at the beginning of March and release about once a quarter after that.  I'm tired, y'all!  I can't keep up the book a month pace for the long haul.  I hope you'll be patient and keep coming back for more.  I'm excited to explore a new time period, location, and culture.  The first book will by Leif: Viking Glory Book One.  I've already started looking at images for the covers.

If you have storyline suggestions, send me a message.  I'd love to hear what you want.

That's my recap and news for now!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you the best for the New Year.

Happy reading, y'all.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Are you a success? How do authors know if they are successful?

 Hello Reader,

What is success anyway?

To each his own, I suppose...

I think a lot of authors, or people in general, ask themselves if they are successful. And the resounding answer is, "I dunno." I asked that question on a few of my social media threads, and the same answer came back over and over, other than "I dunno." It was what I feel is a rather trite qualitative answer: Success is whatever you make of it. And variations of that. Success might be selling one book. Success might be writing more than one book. Success is different for everyone.

Guess what... 

I already knew all of that. It still didn't answer my question, or at least they weren't satisfactory answers to me. I wanted something more quantitative. While I'm no formal mathematician, and I avoided a minor in Econ just so I wouldn't have to take Econometrics because that meant finally taking Calculus, I do like me some statistics (with two graduate degrees there was no way to avoid either Research Methods classes). I wanted objective answers, not subjective ones. I was lucky enough to stumble across an author, Sally Britton, in one Facebook group who led me to another Facebook group. While giving me that recommendation, she also, finally, gave me an answer that I could sink my teeth into.

And it was a doozy!  I took copious notes of which I'll give you the abridged version.

FAIL- First Attempt In Learning

I went into this little (ad)venture without having any clue what I was doing other than I wanted to write a book, pray that some people enjoyed it, and sell some copies.  I wrote it, edited it, published it, solicited reviews, and marketed it "all by myself"--apparently my favorite phrase as a preschooler-- and I had some "success."  This wasn't enough for me though.  I had already planned a series, and I wanted it to go somewhere.  Since I didn't enter into this with a business plan, I don't really count
Mairghread Sinclair and Tristan Mackay
book 1, His Highland Lass, as my launching pad, but rather how I tested the water.  Book 2, His Bonnie Highland Temptation, has really been my launching pad.

My steps come from someone who knows.
Since I really count my second book as my launch, I would say that Sally and I had a fairly similar start with royalties in the $100s for our first month.  When I heard this, I felt like I was talking to someone with whom I could relate.  I wasn't talking to someone who blew me so far out of the water that there was no hope of catching up.

Sally stumbled upon The Writing Gals and realized that she needed a lead magnet, which she wrote and uploaded.

Sally's second month, where she still had only one book published for sale, saw a growth of about $40s.  During her second month, she plunged into steps 2-4 below and published her second book.  By the end of her third month, she made her $500/month goal.  Month four was spent writing and marketing for her, and she focused on newsletter trades, giveaways, and creating her own Facebook readers group.  She ended the month with close to $1700 in royalties.

Month five was momentous!  Sally released her third book which happened to be in perfect sync with market demand for sweet romances (not quite my sub-genre), and she jumped to nearly $9k in royalties.  Wowzers!  She began listing on other sites such as EReaderNewsToday and Fussy Librarian.  She kept up with her Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads, swaps, and networking.

Month six was a breather from writing but not a breather from marketing.  She hosted a month-long Christmas in July style giveaway.  She networked with other authors to have more to offer; along with that, she marked down a book to free each weekend that month, and her royalties jumped to $13.5k.

Month seven saw another new release with over 2,000 preorders at $2.99 a piece.  She's since pulled her original lead magnet and put it up for sale.  Now, her books retail generally for $3.99.  That month, when I corresponded with her, she was projected to make $15.5k.

I'm willing to take her advice and believe her on how to quantify success.

Steps to success

1. Set a goal for how much you would like to earn.  In education, we talk about backward planning.  This basically means determine where you want to end up, and then figure out the plan to get there.  $500 a month sounds good to me!  That would pay for my writing expenses and give me some extra pin money.

2. Find some experts who already paved the path.  Sally recommended that I check out The Writing Gals on Facebook which led me to their YouTube channel, and I am SO glad that I did.  Oh, Mylanta!  I have found the proverbial pot of gold.  There are weekly podcasts that cover EVERYTHING an author could want to know.  There are episodes about writing for the romance genre which includes plotting storylines, picking or identifying tropes (the premise or theme of a story), and editing.  In this area, I felt pretty solid.  

It was the publishing information that blew me away! Double oh, Mylanta!  When I say publishing information, I don't refer to uploading it to a distribution channel.  I'm talking about everything that goes along with it after it's on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Kobo, etc.  

And here we go...

3. Lead magnets for authors are a thing, a really good thing.  I'd heard of these from other marketing experiences, but I didn't know it was a thing for books.  It makes complete sense, but as I've said numerous types before (see just about every other post I've written so far), I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  Sally gave me a brief explanation of the concept, and then I turned to The Writing Gals for a more in-depth explanation.  I was in the middle of book 3 at this point, so I pushed through and finished writing that at the middle of September.  I then put that work in progress (WIP) off to the side to let it rest, and I churned out a lead magnet.  I started writing it on September 23rd and wrote the last period on October 4th.  It's a prequel novella that's close to 90 pages or 40,000 words.  I edited, got a cover, and just uploaded it to Book Funnel, My Book Cave, and Prolific Works (formally Instafreebie).  That resting WIP is now onto edits and revisions so it will be available on November 1st.
                I should pause for a moment and explain lead magnets in case you were like me
                and don't know what I'm talking about at this point.  A lead magnet is a book that
                will draw readers into your series or even your brand.  It's often free and a novella.
                Readers agree to sign up for your newsletter, and they receive the download in return. 
FREE with newsletter subscription
                It helps to build your following.
I uploaded my book to these three sites late (I could barely keep my eyes open) on October 11th.  I woke up this morning (Oct 13) to see that my piddly little six-person newsletter had grown to 137 subscribers in essentially a day.  As of right now, on Book Funnel, I have had 152 views with 138 downloads.  That's a 90% conversion rate! It's been downloaded 23 times so far today alone.  My Book Cave has only yielded 8 leads with 5 downloads, but Prolific Works hasn't yielded anything yet.  That said, I have joined 3 giveaways that haven't started yet on Prolific Works, and I've joined giveaways on Book Funnel and My Book Cave.  
While it feels a little contradictory to give away my book when I want to make money off of them, I consider this to be the seed that hopefully germinates and grows my brand.                                                                         
4. Newsletter swaps are a terrific way to cut down your legwork and get higher returns.  I've spent HOURS UPON HOURS of seeking reviews and having some people decline, many never respond, or a few don't follow through (that irks because I just gave away my book for absolutely nothing).  I've joined about four newsletter swap groups on Facebook, and am getting ready to send out my second newsletter on Monday (sign up on this site for your free book!).  Now that I have over a hundred subscribers, I feel like this edition might be going somewhere.  I include information about my works in progress with teasers, a link to this blog, and recommendations for other books (there's the swap part).

5. Marketing and more marketing goes beyond just the newsletter swaps and networking.  There is also product placement.  I've written before about marketing so I won't elaborate much here.  I have used AMS ads before and gotten pretty good returns, but it's REALLY EASY to spend more than you make.  I've used Facebook ads to grow my following on there, but haven't had terrific returns on building my following on here or selling my books (though I am willing to revisit the book ads since many people have had success using them).  I also want to check out EReaderNewsToday and the Fussy Librarian, among other sites.  As you may have read on my earlier posts, that I considered the blog tours, but I haven't done any yet.  I haven't ruled that out either, but I have noticed that the reviews that I thought would be my lifeblood (according to just about everyone) haven't been a requirement to actually getting sales.  I'm sure having some help, and more might be better, but it hasn't prevented me from selling nearly 80 ecopies outright, a couple of paperbacks, and nearly 50,000 pages read (that doesn't include people who downloaded it but haven't read it yet) which is His Bonnie Highland Temptation.  Even book 1, which really feels like it launched at the same time as book 2 since it got a professional cover then and really felt more legit has sold 53 ecopies, also a couple of paperbacks, and had 22,251 pages read or nearly 160 copies.
Callum Sinclair and Siusan Mackenzie
about 235 copies of a book that's been on Amazon for only 6 weeks.  I'm talking about book 2, 

So if you're still wondering what success is,

Success is setting a goal and attaining it, but success is when there is demand, consistently and ongoing for whatever you have to offer.  It involves consistently growing your brand. As an author, I think this means increasing your sales month after month.  It means expanding your brand awareness so that you rank higher with each release. It means gaining more followers on your social media and having actual engagement with them. It means positive reviews with readers asking for more.  It might even mean being asked to speak at conferences or guest blog for other authors or reviewers.  A few awards and accolades certainly don't hurt.  Who knows, maybe becoming famous, at least in your genres lit rings, is the ultimate sign of success.  But for me, it's more than just "success is what makes you feel good."  It's quantifiable and qualifiable.  So while I don't think I'm yet a success as an author, I do have a better plan to achieve it and measure it.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Celeste Barclay

I Told You So and Book Covers

Hello Readers,

I'm a cliche, or at least the lessons I learned are...

Well, I can say that I am learning my lesson when it comes to book covers.  

I will have learned it completely, I anticipate, when sales improve.  It's been almost three weeks since I last posted, but that's because of all the learning I've been busy doing.  I bit the bullet and decided to have my two book covers completely redone by a professional graphic artist (The Write Designer).  It is like every cliche I can think of, but most particularly, it's like night and day.  I liked the covers that I designed, but I do not have the software or the means to keep the vivid image alive when it is loaded to KDP.  No matter what I tried, it always looked flat and low resolution.

His Highland Lass Cover 1
His Highland Lass Cover 1

His Highland Lass Cover Image 2
His Highland Lass Cover Image 2

DIY Covers...that flop

I have just enough graphic design (and html) knowledge to be dangerous.  

I have used Pixlr before for other projects, and it has worked really, really well.  It's like a free, mini Photoshop online software. I can adjust the image in any number of ways and even create layers.  I also use Adobe Spark for a lot of marketing images, promo videos, and for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook images.  However, even with the combination of these two online platforms, and online optimizers, I could not get the resolution (DPI) high enough to create a good quality cover.  I tried over and over again to increase the DPI, but no matter what I did, KDP kept telling me my images were between 70 and 90 DPI.  That's a very long way from 300.

His Highland Lass Cover with Plaid
His Highland Lass Cover 3

Why, you ask.

Why did I think that I could make the covers myself?  

His Highland Lass Cover 4 with banner
His Highland Lass Cover 4

Why didn't I listen to ALL the advice that I read over and over and over again on so many sites and in so many articles?  The answer is simple: I didn't want to spend the money.  When I first started this adventure, I had a story that I wanted to tell and a book that I wanted to attempt to sell.  I wanted to see if I could do it well enough for someone, anyone, to buy.  Even with my multiple versions of my rinky dink cover, I did manage to sell, either through paid purchases or Kindle Unlimited, over a 100 copies in the first 3-4 months of His Highland Lass.  I chose to invest in marketing through paid ads on Amazon and Facebook (shared with Instagram).  I got mixed results with those, and that is for another post.  Now that I've seen that my writing can hold water, I think it's time to up the ante (yes, another two cliches).

Old adages and more cliches...

Haven't we all heard that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover?  

And don't we all still do it anyway?  A book with a great cover can turn out to be a dud, but we were wooed by the enticing cover.  We have all most likely missed out on great gems that never saw the light because the cover wasn't appealing, and we assumed that the story wouldn't be either.  I know that I have been guilty of this.  I know I am still guilty of this, and yet, I still didn't invest in a professional cover for my own work.  A large part of that was also because I didn't have a solid marketing plan before the release of my first book.  I'm still developing it, and my second book book releases in five days.

Another reason why, to go back a step or two, was the cost.  Or at least the perceived cost.  I wasn't sure that sinking $200 for my cover would be worth it.  I worried that I would be in the hole before I even started.  I didn't look at it as an investment.  Now that I have spent approximately that amount on advertising with mixed results, I realize that my first step should have been the cover---are you learning through my repetition? Not to beat a dead horse, but...

Sticker shock fades when it's the right investment for the right price.

Through the wonderfully interwoven world of Twitter, Instagram, and Google, I started to learn more about book cover designers that my initial search for images afforded me.  Once I accepted that I needed to have the covers done by a pro, it seemed like designers were popping out of the woodwork everywhere.  Some of the designers I stumbled across almost made me swallow my tongue with the number of digits after the dollar sign.  Anything with four numbers after the dollar sign with no decimal in sight was immediately ruled out.  I'm no where near that, and honestly, I've seen some amazing work (and even recognized a ton of covers) from designers in the $99-$200 range.  I've learned to live with that amount.

I found and narrowed down to three different designers who had pre-made covers around $99-$120.  I was tempted by any and all three, but I quickly thought about the fact that I'm writing a series.  I needed to take that into consideration and find a designer who could make at least five similar covers.  I also have a rapidly approaching deadline for the new release, His Bonnie Highland Temptation, and I wanted to redo (as in completely start from scratch) for His Highland Lass.  I needed a designer who I was willing to afford for two back to back covers, who could meet my ridiculous deadline of a week and a half, and who would be willing to take on a series.  I reached out to the three designers I'd narrowed it down to, and decided (very happily and incredibly impressed) to move forward with Lisa Messsegee of The Write Designer.  Lisa has created a cover for His Bonnie Highland Temptation in what felt like overnight.  She's been so helpful with little bits of advice here and there.  I am eternally grateful that I turned this project over to her knowledgeable hands.

Moral of the story:

I recently read one of Aesop's fables to my students for a lesson on visualizing what we read.  "The Frogs at the End of the Rainbow" is about three frogs who want diamonds, gold, and pearls.  They hear that they exist where the rainbow ends which happens to be a dark cave with a snake that eventually eats them.  The moral of the story was: from out greatest hopes can come our greatest disappointments.  My hopes were to write a book that people would enjoy while getting away with designing my own cover to save a little money.  The quality of my work was disappointing, and I suspect that I will feel even more disappointed in my own art after sales pick up thanks to real cover art.

Invest in the professional cover design, and do yourself a favor by freeing up your time and labor for what you excel in: writing.

Cover reveal for His Bonnie Highland Temptation!

His Bonnie Highland Temptation The Write Designer
His Bonnie Highland Temptation Pro Cover
 The Write Designer (Lisa Messegee)

What do you think about using professional cover art?  Do you agree or disagree with my opinion?

Comments are always welcome, and I respond to all of them personally.  

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Celeste Barclay

How long do you keep your book publicity going? (Part 2)

Hello Reader,

We are back for phases 2 and 3 of how long do you keep your book publicity going.  This is where we will look at long-lead media which is essentially your long term relationships for publicity.  If you didn't catch Phase 1, check out part 1 to read about getting your publicity strategy going with social media.

Phase 2: Long-Lead Publicity

Typically, this is what your publicist would research and create, but there is a good chance that if you're an indie author and self-publishing, your publicity team is you, yourself, and well, you.  So what is a long-lead?  Like I just said, it's like your long term relationship.  It is print media that needs to be sought and booked anywhere from 3 to 6 months in advance.  They need a "long lead" up time to fit your review, promotion, or advertisement into their schedule.  It takes time to cultivate these relationships if you don't have the backing of a big name or a well established name in the publicity world to back you.

If you're still not sure what I'm talking about, think of Publisher's WeeklyO, the Oprah Magazine; Reader's Digest; and Booklist. These print outlets begin lining up their content months in advance and often only feature books during the month they are released.  This keeps them current and relevant.  This requires you to use forward planning and consider the publicity landscape.

You need to ask yourself some questions:

1. When do I think I will release my new book?
2. What type of magazine or print media would be interested?
3. How do I get in touch with them to find out their lead time?
4.  Do I have enough time?  If yes, how do I submit my work?

Once you've answered these questions, you'll have a better idea of how to proceed.  If you think that print media is a way to go, then you'll want to craft an email that can be sent to all the outlets that desire an advanced look at your work.  This will give them time to read, digest, and then review your work.

Long leads are especially important for works of fiction!

For non-fiction, the needs of the individual outlets can vary.  If you send out your inquiry too far in advance, it will get forgotten and too close to publication will result in a "no".  You will want to research the lead times and stagger your email approach to meet the requirements of the outlet.

So far this has been fairly general advice on how to seek out long lead media outlets, but....

Not all media outlets are created equally...

Phase 3: Short-lead Publicity

This phase generally takes place when the book is finished and almost ready for release.  With the long-lead publicity inquiries, you might still be writing chapter three of thirty three when you start reaching out.  With short-lead publicity, your work should be ready to go on demand.  These are your local daily newspapers, your online outlets, most radio and TV.  This can run over into the first month or two of the book being on sale.  This where you can go to town in a sense.  You can send out your email blitzes to hundreds of outlets to try and get at least a handful or two to bite. From what I can have read, it seems that many of the big publicity firms will pitch books to hundreds(!!!) of outlets for each campaign.  With so many options, it might make your wonder whether your publicity should or could ever stop.  

Remember the law of diminishing returns...

You can spend an exhausting amount of energy trying to capture the attention of those hundreds of outlets that I just mentioned, but remember they often have smaller audiences than the long-lead outlets which by their very nature tend to be major media sources.  It takes time to find those hundreds of outlets, to do your research, to send out inquiries, to follow up, to come to an agreement, and then it's a comparatively smaller audience.  If it's you, yourself, and you, then using this much time and energy will only get your less of a return on your investment of (wo)man hours.

So what is the takeaway from Phases 1, 2, and 3?

Phase 1:

This is where you reach out to your more organic and direct followers to build your media platform and begin your strategy.  You create the subscriber lists and the newsletters for direct email.  You use your social media accounts to share your blog posts, articles of interest, and information about your books.  This is the micro version of your publicity and probably should have started a week ago. Duration: Ongoing but largely at time of release

Phase 2:

This is your entry into macro publicity.  This is the long-lead publicity and requires a strategy to be in place well in advance of your newest work's release.  You will be reaching out to the larger media outlets and trying to snag their attention upwards of 3-6 months before your release.  Create a list of potential publications, generate a standard long-lead inquiry email, and send it out.  Follow up periodically as needed. Duration: 3-6 months PRIOR to your release

Phase 3:

This is your OMG my book is almost ready for sale.  Use your smaller publicity outlets when your book is ready to go.  They need less time to plan for your feature.  You will need to approach many to get a few, but that is the case with all publicity campaigns. Duration: 1-2 months from your release 

And the upshot is...

When your publicity ends, you can still market your books.  

1. Use the resources you developed and implemented during phase 1.  
2. Use Facebook and Twitter to link to your reviews.  You can boost/promote these posts to keep a wide reach.  
3. Use Instagram and #bookstagram to post pictures of your cover on an ongoing basis to keep it fresh and memorable.  
4. If you ordered print copies to send off to long-lead outlets and you have leftovers, do a giveaway on Goodreads and use Facebook to advertise it.
5. Check with reviewers to see if they offer a newsletter where you can purchase ad space for quotes from their review.

Hopefully this will help you gain a better understanding of the different phases of publicity and what to do when it comes to an end.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Celeste Barclay

His Highland Lass

His Highland Lass available on Amazon paperback or Kindle

An undeniable love... an unexpected match...

Faced with a feud with the Sinclairs that is growing deadly, Laird Tristan Mackay is bound by duty to his clan to make peace with the enemy.  Tristan arranges a marriage for his stepbrother, Sir Alan, but never imagines that he would meet the woman he longs to marry.  When things sour quickly between Tristan's stepbrother and Lady Mairghread Sinclair, Tristan is determined to make her his.  A choice that promises to change his life forever.
Raised with four older warriors for brothers and as the only daughter of the Sinclair laird, Mairghread is independent resourceful, and loyal to her family.  When her father arranges a marriage to a man she has never met for the sake and safety of her clan, Mairghread tries to accept her fate.  Mairghread is betrothed to one man but it is the dark, handsome, and provocative laird who catches her eye. Arranged to marry Sir Alan, Mairghread finds herself drawn to Laird Tristan Mackay.  After meeting her intended, Mairghread knows she cannot go through with the marriage, but she must find a way to end the feud that is tearing the two clans apart.   
When the wedding is called off by Mairghread's father, Tristan and Mairghread see an opportunity to be together.  Neither of them imagined that they would find the passion that grows between them.  However, a spurned mistress and a jilted suitor stand between Tristan and Mairghread's happiness.  Tristan and Mairghread must fight for the love they have found with one another.

Destined for another...

Mairghread Sinclair is not prepared for the danger that awaits her while visiting the Mackay clan.  She must use her wits to keep herself alive when dangers pulls her away from the man she loves.

Fated to be together...

Laird Tristan Mackay was not looking for a wife, but could Lady Mairghread Sinclair be the one to open his heart and bring peace to their clans, or will their passion tear the two clans apart?

Meet the members of Clan Sinclair in this first installment of the five book Highland romance series.  The Clan Sinclair features Mairghread and her four brothers, Callum, Alexander, Tavish, and Magnus.  Each member of the Scottish clan faces challenges as they meet their fated match, but all of the Sinclairs find their HEA.  Each novel in the series is a stand alone, but they are best read together.
Celeste Barclay

How long do you keep your book publicity going? (Part 1)

Book publicity

Hello Reader,

This is a tough question to answer.  How long do you keep your book publicity going?  I suppose the first question to answer is: what type of publicity do you use?  If you check back on a couple of my previous posts, including the one that I wrote most recently ("Marketing your own Books and Ebooks"), I have a few suggestions on ways to market your book.

Among the most popular seem to be blog tours, tweet blasts, email blasts, and REVIEWS, REVIEWS, and some more REVIEWS.

But the reality is that this can get expensive fast.  Even buying product sponsor ads can add up quickly if you have a low conversion rate, meaning plenty of people click your ad, but not as many actually buy your book.  This means that your Cost Per Click (CPC) outweighs your Estimated Total Sales.  If you're Actual Cost of Sales (ACoS) is greater than 100% that means you're spending more on ads than you're making.  In other words, you're in the red.  Now, this can fluctuate, but if you see a a steady pattern of being in the red, you need to reevaluate some factors:
your ad, your cover, your book description, and your book content
Vague, isn't it?

Before you launch yourself into a social media blitz...

You must have a clear vision of how you want to position yourself in the market.  Before you seek help from a professional or even go it alone, you need to see the bigger picture of how you, the author, want to be presented on your book jacket, your bio, social media and website, and your press releases.

Before you spend more on ads, consider your book's first impression.

You have a limited amount of space within your ad, so make sure you maximize what you have to say to draw a potential reader to the "Look Inside" or to directly purchase/download your book.
Not to beat a dead horse, but what is the quality of your book cover?  I am rapidly learning how much value really should be placed on this aspect.  I already know that I will need to take a different approach to this.  My understanding of how this market works grows daily, and I find that my thoughts and plans are evolving even from just a week ago.

Do not for a moment underestimate the necessity of a strong book description.  This is often written well after you've finished writing your book.  This is a first impression for your book.  Does it shake your hand with confidence, or is it more like a loose, floppy hand?  My advice in this area, if you don't have access to someone who writes copy for a living, is to read several descriptions of your favorite books.  Look for trends in their descriptions, such as, common thoughts, recurring words, and the emotions they trigger.  Just as importantly, look at books that you decided not to read because the description just didn't convince you.  Evaluate whether it was the way the description was written or was it really just the story that didn't grab you.  Basically, see what you want to emulate and see what you want to avoid.

Finally, if someone uses the "Look Inside" and sees writing that is not well developed or riddled with errors, then your content may be the problem.  That's an entirely separate post for another day.  Suffice it to say, you may have a bigger project on your hands.

Are you seeing a pattern in my message?  What is the big picture?  Before you start, you must have a strategy.

To be honest, I didn't have a well developed strategy before I got started.  I didn't know what my options were or exactly what I was getting myself into.  I've learned by doing...maybe I can save you some bumps and bruises along the way.

Publicity Tools of the Trade

Phase 1

As you plan your strategy for the next stage, and a strategy is a must, you need to consider who you are and what you're trying to achieve.  Beyond knowing you need to publicize, you need to strategize your positioning and map that out.  In other words, what tools do you have access to, and how will you use them?

From what I've read, and it's been a lot lately almost to the detriment of my revisions, it seems that more experts and professionals agree that social media is essential.  The use of Twitter and Instagram are now staples to marketing your book.  Hop onto Twitter and follow authors and publishers.  You can fill your feed with over a 100 people to follow in just a few minutes with just those two categories.  Did you know that there is such a thing as bookstagram or rather its hashtag, #bookstagram?  This is a hashtag on Instagram that denotes pictures, videos, or stories that are specifically about books.  It's a newer platform for people to tag their posts that center on what they are reading, what they recommend, or to drive people to their blogs.  Just like "regular" Instagram, the key is to have aesthetically pleasing posts of book covers, people enjoying a book, or objects that evoke emotions related to plot, characters, and setting.  It has over 22 million posts, so this is not a fly by night resource.

There's still something that might just be more important than social media...   

I was opening a thank you card this morning (yes, people do still send those), and as my finger was pushing through the seal, I thought about letter openers.  More specifically, can you even buy those anymore?  While pencil and paper, snail mail correspondence has slowed over the past three decades, the need to correspond has not.  There is value in direct communication with a specific person as opposed to a half constructed thought or sentence that's blasted to your thousand followers.

Email newsletters lists are possibly the most powerful tool you can use once your main publicity campaign ends.  Engaging your (potential) readers with a more personalized and specific message makes them feel wanted and valued.  It also is a practical method for conveying more information than can be fit in a tweet or Instagram post.  Email newsletters should contain information that interests readers.  This includes your current project, projected release dates, snippets or teasers from your current project, your most recent reviews, and insights into your motivations or inspirations for your books.  You might even include small personal anecdotes, such as, recent travels, funny ideas as you're writing, amusing things said to you by readers.  These extra little touches make you seem more human and relatable in a relationship where you may never actually meet the person with whom you correspond.

But how, you ask

When you're still virtually a no name, it's hard to send out an email newsletter when you don't have anyone to send it to!  I'm still figuring out how to build followers so I can have enough subscribers to make a newsletter worth the time and effort.  A major way to get subscribers is to have a well constructed website.  I've been working on mine for the last week, and it's still a work in progress.  Do I invest the money to have it professionally designed to try to draw in more readers or do I wait until I make enough royalties to show I have enough readers to draw in?  The chicken and the egg.

In the mean time, I do have a pop up ad when you arrive on my site.  You might have noticed it.  I used Hubspot Free Marketing to create a form for people to fill out when they land on my page.  I designed this for free, and now it appears on my website when a visitor is here for at least 7 seconds or scrolls past the 50% point on any page.
Another method that I plan to try is to offer to guest blog for other writers and reviewers.  This is an opportunity for a wider readership to see your style and to connect to your website.  Conversely, you can ask bloggers and reviewers to guest blog on your page.  This is a different fork on the same path.  It drives readers to your page through a source they are already familiar with, like, and trust.

The paid route is to use a marketing company to send out email blasts and hope that people will subscribe.  This is certainly the method to gain the widest exposure rather than relying on organic traffic.

One final thought before I wrap up this post.  Try creating a newsletter and post it to your social media.  See if there are any bites and whether it sends any traffic to your site who might be converted into subscribers.  This is on my ever growing to-do list, but I think it's an important experiment to try.

This is the end of my suggestions on Phase 1.  My next post with examine Phase 2: Long Lead Media and the Media Landscape.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Why getting advice on book sales and marketing beats going it alone sometimes

Marketing your own books and ebooks

Hello Reader,

Marketing Your Own Books and EBooks

According to my parents, I was a late talker (you wouldn't know that now) and didn't start speaking in really complete sentences until I was about two and a half.  However...apparently, my first full phrase was "me do it myself."  If you know me, this would not be a surprise in the least.  I'm still reluctant to ask for help and more often than not would prefer to do things on my own---that way I can do it my way.  However, that can be self defeating in the end.

Last night, for example, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fix a few things on the layout of this site.  I have no formal education or training in HTML but have done some website design before by working with templates.  I have learned just enough HTML to be dangerous, or more realistically, frustrated.  When I am able to get the code to do what I want, it feels like a major sense of accomplishment.  My logical mind loves being able to solve how to make the code do what I envision.  Perhaps this would be nothing special to someone who actually knows how to code, but for me, I feel like shouting out my success.  This was something little.  Something that could easily be reset.  Something I could do on my own.

What I am learning that I can't do on my own is the marketing of my books.  In theory, I can.  I can take all the advised steps:

1. Design or have made a good book cover.
2. Make sure your content is strong and well edited.
3. Get on social media.
4. Reach out to bloggers for book reviews.
5 Etc, etc, etc.

But this doesn't really guarantee success in a highly competitive market.  If you want to compete, then you have to play like the winners.  This takes a strategy, and I think I've found one..

The Facts About Marketing Books and EBooks

According to Just Publishing Advice's April 2018 article, "Are You Self-Publishing Romance? Maybe You Should Be", romance novels hold 24% of the ebook market!  That's almost a quarter of all ebooks purchased are within the romance genre.  That makes for very steep competition indeed.

Furthermore, Flavorwire asks the question of why this genre is so successful.

"Books break out because they fulfill the very intense criteria of the best of the genre. Romance needs to hit beats that are driven by emotional investment in the story. The form, in some ways, is very prescribed, and what makes books interesting is what they do with that form. 'It’s a very visceral experience for readers...Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in different ways through romance, and those things are not to be discounted.' Romance readers want to feel everything, to care deeply about the relationship in the story, getting both turned on and thoroughly invested in whether or not the central relationship has a shot in a world that suffers cruel and delicious twists of fate, right up until the happy ending."
Sounds about right.  I think that one of the reasons why romance novels are so popular and in turn become so addictive lies in this phrase, "Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in a different way through romance..." To be honest, that's what got me hooked.  It allows me an escape from my regular responsibilities and everyday commitments of wife, mom, and educator.  It allows me to become whomever I want for the time it takes me to finish the novel.  Then I can move on to be someone else.  Does this sound familiar?  Sound about right?  Quite possibly.  Even if you do not write romance novels, books provide an escape and an opportunity to let our imaginations guide us.  Something that most adults, unfortunately, gave up doing as they left childhood.

When you consider why people choose romance novels and realize that it has a lion's share of the market, you start to see why you most likely cannot carve out a successful (and profitable, if that's your goal) niche within this field.

Don't judge a book by it's cover---but everyone else does.
I'm seeing a recurring theme throughout the articles that I read about successful authors.  The professionally designed cover is where it's at.  I think I will have to concede this point and jump on the bandwagon.  As of 2016, 68% of financially successful authors spent at least $100 but no more than $1,000 on a book cover.  In comparison, 44% of emerging authors spent at least $100 on a book cover which was an increase of 5% over the previous year.
"What Makes a $100K Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know"
In a similar vein, $100K authors employ professional editors.  While you might proofread and make revisions several times, your mind and your eye know what it is supposed to say, so it is easy to miss what it actually says.  The going rate for an editor to work on your manuscript seems to be as low at $50 but as high as $1,000.  I would venture to think that a substantial number of successful authors probably pay $250-$500.

Once you've sorted out your cover design (DIY or pro) and feel like you have a spiffy final copy (DIY or pro), you have to get your book out to the masses.  Simply loading it into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) isn't going to be nearly enough.

You must find a way to get people's attention.

Hiring Professional Book Marketing Services

Considering what you have just read about the use of professional cover design and professional editing, is really any surprise that the use of professional marketing services may be needed to help you break into this massive and popular niche?  At this point, hopefully it isn't a surprise.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your favorite author has time to write novel after novel, use social media, blog, do interviews, go to conferences, receives reviews?  Most likely they don't have that time, or they use their time more efficiently.

Book Publicity Companies Exist to Help Authors 

I've spent an exhausting amount of time in the last week learning as much as I can about the different book publicity companies or websites that exist to support authors along with the various popular blogs that post reviews.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, Twitter has been indispensably helpful in finding potential reviewers.  It has also led me to numerous book marketers.  In fact, it has provided me with so much information that I couldn't remember which sites I had already visited and which were new. 

To help me keep things straight, I had to start making some serious notes.  I created two Excel spreadsheets: one for review tracking and one for potential promotional sites.  The review tracker is very simple but extremely helpful.  This is how I set mine up.
Review Tracker

The one for the book promotions has several more columns to accommodate the various options that the marketers offer.  It can be overwhelming trying to remember which one does blog tours, which one does Twitter blasts or emails blasts, or which one lists your title(s).  I needed a way to compare each of their services and, even more importantly, their price.  Again, this is how I set up mine.

Book Promo List

I found that keeping track of what they offer in a visual layout makes it much easier for my to weigh my options.  Without this, I was having a hard time remembering which would offer me the most bang for my buck.  More critically and crucially, I was having a hard time remember which sites offered services that I think I want and need.

The Take Aways

1.  Unless you are a graphic designer, have knowledge and experience with graphic design or have access to the right software, or know a graphic designer, sooner or later, you will need to buy a custom, professional book cover.
2.  Even eagle eyes don't always spot what right in front of them.  After you've proofread at least twice, find an editor and send it off for a fresh perspective.
3. You can try to reach out to reputable and popular bloggers to try to convince them to review and advertise your book, but there's a good chance they'll charge you for at least the ads.  You also won't be able to reach as many people on Twitter and Facebook or via email as these companies that have miles long contact lists and followers.  They know how to word the posts and how to request exposure on the blogs.  Using a professional book promotion site to market your masterpiece, or rather manuscript, can take you from the obscure back of the pack to being (close to) a leader.  

I'm still evaluating my options, but I think I know who I am leaning towards.  Once I determine whether they are in the budget, I will let you know which one I pick.  It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that I will hire someone.

Did I miss something? If you have any extra tips, please share them in the comments below.

Happy reading, y'all,


Donnelly, E. (2015, February 13). How Amazon and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Created a Golden Age for Self-Published Romance Authors - and Why It May Already Be Over. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2LsNw4D

Ferol . (2017, July 18). What Makes a $100k Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2017/06/07/100k-author/

Haines, D., Orr, A., & HainesPost, D. (2018, April 12). Are You Self-Publishing Romance? - Maybe You Should. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2Ltq8DS