To Vlog or Not to Vlog?

My First Vlog Interview

black action camera
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.

Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”

Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.

My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)

At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.

I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.

A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”

The answer is “YES!”

 

What is a Thunderclap?

Secret confession:  I sometimes find marketing my own books tedious and frustrating. (Shocking, isn’t it?) I’ve made full use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out, but my reach is limited and I’ve had to face the cold truth that not all of my friends and family want to read my books, much less help me with marketing. I decided to try something new with the recent release of my second YA novel, Barn Shadows. Enter Thunderclap

You might be wondering, what is a Thunderclap? Basically, it is an online crowdspeaking platform that allows you to connect with other people’s social media accounts in order share a message. First, you have to create a campaign. (For example, my campaign was the Book Launch for Barn Shadows.) Within your campaign, you can post photos, write some backstory, and link to a website. Next, you invite people to join your Thunderclap. They will receive a message informing them of the date and time that your Thunderclap message will go out and they can choose whether to authorize their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) to share the message. I timed my Thunderclap to go out on the day of my book release. It’s fun to watch your social reach grow as each person joins your Thunderclap.

Here’s what my Thunderclap page looked like a few days prior to my set date…

Thunderclap photo

Thunderclap is free, as long as you reach the required number of supporters (100). There are also paid versions for people who can’t reach up to 100 supporters. I joined a Facebook group where people supported each other’s Thunderclap campaigns. Between the Facebook group and my friends, family and writing colleagues, I easily reached 100 supporters by my end date. Here’s what my final numbers and social reach looked like…

Thunderclap photo2

So I reached 230,672 people, instead of just 3,000 of my own Twitter followers and 250 of my Facebook followers. I was happy I took a chance on Thunderclap. It worked out for me, as I saw a big spike in sales on the first day my book was released. I have to assume at least some of those sales were generated by the increased exposure from the Thunderclap campaign. It was easy to use and FREE. I recommend giving it a try to any of my fellow authors who have a book release coming up. What do you have to lose?

Book Marketing (that Works!)

Those of us who have authored and published a book, whether through traditional means or self-published, have experienced the initial elation at seeing our book sales take off on release day and riding the tide of the “new release” designation for the first few months. On the flip-side, we’ve probably experienced an equal measure of despair when our books have been out for a while and those sales start to dwindle. Since Trail of Secrets was published last August, I’ve tried numerous marketing techniques. Some were expensive and turned out to be complete scams (I’ve learned not to pay companies whose only marketing angle is to tweet about my book. It doesn’t work!) Others have produced better results. This summer, I’ve taken a more creative approach to marketing, and I’d like to share what has worked for me in the hope it might help you too.

  1. Library Postcards

After my book was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I decided to capitalize on the award and send postcards to libraries in my home state of Michigan. (Note: my book also takes place in Michigan so I thought it might have double-appeal to Michigan Librarians). Lists of libraries in your home state are easily accessible online through websites such as http://www.50states.com. The post card I created looked like this:

library postcard

Obviously, you will want to personalize your postcard to promote the selling points of your own book. Postcards such as these can be ordered cheaply through companies like OvernightPrints or Vistaprint. The back of my postcard displayed my name and website in the top left corner. I left space to write a short note on each one. My note said something like, Trail of Secrets makes a great addition to your teen library collection!”

A few weeks later, I noticed an increase in my print sales on Amazon from locations in Michigan where people had not bought my book previously. For example, someone in one Michigan city bought nine copies at once! Not surprisingly, when I later checked that city’s library catalog, my book was listed as being available in every branch. I’ve also done a cursory check of few other libraries where I’d mailed my postcard and found my book available at over half of them!

Before sending the postcards, Trail of Secrets might have been available for checkout at three or four public libraries in MI. After the postcards, I believe it is now available at somewhere around twenty public libraries (and counting). Well worth the investment.

2. Magazine Articles

PH Article Photo
My article in the July 2016 issue of Practical Horseman Magazine

 

Another fresh approach I’ve taken toward marketing, is submitting articles to “horsey” magazines and listing my name and website at the end of the article. Trail of Secrets is set at a horseback riding academy so my target audience includes people who ride horses.

What subjects does your book touch? Is it set at a winery? Submit articles to wine magazines. Is the main character a beautician? Submit to cosmetic magazines. Believe me, there are magazines having to do with just about every subject under the sun and most of them welcome new content from people who can write. Having an article published in a magazine related to your book’s subject matter has multiple benefits. First, most magazines will pay YOU for the article (EVEN BETTER THAN FREE ADVERTISING!) Second, the magazine provides you with a captive audience of people who are interested in the subject matter of your book and, therefore, will likely want to check it out. Third, having articles published in magazines adds additional credentials to your writing resume.

3. Group Sales

I’ll admit my last tip on marketing is not that innovative, but it is effective. Place your book on sale for a limited time if your publisher will allow it. Even better, group your book with others that have a similar theme and do a group sale. It’s always better to have six or eight authors promoting a sale than one. The digital version of my book is currently marked down from $4.99 to $2.99 as part of Fire and Ice’s “Beach Reads” sale. I’ve noticed a boost in my Amazon ebook sales since the sale began.

It also helps to have a graphic all the authors can use to promote the sale:

Beach Read Sale

What effective marketing strategies have you used to boost book sales? Please share!

Book Signing Checklist

checklistLast weekend I participated in my first large book fair as an author at the Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, MI. Attending the event was a last-minute decision and I’m the first to admit I was woefully unprepared. I arrived ten minutes before the expo began carrying an ambitious stack of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, some bookmarks, a pen, and a Square Reader for accepting credit card payments. My hopes were high as I made my way back to the author room in the corner of the enormous expo hall, but my heart sank as soon as I saw the swag all the other authors had incorporated into their tables. I’d miscalculated the “sales” aspect of the book fair.

Did I sell any books? Yes. A few. I’m guessing I could have sold a lot more if I’d bothered to read a blog post about how to stand out amidst thirty other authors at a book fair. I’m going to chalk it up as a learning experience. This checklist is for others who may have a book signing in their future (and  a note to myself to step up my game next time!)

  1. Candy (or some other giveaway) — Everyone (except me) had a bowl of candy placed on their table. Some authors had additional freebies to attract people, such as keychains or soaps personalized with the name of their book. This may seem like a gimmick, but it works! Once people approach your table, they’re much more likely to talk to you and buy your book.
  2. A sign, poster, or banner — Take the time to create an eye-catching poster, sign, or banner that clearly displays the cover of your book and why people should buy it. Once again, I did not have any signage with me and it put me at a disadvantage. I’m currently having a foam-board poster made through Overnight Prints. FastSigns also sells attractive pop-up banners.
  3. Square Reader and small bills for change — Register for a free Square Reader to plug into your phone or tablet. Square Readers allow you to accept credit card payments for your book. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because someone doesn’t have cash on them. Similarly, remember to bring small bills so you can provide change to people who only carry $20s.  
  4. Bookmarks or Cards — Place your bookmarks or business cards next to your book and encourage people to take them. People may not be ready to buy your book at that moment, but at least they’ll remember the name of your book later.
  5. Email signup list — Print out a professional-looking sign-up sheet for people to receive your author newsletter. This is a great way to connect with readers and keep people coming back for your future books.
  6. A suitcase with wheels — This is a classic case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My arms practically ripped off my body as I lugged grocery bags full of books out of a parking garage, across a city street, and through an  enormous expo hall. Meanwhile, other authors glided past me with their book-filled, wheeled luggage. Next time…
  7. Books — Obviously. This probably should have been number one on the list.
  8. Pen — Make that pens, in case one runs out.
One additional thought–when deciding whether to buy a table at a book fair, be sure to consider the crowd who will be there. I learned this the hard way last weekend. The majority of the women attending the Women’s Expo seemed to be there for the free cheese samples and makeup demos–not to buy books. This reflected in sales. In the future, I’ll likely only invest in book fairs where books are the focus.
I hope this checklist helps you arrive at your next book fair prepared and confident! Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Let me know!

 

Cover Wars Update

For the last five days I’ve been on an action-packed and computerless family vacation in

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We ran into a few cowboys out in AZ

sunny Arizona. In between hiking, swimming, and helping my kids pan for gold in a wild west town, I monitored the voting on Cover Wars via my phone. As of last night, my family and I are back home, slightly jet-lagged, and a few days late reporting the results of Cover Wars. It was worth the wait because Trail of Secrets won Cover Wars and is now the BOOK OF THE WEEK on AuthorShout.com!

Cover Trail of Secrets
The winning cover!

 

Thank you to everyone who voted, and to Caroline Andrus of Fire and Ice for designing such an eye-catching cover.

In other exciting news, Trail of Secrets is now available as an audiobook on Audible. Check back soon for more about my experience turning my novel into an audiobook!

Trail of Secrets on COVER WARS!

I fell in love with the cover of my YA novel, Trail of Secrets, the moment I saw it. (Thank you Caroline Andrus!) So when I heard about Cover Wars on AuthorShout.com, I knew I had to enter the battle for the week’s best cover. Finally, MY WEEK has arrived and I really want to WIN!

Here’s how you can help:  Cover Trail of Secrets

  1.  Visit AuthorShout.com/Cover-Wars and select your favorite cover (Hint:  It’s Trail of Secrets!)
  2. Return ever day February 28th-March 5th to vote. You can vote once per day.

I’ll post an update on the final results after March 5th. The winner of Cover Wars receives a free week of advertising for his or her book.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

Writing and Marketing in the New Year!

2015-2016The new year brings a sense of renewal and hope–something most writers can always use! I kicked off my 2016 with several writing resolutions, including completing (and perfecting) my latest YA novel, Barn Shadows. I’m continuing my quest for an agent for my recently-completed thriller, Top Producer, and thinking of new and exciting ways to market Trail of Secrets. I plan to attend at least two writing conferences. Finally, I strive to read at least five books on writing in 2016.

I’m on track in the reading department. This month I read Stephen King’s highly-on writing stephen king tenth anniversaryacclaimed book, On Writing, and loved it! It was not what I was expecting, especially the first half which was more of a memoir and less of a “how-to” book. The second half covered the nuts and bolts of the writing process, as it applies to Stephen King. I found the whole thing engaging and difficult to put down. I don’t often read books more than once, but this is one that I may revisit in the coming year.

As for revising my work in 2016, I plan to make more use of a tool I discovered through my publisher called EditMinion.com. This fun website allows writers to paste one chapter at a time of their writing into its screen. The program identifies common mistakes, such as over-used words, clichés, adverbs, and so on.  The best part? It’s free! While the program may not replace the use of a human editor, it is a great way to get an extra set of (virtual) eyes on any work-in-progress.Minion_Coloring_Pages_03

Now for marketing in the coming year…I plan to win awards. Many awards. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m going to check out BookBub — a website which compiles free and deeply discounted books for its readers based on their interests. Authors may list their books when they have a sale or if they’re willing to give away their book for free for a limited time.  One word of warning, listing a book on BookBub takes some planning, as the website approves each book individually and coordinates posts with the book’s sale dates.

So that’s me. What writing tools and marketing ideas do you plan to use for 2016?

Be sure to check back in a couple weeks, when I’ll report back on the top five things I learn at the upcoming Write on the Red Cedar conference in Lansing, MI!