Tag Archives: book promotion

A smattering of writing news

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  • I’m slowly working on a new novel called Lena as a sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. For reasons that might become apparent once it’s published, you’ll see why I’m moving so slowly on it. It begins like this: “So, Eulalie sang ‘Lady Luck Blues’ as she drove the 1949 clover green Studebaker pickup truck down that southbound road while creeks, wiregrass, longleaf pines, and sunny autumn afternoon savannahs slow-drag danced past the open windows and South Wind’s children teased her hair into sweet disorder. She was happy and heading for Willie Tate down in Carrabelle.” Unfortunately for Eulalie, the happiness isn’t going to last.
  • I rely on a lot of books and websites for source material about conjure. Unfortunately, Spiritual Information–featuring Voodoo Queen–will no longer have new posts. The author, who is older than I am, has become too ill  to continue, and wants to retire after she finishes healing. The good news is that her blog will remain online as a reference. There’s a handy index of topics on the left side of the screen. A quick glance at this list will show you how wonderful this blog has been for those who want to learn more about the oldest hoodoo traditions from days gone by.
  • My publisher Thomas-Jacob will be featuring Eulalie and Washerwoman, Redeeming Grace (Smoky Zeidel), A Shallow River of Mercy (Robert Hays) and The History of my Body (Sharon Heath) in Amazon promotions during December. Keep an eye on Amazon for some wonderful books and opportunities.  While Robert Hays’new book will be released on December first, it’s already available for pre-order.
  • I appreciate the support of those of you who also followed my other blog “The Sun Singer’s Travels.” In trying to simplify (whatever that means), I’ve closed that blog. It was my oldest, having started on Blogger many years ago, subsequently moving here to WordPress. I’ll try to keep you up to date on this blog as well as my website.
  • This has nothing to do with writing, but my friend and Thomas-Jacob colleague Smoky Zeidel, who lives in a southern California desert community, has been posting glorious pictures of her vegetable garden on Facebook. I’m jealous. My tomatoes, banana peppers and jalapenos finally bit the dust with our cooler temperatures. I still have some hardy oregano and parsley. If you’re taking notes, the oregano and parsley won’t be on the test.

–Malcolm

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Those messy website blues

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Like a new car, a new website looks sleek, clean, and is the envy of everyone who sees it. However, like cars that get older and no longer are washed or given scheduled maintenance and oil changes, websites start showing their age as well.

Last night on MasterChef, chef Ramsay told one of the contestants that his dish was confusing because it wasn’t cohesive and was more like a smorgasbord of flavors that didn’t go together. This is another way of saying that–like the old car–a website that’s messy, confusing and probably difficult for new visitors to figure out isn’t helping you.

When I set up my website (Conjure Woman’s Cat), I had great intentions. I was going to keep it squared away (a navy terms that means “shipshape”) rather than than letting it look like our old Buick or the top of the desk in my office.

I chanced upon a writer’s website article that basically said, if you’re website is screwed up, you won’t be kissing your books goodbye because nobody will be buying them. This caught me attention because sales have been lower this year than last year. Partly, that’s Amazon’s fault for establishing a new ranking system that’s biased in favor of bestselling books from mainstream publishers. Even though the rest of us are in the chopped liver category, it was obvious to me that I needed to clean up and streamline the website.

This has taken the better part of two days. It’s by no means perfect. On the other hand, it no longer has a garage sale kind of ambiance surrounding it. One thing I tossed out was a synopsis of each of my older books. This made the site too wordy and added pages. So, I’m featuring my two latest books and putting everything else in a catalogue of covers. Might be a mistake, but the result is certainly a lot easier to figure out.

In the business world some years ago, the word “agile” was often used to refer to companies that could change quickly with the times whether they needed new products or new ways of talking about their current products. I think authors need to be agile in this way in their presentations and promotions. While the books are the same books we published some years ago, we need to find new ways of capturing people’s attention.

So, I cleaned up my website an hour ago. So far, neither Oprah or Warner Brothers has called, but I can always hope.

–Malcolm

Take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares

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“Publishing is hard. No doubt about it. But sometimes authors get so caught up in the publishing aspect of the profession that we forget the reader doesn’t give a darn how the book was made, researched, written, published, or promoted.” – Hope Clark

 We really don’t want to tell you all that because why would you want to know that any more than you want the details about how your prospective new lawnmower was made? Instead, we much prefer you knowing that we hope you’ll enjoy a good story and then take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares.

Hope Clark wants to be persuaded a book has a story that will probably interest her more than that it’s cheap or free or the author’s hard-fought debut novel. I feel the same way.

On the other hand, unless a writer is well known and can fill his or her blog with news about upcoming book signings, conventions and other appearances, or–perhaps–the progress of a feature fill that’s being made from one of his/her books, the rest of us don’t have bookish information to provide in a weekly blog.

So, we talk about the subject matter in our books hoping, for example, that people who love mountain climbing will read a post about it and then see that the author has written a novel with a mountain climbing theme with a plot sounds interesting and a story fits within one of the genres the individual likes. The gurus say that if an author writes weekly posts–or even tweets–that say nothing but “buy my book” s/he is spamming his/her own readers. I agree.

That leaves us with talking about the subjects and genres we love and hoping that our posts attract the kinds of discerning readers who are will see possibilities in our books. However, I’ve learned a few cautionary things about this idea:

Caution

  • Murderers don’t read mystery thrillers about murder and mayhem unless the novelist includes how-to-do-it tips.
  • Using a lawnmower in your story line doesn’t attract people who mow yards or sell lawnmowers.
  • If you whine to prospective readers that writing your latest novel made you insane, they will be too superstitious to buy it.
  • Footnotes attached to everything in the novel you researched (cited with sources) or experienced (cited with names of witnesses) do not “ramp up” your story’s appeal. (I know, Lincoln in the Bardo breaks this rule.)
  • Forget about the idea of committing a sensational crime and then writing a based-on-a-true story novel about it. Most jurisdictions have laws that won’t let you profit from the bad that you do unless you only imagined it.)
  • If you put spells or subliminal messages in your books that force your readers to buy more of your books, it’s probably best not to mention it.
  • Saying your novel is just like the novel of a famous writer will cause (a) more people to read the famous person’s novel,  and (b) people to ask why your novel isn’t also on the bestseller list and the well-known review sites.

When it comes down to it, I don’t even know why I read what I read, much less how to write something that somebody else will read. My reading habits are all over the map, so how anyone would include me in their target audience is beyond me. Most advertising/promotion software has probably figured out by now that the words “free” and “cheap” really turn me off. I suppose it’s possible that the NSA/CIA/FBI track the books I read and sell that information to publishers. If so, thanks for spying because I keep coincidentally finding plenty of wonderful stuff to read.

As for my own writing, I write about what interests me and hope that I’m not the only person on the planet who finds such stories fascinating.

Malcolm

Since so many people love fast food, I based my latest e-book short story, “En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom” on fast food. So far, McDonalds hasn’t agreed to included a copy with each Happy Meal.

 

 

Webinars and Courses that Rip off Writers

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The other day, I saw a promotion for an online course that claimed to be filled with secrets for increasing Kindle sales of your books to high, money-making sales numbers. The plan was advertised as being easy to implement and took so little time to keep going that it would free up a lot of the writer’s time for writing and researching future books.

I have no idea what the plan is because in order to find out, one had to sign up for a course costing almost $200.  Quite possibly, that could be the best $200 I ever spent. But I’m not willing to risk the money without more details about the plan. Apparently the course is a one-time deal before the webinars are released at a cost of $900 or more.

These prices are exorbitant.

money2If somebody has a marketing plan that’s really working for them by bringing in money like they’ve never seen before, why must it be sold sight-unseen to the rest of us rather than offering the details in a magazine article or in an appropriately priced Kindle or paperback book?

While this not be the case with the plan I’m thinking of, many no-fail plans require writers to do what they may not want to do: change genres, write shorter books, write faster, be more commercial, have a monetized website, sign-up for third party services that also cost money, attend conventions and participate in panels and book fairs, or other tasks which may not fit some writers’ lifestyles, abilities, and budgets.

My personal opinion is that a webinar is a horrible way for dispensing detailed information because it’s linear. If the information were in a PDF, a Kindle book, or a paperback, one could see large blocks of information, headings and graphics at a glance rather than waiting for the webinar/podcast to get to them. Adding insult to injury, many of these video presentations include guests and that means time is wasted introducing them and chatting with them and adding happy talk throughout the presentation. Even if you love webinars, if they’re not free, then they are more costly than reading a e-book with the same information in it. You may not agree, and that’s fine. I primarily resent the prices.

I subscribe to “Poets & Writers Magazine” and AWP’s “The Writer’s Chronicle” because I want professional advice and tips. “Writers Market” is another alternative as well as local and state writing organizations. Writers are, as many will tell you, not really competing with each other, so sharing techniques at a reasonable price (book/speech/article) rather than doling them out for a giant profits seems to me too be the professional thing to do.

A lot of promotional experts offer free PDF and Kindle files filled with tips in hopes that after reading those, the writer will subscribe for more expensive services. The tips vary in quality and application. They’re great idea generators even if you can’t use all of them. The more expensive services are described in detail so that the author knows what s/he is getting.

I might have just missed out on a money-making secret by turning down the $200 course. On the other hand, I’ve been around long enough to worry about buying a pig in a poke.

Malcolm

 

Note to Interviewers talking to Writers

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Every writer and his/her half brother is taking a blog tour these days.

Tours are designed around the following premise: If an unknown author with a new book to talk about answers a series of canned questions on a series of unknown blogs, s/he will experience something or other.

Perhaps something or other is the knowledge that, “hey, I gave the publicity thing a shot.”

Unfortunately, that something or other doesn’t often include sales unless the author has conned Uncle Jim from Peoria and Aunt Thelma from Grand Rapids into buying a copy and posting a 5-star review on Amazon because that’s what family is all about.

Lousy Questions

If you’ve ever read one of these blog “interviews,” there’s a good chance you’ve read them all. Why? Because every author sees the same series of canned questions. Why? Because the person serving as the host doesn’t want to go to the trouble to learn anything about the author or the book and ask the kind of questions a good reporter might ask.

The first question is usually this: So, tell us, Zeke [or whoever] when did you first know you wanted to become a writer?

LORD HAVE MERCY. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear that Zeke was staring out the kindergarten window one fine spring day and though, holy crap, I’m destined to be a writer.

This is not only boring, but it gives absolutely nothing to the suffering prospective reader. Just what, in a gushy rendering of that kindergarten experience, will make the reader buy Zeke’s book?

Nothing.

While blog tour hosts aren’t pimps for authors or a PR flaks for the books, the least they can do is ask a question that’s interesting enough to tempt the reader into reading the answer.

Homework

Get a fact sheet from the author and then write the questions. If Zeke wrote his book while digging graves in a cemetery, ask something like: “Is it true that dead men tell no tales?”

If Zeke’s book is a true story about his quest to find the giant green lizards in the Sierra Madres of the northern Philippines, ask something like, “Why did you spend a year of your life looking for a lizard?” Or, “Once that green lizard got a hold of your leg, did you begin thinking right then how you were going to tell your story?”

My premise: If I enjoy reading the interview with the author, I’m more likely to go find out more about the book.

It stands to reason that is Zeke’s book is called EATEN BY LIZARDS IN THE SIERRA MADRE, then we might want to skip over his kindergarten experience and get right to the good stuff.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell, who doesn’t even remember kindergarten, much less what the hell possessed him to become a writer.

Campbell is author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a novel that mixes sex and satire into a sweet story about murder and theft.

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