Monday, November 25, 2013

Maker of Angels - win a Kindle Fire

When I started this blog, my intention was to keep it focused on writing issues. I did that for a long time, and I intend to continue with that theme most of the time. Today's blog is different. It's a shameless plug for my most recent book, Maker of Angels.

Wait! Don't go away, there's information here about marketing. Check out this super book release promo:

"Win a Kindle Fire from Amazon by answering 25 questions about Maker of Angels. That's right! You can read an excellent western romance story, and, on Dec 8 (a Sunday), answer 25 questions about the story. Each individual question winner gets an Amazon $5 gift certificate, PLUS a bonus entry into the drawing for the Grand Prize...the brand new Kindle!"

How's that for an incentive to buy a $3.49 eBook?

Let's talk about the cost of marketing and results. I spent $300 on a "marketing" company a few months ago to promote another western-romance book. What happened? Not a damn thing. That's right, not one sale resulted from that expense. Then, I signed up for a blog tour for another few hundred dollars. Results? Nadda. Sure, it's nice for the ego to see these people promoting your book, but I'm not some stupid five-year-old kid who gets off on mommy's empty compliments. Nope. I'm a businessman who get excited by sales results, so I looked at the high end professional services. A couple big name promotion companies offered their services for a whopping $4,000 - $5,000 per month!

"Is there another alternative?" I wondered.

With 35+ years of marketing experience, I figured there had to be a better way. I began experimenting. It only takes a few dozen book sales in a short period of time to climb the charts at Amazon. I knew many people who would be happy to read my book if I gave it to them, so that is exactly what I did. Gift books cost me a net of about $1 each. Didn't take a genius to realize that for the $300 I wasted on each of those marketing companies, I could have "sold" 300 books and been flirting with top 100 standings on Amazon. In turn, those readers would, theoretically, generate more sales through word of mouth. I tested the theory and it worked. Now, let's apply that same theory to my Maker of Angels book release celebration.

A Kindle Fire will cost me around $150. Twenty-five $5 Amazon gift cards are another $125. My total cost is only $275 and will get a lot more attention than all those other paid services COMBINED! Am I being generous, as one person told me? That's the wrong word. I'm actually engaged in effective marketing for both my book and the building of my author-brand.

The important truth for authors is that we are not just artists. We are also independent business people, promoting a product we love and believe in. It is important for us to invest in our vision to bring it to the public. Watch for the results of this book release event in an upcoming blog. I will tell you the final numbers, and how effective I feel it was. You get to experiment right along with me . . . on my dollar. Better yet, come to the Maker of Angels release event and try to win a new Kindle Fire. You'll have great fun, read an awesome story and you just might win that Kindle. I'll even make this easy for's the link to Amazon to buy Maker of Angels!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Survive Publishing.

I’m back…with books and an important message to fellow writers!

Ghost of Lost Eagle
Western/romance featuring Native American paranormal lore that comes alive in the Old West. Available now in eBook and paperback on Amazon.
Signed copies available directly from the author.
Amazon US (paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon CA (Kindle)
Amazon UK (paperback)

Maker of Angels
Western/romance story of forbidden love as a Native American woman and a naïve cowboy struggle to find a home in the tension of the Old West. Available in eBook or paperback on Amazon.
Signed copies available directly from the author.
Amazon US (paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon CA (Kindle)
Amazon UK (paperback)

Have you ever been so busy that day and night run together in an unstopping collision of pressure? I suspect a lot of single moms know this all too well. The past few months have been that way for me, only on steroids (figuratively). Let's look at the pressures:

My Insurance Company - Demands began growing when my insurance company had to address the new government health insurance regulations. Clients were panicking and needed lots of education and help with their options. By itself, this would have been very manageable, but there’s more.

Publishing Books on Amazon - At the same time, I was learning to publish eBooks through Kindle Direct and paperbacks through CreateSpace. It was a time-consuming process in which I learned a lot and had to overcome numerous mistakes along the way.

Is that busy enough yet? The Western God of Chaos did not think so.

Marketing - Books don’t sell themselves…they need help, and I had no more free time, so I did what any good business person would do. I hired a “book promotion company” to kick off my marketing. It failed miserably. I stopped that waste of money pretty fast, losing a few hundred dollars and a couple months of precious time. Next, I signed up with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for a “set of promotional blog reviews” to bring attention to Ghost of Lost Eagle. It was an awkward learning curve as I made mistakes and learned what I can, and cannot, expect from such an experience. Overall, it was a good lesson and investment. I will do it again, only next time with some experience-based tweaking to make it more effective.

So, here I was with insurance demands, publishing pressures, marketing management, all vying for attention. My schedule was packed, but that nasty Chaos Demon was hardly through with me.

Death of Close Friend - In the middle of all this, my wonderful friend and long-time business partner, Carlan Steward, died unexpectedly. It hurt and my composure cracked, as I let my carefully choreographed balancing act grind to a halt. Family and social needs came first, followed by his widow’s request for me to take over his clients and help her wind down his insurance practice. Everything else got put on hold.

But wait…believe it or not, there’s more!

Family/Personal Issues - on top of all this, a family crisis surfaced and my personal health began to falter under the stress. I won't go into details, but they caused additional stress and disruption.

Oh yeah - there was one more distraction. I hired a video production company, EVEK Studios, to film a movie style trailer for my latest book, Maker of Angels. I took time away from other demands to attend the taping of the scenes and meet the actors. Despite the time pressures, this experience was a blast. Imagine the thrill of seeing your characters come to life as flesh and blood people. Here’s the finished video…I love it and hope you enjoy it:

Maker of Angels movie-style trailer

How does a writer handle so many distractions?

The simple truth is that we all have limits. I certainly exceeded mine. That's why I haven't been able to post a blog in a while. I'll try to get back on track now.

Fortunately, I learned to push back against those limits, stretching them far beyond their anticipated breaking point. I’m surprised I held up. In retrospect, I am thrilled now that I can see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but where is the lesson in all this?

At the time of this blog, my insurance clients are happy. Two books reached the market and are beginning to sell. A third book (an eBook re-issue of my science fiction story, The Last Human War) will be out in December. Also, the sequel to Ghost of Lost Eagle should be published soon, probably in January.

What advice do I have for fellow writers after these difficult times?

I’ll be honest…I did not survive this extreme experience alone. I have a wonderful marketing assistant (she asked to remain anonymous) who picked up slack when I got overwhelmed, acted as a sounding board when I was not at my best, and made a great drill instructor, kicking me in the ass when I gave in to exhaustion or depression. I could not have weathered this storm without her support.

Successful people in Halls of Fame all say the same thing. Their success came after years of perseverance, not from a single moment of glory. Anybody can be good for a day, or even a week, but real success is measured by repetition over time. It’s no different in writing. Just as Michael Jordan needed assists from teammates to score as many points as he did, writers need help to be the best they can be. From beta readers to editors to marketing assistants to literary agents and publishers, literary success is a collaboration that makes us better than we could possibly be by ourselves.

That’s the little secret I learned through these past few terrible months. It takes help to succeed in the literary world. Yes, writing is a solitary activity, but publishing and marketing require a team.