books, fantasy, historical romance, humor, new release, romance, Uncategorized, writing

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books, inspiration, interview, marketing, new release, Uncategorized, writing

Reducing the Horrors of Book Marketing: An Interview with Sue Campbell

Book marketing.

The very words make doom resonate through the universe like the implosion of a black hole. It sends perfectly sane writers running through the streets screaming and gibbering, while others huddle in the corner, under their desks, repeating in a zombie-like drone, “No, Lord, please, no.”

As someone who is getting ready to launch a zany romantic adventure called Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers, I’m familiar with both reactions.

Really.

~shifty eyes~

Seriously, though. Authors are well known for their aversion to marketing their own work. Most of us are much more familiar with and enthusiastic about the process of writing itself. But in today’s world of eight hundred gazillion books, you have to step up and promote yourself if you want anyone to read what you’ve worked so hard to create.

It was this realization that led me to learn more about setting up my author platform and launching my books into the universe. Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book, knows a thing or two about book marketing, having launched numerous bestsellers. Enter Sue Campbell, author and Tim Grahl certified book launcher, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions.


Sue_Campbell_headshot

Welcome, Sue. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you came to work with author and book marketer Tim Grahl as a Book Launch coach.

I’m a recovering business systems analyst, turned freelance copywriter and content marketer, turned book marketer. I discovered Tim Grahl through the Story Grid. I’m an author myself, so I stumbled onto him when I was trying to fix a manuscript and found out his “day job” was book marketing. His marketing method was very familiar to me: content marketing, but specially adapted for writers. When he announced his certification training, I jumped on it. It was a natural pivot from what I was doing and the perfect niche for me. Now my whole life is about books. It’s fantastic. I’m super lucky.

What exactly is a book launch and why is it important?

First, let’s talk about what a launch isn’t. Lots of people publish books, whether through a traditional publisher or going the indie route. Simply having your book available for purchase does not mean you have “launched” your book. A book launch means you do the work necessary to find an audience. Sometimes that’s done in a tight window of time, sometimes it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. For most authors, I recommend the marathon version of a launch.

There are a few different types of book launches (list launches, influencer launches, bestseller launches, long-game launches), but all of them include trying to get yourself and your book in front of the right audience and putting out content so that audience can decide if they’ll like your book. If you’re not actively working to get your book in front of readers, you haven’t launched—merely published. And without a tremendous stroke of luck, you’re unlikely to sell many copies.

I tell my clients that, essentially, there are three simple things you need to do to market your books:

  1. Genuinely believe your book will benefit readers
  2. Meet as many readers as possible
  3. Tell them you wrote a book

I use a more formal system with my clients that Tim Grahl developed called the Connection System, but those three steps are really at the core of what we’re doing.

What are the biggest challenges you see in authors who are trying to market their work?

The absolute biggest challenge authors face in marketing is their own mindset. Our fears hold us back from putting ourselves and our books out there in a way that attracts an audience. We only do the bits of marketing that feel safe (how many hours have you spent tinkering with your website?). And we tell ourselves lies like, “I’m not good enough; I’m not well connected enough; I don’t have enough time.” If you can change your thoughts, you can improve your marketing and your book sales, by a lot. That’s a big part of the work I do with my clients. We look at their limiting beliefs and try to redefine their thinking about marketing. Once you see that most of your “challenges” are really excuses and resistance, you can get down to business and make some progress.

As an author yourself, what have been your biggest marketing successes?

I really proud that I’m approaching the marketing of my book as a long game. I’m using myself as a model for my clients. I’m not starting out with any huge advantages. I’m showing that drip by drip, you can get your book established and build an audience eager for this book and the next. My book has only been out for a few months, but not a week goes (and I try to do something daily) by that I don’t actively work to market my book. And I’m measuring my efforts so I can tell what works and what doesn’t. That helps me spend my time and resources more effectively. I’m walking my talk and making sure I’m addressing all parts of my author platform, building my email list, putting out great content and doing outreach activities to keep expanding my reach. As for specific successes, I’ve been having great luck with using Instagram for influencer outreach. I’m targeting influencers who are in my niche (middle grade fiction), sending them messages offering a free book, then following up once I’ve sent the book to see if they’d like to do a giveaway for their audience. I’ve increased by Instagram following about threefold and sold some books in the process. As a kidlit writer, I’m also concentrating heavily on setting up school visits, now that a new school year will be underway.

What services do you have available for authors now?

I offer a pretty wide range of services because I love working with both established writers and those just starting out and their needs and budgets are so different. For one-on-one work, I offer book launch services, helping you craft and execute a book launch plan, as well as private coaching where I just tell you what to do and you go do it. For beginning and mid-list authors, I have some group coaching programs to build your platform that are really popular and help authors break through their own resistance and make progress on building their audience. I’m also starting an accountability group that will help authors with mindset issues and goals, not just around marketing, but also with getting writing done.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Sue. Where can people contact you if they’re interested in learning more?

EmailWebsiteTwitter

I offer a free 45-minute book launch consultations for subscribers to my free newsletter, plus some other cool perks. Join me at: http://pagesandplatforms.com/subscribe.

 

books, marketing, podcast review, review, Uncategorized, writing

Book Marketing Podcast Review and Recommendation

As is usual for my blog (and, let’s face it, my personality), I’m jumping around from subject to subject – history, animals, TV, Amazon, woo hoo! This post is for the fiction writers among you, mainly self published but also traditionally published.

Story Grid Me, Baby

For a few years now I’ve been in a wonderful, amazing, transformative, insert-over-the-top-praise-here writer’s group whose goal is to look at our stories from a structural viewpoint using ex-New York editor of bestselling novels Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid principles. Coyne’s system is helpful when it comes to figuring out the major elements necessary in a story to make it “work.” And his ideas about genres’ obligatory scenes and conventions are just as revolutionary. While I think Coyne’s information is very helpful, it does go into too many details for me. When he says to list every story scene on a spreadsheet and graph it out my eyes glaze over. Gimme simple, please. I need simple. (Along those lines, a fellow writer turned me on to the 8 point story arc method, which I’ve been using with success.)

To learn more, you can buy Coyne’s book Story Grid or attend his pricey seminars, or you can read a bunch of articles on his site and listen to his podcasts and find out pretty much everything you need to know, though you will need to take said seminars if you want to become a certified editor yourself and work with clients.

No, Book Launch Me Instead!

The reason I bring Coyne up is that his marketer extraordinaire, Tim Grahl, interviewed him for a gazillion episodes of the Story Grid podcast while trying to finish his novel. Grahl, a marketer who has engineered bestselling book launches, also started a podcast called The Book Launch Show. Grahl pretty much does the same thing as Coyne did for the Story Grid podcast with the Book Launch Show: it teaches you what you need to know to launch your book successfully if you don’t want to buy his book Your First 1,000 Copies or pay for his pricey seminars in which you become a certified book launch coach.

So, that long-winded explanation aside, the Book Launch podcast provides much invaluable book marketing advice. I’ve been listening regularly since a writer named Valerie Francis (also a Story Grid Editor) came on the show to walk through her particular marketing challenges with Grahl as her mentor. That series begins on 11/20/2018 with Where do we start?  The whole series is very informative, but one episode in particular has really hit it out of the park as far as I’m concerned: episode 44, The Magic Number. In it, you’ll learn:

  • why selling 1,000 copies is an important milestone in your writing career
  • average sales figures for an independently published AND traditionally published book during its first year
  • an actual plan for assessing the success of your marketing endeavors
  • why publishing your books is a long term game, with specifics
  • why authors fail at this long term game
  • why blog articles that have titles like “119 Ideas for How to Promote Your Book!” are a bunch of crap.
  • how to evaluate your marketing progress in a low-stress, easy way

The entire series is highly recommended, but this particular episode provides information in a manner that makes sense, is totally doable, and does not involve losing your mind over marketing.

Give it a shot! And let me know what you think. This marketing thing is a multi-headed beast and most of us writers need all the help we can get.

books, reblogged, Uncategorized, writing

2018 Reader Survey Report

Great info to help you learn more about your readers. Includes all genres.

A Writer of History

This year’s survey report is now available. It’s taken me quite some time to compile the results because … as you know I spent the last five weeks recovering from a plane crash.

The survey attracted 2418 participants from around the world – 84% female and 16% male.

A few highlights to whet your appetite.

  • AS IN PRIOR YEARS, THE SURVEY ATTRACTED HIGH VOLUME READERS– 72% read more than 20 books a year; 55% read more than 30
  • 49% of participants USE SOCIAL MEDIA REGULARLY TO SUPPORT THEIR READING 
  • GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE– among the differences—women read more than men and use social media more regularly in support of reading; men and women prefer different types of stories and different non-fiction
  • PRINT BOOKS REMAIN POPULAR– Of 2418 participants, 75% frequently or exclusively use print books
  • Not surprisingly, ENTERTAINMENT IS THE DOMINANT REASON FOR READING…

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books, literature, new release, review, Uncategorized

Historical Fantasy At Its Best

The Jinni's Last WishThe Jinni’s Last Wish by Zenobia Neil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the first page, the novel weaves a spell of another world – a harem in the Ottoman Empire, filled with the scents of cinnamon and cloves, and heavy with desire. Young eunuch Olin fights his lust for the beauties around him while navigating the Byzantine politics that pit wives and mistresses against one another to win the favor of their opium-enthralled sultan. The atmosphere of luxury is enhanced by Neil’s talented descriptions and impeccable historical accuracy. The names of the harem women, such as Crimson Petal, Red Tulip, and Peach Blossom, serve to add to this atmosphere, and to the lyrical quality of the writing. Sex is currency here in the harem, and death, if one is not wary.

Olin is a well-rounded, sympathetic character who struggles with courage, duty, and honor. When the beautiful odalisque Dark Star offers him a magical pendant he unleashes the power of the jinni, one which will change his world forever.

If you like your historical fiction with a touch of magic you can’t do better than this addictive novel.

View all my reviews

books, reblogged, travel, Uncategorized

Sale on Cruising Alaska on a Budget!

A bargain on this treasure trove of excellent Alaskan cruise advice!

Cruising Alaska on a Budget

I’m having a sale on Cruising Alaska on a Budgeta Cruise and Port Guide.  For today and tomorrow, it’s only 99 cents!  Even if you miss the sale, you’ll still get a discount for the next few days until it returns to its normal price.

If you want to discover Alaska without breaking the bank, that 99 cents will pay for itself many, many times over.  The book includes tips on finding good cruise prices, how to anticipate or avoid hidden costs, information on public transportation, and many ideas of great things to do in port for little or no money.

I highly recommend an Alaska cruise, especially if you like wildlife and nature.  If you dedicate some time to watching the water, you’re almost guaranteed to see marine life from the deck of the ship.  If you want to see a glacier, Alaska’s the place…

View original post 46 more words

books, nonfiction, research, Uncategorized, US history, Wednesday Reads

Wednesday Reads

I saw on my reading list where one blogger did a “What I’m Reading Wednesday” post. Brilliant idea, thinks I. It’s not always possible for me to work up a book review post, but I am constantly reading one book or another — usually nonfiction — and I can certainly post about them. So here it is. what im reading wednesday

When I first heard the term Exodusters I thought it was some sort of sci-fi like title: Exo- Dusters. I imagined a Morpheus-like fellow, complete with long black coat and sunglasses, blasti bad guys while flipping through the air.

Yeah, I know. I am taken by fancies quite often.

A little googling told me that the term came from Exodus, as in the book of Bible. Therefore, Exodus-ters. Exodusters were poor black families who left the South after the heartbreaking failure of Reconstruction, following the Civil War. As the South descended into an abyss of white supremacy, violence, fear, and pain, news of hope came from Kansas. It was the land of John Brown, that fiery abolitionist who denounced slavery with violence, and died for his crimes. Families who had emigrated there wrote to those still oppressed in the South and encouraged them to flee, to come to the Promised Land. Many thousands did just that, the Exodusters.

51lzouu8kxl-_sx325_bo1204203200_The definitive study of this group of people is by historian Nell Irvin Painter in Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1976, 1986), and it is brilliant and dense. Painter puts into words concepts and ideas that have, in less than three chapters, made her one of my history heroes. For instance, for years I have been taken aback by the term “white trash” because it assumes that everyone else, who is not white, is naturally trash. But I could not articulate this feeling. Painter, speaking about a similar concept, does so succinctlyThis political conflict between masters and slaves, so often identified as a racial conflict, was, at bottom, a conflict between workers and employers, between poor people and wealthy people, in which race functioned as the idiom for discussion of class. Unless the terms of the discussion were modified–“poor” white, “educated” Black–the word black meant poor and white meant rich. (p. viii)

As a historian myself, there’s nothing more thrilling than to connect the thread of some unwinding truth from age to age, as Painter has done here and with many other such revelations. But she also includes heart, as she quotes Louisiana farmer John Solomon Lewis in 1879 as he and his family fled the oppression of the deep South for Kansas.

“When I knew I had all my family in a free land, I said let us hold a little prayer meeting; so we held a little meeting on the river bank. It was raining but the drops fell from heaven on a free family, and the meeting was just as good as sunshine. We was thankful to God for ourselves and we prayed for those who could not come.

“I asked my wife did she know the ground she stands on. She said, ‘No!’

“I said it is free ground; and she cried like a child for joy.” (p. 4)

It will take me quite a while to get through this book, and as I do so I will be underlining and making notes and pondering what Painter says, but as I read the pleasure is all mine.

 

 

books, review, Uncategorized

Book Review: Estrid by Johanne Hildebrandt

Another review originally posted on the Historical Novel Society’s website.

Estrid by Johanne Hildebrandt. AmazonCrossing, 2017. 524 pages. ISBN 9781503943575.

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The second book in the Valhalla Series (after The Unbroken Line of the Moon), Estrid follows Queen Sigrid of Svealand, her twin children Estrid and Olaf, and Sweyn Forkbeard, Sigrid’s long-ago lover and now the exiled king of Denmark. Sigrid, Estrid, and Olaf are not your everyday family in the neighborhood, though, as they play the power games of royalty—for indeed the Vikings portrayed in this title are bloodthirsty, foreign, and driven by strange passions.

The title character, Estrid, is flawed by mental instability and physical weakness and resigned to a brief life of duty. She has been pledged to the dark goddess Hel, to whom she is faithful—at first. Taking place at a time when Christianity was making inroads against native Scandinavian gods, the book effectively shows the Vikings’ pre-Christian culture, most jarringly when Christians are referred to as “evil cross-worshippers.”

Although it deals with Christianity, this is not a Christian book, and those readers that cannot separate their personal belief systems from the world portrayed here will likely be offended by its content. However, they will be missing out on a tale that winds around and about in fascinating, surprising, and touching ways. A solid, well-crafted read with an exciting balance of action, romance, and intrigue, it provides a fascinating look at Viking society and the daring characters who ruled it.

books, review, Uncategorized, US history

Book Review: Flight of the Hawk: The River

Another review originally posted on the Historical Novel Society’s website.

Flight of the Hawk: The River by W. Michael Gear. Five Star, 2018. 271 pages. ISBN 9781432840679.

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The fur trade in 1812 Missouri takes center stage in this tale about hardscrabble business, ruthless politics, and the untrammeled majesty of nature. Mysterious John Tylor signs aboard a trading expedition helmed by Manuel Lisa, a well-known figure of the era. Andrew Jackson, William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, and John Jacob Astor are other important figures who make appearances as Tylor flees from his past to battle nature, a mentally unstable pursuer, and destiny itself.

From the first page, author Gear’s prose reflects confidence, skill, and solid research, making it easy to imagine and enjoy the difficult, desperate setting. The protagonist, Tylor, is revealed in dribs and drabs. A veritable baker’s dozen of other major characters—French, Spanish, Scottish, and Native American—are introduced in bewildering succession. Because many of these characters come with little background, readers without at least a passing knowledge of the time period may find themselves struggling to get their bearings. Once they settle into the story’s rhythm, though, they will enjoy a plot-centric, high-stakes tale that moves as quickly as the swift-rushing Missouri River.