Category Archives: Marketing

Speaking Engagements as a Tool to Build Your Base

One of the most feared things in the world is death, followed closely by speaking in public. Some folks equate the two as the same thing. Considering that most authors are solitary beasts that hide in their writing dens and poke keys and scribble lines that magically turn into stories, a suggestion that one should consider getting out in front of crowds and talking is up there with making your own medicine in your basement and doing a live-action game of Frogger™ at the Indianapolis 500®.

If you have anxiety or panic attacks about speaking, then it may not be for you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you can have a medical emergency. If you were able to get through your high school or college class where they made you talk about goofy things for ten minutes before you could sit down, this might be for you.

There are plenty of organizations and corporations that are looking for folks to come in and give a positive speech about almost any subject. You may be wondering why a software company would want an author to talk to their programmers for fifty minutes. What do they have in common?

Turns out you can fit your self-motivated method of writing into almost any subject. For those programmers, your speech can range from watching out for repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel to methods to document your code (think building a worldbuilding bible) to motivational ways to tackle a problem (like your characters have to do to get out of a jam you stuck them in).

If you’ve never had to give a speech in front of a crowd, consider joining Toastmasters. You’ll get lots of excellent training and opportunities to practice in a safe environment. Their entire organization is dedicated to developing communications and leadership skills. You can connect with places looking for folks to give speeches, and there are local chapters all over the place — most likely there’s one in your neighborhood.

When you are ready to get your name out on the speech circuit, look for local organizations first. Businesses, charitable organizations, and even places like libraries, chambers of commerce, and military veteran organizations are looking to bring folks in to talk to their members. You can even combine some charitable service and giving a speech, like going to a retirement home and talking about writing memoirs.

Some professional writing organizations have a speaker’s bureau listing for their members. SFWA is one, and the Missouri Writers Guild is another.

So, if you give a speech and don’t explode on stage, what’s in it for you? The top of the list is getting your name out there in front of a bunch of new folks. Some businesses will buy copies of your books to distribute to their folks. Depending on how famous (or infamous) you are, you can get travel, lodging, and meals covered for distant speaking gigs. It’s similar to going to a convention, where you’re sitting on panels and getting some in-kind reimbursement like free con passes or access to the VIP green room.

And since we’re on the subject of conventions and panels, that is an excellent way to start your speaking career. You’ll get used to talking to a crowded room but you won’t be alone behind the table at the front. Sharing a panel spreads the load between enough folks that the time usually flies.

It may not be a traditional method of getting your name out or even building an email list, but it’s one more arrow in your quiver that you can use on your literary adventures.



About the Author:
DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Bram Stoker Award® and IAMTW Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, ITW, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Marketing Secret: Don’t do what I do

I have dreaded this blog post ever since I signed up for it.

And that was before being rejected by the agent I pitched to back in February. So be warned, this post will be brutally honest. And short.

This month is all about how to get the word out and create a market for yourself. That includes everything from advertising to creating a personal brand.

I suck at all that stuff. And that might even be a great exaggeration of how well I do. I doubt I really climb into the neighborhood of “suck.” Adjectives that might be more appropriate range from “abysmal” to “self-destructive.”

How my first three books sold as well as they did is a mystery to me. I did virtually nothing to market them. I invested maybe twenty bucks total in Facebook or other ads, and when they didn’t nudge my sales noticeably, I abandoned that effort in less than a week.

I have never done a book signing. The closest to that was a last-minute appearance at a library “meet local authors” event, where I sold a couple of books. I’ve never done an interview, except a short one here on this blog. No radio shows. No contest entries. No Twitter campaigns. No viral, guerrilla, non-traditional or creative marketing.

I keep intending to do all that. But some of it costs money, and those that don’t cost money, I have never been satisfied with the end result, and so never seriously made any effort to do it.

That’s why not getting picked up by an agent has had such a negative impact on my motivation. The main reason I pursued an agent was to get into the traditional publishing model where all I had to do was write.

Guess that’s not happening soon. I’ll have to get off my lazy butt and try to find a way to get it done. Hopefully all the great articles on this blog for this month will give me the guidance I clearly need.

So, take my advice. Don’t do what I do.

Indie Bookstores: The Untapped Resourse

A lot of the indie authors I know distribute online and only online. And why shouldn’t they? It’s easy, it’s cheap, and that’s where a large percentage of the market is. However, that still leaves the rest of the book-buying market. Where are they purchasing? Well, most of that remaining section of the market shops at brick and mortar stores and while this seems like it’s an insignificant portion of the market, when done right, it can become your largest market. However, it can be difficult to get into the brick-and-morter market. Chains like Barnes and Noble or Powell’s can be tricky to get into. B&N requires indies to jump through a lot of hoops and at Powell’s you pretty much have to know someone on the inside to get them to stock an indie title. But indie bookstores are usually a lot more approachable and using them to reach more readers can get you access to almost all of the book buying market.

Before I go into the how, I want to apologize because this is a topic I could write pages and pages about so it’s going to be more of an overview because I don’t have the space on this forum to really go in depth. Hopefully in the future I can talk more about the specifics. It’s also going to focus on the small, single location indie bookstores since the big chains can be problematic. I also want to acknowledge that not every indie author will see this route as a good option for them. It is more work — and it is work that takes you away from creating the next masterpiece — and there are a few hoops to jump through. If you’re making a considerable amount from online sales the extra work may not be worth it to you. For me, it has been worth it. For every book (both digital and print) I sell online, I sell three print copies in indie bookstores. Seriously. My sales ratio really is 3:1. Now granted, I’ve been working at an indie bookstore for twenty years so I do have an advantage in getting my books on local store shelves but it’s not hard for everyone else to do it too.

The first, and probably most important, is to have a relationship with the store’s staff. If you shop there, and the staff know your face, they will be more willing to take on your book — even if it’s a genre that they normally don’t sell. It’s easier to justify taking a risk on a book from someone you know, than a complete stranger. If there isn’t an indie store near you, I do realize that this may not be possible. But if there is, it’s worth the time investment to go every once and a while to browse and develop that relationship.

The second is to know your book’s primary genre and gear your pitch and promotional materials (sell sheet, bookmarks, etc.) toward that. Say that your book is historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and mystery and your back copy emphasizes all genre elements of all three. That makes it impossible for staff to know where to shelve it or what kind of readers to suggest it to, which makes it nearly impossible to sell. If you focus on the single most prevalent genre for your back copy, branding, and promotional materials it’s going to make it a lot more appealing to the store and a lot easier to sell. Another thing to be aware of and use to your advantage is popular authors who have similar title and your alsobots. One of the indie titles my store carries is a historical novel in the same vein of Jane Kirkpatrick — one of our top selling authors. I put a note on the cover encouraging Jane Kirkpatrick fans to check out this indie title and it’s been flying off the shelf ever since.

When you’re ready to ask them about carrying your book there’s a lot of information you need them to give you. Do they buy the book directly from you or consign? A lot of stores won’t order from Createspace and Ingram isn’t very good about accurately displaying information for Sparks titles so don’t be surprised if they want you to be the distributor. You also need to know for what length of time they’ll carry it. If they consign, what is the payment percentage? Do they pay 40% of the list price? 50%? More? When do they pay you for sold copies? Will they contact you if they restock and when will that happen? When the last copy sells or at the end of the consignment period? Will they let you reclaim unsold stock? Do they require you to pay a consignment/stocking fee? Who is the main contact person? Do they do in-store book signings and/or readings? All of these things are going to vary from store to store so if they have a print out of their policy be sure to get one for your records so you can keep track.

Be sure to promote on your website and social media that the store is carrying your book. If you’re doing a signing/reading, promote that too. Don’t do it just once either. Post reminders during the holidays that your book makes a great gift and they can buy it online AND at the local bookstore. Let it gradually sink into the public’s mind that they don’t have to wait a day or five for the Amazon Fairy to deliver a print copy. They can buy it at the local store and read it now!

Once all of that is done you can usually kick back, relax, and resume writing the next tome. Some stores might require a little more follow through and some periodical check ins but the hard, laborious, slightly scary part is over. Even if indie stores turn out to be only a small portion of your overall sales, it never hurts to have your books in another part of the market. The more people you reach, the more you can sell.

Using Conventions & Appearances to Build Your Base

One of the toughest things an author has to do besides cranking out a sizable body of incredible work is to get those works in front of reader’s noses. Jim Butcher, Stephen King, and all of the other household names don’t have to do that since the world is ready to drive like a maniac to the bookstore to get their next novel. When our latest work comes out, few of those same rabid readers notice. It’s possible the only being that is waiting to read your book is your dog, who has been loyal and supportive for all those years of toiling behind a keyboard.

The problem is to get your name and novel to the readers, which means they have to connect your name to your book. One way to do that is to go to genre conventions as a panelist and find other appearance opportunities to garner some name recognition.

If people remember that you were funny, smart, or even just nice and friendly, they’re going to connect your name to positive thoughts. “Oh, yeah, that person who was on the panel at BigCon who kept making me laugh.” If they remember enjoying your humor, they might pick up a book to re-experience the fun. If they can recall how nice you were to them as you signed a free bookmark and not trying to guilt them into buying a book, they’re more apt to plunk down a few bucks to make up for running out of money because they bought a ten dollar hot dog and a five dollar soda.

There are several Fictorian posts about getting into conventions, so I’ll just give you this link if you want to find out more.

The other thing you can do to get your name out there is to look for other interesting opportunities. A good example happens to be tomorrow’s Free Comic Book Day, a worldwide event that happens the first Saturday in May. There are readers who will be converging on one location in your neighborhood, so why not be there to smile and to offer them something. Tonya and I will be at Freedom Comics in Lebanon, Missouri tomorrow. Tonya is a professional cosplayer and an author, so she thought it would be a good idea to go to the event dressed up as a comic book character. The shop is advertising us and will allow us to sell books and prints. We’re going to be bringing some copies of my graphic novel to give away in exchange for an email address for our list. Afterwards, there will be a slew of new potential readers who happen to be local. Now that they know who we are, we can send them some information when the next book comes out.

You can create your own event if you want. Do a “Meet the Author” at your local library. Visit some colleges or even high schools to talk to some classes about writing professionally. Bring books and set up an impromptu display at your local Starbucks while you eat your bagel and sip some expensive coffee, poking at your keyboard on your next blockbuster. The idea is to be accessible and to build some recognition. If you don’t try, it will be hard to accomplish your goals.

If you’re gifted with a very high midichlorian count, you can always use today’s reference to assist:

May the Fourth be with you.


 


About the Author:
DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
His latest novel, Solar Singularity, co-written with Josh Vogt and Peter Wacks, is a finalist for the 2018 Scribe Awards from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. The winners will be announced at San Diego ComicCon.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.