Tag Archives: marketing

Guest Post: J.A. Sutherland

My 2016 Year in Review

In putting together notes for this post, I’m actually pretty glad I decided to do it. In many ways, 2016 was a horrible year – but for my writing career, I find it was pretty good, and writing this gave me some very positive things to reflect on.

One of the positive things is that I wound up with some interesting data on presales – as a data-driven guy, I like that.

Presale periods are a surprisingly divisive issue for authors, with some swearing by them and others … well, there’s some swearing involved there, as well.

One of the arguments against them is that, at least on Amazon, sales from the prerelease period don’t “count” toward rank on release day, thus not driving a new release as high in the charts as it might otherwise go.

I think that’s short-sighted. Marketing is all about eyeballs – getting more eyeballs on a product, repeatedly, so that it becomes more familiar and more likely to be purchased. Given this, it would seem that sustained, longer-term visibility is more beneficial than a shorter period, even if the shorter period, even if the shorter period gets more individual eyeballs.

A presale period does this by staying on the new release charts longer, exposing the book to eyeballs more often, and my personal dataset seems to bear this out.

First by happenstance, then by design, I released three of my four books following the same pattern and at the same time of year. In addition, I do very little marketing, so my sales charts are largely unaffected by ads and are driven almost exclusively by visibility on Amazon.

My first, third, and fourth books were all made available for prerelease in August, starting in 2014, with a release date in November, the maximum prerelease period available on Amazon to a self-published author.

There were relatively few presales with the first book, but what I observed with the third and fourth was striking.

Now, all of the expected YMMV caveats apply – this is data for a series, in the space opera genre, and may not apply elsewhere, especially to stand alone novels. Also, I’m tracking dollars-earned, not number of copies, because, frankly, that’s what I care about.


  1. I put my first book on presale in August 2014 for a November release. It had a trickle of presales over that time, and more sales when it finally released.
  2. Book 2 went on presale in November 2014 for a February release, which, I think, helped Book 1’s sales after a bit.
  3. After which, sales fell steadily through the new in the last 30-, 60-, and 90-day lists.
  4. Until Book 3 went on presale in August 2015. Now, it’s important to remember that the dollars for presales don’t register until the book’s actually released, so this jump in sales (of 10x the previous months) is entirely sales of the existing books, not the new one. I did virtually no advertising or promotion during this time, so the effect is entirely attributable to the visibility of Book 3 on the Hot New Release charts, which are significantly easier to get on than a category’s Best Seller chart.
  5. So I got 90-days of that visibility, then all the revenue from presales, and still had 30-days of “new release” status going into November.
  6. The question I started asking as Book 3 lost that status was: Is that repeatable? Not just the spike of new release sales and initial visibility, but the sustained sales of the previous books while the next is in prerelease? It seemed logical, but so many authors were swearing that the Day One spike was essential.
  7. Well, sure enough, it did repeat, with slightly different pattern because Book 4 went on prerelease a bit later in August this time.
  8. All of which resulted in, again, more presales of the next book, making November 2016 my best month ever.
  9. And projecting December to be better than last year as well, though not as much as it could be because the audiobook of the new release is a bit delayed (Book 3’s audiobook released in December 2015, increasing that month’s revenue.

It could be argued that the higher rank of a Day One, no-prerelease spike might make more money, but given what I know about marketing, I don’t think so. Amazon’s algorithms favor stability of rank over spikes, so I don’t think a higher spike would last as long in its effect. I know that it would take a huge number of sales in 30-days of visibility from no prerelease to make up for the revenue I see in 120-days with one – it doesn’t seem feasible.

Marketing is about eyeballs and while some people will buy your book the first time they see it, others will think “maybe” – the longer it’s visible, the more opportunities there are to both get the initial buyers and convert the “maybes” to yeses.

I know I plan to repeat this with my next release and hope 2017 will be better still.

untitled ..Bio:

J.A. Sutherland spends his time sailing the Bahamas on a 43′ 1925 John G. Alden sailboat called

Yeah … no. In his dreams.

Reality is a townhouse in Orlando with a 90 pound huskie-wolf mix who won’t let him take naps.

When not reading or writing, he spends his time on roadtrips around the Southeast US searching for good barbeque.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasutherlandbooks/
Twitter: @JASutherlandBks
Website: www.alexiscarew.com

Learning To Market My Book – Guest Post: Tony Dobranski


Learning To Market My Book

Guest Post: Tony Dobranski

I signed my book contract in March 2016. Since then, my professional life has been a crash course in marketing, a mix of constant research and the ongoing leap of faith that I knew how to reach my audience.

*A Marketing Primer

Marketing is how you tell your audience about your book. Because it’s a message, it can have creativity and artistry to it. Marketing is always a business act, however. It connects you with your audience so your audience wants to buy and share your book.

The huge changes brought by ebooks, independent publishing, social media, fan conventions, and giant corporate media mergers have completely upended the publishing business. Whatever business structure helps you get your work out to the world, you are your best marketer, and you will be for years to come.

*A Marketing Plan

When WordFire Press asked for the manuscript of The Demon in Business Class, they also asked for a marketing plan. I took it very seriously, examining my market, publisher, and novel, with an honest if enthusiastic eye. Never hide from the truth of your book. All lemons are potential lemonade.

Demon is a hybrid novel with corporate thriller and romance elements and a literary style. It has a forward-looking, niche audience, not in the mainstream of the fantasy genre, and aimed at mature readers. It’s also an outlier in the WordFire Press stable, which tends to more adventure and to an all-ages audience.

This gives a granular answer for where I find my audience: eager for novelty, happy with a relaxed approach to genre, wants good writing but also a plot. Comfortable with mature content, even pleased to have it. Interested in travel. It suggests their likes, their touchstones, how to reach them and with what kind of attitude. It’s clearly a market my publisher has yet to tap.

Plus, this audience spans genres. Romance readers, thriller readers, and people who care what the New Yorker reviews all have a subset with these same tastes. With a scenario that depends on magic, fantasy is my natural starting point, but modern shopping makes genre labels less prominent. You don’t browse Amazon aisles the way you browse bookstore aisles.

For all these reasons, it was clear Demon would depend even more than most books on word-of-mouth – a long process, but one where an author can help.

*Learning to Con

It took eight months from when I signed my contract to when my book could be bought by the greater public – on the most aggressive timetable possible, to get to fall conventions before shopping season. The WordFire Press staff pushed tremendously hard to make a stylish, bold product in double-time. I needed to be ready to be its author!

One major outlet where an author can make a personal impact is at fan conventions. If you don’t think your niche has them, you haven’t looked hard enough! It’s a good idea to attend them before you have a book to sell, to see what works for you as a con-goer and what you need to do to make being a con-guest worth your while.

In the science-fiction and fantasy genres, cons differ widely. Festival cons, or comic cons, have tens of thousands of fans celebrating all fantastic genres, but emphasizing the visual. Though these cons have discussion panels and interviews with artists, they are foremost a huge marketplace, with the added draw of the costumed shoppers themselves. You can find readers there – if you’re eye-catching and fast. They are budget-conscious and overwhelmed by sights, but they are eager for some new thing. If you have that thing, it’s a positive connection.

This inspired a banner and marketing materials narrowly tailored for my audience’s sensibility, with edge, wit, and maturity all quickly established. It helped to have an amazing cover!



So far it’s working. I see my title or cover or banner catch eyes and draw smiles, long enough at least for me to engage people. Readers with different tastes walk on by, which is just as good – better no sale than an angry bad review!

Literary cons are smaller, scholarly events, with a pronounced emphasis on readers and writers. Though the membership is only in the hundreds, these fans are deeply connected in the word-of-mouth fan communities, and eager to discuss their genre with creators and with other enthusiastic fans. The high writer-to-reader ratio makes for engaging discussions in hallways and at bars and suite parties. New writers will find both fellowship and validation.

You may get a reading slot or autograph table, but new writers get noticed on panels. Be courteous, especially when you disagree, and knowledgeable. Engage questions creatively, and as positively as you can. You and the other panelists are together an event for the audience. Look for creative ways to turn questions around.

Involve the crowd. Remember – in each audience are likely readers of your book.

*Social Media

Curated corners of social media still feature long-form writing, but blogs are passing. If you look at social media as a marketing channel, you’re competing with many other voices – sometimes, your own friends! Make your posts image-driven, eye-catching and quick to read.

For a book release, YA paranormal writer Shannon A Thompson makes single image “book teasers” with a character’s backstory and a clipart image. https://shannonathompson.com/2016/06/15/ww-how-to-create-book-teasers-on-a-small-budget/ I saw them as a great way to create interest in the story. Not only were they vastly less expensive than a video trailer, each one could be shared on its own.

Keeping in mind my core audience, I wanted to share my style and my hybrid setting. One night, while drifting off to sleep, I remembered my old Star Wars trading cards.  Perhaps it was my dreamy state, but I imagined them as a kind of shattered and reassembled movie trailer, with important moments in random order, something familiar yet offbeat. Perhaps I could make the offbeat a path to the familiar.

I developed my own trading cards, online images with sly quotes from the book, and clip-art lookalikes of my characters that I made more expressive using the online Prisma app:


I made fifty-six, to release daily on social media in the two months spanning my release, my first readings and my four fall cons.

They were popular, and easier to share across multiple platforms. People told me the quotes and visuals gave a much better sense of my book than the title alone. You can still see them on my Instagram! www.instagram.com/adobranski

People crave original content, even if it’s commercial. If you can express your sensibility in small, steady streams of content, social media can send it far and wide.

* Check Your Tech

Tablets and smartphones are tough for long-form writing, but they are essential for social media. Remember the Prisma app for modifying stock photos to use on Instagram? Prisma is ONLY made for iOS and Android, not for computer desktops. While you can view an Instagram feed on a computer, you can’t post to it – handhelds only.

I hope my approaches inspire you to take a fresh look at how you can find your audience, creatively and entertainingly. Each book has a different main and secondary audience, and a different publication path – giving a unique set of marketing opportunities. Maybe next year will be your year of marketing!

Genre – An Emotional Journey

ice creamAsking someone which genre of books they prefer most is like asking someone what’s their favorite ice cream. Everyone has an answer, but often they don’t understand why they prefer one over another. Or they’ll cite specific examples they loved within a genre, or perhaps discuss common tropes. Those definitions of genre are limiting and exclusive.

As has been pointed out in other posts this month, genre a marketing label, but books can vary widely within a genre, or fall across multiple genres. For example, my Facetakers series is a sci-fi time travel thriller, but it also has a cool magic system. It’s hard to pin it down to a single genre.  I could just as easily call it an alternate history fantasy, but it reads more like a sci-fi thriller, so that’s the slot it’s been assigned. The story is more powerful for the mash-up, but that cross-genre approach does present challenges for finding the right readers because people forget one important truth.

Rune Warrior coverGenre is all about emotion.

This truth is taught by David Farland, who has a knack for audience analysis beyond anyone I’ve ever met. He points out that genre labels generally reflect the most powerful emotional element in the story. Some genres are easy to spot:

Horror – well, obviously.

Humor – this one is often mixed into the other genres (humorous fantasy, humorous sci-fi, etc)

Romance – again – obvious

But what about science fiction and fantasy? There’s a reason these two genres are combined so often in story telling and in how they’re shelved, and it has nothing to do with the size of their audiences. These both share a common emotion: Wonder.

Think about it, whether a far distant planet is reached by interstellar flight or by flights of fancy, whether they include arguably-possible technology or unexplainable magic, the greatest draw for these genres is the wonder of discovery and exploring new worlds.

Many of our stories contain a lot of other emotions, though, and that can lead to genre mashing and a bit of confusion. If there’s lots of horror in a SFF story, it’s often called Dark Fantasy. I already mentioned Humorous Fantasy. If there are lots of action beats, it may be called a SFF Thriller. If it explores history and gives it a twist, it’s called Alternate History Fantasy or Time Travel Sci-Fi. Etc.

So when analyzing the genre of your story, or of those stories you love, consider the emotional journey the story immerses you into. What was the primary emotional beat? For those stories hard to pinpoint in a narrow genre, this might be the most accurate way to describe it.


About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form.  When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities.  For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers scifi time travel thrillers, check his website:  www.frankmorin.org

Talk Radio and Podcasts

Most writers are familiar with the usual promotional channels, including advertising on websites, blog exchanges, social media marketing, and having your own author website. One that slides under their radar is getting interviewed on talk radio, which includes on-air, on-web, or with podcasting. Radio show hosts will always need new and interesting material to keep their listeners tuned in. If you’re comfortable having a conversation with a radio personality, you can get your name in front of a new audience.

You might be surprised at the number of available radio stations in your area. In Denver, Colorado, there are 50 FM radio stations and even more AM stations. If you’re wondering why bother with AM or you are surprised it still exists, note that it can sometimes be heard thousands of miles away by people who purchase more books on average, according to several studies. Old AM Radio can and should be on your radar when it’s time to find an interview spot. Online, check places like Wikipedia and RadioMap.US to see what’s out there in your area. RadioMap has some links to station websites and even a way to listen to what’s on the air right now.

Traditional over the airwaves radio shows are obviously still thriving, and some of them fill up their weekend programming with a few talk shows. The subjects can range from bringing in musicians to discuss their work to shows dedicated to literature. As an author, these are the shows you should focus on unless you’re already a well-known musician. Local radio stations are your best bet, since they’re more interested in promoting the neighborhood connection. Additionally, there are thousands of licensed low-power radio stations that provide limited coverage.

Sometimes you can combine two different subjects to make your appearance more appealing. I was asked to appear on a Denver radio show that focused on veterans. The host invited me to have an hour-long conversation about my service in the US Navy, which led into my ebook “Tales from the Fleet”, which was filled with essays, stories, and observations about my time in the military. The time flew by, and it gave me a good bump in sales. I already had all of the individual stories and essays written — I had previously published several of them over a ten year period. I combined all of them into an ebook specifically because of my radio appearance, and the book sold well for several months. Not much additional effort to take advantage of the marketing opportunity.

If you’re more of a Techie and prefer podcasting and Internet-based radio stations, use Google and ask around in your preferred genre. The science fiction crowd tunes in to Patrick Hester’s SFF Signal every week. I kept running into Patrick at most of the Denver conventions. We became friends, and eventually he ran out of top-tier writing talent and asked me to appear on his show. I was ecstatic, and we did an interview over Skype.

Another now-retired Internet radio host asked me to be on one of his shows, The Funky Werepig. This one focused on dark fiction and lots of irreverent humor. The hour-long discussion ranged from writing horror to how to market underwear-scented candles. The Werepig, who is secretly author and comedian Greg Hall in disguise, had a small yet very dedicated audience. I spent a lot of time muting the microphone to stop laughing out loud over the live show.

My two most recent radio/podcast interviews were the one with Patrick at SFF Signal and “What Are You Afraid Of?“, a Ghost Host show with Fox and Phil. For the latter, we discussed three true ghost vignettes I had sent in two years prior.

If you decide to give talk radio a shot, here are a few tips:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the current news and publishing topics. Stay up to date on current events. Being knowledgeable and worldly will build your credibility.
  2. Tie-in a local angle if at all possible. Whether you are talking to a radio show out of your town, Detroit, or London, be sure to tie the local area in to what your conversation is about, especially if one of your novels takes place in or near the city, state, or country where your listening audience resides. By localizing the message, you become someone that understands the audience and, in turn, will keep them tuned in.
  3. Be yourself. Don’t put up a fake persona unless it’s something that is well practiced and established. If an audience perceives you to be fake, what you say won’t matter.
  4. Be careful about political, religious, and sexual topics. No matter which way you choose, you might alienate half of your listening audience. Controversial issues can cause you some grief later, so be aware of that going in to the interview. Unless you’re talking pizza, where you can admit that Brooklyn pizza dominates all others.
  5. Pace yourself so you keep up with the show host. Adjust and match their rhythm. The conversation will naturally keep their audience interested in your message.
  6. Use an index card with your key talking points and a pen. Cross the points off when they’re covered. Try to remember your main focus is to introduce yourself to the audience and to talk about your books. Don’t stray too far off-topic. Additionally, make sure you let people know how to reach you (social media, blog location, conventions you’ll be attending, etc.)
  7. Make sure you give the host your media kit, which should include a headshot for their website, a short bio, and a long bio.  Note how the audience can get in touch with you after the show airs. Consider having either a contest or a special discount code for members of the audience. A 10% coupon might just convert the listeners to dedicated readers.
  8. If you’re in a studio, turn your mobile phone off or put it in airplane mode. If you’re going to be interviewed over the phone, a stable landline or Skype tends to be better than cells. Cell phones are particularly unreliable for on-air interviews, and you may get cut off in the middle of your appearance. If that happens, the talk radio hosts have to fill the time slot without any notice. Just understand that going in, and let the host know what your primary and backup communication methods are. Decide who will call back so you don’t play phone tag for five minutes.
  9. Limit numbers and statistics during your interview. If you have a particular statistic that you think applies very strongly to your message, use it to make your point and move on. If you throw too many numbers at the audience, their eyes will glaze over and they will lose interest and tune out. Harken back to math classes, when everyone around you was doodling instead of learning how to do word problems.
  10. Don’t bullshyte when you don’t know an answer! A radio or podcast appearance is not a test of your intelligence, and you’re not an expert on life, the universe, and everything. If you aren’t familiar with an issue the host brings up or don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to admit it. You’ll come across as honest and credible.
  11. Try to give your interviews an intimate feel. Remember that radio is a one-on-one communication medium, and it’s just you talking to another person. Talk to the host in a conversational manner, and if there are callers, do the same with them. Imagine you’re all sitting around a table in your kitchen sharing a cup of tea or a spaghetti dinner. This will help keep the audience interested and they’ll be more likely to relate to you.
  12. Bring a couple of copies of your latest book to give to the host. One is theirs, so sign it and hand them a personal copy. The one or two extras should be signed so the station can give them away to their listeners. No shipping needed — the listeners can stop by and pick it up.
  13. Follow up your interview with a thank-you note. If the interview went well, let them know you’d love to come back anytime in the future.
  14. Make sure you thank the press person, the office personnel, the studio engineer, and everyone who works there. If the whole staff likes you, they’ll remember your name when your next book comes out.

Your goal for every interview is to enlighten the listening audience about who you are and to interest them in your book to the point where they’d like to purchase a copy. Be fun and entertaining, and through that you’ll build an audience.


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, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
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.