Tag Archives: promotion

Friends and Family as Your Street Team

As a new writer, it’s absolutely vital to have people in your corner. People who believe in you and your writing and want the best for you. Sometimes, these people are coworkers and friends, though they may just be your family members for now.

No matter who they are, they are your core group. These are the people who are going to help push you when you feel like giving up, and who will read your work and recommend it to others.

But this group doesn’t assemble by accident. You must assemble them. But how?

  1. Talk to your close friends and family about your dreams. If you haven’t sat these special people down yet, now is the time. Tell them that writing is your ultimate goal, and tell them more about what you like to write. Tell them your plans. Tell them what you’d be open to doing in the future – writing for companies, screenplays, blog writing, etc. Tell them your ultimate goals for your career.
  2. Ask them to help keep you motivated. This might mean different things for different people. One person may want their support network to hound them, constantly ask them if they’ve been writing and how much they’ve accomplished. Others may just want a casual check-in here and there without the pressure. Figure out what is best for you, and then ask your close friends and family if they would be willing to be that for you in your quest to be a writer.
  3. Ask them if they’ll commit to reading your work. That means when you have something polished and ready to self-publish or send off to an agent or publication, that they’ll read it. You want your core group to be intimately acquainted with your writing and style. This step will also refine your core group – you might find that someone in your group doesn’t like the genre you’re writing, or doesn’t like your writing (GASP!). Don’t be alarmed – you can’t please all the people all the time. Give them a break and let them go. You want the people who really love your work in your core group.
  4. Ask your core group to spread the word when you have something published. After your team has read your work and once it is published, ask your team to tell others about it. This might mean blasting out a link to your book on social media, putting up flyers at their work or local coffee shops, or simply telling a few people they think would enjoy your story.
  5. Let your core group know that you appreciate them. Take care of this group of close friends and family. They’re putting in quite a lot of effort to help you build your dream. Not only give them sneak peeks of your work early, but also buy them ice cream. Take them out for dinner. Thank them over and over and over.
  6. Repeat. Continue writing and spreading the word through your street team, even if that team remains just close friends and family.

The truth is, many of us do not have the luxury of an immediate audience who loves our work. Basically, none of us do. However, you do have loved ones who care about you and who care about your work, and those people are not to be underestimated. They are the ones who care about you the most, and can help you start your street team and watch it grow with you into a healthy, large audience of fans.

Back-Up FTW

 

Cons are an interesting phenomenon. The vendor area is made up of too-skinny aisles that somehow funnel thousands of nerds through them on an hourly basis. Rows and rows of six foot tables or ten foot square booths line the sides, each with their own unique wares-art, crafts, scrolls, swords, costumes, novels- to draw the masses toward them. Sometime in the middle of day two the smell sets in, and then on day three it goes away, because you’ve become part of it. The vendor hall is noisy and claustrophobic, and getting people’s attention with books is often a challenge.

I live near Salt Lake City, and have done the Salt Lake Comic Con half a dozen times as an author. I started out sharing a table or a booth with other authors. Sometimes sponsored, sometimes not. The out of pocket cost wasn’t much when we were sponsored, so making my money back wasn’t a big deal. I was there to have fun and meet potential readers.

I remember one year, there was a couple sitting across from the four-author-table I was a part of. It was just the two of them. They looked fresh and excited, surrounded by piles and piles of what had to be his first published work. The one sign they had said that the book was $20.

Just a note: most readers don’t go to a con to pay MORE for a book than they would on Amazon.

The guys at my table and myself tried to be friendly. Talk to our neighbors. Greet people going by. Ask them what they like to read. Offer them a free bookmark. It’s simple but it helps draw people over to the table. One of our guys would even grab a copy of his book, turn it around and hand it to people to read. This also helped sales.

The couple across the way started out smiling, but after an hour or so, with only a few people stopping and none stayed to talk, the smiles waned, and the looks of desperation began. The wild eyes, searching the passing crowd, looking for anyone who glanced their way. Or even mostly glanced their way.

I don’t think I saw more than three or four people that stopped all day.

The next day, the price for the book had been lowered to $15. Better. Not great, but better. However, it didn’t help. While we plugged along, selling a book or so an hour, they got more and more desperate. I saw them with their heads together, talking. They started to send nasty looks into the passing crowd, as if the people were to blame for their lack of success.

By the end of day two, they walked away with their shoulders slumped and their eyes down. The next morning the price of the book was $10. Halfway through the day it went to $7. Then, during the last hour, 2 for $5.

I’m not sure they sold a single book. The four authors at our table probably totaled 45 books. So not great, but since someone had sponsored us, it wasn’t a big loss for any of us.

I’ve never seen that couple come back. And who can blame them? They had a horrible experience.

But what made it a horrible experience?

Let me tell you, after four or five times sharing space, how I did the first time I went on my own. I got a six foot table and paid extra to be on the main walkway as well as on a corner. The corner was for ease of getting in and out more than anything else, because on a table you don’t get an end cap or anything.

By this point I knew I was horrible at pimping my own books, so I called for backup. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of my books, as well as a huge geek. So is my brother-in-law. So I got them vendor badges (generally less expensive than the regular passes) and they agreed to help me sell books. They aren’t afraid to talk to people, and they didn’t hesitate to chat with anyone who walked by. They would ask people if they liked to read and if so what. At that point they would grab one of my books that resonated with what the victim-potential reader-had said and tell them about it.

I brought 150 books with me and we sold 125 of them. Not the greatest showing ever at a con, but much better than I’d ever done before. And basically, I sat behind the table, looked pretty and signed books. I tried my hand at drawing people over, and got better at it, but my minions did most of the work. I made a tidy profit, and that was that.

A few weeks later, I took them to a nice dinner and we talked about selling even more books the next time.

I’ve learned that you get out of a conference what you put into it. If you’re willing to get out there and sell your books, then you will sell a lot more books than if you simply sit behind your table and watch the crowds go by. Maybe your covers or your posters or your decorations will draw people over. Or maybe enough people know your name to drop by, but until then, be prepared to work your butt off. And if people aren’t responding to you, bring in back up. Bribe them. It’s worth it.

Paid to Play: Writing Licensed Fan Fiction in Kindle Worlds

We’ve all heard that writing fan fiction is something that professional writers don’t do. Fan fiction has a stigma attached to it of being vastly amateur and a waste of time for aspiring authors who should be cutting their teeth on their own works. The truth of the matter is that fan fiction has a very large fan base and can provide a great opportunity for new writers to hone their abilities. Yet, being paid for writing fan fiction has always been reserved for authors who sign literary contracts to write “media tie-ins.” The media tie-in was essentially the sole professional version of fan fiction until Kindle Worlds came along.

Kindle Worlds is a project from Amazon that allows authors to write licensed fan fiction in any of the licensed world. Authors can earn royalties (typically 30%) from their works in a licensed world. Works can be any length from short story to full novels. The only “catch” is that Amazon and that licensed world own your story in perpetuity. Licensed worlds include the worlds of bestselling authors Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, and Kurt Vonnegut. Other worlds include television properties (Vampire Diaries, Wayward Pines, Veronica Mars) and comic book properties (G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero, Quantum and Woody, XO Man-o-War). All an author has to do is have an idea, check the Kindle Worlds quality/content guidelines for that licensed world, write a story, and publish it. It’s licensed fan fiction, and I can say from experience, a huge opportunity.

A few years ago at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, I met Hugh Howey. We had a great conversation then, and ever since via infrequent emails. I first heard about Kindle Worlds from Hugh. Roughly about the time that I finished the second of his Silo Saga novels (SHIFT), I had an idea for a story in his universe. Knowing that the universe was available through the Kindle Worlds program, I worked up a story and promptly hesitated. On the cusp of submitting the story, I chickened out and emailed Hugh for advice. He told me to publish the story, and I did. I’ve published several short stories via Kindle, but none has sold like my Silo Sage novelette “Vessel.” It’s been out for a couple of years and has never left the Top 200 in Kindle Worlds Science Fiction and Fantasy, topping out at #3. The story has done nicely, putting some extra money in my account while generating name recognition. I never thought about name recognition as a by-product for Kindle Worlds until I had an idea for another story in a different universe.

As a kid, the cartoon series G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero was my favorite series of all time. When I saw that its universe was part of Kindle Worlds, I was amazed and thrilled. In the Kindle Worlds stories, there are some really good ones including those by bestselling author Carrie Vaughn and my friends Peter Wacks and Aaron Michael Ritchey. On a getaway weekend to Breckenridge a couple of years ago, I had an idea for a story in that universe and wrote it inside of a week. After some read-throughs and edits, I used the Kindle Worlds cover builder, formatted the book, and set it live. What happened next is surreal. About 24 hours after I set the title live, I had a Twitter notification on my account (@TheWriterIke). I’d been mentioned in a tweet from Amazon Kindle Worlds that reached almost 35,000 subscribers. They’d also tagged one of the major G.I.Joe toy collector groups, and they then retweeted it to another 6,000 subscribers. The story hit #7 in all of Kindle Worlds within the next few hours. I gained fifty or so Twitter followers. Like “Vessel,” my short story “Friends In High Places” has continued to do very well, and the fact that it’s licensed fan fiction is something I’m very proud of.

I believe firmly that writers should seek payment for our work. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Kindle Worlds is a perfect opportunity to play in someone else’s world while earning royalties and gaining exposure. Check them out at KindleWorlds.Amazon.Com and see if there is a licensed world you’re familiar with. Then, if the muse whispers in your ear, sit down and write the best story you possibly can. You never know what might happen with it.

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads logoThere are lots of pros and cons to Goodreads, and everyone who uses it has an opinion. If you’ve never used Goodreads, it’s explained as a facebook-like social media for readers. You can track books you want to read, you’re currently reading, and those you’ve read. You can rate books, leave reviews, join chats, and browse many lists. There are a lot of good features.

The cons to Goodreads usually tie back to bad behaviors of other Goodreads users. I won’t go into that since I’ve been lucky enough not to run afoul of any of the Goodreads trolls I’ve heard so much about. I’ll just say, it can be a useful site but, as with everything, tread with caution and don’t allow others to dictate how you feel about yourself.

For me, Goodreads has been a good thing. I enjoy seeing what friends are reading and following other authors I enjoy. One of the features of Goodreads I was slow to take advantage of is the Goodreads Giveaways, but they can be great for readers and for authors.

For readers, it’s easy to sign up for many giveaways, entering for chances to win free physical copies of books that look interesting. It’s a no-risk way to perhaps explore a new author’s work.

For authors, setting up a giveaway is a very inexpensive way to reach hundreds or even thousands of potential readers. How do they work?

First, you have to decide how many copies of your book (ARC copies or final, published copies) you plan to give away, and to which countries you’re willing to ship to. The cost of the books and the shipping is all yours to swallow.

Next, design your giveaway.

The simplest approach is to add your cover, title, and a brief blurb. That’s all you need and you can launch the giveaway. You specify the start and end dates of the giveaway, and let it rip. This works, but there are tons of giveaways running, and the downside is it’s hard to find a specific book among the long lists of giveaways. So it’s easy to get lost in the flood. I’ve found that most of the readers you snag to sign-up for your giveaway are won in the first days and in the final days of the giveaway, when it’s near one end of the list or the other. It’s easier for people to find them.

There’s a simple way to increase your discovery rate and boost the number of readers who sign up for the giveaway. To do so, you must make a secondary giveaway image.

Set in Stone giveaway promo updated

 

As you can see, it’s a pretty simple thing to put together. But this image displays larger than the basic cover and helps pop out from the long lists of plain giveaways when readers are scanning the page, helping to draw their gaze. If you have a great cover and an enticing one-liner, you can get them to add the book.

For Set in Stone, my first giveaway, over 1000 people signed up for the giveaway – 2 signed hardcover copies. Even better, over 500 people added Set in Stone to their “To Read” queue! Not everyone is going to eventually buy the book, but by clicking that they want to read it, the chances are higher. That’s five hundred potential sales by investing a few minutes in setting up the giveaway, plus the cost of a couple of hardcovers plus shipping. If I hadn’t listed Set in Stone in the giveaway, none of those people would have known anything about it and none of them would have even considered reading it.

I did a local book launch for Set in Stone and did everything I could to let folks in my circles know about it, but the Goodreads giveaway allowed me to reach beyond my normal circles. The book has sold pretty well in its first month since being released, and I believe that at least part of that success is due to the Goodreads giveaway helping me reach a wider audience.

Here’s the image we just designed for the giveaway of Memory Hunter, an alternate history novel I’m releasing July 24th. It’s an awesome book with an incredible cover, and is available already for pre-order here. I’m hoping it will catch a lot of readers’ attention.

Memory Hunter Goodreads promo image

Anyone interested in checking out a currently live giveaway, or even signing up for the free hardcovers, here’s the link to my giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Memory Hunter by Frank Morin

Memory Hunter

by Frank Morin

Giveaway ends July 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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