Tag Archives: promotion

The Business of Promotion: When the Hero Comes Home 2

When-the-Hero-Comes-Home-2-coverDoing business requires a businessperson to give some attention to promotion.  If you’re a store, yes, you’ll get a few customers by hanging an open sign on your door – but not as many as you’ll get if you make sure to have an attractive display window, some enticing sales, an active social media presence and involvement in your local community.  If you’re a writer, yes, you may sell a few books by virtue of their presence on a bookstore shelf or convention table, but not as many as you’ll sell if you choose striking cover art, participate in convention panels, have an active social media presence, interact with your audience….

You’ve created something and brought it into the world.  You’re passionate and enthusiastic.  There are other people out there who are also passioniate and enthusiastic, about your subject.  All you need to do is let them know that your story exists.

Last month was Marketing and Promotion month here at The Fictorians.  The Fictorians and their guests contributed some excellent tips to let you know the best ways to spread the word and boost the signal:  you have a book for sale!

I have a book for sale.

Hook your readers’ attention.  Let them know, in a few short sentences, what your story (and, if applicable, the anthology it’s in) is about:

Everyone knows the archetype of the hero’s journey.  But do you know what happens after that journey ends?

When the Hero Comes Home 2 is a collection of short stories that begin where most stories end.  The hero who returns is different from the average guy who left–how does he readjust to his old life?   What advice does she give to the next generation of heroes?  What happens when the hero comes home in defeat?

Blood Runs Thicker is available in the ebook version of When the Hero Comes Home 2.  It’s the story of a young man named Jim and his personal hero, his best friend Al.  Against all odds, Al has been elevated to a decorated veteran of a galactic war, and Jim fears he barely recognizes his old friend.  He’s yet to learn that winning her medals has cost Al everything that ever mattered to her, and that a similar sacrifice looms on his own horizon as their destinies entangle.

Sometimes it’s fun to throw in a few “behind the scenes” details about writing the story.  Human interest bits are appealing and help whet readers’ curiosity:

The core idea for Blood Runs Thicker was inspired by a single line in a Blue Oyster Cult song:  Jim says some destinies should not be delivered.  I started thinking:  what is destiny?  Why should some of them not come to pass, and what happens when they do anyway?  Who is judging what “should” and “should not” be delivered?  From this line, I developed my main character–Jim, a shaman who works with tarot cards–and his best friend Al.  Jim’s cards foretell Al’s destiny:  to become a hero, at a terrible cost.  What Jim doesn’t recognize is that those cards predict the same fate for him.

If your audience is hooked, make it easy for them!  Make sure they know how and where to purchase:

You can get the ebook version of When the Hero Comes Home 2 here, on sale for a limited time, in either Kindle or Epub formats:


Or you can buy from Amazon:


So don’t just put that book on the shelf and hang the open sign on your door.  Make sure your product looks good, and most importantly, let people know it’s out there–and why they should care.

Horror Comes Creeping…

Dark_Bits_coverV3-208x300Happy Hallowe’en and Blessed Samhain!

Like many other people, I’ve read a few Stephen King novels, and watched a few scary movies, particularly around this time of year.  And yes, perhaps I have a greater appreciation for zombies than most of my co-workers.  And okay, I don’t flinch away from putting the darkness in dark fantasy, and I feel that no honest war story can fail to convey the horrors of warfare.

But I never considered myself a horror writer.

I knew, however, that even as a newly published author, I didn’t want to fall into a rut:  the same themes, the same settings, the same sorts of characters.  I decided that this year – the year after my first publication – I would challenge myself.  So in addition to the military science fiction that I love, I spread my wings and wrote some stories to submit to a few anthologies outside of that genre.

The first of those anthologies was Dark Bits by Apokrupha.  Dark Bits is an anthology of “52 + 1” flash fiction horror stories.  I thought that a word limit of less than 500 words was a good way to try a, er, “little” something new.

It turns out it took all weekend to craft those 500 words (from someone who can routinely crank out 2000 words/day), because flash fiction comes with its own inherit challenges:  you need to develop your character(s) and convey the story arc, beginning to end, in a very limited space.  My first draft was almost twice as long as it needed to be; my major editing challenge was to tighten the work into the word limit, making every word count.  The end result is a tiny taste of terror called The Long Haul.

The Long Haul is a story best described as “Emily Dickenson is a long-haul trucker.”  Hop into the cab of a cross-country delivery gone wrong, brush up on your poetry, and hold on tight.  The first few miles will be okay.  Just be aware, there’s a long…a very long…way to go.

You can order your own copy of Dark Bits here:  http://apokrupha.com/dark-bits/  Books are available in ebook, Kindle, paperback and hardcover formats.  There’s also a 2014 weekly planner which includes a flash fiction story for every week of the year!

Bolstered by the success of “The Long Haul,” when I found out an editor I know was accepting submissions to an anthology of horror stories, I tried my hand at a longer-length tale.  I’m pleased to announce that next year, you can find Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock in Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant, coming next year from Daverana Enterprises.  More gruesome details will be given closer to publication date…

If once is chance, and twice is coincidence, I’m not far away from “third is a pattern.”

I suppose that makes me a horror writer.  Among other things.

Marketing on Amazon

A guest post by Jodi McIsaac.

ITFsmallThe world of publishing is changing at whiplash speed, and the company setting the pace is Amazon. As the largest bookseller (with 29% of the market) in a world where more books are now bought online than in brick-and-mortor stores, Amazon is a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately for authors who want to sell books (and who doesn’t?), this is a good thing: Amazon is the #1 place where readers go to buy books, and you, the author, can use that to your advantage.

As traditional publishing houses offer less and less (and often zero) marketing support, it’s never before been more important – or easier – for authors to connect directly to their readers, and to take charge of their own marketing.

But where to start? There are two easy ways to market your books on Amazon. While these tips apply primarily to self-published authors, who have more control over how their books are presented to the world, traditionally-published authors can work with their publishers to use Amazon to their advantage, and find a new and enthusiastic audience for their work.

1. Enroll in KDP Select

If you are self-publishing and using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform (as you should), you have the option of signing up for the KDP Select program. In exchange for agreeing to sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon for 90 days, they will (a) include your book in the Kindle Lending Library, and (b) allow you to give it away for free for up to 5 days during that 90-day period.

Now, the first part is a no-brainer—Amazon Prime users are allowed to download one book a month for free from the Lending Library. The great part is, Amazon pays the authors out of a “global fund” that’s usually around $600,000 a month. That means you might even get paid more when someone borrows your book than when someone buys it. And it’s a great way to reach new readers who will take a chance on your book when it’s free to them. And that brings us to the next point:

What do you mean, they’ll “allow” me to give my book away for free for 5 days? Why would I do that?

For many reasons, actually. Strategically giving your book away is a great way to gain exposure, get more reviews (which in turn drive more sales), and introduce new readers to your work. This plan is especially effective if you have more than one book available—if readers enjoy your free offering, they will often go searching for your other books. It used to be that authors who used KDP Select also saw a big jump in sales in the days and weeks following their free promotion, because Amazon counted the free “sales” as paid sales, which often meant that books landed on the bestseller lists after the free days were finished. But in the past few months Amazon has adjusted their algorithms, so the sales bump isn’t quite so dramatic as it used to be. Nevertheless, it’s a very worthwhile marketing tactic. My book Through the Door was downloaded over 60,000 times in five days when it was enrolled in KDP Select. Many of those readers loved it, told their friends, signed up for my newsletter, and have since pre-ordered the second book in the series.

2. Optimize your metadata

In How to Market Your Book, Joanna Penn says, “You can never sell as many books as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and the other retailers can sell for you.” This is because those retailers thrive on being useful to their customers—and that means presenting their customers with buying options that they think you’ll like. They do this by means of top-secret algorithms, but there is a way you can make your book stand up and say “Pick me!” It’s called optimizing your metadata.

Don’t worry—it’s not as complicated as it sounds. “Metadata” is basically everything about your book except for the content itself – the title, description, author bio, reviews, excerpts, table of contents, and keyword data. When you upload a book to Amazon you (or your publisher) have the opportunity to fill in all of these “behind the scenes” fields. This data drives recommendations and placement on Amazon—such as a “what to read next” spot in a promotional email to their customers or a coveted placement on readers’ home pages. Think of it as the equivalent of front-of-store and end cap placement in your local bookstore, except it’s targeted to the people who are most likely to buy your book based on their buying history. Here’s how you do it:

Make sure you are in the right category—which means you need to know your audience and what they are looking for. Readers don’t want to buy a book in the romance category only to discover it’s actually a horror novel. The more specific you can get with your categorization, the better. Is it “fantasy” or “paranormal romance” or “urban fantasy” or “contemporary fantasy”? Yes, there is a difference, and if you can nail that down then your readers will know where to find you. You have the option to pick more than one, just make sure they’re both true. Right now I’m “shelved” in Contemporary Fantasy and Women’s Fiction>Mothers and Children. Both work, because the book is a modern-day fantasy novel about a mother trying to save her child.

Brainstorm keywords that best describe your book. For example, mine might be “Celtic mythology, Ireland, fantasy, gods and goddesses, modern magic.” Then use Google’s free Keyword Search Tool (you’ll need a Google or Gmail account), which will allow you to plug these keywords in and discover which similar terms people are searching for. Choose the words that are searched for most often and most accurately reflect your book, and you’re almost done.

Narrow down your list by comparing what is being searched for on Amazon. Plug your keywords into Amazon’s search bar and see what comes up – are these books similar to yours? If yes, you’ve got your keywords.

Now, use these words in your metadata fields. Use your keywords as often as possible in the metadata categories I listed above (while making them sound natural, of course). The more you can work these keywords into your metadata fields, the easier it will be for Amazon’s algorithms to find it and match it with the right readers.

It’s only a few hours of work, and there’s a big upside: research has shown that simply optimizing your metadata can boost a book’s online sales by up to 28%.

Of course, Amazon is always changing things up—in the publishing industry and on their own website. So it’s important to stay abreast of all the developing marketing opportunities the online retailer provides. But using the KDP Select program and optimizing your metadata are two excellent places to start getting ahead of the curve.

Guest Writer Bio:
Jodi-081 edit1Jodi McIsaac is the author of THROUGH THE DOOR, the first book in the bestselling contemporary fantasy series, The Thin Veil. The second book in the series, INTO THE FIRE, is being released on November 12. Visit Jodi at her website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Fishing for friends

A guest post by Kim May.

One of the most important skills a writer can develop has very little to do with writing. Nonetheless it can open doors into the professional realm that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise and can provide vital insight to the industry. So what is this pivotal skill?


Since most writers tend to be introverts who loathe departing from their sanctum of creativity, this skill can be one of the hardest to develop. Be that as it may, it’s still important to know how because of the reasons I listed earlier. The old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is just as true in publishing as it is in other fields. Think of it this way, a fisherman doesn’t expect the fish to swim up on shore, walk on fin tip to the market, and place themselves on a bed of ice. They have to get in their boats, sail to where the fish are, and cast their nets.

So, who should you network with? Everyone. Whether you’re at a book signing, a seminar, a convention, or at church, everyone you meet is a potential reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to walk around with copies of your book(s) stuffed in your pocket but it does mean that you shouldn’t be shy about your involvement in the craft. If no one knows that you write, no one will anxiously await the release of your novel. Of course, the most valuable connections you can make are with those in the industry: editors, agents, bookstore events coordinators, and authors. But that doesn’t mean that you can afford to ignore the lady that shows up to every bookstore event or the man at the bus stop reading that book you love.

There isn’t a secret Jedi technique that you need to master in order to be good at networking. I find that the best way is to just say hello and start up a conversation. If you’re nice, and personable, chances are they’ll want to read your book. It won’t matter if you’re book is Wheel of Time erotica, and they’re a retired nun. If they like you enough they’ll read it anyway.

Don’t have a published work to promote? Promote yourself instead. It’s never too early to build an audience. When someone asks what do you do for a living or what have you been up to lately, tell them “I’ve been writing a book. It’s about (insert pitch here).” If they’re interested, give them a business card so they can follow your blog/website. That way they can run out and buy your book the second it’s available.

The one thing you don’t want to do is to go on and on about yourself for half an hour. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your experiences, and desires for your career. Where it becomes burdensome is when every turn in the conversation is directed by you, for you, so you can talk more about you. There’s a fine line between promotion and bragging and once you’ve crossed that line there is no going back.

Once you’ve made a good impression, don’t let it end there. Maintain that relationship. Say hi to them when you pass them on the street. If they invite you to an event, take them up on the offer because you don’t know who else might be there. I’ve lost count the number of industry folks I’ve met while at the movies or out to dinner with someone I met at a signing. If I hadn’t made that initial connection, I never would have met the people who have become an important part of my life.

So you see? It’s worth leaving your sanctum, and saying hello to a complete stranger. That person may be the agent who gets you your first sale, or the future admin of your fan page, or your biggest fan. But you will never find out if you don’t make the first move.

Guest Writer Bio:
Kim MayKim May writes sci-fi and fantasy but has been known to pen a gothic poem or two. She works at an independent bookstore and dog/house sits on the side. A native Oregonian, she lives with her geriatric cat, Spud, and spends as much of her free time as she can with family and friends. She recently won The Named Lands Poetry Contest. If you would like to find out what she’s working on, please visit her blog.