TMI: Marketing Info Overload

Too Much InformationMy eyes are glazing and my brain hurts. It began with a BookBub Partners email directing me to a guest blog by author Nick Sullivan, his topic being one close to my heart: Launching Book 4 in a Series. Like Nick, I have a fourth book coming out in about six months. But unlike Nick, it would never occur to me to set up a pre-order for a book being released months from now. That’s yet another marketing wrinkle I must consider.

As is “calling KDP.” What? It’s possible to telephone Kindle Direct Publishing? Nick says he “Called KDP and added eight more categories to both the paperback and the Kindle editions. (When you set up your book in KDP, you provide two categories, but you can contact Amazon and get up to 10.)” Veddy interesting. I had no idea that speaking with an actual human would be possible. I must investigate.

Reading more of Nick’s advice, I came to the unfamiliar term AMS. Nick writes that AMS had been “getting away from him.” Well, by golly, it’s sure been getting away from me, since I had never heard the term before today. Googling clued me in: it stands for Amazon Marketing Services. Oh, okay: ads. Yep, Amazon ads have been on my to-do list.

So I let Google detour me from Nick’s Book 4 launch strategy into the YouTube weeds of “How to Do Amazon Book Ads.” The process seems similar to BookBub’s DIY ad platform. Except Amazon makes provision for “negative targeting keywords,” where you enter search terms that you don’t want your book to be associated with. For instance, if your book isn’t free, you can enter “free” and “free ebook” as negative keywords, to keep freebie shoppers from clicking on your title and then getting mad when they see that it costs a whopping $2.99.  Good to know.

But back to Nick’s advice. He names several non-BookBub promo sites: Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Book Adrenaline, BookDoggy, ENT, and eReaderIQ. I see more Googling in my future, as I have no clue what any of those are or what they do or how much they cost.

Nick’s post eventually led me to this related article: “Marketing a New Book Release that’s Part of a Long Series.” In that linked article, author Julianne MacLean offers succinct advice that seems a little easier to follow for someone (like me) who possesses only rudimentary marketing knowledge. Julianne breaks her promo plan into seven steps:

1. Pre-order
2. Cover reveal
3. Social media
4. Book trailer
5. Discounting
6. Advertising
7. Blog tour

I’ve got Waterspell Book 4’s new cover in hand, I’ve made some book trailers, I’m as active as time allows on social media, and my testing-the-waters ads via BookBub have yielded promising results, especially for rebels like me who prefer Barnes & Noble and Nook. When Waterspell Books 1 and 2 were newly released, I did blog tours, and it seems that such tours are still “a thing,” though blogging itself isn’t the hottest communications medium out there.

Which leaves pre-orders and discounting for me to investigate.

My to-do list grows ever longer. It’s encouraging, though, that other writers have worked out doable marketing plans that I can hope to emulate. But not right now. At this hour of the day, I (like Fernando Pessoa) need truth and aspirin.

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Character Development: Showing Emotions

Once again, and gratefully, I’m sharing excellent writing advice from author Connie J. Jasperson. It’s very timely. I’m about to settle down, first, as a beta reader for a writer-friend’s work-in-progress, and then to make final (I hope) edits to my own WIP, Waterspell Book 4. Connie’s advice on how to show characters’ emotional states will be fresh in my mind as I undertake to help both my friend and myself Do Our Jobs Better.


 

Most authors who have been in writing groups for any length of time become adept at writing emotions on a surface level. We bandage our wounded egos and work at showing our characters’ inner demons. We spend hours writing and rewriting, forcing words into facial expressions. Happiness, anger, spite – all the emotions get a […]

Character Development: Showing Emotions — Life in the Realm of Fantasy

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Burrowing Into BookBub

The Plan calls for investigating the usefulness of BookBub, a book discovery service that features free and discounted ebooks. Quickly I learned that it’s great for readers. In Week 1 of getting their daily emails featuring ebook bargains, I bought six new books or series (pictured, Refraction through Book of Dragons). None of these cost me more than $3. Such a deal!

Nook library

 

Waterspell by Deborah J Lightfoot

BookBub ad 1

I’ve also tentatively begun advertising on BookBub. My first ad served up 1,600 impressions but garnered only eight clicks. Being inexperienced with this ad platform, I paid for impressions rather than clicks. So far, I can’t see the logic in spending money on “impressions,” which are nothing more than opened emails. There’s no guarantee that people will even scroll all the way to the end of the email, where the ads appear. As I see it, “impressions” mean little or nothing. It’s clicks that should matter.

Waterspell by Deborah J Lightfoot

BookBub ad 2

For Ad No. 2, I changed the tagline and bid on clicks, not impressions. This ad has been running for three days now, serving up fewer impressions but not burning through the test budget like my first ad did.

Waterspell by Deborah J Lightfoot

BookBub ad 3

I’ll give Ad No. 2 a week, then change the text again, to test a question rather than a statement. My Facebook focus group likes Ad No. 3 the best of all the examples I offered for their scrutiny.

All things considered, I believe there’s more reason to invest time and money in reaching the “power readers” at BookBub, rather than work at growing an audience for my Facebook author page. Facebook users are a distractible bunch, their interests running the gamut. BookBub (every time I start to type that, it comes out Boobbub!) is laser-focused on people who buy books.

And clearly, those readers don’t want to spend much money. I can’t blame them. I myself scarfed up the dollar bargains as quickly as they came my way.

Therefore, after testing Ads 1, 2, and 3, my next step will be to drop the price of Waterspell Book 1 to 99 cents (or free, if Amazon will let me) and see what the response is.

If at first you don’t succeed …

 

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Character Development: Motivation drives the story

Here’s excellent writing advice from author Connie J. Jasperson. I’m pleased to reblog her post, as follows, and I invite you to follow Connie at conniejjasperson.com.

You have probably heard of the literary rule known as Chekhov’s Gun, which says nothing should appear in the scene that has no use. If a rifle is important enough to be shown hanging on the wall, someone had better fire it, or it should be removed from the setting. Firing Chekhov’s gun brings us […]

Character Development: Motivation drives the story #amwriting — Life in the Realm of Fantasy

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Travel Inspires Writing

In the Before Time (pre-2020 Pandemic) I enjoyed traveling. Recently I had occasion to look through old vacation photos, and I found three that must have served as direct inspiration for pivotal elements in my Waterspell books. Their influence operated subconsciously. I didn’t have the pictures before me when I wrote their imagery into my story. When I came across the photos, however, long after the fact, I instantly recognized all that they had given me.

The Lake of the Lilies

Lily pond at Honey Creek State Natural AreaI snapped this picture at the Honey Creek State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country, on a tour organized by the Texas Nature Conservancy. The outing was advertised as a wildflower tour, but when we got there our guide apologized for the almost complete absence of wildflowers—the deer had eaten them between the time the tour was arranged and before we arrived. I remember the beauty and wildness of the place, though. This old snapshot does not do justice to the shimmering of sunlight on the pads of the water lilies. Clearly, the vision stayed with me, and inspired the Lake of the Lilies in the woods near Verek’s manor house.

Carin’s Sanctuary Oak

Major Oak photo by Jerzy KociatkiewiczDuring a trip to England, I got to see the Major Oak in the midst of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. We soaked up the whole Robin Hood–Sherwood Forest magic of the place. I came home with a beautiful Lincoln Green scarf woven of English wool and sporting an embroidered Robin with his bow drawn. Looking at this picture of the Major Oak, I have no doubt that the tree was the subconscious inspiration for the Sanctuary Oak that saves Carin from the wasteland dogs. The above photo by Jerzy Kociatkiewicz appears at The Treeographer and shows the tree standing alone in the midst of a clearing, just as Carin’s Sanctuary stands. The branching pattern of the Major Oak’s thick limbs suggests how Carin is able to leap into her sanctuary tree to escape the dogs, and how she can sleep that night, though uncomfortably, by lashing herself to one of its thick horizontal branches.

The Mirror Pool

Towertop compass design at a Texas Hill Country state parkFour stone benches ring the well of the wysards in the cavern of enchantment deep beneath Verek’s manor house. The benches are arranged like the four cardinal points of a compass. When I came across this old vacation photo, I gasped in recognition. Look closely, and you can see the ornate E, S, and W directional markers of this stone compass that’s laid into the floor of a watchtower (or observation deck). The letter N for North barely appears at the left edge of the picture. I can’t remember exactly where I took this photo in the Texas Hill Country, but I’m inclined to think it’s either Longhorn Cavern or Inks Lake State Park in Burnet County, next to Inks Lake on the Colorado River. Seen through the lens of my writing, I easily picture the mirror pool replacing that stone mosaic in the center of the floor, with the benches set around the pool at the cardinal points, the directional letters giving way to carvings of key, crescent moon, fish, and radiant sun.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” (Attributed, probably incorrectly, to St. Augustine.)

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Time to Work Out the Plan

Waterspell tagline on sunsetFor a year, I’ve been laying the groundwork:

• New covers, first for the ebooks and now for the paperbacks
• Ongoing work on the audiobooks
• New book trailers, created via Biteable
• Reformatted Facebook author page
• Updated Amazon author page
• Updated Goodreads profile
• Lots of social media graphics newly made at Canva.com

My next steps include looking into the usefulness of these things:

• BookBub
• The Fussy Librarian
• Blog tours
• Goodreads Giveaways
• Amazon advertising
• Written Word Media
• Instagram

I know who I’ll ask for new reviews to augment the glowing reviews that Waterspell received upon the books’ initial publication. The circle I move in, these days, is much changed from the social circle that I knew before my husband’s death in 2012. Now, I number among my friends many anti-fascist activists, folks I got to know after November 2016. Most of them didn’t even know I was a many-times published author; it wasn’t what drew us together. Now, gradually, I’m revealing my past life and enlisting the support of those who are willing to help me recover something of it.

Waterspell Book 1 detail

Am I dreaming, thinking I can relaunch a 10-year-old fantasy series? Possibly. But I’m making final edits to Waterspell Book 4, preparing for a 2022 release. And the audiobooks are slowly coming together, after my wonderfully talented narrator endured a major upheaval in his own world. It took him away from the work for six months—disruptive, yes, but not as damaging to a career as was my own dark, nine-year period of grief and neglect. If nothing else goes too badly wrong, the audiobooks should be released in 2022, along with Book 4.

I’m thinking those two events could be and should be enough to spark new interest in the original trilogy. If I will get out there and promote, dammit. It’s no secret that promotion takes money, and I’m prepared to pay, within reason, for advertising. Here’s what I plan for my first sponsored Facebook post:

waterspell-fb“Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Charlotte Brontë.” From award-winning author Deborah J. Lightfoot, an unforgettable epic fantasy that readers call “extraordinary, enthralling, completely unpredictable.” Think “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” Coming in 2022, Book 4 of Waterspell will complete the series. Print & ebooks available. Audiobooks in progress. www.waterspell.net

Amazon advertising and BookBub being completely new to me, I’ll need to discover how they may or may not fit into the budget. But at least I’ve got a little ready cash to spend on a new promotional push. The 2020 Pandemic Year not only gave me time and opportunity to pursue audiobooks and to write Book 4, it saved me money. I went nowhere and cooked meals at home. Everything I didn’t spend on travel and restaurants is now earmarked for book promotion.

I hope to Drisha this plan of mine will get these four books in front of the readers who will most enjoy them. At this point, it’s readership I want—not fortune so much, just a tiny bit of fame to validate the years I’ve spent obsessing over this story of mine.

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Free Graphics at Canva

Evidently the rest of the writing world learned about Canva.com long ago. I’ve only recently discovered its multitude of free and easily customized templates for Facebook posts, Instagram, postcards, and all sorts of things.

Now that I know, I’m hooked. I started out playing with their ready-made templates, and created graphics that I may or may not ever actually post on my Facebook page:

Further experimentation produced results more in keeping with my tastes and better suited to the books:

Canva’s templates gave me ideas. This one suggested a way of showcasing several reviews at once:

Finding my rhythm, I knocked out several images that I’ve stockpiled for a social-media blitz when the time comes to actively promote Waterspell Book 4 (it’s nearly finished!) and the audiobooks (after an unavoidable delay, we’re now aiming for a Spring 2022 release at Audible).

I’m thinking I can never have too many of these things pre-made and ready to post. So it’s back to Canva.com that I go. Many thanks to that wonderfully generous Aussie tech company for making so many of its templates totally free. ♥

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Impossible to Beat Goodreads Into Submission?

GoodreadsFor good or ill, I mostly ignore Goodreads. The interface is maddeningly clunky. It resists all efforts to correct or update book details. The simple act of uploading a new cover creates multitudes of “new editions” which are no such thing. Edits are not saved immediately, making the person behind the editing wonder whether they stuck at all.

I write this while waiting the minimum 15 minutes to see whether the new Waterspell paperback covers got uploaded correctly (inevitably showing as “new editions,” creating a vastness of editions at Goodreads when there are, in fact, only the three editions in the real world: Paperback, Kindle, and other ebook).

The multiplied editions don’t annoy me nearly as much, however, as Goodreads’ insistence on changing the books’ titles. They are properly titled Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock, Waterspell Book 2: The Wysard, and Waterspell Book 3: The Wisewoman. In Goodreads’ infinite wisdom, however, the books are shown with their subtitles first, and the actual title—Waterspell—in parentheses. I frown at them taking such liberties with my books, but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it.

My antipathy toward the Goodreads interface keeps me from participating widely on that platform, which undoubtedly redounds to my disadvantage. I know it’s popular with avid readers, and I should reach out to connect with fantasy fans who spend time there. But egads, Goodreads! Why in this age of technological marvels does your interface feel 20 years old? Has it grown too huge and bloated to revamp? Are we stuck forever with this wallowing mess of a website?

I think it’s been 15 minutes. Now I shall log in again and see if any of my edits stuck, or if I must try, try, try again. <sigh>

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How Do Books Get Discovered?

“The trick isn’t to get people to read your book. The trick is to get people to hear about your book.”

So said a participant in a recent Authors Guild webinar about book marketing and promotion. The comment struck a chord, for I’ve struggled to get my books more widely noticed. The reviews they have garnered suggest fantasy fans would enjoy reading Waterspell, but too few members of my intended audience have even heard of the series.

Anticipating the release of the audiobooks (which are progressing now, after a six-month hiatus in which Life with a capital L again intervened to back-burner them), I’m trying a mix of old and new ways to reach my audience. My newest effort is through two particularly lively Facebook groups:

  • The Reading Corner Book Lounge: “A fun and friendly place for bookdragons to discuss anything and everything bookish! We have a wide variety of members worldwide who read all sorts of genres. We frequently host readathons and have several group reads every month if you choose to participate. We also host author Live interviews a few times a year.”
  • Fantasy-Faction – SFF Book Discussion: “Fantasy-Faction.com is one of the world’s largest fantasy and science fiction book communities. Each week we bring readers book reviews, author interviews, articles on the genre, up-to-date news and much, much more. Our site has proudly been nominated for the World and British Fantasy Awards and twice won the Reddit Award for Best Fantasy Website.”

Reading Corner allows authors to self-promote, within limits. Naturally they ask writers to comment and participate with the other posts, and to not join for the sole purpose of self-promotion. I’m enjoying the group immensely and find it easy to participate as simply one avid reader among thousands. Group members read everything, but fantasy is a popular genre among them. The tone is unfailingly supportive and polite. They enjoy each other’s company. I’m not yet ready to straight-out ask for group members to read and review my books, but I anticipate a positive response when I reach that point.

Fantasy Faction dragonFantasy-Faction, on the other hand (the dragon is their logo), does not allow advertising or “buy my book” posts. It’s wonderfully informative, however. I’m learning a new vocabulary for discussing the fantasy genre: terms like “grimdark” and “reactive protagonist.” One post so neatly summed up the elements of classic, epic fantasy, it gave me a kind of template for describing Waterspell’s place in that subgenre:

Waterspell fits firmly in the realm of epic fantasy (but with an environmental fantasy twist) … It’s got ancient and mysterious magic, a Hero/Heroine’s Journey (with a twist), a passage from one world to the otherworld, a (reluctant) Chosen One, and a search for belonging and redemption.

One frequent Fantasy-Faction contributor described her favorite genre tropes in terms that left me in no doubt: She would like Waterspell. Now I’m wondering if it’s cricket (honorable, acceptable, not insectoid) to message her and offer her a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have to think it over and seek advice. Mustn’t offend (or get kicked out of the group).

New Paperback Covers

Book 1 The WarlockAnother thing I’ve learned from participating in these two bookdragon groups is that fantasy fans still buy physical books! I had assumed that ebooks were more popular with my intended audience. Personally, I prefer the convenience and portability of ebooks, and I’ve gradually culled my library of physical books. When I got new ebook (and audiobook) covers made, I thought I wouldn’t bother with updating the paperback covers, too, since the Waterspell paperbacks are much more expensive than the ebooks and haven’t sold as well.

My thinking has changed, after realizing that fantasy fans are collectors as much as they are readers. They love beautiful books, they want to hold them in their hands, and they want to display them on their bookshelves. Therefore, I have returned to my cover artist, Vila Design. and placed an order for new paperback PDFs to match the ebook covers, to be uploaded at Lightning Source.

Tweaked Facebook Page

I had wondered why my books’ Facebook page didn’t look like other writers’ pages. Visitors had to scroll past layers of Facebook-imposed clutter to reach the heart of the page. Finally I dug deep into the Settings (they bury it deep) to discover I was using FB’s “Standard” page template. When I changed to the “Public Figure” template, voila! The page cleaned up nicely. Much less clutter at the top. I’m glad to discover the fix but wonder why it was so hard to find.

Author page screenshot new template

And so I press on, trying this and that, seeking a wider audience for my work … convinced, at the end of the day, that nothing really succeeds except word-of-mouth. Personal recommendations are gold.

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“Literary Fantasy” Defined

Book 1 The WarlockThis is the best definition of “literary fantasy” I’ve come across. The definer, Emily Temple, also lists and briefly describes recommended books in the genre. Of course, I must add the Waterspell series to the list, as it closely fits her definition:

“For the purposes of this list, I am using it [the term ‘literary fantasy’] to mean works of fantasy that prioritize sentence-level craft and/or complex thematic structures, and/or that play with expectations and fantasy tropes, and/or that focus on characters and interiority as primary goals of the work. I don’t just mean ‘well-written fantasy’ or ‘literary novels that have magic in them,’ though both kinds of books can be found here. What I mean is books that relate to and pull from the conventions of both genres: fantasy and literary fiction. This means there might be dragons, and there might be a hero’s journey, and there might be some lyrical descriptions, and there might be some family conflict. There is also some crossover with SF and literary SF, of course.”
—Emily Temple

Find Temple’s list on Literary Hub at “10 Works of Literary Fantasy You Should Read.”

 

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