Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been
    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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Happy November!

Happy November

 

November is finally upon us, and that means we only have 61 days until the New Year!

I’ve been moving steadily along with my goals. In fact, I disappeared from social media for a bit while I released my new book, All of Nothing.

Here’s the lovely cover:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

I did the entire cover in Canva, and I bought the photo on Canstockphoto for seven dollars. It’s not very fancy, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it myself. and it printed just as nicely as it looks online. It’s in KU, and I’m running a free promotion on it November 9th. It will be included in the Freebooksy newsletter that day. Because  I tried a Bargain Booksy on Wherever He Goes that didn’t do too well, I’m also putting that book for free that day to see if I can’t piggyback some downloads from All of Nothing‘s promotion.

As an early birthday present, a dear friend of mine gifted me a Mac and the formatting software Vellum. I was very excited in that since I had been doing all my own formatting, I could replace the interiors of all my books, and that’s what I’ve spent the last three days doing for Summer Secrets, my erotica novella series, and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Because formatting is so easy with it, I put together a box set of my trilogy, so that is finally being offered on Amazon as well.

Nothing is ever easy though, and since I was doing the covers and insides, I went ahead and moved my trilogy over from CS to KDP Print. I hadn’t done that yet, so I wanted to get it all out of the way.

The second book in my series got lost in the conversion, and it took KDP four days to find it. It was over the weekend, and they did eventually restore it, so I was grateful for that. 🙂 If you haven’t moved your books over yet, I recommend you do so. My book was still for sale on Amazon, so it didn’t completely disappear, but it’s better to get all that taken care of sooner rather than later.

But I did redo the covers for Summer Secrets, being that I’m a bit better at covers now, and I redid the box set I created, inside and out. Though someone pointed out a typo on the first line of the first paragraph, {rolling eyes hard here} I’m still very happy with they turned out:

 

 

It wasn’t a big change, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I didn’t get so different with my trilogy, so I won’t post them here. But I did redo them in Canva, which gives them a higher quality than when I used to do my covers in Word. A very warm shoutout to my friend Aila Stephens who told me about Canva so long ago. She’s just starting up a blog series about covers herself, so make sure you follow her blog for indie tips and publishing tips!

Anyway, so next up for me is my May/December romance that I’m already 8,000 words into. I’m so excited for this book! I’ve been thinking about a May/December romance for a long time now, and I was delighted when a plot popped into my head. All of Nothing is over 80,000 words long, and I don’t think Matthew and Zia (my book doesn’t have a title yet) will end up being quite so long. But I’m still excited to be mulling subplots and backstory as I get into writing.

 

This kind of sums up the whole story, and as a contemporary romance author, you know I’ll always dish up a nice happily ever after. I just make my characters go through hell to get there first.

In other news, I’m going to submit All of Nothing into the RITAs, a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. The contest is open to both trad-pubbed and indie-pubbed authors, so in reality, I know I don’t stand a chance. But if my book could move on to a second round, or if the judges have some good feedback for me, I’d consider it a success. At any rate, it something I’m going to try, and I think All of Nothing is a solid book. It’s getting good feedback already, and my betas didn’t have anything bad to say about it. So, wish me luck!

Along with entering the contest, you also have to judge books in the first round, so I’ll be needing to dig out my Kindle and settle in for some serious reading coming up. Which suits, because I’m going to have carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on my left hand/elbow in the middle of January. I’m going to try to get Matthew and Zia at least written by then, so while I recover I can do some small edits. It will do me good to rest my hands while I help in the judging of the first round. I’m very much enjoying being part of the romance writing community!

What else is going on? NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! I won’t play, I haven’t played for a couple years now, but I may meet up with my group. Sometimes it’s nice to see people in person, talk shop. Catch up. I used to work with a couple of the members, so it will be fun to see them, too. But after the colder weather hits (I’m in MN) it gets harder to get out of the house. Even for pie and coffee at the local coffee shop.

I guess that’s all I have to report! I hope you all are doing well, and tell me what your end of the year goals are! Remember, you have 61 days! Do your best!

2019 is right around the corner! What do you have left to do in 2018_

 

Drop me a comment, and have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

My not so happy review of the Happy Book Reviews service

I listen to the Sell More Books Show podcast. I love listening to the self-publishing indie news they cover every week. Some weeks are lighter than others, but it’s a great way to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

The show is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral who are also hosting the 2nd annual Sell More Books Show summit I’m delighted to attend next year in Chicago.

Bryan does a lot for the indie community. He’s published several non-fiction books including How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis,  a book I recommend regularly, as I use it every time I need to write a blurb. He also runs a business based off that book, in case you ever feel like you just can’t write another synopsis.

Jim Kukral also does a lot for the author community: creator of Book Marketing Club, he also founded and curates the Happy Book Reviews website.

I went into the brief history of these gentlemen because I trust them and I admire all the hard work they do for us indies.

But sometimes things don’t work as well as they could, or should, and Jim’s Happy Book Reviews is one of those things.

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As indies, we all want those five-star reviews for our books. 

At $25.00, he promises to put your book in front of thousands of readers who want to download your book for free and leave a review. This sounds great! At this low fee, my book was available for twenty-five downloads on a first come, first serve basis, to people who would read it and review it with no obligations for me to do the same.

It really could be a boon for us authors who need reviews for that social proof we’ve written a good book.

But my enthusiasm waned the moment I received the email that contained the newsletter that featured my book.

In the whole month my book was available for download, my book was downloaded twice. Yep. Twice. Out of twenty-five copies available.

There were, in my opinion a few reasons for this:

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to sign up for the newsletter. This seems like a no-brainer because you want to see what your book looks like in the newsletter. But as my friend Aila points out–if all the recipients of the newsletter are other indie
authors . . . writers don’t read. If they do, they are helping out their friends by beta-reading or acting as a critique partner. Jim promises he’ll put your book in front of readers, but I suspect that what he’s doing is putting your (and my) book in front of a whole lot of indie authors. Who don’t read other indies, at least, not for pleasure.

The first email went into my Promotions tab and not my inbox. You can fix this, of course, but how many emails do people miss because their email marks the newsletters as ads? (Which, technically, they are.)

Happy Book Reviews will take anything. I’d never speak negatively about someone else’s work, but I have to admit, I was appalled at the company my book kept. I try to be professional in all ways. And while my books may look indie (there’s really no help for that no matter how good you are) some of the books featured in that newsletter looked downright cruddy. Jim will accept any book when what he should be doing is vetting them. While the information isn’t available to me, I wonder how many readers unsubscribe when they see the lack of quality in these books.

quality control

Someone needs to be in charge of quality control

 

**I can understand why he doesn’t do this. Jim and Bryan frequently talk about gatekeeping and I realize Jim doesn’t want to be in the position of determining what is “good.” But I don’t think this is any different than any other promo site where they only allow in quality books. They have a readership to keep happy, and offering them schlock is not the way to go about it. Someone, somewhere, will always play God, and with the products and services Jim, as a book coach, offers, he’s in a better position than some to determine what is “good.”

Only the blurb is available. I know it would take up more space or cost more to send it out the newsletter, but it would help if a potential reader could read the first couple pages of the book they’re considering downloading. It would have helped me avoid the boring contemporary romance I downloaded 1) because I wanted to try the service myself and 2) the cover and blurb looked okay.

The newsletter isn’t broken up into genres. My book sat next to children’s books, paranormal romance, thrillers, and history books. If he could separate the books into genres that could help readers find the books they like. I had a positive Freebooksy experience because of this.


The time for my book has run out, and there’s no time limit for those two people who have downloaded my book to leave a review. So I’m not even sure if those two people who downloaded my book will come through. But $25.00 for two reviews is too much.

I know why Jim will never do any of my suggestions–it’s too much work. He’s a savvy businessman, and I’m sure these suggestions have been brought up to him by other people in the past.

But it must work for some authors, or he’d close down the website. Everyone who uses his service can’t have the experience I did, or his inbox would be full of complaints.

Maybe I’m a black sheep, but somehow, I don’t think so. Wherever He Goes is a solid book. Anyone who reads the first page knows I don’t head hop, I don’t have any typos, and my inciting event happens on the first page of the book. Not Chapter 4.

Unfortunately, I do not feel like my book fit in with the others featured, and unless he makes changes, I won’t be using his service again.

You may have a different experience, and at $25.00, it’s a cheap risk. But I’m also aware that $25.00 could buy you two paperback books, five Starbucks coffees, or could reimburse a beta-reader for her time. If you’re poor, $25.00 can go a long way, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

My blog is about my experiences with the services offered to indies, and my adventures in publishing my books. I want to help. This was my experience, and unfortunately, it could have been better.

I’ll still listen to the podcast (and I encourage you, too) and I’m looking forward to the meeting Jim at the summit.

But the Happy Book Reviews feature isn’t for me, and I wish you luck if you decide to ever give it a go.

Weak writers, strong characters?

I am a part of a DM group on Twitter. We were talking about the weather where we live, and I live in Minnesota. I mentioned blizzards and the potential hazards. I said now that my husband has moved out, this winter may be a little nerve-racking as I’ll need to shovel and get my daughter to school by myself. I have to deal with maybe my car not starting or getting into an accident because some moron doesn’t know how to drive on the snow and ice.

I said, “I’m sorry. I know I sound weak. It’s just nice to have a man around sometimes.”

What exactly was I apologizing for? All the women in my group are married to men. They know it’s nice to have a partner, someone around to help.

In our society today, we encourage strong women. We have #GirlPower. Women are encouraged to raise their daughters to be strong and independent. We fight for equal pay. We fight the glass ceiling. We fight for our reproductive rights. We pay our own bills we make our own way.

glass ceiling

Women don’t need men.

I write romance. I make sure my heroines can take care of themselves. They have jobs; they pay their bills. Sometimes they’re searching for love, sometimes love finds them. My heroines don’t need a man.

But they want one.

Does that make them weak?

powerful woman 2

Even in the comics, Diana Prince was paired with various men over the years. The epitome of a kick-ass woman, she still likes to snuggle at night.

I’ve been told, “Don’t make the man rescue the woman.” But isn’t that what a romance is? I mean, rescuing a woman because he has to. It’s part of a mission. She’s been kidnapped because her father is a billionaire. She needs a bodyguard. She’s cured cancer, and people want to kill her. She’s a rock star, and someone is out to get her. There are a million plots to go with that trope. The hero rescues the heroine, they fall in love. The end.

There’s a reason why that trope is popular.

Women take care of themselves (and their children) alone all the freaking time. Reading is an escape. We want our man to step in and say, “Let me take care of this because I’m falling in love with you.” My favorites, and hopefully the kind of books I write, is when they rescue each other. Maybe he can get her to the hospital for her life-saving surgery, but when she opens her eyes, he knows she really saved him, by repairing his broken heart and giving him his life back.

Most times after the “big fight” I have my man go to his woman first. Not because I want to put my woman in a position of power. Not because my heroine wants a man groveling at her feet. But because it’s romantic. It feeds into what women fantasize about. Men saying, “I was wrong. I can’t live without you. I’m sorry. Marry me.”

What I didn’t realize though, is that it takes a strong woman to give a man the space he needs to figure it out and admit that. For him to have time to see his mistakes and go to her.

It takes a lot of bravery for a woman to face heartbreak if the man she loves doesn’t come for her. For her to say, “If he can’t admit he was wrong and apologize and admit that he loves me, I can’t have the kind of relationship I need with him to be happy.”

Women in romance can be kick-ass and still want a man. I’ll never write a sniveling idiot as a female main character.  Men, characters or otherwise, don’t want a woman who acts like that. Women who act like that in real life never find true happiness or true love. 

So in my DM, what was I apologizing for? Because in my group, we are all writers and we all pride ourselves on writing kick-ass women characters. How can I write a strong woman character when I, myself, I am not a strong woman in real life?

kick ass woman

Maybe not this kind of kick-ass. 

I’ve been on my own now for two months, since my husband moved out. I pay my bills with my own money (and a little help from alimony and child support). I work full-time. I’ve always paid our bills so balancing a checkbook was nothing new, I just don’t have as much money to work with. I drive a dumpy car, and it’s not lost on me I’ll have to work a car payment into my budget at some point.

But guess what? I have written characters who have also live paycheck to paycheck. That’s real life.

I have good friends. My sister lives in the same town as me. Even my soon to be ex-husband would help me out if I ever find myself in serious trouble. I’m not alone, and I don’t feel like I am. Our split was amicable, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

I am a strong woman even if at times I don’t feel like it. We all need love, security. We all want love, someone to protect us, have our backs. That doesn’t make us weak.

I write romance.

My characters fall in love.

They aren’t weak, either.

They’re human.

October through the end of the year goals.Whatever.

Everyone is doing October/end of year goals, so I thought I would, too.

I don’t have many.

  1. Finish All of Nothing. This includes finishing the editing, writing the blurb, doing the full cover for the paperback, formatting for both Kindle and paperback. Sending it out for betas and hopefully publish by Halloween. It was my target goal from the beginning, with Thanksgiving being the ultimate maximum amount of time I wanted to take. It looks like Halloween is more than doable–at least for the Kindle. Using KDP Print for the paperback takes longer, just for the simple fact ordering and waiting for a proof is a lot more time consuming than it used to be through CreateSpace. If you’re launching a paperback by a certain date, be prepared and give yourself plenty of time for the KDP Print hassle.

    Here’s the working cover I made in Canva. We’ll see if I stick with it.

    allofnothing
    Made with a Canva template and a photo I purchased from CanstockPhoto, it’s a simple cover which I hope conveys the darkness of the story.  No chick lit for this author. 😛

  2. I have 2,000 words into my next book (a beautiful May/December romance that will be a counter to the dark romance I’m editing now) already written, and a few pages longhand that I need to type up. I would at least like to get the handwritten stuff typed up this month. I would love to get the whole thing written and published by March of next year. I have a bookselling summit I’m attending in May, and the more in my backlist, the better.
  3. I did a Happy Book Reviews feature for Wherever He Goes that I am not terribly impressed with. I’ll do a full blog post on how it turned out. But for now, it’s safe to say, don’t waste your money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. In my other blog post about marketing, I said I was writing a non-fiction book on self-editing. I’m going to be working hard on that in the coming months, and hopefully have that ready to go by no later than this summer. My fiction comes first, and I want my new book to be ready by the summit, but depending on my health (see number 5) I’d like to get the editing how-to book done by June.
  5. I have carpal tunnel and I’ll be going for a nerve test this Thursday. My carpal tunnel runs from my elbows into my neck, shoulder blades, and back. Meaning, I’m in a ton of pain a lot of the time. I let it go too long. I know. And I’m paying for it now. But the truth is, I’ll more than likely be having surgery and the recovery time for both arms will set me back. I know voice-to-text can be a life-saver to some, and I may still be able to blog that way for a bit, but chances are, I won’t be able to work on my fiction for a while. The break is much needed, but not that wanted. We’ll see how it goes.
  6. These are lofty goals when I have a new kitty to play with! My husband moved out, and the kids and I replaced him with a new kitten named Blaze. It wasn’t really like that (LOL) but it’s hard to resist playing with her, or snuggling with her when she’s sleeping. She’ll be a good recovery pal. Here’s a pic:

    blaze
    It’s tough not to share pictures of her all the time, so if you follow me over on Instagram, you can see a lot more of her. 🙂

Those are pretty lofty goals for the next few months, but I’m hoping it’s nothing I can’t get accomplished. All of Nothing is the big item on my plate right now, along with keeping this blog going with indie news and writing tips.

Also, since I will be working on my editing book, if there is anything you struggle with when it comes to self-editing LET ME KNOW! I would love love love to include anything and everything indie writers struggle with.

Happy Fall, Everyone!

book and fall leaves

Marketing Our Books. It Sucks, so Let’s Talk About It!

Marketing is different from branding. Marketing is the act of pushing your book/brand/product out into the world.

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I think this is one reason indies get branding and marketing confused. We’re often told to start marketing ourselves before we have a solidified brand, or before we’ve published a book.

Build your brand (remember, that’s who you are as an author) by blogging, tweeting and posting about what interests you. You need to build your brand, then market that brand.

What can you do to prepare to market your brand?

Start a Blog 

But who are you blogging for: readers or writers? They usually are not the same audience. Joanna Penn is a good example of this. Joanna Penn writes non-fiction to help indie writers like herself. Her blog contains information for indies. But she also writes paranormal thrillers under JF Penn, and JF Penn writes a blog for her readers about her books. Right out of the gate I’m going to guess you don’t want to run two blogs. So choose who you are writing for. Then when you have a following you can use your blog to market your book by posting snippets of your WIP, short stories, etc. Hopefully, you’ll be cultivating your blog followers to want to buy your book when it comes out.

 

Tweet

Tweeting is easy, but again if you dive into Writer Twitter you won’t sell many books. Writer Twitter is helpful to your author brand if you can cultivate a helpful image. Offer to beta read. Retweet helpful articles about the publishing industry. Follow agents and retweet their query tips.  Network with others. Make writer friends.

This is also helpful if you ever decide you want to dive into non-fiction to help your fellow authors. I’m currently outlining a self-editing book. If there is something you know about the publishing process and you can help others by writing a book about it (you just might want to someday!) Writer Twitter is the perfect audience for a helpful resource book! 

My favorite indie nonfiction books:

favorite non-fiction indie authors

 

Join Goodreads as a reader.

Read books in your genre and join discussion groups. This can take years, but the idea is that your friends on the platform will organically want to read your book after your release. If you read the study released by Goodreads about Celeste Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere, it explains why and how her book was so successful. One of the points was that she was an active member of Goodreads for 10 years before she published. Her network helped make her book popular.

 

Join Instagram

This platform is the only one where I get personal. I’ve posted selfies. Pictures of my cats. Things that are interesting to me. And as my numbers grow I do post graphics with a line or two of my WIP, to build buzz for my books. I don’t do it often, maybe one photo ten will be something about my book.

Instagram is a good example of both branding and marketing. My photos allow my followers to get to know me. Chocolate. Cats. Books I’m reading. Pretty scenery. I’m a  chocolate-eating, coffee-drinking writer who loves to read. I hope my Instagram reflects that.

For a good list of writer hashtags you should use when posting a picture, look here.


Start a Facebook group for readers who love your genre.

Because not only do you write [insert genre here] you’re supposed to be reading it, too. Announce a book every couple months then talk about it. Authors these days, if you tell them their book is featured, may even participate in a question-and-answer discussion. If you read indie, that’s a win-win. A win for the indie author because it gives them exposure. A win for you because you’re networking and supporting a fellow author.

These types of marketing ideas are connected to your brand. You are a nice, friendly writer who writes yummy books your readers will want to devour, right?  Right. 

There are other marketing strategies that don’t take so much time and/or participation:

Pay for promos. Pay for Amazon ads. Pay for Facebook ads.

After you publish, use your promo free days if you are in Select to build buzz, or if you’re wide, price a prequel novella to a series permafree.

If you’re just starting out, you may not have a series, or a novella for that matter, which brings me to a good point: it’s easy to get caught up in all of this brand-building and not have time to write a word. Remember, you don’t need a brand if you don’t have something to sell. Get your book written. Blog about it – post snippets. But in the end, the following/readership you’re building will eventually want to see some progress. Namely a book they can buy to support you.

So where do I fall in all this? I don’t market much. I play on Twitter, but as I said, Twitter doesn’t sell books. I buy a promo here and there. But to be clear, even though I have my trilogy and a standalone, and another standalone I hope to release next month, I still consider myself a baby in this industry. I do very little with my author page on Facebook. I’ve heard popular indies post two or more times a day

I’m liking Instagram more. I bought the Canva app, and I’m playing with that so I can post cuter graphics on the platform. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, as it’s a little different from the desktop software.

The strategies I’m living by right now?

Blog. I like to help; it’s part of my brand.

Write. There’s no better marketing for your book then releasing another.

I’m going to keep studying. I read a ton of self-publishing books. Marketing books. Editing books. That may not do too much for me marketing-wise currently, but they’ll help me write better books and market them more effectively in the long run. And anything I learned I pass on to you. 🙂 

Throwing money at, and trying to market, one or two books won’t do you any good. Fiction is a long-term game, and your focus should be on building your backlist.

But by the same token, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no harm in building your brand. Eventually, you’ll want your brand and your backlist to meet where your marketing efforts will do something rather than waste money. I’ve been publishing for two years and still at the foot of the mountain. I won’t reach the top for a long time.  But that means I won’t stop trying.

author platform

 

It will take a while, but you can do it!

Tell me what you think.

 

Happy writing and book selling!

Branding. What Does it Mean for You as an Author?

There are a lot of questions about how marketing and branding are different and how they are the same. In this two or three part blog series, I’ll explore what branding and marketing are, and how they work together.

What is branding?

What do you think when you think of a brand? Sometimes you think of a logo right away.

Starbucks mermaid.
The Nike swoosh.
The golden arches of McDonald’s.
Verizon’s red check mark that looks like a V.

But brand is just more than a cute logo. What do you think of when you think of Starbucks? Pumpkin spice lattes. Fairtrade coffee. Maybe sensitivity training after that one barista called the cops on those two black men who hadn’t gotten around to ordering coffee yet because they were waiting for a friend.

As a business, when people see your logo, or think of your brand, you want them to think about good things. Pumpkin spice lattes. Good. Fairtrade coffee. Good. Racist employees. Not good.

McDonald’s has yummy fries. Cheeseburgers. Heart attacks and obesity. Shake machines that never work. Probably every big-named brand will have some things that will mar their reputation.

As a person, you have a brand whether you realize it or not. As an employee, are you dependable? A team player? The person your boss knows will stay late? Or are you a slacker? No one wants to work with you on projects because your coworkers know you won’t pull your weight.

You have a brand as a friend. Are you always late? Maybe it’s so bad your friends tell you a different time than when they show up because they’re tired of waiting for you. You have a brand as a bad friend. Or maybe you always buy the drinks when you go out for dinner. Good friend. Good brand.

These brands associated with you take years to cultivate, years of the same behavior. That’s why creating a brand as an author is difficult and confusing. It takes years.

branding a heifer

Author branding doesn’t have to be this painful! Poor cow! 

It’s also why thinking about your brand when you are just starting out is important, because once people start to think of you in a certain way, it’s hard to change their minds.

What do you want your readers to think of you in relation as an author?

You don’t want people to hear your name and have bad thoughts associated with you and your author brand or books.

Examples of bad things people can associate with your brand (YOU):

  • She fights with people who leave poor reviews
  • He doesn’t put out books in a timely fashion. She makes her readers wait.
  • Her books are full of typos
  • She’s not friendly or supportive of other authors in her genre
  • She complains a lot online. ie, she’s a whiner
  • He doesn’t seem friendly, and fans are hesitant to reach out

The way you are perceived by people who pick up details about you, as an author, is your brand.

If you don’t believe me, think of some big-time authors:

Stephen King
His brand is horror. Other things I think of when I hear his name: He hates Trump. He got hit by a truck and almost died. He probably didn’t intend the latter, but I read about it in his book, On Writing. The former wouldn’t surprise him—his tweets are full of disgust for our President.

Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance Author
Redhead
Maybe you think of her pen name, JD Robb
Prolific. She always has a new book out. And it’s always a bestseller, too.
I’ve read a lot of her books, and I know she loves Ireland. Lots of her books are set there. It’s part of her brand to me.

JK Rowling
Harry Potter, naturally
Billionaire, philanthropist
Maybe you think of the Harry Potter theme park. Maybe you’ve been there.

EL James
Overnight success
Poor writing
BDSM
Twilight fan fiction
Bitch

Her brand is less than favorable. Be it jealousy, or whatever else, maybe the way she behaves in interviews, rumors of the way she acted on the set of the 50 Shades movies, no one likes her. She’d have to hire a good public relations firm to fix her reputation–if she cared what you thought.

You really don’t want people hearing your name and thinking “bitch” or “asshole.” No matter what area of your life you’re talking about.

First and foremost, write good books. Your brand won’t matter if your product sucks. You’ll have a great brand with nothing to sell.

Be friendly online. Be professional. It won’t take much for people to associate you with being a nice person—if you really truly are a nice person. Help people. Stay away from drama. Don’t interact with trolls. Don’t defend yourself and your books if someone gives you a one-star review.

Maybe look at creating a logo. Some authors’ trademark is simply having their names look the same on all their books. I suck at this because I have fun designing my own covers. But that’s a conscious choice I make whenever I release a book.

melissa foster books

 

Maybe my imprint will catch on. I could make a different logo with a free logo maker, but I don’t want to give people too much to remember.

When people hear my name I want people to think Contemporary Romance. Well-written books. Happy endings. Friendly, cheerful. Awesome blogger. Maybe people will think about my cats because I post pictures of them on Instagram from time to time. These are all good things.

That is author brand. It takes time to build. You have to start slow and you have to do it right.

That’s why publishing just an “okay” book your first time out is a bad idea. That “okay” book may not be enough to impress your readers and they won’t give you another chance.

Wow them from the get-go. In every aspect!

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You-will-never-get-a-second-chance-to-make-a-first-impression-1

And if you have to turn your brand around, that makes the marketing part of it that much harder and difficult for you.

This blog post is already close to 1,000 words, so we’ll visit Marketing in the next post, and talk a little bit about how to combine Brand and Marketing!

See you next time!

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