Wanna be an author? Learn to love promotion.

by Alexandra Sokoloff

So the very good news is that the rise of e publishing has made it much easier and more viable for an author to make a real living. In fact I was on a panel last week at the RWAustralia convention during which the very well-prepared moderator rattled off some e pub statistics, and apparently traditionally published authors who e publish are currently making TWICE the money at e publishing than they did in traditional publishing.  My own experience says that estimate is low. Very low.

The downside is that actually making that living is a 24/7 commitment.

Not that this is a new wrinkle, mind you. My Australian vacation (um, make that WORK vacation!) is the first time off I’ve had from writing in years, and I was still on the computer every day doing various and sundry promotion.  I’ve always been pretty 24/7 about promotion.

But now, with my e books, I don’t even have the ILLUSION (and yes, it was mostly an illusion) that any publisher is doing the work for me. It’s all me.

So the question is, what to do that actually works? 

Hah.  As if anyone knows!

But here are a couple of promotional ventures I’m involved in right now that are typical author promotions.

1.  The Killer Thrillers! author collective.

2. The Labor of Love event promotion this Labor Day weekend


Killer Thrillers!

One of the huge problems of e publishing from a quality perspective is that in this brave new world of self publishing, “gatekeepers” have essentially been eliminated.  Agents and publishers are no longer filtering books before they’re put before the public. While there’s an argument that that’s a good thing, I know from my years as a reader for film production companies how very much absolute dreck is screened out by early readers:  agents, editorial assistants, editors – and when I say dreck I mean scripts and books that should never have been read by another soul besides the purported author.

I’m all for readers being allowed to discover books on their own, and it is true that the actual purchase or publication of a script or book is subject to personal taste, the specific needs of a publishing house or line, and the vagaries of the market.  But those screeners also kept some seriously awful material from ever seeing the light of day.

So now that anyone who can figure out the e publishing platform can upload virtually anything to Kindle, Pubit, Kobo and Smashwords, where’s the quality control?  You can argue that the readers are their own quality control now, but seriously – the vast number of books – and especially free books – on offer has made sorting through the dreck that’s out there (and oh yes, the dreck is out there) a time-consuming proposition for a reader.

Personally, I WANT some screening.  But where is that going to come from?

While literary agencies are a logical entity for promotion of quality authors and books, they seem so far reluctant to set themselves up as publishers or storefronts for their clients.  And since agencies are not performing this function, I have thought for some time that authors should be banding together to support and promote their own books, and there are more and more of these author collectives springing up (not surprisingly the majority are romance authors).  I’ve been asked to join various author collectives but have so far been wary about committing because I haven’t heard of or more importantly read most of the authors involved.  I can’t in good conscience post about other authors’ books on Facebook and Twitter and on this blog and my own when I haven’t actually read the goods. I think we all have a responsibility not to waste other people’s time by randomly promoting mediocre books and leaving readers to find for themselves that those books were better avoided.

So so far my only choices have been to form a collective of authors I admire myself, or wait for someone like-minded to do it. And luckily for me, thriller author Karen Dionne has done exactly that. Karen is a bestselling author and organizer extraordinaire: the founder of the writers forum Backspace and the Backspace Writers Conference.  For Killer Thrillers she’s put together a group of thriller authors I would have approached myself: some friends and blogmates you’ll recognize from Murderati:  Rob Gregory Browne, Brett Battles and Zoe Sharp, and other authors I know and love like David Morrell, Blake Crouch, CJ Lyons, Keith Raffel – all authors I have read and can recommend without reservation.

All Killer Thrillers authors are bestselling, award-winning and/or internationally published; almost all are traditionally published as well as e published.  Those qualifications do not guarantee that a particular reader will love all or any of the books offered, but they do say that a significant number of readers have found the books worth reading. And most of the authors involved know each other from Bouchercon and Thrillerfest, MWA and ITW and Sisters in crime, and can promote each other without the slightest hesitation.

In essence authors are banding together to establish their own publishing imprints, just as publishers do. We are creating an umbrella organization that guarantees a certain genre and a certain quality of work. How effective these collectives are going to be in the Wild West of e publishing is an open question, but Killer Thrillers is a brand I can put my energy into building with real enthusiasm. I hope you’ll check out the site and the books today, and if you see anything you like, tell your friends.

Killer Thrillers

 

 

 

 

Labor of Love 99 cent book promo

The second promo venture I want to mention today is another fast-growing approach: group sales events, in which a group of authors join forces and drop prices on their books for a limited time, then cross-promote the event. I’ve been watching other authors do this extremely effectively; the point is that all authors have built up a following of thousands on Facebook and Twitter, and by teaming up with other authors you are able to reach a whole new group of literally thousands of readers through other authors’ FB and Twitter followers and general buzz about the event.

My friend (and Aussie travel companion!) bestselling romantic comedy author Elle Lothlorian organized the Labor of Love Promo, a four-day Labor Day weekend blitz involving 17 authors from all different genres who have all dropped the price on one of their books to 99 cents for the long weekend.  We’re all blogging, Tweeting, and FBing about the event, and anyone who wants to browse the list can pick up any or all of the books for the 99 cent price for the whole weekend.

I’m offering up my parapsychology thriller The Unseen

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a link to a list of all the books available, with links through to buy.  So browse away and catch some deals!

And today, if there’s anyone NOT on vacation, I’d love to talk about book screening. 

Readers, how do you find your books these days? Have you seen other effective methods of quality control and promotion?

And writers… especially aspiring writers… are you prepared for the grueling job that promotion is?  Do you kind of see how important it is to make it fun and social and collective, so as not to go completely insane?

And I’d just love to hear what everyone is doing for the long weekend. Hope everyone has fabulous plans!

See you back here in the – yike – fall!

Alex

 

 

23 thoughts on “Wanna be an author? Learn to love promotion.

  1. Rebecca Cantrell

    Alex you are a force of nature! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the rest of us in a quick and practical fashion. I'm about to take my first step into self publishing with IFRANKENSTEIN, sequel to IDRAKULA, next month, so I'm especially interested in hearing about your journey.

    Thank you!

  2. Jake Nantz

    I love what you've got going, it sounds very innovative. As for screening as a reader, I love that Amazon often lets you download a sample or read a first chapter. That's what I always did with paper books in the store, so it makes sense to do the same with ebooks.

  3. Karen Dionne

    Thanks for the mention, Alex – great minds!

    Last July I participated in a group e-book promotion similar to your Labor Day event, and it was very successful. Members pooled their contacts and resources, and the promotion got a lot more publicity than I could have accomplished on my own.

    As an author, that's what appeals to me most about promotions like your Labor Day event and Killer Thrillers — by banding together, we can increase our exposure to potential new readers exponentially. I've been publishing and promoting my thrillers for 4 years now, and I'm tired of going it alone!

    Bog readers might like to know we're up to 138 titles now from 20 authors in the Killer Thrillers collection. As I've been uploading the books to the website and reading their descriptions, I keep thinking, "Ooh – I want to read that book. And that one . . . and that one . . . and that one . . ." — which I guess is the point!

    I would love to see other groups of authors try the collective model – not just bestselling, traditionally published authors like the Killer Thrillers members, but any group that have something in common that would make a great hook.

  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hi Rebecca! Very excited to hear you've entered the fray. I don't think you'll ever look back! E mail me if you have questions.

    (And I feel more like I've been HIT by a force of nature, lately, I'm still sleeping 12 hours a night, or day, after my trip.)

  5. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Jake, I agree – samples are the best! Because of sampling I NEVER end up with a book I don't really want to read. Best thing that ever happened to books. My one gripe is the tiny number of pages a lot of traditionally published e books offer – way shorter than a normal sample and not enough to be able to tell anything useful.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hi Karen! And the great thing about Killer Thrillers! is that it's a LOT easier to run a group promotion if the group is already established, with a system of communication in place. E mailing for Labor of Love was a bit of a mess, because it was the first time all the authors had come together. But I've already seen a sales bump. Will report back during the day.

    I completely agree that collectives don't need to be as established as the group you've put together for Killer Thrillers! It's more about brand and commitment. Even with our publishing experience, most our our names are still new to the vast majority of e readers.

  7. David DeLee

    Very innovative approaches to the marketing issue that seems to plague a lot of writers now. How do you rise above the noise to get noticed. I know the Killer Thriller promotion is gaining traction because I'd already seen it in other places, facebook, twitter, etc, Good luck with it.

  8. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hi David – it's great to hear that you've seen the Killer Thriller! name around, thanks for letting us know! Yes, rising above the noise is a huge problem, and everyone's taking a kind of scattershot approach. I'm sure that will die down eventually, a little, but for now, it's a tumult, for sure!

  9. Barbie

    Alex, as an aspiring author, I think I'm prepared for promotion. I'm very much for socializing, especially online. I think I'd be pretty good at promoting books that way. In person, I'm much more concerned about making a fool of myself. I'd also really like to make blog tours in things like that.

    As for finding new books, I'm about the pickiest reader EVER. I don't like a lot of things. I'm very particular in the things I like, it doesn't matter if the person is a world wide best seller, if it doesn't exactly what I like, chances ofe not liking it are great. I usually don't take book recommendations. I choose my books by reading authors blogs amd screening an author's normal writing boice. It's never failed me. I've always the books of authors whose blogs I love. πŸ™‚

  10. Lisa Alber

    I love your posts. How do you come up with your cool promo ideas anyhow? That's the thing that gets me. Is it practice? Is it being part of a group so "synergy" (detest that word) happening?

    Am I prepared for 24/7? I'm getting there…I don't know how that's possible for any of us that have full-time jobs–any ideas about that? Oh to be a full-time fiction writer!

  11. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Some good questions, Lisa! I learn about promo ideas just like you are now – by reading blogs like these and hearing what other people do and copying the ones that seem doable!

    And yes, being part of a community really helps. Whether it's going to cons or being part of a blog community, we all need author friends to team up with, and no matter who spearheads a promo idea I try to be as proactive as I can about doing my part to spread the word.

    I've always said that having a full time job is excellent practice for being a full-time writer, because once you sell a book or script, or start making a full-time living in indie publishing, you're going to spend every bit of the time you used to spend on your dayjob on promotion. The amount of time left to write remains the same. Sad, but true.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Some good questions, Lisa! I learn about promo ideas just like you are now – by reading blogs like these and hearing what other people do and copying the ones that seem doable!

    And yes, being part of a community really helps. Whether it's going to cons or being part of a blog community, we all need author friends to team up with, and no matter who spearheads a promo idea I try to be as proactive as I can about doing my part to spread the word.

    I've always said that having a full time job is excellent practice for being a full-time writer, because once you sell a book or script, or start making a full-time living in indie publishing, you're going to spend every bit of the time you used to spend on your dayjob on promotion. The amount of time left to write remains the same. Sad, but true.

  13. Gar Haywood

    Alex: Terrific post, as always. I'm always learning something I need to know from you.

    Author collectives are such a mixed bag, however. In the end, the reader is still trusting the opinion of the authors themselves that their stuff is any good. And how to say, "We'd never lie to you, dear reader: Our writing is really, really worth reading!" without sounding like a self-absorbed blowhard?

    I posted about this very subject a ways back on my personal blog. Check it out:

    http://wisdommistakenforlunacy.com/?p=143

    Anyway, best of luck with all your promotion efforts. You deserve every single sale you generate!

  14. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Some good questions, Lisa! I learn about promo ideas just like you are now – by reading blogs like these and hearing what other people do and copying the ones that seem doable!

    And yes, being part of a community really helps. Whether it's by going to cons or being part of a blog community, we all need to find author friends to team up with, and then no matter who spearheads a promo idea I try to be as proactive as I can about spreading the word.

    I've always said that having a full time job is excellent practice for being a full-time writer, because once you sell a book or script, or start making a full-time living in indie publishing, you're going to spend every bit of the time you used to spend on your dayjob on promotion. The amount of time left to write remains the same. Sad, but true.

  15. Lisa Alber

    It's funny. The dream for many of us is to write fiction full-time, right? But, in reality, it's nothing like the dreamy writerliness I picture in my head…Me in my plush home office, relaxed yet productive at any and all times of day as I plum the depths of my creative soul. Hah!

  16. Jeanne in MN

    I agree with Jake. I rely on the sample pages to give me a feel for the book and the writing style. I can usually tell within 3 pages whether I'm going to enjoy a book or not. I DO NOT rely on the recomendations on the Amazon site, however. Too many of the reviewers have never rated a book below a 4. Also the lowest a book can be rated is 1. Dreck needs to be rated 0.

  17. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I don't know, Jeanne – if a book is a 1 or a 0, why in the world would anyone finish reading it to begin with? And if you haven't actually read it, how can you honestly leave a review?

    This truly perplexes me.

  18. KDJames

    Alex, you have so much energy and enthusiasm, it's mind boggling. But really, it's such a joy to read your posts and feed off of you. Um, not like that. You know what I mean.

    I needed a hit of that today, as I just lost several days glued to the Weather Channel and stressing over the welfare of my daughter who lives in New Orleans (she's FINE, although *I* feel like I've been run over by a truck), so I'll be spending the entire weekend writing.

    I read sample pages too, regardless of the method of publishing. What amazes me — and really, it's daunting for a new writer — is the growing realization of just how many multi-published award-winning authors are out there that I've never heard of. I hear about them here and at other blogs, or on twitter, or through group promos like the ones you listed, Alex. And I used to consider myself pretty well-read, willing to pick up library books from all sorts of new-to-me writers. Back before ebooks seduced me.

    It's interesting what Jeanne said about reviewers who only give 4-5 stars. I'm guilty of that. But I don't consider myself "a reviewer." A book has to be really special for me to go to the trouble of writing and posting a review and I'll only do it if I think it's worthy of 5 stars. I'm just not interested in telling people about books I didn't love. Plus there's that whole "if you don't have anything nice to say" thing. [Thanks, Mom.] Actually, now that I think about it, there are plenty of books that fit the 5-star category and I haven't written reviews for them. What a slacker I am. But I do pass on recommendations to friends. I do that all the time. Word of mouth. It sells books better than anything else.

  19. Alexandra Sokoloff

    KD, I'm so glad your daughter is okay! What a nightmare. I've had a lot of anxiety for New Orleans myself, these past few days. The LAST thing that city needs is more weather.

    And I agree, it is truly mind-boggling how many award-winning authors are out there that I haven't gotten to. I'm always so grateful when someone here raves about an author or a book, or has them on for a guest blog (Like Martyn about Cathi Unsworth recently, what a find!). I don't know what I'd do without those recs.

    I would never review a book that I didn't love. I don't FINISH books I don't love, so I how could I review them? And like you, I'm trying to be better about posting reviews for books I love.

  20. Alexandra Sokoloff

    KD, I'm so glad your daughter is okay! What a nightmare. I've had a lot of anxiety for New Orleans myself, these past few days. The LAST thing that city needs is more weather.

    And I agree, it is truly mind-boggling how many award-winning authors are out there that I haven't gotten to. I'm always so grateful when someone here raves about an author or a book, or has them on for a guest blog (Like Martyn about Cathi Unsworth recently, what a find!). I don't know what I'd do without those recs.

    And I TOTALLY agree – I would never review a book that I didn't love. I don't FINISH books I don't love, so how could I review them? And like you, I'm trying to be better about posting reviews for books I love.

  21. David DeLee

    As for what I'm doing this weekend–taking my oldest girl up to college to start her senior year. Amazing how time flies. What about you, Alex, and everyone else. How are you spending your holiday weekend?

  22. Alexandra Sokoloff

    What a fun thing to do for the weekend, David! Although, I'm sure, a bit harrowing….

    I just had two weeks in Australia so taking another vacation would be, um, obscene is the word I think I mean. But I need to do some research for the new book, which means driving up into the mountains and running around Lake Arrowhead. It could be worse!

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