Monday, May 26, 2014

Out with the old blog into the new? Not quite yet.

Lately I’ve been doing a little more research about how other authors have built their author brands and platforms or how they promote and market upcoming releases.  It would be so much easier if there was a one-size-fits-all marketing approach when it comes to selling books but what works for one doesn’t always work for another. 

What I focused on this past week was how other authors market themselves via their blogs, websites or Facebook pages.  I focused mainly on female authors who wrote mysteries, from suspenseful to police procedural to cozies.  I even accidentally researched some authors who wrote in the romantic suspense genre; not my favorite type of read but it was still interesting to see how they market their books.    

What I discovered was a huge range of techniques, some I liked and some I didn’t.  But that was the whole point in researching the other sites; not only to compare them to my own but also to see if there were some good ideas I could utilize or some techniques I’d like to avoid. 

A few techniques on some blogs and websites I found where I was immediately put off included the following:
  • The use of black backgrounds – even if I like the author or their books, I would avoid their site like the plague because I just can’t stand trying to focus on words with a black background
  • When the sites are SO busy I have a difficult time finding the basic information I need
  • Any sites that look like they were typeset directly from a typewriter (i.e. they just look outdated) and with no graphic art or visual stimulation to keep me interested
  • Offering outdated information even if a book was published in the current year
  • When moving around the site proves difficult so that I’m not able to easily move from one page to another

A few techniques on some blogs and websites I found where I enjoyed my stay included the following:
  • Good visual background that doesn’t slap my retinas and that had stimulating graphic art
  • Information is easy to locate whether by tabs or gadgets and movement around the site is user friendly
  • The attitude and personality of the author is evident and not cookie-cutter style
  • The sites make it easy to connect with the author, whether via e-mail, their blog, or social media
  •  The site is actually fun (these are few and far between)

My research also took me to the Facebook pages of authors who do use Facebook.  I’m actually surprised when I discover authors who still don’t use any sort of social media beyond their website or blog but then there are probably a few who wonder when I’m finally going to get into Twitter or Pinterest.  I’ll be honest and say that I have no interest in Twitter and can’t say that I’ll ever try it but I’ve thought more about using Pinterest only because I believe it would be a great way to visually share information with regard to the series, the characters and the setting.  It’s an idea but I just haven’t taken the time to really get involved with making the concept happen.

Anyway, with regard to social media, there are definitely different styles when it comes to authors who promote themselves.  Some share personal information about their days and their families, others are much more business-like and tend to only post about their books and then there are many who are the in-between.  A little dash of personal, along with a snippet of business, while mixing in a good assortment of this or that relating to everything in-between.  Those are the pages I enjoy – author pages that include a good mix of everything, not too much of one thing or another so that I don’t get bored.

So what’s all this research mean for me? 

I’ve wanted to make some changes to my blog but I have to actually make a decision on what I want to do and then set aside the time to do it.  My Facebook page will probably continue as is except that I’d like to try to post on a regular basis rather than erratically.  As I get closer to a publishing date for the third novel in my series, I’m hopeful that it will also mark the date when I’ll have made some necessary changes to this blog.  It’s the idea anyway and something to look forward to because I’ll enjoy promoting my new book on a blog with a new look.      

Until then, the old look will remain but I’ll continue to envision the new!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This little Piggy went to Market, this little Piggy stayed Home

Sometimes I wish marketing books were as simple as a trip to the market.  Unless you’re one of “those people” who enjoy sales (my husband is one of them, thankfully, because I am not), it really is difficult to market a product when you’re not used to working in sales and, for many authors who are introverts, it’s especially hard to market yourself.

Marketing yourself means talking about yourself.  Bringing attention to yourself.  Saying “look at me!” and then sharing solid reasons why others should keep looking.

It can be exhausting work for introverts when your brain doesn’t normally work that way. 

I’m one of “those authors” who would rather just write books, share thoughts via a blog or Facebook posts and let the creative juices just keep flowing without the mind games involved with what it really takes to market what I’ve created. 

I’m the little piggy that just wants to stay home.

Don’t get me wrong.  Once a book signing or book club meeting is scheduled and the day is here, I’m all for meeting people and talking about my work.  It’s great fun and I enjoy meeting others who actually enjoy hearing what I have to say.  It’s very humbling, uplifting and surreal all at the same time and an experience that will never get old.

It’s the process it takes in getting there that can be difficult.  Not because it’s hard…but because of the time it takes away from writing.  And that’s where my problem lies…marketing takes me away from writing so as a result, I tend to remove myself from what is limiting my time to write.

That’s obviously not a good thing when you actually have a product you need to market and sell.  With the amount of new books coming out every day, the “next big thing” is always trying to become known and readers are insatiable when it comes to finding new books and new authors to read.  As an author, you certainly don’t want readers to forget about you but it’s also difficult to write fast enough to satisfy most readers. 

Marketing right before the latest book comes out is easy.  You’re all excited to share the next book so you do what it takes to let everyone know that it’s available and then you also use that time to reach new readers.  The problem area for me is marketing between books.  I’m sharing myself here and on my Facebook page but the book events and marketing techniques taper down and I’m much more focused on what it’s going to take to finish the next book over what it’s going to take to continue selling the books I already have out there.    

That being said, I do believe in the opinion that the more books you have, the more those books will sell your previous work.  There’s a theme behind the advice most commonly provided by authors who have been at this a long time…just keep writing. 

The key is to finding a balance – the balance between when to go to market and when to stay home.  Finding that balance takes time and for me will include learning what works best as I switch between doing what I’m comfortable with and trying something new when I venture from my comfort zone.  I’ll always be that little piggy who would rather stay home but because I have the desire to share what I create with others, I will learn to make the most of those days when I venture out to market.

What about you?  Do you find it hard to split your time between creating and marketing?  Or does it come easy to you?  If so, do you have any tips to help others you’d like to share?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Prepping the summer reading list

How have you been doing with your reading list lately?  I think I’ve been doing pretty well and here’s a photo of the books I’ve read most recently:

I’ve managed to get through a number of books lately and I’m looking forward to the next batch of books I hope to plow through during the summer months.  Recognize any of the books in my photo?  Have you read any of them?  If you haven’t heard of or read The Maze Runner series, you may not realize that four of the books included with those I’ve read recently are from the young adult series.  I’ll admit I haven’t read much in the way of young adult books since Harry Potter took readers on full force before books like Twilight, The Hunger Games and then the Divergent series took over.  My youngest son knew I was looking for new books to read and he asked me to read some of his favorite books.  I decided to start with The Maze Runner.  It was an easy, fast-paced read and it kept me guessing so I can understand why my son liked it so much.  Out of the four books in the series, I have to say The Maze Runner (1st book) and The Kill Order (4th book) are my favorites.      

Now I’m preparing my summer reading list and I’ve got a good selection, I think, of what I believe will be good, suspenseful, fast-paced reads.  Except for the non-fiction books, of course; can’t say those will be very suspenseful.  I’m also starting another of my son’s favorite young adult series, Divergent.  I’ve seen the movie so there won’t be many surprises there but if it’s an enjoyable read, I’ll be adding the other two books to my summer reading list as well.   

Some ask me how I find the time to read…I guess those who ask me know how busy I am and they just can’t imagine I somehow manage to find the time to read other books.  But to write well, you have to read often.  The two go hand-in-hand.  There’s that fact and the fact that reading is just a terrific way to escape the stresses of every-day life; whether the book makes you laugh, is a light read so that you’re not delving into anything real heavy or it’s a suspenseful or apocalyptic read to remind you…your life really isn’t so bad.  

Even so, how do I find the time?  I remember a time when I used to be able to sit and read for hours.  Hours.  I’d easily finish a book in a day.  I really can’t imagine that now.  I don’t have hours to spare because the hours I do have are already earmarked for so many other things…the day job, my writing, household chores, outside chores, shopping, necessary paperwork, visiting with family, spending time with my husband and my boys…and other important things like sleeping.  Really, who can find the time to read for hours anymore?  I can’t so I find the time when I can squeeze it in…a few minutes in my car before I head into the office after lunch, standing in the kitchen while stirring whatever food I’m trying not to burn, in bed before I go to sleep or until my husband finally admits the light is bothering him, during commercials if I’m watching a show, while I’m eating breakfast when I actually do eat breakfast, during the weekends when I just curl up in my chair and ignore my to-do list for awhile or, and this is my favorite, out on my porch when it’s nice enough to sit outside in the mornings with my coffee in one hand and my book in the other.

It doesn’t seem like much reading at any given time but those bits and pieces do add up and eventually…I finish a book and move on to the next.  I do what I can with the time I have, although I certainly can’t read fast enough for my son, who continuously asked me what part I was on in The Maze Runner series because he wanted to know when I was getting close to some of his favorite parts.  I can only imagine how often he’ll ask me that question when I finally get to the books in The Hunger Games, his ultimate favorite.

So how do you find the time to read?  Where are your favorite places to read?  If you’re a busy working mom (or dad) like me, I’m sure you’re just as creative as I am and I applaud you if you’re also able to keep up with your reading list. 

Happy reading!