Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tip #31: Powerpoint is your friend



Powerpoint is a free and easy way to create awesome images. I use powerpoint to create everything from book covers to book marks. Make sure your powerpoint can save jpegs as 300 DPI. Yes there are other packages that could perhaps create better images, but some of them are not free and I am already familiar with powerpoint. Here are some of the things I’ve created using powerpoint.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Tip #30: Book Giveaways!

This year I am using book giveaways to increase my twitter, facebook, and blog numbers. At least twice a month I plan on having contests on my Priscilla the Great blog to giveaway prizes. The ways to enter will include following my blog, liking my facebook page, or following my twitter feed. Often I will use this as an opportunity to cross promote and give out copies of my Leslie DuBois books.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tip #29: 5 Easy (and Free) Steps to a Successful Book Launch

Sure it’s nice to have a huge book launch with a party in NYC, a fifty tour blog stop, and announcements in all the top print publications. But let’s get real. Unless you’re with a Big 6 publishers that’s probably not going to happen. Even if you are with a Big 6er, it probably still won’t happen unless your name starts with Stephanie and ends with Meyer.

Launches like that take months of planning anyway which is why traditional publishers take so long to release books. Also, I'm not convinced that blog tours have much of an impact on sales.

As an Indie author, you work on your own schedule. You can do as much or as little as you like. And if you’re broke and pressed for time like I am, less is more. So here are five steps to an easy “No Muss No Fuss” book launch.

1. Send an email offering a free copy to the people on your email list.

2. Post release on twitter, facebook

3. Write a blog post - offer a giveaway

4. Send press release to local paper

5. Start writing the next book

This is the minimum you should do for your book. And with each book, it should get easier and easier to sell more and more copies as your fan base grows.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sample Sunday: Ain't No Sunshine

Prologue

The officer placed a cup of black coffee on the table in front of me.

"I don't drink coffee," I said, continuing to stare out the window at the Chicago skyline.

"Well, you might want to start. You're not going anywhere for a while, son."

I crossed my arms and slouched in the chair. "I'm not your son," I said through gritted teeth. I focused on a pale yellow Volkswagen van driving past the window of the police station. I shook my head with frustrated regret. I should have bought a new car before we left. I never thought a broken taillight, of all things, would land us in this police station. Now they were asking me questions. Questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. Not yet, anyway.

The officer didn't respond at first. The only sound was that of the rotating fan in the corner of the room, blowing out the same hot, stale air.

"Fine," he said after a few minutes. "Let's talk about whose son you are then, huh?" He took some pictures out of a file and laid them out on the table. I refused to look; I knew what they would show. "Do you see this, Stephen? Why don't you look at your father's mutilated body? Beaten to death with a shovel outside his own home."

He picked up one of the pictures and waved it in front of my face. I shut my eyes tightly. I was there when it happened. I knew what it looked like. I didn't want to be reminded of the image; it was already permanently ingrained in my mind.

"Did you do it, Stephen? Did you kill your own father in cold blood?"

I kept my eyes closed and refused to answer. The image of my father's bloody corpse floated behind my eyelids.

"No, you couldn't have done it." I heard the officer's footsteps as he walked to the other side of the room. "There's no way a smart, wealthy boy like you could murder the man that took care of you and loved you for eighteen years."

I opened my eyes and glared at the fat, sweaty man interrogating me. "My father never loved me. Never!"

His eyes expanded. My tone shocked him. He took a step back as if he was actually afraid of me for a second. He quickly recovered his composure, though. "Well, then I guess you did kill him."

I bit my tongue and turned away. I had already said too much. There was no way he was getting me to talk. Not yet, anyway. I needed a few more minutes to get my thoughts together.

"I guess we're gonna have to do this the hard way," he said after a few moments. He sat down in the chair across from me and opened his file again. "Maybe I'll just have to ask that pretty little colored girlfriend of yours," he said, staring at Ruthie's picture and licking his lips.

"You leave her out of this." My hands clenched into fists.

"I don't know if I can do that. She seems to be pretty involved." He kept staring at her picture as he spoke. "Your father is found dead at your home in Virginia and you're found seven hundred miles away with a nigger whore. I can't -"

He didn't get to finish his thought. I leapt across the table and started pounding his face in. Seconds later, I was subdued by several officers. They placed me back in the chair and handcuffed me to the table as everyone stepped outside and decided what to do with me.

This was getting worse and worse by the minute. I'd gladly go to jail for killing that man. He deserved to die. I just didn't want Ruthie to get dragged into this. After all we'd been through, at least one of us deserved a chance to be happy.

After what felt like hours, another officer entered the room. He placed a bottle of peroxide and some napkins on the table.

"You gonna behave?" he asked, holding up the key to the handcuffs. He was much younger than the other officer. With his dark hair and blue eyes he kind of reminded me of my older brother, Matthew, except with a bushy mustache. For some reason, I felt I could trust him.

I nodded and he unlocked my handcuffs.

"What's that for?" I asked, indicating the peroxide.

He looked at me strangely. "Stephen, your face is covered in cuts and bruises. The officers who subdued you kind of went a little too far. You have open wounds. You’re bleeding.” He pointed to a couple of places on my face. “Doesn't it hurt?"

I shrugged and reached for the bottle and paper towels. I didn't feel pain like most people. It was a coping mechanism I'd developed at an early age.

"I'm Lieutenant Drake," he said, still staring at me as I cleaned my wounds. "This must have been a hard few days for you."

I nodded.

"Your father is dead, your mother is missing, and you and Ruthie are on the run."

I nodded.

"Why are you running? You know running only makes you look guilty, and I don't really believe you killed your father. I don't think you're capable."

I stared at him. "You have no idea what I'm capable of. You have no idea what that man did to me."

"You're right. I don't," he said, trying to hide his surprise at my response. He sat down and crossed his arms. "So why don't you tell me? You obviously have a story and you need someone to listen. So tell me your story. Tell me everything."





Tip #28: How to Build Your Fan Base One Email at a Time

Every time a fan emails you complimenting you on your work or asking when the next book is coming out, you should be adding them to a list. I personally keep two lists. One for my official newsletter and one that is more casual. The people on my official newsletter list have explicitly signed up for it. Everyone else goes on the casual list.

Why do you want such a list? Well, eventually you want to grow this list into the thousands. Then when you have a new release, you let them know and you could potentially have thousands of sales with just the click of a send button. You may also want to send free copies to this email list in exchange for honest reviews.

You have to start somewhere. Don’t be ashamed if your list only has five people on it to start with. My Leslie DuBois list only has 26 people and my Priscilla the Great list has 337. Nothing huge, but each of those people are loyal fans and potential instant sales for when I launch my next book. If I have to add to that list one person at a time, so be it. At least then I’ll know that each of those people are true fans and really interested in what I have to say next.

Three tips for growing your email list

· Bring a sign up sheet to every speaking engagement.

· Occasionally post tweets or facebook updates about your newsletter.

· Hold a giveaway in which one of the ways to enter is to sign up for your newsletter.

Come back tomorrow to find out how this list is an important part of your “no muss no fuss” book launch.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tip #27: 4 Keys to a Successful Contest

In my opinion, a contest is different from a book giveaway. In a book giveaway, you’re giving away a copy of your book, most likely in connection with a blog tour or interview of some sort. In a contest, you are asking participants to do something in exchange for a prize. So the first step is offering a great prize. But that is not all. Even with a great prize your contest can be a flop. Trust me. In my very first giveaway, I offered a Kindle. Pretty cool prize, but I didn’t get a single entry. Here is why. I had no way of telling people about the contest. I only had friends and family on my facebook list. I had no newsletter subscribers. And I don’t even think I was on Twitter at the time.

The next time I gave away a kindle for a contest, I had over 450 sign up to win. I consider this a success. The reason it was successful, however, was because I teamed up with ten other authors. We combined our efforts to get the greatest response possible.

Since then I’ve tried what are called giveaway hops. (There will be a separate post about these later). The reason why these are successful is because there are hundreds of blogs working together to give away prizes.

The reason why I’m providing this tip early is because I plan on another big contest. Logic says I should team up with other authors or bloggers, but I’m a hardworking daredevil and I want to see if I can do this myself.

Keys to a successful contest:

1. Offer a great prize

For my big giveaway, I’m offering a Kindle Fire. Yeah, it’s expensive, but I’m using my profits to buy it and I’m hoping to get Priscilla the Great in front of at least 1000 new faces.

2. Make the rules clear and easy

There is usually a mandatory entry and then several optional entries so that people can increase their odds of winning. For me the mandatory entry is going to be following my blog. I will also have extra entries for blogging about the contest, signing up for my newsletter, tweeting about the contest.

3. Contact as many people as possible

Here is where it gets challenging. I don’t expect to just post the contest on my blog and wait for the masses to come. I have the email addresses of several hundreds of people who have won my books in the past and I will be sending them individual emails. I will also attempt to contact 100 bloggers and personally invite them to the contest. I also plan on posting to online giveaway sites. Let’s see how it works out.

4.Choose your winner

There are several ways to collect entries and choose your winner. Lately, I have become a fan of Rafflecopter. They keep track of the entries for you and even choose the winner. An alternative to this is Google Docs which you can embed into your website.

Sign up to win a Kindle Fire below:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tip #26: 7 Ways to Build Your Local Author Presence

  • Submit a press release to your local newspaper for each book you publish.
  • Offer your services as a speaker and motivator to local schools.
  • Visit your local libraries in person and let them know about your books.
  • Friend your local libraries on Facebook and follow them on twitter.
  • Write a letter to the editor about a topic you are passionate about and sign it “local author.”
  • Create flyers with your picture and your book and post them anywhere around town that will allow you.
  • Introduce yourself to your local bookstore owners.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tip #25: Visit Schools to Increase Your Visibility

School visits are very effective for me because I write Middle Grade and Young Adult. If you write other areas, you might want to change this to library visits. How do you get invited to schools? I started by contacting school librarians through email and offering my services. I also send brochures with my book descriptions and in spring I will be sending postcards as well.

At the school visits, I usually give a short speech, about 20 to 30 minutes tops. I often use a powerpoint presentation along with it. I do a reading of a chapter and then ask questions about that chapter and offer prizes to whoever gets the answers correct. I also have a short writing workshop that I’ve created for schools that are interested.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tip #24: What you need for a successful book fair.

In 2011, for the first time ever, I attended two local book fairs. Well, one was local in Charleston and one was in Savannah. It was only about a two hour drive so I still consider it local. Every book fair is different. Even those two were completely different. The one in Charleston was more centered on older Young Adult and the one in Savannah was more for Children’s books. Do research on the book fair you choose to attend so that you have an idea of what to expect. Don’t expect them to be great money makers. I barely broke even if at all. The greatest benefit I found to these fairs was meeting the other authors and getting good tips for the future. When I went to both of these book fairs, I brought lots of swag that I got for free from Vistaprint:

Banners

Notepads

Pens

Tshirts

Hats

Postcards

Sticky notes

I also went to the dollar store and bought bags to put purchases in. And as with any event, don’t forget to take a signup sheet for your newsletter.

If you're working the event alone, try packing your books and your swag in a rolling suitcase to make things easier to carry.

For children's books, it was also useful to have candy to give out at my table.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tip #23: Alternative Marketing

Sometimes you have to think outside the box when you’re marketing. That’s what I have to start doing. I’ll give you an example. Another author who has a YA dance novel out similar to my Queen Bee series gave me the idea to advertise in local dance programs. Brilliant. I bought an ad for only $25 in the annual dance program for the studio my girls go to. I also left a copy of the book in the waiting room. So get creative and figure out nonstandard ways to market your book.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tip #22: The Second Most Effective Way to Market Your Book

Buying a sponsorship on one of the popular eReader sites is the second most effective marketing venture you can choose. I stand by the fact that going free is the first only because you reach thousands of readers and you didn’t have to pay for the exposure. You might think that you lose sales from going free, but let’s face it, most of the time the people who are picking up your book for free would not have paid for it ever.

A sponsorship is just as effective as going free because it gets your book out in front of thousands of readers, but the only difference is you have to pay for this exposure. And in some cases, you pay a lot. The current most popular site is Pixel of Ink. It costs over $250 for a one day feature there. Kindle Nation Daily is also around $200. You will probably get the most bang for your buck from Ereader News Today. They charge about $50 to $100 and they have hundreds of thousands of followers. Once, my book was mentioned in passing on that site and I sold 50 copies in under an hour. That was some accidental free exposure and it was awesome. Daily Cheap Reads is another one to check out.

Warnings:

These sites book up quickly. I’m pretty sure ENT is booked for the rest of the year and it is only January. That is how popular it is. KND and POI might have some openings left this year, but you need to book now. Even if you aren’t finished writing your book, but you think you will have it polished and edited by, say, August, go ahead and book it now.

Some of these sites have rating requirements. For example, in order to be featured on POI, I think you need to have 10 reviews and higher than a four star rating.

Most of these sites do not accept erotica or controversial material. Be sure to check the requirements before you pay.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sample Sunday: Nothing Else Matters




Chapter 11

"Do you like it?" she asked, patting her newly dyed hair. "I did it for you. I know you prefer blondes."

"You dyed your hair for me?"

"Oh, it wasn't that big of a deal. My hair wasn't that dark. It only took three hours."

"You spent three hours dyeing your hair for me?"

"Well, I want to make you happy. I want you to know that this is more than just some high school romance for me. I'm in love with you, Scottie. This is for keeps."

"Whoa."

Amber grabbed my hand and pulled me into her house.

"And I know you're serious about me, too. We've been dating for sixty three days. That's five days longer than any of your previous girlfriends."

"Whoa. You've counted?"

"Of course. Every girl wants to get past the two month mark with you." She pulled me into the dining room where a veritable feast had been spread out.

"What's this?"

"Well, I thought about what you said on Friday night and I finally realized that you weren't trying to break up with me. You were trying to take our relationship to the next level. You wanted to meet my family. So tonight we're having dinner with my parents."

"Parents?"

Amber's house was located just around the corner from the celebrated Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina. From their living room you could see Fort Sumter where the initiating shots of the Civil War were blasted. I would've given anything to be able to jump into the frigid Atlantic and swim out to that island instead of sitting at the table across from Amber's stiff parents and her bratty little sister. I wasn't intimidated by the fact that her father was a judge or that the plates on the table were probably worth more than my car. What made my throat tighten and hands shake was the fact that Mr. Sullivan had asked me five different ways in about three minutes what my intentions were with his daughter. Meanwhile, Amber smiled at me like a lovesick mute who offered no assistance in the form of diverting her father's attention from me.

"So who are you voting for in the election?" was his first question that didn't directly pertain to his daughter. Instead of being relieved at the Amber reprieve, I was once again panic stricken as I realized I hadn't made a final decision. But judging from the McCain-Palin sign in his front yard, I was pretty sure he didn't want to hear that. Or else he'd spend the rest of the evening trying to sway me to his side.

"Peter, not at the dinner table." Mrs. Sullivan’s words were like a life preserver. I would have kissed her if I didn't think Amber would jump across the table and beat down her own mother in a jealous rage.

"What?" Mr. Sullivan asked innocently of his wife as he looked up from his soup appetizer. "I can't ask the boy his opinion? He sure better have an opinion by now. The election is in two days. You are eighteen aren't you?" he asked me.

"Yes, sir," I said, reaching for water to quench my suddenly parched throat.

"You registered?" he continued, dabbing his Yosemite Sam moustache with a napkin.

"Yes, sir."

"Peter, really? Can't you ask him a question that's a little less volatile?" said Mrs. Sullivan who was a dead ringer for Vanna White.

Meanwhile, six-year-old Crystal kicked me under the table then whispered, "You better vote for McCain. Obama is a Sofa list."

"Socialist, honey. Obama is a socialist," Vanna, I mean, Mrs. Sullivan corrected her daughter.

"That's my girl," Mr. Sullivan said before hi-fiving Crystal.

"Why don't you ask him where's he's going to college? He has so many schools after him, he can go anywhere he wants," Amber said, gushing so much I half expected her soup to explode out of the top of her head.

"Where do you intend to matriculate?"

"Um, I'm leaning toward Cal State Fullerton. I'd love to play baseball there."

"California? I don't want my little girl living amongst all those liberals. You know they let gays get married there?"

"Excuse me … what?" I said nearly choking on the spoonful of soup I'd tried to get down. Who the hell invited Amber to California? Was she really planning on going to any school I went to?

"I know. It's ridiculous. Men marrying men. Women kissing on women. It just ain't right." He misunderstood my confusion.

"God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve," Crystal volunteered while folding her arms smugly.

"Amen, baby," Mr. Sullivan said, hi-fiving his daughter again. "Anyway, you and Amber should go to a school right here in South Carolina."

"May I use your restroom?" I said, standing abruptly. This had gone too far. I couldn't take anymore.

"I'll show him where it is." Amber leaped from her seat, grabbed my hand and led me toward the family room.

Once we turned a corner, Amber flung her arms about my neck and planted a kiss on my lips. "I love you so much, Scottie," she said when she let me up for air. "I'm so happy we worked through our problems. We're going to be together forever." She kissed me again, and then skipped off toward the dining room.

I slipped into the bathroom and texted Stu.

Five minutes later, as a salmon dish was being placed in front of us, my cell phone rang. I answered it and feigned shock and dismay to what I heard on the phone although all my little brother said to me was "You owe me for this. I was in the middle of a really awesome guitar solo."

"I'm so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, but apparently my brother missed the last bus and he's stranded in North Charleston. I have to pick him up."

After a few handshakes and a couple of reluctant hugs, I was released from that prison-like hell without further interrogation. Thankfully, they weren't bus riding type people and didn't realize that the Charleston Area bus system didn't stop running until 10:50 on Sundays.

***

Stu was on the floor about to burst with laughter when I told him about my evening.

"Do you see this?" he said, pointing to his face. "I'm crying. I'm actually crying. I've never heard anything so hysterical in my life."

Suddenly finding the humor in the whole situation, I joined in the laughter as well.

"But seriously," I said a few moments later, breaking up the hilarity of the moment. "What am I gonna do? How can I break up with Amber without her going Fatal Attraction on me?"

"Why do you need to break up with her all of the sudden? Just let it end naturally like all your other relationships."

"What do you mean? How do my relationships usually end?"

"Well," Stu sat up and crossed his legs Indian style. "You usually date three types of girls. One: the hot gold-digger. She dates you until someone better comes along, then she dumps you and moves on. Two: the hot psycho. She's completely possessive and drives you crazy from day one, but you stay with her as long as you can because the sex is good. When you can't take it anymore you get caught making out at a party with another girl and she dumps you. And Three: the hot romantic. She's completely in love with the idea of you, but once she dates you and realizes you not only have nothing in common but that you'll never love her as much as she loves you, she cries a little, and then dumps you and moves on."

"Whoa, you've put a lot of thought into this," I said a little surprised at his summation.

"Reyna and I came up with these categories about a year ago after Savannah and Ashley fought over you in the girls' bathroom. They were both type twos."

"Reyna." I sighed.

"Yeah, Reyna. Now, she's the kind of girl you should be with. But that'll never happen."

"Why not?" I asked, starting to get offended.

He looked at me like I was dumber than a boat made of Corn Flakes, then said, "Because she doesn't fit into one of the categories."

I mulled this over for a moment while Stu set up Guitar Hero on the Xbox. I was a walking stereotype. My little brother was able to sum up my love life in like fifty words. And he'd had the help of Reyna of all people. No wonder she wanted nothing to do with me romantically. She would take it as an insult to be my girlfriend.

"Wait a minute," I said finally. "Why wouldn't a relationship work with the hot romantic? Why wouldn't I be able to love her as much as she loved me?" I asked, thinking I'd found a flaw in his reasoning.

"Because you'll never be able to love any woman as much as you love Reyna," he said simply as he started strumming to “Dream On” by Aerosmith. "And the sooner you realize that, the happier you'll be."

"I do realize it."

"Seriously?" Stu turned off the game. "All right, Scottie. It's about time."

"What do you mean?"

"Scottie, you've been in love with her for years."

"I have?"

"Yes, but you've let Sam's prejudice keep you from acting on your true feelings. What made you finally come around?"

I shrugged. "I guess I started thinking about who would be by my side if I wasn't a star athlete. Who would still care about me if I never threw another touchdown pass for the rest of my life? Besides you, there was Reyna." I didn't want to tell him that the reason I started thinking about this was because lately I thought my body was giving out on me and I feared that a career in sports wouldn't be in my future.

“So, what’s it like? The whole being in love thing,” he asked.

“It sucks!”

“Ooookaaay. That’s so not what I expected you to say.” Stu sat down Indian style on the floor and waited for me to elaborate.

“Well, it does. It feels like…it feels like an eighteen wheeler is sitting on my chest and the only relief I get is when I’m around her. Then I feel free.”

“Wow. That was equal parts terrifying and beautiful.”

“Exactly,” I said.

Stu stretched out on the floor and clasped his hands behind his head. “How did we end up like this?” he asked. “How did we grow up with a lunatic for a mother yet still turn out relatively normal?”

I shrugged. “I think it was easy for you. You came out of the womb hating Sam. You did everything in your power to be her exact opposite. If she told you the sky was blue, you’d insist it was green just to piss her off. So, of course, if she’s crazy and racist, you’d be sane and tolerant. It took me a little while longer.”

“How’d it happen for you?” Stu asked.

“Do you remember the summer I went to soccer camp in New England?”

Stu rolled his eyes. “How could I forget? I was only five, but I remember Sam trying to make me learn golf. She thought I could be the next Tiger Woods.”

“I was eight-years-old and my mother had sent me a thousand miles away for six weeks. In all that time, she only called me twice. Once to make sure I was doing my daily triple fives and once to try to get me to convince you to stop throwing your golf clubs at her.”

Stu giggled. “That was the best part of the summer man. I think I clocked her once in the head. If there was a golf club throwing competition in the Olympics, I’d definitely get the gold.”

“Any way,” I said, interrupting Stu’s only happy memory of his mother. “I shared a cabin with fifteen boys from Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Angola, and Japan. Each of them talked to their parents every day and got care packages and letters from them all the time. Sam had taught me all my life that those people were somehow defective because of the color of their skin. Well, that got me thinking. If they were defective and still received unconditional love from their parents, what did that make me? So, I couldn’t bring myself to hate them anymore. Not when they were obviously better than I was.”

Stu stood up and put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “You’re not defective, Scott. And Sam does love you in her own sick, twisted way. She just doesn’t know how to show it like a normal human being.” Suddenly it was as if he was the big brother and I was the little brother drinking in his wisdom.

I felt a lump develop in my throat. How pathetic was I about to cry because my mommy didn’t love me?

“Man, she has really screwed us up,” Stu said sitting back down on the floor. “You have a complex about feeling worthwhile and I apparently think the sky is green.”

I laughed and then hit him in the head with a pillow. Stu always knew how to lighten the mood at just the right time.

"In any case, we’ve got some work to do. Since you finally know how you feel about Reyna, we have to figure out a way to get rid of Amber.” A grin spread across Stu’s face that I have to admit was a bit creepy. Or maybe it was just the black lipstick that made it creepy. “I think it's time to give her a taste of real psycho, Kincaid style."




Tip #21: Use Ads to Increase Sales

I have yet to see a drastic increase in sales from paid ads but some people swear by them. One thing to remember with ads is that most people need to see the same ad about four times before they act on it. So if you are going the ad route, remember that it is for the long haul. It may take months before you see any effects.

How can you do this the cheap way? Occasionally, I get coupons for free $100 worth of advertising on Google through my hosting company Just Host. You better believe I take advantage of this. If you want to sign up with Just Host so you can get these coupons as well, just click on the link on my left side bar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tip #20: How NOT to do a Blog Tour

When I first got published, I was with two small publishers. Most…well, all of the marketing fell on my shoulders. So I set out searching for bloggers and asking for interviews so that I could do my own blog tour. It was a good idea and it works for many people but here is the big mistake I made. I sent print books to about 40 or 50 bloggers. I also wrote different blog posts for about 20 to 25 bloggers. It was expensive and exhausting. And for all that time, money, and effort, I only got about 10 reviews for Priscilla the Great. The biggest mistake was sending books to blogs that did not have very large followings. I was spending money to beg for a review to a blog that only had 33 people following. Now that might be a little unfair. Every follower is important. What if one of those 33 followers happened to know just the right person to pitch my book to that would send sales through the roof. You never know. I just think you have better odds of success if you target blogs with large followings.

Personally, I don’t think blog tours are very effective, especially for my genre. I think the majority of people who read middle grade book blogs are teachers, librarians, and other book bloggers. I don’t think middle school kids are reading blogs so I don’t think I’m reaching my audience with a blog tour. Now those teachers and librarians can definitely reach my audience for me, but even in that case they would be encouraging their students to check the book out for the library instead of buying it. Blog tours may work better for genres where the audience have more buying power. I’m still not convinced of that either because when I did my tour for my older books, I still didn’t see much of an increase in sales.

There are positive things about blog tours. If done properly, you can reach thousands of people without leaving the comfort of your bed. If done properly, you can reach thousands of people without spending a lot of money. So how do you do it properly?

o Look for blogs that will accept eBooks. That way you can give them a couple of your book without have to mail it.

o Look for an ARC blog tour service. This is when you send one copy of your book to a blogger and when they finish reading it, they pass it on to the next blogger. One copy of your book could get passed around to five or six bloggers.

o Look for FREE or cheap blog tour services. These services will plan your tour for you. This will save you the time and hassle of trying to contact each blog individually. Be careful because there are some companies that will charge you a ridiculous amount. I think $200 is out of the question for a blog tour, unless they can give you statistics as to how effective their tour is. I, personally, wouldn’t pay for such a service and if I did, it wouldn’t be more than $50-$100.

o Target blogs with 1000+ followers. The problem with this is that those bloggers probably have a long backlist. If you want bloggers with 1000+ followers to review your book, you’re going to have to give them about three months to get around to reading your book. On the other hand, you can target blogs with 50-100 followers and they may have a shorter lead time.

o To be effective, I truly believe that a blog tour needs to visit at least 50 (1000+ follower) blogs in about a two week period or more than 100 blogs with less followers. If that’s too much for you to coordinate, hire someone else to do it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tip #19: The Power of Free

Giving away free eCopies of your book may seem counterproductive at first, but I honestly think it is the one thing that has increased my sales the most. When I gave away Ain’t No Sunshine for free on Amazon, I sold over 400 copies of Guardian of Eden that month. It also garnered over 100 reviews that month. After it went back to paid, it became my bestseller…and still is six months later.

Going free works best when you have several books to offer. If a reader gets your book for free and like it, they’ll be more inclined to buy one of your other books. Make sure your free book has links to your other books at the end. If you have a series of books, you might consider putting book one for free. I did this with my Priscilla the Great series and it drastically increased sales for books two and three. When all five books are out, I’ll do it again.

There are two ways you can go free. Distribute to Barnes and Noble through Smashwords. Set the price for free on Smashwords, then let Amazon know through their “tell us about a lower price” feature so that they price match it.

Another way to set your book to free is to sign up for Amazon’s KDP Select program. This allows you to set your book for free for five days out of an exclusive 90 day period. When your book is in the Select program, it cannot be distributed electronically anywhere else on the internet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tip #18: Write Your Next Book!

One of the best ways to increase sales is to sell another book. With two books out, you can potentially make twice as much money. With three books, three times as much. The math is simple. Take it from me, I'm a PhD math student! :)

But this means you have to write another book. So, unfortunately, you can't spend all of your time marketing. Once again, learning to budget your time is very important. On top of all my other things to do, I like to give myself a daily writing goal of 1000 words. From time to time I will join challenges that increase that limit (i.e. Nanowrimo). With a writing goal of 1000 words per day, I should be able to get a new book out every three months or so after editing and cover design.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tip #17: Your Realistic Marketing Goals

Having goals is very important in marketing. You have to have some realistic goals so that you know what you’re working toward. They have to be realistic so that you don’t feel like you’re never accomplishing anything. I set my goals based on what I’ve accomplished in the past. I’m currently sitting at 8,763 overall sales. So my first goal is to hit 10,000 sales. I also want to get to a point where I’m consistently selling 1000 books a month from at least ten books. Which means for 2012, I want to reach a total of 12k books sold. To accomplish this, these are some of my 2012 marketing goals:

Blog every day

Send newsletters at least twice per month

Host giveaways at least twice per month

Build twitter, facebook, blog, and newsletter following

Attend five book fairs

Have ten school/library visits

Contact every middle school and library in the state of South Carolina

I will probably add to these as the year goes on. But at least I have a starting point.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tip #16: Set a Marketing Budget

This is something that needs to be set in advance. Make every effort to stick to your budget, especially if you have a family to support. Though you want to give your all to your writing endeavor, you also don’t want to put a strain on your family budget. There are a number of things I consider when setting my budget. Last year, I used my couponing to help me decide. I generally saved about $400 a month using coupons, so I kept my monthly marketing budget less than that. You might think $400 a month is quite a lot. Not really considering one sponsorship on Kindle Nation Daily or Pixel of Ink could run you almost $200. Plus, that $400 included all of my costs for publishing my books as well. That meant cover art, editing, review copies, and the CreateSpace pro plan. So publishing one book alone could potentially cost $400. I published eight books in 2011.

This year I’m going separate my profits. I’m going to let my Amazon money pay my household bills. The money I make from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and CreateSpace is what I’ll use for advertising, marketing, and publishing my next book. Of course, you don’t have to use the same model as I do, just have a plan so know where your money is going.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tip #81: Sample Sunday

Sample Sunday is a Twitter event to share reading samples and gain exposure for your work. In order to participate, you must have a Twitter account and a blog or website in order to post your sample. Then create a twitter post that sends people to your sample with a link to it as well as the hashtag #SampleSunday. The point being that once other writers or readers see that hashtag, they will visit the link and/or retweet it. Sample Sunday is most effective when you participate in it actively. You have to visit and comment on other people’s samples so that they will visit and comment on yours. Here is my tweet for Sunday January 15th.

#SampleSunday When racism tears a school apart, can love put it back together? La Cienega Just Smiled http://ow.ly/8tW7m @sybilnelson

#Sample Sunday: La Cienega Just Smiled

Chapter 1

Sixth Grade

April 2002

"I dare you to kiss me," Reyna said as they sat on the merry-go-round sharing their vegetarian lunch. Scott actually preferred to eat meat, but because Reyna ate vegetarian, so would he.

Scott slammed his foot into the dirt and abruptly stopped their slow drifting course. "What?"

"I said I dare you to kiss me."

"I heard you, but … but, why?" Scott shook his head of shaggy blond hair trying to process what he was hearing.

Reyna drew in a breath and made her cheeks big like a blowfish. She always did that when she needed to think. She held her breath for several seconds, then let it out as she said, "According to my sources, we're the only two sixth graders who haven't had a first kiss. Most everyone in our class has gone beyond kissing."

Scott stared at Reyna dumbfounded, wondering what she meant by ‘beyond kissing’ and when he would do it.

"I mean, I know you would rather kiss Amanda Stratfield, but I figure you can practice on me. That way when you finally kiss Amanda, you'll be really good at it."

Scott was still too stunned to speak. Not because his best friend wanted to make out with him; he was actually quite all right with that. What shocked him more was that she thought he would prefer to kiss Amanda. Ever since Reyna walked into his English class six months ago, he wanted nothing more than to be near her. Something about her afro, her armful of shiny bracelets, and the way she always knew what she wanted made her the most fascinating person Scott had ever met.

He loved the way she would tell him stories about her village in Puerto Rico and make him feel as if he were right there as well eating platano or swimming in crystal blue waters during an afternoon break from class. He loved the way she always told people she would be a doctor when she grew up, not that she wanted to be a doctor. Quite unlike when he told people he wanted to be a professional athlete. In Scott's case, his career choice was not an option. He would one day be on the cover of a Wheaties box whether he liked it or not.

He sat with Reyna during lunch on her first day and every day since. Amanda was just a decoy, someone he pretended to have a crush on whenever someone asked. For some reason, he never felt right about telling people he liked a black girl.

"Um ... " he finally managed to say.

"We can go behind the slide if you want, so no one will see."

"Um ... okay."

Reyna grabbed his hand and pulled him to a secluded spot behind the slide at the edge of the playground, a spot hidden from the rest of the field. There were only a few other students outside. Most of the middle schoolers felt it was uncool to eat on the playground and preferred to eat in the cafeteria.

"Did you feel that?" Reyna asked after their fifth attempt at a successful kiss without teeth getting in the way.

"What?"

"A flutter in the pit of your stomach. I felt it in mine."

Scott closed his eyes and thought about it. He didn't really want to stop kissing and start thinking, but at that moment he would have done anything Reyna wanted.

"Yeah, I felt it, too."

"La Cienega just smiled."



Chapter 2

Friday Oct. 31, 2008

For the first time in my life, I dreaded going into a game. I was in so much pain, it even hurt to breathe. I clenched my left hand into a fist hoping to tame the uncontrollable twitching in my fingers. I rotated my shoulder in small circles while biting down on my lip to keep from crying out. This couldn't be happening. Not in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. I couldn't be feeling this debilitating pain in the shoulder of my throwing arm. Not the arm that would get me an athletic scholarship to college, the arm that would one day land me in the NFL or MLB. Not the NBA, though. At six feet tall, I knew I was probably too short for a white guy in professional basketball.

Maybe I was overreacting. I just wasn’t used to strange pains in my body. The last time I was sick was when I caught the flu from Reyna the summer before eighth grade. And that was because I refused to let her sit home alone. I spent three days at her house making her soup and throwing away her nasty used tissues.

A wave of nausea overcame me and I placed my football helmet in my lap just in case I needed to use it as a bucket. What was going on with me? These symptoms had been coming and going for four months now. Ironically, right after I had my picture and a write up in an issue of Sports Illustrated next to a shoe ad with Lebron James. Never had they all attacked me at once and never had the pain been so intense.

I looked at the game clock. Forty-five seconds left and we were up by one point. As long as defense could hold them for a few more seconds, my shoulder wouldn't be an issue. They would win this game without me, then I could get another shot of...whatever ... from Derek before the state championship to make it through that game. If defense could just hold on ... damn. The other team scored a touchdown. We were now down by five, which meant I was going in.

I felt like a pig caught between a wolf and a slaughterhouse. Either way I was dead. If I went out on that field and failed, everyone would hate me. And if I didn't go out on that field, we'd lose the state playoff game and everyone would still hate me.

I scanned the crowd and looked at all the expectant faces, the students, parents, and fans who wanted a victory for Charleston Prep and expected me to deliver it. The crowd chanted my name waiting for me to go out and create a miracle ... as usual.

I glanced over at the cheerleading squad and checked out my girlfriend, Amber. What would she think of me tomorrow after I let down the school and the entire city by single-handedly losing the playoff game? She'd probably just dump me for Andrew Walters. That way the captain of the football team could date the captain of the cheerleading squad.

Did I love her? Would I miss her when she dumped me? I wasn’t sure. I didn’t even know if I really wanted to be with her or not. As quarterback of the football team, I somehow felt obligated to date a sexy cheerleader. What kind of person had I become?

I only half listened as Coach Reed instructed me on the final play. I already knew what it would be: a quick dance out of the pocket, then a 60-yard aerial to Lawrence in the end zone. I rotated my shoulder again and felt my knees almost buckle from the pain. My eyes watered and my stomach clenched. There was no way I could make that last throw.

"You all right, kid?" Coach asked when I didn't explode onto the field as usual.

I nodded while trying to control my breathing. "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine."

"We need this, Kincaid. Everyone is counting on you."

I started putting on my helmet and began a slow jog down the sideline as the crowd went crazy.

"Scott, wait!" I heard someone yell. Reyna ran toward me in her trademark white leather pants that hugged and accentuated every curve of her body. A sudden heat arose in me. Like someone dropped a plate of warm biscuits in my lap. I turned to the cheerleading squad and gave a guilty smile to Amber when I realized how much Reyna's figure excited me. By the time I turned around again, Reyna and her huge afro stood directly in front of me. It had really gotten long. I suspected she hadn't cut it since sixth grade. "What's wrong?" she asked as she began to replace the tape on my wrist. It was her way of stalling so she could talk to me.

"Nothing. I'm fine."

Reyna rolled her eyes. "I know you're not fine. I can see it. You can’t hide anything from me," she said, holding me with a compassionate stare.

I looked away. I knew I couldn't lie to her. I just hoped that she cared enough about me to not get me taken out of the game. For some reason, she held that kind of power. She was very convincing. Everyone trusted her judgment and ended up doing whatever she wanted. That was how she was able to convince the athletic trainer that he needed her as an assistant. Now Reyna attended all sporting events and wielded almost as much authority as the trainer himself. She claimed it was practice since she was going to major in sports medicine in college before med school, but I liked to think it was her way of getting close to me.

"Look, Scottie, it's just a game. It's not worth doing permanent damage to your shoulder. And I know it's your shoulder. I saw you wince when you picked up your backpack yesterday after chemistry." She had finished the unnecessary taping of my wrist and had entwined her fingers with mine. "And don't think I don't know about that shot of ‘God-knows-what’ you took before the game. If I tell Coach or Doc they'll yank you out so fast —"

"Reyna, please don't do this to me. There's a scout from USC in the crowd," I said in a forced whisper although no one would have been able to hear me anyway over the screams from the crowd.

I looked down and jumped at the sight of our fingers entwined. We hadn't held hands like that in years.

"Is there a problem?" The ref asked as he approached us. My eyes pleaded with her.

"No, no problem," she said still looking at me.

"Then let's go." The ref headed back to the field.

I turned to follow him, but Reyna grabbed my good arm and said, "I know Coach wants you to throw it in the end zone, but you'll never make it out of the pocket. You've been off balance and sluggish all night and 63 is gonna blitz. I know it. Hand off to Harry and let him lateral to Lawrence. Lawrence can run it in. You get down and protect that shoulder."

As I jogged toward the huddle, I was thankful I had a friend like Reyna. I had been feeling woozy and clumsy all night, but still somehow I managed to get the job done and throw three touchdown passes. Only Reyna noticed something was wrong.

After I handed the ball off to Harry, everything went black momentarily. I hoped someone had tackled me and that I didn't just collapse of my own accord, but I couldn't be sure. I heard an explosion of applause and cheering. Lawrence must have run it into the end zone clenching our victory. I hoped everyone's attention would stay there so no one would notice me lying motionless on the field. Just a few more seconds and I'd be able to concentrate my energy enough to get up and no one would even know anything was wrong.

That didn't happen. Seconds later, Reyna was at my side. A hush fell over the crowd as slowly people noticed the star quarterback was down.

"Scottie, can you hear me?" Reyna slipped her flashlight out of her waistband utility belt and flashed it into my eyes.

"What happened? Was he hit? I missed it?" Doc said as he joined her.

"Sixty-three blitzed," Reyna said as she began her examination of me. She carefully maneuvered my helmet off and brushed my hair away from my forehead. I thought I saw something in her eyes. Something I hadn't noticed before. Something like love.

"I swear to God, Scottie, if you don't answer me this second I'll ... I'll ... "

My cheek started to twitch. Anyone looking at me would think I was trying to smile. Actually, I had no control over what the muscles in my face were doing.

I blinked several times and shook my head, trying to snap out of the trance the pain had put me in. Then I forced myself to smile and said, "Did we win?"

Reyna breathed a sigh of relief. "You're such a pill. I can't believe you're joking around at a time like this," she said as she checked my pulse. "What day is it?" she asked.

"Friday."

"Too easy. All our games are on Friday. What's my middle name?" she asked.

Feeling a bit better and enjoying throwing off her meticulously planned world, I grinned and said, "Bossy."

Reyna rolled her eyes and let off a string of her favorite Puerto Rican swears. I always thought it was hilarious that she never considered it cursing if she said it in Spanish. "If I was sure you didn't have a concussion I'd smack you upside the head." She stood, grabbed her kit and stormed off the field, leaving Doc to finish the examination.

I lifted my head and tried to prop myself up on my elbows. "Not so fast," Doc said, easing me back down to the ground. "I have a stretcher coming, just to be on the safe side."

"Doc, I think it might be best for everybody," I looked around the stadium filled with still hushed fans, "if I walk out of here on my own two feet."

"I don't know, Scott. If you –"

"I'm fine, really. I was just playing a trick on Reyna." Doc eyed me skeptically. "Watch, I'm fine." Hiding the true effort of my actions, I jumped up and gave a wave to the spectators. The crowd erupted in cheers once again.

Amber ran onto the field and jumped into my arms. "You big jerk, you had everyone scared to death," she said as she kissed me and playfully slapped me on the chest.

I kissed her back hoping she didn't notice the terror on my face at the realization that I couldn't move my left arm.




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