Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tip #51: Keep the Momentum

I had a great month for February, more than tripling my January sales. It would be easy for me to sit back and expect sales to naturally increase on their own. I know (from past experience) that is not going to happen. I have to keep working at promotion. But I also have a busy March coming up. So with that in mind, I will keep doing what I know works (the free promotions), stop doing what doesn't lead to direct sales (giveaway hops), and get back to what has worked in the past (my brochure campaign). The important thing is to remember is that you can't stop running on the promotion treadmill. It's a continuous thing. It's tiring, but I'm willing to put in the work to reach my goals.

My Fabulous February


I know the month isn’t quite over yet, but it is the 28th and I’m too excited to wait any longer. My sales for February have been amazing! My best month yet. I have well over 3000 sales for February alone! That is almost twice the amount of my last biggest sales month which was in August 2011. One problem I noticed last time I had a great month was that the month after, my sales numbers promptly dropped to less than half. If my sales for March drop to 1500, I’ll still be happy with that. But I want to try to analyze what I did this month in order to keep the momentum going for next month.

eReader News Today Sponsorship

I paid $50 for this sponsorship and it accounted for about 900 sales over the course of two days. It was absolutely amazing and well worth the money. I would love to have one of these sponsorships each month! The problem is that they are so popular, they are booked up for the rest of the year.

Free Promotions

Several of my books are in the KDP Select program, which means I can set them as free at will. Priscilla the Great book 1 and The Queen Bee of Bridgeton are not in the program, but I used Amazon’s price matching to get them to free. I gave away about 47k books in the month of February. This is a good marketing strategy because it allows people to try your work for free and make them more likely to buy your other work. It increases your visibility on Amazon’s lists and thus gets your book in front of more readers and buyers. Here is a breakdown of my free promotions:

Book

Freebies

Feb Sales

Jan Sales

% increase

Priscilla the Great

8500

540 (books1-4)

200 (books 1-4)

170%

Ain’t No Sunshine

12,000

620

384

62%

Nobody Girl

11,000

366

35

946%

Queen Bee

12,000

207 (DiRisio)

24 (DiRisio)

763%

Shadows

978

14

0

NA

How to read the above table:

I gave away 11k copies of Nobody Girl and sold 366 this month. Last month I sold 35. A note about Shadows of St. Louis. I released that book very recently and it had no reviews. I'm hoping that it will gather some reviews and that the next free day I give it will be more successful.

Now it could have been a combination of using frequent free days that caused such an increase in sales. I had at least one book free every day this month and sometimes two. For next month, I’m going to try to use one free day a week

Giveaways on Prissy Fit

I did lots and lots of blogging and follower hops and giveaway hops over at Priscilla the Great’s blog Prissy Fit. This took a lot of time and cost quite a bit of money. I’m not even sure how much it paid off in the long run. When you go from a free book to a paid book, you can immediately see your increase in sales and know what to attribute it to. With my blog, I can’t really do that. I won’t stop blogging or anything, but in March I have a very busy schedule with midterms and three speaking engagements and I won’t be able to blog as much.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrate Black Books Giveaway

Photobucket
So I think I've finally decided what I'm going to giveaway in this giveaway hop. How about $50 in books from Amazon. The kicker is, the books have to be multicultural. So the winner can pick the books and I will buy them and send!
Sign up below!



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, February 20, 2012

Tip #50: Create a Video Game

This marketing idea may work best for authors of Young Adult books or even SciFi/Fantasy. Since my Priscilla the Great series is almost complete (book 5 should be out by summer) I wanted to think of ways to stay relevant and to keep in contact with my fans. So I’ve decided I’m going to look into having some video games created with the characters from the book. There are actually many cost effective ways to do this. I even have a friend that creates iPhone games. I figure I can develop a few apps and games and market those as well. I plan on having something available by fall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sample Sunday: Shadows of St. Louis



Passing

In the shadows of the early morning or the dusky night, she could pass for white. She could straighten her hair, then pin it into a French twist. She could borrow one of Rebecca Jane's elaborate silk dresses with a petticoat and sling a frilly umbrella over her shoulder. A little face powder from Mrs. Goodwin's vanity table would finish the look. Emma Lynn closed her eyes and imagined herself walking down the streets of East St. Louis as a beautiful white woman. Gentlemen would tip their hats and nod a greeting. They would ask for her gloved hand and guide her over a puddle so as not to ruin her silk gown.

At night, it would work. She could pass. But in the day, her soft bronze complexion and her not-so-straight hair would reveal the truth. She was a Negro.

Emma Lynn lit the candle next to her bed and shed light on her basement cellar bedroom. She studied her reflection in the mirror more intently. In many ways she felt she was beautiful. Many of the boys at school had commented on her light brown eyes and bright smile, saying she looked as pretty as one of the Ziegfield Follies girls, even though they had probably never seen one in their life. And her hair that hung to the middle of her back was the envy of all the girls, no matter how kinky it was. But that was a Negro school. Was she only beautiful to Negroes?

She thought about that word “pass.” And that phrase “passing for white.” As if being white automatically gave you some sort of passing grade in life. If that was the case, what did it mean to be Negro? Was that failure? Was she doomed to a life of hardship and unhappiness just because her skin was a few shades darker?

Emma Lynn refused to believe that being black was some sort of punishment. After all, she was happy in her life. She lived with the prosperous and benevolent Goodwin family who had been kind enough to not only give her lodging and work, but also allowed her to attend school. In the hard economic times of the new century, not many Negro children her age were allowed to go to school. Most of them had quit by age nine or ten in order to get a job and help their family financially. At nearly sixteen years of age, Emma Lynn was educated enough to go to college. But how many Negro children without family or resources got to go to college? Not any that she knew of.

Even though Emma Lynn had a fortunate life, she still couldn't completely dismiss the feeling that something wasn't right. There was a fire in her that wanted to consume the injustice that surrounded her. Often times she had to work hard to bite her tongue and just accept things the way they were. Besides, she had it better than most.

A knock on her door tore her away from her thoughts. Oh no, am I late with my morning chores? she thought.

"Are you awake, Emma Lynn?" Rebecca Jane Goodwin's head poked through the door. She was smiling as if she held some exciting secret.

"Yes, I'm awake." Emma Lynn sat on her bed and folded her legs under her white lace nightgown, a hand-me-down from Rebecca Jane.

Rebecca Jane's eyes scanned the floor of the cellar. Emma Lynn knew what she was looking for. Mice, rats and other critters often congregated in the dark, damp corners of the room that Emma Lynn called home. She had long ago gotten used to the unsightly inhabitants, but Rebecca Jane was still a bit squeamish about them. Thankfully, not even rodents could keep the girls away from their daily chitchats.

After a careful evaluation, Rebecca Jane scurried across the floor and hopped on to Emma Lynn's squeaky cot. She had a large package in tow that she carefully placed next to her.

"Is this about Frank?" Emma Lynn asked once Rebecca Jane had gotten comfortable. She assumed that the package was a gift from Rebecca Jane's longtime gentleman caller. "How was your date? You didn't get home until after I had already gone to bed."

"Well, that's because you go to bed at seven in the evening. The night hasn't even begun at that time." Rebecca Jane separated her long hair into two sections and began braiding one side of it as she said, "Anyway, it's not about him. I have nothing to report on that situation. He keeps asking me to marry him and I keep saying no."

"But why Rebecca Jane? He's a nice boy. He comes from a good family. He's been courting you for nearly a year. I know your parents would be happy with the match."

Rebecca Jane huffed and shook her head. "I know my parents would be more than thrilled to get me married off and out of their hair. But I'm only seventeen. I'm too young to be trapped in a marriage. I want to see the world. I want to go to Europe. I want to try singing professionally." She stared off at the ceiling as if she could see herself on stage in France or Spain. Rebecca Jane was extremely talented and could possibly end up on stage one day. The most amazing thing about her voice was perhaps her versatility. She was just as comfortable singing opera as she was singing those sultry tunes that the Negroes most admired. That's what angered the Goodwin's most. They wanted their rebellious daughter settled into a secure marriage as soon as possible, before she somehow embarrassed the family. "Besides, I'm not sold on Frank Gibson. There's something about him that I just don't … " Rebecca Jane shrugged, unsure how to finish her thought. "I just don't think he's the one for me." A bit of sadness filled her eyes before she shook it away and presented the package to Emma Lynn. "For you," she said with a broad smile.

"Me?" Emma Lynn accepted the package shyly. She couldn't believe that the box was actually for her.

"I know your sixteenth birthday is still a few days away, but I couldn't wait."

"Oh my!" Emma Lynn exclaimed after opening the box. "Your dress!" It was the dress Rebecca Jane had worn to her Cotillion two years ago.

"No. Your dress. I want you to have it."

"Oh, Rebecca Jane, I can't accept this," she said remembering the weeks they'd spent with dressmakers designing it.

"You have to. It's a gift. Besides, it's two years old. It's quite out of fashion, but I know how much you've always fancied it, so I want you to have it."

Speechless, Emma Lynn's hands traced the elaborate stitching of the blue dress. She had always admired it and the thought that she would be able to own it made her heart swell with joy. With tears in her eyes, she looked around her dark, damp, room. She noticed the tail end of a mouse scurrying back into a wall.

"I haven't a place to wear it." She caught a tear sliding down her face and gently brushed it away. "You should keep it. I don't deserve it."

"Oh, Em, you don't deserve this either." Rebecca Jane indicated the squalor of the room.

Why would she say that? Emma Lynn wondered. When so many other Negroes lived in worse conditions such as shacks and tents by the river, she knew she wasn't any different than them.

Rebecca Jane helped Emma Lynn into the dress then said, "I'm going to pin your hair up into a bob just like Irene Castle." She reached for a handful or hair pins on Emma Lynn's dresser top. "Mark my words, in five years everyone will be wearing their hair in bobs." Irene Castle was a famous and controversial dancer. Along with her husband Vernon, they actually traveled with a Negro orchestra. This was another reason why the Goodwin's feared for Rebecca Jane's future. Not only did she find nothing wrong with performing with Negroes, she actually preferred it, saying that Negro music was the future of entertainment.

When Emma Lynn was all dressed, they both stood in front of the full length mirror, stared at her reflection and gasped.

"Oh my!" Emma Lynn exclaimed. "I look just like you."

"Yes, you do," she said without a hint of anxiety.

No one had ever mentioned their similar features out loud for fear the coincidence would offend Rebecca Jane. But with Emma Lynn in her dress it was impossible to deny. Except for their complexions, they looked identical. From their high cheekbones to their wide light brown eyes, their features enlightened a shadowed secret that Emma Lynn was determined to reveal. Even their noses and lips were comparable in shape with Emma Lynn's being only slightly wider.

"Rebecca Jane, why do we look so similar? You're white and I'm Negro. How is that possible?"

Rebecca Jane hugged her and said, "Because we're kindred spirits. We're sisters in soul."

Emma Lynn pushed out of the embrace. Suddenly, she felt that fire inside of her again. A fire that ignited from her longing to know the truth.

"Where do I come from, Rebecca Jane?"

"Oh, Em, you know. We took you in when you were a child. You were to be my play companion because Mary Anne was too old to play with me and Charles, well, Charles is a boy. He wouldn't have enjoyed all the tea parties we had growing up." Rebecca Jane avoided eye contact with Emma Lynn by beginning to undo the blue dress.

"Why didn't your parents adopt a white child?"

Looking into her eyes Rebecca Jane said, "Because I wanted you."

That wasn't a satisfactory answer for Emma Lynn, but before she could inquire further, there was a pounding at the door. "I'm coming!" she snapped before thinking. She clasped her hands over her offending mouth. She realized it could only be Mrs. Goodwin at the door wondering why she wasn't already upstairs baking for the confectionary. She didn't mean to sound so rude. She dreaded the impending punishment. Why couldn't she control her tongue better?

"What did you say to me?" Mrs. Goodwin asked after bursting through the door and down the steps. Even at five o'clock in the morning, her long auburn hair was already perfectly arranged and her face elegantly adorned with make-up. Although she wore a little too much white face powder for Emma Lynn's taste. Sometimes Mrs. Goodwin looked down right ghostly.

"I ... I ... " Emma Lynn stuttered in fear. She knew she shouldn't have spoken in such a manner to her benefactor.

Mrs. Goodwin reached out and slapped Emma Lynn across the face before she could voice a suitable response.

"She didn't say anything. It was me Mother. I said I was coming." Rebecca Jane stepped between Emma Lynn and her mother.

Mrs. Goodwin didn't respond. She seemed to be struck silent by the sight of Emma Lynn in the blue dress. "Why is she wearing your dress?" Her voice sounded distant, almost frightened.

"It's not my dress anymore. I gave it to her."

"Well, take it back. She can't have it." Mrs. Goodwin placed her hands on her hips.

She crossed her arms and she returned her mother's icy glare. "I will not take it back. And you can't force me to."

Emma Lynn stepped out of the dress and tried to avoid looking at them. The two of them were a frightful site and she wanted to avoid getting in the middle of one of their battles at all costs. She pulled on one of her modest cotton dresses and prepared for her morning chores.

The Goodwin women were still staring at each other when Emma Lynn was ready to go upstairs. Neither one of them was willing to back down.

"Fine," Mrs. Goodwin said finally. "Let her keep it down here to get eaten and destroyed by the rats. What a waste. Where would she wear it anyway?"

"Charles and I are taking her out for her birthday. She can wear it then."

Mrs. Goodwin huffed, then turned and bounded up the stairs.

"Thank you, Rebecca Jane. I didn't mean to be so rude. It slipped. Sometimes I just … I feel like … like there's something missing in my life and there's this anger inside me and … "

"Shh, it's okay." They hugged again. "You best get upstairs and get started with your work. Isn't the milkman coming soon?"

Emma Lynn brushed her tears away quickly. She absolutely could not miss the visit from the milkman. She started up the stairs then paused and said, "Are you and Charles really going to take me out for my birthday?"

Rebecca Jane nodded.

"But where will you ever find a place that accepts Negroes?"

"You leave that to me."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tip #49:Announce Your Milestones

For the past few weeks, I’ve been hitting a few milestones. I surpassed 10k overall sales, Bring the Pain is #10 in the Hot New Releases in Children’s Science Fiction, and Nothing Else Matters is currently #3 on the Movers and Shakers list for all books on Amazon! When milestones like this occur, there are a number of things you should do. (Most of which I probably won’t get around to because I don’t have time).

1. Write a press release

2. Send out a newsletter

3.Hold a giveaway in celebration of the milestone.

4. Post on social media.

So far I have only done number 4. I do plan on having a big giveaway or something to announce my 10,000 sales milestone. I just have to find the time to plan it out.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tip #48: Set Deadlines

Even if you only answer to yourself, it is important to give yourself deadlines and firm dates for your new releases. It keeps you motivated and working for a goal. If you think you’re just going to release your book whenever you finish it, it may be harder to actually finish it. But if you choose a date and start publicizing your release 6 to 8 months in advance, you will be more likely to actually finish the book and meet that deadline. But since you work for yourself, if you miss that deadline you’ll have a very understanding boss.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tip #47: Goodreads Events

I have never been a fan of Goodreads in the past but I am starting to change my mind about it. For my current giveaway, I listed an event on Goodreads and was able to invite all of my Goodreads friends at once. Now if I had been paying attention to Goodreads and adding friends earlier, it would have been even more effective. I think I’ll start working on building up my Goodreads friends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tip #46: Cross Promotion

Team up with other authors and add a sample of your book to the end of theirs. That way you both can increase your readership.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tip #45: Google Reader

Using Google Reader is a great way to keep up with all the blogs you follow. One of the best way to build your blog following is to follow and comment on other blogs. Google Reader helps keeps it all organized in one place so that you don’t have to keep going back and forth between several sites.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Hottest Boy in Fiction

Priscilla the Great Blog


Priscilla the Great's Blog Prissy Fit is currently hosting a Hottest Boys in Books Giveaway and I'm going to play along by mentioning who I think the Hottest Boy in Literature is. This is a bit embarrassing, but when I was in Middle School, I was completely obsessed with all things V.C. Andrews. Yes, I know it might qualify as trash, but man, was it addicted. I read every thing she ever wrote and a few things that were written after she died. Those were horrible by the way. Don't waste your time. Anyway, the first fictional boy I was completely head over heals for was Beau from the Ruby series. I was so in love with this fictional boy that I named my first car after him. Pathetic yes, I know.

So there you have it. Now what is your fictional hottie?

Tip #44: Alumni Magazines

Since I am apparently a perpetual student, I make sure to contact my alumni magazines and let them know about my writing. I have been in the last three issues of my undergraduate Alumni Magazine. Each time the write about my latest release. Be sure to contact all of your Alumni associations and let them know what you are up to

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tip #43: Do's and Don'ts of Fiction Platforms

So we all know that in order to build a fan base and sell more books, we have to have a platform. For non-fiction writers that platform is nearly ready made. If you publish a book about being a working mother, well your target audience is obviously women, mothers, and women who are soon to be mothers. Bam. There's your platform. For us fiction writers, not only do we have to figuratively go to Home Depot and buy the nails and hammers to build our platform, some of us have to go to the forest and cut down the tree.

I've been trying everything I can think of and pushing myself to a few points past exhaustion in order to build my fan base. So imagine my delight when in the mail today I got my latest issue of Writer's Digest and the cover article is "Your Guide to Success on the Web." Angels began to sing. Okay, so those angels were probably a combination of that woodpecker with a death wish that lives outside my window and the massive doses of cough medicine I'm currently on. In either case, I was really happy to see this article. Even if it was horribly written and not applicable to my situation (which rarely happens with Writer's Digest articles) I was sure there would be at least one point I could take away. As it turns out, there were 16.

In a nice little inset box, Christina Katz summarized the Do's and Don'ts for Fiction Platforms. And here they are:

What works:
1. Local publicity, especially if you live where your novel is set
2. Book giveaways
3. A wide reaching blog tour
4. Group signings and events
5. Cultivating a community fans want to return to
6. Encouraging or teaching fans how to do what you do
7. Hosting reader competitions for media or creative work
8. Ramping up excitement prior to the book launch

What doesn't
1. Mass snail mail campaigns
2. Non-book giveaways
3. A small blog tour
4. Solo book signings
5. Paid Advertising
6. Book trailers that are merely commercials
7. Saying "yes" to too many time consuming requests
8. Extravagant publication parties

I'm glad to note that I have been doing some of the things on her do list. But then I have also done two things on her don't list: Non-book giveaways and paid advertising. I'm also prone to saying "yes" to too many time consuming things. I'm working on my PhD for goodness sake. I don't have a lot of extra time.

Sample Sunday: The Queen Bee of Bridgeton

Chapter 1

Caught in the Noose

"Every student who has faced this honor council has been found guilty and expelled," Headmaster Collins said from behind the judge's bench of Dardem Hall. Though I knew the expulsion rate of Bridgeton Academy, I prayed the outcome of my own honor trial would be different. I mean, innocence had to account for something, right?

I felt like everyone in the world was staring at me. Probably because they were. The five members of the honor council, which included my sister Sasha, sat in the middle of the stage waiting for my explanation of events. She held her face in her hands shaking with tears as she, too, knew my fate. My accuser smiled smugly, crossed his arms, and winked at me. It was obvious he knew I was innocent. But did that matter?

I cast my eyes down to avoid their gaze, but the view wasn't much better. My pink ballet tights totally clashed with my green plaid school uniform skirt. What was I thinking? Lucky tights or not, this was a major fashion faux pas. I couldn't bear to look at myself anymore, but looking into the sea of Bridgeton uniforms in the audience was even worse. I caught a glimpse of Ashley's evil little face. I wondered if she noticed the tights too or did her smirk just reveal the utter joy she found in my obvious suffering.

"Sixteen years ago, in my first year here at Bridgeton, I expelled half the senior class along with eleven juniors and three sophomores. I do not tolerate dishonorable actions on my campus." Headmaster Collins continued informing me and the audience of things we already knew. Things he reminded us of constantly every Monday morning in the weekly honor speech.

God, I wanted to be off that stage. I wanted to be anywhere else in the world. Why couldn't I be dancing with the Russian Ballet instead? Hell, I'd take dancing in my tiny bedroom in Venton Heights with gravel in my pointe shoes over this torture. I mean, at Bridgeton, being called a cheater was worse than being called a bank robber or a murderer or a Democrat.

Ashley tapped Lauren on the shoulder, whispered something into her ear, then they giggled hysterically while staring at me. Even through her evilness, Ashley was still beautiful. With her flowing blonde hair and soft blue eyes she looked exactly like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, except with a hint of skank.

Like a queen on her throne, Lauren tossed her curly golden brown hair over her shoulder and shared the joke with Brittany who sat on her other side. Brittany's eyes expanded while she laughed, exaggerating her already horse-like features.

Headmaster Collins banged his gavel. "Is there something you would like to add to these proceedings, Ms. DeHaven?" he said to Lauren in the front row.

"Oh no, sir," she said with syrupy sweetness. "My classmates and I were just commenting on how wonderful it will be when our school is free of people who don't appreciate honesty and virtue." She smirked at me. I wanted to jump off the stage and slap the sneer off her face. But that wouldn't have helped the situation.

I had to admire their ingenuity, somewhat. I mean, to frame me for cheating and have video footage. Pretty genius. If I was more like them, this whole thing probably would never have happened. But I'm not. A poor, black girl from Venton Heights could never defeat the likes of Ashley, Brittany and Lauren. I shouldn't have even tried.

My father used to tell me being black was not a negative no matter how the media portrayed us. He told me I should "Say it loud, 'I'm black and I'm proud." I tried to feel that way, but sometimes I just didn't think it was true. I mean, if nothing is wrong with being black, then why did no one want to be 'blacklisted', 'blackballed', or blackmailed? Why is Angel food cake white and Devil's food cake black?

Of course, a black man did get elected president. That helped my self-image a little, but not much. I mean, it wasn't a fair comparison. I'm pretty sure Barack and Michelle didn't grow up in Venton Heights. When Homeless Murray from the alley behind my apartment becomes president, then maybe I'll feel comfortable celebrating my blackness.

I needed to concentrate and figure out how to make them believe me. But how could I explain away the video footage those bitches had concocted? Students had been convicted and expelled for much less. I was surprised Headmaster Collins went through this formality at all since he seemed so ready to expel students all the time.

Headmaster Collins, or Colonel Collins as he was sometimes called, scared the pee out of me figuratively and literally.

Once, during my first week at Bridgeton, I inadvertently stepped into a class already in progress just to avoid passing him in the hallway.

Everyone in the class stared at me like the complete moron I was. Even the teacher, with chalk in mid air turned and gave me the classic 'what the hell are you doing?' teacher stare waiting for me to explain my presence. I tried to think quickly as, in my mind, the seconds ticked into minutes, but thinking quickly was not my strong suit. Neither was public speaking. One of two things usually happened when I was caught in a situation like that; either I stood there with my mouth open and eyes bulging as if choking on a chicken bone, or, I started babbling incoherently. That day, I wished for the choking.

"Bathroom…no, I know this is not the bathroom. If it was, then all of you wouldn't be here. Unless it was one of those bathrooms you see in other countries that are just big rooms with several holes and people just squat and go. But all of you people have your clothes on so, I know you're not using the bathroom…um what I mean is that I'm looking for the bathroom. Yeah, that's what I mean." I glanced outside the door to see if it was safe to make my exit, but Headmaster Collins had stopped to talk with a faculty member. I had to continue my embarrassing soliloquy long enough for him to pass. "So, bathroom is what I'm looking for because I have to…you know…use it. Not that I can't hold it because I can, I mean I haven't wet myself in like…" just then Headmaster Collins passed and without even finishing my thought, I darted out of the classroom and away from the scathing eyes of my schoolmates. I tried to convince myself that what had just happened didn't happen, but the raucous laughter emanating from the classroom told me otherwise.

"Was that Sasha?" Someone in the classroom asked as they tried to control their giggles.

"Oh, God no!" someone else said. "Have you ever seen Sasha be that…that awkward?"

"I think that was her sister. What's her name again?"

"No idea."

With Archibald Collins as headmaster, Bridgeton was nicknamed the Ivy League High School of North America. Last year 87% of the senior class went on to Ivy League universities. Eighty seven percent! That's like…okay, I don't know how many students that is. Math is another one of my many weaknesses. But, in any case, 87% was a lot of brainiacs going off to brainy schools to do big brainy things.

Dardem Hall was specially erected by Headmaster Collins to review honor violations. This small scale replica of a court house was built on the east lawn and loomed like a noose above all of our heads just waiting for one of us to figuratively hang ourselves by flouting Headmaster Collins' rules. This was only my second year at Bridgeton, but it seemed to me there were a particularly high number of noose victims. I remembered attending trials for other students and feeling absolutely mortified on their behalf for the humiliation they were suffering. The day of my trial, I felt the same mortification, as well as my own personal humiliation.

"In my opinion," the headmaster continued, "cheating is the worst possible offense. Not only does it bring shame upon this school, but it also degrades your personal character. There is no room in Bridgeton for cheaters." He looked at me and said, "Sonya Garrison, unless you can give us an adequate explanation, you will have to finish your junior year elsewhere."

My heart raced. My hands were hot and slippery with sweat. A knot developed in my throat making it impossible for me to utter a sound. What could I possibly say to get out of this? The imminent doom of a life without a high school education pounded my thoughts, and gave me an agonizing headache. What would I do without a high school diploma? Sasha was going to kill me. After we'd worked so hard to make it out of the projects, I had somehow figured out a way to ruin it. Well, in all fairness, I didn't ruin it. It was completely not my fault. Ashley, Brittany, and Lauren set me up and I knew it. Together queen Lauren and her hoochies made up what’s called the Bitch Brigade of Bridgeton. The most feared girls in the school. But why did they have it in for me? Why were they so determined to ruin my life? In order to understand, I'd have to start from the beginning. And I guess the beginning started with dance.


The Queen Bee of Bridgeton is currently FREE on Amazon!




Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tip #42: Have an order form


Since I contact a lot of schools about my books, I often get asked for my book order form. Schools have to have some sort of paper trail any time they want to buy something for their school. So I thought I’d show you what I came up with for a book order form so that you can create your own if need be.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Tip #41: Where to Find Extra Marketing Money

Coupons!

This tip might not work for you, but it did wonders for me. When I quit my job, I thought I’d be out of an income for a while so I started to look into couponing. Thankfully, soon after I got a fellowship for graduate school so I was able to get an income again, but the couponing stuck. I started saving about $400 a month just by using coupons! For an entire year, I invested that money into my writing career. I used it to publish print copies of my books, pay for cover art and editing, hold giveaways, buy advertising. That way my writing career wasn’t a strain on my family’s budget.

To help with my couponing, I buy two Sunday papers a week. Each week instead of spending hours cutting out coupons, I simply take out the coupon inserts, write the date on them and then file them away. For example, SS 2/05 means Smart Source from the February 5th paper. This is important because next you can go to a coupon matching website such as www.southersavers.com and each week they will have a list of the sale items for each store along with the coupons for each item. Make your list, cut out your coupons, then go shopping. I’ve been doing this for over a year now so it only takes me about 30 minutes of prep time before each trip.

A couple of things to remember when you are a couponer:

No brand loyalty. My husband used to love Mentadent toothpaste. But I can get Crest and Colgate for free at CVS after coupons. So, guess what? He now uses Crest or Colgate and his teeth are just as clean.

Sales usually run in six week cycles. If there is a family favorite item, I stock up on that item when it is at its lowest price so that it will last until the next time it is on sale.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tip #40: A Social Media Recipe

I’ve decided to try what I call my Social Media Recipe. It’s like my daily social media to do list. I know what I should be doing each day, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I’ll get online and then easily get sidetracked by other interesting things. Before I know it an hour has passed and I can barely remember why I got on the computer in the first place, let alone what blogs I was supposed to visit. So here is what I plan to do each day.

o Prissy Fit post

o Marketing blog post

o Ten tweets

o Respond to tweets

o Respond to blog comments

o Facebook posts

o Visit ten blogs

o Work on Priscilla the Great Newsletter for 10 minutes

o Work on LPP newsletter for 10 minutes

o Work on Leslie DuBois Newsletter 5 minutes

I plan on doing this every night for an hour during the Daily Show and The Colbert Report. A lofty goal, I know. But if I can get half of that done on a regular basis, I’ll be happy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this pretty consistently so that when I get busy at school, I’ll be able to take a couple of days off without getting to far behind. And this is just online marketing. I need another hour to dedicate to my print promotion efforts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tip #39: Managing Your Social Media

It’s best to use some sort of outside source to manage all of your media accounts in one place. For a while, I used a place called Sendible which allowed me to post to twitter, facebook, and my blog all from one place. I could plan posts in advance and post to multiple accounts. It was great. It only costs about $10 a month, but I’ve decided that is too much and I want to explore all of my free options first. Right now I’m using Hootsuite for my twitter posts and I’m handling facebook and my blogs individually. In the future, I might go back to Sendible.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tip #38: What to Include in Your Media Kit

Every author should have a media kit that is available for download from their website. Here are some things you may want to include.

1. Press Release

2. Bio

3. Photos of book and author

4. Quotes from reviewers

5. Sample interview (I suggest taking one from an online interview you’ve done for a blogger or something.

6. List of published books

7. Target audience

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tip #37: Find Your Target Audience

You’re at a party and someone says “What kind of books do you write?” If your answer begins with “Well, it’s kind of hard to explain…” then you haven’t targeted your audience properly. Targeting your audience is a big part of marketing. That target audience should be the first group of people you aim your marketing efforts to. If you don’t know who you’re aiming for, you might as well just throw your marketing dollars into the wind and watch them float away. Here is an example of how I plan to use my target audience to market. My book The Queen Bee of Bridgeton is all about dance. So I plan on sending free copies to all the local dance studies and on advertising in their spring dance programs.

To figure out who your target audience is and how to reach them, answer a few questions:

Who would enjoy reading my book?

Of those who would enjoy my book, who is most likely to buy it?

Of those who would buy my book, how do they hear about new books to purchase?

To answer that last question, why not interview some people you know about their book buying habits. That may give you some insight as to where to focus your marketing.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tip #36: Use Amazon's Author Central

Make sure you have an updated page with all of your books listed at Author Central at Amazon. If a reader likes your writing, it is a quick way for them to find all of your other books. You can also use this site as an easy way to track your sales of print and kindle books.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tip #35: KDP Select. Is it for you?

Amazon’s KDP Select program is a new option that they started back in December. If you choose to enroll your book, it gets included into the Amazon Lending Library. Each time someone borrows your book, you get a percentage of the KDP Select Fund. For January, it was $700,000. For February, it’s $600,000. Someone on the Kindle Boards said it worked out to about $1.70 per borrow. As a statistician, I don’t know if I agree with that estimate. It all depends on how many books are a part of the lending library and how many borrows you get. But I’m not going to worry about that now.

While you’re book is in the Lending Library, people can still buy it. So it seems like a Win-Win situation right? Well, there is one big catch. While you are enrolled in KDP Select, your ebook must be EXCLUSIVE to Amazon for 90 days. That’s right, you can’t offer it on Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, Diesel, or even your website. You can’t even offer samples of it on your website.

One benefit of the program is that you are able to offer your book for free for up to five days during the 90 days you are in the program. This is a pro because it cuts out the little free game you have to play in order to get Amazon to price match your book to free. And then you don’t have to wait around for weeks for Amazon to price match it back to its price. You control the freebies. Also, being in the program gives your book more visibility.

Personally, I am against exclusivity. I don’t think it’s healthy for the market. So right away I was against this just out of principle. But I decided to give it a try anyway.

I enrolled my worst selling book La Cienega Just Smiled figuring it couldn’t hurt to try it out. I had only a couple of sales from B&N and Smashwords anyway so I wasn’t losing much. At this point, the book had only sold about 25 copies. I put it in the program, let it go free for three days. In those three days, it was downloaded about 600 times. This is not good. Most people report thousands of free downloads. After it went back to paid, I only sold about two copies and had one borrow. I called it a complete failure.

But then I decided that maybe it wasn’t the program that had failed. Maybe my book wasn’t selling for other reasons. So I changed the title, the cover, and the blurb. I set it for free again and this time I had nearly 20,000 downloads. I made it to #10 on the free list, which got me loads of visibility. After it went back to paid, it sold about 250 copies in less than a week. For the month of February, it is already outselling Ain’t No Sunshine which has consistently been my bestseller. So I have to reluctantly call the KDP Select program a success. I am going to try it out with a couple of my other Leslie DuBois books and see if I can get similar results or not. I will not be trying it with any of the Priscilla the Great books as some of my loyal fans have Nooks and I don’t want to exclude them from purchasing my books. I think I’ll try this once or twice a year for each of my Leslie DuBois books and that’s it.

A word of warning. Don’t think you can just set your book to free and let the magic begin. There is work to do to get a free book to catch on. You need to let the top sites know that it’s free so that they can post it to their readers. This includes: Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, and Kindle on the Cheap. You need to post it on your facebook page and Authors on the Cheap facebook page. You need to tweet and perhaps blog about it. Plan well for your free days so that they are not wasted.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tip #34: How to Get your Book into Libraries

I personally have found two simple methods for getting into libraries. There may be many other methods, but this is what has worked for me.

#1 Contact the library directly with a letter or email. I have even extended this with my personal sales brochure that lists all of my books. These emails, letters, and brochures have even resulted in speaking engagements with different libraries.

#2 Have your friends and family in other areas go to their local libraries and request your book. It’s that simple. In most library systems, they don’t even have to physically go to the library to make this request. They can do so online as long as they have a library account.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tip #33: The Least Annoying Way to Advertise Your Book

Add list of your books and links to where they can be purchased to your email signature. That way, every time you send an email, you’re advertising your books in a very non-obtrusive manner.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tip #32: Build Author Connections

It is a good idea to form relationships with other writers, especially in your own genre. Join writer’s forums and learn from other’s experiences. Through author connections, I have been invited to participate in anthologies and able to share the cost of book fairs.

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