Category Archives: Marketing

Re-branding and Fall Clean-up

Fall 2004 015Don’t you just love October? A bit of Indian Summer to go with the beautiful autumn  foliage makes it the perfect time for some fall clean-up–although the past few days have felt more like May than October. I’m afraid I’ve spent far too much time indoors lately instead of being out enjoying this fabulous weather. I did get out for one last kayak trip this week, but yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been dragging my feet on weeding out my perennial bed and prepping for winter. I’m sure it will all get done in the nick of time, and trust me, I have a good excuse.

I’ve been working hard to finish up the third book in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, due out in December. I’m happy to say the first draft is complete and I’m diving into revisions. Yayyy! If you’re a writer, you know that reaching “THE END” is never an easy feat and it’s definitely cause for celebration, but you probably also know that it’s just the beginning of the hard work of revising and editing, polishing and publishing within a pretty strict set of looming deadlines. In addition, I’m in the process of writing a Christmas novella (more on that next month), and I’m re-branding the Lily Carmichael trilogy.

That means new covers, some targeted marketing, and cleaning up some minor issues with books one and two. That’s right,  in order to move on to revisions, I’ve had to go back and read  WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT to make sure I have all the details straight and threads tied up. During the re-reads, I found a few small continuity errors, typos, and some generally sloppy writing mistakes. (It turns out I’ve learned a few things in the past couple of years.)

One of the coolest parts of indie publishing is the ability to make changes even after a book is published. I consider this a fall clean-up project, much like cleaning out closets or washing windows. It’s not like anyone would likely notice the dirty little details, but it’s an opportunity to  put a fresh face on and make everything sparkly clean. I’m hoping that the combination of the new covers, the cleanest copy possible, and the ability to offer pre-orders six weeks in advance of the release of HEALING WATERS will have a significant impact on sales for the series. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if it works!

As for why the re-branding, Bella Andre once said in a workshop at RWA Nationals, that if your books aren’t selling, the first thing to do is to consider changing your covers. Aside from writing great books, it’s the easiest thing we can do and one of the few things we have control of. The market changes quickly, and competition is fierce, so it’s super important to try to make our books stand out and look professional. That’s why I hired Kim Killion of The Killion Group. She’s awesome to work with, reasonably priced, and tops in the industry. I’m excited about the fresh new look!

Here’s the new cover for SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to the trilogy. This is a 15k FREE short story available for download from Smashwords.PJSharon_SoulRedemption_200

What’s it like to be a teenager in the year 2057? Life is hard enough when three quarters of the population has been wiped out by a viral plague and a polar shift threatens to drive humanity to extinction. Adding a genetic modification that gives you the power to take life with a touch only makes being a thirteen year-old boy that much more challenging–especially when he can’t control his growing ability.

Zephron Carmichael would like nothing more than to have a normal life. But hiding out in the Northeast Hills trying to escape capture by the Industry—a rogue division of the New Government who wants to exploit Zeph’s gift—is hardly the way to go about it. Life isn’t so bad on the small woodland farm he shares with his Uncle, but he’s tired of living under the shadow of his annoyingly perfect and bossy big sister, Lily, whose ability to heal makes her well respected and loved in the community. It also makes her another perfect target for the Industry.

As Zeph struggles to control the awesome and terrible power that’s growing inside him, he must find a way to protect his sister, find a place in the world, and make amends for a terrible wrong.

You can also read Zeph’s story on WATTPAD

In the meantime, I’m releasing the new covers–one each Friday–over at my PJ Sharon Books FB page. For being such loyal followers of the Scribes, you guys get a sneak peak of the new cover for WANING MOON a day early!

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Be sure to pop over and “like” my FB page if you want to join me next Friday for the new WESTERN DESERT cover and on October 31st to see the big reveal for HEALING WATERS (my favorite cover so far!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts about new covers, re-branding, new ideas for marketing old books, or if you’ve ever wished you could go back and fix a book that’s already been published. Your turn…

My Three-Year Journey to the 10K Cake Club

spice-cake-su-1673099-lIf you’ve never heard of the 10K Cake Club, it’s the name given to that elusive group of authors who reach the milestone of selling 10,000 copies of their book(s). Now, given that statistically, most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies (no kidding), reaching this milestone is an amazing feat. But we all know how numbers and milestones are relative, and our own expectations can often derail even the most wonderful achievements.

PJ Sharon here, celebrating with you, my dear friends, my three years as an independently published author. I released my debut novel, HEAVEN is for HEROES in September of 2011. (In celebration, I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HIFH over on my website blog. Stop by and leave a comment to enter and feel free to share the post with friends on FB or Twitter. Contest ends September 30th at midnight. )HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

Now, I recall being asked, while on a panel of Indie authors, what my sales goals were as a newly self-published author. At the time, self-publishing was on the rise, Indies were on fire, and sales were through the roof for newcomers. Being the ambitious and overachieving sort, I replied with confidence that I wanted to sell 10,000 copies a year, netting me about a $20,000 dollar a year paycheck from my writing–what I saw as realistic and an amount that would make all the hard work worth the effort.

This was a reasonable goal, but one that I soon found was more or less beyond my control to achieve. I did not foresee the effects of market saturation, the need for endless promotion, or the ever-changing Amazon algorithms that would make it nearly impossible to gain traction on the discoverability front. Basically, I could not have predicted the “luck” factor.

When, in the first year, I sold over 5,000 books (I had three titles out by then), I was not unhappy with my results. After all, goals are merely guidelines…a star to shoot for. But in the second year, when I had the brilliant idea to switch from Contemporary YA to writing a Dystopian trilogy, and sales dipped to half of what they did the first year, let’s just say I was less than thrilled with the results of my ongoing efforts. I shuddered to consider my hourly wage as a writer and decided it was best to stop looking at daily sales reports, screaming into the wind about my books, and beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what the heck the secret to success actually was.

My third year hasn’t been any more profitable than the previous two, despite the fact that I–at the suggestion of Indie superstar Bella Andre no less– went back and wrote another Contemporary YA. In fact, I’ve spent more on covers, editing and formatting on PIECES of LOVE than I have on any of my others simply because I’m trying to compete in the market and feel that others do a better job of these things than I can do myself. Added in is the cost of producing a theme song for POL (thinking that this might be a novel idea and help with sales, but has as yet, not appeared to make any difference at all). With production costs up and sales down (thanks to Kindle Unlimited and the insane amount of new product coming into the market), I’ll be lucky to recoup my costs over the next year.

I’m hopeful that once I finish the Dystopian trilogy, add a boxed set or two to my cybershelf, and get back on the promotional wagon in 2015, that I might see some real return on my investment.

Lest you think that any of this is sour grapes on my part, think again.

I went into this with eyes open that it would be a LOT of hard work, gave myself five years to turn a consistent profit (this is typical for any new business), and expected that there would be a steep–and ever-changing–learning curve. I’ve had to adjust my expectations for financial success, but am hopeful that with perseverance, the pay-off will be worth the continued effort. This is, after all, my retirement plan, and being that I have another fifteen years until retirement, I’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, right?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that success is measured in many ways. Positive reviews and happy readers who are excitedly awaiting my next release are priceless in the grand scheme of things. Knowing that over two and a half million readers have enjoyed SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad thrills me beyond words. And the awards and accolades for my books tell me that I’m doing something right. Reader reviews continue to average 4.5 stars across the board.

Another important lesson for me–one that continues to be challenged daily–is about finding balance. I worked around the clock that first year and a half, typically putting in 80 hours a week between my two jobs. I finally decided this past year to set myself a schedule. Knowing that I need to work my day job at least 20-30 hours a week to earn a  guaranteed paycheck to cover expenses, I set a limit on my writing/publishing time to 25-30 hours a week. Perhaps that’s partially to blame for the decrease in sales numbers, but I will say, I’m much happier and healthier these days. Time with family and time to take care of myself are far more important to me than sales figures and financial gain. If I’m in this for the long haul, that’s the way it has to be. I’m good with that.

It’s taken me three times longer than expected–and I’ve stopped comparing myself to others who have done it seemingly effortlessly–but I’ve finally made it into the 10K Cake Club. very-excited-girl (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC)

Cake and ice cream all around! And perhaps a bottle or two of wine…

What milestone can you celebrate today? I hate to eat cake alone.

i-Movie & Book Trailers

As I’m counting down to the launch of my next book, PIECES of LOVE, due out in a few weeks, I figured I would do something a little different this time. I finished and posted my book trailer before the book’s release. You would think this would be a no brainer, but I’ve published five novels and haven’t managed to do this until now. With good reason, I assure you. I can’t tell you how long it takes me and my husband to produce a decent trailer. Don’t get me wrong. He is an amazing source of technical support, but he’s a super busy guy and can’t always work to my time schedule. I also get frustrated in trying to share my creative vision with him in a way that translates to exactly what I want. Yes…I’m afraid I’m a bit picky. So this time, I took it upon myself to learn how to use i-Movie, and created my own book trailer.

I thought I would share the process with you today.
First off, I recommend finding the right music. There are several stock music sites that offer “free” music, but it can take hours of listening to samples to find just the right piece, and the selection of free titles is limited. It’s likely you’ll pay a nominal fee for what you want. Be sure to read the fine print because you may also only have the music rights for a specifically contracted period of time. The most important thing is to find music that is released under a Creative Commons license, and to give the artist credit when due. Here are a few sites where you can find music suitable for book trailers.

http://www.incompetech.com

http://www.audionautix.com

http://www.danosongs.com

http://www.ccmixter.org

Since I’d gone this route before and found the process daunting, and I wasn’t willing to pay someone big bucks to do  a trailer for me, I almost wasn’t going to have one this time around. As the fates would have it, my main character in PIECES of LOVE, Lexi, plays guitar, sings, and writes music. In my efforts to help readers connect to the character on a deeper level, I was inspired to write lyrics into the book. Of course, then it dawned on me that I should also try to put music to the words. Not that I’ve ever written a song or know how to write music, but what can I say…my muse was feeling adventurous. With a step in faith and a little effort on a lunch break, the tune came to me, and I recorded it into my phone (love those apps). Then I took it to my pal, lifelong musician, Ozone Pete, who plays guitar and “knew a guy” who could help with a professional recording. Six months later, we spent a day with Jim Fogarty of Zing studios in Westfield, MA. All in all, it took a total of about fifteen hours over two days and I had a theme song—now available for download on i-Tunes.

It was the perfect choice for the book trailer.
Once I had the music, I was ready to start on the hard part. Being techno-challenged and averse to learning the Mac’s operating system, I was prepared to defer the actual trailer production to my husband, but as I said, that wasn’t to be if I wanted it done sooner rather than later.  I bit the bullet, so to speak, and dove in.

I used parts of the book’s blurb and boiled the synopsis down to a paragraph, creating a “story board” with 8-10 slides to “tell” the story. I figured each slide would require about 6-10 seconds—long enough for viewers to read. Adding the transitions and front/back matter, I was able to keep the whole production at about two minutes.
Using stock photos from Big Stock Photos, each costing about $5-10, I chose photos that reflected the blow by blow description of the story. Uploading the music and photos to my husband’s Mac and importing it all into i-Movie was a challenge for me (being Mac deficient) but a snap for hubby, so I let him do that part. Once I had all the pieces there to work with, it was a matter of choosing an appropriate segment of the song to match the story board. Two minutes is a bit long for a trailer these days, but I had a certain timing in mind for the slides and the music selection to work together.
Caution: Timing each slide and transition accordingly is an OCD sufferer’s nightmare…or dream come true, LOL. I tweaked and cajoled this thing to death, but the final product was worth it, IMO.

Yes, countless hours went into the project, and there were studio costs, but in the end, for a few hundred dollars, I have a product I’m proud of and it’s exactly what I envisioned. I can use it to promote my book as well as the song on i-Tunes, and at the same time, offer an entertaining connection for my readers who might find it interesting to hear the author singing the theme song.
As much as I’m not a big Mac fan, I-Movie is a powerful program! Once I figured out how to use all the neat features, the possibilities seemed endless. There are several backgrounds, title fonts, and styles to choose from for each slide, special affects you can apply to pictures and transitions, and many variables you can and can’t control. For instance, I wanted to blur a couple of the photos but couldn’t do it in i-Movie, so I exported them to Power Point, manipulated the shots there, and then saved them to the i-Movie event I was working on. It was simply a matter of playing with the program and figuring out what worked. Of course, when I ran into trouble, hubby was there as tech support.
Once I had fine-tuned my baby and edited the crap out of it, I published it to You-tube and shared it on all my social media sites. It had over a hundred hits the first day! I’m glad so many people have enjoyed the production and I truly appreciate all the positive feedback.
If the DIY version seems too daunting, save your pennies, because a decent trailer can run you anywhere from $300-$1200. I’ve seen them for more and I’ve seen them for less, but you definitely get what you pay for in this case. I once paid $50 to a supposedly reputable person and was less than satisfied, so lesson learned for me. Until I can afford to pay the big bucks, I’ll continue to go the DIY route.

What do you think of book trailers? Are they an effective promotional tool? Seen any you love? 

Facebook Parties-Fab of Fad?

Good May Day, Scribe’s fans. PJ Sharon here. I won’t likely be dancing around a May pole today, but I will be celebrating Spring with over fifty of my author pals from the Book Lovers Buffet who are having a party over on Facebook this afternoon.

POL Music Cover Every fifteen minutes between 3-10 pm, EST, another romance author will be available to live chat with anyone who wants to stop by for a visit. I’ll be there from 7-7:15 pm. sharing favorite cruise destinations and giving away e-books and an i-Tunes download of the single, PIECES of LOVE, the theme song from my upcoming release.

Lest you think this is a silly waste of time, there will be oodles of giveaways and some enticing questions to draw a crowd throughout the day. Favorite paranormal creatures? Vacation destinations? Favorite perfume or men’s fragrance? Fashion, dance, Texas hunks…topics for everyone. There will be gift cards, e-books, audiobook giveaways and more!

So what’s with all the Facebook parties lately? Is it just the latest trend in author promotion? Or is it a savvy way to use the platform that so many of us have worked to build? Since connecting to readers is an all important part of our job as authors, hopping on the FB train seems like a good idea…at least for now. As with any new promotional trend, I suspect this one will burn itself out fairly quickly, but for now, I’m having fun with it and plan to use it for my book launch in June.

Here’s how it works (to the best of my knowledge and limited experience). To create a FB event:

  1. Click Events in the left menu of your homepage.
  2. Click Create Event in the top right.
  3. Fill in the event name, details, location and time, and then choose your privacy settings. Keep in mind that you must include an event name and time. (TIP: Keep the time limited to just a few hours if you are doing this on your own. It can be quite hectic and draining!)
  4. Click Invite Friends to add friends to the guest list. Check the names of the people you want to invite and then click Save.
  5. Click Create.

You’ll be taken to your event where you can share posts, upload photos, invite more guests, and edit event details.

That’s it!

Of course, you’ll want to create a theme for your party, upload a flashy new banner, offer incentives for people to stop by, create engaging content ahead of time so you can keep momentum going throughout the party, and maybe even have a famous guest or two stop by at a scheduled time so readers can pop in and live chat for a few minutes with your celebrity guest. You may want to enlist some help spreading the word via Twitter, Google+, Goodreads or other social media outlets.

Be creative and think outside the box. What do your readers love about your books? If you write cozy mysteries maybe share some recipes or craft ideas. If you write romantic suspense, maybe ask about favorite suspense movies, creepiest actors to play villains, etc. Consider your audience, make it fun and entertaining, and have some prizes to encourage reader engagement. Use Random.org to choose your winners. The way I use it for free is to keep a numbered list of commenters and then plug in the range of numbers (1-10 for instance if I have ten folks who have left comments) and let Random pick the winner’s number.

The bottom line, as always is that it’s not so much about “buy my book” as it is “hey, I’m a human just like you…let’s hang out.” Readers are much more likely to want to chat about books in general, life’s little entertainments, and what they can get for free than they are to respond to “buy” messages, so keep it real, keep it fun,  and keep it friendly.

I hope to see you all later over at the party!

What do you think of FB Parties? Fab or Fad?

 

 

Do you listen to BTR?

For those who haven’t heard of it, BTR stands for Blog Talk Radio, the latest in on-line entertainment and informational programming. Everyday professionals, experts, and entertainers are hosting their own radio shows and being heard by millions. These topic-driven programs allow listeners to hone in on their interests and hear the latest news in whatever industry that floats their boat. So what does that mean for readers and writers? So glad you asked! PJ Sharon here with the latest scoop on how to help writers find their audience and readers connect with their favorite authors.

Writers can share their books and talk about their writing process with interviewers while sitting behind their computer or on their phones, feet up and fuzzy slippers gracing their desks. All while sipping tea and chatting about their favorite things with whomever decides to tune in. Fans or readers can type in questions to be asked and answered in real time, or a link to the show can be used later for promotion and advertising purposes.

For readers who love romance, it’s a chance to hear your favorite authors dish about their characters, read excerpts, and maybe even share a few spoilers about upcoming books. Basically, it’s another way for readers and writers to connect in a fun, user-friendly format.

The really cool thing is that anyone can host their own show. Of course, that means adding consistent content, being entertaining and engaging, and building an audience over time. It’s not for everyone, but those that are doing it appear to be enjoying the up close and personal interaction and sharing it with listeners.

I’ve done several such interviews over the past year or so and I have to say, I love doing them. It means not having to actually be on camera, but being able to hang out as if I’m conversing with a pal on the phone. It’s very non-threatening. My most recent BTR interview was in February with Linda Mooney from Other Worlds of Romance, who hosts mostly sci-fi/fantasy writers and has a decent following.

She asked me to come on the show and read a steamy excerpt from WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Several listeners showed up to ask questions and I had a blast sharing my story with them, including behind the scenes insights into the third book, the title of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post as promised last month!

After the show, Linda sent me the link to embed into my website so readers can refer to it and listen at any time. What a great promotional tool and something I can definitely add to my press kit. I’m sure if I use it properly it could lead to TV/radio interviews in the future. It’s a way for media types to hear how well you speak about your books and interact with the interview process. You can find a list of hundreds of shows that might be willing to host romance authors here. Or you can go in and search categories for more specific shows that focus on your genre.

Just one more way to connect readers and writers in the digital age!

Now, to reveal the title of the third book in the trilogy…drum roll, please… we had WANING MOON, WESTERN DESERT, and coming this fall…HEALING WATERS, the continuing adventure of Lily Carmichael and friends as they make their way back home to warn the good folks of Stanton of a coming doom. Will they reach them in time…or is it already too late? Can Lily and Will overcome their differences and find their way back to each other as they race against time to save the human race from certain destruction?

Don’t forget to join me on my PJ Sharon Books FB page as I roll out the cover reveal for my next Contemporary YA novel, PIECES of LOVE, set to release June 21st. POL Picture4The big reveal will take place on April 18th, but pop over and “like’ my page now so you don’t miss out on the fun as I reveal a new “piece” of the cover each week along with an excerpt. Leave a comment on my FB post and be entered to win an ARC of the book, winners to be drawn on reveal day, April 18th, when you’ll also be privy to links for the release of my single, PIECES of Love, the theme song to the book.

Tell me, have you ever listened to BTR?

dinosaur_2474599b

Are blogs dead or simply evolving?

Good morning Scribe’s readers,

PJ Sharon here with a few questions for you. I hope you’ll stick around long enough to take the short survey at the end of this post. We appreciate your opinion and it should take less than a minute of your time. The results will be used to help us determine what changes we’ll be making to the Secrets of 7 Scribes in the coming weeks.

dinosaur_2474599bIt has become increasingly clear that the world of publishing–and writing in general–is evolving quickly. Not that good grammar, great content, and entertaining interaction with a like-minded community will go out of vogue, but the way we interact is ever changing. With so many demands on our time and the speed at which communication has progressed, our current attention span has been reduced to about seven seconds per clickable nano-byte of information. In other words, we have about seven seconds to grab someone’s attention and hold it. Which is why venues like Instagram, Vine, and twitter are so popular with tech-savvy readers. It’s also why daily writer’s blogs such as ours are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur.

My Scribes sisters and I are committed to bringing you quality content, but we recognize that we have all grown beyond being writers only. Many of us are now published authors with busy production schedules, deadlines, and the myriad of marketing duties that go along with the job. After three years of daily blog posts, we need to re-evaluate our goals and decide what works best for us and our readership.

Before we make major changes though, we’d love to hear from you about what you’d like to see from us in the coming year. Please take this survey or leave a comment below with your suggestions, questions, or concerns.

In appreciation for your participation, and to thank you for your continued support, I’ll be offering a free critique of a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter of the current work in progress of one random commenter below. Just let me know that you’ve taken the survey or leave us some suggestions of what you’d like to see here, and you’re in the running!

If you aren’t a writer, let me know that too, and I’ll think of some other fabulous prize for you if your name gets picked…hmmm…thinking…signed copy, gift card, or swag…I love surprises, don’t you?

2013 RWA conference pic

Peace and blessings,

PJ

PJSharon_PiecesOfLove_800px

Addictive Reads

Happy Tuesday, Scribe’s readers.

PJ Sharon here today, sharing my most recent group endeavor and plans for a bit of a shake-up here at the Secrets of 7 Scribes. One of the biggest surprises for me on this journey has been the willingness of other writers and authors to band together and help each other succeed. There is power in numbers, and group blogs, blog hops, multi-author contests and group events have proven that working together is a must when trying to reach a broader audience.

MOD_Author_Services_logo_72dpiOur resident marketing guru, Jennifer Fusco of MARKET OR DIE AUTHOR SERVICES, often talks about expanding our sphere of influence. But how do we do it? How do we reach new readers, get more reviews, find more sign-ups for our newsletters, and connect directly with people who want to engage with us in this crazy social media jungle? I’m sure there is more than one answer, but I’m thinking sites like ADDICTIVE READS are a great model.

When I was first invited to join the Secrets of 7 Scribes four years ago (gulp), all of us were unpublished writers, working our tails off and only aspiring to become authors. Now, a mere four years later, we are all published or contracted to be published soon. Not a bad place to be, but in this increasingly complex and ever-changing industry, we need to change it up here at the Scribes to stay relevant. Stay tuned for our upcoming metamorphosis!

Addictive reads-Button-Black-copy-259x300In the meantime, I’ve been hanging out with a group of “hybrid” authors ( a combination of indie and traditionally published authors), who are taking group blogging to the next level. The page is still in the creation stages and not all the author pages are completed, but feel free to pop over to the ADDICTIVE READS site to browse and check out all the great books available to readers, including a bunch of free titles. We’ve also begun a Beta readers and Reviewers FB page so avid readers can sign up to read books by these fabulous authors before the books are even released! I love this idea. (This is a closed group so you’ll need an invitation to participate. Let me know if you’re interested).

As for the Secrets of 7 Scribes, me and my fellow Scribes are in talks about how we can upgrade our page to become a more reader-centric site that offers more than just daily blog posts. We want to ensure there’s a reason for readers–as well as writers–to visit us every day. Of course we’ll continue to have pages of resources in our FAQ that you’ll want to follow if you are on the path to publication–our commitment to paying it forward–but the idea is to showcase us and our books while connecting to readers and offering incentives for loyal followers. I hope you’ll stay with us during this transition.

While you’re waiting to see what we have in store here at the Scribes, feel free to visit the ADDICTIVE READS website and like their FB Page to see what these award winning and bestselling authors have to offer.

What would you like to see here at the Scribes?