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.
It 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?
PJ Sharon here on this chilly New Year’s Eve Day. Since I’m in the process of re-evaluating my first quarter marketing plan for 2014, I thought I’d share the results of my latest promotion. Most of you are familiar with KDP Select, Amazon’s 90 day exclusivity contract that requires authors to publish only with them for that time period. The perks of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket are paid borrows by Prime members (average $1.94 per borrow), entry into their new “Count Down Deals” program, and/or the ability to run FREE promotions for five days of the 90 day period. A year ago, all of this was very attractive. Now, not so much.
Most Indie authors agree that running free promotions has been much less effective than it was a year or two ago. Now that the market is flooded with freebies and bargain books, it’s getting harder and harder to sell at any price—even FREE! Sales of my last published novel, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, which released last July, reflect the drastic change. I’ll preface these results with the caveat that YA Dystopian is a hard sell across the board lately since that market is pretty much glutted. I also believe that book two in a trilogy is often tougher because folks won’t buy/download book two if they haven’t read book one, and readers don’t want to get hooked into a trilogy with no guaranteed release date of the third book.
Having said all that, I’m trying not to take it personally or be embarrassed about such a poor sales record. The fact is, I don’t think the numbers reflect the quality of the book at all. What reviews I do have, are excellent, and feedback I’ve had from readers has been awesome. So what’s up with the numbers?
I enrolled WESTERN DESERT into the Select program in October, figuring I would promote books one and two through Halloween, running my first two day FREE promo around the time readers might be drawn to Dystopian/Sci-fi-fantasy stories. I was part of a group sale, advertised on the usual 20-30 sites that promote freebies (some charge a nominal fee of $5-15), and did a social media blitz, including some blog appearances. The best I did was had about a thousand free downloads and sold eighty or so copies of WANING MOON, book one in the trilogy.
Now, I realize that those results meant that my book was in the hands of potentially a thousand new readers, and it did wonders for my sales rankings for both books during the sale, but being that WANING MOON was selling for the .99 cent price point, I made about $30. I’ll add that there was no after sale bump in numbers (meaning my sales flat-lined again immediately), and I’d spent my budgeted $100 for advertising the sale, netting me -$70 for my trouble. Consider the amount of time it takes to set up ads on 20-30 sites, schedule blog appearances, participate in social media non-stop for two days, and well…you get the picture.
I waited a couple of months, planned my last three day FREE run for right after Christmas, hoping to catch all those new Kindle owners, and promoted both books like crazy. As in, “Two Books for under a buck!” “Buy WANING MOON for .99 cents and download WESTERN DESERT for FREE!” I joined with Awesome Indies for their Holiday Bonanza e-book sale, promoted on 30 FREE e-book sites (I’m hearing now that it takes 50 sites to make a dent), and I scheduled mega tweets, FB, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and tumblr promos. I spent my $100 budget, and had the support of dozens of other authors who tweeted, posted or otherwise shouted it to the world for me. Here were the results:
Worldwide (including a few downloads in Germany, France, India, Canada, and Australia—a new market for me!), I had a whopping 543 downloads of WESTERN DESERT and 39 new sales of WANING MOON. Oy! Hours of preparation, insane amounts of marketing, and yes, I’m down about $85. I did reach the #1,026 mark on the Amazon rankings in the Free kindle store, #2 in the Sci-fi/fantasy/Genetic engineering category, and #10 in the Dystopian category, but numbers bounced right back to oblivion when the sale ended.
Granted, I was unable to procure ads on the really big sites like Book Bub and a few others which require as many as twenty-five reviews these days to even be featured and are very choosy about what they pick to advertise, but really? For the work involved and the investment of time and money, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and placed next to last. A far cry from last year’s FREE promo for SAVAGE CINDERELLA when I boasted 40,000 downloads between my two day and then a three day promotion. The best part was the over 800 direct sales in the weeks after my free run. Yikes! What a difference a year and-a-half makes. Even HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE promos last year at this time did much better than my 2013 efforts for my Dystopian reads.
It would be nice to get a few (hopefully good) reviews out of the promotion and getting my name out to new readers is always a good thing, but all in all, the Select program has little left to offer me with this book series. Perhaps when I publish another Contemporary YA romance, or when I have a boxed set of all three books in the trilogy, I’ll give it another go, but for now, KDP Select is a losing proposition for me. Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, because I’ve heard of a few other authors on my loops who are still pulling in good numbers with Select. Go figure!
What do you think? Have you had better results? How did you do it? Am I missing something?
How awesome has this weather been? Did any of you get out and watch the meteor showers the past few nights? The sky has been crystal clear. Up here in the hills with no light pollution, the stars have been spectacular. We saw dozens of meteors, some so full and close that you could see the tails burn a trail across the sky. I’ve also taken advantage of the great weather to do some kayaking and gardening. It’s just been too beautiful to stay locked in my writers cave. But lest you think I’ve been totally slacking, my brain is always in problem-solving mode.
I find myself working through scenes and bits of dialogue in my head while I’m weeding or paddling. It’s almost like the information needs to percolate for a day or so before I can get it on the page. I also bring my business hat with me on these outings. The question most churning in my mind lately is “Who am I writing for?” This is a two-fold question for me that needs to be answered before I can move to the next level in my evolution as a writer. Intrinsically, I need to answer the question “am I writing for myself because I enjoy it and feel passionate about my art? Or am I pressuring myself to write and publish to fulfill some need to be accepted, revered, or even loved? Not that I don’t have all of those things already, but there were certainly times in my life where I felt none of that was true. Perhaps my reasons are a little of both, but I know that I need to be clear about this. If I’m not fully committed to believing in myself and my own potential, I will unconsciously put road blocks up for myself to sabotage my success. Essentially, I need to ask myself, “how much do I love writing/publishing, and how badly do I want success and all that comes with it?” I bet I’m not alone in my musings.
From a business perspective, the question means something entirely different, but equally as important to answer. “Who am I writing for?” In other words, who and where is my audience? This isn’t a new concept, and in fact was one of the first exercises I did with Jennifer Fusco of Market or Die two years ago when I first decided to self-publish. The question remains unanswered for me, even though Jennifer made me examine my “target audience.”
For HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, my intended audience was 14-18 year-old girls who like to read Contemporary Young Adult romance. I didn’t realize that the majority of my readers for those first three books were going to be women between the ages of 20 and 50. I had lots of ideas about reasons why the books seemed to transcend genre and resonate with adult readers, but the reality is that those were the people I was targeting with my marketing efforts and who my stories appealed to.
If you look at it from a “sphere of influence” perspective, my first layer in my sphere of influence is my friends and family. Then comes my writing community, mostly women between 20-50ish and all avid readers and supporters. These are the people who follow me on FB and twitter and read my blogs. I’ve been able to get some exposure to my original target audience through the parents of teens since many of my adult readers have teenage daughters.
But what about other teen readers? How do I target them? And not in a creepy way of course. And which group do I target. The 16 year-olds that want to read Contemporary or the Sci-fi/fantasy geeks who want dystopian? When I veered off course last year and began a dystopian trilogy, my target audience changed—a fact I hadn’t take into account! The readership I’d gained writing Contemporary YA romance did not necessarily follow me over to my dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy story, despite that it’s still a teen romance at heart.
Some readers are eclectic and will read anything by a favorite author, while others will only read within the genre/sub-genre they favor. Also notable is that my adult readers tend to be “over” the whole dystopian hype and aren’t flocking to read more of the gloom and doom stories. To compound the difficulty with discover-ability, the categories that SP authors can choose to list our books under at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords don’t offer Young Adult Romance or Young Adult Dystopian. The closest category is Juvenile Fiction, which historically has applied to middle grade and younger teens–which is not my audience at all…uggh!
If I list my books in the adult sections, teens won’t find them and readers looking for an adult book will likely be disappointed in the heat level of my stories. Again, I’m marketing to the wrong crowd. Retailers aren’t making it easy for us.
In general, the answer to my business end of the question is that I need to find where teens hang out and then put my books in front of them and see what happens, perhaps delineating my efforts and focusing on specific groups for each type of book I’m marketing. Whether that means focusing on high schools and library visits, or hanging out on Wattpad and Goodreads in YA chat rooms to connect to readers, that may be where my marketing time is best spent. So much to learn and so much to do!
One thing I do know is that I need to give my readers of Contemporary YA romance another book–soon. Rest assured, I happen to be working on a project as we speak! More details to come.
Do you authors know who your target audience is? Where to find them? How to reach them? How to get your book in front of them?
In respect to the internal question, are you clear about your goals for success? What does success look like to you and when will you know if you’ve achieved it? Do you sometimes feel that the job is more than you expected and not worth the effort? Are you forging on because you have the passion and drive to see your dreams come true, or are you plodding along wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into and why you’re making yourself crazy?
C’mon…dish people! You know you want to comment.
I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES to one lucky person who comments and requests to be considered. Just leave me a valid e-mail address in the following format to enter. email address(at)—(dot)com. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday!
As you read today’s post, I’m probably on a flight to Atlanta to attend the National RWA Conference this week. I know, I know…we’ve all been buzzing about it for the past several days, but the event is a big deal for writers. And this year should be especially fun since most of our Scribes will be in attendance.
PJ here, 30,000 feet up, and there’s something else I think is kind of a big deal.
Have you ever checked out an author’s website and found it terribly out of date? Most of us try to stay current, but with all of the responsibilities of today’s writers, keeping track of what needs updating can be pretty overwhelming. So I thought I would give you a list of sites that I go to periodically to make sure I do my updates, particularly after a new release or a big event (like a conference or a contest award). The links I’ve included below will take you to the site’s information page that will explain what you as an author can do to sell and promote yourself and your books on these venues (except for the ABOUT page, which is mine). If you keep the list handy, it’s really not so bad doing the occasional update. If you have to remember them all, it can be a bit of a nightmare, so definitely create a list of your own with links to your author pages or places you’ve posted a bio.
Website and Blogs-This is an obvious one. Websites should be updated at least monthly. If you keep a calendar of events, make sure you have correct links and dates posted. And don’t forget to update your ABOUT page. You are constantly evolving as a writer and author, so be sure to share those changes with your readers.
Amazon Author Central-Although the benefits of even having an Author Central page are questionable, most of us who have books there are encouraged to create a page. It’s a place where you can list your books, book trailers, upcoming events, and connect your readers to your recent blogs and social media communications. If someone is checking out one of your books, they might want to know more about you. You can also use this as a landing page for your readers to direct them to all of your books available on Amazon, rather than the individual buy link pages.
Goodreads-Your Goodreads page is an important place for readers to connect with you. Here, you can do book giveaways, get onto listopias, and see your reviews. I’m still learning about Goodreads, but so far, I can see huge benefits in keeping current there so that readers can find and share your books with others. You can also join groups, be exposed to book clubs, and again, have your blogs, tweets, and other social media connections available all in one place.
BN (now NOOK Press) and Smashwords Author Pages-Don’t forget to update any other places you distribute your books. In addition to BN and Smashwords, you may want to create author pages for Kobo, Apple i-Tunes, Draft2Digital, or All Romance E-books (ARe). These are all sites where you can upload your self-pubbed titles and sell books! But just realize that for each distribution channel you choose, you’ll have more to manage. If you have a good system, it’s not so bad.
Pinterest, twitter, and FB profile pages-The main thing here is to change up your bio once in a while. Use the cover of your current or upcoming release as your profile picture, and if you have a “READ MY BOOKS” link on your FB page (check out “author app” for FB), make sure your books, descriptions, and prices are updated.
I realize this is a lot of housekeeping and busy work, and might be best left to a teenager in your house to do for a nominal fee, but it’s important to stay current so that readers can find you wherever you may be. Speaking of keeping you all updated, don’t forget to follow our tweets at RWA National by using hashtag #RWA13 or #RWA2013. You can connect with me on twitter @pjsharon or “like” me on Facebook at PJ Sharon Books for pictures and posts about what craziness is happening at the conference.
Have I missed any locations that you routinely find yourself updating? Any questions comments, or hair-pulling and screaming…now’s your chance!
Welcome friends, guests, and party crashers! I’m so happy to have you all here to celebrate my latest release, WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I’ll get the business end of this gig over and done with so we can relax and have a few refreshments.
Drum roll…Curtain draws back…MC (preferably George Clooney) takes the stage, smiles and says: Without further ado…INTRODUCING PJ Sharon’s latest release!!
Thanks, George! I’ll take it from here…
WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, takes off where WANING MOON ends. Genetically enhanced sixteen-year-old Lily Carmichael, and seventeen-year-old Will Callahan embark on a journey across a sun-ravaged and decimated U.S. in the year 2057, bound for the Western Desert on a dangerous rescue mission. The survivors they meet along the way put Lily’s healing abilities to the test and challenge Will’s resolve to find his missing father—no matter the cost. But even with the burden of life and death on their shoulders, and the Industry hot on their trail, the greatest challenge they face is trusting their hearts to each other.
If you haven’t read Book One in the trilogy, WANING MOON, it’s available for FREE this week (June 24-28) for Kindle owners!
Also available for FREE is SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to WANING MOON. You can download it for your e-reader from Smashwords, or read it directly on Wattpad. You won’t want to miss this dark and twisty journey into the mind of a teenager with the power of life and death in his touch. It definitely makes you wonder…what would I do?
Creepy, I know!
Let’s move on to the fun part…
Feel free to pop over to Suze’s page of treats later where you’ll find some awesome recipes for drinks (non-alcoholic ones for our YA friends), and some tasty hors d’oeuvres! But don’t forget to come back, because I have some prizes to give away.
Three of you will be chosen randomly to receive signed copies of one of my first three books. You can choose between HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, or SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You can find out more about these books by visiting my website’s Contemporary YA Books page. I’ll be happy to mail you your signed copy, providing you leave a valid email address in the comments below so I can contact you privately for your mailing address. Enter ie: maryjanedoe(at)emailaddress(dot)com.
You can also win a nifty swag bag with some cool Lily Carmichael items, including a wooden whistle, a lanyard, bookmarks, and a signed copy of both WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT.
My grand prize giveaway is a NOOK Simple Touch!
It’s easy to enter. Simply leave a comment below with a valid email address if you want a single entry. For more chances to win, just let me know what you’ve done to help spread the word about my new release. Share this post to FB, twitter (or retweet any tweets with the hashtag #WesternDesert), or you can follow me on any of my social media platforms listed below. You could also sign up for my newsletter (for occasional updates). For each effort you tell me about, I’ll enter your name for another chance to win! Contest ends at midnight on June 30, and winners will be announced next Tuesday right here on the Scribes.
So now that you have the low down on where to find my new book, connected with me at my various online hangouts, and you’ve downloaded some FREE books, pull up a chair and let’s chat. Don’t forget to grab a beverage and a snack and leave your comments, an email address, and what you’ve done to enter for the prizes. I’ll be posting some excerpts today in the comments section below, and look forward to you sharing your questions, responses, and thoughts.
I love a simple bouquet of flowers for a center piece, don’t you? As a conversation starter, tell me what books have you most been looking forward to reading this summer? Any new releases coming out soon that you are dying to get your hands on? Come on, people, dishing about books is what we do around here. Let’s get this party started!
Writing fiction is more than getting your character from point A to point B. Your character needs to experience the world and everything in it just as we do in our everyday lives. Our days are filled with intrusions like weather and sickness, but there are also things in the world that have the ability to cultivate us like the arts and architecture around us…most times when we’re not even looking for it.
Now I could spend a lifetime reading and studying the things in our world just so I can write them into my stories, but if I did I’d never get anything written. As much as I would love to spend my days at the library, or better yet, traveling the world to experience everything in it, it’s just not possible. But I also can’t neglect the fact that these things exist in my life and in the lives of my characters. So what do I do?
Well, while I wait for my cruise tickets to come in the mail, I have found a group of blogs that offer little tidbits of information a little at a time. Ideas and information that I can file away to use in moments where my stories are flat and are in need of some excitement or detail.
So today I wanted to share some of these go-to blogs that help enhance my work. I hope there is something in here for you, too!
The Redwood’s Medical Edge Blog is medical facts for your fiction. Jordyn Redwood, a nurse by day, author by night, designed her site to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. She fields medical questions from followers, analyzes medical scenes, and posts on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story. No one person can be an expert in all things so she also hosts medical experts in other areas: EMS and obstetrics to name a few. Historical authors who have done research in a particular medical area such as civil war medicine are also featured. You want to know the protocol of an accident with injuries, or an illness a baby could have but go undetected? Jordyn is your woman.
Gail Ingis is known as a “Renaissance Woman” for her varied accomplishments. She is a professor of history of architecture & interior design, photographer, artist juror, writer, design critic, and founder of the nationally accredited Interior Design Institute. On any given day, her blog can be about how lighting affects a room, drinking coffee in a café in Portugal, or a description of a Victorian era chair. You never know when your character might need to sit in one. Whatever the topic may be, Gail’s information can bring a flare for the exotic into your stories.
Not just for writers. Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of e-mails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. (See my blog from last week about good writing here.) Daily Writing Tips is about that. Every day they send out a grammar, spelling, punctuation or vocabulary tip. And we can all use extra tips.
Finding a passion for food in every love story is R.L. Syme’s motto for her blog. I took a food class with Rebecca Lynn last year and she helped me learn how to use food like another character in my stories. She brought life to cooking and eating and encouraged us to incorporate the feelings we experienced into our books, so our readers could feel them, too. *This blog is in the process of being changed, so not much is going on there these days. I’m looking forward to her updated site soon.
Until then, I recently found this one and it has the same premise:
Romance on the Plate: Taste the Emotions…Feel the Food. Here is a quote from the site to show how food helps to bring your character to life:
“He could not control his curiosity; he could smell the delicious aroma of caramelizing onions wafting from the copper vessel that was fired up on the stove. He stood upon a chair in the kitchen and watched as his mother evoked the magic of food……”
I feel like I am standing on that chair and inhaling right along with the child. Which is what we want to do for our readers, so they can get a taste, too.
The Unlocked Secret: Experience is key, but if you can’t experience it yourself, find a source that has. It will make your writing authentic. Check these sites out for ways to enhance your writing. If not these, I’m sure you can search for sites that meet your genre and style.
Question: Do you have a go-to blog or website for expertise or vicarious experience? Please share in the comments below.
And as always, thank you for your Tweets and Shares.
I recently came across a survey titled, Does Good Writing Matter? The following are a few of the questions I answered. Would love to compare your answers with mine. Feel free to leave some, or all, in the comments below.
1) Do you judge other people based on their writing?
Now before you throw your pencils at me, or your mouse as the case may be, I will say the word “judge” may be too harsh. Do I judge? No. Do I feel a writer loses credibility if they can’t express themselves well in writing? Yes. A person’s inexperience comes through in their writing and if they want to be taken seriously, whether in fiction or in nonfiction, accurate writing is a must. But like I said, I would not call it judging. I think a better term would be “to question.” Do I question a person’s validity based on their writing? Definitely.
2) What writing mistakes bother you most?
The answers to choose from were: “Grammar/punctuation,” “word use,” “long, difficult sentences,” “vague purpose,” “poor logic.”
And my answer? Poor logic and vague purpose. A writer may lose credibility with inaccuracies in their writing, but I don’t let those bother me. I’ll most likely continue to read on, correcting mistakes as I go, but a lack of purpose and poor logic has me closing the book/article all together. For example, a few months back I had to judge a writing contest of published works. One book in particular was nearly painful for me to read because it lacked purpose. I squirmed in my comfy chair. I fidgeted and kept looking at how many pages I had left. My husband watched me from the couch. He said, “You’re not enjoying that book.” I was not surprised he could tell. Every sentence, every piece of dialogue, every scene needs to push the story along and show the purpose to the reader, and it needs to be logical, or they will close it up.
3) Do you apply the same writing standards to social media?
This one was a tough one for me. With the 140 character limitations in Twitter, I think I have to be more understanding to errors in social media. Although, I have seen some great Tweets and Facebook statuses that are short, but full of impact without compromising intelligence. Then there are those posts that confuse “there, they’re and their.” (See question #1 for my response to those.)
I thought this was a great question given our social media world these days. It used to be that a person had to be credible in their field in order to write. These days, everyone has a soap box (or media outlet). Some might think that’s scary, but I still believe your intelligence, or lack there of, shines through even in 140 characters.
Either way, I’m interested in hearing your take on this one.
4) What is your personal pet peeve in writing?
This is a question we ask many of our guests here at the Scribes, and I have learned so much from their responses. I had no idea some of my word choices bothered people. Now I do, and I don’t do them anymore. So, I am hoping if you don’t answer any of the other questions, you will at least answer this one. I know there is still so much for me to learn, so please share.
Now as for my personal pet peeve word. I would have to say the word “got.” It just jolts the flow of my reading. Also, “lightening vs. lightning.” One is to lighten your load. The other is a natural electric discharge in the atmosphere. The misuse of that word also gives me a jolt. <grin>
The Unlocked Secret: Today’s secret isn’t really a secret, but here it is anyway: Everyone’s a critic. Make every effort to put your best work out there. That means take the time to learn through classes and workshops, reading various works, and keeping your handy-dandy grammar book by your side at all times. And if you’re still unsure? That’s what editors are for.
So, have at it, Scriblings! Answer away, and remember as I said in question #1, I don’t judge.