Category Archives: self-publishing

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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

To Select…or not to Select. That is the question.

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.FREE promo

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?

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

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?

Holiday Happenings!

Merry Christmas Eve!

PJ Sharon here, there, and everywhere, currently coming to you from the coziness of my living room.christmas tree I’m wrapping last minute packages and the smell of fresh baked cornbread is wafting in from the kitchen. I hope you’re all taking some time off during the holidays to spend with loved ones. I’m grabbing a few days off, but since writers are never totally on vacation, here’s what I’ll be up to until the end of the month.

For the past ten days, I’ve been part of the Sleigh Bells Ring, Are you Listening, giant audiobook giveaway hosted by Rita Award winning author, Wendy Lindstrom. Today is the last day to enter if you want to be in the running for a chance to win some awesome audiobooks, an MP3 Player, or even an iPod Nano! Just click here to bring you to the Sleigh Bells Ring are you Listening contest page where you’ll find a Rafflecopter entry form. It’s super easy, and only takes a minute, I promise!Sleighbells ring promo pic You might even win an audiobook of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES.

I’m also participating in the Awesome Indies Holiday Book Bonanza, where dozens of e-books are on sale for only .99 cents between December 26-30th.aia_holidays (1) If you aren’t familiar with Awesome Indies, it’s a great organization of Industry professionals who read, rate, and review books by Independently published authors. They have very stringent criteria that have to be met, so you can rest assured that approved books are top notch! I’m proud to say, WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT made the cut and are now listed on their front page! For my writing friends out there, check out their website at http://awesomeindies.net/ for some invaluable resource material (check out their criteria for submission info).

While WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael is only .99 cents, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the trilogy is up for FREE from December 26-28th.

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

 Bookmark this page and come back during the sale for easy links to the books on Amazon or find links on the Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza Book sale page. With all those new Kindles under Christmas trees everywhere, I couldn’t think of a better time to offer WESTERN DESERT up for FREE! If you’ve got teen readers at home or enjoy reading YA dystopian romance yourself, here is your chance to get both books for less than a dollar. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Please help me spread the word about this great opportunity by sharing this post on your Facebook page, twitter, or other social media. Simply click on the social media button of choice below and add a note of encouragement for friends to download WESTERN DESERT for FREE from Thursday to Saturday this week. Promotions like this are the best way authors can give back to readers, and readers can show their support of their favorite authors by spreading the news, leaving reviews, and chatting about the books with friends and family. As always, your support is greatly appreciated and means the world to me. May you be blessed with good health, peace, prosperity, balance and harmony in the coming year!

So that’s where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to for the next week or so. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays, squeeze in some “healthy” food choices, and plan a nice hike for after your Christmas dinner.

I’m making our traditional spiral ham. How about you?

Choosing Your Path

Happy Tuesday, Scribe’s followers. PJ Sharon here, sharing my thoughts on a topic near and dear to my heart—choosing your path. I love being the Captain of my own ship!

My fellow Scribe sister, Sugar, did a great post yesterday on reasons why one should consider pursuing a traditional publishing career. She had some excellent reasons for doing so. You can read about them here. For as many reasons as there are to seek a traditional publishing contract, there are just as many on the side of going Indie (the PC word for self-publishing).

But how does one know which path is right for them? How do you choose your path to publication?

Is this where I'm headed?

First, let’s happily recognize that there are now many options open to writers for getting their stories into the hands of readers. Up until five or so years ago, that wasn’t the case. A writer had to jump through hoops and pound on a lot of doors, hoping to sneak out of the slush pile and onto the shelves through a series of death defying strokes of luck. If they grew weary of the chase (and the dozens of rejections), they could pay thousands of dollars to have someone publish their work for them and end up with nothing more than a trunk full of books. This soul-sucking practice, called “vanity publishing”, was more or less a scam to bilk writers who were desperate to see their work in print and couldn’t make the cut with traditional publishers for whatever reasons.

For some writers, the reason for rejection was as simple as having their books not “fit the market”. Traditional publishers were in that unique position of having thousands of “applicants” vying for the ten slots they might have available. They were the gate keepers who decided what books got published, where they were distributed, and what types of books readers were likely to buy based on what was currently selling on the market. Those parameters left a lot of amazing writers out in the cold with no way in.

Fast forward to the digital age of Amazon, e-readers, and the new world of publishing. Writers could now bypass the query-go-round, skip fighting for an agent, and jump into the fray with the hundreds of thousands of other writers making their books available to the masses. Yes, there is crap. Yes, there are still poorly edited books that shouldn’t see the light of day, and yes, the market is so saturated that it’s a wonder that anyone can sell more than a single copy of their book these days. But over the past few years, the quality of books being produced by Indie authors have steadily improved as they’ve learned to hire good editors, cover artists, and formatters to help them in producing a competitive product. And the avenues through which to sell those books continues to grow daily.

For those not interested in handling all of the fine details, there are a plethora of small press publishers cropping up to take those chores off the shoulders of the author.
But buyer beware. Anyone attempting to handle their career on their own without the advice of an agent or the backing of a reputable publisher, is in for a bumpy ride with lots of pot holes. I’ve had a few missteps, but have managed to avoid many of the big pitfalls myself by participating in yahoo group loops where Indies congregate and share information. They have been an invaluable resource in navigating the shark infested waters of the publishing world. Honestly, I haven’t seen that small press publishers do much more for authors than they could do for themselves, but if you are looking to get a foot in the traditional publisher’s doors, and don’t want all the responsibilities of creating your masterpiece, a small press might be a good first step.

As Sugar mentioned yesterday, many authors are NOT making buckets of money, whether they are DIY’ers or traditionally published, but there are also many in both camps who make a good living. There seems to be no tried and true way to guarantee success, and I’ve come to the conclusion that success in publishing requires dogged determination, perseverance, and a huge chunk of luck. Timing is everything and no one seems to know what will sell tomorrow or why some of the crap that comes along the pike sells like hotcakes. But one thing is for sure, the doors are open and it’s as good a time as it has ever been to be an author…no matter which path you choose.

If you’re still on the fence, I’ve created this short list of pros and cons that might help you decide.
kdp select 3

Traditional Publishing
PROS: See Sugar’s post from yesterday. If you want the name recognition and backing of a reputable publishing house, a support team of editors, cover artists, and marketing professionals, and access to distribution and space on store shelves, this might be the route for you. It can take considerable time and effort to break in, but if you are lucky enough to be a top seller, your path will be paved in gold, the red carpet rolled out for you, and your tiara awaits! Kudos for making the big time!

CONS:  If you know that your story is a tough sell with a traditional publisher, you have a time sensitive topic that needs to be published NOW, or you aren’t willing/able to work to someone else’s deadlines and demands, this might not be a good fit for you. Also consider that negotiating contracts can be tricky and getting the attention of a good agent to help you navigate the process can be daunting. In addition, if you aren’t a top seller, don’t expect a second contract, and your dismissal may mean that it will be tougher to get contracted with another publishing house.

Small Press Publishers
PROS: Generally speaking, it’s somewhat easier to get in the door and you’ll have a faster turn-around time getting your product to market with digital first publishers. They will handle the editing, cover art and formatting for your book, and may even give you some tips for effective marketing…or not.

CONS: Depending on the sales of your e-books, you may never qualify for a print version of your book. And let’s face it, most of us still want to see our books in print and on store shelves. Royalty rates may be higher than larger houses but getting those royalty checks within a reasonable amount of time and having access to your sales numbers is hit or miss. It also seems that small press publishers do very little to help their authors with marketing, (please feel free to let me know if I’m mistaken), which for me would be one of the few incentives to move on over to traditional publishing. The other is the coveted ADVANCE, which you will likely NOT get from a small press publisher. Or if you do, it will be well…small. As it stands, it wouldn’t make sense for someone like me who has established myself in the Indie realm to jump on board with a small press. They really can’t offer me much that I’m not already doing for myself.

Indie Publishing
PROS:
Love those 70% royalty rates! (Even at the 35% royalty rate for lower priced books, I can charge .99 cents and still make more per unit than trad authors whose books sell for $7.99). I can change my price point at any time, update my covers, or change my categories and descriptions on retailer sites, which is enormously helpful when running a sale or promoting my books. Love the control I have over every aspect of my product. Love setting my publication schedule and not worrying about meeting someone else’s deadlines. Love the real time sales numbers so I can easily keep track how my promotional efforts are working…or not. Love the flexibility and freedom!

CONS:
Hate that I don’t have access to mass distribution of print books. Hate that I have upfront costs of a support team, ie: editors, cover artists, etc. and NO ADVANCE. Hate the stigma of being “self-published”, although this is slowly becoming less of an issue and I’m not one to be too concerned about what others think of me, anyway. Hate that I am solely and completely responsible for everything—including writing, producing, and marketing a high quality product that may or may not sell based on a market that is constantly changing.

Hybrid Authors
I have not wrapped my mind around how anyone can do this without being able to write full time. To have multiple projects, deadlines, and demands from more than one publisher as well as self-publishing would make me insane! Fast and prolific writers are doing it every day, and if you’re writing in more than one genre, this makes sense.

For me, the best of both worlds will be when authors and publishers can be on equal footing and work together to create great books and put a system in place to get them into the hands of readers; when authors are paid fairly for their work with contracts that reflect the best interests of BOTH parties, and when marketing becomes a joint effort that takes into account that a “target audience” doesn’t necessarily live in a box.

Then everyone will be happy and there will no longer be “sides” to the issue. Publishing will simply be publishing, and whichever path you choose, it will be the right one for you. You’ll gain the respect you deserve from peers and industry professionals, there will be rainbows and butterflies, and we will all live happily ever after.

What do you think?

Book Signing Success

PJ here, just off a long weekend at the Granville Harvest Fair. I’ve done many such book signing events over the past couple of years, but this one was by far my favorite. For one thing, I live ten minutes up the road, so it’s close, and I inevitably saw lots of familiar faces. Thousands of folks ambled by my booth, many stopping to chat–whether they were teens or simply teens at heart. The fact that I was a local author was also a big draw. Putting a face to someone local who has achieved what so many others only dream about, seems to be an instant conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to—young and old—who said that they write in one form or another, and that it was nice to meet someone who has actually published their stories. It was lovely to be a source of encouragement and inspiration.

I’ve said in the past, that book signings have netted me little profit in the monetary sense and I’ve wondered whether they were really worth my time, but this event has changed my mind. In addition to making a modest profit from book sales, I gained a couple of dozen names for my newsletter list, and made many potential connections–including school teachers, librarians, mental health professionals, and teens interested in finding me on social media or purchasing my e-books for their e-readers after the fair. All in all, a great success. I thought I would share some tips that I found helpful. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section below, so others may benefit from your experience.

harvest fair pic 11) THINGS TO BRING-A sturdy, 10×10 easy-up tent, a comfy chair, a couple of tables with table cloths (I have a six foot and a four foot table), books in plastic totes (don’t forget to take inventory and keep track of your sales), swag (bookmarks, post cards, etc.), tape, scissors, pens, plastic bags (recycle those plastic grocery bags and carry them in an empty tissue box for convenience), or have some nice bags made up with your name, website, and logo if you want to make an impression. You might reserve those for people who buy several books. Don’t forget a cash lock box, business cards, and candy (no chocolate on hot days) or a treat.

2) SIGNAGE-Invest in a nice banner, which you can have printed up through Vista Print. I have yet to do this, but I made do with a homemade banner. Plastic stand-up sign holders from Staples work great for specific table top signs. You can make whatever signs you want on your computer to fit the 8×11 frames. “Local Author of Teen Books,” “Sign up for my newsletter and enter to win…,” “Follow me on FB, Twitter, etc.” and pricing signs, are just a few ideas. Be creative.

3) PRESENTATION-Consider your brand, your audience, and your space. Create a visually appealing stage for your books. harvest fair pic 3Use color wisely to catch attention of passersby and don’t overcrowd your space. Too much to look at can be a deterrent.

4) SELLING-You can offer book sets with special pricing/discounts, you could sell merchandise related to your books (cups, tee shirts, or in my case, wooden whistles which I also offer as a free gift to those who purchase both book one and book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy).

5) SALES PITCH-This is an opportunity to hone your sales pitch. Have a one liner to pull people in. Keep it simple. “Feel free to take a bookmark.” Keep it real and fun. “This is the glamorous life of an author.” This last phrase spoken as I used duct tape to secure my tent signage or while I peeled tape residue off my tent poles. I got lots of smiles with this one. Pitch to your audience. “I write books for teens…and teens at heart,” when speaking to adults and elderly folks who actually might enjoy reading my books. I describe my contemporary YA novels as the kind of books that would make great Lifetime Network or Hallmark movies, and note when I’m speaking to parents of teens that I write books that I wish had been available when I was a teenager. I mention accolades and awards, my million plus reads of SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad (which made that particular book sell very well all weekend), and try to hone in on what might appeal to the demographic to which I’m presenting. “The book is about a girl who is kidnapped as a child, left for dead in the high country of North Georgia and survives in the wild.” One sentence grabbers are essential! Comparisons also work well as in “Savage Cinderella is like Law and Order SVU meets Nell.” Of course this only works for people old enough to remember the movie with Jodie Foster, LOL. With teens, I might compare The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael to the TV show, Revolution, or books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but not quite as grim and gritty. As time goes on throughout the event, you’ll find what works best. It’s excellent practice for agent/editor elevator pitches at conferences. You never know who you’ll meet, so always have a professional and friendly demeanor.

6) GIVEAWAYS-Book signings are a great place to expand your newsletter mailing list. Offer entry in a prize giveaway, a FREE download, or some incentive to get people to sign up. Reassure them that your newsletters aren’t spammy and that their information will not be used for any other reason. Be prepared to offer something for free. You can be generous without giving away the store or breaking the bank. It costs me nothing to give away a free download of ON THIN ICE (I get a coupon code through Smashwords, and have cards printed up through Vista Print with my cover on the front and instructions and the download code on the back. I can usually get 250 cards printed up for free or next to nothing when I’m ordering other items through Vista Print).

Most importantly, have FUN! Try to stay engaged with people and don’t stick your nose in a book or hide behind your computer screen. Fortunately, we had a dry and beautiful weekend with a great turnout. I met some amazing people! I also had some fabulous apple pie with Granville cheddar cheese…yum! And yes, I even sold a good number of books.

Any other ideas or things I missed?

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?very-excited-girl (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)
Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

Who are you writing for?

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.kayaking pic

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. HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)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!