Category Archives: Word of Mouth

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!

The Beauty of the .99 cent Price Point

Welcome to another Tuesday edition of the Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes. PJ Sharon here with today’s unlocked secret. I’d like to talk about e-book prices. Specifically, ways to use the .99 cent price point strategy to boost sales, gain exposure, and get your books listed on the hottest advertising sites around.

First off, if you are traditionally published, changing the price of your e-books is likely beyond your control. Additionally, publisher prices of e-books in most cases will set you and your books outside the realm of “discounted” or “cheap” reads since all of those folks in the middle (agents, editors, etc.) need to take a piece of your pie. The average traditionally published e-book is priced anywhere from $7.99-$15.99–not exactly an impulse buy kind of price. Being that there are no print costs, storage rates, or delivery fees to pay, I’m not sure what these prices reflect– other than the publishers trying to make up for a declining print book industry. These prices may not discourage rabid fans of Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, but if you are a new author trying to gain a readership, your publisher may be pricing you out of the market. There is simply too much free and reduced price product available to readers. As such, higher priced e-books are likely going to to have difficulty finding an audience as time goes on. Then again, I could be wrong. The benefits of having a publisher with access to a publicist who is willing to help you get exposure through pre-orders and reviews might just balance out the playing field. (I’d love to hear some comments from trad pubbed authors about this topic.)

If however, you have self-published titles that aren’t selling well, or you have a series that you would like to promote, the ability to give your readers a deep discount can open some new doors.
For one thing, there are several advertising sites that focus mainly on selling discounted e-books. Kindle Nation Daily, Book Bub and Kindle Fire Department just to name a few. All of these sites can give your discounted e-books the excellent exposure they need to get them into the hands of lots of new readers. The caveat is that because there are so many authors trying to get their books in front of the world, advertisers have the advantage of picking and choosing which books they will feature. Requirements are becoming more stringent. Some expect as many as 18+ reviews with an average 4.5 star rating. To further narrow the field, the books may not be accepted if they have been offered for free within the past few months, causing some issues for authors who have participated in the KDP Select program with Amazon.

Lest you feel you are “giving away the shop” with this .99 cent price point, think of how large retail stores encourage consumers to try a new product. They will often give away samples or significantly reduced price items in order to introduce customers to a new product or product line. It’s known in the industry as a loss leader. Even if you normally price your e-books at the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot for impulse buyers, a drop to .99 cents can expose you to a whole new readership who ONLY buys .99 cent books or downloads freebies. You might take a cut in royalties (from 70% down to 35%) but if it leads readers to other books in a series or gains you a new following, the increased volume of sales and the boost to your rankings can be a sacrifice well worth making.

Now, there are a few tricks you can try to employ to keep 70% of your dollar. By changing the price of your e-book on Smashwords and BN, for instance, and then waiting for Amazon to price match. If they choose to change the price, they won’t change your royalty rates, but as the TOS (terms of service) agreement states, authors are not supposed to offer the book at a lower price on any other distribution channels,so it may ruffle their feathers. It could also take several days or even weeks before Amazon catches up with the new price (a process that can sometimes be sped up by having friends “report” the lower price), and there is always the risk that they could call you out on the contract breach. So far, Amazon has been amenable to price matching strategies that self-published authors are using. One of the silly benefits of allowing Amazon to match the lower price of their own volition is the neat little slash they put through the old price so that customers know they are getting a deal.(See here for example)

If you decide to try a .99 cent sale on one or more of your books, it can help to boost your exposure if you join with other authors who are doing the same thing. Readers will often look for these “group sales” so that they can stock up on “cheap” reads all at once for their summer reading. Indie Romance Ink, a yahoo group for independently published authors has just such a sale coming up this week from May 1-3, called the Book Lovers Buffet, Bouquet of Books, offering over 150 e-book titles across multiple genres, all priced at a very affordable .99 cents each! There are books for every reader available all in the same place and we have a staggering number of authors promoting the sale. We’ve lined up dozens of book bloggers, FB pages, and advertisers all promoting with us. Hopefully we’ll have a good turn out. Check out our landing page by clicking the icon below, but wait until tomorrow if you want to enter to win great prizes. If you stop by today, you can browse through the books, but the prize page won’t be active until tomorrow and there are no price guarantees until the sale starts.bouquet-sale-button[4] Be sure to spread the word to family and friends. Hope you find exactly what you’re looking for!

As for me, both WANING MOON and HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES will be available for .99 cents during the sale. I’ll also be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card at my http://www.pjsharonyawriter.blogspot.com site to one lucky vistor who drops by and leaves a comment with a valid e-mail address (not to be used for any other promotions).

Contest ends at midnight on May 3rd. Winners to be announced Sunday, May 5th. Thanks to everyone who organized the sale (Clover Autrey…you know who you are), and a big thanks to everyone for passing along the word on FB, twitter, and Goodreads.

What do you all think about e-book prices and the .99 cent price point strategy?

Things Bestselling Authors Do…

In my search to find out what makes a bestselling an author and how to become one I’ve been reading articles, cruising Goodreads, liking Facebook fan pages and generally just being a writer stalker. And in my search I’ve learned a few things about successful authors. They all seem to have a few things in common.bestseller

1. They write great books. I’ve read 14 of Elizabeth Hoyt’s books before I had ever even thought about checking out her Facebook page. Why? The strength of her words not her presence in social media kept me coming back. My take away- always make sure the writing comes first. ALWAYS.

2. They tend to write in series, keeping characters connected even in a loose way seems to keep readers coming back. Jill Shalvis has her Lucky Harbor. Julia Quinn has her Bridgertons. Susan Mallery scores with Fool’s Gold. Robyn Carr has been sailing down Virgin River for as long as I remember. And then there are writers like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Mary Balogh that hardly have any books at all that aren’t connected in someway. I know this because I have read EVERYTHING they have in print.

3. They keep connected with their fans. Julia Quinn has over 78,000 fans on her Facebook page which she updates daily. That’s the most of any romance writer I could find. I love to follow Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins. Separately they both post charming updates about their families, their day to day lives, their lack of social graces. But they also interact with each other. Twitter chats and mans wars. Fans like to see their friendship. They seem like real people to us and I think that’s why people keep coming back to them.

4. They don’t spam.  (They keep things interesting.) Out of all the bestselling authors I’ve studied I couldn’t find a single one with the BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK message. Facebook doesn’t sell books. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Building a relationship with your readers and fostering loyalty does.

5. They keep politics out of it. (Mostly) A few romance writers break these rules and some of them pay for it in readers. There is one writer whose politics I so greatly disagree with I stopped liking their fan page and now I think twice before I pick up one of her books. But most bestselling authors keep their politics to themselves. Think of  your author life like a cocktail party. No talk of religion or politics.  Are you a hard core conservative? Great! Keep it to yourself. A liberal? Fantastic! But nobody cares. Romance readers want one thing from their romance writers and that’s romance. So bring on the pictures of sexy men. Talk up a storm about the Bachelor. Post pics of that stupid grumpy cat, but keep your personal beliefs to yourself.

6. They know their market and they stick to it. Best selling author don’t write to trend. They write what they know best. 50 Shades was a hit but don’t plan on seeing Nora Roberts breaking out the kinky bondage stuff anytime soon.

7. They keep writing. They’ve got a book coming out every six- nine months for the most part. Whether it’s a novella or full length. They don’t let you forget about them.

So now it’s time I give myself a little check up. You can all do this too. Published or aspiring it’s important to see where you are.

Am I writing great books? Gee, I sure hope so. Series? Check. The girls of the Perfect Fit series are coming your way at the end of August. Keeping connected? I’m trying. And you can help me out by liking my Facebook page. It’s only got 45 very sad likes. http://www.facebook.com/sugarjamisonbooks I promise I’ll be engaging. Heck, I’ll even give stuff away from time to time.Spam? Nope. Not from me. Not ever. Politics? Just call me Switzerland. Know my market? Hmm… I think I do. Women who love sexy men and like to laugh. Writing? Always.Even when publication was a far off dream I kept writing.

So how did you do? Do you have the traits of a bestselling author?

REAL VIRTUE Chosen for a Book Club Read

Hello Scribers, Katy Lee here. For the month of May, my latest release, Real Virtue, has been chosen for a book club read. The International Book Club of Clean Reads asked me to join their group, and I did, but not without weighing the costs of being a part of something like this. The biggest one being … it will cut into my writing time. (sigh) But in the end, I figured that the benefits of joining a book club far outweigh the costs, and here are a few of those benefits I reap:

1. I am exposed to reading material that I might otherwise pass over, or never hear of—and that includes people hearing about my books. But if I keep my mind open, I can learn about others’ experiences and how they have opted to look at the world as a result of them.

2. A book club keeps me in touch with the world. That doesn’t solely mean reaching readers, but also reading different genres and literature that expose me to different viewpoints I may not have encountered otherwise. It can only better my writing.

3. It’s a safe place to exchange and challenge ideas. Many times I just don’t like a book, but in the discussions I am able to listen to others share what they did like, and it may help me understand my own thoughts.

4. Readers are bright, knowledgeable and articulate people, and they make great friends. Who doesn’t need friends?

5. It’s an opportunity to make lifetime connections with people that go beyond following you on Twitter or liking your Facebook Fan Page.

The Unlocked Secret: Book clubs can open a lot of doors for writers. And with so many to choose from, you’re bound to find one that will fit your writing style and genre. And perhaps your book will be chosen, too! I know I am blessed for Real Virtue to have been chosen as the next read.

Readers: If you would like to get in on the read, please contact me for the details. The more the merrier!

Question: Do you belong to a book club? What is your biggest benefit? Your cost?

And here is a blurb about Real Virtue:

In a virtual reality game where she can fly, there’s someone aiming to take her down.

 Mel Mesini is a New York City restauranteur and an avid virtual reality world traveler. She’s risen above her misfit life and now bears a striking resemblance to her glamorous gaming avatar. But her successful life—both online and in reality—takes a swerve the night her father is seriously injured in a hit-and-run. Mel is careened back to her judgmental hometown, where being the daughter of the town’s crazy lady had made her the outcast she was. To make matters worse, Officer Jeremy Stiles, the man whose harsh, rejecting words had cut her the deepest, is heading the investigation.

Jeremy knows he hurt Mel and attempts to make amends by finding her father’s assailant. When he realizes she’s the actual target, his plan for reconciliation turns to one of protection—whether she wants his help or not. What he wants are answers, especially about this online game she plays. Is it a harmless pastime as she says? Or is she using it to cover something up? As a faceless predator destroys the things that matter to her, Jeremy knows he’s running out of time before she loses the one thing that matters most—her real life.

 

KDP Select and My Three FREE Days Experiment.

Hello Scribe’s readers. What a crazy week and a wild ride I’ve had. First, let me thank everyone who either downloaded SAVAGE CINDERELLA or helped spread the word that it was available for FREE for three days last week. And if you missed out, I’ll be using my two remaining “FREE” days at the beginning of June just before I pull the book down from the KDP Select program to upload it to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. What does all of this mean? This post might be a bit long, but bear with me and I’ll explain.

Kindle Direct Publishing Select program is available to authors who upload their books to Amazon and agree to exclusively sell only on Amazon for a ninety day period of time. I won’t get into all the details of KDP Select since I’ll be covering it in depth soon on Market or Die with Jennifer Fusco and I want to focus this post on the results of the promotion. In short, one of the perks of being in the Select program is the ability to offer the book for free for up to five days during that ninety day period. The benefits of this are numerous. Allow me to share my experience with you.

On Thursday, April 19th, I joined fifteen other children’s, middle grade and YA authors who put all of our books for free for that day only. I used the momentum of that promotion and added two more free days for my book. Thanks to the organizational genius and diligence of our “fearless leader” Stacey Juba, the books were listed on dozens of sites that showcase FREE books. Stacey assigned each of us five sites to contact regarding the promotion. That means at least seventy-five sites potentially carried our free promo. It cost us nothing and was very easy and manageable. I also listed my book on the following FREE Book promotion sites:

E-reader News Today, Indie Book List, Pixel of Ink, Free Kindle Books Today, Your Book Authors.com, and Kindle Nation Daily, most of whom kept my book listed on their front pages for the entire three days. It might interest you to know that I had just come off of a ten-day Blog Hop with seventy-four other authors and had the opportunity to promote the event to the dozens of people who “hopped” by my blog to check it out or leave comments. We implemented a massive tweet and FB campaign as well with our social networks. 

My goals for the FREE promotion were as follows:                                                                                     

1)      Increase visibility/discoverability (Top 100 lists)

2)      Expand my readership/reach new readers

3)      Boost sales

4)      Get more reviews (I had only two reviews, both 5 stars before the promo started. This will become important later.)

I was stunned at the results and I’m still floating on the residual effects. Before I started the FREE days, I was feeling a bit discouraged. January, February, and March sales had climbed steadily and I half expected April to continue to climb since I had just released SAVAGE CINDERELLA (SC) in mid-March, thereby expanding my backlist, which should, theoretically increase the sales of all of my books. Not so much. Truth be told, April brought on a big fat stall in sales and I hadn’t sold a book in three days. As of April 18th I had sold 11 copies of SC on Amazon for the month. My Amazon ranking was somewhere around 80,000. Pitiful, I know! Sales of ON THIN ICE have consistently been good and I was at 58 sales for April. Not bad, but not nearly as good as the previous three months.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up on April 19th (three hours into the promotion) to 57 downloads and a ranking of 7,842 in the Kindle  Free Store. I watched throughout the day and was mesmerized as I saw the numbers soar. By midnight that night, I had 4,954 downloads and was #89 on the Free Kindle Books list. I’d broken into the TOP 100 list that would gain me the exposure I was looking for.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of the numbers over the next few days, but by the time the promotion was over on Sunday morning, SC had 26,688 US downloads, 1,031 in the UK, 76 in Germany, 6 in France, and 1 in Spain (my first Spanish reader!) My book was #7 in the Kindle Free Store. There are other lists that are important to note here. Books are categorized into many sub genres when you list your book on Amazon. Authors get to pick these categories so it’s important to choose wisely. SC stayed in the #1 slot in my categories for the full three days.

The only downside I discovered is that I’ve gotten a few less than stellar reviews which has lowered my starred ranking from a lovely 5 star average to 3.8 stars. This is not an uncommon occurrence according to many indie authors who believe that this is due to the large cross section of readers who may not, in fact ,enjoy the genre but download anything FREE. There is also the belief that anything FREE is of lesser quality and value. 

The upside is that I met all of my goals and exceeded my expectations. Since the promotion ended on Sunday, I’ve sold 120 copies of SC with 45 borrows (for which I will be paid 2.04 each), and 30 copies of ON THIN ICE. HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES has sadly fallen off the radar with only 13 sales this month, and will have its own promotional resuscitation very soon. These are my current stats in the Kindle Paid Store as well as in my categories:

 Overall, a resounding success! It’s likely that the numbers will settle down again over the next days or weeks, but the boost has been encouraging and I am absolutely thrilled with reaching 28,000 potential readers. You couldn’t buy that kind of exposure and it really cost me nothing but a little time and effort. As always, thanks to all of you who continue to support my efforts and make this crazy ride such a blast to share.

 Questions? Comments? Do you appreciate FREE books as much as books you’ve paid for? I’m curious to know.