Book Marketing Update

This afternoon, a blogger I had not heard of commented on a post I wrote some time ago about marketing self-published books. It brought me back to where I was last year with this question and all I could do was laugh (to myself? No, wait, I LOLed)


No, seriously.

A couple of things in the past month — did a presentation at my friends’ church study group on the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, and, incidentally, about The Brothers Path. Met, through Google Hangouts, with the book club of a high school friend in a tiny Texas town to talk about Martin of Gfenn. In January, my Aunt Dickie’s book group at the Methodist church read The Brothers Path and liked it very much. These were all wonderful experiences, personally meaningful as well as meaningful to Martha the Famous Author.

Personal connections count the most, it seems. OH! and Mastof Books in Pennsylvania sold all three copies of The Brothers Path but have not ordered more. This leads me to think it’s better to have books on the shelf than in a catalog, but they were/are great to work with.

Marilyn Armstrong of Serendipity and Lisl Zlitni of Before the Second Sleep have been wonderful blogging my books, giving me interviews and reviews. My books and I owe them a lot.

I have been selling about $13/mo worth on Kindle and Createspace.

And then…

I was warned by a blog tour director (Teddy Rose, awesome blog tour director, who did a good job for me last fall) not to get on the bad side of book bloggers because they would get revenge. What if they get on MY bad side? It’s still my problem. A pretty rum deal, IMO. Without the rum. And one of them is rounding the corner to my bad side…

Last fall I signed up with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a tour that I paid for but that never happened. Worst of all, the tour organizer was silent. I had no idea what was going on, why it wasn’t happening, if there was anything I could do. I asked. Nothing. Finally I asked for my money back (6 weeks after the tour was supposed to — but didn’t — start). I learned through the book-blogger grape vine that the tour organizer was having personal problems, so I emailed, “Keep my money; let’s do it in the spring.” Then she revealed some of her situation. Well, I was young once and life slammed me pretty hard several times. I understood. Well, the tour that was supposed to start on April 17 and end on May 5 has still not begun (and I have no idea why…but she has my money). I have Tweeted and asked, and emailed and asked, emailed and chided, Tweeted and chided, but… I suppose it’s more difficult to say, “I can’t fill the tour” than it is to keep silent? More difficult to say, “No one likes your book”? More difficult to say, “My life is still a mess, I’m sorry?” More difficult to say, “Things are not going well and I don’t have your money anymore?” It’s easier just to let the dates pass (they are well on their way…) and never tell the poor woman who paid you (that’s me) what the fuck is going on. As this is the second chance, if something doesn’t happen soon, scorched earth, I tell you, scorched earth (naw, I’ll just chalk it up to  an overwhelmed child with poor skills lying to me and stealing my $140. Sad). I honestly consider the money lost. I think the silence is rude and unprofessional.

But not unusual.

In other news, I sold a couple copies at the bookstore in the closest city (10k people) but have not been paid for them even though one of the sales was six months ago (to a neighbor so I know about it). My efforts to get my novels into the largest independent bookstore in Colorado have yielded no fruit, either. She said, “I need three weeks to read the book, and I’ll let you know.” That was February. I emailed a couple of weeks ago and was told by the woman in charge that she’s been under the weather and will DEFINITELY let me know at the end of the week (two weeks ago).

I’m so done.


Book Marketing — Goodreads.

Umberto Eco said of himself, “I’m a writer, not a reader” and I would say that the same has been true of me for a long time. But a writer needs readers, so…

Along with virtual book tours, most of the experts I consulted at the beginning of this marketing journey recommended getting jiggy on Goodreads. Goodreads — a social media platform for readers — is simultaneously a cool thing and a desperately UN-cool thing. If you’re a reader you can learn a lot about books you might enjoy, interact with other readers and have discussions. In that sense, it’s brilliant.

When I learned that Goodreads is owned by Amazon, I became a little skeptical. However, it is really an amazing platform for selling books. Along with that are “challenges” about how many books one plans to read in a year. I cannot relate to that at all. Readers are actually motivated to “quantify” their reading? More ways to sell books and for Amazon to make money. Every book links to Amazon so the reader can buy it tout suite.

Goodreads encourages the participation of authors and makes it easy to set up an author page. They have real people to help you if you run into trouble, and the people are NICE. I LOVED the support available to authors. Goodreads support believes it is on a mission for good and behaves that way. ❤

Most of the experts whose advice I found recommended a Goodreads giveaway. I did this as part of my “book launch” this past fall and marketing push, as a way to get reviews and publicize my work. What have I gained so far? Not much…

I sent 20 books at $5 each (my cost) plus $3 each shipping = $260 not counting the “goodies” one is advised to include in these giveaways — bookmarks aren’t free; my time is worth something. From this investment I have gotten one verbal review (negative and uncomprehending – you don’t request, open and read a book that is obviously about the Protestant Reformation and expect NOT to read anything about God) and two ratings.

I also bought $100 in advertising and ran five ads. This did bring attention to my books, specifically to the give aways. But the biggest thing I got from that is that my novels do not have mass appeal.

Goodreads gives statistics about who has what books on their virtual shelves to read. I noticed recently that several hundred people now have my three novels on their “to read” list and ONE person is, at this moment, actually reading one of them.

Goodreads has as one of its goals the cataloging of every edition of  book ever published, so on Goodreads are two of my books that were in print and in the marketplace for a very short time. A reader came squealing by some months ago and left one star ratings on each of these two books. For what reason? I ended up editing the description of each of these books to state that the books are unavailable… but the two one-star ratings brought my overall rank down substantially.

For me, this adventure was a bomb. But I think if you have a larger budget and can buy advertising it’s more likely to work. If you’ve written something that is on the public pulse you’ll have more luck as well.

Again, it seems to boil down to knowing yourself and knowing your audience.


The Great Slog of Time

I’ve been writing an interview for IndieBRAG. It’s one of the perks of getting a BRAG Medallion. It’s good PR for Savior and for me, but it was hard work and took more than a week of pretty steady effort.

The woman who is interviewing me did a splendid review of Savior and for the interview she asked some tough questions. The difficulty is remaining aware of the audience who may not have lived with at least four toes in the 13th century for 18 years as I have. It’s not a “normal” environment for most people… The first word in “feudal” is “feud” after all. Think battle-axes.

I was asked to “talk” about the similarities. The most striking is the continuing Holy War in the middle east. During the High Middle Ages, young men went to fight a crusade for a lot of reasons, but one was hope for a better future. The future that concerned them was their eternal future; crusading was a guarantee of salvation. Today, young people join up hoping for the same thing — an education and a better shot at life; salvation in the currency of today.

It would be great to look back 800 years and see fewer similarities like this one. If anything it’s a reminder that while humanity might move forward (I believe it does) it’s a long slog.

Book Marketing Update

I know you are all on pins and needles, so here’s what’s going on.

I sent 3 copies of The Brothers Path to Mastof Books. I’m excited that I’ll be included in their catalog in October!

Summoned up the courage to call the local independent bookstore. I’m going there on Monday with my three novels to see if they want to stock them.

My first blog tour keeps attracting tour hosts which is great for me. Got another one today and that makes 12!!

Got an interview for Savior that will be on IndieBRAG at some point soon.

I finally realized I had to do bookkeeping for this “business” and spent six hours today setting that up. There’s so much going on that it should probably be kept on several different spreadsheets, but I have it on one (in various colors). The most depressing part (besides it being difficult) so far I’m into this $1000 for comp-copies of books, advertising (including virtual book tours), and giveaways.

I know that’s not much when it comes to advertising — but YIKES!!! For that money I’ve gotten copies of my books to sell (like to Mastof Books and, hopefully, Narrow Gauge Newstand) and give aways (as on Goodreads) and for reviewers (the virtual book tours) and advertising on Goodreads — ads linked to the give aways. So far that has motivated people to add my books to their “to read” lists and I’ve gotten a review from that.

I was very happy when things added up on my very out-there spreadsheet; that the number of books I’ve bought equates to the number I have + the number I’ve given away + the number I’ve “sold.”

After that, with a splitting headache, I road the Bike to Nowhere for 10 “miles.” Exercise, even that, is a great relaxer and attitude adjuster. And, you know, I got to listen to Eminem, who reminded me once more not to give up.

And tomorrow I can to to the Potato Festival with a clear conscience and free mind.