traceysinclairconsulting

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Sequels: is publishing any easier the second time around?

Having previously been published by a small literary publisher, when I changed genres to urban fantasy I decided to dip my toe into self-publishing with a novel, Dark Dates.  In some ways, it was risk-free – I published it on Amazon, which is free, and was lucky enough to have a handy team of beta readers to help, plus my friend Caroline from Red Button Publishing offered to design the cover for me. It cost nothing – months of hard work aside, of course – and the worst that could happen was that people wouldn’t buy it, or that they would buy it and then say it was crap. But are the stakes higher – and the job harder – the second time around?

WN KINDLE final

Fast forward a year from the publication of Dark Dates and I’ve been generally delighted with the reception the book received. Sales could be higher, of course – I’m not quite retiring to my seaside villa just yet – but it’s had some great reviews, and received some nice accolades, including landing on a couple of bloggers’ ‘top ten of 2012’ lists. I’d followed it with a couple of short stories just to keep things bubbling over, and only a few weeks ago, put out the sequel, Wolf Night. So the question is, is it harder, or easier second time around?

What Cassandra did Next

In some ways, it was much easier, if nothing else because the technical side of it was so much more familiar. I had a (paid) formatter who I trust, Caroline again did the cover, and my beta team again came through, and the process of actually publishing on Amazon is relatively straightforward once you’re less scared of it. I had also built up some great contacts in the book blogging community over the past year, so while lots of blogs won’t review self-published work at all, I knew that I had some blogs that would be happy to host guest features, Q&As, giveaways and reviews. I’d already done some of the legwork in setting up the Dark Dates ‘paraphernalia’, too – a Goodreads author page, a dedicated website, Tumblr page and Facebook page, so a lot of things were already in place. Plus, of course, I hoped that there were a lot of people just eager and waiting for the sequel to a book they said they loved.

Of course, it’s never quite that easy, and I’m finding I still have a lot to learn this time around. For a start, I should have done more advance planning: a perfect storm of deadlines meant that I sort of shoved the book out without any fanfare, and then, once it was out, started my follow up with bloggers and online, whereas what I should have done was send out review copies months ago, and organise a load of blog posts (perhaps even pay for a tour – it’s not that expensive and cuts down on admin) to coincide with the launch. Even the friendliest of bloggers – and those who are genuinely keen to read the book – have their own schedules and towering TBR piles to negotiate, you can’t expect to put a book out and have people read and review it overnight!

Dark Dates Nocturnal Reviews

Likewise I somehow hadn’t realised that if you’re plugging a sequel, you are actually plugging two books – because you’re not only trying to get the people who liked the first book to buy it, but you’re trying to snag new readers to the series as a whole. Who wants to read a sequel to a book they’ve never heard of?

A few weeks later and the reviews are starting to trickle in and, so far, they are very positive, but it’s been a nerve-wracking time waiting to see what the response will be. I’m slowly gearing up for guest posts and promotions, with a few things done and some more down the line. But I have realised that I plunged somewhat blindly into this hoping that the process would be the same as last time, without remembering just how long and complicated that actually was (for instance, in the last month I have only just had Dark Dates reviewed by sites I sent it to last spring). I still haven’t solved the problem of getting to a much wider audience, and feel that is my next task, but I also think I probably made things more difficult for myself by being too hasty to just get the book out there (and, if I’m honest, out of my way so that I couldn’t tinker with it and convince myself it needed changing). So my advice to any writer who finds themselves in the same situation would be – plan ahead. Plan way ahead. Everything takes longer than you think, and you’re always dependent on the schedules of others, which you have no control over. Maybe I’ll have learned that lesson by the time the next book comes out…

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Digital promotion – a Dark Dates round up

A brief update this week, as the legal directories season is upon us in the UK and from now until spring that will be taking up a lot of my focus. This week has seen a nice review and feature over at Red Headed Bookworm, and I also took part in Lorraine Beaumont’s month long Crave promotion, which I came across in one of the discussion groups on Goodreads. Finally, an interview, excerpt and giveway over at Book Brats, another blog I picked up on Twitter. Which just goes to show, if you’re an author looking for avenues of promotion, it’s really worth keeping an eye out on platforms like Twitter and Goodreads, where bloggers frequently advertise their availability or willingness to host posts and giveaways.

Ebook promotion – getting others invested in your success

One of the things I have learned through promoting my novel, Dark Dates, is just how reciprocal a process it is. I’m not talking about any dodgy ‘sock puppetry’ activities of the ‘you give a nice review to my book, I’ll do the same for yours’ kind (though, of course, I think it’s perfectly valid to ask people you know or who have worked with to give you a nice review if they liked the book). (You can read my thoughts on the sock puppetry scandal over at Strictly Writing). Of course much of dealing with bloggers is because they need content – writing reviews is time consuming, especially for bloggers who fit in their reviewing around other jobs – so if you’re willing to provide them with content in the form of guest posts or interviews, then you’re helping them create content (and hopefully traffic) for their blogs. Being willing to supply free copies for competitions also helps, as does a willingness to take part in themed events – for instance, since one of the characters in my book is a witch, I’m taking part in a Wiccan themed event over Halloween.

But one of the other things that is enormously helpful is to get other people properly invested in your success. I don’t mean in a cynical, manipulative way – and I assume that your friends and family want you to succeed anyway – I just mean, creating a win-win situation where they are in effect getting good publicity while promoting your work can be beneficial to everyone.

I’ve had a couple of great examples of this recently: one is with my cover designer, the multi-talented Caroline Goldsmith. Caroline has been invaluable in helping me with Dark Dates – I have ruthlessly picked her brain over digital publishing, she created the cover and online trailer for Dark Dates (and has already created an image and teaser material for Book 2), and has been a fantastic sounding board and enthusiastic supporter for my work. So it’s fantastic that now all of her input is helping her provide a showcase her own talents, as she and her fellow publishing alum Karen Ings have launched a new digital imprint, Red Button Publishing – but, of course, it also means that I get a very nice plug on their website.

The second is slightly more tangential, but a nice example of cross-selling. One of my friends runs a jewellery company called Stella My Star, and, as I own several of her pieces (they’re funky and inexpensive), I asked her to commission me a charm bracelet to celebrate Dark Dates. The result is lovely – a beautiful mix of supernatural and London charms that perfectly reflects the book – but of course she has showcased the piece on her own website and blog, which is a nice piece of additional coverage for me, while she gets both a sale (in fact, several, as the response has been so good several of my friends have asked for similar pieces) and the publicity of me blogging about her work.

So when it comes to promoting your book, why not think about how you can team up with other creators to cross-promote your talents?

Dark Dates charm bracelet by Stella My Star

Review and guest post round-up

So what else has been happening on the Dark Dates front?

I was delighted when Jo from review site Jaffa Reads Too contacted me to say that she loved the review copy I sent her and wanted to do an interview.

I also got a lovely review at Night Owl Reviews, and posted a guest piece that is fairly topical to this post – about how you need a team around you to succeed – at Bunny Reviews. Rounding out the coverage this week was an author interview at Daydrmzzz.

I also signed up to the ebook personalisation service Kindlegraph: I have no idea whether it’ll boost sales but I thought it sounded fun, and it was free to sign up.

Ebook promotion – different strokes for different blogs, and what to consider before publishing

Another update on the promotional rounds I have been doing for Dark Dates – and again an illustration of the many different types of blogs out there, and the kind of information that they like to have when promoting a book, so the types of things you need to consider when contacting them.

Over at the Jeep Diva, I got a straightforward review on the back of sending them a copy on spec, while Laurie’s Thoughts was an interview and excerpt.  I’m starting to find excerpts a great selling point, as several people have told me they downloaded the book after reading some of it on a blog post. I actually struck gold in contacting Laurie – she’s very active in the blogging community and sent me a tremendously helpful initial email, which included lots of tips on how I could get in touch with other bloggers, writing groups etc, and my interview with her has been repeated retweeted by people in her network, so I would heartily recommend indie authors getting in touch.

I also did an interview with Diana at Offbeat Vagabond, and Barbara at Reviewer Extraordinaire – as part of the Risque Reviews network, Barbara’s blog had a slightly different focus, but it was fun to bring out the sexier side of the book – and the excerpt in this post was a little bit steamier than the others I have posted!

I encountered Morgen Bailey through a writers’ group on LinkedIn, and she’s another author/blogger who is keen to support indie authors and has a strong network behind her, which saw my post repeatedly retweeted. In keeping with her site, instead of just talking about myself – again – I did a post on the 5 questions you should ask before you self-publish. She gets very booked up – this was scheduled in months ago – but she is a hugely prolific blogger, so definitely worth getting in touch.

 

Book promotion: review round up and considering covers

Teaser for Dark Dates 2

My promotional blitz for my ebook Dark Dates is continuing, and I must admit I’m finding it a fascinating process: seeing just how many passionate book bloggers there are out there, and how there really is a book blogging community. So what have I been doing online this past week?

I was thrilled to be the first author to take part in When Pen Met Paper’s new feature, Author Talk, on my by-now-familiar topic of why neither genre fiction nor its fans are stupid. This was followed by a guest post, giveaway and review over at Close Encounters of the Night Kind – and of course, the great thing about digital publishing is once you have formatted copies of your book, giveaways cost nothing – it’s not like having to pay out for hard copies. This was rounded up by a very nice review over at Nocturnal Book Reviews.

Meanwhile, over at Strictly Writing, I’ve been talking about cover design: how do you decide what images best sell your book, especially if you are on a budget?

Promoting your ebook – going multimedia

It’s  been another  busy week on the promotional side, and I feel I’m really starting to rack up the PR – I followed up a great review at My Tower of Books with a guest post on the eternal appeal of bad boys, which was a post tailored to fit the fun, youthful feel of the site. This came about since the blogger Jackie had been so kind about Dark Dates I thought I’d take a punt on suggesting a guest post – and she agreed! Which shows that promoting your book doesn’t have to be a one shot thing; many bloggers will be more than happy to do a follow up item.

Again, building on established relationships bore fruit: I followed up a guest post and review at Open Book Society with an author Q&A – this is particularly interesting because the reviewer wasn’t that taken with my book, but it shows that you can still get perfectly decent coverage even if one person doesn’t go for your product: obviously the site recognises that it takes all sorts and aims to give information to its readers rather than being prescriptive about content. Most bloggers are really nice and keen to engage – so it’s worth bearing in mind that a bad review isn’t the end of the world!

Another guest post – and this time a very nice review – over at LovLivLifeReviews, and topped off with a great review from a lovely blogger, Natasja, over at Natasja’s Book Blog.

But probably the most exciting thing so far it my first venture into multimedia, with an online trailer for the book. But as I can take no credit whatsoever for this, I’ll let cover designer Caroline Goldsmith explain…

Tracey and I talk about books a lot. And recently our discussions have all been about “Dark Dates” and how best to market it. Marketing self-published books is a maze that all authors need to navigate. Having worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade, I know that there is no magic key to success when it comes to book promotion. What I do know is that the more ways there are to find out about a book, the more chance there is of someone picking up on it.

As the first book has garnered a haul of good reviews, and part two in the series is due for publication later this year, I thought now was the ideal time to launch a book trailer. The London landscapes in the video are all made from photographs I took from the top of my old building on the river.

So what do you think? Are book trailers the future, or just a fun addition to a marketing plan? Watch this space…

More ebook promotion – doing the rounds online

I’ve spent much of the last few weeks getting in touch with bloggers to promote my book, Dark Dates. It’s been a lot of fun, though it has involved quite a lot of work – and talking about myself a lot, which is a bit of a weird experience. I even did a radio interview!

The process has shown me, though, that there are a lot of blogs out there willing to engage with an indie author, and it’s really worth connecting with them.

First up was actually a friend of mine: a crafter called Stella My Star who kindly did a Dark Dates themed post.

I did a guest post on writing about vampires (and provided an excerpt and giveaway, which is always popular) over at Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy, and a similarly themed post at the Open Book Society, who also reviewed the book.

A post on why London is such a great backdrop to a novel was topical during the Olympics opener, over at Stella Ex Libris, and I did a Q&A over on author Nicole Faith Hill’s blog – she does an indie author spotlight and is keen to support other authors.

I got nice reviews over at Miranda Stork and My Tower of Books – the latter I followed up with a guest post which will hopefully be going live soon.

And last but not least, my cover designer Caroline put together this teaser image for the next book, and wrote about it here.

Image

Promoting my ebook: review round up and why self-promotion is hard work

One of the things I have been blogging about recently is the sometimes arduous task of promoting my novel, Dark Dates. As I made the choice to self-publish (having been traditionally published before, albeit by a small press) I knew it would involve a lot of work, but I have been surprised by just how much it involves: researching marketing opportunities, contacting bloggers, writing guest posts and doing author interviews – at times it has felt like a job in itself!

Still, I am starting to see some results, and hopefully this will lead to increased sales. Below are some examples of what I’ve been doing and the results…

Review: Fangs for Fantasy – was delighted to get a 5 out of 5 review at this site, which provided me with my favourite quote so far – ‘Tracey Sinclair has turned me into a fan poodle’. I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I’ll take it. This is also a great example of how these reviews cross-sell for you – based on this review, the book got recommended as an interesting read over at Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers.

Guest post: Rebeka Harrington – author and blogger Rebeka Harrington is very active on the cross-promotion front, and does an enormous amount of work promoting her Vampires Released series. I connected with her via Goodreads and we arranged to do guest posts on one another’s blogs (you can read mine here). I’d really recommend this, because it means that your guest is not only helping promote your book on their site, but they are invested in promoting your blog, too. I’ve already seen an increase in hits and Twitter followers off the back of several guest posts.

Guest Post: Interview: A Book A Day – another cross-promotional opportunity, this time with author and blogger Tonya Cannariato, who reviews and writes for this site. We did author Q&As for one another: bringing new guests to my site (it was clear a lot of fans checked her interview out from the comments) while the interview she hosted for me got an awful lot of retweets.

Reading Lark After Dark: Another interview, this time for the more ‘grown up’ arm of Reading Lark.

Metamodo: Guest post – an example of blogs wanting not just straightforward interviews, but fun content that their readers will enjoy even if they aren’t interested in your book. These can be tough to come up with – it can be a struggle to find topics! – but bloggers like them because they are very little work on their side (as I’ve said before, most bloggers are non-professional and are fitting their activities around full-time jobs), and because they are quirkier than straightforward Q&As. In keeping with the slightly saucy nature of the site, I did a post about my favourite fictional love triangles…

Nocturnal Reviews: Guest post – this was quite similar to the above, but the blogger likes ‘top tens’ so my post was on the top ten places to take a vampire on a first date – yup, really! It sounds silly but was actually great fun, and it was also my first ‘giveaway’: I’d been wary of these because I find Amazon a bit confusing when it comes to organising freebies, but as most bloggers seem happy to offer PDFs or .mobi files as prizes, I am likely to do more in future…

As you can imagine, this has been quite time-consuming – especially when you take into account that I repost links to all of these on my own blog, Body of a Geek Goddess, and I am still reviewing at Byte The Book and Exeunt, writing for Unleash The Fanboy (who did a nice story on my book here) and Strictly Writing. And I am, of course, currently working on the sequel to Dark Dates as well as juggling all the other balls in my freelancing career. So never let anyone tell you that self-publishing is easy… but is it worth it? Watch this space…

Dark Dates by … me.

Promoting your ebook: dealing with Book Bloggers

One of the key ways to build word of mouth for your book is through the book blogging community: book bloggers not only tend to be enthusiastic about reading but also about spreading word of mouth, and will often post reviews across a number of forums, which can significantly boost the profile of your book. So how best to go about getting this exposure? Here are some handy tips – and some guidelines on what not to do!

Find a list of blogs: there are a number of ever-changing blogging directories out there, so I’d start by simply Googling ‘book blogger directory’ and working your way through the most up to date lists. Once you have found a site you like or think might be suitable, it’s also worth checking out links from that site to directories / other sites (these are usually found through ‘buttons’ on the bottom or side of the blog).

Check the blog is still active: lots of people start a blog but it takes time, determination and stamina to keep it going and to build a following. It’s probably not worth contacting any blog that hasn’t been updated in the last month. Ideally, you want a blog that updates at least once a week, if not more.

Check their review policy: this will tell you if they are accepting review copies, and what sort of books they are interested in. There’s no point in sending an ebook to someone who only reads print, and you just have to accept that some bloggers won’t consider self-published books, or will only accept certain formats. Respect their choices and move on.

Is your book a match? Look at the kind of books and features they have on the site. If they are big fans of historical fiction and you’ve written a modern horror book set in space, they’re unlikely to want to read it.

Be polite – remember they’re people! Approach politely and courteously, and remember you are dealing with an individual, not an anonymous corporation. If there is personal information on the blog that resonates with you, try to reflect that in your approach. People like dealing with other people – be nice, and you’re more likely to get a response! Treat them like you’re doing them an enormous favour letting them read your book and they aren’t going to be that keen to engage with you.

Remember they generally aren’t professionals: in nearly all cases, these blogs are run by individuals – or small groups – who are doing it for love (with some free books thrown in). They are fitting blogging around their jobs, families and other commitments. Respect that, and don’t be overly demanding: they have plenty of other priorities than responding to your email and reading your book! Also, they aren’t obligated to you in any way: just because you send them a book doesn’t mean they have to read it. Accept that you’ll strike out a few times and let it go.

Be flexible: bearing the above in mind, be as flexible as you can re: deadlines – don’t expect to send a book and have it reviewed within a week. Most bloggers will try to help you out if you’re doing date specific promotion, but they may be booked up well in advance, or they simply may be too busy. If you want to have a book reviewed when it’s published, you need to send advance copies at least a few months before publication date (most will state timeframes in their review policies).

Offer alternatives: the one thing all bloggers constantly need is content, so it’s worth offering an alternative; for instance, when you offer your book for review, suggest that you’re also happy to do an author Q&A or guest post. Many bloggers whose review schedules are packed will still accept guest posts (especially if you throw in a giveaway) and while this is extra work for you, it can be useful publicity (remember, don’t reuse guest posts: you’ll make both of you look bad if it’s not original content!)

Offer to cross-promote: All bloggers – or at least almost all – will be keen to get more readers or followers, so state in your initial email that any reviews or posts will be cross-promoted on your own blog or website (you have a blog or website, right? Right?) and through your Twitter feed (ditto). Also, if you have a blog yourself, why not offer to host a guest post from them? That way you boost your own content, and are offering them more exposure.

Build relationships: In the short time I’ve been dealing with book bloggers, I’ve already come across some really interesting and fun people – so don’t just go into this focused on how to plug your book. Think about building long-term relationships – follow them on Twitter and Goodreads, sign up to their blogs, comment on their reviews. You won’t have time to invest in every one of the bloggers you deal with, any more than they will with every author, but be open to connecting with new people and you could be very pleasantly surprised.

Never badmouth a blogger: even if you have had a negative experience, there is nothing to be gained by mouthing off or getting annoyed with a blogger. For a start, it’s unprofessional, and it’s also enormously counterproductive: there’s a fairly strong community of bloggers and the last thing you want is a reputation as being difficult – part of the reason so many bloggers won’t review self-published works is because self-published authors have a reputation for poor behaviour. Sure, you might encounter a truly obnoxious blogger – they are individuals, so you’re bound to come across some you’d rather not have, just as you will in any other community – but in all circumstances the best thing is to take the high ground and let it go.

Be realistic – they won’t all like you: One of the hardest things for writers to accept is that lots of people simply won’t like your book. They may think it’s stupid or badly written, they may hate the characters, they may wilfully misread your meaning or sentiment, they may think it looks so God-awful boring that they can’t even bother to read past the synopsis. Tough. Get over it. There isn’t a writer alive who has been universally loved, and you won’t be the first one. Don’t get into a row over bad reviews, don’t vote them as unhelpful on Amazon, don’t try and get them removed from blogs or anywhere else. Take them on the chin and move on.

 

Networking in a digital world

One of the most important – but often most difficult – things to do when you’re a freelancer is to network. Not only because this maximises your chance of getting more work, but because if you work for yourself, especially if you work from home, it’s all too easy to become isolated.

I recognise that, like many freelancers, this is something I’m not great at and I need to improve – it can feel calculating, or even dishonest: am I just being nice to this person to get something from them? But I’ve found that the best way to get around that is to think about networking simply as broadening my circle, not necessarily with any endgame in sight, rather than spending my time worrying about whether I’m making the ‘right’ connections, or whether they will result in any more work/sales for me.

With this in mind, I’ve been seeking out more writing communities to get involved with. I mentioned in my last post that I have joined the writers collective Strictly Writing – my first post goes live next week – and this week I started contributing to Byte The Book. Byte The Book is a relatively new site, set up as a community of writers, illustrators and digital publishing professionals: it recognises that the publishing industry is changing, and is helping people at the forefront (or sometimes just the sharp end) of those changes connect. Importantly, founder Justine Solomons sees the importance of human connection in an online world, and so organises regular ‘literary soirees’ so that the site’s contributors and other interested parties can meet face-to-face. My first post went live today: a short story in the Writing Showcase and a Book Review, and I’m looking forward to my first meeting next week. If you’re interested in any aspect of digital publishing, it really is worth checking out the site.