Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marketing True Magics 6: Reaching Your Target Audience (without being creepy)

Last week we defined Target Audiences. That was the easy part.  In case you forget:

A writer’s target audience is the group of people most likely to buy that writer’s books.

This week we’re talking about the hard part: reachin your target audience. Because unlike the old days when I was that kid getting shouted at instead of the one shouting “get off my lawn!” there are lots and lots and lots of ways to reach an audience. Most of them are electronic, but not all, and not the most successful ones.

Social Media

Yay, Social Media!  I can reach people there because that’s not cluttered at all, right?


God, there are a lot of us.

But that’s why I chose the five social media that I chose: Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest and Youtube in that order.  Each one of these allows people who are interested in you to follow you and see what it is you have to say.

So how do you get people to notice you? More important, how do you get the right people to notice you?

There are two answers. First, be engaging. Second, seek them out. To be engaging:

Have a full profile on any social media that you are on. Explain who you are and what you do in the most engaging way possible.  Put whatever you want them to be interested in first.  If you are a writer (like me), it should be the first thing people on your profile.  The rest of your profile should show what an interesting and well-rounded person you are, and make the people to whom you want to sell your books, want to follow you after they’ve read it.

Share stuff that is interesting to you. Talk about interesting subjects, post interesting pictures, put up interesting videos, share interesting articles. People who share your interests will follow you and those people are likely to become your target audience.  Talk about yourself in an interesting way, and in what you are selling in an interesting way, but not so often as to make them lose interest through repetition.

Share the things your followers find interesting. Repost the things your followers post, if you find them interesting. People who like what you like are good people; the sort of people who will buy your books.

(Speaking of which, have you bought Small Magics and Cold Magics yet? Because it isn’t a blog post without a sales pitch…).

Yes, all this a lot of work. Yes, it’s a time-suck. Yes, it takes away time you could be writing.  It also gives you a better chance of selling your writing, which is the point of this whole exercise.

I mentioned that the second way to get people to notice you is to seek them out. The way to do this requires far more space then I have here. So in the weeks ahead, I promise a separate blog post for each of the social media platforms I’m using, explaining my strategy to seek out followers for each one and how well it’s working so far. Meanwhile…

Reviews

Good reviews help you reach your target audience. A review itself may not be enough to make a person buy your book on the spot, but the review puts the idea of your book in a person’s mind, and the more often that happens, the more likely they are to buy your book when they see it, whether that’s on Amazon, a book shelf, or a table at a convention (which I’ll talk about in a moment).

The issue is that most reviewers want a paper copy of your book, and that costs money. My publisher is a small press, and they can only afford to send out so many ARCs (Advance Reading Copies). I can also buy some and have the publisher send them out on my behalf, but that costs money too. So how do I pick which reviewers to send to?

Target professional/semi-professional reviewers who reach your target audience. If you write fantasy (like I do), target fantasy reviewers. If you write romance, target romance reviewers. If you write non-fiction about the erotic life of Kierkegaard as displayed through his philosophic essays… well, good luck.

Target reviewers who like the style of story that you write. There are few things more annoying to book sales than bad reviews, so try to avoid getting them when you can.  Look over a reviewers reviews of books similar to your before you send them a copy. If they don't like them, don't waste your money.

Target the reviewers above in order of the number of people who read their reviews. If you’re going to spend money, you want to reach the maximum number of people, so make sure the reviewers who are getting printed ARCs have enough readers that there’s a good chance to make up for the cost of the ARC in your sales.

Target reviewers who reach your target audience and are willing to take an electronic ARC. After you set it up, electronic copy is essentially free. Send as many as you can to as many reviewers as you think will be interested and will take it. Because these are essentially free, you can give them to reviewers with smaller audience bases.

Remember, the point of a review is to get the attention of people who might buy your book – your target audience.

Events

You didn’t think you could sit at home the whole time, did you? Unless you’re writing stories for your kid(s) and family alone (which I have done), your target audience is not just sitting in your living room.

For me, the places are sci-fi conventions, book fairs, and book stores. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but there are a lot around and they are all over the place.

The question is, is it worth the money?

The answer is yes. And no.

Events aren’t going to be the places you build up huge audience. You won’t get massive sales there. If you’re lucky, you’ll break even.

What events will give you are fans. Real fans. Not just people who like you on twitter, but people who have met you, talked to you, listened to you, and actively liked you. These people are worth a dozen facebook followers and a hundred twitter followers because they’re the ones that are going to say to their friends, “I met him/her. He/she is a really nice person and writes such wonderful books.  You should definitely buy his/her book so that he/she can afford to write more!”

Fans are worth their weight in gold and need to be properly cultivated.  And the more of them you have, the more of them you’re going to get as they tell their friends, “hey, have you read this?”

One Last Thing: Don’t be Creepy

I’ll get into this more when I talk about each social media feed (especially Twitter), but I want to mention it here:

Don’t be creepy.

Don’t get in people’s faces, don’t ask personal questions, and don’t send out material that is racist, sexist or hate-filled.  This makes you a jerk, and very few people like following a jerk.

If part of your demographic is teenagers (and part of mine is) or children (not my demographic, but might be yours) NEVER send out material with explicit sexuality or explicitly violent images. Don’t make sexual jokes or sexual innuendoes, on line or in person, and always be on your best behavior at conventions and events.

As a writer, you are the chief spokesperson for your product.  Be the sort of person that even people who aren’t in your target audience will say, “They seem like good people.”

That’s it for this week.

Next week: Twittering To The Masses, My Journey So Far.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This Writing Life 6: The One Rule to Writing

There is a plague of doubt that affects all writers.

Some are affected once in a while. Others are affected on a daily basis.

You sit down at your computer and you stare at the blank screen and as you begin to type you wonder: “Am I doing this right?”

Well have NO FEAR, because today, and TODAY ONLY, Erik will reveal to you the ONE TRUE RULE TO WRITING!

That’s right! There’s one rule and one rule only and today, for FREE, Erik will share it with YOU!

Does it Matter What I Write?

NO!

Whether you’re a blogger, a poet, a playwright, a scriptwriter, a novelist, a journalist or any other kind of writer there is only ONE RULE.

Does It Matter How I Write?

You weren’t listening to the last question, were you?

NO!

It doesn’t matter WHAT you write! It doesn’t matter HOW you write! It doesn’t even matter what LANGUGE you write in, THERE IS ONLY ONE RULE!

How Do You Know this One Rule?

Really? We have to get into this?

Sigh.

Fine.

I formulated the ONE RULE TO WRITING after years of talking to wannabe writers at various conventions. It came into full bloom a few years back at the Ad Astra Convention (and if you are a writer of genre fiction in or near Toronto, you should go to this one).

And I should mention, I was hardly the first to figure it out.

I was on a panel about writing groups. The other three on the panel were very much pro-writing groups. I was there to take the negative. I figured people could use my experience to learn what to avoid. (That will be another blog post)

Two of the other three didn’t show up.  The one who did was Brandon Sanderson.

He and I talked for a bit before the panel started, and we switched formats because really, no one was there to see me. So I interviewed Brandon and he is excellent to interview. At one point we were asked if there were any rules to writing. He said there were none, I said there was one, and when I said what it was, he agreed with me.

Now, back to the rampant hyperbole…

If the One Rule Is So Amazing, Why Are You Giving It Away For Free?

Because writers all over the world deserve to share in the ON RULE!  It is the great secret to ALL WRITING. Without it, THE LITERARY WORLD WOULD NEVER HAVE EXISTED!!!

Is that too many capital letters and exclamation points?

NO!!!

The rule is too important not to share! Why, I'm not even going to ask that you go buy my books, Small Magics and Cold Magics, before you learn it (though if you wanted to, you could... just saying).

So When Are You Going to Share It?

AS SOON AS I RUN OUT OF RAMPANT HYPERBOLE!!!

And That Would Be When?

NOW!

Sit down.

Brace yourself.

Be prepared for the BRIGHTEST LIGHT OF INSPIRATION you have ever seen to go off in your head!

THE ONE RULE TO WRITING IS….

(Isn’t the anticipation killing you?)

THE ONE RULE TO WRITING IS….


You must finish.

Really? All This for That?

Yeah, it was more fun this way.

But "You must finish," it is the only rule.  Because no matter what you write about, no matter what genre or medium you write in, no matter what method you use to write (and that will be next week’s blog post) if you want to actually call yourself a writer, you have to finish your work.

I have met lots of people still working on that novel after 10 years, still working on those poem or short stories or screenplays that never, ever get them done.  They are not writers.  They are wannabes. They could become writers easy enough, but they haven't followed the one rule.

The difference between being a writer and not being a writer is finishing your work.

So follow the one rule.

Finish.

Next Week: Outliners vs. Pantsers or The Many Styles of Writing Stuff

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marketing True Magics 5: Target Audiences or Who Are My Readers?

The single hardest thing in any business is getting people to know you exist. And in this business, it can be very difficult indeed.

 There were (on a researched guess because stats are hard to find) approximately 2,000,000 books published last year world-wide, including self-publishing.

That’s a whole lot of books.

Add to that, that most book purchases are impulse purchases, and without a powerhouse distributor behind you to ensure your book is in every bookstore, drugstore, airport and Walmart in the country, it becomes very easy to be lost in the clutter.

So how do we get noticed?

Your Target Audience
The writer in me always imagines either a group of people sitting in front of a stage wearing t-shirts with a series of coloured, concentric circles on them, or a large group of people staring eagerly at an archery butt.  Both are wrong, though the first one is pretty close:

A writer’s target audience is the group of people most likely to buy that writer’s books.

This is one of the reasons many writers stick to one genre.  If you’ve done fairly well with your gritty, realistic detective dramas, chances are your audience isn’t necessarily going to enjoy the fantasy romance with the beautiful magical princess you’ve just written.

 (And vice-versa: never underestimate the selling power of the fantasy romance with a beautiful magical princess).

There are ways around this, of course.  J.K. Rowling writes her detective series under a different name. Other authors who work across genres do the same.  Some write across genres and work hard to make sure each audience knows what they’re getting, which takes some work, but can also yield good results, though it may drive their agent/publisher insane.

“My Book Appeals to Everyone!”
No. It doesn’t.

No book appeals to everyone, and thinking that yours does means that you are going to be wasting your time and your money marketing to the wrong people, and will probably sell a lot fewer copies than you would otherwise.

Take the time to define exactly what genre your books are in.

My first three novels (Small Magics, Cold Magics and in April 2015, True Magics) are Fantasy Genre, and would be considered either New Adult or Young Adult.

By way of comparison, my new series (under development), is Young Adult, Horror, Ghost Stories, Historical (Victorian).

The more specific you can be about what sort of book you have written, the easier it is to find the sort of people who want to read it.

Speaking of which…

Next Week: Reaching Your Target Audience (without being creepy)

Monday, August 18, 2014

This Writing Life 5: Prioritizing and Protecting Your Time

It used to be easy to avoid distractions. Take the phone off the hook, put up a “do not disturb sign”, turn off the TV and don’t answer the door. Problem solved.

Yeah, I’m old.

These days, we live in a state of constant distraction, thanks to the Internet and all it provides. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are all designed to keep you looking so they can sell more ad space. Same with all those sites that I use to keep my twitter feed busy.  So how, if you are a stay-at-home, working by the hour/job consultant and writer, do you manage to overcome the distractions and make a living?

Willpower. Sheer, unadulterated, massive willpower; nothing else will…


I’m sorry, I couldn’t finish that sentence I was laughing so hard.

Willpower doesn’t work for squat. You only have so much brainpower to power everything including your will and a lot of it is needed for work.  So here, really, is what I do.

What’s Worth Your Time: Urgent vs. Important
The first step is figuring out which of the things that you are doing are actually worth your time.  There’s a whole whack of ways to figure out what’s important in your life, but I like the Urgent vs Important matrix.  This tool was used by General/President Eisenhower, though I’m not sure he invented it.  Either way, he was pretty darn organized.

The matrix looks like this:


Important Not Important
Urgent
Not Urgent

And everything you do in a day goes inside it.  So for my day today, it looks like this

Important Not Important
Urgent Blog post, work for client, edit new book, get kid to and from day camp,Work out, create plot arc for new series, housework
Not Urgent Phone calls, text messages Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, , TV, etc.

Amazing how housework is almost never actually Urgent and Important at the same time. That changes places when my mother is coming to town.

Simple, easy and allows you to see which things you are wasting your time on so you can minimize it.

A Note on Multiple Priorities
If you have more than one client/project on the go (and looking at my job board right now I have 12) then you need to prioritize them in your day. Here’s a suggestion
  1. Are they paying you?
  2. Is it on a deadline?
  3. Will it further your career?
  4. Does it involve housecleaning?
The number of “Yes” answers you get for the first three should help you place the project in order of importance/urgency.

If the answer to the 4th question is “Yes”, the project cannot be considered urgent and important unless you also answer “Yes” to one of the first three or your relatives are coming for a visit (or you need a clean space to work, which can happen I’ve heard).

…But There’s All These Interwebs!
The internet is a time suck. Turn it off.  And I don’t mean close your browser because that doesn’t work. I get distracted or bored and turn it on again, and there goes the morning/day/week/July to October, 2012.

Fortunately, there are dozens of apps out there that will temporarily disable your social media and Internet. I use Anti-Social when I’m working on client projects because it blocks social media but allows me to research as needed and use my online tracker for hours. I use Freedom when I’m writing my own stuff because it blocks the Internet completely.  Both work well and don’t stop working until the timer run out or I reboot my computer.

Keeping On Keeping On.
Some days none of this works.

You know your priorities; you know you should turn on Freedom/Anti-Social/Whatever; you know your bum should be in your chair, your fingers should be on your keyboard and your cursor should be moving to the right.

But you don’t do it.

These are wasted days. Wasted days mean no earnings, no movement forward on your goals, and no luck convincing your significant other there’s a good reason why the kitchen isn’t clean.

And sometimes they happen.

There's a lot of reasons wasted days happen.  Lack of external stimulation, maybe. Lack of exercise or sleep or solitude or maybe your brain just needs to recharge.

If wasted days start happening regularly, or if they happen more than two days in a row, you need to sit down and re-think your schedule.  You are falling into a rut that can really, really mess up your life (and your ability to pay rent).

So, if you lose a day, feel free to berate yourself and be angry and upset. But the next day, be back at your desk, and the next and the next. Keep on keeping on.

Because if you can’t do that, you need to find another line of work.

Next week: The One Rule to to Writing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Marketing True Magics 4: Cutting Through the Clutter or: Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two.

I spent 15 years as an actor before my daughter was born. Chances are you’ve never heard of me.  Most actors aren’t stars. But that’s all right. I’m not bitter at all. I don’t still pine for it like a Norwegian Blue pining for the Fjords.

…But enough of that.

I spent most of my career on stage, and there I was introduced to one of the most useful expressions ever:

“Good, fast, cheap. Pick two.”

Good and fast costs money. Good and cheap takes time. Fast and cheap may do in a pinch but will have no staying power.

Now, let’s apply that to social media marketing, because social media may be free, but that doesn’t mean it’s without cost.

Remember our graphic from last week?

Click here to see the full-size graphic at: http://forwallpapers.com/

We cannot be everywhere at once without a major outlay of time and money.  We can’t even be most places. Heck, even the limited amount of social media I do now is taking up more time that I want.

So how do we pick?

Defining Our Terms

Good social media grabs attention in a world where everyone is clamouring for it. And since you know you’re not going to get everyone’s attention, good social media will get the right people’s attention. (We’ll talk about target audiences next week). It is also going to keep their attention without harping on your book, because a social media plan that just advertises quickly becomes boring.  And boring social media is forgotten social media.

Fast social media keeps up with the trends. It makes your followers/fans/ listeners/viewers/whatever count skyrocket. It’s right there in people’s faces anytime day or night. The people who follow you know what’s happening, when it’s happening, and they look to you to tell them.

Cheap social media isn’t ineffective, just inexpensive. It means doing things yourself rather than having them done for you, and doing them the simplest way possible. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get what you want, but you are going to need to spend time.  And the more social media coverage you want, the more time you are going to have to spend.

So, pick two.

My Picks: Good and (fairly) Cheap.
I am not made of money (pauses to imagine, sighs, continues) so I can’t invest huge amounts of it into marketing my books. I’m not made of spare time, either, so I need to not be continuously on social media. I need to focus on creating good, short social media that will reach as many people as possible, for as little expense as possible.

What I don’t need to be is fast. (Timely, yes, but that’s a different post). I write books. I’m not a fashion critic, news outlet or gossip site. My work isn’t urgent tell everyone NOW!

Add that to a publishing date that’s not until next April and I’ve got plenty of time to get things built up, automated and ready to go.

What It Means for My Social Media Marketing
It means I’ll be doing a slow, multi-pronged social media campaign, organically building followers across all mediums to maximize coverage and exposure to my target markets. This will enable the maximization of conversions from followers to customers and result in monetization through product sales …

Sorry, fell into marketing speak. Trying again:

I’ll be using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and possibly YouTube (listed in order of use, not order of value) to reach out and tell people about my books and about me, and to get people to buy my books.

I am open to adding other sources, but only if I can prove they will be worth the time and effort.

I am automating my Social Media feeds using Hootsuite so I don’t have to be on it all the time. I’m also using a news aggregator (feed.ly) to find interesting content to post when I don’t personally have anything interesting to say, and to follow certain topics on my newsfeeds so I don’t have to scroll endlessly on my phone.

As for how well it’s going to work…  that’s what we’re all going to find out.

Next week: Target Audiences or Who ARE All These People?

Monday, August 11, 2014

This Writing Life 4: Scheduling or, Where Is My COFFEE???

The Schedule:

6 a.m. wake up
6:15 a.m. workout & light stretching
7 a.m. Make girlfriend’s lunch for work, shave, shower, eat breakfast
7:30 a.m. Check email, Facebook, Twitter, webcomics and news
7:45 a.m. Daughter comes over from Mom’s place
8:00 a.m. Workout with daughter: strengthening and Kung Fu
8:30 a.m. Get daughter organized for day camp
8:45 a.m. Bike daughter to day camp and back
9:15 a.m. Home and blog
10:00 a.m. Ghostwriting
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. Ghostwriting
3:45 p.m. Bike to day-camp to pick up daughter
4:15 p.m. Home and work while daughter practices piano
5:30 p.m. Make dinner, hang out with family
8:00 p.m. Write.
10 p.m.  Get ready for bed.
11 p.m. Sleep

No excuses, no arguments, no changes. Right?

Riiiiiiiighhhhhht.

The Reality
The tighter the schedule, the less likely it is to work out, unless you have your own administrative assistant.  So far today, the workout happened on time, but we couldn’t find my daughter’s backpack, it took longer to get to day-camp than we thought, I needed to get new pedals for my bike and a loaf of bread for lunch and an apple turnover because apple turnover. And I spilled a pint glass of very cold water over myself and the floor.

It’s already gone 10 a.m. and I still haven’t had a cup of coffee.

Excuse me…

Ah. Coffee. Better now.

Schedule Sanely
Schedules are vital. Knowing when you need to work and what you're working on is the key to running any freelance business, whether it’s writing or anything else. Blocking your time appropriately means you get more done, have more free time, and feel better about each day.  Just don’t block every minute because chances are things will go wrong and then you’ll feel grumpy about it all.

Write your schedule down and keep it someplace where you can see it. I use a notebook that I keep beside me on my desk for the daily stuff. I also have a wall calendar in front of me that shows the week, month and year, because some things need to be planned ahead.

Be Flexible…
Because not everything works out as planned.  Do your best to stay on schedule and try not to go mad when you don’t.   Sometimes you have to pick things to set aside one day, knowing that you will get them done the next. That said...

Hit Your Deadlines
Because you want to do this for a living, and no one hire someone twice who can’t get work in on time.

And that’s it for today because I am behind on my projects.

Next time on this Writer’s Life: Prioritizing and Protecting your Time (Put Down the Smart Phone!)

Friday, August 08, 2014

"True Magics" release date!!!

Hi everyone!

We have finally nailed down our release date for True Magics.

We had hoped to have it ready for fall 2014, but after consulting with my editor and publisher at Dragon Moon Press, we have all agreed to push it back to ensure the book is at the level of quality you expect from DMP and from me.

Our new release date for True Magics is April 2015, and in keeping with Dragon Moon Press tradition, we will be launching it at Ad Astra, "Toronto's premiere SF and Fantasy Fan Convention."

While I am sad the book will not be out this fall, I am thrilled to be launching at Ad Astra.

Ad Astra is a great convention, by fans, for fans, that focuses on literary SF&F as well as media.  I have always had a wonderful time there, and expect next year to be no different.

And in the meantime, I have short story or two I want to write, another novel to edit, new novels to plan and write, a web series to produce and another short film to write and shoot. Then there's that whole marketing plan I've been talking about...

So thank you for your patience. I think it's going to be a great book.

And if you haven't picked up Small Magics and Cold Magics yet, now would be an excellent time.

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