Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Marketing True Magics 2: It’s Not Just the Book

To review: I have finished True Magics, third book in my Magics Trilogy (you can buy Small Magics and Cold Magics here), I have a contract to have them published this fall, and I have time to build a proper marketing campaign.

So what do I do next?

Being a good little Communications Consultant who wants to sell lots books, I researched best practices: who sold how many books doing what when and how?

And the answer that leapt in big bold exciting letters was:


Yes, you! The author! You have to be interesting! You have to be exciting! You have to reach out and let the world know about YOU! You have to get on social media! You have to blog! You have to Tweet! You have to Pin! You have to Instagram! You have to do that new exciting fifteen second-video thing! You have to make appearances! You have to go to book fairs! You have to go to conventions! You have to do signings and readings! You need to be in schools! You need to be in universities! You need to be at conferences!


Yeah, right.


Well, yes.... Sort of.... But, no.

Or more correctly: Yes and No.

I'd better explain.

What AreYou Really Marketing?
The first question a good marketer asks is, “What do I want people to think, feel, and do?”

A marketer has to be able to answer all three, because without all three, nothing happens. People need to know about a product (think) and they need to connect with it on an emotional level (feel) before they will purchase that product (do).

So how does that work with selling books?

NON-FICTION writers need to market the author. Whether they’ve written Integrating Lean Sigma Six into Your Home Based Marmalade Business, or Fifty-Five Ways Diaper Cream Can Improve Your Bottom Line, the non-fiction writer’s potential customers need to think that the author is a subject matter expert; they need to feel that the author can be trusted and the author’s idea is a great one, and then they will do the buying of the author’s book.

FICTION writers need to market the writing. We need people to think that our writing is entertaining and to feel our writing is worth their time and money, before they will do (by buying our book).

So does this mean that the fiction writer doesn't have to get on social media and blog or tweet or pin or instagram or do that 15 second video thing? That we can stay home from book fairs and conventions and signings and readings?

We should be so lucky.

Right now most of our potential customers have no idea how good our writing actually is. And unless we are already bestselling authors, no one except for us is going to put in the effort to let people know it.

So yes, we need to do social media, and book tours and conventions and all of that. And we need to promote it to the right people, or we’re wasting our time.

So it's not just the book, it's the writing.

So my job is to convince people that I write well and that they should buy my book.

Now, how shall I reach them?

Next week: Social Media Platforms or What Fresh Hell is This?

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Writing Life 2: How I got here.

The final step was losing my job.

The first step was thirty-five years earlier in grade 3 at William Grayson School in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, when I decided to write a book.

It wasn’t original – the characters and stories came from comics I was reading. It probably wasn’t that good because, hey, I was nine. But it was ten pages double sided in my duo-tang and I thought it was pretty impressive.

That was when I started writing.

I wrote stories continuously, but never thought of submitting them. And while the family might have been impressed and my granddad liked my writing, at no time did anyone suggest “you could make a living from this.” It wasn’t something my family (and therefore I) saw as a career path.

By the time I finished high school I wanted to be an actor. I studied theatre in university.  I moved to Toronto, discovered fight directing and learned how to do that. I finished my first novel but didn’t do anything with it. I met the woman who became my wife. I supported myself doing contract work for charities while not so much pursuing as stumbling blindly after an elusive acting career at a time when the film industry in Toronto was flagging.

My wife decided to leave the theatre to find steady work. We decided to have a child and so I left the theatre too and searched for a career. I tried working as a fundraiser and discovered I was terrible at it. Then I got hired by Manage My Home to be their staff writer.

I wrote more than 150 Home Maintenance articles in a two-year period. And if you think you can’t find more than 150 things to talk about in home maintenance, you’ve never owned a house. I have.

We bought it because we were both making good money and we had a child. I published my first novel, and for the first time writing seemed like a viable career. Everything seemed right. Except it wasn’t.

Our marriage started falling apart. We went to counselling. Manage My Home was bought by a much larger company who didn’t believe in having staff writers and I lost my job. We quit counselling so I could focus on finding a job. I went to school at night and got a certificate in Corporate Communications. I was hired by Trillium Health Centre, making better money than before.

Things righted themselves for a while. We went back to counselling, and I wrote my second published novel in 2-hour slots from 10 p.m. to midnight while my wife and little girl were asleep. I lived on six or less hours sleep a night for a year and somewhere in the midst of it all we realized our marriage was over.

We sold the house, separated and moved into apartments close to our daughter’s new school. And just as things were sorting themselves out, Trillium Health Centre merged with another hospital and I lost my job again.

They were very nice about it. They set me up with one of the best employment agencies in Canada and sent me home.

Where I stewed.

I didn't want to work in offices anymore. I didn't want to drive two hours a day to get to and from work.

I didn’t go to the employment agency, or take their courses. Instead, I started wondering about starting my own business; one where I write and people pay me for it.

So I did.

Which leads us to next week's post: How I make a living at this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Marketing "True Magics" 1: It’s Written! Now What?

I’ve got True Magics written! It’s done! And I have a contract with a Dragon Moon Press to publish it! This is amazing! It’s wonderful! It’s…

… the third time I’ve done this. And yes, it is still cool.

My first published novel was Small Magics (2007), my second was Cold Magics (2010). True Magics (2014?) will be my third.

My name is Erik Buchanan. If you read my last post, you’ll know I’m an author, and you’ll know that I am a professional writer. It’s all I do and it’s how I earn my living.

What you don’t know is that I spent seven years working in corporate communications, which is a not-selling-you-something way of saying marketing.

And for those seven years I was too busy, too tired and too wrapped up in making a living and commuting and working over time and dealing with my disintegrating marriage and building a new life after separation to focus on the thing that I really wanted: being a professional author.

Now, things have settled. I don’t have a commute anymore, save from the bedroom to the kitchen table where I work. I do what I love for a living.  My domestic life has stabilized and most of the stress that was sucking the energy and life out of me has gone.

And that means I have both the time and resources to properly market my latest book, and use what I build there to help sell the next one.

These blog posts: “Marketing True Magics” are going to document this journey, from picking the tools I’m going to use, to planning out the marketing strategy, to implementation of the tactics that will support that strategy.

And I am hoping that you’ll come with me. Whether you’re an author or an aspiring author, a marketer, an agent or an editor, a fan or just curious to see what goes into making a small press book get noticed.

Together we’re going to see what works well and what works poorly, what helps sell my book and what wastes my time.  And at the end of it all, we’ll all know more so that for my next book (or for your next book) we’ll do even better.

Next week: It’s Not Just the Book.

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Writing Life 1: Introductions

It's 8:30 a.m. and I am at my desk.

Well, desk is a misnomer.  I'm sitting at the kitchen table in our apartment in downtown Toronto, Canada. But this table is where I work, so until the family comes home it’s my desk.

My name is Erik Buchanan. I’m a professional writer, and I make a pretty good living at it.  “This Writing Life” is a series about how I got here, how I stay here, how you can get here, and what all of us who write can do to improve our writing.

My desk chair faces a wall. There’s a window beside me but I have to crane my neck to look out, which keeps me from staring at the garden and daydreaming.

Instead, if I look up from my computer I can see two whiteboards. The smaller whiteboard lists my projects. There are about a dozen, and so far everything is running on time.

The big whiteboard shows the story arcs for my new novel, True Magics, (due out this fall). The story arcs are written in in eight different colours and look a mess, but they tells me exactly what I need to fix.

Today’s writing tasks:

  • This blog post
  • Four hours of ghostwriting for a client,
  • Three hours of editing on True Magics

Tomorrow looks similar, except it’s six hours of editing True Magics, seven if I can squeeze in the time.

This is where I am: in my office, writing for a living. And I love it.

So how did I get here?

I’ll talk about that next week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

My good friend and fellow writer K.T. Briskie tagged me in a blog hop meme and gave me some questions about my writing process.  Unfortunately, I have no other authors to tag to keep the meme going, but here's my answers.

1) What am I working on?

I have a fair number of projects on the go, which is why I keep a whiteboard with all of them on it. Otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with myself in the mornings. Fortunately, I'm sitting across from my whiteboard, so I can list them for you.

Let's start with the novels:

I am editing two books right now.  The first is True Magics, the third and final book in my Magics Trilogy, due out this fall (YAY!). I have sent it to my editor, the brilliant Gabrielle Harbowy, and am waiting to see how much I have to fix to make it marketable. And by the way, if you haven't bought Small Magics and Cold Magics yet, now is an excellent time to click on the links and do so. Otherwise, how will you be ready to buy the third one?

My second editing project is City of Phantoms, a YA horror novel, and hopefully the first of a series.  It's about a young girl in Victorian England who disguises herself as a boy to take a job, only to find that the work is very mysterious - and dangerous.  I'll tell more when I get the edit done and start shopping it around.

I am working on the series arc for this one as well, so I know what's going to be happening down the line of books. I have a good concept, now I just have to get it to the end, so I can write the rest of the books.

I am in the planning and research stages for an historical fiction novel, set in Pre-Elizabethan England. Not going to say much about it, but it's a book I've been wanting to write for a long time and I really like the concept so here's hoping it works.

And now that we're done the novels, here's the rest:

I have just finished a short humorous story and am sending it out to market. I will also be starting a second story with a Noir style set after the Zombie apocalypse.

For some things completely different, I am also working on a six episode web series called "Hendrix's People" about two thieves trying to prove one of them didn't betray their boss and their organization.  I'm hoping all the pieces will come together this summer and we can shoot it then. It will feature a lot of humour, a lot of fighting, and a great deal of fun. I am also working on a book with a personal trainer friend on on how to train for Obstacle course races, because they are fun.

And then there's my day job. I ghostwrite for a living and currently have 3 projects on the go.  My client is excellent, and that's all I can say because, you know, I'm the ghost.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

All stories are about people, and the challenges they face, and it is seeing how people are transformed by their experiences that is one of the most interesting parts of reading.  That is what I try to bring to my work. When I write , I am more interested in the personal side of the story, rather than the grand epic scale of things (though the grand epic may make an appearance).  

The other thing I believe in is consequences. Too often in fantasy or sci-fi we have "monsters" - orcs, aliens, zombies, whatever - and the purpose of those monsters is to give our heroes a license to show how powerful and strong they are by killing, and doing so in the knowledge that there will be no consequences.  In reality, all actions have consequences. They may be external, such as society punishing you, people's relatives our for revenge or  friends being driven away by what you've become. They may be internal: nightmares, shifts in world view, questioning of the society in which you live, self hatred or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

And it is those consequences, or the possibility of those consequences, that I like to explore when writing.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because it's fun.  I love exploring the "might have been" worlds, and the impossible. It's a chance to let your imagination go in places that literary fiction doesn't allow.  And in contrast, I like the strictures of historical fiction. There's a challenge in not just getting the characters right, but getting the world around them right as well.

Most important, I like to tell a good story, and these are the sorts of stories I like best, so they're the stories I write.

4) How does my writing process work?

My writing process has changed a great deal in the last few years. I used to just write, let the story take me where it will and enjoy the ride.  I still do this to an extent with short stories because they are short.  That said, I've discovered that mapping out novels ahead of time makes it a lot easier for me to write them quickly and to get them out. It's especially useful in the ghostwriting, and I've brought it in to my own work as well.

So these days, I will start with a concept, write out ideas and bits and pieces, until I have enough for a story outline.  At the same time I work on developing the characters so I'll know how they'll behave and what sort of reactions I can expect from them in the situations I put them in. Of course, sometimes the characters react in ways that are completely different from what I had planned, which can be annoying or fun, depending on whether it improves the writing.

I try to write every day, because if you don't write every day, you can fall out of the habit, and from experience, that can really mess up your timetable.

And that's me. Hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Ad Astra! I'm going to the Convention!

It's the Ad Astra Convention this weekend! I'm on panels, reading a new short story, and aiming to misbehave! Here's my schedule:

Saturday Morning:
11:00 Swords: Not Just the Pointy End

Saturday Afternoon:
1:00 How to Read...Good
2:00 Signings!
7:30 Reading: Sweater Girls of the Apocalypse

Saturday night: Dragon Moon Press Launch Party! Come visit!

Sunday Afternoon:
3:00: Historical Fiction: Balancing Fact with Fantasy

The rest of the time I'll be wandering about, attending panels, hanging with other authors, and taking my turn staffing the Dragon Moon Press table in the dealer's room.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A New Year, a New Book

Well, at long last, I have it done.

True Magics, the final book in my Magics trilogy is finished.

(I wasn't planning to write a trilogy. It just worked out that way)

I have the contract from my publisher, the ever-brilliant Dragon Moon Press, and we are aiming for a release date at the end of September.

And by the way...


(I am very happy!)

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