Marketing is hard…

As we enter the New Year, I do what I normally do, which is sit down to sketch out my plan for the year. Some of that I’ve put here in my last post, some is still hanging out as an outline in my bullet journal, and some remains to be uncovered in the book I’m currently reading, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (more on this, just scroll down a bit.)

One thing that has changed from previous years is that this time, I’ve set up a system of tracking what I am doing which will enable me to identify areas of effort that are performing, underperforming, or actually quite lucrative. My brain does well with systems that allow me to fill in numbers and see, in a tangible way, what I am doing.

Also, I spent some time, money, and effort in previous years on things that did not really do anything except waste all three.

The first thing to do, though, is get some words down. I’m putting off a few submission goals until I complete the two series I’ve got going on now. The intended result is to improve my craft, and build an audience through giving readers a full series instead of just a one-off. (It will also, with luck, demonstrate to any future agents I query that I have the ability to stick with writing a series, which is pretty important in the genre work I prefer.)

I will talk about my Patreon page, which falls in here somewhere and is intended to create a community of storytellers through coaching, but I’ll hit that at length at a later time. Although you can definitely check it out if you’ve been thinking about wanting to write your own stuff. I won’t stop you. 😉

The next thing is to build social media through connections and interactions. I’m under no illusions that I will sell books through Twitter, but again, it’s a way to demonstrate to readers and potential agents/publishers that I am more established and serious about what I’m doing. Connections and interactions are another reason that I’m applying to various conventions and conferences as a panelist and workshop leader. My theory is, if people want to read books or hire someone as a coach, they are more likely to do so if they’ve met that person in real life, and are able to then connect with them (me) online. So I have some shiny new bookmark/business cards, and a couple of dates in 2018.

The last thing, and this is courtesy of The New Rules book referenced above, is taking a look at how I can use content to gain a wider audience. (I realize I’m burying the lede here, but bear with me.) I’m about halfway through the book, but what grabs me as Mr. Scott’s central concept, is the idea that we’ve gone beyond marketing and public relations to a new concept of communicating and interacting on an authentic basis. The book delves into tactical-level concepts and courses of action, but the overall idea is that an author, or an organization, or a corporation, etc., must find a way to engage an audience of both potential buyers and non-potential buyers. (I know, what? I gotta talk with people who have no intention of buying my book?) This communication then shapes the general perception of that organization.

While much of what I write is available on places like Amazon or my publisher’s Web site, or at my Patreon, I wanted to find a way to continue to share content that would be the basis of interaction. And I specifically wanted that content to come from articles and interviews with a wide variety of interesting people doing interesting things. While some of them may be authors, or poets, or journalists, I also wanted to interview nurses, and scientists, and crafters, etc.

When I first started this Web site, I had a page called “Characters and Conversations.” I still entitle my interviews “A Conversation with …” My goal is that in inviting people to come on here and talk about who they are and what they do, these articles will spur more conversation and invite more people to join us.

If you are an author, or someone who works in any sort of capacity with trying to generate interest in, publicity for, or interaction with any sort of organization (or your sole proprietorship), I can’t recommend this book enough. It comes with a lot of great suggestions and stories, as well as a full online presence, and a blog.

I also suggest checking out the Twitter hashtag #bookmarketingchat as well as The Author Biz Podcast. Find what works for you, even if you have to do a little experimenting to figure that out. (Don’t forget to track your data and set your benchmarks!) And if you figure out the magic overnight secret to amazing online book success, feel free to share in the comments. 😉

Happy Writing!

 

Guest Post: Michael G. Munz

About two years ago (holy cow, this blog is old…), I hosted author Michael G. Munz as he debuted his novel, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure. Fast forward a few years through the ever-changing, entropy-laden atmosphere of the modern publishing industry, and Michael found himself in a position that may be familiar to more than one Indie Author out there. I invited him to stop by and talk a bit about how the closing of his publishing house affected him, and how he is working through that to continue his writing career. Sit back, grab a caffeinated (or non-, that’s cool too) beverage of your choice, and check out his take on overcoming disruption in the publishing biz.

Take it away!

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Two years ago, my comedic fantasy adventure Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, entered the world. While I’d self-published two novels previously, Zeus was my first book to be picked up by a publisher: Seattle-based indie publisher Booktrope. The book opened to great reviews. It gained momentum through word of mouth, association with other popular books in the Amazon system. Zeus Is Dead received multiple book-of-the-year honors last summer, which boosted its visibility even more. Things were going great!

award-spread

Okay, you know that part in a movie where someone says, “Things are going great!” and then, say, zombies with flamethrowers burst in and wreck up the place? Well, last April, Booktrope sent word to all of its authors: the company was going out of business. All books would be removed from publication as of May 31st.

I won’t go into the circumstances of Booktrope closing its doors here. The good news was that I retained the rights to my books (Booktrope had later republished two of my self-published sci-fi novels as well). The bad news is that all of Zeus Is Dead’s associations on Amazon were just gone.

Zeus Is Dead Cover

I didn’t realize that at first. In its final days, Booktrope gave its authors a lot of guidance on republishing their novels. We received the layout files and other things necessary to make the process of publishing under our own label as easy as possible. After creating my own label of Red Muse Press to give the republished versions a greater air of legitimacy (registering the trade name, setting myself up in Washington State as a sole proprietorship, etc.), I got the ebook versions back up. For Amazon, I used Amazon KDP. For Nook, NookPress. For Kobo, Kobo Writing Life, and for iTunes… Well, apparently you can only publish on iBooks if you have a Mac, so I and my PC went through Draft2Digital instead, which is an accepted third party aggregator for iBooks. There was a bit of a (re)learning curve, but it went smoothly enough. I opted to worry about paperback copies later, as my ebook sales had always dwarfed the paperbacks.

So, back to that thing I didn’t realize: While Amazon was great about porting over Zeus Is Dead’s 157 reviews and 4.3 average star rating from the Booktrope version to the new version, there’s something they don’t—and claim “can’t”—port over: the sales rankings and search associations. Zeus Is Dead had a lot of fans who also liked books by more famous authors (e.g. Christopher Moore). You know that “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section? Before, you’d see Zeus Is Dead in that section on some Christopher Moore novels, as well as plenty of other authors. Those associations, built up over two years of marketing, contest awards, and word of mouth, were feeding Zeus Is Dead’s sales.

I tried to get this changed. I emailed Amazon’s Author Central. The answer was apologetic but not helpful: Those things cannot be transferred. Their computer system doesn’t even allow for it. Undeterred, I actually picked up the phone and TALKED to someone at Amazon—which, if you know my introverted proclivities, tells you how desperate I felt. Still no dice. It seemed I would have to start from scratch and crawl my way back into visibility.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reached out to bloggers (like Infamous Scribbler!) who featured Zeus Is Dead during its initial release. I did a re-release announcement through BargainBooksy, which resulted in enough sales to at least cover the cost of the announcement. I’ve experimented with Twitter ads to drive people either to a page on my website or to the book’s Amazon page, but haven’t had much success. I’ve got an add running on Facebook, targeted toward fans of similar authors to try to regain the lost associations. These seem to be helping, so far, but it’s slow going. My big goal at the moment is to secure a Bookbub promotion for a 99 cent sale, which is always hugely helpful to sales rankings if you can get Bookbub to run it.

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Zeus Is Dead’s sales numbers for June are about 30% of what they were just before the Booktrope editions went away. I choose to believe that means I’m making some headway, but only time will tell. What stings the most is knowing that the boosts the book had gotten from book of the year contest honors aren’t something I can recapture again. I can’t re-enter the same book, after all. But I suppose I’ll just have to keep working on the Zeus Is Dead sequel, won’t I?

For the record, I’m thinking of calling it Zeus Is Undead.

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MICHAEL G MUNZ

About Michael G. Munz

Michael G. Munz is an award-winning fantasy and sci-fi writer who is fascinated with Greek mythology. He also possesses what “normal” people might deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though he prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none. Or mostly none. There are exceptions. He dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguini. Follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, and on his website, michaelgmunz.com.