Social Media & Book Sales

Confession time: like almost everyone else, most of my time on Facebook is spent chatting with friends, commenting (wittily, I think) on status updates, and finding more friends — mostly authors — with whom I can connect. I spend very little time actually accomplishing anything. Am I the only one who does this? I can’t be alone. Human nature says we’d rather goof off than do, well, just about anything else. True for you?

But I probably need to change all that, or at least some of it. See, I have spent the majority of my professional career in marketing and advertising, with organizations small and large, and have seen the way social media have changed how word gets out about products and services. Being an author trying to sell books, I have dramatically underutilized Facebook and other social media. Or at least I think I have. Have I? Have you?

Tell me how you have used Facebook and other social media, such as Twitter, to further your writing career. Have you held contests? Giveaways? Announced book signings? Touted your new release to all your friends? What kind of responses have you received? Did you actually sell more books?

Share your stories in the comments section. Together we can all learn more about how to use social media more effectively.

Writer’s Guide to e-Publishing

Amazon announced last week that for the first time e-books outsold printed books on their site. While it wasn’t a huge difference in total sales (about 51%-49%), the news goes a long way to fuel the question that has been bantered about ever since e-readers were invented: Will printed books eventually go away all together? While it’s way too early to answer that with any real quantified data, certainly the trend seems to be leaning toward e-books gaining more and more market share. I highly doubt the printed book will go away entirely, as many people (including me) like the experience of the feel and smell of paper and binding in their hands. But you can’t beat the convenience of the quick download and easy portability of the e-book. So we’ll see their popularity continue to grow.

What does this all mean if you’re an author? Lots of things. One resource that will help you sort it all out and stay on top of what’s going on in the e-book market is The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing. This great blog is full of resources and stories to help you set up your e-book and then how to market it for maximum exposure and readership. I highly recommend this blog, especially if you’re new to publishing in the electronic age.

The Chicken & Egg Are Scratching Their Heads

We all know the classic question of the chicken and the egg. It’s perhaps the most overused analogy known to man. And who really cares, anyway, right? But this isn’t a blog about food or joke telling; it’s a blog about literature and writing. So why even bring it up?

Simple: as we write, we develop two things — characters and plot. But which comes first? When I was writing my novel Absolute Authority (currently under consideration by a couple publishers), I started out with my main character, who sat in my head, bored, for three years before I figured out what to do with him. I had his back story all figured out, his occupation, his family, his likes/dislikes, his hair color, even the kind of house he lived in. But I had nowhere to put him. He had no meaning in his life. He just sat around in my head, chewing his fingernails, waiting for me to engage him in some sort of plot (which ended up as a double meaning when the book finally played out). Finally, I wrote the prologue — which, ironically, didn’t involve my main character — and then began to script the story, chapter by chapter…until I hit a wall about 300 pages in. I had three different plot lines, classic thriller techniques, a story that seemed exciting to me. All the elements of a great book. But I had no idea how to end it. How was it all going to come together? Finally, one day, sitting in my favorite leather chair at Java Journey, sipping yet another cappuccino, the proverbial light came on and I was able to quickly wrap it all into a tidy little package, resolve the plot lines, and race to the climax, followed by what I hope will be a satisfactory ending. I was so amped that I even wrote the Acknowledgements section.

But would that have all been easier if I’d plotted out the whole book before I started? Or did I need the character development along the way to dictate where the story flowed? Would I have ended it differently? Would the characters and plot have turned out the same way?

The secondary issue is: what about the sequel? I already have most of the characters already established in the first book. So does that mean the sequel will be more plot-driven?

I’m interested in hearing your feedback, especially from those of you have struggled with the same dilemma.

Eden Lake: Debut Novel from Jane Roper

Continuing my promise to showcase fellow authors (especially up and coming ones), let me take you back to your childhood, your days at summer camp. Jane Roper has revisited a period in everyone’s young lives and fast-forwarded to adulthood to reflect on an era long forgotten by many, cherished by others. Here is what the publisher says of Roper’s Eden Lake:

In 1968, newlyweds Clay Perry and Carol Weiss founded Eden Lake, a utopian children’s summer camp. Thirty years later, their marriage is long over and the camp has become a pricey playground for entitled suburbanites. When tragedy strikes, the Perryweiss children have to decide what role Eden Lake, and all that it stands for, will play in their lives. Abe, the eldest and heir apparent, has never been able to commit to a career—or a woman. Jude, entangled with a married man, must confront her turbulent relationship with her past. Eric, the youngest, who has never strayed far from Eden Lake, stands at the precipice of a new life. Idealism and infidelity, childhood memories and the hard truths of adulthood collide and coalesce in the summer of 1998 at Camp Eden Lake.

Grab your copy today and relive your childhood and the fun (or misery) that was summer camp.

Self vs. Traditional: a Conversation over Coffee

Which are you: a self-publisher or a traditionalist? Both? Never tried one or the other? Well, the other day, Self and Traditional sat down together at one of those fancy coffee joints to hack out their differences. The conversation went something like this…

Self: Mocha with extra drizzle? Pretty fancy!

Traditional: I like all the bells and whistles.

Self: But underneath it’s still just coffee.

Traditional: What kind did you get?

Self: The house brew. Then I added cream and sugar.

Traditional: So you like the do-it-yourself approach, eh?

Self: Something like that. See, it’s cheaper that way. I’m not paying extra for all that other stuff I don’t need.

Traditional: Maybe not, but you didn’t get syrup in yours. It doesn’t taste the same.

Self: No, I guess not.

Traditional: Did you want additional flavor?

Self: It would have been nice, but not necessary. I can still enjoy my coffee without it. And I still get the caffeine rush. Yours cost more. Was it worth it?

Traditional: Did it really? I mean, think about how much it costs to brew a simple cup of coffee. Yet they charged you how much? You really think you got such a great deal?

Self: Yeah, but look how much other stuff is in your cup other than coffee. You got all that fancy stuff with only a few ounces of actual coffee, yet our cups are the same size. And you paid twice as much.

Traditional: But I didn’t have to make my own. All I did was order it and it came complete, ready to enjoy. No self-service required.

Self: But it’s still coffee either way, right?

Traditional: Right.

Self: And we still enjoy the buzz of a fresh cup, yes?

Traditional: Yes. We just got there different ways.

A Book About Marketing Books — A Novel Idea

Most authors just write. They don’t market. It’s not because they can’t; it’s just not what they do well. Authors write books and hope that somehow, some way their adoring public will find the new book and race out to the bookstore to grab up enough copies to give to all their relatives for Christmas, birthday, Easter, New Year’s Day, Tuesday…whatever day! But that’s not really how it works. Miracles do happen, but don’t go expecting them.

Instead, grab ahold of your own marketing and make it happen on your own! (Scared yet? Don’t be.) A novelist herself, Tonya Kappes has co-authored a great book on how to grab marketing by the horns and make it work for you, not against you. Kappes and fellow writer Melissa Bourbon put their heads and experience together to bring you The Tricked-Out Toolbox: Promotion and Marketing Tools Every Writer Needs.

Order your copy today. And when you’re done, leave a nice note at the bottom so other authors will know how helpful it was!