Use Any Holiday – Not Just THE Holidays – to Promote Your Book

Santa might be the ultimate celebrity pitchman, but you don’t have to hold out till Christmas to take advantage of holiday promotional opportunities for your book. If you strike when the iron is hot (or heat a different iron entirely) you can create demand for your book any time of the year – and that is most wonderful!

The key to tapping into holiday sales opportunities is knowing your audience. If you can identify who your buyer is likely to be, you can make an educated guess about when they’re most likely to respond to the opportunity to buy.

While Christmas does indeed tend to be a hot time for book sales, it’s certainly not the only peak sales opportunity and not every type of book or book consumer will peak during this season. For instance, readers who buy a lot of diet and motivational books for themselves throughout the year may prefer a juicier indulgence than the usual self-help fare at Christmas. If your book is a saucy bodice-ripper, go for it! (In fact, you can push that romance novel again come Valentine’s Day.) However, if your specialty is, say, finance, self-improvement or inspirational, consider a New Year’s campaign to help readers get started on those resolutions.

Everywhere you look and for every type of book, there’s an ideal time to on which to focus marketing efforts. (Think at least a couple of months ahead for major holidays.) Here are just a few examples of holidays and books that may sell well at those times:

  • Halloween – horror, crime, mystery, thriller
  • Thanksgiving – cooking/food, crafts
  • Spring – gardening, romance, sports, home improvement, nature, travel
  • Mother’s Day – biographies, romance, fiction
  • Father’s Day – sports, humor, home improvement, auto
  • Summer – sports, fiction, romance, travel
  • Secular Holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day) – patriotic, historical (fiction and nonfiction), ethnic heritage, political
  • Festivals – cooking/food, crafts, music, ethnic

In addition to the obvious possibilities, there are scads of anniversaries and national days or months recognizing just about everything: Black History Month, D-Day, National Doughnut Day, Administrative Professionals Day, St. Patrick’s Day, National Chili Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month … and Elephant Appreciation Day, for Pete’s sake! If you’ve authored a biography on President Ronald Reagan, you can market your tome on Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and the lesser known National Jelly Bean Day, in honor of The Gipper’s affinity for the sugary treat. Find one that aligns naturally with your area of interest and promote, promote, promote!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

3 Things to Do If You Don’t Win NaNoWriMo

As NaNoWriMo comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on what you did (and didn’t) do this month. Did you meet the seemingly lofty goal of 50,000 words? Did you make it half way through? Or, are you like me and never got a chance to start?

Well, allow me to explain my situation a little more…

I began the month of November with every intention to start and win NaNoWriMo even though I didn’t have the foggiest idea who or what to write about. I have a strong fondness for the craft of “birthing” words, but I couldn’t get myself motivated to start this month. Every time I felt I may have time to, life got in the way. Sooner or later, I was able to come up with every excuse to not start writing. That leaves me at the end of November with no word count next to my name.

It’s actually quite scary…

I’m not allowing that to break my spirits, though. While I may not have “won” NaNoWriMo, I’m still a winner in my mind. I’ve had an opportunity to cheer on many others in their conquest to literary success – including Outskirts Press Vice President, Kelly Schuknecht. Overall, this has been an amazing month for so many budding novelists!

I will say – making the decision to finish a book for NaNoWriMo is hard. It’s much more difficult that it initially seems. There are great support teams to help potential novelists stay focused on reaching their daily word count goals. This doesn’t help everyone, though. This is especially true if you can’t find the time to sit down to write on a (somewhat) regular schedule.

So, what do you do if you don’t finish (or start) NaNoWriMo? Here’s a few things to begin with:

  1. Finish anyway. Just because November is over doesn’t mean that you are unable to finish your book. You achieved a major goal by starting the writing process. November is not the only time you can commit to writing a book. I see a finish line in your future!
  2. Hire a ghostwriter. If you have no clue how to continue on with your work, a ghostwriter may be able to help. This is probably the simplest solution if you want to finish your book in the near future and you’ve run out of ideas and/or can’t find the time to finish writing yourself. If you’re having a hard time finding a ghostwriter, you can ask your (future) publisher for recommendations.
  3. Make a vow to participate next year. Did November come at the most inconvenient time for you (it did for me!)? There’s always next year’s event! Or, feel free to start right away and/or hire a ghostwriter.

How are you coping with not winning NaNoWriMo?

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

What You Need to Know About the Amazon Kindle Price-Fixing Case

Amazon Kindle DX
Creative Commons License
Amazon Kindle DX by texqas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

In a mid-October letter to customers, Amazon pledged partial refunds to Kindle ebook buyers after a tentative agreement by three publishers to settle a price-fixing, anti-trust case. The publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, were accused in a suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice of colluding to keep ebook prices artificially high by blacklisting other retailers who sold books at lower prices.

Around Oct. 13, Kindle customers received notification from Amazon that book publishers Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster had tentatively settled their antitrust lawsuit concerning Kindle ebook prices. Under the settlements, the publishers agreed to provide funds for a credit that will be applied directly to customers’ Amazon.com accounts, pending Court approval in February 2013.

We have good news. You are entitled to a credit for some of your past e-book purchases as a result of legal settlements between several major e-book publishers and the Attorneys General of most U.S. states and territories, including yours. You do not need to do anything to receive this credit. We will contact you when the credit is applied to your Amazon.com account.

Rebate credits can be used to purchase Kindle books or print books. The amount of individual credits isn’t known, but the Attorneys General estimate that it will range from $0.30 to $1.32 for each eligible Kindle book purchased between April 2010 and May 2012.

Apple, Penguin and MacMillan were also named in the price-fixing, anti-trust lawsuit, but continue to fight the case. We will keep you posted on the resolution of that case.

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

Getting the Good Out of Bad Book Reviews

“No statue has ever been erected to a critic.” – Jean Sibelius

As much as every writer wants to bask in the accolades that come with a job well done, most of us don’t get through the writing process unscathed. If, by the time you publish, an editor or proofreader hasn’t zeroed in on all your writing flaws, at least one book reviewer is bound to do just that.

Let’s face it: Bad reviews sting! No matter how much praise your book gets, that one negative critique is usually the one that stands out. But as painful as it is to face the poisoned pen of a critic, it’s our mistakes that have the most to teach us. If you’re smart about your response, bad reviews could be the best thing that happens to you as a writer.

Before you fire off an angry retort or fashion a mojo doll in someone’s likeness, take a slow, deep breath. Don’t do anything in haste. Just cool your jets awhile, then take a few steps to get the ball rolling toward that silver lining:

  • Make sure the “reviewer” isn’t a competing author or a serial malcontent. Look up their other reviews. If they’ve posted an inordinate number of malicious reviews – perhaps all similarly worded – you can probably, at the very least, put very little stock in their comments.
  • Take action when necessary. If you suspect a reviewer is sabotaging your efforts to boost their own book sales or some other reason, contact Amazon, Nook or whatever book selling site is involved. You may be able to have bogus reviews taken down.
  • Answer your critics. Build a little goodwill by answering less-than-glowing endorsements with a personal reply. Let them know you’re sorry the book wasn’t their cup of tea, but you appreciate their comments (OK, you may have to fake that part). Solicit specific likes and dislikes, if they haven’t already spelled it out.

Once that’s out of the way, start making lemonade. It’s up to you to sweeten all the sour bits and turn them into something palatable. And believe me, there is something positive to be found in even the nastiest feedback:

  •  Look for specifics. A review that merely hurls vague insults is meaningless. It may be that the review was based solely on the reader’s preferences and personal biases and has little else to offer. Disregard those reviews, or those parts of reviews, and look for specific critical input. Did the reviewer complain about spelling errors? Were there factual errors in your book? Did he/she provide specific feedback about why the narrative failed to move the story along, or why the characters fell flat?
  • Learn from your critics. You may find that some reviewers have identified a weakness, your Achilles heel as a writer. Use that insight to buttress your flaws; it’ll make you a better writer in the long run.
  • Focus on what you can change. At times, reviewers are going to take a swipe at your style: the way you phrase things, the type of language you use, the type of characters you write about, the subject matter, etc. Often these choices make you you and aren’t up for discussion. Your style is your style. Period. As long as it’s not sloppy and incorrect, stay true to it.
  • Keep it in perspective. Even classics get bad reviews. Heck, huge bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey have received hundreds of negative reviews from readers and critics alike. Your story is simply not going to resonate with everyone.

While negative comments hurt, they’re not likely to sink a truly good book, and the innate desire to prove your critics wrong will inspire you to shore up your writing in the future. If you can muster the humor to laugh about your ugliest reviews, you might even frame the worst as wicked little good-luck charms or sorts – right next to your best-selling book!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

How NaNoWriMo Can Explode Your Writing Career – Yes, Really!

National Novel Writing Month, shortened to the kitschy NaNoWriMo (nan-no-RYE-moe), is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that challenges writers to pen a whopping 50,000 words in the month of November. Though it started in 1999 with fewer than two dozen participants, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 speed-writers tackled the challenge in 2010.

NaNoWriMo can kick-start a newbie’s writing efforts, or helped experienced authors loosen up and try freestyle for a while. Many NaNoWriMo participants have even gone on to have their projects published! At the very least, the project is a great writing exercise – and an chance to promote yourself as an author or your future book. In the true spirit of this virtual writing challenge, use the Web to turn NaNoWriMo into a prime marketing opportunity.

  • Start by crowing about your plans. If you don’t already have one, build a blog page on WordPress or another free blog site. Give readers daily reports on what work you’re doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Perhaps you’re reading Moby Dick for inspiration, attended writers’ conference, or you’ve bought a new thesaurus. Bring your audience along with you and get them excited about your adventure. Duplicate your efforts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and any other social media platform you wish.
  • Solicit feedback. Engage your readers in the process by sharing potential plot points and asking them for their ideas. People love the be involved in the creative process, and you may be surprised what scintillating characters and plot twists could spin out of these virtual brainstorming sessions.
  • Poll your potential audience. Ask your friends and readers to answer simple, multiple-choice questions: Should my protagonist be male or female? Which name do you prefer for the main character? Should the hero get the girl – yes or no? It’s a quick way to get people invested in your success and to gather a general consensus when you’re not sure which path to take.
  • Choose cover art. This could be as simple as changing your Facebook photo for the duration of the NaNoWriMo challenge or as involved as designing a prospective book cover. The idea is to associate an image with your project that will set a tone, create an image, inspire you and engage your readers.

Once November 1 rolls around – and, trust me, it will sneak right up on you – it’s time to hunker down for real. To successfully complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, you’ll have to write consistently most days from November 1 through November 30. You’ll need to average 1,667 words per day to meet the 50K quota, more if you take any days off. That means at least a couple solid hours of writing most days. (And leave a little extra writing time to update your blog or Twitter followers and post progress reports on Facebook.) The trick is not to get caught up in achieving perfection in a few short weeks; the goal is a lot of words in a short time, so focus on quantity in November — you can sort out the quality later.

I highly recommend joining a regional group so you can communicate with other participants, listen to ideas, share writing tips and gather suggestions from others. Many past NaNoWriMo authors have valuable advice that can help you make the most of the NaNoWriMo experience.

Now get writing!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

3 Reasons Why You Should Constantly Talk About Your Book on Social Media

Book marketing professionals often discuss the importance of brands (authors, books, etc.) embracing the idea of transparent and natural engagement with users of social media. What if you don’t agree? Are there ever good reasons for constant promotion of your book on social media sites? Sure, here are just a few of the best:

  • You like annoying others. Sure, people are on social media sites to start, build, and grow relationships, but they want to hear about your book book all of the time. Not really. People want to connect with relevant people who engage/participate in relevant discussions. If you annoy them, they will either ignore you or disconnect (unlike, unfriend, unfollow, etc.) from you.
  • You know that everyone needs to know about your book, and they all need to buy it. Target markets? Who needs ’em? Your book was written in gold, and there’s no reason they wouldn’t want to read it. Not necessarily. Every product on the market has a target market. Think about it… not everyone is interested in even the most common things – TV, internet, telephone service, etc. Why would your book be any different? Define your target market and aim to connect with them in a natural way.
  • You want to be ignored. For every person who ignores you, there are 100 more people who will listen, right? Not exactly. People that you connect with are not “a dime a dozen.” They also don’t grow on trees. Cherish the relationships you have built with the goal of building even more meaningful relationships.

Social media can be a powerful book marketing tool – especially if used correctly by authors who take the scenic self-publishing route. You don’t have a traditional publisher standing behind you or throwing their marketing dollars at your book. So, you have to figure out how to “go it alone.”

Interacting with new potential readers on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. could be a potential goldmine for opening the door to earning even more royalties from your book. You not only have a chance to connect with people that you already know, but you can meet new people and form new relationships. Make every opportunity count!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

Screenplays: Five Key Moments

Last week we covered the three acts essential to every story, and every screenplay. Within those three acts are five specific moments, called “key moments,” that move the plot along and strengthen the power of the main characters.

1.) Inciting Incident/Point of Attack
Every movie – without exception – has an inciting incident, a moment when the story first hints at the conflict to come. Most often, the inciting incident occurs near the end of the first act, but many films plunge into the main action right from the beginning.

2.) Lock In
This is the point at which the protagonist is locked into the conflict around which the story revolves. This plot point, usually at the end of the first act, launches the character into his quest to solve the problem that defines the film.

3.) First Culmination.
The first culmination is the point at which the protagonist solves a problem that is important to the story but not the main conflict, usually midway through Act Two.

4.) Main Culmination
The conclusion of the second act sees the resolution of the main tension or conflict …

5.) Third Act Twist
… but our protagonist is tested once again in Act Three. While a script can certainly resolve without a final monkey wrench, this plot device is useful for revealing or further illuminating the changes that have taken place in the characters’ lives.

While this is an exceedingly simplified overview of the elements of a screenplay, mastering these concepts is an important first step to understanding how a “formula” can help a writer produce a well-organized screenplay.

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.