Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marketing and promotion

When I decided to self-publish, I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and I knew I wasn't going to be an overnight bestseller (or even ever a bestseller, unless I was incredibly lucky). And I knew that my biggest struggle was going to be promoting and marketing myself. Despite minoring in Marketing in college, it's not my forte. I think that's due to my introverted nature: I'm not good at asking people to buy my book.

An example: I was at dinner with my parents a week or so ago, and our waitress caught sight of the book I was reading on my phone (the Kindle app was on the cover image at the time) and got all excited because she recognized it: it was written by her aunt, Jeaniene Frost. Small world, huh? After that, my parents urged me to tell her about my book the next time she came back to the table. I felt uncomfortable doing so, partly because she said she doesn't usually read books. But even if she was a big reader, I'd have felt awkward pushing my book on her. I don't like when people hard sell to me, so I'm overly sensitive to doing it with others. In the end, my father did it for me, and she acted like she was interested in checking it out, though I really doubt she remembered my name five minutes later.

Promoting online is a little easier, but I find it difficult to find places to do so. The big places are too expensive, and many of the others are booked solid far in advance. I have one small promotion set to go at the beginning of February, so I hope that generates some interest, and I've done a few giveaways. I know some authors are having success with Amazon's KDP Select program, but I don't like the exclusivity requirement, and since Destined is my only book right now, it wouldn't benefit me in terms of generating interest in backlist. I had an ad on GoodReads that didn't really do much, and ads on Facebook that I turn on and off occasionally. They get me a lot of likes on my Facebook page, and seem to generate a few sales, but in the end, the cost of the ad ends up more than the royalties I get from the sales. Still, it's books I might not have sold otherwise, so I'll take what I can get. I have a bunch of requests out for book blog reviews, and while many said they were interested, only a few have read it yet. Those that have gave it 4-5 stars, so I keep hoping more will get to it soon. Reviews are key, and the more I can get, the better. I only wish more people would review on Amazon. I get a lot of ratings and reviews on GoodReads, but only have 8 on Amazon.

I know the best promotion is publishing more books, so that's what I'm trying to work on. I have one with a beta reader right now, another that's on hold so I can get some distance from it before editing some more, and a third I've recently dusted off. It still needs an ending, but it has one thing going for it the other two don't: it has a TITLE. (For me, this is a big thing. Titles stump me like nobody's business.) It's also kind of a dystopia, which is big right now, so I feel like it would be smart to take advantage of the trend while it's hot. I would never write specifically to fit a current trend, but since the book is already (mostly) written, I might as well make the most of it, right?

I just wish there was some magical, easy way to get people to see my book. But there isn't, so I will continue to slog on, and try to find more time to get a second book out there. If only I didn't need my day job, then I'd have all the time in the world.

Any other authors out there with advice on promotion that worked for them? Or readers who'd like to share how they find books? I know personally, most of my book discoveries come from GoodReads, with the occasional suggestion from Amazon's "also bought" lists or book blogs For those of you on GoodReads, how do you feel when an author sends you a message promoting his/her book? I'm leery of doing that, but it's an option I consider now and then.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Because I’m feeling silly

I was playing around with the video camera on my new phone yesterday, and had to share this. This is one of my cats, Princess. She doesn’t drink like a normal cat most of the time. She prefers to either drink out of my water glass at night, while I’m reading in bed, or she sits patiently by the kitchen sink and waits for someone to turn on the faucet. Then she sticks her head under it and starts slurping. She also likes to climb into the shower after someone’s used it and tries to catch the drops that fall from the showerhead. She gets all wet, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She’s weird.

(hint: For both of these, if you click on the link below each video, it’ll bring up the vimeo page with the full-size videos.)

Princess drinking from Allison on Vimeo.

While I’m in my Vimeo account, might as well share my other video, which is Princess and Buffy as babies (the little black kittens – the orange ones are their brothers, who I adopted out when they were about 8 weeks old). They were awfully cute, weren’t they? The reason they’re in a cage in my bathroom is because they were born outside, to a feral mother, and I brought them in to socialize them. Since we had two other cats already, we had to keep them separated. It took them some time to warm up to me, especially Princess, who was the most skittish of the bunch, but they eventually did, thanks to lots of playing and bribery. (If anyone finds themselves in the position of socializing kittens, I have three words for you: Gerber baby food. The chicken flavor in particular – no onion – is like crack for kittens. You can see me giving it to them at the 4:27 mark.) This video was taken about a week after we caught the kittens and brought them inside. Even after only a week, they’d made massive improvement with me. They would even climb on me while playing, and let me touch them if they were distracted by a toy, each other, or the baby food. It was a slow process, but very rewarding in the end. That said, I’m not sure I’d do it again unless I was going to keep all the cats: giving those two boys up nearly killed me.

Aw, I’m getting all nostalgic, watching it again. *sniff*

Kittens from Allison on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Titanic Tuesdays: Artifact auction

I’ve been somewhat slack on my Titanic Tuesdays posts, and I apologize for that. The holidays were crazy busy, both personally and at work, so I fell behind on most writing-related things. I’m hoping to get back in the swing soon. Since I haven’t yet had time to come up with a fully-researched topic this week, I’m going to talk quickly about a news item that came to my attention last week: Thousands of artifacts salvaged from the wreck are going up for auction.

This worries me. The artifacts are fascinating, and seeing them in person is truly awe-inspiring. I’ve seen many of these myself at exhibitions, so I’m praying that whoever buys them will continue to exhibit them to the public in a responsible and respectful manner. It looks like the auction winner will have to be vetted in some way to gain approval to purchase the lot, so I’m cautiously optimistic. It would be awful if they let some rich tycoon buy them and then hoard them away in a personal collection somewhere.

In regards to the artifacts themselves, I’ve always had mixed feelings. On the one hand, there’s something about seeing these items in person that really brings the story of the Titanic to life. It sparks the imagination, makes the people who lost their lives more real. On the other hand, it’s always bothered me that these expeditions are going down, landing on the wreck (which has seriously damaged the decks) and taking things from the ship to haul back out of the sea and put on display. How is that any different than stealing treasures from one of the pyramids? It isn’t, not really, except most pyramids only have one body inside. The Titanic is the grave of over 1500 people.

I’m less bothered by artifacts retrieved from the debris field, though I’m not sure why. Obviously, bodies fell there as well, as evidenced by the photos of leather boots (such as the one on the cover of DESTINED). Maybe it’s because those expeditions aren’t doing any harm to the ship itself? I don’t know. I guess I’m a little bit of a hypocrite all the way around, as I’ve attended many of the artifact exhibitions over the years and done my fair share of “ooh”ing and “ahhh”ing over everything. I may not completely approve of their means, but once the items are on dry land, I can’t resist looking at them. I’m just too fascinated by the ship to look away.

This one in particular, which is part of the lot going up for auction (along with the Big Piece, I believe), is something that has always stuck with me more than any other piece. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because there’s a name on it? There’s a mystery surrounding it, as no one has been able to deduce for certain who it belonged to. Some believe it was Amy Jacobsohn, a 2nd Class passenger, while others believe it was Amy Stanley’s, despite her sailing in Third Class. Some say the bracelet was found in a leather bag that contained items from the 2nd Class Purser’s safe, while others say it was found with other steerage items in the debris field. If you read through some of the message board threads about the bracelet (such as the one on the Encyclopedia Titanica boards here), it’s hard to say who’s right. One person insists they saw an account from Amy Stanley herself that it was hers, yet later her own great granddaughter posts to say this isn’t true. For all we know, it belonged to none of them, and was being brought back to America as a gift for a loved one back home. If I had to speculate, I’d say Amy Jacobsohn makes the most sense. I just can’t imagine a Third Class passenger being able to afford a diamond bracelet.

Pretty, isn’t it? I’m oddly attached to this bracelet, so I hope whoever wins the auction has just as much respect for the items as the rest of us Titanic buffs do. It would be a crime if they faded into obscurity in a dusty storage shed somewhere.

If you’d like to see photos of other pieces in the auction, The Guardian has a slideshow up here.