Wow, it seems romance chat is hitting the airwaves hard and I’m loving it! Unfortunately not always with a positive twist … which I’ve never understood. Here’s my view. If a book has characters working on a relationship (and who isn’t?) then it can fall into the romance genre. They’re likely trying to save the world, bring down the bad guy or save a man/woman from themselves, but still … it’s romance. Not every romance is a Harlequin category. But I think that’s what readers are thinking when they say they don’t like romance.
Just the other day I was chatting with a guy who was surprised to realize romance was so much more than English Lords seducing the naive virgin Countess in hopes of stealing her land. He went so far as to say that perhaps romance writers actually seem to love men and may actually be advocating for wonderfully naughty things to be done to them.
One of the things I love about self-publishing is the freedom to design my own book covers. Making the decision of how to present my books to the public is HUGE! Though my publishers have been good, there have been several of my covers over the years that have disappointed me. Those are the covers where I felt the publisher wasn’t considering the marketing of my book when they sent me the final draft. And unfortunately, after the initial paperwork, there is no changing a cover once the design department has finished with it. 🙁
So now, I’d like to share with you how I go about creating a book cover … or more accurately … how I share my vision with my cover artist.
It’s been a month in the making … but the time has FINALLY arrived!!! Beginning tomorrow I start on my a whirlwind tour of frivolity, fun, and just general trouble making across the Internet. 14 days. 13 stops. Random prizes. One Grand Prize of a $25 Gift Card, three signed print books, book bag, t-shirt, and general “Nina” stuff for one lucky commenter across all blog stops.
Yep, it’s a marketing free-for-all for A TOUCH OF LILLY. There will be interviews and excerpts, reviews and some interesting insights into me (scary place, this brain of mine LOL!). I hope you can join me!
Here is the schedule:
July 29: Illustrious Illusions
July 30: The Reading Addict
July 30: Deal Sharing Aunt
July 31: Books and Other Spells
August 1: Erotica For All
August 2: Tina Donahue Presents
August 2: Friday Finds
August 5: Beyond Romance
August 6: Wickedly Wanton Tales
August 7: Wicked Readings by Tawania
August 7: Smoldering Heat
August 9: Words of Wisdom from The Scarf Princess
August 9: Literal Hotties Naughty Books Reviews
The posts have been written. The prizes have been ordered. Looks like we’re a green for launch!
Ready. Set. GO!
So it’s come around again … that age old discussion of marketing. And more specifically–marketing books.
Wait, don’t run away. I’ve got a couple of serious questions (mostly because I’m trying to make a point to an author friend who is currently working on the cover design for their first self-published work and I hate being wrong) and so I need your help.
Most readers when looking at a new author will base their buying decision on:
1) the cover
2) the book description (or back cover blurb)
and if they’re still undecided in some order …
3) first few pages
4) reader reviews
So if that’s the case, the cover needs to reflect both the genre and the tone of the story. In this ever-changing world of publishing it’s sometimes difficult to know what readers will respond to. Romance has seen its fair share of handsome men:
There are also the romance novels with scenery:
But times are a-changing. With the breakout success of the erotic romance 50 Shades of Grey readers are seeing less skin on their romance novels:
And these covers have done their job very well. All of these books draw readers in with their stunning visuals. We all have covers we love and covers we “live with” because they adorn the novels of our favorite authors. Cover designs aren’t always in the hands of an author, but rather the marketing department of a publisher. But with the advent of self-publishing, authors have much more control over the elements found on the book cover. We get to decide how we’re going to portray our story and draw romance/mystery/paranormal readers to our books.
And here’s what this whole blog is about. A friend of mine is finishing up edits for an amazing love story I’ve had the privilege of reading as it was developed. I know this story could be a HUGE seller. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you sigh as these two people find their happy-ever-after. BUT … and there is a huge BUT … my friend wants to use some original artwork on the cover. Think Picasso (due to copyright I can’t show you the pics, you’ll have to follow the link). You know, artistically depicted woman. Think lots of symbolism in the art.
And it’s a beautiful piece of art, but to me, it’s just not … a romance book cover. So I’m throwing it out to all of you … would you stop and even read the book description of a book with art on the cover? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.
*** UPDATE ***
My friend is watching this discussion carefully and doesn’t feel I’m giving the artwork its due when I compare it to Picasso (which, I admit, wasn’t a good comparison, but I searched the internet and couldn’t find a better description). So with permission from the author I offer you the actual artwork that is being considereed for this contemporary romance. The point is still, would this make you stop and pick up this book if you were looking for a great love story?
Okay, so with all the book noise and chatter out there authors are always trying to figure out how to be heard in the din of thousands of books. We’re always trying to find that little gadget that will lead a reader to our books. One reader actually said “an author’s promotional item is like a little gift to me”. And maybe little doo-jiggers don’t have readers buying your books, but simply seeing your name. It’s a general rule of thumb that someone needs to see your name 10 times before they stop and look into it.
So the question becomes … how do we spend that promotional dollar effectively?
On all the loops I participate in authors are discussing what draws a reader to buy your book. In e-publishing this it’s even more difficult as your product is sort of nebulous… not something the consumer can put their hands on… and that makes it a difficult sell.
So with all sincerity we’re discussing bookmarks and postcards; sticky notes and glitter pens; emery boards and flashlights; trying to come up with the gimmick that will make a person so fired up they just can’t wait to get home and download your book!
I’ve spent alot of time designing and printing romance trading cards for my books. I send them out to reader conventions that I’m not attending. I’m fortunate in that I have an artistic eye and putting something together like that is enjoyable. Anyhoodles… I thought they came out beautifully. But left to their own devices, sitting among all the other glitzy author material, will they entice someone enough to 1) pick it up and 2) buy the book or at least 3) check out my website. Frankly, I don’t know.
Through this whole process it’s occurred to me… I don’t buy books. (Or I didn’t until my friends started publishing, now I buy their books. And forgive me for even thinking this… but if it’s coming out in print… I wait to buy that version… oh, I should have my hand slapped!)
So, what’s the point of all this rambling? I’m just curious… if you can’t pick the book up in the bookstore and you only have promotional material available to you… what makes you curious enough to investigate the author/book? A snazzy bookmark? A postcard with a blurb about the book? Some cute trinket?
Tell me… I’m dying of curiousity.
Oh, and here’s a sampling of my trading cards. Email me Nina (AT) NinaPierce.com if you want a full set for yourself.
With so many authors jumping into the self-publishing pond, I thought I’d share my experience. First of all, let me just say, if you weren’t already aware … I found the trek from writer to publisher to be a very steep climb. We’re talking ice crampons, ropes and pick axes (can you tell I’m doing research for a new story?) But one that’s going to be worth the view from the top.
I released my three book series in April, June and October (oops … a couple of months late) of this year. I originally released the first two as erotic suspense, but found, much like my experience at my original publisher, they weren’t romantic enough for the usual romantic suspense reader and not erotic enough for the erotic romance reader. Sales by July were non-existent. So I dropped back, reassessed, redid the covers and cut back on all the sex in the stories and put them back up as sexy romantic suspense. They are very slowly hitting their stride.
I’ve tried different price points, $.99, $1.49 and $2.99 (the last one to get the 70% royalty on Amazon). Price didn’t seem to be a factor. And no one complained about the short novel length even at the $2.99. I’m going to continue to mess with the prices until I find a nice balance between price and sales.
I’ve done a blog tour and advertising for the first two, but since I didn’t see any uptick in sales with all the hard work, I didn’t bother to push the publicity for the most recent release. My sales for all three book have remained about $15/month for Amazon and $5/month at Barnes and Noble since the spring. It may be hardly worth the gas to the bank to cash the check, but I remain undaunted!
I now have the books up at All Romance Ebooks and though sales aren’t brisk at the moment over there, it is another venue for people to find my books.
I am happy to report that being part of the BOOK LOVER’S BUFFET (where every book on the website is $.99) has been a shot in the arm this month. I’ve sold just over 100 books at the posting of this blog with another TWO weeks to the end of the month. Obviously the collective marketing of nearly 100 authors is helping to get the word out.
I’m also looking to do some specialized marketing in January with Pixel of Ink (if my book is approved for an advertising spot), a site where thousands of Kindle readers search for their next read. I’m hoping this will boost sales especially to new-to-me-readers.
So there you have it. Total disclosure. Not the millions some authors are selling. Nor the rocket success of author Catherine Bybee, who recently made the USA Bestseller list with one of her self-published books. But I keep plodding along. I’ve made a resolution to myself for the new year though. I WILL step off this crazy marketing merry-go-round and begin writing again. Funny, how people can’t read a book sitting unfinished on my computer!
I’m always happy to answer questions about self-publishing. Feel free to email me at Nina AT NinaPierce.com I’ll happily share with you what I’ve learned and hopefully steer you clear of some of those hidden pitfalls.
I love my life. Really I do. (This is me convincing myself of that fact.) Most days I throw my shoulders back, lift my chin and put a smile on my face and head out the door. Weeeelll, okay, not the door, but out into the virtual world of the internet.
I’m mostly a positive person.
But the last couple of weeks I’ve been working really hard on marketing. You know, that four letter word that authors hate to talk about, but which is a necessary evil sometimes. I must say, this time I really stepped in it. I have totally overextended my obligations going into the holidays and now I’m paying the piper.
Translation … I have so many flippin’ guest blogs/book uploads/website coding obligations that my mind has become a sieve. Every idea has fallen through the holes created by the spinning miasma of confusion all this tap dancing around the internet has created. Seriously, if I was making enough money I’d hire an assistant just to do all the tweeting and facebook announcements that people are asking me to do. It’s insane.
I have a hard enough time promoting myself and now I’ve committed to a $.99 Book Blog where I’ve agreed to help promote everyone else’s books (and there are some wonderful books). And this is all good because all these people are going to promote my book as well. But it does make me wonder if people are going to be turned off as it gets closer to Christmas and all they’re seeing is promotion promotion promotion. Yeah, that makes Nina a very dull writer. I like to think I can amuse and entertain now and again. But that requires I spend more time than I currently have at the moment, hanging out on Twitter and Facebook chatting with folks as if I didn’t have a real life with things to do and there was no need for me to writing another book.
Oh, yeah writing. I remember that rewarding activity.
Anyway, I can’t stay long. My to-do list includes putting some books up on a new site and figuring out how to put my digital books in print. My characters are just going to have to step to the back of the line. I’ll get them their HEA as soon as I find mine. LOL!
I’ve been thinking a lot about promotion lately. (But really, if you ask most authors, their marketing concerns rank right up there with their looming deadline and the next line edits.) Because, let’s face it, our books might as well just be sitting on our computers if they’re not out their finding readers.
But then again … there is such a thing as TOO much. And I wonder when an author knows when they’ve crossed that line. I mean, I think everyone else knows when a promotion, whether it’s blog/contest announcements or a promotional excerpt that’s blasted everywhere, is driving them insane. Eventually, that cool promo the author was so excited about, becomes the spam that every receiver just deletes with an eyeroll.
And you know, I’ve begun to wonder if I am that author. I know there’s a balance between letting people know my new book is out and becoming a nuisance in the inbox. The fact is, when you hit that point, people no longer see you anyway.
Yet there is that 10 exposure thing before a person consciously recognizes your name. That’s right. We need to see something an average of 10 times before it works its way into our psyche. And of course the same 10 things aren’t going to be seen by the same 10 people so that means a smattering of promo across different avenues to be sure you’ve hit everyone more than once…or does it?
There are so many ways to market that a gal can go crazy trying to keep up with it all. And the old addage, do what you enjoy doesn’t always apply, because quite frankly, I enjoy more than I should. Sometimes to the detriment of my writing. LOL! There are times when I’d be just as happy sitting around chatting on twitter or making a book trailer as writing my next book. Heck, that other stuff is easy, which meant I did it A LOT.
Well no more. I’ve dropped out of Yahoo loops I wasn’t really using. I’ve stopped blog surfing (which is rather ironic since I blog) and I’ve limited my twitter to a couple days a week. You see, I’ve been watching some really successful authors and they don’t market. They write. Now isn’t that a novel idea?
Anyway, I just thought I’d share with you the newest in my “paper” marketing…romance trading cards. They came out beautiful. I’m so pleased. Frauke at Croco Designs took my vision and turned it into these …
Aren’t they gorgeous? I’ve just started sending them out. (And yes, Zane is noticeably missing from the “Bonded” set … there was a glitch that’s been fixed and he should be arriving soon.) They’ll be making their debut appearance in some goodie bags at RWA National Convention in a couple of weeks.
So what do you think? When does an author’s promotion become an annoying buzzing in your ears. Because you know me … I just gotta know!
I’ve only been in the publishing world for six years this month (oh, happy anniversary to me!). Though it’s a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things, I think the past five years, heck, the last two even, have seen the publishing world change exponentially.
One of the things I find interesting is the discussions of genre. I’m not sure if it’s because more genres are popping up or if authors, looking to break into a highly competitive market, are mashing genres together and therefore defying a genre definition.
Let me first start by saying. I read romance. I write romance. I didn’t know that books (other than non-fiction) didn’t fall into that category. I know some readers who are surprised to find the book they’re reading is considered romance when it was shelved in the science fiction section. The fact is, romance is no longer just sweet contemporary and historical love stories. And there in lies the confusion.
This blog post was sparked by a discussion of what constitutes science fiction. In my opinion (which is what this blog is all about), science fiction stories deal with some imagined technology and its impact on the characters. These stories often, but not always, take place in the future, which means they can also be considered futuristic romances. Though for me, when defining my books, I tend to think of futuristic as specific to an alternate future, like Healer’s Garden. Whereas A Touch of Lilly, which also takes place in the future, but in another galaxy, I would consider science fiction.
Steampunk is a specific type of science fiction that is an alternate history rather than future. The stories involve a period in time when steampower was used. The science fiction is the fantastical weapons and machines powered by steam that the author creates. Think Wild, Wild West with Will Smith (*sigh*) and Kevin Kline.
Another umbrella term for genre especially popular today is the Paranormal category. Stories in this genre often blend and can easily be defined as one sub-genre or another. For me, the easily defined paranormal stories are those that involve vampires, zombies or shifters. My Shifting Bonds series falls into this category.
But … if a story includes faeries, gnomes or magic, then it’s defined as Fantasy romance. This sub-genre is further delineated by the term Urban Fantasy. These stories often are written in first person and take place in an urban setting, though it can be contemporary, historical or future time setting, the defining factor is the world created has magic and mysticism as part of the every day landscape. Urban fantasies however involve human characters with the powers rather than mystical creatures, though shifters, vampires and angels also play a role.
Of course once authors start blurring the lines between genres, mixing and matching as plots, settings and characters develop, more and more authors are having a hard time pigeon-holing their stories. This of course leaves the marketing departments of publishing houses with the difficulty of figuring out how best to market a book and where to shelve it in the bookstores. Which in turn, sometimes leaves readers stumbling around the bookstore trying to figure out how exactly to find their favorite author’s new book.
So, what do you think, did I hit the nail on the head or am I completely off the mark with my definitions? Leave me a comment. I’d like to know how you see this new genre confusion.
I’m having a give away for the WHOLE month of June…a basket FULL of goodies! I can’t take a picture of it because my stuff is still in storage for the next month. (Fingers crossed we’re in a house by July.)
What’s in the basket?
A print copy of Healer’s Garden
Random print books from my conference overflow
Bookmarks, pens and other Nina goodies
A deck of EC playing cards
A $15 Amazon gift card
… probably more random stuff from my prize closet
How do you get your name thrown in the hat?
1) One chance for “LIKING” my Facebook fan page (be sure to leave a comment on the page to tell me you’re new)
2) One chance when someone who has “Liked” my fan page mentions your name as referring them to my FB Fan Page
3) Three chances entered for each review for Blind Love or Love’s Bounty (coming in mid-June) left on Amazon, GoodReads or Barnes and Noble.
And that’s it! One name will be drawn from all entries. The giveaway will run from today to JUNE 30 at noon EDT. (Shipping is for residence of the US or Canada only. An international winner would receive a $20 Amazon gift certificate in addition to the $15 card already included in the basket.)
And just because it’s been awhile since I shared some sexy man flesh, here is some drool worthy awesomeness I hope you come across this weekend …