What's the point of this blog!

I'm documenting the marketing for my YA book series "The chick friends rules". I want to see which marketing strategies will work best in creating buzz and hopefully income. So, sign up below and take the journey with me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Judging a book by its cover. Choosing the perfect book cover.

I have been reading a lot in the indie circle lately on the topic of book covers. I've came across some blogs on the subject and there's an entire post on CreateSpace where authors ask strangers to rate their covers.
In my opinion the cover sells the book and to start the process by simply adding clip art with colorful font is a mistake. This is especially important for indie authors; because there's no big publishing marketing machine hired to do the task for you therefore the job should take much consideration.
I've seen some really bad covers out there, I mean really bad. Come on, you have too. A bad cover is a dead giveaway for an indie book. This is the one aspect where it is wise to spend money if you can.
When hiring an artist to create your cover you should do the following.

1. Ask to see samples of their work.

2.Communicate your vision. When I began the process of creating my cover for "The chick friends rules! Freshman year"; I had one vision, I wanted it to look like scribbles on note book paper.

3.Have a focus group of your target audience critique your cover. If they don't like it, the book won't sell and you should start over.

4.Ask your artist to create 2 covers.

5.Wait for the "wedding dress" affect. Ladies, remember when you bought your wedding dress and you cried when you found "the dress". That's exactly how you should feel when you see your cover; emotional. (For men just think the car you loved most)

This is where an author has to be a cut throat business person; I know it's especially hard for women to do because we're trained not to hurt anyone's feelings. But when your neighbors friend who's an artist agrees to do your cover for $50 bucks and you hate it you have to fire them. This is your career! Sometimes the thought of spending extra money on a new artist or starting again in square one is depressing but after spending all that time writing your novel doesn't it deserve premium packaging?

I've included some photos to share my book cover process.

First draft.

Second draft.

Artist interpretation.

What an amazing difference.

My artist was able to take my vision or lack of vision to create something truly amazing.

But my work wasn't done. I had a back up book cover.

I tried to upload it to show you guys but I got an error. Bummer. It was simply "notebook paper" look with the name of the book written in "typewriter" font in red.

Anyway. I had two book cover to choose from. I sent both covers with my daughter who at the time was a junior in high school and asked her to show the covers to at least 25 of her classmates. She tallied the votes and the busy colorful cover was favored by an overwhelming margin.

How do I know my cover works? Because teen readers compliment me on my "cool" covers all the time. I've had some criticism from adults who hate my covers but adults aren't my target audience teens between the ages of 13-17 are, so as long as they love it, its mission accomplished.

Please share your "cover" stories by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Facebook vs AdWords

I've come to realize that promoting my book is going to require some form of paid advertisement; that's the hard reality of it.
I have a FB ad that's been working particularly well for me and I'm on my way to doubling my sales this month and that's just by increasing my CPC (Cost Per Click) by an extra $0.10. But still, I was dissatisfied and wanted to sell 10-20 books per day instead of 4-5 books per day. I kept running into these $75 Adwords coupons all over the place; so I clicked on the "coupon" which was really a sorta credit application that had to be approved. I went ahead and filled out the application (they don't ask for your s.s.) which asked some basic questions about my project. A few hours later I received a rejection letter, they didn't tell me why I was rejected but there you have it. After that I decided to set up my own account just to test the waters of Google advertising. The process was complicated and tedious. I felt like I needed to hire a savvy ad-executive just to get me through it. It took me a couple of days to figure it out but I was successful with setting up the ad and all the components that came with it. The downside was I wasn't allowed to market to anyone under the age of 18; well that's my entire audience (13-17) but I proceeded anyway. The most important part of the set-up was picking the keywords. I chose 34 relevant keywords. I was ready to go. I put in my cc information and set the date for the weekend only, between the hours of 6pm and 3am, because those are the hours teens are wasting away in front of the computer. Now, for the grand finale, after I put in my cc information my keywords lit up with the minimum prices of CPC. My average CPC was $1.25. Kiss my butt Adwords. Some keywords were $0.40 per click but with my 34 keywords my daily budget would exceed $25 per day. I set my daily budget to only $12 per day. My FB ad runs at $1.50 per day. Needless to say I deleted my account and increased my daily budget on FB. I figured that's where teenagers go to live anyway.
Share your paid advertising stories by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

5 writing milestones that comes once in a lifetime.

These milestones bring pure joy to writers.

1. Being inspired to write a great story - Some writers make themselves write. They sit down with their laptops and force themselves to write 30 minutes to an hour everyday honing their skills. I'm not as disciplined. I am one of those writers that is inspired to write. I find it difficult to force myself to write. I was inspired to write "The chick friends rules" series after a platonic friend of my son was molested by her stepfather. The story came out of me like water from a faucet and I didn't stop writing until 2 years later. The last time I was inspired to write was about 13 years ago. Yes, that's how long ago I wrote something. So, for me personally, being inspired was like a gift from the heavens that came once in a lifetime.

2.Finishing your great novel - Every writer can give testament to the exhiliration one feels when writing the words "The End". Ahhhh, talkin' bout pride and satisfaction. Of course all stories will come to an end but the joy of finishing the story you're working on will only happens once. You will never write "that" story ever again.

3.Holding your first book in your hand for the first time - When I received a proof of The chick friends rules!Freshman year; I did the happy dance. I smelled it, I thumbed through it, I called all of my family and friends, I wanted to go out and celebrate, I slept with it under my pillow and turn the lights on in the middle of the night just to look at it. I had a permanent smile on my face for the entire day. It was like giving birth to a first born child. The excitement and joy is unimaginable. The subsequent books, not so much. Yes, I was happy to see the finish product but the feeling wasn't the same as the first novel. It was just business. The first book holds the joy.

4.Your first sale - Oh, my god, do you remember the feeling? I do. A tear came to my eye. I remember thinking to myself; "I think I can pull this off." I stared at the computer screen for about an hour with a smile on my face. And I wondered who was the one person that was enticed to purchase my novel. I called all of my family and friends just to make sure the sale was "legit". And when I realized I sold my book to a stranger; I wanted to track them down just to thank them. Yummy, yummy joy.

5. Breaking 100 sales - For an author signed with a major publisher this may not be a big deal but for an independent author the thrill of selling 100 novels is a milestone. I reached the 100 milestone today, 103 to be exact. I woke up this morning to find the pleasant surprise. Everyday I check my sales on Amazon and B&N and today was the day. I started selling my series back in July. I had a total of 5 sales until the tide turned sometime in December and then January pulled me over the 100 mark. I've been walking on clouds all day.

Please share your milestones as a writer by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

10 call to action words to help sell your book

I found it funny that it was easier to write a 90,000 word novel than to come up with a 30 word ad.I'm really interested in this topic because my Facebook ad always leaves me wondering how I can improve my sales numbers by just changing a few words around. FB is the only marketing I'm doing at the moment, frankly because I'm lazy to do anything else. Blame it on the lack of sun from the blah Chicago winter. I read lots of blogs from other writers who are hitting the pavement going to libraries, book clubs, neighborhood book stores, etc to sell their books and I always feel like I should be doing more. But if I can sell my books from the comfort of my sofa with nothing more than a laptop and some creative wording; I'm going for it. I'll do footwork in the spring. Anyway, I was digging through an old box of junk in my basement and I found an old book I bought back in the 90's on advertising. Although it's a 20 year old book it offered some timeless advice on selling. Here are some simple "call to action" words that I will be using in my ads.

1. Buy Now

2. Free

3 Register

4. Subscribe


6. Offer expires

7. Click here

8. Hurry

9. Free gift

10. Limited time

Here are some "call to action" word that's relevant for today.

11. Immediate download!

If you guys want to add some of your own "call to action" words that have worked for you; leave it in the comment box.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How I wrote a Facebook ad that pays

Before I start, its really good to be back. I'm sooooooo glad the holidays are over. After a one month visit, I sent my daughter back to school in Hawaii, my husband found some temp-work to keep him busy after being laid-off and I FINALLY finished "senior year" and just sent it off for formatting, now I can nurture my blog again.
With the craziness that was my life I didn't do much in the form of marketing. But the one thing I did do was revisit my decision to advertise "The chick friends" with FB. For those who were following I placed an ad with FB back in October and accidentally deleted it and couldn't retrieve it after receiving almost 300 likes. I swore off FB because there was no one I could go to for help because FB doesn't have a customer service staff. Anyway, back in mid December I decided to give it one more shot. I placed an ad and to my surprise I started getting sales; not enough to pay the mortgage but enough to cover the advertising cost and to buy groceries. I was very pleased with the results. I went back and looked at my old ad and compared it to my new ad to see what the difference was; it's all in the wording. I used the same photos for both ads; but this time I simply changed the wording.

Old FB ad

Hey girls...ever wonder what he's thinking?

Find out in this edgy coming of age series
"The chick friends rules"

With this ad I sold a whopping...get ready for it...4 books.

New FB ad

The Chick Friends Rules teen book series only $0.99

With the new ad I sold 48 books in the remaining two weeks of December.

Somehow the formula is working. I was honest and got straight to the point. So, whomever clicked on my link knew immediately I was selling an Ebook for $0.99. I'm seeing a steady stream of sales as those who purchased "freshman year" are committing to the series and buying the subsequent titles as well. That's $6.11 in royalties per customer if they purchase the entire Ebook series. I'm selling between 1-5 books per day. It's not a lot but it's a significant jump from the first FB ad. However I've only sold 2 actual paperback copies generating $1.62 in royalties. With those low numbers I should continue to nurture the Ebooks. My goal is to sell about 300 books per month but I'll take what I can get. I'm still in the learning phase.

It's funny how changing a few words around can be the difference between selling and not selling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

the anatomy of a "review" request letter

Hey, ladies and gents,

I thought I would share with you the "review" request letter I've been sending out to bloggers.

YA contemporary fiction
ISBN-13: 978-0983398905


Hello blogger's name ,

My name is Vici Howard, I’m an author and I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Add some detail about the blog here.
I am inquiring about my contemporary YA novel; The chick friends rules, freshman year. I've included a brief summary of the novel below.

I am contacting you because I am requesting a review in exchange for a free copy of the book mailed to you. I would also like to participate in a U.S. giveaway in exchange for an author’s interview if it meets with your scheduling demands.

I've added a link to the website and book trailer.



Thank you for your time,

Vici Howard

The chick friends rules, freshman year.

Rule #1 Treat her like one of the guys.
Rule#2 Don’t think of your chick friend when you…you know.
Rule#3 Don’t fall in love with her.

Fifteen-year-old Grant Lee is a "cool kid" who is popular with the girls. He adheres to the strict code of the “chick friend hierarchy”. There are girls a guy thinks about when he's in his bedroom alone and girls a guy farts around.
Grant is friends with Marta, the latter in the "chick friend hierarchy". She is an intriguing but slightly overweight Latina with a story of her own.
Grant is faced with an embarrassing dilemma; he has a secret crush on Marta but is ashamed to tell his friend because she’s the “fat girl”. If his secret gets out it could be social suicide for Grant.
So, he goes out of his way to conceal his feelings for her by making a series of bad choice and by engaging in risky behavior. When he gets the courage to tell her his true feelings, she mysteriously vanishes.

Of course you can tweak this letter however you want.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How much does it really cost to publish a book?

Someone asked me how much money I've personally spent on publishing my books.
Here's the financial breakdown for each.
It would have been less if I hired a team that knew what the heck they were doing. For example; the artist I hired from the junior college up the street was a great artist and I fell in love with the book covers he created. I mean, I love my book covers. The only idea I gave him, was I wanted doodles on a spiral notebook like we had in H.S. and he came up with these amazing covers. I cried when I saw them. Now, for the bad. My brilliant student artist didn't create the covers using the correct format and the covers were rejected. So I had to hire another skilled graphic artist who was familiar with formatting to correct the original covers so they would upload.

My editor: I hired another kid who was the editor of a small town newspaper in Texas to edit my first two books. He was awful but I didn't know he was awful until I got my first review which complained about comma splices. I fired him immediately. I didn't check behind the editor because he's the editor and I figured he knew more than I did. Lesson learned. Didn't get my money back either.

So, I made some financial blunders that cost me. But here's the breakdown so anyone new to the scene will have an idea.

Book cover: $100

Corrected PDF book cover format:$50

Editing first two books: $750.00

Formatting fees: $200

Copyright fees: $35

Createspace pro plan fee: $39

If I did't pay for editing the cost per book would come to $424.00 which means if I'm only getting roughly $1.80 in profit; I would have to sell 235 copies of each book to break even. Some non-writers think I'm crazy, because it doesn't make financial sense. But that's the price of my dream and I don't regret it at all.

If anyone wants to share their calculations I'd be interested in knowing so just leave a comment.