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.

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giveaway site

Hey ladies and gents,

I stumbled on this giveaway site that I would like to share. It's called Free Book Friday at http://www.freebookfriday.com/

Authors have the option of purchasing their own giveaway date for a small fee or being put on a free "wait list" for a giveaway date at the discretion of the website owners. Since I'm all about free,I put my name on the "wait list". As a part of the application process, I had to select and answer from a list of interview questions and give basic information about my book,"The chick friends rules, freshman year". They also asked how many copies of the book I wanted to giveaway. I pressed send and waited. I received an email about 3 days later telling me of a giveaway opening the week of January 22nd. But then, I received another email this past Thursday saying someone dropped out of the giveaway and they had an opening for this week. My book will be displayed for this week only as the "feature teen book of the week", after which I have to ante up and mail the books to the winners.

Just a note, I checked the website and I didn't see any "comments" under my book, so I'm not sure how the traffic is although the website is claiming 25,000 views per month. I'll keep you posted

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 things I can do to earn money as a writer

I've been thinking about where my writing career is going to lead after the "Chick friends rules" series has run its course.I finished the 4 novel within 2 years and frankly I'm out of ideas for another book. But I still want to pursue a career in writing. So, I did some research and these are some options I've come up with. Which enterprise to pursue depends on personality, time commitment,and experience.

1. Blogger
Its easy and free. You just need a really good blog topic that is of interest to others. Blogging takes nurturing. I have clicked on many blogs to find the last blog entry was months ago and the blogger have not been deleted the blog (I have to admit, I'm guilty of this). Finding new post topics can sometimes be a headbanger but its worth the effort. They easiest way to earn money as a blogger is with advertising. Adsense by Google is a pay-per-click account that can be added to your blog and generates some income; maybe not enough to pay the mortgage but at least enough to buy a pair of shoes. I've been waiting on my own Adsense approval since early November.

If you are a writer that did well in English 101; you can offer editing services to writers like me who can't put a grammatically correct sentence together to save my life. I have my first book review as proof of poor grammar. Some editors charge by the hour, the page or by the word. When I was looking for an editor I was being quoted $0.014 cents per word. If you're editing a manuscript that's 85,000 words you could easily earn $1,190.00 of income. Not too shabby. Of course on the downside you have to work on a deadline and sometimes with crabby writers. Editing can also be tedious and time consuming work but if you're a loner and have time on your hand then go for it.

3.Web content writers
If you're good at self-management this could be an option. Web content article are usually short; sometimes 200 -500 words. I've read where writers get paid by the article or by the word. If by the article, it can ranges of $10-$50 per article or if by the word;the ranges can be $0.025-$1.50 per word. It depends on your experience and of course who you're working for. I got an e-mail from Yahoo last year offering a similar opportunity to write small articles not to exceed 200 words based on provided topics. I scanned over the topics but I never got around to actually writing anything. That's what I mean about being good at self-management.

4.Ghost writers
There are folks who have great ideas for books but absolutely no literary talent whatsoever. That's where a ghost writer comes in. You can sign up on one of those freelance writers websites or place an ad on Craigslist. You would also need a website to promote your services. To be a successful ghost writers, it is imperative to meet your deadlines. Again, with the self-management. How much you can charge depend how successful you are as a writer.I've read; successful writers with a lengthy literary portfolio can earn up to $8000 for a manuscript but a novice can earn as little as $2000.

I think I might go this route. If you're personable,like mentoring and offering one-on-one instruction, a good organizer and willing to create your own curriculum; you might want to consider offering a writers workshop. There's no shortage of newbie writers who dream of writing the next great American novel but have no idea how to get started. You can create your workshop on a multitude of subjects; self-publishing, creative writing, marketing etc...it depends on your strength and expertise on the subject. You can easily rent out space at the public library or a rec center in your community. What you charge depends on the demand and location. I saw a creative writing class in my community going for $40 per person for a 3 hour class. If you get 10 people to sign up for your class that's $400 for 3 hours of work. Impressive.

These are just some of my ideas; I'm sure there are tons more ways to earn money as a writer. If you have an idea please share by leaving a comment.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Essential marketing terms I've learned.

I thought I'd put together a few terms that I've come across regularly since I began marketing my YA series "The Chick friends rules". I'm sure there's tons more but these are the terms I've come in contact with most often.

ARC- Advanced Review Copy. Usually a free copy of your book sent to reviewers.

Bar code-That's the row of lines on the back of your book where they will place your ISBN# which will identify your book title.

Blog-Personal digital diary shared with the masses.

Blogger-The author of the personal digital diary that is essential for a word of mouth campaign.

Copyright - Protecting your property. Back in the 80's I would mail a copy of my books to myself as a cheap version of copyright protection. I also remember if I wanted to submit a book to the Library of Congress I had to get an application, print out a hard copy of my book usually at $0.2 per page, get a money order for the processing fee, carry the thick stack to the post office and pay hefty postage.Phwwww! Now I can go directly to the Library of Congress website and upload my book directly from my laptop for $35.00. The process takes 15-20 minutes. Now that's progress. Super simple, easy breezy. http://www.loc.gov/index.html

CPC- cost per click. If you decide to go the paid advertising route, you will see this term used often. It's what you're paying every time a potential customer clicks on your ad that takes them to your designated landing page. The typical rate can range anywhere from $0.15 per click to $0.45 per click. I usually don't go over $0.45

DRM- Digital Rights Management provides the software locks put on information distributed digitally to prevent unauthorised distribution. Every time I upload a book I'm asked if I want this feature. Hell yeah,I want it.

ePub - format used for B&N and others.

eKindle - format used for uploading to Creatspace.

Genre- where does your book fit. Mine is YA (Young Adult).

Giveaway- A necessary marketing tool. Giving your baby away for free.

ISBN- International Standard Book Number. It's your books birth certificate. Awww.You don't necessarily need one if you're going through Creatspace; they will provide you with one for free but it's only good for Createspace. But a batch of 10 isbn codes can be purchased as well from Bowker. http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp

Month-to-date sales unit- Tells you how many books you've sold within the month. I get butterflies every time I click on this link. But, lately...not bad. Sold 2 more ebook yesterday.

Review- Submitting your book to a reviewer and waiting for a analysis of your literary talent. It can be nerve wrecking.

Tags- keyword or term best used to describe your book. For example, my tags are usually; YA, teens, realistic fiction, social issues,peer pressure, sexual abuse.

URL destination- What website address you want your customers to be directed to. A quick copy and paste will do the trick for this one.

This is all I can come up with off the top of my head. Feel free to share more useful terms by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beating the deadline.

I have missed blogging to my fellow indie writer friends. I've been frantically trying to beat a December 30th deadline for the release of the final novel in the "Chick friends rules" series; senior year. I was able to get out junior year this past weekend and I'm at the half way mark for senior year. I thought I was ready to push the "upload" button but after reading it, I didn't like most of it so, I'm rewriting. Don't you hate that part?
Oh, before I forget; I have some wonderful news, when I went to upload junior year on Amazon I saw that I sold 8 copies of my books with in one week. And 3 books on B&N. However, I don't know why they all sold in that particular week,(head-scratcher). Maybe the blog giveaways are finally paying off because its the only thing I've been doing consistently for two months. Apparently the word of mouth machine is starting to stir and I am so grateful. I was dancing around my family room as if I sold 800 books. I know its only 8 books but I'll take any little victory. It was just the shot in the arm I needed. I'm pumped.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

5 Steps of a successful book giveaway.

I love giveaways. My books would forever live in a cyber black hole if it weren't for the book giveaway. At first I wasn't too keen on the idea of giving away my literary masterpieces; I mean I spent a lot of energy on my work, why should I give them away? Because its necessary. So, let me just get to it, here are 5 steps to a successful giveaway.

1.Write a basic inquiry letter.
You remember those from back in the day when you were trying to get an agent.Put it on your desktop for easy copy and paste. It should have some very basic information such as your name, the isbn# of your book for easy reference, the genre of your book, an introduction of your book, the number of books you want to giveaway, your website or blog link, your book trailer link,and a big fat juicy kiss.

2. Bloggers! Bloggers! Bloggers!
This is a partnership. They need writers just as much as we need bloggers. The two go hand and hand like Oreos and milk. So don't be intimidated. When sending your inquiry to bloggers always greet them by name and include something specific about their blog so they know you didn't just send them a form letter. Make sure to read their "about me", and their "review policy", you'll find most of the information you need there. You want to make sure the blogger is in your book genre too. One of my rookie mistakes were sending queries for my "realistic" YA fiction out to bloggers who were only interested in "dystopia" or "fantasy" books. There should be a blog directory for different genres. I put my YA book blog directory on my bookmarks for quick reference. When the bloggers email you back be prepared for either an author interview or to share information about the book or yourself that they'll post on their blog.

3.Book giveaway sites.
Let your search engine do the work. Google the words: book giveaway and a treasure trove of information will come up. Goodreads.com is one of the best sites for giveaways; you're allowed to enter the number of copies and the dates of the giveaway. There are sites available that cater to authors and publishers looking to giveaway an ARC or (Advanced Reading Copy). But never pay for a giveaway, I stumbled upon a site where they were charging an author $100.00 to post on their site. That's not necessary.

4.Don't forget to send out the book.
I know this should go without saying but sometimes you can forget. I usually send out the book to the winners within 24 hours. Don't forget to autograph the book with a little note using the winner's name. They aren't just winners, they're potential customers. And BTW: keep your giveaways in the U.S. and Canada. Trust me, you don't want to get sticker shock when you go to the Post Office. I spent $12 to send a giveaway to Brazil, that's more than the book costs.

5.Nurture you fans.
There are readers and then there are fans. I'm so happy to say that I have fans. And its the coolest feeling in the world. I only have 7 of them right not, but they're my fans none the less and I give them the royal treatment. My fans email me and tell me how they love my books and for that, I reward them with free copies, book marks etc... Your fans will eventually become a part of the "word of mouth" machine that's so powerful and you can depend on them to write good review too. I have one fan who's 13 years old and in middle school, she sent me the sweetest email about how she could relate to one of my characters in the book because she's going through the same thing. It made me emotional. It's email's like these that makes me realize my writing is a gift to be shared. When I read email's from my fans, all the mess of marketing melts away because I made a connection.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's in a name? Are you a self-published author or an indie author?

What's the difference, right?

I remember when I was a little girl and I'd go through the magazine section of the Sunday paper, there would be an advertisement for a vanity press. It would offer writers leather bound covers in black, blue or brown for their manuscripts for only $whatever.99. There would be testimonials of happy customers etc...etc... In my mind, that's self-published; books written by writers without any real drive or desire to see their words go beyond bragging rights.

I prefer to be called an indie author. I feel I'm no different than indie filmmakers or indie musicians. For some reason those artist are seen as having a renaissance personality and are respected for being progressive and cultured where as if a writer wears the same "indie" label we're seen as rejects and failures who couldn't cut it in big publishing.

I believe the internet is the best thing that has happened to indie writers; turning the tide and allowing us to accelerate our careers as writers on our terms. Die hard publishing folks will disagree and we will have to fight for respect. But, frankly who cares what they think? The proof is all around us; how many neighborhood book stores are around anymore? And, how often does your child go to the library? The old publishing machine is slowly on its way out; give or take 10 years.

Digital cameras changed the way filmmakers create films. And computer programs changed the way musicians record music. It took 15 years for the digital revolution to turnaround those artist and we're next. The advancements in internet publishing is something to be marveled. It is accessible, inexpensive and limited only to how much time, energy and marketing we're willing to invest. Now, I personally created my own publishing company, Randall & Reismann, complete with tax i.d., company credit cards, and a company P.O. box. I wanted to do everything I could to make my company legit and its still a work in progress (still working on that website). Maybe, someday I will not only publish my own books but maybe some one else as well. If you think about it, its not too outlandish to open your own publishing company, after all big publishers once started out as small publishers too.

Before going solo, I tried getting published the traditional route as I'm sure most of us have. I submitted queries and my manuscript to over 80 agents. I came very close to securing two agents for my "Chick friends" series on two separate occasions. One male agent agreed to take on the project only if I re-wrote all four books making the characters and the setting more "urban" because readers wouldn't be able to relate to upper-middle class, suburban minority kids,(in layman's terms; he wanted me to make the characters ghetto). So, I would have to call my cuzzo Rae-Rae and ask her what's life like in the projects, yo (can you see my neck rolling?)l.o.l. Anyway, I was taken aback by his observation. But, I took a deep breath and seriously considered the re-write. I asked my "almost" agent for a contract for representation before the re-writes and he said no. So, basically he wanted me to re-write all four book without any promise of representation. Get the fudge outta here!

My second "almost" agent showed interest in representation and said she was "super busy and would make contact" with me after she returned from her vacation to Italy. That was two years ago; I guess she's still in Italy. But I'm not bitter because one thing I got from those two "almost" contracts was that I have a marketable series or else they wouldn't have shown interest.

I hope you understand how I arrived at my decision to go it alone. Someone else might think I should have just re-wrote the books or waited by the phone for Ms. Italy to return. But, I can't stand the idea of putting my future in the hands of someone else. The control is too important to me. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice but only time will tell. So, in the meantime I proudly wear the label of indie-author/writer. What about you?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Surviving a bad review.

Imagine; It's Easter Sunday and you dress your child in her Sunday best. Frilly dress, ribbons, ankle socks, patent leather Mary Janes, the whole nine. You stand back and admire your beautiful child and off to Sunday service you go feeling like a proud mama and someone says, "Wow, that's an ugly-ass kid you got there." Devastating. That's what it feels like getting a negative review on your book; your baby. I bring it up because I received my first professional review about a couple of months ago and although the reviewer liked my book overall she did find it necessary to point out my numerous comma splices and grammatical errors. I called to mope and groan to my friend and she called me back and said, "did you even read the review?" I hadn't. I only read the first paragraph and that was enough. When I got the courage to read the whole thing it was favorable. But, even though she gave me 3 stars out of 5. My book is in the hands of 4 more professional reviews and I'm terrified. My one saving grace is that I've received very good reviews and feedback from teen readers who don't care about my comma splices but have become engaged in the story. So, here's how to survive a bad book review.

Reviews are subjective.
Everyone isn't going to enjoy your book and that's okay because someone else will. You don't have to change the way you write to try to appease a few people. Every writer has a voice, you just have to find the right person to listen. It's okay to go through a mourning period but you gotta get it out there and develope a thick skin.

Depend on your fans.
Everyone doesn't buy books based on reviews. Many readers will purchase a book if its a subject they're interested in or enjoy. Although the reviewer found my mistakes, my fans didn't care and never mentioned it. The few kids who read my book, loved it. They found the story relatable to their own lives and was entertained by the characters. So, I hold on to those positive reviews and feedback from my fans like a golden ticket. Think of how many times you saw a movie that didn't get good reviews, it didn't stop you from seeing it; same thing.

Use it as an opportunity to hone your writing skills.
If deep down you think the review are right; and every mama knows if her kid is ugly, then maybe you can use it as an opportunity to hone your writing skills. The negative part of my review was about technicality, not content. I dropped the ball on the first two novels. I was so excited to cross the finish line and I didn't double check my editors mistakes. And yes; I had an editor. Now, I realized I was a sucker and scammed out of $750.00 and I believed him when he said he edited my books and made the corrections. A real editor charges about $0.018 per word and for a book with 85,000 words that puts the editing budget at around $1500. So, yeah I fudged up. Rookie mistake. But it made me a better writer. Now; I go through every sentence with a fine tooth comb. Its true that the longer you write the better you become. I have to be especially careful now that I fired the second editor and going it alone. I'm holding my breath.

Don't stop writing.
Never get discouraged. Pick your favorite author and go on Amazon and scan for the reviews. Even your favorite author isn't immune to negative feedback. Don't let it break you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 biggest marketing mistakes I have made so far

It's the morning after my big Facebook fiasco and my body is slowly readjusting. I was up thinking all night and I heard somewhere that "failure is the universe pointing you in another direction". Pretty good, huh? So, these are the mistakes I've made so far.

5. Accidentally deleting my Facebook "Like" page.
I don't like FB anyway. The only reason I created one was because I was made to feel I needed one. But, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. I'm not in a hurry to create one again,it was time consuming and quite frankly I didn't generate enough customers to justify the $98 price tag anyway. I sold 4 books with my FB ad, so that come out to...about $24.50 per person. I could have sent out 20 free copies of the book for that amount.

4.Not negotiating the price terms of the ad with the Girl's Life people.
When the ad exec asked me what my budget was I gave her the high amount instead of the low amount because I felt like a small fry and wanted to impress her. What I should have done was ask her how much the ads cost first. Don't get me wrong; she's super nice and is willing to throw in all kinds of sweeteners but I'll always wonder if I could have gotten the deal for less.

3.Stopped sending out giveaway and interview request to YA book bloggers.
At one point I had 4 giveaways with bloggers going simultaneously. I was sending out 10 request per day and I got lazy and stopped. Now, I don't have any exposure out side of Goodreads.com going on right now. I have to be consistent with communicating with the bloggers, they are necessary and valuable and I dropped the ball.

2.Stopped editing.
I was supposed to be editing with my editor but I've spent so much time on social media that I forgot the whole point; THE BOOKS!
I mean, what the hell? I have a series and I stopped working on the most important thing. I can't be so involved in the marketing of the product that I forget about the product. I was trying to spend 2 hours a day on my editing. I'd read through a chapter and send it to my editor, wait for his notes and make corrections. But, I dropped the ball on that too. This lack of focus caused me to be late getting "junior year" out but I finally sent it off to be formatted and now I'm slowly working on editing "senior year" but at the pace I'm working, that'll be late too.
So, don't forget about the book!

1.Not spending quality time with my family.
How could I let this take over my life so much? I'm forgetting what's important; family, friends, myself. The lesson I learned last night was sobering; I spent a lot of energy on something that in the end didn't matter a whole hell of a lot and who did I turn to for help? my family. I went into this project determined to be a successful indie writer, I wanted to beat the odds, I was like the hare that comes charging out of the gate only to run out of steam right before the finish line. I'm only six weeks into this project, a lousy six weeks friends. I need to slow down, regroup and pace myself. And never forget what's important.

Now, since I'm forever the optimist, here are some of the finer points.
I met some kick ass writer friends who are supportive and sends me virtual hugs all of the time. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wow! I feel stupid

I just have to vent, if you don't mind. I just did the dumbest thing ever. I accidentally deleted my Facebook "Like" page. I just spent $98 on a FB ad that was up and running for 3 weeks with 233 fans. I wanted to pause the ad but instead of pushing the "pause" button I accidentally pushed the "delete" button because I didn't have on my reading glasses. This is why old people shouldn't be allowed to use technology.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is your writing a hobby or a business?

After receiving some very interesting emails on my post asking readers how they would spend $5000 for book marketing, it made me want to delve into the subject further. Most of the responses were "Are you crazy, why would you spend $5000 on marketing an indie book?" I counted 24 emails literally giving me a virtual thumping on the head for being so foolish. But, it made me more confused. Is this a business or is it a hobby? One reader said that $5000 doesn't come close to competing with the big publishing companies therefore it would be throwing money out of the window because it still wouldn't drum up enough business. And another reader suggested not to be concerned with paid advertising but on building 1000 readers and letting it grow slowly. So, are they right? How do we know? I have a theory that we as indie writers have been so conditioned that our books are not going to sell that it stops us from trying from the moment we write The End on the last page of our books. If we don't try to sell our books commercially doesn't that just make what we're doing a hobby? It would be the same as opening a business in the middle of the desert hoping customers will show up or hoping one customer is going to go back an tell enough people to keep your desert store open. How are we to reach readers if we aren't supposed to spend money promoting it? Okay, there's word of mouth, but word of mouth isn't free, I have proof of that from the number of freebies I've sent out to bloggers, reviewers and winners. Don't get me wrong, I'm not itching to spend $5000, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather spend $5k on, like European vacation or a pair of beautiful diamond earrings. But I don't want my writing to be nothing more than a hobby, if that was the case then most of us would be satisfied with writing for the simple pleasure of it with no real intentions of success. I don't know if that's enough for me. Am I alone? So,is your writing a hobby or a business? I'm just asking.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What are you willing to sacrifice for your writing career?

I looked around my house today and its a sty. I've been working almost day and night on marketing my book that I've let some things go; housework, my day job, family meals, etc. And I asked myself; how far am I willing to go? I honestly don't know right now. I'm only 5 weeks into the marketing process and I have to admit sometimes I'm fatigued and wonder if I can push forward for another 47 weeks. I was reading a book on meditation the other day and I read that we should take at least 30 minutes a day to be quiet and listen to our inner voice, God, Oprah (just kidding) or what ever. Well, it took me about an hour to sit still but once I did, I could have sworn I heard something say, "keep going". It was a little spooky. And then I asked the universe to allow my series to be successful. They say be careful what you ask for, you just might get it, but my rebuttal to that is, "the universe know what I mean when I'm asking for something? Why do I have to spell it out? It's the universe for goodness sake. Aren't my deepest desires obvious? Why does there have to be a caveat to my request? Anyway, I don't know yet how much I'm willing to sacrifice for my writing career, I haven't gotten to the end of the road yet. So, please share with us how far you will go for your writing career. By the way, the Goodreads giveaway was a huge success. I had 652 request for my book. That lets me know I have interested readers. That was a nice shot in the arm

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is paying for a good book review cheating?

I ask this question because I received an email today soliciting the service; first I wondered how they got my email address but then for a minute I actually gave it some thoughtful consideration. I once received a book review from a blogger complaining about my comma splices and my ego was bruised for a couple of hours so what's wrong with paying for a positive nudge in the right direction? But, don't worry, I'd rather spend the $125 on something else. However, I can understand how a writer would be tempted so I'm not going to demonize the service. It has it's place. Generating reviews takes time, lots of time. Restaurants sometimes pay for good reviews,so what's the difference? Selling books is a business after all. So, I ask you; have you or would you ever pay for a good book review? Please respond and sign up if you haven't done so already; the more the merrier.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

10 things I've learned in one month of marketing my book.

It's my one month anniversary. I began this blog a little over one month ago; September 17 to be exact. I feel like a whiny girlfriend wanting to celebrate every little milestone. But I think it's important to note any noticeable achievements I've made in regards to my marketing plan so all of us small indie authors/publishers have at best a road map on what to expect when marketing our books. So, here we go and I'll do it like David Letterman, just probably not as funny. Note: this information is assuming you already have your book published and available to the public.

10. Keep a journal. Its important to have some documentation for reference of your daily activities so you can better keep track of what you're doing. Mine is this blog.

9.Connect with other writers for moral support. It's important to surround yourself with positive people, like-minded artsy people; not folks that are going to tell you to get over it and try to convince you that what you're doing is just a pipe dream. I don't tell "regular" people my business because "regular" people are buzzkills. I don't even share too much of what I'm doing with my own husband because he's not an artist and doesn't get it. "Regular" people don't share my passion for writing, it's all dollars and cents to them and the last thing I wanna hear is, "so, how many books did you sell?" or "Is there any money in that?" Ughhh, get the hell away from me dude. So, I only talk about this to fellow writers.

8. "Big" magazines are willing to negotiate. Don't be afraid to contact an ad rep. I Googled, the top ten teen magazines and contacted the kind folks over at Girl's Life magazine. My hands shook the whole time wondering if they would even talk to a small fry like me. But, not only did they talk to me, they were willing to throw in a lot of extra sweeteners for my business; more than they advertised online. They want your business so they may not be as out of reach as one might think. I'm considering advertising with them the first of the year or early spring.

7. Be prepared for the giveaway. I purchased 10 books this month for giveaways. To date I have given away 8 books with two left to go. For me 10 books a month is manageable. Maybe for someone else, it's 5 books a month or 20 book. And don't forget to budget for postage. Ask for the book rate at the Post Office, it'll take 7-10 days to get to the winner instead of 3-5 days but its way cheaper than First Class.

6.Connect with book bloggers in your genre. This is crucial. Find a blog directory in your particular genre and start working your way down the list. I made it my job to send out 10 emails a day asking YA bloggers if I could participate in a giveaway, interview or guest post in exchange for a review of my book. Out of 10 emails I'd might get one response. Some of them didn't have time for reviews but agreed to a giveaway. Book bloggers need giveaways to maintain their site. It's a two way street, they need the giveaway and we need the exposure. I would have at least one giveaway going per week.

5.Get a website and book trailer. It's a no brainier. I have a website for the book series but not a personal author's website. There are plenty of do-it-yourself sites where you pick a template and just add photos and information. The one I have cost only $9.99 per month and is super easy to use. If it's possible try to create a book trailer and place it on Youtube. I created my own trailer using stock footage. And don't forget to connect it to all of your social media as well.

4.Social media is a must. I'm not a fan but its a must. I got a Twitter account for myself and a separate one for the book. Don't forget a Facebook "Like" page for the book and make sure to connect everything to your website, your e-mail, your book trailer, your FB account and the Twitter account.

3. Just go ahead and pay for a Facebook ad. A Facebook ad is inexpensive, simple and easy to create, just make sure you have an attractive ad and able to sell it in about 50 words or less. If you've ever had to create a classified ad it's similar to that. I went through a couple of ads before settling on the one I'm using now. You can connect your FB ad to either your website or your "Like" page. Pay attention to the demographics as well. Mine were United State, ages 14-18, male and females interested in literature and reading. They have demographic choices down to the zip code and personal hobbies and activities. The bids for cost per click is negotiable and can be changed at your discretion as long as it falls within the "bid range". On the weekends where user activity was high, I paid $0.40 per click but on for example a Tuesday where user activity was low, I only paid $0.19 per click. You're allowed to set your own budget, dates and even time of day the users will see your ad. Super useful for exposure, not sales. To date with a two week ad; over 70,000 people have seen my ad at least 3 times. The first week I sent the ad directly to my website and the second week I sent my ad directly to the "Like" page. I prefer the "Like" page because I know exactly who's interested in my book and I can vet them later as potential customers. I've had 4 sales as a direct result from my FB ad. So, again, its good for exposure, not sales.

2. Goodreads.com is another must. I didn't know about Goodreads.com until I received my first review from one of the bloggers. It's like FB but for bookworms. You can create an Authors Page where you can upload your books, write reviews, find friends, join groups, upload your blog, excerpts from your book, participate in giveaways for your book, and of course connect to your FB and twitter account. I spend a good part of my day managing my Authors Page. the resources are endless.

1.Be productive everyday to keep yourself inspired and focused. Hey, guys if you like this; sign up and take the one year journey with me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's more important to an author; sales or readership?

I made a very bold move today in the quest for marketing my series. I decided to giveaway an ebook copy of freshman year for one week only on Goodreads.com starting on Oct 31. And sell it and sophomore year for only $0.99 on Kindle and Nook, thereafter. The reason; I worked for two years to produce this series and I'll be damned if it sits on an Amazon or B&N virtual shelf collecting dust because of my ego. I'd rather give it away. So, for me readership is more important. I'm a first time author, I have to build a fan base where however possible. I can always charge full price on the next go around when everyone knows my name and bow at my presence. It was a hard decision and I'm about to take a shot of 6 year old whiskey and go back to bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How would you spend $5000 if that's all you had to promote your book?

Hmmmmm....I'm really curious and I invite authors and publishers to chime in and share. I honestly don't know. Personally, I think I would spend most of it on giveaways and hope that word of mouth would follow. Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How much does it cost to market your book?

I have been researching the internet trying to find an answer to this question. And the answers are across the board. I've read $20,000 up to $50,000. I ask the question because I need to have a foundation and an end point. I'm trying to be realistic. I believe a lot of indie-authors/publishers have problems because they think writing a good book is enough. But I believe there has to eventually be some form of paid advertisement. They say the best advertisement is word of mouth but that's not free either. Here's the financial breakdown for my "word of mouth" campaign. I did the math and so far my budget has come to a total of; let me see here------gettin' my calculator-------hold on, almost done--------$191.00. Let's break it down, shall we: $40 for 10 books for blog giveaways $25 for postage $98 for a two week Facebook Ad campaign $28 for a two week Goodread Ad campaign My budget is $5000 which is a loooonnnnggggg way from the minimum of $20,000. How did I come up with the $5,000 number? According to sources, that's usually the average a first time author will receive for an advance. My focus is going to be how to spend that $5000 wisely and make it stretch to the four corners of the globe or just Illinois.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Social media is not my frined

I have spent the past 5 hours; you heard me correctly, 5 hours trying to put that stupid FB "Like" button on my website. I failed miserably. The best I could do is the badge that takes visitors to my fan page; that will have to do. On the positive side, I'm getting a lot of positive results from my goodreads page where I'm promoting a giveaway; 248 request.I was offered a do a guest post on a blog as well; still waiting for the details.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Those sneaky Facebook ad people

Okay, more drama with my FB ad. When I was paying .40 per click I received 16 clicks Saturday to my landing page or website. and 23 clicks to my landing page on Sunday. When I reduced my pay per click to .25 on Monday, I received a total of; get this guys, 3 freakin clicks to my landing page. See the pattern. I just increased my pay per click to .30, so we'll see what happens today. Before I get my panties in a bunch; you know what I'm thinking? It was over the weekend too, maybe that has something to do with it. Well, if that's the case; in the future I can spend more on the clicks over the weekend and less on the weekday. I'll see how many clicks I get today with .30 and get back to you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Facebook update

So, I went ahead and paid for a FB ad on Friday; so here's an update. I received 48 clicks directly to my website and spent $15.01 of my $98 budget. The ad reached 45,508 viewers out of 4.5 million. My son read my ad and said it was misleading and convinced me to change it. He said it sounded like I was selling a how-to guide to teenage girls. He also convinced me to increase my demographic from only high school girls ages 14-17 to include male and female, college and high school ages 13-18 and my demographic went from over 300 thousand to 4.5 million. Here's a new learned crumb of information; I did't know I could change the bid per click depending on the volume of clicks I was getting. The original bid was for .41 per click by Sunday morning when the volume of viewers increased and my suggested bid went down to .23 per click so I reduced it to .25 per click. But the funny thing, the number of clicks have slowed down so now I'm thinking to play around with the bid and increase it to say .35 per click and see what happens. My goal is conservative, I was hoping for at least one sale but reading online articles on marketing says that a person has to see an ad an average of 7 times before making a purchase, so my 1 sale goal may be too ambitious. Keep ya posted.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking the plunge with a Facebook ad

Set up my first FB ad campaign, it took 15 minutes. The budget; $0 .40 pay per click, $7.00 per day, 2 weeks, which comes to a grand total of $98 by the time the ad campaign is done. All I had to do was upload my book cover, add a catchy phrase in 50 words or less, set up my demographics (U.S. only, English, girls, 13-17, literature/reading). There were 352,000 girls that met that demographic. Breaking it down further, it gives me roughly 18 clicks per day. I sacrificed a sexy pair of black leather boots at T.J. Maxx for this add; we'll see how it goes,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't worry, they'll come around...eventually.

I received three emails from bloggers agreeing to a giveaway. It may not sound like a biggie but I blogged them over six weeks ago and put them in my "did not reply" pile which seems to be growing by the minute. I've learned its important to put the fillers out there and eventually they'll come around. It was an important lesson; give it time. I have to keep stirring the pot until I get the desired result, but sometimes the desired result comes at a snail's pace. But it comes, so stick with it. I was watching the other day; (oh, my god I'm about to admit it) FOX new and Donald Trump and his hair (gag) was on and he was soliciting a new book about being a successful business person. He said one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is giving up to soon before they have an opportunity to get their product or service out to the masses. I agree. My husband and I opened a restaurant 15 years ago and closed the doors in the first 3 months of business. I hate to this day that we gave up. We had an out and we took it. My husband had a steady 9-5 job so when the going got tough, we bailed the moment we hit a rough patch. I'm not doing that this time around. I'm too old to learn the same lessons. Oh yeah, I have an ad guy, yayyy!!!! He is going to create some online ads that I can use on Facebook and Goodreads. The creative process is always lots of fun. I can't wait to see what he comes up with so I can share it with the world or at least girls 13-17.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Afraid of failure

Yes, I am. Very much so. The odds are against me, I know. But something keeps propelling me to go through this process. I'm scared to death, I can't even lie. I'm at an age in my life where I can't afford to make too many mistakes. Mistakes are costly to the wallet and the self-esteem. One of my sister's once said (I have two), "dreams are over when you get old." How sad, but for so many over the age of 40, its true. We, resign ourselves to a life of quiet mediocrity and forget the dreams of our youth. When we're young it never occurs to us that our dreams might not come true, we just believe As we get older we go through our first disappointment, and another, and another and another until we "grow up" and we no longer dream. I told my daughter who is a 20 years old aspiring stylist taking a one year sabbatical in Hawaii that dreams are a lot of work. Having a dream isn't enough, sometimes having a dream is an extra 60 hours a week of work outside of the regular 9-5, it's money, energy and focus. No one hands you your dreams on a silver platter. All that being said, there are so many times when I question if I should continue down this journey or just do something easier but then I start writing. Last night I began my pre-edit on "senior year" the last edition of my series and the words flow like water. I'm so in my element and it feels so good and so right and I remember why I'm doing the hard part; because the easy part is a beautiful thing. I am a writer, that's what I do. I love words and I have the talent for finding just the right combination of words to make people laugh, cry, think and feel. That's the gift the universe gave me and so even though it sometimes terrifies me that my words will not reach the masses, the feelings that flow through me when I write give me just enough fuel to keep going.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ahhh, c'mon do I have to do social media?.....

I have signed a user name and password for more s...t! This whole social media thing makes me want to rip my hair out. I'm not going to even pretend that I'm enjoying this part of marketing. And don't get me started on trying to figure out how to connect everything, connect Twitter to FB...email to the blog...ughhh I give up. I have 9 FB friends, and 3 Twitter followers and I don't really care. I tried to sign up an Author's page on Goodreads.com last night and got disconnected 4 times. They say that because of social media, we're all connected but I don't see how that's true, there's 50 bi gillion people on the internet how are they going to find my little blog, FB, Twitterr, Goodreads account. I set it up anyway.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't take it personally

I received an email from a blogger that first agreed to review my book but then took back the invitation by saying "I''m so sorry but I just can't get into your book," Everyone isn't going to enjoy reading my book, everyone isn't going to get it and that's okay. I can't take these things personally. For every person that doesn't like my book or its content there are going to be folks that think it's the best thing since sliced bread. So, I've learned not to get upset, outraged or fretful.There's something for everyone. I just have to stay true to myself and my craft and continue what I'm doing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paying for an ad...should I? shouldn't I?

I've made tremendous strides with Girls Life magazine and I'm close to a deal that would put the books in both their online magazine and their hard copy for a couple of months, plus they agree to add a Facebook and twitter campaign to sweeten the deal. Sent junior year off for editing, mailed off a giveaway to a delightful girl in Ky and sent off a Kindle version. What a difference a day makes. Last night I was feeling overwhelmed and wondering if its worth it. Now I realize they're are going to be good days and bad in the world of marketing. I'm working on the book jacket description for junior year and have a case of writers block. Still shooting for that end of the year deadline.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Working through the doubt

Okay, I have to admit, marketing my books sounded easier two and a half weeks ago when I started this blog. And despite some real strides last week, (my first review, making contact with Girls Life magazine ad exec) I'm still wondering if I can do this for an entire year. This is going to be a lot of work and I just have to realize its better than the alternative; being a substitute teacher, ughhh. They say there's no such thing as an overnight success, that its actually years of blood, sweat and tears that goes behind that book, that movie, that artist that has suddenly come out of no where and landed a magnanimous opportunity. I have to keep that in mind. Stay focused, stay motivated. Some days I feel like Tom Hank on that deserted island movie talking to the soccer ball. But, then I begin to read my book and realize I have a real knack for this writing thing. God or the Universe wouldn't give me such a gift for me to keep it hidden in my night stand drawer underneath the cable bill right? Okay, I need to just STOP, This is crazy, I'll get back to you guys when I'm outta my pj's and have done something productive. I'll be right back...

Friday, September 30, 2011

I spoke with an ad exec. Almost feeling legit!

Just talked to Brooke from Girls Life magazine, super sweet woman. She is willing to work with my small advertising budget of 5k and even get it down to $2500. So, with that I'm able to do 2 ad campaigns. The first of the year and their summer book club. That didn't hurt at all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My first review! Yayyyyy!!

Got my very first real review today, look to the left. I was so afraid to read it. But it was favorable, like really favorable. The only negative was a comment about my inappropriate use of commas, but overall, a very good review. I'm so happy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Taking the paid ad plunge

I just received an email from an ad exec from Girls Life magazine. She was responding to my media kit request. I would be lying if I didn't feel the butterflies fluttering about in my stomach. I think online advertising may be a little cheaper so I'm going to request pricing for their smallest ad, the rectangle ad at 300x250. I spoke with a friend about doing a flash ad for me, I think that would look bad-ass.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post office woes

Today I made a trip to the post office to send off three autographed copies of my books to giveaway winners from various blogs. I sat there with the books in my hand trying to figure something clever to say that would make them feel appreciated and to inspire them to continue on with reading the entire series. So, this is what I wrote, Dear recipients name, I hope you enjoy reading the book and continue on to be a fan of the entire series. I value all of my readers. Best wishes, Vici Howard I think that was okay. Note: When sending off books at the PO ask for the book rate. Originally, the books were going to cost me a little over $6 because they were too heavy and would have to be sent priority mail, after I kindly protested, the nice PO lady suggested sending them using a book rate. I didn't know there was a book rate, but now I do. It's cheaper but it takes longer. The same book costs $2.24 and will take 7-10 business days as opposed to the typical 3 days. I can live with that. Gotta cut costs anywhere I can. Oh, I checked the ad rates for Girl's Life magazine and the cost is as follows Spread $48,300 Full page $24,150 1/2 page $15,100 1/3 page $11,270 It seems like a lot but I think it would be a worthwhile investment, I don't have the minimum right now but its something I would strongly consider. For me to reach the my target readers; girls, ages 13-17 and get the sales I want, I have to advertise. This is a business and I have to treat it as such. If I opened a restaurant or any other business I would have to put aside $ for advertising, this is the same thing. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of cash on hand but, I'm tempted to take advances on a few credit cards to make this happen. So, I'm setting another goal; save enough money to buy an ad in GL magazine by my one year blog anniversary 9/2012. Gotta think big!!! .

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do something...do something...do something

It' 11:53 pm. I couldn't let Sunday end without me doing something, right? Today I sent out a request to the community on CreateSpace asking for members to sign up for my blog. Did, the same request on the Writers Digest site, although I wasn't very articulate and I think I need to go back and edit that one. So, far I have 3 new members, YAyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! 2 are complete strangers and 1 is my bestie. I don't know how adding members is going to improve the sell of my books but it'll do a lot for my morale. 11:57, I'm out.

chick friends book trailer

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Have a vision and then a plan

Today, I turned the tv off. It was hard too. It is such a distraction, but I have to stay focused on marketing this book so I came up with a list of things I must do everyday. 1. Send out 10 YA review request daily. 2.Edit for at least two hours. 3.Blog daily. (Yayyyy, I can check that one off today's the to-do list) 4. Respond to reviewer e-mails as if my life depended on it. 5.Stay motivated!!!! The last one is the most important one of all; staying motivated. It's so easy to lose perspective. I was talking to a friend the other day about my book and she listened but at the end she laughed and said, "do you know how many wannabe writers there are out there?" I kind of understand where she's coming from, its like when my teenage daughter had aspirations to being on America's Next Top Model. I get it, but then I have to ask the motivating question; "Why not me?" I'm a pretty damn good writer and I have something to say, so "Why not me?"

Friday, September 23, 2011

A word to the wise

WARNING!!!! Okay, first time writers and authors. When agreeing to a giveaway to book bloggers make sure it is for the U.S. only. I just made a rookie mistake. My first blog interview, I agreed to a giveaway and I just got the e-mail and the winner is in ISRAEL!!! I'm almost afraid to go to the PO, the fees will probably cost more than the book. But, its a one time thing. Just a word to the wise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You go girl

I'm bold enough to believe that I might actually pull this book marketing thing off. I just got the good news from book blogger Tawni of the Book worms that she will agree to post a giveaway of my first book in the Chick friends rules series, Freshman year. Now, I'll have four bloggers agreeing to run an interview or a giveaway simultaneously. And four blogger agreeing to a review. I know that doesn't sound like a large number but considering I'm only two weeks into the marketing process, I think I'm going in the right direction. Because I'm with a very tiny, tiny, did I say tiny publisher most of the marketing falls in my lap. One thing I've learned is that an author/writer/publisher can't successfully market a book without the help of book bloggers, they provide an invaluable service to writers.  My prediction is with their help; within a year I would have generated some buzz in the YA community. If I could I would send them all an Edible Arrangements but since I'm with a tiny, tiny, did I say tiny publisher a big fat wet, juicy internet kiss will have to do.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It really bugs me that I need my 16 year old kid to help me build this blog and now I have to wait past noon cause he's still sleeping.
I started this blog because it's cheaper than a website. And that's the honest to goodness truth. I'm in the humbling process of marketing my book series; The chick friends rules. I've been blogging to YA book review bloggers and gosh darnit some of them are asking for an authors website, well, I have a website for the book; thechickfriendsrules.com but I don't have an authors website. And I'm thinking "is that what I need to become a successful author?" Well, here goes my cheap version of an authors website, this blog!!!
I feel like that old couple on Youtube clumsily trying to figure out how to work the video on their laptop not realizing they've been recording themselves all along.  So, bare along potential readers, bloggers and reviewers, I'll figure it out and maybe share some stories along the way cause that's what propelled this journey so, let's see where it goes.

p.s. I want to post this but I don't have any cool pictures yet. Should I do it, uhhh, okay, I'm gonna close one eye and push the publish button now.