Tag Archives: promotion

Close Up Promotion (Laura Elvebak)

One day about a month ago, I was steadily working on the third Niki Alexander book. I was not thinking primarily about promotion, although in the back of my mind, I knew promotion was part of the business. First, I had to have a book to promote. In my mind, that involved getting the third book completed and sold. Or my standalone bought and produced.

Meanwhile, I needed to reissue my first two Niki Alexander books after getting my rights reverted back to me from my publisher. I knew this would also take time. A wonderful artist was recommended by Jeffrey Marks, who moderates the Mystery Must Advertise Yahoo Group. Patty G. Henderson designed the new covers for both books. Hitch, who often offers good advice on the same Yahoo Group, has a business called Booknook.biz. I hired her to format both books to sell as e-books in all venues. Both Patty and Hitch are very reasonably priced and their work is outstanding.

I discovered ACX (Audiobook Creative Exchange) at ThrillerFest, a conference in New York put on by the International Thriller Writers. Through ACX I found a narrator and soon both books were in production and would soon be released on Audible, iTunes and Amazon as audiobooks.

Also during the time, I was trying to sell my standalone noir/thriller/suspense/women’s fiction (or whatever met the agent/publisher’s needs).

With all that going on, I didn’t think about promotion. Too early. Then, out of the blue, I listened to a voice mail on my landline. Anthony Holmes, of Close-Up Talk Radio, said I was one of three authors chosen to be interviewed for global promotion. He said their research department had read my books and were very impressed. If I passed their initial interview, I would be spotlighted in the month of March and will receive huge promotion and marketing support. The author (me) would be interviewed four weeks in a row. Two by Doug Llewelyn (formerly the host of the People’s Court), and two by Jim Masters of PBS.

This was quite a production. Anthony called me every day. He did a pre-interview. The script writer called to get my background. The only matter of concern was my website. They were right. My website was put up in 2008 and hasn’t been updated since. Anthony said they would need to put their website guru to work on it and the result would sell thousands of books. Also, they were interested in my screenplay that had been twice optioned in 2000. All this sounded fantastic. I sent them the script and finally agreed to let their webmaster redo my website.

They said I was chosen over the other two writers on the strength of my initial interview. I was thrilled and flattered. My website was getting a fresh new look. They did a press release and sent me a copy along with their clipping list of 101 news outlets they were sending with the caption: “Close-Up Talk Radio spotlights author Laura Elvebak.” These went to all the major news outlets in the United States as well as International news. They sent me a list of questions they plan to ask so I would be prepared ahead of the schedule interviews and Tips For A Professional Radio Interview.

I spent most of my time preparing by getting the e-books on Amazon, the audiobooks narrated, reviewed and online. I needed print books in hand, because of all the talks I would be giving. I gave the first two Niki Alexander books a final re-edit and went to Createspace. The process was easier than I expected and when I received the proofs from UPS, I was thrilled with the result and ordered copies. I was then prepared for the call from Houston Writers Guild. They wanted me to speak for an hour at the April Workshop. I agreed and could sell books.

The first two interviews with Doug Llewelyn had a rocky start. I had been sick with the crud all week, but I struggled through the first interview. In about the middle, there was some interference on the line. Toward the end I had a coughing spell that lasted too long. A disaster. However, the second interview went very well and both of us were pleased with the result.

By the time the first interview with Jim Masters rolled along, I was more prepared and more at ease. I was completely well by that time and the interview went by so fast that even Jim remarked how it seemed like ten minutes instead of thirty. We have since become Facebook and Twitter friends. The next and last interview is Thursday, April 4, again with Jim Masters.

The result is nebulous. It’s too early to tell by sales results. On the pro side, I had print copies of the books and the audio and e-books were available. The problem I see is timing. The books I’m promoting, after all, were first published in 2008 and 2009, and I haven’t finished the third book yet. I’m still trying to sell my standalone. So no new book to promote yet, but I have pre-promoted both books by including them in the interviews.

Okay, now you’re wondering about the real downside. First, a question to all of you. How much are you willing to spend on promotion? How big of a risk are you willing to take? Was this no more than a scam? I had to fork over $5000.00 for everything but the website. Their webmaster, whom they pushed on me, cost $3500.00. In my head, I could just about justify spending $5,000 on promotion, but I know I could have a comparable or better website for a fraction of what I paid this guy. The website looks good, but I don’t think he was worth the money. Now I’m out $8500. Was it worth it? I recently saw an article on Writer Beware Blogs written as a Solicitation Alert for Close-Up Talk Radio. They described all the steps I went through. They called it a scam.

I know I’m an impulse buyer. I’m probably naïve about some things. If I didn’t happen to have the money at the time, I wouldn’t have a story to write. But I would still have money. Now I’m just hoping I get enough future book sales to eventually recover what I spent. So again, I put the question to you. How much would you pay for promotion?

Laura Elvebak is the author of Less Dead (2008) and Lost Witness (2009), (L&L Dreamspell), both awarded five star reviews on Amazon, which features Niki Alexander, an ex-cop turned teen counselor. Her short stories are “Searching for Rachel” featured in A Death in Texas, and “Dying For Chocolate” in the award winning A Box of Texas Chocolates.

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Themed Anthologies (Mark H. Phillips)

The Final Twist, a group of Houston writers, has produced a themed anthology each year for the past seven years. The first two anthologies were mystery collections: Dead and Breakfast (2007) set in the wonderful world of Texas Bed & Breakfasts, and A Death in Texas (2008) which got rave reviews. A Box of Texas Chocolates (2009) was our group’s first multi-genre collection—our best seller yet and an award winner (New England Book Festival). It was followed by Twice-Twisted Tales of Texas (2010), a multi-genre collection featuring distinctively Texan landmarks. Underground Texas (2011), featured tales dealing literally or metaphorically with the underground. Deadly Diversions (2012) features hobby and pastime themed stories, while Dead of Night (soon to be published in 2013) stretched our group by dealing with the macabre and occult. The themed anthology process is getting so streamlined that we plan to release a second anthology later this year, a multi-genre collection that features recipes.

Themed anthologies are a great way to get stories published. Such collections allow for targeted marketing. Our book launch for our most successful collection, A Box of Texas Chocolates, was held in a chocolate store just prior to Valentine’s Day. Consignment deals allowed us to display Dead and Breakfast in actual Bed and Breakfast establishments, targeting an audience already interested in our theme. Similar marketing was possible with Twice-Twisted Tales of Texas—tourists could visit a famous landmark and then visit the gift store and buy a short story collection containing a story built around the attraction they had just explored.

Themed anthologies are also an effective spur to creativity, as well as a way to pull a writing group together. The Final Twist prides itself on ushering beginning writers into the profession. Many novice writers have problems with writer’s block or coming up with ideas. A theme helps focus their efforts. During peer-editing they can see the disparate ways other writers handle the same theme. This also brings the group together. Instead of every member off working on their isolated project, editing develops a synergy based on the entire group working on similar stories. Sometimes rules have to be laid down to keep the stories diverse—not all of the recipe stories can involve poison for instance. Our group has been fortunate in finding the proper balance between using the synergy of all working around a common theme and getting a very wide diversity of content.

So far, we’ve also been lucky in reaching easy consensus on our themes. The brainstorming sessions are both raucous and fun. Everyone understands that the theme has to be broad—we want the most diversity and creativity possible within the connecting theme. Texas Underground was inclusive enough to allow both stories that take place literally underground and stories that explore sub rosa clandestine Texan culture. A Box of Texas Chocolates was a multi-genre collection of short stories all having to do with Texas and chocolate (it also helped that a significant majority of the members are chocoholics). There were mystery, suspense, romance, fantasy, and science fiction stories. Dead of Night will feature both literal monsters in macabre occult stories as well as stories containing serial killers and other metaphorical monsters.

Another factor in the success of our anthologies is the thorough professionalism of my fellow Final Twist members. Our writing group is all about getting material out there to our readers. We work on generating, peer-editing, publishing, and promoting our stories. It also helps that our members can produce with a hard deadline in place. Most of us are primarily novelists. Short stories are a refreshing change of pace, an opportunity to keep our fans aware that we are still writing, but never an excuse to stop working on our novels. Usually stories are produced and first-round edited within a sixty day window. If your group members cannot be depended upon to produce quality material in that sort of time frame, themed anthologies could turn into a prolonged nightmare. You have to leave time to pull the project together, get it ready for the publisher, the inevitable last round edits, contracts, cover design issues, promotional engagements, blog tours, etc. Naturally everyone in the group has to be willing to pitch in; otherwise some poor soul will end up saddled with all that work and never get their own novel finished.

If you are looking for a way to make your writing group more productive I can recommend themed anthologies. Just don’t use the title that I’m still trying to get my group to accept: Texas Chili Cook-off Winners and Their Rip-Roaring Tales.

We’d like to share our award winner with one of you. To enter the drawing, hop on over to our publisher’s website, read about the different stories in A Box of Texas Chocolates, then come back here and use the comments to tell us your favorites. Each person leaving a comment will be entered in the prize drawing (one entry per person) and the winner announced here next week – so check back to see if you’ve won!

If you want to be among the first to know who won, come visit the authors at Katy Budget Books on February 9 from 1-3PM. You can register a second entry in the drawing for A Box of Texas Chocolates, register for a second drawing (it’s a surprise), visit with the writers, and of course, shop for books at this wonderful store. You may even choose to be one of the first to own the latest anthology – Deadly Diversions.

Mark H. Phillips has been writing stories and political tracts for as long as he can remember, submitting stories to a magazine at the age of twelve. He grew up in Central Illinois, and holds several degrees in Philosophy. Mark met his wife, Charlotte, ten years ago, and later discovered they shared a passion for writing – they are collaborating on books and short stories – their first novel is Hacksaw. He’s currently teaching pre-calculus, politial philosophy, and the theory of knowledge. He’s been a member of Houston Scriptwriters for three years, and is a member of Sisters in Crime and The Final Twist. His short stories appear in the Final Twist anthologies: A Death in TexasA Box of Texas ChocolatesTwisted Tales of Texas Landmarks, Underground Texas, and the upcoming Deadly Diversions.

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