Saturday, 21 November 2015

Promotional tips for authors - why "buy my book" doesn't work

It's NaNoWriMo month and I'm taking this opportunity to get a manuscript finished, rather than start a new one. So I apologize for being away from the blog. I have a list of topics I'd like to bring to you, but today I want to talk about book promotion, specifically why the "buy my book" plugs on social media don't work.

Firstly, let me begin by saying that I have just spent a few minutes this morning unfollowing authors who do nothing but post links to their books and covers on Twitter. I don't need to see this every time I log on. It makes me groan. And if it makes me grown, it's making genuine readers groan. And sites dedicated to promoting books also make me groan. They advertise that they can push your book to 45,000 readers. It has the same effect as a billboard on a highway. It's there, but it's not connecting with you. You need to build a rapport with readers. Peddling the "buy my book" message doesn't do anything to connect with buyers.

Word of mouth does not work by the author pushing their book down people's throats. It works by genuine readers pushing a book down other people's throats. Posting a book cover on Facebook and a plea to buy the book will never inspire readers to buy the book. It will repel them. Have you ever bought anything from a store where the owner begged you to buy something. Or worse, practically abused you for walking past her store and not buying something. I've seen rants on social media doing just that.

Why doesn't the "buy my book" technique work?

We are humans. We like to connect. I went to a market stall yesterday. There were about twenty different stall holders. I personally knew one of them from a photo session about a year ago. I bought two photos that I didn't really need from her but if I had to buy a print to frame then this was my preferred supplier. Why?

Think about Christmas. Why is it so popular to buy a whole lot of junk we can't really afford to give to people who don't even need it? It's not because the TV tells us so. Humans genuinely like to give as much as they receive. It is how we connect with someone else.

If I have a choice between buying an item from a friend or acquaintance or buying from a complete stranger, I'm more likely to buy from the friend or acquaintance.

Now add in the personal touch, this friend or acquaintance invites me into their life by showing me pictures on social media of their gardening, their hobbies, their baking skills, their love of animals, whatever, they are closer to become a trusted source. People buy from trusted sources. Corporations spends millions of dollars becoming the trusted source. This takes time.

The "buy my book" plugs on social media act as if the author has decided to skip the part where they need to become that trusted source with a reader.

Advertising doesn't work to sell books. If it worked, the big publishers would advertise. They very rarely do. They have come to accept that the author and the reader connection is a bond that can never be broken, and bonds that can never be broken are typically forged over time.

How can you avoid the agony that comes from the "buy my book" strategy, because I'm pretty sure you will not get results? Firstly, remember that nobody asked you to do this. It's the number one tip I give to writers at my workshops. Accept that NOBODY ASKED YOU TO DO THIS and move on. Send the time building rapport with the readers, and then write more books. Chances are the plugs for your book on social media are you preaching to the converted anyway.

My tip for promotion is to become that trusted source. Be the person that readers go to when they want a new book. If you don't have one for them to buy, maybe they'll ask you to recommend one. So review your favourite books instead. Share your life with your readers. Share the bits of you that make you the person behind the computer. By all means share your achievements, but promotion is more than slapping a cover on Facebook or Twitter and expecting results.

I hope this tip is helpful to your promotion campaign.

Good luck with your writing. I LOVE hearing your thoughts. Please do so in the comments.

D L xoxo

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Winner of print giveaway The Bird With The Broken Wing

During a recent Read 4 Review campaign, administered through Goodreads group We Heart YA, I announced that at the end of the campaign I would do a giveaway of the print version of the book they reviewed The Bird With The Broken Wing.

The winner is Jenn. She has been awarded a print copy.

Here's how I got the winner. I wrote the names of everyone who reviewed the book on a slip of paper. I then tossed these names (blindly) at a bowl. Discarded any bits of paper than didn't hit the inside of the bowl. There were 4 names which I thin tossed (blindly) at the bowl and only one name made it inside. Ta da. The winner is Jenn.


Jenn's review:

The only reason it took me a while to read this book is because I moved from Davenport, IA to Tacoma, WA for a job.

Now that I've finally had some downtime to myself (I happened to get sick on my second weekend here) I've decided to finish it. Well holy schticks. I have no idea what all I actually read. There was this major twist that I should've seen coming but didn't because I thought it was going a different way.

I did end up liking this book after the halfway mark as its around then that it started to make sense to me. I would go into detail about it but that would kind of ruin the book if you know what I mean. It was only 161 pages (on the Kindle that is). More like a novella.

I might have to read it again...

Here is a link to the reviews on Goodreads and the group, if anyone likes reading and reviewing books you can join one of many Goodreads groups and participate.

This is my second time as an author using a R4R campaign through Goodreads and it is a great way to meet new readers. For readers this is a great way to get advance copies of books or free ebools to read. You must commit to reading and reviewing but most of us, authors included, don't mind telling everyone about a book if we like it.

Congratulations to Jenn and thanks to everyone who participating and enjoyed reading The Bird With The Broken Wing.

Liked reading these reviews. Grab your ebook or print copy HERE

Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Submitting to agents - Part V

You might recall a few of my earlier posts which were journals of my experience with submitting to agents. The previous posts if you'd like to read there are here.

I have an update on my journey of submitting to agents. Yes, folks, it's not over yet. And the journey won't be over until every agent has been queried, until every publisher has been queried, until every avenue has been exhausted and this book is published, self published if I have to but I've a feeling it wont' come to that. While at a recent writers convention I made the acquaintance of some lovely small press publishers who are doing great things in Australia.

The tally so far looks like this:

Number of Queries sent: 46
Number of Partial manuscript requests: 1
Number of Full manuscript requests: 1
Number of Nil replies from an agent (which means a rejection): 20
Number of Rejections received from an agent: 23
Number of agencies I can resubmit to if initial agent doesn't reply: 2
Number of critiques I received from an agent: 1

The most important response from this process for me was the Number of critiques I received from an agent. It was only 1 but I was provided with feedback which I applied and I was also invited to resubmit. I have spent the past four months majorly reworking the novel and I can honestly say that I am very happy with the end result. I just hope the agent I resubmitted to is also happy with the changes.

In another post I wrote about how getting feedback from publishers and agents means you're very close to having your dream come true. The key thing I took out of this critique was that she didn't have to write it. But she saw something in the premise that she liked, something intrigued her enough to tell me that it was the start of a good manuscript but it needed work. And the head-shaking thing about all this is that I've been writing for 20 years, only the past 8 have been serious. It is true that only through writing and writing and writing do we hone our craft.

Think of this is as skiing. You need 3 things to ski 1) a set of skis, 2) a mountain to ski down 3) the skills to get down the mountain without injuring yourself. You can and should learn the techniques of skiing, but the only way you get better at it is to keep going up and down that mountain. Same with writing.

You can read my earlier post here on feedback from agents.

Next steps:
Wait for said agent to get back to me. Fingers crossed they like what I have done and will offer to represent me. If not, then its back to the agent query database and more querying. As they say, it only takes one agent to love your work and then the next phase of the journey begins - following the yellow brick road to the land of Oz.

I'm so hoping to be able to share great news. Hope you can stay with me on this journey

Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Cat cafes

Human beings never cease to amaze me. I walk down the street and everyone wants to pet my dog. She's adorable, loves attention, people love petting her. But if I were to ask for money to pet her, what would they say? I don't know. They'd probably think I was weird. Yet Cat Cafe's are popping up all over the world, and people pay to pet animals that, unlike dogs, take great joy from tearing flesh off arms.

I've had cats as pets. I say 'had' cats as pets because one does not own a cat, one 'has' a piece of nitro glycerine that can go off given the slightest change in atmospheric pressure or a slight jolt in equilibrium or simply because it is designed to explode.

Most of my cats were nice. One was a rescue cat, a ginger tabby I called J.R, and once I got him used to me he was loyal only to me. He used to curl up on my lap at night and he almost break my jaw with his head-rub kisses. He was a sweetie. It broke my heart when he got cancer of his kidneys and I had to take him to the vet and say goodbye. I balled my eyes out for days.

Another cat, another ginger tabby, had wandered into the yard one night and kept returning. I think he had a home but cats can, and do, often choose their homes. I called him Fagan. I had to rehome him when I moved into a unit that didn't allow cats. To this day I cannot understand why home owners deny tenants the beauty of pets. If they do damage, charge the tenant. Pets give far more in love than they take in damaging doors due to scratching.

I said before that cats choose their homes, such as the grey tabby called Max whom I tried to put on a diet and he responded by going to live with the people who over fed him. This cat would hang onto the screen of the door and howl to get inside to eat.

And I had a ragdoll cat walk into another yard whom I adopted.

I'm seeing a pattern here. I adopted all my cats, some I chose, some chose me. I adopted my dog from the pound. Yes, definitely a pettern (I just made this word up, it's not a mistake).

One cat in particular was the devil, and he was the first cat of the lot so perhaps he wanted to continue to show his dominance. Even spayed (all my animals are spayed so there are no unwanted litters), he would shred your arm if you petted him the wrong way or for too long. He would shred your leg if you happened to walk past him in shorts. I am a huge animal lover but this cat was the asshole of cats. He would also beat up the other cats if you so much as spoke to them. His name was Wolfgang. I miss that he was once a nice kitty, and perhaps age might have abated his temper, I don't know, I had to rehome him too, though I gave him to the ex's parents and said "Good luck."

random cat photo, I honestly can't locate my photos from this period of my life

So anyway, back to cat cafes. Tokyo has 39 of them. You can also rent pets to reduce the stress of daily urban life inside tiny apartments. And I have to agree, there is nothing more relaxing then petting an animal. I now have a small dog who sits on my lap while I watch TV. I have been free of flesh shredding since 1998.

In America, the cat cafes double as adoption centres. Not always possible in Japan since most apartment blocks forbid pets. Hundreds of animals have been adopted from these cat cafes in America. And what a great program.

I remember as a child the travelling petting zoo. It would move around the schools and shopping malls and give children the chance to pet lambs and ducks and rabbits. So this is like the petting zoo for adults. I for one love the idea of animals and coffee. Yes, I know strict regulations around hygiene, blah blah blah but I tend to get sick from what chefs put in the food, not what animals are in the nearby proximity.

There is even one internet company in Japan that has nine rescued cats living in the office. The company claims that workers are less stressed, more communicative, more productive and let's face it I'd want to hurry to work if there were pets running around the office. Not only does the company have nine rescued cats, every day is bring your pet to work day. And if you don't have a pet you can get paid $42 a month to adopt one of there. I just wonder what the cats get up to at night.

Ferray Corporation in Tokyo has nine adopted cats running around the office

So the idea of the cat café is to grab a coffee and pet a cat. If you really want to know how to do this properly, this site is worth checking out as it will explain all the petting zones. Good luck and happy petting.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Publishing speak - deciphering the terms

It's accepted that writers need to have a strong grasp on grammar, punctuation, dialogue, story structure, while writing their novel. Yet once the book is finished we need to know a whole new language called publishing speak. Today's post is about the terms you'll hear or read about to do with your novel once it's finished and prior to publishing. Some you may already know, some you may not.

Elevator Pitch
This is not where you pitch somebody off an elevator.

Imagine you get into an elevator with a New York literary agent, you have 10 seconds to convince him or her to read your draft. Elevator pitch is your book summed up in 25 words or less. Start doing it now. A good way to do this is to write a pen elevator pitch that will fit on Twitter. If it doesn't fit, tighten your storyline until it does.

Example: Harry Potter is a young wizard who learns that the evil warlock who killed his parents is coming back from the underworld to kill him.

The above example comes in at 25 words and 132 characters and as you can read, it sums up the story.

The Pitch
Not the one in baseball.

A pitch, a proposal, a query letter all sort of mean the same thing. Not everyone gets the opportunity to be in an elevator with an agent or publisher. Most writers get their draft ready for submission. A pitch, a proposal, a query, at this stage they are pretty much the same thing.

You don't need to write the perfect pitch, just an interesting one. There are many examples of pitches on agent websites.

Here is a link to one random Google search that provides sample pitch letters of 23 types of books.

Slush pile

Ever heard this reference? This refers to the chest high pile of unsolicited manuscripts publishers and agents receive that block fire exits. Most submissions nowadays are electronic so this slush pile is in cyber space. Usually there is a first person who opens the slush pile of manuscripts maybe a graduate from writing college on work experience, maybe a junior publisher, in some cases it is the receptionist. This is why the hook, the voice, the non existence of typos in the first chapter are extremely important. They read about 5 to 15 pages and make their decision to read more based on that.

Unsolicited manuscript
Unsolicited means that the publisher or agent didn't specifically invite you to submit. You are the equivalent of a cold calling telemarketer trying to flog something to somebody. The publisher or agent may state that writers can submit something on a Friday or the first week of the month, but unless they ask to read your entire manuscript, then you are sending something unsolicited.

It used to be much harder to submit because the slush pile was growing so huge that many publishers simply couldn't justify creating a fire hazard to find that one true gem. But now that we email they can receive so much more.

That's it for now, if there are any terms you'd like explained, please leave a comment and I'll add your query to the next list of terms.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Submitting to agents and publishers - how getting their feedback means you're close to getting published

Someone once asked, "How do you know when you're ready to be published". The answer was "when you start getting feedback from agents and publishers."

Feedback from agents and publishers is golden. Worth a thousand times more than feedback from friends, about a hundred times more than critique from peers, and ten times more than a paid appraisal. Agents and publishers simply have no reason to let you know how to improve your work. They're busy.

However, once in a while, a manuscript comes through the slush pile (that is what the unsolicited material is called in case you don't know) and it piques their interest, so they read the submission material yet it's still lacking...something.

And they do something that will improve your book tenfold - they tell you what's wrong with it.

Tip no: 1
Know your audience

Let's first take a look at who agents and publishers are. A lot, not all, are successful editors. Some, not all, are writers. I've checked out many agent profiles during the course of pitching my novels and rarely have I seen a bio with "published author" on it. There were a few. Out of maybe one hundred agent profiles that I've searched.

I mentioned that they are usually successful editors. They've worked on small books, big books, with small authors, big authors. So who are agents and publishers really? Read their bios and many will tell you that typically they are editors. Editing is the single most important part of any novel. It turns coal into a diamond. It turns muck into gold. The experts at this task are the editors. However, they do a lot of work and rarely get any of the glory.

In a previous post I discussed the myths around publishing. One myth is that agents and publishers are not looking for the next big thing. Busted. They are. Discovering talent is what drives agents and publishers to get out of bed. So this leads me to think that agents and publishers are seeking the same glory that writers are. Maybe why they cut their teeth as editors but move into managing and publishing.

So if we are seeking the glory, then it stands to reason that many writers, agents, and publishers are on the same page.

Tip no: 2
Would you rave to your friends about a second rate meal?

No you wouldn't. Agents and publishers have to rave about your book to everyone they meet, which means they have to love it or they won't have a chance at selling another book. How can you send them something to love?

Firstly, don't send in something that you wrote for NaNoMo and spent a week doing a spell check on. There is so much more to a publishable story than punctuation and grammar.

Other components include:

Not just dialogue, not just action, but that internal thought that goes with the things we do each day, that angel/devil on our shoulder.
Character flaws:
Nobody wants to read about wooden or too perfect characters.
Character arc:
Is there development, redemption, a reason we kept reading?
Is action and reflection evident in the pace of the writing. Action should be fast. Reflection can be slower.
Can we imagine this world?
Is it age appropriate, informal where it needs to be?

Readers shouldn't notice the work that goes into producing a good story, they should just enjoy the book because, like a good meal, we can tell at first glance or taste whether any effort has gone into the dish. Likewise, an agent and publisher can also tell within the first 5 pages whether the effort has been put into the book.

Make sure that you are submitting the best work that you can possibly submit. Don't rely on agents and publishers to give you feedback. Most won't. But if they do, you are one step closer to achieving your goal of having your book published.

Tip no: 3
Rainbows and kittens are of no help to you.

We have an agreement in our writers group that we do not want to hear that the work we submit is all rainbows and kittens. This sort of feedback is lovely, but rarely is it helpful. You want somebody who is looking at the book objectively to point out the flaws in the structure, in the plot, in the characters, in all those aspects from Tip no: 2.

Here is some actual feedback I have received from publishers and agents over the years.

The narrative and character arc were secondary.

The characters seemed younger.

Scenes just sorta happen.

At times I felt I was looking in on the journey, not experiencing it.

I didn't feel that the characters deserved their ending.

The narrative is excessively wordy.

The editors who have seen your work feel that it shows real promise.

I've been so lucky to have received this type of feedback with every novel I've submitted. It has kept me writing; the power of positive feedback is second to only hearing yes they want to publish it. Some books were revised and resubmitted, some left in the drawer. But what this means is that I am close, very close to having that book published. Some I've reworked, some I've put back in the drawer, but always have I taken this feedback on board, which leads me to tip no: 4.

Tip no: 4
If you get feedback, use it.

This goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. If you disregard the valuable feedback you've received you won't improve your writing. Every single piece of advice I've received has been applied to the book in question, or a subsequent book. The version that got rejected 3 months ago is not the same version that is now sitting with an agent and a second agent is interested in receiving a follow up query. All because I took the advice offered and I applied it.

Well, there you go, getting feedback from an agent and publisher is possible if you approach it properly.

Good luck with you pitching and if you wish to share your experiences I'd be happy to know how you went. Did you get that book published. Did you land that agent?

I'll keep you updated on how it goes with the agent.


Monday, 3 August 2015

10 celebrities who took selfies before they were even invented

What did celebrities do before the invention of the selfie? Oh, sure, if you were a Hollywood movie star you had stills from movies that could be used in publicity, or photo shoots, or if you were a rock star hordes of photographers followed you around. I decided to track down some photos that I think look exactly like as if they'd be taken today as a selfie.

1. David Bowie
 Tag this one #artistic selfie. It's going on his blog home page. As well it deserves to.
2. Marilyn Monroe
Tag this one #girlsnightout. The before shot.
3. Mick Jagger
Classic attempt at natural look for an online dating site selfie.
4. Debbie Harry
She's got the pose. She's got the lipstick. She's got the selfie stick. And this one's going on Instagram.

 5. James Dean
He's cool. This one is for his fans. Tag #justchillin

6. Audrey Hepburn
This is the can't get out of bed selfie. Been there. Done that.
7. Freddie Mercury
I have a selfie stick and I'm not afraid to use it.
8. Judy Garland
And from this angle I can get my best side even though I'm lying down.
9. Elvis Presley
The one eye closed selfie, because sometimes it's hard to focus with both eyes open.
10. The Beatles
This is possibly to first group selfie in existence. John's got good control of the camera.
I had a lot of fun skipping down memory lane with these classic photos. I hope you agree that these photos look like today's selfies. Many of these celebrities were ahead of their time anyway, this is just further proof.
Enjoy your day!
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.