Monday, July 7, 2014

Guest post with Christine Amsden

Today I'm handing the floor over to Christine Amsden.
Enjoy yourselves & behave!

Indie Marketing: A Small Press Perspective

When people ask what the hardest part of writing is, I don't hesitate a second before answering: Marketing! I spend a lot of my time chatting with other authors, especially other authors from small, independent presses or else authors who have chosen to self-publish. No one has found a magic formula, although some savvy authors have made a decent amount of money selling books claiming to have done just that. :)

The word “indie” is generally used to describe both self-published authors as well as those authors who sign on with small, independent presses. I want to clarify right up front that I'm coming at this from the small press perspective. I am not a self-published author so I don't have that experience to share. I can tell you why I chose to go with a small press over self-publishing. I wanted legitimacy. Readers are wary of self-published books because no one but the author has invested in them. This gives the self-published author the additional challenge of overcoming preconceived notions about the overall quality of self-published work. I confess that I myself will not read self-published books unless I know the author or get a very trustworthy recommendation.

By signing on with a small press, I have an easier time getting reviewers to look at my book. I even got reviewed by places such as Publisher's Weekly, Midwest Book Review, and Library Journal. My publisher helped me get all that – she sent them copies of my books and forwarded the reviews back to me. She also makes sure that my book is available through the two biggest book distributors – Igram and Baker and Taylor. (If you sign on with a small publisher, make sure they do this.) This means that book stores can order my books. My publisher also handled details such as editing and cover art. She asked for my input on the cover art, but she found the artist (who hand painted the covers) and paid for the work.

After that, it's my turn to take over. And come to find out, there is quite a lot of “after that!”

Big-name reviewers (assuming you can get them, which at a small press is not guaranteed by any stretch) aren't enough. People – real people – need to start reading the book and telling their friends about it. Books are sold through word of mouth, which means that the first copies of any book are usually given away. Not to family and friends (no one gets a “free” book – not even mom and dad), but to people who are willing to give an honest review … on blogs, on goodreads, and on Amazon.

The reviews must be honest. There are services out there willing to charge you a premium to review your book. Run away. If you are paying any more than the cost of a book (including shipping, in the case of print books), then you are receiving a biased review. I am also wary of review exchanges with fellow authors because you're giving them more than the cost of a book. The reviews are likely to be biased on both ends. I wouldn't say “run away” in this case, but I would suggest three things. First, don't exchange reviews, exchange books. Second, only review the book if you can give it an honest three stars. If you can't be honest, there's no point in doing it at all. Finally, understand that the honesty holds true in both directions. You may end up reviewing a book and get no review in return.

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, the first book in the Cassie Scot series, wasn't my first book. It was my third. By then, I had learned some important lessons. Among other things, I learned that the advice “money flows to the author” is misleading. No, you shouldn't sign a publishing contract that asks you to pay for publication – your publisher pays you either in advances or in royalties or else you're dealing with a vanity press. Publishing books isn't free, and neither is marketing them. Large presses may be able to give you an advance to help out, but for a small press you've got to invest in your own books. So I hired virtual book tour services – a lot of them! I hired Pump Up Your Book (which was disorganized), Innovative Online Tours, Reading Addiction Book Tours, Goddess Fish, Bewitching Book Tours, and others. For a complete list, including my personal opinions on each, check out my blog:

These tour services put me in contact with bloggers, many of whom reviewed my book. Most have been interested in reading the entire series, as a matter of fact, which has allowed me to cut costs with Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3) and Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4) by cutting out the middle man.

But it's not enough! Authors have to create a presence for themselves. It's hard to describe and even harder to implement, but basically you have to be out in the world being real. Being yourself. Except if you're shy like me, you have to be a little louder than normal. :)

A presence begins with a website. Authors who do not have websites are not serious authors. Websites should include information about all your titles, a biography, contact information, and a calendar of events.

Independent authors also need a strong social media presence. You do not have to be everywhere. There is a lot of truth to the idea that quality of interactions is more important than quantity! I am personally engaged on Facebook and Google+, and I am active on Goodreads. I have abandoned acounts on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Author's Den, and Gather, just to name a few. I'm not suggesting that you should stay away from these sites – I have an author friend who had a lot of luck with Gather, for example – but if you try to be everywhere at once you will get spread too thin. Find a place. Make it your haunt. Be there. Make friends.

Say interesting things. Don't talk about your books all the time. No one will listen. By all means, mention important things that are happening, but also talk about … you. Whatever you are. Whoever you are.

I am a mom. I talk about my kids sometimes. I am a book reviewer. I talk about books. I am an editor/writing coach, so I sometimes share writing resources. I have recently decided to review movies and TV shows as well, partly because I'm watching them anyway so writing a review doesn't take much extra time. Partly, though, it was an observation that more people have read any given movie or TV show than read any given book. So I get better discussions on my movie and TV reviews, especially when I post them in the right groups. There are Doctor Who FINATICS on Google+. I'm almost afraid of them, but I do like Doctor Who so every once in a while I'll say something about it, join a conversation, or share a fun link.

When you're on social media, you can't just post. You have to participate. One of the hardest things for me to do is to sift through all the noise to find good conversations. Some days I just don't feel like it. You know what? I don't do it then. The point of social media is, primarily, to be social. Try to have fun with it. Be yourself, louder.

The last general bit of indie marketing advice I have is on direct advertising. Direct ads are tough. There are surprisingly few places to do it and fewer that are useful. Most of the useful ad spots are for discounted books – 99 cents or even free. I recently coordinated a 99 cent sale of the first Cassie Scot book (sorry guys, sale's over – don't keep your books at 99 cents or it just comes across as a cheap book instead of a special deal) with a few different deal sites and got good results. I recommend Kindle Books and Tips (highly – cost vs reward is far and away the best), Kindle Nation Daily, Book Gorilla, Book Sends, and Ereader News Today. Book Bub is supposed to be terrific as well, but they are tough to get into and vastly prefer free books.

A note on the cost of books: There is wild and heated discussion about the right price point for books. I am not convinced that cheaper is better, not even for the first book in a series. It's one thing to hype a sale and relaly try to drive people to buy the book during that window, but there's a lot of psychology to this. Never forget the goal: You want new readers for your book(s), not simply new downloads. Free books get downloaded like crazy, but do people actually read them? I wish I had specific data with which to answer that question … I wish anyone did! All I know is that last month, in preparation for a vacation, I downloaded fifteen free books onto my nook, figuring one of them had to accidentally be decent. I got to chapter six of one of them before dropping it. One of them got two paragraphs – first person present tense drives me crazy. And it wasn't as if I was invested in the book, so why keep going?

This is the reason why I made Cassie Scot 99 cents last month instead of free. Let's face it, the author's cut on a 99-cent book is pathetic. Amazon gets most of it. But by asking readers to pay a pittance for the book I have required them to invest more then a button-click in it already. Even at under a buck, readers are more likely to then spend their valuable time getting into the book. At the very least, I'm hoping they aren't looking for any reason at all to drop it.

For the record, Cassie Scot started at $4.99 and sold over a thousand books at that price before we dropped it to $3.99 to see what would happen (which was not much). We gradually dropped it to $2.99 as the second and third books came out, and there it is likely to stay indefinitely. The sequels are not at all likely to come down in price. After the first book and especially after the second, you're either invested in Cassie's story or not. If you are, I would really like to get paid for it please. I worked hard!

This is the sort of topic that could go on forever. Literally. But I'm going to stop here and give you the only writing advice that I think matters: Only write if you love it. Because you're not JK Rowling and neither is anyone else. Even Stephen King isn't JK Rowling, and nobody is him either. And if you think either of those people got rich because they were just that good, then you don't understand the first thing about business. Nothing I told you in this post is going to guarantee sales. It will only put you on the path to maybe. There are millions of books published every year and most of them don't sell a hundred copies. So make sure you loved writing it in the first place; find joy in the process and it will all be worth it.

Good luck!

About the author:

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

|  Website  |  Newsletter  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter   |  Goodreads  |  Google+  |

Title:  Mind Games
Series:  Cassie Scott #3
Author:  Christine Amsden  
Length:  276pgs
Format:  ecopy
Genre:  paranormal fantasy
Shelf:  review
Rating:  ★★★★★


Beware your heart and soul…

Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.

Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze.

Read the first chapter (Warning: Contains series spoilers. New readers to the series would be better off checking out the preview of book one below.)

|  See my review  |

Other titles in this series: 

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

|  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Audible  |

Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot Book 2):

Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.

To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness.

|  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Audible  |

And now, enter the tour wide giveaway!

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