Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Marketing - Yes, Please Grab My A...

Did that headline grab your attention? Did it stand out in your list of new posts and you just had to know what it meant? Did you think I really wanted you to grab my ass????

I hope so. I mean, not about grabbing my butt, but about piquing your interest. That was my intention. I wanted to grab your attention and I want you to grab mine. With your marketing pieces, that is.

What's the next thing you noticed in this blog post? Probably the picture, right? And if you hadn't seen the title first, you probably even noticed the picture before the headline. If you're normal, anyway, which I'm not quite sure about. You are a writer, after all.

Studies have proven a gazillion times that when we browse media with a mixture of photos, headlines and text (e.g., newspaper, magazine, web page), we look at pictures first. If they pique our interest, especially with an attention-grabbing caption, we'll read the headline. If the headline keeps our attention, then we'll start reading the text that accompanies it all.

After pictures, our eyes go to titles. Sometimes there is no picture, but a good headline will stand out enough to grab us anyway. Especially in media where only a list of titles is provided first and you have to click for more information.

So when you're creating a marketing piece, whether it's a display advertisement or a banner ad, a press release or a blog post, include an eye-catching picture and create a headline that makes the viewer or reader want to know more. When you grab their attention with these two items, they'll start reading or clicking or doing whatever you want them to do so you can create a strong desire in them to take action.

We'll talk about creating desire another time. First, you must have the reader's interest. Use the power tools - the graphic and the headline - to grab their attention. And if that doesn't work, I suppose you can try grabbing their ass, but, well, proceed with caution and don't say I told you to do it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Deadline

Me, working on deadline.

...and if I don't make deadline...
Me next week, after making deadline, because I totally refuse to miss it!

In case it's not obvious, I'm working on a deadline this week. If I don't get my first draft in by the end of this coming weekend, I have some very nasty ramifications. Seriously nasty. Since I really don't want to face them - and don't have the time to do them - I'll be totally focused on writing this week...and not on blog writing.

So play among yourselves. Have fun. Stay out of trouble. And get your own writing done while I'm gone. I'll be asking for wordcounts next week. Okay, just kidding. But really, have a good week and I'll pop in when I get a chance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Feel Like Such a Traitor

 I think I might have switched teams. The other side really seems to be working out better for me now. But I feel so guilty. I see my old team staring at me with mouths open, unable to believe that I would betray them so blatantly.

"Don't leave us! This is the fun side where all the exciting stuff happens! You'll hate it over there - it's so rigid and conforming. You'll miss our chaos, our uncertainty and our passion! You said you'd never leave us again!"

Yes, indeed, I did say that. I said I'd never be a plotter or a planner. I'd always be a pantser. I said planning just doesn't work for me. I said I need the excitement of not knowing what comes next, just like reading a book.

I said all these things based on experience. When I was young and wrote for fun, my stories went nowhere. They were about characters I loved, not anything really happening. Of course, that didn't make a story and I eventually lost interest as a new, shinier character grabbed my attention. Perhaps plotting would have been my answer.

But...when I had to write outlines for my short stories for school, I hated it. I hated having to stick to the outline and knowing exactly what came next. I did finish the stories, though. But only because I had to if I wanted a grade. I knew I just couldn't write that way for fun.

For many years, based on these experiences, I believed fiction writing just wasn't my thing. I didn't think I had a full book in me. In 2002, though, a story idea came to me. A full book, with a beginning, middle and end. I subscribed to Writer's Digest and bought all kinds of books on craft. I began to learn the tricks of novel writing and, following the experts' advice, I wrote an outline for my book idea. Actually, it was more like a synopsis and I thought, "Wow! Good book!" And then I was done. I knew what was going to happen and I lost all interest. I even tried writing a couple scenes and they were good enough to give me confidence that I could write, but the story lost its draw. I gave up again.

Promise and Purpose happened pretty much on accident. I decided I wanted to get back into fiction writing just for fun and the next thing I knew, I'd written 140,000 words. With a lot of rewrites, revisions and polishing, those became what are now my first two published books.

None of it was planned. I just kept writing and the characters told me what happened. I'd never been so passionate and absorbed in anything. The way everything came together felt like magic. So, I thought, "That's the secret! Don't plan and plot. Just let the story unfold on its own." It worked so well and fit right in with my love for character-driven stories.

So I've been terrified of planning and plotting. I had to do some for the entire series just so I could figure out the build to the climactic scene in the last book. I created some basic outlines, then I opened up Book 3 to finish writing it. And I struggled. I just couldn't get into it. And I panicked. Did the little bit of planning totally screw me up and ruin everything? I wondered. I couldn't let that happen! I had a series to finish.

I kept fighting myself about what I'd already written a year ago (about half the book!) - Did I keep it? Did it fit with the plans for the rest of the series or did I need to start over? I ditched it. I brought it back. I tweaked it. Then I finally realized that I wouldn't know how it fit until I finished the book. But I couldn't finish the book because I didn't know if what already happened was really going to happen. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, I did the unthinkable. I wrote a 9-page synopsis, chapter-by-chapter. Beginning to end. I knew pretty much everything that would happen. I told myself nobody else had to see it and the characters could change things however they wanted to, that they would tell me the real story, but this at least gave me some kind of direction to keep me moving.

Holy guacamole! It's worked! And I haven't lost interest. In fact, Alexis and the others have thrown me some extra scenes that are absolutely necessary, but aren't in the synopsis. So the excitement of the unknown is still there. The passion has returned. It's kind of like guessing what's going to happen in a book you're reading, but wanting to know how it's going to happen.

So, at least for Book 3, I'm a plotter and a planner. They say every author is different in how they write. I've also heard every book is different in how it's written, even for the same author. What works for one book doesn't always work for the next and if our past ways aren't doing the trick, we need to try something new.

I'm sorry, Team Pantsers, but I've crossed the line to the other side. I may be back, though. There are lots more books to write.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just In Case You Didn't Believe Me

If you're questioning at all whether editors and agents check out authors, as I wrote last week, read this:

From editor Brendan Deneen (who used to be an agent) - specifically #3

That is all for now. Have a lovely Tuesday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monday Marketing - Branding

People have been asking about specific forms of promotions, from blogging to bookmarks to book signings, and whether they're effective. Many products in our world make it easy for the company (marketer) to know how the end-user learned about the product or company. For example, in my day-job company, it's right on our client form: How did you hear about us? It's awesome because, over time, we can tell which of our promotions are working and which are not. With books, however, you don't get that.

Someone walks into a store somewhere in the world or goes online to their favorite ebook provider and they buy. Through the use of coupons, other promotions and/or website tracking, the retailers might be able to find out where the customer came from - how they got to the retailer. But they don't pass that info onto the publisher, who definitely doesn't pass it on to you, the author. The only way you can possibly tell if a promotion has been successful is through a sales spike, but even then, you can't be sure. There are too many outside influences.

So your goal as an author is to create and promote your brand, which you've probably heard a hundred times by now. But I'm not going to talk about how your image is your brand and vice versa. Unless this is the only blog you read at all (if it is, wow, I'm terribly flattered, but, really, dude, you're missing out!), you've seen/heard this time and again. Last week's post was even related to this.

My point today is that blogging, bookmarks, book signings, twitter, Facebook, forums, ads, press releases, websites, etc., are all ways to make people familiar with your brand. When I first started in marketing (way too long ago :-P), the rule of thumb was that someone had to see your brand name at least seven times before they even absorbed it. Now it's seventy times. Yes, 7. 0. We see so many product, company and brand names throughout the day now, they just don't root into our minds as easily as they used to.

Based on this rule of thumb, if you want people to remember your book's title or cover and/or your name, they must see it an average of 70 times for it to really sink into their minds. (Unless of course, someone they personally know or admire has made a strong recommendation, which is a different story, because that's from someone else, not from you or your company/publisher.) It seems a little high, but even if it's half that for books specifically - that's 35 times! Pictures help, which is why people will often remember seeing a cover before they'll remember the title or author's name.

So, yes, blogs, bookmarks, signings...all of those things can make a difference. Because they are one more way to get your book's title, cover and your name in front of a potential reader. One more way for them to remember your brand. And it might be that 70th time they've heard of it - the time that they decide to buy.

Your turn: Does hearing about a book or author many times eventually lead you to buy? Have you ever realized how many brand names you encounter a day? Have you ever stopped to think about how many book and author names you encounter a day?

Monday, February 7, 2011

MM - Your Blog IS a Marketing Tool, Whether You Like It or Not

This week is crazy-busy with my benefit book signing Thursday and real life in general, so just a quick Monday Marketing note today. Once again, I'm pointing you over to Tawna Fenske's blog because, along with another discussion, she wrote about something that got me to thinking.

Her post is about how some writers play the victim when it comes to the querying process, complaining on their own blogs (and other social media) about rejection after rejection and agents who are too stupid to be in the business. Okay, she didn't exactly say that last part, but implied it because we've all seen or heard about writers who do say these exact words. I don't understand why writers do this because it only hurts themselves. Which brought me to my point here.

Whether we like it or not, our blogs are marketing tools. Let's go back to one of the basic definitions of marketing: "any contact between the company/product and the public." This can be Price/Cost, Place/Convenience, Product/Customer Needs and Promotions/Communications. All of these are contact points between the two parties and note that last one, specifically "Communications." You are the company/product and your blog is a Communications tool that reaches the public...and your potential customers.

Many authors post on their blogs, after their debut book's release, that their blog will never be used as a marketing tool for their books, that they'll keep doing what they're doing and their readers don't need to worry. But...




Their blogs have always been a marketing tool, whether they realize it or not, whether they like it or not. They have been communicating in a public space, accessible by anyone, including potential agents, editors and readers. In fact, they have built up their readership base with their blog, which is the goal of a marketing tool.

Any marketing piece - from query letter to advertisement - needs to emphasize the positive and downplay or ignore the negative (unless you can address it in a positive way). This includes your blog. Going back to Tawna's point, you wouldn't write in your query letter, "114 agents rejected me but they don't know jack, so I'm sending this to you," so why would you do it on your blog or in other social media outlets? Agents do check you out if they're at all interested. And most don't want to work with a negative, complaining, bitchy writer.

Put yourself and your books in the best light possible, regardless of where you are in the publishing process and what obstacles you've had to endure. If you want to talk about rejections and other hard-knocks, do it privately or address it in a positive way. And never forget that your blog is a marketing tool, whether you like it or not.

Your turn: Have you ever seen one of these rants from a writer? What kind of impression did you get of that person? Is it someone you would want to work with? Have I given you a new way to look at your blog? And do you follow Tawna? Because if you don't, you should. Her posts are highly entertaining and sometimes even make a "point" (heh - if you follow her, you get this).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shiny, Cute & Pretty - Blog Awards

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference. ~Nolan Bushnell
I saw this on Facebook today and had to laugh, because I always get my best ideas while in the shower. And apparently I need to take more showers - perhaps a daylong one - because ideas have been lacking. Both in my writing and even in blogging. I blame it on the double-ear infection and sinus infection...and now the drugs I have.
Since I didn't have anything awesome to say about writing this week and because I'm way behind on claiming awards, today is awards day! First, the shiny one:
This one was given to me by both Dawn Embers and JEFritz, on the same day. Thank you, ladies!!! Here are the rules: 
1: Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2: Share seven things about yourself.
3: Award ten recently discovered great bloggers.
4: Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
I never know what to say about myself (maybe I need a shower to come up with some good ideas), but here goes...
1. I used to raise Boxers. I love the breed and we had a lot of fun, but then we had an abnormally large litter (10 vs. the usual 4-6) that was born with an infection and most didn't make it past the first 24 hours. It was too heart-breaking for me to risk again so we stopped breeding.
2.  I hate feet. This started in junior high, I think, when a friend made a comment about how gross feet are. I'd never paid attention until then, but then I couldn't NOT notice how right she was. Ever since, I can't stand them.
3. I have an adult child. Aack!!! This isn't new - it happened last October when my oldest turned 18 - but it still freaks me out. Especially as we're planning for graduation right now.
4. A writer's mistake that drives me crazy: "try and [do something]" - no, you try to do it.
5. My favorite color is purple...if you hadn't figured that out yet.
6. I drive a 2006 SLK280. I sometimes feel guilty about having it, but it was my reward for two decades of hard work and driving crap-cars, minivans and other mom-mobiles.
7. 7 is my lucky number, so I'm happy to be done here. =D
Newly discovered blogs I pass it on to (I've been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to discover new ones, so I'm sharing some old favorites that might be new to you) and since 7 is lucky for me, I'm keeping it at 7.
1. Mindy and the girls at Books Complete Me.
2. Amethyst Daydreams - She says it's an award-free blog, but I can't resist. I LOVE the title and the blog!
3. February Grace at Pitch Slapped. How can you not love that title?
5. A. Victoria Mixon, Editor - Fantastic blog for the writer!
6. Anna Staniszewski - She always has great writing tips and guest bloggers.
7.  Renae Mercado at The Siren's Song - She likes purple. Enough said.

Second, the cute award:

Michelle Gregory gave me this one and it makes me smile. So does Michelle. Thank you, sweety!!! There aren't any rules for this one, so I'll just pass it on:

And now, for the pretty one, which is mine, but I love it and its meaning. It goes to people who are living their purpose.

  1. Right-click the picture to save and post on your blog.
  2. Share one way you are living your purpose.
  3. Share three other things about yourself.
  4. Give the award to at least three other people, including links so we can check out their blogs.
I've already done this, so here are more people I pass it on to:
Whew!!! That was a lot of work, but a lot of fun! I'll be doing more Purpose awards soon. I hope everyone has a fab day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Special Announcement

I've been sick. And I'm sick of being sick. But no, that's not my special announcement. In case you missed it, please check out my author site for a very special signing and promotion we're doing throughout the month of February. It's for a good cause: boobs. Because we all either have them or like them...or both. And we don't like it when our loved ones have to lose them or worse - lose their lives because of them.

Check it out. Because there's nothing else going on here for now. I'll be back soon, though, lovelies, I promise.