How I tried to market my memoir and ended up starting a small business (A Guest Post)

August 1, 2014 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

UNL_0031Lisa McKay is an author with MacGregor Literary.

One of the things I’ve heard Chip McGregor say more than once when talking about marketing is this: “Find your audience, and then figure out how to go and stand in front of them.”

In 2012, when I published my memoir, Love At The Speed Of Email, that is exactly what I tried to do.

Love At The Speed Of Emailtells the story of two humanitarian workers who mckay_fin_online_72dpidefy the uncertainties of distance and the isolation of working in some of the world’s most remote and challenging corners to build a long distance relationship entirely via email. As they risk love, the narrator struggles to better understand the legacies of her nomadic childhood and find a satisfying answer to that simplest of questions, “where’s home?”

In my thinking, there were two obvious “specialty” audiences for this book – third culture kids (people who grew up like I did, moving a lot) and those in long distance relationships. So one thing I did to try to “stand in front” of people in long distance relationships was self-publish another little book called 201 Great Discussion Questions for Couples in Long Distance Relationships.

201_comps_72dpiThis book is exactly what it sounds like – 201 discussion questions for couples, a bit about my own story, and an excerpt from my memoir. I wrote it and put it up on Amazon with no fanfare, about four months after Love launched.

Much to my surprise, it then started to sell at a modest but steady rate. In 2013, that one little book earned me more than $2000.

In all honestly, I’m not sure it’s done much to boost sales of my memoir (which still sells 20 or so copies a month, but certainly isn’t breaking any records despite recently being honored with a Writers Digest award). However, what 201 Questions has done, is convince me that there is both a need and a market out there for long distance relationship resources. It has helped me realize that my personal relationship experiences and my professional qualifications as a psychologist equip me well to address those needs. It has made me wonder whether I can earn some income off of products related to long distance relationships – income that could free me up in the future to invest in writing more novels or another memoir. It has, in essence, prompted me to start my own small business.

I’d love to be able to tell you that it’s going great and that I’m making money hand over fist.

I can’t.

What I can tell you is that I’m giving this a serious shot.

I’ve started a website for couples in long distance relationships called Modern Love Long Distance.

 I’ve also self-published two additional books in the long distance relationship and online dating space – From Stranger To Lover: 16 Strategies For Building A Great Relationship Long Distance, and Online Dating Smarts: 99 Important Questions To Ask Someone You Meet Online.From_Stranger_To_Lover_cover_small

I have plans for several more books or courses relevant to this market. Some I expect to self-publish, one or two I hope to publish traditionally.

All up, I would liketo be making at least $1500 a month off of my long distance relationship products. I estimate it will take another 6-18 months of hard work on my end before I have a chance of reaching or exceeding that goal. Right now, I’m nowhere even close to that, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get there even if I put in the hard yards.

I’m OK with that.

I figure I win either way. Even if I don’t start making the money that I’d like to be making off this venture I’ll have learnt a huge amount about business, websites, marketing, and relationships. I’ll have spent time trying to help others in an area where my passions intersect with my skills. That’s all a different sort of valuable than money in the bank and, who knows, I may even sell a couple of memoirs along the way.

Your turn now. Do share, I’d love to hear your stories.

What have you tried to market your books?

Have any of your marketing efforts led you in unexpected directions?


Posted in Career, Marketing and Platforms | 0 Comments »

Thursdays with Amanda: My Book Sales are Terrible…but I Don’t Care (A CHALLENGE!)

July 31, 2014 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

There is a major downside to self-publishing. Okay, there’s more than one downside to self-pubbing (just like there’s more than one downside to traditional publishing), but for the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on the one that is staring me directly in the face…

My book sales are bad. But I have the luxury to not care.

And that’s a dangerous, dangerous thing.

As I write this, my print Amazon ranking (if you care about such a thing) is #869,526. Ouch.

My digital Amazon ranking is #244,632. Considering this version is $5, that’s a big YIKES.rsz_images-3

It’s been like this since I took a break from conferences a months ago. Basically, I stopped being visible. I stopped talking about my book (aside from an occasional mention here on this blog), and sales slowed to a pace that would have any publisher going UGH. Except I’m my own publisher. Meaning there’s no one to hold me accountable. No reason for me to change my ways.

But the worst part…the part that is soooo embarrassing is that I really don’t even care.  I don’t have anyone to impress but myself, and right now my self is saying “Meh…we’re not in the mood.”

This is a dangerous spot, and I venture to say that if you’ve published or self-published, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

This is when careers fizzle out. This is when authors begin to tell themselves “Next time…I’ll do better next time.” And this is when the Book Burden first begins to take shape. You won’t notice it at first, but six months…a year of this kind of mentality and eventually your book will feel like a failed relationship. A blown opportunity. A mark of regret. Something you hate thinking about and yet it always seems to rear its ugly head.

Books shouldn’t feel that way.  We should display them proudly and feel good about how hard we worked to make them what they are.

But how can you get to that place? How can you reinvigorate something that has gone south?

Here’s what I’m going to do…

I’m going to do five small marketing tasks in the next week. That’s it. Just five. And then I’m going to report back here next Thursday with my results.


1. Find a blog that I’ve never appeared on before and approach them about doing a post.

2. Follow up on that article that I wrote for that one online magazine and push them to run it.

3. Think up an event/party/contest that I can do on social media in the next few weeks.

4. Send a newsletter out to all those people who first signed up to be notified when the book released. Let them know it’s now in print.

5. Find two writer-related blogs and leave comments.

That’s it. That’s what I’m going to do this week to improve sales. These tasks aren’t hard or overly time-consuming. They’re doable. And right now, doable is exactly what I need.

Next week, we’ll see how well I did.

I CHALLENGE YOU TO PARTICIPATE!! What are five small things that you’re going to do this week to promote YOUR book or YOUR brand? List them here and then let’s see how we do!! 

Posted in Marketing and Platforms | 22 Comments »

Ask the Agent: What determines a collaborative writer’s fee?

July 30, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

A writer I know sent me this note: “I know you represent a number of collaborative writers, who help create books for speakers and celebrities. I have an interest in doing that, since I have a lot of experience with writing, but I’m trying to figure out how I determine what to charge. Can you help?”

Sure I can. There are at least seven things a writer will want to consider when trying to set a price to do someone’s book. (And, just so we’re clear, I’m going to refer to the “writer” as the collaborator who creates the text, and the “author” as the celebrity who has the initial idea.)
1. The WORK – If the author is a speaker who simply hands you some talks on a CD or MP3 file and asks you to create a book from them, that’s much easier than if she asks you to interview him, or hands you bad sample chapters. This sort of work is really done on a sliding scale — does the author expect you to create this from thin air, or does she have materials to get you going? The more work involved, the more the writer needs to be paid. So the amount of the work itself is a consideration.
2.  The TIME – How much time is expected of the writer? This could be a function of the size of the book (a 100,000-word book requires more time than a 50,000-word book), or a function of the process (turning speeches into chapters is much easier than doing an interview and generating all new content yourself). The more time it takes, the more the writer is paid.
3. The SPEED – A book requiring a quick turnaround needs to pay the writer more money, since he is setting aside other projects to hurry this one through. I’ve had writers who were basically paid double their usual fee to get a book done on short notice.
4. The ATTENTION – A great collaborator’s name on the cover can help sell books. For example, Susy Flory hit the New York Times bestseller list with Thunder Dog. Publishers trust her. Cecil Murphey is the collaborative writer who created 90 Minutes in Heaven. Cecil’s name is on a multi-million seller, and that lends credibility and sales. That sort of attention is worth something when it comes time to paying the collaborator.
5. The EXPERIENCE – Simply put, an experienced writer makes more than an inexperienced writer. I frequently work with David Thomas, who has created nearly a dozen well-crafted, well-reviewed books for speakers. He also spent a couple decades working as a newspaper reporter and columnist for a couple major newspapers. David has the experience that book publishers love, and they’re always willing to pay more for that sort of experience.
6. The DEAL – If the author has a six-figure deal in place, he is no doubt willing to pay a bit more than if he is sitting on a $15,000 advance.
7. The MARKET – If the book idea you’re going to be working on it something that’s hot and in the news, or if this is a book that is tied to some sort of important date or event, the project could conceivably pay more than if it’s simply a self-help book the publisher is hoping to see break out.
8. The PITA – If the author is a well-known pain-in-the-ass, the writer can be expected to be paid a bit more, just as combat pay for having to deal with him or her. (And yes… I’ve also had this happen. Remember, I have done numerous deals with professional athletes over the years. There is no more pampered, out-of-touch group of people on the planet than people who have played a sport professionally. I’ve long been surprised Dante, when writing his Inferno, didn’t include a spot for professional athletes when describing the inner circles of hell. But I digress.)
9. The HISTORY – A collaborative writer might start out only earning a few thousand dollars for doing his or her first book. But with some history, that number will grow. Many newer collaborative writers are being paid in the $15,000 range. More experienced collabs are making between $20,000 and $30,000 for creating a book with a speaker. And the best collaborators are making in the $50,000 to $75,000 range per book, with the occasional six-figure payout for a huge book with a major celebrity. The writer’s payment history will help shape the negotiation for the use of their services.
I suppose, if I wanted to make this an even ten things, I could say that the writer’s enthusiasm for the project could affect the amount of money they are paid on a project (a collaborator may say “yes” to a smaller deal than normal just because he believes in the story, or because she thinks the book has life-changing potential). But, in my view, those nine things will probably determine what a collaborative writer is going to make on a project.
Does that help? Feel free to ask me questions if there’s more you’d like to know.

Posted in Career, The Business of Writing | 0 Comments »

Writing Effective Dialogue: Part 3, Realistic vs. Natural Dialogue

July 29, 2014 | Written by Erin Buterbaugh

brick green no smile b:wToday, I’m continuing my ongoing conversation on dialogue and discussing the difference between realistic and natural dialogue and the way each can strengthen or sabotage a story.

Realistic dialogue is conversation that occurs exactly the way people talk in real life, complete with hems and haws, boring filler/minutiae, mundane back-and-forth, sound effects,  etc. The small talk and discussions over where to go for dinner that really do populate our everyday conversations usually serve next-to-no purpose in fiction, unless your purpose is to put your reader in “skim” mode for the rest of the book. I read all too many manuscripts where the author seems to have painstakingly transcribed real-life conversations directly onto the page in places where I have no need (or desire) to hear them. The pleasant small-talk at the beginning and end of a phone conversation, the back-and-forth between a husband and wife over breakfast, the dialogue with a waitress at a restaurant– these are all exchanges of dialogue that happen on a daily basis, but who wants to open a rom-com novel, get to the big date, and have to sit through the waitress listing the specials? Those exchanges don’t drive the story, and they usually slow it down. Unless an exchange like this reveals something important about a character– the main character’s date is incredibly rude to the waitress, or he orders four rare steaks and that’s when she first suspects he’s a werewolf, etc.– this sort of dialogue can be culled from a story and will never be missed.

Also falling into the realistic-dialogue category is dialogue punctuated with sound effects/hems and haws. The only thing more awkward than a character running into an ex while on a date with someone new is having to read their conversation in which every line starts with “uh” or “er.” You can communicate that a character is uncomfortable much more effectively (and cleanly) by telling the reader that he is fidgeting or won’t make eye contact, or that he keeps clearing his throat, or even by using one of those “said” alternatives like “stammered.” (Note: I said ONE! See my post on attribution. One is enough to set the tone for the whole exchange, especially when coupled with some description of the character’s physical demeanor. Don’t go crazy.) Don’t spend a lot of time trying to describe noises, either– while you may feel that it’s vitally important that your reader know that your main character said “Yeeeeek!” when she saw a spider, or that he hollered “RRRRGGGH” when he got shot in the leg, these “sound effects” generally come across as obnoxious and ineffective in actually conveying the fear or pain felt by these characters in those moments. Your story is better served by telling the reader that “a scream from the living room brought Ted running. Chrissy was standing on the coffee table pointing at the floor with a shaking finger,” or that “a growl of pain escaped from between his clenched teeth as she pried the bullet out of his leg”  than by including the scream or the growl as an actual line of dialogue. Let the reader’s imagination do the work of creating the sound effects rather than attempting “realistic” exclamations.

Once you’ve weeded the “realistic” dialogue from your manuscript, turn your efforts to writing natural dialogue instead. Natural dialogue has to do with a line of dialogue’s believability– are characters speaking in a way that’s believable for the time period, their age, their education, and their personalities? I’ve read a lot of dialogue supposedly spoken by modern teenagers which contained really archaic phrases or slang, and seen quite a few modern characters whose syntax was extremely formal; in both cases, the dialogue strikes me as unnatural because it isn’t believable that these characters would speak this way. If there’s a reason a character speaks a certain way– the teenage character is obsessed with 80s movies and that’s why he uses 80s slang, the main character has an IQ of 270 and his formal syntax is an illustration of how his extreme intelligence alienates him from his peers, etc.– make sure it’s clear to the reader, and keep in mind that even if you have a good reason for it, unnatural dialogue can still distance the reader from a story or character simply because the reader finds it distracting or difficult to connect with, so you may want to use it sparingly.

Natural dialogue also has to do with whether you’re allowing dialogue to occur in places and on topics where it makes sense or whether you’re forcing a conversation/monologue in order to divulge information to the reader. There’s a great scene in The Great Muppet Caper where Diana Rigg as Lady Holiday tells the receptionist (Miss Piggy) that she’ll be lunching with her brother Nicky. What could have been a single, naturally-occurring line about where she’ll be during the lunch hour segues into a monologue about how her brother is an “irresponsible parasite who squandered his half of the inheritance and has categorically no prospects– not that he’s grateful, he still gambles, incurs bad debts, uses my charge accounts, eats my food, and borrows my cars without asking permission. And certainly he’s not to be trusted– I wouldn’t even put it past him to try to steal my most valuable and largest jewel, the fabulous baseball diamond… Still and all, he is my brother.” Miss Piggy, the total stranger to whom Lady Holiday just poured all this out, understandably asks, “Why are you telling me all this?” To which Lady Holiday shrugs and replies, “It’s plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.” Don’t make your characters be Lady Holiday. If it doesn’t make sense for characters to be conversing about a certain topic, find another place for your plot exposition.

I’m getting to the end of my series on dialogue– if there are any problem areas or questions about writing effective dialogue you’d like to see discussed before I end the series, let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Posted in The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 0 Comments »

Ask the Agent: How long should it take to hear from an agent?

July 28, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

Someone wrote to ask, “When is it appropriate to inquire on the status of a submission to an editor or agent? I sent something in to an agent four months ago, but have yet to hear. How long should it take?”

Every agent has his or her own system. I try to get to submissions once every other week, but sometimes I go four or five weeks between looking. And that’s just for a quick look — if I like something, I have to read it through, and that means I could have it for a month or two before I can give the author a firm response. In my experience, most agents would like to have two or three months to consider a proposal before they render a “yes” or “no.” During busy times (like Christmas, summer vacation, and stints in rehab), it may take longer. So if you sent a project to an agent four months ago, and she hasn’t responded to you, it might be appropriate just to drop a friendly note — something like, “Hello, I’m just checking back with you on that proposal I sent you a few months back. I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to look it over yet, and if there’s anything more you need. I know you’re busy, so thanks very much for giving it your consideration.” No need to whine, beg, or wheedle. Just check in, and be polite.

On a related note, one writer sent me a note to complain that an agent hadn’t responded to his proposal in a year… but when I checked with that author, he noted that he’d never actually met the agent, nor had he queried via email or letter. In other words, he had just sent in a proposal cold. And that leads me to ask,“Where is it written that an agent must respond to you just because you wrote to him or her?” Answer: It isn’t. An agent isn’t obligated to respond to everyone who writes him or her. I’ve got a job to do, and time is money, so I really can’t take the time to read every project somebody sends in cold. I don’t feel that’s a deriliction of my duty, either — I simply don’t believe that I owe every writer a favor.  I state very clearly on my company website that I’m not looking for unsolicited proposals. Still, people send them. I also state on my site that I don’t have time to read every project coming in over the transom, and that I don’t return unsolicited proposals, even if they come with a postage-paid envelope. It’s just not my job to take responsibility for someone else’s idea. Still, I have people I’ve never heard of write to complain that I didn’t respond, or that I didn’t return their materials — as though their decision to mail me something puts a burden on me, merely because I work as a literary agent.

Wrong. I generally represent people I know — maybe we met at a conference, or often they were a referral from a current author. But it’s a very rare thing for an agent to yank something out of a slushpile and offer an agency agreement. So make sure you have realistic expectations.

Another person wrote and said, “I’ve noticed more authors using the term bestseller or bestselling author in their materials. Is there a rule about this? Must an author make an established bestseller list in order to use that term?”

Absolutely. An author needs to have a book that hits a recognized bestseller list in order to claim he or she is a “bestselling” author. That would mean your book needs to land on a legitimate bestseller list like the New York Times list, the LA Times, the Denver Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Barnes & Noble’s list, or the Amazon Top 100. (It’s also fine to note that you had a book land in your regional paper — say the Portland Oregonian or the Cincinnati Enquirer, though those lists don’t quite have the same cachet as the major lists.) Several outlets (Publishers Weekly, CBA, etc) release their own bestseller list every month, and a few track the various genres as well as offering an overall “top 50 titles” in terms of sales. So if an author claims to be a “bestseller” in her proposal, she needs to be able to back that up with evidence of hitting a list.

By the way, BookScan is the reporting vehicle for most bookstores. Many religious bookstores use a different tracking system, called Stats. These are supposed to track book sales by ISBN number, and create a reporting data base for publishers. But one of the reasons this can confuse authors is because some books can sell incredibly well and never have their sales reported. Books sold in Sam’s Club and Costco, for example, are not reported to any bestseller tracking system — so you could sell 100,000 copies and never appear on a bestseller list. And, of course, books you sell at personal appearances or through your own website aren’t reported via any channels. The success of The Shack is a good example — the book moved a couple hundred thousand copies through alternative sales channels before any reporting store picked it up and began noting sales, so it had sold a bazillion copies and never appeared on a bestseller list. Once it was trackable, it hit #1 in the religion category. It’s reasonable to ask the question, “Would it have been fair for the author of The Shack to declare himself a bestselling author prior to making the list?” Maybe… but that’s not the way the system works.

And someone wrote and noted, “You have advised authors to spend some serious cash in order to create a dynamite website. Can you tell me how many zeroes serious cash has? And are there templates or places a prospective author could view in order to begin making plans?”

I think a good website can be a great marketing tool. We used to think of sites as akin to a highway billboard — something you drove by, read, and moved on. But now sites are incredibly useful tools — a way to stay on top of the industry, communicate with readers, and let people know about books and speaking events. They have also proven to be content-centered — so if you have a plumbing company, you don’t just say “great rates and quality service” like you might in a yellow pages ad. With a website, you’ll have suggestions for fixing common plumbing problems, a place to ask questions, introductions to the company personnel, a way to schedule an appointment, maybe even a “history of plumbing.” In other words, the site has become the repository for information. It’s why we’ve quickly become a nation of readers again. And it’s always changing. We recently updated our corporate site, have begun doing more on Twitter and Facebook, and updated the software for this blog to the latest WordPress version. Now I’m having people tell me we don’t use Tumblr and Pinterest enough, and we could make better use of video. Like I said, it’s always changing.

If you’re an author who speaks, wants to stay in touch with readers, and can devote time to it, your marketing people will probably encourage you to create a good website. And it will mean you can expect to spend somewhere in the $3000 to $5000 range. You can go cheaper, of course (some places offer a do-it-yourself site for $99), but you get what you pay for. And you can spend a heck of a lot more, too. (I know an author who just invested $10,000 in a fabulous site.) There are thousands of experts you can talk to about establishing a strong site — there’s no reason to have a crummy website any more. If you want to check out author sites, visit some author pages and start clicking. You’ll find all sorts of authors with a variety of styles and choices to their sites.

Got a question about books or writing or publishing? Send it in, and we’ll answer it in a future “Ask an Agent” post.


Posted in Agents, Current Affairs, Proposals, Questions from Beginners | 0 Comments »

On Writer’s Block (a guest post)

July 25, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

There! I’ve gone and said it.

Writer’s block is a condition belonging to those who can afford to indulge in it. Me? I’ve got deadlines. If the muses aren’t feeling up to snuff, so be it.  I’m still going to be sitting in that chair banging out words every day. If the muse isn’t cooperating, the words aren’t going to be fabulous, and they will have to be rewritten, or maybe even tossed in the trash can, but by gum those keys are clacking along in spite of any lack of enthusiasm. I tell myself, just write, even a measly paragraph can get the ideas started again. Or if I’m completely stymied, I’ll write something else. I’m always working on two books at once so I can alternate if needed. So what do some writers far more accomplished than I say about writer’s block?

Philip Pullman said, “Writer’s block… a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?”

I think the best piece of wisdom on this subject comes from Barbara Kingsolver who advises, “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”

So what about you? How do you push past a lack of inspiration in your work or home life?


Dana Mentink is a romance and suspense writer, living in California with a fire fighter husband, two girls — Yogi and Boo Boo — and a dog with social anxiety problems. Her most recent title, Flood Zone, releases this month with Harlequin’s LI Suspense. You can find out more about Dana by visiting her website: 

Dana Mentink

Posted in The Writing Craft | 12 Comments »

Thursdays with Amanda: Do Sequels Deserve a Marketing Plan?

July 24, 2014 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I have a story for you…a story about one of my authors (and yes, I’ve asked and been granted permission to share said story). But to protect the innocent, and to add a touch of humor, let’s call this author DOG-TIRED.

Dog-Tired is your typical author. Dog-Tired has a number of books out and a bunch of writing to do and a few websites to manage and some events in the pipeline and, you know, a life to lead. So it came as no surprise when Dog-Tired emailed me and asked about the need for a marketing plan for his/her third book in the series.

Now, if there is ever a good excuse for not doing a marketing plan, this is probably it. A third book doesn’t necessarily generate sales in and of itself (aside, of course, from selling to readers who are staying on top of the series). That job still rests on the shoulders of the first book. So really, a third book can be thought of as no more than a nudge to buy the first book…and then the second…so that one can get to the third…

Which almost never happens. I mean what sane reader would commit to a series simply because a latter installment looked interesting?

So, Dog-Tired asked me about whether or not he/she had to create this marketing plan…whether or not it would be useful…whether or not it would result in any sales whatsoever…whether or not the publisher would even notice.

And I knew how dog-tired Dog-Tired was. I knew that Dog-Tired needed a break. That he/she had other things in the works, and so ignoring this one task (that always turns into many, many extra tasks) would probably be okay.

But I also had just written last week’s post on book-marketing slumps. And my belief in some kind of marketing plan being better than no marketing plan was fresh in my mind.

So I encouraged Dog-Tired to put something together. Didn’t have to be long or extensive or ground-breaking. Just a simple list, and I encouraged him/her to send it to his/her publisher.

Dog-Tired agreed wholeheartedly, even if not exuberantly. A small plan was made and sent off to the publisher.

And you know what? Within hours, the publisher responded with excitement and happiness. You see, they had no idea that Dog-Tired was going to be attending a certain convention…but now they knew! And they wanted to help! Suddenly, this event that Dog-Tired was going to do, turned into a team effort, thus maximizing the experience as a whole.

And that never would have happened had Dog-Tired not sent that marketing plan.

I know how tedious marketing plans can be when you’re in the midst of a series. I also know how easy it is to fall out of touch with your publisher’s marketing team. But this experience with Dog-Tired was a great reminder of how important it is to go through these motions…how necessary it is to keep your marketing team in the loop (regardless of where you are in your publishing journey). And how profitable it can be to have those teams behind you.

So this week, I encourage all of you sequel-writers to take a moment and put together a simple marketing plan that you can send to your publisher. Doesn’t have to be overly creative or complex. It just needs to show them what you’re doing, what you plan to do, and when. This makes it easier for them to help you! And it prevents the likelihood that they, too, will fall into a “sequel slump.”

Thoughts? What kinds of responses have you gotten when sending your marketing plans to your publisher?

Posted in Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment »

You’re invited to the MacGregor Marketing Seminar, Sunday, August 24

July 23, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

On SUNDAY, August 24, we’re going to try something new… The MacGregor Marketing Seminar, a LIVE version of Amanda’s wonderful marketing information, set into a seminar format. Amanda and I will be in Nashville, at the Airport Embassy Suites, from 9 to 4, talking with authors about how to create a marketing plan for their books. Here’s what our outline looks like:

— The New World of Author Marketing — What’s Working (and not working) in Today’s Market
— Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Novel or Nonfiction Book
— Maximizing Your Marketing Reach
— Finding Your Audience and Reaching Your Readers
— Building Your Author Platform (we are bringing in a specialist to offer some advice and direction)
— Choosing the Tools You’ll Use to Promote Your Book
— Getting Recognized in Today’s Market
— The Traditional Marketer, the Freelance Marketer, and the Indie Marketer

We’ll also get into a bunch of discussions on related topics — one of the most fun aspects of doing this type of seminar is the chance to talk with other authors who are going through the marketing process. But that’s our basic outline for the day, and we’d love to have you join us!

The cost is just $99 for the entire day, if you register in July (it will go up on August 1). Again, the focus of this day will be on doing something PRACTICAL — not on theory or on promoting a product. We just wanted to get authors together and have time to explore how an author can create his or her own marketing plan by focusing on ideas that actually work, so the emphasis will on on what an author can take and do, rather than on theory or philosophy. We hope you’ll join us. Please let me know if you plan to come by RSVPing me. Thanks, and we hope to see you in Nashville on August 24.

-Chip MacGregor

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Writing Effective Dialogue: Unnecessary Quotation Marks

July 22, 2014 | Written by Erin Buterbaugh

brick green no smile b:wI’m traveling today, so I’m postponing part three in my dialogue series for next week. I’ll probably talk more about correct use of quotation marks at some point in the future, but today I wanted to quickly warn you once and for all against using quotation marks for “emphasis.” You’ve all seen it on signage, a use of quotation marks that makes you “strongly” question the author’s “meaning.” If you don’t know what I mean, take a look at this fine collection of examples, courtesy of Distractify.


What’s the worst example of misused quotation marks you’ve seen?

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Ten ideas for book marketing you (maybe) haven’t thought of…

July 21, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

Someone emailed me and said, “I feel like I keep hearing the same stuff when it comes to book marketing. What if you did a post where you offered some NEW ideas? What would you say are the things we haven’t thought of?”
Okay, I’ll take you up on the challenge. Here are ten things authors ought to know about book marketing, but many don’t…
1. When selling your book, don’t just limit yourself to Amazon.  Sure, they’re the biggest ebook retailer and the research suggests they probably sell about 60% of all digital books… but that means 40% of the market is buying their books elsewhere. So get your book onto B&, get it into the iBookstore, make it available at the Kobe bookstore (which is just starting here in the States, but a big deal in Europe and Asia). If you work with Smashwords, they’ll get your book onto all those other sites, by the way.
2. Insert ads into the back of your current backlisted ebooks, promoting your new, soon-to-release title. It’s called “cross-selling,” and you need to be thinking about it. Sticking an ad for you new book into the back of your current one helps get the word out to people who are already reading you, and build interest in your title as it launches. Most authors won’t do this because it’s a pain, sticking in a new page in the back of all their old books. But it works – it helps you sell books.
3. If you want to become a smarter marketer, track your current marketing. If you keep track of your blog numbers, for example, you’ll begin to see what topics generate readers. But many authors never really check to see which marketing is working and which is not. They do the things they are comfortable with, instead of doing the things that their research has proven effective. Does your social media activity generate interest? Does offering something for free on your website generate a bunch of requests? Does having a contest create excitement and sales? In my experience, most authors think they know, but many haven’t actually tracked the data to find out what really works when it come to marketing their books.
4. Have a “buy” link for you book on your blog, your website, your social media, and anything that brings readers to you. Giving potential readers a clear path to walk on, a clear method to purchase your book, is part of good marketing, and it’s a part that is often overlooked. Many authors want to focus on getting the message of their book out, but they need to also focus on making it clear to everyone who visits how to purchase a copy. Make it easy for them.
5. Try bundling some books for a short time. Take three of your books and sell a three-in-one for the price of one book. Sure, you’re giving up money on a couple of sales, but those may be sales you wouldn’t make because readers are looking for value. Often “value readers” will buy a bundle because they see it as a deal too good to pass up — so you’ve made a sale you otherwise would not have made.
6. Buy an ad. I know… all those Amazon authors have told you that you don’t NEED to buy an ad for an ebook. They’re all telling you to get onto Facebook and do more social media. But we’re still a visual, ad-based culture. So check out the cost of BookBub or RT or BookRiot. Check out the cost of working with Google or BlogAds. Explore what they’re doing on One Hundred Free Books. Publicity is marketing that is free; advertising is marketing that is paid for. Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in the advertising side of things.
7. Share the facts of your book with your non-social-media network. Yeah, yeah, you’re tweeting and sticking stuff onto Pinterest and you’ve set up a Facebook page. But what networks do you belong to that might be interested in the fact your wrote a book? Have you had done a talk at your church about your book? Did you send something to everybody in your alumni association? Contact your local radio stations to suggest an interview? Propose a “local boy makes good” article in your local newspaper? Offer to speak to the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs?
8. Work with other writers who you know are completing books and create a sampler. It will have the first chapter or two of your book, and maybe samples of half a dozen other writers in the same genre. Then you give it away for free to as many people as possible. You could even print up copies very cheaply through Lulu and hand them out. But whether digital or print, make sure you have a clear method for the reader to purchase the rest of your book.
9. Drop the price to 99 cents for a few days. I’m not one who is crazy about giving away a ton of copies any more — I think there are readers out there with a ton of unread free ebooks on their kindles. But take your ebook and make it really cheap for a few days… so cheap that readers just can’t say no. Don’t leave it sitting there at one price forever. Do the occasional daily deal. Or do a holiday weekend deal. Mix it up a bit, which will force you to stay on top of it.
10. Throw yourself a party when you  bat .300. (I realize not everybody understands what I’m talking about, so stay with me.) In baseball, every time a batter goes to the plate, they keep a statistic called an “at bat.” If a player goes to the plate ten times over the course of a couple games, and gets three hits, he or she is batting .300. That means they failed seventy per cent of the time, but they succeed thirty per cent. Understand the math? Over the course of the season, any batter who gets a hit thirty per cent of the time, and has a batting average of .300 will be considered a HUGE success. A player who batted .300 for an entire career is almost sure to land in the Hall of Fame. In other words, guys who fail seventy per cent of the time at the key element of their sport are considered heroes. (Think about this: The last guy to hit .400 in a season was Ted Williams, arguable the best hitter ever, and that was back in 1941. He failed at the plate sixty per cent of the time… and nobody has been able to duplicate his record in more than seventy years!) So if about 30% of the stuff you do seems to work, throw yourself a party. Don’t sweat the 70% that didn’t work — focus on the 30% that DID. Then go repeat it.
What marketing wisdom would you have for other authors?

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