Archive for category Self-Publishing

Can the Cold Case of Book Marketing Be Solved?


How Do I Cost Effectively Market My Book Online?

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process.  The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges.  However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing.  The word strikes terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

The most intimidating marketing question is: “Where do I begin?” Guess what?  There is no tried and true answer.  Like they say in the movie-making business; “Nobody knows anything.”  You have to experiment and determine what works best for you and what doesn’t.  And you have to use your creativity, just like you did when you wrote your book.  In this blog, I’ll let you in on some of the advertising methods I’ve tried and the results I’ve had.  I’ll try to save you time and money.

There are more than seven billion people alive, but how many of them read regularly? Better yet, how many of them are looking for your book? Answer: None—Zero—Zilch—hence the need for marketing. Obviously, I found it useful to shove this thought into the darkest corner of my creative attic upon beginning the journey of writing my first novel.

As I neared the climactic scenes of my first draft, I noticed it became harder to write. After a good deal of soul-searching and hand wringing, I diagnosed the problem.  My writer’s block stemmed from the nagging thought that it was almost time to say goodbye to my family of characters and their world.  I left them with a heavy heart in a rich, far-from-perfect world far superior to my ordinary life and the terrors of self-promotion.  Inevitably, we all reach the point where we realize there’s no choice except to let go and face the music.

So, after completing your final rewrite and the inevitable tweaks that come afterwards, it’s finally time to upload your book to online retailers.  Next, you announce it on your blog, your author website, your book’s Facebook page, and your YouTube channel.

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

Let’s take a look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

E-Zines

To promote my first novel, Three Days to DarknessI started by placing an ad on Book Daily.  According to the website, your book is featured for one day per month on Book Daily’s E-Zine. Your first chapter is e-mailed to a combined audience of 25,000 readers (many of them authors). They e-mail your chapter to a subset of readers by genre on three consecutive days during the month.  With each exposure, your book is piggy backed with five competitive books.  The ad costs $49.00 per month.  I sold two books the first month.  Looking back on this from subsequent experience, maybe I should have hung in there for a few more months.  But six dollars in sales versus a cost of $49.00 per month didn’t make sense to me at the time.  So, I cancelled the ad.  You might have more success than me with this method.

Facebook Ads

I’ve experimented with ads on Facebook.  I’ve racked up tons of likes and very few sales.  In my humble opinion, paying for ads on Facebook is a total waste of time and money for self-published authors.

Press Releases

I’ve created and distributed press releases on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to your websites and generate publicity on major news sites and search engines.  You can participate at various cost levels starting at $99.  The more you spend, the bigger the audience.  I participated at the second highest level at a cost of $289 per release.  (The highest level currently costs $389).  To add interest to the releases, I created a book trailer video. (A simple book trailer without actors will cost anywhere from $250 to $300 from a reputable company).

Bottom line, I could not relate any book sales to my press release adventures.  Honestly, I don’t think relatively inexpensive press distribution companies can effectively impact major news media outlets.  They boldly claim that they can, but I I don’t believe them.

Experience has taught me that it simply costs too much money for independent, self- published authors to reach news publications like the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and similar publications in major metropolitan news hubs.  These are the media you have to reach to get any action.  You have to hire a very expensive PR firm to break through.  There are very expensive news distribution services you can use, but in many cases, you have to be a legacy publishing house, or an accredited book critic, or PR firm to have access to these services.  So, save your money.

Book Trailers

A word about book trailer videos: they’re nice to have but they aren’t essential to your marketing campaign.  When I first started marketing my books twelve years ago, the pundits all said that you were dead in the water if you didn’t have a book trailer.  As it turns out, this is baloney.  Book trailers are a nice addition to your marketing package, but they aren’t powerful generators of sales.  I made trailers for my first novel and my second one, “Scarlet Ambrosia–Blood is the Nectar of Life.”  I had fun making them and they didn’t cost too much.  The second trailer was better than the first because I learned from the first project.  But here’s the thing: if you have a limited budget, use it where it will do the most good.  I’m getting to that.  Stay with me.

Audio Books

If you can swing the cost, make an audio version of your book.  As you are no doubt aware, people don’t read as many books as they used to.  Audio books are getting more popular every day.  I used ACX to make the audio book for my third novel, “Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.”  I liked using ACX and they are part of Amazon.  I signed an exclusive agreement with them, which means I get a bigger royalty (70%) on each audio book sale.  With this agreement, your book is automatically uploaded to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.  The downside is, you don’t get exposure on sites like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Bibliotheca, which serve libraries.  ACX offers a non-exclusive agreement wherein you can distribute to any platform and get a 25% royalty.

If you hire a narrator for your audio book, which you can do through ACX, a good one will probably cost you between $100 and $150 per finished hour.  Your narrator does the narration and all of the production work.  You direct them and approve the finished product.  I had a great time making my audio book with an amazing woman who did a fabulous job.  In addition to doing voiceover narration and production, she travels the world singing in a choir and performs solo as a soprano.  I found her through ACX.

Paid Reviews

When you launch your book, you want to have a sufficient number of positive reader and editorial reviews available on retail sites and Goodreads to convert browsers into buyers.  Unless you have twenty friends and a handful of book critics ready, willing, and able to post glowing reviews, it makes sense to purchase a few of these.

There are a number of sites available for these services.  I have found the best and most reliable site for reader and editorial reviews to be indiereader.com.  Check out their website.  I bought reader reviews and an editorial review from them. I’m 100% satisfied with their service, reliability, and results.  I’ve also used midwestbookreview.com for fair, reliable, and less expensive editorial reviews.

Amazon Advertising

Sponsored ads on Amazon.com are the most effective marketing tool I’ve used so far.  If you have a limited budget, this is where to spend it.  The ads are easy to create.  You set your daily budget, write your copy, set your campaign dates, and off you go.  If the ad doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try different keywords.  You can see which keywords are working and which are not and adjust accordingly.  Best of all, you can see how many books you’ve sold and how much it has cost you to sell those books.  There’s no baloney and no guesswork.  And, let’s face it, most of the books people buy are sold on Amazon.  To create a campaign, sign in to your KDP account, select the book you want to advertise, click on the three dots to the far right of the book, and select promote and advertise.

I hope you will find these tips helpful.  I wish you all the success in the world, and keep writing.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels.  Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copywriting, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.   For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Create Dynamic Fictional Characters


Blood Is The Nectar Of Life

The Vampire Lovers from the Novel “Scarlet Ambrosia” Copyright 2016 by David Gittlin

Most serious writers want to connect with an audience; preferably a big one.  You have something to say.  You have a story to tell.  You want people to read it.  One of the best ways to make people want to read your work is to create memorable and relatable central characters.  Whether you are writing a short story, screenplay, or a novel, you want your readers to identify with and live the story through your main characters.  To do this, you have to create three dimensional characters that live and breathe in your reader’s imagination.  I’d like to share with you a method I learned for from professional, published writers.

I started writing in earnest when I began a career in marketing communications.  In my early thirties, it became clear to me that writing was the thing I enjoyed doing the most when it came to work.  I wrote promotional copy and content for radio and TV ads, brochures, websites, press releases, Power Point® presentations, sales contests and salesperson motivation, and on and on.  In my forties, I wrote a few not-so-good short stories.  At the age of fifty, I decided to try my hand at writing screenplays.  I was scared shitless.  Deep down, I really didn’t think I could do it.  Some crazy impulse pushed me  towards the cliff’s edge and over it into the unknown.

Fortunately, I was old enough to realize I needed help.  At fifty, I didn’t have the time or inclination to fall into the traps most beginning fiction writers do.  I had already suffered enough scars from learning how to write business communications.  I wanted to walk as straight a path as possible in this new world of fiction writing.  I knew that mistakes were inevitable.  I just wanted to avoid the detours.

Somehow, I found my way to the Online Writers’ Program at UCLA.  One of the first things I learned in my online courses was the necessity of building an original and compelling Protagonist and Antagonist plus an interesting cast of supporting characters.  Unless you are an incredibly gifted genius, you will need to know your characters thoroughly before you start writing your story.  You must know them in detail, including the seminal events that made them who they are today, commonly called their backstory.  Why is this necessary?  Because if you don’t know who your characters are and what they need and want before you start writing, they will almost certainly be flat, two-dimensional cut outs.  At the very least, they won’t be original and interesting.

If you craft your characters carefully and thoughtfully, your story will write itself.  Your plot will be character driven, rather than contrived.  Your readers will become emotionally attached to your characters.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Enough of this baloney.  Tell me how to write amazing characters.

There are two methods I can suggest.  You can sit down and write everything you know about your character.  Hopefully, you’ll fill several pages with your biographical information.  If you can do this effectively, more power to you.  There’s only one catch: You better know what to include in your character’s bio because, as we’ve said, you have to know your character inside and out.  That’s why I prefer the second method, especially if you are new to creating fictional characters.

The second method, which I deveoped from my online courses at UCLA, employs a character template to build your character.  I feel it’s better than writing about your characters in an unstructured format because it forces you to answer questions about them that you might try to avoid or just plain leave out.  Here’s the template you can use to create central characters with more originality, specificity, and complexity.  Filling out the template takes a bit of work, but in the end, I believe it can expand your audience and pave the way to greater writing success.

Character Template

Physiology

Height/weight:

Appearance:

Hair/eyes:

Defects/scars:

Health/strength:

Complexion:

Clothing:

Athletic ability:

Voice quality:

Build or Figure:

Psychology

Fears/phobias:

Attitudes:

Prejudices:

Values/beliefs:

Inhibitions:

Pet peeves:

Superstitions:

Addictions:

Complexes:

Ambitions:

Motivations:

Personal problems:

Secrets:

Disposition:

Needs:

Moral stands:

Imaginations:

Temperament

Likes/dislikes:

Intelligence:

Sociology

Occupation:

Education:

Criminal record:

Birthplace:

Ethnic roots:

Religion:

Past/present home life:

Political views:

Social status:

Hobbies:

Affiliations:

Work history:

Personal life:

Emotional state:

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels.   For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com

 

 

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The Fine Line Between Success and That Other Thing


This is going to be a rant of sorts with some upside. It’s also going to be a little embarrassing. Maybe more than a little. Anyway, here goes.

I am a very active person. To avoid boring you with the particulars, let’s just say that I lead a busy life chock full of errands and enjoyable pastimes strung together with “work” that I try to make meaningful.  I put the word “work” in quotes because I believe that work has to be enjoyable to yield measurable, positive results.

I have done things I really didn’t want to do called “work.”  My father once told me that “you can’t always do what you want to do.” This is true, but I think I took what he said to an extreme.

I have read and observed that highly successful people enjoy what they do. They work very hard because they enjoy it. Now, “working very hard” has to be put into perspective in my case. I have never, ever, worked very hard compared to someone like Tom Brady, or Warren Buffet, or my investment adviser.

However, I have worked very hard (for me) at writing. I am passionate about writing. And looking back on forty plus years of writing, I see that what I’ve written has had very little impact as far as making the world a better place to live in.  This includes the latest novel I wrote with a subtext about the energy and environmental crisis (Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.)

This bothers me because I have put a ton of myself into the three books I’ve written, particularly the last one which is available in digital, paperback and audio formats.  Another thing that bothers me is the world, not just the Amazon forests, is on fire.  We are facing extinction due to the environmental crisis we have managed to visit upon ourselves.  The environmental issue has finally become a big topic of discussion, but we aren’t taking the radical steps that are required to confront the problem.  That’s why I wrote Micromium a year ago, but it didn’t help.  Not the way I wanted it to.

So, if I’ve been doing what I truly want to do for the past thirty odd years, why isn’t it working?

Well, it seems that I finally have a clue.  I have not been as successful as I’d like to be because I DON’T BELIEVE IN MYSELF ENOUGH.  I’ve learned that a strong belief in oneself and in what one is doing is essential for success.  I’ve known about this principle for a long time, but knowing about it and doing something about it are two distinctly different things.¹  Just like the environmental issue.

Recently, I’ve found a way to significantly cut through my self-doubt.  It’s called Somatic Experiencing.  Since starting this training a month ago, my energy is more focused and it is coming from a deeper place.  I’ve already witnessed some positive results.  Nothing big mind you, but definitely positive in relation to myself and other people.  I’m in the beginning stages of this process, and I hope there will be much more growth to come.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll make some positive waves in this troubled world.  It’s never too late.

Thanks for reading this.  Hope it helped.

¹I’d also like to mention that it helps to do the thing or things you are designed for.  It’s important to find your true purpose.  This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

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Something Different This Way Comes*


 

Blood Is the Nectar of Life

A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes.  At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with darkness and light.  The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature.  The supernatural powers and turbo charged energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods.  He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes.

*Blog title inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

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A Thrilling Tale of Two Hearts’ Desires


Blood Is The Nectar Of LifeJust in, this review of my new novel, Scarlet Ambrosia, now available on Amazon.com and coming soon to Barnes and Noble and iTunes.

“There’s a relatively new but rapidly expanding genre on the market called “urban fantasy,” that has as its older sibling the vampire novel, born of Anne Rice’s first book decades ago and now a genre in its own right. And then, there’s the classic vampire struggle between darkness and light—a struggle that immerses unwitting victims, vampires, and survivors in a world dominated by blood-lust.

“With so many vampire novels on the market today, one could wonder at the need for yet another; but Scarlet Ambrosia is a vampire story of a different color, seasoned not so much by the drama of blood-letting as by the more universal themes of self-discovery, human nature, and redemption. Ultimately this is what makes or breaks any genre; especially one such as the urban fantasy or vampire story, which too often tends to eschew self-examination in favor of high drama. And this is just one of the reasons why Scarlet Ambrosia stands out from the urban fantasy genre crowd.

“Sure, protagonist Devon’s outward battle is against an ancient evil vampire, Egon Schiller, but it’s also against himself. Devon is no stranger to the dark forces within him after years of therapy, but the darkness he’s confronting now proves far beyond his wildest dreams.

“Scarlet Ambrosia‘s inner light shines forth: a light that starts with Devon’s inner world and expands to embrace the wider concern of disappearances on the city streets.

“This part is predictable as Devon confronts an undercurrent of blood-lust and vampires in Miami’s underworld. What is less predictable is his foray into the drug world in search of evidence that will support an international investigation into one of Egon’s illegal activities, fostered by his encounter with the sly, alluring Mathilde, who harbors her own secret agenda.

“There’s a suggestion of romance between Devon and Mathilde that’s evident from their first encounter but which is suppressed in their growing focus on greater goals, which are developed as the quest progresses, as evidenced in Mathilde’s statement:

Vanderling fears what Schiller will do every day he roams the earth more than he fears what might happen to us if we fail.” “It’s ironic how Schiller’s existence can matter more in the scheme of things than yours or mine,” he said. “When we first met, I told you I could handle Egon. That was another lie to help you feel more secure in your new situation.

“There is acknowledgement of the forces of light and darkness that occasionally rise up, unfettered, to try to take over people and the world. And as Devon becomes involved in kidnapping and worse, he finds all facets of his life are called into question with a series of decisions that reach out to affect even his relationship with his beloved parents.

“As lies, secrecy, and murders build, Devon finds himself paying for the bad decisions of others, and must come to admit his own inner nature before he can make a proper decision on honing his skills for either greater good or evil.

“The web of lies builds and threatens to immerse everything Devon holds dear, eventually spilling over into something greater than he’s ever known.

“Scarlet Ambrosia is not your usual vampire story. Its intrigue, romance, and thriller writing are all wrapped up in a bigger picture. It offers much food for thought in the course of following Devon’s evolutionary process and decisions, and it’s not a light-hearted romp through a vampire’s realm, as so many such novels offer.

“As such, it’s especially recommended for readers seeking more depth and undercurrents of philosophy in their literary choices. How does a protagonist not become the evil he fights in the process of battle? The classic vampire struggle between darkness and light just assumed a new cloak of complexity here—and wears it well.”

Source: Midwest Book Review, Diane Donovan, Senior e-Book reviewer.

 

 

 

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To Publish or Not


Blood Is the Nectar of LifeTo publish or not to publish…That is the question.

Okay, I wrote the book. Then I re-wrote it five times. Now what? You’re probably thinking–You publish it, dummy. Well, it’s not that simple. It’s almost as big a commitment to self-publish a book as it is to write it. The hardest part is promotion. (See “Book Marketing 101“). To paraphrase, it’s a huge undertaking of time, energy and money. And the results almost never equal expectations, to put it mildly.

So I’m thinking, does the world really need another Vampire novel? Yes, it has a few unique elements, but will the world be a better place with my book in it.

I brought this burning question with me to a weekend retreat in Atlanta. On Sunday, late in the afternoon, an answer arrived. Actually, it was more of a solution than an answer. Write an author’s note and insert it on the last page of the book, a voice told me.

At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with darkness and light. The vampire archetype, it turns out, is a metaphor for the (my) heart’s dream to realize its Divine Nature. This is what gives the story “socially redeeming value,” I realized in perfect twenty-twenty hindsight.

So now, I feel more confident and motivated to publish the book. I expressed my thoughts differently in the author’s note to communicate them in more broadly digestible terms. Here’s what I wrote:

Since writing the first draft of “Scarlet Ambrosia,” I’ve gone through many changes.  Fortunately, most of them are for the better.  To put it succinctly, I’ve found a new process of self-discovery.  This new process has allowed me to see Devon Furst’s journey in the story from a new perspective.

Along with his battle against Egon Schiller, Devon’s other major conflict is the struggle between the forces of darkness and light within himself.  This conflict corresponded to my own struggle with these forces when I wrote the novel.  I’m not speaking of alcohol, drugs, or any other type of addiction here.  I’m speaking of my struggle to find peace, contentment, happiness, and a deeply felt purpose to my life.

As I write this, I’m happy to say my new “process” has taken me a long way towards experiencing what I’ve been longing to find for most of my adult life.  By the way, it has nothing to do with becoming a vampire.

 

 

 

 

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Thumbs Up


Three Days to DarknessIt’s time to blast my own horn again.

The Midwest Book Review gave “Three Days to Darkness” a “Thumbs Up.” It’s encouraging when anyone other than my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and best-friend Joe Canzano responds positively to my novel. (My mother read half the book. She liked the writing but not the story). 

Here’s the review by Diane Donovan, Mid-West Book Review eBook reviewer:

“The magic number is three. Three days to save the world. Three people to help Darius McPherson succeed. And three important life lessons to learn in the process.

The setting is a war being planned in Heaven itself by a reluctant warrior too young to be in Heaven in the first place, and the mission involves saving humanity from its own follies: no mean assignment for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting and suddenly tasked with saving the world.

Three Days to Darkness is about magic on many levels: the incongruity of Heaven and its purposes, the absurdities of Mankind, and the passionate concerns of a boy faced with apocalypse on a scale that moves beyond singular death and into the destruction of humanity itself.

As if this wasn’t enough, add demons and a road that literally leads to Hell (albeit paved with good intentions) and you have a fast-paced thriller novel that defies the usual genre definitions of fantasy, thriller or action piece and creeps into the realm of the impossible.

Three Days to Darkness darkens rapidly as Darius investigates company clinical trials, angel operatives, and deadly courses of action, spicing his approach with a cocky blend of offense and defense that presumes a degree of training he actually lacks: “Crooking his arm, Darius lifted his hand just below chin level with all five fingers splayed. He reminded himself of David Carradine as Caine in a “Kung Fu” TV episode. A more experienced angel operative would certainly prepare to attack with “way more” subtlety, he figured.”

Doses of humor are tossed in for effective comic relief as Darius questions why a Heaven governed by the concept of free will would intervene in the affairs of man – and why it would choose to do so for one event and not another: “Darius sat perfectly still for a while with his hands in his lap before speaking again. “I’m confused,” he said with a solemn expression. “On the one hand, you say everything that happens to a man is the result of free will, and on the other hand, you send me to Earth to stop a pill from going on the market. I don’t get it.” “Good observation, Darius. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s more like a distinction. We have to pick our fights carefully. We try not to interfere with the operation of human free will. We sat by and watched in horror, for example, when Roman soldiers crucified Christ and terrorists flew commercial airliners into the Twin Towers. But there are times when we must take action, when a worldwide catastrophe could result from human failure, to put it in a shorthand manner. We intervened during the two world wars and the Cuban Missile crisis, to cite a few recent cases. We have also been involved when the psychological, moral or spiritual evolution of the species is at risk. A literal example of such a case was our influence on the outcome of the famous ‘Scopes Trial.’”

What lessons will Darius learn in his latest incarnation as a new angel? He has only three days to absorb them – or witness the end of all days.

Three Days to Darkness is a fast-paced, vivid read that incorporates all the elements of a superior mystery, thriller, and fantasy. It’s certainly not a portrait of a predictable afterlife, a conventional Heaven, or a banal post-life mission. All these facets merge to create a uniquely involving story

blending amusing moments with engrossing encounters between disparate forces; each with their own special interests and agendas.

And Darius? He’s in it for the ride, and takes readers along with him in an unexpected journey through Heaven, Hell, and beyond.”

 

 

 

 

 

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