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Month: July 2014

Time Off

I’m a hard worker. I’m not bragging, more confessing. I am a workaholic. I’d go to meetings to try to find a cure, but who has time for that, right?

Then this last weekend I took off to Garibaldi, Oregon to share a booth with a friend and fellow author at their sole annual festival, Garibaldi Days.

Be quiet. I know how physical book signings go in the digital age for thriller authors. I’ve done several, with varying degrees of success, but all coming with valuable lessons, and in this case another added value: time off and brainstorming with a couple of brilliant minds.

I took my full Samuel Elijah Johnson series, Redemption, Temptation, and Confession. A few copies of Broken Bones. Happily Ever Afterlife and Dragonthology. Sherry Briscoe wrote a book of short stories titled Mists of the Garibaldi (it is pretty good. You should check it out). A local read it, and e-mailed her with an invitation, which she kindly shared. Rochelle Cunningham came with us, the co-author of Crash Landing in a Field of Outhouses, several memoir style vignettes by Ken Bauer, an entrepreneur and pilot with some interesting stories. She brought her first non-fiction piece, Codependency: The “Normie” User Guide: How the Non-Addict learns to Love when Love Hurts with her as well. She is currently working on a short series of children’s books and the beginning of a romance series. We sold some books, not as many as we hoped. But overall we did well.

My intention was to write a novella while we were there, but my mind changed as we sped toward the coast. Perhaps to truly reset, I needed a few days without writing. This was a total change of pace for me.

The results were astounding. My creativity flowed, but toward business. How do you sell more books? How do you leverage projects you were going to do anyway toward more sales? What do I really want to write anyway? And what do I really want to do with my new-found author freedom?

Answers flooded into my mind. I looked at a house worth half a million dollars, and seriously considered that while I might not buy that one, in a few years I could if I wanted to. I started to see my writing life in a whole new light: the errors of the past, and the way forward.

This morning, I started another story. Worked on two projects in progress, reassessing their direction. Ordered a book on marketing, and determined to apply the principles to every project I do.

More announcements coming soon. I’ll be releasing a new book soon, a short story collection with Marlie Harris, titled Ridge Falls: Into the Darkness. The sequel to Stray Ally is nearing completion. I’ve started the first in another series, and have plans for several more.

But my mind is clear. My path set. My feet and legs ready to run. All because I took just a little time off.

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The Hazards of in Person Book Signings

(and the benefits)

BuyMyBookIt’s a Wednesday afternoon, and I feel like gambling. Do I go down and purchase a lottery ticket? Nope. Instead I set up a table at the Kuna Library during summer reading events. There is tons of promised traffic. And traffic there is. But People come to the library to borrow books, not to buy them. At least, that has been my experience. The traffic consisted of harried parents, lulls of almost no patrons, and several curious kids (who my books are not appropriate for). For most authors who have done or attempted signings at libraries, this is not news. Far from it. It is simply fact.

But there are things to be learned from these and other experiences.  The idea was never to sell a ton of books. But to do two things: make my local librarians who may recommend my books happy, and increase local exposure. This forces any author to brand themselves, something with its own value. So below is a little advice when you are next invited to do any in person signing.

1. Manage expectations. Be realistic about how many books, if any, you expect to sell. And keep that in mind. Sometimes just reinforcing your public image is enough return on your investment. Especially with patrons of libraries who are obviously already readers.

2. Use your time wisely. Don’t just sit and stare at the walls, or the celling. Watch people and their reading habits. If you are at a bookstore, observe buying habits as well. See what they pick up, and what they pass by. Be ready to answer questions, even if the person does not look like they read your type books. You never can tell. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or a person.

3. Make fans and friends. Even if it is one at a time. Even if they pick up your book cards, and buy them later on Amazon or elsewhere. There is no value you can attach to a lifelong fan. You never know who that might be.

4. Assign value to your time, and be careful with it. Orchestrated book signings and readings can enhance both your image and your opportunities. But Be careful they are not the only, or the primary marketing efforts you make. They are time consuming and minimally profitable. You could be writing the next book rather than sitting behind a table waiting for readers to come to you.

In person book signings are like many other things: they are best in moderation, for a purpose, and handled with care. Use these potential tools the way they are intended. As a gateway to the fans you don’t have yet.

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Why Lists Interest Blog Readers

Often, authors ask me what they should blog about. Recently, Nokolas Baron approached me about writing a guest post, and shares on this very subject.

Thanks for being here Nikolas. Take it away!

The Age of Information

In this day and age if you can’t impress someone within the first ten seconds, you’ve lost your chance. From the very first sentence, picture, or frame, you have to encourage the reader to keep reading, and come back for more. It’s hard to hold the attention people used to instant gratification. Blog readers want to be entertained the instant they reach the site. The abundance of lists with pictures and quizzes about which TV character you are has seriously downsized the time people are willing to spend reading.

The average blog reader skims at best, and what’s easier to skim than a list? Lists quench an essential need: quick information. They display information fast, and they get to the point without any fluff. They give the reader what they want upfront without having to wade through any unnecessary information. Lists capture attention immediately and hold it for a short time. Just perfect for the instant gratification generation.

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

When you happen upon someone’s blog, what grabs your attention? The design? The photos? The titles and text? Think about what you’re looking for when you read a blog. Do you have time to read a ton of paragraphs or do you only have a few minutes before you make dinner to relax and read a short list? Americans are turning into time magicians. They’re able to cram more into a day than ever before. Free time is limited with longer work weeks, play dates, and appointments. Blog readers crave lists because they have only a few seconds to glance at the page.

In addition to time being precious, readers enjoy lists. A short list allows them to feel a sense of completion, and provides them with valuable information they need. Lists provide a beginning, middle, and satisfying end to the reader’s experience. Lists present information quickly; just what the reader wants.

When you consider that reader’s time is valuable, proofreading and editing become crucial. Nobody will return to a blog, whether it contains lists or not, if it’s bogged down by errors. If you’re a blogger, always perform a grammar and spell check before you publish. I like to use Grammarly because it’s easy to use, fast, and helps me find my most common errors. Over time it’s helped me to cut down on editing time so that I can post quicker and present clean and error-free posts.

Is There Anything Else?

Lists aren’t the end all be all. There are plenty of blog readers who appreciate a well-written paragraph, a great short story, or a travel log. Not all of them need to have lists in every post to feel like they’ve read something useful. There are infographics and charts, photos and videos, and polls. Blog readers enjoy all sorts of formats.

Instant gratification lasts merely that, an instant. Blogs with only lists will only succeed for a short time and then have to adapt to a new style to remain relevant. Blogs that focus more on useful content will find it easier to gain readers and keep them.

By Nikolas Baron

Thanks Nikolas for sharing your thoughts.

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Bio:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

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