Category Archives: marketing

The Power of Three

“I’m not dead yet!”

Sorry for the extended silence over here. I’ve actually written a small handful of posts in the past two months, but they were either too trivial or too whiny or involved too much navel-gazing. So I deleted them and decided to wait until I could fit all those qualities into one post.


I’ve been busy writing. And deleting and editing and writing and deleting some more and . . . I swear, I will never participate in NaNo ever again. I suspect I’ve deleted or completely re-written every single word spewed forth in November. Mind you, I think NaNo is a terrific thing for writers if it works for them. I’d absolutely recommend that any interested writer give it a try, because you never know what might work if you don’t try it. But it’s just not a good fit for my writing process. Geez. I’ve never had to do such a major overhaul.

There, that takes care of the trivial whining portion of the post.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about marketing. Trying to think like a reader. Luckily, I am one! In fact, I am a voracious and highly experienced reader. So I’m the perfect person for me to ask about what works in terms of marketing books [just nod and agree as if that made sense].

What works for me? When I discover a new-to-me writer and read a book of theirs that I really like, the first thing I do is check to see whether they’ve written anything else. If they have, I’ll buy another book. If I like that, I’ll buy a third. And a fourth. And probably the entire backlist, provided it’s priced such that my budget can handle it.

But what happens when I read a book I really like and there are no more books by that person? Well, of course, I make a mental note to remember that person’s name. Because that works so well. Not. Sure, I could make an actual list. But I know how hard it is to write a book. I hope that person will write another, but I’ve seen dozens of writers disappear in my decades of reading. So I’m not counting on it.

Seeing an author’s name once or twice is not going to make it stick in my brain, no matter how much I might have enjoyed their writing. There are just too many other books and authors out there. And I read A LOT. But three times . . . there’s something memorable about that. Seeing something three times, searching Amazon three times, buying an author’s books three times, and — this is KEY — really enjoying something three times. That would leave a lasting impression, even with me.

Now, the importance of having a backlist is not a new concept. I’ve heard it from several sources, but probably heard it first from Bob Mayer. He has an uncanny knack for being way ahead of his time. Our time? The times? Whatever. I’m sure his prescience is a direct result of all those alien abductions. Anyway, I remember him saying there’s not much point in marketing your books until you’ve published at least three of them (there’s that number again).

I’ve decided to take that advice a step further. I’m not going to publish any of these stories I’m currently writing until I have at least three of them ready to go. Because if someone really likes a book I’ve written, I want them to be able to buy another one immediately. And, if they enjoy that, yet another. I might never get a second chance to capture that person’s attention. There are just too many other books out there.

I want that person to remember my name when future books are published. I figure three books ought to do it. I might be wrong. I have no statistics or publishing experience to back this up. All I have is my intuition and experience as a reader. But I’m pretty average in terms of remembering things [just nod and agree, humour me] and it seems to work for me. It makes sense to me.

As a writer, putting books out there as soon as they’re ready to go is a seductive prospect. Everyone does it that way, even traditional publishers. It would certainly satisfy my towering impatience. I also think it’s a mistake.

Yeah, I know, most of you reading this post already know my name (as well as my new pen name) and will argue that you don’t want or need to wait until I have three books ready. I know that, and I’m sorry to make you wait. Really, I am.

But I’m sort of hoping to sell books to more than five people. Looking at this from the perspective of an unknown reader, it just doesn’t make sense to rush to publication and do this piecemeal. The importance of seeing things from that perspective, being aware of the discovery process of the unknown reader, is something writers can’t afford to ignore in this new realm of DIY publishing.

So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t published anything yet, that’s why. Yes, I could have. But just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. And I believe there are compelling reasons why it would be foolish to do so.

Of course, none of this matters AT ALL if no one enjoys the books. So, back to working on that part of it.


Filed under goals, marketing, self-publishing

You are doing it wrong

No, not you. I can’t even see you. I have no idea what you’re doing. I’m sure whatever it is . . . *squints at the screen* . . . is just fine. Probably.

No, I’m talking about retailers. More specifically, their marketing departments. This has been on my mind because of the recent disclosure by Google that they are now going to stalk all our internet activity across all platforms and somehow, I don’t know, smush it all together. So they can do a better job of stalking us.

Well, all I can say is, it’s about damn time. Because so far, efforts have been pitiful at best. Retailers need to pay attention and ramp up their efforts as well.

You want examples? You’re in luck. I have examples [and in future, be careful what you wish for when you notice I haven’t posted in a while].

Last Christmas — not the one we just had, the one sixteen months ago — I bought my son some clothes. Online, at Macy’s. And for the next eight months, every other week, I got an email from Macy’s telling me about the biggest newest sale they were having. On men’s clothes. This, in spite of the fact that my “real name” is not one of those names anyone would ever mistake for a man’s name. Really.

At the same time, I also bought an Italian cookbook over at Amazon to give as a gift. Last week, way more than a year later, I got yet another monthly email from Amazon telling me about yet another new release in Italian cookbooks.

Okay, first of all, retailers should just assume anything purchased in December — maybe even late November because, incomprehensibly, some people don’t wait until the last minute to shop — is a gift. And not an item of lifelong personal interest. Second, how many Italian cookbooks do they imagine one person needs? If they were smart, they’d think, hey, this customer likes to cook! and offer French or Thai or Indian cookbooks. Or maybe send ads about unique kitchen utensils. Or unusual spice collections. But no. Every month I get an email about the latest Italian cookbook.

Then there was the rental car company that stalked me with big yellow pop-up ads for four months. Thanks for the reminder that your rates were the highest of all the companies I researched. Thanks for reminding me, every day for four months, of a particularly stressful time in my life when my daughter’s car needed expensive repairs and we decided to sell it instead (to a guy who loves to fix cars) but then we had to rent a car at the last minute so she could drive back to New Orleans in relative safety. I was trying to block all that from my memory, thankyouverymuch. You can be sure I’ll remember you next time I need to rent a car.

And last fall, when my son mentioned he was going to an ECU football game and I later wondered who they were playing, so I went to the ECU website because I figured that was the fastest way of answering that question. Yeah, right. Thanks ECU, for stalking me with ads for a few months, telling me what a great educational experience you offer. But it just so happens I’ve already paid you way more money than any one entity truly deserves, regardless of my son’s Econ degree. Thanks for the reminder about that parent loan I’m still paying off.

Oh, and thank you Domino’s for all your advertising stalkery after I had a momentary lapse in judgment and self-control and ordered a pizza from you online. Obviously, you don’t know that my body has issues with gluten. Eating pizza, even a thin crust pizza that has really thin gluten, is a really bad idea. Really. But hey, thanks for reminding me over and over and over again what an idiot I am and just how awful I felt afterward.

And then there’s the women’s clothing store where I bought a couple things for myself in early December. Things I really liked. A lot. Happy birthday to me! And I’d shop there again. Maybe next December, on my next birthday. Except . . . I’m starting to fucking hate you because you’ve sent me an email EVERY SINGLE DAY since then, telling me about the latest INCREDIBLE SALE you’re having. Every. Damn. Day. That reeks of desperation. What are you thinking? I don’t even read them anymore before I hit the delete button.

And then there’s all the stuff I click on and look at on the internet that’s a result of research for writing. Or idle curiosity. Or boredom. Someone mentions a pretty necklace or a cute pair of shoes, I go look. I’m not shopping, for godsakes. I hate shoes and most jewelry makes me twitch. I’m procras– um, I’m trying (and failing) to see the attraction.

Or maybe someone used an obscure word in an article and suddenly I’m not sure I remember the precise meaning, given the way it was used (glaringly). So I google it. Because, as a writer, precise meaning is important to me (even if it isn’t to others). That does not mean I want to see six months of ads for the stupid thing.

Yes, I know, I could get rid of much of this nonsense by erasing my history or deleting my cookies or opting out of email. But I don’t want to. As irritating as it is, it’s fascinating to watch companies getting it so very wrong. Like an epic train wreck of grossly ineffective high-tech stalkery.

So I’m delighted and cautiously optimistic about Google’s intention to pay closer attention. I hope they’ll realize that I’m interested in damn near everything. And that they won’t start limiting my searches to things I’ve already seen. Maybe they’ll even realize that until they start asking me what I think about the things I’ve seen, the meaning of a website click is not necessarily what they have so far assumed it to be.

Sooner or later, someone is going to figure out how to do it right. And that doing it right means no restrictions. No pre-determined preferences. No narrowing of boundaries. Because my curiosity and capacity for procras– um, thirst for knowledge are limitless and far more diverse than any search engine or marketing department could ever imagine.

In fact, I’m waiting for the search engine that knows me so well, they’ve discovered I’m a writer. Perhaps they’ll contact me to say, “We noticed that last month you were searching for articles about undetectable fatal poisons — frankly we’re a bit disturbed by that, but we know you’re a writer so we’re trying to stay calm and not contact the authorities, but still, please don’t ever invite us over for lunch — and thought you might be interested to know there have been two new articles on that topic published since then and here are the links.” Because that would be awesome. Also, helpful.

And maybe, eventually, some company will send me an email saying, “Hey, we noticed you’re a writer! We bought your book and read it and loved it so much, we bought copies for all of our employees and our mom too!”

I’m telling you, THAT company will have gained a loyal customer for life. I don’t even care if all they sell are Italian cookbooks.


Filed under just for fun, marketing

Who supplies your habit?

Ack! I’ve been neglecting my blog again. Been kind of busy here. Trying to turn this rough draft into something that sort of resembles that product called a book, even though I suspect the only use people are going to find for it is to line their birdcage.

But I’m trying to think positive thoughts. Uplifting confidence-inspiring thoughts. Mostly they consist of things like, “The whole entire world is not going to read your book and think it sucks and that you can’t write, because only ten people are ever going to read it.”

And along those lines, I’ve been wondering about “promotion” [shudder] and how to let more than ten people know I’ve written a book and it’s going to be published. [<—You see? That right there was a deluded positive thought.] More specifically, I’ve been wondering where people get recommendations about what to read. I started thinking about this after I read a post last week on the Lifehacker blog in which they listed what they call the “Five Best Book Recommendation Services,” and they are:

Do you all use those sites? I’ve heard of most of them, but the only one I’ve ever visited is Amazon. Unfortunately, not all of what I’ve heard is positive. Several people on twitter have complained that at least one of those sites is full of irritating self-promo and spam generated by authors rather than limited to recommendations from readers. Anyone have experience there? Maybe those are sites authors should just avoid?

I know all of you have favourite writers whose books you read (and re-read) with admirable loyalty. I have my list of auto-buy writers too. But I assume you also read books from new-to-you writers. How did you hear about them — either the books or the writers? Whose recommendations do you trust? Friends, co-workers, librarians, the guy sitting next to you on the subway? Bestseller lists? Do you read blogs or online reader forums to get suggestions? When trying a new writer, do you buy the book or get it from the library? Is your decision to try someone new influenced by format and price — that is, whether the book is hardcover, paperback or an ebook?

I can’t really go by my own experience because I’m a bit of a book slut. I’ll try any writer at least once. But I’m not always (or even often) reading for pleasure. In fact, I can learn more from a badly written book than from one that’s so good it sucks me right into the story. So I read all sorts of stuff.

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity. -Christopher Morley

I’ve probably tried 20 different writers so far this year. And my TBR pile is full of books by writers I’ve never read. Some of them I’m hesitant to read because I’ve gotten to “know” the writers online and I really like and admire them and I’m afraid to discover I might not like their books. I know, I’m a wimp and a chicken and shouldn’t be allowed to socialize at all, ever. But that’s off topic.

Let’s see, half of the last six new-to-me writers I read were the result of blog interviews, one was suggested via twitter, and the other two came from an Amazon recommendation — you know, that thing where they say, “if you like that, you might like this.” Sometimes they’re way off base. But sometimes they’re right.

I appreciate Amazon’s “try it free” feature for Kindle books that allows you to read the beginning of the book before you buy it. The vast majority of the time, that’s how I decide whether to read a book. I read the cover copy and skim the first few pages. I can tell a lot in those first few pages. Not unlike an agent or editor, I guess. Oddly, I never read the reviews at Amazon. I don’t really care to hear what some stranger thought about a book. Although that might change once it’s my book. Sigh.

What about you? I’d love to hear what influences your book reading decisions. Pro and con. For or against choosing one. Just pleasepleaseplease don’t tell me you never read anything from someone new. Because if that’s true, I’m screwed. Then again, at least that would mean I’m only going to have to worry about the opinion of those ten people referenced above. All of whom read this blog and are too nice to tell me I suck. I think.

I am SO going to notice if you all rush out and buy birdcages.

Bookmark and Share


Filed under marketing, reader opinion

What is this platform of which you speak?

Platform. Seems you can’t delve deeper than three paragraphs into the internet these days without someone telling you how important it is for writers to have a platform. I’ve been thinking about this lately and it has me more than slightly worried. Because I don’t have one. I’m not even sure what it means. Sounds like something from which one could get pushed.

But the experts are insistent. Writers need a platform. Agents and editors will want to hear about your platform. The time to build your platform is NOW, before you’re published. Building a platform takes time. If you wait until your book comes out, it will be too late.

There are a lot of writers who have pretty clearly defined platforms. Some form a group blog with other writers who have something in common — usually they’re all published in the same genre, or by the same publisher. But I’ve never been much of a joiner and can’t really see myself doing that. Not to mention, you know, I’m not published. Sort of a prerequisite. Yet everyone says a platform should be established before the product.

Some writers are experts in a particular area or have an interesting day job or unusual background. But I’m really just sort of . . . average. I’m neither old nor young. I live in suburbia. [yawn] I have two kids and a dog and a cat, but so do a lot of other people. The day job is drier than dust and involves mostly confidential financial stuff. No one wants to hear about that. I’m an excellent cook, but others are better. I don’t have an advanced degree in metallurgy and haven’t travelled to the ends of the earth. Or even Europe. There just isn’t any fascinating subject about which I’m knowledgeable.

I’ve written a few blog posts lately that have apparently been of interest to writers. But that feels awkward as a platform, since I don’t have all that much to offer other writers in the way of experience or advice. I’m delighted if other writers want to read my blog but, in general, they’re not who I’m talking to when I write blog posts. Except lately. But, you know, not always.

Can you tell I’ve been agonizing about this? Well, I have been. To the point where I’m not sure what the hell to write over here anymore. Sure, I do an occasional post about writing, but I’m just as likely to write about the cat. And anything in between. There is no consistency, no common topic, no single thread that binds it all together. Who is my audience? What do I have to say? What is my platform? I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even started building. But I need to build it NOW.

And then today all this angsty indecision came to the boiling point of ridiculous when I realized I’d pretty much convinced myself that, lacking a platform, I shouldn’t be blogging at all.

Um, wait a minute.

The fact is, I’ve been writing blog posts here and elsewhere for more than three years. I think I’ve gotten to where I don’t completely suck at it. Three or five people keep coming back to read them, anyway, so I must be doing something right.

I’m a writer. My job is to connect with readers. My audience is anyone who wanders over here and decides to come back, for whatever reason. What I have to offer are my words and my voice and my outlook on life. And that’s it.

That’s my platform. Well, my definition of it, at least. It’s not fancy or impressive or even particularly original. And I’m fine with that. Right now, after years of building a thing I didn’t even know existed, it feels pretty solid to me.

It’s going to have to be enough. Because probably the next post is going to be about the cat.

Unless anyone has a request . . .

[Don’t you just love the virtual snow? Enjoy it while it lasts.]

Bookmark and Share


Filed under blogging, marketing, social media

Time to do blog crafts!

Okay, I need advice. Now that life has calmed down somewhat, I need to do something about this blog. I’m going to be creating a WordPress blog with multiple pages, one that will look more like a serious writer-person website and will also, I hope, appeal to readers.

But I suspect the reasons I visit certain websites are different from the reasons non-writers enjoy (or dislike) particular sites. And since those of you who read this blog are avid readers as well as some of the smartest people I know, I thought I’d ask you:

  • What do you like/dislike about author websites? What features do you enjoy and which just irritate the heck out of you? 
  • What keeps you coming back? What makes you visit the site of a writer you’ve never heard of?
  • Any suggestions for things you think might help me attract new readers (without being annoying)? For instance, I’m thinking about featuring a quarterly email newsletter (with news, duh, but also maybe short stories or an on-going series, perhaps even pictures?) and urging subscribers to share it with friends — do you subscribe to author newsletters and, if so, what do you enjoy/dislike about that? 
  • Is it useful if an author provides sidebar links, do you ever click on them and which ones? 
  • Do you find it entertaining when authors have guest bloggers and why/why not?
  • What am I not considering that I should?

I realize what you probably want most is to know when the book is coming out, and I’m working on that. But I also need to do this and I want to do a good job of it.

Feel free to post links to author sites you particularly love and I’ll go look at them (if you don’t give me a link, I might not be able to find it).

I recently read this blog post by author Ann Aguirre addressing the topic and she covers quite a few of the basics, with more feedback provided in the comments.

And that’s very helpful. But I want to know what you all think. I can promise there won’t be music or things that flash. Or pink. Beyond that, I’m open to suggestions.

Enjoy the word verifications while they last . . .


Filed under blogging, marketing, reader opinion