Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, July 27, 2012

Marketing Your e-Books and More

After you've written "The End" on your manuscript and sent the file to your publisher, what next? Just a short few years ago, the answer would be start your next project.

With the increased importance of e-book sales, the demise of many of the large bookstores like Waldenbooks and Borders, and a market flood of all kinds of books, everything has changed. While you must still prepare to start your next project, now you need to create a major promotional plan as well.

1. Develop a presence on the Internet. Be involved. Be interested. Join groups of writers whose work is in or close to your genre. Be positive in what you say. The personality of a writer is evident in the comments that writer posts. People have long memories, and sometimes even an innocently conceived remark can be taken the wrong way. So choose your words wisely. You will need a Facebook page for both you and your book. You should have a Twitter account. Try to visit both sites once or twice a day. Check out the people who want to friend you or follow you. Friend and follow back those people who you feel comfortable having as followers and friends.

2. You will need both a Web site and a Blog. The Web site is the steady location to which you will direct your readers so they can learn more about you and your books. You should update your Web site periodically. Ideally, the site should contain a buy link for each of your books.

You can create one or more blogs for free. Blogger and Word Press are among the most popular. You will need to create a new post at least once a week. The Facebook and Twitter icons at the end of your new post make it easier to announce it. Choose a theme and post with the theme in mind at least periodically.

3. Create an impressive and useful Blog by taking a class or reading articles. Dani Greer offers occasional Blog Book Tour courses and also has helpful articles and tips available for free on the blog site.

4. Plan a Blog Book Tour. You will need to research blogs that feature writers in your genre. Also, you will want to find readers' blogs. After all, these are the people you really want to reach. Once you discover appropriate blogs that have good traffic and comments, then contact them and see if they are willing to host you during a one- or two-week blog tour.

5. Write Press Releases. Get the word out about your book the old fashioned way. Tell about your new book with a brief blurb. Make your press release appealing by focusing on an unique aspect about you or your book. Attract the editor's interest.

6. Write an Article about the location where your book is set or about some unusual aspect of the plot. If your book happens to be a reincarnation story, write on that subject. Become an expert on a subject important to your book.

7. Become a speaker for meetings of local organizations, conferences, libraries, etc. Let people know about your areas of knowledge. Put your speaking topics up on your Web site. Be sure contact information is easily accessible.

8. Make new Business Cards, Brochures, Flyers, Posters. Have them ready for your personal appearances everywhere.

9. Get new Photographs taken of you, the author. If you don't have someone who can take good photos, hire a professional. You'll be amazed at how often you will need these pictures, especially for your internet blog appearances and for your press releases.

10. Consider every possibility. Radio shows, television, blog radio. The list keeps growing. Be sure to write down all the ideas you have.

All of this promotional effort will take a lot of time, so don't forget to keep on writing--a little each day--on that next book.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Views from a Book Signing in Williamsburg VA

People View Art Work Displayed Outside B and N Last Sept.
A book signing event at the William and Mary Barnes and Noble in Williamsburg VA on Saturday presented many learning experiences for this author. Because of the prime location in the heart of the historic colonial area, many people who enter the store are wearing Colonial Williamsburg neck lanyards.

Many of the people who spoke with me were from other states and visiting for three or four days. The first several people I talked with are no longer buying paperback books. One said she had traveled for many years in her job. Now that she has a Kindle, she loads it up with books. Another woman says she likes her Kindle because of the light that enables her to read at night. I gave these readers my card and noted that all of my books are available for Kindle and that most are also obtainable as Nook Books.

One lady visiting from Pennsylvania explained that she has a book coming out in several weeks. She's excited and had lots of questions about marketing.

A local author pulled out a copy of his self-published math book. He wanted my opinion of the cover. He also had questions about marketing. I asked him about social networking on Facebook and Twitter. He was unfamiliar with that route but expressed hope the company that published his book would help him with the marketing process.

When a man wearing an Indiana Jones hat and vest entered the store, I spoke to him and encouraged him to purchase my Indiana Jones-style adventure story, Jungle Jeopardy. I was delighted when he came back and got a copy.

During the four hours of my signing, I spoke with people from all over the country. Some had recently moved to Williamsburg. Others were weekend tourists.

My free gift of a signed original art card with each book purchase attracted some buyers. I didn't wear my Indiana Jones outfit for this signing, but I might wear it next time.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Timeshares--Love Them or Hate Them?

Resort at Puerta Vallarta in Mexico--MMSikes
In recent months, we've gotten many annoying unsolicited telephone calls from companies wanting to relieve us of our "timeshare burden". We have owned timeshares since 1980 and have enjoyed using them and trading them. They have made possible trips we probably never would have taken without our timeshare ownerships.

Some of our destinations have included Trinidad, Puerta Vallarta, Los Cabos, Kauai, Maui, St. Thomas, Sint Maarten, Barbados, Antigua, Key West, Palm Beach, Palm Springs, San Diego, Sedona ... The list goes on and on. We've visited numerous resorts in Canada that we would never have known about without our timeshare affiliation. Several years ago, we went on an adventure to the south of France, encountering a railroad strike en route.

Twelve years ago, we purchased a second timeshare at Island Club in Hilton Head, SC because we wanted to use it each year as our tennis week. The resort has outstanding tennis facilities and excellent teaching pros which makes it ideal for our vacations.

Horses near Avon, Colorado timeshare -- MMSikes
There are people who feel burdened by timeshares they purchased under duress of persistent sales people. Maintenance fees and other costs have risen. Still, we have enjoyed our ownerships and our trades. We have experienced many amazing adventures because of them. And I have found numerous possible settings for new books. A win/win for timeshare ownership.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journey--Almost Could Have Gone to Australia

"Stormy Skies 1" MM Sikes
After spending 11 days in the Colorado mountains, we began our journey home yesterday morning. We left Breckenridge at 10 a.m., and my husband drove us back to the Denver International Airport where we took a flight to Atlanta. Because of storms in the area, we spent a few minutes circling the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport before we could land. That time enabled me to take photos of the stormy skies. I was thrilled to be seated by a window and was thankful that the airline has not yet decided to charge extra for taking pictures from the plane. I took over 50 photos.

"Stormy Skies 2" MM Sikes
Soon after we landed, we discovered our flight back to Richmond was delayed. The projected takeoff time was changed over and over again.

"Stormy Skies 3" MM Sikes
 Eventually, we left Atlanta close to 1:30 a.m. By the time, we arrived in Richmond and picked up our car, it was after 3 a.m. We got back to our little Tidewater town after 4 a.m. In all, our journey home took almost 18 hours.  Oops! I forgot to adjust for the time change from Mountain back to Eastern. The trip actually took almost 16 hours.

The delayed journey home made me start to think that perhaps the flight from Dallas to Australia might not seem quite so long as I once thought. Traveling can become more of a journey than expected.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing for a Small Publisher

Hotels to Remember: A snapshot in time of 20 Classic US HotelsSeveral years ago, my small publisher and I worked together to create an ambitious project that resulted in a hard cover coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Not only was the writing in this book my own, but I also took all the photographs and created all of the paintings--one for each of the 20 hotels featured in this book.

Hotels to Remember
"St. Louis Union Station" Painting by MM Sikes Hotels to Remember
My publisher, Billie Johnson, was located in California at the time. On several occasions, my husband and I flew from Virginia to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County and met with Billie. I brought with me hundreds of slides and photographs, and we spread them out on one of the large breakfast tables at a La Quinta where we were staying. It was on that table that many of the choices for the final version of my book were made.

This was in the early days of Oak Tree. I was learning as a writer, and Billie was learning as a publisher. We've had interesting experiences and challenges along the way. It has been rewarding to work directly with my publisher on projects. We've met other times and places--in Denver when my first novel, Hearts Across Forever was released, in New Orleans where we were working together on another project, and in Las Vegas at the Public Safety Writers Conference where several of my later books were released. These include:  Secrets by the Sea, Night Watch, and Jungle Jeopardy. Because my books are with a small publisher who is concerned with every one of her published books, the earlier books are still available. Books with large publishing houses often are no longer available after several months, sometimes after only one month.

After Oak Tree moved to Taylorville, Illinois, Billie had a writers conference that I attended. While there I discussed my hotels book with another author. I lamented that hotels are always changing and updating. One in my book almost doubled in size right before publication. He told me my book was a snapshot in time. I mentioned that to Billie, and last year she created "A Snapshot in Time" books for some of my hotels.
The Homestead: A Snapshot in TimeI loved the idea because I could use much of the material from Hotels to Remember and update it as well. Would this have happened with a larger publisher? Perhaps.

The publishing industry has changed drastically over the past several years. E-books have gained prominence. They are outselling print books and will become an even bigger market. Although I love to hold a book in my hand, I thought when I left on a trip recently that the two large paperbacks would be much nicer to take in an e-reading device.

I'm excited about writing for a small publisher. I'm excited to have a marketing team to help me. I'm excited about all the potential for growth and opportunity writers now have.

Do you write for a small publisher? What are your experiences?

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Fascination with Angels and the Tapestry for Peace Continues

With my Tapestry for Peace panel in Denver
In 2005 while I was visiting Denver, I met with a wonderful woman by the name of Eve MacKintosh. She told me about her vision of an angel who told her, "There's a place in space for peace." She showed me the beginning of a panel being created by a member of the Denver Branch National League of American Pen Women for the Tapestry for Peace project, the idea for which Eve conceived after seeing the angel on the side of a Florida highway.

Representing the Richmond Branch NLAPW, I had already decided to create a panel for the project prior to meeting Eve. However, seeing Eve in person further inspired me because it was so special of her to meet with me, a perfect stranger, in a hotel where she lugged a pile of materials to show me how to start my panel. I cried when I learned of her sudden and unexpected death in late November of that year.

Some 60 panels were completed and hung for the NLAPW conference in Denver in April 2006. Several members of Eve's family participated in unveiling the Tapestry for Peace project. The tapestry panels later hung in the Colorado State Capitol Building for several months and was viewed by thousands from all over the world.

Tapestry for Peace panels hang in Denver 2006
For a while, I kept up with the Tapestry for Peace project by way of its web site, but that eventually vanished. Sadly, I couldn't find out anything more about its whereabouts. Eve's plan was to have it travel all over the world in promotion of peace.

In early June, I was thrilled to discover that the project had resurfaced. The final art panel--66 total--was sewn in place in March 2012 by members of the Denver Branch.

A video documentary about the tapestry is now nearing completion and will be for sale. The search for a permanent home is underway.

Such a magnificent project envisioned by an amazing lady. I look forward to following the development of the next chapter in the life of the Tapestry for Peace.