Articles by Jessica Schein

How to Market Romance Novels

Rice, fish, squid and lamb by Miriiam Isa. “The book chronicles the first love encountered by the main character, Liz. It follows her observations from a tender age of 5 to present day, 2009.”

Romantic reads are hot. Literally. The genre had an estimated $1.368 billion in sales in 2011, and accounted for 13.4% of the consumer book market. Additionally in 2008, the last year for which this data is available, 74.8 million people claimed to have read a romance novel. Given the popularity of eBooks (29% of 2011 readers preferred digital), these stats are likely to go up in the coming years.

So where are these voracious readers, and how do you find them? Here are a few tips:

Join the Romance Writers of America Association: If you want in on this community, this is where it’s at. (Remember, writers of a genre are often heavy readers, too.) Formed in 1980 to help romance writers achieve success, there are now more than 9,000 members and numerous regional chapters. By becoming active within the organization you’ll not only meet others, either locally or at the annual conference who love and write within the genre, but you’ll also have an outlet for feedback and potential contacts in the blogging world.

Consider an eBook price cut: As mentioned earlier, there’s an eager market for romance eBooks so entice readers with a deal. At Amazon and other online retailers prices for an eBook can be as low as 99 cents. At Lulu, you even have the option to offer your eBook completely free to build your following. If you’re not comfortable at that price point, think about offering your novel for $2.99 or $3.99 for a day or a week. Under $5 is enough of an impulse buy that a customer will feel comfortable taking the plunge without any guilt. More purchases mean more discussion, which is ultimately what you want. Friends and family are the number one way readers discover new titles. Additionally, once your book starts selling, it will be paired with other similar titles at top retailers, which will give it more exposure.

Seek out book clubs: A Google search for “romance book club” brings up pages of results for clubs that solely read print or eBook romance novels. Reach out to the owners of these sites and ask to do free giveaways or call-in for a book club chat. Alternatively, team up with other romance novelists you know and pitch a gift basket giveaway and big video event.

Pre-Publication Marketing Timeline for Authors

On Lulu’s blog there’s been a lot of talk about the “how” of marketing (Pinterest, Blogging, Twitter, writing a press release, video chat, etc.) but little focus on the “when,” which is an equally important component of a successful book marketing campaign.

Here are some general guidelines you can follow compiled in a simple marketing timeline to help you plan:

10–12 weeks out: Do your research. Find appropriate blogs and media outlets that might want to review your book and compile a list of media contacts. Come up with a list of friends who can help spread the announcement of your publication and ask each one personally for support. When you reach out to contacts, offer them a free copy of your book and ask for pre-publication quotes to be used in your book’s detail page at various online retailers.

*Expert tip: Make the first chapter of your book available for free for anyone who might want to review your book or include it in a news article. You can do this by creating a free eBook on Lulu.com that includes just the first chapter of your book as well as contact details for press inquiries.

8–10 weeks out: Draft your press release and any announcement emails you’re planning on sending out.

Marketing a Professional, Technical, or Academic Book

A majority of the blog posts thus far have been more geared toward authors publishing work for the general fiction reader. But what if you’ve written an academic, professional, or technical book that doesn’t have the far-reaching market of a novel? Should you follow the marketing guidelines put forth thus far?

Well, yes and no.

Building a community through social media is important no matter who you’re writing for. However, there are certain aspects niche marketers need to pay more attention to, such as:

Planning your book’s release: Trade books can be released at any point of the year because there is always a willing market of readers. Professional, academic, and technical books are another story altogether. You wouldn’t release a manual for the iPhone4S a month before the iPhone5 is scheduled to come out, nor would you release an SAT guide in May, right after a majority of high school juniors in the country have taken the test. So, before you decide on a release date, research sales spikes for your topic to determine the best season and month for publication.

Finding your niche: This should be a goal for all writers, but it’s especially important for those who write about more obscure or challenging concepts. The good news is that, given the narrow breadth of your topic, you have a smaller community to break into — and thus more of a chance of being noticed. So even before you finish your book,

Author Success Story: Lucia Cascioli

When Lucia Cascioli first finished her novella, Struck, she thought she’d try her hand at traditional publishing, an experience that didn’t pan out as she’d hoped.

“It was frustrating to say the least, especially after one publishing house lost my manuscript,” explains Lucia. The long wait to hear back, coupled with the less-than-stellar royalty and advance rates typically given to authors without a track record, didn’t exactly make Lucia want to continue struggling down the big publisher road.

Then she discovered Lulu, which changed the way she thought about getting her book into the hands of readers.

“Lulu is my one-stop-shop that meets all my needs: professional staff, great editors and cover designers, and the ability to have my books sold in print and online. My project manager explained the process to me and coordinated the services in each of my packages, hassle free.”

To publish Struck, as well as

The Editorial Process

Photo courtesy of TheCreativePenn’s photostream on Flickr

Michael Crichton once said of revising, “Books aren’t written. They’re re-written.” As any of us who have slogged through draft after draft knows, he’s entirely on the mark, and it’s what you do during the rounds of revisions that make your book closer to finally being finished.

Editors at traditional houses work extensively with writers on everything from a book’s plot and character to title and cover design. After a book is acquired, the author will receive an extensive, pages-long editorial letter that is not for the faint of heart. It outlines a number of changes that will need to be made, thus kicking off a long revision period that ultimately ends with publishing as much as 18 months later.

As an author using an open-publishing platform, you have more flexibility in accepting or rejecting where you want the story and characters to go, and you don’t have to wait nearly two years to hold a copy of your book in your hands.

How to Approach the Media

Connecting with readers via Twitter, your blog, and organized online chats is one way to reach people. Another important way is through the media, who will be able to get the word out about your book to a larger audience. Successful PR requires a lot of work but can have a huge payoff. The media is hungry for news with a new angle. It’s up to you to provide journalists with insight into why their audience will be interested in your story.

Nowadays, most journalists accept and prefer email communication and their addresses are often found attached to their articles. Alternatively, if you’re going to contact a blogger, you can find his or her information on a “Contact” page. Please note: Mail isn’t dead. Remember, you want to stand out, so package up your book and press release in a way that will catch the journalist’s eye. With so many pitches being received per day, you’ll need to stand out.

Before you start sending off a press release (tips on how to write a great press release here), here’s a little more information on how to get your pitch noticed.

Tom Clements on Marketing His Successful Book: How to Write a Killer SAT Essay

By the time The College Board unveiled a new essay component to the SAT in 2005, Tom Clements, a former college English instructor, had already been teaching prep classes for 15-plus years. He understood the components of good writing but wanted to develop a way for students to write well and fast, since test-takers are only allotted 25 minutes to complete the written portion of the test. Thus How to Write a Killer SAT Essay was conceived.

“Using my students as a ‘focus group’ I presented strategies and techniques for prefabricating their essays with content examples varied enough to apply to any topic (called prompts) The College Board might throw at them during the SAT. My students did so well — average scores for their essays were in the 92nd percentile range — that I decided to incorporate both my methodology and my students’ actual essays in a book that would teach kids not able to take my class in person to nonetheless dominate the SAT essay.”

Despite the innovative strategies and proven success of Tom’s technique, How to Write a Killer SAT Essay faced challenges on its road to publication — at first.

Lulu Author & Illustrator Win Gold Mom’s Choice Award

A few years ago, after being introduced through a mutual friend, author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and illustrator Sandra Waugh decided to team up on a picture book that celebrates all art forms, cooperation, and the idea that anyone, young or old, should “let their dreams fly.” Lucky for us, their dream became a reality known as Pinky Doodle Bug, which was released in December.

After completing the book they were cautious about pitching the big children’s publishing houses, which are often hesitant to take on debut authors in the picture book genre. Elizabeth and Sandra also had reservations about traditional publishing’s strict storybook arcs and long-lead printing times.

“In the world of children’s publishing, which often feels like a secret club, we felt our book may or may not ever come to life,” Elizabeth says. “We didn’t want to risk it… We wanted to really remain positive and put all of our positive energy and life into the project.”

So the duo decided on Lulu.com for the paperback, hardcover, and eBook — a decision they’re extremely happy with.

The relationship between the two women and Lulu has been strong from the start — which isn’t a surprise given the collaborative message of Pinky Doodle Bug. In addition to purchasing Lulu’s Global Distribution Package, which puts the book in every bookstore (on order) as well as on multiple online retailers, Elizabeth and Sandra also worked closely with Lulu to market their book.

“Lulu.com has been a critical part of our success. They have had on-the-spot customer service, featured our book, tweeted about us and really help us market the book also, which is probably the biggest boost needed,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth and Sandra’s marketing efforts didn’t stop there. They have a robust website that launched before the book released so that they could showcase their ideas and bring the characters to life. By using snappages.com, they have full control over the design and content of their site though the company’s easy drag-and-drop system. This allows them to update pinkydoodlebug.com at least once a week so that everything showcased is current and relevant. Their site has also been a place for Sandra to post coloring pages that have proved so popular a Pinky Doodle Bug activity book will be out soon!

Recognizing that having a website is only the first step toward successful marketing — and that getting people there is the second — both women used social media to boost traffic to their website. Elizabeth leveraged her business’ Twitter account (30,000 followers) and also created a Pinky-specific Facebook page and Twitter account (700 followers) to give away the book and raise brand awareness — within reason. Both women abide by “Twitter 4 Business Specialist” Keith Keller’s assertion that tweeters should abide by the 1 to 10 ratio, meaning 1 tweet about you and 10 about something or someone else.

Although scheduling (they’re moms!) and cost constraints have prohibited Elizabeth and Sandra from working with a PR agency, they’ve both done school and/or library visits, which paid off. Pinky Doodle Bug recently received the prestigious GOLD Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media products. Elizabeth advises that authors seize the opportunities they can: “Sometimes the reason for being there [a book festival, for instance] might not be to sell books, but rather to meet someone or to learn something about someone or yourself.”

In the future Elizabeth and Sandra plan to let their own Pinky dreams fly. Outside of an upcoming activity book and new picture book, Pinky Doodle Dance, the author and illustrator team are hoping to create Pinky dolls, media, and more.

The Importance of a Writing Routine

When it comes to when and where to write, everyone is different. Maya Angelou starts early and works in hotel rooms with bare walls, Truman Capote claimed he could only write when in bed, horizontal, and Vladimir Nabokov scribbled on index cards for entire nights. Some authors hold themselves to 10 pages per day no matter what (Stephen King), while others force out 500 words a day (Ernest Hemingway). Despite these differences in approach many writers share one commonality: a routine. Like competitive athletes, writers don’t show up for practice when they feel like it. They commit to a schedule and stick with it. Yes, some days will be good, and some days will be bad, but in order to improve one has to keep going.

To be clear there’s no “right” routine, only what works best for you. So what is that? Well, first off, what do you want to achieve? Are you hoping to finish a 100,000 word novel in 12 months? Or complete a short story in 60 days? Once you know, write your objective down and put it in a place where you’re sure to see it every day. A constant reminder will hopefully spur you forward.

Now that you know what you want to achieve what’s next?

  • Friends, family, and work will get in the way, if you let ‘em. Don’t. Review your schedule and find a few times a week where you can allot at least an hour of writing time. Put it in your calendar (even set up a reminder 1 hour in advance) or tack up a note in a prominent place on the fridge or by your desk. Make sure everyone knows they cannot bother you unless there is an emergency.
  • You have your big objective in place, but what do you want to accomplish in each session? Whether it’s word count or page(s), commit to a measurable goal during your writing time.
  • Test out the best place to work. Maybe it’s not at home at your desk, but instead at a coffee shop, your friend’s living room table, or in Maya Angelou’s case, a hotel room. Wherever it is, make note of where you feel most inspired.
  • Turn off your Internet connection and while you’re at it, leave your phone in another room. This is your time not to be distracted and trust me, Twitter, Facebook, and People.com will try to lure you in. The worst thing you can do is Google a writer you know or admire who is about to publish his or her first, third, or eighth book. This time is about you, not you versus someone else.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has bad days. Anne Lamott wrote an entire book about the moments of despair, and the fleeting glimmers of good, in Bird By Bird (if you haven’t read yet, you should) that are part of being a writer. If you just can’t eke out even a sentence about your current project, describe your surroundings, write a scene from a work not yet started, or re-write the ending of your favorite TV show. Just WORK and reward yourself (ice cream!) afterwards.
  • Keep a log of your writing. Perhaps this is “business-y” but once you see your victories add up, sitting down to write will feel a whole lot more plausible. So jot down the date and your word count or number of pages and reflect on what you’ve accomplished once a week or month.

Like anything routine (ie. general hygiene, washing the dishes, etc.) it becomes somewhat second nature after a while. Explains author Kristiana Gregory, “Since it’s now a long-time habit, a day without writing makes me feel naked.”

So, Lulu authors, now it’s your turn to tell us what your routine looks like in the comments section below.

 

 

How To: Use Video Chat to Connect with Readers

Just because you don’t have the time or money to travel the country touting your book doesn’t mean you have to languish at home post-publication any longer. Programs including Skype and Google Hangout make it easy (and free!) to meet a group of your fans face-to-face. Explains Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter, “Now authors can jump online and literally be a face at the party for an hour. It’s lovely, and such an opportunity for us to directly connect with wonderful readers.”

So how does one successfully bring his or her computer screen–literally–to life?

Choose the right program: Sign up for Skype and Google Hangout and get a feel for what you like most. While both offer free long distance, Skype requires a premium membership for 3+ people, uses a lot of bandwidth to work well, and will drop the entire session should the host drop off. Google Hangout has its drawbacks, too, so figure out what works best for your needs.