What to expect leading up to your book launch

The day a book launches is one of the most exciting of an author’s career, but the weeks leading up to it can be nerve-wracking. Knowing what to expect can help give you a sense of calm as you move into “launch month.”

I like to describe the publicity leading up to your publication date like a snowball: it starts out rather small and moves slowly, but as you get closer, momentum and size build up.

First, many readers prefer to wait until launch day or launch week to cross-post reviews (Amazon actually doesn’t allow reviews to post before then, although other sites do). This burst of reviews in a short period of time can be beneficial; it’s similar to advertising, and the sudden, frequent exposure to the book’s cover and title can lead to more orders!

Second, local media publications in your area are more likely to post a review or blurb about the book near the launch date, in order to create a more timely hook for their newscycle.

So how can you help build the momentum?

Check in with your network of family and friends around this time to ask them to help spread the word about your book. They can do this through Goodreads reviews, social media outreach, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. Many of your supporters will want to help you during this time, but they might need you to tell them how.

Post regularly on social media. Prior to launch, you may have been posting about your book on social media less frequently in order to not overwhelm your followers. However, the weeks leading up to your launch is the time to really use those platforms to display your excitement and share this part of your journey! You should also use social media to share any reviews, and to thank the people who wrote them.

Make sure your website is fully updated and running smoothly. As more people hear about your book, your website is likely to have more visits. Make sure buy links (including IndieBound) are displayed prominently to give you the best chance at getting those orders! If you have a reader newsletter, make sure that you have a system in place to capture email addresses of anyone who wants to subscribe.

Be savvy about making your book launch event a success. Encourage your contacts in the area to come, and to spread the word about the event to their networks as well. Stores appreciate when events gather a crowd, and it gives you an opportunity to spread your message beyond your circle. Ask the store what format usually works best for them, whether it’s a short reading, a Q&A, a conversation, etc.

Bring bookmarks and extra pens for signing, and a notepad to take down any email addresses for contacts you may make. Plus some water and mints–you’ll be doing a lot of talking!

In the wake of COVID-19, many stores are offering virtual events instead of in-person events, which is a great option to reach a wider audience beyond where you can travel! Even if an event is virtual, we still recommend being strategic about when, where, and with whom you set up events: you want to make sure you can draw an audience, so that it is a good investment for you and the bookstore.

If the bookstore doesn’t set up a Facebook event for your launch, you should set one up yourself! It’s a great way to let a wide audience know about your launch, and you can include a lot of information in one place.

And most of all, remember to enjoy yourself! This is a special time, and at the end of the day, nothing can diminish your hard work, creativity, and the amazing accomplishment of releasing your own book!

What can authors do to make the most of their time stuck at home?

We at Books Forward know how important this time is for our authors and readers alike. People are going back to basics and reading more than ever (let’s take that good news where we can!).  Sitting at home, readers are wondering “What can I read today?” while Authors are wondering “How can these readers get a copy of my book?” We are here to be that clotheslines between the two! Grab your pegs and pulley that fresh book into their (hopefully) clean hands with a few of these easy tips!

Audience 

Start with your reader –  Who  are they?! And find them! 

  1. Who is your audience? What do they look like? What stores do they shop at? How old are they? Are they married, single,  young, old…  You get the point! Narrow down that audience as best as you can and go after that using hashtags and similar accounts.
  2. Comparable authors – This is a trick that can help you not only find your audience, but find out what works best for that author, which in turn could work well for you! What content are they posting? Where do they get the most engagement? Follow some of their audience and engage. 

Photos

We live in a very visual society – which *err* doesn’t really help us wordsmiths –  but if a visual photo is going to give them incentive to read your caption or better yet your book then we have to think about the immediate bait. With some extra free time at home, why not try to snap a few good photos for content? If a photo is going to get your readers hooked, then let’s reel them in.

Tips for photos:

  • Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! In this day and age, most smart phones carry a quality camera. However, to get the best quality of the camera, you need to take pictures in natural lighting. Move your camera around different angles to see how the light affects your photo. Shoot outside if that helps (*Insiders Tip*  A photographer’s favorite day, is overcast – not too bright and not  too gloomy)
  • Editing Apps: You can download free editing apps such as ColorStory, Afterlight and VSCO but to avoid being overly complicated, most phones have an editing option right in the photo. 
  • Editing Tips:
    • Lightning: Don’t brighten it too much, but adding a little extra can make your photo look extra professional!
    • Crop: Don’t be shy to take a photo as is and use the crop tool to clean it up!
  • Content: Not every photo has to be a perfect photo, people want to see the real you so feel free to share a recipe here and there, your writing setup, your morning coffee routine,, your family – anything that may pull readers in to who you are and how you write. Inspire them!

Easy Photo Examples:

1- Flat Lay: Greenery, or flowers can help bring color to your photo! Place your book on a stool, a chair or table – add greenery around it and voila!

2- Add in textures and colors that you have lying around the house! Where’s your reading spot? Maybe your writing desk? A fun angle: Hold out your book  below using one hand, and snapping the photo with your other:)

3- Use different covers and mediums of how you can listen or read your book!

4- Furry Friends are welcome! People love pets – sneak in those hashtags of your dog’s breed and find new followers that love books &  pets too!

5- Bookstacks – Share with your readers, what you’re reading or what inspires you! Sharing your name and associating with other authors always gives good perception. Tag them and see if they repost it!

6- Don’t be too shy to get in the shot! Set up a timer or have a friend/family member to take a picture of you writing or reading. Get that book plug in there too  by having it somewhere in the frame;)!

Instagram LIVE

This is a great new tool for creatives. Although, it may seem terrifying to go live – It’s a great way to  connect! *just remember to turn on AND off the camera*

Here are a few ways you can use this tool:

1- Pair up with another author! They can be in the Books Forward family or a fellow author you know. Schedule a time, share it with your fans on both socials and choose to ask each  other questions about the writing process, or any chapters in your book etc. You  can have a theme or it can just be a quick happy hour chat!

2- The new donation button – This tool is a great way to get readers to buy  your book on the spot. OR, you  can use this tool to pick a charity and raise money during your Live. Team up and Tag!

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-adds-live-donations-feature-for-fundraising-via-instagram-live/576951/ 

Facebook LIVE

Again, another great tool to reach out to people on that platform! You can do a  reading hour, where you read and discuss a section of your book, throw a launch party, cook your favorite meal- anything that helps create content, tags other accounts and promotes your book at the same time is a good recipe!

Example:

1 –  Authors, David & Julie Bulitt LIVE making their favorite drinks in the kitchen!

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/ 

2- Author Katie Burke, jumped on a Zoom call with local bookshop The Booksmith and a few kids from her book “Urban Playground;  What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco.”

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/  

REVIEWS

Don’t be shy to reach out to  Instagram, Facebook or any book reviewers and offer a copy of your book in exchange for a post! Now, on Amazon you can send an ebook as a gift, super easy and practical for social distancing! 

All in all, social media is a great tool but you have to be patient with it. The more time you spend engaging, creating content and connecting with people you will start to see your numbers grow – Remember, consistency is key! It’s a clothesline, where you need to hang each item up one by one –  give it time. Unfortunately, social media is not an automatic dryer. *welp*

JKS Communications celebrates 20 years with launch of Books Forward publicity and Books Fluent publishing

Veteran book publicity firm JKS Communications has been moving books forward for 20 years, and the company is proud to celebrate this anniversary with the launch of two new companies under its brand. Books Forward will continue the signature creative, customized book marketing and author publicity campaigns, and a new indie publishing division, Books Fluent, will provide professional editorial, design and publishing services. 

BOOKS FORWARD

JKS has promoted more than 700 authors, small presses, literary award programs and publishing houses since 2000. The Books Forward team will continue to represent both traditionally published authors and independently published books that meet high industry standards. Services include traditional publicity through mainstream and book-centric media, book tour development, author branding and digital marketing.

Books Forward has a particular passion for books that empower, inspire and move the world forward. Clients include New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss, whose award-winning historical nonfiction examines race and social justice through sports; USA Today bestselling author Jenny Milchman, famous for the “world’s longest book tour”; YA author J. Elle, set to release her #ownvoices debut after garnering attention through a social media campaign; Mary Higgins Clark award winner and national president of Sisters in Crime Lori Rader-Day; indie published success story S.B. Alexander, who later helped Books Forward build its digital marketing division; “The World is Just a Book Away” anthology of stories from Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actresses and other world leaders; Chaithanya Sohan, who explores themes of home and belonging in the U.S. through immigrant stories; Holocaust survivor and scholar Laureen Nussbaum, who shines light on unsung heros; and #1 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick author Cheryl Rainfield, an international child abuse and feminist advocate.

“Our foundation is built on veteran journalists, giving our team a unique strength. Through national media outlets, we share books to make the world a better and brighter place,” the company’s President Marissa DeCuir said. “And it’s that love of meaningful stories that powers our team to share authors’ important messages, and inspire readers with engaging fiction and nonfiction. The world needs some positivity, and readers crave books that matter — to them and to our world.”

BOOKS FLUENT

JKS’ new indie publishing company, Books Fluent, transforms manuscripts into high-quality commercial books that equal or exceed industry standards. 

Having guided authors through the self-publishing process for years, Books Fluent’s team of industry experts expands upon these services. The company offers professional book editing, on-trend cover design and interior layout, savvy distribution plans, and management of ISBNs, copyrights, and other nitty gritty tasks.

Books Fluent’s expertise empowers authors to learn the unique language of this industry and become successful publishers, rising above the competition of more than 3 million books released every year.

CELEBRATING 20 YEARS

Books Forward and Books Fluent will celebrate their launches throughout 2020 with prizes, special announcements and exclusive opportunities for authors and readers alike — including one grand prize of a free book publicity campaign for an author working to help move the world forward. To enter, submit an application here

As part of the company’s continued mission to elevate voices, Books Forward is also launching the #booksforward campaign to celebrate all the incredible ways stories have made the world a better place. Book lovers are encouraged to join the conversation by using the hashtag and sharing about literature that has impacted their lives.

Social media:
Twitter: twitter.com/booksforwardpr
Instagram: instagram.com/booksforwardpr
Facebook: facebook.com/BooksForward

Tips To Make Your Book a Bestseller

Recently, the publishing world has been in a tizzy about the “fixing of the lists” by a now notorious first-time author, Lani Sarem. There is a wonderful summary of all that transpired by Vox writer Constance Grady if you’d like to read the storied background of how this scandal erupted (and you should). This self-published author temporarily tricked The New York Times into bestowing the much-coveted best-seller appellation upon her book (but they later removed Handbook for Mortals from the rankings).

Read Full Blog Post

 

Writing a Book vs. Desiring to Sell Copies

Best Seller Books

With the explosion of indie publishing and self-publishing, there’s a conundrum that was avoided through traditional publishing because there were gate keepers. Now, indie published or self-published authors need to ask themselves the tough questions hopefully before writing, and certainly before releasing.

You have a story to tell and you can’t bear not to tell it. It’s burning inside of you and you’ve always considered yourself a pretty good writer, so why not?!

Well, what some people feel compelled to write many more people do not feel compelled to read. If you don’t want to be encumbered by any “rules” or “gatekeepers” who annoyingly want you to conform to practices that have proven successful for other books and authors, then fine. But, be aware. Be very aware. Just because you write it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll read … and certainly doesn’t mean they’ll buy it.

Recently I’ve had conversations with several authors who are determined to write exactly the book that they want to. And those same people often are determined to sell a lot of copies. Here in lies the problem.

Consider other industries. A self-trained musician who took some music appreciation classes in college may want to write a song, or many songs. That’s fine. But what do you think the chances are that the musician, working alone in her house without the guidance of Quincy Jones or another tried and true producer of hits, making it BIG? What about a kid who plays basketball on his driveway—every day for hours—but never against anyone else on a team and without a coach. What are his chances of making it to the top of the NBA? There are flukes. But I think we all agree that someone working with a mentor who has already made it in the big leagues probably has a better shot of selling more records, or tickets to a basketball game, than someone who is going it totally alone.

I believe that there are books that people have to write. Are compelled. But, and especially when it comes to writing about personal experiences, determine why you are writing and be honest about what your goal is. If your goal is to make a permanent statement or capture a time gone by, do it! If your goal is to sell as many copies of a book as possible, consider finding a veteran mentor. Surround yourself with other people successful in the business (go to author events at your local bookstore, follow and study your favorite authors and figure out what makes them successful, find a killer editor who has had success in your genre). Just as parents encourage kids on the basketball court—“Honey, you are really great at shooting that ball!”—recognize that family and friends don’t have a financial stake in your success. They love you, so they’re going to say your book is great. I promise, I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times. I get calls, “Twenty of my friends loved my book! One said it should win a Pulitzer!” I’m much more interested in what someone who doesn’t know the writer, doesn’t care about the writer, thinks of the writing. How can you get an unbiased opinion? I loved the ingenuity of one clever author that told me she gives her manuscripts to family and friends and says, “A friend wrote this and gave this to me to read. Let me know your thoughts.”

Lots of kids play little league baseball. Fewer kids play for their high school team. Really great kids play college or farm team baseball. The minutest number of those terrific baseball players ever makes it to the big leagues. And how many baseball players playing today can you name? My point is that there is a place for everybody on that baseball scale, but very few will become famous. It’s the same odds for writing a book. There are authors who will delight their family and friends. Some will go on to make an impression in their community or field of work. The really great ones who get some breaks along the way will sell 100,000. And of the millions of people who write books each year, many less than 1 percent will become household names. In baseball, the current players don’t have to play against Babe Ruth and stars of the past. In the book world, you’re still competing for the attention and time of readers against every book ever written as well as all the new stars coming up through the ranks this year.

Set realistic goals while reaching for the stars. Understand that if you choose to go it alone, then that doesn’t mean that you also necessarily get to have the luxury of demanding that others purchase and read your book.

Whether you’ve written a book that 2,500 people buy and many hold close to their heart or you become an overnight sensation like JK Rowling (and how many have there been since her?!), celebrate what you have done. You’ve created art that has its place. If you’re determined to rise to the top, make sure you’ve got a coach and team surrounding you that gives you a pretty good chance to showcase your talent on a national stage.

 

6 Tips to Make You and Your Books Stand Out!

Book Tips Kapow

In the tsunami of books being published, what are some things you can do to really make your book stand out and pop off the shelf?

  1. A book absolutely is judged by its cover! Don’t go cheap. Hire someone who has a great track record of creating book covers. It’s a specialty, and your book deserves to be the “best dressed.” Remember, a cover is just to pull in someone browsing books and get them to read the back cover or pick it up in a shop. It’s not meant to tell the whole story. Intrigue the would-be buyer to lean in closer.
  2. The synopsis or back-cover copy is really important! Don’t allow it to be an afterthought as you’re racing to get it to press. Sometimes it really requires a third-party perspective to write what the heart of the book is . . . as an author, you may be too close to it. Work with someone who has read the book and is involved in the book industry in some way.
  3. Blurbs! Those sentences on the front and back cover of the books by New York Times bestselling authors, literary magazines or celebrities are good to have. People in the industry have mixed feelings about how successful a blurb is in selling a book. But some blurbs can push that would-be reader over the edge to take a chance. A great twist on who to get blurb your book: a bookseller (name and bookstore included) is a really cool blurb to bag!
  4. Releasing your book in November or December to “catch the holiday sales” is a poor idea. Unless your last name is Patterson, Clark or Grisham. If you have control over your publishing date, hold it to the new year. That way the ISBN and copyright dates stay fresh for many months, rather than being “last year’s news” just as people are learning about it. Also, there’s a whole lotta noise about all kinds of things at the end of the year, and you want to have a little oxygen for your book when it comes out.
  5. For the good of your book, make sure you’ve come up with a plan prior to releasing it into the world. Have a website. Have a social media presence. And brand all these as you, not the title of your book—unless you are positive beyond all reason that you will never again in your life write another book. It’s weird to see authors’ profile pictures as a book cover on social media when they have a different book coming out . . . or they forget to update their website. Make it easy on your fans to find you.
  6. And now, the really BIG way to make your book stand out . . . write a GREAT book and edit it within an inch of its life. Most people wouldn’t invite 100 people for dinner without working out the menu and making all the dishes several times to be sure they are the best you can present. Same with a book. Don’t put something out that is half-baked. Many of the authors we work with have at least 4 feet stacks of manuscript pages they whittle through to get an 80,000 word final manuscript.

Indie romance author Blue Saffire reaching incredible success with multiple interracial romance series

NEW YORK CITY – In just over a year since romance author Blue Saffire began writing and releasing books, she has trailblazed a path to success that many indie writers can only dream of. A multi-Swirl Award winner and a perennial Amazon bestseller, Saffire is the woman behind the popular interracial romance series “Legally Bound,” “Hush,” “Ballers,”“Brothers Black,” “Perfect For Me” and “Yours.”

Always the overachiever, Saffire typically releases a new book every four to six weeks, quenching the thirst of her dedicated fans with spicy storylines and dynamic writing. Saffire has seven releases slated between October 2016 and January 2017 including three new “Brothers Black” books and four new “Legally Bound” books.

One of Saffire’s keys to success is her talent for connecting with readers on a personal level. In 2017, she’s throwing Blue’s March Madness from March 23 to March 25 at Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms, SC. Not only does each reader get a chance to meet and hang out with Saffire, she’s inviting her bestselling author friends to join in on the fun. Included in the price of tickets are the events, new books exclusive to March Madness attendees and an extra-special secret surprise. For more information, visit http://bluesaffire.com/leads/march-madness/.


An Interview with Blue Saffire

What led you to writing romance novels, and why did you specifically dive into interracial romance?

I am a kinetic person, I feel life and I am always in my feelings. I spend 90 percent of my time in my own head. I think I have a little world of love in there, and it is more entertaining and pleasant than the real world at times. I actually didn’t even know there was an interracial genre for some time. I had written “Legally Bound” after having a dream about the characters and didn’t know what to do with it. A few years later, I had a dream to put the first book out and I did. I write who my characters show me they are, nothing more nothing less.

Which authors inspire your writing the most?

I can’t say I’m inspired by anyone really. Most of my books come from my dreams. That is where my inspiration comes from. I dream in 3D and very vividly. I swear I should take popcorn to bed. It’s like watching movies in my sleep. I tend to like to play by my own rules, and I think my books reflect that.

What about your books connects so well with readers?

I think I put a piece of me in every book. Once again, I’m a feeler so I make sure you feel me in my writing. That is usually the common response from readers, that they were taken through all their emotions with each chapter. I have cried through typing some scenes and laughed out loud during others.

Which guy do you find the most intriguing in your books?

I fall in love with each hero I write. We have a two to three-week love affair. They tell me their story, we fight over how I will tell it and then we make up and give life to our compromise. All my guys are alphas in one way or another. I love that they protect. The bigger the protector, the more I fall in love. My men protect through their love. Besides, their all a version or my husband, but shhh don’t tell him.

What do you think has been the most important factor in your success?

I have known failure, and I have known hurt; I don’t like them, so I do everything in my power to avoid them as best I can. I also stay true to who I am. I write my books for me and then I share my world with everyone else. If you love it, I am so grateful for that. If you don’t, I respect that, but I am also okay with it. I don’t get stuck in the negative, I just strive to do better and that is what drives me to ask, “what’s next?” I don’t compete with anyone else. My goal is to outdo Blue Saffire, to see her become better with each keystroke. My latter should always be greater than my former. That’s what keeps me focused looking straight ahead.

What are you most excited about for March Madness?

Being able to give back to my readers. There are so many surprises and things I will be sharing with them. They have been a part of my dream and this will just be a way to show them how much I really care. I can’t wait to meet all of my friends in person. That’s who my readers have become, whether they know it or not. They are my reader friends that share in my world and now I get to share even more.

 How in the world do you manage to churn out books so quickly?

I have no freaking idea. LOL! I’m watching from outside my body. I guess it is because I really love what I do and have a passion for it. I only release what I love, so I do take my time to do my best, but I have so many characters and stories in my head, I have to work fast to get them all out of there. It is getting crowded!


blue-saffire-2

BLUE SAFFIRE is a woman on a mission to share her words and thoughts with the world. She has found her passion in her pen and steams up the pages with her humor, honesty, love and voice. Saffire represents the secret author inside that some of us are too scared to let out.

Saffire and her family all enjoy life in the suburbs. However, life throws her challenges daily and since her diary is no longer enough, she has decided it is time for new outlets for the words she would never say face to face to her friends, family and definitely not her husband. For more about Blue Saffire and her books, visit http://bluesaffire.com/.

Villains: You Have to Love Them (at least a little) to Make Them Engrossing

We thriller writers are consumed with creating the perfect villain, but as we all know it is easier said than done. As former romance novelist and current literary agent Donald Maass states in The Fire in Fiction, villains, antagonists, bad guys, femme fatales, or whatever one wants to call them “are frequently cardboard. Most are presented as purely evil.” Which is not a good thing since most people find pure evil dull, unbelievable, and predictable and so, too, do fiction readers. So how do you do what very few authors seem to have the chops to do and create the perfect villain? An antagonist that your readers will remember long after you’re gone, or at least find captivating enough so that they don’t roll their eyes or, God forbid, actually put down your latest thriller?

In six words, you have to love the bastards. I don’t mean that you have to want to fall on your knees and propose to your villains or whisper sweet nothings in their ears, but you have to care deeply about them. More importantly, you have to empathize with them and feel their pain at every turn. Remember that Lucifer was an angel once. Hannibal Lecter was a promising young medical student from an aristocratic Lithuanian family long before he began his career as a gourmet cannibal. And as murderous stagecoach robber Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) said in 3:10 to Yuma, before shoving Peter Fonda’s lawman character Byron off the edge of a cliff to his death for bad-mouthing Wade’s mother: “Even bad men love their mommas.”

There are thousands of books and blog posts on how to create memorable and believable antagonists. These resources will tell you that you have to full flesh out your villains by making them well-rounded, complex characters. To do that, the usual gimmicks are to give your villains at least a few virtuous qualities, to make them point-of-view characters and reveal their inner desires and motives, to present them as equally formidable or even more powerful than the antagonist, or to humanize them by showing that they love and are loved by others or by making the characters around them even more morally reprehensible. All of these techniques are great, and I use them myself quite often, but there is a far simpler solution. I believe it is a matter of projecting your own personal, deeply held emotions into your villains—your most intimate hopes and dreams, fears and phobias. In the process, you cannot help but love the dangerous, lawless, corrupt, or immoral bastards you create (if only a little) because you have made them utterly authentic and credible from the very emotions that you yourself have experienced.

After all, we have all felt joy, happiness, and love just as we have experienced the sheer agony of defeat and feelings of raw jealousy or been subjected to the harsh reality of being invisible, passed over, or mistreated by others. With our villains, it is a matter of projecting these types of emotions into their actions and worldview. We have to truly see things through their eyes by tapping into the visceral feelings we have experienced firsthand in our lives.

In my standalone political thriller, The Coalition, my primary antagonist is a femme-fatale assassin code-named Skyler, who has been raped and abused by men and channels her lust for vengeance into increasingly dangerous male-only assassinations. To maintain her cover and continue to evade capture, she has cleverly convinced the world’s intelligence and law enforcement community that the sniper it seeks is actually an infamous Spanish male assassin named Gomez. At first glance, Skyler would seem to be an unsavory character, a treacherous and predatory professional assassin that would be hard to empathize with and thus provide a liability to the novel. And yet, James Patterson praised The Coalition for having “a lot of action and suspense and an unusual female assassin” and Foreword Reviews said that “Skyler is unique” as “the standout character in this taut and fast-paced political thriller.” Similarly, Donald Maass said of the novel and our female killer elite: “Reminiscent of The Day of the Jackal…with a high level of authentic detail. Skyler is a convincing sniper, and also a nicely conflicted one.” Ultimately, what makes Skyler an intriguing villain to Patterson, Maass, and others is not her cleverness, beauty, or professional expertise, but because readers connect with her on a gut level. This connection is due to the emotional damage she has undergone and the conflict she feels inside. Though I am not a professional assassin, a woman, or an Italian (at least not that I know of), in creating Skyler I projected deep and authentic emotions into her character based on my own feelings. In the process, I made Skyler the character that people remember and care most about in The Coalition.

coalition-ebook-3

I took a similar approach to my villains in Blind Thrust: A Mass Murder Mystery and Cluster of Lies, Books 1 and 2 of my Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series. In Blind Thrust, the antagonists to Cheyenne environmental geologist Higheagle are the Quantrill brothers, owners of the largest hazardous waste disposal company in the U.S. As Forward Reviews states, “The nuanced portrayal of the Quantrill brothers in particular humanizes characters engaged in what some deem a field hazardous to the environment. The two men are jovial, sly, and eager to please. Marquis deftly injects nuances of shrewdness into all his characters, each portrayed as an intelligent person with whom it is easy to empathize.” Foreword Reviews honored the book by naming it a Foreword Reviews Book of the year (Honorable Mention) in the Thriller and Suspense category. In Cluster of Lies, the two antagonists thwarting Higheagle are a leading real-estate developer and an elderly businessman, and again reviewers recognized that I hadn’t short-thrifted my villains or my heroes. “Some characters ooze humanity, even when least expected, while others are rife with vile plans and entitlement. But each is written with a distinct voice and focus, making them credible even if they aren’t always likable.” I would argue that the antagonists in these books engage readers not because they are clever, formidable, powerful, or occasionally humane—but rather because I have instilled in them deep emotions that we can all connect to as human beings.

cluster-of-lies-ebook-cover-6-20-16-4

In other words, I loved the bastards. At least a little.

You should care deeply about your villains, too, and instill in them the powerful emotions you have felt in your own life. As Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction, the key to writing great fiction is to make it highly personal and fill it with the conflict, emotion, and intensity that you yourself have experienced in the highs and lows of your own unique life. If you do that, then readers will remember your villains and your works for years to come.


 

Samuel Marquis is a bestselling, award-winning suspense author. He works by day as a VP–Principal Hydrogeologist with an environmental firm in Boulder, Colorado, and by night as the spinner of the Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, the Nick Lassiter International Espionage Series, and a World War Two Trilogy. His thrillers have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, USA Best Book, Beverly Hills, and Next Generation Indie), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). His website is www.samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact Chelsea Apple at chelsea@jkscommunications.com.

5 Steps to Amazon Search Engine Optimization

How do people search for books? Maybe you used to go to your local Borders (remember them?) and spend hours looking through the shelves hoping they had the next book in your favorite author’s series. And if they didn’t? Well, they would order it and three days later you’d come back to the bookstore and pick it up.

For many readers, this is something they haven’t done in awhile.

Today, readers often sit on the couch, in their pajamas, and think, “What do I want to read today?” Then they go to Amazon, search it, buy it (or download it if they really need it right then), and it appears on their doorstep in 24 hours with Amazon prime.

Amazon completely altered the way books get sold, and as an author, you may be wondering, “Well, what do I do so that people can find me when they search on Amazon?” And you would be asking a very important question.

Amazon search engine optimization (SEO) is often done incorrectly, forgotten, or, if you’re traditionally published, handled by someone else altogether. But even if you have someone else handling your Amazon SEO, it’s important to understand a few things about it just so you understand what’s happening. Here are 5 quick tips to making your book stand out on Amazon:

  1. It’s not Google SEO. Google functions differently from Amazon in what they are looking for when they promote entries. I’m not going to go into all the details here, but the important thing to take from this is that you shouldn’t do all the same things you would if you are optimizing for Google.
  2. Keywords are, you guessed it, key. You should make sure your keywords are accurate to your book, and you should search them before you decide to use them to make sure that Amazon thinks those keywords mean the same thing you do.
  3. Make sure your metadata (title/author/ISBN/page count/etc.) is complete!
  4. Take the time to look at different categories and figure out where your book actually fits. Genres tend to be very specific, and just because you think your book is a “cozy mystery” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best category to put it in.
  5. And most importantly, make sure that your friends/family/anyone buying the book on Amazon reviews it! Of course, this is easier said than done (and most authors understand how important reviews are), but it’s important to know that Amazon cares more about verified reviews (where the same Amazon account that buys the book also reviews it) than other types of reviews and will promote your book accordingly.

So next time someone sits down in their pajamas to find their next book, they’ll see your title waiting for them and think, “Wow this looks interesting; I can’t wait to read it!”

Publishing is Personal

I was recently at a conference where one of the other speakers, an author with her first book out, said she doesn’t blog. She said she put out a monthly newsletter, but she didn’t like blogging so she doesn’t do it.  OMG, radical rebellion – she doesn’t blog! What happened to the rules? One must blog, one must run Facebook ads, one must Tweet!

I am well into the process of launching my first legal thriller, and as any newly published author knows, there is more to do than can be done. No matter how large the staff or how many contract vendors one engages, every opportunity cannot be mined. There is also more available than most can pay for. How does a newbie in the publishing world decide which avenues to explore and which to leave for the next author or the next book? How does a writer new or experienced select the marketing items where they can wisely spend their time and money?

I went through my process by trial and error, at first slinging mud to see what would stick. Early on, I realized that I was going to drop from exhaustion and never have time to finish the next book. Two major things came to the fore that helped me to narrow my focus and discover my personal path to publishing.

First, I hired an expert who kept up with the latest trends, and second, I started paying attention to what I enjoyed in the process. This sounds simplistic, just hire an expert and do what you like – but it’s not that easy.

With regard to the expert, I began my pre-launch process with an enthusiastic, but inexperienced advisor who cost a third as much as my current advisors, but who thought that every idea was a great idea. I followed this enthusiasm for a time, ordering promotional items, buying advertising, and wasting time on things that sold no books, got me little exposure, and drained my energy and my bank account. When I began working with a new publicist, I found that just by nature of the contract process, we explored what was important to me, what would be emphasized, and the strengths that both the advisor and I had that supported my launch. When we executed the contract, we followed a plan we had laid out in advance, without adding new tasks every time we saw a shiny new distraction.

Ok, you may say, “I’m on a budget or I’ve decided to do everything myself.” Same here for part of my campaign. Next, I evaluated each of my virtual staff members and re-assessed my ability to monitor and manage them.  For the things I was keeping in house, I broke the plan into parts and looked at each one individually. I had a mental talk with the part of me that wears the publicist hat, then put on the social media hat, etc. until I went through each member of my internal and virtual team to assess what was working and what was not. I thought about what I or the consultant was good at in each department and set limits based on my honest response to that assessment.

Second, I looked at the tasks I hated doing and either delegated them to someone else or eliminated them from the publishing plan. My personal process brought me to a few conclusions. For example, I love to cook and have a recipe included as part of the story in each of the Texas Lady Lawyer novels, so I did a free Cookbook of Southern Recipes that I give to readers in exchange for subscribing to my mailing list. I also included wine in DOLLAR SIGNS as a part of the plot, so I partnered with wineries for book signings and paired books and wine in my newsletter to promote other authors. These items might be time consuming and feel like work to others, for me it’s play. Next, I looked at social media. I originally thought that Twitter was the place for me, but through the process, I realized I could make a more personal connection on Facebook and chose that method to interact. I designed memes of the best quotes about my book and put those up in a rotation so that I always had someone else praising my novel.

These realizations led me to the point of doing the things that fit my personality best. I began to make genuine connections with winery owners, other authors, and readers with similar interests. I found that when I signed books in another town, I found readers through these mutual interests in addition to reading.

I prepared a presentation entitled Legal Issues For Authors that I use to give a free talk to any writer’s groups that request it. (A similar talk could be given on lighthouses, childcare, ghosts, etc.) The presentation allows me to talk about a subject in which I specialize – law, and combine it with an area that I love – writing. It allows me to make a personal connection with other authors who are also readers, and allows me to feel I am giving something to my community.

All of these time consuming activities, and many others too numerous to mention here, feel less like chores and more like play because they suit my personality and allow me to show my strengths. They also eliminate the black box syndrome where all the information goes in mixes around and comes out the other end in a mysterious fashion. I can actually see the target with this new method and assess whether I hit the bullseye or fall short.

And, to answer your inevitable question, yes, I do blog.  But, I blog about things that interest me – travel, photography, cooking, what’s going on in my real life. Not only does it follow my internal compass, but it provides a more organic and satisfying way to move through the publishing day.


 

Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. She writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first book in her series featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is “Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King.” A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.

This post was originally published on Murder by 4.