Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Is Social Media Marketing Enough?

In the old days, a writer wouldn't have a published novel until she spent years sending manuscripts to agents and editors, and then wait for months or even years to get rejected only to start the process over again (and again, and again - you get the picture) until finally they either gave up the whole damned thing or got published.

Then the writer would wait many more months or years for the book to finally make its way out of the large publishing house machine and appear on bookshelves in bookstores. At last!

And then, in order to get readers to notice the title, the writer would drive her car or board a plane to travel across the country to book signings. Maybe she would get lucky and fifty or so people would show up. But more often than not, a dozen or fewer intrepid readers came to meet the author and get a book or two signed.

I'm not telling you this based on my own personal experience, but rather based upon the stories from writers who weathered the road to publication in "the old days".

I'm an Indie, aka "self-published". I have never sent a manuscript to an agent or editor. When my first novel, Emily's House, was in a condition that I thought was ready to query, I chose instead to self-publish it.

And it was around that time (Spring, 2011) that I began to research how in the hell I was going to spread the word about my work. Traditional book tours are a no-go for self-published authors. Most large bookstores (okay, Barnes & Noble 'cause they're pretty much the only big bookseller left) will not schedule a book signing for an author whose book cannot be returned (i.e. the authors' books aren't ordered from warehouse where they can be returned if they don't sell).

From the first days of the Indie Revolution, Indie Authors have relied on social media and Internet marketing campaigns to spread the word about their work. J.A. Konrath in his Newbie Guide to Publishing Blog speaks against the old ways of doing book business (and if aren't familiar with his blog, I highly recommend it - tons of useful information). He's a veteran of both traditional, old-school publishing and a highly successful Indie. Konrath and others have spoken negatively about traditional book tours and attending festivals and fairs as a waste of time, preferring instead virtual tours.

I have neither the breadth of experience nor the commercial success of J.A. Konrath. But the experience that I've had so far shows me that no amount of Internet marketing or social media campaigning will make up for in-person writer to reader contact.
In-person human contact makes a far larger and more lasting impression than a blog post, Facebook status update or Tweet. Period.
I've been connecting with readers through social media for about two years now. And I do not deny the power and efficiency of the Internet to spread our message. I'm not claiming that you should replace your social media marketing plan with an all in-person campaign. I have done and will continue to use virtual tours as a mainstay of my book marketing.

But I do recommend that you augment your Internet marketing with some in-person marketing as well. Contact your local independent bookstores to arrange for book signings when you have new releases. Get a booth at a local book fair or book festival. If the cost is high, share the space with another Indie author who publishes books in the same genre.

This March, I shared a booth with author Janine Caldwell at the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB). It was the first time either of us had participated as an exhibitor at a book fair. We both write young adult fiction and decided to give it a try.

The TFOB is one of the five largest in the country (in terms of attendance). We expected between 100,00-150,000 to show up.

The weather gods were not kind to us. It was two days of cold, wet and windy.
Despite the weather, I had a very successful festival. I had close to 100 books on hand and feared that I'd end up taking most of them home. Instead, I SOLD OUT!

Selling almost a hundred books in two days - that's a good sales weekend.

But the real success is not in the number of copies sold. The true measure of the success of that weekend is what happened after.

First, online sales were boosted. The months of March and April of this year were the best sales months I've had since January, 2012. I had no other promotions going, so I know that it was my appearance at the festival that accounts for the rise in sales. So not only did I sell a lot of books in those two days, but all the fliers and bookmarks I handed out resulted in higher than usual online sales.

Second, I made personal connections with readers. And if you write for young people (children, middle grade and teen), it can be difficult to connect with readers.

I saw middle-grade girls hug their copy of Emily's House to their chest and beam with excitement about reading an epic girl adventure. The truth is, there aren't many books being written for girls that age that have strong girl protagonists going on epic journeys. Emily's House is like Percy Jackson for girls. And they are eager and hungry for it. Another example of traditional publishing not recognizing (and thus not filling) a need.

This one-to-one experience with readers invigorated me. It gave me a shot in the arm of the juice required to keep me going.

Why do you write? And why do you publish?

For me, I write first and foremost because of my own internal need to create. But I publish because I want to share the ideas, thoughts, and questions evoked in my writing with others.

Seeing readers excited to read your story - you cannot get that through a Facebook page. The light in their eyes doesn't come through an e-mail or blog comment. You can only experience that by meeting them, talking to them, and genuinely hoping that they enjoy the ride that your story takes them on.

Whether in-person or across the ether, it's all about connection. I have never felt more genuinely connected to readers than I did those two days of the TFOB.

I came away from my TFOB experience with an addiction to book fairs! I'll be back at TFOB next year with at least one more title (maybe two). I'm looking forward to catching up with some friends I made this year and to meeting new ones.

And then I'll push off to three or four more next year. I've heard L.A. is nice in April . . .

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!


Mother's Day Comments

~Magickal Graphics~


I remember (vaguely!) the days before I had a child. Back then, fear for me came in the form of the things that go bump in the night. I was afraid of the things I couldn't see. I'd bring down the blinds on the windows promptly at nightfall for fear that I'd see beady red eyes looking back in at me (thanks to the movie The Amityville Horror).

But as soon as I held that dear little baby girl in my arms - no, even when she was still inside me - fear took on a new meaning. It's not even that fear doubled - now fear for my own safety as well as hers - but that what I was afraid of changed.

Before I had my daughter, I didn't spend much time being afraid of other people. But I recall clearly the first time I took her to a park to play and seeing a lone man loitering about and having my "mother alert" go into high gear. If I had been by myself - before child - I probably wouldn't have given that guy a second thought.

Germs, pools, electrical outlets, driving in the car. Before a child, none of these things were on my radar as a daily danger. After a child, these common daily things became fuel for daily nightmares of "what ifs" and cautious safeguards.

It wasn't like I was cavalier and reckless with my life before I had a child. I'm not one to skydive, bungee jump and generally throw caution to the wind with massive risk-taking behaviors. But after I had her, the meaning - and importance - of my own life took on a whole new meaning.

And with each passing day of her life, my fear for the loss of my own life grew. What would happen to her if she lost me?

It was in fact out of that question - that nagging fear always present in some part of my brain - that inspired my characters and some plot points for my novel Emily's House. You see I didn't lose my own mother as a child (my mom's still living large at age 72). But I imagined what it would be like for my daughter who loves me so much that sometimes it makes her cry with joy (she's a sensitive emotional little soul, just like her mamma, and not yet a teenager!).


My life took on new meaning for me when my daughter was born. I mattered to her, more than anything. I was important to her, more than anything. And because she mattered to me, more than anything, I began to matter to me more too.

I know as she grows older I will become less the center of her world. She'll always love me big of course. But in time her peers and then boyfriends and perhaps some day her own sweet child will take over that place in her heart where once I lived - big and warm and all of everything.

And someday maybe she'll look into the eyes of her own sweet baby and see in the love there a new meaning to her own life. And she will treasure it all the more.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Welcome Marva Dasef to Writer Wednesday


I am so pleased to welcome back to my blog the wonderfully creative author Marva Dasef! Marva's new release is Faizah's Destiny and I'm looking forward to reading it. Today Marva enlightens us about a mythic creature I'd never heard of before - a Simurgh.

What the Heck is a Simurgh?
By Marva Dasef

*** Leave a comment for a chance to win a free ecopy of “Faizah’s Destiny.” ***

Faizah's Destiny by Marva Dasef
An early reader of “Faizah’s Destiny” asked the question.  When I wrote the book, I was definitely under the impression that everybody in the world knows what a simurgh is, but I guess I was wrong.

If you’ve read the 1001 Arabian Nights or even saw the movie with John Leguizamo as the genie (brilliant!), you’ll be familiar with the intelligent Big Bird. From the Encyclopedia Mythica, http://pantheon.org), my favorite source for all things mythic:

In Persian legend Simurgh is a gigantic, winged monster in the shape of a bird; a kind of peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion. Its natural habitat is a place with plenty of water. According to legend, the creature is so old that it has seen the world destroyed three times over. In all that time, Simurgh has learned so much that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all ages.

I pretty much stick to the traditional description here except for that dog head and lion claws thing. Considering that the Simurgh know everything (really, not like that annoying guy at work who just thinks he knows everything), then it seemed logical to me and my heroine Faizah to ask them where to find Wafai the missing magician.

The boys in the little band of rescuers scoff at her, but it all works out anyway. The search for the bird does get them into the mountains where they need to be to save the world from Armageddon. You’ll have to admit that is just a teensy bit more important then finding an old magician.  It’s all good, though. The magician finds the kids and the birds.

Simurgh, c 900 AD
Illustration: This is a real page on the Simurgh from a real Arabic text dating back to circa 900 AD. I don’t see any dog’s head or lion claws. Do you?

Excerpt:

Faizah felt the sunlight on her cheek. Morning. She kept her eyes closed, savoring the warmth until something blocked out the sun. At first she thought it a cloud, and she opened her eyes a slit to check for rain.

A huge bird stood motionless over her, regarding her with a steady, unblinking gaze.

Her eyes flew all the way open. The Simurgh was as tall as Master Wafai, the biggest bird by far that she had ever seen. It looked like a giant peacock, save that its beak did not come to a point. The eyes were different, too. Instead of beady black eyes like a peacock, the Simurgh’s matched the iridescent spots on its tail. It also sported a spray of upright feathers on its head, giving it a jaunty appearance.

Was this the only one, she wondered, or were there more? Turning her head slightly, she saw out of the corner of her eye there were, indeed, more. Four more, in fact. One stood by each sleeping form.
“Hello,” she managed to say and wondered what to do next. Sit up, or remain as she was? Would movement frighten them? This last question was quickly answered by Harib leaping out of his blankets with a startled yelp. Faizah laughed as she sat up―the Simurgh standing over Harib hadn’t even flinched.

The Simurgh beside her spoke. “Good morning, Faizah. Welcome to our home.”

“Thank you,” she responded then struggled to her feet and bowed to the bird. Curtseying wasn’t something she did very often, and she thought it a poor time to start now. “We’ve come a long way to find you. It turns out we didn’t need to after all, but here we are.”

“Yes.” There was humor in the bird’s voice. “You sought our counsel on the whereabouts of Master Wafai.” The bird revealed it had both arms and wings as it gestured with one feathery limb toward the magician.

As well as possessing both arms and wings, Faizah noted the bird’s beak did not prevent it from speaking clearly. Looking closely, she saw the Simurgh’s beak was quite flexible, more like pointed lips than the beak of the birds she was familiar with. This accounted for the bird’s precise speech.

By this time, all of the travelers were up and variously gawking or grinning at the birds that stood before them. Master Wafai drew himself to his full, magisterial height and settled his robes about him before addressing the Simurgh in his most formal tones. Faizah couldn’t help but smile. The fact he was practically vibrating with excitement spoiled the effect a little.

“I have spent my entire life waiting to meet a magical creature such as yourselves.” He waved his arms in circles. “This is most exciting! Most exciting indeed!”

“Had you stopped waiting, Magician,” the Simurgh facing him replied, “and started searching instead, you might have met us sooner. Creatures of magic do not often seek out mortals, but they can be found if you seek them. As close to you as the valley on the other side of these mountains lives a young woman who keeps company with a djinn and a flying horse. You could have met her after only a short journey, had you cared to make it.”

“Setara! Yes, I’ve heard of her.” Wafai’s shoulders slumped. He nodded eyes downcast. “You are right. I sat and waited for the magic to come to me. I should have gone to it.”
The giant bird nodded. “Oh, one other thing. The plural is Simurghs, Master Wafai.”
Wafai’s cheeks reddened above his white beard, and he bowed his head. “I’ll correct that error in my texts.”

“Never mind,” the Simurgh replied, “that doesn’t matter anymore. You are here now, and we will tell you your fate if you wish it.”

“How does this work? Do you see the future?”

“We see all the possible futures. You move from one future to another, depending on what you do in the now.”

“Do you mean that what you tell us may not happen?”

“We will tell you the future that lies ahead of you on the path you now travel. If you choose a different path, you will have a different future.” The Simurgh standing before Wafai nodded, indicating the other birds. “We will also tell you of a few things to avoid.”

* * *

FAIZAH'S DESTINY
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

MuseItUp (all ebook formats): http://tinyurl.com/faizahsdestiny
Also available at Amazon, B&N, Nook, and other on-line stores

Blurb:

The village magician has gone missing.  His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures.  They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains.  Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.

Bio:

Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two ungrateful cats. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several published books, including six since 2011 with MuseItUp Publishing.

Twitter Handle: @Gurina

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