Category Archives: Gravity Imprint

This is Why Your Books Aren’t Selling: 4 Ways to Improve Now by @BadRedheadMedia


 Your Books Aren’t Selling

“My sales are awful, and I’ve done everything. I give up.” 

I heard this from three authors this week, and it’s not an uncommon sentiment right now. As an imprint director, book manager and book marketing consultant, my first questions are always:

  • What do you mean by everything?
  • How do you define “awful?”
  • What do you mean by ‘giving up?’

Let’s deconstruct four ways to improve on that!

1) What Is ‘Everything’ RE: Book Marketing?

Your definition of ‘everything’ and my definition are probably quite different. When I asked one of these authors what he’d done, he said he’d:

  • placed a few Facebook ads,
  • sent out a bunch of tweets during his free days,
  • placed a FreeBooksy promo (cost: $45). That’s about it.

To me, that’s barely scraping the bare minimum of ‘hardly anything,’ but in his mind, that’s more than he’d ever done! When I asked him what he had achieved in his marketing plan, he replied: what marketing plan?

I asked this author some of these questions, to which he answered, “no.” How about you:

  • Are you consistently on social media building relationships with readers, sharing great content, blogging and commenting on other bloggers’ sites?
  • Do you know what your keywords and branding are? 
  • Have you optimized all your social bios? Are your graphics high quality, hi-res, and consistent?
  • Growing your followings through targeted keywords? Not spamming links, but interacting and networking? 
  • Have you bought your domain, and optimized your website for SEO and SMO? Do you know your Alexa Ranking and Website grade?
  • Are you advertising?
  • Are you approaching book bloggers (politely) for reviews?
  • Participating in weekly Twitter chats and blog memes like #MondayBlogs and #LinkYourLife?
  • Do you belong to Facebook Groups where you can share ideas and partner up with other writers to promote each other? 
  • Do you regularly visit the Help Sections of all the social media channels to learn how to use them correctly? 

If the answer is no to any or all, you have work to do. You’re not doing everything, and you know it.

Again, not uncommon. Here’s the thing: art is work, to paraphrase Patti Smith. You’ve taken what, six months to two years to write your book, pouring your heart into this work. You’ve (hopefully) worked with a professional editor, graphic designer, formatter, and proofreader, and now that your book is live, you expect to sit back and watch the sales roll on in.

Wait, what?

2) Marketing Your Books is Not An Option

Why? Where does this outrageous expectation come from? I just do not get it. Writers are not dumb. Why do they think marketing is an option?

In what job in the world do you do zero work and make money?

A few tweets and an ad here and there does not create a consistent author platform, which is what this author needs — what every authors needs. This is how we meet readers, bloggers, and other influencers. This is how they find us, where the all-important word-of-mouth storm begins to swirl.

I suggested he rethink his author platform completely, create a robust marketing plan which he then implement, and lose the expectation that writing books is all about, and only about, selling books. One book will very, very rarely create an entire career for an author — and even those who do achieve those heights (Donna Tartt, The Secret History, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation) still go on to write more books, eventually.

I’ve worked with many authors who feel their job is only to write, and expect to do zero marketing; they feel that once they sign with a traditional or hybrid publisher, the publisher will do all their marketing for them. Big Fat Lie. The reason I have a business is because I have many traditionally published clients who are signed by those big publishers and guess what? They hire me to help them market and do their social media because their publisher does so very little marketing, if any, for them.

Do the work.

Photo source: Unsplash.com

Photo source: Unsplash.com

3) Define ‘Awful’ and Now Improve

One author sells twenty books every day and is upset because she used to sell fifty. One is distraught because she’s only selling five per day and she used to sell ten. Another has sold ten in six months. Your definition of awful is going to be different than anyone else’s, and depending on Amazon’s latest policy or algorithm change, awful can mean different things to different people.

It’s always good to keep an eye on your daily sales, but we can also become obsessed with it. My advice, take it or leave it from one who knows (I have five books out myself), is to check your sales once weekly — no more than that. This is enough to give you an idea of what’s happening during that period of time, analyze any trends, and adjust your marketing efforts. (If you are in the midst of a promotion however, feel free to check them more often, of course.)

4) Should You Ever ‘Give Up?’

  1. There is no ‘Sell By’ date on books anymore, really…especially eBooks. If you look at my third book, Broken Pieces, released in 2013, it’s currently in the #1 spot on Amazon’s paid Women’s Poetry list — and it’s been sitting pretty there since November for a few reasons you can read about here.

If you choose to give up, that’s ultimately your choice. I hear from authors all the damn time who give me every excuse as to why readers aren’t reading them, but when I ask them the questions in that list above, the answers are always ‘no, I haven’t done any of that, but…’

Oh, okay.

I can tell you this: as the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, the books that sell the most are where the authors are doing everything on that list above — they interact with readers, build their platform, generously share others’ posts and content, blog consistently, and have a clear, strong message. Take a look here at H.M. Jones, Lindsay Fischer and Lisa Douthit — their books are fabulous, all have built strong advocacy platforms (for postpartum depression, domestic abuse survivors and wellness, respectively), and they do the work. If you’d like to learn more about all the amazing Gravity authors, please visit our website!

Writing and marketing ourselves, our brand, goes hand in hand — it’s not one or the other. Writing more books will help gain you visibility, of course. The most successful authors are prolific, having at least five to ten books out — so keep at it. We are authors first. You don’t need a degree in marketing to market, just as you don’t need an MFA to write. You simply need to improve upon what you’re already doing.

It’s really not as difficult as some folks make it: step up, be smart, do the work.

***************************************

Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington PostThe San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, IndieReader.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Award-winning bestsellers Broken Places, and Broken Pieces, Mancode: ExposedA Walk In The Snark (published by Booktrope)

Media consultant, Huffington Post Books blogger, creator #MondayBlogs #SexAbuseChat and #GravityChat on Twitter. 
 
Director, Gravity Imprint (stories of trauma and recovery), Booktrope 
Social Media Director, Authorbytes
Twitter – @RachelintheOC and @BadRedheadMedia 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Marketing, Writing

Why Would You Want to Leave Your Publisher?


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Alejandro Escamilla

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Alejandro Escamilla

Trigger Warning: If you’re an author and you’ve separated from your publisher (whomever that may be) for reasons that don’t include them bilking you out of your royalties or author copies or deliberately derailing your career as an author (or, because like me, you wanted to see your book IN PRINT), I’m asking the hard (er…nosy) question: WHY?

(The “trigger warning” is there in case this is still a sore subject with you, so you won’t send me anthrax through the mail or some such in revenge for my “confrontational” post.)

 

Something has been stuck in my craw for several months and I’d like to get it out.

I signed with my publisher, Booktrope, more than 2 years ago. I find myself still happy here. But in those 2 years, other authors – some of whom I consider friends – have decided to leave Booktrope and self-publish. To the best of my knowledge (because this is what some of them gave as their reason), most – if not all – left because of disagreements with their team and/or the management, or because they weren’t selling as many books as they felt they SHOULD be selling. I’ve had both of these issues (not disagreement with management, but with members of my team) at Booktrope, but for me, it’s about the bigger picture: I’m here 1) because I want to see my book(s) in print, 2) to network with readers and other publishing peeps, worldwide 3) learn as much about the publishing world as I can, 4) make enough money to help pay for the gas needed to continue visiting bookstores.

I know something about publishing and self-publishing. I was involved with “desktop” publishing for several years, interned with a publisher for my MA and when I was ready to reveal my book baby to the world, researched self-publishing, while submitting to more than a dozen agents, all of whom rejected my queries, though some offered great advice. While I became good over the years at handling rejection (thanks to years of live theatre auditions, most of which roles went to other auditionees…auditioners?…I digress…), it still isn’t my favorite experience. Especially since I’ve read some of the drivel that’s out there (represented by some of those same agents) and wonder how in the world agents think those authors’ stuff is better than mine! Yes, those books sell, but ONLY because agents’ and publishers’ paychecks (*cough* advances *cough*) are at risk. If those authors had to do their OWN marketing, how popular do you think their books would be compared with our books? And some of OUR books are on International Bestsellers or #1 lists!

Please buy my book!My book’s first home was Northampton House Press, a small press started by my mentors. It was ebook only and I had to provide the cover design, something I knew nothing about.

Sure, I can throw images together into a collage, but I’m not a designer. And I knew how I DIDN’T want the cover to look. I was fortunate to find a newbie designer through deviantart.com and we agreed on a fee that was well within my budget. But my book would never see print because I couldn’t afford to pay for print copies and my sales weren’t exceptional enough for NHP to take a chance on print pub. I had to do ALL my own marketing. (WHERE TO START?!) And despite an undergrad background in mass communication (which includes advertising/marketing and working on a university newspaper), I suck at selling myself. Too much anxiety. And I couldn’t afford a publicist. Ironically enough, I have NO problem promoting or selling other authors’ books. Just my own. Go figure.

My contract with NHP allowed me to seek print publication elsewhere, and Booktrope’s hybrid publishing model was my book’s savior. Best of all, I got a cover designer, and book/project manager and my book IN PRINT AT NO UPFRONT COST to me!! I didn’t care that there was no advance with the contract. I’m not in this business to get rich, but because of my love for the written word and a desire to share that love and my words with others. (It’s an ego thing, you see. *shrugs*) I much preferred – and still prefer – the promise of higher royalties weighed against an advance that my book(s) may never earn out. THAT would be a MORE anxiety-ridden scenario for me.

So, I got a beautiful professionally designed cover AND a marketer who knows what she’s doing. SUCH a load off my back! I CAN market myself, but I need guidance and assistance. For all of my smarts, I don’t know everything (*gasp!* I know, right?!) and sometimes suffer from information overload. Tell me to search out ways to market my book(s) and I may miss something or my brain short-circuit because of SO MANY opportunities. HOW DO YOU KNOW which is/are the right one(s)?! I can afford only so much trial and error. Give me an outline of strategies, THAT I can follow, and breathe a sigh of relief. Speaking of which, Gravity Imprint‘s Melissa Flickinger (Book/Project Manager) & Rachel Thompson (Fearless Leader & Marketing Guru) are always quick to inform we in the Gravity realm of marketing opportunities. 🙂 (A little plug here for Rachel’s Marketing Challenge!)

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Negative Space

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Negative Space

So, knowing the cost of all this stuff, WHY, in the name of all that’s holy, do people WANT to self-pub??!! Do they dislike Booktrope THAT much?? Yes, as a self-published author you have almost limitless freedom, but Booktrope’s hybrid model in which you get to PICK your own book/project manager, editor, proofreader and cover designer (unless you’re part of an imprint like Gravity, then you have a shortlist to choose from – but it’s an awesome shortlist!), and you don’t have to worry about their fees BECAUSE THEY GET PAID IN ROYALTIES. Please tell me, where are you going to find a better deal than this? Yes, I offer freelance editing, and several current and former Booktropians have hired me on the side. I have NO problem with this, as it’s extra – ADVANCE!! – mulah in my pocket. But again I ask you, WHY?

As an author, I’m on my 2nd editor, my 2nd BM/PM, and have been through 3 cover designers (at least one who quit without so much as a by-your-leave). And I knew NOTHING going in, other than this awesome publisher was – somehow – going to help me realize my dream of seeing my manuscript in print. I learned as I went and gladly share my knowledge with other newbie authors. When I’ve had an issue with someone – either on my own team or as an editor/proofreader on another author’s team – we’ve either worked it out, or I’ve left the team once the project was finished (I’ve only done this once in 2 years). NOTHING has happened to induce such anxiety and depression that I would choose to leave Booktrope entirely. The management has always been helpful and supportive of/for/to me.

And you know what? I don’t plan to leave Booktrope. Ever. You guys are stuck with me. I’m going to be like white (er…or brown) on rice. Like feathers on birds, and armpit hair…maybe not that one…well, you get the picture. This company is THE BOMB! and has been awesome (I think I use that word too much…) to and for me. My editor resume is growing, my Twitter feed has exploded, my blog and review portfolios are gaining momentum, I’ve made great friends and contacts, I’m part of a kickin’ imprint (Gravity) which I absolutely love and support wholeheartedly, and my royalties are growing.

The grass is plenty green on this side of the fence. So somebody please tell me: WHY would you want to leave?!

…I hope we’re still friends…Have a cookie…

 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Literary, Musings, Published, Thankful, Writing

Being Thankful Isn’t Just for the Holiday Season


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Chelsea Francis

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Chelsea Francis

We’re now fully involved in the holiday season. Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago, and Hanukkah recently past. So I thought it would be a good time to list the things for which I’m thankful.

All too often we talk about what’s wrong with the world, because, let’s face it, most of us believe we have ideas to make the world a better place. And so many of those ideas are REALLY good ones. And sometimes, we even have the opportunity to implement those ideas and the world DOES become just a little better.

And you know what? That’s one of the things for which I’m thankful – the great ideas that make our world a better place in which to live. Things like feeding the poor. Whether it be domestic food banks that operate on a consistent basis, or charitable foundations that raise money to feed our fellows in third-world countries. All are equally worthy of our gratitude and support. You never know when you’ll be one of those people in need of such a service.

I’m thankful for The Salvation Army bell-ringers who appear during this time of year dressed as Santa and his Elves, urging us to be more charitable than usual during the “season of giving.” Without The Salvation Army and those bell-ringers who give of their time to raise money for the destitute, there would probably be MORE people in need during this time of year.

I’m thankful for my job. Working for the government – at any level – can be a chancy thing. Politics and all that. But despite the often prickly politics one must be wary of and learn to navigate with care and agility, I enjoy the challenges and benefits of civil service. The government is the best employer I’ve ever had, bar none. It’s much more secure than the private sector, and turnover is less of an issue. For instance, I’ve been working for this particular government agency for more than a decade. Longer than any other previous employer. We’ve had our differences of opinion and I’ve butted heads with a few people, but overall, I’m very thankful to be working at my agency.

The Garfinkles: Hayden (my kiddo), Heather (SIL), Bill (dad) holding Haleigh (niece), Pam (mom); Kevin ("baby" brother), Asher (nephew), Steven (oldest younger brother), Me.

The Garfinkles, 2015: Hayden (my kiddo), Heather (SIL), Bill (dad) holding Haleigh (niece), Pam (mom); Kevin (“baby” brother), Asher (nephew), Steven (oldest younger brother), Me.

My family has been one of my biggest blessings. I’m so fortunate to have supportive, loving parents, and brothers with whom I (usually) get along. Then there’s my lovely, vertically-challenged, hyper-energetic sister-in-law (who often makes me tired just looking at her) – my baby brother’s wife – and their 2 children. My nephew and niece are stinking adorable and I love to spoil them.

My son is a blessing…when he’s not being a brat. He’ll be 15 next month (!!!!). He’s in that awkward stage between childhood and manhood, without the steady, loving guidance of a father. I try to be both mother and father, but am aware that I often fall short. He lives with ADHD and Asperger’s and his mother suffers anxiety and depression and para-menopause, both with strong-willed personalities, so we tend to butt heads a lot. What a pair we are! I pray we survive his teenage years and my para-menopause-ism with our sanity (relatively) intact. And you know what? Based on the moments of brilliance and maturity he sometimes displays, my kiddo is going to be awesome some day. 🙂

Almost 10 years ago, I went under the knife – for my eyes. Lasik ROCKS! I’m thankful that my resulting 20/15 vision still holds up. Lasik surgery is guaranteed for 10 years; 2 months away from my 10th anniversary of this procedure, my eyes are still going strong. Hopefully they’ll continue that way for another 10 years. (Fingers and toes crossed!) Don’t know if I’ll be able to afford this surgery again any time soon…even with the help of insurance. Of course, reading glasses would probably look kinda sexy on me right about now. 😉

This is Gravity.

I’m so blessed to be an integral member of Gravity Imprint, and Booktrope as a whole. I joined Booktrope as an author in 2013, and have never regretted that decision. Since 2014, when I began taking on proofing and editing projects at Booktrope, I’ve honed my editing skills even more and met some fabulous people who I’m honored to call friends. Almost a year ago now, I was offered the opportunity to be an editor/proofreader for the new Gravity Imprint. I accepted, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. We’re a close-knit, supportive group, directed by the inimitable Rachel Thompson. (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence.) 😉

As much as I have to be thankful for during the holiday season – when there’s actually a little bit of breathing room to stop and count one’s blessings – these are gifts that truly do keep on giving all year long.

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Filed under ADHD, Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Editor, Family, Gravity Imprint, Life, Proofreader, Thankful, Writing