Marketing In The Digital Age

In a past life, I worked as an assistant marketing manager for a fashion designer (his perfume line), where I lived and breathed the 4 P’s of Marketing: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. (There’s a fifth P as well—Planning—which I address as well).

Here is a brief recap of what I know and how an author can apply it to their own promotional plans in the digital age.

Marketing cartoon

Product/Service

Who is your target audience and how does your brand satisfy their needs? Your books are part of your brand. But don’t forget, YOU, the author, are also your brand. Strange, right? But put your fan-girl hat on and think about authors you love. Do you know what they look like? (Probably yes.) Have you visited their Facebook page or Website, or have you signed up for their newsletter? (I know I have.)

Think about yourself being the consumer of their books. Yes, you love their writing. But you also are buying into how they’ve branded themselves.

Check out the marvelous Susan Elizabeth Phillips Website. In the first paragraph of her Dear Reader letter, she restates what she knows about you, the reader. What needs you have that she is able to satisfy—the poignant, often hilarious stories she writes. She’s not talking about one book in this paragraph, but the general themes that readers seem to respond to.

Lesson Learned: KNOW YOUR READERFishing-for-a-Target-Market

Place

Where are readers going to buy your books? This has a lot to do with your publisher and/or whether you are an indie author or traditionally published.

For authors, it is more about accessibility of purchasing your books than hiring a sales force to promote them.

Digital sales: Make sure your buy links are visible on your webpage. Who do you do the most sales with? (Ah, humph…Amazon…)?

Kindle image

How are you going to draw readers to the purchase site/link?

Facebook ads work, by the way. I just completed a week long ad linking directly to the online retailer I felt I had the most sales potential with. The key to Facebook ads is you must target your reader (yes, you need to know who they are ahead of time). For example, I indicated on the Facebook ad setup page that my audience’s interest were other authors, like Katy Evans and Sylvia Day. So their Facebook fans received my Facebook ad.

Bookstores:  My books will be in stores in March so I don’t have much to say about placement. This is something your publisher handles. There is the whole crew of Indie authors (many who have been picked up by publishers) who are getting their books into Target and Walmart.

Lesson Learned: MAKE IT EASY FOR READERS TO BUY YOUR STORIES

Price

You may or may not have control over this. However, if you are an Indie author, you have some flexibility in playing around with your book price to see what best works for your readership.

I’ve heard that a typical pricing structure for when your third book in a series is released is:

Book One:  .99 cents (or free)

Book Two:  $1.99 (on special price)

Book Three: Full price ($2.99 – $4.99)

The trend in reading is to give the first book away “free”. I just remember a discussion my team had with a former Vice President of Marketing about free=cheapening your brand. That anything labeled free subtly suggests it’s not “worth” spending money on.

That said, it seems like more authors than not are offering their work for free in the hopes of hooking a reader through their writing. It makes sense.

So never say never.

Lesson Learned:  PAY ATTENTION See if in offering your book at a lower price/free affects interest in your other books.

Promotion

When and how are you going to read your target readership? How are other successful authors with the same readership promoting their work?

It is hard to measure promotional success as there are a lot of factors feeding into why a reader buys a book the very moment they buy it. In my opinion, it all boils down to this:

High Visibility/Buzz is the key.book buzz

The more visible/discussion about your book is on multiple platforms, the better. Remember, it takes the average person three times to see something they might want to actually buying it.

I found this interesting link on purchasing decisions that is worth taking a peek at: 9-things-to-know-about-influencing-purchasing-decisions/

Reviewers/Reviews: Make a list of reviewers you think might like your work and/or have readers on their blogs who might like your work. Target those reviewers, offering them an advance copy along with a blurb and synopsis.

Facebook Ads – see my experience above

Blog posts – Try and target the major blogs (HEA, RT, etc.) Blog tours tend to be a time suck.

Join forces with other authors – This worked out really well for my second release, Tap Out. Five other sports authors and I wrote joint blogs and promotional blitz pieces for our books. (We had similar release dates, which helped.) We were approached by major reviewers to do a themed post, which was both fun and I think interesting to the reader.

Tweets/Facebook Posts/Goodreads blog post – Have a team of people who will help you get the word out. I am fortunate to have another author who actually writes the tweet posts for me (and other authors published with my publisher). Every week, we’ll tweet in support of each other’s work.

LESSON LEARNED: GET THE WORD OUT

Planning

Yes, you need a plan, especially if you have more than one book releasing/released. Most marketers will use a good ol’ fashioned calendar. Write in the release date of your book then backtrack. What kind of promotion are you planning on doing? Fill it in. What events are you attending? Fill it in.

The greatest feature in Facebook and Twitter is the SCHEDULE POST option. You can write short promotional clips ahead of time and schedule exactly when you want them released.

I sit down (per my publisher’s instructionsJ) and complete a few pages of text I want to release. Remember, you are not selling your books, but your brand. So make sure you include tidbits about yourself, what inspires you, what you find funny or interesting.

LESSON LEARNED: ADVANCE PREPARATION HELPS.

Remember, the 4 (plus 1) P’s of marketing the next time you put on your author-now-in-the-know hat!

Romance Writers And Our Infatuation With ‘Outlander’

Several years ago, I attempted to read Outlander. Do I dare admit that after the first twenty or so pages, I abandoned it? Gasp!!!  Time travel, fantasy and straight historical novels aren’t at the top of my preferred genre reading list. Even Diana Gabaldon describes her work as a multi-genre bending series. Not romance. No siree. And boy, do I love a good romantic plot line.The Outlander

When I expressed to several romance writers how it hadn’t snagged my attention, every single writer said the same thing, that Outlander is by far one of their favorite books.

What? Um…why? It’s not even a romance, right?

Two years later, my ah-ha moment arrived. Not only did I read past the first twenty pages but I fanatically consumed the entire novel in one continuous reading. The more I read, the more the story drew me in.

So why are romance writers infatuated with Outlander?

Jamie Fraser

JamieOh. My. Word. Talk about a romantic hero. He’s loyal to his family and willing to place his pride, his body, his freedom on the line for them. He’s complex, a mixture of a wounded warrior, an Alpha hero ready to fight, and a Beta hero who allows his uncles to “use” him. He’s stubborn, funny and uses sexy-as-hell Scottish words. He’s such a man. And, he’s a virgin. I suppose what I love best about him is how he connects with the heroine Claire. Physically, oh-yeah! But it’s the deeper, emotional connection that evolves between them that is truly romantic.

Claire Randall

She’s a historical heroine from two time periods with two husbands. A multifaceted heroine struggling between two worlds, Clairetwo men, two choices. But of course, every single woman alive is routing that she’ll choose Jamie, right? Yep. A younger man compared to her worldly experience. A cougar. But she’s exactly what such a strong, dominant hero like Jamie needs. There’s substance to Claire, she’s intelligent, a healer who knows how to conduct herself in difficult situations—which she finds herself in constantly.

Sex. Sex. Sex.

Yes, there’s plenty of it. It’s hot, steamy, well done and unexpected. He’s a virgin, she’s the experienced one. They’re married. But Jamie takes to sex just like he takes to everything else—he does it full-force and commits 100%. He desires Claire and isn’t shy about showing it. And, sex isn’t just an act. It’s an extension of their relationship. It’s a way they get to know each other and a means for growing closer. It’s passionate. Honest to the characters. And downright romantic.

Outlander 2

Scotland

Highland warriors. Endearing Gaelic terms like Sassenach, mo chridhe, mo nighean donn – yummy descriptive words Jamie whispers to Claire. Lochs and castles, fights and sexual encounters on rocks. The setting is a character in itself. It’s no wonder so many historical romances are highlander stories!

I hope I’ve covered several reasons why Outlander is a favorite amongst romance writers.

Please comment and add your own!

Interview with a Conference Attendee

This July, I attended the annual RWA Writers Conference with Violet Femmes Maria K. Alexander and Tina Gabrielle.

photo (3)

I thought it might be useful to share my experience with you. And, to make the information more interesting, it’s written as a Q&A.

Hope these golden nuggets are helpful to you.

Conferences can be expensive. What makes attending one worth the expense?

First, pick you conferences wisely. RWA is on a national level so that in itself makes it worth it. Another conference I always attend is my home chapter’s – New Jersey Romance Writers.

Meeting face to face editors, agents, industry professionals and writers, of course, is an invaluable opportunity. And you can fan girl over famous authors, which is always fun!

Also, conferences inspire your muse. Where else can you talk books 24/7, how characters have you pulling off the roadways because they’re talking to you, without people thinking you’re out of your mind?

Book signing. I still get excited thinking about my first official signing, all for a good cause. It’s a great way to interact with readers and fellow authors.

Networking. Fast and furious. So many people to meet, so little time. But I’ll tell you a secret. Do you know how the Violet Femmes formed? Yep, from meeting up at a conference.

What was the highlight of this year’s RWA conference?

There were so many highlights but I have to go with the Cowboys.

Like the Dallas Cowboys?

No. Um…Giant fan. I’m talking about the six-foot-three hunks Maria forced me to take a picture with.

San Antonio RWA 2014

This was a terrific promotional idea hosted by Amazon Kindle Love Stories – which is in the footnote and background of every photo. Branding, anyone?

What did you learn from the workshops attended?

Maria is better equipped to answer this question as I attended so few. Two workshops, though, were very informative.

In How To Make $100, 000 By Self Publishing, three authors discussed how they promote their work (which even a traditionally published author can benefit from knowing). Series sell with three being the magic number. Know your audience and play around with pricing to see what works best for your series. Bookbub works (which I can personally attest to). And if you have a series, put your first book free or at .99 cents when the third is released. Build your brand across books and your author name.

And, you need to produce. Be prolific and write write write. It’s important to give readers immediate access to all your books. The more, the better.

In New Adult Marketing, I learned an interesting and important statistic on ebook versus print sales. 80% of New Adult books sales are digital versus the 70% ebook versus print sales. And YA? Only 10% is ebook sales. This says a lot about who is reading what, and how they are ready it.

Who did you meet and why are you excited about meeting them?
Again, the conference was a terrific opportunity to meet up with fellow authors. In April, Kate Willoughby, Kat Latham, and Rhonda Shaw celebrated a Carina Press co-book release date (along with Rebecca Crowley and Allison Parr.) We’d never met but collaborated so well. I learned so much from them. The conference was a great opportunity to meet up, given we live in different states (and countries).

I reconnected with Claudia Connor whose debut is coming out from Random House in September. It’s hot! Check it out on Amazon: Worth the Fall. Claudia and I did the contest circuit together. And, btw, she had a presidential suite at the conference…which may or may not have been next to Nora’s.

Historical author and fellow Carina author, Anabelle Bryant was a hoot. She really inspired me with her knowledge and creativity. You should check her out; she shared story ideas over lunch and wow, she’s got a plathora of interesting historical twists!

photo (1)

Finally, I had a fan girl moment with New York Times Bestselling author, Joan Johnston. Fifty-six books and she is still prolific. She had terrific insight on the publishing industry which she so generously shared.

As you can see:  Networking. Networking. Networking.

Summarize your RWA conference experience in three words.

Network. Learn. Enjoy the company.

Heroes of Romance

He’s the male protagonist, or sometimes the antagonist. The heroine’s romantic interest. The hero in a romance story. And like an ice cream cone, he comes in all kinds of scrumptious flavors for us to lick…uh, em…well, enjoy.

Yet like cream is to ice cream, certain core archetypes can be found in our romance heroes.

I’m beginning a new series and have been thinking long and hard about the types of heroes I enjoy reading and writing about. My MMA series, Worth the Fight, features tough, hardcore, Alpha men. Big brutes. Fighters. But what I love about creating a series is that you can decide which archetype fits your voice, your characters, your stories. And then, you can flavor them any which way you want. BTW—I like my ice cream drizzled in sweet, mouthwatering hotness. Hot caramel. Hot fudge. You name it. But be forewarned, my new series might not feature the Alphas you are expecting…they might not be an Alphas at all. 😉

Gosh, I’m such a tease!

Here is my compilation of the core heroic archetypes in romance, as well as books that I think best exemplify each type. Please comment on your favorite(s) and books you’ve enjoyed. Based on the descriptions below, I bet you can figure out my favorites. Or maybe even the direction my new series is headed in.

Enjoy!

Michele

***

This is the oneThe Alpha Male
He’s tough. Overbearing. Headstrong. Dangerous. And we love him in spite of it all. The Alpha hero is arguably the most popular hero archetype. He’s a powerhouse at the top of his game and nothing can stand in his way. Confrontation is his bed-partner. A heroine’s naughty fantasy, even the feistiest are susceptible to his rugged charm. He comes in a variety of shapes and forms: Company CEO’s, MMA fighters, cops and military figures.

My recent favorites: SWAT officer Ben Harris in Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun; Horse in Reaper’s Property by Joanna Wylde; Alex Fuentes in Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

The Beta Guy
He’s hot, sexy and nice. The kind of guy you’d marry. He tends to be successful in business, highly intelligent and down-to-earth. He won’t dodge confrontation but usually finds a better way to resolve it other than a slug fest.

My all-time favorite: Ian Mackenzie in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

The Wounded Soul th2GG2TFN9
Mr. Tall, Dark, and Brooding. He doesn’t have much to say, but his manner positively screams “tormented”. His past is troubled and has shaped who he is today. Only the love of a good woman can heal him and make him whole again.

My favorite: Navy SEAL lieutenant Tom Paoletti in The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

The Jokester
Sharp. Quick witted. Out for a bit of fun. He often snubs social norms and rules, or pokes fun at them. He’s a hard catch, never letting himself get too close for comfort. Most times, his behavior is a smokescreen for a deeper, hidden pain within.

My favorite: Rupert Carsington in Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase.

The Man-Whore
Sex on legs. He’s hot-as-sin and knows it. So do his many women, though none of them are in his life for long. It doesn’t matter—he leaves them smiling. He’s dangerous like that, might even be addicting. Though his heart remains aloof, even when his body is balls deep. He’s searching for the right woman to make him complete, both in bed and within his own damaged psyche.

My favorite: No one does man-whore like Anne Stuart! Try Francis Rohan, le Comte de Giverney in Ruthless.

The Protector
He’s on a higher mission in life, a higher calling where he must protect what is his, through fighting or corporate takeovers or downright domineering actions. He tends to have a police or military background, and is trained in weaponry. More often than naught, he saves the heroine in some way.

My favorite: John Medina in All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard

thGW0DPBNKThe Anti-hero
A shadowing figure, mysterious and subtle. Domineering, overbearing, and dangerous like the Alpha hero except he isn’t obvious about it or as proud of it. He will dominate any confrontation. He inhabits the fringes of society and lives by his own set of outlaw rules. He’s the perfect synthesis of an Alpha Hero, a Wounded Soul, and The Man-Whore.

My favorites: Aleksei “The Siberian” Sevasyan in The Professional by Kresley Cole. Hands-down the hottest anti-hero figure I’ve read in years. Seriously.

Interview with an MMA Fighter

Hi everyone,

My second book, TAP OUT, releases April 14th. I’m on a total promotional blitz right now and you’ll find me on quite a few blogs in the next few weeks.

I thought for my own blog, here at the Violet Femmes, I’d follow the format of the best post I’ve written and recreate it for the Femmes. Something special, not found anywhere else except perhaps in my book.

Hope you enjoy it!

Best,

Michele

***

Michele Mannon interviews Caden Kelly, hero in her latest release TAP OUTUltimate American Male underwearmodel and MMA welterweight title contender

CARINA_0414_9781426898228_TapOut

 
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What’s in a Kiss

Research is like second nature to a writer. We study which guns an undercover agent is likely to use, the style of 1800’s dress a debutante might have worn, and we even research something as simple as a kiss.

Or seemingly simple—try putting the motion into words and you’ll see, it’s a lot more complicated.

Here’s some tips every character should know before puckering up.

lips

1. It’s all in the approach. A kissable character has an open body with arms uncrossed, hands away, and is leaving themselves wide-open.

2. Oh, those lips. A character’s lips need to look pretty. Swollen red, full bodied, wet.

3. A light, flirtatious touch. Typically, characters don’t go in for the first kiss without some kind of touching. A quick, innocent caress of the shoulder. A body brushing up next to him/her.

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New Release: Knock Out

I am really excited about my contemporary sports romance series: Worth the Fight. The first book, KNOCK OUT, is a story about what happens after the Fall, the time in  life when you’ve found yourself knocked out, out of breath, and just struggling to get back up.

CARINA_1213_9781426897535_KnockOut

It takes courage to find your feet, brush off the dirt, and move on with life, right? We’ve all experienced our fair share of falls, too.

Which is why this book means so much to me. You see, I had a major fall, a literal one, smack off a curb and with an Italian ice in my hand. I broke my right ankle and tore the ligaments in my foot . . . the right one. The driving foot. The Italian ice remained intact.

That summer was tough, being laid up on the couch when all I wanted was the sun on my face and the sand between my toes.

Plenty of time to think…which is exactly what happened.

Amidst all my agony and struggle, I had an idea. What if I wrote a story about a heroine who also has a fall and breaks her ankle, but its a career ending injury? What would she do? How would she cope with the way her life has belly-flopped. Her goals shattered along with her ankle? That’s how Logan Rettino, my ballerina turned MMA Octagon Girl, was born.
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Ways to Torment a Heroine Challenge

What happens when a fame whore of an ex drops a famous ballerina on a popular reality T.V. show, breaks her ankle, ruins her career, then blames her average-sized chest for it all?

I love reading stories where characters are put through the ringer, where a laced up heroine ends up face down in the mud, where characters learn about themselves through situations they least expected.

In my debut novel, KNOCK OUT, releasing on December 2nd, Logan Rettino is forced to make a 180 degree career change, hanging up her ballet slippers for an MMA ring card–which takes some getting used to, especially with six-feet-two of oh-so-sexy MMA fighter standing between her and her future plans.

I thought it would be fun to list ten “torment the heroine” challenges I think would be horrible for any character to face, and yet a hilarious to read.

                                                                                                           thCA5MUB0W

Ten Horrible Circumstances a Heroine Should NEVER Encounter

1. Get Trashed by an Ex – “Oh, no, he didn’t!”  All the juicy details of their relationship abuzz on every social media outlet, where he looks like the injured party and she looks downright ridiculous.

2. Give Up a Career She Loves for One Less “Suitable” – Like poor Logan, who one minute is dancing at the Lincoln Center and is the most beloved contestant on America Gets Its Groove On, and the next minute–viola!—an MMA ring card girl. Really?

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#NJRW13 Final Conference Round Up

The Femmes are home, in our pajamas and reflecting on what a terrific experience we’ve had once again at the NJRW conference.

Here are the last round of tweets from the conference!

  1. Shiloh Walker@shilohwalker 2h

    Attended Madeline Hunter’s workshop on creating a conflict driven synopsis while at #njrw13

     

  2. Margaret Mallory@MargaretMallory 2h

    Here I am signing in NJ yesterday. TY @NJRomanceWriter 4 inviting me – had great time at #NJRW13 ! pic.twitter.com/dRGvcBX5Le

     

  3. Margaret Mallory@MargaretMallory 4h

    @shoreauthor Thx, I had a wonderful time at the #NJRW13! Such a treat for me. 🙂 @NJRomanceWriter

     

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Going All Fan-Girl on Margaret Mitchell

In July during the RWA conference in Atlanta, Georgia, author Diana Quincy and I headed into the city center to visit Margaret Mitchell’s home. Yep, Margaret Mitchell, the author who wrote a book I’ve read at least ten times. A little unknown Pulitzer Prize winning work called Gone with the Wind, featuring a heroine still popular almost 100 years after she first appeared—Scarlett O’Hara.WP_000723

We were so eager to visit one of the most admired female writers of all time that we meandered up to her house—now a museum run by the Georgia Historical Society—headed on in, and where told by a gift shop attendant, “You are way too early. The tour begins at 11:00 a.m.”

Okay. We were excited.

Returning promptly at 11:00 a.m., the tour group assembled and was comprised of mostly . . . romance writers! The interesting thing about taking a tour of an author’s house with authors is that you really get a sense of what is fact versus fiction.

For example, there was a wonderful picture of Mitchell typing away on her Remington typewriter propped up on a wooden sewing machine. Her hair was swept neatly back, her dress was fashionable and tidy. There were no signs of clutter, no discarded papers filled with typos, no dirty coffee mugs nor cigarette buds in ashtrays.

Exactly how I look when in the middle of a story—ask the mailman, he’ll confirm it. Of course, the other tour members got a great laugh out of that picture, as well. It’s exactly how you’d expect an author to look in the movies. Again, fact versus fiction and in this case, fiction won.

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