Getting personal with book selling

Crissi reading

I remember when I first started publishing my books, my marketing focus was on the whole wide world. With the internet at my disposal, it made sense to me. I could reach anyone, anywhere, and sell to hundreds of thousands of people without ever having to leave the comfort of my own home.

My first book did pretty well. I marketed to everyone in the world, which was a hard sell since no one knew of me yet. However, my family and friends knew me, and they bought wholeheartedly.

My next book didn’t do quite as well in sales. I won a small award and sold to some of my family and friends. But the rest of the world ignored me. The story was the same for my next book, as well. By the time my fourth novel was published, I was worn out and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I questioned my career path as an author, and considered throwing in the towel. After all, I was spending thousands of dollars on this dream of mine, and had nothing to show for it except for some books that no one except a handful of people who loved me seemed to be interested in.

This was around the time that I found the inspiration for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you’ve kept up with this blog, you remember when I went on a personal soul retreat that changed my life. It was on this retreat when I addressed all of the dilemmas I had with my life path, conferring with God on how to move forward. I came away from that day with answers to my questions and a new purpose for life, and the seed that would become Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

With this last book, I was very clear about my message and the people I was writing to. I wanted to reach other creatives who felt pulled between their busy life and their craft. Most of us must have a day job to be able to afford our lives, especially when our art isn’t make us money. I wanted to show that it’s totally possible to have both, and I wanted to inspire people to NOT give up on their dreams just because they needed to work for a living (or whatever else was getting in the way of their craft).

With this message in mind, I let go of trying to reach the world, and instead just reached the people around me. The message started out small. I, or course, let my family and friends know. But I also started to spread the word to people I didn’t know, but on a more personal level rather than through the anonymous space of the internet. In this, I signed up for readings and read chapters aloud. I verbally shared about my book to those people who wondered how they could fit creativity in their lives. My marketing endeavors weren’t about making money or selling my book at all. Instead, they were about helping other people to make the most of their time so that they could fit more creativity in their life. That was my main objective.

Fast forward to now. A week ago, I read my book in front of a group of writers and sold a bunch of books who were affected by my message. Word about my book reached a podcaster, and our interview will publish on Monday. I’ve been asked to take part in an exclusive sales opportunity with a small group of other authors I admire. Opportunities are coming my way, and all I’ve done is to refocus my intentions and the audience I hope to reach.

Instead of trying to reach the world, I’m starting out with my own community and then going from there.

This not only takes a ton of pressure off me, it also makes things so much more natural. I am now preparing to publish my next book, Loving the Wind, and my hopes are that this book will reach the most readers I’ve ever reached with any of my books. This time, instead of pushing out ads and promoted Facebook posts to a bunch of people I don’t know, I am utilizing my friends and family to help me spread the word. As of right now, a few dozen of the people I know and love are reading this book as first readers. I contacted each of these people personally, handpicking them because I trust them and know that they like many of my books. When the book publishes on Aug. 18, many of these first readers will be key in helping me to spread news about this book because it’s something they read and enjoyed.

If you’re wondering how you can get your book into the most hands possible but coming away with disappointing results, it’s possible you’re trying to market to too many people. Rather than selling to the whole world, consider starting with your own community. Sign up for an open mic or two and read aloud from your book. See if your library is interested in a reading from a local author. Join an active writer’s group that offers events that will help you reach readers. Contact local book clubs and offer to talk with them if they decide to read your book. Think about the people that you want to reach with your book. Who would be interested? Not everyone will like what you write, but there is a group of people who will love it.

Finally, never underestimate the power of being personal. A Facebook post about your book or an advertisement on a web page are easily ignored. A mass email is a little bit better, but can also go unread. But if you talk to someone one-on-one, the power in that is huge. In this day and age, it’s super convenient to socialize on a broad scale, being impersonal through social media, texting, or the like for the sake of convenience. But if you pick up the phone or meet over coffee? That means so much more to everyone.

As much as possible, try and be personal with those people you wish to reach. If your contact has to be done over email or social media, that’s fine. But make it a personal message, and don’t just rely on your social media broadcasts to reach readers. If you take the time to care about the people you wish to connect with, they can’t help but care about you in return. Their loyalty will increase. They may even wish to help you spread the word about your book.

In connecting with a few readers on a more personal level, you have the opportunity to reach the world.

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Behind the cover of Come Here, Cupcake

My cover designer shared the inside scoop on how her art for Come Here, Cupcake came to be. This is a total must-read for a behind-the-scenes look at the book’s gorgeous cover!

Here’s an excerpt:

My very first glimpse of what CHC's cover was going to look like. I may have squealed when I saw it for the first time...
My very first glimpse of what CHC’s cover was going to look like. I may have squealed when I saw it for the first time…

My marvelous and amazing friend Crissi Langwell is an author, with a few books under her belt already, and for her latest, she decided that what she really wanted was for me to do the cover art. She hooked me up with the manuscript so I could get the feel for the story and i was immersed in a lovely tale of a young woman living in the fog-shrouded town of Bodega Bay, and her adventures with baking, and love, and magic and…well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but the story is as sweet as the title would lead you to expect, spiced with mystery and garnished with passion. I loved it and *I* got to do the cover illustration for it! 

So, after chatting with Crissi about what she had in mind,  I went out to Bodega Bay to take some location shots for reference. Even though I’ve been there 100 times or more, and I could find photos online, this way I could find the view I was imagining and get the feel down, and it’s only a short drive away so it seemed silly not to. Plus, an excuse to go out to the ocean, am I right?

Read the rest at persephoneraven.com.

P.S. Come Here, Cupcake is publishing on Monday, Oct. 5. That’s this upcoming Monday! And ebook readers won’t want to wait. Monday will feature special one-day pricing to celebrate release day! Want a reminder? Sign up for my newsletter.

Forever Thirteen named a winner in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards!

Forever ThirteenMy book actually won! Forever Thirteen earned an Honorable Mention in the Young Adult section of the contest. That’s like 2nd place in its category! And the fact that they chose my book out of thousands of others is a pretty huge honor.

So to celebrate, I am continuing my sale for Kindle readers. You can download Forever Thirteen for only 99 cents for a limited time by visiting bit.ly/Forever13.

To learn more about the book, go here.

Here’s what the judge had to say about Forever Thirteen:

Judge’s Commentary, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards: 

From the very first line to the very last page, I was captured by this well-penned story of love, loss, and friendship. What an amazing idea—a story about a young boy who died as he was on the precipice of coming of age—and he still gets to experience this and much more from beyond.  I love this concept and while it is poignant yet heartbreaking, the author does a wonderful job throughout.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that this book is a continuation of a prior book or a subsequent book in a series.  The author does a fantastic job of designing this story to be read as a standalone even if you haven’t read the prior novel.  This is sometimes a tough thing to achieve and the author has done a great job here.

On the production side, this novel is beautifully crafted and well-designed.  From the melancholy cover to the top-notch formatting and editing—this book scores big.  Nice pacing with an even flow of both narrative and dialogue throughout.  The author’s voice is spot on for the genre and intended audience.

Nice opening hooks which keep the reader engaged all the way through to the tear jerker of an epilogue.  This book has it all.  Well done.

What the judge had to say about A Symphony of Cicadas

A few months ago, I sent my book, A Symphony of Cicadas, to the “21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards.” I had high hopes of placing, but mostly I was anxious about the promised commentary from the judge.

Well, I didn’t place. And I’ll admit, I was totally bummed out. I forgot all about it and let it go. But then, a few weeks later, I received a letter that spelled out the judge’s comments.

And my jaw literally dropped when I read it.

The most you can get in each category is a 5. And I got only 4s and 5s across the board. Here’s the judge’s comments in their entirety:

Structure and Organization: 4
Grammar: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 5

Ranking note: Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Judges Commentary: A SYMPHONY OF CICADAS, by Crissi Langwell, is a book filled with interesting characters and an unusual plot line. At first the storyline seemed straight forward: A man and a woman, in love, both with children, but no spouses, awaiting their wedding day. Of course, there is tension and problems between the children, but the main characters, the man and woman, love each other and are promising themselves and each other that they will get through everything.

Then comes the surprise, a terrible automobile accident and Rachel and Joey are killed, while the others must go on with their lives. The tone of the book changes from one of happy anticipation to sorrow. The author takes us through the death process, the funeral, the adjusting of both of deceased and the grieving people left behind.

I must admit I was angry with Rachel for being a careless driver with her son in the car. Not that the accident was totally her fault, but a mother of two, I know how important the children’s lives are. This is not blaming, it is an indication of how real you made the story that I was able to identify with this mother losing her child, and feel anger with the truck driver, etc. Only a skilled writer has that much influence over her readers.

Congratulations for weaving an interesting story line and entertaining us as well as making us think about what death means. I thought the complication of having Aunt Rose there to greet her added a lot to the storyline, and also gave the reader reassurance that all will be well when it is our turn. Well done.

– Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Me again.

Now that I’m almost a year into this self-publishing adventure, I’m not as prone to enter contests anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten with this commentary the judge gave. It let me know that I’m on the right track, and I’m actually not making a fool out of myself with each book (yes, these thoughts do go through my head). It gave my baby princess ego a much needed boost.

But contests like these come with a price. Like a $ price. Some are small, others are large, and they all add up to costs I just can’t afford – just for a measly ego boost. Of course, the winners of contests like these get much more than an ego boost. They get a ton of exposure – the very prize every struggling author wants (along with a cash prize. Trust me, the exposure is more valuable). But the odds of winning these things is slim, as there are so many books out there.

Maybe one day again I’ll entertain the idea of entering my books into contests. But for now, I think I’ll focus my energy on writing. 🙂

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