Archive for May, 2014

Book Marketing 101*


Buy eBook on AmazonComparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process.  The second step, creating an attention-getting eBook cover (and optional print version cover) offers its own unique set of challenges.  The most intimidating undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing.  The word strikes terror in their sensitive little hearts because many authors want as little to do as possible with the outside world.

The largest, most demoralizing marketing question is, “Where do I begin?” Guess what? I’m not going to tell you. There are about a billion articles and blogs on “How to Market Your Book.” Go read one.  In this blog, I plan to relate the first steps I’ve taken to escort my eBook into this over published world.

There are more than seven billion people alive, but how many of them read regularly?  Better yet, how many of them are looking for my book? Answer: None—Zero—Zilch—hence the need for marketing.  I carefully packed this thought away in a dark corner of my creative attic upon beginning the journey of writing a first novel.

As I neared the climactic scenes of my first draft, I noticed it became harder to write.  After a good deal of soul-searching and hand wringing, I diagnosed the problem.  My writer’s block stemmed from the subliminal understanding that it was almost time to say goodbye to my family of characters and their world.  That world had nearly ended, but it was far better than my ordinary life and the real world terrors of self-promotion.  Excuse me for this digression.  I couldn’t help it.

Flash forward 18 months.  I’ve uploaded the eBook to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ibooks.  I’ve developed a Three Days to Darkness web site and a Facebook page.  After a year-long struggle, I’ve managed to place a hyperlinked image of my eBook in the right hand column of this blog (see “I Finally Did It”).

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

I started with an ad on Book Daily.  Your book is featured for one day per month on Book Daily’s E-Zine. Your first chapter is e-mailed to a combined audience of 25,000 readers (many of them authors).  They e-mail your chapter to a subset of readers by genre on three consecutive days during the month.  With each exposure, your book is piggy backed with five competitive books.  The ad costs $49.00 per month.  I sold two books the first month.  I cancelled the campaign.

I’m experimenting with ads on Facebook. You can create a campaign budget and target audience starting at $5 per ad.  So far, I’ve spent $35 on three ads. I’m having fun racking up tons of likes. I’m waiting for the book sales to come rolling in.

Next, I’m planning a press release on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to my web sites and to generate publicity on major news sites and search engines. The campaign will cost $250. To do it right, I will need a book trailer video as part of the package. A simple video will cost another $250. I am using California Videowork to produce the video.

Wait a minute…This makes no sense.

I will have to sell at least a thousand digital copies of my book at $3.99 each to generate a profit (after deducting advertising and self-publishing expenses, plus a few hundred hours of my valuable time).

The odds of selling a thousand digital copies of my book are probably north of a zillion to one.

You know what?  Fuck the odds.

*I apologize for assaulting you with another image of “Three Days to Darkness.”  I posted it to get a hyperlinked image of the eBook on my Facebook page.  I can’t figure out another way to do it.  I think Facebook makes it impossible to hyperlink images on FB pages because they want you to spend money advertising.  I could be wrong about this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Finally Did It


 

my brain spoke to meI’m not ashamed to admit it took me nearly a year to figure out how to post the cover image of my e-book in the right hand column of this blog. I’m sure you will understand once I explain it.

First, though, please take a moment to shift your gaze slightly to the right. There it is—shining out into the world in all of its glory. Isn’t it beautiful?*

Technically, the cover image is a widget. Widgets are normally easy to use on WordPress.  As with every rule, there are exceptions. The image widget is one of them. Here’s why. Upon opening the image template, I found a box requesting a URL for my cover image. I immediately said to myself, oh no. I may have used harsher language, but it was so long ago I can’t remember.

I tried to imagine the JPG of my cover art floating on a URL somewhere out in cyberspace. How, I wondered, can I get my image up on a URL?

I tried creating a blog post featuring the cover art all by its lonesome. Didn’t work. I tried creating an interior blog page. Also didn’t work. I made many other attempts, each with the same result: total despair. Fate had sentenced my cover art to live in obscurity in the back pages of my blog. It would never be allowed to take up permanent residence in a prominent place on the front page.

It would have been so easy if the software engineers had designed the image widget with a box and a button to upload cover art. Let the software create the damn URL, not me. That job is way above my pay grade.

As I fumed about the situation for the hundredth time, an idea bulb went off in my head. (I know idea bulb is a cliché. My head hurts too much from trying to solve this mystery to come up with an original metaphor.)

Try using the media library in your dashboard to find the URL, my brain told me.

Okay, I replied.

In my media library, I found several URL’s for my cover art. I tried each of them. The widget template stubbornly refused to accept every one I entered. In a rage, I smashed my head several times on the wooden Starbucks bench and nearly strangled the person next to me. This is why my head hurts. No kidding.

Maybe the image you are using is too heavy, my brain suggested. Try using an image with less than 1.55 megabytes; dummy.

Right, good thinking.

I followed my brain’s advice. Finally, one of the URL’s worked. I can’t describe the ecstasy that came over me. I had finally done it. I had achieved one of the basic steps towards marketing a book online.

To put it mildly, writing a novel and self-publishing it is a long and interesting journey. The fun really starts, however, when it comes time to go out into the world to sell your book. Though I’ve just begun this process, I feel the urge coming on to write a blog about marketing. Stay tuned.

*By clicking on the cover image, you can go to my Amazon page. I’m not suggesting you try this. I just wanted to mention it in passing.

 

 

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American Airlines Odyssey


Grok in Fullness

Grok in Fullness

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport feeling relaxed and in good spirits after a weekend seminar held in the small town of Elburn, Illinois. In light, mid-morning traffic, I had negotiated the trip from Elburn to O’Hare without making one wrong turn, thanks to my able navigator, Siri.

I strode across the Avis parking lot reflecting on what I had learned at the Human Sun Institute seminar.  I looked forward to a few hours of reading, novel editing, and eating a leisurely lunch before my plane took off. All I had to do was walk up to the ticket counter to collect my boarding pass.

When purchasing my airline tickets online, I could not resist the option of upgrading my return flight to first class for only $149.00. In addition to the enjoyable routine I planned before boarding, I had the comfort and luxury of a non-stop, first class flight back to Fort Lauderdale to contemplate as well.

Upon entering the American Airlines terminal, I noticed immediately how tired the ticket counter attendant looked. I figured she had begun her workday at some obscene, early morning hour. I was determined to treat her nicely. I made a few cheerful comments, gave her my flight information, and presented my ID. Her fingers flew across the keyboard. I stood there smiling, radiating all sorts of peace and joy.

The attendant looked up from her keyboard and said calmly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gittlin, your flight has been cancelled.”

NBA sportscaster Jeff Van Gundy uses a phrase that I love. He did not coin the phrase, but Jeff has a unique way of saying it that never fails to amuse me.

Standing at the American Airlines ticket counter, I suddenly became Jeff Van Gundy reacting to the bad foul call of a referee.

“Are you kidding me,” I said to the attendant.

With my reservation, I had given my email address and cell phone number to the American Airlines computer. The computer, in response, did not email, text, or call me about the flight cancellation. Instead, it booked me on a non-stop coach flight back to Fort Lauderdale scheduled for takeoff seven hours later.

When I asked the ticket attendant for a refund on the first class part of my ticket, she informed me there was no refund since I had upgraded the return flight from an economy fare on the first half of my trip.

“But I bought trip insurance,” I said.

“We have nothing to do with that,” she replied. “You’ll have to go to the web site of the trip insurance provider to see if they will give you a refund.”

Thanks mainly to the peace circulating in my body from the weekend seminar I did not hate the ticket attendant. I did not scream or berate the poor woman. She was only doing her job. She had no control over how badly her job was screwing me.

After a minute of researching alternative flights, we settled on a flight to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Dallas. I would arrive in Fort Lauderdale two hours earlier but three hours later than the cancelled flight. Whoopee! The attendant upgraded the flight from Dallas to first class, although the airline was not required technically to do so. Thank heaven for small favors.

I felt relieved until I learned the flight to Dallas was boarding in ten minutes. I had all of ten minutes to go through TSA and find my gate in another terminal.

While going through the TSA ordeal, I began to wonder about the cosmic significance of this abrupt change in flight plans. Surely, I was meant to deliver or receive some important message from a fellow passenger.

Encouraged by this thought, I went to pick up my carry-on bag. A TSA officer grabbed it and informed me he had to search it. This had never happened to me in forty years of infrequent flying.

I feared the search had something to do with the raft of prescription drugs I was carrying. It turned out to be a problem with my shaving cream and hair gel. I have never been busted before for these items in my carry-on, but whatever, at least I wasn’t going to jail.

With bags re-packed, I set out in search of terminal “C.” Following the signs, I found the Sky Lift to the terminal. I noticed the steps on the escalator were frozen. The elevator wasn’t working too well either. I’m not making this up, people. All of this stuff happened. It all had to be part of a grand plan for my betterment and the betterment of Mankind. I believed in this deeply.

I struggled up the frozen escalator steps lugging my laptop and carry-on bag. The woman in front of me was breathing so hard I thought she was having a heart attack. Somehow, we both made it to the top without passing out.

After boarding the flight to Dallas, I settled into the very last seat in the bowels of the coach cabin. The guy next to me looked just like a Waking Down in Mutuality mentor I had met in February at a seminar in Atlanta. I made this comment to him. He politely confirmed he was not the person I had in mind. I used the opening to talk about doppelgängers and the seminar I had just attended. My fellow passenger showed zero interest, again politely, plugged his iPhone earplugs in, and settled back to listen to music for the rest of the trip.

Okay, so nothing momentous happened on the first leg of the trip. The cosmic implications of these highly unusual events would surely kick in on the second leg of the journey.

While waiting at the gate for the flight to Fort Lauderdale, I noticed someone who looked like Lexi Thompson. Lexi is 18 years old and one of the best women golfers in the world. She lives in Florida. The woman sitting nearby looked exactly like her mother. I had seen a close up of Lexi’s mother and father on TV. Then, a slim man in his early thirties sat next to the mother. I recognized him as Lexi’s older brother Nicholas, a PGA professional golfer. This confirmed the presence of the famous Thompson clan.

I had to figure out what having Lexi Thompson and family on my flight meant—in the cosmic sense, of course. Okay, I thought, they’ll be travelling in first class like me. I’ll more than likely be sitting next to one of them.  I will have an auspicious conversation with one of them.

Instead of the famous Thompsons, I sat next to a rotund Wal-Mart salesperson from Arkansas. She showed little interest in conversing with me, preferring instead to commune with her iPad and iPhone on the journey home.

Desperate for answers, I asked the steward if American cancelled flights regularly. I had not flown American in ages. This was the first time I had ever had a flight cancelled.

The steward informed me that flights can be cancelled if there is not enough freight in the cargo hold to make the flight profitable. He defined freight as bodies in caskets, mail, or any commercial product paid for by a vendor. He explained that American had lost its contract with the US Mail. This had put a large dent in American’s freight profit center.

The steward then revealed this startling fact: The amount of commercial freight on board a commercial jetliner determines the profitability of a flight. Passengers do not determine profitability. We exist to absorb the cost of overhead including fuel and payroll.

I thanked the steward for the wisdom he had generously imparted. I proceeded to contemplate the Parable of the Airline Freight for several minutes.

In a flash of enlightenment, the purpose of my American Airlines Odyssey struck me.

OMG!!!

The events of the trip suddenly made perfect sense. I groked in fullness the hidden meaning:

I am not as important as I think I am.

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