When I was in college, I majored in Finance with the School of Business. Numbers are my other love, and I work as an accountant as my nine to five. You can’t know finance without also learning about marketing and sales. While of course that doesn’t make me an automatic expert, I like to think that it’s given me a little edge on understanding how to work the business side of being an author. I’m actually using a lot of these practices for my upcoming trilogy, The Witch’s March. So, next year once those results are in, I plan to share what worked and once didn’t. Let’s get into those need-to-knows, shall we?
- It’s never a bad time to talk about it. For me, this is a hard one. As passionate as I am about my work, I clam up as soon as someone asks me about it. Being a writer gives me the shield of not being there to physically see their reaction. It’s not like actors on stage, that feel the awkward tension when their scripted joke doesn’t get the desired laugh. I’ve always like that about writing, but you simply have to be vocal about it. I’m not saying shove its way into every little conversation you have, but be open to talking about it. When the time comes where something’s said and you think “oh, now I could make a good segue”, do it. My best advice so you don’t feel guilty about constantly monopolizing the conversation into it all the time is finding a one to two sentence tagline to sell your book. Get them interested, and they’ll do the rest
- Figure out your budget. It sucks, but we don’t have an infinite number of cash to throw into promoting our books. Once you set your publishing date, decide then and there how much you’re willing to spend on promotion. Once you have that number set, look into the different costs of different strategies and decide which ones work for you. For example, as a Young Adult Fantasy writer, book tours have been known to have success for my genre so that’s where the main chunk of my money is going.
- It’s never too soon to start. The early bird gets the worm. That stands true for promotion too. I’m not saying throw all of your money into an unfinished project. Make sure that your book has its voice first. But once you know what direction your book’s going in, start talking. Have that line waiting for you once the figurative sale doors open.
- Go to where your target audience is. For example, Facebook is by far the most universally used social media with almost 70% of adults reporting that they use it – 94$ of 18 to 24-year-olds. Other good avenues are YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. If you want to stay away from the social media outlet, don’t.
- If you have a publisher, talk about promoting expectations. When you’re not self-published, a lot of this is thought of for you. While that’s nice, that doesn’t mean you just get to cruise through while the agency does everything. Talk to them about what they expect from you as far as press and make sure you have the support you need to accomplish it effectively.
- Get book reviews. Did you know that a Dimensional Research study found that 90% of those surveyed considered positive reviews when making a purchase decision? And guess what. The more reviews you have, the quicker you’ll shoot up that Amazon search ranking. Search for people who review your genre and apply to have yours read. Ask family and friends who you know plan to purchase to leave a review. It’s not annoying; it’s necessary.
- If the books a part of an established series, use it. If you don’t have the complete list of your series in every single book of that series, I don’t know what you’re doing. Of course when you’re still in the process of getting them published, you’ll have to go back and make some updates. Do it. It’s worth it. If it’s Kindle format, I’d say go as far as to put in the link right there for your readers to click and buy the next of the series. Make your series a unified social media account. A one-stop shop for your readers to find to learn where they can keep reading.
- Blast it on your website. If your thought to that was “I don’t have a website”, fix that. I will say that they are time and money, so don’t make one for every book and/or series unless you have the time and money to, which most people don’t. Name the site after yourself and then build small sections within your site for each book/series. Make sure to always include direct links to buy the book once that becomes available. Besides traditional ads, one way I’ve chosen to promote my upcoming The Witch’s March series is by posting relevant historic facts, as the series takes place over a large chunk of history from WWI to WWII.
- Test Your Title. Basically think of it as an ad or article headline. This is especially true in non-fiction books. Look up key title words in your genre and see if you can add them in. For example, fantasy loves the word “Queen” right now.
- Give them a little something extra. The best example I can give of this is what movie marketing teams thought of for post-theater money-making. When people stopped buying the VHS/DVD experience, what did they do? They added bonus material or footage.
While it’s true that a series (or an author) with an active following has a bit more wiggle room for when they choose to publish, it’s an indisputable fact that the timing of when you publish will affect sales. Yes, most readers have one or two (or three) genres that they like to stay within, but why not have your book published at the right time? Like in the early summer months when they’re dreaming of their summer vacations? Or if your audience is YA, giving them self-help non-fiction for when they realize they get back into the mind-set of school? Or a self-help book when the new year is starting and they have resolutions to keep? Or even a cook book they decide they need because they’re trying to be healthy again?
Please notice that there’s some wiggle room of when to publish. Also, please note that if you’re doing a series, when to publish the sequel and so on should rely more heavily on when the first is published than the month. Also, please recognize that in addition to some genres appearing in more than one month, some of these items/genres might overlap in reference to your book (e.g. Romantic Fantasy), so when in doubt, choose the stronger theme of your book – or which one best fits with your timeline. Below I have the list, including some successful books published during the window:
January (“New Year, “New Me”)
February (Least published month adds to marketing visibility opportunities)
- Mystery (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn published on April 22nd)
- Women’s Fiction (The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton published on April 11th)
- Women’s fiction
- Biographies (Robin by Dave Itzkoff published May 15th)
July (similar to June but quieter month so similar visibility opportunity as February)
- Fantasy (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
- Women’s fiction
- Political (Change We Can Believe In by President Barack Obama published on September 5th)
- Fantasy Sequel (Legendary by Stephanie Garber published September 29th)
- Debut novel
- Horror (Gilchrist by Christian Galacar)
- Cooking (holiday recipes)
- Non-fiction (established writer)
- Children (A is for Adorable by Elizabeth Sarpong published December 4th)
Fun little-known fact is that the holiday season is actually not the best time to publish. Some recent numbers show that there was about $3.5B book sales made in summer when there was only about $2.5B for holiday gift giving. With that said, don’t let trying to make all of this fit into your novel stop you from publishing at all. The best way to publish is to publish at all.
The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 is arguably the best airplane of World War i. It was a British biplane fighter aircraft that was first used in April 1917. It was one of the fastest aircraft of the war, while still being both stable and relatively maneuverable. Per Robert Jackson, it was “the nimble fighter that has since been described as the ‘Spitfire of World War One'”.
While some pilots were still initially disappointed with the S.E.5, they all quickly came to appreciate its strengths. In June 1917, any failings were addressed with the S.E.5a entering service.
The S.E.5b is the fictional model that makes an appearance in The Witch’s March. In the novel, this airplane is the only Ally plane that was successfully fireproofed, in order to be better protected against dragons. This fantasy-influenced model is an upgrade from the S.E.5.
Almost every novel’s top five main characters can be broken into these five categories: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, mentor, and love interest. In a later blog, I will go into more specifics about each of these roles, but for now, I’m going to go over ten major questions to ask these characters in order to flesh them out and give your book quality characters to make the reader fully invested in their story. Some are simpler to answer than others, of course. You might not think a name is anything more than just that, but I disagree. I think this Japanese proverb says it best: Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names. So without any further ado, here are the 10 questions to ask your main characters:
What is their name? Every author has a different method to naming their characters. There are some other questions to consider when answering this one. What is their culture? What year is it? Some authors like to look up the meaning of names to help them decide. A good website for that is Behind The Name. If you’re writing fantasy, a good method could be finding a real name and altering it slightly. A good example of this is Eddard from Game of Thrones – changing the name Edward into a more gritty sounding name to fit the character.
What role do they play to add to the plot? This can be protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, mentor, love interest, temptor/henchmen, skeptic, emotional, logical, etc. How will their existence complicate or propel forward the plot?
What is their primary goal? Answering this question helps create such complicated plots like in Game of Thrones. (Can you tell I like the series from my many references?) What does their happy ending look like? What are they willing to do to achieve this goal? How does this goal align with the protagonists? How does it interfere with or what roadblocks does it bring to the protagonist’s goals? Will they get said happily ever after?
What are their strengths? If they were being interviewed for their role in the plot, what would they say? A good place to start is answering if they appeal to ethos, pathos, or logos. In the terrible situations they get themselves into during the plot, how can they contribute to the plan to get themselves out of trouble or accomplish some heroic action? A good example is Hermione’s abundance of knowledge and common sense of preparation helps Harry Potter get out of several sticky situations. Another thing to think about is if there’s a trait that acts as a strength in one instance but a weakness in others. This is like how Scarlett in Caraval unconditionally loves her sister. It gives her the strength to push past several emotionally draining situations; however, it also leaves her less cautious as she feels more desperate throughout the book.
What are their weaknesses? Same as strengths, but obviously in reverse. If the story needs the character’s team to fail in that plot point, how would they contribute to that failing? Their impatience? Anger? Naivety? Cockiness? Stupidity? This is the entire principle that the series of The Agency is written around: a societal male underestimation of women that the protagonist spy takes advantage of continuously in her adventures.
How old are they? This will largely contribute to several of their characteristics because the following answer must be answered: what kind of environment did they grow up in? There’s often the said cycle of: strong men lead to good times lead to weak men lead to bad times lead to strong men, and onward. Also, did they deal with certain discriminations that took place before the plot begins?
What is their connection to protagonist? How do they know each other? If they have a history together, at the very least summarize it for yourself so that it can contribute to their relationship. Does the protagonist like them? Do they like the protagonist? Is there anyone in particular that they are close to or care about?
What is their occupation? How a person chooses to earn money says a lot about them. Could their occupation add to the contribution of why their an asset to the team? An example of this is Philo in The Scorpion King and how is knowledge of science from his job as a court magician helps save the ‘good guys’ more than once.
How will you introduce this character? Is their depiction in that first scene true to their character or do you want to give some misdirection? How much does the reader know about them at their first appearance? Do you want them to be mentioned before officially meeting them or do the readers only know what the protagonist describes at the first hello?
How are they different in the beginning of the story versus the end? In order to be believable, every character needs a growth arc. A good example of this is following Claire Danvers in the Morganville Vampires series. While several of her main characteristics stay the same throughout the books, her bravery grows and her strengths against the varying antagonists shifts.
Before I forget, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
With no promise on frequency, each week’s Thursday Picture posts will occasionally be a fun history fact that I learned while writing my current work-in-progress novel, The Witch’s March. This is the first of a YA Fantasy series that starts during World War I. More will come out on the book later. For now, your first fact:
The main character, Hattie Lange, temporarily poses as a Hello Girl. “Hello Girls” was a colloquial name for American female switchboard operators in World War I. The group was formally known as ‘Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit’. These switchboard operators were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The women left for Europe in March 1918 and were in many exchanges of the American Expeditionary Forces in France and Britain. Despite the fact that they wore U.S. Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations, they were not given honorable discharges, but were considered “civilians” employed by the military due to their gender. It wasn’t until 1978 that Congress approved Veteran Status/Honorable discharges for the remaining “Hello Girls”.