The Repository of Oddities and Curiosities

My friend Mari Christie has just opened a new space on Facebook for historical fact and fiction. One by one, various people are creating ‘exhibits’ (year-long Facebook events) on which to post historical facts from their research and to play at interactive storytelling.

If you enjoy seeing stories created on the fly, or if you want to learn more about a specific period, come and join us.

I’m doing something different with mine; not the Regency, as you might expect, but the Antipodean gold rushes, which I research extensively a number of years back for a gold rush saga that never saw publication daylight. One day, maybe.

the-repository

You’ll find the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/RepositoryOfOddities/, and at the top, you’ll see the following

REPOSITORY EXHIBITS
Wherein one will see items of interest from their respective periods, interspersed with the dramatic stories of the exhibit curators and staff. Readers and writers are invited to add a character and join in the storytelling.

Currently, the exhibits are:

American Civil War Era 1850-1870
https://www.facebook.com/events/164630367342417/

Britain During The Reigns Of George III and IV, 1760-1830
https://www.facebook.com/events/210041672779433/

Antipodean Gold Rushes 1850 to 1900
https://www.facebook.com/events/1275650492455822/

Victorian England, 1837 – 1901
https://www.facebook.com/events/345007395872307/

1790s English Radicals & Malcontents
https://www.facebook.com/events/1768343330097536/

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A Toad is Born

The Duke of Wellbridge

The Duke of Wellbridge

Early in 2015, I was at the same FaceBook party as Mari Christie (who writes romance as Mariana Gabrielle). The author whose book launch it was asked us to show pictures of our virtual outfit for the party, and our virtual escort, and Mari and I both decided to bring a roguish rake from one of our books.

And that’s how it began.

There they both were, my Marquis of Aldridge from a book as yet unwritten, and Mari’s Nick Northope, Duke of Wellbridge, from Royal Regard, the lynch pin book in her Sailing Home series. Unregenerate rascals, they soon made two things clear to their authors. One: these rakes were old friends, with many escapades and scandals in their joint history. Two: we had better take our shenanigans out of our friend’s party before we spoiled it for her.

We were working up to the launch of the Bluestockings Belles, so we moved our characters into a month-long FaceBook party at a fictional coaching inn, along with the characters of our Belle friends and other people who wanted to play. Wellbridge, with his bride the lovely Bella, hosted the party. Aldridge spent most of it drunk. Mari and I discovered that we enjoyed impromptu co-writing.

The Marquis of Aldridge

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford

When the inn party ended, the Belles founded the Bluestockings Belles Bookshop on Facebook, and ever since we’ve been making up stories on line in real time with readers and anyone else who cares to join in.

What happens when two or more creative people co-tell a story comment by comment on a FaceBook thread is raw—often painfully raw. But since those first wild moments, we’ve learned to let the characters have their heads, and worry about editing later.

We’ve written a number of vignettes and even short stories and scenes for longer books this way. Someone posts an introduction and usually an image, and then the other participants bring their characters in, with the action and the thread growing as each person takes the tale another step along its tortuous journey.

That’s just the start. The next step is to capture the thread and decide point of view. The author of the point of view character rewrites the piece, layering in detail, correcting ambiguities and inconsistencies, and resolving lost plot points. Then the partner writers take a look and make their suggestions, and the first draft is done. The story still needs the usual rounds of editing and proofreading, but from this point on, the process is much the same as for any other book.

Over the last eighteen months, Wellbridge has grown into his ducal magnificence in front of the readers of the Bookshop and its predecessor the inn. Still a rogue in many ways, he is a devoted husband and father. For Aldridge, marriage is still in his future. The inn party gave me the story that was the kernel around which I built A Baron for Becky, but Aldridge did not (in that book) end up with the girl. He won’t find himself a wife until at least 2017 in real world time, and 1815 in his own.

Lady Sarah Grenford

Lady Sarah Grenford, daughter of the Duke of Haverford

But when he does, what will happen? A casual comment about what reformed rakes might be like as fathers led us to decide their approach to daughters might be very different to their approach to sons! And thus was born the idea for a vignette. Or perhaps a short story.

What if Aldridge, now the Duke of Haverford, has a daughter he adores? And what if he and his best friend would dearly love to see their children make a match of it? And what if Wellbridge’s son is a rake after the pattern of his father, and the pride of the two older retrobates’ he… Perhaps the word I am looking for is ‘loins’ rather than ‘hearts’.

We decided to write a scenario about the two fathers finding their offspring in a compromising situation, and we did. We wrote the scenario. Then we wrote what came next. Then we wrote a bit of backstory. We gave our hero a title and a nickname, and wrote a scene set in his infancy when he was a baby, and earned both from the king.

David 'Toad' Northope, Marquess of Abersham and heir to the Duke of Wellbridge

David ‘Toad’ Northope, Marquess of Abersham and heir to the Duke of Wellbridge

It wasn’t long before we decided we had a novella, and a novella in the romance genre means a happy ever after ending. So our heroine needed to grow out of being a spoiled brat who always wanted her own way, and our hero needed to find out that being a rake hurts people (including the girl he loves) as well as that only one woman would do for him.

We couldn’t do that in a novella, as it turned out. Never Kiss a Toad, by Jude Knight and Mariana Gabrielle is a novel, more than three quarters written (though much of it is still in FaceBook thread mode), and currently 110,000 words plus. We have just started publishing it on Wattpad, a thousand or so words at a time.

Long before we’ve completed the book on Wattpad, it’ll be available as a novel at our usual retailers, but probably not until next year. So why not join us on Wattpad, find out the fate of Toad and Sal, and have your say as the story grows?

Find Never Kiss a Toad on Jude Knight’s Wattpad

Find Never Kiss a Toad on Mariana Gabrielle’s Wattpad

(We’ll be taking it in turns to post, so follow us both to get a part per week.)

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Proposals on WIP Wednesday

I’m posting a proposal scene today. The lady in question is the heroine of Never Kiss a Toad, the book I am cowriting with Mari Christie, who writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle and who is a colleague of mine in the Bluestocking Belles. Sally is Lady Sarah Grenford, only daughter of the Duke of Haverford, who you may know as the Marquis of Aldridge. The man tendering the proposal is the novel’s villain.

Post your proposals, folks. I’d love to read them. And don’t forget to share!

c399bc77cf3488d42d075b56376e52c4“I think that funeral-faced wine merchant’s son wants to propose, Sally,” Etcetera told her. “Shall I make an excuse to leave the two of you alone?”

“Do not dare,” Sally warned. “I will make your life hell if you do.”

The genial giant pose slipped briefly, and it was the Nordic warrior who asked, “Do I need to break his neck for you, cousin?”

“Just do not leave me alone with him, Etcetera. I do not like the man, and I do not trust him.”

But in the week leaving up to Christmas, Crowhurst behaved like a gentleman, apart from frequent florid compliments and a tendency to treat any opinions she offered in conversation with patronising amusement. Though if those two behaviours were not gentlemanly, there were few true gentlemen in Society.

So when he found her alone in Command Central on the day before Christmas, she merely greeted him and asked him to put his finger on the ribbon that she was attempting to make into a bow. All her usual helpers were off about the great house on decorating tasks or out with Elf and Uncle James who were captaining the Yule log team. Yule logs, in fact, since no fewer than three would burn from this evening until Twelfth night: one in the chief parlour, one in the Great Hall, and one in the ballroom.

Even Etcetera had deserted her, since his mother and father, the Archduchess of Erzherzog and her consort, had arrived with their younger children.

“What are you making?” Crowhurst asked, though the bunches of mistletoe berries carefully bound among the silk ribbons and paper flowers should have made it obvious.

“We were short one kissing bough,” Sally told him. “I am remedying the defect. It is to go in Grandmama’s drawing room, so I want it to be particularly lovely.” She frowned at the bough, trying to visualise it in place. “I think it is nearly done.” She had chosen ribbons of a deep turquoise blue and a delicate pale green, and flowers in gilt paper and a softer cream tissue, all woven together on the white-washed bough with silver cords.

“I wish to just attach these glass baubles to catch the light.” They were the latest fashion—blown glass fashioned into little ornaments intended to be displayed on Christmas trees after the German fashion the royal family had adopted.

“Yes, very nice. But if it needs to be special, perhaps you should wait until one of your usual helpers returns, Lady Sarah. I am sure they would be better qualified to advise you than I.” Crowhurst’s little huff of laughter was self-deprecating.

“I am not expecting any of them for an age,” Sally said, most of her focus on binding the baubles so they were firmly attached and displayed to best advantage. “I will be finished in a moment, and then, if you are not otherwise occupied, Mr Crowhurst, perhaps you could give me a hand to carry it to Grandmama’s parlour while she is occupied with Aunt Margarete and Uncle Jonathan.”

“The Arch-Duchess,” Crowhurst said, as if he were checking which Aunt Margarete she meant, “and your father’s brother. They have arrived then?”

“Yes, thereby depriving me of all those not off somewhere decorating or out with Uncle James. You did not wish to go out with the duke to bring in the Yule log, Mr Crowhurst? There!” She sat back, satisfied with her work, and at the next moment startled to her feet as Crowhurst suddenly fell to one knee.

“Lady Sarah, I can remain silent no longer,” he declaimed.

“Please, Mr Crowhurst, do not continue.”

Crowhurst ignored her. “I am inflamed by your beauty, your charm, your wit, and I flatter myself that you are not indifferent to me. Lady Sarah, dare I hope you will favour me with your hand?”

The pompous ass. She had done everything she politely could to discourage the man. Impoliteness, then. “No, Mr Crowhurst, I will not.” Never mind that nonsense about being conscious of the honour and so on. It was not an honour at all to be desired for one’s prominent relatives and one’s fifty thousand pounds a year.

Crowhurst surged to his feet and wrapped both arms around her, pulling her tight against his body. “No need to be shy with me, sweet dove. I know you want me as much as I want you.” Sally, one arm trapped, tried to push him away with the other, but he was much larger and stronger and would not release her.

“Let me go this instant! What has got into you?”

“You have, tempting heart-breaker. Your teasing has driven me beyond manners. I am crazed by you, unkind Angel. You must be mine.” He had captured the hand with which she had tried to claw his eyes, forcing it behind her back until he could grasp both her wrists in one hand, pulling her tight against his body. He laughed when she struggled. “That’s right, little treasure. Wriggle against me. Did Abersham leave you the innocent you seem, I wonder? Shall we find out?”

Fear was rapidly winning over fury. She could scream, but no one would hear.

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Road to a better mousetrap – part 3: Tuesday Talk

Mari Christie and I are writing a series on marketing in the bazillion book marketplace, and this is part 3 of the chapter on creating a marketing plan.

Most of the first post was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend. The second post talked about knowing your product and finding your readers.

In this post, we talk about how to keep your readers and how to get them to sell your books.

stand-outHow not to become rich and famous

Writing books is no sure way to wealth and fame, as every writer knows. Wealth and fame, or even a modest income and privacy to write more, means selling books. Selling books eats into your emotional and creative energy: energy you could be pouring into your books.

But not selling books, for those of us without a private fortune or a rich spouse, means doing some other job to put food on the table, and the job eats into your time and very likely your emotional and creative energy.

You already know that finding buyers (other than your closest friends and relatives) means writing a good book, having it well edited, and giving it a gorgeous cover. Do these things and you’ll find a few buyers. A few.

Sales figures for ‘the average book’ are no more than a guesstimate, but a few brave people have made an attempt, basing their figures on reported sales from a variety of sources. And those figures come out somewhere in the region of 200 to 500 books in the first year, depending on genre, with an upper average of 1000 in the lifetime of the book.

Of course, a very tiny fraction of one percent of all books do spectacularly well, selling 10s, even 100s of thousands, which means the average of all of the rest is probably lower, closer to the 200.

That’s the average. And you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t want to beat the odds.

Don’t find buyers; attract (and keep) fans

It’s a vicious cycle, but there is an answer.  Find other people to sell your books for you. Convert your readers into followers, and your followers into raving fans.

We’ve discussed in other posts the need to interact with readers. This post gives three steps for making those interactions count. When you write your marketing plan, document how you intend to do these things.

  1. Make it easy for them to find you.
  2. Make it worthwhile for them to follow you
  3. Provide interesting stuff

Make it easy for them to find you

Sell your books where the bulk of your readers are. Whatever you might think of Amazon’s business model, learn how to make the most of the platform they offer. Taylor your keywords, the bio on your author page, and all the other tools they provide to get your book noticed. Do the same with other eretailers, too.

Your print audience is going to be smaller. I cannot give much advice on print. My books are available in print, but I haven’t been pushing the print copies because I only have a certain amount of energy.

Give away a free book—short stories, excerpts, or a novella. Before you can convert that reader, you first have to put a book in front of them. My novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was downloaded 53,000 times in its first six months. That’s 53,000 readers I have a chance at converting.

In your free book, as well as your books for sale, give your readers a reason to go looking for you and a way to connect with you as soon as they finish the story. On your next pages, put  links to your social media and subscription services, teasers and excerpts for your other books, buy links for the books already on sale.

Make it worthwhile for them to follow you

Okay, you’ve given them a reason to click. Now give them a reason to subscribe, to buy, to join, and to follow.

Here are few that work well if you do them well.

Have a newsletter. Make it easy for people to sign up and give them interesting content. Reward them with coupons or insider information, and special contests. Keep your newsletters brief and informative, and don’t send them too often.

Have a blog. Blog about things that interest your target readers, and blog regularly. Use your blog to inform and entertain. Watch your blog stats to find out what posts do well and what topics people consistently ignore. Do more of the one and fewer of the other.

Post often. Themed days can help if you have trouble thinking of what to say. Visitors can help, and people love to be hosted on other people’s blogs. It’s a win-win; they reach your audience and you’re introduced to theirs. One idea is to invite other novelists to post a themed extract in comments. Exquisite Quills does this brilliantly.

Encourage people to subscribe to your blog, so they get notified when you put up a new post. And post often. Visitors can help. Themed days can help.

Have a twitter account. Tweet about things that interest your readers. Reply to people’s comments. Tweet about interesting blog posts. Link to free books and excerpts.

Have a Facebook fan page and post stuff about your books, research you’ve done, places you’ve been, and your cat. Facebook loves cats. Ask questions. Join in conversations. Post interesting memes and idea.

Provide interesting stuff

Don’t be a digital billboard, constantly trying to sell something. Engage, inform, entertain, intrigue, delight. Put the effort into writing quality content, whatever you’re posting: hot men, useful recipes, research into royal mistresses, castles, cute cats, questions about romance tropes.

I’ve been trying to do all of these, though not as consistently as I’d like. Torn between the day job, the fiction writing, family commitments, and marketing, I lurch from too much focus to too little. Still, in the first three months after the release of Farewell to Kindness, I’ve sold over 900 copies. Not enough to retire on, but considerably over the odds.

In the next road to a better mousetrap post, Tools and tactics?

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Road to a better mousetrap part 2 – Tuesday Talk

Today, Mari Christie and I continue co-posting on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace. 

too-many-booksA few weeks ago, we posted the first part of an article about writing marketing plans.

Most of the first post was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend.

But they’re not going to come to you; you have to find a way to go to them. And before you do that, you need to know what you have to offer them.

Know your product

Ridiculous, right? You know your product. Who better? You’ve spent six months, or a year, or three years of your life on this book. So can you encapsulate its essence in a sentence? And does that sentence hook into the interests and passions of the readers you want to reach? If the first nine words of your sales statement does not capture people’s attention, then expect to be lost in the crowd.

Tagline
This sales statement is called a tagline, and it’s worth spending some time crafting it, because you can then use it everywhere – at the start of your description on eretailers websites, in newsletters, in requests for review, on twitter, at the start of Facebook posts, even on the cover of the book itself.

Here are some great taglines:

  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis: What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?
  • The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney: Hush little students, don’t say a word…
  • After by Amy Efaw: You’ve done the unthinkable. What happens…after?
  • Wake by Lisa McMann: Your dreams are not your own.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour: How does your life move forward when all you want to do is hold still?
  • Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher: Bad boys and secrets are both hard to keep.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story.
  • Le Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess by Mari Christie: Kali Matai was destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful men. She hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn.

Keywords
Keywords are the next thing to think about. What words are your readers likely to search on. “Spies Napoleonic wars”? “Courtesan to wife”? “Tudor court politics”?

Amazon and Smashwords let you enter a number of keyword phrases, and carefully chosen keywords will help people using their sites to find your book if that’s what they’re looking for. But you can use them much more widely than this.

First, you can litter the keyword phrases in your online conversations about your books, thus increasing the number of times you’re picked up by search engines.

Second, you can use the keyword phrases to search for the people who are using them and the places they hang out. Which brings us to:

Go where your readers are

Writing books is a solitary task. We talk to one another about our craft and our day, but when it comes to putting words one after the other into a text that will one day be a book, we do it alone.

But to put those books into the hands of readers, we need to step out, often outside of our comfort zone, and hang out with people. Mari and I have posted elsewhere about marketing by not-marketing, and I’m not going to repeat that here, except to say I’m not talking about going out to make sales. I’m talking about going out to meet people and have conversations.

You cared enough about your “pirate-lord-succumbs-to-captive” story to spend endless hours writing, editing, and honing it. Perhaps you can ask people what they think of the concept behind it: the idea, perhaps, of arrogance faltering in the face of genuine love. Or you might have some insights to offer from your research into piracy at the time your novel is set. Or you might be able to combine with other writers who’ve explored the same trope to do some kind of a joint presentation.

We’re getting down to tactics, here, and that’s a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say that talking about your passion, the topic in which you’re an expert, shouldn’t be a chore. (And it should go without saying that, as in any conversation, it’s a great idea to listen twice as much as you speak.)

So get out there and hold conversations, whether you meet your readers online or in real life; on Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus; at a book fair, a country show, or a signing tour.

In the next Road to a better mousetrap post, who will sell your books for you?

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Make Yourself an Expert – Tuesday Talk

Today, Mari Christie and I continue coposting on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace. Her turn today, with Make Yourself an Expert.

I know old-school marketing. I have been working to promote products, people, and services since I was about 15 years old.

  • Trade and Consumer campaigns (B2B, B2C)expert-button_forweb-e1345329354880
  • Strategic and tactical planning
  • Design, copywriting, advertising, on- or off-line
  • Collateral material
  • Printing, publishing, distribution
  • Media relations
  • Event planning and management

Talking about any of the above makes no difference at all to sales of my books. (It makes a difference in how I sell my books.)

Where it does make a difference is in selling my services as a marketing consultant, business and technical writer/editor, designer, cover artist, and author PA. And, if I were to write a book about marketing—not outside the realm of possibility—my credentials would help sell it.

Because, after 25 years, there are very few promotion situations I haven’t faced. Because I can explain how to sell in plain English. Because when I talk about marketing a product, past results show it is not a bad idea to listen.

Because I am an expert.

As a writer trying to sell books, making yourself an expert is a great way to create brand recognition and a following. (This should go without saying, but I am not suggesting you can tout yourself as an expert with no expertise to back it up.)

Aside from pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing (or Master’s or PhD in another academic discipline), and looking for a university teaching position, there are any number of other options that will make you a person to take seriously about the business or craft of writing, or both.

Given enough experience, you can (like me) become a professional writer/editor. You could teach classes in less formal settings, like trade groups or online. Some people set up workshops or formal critique groups. Still others work in publishing or printing or distribution, lending value in traditional or indie publishing settings.

But beyond expertise in publishing, you can also sell books by becoming an expert in your subject area or genre. Historical fiction authors are great at this, using blogs to write up their research, or writing nonfiction about their time period. But history doesn’t have to be your subject matter.

Chefs sell cookbooks by feeding people great food. Self-help authors sell books by creating workshops that help people. Motivational speakers sell books by pumping people up at appearances.

Everyone seems to sell books by writing blog posts and articles in their subject area.

You can sell books by winning contests, being written up in your local paper, giving lectures at trade shows, or being interviewed on local television.

It takes, they say, 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. By the time you are finished writing a book, are you not an expert in—if nothing else—that book?

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All for one and one for all – Tuesday Talk

Mari Christie offers us these thoughts on marketing in the Bazillion Book Marketplace.

collaborationsquidoosmall-300x300As I work through a long list of marketing plan headings for my upcoming book release—Product, Place, Price, Promotion, et al—some things strike me again and again as similar to what I have been recommending to clients for 20 years: press kits, events, giveaways…

That said, in some ways, the direction has turned 180 degrees. For instance, given the pool of new books on Kindle, even separated by genre, for a new, unknown author, the traditional start of any marketing plan, “analyzing the competition” and “creating a competitive advantage,” is ludicrous. (“I’d like to take market share from all 1,678,423 authors ahead of me on the Amazon Rankings…”)

Further, Big Publishing no longer provides significant marketing budgets for new authors, in some cases requiring we pay not only for trips to conferences, books for signings, etc., but also for simple editing and proofreading, because they no longer want to pay salaries for in-house editors. Make no mistake, any part of the process they can force from our pockets, they will—with no compunction.

A quick scan of the television lineup any night of the week should tell us that when this model places us in competition with each other, it makes money for the media conglomerates that run American entertainment, including books. (Like in reality TV, one person will win a quarter-million-dollar prize and everyone else goes home with nothing. Amazon, however, like a television network, brings in money no matter how many books we sell.)

To counteract this corporate manipulation:

Eliminate the idea of competition.

One can differentiate a book to some extent with good cover design, solid proofreading, smart keywords, price promotions, and (if a buyer gets so far as the words) good writing, but your good writing means nothing anymore until it generates 4- and 5-star reviews in the hundreds. Even then, regular sales are a long shot even professionals can’t guarantee for well-known authors, much less an indie writer who has nothing but the fortitude to finish writing a book and the temerity to publish it.

In place of the traditional American sales model, let us all agree now that we aren’t in competition with each other, and we are (almost) all in the same leaky boat. Loyal readers in your genre will read lots of authors’ books in a lifetime. Yours might or might not be one. Don’t begrudge success where any of us find it and support each other’s efforts.

  • Seek out and connect with other authors for critique, sharing of information or research, or just for moral support. Join online and real-time groups, lists, and trade associations created for authors in general, your genre in particular. These groups exist all over the internet and in every city and state (or whatever regional boundaries exist in other parts of the world).
  • In real-life and online trade groups and on indie author promotional sites, contribute, volunteer, and become part of the community. Make friends online and they will be more likely to help you promote yourself. (Social media best practice, by all accounts, and a well-known marketing strategy since the dawn of the capitalist system. Besides, how rude—and ineffective—is it to continually post promos to groups that have no vested interest in you?)
  • Give advice when you can, and don’t be stingy with your “Lessons Learned.” We all started somewhere. (To be clear, only give advice about things for which you are qualified.)
  • Go to other indie authors for services when you can—book publishing and otherwise—and barter if you are so inclined. (Personally, if I could find another experienced professional editor to trade manuscript services, I would be over the moon.)

Collaborate.

Marketing alone is as dangerous as “groupthink,” plus, it is more expensive, more time-consuming, and more depressing when it isn’t going well. Instead of “going it alone,” share marketing concepts and stay engaged with other authors, especially in your genre. Among relatively unknown entities, more new customers will be reached by co-promotion (e.g. multiple authors throwing a communal launch party) and/or cross-promotion (e.g. two authors posting contests on each other’s blogs to win copies of both books).

As matters of regular marketing practice, consider these:

  • Be each other’s first readers and reviewers. Pay it forward by leaving reviews.
  • On social media, Like/Follow/Pin/Comment/Share each other’s work. (I am now in the habit of Liking any author page that comes across my Facebook news feed, about 10 a day, and have created a Pinterest board titled, “Other Authors’ Books.”)
  • Support reviewer blogs and social media, and Like, Comment on, Retweet, and Share reviews, announcements, giveaways, blog posts, etc. (Share this blog post! :-))
  • Support independent indie author promo sites like Microcerpt, KindleMojo, or AuthorShout, as well as the obvious, well-funded players in the market, like Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Coordinate release dates, social media “parties,” even promo sale dates, to maximize potential audience. (November 26, come to a Facebook party for my new release, Royal Regard, and at least two others in the romance genre!)

Some of these practices may seem counter-intuitive, given how steeped most of us are in the idea of zero-sum marketing, but the sales world has changed (don’t I know it!). We can no longer rely on publishers to promote us, and even if we are unprepared for the new marketing process, it is prepared to make money from—and, if we play our cards right, for—us.

Keep your sales in your own pocket. Keep your marketing under your own control. Keep the indie marketplace one that acts as a cohesive whole, rather than allowing the traditional model to pick off one of us after the other until only one person has the quarter-million-dollar prize.

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Kali counsels Becky – part 1 of 2

Kali

Lady with Swarbat by Raja Ravi Varma

It had been some years since Kali Matai, The Black Goddess, met Mrs Rose Darling, known as The Rose of Frampton, and it was a meeting neither wished to remember, both having been at the mercy of protectors with no morals and less conscience. During that earlier meeting, Kali had taken it upon herself to protect the sweet, young girl from the worst of the abuses at the gentlemen’s party. Kali, after all, knew better than any woman in London how to feel nothing.

When they came upon each other at Mrs Marlowe’s Book Emporium, however, not only their prior encounter bound them, but also a mutual understanding of the way the world treats women of easy virtue—as though they have no virtues at all. Now, in an effort to help the girl again, Kali has invited her to tea to discuss a topic of great import. Or so Mrs Darling’s note had said.

***

“I can offer you tea, Mrs Darling,” Kali said, “Or something more… fortifying. Palm wine or feni or sherry. I only keep brandy in my protectors’ homes.”

“May I try feni?” Becky says. She likes trying new things, and fortifying is exactly what she needs. “And if you would not mind, Miss Matai, My true name is not Mrs. Darling. I am not Rose. And I am not a… That was a name given me by a… by someone who wished to increase my… price. My real name is Winstanley, Miss Becky Winstanley.”

Kali pours out the coconut liqueur into crystal glasses and passes one across the table. “Ah, very much like Miss Matai and La Déesse Noire, then. I would be grateful if we might use our real names. I am Kali Shaheen, though I beg you not make it known outside these rooms.”

“Kali Shaheen. Miss Shaheen. It is a lovely name.”

Becky

Young woman in a white hat by Jean Baptiste Greuze

“One I have not heard in a good many years, Miss Winstanley.” Kali began, “Your note spoke of some trouble you wish to share?” Some way in which I can help?”

Becky takes a cautious sip, and then another, more appreciative, one. “It is not so much that I need help. More that I would appreciate someone to listen; someone who, perhaps, might… understand how complicated it is.”

Kali chuckles. “If it is about a man, my dear, there is nothing simpler.”

Becky smiles in return, and then turns wistful. “The man is simple enough, Kali, that is true. If his appetites are satisfied and his ego is stroked, he is happy. I am the complicated one.”

“Ah,” Kali sighs, taking another delicate sip of her feni. “Yes, women are certainly complicated, are we not? Have you some concern about Lord Aldridge?”

Her primary concern, Kali thinks, should be seeing the man does not leave her with the French pox. Rare, indeed, are gentlemen with such copious appetites, and no lightskirt in London holds any illusions about the Merry Marquis—with the possible exception of the one before her.

Kali has never dallied with him, though not from lack of trying on his part or amused interest on hers. She merely chooses to remain true to her protectors, for reasons she cannot disclose. If ever she might wish an affair merely for the enjoyment of it, however, Lord Aldridge would be near the top of the list.

“When you and I first met,” Becky begins softly, “you rightly deduced the protector I had then was not kind. You will understand, I think, what it means when I say that he was among the best of all the men by whom I have been kept.”

Kali nods. Every mistress understands all too well.

“Lord Aldridge saved me—in every sense—and more important, saved my little daughter.” Kali’s smile becomes just a bit brittle at the mention of the little girl. “Not just from more of the same, but from worse. I will always be grateful to him.”

Even a heartless rogue like Aldridge, Kali reflects, might find himself an accidental hero on occasion.

“He is always polite. He always ensures my pleasure. He is kind to my little girl. He is generous with his gifts and with his praise. He is kind, Miss Shaheen. It has been a heady experience for a girl like me.”

Smiling with a certain softness about her eyes and mouth, glad this sweet girl has had some small measure of kindness, even if at the hands of a man like Aldridge, Kali urges, “Go on.”

“It has been nine months since we signed a contract. For six months, he barely let me leave his side. You will think me foolish, but I imagined… I knew he would not marry me. Indeed, so I told his… certain members of his family. But I thought we were in love. Foolish.”

Kali raises a brow and the softness in her eyes vanishes. “Quite.” Her hand trembles just slightly as she finishes her drink and pours another, also offering it to her guest. When Becky holds out her glass, Kali pours a short ration, unsure whether the girl is accustomed to strong spirits.

Setting down the bottle, she straightens in her chair, as rigid as if she were part of her corset, not just wearing it. But for sipping the feni, her jaw is clenched tight, and her fingernails dig deeply into the palm of her hand. Still, outwardly, she is calm as an iced-over pond.

Becky’s tone is bleak. “I forgot what you told me when we met before. I forgot he is my buyer, not my lover. Not my friend. I knew it, but I forgot.” At Kali’s frown, she hastens to explain, “He did not encourage me, Miss Shaheen. It was my own doing. He did not speak of love. He did not talk of permanence. But he was kind. And I have known so little kindness.”

Kali uncurls her rigid fingers from the arm of her chair and grasps Becky’s hand. “It is an easy thing to forget when they so believe they wish to be our friends.” She sets her glass aside, taking Becky’s chilly fingers between the palms of her hands. “Do you expect he will set you aside?”

At Becky’s stricken look, Kali asks gently, “Have you savings to keep you? He has given you the deed to the house, has he not?”

Watching the crash of a fallen woman was never an easy thing, especially for those who might just as easily follow her rapid descent.

“The house and my income are mine to keep if I finish the two years, or if he chooses to end the contract early. I lose them only if I leave.” She examines her empty glass, as if looking for words within it. “Lord Aldridge’s cousin, Lord Chirbury, suggested the clause.”

“He is a wise man, then, and you are fortunate to have received his counsel.” Lord Chirbury clearly knew his cousin almost as well as the entirety of the demimonde did. “Do you not have a solicitor? A woman alone must have her own solicitor, Miss Winstanley.”

“A solicitor? A solicitor could not help me with my problem, Miss Shaheen.”

“You are not considering… Surely not.” Kali’s brows drew together. “Think, Miss Winstanley. Do not feel.”

“Considering what?” Becky’s brows drew together.

If the girl truly hadn’t thought of leaving the man with whom she had so unwisely fallen in love, Kali could not forgive herself if she were the one to suggest it. “Never you mind, sweetling.” She patted Becky’s hand. “Tell me what it is I can do to help.”

“Aldridge owns my body,” Becky says, baldly. “Or perhaps it would be truer to say he holds the lease. I need it returned to me in good condition at the end of the contract. Not for my sake. For my daughter.”

“I cannot believe,” Kali says slowly, “with what I know of Lord Aldridge, that you are concerned about maltreatment.”

Becky shakes her head.

“So, rather, you worry about… disease?” She sat back. “Or is it only your heart for which you fear?”

“Aldridge returned my heart to me when he began swiving other women and discussing it with me. It is bruised, I cannot deny, but he is a man of prodigious appetite who enjoys variety. Yet he returns to me several times each week. And…” Becky colors, “he seems to need very little sleep.” Choking on the words, she finally spits out, “Truth be told, Miss Shaheen, I fear the pox.”

(To read the rest of their conversation, come back tomorrow.)

###

La Deesse Noire coverMeet Kali and read her story in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, to be released June 10, available for pre-order now.

Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

Pre-order now for June 10 delivery:
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Meet Becky and Lord Aldridge in A Baron for Becky, to be released August 5, available for pre-order now.

BfB cover finalBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Pre-order now for August 5 delivery:
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How to market your book: a Tuesday Talk with Mari Christie

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Mari and I will be posting our thoughts on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace each week at this time.


billboard-951520-m“Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More…”

I date myself with this reference to The Music Man (and finally publicly admit my long-time love of musical theatre), but I find it inexplicably accurate when discussing word-of-mouth marketing.

Most readers will not tell their friends how great you are. Sadly, your book is not their primary topic of conversation. However, word-of-mouth marketing is the best, and least expensive, tool you have.

Always has been. Always will be.

Further, this is the way people make buying decisions now—recommendations from friends and respected experts—which is why social media campaigns sell. Static advertising is no longer effective. (Let me say that again: Advertising no longer works.)

Now, the most effective forms of promotion involve conversation. This means review sites, blogs, co- and cross-promotion with other authors, book clubs, signings, and most important, two concepts with more meaning than you think: “Buzz” and “viral” marketing.

Buzz Marketing, as the name implies, is about people talking about your product. However, its specific meaning in the marketing world moves beyond organic discussion. In marketing parlance, buzz is generated by designing the conversations you want people to have. A great example is drug commercials: “talk to your doctor about [insert medication].” If you think lovers of Gone with the Wind will buy your book, tell them why your hero is like Rhett Butler. If they agree, they will tell friends who also love Southern historical fiction. (If they don’t agree, the strategy will backfire, so design your conversations carefully.)

Viral Marketing, like a cat video shared ten million times on YouTube, is created by giving someone an item to pass along. This might be a video trailer or coupon or a sample book or a rack card, but should always be designed to bring people back to your product. A bookmark is lovely, but without an easy link to a buy site (not just your website), its usefulness is limited. Likewise, a pass-along no one passes along is irrelevant.

To achieve these all-but-magical forms of promotion, back to my third-favorite musical of all time (before you ask, Camelot and My Fair Lady).

Pick a Little

Loglines, elevator speeches, and blurbs aren’t just for the back cover (or pitching an agent) anymore. Today, you are pitching everyone who might be interested, including people you will never meet.

Identify thought leaders: Since customers take their advice from friends and experts, pick your targets carefully. Street teams work because their friends probably have similar tastes and are more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than yours. Similarly, if a noted authority (like a bestselling author or well-known reviewer) supports your product, buyers will listen.

Keep it short: Loglines work better than blurbs for verbal and social media exchange. “[Book Title] is about [if you have to take a breath, your conversation is too long].”

Start smart: Choose a limited number of outlets and messages until you know what works, and track your results. Indiscriminate efforts are wasted. Begin small and only escalate what sells.

Create Meaningful Messages: Make much of milestones, like bestseller lists, publication anniversaries, or selling a certain number of copies, because these tidbits are easily shared by loyal fans. Promote great reviews, especially ones by thought leaders.

Talk a Little

Begin with human interaction, not calculated conversation starters. Get to know your audience—and let them get to know you—by joining and participating in:

  • Writers’ groups. While the “author water cooler” is, in some ways, counter-intuitive, authors help each other and classes in craft will never hurt your chances of success. To make this most effective, remember that turnabout is fair play; giving back to the community is imperative, not optional.
  • Social groups related to your interest, online and otherwise, for instance, online research-sharing groups, a gardening society, or a historical reenactment troupe.
  • Relevant associations, like historical preservation societies, religious study groups, or scientific research consortiums.

When you have found a niche or two where you feel comfortable, attend meetings, volunteer, speak up in online forums, and generally make yourself known, not just as an author, but as a contributor. The chance to talk about your book will occur naturally, and your audience will be more receptive.

Cheep (or Rather, Cheap)

Word-of-mouth is the least expensive marketing option. When it begins to move on its own, it costs you nothing, and before it does, most of your outlay is in time, not cash. A couple of ideas to stimulate buzz and viral messaging:

Cheap

Giveaways: Sending an e-copy of your book to a potential reader is a great investment. That said, give away the book or directly related items, not “anything someone might want,” and don’t spend more than your sale is worth. Also, target your giveaway. It makes no sense to give a novel to someone who only reads nonfiction. Copies to reviewers are great, but don’t send a historical romance novel to Suspense Magazine.

Cheap

Sales: Judiciously lowering the price on your book is great way to get word-of mouth moving. If you watch social media, you will see that “This book I loved is only 99?!” is shared far more often than, “I loved this book.” If you combine sales with similar authors, so much the better, because then you are sharing a larger pool of readers interested in your genre.

Talk a Lot

Once you know which conversations to have and with whom, spread them around! Every sentence can’t start with, “My book,” or the pass-along will be “boring and self-centered.” But as you find the balance between normal interaction and sales, you will naturally find opportunities for both.

Pick a Little More

As time goes on, expand your conversation starters, extend your reach to new thought leaders, and find new outlets for your message. But always—always—make sure the words you are putting in other people’s mouths are ones you want repeated.


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

 

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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Our choices create us

La Déesse Noire is one of those novels you keep thinking about long after you put it down. To me, the crux of the story is how the four main characters are defined and directed by the choices they make.

Kali Matai was born and raised a tawaif; one of the women entertainers who served those of the highest rank in the Murghal Empire of India. Her life was shaped by the choices made by her tawaif mother and the English peer to whom her mother was given. In England, she is the pawn of powerful men, but when all she loves is at risk, her choices give her a future she believed could never be.

Lord Birchbright once loved a tawaif and gave her two daughters. Given a choice between his forbidden family and the wealth and power waiting for him if he returns to England without them, he abandons them. His choice is to pursue power at all costs.

The book unusually has two male protagonists: Fitz and Rook. They, too, must choose between love and position. One chooses a lonely and ultimately self-centred life. The other is prepared to abandon everything he knows for the woman he loves. I loved them both, but I know which one was the hero.

Kali is one of the most engaging heroines I’ve read. I loved her dignity, her self-respect, her quiet humour, and her sharp intelligence. And I loved how hard it was for her to let her armour down; to become vulnerable; so that she could reach for her dreams. Her happy ending gave me goosebumps. I also very much enjoyed the interesting and believable secondary characters, both the villains and the friends and allies of the heroine.

Mariana Gabrielle has written a book about people on the edges; people discriminated against and even persecuted because they are different. She has done so with skill, sensitivity, and wit. She left me wanting more. I thoroughly enjoyed her Royal Regard and gave it five stars. La Déesse Noire is better. I wish I could give it seven on Amazon and Goodreads, but this is my blog, and my star system can be anything I like. So seven it is.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the same writers’ group as Mari Christie, who writes Regency novels as Mariana Gabrielle, and I was proof-reader for La Déesse Noire. This did not influence my enjoyment of my book. But don’t believe me. Read it for yourself.LDN meme

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