Write On: Cornering the Market with Elgon Williams

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Today for Write On, we speak with Elgon Williams, author of Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) and the just released Become Thuperman. Elgon is also a publicist with Pandamoon Publishing and he was kind enough to take a few moments from his hectic book-release schedule to give us his insights into the best way to market your book. Enjoy!

  1. As a publicist for Pandamoon Publishing, what do you think is the biggest change occurring in the marketing of books?

The use of social media versus more traditional advertising and marketing vehicles is a key differences in the marketing of small publisher releases as well as self-published books. Some of this is budget related. For example, traditional publishers take out full page ads in the Sunday Editions of major market newspapers to announce book launches. Those usually accompany a book review. The cost of such marketing is astronomical. Another key point is that traditional publishers focus on the first 30 to 90 days of a book’s life and withdraw direct marketing support afterward. Small publishers view book promotion as a longer term effort and a book’s life spanning years not months. Since the advent of Amazon the real growth in publishing has come from small publishers and independent authors.

2. How have you used the changing marketing landscape to promote Pandamoon books, including your own novels?

I’ve found using a combination of social media to be most effective. One cannot be successful focusing on simply one medium. Also, each medium has its challenges and limitations. Twitter is much more effective in announcing events and promoting other people’s work. Self-promotion on Twitter is largely ignored. Maybe that’s because of the volume of people doing it. But tweeting and retweeting other author’s messages gains attention. Facebook is better for selling. Also there isn’t a 140 character limit to the message. Having said that, messages still need to be concise. No one except die hard friends reads long posts. Google + has been effective for some promotions. Instagram and Pinterest are also effective in promoting through images like book covers.

3. Do you see advantages for indie authors in today’s market, compared to publishing before social media became so accessible?

Twenty years ago getting a book published was much more difficult. I received rejections that were obviously generic form letters. In other words, the major publishers were inundated with so many submissions they could not possibly look at all of them. The advent of computers and desktop publishing software including word processing software meant that almost anyone who wanted to put for the effort and devote the necessary time could create a manuscript. There were small publishers back then. Some were vanity presses. But authors who chose to use those risked their books carrying that stigma. As self-publishing became more prevalent small publishers gained acceptance. Quality of editing is the indispensable difference between many self-published books and those from small publishers. It is something Pandamoon has always taken very seriously.

 4. If an author could do one thing to help promote their writing, what would you recommend they do?

Authors must first set goals and work their local market with book signing events and public appearances. They must also think outside of the box for venues. For example, having a book signing in a local gift shop, public library works just as well as a small bookstore. Although getting books on the shelves of major book retailers may be a goal it is next to impossible without establishing a following or readers. Shelf space is granted for books that the retailer expects to sell. So, if you can demonstrate demand a major chain may carry your book locally. Also the store manager has a great deal of discretion for supporting local authors. Otherwise, the single most important thing an author can do is brand building on social media. You don’t need to wait until a book is launched to build a following and create interest in your book. Submit other work or excerpts from your book to magazines. Participate in writer’s groups. Anything you can do to build your credibility as an author adds to your brand. Once brand is established locally, an author can branch out to regional and eventually national and international marketing.

5. What do you feel is the most common mistake authors make when promoting their work?

Trying to do everything alone is the biggest mistake. An author needs to create a street team to  channel promotional messages to the public. Locally, a street team can consist of friends and family. But using social media the street team can expand nationally and internationally. To a large extend building such a team will require the author support other authors. But even such efforts builds brand and credibility. Posting reviews and commenting on Tweets about books goes far in establishing an author’s authority in a genre.

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6. Given your own background in marketing, what are some techniques you’ve honed in your career that have fit well with the publishing industry?

Years ago, my first job after receiving my degree was writing editorial style advertising copy for a small agency. The ads were placed in promotional pages published weekly in local newspapers. I proved to have a particular knack for writing short blurbs. Writing a pitch with Twitter’s 140 character limit isn’t all that different. The same rules apply, really. You write for an intended audience and fit as much information as possible into a given space. Every word in a pitch becomes important. I suppose there is a sort of promotional poetry about the process, using an economy of words to convey a message.

7/ Where do you think book marketing is heading in the near (or distant) future?

Near term, the Big 5 publishing houses aren’t going anywhere. I mean that in two ways. They will continue to dominate their portion of the book market, though it is shrinking. The reason is that the infrastructure that is still used was designed to support their model of distribution and marketing. It is also exclusive and expensive by its nature, preventing small publishers and independent authors from direct competition. In the longer term, though, the influence of the Big 5 over the industry will continue to decline. It’s simple business and a matter of survival. Once the demand for small publisher and independent books exceeds that for the major houses’ offerings, the model will change significantly. And I believe that shift isn’t all that far into the future. If you look at the present book market, it is evolving toward a more Internet-based sales and distribution paradigm. This is happening around the world, though perhaps not as rapidly as it is occurring in the US.

ElgonWilliams AuthorAbout Elgon Williams: Born in Springfield, Ohio, Elgon Williams grew up on a farm near the town of South Charleston and the village of Selma in rural southeastern Clark County, “…about two miles from nowhere and between cornfields.” Williams graduated from Shawnee High School in 1974. In the fall of that year he began studies at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, receiving a BA in Mass Communication in 1978. Later, in 1981 he received a degree in Marketing Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.

In 1983 he joined the US Air Force and studied Chinese Mandarin at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California. Upon completion of military training he spent two years in the Far East. Shortly after returning home Williams left the military and began a long career in retail management. Periodically, he also served as a vendor advocate for a national marketing firm representing computer technology and software companies. He has also worked in advertising, sales and was a computer technician and technology consultant.

Although his early writing is considered sci-fi and fantasy, his later work defies any single genre. For example, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) is a combination of urban fantasy, science fiction and spy thriller.

New projects include the just-released Becoming Thuperman, a story featuring budding superheroes, and the long anticipated epic fantasy Wolfcat Chronicles, coming from Pandamoon Publishing.

Write On–Author Michael McLellan on What Comes After ‘The End’ #Marketing

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Today on Write On we speak with accomplished author Michael McLellan. His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, and the 2015 novel American Flowers. Michael’s newest novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, is expected to be published in January 2017 by Sweet Candy Press. Michael has pursued both self-publishing and traditional publishing options for his novels. Today on Write On, he offers his expertise about what comes after a writer has finished their novel. As you’ll see, writing your novel is only have the journey.

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1)      As the author of several works, including the novels After and Again and American Flowers and the forthcoming novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, what would you say was the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a writer so far?

Definitely the fact that the writing itself is only one part of a far larger picture. I was ridiculously naive when I began work on my first novel. After I was finished, it didn’t take me long to discover that the really hard work was still ahead. From editing to marketing, there is so much to learn, and so many details to pay attention to. It can be pretty overwhelming. Especially if you self-publish your first works, like I did. That said, even with traditionally published books these days, most publishers expect the author to do a great deal of the marketing. Any writer that wishes for any sort of commercial success in today’s marketplace will learn to wear a lot of hats.

 

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2)      If you could go back and change one choice you made during your writing career, what would it be and why?

I would have put my first novel in a trunk somewhere and sat on it for six months—or a year. Then, I would have taken it out and reworked it before sending it to as many beta readers (sorry, dad, you don’t count) as I could find. Then I would have reworked it again. You need to be very careful if you decide to self-publish. I learned the hard way, and was making changes after my book was published. So, if you go it alone, you really need to police yourself to make sure that you have a top quality product before you ever ask someone to spend their hard earned money on it. I dodged a bullet, and my first book was pretty well received, but it could have been disastrous.

3)      You’ve experienced both self-publication and traditional publishing—what do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

It’s a broad question because not all traditional publishers are the same. I’ll generalize a little. When you work with a traditional publisher, you’re part of a team. Your publisher provides qualified editors, cover designers, etc…you’ll have the advantage of the publisher’s experience, industry contacts, and at least some level of marketing support. This all comes at a price of course. Since they’re the ones going out of pocket to pay for everything initially, and will desire to turn a profit as well, you’ll be required to sign a contract relinquishing a sizeable percentage of your book’s sales dollars to them. You’ll also lose a degree of creative control. It can be a little, or a lot, depending on the publisher. You may end up having no say in regards to your book cover, blurb, or where your book is sold.

When you self-publish, you are the team. You have to decide if your book is print ready or not. You have to choose a book cover that will grab potential readers. You have to write a quality blurb that will be intriguing, and you have to cover all costs up front. All net sales dollars will go directly to you, but it’s one hundred percent on you to make those sales happen in the first place. You have no support system but yourself.

My advice to authors weighing this question: If you’re going to self-publish, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t choose it out of impatience, and certainly don’t choose it because you secretly don’t believe your book is good enough. Because if you don’t believe it is, I promise you, it isn’t.

If you go the traditional publishing route, do your homework, find a publisher that’s going to be a good fit, and only sign a contract that you’re sure you can live with.

4)      When it comes to marketing a book, what advice do you have to offer authors?

Put in the work. Know how to pitch your book in thirty seconds. Do your best to know your genre (if you write in one) and learn who your target audience is.

239478685)      What is the best marketing technique you can recommend, based on its cost/benefit ratio?

Social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, or all of them. Also networking with other writers—and it’s all free. Other than that, Bookbub, The Fussy Librarian, Goodkindles, Awesomegang, and similar email marketing sites will provide mixed results. If I were to endorse one for best bang for your buck, it would be The Fussy Librarian.

Book giveaways/raffles are a good way to generate name recognition, both for you, and your book. I’m not a fan of mass ebook giveaways on Amazon, though. People grab these up by the dozens and they get buried in Ereaders with three hundred other novels. Also, I’m of the opinion that these kinds of giveaways devalue books. Strategic giveaways of hard copies on Goodreads, and Rafflecopter giveaways on book blogs and author websites seem to pay off pretty well for a minimal investment.

 

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6)      Reviews are such an important part of selling a book to a reader—What have you learned about the best ways to generate reviews for a new novel?

Oh, the elusive book review. I’ve actually found it easier to obtain reviews for soon-to-be-released and newly released books than titles that have been out for awhile. Sending ARCs to book bloggers well in advance of release seems to deliver the best results. Even this is becoming more difficult as the bloggers receive hundreds of review requests and only have so much bandwidth. The lead time for a review can be months. Unfortunately, the average reader is much more likely to purchase a book based on positive reviews than they are to write one themselves. Regular entrants to Goodreads giveaways seem to review fairly readily. Review requests at the end of your novel, and on your website ,can help as well. You can pay for reviews, and I see we’re getting to that.

7)      Do you recommend writers work with an editor before querying their book to agents? What role should editors play in any writer’s journey to publication?

Whether or not to hire an editor before querying a book depends on the individual. For most writers I wouldn’t recommend hiring an editor before you query. Use beta readers, etc… Agents won’t be expecting a completely edited manuscript. They’re also not expecting one riddled with typos, so make sure you’re sending as clean of a copy as you can.

Ultimately, how much of a role an editor plays before publication is dependent on the book’s—and the author’s—needs.

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8)      Are there any sites/blogs you feel do an excellent job featuring new authors, either traditional or self-published?

Goodreads is by far the best place for authors to mingle with readers. You and your books are featured every day, free of charge. There are readers’ groups, writers’ groups, and groups with both. Other than that, there are countless blogs, here is just one directory: https://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/

Blogs are a great way to get exposure for your book with people actually interested in your genre. Authors should keep in mind that most bloggers do what they do free of charge because they love it. Be respectful when querying them, don’t send them generic emails. Read and follow their submission guidelines, and be kind enough to follow their blog, share, and/or comment when you’re featured. It’s the right thing to do, and it will pay dividends later.

9)      There are many opportunities for reviews, blog tours, and the like that authors can pay for. Do you feel any of them are worth the expense?

Blog tours are good if you don’t mind the investment. They can save you a lot of time and effort. Normally you would have to find blogs interested in your genre, query them, and set up giveaways. For a fee, the blog tour company takes care of all that for you. Then there are pay-for-review sites like Kirkus (pricey), The Hungry Monster (less so), and others. One advantage to these sites is that you’re guaranteed a review. Keep in mind you pay whether your book is reviewed positively or not.

10)   What’s one new aspect of book publishing/marketing that has you excited and why?  

Audiobooks. The Audiobook market is growing like wildfire right now. I’m planning to have two of my most recent novels available in this format by summer 2017.

More about Michael McLellan:Displaying MM 13675 small.jpg

Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.

Michael lives in Northern California, and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

Read more of his writing at his blog: www.michaelamclellan.com