Following Every Rabbit Down a Hole: The Endless Search for All the Marketing

I started reading an article about how Amazon search really works and why authors need to know this.

I had to look up “lemmatisation” and shortly thereafter my eyes glazed over and I gave up.

this is not that

Maybe I’m a lazy slacker. Maybe I just want to write and then hope books sell themselves.

Maybe there’s only so much one person can do.

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Learn to Love Marketing, or Give Your Books Away (or Both)

left, right, or middle?Almost every author I talk to wishes someone else would sell their books for them. The few exceptions are those who, by nature or training, enjoy marketing their books. They’ve learned enough to have a plan and to execute it consistently, persistently.

Even my wife‘s clients, who pay her large sums for social media marketing for their books, engage fully in the process. Those who don’t quickly become frustrated because she isn’t selling their books well enough, not realizing that’s not how it works (despite having that clearly explained at the outset.)

Here’s the good news: if you hate marketing and you don’t want to sell your books, you don’t have to spend another second on marketing.

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Once Bitten . . . You Stop Sticking Your Hand in the Cage

pet the catIn her blog today author Lia London tells a harrowing tale of lies, betrayal, fraud — that wasn’t her latest book, it was her previous publishing efforts.

In a Facebook group I’m part of, someone asked for recommendations for a web designer. I dropped my name on the list, already 100 posts long.

The “where should I host my site?” question is asked often, garnering the same list of responses each time: “GoDaddy!” “Anywhere but GoDaddy!” “HostThingy” “ThingHost” “HostHost” “Hostess Cupcakes” “Charlottezweb” (because I’ll never skip an opportunity to promote Jason’s marvelous hosting, even if it gets lost in the crowd.)

We’re re-watching Longmire from the beginning, hoping the long-awaited 4th season will start the night after we finish the cliffhanger of season 3. In last night’s episode Walt tells Henry the reason he’s pulling fingerprints from a car’s steering wheel instead of having one of his deputies do it: “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.”

Rather than debate the debatable truth of the statement, let’s talk about why we believe that.

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Two Kids Walk Into An Open Mic

Joel plays bassA handful of years ago we were regulars at open mic in a suburb of Sacramento. Some of the performers were excellent musicians and singers; real artists.

Some, not so much.

One night two young boys, the older probably 15 and the younger 10 or 11, came in with their electric guitars. They used a recorded rhythm section backing track and played along and sang.

From a purely musical perspective, they were not very good.

I had seen something, though.

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Can’t Hurry Love. Or Marketing.

like a caravan climbing a mountainSince I started the focused marketing of A Long, Hard Look, giving away copies in exchange for reviews and to get attention on Goodreads, the total results (over a the past 5 weeks) have been underwhelming. A handful (that means 5, at most) of sales, a few of which were to people I know. A few reviews, mostly from people who read my blog or newsletter.

Like I said, underwhelming. (Not that I don’t appreciate that folks who know me buy, read, and review, but that isn’t a result of all this marketing, it’s a result of our personal relationship.)

There are a million sales tactics, and hundreds of people out there pitching their “sell a million copies” process. If only I could find the magic potion, the secret formula.

Thing is, I already have it, and it’s no secret, nor is it magic.

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The Difference Between Price and Value and Why it Has Nothing to Do with Your Book

a new pathWhen I read Richard Halliburton’s first book, The Royal Road to Romance it altered how I think about the process of living. Though it is as far from a business book as you can get, it is one reason I make a good living doing things I love.

Another reason (and, to contradict what I said above, even less of a business book) is Dr. Seuss’ unknown classic I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. A youngster, plagued by problems, sets out for Solla Sollew, “where they never have troubles, at least, very few.” The lesson he learns, again, triggered new thinking and new actions, a different path in life.

At the other end of the spectrum, I own 3/4 of Donald Knuth’s indispensable The Art of Computer Programming and haven’t made it past the first few chapters of book one (the engagingly entitled Fundamental Algorithms, which I assure is dead sexy to Knuth’s target audience.)

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Author Entrepreneur: Eight Essentials to Make Writing Pay the Bills by Pat Fitzpatrick

Pat Fitzpatrick
Pat Fitzpatrick
(Somehow this draft never got posted. Even though the linked article is 2 months old, it is excellent, well worth your time.

8 practical tips on making the transition from working for a living to writing for a living. Yes, that’s a joke. The article is not. Pat Fitzpatrick guest writing on Joanna Penn’s blog.

Real Mystery Writers Attend Mystery Writers’ Conventions. Right?

Left Coast Crime 2015: Crimelandia!Next winter we’ll be taking a break from the bitter cold of northern Wisconsin to get soaking wet in Portland, Oregon at Left Coast Crime.

Until James Preston asked if I was attending LCC and Bouchercon this year (both within driving distance of where he lives, lucky dog) I hadn’t even considered writers’ conventions.

I love being with people. It’s one reason book-signing events still appeal to authors. We want to look our fans in the eye, feel their adulation, take their cash with our own grubby little paws. Okay, maybe not that last bit.

In my previous careers I’ve never considered conventions as a way to promote myself. A web developer’s convention? Scarier than Bloody Words, I assure you.

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This is How it Works in Real Life: Working with an Illustrator

Here’s the fun post for the week: developing the art for chapter 1 of Ginger, the Ship Captain’s Cat, which is what Davina and I were doing earlier this week.

From the top, my original email to Davina with her responses and work. We’d had a series of informal intermittent conversations about Ginger; this is where we did the work.

# # #

Joel: Here’s a composite I slapped together.

What I’m hoping for is a simple line drawing: window, cat outline, Japanese buildings hinted through the window. Simple simple simple, not complicated. I’d love to see a 5-minute sketch to give you feedback before you spend much time on this. Is that possible?

Note regarding the ‘5 minutes’ request: I know how artists are ’cause I are one. Part of my madness is to nudge my collaborators out of their comfort zone, especially when I know the results will suit my needs better.

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Technical Issues to Consider When Working with an Illustrator

artist at workYesterday’s post about finding and working with an illustrator focused on the soft stuff: art, personality, style.

Today, let’s chat about bits and formats and whatnot.

Once you’ve settled on a visual collaborator for your book, neither of you should assume the other knows all the technical stuff. Assume a blank slate. Talk about everything. Much of it is a collaborative artistic conversation, not simply a technical or printing issue.

For instance:

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