Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Year Of Trying (Or An Introvert's Feeble Attempts At Marketing)

After my debut year, I have to admit I was a bit down on the, er, seemingly downward trajectory of my writing career. My publisher wasn't interested in anything else I was proposing to them. My book just wasn't selling well enough to convince them to want more from me. I have a novel that's been on sub almost a year in the US without any signs of a sale (Can I be done with year long failed subs? Because seriously, been there, done that.). Luckily my UK publisher still liked me enough to buy two more books from me, because that's been a bright spot in an otherwise "meh" debut scenario. Add in my adventures in indie publishing and it's all turned out pretty okay.

Despite difficulties and feeling like an overall failure, I decided to keep trying. In January of this year, that's what I resolved to do, I guess. Not officially with a New Year's resolution, but I determined I needed to at least TRY. I wanted to give up so badly. It felt like everything I tried just didn't help anyone see my books or care about them. So why keep screaming to the void, you know?

I was clearly bad at marketing so I wanted to throw in the towel. Marketing is uncomfortable for me—it always has been because I don't like standing in spotlights let alone shining one on myself. That was a big part of why I tried so hard to get published traditionally: I hoped they would market for me. And they have done some, but not nearly what I imagined in my newbie head. So much of it is still on me.

I am still pretty miserable at marketing (I might always be), but I have tried new things this year and some old things, and because I'm a hybrid author I can see more easily what makes a difference in my sales and what doesn't. I'm glad for this because it helps me know where to put my effort, and as the anxious person I am I can better plan what I can handle.

First, I've found doing conferences is pretty beneficial for me. While they take a toll on my mental health and I have to be careful to avoid things that trigger my panic attacks, I always see a bump in sales when I do a conference. Not like I am suddenly selling like gangbusters, but it does HELP. Especially in finding new readers. Signing events also help, though not quite in the same way because most signings are attended by people who already know you. But it's a good chance to meet readers and see their excitement and connect with them.

Another note on events: I've been surprised at the impact of non-writing-specific events. While I may not have as many book sales as at a writing conference, I see a lot of new faces and some of those faces stick around and become readers. It's also been fun because I get to share my other interests, like anime/esports/video games/art, at these other events. It's refreshing.

I've also seen how promotional sales can be a huge help in breathing life into a book. When TRANSPARENT went on sale for $1.99 this last April, it saw a higher rank on Kindle than it did when the book debuted. Not like I became a bestseller, but the book has had a new pair of legs and sold a little better than it would have if that sale hadn't happened—it was all but dead before that.

What has surprised me is the impact giveaways seem to have. While sales seem to TANK a bit during a giveaway (I think because people may hold off buying should they happen to win), there is a bump in "visibility." I usually gain more followers and have more people talking about the giveaway online. So it's a matter of possibly sacrificing some sales in exchange for expanding visibility.

Sadly, I'm seeing less and less impact from my blog and longer posts like these. I've jumped on Instagram and Tumblr this year for the first time and seen some new life on those sites in comparison to the blog scene and even Twitter. I've been surprised to see my covers and other images about me and my books on Pinterest, even. It seems like many writers and readers I know are experiencing social media fatigue, and it feels like promotion online is reflecting that. It's almost like white noise, and I don't see a ton of impact from my daily social media pursuits. At least not like it used to be several years back in the height of blogging.

I'm not really saying you need to do any of this as a writer, but I guess I'm just telling you what I've found because I've been kind of surprised that my TRYING has actually yielded some RESULTS. It's been nice to discover that, to see those bumps in sales through my indie books and knowing that likely applies to my traditionally published books as well. It's so easy as an author to feel like all the effort you put in does nothing, but that's not true. Maybe your marketing attempts won't do as much as you hope, but this year I've learned that your marketing will do more than if you had done nothing at all. That's an important lesson for me, and maybe it'll be one for you, too.

So if you are tired of trying, if you think it makes no difference, I'm here to tell you that it DOES make a difference. So keep going. Even if it's hard sometimes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Art Vs. Craft

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "art" and the concept of "craft" lately. While I was watching MasterChef (yes, of course I watch that), there was an episode where one of the judges talked about how cooking isn't an ART—it is a CRAFT and there are rules and training and a right way and a wrong way. This really hit home to me. I thought this likely also applied to writing in some ways. So I hunted down some definitions.

ART: noun: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

: works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings

CRAFT: noun: an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands

: a job or activity that requires special skill

verb: to make or produce (something) with care or skill

I find these definitions really fascinating. They are somewhat similar, but the small differences say a lot to me. ART is something of the imagination, meant to be beautiful and thoughtful and emotional. CRAFT is something skillfully made with your hands, to make something with care and skill. So where does WRITING fall? Is it an art? A craft?

Probably something in the middle. Or perhaps what writing is changes based on what you intend that writing for. I think as a hobbyist, a writer has the liberty to focus more on ART, but when you are seeking commercial publishing a writer need to focus on CRAFT just as much. The drafting process I would say is a more creative, imaginative process that I would liken to making ART. The editing process is a skillful, intense activity that certainly feels more like a CRAFT.

I'm starting to think that realizing this duality of writing is key to improvement. Because I've seen some writers focus entirely on their ART, and they stay in this world where they put the creative process first and don't think they need the CRAFT part because feelings and passion will carry them through. And I've seen some writers obsess over CRAFT and strangle their ART to the point that their worlds have no life because they think if the words are perfect then the story is.

In reality, CRAFT augments ART. It facilitates its understanding, provides a filter that helps people see the imagination and creativity and passion in the creator. And ART illuminates CRAFT, providing the spark that takes a good "product" and makes it something bigger.

ART and CRAFT are both essential in creative professions, and striking that balance between the two is, I believe, when the magic happens.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trust Me, I'm A Ninja Cover Reveal!

My newsletter subscribers got to see this early, but now I'm sharing it with the world. Behold! The awesome cover of TRUST ME, I'M A NINJA (Book #2 in the I'm A Ninja series)!

Isn't is the coolest? Michelle, my designer, really outdid herself here. I am so IN LOVE with this cover, and I didn't think I could love one more than the first! I can't believe this book is going to be a book so SOON. Less than a month, guys! I've spent all of this year working on it, and I hope you love the story inside as much as this cover!

Now it's on to book #3 in the series for me. I am so excited to finally see Tosh's story to the end. For a long time I thought this trilogy would never be written, and to know I'm two-thirds through it now is crazy. And if you think this cover is awesome, just wait until book #3! I already have the cover image bought and paid for, and it is *perfect.* I'm so excited.