About Kimberly Vargas

Kimberly's debut novel, Gumbeaux, received a gold medal in the 2011 Readers Favorite fiction contest. Her hobbies are writing, painting, cooking, movies, creative projects, travel and reading. http://www.kimberlyvargasauthor.com

Your Friends in the Book Marketing Business

Book marketing can be rather overwhelming, especially here in the middle of the publishing revolution. The good news is that there are more and more emerging companies out there who bring a lot of light to this dark arena. Whether you are an author looking for assistance or a reader trying to find the best deals available, this post is to create a compilation of resources you may find helpful.

Pubslush: A global, crowd funding and analytics platform for books only. This platform allows authors to raise money and gauge the initial audience for new book ideas, and for readers to pledge their financial support to bring books to life. Pubslush is entirely about giving: giving an opportunity to authors, giving a voice to readers, and giving books to children without access to literature. http://www.pubslush.com 

Businessman Midair in a Business Meeting

Author Marketing ClubAn author member can submit books for promotional opportunities, as well as access free online training and resources related to book marketing. A reader member will get notified about new and discounted books, and can discover new authors. This service is free for both authors and readers. You can upgrade to the Premium program if you wish for additional benefits, but it is not required for you to do so. Some of the options offered under a Premium membership include an Amazon book reviewer tool that can help you find reviewers who focus on your literary genre.  http://authormarketingclub.com/

BookBub: The best marketing dollars I have ever spent have been with BookBub. BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and they email you great deals in those genres. BookBub features ebooks ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors. During my last campaign with BookBub, I spent about $260.00 and yielded thousands of downloads as a result. If you are looking for new readers, do yourself a favor and check out BookBub: http://www.bookbub.com/home/

Other great resources for readers:

Pixel of Ink: A website which features daily publishing of Free Kindle Books and Hot Deals. On any given day, there are thousands of Free Kindle Books available.  http://www.pixelofink.com/

Inspired Reads: The best Christian Kindle books on a budget. http://www.inspiredreads.com/

Kindle Daily Deal: The best deals available for Kindle. http://amzn.to/KindleDailyDeal

What are your favorite book marketing resources, websites, and venues?

Writing for Strangers

For my first book release, I did what many authors do. I gave copies of my book to everyone I knew, followed up with them with the intensity of an air traffic controller, and then begged to be evaluated. It was only when I had garnered about twenty five reviews that I was comfortable enough to share my work with strangers.

PettyCashFor my second book, I have been much bolder. I only showed Petty Cash to a select few people (about five) and then launched it on Amazon. Each day, I pull up the page with one eye closed, bracing myself to get hammered. But you know what? It really hasn’t been that bad. In fact, total strangers have written the best reviews of all. Who knew?

It’s awkward to provide feedback to our loved ones at times. People often avoid conflict with those close to them, and they may whitewash their feedback in an attempt to encourage us. Although this is done out of love, we must take the feedback from those who love us with a grain of salt. The people closest to us will also see the content a bit differently than the writing of someone about whom they know nothing.Those close to us will have a built in filter as they regard each character, setting, and turn of phrase.

On the other hand, strangers have no such filters. Since there is no fear of impacting the relationship, the comments and reviews of strangers are incredibly forthright. Some of the feedback from strangers has been so outstanding and helpful, that I have modifed the story slightly to reflect their feedback, which is easy to do with an e-book. Some of the people who write reviews are so eloquent that it seems like they should be reviewing books on a professional basis – and maybe they do.

From what I understand, it is considered bad taste for authors to engage with strangers who have written reviews on their work. That makes sense, but sometimes it’s hard to keep silent and not thank them for putting in the time and effort of creating a review. The exercise has really driven home the concept of relying on the kindness of strangers. Honesty is actually a type of kindness, even if it stings from time to time.

For a myriad of reasons, friends and family may not be able to convey the true value of our writing. It just might be the people you have never met, perhaps in other countires or on the other side of the world, who may end up giving you more validation and insight about your work than you ever imagined.

Who do you trust to provide feedback on your writing?

Have you ever received helpful comments and reviews from total strangers?

Takeaways fom the Writer’s Digest Convention West 2013

I just attended my first writers convention, which turned out to be among the most interesting and informative experiences of my life. Never before have I received so many insights into the craft of writing. The Writer’s Digest Conference West in Los Angeles took place at the end of September. During that time, I was able to meet people I never would have otherwise, such as journalists who have been working in the writing field for ages. There was so much great information it was hard to capture it all, but here are a few points that that definitely resonated:

1) Writing, editing and marketing are totally different competencies, so bucket them, don’t batch them. In a discussion led by Ivory Madison, CEO of redroom.com writers community, writers were advised to keep those activities separate, as they engage different parts of the brain. I’ve been trying out the Red Room Method and can see a positive difference in my writing. It staves off the frustration of trying to do everything at once, and only producing one paragraph an hour. She suggested not to combine the three buckets of writing, editing and marketing. In this way, you end up not only being nice to yourself, but also more efficient as well. Writing is about your relationship with yourself. Marketing is an expression of everybody else. Take one book, make it as great as you can, and then worry about marketing. Don’t wear multiple hats at the same time.

WDCW132) Read your work aloud. You will find a great deal of errors that you might not have otherwise by reading aloud. When you do write, be authentic. Your readers want to be able to get to know you and trust you. Find great people to make your book as good as it can be. Don’t jump the gun just because you want to get it out there. Make your book easy to find and as accessible as possible.

3) Growing scope of the literary agents. Gordon Warnock, Founding Partner of Foreward Literary, has a vision of literary agents taking on a similar role as the agents of actors and songwriters. The future literary agents, he thinks, will manage the author’s entire career. The job scope would become more like an umbrella for their representation overall. This would include creative directing over the author’s website, branding, image, et al.

And above all else – write an outstanding book.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Writing is one of those creative aspirations that typically accompanies another salaried job. Few can sustain a living simply from writing. If you ever start to feel down about not being able to make ends meet via your writing career, don’t fret. You are in good company. Here are just a few famous authors and the jobs they maintained in order to pay the bills:

Large group of diversity workers peopleJ.D. Salinger was employed as the entertainment director on the H.M.S Kungsholm, a Swedish luxury liner.

Stephen King was a janitor, as well as a high school teacher.

William Faulkner went to Ole Miss for three semesters, then dropped out and became the school’s postmaster.

John Steinbeck ran a fish hatchery near Lake Tahoe. He would also give tours of the facility.

Harper Lee was a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines.

Jack London was an “oyster pirate.” During the night, he would steal oysters from the oyster beds  of the most successful farmers and then sell them.

If these famous writers had to have other means of making a living, then we shouldn’t consider ourselves immune. In fact, it is precisely these day jobs that often fuel our creativity, providing content for stories to make them more realistic.

Some authors are able to find jobs that support their writing. If you can find a way for your job to complement and sustain your writing, then so much the better. Perhaps you are a chef and like to write about restaurants. Maybe you are a nurse who writes about life in the medical field. Keep a diary of your daily experiences and the emotions they elicit (happy, sad, mad, surprise, fear, love) as each can similarly move your audience in the future. People enjoy writing that is insightful and allows them to visit places they wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Isn’t that part of the fun, to enjoy vicarious adventures? So, as a writer who often lives in the career world, why not incorporate subject matter expertise into your writing? It will bring a three dimensional quality to each story.

Maybe you won’t give up your day job because it’s a significant part of your life and who you are. Did you know Wallace Stevens declined a prestigious professorship at Harvard because he didn’t want to leave his career (forty years in the making) with an indemnity company? Getting paid for writing is not always steady and consistent. You may have great book sales in August from a successful marketing push, and then watch sales decline in September. Maybe you sell one story and have to wait for years until selling another one. With creative careers, it is prudent to wait until making two or three times the salary of your day job before taking the plunge. Why? Because you will probably no longer have an employer who is helping to share or pay the expenses of benefits, such as health insurance, company profit sharing or a 401(k) match. Many employees do not adequately count the value they should be contributing to their current employer, so be sure and calculate the indirect earnings of any and all company perks (even gym memberships, mileage reimbursement, car allowance, et cetera).

It is the easiest thing in the world to allow the burst of enthusiasm from a great day in writing overshadow your career as a banker, doctor, lawyer, or teacher. There’s nothing like getting rewarded for what you love to do. If you can, enjoy what you do as much as possible, so it can feed and sustain your writing life.

What do you do as a day job?

With writing, how do you maintain a work / life balance?

Consider the Source: How Reviews Reflect Our Experience

I recently read an account of a celebrity and her young daughter which captured the concept of feedback from a unique perspective. Having completed a Google search, the daughter was troubled to find that strangers were saying all kinds of things about her famous mother, both positive and negative. The mother told her daughter that when people make those kind of comments, the feedback is based on their own individual experiences. Therefore, when people provide comments, they are typically talking about themselves, whether they realize it or not.

What an epiphany, and what a great way to see feedback (like reviews) in a completely different light. People are a product of their own experiences, strung together like pearls over the course of a lifetime. If art imitates life, then reviews of art imitate the reviewer‘s life. Reviewers respond to reading material based on their own individual experiences. When people read books, they view them through their own filters which have been carefully created over their entire lives. These filters can be likened to stained glass windows. The color of the light shining through a stained glass window is contingent upon the color of the glass.  The light is reflected through the filter of their own experience.

Reviews heart book

If you are a writer, reviews are vital to your career. Although positive, warm, glowing reviews are wonderful and make us feel good, constructive feedback is helpful. Of course, no one is thrilled to get a bad review, but most people are actually quite gracious. They are typically honest, genuine and simply expressing the opinion of their own experience. The good news is that people who write scathing reviews are few and far between. However, even bad reviews can yield good things. Having a disparate personality review your material gives you a 360 degree glance that you may never have considered. If a review says that a book skims over the best parts; that means the parts they found most interesting. Do they have a point? Are they right? Is there a way to take that feedback, take it to heart and learn for the next time? Probably.

Let’s say you have a book available on Amazon and Goodreads. You may find that you have very different reviews on those websites. The Goodreads reviewers may have higher expectations as a literary community. If you feel a bit down about a review, check out some of the feedback for many of the classics (The Sun Also Rises, Catcher In the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, to name a few). These works that have been part of the literary canon for years are still subject to scrutiny – and that’s okay. There are books out there that some will say are too controversial, and that others will say are not controversial enough. You can’t win over all of them, but you can still learn from all of them.

Pay attention to the words in the reviews: “I found this book to be a bit slow.” “I thought this book was going to be funny, but it’s not my kind of humor.” “I prefer stories that take place in present day as opposed to historical fiction.” This is why finding the appropriate audience for your work is so important. The audience will automatically be more open and enthusiastic to the material if their filter resonates with your own. 

In conclusion, when a person writes a review, they are often writing about themselves and their own life experiences. Keeping that in mind may make all the difference for your own development, as well as remind you to maintain some perspective about your next constructive review.

What are your thoughts on book reviews and reviewers?

Build Your Marketing Wings on the Way Down

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” – Chinese Proverb

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury

These powerful quotes began a wonderful book marketing seminar I attended recently with Sheri Fink, a #1 international best-selling, award-winning children’s author and creator of “The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink” children’s brand. Sheri writes books and gives talks that inspire and delight children while planting seeds of self-esteem. She is also very generous with sharing her best practices, as she has an extensive background in marketing.

No matter how you come to the table as an author, marketing is going to be a certainty for the duration of your career. How can we turn marketing into a labor of love? Sheri advises authors to “Write the story your heart wants to tell.” Although she enjoyed a very successful career in corporate America, her dream was to encourage and help children through writing. Sheri was able to leverage her work experience into a successful book launch, and within a few short years, her series has evolved in ways she never dreamed would happen. For example, she was approached by a playwright from Washington, D.C. who wanted to adapt one of her books for the stage, because he believed in her product. Over the course of a year, he shopped it around until a theater in Tennessee picked it up. It is now in production and will be playing to audiences in the near future.

During the seminar, Sheri emphasized the importance of graciousness and authenticity when interacting with readers. Going all out with a focus on creating a special event for the guests will result in a more enjoyable experience for everyone. At a recent festival in Mission Viejo, author Dean Koontz stayed hours longer than he was scheduled to attend a book signing. Why? Because he still had fans waiting to speak to him. Mr. Koontz posed for pictures and even put someone’s pet poodle on the table for a photo opportunity. This kind of attitude goes far in keeping fans for life.

The secret of your success will always be people, so grow your network and always add value for others. Be willing to give first. Know your readers and customers. When someone tells you they like your book, ask for a review. Make it easy for people to help you. Be specific in your request. Write and provide the campaign copy in advance. Always thank the people and share the result of their efforts, because books are marketed best by word of mouth. Your fans will always be your top marketers, so nurture and reward them in ways they will appreciate.

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Think of yourself as the CEO of your own business and have an entrepreneurial mindset. Your work space will be important, so create space for what you want to come into your life. Establish a physical environment that’s conducive to your best writing. Set up a schedule to support your writing, publishing, and marketing goals. Come up with a consistent font and a brand, an umbrella under which all of your projects can be covered. Be strategic in your marketing efforts. Leverage your books into a brand and promote the whole line.

Find a mentor and / or coach. Create or join a mastermind group, which is a set of 5-6 people who have phone conferences. In these meetings, the group asks each other for assistance, shares  accomplishments, and provides feedback. Be sure to leverage ideas from people with diverse backgrounds who are from different parts of the world. Hire interns to help you (pay them, set expectations, set goals, and let them know what they are getting out of the program you create). Give them a confidentiality agreement. At all times, show professionalism.

In closing, Sheri acknowledged that It takes a lot of courage to build your wings on the way down, but if you’re going to dream, then dream big. Don’t let let other people’s limitations limit you. Play to win – be fearless and take action, because you never know when you’re going to catch an elusive breeze that allows you to take off and soar to new heights.

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Sheri Fink’s first book, The Little Rose, was a #1 best-seller on Amazon for over 60 weeks, became the #1 Top-Rated Children’s eBook on Amazon, and won a gold medal in the Readers Favorite International Book Awards. Her subsequent books, The Little Gnome and Exploring the Garden with the Little Rose, debuted on the Amazon best-seller list.

Scenes From a Street Fair

Writers, have you ever participated in a street fair?

I recently had the opportunity to represent local authors through Read Local San Diego at the Encinitas Street Fair. The total cost of the booth for a couple of days was $300.00, broken out into time slots for authors to utilize at the price of $25.00 for a two hour period. Considering that literally thousands of people attend the annual Encinitas Street Fair (situated two blocks away from the Pacific Ocean), it was clearly a cost effective way to gain exposure in the community. 

Parking nearby was out of the question. My husband was good enough to drop me off near the booth, using back roads to weave in and out. Realizing this would be the case, I took a roller bag with wheels to carry my books, a desk easel to display my books at the booth, several pens, a pad of paper, and a set of business cards. As far as the number of books, they suggested at least five, so I brought twenty. Next time, I’ll go with around forty or fifty. I pre-signed the books with a “hope you enjoy the read” type message, so I could quickly fill in people’s names and the dates and facilitate the process.

There were three other authors at the booth with me. We had two six-foot tables, with two authors per a table. “Oh, you’re here,” my table mate said when I arrived about five minutes before our shift began. “I was about to take over your table space.”

I became acquainted with him and the other three authors in my shift. At first, none of us were sure of how to engage the throes of people walking by our booth. One author called to people like a carnival barker, offering a chance to win one of his books if people would fill out a slip with their email and mailing addresses. Most folks, there with the intention of being out for a stroll and buying no greater purchase than a funnel cake, weren’t too receptive to this approach. The four of us did some brainstorming and giveaways seemed to be the way to go in this environment. I gave away free signed copies, asking for an honest review on Amazon in lieu of payment. That seemed to go over pretty well. In each book, I placed a business card with my contact information on one side and my book cover on the other side.

Next to our booth was a fifth local author, a gentlemen of a certain age who writes for the Young Adult market. He has quite a following and teenagers kept coming by throughout the day to say hello to him. He has nineteen books to his credit and required his own booth. He is an adjunct professor at a local university and asked if I would like an opportunity to speak and / or teach. The street fair was proving to be a good opportunity to interact not just with the public, but with like-minded authors.

Street fair

During the slow moments of the shift, our group compared notes and talked shop. An elderly man in the group who was intimidated by social media went home with an education about how to use Twitter. One lady needed a reasonably priced editor and received a referral. Another writer needed a graphic artist referral for book covers, and was given several suggestions. I became familiar with the San Diego Writers Guild and started looking into their upcoming meetings.

We also worked as a team, which was fun. If someone approached an author whose book wasn’t their cup of tea, then there were four other writers of very different genres available to meet. Several authors had huge display posters with the covers of their books. They said these can be ordered online, and all one has to do is send in the content and a digital file. We learned that coffee and books and wind are not a very smart combination. We learned that a roll of duct tape is imperative in order to fix issues such as crooked signs or tent tables that needed more infrastructure. Bringing a box of pens and having a way to make change is also advised.

All in all, a street fair is probably not going to yield thousands of sales, unless the fair specifically focuses on books. Most people going to a street fair may not have books on the mind, but it is a wonderful networking opportunity, and you just can’t beat the exposure for the price. You may want to check out street fairs and rental booths in your own area, because people really do like to support local businesses, including their local writers and authors.

Have you had any experience with street fairs or book expos?

Any suggestions on how to best leverage this kind of marketing approach?