Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Marketing We Will Go...A closer look at authors and their personal marketing journey

I had planned on getting this series up and running last month, but like Spring in Quebec...we're a little behind schedule. Snow last weekend! Can you believe it? Today, and I kid you not, it's 27 degrees C....that's 80 degrees F. Oh well, we aren't going to complain about the heat!

For now, let's get back on-topic because it's a serious one if you're an author. Marketing. 
Hmm, just as I thought. The mere mention of the word has sent a few of our authors running. What we're going to do in this series, is interview authors regarding their marketing practices. Where it gets interesting is when we look at their results, and in the end, compare and contrast the results with the others.

We are chatting with M. K. Wiseman on this lovely spring day. Let's she what insights we can gain into marketing through her eyes.



Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

My first love, admittedly, was animation. During my undergraduate at UW-Madison, I threw myself into a program called “Integrated Arts and Technology” -- basically an excuse to play with really expensive animation/video editing suites. Ooh, now I'm tempted to try out a course like that just to get my hands on those programs! Oh, sorry, continue, please. But then, faced with the reality that I would have to move to California to become that Academy Award Winning animator (hahaha), I did an about-face and ended up going for a librarian degree. So books and storytelling haunted my background for some time and I just dabbled in writing for a bit of fun. But then, writing ought to be fun, yes? Oh, for sure! Until you're having it out with an uncooperative character.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I actually am lucky enough to be able to write full time. I have a very patient patron of the arts (e.g. my husband) who has agreed that I need to jump into this whole ‘author thing’ feet first and see what happens. What happens, apparently, is that I sometimes am so entrenched in my fictional worlds that I forget to make dinner or iron the clothes. Wow, lucky you! 

What genre do you write? Do you think your genre makes marketing easier or harder?

My Bookminder series sits squarely in YA fantasy. It is what I most enjoy reading. Which makes it easy for me to market from the standpoint of connecting with a reader . . . but it makes it infinitely difficult when you realize how flooded the YA and fantasy markets both are. Some days my book feels like a mere drop of water in the oceans of the world. Also—and perhaps I am wrong—it feels like the YA genre, being so wide, is much more subject to ‘trends’ than other genres, meaning you’ve got to be a bit luckier at hitting things ‘just right’ than in other genres. This is a genre we share, and my thoughts and opinions are very similar to your own. I find that YA marketing is infinitely more difficult than say romance or mystery.

Do you know your target audience? What efforts do you make to reach out to these potential readers?

A while back, there were memes going around social media about “. . . the songs of my people!!!” That’s how I feel about my target audience. They are me. They are my fellow geeks who kept reading YA long after middle school, high school, college . . . etc. etc.
Take Twitter. Twitter, for me, is not the slog of “have to” that a lot of people have lamented. It is a glorious place for me to expand my own massive TBR list on Goodreads; it is a platform for finding friends—I received an actual Christmas card from an actual Twitter follower/friend whom I have never met! Now, see, this is where your comments become interesting. This is definitely an important point authors will have to examine more closely, and then re-evaluate their use of Twitter.

Do you have a traditional publishing contract, are you with an Indie publisher or do you Indie publish your own work?

I am published through the lovely small press, Xchyler Publishing. Brilliant team, they really “get” what I am about but also have not let me be complacent in my writing. I feel like I’ve been living under a lucky star with this whole writing experience, truly. Awesome, now all you have to do is save some of that stardust for emergencies.
               
                                      
Do you have an author platform? Can you tell us what yours consists of?

Erm . . . I’m going to say no, I do not(?)
Or maybe I do and am thinking that a “platform” should be bigger and less Timey-Wimey-Wibbly-Wobbly in appearance. Because, even with my reach on social, even with my contacts in Real Life, even with public appearances and the net that my publisher provides, I am haunted by this feeling of invisibility. I will admit that I was surprised at how many authors were unaware of what the author platform was or how to use it. But then, as an author, I thought my job was done when I typed "The End"...yeah, the joke was on me.

How much time is set aside for marketing?

Ah . . . ah-haha-haha . . . the marketing monster . . . that which tries to tell me that sitting online all day trying to be visible, viable, and buyable is a perfect excuse to not get to that which is really important: writing the next book.
If I really look at the time spent for marketing, it far exceeds what I planned on spending. Because an email or a press release always takes longer than you ever expected. Trying to catch that perfect moment of the day to Tweet some-clever-thing that is sure to triple your exposure to the masses takes sitting on social all day. Heck, even updating my website with a quick “here’s what’s new” (I built my own site. Hardcoded HTML. I am a terrible person) can end up burning through a morning.
So, for me, I don’t ‘set aside time’ because I would likely miss many of the organic just-sprang-into-my-mind opportunities with which I might build my struggling little platform. In essence, my marketing simply likes to share time with my writing. And life, lol.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time? Please elaborate on your methods.

I used to have a plan. Two massive computer crashes back, I had spent about 100+ hours researching different avenues/making massive spreadsheets/generally being a big, ol’ thorough nerd about the whole thing. I had a pre- and post-release schedule of Things I was Going To Do. I had entire spreadsheets of Ways To Do Those Things.
After losing said documentation twice (yes, it’s been a bad year for me, computing-wise) I have sort of winged it, sticking with what has worked so far and, as ideas come my way, vetting the rest as quick as I may. I’ve become a big fan of the ‘slow and steady’ method of building and am quick to shy away from anything that purports itself as a quick fix. I don't think there is a 'quick fix' when it comes to marketing. I think you're on the right path.

Do you have perma-free books, occasional sales or leave your books at a fixed price?

I do not have perma-free or even 99¢ books. This is largely because pricing is at the discretion of my publisher. Yes, we have had super-duper sales (e.g. Black Friday) but, for the most part, prices generally stay fixed. That's what I thought about my books too, but I have found that if I give my publisher a 'head's up', she lowers the prices so I can participate in promotions and such.

Where can your books be found?

The Bookminder is sold through the usual outlets—Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. But it can be found on Overdrive (ask your library to stock it!!); it is listed on Goodreads and LibraryThing; and I managed to get it listed in iAuthor.uk.com so that people would have access to a sample.


Which sites sell the most books?

*blush* I actually haven’t the foggiest. The book is too new for me to have seen any hard numbers yet. My guess is Amazon. 

Do you actively seek out promotional sites?

This is actually what flitted through my mind while I was ruminating on my ‘marketing plan’ above. I have actively sought out any number of different promo sites and opportunities, often becoming mired in the “yes, it’s great/no, stay away” back and forth of internet commentary. As such, I have chased many false starts before later coming to my senses. Note: Any opportunity that isn’t free (or near to) has almost always been debunked as ‘ick’ once I took a closer look. Not to say that such sites/opportunities are not great but for me they just have not seemed a good fit as of yet. 

What has worked best for you when it comes to marketing your book?

Reaching out to networks of people that I actually know seems to have worked quite well. It has landed me press releases in publications and local signings/talks. That and Goodreads giveaways. Nifty way to connect with the readers that would love your book but would not otherwise know of your book.

Are there any sites or actions you now avoid when it comes to marketing, either due to poor response, or large costs vs poor income results?

Amazon Giveaways. (Terrible to say, as I have a giveaway going on as I type this very sentence.) They are well run, I’ll give them that. Really, the problems I see have nothing to do with Amazon or their system. But I’ve found that it’s a lot of flash with almost zero serious connection to readers. My Twitter follower count has seemed to flood with faceless, near-empty accounts that seem bent on winning anything for any reason both times I have given this a try. It’s disheartening . . . not just because of money or effort spent. But the librarian in me likes to think the ‘right reader’ finding the ‘right book’ and I just don’t think this does it very well, if at all. (Note: If someone out there has received my book as part of one of these promos and loved it, my hearty congratulations! That would make my day to hear!)

How many reviews do you have per book? Do you think this helps promote or sell your books?

I have a handful of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Not sure if it helps promote my book but I would assume that it probably helps sell it, should someone be directly curious about Bookminder. I mean, as a reader I am susceptible to reviews. Sometimes a person says just the right thing to confirm that you have, indeed, found the right book. This works especially well with people who review a lot and clearly have a ‘type’ of book they like. And to tie in with your comment above about finding the right reader...my first book had been part of a book tour set up through a goodreads group, and some of the hosts/reviewers were far from a good match to my genre. This made an impact when one of the hosts reviewed a book in a genre she hates....no comment :P

Do you use Goodreads, LibraryThing, Bookbub author page or other sites to promote yourself?

I became aware of Goodreads and LibraryThing in library school. Surrounded as I was by fellow book-junkies, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We then all abandoned LibraryThing in short order when we found that they limited the number of books you could list in your account if you did not pay for an ‘institutional’ membership. I have only recently come back to LibraryThing, discovering that I no longer had that obnoxious limit on my account. But I have not been all that active as most of the books I want to add in are currently stored in boxes due to lack of shelving at my new place. I hope they survive their growing pains, I do. I fear they killed off a lot of interest at a critical time and Goodreads took advantage of it.
Goodreads, on the other hand . . . I live there. Seriously, they’re going to have to start charging me rent soon! I love it so much that I have begged and begged the Goodreads people to develop some sort of browser plug-in that would work similar to Pinterest’s “Pin it” button. Imagine being able to add a book to your TBR list in a couple of clicks. *swoon!!* Goodreads is absolutely lovely, even when I take off my ‘author hat’ and just enjoy being an avid reader. For me, that’s the mark of excellence—they’re where I go to find books. What impressed me most about Goodreads was the realization that is was endless...or at least, it seems to be. What displeases me, is that I sometimes have books added to my page that I did not write, even though Goodreads seems to think I did....and I can't remove them without going through a librarian.

Scroll down and learn a little more about our guest and her YA novel. 


Title/tagline:
The Bookminder
– Knowledge, the most dangerous magick.

Blurb:
Istria, 1679 A.D.
Sired by magick and violence, sixteen-year-old Liara is found guilty of witchcraft and banished from her tiny village by the very priest who raised, then betrayed her. However, a mysterious mage steps forward to assume custody of her: Nagarath, the Wizard of Parentino, whose secret spellwork has long protected both Liara and Dvigrad from the ravages of war.
Despite Liara’s best hopes, Nagarath refuses to apprentice her to his craft but tasks her instead with the restoration of his neglected library. Liara gleans what magickal knowledge she can on the sly, determined to learn, come what may. But the first test of her stolen knowledge goes awry and renews an evil wizard’s interest in the people of the Limska Draga valley.
Only by tapping Liara’s inherent magick and joining it with his own can Nagarath protect Parentino from suffering a horrible fate. However, her discovery of his secrets destroys their fragile trust and ignites the darker tendencies of her gift. Now, he must rescue her from the influence of his mortal enemy before their powerful new alliance destroys them all.

Book Excerpt: (note: longer excerpt available for free from iauthor.uk.com if desired)
Though her resentment toward her situation had doubled the moment Nagarath reaffirmed that he wouldn’t be teaching her magick, Liara couldn’t help but feel a small spark of warmth for the man as his laughter rang out in the darkening wood. The wizard was nothing like Phenlick, who’d have likely scolded her for her impudence. She liked the difference.
Encouraged by the mage’s response, she pressed him for details, feigning interest in answers magickal and non-magickal alike, teasing out in the exchange what bits of information she might find useful later on. She would again build her nest, this time with knowledge rather than mere trinkets. After all, she was about to enter the home of a wizard. There would be time to press the issue of her magickal education later. With Liara, a tactical retreat was never surrender.
And, she was curious. Superstitious accounts of a wizard were one thing. It was another thing entirely to come face to face with said rumors, finding that the fabled wizard of the wood actually existed.
Clearly Father Phenlick knew him. She’d seen their silent conference, noting that the men recognized one another. The priest had outlawed magick in the Limska Draga valley some twenty years ago, and here was Nagarath, wizard of Parentino, come to claim Dvigrad’s magicked orphan girl. Why hadn’t Phenlick banished him?
It occurred to Liara that perhaps this wizard was a sham, a fake. He certainly didn’t look the part of wizard: eyes alight with laughter and good humor, face open and honest.
“So you’re a real wizard?” Liara approached the matter directly.
“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘real,’ but yes, I am a mage who performs magick.” Nagarath’s reply came with a sly smile. Liara suspected the wizard might be playing her own game against her.
“Even though Father Phenlick said you shouldn’t.”
“He and I have an understanding, if that’s what you are getting at.” Nagarath seemed more cautious, prompting Liara to switch tactics.
“I just wanted to know how you’re able to live in the wreck of a castle, that’s all.”
The last of the late evening sunshine had ceased to illuminate the small footpath before them. In the deepening gloom, Liara imagined she could see Nagarath’s answering smile. But no words followed to answer her query. Quiet alarm reentered her mind. She remembered the journey across the valley to Parentino’s ruins from her excursions with her friend, KreŇ°imir. It was not long, nor difficult, and though the fading daylight rendered the landscape foreign, she knew they should be close . . . if, in fact, that was their destination.
Lost in new worries, her footsteps lagging, she nearly ran into the wizard from behind. Nagarath turned, gently ushering Liara ahead of him on the path.
“Behold, Liara. My humble home.”
Rising darkly amidst the towering wood, Parentino looked just as Liara remembered it. Stone thrown from stone, crawling vines crisscrossed over broken walls, the ruins were every bit as forbidding as she feared. And while the tops of the nearby trees still wore their crown of late-evening gold from the sun’s fading rays, the ruins stood in hulking darkness.
Facing the wreck of the old castle, Liara almost wished that the wizard had been spiriting her off to somewhere unknown.
Deep and gravelly, Nagarath’s voice sounded behind her, the foreign words delivered in a near whisper, strange and sharp. Liara felt her skin prickle, first from apprehension, then from the mage’s touch as his hands rested gently upon her shoulders.
Liara had little time to ponder the spell—for spell it must be, of this she had little doubt. The sight before her demanded all of her attention: Parentino was growing. Twisting upward, the stones shook off their leafy cover, piling neatly upon one another as walls and sagging battlements righted themselves. In the space of a breath, the castle ruins became a wonder, restored to their former glory by the mage’s power.
Reluctant to look away from the fortress, lest it somehow change back to tumbled stone, Liara stared at the castle with hungry eyes until Nagarath dropped his hands, calling her back to herself.
“And that is how I manage to live in a ‘wreck of a castle,’ Liara.” The mage was smug. He had every right to be.
Liara let out a slow breath, her mind still trying to process what she had just seen. “How did you—?” She reached up to her shoulder thoughtfully. Had Parentino just changed, or had she?
- Excerpt From: M. K. Wiseman. “The Bookminder”

Reviews excerpts:
“I think this book just cemented my interest in historical fantasy . . . an absolutely compelling read, pulling you into the character’s world very skillfully. The superb writing and descriptions also helped contribute to this. Make sure you get your hands on a copy of this book . . .” - Fatima, Goodreads.
“. . . a clever book to read for fans of complex and unique magic systems. As a matter of fact, the whole book is dripping with this sort of magick from start to finish. . . . I had no problems slipping into the Croatian locales of Dvigrad, Parentino, and Vrsar. All the dialogue between the characters felt natural and nothing of note took me out of the story. I mostly enjoyed the multi-layered and flawed characters such as Father Phenlick, Nagarath, and even the impetuous Liara (though she frustrated me to no end). I felt great sympathy for them as they tried to succeed in their various goals and lamented past mistakes as we all do. Their flaws, failures, and desires to fix them resonated deeply with me . . .” - BelartTheIlliterateReviewer, Amazon.
“The Bookminder by M. K. Wiseman is beautifully written. The characters are complex and delightfully flawed, making them relatable, and the magick system is well-developed and quite believable. The author has a talent for writing vivid descriptions. The plot advanced at a good pace and left room for a sequel, without leaving loose ends within this book. I can't wait for book #2 of the Bookminder series!” - KA, Amazon.

Contact info: (links)
Official website  http://mkwisemanauthor.com

M. K. Wiseman bio:
M. K. Wiseman was born in Wisconsin but lived in New Mexico for a time, falling in love with the Southwest. She later returned to Milwaukee, immersing herself in her Croatian culture. With degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in animation/video and library science, she lives for stories.

Purchase links: