Category Archives: Writing

Call For Papers: Self Promo Stories

Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES

Want to share your cleverest self-promotion gimmick? Was it your bookcover wrapped around candy? A costumed hero passing out fliers? Did you have success with a book fair? Or BookBub, Twitter, or Facebook? This anthology collects AUTHOR’S TRUE STORIES OF HOW THEY PROMOTE THEMSELVES. I’m thinking everyone writes one story, someone cute and memorable and original, something that ideally worked well. First person anecdote. You may use technical details from websites and social media and goodreads and so on if you like, but consider just saying “I went to this site and followed the directions.” This isn’t a technical book — it’s a clever ideas book. (Likewise, I’ll do a glossary at the back in case anyone doesn’t know what KDP free days or hashtags are. No need to explain the basic terminology).The audience is absolutely authors getting their start and looking for neat self-promo ideas. Ideally, this would be something other writers could replicate. If your experience was dependent on your particular genre or book subject, that’s still fine – there are many ways to adapt it. Authors writing about fiction/nonfiction/poetry/any genre/self pub/traditional pub/ebooks/audio books are welcome. Basically, tell me about your booth decorations, your free coloring books, your unusual chocolates, your custom sign, your party, your book fair event, your giveaway…whatever you did that was really neat.

I encourage you to describe your book IN A WAY THAT FITS YOUR STORY in order to slip in a sly promo, though everyone also gets a bio. See my example stories below to see how I got some description of my book in.

I’d like to get LOTS of these stories, say 50, so do pass on the information to other writers. 500-1500 words (not hard numbers, but I’m looking for short experiences after all). Since this is meant to be educational and also work as advertising, I plan to publish as free ebook only on Smashwords. Thus there will be no cash involved, but you and anyone you like may download infinite copies. The hope is that authors will not only benefit from your story but also be intrigued enough to track down your book or website. You’re welcome to give people a reason to go to your site – perhaps to see your sample press kit or social media links. And with 50 of us spreading the word and requesting it for libraries and so on, this anthology really might make an impression on the author community.

To submit, please send your complete story as well as a 100-150 word third person bio. I prefer that you paste it all in the body of the email. Email to Valerie @ calithwain.com, subject: SELF PROMO ANTHOLOGY. You may send 0-3 photos of yourself and your bookcovers (or you doing your self-promo) if you like. High quality jpgs preferred, though for the web, 72 dpi or so still works.  Deadline of Nov 10, 2016.

Two sample stories:

The Power of Silly Hats (600 words)

My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.

Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.

At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona – someone would be Lord Voldemort or Tonks for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.

To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted a short endorsement from. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.

By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books

At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it (and a witchy dress, but this part isn’t terribly memorable) and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously matters, as I need them on the spot.

Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. Plus, I thought the parodies might be a good draw. The gracious lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic…

What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.

I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…

 

 My KDP Experience (900 words)

As I write this, I just earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.

First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).

Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message which many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).

Goodreads and Facebook message:

Free Dr Who Guide Today!

Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.

Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.

Twitter message: Variations on the following:

Doctor Who: The What Where and How # free Nov 21-25 # freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ # ebook # freeebook # DoctorWho # DoctorWho50th #movies

I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but that would’ve given me a few more characters. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”

Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I check what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could go some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.

For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtages, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.

#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho

Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my picture was my book cover after all…

I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repining and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.

I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.

I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.

Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.

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How Many Sales Should Successful Writers Have?

I have no idea. I just reposted an article saying self-pub books really aren’t selling in millions that got lots of Facebook responses. So I found myself thinking: How many am I really selling? I just finished doing taxes for the year and discover myself reasonably above the poverty line in the US (the poverty line is listed as 11,000 for a single person with no dependents apparently. That indeed would cover my food, rent, and utilities for a year, but I should add that I live in basically a writer’s garret. I’m sure many in pricey Silicon Valley who have homes and families could not manage on this.)

So I’m a working writer –as in 12-plus hours a day. With 12 books out a year, I’m certainly productive. A HARD-working writer. But I’m not paid by the hour or the word — only by royalties (ranging from 70% alleged gross to 8% net depending on publisher and type of book). And THAT depends on sales.

I’m the author of a whopping 45 books right now (yes, really, check ’em out on http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK), and part of me is wondering…so when do I hit the big time here? When do I get the wealth and recognition? Is there a point to writing another 45? (My genre is analysis on popular series like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Outlander, and Game of Thrones. Of course, they have built in fandoms already, which is awesome.) Of course, I’m discovering it’s not really about the number published, as 2-5 of them bring in far over half the sales (History, Homages and the Highlands: An Outlander Guide,the Hunger Games guide Katniss the Cattail, and sometimes a Game of Thrones guide or another tv/film related surge).

So basically, I sit here writing 12 books a year hoping ONE will catch fans’ eye (Predicting can be tough — I wrote another Outlander book and Katniss book, neither of which succeeded even half as much. Some series like Harry Potter and Marvel’s Avengers proved surprising duds. For my related books anyway.) And yes, sometimes I write whatever I feel like, with more eye to education or silly parodies and less to commercialism. Hence all my analysis on the Heroine’s Journey and vague plans for a free guide on the topic.

So today (admittedly wasting over an hour of my writing time) I decided to slow down and actually look at all these sales figures everyone sends over. What numbers am I really dealing with?

Self publishing: Here I have a lot. In fact, I have 24 on createspace/23 on Smashwords/25 on kdp/5 on ACX (most of these are the same, published in all three or maybe four mediums, but a few are exclusive.) There appear to be 27 unique titles, three of which are listed as free on Smashwords.

 

Kindle Direct sales (from Amazon publishing). 4552 copies sold this year. Kdp just sent me 13 tax forms from all the different countries. Goodness knows how many I’ll get next year.

 

Smashwords and the ebook companies they distribute to (Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony…): I sold 5169.9 copies (they’re counting people reading part of it, apparently) which made about $700. Total. All the sales coming in hundreds are, sadly, my free books. Two of these are “samplers” — a chapter each of already-published stuff, meant to boost sales. It only took me a few hours to put them together. No idea whether readers are then motivated to go purchase the full books.

 

Createspace (Amazon paperback publishing) 2616 books sold. 986 of those were my silly little Outlander guide. All right, seems the ebooks have beat the paper ones. Not a shock as my sales are online not bookstores. Publishing paperbacks is slightly more work, but I think it’s worth the effort. I like them, anyway.

 

ACX (amazon audio books): 5 published books (I can only give them self-pub, as otherwise publishers have the rights. Here I get 40% if I pay the recording artist upfront or 20% if I split the proceeds with them instead.) 865 sales – almost all Outlander or Game of Thrones related. Upon discovering this, I started auditioning another batch.

 

So that was 13,203 self-published books sold. Far far under a million, but a respectable number. Flattering in terms of people influenced, though I’m not a cat climbing into a box on YouTube. And…for them all I ended up making about 50 cents a book. (With thousands of my free and 99 cent books sold in comparison with smaller numbers of my $2.99 ebooks and 9.99 paperbacks, that isn’t the most logical calculation, but there it is).

By this point, I am thinking rude thoughts about royalty percentages. I might sit and calculate how much of Amazon’s 70% royalties I’m really getting, or consider raising prices (in fact, out of 45 books, only 3 are free and 1 is 99 cents). I could take my business elsewhere. But we all know the deal. I could sell them on my own website and keep 100% but no one would ever find them. And thus I’m forced to come back to my original premise that I’m going for fame not fortune…

Comparisons are odious as some famous person said. In fact, they’re illogical too since my traditionally published books have different content and sometimes audiences than the self-pub stuff. Certainly different math. But let me pop these up here too:

Traditional Publishers: (They mail me quarterly or biannual statements which I pull checks from then file carefully…in my desk clutter. Okay, that’s on me.) These are all small press or academic, admittedly. I have not broken into the Big Howevermanyareleft.

Zossima Press (half a year’s numbers): 3 published books. SALES: 24 paperback, 66 ebook (60 of those my Myths and Motifs in the Mortal Instruments thanks to the new TV show). Royalties: Around $1.50 per $15 book

McFarland: 4 books, 2 edited anthologies (3 more coming soon). SALES: 668 (paper and ebook in half a year). Around $1.75 per $35 book. Yep, $35. And that hurts the sales, of course.

Thought Catalog: 5 published books. SALES: By back-calculating sloppily my percentage of the royalties off the tax form…maybe 1500 copies. Around $1.50 per $5 book

Other Traditional Publishers: 4 published books that do rather badly: not enough pennies to worry about.

Traditional publishing is giving me steady numbers, while self-pub fluctuates wildly as I do page reads, free samples, free kindle five day giveaways, and other clever schemes which increase readership but not definitively sales. No shock there. For Doctor Who 50th anniversary weekend in 2013, I convinced 4500 people to download a free copy, but the Doctor Who book isn’t pulling amazing sales.

So where am I? 45 books published, with me convincing about 20,000 people this year to grab a copy of something and I’m making a living wage…but once again I’ll bring up the garret. I was a bit depressed upon looking at my tax forms, though not as much when I compared it to the previous year’s. 2013 to 2014 doubled, and 2014 to 2015 went up by a third. Things are indeed looking up…perhaps even toward a retirement plan (Plan: Do nothing and live on royalties or keep writing forever because now I’m addicted.) Is this the definition of “successful writer”? Seems so. And sure, I was hoping for more of a NY Times Bestseller profile with fabulous book promotion tours paid for by my royalties (sometimes I do this, but significant budgeting is involved). But I get to be a writer. And I’m making it work.

Well, enough of this — I really have to get back to writing now. Best wishes to everyone doing what I am, however successfully.

Do check the books out by the way — the list is up on http://vefrankel.com or http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK. Apparently I could use the paid sales.

 

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Call for Papers on Outlander

Seeking a few more essays on Gender, Race, Orientation, and the Other in the Time of Outlander — just email valerie at  with your idea!

 

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon has sold 25 million copies worldwide. More interestingly, it’s said that mentioning Outlander in a group of women, no matter the age, will reveal that a quarter have read it. Now the television show, often called “Game of Thrones for Women” is transforming the popular cable shows, brimming with nudity and violence, as it brings in a specifically women’s fandom…or is it?

This collection welcomes discussion of the television show, novels, John Grey books, short stories, and associated works such as cast interviews, Gabaldon’s blog, or Outlander fan culture.

McFarland has expressed interest in an academic collection of essays on this pop culture phenomenon, which will likely come out alongside season two. Of course, this collection will only go forward if it gets sufficient submissions.

UPDATE: I’m considering splitting the book into two, one on genre and fandom, the other on race/gender/disability/homosexuality/otherness. Topics fitting into these categories are especially welcome.

Final essays 4000-5000 words, MLA format. 100-300 word proposals for your essay topic with optional bio or cover letter should be sent to valerie @ calithwain.com, subject OUTLANDER ANTHOLOGY by June 22. Finished papers due Aug 15. Happy writing!

Subtopics
There are many areas to explore:
Gender Studies: Male courtliness as performance; feminine charm or seduction as performance; Geillis the femme fatale; Claire the WWII nurse; sexism; female gaze, homosexuality in Black Jack, the Duke of Sandringham, and Lord John. Characters such as prostitutes, housekeepers, clan chiefs, and warriors have many interesting gender nuances.
Genre: romance, time travel story, war story, military history, or cross-genre
Adaptation: comparison to other cable shows like Game of Thrones, The White Queen, Camelot, True Blood, etc. Differences between book and show and the motivations behind these. Costumes or music (the blogs by the ones in charge of these are useful resources)
Myth and Folklore: standing stones, circle dancers, gemstone magic, prayers from the Carmina Gadelica, Loch Ness, parallels between Claire’s journey and selkie or fairy kidnapping tales. There’s also the Caribbean stories of book three or Lord John and the Plague of Zombies, Native American myth in the later books, and so on.
History: World War II, the sixties, the Eighteenth Century, witchcraft, the Revolutionary War, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Louis XV, the Count de Saint-Germain
Symbolism: psychology such as Jung or Joseph Campbell, significant objects such as the blue vase, pearl necklace, or wedding rings.
Literature: analyzing the stories as literature or comparison with other important works
Fandom studies
Television studies
Other

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WorldCon 2013 Report

LoneStarCon, the 71st World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention had a lower attendance than usual (3800, I heard, with an additional thousand who pre-supported or bought memberships but couldn’t attend)…this may have been competition with DragonCon—the two are usually the same weekend, but Worldcon isn’t usually as close as San Antonio, TX. On the upside, there was a massive group of first-time attendees, proudly wearing rainbow colored ribbons. Many were locals from San Antonio, and the long-term fans seemed enthusiastic about offering encouragement and insider knowledge. It’s a friendly convention, with as many females as males, eighty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds, and total strangers all acknowledging we’re part of the same fannish world. Those strangers were also kind enough to snap many photos of me on request, displayed here with grateful appreciation. I was also touched by the many people (some rather famous) who greeted me by name or asked “aren’t you the heroine’s journey author?”

 

For more, please visit http://thetemporaryescape.blogspot.com/ who will be hosting my guest post 🙂

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Filed under About Me, Convention Reports, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Uncategorized, Writing