Bethany’s Rules for Marketing

In my quest for world book domination I frequently peruse tips on how to better market myself/books.  Some come up with some interesting strategies that are worth pursuing and then there’s this list…

Top-10-Book-Marketing-TipsI won’t mention the name of the blog I found it on because I don’t believe in public shaming.  But let’s just assess a few of the items on this list shall we?

Comment on Blogs – The theory is that you will become recognized and friends with other blog commenters as well as those running the blog and then you will RISE TO FAME!  Or… not.  Of course, having additional friends will help you expand your fan base.  But pursuing that strategy for the sake of selling books is so lacking in any genuine feeling that it will actually turn people against you.

Bethany Rule #1 – always be your best self online.  Only comment on a blog if you have something interesting and positive to add to the conversation. Trolls don’t sell books.

Create a Viral Video – Let’s just hop right on that shall we?  We’ll get out or cell phones and film our cats and then, bam, done!  As this article on Slate indicates, only 10% of YouTube videos get more than 1000 views.  Videos these days are higher in quality and there a simply MORE of them out there than in the beginning days of social media. Here’s my attempt at a viral video – it’s awesome, you should watch it.  But I only paid for food for the crew and a make-up artist to make the video happen, everything else was done in trade.  I felt comfortable with my investment  and I view the video as a great sales tool to introduce people to my book series, but I never counted on it going viral.

Bethany Rule #2 – if you have to pay a lot of money for a product that you’re going to giveaway for free, it’s probably not worth it.

Go on National TV – Yup, I’m just going to dial up Oprah right now, promise her some bread, and book myself on National TV.  Getting air time, particularly on a National level, is one of the things that happens when you’re ALREADY famous.  There’s a reason Donald Trump has ceased to advertise.  He’s getting 15% of the national news time (according to a recent news piece I saw on my local news) and 50% of the election coverage.  He doesn’t NEED to advertise.   I’m not recommending that you be Donald Trump – one is more than enough – but being getting air time is something that you either pay for, or you get because your famous for something already.

Bethany Rule #3 – work to be locally famous.  Join groups.  Send press releases.  Volunteer to judge writing contests.  Talk to people.  Network and connect – people sell books.

The internet is full of many tips, some are more helpful than others.  I just hope that you find mine a little more helpful than the one from the blog that shall remain nameless.

Suprise! It’s a Book!

The most surprising thing for me about being published was how much fun it sucked out of writing. I don’t suppose an agent, editor, or marketing person ever intends to suck the joy out of someone else’s life, but my experience with the publishing industry has been that mostly it’s a joy suck. I went from writing with a gleeful eagerness to staring at the computer screen in annoyance and spending far more time on marketing than I ever predicted.

 

2015-06-23 10.43.53I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by it. As a graphic designer by trade, I have a keen understanding of the collaborative nature of creating art that meets the needs of multiple user groups. If you don’t know what that means, then may God bless you and keep you in that state. Graphic Design (in my case specializing in print and signage) is an artistic endeavor designed to inform a consumer about a particular item, message, or company. I could spend a books worth on the craft of graphic design, but basically it is a balancing act between my vision as an artist and the vision of a client. In an ideal situation, both visions mesh to create art. In the worst case scenario, someone who thinks they could do your job if only they knew more about “the Photoshop” stands behind you and tells you what to do.

But writing was something that was mine – completely, gloriously – mine. I wrote my first published novel Bulletproof Mascara to please myself. Every day of writing was like falling down the rabbit hole and discovering what came next. Some days were harder than others, but each day I spent with my imaginary friends was fun. When the manuscript was complete, I made the edits suggested by beta readers because I agreed with them. Everything I did for that first book was because I liked it that way.

Then came New York. There were changes (more changes), changing editors, (changing economy) and suggestions that I “work on plotting,” work on this… work on that… Basically, stop pantsing it. Stop dropping down the rabbit hole. Stop having fun. Sit up straight. Brush your teeth. Cut your hair. Get a real job.

OK, maybe no one ever actually said those last few. But it felt like that.

So why stick with it?

Oh, sigh. That’s the worst part. Because it made me a better writer. My plotting did need work. My “perfect” text can always stand to be pared back, because damn, but I do get verbose on occasion. And let’s face it, the things I don’t know about grammar will continue to infuriate copyeditors for years to come even as I slowly improve. Then, it turns out, that marketing (AKA talking to readers) is actually enjoyable. Who knew?

It took me awhile to reclaim the joy in writing, but self-publishing a few short stories and the kind comments of readers helped. I now look forward to my next adventures in writing and hope that you will too.

State of Emergency

 

This Carrie Mae ultra-short story takes place before the events of High-Caliber Concealer.  Read High-Caliber Concealer to find out what happens next!

 

“Thanks for giving me a ride, guys,” said Jenny, jumping into the back of my convertible blue ’67 Impala. Jenny works with me at Carrie Mae.

“No prob,” I said, checking traffic and pulling away from the curb.

“Did they tell you what was wrong with your car?” asked Z’ev, turning to look at Jenny.  Z’ev is my boyfriend.  He works for the CIA.  He’s dreamy.  Yeah, I said dreamy – deal with it.

“Alternator or something.  I think I stopped listening after I heard how much it was going to cost me.”

The wind whipped her long blonde hair around her face in a way that made her look like a Ralph Lauren ad and I sighed enviously.  My red curls were always in a giant rats’ nest by the time I got out of the convertible.  “I’m serious!  I really think…”  Jenny’s thought was cut off when both our phones rang at the same time.  I made eye contact with Jenny in the rear view mirror.  I know about Z’ev’s job, but Z’ev doesn’t exactly know about mine.  The last thing I needed was a work call to interrupt one of our rare weeks together at home in LA.

There are several problems with working for Carrie Mae.  First, everyone assumes that I sell make-up.  I understand. Carrie Mae is most well known for their millions of independent beauty consultants.  The Carrie Mae Foundation, the non-profit charity branch and my employer, isn’t as well known and has the extremely simple goal of “helping women everywhere.” The Carrie Mae founders realized early on that helping women sometimes requires a silk glove of diplomacy and sometimes an iron fist of enforcement.  Basically, the Carrie Mae Foundation is part non-profit, part black ops force.  My second problem with working for Carrie Mae is that I can’t tell my family, or my boyfriend, that I’m part of the iron fist.

“It’s Ellen,” said Jenny, flipping open her phone.  “911 to her place right now!”

I nodded and pushed my foot into the gas pedal.

Ten minutes later, I had barely parked before Jenny was out of the car and running up the front walk of Ellen’s townhouse.  I followed slightly more cautiously, taking in the scene, looking for bad guys, wishing I was carrying.  The door burst open and Ellen stepped out dressed in a slip, her short silver hair in curlers.  Ellen, our team’s sniper, was usually the calm to our storm.  Periodically, she’s been known to lose her cool.  With Ellen if you behave like a misogynistic, racist jackhat, don’t be surprised if you suddenly end up with a bullet in your butt.  Anyway, she didn’t appear to be raging, she appeared to be having a panic attack.

“You have to help me.  This is…  I can’t do this.”  She flapped her hands, breathing heavily. “I have nothing to wear.”

Z’ev was half way out of the car, but froze in place at Ellen’s announcement.

“I’ll just wait in the car,” he said.  I gave him a thumbs up and went in.  I came out a few minutes later.

Z’ev had turned off the motor and was watching clouds maneuver across the sky like wide-bellied sailing ships.

“What’s up?” he asked, leaning back to look up at me.

“Ellen has a date,” I said.  Z’ev made ‘so what’ sort of gesture.  “It’s her first date since her husband died.  And she doesn’t know what to wear.”  Z’ev’s faced sucked in like he’d chomped down on a lemon.

“Ah.  It’s one of those issues.”

“Jenny is in there now on tissue and dress patrol.  I’m going to go in on make-up.  We’ll double team on hair and shoes and be out in no more than 24 minutes.”

“Why 24 minutes?” asked Z’ev, automatically synchronizing his watch.

“Because he arrives in,” I flipped over my wrist and checked the time on my watch, “25:20.”

“I’m going to turn the car around.  I’ll be parked in front, motor running,” he said.

“Good man,” I said, nodding approvingly.  I looked with dread at the house – some missions were tougher than others.  “All right, I’m going back in.”  I marched toward the door.

“Duck and cover, baby.  Duck and cover,” Z’ev called after me.

Twenty-four minutes and forty-two seconds later Jenny and I sprinted out of the house and leapt into the back seat.  Z’ev threw the car into gear and launched us down the block, just as a black sedan turned the corner.

“Z’ev, slow down, we want to see what he looks like!” said Jenny.  I leaned over the passenger seat to pull a set of binoculars out the glove compartment.  Z’ev slowed down and we crouched in the back peering over the trunk.

“Not bad,” I said, handing over the binoculars to Jenny.

“Car’s a Lexus, but four door.  Says stable, with good taste.  Khakis and button up,” said Jenny, adding her assessment.

“Fashionable without being trendy,” I agreed.  “Looks fairly fit.”

“Full head of hair,” commented Jenny.

Ellen opened the door and the man went inside.

“We’re not going to follow them on their date, are we?” asked Z’ev adjusting the rear view mirror so that he could watch the action.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” said Jenny.

“We would never spy on our friend,” I added.

“Uh-huh.  Do you want me to put the binoculars back?”

Jenny and I dissolved into giggles, which only caused Z’ev to roll his eyes.  I continued to laugh, but inside I was worried.  Sometime soon, Z’ev and I were going to have to talk.  How much longer was he going to believe I was a project manager for a regular non-profit? Who always keeps binoculars in her glove box?

 

 

Equal Rights for Positives

A funny thing happens when you read your own reviews – you start thinking about them.

I’m about a month away from completing the manuscript for Glossed Cause, the fourth book in the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, and I made the mistake of checking out a few of the reviews on High-Caliber Concealer (CM #3).  I knew it was a bad idea.  It’s always a bad idea.  What happens when I get to a bad one, hmmm?  It’s not like I can look the reviewer up, knock on their door and explain how monumentally wrong they are.  But you think, “I’ll just look at the good ones.  Just one.  I can stop there.”

You know this a total lie, right? Reviews are like Pringles for the eyes.  Like I can stop with just one.  I open up Amazon, I’m looking and… then I read this: “If you enjoy reading about Stephanie Plum, you’ll love Nicki! Maines is getting better with each book.”

And I thought, “Hell, yeah!” <insert fist pump here>

Just one?  But I have popped – I cannot stop. I should read more!

Eventually, of course, I got to one with a complaint. I’d spent too much time on Nikki’s personal life. Gah! But, but, but… Glossed Cause is about her FATHER (among other things).  What do I dooooooo????

tumblr_m9vkj4yn981rbb9gno1_500

 

Now I’m stuck staring at the screen, half way through the book, trying to figure out if I should turn the ship or stay the course.  “Stay the course!” my internal editor yells.  But it’s hard to hear over the crashing waves of doubt.

I was complaining a negative comment on another project to my husband he said, “Well, I think it was awesome and my vote counts more.”  <insert lightbulb going on here>

Why do the negatives get more votes?  Shouldn’t the positives get equal rights?  Here’s what I and anyone else who is stuck in this trap are going to do:  We’re going to go back, we’re going to read the first positive review, and we’re going to believe that one.  Because Maines really is getting better with every book.

The Reality of Research

On Sale Nov. 17, 2015!

On Sale Nov. 17, 2015!

I don’t always go on vacation, but when I do I prefer to call it research. Part of the fun in writing the Carrie Mae Mysteries featuring a group of super-spy girls is that my characters travel around the world to exotic locales. Which means that if I want to have authenticity in my writing I also need to travel to exotic locales. The problem with this experiential approach to research is that you find yourself thinking, “Where can I find an AR-15 to shoot?” or in the case of my latest manuscript, “Where can I find a plane to jump out of?”

Don’t ask about the boots. I emulate my characters actions, not their keen fashion sense.
As it turns out, the AR-15 is not so hard to find (I called my brother). But jumping out of a plane is a little more expensive and even if you get a Groupon you still only get to tandem jump. And since I have an 18 month old, I don’t really have $200 to throw around on random research. Also, when I mention my new research need (my need for speed) suddenly everyone’s all “But you could die!” Apparently when you become a mother people become even more likely to judge your actions – who knew? And in response I would like to point out that, number one, of course I could die! That’s the point of doing 90% of the fun things in life. And number two, I’m not going to. In 2014 there were 3.2 million jumps and 24 deaths. I’m literally more likely to get hit by bus.

SkydivingBeing the person that I am, that kind of nonsense makes me want to jump out of a plane more just to prove that I won’t die. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t have to $200 to waste on jumping out of a plane for a not truly accurate experience of what it feels like to fly yourself. (But hear this world – I’m not jumping out of a plane because I said so, not because you said so.) But then my genius mother-in-law came up with a great idea (and a great gift): indoor skydiving. It’s a giant wind-tunnel, less than half the cost, and all of the free fall experience. And what did I learn? It’s a lot harder than it looks. And uses a lot more muscles than you might think. And it’s fun. That’s my kind of research.

Dear Brain…

Originally published on The Stiletto Gang 07.22.15

Dear Brain,

While I appreciate your many efforts and strong creative solutions, I would very much appreciate it if you could focus on the problems at hand. Thanks so much.

Sincerely,

Self

 

I have a writing calendar that tells me what I’m supposed to be working on. Outlining, editing, actually writing, it’s all scheduled out. Since the release of High-Caliber Concealer, third book in the Carrie Mae Mystery series is right around the corner (November 17!), that means I should be busy working on draft one of book 4 – Glossed Cause. That also means that last month I should have finished an outline of said fourth book. Do you know what I have not completed? Yes, that’s right – the outline. I had completed  about 75% it and stopped because… Well, I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. And then last week I realized what was wrong with it. Not that I know how to fix it, but at least I know why I’m not excited about it. So I’ve been twiddling my thumbs, enjoying the summer, pretending that I have all the time in the world, and hoping that inspiration would hit.

Then last night it did hit. I woke up with a fantastic idea.

For a different book.

I came up with a great idea for the sequel to my recent release – An Unseen Current. I even have a great name for it, which practically never happens. It’s really, really exciting and not at all what I need. But if I’ve learned anything about creativity it’s that if you fight it sometimes it stops all together. What do you think? Should I work on this new idea for a bit and see if inspiration strikes for Glossed Cause or should I set the new idea aside and focus, focus, focus

Group Projects

Remember in school when the teacher would say those dreaded five words? “This is a group project.” Your mind races into overdrive as you scan the class room, searching for the few students who will hit trifecta of smart enough, pulls their own weight, and doesn’t have BO. Select outside of those parameters are a host of problems – too smart, too lazy, too socially active, too socially impaired ­ and the group will flounder and fail. A group project is always a dual assignment: how well can you do the work and how well can you work together? And we all think, “I cannot wait to get out of school, so I never have to do another group project.”

Except, of course, that the joke is on us. Every job, with the possible exception of Ranger Gord of the Canadian forest service, requires that you have contact with someone to get the job done. Ranger Gord, in case you haven’t watched the Canadian comedy show Red Green, is a Forest Service Ranger who has been staring at the trees so long that he now believes they talk to him and that some are possibly out to get him. You would think that a writer and Ranger Gord would have about the same amount of human contact, but the more I write the more I realize that writing truly is a group project. Admittedly, I do the majority of the work and then I pass it out to several people just so they can point out problems with my beautiful manuscript. But those beta readers, agents, and editors do not have an easy task. For one thing they have to deal with someone who thinks those beech trees look suspicious and that her villain is attempting a coup to take over the book, but beyond that they have to think critically about questions that a casual reader can simply take for granted. For the end reader, the questions have been answered, the decisions made, but the beta reader has to ask all the difficult questions about when characters know something, does the timeline actually work out, do the actions taken make sense, and the all important question: “Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

And so, as I round out the final edits on my next book (High-CaliberConcealer out in November 2015), I must thank all my readers, editors, and my oh, so persnickety copyeditor who corrects my egregious use of their, there, and they’re. Thank you all!

 

Hashtag This

Originally published at The Stiletto Gang on 04.08.15

There’s a hashtag on Twitter for people who are writing – #amwriting. An innocuous hashtag for tracking other writers, but sometimes… it can be just a little bit smug. And given the nature of writers I was wondering if we could have a more honest hashtag? #amsurfingtheweb #amwatchingcatvideos #amdoinganythingbutwriting

Right now I’m doing anything but working on the outline of Carrie Mae Book 4.  Because, no, I don’t know how they ended up in a brawl to the death among the Amsterdam tulips.  Can’t I just wave my magic writer wand, do a little jazz hands, and write by the seat of my pants?  The problem with pantsing it, is that I am no Louis L’Amour.  Mr. L’Amour apparently did not believe in rewrites or edits; he believed that rewrites killed the freshness of the story.  Or he believed that we would buy whatever he wrote. #hewasright  When I attempt to pants it, my stories go sideways and I end up writing entire chapters that sound like vacation brochures. #needavacation No story was ever moved forward by a character actually stopping to smell the roses, or in my case, tulips.  Unless, of course, he got wacked on the head while bending to smell one. #deathbytulip #nameformynextnovel #dontstealit #mine

So here I am, forced into the drudgery of outlining.  Coming up with the answers before I even know what all the questions are. Or in my case, procrastinating for all I’m worth. #procrastination! I could say that I’m mulling it over or letting it marinate, but let’s face it, at no point in my life have I ever mulled something over while doing the dishes.  The only thing I think while doing the dishes is that dishes suck and we all need to stop eating so there will be less dishes.  #seriously It’s productivity through hatred of the other available task. #atleastsomethinggotdone Eventually, I’ll have to return to the outline – figure out the who, why, where and how.  Eventually, I will have to do the research and plug the plot holes.  Eventually, I will actually have to write.  #amwriting   Sigh.  Can’t I be #amvacuuming instead?

Goldfish Brain

I’m monumentally bad at dates.  The Christmas after I got married my mother-in-law got a new pair of sneakers and she said, “Oh, I wish I’d had these on XX of some-month-Bethany-doesn’t remember.”  And I said, “Really? What happened on that date?”  And they all stared at me because it turned out that was the day I got married.  Which may seem a bit rude to my poor husband, but in my defense I also can’t remember what year I graduated from college.  And one time I spent an entire day being really annoyed because my friends kept calling me (I was in the middle of a project) to wish me happy birthday.  Every single call was a surprise.  So, I’m not saying that I will absolutely forget that some day (14th?  15th? No, seriously, what day is it?) in February is Valentine’s Day, I’m just saying that the odds are not in my husband’s favor.  But on the other hand that means if he remembers all that lovely chocolate will be a wonderful surprise.

Unfortunately, this type of memory blockage also means that my memory for VERY IMPORTANT FACTS related to my characters is also somewhat lacking. Like last names, eye color, the details of their backstory.   Given enough time and rewrites it all gets a bit fuzzy.  Bulletproof Mascara, for instance went through 9.5 rewrites (I’m counting the typo catching pass as .5 of a rewrite).  That means that the villain Jirair Sarkassian went from being Texan to Armenian somewhere around draft 6.  And in An Unseen Current (Available everywhere April 28! Available for pre-order on kindle now!!) I dropped an entire villain between draft 1 and 2.  Which wouldn’t be much of a problem if I didn’t insist on writing sequels.  It’s a bit of an embarrassment to have to read your own book to find out what you wrote, but apparently readers insist on continuity and well, just generally making sense.  But having just read Bulletproof Mascara and Compact with the Devil (in preparation for the forthcoming High-Caliber Concealer), I can honestly recommend my books to people.  I’m very funny and my plots actually do make sense.  I give myself two thumbs up.  I probably can’t review myself on Goodreads, can I?

Fictional Character, Real Personality

Originally Published at www.girlfriendsbookclub.org

This month we’re blogging about our characters dossier with the idea that they’re filling out an online dating profile. My series, the Carrie Mae Mysteries, features an all female spy organization run by a make-up company with the goal of women everywhere. My main character, Nikki Lanier, a top level Carrie Mae agent, also happens to be dating a CIA agent. And with all those spies running around, I had to create dossiers on my characters just to keep track of their cover stories. Go to Top Secret, to get the inside scoop on all things Carrie Mae – from characters dossiers to gadgets.

But as I sat down to type up Nikki’s details for this blog I started to wonder, just how strong was my dossier? I think I’ve created a very real character, but how good a job have I done? So in the interest of “science” I went to chemistry.com and took their free personality test as Nicole Lanier. And it came back that Nikki is (drumroll please): A negotiator / director. (See below for further explanation). Which I think nailed the character pretty well. Of course, if I were really interested in “science” I’d set up one for her boyfriend and see if the computer god’s matched them up…

THE NEGOTIATOR (PRIMARY TYPE): You are imaginative. You are emotionally expressive and share your feelings. The big picture is what interests you most, and you like to assemble facts and focus on larger concepts. When you make decisions, you often think things through very carefully, weighing all the options before deciding what to do. People are important to you and you prefer to build intimate attachments with others, connecting on a deeply personal level.

Agreeable and unassuming, you can be very intuitive, and you generally prefer win-win situations that protect social harmony. You are very good at reading people, and this includes facial expressions as well as vocal inflections. You excel at what scientists call synthesizing, which means you collect lots of data and then find patterns that lead to larger concepts.

THE DIRECTOR (SECONDARY TYPE): You are very independent and admire self-control. Analytical, skeptical and exacting, you can be tough-minded and decisive. You enjoy competing and achieving, and you are usually mathematically or mechanically skilled. You generally have a few very close friends, rather than a big social circle.