The bulk of my blog tour has come to a close. Between the last week of April through the first week of June, Intoxicated was featured daily somewhere, in some fashion. Whether it be on Twitter or on another blog, my book was promoted. I am not quite done yet and actually have sporadic stops all the way into the fall. Hopefully by that time, I’ll be close to getting ready to release book two.
I would love to give you glowing results of how this onslaught of attention drove hundreds of people to Amazon to purchase my book. Or how traffic on my Smashwords page skyrocketed. Or that I have thousands of new followers on Twitter, or even ten new subscribers to my blog. If I did that, I’d be lying.
So far during my blog tour I have sold three books. Yes, you read that right. Three.
I’m not exactly sure that my blog tour had anything to do with those three books being sold. If I hadn’t have embarked on this adventure, I might still have the same three sales. It’s hard to tell. But I still don’t think that it was a waste of time (or money) on my part.
You might ask why. By doing the math, if my blog tour cost more than $6, I’d be underwater on the whole thing. Which I am, but I’m learning that being in the red is par for the course. I did enough time in college to sit in Economics class and learn that you have to spend money to make money. I haven’t given up hope that eventually publicity will beget sales.
First off, I haven’t figured out a way on Amazon, B&N or Apple to tell if anyone has downloaded the free sample of my book. If you know of a way, please do tell. I’m optimistic that people have clicked on the buy links at various tour stops and have decided to try before they buy. Personally I don’t do that, but I understand people who do. If someone is taking the time to read my free sample, the possibility is still there to convert that into a sale.
Secondly, I hate begging people to buy my book. I’ve already discussed how I feel icky doing that and how I don’t spam links to it on Twitter. However, if someone else does it on my behalf, it somehow feels more legitimate. Plus, the more places that feature my book, the more eyes it gets in front of.
Doing a blog tour also allowed me to share some bonus content that hasn’t been featured here. I did a top ten list of trivia, a bonus scene written from Matthew’s point of view and a character interview with Gracie. I loved doing those creative pieces so much more than the benign “Let’s talk about writing in the first person!” posts that I also wrote. I kept my sarcasm at bay and was on my best behavior for the methodology posts, which admittedly was hard. No sense in scaring off people; they can be frightened by me on my own website. During the interview questions I did unleash a little inner snark by sharing an anecdote about how I have this (as of yet) untapped urge to accost people in my local B&N, hijack their Nook and show them that I wrote a book. I don’t believe anyone used that answer.
I understand that you get out of a blog tour what you put into it. I spent hours researching the benefits, looking at different coordinators and reading reviews prior to selecting a company. Once it was booked, I spent additional hours writing content and answering questions for interviews. I think for being my first experience with the concept that I did pretty well. In hindsight, I would have written even more content because I grew tired of seeing the same stuff recycled over and over in different places. I wrote a couple more pieces than the minimum suggested, but I still would have liked to have used more fresh material.
One expectation that wasn’t met on my blog tour was that of obtaining reviews. I got one actual review the whole time, yet on my itinerary there were multiple listings where my tour stop that day included a “Book Review” but it amounted to a posting of my sales copy off my Amazon page. The first tour stop where “Book Review” was listed I was so excited and eager to read what someone else thought of my work, only to find the book description that I’d written myself. I thought maybe I’d read it wrong, but “Book Review” after “Book Review” tour stop included nothing different than the “Book Feature” stops. Not to be confused with the “Book Excerpt” stops, which were self-explanatory.
All in all, though, I can’t complain. I feel like I got my money’s worth out of the experience plus some. Would I do this again for my next book? I’m leaning towards yes, but maybe with not such an extended run. I’ve also contemplated attempting the legwork myself and contacting tour hosts directly, but a very large part of me just wants to curl up in a ball and cry at that thought.
For those of you who have experienced a blog tour first hand, would you do it again? How successful was yours? Did it take some time before you saw results? Any lessons learned that you would like to share? For those blog tour novices, any burning questions? Please feel free to discuss.
Someone said something to me in passing last night that struck a nerve. Perhaps the comment itself was completely innocent, or maybe it was one of those things that just slip out of your mouth before you’ve really thought it through. Whatever the case it was said and it stayed with me throughout today.
Let me give you some backstory. My husband and I have almost completely opposite work schedules at our full time jobs. It’s not the perfect situation relationship wise, but we both realize that it’s a major advantage for raising two elementary school children. There’s more than likely always a parent home and we rarely need childcare. When we do, it’s provided by my in-laws. My husband handles the school day stuff; I pick up where he leaves of on the evenings and weekends.
My youngest had a field trip with her Brownie troop last night. They left immediately after school and came back after dinner time. Since I was home by the designated pickup time, I went to go get her. They do this carpool type pickup system where you drive up to the school doors and one of the leaders walks your child to your car.
I guess I should have driven my husband’s car, since they would have recognized it.
The leader lady walked over to my van and instead of simply asking me who I was there for, she tried to guess. She was wrong. I corrected her, she got my daughter and all should have been well. Except as she’s helping my daughter into the van, she leans over and says – wait for it – “We never see you”.
We never see you. Really?
It’s not entirely true. I did go to the mother/daughter sock hop with both my girls. I wasn’t in my van when I was there, so maybe she didn’t recognize me. In fact, I don’t remember that lady being there that night at all. I dealt with another leader during the cookie sales. But in four little words she singlehandedly made me feel like I have never been there for my daughter. Ever.
Yes, I share in the guilt that many working mothers have. Add to that the fact that I have officially embarked on my writing career, and I sometimes I feel pulled in way too many directions at once. I am trying to be the best wife/mother/professional/author I can be and for the most part I feel successful. But there’s always the deep seated knowledge that when I’m focused on doing one, I can’t fully do the others. At the end of the day you do the best that you can and pray it comes out good enough.
I am blessed enough to live in a good neighborhood with a good school system. There are many stay at home moms (and dads) in our district. They come and eat lunch with their kids, read books to the class and volunteer at school. They chaperone field trips. They are involved. They are always there. Sometimes I wish I was among them. Most of the time I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my kids as much, if not more, than any of those involved parents. But because my husband and I both work, we are able to provide a lifestyle for our children that I never got to enjoy. I was the product of a stay at home mom and l vowed that things would be different for my own family. There was never a question as to whether or not I would work. The answer was always yes.
My kids understand when I don’t come to the things that occur during working hours. My husband and I have explained to them about responsibilities and how we work so that we can take care of them the best way we know how. So far they don’t seem bitter or resentful. They actually seem to like us for it.
I hope that we are teaching them a lesson. Parenting requires sacrifice and compromise any way you look at it. It’s up to you to find the balance that works for your family. You shouldn’t give up completely on your goals or your ambitions for anyone, anywhere. Having kids didn’t change the fact that I enjoy working outside the home any more than it changed the type of music I like or the fact that I change my hair like some people change clothes. It became a part of the whole – not the entire thing.
I never had to wrestle with the author thing when the kids were tiny because self-publishing back then simply wasn’t like it is now. To be honest with you, even if it had been, I never would have done it then because it simply would have been too much. But I never gave up on the dream, and now that they are older I can pursue it.
They are getting to the age where they really don’t want me breathing down their necks anyway. They’re becoming children less and less and individuals more and more. They still need me around but they don’t want me in their face. They are confident that I will be there when they truly need me, but that I will give them enough space to forge their own trails.
Because merely being there does not a good parent make.
Most writers are also avid readers and I am no different in that regard. My Kindle is filled with selections that range from books on self-publishing to erotica. I will read just about anything.
Some of it is undoubtedly better than others. I’ve already gone on the record about how most of the self-published stuff I have is on par with the traditionally published books. I still find that to be true, but just because something is professionally done doesn’t mean it will automatically get a rave review from me. Like any reader, my own tastes influence whether or not I like something. There could be nothing technically wrong with a book but for whatever reason it just doesn’t hold my interest.
But, especially if it is fiction, I will read it until the end.
I exclude non-fiction books here because the majority of them I own are of the reference variety. For example, I downloaded a book that was all about creating your own website. Said book included a section for those people who sell things from their own site and I skipped over that because it doesn’t pertain to me. Yes, I have links to retail sites that sell my book but I don’t actually collect the money here. I chose the book for a specific goal and used the information that I needed at the time. Most people don’t read dictionaries all the way through, either.
So what makes fiction different? Why torture myself on the rare occasion that I find a clunker where point of view and/or verb tense changes mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence? Why muddle through something with a plot that has holes so big you could drive a car through them?
Here I have to answer as an author. I know from my own experience how much time and energy I spent on my book. I know that I have cried real tears over it and have gotten so frustrated at times that I wanted to hit the delete key and pretend it never happened. Even now that it’s published, I still struggle with the fear that it isn’t good enough; that I could have done better. I’d like to believe that most authors feel the same way. That their books are, to them, masterpieces or at least labors of love.
Who am I to discount that? Sure, the author won’t see me set their work aside in order to read something else, but I’ll know. And I have an enormous guilt complex. It would just make me feel bad. I could completely imagine how I would feel if I knew someone was reading Intoxicated and judging it as utter crap. If they were combing through my baby with a critical gaze and they decided it wasn’t worth a few hours of time to finish it, I would be devastated. After all, the thing took me fifteen years to write.
So when I find that I’m not enjoying something, I use it as a learning experience for my own writing. Why don’t I like it? What did the author do that I don’t agree with? Are my opinions based on the technical aspect or on the storyline? What is lacking in character development or plot?
Maybe not everyone who publishes a book puts as much thought into it as I do, but I pretend they do anyway. If it was that important to them to write, then I should finish it. I’d like to think most people would return the favor.
I’m a college dropout.
People that know me only from my high school days would likely be surprised to hear that. After all, I graduated third in my class with an honors diploma and nearly enough credits for two students. I received a scholarship that paid half of my tuition at our local then-commuter-only university. I promptly lost said scholarship after flunking college calculus. But oh well, that’s water under the bridge now. I was never awesome at math anyway.
Having to foot the bill for my education wasn’t the reason that I decided to quit school. No, I was fine with writing the check each semester to pay my tuition in full. I didn’t receive financial aid or help from my parents. I paid with proceeds from my part time job as a bank teller and called it good.
The reason that I quit school was that I was so unhappy I couldn’t stand it.
At least in my experience, once I was branded in public school as a so-called “smart person”, there were certain expectations. I was supposed to take the hard classes even if they didn’t interest me. It was looked down upon to choose vocal jazz choir over Spanish III, which I did due to a scheduling conflict. And it was nearly scandalous when I took a study hall instead of physics.
So there was no question that when I set out to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life that I was supposed to choose a respectable career path. In my heart of hearts I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. I would have been perfectly happy going to beauty school. But I listened to what everyone else told me and settled for pursuing an accounting degree.
As a way to make myself feel better, I did apply at a private college in Texas that did offer broadcast journalism as a major. I got accepted there, but it was an empty victory since there was no way in the world that I could afford to go there. At least I could tell others that I chose to go to Bypass U.
I muddled through three and a half years of college before – by a stroke of fate – my class choices for the upcoming semester were erased. Instead of reregistering, I had a talk with my now husband, who encouraged me to do what I thought was right. We both knew what direction that would be.
For so long I had worried about what others had thought of me. In doing that I neglected myself. So I put on my big girl pants, dropped out of college, and got a full time job.
And I’ve never looked back.
Far too often when people promote education, they discount creativity. The two are not mutually exclusive. Some of the most creative minds I know are also some of the most intelligent. I didn’t suddenly shed brain cells when I decided that I would never, ever, be happy as an accountant. I did, however, become infinitely more content.
Professionally, I wear two hats now: my eight to five insurance brokerage self and my evening and weekend author self. I like doing both. They mesh together in unexpected ways; I use my writing skills to fire off letters and emails at work and my sales background to market my book and my brand. Both positions reflect who I am.
Does it make me less intelligent because I write romance / chick lit? Does it make me less creative because I hold insurance licenses? I think not.
I’m glad I didn’t have to choose.
This coming Monday, April 29, kicks off my blog tour. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept, I will be promoting my author self and Intoxicated on several different blogs and Twitter. The whole idea is to introduce myself to others that wouldn’t normally come across my book or my website on their own and increase visibility for my work. Kind of like doing a traditional book tour without all of the driving.
This has been in the works for about the past six weeks or so, and I am so excited to finally be able to let everyone know. The itinerary for the first portion is set, with more stops to come. If you’re interested, you can click on the link below and see where I’m headed.
So what will I be doing at all of these places? Lots of things! I have a couple of author interviews, a couple book reviews, some guest posts about the writing process and some bonus material. None of this stuff has been posted here, so it’s all new and I think you’ll be pleased. I wrote a bonus scene from Matthew’s point of view, an interview with my favorite best friend Gracie and a Top 10 list of Intoxicated trivia. Don’t worry; I’m saving my more opinionated pieces for this site – I’ll be on my best behavior elsewhere. I’m also doing a Twitter interview and there will be quotes from my book showing up there, too. In addition, I’m planning a giveaway.
Hope to see you around the web!
You can get a pirated copy of Intoxicated if you look hard enough. In fact, you don’t really have to look hard at all to find it. Just the other day, if you Googled my name the location of the pirated copy showed up on the first page of results. Today when I searched it didn’t even register on the first five pages.
Just goes to show you the fleeting nature of trends on the internet.
When the pirated copy was posted on said site, I was offering my book for free on Smashwords. I’m assuming that someone had a field day during Read an E-Book Week downloading free copies of books and posting them for others to obtain illegally later. The ironic thing is that people who are now downloading this pirated copy could have just gone to Smashwords themselves that particular week, entered the coupon code and walked away with a sanctioned version for the same price.
So what do I do now? I could get really mad and fire off an angry letter to the website or call a lawyer. After all, what has been done is illegal and does infringe upon my copyright. Or I could just bask in the glory of a little free publicity and remain slightly annoyed. Anyone who has been reading my ranting for long enough realizes how anal-retentive I am; now I have absolutely no idea how many copies are floating around out there. Sigh.
Did I lose sales when the pirated copy ranked higher on Google than the official one on both iTunes and B&N? That’s debatable. People that turn to illegal methods of obtaining someone’s work probably wouldn’t have forked over the $2.99 for the real thing. There is, however, the off chance that someone with a pirated copy will read it and discuss it with someone else who will buy it.
The same line of thinking led me to offer it for free in the first place, much to the chagrin of those that looked at me like I had just grown two heads. “You want to make money on this, right?” they would ask. ”Then why are you giving it away for free?”
Because a book that is $2.99 but doesn’t sell any copies doesn’t make you any money, either.
I don’t believe in treating my readers like criminals, so even on outlets where DRM was offered I didn’t include it. As a consumer, it drives me nuts. If I want to make a copy of something I’ve bought for my husband or my daughters, I feel like I should be able to. Most people will only share with a couple others, if at all. Most people respect the hard work of those that put out ebooks, CDs, movies, whatever. It’s only a select few that become pirates.
I didn’t write Intoxicated as a get rich quick scheme. If I would have, I’m failing miserably because I am still underwater. To do things professionally is both time-consuming and expensive. I wrote it because I simply couldn’t not write it anymore. It’s a labor of love for me; one that I don’t feel ashamed to ask people to spend money on.
I think it’s worth it.
By all accounts, the number of formal reviews that I have gotten for Intoxicated is well within what has been quoted as the typical reviews to sales ratio.
This means that at this very moment, I have zero. Yes, zero.
So maybe I might be lacking one or two – but that’s just splitting hairs.
Let’s be honest here. I am a self-pubbed author with a debut novel that just came out, sporadically, everywhere within the last month or so. I’m spread out between Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, B&N, Kobo and Sony. My real marketing campaign has just started, with a blog tour coming very shortly.
Sure, I’ve gotten feedback from people that I know have read it and it’s all been glowing and happy – just like I expected it to be - because they are telling it to my face. Or on Facebook. Or by text message. And those very same people have adamantly refused to write a formal review for Amazon et al. I do have one friend who took notes while reading it, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the same thing. And I’m kind of scared.
And I wouldn’t review Intoxicated if I were a reader, either.
Don’t get me started on if I would review it as its author. No.
Personally, I have never before taken to the internet to review anything. Not a toaster, an album, a movie, nothing. I totally understand people’s apathy to put their opinions in writing for everyone to see. If I really like or don’t like something, I use word of mouth to tell people about it.
I know that reviews are a sure fire way to get visibility for your novel and that there are some weird algorithms that someone somewhere has designed to control what books are featured where. Factor in the numerous ways one can beat the system: paying for reviews, having friends and family spam 5 star reviews, etc. and odds are against authors like me for obtaining maximum exposure.
But if you take sheer visibility out of the equation, what is the value of a review by your typical consumer, especially in something as subjective as a book?
I have never chosen to purchase a book based on what someone else wrote about it on a retail site. If the storyline sounds promising to me, I download it. If it’s by an author I really like, I buy it sight unseen. If someone that I respect talks it up in a blog post, I’ll take a look. The same goes for if a friend mentions something that I should try.
I have, however, read reviews of books after I have already purchased and finished them. I agree with some and disagree with others. Typically, the people that post a review either strongly like or dislike the work. Sometimes they strongly like or dislike the author, which should be irrelevant. People may think that I’m a nice person; it doesn’t mean they have to like what I wrote and vice versa.
It’s a free country and people are entitled to their opinions; by the power of the internet, they can share them with anyone. I can’t control what someone will eventually post about my book, unless it totally crosses the line and meets guidelines for being reported. I’m good with that. Differences of opinion are what keeps life interesting.
When I crossed the boundary from being a general consumer to a honest to goodness published author, I reconsidered my stance on writing reviews for things. Is it hypocritical to ask others for something that I’ve never given? Yes, probably. Then I saw talk of how author to author reviews were sometimes getting pulled from different retail sites. As if just because someone is a writer it means they can’t be a reader, too.
Ultimately, I decided to continue my anti-review writing stance. It just isn’t my thing. There have been a couple of times where I have been tempted – like when something really resonated with me, or if something really doesn’t work, but I didn’t want to be labeled as that one author who either loves everyone’s work or hates everything she reads. Occasionally I will mention a book on Twitter, but that’s about it. And on social media I am overwhelmingly positive unless the negativity is directed at myself or inanimate things like Daylight Savings Time.
My humble opinion is that the best, most honest reviews will happen organically. They can’t be forced. If someone feels compelled enough to write a review of what I wrote, more power to them. I do ask for reviews, but if I had to choose I’d much rather have word of mouth.