Author Lifeboat Teams

Nancy J. Cohen

An author lifeboat team is a band of authors who join together to cross-promote their work. I became aware of the concept when I got invited to join one. This particular group was made up of paranormal romance authors, and their rules included sharing each other’s posts on Facebook and being responsible for one post a week.

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I thought that obligation and the specific genre focus might be too restrictive for me, especially since I write in two genres. So while flattered to be asked, I politely declined. The idea brewed in my head, though, so when Terry Odell invited me to join her fledging group, I seriously considered and eventually said yes.

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Why did I like this team? While we were encouraged to support each other with retweets and shares, we weren’t committed to any particular schedule. And the group consisted of multi-published authors in various genres. This interesting mix could attract new readers, and that would benefit our primary goal of increasing our visibility and readership.

It’s been one year since I joined. What have we accomplished in that time? We’ve established our website, Booklover’s Bench.

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Besides each of us having an author page, we have added Behind the Scenes and Excerpt features. We run a monthly contest via Rafflecopter with a $25 Amazon or BN gift card as the main prize and e-books from each of us for runners-up winners.

In another effort to cross-promote, we’ve also started offering each other’s books as prizes for personal newsletter contests and sharing the resultant mailing list.

On Twitter, we’ve each created a List for our team members. It’s easy to access the list and retweet everyone’s posts that way.

In terms of results, my newsletter in Sept. 2012 went out to 4542 recipients. In Oct. 2013, I sent it to 5339 folks. That’s an increase of nearly 800 names. Some of these might have come from my own contests, but I’d say the majority of new entries are thanks to BB.

As one of the extra options on our Rafflecopter contests, we’ve put “Like my Facebook Page” as an added choice. My FB Likes have increased quite a bit as a result. So this is another benefit.

We’re also a sounding board for marketing ideas. I learned about doing a Facebook launch party from one of my team mates. If we have an aspect of the biz we need input on or just want someone to listen, we have each other. In the future, maybe we’ll expand and hire a virtual assistant. Our only requirement is to do what we can to support each other, to tweet about the contests, take over the $25 gift card contest prize once every couple of months, and support our efforts any other way we can. We split the cost of the website hosting and manage it ourselves.

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Other ideas for future consideration are a subscribers-only tab on our website for free downloads of bonus materials or short e-reads, a blog hop, a street team, a Fan of the Month selection.

How do we communicate? We’ve held two Skype conference calls so far with a third one coming up to discuss our ideas and goals for next year. Otherwise, we have a private Facebook group page and a yahoo group listserve. Or we can send individual emails.

It’s hard to work alone, especially since most marketing efforts have moved online. Consider gathering together your own author lifeboat team. Again, it’s a group of authors who band together to support each other on social media with the goal of expanding their readership. How your team operates and what you do for each other is your choice. See what other groups do and borrow their ideas that appeal to you. We all learn from each other, and we must support each other, too. Just like we do on this group blog.

As Thanksgiving passes us by, thanks to each one of you for following us and for joining our discussions. We share a wealth of information about writing craft and marketing that contributes to our online community. We’re grateful for all our cyberspace friends.

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Multiple Book Releases

What happens when you have more than one book to promote at the same time? Do you annoy readers with announcements about the new releases, blog tours, and contests? Which book do you choose to emphasize in your online blasts?

In this digital age, we can publish as fast as we can write. But at what point are we diluting our own sales? And how will our digital releases affect our print books with their higher price point?

I’ve reached this quandary in April through no planning of my own. Wild Rose Press gave me April 26 as the official release date for Warrior Rogue, #2 in my paranormal Drift Lords series. But then they decided to enter it into the Kindle Select program, meaning the ebook came out in December and my five free days were in February. I did a big push over Valentine’s Day weekend with announcements and contests.

I’d planned another promotional campaign for April 26 to celebrate the print release and the book’s availability for Nook and other formats. I set my newsletter to go out on that date, a Rafflecopter contest to start then, and a blog tour shortly thereafter. (If you want to sign up for my newsletter, visit http://nancyjcohen.com and fill in the form on the left sidebar).

But the best laid plans go awry. Two things happened to impact my campaign. Warrior Rogue showed up in print about two weeks early. And Shear Murder, Bad Hair Day Mystery #10, came out in ebook for $3.19!

I’d been panting with anticipation for the digital release of Shear Murder, but Five Star wouldn’t give me a specific date. This title had only been available as an expensive hardcover for over a year. And finally it shows up in the same month as my promoted new release. What to do?

Since I’d already set up my contest and newsletter and blog tour for Warrior Rogue, I’m going ahead with those plans for April 26. That date seems like a moot point now, since the title is already available in various formats. The irony is that Warrior Rogue, initially $2.99, price jumped to $5.99. So now that ebook costs more than Shear Murder at $3.19.

I don’t want to bombard my fans with notices and confuse them with my two different genres, but I really want to get word out about Shear Murder. It’s easier to keep new releases apart when they aren’t the same month!

And hereafter, I won’t treat release dates as absolute. There’s no point in planning a big hoopla around a certain date when the book shows up weeks earlier. Is this a result of the digital age?

Those of you who are hybrid authors, both traditionally and indie published, can at least space out your own uploads so as not to compete with your publisher’s plans. But if you’re writing two or more books per year for different publishers, how do you alternate your online promotions? And as a reader, how much news from an author is too much?

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The Fine Art of Tooting Your Own Horn, and a Word About Covers

James Scott Bell



Here at TKZ we sometimes joke about “shameless self-promotion.” We greatly appreciate the good rapport we have with our readers, and you all know we are not here just to plug our stuff. But you also understand that we’re working writers who blog, in part, so we can tell you about our new releases when they occur. 
Every writer has to do it. Publishers and agents demand it. If you’re self-publishing, you can’t survive without some form of social media and self-promotion.
Yet many authors feel uncomfortable tooting their own horns. Let me assuage that discomfort. 
Self-promotion need not be “shameless,” and indeed can be a benefit to all, if you remember one simple thing: the Law of Reciprocity. This law holds that when you offer something of value to another, they are much more likely to give something in return.
In social media, for example, the Law of Reciprocity is golden. Many an author makes the mistake of thinking social media is about marketing. In reality it’s about relationships. You build those slowly, through actual engagement, and not  by stringing together a bunch of posts that are little more than “buy my stuff” pleadings.
For a couple of years I’ve monitored some authors on Twitter who make a fundamental mistake. Thinking it’s just a “numbers game,” they hit the Twitterverse with thinly veiled sales pitches, over and over and over. Is that value?
Sometimes I see virtual begging. “Please RT this! Please!” But why would I do that if I don’t see any value in it? Why would I want to send that along to my own network?
I note that these methods have not helped their sales. (The books themselves probably have something to do with it, but I’ve not been interested enough to read one.)
On the other hand, some authors (Joseph Finder comes to mind) do it right, giving us interaction, interesting links, a laugh or two and so on. When he announces a new release, he’s earned trust. I’m happy to hear about it.
So think reciprocity. Give, and you will receive. Don’t just toot your own horn, make some music with it.
I’ll have multiple releases this year—traditional, self-published, short form. What I’d like to do here is turn those into occasions to offer something to writers. I’ll focus in on an aspect of the craft that went into the work, or maybe a bit of backstory about how a particular story sprang to life. Whatever seems apt.
Today, announcing the release of Book #2 in my Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series (written as K. Bennett), I’d like to talk about covers. Take a look at this honey for The Year of Eating Dangerously:

Now that is one beautiful cover. This is what a traditional publishing house like Kensington has going for it—hugely talented designers who do this for a living. The tagline: More Demons, Less Filling, is also brilliant. A designer and a copywriter worked in tandem to produce this stunner.
It does what a cover should do: it feels like a visual representation of the tone of the book. That is not an easy thing to accomplish. And here I must say a word to all you self-publishers:
Do not skimp on your cover art! Spend money and hire someone who knows what they’re doing. In this digital age there is an expanding number of people who can design you a nice cover. Find them. Get recommendations. Look at their portfolios. Get a quote from them. And then do the following:
1. Give them an idea of how you want the cover to look. You do this by going on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and looking for covers in your genre. You collect a number of these that resonate with you and put them into a PDF to send them to your designer.
2. Provide the cover artist with a short squib about your book. Most of the time this should be the book description that you’ve written, just like a copywriter (another fine art I’ll talk about sometime).
3. Ask for a deal that includes at least a revision and a polish. You use the revision to clear up any misconceptions or things you don’t like. The polish is the fine tuning aspect. Try to negotiate this as part of the fee.
4. How much should you pay? There are artists all over the map, but generally between $200 – $400. I know about one poor fellow who spent $2,000 on a cover, which did not look worth it at all. Be very careful about assessing the worth of your artist.
5. If you have several books being readied, ask the cover designer for a package deal and a discount.
Now, there are some of you out there who have design talent, and know how to use photo and illustrator programs, who might want to Do-it-Yourself. If so, let me encourage you to put your cover through as rigorous a design process as you put your book through a revision process. Get feedback from people. Do two or three designs of your cover and have people select which one they like best.
Also: be sure your book cover has the dimensions of a physical book. It shouldn’t look square and squat like this:

And can you see another major mistake? Your cover should not have the word “by” in front of your name.
Instead, your cover should look like this:

So there you have it. Toot your own horn and add value doing so, and you’ll never be an unwelcome guest.

As for covers, if you’re traditionally published, how have you liked yours? How much input did your publisher give you?
If you’re self-published, what have you done to get good covers for your books? What did it cost you?

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The Fine Art of Tooting Your Own Horn, and a Word About Covers

James Scott Bell



Here at TKZ we sometimes joke about “shameless self-promotion.” We greatly appreciate the good rapport we have with our readers, and you all know we are not here just to plug our stuff. But you also understand that we’re working writers who blog, in part, so we can tell you about our new releases when they occur. 
Every writer has to do it. Publishers and agents demand it. If you’re self-publishing, you can’t survive without some form of social media and self-promotion.
Yet many authors feel uncomfortable tooting their own horns. Let me assuage that discomfort. 
Self-promotion need not be “shameless,” and indeed can be a benefit to all, if you remember one simple thing: the Law of Reciprocity. This law holds that when you offer something of value to another, they are much more likely to give something in return.
In social media, for example, the Law of Reciprocity is golden. Many an author makes the mistake of thinking social media is about marketing. In reality it’s about relationships. You build those slowly, through actual engagement, and not  by stringing together a bunch of posts that are little more than “buy my stuff” pleadings.
For a couple of years I’ve monitored some authors on Twitter who make a fundamental mistake. Thinking it’s just a “numbers game,” they hit the Twitterverse with thinly veiled sales pitches, over and over and over. Is that value?
Sometimes I see virtual begging. “Please RT this! Please!” But why would I do that if I don’t see any value in it? Why would I want to send that along to my own network?
I note that these methods have not helped their sales. (The books themselves probably have something to do with it, but I’ve not been interested enough to read one.)
On the other hand, some authors (Joseph Finder comes to mind) do it right, giving us interaction, interesting links, a laugh or two and so on. When he announces a new release, he’s earned trust. I’m happy to hear about it.
So think reciprocity. Give, and you will receive. Don’t just toot your own horn, make some music with it.
I’ll have multiple releases this year—traditional, self-published, short form. What I’d like to do here is turn those into occasions to offer something to writers. I’ll focus in on an aspect of the craft that went into the work, or maybe a bit of backstory about how a particular story sprang to life. Whatever seems apt.
Today, announcing the release of Book #2 in my Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series (written as K. Bennett), I’d like to talk about covers. Take a look at this honey for The Year of Eating Dangerously:

Now that is one beautiful cover. This is what a traditional publishing house like Kensington has going for it—hugely talented designers who do this for a living. The tagline: More Demons, Less Filling, is also brilliant. A designer and a copywriter worked in tandem to produce this stunner.
It does what a cover should do: it feels like a visual representation of the tone of the book. That is not an easy thing to accomplish. And here I must say a word to all you self-publishers:
Do not skimp on your cover art! Spend money and hire someone who knows what they’re doing. In this digital age there is an expanding number of people who can design you a nice cover. Find them. Get recommendations. Look at their portfolios. Get a quote from them. And then do the following:
1. Give them an idea of how you want the cover to look. You do this by going on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and looking for covers in your genre. You collect a number of these that resonate with you and put them into a PDF to send them to your designer.
2. Provide the cover artist with a short squib about your book. Most of the time this should be the book description that you’ve written, just like a copywriter (another fine art I’ll talk about sometime).
3. Ask for a deal that includes at least a revision and a polish. You use the revision to clear up any misconceptions or things you don’t like. The polish is the fine tuning aspect. Try to negotiate this as part of the fee.
4. How much should you pay? There are artists all over the map, but generally between $200 – $400. I know about one poor fellow who spent $2,000 on a cover, which did not look worth it at all. Be very careful about assessing the worth of your artist.
5. If you have several books being readied, ask the cover designer for a package deal and a discount.
Now, there are some of you out there who have design talent, and know how to use photo and illustrator programs, who might want to Do-it-Yourself. If so, let me encourage you to put your cover through as rigorous a design process as you put your book through a revision process. Get feedback from people. Do two or three designs of your cover and have people select which one they like best.
Also: be sure your book cover has the dimensions of a physical book. It shouldn’t look square and squat like this:

And can you see another major mistake? Your cover should not have the word “by” in front of your name.
Instead, your cover should look like this:

So there you have it. Toot your own horn and add value doing so, and you’ll never be an unwelcome guest.

As for covers, if you’re traditionally published, how have you liked yours? How much input did your publisher give you?
If you’re self-published, what have you done to get good covers for your books? What did it cost you?

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