Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why Marketing is Like Spaghetti

marketing, marketing for authors

In the first post of my new Marketing for Authors series, I thought I'd go back to basics. What the heck is marketing and why do so many authors feel lost and overwhelmed when faced with marketing tasks? How better to answer those questions than an with an analogy using food! (What? I haven't eaten yet! I'm hungry!)

1-Marketing is hard.

If you are fancy and get your pasta fresh, then this step may not apply to you. For the rest of us, who get their pasta from a box, this will make perfect sense. When you are getting ready to start making your spaghetti dinner, you get the pasta out of the box. And the noodles are hard, right?

When you're getting started in marketing, it's hard too. There are a lot of variables and a lot of decisions that need to be made. You have to have put thought into who your audience is, what your brand is, and how best to position yourself among the competition. Basically, your marketing strategy hasn't been cooked yet, and who wants to eat a raw noodle? Click to Tweet

2-Marketing takes time.

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Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could simply wiggle our noses and have our spaghetti dinner magically appear on the dinner table? If only it were that easy! Marketing takes time to "cook" and you get out of it what you put into it. Now, if you're like me and not only does your pasta come from a box but your sauce comes from a jar, the cooking process will be faster. But wouldn't you agree that a homemade pot of sauce that has simmered all day is so much better than anything you can get from a jar at the grocery store?

One of the biggest hurdles I face as an author is making sure I balance my time between writing and marketing. Bottom line is that if I don't write a fantastic book, no matter how much I market it, I'm not going to succeed. But if I do write a fantastic book, and no one knows about it, I'm not going to find a level of success either. Sure, there are those occasional books that take off (we tend to call them "lightning strike" books), but those books are rare and no one can really say what happened to make them such an instant hit. (Oh, would my job be so much easier if someone could!) Think about it this way: it took time to write the book, to go through edits and formatting. Shouldn't it take time to market the book as well?

3-Marketing needs a recipe.

Whether you're following the directions from the box and jar, or pulling out grandma's super secret passed down through the generations sauce recipe, you'll have certain steps that you follow to make your spaghetti turn out the way you want it to. Marketing takes a recipe, too, and the way you make it work for you will not be the same as any other author out there. Yeah, some of the ingredients are the same-- in order to make spaghetti, you have to have the noodles, right?-- but how they come together is as unique as you are.

Take some time to create a recipe that works for you. Add the ingredients you need, and cut the ones you don't. Remember that you don't have to be everywhere (and that includes all those social media platforms you have accounts for and never update). Sometimes the simplest sauce is the one with the fewest ingredients, and sometimes the most successful marketing efforts are the ones that are simple and well thought out.

Back to my opening question, why is marketing such a challenge for authors? Because we haven't taken the time to learn exactly what marketing is and how it can work for us and our books. We haven't created our own secret recipe--even if that recipe involves reading the back of the jar for instructions. Determine what level of marketing "chef"  you are, and create your marketing plan accordingly. You don't have to be an expert, but you need to know the basics before you dive in and create something inedible.

So authors, what do you think is the hardest part of marketing? Leave a comment below and let me know what topics you'd like to see me cover in this series. I'd be happy to help you create your own recipe for fantastic spaghetti, er, I mean, marketing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Update and a New Beginning

This post comes a little late, but there are reasons. I promise! I wanted to give an update on what's been up with me and make a new commitment to my blog. I'm thinking a post like this is a great place to start.

First, let's go back a bit to 2011, when I wrote Mind Magic and suddenly things began to change. I never thought for a million years that it would be published. No really. I never dreamed it. But I was encouraged by a fantastic group of friends to give it a go, and submitted the book to Dreamspinner Press in August of 2011. I got my first contract at the very first GRL retreat in New Orleans that October. I cried like a big old baby. Sobbed. No kidding. It was a life changing moment, and I knew it.

From then on, writing became even more of a passion. I've always loved to write, but now I found a focus for that passion. An energy that I didn't know I possessed. I whipped out a few books using the fuel of the excitement over Mind Magic and the Triad series came to life.

And I kept writing. And learning. And loving every minute of it. Until early 2014, that is. Then I hit a road block. I found that I'd run out of steam, that the passion and excitement had started to disappear and it broke my heart. I tried to force myself to write, but just couldn't.

The passion was still there, however, it just transformed into a different one. I became passionate about helping authors understand the ideas behind branding and marketing. I had a degree in it, after all, so it seemed natural to me to help fellow authors out behind the scenes. I'd been helping all along, actually, but the passion really began to shift for me.

I decided to take some time off from writing. I didn't make a public announcement or anything, I just...stopped. I needed a breather, and in a series of very fortunate events, my breather happened to coincide with Dreamspinner deciding to add a new member to their marketing and social media teams. It was the opportunity I'd been waiting for, and I didn't even realize it. Suddenly, everything started coming into focus again.

I've been working for Dreamspinner for a while now, and I can't tell you how happy I am. Funnily enough, my self-imposed writing breather came to an end as well. I told myself I was going to take off until the beginning of 2015 to regroup. In January of 2015, I sat down and wrote the first book in a new series that began burning a hole in my brain during my sabbatical. Books two and three are also partially written.

The first book of the Holly Creek series, Dogwood Days, was just contracted for a September, 2015 release date.  In early March, I attended the Dreamspinner Author Workshop and made my first "public appearance" as Dreamspinner's new Marketing Director. Both the new series and the new job have brought me back to where I wanted to be.

I realized something, however. I wasn't practicing what I preached as far as author marketing was concerned. I listened and I advised, but I wasn't doing what I needed to do either. How could I ask our authors to do things when I wasn't doing them myself? I couldn't, and I can't.

So here I am, laying it all out in front of you and telling you that I am new and improved. It's been a rough road in some ways, but mostly, it's been a dream come true. If you'd told me in 2011 when I hit submit on that first book that I'd be here today making this post, having this job, and this many books under my belt, I'd have laughed at you. But I did it. And I'm so dang happy.

For readers, I'm promising to be around more. You're going to get to see the silly side of me that you've seen in my books. You'll see even more of me in Dogwood Days, as it's based on a small Southern town very much like the one I grew up in.

For my author friends, you'll be seeing me practice what I preach on marketing. I'm hoping to give you all some tips and tricks on this blog as well. Why not, right?

So thank you for reading this post! I know it was a long one, but it had been a while and I had a lot to report. I can't wait for you guys to see what I'm cooking up for you!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's M/M Writer's Buffet: Pack Worthy Broccoli Salad

When you're planning a buffet, you have to keep in mind those meat eaters of the bunch, even when you're in charge of salad. So how do you get your favorite alpha to eat his veggies? Why not put some bacon in it!

My favorite recipe for Broccoli Salad has a bowl full of goodness, including bacon and cheddar cheese! Best part is, you can make it in advance. It only gets better the longer the sauce soaks into all those bits of broccoli!

Image from: Boy Meets Bowl

You can make it even easier by getting one of those little bags of prepared bacon (not the crunchy bacon bits, but the pieces). Gotta be honest though, my crew prefers when I make the bacon myself. Of course they do.

Now doesn't this just look yummy?

Give this recipe a try and let me know what your pack thinks!

And if your pack is more of the non-meat eating variety, try out this take on the recipe with cranberries and sunflower seeds! Another hit for my crew!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the rest of the recipes for the New Year's Progressive Buffet! Leave a comment at each site, and you'll be entered to win one of three $35 gift cards to the venue of your choice. (Check out the linked post above for full rules!)

Everyone who comments here and leaves their email will be entered to win a free ebook of their choice from my backlist! Winner will be chosen on January 6, 2015 Good luck!

Now there's a buffet I'd like to take part in!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Now Available: Accidental Alpha

Woo hoo! It's release day for my newest paranormal novella, Accidental Alpha! You can find it over on Wilde City Press HERE

A quiet life. A break from the dangers of being a cop. Yep, Lex Tompkins has his future all worked out. That is, until fate—or rather the stray toddler from the house across the street—bites those plans in the ass. Well, technically Lex’s neck. Suddenly, he’s transformed into the Alpha of the secret werewolf clan hiding in the perfect, out of the way neighborhood of Lex’s dreams.
Now Lex is the unlikely leader of a dysfunctional pack… except for Spencer Robinson, the one shifter Lex can’t seem to keep his paws off. Will Spencer be able to teach Lex how to embrace who he has truly become?
Because accidents happen…
…but fate marks its own territory.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Suit Up Sunday: Charlie Harding

So this Suit Up Sunday post comes with a very special guest. I know, I know, all the handsome suited guys on here are special, but this one....well, you'll see. :)

So just to keep things official-like, here's the oh-so handsome Charlie Harding in a suit.

Isn't he drool-worthy? *wibble*

As Charlie himself told me recently on Twitter, "They don't call me DADDY for nothing."

Oh Daddy. *ahem*

So not only is he really great in a suit, he's really really great out of one.

And look at that ink! He has even more now, but this is a great pic of him so...yeah.

Just look. And enjoy.

Uh-huh. Where was I?

Oh right, why this is a special Suit Up Sunday post.

Because I have an absolute favorite picture of Charlie.


I am a lucky, lucky gal.

Charlie was kind enough to agree to be on the cover of my first Wilde City Press book "Accidental Alpha" which is coming September 11, 2013!

I think it's the best picture yet. :)

Here's the blurb:
A quiet life. A break from the dangers of being a cop. Yep, Lex Tompkins has his future all worked out. That is, until fate—or rather the stray toddler from the house across the street—bites those plans in the ass. Well, technically Lex’s neck. Suddenly, he’s transformed into the Alpha of the secret werewolf clan hiding in the perfect, out of the way neighborhood of Lex’s dreams.
Now Lex is the unlikely leader of a dysfunctional pack… except for Spencer Robinson, the one shifter Lex can’t seem to keep his paws off. Will Spencer be able to teach Lex how to embrace who he has truly become?
Because accidents happen…
…but fate marks its own territory.

You can find more info here at Wilde City Press.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Suit Up Sunday: Ben Affleck

Oh how the internet blew up at the news that Ben Affleck was cast as the next Batman. I didn't really blow up. I mean, I think Ben's a good-looking and talented guy. Okay, so Daredevil wasn't my favorite...but I can't think of many actors who haven't had a miss.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to spotlight Ben as part of my Suit Up Sunday posts, because I've gotta tell you, the man can rock a suit.

Now, I'd like to go back a year or two and say that I think Ben's performance in Pearl Harbor was awesome. I really love that movie. Plus, he got to rock the uniform.

Oh I love a jaunty set of a hat!

Okay, but back to suits. Now, in order to be Batman, Ben also has to be...Bruce Wayne. You with me on this one? So yeah, Bruce wears suits. And tuxes. A lot. See comics evidence:
See what I mean? Suits. Tuxes. Bruce Wayne. Billionaire. He's gotta be able to rock the suit.

I'd just like to toss out there that Ben can rock a suit.


That's my official opinion on the subject.

Um, he also rocks no suit...but that's a post for another day...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poppy's Pick: Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

This month’s Poppy’s Pick is the amazing Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford.  If you’ve been searching for a gritty Urban Fantasy with detailed world building and well-developed characters, look no further! Notice that this book is labeled as an Urban Fantasy, and not a Paranormal Romance. The difference is distinct, especially in this case. Rhys has created a world where the romance comes a distant second to the breathtaking plot.

In order to get more info on this incredible read, I sweet talked none other than the author herself, Rhys Ford into dropping by and answering a few questions!

Welcome Rhys!

First off, I’d like to talk to you about your main character Kai Gracen. Kai is one of the most deeply flawed characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s a true anti-hero, the “bad” guy with a heart of gold. And Kai has more secrets than a teenage girl’s diary! Can you tell us a little about how Kai came to be, and how his character shaped the story?

First off back—Thank you for having me here! Smooches!

Ah, Kai. I love writing Kai. He’s a bit younger than the rest of my characters but he is a bit of an anti-hero. I wanted different in urban fantasy. Something rooted a bit in an alternative universe with the Gaelic mythos of sidhe but with a dash of sci-fi and magic. Kai’s a special kitten. Growly. God he’s growly but at the same time, will do the right thing. Sorta.

I wanted to write someone who was mercenary. Because really, Kai IS that. Yes, he’s broken but he’s kind of quiet about his fears. He doesn’t admit them to other people and I needed to write it in first person so the reader knew them. He does have secrets. And secrets have been withheld from him. So all in all, it’ll be a good ride.

He is unapologetically bisexual. That was important but doesn’t define him. He has a good heart but kinda rough in manners. Very visceral character. In a lot of ways, his personality matches the world.

I mentioned in my intro that this story is labeled as an Urban Fantasy. Did you begin the novel with that category distinction in mind, or did it develop more organically as the story progressed?

Oh yes, when I sat down to write Kai, I KNEW it was going to be urban fantasy. It is structured that way and really, a hell of a lot of fun to write in that genre. Different rules but still, great fun.

I’m curious as to how much of the world-building is “real” and how much is from your mind. By that, I mean how much of the world and characters you created are based on actual Fae legends and how much did you create out of your own imagination? (What I really want to know is do those creepy sauce Black Dogs exist in myth? *shivers*)

The black dogs were kind of based on the Wild Hunt. I mingled and mix some of the Gaelic world into the “normal” world. I need logic-based creations, even in magic. It has to make sense. There just can’t be MAGIC. So, the world building took a bit. Nothing could be too crazy and Kai’s not suddenly going to get power-ups. Chances are, he’s going to remain wholly unmagical because his very existence is unnatural.

As the series goes on, we’ll see more Gaelic/Celtic creatures as well as Earth-based mutations and manifestations.

Early in the story, we meet the character of Dempsey who won Kai in a poker game and subsequently raised him to be a Stalker (a monster hunter).  Dempsey sent cold chills down my spine. Can you tell us a little more about his character and the role he plays in the story?

Ah, Dempsey. He’s a cold son of a bitch. He really is the foundation of Kai’s upbringing. Dempsey is NOT a nice person. Very selfish and callous. For whatever reason, he took Kai in and well, now Kai’s the product of that upbringing.

Signs of Dempsey are definitely in Kai’s personality although his base nature is more generous. Dempsey’s role hasn’t been explored yet. *grins*

In this world, the Fae and human worlds have collided in a violent Merge where monsters and creatures of legend walk the Earth. It’s a dark and bloody place! So what came first: Kai or the idea for a merged world?

Wow. Hard question. I think Kai first then the WHY of Kai. I knew it was going to be a merge of some sort. The idea sprang from that.

In a lot of ways, Kai embodies the world itself. A mélange of characteristics and ethnicities. A bit violent. A bit bloody. With a spot of beauty when you least expect it.

I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the rest of the supporting cast. Kai certainly has a colorful group of contacts in this world. In particular, Ryder, the sidhe lord who hires Kai for what may be his most difficult hunt ever.  Ryder seems to have quite a few secrets of his own. What secrets can you tell us about Ryder and his role in the story?

Ryder really comes from a very political world. Now the Sidhe are very physical with one another—hell look at his cousin. Kai is very NO DO NOT TOUCH ME! So the reader’s perception of Ryder really coloured by Kai’s experiences. He distrusts the casual affection. That’s not a part of who he is. And he’s not really been exposed to the REAL sidhe or unsidhe cultures so he doesn’t really know who his people really are.

Of course so far of the people he’s met, he’s not all that impressed. *laughs*

Okay, I’ll stop there before I give away all the secrets of Black Dog Blues. How about I get a few on you instead? *g*

Why don't we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Shit, I dunno. I’m just me. Um… I was born and raised in Hawai’i. I come from a multi-cultural background and I roamed a lot. I am insatiably curious. INSATIABLY. Really. I love watching the oddest history or science shows. Murder shows are great. I like the inane. I read everything. I cook. Um… hell, I have no idea. I just like exploring the world and people in it.

If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?

Sleeping dogs, a fat black and white cat, coffee cup and music. LOTS of music. I tend to write in the morning. In my living room. The house is usually quiet unless my fool broken cairn is having a spaz day. Art. I have a LOT of art on the wall.

How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?

My sense of humour is off. Just a step from something. I’m a geek or nerd. Geek really I suppose but without all that chicken head biting thing. A lot of things make me laugh. From Castiel being confused to farting dinosaurs. Really. Sometimes it’s like having a five year old in my head.

I FULLY intend to watch Ghost Shark in a bit.

Of course I thought Angel Heart was hilarious. So, you can deduct what you like from that.

When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?

Damn. I read… everything. It depends on my mood. I also don’t read M/M if I’m in the middle of a book I’m writing. No influences. Mysteries, historical romances, urban fantasy. Sci-Fi is good if it’s character driven. Hell.

Authors? Dude, I’m going to get into so much trouble there. I’m going to start with Josh Lanyon and spew out. Really. Mary Calmes does her thing brilliantly. I love Amy’s happy books. Clear Water. Love that book. Heh. Your Magic series rocks. Jacob Flores is brilliant. Charlie Cochrane, Rowan Speedwell’s Kindred Hearts—LOVE. My brain! Britta Adams. Seriously, so much trouble. Piper Vaughn’s got some kick ass stuff. SE Jakes, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles.

John Preston. Lynn Flewelling, Gael Baudino, Karin Lowachee (GOD YES), Lynn Abbey’s Dancers of Arun. Jennifer Estep. Jeri Smith-Ready. Nancy Walker.

Fucking hell, just hit up my Facebook friends list. I stalk everyone good :D I STALKER GOOD!

I’m like leaving off three-quarters of the people I’d want to include.

Really, people do their things right. I read for THAT particular thing.

Do you have an all-time favorite fictional character?

OOOOOOsh. Um, the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Also Bill the lizard from the same series.

Gaet from Courtship Rite.

Flinx and Pip.

Han Solo. Nom. Really. Han Solo. *nods*

Captain Mal Reynolds.

Dean Winchester

Who are your latest crushes (celebrity, book character, or otherwise)? Do you ever keep those people in your mind when writing your own works?

Crushes? Young Harrison Ford. Um… Kim Jaejoong? Shit, Too many. Thor! Love that character in the movies. Namor! In the comics. Elric. Love Elric. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Captain Jack!

I don’t really keep them in mind per se. I think I like certain bits of archetypes and try to keep those in mind. Love the bad boys. :D

What are your favorite TV shows?

Ooooooh, hard one too. Supernatural. Justified. Anything with bloody investigation forensics. Cooking shows. Firefly. Perception. Sherlock! Nom Yes. Hannibal. City Hunter. Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Coffee Prince. Faith.

 I can’t wait for The Heirs with Lee Min Ho.

What is your favorite meal?

Dude. Really? Hell… 梅菜扣肉. I could eat that all day. It’s um…. Braised pork belly with preserved vegetables. Beef chow fun dry style. Lau-lau and rice. Carne Asada fries. Kal-bi. Purple rice. Spam musubi. All depends on my mood. :D Shoyu egg! Miso ramen!

Thank you for having me along. I hope I answered everything you wanted. And really, so much love for this opportunity. We have to exchange spots! And we shall! Wooooot! Can’t wait to read Wild Magic.

Thanks, love!

You're welcome! Can't wait for our spot exchange. LOL

More about Rhys:
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a black Pomeranian puffball, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist.

Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.

But mostly to the coffee maker.

You can find Rhys on her website and Black Dog Blues is available from Amazon HERE