I didn’t start my writing career with the thought, “Hey, you know what would be fun? Trying to establish myself as a known author under two different pen names!” No, no. It was not what I’d call strategic. I began publishing erotic romance under the name Phoebe Alexander, and struggled to keep those in my professional circles as well as those related to me from knowing that I had a “wild” side which qualified me to write about sexual adventures. Alas, I failed miserably at keeping it on the down low, but that’s another story for another blog.
Shortly after publishing my first two novels as Phoebe, I had the idea for something…vanilla, is what we would call it in the erotic world. The story wasn’t predicated on sex, but rather on the themes of friendship and reconciliation. Green Castles, and my subsequent work Fat Girl, are both what I would term women’s fiction. I was excited to create a story I can claim with my own name, so that when asked “What do you write?” I can answer without feeling sheepish. I chose to use my maiden name, “K.L. Montgomery,” to pay homage to one of my favorite writers, L.M. Montgomery (oh how I hope, although rather doubt, that we are related.)
So, three years later, I feel like I have the proverbial demon and angel sitting on my shoulders, each cheering me on toward writing and promoting their respective author personas, and perhaps squabbling over who gets more of my attention. I have two Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts, two Instagrams, and two blogs. It’s like being the mother of twins, endeavoring to treat each child equally while taking great care to recognize and celebrate their individual personalities and strengths.
With seven novels under my belt, I feel like I should be gaining some sort of notoriety, but the audience-building is slow. I have published five novels under Phoebe Alexander and two under K.L. Montgomery. (I’m not going to lie – the erotic romance tales come a little easier to me.) All things considered, it’s twice as much work and will likely take me twice as long to build my fan base than someone devoting all their attention to one body of work. But I believe it’s worth the extra work.
I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one genre, and I want to build a separate brand for each author name. Although I promote body positivity in all my books, I also advocate for ethical nonmonogamy and sex positivity through the Phoebe Alexander work, while I explore issues that women face such as divorce, dating, motherhood, friendship, family dysfunction, and matters of faith and religion in my K.L. Montgomery work. I have never regretted choosing to keep them separate.
So my advice to authors who want to write in more than one genre is not to be afraid to build two platforms. Work on making each pen name distinct, yet cross-promote when it makes sense (for new releases and sales.) It’s always helpful if you can tie your author brand to a current issue that you’re passionate about; for me, that’s body positivity and the other themes I mentioned above. This gives you leverage to connect with readers who share your passions. Develop social media platforms for both pseudonyms. Follow genre-specific blogs and social media accounts related to both of your pen names. Network with other authors who write in the genres you write.
Yes, it is going to be frustrating and confusing at times. But for me, it’s worth it not to alienate some readers who don’t want to see graphic sex scenes, and not to leave those who do still hungry after reading my women’s fiction. I have found a system that works for me, and I did that despite having three other “careers” besides writing, not to mention being a wife and mother. If I can do it, anyone can. It just takes extra doses of organization, patience, and tenacity – just like being the parent of twins!
Want to know more about writing in more than one genre? Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Find K.L. Montgomery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you are looking for Women’s Fiction.
Find Phoebe Alexander on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you are looking for steamy erotic romance!
And Check out Mountains Wanted Publishing on their Facebook Page.
The more you do it, the easier writing gets, but this question never seems to get any less difficult. Your answer, though, can actually tell a lot about your writing—and I don’t just mean what you say your plot is. In this post I’m going to give you some pointers on how to answer this question concisely and leave your audience wanting to know more
- First Things First
A good friend of mine recounted something his writing mentor said years ago about describing a book’s plot and it’s really stuck with me.
“For most fantasy or science-fiction novels, a person described in the novel to you would probably start by saying well, there is this magical sword on top of this mountain and it’s guarded by a dragon, or by saying well there is this race of aliens that invade Earth. However, I know that the book is going to be great if a person begins describing a fantasy or science-fiction novel by saying something like, well it’s about this woman, and when you first meet her, she seems sad, but you don’t know why. If that is how your story resonates, everything else will be good.”
Think back on how you’ve described your book in the past and whether you began with the character, versus the setting. There are a few reasons for describing a book setting- or object-first. One, you might not think your character is cool enough to get readers interested(see 2.). Two, you might have written setting-first, rather than character first. If is the case (and beta readers can tell you that) then you might want to go back to the revising board, because characters are a huge part of what hooks a reader, and they have to care about yours to read the book.
Look at the taglines on books that are doing well, and spend some time describing your favorite scenes in a single sentence. Practice describing your book in a few different ways. A beta-reader or critique partner is great help with this. Ask them to describe your book in a few sentences and see what resonates with them as readers.
- Confidence Is Everything
Our books are close to our hearts and describing them to people whose opinions we value can be very nerve-wracking. It’s important to deliver a synopsis, blurb, or pitch with confidence when you enter the publishing world. After all, if an author doesn’t think their book is worth reading, why would the readers? Again, practice is key here. If you don’t feel ready or confident, ask yourself why? Maybe your book isn’t ready for it’s debut yet, and still has a lot of revising to go through. If you’re still working on it don’t be afraid to say that there are some kinks to work out. This also brings up putting your best foot forward. Make sure your book is edited, revised, and polished before you start marketing—knowing you’ve put out the best product possible will do a lot for your confidence.
There can definitely be too much of a good thing, however. Be excited, confident, and proud of your work, but don’t brag, try to raise your work up by putting another’s down, or claim it’s the best thing since _______. It’s probably not true and someone will disagree with you.
- Short And Sweet
I’ll write more about pitching, blurbing, and synopses (and the difference between the three) another time, but I’ll give you a quick run down now. A verbal description should be short. If your audience wants more than a few sentences, then they should read the book, right? Depending on the conversation I go by a one-liner or a three C’s rule when talking about my work in passing to family, friends, and co-workers: Character, conflict, comparison. A genre lead-in can help too. Here are examples for my two main series.Nel Bently Books
One-liner: I’m working on a lite sci-fi series right now, bascially lesbian archaeologists in outer space.
Three C’s: Archaeologist Nel is finally running her own site in Chile when her work ends up being at the center of a 13,000 year old web of conspiracies and alien war. It’s lesbian Lara Croft meets the X-files.
One-liner: Smoke and Rain is an epic fantasy about a woman caught in the crossfire between the gods and the creatures that created them.
Three C’s: Alea is caught in the crossfire between the gods and the creatures that created them. War broke her, death reforged her, but the shape she takes could be a hero, or a monster. It’s The Book of Ash meets Crown Duel.
A description should give your readers a taste of your MCs, the danger or challenge, and a quick reference to help your reader know what to expect from the characters plot, world-building, or style. Have one or two go-to descriptions that you can rattle off with confidence.
- 20/80 Rule: Do not promote yourself or your products (books) more than 20% of the time. The other 80% should be the quality post (see rule 3). The reason for this is you will quickly lose followers. Even if they don’t actively unlike your page on Facebook they might unfollow your posts which is even worse for you. You might think you are posting to your 250 fans but really all but your mom have unfollowed you. On Twitter they will unfollow you all together. Not the best marketing plan. People don’t like spam. They followed you for a reason, keep them happy and they will enjoy even your promotional posts.
- Engagement: talk to your fans not the trolls: Make sure you engage as many fans as possible. If people take the time to comment on your post, comment back. Trolls are a sad reality. Hopefully you will never have them directly attack you but if they do. DO NOT engage them back. Remember when your little/big brother would torture you and your mom would tell you to ignore him? He was only trying to get a rise out of you? Same deal applies. That being said, if you EVER feel unsafe or someone makes threats to harm you, contact the police if possible and tell your community.
- Post Quality Content Regularly: That 80% needs to be quality content. On Amphibian Press’s accounts we share info authors might like. Writing and marketing advice are the bulk of our posts. On my author page, I share books I’m reading, books I enjoyed, and other entertainment related content. TV shows and movies are fair game–my goal is to entertain. It’s even better if most of your posts are related to your genre or field and your life as an author.
At the end of the day your social media presence can make your business soar. Make sure to follow these three rules and your platform will grow. More on how to use specific social media platforms to come in future posts.
This might be hard to hear, but there is a massive surplus of books. While Amazon doesn’t share their numbers, an estimated, 1 million indie books were published last year on Amazon alone. AND that’s not counting the traditionally published books or the books published prior to 2015. That’s a lot of competition. Also, Amazon may have recently added a way for customers report books of poor quality, but that was not always the case. There are years’ worth of bad, unedited, unfinished books on Amazon as well as other eBook sites (iBooks, Barns&Noble, Smashwords and Kobo, just to name a few). This has made some readers bitter. Nothing compares to the sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize you spent money on something the author never bothered to revise, never mind edit.
So as a new or unknown author how are you supposed to get those readers to take a chance on your book? You drop the price so it’s not such a risk, that’s how. I understand not wanting to give away your first book. It took a lot of hard work to get it where it is. But the value of your first book isn’t in its own sales. The value of your first book is in introducing readers your style and voice and getting them come back for the second, third, and fourth books. If you want sales, then make your first book free or 99c.
What if you only have one or two books? Well, then you have a choice. Make your first book free or 99c to get it into more peoples hands or you can make it $2.99 to $3.99 until you can release more books for a larger back log. That being said. As a reader, I would never spend $3.99 on an author I hadn’t read before. On very special occasions I will spend $2.99 on a new author. But those situations are rare. Personally, I wouldn’t price the first book in a series above $2.99. When pricing you also need to consider the length of your book. While a reader might consider purchasing a 350 page book for $3.99, they will be far less likely to buy a 200 page novella for the same price.
With proper pricing and marketing, you will start getting downloads. The reviews will start to come in. With reviews and sales, your visibility will grow and before you know it, you will be finding success you have only dreamed of. Once you are well known and have an email list, you can experiment a bit more with your pricing and see what fits your production and your readers best.
**Side Note** If iBooks is one of your larger retailers, higher priced books do tend to better on there.
Being in an anthology or boxset is great way to gain readers and exposure, as long you stick to the genre. You don’t want to add your epic fantasy to a romance anthology. Hopefully, that would never even be an option, but I have seen stranger things in this new publishing world.
Here are the three main benefits to having a story in an anthology.
- Exposure: If you are in a box set with a more popular author, you will be very likely to gain readership from that one publication. And with new readers come new sales. As long as you retain the rights to your stories and characters, you can use anthologies as tiny little promotional tools to show readers your voice and the world you created. You might also discover a new world and character that spawns full-length fiction down the road.
- It’s easier: If you are not the one putting it together, all you have to do is make sure your piece is polished and will leave the best impression with readers. The cover, formatting and distribution will be left to the people who are creating it.
- You get experience and can even make friends: If you are submitting your piece and not communicating a whole lot with the other authors, you might not get this benefit. You can always look up the others, and you should do some research on them anyway. You need to make sure your name isn’t being associated with people who provide less than finished work, or promote something you don’t support. If you buy copies and give them to people you know or maybe use them in a giveaway, you are helping not only yourself, but the other authors as well. Find out if the other authors are planning to do the same thing, and suggest it if they aren’t. Suggest making a Facebook group so you can help each other out. Authors supporting other authors is a huge part of the indie publishing boom, and one of the best things to come of it.
So there you have it, three reasons to take part in an anthology, or even start one of your own. Amphibian Press is accepting submissions for their Dark Fantasy Anthology now! Click here for more information!
Here are three ways to harness the power of the tweet.
- Follow the Write (hehe) People
I’ve heard a lot of complaints that there aren’t any good people to follow on Twitter. Considering the sheer number of followers some celebrities have, I find it hard to believe that not a single one of those people is worth following. There are a lot of spam accounts, or those “selling followers.” There are also some amazing activists, authors, and just plain cool humans. Follow some agents, some small presses — even if you don’t intend to traditionally publish, keeping your finger on the industry’s pulse is a must. Follow fellow authors, both those who are best-sellers in your genre, and others who have yet to publish. Also, don’t just stick to those in the industry. Do you write about a chef? Follow some literary cooks (there are many, and @missellabell is amazing). Are you a historical fiction or romance author? Follow some historical societies and museums based in your setting.
With this comes some cautionary advice, however. Don’t just spam-follow. Don’t just follow because someone followed you. Check out their bios and last few tweets. Curate your twitter feed. If you want it to contain good content, only follow those who you are actually interested in hearing from.
- Listen to Others
This is my biggest suggestion. Don’t shout into the void. Sure, share that picture of your cat lying all over your manuscript. But read what others are saying. Think about their words, their perspectives. See what’s going on under the surface of the industry. News happens literally at the speed of light on Twitter, and you’ve got to be there to see it. I’ve found so many amazing humans just by reading others’ tweets and seeing this cool person respond. Retweet, favorite, and above all, read.
Following others and reading their words is great and you can learn so much. The amazing thing about twitter is, for the most part, everyone is equal. The last key step to getting the most out of Twitter, is to engage. If an author posts something that you can add to, or poses a question, answer them! Even if they’re a best-seller. The worst that will happen is that they won’t answer (OK, the worst that will happen is they’ll be a bigot and start to harass you. More on that later). If you differ in opinion, that’s fine. Disagree politely and respectfully. I’ve exchanged tweets with Patrick Rothfuss, Amanda Palmer, Diana Rowland, and more. Don’t be too eager, don’t spam (this includes auto-follow messages!). Converse. You’ll be amazed at the friendships and networking that arises from some respectful exchanges.
So there you have it. Twitter is great, once you get the ropes down. I personally use Tweetdeck to help manage my feed and schedule tweets. There are some awesome opportunities to be found, and even better people to meet. Be real. Be yourself — trust me, the Twitter army is full of millions of freak-flags flying high. And you’ll recognize some of your own flags there, I promise.
If you want to find Cameron and me on Twitter here are our twitter handles: @VS_Holmes and @CamQuinnBooks. Amphibian Press is @AmphibianPress.
See you there!
*A Word on Trolls and Other Internet Monsters
The internet welcomes everyone. Which is, ultimately, a good thing. But this means that it requires a certain level of awareness to navigate safely. It can be an incredibly dangerous place for certain subsets of humanity. If you are experiencing hate-mail, or see someone who is, block the perpetrator. Don’t retweet the nasty comments, even to show your support for the victim. You can support them without sensationalizing or giving fame to the bully. Don’t engage with those kinds of people and ignore them if you can. If not, the block button works great, no matter how many times you press it. If you are concerned about a real threat, tell people — real, live, in-your-area, people. If you can safely ask police for help, do so. And, for the love of dog, don’t be a bully yourself.
- Not everyone will like your book: I know this is hard to understand because your book is awesome sauce, but, in a world of thousands of readers, there’s no way every one will like it. Maybe your MC has a best bud who is selfish or something. The reader might hate that the MC puts up with them. I’m sure you have a good reason for this character being there but maybe we don’t know that reason until the next book.
- I don’t want people who won’t like my book to buy my book: If people who don’t like your book don’t review it, other people like them will buy it and not like it. I don’t want a sale for the sake of a sale and I’m betting you don’t either. “Bad” reviews are helpful because they will help people who won’t like your book keep browsing. I know this is the opposite of what you usually want but I promise it’s a plus.
- They make it clear that your only reviews aren’t from friends and family. I don’t know about you, but when I see a book with 20 five-star reviews and nothing else, I’m immediately skeptical. I assume they either bribed people, or they happen to have more friends than I do and just asked. This is especially true if all these five-stars claim it’s the “best book eveerrrrrr.” I always check out the lower reviews to determine if it might hit certain reader pet-peeves of mine. I won’t go into stats here, but I look for a good distribution curve, with a smattering of five- and one- or two-star reviews, with many four- and three-stars.
- They can help you improve your craft: At the time of my bad review I was feeling like my bad boy MC was too soft. And yet, the review stated he was “too bad” for her tastes. I’m pretty sure this means he’s right where I want him. There were also comments about silted dialogue which I can use. Now I know I need to watch my dialogue a bit closer and hopefully resolve the issue for future works. The last critique she made was about how the end jumped around. Something I also felt was an issue, but as a new author I was unable to figure out how to convey all the information without it being like that. Since I finished that book, I have had this in mind and have been able to work around it by not letting it occur int he rough draft. Occasionally I feel I have to sacrifice information, but I would rather it flowed better and found another place for those particular tidbits. Improvement is kinda the point, don’t you think?
There you have it folks! Three very good reasons even bad reviews are good. I would like to mention that there is a difference between a bad review and a nasty review. A nasty review is one that is just mean and may even indicate that the person didn’t read the book. Those are something you should ignore all together — most of your readership can tell the difference, too. And whatever you do, don’t engage your reviewers, regardless of their review. Don’t let those kinds of reviews get to you. In fact, don’t let any reviews get to you. Use them to make your next project better.
- Pricing: Pricing is your first line of marketing in this instance. In a world where anyone can and does publish, readers have learned to be weary. Weary of unfinished works and unedited books. As a result, it is in your best unrest to severely discount the first book in your series. Some even go as far as making it free and see amazing results. I know a lot of you are thinking, “Hey this is my hard work, I don’t want to give it away or charge less then $3 for it.” But guess what, your first books value isn’t in the money it brings it on its own, its in the money it brings from the rest of the series. That’s right, your first book is the bait to get readers to try you out. Making that first book free or $0.99 (once you’ve published the others) will help you get readers to give you a chance.
- Blurb: The blurb on the back of your book is lot more than a summary. It’s copy. As in marketing text. If it doesn’t make people want to download your now-discounted first book, you need to rewrite it. If you are having trouble ask an author friend for help or hire a copywriter. The idea is to get people to look at the sample in the beginning of the book. I have left free books on their virtual shelves because of a bad blurb, or one full of typos, so be sure to read it over and have your editor and betas take a look.
- Covers: Professional looking covers are even more important than pricing and equally as important as the blurb. I usually try to create my own covers and if it doesn’t work out I then seek help from a designer. The trick is to know the quality you want and realize when you are unable to attain it. If you can tell you cut a guy out of white background and pasted him next to a girl in a field… just stop. There is a lot that goes into the process and if you don’t know enough to do it well (and in proportion) you need to find someone to help you. Keep practicing and keep someone who will be honest with you close to help you progress.
- Reviews: Reviews are important. We all know this. That being said, if you have all 5 star reviews, readers are going to think only your friends and family have read your novel and be turned off. Readers might also be skeptical if many of your reviews contain typos and other errors or are poorly written. In a forthcoming post, “All Reviews are Good Reviews, Even the Bad Ones,” I will go into more detail on this. However, if you get a 1 star review, and they explain why they didn’t like it, that is a good thing. You don’t want people to buy your book if they won’t enjoy it so those reviews help readers make an educated decision about purchasing your novel.
There you have it! Four things to look into if your series isn’t sell as well as you’d like.
**DISCLAIMER** If you have not professionally edited your book these things won’t help you. Editing comes long before publishing. If you have published your book and found minor typos you can simply fix them and upload a new version, but if you find yourself making major changes, you need to do the professional thing and pull the product until you have made the necessary changes.
Here are the top five ways to earn reviews:
- Have a Release Party: Online release parties are great and the give you an opportunity to show readers why your book is worth is the three dollars they could be spending on a coffee. It also gives you an opportunity to see who is really interested in your book and give them a free copy. Decide and announce how many free copies you will be giving away before hand and stick to it. Adding a “Thanks for Attending post” with a photo like the one above is also a good idea.
- Start a Reader’s List: That’s right an e-mail list. This is one of the most important and most over looked methods of marketing out there. A lot of you are wondering OK how do I get people to sign up? I’m so glad you asked! Nick Stephenson is an amazing person you should be paying attention too! In an interview with The Creative Penn he said you need something the reader wants. Something that they can’t get anywhere else. A free novel is great, especially if it’s the first in a series. If you only have one book, you will need to get creative. If I was on top of things, I would have made FBI files for all my characters before How to Get Arrested was released. I planned on it but life happened. I will still be doing that but it will take some time and bit of research to make sure they are realistic. This works for my books because in the first season they are being investigated by the FBI which hinders their ability to fight monsters. You need to find something that works for your book.
- Make Your Book Free for a Week: Amazon is tricky in this respect. A lot of people on Amazon download books because they’re free and never read them which is not helpful. For whatever reason iBooks, on the other hand, seems to have people who actually read the free books. I really can’t tell you why it is, I just know that it has been the case for everyone I heard who tried it. I will update this after mine is free on there for a week.
- Ask Your Family and Friends: It would be awesome if all your family and friends wanted to read your book. Reality has a tendency to be slightly less awesome, however. So instead of asking them to read it, ask them if there is anyone they know that they would want to give it to. Ask them if there is a birthday coming up. (December is really the best time to do this) Then give them a copy for that person. Once your readers list has grown you can contact them this way too.
- Ask Other Authors: Other authors are the best reviewers because generally, they are reading more books than the average human. They eat, sleep, and breath books. Literally, ask us. And if they aren’t they should be. It’s an excellent way to improve your craft. If you exchange books for honest reviews, make sure you read the sample and vet the Author thoroughly first! Don’t choose a reviewer who only gives 4 or 5 stars, as that will cheapen your review. We will be posting how to give an honest review to a book that isn’t great in the near future and I will be sure to link this to it.
The bottom line, it’s hard to get reviews when you first start out. It’s going to take a long time and you might want to give up along the way. I hope you don’t. I hope you keep writing and I hope you keep trying to find new readers.
So those are my five top ways to get reviews. Did you have success with any one approach? Tell us about it in the comments!
That being said, no amount of advertising or events or money can get people to buy your work if it isn’t professional and complete.
Here are the three most important things to do before you spend a penny on marketing.
- Edit Your Book: Readers, the ones that follow authors and come back to buy their second book, know what quality looks like. If your book doesn’t meet their expectations, you could not only have a bad review, but you have a reader who will never purchase a book with your name on it again.
- Get a Professional Cover: Whether you are artistically inclined or good with photo editing software or not, your cover needs to look professional. That means money, or a lot of your time. If you elect to create your own, which we do not recommend, you need to make sure it can compete with the other books in your market.
- Get on Social Media: I know some people struggle with interacting on the web but the thing is, readers who want your next novel want to have that connection to you. Engaging your readers with information on how your writing is going, as well as upcoming titles and cover releases, are just a few ways to us this connection. It’s also helpful when an issue arises with your books. A fellow author on Facebook, recently had an odd technical issue. The cover for her third book ended up on her second book on the retailer’s webpage. Her readers alerted her to the issue. Without that connection she may not have known about the issue until bad reviews started rolling in.
These things are all very important before you try marketing in anyway. There are different things that work for different people and there are lots of classes out there to help. I will be posting more about different ways to Market with a budget at another time but for now, make sure your book is edited by a professional and has an amazing cover.