The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “Book Promotion”

How Do I Know Which Book Promo Sites Are Legit?

“If you go to our site and click on the tab “Book Promo Sites” – while we do not endorse any particular site, those sites have been vetted and used by at least some of our staff. We would not list them on the site if they took advantage of authors. We cannot state that any of them perform a certain way, so you may or may not have success, but they are not known to scam authors.”

via From the Mail Room: How Do I Know Which Book Promo Sites Are Legit? – Indies Unlimited

Many of us rely heavily on book review sites since major sites such as Book List, Kerkus. Publishers Weekly, and other mainstream sites won’t touch a small press or self-published book (with the exception of pay-for-review programs), so finding those that will make a difference is an important project.

They can help spread the word, but for most of us, few miracles will occur. Making them part of a larger program of platform building seems to give us our best shot.


Author of Conjure Woman’s Cat.


Trying to re-discover the joy of writing

Contrary to popular belief, most fiction writers don’t start out dreaming of becoming the next John Steinbeck or J. K. Rowling. We start out because writing a story that springs from our imagination is a joyful experience. That’s it. Some of us find agents and are published by HarperCollins. Some of us find small, boutique presses that publish five to ten books a year. And some of us publish directly on Amazon. Most fiction writers don’t make enough money to live on from their novels.

Those who do, whether it’s by luck, talent, and/or a flair for publicity are rare, rather like the number of sandlot baseball players who make it into the major leagues. Most don’t.

We’re happy, many of us, if we can sell several hundred copies of a novel and then move on to the next book. Unfortunately, Amazon has thrown a wrench into the works even though they court indie authors. The best we can figure out is that it has changed the algorithm that controls book rankings to favor large presses and/or higher priced books.

Here’s what that means for the rest of us. Used to be, we could reduce the price of our novels to 99 cents, run a modest ad in a readers’ newsletter, and easily sell 25-50 copies or more. This would cause our books to rise in the rankings enough to be spotted by people who hadn’t seen the ad, so we’d get additional sales during the following days at the full price. With the new algorithm, our books don’t rise much in the rankings, or if they do, they quickly drop back to their pre-sale level, and there are few residual sales. This leads to fewer reader reviews and fewer reviews means even lower rankings and fewer sales.

A writer friend and I talked about why neither of us has made any progress to speak of on or novels in progress. We realized that our fixation on “the Amazon problem” has killed our joy of writing. Yes, we’re both pissed off about our fixations. We think we should be able to keep writing and not worry about sales at all because the act of writing is where the fun is. However, one has to have some sales or s/he runs in the red when you consider the cost of ISBN numbers, copyright registration, cover art work, and an editor to weed out the typos, and office supplies.

All authors have to consider the business side of their art, like it or not. That is part of being a writer. Those of us who write, knew going into this sloppy business that the deck would always be stacked against us in favor of the BIG PUBLISHERS, BIG AGENTS, and BIG AUTHORS. No, we’re not happy about that, but before “the Amazon problem” emerged, we could at least be content with selling a reasonable number of copies, attracting some nice reviews, and having a group of readers who looked forward to our next book.

So it is that my writer friend and I really need to ignore sales. That doesn’t mean giving up our blogs, websites, Facebook announcements of new books, or Twitter accounts. It means remembering why we’re doing this, writing, I mean. We joke about getting a call from Oprah letting us know our latest book is her new book club pick or that Warner Brothers just bought a $10,000 option on our latest novel. We’re not masochists who want to live in poverty for our art.

In spite of a strong reliance on our imaginations for concocting novels and short stories, we are capable of being realistic about our place in the writing universe. We didn’t set out with a John Steinbeck of J. K. Rowling goal. We need to remember that when we start agonizing about Amazon’s new algorithm that helps the rich and famous become more rich and famous. Let it go, I want to say. I never planned to become rich and famous. (Frankly, I don’t think I could cope with it.)

We like to tell stories. We’re happy while we’re telling them and we’re happy if  a few people find them and enjoy the novel or short story. That’s where the joy of the work is found. Sure, I have to give a wink and a nod to book promotion, but if becoming a slave to it is destroying me–and the books I want to write–then to hell with sales figures.

Okay, enough is enough. I’m taking a one-week vacation to the mountains. When I come back, I’m ignoring Amazon, the number of copies I’ve sold, and the number of reader reviews I have. None of that matters. Actually, it does matter, but I’m going to stop focusing on it and do what I want to do: write.




Getting ready for a successful book fair

The warm-weather months are upon us, and this often means book festivals, book fairs, conferences, and other events. So, this seemed like as good a time as any to offer some tips on what authors need when selling their books at events. While events vary, the basic needs tend to be pretty similar.

via Tips to Help Authors Make their Festival/Events a Success ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader —

If you haven’t attended a book fair as an author with books to sign and sell, R. J. Crayton at Indies Unlimited has compiled a list of everything you need to take with you.

Selling books at a festival begins with being seen and ends with your signing a lot of books. There’s a bit of art to this, and that means setting up your booth or table to attract attention and make transactions with readers friendly and easy to accomplish.


Promotions: What Type to Use When

“As indie authors, we have a wealth of types of marketing and promotional opportunities available to us. However, some types aren’t as effective as others, and some are more effective when you’re farther along in your career. As a newbie, where should you concentrate your efforts? As a more seasoned indie, what will boost you to the next level of visibility and sales?

“Here’s one list, together with our recommendations for when best to employ each type. Some are free; some, not so much. I’ve included a $ next to the ones that will cost you money.”

via Promotions: What Type to Use When – Indies Unlimited

Authors constantly debate which promotion strategies really work. Sometimes, those with high acclaim seem to have worn themselves out before most of us find them.

A lot of Indie authors are reporting that sales are down. Some blame a change in Amazon algorithms which purportedly favor the higher priced books from large mainstream presses over the modestly priced books that are self-published or that come from small presses.

Lynne Cantwell has done a great job compiling a list of strategies to try. Regardless of whether (or if) Amazon is tweaking its site to make more off the higher priced books, we still need to get the word out–and, perhaps, raise our prices.


Out of date blog? Get rid of it.

Why do writers, associations, museums, non-profit organizations and other websites have blogs that aren’t kept up to date?

Perhaps the writer is busy or ill, perhaps the blog writer at the association or museum left the group, or maybe there are funding and software issues. These may be viable rationale–or excuses–depending on the circumstances. If so, unhook the blog from the website.

blogCase in point: Since this is banned books week, I went to the site of one of the week’s sponsors and saw the usual home, about us, issues, news, donate, and blog menu headings. I looked around for a while and thought the group was worthy of at least a few dollars of financial support. Until I looked at the blog.

Nothing had been added to the blog in five years.

Bottom line, this looks bad. It looks like laziness. It looks like the writer or organization may not even be active any more. I didn’t donate any money because my view was that if the group was still in operation and couldn’t even keep up the very first place on a website where most of us look for the latest news and events, then I’m going elsewhere.

As a writer, I always look at the blogs on writers’ websites because I want to know what they’re doing right now, what their latest books are, when new releases can be expected, and whether they’re taking part in any panels, conventions or book fairs near me.

When writers’ blogs appear long dormant, I figure the author has retired, died, or become insane.

A sane author–assuming s/he is still living–would unhook a blog they can’t keep current because out of date blogs turn readers away in droves unless you’re really famous and they see you on TV every night.


Free – three books for three days

It’s time for a late August giveaway set for August 28 through August 30 on Amazon for the Kindle editions of The Sun Singer, The Lady of the Blue Hour, and Carrying Snakes into Eden.

Here are the links:

The Sun Singer

"The Sun Singer" is gloriously convoluted, with threads that turn on themselves and lyrical prose on which you can float down the mysterious, sun-shaded channels of this charmingly liquid story. - Diana Gabaldon, Outlander Series

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

LadyoftheBlueHourcoverThe Lady of the Blue Hour

Short Story. When Kenneth arrives home from a high school band trip with exciting news, he finds the house empty. His parents appear to gone to a hospital in a hurry. At twilight, a strange woman appears on the street, and she might be looking for him. No doubt, there’s magic afoot.

Grandfather Elliott, from “The Sun Singer” is one of the characters in this story which takes place in a quiet neighborhood of old homes in a Midwestern city. That made the story especially fun to write.

Carrying Snakes Into Eden

Always free on Kindle Unlimited

Always free on Kindle Unlimited

In this tongue-in-cheek 1960s-era short story with a dash of magic, two students skip church, pick up a hobo with a sack of snakes, and realize there may be long-term consequences.

This tale is one of a series of short stories set in Florida’s notorious Tate’s Hell Swamp on the Gulf Coast. I loved this swamp when I was growing up in the Florida Panhandle. The Garden of Eden mentioned in the story refers to a one-time tourist attraction that the owners claimed was the site of the original Garden of Eden. All that remains of the attraction, near the town of Bristol, is a “Garden of Eden Trail” maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The rare and endangered Torreya tree can be seen along this trail.

I hope you enjoy the books.



Why You Should Join All Social Media Networks

Jane Friedman’s blog suggests this: “I recommend that as soon as you find out about a new social media service, join it.”

Source: Why You Should Join All Social Media Networks

She admits at the outset that most of us don’t want to spend more time using social media. It can be addictive and we keep checking this one and that one. But, she has an idea worth considering here.

Join early, get the best possible user name, and then (hopefully) get found by all those people who sign up after you.

She doesn’t even see a downside to letting the account sit there relatively inactive until the place takes off or you feel a need to use it.

Maybe this will work.


Selling books: Is it “about you” or is it “about your reader”

“It is not enough that you do good work. For reporters to be interested in your story, you have to make it interesting for their readers, listeners, viewers, surfers. It’s not about your organization. It’s about the audience.”

– Public relations director Paul D. O’Rourke, in You Have A Story To Tell: Take a fresh look at your press releases, by Malcolm R. Campbell, Nonprofit Word Magazine, Jan/Feb 2007. (Free PDF download)

As writers, we often jokingly claim that we are nonprofit. But that’s not the only reason I see a comparison between the advice given to nonprofit public relations departments and the advice given to writers.

In my article “You Have a Story to Tell,” I cite a typical, rough-hewn Horace Greeley suggestion to a friend starting a newspaper: “Begin with the clear conception that the subject of deepest interest to the average human being is himself.” Rather cynical, right?

Said in a more friendly way: When we open a newspaper, magazine, blog or online news site, we read what interests us. We follow certain kinds of news stories. We read certain kinds of how-to articles. We read one fiction genre or another. Of course, big, exciting stories about something we usually don’t follow also catch our attention.

My advice to nonprofits, as reflected by the experts I cited, was simply that press releases, brochures, and handouts can’t simply proclaim that the organization is wonderful. Promotion and advertising have to find reasons why prospective readers and visitors might care about the wonders that are offered. What’s it for them?

Authors as Celebrities

When an author promotes a new book, s/he often says a little about the wonders of the story and follows this up with a lot of “about me” interview answers and blogging posts. Generic blog interviews are partly at fault here when they ask such questions as “when did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?”

If you’re a new author, the reader doesn’t care when you made that decision. Why not: (a) you’re not a celebrity about which everyone wants to know everything from the lame to the sublime; (b) since you’re not fulfilling the prospective reader’s hobby of keeping up with celebrities, there’s nothing in your answer that will resonate with those whom you hope will buy your books.

Point of fact, new writers and other unknown writers cannot promote their work by doing what major bestselling authors do: we can’t spend our promotional time talking about ourselves or by assuming that once the reader sees our name on our book, s/he will buy it.

We dance a delicate dance. We want our blogs and other promotions to have the same professional look that we find in major authors’ blogs and press releases. Among other things, that means never doing the kinds of things that scream “amateur.” On the flip side of that coin, we have to sell ourselves more than major writers do because they’ve already been accepted as “must-read producers of great stories” and we haven’t.

Make no mistake about it. The fact that people want to read everything they can find about their favorite author doesn’t mean they want the same information about you. In short, that’s just TMI.

About Me

So, we have to include some “about me” stuff to convince prospective readers we’re capable of telling a good story. If we’re writing nonfiction, we need to display our credentials–that is, do we have the proper background for writing a book about our chosen subject? If we’re writing fiction, perhaps we find ways to show similarities between our backgrounds/places lived/careers/hobbies and the plots and characters in our books. Of course, it helps if we have some writing credentials, too, and can say we already have published stories and books out there, or at least that we’ve worked in another writing field such as journalism or public relations.

This is not the time or place to describe the great personal angst you felt about your story’s characters and that you went through 20 years of blood, sweat and tears to finally produce the book you’re “giving away” for 99 cents. Nobody cares about this and the fact that you’re saying it makes it sound like you’re an amateur with a story that isn’t strong enough to catch a reader’s attention by itself. There’s nothing in your personal angst for the reader.

About You

Think about the process you through (sometimes instantly) when you see a new book in a store or at an online site before you buy it. Do I know this author? If yes, then you may buy the book immediately because you already know what’s in it for you. That is, you like the author’s prose style, plots, settings and characters.

If you don’t know the author, you may be influenced by the publisher’s description on line or the blurb on the back cover of the book in a store. Does it tempt you? Is this the kind of story you like? Book covers influence a lot of people because, when they’re done well, they show the book’s ambiance, characters or themes. Perhaps you’re also influenced by editorial reviews (including blurbs by famous authors on the book itself) as well as reader reviews.

Forgetting the influence of price, the longer you take to make a decision about buying the book, the less likely it is you will buy it. Why? Because if there was obviously something in it for you, you wouldn’t still be thinking about it. If you look at web site traffic reports, you’ll see that a lot of those who view your site come and leave in a matter of seconds. Why: nothing in it for them.

Now What?

Like most authors, I have answered a lot of interview questions about how and why I became a writer. I’ve talked about whether I am a plotter or pantser, where I get my ideas, the reasons I like my chosen genre, and the importance I place on the locations where my books are set. Some of my posts have focused on why I think fantasy is important, the hero’s journey and on the specifics of my location settings. Many of these posts have gotten a lot of readers; most of them didn’t translate into book sales.

Why not? You know the answer to this already. Quite simply put, nothing in it for the reader. Or, if there was, they’re interested in the post itself and not about any novels I’ve written that relate to that post.

When I decide to buy a book, I make that decision within a few seconds more often than not. Long excerpts from the book make my eyes glaze over, the movie stars the author thinks ought to play the roles of the main characters strike me as absurd, and five hundred words about how the author spent 25 years as a shoe salesman and suddenly decided to write a novel fall into my “I could care less” category of stuff I’m willing to read.

If most readers are wont to decide quickly on the BUY/DON’T BUY question, we have to answer it quickly before they wander off. What does the book have that they want?

Sex, ghosts, detectives, fantasy worlds, international or corporate intrigues, spies, heroic tales about everyday people, sports, or murder most foul. You wrote your book, so you know which of these things are in it. You’re job is to quickly tell the kinds of readers who like your kind of book what’s in it for them.

That’s it.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a story about a lady who is older than dirt who fights the KKK with folk magic in the 1950s Jim Crow world of the Florida Panhandle. As the book’s title suggest, her cat also helps out.

What Is a Street Team and How Can it Help You?

What Is a Street Team and How Can it Help You? | Indies Unlimited.

“The point of a street team is to gather together a bunch of people who can help you spread the word about your books and support you in building your writing business.”

This is a nice post by Melissa Pearl. As I read it, I wondered if all street teams start off strong and then begin to slow down as an author’s book’s release date fades into the past.

For more information about the street teams concept, you might also like:

  • What is an Author Street Team? by Kate Tilton from Tips on Self-Publishing – “A street team is a group of fans that band together to support an artist, author, band, or other such products. Street teams are powerful marketing tools because they tap into an established group of fans and put them to work! Street teams also hone in on the word of mouth marketing by encouraging your fans to share their love of your work with others.”
  • The Power of Enthusiasm: Should You Create a “Street Team”? by Dan Blank in We Grow Media – “Today, let’s talk about what a street team is, and why it can be important to FINALLY building some momentum in helping to spread the word about whatever it is you are creating.”

There’s a lot to be found on the Internet about street teams. Can it work for you and your book. Perhaps. In Pearl’s case, she finally closed down her street team and started a fan club instead. Perhaps this is the way of things rather than a failure of a team or a problem with the concept.


Book Bits: Hillary Clinton’s memoir, ‘Ten White Geese,’ Roger Ebert, Leah Shelleda

BookBitsBy now, you’ve probably already seen the news about the death of film critic Roger Ebert, so I won’t include links to the many stories about him here. You might not have read his inspiring essay in Salon (item 10). I liked his thoughts here, including, ” I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip.”

Here are your links for April 5th:

  1. clintonNews: Hillary Clinton’s New Memoir To Cover Arab Spring, Killing Of Bin Laden, by Annalisa Quinn – “Simon & Schuster announced in a press release on Thursday morning that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is coming out with a memoir in 2014. According to the release, the book will ‘use a number of dramatic moments during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State to frame her thoughts about the recent history of U.S. foreign policy and the urgent, ongoing need for American leadership in a changing world’…”  NPR
  2. News: Amazon is Now Beta Testing an Automated Cover Generator for Kindle eBooks, by Nate Hoffelder – “There’s been no announcement from Amazon, but I have just learned that they are working on a new tool that will help self-pub authors make book covers cheaply, cleanly, and well.” The Digital Reader
  3. Feature: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1927–2013, by Thessaly La Force – “It was announced this morning that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died today at her home in Manhattan, at the age of eighty-five. Jhabvala is best known as an award-winning screenwriter for Merchant Ivory Productions. Together, with the late producer Ismail Merchant and the director James Ivory, she helped make twenty-two films.” The Paris Review
  4. tenwhitegeeseReview: “Ten White Geese,” by Gerbrand Bakker – “In this spare yet sensual novel of landscape and meditation, a Dutch Emily Dickinson scholar with a mysterious ailment escapes an unhappy marriage and arrives in Wales to live in a rural farmhouse. The book hints at her history in a few broad strokes. The land she’s arrived to spend time in is spare and punctuated with odd garden paths, kissing gates that are overgrown with vines, and, nearby, a yard full of geese, none of which seem to belong to anyone.”  The Christian Science Monitor
  5. Essay: Composition and decomposition, by Nicholas Royle – “Until a few years ago, the study of “English” meant the study of texts by other people, usually dead (and therefore not able to answer back or otherwise complicate the experience of reading their work). Many students choosing to read English at university these days are interested not only in studying things written by dead people, or even things by brilliant people still living, but are also themselves driven by a desire to write – poems, short stories, novels or even, though this seems increasingly rare, plays. ”  Times Higher Education
  6. Lists: Bad Portmanteau Examples, by Mignon Forgarty – “A few months ago Clorox approached me about an interesting project: They were creating an ick-tionary—a wiki with fun, new words to describe icky messes—and they wanted me to contribute some words.”  Grammar Girl
  7. unionsquareReview: Thanks but No Thanks but Thanks, by Hua Hsu – “H.T. Tsiang’s self-published ‘American epic’ The Hanging on Union Square is back and just as wonderfully bizarre as ever.” Slate
  8. Feature: Book Promotion Strategies That Actually Worked, by Jason Boog – Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian asked his readers to tell him “the smartest things you’ve seen people do do promote a book.” Here are ten responses. GalleyCat
  9. Quotation: “I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worries and only half the royalties.” – Agatha Christie
  10. ebertEssay: I do not fear death, by Roger Ebert – “I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn’t shake my sense of wonder and joy ” Salon
  11. Interview: The Power of Storytelling: Q&A with Jonathan Gottschall, by Holger Volland – “Gottschall: Human beings are storytelling animals. We live in stories all day long. We dream in stories all night long. Stories are how we learn and how we think; they are how we communicate and connect.”  Publishing Perspectives
  12. Lists: Roger Ebert’s 10 Favorite Movies – The classics which we remember him reviewing and, perhaps, a couple of surprises. Parade Magazine
  13. blackrussianReview: “The Black Russian,” by Vladimir Alexandrov, reviewed by Kim Hedges – “Born in Mississippi in 1872 to former slaves, Frederick Bruce Thomas is the virtually indomitable title character of Vladimir Alexandrov’s “The Black Russian.” Drawing upon an abundance of sources ranging from government documents to periodicals to personal travelogues, Alexandrov recounts how Thomas’ unquenchable wanderlust inspired him to start traveling around the United States to work at age 18 and ended up in Russia about 10 years later, where his race was virtually a nonissue and he created a long, successful career for himself.” The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  14. Humor (hopefully): Amazon Announces Purchase of English™ by Michael Bourne – “Amazon announced today that it has acquired the English language and plans to fully privatize the world’s predominant mode of written communication. As of 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time April 1, anyone writing in Amazon’s proprietary language, now known as English™, will be obligated to pay a “licensing fee” to the Seattle-based online retailer.”  The Millions
  15. bookofnowReview: “The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide,” edited by Leah Shelleda, reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell – “Well-steeped in Earth’s wisdom, these poems are hymns in praise of Gaia. They celebrate beauty and diversity worth preserving and, for those times when this moment or the next moment calls for it, they also sing of warnings and laments. There is magic here and it’s all true.”  Literary Aficionado
  16. News: Apple censors Tibet book app in latest concession to Chinese government – “Apple has ejected an app that offered access to banned books from its App Store in China, in the latest sign of the technology giant’s willingness to appease the Chinese government. ” The Telegraph

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