Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Nature of “Selling” and Why Authors Should Care

Authors generally have a difficult time selling their books and other writings. While some have reconciled themselves to the reality they have to market their work in order to become successful, a surprising number are uncomfortable with this activity and really would prefer some else do this “dirty” work. I’ve lost count of the number of times an author has said “Shouldn’t my publisher market my book?”

Of course, the answer is yes, but it’s a rare book ends up selling well without the active, committed and ongoing investment by an author to market their work. Moreover, any publisher would be consigning itself to unprofitably and economic doom if they signed on an author who does not not want, or is not willing, to market their work.

I think this reluctance to market our work is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what marketing and selling is. A “sale” is one of many outcomes that results from marketing. Marketing is the strategies, tools, and tactics used to raise awareness about your work and present it to people who might have an interest in reading it (or perhaps selling it to others). Not everyone will want to read our, but we don’t know who those readers are. So we use marketing tools and techniques to discover the interests of readers and identify specific (often niche) markets (or categories of readers) that will be interesting in our work.

Marketing isn’t about the hard sell. In fact, while I’ve heard people talk about successful sales men and women (and I’ve known many) as if “they can sell anything to anyone,” this isn’t true. A good sales person has to be an effective marketer, and a successful marketer identifies customers that are interested and willing to invest in their product because it serves the interests of the customer. A good sales person will invest in a potential customer (with the hope of getting a sale), but he or she will accomplish this only if they know the customer’s wants, needs, preferences, and values. So, these sales people that can “sell anything” are really people that invest in getting to know potential customers so they can match the right product with the right preferences. More often than not, good sales people are perfectly happy to send a customer to someone else if they don’t have a product in their portfolio that meets the customer’s needs. If you discover a reader likes fantasy, but you write action/adventure, a good marketer will send the potential buyer to a good fantasy book, not try a hard sell to convince the reader he or she really likes action/adventure. This also helps build a long-term relationship, which can pay off more literally in a future sale.

So, authors should think about marketing as getting to know readers, current and potential. We use our marketing hooks and pitches as a way of discovering what interests that motivate potential buyers to read our books. The more we know our customers (readers), the easier it is to match the goods (books) and services (perspective, insight, advice) to our readership base (who are also often aspiring authors). A long-term investment in marketing and readers–current and potential–also builds our readership base, and this is what will turn us into commercially successful authors as well as craftspeople and artists.

Marketing can be fun…if you approach it as discovery.

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St. Nic, Inc. Makes It to Audio Book!

Southern Yellow Pine Publishing has announced that St. Nic, Inc. will be issued in an audio book format. So, for all those people that spend a lot of time on the road–in cars, on trains, and in planes–there’s not excuse for not reading my newest novel!

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Lessons in Writing Styles: Cussler vs. Clancy vs. Staley

One of the great benefits of Beta Readers–those brave souls willing to read drafts of your work before presenting it to the world or a publisher–is their insight into your writing style. Sometimes we resist these comparisons–as happened in this case–but they often yield a useful perspective that helps us define our own style and gives us a marketing angle as well.

This came home to me recently while my Tallahassee-based critique group was reading an early draft of St. Nic, Inc., my fourth novel released in August 2014.  After reading the opening chapters, critique group member and aspiring novelist Emily Timm said “Your book reads like a Clive Cussler novel.” After a few chuckles from the other members, she added, “and I mean that in a good way.”

Now, at this point, I was a bit embarrassed. I had never read a Clive Cussler novel, although I knew he had sold a lot of books. In fact, he’s sold millions, and his books have been on the New York Times best seller list twenty times. But this information was really useless to me as a writer, and I didn’t know how to process it. I wasn’t sure if this really was a good comparison.

Then, another reader (but not a critique group member), Mark McNees, said St. Nic, Inc. “artfully combines the action of a Tom Clancy novel with the insightful social commentary and multiple levels of experience as George Orwell’s Animal Farm.” Two more great cites. The contrast in writing styles between these now deceased writers was potentially significant: Orwell wrote in a class literary tradition while Clancy wrote action-adventure-technology thrillers. 

While I am very familiar with Orwell’s work, I wasn’t well versed in Tom Clancy’s, except for watching a few movies based on his novels. Tom Clancy was a genre buster and one of the few writers to have their inaugural novel (The Hunt for Red October) shoot to best seller status.  Still, I understood the genre pretty well, and I was curious how my writing style compares to Clancy’s.

The only way to find out was to read their books. What I found was quite revealing.

Of course, my writing style is different–neither Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, or George Orwell. In part, this is the result of my focus on writing for young adults and middle school readers for the first three novels. St. Nic, Inc. is written for the general fiction market although it is accessible to young adults. These readers want fast plots, plenty of action, and a gripping story. The rule is the less description, the better. In this way, Clive Cussler’s style, although he is geared toward adult markets, is well suited to my approach.

But I also included layered characters with arcs that peak at different times based on the trajectory of the main plot and subplots. Thus, my stories aren’t as straightforward as Cussler’s, and my characters experience significant life changing events that influence how they view the world. Like Clancy, I strive to make my fiction authentic. The Pirate of Panther Bay attempts to stay true to the real world of pirates and the historical context in which the characters live. The Path of the Warrior series attempts to ensure the martial arts self-defense skills are authentic and realistic, set within the context of middle-school bullying and violence. These values permeate the stories and books.

So, where does St. Nic, Inc. fall? Of course, it’s a little bit of each. I admire the lean writing style of Clive Cussler even if it won’t earn him accolades from the literary elite. (Of course, readers love it.) While I would like a little more flourish when reading Cussler’s novels, the action and pace keep me engaged, and I’m not sidetracked by subplots or thinly disguised attempts to be classic fiction. The characters and stories are straightforward, and that suits his fans (and publisher). These are very easy reads, the epitome of escape literature. I like Clancy’s commitment to keep the adventure-thriller grounded in reality and the characters more layered and complex. This also has turned out to be a highly successful strategy, and it probably reflects his own personality as a writer. While still escapist in its approach, Clancy’s novels require a bit more patience and enjoyment of the journey.

Based on the comments I’ve received from readers, St. Nic, Inc. seems to reflect a happy evolution of my writing style, one that embraces a lean writing style with layered stories. I am pleased to embrace comparisons to all three highly successful (for different reasons) literary giants. I’m not sure I would have made these connections, and become more confident in my own writing style, if hadn’t been for the prodding and candid observations of my beta readers, friends and critique group.

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St. Nic, Inc.: Book Trailers, and Other Cool Links

With the launch of St. Nic, Inc. just days away, managing the anxiety surrounding the launch of my fourth novel it becoming more difficult. (I’ll just have to rely on my ninja training.)

A few critical links to the book and promotional material can be found here:

Pre-orders available from:

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New Novel, “Counteract,” Asks What We Would Do to Preserve Our Freedom

My friend Tracy Lawson is launching her newest dystopian thriller, Counteract, the first of a series, on Wednesday, August 6th, and we’ve got a sneak peek! Tracy’s book is a fast-paced adventure examining how we might act in a world in which terrorism has defined every element of our relationship with the government.

CounteractBookCover

With the population under tight restrictionssupervised by the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, the government uses the threat of bio terror via chemical weapons to keep us under their control via an “antidote.” Would you have the courage to resist? Is it too late to recapture our freedom?

Win chances to win in her special giveaways by leaving a comment on this blog post or clicking here!

Here’s the press release:

Ripped from the headlines…The year is 2034, and the United States as we know it is no more. In thefuture, the concept of “Big Brother is always watching” has taken on new meaning.

NSA drone flyovers and government surveillance of citizens’ emails and phone conversations are the least of anyone’s worries. With the rampant threat of terrorism a constant presence, the government has had to take extreme measures to ensure the public’s safety.
The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense (OCSD) has been enacted as an offensive against terrorist attacks. And make no mistake, attack is imminent. Citizens in 2034 now live in carefully monitored quadrants, with regulations governing food distribution, driving, entertainment, and much more. For college student Careen Catecher, and recovering accident victim, Tommy Bailey, life is far from carefree and easy.
Anyone who loves a good dystopian thriller will find a new favorite in Counteract. Lawson joins the ranks of authors like Aldous Huxley, and his Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984, as she questions whether the government should be allowed to usurp personal freedoms under the guise of doing
what’s best for the people.
Readers will find themselves eagerly turning the pages as Careen and Tommy uncover the enemy in their own backyard and discover just how far they are willing to go to fight for a freer way of life.

 

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Tracy Lawson launches new book

On Tuesday, August 5th, novelist Tracy Lawson launches her new novel Counteract. Check out this blog for an interview with Tracy about her writing process and the importance of her new novel.

TracyLawson

 

As prelude, here’s a quick bio:

Tracy Lawson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read. While working toward her Bachelor’s degree in Communication at Ohio University, she studied creative writing with Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon. After short stints as a media buyer and an investigative analyst, she settled into a 20-year career in the performing arts, teaching tap in Columbus, Ohio, and choreographing musicals. Though her creative energies were focused on dance, she never lost her desire to write, and has two non-fiction books to her credit: Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, winner of the 2012 Ohio Professional Writers Association’s Best Non-fiction History Award (McDonald & Woodward), and Given Moments (Fathers Press). Tracy’s love for writing new adult fiction is sparked by all wonderful teens in her life, including her daughter Keri, a college freshman. Counteract is Tracy’s first novel.

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Ready…set…launch–St. Nic, Inc. takes off on August 19th!

St. Nic, Inc., my fourth novel, is set to officially launch on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. Check out the book trailer!  Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-YFLKDsWfU

Also, check out my website for reviews and other links! (http://www.srstaley.com)

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