I’ve been trying to grasp the marketing madness that surrounds publishing/self-publishing and working with online resellers like Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. I’ve just set aside a book that explained, in painful detail, how Amazon’s algorithms work. The online book retailer has algorithms which instantaneously discern a book’s Sales Rank and place within their Bestseller Lists, Popularity Lists, Top Rated Charts, Hot New Releases, and Best Sellers by Genre which recalculate and adjust endlessly based on daily market activities.
Each list is a sliding scale that authors try to surmount to place their novels on top or at least somewhere within eyesight of the first few online pages containing book thumbnails that readers browse through when seeking a new read. Movement on those lists is made complex with reviews, perma-free debut novels, price pulsing, borrows, exclusivity policies, and promos run by associates like Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, and Bookbub.
Then there are paid ads…
Oh, the games we must play to get our work before the eyes of readers. With thousands of books being self-published globally, we really can’t ignore these marketing algorithms. Authors must scramble to keep their books from falling to the bottom of these lists, buried under other book thumbnails. So, we jump through the marketing hoops, build our email lists, post often on social media, and blog, blog, blog.
When do we get to write? I’ve four solid books for my series and desperately want to begin book five. I’m torn between the desire to write and the need to market. Finding a healthy balance eludes me. The irony is that I don’t expect to make money off my novels. I just want them read. Enjoyed. Shared. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to start playing some games soon.
Lying down, the Inspector sought oblivion, an escape from the dirt and crime he faced daily. Instead, he was plagued with a half-witted dream. The cosmos wept tears wrung from the stars. Icy pellets of light, melted by moonbeams. He stood at cliff’s edge, the sea pounding furiously below. The barren branches of a hawthorn tree loomed over him, backlit by the stars. Its sparse leaves fell at his feet, the fading foliage etched with words. He gathered the leaves, arranging their gibberish into sentences, desperate to read their secret. A sudden foul wind snatched at his shabby collection, lifting leaves from the ground, swirling their sentiments around his feet before casting the leaves out to sea – knowledge lost. Pressing his meager harvest between the pages of a book, Tremaine hugged the text to his chest before the next gale could carry it away. The rains came. The galaxy grieved a deluge.
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
It has been raining all day. At times, a deluge. While so many other places around the globe have been suffering from torrential rain and severe floods, my backyard is parched. Local weathermen predict rain in their questionable forecasts only to have it disappear before a drop of water reaches the ground. It has been a harsh summer everywhere as global warming takes its toll, punishing us for our arrogance.
People in China, India, and Australia have come to loath the sound of rain given their devastating floods. I’ve flung open my windows, willing to tolerate the chill just to hear the sound of raindrops. One woman’s curse is another woman’s blessing. I doubt we will ever recapture that healthy balance in nature again given global warming. I find the overarching ramifications unbearably depressing. Watching today’s rain. I just wish it could wash away the foolishness of mankind so that we could collaboratively strive to retain what exists in nature, perhaps recapture some of what we have already lost, and protect it all for future children.
While I’m working with a graphic designer on book covers, I’ve also been researching the marketing end of self-publishing. The more I know, the greater my ability to get my books into the hands of readers (or onto their Kindles).
Fortunately, the online community is loaded with suggestions on how to boost readership/sales, and very kind YouTubers offer their entertaining insights based upon their self-publishing experiences. With each book reseller (Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) operating under their own unique rules and differing formulas for royalties, I clearly need to be versed in marketing before putting my novels online or they will suffer a rapid demise.
For me, marketing is daunting but what new skill isn’t overwhelming in the beginning? I have stumbled upon a rather ironic fact in my marketing research. Authors are required to take their 70,000-word novel and boil it down to a 750-word synopsis. Then, we must whittle those 750 words down to an intriguing 225-word jacket copy. From there, we must further pare it down to a one paragraph pitch for online resellers and – finally – a one sentence tagline for the book cover. I’ve always been a fan of being concise, but this is a crazy challenge I'm taking on four times (once for each novel). It brings to mind Hemingway’s amazing story written with only six words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. That man was the king of concise.
The most inexplicable thing happened: I missed a deadline. In my small world, this is a huge hiccup. I always, always, always completed projects before the due date. So what happened? Traveling abroad? Hospitalization? A family death? No. I simply retired.
Retirement gives me so much time on my hands that meeting any deadline should be easy-squeezy. Not so. You see, I’ve intentionally slowed down. I lie in bed each morning, listening to the birds and feeling utterly, deliciously lazy. I relax over a cup of coffee and then have another. I play a few online games and then – finally – think about getting dressed. But first, I think I’ll read for a while. This hiatus called retirement is a divine bit of self-indulgence.
I relish this laid-back approach to life. Perhaps enjoy it a bit too much. All that self-imposed discipline has died. I no longer look at a clock. I’ve no clue what today is because I tucked my only calendar into the closet and really don’t care which day of the week I happen to be standing in. I haven’t drawn up a typical to-do list in over two months. I honestly can’t think of a single goal that is more pressing than watching another 1940’s Sherlock Holmes where Basil Rathbone will undoubtedly win once again so long as Nigel Bruce walks beside him.
Time stretches out when you slow down. It’s divine. Deadline, be damned!
Rewriting is both necessary and expected of all authors. We read our first draft, erase a good portion of it, modify the storyline, rewrite critical passages, move dialogue, drop in more descriptive text, take out superfluous sentences, and then move on…only to come back and do it all over again.
"By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this." — Roald Dahl
Sliding into retirement, I decided to re-read all four of my manuscripts within the Remy Lane Mysteries because I finally had time to only focus on my writing skills. That divine pleasure turned into a tortuous hell. Within my second manuscript, The Tide Turns, I fell into the hamster’s wheel of rewrites. When I first wrote the story, I spent time on multiple rewrites before moving on to pen the next two stories in the series. I was utterly shocked by the obvious need for improvements when I came back to this mystery.
I took out my big pink eraser.
At some point, I’ve moved from rewriting to perfectionism. I’ve been chasing after the prime paragraphs, the sharpest descriptions, the crispest dialogues, and the exemplary adjectives for the past three weeks. I’m second guessing myself and cheating my readers as they’ll never get a chance to fall into this story if I don’t let it go! I need to close this manuscript to still enjoy the craft of writing and simply move on. Time to dive into research on self-publishing while seeking a few fresh beta-readers.
This experience makes me wonder if Agatha Christie was ever satisfied with her published work.
I’ve just retired. From my fulltime job, not my writing. I’ve written, rewoven, restructured, and finalized four stories within the Remy Lane Mysteries. I’m returning to the U.K. for fresh inspiration now that my days are free and easier. I am also learning about self-publishing with deep gratitude to those authors who have traveled down that road before me, leaving videos and blogs to guide my efforts. Later this summer, I’ll open my laptop and begin the fifth novel. I hope you will keep visiting to find out what lies ahead in Barrington Bay.
“Keep in mind that hundreds attended our seminary a century before we arrived there. They became missionaries, traveling the world, enlightening the masses, and no doubt having a jolly good time abroad. They brought back curious objects—gifts from tribesmen, items used in odd religious rituals, and unique cultural trappings they picked up along the way. These oddities were amassed in the seminary’s basement, serving as a museum. This all happened well before television exposed us to the indigenous people of other continents. As young seminarians, we toured the collected relics to glimpse heathen cultures and gawk at their ritualistic tokens. Such dated collections were common teaching tools in seminaries across Europe and the U.S. The display broadened our knowledge and challenged us to follow in the footsteps of our alumni.”
Rosemont recalled the many good men who traversed the seminary halls over time. “Inspector, it was all well and good until 1970 when the United Nations developed an agreement against the trade of cultural properties. You see, people were losing their history to tourists and invading military forces. They strongly opposed the taking of their homeland antiquities.”
“I studied that act in college,” Remy said. “The multi-national agreement prevented looting during military coups and slowed the international trade of stolen relics. It won staunch support. Many countries passed even stricter laws to protect their unique heritage.”
Rosemont leaned forward; his voice cut with excitement. “Exactly. But back then, it meant priests and seminarians sat on top of illicit property. A vast collection of relics taken from multiple countries during colonial imperialism; historical tokens of unique religions and indigenous cultures. Of course, the missionaries had not intentionally stolen anything. Up until the early 1900s, everyone returned from abroad with such relics as souvenirs. But imagine how it appeared in the culturally awakened 1970s. That populace perceived it quite differently: Thou shalt not steal. And you know how that goes—people’s perceptions become their realities. Bear in mind that in the 1970s, people began questioning priests’ activities. What the Church couldn’t explain, it buried. Rather than risk embarrassment or arrest for hording cultural treasures, holy men nipped down to their collections and emptied the museums into skips in the dead of night.”
Excerpt from The Sacred Stones
You are no doubt thinking: What a fantastical story. Well, it’s true. My husband was one of those dumpster-diving seminarians back in the 1970s. He and several classmates rescued a broad range of cultural antiquities, sparing them from a landfill rubble. The oddities are still guests in my home. Pre-Columbian pieces of architecture, a cup with a gruesome face, Roman coins, a scrimshaw tusk, cuneiforms, a figurine head of a bird, chainmail purse, and a tiny, sculpted bust of a Nubian woman are all on display. These cultural antiquities resonate with history. Each object’s uniqueness draws your attention and then forces you into quiet contemplation of all that has transpired before you. The oddities are portals to the past that breathe life into marginalized or extinct cultures and somehow still add magic and meaning to our lives. We are honored to be the temporary custodians of these touchstones; torn between our desire to protect and preserve the antiquities or repatriate them. It’s not an easy decision.
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book in the Remy Lane Mystery series as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More' for in-depth posts.