Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is coming up. The day means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We are blessed people. Give thanks, but also plan to do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

May I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'll be back next week with my usual blog post.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Sells Books: The Responses

Last week I posted a link to a simple survey that asked respondents to indicate what factor(s) influenced them to buy a particular book. After three days and a representative number of votes, here's what you told me.

Past experience with an author's books was the most important factor in your decision to buy another book by that author. This was followed closely by the recommendation of a friend. The author's blog was important about half the time. Book reviews on Goodreads and the author's Facebook posts were helpful to about a third of you. And Twitter and Pinterest posts got the vote of 1% of the respondents.

So, this tells me that: 1) I have to write the best books I can, 2) I need to encourage my fans to recommend my books (assuming they like them), and 3) I should keep blogging...at least, for now.

I'll remind those of you who received my last newsletter of a contest described in that issue, ending next week. One of the entrants will be randomly selected to receive a signed copy of my latest novel, Heart Failure. If you haven't entered, dig that newsletter out of your trash folder, click the link, and enter now.

One last reminder that if you'd like to give a personalized copy of one of my novels as a Christmas gift, you can email me (see the link in the right margin) with your name, the name of the recipient, and your snail mail address. Put the name of the book you're giving in the subject line. I'll send a signed bookplate that you can put inside the book.

Back tomorrow with my a pre-Thanksgiving message.

(picture via freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Writing: What Sells Books?

Every once in a while, like my colleagues, I get discouraged by the amount of time required for social media interaction by an author. I keep wondering how many things really count with readers. So now it's your turn. Here's a link to a quick survey--just one question, click every button that seems applicable to you. I won't even ask you to rank the factors, but if you have specific comments, please do leave them here.

I'll post the answers to the survey next week on this blog. Thanks for your help.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Dark Clouds of Getting Older

Kay and I attended a 155th Birthday Party over the weekend. I repeat, a 155th Birthday Party. My good friend and golf partner, Jerry, will be 80 soon, and his wife, Janie, will be 75. They decided that, rather than ignoring the occasion, they'd celebrate it. And, along with a bunch of their friends, that's exactly what they did.

I don't like the idea of getting old. None of us do. Nevertheless, I am doing just that--along with everyone else. It happens. But, as I'm fond of saying when people ask how I'm doing, "I'm able to dress myself and take nourishment." There are some folks who can't make that statement. So I feel blessed.

What's your take on getting older? Are you young enough that you don't worry about it? Is there a "magic age" when you think you might begin to be concerned? Are you at the stage where you consider every new day a blessing? Have you even thought about it? Well, now maybe you will. Let me know.

Blatant Commercial: If you're stumped for a Christmas gift, consider a book, personalized to the recipient. If you want a signed bookplate to insert in any of my books, send me an email at Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com with the name of one of my books in the subject line (to avoid the spam filter. Include your snail mail address, the name of the person receiving the book(s) and how many bookplates you need. My books (and those of many other authors) are available from your favorite major online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Writing: Book Signings

Every author must face the question of book signings--should we strive to schedule them, avoid them like the plague, ignore them? We can get all kinds of advice from fellow authors, but rarely do we hear from the bookstore staff about these events. I've asked my friend, Ben Zajdel, to speak from his experience working in bookstores for eight years.
Here's a surprising observation: book signings aren't about selling books. Having worked in bookstores for years, I've found that signings are about marketing. They’re about developing relationships with your readers and especially the bookstore employees. It’s important not to judge the event based on the amount of books sold, but on the depth of the relationships forged during it.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can make your book signing successful:

Be prepared. Whether it’s your personal assistant, agent, or yourself doing the planning, schedule the signing at least a month in advance, if not two. Check with the bookstore periodically to make sure they have ordered books for the signing. Let them know how to reach you if they have any questions. Bring your own copies in case there is some sort of shipping error or other mistake.

Don’t sign books unless you’re asked to do so. I’ve heard some authors advise others to sign as many books as possible so that bookstores aren’t able to return those books to the publisher. Not only is this tantamount to vandalism, it’s also not true. I’ve often returned signed books to publishers with no problem. Whenever an author has signed multiple books without asking, all it did was sour my relationship with the author.

Be friendly and engaging with the staff. Treat bookstore employees as partners. Employees are often asked by shoppers for recommendations, so make sure your book is one that gets mentioned. Explain to the employees the unique selling points of your book, which authors are similar, and who your intended audience is. If you’re polite, informative, and friendly, it can go a long way to selling your books.

Don’t just sit there. The most successful signings I’ve seen have been with authors who got up and talked with shoppers. You don’t have to be pushy, but just let them know about your book and why they might be interested in buying it. This is the perfect time for your elevator speech, a short description of your book and why it’s special. If your book isn’t for them, just thank them for listening and let them shop around.

Bring candy. I know it sounds simple and childish, but having a bowl of chocolate at your signing table at least gives people an incentive to wander over and see what you’re all about. Offer some to the bookstore employees, and you’ll win them over, too.

Bottom line: Book signings aren’t meant to sell books. They are essentially guerrilla marketing. They give your readers a chance to interact with you in person rather than on paper. They help you develop relationships with bookstore employees, who can become some of your best sales partners. If you approach them as a chance to deepen relationships, it can always be a success.

Ben Zajdel is the author of Leaving Darkness, a novel about love, violence, and redemption.
Using his experience, Ben focuses on helping authors develop relationships with local bookstores and explaining how those relationships can help improve authors' sales.
He is also the host of the Studio 29 Podcast, where he interviews interesting people from all walks of life.
Ben graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Historical Studies. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, two kids, and a lazy dog named Willie. You can keep up with him at his website or on Twitter @benzajdel.

Thanks, Ben. Folks, do you agree with what's been said? Anything to add from your experience from either side of the table? 
Important Announcements: Let me remind my readers once more that subscribers to my newsletter will be able to enter a contest to win a signed copy of any one of my novels, to give as a Christmas present or for their own use. If you've not already signed up to receive the newsletter, please go here to do so before it goes out on November 17.

There's another chance to win a copy of Heart Failure at the blog of Sue Harrison. I urge you to go there and leave a comment.

Later today, author David Kentner in the UK will post an interview with me on his blog. Hope you'll drop by.

And finally, I'm honored that Romantic Times Book Reviews has nominated my novel, Stress Test, for the Reader's Choice Award in inspirational mystery/suspense. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Special Announcement!

Today, Romantic Times Book Reviews released the names of the nominees (finalists) for their various Book of the Year novels. In the Inspirational Mystery/Thriller category, my novel, Stress Test was nominated alongside four excellent books by talented novelists. Congratulations to my co-nominees. I'm honored to be included.

You may now resume your regular midweek activities. But before I sign off, as I pointed out in my previous post, if you're not a subscriber to my newsletter, I'd encourage you to go to the right margin, scroll down, and sign up. You need to do this by this coming Saturday so you get the issue that gives you details on how to win a signed copy of any novel of mine you choose. In addition, signed bookplates are yours for the asking.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Contest Coming

Recently a man asked me to sign and personalize one of my novels which he'd purchased as a Christmas gift. That gave me an idea. I'm always looking for unusual Christmas gifts. Why not books? And if I have that thought, I suspect others will as well.

So, I've decided to run a "before-the-holiday giveaway." Like my last contest, this one will only be for subscribers to my newsletter, so if you aren't already on the list, go to this link and sign up. The newsletter will go out on November 17, and the contest starts the next day, ending on December 9. There are three simple ways to enter. The winner will receive a signed copy of any book I've written, personalized to them or to whomever they choose.

But, as the late night infomercials say, there's more. Even if you don't win, you can still give a personalized copy of one or more of my books as a gift. All my novels are available via your favorite online bookseller or independent dealer. Once you've bought one (or more--there are a total of six available) just send me an email at this address -- Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com --
 with "bookplate request" in the subject line (to avoid my spam filter). Give me your mailing address, the name of the book(s) you have, how many signed bookplates you need, plus the name of the recipient if it's for a gift. I'll be happy to oblige. I can include locations in the US in this offer, but have to draw the line there because of postage costs.

That's it. Nothing to it. If you're already a newsletter subscriber, just watch your inbox. If not, sign up. And if you're not sure, try signing up--they'll tell you if you're on the list already.

Any questions?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

Today is Veterans Day, a holiday once celebrated as Armistice Day, the anniversary of declaration of a cease-fire on the Western Front in World War I. Now it's a day set aside to honor those who have served or are currently serving our nation in the uniformed services.

I'm proud to say that I am a veteran, having served three years in the US Air Force. I salute my fellow veterans, and give special thanks to those currently serving. Sometimes that sacrifice seems so little. Sometimes it's the ultimate sacrifice.

Today I'm going to do three things:
1) Fly the American flag
2) Thank a serviceman for his or her service
3) Pray for our nation

I hope you'll do the same. God bless America.

(photo via Photobucket)

Friday, November 08, 2013

Writing: Publishing Is Not For Sissies (Guest Post by Daisy Hutton)

Some time ago, I asked Brandilyn Collins to detail the thought process she went through in deciding to publish some of her books in the "indie" market, rather than with a "traditional"publisher. Brandilyn was careful to indicate that this is a matter of choice for each author. 

Today I've asked the publisher of Harper Collins Christian Fiction, Daisy Hutton, to present her view of publishing in the modern marketplace. 

Publishing these days is not for sissies. It never has been, but for the past three years, publishing has felt like the Wild West.  The revolution in on-line selling and digital reading has created unprecedented opportunity for both authors and publishers to engage directly with readers, and the will of the reader has been unleashed. Authors now have more choices than ever before in how they go about reaching their audience with their stories.

We’re all familiar with the current conversation around self-publishing. We’ve been in the midst of a heady moment. The walls have come tumbling down and the possibilities have felt limitless for both authors and readers, and smart publishers have tried to respond in kind with behavior, policies, and practices that are more author-centric. There is no question that the revolution in self-publishing has not only opened alternative publishing routes for authors; it has also made traditional publishers more author-friendly places to publish.

Alongside of this moment of incredible opportunity for authors, publishers, and readers alike, immense challenges have also emerged. The great question now in publishing is this: how do stories and readers find each other in our new world? Authors, publishers, and retailers are spending a great deal of time, energy, and money trying to get their books read amidst the plethora of self-published content that has flooded the marketplace. Self-publishing has tended to be most successful for authors who have an already established brand-awareness; success through self-publishing has tended to be more elusive for emerging authors who are still finding their audience amidst the tidal wave of inexpensive and readily available content that is available to readers.

Protecting the value of carefully curated, beautifully crafted, and expertly packaged content has never been more critical than at this moment. We can talk about any number of practical reasons why an author would chose to publish with a traditional house – broader distribution, marketing support, editorial and design expertise, expert pricing analytics and consumer analysis. But in my mind, the real reason that traditional publishers are still relevant today is because of the value they place on helping make each piece of content they publish as beautiful, as meaningful, and as powerful as it can possibly be. And such a value is particularly important to publishers and authors who are publishing and writing from a perspective of faith, where we aspire towards content that is genuinely transformative. This is the reason that I get out of bed each day to do my job- because I still believe that stories can change people’s lives and because I want to be a part of helping our authors make their stories as powerful and persuasive as they can be.

Thanks, Daisy. I'm sure readers of this blog will want to voice their opinions on this matter. I agree with Daisy about the value of seeking traditional publication. There are definitely things the "trad" publisher brings to the table. I also agree with Daisy's statement that authors with established brand-awareness do best in the self-publication market. Now let's hear what you have to say.

I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks for dropping by. 

(And come back Tuesday for news of a special offer--hint: if you don't already subscribe to my newsletter, you may wish to go to the margin at the right and sign up now).

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Looking Inside

I went shopping with Kay the other day. She bought eggs, and the first thing she did was lift the lid of the carton to look inside and make sure the eggs were intact. I've seen this behavior since I was old enough to accompany my mother or grandmother to the grocery, and it's what I do, as well. You can't tell what's inside the carton unless you lift the lid.

As a writer, I've learned a bit about crafting back cover copy. It's necessary to give a preview of what's inside to assure the buyer the product is worthwhile. But all of us present "back cover copy" to the world every day. How? By our actions.

When I buy eggs, I open the carton and look inside. When I buy a book, I read the back cover copy, then look inside and scan through a few pages. What do you do to show those around you what's inside? More important, what do they find when they get past the outer wrappings?

(picture via freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Writing: Posthumous Publication

Two days ago the world lost a talented writer of medical thrillers and I lost a dear cyber-friend with the death of Michael Palmer. His son, in a Facebook post, indicates that Michael's last book, Resistant, will be published next spring as scheduled. He and I corresponded frequently, and apparently after he carried out his last revision, Jennifer, his editor was very pleased with what he'd done with the book. I look forward to reading this last reminder of my friend.

I never thought much about the question of what happens when a well-known author dies until the passing of the talented writer, Robert B. Parker. He had written four different series, each featuring a unique lead character. I've read the books featuring these characters, books written by others, supposedly "in the style" of Parker, and was quite disappointed with them. Now I hear that the last book on which he was working has been completed by his long-time editor, and is out in time for Christmas. Kay is currently reading Silent Night, and I can hardly wait to open it myself. I hope it reminds me of Parker's writing, but I remain a bit pessimistic. Other writers may try to write like a deceased author, just as other painters may try to copy the work of the masters, but it's rare indeed to find someone who can reproduce the unique "voice" of an author or "touch" of a painter.

We writers tend to think that we'll always write, and someone will always publish our work. But, as Scripture tells us, our time to die is already ordained. What will happen to our work? Will it still affect people? Will people care at all?

What's your idea about posthumous books? Do you think that the characters should live on as portrayed by other writers? Or should the work die with the author? I'd like to hear.