Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blog Tour: Paper Hearts: Some Marketing Advice by Beth Revis

When Justin from Justin's Book Blog asked me if I wanted to be part of a blog tour on writing craft books I was like: "No can do. Not in April. I have a gazillion and six deadlines. I don't even have time to read my email this month!"

Then he said it was for Beth Revis. I don't know if you've ever met her, but I have and she's amazing. She's not just a successful bestseller, she's kind, supportive, down-to-earth, and funny as all get out. I'd been meaning to read her craft books for forever because she's also really smart and I knew I could learn from her. So since I already had Paper Hearts on my TBR and I have five books releasing over the next two years that I'll need to market and promote, I decided I couldn't pass up this chance to help a friend and help myself at the same time. I started with Book #3--Paper Hearts: Some Marketing Advice. Read my review of the book on Goodreads.

Today it's time for Tip #3:

Beth: There are hidden costs to every promotion you do. If you’re mailing prizes, the hidden cost is shipping—and for international shipping, that adds up. If you’re selling books at a convention, the hidden costs is the travel and other expenses to get to that convention. But beyond the hidden costs, consider the actual, up-front cost of what you’re doing. 

A traditional publisher can expect to make a few bucks per book—so if you’re spending $5 for swag to give away to everyone who buys your book, you’re actually losing money. It’s fun to develop swag and find prizes, but make sure you’re doing it in a cost effective way. I say this with full knowledge that I have always gotten swept up with making swag and gifts for readers, but I also say this with the experience of spending more money than I’ve made on a hard day’s work at a convention. Make a budget and stick to it.

Paula: Now Beth is going to answer a couple of commonly asked marketing questions and just for fun, I'm going to give you my answers too (Spoiler alert: Beth and I think a lot alike!)

1. What can young writers do to start building their platforms now?

Beth: Focus on writing. Focus on craft. Don't worry about platforms*. Unless you are literally a celebrity with hundreds of thousands of followers, no one cares about your platform. Agents and publishers are checking out your social media only to make sure you're not completely crazy and that you know how to professionally** use social media. So yes: use social media--if you want to. Work on creating a professional online presence. But don't sweat it. The book matters--nothing else.

*The one caveat: if you're writing nonfiction, you do need a platform. You have to prove your audience and expertise if and only if you're writing nonfiction.

**By professional, I don't mean pay a bunch of money for sleek designs. I mean don't be racist, sexist, hateful, or otherwise crazy pants. Treat social media as a professional cocktail party--don't say it if you wouldn't say it to your peers or in front of your mom.

Paula: I agree completely when it comes to focusing on the writing. It's really easy to let perceived promotional responsibilities eat up all of your writing time. I spent a lot of yesterday making fun graphics for an upcoming e-book sale instead of working on my deadline book. #BadPaula As a published writer, it is expected I will do a decent amount of promotion, but if you don't already have self-published books available for purchase or a signed contract for a future traditionally published book, you have plenty of time to build up an online following later.

I would also add, consider keeping your personal social media and your professional social media separate. I don't use social media in my private life--I have a Facebook profile that is never updated, but that's it. However, if you're going to make an FB as an author, make a separate page, even if at first it seems like no one is reading it. Make a second Twitter account and get in the habit of putting the writing-related stuff there. What's appropriate for your friends and family to see and read isn't necessarily what you want a bunch of strangers having access to. If you make this decision at the very beginning, you won't run into issues where you're scrambling to delete potentially awkward posts later.

2. Any advice on finding the line on what counts as too much self-promotion?

Beth: Lisa and Laura Roecker once told me that they only talk about themselves (i.e. self-promo) after they've talked about someone else and/or someone else's book. That's the best rule of thumb I keep in the back of my mind as I do self promo--whenever I've talked about myself, I talk about
something else.

The problem is, the people who need this advice tend to ignore it. There's a group of people who feel like they have to use social media 24/7 for self promo. They're basically spam bots. And the only thing you can do is block them and hope that one day they figure out that this isn't how social media works.

On the other hand, there is a smaller subset of authors who are so worried about being perceived as spammy that they never self promo. And if that's you--that's fine. It's not bad to keep your social media promo-free. But it's okay to mention you're a writer and have a book out. And it's okay to
mention the same thing three or so times a day--because the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of social media users only use a few platforms and are only only a few times a day. So if you tweet about your book once in the morning, once at noon, and once at night, you're probably reaching different people every single time. It feels like a lot of self promo, but it's not.

Paula: This question resonates with me so much because I often worry that I'm becoming a spambot. When my first book came out, I refused to even do Rafflecopter contests or give entries in exchange for Twitter follows or GR TBR adds because it felt so slimy. Reality check: An entry for a follow or RT is how a lot of promo activities are structured. It is expected, accepted practice in the industry. You don't have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but the number one promoter of your book should be the person with the most invested in it, and that's YOU. So if you're not going to do these things, you need to come up with other things to do instead because your publisher will want you to do some online promotion.

I actually have different strategies for different social media. For Instagram, I generally try to keep my self-promo posts to one out of every three posts (so about once a week) or less. I might go up a little for my release month, but then I'll drop lower in the periods between books. I enjoy Instagram and often post pictures of cats, nature, funny things I come across, and other people's books. My Facebook might be a little heavier ratio of self-promotion, but that's probably because I don't like FB as much as the other platforms so creative content is harder to come up with. Also, due to FB's current algorithms, most of my posts are seen by fewer than 10% of the people who have liked my page, so I feel like the chances of people getting spammed via FB are very low. Twitter is my main social media activity and the bulk of my tweets are me talking to other people, sometimes about books but often about TV shows or celebrities or national parks or cats.

Like Beth said, you can tweet the same thing three times a day and probably hit different audiences. One thing I do that keeps me from feeling like a spambot is to use Tweetdeck to schedule almost all of my promo tweets ahead of time. Right now I'm running a Goodreads giveaway for The Art of Lainey and a pre-order incentive for Girl Against the Universe. When those activities went live, I scheduled three tweets the first day (including one in the middle of the night for my international readers for the pre-order.) I scheduled two the next day, one the following day, and then a few more sporadically over the next couple of weeks, mixing up early morning and late night and weekend. The end result of scheduling promo tweets is you can get a good mix of coverage and tweet variation without having to worry about oversaturating your feed.

Like anything else, there are caveats to using scheduling--you might feel like a real heel if everyone else is tweeting about a recent tragedy and you're tweeting "Pre-order my book and get fun stickers!" But again, I think most people on Twitter understand that tweet scheduling is a normal business practice. Another good way to find out if you're overpromoting is to ask your followers. I've asked people if posting on FB every day during release week is too much or if they are seeing too many retweets during RT contests on Twitter. Finally, I would recommend against retweeting or reposting every positive review of your book, and definitely don't tweet the same reviews over and over. The #1 reason I unfollow/mute people is because they spam me with the same positive reviews of their books day after day.

ETA: The #2 reason I mute people is when they use the DM function in a spammy way. Resist the urge to send an auto DM to every follower, even if it's just thanking them for following you. That's unnecessary spam. And if someone follows you on Twitter, they can find your blog/FB/Tumblr/Pinterest/Book-buying links if they want. Sending all this stuff in a DM is irritating to a lot of people (or to me anyway ;D)

Wanna check out the Paper Hearts series from the beginning? Learn more at

Purchase Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice
AmazonKoboBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository

I hope you've enjoyed today's content for the Paper Hearts tour :) Follow along with the rest of the tour at the Paper Hearts Tour Headquarters, and/or follow Beth Revis on Twitter! And don't forget to enter the giveaway for signed copies :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Girl Against the Universe Pre-Order Incentive!!

EDITED TO ADD: If you want a signed book instead of a signed bookplate, you can pre-order from Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA using this link. Be sure to note in the special instructions that you want the book signed, and if you want it personalized to someone, give them that info too.

Are you planning to buy Girl Against the Universe? If so, you might want to order early and take advantage of this awesome pre-order incentive :D Everyone who orders a new hardcover or e-book, from any store or website, by May 15th (so yes, if you ordered last week or 6 months ago it counts) is eligible to receive 2 signed bookmarks, a signed bookplate, a magnet, and 2 reader-designed GATU stickers (Thanks, Ri and Silvana!) Also, thanks to Eli Madison for laying out the book cover on the magnet and to Julie Heidbreder for designing my GATU bookmarks!

This incentive is international. In order to get your free goodies, you need to email your mailing address to pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com subject: GATU pre-order, and include a photo, scan, or screenshot of your order confirmation or receipt. Lovely international peeps: It helps me a ton if you type out your address on multiple lines like my super-clueless self should address the envelope. Also, don't forget to include your postal code if that's something you're not used to using. Please allow four to six weeks for arrival.

BONUS: OMG I am so excited about this bonus. One lucky pre-orderer will be chosen at random to receive a deluxe Girl Against the Universe swag bag to include all of the above swag, plus a Girl Against the Universe notebook, a box of Lucky Charms cereal bars, an adorable dolphin plushie (because everyone likes dolphins!), and a mystic knot and neko bead good luck bookmark, all packed in a brilliant, painted tote, created by the queen of brilliant, painted totes, Ms. Becca Fowler!

Bookmark: the red woven knot is similar to Maguire's mystic knot necklace.

If you are not on my mailing list (why are you not on my mailing list?! ;D) this is the ONLY chance you'll have to win this killer prize pack. So if you want the book and you want the goodies, pre-order today from the vendor of your choice!

Wanna try before you buy? Click here to read the beginning of Girl Against the Universe.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Great GATU Graphics Contest!

Last month I was looking for sticker designs to help promote Girl Against the Universe. I got lots of awesome entries, and to be honest, I wish I could have printed them all. Picking a winner and a runner-up was really hard, but I based my judging off overall appearance, sticker message, and how well each design branded/promoted the book. In the end, I selected the design on the left (made by Ri) as the winner and the design on the right (made by Silvana) as the runner-up.

Both stickers will be used in a GATU pre-order campaign later this month. Bonus: Ri's sticker design, with her permission, was selected for use in a major industry campaign, the details of which must remain secret until the book's release. But thousands of her stickers will be printed and distributed. Pretty cool, huh? :)

If you didn't win, don't despair! You can tweak your entry just slightly and have two more chances to score a copy of Girl Against the Universe, because this month I'm just looking for cool fan art or quote/image pairings to share on social media. These images should include the title of the book somewhere and can include quotes from the novel, suggested taglines, your own taglines, etc. They can also be text-free. Here are some examples from last year's contest for Liars, Inc.

By Ri from Hiver et Cafe

By Kim from Divergent Gryffindor

By Eileen from Book Cat Pin (Mixed media)

By Eli from The Silver Words

I am picking two winners for this contest, one based on the artwork I like the best, and one randomly selected from all of the other entries that follow the rules. It's not always just about who has mad design skills. It's also about the fact you took the time to help me promote my book.

Each winner of this contest will get a signed hardcover of Girl Against the Universe if you have a U.S. address or a Book Depository pre-order of the novel + a signed bookplate if you live outside the U.S. If you live in a non TBD country, I will send you an e-book copy. [ETA: Anytime you win a copy of a book from me, if you want one of my other books instead, just ask. I have no problem subbing in a different title as long as it's available.] All winners, regardless of location, will receive swag to include signed bookmarks and a GATU magnet. All submitted designs will be fawned over by me and shared via my social media ;D

Possible text for your graphic:
Your graphic does not need to have text (aside from the book's title), but it can. If you've read the book, you can use anything that stood out to you. You can also use part of one of the quotes that are listed on Goodreads.  You can make up your own tagline or phrase. Or, like last month, consider this huge list of tags I submitted to my editor when I was flailing for a tagline myself.
  • Life is risk.
  • Luck is a game of inches.
  • Worlds are about to collide.
  • Everything is riding on this.
  • It's time for an upset.
  • Don't count out the underdog.
  • The ball is in your court.
  • Sometimes the Universe just takes what it wants.
  • Sometimes you have to fight for everything.
  • There's a fine line between luck and tragedy.
  • You can't win if you don't play.

  • You must share your graphic on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook at least once during the next six weeks. Caption/tag the image similar to: #GirlAgainstTheUniverse by @pstokesbooks releases May 17th from @HarperTeen #GATU @EpicReads
  • Aside from the GATU cover which can be freely used, any photography or imagery must belong to you. Polyvore, Wikipedia, etc. images cannot be used unless they are completely open source without even requiring crediting of the source. When in doubt, don't use it.
  • Designs can be any shape or size and do not need to be high resolution.
  • If you entered the sticker design contest last month, you can use your same design for this contest, provided that you include the book title and share it on social media at least once.
  • You can enter up to three graphics, but each one must be shared on social media.

Final designs need to be emailed to me as a .JPG for easy sharing at pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com by May 15, 2016, subject: GATU graphics contest. In your email, also include a link or enough information so I can find your shared image on social media.

General questions? Put them in the comments.