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Thursday 28 July 2011

Focus On...Virtual Book Promotions

Plotting, characterisation and computing skills aren't the only things writers have to worry about these days. Today I'm welcoming Nas Dean, Romance Fan Supreme and head of Virtual Book Promotions, who's there to take some of the stress out of our 'after sales service'...

First I’d like to thank Christina, for asking me to share about Virtual Book Promotions.
Promoting an upcoming book is easy, do you say? The marketing department at your publishing house will handle it.  But you do know that the marketing department will be handling all six or sixty books releasing in that month? 
But who will give “YOU” the author, special attention you need for “YOUR” book to sell?
Okay you got the CALL! Yay! …You’re super excited! Then you receive your cover photo and release dates, now, can anything be more exciting? But does it stop there? No, your journey has just begun. Now you have to make your name stand out from the masses and sell copies of your book. You have to connect with readers everywhere around the world.
But you’re rushing along trying to meet the deadline for your subsequent books. You don’t want to be a one-book-wonder; you have to have your second and third books or for that matter your sixth and seventh books already in the pipe-line. 
How can you do promotions?
That is why I’m here! To start your promotion machinery rolling!
What can a virtual book tour do for a new or established author?
Book Tours bring you to the notice of readers. It actually helps to have your name and the title of your book talked about. You have to find the reader, rather than wait for them to find you. And when you do find them, you have to talk to your reader and keep him/her engaged. Book promotion is time consuming, expensive, and there are no guarantees that your efforts will bear fruit. But a lot of your labor can be cut in half if you focus on the reader and what S/HE needs. 
Think about yourself as a reader. You just finished a fantastic book from a new-to-you author and you decide to Google the author to learn more about her. When you reach her blog, all you find are advertisements for more books. It feels like a bit of letdown, doesn’t it? Now what if the author is out there visiting all your favorite haunts and inviting you to ask her questions? And doing giveaways of her book?
Talking to you, answering your individual comments and generally having fun, chatting with you. 
Does it work better for certain genres than others?
No, I would say it should work the same for all genres. It’s scary to put yourself out there because you don’t always know how you’ll be received, but if you’ve written the best book you can, all that’s left is to be the kind of author people want to know, Facebook friend you and chat with you through twitter. 
What are some things authors should keep in mind to have a successful tour?
Authors are rushing to meet the deadline for their second and third books; they can’t keep details about promoting their first book in mind, that’s why they come to me! (--_^) 
But seriously, they should have a media kit ready with all the pertinent information. This would include a mini bio, a full bio, decide on a author photo and include this(this is the photo out and about everywhere!) the book cover photos, links to your website, social networking sites eg. Facebook Page, Twitter. Goodreads.
And be available on the date of a Blog Stop to connect with a reader. And I’ll let you in on a secret for promoting. I advise authors to comment on many different blogs. Not a ‘hi, I like your site’ comment, but something personal and thoughtful. If you leave short and intriguing comments, people will follow you back. 
What blogs is it best to appear on?
High traffic blogs where your book would be appreciated! If it’s a romance novel, then obviously romance writer’s blogs would be good. Where romance readers mostly hangout. But I found all blogs have mostly adult visitors and people read romance so most blogs are suitable. 
And I talk to book bloggers and arrange:
• Reviews
• Interviews
• Guest posts
How long should a virtual tour take?
It depends on the author. If she can handle one week of five blog stops or five weeks of one stop a week. 
Recently when I promoted Wendy S Marcus, and her debut book, When One Night Isn't Enough, we took on more than thirty stops but Wendy was game to agree. She also had a deadline to meet for her second book, Once a Good Girl. Though, Wendy scheduled some of these blog stops herself. And each and every stop had new and fresh, interesting posts. 
Do virtual tours replace brick-and-mortar book signings? Or should authors still be prepared to do some traveling and in-person meet and greets?
Virtual Tours actually don’t replace, rather enhance your promotional efforts. The brick-and-mortar book signings are in your immediate area or in your country, but the Virtual Tour is all over the globe. Wherever books are sold and readers know how to click a few buttons to get online.

Once an author signs a contract, it seems as if there’s more to do than ever! Are there any resources available that can help? If so, what is the typical fee?
Once an author signs a contract, I start with subtle promotions of her title. After I set up Blog visits and confirm dates with blog hostesses, I send the author a list of titles she may decide to talk about on her tour. We do want to keep readers interested by following her tour.  And decide if she would be doing giveaways. Wendy did a 2in1 Book giveaway on each stop. And at the end there was an Amazon gift card to be won for one person. 
Typical fee you looking at is US$150-180 for a ten/fifteen Blog Stop. But if you decide to hire me on as a Virtual Assistant then it’s extra. 
For Blog Stops the author sends me the post and I do all the linking, add photos and send it onto Blogs. Then at every stop I link to Facebook and Twitter to promote that Blog Visit. I have another Facebook Page Romance Book Paradise which is linked to twitter so I promote through that as well. I’m generally around for any hiccups or to encourage conversation. I’m like a chaperone, if you please!
Then I create an Author Page linked to Romance Book Paradise where I have all the details, reviews and buy links for your book on one page. Now for subsequent books you don’t have to hire me, just send me a book and I update that page for you with all relevant reviews linked!
As a Virtual Assistant, I keep track of your visitors/ commenter’s and winners by excel spreadsheet. I also have librarian status at Goodreads, LibraryThing where I can load book details and covers of different editions of your book. There are some other sites which have given me authority to add to their author list and add books on their site. So I add you onto these sites.  
What’s in it for Blog Hostesses?
I make sure all my fellow hostesses receive free books! 
And if the author on the blog tour is doing giveaways, the host blog also receives lot of traffic and her blog also becomes the favorite haunt of readers.

How did you get started working with authors on online tours?
Actually I did a degree majoring in Management and Marketing and some of my author friends noticed that I was good at promoting books (I have a passion for reading!) and approached me to take on their upcoming book release promotions. 
Recently I have also been approached to allow authors to display their upcoming book cover photos on the sidebar of my Blog, linked to their websites. The author concerned already paid another site US$25. for one month, she offered  the same to me to have her cover placed on my sidebar. She’s already booked for three months for 2012! She herself said, “You do have to pay the bills!” Romance Authors and writers are fantastic and very warm and considerate!
- Apart from Virtual Blog Tour, what is the single most important thing an author can do to promote her book?
Ah, yes, the author has to make sure of reviews….on reader sites as well as bookseller sites. As recently I came across this wonderful post from  a very knowledgeable person, Michelle Fayard, when she was asked about reviews, said,
I recommend authors get at least 10 reviews, each about 75 to 300 words long. According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers, customer reviews are the single most effective tool for selling books on Amazon, as they help potential customers decide if the title is a fit for them. If you ask your contacts to post a review on Amazon, ask if they’d mind posting the same review on Barnes and Noble and Goodreads as well, for example.” 
Check this post for more information as I found it to be extremely enlightening. Apart from Virtual Book Tours I also post reviews on more than ten different sites.
And for more information regarding Virtual Tours please visit Romance Book Paradise’s this link Why Book a Virtual Blog Tour? 
Thank you for inviting me to share about Virtual Book Tours, Christina, and if anyone has a question, I’ll try my best to answer.
Thank you for posting, Nas. It’s been a very interesting and informative blog, and I wish Virtual Book Promotions every success for the future!

Thursday 21 July 2011

Focus On...Fiona Benson

Today's focus is on someone who really knows how to multi-task. Please welcome Fiona Benson, who is a writer, lecturer, mentor, fund raiser and...well, the list goes on and on! Here's her blog...

Passion is itself a beautiful thing. It is fabulous if you are able to share your passion with others.
Like Christina, I have a deep love of landscape. I was born and raised in Sunderland, on the north-east coast of England, so grew up surrounded by the massive natural 'landscape' of the sea. Beautiful. The beauty of natural surroundings has had a strong influence on my life as a playwright and poet and on my choice of settling in the stunning Forest of Dean, where I've lived for over twenty years.
A while ago I started writing prose pieces to perform at literary cabarets and found that my writings were a celebration of the Forest and my life within it - my day-to-day life in the present, but also revisiting scenes from previous years. I gathered the pieces together in an anthology and had a paperback published. I was thrilled when readers contacted me to say how much my tales had brought the Forest of Dean to life for them.
To share my passion more further afield I have recently epublished the collection under the title 'Hang On A Minute! Tales of a writer's life in the ancient Forest of Dean'. I have included here a short extract that I hope you enjoy. The collection can be found at:http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Hang+On+A+Minute&x=14&y=25
 'From Mireystock to Highnam'
            "I'm climbing into the car at not quite the crack of dawn but definitely among the splinters. I'm away up the lane through Camomile Green, left down Worral Hill, on past the narrow ribbon of the river Lyd and I'm heading for the Mireystock crossroads.
            I haven't turned on the radio yet, it's quiet in the car, just me catching my breath between the domestic landscape and the travelling one, just me indulging in an overture of anticipatory silence.
            It's early to be leaving the village, the cottage, the study that's my writing room, but today's one of those days when I turn back into an academic to go and do college work in Cheltenham.
            I'm turning left at Mireystock, and ... am I sitting comfortably, then let the radio begin ...
            I'm passing the island of shops with the crazy coloured lettering, passing the Cinderford lights, driving up the winding hill past the church, in reverse slalom towards the summit of the Plump.
            I'm greeting the Gorgon tree.
            Morning, lovely morning, how're ya hanging?
            The Gorgon, with its long, wild and straggly branches is one of a special collection. The collection that's called My Favourite Trees. These include the old bearded-man tree at Speculation, the Truncated-trunk Elephant tree at Sallow Vallets, the Gorgon tree just before the summit of the Plump.
            I'm up and over the top of Plump Hill, with that tricky contortion that involves an irresistible glancing over to the right to view the horseshoe-bend of the river Severn - while simultaneously turning the car to the left, trying not to slither over the middle white line into somebody else's lane. Oh, sorry mate, lovely view!
            Then down, down the other side into Mitcheldean ..."
Thanks Fiona, that's a terrific evocation of life in the Dean!

Monday 11 July 2011

Bees At Work!

This is a lovely time of year - if only I had managed to keep on top of the gardening! Instead, I've been so busy writing a new Modern Romance for Harlequin  Mills and Boon the time has flown by and I'm looking out at a scene of self-sown poppies and wild white clover. Luckily, my bees love both these flowers so they are extra busy. One of our hives is packed to the rafters with honey, but that colony is so large I shall have to be careful and leave them plenty of those stores to keep them well fed through the winter.  Some beekeepers take off all the honey and then feed their bees with sugar and water, but I'd rather let them have natural food. If white sugar is bad for us, it can't be much better for the bees!
July sees the US publication of my romance set in the South of France, The Count's Challenge. Nip over to my website, http://www.christinahollis.com to read an extract, and for a chance to enter my great new Summer Competition based on the book!

Thursday 7 July 2011

Focus On...Elaine Lowe

I'm delighted to welcome Elaine Lowe onto my blog today, to talk about her latest release.

Hi Christina, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I'm Elaine Lowe, and I am happy to announce that my latest book, http://www.jasminejade.com/p-9413-magic-eights.aspx Magic Eights, is out today! Short but hot, Magic Eights tells the story of a happily married couple that still has a lot to learn about one another, and the touch of magic that helps them to do it. What is a woman to do with eight copies of the man she loves? Have a lot of exhausting fun!
This book is light-hearted and fun, a departure from some of my more plot-intense, research heavy historicals. I really had a lot of fun writing this summery romp, and I hope you have fun reading it.
Check out my website, http://elainelowenovels.com/ Elaine Lowe Novels and follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/elainelowe
Have fun and keep reading! 
Elaine Lowe
Here's an excerpt from Magic Eights to whet your appetite...

Will stood in the doorway for a moment, taking in the soap-obscured view of her
naked body and flashing her a brief but devastating grin that still made her heart go
“Hello my water nymph. How do you find your bath? And is that incense I smell?”
He turned away from her and to the toilet, nonchalantly taking a piss, while she
observed the curve of his ass in the ancient pair of khaki shorts that he wore.
“Bath’s searing hot, just like this nymph likes it. And no, the scent is something
Esme sent us for our anniversary.” She looked him up and down. “Care to join me?”
Her voice dripped with invitation, but she knew he didn’t share her particular fetish for
“You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s like ninety-five in the house, and it’s only going
to get hotter. How you can stand to take a hot bath in this weather is beyond my ken!”
With a drip and a zip and a quick wash of his hands, he turned back to her, his eyes
eating her up and making her throb even more than she had been. With his dark
shining eyes carrying that edge of lust and his wicked goatee reminding her how much
she liked the drag of his chin against her thighs, she was practically melting with need
for him. But she didn’t let it show. Her appetite for him was simply ridiculous after all
the years they’d been together and she’d never been completely comfortable letting it
all out. He was everything she ever wanted, and she didn’t feel like scaring him off
Will seemed to read something in her expression though, and he looked apologetic.
“I promise to take a bath and have fun with you when it’s not scorching hot. Besides, I
just got a call from work and the server is having a meltdown. I’ve got to log on and fix
it before the CFO starts having kittens. Which would be bad, because he’s very allergic
to cats.”
Susanna crinkled her brow and blinked. Will always did have a cock-eyed sense of
humor. She loved it and the unexpected twists his brain would occasional make. “But
you are supposed to relax this weekend! You’ve been…”
“I know, I’m stressed out and I desperately need to get away from the computer.
But I’m an addict, what can I say. And I think I’ve done quite a bit of restorative
relaxing.” His eyes flickered over her once again and that lazy lecherous smile
appeared, the one that could make her blush like a sixteen-year-old virgin. “So let me
go off and slay some electronic dragons, or fix some bugs, and I shall return to indulge
in all the bounty milady has to offer.” With a wink, he turned around and shut the door,
leaving her in the swirling steam and foamy water of her bath. All alone.
His parting words had sent all kinds of naughty images tickling her brain...

Passion in  a sultry bathroom - exactly the thing to put the zing back into a marriage! 
Thanks for blogging here today, Elaine, and good luck with Magic Eights!