Friday, February 28, 2014

Links of interest: Changing Times

Yes, the publishing industry is in the midst of some major changes. There seems to be a new "Buzz" every week whether it's the Word du Jour or Author Earning Analysis graphics. Debates are raging through online media and some cases are examples of people "behaving badly" instead of professionalism or even common sense.

Our platform is exposing Marketing Myths and offering Authors advice to Plan their Public Persona, because what is found in the digital cloud is permanent and can spread at warp speed.

The following links show that what's changed for authors hasn't changed Why You Are An Author...

NPR's Marketplace recently did an interview with Sylvia Day 
Meet Sylvia Day: The Steamy Baroness of Book Deals
On the digital-first movement that puts power back in the hands of authors:
"The shift in power from publishers to authors has been massive. And really the driving seat now is no longer the sales and marketing department of a publisher who is on an acquisition meeting saying, 'I really don't know how we're going to sell this,' to the reader who just can surf on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo and just say, 'Boy, that sounds interesting, I'll pick it up.' That's why we see these self-published books that just explode and publishers are like, 'how did people hear about that?' Well, readers are in the driver's seat."
Featured in: Marketplace for Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Two of our favorite folks, Delilah Marvelle and Donald Maass, have both contributed some interesting <if not jaw dropping> insights.
Delilah Marvelle's: An Open Letter to My Agent Donald Maass 
(Donald's reply is comment #8) 

What does all this information have to do with marketing?

Since readers are indeed the gatekeepers, great stories combined with a well designed persona and a reader focused marketing strategy are critical for discover-ability.

Our key take-aways are:
  • Know your audience <readers> and find ways to engage them in their natural habitat.
  • Engage your readers by providing great stories and customer <reader> experiences both online and in person.
  • Per Sylvia Day's comments, readers are surfing bookseller websites more as opposed to browsing bookstore shelves. Cover designs need to be eye catching and legible in a thumbnail size to attract readers. Once they have clicked on your book, the overview paragraph and description "back cover" copy should be concise and engaging. Remember, your goal is to grab their interest, so that they click the 'Buy' button.
  • Readers talk to each other, help keep your buzz positive by being professional.
Yes, these are changing times. However, with great change comes great opportunities. Devise a strategy, develop a plan, follow through on the execution, and you will be well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

Bring giveaways and promote them. I still have a couple of boxes of my first book, which is old, out-of-print, and not so useful (a 15-year-old Internet book). I took five of them along to a Closed Captioning Handbook book signing at a trade show. I sent a tweet with the event’s Twitter hash tag that said, “the first person to mention this tweet to me gets a free book.” I did the same thing on Facebook. It was interesting to see how many professional people were sitting in business meetings and educational sessions checking their Twitter feeds! You can also use drawings as a way to collect names. Have people drop their names or business cards in a fishbowl or basket, and then draw one every hour and give away something.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Street Team 101 by Sabrina York

Therese & Morgan say: While we were chatting with Sabrina York about using an illustration for her author portrait, it occurred to us that she also utilizes a street team. What is a street team? See the details below on how you can leverage word-of-mouth campaigns, via street teams, to help market your books. Structure is key!

Sabrina York says: Of all the things I have done to market myself, my books and my brand, engaging my street team has been, by far, the most effective use of my time and energy. And it has led to amazing promo opportunities I would not have otherwise had…and powerful friendships with readers.

What is a Street Team?

Simply put, your street team is a group of your biggest fans. Readers, friends, bloggers, reviewers, fellow authors and others who love your books so much, they want to share them. Often rabidly.

I started my street team about a year ago and it was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made—simply because of the amazing connections that have come from it. I decided to keep it small at first and let it grow organically, to make sure I could manage it effectively. Poor management of street teams can lead to negative backlash. Remember—these are your biggest fans. You want them to have a positive experience with you.

Starting A Street Team

I began by sending out a call to my newsletter subscribers. These are folks who liked my books enough to sign up for updates. I have added members here and there, mostly readers who contacted me to tell me how much they loved my books. Some of them I have met through other marketing forays.

While my team includes readers, it also includes bloggers and reviewers and other authors. I had assumed they were far too busy to promote my books. On the contrary, they are delighted to do so. In fact, they have become some of my most influential supporters.

I highly recommend having a set of guidelines for your team to avoid problems other authors have had. (You can read more about the ins and outs of street teams here)

Some of the benefits of street teams:

The Best of the Best

Reviews. To my delight, not only do my members love reading my books, they love writing reviews for them. Several of my members review for high profile sites, which is wonderful exposure.

Exposure to New Markets. Some members host me on their blogs whenever I have news to share. I also receive invitations to podcasts, chats and other outlets. One of my members created a beautiful trailer for my Tryst Island series, simply because she loved it so much.
Beyond that, members of my team enjoy telling people—their friends, book clubs, hair stylists—about my books. I send them blingy pens to share with all and sundry! They love it.

Beta Readers. Others serve as beta readers for my WIPs (and there are several professional editors on my team). They get to read a free book before anyone else, and I get to benefit from their eagle eye for errors. 
Insight. But probably one of the most powerful uses of my team has been the surveys. My street team has been invaluable providing me information about the State of Readership. What readers are thinking. Where they hang out. What kind of promo works and what kind is a turn off.

The Worst of the Worst

Give it the Time it Deserves. The biggest caveat about starting a team is that this is a relationship and relationships take time. Be prepared to give it, or don’t go there.

Be Clear about Expectations. Some of the horror stories I’ve heard about street teams all boil down to unclear expectations. Be honest and up front about what you want, need and expect. 
Bad Behavior. Some of my team members have quit other teams because of Super Fan Bullies or overwhelming assignments. Some authors have someone run their team for them. In my opinion, this defeats the entire purpose of having a team—and can lead to big problems if that manager does not honor your brand.

On my team, Rule # 1 is: Be Nice To Each Other. Rule # 2 is: You Don’t Have To Do Anything You Don’t Want to Do. These lovely ladies are volunteers. I honor and respect that and refuse to issue orders.

You can expect that not all members of your team will be active. Some will join just to have a relationship with you (which, frankly, is awesome). Others join because some authors give their teams free books. It’s up to you to decide how you handle this, but remember, at its core, this team is a mechanism for you to reach out and create a relationship with readers.

What kind of relationship do you want to foster?

Read more about street teams in this three part series on Writing Novels that Sell:

Join my street team!

About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is an award winning author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & steamy erotic romance to spicy BDSM. Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

Follow Sabrina
Twitter @sabrina_york

Learn More About Sabrina’s Books!
Sign up for my newsletter (book information, contests and special offers) 
Download my free Teaser Book for 75 pages of book blurbs, excerpts and reviews.
Barnes &Noble Author page

Make your own sign. Some stores provide really nice signs, but that’s rare. If you can’t talk your publisher into making one, then do it yourself. If you don’t have strong graphic design skills, get a designer to help you. Most stores will have some kind of easel or stand, but you might want to carry your own fold-up easel if you can.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Author Portrait: The Real Story, by Linda Mercury

Therese & Morgan Say: We reached out to our dear friend and writing buddy, Linda Mercury, for another perspective on why an author illustration is a great alternative to an author portrait. Linda, we don't think you look goofy or like an axe murderer - you look gorgeous!
Linda Says: First off, thank you to C. Morgan Kennedy and Therese Patrick for asking me to join you here today. I’m thrilled to be included!

Morgan asked me, why did I choose artwork instead of a traditional author photograph?

Unlike many other authors, I don’t write historical fiction or steampunk, both of which come with fabulous costuming. I write sexy vampires, but I don’t even own vampire fangs: I manage to bite my tongue and cheeks just fine with my own teeth, thankyouverymuch. I look good in black but downright silly in goth fashions (although I have tried over and over and over…)

I also change my hair color on a regular basis (currently purple, but previously green/blue), I didn’t want a picture that I had to update every few month when I wanted a change.

Therefore, lots of dissatisfaction with the pictures I used.

The art I use has a wonderful story behind it. A couple of years ago, The Charming Man surprised me with the pin up art for my birthday. I proudly framed it and placed it on the wall. The pin up art by Karina Dale, based off of this photograph by Michael Baxter, captures both my sexy side and my playful side.  Since my books are very sexy, I needed a sexy picture, but not a nude or anything too provocative.

Photo by Michael Baxter
My Author Portrait
artwork by Karina Dale
One day, the insightful Jessica Smith visited my house. Jessie took one look at my art and said, “This, THIS is your author picture.”

Thanks to Jessie, my problem was solved! I had an eyecatching, attractive, and versatile author picture already in my house and I didn’t need to do a damn thing!
This sounds very logical, doesn’t it? Like I approached my author picture with care and thought and cool reason.

Unfortunately, I’m one of the people whose reality is truly strange.You want to know the real reason I chose the pinup?I have three looks and only three looks in photographs.

I'm too sexy for this post.... :D

  1.  Incredibly goofy (because I used to be professional clown)
  2. Axe murderer
  3. Way too sexy

I tried to go with more traditional author photographs. None of them worked.

Thank heavens for Jessica and her excellent taste, or I’d still not have an author picture. Check it out here: Linda Mercury - White Hot Romance

If you are struggling to find a good representation, look at the images around you. Do you have any favorite art? Something that reveals who you are and what you write? Don’t neglect something (literally) off the wall. 

Use props. I’ve had cookbook authors at my store bring along cookies or other treats. When signing Who Pooped in the Park? books, I often bring along sample of animal scat cast in clear epoxy blocks. Anything you have that grabs attention is good. I attended an Author Marketing 101 seminar where Therese and Morgan had us design book signing tables for different authors and genres, and props were a big part of that design.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why a Cartoon Works as an Erotic Author Persona

Therese & Morgan Say: Are you still cringing at the thought of doing a photo shoot for an author portrait? Well, here is an alternative for those of you who may be camera shy or otherwise have a specific reason for not wanting to have your picture floating around the internet. We reached out to our dear friend, Sabrina York for her thoughts on why she chose to use a cartoon illustration instead of an author portrait. 'Her Royal Hotness' was an early supporter of our efforts and we will forever love her!
Sabrina Says: For the last century or so, I have worked in government for a very conservative organization. (Well, it seems like a century.) What I write is not conservative in the least. So I knew as soon as I sold my first steamy romance, I would need to use a pen name. It would serve as a tool to keep my personal and professional lives separate and would also allow me to write in other genres under another name if I so desired.

Because this separation between my worlds was so important to me, I hired a company (Visual Quill) to help with developing  a branding strategy. We defined a profile for my core customer, and from that designed a logo and tagline, which I would use for all my marketing.

My core customer is, like me, a little reserved on the surface, but with a playful and naughty side. She has a snarky sense of humor and loves bling. These elements are all incorporated in my persona.

What are the hallmarks of an effective persona?


My philosophy as a newbie author was this: “Begin as you mean to go on.” It was my intention to be a bestselling author and I decided to behave like one from the very beginning. My thought was, this is big business. And big businesses have logos. They do not rely on photographs of their CEOs. 

“But Sabrina,” you may ask. “How can a cartoon logo be professional?”

And I will respond, “Stop interrupting.” But then I will go on to share that any cartoon can be a professional logo…if it illustrates your brand. KFC and Wendy’s are two that pop to mind, but I won’t mention them because then I’ll get hungry.


A logo is far more recognizable at a glance than a photograph. As we all know, a customer must see your logo three times for it to sink into their consciousness (new studies reflecting our shortening attention spans suggests that number is closer to 17). By using my logo as my “face,” people see it over and over again on Facebook, blogs, marketing material, Goodreads, Pintrest, Twitter…and so on.

It has recognizability. They know, immediately, who I am. And if they’ve read my books, they know my brand.

On that note, for those of you who regularly change your profile picture on Facebook, realize you are losing a little chunk of your brand recognition every time you do so.

A Shield

Because I use my logo rather than a photograph in my marketing efforts, it is easier to maintain personal privacy, or at least some distance from my personal persona. This may not seem important when you are just starting to build your fan base, but when 75% of your followers on Facebook (and closer to 95% on Twitter) are people you do not personally know, this becomes essential.

Friends of mine—erotic authors—who use their personal photograph as their profile picture, spend a lot of time fending off advances from individuals who think Facebook is a dating site. Apparently these charming fellows think erotic authors need a date…which is far from the truth. We are all too busy writing to date.

Other authors have shared even more disturbing stories about being stalked (and not in a good way), and fans who “friend” their husbands and children as a way to connect with them. It is an excellent idea to keep your personal business off social media—especially photographs of your children. If this is your business, treat Facebook, and other social media outlets, like a business site.

Advice on how to create your own persona

Think about who you are and what you write. What image do you want to portray? Is there a unifying brand you can apply to your persona? For me, my tagline, Her Royal Hotness, ties into the tiara in my logo. To extend the thread, I do a regular tiara giveaway and my promo pens are festooned with bling.

Everything ties together into a neat package. A package readers can recognize in an instant.

And if you were wondering why I felt the need to keep my private life private from my conservative employers, download a copy of my free teaser book and see for yourself:

Happy reading!
About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the award winning author of over twenty hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers, her titles range from sweet & steamy erotic romance to scorching BDSM. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!



Follow me on Twitter @sabrina_york
Follow me on Goodreads
Check out my Pintrest boards 
Check out my Barnes & Noble Author page
Follow me on Ellora’s Cave 

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips
           Don’t limit yourself to only bookstores. I’m a huge advocate of bookstores (after all, I own one), but sometimes gift shops, fairs, and other venues can actually work better. My two best signings (in terms of books sold) were at a trade association’s annual conference, and in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park.