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Cover Reveal, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Through the Veil, Uncategorized, Writing

Raising My Book Baby: Marketing Takeaways from the Trenches

The blog tour for Through the Veil is winding down, and things are slowly returning back to normal around here. That gnawing, hollow feeling in my stomach has dissipated, and I’m only refreshing Amazon now twice every hour as opposed to every two seconds (it’s my first book. Don’t judge me.). Things are good, and I can stand back from the past three weeks with a strong feeling of accomplishment and with the sense that I did everything I could to bring my book out into the world.

But book marketing is a strange, elusive beast, and I can say two months ago I had absolutely no clue how and where to even begin. On the first call with my PR person, I said, “Okay, I’ve never done this before, so explain book marketing to me like you would to a small child.” And she did! Beautifully! I can’t share all the trade secrets here (and quite honestly, I still don’t understand how all this goes down), but I can tell you some things I’ve learned and some things I wished I had known before I started. A lot of folks complain that publishing runs at a snail’s pace, but nothing can prepare you for the wild, fast-paced ride of a book release. They don’t call it a “blitz” for nothing. After the first week, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. But I also felt very pleased with the results. Publishing is weird like that.

Please note that I’m not a marketing person, and I can only speak from my experience. Not every approach will work for every author. This isn’t the Church of Colleen Halverson (well, maybe sometimes, hehe), and my words are not the gospel. But here’s what I know.

  1. Start blogging now. Right now. And it’s not for the reasons you think. I know building a platform is important, and having a nice back list of blog posts can help increase your visibility. Yes, yes, all these things are true. But here’s the real reason you should start blogging—so you are prepared for the epic marathon of writing guest posts. In total, I wrote 19 guest posts to help bring Through the Veil into the world, and this isn’t including interviews. “Wow! That’s a lot!” you’re probably thinking. Why, yes. Yes it is. I told my PR people that I would be open to guest posts and the demand was enormous. And it makes sense. Guest posts are free content and don’t require the same demands as a review or even an interview. I received great responses from my blog posts, and I’m really proud of the content I cranked out. But I tell you what, I’m so glad I began blogging three years ago. I don’t blog a lot (maybe once a month), but it was enough where I had an opportunity to settle into my blogger voice, which is different from my authorial voice. A good blog post demands certain criteria, and as you blog, you learn a lot about what sort of content, length, topics, and formats really work for people. So while writing all those guest posts was pretty intense, I walked into the task with confidence.
  2. Know your core audience. Do you know your audience? Like, really know them? I’m not talking about readers who might pick up your book, but the readers out there who want to pick up exactly what you’re throwing down. I honestly didn’t. Or maybe I just didn’t think about it too much. Like most authors, when I wrote my book, I just wrote something I would like to read, and it never really occurred to me until we started packaging it how seriously I needed to evaluate my core audience. Seeing as though I signed with Entangled and there’s loads of sex in my book, I figured…yeah, romance (Oh, Colleen Halverson…so much to learn…so much to understand…). It’s true that a lot of romance readers enjoyed my book, but after reading tons of reviews of my work, I understand now that my core audience, the audience who will enjoy my stories 99% of the time is a very particular kind of woman. Who is that woman? Well, not surprisingly, they’re a lot like me. They’re the woman who, every Sunday night, loves their Walking Dead with a Downton Abbey They’re all in love with Jamie Fraser, but like to deconstruct gender roles in Game of Thrones. As they say on Project Runway, “Who’s your girl?” That’s my girl. There may be ten of us in the universe, but that’s my tribe. Know your tribe. That knowledge will dictate all of your marketing choices.
  3. Follow Book Bloggers. Before I published Through the Veil, I followed one book blogging site: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (love them!). But now? I follow several. I read a fair amount, maybe two to five books a month depending on the length of the books and my deadlines. But these folks? They read dozens and dozens of books in like, a day. They blow us all out of the water. They know your genre backwards and forwards, and they know what they like. They also talk about books in ways that may seem very different to writers and to the greater publishing industry, and there’s so much complexity in that community as to what makes for a “good book.” I’ve learned a lot by reading urban fantasy/PNR reviews lately, and seeing how the community receives different kinds of books. Colleen Halverson is still going to do Colleen Halverson, but I feel like I have a much better understanding as to how my books will fit into this world, at least more than I had before. And that is some useful knowledge to have.
  4. Hire your own PR firm. I have the best PR support from my publisher with my own publicist on speed dial. We have met via teleconference several times and we email and correspond regularly. She’s also insanely hardworking and dedicated to marketing my book. With all that said, I still plan on hiring my own PR for my next book, maybe even a second one, and I’ll tell you why. For one, it’s like doubling down your reach. My book is a pebble in the vast ocean of the internet. Anything that can bring your book to more bloggers and reviewers can’t hurt. Also, I felt like my PR firm could focus on some particular action items that freed up my Entangled publicist to funnel her energy into other avenues. If your publicist isn’t doing your cover reveal, for instance, they can hustle more reviews and work on other projects that will help your book. My PR firm, my Entangled publicist, and I all collaborated to get this book off the ground, and our combined efforts were very successful.

    I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t wanna market my book! Why is publishing making us do this?” Wah, wah, wah. Yep, I know. Here’s a cookie. Now go eat those feelings. In an ideal world, we would all have an army of publicists pimping our books, but unless you’re Stephen King, that shit ain’t happening. Also, hustling e-books in a one-click world brings itself new challenges that require a lot of people on deck. I’m in a private group with a bunch of debut authors, and all of our marketing experiences have been vastly different. They’re not contingent upon the size and scope of the publisher either. If anything, think of your own PR firm as insurance in case the marketing for your book is limited. It happens.

    I used Between the Sheet Promotions to market my book, and I found them to be very affordable, professional, and committed to marketing my book. But do your research! I hired them on a whim, and I really, really lucked out as not all Book PR firms are created equal. Also, make sure your PR firm will reach the kind of bloggers who are in your core audience. In the end, this was some of the best money I have ever spent. I have two kids, a full-time job, and two more books coming out this year. I don’t have time to contact bloggers, set up guest posts and reviews, and coordinate things like cover reveals or trailer reveals or rafflecopters. If you do? Awesome. I—don’t. And even if I did, I would much rather be spending that time writing!

So these are some of my big takeaways from the past few weeks. There are still some things I would love to chat about, but I may save them for another day. If you have questions or comments, please post below! If I can help, I certainly will. Solidarity, my writerly brothers and sisters! Marketing can be a ball, and it’s fun to see all those different facets of the publishing engine humming along. You wrote a book! Celebrate it!

AND SPEAKING OF MARKETING…

Do you like this content? Are you my tribe? Consider supporting my writing habits by purchasing a copy of my new fantasy romance Through the Veil.

Now available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada

Thanks for reading!

Cover Reveal, Feminism, Ireland, Motherhood, Publishing, Romance, Social Media, Through the Veil, Uncategorized, Writing

THROUGH THE VEIL is Now Available for Pre-Order!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but it’s been a busy month for me. I finished the latest draft of Book 2 (the sequel to Through the Veil) and sent it off to beta readers, and I’ve been working hard on guest posts and articles for my book release on February 22nd. I’ve had a great time working on these as they’ve given me a chance to talk more about things I’m passionate about: Ireland, traveling, WB Yeats, Faeries…and so many different topics. I think it’s going to be a fun blog tour, so please keep an eye out for me as you’re surfing the interwebs. I’ve also been working hard to get a new project moving forward, and of course there’s the day job and the whole raising children business…

And then was this little detail of a cover reveal…

THROUGH_THE_VEIL_500x700 (2)

I know. It’s beautiful. I burst into tears (of joy!) when I saw it. The artist captured so many things about the book I can’t even begin to put into words (which is ironic because, you know, I’m a writer), but the mood, the spirit, everything, seriously everything about my story, is in this cover for me. I’m so grateful she is the face of my debut novel. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a better cover.

Thank you to all the book bloggers who helped me share this cover to the world. I’m so in awe of this community. They do all this work for authors for FREE. They ask for nothing in return. Their unconditional love for books inspires me so much, and I’m so thankful they could be a part of this cover reveal. I thought I love books, but it’s nothing compared to their passion, and I’m in awe of all these wonderful people working so hard to promote writers and their stories. It’s amazing.

I’m also grateful to all of my friends and family who made this day so great. You shared, you chatted me up, you sent out links, you tagged people, you commented, you pre-ordered and posted about it. To quote David Bowie, “I never thought I’d need so many people…” I need you to make this book successful. I called, and you answered. Thank you.

So, yes, Through the Veil is now available for pre-order in both e-book and paperback. Please continue sharing and spreading the word. I believe in this book–for what is says about the strength of women and the redeeming power of love. I believe we need more super heroines in the world, however flawed they might be, and I believe we need to see them growing, changing, and falling in love. If you like those things, I hope you’ll consider adding Through the Veil to your bookshelf or your kindle.

Available for pre-order now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada.

xoxoxoxo

Creative Process, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

2015 and the People Who Showed Up

I was married once before–for about five minutes. I joke about that time in my life in terms of how I “married my drinking buddy.” He was a fun, good-looking guy who you wouldn’t mind sharing a pint with, but probably not ideal parenting material or the person with whom you would want to split a mortgage. But these aren’t the sorts of things I thought about too much at 24, and when all the people in my life started pairing up, moving on, adulting, I thought it was the same thing I wanted, too. I found a willing participant, I guess you could say.

I knew within months of our marriage, maybe even within the first week, that I had made a horrible mistake. For so many very private reasons, I knew I had married the wrong person, but I tried to be happy and make it work. Nothing in this world is perfect, so why should I assume marriage would be? It was fine. Everything was fine.

But it wasn’t fine.

And one day, I decided that I deserved to be happy and with someone who made me happy. On a cold morning in late November, we had our last, final confrontation while I was getting ready for work. I sat on the edge of the bathtub and looked up at my ex-husband and asked the question that changed both our lives: did we make a mistake? The look on his face told me everything.

Divorce is such a huge, epic, public failure. The worst part of divorce was not the divorce itself. That was a relief! It was calling my mom and saying, “I was wrong. I thought I knew myself, but I had no idea who I was or what I wanted.” Being wrong about something so big as marriage made me feel such incredible shame. I felt this deep impulse to apologize to her, to everyone. And yet, my mom showed up with so much unconditional love in that moment, affirming to me how much she just wanted me to be happy.

And that was so amazing about this moment in my life, and is a true testament, I think, about what happens when we choose happiness. People start showing up. Lots of people. People you didn’t expect. One of my friends lent me her couch while I got back on my feet. Other friends cooked for me. And the phone calls! Everyone calling if I needed something. More than anything, I couldn’t believe how many friends showed up to help me move out of my house and my terrible living situation. And they didn’t do it out of guilt or feelings of obligation. They did it because they wanted me to be happy. That was it. The only reason.

A couple of years ago, I went through another profound life change–the decision to start writing novels. Oh, it started innocently enough, but it soon snowballed into something bigger than myself. Within four days of writing what would become Through the Veil, I looked up from my laptop and thought, “I am so happy. This makes me so, so happy.”

But I was scared to tell the world, to show other people, so I made jokes about writing to hide the fact how much I so desperately loved doing it. I was terrified of what people would say or how they would see me, and I felt, yes, a little ashamed. I had just invested an incredible amount of money into a PhD, I was a wife and a mother of two, a serious scholar of the nineteenth-century Irish novel. What the hell was I doing writing ROMANCE?

And yet, when I started sharing my love for my book, people started showing up. My wonderful parents would not leave me alone until I let them read a draft. My friends from an online mother’s support group, including Jenna who would later create this lovely website, took so much time to give me pages and pages of feedback. Friends “liked” my word count status updates on facebook. They wanted to hear more about my book at parties, and they let me talk while I prattled on endlessly about my editing process. My doctoral advisor even gave me a great idea for Book 3. My colleague and now friend swapped drafts. Of course, all of these people had always been there, but having them occasionally pop into my life and say, “Hey, this thing you’re doing? It’s cool. Keep doing it” gave me a tremendous amount of strength.

And so I kept going and more people showed up in my life: incredible critique partners, my twitter homies, my genius of an editor, my kick-ass marketing person. And all this because I said, “Fuck it. I’m going to do what makes me happy.” I’m so glad I did.

So thank you for showing up for me in 2015. Thank you for every like, retweet, share, kind word, beta read, blog comment, high five, and (((HUG))). I hope I can find a way to show up for you in the new year.

#PitMad, Creative Process, Editing, Marketing, Pitching, PitMad, Publishing, Romance, Social Media, Twitter Pitch, Uncategorized, Writing

It’s a #PitMad Party! How to Bring out Your Inner Woo-Girl and Write a Twitter Pitch that Gets Noticed

Oh, man, I love a good twitter pitch party. Since I’m out of the game, I wanted to share a few of my tips and tricks for getting noticed in the cluttered pitch party feed. Because the #pitmad event has grown so much and become so successful, Brenda Drake has implemented an update for #pitmad, which now limits participants to only three pitches. That’s it! Three! More than ever, writers need to up their game and work a pitch that will get noticed. But how?

My advice here will not work for every author, but I have learned a few things as a veteran of several twitter pitch parties. The ultimate secret (for me) of having a successful pitching day is to treat it like an actual party. It’s a party! Woooo!!! That means, have fun, enjoy yourself, be funny, keep it light.

“But Colleen,” you say, “I’m not funny and pitching is stressful!”

To which I say, change your mindset. Believe me, that twitter pitch is not going to make or break your career. Your goal on Friday is not to snag an agent. If that happens, GREAT! But your goal is to network, meet other writers, and be your awesome self. Seriously, relax, dude. Remember, it’s a party. IT’S A PARTY!

I’ll tell  you a little story from my whoring twenties. I used to have a friend. Let’s call her Jennifer. Jennifer was not the prettiest girl at the bar, and I say that not to be mean, just as a fact. She was cute, but no supermodel, and yet…whenever we went out the whole scene would flock to her like flies on honey. And why? Because Jennifer was hilarious. She had this high, brash voice that rang out over the music, and she had a wit that would not quit. She loved men, loved to tease them, dance with them, but she was never desperate. Sometimes she went home with a dude, sometimes not. Jennifer wasn’t in it to hit it. She was there to have a good time, and that sort of confidence was intoxicating to everyone around her.

What I found after doing dozens of twitter pitch parties is that when I really let go and started having fun with presenting my book, my favorites (are they likes now? I don’t know) went through the roof. Definitely make sure you have one pitch that presents your story clearly: protagonist, goal, conflict, stakes. Ava Jae at Writability has a great post on how to do that. Here was my basic pitch for Through the Veil:

FEVER series + LABYRINTH Elizabeth is forced to marry a Dark Fae lord, allies with 18th c Irish rebel to save herself & the world #pitmad #f

Meh.

This got some hits, but as I was pitching, I noticed my writer buddy Wren Michaels getting tons of favorites. What was her secret? If you know Wren, you’ll know she’s funny, she’s snappy, and her writing is all about the voicey voice. She’s brilliant at bringing that sharp edge to 140 characters, and it is no easy feat! I wanted to see if I could replicate what Wren was doing, so I DM’d her and asked if I could use her pitches as a sort of “formula” for developing my own. She LOL’d and said, yes (because she’s so awesome like that), and for my next pitch party, I set to work sending out pitches with my info plugged into Wren’s pitches. It worked! I snagged way more agent interest.

Here are the pitches based on Wren’s 140 character magic:

Elizabeth knew grad school would be hard. She never imagined the Irish myths of her MA thesis would come to life and try to kill her #SFFpit

Super powers? Check. Hot Irish BF? Check. If only Elizabeth’s mother hadn’t forced her into this arranged marriage with a Dark Fae #SFFpit

Falling in love with a Celtic warrior was easy. Keeping a Dark Fae lord from destroying the world will be the hard part #SFFpit #A

Her mom is MIA. Her BF is sworn to kill her. She’s forced to marry a Dark Fae Lord. Grad school doesn’t seem so bad anymore #SFFpit #A

Maybe you’ll disagree, but to me these pitches have the zip that stands out. If you see someone snagging all the likes on Friday, try to figure out what’s going right for that person. It’s not all about premise as Lara Willard so brilliantly discusses in her (*ahem* much more detailed) analysis of her own twitter pitch experience. For her, References (like comps FEVER series + LABYRINTH) and voice trumped all. She has, like, graphs and stuff. Check it out before you tweet.

So I took Lara’s advice and started playing around with comps and voice. Here’s one of those:

Wait…what is this? I have to fight this Dark Fae Lord? What am I, some sort of wizard? Well, actually… FEVER series meets IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #pitchmas #a

And then I just started getting really silly and decided since Wren’s twitter formulas worked so much, why not use really catchy pop tunes? I’m particularly proud of these:

Elizabeth’s got a blank space and she’ll write Finn’s name as long at this Dark Fae lord doesn’t get in the way FEVER series meets IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #secretshop #a

Walk into the club like what up I’m THE LAST AISLING and I can make your head explode with my mind FEVER series x LABYRINTH #secretshop #a

Elizabeth’s got 99 problems but this Dark Fae lord ain’t one. Irish myth retelling & romance. FEVER series meets IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #secretshop #a

These received tons of agent love. I know what you’re thinking. What does Taylor Swift have to do with my novel? The answer is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. But Taylor Swift writes catchy tunes. Most of the pop songs on the radio are engineered to get noticed and stick in your head…forever. Use that to your advantage. Oh, man, the things I would do with that new Adele song in a twitter pitch…

So after I got my twitter pitch sea legs, I really just started having a ball with trying out new things. You don’t have the advantage of that on Friday, but take some time to come up with some fun things that encompass maybe not the premise of your book, but the spirit of your book. One pitch I threw out there that really surprised me by how much attention it received is a pitch I just sort of wrote as a joke:

Sexy Celtic romp with GoT darkness and twists. Irish myth retelling and romance. FEVER series meets IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #SFFpit #A #NA #R

Basically it was me saying, “Hey agents! I know shit you like! I have shit you like!” It says nothing substantial about the story, but it doesn’t have to. It just has to appeal to people. I mean, who doesn’t want to read a sexy Celtic romp with GoT darkness and twists, right? Right? (*wrings hands*).

Think, too, about what appeals to your audience. My novel has a lot of fantasy elements, so I drew from a very popular Lord of the Rings meme (again, go with things that are popular, catchy. Memes are great inspiration for this). Here’s one that everyone seemed to love:

One does not *simply* walk out of the Faerie realm after becoming the Dark Fae’s most valuable weapon FEVER series x IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #secretshop #f #a

Hehe…(yeah, I laugh at my own jokes. So what?).

But then I thought I would give my romance audience a little love, so I thought about things that appeal to me, namely super hot guys with their shirts off. Here are a few of those heavy romance pitches that received tons of love:

If you think Elizabeth is going to fall for the warrior with the hot Irish accent, you’re probably right. Brains + Body = Ally #secretshop #f

I mean, yes, we *could* stop this Dark Fae Lord from using my MA thesis for evil, but we should probably make out first, right? #secretshop

Hey, you know what’s better than a hot 18th c. Irish rebel with his shirt off? Actually, never mind. Nothing’s better than that #secretshop #f #a

These tweets tell you nothing but everything about my novel, and for readers of romance, it zeroes into exactly the sort of things we like. Again, it’s not always about outlining the character, goals, stakes, etc. It’s very important to have a tweet like that in your arsenal, but what about the other two? Sometimes it’s delivering the attitude of your book and your voice, and sometimes it’s just about cracking a joke and appealing to your core audience.

But most of all, it’s about having a good time. I didn’t land an agent with twitter pitching, but ended up getting my big break on #mswl. But I’m so glad I participated in all those parties. It helped me hone my pitch and taught me a lot about marketing and what appeals to people about my book.

No matter what happens, though, just remember, if you’re not having fun with #PitMad, you’re doing it wrong.

So tell me your troubles, darlings. Let me help you with your pitches. Post yours in the comments, and I’ll see if I can give you some feedback. Also, give some love to your fellow writers and see if you can help them out. Get a comment, leave a comment, etc.

Happy Pitching!

 

 

Through the Veil

Elizabeth Tanner is no Tinkerbell, and her life is no fairy tale. Broke and drowning in student loans, the one thing she wants more than anything is a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation. But after the ancient Irish text she’s studying turns out to be more than just a book, she becomes their prisoner instead. And when Trinity reveals Elizabeth is half-Fae, she finds herself at the center of a plot to save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war.

As Commander of Trinity’s elite warriors, Finn O’Connell isn’t used to having his authority challenged. He doesn’t know whether to punish or protect the infuriating young woman in his custody. When he discovers the Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe, he’ll risk everything to help her.

At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.

Available now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada.