My Do-It-Yourself Marketing Checklist

I’ve got two careers now – I’m an active duty military officer, and I’m also an author.

I really enjoy writing, and do it at every opportunity: during lunch, after work, while waiting for things, while standing in line for some amusement park ride, etc. In fact, I have to force myself to NOT do it and sometimes focus in things like my husband and children, and reading, and sometimes watching TV. After having little sales success with a PR firm I hired to help me market my last book, RETRIBUTION, I decided to take matters into my own hands and begin an aggressive marketing push on my own.

Of course, I have no idea how to do this. I’d really rather be writing. But I sucked it up and put together a little checklist – because that’s what we do in the military – of marketing steps based on some notes I took at a writing conference last year and tips I gleaned off the Internet. I looked at this checklist, then I opened my work-in-progress manuscript and said hello to the characters waiting impatiently for me to continue my story, then I gritted my teeth and closed my manuscript, mentally kicked myself in the ass, and got to work doing something I really didn’t want to do.

Because nobody likes marketing. Except maybe the people who make a living off it, whatever. No author likes marketing. But after working my day job, I drag myself back to my little dorm room on the camp I’m currently in, and use the remaining couple hours of the day to plink away at my list. Here’s a link to my current draft of the list, which is a work in progress, for anyone who’s interested:

  • Schedule daily Facebook posts once a week
  • Write a blog every two weeks (STRETCH: once a week)
  • Spend 10 minutes each day liking/responding to other author’s Facebook posts
  • Compile a list of authors for blurbs/reviews
    • Send author requests for blurbs/reviews
    • Offer to send authors all three books
    • Send ARCs to those who respond; follow up with those who don’t respond
    • Have some suggested blurbs ready to make it super-easy for authors short on time
  • Compile list of romance book review blogs, ask them for reviewso  
  • Update website to focus on my story, not my books
    • Focus on what makes me unique/newsworthy/worth following, and what I can do for my readers
    • Books should be secondary focus (even though primary goal is to sell books)
  • Find out what a pre-sales list is, try to make one myself
    • Pre-sales list is a list of places that will pre-sell your book, like Amazon and Google
    • Already have pre-sales going on via my publisher, so don’t need this
  • Create a sell sheet
    • Used to convince bookstores to sell your books
    • Not necessary for me
  • Create an online media kit
    • A PDF file or webpage (most ppl prefer PDF, cuz it’s easier to copy from) that bloggers or other media people can use to quickly write a story or review about your book
    • Keep it simple; ppl want to easily skim it and find the info they need
    • Include in the kit:
      • A press release, usually the one you write for the book’s launch.
      • Author bio, including previous publications and qualifications to write the book. Include author’s platform information. (keep it very short)
      • Author photo, and it’s smart to include high-resolution files for print and low-resolution for online use.
      • Book photo, with the same resolutions as the author photo.
      • Any awards the book or series has won
      • Testimonials
      • Sample interview questions and Q&A
      • Excerpts from the book and sample chapters
      • Links to everything and contact info
      • Here’s a good example: <https://michaelhyatt.com/platform/media
  • E-mail press release to media and bloggers
    • Create a press release
      • The purpose of a press release is to paint a picture of a kind of story the journalist might want to write. Use an arresting headline. Then start with the biggest news and work down to the least important detail. A press release has more formal language than a blog post because you are cramming facts in and must keep it short. Keep it to one page but use a decent sized font.
      • Think like a reporter. Don’t just describe the book; talk about your own story and how it’s unique, why people should care, and make that the focus of the press release
      • Use the headline in the subject line of the email. Put the text in the body of the email so the journalist doesn’t have to open any other document. Paid/free press release services basically spam thousands of journalists with no targeting, so it’s better to target specifically.
    • Pitch your story (not your book) to the press
      •  You should already have an idea of the target market for your book, your ideal reader. What else do they do apart from reading your book and where do they hang out? Look for publications that target this market, then drill down to the specific journalists who write about specific aspects around the topic. For the maximum chance of success, target them specifically.
      • Best time to reach a newspaper journalist is 1000-1200 (stories are usually due at 1400 local time)
      • First ask if you can pitch them a story (briefly describe in one or two sentences); if they say yes, then send them your press release and media kit
      • (?) HelpAReporter.com is brilliant though, so definitely subscribe. Sourcebottle.com.au is a similar service to match journalists with experts. Having a platform is also fantastic as people find you through the internet.
      • Make sure you have a Google Alert for your name and book title and any key-phrases, since sometimes you won’t be notified if media is actually published.
  • Create some memes (put name & website on them)
  • (maybe) Create a book trailer
  • Come up with special promotion offers ~1 month before book release

And there you go. It’s just that easy. I’m being facetious.

What I really want is not an avalanche of book sales (though I’m not gonna lie, that would be nice), but a readership base I can share my stories with. But in order to make that happen, I need to make people aware of my books first, and that’s the point of marketing. So here’s hoping it’s worth the effort!

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Retribution Published, Reckoning on the Way!

Greetings fans!

Sorry for the radio silence over this last month – I’ve been working hard on the first round of edits for Reckoning, the third book in the Valentine Shepherd series. Now that I’m done with that (until round two), I can get back to the real world/social media.

I don’t know if you know this, but the second novel in the Valentine Shepherd series, Retribution, was published on February 7th! I’m very excited about it, and not just because I wrote it, really. It’s a strange series, unlike any other story out there. It’s very dark, very sexy, and very unique. Yet the story has, I would argue, more realistic characters than you’ll find in your average romantic suspense. Nobody’s straight-up good or bad; everybody’s gray. Valentine Shepherd is not a Strong Female Character, and Maxwell Carressa isn’t a simple Hunky Love Interest or Dark Brooding Billionaire; they both have way too many flaws and complexities to fit into any stereotype.

In fact, throughout the series, Val saves Max’s life several times using her guns and fists, while Max saves Val from herself by appealing to her emotions. It’s an interesting reversal of the usual gender roles, which I didn’t originally set out to do, but it made the most sense based on who they were as people.

So, if you like complicated people doing complicated things for complicated reasons, then this is the series for you!

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Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

As you know, my new novel RETRIBUTION is coming out on February 7th!!

So it’s PROMO TIME!

I’m raffling off a $25 Amazon gift certificate, eligible to everyone on my author newsletter distro list on Feb 7th! (Includes people already on the list)

So if you’d like a chance at a $25 gift card, AND to read some awesome stuff, sign up for my author newsletter by Feb 7th, on the front page of my website! It’ll be the easiest thing you ever tried to win.

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Romance Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Dump Your Terrible Boyfriend

Don’t be afraid to dump your terrible boyfriend or girlfriend. Your life will go on. You will love again. And maybe, as a bonus, your ex-partner’s genitals will shrivel up and fall off.

Too many people stay in relationships with assholes because they either don’t want to be alone, think they really love this dickwad, get stuck in a routine/vicious cycle, or some combination of all three. Hell, every other episode of Dr. Phil features a couple sad sacks who are terrible for each other, begging the good doctor for advice to save their relationship when it’s obvious to anyone with self respect these two should just BREAK UP ALREADY.

But the non-asshole doesn’t want to, because he/she thinks they’ve put too much time and effort into the relationship to let it go. In the financial world, that’s called “sunk costs,” and should not be used as a reason to keep investing in a losing endeavor in the hopes you might get your money back. The asshole only wants to stay in the relationship because he/she enjoys the freedom of walking all over their partner; they haven’t sunk anything. In the military, we say you need to “cut sling load” here.

In other words, your relationship will never be as good as it was at its peak. If you’re not getting what you want out of a relationship, don’t expect things to change if you just try harder. If you don’t enjoy being somebody’s bitch (male or female), then it’s time to move on with your life, and don’t look back.

Here’s another excuse I hear from a lot from people in relationships with terrible human beings: “But I looooooove him!” No, honey. You know him. Knowing someone you sleep with really well and for a long time does not equal love. And just because you think you love someone doesn’t mean you should be together. You can love more than one person. Why stick with someone you’re not compatible with, or who treats you like shit? Life is too short for that nonsense.

Err on the side of dumping. Our planet hold approximately 7 billion people. If finding your soulmate is a “one in a million” occurrence, there are literally 700 million other people in the world you could find eternal happiness with. Don’t settle for the first person who comes along to make you smile or orgasm.

And for god’s sake, if you choose to stay with a raging douchcanoe, don’t constantly complain to your friends about your terrible boyfriend/girlfriend! Nobody wants to hear it. As they say in the military: Take a shit or get off the pot.

Bottom line: Don’t love somebody who doesn’t love you.

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Author Newsletter Now Available!

Hello my multiple fans! (more than two, for sure)

I hope this doesn’t blow your mind too badly, but brace yourselves – I have an author newsletter now!!! Supposedly these things are critical to an author’s success. If they are all as great as mine, I can see why.

Initially, I had no idea how to make an author newsletter; I just knew that everyone was telling me I had to get one (along with a website and a blog and a Facebook presence and a Twitter following and an Instagram account and shoot me now). But after surfing the Internets, reading other author’s newsletters, and stealing their ideas, I figured out what should be in my newsletter. Then I subscribed to MailChimp, which is a free (up to a point) online service that sends out pre-fabbed e-mails for you, using a fairly easy-to-use drag-and-drop template to make your e-mail/newsletter look all fancy. Then, it takes the e-mail list comprised of people who’ve subscribed, and sends out your super-sweet newsletter whenever you tell it to. It’s just that easy!

I’m thinking of doing a (nominally) monthly newsletter. Luckily for you all, I write a hell of a newsletter. The first one – which I’ll send out in about a week to all the people currently on my mailing list (more than two…I’m assuming) – includes exciting things like a sneak peak at RETRIBUTION, the second book in the Valentine Shepherd series – coming out on February 7th! – as well as info on a secret project I’m working on, and CATS. How can you NOT subscribe?

To subscribe, sign up on the left side of my homepage. I won’t send you spam or abuse your e-mail or anything jerky like that. Honestly, I can’t wait to connect with my fans (……more than two???) and share exclusive info with you all!

 

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Romance Tip #1: Be Confident

I can tell you this without a doubt – there is someone out there for everyone, no matter your physical appearance. People worry too much about how they look, as if that’s a major aspect of a relationship. Well I’m here to tell you it’s not!

The only time looks really matter are for first impressions. Your external visage gets you in the front door, as it were – the second glance in a bar, the free drink, the first date. After that, it’s all about what’s inside, baby. I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s true.

(Keep in mind we’re talking real relationships here, not one-nighters or long-term slam pieces.)

And of all the things inside you, such as your sense of humor, intelligence, quirks, pancreas, and liver, the most important is confidence. Whether you’re male or female, a confident person attracts, period. Someone who walks with their shoulders back and head held high, who’s not an asshole but isn’t afraid of conflict (okay, maybe sometimes an asshole), who moves through the world like they own it. Someone without fear. People love that shit.

Note that experiencing self doubt and humility isn’t the same as lacking confidence; that just means you’re self-aware, which is what separates the wise from the fools. Nobody’s perfect, but being able to recognize your flaws and rise above them to take chances anyway is the good kind of confidence.

For instance, maybe you’re a lady on the heavier side of a bullshit standard for what a woman’s body should look like. The office Christmas party is coming up; it’s semi-formal. What to wear? Perhaps the red muumuu with candy canes for sleeves? Festive, right?

NO!

How about the mermaid cut black sparkly dress with the sweetheart neckline?

YES!

Okay, that seems pretty flashy. Should you shrug the dress on, then slink around the party embarrassed that people might be judging you for being too fat to wear such clothing?

NO!

Should you slap on some smoky eye shadow, deep port lipstick, and strappy heels, sashay into that party knowing everyone’s staring at your boobs and not caring, then ask out that guy from Accounting you’ve been crushing on all year?

YES YOU SHOULD!

That’s how it’s done.

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Love in a Time of War

Greetings fans! (I know you’re out there, you coy little minxes!)

I apologize for being delinquent in posting on my author website. Per universal yet ambiguous marketing advice, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing to generate a fan base. I’m also supposed to be doing something with Twitter, and Instagram, and especially Facebook, and then people will start magically reading my books. And I need to write a newsletter! That one will be fun, though I’m told I shouldn’t fill it with sharp, exquisitely crafted snark. Boo.

Anyway, one reason I haven’t posted too much on my author website is because I’ve been posting regularly on a different website, plus doing a 12-hrs-a-day/7 days-a-week job (I’m not exaggerating), plus finishing up The Red Election (my time-traveling teenagers novel). I’m all out of bandwidth.

Why can’t I be one of those reclusive authors who somehow sells a billion books even though no one knows who I am? That would be awesome.

Anyway, again, I’m thinking of starting a series of posts about romantic advice. I will dole it out! If Cosmo can do it, I can, too! I mean, have you read my books? Think I just made up all those positions? I’m an expert, obvs.

In case you’re wondering what this other website is I’ve been blogging on, it’s here: www.pinkfatigues.com. I have to warn you, though – it’s not very romantic. Come here for romance; go there for cold hard reality.

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My Core Theme: Love is Power

Yup, it's right in there!
Yup, it’s right in there!

RWA’s monthly publication has been running a series of articles on core themes lately. A core theme is an idea that connects an artist’s entire body of work, like a tagline. For instance, Shonda Rimes’s core theme is “You are not alone.” A core theme should arise organically from whatever a (in this case) writer likes to write about. Picking a core theme ahead of time is probably not a good idea – nobody wants to experience someone’s painful shoe-horning of a Deep Meaning into their story, i.e. “Every scene has pink flowers, because they represent innocent love! Get it???”

After writing about a dozen short stories and four novels (two published so far), I’ve realized what my core theme is: Love is Power. So, contextually, what does this mean?

"OMG WE ARE STILL YOUR BIGGEST FANS. IF ONLY YOU'D LET US INCREASE YOU SEO RANKINGS..."
“OMG WE ARE STILL YOUR BIGGEST FANS. IF ONLY YOU’D LET US INCREASE YOU SEO RANKINGS…”

Well, here’s the thing – if you’ve been keeping track of my stuff (the spambots sure have!) you probably think I’m a cynical, snarky negative Nancy. And it’s true that whenever I get my creative juices flowing, I almost always go dark; it’s just more interesting. Dark is fun.

However, big picture-wise, I’m a big ol’ optimist. I believe in the innate goodness of humanity, I believe the world is getting better (and there’s actual evidence to support this), and I believe love is more powerful that hate. In fact, I believe love is one of the most powerful forces in the world. People do a lot of good – and bad – things for love. It doesn’t actually conquer all, but, on the whole, it pushes in the direction of good.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way human emotions profoundly and irrationally affect the decisions we make, even causing us to act in ways that aren’t in our best interests. All of my stories include this element in some way; specifically, how love empowers people to embrace the greater good and make the right decisions, even if they suffer for it. This is also why I’m drawn to the romance genre, which is all about the power of love!

Here’s the Valentine Shepherd series, broken down into specific themes or taglines:

love-is-power-theme-breakdown-v2

Bottom line: If complicated love is your jam, then I’m your woman!

Hit it, Celine!

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The Themes Behind VENGEANCE

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was supposed to be ashamed of the act that creates life and consummates love. I'm just gonna cock my gun here while you explain to me the depth of the shame I should be feeling."
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be ashamed of the act that creates life and consummates love. I’m just gonna cock my gun here while you explain to me the depth of the shame I should be feeling.”

If you’ve read my latest novel, VENGEANCE, then you know it’s chock-full of what we in Romancelandia call the “sexy-times.” Specifically, there are romantic relations between M/F, M/M, F/F, and M/M/F. If you haven’t read the book yet, well now you know! If that kind of thing is really not your jam, read SPICE OF LOVE instead! There are only two relatively tame sex scenes in that one, I swear.

“Why so many sexy-times?” you might ask. “Are you kind of a pervert?” ………Maybe, a little. BUT really, there are lots of sex scenes because the book is about sex.

What is sex, and why do people have it? Is it good or bad? It can be both, really, depending on the situation and the people involved. There can also be huge strings attached, like pregnancy, STDs, social consequences, etc. In a nutshell, sex is kind of a big deal, even though most people shy away from talking about it.

Sex is a critical element of romance, even the conservative Inspirationals. Love can be lots of things, but romance is love plus a sexual element, either implicit or explicit; otherwise, it’s not romance.

Many of the characters in VENGEANCE are sexually fluid, existing along a spectrum of sexuality. A good number of them are having trouble accepting their sexual identities. The main characters, Max and Val, have a complicated relationship with sex—because of their shared condition, often it’s merely a means to an end. When they begin to accept their sexual identities and view sex as an act of affection, that’s when love blooms. On the other end of the spectrum, the antagonist’s shame over his sexuality enables other, more clever people to manipulate him. He loses power.

The theme: being honest with yourself and accepting who you are gives you strength. The characters who accept their sexual identities are the ones who have power. And those who pair their sexual identities with love have the most power.

SO, that’s what’s up with all the sexy-times in VENGEANCE. Tell your friends next time they give you the side-eye for reading a “smutty” book!

You: “Hey, I’m reading about the power of honesty and love! What’s the life-affirming theme of that last Tom Clancy thriller you read, huh???”

"The theme is sometimes men gotta do man things. It's the theme of all my books, duh. Hey, your grandpa thinks I'm the SHIT, so you can take your empowered vaginas or whatever and beat it, sister!"
“The theme is sometimes men gotta do man things. It’s the theme of all my books, duh. Hey, your grandpa thinks I’m the SHIT, so you can take your empowered vaginas or whatever and beat it, sister!”
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Welcome to My New Website and Blog!

Hi All!

I’ve decided to fire up the ol’ blog machine again! My goal is to give my webpage a little diversity and my (theoretical? Hopefully real now? People other than my mom?) fans some new content to enjoy on a regular basis.

I know my vast spambot fan base are beside themselves with excitement.

As you can see, I’ve resurrected some old posts for any newcomers who’d like to peruse the classics and get a better idea of who I am and what I’m all about (hint: lots of Real Talk with copious amounts of inappropriate hilarity).

I’d love to hear from you all, either in the comments section or via e-mail! I’ll answer all comments and e-mails, assuming the volume doesn’t become unmanageable because I’m so popular, which…Wow. My wildest dreams have come true! What shall I do? …Slap myself in the face and wake up, because I’m dreaming and now I’m late for work.

Let’s do this!

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A How-To Writing Website for My Mom – and You