A New Crop of Writers

I’ve been helping a new crop of writers get a toehold in the social networking world, and many are already discouraged because they are not getting immediate results. Social networking is not like advertising. It’s like . . . hmmm, let me think . . . It’s like going to a movie theater and trying to sell your books to the people around you when all they want to do is watch the movie. Even worse, there are other writers in the theater trying to do the same thing you are, so the viewers are not just focused on the movie, they are purposely shutting out everything else. The challenge is to get their attention and make them more interested in you and your book than in the movie.

That’s what I never figured out — how to grab people’s attention online long enough for them to buy a book. Some people have bought my books, of course, and many of these people have become good friends, which has its own rewards. In fact, a couple of years ago when I realized that the vast majority of my almost 5000 Facebook connections had zero interest in me and only wanted to peddle their own books, I culled my list to a more manageable number. I still don’t know most of the people I’m “friends” with, but there is a growing number of people I do know, which makes Facebook seem so much friendlier. But my books are still slowly fading into obscurity.

The problem with using social media for book marketing is that the majority of the people I’m connected to are other authors. Authors do buy books, but mostly, they are trying to sell their own books. Readers buy books, of course, but generally they read the same authors they have always read (don’t get me started on James Patterson!) with a couple of new authors thrown in to season the pot.

Whenever a book goes major big time like 50 Shades of Gray, it goes big because non-readers buy it. Which means we can’t promote to other authors and we can’t promote readers, so we need to promote to non-readers, who, of course, will not pay attention because . . . they don’t read unless a book goes big.

That is the conundrum I have struggled with for seven years. The best thing, of course, would be if I were the first (or even second) to try something new. The first guy who promoted his books on FB sold a lot of books, but he made his fortune with his subsequent book on how to make a fortune selling books via Facebook.

It’s hard to explain all this to newly published authors. And I don’t really want to, anyway. One of the new crop might be able to figure out a fabulous new idea for promoting that I can steal!

Meantime, I’m doing interviews with these authors on my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog. Feel free to join the fun!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Writing, Blogging, Promoting — My Aha Moment

Fellow author Dale Cozort recently returned from agent Donald Maass’s High Tension Workshop. (Okay, it wasn’t recently —  it was back in April, but who’s counting?) Cozort reported that according to Maass, the keys to keeping modern readers’ interest are finding something fresh — a different way of looking at events — and finding ways of getting the reader to identify with the character or with the scene.

According to The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza Sherman Risdahl, the key to keeping blog readers’ interest is “Taking hobbies and interests and finding a different way of looking and talking about them.”

In a recent comment, blogger extraordinaire and my marketing guru Sia McKye wrote, “There’s only so many ways to market things. If you observe, market and promotion tend to follow certain patterns. That’s because those ways work.” This seems a bit depressing to me. If everyone is doing the same things, then how does anyone ever stand out in a crowd?

Then I had my aha moment. If the key to writing is to find a different way of looking at things, and if the key to blogging is to find a different way of looking at things, then obviously, the key to promotion is to find a different way of looking at things. I know this syllogism would never pass muster in a logic class, but there is little logic to be found in writing, blogging, and promotion. Hence, at least in my mind, the conclusion works.

I am aware that those of us who are published by small independent presses are at a disadvantage when it comes to selling books. The publishing corporations and the major independent publishers use resources to which we have no access. Still, I have never been one to let such minor considerations get in the way of my dreams, and I intend to do everything I can to become unobscure.

So the question arises — how does one find a different way of looking at those promotion and marketing patterns? I’m sure you will be as glad as I am when I hit upon the solution. At least you won’t have to listen to my constant yammering about finding ways to promote.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Feeling Like a Guest on My Own Blog

I’m starting to feel like a guest here on my own blog. I’m getting so many visitors to my “guest event” on the future of books, that I spend my allotted blog time wandering from one “referrer” link to another to see where everyone is coming from, and I never get around to posting my own work. If I’m not careful, I’ll forget the reason I started writing this blog: me. A month ago I decided I would stop inviting guest bloggers and reclaim my blog, but that resolution died even before the new year began. It’s just too much fun finding new voices (and established voices) to come guest, and for me, that’s the real purpose of this blog: fun. As addicted to the Internet as I’m getting — or as seduced by it — I still find this blog to be the most enjoyable online activity. I like saying what I want and just throwing it out there. Sometimes people agree, sometimes they don’t, but I’ve met some of my best blog buddies (bet you can’t say that three times!) because of discussions resulting from this disagreement.

So, here I am with a blank slate, and nothing to say. Actually, the problem is that I have too much to say, and it won’t all fit in a single bloggery. I want to talk about how amazing it is that writers such as Suzanne Francis, author of the Heart of Hythea books can make up such wonderful-sounding words and worlds. When I needed a name for my disease in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, the most exotic one I could come up with was . . . ta da! . . . The Red Death. It fits (people get red eyes and vomit bright red blood) and it’s probably what it would have been called if such a disease really had decimated Colorado. (And that is the correct use of the term decimated — about a tenth of the residents of Colorado end up dead.) But it isn’t a clever, made-up word.

Another thing I would like to talk about is the incredible journey a novel takes from that first glimmer of an idea to a book in the hands of a reader. Each step is a big one: the first word, the first chapter, the first draft. You think you are unique because there is a good chance you are the only person you know who writes.  And then you start querying, and find out you are one among millions, and no one cares. Finally, you find someone to publish your opus (or you decide to self-publish) and have you entered the rarefied atmosphere of the few? No. For some reason, once you start promoting your work, everyone you encounter is also promoting a work. So who buys these books? Someone, I hope, because eventually the delays will be over, and my books will be available.

Another thing I would like to talk about is . . . oops, my allotted blog time is up. I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Unless I have another guest blogger.