The Art Of Self Promotion

I suck at it! But I’m learning…P1010700

Here’s the scenario. Two weeks ago I’m sitting in a doctor’s surgery for a regular glucose tolerance test. (For anyone not in the know, these take two hours and in that time you have to sit still and do nothing for the duration). For a working mother, permission to sit still for two hours and do nothing is BLISS…

I opened my book (at the time, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy), and I had my Kindle on stand-by. I chose an unobtrusive seat, fluffed my feathers, and made myself comfortable.

Ten minutes into my ‘alone time’ the surgery receptionist sat by me (the surgery was empty) and said:

“What are you reading?”

I showed her the cover of the Chimney Sweeper’s Boy. “This.”

“Is it good?”

“It’s okay.”

“I don’t know what’s struck me lately, but I’m in a book-reading mood. Do you know of any good books?”

My heart starts beating faster. His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her, His Brand Of Beautiful. “Well… what do you like to read?”

“Oh. Anything. I don’t know.”

His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her, His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her House For All Seasons. Tell her Under The Hood. Tell her Fast Forward. “If I think of something, I’ll let you know.”

Now – there will be those out there (Jenn J Mcleod, Juliet Madison) who all cringe on my behalf and say: WHAT A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY!

I was way too shy to own up to having just written a book. Opportunity missed.

All this ‘promotion’ discussion reminds me of a line the real estate agent used when she was discussing the marketing program for selling our Hahndorf house. I wasn’t certain I wanted a sign out the front and she looked at me and said: “Lily… You can’t sell a secret.”

How those words have haunted me since my book launched in March. It’s hard to turn around a mind-set of not wanting anyone to know you’re writing… and turning that around to wanting everyone to know you’re writing.

Outside of Facebook friends, I’d hardly told anyone. Not friends. Not family.

And then of course, I suddenly want sales for my book. Because I’m serious about turning my writing into my second career. My 5 and 10-year goals are to increase the amount of income my writing can substitute from my ‘day job’… I’ll call my writing my own, personal, Self Managed Super Fund.

One month after my launch and my desire for sales is trumping any shyness I had.

Here’s some examples of my growth:

At the weekend, we had a family reunion. It would have been my granddad’s 100th birthday on Sunday (were he still alive) and my mother’s side of the family all got together at an Aunt’s farm for a big birthday shin-dig. Here, I actually ‘fessed up to having written a romance book, telling them my author name and the book title, and how they could buy it. (If they didn’t mind the heroine letting loose with the odd F-word and could handle steamy sex scenes and would still send me presents at Christmas.)

Yesterday, my boss told me she had asked the ladies in her bookclub if they’d be interested in me talking to them about e-publishing and my blog and my book… All these ladies know my family (particularly my father), and if you asked me a year ago whether I’d like this particular group to know I was writing, I would have said: “No Way Jose!!!”

This time around, I’m actually looking forward to it. Though they’re all on Pain Of Death not to breathe a word to my old man!

And finally.  I had a follow-up appointment at the Doctor’s surgery on Monday, getting the results of the tests from two weeks prior. This is how the conversation went:

“Hi Jane. Are you still in your book-reading phase?”

With a double-take that I’d remembered, Jane says: “Yes. Actually right now I’m reading Jim Stynes biography.”

“I have a couple of book names that I wrote down for you, if you’d like them?”

“Yes, please. That would be great.”

So I handed her my handwritten (because I’m not yet organised enough to get bookmarks or business cards or that sort of thing), notes with the names of: “His Brand Of Beautiful by Lily Malone”; “House For All Seasons by Jenn J McLeod”; “Under The Hood by Juanita Kees”; Fast Forward by Juliet Madison; “White Ginger by Susanne Bellamy” and “Fractured by Dawn Barker.”

You can’t sell a secret… It just took me a heck of a long time to realise this!

I’m Not Counting, Amazon

I have been trying really hard to ignore Amazon’s maths.

When His Brand Of Beautiful launched, I didn’t even know where one looked to find sales ranking data. Every time an author on Facebook posted: I’m Number 1 in skirt-wearing dryads who dance beneath the moon on Mondays, I thought: “great” or “brilliant”, and wondered how the heck they knew that.

Unfortunately, darn-you Amazon, you made it too easy.

I now know where one looks to find sales ranking data. One just needs to run one’s little blue-gray eyes south a tad on one’s book page and it’s listed right there. In bold. You can’t miss it.

And it changes regularly, enticing one to check, regularly.

His Brand Of Beautiful has been in the 100,000s, and it has been in the fifty-thousands. The best I think it has been is around 32,000.

When I first discovered that magical number and told my husband, he almost fell off his chair.

“Really? Thirty-two thousandth in all of Amazon? Are you sure? There must be millions of books on Amazon.”

I immediately went to water. “I’m not sure. Maybe thirty-two thousandth in contemporary romance or something like that.”

“Ahh,” he said, turning back to his paper. “That’s probably more like it.”

But I now know that the thirty-two thousandth WAS for all of Amazon, for Amazon Best Sellers Rank, paid in Kindle Store.

It’s fair to say that my enthusiasm for sales-rank checking has waned, just a tad, as the month has worn on. Yesterday, I didn’t check at all. Oh, okay. Once or twice I might have had a look. A mere glance.

Right now, I’m sitting at 98,376.

I have come to think that when you’re in the 50,000 to 100,000 ranking, little changes make a big difference. For example, my lovely sister-in-law during the week posted a link to His Brand Of Beautiful with a message to her Facebook friends about looking for it next time they wanted a good book.

Before she sent her message, I’d just checked Amazon and I was in the 110,000s. Two hours after that FB post, His Brand Of Beautiful sat in the mid 40,000s.

How can that be? Can a handful of book sales make such a huge difference between being 100s or 50s?? I think it must.

I’ve been reading a bit about Amazon’s algorithms… (must be the best alliteration in the universe that one); and in the end, all that maths defeats me. My brain shuts down.

I think I’ve come full circle in my debut author month. I think I’m back in more of a “let the numbers do what they will and write the next book” mode…

But then, that’s cheating too. Apparently there’s some magical “multiplier effect” that might come in to play when I publish another book… and another…

See? One cannot get away from Amazon’s maths. No matter how one might try!

About Frangers, Frankly

I’ve been doing some very unscientific research into condoms in contemporary romances and thought I might as well throw it open on the blog and see what others think.

As writers, are we responsible for teaching/education about safe sex in our novels? Any novels, not just romance. When I think back to my favourite books, particularly all the John Sandford ‘Prey’ novels that I love for their lothario hero Lucas Davenport—until Sandford made him settle down with the woman of his dreams and get married—rarely (like almost never) do condoms get involved in sex scenes. And what about Bond? James Bond? No crinkling sound of foil wrappers in any Bond movie I’ve ever watched!

So here’s what I think. Condoms aren’t romantic to me. Neither, should I say, are STDs… please don’t get me wrong. But we’re writing for escapism surely, not realism? And when it comes to romance… I mean, how many of our plotlines are 200% realistic? Romance is about dreams and emotion and feelings and instincts and (insert dammit here) futzing about with a condom gets in the darn way. IMHO.

I have opened this as a discussion item on my Goodreads page, and I’ve asked around in a couple of forums that are mostly US-based. Out of 6 replies, only 1 says she looks for “escapism not realism” in books.

But, to a man (err, woman) every other comment said they find it “distracting” if the issue of condom use isn’t raised and/or doubt the intelligence of the hero/heroine if they don’t at least discuss the use of a condom, or their sexual health. So maybe I’m hugely out of touch!

Here’s a snapshot:

“I find it distracting if condoms aren’t mentioned in a scene, if not during than at least the morning after some mention of throwing out the wrappers. I like it when the couple discusses birth control and what steps they’re taking. I find it unrealistic in a contemporary romance when that discussion doesn’t take place or isn’t at least alluded to.”

“I also find it distracting if they’re not mentioned at all. As far as I’m concerned, condoms are a required part of sex (unless the hero and heroine are already in a long term relationship, I suppose)…not using a condom just seems rather idiotic in my mind.”

“Yes, I want to see condoms in contemporary romances. Not using condoms without any sort of discussion just seems dumb and irresponsible to me.”

“Lack of condom use doesn’t make me think the characters are less promiscuous and clean but rather stupid and dangerous… There’s no need to stop the action and give a Health Class presentation on the proper use of condoms. The crinkle of a wrapper before or after, a reach for supplies (purse, wallet, bed side draw), disposing of a condom after etc – would suffice.”

“I agree with everyone else. Writers can make it subtle –the heroine hearing the crinkle of a foil wrapper is popular — but if it’s not there, I get distracted and concerned. My biggest pet peeve is the 2 second “I’m clean” conversation that has also unfortunately become popular.”

“I find the condom mention and also all-clear of STD mention a huge distraction. Too much realism for me as I read to escape reality not see every gritty part of it.”

Where do you sit? Any erotica writers out there – how do you handle it? Do you write every sex scene in a book using a condom – because if we were in the 100% safe sex, unless we have two virgins going at it in erotica – we need a condom every time.

Videos, Reviews, Sales!

I’ve been offline for a while, waiting for Telstra to hook up our computer connection… (Did I mention I’d been waiting?)… Waiting. Waiting…

But! I finally had the chance to see a YouTube video that Escape Publishing (may they sell a gazillion books forever) made for His Brand Of Beautiful and I am so excited by it, I’m on cloud nine this afternoon.

If you’d like to, please check it out here

I love the way Haylee Kerrans (publishing manager with Escape) says: “Steamy moments”… I thought they were steamy too, but I’m biased!

Meanwhile, if you are yet to catch up with Escape’s author Love Story, it is coming to a close. By Friday, Laura and Cormac’s own steamy moment/sticky situation/ call it what you will, ends by hook or by crook. It’s been such great fun to be part of. Now all us authors are trying to name our story… I like: “Love In A Blue Towel”.






Escapades: A Love Story

Have you caught up with the Harlequin Escape Artists’ collaboration, A Love Story?
It started on Valentine’s Day, so we’re more than halfway through. 30 Escape authors each write 200 words in a story that’s a bit like Chinese whispers meets Pass The Parcel.

Tomorrow, it’s my turn!
So far, our heroine: Laura, and our hero, Cormac, have discovered she’s arrived at the wrong apartment with dyed hair, on the run from her ex-fiance and gangsters trying to recover her stepfather’s debts. She’s been shot at (thanks to Caitlyn Nichols), she’s been handcuffed (thanks to Juliet Madison), and plans to Fremantle prison have appeared on the USB that Laura stole from her ex, Miles, (thanks to Juanita Kees).

Turns out, our gal is trying to blackmail Miles for the money she needs to repay the gangsters.
Cormac has spent most of the story to date, in a blue towel. That was, until Lee Christine got the towel off. When I met Cormac for Lily Malone’s instalment, he was down to a pair of black grundies (undies). Which, according to Louise Forster’s episode, our hero filled out to “perfection.”

They’ve been tortured and teased, he’s been driven half-mad with desire and anger over this red-haired bint who’s brought a whole lot of trouble to his doorstep, but at least thanks to Donna Maree Hanson and Jacqui Underdown, they’ve now had one hell of a snog.

That’s where I find them, coming down off that after-kiss high with “the taste of him still on Laura’s bottom lip” (beautifully described by Sandra Antonelli).

So, I decided to get Cormac dressed tomorrow! It’s taken all this time for our hero to find himself a pair of jeans. He will find some other items in his wardrobe as well.
Did I ever mention Jason Bourne is a hero of mine? (I must say – the Matt Damon variety more than the later JB, but that would be digressing).

Tune in to find out what I do with A Love Story tomorrow.

A Love Story

Release Day! How Lucky Am I?

March 1, 2013.


No – nothing to do with R Patz.

It’s Release Day for me, my debut novel His Brand Of Beautiful officially launched into cyberspace today.

So has my world changed? No. It was a day that began like any other since the end of January. (I’m still gatecrashing at my sister’s place until next week).

My youngest son announced a chirpy Good Morning before 6am (eek!); and then it was all systems go. Breakfast for two boys, school for one. We had a chook escapade on the property today which required all hands on deck to round-up 14 hens and a rooster all hell-bent on escaping their coop. My eldest son is fascinated by all things chooks and I have a horrible sneaky suspicion that he may have been the little blighter that lifted the latch on their pen… (In his defence, I would add he has denied this vehemently).

Between school drop off at 9, and work that started at 10, I managed to duck upstairs to my borrowed (sister’s) computer and check Facebook… Lo and behold, I’m not the only person on the planet releasing a book today! Jenn McLeod has House For All Seasons out, and Juanita Kees has Under The Hood. There are Facebook events and invitations and emails and comments and likes and shares and… it’s like having a birthday, Christmas and a baby all in one. Something like that. Lots and lots of congratulations and good wishes. It’s invigorating!

So – some other interesting things about today. I’ve had heaps of views and visits to my website, certainly far more than normal. My visitor stats have passed the 2000 mark. I’m laying some of the kudos for this at the feet of The Age newspaper, and the Brisbane Times, who have both had articles about romance writing and romance reading on their online entertainment pages, and thanks to whatever lucky stars are flying around and looking out for me today, they have picked the His Brand Of Beautiful cover as an illustration for the story. Talk about wonderful publicity!

So tonight? I think it will be champagne… with oven-grilled fish (Birdseye variety), zucchini bake (my variety) and chips (probably McCain variety)… because this is a busy house and it’s a Friday and all of us (my sister and me) will be thinking: bugger cooking!

Happy Long Weekend (Labour day here in West Australia) and happy release day to all authors with a new book for release today. See AUTHOR!! It’s official – now I can say it!

And if you fancy a long weekend with a book called His Brand Of Beautiful: about a woman on a mission and a man who wants nothing to do with her (until he wants everything to do with her); and a book with truckloads of Aussie scenery and boatloads of Aussie wine… click here!