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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Reviews, Awards, and Other Elusive Critters by @JacquieRogers

Reviews, Awards, and Other Elusive Critters

This last week has been really somethin'!

Caroline Clemmons and I found out that our duet, Mail-Order Tangle, had received a 5-star review (thank you, Sorrel!) so was in the running for Long and Short Review's Book of the Month. We were already happy as two puppies in a rawhide chewy store because of the great review, so this was just the cherry on top.

Our readers and friends rallied and yes...
Mail-Order Tangle did win!

Needless to say, we've been doing the happy dance since we found out about the win this morning, and we're ever so thankful to the Prairie Roses, Western Fictioneers, members of the Pickle Barrel Bar and Books, Ann Charles' Purple Door Saloon, the Western Historical Romance Book Club, Pioneer Hearts, The Authors' Billboard, and Easychair Bookshop, as well as the beta readers and all readers who've supported us through this entire endeavor. Also, Claudia Stephan of the Books, Readers, Authors, Reviews and Events page posted several times.

So how about winning LASR Book of the Month?  Sales rose during the vote trolling, but fell quite a bit after we won the award.  That seems a bit wacko to me but that's the way of it.  (Disclaimer: I haven't checked the ranking since Thursday.)  Yes, we've tweeted and FB'd after the fact as well.  So was haranguing our friends worth it?  The jury is out.  But now Mail-Order Tangle is an award-winning book, and we can use that to butter our way to better advertising.  Plus, we get a month of free advertising at LASR.  Free advertising is always good.

Authors are always asking about what's worth doing and what's merely a time suck that we think we have to do (I'm looking at you, Twitter).  Truth is, you just don't know until you give it a whirl.  I've had Much Ado About Miners (Hearts of Owyhee #3) on a blog tour all month.  One or two blogs post the book's promo every single day for 28 days.  Those blog posts are tweeted, G+'d, Facebooked, Tsu'd... you name it.  I'm sure everyone is getting sick of seeing the cover by now.  Has it helped sales?  No--that book lost ranking this month.  The other books are doing better for some reason.  Maybe "miners" just doesn't sound romantic.  I have no idea.

Also, even though several blog owners said the book would be reviewed, only one has, and that review isn't exactly usable (3.5 whatevers).  She obviously skimmed the book really quickly because everything with which she had difficulties is there.  Still, 3.5 isn't terrible and it does add to the necessary pile of reviews that we need so badly, and I'm grateful her for taking the time to write it.  After all, these book bloggers love books and they do these reviews out of the goodness of their hearts.  

About the money: I spent $40 on the blog tour.  That's not much and I'm not getting much.  It's not the blog tour host, either--she's done a great job.  But I've talked to several friends who've bought tours with different companies, and they all report similar results.  Many of the blogs cater to readers who simply aren't my audience, for one thing.  And for another, blogs are definitely losing their marketing punch.  

I've had a lot more response when Claudia's Book Talk selected Much Ado About Mavericks for the February read.  That has helped sales.  The huge difference is that even though the book group is a smaller audience, they're an extremely targeted audience.  Every single one of them loves books every bit as much as we do.  We write 'em--they read 'em.  (Although there are several authors there, too, including me.)

Paid advertising has helped my books every single time.  I haven't had a BookBub ad yet, but Book Gorilla, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, and others do help give you a spike in sales.  Used in combination with other venues and they're even more effective.  

Speaking of other venues, Kathleen Rice Adams and I belong to a group that uses Pinterest boards to hold their sales.  I'm really curious as to whether we can build on this, and maybe use it for westerns.  There are a lot of horse lovers on Pinterest, that's for sure.  That group is also looking to build its newsletter because nearly every successful advertiser (can you spell BookBub?) a huge subscriber base, which translates into sales.

And IMHO, that's what we Roses, and all western writers need--an easy to create newsletter with free and bargain books and a big honkin' subscriber list.  I'm talking thousands.  Five figures.  Six figures.  A million!  Yes, we can do it.

What do you think?  What  is the best way to raise the appreciation level for westerns, both traditional and romance?  Let's talk!

I'll give a digital copy of Much Ado About Miners to a commenter.

coming soon:
Much Ado About Mustangs


  1. Jacquie,
    A good post about the ups and downs of advertising. I agree with all your observations. Subscription services such as BookBub and ENT seem to be the only solid avenue right now to increase sales. But it's not always about the bottom line. Doing blog tours and interacting on social media are great ways to 'meet' people, even if it's just a handful.
    Congrats on the award for Mail-Order Tangle!! So pleased for you and Caroline.

    1. Thanks, Kristy! We're definitely excited about winning, especially since it's such a special project to us.

      The subscription venues are doing well. I think it's a whole lot easier for a reader to click on a book that looks interesting if they see it in a message that's in their inbox. Instant gratification.

  2. I always read your 'marketing' post with eagerness, being new to the writing business. I agree that blogs are overused to some extent and look at mine as a way to establish myself as a historian and author.

    I happened to love Miners, but haven't sat down to post any reviews this quarter. It's on the list. Continued success and I love the newsletter option and base it can create. The history speaker series we're working on here is using that as one of the marketing tools. You are one of my 'mentors' even if I haven't told anyone. (SMILE) Doris

    1. Hi, Doris! Blogs used to be an excellent marketing tool but are now passe in that regard. They're still very useful to building the grassroots reader-base that's so all important, so what you're doing is perfect for where you're at right now.

  3. I'm eager to see how the Pinterest experiment works out, too, Trail Boss. I'm at a loss to figure out how Pinterest can help boost book sales, but like Facebook, Pinterest raises an author's profile, I think. In my experience, Pinterest users aren't there to socialize, so the process for marketing novels, novellas, and short stories remains a bit arcane.

    Some people are finding success using Pinterest to market products available on eBay, etsy, and the like, and cookbook authors are expanding their readership by pinning recipes, I understand.

    I have noticed that pairing Pinterest with Twitter -- by having Pinterest automatically tweet some pins -- produces interesting results.

    One of the things I find ironically amusing is this: Although the Digital Age has "democratized" publishing, making it easier to release good books New York won't touch because "that genre doesn't sell," books in underserved genres still don't SELL. Readers expect to get them for 99 cents or free. The law of unintended consequences strikes again!

    1. To address your last comment first, I also find that interesting, but there are a few writers in our subgenre that are doing very, very well, and if they can, we can. It's all in building that grassroots readership.

      As for the Pinterest boards, I'm thinking of it more as a website. Generally, you put out the word to go to a web page that features a boatload of bargain books. In this case, the books are all pinned to a Pinterest board instead, and each author has control over her own books--the duration of the sale and how much. All we have to do is add the book to the sale board, or the free board, and change the description. The proof of the pudding is going to be in the sales, though. We have to get readers there. And that's why they're working on building the newsletter list. So again, it's back to having a large subscriber base.

  4. Jacquie, thank you for your post. I love writing...but to promote my own work or know how or the why of it all baffles me. I am hoping as a group we can share information that will get our books out there. From what I've read your stories aren't just about cowboys and westerns, they're about history and real life. Stories movies should be made of.

    1. Hi, Barn. Wouldn't a movie be fun? But if we think books are costly to promote... the mind boggles. Thing of it is, we all have to work together to make a dent in the market, so sharing what works and what doesn't will help, but mostly getting that mongo mailing list is our gold.

  5. Jacquie, first let me congratulate you on all your wonderful achievements these past few weeks! Book of the Month at LASR--AWESOME! And AHEM, that fantastic FIRST PLACE award from Hearts Through History Romance Writers for Much Ado About Marshalls you received. A big ol' congratulations for that!

    I have never actually paid money for advertising...except I paid "Ask David" $10 to be able to list my books on there. I don't know how much that's used, but it sure is a nicely set-up site, and it was only $10 to put all my books there. Oh, I did buy a Netgalley slot once--can't say that it helped my sales at all. If I could find a place that I knew actually gave you results, I would be glad to put the money out.

    I'm always interested in your tips on marketing. I think that's what I'm worst at in this business. Wonderful post! I enjoyed it and always learn something from you.


    1. Thanks, Cheryl. All the indie/small press authors I know who are making five or six figures a year do spend a LOT of money on paid advertising. I don't spend nearly enough, but when I was spending $100+/month, I was making five times what I am now, so I know it works. But those sales venues give you short-term results and is not a substitute for building your grassroots readership one reader at a time. Every author needs a solid base, one way or another.

  6. Jacquie,

    Thanks for sharing your *research* findings. Marketing is such a fickle animal. Sometimes it feels as if marketing is a damned if we do / damned if we don't situation.

    1. Kaye, it certainly is fickle, and next month the marketing landscape will be completely different. Ann Charles and I used to run a site to teach authors how to market and promote called 1st Turning Point. We ran it for two years, and nearly all the articles we first published were dated by the end of that two years, and sometimes flat out wrong. I'm sure all the articles are obsolete now. The ebook business completely changed the publishing landscape and along with it, the selling of the books has changed as drastically, if not more. It can make your head swim to keep up with all this stuff.

  7. Still learning the ropes on this marketing business. Thanks for your insight.

    Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott

  8. You certainly have Pinterest nailed down, Robyn! I sure appreciated the articles you wrote. And congrats on your new release!