The indomitable Joe Konrath just published a new 'ThoughChat' with Barry Eisler, you can check it out here. As I was reading it, I noticed the list of his older posts, going all the way back to 2005. That alone impressed me - Joe was publishing blogs in 2005, years before I even had a clue about seriously publishing my own novels. More than that, his posts from 6 YEARS AGO still hold water today ... now that's impressive!
One of his blogs in particular hit me over the head. He titled it, "No Vacation for You." He published it on December 24, 2005. I'm gonna cut and paste it below, but you can check out his original post here.
I named this blog, "Paying your dues" 'cause I've been asked by several neo-pro writers lately questions like, "How did you get _The Watchman of Ephraim_ to hit #1 on Amazon's Geopolitical Bestseller's list?" and "How did you possibly pull off a 75-day blog tour?" and "Why are you trying to publish three full-length novels a year?" and "How can you possibly reply personally to every email and invitation you receive on every one of your social networking channels?" (I'm on a pace to have written over 27,000 personal messages to people connected with me on LinkedIn, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter in 2011). My answer to all the questions above has to do with two tenants that I truly believe are the keys to success in any field ...
#1 Paying your dues ... which to me means, doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff, EVERY DAY, EVERY WEEK, EVERY MONTH, EVERY YEAR ... the not glamorous stuff, the sometimes difficult, sometimes boring, sometimes mundane stuff ... the stuff that usually no one sees you do, but needs to get done.
#2 "All things, all the time" - this is something my older brother Peter taught me. He made it to the top in his profession by out-hustling his peers ... getting in before everyone else and staying after everyone else leaves ... working while others watch football and baseball, while others spend a quiet day with their kids, while others go on vacation or just take the weekend/day/afternoon off. It also means that you have to get to everything. There's no time to just "study your craft" or just write or just promote or just ... anything! Remove the word "just" and you begin to understand what it takes to really make it as a self-publisher.
I have to tell you ... all of the successes in my life in business have come by living those two tenants, every day. Now I'm waist-deep in establishing my professional writing career. This is the fifth industry that I have worked in, in the last thirty years. I've achieved success in the music industry, manufacturing industry, transportation/logistics industry and financial industry ... and all of my successes are due to #1 and #2.
I simply don't know an easier way. Perhaps I'm not as smart as others or as talented as others but two thing I am ... are tenacious and methodical. I plan my work and work my plan and I never give up. I'm up at my desk around 5am every morning and I don't clock out until everything is done.
Well, apparently I'm not the only one. When I read Joe's blog, I smiled 'cause it seems he succeeded the same way I'm succeeding in publishing - 'paying his dues' and 'all things all the time.' The question you need to ask yourself after reading this is ... how bad do you want it?
Here's Joe Konrath's hard-hitting piece in its entirety: (my thanks to Joe ...)
Saturday, December 24, 2005
No Vacation for You
I haven't had a vacation in four years, and I don't expect one next year either.
This July, my family demanded some 'together time' so I took them up to a cabin in Michigan. Along the way I did signings. And I brought my laptop.
My two closest friends, whom I've known for 26 years, coerced me into taking a three day weekend off to go on brewery tours. I went with them, but managed to fit in a library event while they were boozing it up.
The kids have been off school for a week, and I managed to do some bonding. But I also did some editing, some writing, some website updating, and a few blog entries.
Am I missing out on life? In a word: Yes. And since misery loves company, I want you to miss out too.
Remember listening to your grandparents talk about the Great Depression? They used words like "Sacrifice" and "Hard work."
Writing involves sacrifice and hard work. That means denying yourself some things, like friends and family and free time. If you want to make it, you have to put in the hours.
I'm not going to argue that your writing is more important than your children---that isn't true. Family is far more important than career. But if your family loves you, they'll also understand how important your career is, and give you time to pursue it.
If you want to succeed in this biz, be prepared to make sacrifices and find the time to get things done.
Here's a handy list of some things you can sacrifice:
Now I fully expect some vehement disagreement. Replies that speak of values and priorities and happiness and importance, and examples of authors on the bestseller list who take plenty of time off. I'm sure plenty of folks will feel sorry for my family, or for me for not 'getting it.' Some of you will insist you can have your cake and eat it too, and some of you may indeed do that.
But the next time you're lamenting your career, ask yourself two questions: What have I done so far? & What have I sacrificed?
If you've never finished a novel, have only gotten 50 rejections, and plan on using the holiday break to relax, are you entitled to the disappointment you feel about the state of your writing career? Or if you published your book, then did minimal self-promotion, can you really feel betrayed that you sold so poorly?
Here's an axiom that no one likes, me included, but I adhere to it anyway:
"You can always do more."
And the next time you're relaxing, pick up a copy of Who's Who, or crack open a history book, and look at all of the successful, famous people that our society reveres. How many of them are in there for being good parents? For taking vacations? For watching a lot of television? For partying with friends?
Happy Holidays! I gotta get back to work.
Guest Blogger: Jeff Bennington
I recently made acquaintance via Goodreads.com with fellow thriller author, musician, household handyman, dad of four children and homeschooling advocate, Jeff Bennington. Are those enough similarities between us?
… Wait a minute, is he me … am I him … are we the same person? Nah, he's taller and better lookin'! (grin)
Jeff is the author of _REUNION_, a supernatural thriller, _Killing the Giants_, a political thriller and _The Rumblin'_, a short suspense. Look for his upcoming paranormal thriller, _Act of Vengeance_, coming in late 2011. You can learn more about Jeff Bennington at his website (click this link). Look for his books!
Jeff just completed a 45-day 'blog tour' and not knowing much about blog tours, I slammed him with a bunch of questions. Fortunately for me, he was just completing this great article on his experience. He covers all the bases in it, including answering all of my questions (thanks broth).
Take it away Jeff … (b/t/w … there's always a pint with your name on it here a SelfPubber's Pub …9-))
Building a Blog Tour by Jeff Bennington
There are a lot of ways to build an author platform nowadays. You can tweet, facebook, speak, blog and celebritize yourself, but nothing seems to make your presence known in literary circles faster than a blog tour. What’s a blog tour? A blog tour is an opportunity for an author to travel from blog-to-blog and introduce herself, write articles, or interview with the purpose of building credibility and excitement about her book. I know a little about this because I just completed a 45-day blog tour. And lucky you, I’m going to tell you how I did it.
Before I share how you can do this yourself, I want to point out a few of the highlights from my 45-day blog tour. I also want to thank Scott Nicholson for inspiring me. He traversed a 90-day blog tour that encouraged me to do this. I’m glad I did because after the Reunion blog tour, my book…
• Received 25 book reviews on my Amazon Page
• Collected over 30 reviews and over 45 ratings on Goodreads
• Ranked as high as #28 in Goodreads best books of 2011
• Left my Reunion buy link and website url at around 40 different book blogs.
• Met a ton of book reviewers/bloggers that are waiting for my next book and willing to let me guest blog any time.
• Ranked as low as #470 in Amazon total sales.
• Was introduced to about 30,000 potential readers interested in my genre.
• I Was asked to guest blog at other sites during and after the tour.
Summary: This was my first true book launch and it went as well as I expected. I’m a newer author and I didn’t know any of the book bloggers before I started. It took a lot of hard work, but I made some mistakes when I self-published in 2009 and learned from those mistakes. Anyway, I spent about 50 hours preparing and about 90 hours writing my guest posts. With all of my other responsibilities, it totally exhausted me. But it was worth it.
What about you?
Now that you’ve worked your fingers to the bone, polishing your book to perfection, are you ready to publish and introduce your work to the world? Is your brain oozing with anticipation of your book release? Are you so ready to share your fantastic fiction that you feel like you’re going to burst out of your skin. If you are, you might want to read this article to know what to do next. Why? Because the last thing you want to do is push “Publish” and let that little monster fly before you’ve planned for your release. When publishing, you have to think ahead and prepare for a well thought out book launch. More specifically, I’m going to share how you can plan and schedule your own blog tour with little or no cost.
To build your own blog tour, follow these simple steps. If you do, you’ll start out with an abundance of reviews and a jumpstart to your indie writing career.
1. Professionalism: I’m going to assume you’ve already had your book professionally edited, formatted and have an appealing cover. If you have not done these three things, none of this matters. Remember, you will be dealing with book bloggers and reviewers that interact with traditionally published authors, their agents and publicists. They expect professionalism and it all starts with your pitch.
Warning: Do not be offended if you are not accepted as an indie author. Be courteous and understand that indies are making progress but many reviewers/book bloggers are not open to you yet… and that’s okay, we’ll get there.
2. The Pitch: The first thing you have to do when building a blog tour is to write a compelling pitch. Here’s a link to the pitch I sent out to over 65 book bloggers. (http://thewritingbomb.blogspot.com/2011/...) Feel free to use this as a template for your pitch. Also, you’ll want to start this process no less than 30 days before you plan to launch your book because bloggers/reviewers will need time to read your book (PDF/ARC) if you want the reviews to show up at the time of your release. Many book bloggers like to write a review around the same time that you appear as a guest.
Hint: If you’ve scheduled your book release, you might want to do a “soft” release ahead of time so your reviews can be posted on your Amazon page by the time your book starts selling to your circle of friends; that way they can buy with confidence.
3. Contact book bloggers/reviewers: After you’ve nailed the pitch you’ll have to email a ton of reviewers/book bloggers. You might consider planning a 30-day blog tour. Forty-five days was a bit much for me. Hint: When you start getting responses you have to be very careful to keep good records of who is scheduled and what your topic will be. I used the calendar on my computer and entered each response immediately after they chose a date. Trust me, if they agree to host you 40-60 days before you appear, you don’t want to forget about it. And you’ll want to send your guest blogs out about a week in advance so the blogger doesn’t forget!
But where do you start? Who do you send your pitch to? You can look at my 45-day schedule and email those book bloggers or try Scott Nicholson’s blog tour link (if you write in the suspense/thriller/paranormal genres). Between the two of us, you’ll find over 100 book bloggers to choose from.
Here are the links…
Scott Nicholson: http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/booktour....
Jeff Bennington: http://www.jeffbennington.com/#!blog-tou...
Also, be prepared that many book bloggers require a print copy, so if you are only giving away digital copies you could miss a lot of opportunities with reputable reviewers. Another tip: leave a couple open dates for your blog so you can introduce your home base to your blog tour followers. This will also provide a fill-in date to add anyone interested in joining late in the game.
4. What to write: Once you’ve scheduled your blog tour, you’ll need to start writing articles for your hosts right away. I would recommend that you write about 600-1000 words per article. I customized each post. If the book blogger was more into horror, I’d use words that fed that sort of reader the blood lust they’re looking for. If the blogger leaned toward paranormal romance, I’d talk romance. But whatever you do, don’t repeat anything. Keep each day fresh and interesting. I had a few folks who followed the tour from start to finish because they really liked my blog posts.
Be prepared to do interviews. Some bloggers like to interview but some don’t have the time. For those who want to interview you, help them to come up with creative questions if they repeat previously asked questions. Try to mix up the schedule so that you don’t do too many interviews back to back.
5. Interact: Once you start blogging, be sure to visit at the scheduled blog stop at least once on the day it is published so that you can interact with your new fans. The next day, you might want to visit some of the stops you made in the previous week just to check in. This is very important because “comment” interaction is the whole purpose of the blog tour. This is why you are doing this, to gain fans, to meet readers, to build your platform.
6. Reviews: After a week or so you’ll start to notice that the reviews start rolling in. Reviews are a wonderful benefit to blog tours, because reviews will sell your book and give buyers confidence. Be sure to ask your reviewers to post their review on Amazon. Sometimes they only post on their blog. Whatever they decide, be gracious, beggars can’t be dictators.
7. Giveaways: Are you offering a giveaway? Giveaways are nice, but they can be expensive. I gave away 2 Kindles. That was a little overkill. Unless you expect to sell a lot of books, I wouldn’t give away the Kindles. And the only reason you should expect a lot of sales is because you have a track record of a lot of sales. If all you have is expectations, you shouldn’t spend the extra money. Be frugal. You can do this without spending any money if you really want to.
Fortunately, I had the money to spend on the Kindles, but in retrospect I don’t think it was worth it. I think the tour would’ve been just as successful without the Kindle giveaway. Besides, I was surprised how few people actually registered. I think a signed copy of Reunion would have been enough. As it turns out, both of the winners live in Canada so the Kindles cost me about $360 with shipping and custom fees. Incidentally, one of the blog tour followers informed me that it is illegal to require a purchase to be eligible for a giveaway, so I kind of botched that.
Something else to consider is that if you send out print copies, you’ll find that the cost of the book and the cost of postage will be your greatest expense (especially if you are sending it overseas). I sent out about 25 print copies and spent about $275 to do that. If you want to keep expenses down, stick with only giving away digital copies.
Bonus Tip: One of my mistakes was doing a Goodreads giveaway during the tour. What I should have done was scheduled the Goodreads giveaway to end at the start of the tour, which should’ve corresponded with the release of the book. That would’ve encouraged the folks interested in Reunion to buy it closer to the release day.
Final thoughts: A friend of mine from Goodreads asked me some questions about the blog tour so I’ll address them here. Hopefully, I’ll answer your questions in the process. If not, be sure to comment.
• Q: How long did it take to receive responses from the book bloggers?
A: I started receiving responses within days of sending out review/guest blogging requests, and they continued to respond over the next couple weeks. I simply scheduled the tour on a first come first serve basis. But this is why you want to start at least a month before you plan to release your book. These folks are very nice and easier to deal with than publishers and agents (no offense agents and publishers but that’s the reputation you have out there).
• Q: How did decide what to charge for your book?
A: I started with the $2.99 price point at first to get a little change in my pocket, but then Amazon lowered the price to .99¢. They have that right I suppose. But I’m good with the .99¢ price point, because I’m all about gaining readers at this point. It’s a good way to encourage readers to try a new author. If they like me, they’ll pay $2.99 when I release my next book. That’s my philosophy anyway.
• Q: Out of the 65 book bloggers you sent review/guest blogging requests to, how many took you up on your pitch?
A: About 40. The others weren’t interested, didn’t respond, or preferred other genres. Some reviewers wouldn’t accept my book because I wasn’t traditionally published.
• Q: Have you done a blog tour before?
A: No. I simply followed Scott Nicholson’s tour and tried to imitate it as close as possible. But obviously my guest posts were unique and I blogged in places he didn’t. Some of my favorite stops were at The Creative Penn, The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Rex Robot Reviews and several others. I was actually surprised at the response.
• Q: I'm sure it definitely helps spread the word about your books and yourself but I'm curious to know if it sells books (a few, several, a lot)?
A: You have to remember; unless you’re an established author with several books out, you have to be patient and build your reputation and fan base. This will take time. I knew this going in, so my expectations were fairly healthy. If you expect to become a bestseller because you put in the effort it takes to do a blog tour, you will be disappointed, unless you get lucky. Overall I’ve sold over 500 copies of Reunion in the first 6 weeks and continue selling anywhere from 1-10 copies every day. In comparison, I sold 500 copies of my first book in two years. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll rank anywhere from #5,000 - #30,000 in Amazon’s sales ranking. As a newer author, I’m happy with that and expect the momentum to continue when I release my next supernatural thriller, Act of Vengeance, this fall. Basically, a blog tour is probably more PR than a sales pitch, but it can be much less expensive than paid publicity if you do it right.
Overall, I had a great time, learned a lot and plan to do it again. I’ll spend less money the next time, however, and do less blogging. I think I’ll let the bloggers review my book and leave it at that. I do enjoy blogging though, and have continued even after the blog tour has ended because I believe it is a vital and smart way to sell yourself.
If you haven’t read Reunion, it’s getting great reviews and is available in print and in all digital formats. Amazon is selling it for only .99¢! You can get it here by clicking on the following link ---> http://www.amazon.com/Reunion-ebook/dp/B...
This beautiful piece was written by my better half, my wife Lisa de Marigny, as she reflected on her memories of her grandmother. I thought I'd share it...
You do not get to choose your grandparents and I am proud to say that Ida is not only my grandma; she is one of my favorite people. When people ask me why I am active in politics I tell them the story of how my grandmother took me to the polling location where she worked when I was a child. I tell them how passionate she was about individuals exercising their right to vote, especially women. I explain how impressed I was by the fact that my grandma worked, when most women stayed home, and how she wore pants suits when most women wore dresses. My Grandma had it all and shared everything, including her opinion. She was always outspoken, but never bombastic. She may have been wearing pants, but she always acted like a lady.
She loved my grandfather with all her heart. On the day she gave me her wedding ring, she reminded me that they were engaged for four years while he served in World War II. She was quick to brag about all the great things he did and content to downplay the wonderful things she did. She always put others first. Whenever I called or came over she always greeted me with a smile and a “Hello, Lisa Dear, I’ll get your grandfather.” If I told her I was there to see her, she would get him anyway and listen intently to our conversation.
My husband never had grandparents. They had passed away by the time he was born. When we got married, Miss Ida sent him his first “Grandson” birthday card. When he pointed this out, she never passed up an opportunity to refer to him as her grandson. I feel so blessed that all four of my children had the chance to know my grandma. The last time she came to visit us, my boys noticed that she had the volume on her hearing aids turned down. When one of my sons asked why she kept them turned off, without hesitation, she responded, “Honey when you are my age, you have heard it all and what you haven’t heard, you simply do not want to know!”
My children’s innocence reminded me of when I was younger and asked my grandmother why it seemed that she attended so many funerals. She made a joke about her age then, but looking back she had to be only in her fifties at the time. The reality of it was that she had a lot of friends and she was reverent. Her door was always open and I recall never being over her house for very long before friends or neighbors would drop by to visit. She would even invite our orthodox Jewish neighbors over for Christmas because she said we had so much food and our family was so loud that we would probably disturb he and his wife all night anyway.
As feisty and straightforward that she could be, she was a good listener. She would send articles in the mail on subjects that you had discussed months ago. While the world began to send email, Ida continued to write notes. She would always include a note with everything she sent; mine were always addressed to “Lisa Dear.” She gleaned a great deal from reading. I could be traveling for several months and when I would check in to tell her about the various books that I was reading, rarely had she not already read them. When I worked for an ultra-conservative company that expected women to wear skirt suits and walked in wearing a pantsuit, I thought of Ida when I returned my superior’s disapproving glance with a confident smile.
Years later when I told her I would be managing a couple of political campaigns, she did not ask many questions about the candidates that I would be representing. She said that one should be a patriot first, which I understood by the example she herself set. Just when I thought perhaps her political interest may have been waning with age she said, “And Lisa Dear, your grandfather and I have always been registered republicans, we are not going to be on opposite sides of the aisle, are we?” The interesting thing about her words is that, my grandfather had passed away ten years earlier. It was like she resurrected his patriarchal status as insurance that I remained politically conservative.
I will always cherish these memories. However, I most treasure having had the opportunity to see her one last time so recently and for speaking with her on the phone just days before she passed away. The last thing she said is that I love you and your family. Although I do not have a penny for each time she referred to me as “Lisa Dear” or said she loved me, I am rich. Richly blessed for having Ida as my grandma and for having a grandma that is one of my favorite people.
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Dean Wesley Smith