Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with the author of Behind the Hood Marita A. Hansen

Where were you born and where do you live now?

I was born and bred in New Zealand, but am currently living in Singapore, where I’ve been since December 2009. I will be returning home in 2013.

What are your hobbies?

I love sport, in particular soccer, running, and karate. I’m soccer mad, and am a youth coach and referee. My other hobbies are reading and art. I do all my book covers.

Do you have another job apart from writing?

I am an artist, but I’ve put it aside for the moment to concentrate on my books. I would prefer to be an author, and to keep art as a hobby rather than a job. When I was in New Zealand art was pretty much a full time thing. At one point, while doing a large commission, I was painting seven days a week. I am passionate about both my art and writing.

On writing:

Can you describe the place where you write and the view?

I write from home. My view is of the gorgeous garden outside: Palm trees, Bougainvillea, bamboo and so forth.

What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?

I write realistic fiction. Originally I did try my hand at YA fantasy, but I ended up putting it aside. When I first started writing “Behind the Hood” I intended on doing a fantasy based in Singapore. But the location for the story wasn’t working, so I moved it to one of my old neighbourhoods in New Zealand. As soon as I did that it rapidly morphed into realism. From there, I found that this genre was a lot easier to write and held more meaning for me. At the moment I’m also writing a spin-off series for “Behind the Hood” called “Graffiti Heaven,” which is set ten years earlier.

At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?

I don’t like sending off submissions to agents. It’s absolutely horrible. They take way too long to reply, and a couple have wasted my time. This was one of the reasons why I decided to self-publish. Plus, when I took the plunge into self-publishing I thought I was returning home by the end of 2011. Due to this I was feeling the pressure of getting my book out there, because if I returned back to New Zealand without having done so I was worried “Behind the Hood” was going to languish in the depths of my computer unread. But, I did have it professionally edited, thus doing my best to get it up to publishable standards. And so far it has been well-received with some really good reviews both on Amazon and Goodreads.

How do you feel about self-publishing? What are the advantages, disadvantages, etc.?

At first I was nervous about self-publishing, because the hardest thing is marketing. Someone can have the best book in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it won’t get anyway. Self-published authors have to be persistent with marketing their books, getting it onto people’s blogs, participating in places like Goodreads, twittering, and joining in with the Facebook community. Writers’ websites are also important, along with forums. You also need to do talks at writing groups or bookstores. I’ve done a few of these and they went very well.

Are you in a network of Indie authors?

I’m a part of the Facebook group Writing Kindle Books.

When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?

“Behind the Hood” went live on August 12, 2011. I felt nervous about it, because it’s a pretty full-on read and I was worried about how it would be received. I was also nervous about the formatting, but one person told me that there were no errors in relation to this. Additionally, the marketing side of things was daunting.

Can you tell us some background information on the book?

“Behind the Hood” is the first in a series. I will release “Behind the Tears” in November of this year, and so forth. The idea for “Behind the Hood” basically came from setting it in one of my old neighbourhoods in South Auckland, New Zealand. As soon as I had my character Maia walk past a gang, things just flowed and the story took on a life of its own. Plus, I did include things that were familiar, personalities, settings, etc. which was why it probably came so readily. But because I was new to this writing game, and was still persisting with the notion of going down the conventional route with publishing, “Behind the Hood” took fifteen months to complete.

What are your writing habits?

I go with the flow; I have no set number of words. I just write when it comes to me.

Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why?

Life I suppose. My experiences and what I see around me.

Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?

Hopefully being able to support myself and my family from my books, as well as getting “Behind the Hood” turned into a television drama since the structure of the chapters are suited to this.

Synopsis, Review and Links to Behind the Hood

Life on the rough side of New Zealand. In this South Auckland neighbourhood where gang culture, drink, drugs, sex and violence is already a way of life, a vicious attack on a teenage girl sparks a ripple effect of revenge and fury. Live the carnage through multiple viewpoints as the tale unfolds to a bloody climax.

An Amazon Review:

INTENSE! I could probably leave my review at this one word and that would say it all. What a nerve wracking read. At first I thought there were going to be too many point of view characters for me to get involved emotionally, but they all tied back to each other perfectly. I had no problem keeping track of who was who and how they related back to each of the other characters. By the last three-quarters of the book I had the phones turned off and the Do Not Disturb sign hung on the door. I had to know what was going to happen and I didn't want any interruptions. Marita Hansen did not disappoint. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Links to Behind the Hood (Free sample available through Amazon’s look inside feature):

Monday, February 27, 2012

Censorship is a scary thing

Apparently, Paypal decided to lay the morality smackdown on certain types of erotic content in books. A few days ago, I received this email from Smashwords. (By the way, it's not only Smashwords doing this, it's Amazon, Bookstrand, and others.)

February 24, 2012

Re: Your Smashwords account at http://smashwords.com/profile/view/traceyhkitts

Dear Smashwords Authors, Publishers and Literary Agents,

This email is being sent to all authors, publishers and agents who have published erotica at Smashwords. We will also post this message to Site Updates and the Press Room. According to our records, you pubish 2 erotica-categorized title(s) out of 2 title(s) now live in the Smashwords system.

This message may or may not pertain to you. Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. If you write in any of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and archive such works if you are affected. I apologize for the short notice, and I’m especially sorry for any financial or emotional hardship this may cause the authors and publishers affected by this change. As you may have heard, in the last couple weeks PayPal began aggressively enforcing a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of "obscene" content.

For good background on the issue, see this Selena Kitt post here - http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2012/02/19/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship/ or here - http://theselfpublishingrevolution.blogspot.com/2012/02/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship.html#comment-form or this Kindleboards thread here - http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,104604.0.html

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements.

Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica. The underage erotica is not a problem for us. We already have some of the industry’s strictest policies prohibiting underage characters (we don’t even allow non-participating minors to appear in erotica), and our vetting team is always on the lookout for "barely legal" content where supposed adults are placed in underage situations.

The other three areas of bestiality, rape and incest were less well-defined in our Terms of Service (https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos) before today. I’ll tackle these one-by-one below, and I'll provide you a summary of the changes that will go into effect immediately.*Incest:* Until now, we didn’t have a policy prohibiting incest between consenting adults, or its non-biological variation commonly known as "Pseudo-incest."

Neither did our retailer partners. We’ve noticed a surge of PI books over the last few months, and many of them have "Daddy" in the title. I wouldn't be surprised if the surge in "Daddy" titles prompted PayPal to pursue this purge (I don't know). PI usually explores sexual relations between consenting adult stepchildren with their step parents, or between step-siblings. Effectively immediately, we no longer allow incest of any variety in erotica. Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords.

Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.Incest, however, carries thorny baggage. The legality of incest is murky. It creates a potential legal liability for Smashwords as our business and our books become more present in more jurisdictions around the world. Anything that threatens Smashwords directly threatens our ability to serve the greater interests of all Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers and customers who rely upon us as the world’s leading distributor of indie ebooks. The business considerations compel me to not fall on the sword for incest. I realize this is an imperfect decision.

The slippery slope is dangerous, but I believe this imperfect decision is in the best interest of the community we serve.*Bestiality:* Until now, we didn’t have a stated policy regarding bestiality. I like animals. Call me old fashioned or hypocritical (I’m not a vegetarian), but I don’t want to be a party to anyone enjoying animals for sexual gratification, for the same reason we’ve never allowed pedophilia books. I don’t want to publish it, sell it, or distribute it. The TOS is now modified to reflect this. Note this does not apply to shape-shifters common in paranormal romance provided the were-creature characters are getting it on in their human form. Sorry I need to clarify it that way, but we don’t want to see bestiality erotica masquerading as paranormal romance. *Rape:*

Although our Terms of Service prohibits books that advocate violence against others, we did not specifically identify rape. This was an oversight on our part. Now we have clarified the policy. We do not want books that contain rape for the purpose of titillation. At Smashwords, rape has no longer has a place in erotica. It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate. Non-consensual BDSM - or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person - is prohibited.

There is more to the letter, but I decided to cut it off here as the rest only give steps on how to remove your content IF you fall into those categories. Before I go further (because when I mentioned this on Facebook recently, someone misunderstood my intent) I am NOT advocating the topics of rape, incest, or bestiality. I AM advocating freedom of speech.

In my opinion, that's what this is really about. I find those topics disgusting to say the list. However, I do not have the right to tell other people what they can and cannot write, publish, or read. And neither does anyone else.

Read the Selena Kitt article listed above. It's scary and eye-opening. I had no idea any of this was going on until I got that letter from Smashwords. Thank God I decided not to write any BDSM because that is being targeted now also.

I could understand being in an uproar if someone was selling images depicting acts of rape, bestiality, etc. But these are WORDS. FICTION for crying out loud.

Perhaps they are only targeting erotica because the "morality police" are afraid of sex? If they're going to get picky about content, then mysteries and thrillers should also be removed due to content. How many mysteries and thrillers contain rape, murder, mutilation and the like? Don't even get me started on horror! But you know what? I LIKE horror and I'll be damned if anyone is going to tell me I can't read what I enjoy.

Same goes for romance. Today it's the (in my opinion) really sick shit that gets targeted. That of course, doesn't include BDSM. Targeting consensual acts between adults is way out of line.

My question (and concern) is, what's next? What if they decide that vampires and werewolves are immoral? That means I lose my source of income. But more than that, I lose my dream. I lose what I love and the best job I've ever had. And thousands of people lose their favorite form of entertainment. Not just my books (I wish) but all of those that fall into the same categories.

I do not believe that I am immoral and I do not believe my content is in any way "sick" or "unnatural." But what happens when someone else does and they happen to have the power to ruin my life?

That my friends, is scary as hell.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Re-vamp of the Werewolf Hunter Series is on the way

As with many of my titles, the rights to the Werewolf Hunter series are in the process of reverting back to me. This means my contracts are running out and I've chosen not to renew them.

I am in the process of re-editing, revising, and expanding each book in the series for re-release. I'm also doing the cover art on these myself this time around. Hopefully, I can accurately capture my vision (and all my reader's visions) of Lilith.

I'm doing this (releasing the books myself) in the hopes of reaching a larger portion of my target audience. Previously, Red (book one in the series) was sold in the category of erotica. It is NOT an erotic romance. Actually, it's the beginning of a paranormal series. There IS romance and eventually there IS erotic content. Just not in book one (the erotic part, I mean). Red sets the stage for everything to come. And there are LOTS of things going on in this series.

As I re-read and edited book one again, I didn't realize how much I'd forgotten about this series. Naturally, I remembered the basics because I wrote it. But I'd forgotten so many little things and character traits. I was very surprised.

Now, as I get to know these characters again, there will be more books to come. I'm re-reading my extensive notes on the series as well and plan to (once I've finished releasing the other titles) start back with the series.

Thank you so much to all my loyal fans of this series. You and your kind emails have kept Lilith Mercury alive.

Now, here is my latest cover art creation. I hope you like it.

Book Description: Dr. Alfred Moody saved her life, but the werewolf, Marco may hold the key to her heart. She’s torn between the man who saved her humanity and the one who makes her want to embrace the beast. WARNING: This series gets hotter as it goes. However, Book One is NOT erotic. Someday Lilith will have a happy ending, but this is only the beginning.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The more exposure the better, right?

If that first line conjures images of a mad flasher in a trench coat, don't worry. That's not the kind of exposure I'm talking about. I'm talking about getting exposure for your books. How can anyone buy something they've never heard of, right?

Now if you're like me, you don't have much money to spend on advertisements, even the cheap ones. Most of the time, I have NO advertising budget at all. But what I do have is time. I've been taking the advice of that editor who said that the very best advertisement is coming out with another good book.

I've got some pretty good evidence that she was right. Not that I doubted her. What she said made perfect sense to me. However, I see people advertising the same books sometimes when they haven't written anything new in years. I realize there are all kinds of reasons why something like this might happen. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not insulting those individuals. Not at all. I'm offering my opinion based on what I've personally experienced. That's all anyone can do.

Now, from my experience, after a year, sales trickle off on new books significantly. (Of course, sales trickle off before that, but that's when I've noticed the biggest drop.) However, each time I have a new release, sales increase for all my books. This increase continues to grow sometimes for several months.

This brings me to my next point, self-publishing is TOTALLY worth it. I've gotten more exposure with Frank and The Werewolf Tamer (my first self-pub title) than with ANY of my books with a traditional publisher. How much more?

In less than 2 months, Frank and The Werewolf Tamer, (including some free downloads offered as promo), has been downloaded roughly 2,000 times. Not all of those were free. Not even half.

My very best-selling book with a traditional publisher did not reach 2,000 sales for the YEAR.

That's what I call exposure!

Now, having said that, I made more money off the book with a traditional publisher in the first 6 weeks than I have so far with Frank. That was due in part to higher prices on the books and the fact some copies of Frank were offered for free.

I'm pricing my books as cheaply as I can and still earn a living in order to reach a larger audience. I've run some 99 cent promos, but I can't afford to leave my books priced at 99 cents. Writing is my only job. I need to earn a paycheck.

I'm sharing this in the hopes that it might help those who are still wondering what to expect with a self-published book. I believe the exposure is worth the time. People are enjoying Frank and The Werewolf Tamer and they are telling their friends. That's fantastic! I've never gotten so much word of mouth endorsements on a book before. How do I know it's word of mouth selling more books and not something else? Because I haven't done anything else. I haven't spent one single dime on advertising for Frank and The Werewolf Tamer.

I've done some guest blog posts, but that's it. Several authors were kind enough to let me be their guest and I'm sure that continues to help. My point is, it didn't cost money. You don't have to spend a fortune to sell books.

I'm sure this is great news to everyone who has to pay for marketing all on their own. Wait, that would be everyone. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sorry to burst that bubble. Even big names still pay for much (and in some cases all) of their marketing. Those banners with your book and smiling face right beside your name in HUGE letters, not to mention like 100 free copies, only happens in the movies.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Once Upon A Time has ruined Prince Charming.

Yes, I know this blog usually has material about writing. But, I also have listed at the top that there will be rants. I love the new TV series, Once Upon A Time. I haven't missed an episode. There are no spoilers here unless you haven't seen the show at all. With that in mind, I plan to share what's pissing me off.

I suppose you could say (in a way) that this is about writing. It's about taking a well-known and loved character and turning him into a complete asshole. The way they did a re-write of Charming in Shrek was funny. This is not.

I realize that this is a series and they still have a ways to go. Naturally, there will be obstacles since the curse prevents everyone from living happily ever after. Still, bearing that in mind ... Do they have to make Prince Charming such a freaking jerk?!

He's awful! The writers have taken everything that was good and decent about the character and totally ruined him. Yes, they've taken a creative license here and in most cases there's nothing wrong with that. However, Prince Charming is a classic character. When you say his name, there are certain things that come to mind. People expect these things. You know, like charm for one thing. Heck, it's part of his name. Or what about decency and honor? And let's not forget faithfulness.

Let me explain a little better what I'm talking about. (For the purposes of this rant, I'm assuming everyone is familiar with the subject matter.) Example 1 - He led Snow White on. This was painful to watch, but an actual interesting twist. He chose to stay with his wife. (Midas' daughter) Okay. Fine. Now be man enough to live with that choice. (Until the writers work something else out.)

Example 2- After he's already made his choice, he can't stick with it. He continues to lead Snow on. And (to me this is the most painful) we find out that his wife thinks she might be pregnant. Seriously?! He's telling Snow how he has feelings for her and all the while he's doing Midas' daughter as much as he wants? "Yeah, baby, I love you. That's why I keep getting into bed with her." It goes beyond not being fair. Life isn't fair. I get that. He's an asshole.

Example 3 - After they find out that his wife isn't pregnant, he starts having an affair with Snow. In her defense, Snow White turned him down several times. The problem is, she loves him and you can only deny yourself something you want for so long.

Example 4 - He makes his wife believe that he wants to "make this right" and work things out with her. In this conversation she tells him flat out that she wants children. He not only goes along with it, but agrees to see a counselor. All the while, he's telling Snow that he loves her.

I think I've proven my point. The writers of this series have turned Prince Charming into a lying, cheating piece of shit. Sorry. I tried to choose my words more politely, but it didn't get the point across. They have ruined this character. I watch each week in the hopes that he will die.

Well, that and I have a crush on Rumplestiltskin. LOL

*deep breath* Okay. Rant over. Let's all continue with our regularly scheduled lives. Shall we?

Friday, February 10, 2012

I've got some good news

For those of you who are die hard print fans, Frank and The Werewolf Tamer is now available in print. Isn't that awesome?

It will be available within a week on Amazon to order. But in the meantime, you can order directly from Createspace. For those not familiar, Createspace is Amazon's print site. They handle all of their print on demand orders.

Now, for those interested in uploading books themselves, I thought I would share how easy Createspace was to use. Before this I had never formatted a book for print in my life. Honestly, it sounded like it would be hard. I was nervous. I shouldn't have been.

This site was so easy to use. They even offer suggestions on book size to offer you the best possible distribution. Good to know, since I didn't have a clue. The most difficult part (which still wasn't really hard) was the cover art. I designed and formatted my own. For the ebook, this was easy. But what about formatting for a print book? They give you measurements of how large your photo should be. Plus, you get a very easy to understand program to use on the site with a great preview tool. It took me a couple of tries to get the cover just right, but it was more time consuming than "hard."

They also gave me a code to enter to get a free proof copy of my book. It looks great! I couldn't be more pleased. I've even designed my own logo on the back:)

For those who prefer ebook format:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Goodbye Matt

Today I'm going to share something very painful in the hopes that I will never have to deal with this again. Writing is my therapy many times, so I'm going to write about it.

Years ago, I had a friend. A very dear friend whom I thought of as a brother. His name was Matt. From the time I was in 6th grade (changed schools) until my early twenties, we saw each other often. Hell, we just lived around the block from one another. I loved him with all my heart. He was family to me. Even after I got married, my husband really liked him too. We used to all hang out and go places together. My parents loved him too.

Then one day in 2002 when I was on my way to work, I stopped at a gas station in town. There was Matt. He told me he was moving. He'd gotten a better job somewhere but promised to keep in touch and visit. I hugged him that day with a heavy heart. I smiled and wished him well, but something inside me knew, I would never see him again. I was right.

One day he was my best friend, the next he'd dropped off the face of the earth. With all the technology we have today I know that seems impossible. But it isn't. I've not been able to find him on any social networks. I checked for listed phone numbers in the general area where he moved. But he wasn't there anymore. In 2006 I found an address way down in Florida where I sent a letter, trying to reach him. If he got it, I never knew.

Over the years I have dreamed of him until I can no longer take the heartbreak. These dreams are never exactly the same. They normally consist of me seeing him somewhere. Damn, it's good to see him. We talk about our lives, catch up. Then, when I go to hug him goodbye, I realize it's only a dream. I wake up with my heart broken all over again.

It's 4:50 a.m. and I've just woken from another such dream. I can't take it any more. I just want to let this go. He may have moved a lot, but I have lived in the same house, on the same street. Until recently, I had the same phone number. And my parents still have the same number. He hasn't called. He hasn't written. He hasn't stopped by. As much as it hurts to admit, maybe I wasn't as important to him as he was to me.

I'm writing this to say goodbye. Stop haunting my dreams. I'm tired of waking up crying. Dreams of you have a way of showing up when I feel lonely and I need you most. It's cruel. I'm sick of it. This ghost of a memory that feels so real has got to let me be. So, wherever you are, Matt .... I'm tired of missing you. Goodbye.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Marketing and difficult decisions

As authors, we're often faced with many difficult decisions when it comes to the way our work is presented. After all, readers base their opinion of our work on that presentation. The most important thing is the book itself. It should be engaging, well-written, and entertaining. Not to mention thoroughly edited.

Beyond that, there's the cover art, the blurb, and many other factors that are often out of our control. Unless, you self-publish.

The rights on many of my previous titles are in the process of reverting back to me. What does that mean? It means my contracts are running out and I have chosen not to renew them. This is a business decision that I put off for as long as I could.

Many people have written to me about the Lilith Mercury series. I promise, I am NOT abandoning Lilith. This series is part of the books that are returning to me. Unfortunately, there will be a delay in the books being re-released, but it will happen. Hopefully, the first 3 books in the series will be available again for readers by the end of the year.

The reason I delayed this for so long (besides honoring my original contract length) was I didn't want to inconvenience my readers. However, I feel this story was never given the chance it deserves, due to marketing.

First of all, Red, book one in the series, was sold in the category of erotica. That is grossly misleading. Book one is definitely NOT erotica. This led many people to complain about a lack of sex. I can't blame them, they thought they were purchasing an erotic title. Also, the blurb is written in a way that leads people to believe Lilith will end up with Marco at the end of the book. This is also terribly misleading. Naturally, I got complaints that there wasn't a "happy ending."

Well, of course there wasn't! This is the beginning of a SERIES. Lilith Mercury will have a happy ending some day, I promise. But not at the end of the first book in the series. Unfortunately, the book had already been out for 3 years and many sequels released before it was ever marketed as a series.

All of this was out of my hands and I apologize to everyone who was disappointed.

Soon, however, the series will be re-released and marketed as it was intended. The blurbs will be worded in a way to not mislead people, but to let them know what they're getting. And just as importantly, the books will be sold in the correct categories. While the series does get hotter as it goes on (that was always my intention) book one should never be mistaken for erotica.

To my loyal fans of this series, bless you for sticking with me. And to all those who have written to me, asking about the next book. it will come, I promise. I appreciate your emails from the bottom of my heart.

The Lilith series will return, revised, re-edited, and expanded. And better than ever!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Patience might be a virtue, especially in marketing

But that doesn't mean I have any. For those of you out there working on writing your first book, there's something else staring you in the face. Something you may not have thought of. PROMOTION AND MARKETING. Basically, they're the same thing. Call it what you will, it's driving me crazy.

Many people are still under the false impression that a publishing company covers all of the costs of marketing. They believe that all they have to do is turn in their book and POOF it magically gets advertised. Um...WRONG.

Even if you're already a big name in the industry, not ALL of your promotional efforts will be paid for or arranged by your publisher.

And if your an indie author you're totally on your own. You are responsible for many things you might not think of as marketing, but it is. Such as the presentation of your book. This includes the layout and text (does it look professional, free from errors and typos, etc.,), the blurb (Is your book description interesting?) and the cover art. People DO judge books by their covers and this part is crucial.

Not only are all those things vitally important, they are just the bare minimum.

What I know I want to know and I'm sure many others are asking is, "What really works?" I really wish I knew. As both a traditionally published and independent author, I'm still struggling to figure this out after 4 1/2 years in the business.

Here's a rundown of my efforts. (based solely on my opinions and observations) I will share what I believe worked and didn't work so far.

Print ads - One of the first things I did when my first book came out was start looking into print advertisement. I researched where (which kinds of magazines) my readers (target audience) were most likely to find me. After all, it wouldn't do much good to place an ad in a magazine romance readers would never see.

I took part in a joint ad with other authors in Realms of Fantasy. (By the way, that magazine is now out of business.) At the time it had a good reach and was distributed in many local bookstores. To me, that was a plus.

The ad cost me $120. It looked nice and I was very proud. However, the first QUARTER of royalties from my first book only earned me around $450.

Being short on cash, I didn't try this again. However, one of my publishers was kind enough to choose another book of mine to place in an ad that they paid for in Romantic Times Magazine the year before last. Sales for the book in question were low, despite the fact that the ad (which I couldn't have afforded) was beautiful.

Print ads are impressive, but in my opinion, they are a total waste of money.

Online ads - There are a wide variety of these available. Some work and some don't. In my experience the cheaper ads pay off more as you don't have much invested. Plus, I'm working on a nonexistent budget.

I've put a $5 ad up at Coffee Time Romance on several occasions and saw an over all jump in sales for the quarter in which the ads appeared. It was a small jump. We're talking about 50 copies above average for the entire quarter. Not big at all, but well worth $5.

The biggest return I ever saw on an ad was in ARe's newsletter. (All Romance Ebooks) I placed a cover ad for $15. I think the price has changed since then. I sold 84 copies of the book in question THAT WEEK. The combined sales for the month on the title I advertised alone was $238 above what they had been the month before. That's for the MONTH and not the quarter. Of course, this book was also with a larger publisher. That could have made a difference as well. However, at the time the title had been out for over a year.

In my opinion, ads in online magazines and forums are well worth the price.

As for social networks - I have no idea if promoting on social networks pays off or not. My thing is, I don't want to spam people. I took part in Triberr for a little over a month and ended up dropping out of a very large tribe. For those not familiar with Triberr, basically it's a way to have lots of people re-tweet your blog posts all over Twitter. Yes, that's really simplified, but it suits the purposes of this post. Many of the people in my tribe didn't post about topics of interest to my twitter followers. Sure, I picked up about 100 followers, but I also lost a lot. They felt like they were being spammed and I must agree. I've stopped following people who's Twitter feeds are nothing but non-stop advertisement.

Maybe a much smaller tribe with a focus on paranormal romance might work. Who knows? On the whole, I found Triberr to be a huge pain in the butt. I'm still in 2 very small tribes about marketing for authors.

Facebook - I have a fan page and a personal page. I've heard many experts say how you should keep your personal page seperate. I think that's bull. I don't post anything on Facebook that I wouldn't say in public. I'm not one of those people. I don't have drunken pictures or lots of F-bombs or photos of my family so that someone can stalk them. LOL I'm there to network. If I happen to find an old friend from school, great.

The idea of seperation might work for those in a different industry, but not for me. In my case, I think it would be counterproductive. I am what I do. I write. I am a writer. What the hell difference would there be in my pages? Not much. I talk more on my personal page than I do on my fan page. The fan page is mostly for updates on books and blog posts.

Sure, I post links where my books can be purchased. But that's not the only thing I post. Does it work? Who knows.

Myspace - This is almost totally pointless as everyone has migrated to Facebook. However, I keep it updated with new statuses through Ping.fm. This lovely little service updates all your social networks at once:) I've got mine set to update my Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and Yahoo accounts all at once.

Goodreads - Many people swear by this. I'm not one of them. I do have an author page at GR and I have rated a few books, but not many. I have my page set up so that the RSS feed from my blog shows up there, giving me a chance to reach a larger audience. The reason I don't go to GR often is simple, I feel unwelcome. Many of the reviews there (and not just for my books) are mean-spirited and just flat rude. It seems to be a hangout for the more venmous to converge. Now if you're on GR and are a nice person, don't be offended. I'm sure there ARE nice people there. I've met one or two. But like I said, not many.

Linkedin - I have an account, but haven't taken the time to get to know how it works. I have too much to do as it is!

Amazon forums - See my opinion about Goodreads. It applies here as well. AUTHORS ARE NOT WELCOME ON AMAZON FORUMS. DO NOT GO THERE.

Yahoo groups - I have one of these too. I'm also a member of many. I chat occasionally and post about my books. Does it work? I have no idea. I visit yahoo groups less and less often as I'm beginning to believe they do nothing at all for sales.

Coffee Time Romance forums - I'm not sure if these boost my sales or not, but I love the people there. I would go just for fun, even if it didn't help me sell more books. Plus, you get to update your signature line with your latest book info. Everyone who sees your signature is another potential customer, right?

Wow. I'm exhausted just LOOKING at this post. LOL I'm certain I've left things out, because I'm constantly marketing.

Oh, I've also got a Website and (you know this because you're reading it) a Blog.

I've done this post to try to help my fellow authors who are out there wondering what works. As I search for the answers to the same question, I'll share my findings with you.

And just in case you're interested, here are the links to where you can find me.

Website - http://www.traceyhkitts.com

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/traceyhkitts/info#!/pages/Tracey-H-Kitts/73968579374

Twitter - https://twitter.com/#!/traceyhkitts

My Coffee Time Author Area - http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=1394

I'd like to finish with some words of wisdom. As a very wise editor once told me, the very best promotion is writing another good book. Now that, I can handle:)