Friday, August 21, 2015

How 200 People Agreed to Help Me With My Book Launch

I met Andy Peloquin last weekend at a multi-author meet-and-greet signing event at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. Of the twenty-one authors at the signing, Andy stood out as the only one whose talk made me turn 180 degrees and become interested in a book I never would have noticed otherwise, because it's not in a genre I normally read. When the talks were over, and we were all milling about and signing books, Andy approached me. 

"What's the number one most important thing for marketing?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. "Do that."

As it turns out, I was the one who should have been soliciting advice from him. Below is a guest post about how Andy has found two hundred of his closest friends to help launch his new dark fantasy novel, Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii: Book 1. Andy got my attention to such a high degree that today, I'm making a rare exception in promoting a book outside of the usual Murder Lab genres... because I'm certain that these marketing tactics stretch across genres. I have every confidence that Murder Lab authors, myself included, can benefit from paying attention to Andy in the upcoming months. And besides, it really does sound like a cool book! Here's to wild success with this well-planned release.

How 200 People Agreed to Help Me With My Book Launch
Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii: Book 1
Guest post by Andy Peloquin

When I launched my first novel, In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent in March 2014, I had one goal in mind: get it out there! I finished writing the book and a few weeks later, it was published.

What happened next? Not a whole lot! The book didn't gain a lot of traction despite generally good reviews.

Fast forward eight months to November 2014, when I completed the work on Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii: Book 1. Instead of launching the book right away, I decided to hold off until March 2015. In that 4-month time frame, I would:

  • Gather people willing to read/review the book
  • Find authors willing to donate their book to a giveaway
  • Set up a blog tour
  • Promote my book everywhere I could
Skip forward to August 2015, and the book is FINALLY launching! For my book launch, I have:
  • 160+ people reading Advanced Readers Copies and writing reviews, all to be posted before or on August 21st
  • 60 posts going up on blogs and websites between August 18th and September 28th
  • Multiple radio/podcast interviews
  • A book signing event (at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore--the best sci-fi/fantasy bookstore this side of the Rio Grande)
  • Hundreds of people (many outside my immediate network) attending the book launch party (held August 21st to 23rd)
So, how did I get all of these people to help me out? How did a previously unknown author (who sold perhaps 100 copies of my first book) reach such a wide range of people?

I wish it was a simple 1-2-3 step process, but here are the "tricks" that helped me in the setup of the book launch:

Giving away free copies. I have 160 people reading Advanced Readers Copies of my book, but all of those copies were given away free of charge. Do I miss out on sales when it's time for my book to be launched? Perhaps a few, but the number of sales I will make thanks to these free books will more than make up for it.

You see, word of mouth is the best sales tool. If I have 160 people telling their network of friends and family to check out my book, that's A LOT of people I'd never otherwise have reached. My being willing to give away free copies of my book has made a HUGE difference, in both reviews and marketing. When launch day rolls around, my book will have easily 50+ reviews all because I was willing to give away copies to people interested in a review.

Note: Ask any of the people I sent the book to, I didn't ask for a five-star review. I'll take a constructive, well-written 1-star review, as it helps me to know where to improve next time around. Be prepared for bad reviews--they'll make you a MUCH better writer!

Interacting with fellow authors. I've found that authors are some of the nicest, friendliest people around! 99% of them are working their butts off right alongside me, and they know the challenge that I'm dealing with in trying to launch my book. Many (if not all) of them are willing to help in whatever way they can. When I gave them the option of reading the book, helping me spread the word on social media, or being part of the blog tour (or all of the above), 95% of the people I contacted were willing to help out to some extent or another.

Many of these authors are people that are part of my "network", but not my immediate friends or family. I share Facebook  groups with some of these people, others are part of a reviewing circle I'm in, while still others are total strangers who were kind enough to agree to help. Striking up a conversation, making friends, and being friendly is the key to getting people to help you.

Interacting with fellow readers. At heart, most authors today are readers. They love a good book as much as you do, and they spend more time reading than they do writing. If you can find something to appeal to them--such as a great story--you have a much better chance of getting them to help you out.
It's hard to find people who are straight-up readers and not authors, but they are out there. You have to go where they are (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and everywhere else), and you have to be clever about the way you reel them in. Once again, it's all about giving them something that they'll WANT to read.

Straight out asking for help. As an author, you have to be a little shameless. You don't want to cram your books down people's throats, but you do want to come straight out and say, "Buy my book"--or, in this case, "Read my book".

Most of the time, authors will be thrilled to help you out, but they won't know exactly how. Here's a stock message I've sent out HUNDREDS of times:

"Dear X, would you be interested/willing to help me with the upcoming launch of my dark fantasy book? It's far less work than you'd expect!

1) I send you an ARC and you write a review for Amazon/Goodreads
2) You post the review to your site, or I do a guest post/author interview on your blog
3) You help me blast it on social media around the launch date
4) All of the above

First off, once again a huge thank you for agreeing to read an ARC of Blade of the Destroyer and write a review for me. I am eternally in your debt, and know that I am more than happy to return the favor for your next book."

Over 200 people have seen this message, and all of them have agreed to help in some capacity. By spelling it out and making it VERY clear what I'm asking, it helps them to know how they can help.

Having a good product. In the end, it's all about the quality of the product. Blade of the Destroyer is a dark fantasy book with murder, mayhem, demons, assassins, secret police, violence, action, and, of course, A LOT of emotional turmoil. There's something in there that appeals to everyone.

But more than a great story, it’s a well-written book. Before I shipped it around to a publisher, I paid for a professional editor to go over it. And that's after multiple rounds of editing done by me and my amazing beta readers. At the end of the day, it's a professional product that I can be proud and confident of. The reviews it has gotten (before the book is even launched) speak for themselves!

It's really very simple, once you get down to it!

Be friendly, engage with fellow authors and readers, be unafraid to ask for help, and have a quality product. Most importantly: do it with time!

I had the book ready to publish in November, but I delayed the launch until March. That gave me four months to interact with people, make friends, and set up the launch.

Note: The book was picked up by a publisher, hence the delayed launch.

In the end, all of the time and effort is/will be worth it!

Andy Peloquin
Andy Peloquin--a third culture kid to the core--has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.

When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn't looked back since.

Andy's first attempt at writing produced In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. He has learned from the mistakes he made and used the experience to produce Blade of the Destroyer, a book of which he is very proud.

Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

His website is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings--along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.

He can also be found on his social media pages, such as:

Linked In
Google Plus  
Amazon Author Page

Thanks, Andy, for a great post and some sound and actionable advice. I will say that what you've done echoed many other authors I've heard from whose launches catapulted their books into best-selling history--where they remained for quite some time. I wish the same upon you.

Click for more about Andy Peloquin and Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii: Part 1, including back cover blurb and more buy links.

Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarri: Book 1, by Andy Peloquin

The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Readers Need to Know About the Book Business

Photo Credit: Before Cell Phones - A Quieter Life by Sister72 Attribution is licensed under CC BY 2.5


Recently, I published a post about why your favorite book is not in the bookstore, the inauguration of a small series of posts dedicated to the topic of how the book business today affects the reader. Here is the second installment in that series, which provides a general overview of a few things the reader should know.

I have this conversation on a regular basis with enthusiastic friends and family who are really excited when they find out I am a writer. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Friend: OMG, I heard you published a book! That's so awesome!
Me: Yeah, thanks! It's entitled... and it's about...
Friend: So, how does that work? How'd you get published?
Me: Actually, I published it myself. It's really easy to do that now.
Friend: *blank stare*
Me: *awkward moment of silence*
Friend: Oh... *timidly*... so... you don't actually need a book deal to do that? You don't really have a publisher?

At that point in the conversation, I typically spend the next twenty minutes explaining myself, in a feeble attempt to convince my friend that just because I self-published my book, that's not an automatic indication that it sucks. Once I explain that I actually turned down publishing contracts to do so, they usually thaw a bit.

But it doesn't have to be that way, in my humble opinion. The fact that so many successful authors DO turn down or abandon publishing contracts these days in order to self-publish is, to me, a clear indication that it's a viable--and credible--approach. And that's the first thing readers need to understand:

Self-Published is NOT Synonymous with Sucky

To be fair, I think that most readers don't even look at the publisher of a book. It's only when they hear that the publication was a DIY job that they get a bit skeptical about the quality. Don't. I won't reiterate here what I said in my last post, but please just understand that the paradigm has changed, and both traditional publishing and indie approaches have their merits. There are many great authors doing it one way and many great authors doing it the other way. So keep an open mind, and judge the book by its cover.

A Book Can, and Should, Be Judged By its Cover

OK, Kris, so you've convinced me that a book doesn't have to be published by a big publisher in order to be good. But how, then, can I tell the good books from the crappy ones? If there's no gatekeeper in the form of a publisher stopping just anyone from putting their book on Amazon, then what is a reader to do?

Judge the cover. Chances are, if an author invested in a professional-looking cover, he or she is serious about writing and publishing books. That's a good start. An additional thing to look for is formatting. You don't have to be an expert... just look at the interior of the book, and if it looks like other books you have read, then the author must have paid some attention to detail. If it looks like a Word document mashed in between two covers, the author probably did not want to spend the money to do it right. This might mean that the author has also not invested in honing his or her craft as an author... although, certainly, not always. Which is where the true litmus tests come in:

The Litmus Tests For a Book You Want To Read

1. The "See Inside" feature on Amazon.: Use it. Read the first chapter. If the book doesn't grab you now, chances are, it never will. And...

2. Reader reviews: Reader reviews are the new form of promotion. In the old world, the publisher would decide which books get the promotion dollars, and that would mean exposure, which typically also meant catching the eye of professional reviewers, who would tell you whether a book is good or bad. And nine times out of ten, readers as a whole would completely disagree and decide for themselves what they want to read. Except that their choices were limited in the first place by the aforementioned gatekeepers.

Today, it's finally democracy and capitalism that propels a book to the top of the heap, and I think that's a beautiful thing. The overall rating will tell you how many people liked the book, but more importantly, read the reviews they write. You'll find that some people hate a book for a very quality that you look for in a good read. And this is why you, the reader, are so, so, important:

Your Review is Golden

Did you like the last book you read? Please, go to Amazon right now and search for that title. Then scroll down until you see a link that reads, "Leave a Customer Review." Click there. You might need to register, which takes five seconds, but then you can tell the world exactly why you loved the book. And if you hated it, you can share why. All we authors beg of our readers is that you be honest and try to provide constructive, specific feedback rather than those useless blanket statements like, "this book sucked!" with no further explanation of what you didn't like about it.

In addition to a formal review, your word of mouth is priceless for all of the same reasons. Tell your friends what you thought. They'll thank you, and so will the author.

In today's landscape of democracy and capitalism, the power is finally where it belongs... in the hands of the readers and the authors who write the books. As a reader, you finally have the ability to do your part to help great books rise to the top. I hope you enjoy this new paradigm as much as I do.

No Witnesses to Nothing, by Garry Rodgers

Do you believe in ghosts?

No Witnesses To Nothing is a novel based on a true crime story straight out of CSI or The X-Files where many believe that paranormal intervention occurred.

Sergeant Sharlene Bate, of Vancouver's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, pries open Pandora's Box when two drug informers are brutally executed and a tragedy occurs when two young Mounties attempt to capture a madman terrorizing the Canadian Yukon wilderness.

No ordinary madman, the local Tlingit people say. It's The Kushtaka. The Wildman-Of-The-Woods. The mythical being who tricks you, kills you, and steals your soul.

As Sergeant Bate digs deeper, she discovers more of the legend: In a gunfight with the shapeshifter, the two officer's souls are trapped in a twilight zone - the world in-between.

From the treacherous Hells Angels cocaine conspiracy in the prisons of America and the jungles of Colombia - to the spiritual journey in a Shaman's sweatlodge deep in the Australian Outback - is there an entity now hunting for Sharlene Bate's soul?

No Witnesses To Nothing is a book about karma - what goes around, comes around; both in life and in death. Disguised as a can't-put-down murder mystery, Sergeant Sharlene Bate's investigation reveals a secret bridge connecting science and spirituality along the pathway to understanding the essence of our existence - the soul. 

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The Death Row Complex, by Kristen Elise, Ph.D.

The anticipated prequel to The Vesuvius Isotope

An anonymous warning is sent to the White House, and a genetically engineered biological weapon is released in a California prison. The unpublished data of biologist Katrina Stone may hold the key to harnessing the lethal bacterium--and to its creation in the desperate world from which biotechnology is born. 

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South, by Lance Charnes

Luis Ojeda owes his life to the Pacifico Norte cartel. Literally. Now it’s time to pay.

Luis led escaping Muslims out of the U.S. during the ten years following a 2019 terrorist attack on Chicago. He retired after nearly being killed by a border guard. But now in 2032, the Nortes give Luis a choice: pay back the fortune they spent saving his life, or take on a special job.

The job: Nora Khaled – FBI agent, wife, mother of two, and Muslim. She claims her husband will be exiled to one of the nation’s remote prison camps to rot with over 400,000 other Muslim Americans. Faced with her family’s destruction, she’s forced to turn to Luis – the kind of man she’s spent her career bringing to justice.

But when the FBI publicly accuses Nora of terrorism, Luis learns Nora’s real motive for heading south: she has proof that the nation’s recent history is based on a lie – a lie that reaches to the government’s highest levels.

Torn between self-preservation and the last shreds of his idealism, Luis guides Nora and her family toward refuge in civil war-wracked Mexico. The FBI, a dogged ICE agent, killer drones, bandits, and the fearsome Zeta cartel all plan to stop him. Success might just free Luis from the Nortes… but failure means disappearing into a black-site prison, or a gruesome death for them all.

In a day-after-tomorrow America where government has been downsized and outsourced into irrelevance, and none but the very wealthy few can afford hopes or dreams, Luis and Nora must learn to trust each other to ensure the survival of the truth – and of the people they love. 

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Also available from Barnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndiebound and on NookKobo and iTunes

The Vesuvius Isotope, by Kristen Elise, Ph.D.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, an ancient document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the inquisitive, ambitious, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

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Hat Dance, by Carmen Amato

Emilia Cruz, Acapulco's first and only female police detective, will risk a dance with the devil to catch an arsonist and find a missing girl. But the music comes with a price no honest cop can afford to pay.

By coincidence at the same restaurant as Acapulco's popular mayor, Emilia's date with hotel manager Kurt Rucker is cut short by an explosive fire that kills half of the mayor's security detail. Emilia is assigned to investigate what quickly is dubbed an assassination attempt on the politician. 

Frightened by the fire and the raw emotion it has sparked not only inside herself but across the city, Emilia isn't helped by a boss who is more concerned with his own demons than hers, and a new partner who comes with a bad attitude. Moreover, Kurt Rucker could leave Acapulco for a lucrative new job in Belize.

When the involvement of the Mexican Army seems likely and would-be vigilantes post threatening videos on YouTube, Acapulco erupts with a wave of violent demonstrations. But even as pressure mounts for a fast arrest, Emilia remains bound by a promise to look for a girl who has disappeared from her own neighborhood. It doesn't take long before Emilia uncovers some nasty family secrets and turns to the city's most notorious hooker for answers, only to end up on the wrong side of a dirty Vice cop.

As fires, death threats, and the fallout from hasty decisions circle around her, Emilia will doubt both her skills as a detective and ability to survive amid the sharks. She'll start making deals for access and information, but the one she makes with the devil could be her last. 

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Cliff Diver, by Carmen Amato

When Emilia Cruz, Acapulco's first and only female police detective, dives into the investigation of a dirty cop's death, she might just hit the rocks instead of the water. With hot nights on the beach and suspense straight out of the headlines, CLIFF DIVER and the Emilia Cruz mystery series go inside Mexico's drug war with a fearless style and a woman who'll be hard to forget.

Forced to lead the murder investigation into the death of her shady lieutenant, Emilia faces resentment from the other detectives as well as a blood-spattered crime scene, no witnesses, and the shadow of counterfeit ransom money. Reluctant to take on the investigation, Emilia soon learns that the dead lieutenant led a double life in Acapulco full of illicit sex and financial manipulation, all of which would be either red herrings or keys to the crime. Missing police files, the lieutenant's involvement with a past kidnapping, and a possible link to a gang working for a drug cartel further combine to make this a messy case with too many loose ends. 

Expecting to become a target herself because of her own brush with the lieutenant's counterfeit scheme, Emilia must move quickly to find the killer. But as she pieces together the lieutenant's last hours, she becomes a pawn in an ugly game of corruption, money, and power being played by the Pacific resort city's ambitious mayor and a police union strongman with questionable motives. Luxury hotel manager Kurt Rucker has some advice for Emilia but the heat between them quickly becomes a complicating factor. 

Under pressure from politicians, other cops, and the powerful union, Emilia feels like Acapulco's famous cliff divers, plunging into suspense and praying not to crash on the rocks below. She'll follow her instincts but will she survive if she uncovers the truth?

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No Dog Left Behind, by Elliott Garber

An Army Ranger dies and his courageous canine partner goes missing during what should have been a routine night raid in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Special Forces veterinarian Cole McBride joins a hardened group of spies and soldiers as they confront a terrible dilemma.

Will the strike team save themselves and escape from the tightening noose of enemy forces while they still have time? Or will they stay and fight to rescue the military working dog whose spirited heroism has already saved so many lives?

From U.S. Army veterinarian Elliott Garber comes a thrilling short story that illustrates the unique role of canine warriors as they work side by side with elite Special Operations troops to keep us safe.

This compelling tale of a military dog and his veterinarian is the perfect length for a lunchtime read or literary nightcap and will leave you begging for more.

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The Crypt Thief, by Mark Pryor

It’s summer in Paris and two tourists have been murdered in Père Lachaise cemetery in front of Jim Morrison’s grave. The cemetery is locked down and put under surveillance, but the killer returns, flitting in and out like a ghost, and breaks into the crypt of a long-dead Moulin Rouge dancer. In a bizarre twist, he disappears under the cover of night with part of her skeleton.

One of the dead tourists is an American and the other is a woman linked to a suspected terrorist; so the US ambassador sends his best man and the embassy’s head of security—Hugo Marston—to help the French police with their investigation.

When the thief breaks into another crypt at a different cemetery, stealing bones from a second famed dancer, Hugo is stumped. How does this killer operate unseen? And why is he stealing the bones of once-famous can-can girls?

Hugo cracks the secrets of the graveyards but soon realizes that old bones aren’t all this killer wants. . . 

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Escape From Paris, by Carolyn Hart

Romantic suspense amid the chaos of a world at war. The year is 1940. As England braces for invasion and the German army overruns Europe, two American sisters in Paris risk their lives to save a downed British airman from Nazi arrest. Linda Rossiter and Eleanor Masson soon realize the price they may pay when they read this ominous public notice: "All persons harbouring English soldiers must deliver same to the nearest Kommandantur not later than 20 October 1940. Those persons who continue to harbour Englishmen after this date without having notified the authorities will be shot." On Christmas Eve, the Gestapo sets a trap, and death is only a step behind the two American women. 

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Seventh Street Books

Fear of Beauty, by Susan Froetschel

The battered body of an Afghan boy is found at the base of a cliff outside a remote village in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Did he fall as most of the villagers think? Or is this the work of American soldiers, as others want to believe? Not far from the village, the US Army has set up a training outpost. Sofi, the boy's illiterate young mother, is desperate to find the truth about her son's death. But extremists move in and offer to roust the "infidels" from the region, adding new pressures and restrictions for the small village and its women.

We hear two sides of this story. One is Sofi's. The other is that of US Army Special Ranger Joey Pearson, who is in this faraway place to escape a rough childhood and rigidly fundamentalist parents.

In time, and defying all odds, Sofi secretly learns to read—with the help of Mita Samuelson, an American aid worker. Through reading, the Afghan woman develops her own interpretation of how to live the good life while discovering the identity of her son's murderer and the extremists' real purpose in her village.

As they search for answers, Sofi, Joey, and Mita come to the same realization: in each of their separate cultures the urge to preserve a way of life can lead to a fundamentalism that destroys a society's basic values.

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Seventh Street Books

The Sixth Sense, by Lawrence Gold, M.D.

Brier Hospital Series: Arnie Roth, a family practitioner, develops viral encephalitis. He awakens from the near-death experience with a new appreciation for life and an unexpected talent, his sensitivity to smell has increased a thousandfold. The Sixth Sense is highly entertaining, thought provoking, and touching journey through a world that influences us every day, but one that we know too little about.

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No Cure For Murder, by Lawrence Gold, M.D.

Death at Brier Hospital is routine and provides the perfect opportunity to murder and get away with it. Jacob Weizman, a physician, and his wife, Lola, a psychotherapist, are holocaust survivors and need no proof of evil in this world. Jacob and Lola are unique protagonists. They’re octogenarians who take the fear out of getting old. Their intelligence, competence, humor, and sense of history make them appealing in a world that too often disdains the aged. After fifty-five years practicing medicine, Jacob is disappointed, but not surprised by several patients’ deaths, even the unexpected ones. Soon, however, it becomes clear that a killer is stalking the halls of Brier Hospital targeting Jacob’s patients. While Jacob has made enemies over the years, he finds it inconceivable that anyone would murder his patients for revenge. The killings mount even as the hospital and police increase security and pursue a vigorous investigation. Finally, unsatisfied with surrogates, the killer targets Jacob.

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