Author pundits bemoan changes the digital universe has brought to the reality of obtaining publishers. With few exceptions, today it is in the world of indie publishing, marketing ourselves, where one is more likely to find success. In that process, we get lost in the twists and turns of doing a job none of us hired on for. My father once told me, “Donnie, it doesn’t matter how good the mouse trap is, if no one knows you have it, …” Due to marketing misconceptions and failures, most of us know authors who in navigating perils of self-publishing, have sold few if any books. The following recent dialog with Dawn Mattox exploring marketing and the realities of being an author are explored. These few emails are provided for your entertainment and edification – maybe.
EMAIL #1 To Dawn
LOL LOL LOL! I have the four names already, Troi Jenae, Regina Dale, Kristin Allie, Amanda Jeri, and Jessi Wiles. I’ve not spent any time thinking about what their last names could be. I appreciate your comment on my cover. I paid for my new cover today, $240. I am anxious to get it back so I can send you a copy for your consideration. I am confused in that I don’t understand where you are getting your covers from and why you would be limited to 2 for testing. Can you fill me in? When I taught concealed handgun classes, I used to get paid for the class. Forty people at $110 each, is not rocket science. I usually sold around 15 books for an additional net of about $165. This last year for health reasons I have not taught many classes but things are doing a lot better now and I’m thinking about getting back into it. Of the book covers you showed me, I would give yours a nine due to a reservation for lack of detail. However, I’m sure full-blown, it would be a 10. When you speak in terms of 3, I am reminded of a good movie; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! When I think of book covers I think in terms of each time I have seen the movie. I do agree with you the layered cover should somehow show three things that draw interest to the substance of the book. I also think the three best things that can be shown are the protagonist, the antagonist, and the setting in some form. However, I do not think the cover is limited to those three things provided it is not too “busy.” Experience has shown that more promise built into the depth of the cover without making it too busy is much like a good murder mystery where the reader has an opportunity have all the relevant clues passed through his or her reading fingertips, yet the climax is still a surprise. But I ramble, and I am a drowning person you would not ask for a lesson on how to swim. I appreciate your time and wish you the very best based on both your skill and the luck I think you deserve. Trends are a gamble. If you can be on the front end, there is a lot of promise, but who can know whether the trend is the pot of gold or the metaphoric mill stone? Now there is a cover for you!!! LOL Don Note: Dawn Mattox can be found on Amazon http://amzn.to/1EhC2Ew – and following is one of her current book covers:
EMAIL #2 To Don
So today I felt sick as I clicked away £300.00 GBP or (gasp!) $396.17 USD. It would have been okay IF I was happy or excited about the cover. Here’s how it went down: Kimberly hounded me about getting new covers (she meant well). So, Kimberly directed me to Piper Gross in the UK that she heard about on a podcast. He’s done some covers for Stephan King and other less famous people. So I thought I’d give it a go. He sends the buyer 3 prototypes. The woman on the bike was the one I disliked the least, and asked him to make the camera in her hand (seriously) into a gun and shave off her waistline so she’s be sexier. And he did. When I told him “I didn’t care at all for the third cover” he got seriously upset. Basically said what Thumper told Bambi; “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” After that, I was afraid to say anything because I’m not used to dealing with hyper sensitive men. I went to my writer’s group, North State Writers, last night and have been encouraged to consider using FIVVER again. I have had mixed experiences with them. But better to gamble $50. with unlimited changes and you don’t have to pay if you don’t like the work, then to waste $400. I really appreciate your thoughts on cover designs. And I may even watch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Sounds like a movie my husband would love. LOL!! And hey, I like the girl’s names. https://surnames.behindthename.com/. This is a fun site for Last Names. “Since you didn’t get to name your sons, you should write a novel with four sisters so you can name them whatever you like.” Writing is so fulfilling. You may (or not) recall that my dog of 15 years died the day before the Tahoe retreat. My best friend, Kissme, who was immortalized in my first two books!! Well, my Protagonist has a new dog, and it’s been fun to write him in. I am looking forward to seeing your cover. Best, Dawn
EMAIL #3 To Dawn
Well, Dawn – we get to have another conversation; each at a time convenient to us individually. I belong to a small marketing group for the purposes of maximizing the appeal of our individual efforts to the broadest audience. So today I felt sick when I learned to my surprise the cover for my book will be $405. Spending a moment to talk about the differences between you and I: my first cover I designed and I really liked it. It was my baby and it wasn’t ugly.Book Cover OCL 1st 02 Second printing with a new cover designed by professionals taught me their value. Writers Project_004The bottom line is that with this new book I have prostituted myself to my audience for the purposes of increased sales. Interpreted, that means I am going with the cover the marketing people designed. At the core of your dissatisfaction is dealing with your paid professional. I like the “Thumper” with the “Bambi” conversation. I have been negotiating since I was about 11. If I had three covers in front of me, I would dwell on the one I like the best, then fully explore why the creator thinks that it would have the greatest audience appeal. Unless you know the $400 is wasted, as long as you have already spent the money, for another $50 you can find something you personally like that you think will appeal to your intended audience. Next, run the test. I don’t remember the name of the movie but I remember the punch line because it has such a broad application. “It’s all about the money.” One of the corollaries so that we see a lot in understanding successes and failures is, “follow the money.” First we have to get it. I enjoy and appreciate your style. Built into that statement is of course the concept that I think you have style. I know your writing has quality. With these three short statements, I am saying that I wish you were close enough you could be part of our marketing group. It is clear you have a lot to offer. I do not make this offer lightly because I have reached an age where I value time differently than when younger. One of the harder things to find are Alpha readers. The offer flowing from this paragraph is a willingness on my part to read any of your rough drafts/1st drafts for the purposes of identifying plot and character gaps preparatory to your first rewrite. What I cannot do in part due to a lack of ability, is engaged in an actual editing process. Knowing my own personal limitations, editing is not included as a part of this offer. Put it on the back burner, and if the time comes you need a male reader who is not afraid to be “real,” feel free to experiment with a “test” to see if my approach is something you think would work for you. While none of us really want to be abused, most of us enjoy being appropriately used and to that end I thank you for being something more than a mere Facebook friend. Keep me posted on how things are working out for you with your cover. My people on this end, Limelight, have budgeted four hours with the stated expectation they will be done with my cover in about two weeks – or sooner. As soon as I have it, I will send you a copy for your review and comment. In closing, I too am looking forward to seeing my final cover, your final cover, and the continued communications. Good luck!
EMAIL #4 To DAWN:
I just reviewed our communications. With your permission, I would like to use these emails as part of a writers’ blog I will soon have on line. What do you think?
EMAIL #5 To Don:
No problem! You are welcome to use my emails. . . and Don . . . I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate a beta reader like you!! I hope to wrap it up soon (a month or two) and would love to send you the “vomit draft” for feedback. (Somehow “vomit and feedback” don’t sound appetizing). I get what you are saying about a commercial cover. Would you give my commercialDawn on bike cover a try if you were me (?) I don’t know anyone with advanced marketing skills, and HIGHLY value your opinion. Maybe I listen to Susanne too much, but she said something about “no more than 2” cover-trials, and I have already tried one. Personally, I don’t think that it should matter if you’re not selling. I would think to keep trying until I do. But maybe I am missing an insider piece of marketing knowledge in my thinking.
EMAIL #6 To Dawn
ROTHFLMAO!!!!!!! Leave it up to a writer – the use of “vomit and feedback” doesn’t sound appetizing. Who else could put this together in such a way as to paint an almost unbelievably vivid picture in so few words that we can all relate to? One of the truly unique and comfortable aspects of your character is the diversification of life’s experiences that in some ways are so different than mine but in other ways so similar. That you are so open and adult about real life makes you comfortable to be with whether communicating on the Internet or in person. It’s kind of like the comfort of a shoe with years of wear. Perhaps a better way to express the comfort is that even though I don’t know you, the real you, I feel like I do and I would not hesitate to put you in that small class I call real friends. But the bottom line is that I am not you. I have already paid for my commercial cover. When I take a reasonable step away from the fact the cover I designed is most probably not as good as the one that was commercially developed even though my cover is my baby and is not ugly, Gook Cover SVSI am going with the commercial art to start. I have recognized in the cover I developed I have some potential independent marketing appeal. I’m now exploring how I might leverage that to my marketing advantage. As Mr. Miyagi might say, “balancing all things young lady Dawn.” While leaping forward to address your value of my opinion, I step backwards. As I’ve told you, there is wisdom in not looking for advice on how to swim from a drowning person. I’m trying to figure out how to build an author’s website. I am learning MailChimp, with another writer who is going to provide me a hands-on training tomorrow. I’m trying to learn the cover thing for my book. That is not to say that there is no value in these kinds of communications. I have been involved in Mastermind Groups for 40 years. I feel like we are currently a group of two. The beneficial gestalt that can be generated from this kind of interaction at times can almost be unbelievable. To that end, I appreciate and value you more than mere words can express. For me you are motivational and inspirational. With that I do not intend to lay any kind of burden on you. It is my hope you’ll continue to live in your reality without change due to my comments just as I intend to continue living in my reality. That you are now part of that provides a layer of comfort in that it may be harder for me to err after weighing your insights. Rather than address whether you listen to anyone too much, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you a recent story from two Mondays ago. One of our marketing group was not able to attend due to sickness. Another of our marketing group is not able to attend because she was exploring New Orleans. LOL Oh the shame of it all! The fourth person who I will call “Kay” for convenience, had made a comment the previous week about not knowing how many books she actually had in print – whether digital or hard copy. I went to her website and counted 18 books. (And the reason I’m not using real names here is that within our group we have an understanding as part of our core involvement and commitment, actual discussions that can be identified to personalities in the group stay in the group.) I remarked wondering how one could not know for sure? She shrugged her shoulders spreading her hands apart, palms up, as if to say, “so?” After the nonverbal she went on to tell me she has around 30 books. She suggested that if I wanted to learn more about the materials she has available I go to Amazon for the complete list. The next part of that conversation goes to the heart of those you, Dawn, listened to, but first the bird walk: When I was learning to play chess in high school our coach told me some important things that turned out to be some of life’s lessons. Sometimes you have to lose in order to learn to win. He suggested based on his experience I would probably have to lose somewhere between 200 and 300 games before I would become competitive. He was wrong, but not by much. I became good enough to have three losses in a five-game series with two draws against the Oregon state champion at that time. In the world of chess, one could say I had become a good player. But the most important thing he taught me is that the game of chess like the game of life is not about losing. It’s about continuing to challenge ourselves and in that process, surround ourselves with the best people we can. He advised me to constantly seek stronger players that I might rise to the caliber of their play. With a shrug of his shoulders his palms up as if to say, “so?” His punchline was, “when you get to their level, and you will, you will win some and you lose some – but no matter what, you’ll still be in the game!” I enjoyed the bird walk. It brought back many memories not for this writing. I turn back to my referred marketing personality, Kay. She told me a about a book she had written a few months ago. This was a romance she posted on Amazon. It didn’t go anywhere. Test 2: She changed the cover to one of her own worked up in collaboration with another who actually does covers. Slight improvement. Test 3: She changed the title. No improvement. Test 4: She again changed the cover, still within the romance genre recommendations. Ever so slight an improvement in sales. Test 5: She made some slight changes in the back jacket, staying within the formula and again changed the title. The book took off, becoming in a brief time one of her better sellers. This is not about her, but the testing and the advice you received, “no more than 2”. My marketing partner has learned over time (her age is 34 if memory is serving me well today) to do all aspects of digital marketing. She doesn’t like it – she is a writer. Even so, she uses the social media, Amazon, and other channels for her marketing. The bottom line, she is NOT a drowning person. LOL and I pick her brain at every opportunity. As for insider pieces of marketing knowledge, we each have our own experiences. You are both experience and mature enough to know that what works for one person may not work for another. Through these kinds of communications, we learn from one another. A couple of months ago I went to a reputable marketer who has had successes with book marketing. Even so, the price tag for Confessions was $14,000 up front. $3,000 a year for 3 years, and a percentage. I would have been locked into their system for money control so they could guarantee they got their percentage. “With a three-year commitment of a minimum total of $23,000 and a percentage guarantee regardless of sales, what guarantee will you give me that you will be successful?” Of course, no guarantees from their end. I also asked for actual proof of their claims, which they would not provide based on “client confidently.” I suggested that since their side of the conversation is based on their claim they are sooooo good(!), they could talk to their clients and I was sure their clients would call or write me with supporting accolades for this marketing group. Dawn, as I tell this small portion of a much larger effort, I remember, it is not about me. This letter is about you. It is designed with purpose, to broaden your view of some of the potentials. Sometimes there is wisdom in not reinventing the wheel. But sometimes, for example, concepts in testing, there is wisdom in looking at the larger picture as presented by those who are not drowning, who are successful. Your mentor has had and most probably will continue to have her successes. I suggest there are others we can learn from. Another author friend is working on getting the third book published. Her mentor is Joanna Penn. Yet another approach to marketing. I suggest another to watch is Rachael who was at the retreat with us. Maybe in a couple of years you will have the kind of successes where you can hire ghost writers who do all the work you put your name on while you take your good friend and his wife Linda on a long cruise to some exotic romance destination, writing it all off as an exploratory adventure for your next ghost written novel! AND TO TAKE A LIBERTY: At my Monday social group I presented my hat. As a marketing tool, I have made thousands of dollars with that hat. Sometimes it is not in what one says, but in how they say it. LOL LOL LOL, I misspelled concealed – “conceled” – yet that hat has been instrumental in finding people to teach concealed gun concepts.
EMAIL #7 April 18 2017:
THE INSIGHT I was thinking about my book, Somewherea. Therein I have many races and sub-species of races. I recognize that in dealing with the differences between the various races and the sub-species of the races, each has to be consistent within the sphere that defines it. It follows that the characters will generally fit within the genetic profile and cultural profile of that race and if the character has a role to play, that role must also be consistent within this outline and ultimately, the final outcome. Using this as a theme, my writers/authors social group this morning talked about consistency. One of the races has no sex delineation. As in the book, “the Virginian,” early on there is a potential confrontation between Steve and the Virginian. Ultimately it is man-to-man talk with laughter, as men do. In closing out that scene there is a potential confrontation with the antagonist, Trampas. While the language is basically the same between the two incidents happening back to back, the Virginian dropped his hand over his gun saying something like, “smile when you say that!” I have somewhere between 40 and 50 books in my library concerning what one needs to know to write efficiently, and effectively. What I learned today after writing 16 books, or maybe 17 or 18; as an author it is not always about what we say through our writing style, but sometimes it’s about how we say it. To that end, this may really be about the possibility of writing something new, or at least my perception of something new, in the arena of authorship. And the picture – it’s my baby and it ain’t ugly! But I did change the title.
EMAIL #8 To Don
WELL THANK YOU, Don! I am truly honored to be called your friend and I want you to know that I feel the same way. From the moment I met you I liked your frank honesty. I’d love to take credit for term “vomit draft” but I had heard it used and ROTHFLMAO’d and adopted it because it is so relatable. We are a lot alike. You take “bird walks” and I go off on “rabbit trails.” Rabbit trail – My son, Forrest used to play the local chess champ at the public library while waiting for me to pick him up after school/work. He’s quite good. Soooo today I was playing around trying to design a “poster” to put up outside of a booth where I will be selling my books on May 13 at the Paradise Chocolate Festival. My possible “poster” (below) will showcase 4 of my favorite author’s books. So get this . . . . I was researching these books (Google images) and I’ll be darned if one lady didn’t have 7 different covers for the same book and another lady had 4 versions. So much for the “rule of 2” I feel like a liberated woman! I’d burn my bra except I am living on a pension and my bras are pricy! And I don’t look all that good braless these days anyhow. (A ROTHFLMAO moment). Seriously Don, thank you so much for sharing your stories about testing the market and the woman who kept trying covers & titles until she succeeded. Now THAT is motivating. Is the Spy VS Spy your new cover????? I LOVE THOSE GUYS!! Was the image under copyright? How did you get around that??? I LIKE IT A LOT!!!! It will have extra appeal to anyone our age. Well…. I have to go kill someone. Or change the weather. I’ve heard they both work for writer’s block. I am trying to bring the end of my story together and thinking it is high time to snuff someone. And I thought of WHO would be the least likely to kill and concluded . . . . . my fans might kill me if I do her in!!! (But it would be fun!) Trust me, I had a few unhappy readers when I killed a guy in Book 2 . . . (BUT they kept turning the pages!!!!! ) Have a good night. Will keep in touch! Smiles, Dawn
EMAIL #9 TO DAWN:
Education can be a two-edged sword, one edge liberating and the other edge killing. In your case checking out Amazon I think was a good move. It allows you the freedom to make your own decisions for whatever reasons you have and then be accountable to them and for them. Remember the planning process: Dream, set the goal, reduce it to writing, make a plan to achieve it, engage the plan, review, make necessary changes, make new goals, reduce them to writing to achieve it, engage the plan. And with that the three rules of success; persistence, persistence, persistence. I had an employer for a short time. I was somewhere higher up on the ladder, kind of on the ultimate management team, one of five. I had many long talks with him about business. He started when he was 25. His first goal was to make 100k, his second goal was to make 10 million. In midlife, it was to make 500 million. Each of these goals was to make that amount of money, IN ONE YEAR. He was 63. I watched him rant for almost 3 weeks. He missed his goal that year by 2 million. That goal was 1 billion dollars. I argued with him that he made it. He argued that he did not because he set his goal and it was his to set. He had intended to make 1 billion – NET. He made 998million net after taxes and all business expenses. And just as a fun FYI, he thought Trump was a piker. Spy vs Spy as a title is both copyrighted and trademarked. However, the images are not. The spy versus spy format I sent you for the cover is the baby that is not ugly. I should soon have the “professional” cover ready for viewing. Here is a draft without the changes we talked about and with the old title.Book Cover Perhaps I am too old school. Why would you market other authors which it appears you’re doing through your indirect attempt to generate interest in your authorship? But then, it is just another test. If it works, it works. For your books, what is the one line compelling attention and creating desire for each book? When I do the “poster,” which I will beWriters Project_004 doing this summer, I have a frame that is 3’ X 6’. The last time I used it was at the State Fair a two or three years ago, I sold 331 books. I was marketing only one book, OREGON CONCEALED. But then again, it is certainly a niche book. Right audience at the right time! Something about a blind squirrel or something along those lines. As you learn and grow, let me know. Oh! Almost forgot. About burning the bra. If you need any help, let me know. And, yes, I am laughing. When I get my cover, I will send you a copy for review and comment.
Hey Don. Things have been really crazy around here for the last couple of days. Part of it has to do with the upcoming book fair and the invitation I extended to Susanne and some other local book clubs. But I wanted you to know that I have taken this email to heart. And that includes your thoughts about a poster that promotes other people’s books. Thank you for that! I will send you a picture of the final product whenever it is complete. My computer has been a huge part of my problem. The cursor sticking, pages breaking, all kinds of crazy things. Today my remote repair service removed and reinstalled my office programs and Dragon. MS Outlook went crazy and imported my emails from back to 2013! The service has deleted most of them out, but I still have a few hundred I need to sift through. Geeee, not like I had anything else to do today! HA! But most importantly, I keep pecking away at my book. Every little bit counts. I seem to follow the three rules of success – persistence, persistence, persistence. My inner child is a pit-bull. Only time will tell if I have been persisting on the wrong things! I have been reading Michael Gallagher’s second Mossad book in my free time, in bed before going to sleep. It’s a good one, and between the book and your emails I feel surrounded by old friends! I’ll be in touch. Dawn
Lovely Lady, I came home from taking a break. It was sorely needed. In working with WordPress, 12 hours yesterday, seven hours today starting at 5 AM, we had the problem fixed. In the round robin of blame Go Daddy says it was not them. Google said it was not their problem. And of course, WP said it wasn’t their problem. WP fixed it today at 12 o’clock straight up. That was a programming issue – on WP. The other issue is the hard drive crash on my computer three and half weeks ago. I don’t want to belabor that with one minor exception. I was using Scrivner for two books, my second Cold War Spy memoir, and my national what-you-need-to-know for people who carry handguns for defensive purposes. I am neither a techno nerd nor modern geek so I don’t know how to explain what happened except to say that in those two databases I lost equally about 65% of my material. That brings us to today and the simplistic fix for my email email@example.com. After ~ 19 hours of feeling totally helpless and frustrated, (LOL), the more I learned, the more clear it became where the problem rested. With Go Daddy’s help in identifying the correct terminology I was able to direct WP towards the resolution. Anyway, if you run out of things to do, I’m now in the process of starting to build my author’s webpage. If you want to glance, understanding I’m just getting started, take a look at https://thinkingwrite.org/. Based on your outline, is not possible for you to be persisting in the wrong things. Again, I wish you the best of luck! May peace and joy be yours. FrIend Don
EMAIL #12 TO DON:
What fun . . .when it isn’t a nightmare. I have probably “lost” 6 hours today on computer issues, and they still aren’t resolved. As I write, the font is about 36. I am not-bad at solving most problems, but my mouse is zooming, not scrolling out of control. Awesome. I like your message on the home page. I am curious why you are building that website? Shouldn’t your author webpage be donleach.com (or) donleach.author.com etc. I bought a domain called writermuse.com with the idea of doing something with other authors. No time for that plus writing and marketing my own stuff. So I was just curious where you were going with the website. I like WordPress. My web-guy won’t work on it anymore. He wants to go straight html-tech-over-my-head style that I can’t work on myself. So I stick with my site that I have neglected like a red-headed stepchild. Well, have fun with your site and congratulations on building it. Oh— your different pages should not open in new windows each time….meaning a new tab should not appear at the top of your PC with each heading (About. Blog. Contact. Etc) They all need to open in the same window. Sorry . . . . . It will be fun going back and watching it develop. I have bookmarked it! BEST of luck!! Dawn
EMAIL #13 To DAWN:
I had the same mouse issue about 11 days ago. Mouse was years and years old. I kept having to press on the wheel, quite a distraction. New mouse – LOL, not naming this one! What you outline for the possibility of considering names is certainly one view and in some circles this is a strong view. When I bought the domain name five or six years ago I was thinking in terms of political writing. The substantive part of the writing while political followed a Socratic dialogue using Aristotelian logic. Thus the writing had to be well-thought-out due in part to its critical nature. I traded the commodity of my labor for another commodity and then later traded that commodity for yet another commodity. Back to your question: it is all about thinking and writing. Obviously when combined we get thinkingwrite. The purpose for the .org was to perhaps not so subtly imply a higher standard of thinking in the writing. When you talk about using my name as you outlined, I remind you of the “2 test” trial advice you received. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that as writers it’s all about our audience. Another little story: With the Republican field was 17 strong and with my background in mediation and negotiation I have some fun with Linda. I asked her if she knew why Trump always had a red tie low enough to most of the time cover his crotch. She of course had no idea. I told her that whatever else Trump might or might not be, he understood the fundamental principles of marketing. Part of his theme was antiestablishment. How does one in a race of 17 people stand out as antiestablishment? It is called “branding.” And he looked antiestablishment. So, from a foundational perspective I had reasons for selecting the name thinkingwrite, putting the .org on the site and using it as a marketing tool. So far, I’ve been lucky in that generally once it has been seen, people don’t forget it. Ultimately where I’m going with my website is to be in the driver seat headed towards success using this website as a chosen vehicle. I am not sure what you meant by, “Oh— your different pages should not open in new windows each time….meaning a new tab should not appear at the top of your PC with each heading (About. Blog. Contact. Etc) They all need to open in the same window.” Looking forward to writing more later.