amwriting, blog post, book promotion and marketing, From the Editor's Desk, Marketing and Promotion, Marketing your book

Go Rank Yourself: How to Boost Your Books Online by Ludvica Bootha #SEOranking #bookpromo

Whether you’ve reached the USA today bestseller list or are an indie writer who’s written their first book, self-promotion is an important aspect of your writing career. Every book is a brand. Every author is a brand.  And with millions of eBooks on the market and more being published every day, exploiting every opportunity to be discovered requires some strategic planning.

One of the most effective ways that many authors have found success is by building a solid web presence. Whether it’s through their website, blog, newsletter, Facebook or Twitter accounts, connecting with readers on a human level, can help to expand your fan base and increase your sales. But in order to connect with readers, you first need to be discovered.

Discoverability simply put is the ability for your title or site to be found. Increasing your rankings in search results to drive more traffic to your site is one strategy to better your chances of being discovered by readers.

How do you increase your ranking in a web search?

Improving your rankings in major search engines requires a simple understanding of how they work. Whether it’s Amazon, Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Kobo, all search engines employ algorithms that return recommended sites or products that match the search query and rank them based on relevance and popularity.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique used to improve a site’s ranking position on various search engines list of results.  The idea is to use ‘search engine language’ to help search engines understand the meaning and context of your pages and as a result, increase the potential of your site being “picked up” and displayed in results.

As an author, one way you can accomplish this is by embedding frequently searched terms or keywords within your code or content, which get picked up by the algorithms when a user performs a search of those terms.

Content Value & Key Words

Does this mean that “If you build and embed it they will come.”…well not necessarily. Although having good content that is useful to your readers is essential, including frequently searched keywords and phrases, which would be relevant to a wide variety of search queries, can help to increase traffic to your site and improve your ranking. It can turn a good site into a better site.

When a reader performs an online book search in Google, using a generic term “Historical Romance Novels”, Google will search in books for all the titles that have “Historical”, “Romance”, “Novels” or a combination of the terms in the title or description. As an author who writes in that genre, having “Historical Romance” in either the title of my site, my book, or description could potentially land me in the list of results but this might be on the 10th page. Does anyone ever click through to the 10th page?

How to move up the search ladder….

Developing a list of keywords and phrases to describe your site and/or book is a technique that can aid in increasing your rankings in a search result. Because search engines measure how keywords are used on pages, which helps determine relevance, using broad terms such as “Historical Romance Novel” results in a higher number of titles 504,000 to be exact. But if your book is not just a historical but also contains a Cowboy hero, placing that term “Cowboy” in your titles, text, and metadata will help narrow the results. In this case “Historical Cowboy Romance Novels” netted 14,500 results, which seems like a lot, but essentially you just narrowed the competition for search results by 489,500 and improved your chances of achieving a higher ranking.

Like metadata that accompanies an eBook file, the same principle applies to SEO keywords —the more specific and clear, the more chances you have of being discovered by the search engines or by people searching for books via Amazon, Kobo or Apple.

Keep in mind that a description meant for a printed jacket may not necessarily make a good description for digital marketing.  When it comes to traditional marketing descriptions such as “A heart-warming tale….”  “Thrilling and suspenseful …” “Masterfully written…” work well, however, put them in a search engine and you’ll get thousands of hits. By intentionally choosing specific, popular searched key terms, that naturally flow with your book or site, you boost the chances that your title may display within the search results.

For example, by referencing other similar titles you can target readers in a specific genre. The description for your novel could be as follows  “in the style of The Couple Next Door and In a Dark, Dark Wood,  (the Author’s)  latest novel is a meticulously crafted and razor-sharp …” The search engine would pick up “The Couple Next Door” or “In a Dark, Dark Wood” and possibly display your title within the results of someone searching for mystery and suspense titles. Perfect! You’ve just reached someone in your target market.

You don’t just want any reader to find your book, but the right reader.

Remember you still want to create content for readers, not for search engines. Keyword stuffing can be detected by search engines and they will typically impose penalties on those sites by lowering rank and/or even eliminate the site from the search engine index altogether.

Concentrating on the quality of your keywords is crucial: good words increase your chances of discoverability and help your sales, poor words or over stuffing your content with irrelevant words hinders them.

If you are having trouble coming up with keywords and phrases, companies such as Moz and Google can help develop a list of frequently searched keywords and phrases that relate to your title/topic.

Here are 5 things you can do right now as an author to boost your Google SEO.

  1. Keyword Placement

Keep in mind that when it comes to your website, placement of keywords is just as important as the words themselves. The positions with the greatest impact are in the page titles, body text headers, links to other pages, and meta tags.

  1. Keep your website updated

Search engines are always looking for the most recent content. Keeping your website up to date, with original, accurate content will ensure that both search engines and users visit your site, which will help boost the popularity of your site

  1. Links

Inbound, outbound links can also help the visibility and increase traffic to your site. Inbound links are those links which are coming to your website from another website (Facebook, Twitter, another article or blog post, publisher etc). Outbound links are links that connect to another site (Amazon, Kobo, other blog posts or helpful articles etc) Treat every link as an endorsement and make sure you choose links that are relevant to your site/topic. Focus on the quality and always include links to all social media profiles, publisher site, and where to buy your books.

  1. Speed, Performance & User Experience

Speed is a significant factor when search engines evaluate your site. Not only do they consider how fast your page loads, but how well it functions and the ease of navigation for users. This means making sure all your links work and information on your site can easily found by visitors.

  1. Mobile Friendliness

Considering that most Google searches are conducted from mobile devices, ensure your website is mobile friendly. Click Here and let Google test the mobile friendliness of your site.

And if you are new to creating a website and need a little help to get started, WordPress, Weebly, and Wix are free website builders that simple and easy to use.

Looking for more information about Search Engine Optimization check out Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and Moz The Beginners Guide To SEO.

Ludvica Boota is currently in the publishing program at Ryerson University and is an intern at Lachesis Publishing Inc. Prior to her studies, she worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Her most adventurous experience was working for the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin Ireland, where she was employed as a project officer but was never asked to deliver a baby. Ludvica holds an MBA from the University of Victoria and a B.Com from Carleton University.

When she’s not daydreaming about her next travel adventure, and perhaps her own HEA, she is usually immersed in a romance novel.

Connect with Ludvica on Facebook  / Instagram / Twitter  / LinkenIn

Images:

SEO Process: https://pixabay.com/en/seo-search-engines-optimization-592747/

In a Dark, Dark Wood: http://www.ruthware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/both-jackets1.jpg

The Couple Next Door: http://www.sharilapena.com/

 

 

 

Bestselling Authors, From the Editor's Desk, Marketing and Promotion

So You Want To Promote Your Book And Haven’t Got a Clue? Q and A with Ryan Zee of Author Marketing

IMG_1203Marketing and promotions for authors is always changing. What works for some, doesn’t work for others and what works right now, may not work next year. Authors have to keep abreast of trends and what’s coming down the road, but at the end of the day authors need to find what works for them and for their individual needs. There are a lot of people out there who can help with that. Ryan Zee is one of those people. He specializes in author marketing campaigns. His website is called AUTHOR MARKETING at ryanzee.com Here’s what Ryan has to say about his successful campaigns and how he can help authors promote their books and boost book sales.

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LACHESIS PUBLISHING: Tell us about the kinds of services that you offer for authors regarding promotions?

RYAN ZEE: We’re best known for our multi-author email list-building promotions, but we’re also going to be unveiling a number of new promotions this year — including individual author promos, sales promos, promotions to help authors grow their following on retailer and social media sites, and more to come.

Across all of our promotions, we focus on making it as simple and easy for authors to participate as possible, so that they can get back to the work of writing.

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LP: Do you work with indie authors only or both indie and traditionally published authors?

RYAN ZEE: We work with everyone! For our promotions, as long as you have a book and the ability to give it away, we can work with you.

book_f_THYLLP: What is your background and how did you get into the business of author promotions?

RYAN ZEE: I graduated from a small liberal arts college with an English degree, and realized fairly quickly that I wanted to work with authors. After I graduated, I created a fan Twitter account for Junot Díaz (I’d just written my Honors Thesis on his books), which became pretty popular — it actually got the attention of his publisher, and resulted in me getting to meet him in New York. The experience sort of opened my eyes to the world of author promotion.

From there, I transitioned to roles in marketing (copywriting, content management, etc.) – and after a few publishing internships (and a fair share of serendipity), I was able to start working with authors on my own. The promotions developed naturally as an outgrowth of the work I was doing with my clients.

LP: What is the most popular promo you offer?

RYAN ZEE: Our most popular promotions are our multi-author list-building giveaways – these help authors grow their personal email lists, so that they can communicate with readers directly to introduce themselves and promote their books.

We’ve distinguished ourselves from other services, in part, by requiring readers to actively select who they want to hear from (instead of forcing them to hear from every participating author), and then by thoroughly vetting our lists so that authors only receive the emails of the most interested readers.

As a result, we’re often told our list-building promotions have a higher retention rate / lower unsubscribe rate than other services out there.

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LP: How many authors have used your services – any testimonials?

RYAN ZEE: We’ve worked with hundreds of authors, from indie authors just getting started to big New York Times bestsellers, and folks at just about every rung in between.

 You can read some testimonials here:

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“Ryan’s beautifully co-ordinated book giveaways have more than doubled my newsletter audience with readers who actually open and read the content.” ~ Patricia Rice, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Thank you so much for hosting our promotion. I am so impressed with how you handle things.” ~ Shirley Hailstock, Past President, Romance Writers of America 

 “The best, well-run contest I have ever participated in.” ~ Jennifer Bray-Weber, Award-Winning Author

 LP: What are the costs involved?

RYAN ZEE: Costs vary by the promotion, but most are currently in the $25 – $75 range.

LP: What kinds of fiction genres do you promote?

RYAN ZEE: We promote books in virtually every genre of fiction, from romance to mysteries & thrillers, science-fiction, Christian fiction, young adult, and beyond. We also work with non-fiction authors, and are constantly adding new genres based on interest.

LP: How can an author get in touch with you to book a promotion?

RYAN ZEE: Authors can find and book promotions on my website – www.ryanzee.com

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LP: What do you enjoy reading and why?

RYAN ZEE: I read pretty widely, from thrillers and sci-fi to comics and literary fiction, along with a fair number of marketing-oriented titles. I look for fiction that will transport me outside the realm of the everyday, which generally means something with a tinge of the supernatural. My favorite author, though, is Junot Díaz, whose writing is its own kind of magic.

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LP: What has been your most successful promotion and how do you measure the success?

RYAN ZEE: The metrics change based on the goals of the promotion, but generally we’re looking for a high degree of reader activity – evidenced primarily by the number of readers participating and sharing on social media.

Our most successful list-building promotion generated more than 3,000 highly-targeted and vetted email subscribers for each author.

Thanks and cheers!

If you want more information you can contact Ryan Zee via his website. on facebook

Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter and like our Lachesis Publishing facebook page.

 

 

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She’s known as the BOOK GAL: Q and A with Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts #amwriting #marketing

Book Marketing Expert  and best selling author Penny Sansevieri
Marketing Expert and best selling author Penny Sansevieri

Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.

LP: Tell us about your background and how and why you started Author Marketing Experts.

PS: I started the company because I’m an author and I wanted to give authors a company that understood them, knew the publishing industry and knew what they wanted.

Before I started AME I was in corporate America, working in marketing – but nothing as exciting as marketing authors. Then I got laid off not once but twice. Two companies I worked with shut down, I took it as a sign and started AME. I guess I am what you call an accidental entrepreneur.

Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 9.04.44 AMLP: What services does AME offer?

PS: Our focus is on promotion, reaching potential buyers and readers. There are a lot of phases to getting a book out there, from editing to publishing, but we’re the go-to for the exposure.

LP: What can AME do for an author that they can’t do for themselves?

PS: What makes my team special is that we know what works and what doesn’t. For a lot of authors who try to tackle marketing on their own it’s a lot of trial and error. I’m not saying we can knock it out of the park 100% of the time, no company can do that, there’s a lot out of our control, but we really do know what strategies work for which types of books and which types of readers. We also have a lot of boots on the ground at any one time, pushing a book from multiple channels, no single person can make that happen on their own.

LP: Okay let’s talk about price. What are the different packages you offer and what do they cost? What can an author get for their money?

PS: First let me say our price ranges have varied somewhat through the years, to some degree they change based on what’s working in the industry, what we can offer our clients and what’s getting authors solid results over and over again. That being said, right now for the types of strategies and approaches we’re really seeing making an impact, the starting budgets are around $1500-$2000. They go up from there based on needs.

51zsiSRPTsLAnd for what they can expect, honestly we customize each campaign for the book and author, rarely are there two campaigns that are exactly alike in our recommendations, but our core strategies usually include guaranteed reviews, Amazon Search Optimization, eBook-specific promotions, and some media pitching. Our goal is to cover as many channels as possible. So we don’t encourage our clients to put all their investment in media for example.

LP: Tell us about two author success stories that AME was involved in – and walk us through what you did for them and what the results were in terms of exposure, sales etc . . .

PS: Some years back, we worked on a book called Cookin’ for Love. by Sharon Boorstin. The book was self-published and turned down by the author’s traditional publisher because he thought that the characters in the book (who were over 50) were too old. So we worked with the author to promote the heck out of the book. We pitched Boomer bloggers and we told them the *why* of why she wound up self-publishing the book, which engaged then even further and fired up her reader base. She wound up doing so well with the book, Lifetime came after her for a movie deal.

51xUHu1NbLL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Kennedy Detail, with the former Kennedy Secret Service seemed like a slam dunk. I mean, it’s Kennedy, right? So we had a lot of blogger pitching on this campaign – I mean a ton. But once we started pitching we found out quickly that most of the bloggers only want to talk conspiracy theories (most of them anyway, and we weren’t pitching that specific market). So instead we turned to author events – and the two former Secret Service, including Clint Hill who was the agent who threw himself onto Kennedy’s car when he was shot, toured the country. We often had standing room only crowds. At Warwick’s Books in La Jolla, we had almost 300 people trying to get into that tiny store.

In regards to sales, we don’t track those. No marketing company should because they can’t take credit, or blame, for sales on their own. Too many factors affect sales, a lot of them are established before we join the party and many we have no control over, like competition for example.

LP: You also write for the Huffington Post – how did that come about and what are some of the topics you write about?

Penny-SansevieriIt was offered to several us, by Arianna Huffington directly at a publishing event I was speaking at – they were looking to build their book and publishing track. I write about publishing but mostly marketing.

I try to focus on topics authors can run with the day they read the article. So easy to implement marketing strategies, strategies that are proven to drum up more sales, warnings and guidelines that can save authors a lot of headaches. People don’t have a lot of time and I respect that, so I want to be a reliable source for go-to help.

LP: You also teach a self-publishing course at NYU – what is the most important thing you tell the students who take your course?

That publishing is a business – yes, it’s creative and exciting and all of that, but at the end of the day it’s a business. You’ve got to make decisions that are business minded. It’s pretty easy to let the ego guide you, I mean in terms of what might look pretty on paper, but be a bad choice for the book. An example of this might be a full page ad in the New York Times. I love NYT but book ads in newspapers tend to only do well for authors with big platforms – like James Patterson, etc.

Image: hopkins.typepad.com
Image: hopkins.typepad.com

LP: In your experience – what are some big no-nos that you see authors do online.

PS: I hate to say there are so many, but back to what I said about it being a lot of trial and error, that’s really a big part of doing it on your own. But a handful of things that we see over and over again that can make a big impact are: pricing your book too high; not creating engaging copy for your Amazon page; not having a home base, be it a basic website or just a well-run Facebook page; and not engaging with readers. The biggest mistake an author can make is just sitting back and assuming because the book is for sale, people will buy it. Nothing is that easy, and certainly not in this market, where over 4,500 books are being published every single day.

LP: What are three things that you believe every newbie or struggling author ABSOLUTELY needs to do EVERY SINGLE DAY.

PS: Reach out to fans and potential readers. This is where social media comes in handy. You may not love it, but chances are your buyer market loves it. And maybe your readers aren’t on Facebook, maybe they’re on Twitter – figure it out, know your demographics.

Don’t spin your wheels doing things that don’t matter. This is more of a don’t, but honestly it means take that time and put it into something that works. If you only get 5 visitors to your blog every month, don’t kill yourself writing blog posts. Take that time and research bloggers to pitch yourself to, or spend more time on social media you know is popular for your market, or finish that next book! Anything productive is better than something unproductive.

You don’t have to read every marketing blog or every success newsletter, but find a few that fit your style, that motivate you, and commit to not only reading them, but implementing strategies you learn about. But make sure you make it more than just busy work, this is not busy = productive. This is about making your next book release that much better!

Night-Maneuvers-189x30051tFzHuADzL51tqKp1TBQLLP: Bonus Question: Who are some of your favourite authors and why?

PS: Well so this is like picking my favorite child, that’s pretty hard. Honestly, I love authors who work it. We have worked through several books with Leslie Hachtel – she is tireless and she gets it. If she isn’t writing she’s looking for a way to promote her books. Tawny Weber is another one, and Sarah Andre – all of these gals are just “out there” and pushing their books. I could go on, because we’re so lucky to work with so many authors who never let a “no” get in the way of their success. Honestly, those are my favorite authors because these days, anyone can write a book – it takes a lot more effort to get it seen and read.

Contact Author Marketing Experts via their website or connect with Penny Sansevieri via facebook, twitter, @Bookgal linkedin

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.
Follow us on twitter.

amwriting, Author Marketing Plans, blog post, book promotion and marketing, From the Editor's Desk, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, Lachesis Publishing Inc., Marketing and Promotion, Marketing your book, Social Media, Social Media and Marketing

She’s an expert on PR in your PJs: Meet Laurie Parish a Customer Champion at Hootsuite #amwriting #socialmedia #marketing

Laurie Parish, social media guru and baker extraordinaire.
Laurie Parish, social media guru and baker extraordinaire.

Laurie Parish is a Customer Centric Champion at Hootsuite. What does that mean? She offers support and guidance to customers who use the Hootsuite social media platform and she helps them get better results for their own businesses through the products that Hootsuite offers.

Click here for an article about the Top 7 Reasons to use Hootsuite.

What is HootsuiteHootsuite is a social relationship platform that empowers users to execute social media strategies across their organizations. Hootsuite‘s vision is to revolutionize communications; their mission is to empower our customers to transform messages into meaningful relationships.

Click here for an article explaining what good Customer Champions do.

Lachesis: Tell us about your background and how you came to Hootsuite?

hootsuite-logo1Laurie Parish: My background is in selling and supporting the printing process. I studied journalism after high school but fell in love with the way books are created instead. I went from setting type to selling million dollar software and hardware systems to printers.

When print started to wane I began to look for new places to move my career. Being at Hootsuite  is exciting and new. Today’s marketeers are embracing social media for not only increasing brand awareness but to decrease risk in their organizational activities.

Lachesis: Hootsuite has been around a long time – but for people who don’t know exactly what it is – tell us what Hootsuite offers.

Image: www.cartoonists.co.uk
Image: www.cartoonists.co.uk

Laurie Parish: I suppose it seems like a long time. Hootsuite was established in 2008 (yesterday for me) when our CEO Ryan Holmes was trying to manage all of his social networks and finding it too big a task. We now have 15 million users worldwide! Our vision is to help organizations and individuals create meaningful relationships from their social presence. I call it PR in your PJs. We offer a way to not only organize your social networks but to understand who is engaging with you via those channels. We provide tools and metrics that encourage collaboration within marketing teams. And most importantly we are one of the only social platforms to provide free education and training on social media.

Lachesis: Ten years ago – an author could post something on his/her facebook page or twitter once a day and that would have been enough to sell books – but that is no longer the case – how can Hootsuite help authors build their audiences online – in an effective way – so that they have plenty of time to write?

social-media-software-comparison-hootsuite-mark-f-simmons-mixed-digital-llc-7.png-7Laurie Parish: First of all let me say we are completely mobile. We even have a Chrome extension that let’s you post right from an interesting URL. Posting to all of your social networks from your mobile device with one click saves so much time because you can do it from wherever you are. Once you’ve published then you can sit back and monitor your Hootsuite dashboard streams to see the impact in real time. Monitoring your streams lets you find your main influencers/markets so you can target messaging directly to them in future posts. Every writer should take time to build their personal brand and then manage it. It’s not always about promotion, it’s also about thought leadership. Hootsuite has ways to help you curate content and show off that leadership to your audience. Be proactive, be creative, be passionate.

344021Lachesis: Tell us about some of the clients in the arts/creative field that Hootsuite has and how Hootsuite has helped them improve their social media outreach?

Laurie Parish: I work with our strategic accounts so only accounts over $100,000.00. Which means I don’t always get to hear the stories about how everyday people use us. But those stories are out there and here’s a link to a case study about how a little independent film used Hootsuite to grow an audience with almost no budget. They built brand awareness and “buzz” for an unreleased movie, created a network of fans for the film, sustained the campaign for over a year and implemented the entire strategy within a $1000 monthly budget.

Lachesis: Okay let’s talk about price. What does it cost for Hootsuite – and is it affordable for indie authors who are on a budget?

Laurie Parish: One of the main reasons for our success is our Freemium version. Yes, that’s right . . . getting started with us is absolutely free. That’s how I was introduced to Hootsuite. No credit card mambo either. Next tier is the Pro version which is about $10./mo. Then we move on to the larger scale plans for enterprise and small to medium sized businesses. But the best bang for no money is our Hootsuite Academy. Learn everything you need to know about social FOR FREE. Find that here: Hootsuite Education Courses

Check out this article for more info:  The Creative’s Guide to Launching a Project on Social Media.

161349648Lachesis: I know you’re an avid reader too – what are two amazing books you’ve read recently?

Laurie Parish: Right now I’m reading Ian Brown’s 60. It’s an incredibly interesting look at the Globe’s columnist life in his 60th year. Men think about really odd things. That’s all I’ll say.

Lachesis:  What are your favourite kinds of posts that you enjoy reading or seeing on social media?

14364681_10154554254656079_8421876277164615950_nLaurie Parish: I follow the Bangor Police on Facebook. Those posts are so funny and insightful that I never miss one. TC (the writer) is doing much for making Maine cops part of the community that they live and work in.

Lachesis: You are on social media a lot – but tell us what are some pet peeves you have about what you see on social media?

Laurie Parish: Can I just say that I’m so over the “# of way to do this or that” posts? I see that as a headline and I move on. Also, if a company or brand that I follow never posts about anything other than themselves I get very very bored. I hate boring.

Mmmm.... Pumpkin Spice!
Mmmm…. Pumpkin Spice!

Lachesis: BONUS QUESTION: I know you’re a baker extraordinaire and you also have a home-based bakery business – what is the most popular item that people order from you and what is YOUR favourite sweet indulgence? J

Laurie Parish: Scones. I make loads and loads of scones. Pumpkin spice, blueberry, raspberry, apple, chocolate chip… you name it. My not so secret passion is pie. My favourite thing to do is drive out into the country in search of home baked pie. Pie is one of the hardest baked goods to get right. My grandmother was a pastry chef so I’m spoiled.

 

Laurie also runs the Short but Sweet Cupcake Company
Laurie also runs the Short but Sweet Cupcake Company

Connect with Laurie Parish via Linkedin and on facebook. You can also contact Laurie Parish to order one of her custom-made baked delights from her bakery company: Short But Sweet Cupcakes

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.

Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

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She’s helped hundreds of authors create winning brands: Q and A with dynamo Kim Killion of The Killion Group #authorpromo #amwriting


HD_HighRes-300x227
TheKillionGroup_finalWelcome to our third and final feature on the Killion Group, a dynamic full service company that specializes in brand marketing for authors from idea to execution. Today we’re chatting with Kim Killion, the founder of  The Killion Group and Hot Damn Designs and a successful romance author in her own right. Kim Killion is the dynamo behind The Killion Group and her vision has helped to build the company into the powerhouse it is today.

Author, Graphic Designer, Professor, Photographer, and Founder of The Killion Group and Hot Damn Designs
Author, Graphic Designer, Professor, Photographer, and Founder of The Killion Group and Hot Damn Designs

Tell us about your background and how and why you started The Killion Group .

Out of high school, I studied near Kansas City, MO for my degrees. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a Certificate in Web Design, and I’m an Adobe Certified Expert (equivalent to a Masters in Adobe).

I have nearly 27 years of design and teaching experience. For several years after college, I worked in the design depts. of some major financial companies. After starting a family, I began teaching Graphic Design in St. Louis. I really loved (still love) teaching and did so for 13 yrs.

I began writing in 1998 and in 2005, I joined the St. Louis RWA ® Chapter.  About 2009-ish, some of the women in the Chapter needed some design work done. Mostly websites, as the Indie movement hadn’t taken full-hold yet.  But as I did more of that side-work/design, I found a terrible lack of historical stock images. With help from local authors, I borrowed enough historical clothing and props and hired a photographer –and held a 2 day, 16 hr, photoshoot!  Hot Damn Designs and Hot Damn Stock were born.

By 2011, I was busier than I could imagine and decided to stop teaching and go full-time designing.  I then hired a web tech, another designer (a student actually who was the top of the graduating class), and then hired Jenn to help keep us all organized.

RWA_ad1_150What services does The Killion Group offer authors?

We offer everything (every service) a publishing house offers, but we work strictly on a flat fee basis. Meaning, the author keeps all her royalties.

Here is a full list of services and our prices: http://thekilliongroupinc.com/services/

We pride ourselves on knowing what it’s like to be “that” author because both Jenn and I were where they are!  We know what it feels like and want to let clients know we’re there for them to help them make the best of their book from start to finish.

That includes everything from cover to uploading the book for them if they want.

We want authors to be able to write and we can do the rest – or authors can pick and choose what they’d like help with.

REG0103BrooksPAR0080BrooksYou also have an amazing stock photo site – called Hot Damn Stock – tell us about that.

How it started is mostly talked about above, but I’m still very proud to have one of the largest selections of romance / genre based images. We have close to 40,000 images, in 15 different genre. www.hotdamnstock.com

We try to have a shoot every 6-8 weeks, so we are always adding new faces and costumes.

We have a big 2 day shoot coming up the first part of November! Very exited!

Your client roster includes both authors and publishers – you have more than 2,000 clients – what canThe Killion Group do for an author or publisher that can really propel them forward and boost their careers?

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 11.01.19 AM
The list of authors who came to use as writers who KNEW they had talent but were repeatedly turned away by Houses because their genre wasn’t “trending” is beyond lengthy. A good number (about 75% of them) are now Best Selling Authors. NY Times or USA Today Best Selling. And while I fully believe the talent these women have is awesome, I’d like to think that the professional cover design and knowledge of what sells a cover and why (the technical stuff), helped them achieve their ranking.

The covers have won several awards too, so that makes them and me feel very proud.

postcard-5.5inx8.5in-h-roundOkay let’s talk about price. We know the old saying: You have to spend money to make money – but a lot of authors are on a limited budget – what can you offer authors who may not have the big funds for a splashy campaign?

To start with, we haven’t raised our Cover Design prices in 5 yrs. We’re still at $135 for eCover and $75 more to add a spine/back cover.

Kim Killion behind the scenes on one of the Killion Group photo shoots.
Kim Killion behind the scenes on one of the Killion Group photo shoots.

In fact, we’ve just LOWERED our formatting prices AND increased the design elements of the formatting.

We still say, write a good book and get a professional cover. That’s your best campaign.

Aside from that, we offer some Social Media work (Facebook and Twitter – designs and marketing) as well as NetGalley spots for Reviews and/or Review campaigns.

We keep our prices low and only have a 1 hr min. for our PR work.

We also offer Blurb/ Back Cover Copy writing service. Because let’s be honest, those are hard and yet are one of the first things a potential reader will see.

HODbook_14You’re an indie author and you write medieval romance – tell us about your style and what your favourite Kim Killion book is?

Though I do love Her One Desire ( I wanted it titled The Executioner’s Daughter) and it was my RITA® book, Highland Dragon is still my favorite.

You began as a traditionally published author with Kensington Publishing – before you transitioned to indie – what advice would you give an author who was thinking of going indie?

LOL. Well, I say if you like having control of your work, then go for it! I wasn’t unhappy with Kensington and have designed for them, so we have a good relationship still to this day.

However, my Kensington covers were nothing like what they should have been… ie: the models weren’t right for the characters. And I think all Traditionally published authors have gone through that experience.

Indie gives the author complete control of your work. And the lion’s share of the profit.

And now that I am getting my rights back to my titles, I am giving them the covers (and the titles) that I wanted.

The talented and vibrant red-head Kim Killion
The talented and vibrant red-head Kim Killion

What are three things that you believe every newbie or struggling author should do to build readership?

*Learn your writing craft. Take classes, read how-to books and join a critique group.

*Get a good cover.

*And then, be ‘real’ with your readers. Be fun and don’t always talk about Buy My Book. I still think a “grass-roots” approach is the best. Get to know your readers. Become friends. If you realize they are people who love your writing as much as you do – not a nameless/faceless person with money – I think that’s how you build a loyal readership. They become your book family. J

Who are some of your favourite authors and why?

The wonderful Betrice Small was my favorite and first romance read. She opened a whole world to me …literally!

BONUS QUESTION: Finish this statement: Red heads are awesome because . . .

They are full of fire and unstoppable when they want something!

Connect with Kim Killion via The Killion Group, on facebook, and on twitter and via her author website.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.
Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

 

 

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Designing Woman: Q and A with Shelly Willmann from The Killion Group #design #bookcovers #covers #romancecovers #graphicdesign

TheKillionGroup_finalFor the next three Wednesdays, we’ll be doing a special feature with The Killion Group, a dynamic full service company that specializes in brand marketing for authors from idea to execution. Today we’re chatting with Shelly Willmann, a very talented graphic designer at Killion.

LP: Welcome Shelly!

SW: Hi Joanna! It’s a pleasure to meet you! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about  The Killion Group, Inc, and a little about what I do!

LP: Tell us about your background and how you came to work with The Killion Group.

Graphic Designer Shelly Willmann
Graphic Designer Shelly Willmann

SW: ​My background in art began when I was a kid. I drew portraits, mostly. By the time I graduated high school I had drawn and sold a lot of portraits, and had developed a growing interest in photography as an art form. I began college on an art scholarship, and graduated with a BA in Photography at Webster University in St. Louis. My professors kept pressing the issue that technology was rapidly changing, and the photography industry was headed into the digital age. They predicted that film would soon be a thing of the past. As a photographer who lived and breathed film, so-to-speak, that was my cue to enrol in a graphic design program where I could manipulate images with my expert photography skills in a digital darkroom — Photoshop! Moving toward graphic design was one of the best decisions I ever made. That is when I met my college instructor, Kim Killion. She and Jeff Appel ran the graphic design program where they taught me everything I needed to know to work professionally in the field.

Soon after I graduated college I began working in the textbook publishing industry as an illustrator and a production artist, and in a media department that produced online textbooks. I tested software, proofread texts, and designed interfaces. During that time I began pursuing a masters degree in Media Literacy, which enhanced my ability to visually communicate through a critical perspective.

In 2012, Kim asked me to come work for her company, The Killion Group, Inc. Of course, I agreed, and have been designing for her ever since.

Where Shelly Willman works her design magic.
Where Shelly Willman works her design magic.

LP: What is your creative process – that takes you from the a blank “canvas” computer screen to the finished visual realization of a book?

SW: My creative process first involves research and understanding of ​each client’s specific goals. First, I read through the questionnaire​ that we give to each client to understand what ​the client envisions for the project. I visit the author’s​ websites and social media pages to get an idea about their online presence, which tells me a great deal about who they are, and how they relate to their readers. With that information, I am able to start designing. I search and download the images from stock photo sites, choose appropriate fonts, typographical styles, arrange it all, and then launch into the actual design in Photoshop, and that’s how it essentially comes together on the canvas.

 51h9KzEqKbL51MKjGUuaBL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_LP: What are the necessary elements that make a really stand-out cover?

SW: In my opinion, the cover’s intended message is the key​ element that needs to be visually communicated, and accomplishing that involves a complex process. The possibilities are endless, but it basically requires using whatever appropriate design tools necessary to inform the reader in a flash about who the author is, the title, the genre, or for example if it’s romantic, historical, morose, hopeful, action-packed, dark, mysterious, etc…

One of the ways we designers achieve this goal is through a sophisticated use and understanding of typography.

518P+71LUrL._SY346_We very carefully select fonts, keeping in mind which ones are best suited
for particular genres, and which ones are best for evoking certain emotions. Fonts often tend to convey feelings, movement or static, and when they are​ cleverly styled they can make a cover ​really pop. I could go on and on about the importance of typography, and Kim has taught entire college courses on this very subject. We do value typography as a crucial design element because it can make or break an effective design.

Another very important design element is one that is not seen. It’s that magical way we use design techniques to grab the audience’s attention, leading their eyes around the composition on a path to ​​the main focus areas, hitting on all the important things, and in the right order. When someone is looking around, back and forth all over the cover, and searching for a way to see a cover as a whole, and not knowing where to settle their eyes, then the design didn’t work. An effective cover design should visually connect all the elements together seamlessly, and in a way similar to how information is read in a news article — by seeing the most important information first.

51ahi7dwHcL._SY346_519mxpeRQALLP: Why are covers so important for a book?

We know the cover is the first thing someone sees when deciding to buy a book. Most people tend to judge a book by it’s cover as the saying goes. (I’m no exception either!!) A poorly designed cover will inadvertently suggest to the reader that the story inside is a reflection of the cover. That’s not ​an accurate representation, but it’s what people tend to believe. One of my clients told me that the cover I recently designed for her was the reason her book sold so well. Many of her 5-star reviewers said the reason they bought her book was because the attractive cover design caught their attention, which ultimately lead them to read the blurb, and buy the book. That’s exactly what you want to aim for!

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 10.46.27 AMLP: Who are some artists/designers that have influenced you in your career?

SW: More than anyone, it was the people I came in contact with in my life who influenced me the most. I give much credit to my teachers and professors who encouraged and supported me along the way. My high school art teacher, Victoria (Vicky) Cummings sent me to high school art workshops at St. Louis University and Washington University, which opened up my mind and world-view. She selected me for these opportunities, and I am so humbled and grateful!

Kim Killion was my graphic design instructor in college who taught me everything about graphic design and she is the reason why I am where I am today! She’s still an influence! I didn’t know where to begin teaching my 8-year old son how to use Photoshop so she told me how to teach him. He’s like a pro now! She is so talented, too. I often download her Photoshop files and turn off the layers one-by-one trying to uncover her creative process! It’s like discovering treasure!

Photography by Susan Hacker Stang
Photography by Susan Hacker Stang

My photography professor, Susan Hacker Stang, studied directly under photographers, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at RISD​. She explained how light and color affect a photograph—how color is light, and how it bounces around an image and scatters all over the place. During critiques she helped me to see that my photographic style had a cinematic ​feel running through it. I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy designing book covers so much. I apply that dramatic, cinematic look to cover designs when it’s appropriate, making them appear as if they are energetic moving images that have been frozen in time.

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 10.44.30 AMArt Silverblatt, my media communications professor who literally wrote the book on Media Literacy, greatly influenced how I use production values when designing covers. I’m always constantly aware of things like showing power or submissiveness through camera angles, the emotional and psychological impact of using certain colors, or considering that the top right hemisphere of an image is usually where the human eye naturally looks first. These are just a few things out of many that I consider. It’s been enlightening!

Collins and Boyd watercolour by artist Ali Cavanaugh
Collins and Boyd watercolour by artist Ali Cavanaugh

Lastly, but not least is Ali Cavanaugh who was in 6th grade with me. She loved to draw, too, but after that year I never saw her again. Years later I saw her high school art portfolio displayed at an art gallery. She had mastered color at such a young age, boldly controlling it, and using it with confidence. Seeing her work had pushed me to gain a better understanding of color.

Just a few months ago, I reconnected with her on Facebook! (She does beautiful watercolor portraits. Find her on FB, you will see!) After all these years I didn’t think she’d remember me, but I told her how she influenced me and my art career. To my astonishment, she was so happy to hear from me. She, too, had wondered about me all these years. She reminded me of my drawing of an ear that had pushed her to challenge herself more as an artist. It blesses me to think that two little girls in 6th grade passing through one another’s lives in one semester could inspire each other in such a way!

Just a sample of the stunning covers that Shelly Willmann designs for The Killion Group
Just a sample of the stunning covers that Shelly Willmann designs for The Killion Group

LP: What are some of YOUR favourite covers that YOU designed?

SW: These are some of my favorite covers. It was hard to decide which ones​ to ​single out. I connect with each author on some level when designing their covers, and so they feel like friends to me! Authors put so much effort and time into writing their books, and to finally have that cover is really exciting for both of us. Some authors have told me they are so excited to get the covers that it makes them want to write more books just so they can have another book cover 🙂 That makes my job so fun and rewarding when they enjoy it as much as I do.

I am proud to say that one of my first projects was designing the Killion Group logo 🙂 (see at the top of this post).

MCH_cover400pxLP: Indie publishing has become very popular. Some indie authors are either creating their own covers or they may ask a friend with some design knowledge or technical ability to design one for them – what you do you think about that? And why do you think indie authors should consider a professional designer when it comes to their cover?

SW: Kim Killion is a traditionally published, award-winning author herself who designed her own book covers, but she is also a professional graphic designer with years of experience and expertise to back her up. She knows book covers. An indie author should consider hiring a professional designer who has plenty of experience designing book covers. If designers aren’t familiar with the industry they can run into a long list of unnecessary pitfalls such as titles that are hard to read in thumbnail images, or covers that just don’t convey the intended message as effectively as they should because of poor production values. That takes a special expertise to avoid these issues.

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 11.39.10 AMLP: What do you love best about working for The Killion Group?

SW: I love what I do! I’ve always been drawn to the book publishing industry. Working for the Killion Group gives me the opportunity to use every single talent and skill that I have. What an awesome feeling! It’s an honor that I get to help authors tell their stories in a visual sense. I am also a people-person, and enjoy communicating with authors every day. I feel like I am part of their production teams. I really enjoy working with Kim, too. I consult with her everyday about current clients. Skype has been great. We connect and share computer screens online. It’s as if she’s in my living room even though she’s actually a couple states away.

Shelly's creative talent is always front and centre
Shelly’s creative talent is always front and centre

LP: What are you currently working on and what do you have coming down the road?

SW: I’m currently finishing up a cover for a military time travel romance. Down the road I’m looking forward to designing a 3-book series bundle.

LP: Your “day job” is very creative – so how do you spend your downtime?

SW: I usually work while my 3 kids are in school – ages 4, 7, and 8, then I quit working when they come home in the afternoon, but when I get a chance, I read and watch music videos 🙂 I’ve found music videos to be particularly inspiring for designing covers. The music and the moving images sort of imprint on my mind, and I pull from that as a creative resource when designing.

Shelly Willmann's spicy little secret!
Shelly Willmann’s spicy little secret!

LP: BONUS QUESTION: What is your favourite go-to snack when you’re in “design mode”?

SW: OH! Currently, I have a bag of chile-spiced dried mango from Trader Joe’s that I snack-on sitting next to my computer!

Connect with Shelly Willmann via The Killion Group, on facebook, and on twitter.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.
Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

 

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Five Free Things You Can Do To Promote Your Books by Joanna D’Angelo #amwriting #amreading #authorpromotion #socialmedia

32038_cartoons-comics-charlie-brown_200sOh, you say you know all about online promotion but have you really done AS MUCH as you can to promote your book and your author name? Dare I say it – your BRAND?

Here is a list of 5 things you can do that will only cost you TIME not money in order to promote your books.

1. Launch a facebook page – and invite all of your friends to like it. If you want to spend some money – you can run a sponsored ad promoting it. My advice – don’t set up a page for one book or series or for every book you release – that is tiresome and annoying to your friends and fans. Just set up a page with YOUR NAME AUTHOR X and use that page to promote YOU and any other author or book you want to talk about.

giphy2. Post REGULARLY on YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE. At least 3 times a week. Post interesting content – not just about your book being released – but talk about interesting aspects of your book – like a story about your research on the poison used as the murder weapon in your latest book.  Original content. That should be your goal. Invite other authors to your page – do exchanges with other authors – where you interview them on your page and they interview you on theirs. Why? To get more readers and likes and build your audience.

3. Start putting up videos. You can now go live on facebook with live videos – so you can set up a live “party” and invite your readers – have fun – do giveaways (okay you might have to spend some money there) but even if it’s just to play a game or chat with your readers- they will enjoy it and so will you! You can make it a Q and A live with your readers- they can ask anything they want about your books and characters.

4. When you post on twitter – don’t just post links to your books – or talk about a sale – post funny pics or engage in some fun hashtag games – that will broaden your scope and reach on twitter.

Little_red_haired_girl5. Set up a regular blog or newsletter and share “freebies” or more detailed in depth content that you can link on your facebook page.

Why is this necessary? Why should you put all of this effort in?

It increases your profile on google. When I google the name of an author – if I see current links and plenty of them – then- that author will stand out in my mind. Even if they are not a bestselling author. It is IMPRESSIVE to see a big google list of links about an author. Trust me on this.

When I go on twitter and see only “buy my book” links on an author’s page – I think “dullsville” – I want to see some fun engagement there to tell me that the author has a sense of humour and has something to offer other than asking me to buy her/his book.

imgresWhen I visit an author’s facebook page and they haven’t posted  in a month – I think that author isn’t serious about his/or her career and doesn’t really care about her/his readers.

These are all things that take time – yes – but if you establish a routine around doing them – they can all help you achieve your goal of building your audience reach and creating an online “footprint” that will enable potential readers to see YOU to see how interesting and fascinating you are. To see how much YOU engage with the world. So keep that in mind when you ponder why you should even bother with blogging or posting on facebook or twitter. Think about the “SOCIAL CURRENCY” that you are generating by your 892004_030PRESENCE online.

Think about how the public views you according to what YOU put out there. And if you only post once every six months – it won’t do you any good. You will be buried and forgotten. Think about every blog post you write or facebook video you post or funny story you relate on your facebook page – and think about how all of that adds up to create a rich and colourful quilt that keeps expanding. Think about the people who will be coming across even one of those “quilt squares” and then delving deeper into YOUR WORLD because they want to know more about you. I do that all the time! When I come across something interesting that an author has posted. And if I do that – you can bet other readers do it too.

Got it?  Good!

Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing.

Connect with Joanna on twitter@JoannaDangelo, on facebook and on pinterest.

Her facebook page is: Love Romance Novels (on facebook)

Her other blogs are: thepopculturedivas and therevolvingbook

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

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The Three Cs of Promoting Your Books by Joanna D’Angelo #amwriting #bestseller

clip-art-snoopy-921342Something I’ve noticed over the years is the difference between successful authors and authors who sell only a handful of books a year. If you want to get an idea of how you’re selling – check your ranking on amazon and barnes and noble. But shouldn’t your publisher be doing all the work of selling your book? Nope. There isn’t a publisher IN EXISTENCE big or small who does that. Your publisher has to promote many different titles a month (both older and new releases). Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOUR books. Your publisher has to worry about many different authors. Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOURSELF. If you are consistently in the 1 million or higher ranking, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing (or not doing) to sell books. Here are a few key qualities that I have seen that successful authors have in common. I call them THE THREE Cs: COMMITMENT, CONSISTENCY, CLEVERNESS.

tumblr_miy082ZuYC1s0s30po1_1280COMMITMENT: Successful authors are committed, not only to their writing craft but to promoting their work. After they release a new title, they don’t just forget about it and move on to the next book. No way. They have a plan in place to promote that book. That plan – should be in place well BEFORE your book comes out. One year before. One year? But won’t people get tired of hearing about your book a year in advance of it coming out? You’re not LITERALLY talking about your book every single day. USE COMMON SENSE. You are BUILDING your identity on facebook so that when your book DOES come out, you will have lots of friends and followers who know you and (hopefully) like you. People that you have made a CONNECTION with.

Let’s say you plan on promoting your book on facebook. Terrific! BUT, now here’s the hard part: What is your commitment going to be? How often should you post? What should you post about? How can you engage your friends and followers? If you don’t have enough friends and followers, how can you get more? As an author, you have to be asking yourself these questions WELL IN ADVANCE and you have to answer them. Ask other authors. Read books or articles on social networking. Figure out what you want to say and say it. READ. OBSERVE. RESEARCH.

But isn’t that a lot of work? Sure it is. But if you want to sell books, then you have to do it. Or, hire someone who knows how to do it.

But isn’t this just common sense? Of course it is. But if you already know this then why aren’t you doing it? The answer is because YOU ARE NOT COMMITTED.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 2.15.36 PMCONSISTENCY: The most successful authors are the authors who are consistent. They post on a regular basis  – not just once or twice a month. They ALWAYS have something to share. Some authors talk about their relationships, kids, even their health issues. While others like to share silly stuff about their pets or funny things they find online. The key is to share consistently but don’t bombard your followers with the same BUY MY BOOK post every day. Be creative. Have fun. Share who you truly are. But do it on a regular basis. Why? Because the key word in social networking is the word SOCIAL. It means “taking part”. Engaging with other people. Being sociable. Not hiding in an ivory tower.

A lot of authors have “regular” features on their facebook pages. What does that have to do with selling books you might ask? Well, social networking isn’t just “HEY MY BOOK IS ON SALE”. It’s about ENGAGING, COMMENTING, and SHARING. And you have to do it on a REGULAR BASIS. Some authors have a Question of the Week, Hunk of the Week, Cute Critter of the Week, Funny Video of the Week . . . You get the point right? Other authors run monthly contests where they give away a free signed copy of their book or some nifty “swag” that they got at various conferences. OR they go out and buy something really cool that has a connection to their book/series and they run a contest that way. How do you promote your contest? Some authors purchase sponsored ads on facebook. Or they ask their fellow author friends if they can share the post. They share the contest info on facebook group pages – spreading it out and posting on various groups every few hours, every. single. day. Some cross-promote on other blogs and on twitter to get the word out. The point is to SET UP A PLAN and STICK TO IT. If the plan isn’t getting you sales then re-evaluate every few weeks to see how you can improve/change that.

snoopy-profileCLEVERNESS: It’s hard to be clever. But the most successful authors are just that. They come up with fun and creative ways to engage their readers and they always keep it fresh. Whether it’s running contests, or posting fun content, or setting up newsletters that reward subscribers with free, original content, or making funny videos that go viral, or coming up with a fun way of branding themselves, or working with other authors on unique cross promotional contests or giveaways – they put their creativity to work – not just in their writing – but in selling. Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and think outside your box. Be a little daring. Take a chance on doing something different. Approach some other authors about setting up a YouTube channel and make regular videos that you can post online. Have fun and keep trying even if you flop the first few times. Just keep thinking and doing. Eventually you will hit your creative stride and come up with something that works really well for you. The point is – don’t just sit back and expect others to do it for you. Do it yourself. Motivate yourself. And if you find it overwhelming to go it alone – then team up with other authors and go for it. You have nothing to lose, and so very much to gain.

Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing.

Connect with Joanna on twitter@JoannaDangelo, on facebook and on pinterest.

Her facebook page is: Love Romance Novels (on facebook)

Her other blogs are: thepopculturedivas and therevolvingbook

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK: GHOSTS OF GLORY by Morgan Chalfant #amreading #urbanfantasy #99cent #awesomebook

Ghosts of Glory 453x680This week’s DEAL OF THE WEEK is the urban fantasy/paranormal Ghosts of Glory by Morgan Chalfant.

GET IT AT LACHESIS PUBLISHING FOR ONLY .99 CENTS! THIS WEEK ONLY.

CLICK HERE TO BUY.

What It’s About:

Jersey “The Brawler” Romero is dying. Slowly. Tediously. Not the way he thought he would go out on the savage streets of Glory, the Twilight City. But all of that is about to change when Jersey is granted his youth again by a messenger of the Twilight Goddess, the Spirit of Glory. He’s also given a mission: save Glory from the dark forces that are bent on destroying her.

Jersey’s been a fighter his whole life, whether it was on the streets where he struggled to survive, or in prison where he fought to stay alive. Glory never gave him anything without a battle, and that’s what he’s always loved about his beloved city. But nothing has prepared him for the war that’s coming. Monster-like creatures masked as humans are bent on exterminating him. Their leader is a mysterious man named Templar. He’s been amassing an underground army called The Black Crux. Templar wants to make Glory his, by laying waste to everyone who stands in his way. Possessing an almost otherworldly vision, Templar knows everything about Jersey, including an explosive secret that will blast away everything Jersey has ever believed.

But Jersey isn’t called “The Brawler” for nothing. He’s determined to fight Templar with everything he’s got. Because he’s not just fighting for his life, he’s fighting for Glory’s very soul.

READ AN EXCERPT:

We’re standing on the roof of Skript and Abigail hasn’t said a word in five minutes. She dragged me up here with such urgency, I figured the show would have started by now.

Sitting down in a damp lawn chair, I wait. Patience and I have nothing to say to each other, but Abigail has me intrigued so I let her have all the time she needs. It’s not easy opening up doors that have been locked for so long, especially to strangers. If that’s what we still were. Maybe strange acquaintance is a better term.

The view from the rooftop is actually quite beautiful. Rarely can the word beauty describe Glory. What little good happens to someone here, happens at the expense of someone else’s pain. Surprisingly, the night is peaceful. It’s never peaceful in Glory, so there’s obviously something off, but I don’t have the time nor the inclination to worry about it at the moment. It’s just the cone of silence. The calm before the storm. Strangely, I’m the calm. Abigail is the surging storm.

My eyes fall from the billions of firefly buildings to a sight more pleasing. Abigail stands looking up at the moon. It’s a waxing half-moon, but there’s still enough light for decent visibility. I watch her take off her leather jacket and pull off the gloves and drop them at her feet. Before my eyes, strange symbols begin to appear on her forearms and hands. The spaghetti strap top she’s wearing leaves much of her neck visible where more symbols begin to shimmer. Spiral patterns. They resemble some sort of tribal ink, but they begin to glow like lanterns in the dark. It’s an eerie, beautiful blue light. Cerulean, turquoise, and sapphire.

I stand up and move closer as Abigail turns around. I can see her face now. The incandescent markings have spiraled up her cheeks, climbing like staircases up to her eyes. Both her eyes shimmer inhumanly, one golden amber, the other a pool of twinkling emerald. Her breathing is erratic, she shakes, like she’s frightened I’m going to run away or grimace at the sight of her.

“Th-this . . . is me.” She stutters. “What . . . what I was talking about.”

Before I know it, she’s reaching for her jacket to cover herself. I spring forward and stop her, grasping her firmly by the shoulders. She looks up at me like she’s a monster that should be cowering in darkness. She won’t look at me. I can’t help but wonder who ever looked at her and cringed. Who made her feel so malformed? It’s perfectly clear to me she’s not the abomination she considers herself to be. She’s the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. It’s not every day a street devil like me gets to behold a shimmering angel.

I move my hands to her cheeks, rubbing my thumbs over the glittering markings. There’s no textural difference. Her skin is as soft as cashmere. Her radiance is overwhelming. Her glow envelops me.

“My God,” I whisper. “You’re beautiful.”

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Hot Cowboys and Sexy Navy Seals: Q&A with New York Times bestselling author Cat Johnson

61YDuWoxhYL._UX250_Cat Johnson not only has hit the New York Times bestseller list – she is a at Top 10 NYT bestseller! She is also a USA Today Bestselling author and the recipient of a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her contemporary romances focus on cowboys and Navy Seals. Cat’s books are so popular that Amazon invited her to create her own world on kindle. More on that later.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.55.37 AMAn “out of the box” thinker when it comes to marketing, Cat has sponsored bull riding cowboys and promoted her books using bologna?!? Check it out on her website.

Cat is known as a hybrid author – that is she is both self-published and traditionally published. She joins us today to talk about her remarkable publishing career and some fun stuff too!

LP: You are both traditionally published and self-published – tell us when and why you began self-publishing

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.00.57 AMCJ: I had some backlist books I’d gotten rights back to when the small press I’d been with sold. This was about the time that KDP and Smashwords (which distributes to Barnes & Noble and iBooks) had opened to authors to self publish. So I uploaded a few backlist books but didn’t pay much attention to them. They were shorter romantic comedy stories I’d written years before, and they’d already been out with a publisher, so I figured any sales I made was money I didn’t have before and I basically ignored those stories. I was too busy writing new cowboy and military romance for my publisher . . . until I’d read an article about how much money Selena Kitt was earning self publishing erotic romance. That’s when I decided it would be worth writing something new to self publish and see what it could do. That was Educating Ansley, a cowboy ménage. I very quietly uploaded it in May of 2011 and that 40K word story sold 6,000 copies in the first 6 weeks at $2.99. After that I was hooked.

LP: What are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.02.44 AMCJ: Control is a huge pro self publishing offers that traditional does not. I can be quick on my feet. I can make changes on a moment’s notice. I can write a story this week and have it in readers’ hands next week, rather than 2 years from now after the genre is flooded and the reader interest has cooled. I have the freedom to change my price to take advantage of a special event or promotion at Kobo or iBooks. I can tweak my metadata to see if something else works better than what I’m doing. Today’s publishing landscape is changing at the speed of light. Publishers (and that includes self published authors) have to be ready, willing and able to change just as quickly. The problem is the systems in place at most big publishers are not set up to do that.

But there are cons to self publishing as well. Self publishing at my level still does not have the legitimacy or the distribution that I can get with a traditional publisher. There are still people who equate quality with big publishing. And it is still easier to get stocked on shelves in stores or in libraries or for a booksigning with a trad pub book.

LP: What are the expenses involved in publishing your own book? How long does it take you to get a book out?

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.03.57 AMCJ: The costs and the time are both minimal. I am a control freak, so I do everything I can myself. My USA Today bestselling Hot SEALs series covers are done by me in Photoshop where I can play for hours to get my vision for the cover just right. By my manipulating and combining stock art photos, my covers can cost a few dollars rather than hundreds. I format the files and upload them myself to each vendor, which means there is no additional cost other than my time. I have a couple of trusted people who beta read and then proof read for me and can usually turn the book around in a few days so the time from when I finish writing to release is usually less than 2 weeks.

LP: You have your very own KINDLE WORLD on Amazon for your Hot SEALS series. Tell us about how that came about and what it entails.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.06.54 AMCJ: About 2 years ago, Amazon began expanding its Kindle Worlds program to include romance worlds. Bella Andre’s world was one of them and I was approached by Amazon to write a story within her world. The relationship I built with the KW team throughout that experience, and the level of my sales, prompted them to offer me my own world. I couldn’t license Amazon my traditionally published series without worrying about being in violation of my contract but my SEALs are self published. The Hot SEALs KindleWorld launched in August of 2015 and was a huge success. It’s basically fan fiction of my Hot SEALs series that is for sale. Anyone can write in the world, readers or authors, as long as they follow the guidelines outlined. They can write new characters into my world, or if they have an existing series, they can write their own characters doing things alongside mine. It’s a lot of fun for my readers who want more Hot SEALs stories. It’s nice for the authors too, since we all band together to help promote the world. Those interested in writing a story can check out the world guidelines at catjohnson.net/kindleworlds and those who want to read the stories can shop the titles at catjohnson.net/shopkindleworlds.

LP: Based on YOUR OWN experience. How much TIME do you spend each day doing marketing and promotion (over all and including social media, newsletter, booking ads etc . . .)

CJ: This is my fault, because I will choose promo and marketing over writing every day, but it’s probably 10% writing and 90% everything else, which includes keeping abreast of changes in the market, posting and reading on social media, handling email, newsletters, blogging and creating graphics. I try not to feel guilty about that ratio being so skewed because all that other stuff is important too. But I do need to learn to focus better and prioritize the writing.

LP: You’ve published several bestselling series including RED HOT AND BLUE, STUDS IN SPURS and OKLAHOMA NIGHTS. Why do you write series books? Tell us about your series. And what can an author—self-published (or otherwise) accomplish with a series?

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.11.11 AMCJ: Series are not only fun for authors to write but they are huge sellers. And I am NOT talking serials where there is basically a cliffhanger at the end of each installment and you have to get the next book. I’m talking about a connected series that shares a world, where there is an HEA or at least a HFN at the end, and the story is complete.

All of my series stories can standalone but readers love to read them all because it’s fun to catch up with the hero and heroine from the past books. Or to see the hero’s best friend you’ve come to know and love get his happy ending in the next book. Once I get to know the characters and the setting I like continuing with them, and series allow that. Red Hot & Blue and the Hot SEALs series are military romance. The Studs in Spurs, Oklahoma Nights and Midnight Cowboys series are about modern day cowboys. Visitors can find all my series listed at my site at CatJohnson.net, along with other fun stuff like quote graphics and recipes.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.13.52 AMLP: You’re a Top 10 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. What are 3 KEY THINGS that newbie authors should do when they release a new title, whether they are indie or traditionally published?

CJ: 1-Write the next book! 2-And then write the next one after that. 3-And then release those books, steadily and predictably, promoted in advance so the readers know what to expect from you and when. Then do it all over again. Rare is the author who can make a living, or a career, on one or two or even three books. I’ve found the best way to sell the last book is to release the next one. Breakouts and anomalies aside, a career in publishing is a living thing. You don’t keep feeding it, it’s gonna waste away and eventually die.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.16.09 AMLP: Tell us about an indie author YOU like and why?

CJ: I love Cristin Harber. Our genre and writing voices are very similar and I love how she approaches the business with a combined analytical savvy and creative enthusiasm that is rare.

LP: Bonus Round: Between your COWBOYS and SEALS: 


Who would take a gal out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and who would make her dinner at home?

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.19.10 AMCJ: My SEALs would take me out (they eat bad food so often, they’d want something nice from a restaurant) while my cowboys would definitely cook . . . probably steaks they raised themselves on the ranch.

LP: Who would pick up his lady’s dirty tissues from the floor when she’s sick in bed and who would give her a back rub instead?

CJ: SEALs fear no germs! And I’m thinking they’re neat freaks, at least judging by the way they clean their weapons. Cowboys are very hands on. They’d be using all that hand strength they’ve built fixing fences and such for a nice back rub.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.20.53 AMLP: Who would seduce his lady with sweet words whispered in her ear and who would seduce with a sexy growl?

CJ: Cowboys are sweet talkers with their darlin’ and baby girl and even a well placed ma’am. SEALs aren’t going to waste time with words. A growl will do.

LP: Who would bake a birthday cake for his lady’s birthday and who would surprise her in his birthday suit?

Cat Johnson at one of her many book signings
Cat Johnson at one of her many book signings

CJ: I think SEALs can be overachievers at times, and I think going the extra mile to bake their lady a cake might be just the thing he’d do to show his prowess in all things. A cowboy would get right down to the business of delivering his gift—him. Naked.

LP: Thank you!

CJ: Thank you for inviting me!

Connect with Cat Johnson via her website, on facebook, twitter, pinterest and instagram.