Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing historical novelist Tracy Higley. I met Tracy several years ago at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, when we were both hoping to be published. Tracy has made quite a mark with her novels set in ancient times – from Egypt to Pompeii, from Babylon to Petra – and she has travel videos on her website from her research trips!
Tracy, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Thirteen books published, including recent titles The Incense Road trilogy (Star of Wonder, Star of Night, Royal Beauty), and Awakening.
An end-of October hello from Marti Pieper in beautiful Mount Dora, Florida, where the advent of fall means temperatures have dipped to a chilly fifty-five degrees (yeah, I know). Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you the marketing and publicity expertise of multi-published author Tracy Higley. I know you'll enjoy her insights as much as I have.
Tracy, how did you get into writing?
I've been writing since I was a little girl–short stories, newspaper articles, poems, plays, and fiction. I got serious about publishing about thirteen years ago and decided to write a novel and try to get it published.
The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Daughter.
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.
Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.
As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.
In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything-her possessions, her gods, and her very life-for the Israelite’s one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all – to save the kingdom, and to save herself.
Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After earning a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University, she spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry before beginning to write fiction. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, and Persia and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She has authored nine novels, including Petra: City in Stone and Pompeii: City on Fire. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at TracyHigley.com
This new release information was uploaded by Cecelia Dowdy! Happy reading!
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#11 here.
So, on to Principle #12… The bottom line is that successful marketing is largely a mystery, and the very best marketing effort is to create a great product. OK, that’s a bit wordy for a principle, I know. And it might seem to fly in the face of my previous posts.
We’ve spent the past eleven months looking at the principles that I’ve learned over my years in retail marketing. They’re good and valid principles, I’m convinced. But now that our year together is drawing to a close, I must, in good conscience, add a caveat to all that has come before.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#10 here.
So, on to Principle #11… Track your ROI – rigorously.
In case you’re not familiar with the term “ROI” – it’s a marketing term for “Return on Investment.” When we put money into any kind of savings or stocks, we expect a certain return on our investment, or the investment was not worthwhile. If next month’s bank statement showed that your savings account had yielded a negative interest rate, actually costing you money, you’d be looking for another bank, right?
Somehow when it comes to the investment of our time and energy we are far more willing to see a negative return. But just like money, time and energy are valuable, limited commodities.
If you’ve been following my monthly blog posts or doing any research into book marketing yourself, you’ve probably amassed a list of ideas that seem overwhelming. Where to start? How much should I do? How much can I do? Where is the best place to focus?
I want to share a little strategy I use when it comes to evaluating marketing ideas (and it’s a strategy you could apply to other areas of life as well).
Get out your lengthy list of marketing ideas, or “should-dos” that you’re feeling guilty about not having done yet to promote your books. If you’re comfortable with spreadsheets, I’d suggest putting the list in a column of a spreadsheet, because it will make the next step easier. But you can do this on paper, too.
Create four columns in front of your list. Label these columns Time, Money, Energy, and Potential. Then go through each idea and give it a score, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest.How much time will this idea take to implement? How much money? “Energy” refers to that more subjective factor of how draining this particular idea will be on you and your creativity. Does the thought of radio interviews make you sick to your stomach? If so, it’s a high energy drain. Does sending out postcards seem easy and fun? If so, it’s a low energy drain. While intangible, energy is still something we have in limited supply.Lastly, score the idea’s potential to affect book sales.How likely is this idea to cause a significant spike in book sales?
When you’ve got your scores all completed, use this simple formula:Potential / Time+Money+Energy.In other words, take the Potential number and divide it by the sum of the other three.Then sort your ideas according to this overall score, from highest to lowest.A simple truth will surface: the higher the number, the better the idea is for you.That “energy” score makes this personalized. Someone you know might be doing a great job promoting their book in a certain way, but you can’t even stand thinking about that idea. That means it’s probably not right for you. You also may find that some of the ideas you might have picked up first will not have the greatest ROI. Your investment of time, money and/or energy is not likely to have a good return.
And here is where our Principle comes into play.Be rigorous with yourself. Do not waste time on ideas that sap your energy, drain your bank account, or suck up your time, with very little to show for it. If the potential is very high, you may be willing to invest more of those three things. But make sure that the investment you make in marketing pays you back. If not, stop doing it!
It would take another blog post to get into details of the best ways to track your ROI from each activity. For now, be proactive in choosing your marketing tasks wisely from the beginning, and get creative about the ways in which you can mark their effectiveness.
Remember, your time, money and energy are all limited. Spend them wisely.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#9 here.
So, on to Principle #10… Give yourself a reality check.
Writing is hard. Making money at writing is even harder. There is considerable discussion and debate these days about what it takes to grow your readership, whether social networking efforts translate into book sales, etc. It’s not my intent to weigh in on that issue in this post, but to give you some real numbers to think through, that may help you as you make your own decisions.
The #1 problem in making money writing books is this: you have an extremely limited product line, with new products being released very infrequently. One book per year is probably average. Think about this. One low-profit product, released once per year.
Stick with me here, as we dive into some realistic numbers.
In my online retail business selling craft supplies, the average order is about $45.And about 20% of my customers purchase from me repeatedly in a year. My bottom-line profit on each order (after purchasing the wholesale products and paying for overhead) is probably about the same as a book royalty. But my average order is much higher than a book price, and I get more repeat business. By my calculations, one of my retail customers is worth about 8 times more than one book-buying reader. This means I need to sell books to 8 times more readers.
Let’s look at it another way. What is the annual salary you would be satisfied to take as a full-time writer? Figure about $1 in royalty/advance for every book-buying reader per year. In other words, an annual salary of $50,000 would require 50,000 book sales per year.
How many authors come anywhere close to this number? Not very many. Depressing? But reality.
You have three options, as I see it.
1.Do what it takes to build your readership to the point that you have as many book-buying readers as dollars you’d like to make. Only you can answer what it takes.
2.Develop multiple streams of writing-related income. In other words, get yourself more than one “product” to sell. This can take many forms – article-writing, writing and selling e-books, editing, book-doctoring, developing a successful blog that sells ad space, and a host of other options. Some of these can even build passive income.
3.Have another stream of income that is not writing-related, and do not expect to make a full-time salary with your writing.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with any of these options!
Perhaps you are willing to put your heart into #1 – developing a broad reader base. I’d suggest implementing the second or third option while you do. Expect to be busy for awhile. Realize it’s a difficult task. But then go for it.
If #2 seems attractive to you, there are so many options, and you can find lots of great information online to generate ideas and get started.
If you choose #3, then do the things that make sense to build your readership, but release yourself from frantic, burdensome marketing efforts driven by a desperation to make enough money. Yes, there are many things you can do to increase your success. Choose them wisely, as your time may be limited. Be realistic in your expectations.
Hopefully I have not discouraged you. As a novelist myself, I’m taking my medicine here this month, too. But marketing that is not based on realism will lead you to wasted efforts and even more discouragement.
Take an honest inventory of your desires, goals, and current situation this month. A reality check is a wise marketing principle.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#8 here.
So, on to Principle #9… Pay attention to the bigger “customers.”
Allow me to share an example from my retail business…
In my online craft supply business, most of my customers are women needing craft supplies for their own hobbies, or moms buying products for their kids. But in between all those “ordinary” customers, who purchase occasionally and don’t spend too much money at one time, there are what I call the “big fish.” These are the polymer clay artists who create beautiful beads and sell them as jewelry, or the quilling artists you can commission to create a keepsake for you, or the schools and summer camps buying Perler Beads for their kids. We identify these big fish by the size of their order, or by a business name in their customer data.
These folks are important. Just one of them can easily purchase as much as eight or ten “regular” customers, and they are also “influencers.” When they send kids home with their Perler Bead creations, the kids want their parents to buy more. When people see Quilling, they want to give it a try.
How does all this relate to book marketing? Well, give it some thought. Who are the “big fish” for your book? Who are the influencers? I’m not talking simply about influential readers, like active bloggers and book reviewers, though these people are certainly important.
I’m talking about going up a level or two. Who influences the bookstores to carry your books? The sales reps. Who influences the customers to buy your books? The bookstore staff.
No doubt you’re focusing a good deal of marketing efforts on readers, trying to add them one at a time, through your website, through distributing bookmarks, and all the other things you do. How much time and effort do you put into marketing your book to the sales reps at your publishing house? To bookstores?
With these “big fish” efforts, don’t forget all the principles we’ve talked about in previous posts. You want to think creatively of benefits for these people. Make sure you’re not the “squeaky wheel” – always whining for more attention. Instead, earn their attention by the things that you can offer them. Things they need. Reach out and make contact, interact with them and feed them fabulous information that will help them sell your books, offer encouragement along the way and show your appreciation for what they do.
I’m going to leave the creativity to you. I’d challenge you to spend a little time thinking about these higher level influencers, and how you can best benefit them.
Coming next month… Grow by expanding your product line.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#7 here.
So, on to Principle #8… Find a niche for your books.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#6 here.
So, on to Principle #7… Good website design is critical.
Two subpoints to this principle:
1.Content draws people and keeps them coming back. These days, the web is literally clogged with people who have something to say. Or nothing to say, but using cyberspace to do it! How do you have a website that is more than just another page among many? One word: content.
Sit with yourself awhile and brainstorm about everything connected with your books that you could offer on your website as additional content. Go deeper into your topics, write a few articles. Maybe a few short stories, or “extra” chapters the way DVDs have deleted scenes. What have you dug up in the course of your research that you can pass along? Your website should be more than one big advertisement for you and your work. It should offer something of value. How about some writing expertise? Recommended books?
Fill up your site with content and people will start finding you online in more ways than your web address in the back of your books. They’ll find you through search engines, and your site will begin to rise above the cacophony that is the Web.
2.In site design, sophistication prevails.Gone are the days when you could upload a template website, plug in some information, and look like a professional. Unless you are a truly a graphic designer, you need to get some outside help here. Today’s web surfer expects quality, and if your website says “amateur” it reflects on your writing. Do some exploring yourself, through the websites of other authors you know, and start to compile a list of designers whose work you like. Make some contacts and get price quotes. You don’t have to spend a fortune. But your website is your calling card to the world these days. I’ll say it again: it needs to look professional.
There are so many opinions on what works and what doesn’t work in book marketing. No one can really say for sure what causes a book to take off. But a nice-looking, content-rich website is a non-negotiable. Just as you would never show up at a speaking engagement dressed in your sweatpants, you shouldn’t settle for a website that looks sloppy, either.
Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#5 here.
So, on to Principle #6… Learn how to use email effectively.
Did you know that there are basic principles that, when followed, will greatly increase the chances that your email gets opened, read, clicked on, and acted upon? Do you know what they are?
Various studies show that anywhere from 45-60% of people make a decision about whether to open an email based on the subject line alone. And the wording and set up of your email itself can greatly influence people’s response to it. Last month we talked about making a good offer, but it’s equally important to word that offer in the best way possible, to gain the best response.
There are other principles at work for emails, e-newsletters, and e-zines as well, that will greatly affect whether your carefully-crafted message ends up in your readers’ Junk folder, or screened out as spam. Do you know what they are? For example, we talked last month about offering something free to your readers. But did you know that creating a subject line that begins or ends with the word “free” is very likely to get the message filtered to spam/junk? Much better to reword it to something like “Get a free…”
These principled aren’t complicated, and it pays to learn them. You’ll also find that lots of creative ideas for connecting with your readers will spring out of the research you do to discover the best practices for email marketing.
To get you started, I’m including a few links to some email guides you can download for free, from companies I respect. You will need to offer your email address in order to download these guides, but be assured that I have never been hassled in any way by these companies, and if you find yourself getting email from them that you do not wish to receive, unsubscribing is simple.
The following is not a link to a downloadable guide, but a link to a website that is absolutely outstanding in the free content it offers, as well as e-books for purchase. I cannot say enough good things about Ralph Wilson’s site. I highly recommend signing up for his newsletter if you are interested in marketing online. I read every single issue that comes to me, and almost always click on a link within it to read more. The link below will take you directly into the section of articles on Email Marketing.