Greetings from the sunny, hot, humid, whoever-thought-it-would-be-a-good-idea-to-invade-a-swamp-should-be-dragged-into-a-dark-alley-and forced to watch C-SPAN South! Remember, Tourist, when you visit Florida, don’t complain about the heat. It’s a swamp. It’s way below the Mason-Dixon Line. Mosquitoes lived here first, not Mickey Mouse. And it’s not a dry heat. People have been known to melt on the asphalt. (You’ve been forewarned.)
We want to welcome today to the Florida front porch (Sorry, we do have the ceiling fans are on high) an encore visit from our own Tiffany Amber Stockton! Welcome, Tiffany! Iced tea? Soda? Block of ice to use as a footstool? Maybe even a chair?
So, tell us, how have things been going since your last visit?
I have 21 books published so far. Some of the latest titles are: Brandywine Brides and The American Dream Romance Collection both released in 2015. I have Mountain of Love, Peach Blossom Parade, Christmas Angel, and Blue Ribbon Brides releasing in July, August, and November this year.
Wow. That’s a lot of brides, I mean books…in one year. After seeing “brandywine” in one of the titles, it did make me wonder about the “Peach Blossom” and the “Blue Ribbon.” I’m assuming those don’t have anything to do with Schnapps or the Pabst company, right? Never mind. My ADD’s getting in the way again. So, I understand you were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Oh, wow, so many things. The biggest is how difficult it is to write with little ones at your feet. Prior to having children, I was writing 3 books every year and constantly had ideas flowing with new stories in varying degrees of completion. Once the kids came, my life and spare time drastically shifted. No, there were no fewer hours in a day, but those hours I did have became consumed with family obligations—as they should. I discovered I needed a new schedule and new routine. I had to set a different pace and guard my writing time as sacred. Even if it was only fifteen or thirty minutes in one day, I had to stick to it. I’ve been at this now for fourteen years, and the first seven looked far different than the past seven. With both children in school full-time starting in August, I will soon find myself in yet another new “normal” as it will be defined by this next phase.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
Promotion doesn’t happen by itself, no matter how much time and effort you put into it at the start or how many readers and supporters you amassed. If you aren’t consistently promoting and putting out books, your name falls off the radar, and you have to work twice or three times as hard to get it back in front of your readers.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Honestly, the two investments of my time with a high return were a steady blog with quality content and securing speaking engagements somehow connected to the themes and stories I write. Oh, and I should also mention building a solid newsletter subscriber list. Everything else, including blog tours, announcements on Facebook, attempts to have posts shared or retweeted, online contests, and everything else I’ve done haven’t secured the steady sales I experienced when I remained steady with my blog and newsletters, and I booked speaking at regular intervals.
Which promotional activities didn’t work so well?
Blog tours didn’t do much for me other than meeting all the readers out there only looking for free books. Most visitors to the blogs wouldn’t even answer the questions. They’d only come to leave their name and email and move on. My social media presence hasn’t garnered many sales either, despite keeping in touch with all who comment, thanking those who follow me, and attempting to increase the likes on my author page and encourage participation there. It serves to connect me to my readers, but it doesn’t result in much increase in sales.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I have tried for years to encourage interaction and participation on my author page on Facebook, but even when I ask a direct question to elicit replies, I don’t get them. So right now, email and snail mail letters as well as meeting readers in person remain high on my list. Social media is a high
-tech alternative, but nothing beats high-touch. I have been tossing around the idea of doing YouTube videos, podcasts, or something along those lines, but I haven’t worked out all the details just yet. You’ll have to stay tuned to my web site and Facebook page for updates on that.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
You know, since my first book released less than a year after I was married, and only a few months before I got pregnant with our first child, I honestly haven’t had much time to think up “crazy” gimmicks for promotion. I did try to give away a free book to each person who wrote a review of another one of my books, but that completely bombed. Other than that, though, I haven’t ventured into the world of gimmicks just yet. We’ll see where my creativity takes me when my time isn’t demanded on such a large scale by little ones. Having school-aged children now will be a new stage, and I’m excited to see where it will lead!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I might not have done too many “gimmicks” that warranted a laugh, but there was a time when I joined with dozens of other authors to sign books in the Mall of America during an annual conference. Some of us near each other were lamenting about how many people simply walked on by without even giving us a second look or taking the time to figure out why we were all there. All of a sudden, a bestselling author who at the time had written over fifty books decided to spice things up, so she stepped away from the tables and distanced herself about twenty feet, then came rushing up to the table and grabbed a random book, shouting out how excited she was to see this author and get a signed copy of her book. She did this for three of us sitting right in a row. It didn’t garner immediate sales, but it did attract attention and stir the pot a bit. After she moved on and took the long way back to her own table, we saw a definite increase in foot traffic as well as mall walkers approaching to ask questions. Definitely a memorable event.
So, you’re telling us that being a writer is not only crazy, but you have to be a little crazy to be a writer/promoter, get out of your comfort zone, and be proactive in self-promotion? Tough sledding for a group of people who are introverts by nature. Does brandywine help? Never mind…
Getting back to the topic of promotion, did you see God open any doors you never expected?
Definitely! Although I haven’t been able to track sales garnered through my web site, I established one when I first began writing professionally. It’s seen many changes over the years, but that recurring promotion even when I’m not active has led me to several speaking engagements. I first began speaking at writer’s conferences, but once I added a speaking page to my web site, it’s led me to be invited to speak to women’s groups, one-day church seminars, MOPS groups, and even as a keynote as a women’s retreat weekend. At each one of those, I’ve been able to have my books available for sale, and sales were phenomenal. Like I said above, nothing in the world can beat high-touch in terms of connecting with existing and potential readers and launching word-of-mouth promotion.
So, for those authors on Cloud Nine, who having just signed the contract, are now sitting on pins and needles, awaiting their release date, what are your top tips for helping them promote their first book?
One, be sure you know your audience and who you are expecting to secure as your readers. Knowing your ideal reader will help you be more effective in the HOW of promoting.
Two, find a method of promotion you do well and stick to it. Try out several options and find the two or three that work the best. If social media isn’t for you, don’t worry about it. I’ve known plenty of authors who can barely be found online beyond a web site, yet they sell thousands of books every year. If a newsletter is too time-consuming, and it becomes more of a chore than enjoyment, skip it for now. There will be time to establish a newsletter later. Trial and error is how we learn, so get out there and do.
Three, gather a few handfuls of supporters before your first book releases and secure promises from them to blitz social media, email, and texting to announce your first book for sale. The quickest way to become a best-selling author is to plan when readers should buy your book and try to coordinate those sales to happen within a specific time frame. Create an online party on the day of your release, but secure those promoters ahead of time and get the sign-ups of potential readers prior to release day as well. That way, when you and your strongest supporters are all promoting, you’ll have a solid audience to contact.
Four, remember this is a continual learning process, so don’t fret if you feel like your debut novel didn’t do as well as expected. On the flip side, don’t fall for the trap of believing every book is going to be like your first, no matter the result. Each book is different, and you’ll need to treat each one accordingly.
Hope these helped some! Thanks for hanging out with me for a bit.
Man, oh, man, is #4 so true. Ask authors ten years ago how they used Twitter. Most would say, “Ten years ago, I would have said, ‘Twit-what?’ Did you just call me a name?”
Tiffany Amber Stockton, thanks for hanging out with us! Hope all your brides find husbands Daddy can be proud of (having three daughters, I can relate).
If you want to learn more about our author today, you can visit her at these locations:
Thanks to all of you for stopping by, as well. Stay cool!