Tag Archives: book marketing

Booked

stacks and stacks of books

My latest novel, If Dreams Can Die, launched just last month, but I’m already elbow-deep in The Big Shiny New.

No, that’s not the name of a new book, but an umbrella term for the myriad projects and events currently on my plate. I’ll go into more detail in the months ahead, but for now, here’s an overview of what’s coming next from yours truly.

(Note to self: consider the title The Big Shiny New for a future work.)

Projects

Magic’s Daughter

Who: For fans of sword-and-sorcery fantasy, especially folks who enjoyed The Renegade Chronicles, with a possible skewing toward a female demographic.

What: A novel set in Altaerra before and during The Renegade War starring Selena Nelesti, a young noblewoman who proves knowledge is both power and peril.

When: Magic’s Daughter will be released as a serial (i.e. chapter by chapter) via the Radish app starting in Fall 2019 and as a paperback and e-book in 2020.

Where: https://radishfiction.com

Why: Partly because I want to explore a new revenue stream and partly because the story and intended audience lends itself to the medium.

‘Sir Larpsalot’

Who: For YA readers, especially males age 13-15.

What: A humorous adventure about teen larpers (live-action roleplayers) who must work together to rescue their friend from an all-too-real fantasy realm. Think Galaxy Quest meets D&D.

When: I hope to have my outline done this fall and complete a first draft by the end of the year. Release date could be as early as 2020 but more likely 2021.

Where: the paperback and e-book will be available at Amazon.com.

Why: Sir Larpsalot started as an idea for a comic book character, but over time, the concept evolved into a book with a full-fledged cast of characters (including Elvish Presley and Tom Foolery). I’m looking forward to writing a book my kids can read and enjoy.

New Website

Who: For present and future fans of my fiction.

What: A complete overhaul of this website, courtesy of BrownBoots Interactive (where I work as a content specialist).

When: Sometime later this year.

Where: david-michael-williams.com

Why: My current site is 7 years old, which is equivalent to 97 in website years. I need more functionality than an out-of-the-box, WordPress-hosted website offers—and can’t wait to be rid of the stupid ads that pop up everywhere!

Events

Downtown Fond du Lac Farmers Market

Who: Fond du Lac members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin: Mark J. Engels, Thomas P. Ramirez, Christopher Whitmore, and I.

What: We’ll be selling and signing our books at the local farmers market.

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 15.

Where: In front of the Gallery & Frame Shop, 94 S. Main St., Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Why: The Downtown Fond du Lac Farmers Market is very well attended. Hopefully some of the marketgoers appreciate good books.

Books Books Books Books (Books)

Who: Friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else who loves books!

What: Instead of a traditional book release event, I’m combining the celebration of my new novel with a rummage sale featuring hundreds of used books, fiction and nonfiction, across a variety of genres—all for 25 cents apiece. Earnings support my future writing and publishing endeavors.

When: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22.

Where: Outside my home, 1122 Carriage Circle, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Why: Cover art, Library of Congress registrations, barcodes, ISBNs, proof copies, miscellaneous marketing efforts—these things cost money, which means I must sell more books.

I’m booked for a few more gigs farther out. The new website will have a page devoted to events, but for now, you can find details on Facebook.

Busy is good. Although I feel fully booked right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more events appeared on my agenda before year’s end.

The writing is on the wall.

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‘The End’ is not the end

road displaying "start" and "finish" signs

Last week I finished proofing the third and final draft of If Dreams Can Die.

Which brings me to a whole new beginning.

Because I’m an indie publisher, the end of a manuscript just means it’s time to take off my author hat and try on a few others for the production and marketing phases.

With a handful of other books under my belt, I’ve learned how to streamline the process for publishing paperbacks and e-books. Some of it requires a creativity all its own, while other tasks are more tedious than tricky.

In case you’ve ever wondered how a story gets from my laptop to your hands, here’s an overview of what happens after “The End.”

Front and back matter

While the story itself makes up most of the pages, there is plenty of other text needed to transform a manuscript into professional-looking book. Here are a few examples of what I typically include before the prologue and after the epilogue:

  • Copyright page: Largely comprised of legalese and other details average readers don’t care about, the copyright page is nevertheless required for books sold at Amazon.com and other online retailers.
  • Other works by the authors: It would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t list my other books, both ones that are from the same series as well as earlier works.
  • Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Sin Dwells DeepEpigraph: Although this is by no means mandatory, all three of The Soul Sleep Cycle installments include a relevant definition and quote prior to the prologue.
  • Title page: This is by far the easiest page to write, since it displays the book title, author name, and publisher only.
  • Dedication page: The dedication is a short page that calls attention to a person or group who helped with the creation of the book. Minimal though the content may be, I nevertheless put a lot of thought into this each time.
  • Acknowledgements: This section near the back goes into more details than the dedication page, listing individual thankyous. In The Renegade Chronicles, I published the same acknowledgements in all three volumes. For The Soul Sleep Cycle, I included this section in Book One only.
  • About the author: Although the length and format of these mini bios vary from author to author and publisher to publisher, they are nonetheless an expected back-matter element. I always use the same portrait and few paragraphs, making minor alterations as needed.
  • Teaser: If there is to be another book in a series, I always put the prologue or first chapter of what comes next. The hope, of course, is that the reader will get hooked and buy the book to keep reading.
  • Everything else: There are no hard and fast rules about what other sections should be included. Largely, it depends on the book. For example, I included a map of Capricon in The Renegade Chronicles as well as an appendix that serves as a quick-reference glossary of important people, places, and magical items. I’m toying with the idea of creating a timeline and an afterword for If Dreams Can Die. We’ll see.

And then there’s the back-cover blurb, which has to be some of the most agonizing text an author ever has to write. I dedicated a lot of time to this for If Sin Dwells Deep (as described here), and I expect the experience for If Dreams Can Die will prove equally challenging.

The cover

A book’s cover is arguably the most important marketing tool an author has. If the cover misses the mark, well, that’s a really difficult obstacle to overcome.

Fortunately, I’ve known and worked with a lot of talented graphic designers for my day job as a marketing specialist. I’m absolutely in love with all of my book covers. The process has been different for each endeavor, but for The Soul Sleep Cycle, I’ve starting using a planning document that conveys the following information to the designer:

  • Ideas for tone
  • Thoughts on the color palette
  • Possible concepts for main art
  • Ideas for background imagery
  • Suggested typefaces
  • Specifications for paperback cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
  • Specifications for e-book cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
  • Production timeline

Even though my contributors tend to be friends, I nevertheless insist on keeping the acquisition of cover art as professional as possible, using work agreements/contracts to keep ownership and rights clear. I also compensate them for their excellent work.

I recently met with Mary Christopherson, the graphic artist who kicked butt on the covers for If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep. I shared my thoughts on If Dreams Can Die’s cover, and—because it is a true collaboration—she shared hers. Together, we came up with a plan and will touch base often throughout the project in order to come up with a final product we can both be proud of.

Proofing

As an indie publisher, I try to keep as much of a project in-house (read: DIY) as possible. The cover is one exception to this, and proofing is another.

Manuscript with many editor flagsDon’t get me wrong. I always proof my work. In fact, I create a style guide for each series so that I am consistent in how I represent things like dates, titles, song names, and so forth.

But even if I think my text is pretty clean after proofing it, I will never be able to catch all of my mistakes. Common culprits are missing words, extra words, and homophones. Again, I’m blessed to know someone who combs through the entire book, including front and back matter, to mark up what I miss. (Thanks, Dusty!)

Once I get the edits back, it takes me a couple of hours to update the paperback and e-book files.

Layout

Professionals who excel in graphic design might use programs like Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. Since I’m more frugal—both with my money and the time it would take to master such software—I use Microsoft Word.

Suffice it so say this is not ideal. I’ve waged many a battle with Word to ensure page breaks behave and spacing remains consistent throughout the book. This step once took weeks to complete. Even though I still have the occasional skirmish with Word’s obtuse interface, I’m much faster these days.

Worse comes to worse, I just look at the files from my past books and reverse engineer the result.

Odds and ends

Then there are the mundane tasks scattered throughout every phase:

  • Assigning ISBNs (the unique identifying number) for paperback and e-book editions
  • Buying the barcode for the paperback
  • Ordering and reviewing a proof copy of the paperback
  • Registering for copyright
  • Following the many, many steps needed so that the book is ready to print on demand
  • Getting everything in order with Kindle Digital Publishing to make the e-book available

Screen shot of Kindle Digital Publishing dashboard

Marketing

I won’t go into too much detail here, since book marketing is a big topic all on its own. What I will say, however, is that there are myriad marketing channels—from big, expensive tactics to quick but important touchpoints—and I learn something new with every book I publish.

With If Dreams Can Die, my marketing plan will have to be modified since it’s the third book in a series. For instance, it probably doesn’t make sense to create an advanced reader copy (ARC) and pay to appear in NetGalley, since reviewers who didn’t read the first two books won’t gravitate to Book Three. I’m better of reaching out directly to reviewers who are already acquainted with the series.

Likewise, a Goodreads Giveaway might not be worth the investment.

Determining the best way to promote The Soul Sleep Cycle’s conclusion is just another to-do on a long list that will keep me busy from now until If Dreams Can Die launches in early May.

Then it really will be “The End”—at least until I decide to release the entire series as an e-book collection.

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’Tis the season to slow down

I haven’t been on social media much lately.

Likewise, my email responses have been somewhat sluggish. I haven’t attended any events over the past few weeks either.

Because I’m a small business owner—and admittedly a little anal retentive—I track all of my hours in a spreadsheet, and let me tell you, the weekly average took a plunge about a month ago.

Yours truly and Marvel the Wonder Pup (aka Marv)

Excuses could be made. But even without a new dog in our home (see adorable puppy pic to the right) and even if a family member weren’t riding a most un-fun roller coaster in a nearby hospital, I know my productivity would have dropped like thermometer mercury at this time of year.

The December doldrums are a thing…

Then again, you likely haven’t noticed my absence because you’re busy also.

Shovel-worthy weather, holiday hoopla, cumulative exhaustion from your own Year of Yes—whatever the factors, the final month of the year is the perfect time to scale back a bit and, ideally, recharge before 2019 comes charging onto the scene with a slew of new goals.

Since I don’t have time to write a long blog post and you don’t have time to read one, this handful of links to stuff I did in the not-too-distant past will have to suffice. If you have a moment between obligations to click, go for it!

If not, I completely understand.

  • Fellow author and good friend Mark J. Engels and I were interviewed for Read.Write.Repeat. Listen to the podcast!
  • I was also featured on Author Showcase and talked about being an “authorpreneur.” Watch the video!

I doubt I’ll be posting to this site before the new year, so I hope you all enjoy your respective holidays.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue my valiant struggle to make significant progress on the final (yes, final!) edits to If Dreams Can Die, Book Three of The Sleep Cycle.

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My year of yes

While watching a hardscrabble soccer game with my son, I proffered this platitude:

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Cue the eye roll.

My 10-year-old swiftly informed me there were posters proclaiming that very notion scattered throughout his school—three of them. Cliché though the expression may be, it’s nonetheless true that you can’t succeed if you don’t try. And probability suggests the more often you try, the better your odds of achieving.

I didn’t realize I was taking my own (borrowed) advice until I caught Yes Man on HBO the other night. That’s the one where a play-it-safe, stuck-in-a-rut loan officer makes a covenant with himself, promising to say yes to every request and opportunity.

In the movie, operating in an affirmative absolute yielded comical results. But this is real life. Unlike Jim Carrey’s character, I’d never blindly agree to everything. Lately, however, I’ve started forcing myself to come up with reasons to do something rather than not doing it.

As a result, 2018 is proving to be a year of trying new things and taking chances.

Destabilizing events

It began at the end of last year. While updating my business plan, I made the decision to attend more events. Why? My records showed I sold more books face-to-face than through any other marketing tactics in 2016 and 2017.

As a result, I earmarked a handful of conventions, conferences, and occasions where one might peddle one’s literary wares. Some were repeat appearances, but I also added a few new events, including Lakefly Writers Conference and WisCon.

So far sales have varied greatly from venue to venue. However, I’ve also realized networking can be its own reward.

Destination: collaboration

I was fortunate enough to meet two other fantasy authors at Lakefly. We had fun trading stories about our individual writing, publishing, and marketing experiences before the the doors to the vendor room opened as well as over lunch. Those conversations continue today via group chats.

There’s certainly value in learning from the successes and missteps of other writers’ “yeses.”

The biggest thing to come out of meeting Malinda Andrews and Rebekah K. Bryan, however, was an invitation to contribute Rebels and Fools to an e-book box set comprised of six complete fantasy novels.

In fact, Sixfold Fantasy became a reality earlier this month. Buy it here.

The play’s the thing

Sometimes opportunities pass us by without our even knowing. That almost happened to me a week ago when an email that looked suspiciously like spam popped into my inbox. Thankfully, I took a closer read before banishing it to my junk folder.

Lo and behold, it ended up being an invitation to participate in something called the 24-Hour Theater Experience. This October, a handful of writers will be given a theme, number of characters, and nine hours to write a 10-minute play, which will then be rehearsed and performed by the local community theater troupe at a swanky Fond du Lac venue—all within in the span of a single day.

Turns out someone recommended me to be one of the writers. (Thanks, Dusty!)

Now I don’t fancy myself a playwright, but I do have experience writing scripts for commercials and other videos. It’s always a thrill to see actual people speaking the words you put on a page.

Comfort zone? Looks like I’m gonna exit stage left.

Action affirmative

Here’s another adage: man plans, and God laughs.

I try to keep my production calendar as flexible as possible. Some projects—such as a comic book collaboration codenamed ONE-SHOT—started out as a “yes” but collectively became “no, not right now.”

On the other hand, I just finished writing a short story that was decidedly not part of Plan A and am contemplating publishing an e-book anthology of my shorter works—though not until 2019.

Yes, 2018 has already put plenty on my plate!

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100 agonizing words

I recently spent five excruciating hours at my keyboard and have less than 100 words to show for it.

Granted, they are some of the most important words for my next novel—second only to the title, I’d argue—but the fact that so much time yielded so little leads to believe that blurbs are the blight of the publishing world.

OK, I may have griped about the challenges of various writing exercises over the years:

Today, however, I’m prepared to go on record as saying all else pales in comparison to penning the dreaded book blurb.

Not to be confused with a full-fledged synopsis (the bare-bones summery generally reserved for agent and publisher queries), a blurb is a relatively small chunk of text tasked with huge responsibility: selling the idea of the book to readers.

Blurbs are often found on the back cover as well as the product description page of an online retailer. Working in conjunction with an engaging cover art and a snappy title, the successful blurb hooks the shopper, converting a prospect into a customer.

Long blurbs run the risk of revealing too much. (Technically, revealing the protagonist, antagonist, and main problem should suffice.) Conversely, if the blurb is too concise or vague, an amazing plot could come off as uninspired.

It’s a balancing act even tightrope walkers fear.

Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Souls Can Sleep

Here’s the book blurb from If Souls Can Sleep.

 

For my last book, If Souls Can Sleep, I limited the blurb to five sentences: two for an enticing headline, one to tease the protagonist and plot, and two to introduce the world of dream drifters. Because that blurb received praise from reviewers, I took a similar approach to Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

Without further preamble, here is the still-in-progress blurb for If Sin Dwells Deep:

 

She swore to defend the dreamscape.
But who will save her from herself?

When her mentor goes missing, straight-laced Allison must rely on her alter-ego, the rebellious goddess Syn, to rescue him. Trusting anyone at Project Valhalla could cost her her life, but fighting alone might damn her very soul.

 


 

If Sin Dwells Deep — a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep — exposes the secret world of dream drifters and the classified government operation charged with protecting the collective unconscious from those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and what lies beyond.

 

Given how important these 100 words are, I welcome/encourage/demand feedback. Would that blurb motivate you to flip open the cover or, better yet, add to cart? If not, why?

Thanks in advance for your comments!

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Exhibit will feature If Souls Can Sleep cover art

When it comes to event marketing, the more, the merrier!

In that spirit, I’m delighted to announce that my books will be featured alongside the artwork of some of incredibly talented individuals: my coworkers.

Among them is the cover artist for both the forthcoming “Ghost Mode” short story and my next novel. In fact, those who attend the artist reception Dec. 15 will get a sneak peek at the If Souls Can Sleep cover art.

Here’s more information about the event from the press release I crafted yesterday:

Four employees holding their works in front of a BrownBoots Interactive sign

From left: David Michael Williams, Samantha Nelson, Mary Christopherson, and Alan Hathaway.

BrownBoots colleagues will showcase their off-the-clock creativity at Tour the Town

Pottery, digital art, illustration and fiction will come together to create an eclectic exhibit at the next Fond du Lac art walk.

Four employees of BrownBoots Interactive, a full-service marketing and website development agency located in downtown Fond du Lac, will share their artistic endeavors and passion projects at the next Tour the Town Art Walk, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15. The artists, along with their diverse display, will appear at the Riverwalk Art Center, 33 W. 2nd St.

“While providing our clients with stellar creativity is a big part of the day-to-day at BrownBoots, many of us also extend our talents to endeavors outside of the agency,” Alan Hathaway, president and owner of BrownBoots, said. “This exhibit is a testament not only to the team’s impressive scope of abilities, but also their aptitude as individual artists.”

Hathaway will display and sell his wheel-thrown pottery featuring an assortment of custom-formulated glazes. His works range from cups to vases to decorative bowls, all of which he formed and fired at his home studio in Eden, Wis.

Samantha Nelson, a web developer at the agency, will show and sell her illustrations, which cover several narrative ideas, notably wildlife and concept artwork. Her works span the gamut of pen and ink, watercolor and digital painting.

Graphic designer and photographer Mary Christopherson will contribute samples of her digital art that prominently feature photo manipulation, a technique that uses Photoshop to seamlessly combine multiple photographs to create a new image.

David Michael Williams, content specialist, will sign and sell copies of his sword-and-sorcery novels, The Renegade Chronicles, as well as present a sneak peek at the cover of his next book, “If Souls Can Sleep,” designed by Christopherson.

Riverwalk Art Center will host the Artists of BrownBoots exhibit through Jan. 19, 2018.

I’ll have more information about the release of If Souls Can Sleep—including links for preorders—in the days ahead. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out.

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Cancer: one hell of a plot twist

I wish I could say my intentions were altruistic, but that would be a lie.

When I first caught wind of the One Million Project—a charitable organization determined to raise £1,000,000 for cancer research by selling short story anthologies—my first thought was how the One Million Project and One Million Words, my publishing company, might work together.

After all, our brands sound awfully similar, and we both deal with fiction. If I could donate one of my short stories to help secure money for cancer research while gaining some exposure as an author—international exposure—that’s win-win, right?

Besides, I hated cancer.

Cover of the first One Million Project short story anthology

Proceeds from One Million Project anthologies are donated to great causes, including cancer research.

Or, at least, I disliked it in the same abstract way most Midwesterners lament hurricanes and earthquakes. They don’t happen to us, but we don’t like them on principle. I really didn’t have anything against cancer personally because cancer hadn’t affected me personally.

The fact is there is no shortage of causes in the world, no dearth of diseases that kill people or otherwise make their lives intolerable. I gave to the American Cancer Society a while back because a friend who knew someone suffering from cancer asked me to. I donated once and have deleted every follow-up email from the American Cancer Society since then.

Come to think of it, I delete a lot of emails and ignore many social media posts that advocate for activism. Can you imagine if you shared, liked, donated to, and genuinely cared about every injustice in the world? But, honestly, that’s what cancer research was to me when I told the editor of the One Million Project he could publish my short story, “Ghost Mode,” for free: one good cause is as good as another.

Maybe I was more aware of cancer than some of the other sicknesses and social issues sweeping our planet. Certainly, cancer has been around awhile, its presence ubiquitous in all manner of media. As it happens, I chose brain cancer as the instrument of one of my character’s death. I also remember pondering the possibility that cellular sabotage might be a side-effect of our species trying to evolve. Natural selection at work and all that. The premise of a sci-fi story I’ll probably never write.

However, cancer went from being an intellectual concept to a tangible presence when my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March.

I won’t go into the ugly details. Anyone who has ever come into contact with any disorder under the umbrella category of cancer knows it’s never pretty. Struggles seldom are. That’s why we use phrases like “the fight against cancer” and talk about sufferers as though they are warriors. Because they are—soldiers in an insidious civil war where their bodies are battlefields and the rebels will never negotiate, let alone surrender.

It’s tempting to portray cancer as a villain if you’ve endured the chaos it sows, especially if it robs a loved one of his or her life. Perhaps that’s why we personify natural disasters. When the enemy has a name, it’s easier to band together to battle against him.

I see cancer more as a plot twist. It can happen at the beginning, middle, or end of a narrative. For the patient, everything changes in an instant. Time splits into two eras: Before Cancer and After Diagnosis. And yet good can bubble up from the bad. Friends and family come together, gaining clarity of what is truly important in life. Individuals overcome.

Hope prevails.

I’m delighted (and blessed!) to report that my father’s prognosis is optimistic. I write this from his living room as he watches a TV show about fishing. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be doing some fishing of his own next spring.

Tuesday used to be a day of isolation for me—a pocket of time in which I could be creative and productive on my own terms. Life intervened with one hell of a plot twist. But all in all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help my family. For me, this has been a reminder that fiction is fine, but the real world takes precedence.

Of course, I’m still writing as much as I can, when I can…hence, this blog post.

One Million Project’s fantasy anthology is slated for November or December. When it comes out, I’ll still be excited for “Ghost Mode” to reach an international audience, but the release will be much more meaningful than that. And even though he’s not a sci-fi kind of guy, I’m dedicated the story to my dad.

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