Author Archives: Ruth Ann Nordin

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out http://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.

Book Promotion is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Strategy

I read this excellent article “Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn’t Make Sense” and wanted to pass it on.

The article fits in with the topic of this post which is why we’re not all called to promote books the same way.

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Is there really only one way of doing things?

I get weary of hearing marketing gurus insist that their way of doing book promotion is the “correct” way of doing things.  This sets up the idea that every author who doesn’t follow their advice to a “T” is somehow a failure.

Imagine if I were to write a blog post over here telling you that every writer must write romance.  Then, I not only told you the genre you must write, but I also told you the plot you must use and the type of characters you must include into that plot.  And if you don’t do it my way, then you’re not writing correctly.  Such a thing would be silly, and yet, this is what I see a lot of marketing people tell writers.  They must do X, Y, and Z, and it must be done in a certain way.  If you don’t do it exactly as they think it must be done and you don’t sell enough books, then you have contributed to your own failure.

Nature testifies to the value of being different.

Think of this world we live on.  Is the landscape the exact same across the globe?  Are we in a world that is only mountains?  And more than that, do all the mountains look the exact same?  Of course not.  We live in a world that is full of variety.  Some places have mountains that are covered in snow.  Some have mountains covered in trees.  Some have mountains that have rocks in them.  And there aren’t mountains all over the place.  The mountains are in certain places.  In other places, you have oceans, the plains, hills, deserts, etc.  So the world itself suggests there is no one way of doing things.

Writers’ personalities are just as different as nature is.

Now let’s consider something else.  People have different personalities.  And as writers, we have different interests.  Not everyone writes romance.  Thank goodness for that because I like reading a variety of genres!

If you break down the genres, you’ll find a whole list of sub-genres that narrow things down further.  In romance alone, you have historical western romance, Regency romance, Victorian romance, Highlander romance, contemporary romance.  If you want to break it down further, you can add other niches like paranormal elements like vampires and werewolves.  There are so many divisions within fiction that a person can get very specific. More than that, not everyone writes fiction.  Nonfiction also has it’s assortment of variety.

Expanding on this, not everyone writes the same length of book, either.  Some write short stories.  Others write novellas or novels.  And some even write more than 100K words.  If someone were to tell writers they must write in a very small niche with X, Y, and Z requirements, they’d be laughed at.

So why are we pigeon holing writers?

This is what I feel we do with book promotion.  We box writers into believing they must engage in certain activities online in a certain way if they are to be successful.  (Success often means money, of course.  The intrinsic value you bring to a reader’s life or the passion you had as you wrote the story rarely get factored into “success”.)

What marketing gurus often fail to take into consideration is that each writer has a unique personality, and what works for one personality type is not going to work for another. Yes, there might be some valid things to consider, but not everyone has the same talent.  For example, speaking engagements is one way to promote a book.  The idea is that you talk and generate interest for you book that people might then buy.  I tried speaking.  I was awful at it.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear me give a speech.  So that type of technique would be all wrong for me.  I’ve also tried doing those newsletters where you update your readers on something every week or so to remind them you exist, but honestly, I have no interest in trying to email people that often.  I’d rather do blog posts and send out an email when I have a new book out.

The point: 

Instead of trying to put writers into a little pigeon hole, I think it’s time we embraced the fact that book promotion is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Below I’m going to throw in some examples of why I say this:

1. Not all writers need to do the same type of social networking promotion.

I keep hearing every author needs a blog.  I blog because I love it.  I may not be blogging as much as I used to, but I do still blog.  However, I would not tell writers they must have a blog if they want to be successful.  Blogging isn’t for everyone.  Not everyone wants to write posts.  I know authors who are much happier engaging with readers on Facebook and Google +.  They have no idea what to talk about on a blog, nor do they have the interest in maintaining one.  They’d rather writer a couple of sentences and engage directly with readers.  Some even prefer Instagram or Pinterest.  Some like the forums.

My point is, the choice of where a writer spends time needs to be a good fit for their personality.  To tell someone they must be doing a specific social activity or aren’t promoting right is not helping that person.  Instead, it would be far better to tell writers that they ought to pick the things that are the best match for their personalities and focus their time and effort on those things.  Yes, they might lose potential readers by not doing a certain activity, but they might gain readers when they do another one.

2. Not all writers have the same amount of time to devote to book promotion.

Some of the tips I hear from marketing gurus would take far too much time than I personally have, and I know other writers who are even more strapped for time than I am.  Maybe the marketing guru has a lot of spare time to devote to a certain activity.  Maybe they aren’t working a full-time job.  Maybe they aren’t trying to write new books.  Maybe they don’t have children and a spouse at home who need meals prepared and a house cleaned.  Maybe they don’t have an adult child with special needs still living with them.  But some of us do.   And we’re trying to get more books written so our current readers and prospective readers have something to buy.  Some writers make book covers or edit to make money, which adds another reason why their time is so limited.  My point is that life is busy, and sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything we’re told we “must” do.

Again, I want to emphasize that sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all.  For certain writers, they might have the time.  But not every writer does.  So it’s not fair to tell a writer who is strapped for time that if they aren’t spending X amount of time doing Y, then they are hurting their chances of success.

3. Not all writers have the same amount of money to throw into book promotion.

I know writers who are living on social security.  I know writers who are in debt.  I know writers who are struggling to make ends meet.  Not everyone can buy a Bookbub ad.  Not everyone can pay $600 for a marketing guru’s course.  I even heard of a writer who spent $1500 in one month on book promotion.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head on that one.  I don’t have that kind of money to throw into ads.  I’m too busy digging up money for the IRS so I don’t accrue a penalty for not paying my quarterly taxes on time.

For some of us, even $100 can mean the difference between eating for the month or not eating.  I know the topic of ads is a popular thing, but not everyone can afford them.  So to suggest that a struggling writer is a failure at book promotion just because they aren’t buying ads is putting them through needless guilt.

Now, this isn’t limited to placing ads.  Other examples could be writer’s conferences, online marketing courses, or giveaway items.  There are others, but this post is long enough as it is.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is that writers need the freedom and relief of knowing they aren’t failures just because they don’t promote books a certain way.  I know authors who have written excellent books who have done ads, mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, and other things very well.  And yet, their sales aren’t showing it.  You’d swear by the lack of sales that they aren’t effectively promoting their books or that their books suck.  Things couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are doing everything right, and for some reason, they aren’t selling as well as they should be.

Whether marketing gurus will ever admit this or not, there are forces outside of our control that impacts our sales.  We have no control over which reader reads our books, likes it enough to pass it on to others, or even if a particular reader has a high level of influence within his/her circle.  All writers can do is control the product (book) and the type of promotion they choose to do.  From there, it is out of our control.

So take heart if you’re a struggling writer.  You’re not alone, even if you might feel like it.  No one can guarantee your success if you follow their formula.  They can only give you strategies that might help.  But they can’t promise you anything.  Take their advice with a grain of salt and apply that which fits your personality best.

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But I Thought The Income Was Only Supposed to Go Up

Over and over I keep hearing people say, “As you continue publishing more and more books, your income only goes up.”  I don’t know where this assumption comes from, but in any business, you can increase productivity and see a loss.  So why can’t the same be true for books?  Why must we assume that income never drops if you publish books?  Maybe it’s because no one seems to be talking bringing it up.  Maybe they are in forums, but I can’t remember seeing a blog post that addresses the issue of a dropping income.

So I thought I’d write it.

I’m lucky.  This is the first year I’ve seen a drop in income since starting out with ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords in 2009.  I know I’m not the first author to see a drop in income because I’ve talked to some who have.  My income went up from 2009 to 2014.  In 2015, it stayed the same.  This year, it dropped by half.  In the previous years, I averaged six novels a year.  As of August 1 of this year, I have published six novels.  I have two more done and up on pre-order.  I plan to publish at least two more before December 31.  So even though I’ll be publishing ten novels instead of six, I am still on my way to only making half of what I did this year.

falling income

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Why am I telling you this?

Because the idea that you can write more books and expect an increase in income is a myth.  It’s not fair to tell writers that their income will always go up.  I know we’re in an expanding global ebook market, but that doesn’t mean we’re all going to see a boom internationally.   In some countries, my income is actually down.  In others, it’s gone up, but we’re talking $10.  Not enough to pay any bills with.

So now that we addressed the problem, what do are we supposed to do about it.

1. Realize there is no “sure” thing.

Change seems to be the only constant in life.  The one thing we can depend on is the fact that nothing stays the same.  The sooner we take this to hear, the easier it’ll be to adapt.

2. Try something different.

Sometimes we can get stuck in our ways.  What we did in the past might have worked great.  For example, the $0.99 price point was big back in 2009-2013, and if you had a book set to free, you could pretty much guarantee a lot of downloads.  But then things shifted.  With the increase of books into the market, those two tactics weren’t as effective as they used to be.

I don’t know what you’ll want to try that’s different.  Maybe it’s running a Facebook ad.  Maybe it’s revamping the old covers.  Maybe it’s audiobooks.  Maybe it’s hiring someone to handle the marketing side for you.  Maybe it’s offering online courses in an area you’re an expert at.

I chose to focus on writing one book after another in the series.  I used to take my time in finishing a series, but this time around, I wrote one book right after the other.  I make sure to advertise the pre-order in the back matter so people know what the next book is and where to get it.  The technique has worked well.  It might not have brought my income back to what it was last year, but it’s kept my head above water.

3. Say no to the things that aren’t helping you reach your income goal.

This can be hard to do, especially if we enjoy those things.  But it’s necessary if you’re going to have the time you need to do the things that will help earn you more money.

Take a look at how you spend your time.  What can be cut out?  What can you put in that will help you reach your goal?  I’m not saying what you put in will work, but it’s worth a try because if you don’t try, you won’t know.  And guess what?  You might stumble on something that does work.

I cut back on my blogging.  I enjoy blogging, but it’s not how I make money.  I say no a lot to TV/movies.  I’ve cut back to the time I’ll watch anything to 1-2 hours before bed, and that is to wind down.  More often than note, I’ll fall asleep while watching something.  I said no to spending time browsing forums online.  I used to go to Kindleboards a lot to see what was going on in the publishing world.  These days, I just don’t have the time.  If something newsworthy pops up, usually it’ll be on The Creative Penn or Sell More Books Show podcasts, which I listen to while cooking.

So figure out what areas you can trim out.  This is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worth doing.

4. Treat this like a job.

If you don’t take this seriously, the people in your life will take advantage of your time.  You need to set boundaries with them.  If you have to leave the house, then leave the house.  Set up specific hours and days you’ll work.  Decide how much time will be devoted to writing and how much time will be devoted to non-writing business tasks.  Then make those the priority.  If you were working for someone else and had to be at the office from 8am to 5pm, would you skip a couple hours to do something else?  Of course not.  So you need to take your business as seriously as you would if you were working for someone else.

I stopped writing at home.  My husband and kids kept bugging me while I was working, and no matter how much I told them to leave me alone, they won’t.  I decided to go to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore and treat that as my office.  My writing output went from 1500-2000 words in a day to 3000-4000 on average.  So I easily doubled my word count in the same amount of time simply by making myself leave the house in order to write.   I still do my non-writing related business tasks like emails, blogging, and social media at home.  But when I’m at Barnes & Noble, I keep the Internet off and only write.  I leave my husband with the kids and just deal with the fact that the house isn’t going to be as clean as I’d like when I get home.

5.  Piggybacking off of #4, make sure to take days off.

Otherwise, you’re going to burn out.  I work Monday through Friday.  I don’t write on weekends, though I might send out a new release email when a book is published on Saturday or Sunday.  I make up these emails and blog posts in advance so all I have to do is click a button.  But otherwise, this is the day to spend with family and friends and to have a life outside of the business.

I know it can be hard to take days off to relax.  I’m a workaholic.  I hate sitting around and doing nothing.  I like to be on the move.  So if you’re balking at the idea of taking two days a week off from your writing and non-writing business-related tasks, I understand why.  It took me until this year to finally do this.  But it has been the reason why I’ve been able to publish more books this year without sacrificing the quality in my writing.  I’m not working harder.  I’m working smarter.  I’ve learned a couple days off every week helps to buffer me from stressing out.  You might have to find another routine that works better for you.  This is just the way that works for me.

6. Quitting is a valid option.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who decides writing is not for them.  You only fail if you don’t try.  Writing is harder than it looks.  Not everyone is meant to be a writer, just as not everyone is meant to be a singer or football player or an engineer.  I don’t adhere to this notion that everyone should write a book.  I also don’t believe that quitting is for wimps.  I think if you try something and find out it’s not a good fit for you, then you should move on to something you can be more passionate about.  You can take whatever lessons you learned along the way and become a better person for it.

For example, I was in a high school play, and I learned that acting is a lot harder than it looks.  I was bad at it.  Another example, I thought I might want to go into public speaking at conferences.  After doing a couple, I realized I’m not good at it.  Also, after trying a podcast for a very brief time, I learned it was a lot more work than I cared to do with it.  So there are things I tried but found out weren’t a good fit for me.

Now, do you quit because you can’t make money but love writing?  That’s a tough one, and it’s a question only you can answer.  Not making the money is a valid reason to quit.  You need food.  You need shelter.  You need clothes.  You have to make sure you’re able to obtain those things before you can worry about writing.  You can have a job and write in your spare time.  But the fact of the matter is, you only have so many hours in a day, and you can only do so much with that time.  How you spend it is up to you, and some of you might decide you don’t want to spend your spare time working on a book.  You might want to be doing something else instead.  There’s nothing wrong with that.   Or maybe you’ll want to take a break from it for now and come back to it later.  That’s an option worth noting, too.

*****

So those are my ideas on coping when the income drops.  Does anyone have any they’d like to offer?

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Coping With Stress

There are many factors that can lead to stress in a writer’s life.  The problem is that there are some sources of stress you can’t control.  Examples of things you can’t control are what people think of your books, how well your promotional efforts will pay off, and what online retailers are going to do next.

stress article

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So how can you cope?  After struggling with overwhelming stress for the past four months, I’ve come up with a few things we can do to help put stress at a manageable level.

1. Routine

I think the first thing to do is set up a routine.  Predictability helps to buffer you because constant change is a source of stress in itself.

Write in the same place.  Do all your non-writing activities in a different place.

I suggest writing in the same place(s).  This can be the same room in your home, or it can be outside the home.  Once I started writing at the Starbucks cafe in Barnes & Noble, my stress level went significantly down.  When I’m home, I don’t write.  Some people have offices in their homes where they do all their writing.  So working at home is fine.  Just make sure it’s in the same place each time you do it.

I do all my non-writing activities at home.  I edit at home.  I do emails at home.  I do blog posts at home.  But I no longer write there.  If you write in one room, then consider doing all your non-writing tasks in a different room.

By writing at the same place, you train your mind when it’s time to be creative.  By going to Barnes & Noble for 3-4 hours a day, I have bumped my word count from an average of 1500 – 2000 words a day to 3000 to 5000 words a day in a month’s time.  I’m able to write faster, and I feel fresher when I’m working.

Take days off.

I know the conventional wisdom is to write every single day, but this was killing me because I wasn’t giving my brain time to decompress.  I always worried I’d lose serious word count by taking days off.  But in April, I started writing Monday through Friday (sometimes only Monday through Thursday).   The other days were days where I was not allowed to do any work.  I could do anything else, but I couldn’t do anything with writing unless it was necessary, which was rare.

Getting back into things on Monday does take a little longer than it does on Tuesday, but I’ve found the days off have been the trick I needed in order stop feeling uptight all the time.

2.  Sleep

Sleep is important for mental and physical health.  I recommend giving yourself a bedtime routine at the same time each night (if you can) to help train your mind to get ready for sleep.  I like to spend one hour in bed watching a movie or TV show off my Kindle.  Some people like to read for pleasure.  Some people like to listen to music.  Whatever relaxes you is best, and it has to be non-work related.

How many hours of sleep you need depends on your body.  I need nine hours of sleep to feel truly refreshed in the morning.  I don’t always get it since I have four kids, but if I can get it on most nights, I’m good.  Some people can get by with less hours.  Try different hours until you find your ideal hours.

I know this is not possible for everyone, but try to get as much sleep as you possibly can.

3.  Diet

A few years ago, I was a skeptic that what we eat and drink can impact our ability to work better, but when I changed what I was eating and drinking and was twice as much productive during the day, I was convinced.

We all know the foods and drinks that are good for us, and we all know what we should avoid.  I’m not saying you can’t ever have the bad foods and drinks.  Just make them a treat for rare occasions instead of a part of your daily diet.

It might take you a couple weeks to adjust to the new diet.  You might even need to gradually change the way you’re doing things.  But if you make it a priority to eat and drink better, it will impact your ability to work better.

4.  Exercise

The choice of exercise is up to you, but I prefer walking.  You don’t have to do this every single day, but if you can do it a couple times a week, it’ll be better than doing nothing.

5.  Laugh

When you’re stressed, it’s hard to laugh, but that’s partly why I believe taking days off from writing and having a wind-down time before bed every night can help relax our minds so we’re more open to humor.

And with that being said, I thought I’d leave you with a cute little comic I found that made me chuckle.

comic for blog post

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Categories: Uncategorized

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