M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 10 Apr 01 14:39
Thanks Masha, As for my site. It has evolved. When I first did my site two plus years ago it was just for the one book - Lip Service. Then this December I totally trashed it and started over. Authorsontheweb.com built it and I'm quite pleased with it. I get about 200 hits a day consistently which I though was pretty good and then Susie Bright told me she gets 10,000 a day. But then again she has lots of four letter words on her site and we all know about four letter words and the web. What do I think the site accomplishes? Well dozens of people each day read excerpts of the books. Dozens more read my events shedule. (I know cuase I check the stats). And lots of journalists find me through the site. Does the site sell books? Certainly some - but people read about me and the book and then when they are in the store and see the book there and then they realize they have read about it and buy it. And as to the marketing time - I don't think it can ever be much less than that.
Joe Flower (bbear) Tue 10 Apr 01 19:11
Back to being a writer: One question every writer seems to dread at readings is: How do you get your ideas? But with you there iws a little more reason to ask that: I understnad you did some marketing work for a major publisher, running focus groups to understand just what readers were looking for in novels. Do I have that right? How did that influence how you shaped your books? Did it at all?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Wed 11 Apr 01 06:21
Yes, in the 80's I was the creative director at the ad agency that handled Harlelquin books. And I worked on two different genres - mysteries and romances. During that time I went to dozens of foucs groups and heard almost a thousand different women talk about why they read - not just romances - everything from literary fiction to genre fiction. (When you do focus groups you want to hear from people who don't read what you are advertising as much as from people who do.) So I learned a lot. But it didn't alter what I wanted to - and still want to write about - as much as it confirmed that what I wanted to write would work. Of course there are die hard genre fans who want pure mystery or pure romance. But what I found was how few readers care about the boundaries of genre. A huge majority of people just said they wanted to read good books - that kept them turning pages - but were litterary and smart and sexy - that were many many things all at once. Once of my favorite quotes from those days was from a librarian who was in one of the groups who was so frustrated with the genre isssue. "What genre would Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier be in?" she asked. And no one knew. It's a bit of a mystery, a bit of a romance, certainly smart writing, absolutely a page turner, a little psychological. And it was that kind of comment - and others like it that made me feel that it was okay to just write - or to try to write - good book and it was okay to combine mystery, eroitca, psychologial suspense, a bit of a love story, and even some intelligent thinking into one book. Now, my editor at Pocket still wishes my books were easier to classify but ovwerwhelmingly the greatest majority of my reader reviews and fan letters are from people who say what they like best about my novels is the combinations of things I write about. - how they are a bit of a mystery, a bit of psychological thriller, a bit erotica, smart and sexy all wrapped up in a book you don't want to put down. And that's good enough for me.
Mark Binder (realfun) Wed 11 Apr 01 06:32
I agree -- the need to classify books into genres makes it very difficult for the cross-genre/non-genre books to stand out. After all, they get lumped in with that great morass called "Fiction". On the other hand, it's very difficult to find something unless you already know what you're looking for. (Or perhaps that's the same problem.) Where do you see your work going from here?
Mark Binder (realfun) Wed 11 Apr 01 13:54
A clarification for anybody from the outside world wanting to ask questions. Send those emails to: mailto:email@example.com
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Wed 11 Apr 01 15:07
I suppose i see my future work meandering along the same "not easy to cllassify path." I just turned in novel number three and am well into a draft of number four. And they both look pretty much like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. My editor thinks number three is a tad more literary than In Fidelity. And so I suppose that's just me growing with each book. All I know is I'm blessed to be able to spend half my time writing fiction and getting paid for it. And equally blessed to have a journalism job for the other half the time.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 11 Apr 01 15:08
You've forged a good place for yourself, no question.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 11 Apr 01 15:51
Definitely sounds like the best of both worlds! Tell me - I am curious to hear why it's important to hear from people who are not your target market when you do focus groups?
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 11 Apr 01 15:52
e-mail from Chris Jarmick: Hi There Melisse; You're certainly right about the prejudices against small publishers, self-published books and paperbacks. I'm having a heck of a time getting reviews for my novel, The Glass Cocoon even in publications near where I live. My co-author is running across the same type of thing as well. We're on Amazon.com as well and I wondered... did you do anything in particular to drive people to Amazon and boost your sales there? Any tips on the quickest way and without advertising to get bookstores to carry and promote your book? Thanks Christopher J. Jarmick co-author The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Wed 11 Apr 01 16:11
FIrst the focus group answer.With all clients - not just Harlequin - You want to know what you are up against, what the perceptions are amoung people who don't use your product or in this case read your books. You want to know what's better about the other guy or about you that you can build on. As an advertiser or marketer sometimes focus groups are the best way to discover "truths" about your products - unbaised. Becuase rarely does the group know - if its run well - which product they are there to discuss. As to the Amazon question. I linked to the book at Amazon from my webiste - but no nothing speciall. And there is no quick wqay to get a boostore to carry or promote your book - escpecially without coop dollars from your publisher. The only shot is to walk into the bookstore and make friends with the manager and show him or her reviews. This does not work very often which was why I gave up after four bookstores and concnetrated on getting reviews from non traditonal sources. By that I mean - reviews by regular readers. And there are literally hundreds of tips on how to do all that in my book - How to Publsih and Promote Online.
Chris Jarmick (jonl) Wed 11 Apr 01 20:44
More email from Chris Jarmick: What made you decide to be writer? A favorite book? A great teacher? A combination of things? When did you think you found your voice and start gaining confidence about your writing and knew you HAD to be a writer? And thanks for sharing that exciting excerpt from your book earlier !!! Christopher J. Jarmick co-author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena Holder
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Thu 12 Apr 01 09:11
I always wanted to be a writer - I just don't remember a time when I didn't. I did read like crazy when I was a kid - my favorite book as a child was A Secret Garden, as a teenager was The Fountainhead... and now I read as much as I can get my hands on and can't even chose favorites. I wish I had a great teacher - but I leaned about writing from reading and especially from reading John Gardners The Art of Fiction - which I think I've read a dozen times. Wish I had been able to study with him. About voice - oh I hate conversations about voice - I have never been aware of finding my voice. It obsessed me for a while and then I gave up worrying about it. People who read my fiction seem to think I have a very strong voice and have even described it to me - I've made them - but I just write what I write the way I write it and while I worry about characters and motivation and action like mad - I just don't think or worry about anything else. As to when I gained confidence - in steps. As a kid the first time my poetry was accepted into the school's literary journal... then when I was in adverstising and my campaigs got chosen... then as a screenwriter when I got options... then as a novelist I suppose the biggest day that gave me great courage to go foward was when I got the agent I had wanted first time around. I still think I am gaining courage and that maybe a few years from now might acutally belive that I know what I'm doing.
Mark Binder (realfun) Thu 12 Apr 01 11:02
And now for something completely different... What do you think the most important steps an author can take to promote her/his work?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Thu 12 Apr 01 17:38
I don't mean to be coy but that is all in the book How to Publish and Promote Online. But some basics: Every author must have a website and doing something every week to drive traffic to that site. An author has to build a list of fans - of readers who can and will want to spread great word of mouth about that author - and so an author has to figure out how to empower those readers. And an author has to get out there and do readings, radio shows, etc. Your name has to be seen ten times before it registers with someone. That's alot of work.
Jack Sisson (jack-sisson) Fri 13 Apr 01 07:17
I would like to write a book on how to get well from traumatic brain injury (TBI) therapy by doing it online. For example, after a TBI you need a neuropsychological test which is far more accurate that an EEG to show loss of function. On-line I'd like responses of other things that perhaps have higher priority to readers. The possibility of broadening my ideas to make them fully useful tantalizes me as does refining this on-line process.
Mark Binder (realfun) Fri 13 Apr 01 09:07
Hi Jack, I'm not quite sure about how your comment fits in. Are you thinking about writing the book on-line, or are you saying that the therapy happens on- line? MJ, I'm curious about how you manage your fans -- in other words, how do you get them to spread word of mouth. Do you make requests? With "The Brothers Schlemiel" I tend to leave my readers alone -- they're paying to read the book, not get more Spam from me.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 13 Apr 01 16:08
One thing I do is I always write back to people who have written to me and them to tell about themselves... and then I spend some time emailing them. I don't ever send form letters. Everyone gets personal responses. It develops into a bit more of a realtionship and they begin to think of me as a real person and they want to tell people about my books. I do it out of genuinely wanting to know them - not out of some marketing idea - I am so curious about the peopl who write to me - who take the time out of their day to sit down and find me on line and say something to me - and I enjoy getting to kow them.That is the real gift. The rest is as they say the icing.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 14 Apr 01 21:23
I love knowing that you feel that way. I wonder how many authors share your feelings on the subject!
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 15 Apr 01 11:36
I wonder too - I've had some very positive and very negative experiences with other authors online. My guess - like everything else -some are wonderful - some less than wonderful. THe question got me thinking - as did your response - and I realized that I have at least five friends - people I really care about - who started off as readers who just wrote me a line or two about my first novel. (The new one hasn't been out long enough for the connection to grow into a friendship - but we'll see)
Mark Binder (realfun) Sun 15 Apr 01 11:40
This is obviously a loaded set of questions... Do you feel that the glut of epublishing is going to diminish the value society places on the individual author? In other words, if anybody can publish a book, why should one book be selected out as better than another? How do you think readers/consumers will be able to find good work in the ebook age, and will that be able to support authors?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 15 Apr 01 14:11
Good question Mark but no - I don't think the value of books will be diminshed at all.. think of it this way - there are millions of people who paint - who take it very seriously - who study painting and have studios and work at the art and craft of it and even show their work at coop galleries, outdoor art fairs - and people can go and look at all this art work and buy it for ten, twenty, fiftey dollars - none of which has done a thing to diminish the value of a painting in a Madison Ave Art Gallery or made the art critic less important. . What writers are finding out is that while just epublishing is easy - getting attention, readers, reviews and making money with a book is damn hard. So not a lot of the many of the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of epublished books are getting read at all. In fact - all this epublishing is only making getting published by a known house that much more valuable and I dont think that's going to change. So many authors epublished books that weren't ready to be seen, were poorly edited and really only a step away from a frist draft that there isn't a sense amoung readers that there are hidden gems out there worth searching for. In two years only a half dozen books at most have made the cross over from independently epublihsed titles only available on the web - to published by mainstream houses and available at bricks and mortar stores. Why? When you really spend time with readers - which I do a lot - you find that they don't have time to search out unknown authors or read books that they have never heard of - readers - people who reallly buy and read books all complain that they don't have enough time to read the authors they already love and getting them to try a new author without really a lot of reccomendations is very tough. All is not doom and gloom. The bottom line on that is if you self publish an ebook - and if you do alot of hard work and networking and sending out review copies and really devote yourself to the task - the book can get an audience. But I think the number of authors willing to really do what it takes will keep the checks and balances in place and the market will not really be flooded. Yes there will be sites that list twenty thousand ebooks by authors who we've never heard of - but only five of those authors will work it well enough to get on and into the concioulsness of the readers and get real word of mouth. SO yes, readers will be able to find good work in the ebook age. How willl it be different? I think there will be ebook publihsers who get reputations for knowing how to pick great stuff - they will become well enough known that when the epublish a book it gets attention.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 16 Apr 01 11:13
I see that you have "In Fidelity" available both in hard copy and as an e- book up at Amazon, Melisse. Do you think more and more books are going to be available in both formats?
Mark Binder (realfun) Mon 16 Apr 01 11:28
And to continue with that, which is selling more through Amazon?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 16 Apr 01 16:40
I think we are a few years away from ebooks making a real dent. The dedicated reading devices just aren't here yet - well some are here - but they are too much money and not sophisticated enough. I think of them like model T Fords. With an additional problem - paper books work just fine - so why buy a 300 reading device that isn't a better reading experience than a good old book. But - big but - when ebook readers are BMW's and even VW Beetles I think this whole thing will really take off. And also - the price of the ebooks themselves - many of us think that when publishers price them the same as mass market paperback books - then they will sell better. But to buy an electronic file for just two or three dollars less than a hardcover - isn't really logical to most folks. As what's selling better - not on Amazon specifically - I don't know but my guess is that print is selling better and I'd guess about 200 to 1. A bestselling ebook can mean the book has sold only about 2000 electronic copies. Whereas as we all know a bestselling print book is more than 100 times that amount. But that's just in general - I don't have any sales figures for either the print or the e at amazon - my publisher only shares those with me every six months and the book has only been out for three months.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Mon 16 Apr 01 18:51
Model T's were actually extremely popular. Maybe a better analogy would be the first Model A. (Horses do have their advantages.)
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