Top 5 Marketing Tips for Indie Authors

This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

My fellow writers often ask my advice on various aspects of writing and publishing, not because I've enjoyed great success (though I have enjoyed moderate success), but because I've tried just about everything. I've run discount promotions, blog tours, and pricey print ads; participated in television interviews, spoken at book clubs, and performed on stage at comedy events. Every step is a learning experience. Different strategies work for different authors, but here are my top five. Some of these relate more to the sale of ebooks than print, because when it comes to sales, that's where I've had the most success. There are many aspects that come into play, and these are just a few, but assuming the content of a book is decent, of course, here's what I recommend for increasing sales.

1. Kick Ass Cover. Your book is already out, so this doesn't apply to you, right? Wrong. If you have a good book with a mediocre cover, it would be worth your time to redo the cover and re-release the book. Your cover must be eye-catching, intriguing, and a little edgy. Those were my main goals (along with a cover that shows well as a thumbnail) when speaking with my graphic design artist for my first cover.

By "redo", I mean hire a professional. I've seen too many indie authors design their own covers (and do their own interior formatting), and then wonder why the book doesn't sell. We're often blind to our own faults (which is why we have critique groups). You've probably spent a good chunk of your life writing this book, so spend a small chunk of money to make it presentable.

2. Reviews Upon Release. Have as many people as possible ready to post a review of your book within three days of release. This means you must plan ahead. Six weeks before publication, email friends and fans and ask them if they would like a free advance copy of the book via PDF in exchange for an honest review. Four weeks before publication, send the PDF to those who responded. Send reminders five days before the release day and again on your publication day. Ask them to post on any of the following: Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter (with a hashtag of your title), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play (assuming you have your book on those platforms). Only about half those who agree to post reviews will follow through (but thank them all anyway). If you have twenty 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon within three days of your release, you're in good shape.

3. There are a number of similar sites out there, but is my favorite. It's not cheap, you may pay a few hundred dollars to run a single ad, and your book must be discounted on top of that. It seems counterintuitive. Try it once and you'll understand. It's not easy to get a Bookbub ad and not all books qualify. They have specific guidelines, but check out the site and read through their requirements. If Bookbub turns you down, don't give up. They rejected my request to run an ad for Hair of the Corn Dog four times over three months. Keep trying, and apply to different categories. When they finally accepted my book for an ad, it sold a few thousand copies within a day as a result, which was a huge contributor to the book making the New York Times Best Seller list.

4. Anthologies. I've been asked over the years to participate in a number of anthologies. Often this meant writing an essay, collecting a hundred dollars, and that was the end of it. I anticipated a similar scenario when approached by Jen Mann, New York Times bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat and creator of a blog by the same name. This was a completely different experience and one of the best of my career. Mann connected some of the funniest authors and bloggers on the web and created a community of writers willing to share and learn. Those types of connections are priceless.

5. The Real You and the Virtual You Should Match. When you meet someone in person, hopefully you don't shove your book in their face and tell them that you accept cash, check, or credit card. You shouldn't behave that way online, either. Cultivating an effective presence on social media means behaving with the same balance of tact, respect, and confidence that you do in person. That will allow you to make the most of online communities like the one mentioned in #4. Remember, your goal in making those connections is to cultivate a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with fellow writers, not to earn a few bucks on a single sale.

What You Need to Know About the Boob Hair

  • To be clear, the Boob Hair is not a hair that grows from the boob. On the contrary, it is a hair that originates from the head of the owner of the aforementioned boobs. 
  • At some point, the hair detaches from the head and migrates south toward the cleavage. This is where the hair makes the transition to official Boob Hair. 

"I know where I'm headed," said the Boob Hair. 

  • The Boob Hair cannot be seen by glancing down the front of one's shirt. Any attempts to locate the Boob Hair in this manner bring out the Boob Hair's defense mechanisms and it becomes transparent. 
  • Reaching into the cleavage to retrieve the Boob Hair only causes it to be more elusive. 
  • While the Boob Hair may strike at any time, it prefers to make its presence known while the victim is standing in a room full of people, on a stage of some sort, or otherwise not in a situation conducive to exploring one's own cleavage. 
  • The Boob Hair is cousin to the Wild Hair. Also dangerous, the Wild Hair travels farther south and prefers to nestle in a different type of bodily crevice. 
Preferred habitat of the Wild Hair. 
  • Boob Hair victims are often identified by their attempts to point across their body, as if unable to turn and face the direction at which they are pointing,  at an imagined object, while moving their arm up and down at the same time. This is all in a futile effort to surreptitiously scratch the afflicted cleavage and/or dislodge the Boob Hair. While this technique has never been effective in the known history of the Boob Hair, victims find themselves powerless and repeat the action, often over the course of several hours. 
If you find yourself the victim of a Boob Hair, follow these steps:
  1. Stop pointing across your body, as if unable to turn and face the direction at which you are pointing,  at an imagined object, while moving your arm up and down at the same time.
  2. Go home.
  3. Disrobe.
  4. Place all clothing into your dirty clothes pile. Do not wear Boob Hair-contaminated clothing again until it has completed a full wash and dry cycle, no matter how much you were hoping to wear that shirt again tomorrow and tried really hard not to sweat so that you could do so. 
  5. Sleep, dream, live a new day. 

One of these fuckers is going to ruin your night. 

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How to Properly Celebrate Making the NEW YORK TIMES Best Seller List

Last week I saw a post on Facebook congratulating Jen Mann for hitting the New York Times best seller list for her fantastic book People I Want to Punch in the Throat. I adore this book, but it really should be banned. You can read more about that HERE.

I'm ecstatic for her. She deserves it. Not only is her book excellent, but I've yet to meet a harder working author. 

So there I am, standing at the kitchen island in front of my computer with the New York Times Best Sellers page up. And there's a little search bar. On a whim, I typed in This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store. Nothing came up, as expected. It was just wishful thinking and curiosity.

It was time to retrieve my children, we had places to be. I almost closed my computer. But then I looked at that search bar again and typed in Hair of the Corn Dog. And I'll be damned if it didn't pop up. #13 in the Family category, right under Jim Gaffigan's Dad Is Fat. #8 is Go the F**k to Sleep and #1 is The Glass Castle, so I feel like I'm in good company. 

I tried not to pee my pants and wondered what to do. I was sure the second I told anyone, the New York Times would correct their error. But it's been a few days, and it's still there. I couldn't plaster it all over Facebook, because I was supposed to be congratulating Jen Mann. But there it was. And it had BEEN there for a month, an entire month that I didn't even know about it. 

A few people have said, how could you not know? But the New York Times doesn't call the authors and let them know. Publishers stay on top of these things, I guess, but I was the publisher for this one. Apparently I need to pay more attention to those Google alerts. I started ignoring them because every time I get a Google alert, it's either a story about a different Amanda Turner arrested for DUI in Tennessee or because some douchebag has put up one of my books as a free download somewhere, and there's nothing I can do about it. (My ebooks range from $1.99 to $3.99; is that so outrageous that they really need to be pirated?)

I told my husband and texted my sister, who put the word out on Facebook. Now we get to the part about how to properly celebrate making the New York Times best seller list. 

You just go about your business. 

In my case this was attending an Oktoberfest celebration at an Assisted Living Facility. My husband's grandfather is one of the residents, so we took the kids and ate bratwurst and turnips on paper plates while listening to a band play "Edelweiss" and a whole lot of polka. 

So that's my story. I have a shiny new addition to my bio. My husband has been plastering ads all over the internet, some of which I really wish he'd let me proof before he puts them out there. But life is good. The celebration will continue today with laundry, the amount of which is downright stupid. And I don't mind a bit. 

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Dear Little Boy, Stop Farting with Your Mouth

Some days I like to get my failure out of the way early. It feels good to really suck at something in those morning hours and know that I have a chance (albeit slim) of finding some measure of success later in the afternoon.

This morning I sucked at dropping my kids off at school. It started with trying to park in a space too small. I felt like this:

Only with all of the other moms watching. But whatever.

When I finally allowed my children to exit the vehicle, we headed to the playground just as a bus released a gaggle of children heading in the same direction. Two boys ran from the bus and an adult with some level of authority, evidenced by a safety vest and a plastic badge, yelled at the boys to walk. They ignored her. She ordered them to return to the bus. They ignored her.

The older one obviously called the shots in this duo. He was probably eight or nine years old. And I kind of wanted to tackle him and pin his insolent little face to the ground. I settled for a glare over my shoulder.

They walked behind us and the older one began making farting noises with his mouth. Why the fuck do little boys (and sometimes girls) feel the need to constantly making farting noises with their mouths? If you're making a farting noise with your ass, I'll cut you a little more slack, because sometimes that is a necessary function of the body. Do they need to fill the silence? And if so, what ever happened to good old-fashioned humming? When they are home, do the parents allow the constant sound of mouth-farting in the living room? At the dinner table?

I glared at the boy again. He glared back. "That's gross," I said. He mouth-farted louder. "Stop, girls," I commanded. "Let's wait for these boys to pass us because they're awfully rude."

And I could tell that I was getting out of control and should probably be escorted from school grounds. This isn't the first time this has happened. I often see kids behaving like, well, kids, and I walk up to them and say, "Not cool" or "Wow, you really think it's okay to behave like that?"

The boys walked ahead, the farting noises continued. Then they reached their destination and stopped. As we passed by, I glared harder. And the older boy looked surprised. So he sneered at me. His eyes narrowed and one side of his mouth curled up, as if to say, "What the fuck is your problem?" And I sneered back, in an uglier, nastier sneer than the one he gave me. Only by this point, there was a group of moms in between us, and I think they maybe thought I was sneering at them. I wanted to yell, "No, it's not for you! I'm making faces at that rude little boy!" But, would that have been any better?

And have I learned nothing from the internet? Cameras are everywhere! I don't want to pop up in a viral video as the asshole mom who appears to bully a little boy at elementary school. There are a million ways I could have better handled the situation.

For someone who tells her children to walk away from kids with bad behavior, to rise above and not let it bother them, I was one hell of a shitty ass example this morning.

Tomorrow will bring new successes and failures. Hopefully more of the former. But whatever failures may occur, I'm determined that they will not occur on school grounds.

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