Monday, September 24, 2012

What's My Genre? Positioning Your Book Even If It's Not Genre Fiction

Even your writing weird tales, you need to know your genre

Even if you're not writing true "genre" fiction, you need to be able to position your book for readers and agents (if you're going to look for one). Specifically, you need to know:
- where your book fits in the marketplace (similar authors, comparable titles)
- on which shelf it should appear in a physical bookstore.
- in which category it should sell on Amazon or other online book stores.

For this article, we'll use my manuscript-in-progress as an example. The book's working title is "The Loneliest Planet: A Handbook for the Chronically Single."

At a writer's conference I pitched it as a comic novel offering "the personal journey of "Eat, Prary, Love" with the sexual frustration of "Portnoy's Complaint." One agent told me those titles were too old. Another said that all she could remember about "Portnoy" was the masturbation scene. I also worried that the term "comic" might lead people to confuse it with a comic book as opposed to a satire.

Tools for Finding Your Genre

1) Lists of genres 


Wikipedia List of Literary Genres: Probably the best place to start. Scroll to the bottom of the Wiki genre page for clickable links with explanations.

Sparknotes: The top part of this article is a little tough to read, but the bottom offers a useful list with definitions.

Virtual Salt: More detail than most people need. This page includes a list of genres, styles, and other literary terms with examples.

2) Similar Authors

Literature Map: This site allows you to enter a popular author and the site generates a list writers considered to be similar in style and genre. In the screen shot below, I search Philip Roth, the author of "Portnoy's Complaint," found the contemporary author Jonathan Tropper, whose books are selling well and, much like my book, cover topics such as dating and single life. 

A search on authors similar to Philip Roth produced both familiar and unfamiliar names.

3) Comparable Titles  


Genres of Existing Books: The Library of Congress Web site allows you to search for authors and then drill down to find genres of their books. The results are not always helpful and the ease-of-use and speed are, well, what do you'd expect from the government, but the site is worth a look.

A listing of genres associated with "Portnoy's Complaint" from the Library of Congress Web site. I didn't find this that useful, but you might.

Live Plasma: Worth a look. When I entered "Portnoy's Complaint," the site generated a lot of older titles. When I entered a book by Jonathan Tropper, the produced nothing.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Other Online Book Sites: Key Things to Look for:
- On Amazon: Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
- On Barnes and Noble: Related Subjects

More On Genres

1) Applying This Information to an Agent Search 


Once you've got a list of comparable books and authors, Google the author's name and the word "agent" or "literary agent" and consider pitching that agent.

2) Hot Genres

Upmarket Fiction: I've been seeing this is a lot of listings for what agents are looking for. Upmarket is kind of a catch-all for books that are too smart to be straight commercial fiction but not smart enough to be straight literary fiction.

High Concept: Another popular, but confusing term. High Concept is really low concept -- a story that can be described simply and succinctly. I've developed a description for my book that might be considered high-concept: A never-married hypochondriac takes a trip around the world looking to change his luck with love. Click here for a succinct description from former agent Nathan Bransford.


3) How I Put This Together


At present, I plan to put the following sentence, which includes my genre and market positioning, high up in my query letter:

The "Loneliest Planet" is a satiric novel that will appeal to fans of Sam Lipsyte, Shalom Auslander, and Jonathan Tropper.

*Art attribution: Weird Tales image by Weird Tales, Inc. (Scanned cover of pulp magazine.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. (I put it down here because putting this text under the image creates a mess when the article is sent out over Feedburner. 

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- Book Marketing: My Six Month Progress Report 

- Query Letter Confusion: When One Agent Says "A" and Another Says "B"

- Twitter Tips for Those Who Hate Social Media

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Marketing: Spruce Up Your Site with Images and Video

The image came from Wiki Media Commons. Proper attribution that is an eye-sore: "Giant Rubber Duck by Yoshimasa Niwa [CC-BY-2.0 (]."

Finding Images Made Easy


Adding art (images, screenshots, and videos) to your blogs and Web sites can be a pain, but it's worth doing for several reasons:

- Readers like art.
- Google likes art.
(Supposedly, adding art will improve your ranking in search engine. Be sure to add some descriptive text to the image properties.)
- Linked In and Facebook like art.
(When you add a link to a blog in Linked In or Facebook, a thumbnail of the art often appears, which makes the link that much more inviting.)

For one-stop art shopping, I like Creative Commons, which offers a selection of Web sites offering free images. I typically start with Wiki Media Commons. Finding a suitable image is relatively easy.

Creative Commons lets you search for images or videos from multiple sites -- but not simultaneously.

Using Images Made Hard

Figuring out how to give credit the photographer is tricky. (I just spent an hour looking for a consensus on proper protocol. Ha!)

My latest strategy (as of today)
- If the photographer issues long, involved instructions for using their image -- I skip it.
- The attribution I used above duck image is pretty standard and includes: the work's title, name of the author, and the specific license the work is under.  But this creates a mess for blog subscribers. I will likely put the attribution at the end of blog posts. 
- Here's the least mind-numbing discussion on using Creative Commons licensed images.

Editing Images

You can edit, crop, and resize images using a photo editing tool. The only problem is these programs can be slow to load and overwhelming to use. For resizing, cropping, annotating, and editing screenshots, I like a freebie called Irfranview. The program has a few quirks (or maybe I haven't bothered to read all the instructions,) but it's quick to download and use.


Creative Commons also lets you search for videos, on services, such as Youtube.

 This is same rubber duck in a video -- do not watch! It's ten minutes of the duck from different angles.

Uploading video from Youtube to a blog like Blogger is now pretty straight forward. Adding videos to a Web site can be trickier because it involves embedding and copying some code onto your site.

Note on Youtube copyright issues:  It appears that if someone posts a video and enables the embed feature you can embed it. For a convoluted discussion that's more that you'd ever want to read, go to section 6C in Youtube's terms of service.

Another hassle: The videos are never the right size for my site. To get them to fit in a narrow space, I manually adjusted the height and width specifications as highlighted below in red. I always start by reducing the height and width by half and increase or decrease each measure by the same proportion. (Double, reduce by half, etc.)

To add video to your Web site, copy the embeddable code and then adjust the height and width by the same proportions for good fit.

For more tips on beautifying your site, see CopyBloggers' guide to basic page layout. (The piece is mentions WordPress in the title, but the tips apply to any Web page.)

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- Blogging for Writers: Tips, Tools, and Resources

- Query Letter Confusion: When One Agent Says A and Another Says B

-  Greetings from Book Marketing Hell: SEO for Authors

If you find my book marketing blog useful, sign up to have it delivered to your inbox each week:

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Marketing: My Six Month Progress Report

How I'm feeling now after another month of book marketing. (Sorry to be a downer this week!)


Background for Those Visiting for the First Time 

In April, I quit a contract job that was paying most of my bills to finish a novel I plan to send to agents next spring. At the time, I also vowed to boost my author platform by reading books and blogs, attending conferences, talking to people smarter than me, and following the advice of the experts.

Executive Summary 

Since my five-month progress report last month, I've had small but measurable increases in page views and followers for my blog, but negligible increases in new connections on social media. During the course of a week, I spend about two days on book marketing and promotion.

Upshot: I'm getting just enough encouragement to keep going, but not enough to pay for a bag of groceries. Will you throw a quarter in my cup when I'm out on the street?

What's Working and What's Not 

1) Blogging

What I'm doing:

- Blogging once a week, spending four to six hours on each blog. (Weekly seems to be fine. I couldn't do it daily. How can anyone with a full-time job blog daily?)
- To drive traffic, I'm posting links to new blogs to Social media sites (Linked in, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg, Stumbleupon.)


- Page views in June: 2,292
- Page views in July: 2,428
- Page views in August: 2,977 (most recent month)

- Blog subscribers in June: 24
- Blog subscribers in July: 48
- Blog subscribers in August: 71

Best finds:

- Groups on Facebook. I've been posting writing tips to writing groups and travel stories to travel groups. (My novel involves travel.) Note: to post to Facebook's groups, you have to use a personal account, you can't do it from your Fan Page account.
- In July, I added a sign-up box to the end of each blog post and it continues to encourage people to sign up. (To provide some benefit to subscribers, I started posting my blogs for them first and, a week later, posting to the various groups and forums. Does anyone care? Unclear.)

Biggest waste of time:

Posting to the bookmarking sites. The posting process is generally convoluted and the sites haven't produced much traffic. I no longer bother with them.

Search for Facebook Groups by entering a topic in the search box at the top of the page. The arrow on the left, shows the groups I've joined so far.

2) Social Media

a) Facebook Fan Page

What I'm doing:

- I post less frequently, maybe three times a week instead of daily.
- I quit participating in Likefests and other programs in which people agree to Like you if you Like them.  Adding people who aren't really interested in my content doesn't really interest me. Also, if they don't interact on my page, Facebook will stop showing them my content, anyway.


I'm adding Fans at a much slower rate. I've added six fans in the last month and now have 2,032 and reaching 300 to 400 people per post. (Same as last month.). Facebook's Reach statistic measures people who interact with your page, people who are interested in what you're doing, people who might actually buy a book -- once I have one.

b) Facebook Personal Page

What I'm doing:

- Nothing, I don't have time for this.
- But as noted above, I use the page to post to Facebook groups, which generate traffic to my blog.

c) Twitter

What I'm doing:

- Abandoned Tweetfests and other programs in which you Follow people who agree to Follow you.
- Posting blog links and related news once a day to Hashtags frequented by travelers.
- Commenting on and Retweeting other people's Tweets.
- Still using Hootsuite to prepost and save time.
- Following more people and Unfollowing if they don't follow me back.


- Added 17 Followers in the last month. (Now have 717, which is not a whole lot.)
- I'm getting Mentioned and Retweeted by other people a few times a week.
- Twitter is not generating a whole lot of traffic.
- Why bother with it? It seems to be a key contributor to my Klout scores. My Klout score is now a respectable 47. Does anyone -- like perhaps a prospective agent or publisher -- care about Klout scores? In case they do, I'll keep up with Twitter.

Best Find:

-I use Tweepi and its Flush feature to remove people who I'm Following who aren't Following me back.

d) Linked In

What I'm doing:

- Still posting links to my book marketing blog to author groups every week.
- Began posting links to my travel stories to travel groups. (These people are travel professionals, who I imagine influence a lot of travelers -- or that's my fantasy.)
- Using Hootsuite to post important Web news to certain groups more regularly. (The free version of Hootsuite allows me to post simultaneously to Twitter as well as four Linked In Groups.)
- Using my Web analytics tools to see which groups are generating the least traffic and dumped them. (Linked In only allows you to join 50 groups at one time.)


- Busted! Linked In no longer allows me to connect with people for whom I don't have an e-mail address. (For a couple of months I was able to connect with people from groups I belonged to. As a result, I only added 15 new connections last month. (Currently have 1,105)
- Linked In groups continue to be my biggest source of traffic. If I write a book on bookmarketing, people might be interested. Would they buy a novel I wrote? Probably not.
- Continue to connect with some nice folks. Also, nice comments from readers keep me going. (OK, so I'm another lonely, pathetic wrier -- but I've got company!)
- Links posted to travel sites are not getting a whole lot of traffic. Unclear if these folks would buy my book. Also, some weirdos: I posted two unflattering pieces about Venezuela and each time the same guy writes me in broken English and calls me a coward. Will give it another month and then move on to another target market: Erotica. (My book has some sex scenes.)
- Was contacted on Linked In by a guy running a social media business. We spoke on the phone. He seemed to know his stuff and offered some good advice. We may be able to work together in some capacity in the future.
- Was contacted by a woman who needed some editing. I don't have time, so I forwarded her to the woman who edits my stuff. Unclear what came of that.

e) Goodreads

What I'm doing:

- Adding friends as I have time. But they are mainly other writers, as opposed to readers.
- Posting links to the book marketing forum and getting some clicks. In the future will  post to travel and erotica forums.
- Question: Are there any readers on Goodreads or is it just authors flogging their books?

3) SEO

What I'm doing:

- I optimize my pages using keywords related to my posts.


- My blog appears on the first page of Google for searches on "Book Marketing," "Travel Humor," "Erotic Humor," and "Humorous Erotica." (My blogs are all optimized for these terms.) So, if I were to publish a book on one of these topics, people would find me. BUT not a lot of people search on these terms.("Erotic Humor" generated a total of 35 page views for me in August.)

4) Publications (another way to get noticed)

What I'm doing:
- I've taken scenes from my book and rewritten them as standalone stories.
- Using plus a listing of top literary journals ranked by Pushcart awards, I sent six of those stories to about 100 different publications. (Submitting online doesn't take that long.) Out of about 70 publications who have responded so far, I got two acceptances from small journals. (unfortunately, none were ranked in the top journals.) But I'll take it! One is going to pay me $20 for a piece.
- Guest posting on other blogs: I've had four of my posts republished in a daily blog by Grub Street, a writing school to which I belong; two blog links appeared on Carnival of the Indies -- it's easy to submit; and another appeared on a writing/editing site called Style Matters. These guest posts generate some traffic, but more importantly they create links back to my blog. Backlinks are supposed to be important for SEO.

5) Best Advice I've Gotten on Book Marketing

- Find stuff you like and become good at it. If I didn't enjoy fiddling with computers, I'd have bailed on a lot of this stuff by now.
- Online marketing can be a slow process. I've set aside time and money to finish my book, so I'll keep at this.
- Serendipity is an artist's best friend, so getting your work in front of as many people as possible is a good thing.
- Finishing your book is job one!

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- How to Measure Book Marketing Success

- Is Book Promotion a Waste of Time?

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Are Men Doomed?

Here are three books predicting the end of men as we know it. Guys: Time to kiss your furry butts good bye.

Some contributing factors:
- Changing nature of work: Construction and manufacturing jobs -- high paying jobs that require physical strength are disappearing.
- Changing nature of work party II: Rise of marketing and media jobs. Assuming women do most of the shopping, who better to market to them? Other women.
-  Women don't need a man to get pregnant.
- Adolescence lasting into the thirties. (Can't remember why this affects men more than women.)

- Women who don't want to marry down, end up marrying late or not at all.
- Average age of marriage in spiking: In Asia it's 32.
- Divorce rates up, birth rates decreasing.
- In some countries, men are importing wives from impoverished countries
- The world is going to hell!

Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys
I read most of this one. A nice job.

The End of Men
(This links to a review in the WSJ. I read the review: Disturbing, if you're a guy -- we're done for.)

In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks
Written by comedian Adam Carolla.
"It's a sad and eerie harbinger of our times that the Oprah-watching, crystal-rubbing, Whole Foods-shopping moms and their whipped attorney husbands have taken the ability to reason away from the poor schlub who makes the Bloody Marys.  What we used to settle with common sense or a fist, we now settle with hand sanitizer and lawyers.  Adam Carolla has had enough of this insanity and he's here to help us get our collective balls back."


Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Marketing: 3 Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic

Your blog or Web site probably includes a tool called Web analytics. If not, it's free and relatively easy to add this capability using Google Analytics or an indie favorite called Statcounter.*
Before your eyes glaze over please note: Web analytics provide a quick way to boost your traffic -- just hear me out!

Three Way to Analyze and Boost Your Traffic

1) Most Popular Pages: Add Links to Other Articles on Your Site and Around the Web.

Web analytics tools typically include a Popular Pages feature. It's not uncommon to have an old page generating steady traffic for some oddball reason.

Five years ago, I traveled around Vietnam and met a French sex tourist who offered me unsolicited tips on how to find a prostitute. I took his tips and wrote a tongue-and-cheek piece called "Prostitution for Dummies."

Now, sex tourists, johns, punters, and pervs traveling through Vietnam visits my page. I also write humorous erotica, which means these visitors are all potential readers. So, at the end of the "Dummies" page, I added links to related content on my site.

Note: The page below includes naughty language and other politically incorrect stuff. Don't click it if you're offended by that kind of thing.

Adding basic navigation and links to related content on your site can boost your traffic.

2) Make Friends with Sites that Link to You

The Came From feature in Statcounter (or Traffic Sources in Google Analytics) shows your major sources of Web traffic. This is useful for a couple of reasons:

a) If a site you weren't aware of is sending you lots of traffic, you may want to:
- thank them with an e-mail.
- reciprocate by offering to add a link on your site to their site.
- post additional links in forums on their site.
- offer to write a guest blog post for them.

b) If like me, you post links to recent articles in numerous forums and social media sites, you can see which are producing and which are a waste of time.

I have a travel site called Two sites have been generating regular traffic and are worth me contacting, thanking, and courting.

3) Keyword Search Terms: What Words do Visitors Use to Find You?

You may be surprised. You may also want to use the those words more frequently on your site so it appears on the first or second page when people search Google.

According to Google Analytics, a decent number of people are finding my site by searching for "Erotic Humor."

I have no pride and added a menu button for "erotic humor" to my blog.

I also added "erotic humor" to my article labels...

And I added the phrase to some of the articles posted on my site. (Did I mention that I have no pride?)

Note: You don't want add keyword search terms willy-nilly around your site for two reasons:
- You can piss off Google by packing your pages with keywords.
- You can piss off your readers -- we're supposed to be showing visitors that we're good writers, right?

*If your site or blog doesn't include Web analytics, the feature is relatively easy to add with either Google Analytics or Statcounter.
The process involves:
- Registering on the analytics site.
- Adding to your blog some code generated by the analytics site. For blogs, you can often add the code to your page design once and be done with it. For Web sites, you may have to add the code to individual pages, which can be a pain.
- Statcounter is an indie, non-Google favorite. The site has been around for years and the tech support is polite, fast, and helpful.

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- Keyword Phrases for Newbies

- Search Engine Optimization for Newbies

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