Audience Building Via Contests and Giveaways

This week, I am a guest at Molly Greene’s awesome blog, sharing all I know about promotion and audience building through social media contests and giveaways. As a host for two virtual book tour companies, I get to see first-hand the methods both traditionally published and indie authors use to promote their books and gain more followers and fans. In the post, I talk about:

  • Why you should host a giveaway
  • Where you could host it
  • What you could offer as a prize
  • The code of conduct
  • Free and paid tools to help you with the process

Read the post in its entirety, here.

Thank you, and if you don’t follow Molly’s blog already, look around her site. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of reasons to do so.

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For a sensual romance story set on a beautiful Greek island, pick up Fate Accompli, free through Kindle Unlimited. Read in its entirety on the same day by whoever picks it up (according to Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count stats).

Fate Accompli - Clean Version
Fate Accompli – Clean Version

Fait Accompli - Spicy version
Fait Accompli – Spicy version
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Critique Groups are for everyone – Guest Post by Jami Gray

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Today, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance author Jami Gray gives her insight into the benefits of being part of a critique group. It makes an awesome read, especially since it draws on personal experience.

SHADOW’S EDGE, the first book in Jami Gray’s amazing KYN KRONICLES urban fantasy series is FREE for a limited time! For more details on the book and an enticing excerpt, click here.

Guest post by Jami Gray

Critique Groups Are For Everyone 

Let me just start out by saying, I’m a HUGE advocate of critique groups.  If there was one small gem I could share with any writer it would be: Go forth and become part of a critique group.

I can hear the moans and groans now.  “I’ve already tried, but…” and the list of reasons why to avoid a critique group grows by the minute.

“…it was too big”

“…the people were strange”

“…they didn’t get my writing style”

“…I don’t have time”

“…meet new people? Really?”

and so on.

Don’t leave!  Let me tell you how I finally, after three years of critique group shopping, found my home with the 7 Evil Dwarves.  I even stayed for seven years, an eternity for any critique group.

Writing has been part of who I am for…forever.  While in college I thought being the anti-social, reclusive hermit was a pre-requisite for every aspiring writer. I wouldn’t share what I wrote unless I was submitting to publishers. I know (ducking the head), if I could, I’d go back and smack myself for that alone.

Somehow as I was finishing up my first college tour, I managed to come out of my cave long enough to marry my best friend.  A few years passed, writing took a bit of a backseat as I finished an advanced tour of college, (yes, professional student did get mentioned once or twice). Writing got pushed back even further when my little family of two, went to three and eighteen months later, to four.

As you can see, insanity was bound to set in and when it finally began popping up in various forms, I knew it was time to turn back to my own self-therapy—writing.

My first problem was nerves.  I could write. That part was easy.  I could do it hiding in a closet, under a blanket with a flashlight so the little rug crawlers couldn’t find me.  I could jot a few lines in-between real work and family-raising time. Writing is a solo adventure, right? Wrong.

My very loving, and patient, hubby finally dragged me out of the house, pushed me out of the moving car and said, “Go spend some time with this Mothers’ Writing group.”  He didn’t even wait for my response, as if it could’ve been heard over the squealing tires disappearing in a cloud of dust.

I stumbled to my feet and cautiously made my way into my very first writing group.  They were great—women from various walks of life, writing in a variety of genres.  This first group became the ones who made me realize how valuable a support group (aka critique group) is to a writer.

Feeling bolder, I waved good-bye to that group and began a long journey on my search for “my” critique group.  Considering I write Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, it was a rocky road.

The first group was large, twenty people at a minimum, and every genre under the sun was represented.  It was heartbreaking to hear how someone thought my work was “too dark and depressing”, or another couldn’t understand “why anyone would believe magic existed in the real world”. I almost gave up, but do you know what I found?

The core of the 7 Evil Dwarves.  These were writers of Speculative Fiction, a term I hadn’t heard used before.  Soon, four or five of us decided a smaller group would be more productive.  Plus, wouldn’t it help if everyone knew what Spec Fic was?

Our group underwent a great many changes.  Anything important always does.  It took us almost five years to create a solid, steady group.  We had some great members stop and share their creations with us, and then move on.  And yes, we’ve had a few entertaining guests, which I’m under threat of death by zombies if I reveal, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. You’ll probably come up with more exciting scenarios anyway.

There were times I was scared to death to set my stuff before my group.  The whispers of my very loving and supportive critique group twisted through my mind when I wrote. It helped if I was a few (or more) chapters ahead of where they were critiquing, but when they were right behind me—I found myself overanalyzing every word I typed. I became hyperaware of small edit type things instead of getting the basic story out on paper.

See the Evil 7 were damn good. They caught everything. From how many times I used “ing” to how much I truly suck at math anything (do you know what a polyhedron is? I don’t.). They made great therapists. I mean, how many of your friends would take the time to discuss the nature of relationships between dragons and warlocks, or how manipulative a ghost can be with three young friends? Uh-huh, I thought so.

Then came the point in ever writer’s life, I outgrew my group. It wasn’t an easy decision. Seven years I spent with these fantastic writers, mining every bit of advice, hoarding their critiques for more. But things changed, and so did my writing, to the extent that I felt our critiques weren’t quite the chisel they’d once been. So I bid the Evil 7 adieu with many hugs, and back out I went. This time, I found writing partners, two to three individuals I could trust to give me honest feedback, because in the end, that is what writers want and need.

I’m still a firm believer in critique groups. While I struggled to build my worlds into cohesive realities, breath life into my characters, and untangle the twists and turns of my plots, I knew there was this great group who had my back. The Evil 7 might have driven me to screaming when they pointed out how much my new character channeled my previous one, or questioned the depth of trust between characters who’d been to hell and back, but you know what? Even though the holes they pointed out scared me, I was ever so grateful, because when it was all done and I clicked save for the last time, I had a story that was stronger than what I started with. That’s why I loved my critique group, even when they scared me.

Pick up SHADOW’S EDGE for FREE for a limited time and dive into the shadows of the Kyn…

Shadow’s Edge (The Kyn Kronicles, Book 1)

Author: Jami Gray

Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Purchase Links:

AMAZON / BARNES AND NOBLE / BLACK OPAL BOOKS / ARe / SMASHWORDS / iBOOKS / KOBO / SCRIBD

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SHADOW’S EDGE: BOOK 1 OF THE KYN KRONICLES

Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.

As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

Jami Gray SmallAbout the Author

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

Come stalk Jami at any of these fine locations:

Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Goodreads  /  Google+  /  Amazon

Complication Cards: a must-read guest by Ines Johnson, author of The Loyal Steed

Ines Johnson has become a regular on this blog. Whenever she has a new release (and this girl is prolific!) she sends such tantalizing guest posts, I’d make space for them even if my schedule was full–which is not (mental note to blog more 🙂 ).

This time Ines’ guest post is about digging deep into your characters to define their inner needs as opposed to their wants, and how to structure your story based on that. Really worth your time. But before you get there, here are the details on Ines’ latest release The Loyal Steed: A Pleasure Hound, a serialized erotic dystopian story. The first part was released on May 12.

The Loyal Steed: A Pleasure Hound novel

by Ines Johnson
Release date: May 12
Genres: Erotic romance, dystopian
Purchase Link: Part 1 | Part 2 (Pre-order) | Part 3 (Pre-order)

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TheLoyalSteednotext

Synopsis

Jaspir has been in love with Lady Merlyn since they were children, but she has always been out of his reach. Trained as a Pleasure Hound and now surviving by selling his body to rich women, his heart has always remained loyal to his true love.

Liam was promised to Merlyn in their youth, but he’s always known that he’s not the man in her heart. With their betrothal approaching, Liam seeks out Jaspir for help. Eager to ensure the happiness of the woman they both love, Jaspir agrees to train Liam in the pleasure arts.

What starts as rivals in an uneasy truce, soon turns carnal when Merlyn learns of their secret lessons. In a society where men are second class citizens, Merlyn is torn between the attentions of two men who would do anything to rule her heart.

GUEST POST

Complication Cards

THE HOLE CHARACTER

All characters have holes (notice it rhymes with goals). You open the first chapter and find a human being who believes they are lacking something crucial in their lives. Perhaps it’s the dream job, or the right social circle, or their mother’s approval, or maybe it’s love.

Rarely do you enter the world of a character who finds themselves whole. A part is usually missing. For the next tens of thousands of words you will embark upon a journey with that character to fill that void.

Characters fill these holes in one of two ways; with either a want or need.

Remember when you were young and you wanted the fancy pair of jeans? Think Brenda in 90210. Fresh from the Midwest, thrown into the dangerous waters of the Beverly Hills elite, and her working class parents couldn’t afford the patchwork, ripped jeans that cost the same as a car payment. But Brenda wanted those holey jeans so that she could fit in with Kelly and Donna. In Carol’s, her mother’s eyes, there was a need for a new pair of pants for Brenda to wear to school and that’s what Brenda got. Now if we watched that 20-year old episode we know what Brenda did to those new pair of jeans; she made holes in her jeans to fill her social void.

You might want a pair of Louis Vuitton, but in the end you need a pair of functioning heels to go with that cute dress.

A want is a false goal, a red herring that throws both the reader and the character off the true course that will fill the character’s hole. It takes some time and some bumps in the road before the character realizes their want is not likely what they need. The need perfectly fills the void the character has been experiencing.

Exercise

Take a look at your main character(s). What is it that they need in order to be whole again? Now consider if it would serve your story for your character to have a false goal that keeps them from seeing their true need for a good portion of the story?

THE OBSTACLE COURSE

Before a character can see their need, they have to yearn after a want, which takes them on a bumpy ride to nowhere.

This obstacle course consists of four physical and/or internal complications that force the hero or heroine to make decisions that produce dramatic action.

The four kinds of obstacles are:

The Antagonist (Bad Guy)

A specific antagonist lends clarity and power to the dramatic structure because his primary function is to oppose the protagonist. He doesn’t necessarily have to be evil, but he should personify the protagonist’s obstacles.

Example: Cinderella’s Wicked Step Mother

Physical Obstructions

Physical obstructions are just what they seem –material barriers standing in the way of the protagonist. These can be rivers, deserts, mountains, a dead-end street, or a car causing a crash –anything that presents a substantial obstacle for the protagonist.

Example: Arielle’s fin

Inner/Psychological Problems

Inner obstacles are intellectual, emotional, or psychological problems the protagonist must overcome before being able to achieve his goal. For example, dealing with fear, pride, jealousy, or the need to mature fall into this category.

Example: Fiona’s (from Shrek) appearance

Mystic Forces

Mystic forces enter most stories as accidents or chance but they can be expressed as moral choices or ethical codes, which present obstacles. They can also be personified as gods or supernatural forces, which the characters have to content with.

Example: Tiana’s (from The Frog Prince) magical transformation into a frog

Exercise

Which of these obstacles will your character face? Will they face more than one type of obstacle during the course of the story?

THE SCENE

You’ve discovered your character’s need, and potentially their want, which is a false goal. You’ve learned about the four types of obstacles that can obstruct your character on the way to achieving their goals and filling their need. Now, to build a heart-pounding story where you send your character through the toughest obstacle course you can imagine, you should map out a blueprint for the course.

Four Elements of a Story

  1. HERO/HEROINE

Primary character looking to fill the void in their life.

  1. WANT

A false goal that the hero/heroine initially believes is their path to wholeness.

  1. OBSTACLE

One of the four obstacles opposing the hero/heroine.

  1. NEED

The true goal of the hero/heroine which will satisfy their void.

OBSTACLE COURSE CARD

EXAMPLES

Antagonist example

In the Cinderella adaptation Ever After, Danielle (heroine) works tirelessly to gain acceptance (want) from her stepmother (antagonist) until she realizes her family of friends, including the Prince, love her unconditionally (need).

Physical example

In The Little Mermaid adaptation Splash, yes I went there!, Madison (heroine) leaves the sea to be with Allen (want) but when her legs get wet and her fins come back (obstacle) she’s forced to tell Allen the truth of her existence in the hopes that he’ll come and spend forever with her under the sea (need).

Inner/Psychological example

In the unconventional fairy tale Shrek, Princess Fiona (heroine) hopes to be rescued by a knight in shining armor (want) who will break her curse (obstacle) until she realizes that true love is “color” blind (need).

Mystic Forces example

In The Frog Prince, Tiana (heroine) dreams of opening a restaurant (want) but her dream takes a slight detour when she’s turned into a frog (obstacle) along with Prince Naveen and learns to seek and take help from others (need).

Exercise

Now its your turn. Fill out your own obstacle card for you story. If you want to take it a step farther, fill out a card for each scene!

About the Author

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!

Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Connect with the Author

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Publisher

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Great post, Ines! Thank you so much for sharing, and best of luck with The Loyal Steed!

The 6 Steps to Successful DIY Blog Tours

Pumpkinacindermamastory

This is a must-read guest post by romance author Ines Johnson whose Pumkin: a Cinderama Story was released on March 10. If you want to save money and prepare successful blog tours on your own, a how-to guide follows.

For a full presentation of Pumkin: a Cinderama Story including an excerpt, I prepared a post on my promo blog.

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DIY Blog Tour

If You Publish It, They Will Come

That may have been true ten, five years ago in indie publishing. It is no longer the case today. Readers have a lot of authors and books to choose from. They don’t know you, so you have to do something to get their attention.

Okay, but what something? After visiting Google, I decided to do my own blog tour. I went to listservs and chat rooms for authors and asked questions. Established authors said a blog tour was a waste of time. But new and indie authors said to go for it. I had nothing to lose, and no money to spend, so I did it myself. Here’s how I did it.

1. Build a MEDIA KIT

Honestly, this wasn’t the first thing I did. I realized I needed it as responses started rolling in with bloggers requesting the same materials over and again. But I recommend it be the first thing you do.

A media kit is everything a blogger could possibly want or need in order to host you on their webpage. Include in your Media Kit the following:

  • Your book blurb. I included different lengths of my blurb, including the full blurb that’s up on Amazon. A shorter three sentence blurb. And a one sentence blurb. My debut book was erotic romance, so I also had to be sure and include a PG version of my blurb for bloggers who also showcased YA books.

  • Book excerpts. Choose one to two scenes that you feel would get readers engaged in your story. I recommend the excerpt should start somewhere in the middle of the scene and end before the scene is over at a high point of tension. If you choose well, this tactic would naturally lead a reader to push the ‘buy now’ link so they can find out what happens next. Again, make sure you have a PG excerpt for bloggers who showcase YA books.

  • Guest Posts. I wrote three guests posts for my tour. I found that bloggers liked craft pieces, writing tips, and social commentary. So, I wrote one of each. I also found that some bloggers wanted you to answer their list of questions instead of using your posts. I complied, and then saved each question and answer. I included these Q&A’s in my media kit and made them available to all subsequent bloggers.

  • Author biography. Be sure to include the bio you’ve written for yourself and posted on your website. I found that some bloggers preferred a one sentence bio, called a tagline. So, I paired my long bio down and included two options in my kit.

  • Links. Be sure to include your store purchase links, your website url, and all social media links and handles. In my ebook, I have fancy graphic links. I assumed the bloggers would do something graphical with my link, but few did. Instead they just left the entire URL up under my name. I didn’t like that, but I had to realize that many of these bloggers weren’t graphic artists or any more tech savvy than your average person. Moving forward, I’ll need to think of a better way to list these links.

  • Images. Attach images separately, as well as in the body of the kit. If you have a lot of images, make them available upon request.

That was a lot of information, but I suggest you get started on that before contacting bloggers. Many get back to you straight away and begin making requests.

2. Find BLOGGERS

Once your media kit is assembled, you need to start finding blogs to host your amazing information.

I began my search at the Book Blogger Directory: https://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/

I made certain to check for bloggers who were in my genre.

I also checked their sites to see when their last activity happened. You don’t want to spend time querying a blogger whose last post was in 2013.

3. Make CONTACT

Once I had my list of vetted bloggers in my genre, I began to contact them. Be aware that some of these bloggers have handy Google Docs. They’d prefer you use these instead of emailing them directly.

For those I emailed directly, I made a form email, but I sent each blogger an individual email with their name in the salutation. I also tailored the form email to each blogger where possible. For example, if I saw that a blogger was only interested in author interviews, I didn’t mention that I had blog posts and excerpts because I knew they wouldn’t be interested in those items.

Here’s an example of the basic form email that I sent out:

Dear [Book Blogger],

I write erotic romance, paranormal romance, and fairytale retellings under the pen name, Ines Johnson. My newest release,Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, which is a fairytale retelling of the Cinderella story will hit the print and virtual shelves on March 17th.

I’ve planned a book tour throughout the month of March to create some buzz and garner a bigger audience for my book. I’d love to make a stop at your site. I’m happy to do a Q&A, a blog posting, submit my book for your review, or any combination of the three. I’ve prepared three posts for the occasion. If you feel that one of the topics might interest your readers, I would be happy to make it available to you any day during the month of March and April. Attached you’ll find my Media Kit for your convenience.

4. Keep RECORDS

It looks bad to contact the same person over and again. Or to forget that you agreed to give this blogger that post on this day. I kept a spreadsheet in Google Docs so that I had access to it at all times.

On the list I listed the blog title, the blog URL, the contact person’s name and email address. In other columns, I placed what each blog looked for from guest bloggers, when I contacted them, if they responded, if they said yes and what they wanted, when the post would be live, and when they needed the information by. You should also note if they want exclusive content, and if they want you to provide them a giveaway.

* a note about giveaways: try where possible to offer your book as a giveaway. I got my highest sales on the days I offered my book as a free giveaway. I didn’t want to offer a gift card, remember I was broke by this time.

5. Be SOCIAL

As the blog tour began, I made a fancy banner announcing the tour for my webpage. I linked to each blog that hosted me.

On the day of each tour stop, I tweeted and posted each blog. And I visited each site to try and interact with any commenters and responded where appropriate.

6. Send THANK YOU NOTES

But the most important thing I did, was mind my manners. After each post I wrote a personalized thank you note to each blogger. I told them how they affected my sales rank that day. Each one invited me back!

7. The VERDICT

I had phenomenal success with my tour! I was on thirty blogs over the course of my launch week. As soon as those posts went live, my debut novel was launched into the Top 100 where its stayed for a week after my launch. I could see the effects in real time. When a tour stop went live, an hour or so later, I’d see sales. I didn’t see much of a blip on social media (ie, my newsletter or Facebook Likes). My twitter followers did see some of an uptick, but mostly from the bloggers themselves as they tweeted about the post.

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Here’s more on Ines Johnson’s latest, super-cute fairy tale romance.

Pumpkin-3DBlurb

Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne has been searching for his soulmate all his life, whom he’ll recognize at first sight by a golden aura, that only he can see, surrounding her person. Manny doesn’t see gold when he meets Pumpkin, but the more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Purchase Links

Amazon Purchase Link

Goodreads

Author Bio

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!

Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Connect with the author

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/ineswrites

Twitter

https://twitter.com/ineswrites

Website

https://inesjohnson.wordpress.com/

Publisher

http://heartspell.com/