Category archive: Promotion

I Just Found My 1999 Website

It even has a pre-YouTube book trailer starring a friend who thought the idea was fun.  Here it is in all it’s 1999 glory: The Book of Bertrand

It’s so antique it’s quaint.  I built the site as a marketing tool aimed at publishers and agents, thinking they’d like a quick and easy way of finding out more about my novel.  I didn’t know back then that the publishing industry is extremely conservative, and I’m referring here to the Webster’s definition of conservative: “tending to oppose change.”

I kept track of the page views of the site, expecting that some agents or publishers might visit it a few times, perhaps impressed that I was ready with such a great marketing tool.  Guess how many even looked at the page?  You guessed it.  A big fat zero.  In hindsight this should have allowed me to predict how the publishing industry would react to eBooks.  The internet is something that even back in 1999 a lot of people wished would just go away.

I even wonder now if having a website hurt my chances of publication.  The internet is a big and scary place if you’re resistant to change.  I love the internet because it’s changing all the time.  Imagine if I’d had Youtube back in 1999.  I wouldn’t have had to put up a tiny low res video trailer under the assumption that some people might still be on dial-up with a 56k modem.  Yeah, remember that?

I’ll work on a new book trailer with apologies to my friends Mark (who helped shoot it) and Gord (the star).  But the times, they are a changing, and they’re going to change again.  Who knows what the internet will bring in another decade?  My bet is that it’ll be fun and very cool.

Oh, and that very unprofessional voice over: that’s me.

Why I Spoke to the CFUW

There were about thirty-five women at the meeting of the Ajax-Pickering chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women.  I was invited to speak about my life as a writer, and since I find me so interesting I had no problem showing up for the talk.

But I can’t pretend that these women are going to be interested in reading my vampire apocalypse novels.  The CFUW are a group of well-educated women, and I’d guess the median age in the room was fifty-five.  This is not the kind of crowd that wants to read about machine guns and crossbows, slashed throats and desperate battles.  They’re probably more the cosy murder mystery crowd.  In fact, it’s unlikely they’d even read my coming-of-age Canadiana short stories that were first published in Storyteller Magazine.  So why did I agree to speak despite the poor sales prospects?

Practice.  I’m actually not very comfortable at the front of a crowd, but I’ve learned that as an author I need to be there if I want to sell.  So I’ve appeared on panels at mystery and SF cons, and I accept all invitations to speak, and every time the adrenaline subsides, I review my performance with a critical eye.

Here’s what I learned last Wednesday.

First, I interrupted the moderator just as she began to introduce me, chopping her short and not giving her a chance.  Oops.  I was excited and nervous and launched right into my talk, stepping on her moment as it were.  I should have taken a deep breath and remembered that they were there to hear me and would wait for the end (or in this case even the beginning) of the introduction.

Second: take my time.  I still speak too quickly in front of a crowd.  I shouldn’t be afraid to pause, check my notes and carrying on intelligently instead of relating the first stories about Afghanistan or bridge painting that pop to mind.

Third: Have better cue cards.  There were some amusing anecdotes I had intended to share, like the time a mujahideen commander in Afghanistan told me I should shave because I didn’t look good with a beard–he was right.

But I did do one thing right that evening:  I really had fun.  Better yet, I think my audience had fun too.

Does the World Need Another Vampire Apocalypse Novel?

Vampire novels are everywhere.  You can find them in bookstores, at the library and on the electronic shelves of every eBook retailer.  They’re populated with sexy vampires, conflicted vampires and murderous (as opposed to vegetarian?) vampires.  The blood suckers can be found in space, alternate universes and historical fiction.

So why am I launching a vampire apocalypse novel now?  I first thought of  the idea of vampires having a communicable disease back in the eighties, but that theme is so ubiquitous now that it’s now far from an original concept.  My novel is a unique approach, but so are a lot of novels in the genre, those that aren’t simply quick rip offs of Twilight.  I could also point out that vampires are still hot, that the majority of the eBook reading public is under thirty years old and that there’s always room for one more vampire, but it’s not really why I wrote this novel.

It’s all about the 1000 Souls.  I came up with this concept, this new religion, when I met a Russian in Bokhara, Uzbekistan.  The man owned a small hotel.  He was smart, professional and a master at supplying  tourists with everything they could need at fair prices.  He reminded me so much of a South African caterer in Canada that I was stunned.  It was as if the two men had the same soul, even though their DNA had taken very different routes down through evolution.  These men didn’t look at all alike, but they were  the same guy in different bodies.

So as I wrote my vampire novel, the religion of Erics (yes,  plural) and the 1000 Souls was born, the concept that there are only 1000 souls spread between 7 billion humans.  Ever meet someone and swear you’ve met them before even though it’s not possible?  Well maybe you have, but you were shaking hands with a different host body for the same soul.

So each living human’s body is playing host to 1/seven millionth of a soul, meaning you could meet quite a few people with the same soul.  It also means that the souls are pretty thinly spread, which is where the vampire apocalypse comes in.  Kill off billions of people, and the remaining host bodies now contain denser souls.  This makes their human hosts more passionate and daring than our thinned-souled present day humans.

Confused?  Like any religion, the devil is in the details.  The Book of Bertrand is just the beginning, and religions evolve over time.  A quick check of the first centuries of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alone prove that the formation of a new religion is a tumultuous time.

But why vampires?  Why not a less dramatic plague like bird flu?  Because every new religion  at its beginning needs to confront pure evil.

But the biggest reason I’m adding another vampire apocalypse novel to the world, is because I enjoyed writing it.  I believe it was J.R.R. Tolkien who stated that he wrote novels that he would enjoy reading himself.  I enjoyed reading (and re-reading) the Book of Bertrand.  I really like Bertrand and his friends, and I can’t wait to write what happens in the next novel.

I Got My Name in the National Post – Two Times

And I didn’t even have to get arrested to make that happen.

Membership has it privileges, and for years I’ve been a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, ever since my editor at Storyteller Magazine (alas, gone now–the magazine, not my editor) told me I should join.  She’d just picked up my short story, Railroaded, which was certainly about a crime, although it was not a who-dunnit, but more of a what’s-he-gonna-do-about-it.

Now even though I’m not really a crime writer, I’ve stayed with the CWC because there are many great writers in the organization, and they nurture, advise and encourage newbies like me.

But last Saturday they went above and beyond the call: I opened the National Post newspaper here in Toronto and saw an advertisement for the CWC booth at the Word On The Street Festival this coming Sunday.  There was my name in the middle of the ad–they even got the accent over the “e” in Andre, something I’ve left off over the last few years just to make things simpler.

If that wasn’t enough, the ad ran again today.  Does it make me famous?  Okay no, but it’s a little step on the way and it’s a lot of fun.  Maybe someone I knew in high school but lost touch with will recognize my name.  Out of nostalgia perhaps they’ll show up and decide to buy a book.  That would be good.

Either way, if you live in Toronto and you’re going to Word on The Street, stop by booth 148.  I get a seat between 11 and 12, but I’ll be there all day.  You can shake my hand.  I got my name in a major newspaper–twice.

Many thanks to Catherine Astolfo and the CWC board for all their work to make this happen.

To Blog or to Write: That is the Question

All the great success stories on Amazon–from Amanda Hocking to John Locke–have one thing in common: multiple books.  Joe Konrath says that writing multiple books is the most important thing a writer can do to advance her/his career.  John Locke also warns that there is nothing more frustrating than to have a product’s sales take off and not have anything else for an interested customer to purchase.  In the case of novels, it means that mountain you’ve climbed to promote one novel will have to be scaled again a year later for the next novel.

So I have to examine whether blogging, twittering and promoting is time well spent when I only have one novel and one anthology (in very different genres) up for sale.  What if I get lucky and people start buying Vampire Road in big numbers rather than the steady trickle of sales I get right now?  They might be ready to read more, and if there is nothing to buy until next year, they might forget my characters and move on to something else.

Time pressures are different for everyone.  I write quickly, but I can’t write a book in fifteen days like Amanda Hocking.  My kids eat up a lot of time in the evenings and on weekends, and I’m not going to short change them.  That’s a choice I’ve made.  But if I’m to finish The Book of Bertrand by mid-October and get it off to my editor, something has to give.

So I haven’t been blogging or twittering for the last couple of weeks, but I have been writing.  It’s been fun.  My editor and a couple of reviewers want to know more of the back story to Vampire Road, and The Book of Bertrand delivers.  The progression from computer nerd to saint is a torturous path with euphoric highs, desperate action and unintended consequences that will reverberate down the century to Vampire Road.

But I’m not stopping there.  There are four novels in this series, and I’m going to try and get as many of them up in the next few months as possible.  It’s a lot of work, but I believe the best thing I can do to promote Vampire Road is to have all the other novels in the series available for purchase.

I like blogging though, so I will try to post quick notes on Fridays, but I won’t be posting three of four times a week.  I’ve had to decide whether I’m a blogger or a writer, and novels are my preferred form of expression.

So I’m logging off to write, but I will keep you posted.  See you next Friday.

The Verdict on Amazon Gift Cards

Promoting a novel through give-aways is a great idea, but I learned a lesson recently.  I was heading to the Bloody Words Mystery Convention in Victoria, mostly to hang out with a bunch of fun-loving authors.  But I knew there would be lots of mystery readers there too, so I decided to give away some e-copies of my anthology, Summer of Bridges, because it has an award-winning mystery short story, Railroaded, among the other Sioux Rock Falls stories.

So I went to Amazon and ordered fifty gift cards and took them with me along with a fistful of postcards featuring the anthology’s cover.  I’m not pushy, so I only handed out the gift cards to people who said that they were very interested.  I also made sure that they either owned a Kindle or were comfortable with downloading the Kindle app for their computers.

Then the real mystery began.  The week after Bloody Words my novel, Vampire Road, began selling copies but Summer of Bridges showed no spike at all.  What the heck?  What were those mystery lovers doing buying a vampire novel with their gift cards?

Then a few of my short stories started selling, and I thought the mystery was solved.  Perhaps they were using the gift cards to buy the short stories.  All of those stories are contained in the antho plus three new stories, so I was surprised they were blowing the gift cards on one story when they could have had them all with one free download.

Today I checked the status of the gift cards with Amazon and discovered that not one single, solitary, gift card from Bloody Words has been redeemed.  The sales for Vampire Road, White Metal, Railroaded and the others all came from book-lovers surfing Amazon.  None of those sales came from my gift card promotion.

I still think that gift cards can be useful, but next time I’ll say, “Show me your Kindle and I’ll give you an e-book.”  I’ve done that twice since Bloody Words with better results.  Both fans had Kindles and both used their gift cards.

So the verdict: the Amazon gift cards are a great way to introduce people to a novel.  Just don’t give them to people who may not be comfortable downloading the Kindle app or buying a Kindle.

 

Why I’m Moderating a Zombie Panel

I like being on panels, so when I got an e-mail from the SF convention Polaris looking for volunteer panelists, I took a look through the line up to see if anything fit my areas of expertise.  Unfortunately my obvious choice, the vampire panel, was full.  With New York Times bestselling author Charlene Harris on the panel, I’ll certainly be happy to attend as a member of the audience.

Then I noticed a fascinating panel, the Nature of the Modern Zombie, and put my name up for it.  I liked Night of the Living Dead, and I was a big fan of Resident Evil Apocalypse, partly because they shot it in my home town and they blew up city hall–well, CGI blew it up anyway.

But I’m also interested to hear what some of the other panelists have to say about how our world has changed since Ramero’s classic debuted back in 68.  Back then the army and toxic chemicals were the underlying villains.  Certainly the mad cap 1984 sequel, Return of the Living Dead, pinned the blame squarely on the army.

But now the preferred underlying cause of zombification seems to be disease, just like the rippers in Vampire Road.  This infectious source of evil has become so prevalent in fiction that I have to wonder just how deeply AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu and other fears of global pandemic have seeped into all aspects of our society.

Perhaps its because people can brush aside the predictions of asteroids, the end of the Mayan calendar and other apocalyptic forecasts as just too unreal to worry about, but disease is truly real, close and plausible.  We know we can sick.  We know we can die of cancer.  We see it happening to people all around us.

Maybe that’s why zombies and vampires have made a big comeback, mostly as depictions of our neighbors run amok with a debilitating disease.  See Zombieland for the mad cow, bad meat version.

I also wonder if all the prognostications of doom that come from pastors, scientists, politicians and activists might have people feeling like just getting on with the apocalypse so that we can all stop worrying.

Of course in all these zombie/vampire/massive population die-off stories, we’re the survivors.  At least, that’s my preference.

The Accidental Google Ad Campaign

Blame it on sleep deprivation, new technology or simply a bad click, but it seems I launched a Google ad campaign for Vampire Road last week. Good thing I set a ten dollar per-day maximum or I might have needed to run to the bank for a loan.

The funny thing is that I should have known something was up because my novel started selling one or two copies a day.  I know this shouldn’t sound so amazing, but I hadn’t done any serious marketing, not even to my friends and family. This is a great vampire novel, but I only want sell it to people who will like it.  If your preferred summer reading is Margaret Atwood, this isn’t a novel you’d want.  Although who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it when no one’s looking.  😉

The upshot is that I haven’t begged my mother or older brother or even my sister-in-law to buy this novel, so the sales weren’t coming from that end of my life.

The other big clue I should have observed was the Amazon suggestions.  You know: People who bought this novel also bought…just about anything with a vampire or a zombie.  Where did these readers come from?  How did they stumble across my novel?  Now I have the answer.  They Googled Vampire Novels or one of the other keywords I’ve got running and my ad popped up.

Are the ads worth it?  If I was looking to make money from Vampire Road then absolutely not, but what I’m trying to do is build a fan base that will buy the next two novels in the series.  So far the ad words campaign has been pretty inexpensive, but it won’t be my only marketing avenue, and I will shut it down after a few weeks.

I’ve just begun marketing–well, it turns out I began last week. I just didn’t know it.

Launch! Sort of, Kinda

Okay, it was supposed to launch on May 15th.  It was supposed to launch yesterday.  But at last, Vampire Road has launched.  Kind of.  After edits, (thanks Fogel) proof reads and figuring out how to make a clickable table of contents, (thanks Susan) Vampire Road has finally launched.

Except Amazon needs a couple of days to digest it.  No worries.  I’ve got the anthology of Sioux Rock Falls stories to put up, and I’ve got about three tons of marketing to do before I fly out to Bloody Words in Victoria–where I have to hand out an award and participate in a panel.

Not to mention Barry Eilser has rocked the publishing world again, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Coming Soon to a Kindle Near You

My post-apocalyptic vampire novel, Vampire Road, will launch Monday, May 30th.  It will only be available for the Kindle platform via Amazon at first, but all other formats will follow.

Warning: if you want to read about sexy vampires in love, stay away.  If you want to read about conflicted vampires who suffer bouts of guilt about their serial killer lifestyle, this is not the book for you.

If you want a fast-paced exciting read, this is your novel.  It’s about brave people fighting to survive against all odds.  Unfortunately, they spend almost as much time fighting each other as they do fighting their real enemy, but that’s what human beings do when stressed to the breaking point.

Stay tuned to find out how you can win a free download.