Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All the World's A Stage...

With Guest Helen Lacey.


Actually, I was thinking for the purposes of this blog, that for an author, all the world’s a platform. 



Words like platform and brand seem to go hand in hand with being an author these days. When I first started seriously writing and submitting my work way back when, the process was relatively simple – write a book, send it to a publisher who had a slush pile (Unless you were one of the lucky few who had an agent as these were like gold) and then….wait…and wait…and wait. Wait on tender hooks for the call and hopefully the elusive contract. Or wait for the more often than not dreaded no-thank you snail mail letter or when the internet came along, the form email. One emotional burst of outrage and few tears later, said author would jump back in the saddle and write the next book.

I will admit I waited a long time to get the call….twenty three years (and eighteen submissions) in fact from the time I sent my first sub to Mills & Boon UK, until November 23rd 2010 when my agent called to say that Harlequin Special Edition in New York offered to buy my book. Since then I’ve had four books published with Special Edition and have just signed a contract for three more. It was a very long and arduous apprenticeship, often filled with disappointment and the lingering sense of will-it-ever-happen. Fortunately I now have a wonderfully supportive editor at Harlequin and an agent who is a fabulous advocate for my work, for which I am very grateful. 


Nowadays, it’s a very different landscape. If I’d actually started writing in the last few years the journey would have certainly taken me on a different path. As authors in this era we have multiple options. We can stay with a traditional print publisher, we can work with one or more of the many successful ePublishers, both boutique and more mainstream, and we can self publish and/or do all three. It’s an incredible age of opportunity. But with more choice, can come more risk, and in my case, more confusion. What’s the right road? Is there one?  Why are some authors more successful than others? Why do some have a more prominent platform and brand? Do they put in more hours? Are they targeting more effective sites/blogs to find readers?


I’m not particularly tech savvy…so creating a website, working on Twitter and Facebook , promoting myself and my books (and my brand) doesn’t come naturally to me. When a book comes out my instinct is to burrow down and try to avoid being noticed, so I have to push myself to make my books, and  myself, and therefore my platform, front and center. The thing is, I love reader feedback and knowing my stories are on the bookshelves and I’ve done blog tours for a couple of my Special Edition books. However, although I enjoyed them, I constantly question am I boring people/readers with my rambling? Is the subject matter interesting? Am I over-exposing myself? And then, is there such a thing as too much branding? 


But every author is different. Some authors really enjoy blogging and tweeting and promoting their work on social media. Some love the attention and checking best seller lists and sharing reviews. Some also use promotion as a way to procrastinate and avoiding the actual writing (I’m guilty of this). Some don’t do any promotion at all and simply keep writing.


But in this new and fiercely competitive world of digital and/or independent publishing, hanging back can often mean being left behind. So, what’s the answer?


The answer, I’ve discovered, is that often there is no answer. 


If a newly published or aspiring author ask me about promotion my response is always, do what you are comfortable with. And then, once you’ve done that, do a little more. If you’re reluctant to open the door on self promotion and platform building, open a window. 



It’s obvious that if you’ve self published then the onus is 100% on the author to promote and there are many other things to consider…are you an author writing across different genres? Do you need to promote in different places/mediums to be exposed to different audiences? Does your Steam Punk YA novel need the same promotional investment as your inspirational historical romance? 



I’ve just released my first independently published contemporary romance, The Cattleman’s Proposal, and plan on a small blog tour and some social media giveaways etc. My motivation for publishing this book was to develop a multi-layered platform. I write short contemporary romances, books that are about home and family and community. Even though I want to branch out into romantic suspense and thrillers, my first foray into Indie publishing was to start with a book similar to those I write for Harlequin. Baby-steps, I like to call it. Building a platform like one might make a cake…a layer of sponge, then filling, then more sponge, then icing…rather than the boots-and-all approach. 





What I’d love to know is – how do you promote? Do you strive to drive your brand? Do you use your personality and life experience to create a unique platform?

Thanks you so much for having me as a visitor at Seekerville. I have two giveaways today – one is a signed copied of my August Harlequin Special Edition Date With Destiny and the other is a e copy of my latest indie release, The Cattleman’s Proposal. Leave a comment to go into the draw! (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.)




Bio
Helen Lacey grew up reading Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. These childhood classics inspired her to write her first book when she was seven years old, a story about a girl and her horse. Her parents' love of travel meant she saw much of the world in those early years and she feels fortunate to have had a diverse and interesting education over several continents.



She continued to write with the dream of one day being published, and becoming a Harlequin Special Edition author is the realization of that dream. She loves writing about tortured heroes—both cowboys and CEOs—and heroines with gumption who finally get their men.
From Welsh parents and a large family, Helen lives on the east coast of Australia in a small seaside town at the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef; she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, many horses and three spoiled dogs
.

www.helenlacey.com
https://www.facebook.com/HelenLaceyRomanceAuthor
https://twitter.com/helen_lacey_

53 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Lacey, first off, you didn't bore me! Second, that was a great post. Now, for all you authors out there, I just want to say, I do not pay money for Ebooks. If I am going to put out hard earned money for a book, I want a paperback. Now, that's maybe just me, or maybe that's my generation of over 55, I don't know. I have a kindle, kobo and IPad, and all of them are full of Ebooks...every one of them free. I prefer to review paperback books, but will in a pinch do Ebooks. There...that's my little or big vent for today! Looking forward to reading your books, Lacey

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Marianne - I'm a bit of a traditionalist too. I love reading paperbacks and will usually only buy the eBook if it's not available in paperback. And there's a wonderful thrill in receiving that box of author copies just before a book is released...a real Squeee! moment. Thanks for stopping by :)

Mary Connealy said...

I believe I have been so thoroughly branded they might as well have used a red hot iron.

So I'm good!

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Mary - I haven't tried the branding iron approach :) Sounds like a great way to go though. Some authors just seem to do it seamlessly, others take two steps forward and one step back approach. Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I forgot. Helen's time is upside down from ours.

Thanks for joining us Helen. Right now it is 5 am for Helen. I set it up on iPhone.

hahahaha

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Tina - it's 4.40 pm DownUnder on Tues afternoon! It's great to be here :)

Nas said...

Yes, branding is important for an author. And self promotion is no longer a dirty word.

I love your brand Helen, 'Romance From The Heart.' Because your books are warm-hearted and highly emotional romances!

Congratulations on the release of The Cattleman's Proposal!

Timecheck: 8.10 pm Tuesday evening.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Nas - thanks so much. I think it's important to deliver to my readers what my tagline and brand says I'm about...thanks for stopping by :)

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I may be the world's worst 'brander'. I have a self published historical series, traditionally published contemporary books, and a self published contemporary series under a different name. :D

I love it all. I don't really promote much. I just write. But I did adhere to one thing I read which made sense: Readers want to be able to find you.

So, I made sure each series and pen name had a facebook page. I love facebook anyway, so it doesn't hurt me to pop over there and update or interact with readers or check messages. So, whether a reader googles Virginia Carmichael or Mary Jane Hathaway or book titles or series title, my pages pop up. I also list them in the back of all my books.

That's about all I have time for. I don't blog, tweet, or advertise unless it's in coordination with a release... OR I'm asked to Seekerville!!! Seekerville is the exception. :D

Great post!

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Virginia - what great advice. I love hearing about how other authors promote their work. And you're right about readers being able to find you...a great tip for anyone, published or aspiring. Thanks for stopping by )

Ruth Blodgett said...

COFFEE IS SERVED!!!! FLAVORED CREAMERS TOO!

Helen, I'm so proud of the steps your taking! Good for you!

I think you're right to embrace both sides of the publishing world, and yeah, the baby steps thing isn't a bad idea, either!

This hybrid author thing is a fun gig, and I'll tell you why: I love to write, to work, to create, and I can use my down time with Love Inspired (while waiting for approvals, etc.) to develop new independent books. And that way I'm feeding both fires with no major flare-ups or risk of fire dying for lack of fuel.

That's huge in both worlds.

I kept to my brand as well because I love my readers, I love the branching out that's been created for us, and I that's a launch point for me. I've got a few fun teen dystopian things in the fire, but when I have time to get to them, it will be under a different name so I don't mess up or disappoint a reader who's come to expect a certain type of story.

BUT ISN'T THIS JUST SO MUCH FUN?????? DON'T YOU LOVE IT LIKE THIS MUUUUUUCH???? (spreads arms wide)

:)

Going independent and loving what I'm doing with Love Inspired has created a fun balance for me, and it has opened opportunities I never dreamed of.

Good for you. Hang tight, hang tough and keep writing! I'm looking forward to grabbing this new story for my Kindle!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, look at that, it's the real me!!!!

:)

Sorry, I'm selling two adorable orange kittens and was answering e-mails through that account.

Let's try this again, but I'm so glad Ruthy Blodgett had so very much to say. And she made us coffee!!!!

Good for you, Ruthinator!

:)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Laughing at Mary's branding words after watching The Last American Cowboy doing the "branding" scene...

I didn't realize ranchers branded cattle any more.

I was wrong!!!!

Mary, I'll read your brand any time, sweet cheeks!

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Ruth - yes, it is a whole lot of fun. And it's an exciting time to be an author, knowing we can branch out, work in different genres if we want to, or stick with what we love the most. Thanks for dropping by. Good luck with the kittens! :)

Jackie said...

Hi Helen,

Good for you for not giving up. Thanks so much for the encouraging post today. I appreciate having my name tossed in the hat.

Thanks again!

Mary Hicks said...

Hi Lacey, good post! Thanks for sharing, your words are encouraging.

I love the cover on Date With Destiny—beautiful! :-)
I'd love to win a copy!

Kav said...

Well kudos to you for your determination and grit to keep going until you got published...and then to keep going still.

I find the whole branding idea really difficult to grasp...even for some of the multi-published authors I love to read. Some are really obvious and some plain ol' aren't. As a developing writer I'm wondering which comes firts -- the writing or the brand?

Also -- just a plea from an avid reader: Authors keep your books section of your websites up-to-date!!! Once I find an author I love, I immediately check out their website thinking that's the fastest way to find out what their newest and next releases will be. Alas, I'm sad to report that way too many authors haven't updated that section of their website in months...sometimes years. That makes it harder for me to plan my book spending budget...not to mention the frustration of missing something wonderful that might already be on the shelves.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi HELEN and welcome to Seekerville. I find the branding thing very difficult. My publicist, Amber Stokes is helping me with that however. She has me tying my titles together and that has been very helpful.

The whole promotion thing is a tough one for me also. I just want to give away my books. That is easier than selling them. And fun too. Oh well. I keep learning. sigh

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I find the platform building very tedious for me -- but, I'm incredibly introverted and would be happy if I could go my entire day not speaking to anyone. *sigh* However, I consider that a weakness and don't like it. So, I forced myself out there and ended up with a rather large platform and a pretty prominent brand emerging. It was interesting to see happen.

As far as paperbacks go -- I've learned, through my interaction with non-Christian authors, that Christian readers prefer paperbacks more than not. I sell a lot more paperbacks than my secular counterparts. I'd be curious to know why that dynamic exists.

Hallee

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Helen! Quite a journey from Australia! I'm impressed with your never give up spirit! Congratulations on your books on the shelf and in cyberspace! Love your covers!

I'm a Love Inspired Historical author and I think the line brands me. My settings may vary between small town, ranch and farm but they all take place in the past and are peppered with people with a Christian world view.

Janet

Mary Curry said...

Hi Helen,

I can identify with so much of what you said here - including the fear of being boring!
Great job. Congrats on persevering and good luck with your hybrid career!

Helen Gray said...

Hi Helen,

I went to bed early last night (dizzy and sick at my stomach) and didn't get the coffee on. So I've started a fresh pot now.

Thanks for sharing. I don't like the promotion either. I just want to write the books. I'm trying, though.

Helen

karenk said...

a wonderful posting..thanks for sharing...and thanks for the chance to read your novels ;)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Hi Helen,

You've touched on such a timely topic for us as book 3 is just out. Marketing and Promotion... Yeah.

Currently we are doing shows with Joshua's Pet Treat Bakery, and also making school appearances. Fans are writing reviews for us. We're also holding a giveaway on May the K9 Spy's Facebook page. My webguy keeps things updated on the website too.

I'd love to make time to tweet and dive into Pinterest but... yikes. Just not enough hours in the day for my pea brain.

I'm in awe of many here who do so much, including YOU! Congratulations on your success. Thanks for sharing your journey. Happy writing!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I have a split personality so I truly have a hard time branding myself.

There is the LI side and the RomCom side.

Tina Radcliffe said...

KC. What a fabulous idea!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

See, I am totally like Sandra. I buy tons of extra copies of my books and give them away.

I just want to write and have fun.

Such a business woman.

NOT!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks, Helen.

Hope you feel better.

I need coffee. 10:38 and no java yet.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well, Marianne, I buy alot of ebooks, because I am a voracious reader and I am YOUR GENERATION and I am downsizing. While I would love all the paperbacks, no can do.

I am allowed one bookshelf. By self proclamation.

It's better for me and the planet to read ebooks.

That said, I still LIKE paperbooks best. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I agree, KAV.

I just got a publisher email on an author I follow and the links to an older book didn't work.

That's is uncalled for.

Tina Radcliffe said...

It is currently four am in Adelaid, Australia.

So let our writer sleep and we can chat with her later.

In the meantime. Stop by the Yankee Belle Cafe for some food and lets talk.

Yankee Belle link at top of Seeker Page.

Tina Radcliffe said...

So, HELEN!~

What's with the horses??

How many horses do you have?????

DebH said...

hi Helen
I am so with you about promotion and branding. Self-promo is NOT my gift. Creativity, graphics and writing, very much my gift.

I'm in a position where I think I may have to begin to self-promote in order to have income (no pressure, eh?). This is so outside my comfort zone, it's not even on the horizon from where I am now.

I do like the baby steps idea. At least with baby steps I may get to the horizon eventually. I appreciate your sharing your experience with us. All I can say is WOW - you've got great perseverence. I'm glad the Lord has rewarded your faithfulness.

would LOVE to win either of your books. my wish list on Amazon keeps getting longer and longer with all the cool authors Seekerville introduces me to.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Jackie - I truly believe that perseverance pays off. Fortunately these days, we have more paths to choose. Thanks for dropping by :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Mary - yes, the cover of DWD is a favourite of mine. I feel very blessed. You're in the draw :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Kav - a great tip - yes, keep bookshelves updated on websites...makes it much easier for readers to find the books they love.
As for what comes first - I think these days it's helpful to do a lot of one (the writing) and a little of the other (branding) Start a blog/website - maybe join Twitter if you're comfortable with that option, and Facebook. A blog about a writer's journey to publication can be inspiring. :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Sandra - I know what you mean -I'd rather write than promote. And I'm just learning as I go :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Hallee - thank you for sharing that insight. Like you, I prefer to fly under the radar...and I really have to push myself into the world of social media. When a book comes out I work with a promo person who I trust and do what my instincts tell me is enough.
Re the paperback versus eBooks - I know what you mean. I write Home & Heart contemporary romance and most of my sales are from paperbacks...that's simply because of my readers are generally less inclined to use electronic devices to read and buy books. I think the trends are shifting, but slowly. Whereas a YA dystopian author could sell more eBooks because of the social demographic of her readers. Thanks for stopping by.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Janet - yes, I think your line/genre can promote your brand - great insight. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Mary - perseverance is my middle name :)When we want something enough it will come - it's often simply a matter of timing. Thanks so much for stopping by :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Helen - I know what you mean. Don't feel alone in that place where promo just seems to take away from precious writing time. The key is balance :) Lovely to see you here.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi karenk - so glad you enjoyed the post...and thanks for dropping by :)

Debby Giusti said...

Helen,
So glad you could be with us in Seekerville today! Congrats on your success! Your covers are beautiful!

I've never worked at branding, but my love of the military coupled with my Military Investigations series makes me wonder if that doesn't play into a brand of sorts.

As far as marketing, my first editor suggested making a buzz in one area of the country. After twelve published titles, that seems to be happening in my hometown, and IMHO, that's a plus. Hopefully, the local readers are spreading the word about my books to other areas of the country.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi May - how fabulous that you have such a solid plan for promoting your current release. Some great tips in your comment. Thanks so much for sharing.

Myra Johnson said...

Helen, thanks for sharing your insights with Seekerville today! I can relate to your 23-year journey to publication. After I started writing seriously, it took me 25 years to finally land my first book contract!

Branding is definitely a topic that generates a lot of discussion--not to mention angst! It isn't always easy nailing down your brand, and sometimes you have to experiment until you find it. I write both contemporary and historical, but my books all pretty much reflect the tagline I've adopted: "Where life and love collide."

And Mary, I have to agree. You have definitely established your brand as an author of romantic comedy with cowboys--and you do it so well!

CaraG said...

I’m a fledgling writer so branding, promotion, etc. are still out there for me, but I’m taking notes.

Both your covers are great, yet there’s something about a man in a tux with a loosened tie that gets to me every time.

Thanks for sharing your journey. I love your story of perseverance.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Tina - thanks so much for having me as a guest on Seekerville...this is a great spot to visit.
The horses? Well, at the moment we only have three. But horses have been a big part of my life and I can't imagine a day without them. :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi DebH - I think is good to know so many of us feel the same way about promotion and when we see authors who do it so seamlessly just try to take on board some of what they do and see if it works for you...if not, try something else.
Thanks for stopping by :)

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Debby - great comment - and yes, readers can be our best form of promotion. Mega congratulations on your twelve books...wonderful :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Myra - always lovely to meet a kindred spirit :) I think long apprenticeships can be good though...makes the reward just that little bit sweeter :)Thanks so much for sharing.

Helen Lacey said...

Hi CaraG - the great think about being a writer right now is the amount of information that's available - take as much in as you can and do what feels comfortable for you, as we each have a different path.
And I'm so pleased you like the cover for Date With Destiny...it's a special book to me and the hero Cameron is my favourite. Thanks for stopping by :)

Julie Lessman said...

HELEN -- WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE! My apologies for showing up so late -- time gets away from me these days with an overdue deadline breathing down my neck.

I love the honesty of your post -- i.e.: "The answer, I’ve discovered, is that often there is no answer."

Oh, AMEN to that!! Just like one size does not fit all, one style of promo doesn't either, so I bristle when I people tell me what I HAVE to do to sell books.

You asked: "How do you promote?"

I'm pretty much across the board with a blog tour here, a few interviews there, FB & Twitter promos and contests on my blog. I'm comfortable with that and am not looking to expand beyond.

"Do you strive to drive your brand?"

My tagline is "Passion with a Purpose," so I do try to drive that somewhat in my promotion. For instance, I make sure I have an excerpt on my blog of my favorite romantic scene from each of my books. But ... as an Inspy author, I also include my favorite spiritual scene from each of my books as well. Kind of like sweet and sour -- one balances out the other. :)

"Do you use your personality and life experience to create a unique platform?"

LOL ... well with the personality of a CDQ (caffeinated drama queen), I do tend to use my out-there personality in promotion and hopefully, to create a unique (and personal) platform.

Not sure if it's working, but you gotta start somewhere, right??

LOVE both your covers -- especially Date with Destiny!! Both the title and the cover really draw.

Hugs,
Julie

Helen Lacey said...

Hi Julie - thanks for the welcome. And thanks for sharing your promotion tips...I love hearing how other authors promote their brand. It's been great visiting Seekerville and lovely to connect with so many authors and readers. :)