Quarantine Writers

It’s not all fame, friends and eight-by-tens for us writers during these trying times. It’s no fun for anybody, for that matter. The physical entertainment industry is shut down at the moment, and that includes film production, but development is purported to be moving right along. Book stores are still closed, as of this writing.

There are so many conflicting thoughts about who has been inspired to write new material during this time and those who have totally lost inspiration and motivation. Some writers are reporting increased sales, or no changes. Others have seen sales spikes and then leveled off. Some have flat-lined and/or tanked completely. I’m not the best industry watchdog, but I can hopefully express some thoughts and solutions via some experience and a bit of common sense. Lord willing….

WHAT’S SELLING?

Via my drive-bys and article reading, it seems that Children’s Picture books, some Middle Grade and Non-fiction inspirational books are doing well or have even picked up. As far as genre fiction, adult thrillers and romance are up there, but that’s not unusual for these popular genres. Sweet romance in (Christmas settings and HEA) are seeing upticks. That’s what I’ve noticed. Dark fantasy and horror, my genre at the moment with four new books out, is limping along with little gains.

INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION

Short and sweet–Like Anne Rice says, if you are in the doldrums, FORCE yourself out of it and lay down the ink. Once you get started you’ll pick up that lost momentum. Her advice (and mine) about blockage in the confines of your present manuscript–transport yourself back to the day when you felt that white hot spark for that book and remember the thrill you had crafting it. It was the best thing on the planet, wasn’t it? You were hot on it. Now you’ve warmed. And it’s those negative muses that are whispering those rotten little sweet nothings in your ear. Your book’s quality hasn’t changed. You’ve changed. 

Adjust your attitude and recapture that positive, warm and fuzzy feeling you once had. Still can’t write anything new? What’s wrong with editing or rewriting a trunk novel you once had high hopes for?

ATMOSPHERE

It’s not easy sharing a crowded house now during this lock-down period. Kids are restless souls and they’ll be all over the place. Noise and distractions will rule the day. Drugs and alcohol might have slipped into this confined lifestyle. Tempers might be volatile and explosive. Do the best you can in reserving some private time for yourself after all your necessary chores are done. Try to find a quiet place reserved for concentration on your story or book project. It won’t be easy. It will be more difficult than ever. Try to maintain a status quo and even keel during this time. If you have a spare room, nab it for you own, even if it is a temporary hideaway. Don’t lose faith. 

PROMOTION AND MARKETING

This one is so tough to solve, especially now. It’s always been tough. What is effective for one writer in a certain category or genre can be disastrous for another. I could list all of the promotion and marketing sites out there but it won’t do you any good unless you know exactly which one might work better than the other. The top three, off the top of my head for general commercial fiction would be Amazon, FB and BookBub. Then again, I’m seeing little drops in ROI on these, with the exception of BB. Don’t throw a ton of cash at several sites just to see which one rings the dinner bell. 

Get the best advice you can from your peers who have had experience in this area. You have to target your category and genre precisely. 

I’m not saying this is the time to do it, but you could try some price drops, freebie specials, Kindle Unlimited, cover and blurb changes. Indie authors can make these swaps and change-outs fairly easily. Us trad people have to clear it with our publishers. And, again, this is NO guarantee of increased visibility and sales. It is a maneuver that just might work for you if you think your book could be a bit stale. It doesn’t cost anything to try it. 

MY ALTERNATIVE FOR BETTER SALES

This is strictly my game plan, and has been for about eight months. I’m inept, even lousy at picking paid-for marketing sites. I’ve lost bundles of cash. I don’t know how to bid properly and I seldom have a book that qualifies for these sites, which most often stipulates 99 cents or free books. When I’m sitting at $2.99 to $4.99, I’m at the mercy of my publishers and I try and work with these figures as best I can. Yes, I have certainly sold books at full, higher prices, better than my rock-bottom specials. It’s weird that it works that way–but all the variables of each book play into the scenario.

I’ve heard and read from several blogs and YouTube presentations that books receiving 40–60 reviews on Amazon start tweaking the Zon’s head and pulling attention. I’ve heard 40 from one source, 50 from another, and 60 from yet another. I do believe it is the 50 mark which is the most accurate. So I’ve been requesting book reviews from all of the major review list sites. I personalize each and every pitch letter, reading About Me pages and Policy Guidelines. It costs nothing, but the workload is difficult and time-consuming. Then again, time seems to be all I have on hand right now. I’m in bedroom lock-down, voluntarily. We all know about writer solitude, so there’s nothing new about that.

Truth be told, I’m out to get as much ink as an octopus. That includes mentioning, in my pitch, that I would love to do interviews and guest posts as an alternative to a book review. ‘Cause right now, the reviewer’s TBR piles are higher than K-2. They are swamped. So go after them with double barrels. It’s a Zombie Land double tap. 

HINTS:

Are you following any famous authors on FB or Twitter? This can be an unexpected goldmine. If you happen to comment on one of your famous author’s (or celeb) posts, and they like it enough to share it to their community, you’ve just thrown yourself in front of their followers and friends list–this could result in tens of thousands of reads. Cultivate those sources and watch them. Don’t ask for anything outright. 

Have you ever watched a YouTube movie about your favorite authors or your genre? Have you ever left great comments, showing your wit, knowledge or introspection? Ah, then…after your sentence or paragraph, skip a line and add your name and author of (your book title). Nothing more. No links. No Amazon mention. Don’t elaborate with a spammy message. I’ve done this simple little sig tag and never gotten in trouble for it. Why do it? YouTube videos can get a tremendous amount of hits, and people DO read the comments. It also makes you come off as an authority, perhaps a person who knows what they’re talking about? I would apply this to only those sites that you visit more frequently and not the ones you visit out of curiosity. 

Blessed wishes, please stay safe and healthy,

Chris and Christy. 

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