Back when my kids were little (and before I was published) we created stories together. I just came across this short video gem–a heartwarming Christmas tale about my character Little Billy Bragon and his Dragon Wagon.
At the time, I was working as an attorney in the criminal division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and writing fantasy stories at night trying to get published. Now our boys are 16 and 20, and I’ve published 13 novels, the next one due out next year with Random House in Germany.
Went from being a judge and MC for Bleedingham, Bellingham’s horror film fest, this weekend to holding really early office hours this morning with Wellsville Middle School in Kansas via Skype for their Career Chat series. Thankfully, the students were more alert than my blue buddy, Nikolai, who appears to be taking a nap. 😂
Authors everywhere please take note. If you want to make writing a career, you might need to pay for it, and not just in blood, sweat and tears. My friends, you are going to need to set aside some cold hard cash to support your book sales, because while it is an honor to be published, it’s even better to be read.
My amazing author-husband (or husband-author), Royce, and I have come to this conclusion after 12 years of watching his books win awards, become bestsellers, get movie deals…or not. We also recently readan informative articleabout Author James Patterson’s brand-building method.
Writing books is a business, and part of running a business includes effective marketing and promotional efforts–hopefully with backing from the publisher. Reality check: the vast majority of the time (unless written by a celebrity or an author who is already a top seller) publishers don’t put a lot of money or effort into book promos. Support depends on the publisher. It might include a minimal amount of PR and, if you’re lucky, some point-of-sale items for book stores to use. If your book is lucky enough to be a lead title of a new imprint, you will definitely get more support.
I can say this with confidence, because some of Royce’s work has received fantastic support and–surprise, surprise–hit best seller lists, while others were released with little fanfare, resulting in fewer sales. Because of this reality, in one case we hired a PR firm to do a print/radio media and blog campaign to support his book, The Dead Boys. It was effective. Stay tuned for a blog entry with the clearly positive results of that self-funded campaign.
There are all sorts of articles advising authors on marketing strategies and tactics, with a range of costs associated with them. Understandably, in most cases authors take a DIY approach and opt for low to no-cost options. Here are some of the most popular suggestions:
Do a book store reading/signing
Send press releases to local media
Create a website
Get on social media – you must devote all your waking hours Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, etc. etc….
Do school visits
Attend writing conferences
Present at writing conferences
These are all great, but the ROI on them individually is small. And collectively…don’t get me started. They take a TON of time to do and do well. How are you supposed to get any writing done? Let alone raise kids, have a day job, golf, garden, shower, etc. Additionally, some of them require networking and connections to which authors just don’t have access. Let’s face it, you are an author because you want to tell stories, not take random pot-shots at promotional efforts that might or might not move the needle on sales. And sales is what anyone in the industry cares about when you start pitching your second, third, and fourth books for a deal…if you get to book two.
So here is what Royce and I wish we had done years ago and have committed to as we move forward. We are creating a marketing fund with advances and royalties to consistently build audience and sales. This is essentially a dividend reinvestment model. Our efforts will be targeted and involve partnerships with industry professionals to create effective and coordinated campaigns that get his stories the exposure they need to sell.
Have you had a marketing revelation for your books? We’d love to hear them. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next blog exploring the possibilities of partering with your publisher.
Die Klinge des Waldescomes out today! German readers, you can now explore my biggest fantasy novel yet. More adventure, more world-building, more vivid characters, and more fantastic locations to explore than you can shake a sword at.
Special thanks to my publisher for offering this cool contest for my fans Click HERE to learn about it in German.
And click HERE to translate the contest page into English – even though the book isn’t available in the US yet, it’s still fun to share what’s happening overseas!
Technology is a beautiful thing. In June, I used it to virtually visit students 3,000 miles away from the comfort (and safety) of my living room.
“Thank you so much! The students LOVED Skyping with you! I’m looking forward to the next discussion…” – Kimberly Bramfeld, Librarian Edmund J. O’Neal Middle School of Excellence
Skype visits have been a great option for me – a busy writer, lawyer and dad – to connect with fans without a lot of travel. And schools love it, because I offer them for free. The only payment I require is for students and their teachers to prepare by reading part or all of the book and creating a list of questions to ask ahead of time.
I am looking forward to an upcoming school visit with students at Edmund J. O’Neal Middle School in Albany, NY next month, but I won’t be traveling there to do it.
Their wonderful librarian, Kimberly Bramfeld, noticed I offerfree Skype sessions. Skype is a brilliant and convenient way for me to connect with readers and for schools to give students the experience of meeting a real, live author. Well, virtually live.
I’ve had years of public speaking experience and adapt my presentations to fit any audience – whether in-person, on Skype, or at professional conferences.
To make it the best experience possible, I strongly advise teachers/librarians to prepare their students by having them read, or listen to, the book that is the subject of the visit. In this case, it’s The Dead Boys .
Interested in scheduling an appearance? Please email me via my website’s Contact tab.
My new novel, Die Klinge des Waldes, Blanvalet-Germany, is set in the City of Filth which has 35 districts with very distinct personalities. Take the personality quiz to find out which district is yours!
Royce Buckingham has done it again. He’s penned the amazing new medieval fantasy, Die Klinge Des Waldes (Verlagsgruppe Random House – Blanvalet, Germany) due out this fall. Royce took a few minutes to talk about writing fantasy, his newest project, and how it’s connected to his best-selling Mapper Series (Penhaligon/Blanvalet).
Q: Why do you write? A: Because I have so many stories in my head. If I don’t get them out, they’ll drive me crazy!
Q: What’s your favorite genre? A: Medieval Fantasy. I used to like horror stories best. Then I had kids, and horror movies lost their luster. Teens getting killed in the woods doesn’t intrigue me now that I’m not a teen and I have a couple of them. I do still love a good monster story.
Q: What is it about Medieval Fantasy? A: I like the idea of chivalry that is associated with the (loosely interpreted) time period. I’m not sure if people actually were chivalrous, but the concept makes for good character motivation, hypocrisy, and internal conflict. The other fun I have toying with the medieval genre goes back to Dungeons & Dragons, where I learned to imagine medieval scenarios. I have a strong vision of what fantasy medieval worlds can look like.
I also like the low-tech setting. In my new novel, Die Klinge Des Waldes (BLADE to my US fans), I have an inventor who designs and builds things that I get to dream up. They seem fantastical, but possible. It’s hard for me to write sci-fi these days. With the advances in the technology of our time, it’s difficult to imagine innovation beyond what innovators are actually doing. We’ve been wowed to death by amazing tech. It’s easier for me (and fun) to imagine what might be astound people in medieval times.
Q: What’s an example of that? A: A mechanical elephant in a medieval world would be fascinating. In our modern world it would be an internet sensation for maybe a day. So when I create my mechanical elephant with flames coming out of its trunk and crossbow bolts shooting from its tusks my characters (and audience) say “how can that be?” or “that’s amazing!” instead of “huh, cool, what else is on youtube?”
Q: Where do your stories come from? A: A couple of places. One is the drama of real life–problems anybody might have like, “oh no! I’m going to get killed and I don’t want to….” That’s a real problem now and in medieval times. In fact, it was likely extra-challenging to live and survive back then. Other everyday drama can include things like “I don’t love you” and “you’re fired.”
I also ask myself, “what if?” The answer is then the story. For Die Klinge Des Waldes, I thought “What if you took a Disney princess and had awful things happen to her? How would she handle that?” The answer in my world is: not very well initially.
The ways people deal with conflict is what makes for a good story. The more challenging, the better. The struggles of a fallen princess are especially awesome.
Q: Die Klinge Des Waldes (Blade) features a strong female protagonist. In your dozen or so previous books you’ve used primarily male protagonists. Did writing a female change your approach to this story? A: The Mapper Series had a female protagonist in one book, and I enjoyed working with a female lead. Building on that experience, this character is even more well-developed. She should appeal to both men and women. Her struggles are very human and mostly genderless (such as “I don’t want to get killed”), but she lives in a world where being female has its own unique challenges.
Q: What drives your stories first–character, plot, world-building? A: It used to be the plot, but now I am more character-focused. Readers like characters. If readers love the character, they want to see what that character will do, even if the conflict is as simple as, “what’s for dinner?” For this work, I focused more on our princess’s evolution than the events around her. But of course a zebra can’t change its stripes. There are still some big plot twists!
Q: How else has your writing evolved? A: My world-building has gotten better. When you read Die Klinge Des Waldes, you experience a complete and detailed world. Having environments that are really developed is fun for readers. It’s very much like Game of Thrones, in which the world is extensive and has many distinctive characters and locations. The city I’ve created in Die Klinges Des Waldes has 35-districts, each with its own personality. It’s almost like Munich, Barcelona, Lagos, Seattle, Tokyo, and Rio all pushed together beside each other to form one big city, only its medieval.
Q: What is your favorite district? A: The Carnival District! And it’s the favorite of the city’s citizens as well–parties, performances, politics, and a crazy/brilliant Duke who runs the show. I’m pretty sure it’s also the favorite of my editors who created a blow-up of the carnival castle and circus tent on one of two beautifully illustrated maps for the novel.
Q: Yes. Tell us about the maps! They seem to be an important part of your medieval fantasy books. Can you talk about that? A: It started with my second best seller in Germany, Die Karte Der Welt (The Map of the World). My publisher, Blanvelet, asked me to sketch a map. I scribbled out an amateur diagram so they knew where the landmarks were, and they hired professional cartographer, Andreas Hancock, Bielefeld) to create a real map for the entire Map of the World series. Super cool. In my new novel, the world is so extensively developed that, even though the story subject wasn’t maps, my editors wrote and said, “I know you’re busy, but can you sketch up another amateur map of your world so a professional can draw it?”
Q: Was that a fun process for you? A: Oh yeah. Yes! I have to admit I really dig making maps. In fact, I got a little obsessive and spent a week re-reading my entire 600 page novel to get every location right. Then I sketched it like a kindergartener…or at least a kindergartener with Photoshop. I also wrote three pages of detailed notes about the map. Random House hired a professional who translated all of the materials I provided into beautiful maps for the interior of the novel. It was awesome!
I don’t think every author gets that much creative input with their novels’ artwork. My publisher did, however, reject my cover idea. They said my concept was too polarizing, and then they sent me the beautiful cover they had already created.
Q: What do you love about Die Klinge Des Waldes? A: I love Flora. She’s a complex person. She starts simple and becomes very complicated. It’s like watching her grow up, only there are wars and swordplay and mechanical elephants that shoot flame from their trunks.
Q: Why should other people love the story? A: It’s big and cinematic and intimate at the same time. We get to know a lot about Flora, and then we get to see her on a huge stage trying to deal with disasters, triumphs, and everyday problems, like the overthrow of entire kingdoms and spats with her older sister.
Q: What’s different about this story from others that you have written? A: This is an adult story, and so it is different than my bestseller Damliche Damonen (Demonkeeper) in the same way that Game of Thrones is different from Lord of the Rings.
Q: What’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon? A: Yes. I am always thankful that my editors believe in my work. I am currently writing another medieval fantasy with Blanvalet. It’s due at the end of the year, and I expect will be released some time in 2019.
Q: Is Die Klinge Des Waldes going to be available for U.S. fans to read? A: I certainly hope so. I will be taking it to US publishers soon. But that’s a new blog entry entirely…. Stay tuned!