Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Revamping of the Elephant's Bookshelf Blogging Experience

Hey guys. It’s been a while, I know. Though it’s not obvious from the number of posts on this blog, I have been busy, and I believe the busy-ness will become evident very soon.

In a nutshell, I’ve spent the past several months working on expanding and developing Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, especially from a marketing perspective. What this means in the short term is that two books are being made ready for publication this year, with the possibility of a third also (though that one may run into 2018).

I’ve also been rethinking my blogging. Not just my schedule but also my purpose.

When I launched Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, my goal was to help unknown writers earn publication and begin to develop an audience. I’m very proud to have been the first publisher of fiction for more than a dozen writers these past five years. I’ve actually never sat down and counted them all; it could be upwards of twenty debut fiction authors.

That accomplishment – both mine and theirs -- has been on my mind as I’ve considered what my blogging should be about. There are a lot of writing blogs out there, and I know I don’t read as many as I used to. So why would anyone want to read mine? Well, I don’t know that they will, frankly. And that’s ok, because creating and building an audience takes time.

Writing is what I do. It’s what I’ve always done – before, during, and after the creation of EBP. These days, I’m not only a writer. I’m an editor, a publisher, at times a songwriter and musician. And increasingly I’m feeling confident that what we’ve been trying to do with EBP is the right thing for writers.

Let’s face it, publishing these days is a heck of a lot easier than it used to be, but building an audience is hard. Very, very hard. There’s so much out there. You’ve probably heard that a lot of it is garbage. To a degree, that’s true. But then that’s always been true.

What’s different is I’ve gotten know a lot more writers now, and the submissions I’ve gotten over the past five years always turn up several gems. Some of the submissions my review teams have rejected were stories I kinda enjoyed, even if too many of those relied on tired old tropes.

From now on, my blogging goal is to build something aimed at helping authors develop an audience. As I said, it’s a big part of what EBP has been about since the beginning, and if this company is going to be something I can expand and possibly even give to my daughters one day, then that topic needs to remain its focus going forward.

How will I do that? To be honest, I’m sure that’s going to evolve, too. I’ll write about author marketing -- the tried and true as well as the new. I don’t have all the answers, because smart new questions are being asked every day. But I’ve spent the past blurdy-blurdy years interviewing leaders of nonprofit organizations all over the country (and outside the U.S., too) about building constituencies, movements, followings; I am confident I can share lessons learned over that time.

One way I’ll do that is by interviewing authors about what they’re doing and what’s working for them. I’ll discuss things like covers (because there are a lot of crappy covers out there. Yeeesh!), and I’ll provide my own experience with certain products to help other authors learn from my experience.


When my friends and I created the late, beloved blog From the Write Angle, the goal was to provide authors lessons from those of us slightly higher up the ladder. In a way, that’s the goal on this blog, too, and with this publishing company. I may even have some guest posts from some of my FTWA co-conspirators.

So, I invite you to check out my updated blog. It’s actually going to be at the EBP site – in fact, you’ll see this post there, too. And if you like what you see, please sign up for my newsletter. I’ll use many of the usual techniques – free stuff, newsletter-only exclusives, etc. – I hope you’ll come to back because you’ll want to read the items I’ll be sharing. So, take a look. And let me know what you like and what you don’t. Let’s get the conversation going.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thinking about the days of the week

For those paying attention at home, I’m in the midst of a blog rethink and redesign, at least as far as my writing approach to this blog is concerned. I will reupholster the electronic furniture a bit and possibly hang some new wallpaper, but suffice it to say, I’m aiming to make this a place worth visiting. 

Of course, I already have ideas and I’m putting some things together so I’ll be able to hit the ground running. Here’s one idea that I’ve been mulling.

Folks of a certain age will remember a song from many moons ago known as “I don’t like Mondays.” I want to do something about the whole Monday malaise. Ideally, I’ll make things better for writers rather than contributing to the “blahness” of the first workday of the week. But you never know.

My idea is “Marketing Mondays.” Most fiction writers aren’t any fonder of marketing than the rest of humanity is a fan of Mondays. So a couple Mondays a month, I’ll explore ways we writers can improve our marketing and promotion efforts. Yes, at some point I’ll probably talk at least a bit about email lists and newsletters. Hate them or hate them, if they’re done the right way, they’re highly effective tools for building your platform, which, among other things, help you stand out in a crowd. And few things are as crowded as the book publishing world these days.

So, what’s the right way to do marketing in such a busy field? Well, I’m hoping to get some comments on that type of thing from writers and publishers who can address it better than I can. If you ask me, the answer boils down to how you build an audience for your novels and short stories: Write something entertaining and engaging and write it well.

I’d love to hear some other topics you’d like to read about with regard to where your marketing and audience development efforts might be lagging. Feel free to share in the comments below or send an email to matt@elephantsbookshelfpress.com.

Soon to come: other days of the week.




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to School

Remember the Staples back-to-school commercial from a few years ago? You know it: the one where the father is dancing through the aisles of the supply store behind his shopping cart while his kids plod along behind him, their heads staring at the floor, all while Johnny Mathis sings "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Even before I had kids, that was one of my favorite commercials, and I'm not a big fan of watching ads. And now that I'm a dad, I understand it on another level. It truly feels as though things are falling back into place, the tumblers are landing in the correct slots to unlock the door.

That's how things have felt for me lately. We have just launched Billy Bobble the Witch Hunt, and I'm working on the next novel, Don M. Vail's Lost Wings. Busy, busy, busy!

But in the busy-ness, I have the exciting fretfulness of a student starting a new school year. I worry about the reviews for R.S. Mellette's wonderful book -- will readers think it's as engaging and provocative as I do? Am I doing enough to get the word out about it? (Probably not. None of us, not even Stephen King, ever do. Don't believe me? Without googling it, what were the names of his last two books?)

So I've been boning up again on online tutorials, re-reading articles about marketing and promotion, and trying to put lessons learned into practice. I wish I had one that I could share that has been hands-down better than everything else, but to me they all seem to be about building audience incrementally, reader by reader. Slow going, to say the least. But valuable, nonetheless

What has worked for you? Have you found anything that worked really well for your book? I'd love to conduct an interview with someone who has a great author-promotional effort to share. We can even do some shared marketing, where we'll give away some books -- yours and ours!

Who's game? After all, It's the most wonderful time of the year.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Things my wife keeps explaining

Recently I was talking to my wife about Elephant’s BookshelfPress. Back before she became a mom and a classroom assistant in our daughters’ school, she negotiated deals in the advertising world (he says somewhat cryptically). So I learned a long time ago to trust her marketing instincts. 

We’ve talked about EBP’s Facebook and Twitter presence and blogging schedule and overall approach to promotion. I’ve been a journalist for more than twenty years, so I think I have a clue or two about which marketing approaches work and which don’t. But as is usually the case, my wife was able to demonstrate how I’m not as smart as I sometimes think I am. The conversation went something like this:

“Your last blog post was when?” she asked.

Not looking away from the pasta boiling in the pan. “A few weeks ago.”

“Try July.”

I look up. Obviously, she knew the answer before she asked the question. “Well, that’s a few weeks ago.”

“July.”

“Ok, I get your point. But I’ve been working on Billy Bobble and the Witch Hunt, the anthology project, and Lost Wings. And I have other projects for 2017 that are on the back burner, so I keep in touch with those writers.”

“Are you keeping in touch with your readers?”

Silence on my part. I may have scuffled my shoes on the linoleum, I don’t quite remember. I should pay more attention to this floor.

“Not as well as I should,” I admitted – to her, to myself. (And ultimately to you.)

“Do your readers know who you are?”

“I think most of them are people I met through AgentQuery Connect, the anthologies, and From the Write Angle.”

“That’s all well and good, but readers like to know who these writers are. And you’re one of the writers.”

“I do interviews with the EBP writers.”

“When was the last one?”

Boy, the linoleum is looking kinda scuffed. … “Yeah, I guess it has been a while.”

“I was looking at your friend Mindy’s blog.” she continued.

“I love her blog.”

“It’s very good. She’s got all sorts of series that she does: interviews, reviews of queries. And makes up funny names to those things. SHIT, for example and SWAG and SNOB.”

“She’s funnier than I am.”

“You’re funny, too, when you talk like yourself.”

I smile. It's nice to be considered funny, even if I'm not very funny. “But we’re writing for different audiences.”

“What is her audience?”

“Well, she writes YA mostly.”

“Is that who reads her blog?”

“Actually, her blog is aimed at other writers. But I’m sure she has attracted the readers of her novels, too.”

“And her short stories. She writes wonderful short stories.”

“Yes, she does.” Her story "Last Kiss" led off EBP's very first anthology, Spring Fevers. (which is still free, by the way.)

“So here’s what I think you should do with your blog. Write blogs. Write them regularly. Have some sort of theme to things. Be yourself. In fact: tell people about yourself. You don’t have to divulge that we keep the Holy Grail in our garage (oops!), but you can be honest without sharing too much information.”

“No blog posts about what I had for lunch.” I poke around at the pasta again. Just about done. 

“Correct, but if you want to say you were cooking dinner for the girls, that seems fine to me. As long as there’s a point to it. Having a series of posts will help you focus.”

“I think I have an idea for my first theme: Things my wife keeps explaining to me.”

“It’s a start. You’ll need to keep thinking, though.”

...

So I'm thinking... Yeah, some of you who've read my blog over the years have probably seen me talk about doing more, but -- as usual -- my wife makes an important point. I may even talk about myself a bit, though I fear I'm way too boring to attract readers with information about me.

What else would you like to hear about on this blog? Or do you wish I'd simply go away? That's a valid viewpoint, too.