Monday, June 25, 2012

Hitting Rock Bottom

Okay, I haven't actually hit rock bottom. I did hit a few weeks where neither of my books sold even one copy, at least according to the Amazon numbers.  Two of these weeks were in a row, which was quite depressing.

Instead of getting dejected, I looked back at what I was doing for promotion for the last few months, and then went further into the last few years, and had to admit I wasn't doing much lately.  I've had a busy year, with two kids, a job I work from home, and being president of the parent/teacher group at my youngest daughter's school.  With all of that, I had let promotion slip woefully out of my grasp.

Now that my reign of terror has ended as Co-Op president of Metairie Academy, I have the time to take stock of what I need to do to start selling books again.  First and foremost, I recognized that even with the amount of work I had to do last year, I should have developed a system so that promoting my books wouldn't have suffered.  Since that horse doesn't need to be beat any more, I can only look forward and make sure I get back on track.

So now the trick is setting up a schedule and a routine, two things I truly suck at.  We are not routine people.  We are even less of schedule people.  As an example, now that school is out, my daughters--10 and 13 years old--and I stay up until 3 or 4 a.m.  I usually wake and struggle out of bed between 11 and noon, they may sleep until 2 or 3 p.m.  I can't fault them for that- I have always been a night person, and they have been night people from birth.  So my hurdle is to accomplish what I need to on the schedule I have now.

Right before my first novel, Gumbo Justice, came out, I had a lot of time on my hands. I had been in a near-fatal collision with a drunk driver and was on my back for a really long time.  Being able to do nothing else, I visited websites, set up my own websites, set up my blog, set up my Facebook page and twitter account, and pretty much wandered the internet at a leisurely pace, getting the lay of cyberland for promotion, something most people don't have the luxury of doing. I also wrote a screenplay, but that's another story.

So initially, when my novel came out, it sold okay, because my name was OUT THERE in the cyberworld.  I continuously found places to put my name and book title, thanks in great part to Sunny, who sent links to all sorts of websites.  Whether I was emailing a website for an interview, asking to guest blog, trying to get a review, or just commenting on someone else's post, I was OUT THERE.

Although it was never going to hit the bestseller's list, Gumbo continued to sell at a pace that was not embarrassing, and I continued my online promotion.  I also did a few other things, a few craft shows at school, a few contests, a book launch, things to help me sell books on my own.

When Jambalaya Justice came out in July of 2011, I began to do the same things. It was like getting two for the price of one when someone would agree to interview me or let me guest blog, because I could plug both books.  And then August rolled around, just a month after my book release, and school, with the dreaded Co-Op presidency.

After a month or so of school, I almost completely stopped looking for places to post, emailing websites, or even posting on my own blog.  The only thing I did end up doing was setting up Facebook pages for both of my novels, and invited all my friends to like them.  I think the sales I got this past year may be because of those pages, and updating them periodically.

So now I have set up a SYSTEM. At least my version of a system.  I made a spreadsheet with the things I need to get done every day.  I've included in that an hour of working on Chocolate City Justice, the third in my series, and thirty minutes of promotion. 

I am also creating a separate list of  specific things to do promotion-wise, so that I have definite things to do in that thirty minutes. I could spend 30 minutes a day easily reading other blogs or trying to find ways to promote, but instead I am going to spend the first couple of days of my allotted 30 minute blocks finding those specific things that I can do. 

 One of those things was contacting the N.O. public library, which I did, and now have 4 of my books on their shelves.  I posted about this on my own blog at  Another was contacting a blog that interviews writers and contacting a blog that hosts guest bloggers. 

While I wait to hear back from people I contact, I can work on the guest blogs during my 30 minutes of allotted time, so I will have a repertoire of blogs on different topics ready to go.

One problem I have is that I have been interviewed or guest blogged on a lot of blogs already, and with no new book out yet, I don't feel like I should contact them again until my new book is on the release calendar, which it can't be until I finish it.  But I am keeping an e-mail list of the sites I've already been on, so when it comes closer to Chocolate City coming out, I can contact them again.

My system is probably not organized enough for some writers, but I think it works for me.  The trick is coming up with what works for you and doing the things you feel comfortable doing, but pushing yourself out of that comfort zone if the occasion and necessity arise.

Hitting rock bottom to me just means there's nowhere to go but up.  

Holli Castillo


William Doonan said...

These are great reminders, Holli. As I try to get the word out about American Caliphate, I'm definitely going to refer back to these suggestions.

William Doonan

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I am absolutely not that organized, but I'm a morning person. My work gets done between 5 a.m. and noon. I'm sleeping when you're up working. I could never sleep in the daytime, except for a nap once in awhile. But I must confess, way back when I was younger I could stay up late, but never like you do. Glad it works. And I'm glad we're all so different.

Great post, Holli.


Anonymous said...


I'd love to have you guest blog on one of my sites, and if you're in the Los Angeles area promote your work to my students. I love Jumbalia Justice.

Getting organized is tough, tough, and it turns into a job, but what a great job being a novelist is, and your work certainly deserves promotion!

--John Brantingham

Anonymous said...

Whoops, that's "JAMBALAYA." Don't know how I let that slip through.

John Brantingham

Holli said...

William, I hope some of these suggestions work for you. Promotion really is trial and error, but it does help if you don't have to reinvent the wheel constantly.

Marilyn, I just got up, so I know we could never be writing buddies! I was writing until 4:00 this morning.

John, If you want to email me off site,, I would love to guest blog. I would also love to promote my work to your students, but I don't know if I'll get out to L.A. anytime soon. My husband is an aspiring actor down here in New Orleans, though, so you never know.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Nope, we can't be writing partners, Holli, but I love what we are, friends.

Sally Carpenter said...

Great ideas, Holli. I was letting my promotion slip, too. It's hard sometimes to keep the pace going. We need those breathers! Getting organized can be half the battle, but worth it.

Holli said...

Sally, if I don't write it down these days, it doesn't get done.

Sunny Frazier said...

Holli, why don't you let me put you in my Posse? When I market, I notify the Posse to read articles that will further their promotion and marketing. Plus, I'm now giving them my "secrets," like how to steal a fan base. All I need is permission to put your email in my Posse posts.

If not, go to my website and look through the past Posse Posts. You'll find links to sites and info that might help. Why do all the work yourself when I'm doing it for my marketing anyway?

You need a break, girlfriend. Let me help.

Holli said...

Sunny, I was in your Posse since the beginning, and all of a sudden-- I wasn't. I used to receive all of the Posse emails. ????

Anonymous said...

Why are just some OTP authors in a "posse"? Aren't we all concerned with PR and trying to get the word out, etc? It makes me feel like back in junior high when you don't get in the right club!

Just asking...


Sunny Frazier said...

Well, Kit, it started out just with people in acquisitions who I wanted to train before they got a contract. You are already well-versed in marketing. Most of the other OTP authors would consider me a peer and wonder where I got off assuming the role of Sheriff. So, the answer to your questions is no, there's no specific requirement or intention to have OTP authors automatically in the Posse.

The Posse is not directly linked to OPT, it's linked to me. However, on our badges we do have the OPT tree logo and the mission statement.

If you want to join, just contact me. Or, go to my website and read the Posse posts at your leisure. I tend to ride the Posse hard and I don't believe that would suit you.

Sunny Frazier said...

Holli, periodically I put out a post asking people to respond if they want to continue in the Posse. If I don't hear from people, I assume they are just deleting the posts.

I don't know that you were in the Posse; I have a secondary group called OTP authors, those of you I have become close to. I send you info through that link. I haven't done it in awhile because I got no feedback.

This is touchy as I don't want to tread on toes. Most of you have your platforms in good order and you work directly with Billie. However, I would be more than happy to include you in what the Posse is doing. It's just another email addy and no extra work for me.

This whole Posse idea is the #1 thing I'm asked to talk about at conferences and on panels. I think everyone should have a Posse.

Holli said...

Sunny, I would like to be back on-- most of the time when I posted comments on other blogs, it was blogs you had sent me to. Same for interviewers I contacted. Occasionally I get a lead that no one connected to OTP has sent me, and I try to send that on through the group or post it here. That is rare, though. You and other OTP writers have been a great wealth of information to me for promotion.

Sunny Frazier said...

I already added your email. In fact, you should have received a Posse post earlier tonight!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.