Today we’re continuing our interview with John L. Betcher, the author of the recently-released The Missing Element and of the upcoming novel The 19th Element. On Monday, we spoke with John about his self-publishing experience. For the conclusion of the interview, we’ll venture into marketing territory, discuss the need for independent reviews and find out what’s next for John before concluding with our fun Hot Seat questions!
- When and how did you decide on your marketing strategy?
- I don’t know if I’m a good resource to answer this question – yet. In my opinion, the publishing industry is in a serious state of upheaval. (Surprise, surprise!) I hoped to find some good suggestions for marketing my book in this environment by doing a lot of internet research, reading blogs, etc. To my dismay, there is no prevailing wisdom on how to guarantee successful marketing of a self-published book – or whether you should even publish one. So I’m learning as I go.
- The one strategy that I am really happy with is my decision to ardently seek out independent reviewers to read my book. I knew that there would be a flood of other self-published books competing with mine for readers’ attention. I needed some bona fides to stand out from the crowd. Something to give my readers/buyers at least some assurance that I was not selling a piece of junk. Having eight or ten truly independent reviews, in my mind, lends my book at least a small amount of credibility that many others lack.
- We’ve talked a lot recently about target markets and you seem to have a pretty good idea of yours — how did you discover your target and when (ie, did the books come before the target market or after)?
- Ha. Ha. You’d think I’d be smart enough to identify my target market before writing the book. And I did . . . but only in the most general terms. I knew what I was ABLE to write about, and in what style I was ABLE to write. Those factors influenced my book’s content more than its target market did. Sad, huh?
- The bottom line for me is that, at present, I still feel limited in the kind of fiction that I can pull off and still make the dialogue and the surroundings ‘real.’ It’s that old ‘write what you know about’ thing. I know YA is a hot genre. But I can’t write YA – yet! And Romances are also a strong venue. Nothing against Romances – everyone should read what they choose. But I don’t really have an interest in writing one.
- My ending up writing in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre with Minnesota as a backdrop was more a necessity than a choice. I say ‘was,’ because as I exercise my writing ‘muscle,’ I find that it has been growing stronger. I hope to take on projects in the future that would have been impossible for me to pull off in the recent past.
- Has the local setting of your books impacted your marketing efforts?
- Absolutely! Having written a novel set in the Twin Cities has pretty much dictated that my marketing efforts must focus on that geographical setting – at least in the beginning. My marketing plan draws a ring around Minnesota and then circles out from there.
Influence of Coaching and Agent Query Connect
- How has your position as a volleyball coach influenced your writing and/or marketing?
- I’m not sure that coaching volleyball, or even writing a volleyball book, has influenced my marketing at all. I really never had a large platform in the volleyball venue. So I couldn’t try to cross-sell my novel in that arena.
- I will say, however, that the same drive to learn – really learn WELL – something new, caused me to become proficient in coaching volleyball, and also caused me to want to become proficient at writing. I am not one to take a challenge lightly. And my children describe me as someone who “when he starts something, you just know he’s going to finish it – no matter what.” Obsessive? Perhaps a bit. But then, what’s wrong with giving something like writing – or coaching volleyball – your very best shot?
- What have you gained by being a member/coach at the Agent Query Connect forum?
- That group is completely amazing! Everyone there is respectful, candid, thoughtful, thorough and helpful in every way possible. And collectively, they have a tremendous sense of humor.
- What has that meant to me? Help with improving my writing, querying, summarizing . . . certainly. Someone to commiserate with when publishing seems like an impossible process. Someone to pick you up when you’re having a down day – maybe just got a rejection email. I can’t say enough about the truly quality people I have met at the AQ Connect Forum. BTW . . . Hi to Skyval, Pete, Sue, Robb, Jrea, CherylD, Lanette, JohnW and all the rest of you folks at AQ – you guys rock!
On the Need for Independent Reviews
- On your self-publishing blog, you brought up the need for independent reviews of self-published titles — what was your process for soliciting these independent reviews of your books?
- I employed a few strategies to get independent reviewers to read and review my book:
- I used the Amazon.com Top Reviewers list to find people who had rated lots of mystery/suspense books, and then I emailed them, with my Media Kit attached, asking if they would consider reading my book if I sent it to them. (Note: If you decide to do this, please remember that these folks love to read and review books, but they don’t get paid for it. And they are under absolutely no obligation to accept your book or even respond to your email. So please . . . be nice to them.)
- I sent my book to William R. Potter (@wrpotter) at Readers’ Choice Book Reviews; then purchased a very inexpensive distribution package (something like thirty bucks) to get that review sent all over cyberspace. In my opinion, this was a great investment of very few dollars. It only got me one review – but that review was very well-written and is now all over the web.
- I also tried using a company called Bostick Communications. I did get a few reviewer names from Bostick. But I do not recommend using them for reasons I prefer not to discuss in this forum.
- I sent copies of my book and Media Kit to local media outlets in Minnesota asking if they would consider doing a review.
- And finally, I sought out bloggers who were soliciting books for review in my genre. I emailed them, just like the Amazon Reviewers, and asked if I could send them my book.
- That’s it so far. But I’m always looking for ways to inexpensively obtain independent reviews.
- I employed a few strategies to get independent reviewers to read and review my book:
Upcoming from John
- What are you working on next?
- If you’re asking about marketing – I’m gonna keep learning and trying new things ‘til I find as many of the best ways to market my book that I can in this changing marketplace.
- If you’re asking about writing – I’ve got a second book in the “Beck” mystery/suspense series ready to be released sometime in July, 2010. It’s called The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller and concerns an Al Qaeda plot to attack a Minnesota nuclear power plant.
- “Yeah. Right,” you say. Al Qaeda in Minnesota. Well . . . Mohamed Atta lived here for quite a while right before he piloted a 767 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The plot is plausible enough. In fact, an unnamed source in the nuclear plant security business tells me that my name is going onto the FAA ‘No-fly List’ as soon as the book is published. Now THAT would be a marketing plan!
Hot Seat Questions
Now it’s time for the just-for-fun Duolit Hot Seat questions. Let’s learn a little more about John, outside of his life as a writer and self-publisher.
- If you could have any superhero power, which would you choose? Superhuman patience. All writers need this one.”
- What’s the most interesting trip you’ve ever taken? To Ocho Rios, Jamaica in about 1987. Beautiful. Jerk pork. Steel drums. Dunn’s river falls. Red Stripe. Hold the ganja please.
- What’s your favorite junk food? Pizza.
- In the movie of your life, who would play the lead role? The late Rodney Dangerfield.
- Pencil, pen or computer? Computer – for more than 30 years now.
- If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose? Spenser from the Robert B. Parker detective series.
- What’s your favorite TV show? Tough call . . . I’m gonna say “Sons of Anarchy.” Very edgy and original.
Thanks for a great interview, John! To find out more about John (or to purchase his books) visit his website, give him a shout on Twitter @JohnBetcher or on the Agent Query Connect forum.
This post is part of our series of interviews with those involved with self-publishing. If you’re interested in being interviewed for the series, give us a shout!