Street Team: Great Idea, or Kind of Silly?

I’ve heard a lot about author street teams lately. The concept (for those who haven’t heard of it) involves a group of fans of an author’s work who are excited about promoting it. Those special readers hand out bookmarks, leave honest reviews, maybe request or donate library copies in their town, recommend the books to friends, or mention the titles in relevant Facebook posts. In exchange, they might get advance copies of books, paperbacks, or other swag. Maybe they become the author’s inner circle, the devoted fans who the author asks to beta read new work, or who have the author’s ear when they have questions about the stories.

And, of course, they get the author’s eternal gratitude. It’s about connection, not bribery.

Ideally, it’s a win-win situation. As an author, I wouldn’t be comfortable asking people to help out with promotions if they weren’t getting anything but warm, fuzzy feelings in return…

…but then, people do that anyway, don’t they? I know I do, when I read a book that I love. All of Bound‘s early sales came from word-of-mouth promotion. People read advance copies and reviewed on their blogs, or bought copies and recommended the book to their friends. A few people suggested it to their wine-drinking clubs book clubs, and they all bought it and read it together. And that led to enough sales that Amazon started recommending it.

It continues now. People will write and say they loved the book and are recommending it to everyone, and I just want to hug them. But I don’t. Because that would be uncomfortable for everyone.

Also, internet hugs get weird.

But I’m starting to think that a street team could be fun. I know there are people out there who are reviewing and recommending, and darn it, I want to give them stuff to make that easier. I want to send them postcards with book covers on them. I want them to be the first to know when a limited number of advance review copies are available. I want to wish them happy birthday (from their favourite character, if that’s what they want).

I want to thank them.

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Like… all the swag. I should get more.

 

So, how to do it?

A Facebook group seems like the obvious answer. This would be better than a page, as it would ensure that people actually see my posts (unlike my page, where posts reach very few of the people who have signed up and said they want to see them). It would allow people to interact with each other and share ideas, and I’d get to know them a little better, too, as I’ve done with a few readers through my Facebook page.

Or would it just be a time-suck? I’d love to do fun things like awarding points for achievements (sharing promo posts on Facebook and elsewhere, recommending the book or nominating it for things like readers’ choice awards, leaving reviews, etc.), and then send out prizes like book charms, exclusive bookmarks, paperbacks, etc.

But that could get complicated. I mean, I can’t even use Excel to track this stuff, because I’m no good with computer… thing. And I kind of need to use my “spare” time for writing. This isn’t something I’d take time away from writing to do, but I could definitely set it up and maintain it on days like today, when the kids are home and I can’t do my “real” work.

And there’s the expense. Mailing anything bigger than a few postcards gets really expensive when it’s coming from Canada.

So my questions for all y’all: 

AUTHORS: Do you use a street team? How do you keep in touch with them? What do they do? Is it what you hoped it would be? How do you make it worthwhile for your readers, those wonderful people who make your professional world go ’round?

READERS: Would you be interested in something like this? Say, a closed Facebook group where you’d be the first to learn about my new books and promotions, see things like teasers and new covers, and have first dibs on advance review copies? Would you be willing to help out with occasional promos in exchange for these things, or do you prefer to recommend books for no reason other than the fact that the moment seems right? If you were on a street team, what would make it fun for you? Points? Raffles?  Just-for-fun, random party games a few times a month? Group chats? Constant AMA author access?

And also: What would my team be called? “You Guys” is probably taken. O.o

And P.S: I am so grateful to those of you who are already doing this stuff. Those who are sharing Bound with people, writing reviews, tweeting about books, recommending to your book clubs, clicking “helpful” on positive Amazon reviews, commenting on Facebook… the one teacher I know of who stuck a copy in her classroom… I appreciate it, and you, so much.

 

 


FRACTURED FAIRY TALE FRIDAY: Black & Blue Edition

Once upon a time, the Empress called the finest seamstress in the land to her chambers.

“I require a dress,” the Empress announced. “One that shall be the talk of the land. For it is nearly my birthday, and I wish to be the centre of attention.”

“Of course,” the seamstress said, and curtseyed.

Days later, the Empress tried on her new dress. “Fantastic!” she cried. “The white and gold really complement my hair.”

Her servants exchanged nervous glances. “It’s blue and black,” whispered the chambermaid.

The royal toilet-flusher hushed her. “Never contradict the Empress,” she said, but the Empress heard.

“What is this nonsense?” she asked. “The dress is white and gold. It’s clear as my porcelain skin.”

“My bad,” the chambermaid replied.

“Aah, yes,” the seamstress said. “You see, only the wisest and most worthy will see the dress as white and gold. It appears blue and black to the low. Both are terribly flattering, I assure you.”

The Empress hit the streets. Within minutes the city was in turmoil. Those who saw blue and black hurled boots at those who saw white and gold, while ‘team white and gold’ jeered and insulted their enemies’ grandmothers. Families were torn in two. Life-long loyalties were destroyed. Novelty tee shirt merchants and meme-smiths made a fortune.

A pair of llamas broke free from the Royal Llamary and raced through the streets.

Eventually the dust cleared. Grudging apologies echoed through the streets, and a special lost-and-found was set up for boots (though not for insulted grandmothers).

And when the dust cleared, the people discovered that the seamstress had cleared out the royal treasury during the commotion.

She is now a professional celebrity with four million Instagram followers.

THE END


RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT: Lady, Thy Name is Trouble by Lori L. MacLaughlin

Hey, all! Some of you know Lori through her blog, and she’s one of the wonderful people who posted Torn’s cover reveal for me on Monday.

Her new book Lady, Thy Name is Trouble is described as a sword and sorcery epic adventure, with a side of romance.

I haven’t read this one, but it sounds like my kind of thing. :)

The book releases today in e-book. Congratulations , Lori!

Details below…

Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos… and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

 

Amazon

Kobo

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

 

Visit Lori here

 

 

9781942015000-Perfect-lady-thy-name-is-trouble_EbookCover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Wednesday’s Writing Stuff

Exciting title, no? It’s been kind of a crazy week, I’m a little off-kilter, and that’s actually the best I can do.

Quick update:

  • Torn is off for copy edits and proofreading, which means I have a few weeks to freak out get back into revisions on book three, which needs some adjustments after Torn‘s big edits (and just because I’ve come up with a few ways to give the story a more satisfying conclusion).
  • We had the cover reveal for Torn on Monday. Big thanks again to everyone who helped out by sharing or posting the reveal on your blogs! It made it a great party.
  • torn_full

    So pretty!

  • Pre-orders are up, too. It feels like this is really the point of no return, but I… *looks over shoulder, whispers* I feel good about the timing on this. Still releasing in March (31st), but leaving time in case things go wrong.
  • And Bound is on sale for 99 cents this week, in case anyone missed THAT on Monday, as well.

 

WIPpet Wednesday

I guess we only have a few weeks left when I can call Torn a work in progress.

Holy carp.

As always, potential spoilers ahead. I’m trying not to give away twists or surprises (or the main plot), but if you’ve read Bound, you might guess who’s being described here.

And be happy. I can’t be held responsible for that.

2 paragraphs from chapter 25 for 2/25, from the mysterious 3rd character’s POV. She’s just met some strangers, and isn’t feeling particularly warm toward them.

I guess you’ll meet her when we do the prologue reveal in a few weeks… :D

One look at him told me I had better not let my guard down. It would be far too easy to be overcome by his obvious charm. Skin the same color as the woman’s, eyes like the depths of a lake on a summer day, black hair that he brushed back from his face in a gesture that was somehow bashful and self-confident at the same time. His smile revealed the hint of a shallow dimple at the corner of his mouth. I glanced lower, taking in the challenge. Broad shoulders, a muscular body obvious even under layers of clothing. Big hands with long fingers gripped the reins in an awkward hold.

I’d always had a weakness for beauty. We saw so little of it in Cressia.

Hmm…

For more WIPpet Wednesday, click here. The WIPpeteers (including our host, KL Schwengel) post snippets of works in progress every Wednesday, and it’s always fun to see what they’re up to. The only rule is that the snippet has to relate in some way to the calendar date. If you think that sounds like a good time, jump in on your own blog! We don’t bite.

Hard.

 

 


COVER REVEAL: Torn (Bound Trilogy Book 2) by Kate Sparkes

At last, the time has come!

I’m not going to tease, or make you wait any longer. I’m pleased as punch, proud as a peacock, and flipped-out as a fairy to present the cover and back-cover blurb for Torn (available now for pre-order through Amazon!)

torn_full

cover art by Ravven (www.ravven.com)

 

Aren Tiernal knows that safety is an illusion, that his cruel and powerful brother will never forgive his betrayal. Still, returning to Tyrea to challenge Severn for the throne would be suicide. It’s not until Severn himself comes to collect what’s owed to him that Aren decides to risk everything in an attempt to bring down the most powerful Sorcerer Tyrea has ever known. The mission seems doomed to fail, but it’s Aren’s only chance to save himself, his country, and the woman who thawed his heart.

Rowan Greenwood has troubles of her own. Though she should be a great Sorceress, years of being closed off from her magic have left her unable to control her incredible power. When a pair of ominous letters arrive from her home country, Rowan has to choose between her new life and a chance at saving her family—and just maybe changing an entire country’s beliefs about the evils of magic.

Torn apart by separate quests, Rowan and Aren will have to discover untapped strengths and confront their darkest fears in order to overthrow a ruler determined to destroy them both.

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Coming March 31, 2015. Pre-order here!
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And as an “author’s birthday, so why the heck not” celebration, Bound is now on sale on all retailers (Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Kobo) for 99 cents! The sale is only on for a week, so if you or anyone you know has been waiting for this, now would be a great time to grab it.
bound sale 1
Special thanks to everyone who’s helping out with the cover reveal today (yay, you guys!). If you want to stop by and say hello to these wonderful folks, here are the links. Shares and re-blogs are always appreciated!
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WIPpet Wednesday – Full of It Edition

Hmm. Four blog post drafts in my folder, and not one happens to be a WIPpet Wednesday entry for today.

Past me is such a jerk.

For anyone not familiar with the rules, on WIPpet Wednesdays we post a snippet of a work in progress that relates in some way to today’s date. I’m going to be boring today and post 2 paragraphs from chapter 18 of Torn for 2/18.

I’m removing a character’s name to prevent big spoilers, but of course, anything comes with the risk of telling you something about the story. You’ve been warned.

From Rowan’s POV:

 

[My captor] cleared his throat, and I opened my eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop now. They’ll go easier on you at the prison if you cooperate.”

I could have made a good guess at how full of excrement that statement was, but didn’t speak. My voice would have trembled.

 

I’ll give you a longer one some day. Promise.

OH, but speaking of Torn, and for anyone who missed it on Monday, I’m taking sign-ups if anyone would like to help with the cover reveal on February 23rd. E-mail me at kate.sparkes (at) live.ca if you’d like to help out on your blog. It’s gonna be fuuuuun…

Click here to see what the other WIPpeteers (including our host, KL Schwengel) are up to!

ROW80 Update

Torn is with beta readers this week, which leaves me a bit of a self-doubting, insecure mess. It’s nothing to worry about. This is normal for me, and I suspect for most writers, at this stage. There’s more pressure to produce on a deadline this time, which isn’t helping my nerves, but it’s in good hands.

If all goes well, I’ll be announcing the release date with the cover reveal.

And the blurb/cover copy.

*squeak*

And maaaaybe a sale on Bound for anyone who hasn’t grabbed it yet. Because Monday is my birthday, and I’m feeling generous, and I know you’re all going to want to get caught up before Torn comes out. :)

(Yes, I still get excited about my birthday after almost 34 years. I consider every spin around the sun a gift, and it’s a great chance to look back on a fantastic year–even if it was a bit of a roller coaster!)

So other than freaking out, what have I done since my last update? I’ve booked a formatter for the paperback version of Torn, corrected a few typos in the same of Bound (which had already been corrected in the e-book, but PDF files are so much harder to edit) and re-uploaded the file, ordered a proof… walked my big dog… cleaned out a kitchen cupboard… cleaned up a lot of messes courtesy of a tiny dog who doesn’t want to do his business outside…

Okay, most of that’s not writing-related, but I’m a little stuck here. I don’t have time to get back into revising book 3 before my betas finish with Torn.

Reading. I should go read. With tea. And cats.

YAY!

ROW80 is a blog hop, and a lot of authors have interesting stuff going on. To check it out, for more information, or to jump in at any time during the round, click here!


The Things I’m Learning: Working With a Cover Artist (and a call for help with a cover reveal!)

For anyone just now joining us for this series, I’m occasionally posting about things that I’ve learned as I’ve struggled through the process of writing, editing, and publishing my books. It’s a big project with a huge learning curve, and I wish I’d been able to find some of this information when I was starting out.

So I’m sharing my experiences now. As in all things, your mileage may vary, and my way is not going to be the best way for everyone.

Here’s how the process went:

After I decided I was going to publish the Bound trilogy myself, I started looking at book covers I liked. There was one on my Kobo that I loved the look of. Actually, I had bought the book based entirely on that cover. I checked the acknowledgements page, and looked the artist up. Not the cutest “date with destiny/how I met my _____” story, but it’s not a bad method.

The artist was Ravven, and hiring her turned out to be a fantastic decision.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the process. I knew she did photo manipulation, and that her work was beautiful. I knew what I liked, and could point to a handful of her covers I truly adored, and to covers I loved in other genres, and by other artists.

The problem was that I didn’t have any idea what I wanted for my book.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want a character on the cover, but rather something symbolic. I liked covers like that: Twilight, the Hunger Games, Divergent. Even if I didn’t always like the books, I knew that the covers grabbed me.

I sent off the information Ravven requested: full synopsis, character descriptions, my ideas, imagery, mood/tone, genre, links to covers I liked on a Pinterest board… everything. I knew I wanted a sort of ethereal feel. Fantasy, but not Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy. That wasn’t my audience. I wanted it softer, and wanted no chance that readers would think this was going to be a battle-and-body-strewn bloodbath, or a bunch of dudes on a quest. It’s Fantasy, but also YA, with a solid dose of romance, and a lot of it driven by a female character.

So, hey, there’s the mood, right? Kind of?

Problem was, we didn’t have a clear symbol that was eye-catching and said anything about the story. There was no MacGuffin, unless you count a cure (or, like, “not dying”). Nobody wore a special piece of jewelry, and even if they had, covers featuring pretty chins with necklaces have been done a lot in YA. We tried a few things. Feathers. A knife. A ball thing with power trapped within it, symbolizing… well, you know.

Nothing worked. Some of them were nice, but they looked pretty generic. Or, as a friend said about one design, “It looks like the book should be medieval porn.”

And with that comment, any thoughts of showing a woman’s hands bound behind her (symbolically, of course) went out the window, too.

So the ever-patient Ravven and I talked about trying a character cover. She pointed me to this article, which made a convincing argument for giving it a shot.

There were a few things I knew I didn’t want. No heads-cut-off torsos. No giant faces that take up the whole cover. No scantily-clad warrior types.

Rowan seemed like the obvious choice for the cover, so we started there. Ravven (bless her) came up with a few ideas based on my synopsis.

There’s a scene where she wears a lovely dress, but “young woman in pretty dress” is everywhere. Also, Rowan’s usually more the “pants and cotton shirt” type.

“Give me flat-heeled boots or give me death” could be this girl’s motto.

We played with having her looking out a window, framed by snow.

Still seemed too familiar.

(And just to be clear, by “played with,” I mean that Ravven whipped up un-finished designs with stock photos, just to give me an idea of what was possible. She’s a rock star, that one. So patient.)

And then Ravven hit on the current design. We incorporated a certain eagle, because he deserved to be included, and it made for an interesting element.

Ravven sent me about half a dozen stock images of attractive young ladies. There was one with her hand held dramatically across her forehead, and we played with the idea of making it… like… magical, somehow. It didn’t work out. There were others who seemed too disinterested, or too glam-gorgeous.

And then there was Rowan, or as close as we could have hoped to find: pretty but not flawless, strong yet vulnerable. I sent my choice back, and we had our central cover image.

There were still plenty of changes ahead. The model needed her eye colour changed to grey, her hair to dark auburn and totally re-styled, her clothing changed. The background changed a few times, too, from a lake with a boat to the current meadow/river thing. Ravven had to put everything together and then work her magic to give it the soft, artistic finish that it has. No hard, photographic lines. No obvious elements photoshopped together. More like a painting.

And then there was the font choice. That was a rough one. I loved what we have now. It looked appropriately fantastical, and the almost frost-like tendrils reminded me of someone’s scar. I just wasn’t sure it would stand out in thumbnail as well as others. In the end, I had to choose it. It fit so much better than something harder, and no one has complained so far.

So what did we end up with?

10374079_10152471641055325_1349617090979388647_n

Not too shabby.

Actually, the full wrap-around cover had to wait until I knew how many pages the formatted paperback had, and until I had my cover copy written. Ravven was really on the ball with that. It seemed like she had the finished cover back to me before I’d even sent the information.

So what did I learn?

I learned that sometimes it pays to trust someone else’s instincts, especially when she has more experience than me.

I learned that the impact can be more important than the details. To be totally book-accurate, Rowan’s hair would be a little darker, and she’d be wearing a white shirt under that cloak (which would also be a little darker, technically). Her nose would be more freckly, if you looked closely. But this image, as it is, has sold the book, and no one is complaining about the details.

I’ve learned that a character image on the cover doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be how readers picture the character. Rowan lives in people’s imaginations as they choose to see her. The cover might shape that, or it might not. I’m good either way.

I learned that you get what you pay for… to a point. If I’d tried to create the cover myself, without Ravven’s talent and expertise, it would have completely flopped. I know some people have success with stock covers, but I never found one that would have worked as well. Going the other direction, I could have paid $2000 for custom art, but I don’t think it would have sold the book any better, or captured the feel of it more perfectly. This was a great balance for me.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who said they clicked through to read the book description/sample because the cover caught their eye. Money well spent? You bet.

And I learned that even though I know more about a project than anyone, even though it’s kind of my baby… there’s always room for another person’s input.

Oh, and that Ravven is amazing. Obviously.

And I used her services again. How did that go?

Well, it was easier the second time around. We had our “look,” we knew there would be a character on the cover. Who it would be was a question mark, but I think we made the right choice. We went through the same process, except that this time I went to the stock photo site and picked out a few models myself.

That’s a funny story for another day.

The character choice did make things hard for me. I know exactly what this person looks like in my mind, and it’s impossible to translate that perfectly. Also, readers already have a vision of this person in their minds, and there’s no way one cover image will fit all of them. In the end, I hope people will continue to see this character as they choose to, and enjoy the cover even if it’s a little different. I know I do.

*drools over cover*

*looks again, drools more*

And what was the outcome?

torn_promo copy

You’re just going to have to wait for the cover reveal next week to find out.

If you’d like to help out with that by hosting the reveal on your blog on the 23rd (my birthday, yay!), please send me an email at kate.sparkes (at) live.ca. The more, the merrier!

Oh, and newsletter subscribers see it before we post here. VIP club, baby!

Here’s the link to Ravven’s site again, and to her helpful posts on cover design.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found something that was helpful to you.

 


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