Episode 96B – Ann Charles – Relationship Marketing

Overview

Ann attributes a lot of her success to her marketing. She isn’t talking about only advertising. This is a great discussion from an author making a living with their writing. Gain insight into what she does to keep her books flying off the shelves.

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Transcript

[00:00:48] Stephen: great. And you’ve been writing for a while. You’re not brand new which I think is great. What have you learned that you do different now than you used to do? Or what are some [00:01:00] things that have changed that you’re looking at different or however, in the whole publishing writing thing?

[00:01:06] Ann: Biggest thing that changed. It used to be yearly, but now it seems like every six months is marketing and the way I market, which is unfortunately. Marketing is a huge part of this business. If you want to, if you want to make money at this, you have to learn how to do some of the marketing things and you can adjust it to your own style.

So it doesn’t, maybe I’m on, social media more than you feel comfortable. That’s fine. But you’ve got to find another way to get yourself out there and be heard above all the noise. And I don’t mean just other books and other authors. Telephone. Like we were talking, there’s so many different options now that you can sit in front of the TV and just go away for days and days.

How do I get them to look away from the TV and read my books and give that a try or listen? Cause I am on audio for all of my books as well. So marketing is so important. And I can tell you [00:02:00] back, like I told you, in an earlier in 2011, I did the Kindle unlimited free and it went huge way bigger than it does now, but that’s because it was new and not a lot of authors were doing it yet.

The market wasn’t as saturated. I can’t even remember how many books now you are on Amazon. It’s millions. Yeah. And back then, I think there was, when I started, it was like 800,000 books were on Amazon, so it was much easier to be heard and seen and get yourself out there. So that is something that it’s constantly changing.

And I have to rethink my plan every year on what I’m going to do. For example, Facebook, which was so big for so long is really starting to fade and I can see it. I can feel it. And I know. Instagram’s got, has some people, but that’s even, take talk is now the thing. And if you’re 20 or 15, like my kids in their teens, [00:03:00] they just go, yeah, just do this.

But my old getting the older brain just keeps going. What? That’s changed. And then my writing over the years, I’ve written, I think now 32 stories that I have. And I don’t want to ever have someone come up to me and say, that book felt the exact same as the one before it. And the one before it, I don’t want them to feel like, what are you doing?

You’re not even trying anything new anymore. So one of the things that I really work on with every story even novellas, I wish I could just sit down and, put out a story really quick, but I have to have a theme. There has to be a reason. There has to be something behind the story that makes it, why my brain even wants to tell it.

And so I’ve really worked over the, especially the last five years on, on learning different ways to build the structure of a story. Writers know you’ve got a skeleton behind it, all that you’re building and how you do that. So I’ve worked with different themes. I’ve [00:04:00] tried.

Pacing things for different books. For example, book nine of my Deadwood mystery series is called gone hunting haunting. And that one is a lot of action. Most of that story is an action novel. It’s just constant round room. I give you a few breaks here and there to catch your breath, but we’re just action.

Action. I look at my whole series and I go, okay, we really had a lot of action here and we had some here now let’s, I make it a rollercoaster ride basically. And I didn’t use to ever think of it that way. But now I think of every book as, as a coaster or, a ride. And then how does it fit into the overall series ride?

Cause I want, because we have been jurors now, which is wonderful. They’ll write me and say, I picked up your first book two weeks ago and I’ve read all 12 now, what else she got? And so when somebody reads them like that, they’re getting the full rollercoaster effect and what I’ve done. So I pay a lot more attention to the overall series and [00:05:00] Instructure than I used to back in the beginning.

That’s definitely for sure. Then I always thought it was like a fire hose. I was just like trying to hold it, as I wrote now, it’s much more controlled with what I’m doing. So that’s changed as well as the marketing. I

[00:05:13] Stephen: love that. You said that, and I know I’ve got new authors listening and I think one of the problems, not problems per se, but when you’re a new author and you’re struggling to get out now.

Oh my gosh, you’re getting overwhelmed with information and now we’ve probably got somebody out there going, oh my gosh, I’ve got to think about one book being more action. One book being more comedy and probably braid is blowing. But what you said though, is that’s not what you were worried about the beginning.

It’s not until you had some books that you had a few written that you could settle down and start focusing on that. So you had to start with just getting a story done and

[00:05:52] Ann: getting it out. It’s all those first books. I look at him and sometimes. I could do a lot more. I could go back and tweak [00:06:00] them and play with them, but I’ve heard time.

And again, from other authors, don’t touch your first book once it’s out. And if it’s done well, because that’s what it was, that’s what you were at that time and it’s fresh and it’s exciting. And if you go back and start tweaking it and trying to. Play with it. Cause you think you’re such a better author.

Now you, a lot of times you might ruin that spark that it had that, helped it to do so well or to be so fresh and new. So yeah I do hope with every book that I improve. And my mom does tell me, I don’t know how she says, it’s so nice too. She goes, I don’t know how you’re doing it. Or even if you even know you’re doing it, but every book you keep getting better and I just can’t believe you do it.

I’m like, I think there’s a,

but really for newer authors, I one of my things with marketing and writing. Don’t look at the big picture. You CA you, [00:07:00] you can get an idea, but you really need to start and you need to focus on one thing at a time. And I think of it as so my dig site series is set down in the Maya, historic all that archeology area.

And I think of this as I’m building my own Maya’s city, and so it’s one temple at a time. And then I add temples to my site. And I keep expanding my world that way. I didn’t do it all at once. I did one temple at a time, one thing at a time and built it up. Same with marketing. I didn’t, I’m on all these different plans.

I didn’t do that all at once. It was one. And then I got that going. And then I, okay. A friend of mine used to call it plate spinning. She said I was plates spinning all the time. So I get one plate spinning, and then you get another one and you’re spinning that one and you’re spinning them all.

And you keep spinning. The key is just to get one. And then get the next spinning, and then it’s easier once you’ve got it going, you can keep it going, [00:08:00] but you have to get the first one going. And if you go to, in my opinion, if you spread too wide and you try too much at once, it’s overwhelming and it’s self-defeat, you just feel like I can’t do anything, right?

Because if you put your energy too wide, you can’t build one thing. Really nice and big. But that’s just me. That’s the way my brain works.

[00:08:21] Stephen: And I think that’s actually the best advice in the best way to do it. That too many authors I think get overwhelmed. And I was that way too, until I realized, wait a second, I’m with all these other new authors, everybody feels overwhelmed and nobody’s getting anything out.

Maybe that’s the key right there. So I don’t write.

[00:08:40] Ann: Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things, when I do, I’ve done I’ve done a lot of workshops over time. And talks. And one of the things that I like to emphasize and it’s, and I struggle with this myself. Is to focus on your own journey. Don’t look at the guy next to you or the woman, the author next to you.

Who’s [00:09:00] maybe one this, or getting this notice or having this happen to them and S and let that jealousy eat you up because that’s not your journey. Your journey is here and there’s going to be some wonderful things to come your way, but you have to take your own journey. And like I said, I struggle with that.

I look at someone else who just hit a big, hit the big list on that and, oh my gosh, look at them. Oh, why can’t I have that? But then I have to go, you know what? That. That’s what they’re doing. And maybe I can see some of the marketing things they’re doing and try to emulate them in my own way, but I cannot copy their journey.

Exactly. So it’s really important to find the joy in your own journey. Otherwise, you’re going to forever be unsatisfied with this whole

[00:09:44] Stephen: totally agree. I love that. I’m going to probably make that the sound clip right there. So let’s talk about that for a second, because like I said, you are. How did you get on the USA bestseller list?

[00:09:59] Ann: That [00:10:00] book was the fourth book in my dentistry

[00:10:03] Stephen: at first, it was you’re pointing that out.

[00:10:08] Ann: Yes, no, nearly departed, which is the first that I put out there the first and the dead wood mystery series. That one won two big awards before, right at the right out of the gate before it was public.

At one, the Daphne D’Amore, which is a mystery award. And then it won the romantic writers of America, big for an unpublished author, the golden heart, both of those shocked me because I have a mixed John restory of a mix of mystery and romance. So for each one, I’m in a mystery contest, I’m in a romance contest.

And I thought each time there’s no way the sucker’s gonna win. I went to the Daphne Demari awards. It was. Down in Florida at the time when I was in Seattle. So I said, all right, let’s go. But I didn’t write a thank you speech or anything because I kept telling my friend, I’m not going to win. I’m going to go, [00:11:00] I’m going to see what it’s like, but I’m not going to win.

And it not only when the category, it, when the overall and I was like, I didn’t have speech. I forgot so many people when I had to stand up there and think everyone, it was. Holy cow. So shortly thereafter was the big romance writers of America award ceremony that was in New York city. And I had little baby know babies, and I wasn’t gonna go to something where I knew I wasn’t gonna win.

Cause it’s a romance, and my book has romance, but it’s not a romance. And then my friend, I, but I did send a speech with a friend who was going to it and she got up there for me and gave my speech while I was folding underwear.

[00:11:39] Stephen: That’s what I love about talking to authors and this podcast, I’m not talking to people that are in high rises.

Gilded mansions. You won a big award and you were folding underwear. It sums it up right there.

[00:11:53] Ann: I will remember that forever. I’m folding these stupid underwears underwear. And I’m looking at texts going. No, I should [00:12:00] have been there. Oh my God. So it, it won these two big awards. It got all kinds of attention.

And we put that one out and we put the second one out and we put the third one out and we used some of the marketing stuff that was then, like I said, there was no free, there were all these things we use to build the series. And when book four came out, it hit big. But what happened then? It was, I think, it was about six months after it came out or so I was getting ready to put book five out. So I dropped the price. Of better off dead book, four to 99 cents. And I just, I put it out and I, I landed a BookBub and it went so big. I was shocked. It made it within the top five in all of Amazon at 99 cents.

Back then that was something and it had an okay. So here’s another funny, I didn’t know it was on the USA today. Bestseller list. I had no idea and I didn’t know that for two years. And it was 10 years later, I was going with a BookBub [00:13:00] ad and I got another and I’ve had wonderful BookBub has been kind to me over the years.

They pick up my books, but they didn’t want it. And they put it out and I looked at their copy, they wrote, and it said USA today, bestseller and Charles Bubba. And I went, oh, crap. Do I need to tell them they’ve got that wrong. They must have me confused with someone else. And I let that one go. I talked to my friend, she goes don’t piss off.

BookBub let them go. So we let it go. So I got another BookBub like two months later and they did it again. And I said, I’ve got to tell them this can’t keep going on. It makes me feel bad, but then in the meantime my friend goes, wait, let me talk to this other friend that she keeps track of the lists.

So she did, and that friend sends me back the screenshot from two years prior when it was there. And I was like, oh, for two years, I’ve been a USA today. Bestseller. And I had no idea. I just was clueless. That’s just how much of my journey [00:14:00] has been amazing things like that. That I have my head in the sand.

Like I said, I’m raising kids, I’m trying to, write books and keep going and interact with fans. And I don’t always pay attention to everything else going out there. And another example. This was really fun. So I’m working this one, I still have my day job and was riding at night and my mom calls me at work and she goes, Hey, you’re on jeopardy.

And I said, no, I’m at work. She goes, no, you’re on jeopardy. And I, and she’s an hour behind me and time-zones, and she goes, my friends from the east coast said, you’re on jeopardy. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It was like, have you taken your meds? What’s going on? And she goes, no, you don’t understand.

You’re a question on jeopardy. I said what? She goes. Yeah. It’s something about the Deadwood series. And so she goes, all my friends back east in New York are calling me saying your daughter’s on jeopardy. So by gosh, we went [00:15:00] home and everybody in west coast knew that I knew was like, get on watched jeopardy tonight.

And sure enough, I was on jeopardy. And it’s a question that it’s something about. And Charles writes a creepy story set in this morbid sounding city. And it was what is Deadwood. The good thing is which may sound bad. It was the big stars. Lewis black was on there and some of these big name stars and they didn’t know the answer.

And so you might think that’s a bad thing, but remember if you don’t know the answer, it just sits there on the screen for 10 seconds. So I got 10 seconds of prime time advertising when nobody knew the answer. So that was nothing I did. I had so many authors at this point say, how did you do it? How did you get on jeopardy?

And I said, I didn’t do anything. It just all timed out. And it, I was, they somebody must’ve been traveling through Deadwood, South Dakota and seen a book. I don’t know. That’s where I say your journeys, your journey. Open yourself to [00:16:00] opportunities. And that’s what I try to do. Ha just be open to all kinds of opportunities.

And I don’t mean just with the universe, like I’m open more. I try for this. I put my name in here. I do this. I put myself all over the place and then sometimes things come to you and it works out really well for you. So that’s. Just keep trying, and put yourself out there.

And if it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up and give up, you just keep trying and trying. That’s what I do. And I stumble into these wonderful things and I’m like, oh, that went big. Woo.

[00:16:32] Stephen: Two years later. You’re like yeah,

[00:16:34] Ann: yeah. I know. So then we’re changing everything. We got to change all our marketing anti-virals instead of a word, multiple word reading.

[00:16:41] Stephen: So yeah. How did that change? Because obviously you didn’t know you were still putting books out and they were probably doing well. But suddenly you find out I was a USA best seller. What changed with your marketing? But did it change your writing?

[00:16:57] Ann: No. The writing, because I [00:17:00] always start a story with, I don’t know if I can do this again.

This is hard. I don’t think I can pull this off. And my husband will tell you every book starts that way. It he’ll call me, say, you said this last time and you did it again, then you can do it again. So what really changed was. It opened up more doors and more opportunities because sometimes things like that will make people go, whoa, wait, what?

You’re an indie. And you’re a USA today. Bestseller. That’s not, there’s many of us, I know many Indies that are USA to disc bus, but we all grew up in that same. We’ve all been doing it for 10 years, so it’s not like we just jumped out those of them. I know and said, oh, here we are.

We made. It was years of building up readership, building up, fans and finding them and continuing to grow your world and putting product out, putting good products. And then finding new fans. And I like to think of them. I’m giving you guys tons [00:18:00] of different metaphors and stuff and ways, but I think very visually.

So I like to think of their fishing ponds. Amazon’s a big ocean. That’s a big, you can fish. But you want to have different ponds that you fish in, and sometimes you don’t touch a certain pond for awhile. For example, I’m an apple with most of my books, I’m out there on apple, but I haven’t marketed hard on apple.

I haven’t done a lot to push apple and I’m leaving that pond go for a future fishing expedition when I will put money into ads and I will work harder over there to find more apple readers. But for now I just keep putting books out there and let them flow in that pond. Try to think of that, different possibilities for you.

Don’t attack everything all at once. It’s little by little with every part of this business. And I have so much to grow. I am always growing and busy and building, and I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now.

[00:18:54] Stephen: It’s a long road and we were talking about others getting overwhelmed.

That’s you know, even [00:19:00] now you still got the same thing. Do you still have to sit down? You still have to write, you still have to do the marketing. You still have to get good stories and write them well, a USA bestseller. Now I’m done. I, I wish,

[00:19:12] Ann: I wish I could go by that island in the Caribbean.

[00:19:14] Stephen: Nothing like that. Patterson and king. And then, and Charles that’d be the.

[00:19:21] Ann: But, it’s the same. I did a workshop recently for the South Dakota festival of books and it, and then it was called climbing book mountains, and it sounds really silly, but I had gotten into this rabbit hole of watching all these climbing shows like about Everett and K2.

Are ever, sorry, K2. And what at a Perna? So I started realizing, oh, that’s a lot like what, the book, what we do writing a book, we have to start at base camp. We have to go up and down the mountain. And then once we hit the peak and we summit, we’re only halfway there. That’s just getting through the first draft.

Now you get to go back and clean it up and go through the editing runs and go through all the put, work to put the book out, the formatting, [00:20:00] everything. So it’s, you don’t get back to base camp until that book is out. And people are buying it. And then you’re back at base camp recuperating.

A lot of people make it to the summit and they finish that book, but they never really get editing. They don’t go through the full thing. It takes to get it fully out and market it and get the readers. And it’s that. You watch these climbing shows, they’ll say making it to the summit is just the beginning because people die coming down from the summit because they pushed too hard for the summit and they expended all their energy and then they die on the way down they misstep or they just, oh, their bodies are done.

So it’s that coming down? That’s so important with every book that a lot of authors don’t want to do. Cause you’re tired. I finished that book. I don’t want to read it three or four more times. But you have to, to make it really good. So there’s another, metaphor kind of thing is climbing book bounds.

But for me every book’s a mountain and [00:21:00] sometimes they’re easier like Everest where, you know, only one in 20 people die, typically climbing that. And sometimes they’re really technically hard, like a K2. Where it’s a lot of technical skill to write this particular story. And one in four people, live to tell that are died, doing that, man.

And then there’s books like this little thing, see how this was Annapurna for me, which is where one in three people die because avalanches are just everywhere on Annapurna and they kill people left and right. And this thing kept it. It should have taken me a month at most. And it took me to. ’cause I just struggled, and life came at me in all different ways.

So yeah, book mountains.

[00:21:42] Stephen: So all the authors are clear. We’re not saying that authors actually die in the middle of writing. One out of four authors died writing this story

[00:21:52] Ann: metaphorically. They quit. How about that? You quit. You just give up because

[00:21:57] Stephen: it’s too hard. I’m going to use that metaphor [00:22:00] about Everest because I know a lot of, I’ve talked to a few.

They hit the summit and they got their book done and they put it out and they’re like, Ooh, look at me. And it’s okay, there’s no film crews here is when you get from the base camp that the film crew. So you have all that work to get back down and finish the book and market it before you get the film crews.

[00:22:19] Ann: Exactly. And once you’re done with that, and you’re back at base camp and you’re drinking and celebration, the book’s out, we’ve marketed all this. I’m always packing my bag and I’m looking at that next big mountain going, here we go again. I got to start climbing that thing because when you’re an author, you have to keep writing.

You have to keep putting out new product. I have, all these books that people can read. Always they want more. And so I just strap on the backpack and the everything that you know, and I have to go climb another mountain. And I don’t know when I start out, if it’s going to be an easier one or if it’s going to be another K2, or whatever, but I [00:23:00] have to go try it and it’s hard to summit.

It’s really hard, but then it’s twice as hard to get back down again. And yeah, it’s, it sounds crazy. But if you’re an author, You get it. If you’ve done that, gone to the top and back of putting a book out, you really get it. How much work there is into that, the whole thing. Yep.

[00:23:19] Stephen: And we’ve been going quite a while and I appreciate all your advice and everything you’ve said.

I’m very excited. I’m glad that you took some time to chat with me today. But before we go let you guys, we’re getting ready for our holiday. Do you have any last minute advice for new Orleans? Besides everything we’ve already talked about?

[00:23:40] Ann: One of the, one of the biggest things I always when it comes to interacting with readers you might have a book that wins all kinds of awards.

You might have done really well and sold a lot of books, of that particular one. But when you talk to readers, when you meet with people that read your books, I think it’s so important to just. Be [00:24:00] yourself, stay humble. Remember that without a reader, you’re nothing. You’re just telling crazy tails into the wind.

You have to have a reader to make it a complete to be a couple, to make this a success. And if you treat your readers as you would, it doesn’t mean you have to have them over for dinner, but treat them well, be respect for that. They took the time to write. That they took the time out of their life to say hello and how much they enjoy your story.

That’s huge. That’s I consider that such an important contact to email or whatever, and I always try to thank them for taking the time to write to me cause they don’t have to. So I guess in the end it’s just stay humble. Remember where you started and I think if you get caught up in the egos and stuff like that, this can go really.

You’ve seen authors get in fights with readers online. Authors get in fight with other authors. It’s a small world. [00:25:00] People know, everybody knows everybody. I swear in this world, be kind, be humble if you want to cuss and swear at somebody do it when there’s no mic and there’s nobody else there go in the bathroom at home, close the door and do it, but just try to be kind and it’ll get you so much further in this business.

I think if you help lift others up, rather than try to step on them to go to the top that’s my opinion. Others might disagree, but I think. So much of the success I’ve had is because other people have helped me and we help each other and it’s made a difference.

[00:25:35] Stephen: Nice. Great. I appreciate that.

Wonderful. Anne, thank you very much for being on. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you.

[00:25:43] Ann: Thank you for having me on this has been great. We’ve had some good laughs and I got a book to listen to, and I’ve got a books to read now. Thanks to you, which like you, I have a mountain pile, so we’ll put another book on that.

[00:25:55] Stephen: I’ve added several of your books to my list. I pre-ordered the Christmas one [00:26:00] because I was looking for a good. Christmas story that I hadn’t read already. I always do Christmas Carol, but I read that this year this past week, so I needed some new Christmas material. So I’m looking forward to it on Friday.

[00:26:11] Ann: All right. I hope you’re talking about jackrabbit jingle bells, right? We start out real exciting. So get ready for the ride.

[00:26:19] Stephen: Great.

[00:26:22] Ann: Oh, good. All right. Thanks for having me. This has been really great. Thanks. You have a

[00:26:26] Stephen: great day.

[00:26:28] Ann: All right, you too. Bye.

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