This post, by Cheri Lasota, originally appeared on her site on 12/12/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.
I’d been searching for months for the right book to do an excerpt trade with. I’d heard about this simple idea from my wonderful friend Nancy Kelley who heard about it from her friend, Jennifer Becton. Sometimes ideas spread like wildfire, and this one ought to because it’s brilliant. The concept is a no-brainer: get together with another indie author writing in a similar vein and trade chapter 1 book excerpts in the back of each other’s books. Voila! Now you have access to a brand new audience you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Cool, huh?
When I joined the Pacific Northwest YA Authors group, group member Lisa Nowak recommended I approach Laura Elliott with the idea. It turned out to be the perfect fit. I asked Laura some questions about how she viewed the excerpt trade process and wanted to share her answers with you. Without further ado…
Did you have any hesitations about excerpt trading when I first approached you with the idea? What put those hesitations to rest?
Not at all. I love to try everything. I guess if I had one doubt about the process it was my own skills at programming your beautifully formatted excerpt of Artemis Rising into my ebook, Winnemucca. I enjoyed reading such a beautifully formatted ebook and learned from you in the process of adding your excerpt to Winnemucca. Because you are so knowledgeable about the process of formatting ebooks and enhanced books our collaboration was like taking a little class—my favorite class. Thanks for putting up with my learning curve, Cheri! This how my ebook world broadened as a result of our collaboration:
I made epub files out of my books, Winnemucca and 13 on Halloween, (book 1 in the Teen Halloween series) and uploaded them to the Barnes & Noble site so that they are now available for the Nook. I didn’t want to go the Smashwords route for a number of reasons, so I previously only had my books available for the Kindle and as paperbacks. But because I wanted to help spread the word widely for Cheri and her book, as her books were more widely available on different ebook platforms, I used Calibre to make the necessary conversions. As a result my books are available to a much wider market.
I found that xhtml is easy for me to understand since I was an html programmer. But I’m all thumbs compared to Cheri, not that anything I had to do to add her excerpt was very advanced, but I began to see what I could do. Anyway, I got inspired by Cheri’s formatting and interested in making more beautifully formatted books. Cheri suggested that I read Elizabeth Castro’s book, and I look forward to reading it when I have some time to play around with this stuff. I mean, we are indies because one of the benefits we have over traditionally published authors is that we can control every aspect of our books, including their formatting. Okay, it’s not as sexy as a cover for some, but there is going to be a great deal that can be done from what used to be termed “cover to cover.”
Granted we do need to find a balance with our writing, promoting, and marketing lives, so leaving this up to programmers might be an option too. But even so, knowing what’s possible is very important in working with ebook professionals.
Will you continue to use excerpt trading as part of your marketing plan in the future? Why or why not?
Yes, I will. I’m sure that excerpt trading, as you have indicated, will morph into different things in the months and years to come. But I think it’s a solid way to market great stories to readers.
What do you think of what Author Carolyn McCray calls “sales nodes”? Do you think of this as a natural expansion of excerpt trading?
Yes, actually I think this is the future of excerpt trading. I think it makes sense to promote in this way and it could be viewed as our own “lists,” if you will, like the lists that traditional publishing houses have. We would offer our readers a collection of writers and not only excerpt their work but collaboratively take turns at offering books at steep discounts. A combination of a candy store and old school publishing catalogues. And I think it’s a win-win for readers, because the market is huge. Finding quality titles can be time-consuming. The odds of finding a great story among authors affiliated in this way ups the reader’s chances of finding stories they’ll love because authors would want to be sure the quality is high in the group before lending their name to it.
You are already doing a lot of cross-promotion with the authors of your Pacific Northwest YA Authors group and the YA Indie Carnival. What has been your most successful cross-promotion thus far?
Both groups have had huge successes! And I’m actually also in a third group. =)
I think the YA Indie Carnival #yaindiecarnival has been a huge success for cross-promotion. It is a group of 25 authors & reviewers who post on all things YA Indy every Friday. It’s been a great way to showcase our books and review sites to new readers. It’s also been a tremendous source of writing and promotion tips, and most of all we’ve helped to support each other. We’ve not only learned about what’s new in our ever-changing industry but also about each other. Our most successful events have been our giveaways. Our most popular posts have been about social media and exclusive excerpts of new releases as well as personal posts about high school and a wide variety of other topics. We like to keep it intimate at the carnival so that readers get to know us well and want to run away with us to the carnival every Friday.
The best cross-promotion for the Pacific Northwest YA Authors has been the traditional face-to-face touring with our readers, be it at shows like Wordstock or libraries or independent bookstores. What an amazing group of writers! I can honestly say I’d never have been able to talk about my books as well as I can now, if it wasn’t for the support of Stacey, Angela, Lisa, Rebecca, Cidney, and you. If it wasn’t for the group, I never would have met you, Cheri. And not only would I miss your support, I would have taken much longer to find Artemis Rising, a story I loved. So, when you emailed proposing the excerpt trade I was thrilled. And I’m glad everyone was open to including me as I live part-time in Portland and part-time on the central coast of California.
I’m also involved in a group called The Paranormal Plumes Society and we have started cross-promoting each other in our books by listing each other’s names and websites at the end of our books. Beyond the cross-promotion we do, we just have a LOT of fun together and even had A Haunted Book Tour in Savannah, GA just before Halloween last October where we got to hang out with our readers and do things like eat at haunted restaurants and get spooked at one of the scariest haunted houses in the nation! We are on tour in Florida at the end of July, going to a high school and a few middle schools in the Deltona, FL area.
What do you think about the direction book marketing has headed in the past decade? How do you think the ebook explosion will play into book marketing in the next decade?
Well, I published my debut novel Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale, last July so I wasn’t out there trying to swing for the fences before this year. I’m not really certain of what it was/is like for traditionally published authors, having not been one. But I have heard quite a few stories about authors not feeling in control. I predict that in the next decade the formatting, promotion and marketing of books will be more and more in the hands of authors.
I also predict that’s where the next big idea will come from. From authors. Tech-savvy authors. Someone among us is the Mark Zuckerberg of ebooks and ebook marketing. One of us will be able to take ebook marketing and augment traditional book tours with a place where readers can learn about ebooks in all the ways people like to, with trailers and music and excerpts, reviews and author interviews. We have entered the age of the reader.
Not since the Gutenberg Press has there been such a development in the ability to read literature. Now we need to harness it. Aggregate the content, much like the Googles and Yahoos of the world do with what’s hot and trending in news and entertainment. That’s my prediction. There will be a Google or Yahoo of books, a site that aggregates things from Goodreads, Kirkus, Booklist, Amazon, Independent book stores, Barnes & Noble, and the other players to give readers what they want, and easy ways to find stories that they love.
Cheri, thanks so much for having me on your blog today! It’s been a wonderful experience to collaborate with you on my first excerpt exchange.
** Want to read Laura’s cross-post on the same topic? Laura asks me about excerpt trading as well as the future of enhanced ebooks. Just click here for more.