Indie Interview Series: Barbara Mealer on Marketing and Her New Novel

This may sound strange, I ran away from home when I retired. I’m originally from Titusville, a small town in PA. I ended up in Sunrise, FL (a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale) via TN and WI. I liked Florida for about four of five years, then I was so over it and the 24-7 life style. When I retired, I said I wasn’t going to work as a nurse again and then left, traveling both coasts and seeing as much as I could in between. I did make it to Alaska and got to see the northern lights and a lot of the small hardy villages that make up the inhabited parts. Yes, I did get to see Denali, but I had to take a plane and fly around it because it was hidden by clouds. I even getting to land on the glacier where the base camp for climbers is located. 

I ended up settling in northern Arizona in an area that is ¼ of a mile from being off the gird. You need a 4-wheel drive for the winters and monsoon season due to the unmaintained roads. (which I happen to love as it keeps people away). I’m building a house on the 100 acre ranch I now own where I’ll be using solar and wind power with a back-up propane generator. I have three mustangs that were saved from the kill pens that I and a friend are slowly training. Each one is a character. I also have two dogs and a furball cat named Boo. 

I got into writing late in my life. I was one of those who would start a novel, thinking it should be perfect. When it wasn’t, I’d trash it. Not until a friend told me to not worry about what it sounded like and to just write it from beginning to the end. I did that, writing a novel that is 500,000 words long. I’m now editing it down into what will probably end up being 3-4 books. Since completing that one story, I can’t seem to stop writing. What I do warn people about is that I write like I read, in multiple genres, but the mystery/suspense is my favorite. My web site is: https://www.bamealer.com.

1. Your upcoming book Mariah: Blood of the New Moon involves mystery, cartels, murder, and cults. How did you get inspired to write such a book, and how did you do your research (other than joining a cartel, a cult, or murdering somebody, hopefully)?

I came up with the idea for the book when I was taking the Master Class with James Patterson. I have been fascinated with Texas and I chose El Paso because it was close to the border with Cuidad Juarez on the Mexican side. In my reading about the cartels and the drug smuggling, Juarez was mentioned several times as a hotbed of activity. I decided to add in the cult when I was researching religions and the religious holidays including the Day of the Dead tradition. When an idea pops into my head, I look up various articles on the subject and read about them. For me, the research is as much fun as writing the book.

I have always loved the name Mariah, so she because my little elfin girl who is pulled into the world of drugs, murder, and death when her best friend, Rachel is murdered. I chose to have her work as a cocktail waitress in a gentleman’s club (A nice way of saying strip joint) because it would put her into a place where you would expect to find drugs, sex, and other nefarious things happening. I happened to know a bouncer at a club in Ft. Lauderdale, so I used him to verify some of my suppositions about the clubs.

As for the research, I did  mot of it online. Wikipedia, newspapers, and government papers can give you tons of information about how agencies work, their purpose and types of things they do. I stopped to visit many of the areas where I have Mariah going in the book. (No, I didn’t go into the one Gentlemen’s Club which I’ll not give you the name of, but it is there in a seamier side of El Paso. The Platinum Slipper doesn’t exist.) There is a real Sunland Park with a paved path for about a half mile. It then turns into dirt. The Sunland Mall is real as is the apartment complex where Mariah lives. It’s straight up the road from the park on the left hand side of the road. Google Maps, researching rentals and their locations along with various sites gives you a good idea of where to have your characters living and hanging out if you have never been to that particular city. I did go there to make sure I had my setting correct. 

I did meet 3 men who were drinking under this beautifully painted bridge. We got to talking and I discovered they were with a cartel and were there wasting time until they had to go to work. They gave me insight into the cartels, the structure and described Phillip and Santiago in general terms…things like well dressed, lady catcher, mean and cold and can kill when needed…those types of things. I promised to never reveal their names and I didn’t take pictures of them at their request. It was an interesting couple of hours, sharing a beer with them and learning a lot about the complexity of the cartels and how many of the men who join them do so to feed their families or keep them safe. None of them expect to live to be old men. They were thrilled to be talking to a writer and were eager to answer my questions as best they could in their broken English. 

I will admit that stopping there was a good thing as I had to change various things in the book since the Rio Grande doesn’t have water in it except in a few places in El Paso. The city is compact with the mountains looming over it where the well heeled residents live. I didn’t cross the border since the police told me that it wasn’t a place a woman alone could go and have any guarantee of returning. So I did my research on Cuidad Juarez on line with google earth. I the officer I talked to knew about my talking to the three men under the bridge. He said I needed to keep a low profile as his department wasn’t the only one who had been watching us talk. 

2. Do you utilize social media for marketing your book to its target audience? How successful do you think you can be on social media?

With marketing, social media shouldn’t be your focus. What you use social media for is to get known by others and to get your name out there into the world and cyber space. You use social media to grow your e-mail list, to let people know you are a writer and have books for sale. If you are a writer, I will give you the same advice the gurus will give you:  Use social media as publicity but don’t expect to get many sales from it. Yes, you can do ads on social media but use them for list building, not for sales. 

I’m only on FaceBook and Pinterest because my time is very limited. I don’t waste time on twitter as one tweet has a half-life of 20 min. That means if a person doesn’t read it within 20 min, they most likely will never see it. Instagram is a picture site and isn’t great for sales as you can’t link to your selling accounts (yet). There is an Instagram thing for books, but again, I’ve learned to use my time wisely and not chase the newest, shineiest thing out there. Booksagram takes a lot of time to make connections and build a base. 

I want to put my time where it will do the most good. You need that e-mail list for multiple things. One is for selling. The other is to get fans who will act as beta reader, ARC readers who will leave reviews and spread the word about your new books. That list is something no one can take from you. The emails are yours to use. By a change in rules, you can lose all your followers on any social media account. They can go out of business, taking your fans with them. They can close your account for any reason. They can prevent you from advertising if you are using the wrong keywords. (Don’t use Christian on Goolge. That’s a no-no word.) 

3. You told me you teach marketing to other writers who may not know what to do after writing the book. How early do you think you should start marketing your upcoming novel?

When you begin marketing the first thing you do is start that email list. Friends and family are okay, but unless you are famous, you need a lot more than just those. As I mentioned, ads for list building on social media does work, but it’s very slow and expensive. Your best way of getting that list is to use promotion sites like ProlificWorks, Authors XP, BookSweeps. You write a prequel or a short novella in the genre your book is in and put it for free on these sites. They are all under a $100 for the promotion. This is where you need a way of giving the book to the readers. Bookfunnel is great but you can set it up on your website with Google drive or Dropbox as your holding site. If you go this route, make sure you include instructions for how to download and add to their devices. Be prepared to help some of them (like me who is technologically challenged at times.) 

Along with the give-a-way, you will need an email server like MailChimp, Mailerlite or Convert Kit to email your list. You set how often and what you want to email them. Word of warning. Do not fall into that ‘buy my book’ with every send. Give them fun things about you, where you live and promote other authors. (I love Mike Gomes and will notify my list of his new books when they come out.) If you send out sales notices with every send, you will lose your readers. I have a high open rate of 40% because I send interesting things and don’t aske for sales with every contact. I do have my books at the bottom of the page with links to the Amazon and Books2Read (It’s a Draft2Digital link where you can choose your vendor like B&N or Baker & Taylor) 

As to how early to start marketing, you should start before you even begin the book. You let people know you are working on a new book. You do what is called outreach to those bloggers, podcasters and others out there who promote in your genre. Get known to them. Spend an hour or so a week to find those people who might help you promote your book. (Places like here.) Follow them and comment on their blogs/podcasts/u-tube. If you go to conventions, get to know those agents/editors/and authors. Stay in contact with them. Send out publicity announcements as to what you are doing. Try to help the lifestyle editor, a blogger, or podcaster using your expertise in other areas. Even though this seems a waste of time, it isn’t. Publicity is what your traditional publishers do for you. They send these notices to papers, magazines, bookstores, libraries, etc to get your name out there. You can do the same. It will take time to begin with, but will become easier and pay off later. Don’t wait until you are ready to publish because you are wanting them to get to know you so when you do have a book, they will be more likely to promote it for you.

5. Was there one marketing tip that has really worked for you?

The tip that worked best for me, was to get my email list, keep in contact with them and sell to them. When you are launching a new book, that list will count for over 50% of your sales, so yes, you want them. They are also where you can send out ARCs for reviews and find beta readers who like your books. These are your fans. Work on growing that list. If you want to go traditional publishing, you will still be doing your own marketing and the editors/publisher will look at your platform. The one thing they will look at is how many people you have on your list and your open rate.6. What would you say to another indie author who is having trouble getting their book out there?

If you are having trouble getting your book noticed, you need to set up a plan (which is what I’m working on for my next book) That means setting up what you are going to do each week to market your book. Make a list of contacts, bloggers, podcasters you want to promote your book. Get to know them. Be helpful to them. Comment on their sites.

 Grow your email list and keep them in the loop as to what you are doing personally and professionally. They are your fans. 

Set up when you are going to start the launch. Are you going to do a preorder? What advertising are you going to do with that preorder? Check out promotion sites. Learn about how to get reviews. If you have a well-known author you are friends with, see if they will endorse your book with a line or two. 

There are a lot more you can do. I will advise checking out courses on marketing for authors. (Tim Grahl (he is a professional marketer), Nick Stephenson, Mark Dawson are three good ones that I’ve taken.) Learn how to promote within your budget. I will say that making personal connections is the best way to market. All three I mentioned above will stress your need for an email list. No, it’s not a time waster, it is a necessity and one where you will get what you spent back since they are the ones most likely to buy your book.

What does a new designer drug, a long line of ritualistic murders, and an ancient cult have in common?

Find out when the murder of Mariah Lansing’s best friend, Rachel pulls her into the underworld of the cartels in El Paso, Texas. The murder brings Dale Warner, a man from her past, back into her life. 

When Mariah moves to a new job, she tries to side-step being framed for smuggling drugs by a local police detective while dealing with Phillip Ortiz’s unexpected love for her and Dale’s on again, off again romancing. Her cousin Wes drops back into her life after years of pushing her away when he discovers she is being framed and is a target for the Sinaloa cartel.Delve into the world of murder, drugs, cartels, and an ancient Nahui cult in this suspenseful murder mystery. 

Check out Mariah, Blood of the new Moon here

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