Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guerilla Marketing for Books

 Writing for the Brand

If you’ve read Louis L’Amour, you might recognize the phrase “Riding for the brand.” Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings tell us that “They'll never stay home and they're always alone...” (Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys), but not all cowboys were drifters. Some stuck around, true to the ranch - the brand - that gave them a home.

In marketing it’s called brand loyalty.

John Locke, the author who has been dominating the trade news by being the first indie to join the million eBooks sold club, devotes pages of How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months to the importance of brand loyalty. He tells us to “find your target audience and write for them” and to develop readers who will read anything you write for that brand (you can have more than one). Locke is applying principles to writing fiction and e-publishing that Jay Conrad Levinson shared with us in Guerilla Marketing. Find your niche and stick to it.

What about artistic integrity?

We aren’t cowboys - we’re the ranchers. We create the brand. Our loyalty is to what we’ve crafted and the readers who ride with us. Fortunately, loyalty doesn’t preclude variety. We can have more than one brand that can serve different target audiences.

Under A Texas Star combines mystery, romance and “accurate settings, genuine voice, and unexpected humour” (Amazon Reader Review). When you pick up its sequel (which will have “star” in the title) you can expect the same style of story.

My near-future mystery series, debuting next year, will have a different brand. You’ll know that you’re reading Alison Bruce as surely as I can tell whether I’m listening to Mozart or Beethoven, but the brand will be different. You might like my westerns but not this series - or vice versa - but I intend that if you like one book in the series, you’ll enjoy them all.

I’m writing for the brand.

Alison Bruce 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guest Blog: Catherine Astolfo

It's so nice knowing that you aren't the only one who subjects your family to forensic research...

The Weird and Wonderful Workings of the Criminal Mind

I am taking a lovely, summery day ride in the car with my husband. Our favorite rock and roll music wafts in the background. A fine cooling breeze lifts our hair and our arms are being tanned as we lean casually through the open windows.

Inside my head, it’s a different picture altogether. Down in a dark, dank basement, a man lies slowly bleeding to death from a shotgun wound. I am contemplating how long it would take him to die, when my husband asks me what I’m thinking. Unfortunately for him, I tell him. This is a scenario from Book One.

A large raccoon is splayed upside down in the slope of the ditch on my right. He is stiff and awkward on his back, lips pulled back in an angry grimace. Maggots crawl out of his mouth and flies swarm everywhere. I can hear their frenzied delight as we stop for a red light. I am fascinated. Book Two!

Next we pass a burned-out shell perched forgotten on a side road. I am thrilled to see it. I ask my husband to stop so I can get out and breathe in the scorched wood smell and the stench of furled plastic and dead things underneath the ash. Great experience for Book Three.

Forensics for Dummies, Until You Are Dead, Criminal Investigative Failures – these are the books which dominate my shelves during the writing of Book Four. Along with questions to which I find an answer through Sisters in Crime’s forensics specialist: Can you paint scenery on a dead body?

Lucky for me, my husband is not only tolerant but is actually enabling of my weird and wonderful way of thinking. He likes my books, helps edit them in fact, and isn’t easily startled or frightened. As the step-father of children who are involved in the film industry and grandfather to a budding musician, he is also used to the fact of fantasy: that my novels will be international best-sellers, that our films will make us Hollywood darlings, that our drummer grandson will be famous, and that we’ll walk the red carpet together some day. One perspective on all of this is: why you? There is a massive amount of competition in those industries. My perspective is: why not us?

If you are in the mood to traverse the book, film and music industry, here are some places to visit:;; or check out Pocket City on Facebook. Enter my fantasy world. Enable my weird and wonderful criminal mind if you dare.

Catherine Astolfo is an award-winning author of the Emily Taylor Mystery Series and several short stories. The Emily Taylor Mysteries are available on Amazon: The Bridgeman, Victim, Legacy, and Seventh Fire.

Elsewhere... Remembering My Dad on Father's Day

Monday, June 13, 2011

Under A Texas Star - Character Sketches

Texas Ranger Jase Strachan

Thanks to the beautiful cover that Jennifer Johnson designed, romance model Jimmy Thomas will be the image of Jase Strachan.

Of course, the real Jase (did I just call a character real?) won't look so clean clean-shaven on the trail. Marly notices the difference and bath and visit to the barber make.
"His beard was flecked with gray, which made him seem older. Clean, shaved, with his hair and moustache neatly trimmed, he now looked what he was, a man of thirty. Years had literally been washed away."
We won't get into the gritty realism of tan-lines and crows feet - the result of spending most of your daylight hours in the saddle.

After reading my first draft, an artist friend of mine did a character sketch of Jase Strachan. I dug it out expecting a world of difference between the old drawing and the new cover.

The sketch is whiskered and weathered but otherwise the two Jase Strachans are remarkable similar - especially when you consider that there are twenty years between the two pieces of art.

The beauty of books is that every reader can make their own mental sketch of the characters. Jen, Jimmy and (I kid you not) John have helped define my picture of Jase. It doesn't get more alliterate than that.

Character Sketch: Marly Landers

Apropos of my post, my next stop on the Virtual Blog Trail is Jennifer Johnson's blog Sapphire Romance Realm

Under A Texas Star is now available in paperback for $14.99 on It will be available on and other online booksellers soon.

Available on Kindle, Under A Texas Star eBook is $3.99 on or in other digital formats on Smashwords.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Everything I Learned About eBooks I Learned in Star Trek

One of my favourite images from Star Trek: The Next Generation is Captain Picard taking some time out on the couch of his office. He has his tea (Earl Grey, hot) and a book (Collected Works of Shakespeare or maybe Under a Texas Star).

EBooks are cheap, convenient, and fun, but there is nothing like holding a Real Book in your hands. I'm looking forward to that moment when my author copies of  Under A Texas Star arrive.

Once I started thinking about Captain Picard and his anachronistic love of Real Books, it occurred to me how much Star Trek predicted about the near future. While Picard may love reading a hard copy for recreation, all his reports come to him on electronic tablets that strongly resemble an iPad or Playbook. These Pads don't have the flexibility of a Tricorder, but they are perfect for reading and make notes on your First Officers crew evaluations. Just like an e-readers.

Tricorders are just smarter Smart Phones. We have hand scanners and sensors. All we need to do is combine them with the ubiquitous iPhone or Blackberry then add aps.

"Mister Crusher, can you scan identify the organic matter adhering to my boot?"
"Shit, sir. I have an ap for that."

Under A Texas Star is now available in paperback for $14.99 on It will be available on and other online booksellers soon.

Available for your e-reader or Pad... Under A Texas Star eBook is $3.99 on

On the Virtual Trail for Under A Texas Star

As promised, my blog trail is posted to the right and will stay up for the duration (with TBA dates filled in as I have them). I hope you will drop by to each spot and leave a comment. (People who comment will be entered into a draw for prizes!)