Sharon Hamilton is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She didn’t rise to fame by chasing literary agents or signing a deal with a New York publishing house. Sharon is an Indie author whose dedication to writing and marketing has propelled her career to heights she might not have imagined possible when she began writing romance novels in 2008. To say that Sharon is a prolific writer would be an understatement. In the Seal Brotherhood Series alone she’s written eight novels and novellas. She’s also written two books in the Golden Vampires of Tuscany Series and two erotic romance novels. Finally, her stories are included in eight anthologies. To learn more about her success, keep reading.
You’ve been tremendously successful and prolific in your relatively short writing career. What do you attribute your success to, aside from your masterful writing?
I work hard at making it a business. You have to release new products every year, at least 3 – 4 times a year, or more. You need to be visible. But not just visible saying, “Buy My Book;” visible by giving content and value to the relationship you’re cultivating with the reader.
How important is blogging to your success?
At first, it was the only form of social media I did. I learned to get comfortable with it, be prolific at it, and then to join other blogs as either guest or regular hosts. It helped introduce me to a community of like-minded writers, and their followers who became some of my fans.
Dee Dee Scott coined the phrase “Grogging” or group blogging. It’s a good way for an author to learn to cooperate with other writers, play fair, pool resources (it takes a lot of work to consistently blog), and use the power of other authors to get introduced to their readers. I interviewed people I admired or thought were interesting. I watched their blog posts and learned how to post pictures, boost, spread the word, etc. I learned by hosting some good authors first.
Well, since I am an Indie Published author, social media is the only way to get my book out to the public. That’s a good and a bad thing. Good that we have the same access to media for free, basically, and bad because it can suck a lot of time I would love to spend writing. But it is as important as the content, to be involved in social media, and if a writer isn’t, then his or her wonderful book won’t be discovered, except in unusual circumstances. I just know I’m not that kind of lucky, and probably anyone reading this isn’t either!!
My hunch is that Facebook is probably the most important social media network for romance writers. Do you agree, and if so, why? To what do you attribute your success at attracting 13,143 Facebook Page Likes and nearly 5,000 friends?
Facebook allows fans access to the writer (or the writer’s staff as is sometimes the case), which is unbelievable, if you think of it. We are so lucky to have this. I’ve done Facebook parties, where we’ll do a blast from say 6-10, invite guest authors for ½ hour “chats” with fans and readers, contest giveaways, etc,. to increase traffic. I think I’ve gotten as many as 1500 on my Rafflecopter giveaways when people were asked to answer a question or sign up for our newsletter, or “like” my page. Believe it or not, for the first 3 years I was a writer, my FB page didn’t get very big very fast. In the last year, with the new releases, it has really soared in hits. That’s because a lot is going on.
The biggest increase in my page occurred when we took a Cruise from Italy to Brazil, and I posted just about every day about something on board ship, or on land. People still talk about that. I think I got maybe 25% of my “fans” that way. I had people tell me they felt like they’d done the trip too.
On a limited basis, I try to interact with the fans. I don’t make a comment on all of them, but some I do.
I was writing mostly paranormal, because those were the only romance novels I’d been introduced to. But when an editor said, “Wait a minute. I don’t want vamps or angels. Give me a hero (before I could argue with her there were heroes as vamps and angels).” She said she wanted a military guy, a sports figure of some kind. Para rescue. I threw it out there, “Navy SEALs.” She asked me if I thought I could do that, and I said, “sure.” I wasn’t, of course.
They are the perfect type of hero. Generally stay quiet, not wanting attention to him. He protects the innocent. He doesn’t do it for the money or even the glory. He does it because he is the guy that can “get ‘err done,” do the things other men can’t. He’s filled with an honor to serve, just wired into his DNA. The training sorts out all the ones who aren’t of that ilk. Not just the physical strength, but also the mental strength that makes them so relentless, they don’t quit.
What triggered the Golden Vampires of Tuscany series?
I was an Anne Rice fan, but, IMHO [In My Humble Opinion], she made a mistake by not letting them have a sex life. I love her work, and she is such a great writer. But I found them sad characters. At the time, I was a critique partner with Tina Folsom, and since she was doing vamps, I decided I’d try one. I wanted something different. They don’t go to ground. They can live in the sun, have mortal children, can only mate with their fated mates, although they can sleep around a bit. When they meet their fated mates, they instantly know it. Children are rare and special. I have a whole hierarchy in their world, rules.
How do you manage your time? You are a prolific writer and your have an active online presence. How do you juggle your writing with your book promotion?
I’ve had two virtual assistants since April. They help me with some of the social media stuff, and have helped me maintain a better street team than I’d have time for. They organize blog posts, FB parties, mail outs for prizewinners. I’ve been to six conferences this year already, and they have come to two of them, which helped out a lot.
Good book on Time Management: Manage Your Day-To-Day, by Jocelyn Glei. They talk about building a routine, knowing what times you are most productive and keeping out everything else at that time so you can write. For me, mornings are precious. I no longer have critique groups, doctor of dentist appointments, or meetings in the morning. The morning has to be protected for me, or I’m up half the night trying to finish something.
If you do a little every day, you don’t have to jam. But jamming once in awhile does good things too. Really stimulates the creative ideas, but you can’t run on coffee all the time. You have to slow it down sometimes. A good fitness routine changes what’s done, maybe not when it’s done, but what workouts, so the body is “tricked” into peak performance. Work when the least amount of time can do you the greatest good.
Never be a writer who “doesn’t feel like writing” and then doesn’t. Do it every day. Who cares if you like it or not? Your fans await.
The Facebook Parties are great to do. Already touched on it. Having a Street Team has really helped me spread the word to people I wouldn’t normally know about. They become my Outliers. Make sure you have a clear message and a brand that identifies you.
What do you mean by Street Team?
What marketing advice would you give a new romance writer who was just starting out?
Just try one thing at a time until you get fairly comfortable with it. As usual, setting it up takes the most time. Using it falls from that. Don’t try to do too much. Start slow and don’t listen too much to anybody who is a “guru” and their advice. Do a gutcheck and make sure it works for you too. Not all the advice you get is going to work.
About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter and the San Francisco Writers Conference. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.
Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web