A few more questions as I wrap up my session with the Kennesaw State University marketing students. I wasn't able to answer all the questions-there were tons-but I hit the high points.
Nikki R. asks, "Have you ever had problems with copyrights?"
No, not yet. I'm not a big enough fish to attract sharks. I'm sure that will change in time. I do register my books so I hold the copyrights thereto and I will vigorously protect those copyrights since the books are my livelihood. So if you rip off my characters, copy my book and put it on the internet with your name as the author, things get ugly.
I do, however, take a mellow line on FanFic (Fan Fiction). FanFic is where a writer pens stories based on someone else's characters/universe. Like writing an episode of Star Trek, LOTR, etc. but with your own plot. Some authors and publishers go ballistic over this. I don't. If you want to dabble in my universe, I'm okay with that as long as you do not sell your work or represent that universe as your creation. If I find someone has written a Time Rovers story and tried to sell it online, at a convention or to a publisher, all Hell(TM) will break loose.
I began in FanFic, writing Babylon 5 stories, with an eye toward publication Of course, I did exquisite research into the world, put the duology (two books) during a period of time that worked for the real series, etc. I'm like that. It was at this point I learned that only one publisher (I think at that time it was DelRey) pubbed B5 stories. My two query letters were ignored. I got irritated and decided I write in my own world from that point. The story lines were good. I think that someday I'll go back, strip out the B5 references and make them a nice two-book set. I never put them online (too much of a perfectionist for that) but they did "goose" me toward writing in my own world.
Paula DeL - "What are the most ineffective things you have done to market yourself?" and "What are the most effective things...."
Your professor would be proud of these questions. It's hard to judge "ineffective." At my stage in the game, any exposure is good even if it doesn't result in a lot of book sales. Of course, some kinds of exposure wouldn't be great "Author Runs Into a Busload of Nuns While Drunk". That wouldn't necessarily create new book sales. So it comes down to degrees of effective.
I haven't found chats (where a website invites readers to come chat with you at a specific time) to be very helpful. I'm not big enough yet and most of the chatters have not read my books. So the chats are not particularly meaningful. Guest blogging helps, as does being a member of a social network (Crimespace.ning.com). But those are also time sinks so you have to weigh benefit vs. time spent.
I've found one of my strongest assets (besides my books) is my personality. I'm pretty decent to be around. So I make sure I'm "out there" for folks to meet and talk to. If they find out you're not a jerk, they might check out the books. Because of that I do a LOT of conventions each year, sitting on panels, etc.
I also like to giveaway small things -- bookmarks, pens, postcards, etc. It allows a potential reader to take something home with them where they can surf the Net at their leisure and decide if my work is what they want to read.
One thing that has proven effective is my SOJOURN samplers. These are three-chapter samplers (or chapbooks) of my first book. They are really nice, with a gorgeous color cover. Readers can sample my work and if they get hooked, they'll buy into the series. I call these a 'gateway' drug into the Time Rovers. They've proven very effective for the cost.