Thursday, December 2, 2010


HANK: No, this post is not about grocery shopping. Not that kind of super-market!
Have you met Misa Ramirez? She's incredible. (We have a mutual admiration society, but hey. That's part of the fun.) She interviewed me on Skype for her site, Books on the House. Since I was on camera, I was at my desk. But SHE was in what looked like a workout room with a little boy in the room. (Her son?) Talk about juggling! But she's come up with a pretty interesting (and very successful) way of connecting readers with books they may love.

MISA RAMIREZ: Can I just say, Hank Phillippi Ryan totally rocks! Like ROCKS.

(HANK: I warned you guys.)

MISA: I had the pleasure of interviewing Hank for Books on the House and after it was over, I was left wishing I lived in Boston so we could, you know, hang out. Smart, funny, accomplished, articulate, passionate...that’s my kind of friend.

That’s also the kind of woman I write about. First came Lola Cruz and her crime solving. Then came two romantic suspense novels dealing with the Mexican legends of la Llorona and Chupacabra--Cursed and The Chain Tree.

Then came Harlow Cassidy from A Dressmaker’s Mystery series for NAL which is what I’m working on now.

All female protagonists. All smart, accomplished in their own ways (or on the road to accomplishment), funny/quirky/zany--take your pick, and passionate about staying alive. Oh, and seeking justice.

One thing I’ve realized since I became part of the publishing business is that no matter how good your books are, no matter how much you market a book or promote your brand, it’s not enough. It’s never enough! For a reader to find your book amidst the masses is like finding a needle in a haystack (cliche, yes, but also apropos). And since publishing is a sales-driven business, marketing becomes super important.

Now, just so you know, I am not the type of person to sit around and just complain. I do complain, but then I take action. Which is just what I did after the lack of marketing support from the publisher with the Lola Cruz Mysteries. I became a student of marketing and found that it’s all about exposure. To reach a lot of people in the most cost-effective manner is a challenge, and usually WAY too expensive. Sure, you can place an ad in RT or RWR or many other places...for hundreds, often thousands of dollars. Yikes. I don’t have that kind of capital.

I figured I was not alone. Other authors had to have the same problem I did--getting their books in front of readers. I asked around and found it to be true.

On top of that, I figured there were readers out there clambering to discover new books and writers.

The question for me became, “How do I bring readers and writers together in one easy place?”

The answer? Books on the House (and Books on the House for Kids and Teens). I took the bull by the horns and created my own marketing site to help me when I have new books, to help all the other authors out there who want to get their books in front of new readers, and to help readers discover new authors. It’s a WIN-WIN!

To say the sites have been successful would be a grand understatement. Wildly successful would be more accurate. I launched the site in March to immediate success. Since then, it has grown to have a subscriber list of several thousand, monthly page views at about 57,000, and total monthly visitors at around 18,000 and growing every day. It’s phenomenal!

(HANK: Guess who's there this week? Check it out. Ah, the way the world works...)

MISA: My current dilemma is creating a method on the site for featuring e-books. Considering e-book sales are up 200%, or so, and continuing this upward swing, this is a big segment of the writing population that needs to promote their books.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have 2 new e-books out: Cursed and The Chain Tree. (links to these books). The thing is, e-books can’t be gifted. Why the heck not?! When such a big percentage of books sales can be traced to book gifting, it seems a no-brainer to create a way to gift e-books. How hard is it to create a promo/coupon code so one person can buy the book, get the code, and pass that code on to someone else to enter and download the book? Jeff Bezos, are you listening?

Books on the House is structured to have people read about the featured book, then enter to win a promotional copy, courtesy of the author, often personalized by them. The fact that I can’t give away an e-book messes with my model. Sure, I can give a gift card for Amazon or B&N, but there’s no guarantee the winner will actually download the featured book, and that’s the point. Maybe it’s a risk I’ll need to take.

I want to share with you an email I received this morning from a reader. She’d just finished reading Cursed, emailed out of the blue, and this is what she said (fyi: the XXXs are instead of a spoiler!):

OMG! This book was good. It's a good thing that I DVR'd my shows, because I could not put this book down. That twist with XXX, I did not see that coming. This was a great read. I'm starting The Chain Tree tomorrow. I anticipate another giving up the TV show for this one as well.”
Again, what a great story.”
Signed, A Reader.

How great is this?! More proof that I need to come up with some idea to encourage other people to check out my books, as well as featured e-books, and hopefully give them a read.

My question to you, Jungle Red Readers, is what ideas do you have regarding my Books on the House model as to what can be given away to encourage readers to download a featured e-book? If I gave away gift cards, would you use it to download the featured book, or would you get the latest thing on your reading wish list instead?

And just in time for you-know-what, Misa's written the Lola Cruz Christmas Story! It's available now for digital download.


Misa Ramirez / Melissa Bourbon is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (2010) from Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Minotaur and A Dressmaker’s Mystery series for NAL (Pleating for Mercy, fall 2011). On top of that, she has two romantic suspense e-novels, The Chain Tree and Cursed, from Diversion Books.

A former middle and high school teacher, this blond-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola and Harlow on their many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings, visiting nudist resorts, or hanging out with seamstresses, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa has two middle grade series for girls in development, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and GLOW Magazine (11/2010), and has a children’s book published.

She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams.
SO! Any marketing advice for MISA??


  1. You can now gift Kindle e-books.

    Good post and I've discovered several new authors via Books on the House.

  2. MIsa, tell us more about long in advance can people sign up?
    If someone had a book launch, for instance, they could time it to that?

  3. BIG changes over at Amazon since I wrote this post. Guess Jeff WAS listening. So, YAY, you CAN gift e-books on Amazon Kindle now, and I'm excited!!

    Hank, thanks for hosting me today. I'm your fan club prez!!

  4. Hola, Dru!!

    Hank, I have people select a week to be featured months in advance. I have a handy iCalender I keep it all straight on. Sometimes, people sign up and want to be featured right away. If there's a week open, that's great, but I'm a planner, so I say contact me early rather than late! (

    Like we did with your featured week, and this week with all the Jungle Red Gals, we can customize the week to fit your needs. FYI, Hank and I had such fun planning her featured week and the unbelievable amount of books she gave away! This week is just as awesome... 13 books in total given away by the Jungle Red Writers.

    Books on the House is flexible and will bend over backwards to accomodate ;)

  5. Thanks, Hallie. Looking forward to your featured day later in the week ;)

  6. Love Books on the House AND The Lola Cruz Christmas Story for only 99¢...WOW! Thanks Misa, I love reading Christmas stories this time of year!

  7. Hey Diana, Thanks!!!! LOVE that you LOVE BotH... and Lola. =) Happy Holidays!

  8. If I win a gift card from an author, I always spend at least a portion of it on that author's books. If it is a new to me author, I will buy at least one unless I really like the sound of the books. If it is from a favorite author, chances are I will use it to fill in the books of theirs I have not yet read.
    I do not yet have an e-reader, but am looking at them. I have one several e-books and have no where to put them. I have a couple downloaded on my computer, but that really doesn't work. Hopefully, I will have a reader to download everything to soon.

  9. I have to agree that this site, book blogs and forums will more likely get you exposure vs. spending big bucks, like with RT. I think I've looked at one of those maybe twice over many years. I'd rather go online and read an excerpt to see if it grabs me rather than look at mostly ads and lists in magazines like this, lol. You might do some excerpt small booklets to send to people on your mailing list.

    I've been reading ebooks for years and love them for many reasons, particularly saving space around the house, no more stacks all over.

    I see you are using smashwords. You can give an ebook away there by emailing the winner a coupon for the price and can be limited to a particular book if you like, several authors I know are doing this now. Many authors just email a pdf copy (usually secured which can't be shared with the whole world), for a win.

    I know I've added so many new authors to my buy list after winning and loving a book.

    I believe Barnes & Noble also lets you share an ebook once with a friend for their Nook.

  10. I've won several contests where authors have given me a gift card for thier book. I always order the book I've won. I feel that is part of the deal when I enter the contest.

  11. Oh, back from my assignmet--and so happy to see you all!

    Misa, do you think the internet is the best way to reach readers?

    And do you love your ebooks? Do you think you're getting new reders from them?

  12. librarypat, I'm smiling..I, too, almost could not resist downloading ebooks before I had my Kindle. It was so tempting! MAybe Santa will hear your plea?

  13. So, Pam--you're a total convert? Or do you still buy paper books?

  14. SandyG--that's very reassuring! And remember, today at Books on the House--our own Roberta Isleib is giving away her book to a lucky commenter---better head over there and check it out!

  15. Hank, I'm hoping for an e-reader from Santa! Hard to believe I don't have one yet. I do think it is the future, and I have found some new readers for my e-books (Chain Tree and Cursed).

    The short Lola Cruz story is a new venture... we'll see how it goes. I'm happy authors can gift e-books, now, and am glad to hear contest winners use gift cards to buy those author's books!

    I do think the internet is the best way to reach the most people (a targeted audience) quickly and efficiently.

    Thanks for having me here, today, Hank!

  16. I still buy print along with ebooks,but more and more ebooks, Hank. Sometimes I really can't wait for a particular book and can download it easily. Besides space saving, can take a lot away easily on the one device, and when talking books with reader friends online, can look up something fast. Also, no more searching through boxes and piles of books to find the one I want, lol. Still, most of my family and friends I haven't convinced to try ebooks yets, so we pass the prints around.

  17. That's the amazing part, isn't it, Pam? The instant gratification. Truly, it's the little secret of ereaders--instant access. I've had poeple buy my books--like, while sitting next to them at a luncheon. Oh, they say, it sounds great. They pull out their KIndle, and click!

  18. Dearest Misa--you are the one who rocks! If you want me to give Santa a call, just let me know.

    Thank you thank you..Books on the House is absolutely great. Congratulations!