Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue.
And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all.
Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline?
So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work.
This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted.
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Besides giving my own talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget” at the Florida Writers Association 2017 conference, I sat in on a couple of other presentations about book marketing. Here are some of the main points I gleaned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
If your book isn’t selling, you may need to:
Change the cover
Get more reviews
Write a letter to readers asking for reviews.
Continue to acquire reviews for backlist titles.
Aim for 100 reviews on Amazon to make an impact.
Evaluate your Amazon page
Check your keywords and categories.
Keyword strings work better than single keywords.
Note the sales rank of each category.
Examine your social media influence
Do you need to increase your engagement? This matters more than the number of followers.
Put your book out in multiple formats, not ebooks alone. Consider print and audiobooks.
Is your book in the right genre?
How relevant is your backlist title? Does it need an update and a fresh cover?
Are you marketing your book to the right audience?
Practice ebook price rotation. Ideal ebook pricing is $2.99 to $5.99. Shuffle your books in and out of sales promotions.
Plan a promotional campaign that includes Publicity, Online Promotion, Events, and Multimedia.
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At the #RWA17 conference, I attended several sessions that told us how to attract more readers. See my post on building Mailing Lists below if you’ve missed that one. Again, these conference notes are subject to my interpretation. So let’s look at some of the suggestions.
Respond to readers by replying to their emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Mention their name in your response. Tag them if you want to catch their attention. You want to turn “cold” leads into customers, then fans, then friends, and finally into ambassadors.
Use social media tools to get your message across several platforms. Check out https://meetedgar.com/ for managing social media posts. It allows you to schedule posts across several sites. For limited time posts, you can set expiration dates. Another site is https://www.socialjukebox.com/. This allows you to set automated tweets and also link to Facebook and LinkedIn. I use this one and it’s a great time-saver. Resharing your evergreen content keeps your social profiles active and gives your posts more exposure.
Post regularly and vary the content of your posts. Do #ThrowbackThursday (old photos) and #TGIFriday (plans for weekend). Always include hashtags on your tweets and Instagram posts.
Involve your readers. Bring them into the creative process. Ask for opinions on cover art or book titles. Ask which secondary character they’d like to see in your next book.
Video is popular on social media and so are photos. Try Facebook live video or adding photos to a post. It will have a higher organic reach. Boost your posts. Share to a page or group. Link your Instagram posts to show up on Facebook and Twitter. Establish your brand on Pinterest.
Upselling counts in the book market. Offer new mailing list subscribers a freebie then say that for only $X, they can get the next book. Utilize drip mailing campaigns to this purpose. At each step, you’re offering something new.
Maximize your social media channels. Facebook ads were discussed along with other ways to get newsletter signups using widgets and links to your opt-in form. Use pinned tweets when you want to advertise a new release or giveaway. Invite interactors to Like your page. Participate in Goodreads and join special interest groups on the different sites.
Pricing and Sales. Indie authors can run sales campaigns on more expensive books at other platforms like iBooks. Ninety-nine cents may be better than free in a campaign because you’ll rank in the sales charts, and readers are more likely to read a book they paid for than a freebie. Although, I have to say I’ve found new authors from free books offered on BookBub and at The Fussy Librarian. Then I’ve gone on to buy their entire series. Sales of your backlist titles can carry over to your frontlist (new) titles.
Cutting Edge Technologies like apps and Facebook Messenger ads could become more important. Offer a free book or chapters via Messenger as part of a drip campaign. Build your Messenger subscribers, but your newsletter mailing list should still come first.
Use Multiple Points of Entry. Offer readers full-length novels, short stories, novellas, spinoffs, mini-series within a series, sample chapters.
Diversify your Book Formats with ebooks, print, and audio. Do box sets with your own series. If you do a group promo with other authors, make sure the story you offer relates to your series.
Cross-Promote with other Authors using the sites mentioned in my Mailing List post or with your own “lifeboat” team. Newsletter swaps are becoming more popular. You mention each other’s new releases or sales in your respective newsletters.
Do what you can, and don’t stress over the guilt that you’re a slacker compared to others who are doing a gazillion more promotional activities than you are. Recognize your limits but strive to learn something new. Set business goals each year along with your writing objectives. Do one new thing at a time. Then it won’t seem so overwhelming.
What other techniques would you suggest to gain readers? As readers, how do you find new authors to read?
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Have you sold a book and now you’re panicking about what to do? Does the thought of book promotion strike terror into your writer’s heart? Here are some guidelines to keep you straight on the road to self-promotion. Or if you are a seasoned author, use it as a quick checklist of things to do. Always remember to be courteous, to avoid clogging the loops with your constant pronouncements, and to comment on other people’s posts in return. Don’t feel obliged to do everything mentioned here. Select what works best for you.
IMMEDIATELY UPON SIGNING CONTRACT
Send a press release to local media with an angle that will interest them.
Send notices to alumni newsletters and professional organizations, if appropriate.
Solicit cover quotes from other authors.
Get a professional photo taken or consider updating your photo.
If you’re a new author, reserve your domain name and the domain name for your series.
Create a website or update your landing page with your book sale news.
Announce the sale on your social media sites.
Send an email newsletter announcing the sale to your mailing lists.
4-6 MONTHS PRIOR TO PUB DATE
Send advance reading copies (ARCs) to book bloggers and reviewers after making personal contact. Some sites online allow you to fill in a review request form and upload a pdf copy.
Notify booksellers and librarians about your upcoming release.
Reserve ad space in trade journals, e-magazines, and online reader sites.
Offer to write articles in trade magazines for issues matching your pub date.
As soon as you get your book cover art, order printed promo materials.
Do a Cover Reveal as an Event. You may want to time it to when your book goes on pre-sale.
Design video trailer. Some of your blog tour hosts may ask for this link along with book data.
Contact bookstores to schedule events. Offer to be a speaker at writers’ groups, community clubs, conferences, and libraries. Schedule live radio interviews for release month.
Arrange for a virtual blog tour. Hire a company or solicit blog tour hosts on your own.
2-4 MONTHS AHEAD
As soon as the book appears for pre-order online, add the buy link to all your sites.
Send a press release with signing dates to local media.
Load video book trailer and add links to all your sites.
Write the blogs for your virtual tour and match topics with hosts. Post your schedule online.
Decide what to do for a book launch party. Schedule it as an Event on all your sites.
Run giveaways of your ARCs on Goodreads and LibraryThing.
Order swag materials for conferences.
Look for niche marketing opportunities.
1-2 MONTHS AHEAD
Contact booksellers and event organizers to verify your appearances and to make sure they’ll have your books in time.
Send email newsletter to readers, including signing dates, blog tour schedule, contests, and pre-order information.
Send promo materials or swag to conferences for goody bags or promo tables.
Set a virtual book launch party date and list it as an Event.
Prepare your newsletter and giveaways to coincide with the launch date.
Update websites with reviews as you receive them.
Write a page full of tweets and Facebook posts so you have them ready to go announcing your book launch. Do earlier if your book is available for pre-order. Include quotes from reviews when you get them.
Write a book club discussion guide if you want to have one available.
Post excerpts on social media to raise interest. Put your first chapter on your website.
Remember to promote yourself to your publisher. Send them copies of book reviews, feature articles, and promo events.
Send out a newsletter to your readers announcing the launch and inviting them to join your online party and enter your giveaways.
Announce the release on all your social media sites and online forums. Schedule tweets to run all day. You can schedule Facebook posts ahead of time on your author page.
Don’t forget to thank your blog hosts and respond to comments.
Go out and celebrate!
Time, budget, and energy are considerations when planning your promotional campaign. Choose what’s reasonable for you to accomplish, and remember that family takes priority, writing comes next, and all else is a bonus. The above suggestions aren’t written in stone. Some items you may be able to do sooner and some may come later. You’ll eventually work out your own rhythm. Do as much or as little as is comfortable at your level.
Marketing is what I’m spending all my time on these days. I am readying to launch my revised Author’s Edition of Body Wave in June, and I’m working on the release campaign for Peril by Ponytail coming in September. And by the way, I have some ARCs available for my 12th Bad Hair Day mystery.
If you are a book blogger or have a review site, and you’d like to be considered for an advance copy of Peril by Ponytail, please query me privately. Reviews would be appreciated on Amazon, Goodreads, and BN as well.
Humanizing the Web with Marc Ensign
At a recent meeting of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, nationally acclaimed social media expert Marc Ensign advised us to be a Dick and follow the Ten Virtues when it comes to social media. He described his neighbor named Dick who welcomed him into the neighborhood and was always looking after Marc’s interests, sharing his resources and time very generously. From studying Dick’s manner, Marc decided this approach could work on social media as well. His philosophy is akin to Do Unto Others as you would have them Do Unto You. Be kind, generous, and giving, and you’ll help to save the Internet. Here are his Ten Virtues, subject to my interpretation and the accuracy of my notes:
Be Engaged with other people. Listen intently to your connections. Build relationships. Market the people around you. Listen to them and comment on their sites. Like aspiring authors’ posts and websites. Help others get their message out. Connect and give people what they want.
Be Valuable by helping other authors who want to get published. Mentor them, tell them how you did it, and offer tips. Add value to your relationships. Make it about “let me help you” and not about selling.
Be First to offer help before you’re asked. “Let me give something to you first.”
Be Welcoming by putting people at ease, sharing ideas, introducing new options. Welcome everyone even if they disagree with you. Talk about it with them. Make it a conversation. Be open to hearing what people have to say.
Be Humble. Your purpose should be bigger than yourself as an author, than being on the bestseller list or having a high Amazon rating.
Be Authentic. Be true to yourself in all that you do.
Be Generous by helping people and giving information away. People will see you as a resource. On your website, offer free articles and other resources. Your philosophy should be “Let me give to you” rather than “Let me give to you and see what I’ll get from it.”
Be Transparent to appear more human. Talk about what problems you’re having in your writing. Like, “Here’s what I’m doing with this character. Why isn’t it working?” or, “Why isn’t this book selling?” Let people into your life and into the scary stuff of your career.
Be Perceptive by being aware of what’s going on in other people’s lives. Follow up on people’s blog posts by returning later and inquiring about an earlier issue.
Be Awesome. Reach out through your blogs, comments, and sharing. How can you be awesome for someone else?
It’s all about caring, giving, and sharing yourself without being concerned about what you’ll get in return.
Marc Ensign has been featured in/on CNN, the Huffington Post, Inc 500, Forbes, New York Post, PR Daily, Jezebel, and ProBlogger.