Posted in book reviews, books, cover design, editing, giveaway, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Indie Author Basics: Marketing

Whether an author hires out marketing duties or takes them on personally, it’s important to understand the basics.

Word of Mouth

Achieving good word of mouth requires having a professional, high quality product.

Word of mouth is still the best way to sell anything because the recommendation is coming from someone the person likes and trusts.

To get good word or mouth for your books, you need a professional, high quality product. Make sure your editing is clean and the book cover does not look homemade.

You should also actively encourage readers to share your book and talk about it publicly. This can be accomplished through street teams, contests that require sharing a post or writing a review, or putting a reminder the back matter of the book.

Social Media

Post on your social media platforms regularly to keep people engaged. Utilize a mix of informational, funny, promotional, or talking point types of posts.

Utilize social media ads to sell directly to interested readers who already like/follow you. You can also target lookalike audiences of similar authors and unique to reach new customers.

Free/Paid advertising

Free advertising options including posting to book-related Facebook groups (there are tons of these), newsletter swaps, blogging, creating Pinterest boards for your books or characters, and adding books to book sites like My Book Cave and Goodreads.

Paid advertising options include social media ads (pretty much all platforms are willing to take your money in the form of ads hosting), Amazon ads, book-related paid newsletters like FreeBooksy or BookBub, print ads in literary magazines or your local newspaper or circular, sponsorships, and paid online takeovers and parties.

DON’T pay for reviews, ever! It’s against retailers’ terms of service and you can be penalized. Paying a fee to have your book listed in a review catalogue is okay because you are not paying for individual reviews, just the listing.

Networking/Collaborating

Collaborate with other authors to expand your reach.
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Get involved with group promos and events with other authors. You can usually find out about these by joining online authors groups like Alessandra Torre Inkers. These types of collaborations expands your reach and allows you to share fans with and of other authors.

Copywriting

Learn to write engaging ad copy and book cover copy in order to catch the interest of readers. Blurb writing is challenging, and can be hired out if you don’t feel comfortable writing in short form.

Test different ads through A/B testing and determine what type of wording and what styles work best with your audience. Update your ads often because tastes change frequently. Study blurbs for books in your genre to learn more about the style and conventions readers will look for.

Use professional graphics (Pixabay, Canva, Deposit Photos) in all promotional material. DO NOT pull images from a Google search, because the may be copyrighted and you could end up with legal action and fines. There are plenty of free options out there, like Pixabay, if you’re on a tight budget. The same rules apply to music if you post videos.

Planning

Plan according to the amount of time you can realistically put toward marketing.

Determine how much time you REALISTICALLY have each week to put toward marketing, and build your marketing plan around that. Set daily, weekly, monthly tasks AND stick to them. Good things to include are social media posts, submitting books to newsletters, reviewing and updating ads, and engaging with readers.

Plan major campaigns (new releases, holidays, etc.) at least a month in advance, more if possible. Holidays need advanced planning more than almost anything else because newsletter slots will fill up quickly and ad costs may be higher than usual. Bloggers are also much busier and so are readers.

Ideas for major campaigns include hosting virtual parties, running giveaways, participating in takeovers or having other authors takeover your pages (especially popular on Instagram lately), running sales on your books, or hosting a live or online event to celebrate new releases or writing milestones.

Host an online or in-person event to celebrate new releases or writing milestones.
Posted in book reviews, books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, writing

Indie Author Basics: Contacting Book Stores and the Media

Reaching out to media and bookstores can be intimidating for many authors. Initiating those contacts can be an important part of your marketing plan.

Newspapers

The first thing many authors might think of when considering contacting a newspaper is getting their book reviewed. Fewer and fewer newspapers provide book reviews anymore, but there are other opportunities available.

There are always paid ads with newspapers, but many papers also offer free briefs/PSA spots for announcements and events. Each paper will have their own guidelines, but in general: submit at least 2 weeks in advance of an event, write the in third person and don’t use passive language (Say “will host” instead of “will be hosting”), write in an informational rather than sales-y style, and provide all the relevant info (date, time, location, contact info).

You can also submit events like books signings or readings to newspapers’ community calendars, A&E section, calendars or event listings, or suggest a story idea to the Arts and Entertainment editor or reporter (especially if it’s a local paper and your book has local ties.)

If you do want to submit your book for a review, keep in mind that most papers will only accept paperback copies, not ebooks. You will also want to have a media kit ready with JPEG files of the cover and an author photo, as well as a description of the book, availability, ISBN, etc.

Radio

Radio interviews can be challenging to arrange. Most private radio stations will charge you a fee to be interviewed. It’s basically like buying airtime. Public radio stations will usually do interviews for free, but there may be fewer opportunities. Check out what types of interviews local radio stations typically do, and where you might fit best.

Podcasts

One of these days I’m going to get back to my Author Life podcast, so feel free to hit me up if you want to be interviewed!

If you’re not familiar with podcasts, they’re basically downloadable radio programs. They’re great because listeners can access them any time they want, and easily listen to older episodes.

Another great thing is that there are tons of writing-related podcasts out there, many of which accept guest hosts or interview authors. Check out The Author Hangout, Kobo Writing Life Podcast, The Self Publishing Show, and many others!

How do you get onto a podcast? Take the initiative and reach out to the host via their contact information published along with the show (Apple Podcasts) or on the podcast’s website. Follow the guidelines and pitch a topic, interesting writing-related story, or area of expertise.

It also a good idea to keep an eye out for posts on author groups. Many podcast hosts will post calls for participants in these groups.

Blogs

Ignore people who say blogging is dead or irrelevant. Lots of writers are still blogging and lots of industry professionals are too. It’s a great way to share content and spread the word about events and announcements, especially for people who don’t want to read long posts on social media.

Blog opportunities for writers include interviews, guest posts, promotional posts, and character interviews. Promotional posts or guest posts are sometimes paid opportunities, depending on the blog.

To get featured on a blog, pitch yourself! Check out the blog’s pitch guidelines, then make a case for why you have an interesting story, a book worth featuring, or a great topic to blog about. If it’s a smaller blog that doesn’t have guidelines posted, use their contact form instead.

Bookstores/Businesses

Bookstores love writers, but setting up a book signing or author event can be a little tricky, depending on the store.

Independent stores are more likely to work with independent authors. Traditionally published authors will often have an easier time getting in with big, chain stores than indie authors will.

The main reason for that is because big stores usually won’t take books on consignment, and if an indie author’s books don’t have a buy back option (most POD printers don’t allow this) then the store won’t order the book. Independent stores are more flexible.

When contacting a book store or business to set up an event, do so one to two months in advance. They may have other events planned or need to make sure they have staff on hand. Bookstores usually have a specific person in charge of setting up events. If that person isn’t listed online, call the store and ask who to speak to.

Be ready with specific details about you and your book, and have multiple dates to suggest. Ask if they charge a fee, if they will order the books or take them on consignment from you, what the profit split is (60/40 is common), and what equipment they will provide.

If you want to give an author talk or do a reading, ask specific questions about audio/visual equipment, location in the store/seating, and time frame.

Approaching a business requires most of the same rules, but you may also want to address why you want to have it there and what their fee is for renting the space. Coffee shops, libraries, conference rooms, restaurants, and business specific to the topic or theme of a book can be great alternatives to a bookstore.

Networking with Authors
Posted in book reviews

#BadReviews: A surprising statistic

Is your first response to a bad review to hide your head or reach for a tub of ice cream? 

Here are a few surprising statistics that might change how you look at reviews, bad ones and good ones. 

First, here’s a stat that’s probably not so surprising. The Taliest Self-Publishing survey as saying that having your book reviewed by one of Amazon’s top 5000 reviewers can boost your sales up to 32%. 
Amazon publishes their top 1000 reviewers, some with contact info, so those looking for products reviews can look them up. Don’t just start spamming every reviewer, though. Not all of them review books, and some may not want to review your genre. Do you research before submitting. 
Jonah Berger (University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business) talked about results of a study he was part of on Harvard Business Review regarding the effect of reviews on sales. Across the board, good reviews help sales. Not shocking. What are the numbers, though? Good reviews can increases sales from 32-52%. That seems to apply to authors of any standing, which is not true for bad reviews. 
When it comes to bad reviews, being a largely unknown author is a benefit. Why? Berger noted that bad reviews for big time authors/products can decrease sales by about 15%. For the rest of us, bad reviews actually help! By quite a bit! A bad review (even the REALLY bad ones) can boost sales by 45%. Crazy, right? That’s what the study said, though. 
Why does this happen? Even a nasty review is still making more people aware of your book than knew it existed beforehand. It might even make people curious. Readers are smart people, too, and they’ll want to decide for themselves whether or not your book deserved that awful 1-star commentary. Here’s the full report on their findings. 
Stanford’s Web Credibility Project backs up this idea. They have found that what helps build product credibility (not just with books) are things like comments and reviews. The customer doesn’t have to rely solely on your perfectly worded description, which they know was crafted to make them want to one-click your book. They have regular people’s thoughts and recommendations, and the more the better. It gives them confidence. 
Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Baba Shiv broke it down to familiarity. He explained that the more familiar it is, the more likely it is that familiarity will factor into their purchasing decision. Familiarity is a positive feeling, overall, but, he admits, it can only take you so far against bad publicity. He also found that more well known books suffered worse from bad reviews. 

So what does this mean, other than that grabbing a spoon and a jar of peanut butter shouldn’t be your first reaction to a bad review? 

It means that if you’re a new author breaking into the market, don’t get too worked up about a few bad reviews. Chances are, they’re doing you a favor. If these reviews have valid complaints, definitely address them in your next book. You seem to have a bit of a grace period as a new author, though. Just be glad someone took the time to write a review and spread the word about your writing. Keep writing, keep improving, and hopefully by the time you become well known enough that bad reviews have more of a negative effect than a positive, you won’t be getting many bad reviews 🙂 

Just one more bit of advice… don’t even bother reading reviews of your books that are less than 3-stars. It’s not worth the inevitable heartache. Most likely, the book simply wasn’t for them, or they’re a troll. Neither of which should deter you.