Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing

Marketing Primer: Non-Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is not the only option available to authors to market their books. Here are a few other avenues to consider.

Listing Sites

Listing sites offer spots in their newsletter for authors to advertise new releases, special pricing, or free books. Newsletter ads provide short term results and benefits, with a period of additional sales at a higher price or sell-through on other books in a series. This period after the initial promotion is where most of the revenue is made. These types of ads range from inexpensive to very expensive depending on the size of the service’s list. Big lists like BookBub can be very effective and produce a longer period of additional sales.

Banner Ads

Banner Ads are advertisements put in a prominent stop (usually the top of the page or sidebar) on a website. It’s important to check a site’s monthly or daily traffic before purchasing an ad. It’s almost important to make sure the price is promportional to the amount of traffic. These types of ads are moderately expensive, but also generally effective. The results are largely short term.

Review Services

Reviews effect buyer confidence, so it is important to seek out reviews for your books. Amazon Terms of Service prohibit paying for reviews or exchanging products in return for reviews, with the exception of providing a free book in exchange for an honest review.

Paying to have your book included in a review service listing is a viable way to increase your reviews and does not violate Amazon’s TOS. These services can be rather expensive, depending on the service. Service with large reader bases will cost more than smaller services. These types of services can be very effective at increasing reviews and provide long term results.

Posted in books, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Paid Advertising

Paid advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. Many authors start with very small budgets and increase as they become more adept at using their marketing dollars.

First, let’s learn some of the lingo and basic concepts…

Social Media Advertising can be done on a small or large budget. It is effective for reaching a targeted audience. There is a learning curve (steeper on some platforms than others), but there are a lot of resources available to help authors learn how to maximize the budget and effectiveness.

Influencer Marketing involves an industry expert or celebrity recommending your book or other product to their followers in exchang for a fee.

Banner Ads are the clickable graphics at the top of many websites. They are one of the most effective ways to advertise because they often grab the visitors attention right away. These can be more expensive than other types of ads, but they tend to be worth the money on bigger book-related sites.

Affiliate marketing involves becoming an affiliate with a retailer or organization and hosting referral links on your website or in social media posts. You get paid per click, but you do have to tell visitors/followers that it is an affiliate link.

Ad Retargeting is basically a reminder for customers to check out a product. even after they leave your page or a page you’re advertising on. It is most effective for high traffic websites, but work well with banner ads as well.

A Call-to-Action (CTA) tells customers what you want them to do (buy, sign up, join, etc.). It’s important to have a strong CTA in ads so the customer isn’t left wondering what the next step is.

Return On Investment (ROI) is the ratio of net profit and cost of investment. You want to evaluate ads you run while they are running and after they are completed to see if they were worth the investment. An ROI of 1-2% on Facebook is considered good.

Cost-Per Click (CPC)/Pay-Per-Click (PPC) breaks down you ad spend to see what each interaction is costing you. Ads are usually about twice as effective at getting clicks as organic posts. An average CPC/PPC is $0.25-0.30 average on Facebook in U.S.

Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is the percentage of customers who click through to the next step. Having a clear CTA improves CTR. A CTR of 2-5% on Facebook is considered good.

Now lets look at what advertising option work well for authors

Amazon: Ads on Amazon are set up through your KDP dashboard. You can target similar books or authors. Amazon ads are very effective for most authors, but there is a steep a learning curve. Sign up for an Amazon Ads class to learn how to best utilize this platform.

Facebook: Paid ads have a wider range than boosted ads, which mainly targets followers. In order to serve paid ads, you need to set up your Business Center account with Facebook and be approved.

Pinterest: Advertising on Pinterest allows you to promote pins, create campaigns, and aadvertise stories. Pinterest is effective for advertising because pinners are ready to buy and its user base in constantly growing.

Instagram: Instragram ads can be setup up directly on the app or through a connected Facebook Business Center. You can promote images, videos, stories, and collections. Instagram has high interaction, which makes it an effective advertising option. It can be pricier than other platforms for high engagement industries.

Twitter: The type of ad that tends to work best for authors are objective-based campaigns. These enable you to promote tweets, accounts, trends, or moments. Some readers have very good results advertising on Twitter and others don’t. Consider the strenth of your platform on Twitter before advertising.

Goodreads: This is a reader/book lover focused platform. It can be an effective advertising option, but mainly for those who have cultivated a strong presense there. There are two advertising options on Goodreads: Giveaways of Kindle or print books, which cost $119, and digital ads, which must be set up through a rep. There is no self-serve option. Advertising on Goodreads tends to be quite pricey and less effective than other platforms.

Posted in books, new release, reading

Seven Noble Knights by J. K. Knauss

J. K. Knauss’s epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, is now available from Encircle Publications. You can order it here or here, and see interviews, historical tidbits, and videos here. Sign up for castles, stories, and magic at JessicaKnauss.com.

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter III: The Wedding

Young Gonzalo’s uncle, Ruy Blásquez, is receiving Doña Lambra as a bride in exchange for his service to Castile. Gonzalo isn’t at all sure Lambra should be marrying his uncle, and during the ceremony his sensations run toward the culinary.

Doña Sancha shooed her sons away from the cathedral door and drew dried herbs and flowers from pockets Gonzalo hadn’t known were inside her tunic and cloak. With a stick, she carved a large circle on the hard earth. Doña Sancha set the herbs and flowers inside the circle in a pattern with meanings she might have shared with a daughter, but were a mystery to Gonzalo.

“You’ll stand here,” she told her brother, Ruy Blásquez. “When your bride comes from that side, you’ll step inside the circle together.” She arranged her husband and sons on Ruy Blásquez’s side of the circle. Gonzalo ended up next to his uncle, so close he could hear each shallow breath he took.

Count García arrived with a full complement of knights and squires and four banners in white with red castles, as well as a fiddler and a flutist who made ready to play. So many people in the plaza must have been making the loudest ruckus since the city had been won from the Moors, but Gonzalo heard nothing.

From between the buildings at the far end of the plaza emerged forty women who walked with their hair covered to emphasize their married status. Their laughter and singing couldn’t distract Gonzalo from Doña Lambra, who tottered on their shoulders.

An heirloom beaded necklace competed with her yellow hair, shining in tight plaits on her shoulders with ornamental brass tips that looked as if they had come out of a treasure chest long ago. A mail girdle, inlaid with brass and pieces of jet at the edges, cinched her bright blue tunic from under her breastbone to down over her hips. Gonzalo shivered at the thought of the bitter touch of the matching mail sleeves, from the decorated wristlets up to her shoulders. A burgundy-colored cloak edged with three rows of golden braid was fastened over her shoulder with a gilded brooch in the shape of a lion rampant. A square cap, decorated all around with braid and gold carbuncles, looked like a royal crown. Gonzalo imagined he wasn’t at his uncle’s wedding, but that this bride had come from the farthest reaches of Christendom to marry the King of Navarra or León.

The married women set Lambra down in the middle of their ranks. She let the cloak fan out behind her unsteady stride. Her face was frozen into a grimace like the one the Virgin Mary wore as she cradled the Savior’s dead body inside the cathedral.

Gonzalo remembered Lambra’s grin at the banquet days before, when her mouth had dripped red with juices from the roasted bull’s testicles and the sauce-engorged bread trencher. Each time she received the goblet, she had made sure to turn it so that her lips didn’t touch the same spot as Ruy Blásquez’s. She didn’t take the same precaution against Álvar Sánchez, seated on her other side. Gonzalo could hardly taste his food through a choking desire to throw his eating knife across the table into the gloating knight’s hand so it could never touch Lambra so familiarly again.

There he was now, that upstart Álvar Sánchez, wearing just as juicy a grin, so close to Doña Lambra that the obnoxious curl on the toe of his boot intruded on the magic circle.

“What is that blasphemous behemoth doing there? Shouldn’t a member of the groom’s family stand next to the bride?” Gonzalo whispered to Gustio.

Gustio knocked his elbow into Gonzalo’s ribs. “Why? Were you hoping it would be you, little brother?” He chortled until their mother hissed at them to be silent.

Count García was addressing the crowd. “…with these deeds, Ruy Blásquez has earned as a bride my loveliest cousin, probably the most beautiful woman Castile has seen since my mother joined the Kingdom of Heaven. May they live many more years and have many loyal Castilian children.” He raised his arms, which the crowd took as a sign to cheer and shout.

Gonzalo noticed that his uncle had already moved into the circle and reached for Lambra’s hands. She was looking at Ruy Blásquez, but not with love or even curiosity. It was a look of judgment. Gonzalo tried to imagine how his uncle’s soft eyes, long nose, and weak chin fared on Lambra’s scale.

“I receive you as mine, so that you become my wife and I your husband,” Ruy Blásquez said. Gonzalo was relieved to glimpse him smiling widely, displaying his straight, white teeth to his judge in the form of a bride.

Ruy Blásquez smiled and waited, waited and smiled. Gonzalo witnessed a thousand expressions cross Lambra’s face like clouds in a stormy sky. At last, Lambra’s maid emerged from the crowd and leaned over the circle. “I receive you as mine…” she prompted so quietly that Gonzalo had to read her lips.

“I receive you as mine so that you become my… husband… and I your… wife,” said Doña Lambra, her eyes narrow. She pulled her hand away from Ruy Blásquez to wipe at her plump lips, as if the words had sullied them.

She craned her neck to look at Álvar Sánchez and Gonzalo knew she wished she had said the words to him. His heart beat faster. Then she shifted her gaze to Gonzalo. He felt as if he were smothered with the parsley, fennel, red carrot, and beet sauce from the banquet. Such was the hunger he saw in her eyes, a hunger he couldn’t help but feel, too, and which raged all the more, the more he tried to contain it. He remembered the way the bull’s testicles had flopped onto Doña Lambra’s trencher under their own weight and the way they deflated when she plunged her knife into the center of the sacs.

He stopped a startled cry in his throat.

“Long live the newlyweds!” The crowd shouted until they were the only words Gonzalo remembered ever hearing.

Buy a copy of Seven Noble Knights on:

You can also pick up a paperback copy at your favorite indie bookstore: https://bookshop.org/books/seven-noble-knights/9781645991205.

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing

Marketing Primer: Getting Started with Promotions

Maintaining a consistent schedule of promotions helps authors remain in the forefront of readers’ mind.

Before you start scheduling promotions, make sure you make quality promotional graphics ready!

Preparing Promotional Materials

Give readers something to remember you and you book both in-person and online. This starts with high quality graphics and professional design. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. Using graphic editing software like Canva or Book Brush allows anyone to create eye-catching graphics for print or online use for a reasonable monthly fee. There are also design services that are very affordable (many are authors running side businesses).

Physical materials you may need for in-person events and sending or selling to readers may include: paper bookmarks, business cards, post cards, book plates to sign and mail, banners and posters, and flyers.

Virtual materials for social media promotion and digital advertising may include: teasers, quotes, digital autographs, posts to save/share, videos, book trailers, social media banners, 3D cover art, or logos.

Unique promotional materials can make you stand out. Consider options such as book-themed jewelry, ribbon bookmarks, book plates, mugs, t-shirts, pens, etc.

Personal materials you want to have prepared include: live reading selections, Q&As, chat sessions, etc.

Setting up Cross Promotions

Cross promotions are all about help other authors while expanding your readership. Here area few ideas to consider getting involved with:

Newsletter Swaps: You agree to feature another author’s book in your email newsletter and they share yours in their newsletter. The author with the smaller newsletter gets the most benefit, but both authors are exposed to new readers. This works best with the features books are in similar genres.

Combined marketing pushes: These are especially common and effective around themes or holidays. All authors promote a group of books, usually with a single landing page. This can work for free or paid books.

Guest post/Interview trades: Share guest posts, promos, or interviews on each others blogs/websites. This increases your general exposure and opens you up to new readers as well.

Multi-author events: Join other authors in celebrating a theme, holiday, or just to have fun. Consider hosting Facebook parties, Twitter chats, a group sale, an author panel Q&A.

Box Sets: In a box set, each author contributes a book and all the books are sold as one unit in an ebook format. All authors MUST agree to promote and share any advertising costs. Be sure to vet the other authors involved before signing a contract.

Free Marketing Avenues

Next week I’ll discuss paid marketing options, but don’t forget about the many free avenues available for marketing a book. Free marketing opportunities are often time consuming, but can be very effective. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Facebook: Join some of the many marketing groups and share links to your books. Post to your author page on a regular basis. Make sure to keep promotional posts to 25%. Run a giveaway on your author page for an ebook or signed paperback. Host a Facebook party to celebrate a new release, book anniversary, your birthday, etc.

Twitter: Use the Pinned Tweet feature to highlight a buy link or promotion. Tweet daily with interesting content and occasional promotions. Follow readers and authors and start book-related conversations.

eBook Submission Sites: There are a wide variety of submission sites, many genre specific. While many do charge a fee, there are some that are free to submit to. It can be time consuming to submit individually, but can gain you new readers and sales.

Cross-promote: Team up with other authors to share each others posts, tweets, pins, or links. Some author groups do this regularly, such as ChickLitChatHQ on Fridays.

Free ebook offer: Offer readers a free ebook, novella, excerpt, etc. on a permanent or temporary basis. Many authors use a free product as a reader magnet to increase newsletter subscriptions.

Video and Audio: Make use of YouTube for Vlogging, book trailers, author readings, or a weekly check-in or chat. Start a radio show or podcast to talk about books, writing, or whatever you’re interested in.

Creative Marketing

The more creative your marketing efforts are, the more memorable they will be. Try to match marketing to the theme or a unique feature of your book(s).

A great example of this was the launch of “The Girl on the Train.” On release day, the publisher deployed dozens or more employees onto subway trains with copies of the book. They rode around on trains for several hours reading copies of the book and engaging in conversations about it.

Other examples include “The Liar Society” authors and promoters wearing pink wigs to match the hair of the main character, a photography-themed book author ran a camera giveaway and Pinterest contest, an author/musician offered a free digital music album with purchase of his book.

Don’t be afraid to try new ideas!

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media

Marketing Primer: Utilizing Social Media

Before we delve into how to use social media effectively as an author, here are a few reminders about the purpose of social media to guide your planning.

The purpose of using social media is NOT JUST TO SELL BOOKS. The purpose is to interact and cultivate fans and a community of readers.

To do this, it’s important to share useful information, use humor to make people laugh, inspire people, share the LOVE for other authors so it’s not about you all the time, share the status or progress of projects to keep readers informed, build reader interest in your project with teasers, quotes, and sneak peeks, reward loyal fans with first looks, giveaways and prizes, share your writing-related (or personal) news and events, and show your personality and share your interests with your readers.

What to Post of Social Media

Follow the 25% rule: Promotional, Informational, Personality, and Giving Back. Only 1 out of every 4 posts should be promotional.

Facebook: Posts that work well on Facebook include behind the scenes photos, quotes, fill-in-the-blank questions, true or false questions, open ended questions, blog posts about writing craft or in-progress projects, newsletters, announcements, teasers, sneak peeks of works-in-progress or new releases, live videos, excerpts, humorous memes, book/publishing-related articles, and personal interactions.

Twitter: The types of tweets the work well on Twitter include blog posts, interesting industry-related articles, quotes from famous authors, industry news of interest to other authors and readers, newsletters, announcements, Vine/YouTube videos, event updates, questions you would like readers to answer, Twitter chats, and impromptu thoughts to share with readers.

Pinterest: Pins that work well on Pinterest include product/book photos, writing guides, links to your ebooks, videos such as book trailers or author talks, infographics, quotes or tips from you or famous authors, blog posts, curated content geared toward writing or publishing, “life hacks,” instructional articles or videos, and arts and crafts.

Instagram: Because Instagram is very customer-centric it’s important to add value to images by providing specific price details when applicable. You can also share customer created pics, pics of YOU in day to day life, pictures of your non-writing interests, contests announcements, and product-centric pics. Focus on IN THE MOMENT pictures to share.

YouTube: This is a great platform to share book trailers, author readings or talks, updates or projects, and live Q&As with readers.

When to Post on Social Media

Here are some general suggestions based on research. Your personal schedule should be modified to accommodate individual account analytics and your personal time and energy available.

Facebook: 1-2 times/day, 3 times/week. Check your “Insights” to see when your fans are online most often to select posting times. It’s also important to review what types of posts fans are interacting with most as well.

Twitter: 3-30 times per day, spread throughout the day. You’ll typically see more engagement on weekends. Follow industry leaders and interact often.

Instagram: 1-2 times/day, 3 times/week. Check your insights for best posting times and pay attention to what types of post garner the most engagement.

Pinterest: 3-10 times/day. You’ll typically see more engagement on weekend mornings.

Blog: 2 times/week. Focus on producing HIGH quality content. Early mornings are typically the best times to post, especially early in the week.

YouTube: 1 time/week works well for most channels. Create a specific schedule and stick to it. Frequency varies depend on topic/brand. Research other authors and publishers working in your genres and see what they are doing.

Scheduling Posts

Scheduling your posts can be a huge time saver and help you stay on a consistent posting schedule. Most social media platforms allow scheduling through their own app or a third-party app. Some third party apps allow scheduling for multiple platforms/accounts.

Hootsuite:Works with most social media platforms. You can try it our with a free account, which will have limited options. The unlimited paid account unlocks all options, but is one of the more expensive services.

Buffer: With their free account, you can use up to 3 accounts and schedule a limited number of posts. Their paid plans allows for more accounts and unlimited scheduling.

TweetDeck: This is only for Twitter, as Twitter doesn’t allow scheduling from it’s app. This app allows you to easily manage multiple Twitter accounts and lets you set up different groups and trends to follow on the dashboard.

Tailwind: There is only a paid account option, but it allows for scheduling posts on Pinterest and Instagram. It will also suggests best posting time and gives # suggestions for each post.

Facebook Business Suite: This dashboard connects your Facebook and Instagram-linked account for scheduling, messaging, and analytics. You can only connect one Instagram account to a Facebook page.

Use Analytics to Update Your Marketing Plan

Most social media platforms offer at least basics analytics. These give you information on likes, comments, shares, visitors, referring sites, time online, top fans, popularity of content, fan location, and more.

Review your analytics regularly and update your posting times and content type accordingly to what fans/followers are liking and interacting with most. Track the effectiveness of changes or new tactics and continue to adjust over time.

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Getting Started with Social Media

With so many options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Get involved, but don’t over do it.

The Point of Social Media Marketing

It’s not just about selling, it’s about building a community of loyal readers. Social media can connect you with readers all over the world. Building a community of like-minded readers will keep them engaged and interested for longer.

Social media allows you to go to where buyers already “live” instead of trying to make them all come to you. Find out which platforms your “ideal” readers use regularly and start interacting. Don’t spend precious time on platforms that aren’t a good fit for the type of community you’re trying to build.

Social media provides opportunities for interaction and relationship development. It’s more than just serving ads to users. Take the time to interact, comment, answer questions, share engaging content, and invest in the long term.

It also allows you to show personality and express yourself to readers. In the digital age, readers want to hear from authors. They want to learn about their lives and writing and find the intersections. It adds more layers to their reading experience and provides community.

Choosing Social Media

How do you decide which social media platforms to use? Define your ideal reader and examine which platforms they are most likely to be using. It’s also important to consider your own skill and preferences as well. If you dislike using a platform, you’re unlikely to interact on it consistently.

Facebook Pages (NOT profiles): Facebook is the most used platform. It provides opportunities for building long term communities and relationships. It is easy to start and carry on conversations as well. The Facebook audience is mainly adults in the 18-49 age group, with slightly more female users.

Twitter: Ongoing conversation is an important aspect of Twitter. It’s interface is geared toward “in the moment” types of conversations. It’s also a good platform for news and updates. Twitter is popular with both men and women in the 18-49 age group, and nearly half of users are on the platform at least once per day.

Instagram: Instagram is mainly a visual platform geared toward creatives. It offers author/creator/business accounts which give different statistics and options to users. Because it is owned by Facebook, it’s easy to link accounts and simplify posting and messaging. Instagram has an easy conversation style. It’s main user groups skew toward a younger audience, with 18-29 year olds being the largest age group.

YouTube: This is also a visually-driven platform. It provides opportunity to express style and personality. In general, video gets the most interaction on social media. Authors can make use of this platform with book trailers, readings, Q&As, etc. YouTube is popular with pretty much everyone.

Pinterest: Another visual platform, it is also informational and filled with users ready to make purchases. Pins are shareable between users and the board format easy to use. Users can easily follow specific interests and save pins to their own boards. The platform is very buyer-centered and has high conversion rates. The user profile is mainly female and popular in the 18-64 age group.

Setting Up Author Profiles

Author profiles on book-related sites are similar to social media, but require less ongoing interaction. They do allow you to connect with more readers and may open up promotional opportunities as well.

Amazon Author Central: This not only allows you to set up your public profile on Amazon, it also gives you access to sales reports and the ability to manage your books. Create your account, claim all of your books and update or fix any necessary information, track sales of paperbacks, fill out your profile details, connect social media accounts, look into the ability to utilize paid ads. You can also get followers on your Amazon profile.

Goodreads: Creating or claiming your author account allows you to manage your public profile and start collecting friends and followers. Be sure to add your books to your profile, connect a blog (if you have one) and connect your social media accounts so interested readers can easily follow you. You will also have the ability to host giveaways, though they are a bit pricey at $119.

BookBub: Create or claim your author account and start collecting followers. BookBub offers paid ads and features, as well as newsletter spots. Newsletter spots are very effective, but also more expensive than many other newsletter promotions.

My Book Cave: Create an account and set up your author profile. Add all of your books as reader magnets in order to see stats and give each book a content rating. MBC offers features and promotional opportunities and listing-building magnet promotions. Magnets are a good way to build your email list and collaborate with other authors.

LinkedIn: Create your account and set up a professional profile. Be sure to list your work and education experience, then list all of your books as publications. You can also list any writing or literary awards you have received. This is a great place to make professional contacts in writing and publishing. You can also publish blog-style articles directly on LinkedIn.

Another reason to set up these profiles is that Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, and MBC will often send out new release alerts to your readers/followers for free!

Setting Up Accounts and Profiles

Fully set up all accounts with an author pic, bio, social media links, books links, contact info, and “verify” where available. Use the same profile picture on all accounts for consistency and recognizability.

Customize where possible to stand out from others. This is different on each platform, but make sure to add custom cover photos, customize background images, choose unique colors when possible, and get rid of any tabs or features that don’t apply to you and your writing. On Facebook you can customize tabs, choose what your call to action asks and leads to (buy now, sign up, contact, etc.), and you can add one landing page to your profile (book link or website).

Update images often. Always use professional looking graphics, and only use images you own the copyright to. If you update a profile photo, be sure to update it on all platforms.

Pin posts/tweets to top of the page and update them often. This is a great place to highlight announcements, new releases, questions you want readers to answer, or giveaways you’re hosting.

Next week we’ll talk about how to make use of your social media accounts!

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Setting up an Email List

Direct advertising to an interested audiences is one of the most effective marketing tactics, so DON’T skip setting up an email list!

Starting a Mail List

When choose a mailing list provider, consider what features you need most. Many authors find features such as automation, website integration, social media sharing, and easy to use templates essential features.

Popular providers include MailChimp, MailerLite, ConstantContact, ConvertKit, Aweber. Prices typically vary depending on the number of subscribers, though most start out with a free account that has a small subscriber limit so you can test the service and its features.

Be sure to create a public email account, through your website preferably, that you can use as your contact email. This prevents email newsletters from being marked as spam and looks more professional than using a personal email.

Legally, you MUST provide an address at the bottom of emails you sent out through a list service. Use a PO Box if possible to protect your privacy.

Sending out emails

There are two main types of emails authors typically send out, a weekly/monthly/quarterly newsletter and email blasts for special deals or new releases.

Newsletters should be sent regularly regardless of special deals or sales. If you don’t have any book news, share updates on your writing progress, personal life (don’t get too personal!), hobbies you enjoy, or interesting research you’ve done.

The frequency of newsletters varies by author. Some send them out weekly, monthly, or quarterly. It largely depends on what content they have to offer and how much time they have available for putting together and sending out a newsletter. Whatever schedule you choose, stay consistent so readers know what to expect and don’t forget about you.

Blasts are sent out in between regular newsletters to announce new releases, sales, promotions, special deals, contests, giveaways, and other exciting information that can’t wait until the next newsletter. These can be great attention getters, but should NOT be over used. Too many emails lead to unsubscribes.

Email List Tips

Use high quality graphics to catch the reader’s eye. Include your author logo (if you have one) at the top of the email so readers immediately recognize who the email is from. Make sure images are a manageable size so they load properly. Email service will usually advise you to compress an image if it’s too big.

Keep text short and sweet. Don’t use big blocks of text. Stick to one-liners and brief explanations whenever possible. The goal is to catch the reader’s attention and get them to click on something.

Share more than just book news. Engage with your readers on a personal level. This doesn’t mean airing all your dirty laundry. Stick to interesting anecdotes or facts about you or your writing and let readers know you’re still working away, but you also have a life outside of writing.

Start building a list as early as possible. Don’t wait until you’re ready to launch a book. Get readers interested in your writing as soon as possible, so when that book is ready you have a base of interested readers ready to buy.

Write strong headlines to encourage opens. Be concise with your wording and tell readers exactly what you’re offering (new book, free book, updates, giveaway, etc.). Avoid using excessive punctuation, as this can get your email marked as spam.

Posted in books, marketing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Blogging

My first piece of advice on blogging is…only set up a bog if you’re committed to blogging on a regular basis!

If you are committed to blogging regularly, keep reading for tips on getting started!

One of the main benefits of blogging is that it provide fresh content

Fresh content improves your Google ranking and draws more visitors to your website.

Before you get started, consider the purpose of your website and whether or not blogging fits in to that purpose.

Consider the amount of time you can commit to blogging and how consistently you can produce content.

Think about what type of content you are capable of providing and realistically assess your short form writing ability.

Lastly, evaluate your organization and scheduling ability. Keeping a regular schedule is important in keeping and gaining new followers.

Types of Blog Posts

One of the toughest parts of blogging is figuring out what to blog about. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Informational or craft posts. What are you knowledgeable about in your field, or what do you most enjoy writing about? Share your expertise with your readers. You can even share things you research for a story to intrigue readers about a project.

Promotional posts. Keep these types of posts limited to about 1 in every 4 posts to avoid coming off as overly salesy. A blog should provide useful content, not just shout at readers to buy your book.

Excerpts. Share excerpts from upcoming projects and past books. You can even share random bits of writing that aren’t connected to a book or story. Keep your work fresh in reader’s minds.

Sneak peeks/announcements. Share important news with your readers, such as new releases, awards, milestones, and more. Do share sales or deals, but remember not to overdo it.

Character interviews. These can be a fun way for readers to get to know your characters and to include character sketch information that didn’t make it into the book. If you include a picture of your character, make sure it is not a celebrity but a photo you own the rights to.

Guest posts from other authors. Invite other authors to share a post about their work, writing journey, personal story, or information on a topic your readers might enjoy. This is a good way to give back to the author community and make connections.

Interview other authors. Chat with another author about a specific topic. This can be done in written form, audio, video, or all three! The more interactive content you have in a post, the more engaged readers will typically be.

Writing progress updates. Create short posts to let readers know where you’re at on a specific project, possibly even with a projected release date once you get closer to finishing. You can include a short excerpt, info about research, setting, character development, etc. as well.

Personal stories/updates. If you are comfortable talking about your own writing life, personal life, or just what you’ve been up to lately, readers love getting to know authors on a more personal level. Steer away from rants, attacks, or venting on non-book-related topics. Remember to always keep it professional.

Blogging Tips

Pick a realistic schedule and stick to it. If you only have time to blog once a month, only blog once a month. There is no set requirement for how often you have to blog, but traffic stays more consistent when readers know when to expect new posts.

Pick a style, tone, topics and stay consistent…for the most part. Don’t completely lock yourself down on what you can blog about, but try not to be too all over the place or readers won’t know what to expect and may lose interest if only a few posts are relevant to their interests.

Make your blogging life simple by choosing a blogging/website platform that will autoshare your posts to social media. This will save you a lot of time and prevent posts from being forgotten.

Make sure to use SEO (search engine optimization) techniques such a using keywords within the text of the post. It’s also important to utilize tags and categories to help readers quickly find what they’re looking for and to make sure search engines find your posts.

Lastly, don’t just use your post title when sharing on social media. Add strong copy to the preview or social media post to draw readers in. Tell them why they will find this post useful.

Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, new release, paranormal, reading

Excerpt: The Children of the Seventh Son by @ScottTheWriter

The Children of the Seventh Son

Excerpt: A riot in Constantinople

By Scott Bury

Andrina returned to the inner courtyard then, carrying a large bundle in one hand and dragging something else behind her in the other. It scraped along the stone floor, adding an irritating note to the clamour from beyond the villa’s walls. “Papa!” she panted, before dropping her burdens with a clamour.

Javor knelt in front of her. “Your armour, Papa,” she panted. She held his steel helmet in the crook of her arm. The bundle was his lamellar cuirass, greaves and arm protectors. But she had not brought several other essential items.

It must have taken all her strength to carry it here.

“Mauricius!” Javor called, loosening his great-grandfather’s dagger in the scabbard he always wore on his side. “Take care of Andrina.”

“I want to help you, papa,” Andrina said before Mauricius swept her into his arms and passed her to one of the slaves he had brought. She struggled until she slipped out of the slave’s arms.

Javor put his hand on her shoulder. “You can help me by staying here with the others and showing them how to be brave. Adam,” he called to his oldest son, “you help your mother stay calm.” Adam nodded and went to Calanthe, who had collapsed back onto her couch. He hugged her and wriggled to find a place to sit on her lap.

Javor picked up his helmet and the armour that his daughter had dragged in and nodded at Gaetan, who followed him to his study in the very centre of the domus. There, he quickly took out the rest of his armour. He pulled on the felt cap that went between his head and the helmet. Gaetan, flinching at every sound from the front gate, helped him with the cuirass and arm braces, then held his long sword as Javor fastened his greaves.

Taking the sheathed sword in his left hand, Javor strode down the corridor to the front courtyard. He took a firm stance in front of the little lemon tree as the pressure on the gate splintered the thick board that, held in place by iron brackets, formed a secure lock.

With a final sickening crack, the gate burst open. A group of young men in ragged tunics, shock on their faces, stood just beyond it.

“Rich man,” said the one in front. He grinned, a gap black in his teeth. He had thick black hair and blood on his cheek, dully illuminated by a flaming torch held by the young man beside him.

“I do not want to kill any of you,” Javor announced in a firm, steady voice. “But if you take one more step, I will.” He drew the long sword with a ringing sound. Under his shirt, Preyatel’s vibration decreased to a dull tickle against his chest.

The gap-toothed man stepped inside, grinning. He raised a heavy wooden club. “There are many of us, rich man,” he said, and spat at Javor’s feet. “Let us take what we want and maybe we will not kill you.” The other men behind him stepped closer, too, but not as far as their leader.

The lead man’s eyes flicked to a vase with gold leaf on its edges, sitting in a little alcove on the wall. “Take that,” he said, and a thin teenaged boy behind him ran up and grabbed it. “What are you going to do about that, rich man?” the leader teased.

Javor moved his right foot behind him, presenting a narrow target to the mob. He scanned them. A number held blazing torches, others pikes, heavy clubs or knives. None of them looked like former legionnaires.

What does a former legionnaire look like?

Shut up, brain.

The leader barked a laugh. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you, boys? These rich men have no balls. That’s why I father all their children!” Behind him, some of the others laughed.

“Take the vase,” Javor said. “Go home. No one else needs to die tonight.”

The leader laughed, and the followers behind him echoed.

Javor stepped closer. If he leaned forward, he could sever the leader’s head. “One warning. You cannot harm me.” Preyatel thrummed against his chest in agreement. “But I can hurt you. If I have to, I will kill you. But I do not want to.”

The leader laughed again. Preyatel leaped under Javor’s shirt, hot as the torch in the hand of the man beside the leader.

Fast as flame, the leader swung his club at Javor’s head. But faster was Javor’s sword into the man’s neck. His amulet vibrated, filling his head with a keening song. Blood spurted, covering Javor’s face and cuirass. Before he could control it, his sword found its way into two of the men with torches. It sang a death song as Javor followed, dancing into the mob, led by the blade and the amulet’s direction.

When he halted in the middle of the street, the mob streamed away down the side alleys. Javor drew his breath slowly, calmly, his sword comfortable in his grip. Light from two sputtering torches on the cobblestones illuminated one side of a single face, trembling before him. Overhead, the moon filtered through smoke.

“Please,” said the half-face. The cheek below the wide eye glistened wetly.

“Go. Tell the others,” Javor said, shaking his sword.

The eye blinked, then vanished. Javor heard slapping footfalls fade into the distance.

About this book

The Children of the Seventh Son is the second novel in the Dark Age series, which began with The Bones of the Earth.

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

Pre-order now from Amazon for just 99 cents US.

Read more about The Dark Age series.

Read reviews on Goodreads.

Follow the latest announcements about The Children of the Seventh Son and the Dark Age series on Scott’s blog.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Creating an Author Website

Determine the purpose of your website and develop it from there.

Getting Started

Choose a domain name name is easy to type and memorable. A .com ending is more professional and credible than .host name.com.

It’s also a good idea to choose a domain name that is close to your author name/pen name. This makes it easier to remember and is usually easy to type. If you have a name that is difficult to spell, consider an alternative such as first or last name only paired with “author” or “books.”

If you plan to write a blog, incorporate it into your website so everything is in one place and easy for readers to find.

Tie-in all social your media accounts with follow buttons and auto-sharing of blog posts.

Choosing a Website Host

Look for a host that matches your technological skill. Host like WordPress.org allow for HTML coding, while many other use drag-and-drop systems. If you are not knowledgeable about coding or do not need many customized features, a simpler system will likely work better.

Look for a host with a variety of templates, customizations, and plugins. Templates can give you website a professional look with little effort. Customizing your site gives it a more unique look and functionality. Important plugins to consider are integrations with a mailing list, shopping function, contact forms, and social media integration.

Consider what other benefits are provided by the host. Options to look for include SEO optimization, customer service, mobile friendly designs, and add-ons. Some popular providers are Wix, WordPress.com, Weebly, and SquareSpace.

Essentials of the Home Page

Make the home page your “landing page” where readers can access all the basic information about you and your books.

The home page is the MOST important page on your website. The average visitor only spends 1-2 minutes on a website, so it’s important to maximize that time.

Home Page MUST HAVES include: Links to your book(s), Social Media follow buttons, a “Reader Welcome Letter” or introduction, easy to see/use navigation tabs, and a clear indication of who the owner is.

Remember that a website is not for YOU, but for your readers. Be sure to provide them with the information they are looking for, and that it is easy to access.

Important Pages to Include

Bio/about: Include a longer, “official” bio, social media links, other platforms readers can find you on, and a newsletter signup form

Books/Products: List your books IN ORDER (this is #1 reason readers comes to author website). If you have a large backlist, you may want to break your books into series pages to keep from overwhelming the reader.

Blog (optional): Make sure your blog is followable, allows comments, and autoshares to social media.

Contact: Use a form, not your email/phone, in order to protect your privacy and simplify the process. Readers are more willing to contact an author through a form than directly emailing them.

Newsletter Signup: Set up a form through your email list provider and either provide the link to that form, or integrate the form directly into your website. Make the form simple and easy to fill out. Only ask for basic information, such as name and email address.

Appearances/Events (optional): Use this page to announce events you will be attending. You can also give information on how an organization request an appearance or author talk. List any fees you charge, or what areas you are able to make appearances.

Design Tips

Choose a template or design that is clean, simple, and easy to use design.

Make sure the layout is easy to navigate and that the menu is visible, often at the top of the page or in the side bar.

Be sure your website is optimized for mobile use. This is usually something done automatically by the host software, but be sure to review it and make sure it looks the way you want it to.

Use eye-catching images. ONLY use image you own the rights to or are copyright free (www.pixabay.com).

Provide useful content and update your blog and/or website frequently.