Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, marketing, publishing, query letter, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Writing a blurb that catches reader’s attention

8858f-bookpages

It’s always a challenge to boil down and entire story into a few hundred words when writing a blurb. Most writers hate this part of publishing. We took all this time developing details and intricacies and now we have to take all of that back out and convince someone to buy it in two paragraphs or less.

How do you do that well?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.

A blurb is a sales pitch

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Think of this sentence as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. Whatever it is that will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line.

This first sentence often sits by itself before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention. The preview on most ebook retailers barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count.

Format the blurb according to genre conventions

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline. Historical romance tends to use longer paragraph with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest. Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly.

Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions and do your own thing. Just make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of your story.

Typewriter illustrationStart with a formula that works

First, introduce the situation, then tell readers about the main problem or source of conflict, and indicate the twist without giving too much away. Effective blurbs often end with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story.

Don’t give away the ending. This isn’t a synopsis. It’s a tease.

Leave the side characters out of it

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. Give their name, a few important traits that make them unique or interesting, what their situation is, and what dilemma or conflict they’re going to face.

Don’t try to introduce side characters in the blurb. It only clutters the pitch and may make readers lose interest.

Use a cliffhanger

This isn’t a must, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge toward purchasing. Avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

This answer shouldn’t be too obvious, though. Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. Most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, but they don’t all reach it the same way.

Open Blue BookChoose your words carefully

Communicate the tone of the story with words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words. Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it.

Keep it short and to the point

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them. Stick to the important highlights.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned.

There’s no one correct way to right a blurb that will help sell a book, but starting with proven tactics and expanding from there can help you craft an enticing blurb.

Posted in marketing, social media

Getting Started with Twitter Marketing: Part 3

Ads on Twitter

Ad Types

Amerikaanse dollar Americk dolar AmerikanskThere are several different types of paid ads you can utilize on Twitter. Each one serves a specific purpose and should be chosen with a particular goal in mind.

  • Follow Ads: used to gain more followers. These ads show up in the “Who to Follow” suggestions. These are typically the most expensive type of ad, averaging $3 per follower added.
  • Awareness Ads: used to build brand awareness and get your content in front of more users. You will pay for every 1000 impressions rather than new followers. These tend to be more effective than Engagement ads.
  • Engagement Ads: used to get more likes, tweets, and retweets. You will pay for each action taken by a user. These can be helpful for getting a particular tweet noticed.
  • Clicks/Conversion Ads: used to get clicks on links that lead to conversations (email signup, purchase, etc.). You will pay for clicks, not impressions with these ads. These ads are optimized for clicks and have a specific/set bid.

Ad Campaign Tips

  • Target interests and keywords for the most effective results
  • DON’T use photos, links, or hashtags in Follow campaigns
  • DO use photos and links in Engagement campaigns – helps increase clicks
  • Trust the suggested bid from Twitter – they have detailed analytics the suggestions are based off
  • Follow ads should NOT be sales pitchy, but should instead describe your brand and tell people why they should follow

Twitter Analytics

Creating a Marketing PlanTwitter has in-depth analytics that can help you determine whether or not your everyday tweets and ad campaigns are effective. Studying the analytics can help you perfect what type of content works best for your followers and what types of ads will be most effective for your brand.

Using Analytics Effectively

Use Twitter Analytics to determine what content is performing the best and meeting your brand’s needs

  • Retweets show that followers value the content enough to share it
  • Likes show that they appreciate the content
  • Clicks show they are actively interested in the content and want to learn more

You can also use analytics to learn more about your followers and what they are interested in by reviewing the “Audience” section. This will tell you more about your organic audience.

  • Use demographic info of your organic followers to fine tune what types of new followers to target
  • Use information on your audience’s current interests to plan your content – check back often and adjust to any changes
  • Check out the Top Ten Interests of your followers and incorporate keywords and hashtags into your tweets

Marketing on Twitter starts with strong content curation and understanding your audience and their interests. Once you have a firm grasp on that, moving to paid advertising can help you improve brand awareness, grow your following, and increase engagement with customers.

61cac-istock_000021963294large

Posted in marketing, social media

Getting Started with Twitter Marketing: Part 2

Engaging on Twitter and Growing Your Following

Tweet BirdAs with other social media platforms, engaging with followers is key to growing your following and producing effective marketing campaigns. Hashtags and trending topics are a great starting point to engage with followers and potential followers, but you can’t stop there.

Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are organized via a specific hashtag. They are typically planned for a specific time, with a specific topic, and can be followed and joined by using the chat hashtag in a tweet. This is a great way to connect with followers and new users because it opens a dialogue and shows who and what your brand is about.

Ongoing Engagement

  • Follow conversations important to your brand or industry and join in regularly
  • Track “mentions” and comment or thank the person who engaged or shared your brand/name
  • Reply to retweets with a thank you or to continue the discussion
  • Follow industry authorities to learn from their examples and keep up on industry news
  • Comment often on tweets relevant to your brand or industry
  • Answer questions via mentions or tags in a timely manner – many users engage on Twitter to have questions answers or for customer service inquiries
  • Avoid Auto DMs as most Twitter users don’t like receiving them and often ignore them. Instead take the time to reach out to new followers with a quick thanks or welcome.

When to Engage

bb5f5-clock2balarm2bclockTwitter appears to be a nonstop, all-day conversation, but there are peak times to engage and tweet. Time plays an important role, and different times are better for different types of results. Results may be slightly different depending on your target audience, location, and industry, but in general many Twitter users tend to engage in the evening and late night/early morning.

  • Friday is the best day to post (9-10 a.m. specifically)
  • Everyday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. is a good time to post
  • Sunday morning has the least engagement
  • Most clicks are seen in the 2-4 a.m. time frame (except Mondays)
  • After 5 p.m. are when the most retweets happen

Engagement is one of the most important factors in building a community and dedicated followers. Take the time to make followers feel like they are a part of the community.

Posted in marketing, social media

Getting Started with Twitter Marketing: Part 1

Curating Strong Content

Specific Content

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace3 11.45.06 AMBefore promoting a tweet on Twitter, it’s important to have strong content that will be effective to promote. Every social media platform is different and specific types of content work well on each platform. For Twitter, great content should:

  • Be informative and useful
  • Comment on trending news
  • Be related to highly searched keywords
  • Retweet other user’s useful content
  • Lead or begin a discussion on trending topics

Pinned Tweets

DeathtoStock_Desk5On Twitter, you have the opportunity to highlight your content with a pinned tweet. It’s important to choose a pinned tweet that shows followers who your company is, what your brand is about, and what is going on in your company’s world. Pinned tweets are great for:

  • Upcoming events
  • Announcements
  • Summarizing your company’s brand or mission
  • A tweet with a strong call to action that will further your goals (i.e. email signup, purchases)

Images and Video

Film ReelEnhancing your content with images and video is very effective on Twitter. Tweets with images or video are, on average, retweeted 150% more often than tweets that are text or links. Another benefit or images and videos are that they take up more space in the feed and grab the viewers attention.

  • Ideal image/video size for Twitter is 1024×512 pixels

Hashtags and Trends

Hashtags are a great way to increase the visibility of your content on Twitter. Hashtags operate as search keywords for users trying to find specific topics. Twitter tracks trending hashtags. These are important to pay attention to and incorporate into your tweets when they are relevant. Using trending hashtags will help your content get noticed more.

Trends are important topics being discussed on Twitter. Trends are also tracked on an ongoing basis. When trending topics are relevant to your brand or mission, join the conversation and lead a discussion.

149bb-istock_000019063405large

Posted in free book, marketing, writing

The Freebie Debate

Have you ever been perusing Amazon or B&N and saw a book that piqued your interest, but you weren’t sure whether or not to get it?

Large Stack of BooksHow does price affect your decision making?

If it’s free, do you think, “Awesome! I’ll give it a try. If I hate it, I’m out nothing and can move on to something else.”

OR…

Do you think, “I wonder why this book is free? Is it not very good? Can they not sell it? Does the author not think it’s very good either?”

Basically, do readers in today’s market see free ebooks as opportunities to explore new authors, or a statement about how the author/publisher values that particular book?

Whether or not to offer free books has been debated among indie authors for quite a few years. I recently read a blog post about a group of authors who have banded together to vow never to offer free ebooks because they believe it devalues their work and the effort it took to produce it.

Now, I have used free book promotions from the moment I figured out how to get Amazon to price match. Yes, it’s effectiveness has decreased over the last few years because there are so many free ebooks now, but to me, the benefits of having a free ebook available to readers hasn’t disappeared.

Price doesn’t determine the value of a book. I could price all my ebooks and $19.99. That doesn’t mean my ebooks are worth that amount, or that I value the work I put into creating them as more than a book I price at $1.99. Price does not equal value in this case. As an indie author, price is something you can manipulate and learn from. Try one price, watch sales. Try another, watch again. Eventually you find, either through trial and error and/or research, what a good price point is for your genre and book length.

For me, that includes free ebooks.

Why?

For one, I am a reader myself, and I’m timid about trying out new authors. I’ve picked up some pretty awful books over the years, and I’ve randomly chosen amazing ones, too! It’s a gamble every time. Taking away the barrier of price makes it that much easier to entice readers to give one of my books a try. If they enjoy it, I usually get 2-3 consecutive sales on that series, potentially more if they enjoy my writing and pick up another series.

All from one free book.

Did that one free book make readers think I didn’t value my own work? No. It introduced them to my writing.

Creating a Marketing PlanAnother reason I choose to offer free books is because many of my books are Young Adult titles. Teens don’t have a lot of purchasing power in many cases, especially in non-US markets. They can download free books at the click of a button, or read on Wattpad with no restrictions. Many teens need permission and a credit card number to purchase ebooks. That means convincing their parents the purchase is worth the money. That gets easier when they can say they’ve already read the first book and loved it.

Now, I know I’m on my soap box a little, but I think the debate over free books is a frustrating one when argued simply on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the tactic. Every author has to figure out what works for them and their genre. I’m not telling anyone else how they should run their business or career. This is what works for me, at this time. I’ll change when and if I need to. I don’t need to join a group for or against a particular marketing tactic. I do my own research, including talking to other authors about what works for them, and make my decisions based on that research.

If other authors don’t want to offer free books because it goes against their views, that’s totally fine. Other people won’t agree, and that’s fine too. Just do your research and make a decision based on that and not simply on what someone else tells you is the right thing to do.

Posted in marketing

Creating a Marketing Plan: Part 5

To start building your marketing plan from the beginning, start with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Now let’s move on to Post-Launch marketing.

Post-Launch Marketing

79420-calendardeadlineFirst 3-4 months after release. This is when you want to keep the high of your release going. Marketing does lessen from the initial blitz surrounding the release, but should still stay higher than what you will maintain during the long term marketing phrase.

Consistency is KEY!

Plan consistent exposure over the first 3-4 months after the release party. This will include daily, weekly, and monthly tasks oriented at keeping up exposure.

  • Examples include FB group posts, links on Twitter, guest posts on book blogs, special content (character interview), personal or author blogging posts, in-person events and appearances, interacting with readers, etc.

Blog Tours

These should have already been set up (if not, set them up ASAP). As tour posts begin to be posted, make sure to visit each blog and leave a comment thanking the host. This is not only polite, it helps expand the exposure of the post. Share links on you social media accounts.

Subscribe to each post (not necessarily each blog) so you are notified when readers comment. Go back and reply to comments as needed. Keep a list of which bloggers reviewed your books, whether or not they liked it, and whether they might be interested in reviewing future books.

Reviews

Large Stack of BooksWhy are reviews so important?

  • New reviews boost rankings on sites like Amazon.
  • Boost reader confidence. It shows that people are buying and reading the book and hopefully that they are enjoying it. Makes spending $$ seem less risky if you are a new author to them.

How do you get reviews?

  • Ask for them! In many cases, it really is that simple, but you need to go about it the right way and only approach those interested in your genre/topic.
  • Friends & family (They need to be honest!), beta readers, critique partners, other authors.
  • Bloggers (best if relationship already in place). If you are cold-submitting, follow their guidelines posted on their blog, make sure the are OPEN for reviews, only submit to bloggers who actually read your genre, and be professional.

  • Put a message in the back of the book. This is a very simple and effective way to encourage readers to review your book.
    • Apps like the Kindle and Audible apps now bring up a screen when a reader finishes a book that asks them to review or leave a star rating.
  • Incentives (send review link for…offer some extra or bonus gift to encourage reviews)

DO NOT PAY FOR REVIEWS

Except…

Dollar SignReview Services are different from “paying for reviews,” which is against most ebook stores’ review policies. What makes these services different?

  • You’re paying for access to reviewers, not actual reviews. These services offer no guarantee on the number or star level of reviews you will receive. Your book is added to their list of book available for review and the reviewers who participate in their service choose which books to review and give honest reviews after reading.

BEST: Net Galley (cost: $600)

Others: Books Machine (monthly fee)

  • Similar Idea: “First Reads” programs from certain publishers aims at getting early reviews for their books but are limit to books they choose to include in the program.

Other sites/avenues for readers to access books or post reviews include publisher specific programs, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, etc.

A big part of the post launch marketing includes consistency and gathering reviews, but it takes persistence and time.

WPR Header ImageTo listen to the full podcast on Creating A Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable, check out the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast Part 1 and Part 2.

Posted in marketing

Creating a Marketing Plan: Part 4

To start at the beginning with your marketing plan, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Keep reading for info on contacting media.

Contacting the Media

old microphoneRadio

  • Local stations are great to announce local events (call, email, FB). Most are very friendly to local authors and have regular community activities announcements they can include your event in.
  • College radio stations are often geared toward academic interests and many are happy to share about your literary events and may have a show about books or writing that might fit your skills.

Internet Radio

Blog Talk Radio is the biggest internet radio service currently and there are many writing/book related shows. Many are interested in author interviews/book news/writing advice.

Podcast LogoPodcasts

Look for ones geared toward author interviews, writing advice, marketing ideas, book news, etc. There are hundreds of writing.book related podcasts and many are looking for authors to participate on a regular basis.

YouTube

Post your own interview or release post about your book. Share an excerpt of your book by reading it yourself or recording your voice to play with images related to the book. Use actors or volunteers to act out a scene from your book. Share advice or tips, or even discuss an event you attended like a video blog.

Blogs

There are thousands of book blogs online. Research what genres each blog is interested in reviewing, what type of posts they are interested in sharing, and what their guidelines are for submitting requests. Cold submissions can work, but you will be more likely to have your book accepted if you’ve done your research and interacted with the blog to build a relationship. This isn’t always possible with every blog, but do make an effort to follow their guidelines and only submit to blog interested in your genre.

Local TV

Not every town has a local TV station (mine doesn’t) but many local stations look for local interest pieces to fill out their broadcasts. Check out your local TV stations website and look for a “Contact” page. Most have an email address or form for “News Tips” or “Story Ideas.” Send them a professional media kit containing formation about your book and/or event and why it might be of interest to their viewers.

Contacting the media sounds scary, but there are many media outlets that are eager for guests/stories. Be professional and polite and take a chance.

WPR Header ImageTo listen to the full podcast on Creating A Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable, check out the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast Part 1 and Part 2.