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, 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.

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

Marketing Primer: Building an Author Platform

Start with the basics and don’t overwhelm yourself by joining every author/writing platform known to man.

We’ll go into more specifics about each of these topics over the next few weeks.

Websites as part of a marketing strategy

An author website is essential to building an author platform. It serves as a one-stop platform for information about you and your books. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it should be aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate.

An email list is a critical component of building your platform because it creates a ready and interested audience you can reach directly. Start building your list as early as possible, even if you aren’t published yet.

Set up 1-3 social media accounts as an author. For Facebook, this means setting up a PAGE, not using your personal PROFILE. You can get in trouble for using your personal profile to promote your business. Which social media accounts are best depend on what tends to work best for authors/artists and which ones you enjoy using and/or find easy to use.

Setting up profiles on retailer and book-related sites give you more avenues to make your work visible, participate in promotions, and collect followers. Many of these sites require little to no engagement once your are set up, but can provide exposure and promotion benefits.

Setting up the basic parts of an author profile can be time consuming, but it is important to have an online presence where readers and industry professionals can easily find and contact you. For most of these, with the exception of social media, require only occasional updates to maintain, so the time cost to get them set up pays you back over time. Social media does require regular engagement to be effective, but can also provide community and support along with advertising opportunities.

For a more detailed breakdown of each of these topics, stop back by over the next few weeks!

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, reading, self publishing, social media, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Marketing Primer: Author Platform Basics

It’s never too early to start building your author platform and marketing base. This week, we’ll do a deep dive into what an author platform is and how to use it.

What is an Author Platform?

An author platform is a writers public face

An author platform brands the author, NOT the book. Set up your social media accounts and fan pages under your author name instead of your book or series name. It will save you from trying to manage multiple accounts or pages, or from being difficult to find.

An author platform presents you as an expert in your field. Many writers balk at this because most of us feel we fit the meme of an author knowing a little about everything but is a master of nothing. The truth is, you are the expert of your book and your characters. Start there and expand your expertise.

An author platform is also a means through which to share your message with your target audience. The more fans you accumulate, the more quickly and easily you can disseminate information about you and your books to an interested audience.

An author platform tells readers what makes your work unique. Your platform should reflect your personality and the aspects of your writing that set you apart from other writers.

An author platform implies a promise of quality. Always make sure you are putting out quality products, images, information, etc. Present yourself online as a professional and release professional quality work.

An author platform says something about you as an author. What keeps you writing? What fills your spare time (if you can find any)? Share more than just your books. Share your writing process and experiences in publishing. Remember that you’re building a community with your platform, not just a customer base.

What does an Author Platform do?

It gives authors an opportunity to shows their personality to their readers. In today’s interconnected world, readers want to know their favorite writers. It adds to their reading experience to have some insight into who wrote the book.

It fosters relationships with readers, turning casual fans into super fans who will help promote you and your work. Friendships are also developed which can help authors feel more engaged with the reading community.

It establishes expertise as an author, writer, and whatever other areas of knowledge you have to share. If you write police procedurals, share some of your research. If you write a character who likes to cook, share recipes. Create a world for readers to explore with you.

It builds communication with readers and opens up opportunities for feedback, help, and encouragement. Many writers get bogged down with deadlines, stuck in the middle of a manuscript, or overwhelmed by life. Open up a dialogue with readers.

It creates community with other writers and with readers. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Use your platform to gather similarly minded book lovers to talk to and engage with.

It builds visibility and extends reach. The more you build your author platform, the more eyes you will have on your books. Engage regularly to encourage readers to do the same. The more welcome a person feels in a group, the more likely they are to invite others to join or talk about how much they enjoy participating.

Use your author platform to build an community of interested readers.
Posted in marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Getting Started

This new series will discuss everything from building a platform and creating a plan to carrying out ongoing marketing for consistent success.

The key factors we’ll be looking at are:

  • Developing an author platform
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Carrying out ongoing marketing
  • Developing a website
  • Using social media effectively

Other important aspects of marketing we’ll discuss in this series include:

  • Creating timelines for marketing campaigns
  • Creativity needed for marketing
  • Perseverance to learn and improve
  • Online and In-Person avenues for marketing
  • Budgeting to meet all your goals
  • Free/Paid advertising options

Next week we’ll kick off the series with a discussion on how to develop an author platform!

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 books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing, writing advice

Indie Author Basics: Author Platform

What is an author platform, and what is it used for?

Learn more about what an author platform is, why you need one, and how to make use of it.
Use your platform to build and engage your community and to boost your reach and visibility.

An author’s platform is their ability to market their work using their overall visibility to reach reader. This includes:

  • Reach of social media accounts
  • Connections with other authors, publishers, agents, literary people
  • Relationship with media
  • Measured by their ability to use their influence and reach to sell books and boost their career

What do you need to start building an author platform?

Setting up a website is an important step in building an author platform. It provides basic information about you and your books, and is an easy way for readers and industry professionals to make contact with you.

Email list are key in developing a platform that can be used to sell books. An email list is a direct route for sharing news, sales, and updates with readers who are already interested in what you’re doing. You’ll have much better return on your time an investment than cold advertising.

Social media is necessary in today’s publishing and marketing world. Social media allows you to share updates and expand your visibility easily. Regular posts and accounts are free to setup and use. Social media also helps you start cultivating a community and building trust with your readers. It also help readers to forms bonds with other readers as well as with you.

How do you make use of your author platform?

Make the best use of your website by listing all of your books (in order if you have series!), contact info, official bio, other platforms readers can find you on, and your blog if you decide to have one.

Start building your email list as early as possible. Don’t wait until you have a book published. Send regular updates about you, your writing, and what sales or releases you have coming up in the next month.

When getting started with social media, start with one account and expand in accordance with the amount of time you have to put toward social media. Don’t go overboard and overwhelm yourself! Share regularly, and keep in mind that pictures and videos often get most engagement.

Share updates, personal info you’re comfortable sharing, news releases, sales, funny posts, informational posts, whatever else you think your readers will find interesting. Limit advertising posts to 25% of total posts. Use social media to build a community more than to push sales. Engage the community with questions, polls, giveaways, and ask for input when you need it or when you think your readers will enjoy participating in the process.

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

Indie Author Basics: Book Marketing

Marketing is one of the biggest chores for indie authors. There are so many avenues it can be overwhelming. Breaking it down to the basics can help you get started developing a plan and getting your book in front of readers!

Websites

Websites as part of a marketing strategy

Websites are important, even though readers often tell me the biggest reason to go to an author’s website is to find the order of books in a series.

Readers aren’t always your main target with a website, though. So who is? Media, agents, publishers, and other industry professionals. They go to websites to find a bunch of information all in one place.

Many website services are free or low-cost for a basic setup. Popular sites include WordPress, Wix, and Square Space. Yearly hosting fees for paid websites are usually in the $60-$500 range, depending on how intricate the website is and what special features you want.

Domain name registration is $10-$20 per year and well worth the cost! A .com site looks WAY more professional than a .wix.com or .wordpress.com site.

Custom designed sites are the most expensive options, for the design work and for hosting costs.

Blogs

Blogs can be a great way to drive traffic to your website on a regular basis, but only if you’re willing to put in the time to blog consistently. If you don’t have time for that, don’t start a blog.

Social Media

Social media book marketing

Social media account are vital in today’s marketing world. Not only are they great places to grow your fan base and develop relationships with your readers, an account is required on most platforms to be able to run ads.

This doesn’t mean you have to run out and join every social media site known to man. ONLY sign up for the ones you’re actually going to use consistently. The most popular and effective right now are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon ads.

Most social media platforms are free to set up and running ads can be done even on a very small budget.

Book-Related Profiles

Sign up for author profiles and popular book related sites. Unlike social media, you don’t have to actively do anything on these sites. Having a profile allows you to add your books, run ads, and gain followers, though.

Popular book-related sites right now include BookBub, Goodreads (don’t read reviews!), and My Book Cave. Most of these types of sites are free to sign up, but may be a bit pricier to run ads or features on and you have to be approved for features.

Newsletter Features

There are a million book-related newsletters out there that accept free and paid feature spots. The biggest the list, the higher the price. However, many smaller ads (free or $5) can be very effective. Most writers have a hard time getting features on bigger lists without a lot of reviews.

Making a Plan

Marketing Basics for Indie Authors

There’s a lot of trial and error involved with book marketing. Everyone’s book is different and will speak to readers in different ways.

Start small. Test out multiple avenues and keep track of what does and doesn’t work. As you evaluate the effectiveness of different tactics, you’ll be able to start making a solid plan.