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 marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Marketing Primer: Creating a Marketing Plan

Marketing plans can be general or detailed, but you NEED a plan in order to effectively market your book.

Marketing Plan Basics

Word of Mouth is still the best way to sell any product. It requires high quality product.

A website is single source for all buy links and information.

Social Media provides the opportunity to post regularly and build a community of interested readers. It also provides an avenue of free advertising, such as in Facebook groups, posting on author pages, and setting up Pinterest boards.

It is also important to utilize newsletter swaps, blogging, and adding your books to book sites like My Book Cave and Goodreads.

Paid advertising is an integral part of marketing. Popular options for authors include social media ads on Facebook and Pinterest, Amazon ads, newsletters spots, print ads, sponsorships, and takeovers/parties.

Marketing Plan Components

The first components to consider are your available Time, Money and Effort. How much of each one can you contribute toward marketing each day? Be realistic about this or your plan will end up falling apart.

Next, determine your Audience, Avenues, Goals and Competition. Knowing who to market to and how to reach them are key to being effective. Have realistic goals and know what is already working for others through marketing research, following other authors, and developing unique tactics.

Big Picture Planning

Look at both paid and free advertising options. Plan out daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that fit into your schedule.

Submit your book deals to newsletters for features well in advance of any planned promotional pushes. Paid spots will get better visibility, but free spots can be useful as well.

Be consistent with interaction on social media. Share updates, sales, promos, questions, giveaways, and limited personal details such as hobbies or books you are reading. Start a Street Team, a reader group who shares your posts, reviews, and builds a community.

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, 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!