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, marketing, publishing, self publishing, writing

Indie Author Basics: Organizing Events

Organizing your own event can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect and how to prepare can make it a little easier.

Book signings are often the first type of author event that comes to mind, but don’t limit yourself to only one mode of celebrating your work. Consider setting up a reading, author talk, educational presentation, workshop, release party, themed or holiday event, or join a local arts event.

Bookstores

If you intend to approach a bookstore for your event, there are a few important factors to consider.

Many bigger, chain bookstores will only schedule events with agented authors whose books have buyback options (most POD printers do not offer this). It can be challenging for indie authors to set up book signing or author talks at these stores, but it is always worth speaking to someone in person to see if they alternate arrangements.

Smaller or independent bookstores have more flexibility to work with authors. Many will take books for a signing on consignment and offer the author a profit split for those that are sold during the event. Some may even agree to stock consigned books for a specific amount of time.

When contacting book stores, you often need to reach out to the buyer for your genre. If they aren’t listed on a website, call the store and ask to speak with the books/fiction manager about setting up an event. Do this 1-2 months in advance.

Be sure to ask: whether they will order the books or if you will nee to provide them and when they will need them by, what the profit split is for consigned books, if will they stock leftover books, what equipment they will provide and what do you need to provide, where in the store the event will be held, where you can hang posters to advertise the event, and if they have any other rules or restrictions you should be aware of.

Other Venues

Don’t limit yourself to bookstores for you events. Coffee shops and restaurants are great alternatives for release parties, readings, or speaking events. You may need to rent the space or purchase a certain amount of food/drinks. Each business will handle this differently, and it may take some negotiating and shopping around to find something that works with your budget. Hotel conference rooms tend to be more pricey, but can host larger crowds.

If your book has a specific theme or character’s job central to the storyline, you may consider approaching a related organization or business. One author posted about hosting a signing at a fire station because her main character was a firefighter. It was a great success, because kids were able to see the trucks while the adults chatted about books, making it a fun family event.

Other Events

Pay attention to what community events are available in your area. Craft fairs and makers markets are often open to a wide variety of artists, including authors. Many of these events require paying either a booth fee or a share of sales. Consider not only your potential sales, but your chance for exposure at these events.

It’s often a good idea to sell books for a rounded price to make it easier for people to pay cash and not have to worry about providing change. Also, consider having a way to take credit card payments on a device such as Square.

Art walks, festivals, Comic Cons, and holiday events are also great options for authors to sell books. Look for separate booth fee pricing for artists. Not all events will offer this, but if the option is available, the booth fee is usually significantly cheaper than those for businesses. Be ready with a tall banner sign and business cards or postcards for people to take to remember you and your books later.

Final Tips

Set up or sign up for events as early as possible. Events like this often sell out quickly and venues have a variety of events all year that you will need to schedule around.

Bring you own bags (personalized if possible) to events not at bookstores. Books are awkward to carry around all day without a bag.

Have smaller, cheaper items available for sale. Book themed bags, pens, bookmarks, jewelry, etc. make great small gifts for book lovers even if visitors aren’t particularly interested in your books.

Have a short pitch ready to tell people what your book is about and don’t be afraid to sing it’s praises!