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 book reviews, books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, writing

Indie Author Basics: Contacting Book Stores and the Media

Reaching out to media and bookstores can be intimidating for many authors. Initiating those contacts can be an important part of your marketing plan.

Newspapers

The first thing many authors might think of when considering contacting a newspaper is getting their book reviewed. Fewer and fewer newspapers provide book reviews anymore, but there are other opportunities available.

There are always paid ads with newspapers, but many papers also offer free briefs/PSA spots for announcements and events. Each paper will have their own guidelines, but in general: submit at least 2 weeks in advance of an event, write the in third person and don’t use passive language (Say “will host” instead of “will be hosting”), write in an informational rather than sales-y style, and provide all the relevant info (date, time, location, contact info).

You can also submit events like books signings or readings to newspapers’ community calendars, A&E section, calendars or event listings, or suggest a story idea to the Arts and Entertainment editor or reporter (especially if it’s a local paper and your book has local ties.)

If you do want to submit your book for a review, keep in mind that most papers will only accept paperback copies, not ebooks. You will also want to have a media kit ready with JPEG files of the cover and an author photo, as well as a description of the book, availability, ISBN, etc.

Radio

Radio interviews can be challenging to arrange. Most private radio stations will charge you a fee to be interviewed. It’s basically like buying airtime. Public radio stations will usually do interviews for free, but there may be fewer opportunities. Check out what types of interviews local radio stations typically do, and where you might fit best.

Podcasts

One of these days I’m going to get back to my Author Life podcast, so feel free to hit me up if you want to be interviewed!

If you’re not familiar with podcasts, they’re basically downloadable radio programs. They’re great because listeners can access them any time they want, and easily listen to older episodes.

Another great thing is that there are tons of writing-related podcasts out there, many of which accept guest hosts or interview authors. Check out The Author Hangout, Kobo Writing Life Podcast, The Self Publishing Show, and many others!

How do you get onto a podcast? Take the initiative and reach out to the host via their contact information published along with the show (Apple Podcasts) or on the podcast’s website. Follow the guidelines and pitch a topic, interesting writing-related story, or area of expertise.

It also a good idea to keep an eye out for posts on author groups. Many podcast hosts will post calls for participants in these groups.

Blogs

Ignore people who say blogging is dead or irrelevant. Lots of writers are still blogging and lots of industry professionals are too. It’s a great way to share content and spread the word about events and announcements, especially for people who don’t want to read long posts on social media.

Blog opportunities for writers include interviews, guest posts, promotional posts, and character interviews. Promotional posts or guest posts are sometimes paid opportunities, depending on the blog.

To get featured on a blog, pitch yourself! Check out the blog’s pitch guidelines, then make a case for why you have an interesting story, a book worth featuring, or a great topic to blog about. If it’s a smaller blog that doesn’t have guidelines posted, use their contact form instead.

Bookstores/Businesses

Bookstores love writers, but setting up a book signing or author event can be a little tricky, depending on the store.

Independent stores are more likely to work with independent authors. Traditionally published authors will often have an easier time getting in with big, chain stores than indie authors will.

The main reason for that is because big stores usually won’t take books on consignment, and if an indie author’s books don’t have a buy back option (most POD printers don’t allow this) then the store won’t order the book. Independent stores are more flexible.

When contacting a book store or business to set up an event, do so one to two months in advance. They may have other events planned or need to make sure they have staff on hand. Bookstores usually have a specific person in charge of setting up events. If that person isn’t listed online, call the store and ask who to speak to.

Be ready with specific details about you and your book, and have multiple dates to suggest. Ask if they charge a fee, if they will order the books or take them on consignment from you, what the profit split is (60/40 is common), and what equipment they will provide.

If you want to give an author talk or do a reading, ask specific questions about audio/visual equipment, location in the store/seating, and time frame.

Approaching a business requires most of the same rules, but you may also want to address why you want to have it there and what their fee is for renting the space. Coffee shops, libraries, conference rooms, restaurants, and business specific to the topic or theme of a book can be great alternatives to a bookstore.

Networking with Authors
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.

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.

Posted in marketing, social media

Creating a Marketing Plan: Part 3

To get started on creating your marketing plan, check out Part 1 and Part 2 first. For specific release day ideas…keep reading!

Facebook Release Party

TGH FB PartyCreate an “Event” on FB, then add details of where/when, who’s participating, prizes, games, etc.

Invite Friends and Readers and encourage them to invite more people.

  • “Who invited you?” giveaway can be a great way to encourage more invites.

Invite other authors

  • Share the burden and fans: Invite authors to participate or “takeover” during the party with their own games/giveaways/etc.
  • More games and prizes means more fun.
  • Other authors bring in their fans to learn about your books and your fans learn about other authors as well.

Games

  • “Caption this!” – Find a funny or strange picture and ask for captions. All captions earn an entry and you can either pick the best as the winner or pick at random.
  • Book themed i.e. Bad Date Stories for my Date Shark series, or favorite myth for my Twin Souls series
  • “Like My Page,” “Signup for my newsletter,” “Follow me on…” are great ways to build followers and are an easy giveaway entry form
  • Costume Party (post pic of costume to enter giveway)
  • Task oriented games, i.e. go to my website and find all the pink letters and unscramble the word.

Prizes

  • Ebooks, signed books, bookmarks, postcards, swag, name a character, etc. Be creative and personalize as much as you can.

Teasers

  • Guests may have been invited by someone else and don’t know about your book. Interest them with teasers/excerpts in the form of images and/or quotes.

Time Limit

  • 2-3 hours is common. If you want to include more authors and cover more time zones, a longer All Day event can work well.
  • May want to leave games open 24 hours for international guests

Twitter Chat/Party

Tweet BirdCreate your own Hashtag #DelShereesReleaseParty

  • This is how people follow the discussion

Play Question and Picture based games

  • Replies enter them in giveaway

Retweet chain

  • RT enters giveaway. Use this to have a lot of people retweet information about your book.

Time Limit

  • 1-2 hours, close giveaways at the end so it easier to track entries.

For more information on contacting media, come back next week.

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 books, marketing

Creating a Marketing Plan: Part 2

To get started on your marketing plan, check out Part 1 HERE. Once you have your goals set, it’s time to start preparing.


Preparatory Marketing

Networking with Bloggers

Bloggers are authors’ friends. Not just the ones with thousands of followers. Sometimes the smaller bloggers will do more to promote your post and become an ally for future books. Don’t just spam every blogger you find. Build a relationship by checking out their blog, commenting, and interacting.

Types of posts to prepare for bloggers: Guest posts, interviews, excerpts, Q&A, Top Tens lists, writing advice, etc.

KEEP TRACK of which bloggers you work with for future releases.

Social Media

Facebook

Regular posting on 2-3 platforms.

Share teasers such as quotes, images, character bios, etc.

Share sneak peeks of content.

This helps you build a fan base and interest in the projects you’re working on.

Branding

Blond Business Woman

Establishing expertise through content, i.e. columns/articles/blogs, sharing useful information/articles, etc.

You want readers to know what they can learn/expect from you. Do you share writing advice, post about your own reading, talk about your hobbies, blog your thoughts on a variety of subjects, etc.


Pre-Release/Launch Marketing

Blog tours

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Need to be set up 2-6 months in advance. Bigger tour companies will require more time. It also gives more time to bloggers to read the book and review. Blog tours are for EXPOSURE, not sales, so reviews are really important during blog tours.

Book Trailers

Click for a book trailer sample
Click for a book trailer sample


Post release date in video or description to help promote the release date and/or pre-order status.

Don’t just use your blurb for the script. Create a script that fits your video/photos and gives a unique look at the book through this format. Some book trailers use text only, voiceover narration, or live action.

Resources for making book trailers include: Free Music Archive for music, Windows Movie Maker, Animoto, Stupeflix, etc. for video compilation.

Reviews

Open Blue Book

Reach out to bloggers, beta readers, friends, and other authors who are interested in your genre. If they are new to reviewing, explain the process and how easy it is to leave a review as well as how important reviews are to the success of a book.

DO NOT PAY FOR REVIEWS! It’s against most sites review policies and is considered unethical.

When dealing with Amazon, family and close friends are not allowed to review your book because they may have a financial interest in your success. Same goes for authors affiliated with the same publisher you are with, street team members, or anyone else Amazon deems may have too close of an interest.

Goodreads does not limit reviews from friends and family.

Reviews can’t be posted on amazon until the book is LIVE, but encourage posting on Goodreads pre-release. It’s easy to copy and paste later.

Pre-Orders

Dollar Sign

A discounted price is usually offered during the pre-release period. Make sure to add the links to your website/pre-order page.

2-4 weeks is a common time period for pre-orders but trends have recently been leaning toward longer periods.

The Benefit of pre-orders is that ALL pre-sales are tallied on release day = big boost in rankings.


Launch/Release Marketing

Email Blast

Newsletter

Mailing list! Start building your mailing list early. This is a captive audience of readers who are interested in your books. Targeted Marketing=Better Click-Throughs

Release Party

TGH FB Party

In-person &/or FB event, Twitter chat (specifics to come…) Gather your fans and readers in one place to celebrate the release. It’s great to get other authors involved for games/prizes.

Media Appearance/Interviews

Podcasts, blogs, radio, YouTube, etc. Explore local media outlets like radio and TV, but don’t be afraid to branch out and talk to online sources like internet radio shows, podcasts, bloggers, Google+ shows, etc. There are many book and writing related media outlets interested in talking to authors.

Incentives to Buy

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Freebie w/ purchase, email receipt for gift, etc. Be creative with your incentives. If you have another talent like music or drawing, pair them up for a bonus gift after purchase. These types of incentives are usually offered during the first week after release.

Add cover art to Social Media images to help announce the release and get people interested in the book.

Update your bio with release info/links so readers who are already following you will have the most current information about your books.

Putting your plan into action requires planning, but the time and effort can pay off with a great release.

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 1

Creating a marketing plan that’s doable is tough.

Where do you start?

Time

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How much time per day/week are you willing to put into marketing? Be realistic. If you only have an hour per week, build your plan around that. A lot can be accomplished in a small amount of time.

If you have more time, keeping a list or schedule can help you use it more efficiently. Using whatever amount of time you have in the most effective way is important.

Money

Dollar Sign

Set a firm budget for your marketing efforts and be realistic about what you can afford.

There are a lot of free marketing options, so don’t feel like you have to have a big budget. If you have a small budget, there are many author friendly marketing options that are as little as $5 and can have a good impact.

Effort

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (9 of 10)

What can you do on your own and what do you need help with? No one can do everything on their own, so admit what your strengths and weaknesses are and go from there. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help when you need. Authors are great about helping each other.


Now let’s take the next step…

Who is your audience?

Who do you want to target in your marketing efforts? You need to be as specific as possible so you can narrow down your marketing pool. Targeted marketing is more effective than blanket tactics.

What avenues do you most want to pursue?

Kozzi-American-Street-1183 X 1774

In-person, online, blogs/reviewers, social media, etc. What are you comfortable with and what types social interactions do you enjoy participating in?

If in-person events aren’t your style, focus on online marketing like Facebook parties, Twitter chats, etc. If you enjoy meeting readers face to face, school talks or bookstore book signings might be where you want to focus.

What is your goal?

HiRes

Aside from hitting the NYT bestseller list 😉 

Study your competition. What’s working for them? What’s not working? Look especially at creative ways other authors are marketing their books. Finding unique tactics will make your book stand out.

Marketing is tough, but making a plan that fits into your life, budget, and schedule will make it more manageable.

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.