All posts by WordsyWoman

Author Spotlight: Kim Sigafus – Native American Author

This month’s author spotlight features Kim Sigafus, a multi-title author in fiction and non-fiction, all of them featuring Native Americans. For her eight titles published over the last decade or so, Kim hasn’t had a formal marketing plan, though she did make a list of ideas to try. She’s always trying out new marketing ideas and networking with other authors to find more new ideas. Over time, she’s learned what works for her and what doesn’t.

When asked how she feels about marketing, Kim said, “Yuk. I find it hard to toot my own horn, which you have to do to get books sold.” The fact that marketing is just as much work as writing the book surprised Kim, “After I got the first one out, I was immediately struck by how creative I would need to be when marketing for such a niche genre as Native American titles.” She added, “At first, I did try all the traditional marketing ideas and they went okay. When I found my platform I now work within, the bookselling and publicity became easier.  In the beginning, I was surprised people would come out and hear me speak and then buy books afterward. Then I realized that WAS the way I would be selling books. I rarely do a book signing at a store these days. I would say 90% of book sales come from my Native American presentations.”

Some things Kim has tried to market her books include press releases, book signings, radio, bookmarks, and social media, but has found that it’s her Native American presentations that sell her books. She’s bought newspaper advertising but said they didn’t go over too well since not too many people read the newspaper anymore. Facebook, email, and a website where “people can see what’s going on with me and the writing by checking up on me there” have worked the best for her online.

When asked what advice about selling and marketing books she would offer to a new author, Kim said, “Everyone has to market their work. Even famous people have to push their work out there. Keep trying new things until you discover what works for you. Network with other writers. Join a writing group.” On the writing life in general, she said, “Becoming an author has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. But it’s nothing like I thought it would be. People have preconceived notions about writers; what we look like, how our day goes, what it’s like to write and create. What I can say about it is, it’s harder than you could ever imagine, one of the craziest things you could ever take on, and one of the most rewarding things you can ever experience. It’s really hard work, so those who don’t have to get those words down on paper just don’t do it. For the rest of us, it’s like clearing your head of the people living in it and taking up space reserved for other things.” She added, “Marketing is really about finding your personal niche and then carving out selling points for yourself. It’s an ongoing process, and changes over time.”

Kim has demonstrated that the key to being a successful author (according to your own definition) takes time, testing, and practice as well as learning about yourself, your readers, and what works for both. Learn more about Kim at her website. Her books are available for sale on Amazon and Smashwords.

Kim’s Books:

The Life and Times of the Ojibwa People, 2006, McIver Publishing

Native Writers, 2011, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company

Native Elders, 2012, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company

The Dress, McIver Publishing

The Mida, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Two, Finding Genny, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Three, Destiny of Darkness and Light, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Four, Perilous Choices, McIver Publishing

Three Steps to Creating Your Author Brand

Last weekend I gave a presentation on branding at the Davenport (Iowa) Public Library’s first Indie Author Day. As is smart to do with any content, I thought I’d repurpose a bit of it into a blog post.

When working with branding for book marketing, there are essentially three steps to follow.

  1. Define Your Brand

Whether you like it or not, people are going to form opinions about you and your writing, thereby defining your brand. So why not do your best to steer those opinions? In addition to considering your genre, writing style, voice, etc. in defining your brand, think also about other aspects of your personality, outside interests, and goals. Incorporate your reader as well, deciding what benefit you’d like him or her to get from your books. If you’re a genre hopper, think about focusing more on the “author” part of the author brand or incorporating a common theme or element throughout your books, such as a hobby, emotion, or setting.

  1. Build Brand Awareness

Steps two and three are very similar, but I think of building brand awareness more as being your brand. Behave and make choices about how you conduct your business, marketing, and life in accordance with your brand. As an indie author, readers will often encounter you before your books, so make sure they know what to expect. The last thing you want is for them to expect one thing from interacting with you at an event, buy your book, be disappointed, and leave a negative review.

Part of this step is also choosing those style elements that symbolize your brand: colors, logo, font, graphics, etc. that you use on everything that represents you and your brand.

  1. Promote Your Brand

You also build brand awareness through step number three, promoting your brand. When you are promoting your book, you are also promoting your brand. You can promote your brand through content marketing with the book itself (cover, typeset, etc.), website, social media, blogging, business cards, bookmarks, etc. You can promote your brand more personally with appearances, book signings, readings, and author fairs.

Whatever you do with your author brand, make sure that you are doing your best to drive it where you want it to go instead of leaving it up to chance. Little by little, you will create the brand you desire.

Do you have any questions or ideas on author branding? If so, please share in the comment section.

You (Pretty Much) Already Know How to Decide Which Platforms to Use for Book Marketing

Winter tree
Photo by Sergei Vavinov, https://www.flickr.com/photos/svv/512240587/

Website. Video. Blog. Webinar. Slideshow. Podcast. Facebook. Twitter. Snapchat. These are all possible platforms for using content for book marketing. And this is just the beginning.

Are you confused as to which one will work the best for your readers? Are you wondering where you should focus your attention?

You’re not alone.

But, fortunately, you probably already have the answer for how to figure out which would work best for you.

Did you get beta readers for your book or otherwise test the content out on potential readers, including family and friends? Did you submit your book to an editor to see what they thought of your grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction? Did you ask people what they thought of your cover?

If so, then you have the answer.

It’s testing.

(If you thought it was going to be something quick, easy, and painless, sorry – but you’re a writer, you should be used to that by now.)

The only real way to know what platform or method of content book marketing is going to work for you, your readers, and your book is testing. For a good period of time, maybe three months, focus all of your attention on one platform or method and keep track of all the data available, whether that’s “likes,” shares, engagement, reach, etc. (there are different metrics measured by the various platforms). Repeat with the other outlets you’re considering.

Based on that information, decide if which platform(s)/method(s) work best and how well so that you can determine how much time and money to spend which ones (if any).

Have you already done some of this content book marketing testing? If so, I’d love to hear what you found, so please comment.

Author Spotlight: Lauren Wood – Debut Children’s Book Author

Lauren WoodThis month’s Author Spotlight post is a bit different as I talk with Lauren Wood who is about to release her first book, a children’s book, Something’s Missing, which was illustrated by Johnnie Cluney and published by her Paradisiac Publishing company.

Lauren hasn’t created a formal marketing plan yet, but plans to hold a release party, try to be a guest on a local afternoon magazine-style television show, send out press releases, and “do a big social push.” When asked about her attitude surrounding marketing her upcoming book, Lauren said, “This is my first book but I am aware of the daunting chore that is book marketing; however, I have a naive hope that the combined social network between myself and the illustrator (who has national notoriety) will somehow help this book garner a bit of attention.” She further explained her feelings about book marketing, “Honestly, I am excited to tell anyone and everyone that will listen, and I can’t wait to Facebook/Instagram/Tweet my face off about it; however, the press releases and the follow-up with bookstores and media, in general, is a bit overwhelming. I do have a marketing background; however, I feel like this is going to be a much bigger undertaking than I am able to grasp at the moment.”

Even with the insightful and realistic expectations she has for marketing her book, Lauren does expect that she will still be surprised at the work required. She plans to rely heavily on social media initially, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as research other strategies and learn as she goes, the road to successful book marketing almost all authors take. Other strategies she might consider include paid advertising, “If I’m able to find something that is effective and will garner an ROI (return on investment) for me.”

When asked what advice she’d give other authors about to start selling and marketing their books, Lauren said, “TELL EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. You’ve just accomplished something you should be very proud of and friends and family are there as your first line of cheerleading offense. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn!” On the writing life in general, she offered, “If you’ve always wanted to write a book, just go for it. There’s a lot to be said about marketing and getting the word out, but don’t let that discourage you from sharing your words!”

Lauren is celebrating her new book with a release party at Cru in downtown Davenport, Iowa (221 Brady Street), on November 5, 2018, from 3 to 6 p.m. The book will be available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble on November 6th.

Book Marketing: Freebie Reader Magnets

Photo: Ben W., https://www.flickr.com/photos/wlscience/4200626663/

Have you heard that you should be giving something away for free so that readers will give you their email addresses, but you’re not sure what to give? 

You don’t want to proverbially let them milk the cow for free without ever buying it.

Or maybe you only have one book so far or don’t have a series, so you can’t let the first edition go for free.

How do you decide what to give away to help ensure that the people who subscribe will be the ones most likely to buy your book?

If you had these thoughts or questions, you’re not alone. Here’s my take on the subject.

I look at reader magnet freebies like I do free samples at the grocery store. Let’s say there’s a new faux noodle out that claims it tastes just like real, white pasta with the same nutritional value as whole grain varieties, but contains a fraction of the calories. (If we’re going to dream, might as well dream big.) I’ve had the tofu noodles and used zucchini in my spiralizer. So I’m skeptical. Luckily, the grocery store is giving out free samples of the new miracle noodle today. I try it. Then, I either decide it’s just another trick and pass, or their claims are actually true, so I stock up.

Try to look at your writing the same way. A reader sees your book, and it looks promising, but they aren’t sure. They’ve never heard of you and they’ve fallen for this before. Offering them a free sample will help them decide if they want to buy or pass.

If you have just one book, I recommend giving away a short story you’ve written in the same genre or at least one as similar to your book as possible. If you’re not a short story writer, you can give away the first few chapters. However, make sure you’re clear that they are just the first chapters and not the entire book so you don’t anger them.

Once you have more than one book, seriously consider giving the first book away for free as your reader magnet, especially if it’s the first in a series or in the same genre. Even if it isn’t, it will still give the reader an idea of your writing style.

Above all, when deciding on the freebie to offer in book marketing, think “free sample.” What can you provide that will give a potential reader a good idea of your writing style, story telling ability, etc? 

Especially if you’re in the early stages of your author career, think of the this as more of a long time process. If they get your freebie and like it, they are more likely to buy your next title(s) when you send them that email telling them it’s available.

BOOK MARKETING – HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED

“My” Gym

For the past couple of months, I have been going to a gym. I have always been a walker and I know the importance of strength training, but I’ve never been able to sustain the discipline needed to complete workouts at home. I have hand weights, a weight bench, and dozens of workout DVDs, so you’d think that would be convenient and I would do it, but I didn’t. And when I did get to a workout, I always quit when the weights started to get heavy.

It wasn’t until last week that I started going to regular classes that start at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Because this is no ordinary gym; this gym is smart. They set you up with one coach who you meet with individually for 12-18 sessions (I did 12 over about 6 weeks) at a time convenient to you. 

They knew throwing me into a 7 a.m. class wouldn’t work.

So I met with my coach around vacation and meeting schedules about two days per week at 2 in the afternoon. She eased me into working out starting where I was, somehow challenging me enough so that there were times I thought I might die but at the same time making sure I was successful so I built confidence that I could do it. Then she said, “I think you’ve got the fundamentals down. Why don’t you just try this one class?” At 7 a.m.! I rarely see that time of day. I agreed, got up on time, got to class, and survived. Last week on Wednesday was my first “regular” attendance. The night before, I didn’t get to sleep until after 3 a.m., but I didn’t let myself cancel. I made myself go anyway; again I was challenged but I did it.

I couldn’t believe it when this past weekend, I was actually looking forward to going to class again the following Monday. (Those endorphins must be kicking in or something.) I didn’t jump up out of bed or anything, but still…

I have heard for years that one needs other people to be successful, and I didn’t want to believe them. My success (so far) has been in having a coach. I finally decided to try to give a fitness coach a try when I finally admitted how much other people have helped me in my business life.

So, what’s this got to do with book marketing? 

Well, like exercise, book marketing is really practicing skills and developing habits. If you’re having trouble doing your marketing, maybe it’s time for some help, like a class or a coach (coincidentally, I can help – just contact me). If you’re starting a new habit, don’t just jump into the proverbial 7 a.m. class, but work up to it.

Also, you will still feel a certain degree of resistance and will probably have to force yourself to do the book marketing you plan to do and sometimes step out of your comfort zone, but you will be more motivated if you make it as convenient as possible. Do what challenges you but also makes you feel accomplished or successful. Keep the logistics convenient. If you hate to travel, don’t schedule far-flung out-of-town appearances. The gym I go to is less than 10 minutes away. Finally, make sure the timing works. I’m really tempted to sleep instead of going to the gym, but getting done at 8 a.m. does leave my whole day open for productive writing and work.

Do you have any ideas to make book marketing more pleasing, convenient, or easier so you’re motivated to do it more? If so, please comment.

BUTT IN CHAIR – IT APPLIES TO EDITING, TOO

I’m sure you’ve heard the biggest challenge to getting your book drafted is to actually get fingers to keyboard and get it out of your head. But did you know that this applies to revisions and editing as well? 

And sometimes it can be even harder to get back to work because you convince yourself that you’re “letting it rest” or “letting it ferment” or whatever catchphrase you prefer.

To avoid this, don’t just set it aside for some arbitrary amount of time or until you feel like getting back to it. Set a specific rest time, whether it’s one day, one week, one month, or one year. And then schedule your revision and/or editing time on your calendar.

I have been reminded of this recently while revising my latest book. During NaNoWriMo, I wrote horrible, disjointed chunks of my original draft, so since then, I’ve been working on rearranging the scenes I’d written and filling in the huge holes. It kind of feels like I’m still drafting, but it’s really just a horrifically large revision.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tough with myself and decided I was going to create a schedule to get this thing DONE. And do you know what? Once I got my butt in my chair and started working, I finished what I set out to do in HALF THE TIME I envisioned.

At this point, all of my big gaps are filled, so I just need to fill in small gaps, plug any research holes, and do a couple of copy edits before sending my book to beta readers.

So, remember, “butt in chair” doesn’t just apply to drafting. It also applies to pretty much everything else, too. Resistance is the author’s biggest enemy. Tweet This

IN THE TRENCHES – DRAFTING WOES

I am still drafting my Taming the Twisted sequel – problem is, I don’t know if I’m on the first draft, or the second, or third, or what. It is going very slow. Maybe you can relate…

This is the least linear book I’ve ever written. I started out writing it from the original novel’s main character’s point of view. Then I realized I was bored with her, so I decided to tell the story from the younger sister, Alice’s, perspective. So I wrote myself a letter as Alice telling the author (me) why I should write her side of the story. This gave me a pretty good outline to use to knock out some words during NaNoWriMo.

Since nothing was in order, early this year, I wrote the scenes I had on notecards, rearranged them into an order that made some sense to me, and then started drafting additional scenes. After readjustments, I think I finally have them in the order in which they need to be, except since the last book ended with the start of the Civil War and the sequel mostly picks up toward the end of it, I have lots of gaps to fill – I’m thinking I’ll have to divide it into two parts or maybe weave more of the during-Civil-War stuff in as more back story.

Just this morning, I finished my most recent read through where I actually wrote additional scenes or simply put notes in: “[Put scene showing XYZ here].” At this point in the draft, the whole thing feels like a huge mess and I’m seriously tempted to scrap it all. Luckily, though, this isn’t my first book, so I remember feeling this way at least somewhat (I think it’s worse this time, though), but I persevered and got the book done in a way that at least was logical to me.

So my writing craft lesson today is this: Have faith!! You will hit speed bumps while writing your story, and it may even seem like such a mess you want to give it all up. But don’t. Just push through and keep going. Have faith that the solutions will come to you.

Can you relate? If so, I’d love to hear about it so please comment.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT : CRAIG HART – THRILLER AUTHOR AND STAY-AT-HOME DAD (OF TWINS)

Craig HartCraig Hart has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including three thrillers and a coming-of-age story in the past three years. Craig describes his marketing plan as “a crazy combination of scribbled notes and scattered post-its,” so not formal, though he does plan writing goals and targeted promotional spots for the next two or three months. Since Kindle Press published his first book in 2015, everything surrounding marketing his books has changed. He said, “I once had a highly idealistic view of writing and the writing life. You know the drill: starving artist suffering for art’s sake. Over the years, though, I’ve come to realize that for writing, beyond merely being a hobby, to support its own weight, it must justify its existence. Namely, become economically feasible. Again, if someone is doing it as a hobby, that’s fine. There are much worse ways to pass a quiet evening at home. But for me that wasn’t—isn’t—enough. I want writing to play an ever-more important role in my life. And to make that happen, I realized (and I’m somewhat embarrassed at how long it took me to come around to this) that I had to begin treating writing like a business.”

Marketing books is Craig’s least-favorite part of the writing life; he said it’s become easier but he didn’t think he’d ever enjoy selling himself or his work. How basic marketing books can be surprised Craig. He said, “I viewed marketing as a combination of clever taglines and big league contacts and advertising. And it can be all those things. But at its most basic, marketing is just about relationships. Building relationships with readers, writers, and professionals in the field is, in my opinion, the cornerstone of any good business plan. And it’s no different in writing. In fact, it may be truer in writing than anywhere else. After all, there are few products more personal than a stack of pages with someone’s words written on them.” He’s found word-of-mouth to be his most successful book marketing strategy, though “getting that ball rolling is the hard part. Networking can help, however, and making contacts wherever you can. My best opportunities have come through meeting people and creating relationships.”

Craig has spent a fair amount of money on paid advertising with mixed results, including Facebook, Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), Google, and free/discounted book listing websites. “I’ve been a bit disappointed with Facebook ads, although I know some have used them successfully. The same goes for AMS. With those platforms, it can take a lot of money to figure out what works and stay in until you begin turning a profit, assuming you do. Not many authors I know have the ready cash to pour into testing the algorithms, so their usefulness is suspect. I’ve had moderate success with some of the websites, but I would urge anyone to do a bit of research. A ton of sites offer promos, but only a handful can deliver.”

Craig uses social media more to make connections and plan events than to actually sell books. He had used Facebook and Twitter more, but has found there are better uses for his book marketing time, especially with changing algorithms that require advertisers to pay to get their content seen.

When asked what advice he’d give to other authors starting or planning to soon start marketing their books, Craig said, “First, be prepared to do just that: sell and market. It’s a common misconception that writing the book was the hard part and now you just wait for the money to roll in. With thousands of books published weekly, it can be insanely difficult to be noticed by anyone. My single best piece of advice would be to network. Get to know the writers in your area, search out book events, talk to people, make connections, start relationships. Not only will this serve as a support system in the dark times, but will also breed opportunities for selling your books and building your brand.”

Learn more about Craig on his website, Amazon Author Central page, Facebook, and Twitter.

Craig’s books:

Serenity (2016): A bullet slams into a wall just past Shelby’s head. A drug dealer offers him $10,000 for information regarding his dead sister. The local sheriff has Shelby in his sights. It’s just another day in the small town of Serenity.

Serenity Stalked (2017): A cold-blooded killer has blazed a trail of dead bodies across the country, with no one to stand in his way…until he starts killing on Shelby Alexander’s home turf: the small Michigan town of Serenity.

Serenity Avenged (2017): A ruthless crime boss…a mansion with a chilling secret…a young man faced with the biggest decision of his life.

Becoming Moon (2015, Kindle Press): Becoming Moon is a coming-of-age story about a young man struggling to be himself amid pressure from a repressive family.