Take a little video tour of Amazon’s Author Central, which you should populate if selling books on Amazon is part of your book marketing. (Please scroll down; for some reason, I cannot get it to delete the white space – sorry!)
Since it’s been a year since Lauren (Alexis) Wood’s last book was released and she was featured in my Author Spotlight, I thought I’d check in to see how her book marketing has progressed. Lauren has a new book possibly being released later in 2018, Prone to Pronoia, a collection of comedic essays.
Lauren doesn’t have a formal, written marketing plan, but explained, “I definitely do not recommend not having any marking plan whatsoever to most people self or independently publishing a book. I’ve been doing this for a while and at this point figuring things out on the fly sometimes is my best and/or only option. Also, a formal marketing plan is going to be crucial for those who actually wish to earn an income from their creative work. It’s not that I DON’T want to make money from my creative work, that’s just not the priority I guess? I work with a number of other authors in running my publishing company and I tend to put them first. Also, to be perfectly honest, that last book was an over-the-top baby shower gift that just so happened to turn out to be a pretty cute children’s book. With Prone to Pronoia, I do have some plans to actually market that one via readings and blogging (like this one, thank you again, Jodie!). I also write for a comedic publication overseas (The Public House – https://readpublichouse.com), and once the book is published, I hope to possibly feature an essay or two from the book in that magazine in the hopes people might have an interest in reading the rest of the book.”
When asked if her attitude, goals, or strategy for book marketing has changed since her last book, Lauren said, “I know you are supposed to learn from your mistakes; however, I am still working through what the mistakes were, versus the happy accidents. Honestly, when someone tells me they read something I wrote and actually enjoyed it, that is really gratifying. I don’t really hear that very often. I really, truly have high hopes for my next book (Prone to Pronoia) because it’s a book I’m doing for MYSELF, and that alone I feel will be a test to me applying what I’ve learned previously.”
Lauren hasn’t had any negative feelings toward book marketing, stating, “I like the idea of book marketing, because I am a very indie, out-of-the-box thinker, and I have delusions I can do things better. However, more traditional and effective marketing is important and takes a lot of time and effort that I’m currently putting into other aspects of my publishing company. I am going to be potentially taking on an intern this fall, however, so that could change. Also, I’m not in a financial position to pay someone to advertise for me so I’ve had to be creative, which I really love doing.”
Lauren says she learns something new every day, running an independent publishing house for almost a decade. And taking what she learns and applying it correctly in different situations is both exceptionally challenging but extremely rewarding. She said, “Developing that talent alone has TRULY helped not just in marketing my work but also just managing my life overall.”
Lauren has used Facebook advertising briefly, with not much success; however, she says, “I didn’t truly give it an honest go because I didn’t want to spend the money on it. I feel like my work, if it’s good enough, will possibly be noticed by whoever might like it at some point through networking or serendipity. Is that not *the best* idea? Yeah, it’s kind of stupid, maybe? However, I like the excitement of that. Also, if I truly just suck so bad at writing and no one can relate to me whatsoever, well, at least I didn’t sink a ton of cash into bombarding people with it on Facebook.”
On the subject of social media for book marketing, Lauren said, “I love Facebook and Instagram. There’s a different dynamic to each and dependent on what I put into a post and on what platform, it’s interesting to see the different response. If there’s any kind of formula to it at all, it so rapidly changes that I just enjoy trying to keep up.”
When asked what advice she’d give to others, she said, “Have pride in your work, and in yourself. It can be a challenge to put something out there then suddenly you have to deal with the public’s reaction to it, or the deafening sounds of silence because no one cares what you have to say. Take a deep breath, own what you’ve created, and be ready to stand with it as an extension of yourself that you want to share with others.”
Learn more about Lauren at www.laurenalexiswood.com, facebook.com/laurenalexiswood, @laurenalexiswood (Instagram), @laurenalexswood (Twitter), facebook.com/paradisiacpublishing, @paradisiac.publishing (Instagram), @paradisiacpub (Twitter), www.facebook.com/goldcoastalmanac, @goldcoastalmanac (Instagram), and @goldcoastalmanaccomedy (Instagram).
Qorviq the Nondenominational Winter Solstice Celebration Seal(Currently out of print): “It was a ridiculous graphic novel based on a comedy/action/soap opera blog I wrote using Microsoft Paint pictures whose main character was inspired by a holiday lawn ornament decoration that I saw while on a really long run after getting fired from a corporate job.”
Something’s Missing: A children’s book about a family welcoming a new baby that I wrote as a baby shower gift to my brother and sister-in-law when they welcomed my niece into this world last fall.
Help Me! I’m Fat!: It is both poking fun at the prevalence of Christianity in the fitness community while promoting body positivity in the same way you’d expect to be encouraged by a very emotionally distant relative. It also just so happens to be an interactive, handy-dandy weight loss journal!
Prone to Pronoia: A collection of comedic essays, to be published later this year (2018) or maybe early next year (2019).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
When I surveyed a group of authors late last year, the number one thing respondents said was holding them back (a full third) was getting started in planning their book marketing. So I’ve created a mini-course guiding you through three simple things you can do to start planning your book marketing.
Here’s a video with more information:
Ready to take the course? Go here to sign up.
Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small by Nick Westergaard is directly applicable to book marketing. What’s a smaller business than an author trying to sell his or her books? Often authors have a pretty good handle on talking to bookstores and libraries, getting appearances, holding signings, etc.. They may have varying degrees of success, but they at least know the concept well. However, they are often at a loss of how best to market their books online. Get Scrappy will not give you specific tactics on how to market your books online, but it will give you actionable steps about how-to clarify your overall strategy and goals in that effort.
Though all three of the book’s sections can be applied to book marketing, I happened to have my most “aha” moments while reading the first section: “Smart Steps You Can’t Skip.” It helps you get into a healthy mindset and think about the foundation of marketing and your goals; particularly, your brand’s goals. It then offers a way, using the classic, who, what, when, where, etc. to create your “marketing map,” helping you decide on which objective you should focus. If your objective is market research for writing your books, you can ask questions of your readers, having them vote on the next book cover or a subplot they’d like to see incorporated. Knowing why you’re using digital to market your book (objective) and knowing who you’re trying to reach (readers), will help you decide what to do to market your book.
The end of part one gives the basics of the current and most-used online marketing platforms. Nick purposely doesn’t explain how all of the available platforms work to reinforce his advice of avoiding being distracted by “shiny new things” As in other industries, there are always these shiny new things popping up to help you market your books. Chapter three helps you decide which shiny new thing to try and which to let go, giving you a framework for evaluating shiny new things that may pop up after Get Scrappy’s publication.
Part two provides advice to help you do more with less. As an author with a likely tiny marketing budgeting, doing more with less is essential. This naturally leads into part three which helps you decide how to do more with less by simplifying your efforts, including by connecting your online marketing to your offline.
Get Scrappy is more than just a book to read, it’s more of a marketing movement, a new way to approach marketing. It’s essentially a new way to think about marketing, including book marketing.
(I received a free copy of Get Scrappy for review purposes.)
Erik Therme has authored two mysteries: Mortom was originally self-published and then was acquired by Thomas & Mercer Publishing in 2015, and Resthaven was a 2016 Kindle Scout winner published through Kindle Press.
While Erik doesn’t use a formal marketing plan, he does keep organized: “I use a spreadsheet (of information) to make sure I don’t overlook anything when I release a new book. The spreadsheet contains everything from bloggers, promotional websites, to paid advertising opportunities.” His focus with marketing his first mystery, Mortom, was to build his fan base, which has helped him in marketing Resthaven. He said, “Now that I have a core group in place, they do a fantastic job of sharing my books with other readers, who then do the same. The great thing is that once you’ve hooked a reader with one book, they’re usually loyal to you for everything you write.”
Erik describes marketing as a necessary evil, but clarifies, “I’m OK with that.” He learned early on that even with a publisher, only big author names like Stephen King or John Grisham don’t need to extensively market their own work to be successful, but, Erik said, “Fortunately for me, I don’t mind the marketing process, as I view it as yet another way to be creative.” In fact, Erik has been surprised by how addictive book marketing has become for him. “After the release of Mortom, I spent the next six months doing nothing but promotion, and I neglected to do any new writing. The irony (as I’ve come to learn) is that the best marketing an author can do is to write more books, because each new book reaches new readers, which brings more fans into the fold. It’s definitely a challenge to find a balance between promoting and writing.”
Social media has been a big help to Erik in marketing his books, though he’s also done everything from hanging flyers on telephone poles, his least effective strategy, to handing out and leaving bookmarks at random places, “forgetting” copies in places like hotel lobbies when he travels, and donating copies to libraries through their return book slots. He describes Facebook as being “instrumental” in helping him market his books. He clarified, “That said, smart authors use Facebook to connect with people and develop relationships—not just as a platform to repeatedly shout BUY MY BOOK! That doesn’t work.” The least effective social media outlet for Erik has been Twitter, though he admits, “I struggle to share ‘quality’ content with my Tweets, and that could be part of the problem.”
Erik has used paid promotional websites to advertise his books when they launched, with widely varying results. “It can often be a crap shoot, but it’s another good way to reach new readers. The most important thing is to set a budget, as fees can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars.”
When asked what advice he’d give to other authors starting or planning to soon start marketing their books, Erik said, “Connect with as many authors as you can. Most are friendly and generous with their time and advice, and many are happy to share your work with their own fans. Following authors on social media is also a great way to see how they promote their work, and many times I’ve discovered author events that I never knew existed. Lastly, reviews (in my opinion) are incredibly important to a book’s success. Mortom has been released for over a year, and I still work hard to find readers to review the book.” On writing in general, he shared, “A writer writes first and foremost because they love to write. Most of us aren’t in this for the money. But if you are serious about making a go of it, you have to treat your writing like a business to be successful.”
Mortom (Thomas & Mercer, 2015) is a “follow-the-clues” type mystery about a guy who receives a hidden inheritance.
Resthaven (Kindle Press, 2016), Kindle Scout winner, is a young adult mystery about a group of kids who have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home.
Though I don’t recommend blindly copying what other authors are doing to market their books, because there is no one-size-fits-all, magic-bullet book marketing solution, and what works for one author or book, might not work for you or yours, I do recommend keeping updated on what other authors are doing and borrowing those ideas that make sense.
Mentors are important in almost everything we do, but most of us can’t afford to hire one, and those that we really admire are likely beyond our reach. (Could you imagine the answer if you contacted Stephen King and asked him to be your mentor?) Luckily, though, with today’s technology, you can be mentored (at least to a degree) by anyone you want. And you don’t need their permission, and they don’t even have to know they’re mentoring you.
Gabriela Pereira discusses this notion of a “virtual mentor” in her book, diyMFA. To apply it to finding a marketing mentor, simply find an author you admire, study their websites, subscribe to their newsletters, and follow them on all of their social media outlets. Try to choose mentors who have books similar to or at least in the same genre as yours. Choose someone who you view as being “successful” in marketing their books.
Don’t copy everything your chosen mentors do; simply watch what they do and harvest ideas that make sense for you and your book. Try some out and evaluate what you try so you can stop doing anything that doesn’t work for you.
Inspired by Gabriela, I have chosen two mentors who I view as more than marketing mentors for me, but more as lifestyle mentors. They are Joanna Penn and C. Hope Clark. Both of these authors have several successful fiction books and they are running successful businesses which also help authors. Joanna’s thrillers are published under J.F. Penn and her website, thecreativepenn.com, helps authors with all aspects of writing, including marketing. She has several courses, books, and other content for free download and sale. Hope has written several successful mysteries and she runs fundsforwriters.com, which helps authors earn an income from, in addition to marketing books, freelancing, crowdfunding, grants, and other income-generating activities involving writing.
Of course, I don’t want to be exactly like either of these women; I have to offer something unique. My model is writing historical fiction books and helping authors with book marketing, including the writing craft and editing insofar as this relates to the product part of book marketing. Watching what they do is helping to inspire me and is giving me ideas to tweak and use to promote myself and my own books.
Who would be your ideal mentor? Please share as a comment below.
Jeremy Strozer is the author of two unique short-story collections that take real events from 20th century wars and turns them into flash fiction pieces. For Volume 2 of Threads of The War launching this month, he’s also posting on Smashwords and Amazon and handing out coupon codes to fuel launch day.
When asked how he feels about book marketing, Jeremy said, “So far I’m still very much in the learning process, so I have not developed an opinion of it. I would prefer to focus on writing, but understand marketing is part of the self-publishing (and even traditional publishing) process, so I can’t deny it needs to be done.” Jeremy’s attitude toward marketing has changed since Threads of The War, Volume 1, was published in September, 2015, and he’s been surprised at the amount of time it takes to market his books. He said, “I’ve not found any new skills as a marketer yet, but I do tap into a lot of my writing and organizational skills to get better at it as I learn what’s needed.”
The bulk of Jeremy’s book marketing has been trying to get as many people to read his book as possible in the hopes that they will spread the word. “At first I sent the book out to 100 people, asking them to share it if they liked it. That worked, but there was no way to track what happened. A lot of people received free copies of my first book. I think that was a great way to launch initially, getting anyone to read it from the start. Now I am focusing on building a platform for my books, building a broad audience I can track. I am also posting pieces of my work on LinkedIn and Facebook, both as posts, and in forums on those sites, to increase my presence.”
He’s avoided paid advertising, but uses social media, joining groups on LinkedIn and Facebook related to fiction, military history, and war. He also posts some of the individual stories to social media, observing, “It’s worked well as my site readership went up over 900%. It’s still relatively low, but it’s growing from this. I write three stories a week, posting one on social media, leaving two for my books. In this way, I can produce at least three books a year with new, unread material.” This is a great strategy; hooking readers in, but not giving away everything.
When asked what advice he’d give to new authors about book marketing, Jeremy said, “Use social media more than you expect to. It’s amazing how you can grow your market by getting your stuff out there. Without it, it’s almost impossible.” He also had this to say about his experience so far being a published author, “I love my topic, the wealth of stories available to write, and that people are interested in my work. Being able to do this part-time is compelling me to move toward it full-time. The money is not there yet, and may never be, but the ability to do this is driving me, creating a powerful emotional push to live and work. I love how this makes me feel and recommend it to anyone seeking a purpose filled life!”
Threads of The War, Volume 1 – September 2015.
Threads of The War collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. Each story in this collection opens the door to a unique personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence. Following each story, the reader is provided specific and revealing facts about the events narrated, offering both entertainment and education within the time it takes to read a blog-post.
Threads of The War, Volume 2 – March 2016.
Threads of The War, Volume II collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. Building off of the success of Volume I, Threads II takes us from the celebratory streets of Paris in the summer of 1914, under the coast of North Carolina in 1918, across the ocean to the evacuated beaches of northern France in 1940, and finally within the minds of both the liberated and the confined at camps in 1945. Within short easily-readable, yet emotionally compelling, bursts Threads II continues opening the door to the personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence.
I recently read the revised and updated version of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. As I’ve been known to do, I thought I’d share my thoughts about how some of the book’s advice could be applied to book marketing.
First, you may think of your book as content and wonder why you’d even want to use more content to market your book. There are several reasons (see page 23), including to attract new readers, raise awareness of your book, generate buzz about your book, share information, and make it easier for readers looking for your type of book to find it.
Using content to market your book can also build a sense of community, which might motivate your readers to tell others about you and/or your book. Which in the preceding list of what content can do for your book marketing will depend on what book marketing stage you are in. If you are launching a new title, generating buzz may be better, but if it’s been out for a while, sharing information and fostering word of mouth may benefit you more.
As I’ve encouraged you to do before, and other authors have encouraged you, Content Rules also advocates focusing on the customer; in your case, the reader. Think about how you might attract readers to you rather than pushing your book on them.
One practical idea you might use for book marketing is to use content to authentically polarize readers and get them arguing about a way to interpret your story, a character, or a metaphor contained. They will have to read the book to form an opinion.
As Content Rules‘ subtitle suggests, there are many options when it comes to creating content related to your book. If it’s a heavily researched book, use that research to create blog posts, or maybe even a non-fiction e-book (if the original book is fiction). Create a list of questions book clubs might use to discuss your book. Use parts of your book you didn’t end up using as bonus short stories. For Taming the Twisted, I created a mini-story about how my fictional family got to Camanche as a bonus and created a map overlay with street names in 1860 and now to orient people in the setting. Think outside of the normal, content box and get creative. Have you created unique content related to your book? Feel free to share in the comment section below.
Source: Chapman, C.C. & Handley, Ann. 2012. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, NJ.