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Tag: author marketing

GUEST POST: How to Market Yourself as a Writer and Build an Audience

Author MarketingSucceeding as an author on the internet is predicated on the ability to adequately market yourself and your work. You may write the best eBook on the market, yet lacking the ability to craft an equally compelling “pitch” will seriously hamper the likelihood of anyone reading or purchasing said eBook. All works must be compelling in both presentation (headline, cover, etc) and content (article, video, etc).

The quality of your presentation will determine whether someone picks up your book or clicks on your link. Terrible content with great presentation will attract curiosity but will not create or retain fans. Great content with terrible presentation (see: marketing) will struggle in obscurity but could still build a small loyal following.

In order to connect your work with potential readers and consumers, focus on three primary goals:

  1. Make a great impression
  2. Promote engagement
  3. Demonstrate long-term value

If you are an online publisher who writes articles or columns, your first impression to readers comes via an attractive headline. Great headlines attract views. Compelling content engages readers. Together, these components demonstrate value and results in social shares.

Attract an Audience

You only have a split second to make an impression. According to Copyblogger, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”

If you’re writing online, that great impression can be crafting a bold headline worth clicking on but don’t devolve into click-bait. This spammy practice damages your credibility and irritates readers when the content of the article is quite different than advertised. For novelists, making an impression can mean paying extra for truly eye-catching cover art or spending additional time perfecting the title or back cover synopsis.

It’s all about effective communication. Are you demonstrating that you’re worth time and effort? The same principle holds true when contacting potential partners or outreaching media outlets to gain coverage. Don’t waste the only chance you have to make a great first impression.

How many times have you received a spammy email asking for money or favors? Probably more times than you can count. For journalists, this spam problem is often multiplied by SEOs and well-meaning regular people who just don’t know how to communicate with them.

The key to increasing your email open rates lies in doing two things very well: writing great subject lines and establishing immediate relevance. Tell your audience (or email recipient) who are are, exactly what you want, and why you’re an expert.

What sounds more authoritative in an email?

Introducing the latest Afghanistan tell-all

from Medal of Honor recipient,

& Navy SEAL Bob Jones:



“hey guys. I really like playing Call of Dooty

so I writed this book because its my pashion

and very cool. Plz read and friend me

on xbawks @ superwritersduty2005”

Promote Engagement

Engagement is all about encouraging an active conversation surrounding your content. The bottom line is that you need to create great content that people want to talk about and share. This can take many forms. Most successful websites possess some combination of:

  • Comments
  • Social media profiles
  • Customer surveys
  • Feedback pages

Not only do these create opportunities for readers to share opinions and commentary, but they also help your site’s search engine rankings by encouraging others to link to your pages. Increased engagement is the natural result of entertaining conversations surrounding worthwhile content.

Demonstrate Value

Your initial “pitch” via art or headline offered just enough value to gain an audience. Now you must demonstrate long-term value in order to keep their attention while avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump — the phenomenon of creating a smash-hit and then following it up with lesser quality work. Cementing your value means that you should continue to produce content of equally great quality.

It’s understandable why following success can be intimidating: there’s more pressure, and it can feel like you have less creative freedom. Stick to your guns and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Think about new ways you can demonstrate or market your expertise, and you can offer that knowledge as a way to diversify your cash flow. If your specialty is in written content, perhaps consider branching out into video or other visual ways of communicating. People are willing to spend their time (and money) with individuals they can trust to help resolve their problems.

People follow you for a reason. Appeal to that audience within your niche. Troy Lambert has built his content brand on teaching other writers how to live up to their fullest potential through expanding their skill-set. Regularly offering advice, tutorials, and anecdotes can provide readers with valuable resources to resolve their own problems within the industry.

Ultimately, you’re building upon why they came to you in the first place. You attracted an audience for a reason, and by engaging them in your content and community, it will demonstrate why you’re a continued resource for quality content. Your lasting value is in the quality content and engaging message that you share with others.

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The Debate is the Distraction

In one of my seminars, I make the blanket statement that publishing is not changing. It has already changed. The new paradigm is still working itself out in many ways, so in that sense, many things are still changing. But many more have already, and will never go back to the way they were before. Did you read that? Read it again: will never go back to the way they were before.

The Hachette-Amazon debate is a great distraction from the real truth here. So let me present it here for you simply, in a few points:

  • Few traditional, Big 5 published authors are making a living. Perhaps the top 1% We are the 99%. Stop asking us to support your obsolete model because it works for a few of you.
  • Amazon Publishing and small presses have resurrected and begun the careers of several mid-list authors. Bookstores can afford to ignore them, because not selling those titles will do them little harm, at least for now. But they do so at their own peril. Where are the next bestselling authors coming from? Mid list. Do retailers think those authors will forget mistreatment, or will leave their lucrative deals with their current publishers for inferior traditional ones to get their books carried locally?
  • More authors are making a living today from small press and self-publishing than from traditional publishing. This is clearly illustrated by data recovered by and released by Smashwords. This has turned the Author’s Guild on their heads, and left them wondering what their future role is.
  • Amazon Unlimited, Oyster, and Scribd have become, as some of us predicted, the next outlet for authors, like a Netflix for books. This is where we should be focusing our attention: on authors being treated fairly and assuring income from such services, rather than battling the single largest source of writer income (at least currently)

Hachette is right. Booksellers and publishers have every right to price their products (books) at whatever level they desire. Amazon is also right: booksellers and bookstores can choose to carry whatever books and products they like. They are under no obligation. In fact, many Indie and local bookstores boycott Amazon Published writers and self-pubbed titles printed by Create Space already. There’s no outcry over that inequity.

The debate is a distraction. Most readers don’t care any more who publishes a book or how, as long as the story or content is good. Writers and publishers are fighting for their literal lives and livelihood, many with no idea where the real battle is, raging and tilting at windmills.

Writers, it’s time to get back to work. Write more, not about the debate or the industry we all know has changed, but more books. Stories. The things your readers want.

Publishers, it’s time to adopt a new program. Many small presses have. Survival means you will follow suit. Pay reasonable royalties. Offer readers content at reasonable prices. And don’t snub, and ask authors to snub, the biggest retailer on the planet.

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The Hazards of in Person Book Signings

(and the benefits)

BuyMyBookIt’s a Wednesday afternoon, and I feel like gambling. Do I go down and purchase a lottery ticket? Nope. Instead I set up a table at the Kuna Library during summer reading events. There is tons of promised traffic. And traffic there is. But People come to the library to borrow books, not to buy them. At least, that has been my experience. The traffic consisted of harried parents, lulls of almost no patrons, and several curious kids (who my books are not appropriate for). For most authors who have done or attempted signings at libraries, this is not news. Far from it. It is simply fact.

But there are things to be learned from these and other experiences.  The idea was never to sell a ton of books. But to do two things: make my local librarians who may recommend my books happy, and increase local exposure. This forces any author to brand themselves, something with its own value. So below is a little advice when you are next invited to do any in person signing.

1. Manage expectations. Be realistic about how many books, if any, you expect to sell. And keep that in mind. Sometimes just reinforcing your public image is enough return on your investment. Especially with patrons of libraries who are obviously already readers.

2. Use your time wisely. Don’t just sit and stare at the walls, or the celling. Watch people and their reading habits. If you are at a bookstore, observe buying habits as well. See what they pick up, and what they pass by. Be ready to answer questions, even if the person does not look like they read your type books. You never can tell. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or a person.

3. Make fans and friends. Even if it is one at a time. Even if they pick up your book cards, and buy them later on Amazon or elsewhere. There is no value you can attach to a lifelong fan. You never know who that might be.

4. Assign value to your time, and be careful with it. Orchestrated book signings and readings can enhance both your image and your opportunities. But Be careful they are not the only, or the primary marketing efforts you make. They are time consuming and minimally profitable. You could be writing the next book rather than sitting behind a table waiting for readers to come to you.

In person book signings are like many other things: they are best in moderation, for a purpose, and handled with care. Use these potential tools the way they are intended. As a gateway to the fans you don’t have yet.

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Say Goodbye Author Stand

AuthorstandI remember when I posted my first article on AuthorStand, for a short story competition. It turned out the contest was more about who you knew more than anything else, and as a relative newbie to the fiction author realm, I didn’t do so well. It didn’t go viral, and I didn’t win.

But I learned some vital things about building platform, mu audience and I also saw some cool writing over the years. I didn’t use the service much recently, instead turned into a lurker. So when I saw the news about Joe Niewierski, the founder, selling out to Book Country I was crushed: Book Country is a subsidiary of Penguin Books. What now?

Let me say before I go further that Penguin, by purchasing Book Country and opening itself at least to considering self-publishing as a potential path to publication, or at the very least the talented pool of indie authors as a pond worth fishing in for new talent, does show some willingness to adapt. They still have horrible contracts, too low of royalties to authors especially for e-books, and two high of prices for what is the paperback of today. Still, knowing folks who work or have worked there, the company may wake in time to save itself, and join the emerging trends in the industry.

However, AuthorStand was one of the more independent ways to distribute ones work, and was filled with competitions and other opportunities to get real feedback and hone your writing craft. There’s no question that Penguin has talented scouts and editors, and opportunities may arise for authors to jump into the traditional pond if they so desire.

But what about those who wish to remain independent? Who are really what AuthorStand was all about? That remains to be seen, but with a parent company with an intrinsic interest in converting Indie authors to a more traditional publishing path to publication, the outlook is questionable at best.

RIP AuthorStand. Welcome Book Country. I just hope it stays a country of free and independent individuals rather than a corporate farm.

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The Year in Review: Advice from Working at Home

This was a transition year for me. One from writing at home part time and working part time to writing and working in publishing at home full time. We moved, from a place I love, to Kuna, a small town just outside Boise, Idaho. I miss that place, but in the transition, I learned a few things that have led me to some resolutions, and some advice to authors everywhere, full or part time.

Network. There is nothing like sitting down in person with another author, or talking to them on the phone, away from your keyboard. An in person writer’s group is invaluable. Finding a critique partner like finding a discarded diamond in the gutter: it will change your life and your writing career. So often as writers we feel that we are alone and strange. (sometimes, alone because we are strange) No one will understand you better than another writer who is going through the same things. Find them in your neighborhood, meet with them, talk with them, and share with them. You will all be winners. Find yours this year, if you have not already.

Exercise. One of my biggest concerns going into the New Year is my physical health. It is easy to start working, and sit in front of a screen all day long. Stay fit, eat right, and your writing and the rest of your life will be better for it. Take care of your body, because it houses that wonderful mind of yours, the one that likes to tell stories.

Take time off. My mental health and my work is better when I take time to walk away. Take at least one day off a week (don’t even turn on that computer), and go do things with your family and friends. Story ideas will flow better, writing will feel easier, and those dreaded re-writes and edits will feel less like work. Remember why you do what you do, and take time to appreciate the freedom it provides.

Get help. Hire help, trade for help, beg for help, but get help. Not a good accountant? Find someone who is. Need help with graphic design? Hire someone or trade some of your skills for some of theirs. Need marketing help? Do your research, but consult with professionals. Sometimes the one little piece of advice they offer can save you hours, days, or better prevent you from making an embarrassing mistake public.

Write. Sounds obvious, but there are two aspects to this I have learned this year. First, that stuff written quickly is better. It is more full of emotion, with less thinking. People want to feel through fiction, and thinking is secondary. Write from the heart, and usually that is done faster. Second, writing is why you got into this in the first place. Not to be a social media icon (like George Takei) or a twerking sensation (Miley Cyrus). You got into this to be a writer, so write.

Read. As an author, you read your own stuff over and over. As an editor, I read tons of crap before I find a gem, and I have to dissect even the gems. Want to fuel your passion to write? Read good stories. For every draft you write, for every story you sell, treat yourself to reading a really good book, whether that is one of the classics or a new sensation from an up and coming indie author.

Watch great movies. Great movies are great stories put on the screen Watch, and see how they are constructed. Use what you discover to inform your own work. Besides that, who doesn’t want to laugh at Jackie Chan or watch Sylvester Stallone embarrass himself on screen from time to time?

Lastly, read and watch non-fiction. Call it research. Call it continuing education. I don’t care what you call it, just do it. You will discover story ideas, new developments that will aid your fiction, grounding it better in reality. Browse it in the library. Subscribe to magazines. Watch your friends social media feed for that science gem. But never, ever stop learning.

I plan to do all of these next year, better. Let’s not call them resolutions as much as goals. Tangible, practical, and just plain fun. What do you plan to do? What would you add to this list?


A Christmas Thank You

Every year, writers write these things, like a bulk Christmas card, and fans go yeah, yeah, yeah. Get back to writing books already. And you’re right. The Thank You letters are overdone, but this one is different, I promise.

Thanks to the fans: I do love you guys, and in those moments when I want to wipe the hard drive, go sell lattes at the local coffee shack, or sign up to greet shoppers at Walmart and attempt to ignore the fact I am a writer, you guys and your comments, letters, and reviews keep me from doing that. My wife, children, and the shoppers I would victimize at Walmart all send along their warmest wishes.

Thanks to the critics: This post is mostly for you. Those who criticize my work, whether constructively or otherwise, and those who doubt my ability, and even those who fail to acknowledge that writing is a legitimate occupation, I want to say thanks.

There is no such thing as negative feedback. Feedback is feedback, and usually I can tell if you just don’t like something I have written because of the subject or because some portion of it offends you. Maybe you don’t like my writing style. Maybe, though, you have a legitimate point. I received some negative feedback on Temptation, and the end of the year, after writing two more novels, saw me go back and do an edit, while at the same time re-releasing it and Redemption with new covers (see them here) Response has been great, and I’m glad I did it.

The negative turns positive. I take feedback with a grain of salt, but I do take it, and use it. Critics do a ton to make my writing and work better. Constructive critics are the best, because they give you something to build on. But the rest of you? Sometimes it is not bad to be torn down. Something new and better will rise in the place of the old.

So long-time or new fans, early and late critics, thanks for liking me, hating me, reviewing my work, both good and bad. Next year will be exciting, with new books, new content, and a new direction. Stay tuned all. I’ll need the critique to get me grounded.

Happy Holidays, and a blessed New Year.

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It’s Social Networking not Social Net-Twerking

Stop ‘twerking’ all over social media

Advertisements. We all love to hate them. We Dub Step remix the funny ones, cry at touching ones, and cringe when the ones we hate blast out of our speakers when all we really want to do is keep watching our show. They’re an interruption, but have always tried to be an entertaining one. What better reason to watch the Super Bowl than for the zany commercials?

Social media is different, and there is a reason. We expect advertising in newspapers, magazines, and on the TV and Radio. On a deep level we understand they pay for programming, even if we don’t like it. But social media is just that: a social network for being—well, social. So advertisements are considered interruptions, even rude if improperly done. So how do you cope? Just forsake social media ads? No! Social media, specifically Facebook, drives people to publishers and books more than any other avenue right now.

Stop shaking your stuff all up in our faces. Don’t post drive by ads in groups or on hashtags. First, they don’t do any good. Most of the time, they are just passed over. Look down the feed for two things: first see if there are any likes, shares or comments on posts or favorites and retweets on Twitter. If there aren’t any, you are just posting to a group or #hashtag with a whole bunch of other drive-by-posters. If there is no meaningful interaction, chances are all the real folks have bailed, and you are trying to sell apples to apple growers. Stop the madness. You aren’t doing your book, business, or the social platform any favors.

Also, see if your post from the day before is just a few spots below the one you are posting now. If if is, don’t post. Nothing is worse than seeing a group filled with posts only by one person.  Well, maybe a stick in the eye is worse, but it is pretty bad.

Talk to me Goose! Advertising on social media is not about being intrusive, or even an entertaining interruption, but starting or joining a conversation. You need to look for places that are discussing either reading, the subject of your book, or something related to you and what you do. React to relevance, do not try to force your way in. If you do advertise, say something relevant to the conversation or the group about your work. Don’t just post links and disappear. You will be ignored, banned, perhaps even hated. In social media, not all publicity is good publicity.  Talk, converse, and realize that sometimes, less is more.

Don’t lick a hammer to get attention. If you dedicated a six months to a year of your life and over 60K words to talk about something, the likelihood is you had a story to tell and you told it. Now convince us we need to read it because it matters or should matter to us. Be visible, but don’t draw attention to yourself through foolish antics. Let your work speak for you, but be ready if someone wants to reach out.

Sounds simple right? It is and it isn’t. The social media world is one where the rules are ever changing, and the herd is migratory. Traditional marketing media is not dead either, just gasping for breath and struggling to adapt and survive. So think about the message you are sending next time you are about to flex your advertising thighs, bend your advertising knees, stick your groove thing out there and shake it baby, shake it. You may draw the wrong crowd, or you may chase all of them away, frightened and looking for an eyewash station.

Now back t’work. Until next time.

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A Peek at my TBR List: Lessons Learned

handinjuryI’m sitting here, typing with a rather sore hand, and so last night I decided that today might be a good time to catch up on video edits (that I can do with one hand) and on my To Be Read list. In the middle of the night, while waiting for more ibuprofen to kick in, I mentally wnet through the list and discovered something amazing.

I have to preface this by saying I am not a genius. Recently I’ve been reading Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb. It outlines what kind of marketing works for books, and why traditional methods don’t work. Why am I reading Kristen’s book, and not one of the dozens of others out there on the subject? Because I “know” Kristen from her Facebook page and her blog, which attracted my attention with its very practical and practicable writing and marketing tips. Hmm. let’s look at the rest of the list, and see what we can learn from it.

Every writer with priority on my TBR list is a friend on Facebook or Away from Keyboard. (We used to say In Real Life, but social media IS real life any more). Okay, not everyone. I am reading The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I don’t “know” him, although I have seen his image on meme’s several times. Here’s a list of authors:

Vincent Zandri, Hugh Howey, Allan Leverone, Heath Lowrance, Poppet, Karen Vaughn, Dellani Oakes, Brid Wade, David Toft, Paul Keene, Madison Johns, Alan Jankowski and Stephen King. Maybe I don’t “know” that last one, but I once nearly met him at a book signing years ago, so he probably barely remembers me. I’m sure he’s read my work though. Amazing list, right? And I’m sure I am leaving someone out. Here’s something else about my list.

meeteauthorI’ve paid for every book on the list. Okay, there are two exceptions to this. Vincent Zandri sent me a copy of one of his, and I traded Paul Keene a signed copy of Redemption for his book Among the Jimson Weeds. Other than that, I buy the author’s work. There is a reason for this. First, it helps support the author. We all love free books, but we authors also like to eat. I give away some of my books, but most I sell. Therefore I don’t ask other authors for free books, and when I buy them as I can.

Also, then if I don’t like the book, I don’t feel obligated to leave a review or even give feedback to the author. Now, to be fair, I vet books pretty well before I buy them. I read excerpts and select reviews, ignoring the ones that offer too high of praise or too much criticism. I try to review, even briefly, as often as I can.

What does “know” mean on social media? These are not folks who spammed me with links until I gave in and bought their books. No. I’ve interacted with them. Kristen Lamb and I both like to cook and fire weaponry. Another friend (I highly recommend her romances to those who read that genre) Debbie Robbins and I talk scotch and travel. The rest of us all talk books, what it means to be an author, and about our families, our jobs, and our lives. Paul lives nearby, and he and I are pioneering a local writer’s group.

BookshelfThese writers have offered me nothing for their mention here, and they haven’t all read and reviewed my work. This is not a quid pro quo post. You do for me, I do for you, or vice versa. I read what I like. I have been offered free books, even sent free books by other authors (unsolicited) that I have not read or read and/or not reviewed. If you send me something without asking, this will likely be the result. I read these authors because I like them, and as an extension I find I like their work.

Here is the bottom line: be real and be connected on social media. Those you connect with will buy your work, read it, sometimes review it, or sometimes not. Not everyone will buy, but then that shouldn’t be your goal. Social media is about being social. So go ahead. Look at your To Be Read list, and see what you can learn. Chances are you “know” a lot of people on it.

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George and the Achievers Part 2:

What Authors (and others) Can Learn About Marketing from the Achievers and George Takei

Part 2: Make the Connection

lost puzzle pieceIn part one of this series we introduced The Achievers and George Takei, two completely different types of internet phenomena. We looked at their core audience. You can read that post here.

So they had a solid fan base: core fans. You have them too, whether you are an author, or a business. How do you connect them? They may be scattered all over the world. What tools do you use to bring them together?

Internet Forums. The achievers used the birth of social media: an internet forum to share the word about their passion. Fans gathered around a little known film released in the late 1990’s, and found they had more in common then they at first realized. Some even made love connections in the group. More modern forms of these include Goodreads, Kindle Discussion Boards, and Facebook Groups.

Facebook. Originally a social media outlet similar to MySpace, Facebook took off and became an advertisers dream: millions of reachable customers and fans all gathered in one giant stadium. The problem is, you are one hot dog vendor among thousands, and your customers are scattered throughout the seats. How do you get them to come to you, to “sit” in your section? Once they sit there, how do you make them all want to buy your hot dogs? George has used this with amazing success. He has over 3.8 million “likes” and 3.5 million of those talking about and sharing his posts!

Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you need to get a message out there. A message that compels, that speaks to a specific group, and a message that they will see and share. George has over 600,000 followers. And those who say you have to follow to get followers? Look at George’s balance here: 622,000 followers, he follows 57. He may be the exception to the rule, but you don’t have to follow those you don’t want to follow to glean followers.

These are the tools: Now how do you use them? In part three we will discuss this, but here is the basic premise, and therefore your homework. Have a message. Every day have something new to say. Pretty tough? Yes, tougher than it looks.

Last week, you started to follow George on Facebook if you weren’t already doing it. You were supposed to pay attention to what he posted and when. This week? Do the same with Twitter. Follow George here and just observe: What does he post? When? What gets Retweeted? Favorited?  Let’s see what we can learn from those who are already doing something well.

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