Saturday, May 28, 2016

Low Budget Marketing 5: Get Attention

I hope this series of blogs has broadened your perception of what activities can help your marketing efforts. This week I will share some simple and inexpensive things you can do to get the right people to notice your book.

Pursuing reviews should be a part of your marketing plan. So why not decide, right now, to send your book to ten book reviewers this week? Keep your pitch simple, but personal (at least learn the reviewer’s name so you can address your note directly to them.)

You want blogger attention too. Find the ones that fit your book and pitch them. A guest blog is a great way to present your book to a new audience. You just need to convince them that news of your book will be of interest to their readers.

Don’t overlook local retailers. Why not just go around to them in person to see if they’ll carry your book? If you are independent you can offer a consignment deal. Look beyond book stores to gift shops, restaurants or coffee houses. You might be surprised at the extent to which neighborhood businesses will support local authors.

You can also get the attention of distant businesses. Go through catalogs you think your book would be appropriate for, and send them a packet about your book. Getting your book presented to buyers surrounded by non-book items can kick off a lot of sales, so look closely for items in catalogs that are natural tie-ins for you.

You want the attention of book clubs. To get it, develop a set of discussion topics or questions such clubs could use. Post them on your web site or some other place so they’re easy to download. Book club love these discussion-starters and are more likely to select your book if they know you’ve given them a place to start their discussion. Also, make sure you mention, on your list, that you’re happy to attend their meeting in person or thru a chat engine like Skype.

To maintain the attention of your current readers start an email newsletter. It is a great way to keep them updated and informed about your success (ditto friends and family.)

And finally, when a member of any of the above groups is helpful to you, send them a thank you note. Because they are so rare these days, an actual handwritten note says a lot about you, all good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Low Budget Marketing #4 - Research & Planning

I realized belatedly that marketing begins with planning, so I should add some tips that cost nothing or nearly nothing that will get you started:

Step one should probably be putting together marketing plan. Select the tactics that you’re comfortable with and create a timetable. If the idea of a “plan” scares you, just keep it simple. Choose ten things you want to do this month to promote your book and figure out just how you’ll follow through. There, that’s a plan.

While you’re at it, why not plan a free ebook promotion? If they’re on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) it’s easy to drop your book’s price to zero for a day or two. You’ll want to plan this at least a week in advance. Then list your freebie where a lot of people will find it. I can suggest www.igniteyourbook.com and there are lots of others.

If you’re blogging or posting on social media regularly, you should create a content calendar. This is how you avoid that day when you’re not sure what to write. Think through what you want to post on holidays or the dates of events that tie in to your book. Look up some obscure holidays and brainstorm how you’ll tie your book into them. List all your cool ideas in one place so you can refer to this collection whenever you don’t feel inspired to write anything.

Networking can also lead to valuable marketing action, so you should look up other writers in your genre on line. You can find them on Google, or check out the authors shelved in a bookstore where your book should be. Once you find them, you can examine what they do for marketing. And of course you can track them down at conferences. Then you can share good ideas and tell each other what didn’t work too well.

One thing you can expect to help is to upgrade your Amazon Author page. This can be a good nexus for your online presence. Link your blog to the page, and your twitter feed. Post a video there (even a selfie with you talking about your book helps people connect with you.) And do some research on the best key words and categories to list there.

Next week I’ll share some ideas for specific actions you can take to get people’s attention and get them to notice your book. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Low Budget Marketing – 3: Being There

I’m back from vacation and back to listing good ways to promote your books without spending a ton of money.

One plan we haven’t discussed is setting up events at nearby bookstores. Book signing events are a great way to promote your writing. Offer readings, informative presentations, or a party whose theme reflects your book. And if local bookstores are not open to events consider doing them in other places. Local restaurants, clubs and coffee houses can be good choices. I recently set up a costume party and presentation at a nearby library for our young adult anthology YOUNG ADVENTURERS. I’m sure it will be great fun and gather some media coverage too.

You should also consider asking friends to host a book party in their own homes. The attendees will already be interested, so when you talk about your book you have a positive, captive audience. This will be great fun with nearby friends, and thanks to Skype and Google Hangout you can do the same thing at a distance. In those cases you can promote the event on social media and build an even bigger audience.

You should also try to appear at writers’ conferences and book festivals. A quick internet search will reveal a surprising number of them. This weekend I’ll be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, hosted by local bookstore Novel Books. And of course I help to run the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con every year. When attending an event, you should have specific goals. Identify who you want to get to know so you can get a head start on networking. Make appointments early, and stay organized. Make sure you have mastered your elevator pitch and never eat alone – connecting with others in the business is priceless for your marketing efforts.

As important as they are I’ll list getting business cards as a separate marketing action. You’ll hand out a lot of them at those book festivals and writers conferences. Cards are inexpensive and if you use VistaPrint they’re actually free. Yu should leave them everywhere you go.

Sometimes you can be there live without travelling at all. How about pitching yourself to radio stations as a speaker? In this way you can discuss your book across the country without ever leaving your living room.

I hope these short, low (or no) cost thoughts fire your imagination. Next time I’ll share some ideas of how planning and research can help your marketing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I Shouldn't Be Writing This...

So we load ourselves onto the Grandeur of the Seas for a five-day ride to Bermuda and I'm told, leave the writing life behind. You're on vacation. I guess "vacation" is the Swahili word for "Stop doing the stuff you love to do" but I love my loved ones, so I comply.

Day 1 - I notice that the ship has a little library and I pick up a book at random. Reading qualifies as relaxing, right? Only I can't get into it. No, more accurately I can't let it go. The writing is awful. How in the world did anything I've done get rejected when garbage like THIS gets published by a major publisher?

STOP IT! YOU'RE HEAR TO RELAX.!

Okay.

Day 2 - Floating weightless in the hot tub. This is the life! What a beautiful day! I love the feel of the sun on my skin. Of course, I didn't think about sun tan lotion to block the harmful rays. Say... skin cancer. That's it! That minor villain needs a motivation to finish his scheme early. I can give him skin cancer! Then...

STOP IT! YOU'RE HERE TO RELAX!

Okay.

Day 3 - I think I'm finally into it. A nice long walk in Bermuda. Visiting shops with my favorite people in the world. a leisurely ferry ride. A couple of take-home gifts. dancing! goofy games. See? they were so wrong. Writers CAN relax.

Can't wait to blog about this!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Low Budget Marketing – 2

 Last week I started my list of ways to market your book on a tight budget. I mentioned putting a letter to fans at the back of your book and getting  web site for your book. Next: let’s talk Facebook.

You probably already have a Facebook page. That’s good, but a Facebook Fan page is better. This is the place you can share all your writing news, and prompt discussions about your books, without wandering thru the more personal posts your friends and family add to your personal page.

To nurture those super fans I mentioned last week, I recommend  you set up a Facebook group. This can become like the VIP lounge for your best supporters and fans. This is where you’ll put the special contests, advance views of your covers and sample chapters, and whatever other bonus content you can think up. What’s cool about groups is that you can restrict them to only the people you invite in so it’s exclusive for those special people.

Facebook isn’t the only free platform that pays off. It’s to your advantage to build a profile on Goodreads too. It’s a good place to gather another group of friends.

Once you’ve established yourself on Goodreads, you can plan a giveaway. In general, contests are a great way to promote your books, and you can get a lot of promotion out of giving away just one or two books. This is something you should share with all your followers, on ALL the social media platforms you use. Honestly, it’s hard to mess up, but there are some ideas that can make it better in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS198mSe58s

Where else can you get people’s attention for free? Take a look at Wattpad. It’s not as well known as Facebook or Goodreads but it is growing. It’s a place you can get eyes on your work by sharing sample chapters, short stories and other cool content. Wattpad offers a good chance to get both good feedback and a few more fans.

While I think it’s hard to overstate the value of social media it should not absorb too much of your time. To help with that I think it will aid your marketing efforts if you use one of the social media management tools. I use Hootsuite for my posting. It makes it easy to schedule posts for future times and even tells me the most effective times to post. I’ve heard that SocialOomph and Tweepi are also very useful. There are lots of other options out there. You should test out a few on this list - https://www.searchenginejournal.com/top-10-tools-managing-social-media-accounts/87843/ - and make use of whichever is most comfortable for you.


I’ll toss out another handful of marketing tips next week – I hope one or two is useful to you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Low Budget Book Marketing

Recently a fellow author commented to me that he thought his book would catch fire if he had the money to market it properly. So, short on cash, he was doing almost nothing to get his book sold.

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “I can probably name a hundred ways to market your book that cost nothing, or very little.”

“Oh yeah?” he said. “Like what?”

Well, rather than bore one friend, I decided to try a blog series

So, here we go!

One of the most effective marketing strategies is to nurture your super fans. These are those fans who not only love your work but who love to share it with friends more than the average fan. The super fan is working to sell your books, sometimes as hard as you are. The challenge is finding them and engaging them. Here’s one way to do both: add a letter to fans to the back of your next book. The letter should invite them to do just two or three simple things: post a review, friend you on Facebook or Twitter, perhaps send you an email so you can add them to your mailing list. When someone does these things they have identified themselves as at least a potential super fan. When you reply to the email thanking them for the review, friend or follow them back, you have engaged them.

Next, get a web site for your book. As soon as you are certain of the title of our book, buy that domain name. Right now you can get a domain name for less than $15. It should be the most obvious thing a person would think of when they go online to look for you, with a couple exceptions. Avoid hyphens or underscores, because people looking for your book will most often forget to put them in.  And stick with .com, because that’s everyone’s first guess. True, .net or something else may sound classy, but many people will give up after their first guess and never get to see your web site.  And you do need a web site. Resist the recent urge to use your or Facebook page as your website.


I’ll chat about a couple more free or very inexpensive marketing ideas next week. I might not make it to 100, but it will be interesting to see how far I get. And if you would like more detail about one of them, let me know. That can be its own blog someday.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How to Make an Author Smile

Recently I’ve been surprised by a couple of avid readers asking me a question whose answer seemed too obvious to need explanation. They wanted to know what they could do to help their favorite authors succeed. They were clearly sincere, so I think maybe it’s not a bad thing to state some things a writer might be reluctant to tell you himself. Here are a few ways you can help your favorite author.

Buy the books: If they’re a favorite you probably already own their books, and I’m not prompting you to waste money. But every year you scratch your head over what to buy any number of friends and family members for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, house warming and other gifts. If they are YOUR friends or relatives they probably read. Why not give them a book by an author you love. And if you can get it autographed, that makes it a really personal gift.

Review the books: Recent research indicates that many people choose books based on the reviews they get – not just the ratings, but the number and the reasons reviewers say they liked them. So take a few minutes and reward that author for giving you a good time by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. It doesn’t have to be work and it needn’t be a literary masterpiece. Just say, “I really enjoyed this book because… “   

Recommend the books: List them on your Goodreads page as recommended reading. Talk about them in any club or group you belong to. And of course if you’re a member of a book club suggest that your favorite author’s works be a selection for an upcoming meeting. Remember, most authors would love to visit your book club, or speak at a meeting of whatever club or group you belong to including civic groups like the Rotary. And if your friends or coworkers read, recommend the books to them too.

Engage on social media: If your favorite author has a Facebook page, be a friend. If they have a separate author page, like it. Follow him or her on Twitter. If they have blog, follow that too. And don’t forget to share the author’s posts, tweets and blog posts. Sharing this way is much like a personal recommendation. It’s also great to comment on their posts so get engaged. Writers love that. Know what else they love? Seeing a picture of you, the fan, on Facebook holding their book!

Finally, ask the author: A simple question like “What can I do to help you?” might let your favorite writer know it’s okay to ask for help. Maybe you can ask the local library to get his or her book. Maybe you can ask a local bookstore to carry it (or host an author event.) Maybe you can share some bookmarks or post cards with people you know. Or your author might have something in mind that I haven’t thought of.

Just know that no author can really succeed without support from readers, and that all that help is very much appreciated by every one of us!