Tuesday Talk – throwing a great Facebook party

This post is part of the series on marketing in the bazillion-book marketplace that Mari Christie and I are co-posting (her Marketing Mondays and my Tuesday Talks, thanks to the spinning earth).

partyHave you been to any Facebook parties? In the past six weeks, I’ve hosted two, and guested at another two—and I have more coming up.

The other day, someone asked me if Facebook parties sold books. Which, of course, isn’t the point of them. As Mari and I have said time and again in these posts, marketing is about making friends, and then about turning at least some of them into fans. And Facebook parties are a great opportunity to do that.

This post is not about the philosophy though. Instead, here are some of the techniques we’ve picked up for hosting at Facebook parties. We’d love to know yours!

Before the party

To create interest in the party, I post for weeks beforehand. Post stuff people want to know, not just relentless self-promotion. In the run-up to the party, you want them to know that you’ll be offering entertainment, so demonstrate that. (Show, don’t tell, right?)

My theme for the launch party for Farewell to Kindness was a country fair. I posted the songs that village singers might have sung during such a fair. I posted food people might have eaten at a fair, and games and activities that might have been on offer. I asked questions and invited comment. I also posted information about each of the guest hosts and their books. And, yes, I posted excerpts.

For A Baron for Becky, I posted a series of vignettes on courtesans through history, as well as guest hosts and excerpts. And I invited people to post pictures of what they would wear to a Courtesan’s Ball.

To prepare for the actual day, whether I’m hosting or simply doing a takeover for another author, I write myself a run-time, with the time and the text for each post and the names of the images I’m going to use. I put the posting time above each post. It might slip a minute or two on the day, but the times guide me. If interaction is high, I might skip a post, but I’d rather have too much than too little!

I put everything I need into a folder—or a series of folders if the event is longer than an hour.

Mari swears by putting the images into an album on her Facebook profile, and then linking to them. This saves loading time on the day.

If I’m host, I send a guest author checklist to those who have agreed to party with me. It has some of the tips in this post, tells them their timeslot, and asks them for their bio, the name and blurb of the book they intend to promote, and what (if anything) they plan to give away.

What kind of posts?

Remember that your goal is to make friends, so post links to your social media. I always post information about the Bluestocking Belles and any events we have coming up as a group, such as Book Club.

Post games—if you attend a few parties, you’ll find out which ones get the most comments and interaction.

Post questions. If you can relate them to your excerpts, all the better. For example, here’s a scene of a botched proposal; tell us your proposal story.

Ask people to post photos. Hot guys are usually a favourite, or suggested actors to play your hero and heroine, or anything else you might like.

At the event

My big tip is to keep the posts coming. When we did the Name Release party for the Bluestocking Belles anthology, we had three minute slots and a 30 minute event. And around 15 posts in total. Fast and furious! I’ve just done a one hour takeover, and I prepared and used 12 posts. Party hard and have a great time.

With busy parties, your posts can soon sink down the event. To make sure I can easily get back to my posts so I can comment (and later find winners), I copy the url as soon as I’ve created the post and paste it into my runtime. If you want to try this, just click on the date/time below your name on the post and it’ll bring up that post so you can copy the url. Then the back arrow will take you back to the party.

And get into those comment streams! If you’re the host, you’ll be commenting on your guest author’s posts, keeping the conversation going. I usually do a hit and run when I’m a guest host, because of the spinning earth. Parties are almost always during my working day. But I love it when guest authors arrive early and stick around to play.

After the party

Select and contact your winners as soon as you can, and don’t forget to thank the team who helped you put on the party (your host if you’re a guest author; your guest authors if you’re a host).

 

 

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Marketing in the bazillion book marketplace – giveaways

Cross-posted with Mari Christie.

prize-drawIn recent posts in the series Mari Christie and I are writing on marketing in the bazillion book marketplace, we’ve been talking about marketing plans. Posts have focused on audience and purpose. What do we want to achieve? Who do we need to reach? We’ve begun to talk channels. Where will we go to find our readers? But we don’t yet have a plan.

A marketing plan is our map for the journey to the destination ‘book sales’. But deciding you’re flying to the Caribbean for a holiday is only the first step in a travel plan. You need to do a lot more planning and take a heap of actions before you can drink cocktails under a beach umbrella. And a marketing plan is no different.

So we’re going to talk tools and tactics: the mechanisms you’ll use to get to your destination (the savings account, the airplane), and the actions you’ll take (put aside 2% of your pay packet, buy a ticket).

Watch for further posts on various tools and tactics. This week: giveaways.

Promote your book by running a giveaway

Hosting creative giveaways can help draw attention to your book. But making sure they give you the results you want takes a bit of planning.

Keep it simple — but be clear about what you want to achieve

Do you want more subscribers to your newsletter? More followers on Twitter? More party-goers at your Facebook launch party? Design your giveaway questions to get the results you’re after. Be creative. You could ask those who enter to:

  • share a particular post
  • comment on a particular post
  • post a phot
  • post a caption to a photo
  • come up with a name for something in your next book: a character, pet, house, ship, town… or even book title
  • answer questions about what they enjoy in books.

Choose a prize people want — and that works for you

The better the reward, the more entries you’ll get. At the same time, you want entries from people who are interested in the type of book you write. A $50 Amazon card may be attractive, but it might also attract people who are only interested in the prize, not your book. Here’s a post Mari wrote on prizes.

Consider combining with other authors to make a bigger prize.

Use multiple forms of social media to promote

Different people focus on different types of social media, so make sure you promote your giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and wherever else you have a presence. Use the word ‘giveaway’ in the title and tell people about the prize.

Pay attention

During the giveaway, visit the posts and comment. Talk to those entering. Show an interest.

Finish gracefully

Announce your winner or winners as soon as practical after the giveaway is over. Send out the prizes straightaway. Thank all those who have participated.

Watch the legal stuff

A sweepstake is a promotion where the winner is chosen by a random drawing. A contest is a promotion where the winner is chosen on merit (by vote or a judging panel). You can safely call them both giveaways, but be careful not to call a sweepstake a contest.

You need to state the prize, the deadline, and the conditions of entry up front, and you can’t change those after you’ve started. You can’t charge a fee to enter and you must accept all valid entries.


 

MariMari Christie has been a professional writer, editor, and designer in Denver, Colorado for more than 20 years. At the age of 19, she decided to learn to write anything. With experience in journalism, marketing and advertising, proposals and grants, technical material, fiction, creative non-fiction, critique, and poetry, this goal has, for the most part, been accomplished.

Mari holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and has been an expert in Microsoft products since Windows 3.1 and Adobe Creative Suite since before it was a suite.

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Road to a better mousetrap – part 3: Tuesday Talk

Mari Christie and I are writing a series on marketing in the bazillion book marketplace, and this is part 3 of the chapter on creating a marketing plan.

Most of the first post was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend. The second post talked about knowing your product and finding your readers.

In this post, we talk about how to keep your readers and how to get them to sell your books.

stand-outHow not to become rich and famous

Writing books is no sure way to wealth and fame, as every writer knows. Wealth and fame, or even a modest income and privacy to write more, means selling books. Selling books eats into your emotional and creative energy: energy you could be pouring into your books.

But not selling books, for those of us without a private fortune or a rich spouse, means doing some other job to put food on the table, and the job eats into your time and very likely your emotional and creative energy.

You already know that finding buyers (other than your closest friends and relatives) means writing a good book, having it well edited, and giving it a gorgeous cover. Do these things and you’ll find a few buyers. A few.

Sales figures for ‘the average book’ are no more than a guesstimate, but a few brave people have made an attempt, basing their figures on reported sales from a variety of sources. And those figures come out somewhere in the region of 200 to 500 books in the first year, depending on genre, with an upper average of 1000 in the lifetime of the book.

Of course, a very tiny fraction of one percent of all books do spectacularly well, selling 10s, even 100s of thousands, which means the average of all of the rest is probably lower, closer to the 200.

That’s the average. And you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t want to beat the odds.

Don’t find buyers; attract (and keep) fans

It’s a vicious cycle, but there is an answer.  Find other people to sell your books for you. Convert your readers into followers, and your followers into raving fans.

We’ve discussed in other posts the need to interact with readers. This post gives three steps for making those interactions count. When you write your marketing plan, document how you intend to do these things.

  1. Make it easy for them to find you.
  2. Make it worthwhile for them to follow you
  3. Provide interesting stuff

Make it easy for them to find you

Sell your books where the bulk of your readers are. Whatever you might think of Amazon’s business model, learn how to make the most of the platform they offer. Taylor your keywords, the bio on your author page, and all the other tools they provide to get your book noticed. Do the same with other eretailers, too.

Your print audience is going to be smaller. I cannot give much advice on print. My books are available in print, but I haven’t been pushing the print copies because I only have a certain amount of energy.

Give away a free book—short stories, excerpts, or a novella. Before you can convert that reader, you first have to put a book in front of them. My novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was downloaded 53,000 times in its first six months. That’s 53,000 readers I have a chance at converting.

In your free book, as well as your books for sale, give your readers a reason to go looking for you and a way to connect with you as soon as they finish the story. On your next pages, put  links to your social media and subscription services, teasers and excerpts for your other books, buy links for the books already on sale.

Make it worthwhile for them to follow you

Okay, you’ve given them a reason to click. Now give them a reason to subscribe, to buy, to join, and to follow.

Here are few that work well if you do them well.

Have a newsletter. Make it easy for people to sign up and give them interesting content. Reward them with coupons or insider information, and special contests. Keep your newsletters brief and informative, and don’t send them too often.

Have a blog. Blog about things that interest your target readers, and blog regularly. Use your blog to inform and entertain. Watch your blog stats to find out what posts do well and what topics people consistently ignore. Do more of the one and fewer of the other.

Post often. Themed days can help if you have trouble thinking of what to say. Visitors can help, and people love to be hosted on other people’s blogs. It’s a win-win; they reach your audience and you’re introduced to theirs. One idea is to invite other novelists to post a themed extract in comments. Exquisite Quills does this brilliantly.

Encourage people to subscribe to your blog, so they get notified when you put up a new post. And post often. Visitors can help. Themed days can help.

Have a twitter account. Tweet about things that interest your readers. Reply to people’s comments. Tweet about interesting blog posts. Link to free books and excerpts.

Have a Facebook fan page and post stuff about your books, research you’ve done, places you’ve been, and your cat. Facebook loves cats. Ask questions. Join in conversations. Post interesting memes and idea.

Provide interesting stuff

Don’t be a digital billboard, constantly trying to sell something. Engage, inform, entertain, intrigue, delight. Put the effort into writing quality content, whatever you’re posting: hot men, useful recipes, research into royal mistresses, castles, cute cats, questions about romance tropes.

I’ve been trying to do all of these, though not as consistently as I’d like. Torn between the day job, the fiction writing, family commitments, and marketing, I lurch from too much focus to too little. Still, in the first three months after the release of Farewell to Kindness, I’ve sold over 900 copies. Not enough to retire on, but considerably over the odds.

In the next road to a better mousetrap post, Tools and tactics?

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Road to a better mousetrap part 2 – Tuesday Talk

Today, Mari Christie and I continue co-posting on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace. 

too-many-booksA few weeks ago, we posted the first part of an article about writing marketing plans.

Most of the first post was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend.

But they’re not going to come to you; you have to find a way to go to them. And before you do that, you need to know what you have to offer them.

Know your product

Ridiculous, right? You know your product. Who better? You’ve spent six months, or a year, or three years of your life on this book. So can you encapsulate its essence in a sentence? And does that sentence hook into the interests and passions of the readers you want to reach? If the first nine words of your sales statement does not capture people’s attention, then expect to be lost in the crowd.

Tagline
This sales statement is called a tagline, and it’s worth spending some time crafting it, because you can then use it everywhere – at the start of your description on eretailers websites, in newsletters, in requests for review, on twitter, at the start of Facebook posts, even on the cover of the book itself.

Here are some great taglines:

  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis: What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?
  • The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney: Hush little students, don’t say a word…
  • After by Amy Efaw: You’ve done the unthinkable. What happens…after?
  • Wake by Lisa McMann: Your dreams are not your own.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour: How does your life move forward when all you want to do is hold still?
  • Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher: Bad boys and secrets are both hard to keep.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story.
  • Le Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess by Mari Christie: Kali Matai was destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful men. She hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn.

Keywords
Keywords are the next thing to think about. What words are your readers likely to search on. “Spies Napoleonic wars”? “Courtesan to wife”? “Tudor court politics”?

Amazon and Smashwords let you enter a number of keyword phrases, and carefully chosen keywords will help people using their sites to find your book if that’s what they’re looking for. But you can use them much more widely than this.

First, you can litter the keyword phrases in your online conversations about your books, thus increasing the number of times you’re picked up by search engines.

Second, you can use the keyword phrases to search for the people who are using them and the places they hang out. Which brings us to:

Go where your readers are

Writing books is a solitary task. We talk to one another about our craft and our day, but when it comes to putting words one after the other into a text that will one day be a book, we do it alone.

But to put those books into the hands of readers, we need to step out, often outside of our comfort zone, and hang out with people. Mari and I have posted elsewhere about marketing by not-marketing, and I’m not going to repeat that here, except to say I’m not talking about going out to make sales. I’m talking about going out to meet people and have conversations.

You cared enough about your “pirate-lord-succumbs-to-captive” story to spend endless hours writing, editing, and honing it. Perhaps you can ask people what they think of the concept behind it: the idea, perhaps, of arrogance faltering in the face of genuine love. Or you might have some insights to offer from your research into piracy at the time your novel is set. Or you might be able to combine with other writers who’ve explored the same trope to do some kind of a joint presentation.

We’re getting down to tactics, here, and that’s a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say that talking about your passion, the topic in which you’re an expert, shouldn’t be a chore. (And it should go without saying that, as in any conversation, it’s a great idea to listen twice as much as you speak.)

So get out there and hold conversations, whether you meet your readers online or in real life; on Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus; at a book fair, a country show, or a signing tour.

In the next Road to a better mousetrap post, who will sell your books for you?

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Make Yourself an Expert – Tuesday Talk

Today, Mari Christie and I continue coposting on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace. Her turn today, with Make Yourself an Expert.

I know old-school marketing. I have been working to promote products, people, and services since I was about 15 years old.

  • Trade and Consumer campaigns (B2B, B2C)expert-button_forweb-e1345329354880
  • Strategic and tactical planning
  • Design, copywriting, advertising, on- or off-line
  • Collateral material
  • Printing, publishing, distribution
  • Media relations
  • Event planning and management

Talking about any of the above makes no difference at all to sales of my books. (It makes a difference in how I sell my books.)

Where it does make a difference is in selling my services as a marketing consultant, business and technical writer/editor, designer, cover artist, and author PA. And, if I were to write a book about marketing—not outside the realm of possibility—my credentials would help sell it.

Because, after 25 years, there are very few promotion situations I haven’t faced. Because I can explain how to sell in plain English. Because when I talk about marketing a product, past results show it is not a bad idea to listen.

Because I am an expert.

As a writer trying to sell books, making yourself an expert is a great way to create brand recognition and a following. (This should go without saying, but I am not suggesting you can tout yourself as an expert with no expertise to back it up.)

Aside from pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing (or Master’s or PhD in another academic discipline), and looking for a university teaching position, there are any number of other options that will make you a person to take seriously about the business or craft of writing, or both.

Given enough experience, you can (like me) become a professional writer/editor. You could teach classes in less formal settings, like trade groups or online. Some people set up workshops or formal critique groups. Still others work in publishing or printing or distribution, lending value in traditional or indie publishing settings.

But beyond expertise in publishing, you can also sell books by becoming an expert in your subject area or genre. Historical fiction authors are great at this, using blogs to write up their research, or writing nonfiction about their time period. But history doesn’t have to be your subject matter.

Chefs sell cookbooks by feeding people great food. Self-help authors sell books by creating workshops that help people. Motivational speakers sell books by pumping people up at appearances.

Everyone seems to sell books by writing blog posts and articles in their subject area.

You can sell books by winning contests, being written up in your local paper, giving lectures at trade shows, or being interviewed on local television.

It takes, they say, 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. By the time you are finished writing a book, are you not an expert in—if nothing else—that book?

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All for one and one for all – Tuesday Talk

Mari Christie offers us these thoughts on marketing in the Bazillion Book Marketplace.

collaborationsquidoosmall-300x300As I work through a long list of marketing plan headings for my upcoming book release—Product, Place, Price, Promotion, et al—some things strike me again and again as similar to what I have been recommending to clients for 20 years: press kits, events, giveaways…

That said, in some ways, the direction has turned 180 degrees. For instance, given the pool of new books on Kindle, even separated by genre, for a new, unknown author, the traditional start of any marketing plan, “analyzing the competition” and “creating a competitive advantage,” is ludicrous. (“I’d like to take market share from all 1,678,423 authors ahead of me on the Amazon Rankings…”)

Further, Big Publishing no longer provides significant marketing budgets for new authors, in some cases requiring we pay not only for trips to conferences, books for signings, etc., but also for simple editing and proofreading, because they no longer want to pay salaries for in-house editors. Make no mistake, any part of the process they can force from our pockets, they will—with no compunction.

A quick scan of the television lineup any night of the week should tell us that when this model places us in competition with each other, it makes money for the media conglomerates that run American entertainment, including books. (Like in reality TV, one person will win a quarter-million-dollar prize and everyone else goes home with nothing. Amazon, however, like a television network, brings in money no matter how many books we sell.)

To counteract this corporate manipulation:

Eliminate the idea of competition.

One can differentiate a book to some extent with good cover design, solid proofreading, smart keywords, price promotions, and (if a buyer gets so far as the words) good writing, but your good writing means nothing anymore until it generates 4- and 5-star reviews in the hundreds. Even then, regular sales are a long shot even professionals can’t guarantee for well-known authors, much less an indie writer who has nothing but the fortitude to finish writing a book and the temerity to publish it.

In place of the traditional American sales model, let us all agree now that we aren’t in competition with each other, and we are (almost) all in the same leaky boat. Loyal readers in your genre will read lots of authors’ books in a lifetime. Yours might or might not be one. Don’t begrudge success where any of us find it and support each other’s efforts.

  • Seek out and connect with other authors for critique, sharing of information or research, or just for moral support. Join online and real-time groups, lists, and trade associations created for authors in general, your genre in particular. These groups exist all over the internet and in every city and state (or whatever regional boundaries exist in other parts of the world).
  • In real-life and online trade groups and on indie author promotional sites, contribute, volunteer, and become part of the community. Make friends online and they will be more likely to help you promote yourself. (Social media best practice, by all accounts, and a well-known marketing strategy since the dawn of the capitalist system. Besides, how rude—and ineffective—is it to continually post promos to groups that have no vested interest in you?)
  • Give advice when you can, and don’t be stingy with your “Lessons Learned.” We all started somewhere. (To be clear, only give advice about things for which you are qualified.)
  • Go to other indie authors for services when you can—book publishing and otherwise—and barter if you are so inclined. (Personally, if I could find another experienced professional editor to trade manuscript services, I would be over the moon.)

Collaborate.

Marketing alone is as dangerous as “groupthink,” plus, it is more expensive, more time-consuming, and more depressing when it isn’t going well. Instead of “going it alone,” share marketing concepts and stay engaged with other authors, especially in your genre. Among relatively unknown entities, more new customers will be reached by co-promotion (e.g. multiple authors throwing a communal launch party) and/or cross-promotion (e.g. two authors posting contests on each other’s blogs to win copies of both books).

As matters of regular marketing practice, consider these:

  • Be each other’s first readers and reviewers. Pay it forward by leaving reviews.
  • On social media, Like/Follow/Pin/Comment/Share each other’s work. (I am now in the habit of Liking any author page that comes across my Facebook news feed, about 10 a day, and have created a Pinterest board titled, “Other Authors’ Books.”)
  • Support reviewer blogs and social media, and Like, Comment on, Retweet, and Share reviews, announcements, giveaways, blog posts, etc. (Share this blog post! :-))
  • Support independent indie author promo sites like Microcerpt, KindleMojo, or AuthorShout, as well as the obvious, well-funded players in the market, like Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Coordinate release dates, social media “parties,” even promo sale dates, to maximize potential audience. (November 26, come to a Facebook party for my new release, Royal Regard, and at least two others in the romance genre!)

Some of these practices may seem counter-intuitive, given how steeped most of us are in the idea of zero-sum marketing, but the sales world has changed (don’t I know it!). We can no longer rely on publishers to promote us, and even if we are unprepared for the new marketing process, it is prepared to make money from—and, if we play our cards right, for—us.

Keep your sales in your own pocket. Keep your marketing under your own control. Keep the indie marketplace one that acts as a cohesive whole, rather than allowing the traditional model to pick off one of us after the other until only one person has the quarter-million-dollar prize.

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Building a road to the better mousetrap – part 1 (a Tuesday Talk)

Post 3 in the series Mari Christie and I are writing on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace.

mouseIn the bazillion book marketplace…

So you’ve written a book. You’ve done all the right things. You’ve learned your craft. The book has been edited, copyedited, proofread. It has a marvellous cover.

Now all you have to do is stick it up on Amazon, and wait to grow rich?

Right?

If only it were that easy.

…those who fail to plan, plan to fail

You need a good book. You need persistence. You need a healthy dose of luck. Above all, you need a plan.

In this post (and the next) in the Bazillion Book Marketplace series, Mari and I are going to talk about what needs to be in a marketing plan for a book. (You might also want a marketing plan for Brand You, but that’s another post.)

To write a plan, you need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, how much they’re prepared to pay, and where they expect to find it. (In marketing parlance, the 4 Ps–Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.)

This week’s post looks at your reader, your book, and your price. Next week, we’ll talk about where books are sold, where they are promoted, and what marketing materials you might need.

Know your reader

Your marketing plan should start with your reader. Can you describe your typical reader? Do you know how old they are? What sort of education they have? What they do when they’re not reading? What other genres they read?

Do you know what they like about the kind of book you write? What they don’t like? What will make them keep reading and what will cause them to shut the book and hurl it across the room?

What are their hobbies, interests, passions?

Where can you meet them (online or in person or both)?

The better you can describe your typical readers, the better you can put yourself (and your book) in front of them.

Know your book

No one knows your book better than you do, right? But can you capture the essence of your book in a couple of compelling sentences that grab that typical reader by the imagination and drag them to the bookstore?

In your marketing plan, describe what about your book will appeal to your reader, then write your compelling description–your story’s tagline (some call it a logline).

Know your price

What do your readers think they should pay for a book like yours? What are they prepared to pay? Do some research. Also think about the best price points to give you a good return. Pricing ebooks is a contentious topic, and a post I wrote on this several weeks ago has been the most viewed and commented on more than any I’ve written since I started this blog.

Should you give one or more of your books away free (permanently or for a short period)? Should you put the book on a special price for a limited time? Will pricing low help you sell more books, or will it make them less valued? How does your genre affect your price? (For instance, novels are most often seen in the $2.99 – 3.99 price range, but self-help averages about $7.99.)

Next steps

Knowing who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend is a good start. In our next road to a better mouse trap post, we’ll talk about putting that knowledge to good use when deciding where and how to promote your book.

Cross posted to Mari’s blog.

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How to non-market – a Tuesday Talk

used-car-salesman-2-thumbOriginally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Mari Christie and I will be posting our thoughts on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace each week at this time. This week, it’s my turn.

I’ve spent a large part of my career as a commercial writer in my own small business. Small business owners are responsible for everything. I was writer, peer reviewer, company book-keeper, chief executive, project manager, strategic planner, stores manager, cleaner of toilets, sales person and, of course, the big ‘M’ word. The one I feared. Marketing. So I learnt how to promote my business by non-marketing; marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. Marketing that an introvert like me could do just by being myself.

It was good preparation for being a self-published writer. Again, I am running my own business. And again, I’m out in the world vigorously non-marketing.

Non-marketing is about being present

The first rule of non-marketing is to spend time with people who might want to read your book. Get to know them. Talk to them about the things that interest you. Find out what interests them. Be present.

In traditional non-marketing, writers joined Toastmasters, and Rotary, and the local bowling club. They went to book fairs and gardening clubs; talked at schools and writers’ workshops; went to dinner with agents and editors and book clubs. And we can still do all of those things.

Today, we can also spend time with people all over the world, using the Internet. You don’t have to be everywhere; choose two or more from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, blogging and all the others. Then go and meet people. Be present.

Non-marketing is about being genuine

If you want a friend, the old saying goes, you have to be a friend. The second rule of non-marketing is to offer others a helping hand. One of the things I really love about the romance writing community is the open-hearted, open-handed and genuine approach to helping others.

This isn’t about reciprocal arrangements: like my page and I’ll like yours, review my book and I’ll review yours. It isn’t about sucking up, either. Being genuine means giving because I can, because I know the answer to your question, or have the contact you need, or have a blog and would love you to be my guest.

The flashy insincere marketers might also be helpful, but always there’s an agenda. Sponsorships are often this kind of marketing. The support comes with strings attached, in the form of opportunities to sell their service or product. Sponsored by [insert name of famous soda drink here].

As non-marketers you’ll be helpful because you are genuinely interested. You want to know about the birth of a friend’s grandchild. You celebrate your friend’s acceptance letter from a publisher because you’re genuinely happy for them. You hunt your research database for an obscure fact someone has asked for. You send you a condolence message because someone’s troubles touch your heart.

Non-marketing is about offering a unique experience

If you’re present in a community who love the kind of books you write, one way you can be genuinely helpful is to offer them your book. Not in a ‘buy, buy, buy; me, me, me’ used car salesman way, but gently, as part of the conversation.

Let’s say people are talking about the kinds of protagonist they prefer. You may, if it fits in the conversation, use a description of your own protagonist to illustrate your point. Keep it short. Make it interesting.

It helps to be very clear about what you do that is different, and to have a few lines you can use. If someone asks what I write, I say ‘historical fiction with strong heroines, heroes who can appreciate them, and complex plots full of mystery and suspense’. It’s a tagline I’m working on, and constantly changing, but it’s getting there. My hero Rede is “a man driven by revenge who needs to move beyond his past before he can have a future”.

And there you have it. I’ve used my work to give two illustrations of my point. And I don’t need to belabour it until you’re bored, or sell you something today. Today, we have more important things to talk about, such as how you can turn a friend into a long-term reader.

Non-marketing is about being good at what you do

Insincere marketers rely on lots of noise to keep driving new customers to their product. Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

So write a good book. No. Cancel that. Write the best book you can. And when you’ve finished, write a better one. Never stop learning; never stop improving. Your best marketing tool is your library of successful publications.

Non-marketing is about building long-term relationships

I don’t want readers. Or, at least, I don’t want just readers. I want to make friends who will stay with me for the journey.

Readers, yes. People who find I offer them a reading experience they can’t get from anyone else, so they wait for my next book and pounce on it as soon as it goes on preorder. People who will contact me and tell me what they like, discuss my characters, adopt my heroes as book boyfriends and my heroines as bff, argue about the motivations of my villains, pick up some of my subtle jokes and codes.

And fellow writers. People who will laugh at the things I laugh at, tell stories about their craft that inspire, amuse, or dismay, help me out and accept my help, understand the journey — its costs and its rewards.

Above all, I want friends who care about books and about story telling, and who are happy to talk about them. And the heart of non-marketing is making friends.

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How to market your book: a Tuesday Talk with Mari Christie

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Mari and I will be posting our thoughts on marketing in a bazillion book marketplace each week at this time.


billboard-951520-m“Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More…”

I date myself with this reference to The Music Man (and finally publicly admit my long-time love of musical theatre), but I find it inexplicably accurate when discussing word-of-mouth marketing.

Most readers will not tell their friends how great you are. Sadly, your book is not their primary topic of conversation. However, word-of-mouth marketing is the best, and least expensive, tool you have.

Always has been. Always will be.

Further, this is the way people make buying decisions now—recommendations from friends and respected experts—which is why social media campaigns sell. Static advertising is no longer effective. (Let me say that again: Advertising no longer works.)

Now, the most effective forms of promotion involve conversation. This means review sites, blogs, co- and cross-promotion with other authors, book clubs, signings, and most important, two concepts with more meaning than you think: “Buzz” and “viral” marketing.

Buzz Marketing, as the name implies, is about people talking about your product. However, its specific meaning in the marketing world moves beyond organic discussion. In marketing parlance, buzz is generated by designing the conversations you want people to have. A great example is drug commercials: “talk to your doctor about [insert medication].” If you think lovers of Gone with the Wind will buy your book, tell them why your hero is like Rhett Butler. If they agree, they will tell friends who also love Southern historical fiction. (If they don’t agree, the strategy will backfire, so design your conversations carefully.)

Viral Marketing, like a cat video shared ten million times on YouTube, is created by giving someone an item to pass along. This might be a video trailer or coupon or a sample book or a rack card, but should always be designed to bring people back to your product. A bookmark is lovely, but without an easy link to a buy site (not just your website), its usefulness is limited. Likewise, a pass-along no one passes along is irrelevant.

To achieve these all-but-magical forms of promotion, back to my third-favorite musical of all time (before you ask, Camelot and My Fair Lady).

Pick a Little

Loglines, elevator speeches, and blurbs aren’t just for the back cover (or pitching an agent) anymore. Today, you are pitching everyone who might be interested, including people you will never meet.

Identify thought leaders: Since customers take their advice from friends and experts, pick your targets carefully. Street teams work because their friends probably have similar tastes and are more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than yours. Similarly, if a noted authority (like a bestselling author or well-known reviewer) supports your product, buyers will listen.

Keep it short: Loglines work better than blurbs for verbal and social media exchange. “[Book Title] is about [if you have to take a breath, your conversation is too long].”

Start smart: Choose a limited number of outlets and messages until you know what works, and track your results. Indiscriminate efforts are wasted. Begin small and only escalate what sells.

Create Meaningful Messages: Make much of milestones, like bestseller lists, publication anniversaries, or selling a certain number of copies, because these tidbits are easily shared by loyal fans. Promote great reviews, especially ones by thought leaders.

Talk a Little

Begin with human interaction, not calculated conversation starters. Get to know your audience—and let them get to know you—by joining and participating in:

  • Writers’ groups. While the “author water cooler” is, in some ways, counter-intuitive, authors help each other and classes in craft will never hurt your chances of success. To make this most effective, remember that turnabout is fair play; giving back to the community is imperative, not optional.
  • Social groups related to your interest, online and otherwise, for instance, online research-sharing groups, a gardening society, or a historical reenactment troupe.
  • Relevant associations, like historical preservation societies, religious study groups, or scientific research consortiums.

When you have found a niche or two where you feel comfortable, attend meetings, volunteer, speak up in online forums, and generally make yourself known, not just as an author, but as a contributor. The chance to talk about your book will occur naturally, and your audience will be more receptive.

Cheep (or Rather, Cheap)

Word-of-mouth is the least expensive marketing option. When it begins to move on its own, it costs you nothing, and before it does, most of your outlay is in time, not cash. A couple of ideas to stimulate buzz and viral messaging:

Cheap

Giveaways: Sending an e-copy of your book to a potential reader is a great investment. That said, give away the book or directly related items, not “anything someone might want,” and don’t spend more than your sale is worth. Also, target your giveaway. It makes no sense to give a novel to someone who only reads nonfiction. Copies to reviewers are great, but don’t send a historical romance novel to Suspense Magazine.

Cheap

Sales: Judiciously lowering the price on your book is great way to get word-of mouth moving. If you watch social media, you will see that “This book I loved is only 99?!” is shared far more often than, “I loved this book.” If you combine sales with similar authors, so much the better, because then you are sharing a larger pool of readers interested in your genre.

Talk a Lot

Once you know which conversations to have and with whom, spread them around! Every sentence can’t start with, “My book,” or the pass-along will be “boring and self-centered.” But as you find the balance between normal interaction and sales, you will naturally find opportunities for both.

Pick a Little More

As time goes on, expand your conversation starters, extend your reach to new thought leaders, and find new outlets for your message. But always—always—make sure the words you are putting in other people’s mouths are ones you want repeated.


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

 

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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