Category Archives: Marketing

How the Heck Can I Sell My Books – Guest post by Melissa Foster

I’m thrilled to have bestselling author, marketing coach, and entrepreneur Melissa Foster with me today, to talk about this crazy thing called marketing. Melissa has a program called Fostering Success that I’d highly recommend – it was one of the first things I did as an indie, and the Facebook group is awesome.

 

As you know, a writer’s life is rarely really just a writing life. The typical writer might also have a full-time job, a family, volunteer efforts—a plethora of other activities other than writing. My life is a little like a constant tornado whirling around me—and I’m the eye of the storm.

I’m asked quite often what it really takes to sell books. I’d like to not only cover what it takes to sell books, but also what it takes to maintain your sales—and your writing.

The most important thing that one can do is to start with a good product—a well written, professionally edited, and professionally covered book (or ebook). Once you’ve achieved that, then you are standing in the middle of a crowd of over 1.5 million other writers. Get your marketing hat on, because the next leg of your journey is an uphill one, and you’ll need the strength of many people behind you.

Next on your agenda is a marketing plan. A marketing plan is your plan of attack to get your books noticed, and it must be ever-present. Think of McDonald’s versus Arby’s—which fast food restaurant comes to mind when you’re hungry and need a drive-thru? Of course it’s McDonalds, they’re everywhere; billboards, print media, radio, television. Everyone my age (ahem) probably remembers this—take a deep breath— twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun. One long word, and if you said it fast enough, you won a Big Mac. Yup, I won, even had a t-shirt with the very long word on it.

Where should you market? Social media, print ads, online ads, and blog tours. If you can think of a place where you might be found, you should be there, and there are many ways to get noticed that cost almost nothing, but they do take hard work. Magazines and blogs, for example, accept short stories and articles, but they must be well thought out and well written.

How else can you get that presence? Give back, give often, and give genuinely.

 

I preach, and I live by, the premise of giving back and cross-promoting. If you’re on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen the #WLC tweets. World Literary Cafe (previously WoMEN’s Literary Café–hosting both men and women) is a literary community that I developed to bring readers and authors together, to teach authors how to succeed, to bring exposure to their books in a manner that is beneficial and long-term attainable (a week long promotion averages $35, and we have many free programs as well). We are building a community based on paying-it-forward and giving back more than we receive. We strive to bridge the gap between readers, authors and author services (bloggers, reviewers, cover artists, editors, etc), and do it in a way that is beneficial for everyone.

The beauty of cross promotion is that the venues for this are endless. Avid readers read many books each month, some, each week. What better way to help a friend than to refer their books? When you shout, “Read my book!” many turn a deaf ear, but everyone loves to hear, “I recently read….” or “My friend wrote a book. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds great. It’s called…” Readers will respect you for not being self-serving, your friend will benefit, and even though you didn’t sell your book, what goes around comes around. Karma is a great equalizer (yes, I say this often, and I believe in it).

Never worry about competition, or being the one who sells the most. As for competition, writing is not a competitive sport. Others will try to copy your means—heck people take my exact tweets and duplicate them. That’s cool—someone said to me recently that copycats are the greatest form of flattery. It’s true, I just never understand the desire to strike away from the crowd instead of joining them. I find joy from seeing others succeed, and even greater joy from watching them pay-it-forward. I invite the literary community to join us under our community umbrella.

Marketing is a full-time job, and there’s no magic bullet. You could sell 5000 books this month and two books the next. Remember this on your climb up the ladder: Fame is short lived, friendship is eternal. I strive for the friendships. When I’m old and (even more) gray, any modicum of fame will be long forgotten, but friends will be by my side, telling me it’s okay to move toward that big computer keyboard in the sky.

So, how can you sell your books? What will it take, and how hard is it to get there? Establish a presence. Join a community that will help you reach your potential, and plan on working hard. We all have the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis. This marketing life, this writing life, can be a lonely path. It doesn’t have to be. WLC is here for you.

 

 

 

Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of three International bestselling novels, Megan’s Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She has also been published in Indie Chicks, an anthology. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and the World Literary Cafe, a cross-promotional site for authors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way.

Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she’s written for Calgary’s Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa’s interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

 

YOU CAN FIND MELISSA ON HER WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, AND TWITTER.

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The “S” Word – Guest Post by Natalie Buske Thomas

self-promotion

Do you hate the “S” word? Self promotion sounds ugly, doesn’t it? Indeed, people bristle at the slightest whiff of it. I knew I wouldn’t make it long as an author and artist if I didn’t find a way to make self promotion fit my personality. If you’re like me, and you want warm fuzzy promotion that fits into your comfort zone, give these S words a try:

1.     Shutterbug it! I’m more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. When I attend author events, festivals, and other public gatherings I take pictures of everything (displays, vendors, festival grounds, the convention building, etc.). I don a journalist hat (not literally), and ask people if they want me to feature them on my author site/blog/Facebook page—so far no one has ever turned down my offer. I feel much more comfortable promoting others than I do promoting myself. Of course when exhibitors visit their photos on my social media pages they then see my promotional material, and so do their friends, and friends of friends. The “Warm Fuzzy”? I often make new lasting connections that go beyond networking and settle into real friendships.

2.     Share it! Teaching, directing and serving are my social comfort zones. I share my life in person, and also online through photographs, videos, tweets, statuses, posts, blogs, and stories. Some of these experiences are directly related to my work and some are not. One of my most popular pins on Pinterest is a photo of a hummingbird planter. I came up with a nifty idea to use a shepherd’s hook planter, an inexpensive metal plant stand with a hook. I added a pot of tall bushy flowers to the bottom stand area and used the hook to hang the hummingbird feeder from. This idea has nothing to do with my career, but hummingbird enthusiasts who saw my pin may have also looked at my Pinterest board, where of course my promotional material greets every visitor.

3.     Say it! I know that experts often warn authors and artists not to reveal behind the scenes details, and to fake-it-before-you-make-it. I do agree that it’s the mark of an amateur to whine and vent about one’s career, but I take issue with the “fake it” part. I am open and honest in my communications with readers, fans and the general public. It’s not so much of a marketing strategy as it is giving myself permission to hold fast to who I am. Self promotion doesn’t mean that I must sell my soul. My fan base is small, but growing, and they are intensely loyal. If being genuine has cost me the respect of more polished connections, I can live with that. I say what I mean, I mean what I say, and that’s how I can feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t hold back; I stay true to who I am.

My warm fuzzy promotion has led me down unexpected paths. I held a pet photo contest to determine which animal would be adopted by one of the characters in my Serena Wilcox series. The third place winner was Roxy, a beautiful Jack Russell from Ireland. One thing led to another and Roxy’s “person” and I became friends. Not only that, but she has offered to help me trace my Irish roots. But wait, there’s more! She spoke to her library’s director about my books. My hardcover trilogy is now in a library in Ireland! That means the world to me. My father died when he was thirty-seven. I was sixteen. My mother is gone now too. I have no living grandparents either. The Ireland connection is emotional for me and for my father’s sister.

When I put myself out there and make warm fuzzy connections, I never know what might happen. If you’re like me and you hate self promotion, consider instead that you can live your best life through the “other” three S words. You’ll sell more books just by being your natural self. But more importantly, you’ll enjoy promotion much more than you thought you would. And who knows? You might find unexpected blessings along the way.

Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie Buske Thomas is the author of the Serena Wilcox trilogies (mystery/thrillers, time travel, YA, Christian fiction). She is also an artist and entertainer. Try book #1, Angels Mark free for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and Wattpad.

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Working on an audiobook

ACX

A few months ago, I decided to do an audiobook for Solomon’s Throne. Well, actually, I’d spoken to a friend with a great voice when I first published it, and he agreed, only to be stricken with a long-term case of sinusitis. Then we found out that, to publish an audiobook on ACX/Audible, you have to fully produce it or else hire someone who narrates and produces. Since we have zero ability to produce it, and since it would take approximately five hundred years of studio time to record it (okay, maybe not quite that long), I decided to go the audition route.

So here’s the deal with ACX. You load your book info in, with an excerpt for the talent to audition with. You can listen to examples of the actors’ work by filtering through a ton of categories. You can choose male/female, region of the country, age, accent, and then a lot of crazy narrative types like: story teller, authoritative, brooding, cowboy, comedic, quirky, perky, seductive, sheepish, nasal, and on and on. It gets pretty overwhelming. Once you find some voices you like, you can request an audition. In my experience, not all will respond. It probably depends on how you’re willing to pay (more about that below), and if they think the project fits their style. Additionally, actors can find your book on their own and send an audition.

ACX notifies you when you have a new audition. I have one pending right now, but ACX and Amazon (which owns it) is down. (Weird, huh??)  You can listen to your auditions an unlimited number of times — I find it helpful to let my kids listen, as well. We’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks as a family, and they’re pretty good at knowing good voices. You can communicate with the actors in this process, too. For instance, an actor may have done the audition in narrative style, no using other “voices” for the characters. You can request that they do it with a story-telling style using distinct voices. (This is my personal preference.)

Now obviously, this isn’t free. There are two ways you can approach the payment. The first is that you pay the actor their hourly fee for the finished hours of the piece. Actors list their hourly rates in their profiles, so you can easily see if someone is out of your budget. For instance, I didn’t contact people over $200 an hour, but was contacted by an agency who wanted to send me voice samples. Their prices ranged from $250-1000 an hour! That was way out of my league. As I said, the price is for finished hour. At 93,000 words, Solomon’s Throne is estimated to come out somewhere around 10.1 hours. The estimated studio time for that length book is 4-6 hours per finished hour. So you can see that it’s a lot of work for the talent to get to the finished product.

The second way to approach payment is through revenue sharing. ACX has a set revenue share schedule, so percentages aren’t negotiable. This is a good way to go if you don’t have the money to invest, but be aware that the revenue sharing is for the life of the audiobook. So if it does really well, you could end up paying significantly more than the $2,000 or whatever it might have cost for you to pay the actor a set fee. Again, the actors will indicate in their profiles if they are interested in revenue sharing. If this is the only way you can produce the book, make sure to put that in your book’s profile, and don’t solicit auditions from actors who only accept flat fees.

Now, I haven’t done this next step, so this is my understanding of how it works. When I actually do it (probably not until October now, since I’ll be in Uganda Sept 12-Oct 2), I’ll update you on how it goes. Once you enter into an agreement, which is all done through ACX to provide protection and accountability to both sides, the work starts. When the actor gets 30 min of the book done, you review it and make any tweaks, suggestions, changes, etc. that you want. If the actor isn’t capturing the voices right, this is the time to make those changes. Don’t be shy – this is your chance to make sure the book is done to your satisfaction.

After this, the actor finishes the narration and production. I believe (but, since ACX is still down, I can’t verify) that you can make a small amount of editorial changes to the final product. Less than 10%? I’m not sure… Not much, at any rate. Once you are in agreement that it’s done, it’s posted. I’m not sure where you pay in this process, as I haven’t gotten there yet. And then you’re off and running!

I’m excited to do it, I’ve just gotten sidetracked with writing, my daughter’s wedding, summer, and my recent trip to Andros. I’m hoping it could be out by Christmas… But if I don’t start til October, that might be a stretch. Once ACX is back up, I’ll listen to this latest audition and go from there. I have my favorite up to this point, and if this new one isn’t as good, I’ll probably contact him and explain my timing and see what his is. I’m excited and nervous and excited… I love audiobooks. It’s all I listen to when I’m driving. I really want to do the IXEOS books. So this is a springboard, and I want it to go well!

Stay tuned!

audiobook

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Pricing, marketing and Amazon

marketing

I am sitting in an airport lounge early in the morning, bleary eyed and wishing I drank caffeine. I’ve never been a morning person, and I can’t drink caffeine anymore, so… yeah, not a good combo. The reason it’s an issue this morning is that I am trying to make sense of my marketing calendar. Now, theoretically, this calendar keeps my marketing strategy organized. And it certainly keeps me more organized than not having one. But I wouldn’t say I have developed a fool-proof system quite yet!

My problem today is that I was supposed to raise the price on Undaunted Love last night and forgot (we were celebrating my son’s 17th birthday, so I do have an excuse!). I had lowered the purchase price of the Kindle edition to $1.99 after my super successful free promo, and the sale ended yesterday. Amazon takes anywhere from 6-24 hours to make changes when you use the Kindle dashboard, although I’ve found it’s really more like 6-8, so I’d intended to do it last night. Oh well…

And what my brain was working on was what price to use. For the most part, my books are priced at $3.99. I think that’s a good price, which I arrived at after having them at $2.99 awhile and experimenting. I didn’t see any dip in sales when I moved them to $3.99, so that’s where I landed. So that seems straight forward, except nothing in this business is! I have left IXEOS at $2.99, since it is book 1 of the IXEOS Trilogy for the last couple of weeks, and probably will keep it there as an inducement for people to start reading the series. I may do the same for Solomon’s Throne, or I may wait until I have the 3rd book out. Undaunted Love is basically a stand-alone book, as it’s the only historical romance. There’s nowhere for the readers to go from there, although I do think that most of the Undaunted Love fans would enjoy the Quinn Adventures. So as my fingers hovered over the keys, I tried to decide: $2.99 or $3.99. Yeah, it’s only a buck difference, and a buck difference in my bank account. But with enough sales, those bucks add up!

I decided to leave it at $2.99 and see what happens over the 10 days I’m gone. I may or may not have internet, and even if I do, I discovered last year that I can’t change anything on my Amazon dashboard from an ISP out of the country. I could text my daughter to change things for me – she’s in charge of changing the price on my husband’s book next Friday – but I’ll probably leave it for 10 days and see what happens.

And there’s the “moral” of this tale… Most of what we do as indie authors is “try it and see what happens.” KDP Select works for me, but some people have very little success. Smashwords, Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble work great for some people; I’ve heard tell of authors who get 50% of their Amazon sales from those combined. For me, Amazon accounts for 98% of my sales, so the exclusivity issue isn’t an issue. (And I like getting the borrows on my books (about $2/ea), and the free days can be fun.) BookBub works great for me, as I’ve written about before; some people either can’t get listed or don’t have a lot of downloads from it. Ditto the many other marketing outlets. (I had 2 free days with IXEOS earlier this week, and used Book Gorilla and eBookBooster. I just over 1,000 downloads, as opposed to over 20,000 last time when I used BookBub.)

So don’t be afraid to experiment. At first, you’re going to “waste” a good bit of money on marketing. That’s okay! First of all, it’s a tax deductible business expense. Second, you don’t know what does work until you’ve tried a lot of things that don’t. When you find what works, ride it until it starts to fade. Then start over. Kind of like the old “lather, rinse, repeat” that shampoo bottles used to endorse. Even the best marketing plan will go stale with time, and you will have reached all the people using those outlets. You can do one of two things – stay with what you’ve done and wonder what’s wrong with your book (nothing), or adapt to the changing times. Just like all businesses, those who adapt have the best chance of survival.

Marketing is hard (and book pricing is part of marketing). But it’s not impossible, especially if you approach it with the right mindset. And if we all stick together!

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Marketing Non-fiction – the Dark Chasm

black-hole_00266487

There is a ton of information out there by indie authors, for indie authors, on marketing fiction. Blogs, books, Facebook groups, you name it. But dare to venture into the world of indie non-fiction, and you are suddenly lost in the dark. Don’t believe me? Google it. (Or Bing it. Or Duck-Duck-Go it. You get the picture.)  And if your book is at all controversial (think politics or religion), then forget about it. Even places that do routinely feature at least some non-fiction will turn you down because they don’t want to rock the boat. I get that, but it’s frustrating.

Here are the options and routes I’ve discovered so far in this journey. (To clarify, I’m finding promo sites for my husband’s book on the 2012 election, which is, apparently, as shocking and polarizing as saying that I was abducted by aliens. Actually, more so. People write about getting abducted by aliens all the time!) Okay, back to the marketing.

BookBub, which is fabulous for a lot of types of fiction, will not take controversial material. Now, this is an educated guess on my part due to several factors, because they never tell anyone they turn down the reasons for their rejection. But another, similar site, does, and that was their explanation. Also, BookBub only has “General Non-fiction” rather than Current Events or Politics, so the fit may not be that great for their subscribers anyway. You can always try it – you don’t pay until they accept you – but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Book Gorilla. This is the site/service that’s similar to BookBub. They are currently reading the book to decide whether or not to take it. I have paid (and paid for a spotlight feature), but they will return my money if they decide not to promo the book. They’ve been very easy to work with and clear in their explanation and apologies, so no hard feelings. Again, the explanation was that they don’t present things to their subscribers that are controversial/polarizing. (Which brings up a point… Shouldn’t we all be able to see the cover of a book in a list of books and not feel personally affronted if it disagrees with our own worldview? I mean, it’s just a photo, right? Sometimes… Well, never mind.)

EBook Booster. They took the ad and ran with it. Now, whether all 45+ of the sites they post to will run it, I don’t know. But there was no hesitancy on their part to take it. I suspect they just take anything that isn’t heavy erotica, but I’m not sure about that. So far, so good, anyway.

FreeBooksy. I have placed the ad request and paid. They take a day or two to get back to you, usually, so I’m not sure if they’ll run it or not. I’ve had success with my novels on this sight, and they do have a Non-Fiction genre, so fingers crossed. UPDATE: We’re good to go!

BlogAd consolidators. I have just discovered this, and am going to get on it after I receive banner ads of the correct size from my graphic artist. What I finally did in desperation was type “advertise conservative sites” in the search engine. This one came up, and it has links to a lot of great sites for my husband’s book, so I’ll be placing ads. It’s expensive, but it seems that most things having to do with non-fiction are. You can break down your search into just about any type of blog/topic, and then select the ones you want to advertise on. The prices vary hugely – advertising on Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip site starts at $1442 for a little ad. Towleroad starts at $2200. But Legal Insurrection is $30, Kindle Buffet is $21, and This Ain’t Hell But You Can See It From Here is $10. (In other words, all price points for ALL TYPES of blogs!) This is probably the easiest way to hit your target audience with non-fiction.

Guest posting. One of the things about non-fiction is that it seems that people are a lot more competitive. Most novelists in the indie world see their fellow novelists, even in the same genre, as co-adventurers. But boy, in non-fiction, all bets are off! I guess if you write non-fiction, you are pretty sure you’re right, and you want people to buy YOUR book on your topic, and no one else’s. However, it is still possible to find some amenable souls with whom to exchange articles/blog posts, if you’re diligent and nice and complimentary and not too competitive. (For instance, if your book is called The One and Only Houdini, you might not want to approach another author/blogger whose book is called The Definitive Guide to Houdini. Just sayin’.) The worst someone can say is no, and if you offer space in your blog/Facebook/Twitter in exchange, they may just go for it.

Tweeting services. I’m on the fence about this one, because book tweeting services are geared towards fiction, so I don’t know that you are getting the most bang for your buck. However, the couple we’ve used have been willing to discount their price because of that very thing, so it may be worth a shot. The better plan might be to find someone with a similar following to yours (and this is a lot more broad, perhaps, than with blogging), and again, offer to cross-promote with them.

Giveaways. We are planning a Rafflecopter giveaway for WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost… Again. Rafflecopter is super easy to use, and if you have a good giveaway, it’s a great way to boost your Facebook Likes, your Twitter followers, and your mailing list. You can give people who enter the chance to get more entries by Liking you on FB, retweeting the giveaway, or answering a question, plus you get their info in a csv file and can add them to your mailing list. Then ask your followers to retweet the giveaway, too. If it’s a good one, they will. I recently did one for my novel Solomon’s Throne, which has a ton of travel to cool locations in it. I made a “travel pack” with a great, packable hat, a cool bag, a hot/cold water bottle, some lip balm, and two signed books from the Quinn series. It was valued at over $150, and I got a lot of entries, plus the winner was so excited that she was tweeting about it all over the place, giving me more exposure. (And that $150 is a tax write-off!)

Book blasts. I haven’t tried this yet for WTF?, but I’m going to, because this has been a huge thing for my sci-fi trilogy. When I combined a book blast with a giveaway worth over $175 (an Ixeos survival pack that included a Northface backpack, a pocket atlas, a tee shirt, and a bunch of other ‘survival’ items plus signed books), we had over 9,000 entries! So I’m going to approach my usual book blast gals, Book Nerd Tours, and see if they’re open. I’ve also used I Am a Reader for book blasts, so I’ll try them, too. If neither want to try it, I’ll keep searching!

Mailing lists. I think this is probably very effective for non-fiction, especially if you write multiple books on your topic. I don’t love mailing lists — I just did my first newsletter of 2013 recently! — but if people are interested enough to sign up, go for it! Just keep it content oriented, not simply an ad for your book. A lot of the people who’ve signed up will have already read it. They want new stuff!

Blog/website/landing page. A lot of non-fiction books have landing pages. My husband’s is www.TokyoRove.com. It’s a good idea, and content should be updated frequently. Same goes for your blog and website. Non-fiction readers, particularly of current events, are voracious in their appetite for news and ideas. Give it to them! Be the place they go when they want to know the latest.

Keywords. This is a biggie for non-fiction. You get 7 keywords for your Kindle listing (numbers vary for other publishing outlets). You need to update these frequently, based on what is trending in your genre and on your topic. If you’re compared in a review to a best-selling author, put that author’s name in your keywords for awhile, so people searching for them will also find you. If a topic is trending that pertains to your book, put that in your keywords. Update MONTHLY to stay on top of trends and capture all the searches you can.

That’s all I’ve got so far! It is definitely harder to market non-fiction online than it is fiction, although it’s a lot easier to market it in person. Go to conventions and get a booth, offer to speak on your topic, approach local radio to be a guest, offer your book to groups at a discount. Be creative and proactive. After all, you’re an expert! There are a million (actually more like a billion!) books out there, and you have to get yours in front of your target audience. Build a tribe and all that…

Have more ideas? Let me know! And soon!!

Yep, I’m a bestseller! (What???) And you can find all my books on Amazon!

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