4 Things I Learned From Self-Publishing

A person choosing a book from a large selectionIn the world of authors, no other subject is more mysterious, nebulous, and insane than self-publishing. It’s so nuts, there are a host of gurus out there with courses you can take (for only $59!) which will unfold the mysteries so you can claim the bag o’cash awaiting you on the other side. Well, I tried self-publishing, and I’m here to tell you what I learned, for better or worse.

  1. Edit, edit, edit. Since there is no one out there in self-publishing land who will automatically keep watch for misspelled words and grammatical errors, you have to make sure you edit. And then edit again. And then edit some more. Probably four more times. Then hire a professional. Then go through it one more time. It never fails that once you’ve hit the ‘Publish’ button, you find the typo on page three that says IF instead of IT, and you face-palm yourself, wondering how many people saw it, and how many other times you did that in this manuscript. The upside? You can re-upload content after you fix errors. Can’t do that with traditional publishing.
  2. You have to do ALL the work. There is no one to help you figure out how things work. No one is mounting a huge marketing campaign, or booking book tours for you, or hiring editors, cover designers, and so on. It’s allllll YOU. It’s time consuming and can be frustrating. Here, patience is key. Make sure you give yourself enough time, and don’t rush into anything. The book will still be there tomorrow. Chill out.
  3. You get ALL the rewards. The reason self-publishing is so attractive? Royalties. You get to keep anywhere from 35% to 70% of the money your book makes (depending on how you publish and with whom), and that is a significant amount. You also have full transparency—you see exactly how many copies sell, and in what format, so you can track what you are owed. It’s awesome. Publishing houses take most of the money your book makes to pay for things like marketing and book tours, while self-publishing leaves these costs to you.
  4. It doesn’t end after you hit ‘Publish’. That is only the beginning. You have to continue to market your book and find your audience, and keep at it. You also have to find time to write more stuff so you can publish more stuff so you can write more stuff so you can….you get the idea.  It’s a constant circle: write, publish, market, market, market, write, repeat. You will be married to this project for a long time.

There are a shit-ton of books in the world. What else happens when you hit ‘Publish’? Nothing. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. Why? Because no one knows who the hell you are or what your book is! You must get out there and scream from the mountaintops that you have a book that people MUST read or their lives will be incomplete, and you have to get people to believe it. And this has to be true, so they tell other people. There are more and more books being self-published each year, so it’s noisy out there. But if you can be heard, then jump right in!

 

Photo Credit: Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

Building the Buzz: The 15 Sites that Made my Book Hot

the book cover of More by Mariah McKenzie

Do you remember that ad from the 80s where the guy holds up an egg and says, “This is your brain.”  Then he cracks the egg into the hot frying pan and says, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Well, I have a flip side positive one for us writers about the benefits of marketing. 

This is your book:

This is your book on promotions:

a graph showing a lot of activity

Any questions?

Seriously though.  When I did a series of e-book promotions this year, the impact amazed me.  Several times over the course of several months my book skyrocketed to the Amazon bestseller list in several categories.

It got my attention.

I began to appreciate that unless I reach out and tell people my book exists, nobody knows it exists. There are simply too many books out there (over five million on Amazon Kindle).  For me, this hit home particularly hard because I had written it under a pseudonym. I didn’t even have the benefit of bootstrapping awareness for my book through a personal network of family and friends.  

I began to research what e-book promotions were available and how it worked.  I found some basic criteria that needed to be met. Often, you need to have at least five good reviews, and you needed to reduce the Kindle price to between $0.99 and $2.99 to help promote it.  I had the requisite reviews, and my publisher agreed to discount it for a period of time. The rest was up to me.

Below is a summary of the different promotions I tried with a note as to how much I spent and my experience.  This stuff doesn’t come free, but it’s not as crazy as I expected. One thing to note is that you do have to coordinate your promotional pricing with the dates of the promotion.  I requested my publisher reduce the price for a period and then signed up for several different promotions that fell within that period. Some companies require more notice than others, and sometimes my promotions were bunched up around the same time.  

The best part though? This was fun!  I was a patron of my art and supremely entertained by the process. It’s amazing how satisfying it is to do a one-day promotion and then obsessively watch on Amazon’s Author Central Ranking the fruits of your effort as your graph line goes up.  Don’t forget to check the author guidelines to make sure your book qualifies!

Books Butterfly

 https://www.booksbutterfly.com/bookpromotion/paidbookpromotion/

Books Butterfly promotes ebooks through various email lists, social media, and the website. What makes Books Butterfly stand out from other such sites is that they guarantee a minimum number of downloads for your book or you receive part of your payment back.

  • I did the new release option $70 for five days. I appreciated working with them. It seemed like I wasn’t making their sales guarantee although my ranking went up considerably (3000%). They listened and extended the sale for three days and tried different markets; they also told me about other venues to try, including the two below. They offered neat tracking software: www.trackmyrank.com (an interesting site where you can see hourly if you are making any sales).

Robin Reads  

https://robinreads.com/author-signup/

Books promoted specifically by genre. Books must have a good cover and good reviews to be selected. No minimum reviews.

  • They have a review process, and the book has to be approved.  I did a one-day promotion on April 16 for $55 in the non-fiction category.  On that one day, I had a 4000% increase in my rank and made it to the bestseller top ten in three different categories on Amazon Kindle. You have to wait 90 days before you can promote again.

Ereader news  

https://ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-book-submissions/

Promotes bargain books to its subscriber list.

  • Another one-day promotion for $45—this one wasn’t quite as spectacular but still resulted in a 400% increase in my rank

Author Buzz

AuthorBuzz is a marketing service for authors and publishers. Authors write short notes for readers, librarians, booksellers and so forth, which AuthorBuzz then distributes via platforms such as Shelf-Awareness.com, DearReader.com, BookMovement.com, PublishersMarketplace.com, and KindleNationDaily.com. AuthorBuzz can also create and place adverts on social media and relevant websites, on an author’s behalf. 

  • I decided to try a heavy hitter approach during the summer and engaged Author Buzz. They cost more (a little over $100 per day), and the promotion tends to last for longer, so the initial outlay is more (I spent $1500) but the money spent includes the creation of ad copy that you can use elsewhere.  They recommended I try a Bookbub ad. (Bookbub ads are affiliated with Bookbub but not Bookbub itself, which is notoriously hard to get into and even more expensive to use. Bookbub ads piggy-backs on Bookbub readers, as I understand it.) My ranking steadily went up and stayed up the entire time, and while I did not recoup my investment, I did sell 100 books over the two week period, plus I had the ad that I could use for other things.

Bookrunes

http://bookrunes.com/submit-book/

  • $25 one day (7/29); uptick in ranking

Booksends

https://booksends.com/expanded_guidelines.php

The total number of subscribers isn’t available, but the most popular email list has 120,000 people signed up for it. They have some minimum criteria for inclusion including at least five reviews with a high overall rating.  

  • $50, one day (7/29). I did notice an uptick in ranking after this promotion.

Facebook Ads

I also decided to do some Facebook ads to coincide with some of my promotions.  I had read that Facebook ads do not necessarily result in sales, but I was interested in increasing exposure. My ads were relatively inexpensive:

  • $35 4/1 (61 engaged)
  • $35   4/7 (71 engaged)
  • $18 7/16 (239 engaged)
  • $100 to promote my website for an extended period

Book Gorilla

http://www.bookgorilla.com/advertise

Book Gorilla has 350,000 subscribers, split across numerous genre-specific newsletters. Subscribers can select whether to receive details of 12, 25, or 50 books in each newsletter. This is a great deal more than BookBub, so it is easier to get included, although you’re also competing with many more books in one email. It costs between $40 and $100 to list a book in a newsletter. Unlike BookBub, BookGorilla doesn’t provide details of the average number of ebook downloads which result from being included in a newsletter.  

  • I thought my promotional pricing was going to end at the end of August and managed to squeak in one last six-day promotion for $175 (8/25 to 8/30).  This resulted in a nice uptick in my graph.

The Fussy Librarian

http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/

The Fussy Librarian emails members with suggestions for fiction and non-fiction e-books that match their individual preferences. Subscribers can select their favorite genres, and the level of profanity, violence, and sexual content they’re comfortable with. There are 121,000 subscribers in total. 90,000 are signed up to the most popular category: romance-contemporary.  

  • I did two separate one-day promotions (7/22 and 8/19) for $25 each.  This was a good group to work with.

The Books Machine

http://www.thebooksmachine.com/deals/dealspromote.html

The Books Machine promotes Kindle Daily Deals via their website and a daily newsletter. There is a membership fee for authors wanting to list their book on the site. Readers can then click the link to buy the book, or request it as a ‘gift’ in exchange for an honest review on a site of the author’s choice, e.g., Amazon.

  • I signed up for one month (7/19 to 8/19) for $10 but couldn’t tell if I noticed anything from it

I found out almost too late that my promotional pricing was lasting through September and managed to sign up for several one-day promotions before my pricing went up.  I did see my ranking and sales increase with these.

That’s my story.  But here is one last resource: a link to a site that collates a whole bunch of promotion sites, including many of those above, but also some I haven’t tried.  The first section has to do with books that are being offered for free. I did not do this as my publisher did not agree. The second section is sites that help promote books being offered for a bargain price, generally $2.99 or less:

https://kindlepreneur.com/list-sites-promote-free-amazon-books/#

the book cover of More by Mariah McKenzie

Mariah McKenzie is the award-winning author of More . . . Journey to mystical union through the sacred and the profane—a spiritual memoir about the deep yearning within us all and within our relationships for more intimacy, more connection, more mystery and more awe despite the challenges keeping us from that. Mariah has dedicated a significant portion of life to exploring consciousness and ecstatic living.  She leads writing and meditation groups and classes.

For more information visit:  www.sacredjourneytomore.com or  Mariah’s Facebook. Contact her directly at Mariah@mariah-mckenzie.com

Photos provided by Mariah McKenzie

Would Shakespeare Tweet? #Maybe, Part 2, by Guest Blogger, Lisa Whalen

Bubba the cat hiding under a bookshelfLast month, I wrote about how my cat, Bubba, inspires me. Eighteen months after I adopted him from the Animal Humane Society, he continues overcoming fear and learning to trust despite past trauma. In fact, his playful batting of a stuffed mouse beneath a bookcase, as pictured, prompted me to overcome fear and learn to Tweet despite past (and present) introversion.

I discovered that Twitter doesn’t embody Othello’s famous line, “Chaos is come again.” It even provides benefits I hadn’t imagined. Here’s what I learned:  

  • Lurk. The same cacophony I dreaded allowed me to sit on Twitter’s banks and observe unnoticed while I figured out how its currents flowed and its rapids broke. I didn’t have to dive in unless and until I was ready. #soundandfury   #introvert

 

  • Make Twitter work for you. It is a tool, after all. Follow people you can learn from: writers, artists, editors, publishers. Check in on organizations that interest you, like nonprofits and hobbyist associations. #AWPW2W

 

  • Do you. If you don’t want to tweet, don’t. I started by thinking of Twitter as a device for professional development. Following writers and publishers exposed me to titles I could add to my reading list, writing tips I could apply, and associations I could join. Before I knew it, I was bobbing along on Twitter’s surface, making my way happily downstream.

 

  • Experiment. My low profile meant I didn’t have to get a tweet right the first time, as the perfectionist in me often demands. I could let go of the reserved professional I play at work. I could test out new personas and voices. Since I’m not Taylor Swift, no one would notice. And if, by random chance, someone does, well, then, I’ve accomplished what publishing industry insiders tell me I should. #TaylorSwift   #lookwhatyoumademedo

 

  • Accept help. Even if it’s inanimate (and grammatically incorrect). Twitter composed and offered to publish my first tweet, so I let it: “Hello Twitter! #myfirstTweet.” Silly? Yes. Unoriginal? Totally. Uninformative? Absolutely. But having someone (or somebot) launch me into the deep made releasing my grip on the shoreline easier.

 

  • Keep calm and carry on. The impulse to sprout feathers and squawk dire warnings faded when the sky remained intact after I composed my first tweet. Unless I land a network talk show like Ellen DeGeneres (highly unlikely) or run for political office (even less likely), nothing sky-shattering will result from what I tweet. Just like that, the pressure’s off. #chickenlittle    

 

  • Appreciate the benefits. Being confined to 140 characters has helped me work toward long-held goals: (1) write shorter, punchier sentences, (2) create catchier titles. Twitter’s push to rely on images also reconfigured my approach to other writing and teaching tasks.

 

  • Set limits. Twitter can be a time suck. It’s especially compelling when I want an excuse not to write: I’m building my platform. I’m learning how to promote my work. After 30 minutes? No. I’m procrastinating. I’ve decided I can only login when I can articulate a specific goal, such as finding and following an agent I want to query.Promote. Your writing, your causes, yourself. Everyone else is doing it; you might as well, too. Though uncomfortable at first, it gets easier. If you really squirm when typing a soliloquy, generate one tweet (or retweet) for a charitable cause to match every tweet you write for your own benefit.

 

  • Have fun. Once I got acclimated, I surfed bigger waves. Now I follow favorite entertainers and my celebrity crush, Stephen Colbert. Maybe one day I’ll grow brave enough to tweet @StephenAtHome. #stephencolbert  #colbertlateshow   #LSSC   #colbertnation

Take it from a reluctant social media swimmer: Come on in, the water’s fine! And if you follow me @LisaIrishWhalen, I can even show you the ropes.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/2430933/

Be Focused, Be Prepared, Be Committed – Steps to Take Before Hiring a Publicist

hand holding microphone with black backgroundMost prospective clients who approach me about publicity are new authors who have never worked with a publicist before. Whether self- or traditionally published, the most common question is: What would you charge for promoting my book?

My response is always the same: What is it you’re looking for? A book tour? Media coverage? Internet exposure? All of the above? And how much do you want to spend? Without knowing what it is an author wants, it’s difficult for me to put a price on how much I can do for him.

It’s also difficult to say how much publicity an author is likely to get without having read the author’s book or knowing a little about her platform.

So, for new authors who are thinking about hiring a publicist, here are my top five tips to consider before calling or sending an inquiry email to a PR expert:

1. What kind of book have you written?

With over 300,000 new titles released each year, it’s important to know where your book fits into the overall market. Is it a young adult novel, targeted for teens, or younger kids, say five- to nine-year-olds? Does your mystery fit more in the true crime or fictional detective category? Is your love story a traditional romance, or does it fit more under the women’s fiction heading? Knowing what you’ve got to sell will help you pinpoint what you have to do (and where you have to go) to sell it.

 2. Is there a market for it? If so, who and where is that market?

Once you know what you’ve written, you need to decide who would read it. Is your audience both men and women, or are only women likely to purchase it? Are there targeted niche audiences for your book? If so, where can you best reach them? Be ready to discuss with your publicist who your audience is and where you’re willing to go to find them.

3. What kind of experience/expertise/knowledge do you have that can be used to promote your book?

Having a platform is essential for both fiction and non-fiction writers, especially when promoting your book to media producers and reporters. The platform has to do with you (the author), your background, and the level of expertise or recognition you have in your subject area.

Before you hire a publicist, ask yourself the following questions: Are you a recognized expert in your field? If not, would you be willing to educate yourself and/or work to establish yourself as such? What is it about your background and experience that makes you an interesting interview for the media? Are you willing speak, write, and blog about your book/subject area? Have you taken the time to develop a social media following and, if not, would you be willing to do so (or to hire a social media expert to help you)?

4. How much are you willing to spend on publicity?

Before you hire a publicist, sit down with your spouse or significant other and decide how much you can afford for book promotion. Review items 1-3 above and decide what will give you the most exposure for your type of book and audience(s). Decide if you’re willing to travel to speak, tour, and/or sell your book, and figure out how long you’re willing to do that. Plan to create web, blog, and social media sites for your book and estimate the expenses, both time and moneywise, for those.

Finally, create a budget that factors in costs for printing and shipping copies of your book, creation of promotional items (bookmarks, posters, flyers, etc.) website development and hosting, travel, hotel, food, etc., for signing and/or media tours, booth space fees, postage, advertising, etc. Also factor in the cost of hiring a publicist or other professionals (social media, graphic reproduction, ebook formatting, legal, etc.) you might need to help with your book’s promotion.

5. How committed are you to do what your publicist recommends?

I’m always surprised at how many of my clients do the groundwork for hiring me and then, once we begin their promotional tour, panic when they achieve some level of success. As many authors realize after trying to do it themselves, it’s extremely difficult in today’s noisy and crowded publishing landscape to get attention from booksellers and the media. It can take an experienced publicist repeat contacting and hours of follow-up and pitching to get a bookseller, reporter, or producer to agree to an event or interview for a client.

But, despite their desire for exposure, there are always a few authors who balk at doing appearances or radio and television interviews once they get them, which is frustrating on many levels. It can be awkward for a publicist to go back to booksellers and the media to say that a client is passing on an event after working so hard to get them to agree to it in the first place. It’s also time-consuming to have to revisit plans and goals with authors, who say they want publicity and then waver on following through.

Yes, it can be scary to be in front of the camera for the first time or, for some, to stand up in front of a group and speak. But a good publicist can provide helpful tips for overcoming those early jitters, and most authors agree that, like any other activity, they get better at it the more they do it. And successful authors know that without that kind of outreach, they would not be able to generate the essential word-of-mouth ripple effect that comes from continued audience exposure.

It’s a shame to waste opportunities, especially if authors have done the footwork and spent the time and money to get the hard-won exposure they need to promote their books successfully. Be committed to your book’s success, and if you hire a publicist, follow through on her efforts to obtain the promotional attention you seek.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/977641/

Would Shakespeare Tweet? #Maybe, by Guest Blogger, Lisa Whalen

PART I.

Bubba the cat hiding under a bookshelf“Bubba embodies my Thursday mindset,” I posted to Facebook a few weeks ago, along with this picture.

But I lied.

I should have posted, “Bubba embodies my social media mindset.” Even as I giggled at my cat’s antics—batting a toy mouse beneath the bookcase and then contorting to dig it out—I, too, wrestled with a pest: Twitter.

To Tweet, or not to Tweet, that was the question. Every time it arose, I wanted to crawl in beside Bubba and stay there. I batted at the question and then contorted to dig out the answer I desired. Twitter, it seemed to me, was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It popped into my head every time my students and I discussed Othello’s famous line: “Chaos is come again.”

Facebook caters to an introvert’s craving for a cocoon. Its privacy settings insulate against scrutiny’s glare and trolls’ vitriol. I can tuck my online community’s edges tight as a drum around my form. But Twitter throws open the blankets. It lays out a feast of introvert fears: brief exchanges with strangers, a worldwide audience, a continuous feed. Character limits. Hashtags.

So, there it was. I didn’t want to join Twitter. Then I shouldn’t. Right?

Wrong.

  I want to be a published author. I’d like to see the memoir I spent more than two years writing and revising on a shelf next to frothing cappuccino machines at Barnes & Noble and suggested as a “you might also like . . .” by Amazon. Then I want to write another book. And another.

A memoirist hunting publication stalks skittish prey. Everyone in the industry advises crafting a name-brand and constructing a social media platform upon which to hoist it. Then, maybe, an agent will consent to reading a few manuscript pages.

Platform? I’m no Taylor Swift. I can’t draw a fraction of the interest she generates by tweeting a single snake GIF.

I vacillated. I asked a mentor for advice. Then I channeled Bubba.

When I adopted Bubba from the Animal Humane Society, he was a literal fraidy-cat. If I lifted my hand to pet him, he flinched. If I unstuck a Post-It Note from its pad, he ducked beneath the couch. If I opened a grocery bag to collect our recyclables, he bounded upstairs to hide in my closet. But shown the patience to adjust on his own terms, Bubba evolved to become the stuffed-mouse-hunting predator I know today.

So I followed Bubba’s example. I wriggled out from under the bookcase and joined Twitter.

Stay tuned to discover what I learned next month . . .

 

Photo of author with Kitten on shoulderLisa Whalen has an M.A. in creative and critical writing and a Ph.D. in postsecondary and adult education. She teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota. When not teaching, she spends as much time as possible with animals, especially cats, dogs, and horses. Then she writes about them. For more information—and pictures of Lisa’s favorite animals—check out her blog, Writing Unbridledor find her on Twitter @LisaIrishWhalen, Facebook (lisawhalen4hs), or her website: lisawhalen4hs.wixsite.com/lisawhalen.

 

Photo courtesy of Lisa Whalen

Writing with Intention: How Understanding Why You Write Can Help You Sell

a neon question mark in a graffiti-filled tunnelI recently spoke with a potential client who has written a nonfiction guide to help parents recognize the signs of late speech development in their children. Besides being articulate and able to clearly describe the book’s content and its audience, this author was particularly succinct about what she was looking for in the way of publicity. “I want to reach as many parents, teachers, and pediatric health professionals as I can about how to recognize the signs of speech and language development issues in children,” she said. “I also would like to cast as wide a net as possible via the media, so that parents and pediatric associations know about the information in my book and how it can help them.”

This particular client’s clarity about her goals is similar to having a corporate mission statement, which many companies use to provide vision and direction to their employees. When a company has a clearly written mission statement, employees can use it to tune in to upper management’s expectations and determine how they fit with the corporate mission. They can more easily grasp the company’s purpose and who its customers are, as well as develop a better sense of how to serve those customers.

Likewise, having a clear sense of the purpose your book serves and what you’d like to do with it can be very helpful to you (and the marketing professionals you might hire) when it’s time to promote your work.

In New Age circles, pundits call this sense of clarity and direction working with intention. When we work with intention, i.e., when we’re clear about why we’ve written something and understand its value to others, not only does the work flow more easily, but we are much more likely to be able to correctly describe and promote it.

The intention behind a written work can take many forms. Some authors intend to write books that are instructive or informational. Others write to entertain.

Some write because they feel compelled to do so, or because a certain storyline keeps playing over and over in their heads and they want to capture it in written form.

Some write to heal, as is often the case with memoir. Those who keep diaries or journals may do so as a means of knowing themselves better.

Many authors write because they love language or because they like playing with ideas. Others use writing as a way to develop a community connection, through meetings with other writers and the readers of their work.

Some write to document family history for future generations, while others do it purely for pleasure, as a way to pass blocks of time.

But no matter what the reason, it helps to know why you’re writing, so that when the writing is done—be it a novel, a short story, a nonfiction guidebook, a memoir, or a collection of poems—you’ll better understand it’s purpose and intended audience. This understanding makes it easier to pinpoint what you need to explain that purpose and reach your audience which, in turn, will help you make decisions about how you’re going to promote your work.

So, before beginning your marketing efforts, ask yourself, “Why did I create this piece?  What is its purpose? Who is my book written for, and how will it help those who read it?” Write down your answers; they’ll help you understand your original intention and determine what you need to do now to sell it.

 

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Top 25 Ways to Promote Your Book This Fall

Orange and Red leaves of Fall Foliage

It’s that time of year when the kids are heading back to school and the rest of us are making plans to get out and enjoy the last warm days of summer.

With the change in season and return from vacations (hopefully tanned and rested!), it’s time to get serious about promoting your book again. Whether you’re a first-time author or a seasoned pro, there’s still a lot to do in the way of footwork to ensure that readers know about and remain aware of your book.

 

Here are a few tips for getting back out there and promoting your book this fall:

  1. Speak at conferences and special events
  2. Sign up for book fairs, street fairs, and fall festivals
  3. Submit your book to traditional and online book reviewers
  4. Contact your local library to schedule an appearance
  5. Submit your book to award programs
  6. Apply for artist residencies and fellowships
  7. Contact blog sites related to your book and set up a blog tour
  8. Attend a writers conference near you
  9. Join a book promotion group (Can’t find one? Start one yourself!)
  10. Contact local schools about speaking
  11. Start a blog, guest blog on other sites, or beef up your own blog
  12. Write articles about your subject matter
  13. Update your website
  14. Use social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to update fans about your book
  15. Upgrade your promotional giveaways
  16. Set up consignments at local stores and check up on those who have your book on display
  17. Create an FAQ or Q&A sheet
  18. Get new testimonials from recent readers
  19. Contact a book club and offer to speak
  20. Wear a t-shirt with your book cover on it to the gym, grocery store, bank, etc.
  21. Make business cards with your book cover on them and leave them everywhere
  22. Create a car magnet sign highlighting your book and where to order it
  23. Donate your book to charity auctions
  24. Write a press release about something recent that’s happened with you and your book and post it on the free wire service websites
  25. Volunteer your time for a worthy cause (a great way to help others and let them know about you and your book at the same time!)

You get the idea… there are lots of opportunities out there and lots of ways to make yourself known. Happy promoting, and happy fall!

Photo Credit: negativespace.co/autumn-fall-path-forest

How to Be a Feisty Self-Promoter

man on hover board water craft flying in the airIsn’t your greatest wish to be left alone in your cave—to write out your words, the way they come to you, without noise or interruption? Then when you are done, all you would have to do is step outside your cave and drop your material on the doorstep. Then you could run back to your cave and shut the door.

Then, an agent would come along, pick up the manuscript and shout, “Brilliant!” and leave you a check just outside your cave door. Then this magic agent would get on her magic megaphone and share your masterpiece with the world, leaving you to go back to doing what you truly love: Working on the next manuscript.

We writers like to be in our caves typing or scribbling—alone. The thought of stepping out of the cave and calling out to the world, “Hey, I’m here!” can be truly daunting. When I ask writers about their take on self-promoting their material I hear questions like:

  1. Won’t I look like a self-centered narcissist?
  2. Won’t I annoy people?
  3. Shouldn’t I just keep my head down and not call attention to myself? Won’t people just find me ’cause they like my work?
  4. I have no idea how to promote; it’s not my area of expertise. Shouldn’t I leave it to the professionals?
  5. What if people say mean stuff?
  6. Won’t the publisher do all that? (No, sorry—heavy sigh)
  7. Do I really have to use social media, I mean how effective is it anyway?

Okay, I won’t lie to you.

People do get sick of humble braggers, general narcissists, and annoying self-promoters. If you are in a community of writers, you know that person. Every post, every tweet, and every pic are about them and their book. They seem to be in their own world—the one where only their book exists.

To become a Feisty Self-Promoter, your goal is to start building an authentic base of supporters, readers, and fans. People who love your voice will want more of it. So it’s perfectly fine to let them know where they can find you, or what you will be up to next! Think of feisty promoting as creating a solid and lasting relationship between you and your readers.

How to be a Feisty Self-Promoter:

  1. First of all, know it’s okay to have confidence in yourself and your material.
  2. Speak from your most authentic voice. Be yourself. Take risks. Let your real voice shine (even in posts—even in tweets.)
  3. Don’t engage the haters. Keep the tone of everything you do positive.
  4. Don’t make it all about you. Write about your readers—what they want, wish for, think about, dream about, etc.
  5. Get help from branding experts. You can spend (read: waste) a lot of time working on promotions that get no return. A few words from someone in the know can have a serious and lasting impact on your PR efforts.
  6. Mix it up, change the channel. Write about something else besides your work. Show that you are not about promoting you all the time.
  7. Tell good stories. This is a great way to promote without being annoying. Talk about your real process. Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly.
  8. Keep being visible—no matter what. Find your venues.
  9. Lift up other writers. Support your writing tribe. When someone else comes out with a book—help them out. Tell others, share posts, write a review for them, attend their launch, toot their horn.
  10. Tenacious consistency is key. Let go of quick results. Building a real platform, something solid, is well worth the time.
  11. Enjoy the process. Readers can tell if you are dragging yourself to the keyboard—or hate the promotion part. Find the parts that give you authentic joy. Then I guarantee that your efforts will resonate with passion. (And who doesn’t like passion?)

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/water-show-fly-airborn-raves-2092402/

How to Develop a Brand Strategy in Five Simple Steps

Shining person in the center of a dark forest

Authors often ask me what is meant by the terms “platform” and “brand.” Simply put, your platform is all about you—the specific and unique experience, background, and expertise you bring to the table, in addition to the wonderful book you’ve written. And your brand is whatever images, words, and other media you use to make that platform clear to your readers.

The concept of platform is important when selling a book because it’s what the media, especially radio and TV folks, are most interested in when it comes time to set up promotional appearances. I once had a radio producer in New York tell me, “Paula, I don’t give a damn about this author’s book; I want to know about his background and experience. If he doesn’t interest me, his book never will.” This may sound a bit harsh, but it’s all too true in the world of publicity. If you want premium exposure for your book through traditional radio and TV, you are going to be the story.

And it should be a good one. Media producers expect authors to be knowledgeable or experienced in their subject matter, whether the book is nonfiction or fiction. If you have a compelling personal history, expertise in the industry you’ve written about, or an interesting angle to bring to the interview, then you’re more likely to get a yes nod from a producer trying to fill a radio or TV time slot.

Reporters and producers look for individuals who are unique, compelling, and entertaining as interview subjects. If you’re a celebrity or have notoriety in your field, the path will be easier. But if not, you’ve got to develop a platform and branding that will intrigue members of the media in order to maximize exposure for your work.

So, how do you go about building your platform? One way is to create a compelling brand that conveys to readers exactly what your platform is when they read, see, or hear it. I suggest that authors follow these five simple steps to determine their brand identity:

  1. First, pretend you are a reader of the kind of books you write. What kind of person reads books like yours? What does that reader look for when s/he buys a book similar to yours? How will s/he find it? Where will s/he go to buy it?
  2. Next, think about what makes your books unique or different from other authors who write books like yours. Do you have an unusual perspective on a topic? Do you specialize in a certain region for your settings, a certain type of character for your fictional hero, a certain kind of specialty or emphasis that appears as either the main content or theme in your writing? Tie this in with the reader you envisioned in step 1. What will s/he find compelling about what you’ve written? How does it satisfy his/her expectations and/or needs?
  3. Now (and this is the fun part), close your eyes and concentrate on at least four (there may be more) words that signify your particular brand. Think about what your reader is looking for, as well as what is unique about you as an author.

If you find you’re having trouble doing this, try instead to come up with at least four words that a reader might put into a search engine when he goes online to find books like yours.

For example, if you are a cookbook author who specializes in easy-to-make vegan crockpot recipes, your keywords might be “cooking,” “recipes,” “easy,” “vegan,” “crockpot.” You may add more words to expand your list: “delicious,” “healthy,” “vegetarian,” “food,” etc. You may have a particular part of your background that you want to highlight (“restauranteur” or “trained chef,” for example), so include those words too. Anything that is specific to you and your books can be considered an element of your brand.

  1. Once you have your keywords, write them down. Now use those words in every statement you write when describing yourself as an author. Include them in your bio, your website “About” page, your author description on Amazon, etc. You’ll also want to include them in any writing you do about your book, so be sure and use them in press releases Q&As, guest posts on author websites, etc. The more you use these words that define your brand, the more they will become part of your author identity, which will help shape your platform and make you stand out.
  1. Finally, do the same exercise for images that reflect your brand. What items come to mind when you think about visually representing your writing? What colors go best with the content and themes of the words you’ve chosen? If you have trouble doing this, take a look at books from other authors that are similar or in the same genre/category as yours. Once you’ve honed in on the right imagery, work those colors, images, and themes into your book covers, your website, your business cards and handouts, etc.

Follow these simple steps, and you will be on your way to defining the words, images, and colors that will send a clear message about your brand, and your platform, to your readers.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/154874/strategy

__________

Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at paula@paulamargulies.com, or visit her at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

 

The Feisty Writer’s Guide to Tackling Your Fears

People on scary carnival rideWriting Task Terror Challenge

 Being the feisty coach that I am, I want to encourage you to start to tackle your writing fears.

“But how, how, how?”  you ask. “They are my fears; I can’t just conquer them. I am filled with writing anxiety. I am scared to reach out to an agent. I can’t submit to a contest, go to a networking event, or travel to a different city to pitch my story!”

 Yeah, you actually can. I’ve watched many a timid writer transform into a fierce writing lion in action. And I have a plan. It’s easy, and I know you can do it.

 Do one writing task per month that terrifies you!

 Let’s take a minute to talk about what you may be avoiding:

 Sending a query letter. Sending your 12th query letter. Making a cold call. Writing a book proposal. Pitching an agent. Signing up for a conference. Submitting to a contest. Applying for a writing job. Reaching out to a writing mentor you respect. Attending a class. Finding a writing group. Completing your book. Taking a manuscript out of the drawer and showing it to someone. (add your own here)

 Now let me break down my little plan for you in 4 easy steps:

Step one: Make a list of things that you want/need to get done in the next six months to reach a writing goal. Include the things that you really don’t want to do, or that freak you out.

Step two: Grab a calendar. Pick a day of the month (say the 15th) and make it your Writing Task Day.

Step three: On that day (for example, Oct 15th, then Nov 15th…), for six months, perform a task that you would normally shy away from.

Step four: Put it out of your mind until the next month.

Important: What matters is staying in creative motion and putting yourself out there. Don’t become attached to the outcome. I once worked with a client who had submitted her book for a year. Ready to quit, she said she would only submit one more. Well, three submissions later, she found her perfect agent. Had she quit at one more, her career would never have blossomed. Letting go of the outcome allowed her to keep moving.

 What you will notice: The first time will be the scariest.

 Then, you will find that:

Being bold is addicting!

 Why? Because you will realize that what has been holding you in its grips so tightly–telling you that you can’t do it, well, it no longer has a hold on you.  

 And the more you get out there, the more you will have successful experiences. Failures too. That’s just part of it. But the successes will happen–and they will happen because you stayed in creative motion.

 Send us an e-mail with a pic of you doing the thing that scares you the most!

 

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/149083312733