Ask the Author (Round 2)
For many authors, marketing and promotion is the hardest part of writing. In week two of this series, in the segment on the writing process, four out of eleven authors listed marketing as their biggest challenge, and I’ve had many other authors give the same response when the question was posed. I know it’s certainly true for me. In days past, traditional publishers handled much of these tedious tasks, so authors didn’t have to, but with the rise if independent publishing to the forefront, those days may be gone. Even traditional publishers are doing less promotion, relying on authors to get word out about their works.
Today our author panel will be talking about how they tackle the task and which advertising platforms have been effective for them. Our author panel this week include RA Winter, DeAnna Knippling, Tom Johnson, Lilly Rayman, Ashley Fontainne, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil, Cynthia Vespia, and Margareth Stewart. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t for them.
Which advertising platforms do you find to give the best results?
I’ve promoted other authors I like, and in turn they have helped promote my books.
I haven’t really found any that stand out above the rest. I have used The Kindle Book Review and BooksGoSocial. I have also used eBooksstage as well, but nothing has jumped out at me as being a cut above the rest at this point. You see lots of sites that offer lots of results, and yet nothing is ever guaranteed. I do like that BooksGoSocial offer a non-quibble money back guarantee on their paid marketing services.
Bookbub and Goodreads.
Buying ads on reputable sites, like Robin Reads, has been the most lucrative.
I really haven’t tried to do any advertising yet. I have tried Amazon, but really haven’t had any results from it that were profitable.
Have you found any free advertising platforms to be effective for selling books?
I’ve not found any free advertising. Everything comes with a price, or something attached that I have found, and if I’m not careful I could find myself busier promoting other things than my books.
Only in that they work to promote free books and get free book downloads. Generally, the readers I have found on the free advertising platforms are looking for free reads, and this rarely moves through to them purchasing further books.
Bookbub and Ereader News Today are the two I typically use for best results.
Newsletters would have to be the best. They put your book in their newsletter, you put theirs in yours.
Social media, but I’m uncertain on the exact ROI.
If you use paid advertising, do you think it is worth it? Which platforms do you find to give the best results?
I haven’t found one worthwhile yet, and I’m suspicious of most.
I haven’t found any paid advertising to be worth it at this point, but I will keep experimenting and see what happens. I’m hopeful that once I have completed my Unexpected Trilogy in 2019, that a marketing campaign will garner more traction.
No. I’ve never made back the cost of the ad. Is it worth it for the exposure? YES! Even if one new person reads it, then it was worth it to me.
I’ve used Amazon’s ad service but it did nothing for me.
Yes, but with zero effect.
No. I considered running a press release from a charity anthology I have organised that releases Dec 1, but someone I was talking to in my local library said newspapers are a dying media, social media has more impact. So, I have stuck to creating media kits for bloggers to use if they want to share my releases.
I have, yet didn’t see positive results.
I did for my first books, but it never seemed to yield good results. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right? I know some authors have great success with it.
Yes, but only when the book I wrote had something prominent to say. For instance, in my latest novel Karma (Book 1 in the Silker Butters Superhero Series) I used a woman of Indian heritage as my protagonist. So I released a press release on it because I felt it was important that we start to diversify our characters.
Could you explain what your street team does (if you have one) and how you go about building a street team?
I’ve never had a street team, though many of my friends have taken it on themselves to help me advertise my books.
I haven’t got a street team, but I do have a close groups of author friends that share any posts for sales or giveaways when I ask them to.
I don’t have a street team anymore, but when I did, I comprised it of loyal readers who asked if they could help me somehow. We became a close-knit group of friends. They would often reach out to bloggers on my behalf or share things on social media.
My street team is amazing. They share my stuff all over social media. I do a weekly swag giveaway and tell them what to share and they do it. Each week we have a winner and I get the swag from the signings I attend. There is usually a signed book in there as well. My PA’s have built my team by sharing it in TO’s plus other members share it.
I have a monthly newsletter, and a reader group on Facebook. I try and regularly post on my Facebook page to keep readers in the loop. I have a supportive group of Indie friends that help share my posts across Facebook, extending my reader base. I also find writing in anthologies is a great way of reaching new readers.
Newsletters and social media posts.
I buy ads and utilize newsletter swaps. The paid advertising always works out the best.
Again, other than social media, I have not used anything else except what is noted above.
I’ve dabbled in almost everything. I’ll tell you the least effective was hiring someone else to get the buzz out for my book. I paid two different people who claimed they did promotion for authors and I got little to no return on investment. Buyer beware when it comes to those types of individuals.
The most effective, as I said has been me, face-to-face with people having a casual conversation about books.
Advertising is a visual media and visual images sell better than text alone. How do you provide images to go with your copy?
My covers are usually eye-catching, and that helps. But the Blurb must also attract the reader. It’s a double-edged sword.
I love creating teasers with powerful images and quotes from my book that stir the reader and pulls them in to want to one click.
I haven’t found my magic formula yet. I see a spike in sales when I take part in takeovers and put my work in front of new readers. I’m still looking for the key to unlock the marketing platform for me at present.
Old school word of mouth.
I enjoy entering book fairs online. You discount your book and buy into the fair. The fair is seen by countless people online, and hopefully they want to pick your book from the selection.
I only use Amazon. I have tried using other platforms and have no luck.
You just have to try as many things as possible to get exposure. The marketplace is saturated, especially in regards to ebooks. That’s why I still prefer grassroots, face-to-face sales like conventions and books signings.
Sorry. My only brand is that I am a pulp writer, and there are dozens of platforms for the genre, and my name is well known among them all.
I have created a brand, one that I feel reflects me. I try to use my branding on all graphics I create. I also have a branded set of takeover posts that I use on Facebook. I’m hoping for brand recognition to work well for readers to remember me by.
My brand was created by Aaron Siddall. It is my name within a gear. I wanted something to reflect my steampunk books, while still being simple and recognizable. It doesn’t just work for steampunk. I like to think of it as gears working in my imagination.
My brand is “Original Cyn” It came as a play off my name and it has a soft biblical reference about the telling of Adam and Eve…or Original Sin. This is why my logo is a snake with an apple. Its not that it signify evil in any way, its more the birth of something. And yes, I believe putting my logo out there does get me recognition I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve even started a new company Original Cyn Content where I incorporate my writing and fitness background to create useable content to help others live their best lives. I also do freelance content creation like writing, design, and video.
Yes, I am a SF writer, but I also write mysteries and westerns, and adventure. Unfortunately, most Groups where I advertise are heavy in erotica and steamy romance, so I’m wasting my time. Erotica has cornered the mystery and western, and SF genres now. You can’t read any genre today without encountering erotic scenes.
I haven’t found it to be the case. I’ve simply tried to be clever in working the two genres I mainly write in together.
I actually just broke out of my normal writing for a Christmas novella. My author brand isn’t on that book, but I am still using my pen name (Jordan Elizabeth). If I decide to write more in that vein, I might come up with a different brand for Christmas novellas…something similar, but different, so people can recognize what to expect.
I think this is why I don’t have a brand yet. LOL. I write in many different genres and find it difficult to pinpoint something that covers them all.
Yes, indeed! It needs addressing different audience, using various platforms, and multiple ways to talk to readers. I actually do this now, but I´d rather stick to one genre in the future. Agatha Christie for instance, she created her style with a peculiar vast audience. That is incredible; it is so rare nowadays, plus her unbeatable style! For me, it is what I head to as a writer.
So I’ve been struggling with that for a long while now because I simply get ideas that cross genres. It’s difficult to pin them down into one category. For the sake of simplicity I’ve said urban and adventure fantasy but they’re really so much more than that. I have some stand alone thrillers as well.
Look, we all write in different voices. I think its more important to get that across than creating a label that pigeon holes you into a corner. Your readers will get it.
You can see from all the varied answers we have here that different avenues to marketing work for different authors, and what works for one author may not work for the next. Influencing factors may include the genre or genres we write in, advertising budget, and author preferences. Trial and error seems to be the only way to discover what works for you.
I want to thank our author panel members for sharing with us, not only in this segement, but throughout the entire series. Authors are busy people and their taking time out to answer my many questions is greatly appreciated.
Next Monday will be the final segment of Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Our panel members will be weighing in on follow-up questions in many of the areas we’ve touched on throughout the series. Although we’ve had many readers following this round, we haven’t had a lot of comments, so this will be your last opportunity to post your own questions for our author panel in the comment box for the post on the topic that your question falls under. Here’s your chance. We want to hear from you. Any questions in the comments will be posed to our author panel for them to answer. So, post those questions and don’t miss the final segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2).
For convenience, I’ll post the links to each of the previous segments below.
Meet the Authors: https://wp.me/pVw40-3H7
The Writing Process: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Hs
Setting/ Tense/ POV/ Voice: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ic
Character Development: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Io
Action Scenes: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Jh
Editing and Revision: https://wp.me/pVw40-3JZ
Publishing Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ku
Author Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3KT
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As some of my friends and followers know, I’m determined to turn my writing into my full time job. With that in mind, I’ve been delving into the arena of commercial copywriters, because it’s something I can do from my home office, it involves my favorite activity of writing and allows me to make money from it, and it is something I can start out at part-time and move into full time as the money starts rolling in.
The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman should be required reading for all freelance copywriters. Bowerman is himself a successful freelance commercial copywriter, sharing his knowledge and experience, as well as a collection of advice from other freelancers.
This book is a basic guide to building a lucrative freelance commercial copywriting service, covering everything from gaining and dealing with clients to the different types of copywriting skills there are to add to your repetoir. It offers advice from successful copywriters who are making their freelance businesses work for them and makiing their writing pay. Although it does not feature many examples of the different types of copywriting projects you might want to offer, it does give links where you can find samples and explore those avenues; from white papers, to emails, to newsletters, to brochures and flyers. And Bowerman offers suggestions for other useful books you may want as well.
The way I see it, this book is like a bare basics copywriter’s handbook, and no copywriter that is serious about his or her craft should be without it. I found The Well-Fed Writer to be very helpful in knowing which direction I need to go to get my own commercial copywriting service off the ground. I give it five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Since February, I’ve been giving myself a crash course in book marketing and promotion, especially in regards to social media marketing, because it’s the cheapest route for getting your books out there that I’ve found. Which is not to say that it is the most effective, or that paid promotions aren’t more effective. Those are things I cannot yet say. Ask me when I’m a successful and wealthy author. Perhaps I will know the answer by then.
While educating myself in areas beyond my own expertise, (I’m a writer, not a marketer), I launched a marketing campaign and created promotions of my own to get a feel for what works for me and what doesn’t. Since that time, I’ve dipped my toes into the pool of paid promotions, as well. Among the methods and techneques tried: I now have a slowly growing mailing list for my new monthly newsletter. I’ve sent out two so far, and have so far met with medicore success, and I launched a media campaign for Delilah which included a few modest paid promotions, social network promotions of new advertisement photos, sending out press releases to select Colorado newspapers pushing the local author angle, and my very first book trailer which I created myself.
It’s hard to determine the success of any of my efforts as yet, although the press releases resulted in runs in two newspapers that I know of. What that adds up to in sales, I don’t yet know. Although there was a small increase in sales April, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation with any of my promotional efforts. Sales come slow, and often, only after great effort on the author’s part, I think. Only time will show the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of my first marketing campaign.
The newsletter email list is growing slowly, but it is growing. The weird thing is, when you sign up in the sidebar pop-up, you get a link to a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, but only a handful have been claimed. I even sent out the link in the newsletter for April, and still subscribers are not claiming their thank you gift. Of course, only a little over thirty percent are opening the newsletter, so I don’t know how much help it will be. I’m asking all who read this post to subscribe to my monthly newsletter using the sidebar pop-up, and then claim your free gift. The newsletter is monthly, so it won’t clutter up your inbox, and Hidden Secrets is not available on any other platform.
I don’t know if the book trailer had any effect on sales, but I sure did have fun creating it once I figured out what program I could use to get the job done. After looking at numerous free programs that claim to make book trailers, it turns out I had the program to do the job already installed on my computer in my Microsoft Office 2013 Power Point. A little more self-education on what can be done with Power Point and how to do it, and I had myself a book trailer, which I absolutely love. It’s amazing what can be done with software I already own. Made me happy. Even if it doesn’t bring one sale, I think it’s cool. I’d post it here to show you, but the free plans on WordPress don’t include video capabilities, so if you’re interested, you can see it on my Delilah Facebook page. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’ve learned a lot from my search for knowledge in book marketing and promotion. While SEO is still important, it’s valued different than it used to be, because search engines now operate differently, according to Hubspot’s 20 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2018. Technical terms like bounce rate may be beyond my limited understanding, but I understand enough to realize I need to give SEO more thought when designing my content. It would be a lot easier if my books would just shoot up to the top of the best sellers charts overnight and rode there for awhile. Maybe then I could afford to hire somebody to do all this brain numbing stuff for me. I always try to write using keywords. Isn’t that enough? I only had a very basic understanding of SEO to begin with, and if I try to take in too much SEO talk at one time it gives me a headache, but I’m determined to give it my best shot.
So, that’s my first big marketing adventure. I may not be able to tell how effective it was at this time, but I know I’m learning a lot as I go. The adventure isn’t over yet. In July, I’ll be at my first face to face event, when I sit on the alumni panel for Western State at the Writing the Rockies Conference and print copies of Delilah will be available. I’m both excited and nervous, but I know it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. Be sure and catch next Monday’s post to learn more about the conference
As to the effectiveness of any of it? I’ll let you know.
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Marketing and promotion is a tough one for many writers. While some may have artistic or designing abilities in addition to their writing skills, others, like me, must learn from the basics up, and its not an easy task. To get our book noticed amid the multitude of books, ebooks, and audio books that are out there today, we might have to be a little creative and search out multiple marketing avenues. It can be so daunting, that even someone who is knowledgeable about marketing and promotion, and is succesful in many of their efforts, like panel members DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber, can be worn down with frustration, as the following comments regarding this marketing segment of the Ask the Authors series, as the following comments illustrate:
Janet Garber: Kaye, I don’t have answers to the questions. Wish I did.
DeAnna Knippling: I am so frustrated with marketing and promotion stuff right now, so I’m bailing on that.
In this day and age, more and more, the responsibility of marketing and promotion falls to authors. Digital publishing has changed the industry, and small press and self-published authors carry the brunt of it, and traditionally published authors may ask authors to carry more of the responsility than in the past, as well. Like it or not, marketing and promotion now fall under an author’s job description, as Cynthia Vespia reminds us with her publishing story: “Originally I was self published back before self publishing was cool I’ve been small press published, and I reverted back to self publishing. ALL of the marketing and promotion is on my shoulders.” Let’s see how our panel members handle the task.
What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?
Jordan Elizabeth: Book signings have sold the most. I get in people’s faces and just have fun. I’m normally a quiet person, but at events I can become someone totally new and outgoing.
Carol Riggs: I’ve sold the most e-books with BookBub ads, for 3 of my traditionally published books. I also sell books at SCBWI conferences because people know me and support me there. :o)
Chris DiBella: This is probably an off-the-topic answer, but my mom is actually my best marketing tool. She helps me to sell more books than anything. Everywhere she goes, she tells people about my books and somehow gets them to buy one. They all seem to like them, so I guess I can’t complain….then again, my mom seems to think I should already be outselling James Patterson, so there’s that expectation to live up to.
Cynthia Vespia: Public appearances have been my best resources. There’s something to be said for selling something face-to-face as opposed to using the Internet. I don’t have a massive community rallying around me, so it’s up to me to make my own sales. I do that best by being personable with people, interacting, and talking about common interests.
Chris Barili: Face to face things like signings, conventions, and so on. You can actively push your books at these events.
For marketing and promotion, do you prefer online advertising and book events, or face-to-face events? Why?
Jordan Elizabeth: Face-to-face feels more personal. I can talk to people about what they like and I can explain my books in detail.
Carol Riggs: Both have their strong points. Being introverted, I probably enjoy the online events more, but there’s a certain zest to actually meeting people and talking to them. I can get myself in a social mood for that, and find I enjoy it.
Chris Barili: Face to face has brought me more measureable success, but online reaches WAY more people. You can’t choose one or the other. You have to do them all.
According to WordStream, Facebook ads provide the biggest advertising opportunity since search, with twenty-two billion ad clicks per year. Of course, not all of those are book ads, but the fact is authors are faced with many choices when it comes to where to promote their books. While Facebook may get the most clicks per year, all social media are becoming a huge avenue for marketing and promotion, but how to know which venue is best? While some authors may do the research and promote on the sites that seem most profitable, many authors don’t have that much time and thus promote on the sites which we like best. That being said, let’s Ask the Authors and see where our panel members like to promote their work.
What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?
Jordan Elizabeth: I like Fussy Librarian best. They only promote a few books a day, so you know your book won’t be lost in the shuffle.
Carol Riggs: I like Twitter, because promo is about making connections, not just shouting, “But my book!” all the time. And I can connect to people on Twitter whom I’ve never met, just by happy chance. It’s great! On Facebook, it’s mostly for connecting with people I already know, but with Twitter, I can expand my horizons and meet new people (while still connecting with the ones I already know).
Chris DiBella: Facebook works best for me because it reaches the most potential readers. I don’t use my blog any more, and I rarely use any other social media outlet, although I know I should. I use Amazon for free book promos, and I think I’m going to run one this weekend if anyone is interested in checking out one or more of my books.
Cynthia Vespia: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I lean more towards Instagram now because you can do alot more with a single image than with 40 characters or an entire Facebook post. I’ve also found Facebook has become stained with controversy, overrun with politics, and just isn’t fun anymore. The only issue with Instagram is not being able to put a hyperlink in your post. But if you’re imaginative you can get some good attention.
Chris Barili: I think Twitter does a good job of announcing things. It’s short, so people read it, but I’m not sure many people click. I’ve had some success using Facebook boosted posts, too, and I think those are my favorites because they’re cheap, easy, and for me pretty effective.
What sites have you used for marketing and/or giveaways? Which do you recommend? Why?
Jordan Elizabeth: GoodReads is best for giveaways. Amazon is the second best. I’m still figuring out which sites are good for which books. So far, I can only recommend Fussy Librarian. I haven’t had good luck with the others.
Carol Riggs: If you can snag one and can afford it, I’ve had good luck with BookBub. I used to like Goodreads for giving away paperback books, but now they are charging for this service and I can’t afford to do that.
Chris DiBella: Goodreads helps to reach a bunch of potential readers, but I don’t like to do giveaways on there. As I’ve mentioned in a previous week here, everyone is willing to sign up for a freebie, and who knows if you’re even giving the book away to someone who will actually read it. I guess the same can be said for Amazon as well, but I’ve found that my giveaways for Amazon Kindle usually generate some sales afterwards, so for me, this is the route I typically take.
Which of these marketing platforms have you tried? How effective did you find each to be? (Facebook ads, AMS, other paid ad campaigns) Which do you feel were money well spent?
Chris DiBella: I decided to pay for a promo on Facebook once. From that experience, I would never do it again. You get what you pay for, but I’m just against having to pay to reach potential readers on a social media site. I didn’t think it did anything to gain new followers or to help with sales. My advice is to spend your time on target advertising and get the people to your site who actually want to be there. I gained a few hundred followers from a paid promo, but it all seemed a little sketchy when those new followers were from some small little African nation I had never heard of. And as I expected would happen, I began receiving some very weird messages on my author page shortly thereafter. I won’t pay for Facebook ads anymore because of that.
Which book marketing sites have you found to be good (free or paid)? What do you like about them? What is the downside?
Chris Barili: Ebooksoda did pretty well for me during a Halloween sales press of the Hell’s Butcher series. So far, they’re the only ones I’ve tried.
If you’re an author, you need to have a website. An author must have a blog to gain followers. You really have to do a newsletter to keep your followers up to speed on all your new releases. You absolutely have to build a mailing list. Who among us hasn’t heard all of these at one time or another? But, you would have to be a super author or a super marketer, or a little bit of both to maintain all of these, and let’s face it, no one wants to invest a bunch of time and/or money into something that isn’t effective in either gaining readers, selling books, or both. So, do we really need all of these things? Which ones work, and which don’t?
Website, blog, author’s page or a combination? What are the benefits of each?
Chris DiBella: I’ve recently decided to start using my personal Facebook page as my author page. I find that my posts reach more people and I don’t have to pay extra to “boost” my visibility. I’ve pretty much abandoned my blog and just use it as my website for now until I build my actual one.
Cynthia Vespia: I have all of them. My blog is on my website.The author page is through Amazon and Goodreads. I think you definitely need a website. It doesn’t have to be lavish, just a place where people can learn more about you and your writing. For the blog I try to use it to help people getting into the business.
I only recently began to build a mailing list for my new monthly newsletter back in March, and so far the going has been slow. I think perhaps my method of sign-up, which is a sidebar pop-up right here, on Writing to be Read, may not be noticable enough and since very few of the sign-ups have claimed the free e-copy of Hidden Secrets, my paranormal mystery novelette, I’m thinking the thank you message with the Instafreebie link is getting missed as well. (I just told you how to sign-up for my monthly Newsletter and get a free e-book! What are you waiting for?) It’s just a trial and error thing for me. Every marketing adventure is a learning experience , so I’m eager to see what our author panel members’ experiences have been. Shall we Ask the Authors?
Do you have one or more mailing lists? Do you have a newsletter? Which do you find to be useful or effective?
Carol Riggs: I’m building up my newsletter subscription for fans and friends who are interested in hearing about my latest releases and giveaways. I give them special treatment, and many of them are kind enough to leave reviews in return for reading my freebies, which I appreciate a lot.
Chris Barili: I have one mailing list, but it’s small. This is something I’m trying hard to improve on.
Cynthia Vespia: I have a newsletter. It hasn’t done much for me in exposure or sales so I’ve basically discontinued it.
Interviews help get exposure for the author and their books. I’ve been on both ends of the interview. In fact, I have interviewed many of our panel members. In addition to sitting on the author panel for this series, I interviewed Tim Baker for my 2016 Publishing series and my 2017 Book Marketing series, and Jordan Elizabeth for both Publishing and Book Marketing, as well an interview to start off 2018 on New Year’s Day. I’ve also interviewed Art Rosch for the Publishing series and Cynthia Vespia and Chris Barili for the Book Marketing. And my interview with Margareth Stewart for the release of Open is how she and I met. But in book marketing and promotion, we want to look at the other side of the interview, from the author’s perspective.
I’ll never forget how excited I was to do my first interview with Dan Alatore shortly after Delilah came out, back in May of 2017. I don’t know that it helped sell any books, (it was before D.L. Mullen made my awesome covers, and the cookie cutter cover my publisher provided was baaaad), but it sure helped to make me feel as if I had made it to the big time. Dan made me sound good, so it was pretty cool. So, let’s Ask the Authors how effective our panel members think interviews are. Do they sell books, or are there other benefits? Is landing an interview something we should strive for?
How effective have interviews been for you in your overall marketing scheme?
Carol Riggs: Friends and fans tweet for me on Twitter, invite me to guest post on their blogs (like this interview series, thanks so much!), and share things on Facebook. All those things are invaluable and help me out a lot.
Chris DiBella: I’ve done several interviews, but I don’t think they’ve really been effective in terms of generating more book sales. My advice for any new authors wanting to do interviews is to research who is conducting the interview. If they only have 5 followers, is it really going to help you in the long run? The argument can be made that reaching even one new reader is a success, but I guess you have to pick and choose when and where you decide to do spots.
Cynthia Vespia: It really depends on the person doing the interview. I’ve done alot of podcasts and for the most part I’ve had fun, but there have been a few times where the person running the interview has been monotone, dull, distracted, and just brought the entire show down. There’s only so much I can do when the person on the other end isn’t holding their end up.
What interview has been the most effective for you in terms of marketing? Why?
What was the most fun interview you’ve ever done? Why?
Jordan Elizabeth: Yours. You ask the most interesting, thought-provoking questions.
(Kaye: (Blushing) Thank you.)
Carol Riggs: The most fun interview I did was with Moriah Chavis on A Leisure Moment for my book, THE LYING PLANET. It was a unique and creative interview, in which she asked me questions as if I were the Machine—the sinister contraption that judges each teen in the community on their 18th birthday.
A picture speaks a thousand words, and a video can speak an entire book. Well, maybe. It’s certain that images attract attention more than posts with only words, if you want to sell books, you at least need to post an image of your cover. But some authors go beyond that and posts videos or book trailers to attract people to check out, and hopefully buy, their books. I recently made a book trailer for Delilah, and it certainly got more Facebook views than other posts I’ve made. (Unfortunately, I can’t feature it here for you, because the free plan on WordPress doesn’t support video.)Whether it increased my sales is yet to be seen, but let’s Ask the Authors to see what out panel members think about book trailers.
Do you use book trailers? If so, do you create them yourself or hire them out? How effective do you think they are?
Chris DiBella: I created a book trailer for my first novel, Lost Voyage, and then for my first zombie book. I created them myself. It was pretty easy to do it on my own and make it look more professional than it actually was. For Lost Voyage, the music I used was from my band at the time, and for the zombie book, I used the music from a friend’s band (appropriately enough, it was a hard rock remake of the song “Zombie” by the Cranberries.). People liked then and thought they were fun. I’ve thought about making another trailer for my most recently published book. If it gets people to click on the post, it can’t be a bad thing.
Margareth Stewart: I do like having my books transformed into book trailers. This helps readers to experience them through motion pictures – Images may speak better than words. I have also hired this kind of service from “Fiverr” which has a fix price of US$ 5 dollars for each short film. It is an amount really worth spending. There are video editors available online where it is possible to produce and edit our films. I always make sure the images are copyright-free and I hope they call producers´ attention – more to the story than my film-making techniques – “who knows?”
Cynthia Vespia: I make a book trailer for every new release. They are effective enough to get attention.
Press releases, in my mind, were something a publisher did for an author to create buzz for a new release. But today’s authors are doing their own marketing, and a lot of the time, there is no publisher besides the author. I wasn’t even sure if folks still did press releases in a digital age, but I came across a template for a press release in the self-administered crash course in marketing and promotion I’ve been doing, so I made one up, geared to the local author angle and sent it out to several of my local papers. I also played on the fact that Delilah is set in Colorado, so I sent one to the Leadville paper, where most of her story takes place. I had one two positive responses, and one that for sure published it, which I just happened to catch with Google Alerts, which notifies me when my selected key words appear online. I don’t know if any of the others published, but I considered it a success just to get it in the papers I know about. I’m not sure how to measure its effect on book sales yet. It was an experiment for me, and I’m curious to learn about our panel members experiences with them. Let’s Ask the Authors.
Have you tried Press Releases? How effective were they?
Margareth Stewart: Yes I have, and I reckon it is a great mean to call people´s attention to my publications, especially new releases. I usually prepare a text with images, and send them by email. I have been figured out in radio programs and local newspapers. It is worth taking the time and the effort to straighten up relations with local audience. Sometimes, it does not immediately reflect on sales, but it works as the branding an author´s name. Besides, it is also a mean to being found through search engines!
Cynthia Vespia: Yes. They haven’t done much for me.
Many authors today utilize street teams to find reviewers for their books or just get the word out. Street teams are usually made up of enthusiastic fans who don’t mind helping out their favorite author, and unlike P.A.s, they usually volunteer for the job and are not paid. I haven’t employed a street team, but anything related to marketing and promotion that doesn’t put a dent in my pocketbook is always of interest. Let’s ask our Ask the Authors panel members how effective they have found street teams to be and how they have utilized their street teams.
Do you have a street team? If so, how do you utilize them? What do they do for you?
Jordan Elizabeth: I used to, but the girls started to be harassed by other authors and bloggers. One by one they dropped out. We’re still good friends and they read my books, but they no longer help with marketing.
Chris DiBella: My wife, my mom, and my brother are my current “street team”. They wear shirts I had made advertising my website. It’s not a massive marketing effort, but at least people are seeing my name intermittently….even if it is on the back of a shirt.
It seems no matter what publishing route one takes, a major portion, if not all of the book marketing and promotion falls to the author. Different authors approach the task in many different ways, from social media marketing, to live book events, to creating booktrailers, tee-shirts, and tire covers, to paid advertising spots, to newsletters, to press releases and interviews, to utilizing street teams to acquire reviews and or do promotion, to hiring ad agencies. Most of our panel members claim live events are more effective in marketing, but it seems both live and Internet promotion is needed, and perhaps even desired ina digital world. Of course, all of this barely scratches the surface of the world of book marketing. There is enough on this topic to fuel several series, but perhaps some of the information presented here will spark an idea for promotion or inspire a new marketing campaign for your own books.
If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. This is the last chance to pose a question for these panel members as next week will be the final post for this Ask the Authors series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members there. See you next Monday!
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Whether an independent author or traditionally published, it seems most of the marketing and promotion falls to the author in today’s literary arena. Even if we love marketing and don’t find it to be an absolutely harrowing task, we are writers, and time spent marketing is time not doing what we love: writing. We don’t want to waste our time and money on ineffective marketing methods. We want to make our marketing techniques pay off big in as little time and expense as possible, so we can spend more time putting words to page.
In this series, we’ve talked to seven authors to learn what methods of book promotion works for them. In Part 1, I talked with Cynthia Vespia, who chose to go independent after having minimal results with small publishers. She does her own cover art and all of her own marketing. She prefers face-to-face marketing events to social media marketing. While she does do social media release parties and book events, she finds them most effective to increase fanbase, rather than book sales. She says it is more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of social media marketing than it is to see the imediate results of conventions and book signings.
Something which I’ve tried which has been somewhat effective, at least in building my platform, if not in actual sales, are the book releases and book events on Facebook. Even though obtaining a spot in one of these events is free, they do require a lot of preparation for a short little spurt (1/2 hour to 1 hour) for your spot. And I think you’ll get better results if you hang out for at least a while, commenting and playing the games to support your fellow authors and creating visibility. If you’d like to check one out, I’m participating in a special Cyber-Monday event, hosted by Sonora Dawn Studios and DL Mullen, and they are still looking for author particiapnts.
In Part 2, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd , who are small press and independent authors. Kym does their covers and Mark copyedits their books, and they do all of their own marketing. They promote through blogging and have a YouTube channel, where visitors could watch recordings of their research and ghost investigations. They also have a website and author pages on Amazon and Goodreads. They have found blogging, and social media promotion effective ways to get the word out about their books, but they found in person book readings to be less effective and unpredictable. They advocate free promotions and KDP Select.
On the issue of KDP select, I have my doubts, and author Chris Barili is in agreement with me in Part 6. It doesn’t make sense to limit the venues on which you can sell your book. With KDP select, you must sell only on Amazon, exclusively, which excludes many other venues, such as Smashwords, Lulu, Book Baby, etc… And while I say it makes no sense, both of my books are with KDP select right now. I’ve left Last Call there for now, because I have an idea to do something else with that story, and it doesn’t make sense to pull it off KDP select until then. And with Delilah, it’s really up to my publisher, so for now, I don’t have a choice.
Part 3 featured an interview with Jordan Elizabeth, a small press author. Her publisher handles editing and book covers, but she handles the major portion of her marketing. She’s an advocate of social media promotion. She reports good results advertising with BookBub and Fussy Librarian, and also says book signings are effective.
In 2016, author Nicholas C. Rossis in his post, Call to Arms: Year-long survey reveals which book advertiser offers best value for money, says that at the end of 2016, the best buy for your buck as far as advertising discounted books goes, was Amazon Marketing Services, Book Barbarian, and ENT. But he also notes that these trends fluctuate and advertisers that were rated higher in 2015, may have rated lower or not made his list in 2016. And he notes that Amazon Marketing Service rising from the ranks with unfortold speed.
According to Writer’s News’ list of useful book promotion websites , Write Globe, which claims to be the perfect platform for creative individuals, ranked number one. Also mentioned are Writers.Support, BooksOnline.Best, Noble Authors, 79ads.in, Creative Designers and Writers, ShareNews.live, Earn.Promo, in that order. The last one on their list stuck out for me, because it’s free. As a starving writer, free always has a certain appeal. Another site for free advertising that I found was Authors Talk About It. They run your ad for your book in their newsletter for free and also free book cover contests, and featured author interviews. They ran my interview and made me sound good.
Independent author Tim Baker joined us in Part 4. He started out with small press publishers, but switched over to independent, creating his own brand. He does free promotions and giveaways and finds them to be effective in creating buzz, resulting in future sales. He contracts out editing, formating and cover art, but handles all his own marketing, believing there is no magic formula for selling books but hard work and persistance.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to hire out your non-writing tasks, so you can spend your time tending to the business of writing, there are plenty of sites out there where you can find free-lance service providers. My editing services are offered through The Author Market, and they also offer cover design and book trailers, proofreading, ghostwriting and PA services.
In Part 5, independent author Amy Cecil shared her thoughts on marketing and social media promotion. She hires out her marketing tasks so she has more time to spend on the business of writing. She hires for editing and cover design, has a marketing firm and two PAs. She’s a new found believer in book blog tours, has done a book signing at B&N, and has a street team for creating social media buzz aboout her books. She’s not in favor of free promotions, but loves the exposure that social media has given her.
While Jordan didn’t find review tours to be worth the money it costs of the promotional agencies as her results were minimal. I know a little about them, and I know authors who swear by them, like Amy Cecil. Many of my author interviews are part of the Full Moon Bites Promotions book blog tours. And I know there are plenty of other promotional services which set up book blog tours out there, but it appears the verdict is still up in the air on this book marketing method.
Part 6 features author Chris Barili, who has published both traditionally and independently. While his traditionally published book requires only minimal marketing from him, the independently published books require him to do it all. He has found social media marketing, free promotions and KDP select to be ineffective. What works for him is hard work and persistance.
In Part 7, I interviewed DeAnna Knippling, an independent author who has also developed her own brand and publishing label. She uses an Advance Reader Copy list and newsletters, free promotions, and tries to attract super-readers on Goodreads, testifying to the power of reviews. (Of free promos Knippling says that if it doesn’t generate new sales, it at least generates new readers and that’s worth the cost.)
There is no doubt that in today’s book market, in the world of digital marketing, book reviews are where it’s at. But, honest reviews aren’t always easy to come by. YA author Jordan Elizabeth used her street team for the task of finding reviewers, with mixed results, and DeAnna Knippling has done free promotions on sites like Instafreebie. Free ARCs don’t always garauntee the review. That’s one of the reasons I do honest book reviews here on Writing to be Read, to help promote other authors and their work.
Everybody talks about branding and how you have to have a brand, but it looks to me like branding is something that just sort of happens in many cases, such as my red quill and ink, which began as a social media avatar and has become my logo. In others cases, like DeAnna Knippling and Tim Baker, it’s a purposeful, but still comes almost naturally.
Overall, it seems that different methods are effective for different authors, and in different ways. While social media and free promotions may or may not produce new book sales, it does create buzz, which results in future sales, at least in theory. Although Mark and Kym don’t place a lot of value on social media promotion, Cynthia Vespia, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil and DeAnna Knippling find it an effective way to build a fan base and get reviews. It seems like face-to-face promotional encounters such as book signings and conferences are a pretty effective way to get your book out there, and free promos pay off if you look at other measures of effectiveness besides book sales. Tim Baker and Chris Barili both put their faith in hard work and persistance, regardless of the marketing methods you chose.
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