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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In today’s segment of Ask the Authors, panel members discuss building a reader platform, and branding ourselves and our writing to make our books stand out above the multitude of books, putting ours into the readers hands. In her article 10 Obvious Truths Writers Always Forget, Stacey Anderson Laatsch says that although a good marketing plan may speed things up a bit, “An audience grown organically over time will follow you and read more of your work than one manipulated with aggressive ads or hollow social media campaigns.” But in my experience, things don’t happen unless you make them happen. You can’t grow your reader following if readers don’t know you are there. You must make your work visible if you want to be found. There are many angles from which to approach these tasks. Let’s see how our panel members handle them.
What methods have you tried for gaining a reader following?
Jordan Elizabeth: I’ve tried building up my newsletter, but that didn’t work. I’ve also tried sending to bloggers, but most of them don’t answer. Reaching out personally to reviewers has helped, and so has joining review groups on Facebook.
Carol Riggs: Just trying to make genuine relationship connections (mostly on Twitter), rather than focusing on numbers. I had a blog at one point, but it started taking away from my writing time because I enjoyed visiting other people’s blogs and there were a ton of them. So I pretty much retired the blog. I also make connections at the Oregon SCBWI conferences by networking with other YA writers. (SCBWI = Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)
Janet Garber: Book fairs, library talks, person-to-person, mailing list, blog/website, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, guest blogging or interviews, writing articles in professional magazines, open mic events, attendance at professional conferences.
Cynthia Vespia: I’m on Twitter and Instagram @originalcynergy. My FB and YouTube pages are /originalcyncontent.
Chris Barili: Write good stories. I gain far more followers through my stories than I do through any other means. People who’ve read something in an antho, or Hell’s Butcher, or Smothered.
Chris DiBella: I’ll bring bookmarks with me everywhere I go (concerts, zoo, beach, bookstores) and just give them to anyone I see with a book in their hand. Maybe they read the bookmark and are intrigued to buy one of the books on there. If I’m friendly with them, maybe that will persuade them to give me a shot. I’m not even ashamed to admit I’ve piggybacked on friends’ social media accounts and added their fans as followers or friends. If it’s in the same genre, it makes sense to have a presorted list of potential book readers to reach out to.
Tim Baker: I’ve tried just about everything. Some examples, aside from the standard internet self-promotion: Leaving bookmarks in novels of my genre at bookstores, leaving books in airports, stamping my website address on money, tee shirts, mugs, and putting my logo and website address on the spare tire cover of my Jeep!
What’s the most effective way you’ve found to build followers?
Jordan Elizabeth: I enjoy reaching out personally to talk to reviewers and readers. I like to think that builds a personal repertoire.
Carol Riggs: Honestly, I don’t try that hard; it’s not like I have that as a goal or anything, although maybe I should. I love using Twitter the most, because I can connect with people who love to read and write. Having said that, I think the most effective way to build followers is to be yourself, and make genuine connections rather than constantly saying, “Buy my book!” Anything else can be pushy and shallow.
Janet Garber: I’ve been hard at work finishing my second novel about a young couple living in Paris in the 1970’s. I have not been as active lately promoting Dream Job as I should be. I’m considering an audiotape and perhaps hiring someone to place ads for me. I’m still on a learning curve re marketing.
Cynthia Vespia: To be honest, that is constantly a work in progress for me. I’m currently on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. I also have my own website where I do a monthly blog and newsletter. All I can say is that no matter what platform you use to always have fresh content that attracts viewership. My favorite way to gain followers is to do public events like book signings and conventions.
Chris Barili: Giveaways, conventions, leaving bookmarks around town, newsletter, instafreebie, book signings at Barnes and Noble, a website, and Facebook/Twitter accounts.
Chris DiBella: I primarily use Facebook to interact with and build my followers (although I’ve cut down my usage on there significantly lately). I don’t like joining (or being added to) author groups because it’s usually only 99% other authors in the group who aren’t interested in reading anything and they’re just there to post about their own books. I’m guilty of not being more active to build my follower list, but the people that do read my books seem to generally really like them and look forward to the next ones.
Tim Baker: At the risk of sounding pompous…the best way I’ve found to build a following is to write good books, and keep writing them. What you will find is that when people like your work they tell other people about it – which is the best way to gain followers. All of the other marketing and promoting is good, but word of mouth is still the best.
In this digital world we live in, it seems the trick is to navigate through the social media maze to find effective ways to make your book stand out above the mountain of books available. Narrowing things down into a specific niche may increase your odds of success, but most genre writers must compete with multitudes. So what works and what doesn’t. Let’s Ask the Authors.
Do you utilize giveaways or book events on social media? Which ones have been effective for you?
Jordan Elizabeth: In the past, I did Facebook Release Parties. The first ones had great success, but over the years the participation dwindled. I’ve stopped doing them, as only a few close friends would attend.
Carol Riggs: Oh yes, I love doing giveaways and book events on social media. One giveaway I used to love doing was the Goodreads giveaways, but alas, now they are charging money for those giveaways. While it’s nice they’re now including ebooks and that helps distribute ARCs, I’m sad that it’s no longer a free way to bring awareness of my book to a reading platform site. I tried Facebook ads but didn’t have any luck with it. My publishers have had BookBub ads for my books (which authors can use without having to have a publisher), and had great success with them.
Cynthia Vespia: I have done a few book giveaways and joined some book events on FB. I’ve also done giveaways on Goodreads. TBH, there hasn’t been much return from doing the giveaways. The events have supplied me with a few more followers, and they can be fun depending on how active the audience is, but it is hit or miss sometimes.
Chris Barili: I tried a couple of book events. Blog tours and page takeovers. That kind of thing. No luck. What I did find successful was a contest I had with my friend Amity Green. We both did full-court press ad and publicity campaigns and made it known we were competing against one another. That resulted in the largest sales period I’ve ever had, and got me a number of followers.
Chris DiBella: I don’t like book giveaways on sites like Goodreads. You always get a million people signing up for it just to get something free, and who knows if they’re ever going to read it or if they’re your targeted fan anyway…so I stay away from this route. I occasionally do an Amazon free promo over a four-day weekend, but even though a few thousand copies might go out, who knows when or if it will get read. But I guess if it reaches the person, it’s worth it. Amazon has been the most effective by far, and I typically see a small spike in sales of my other books following the giveaway.
Tim Baker: I have done several giveaways. The Goodreads giveaways didn’t do much at all for me, but I have found that when I make a kindle book free and spread the word on social media I give away hundreds of books, which in turn raises my name in the Amazon search algorithms, which in turn drives up sales.
Do you utilize in person book events or giveaways? Do you feel these face to face events are more effective for gaining followers that social media events?
Jordan Elizabeth: Face-to-face is my preference. I love to meet people and explain what my books are about. I do a lot of local book signings and other events in the area.
Carol Riggs: I did in-person book signings mostly for my debut book, and since I didn’t have a lot of friends in the cities I did the signings in, the events weren’t always well attended. However, I did also do a literacy event in Eugene, Oregon, this last December 2017 that supported literacy with a percentage of my sales, as well as provided me an opportunity for meeting people. I think authors need to realize it’s not always about how many books you’ve sold; it’s about engaging readers face to face and making a personal connection.
Janet Garber: For me, face to face encounters are a lot of fun and generate some sales.
Cynthia Vespia: I’m not sure if face-to-face events get me more followers but they are a lot more fun. I’ve done book signings at libraries, bookstores, and conventions. What I like best is meeting people face-to-face. Writing is isolating, so getting interaction with readers like that is the equivalent of an actor doing a play in front of a live audience.
Chris Barili: Again, the best way to find followers is to write a good story. If you meet them face to face, then they read your book and it sucks, guess what. They’re not following you. But AFTER writing a good book, face-to-face is probably the next most effective way to gain followers. It makes a difference when someone has seen your face, shaken your hand, and so on. Maybe gotten a book signed by you. You’ve earned some loyalty from them.
Chris DiBella: I’ve been known to just show up at local bookstores and ask the owner if it’s cool if I just stand out front and give away my book to people coming in. I tell them I’m not taking any money away from the bookstore and that I’m not charging anything, but rather just trying to get my book in the hands of potential readers. I rarely have a bookstore say no. Then, I ask people leaving store what their favorite genres to read are. If they say action/adventure, I give them a signed copy of one of my books. If they like it, they can pay for the next one, and it helps to get my name out there. Face-to-face is always better because if your personable with people, they’re more likely to buy your book if they can put a face to the name. This could have a reverse effect, however, if you’re an asshole…..so it’s a safer bet to just be nice to people.
Tim Baker:I don’t give books away at live events, usually. Once in a while I’ll offer a “buy two get one free” but for the most part, at live events I’m strictly selling. And yes – live face-to-face events definitely help gain followers. People enjoy meeting authors and talking about books, writing, reading, etc.
What are some effective methods for branding yourself and your work?
Jordan Elizabeth: I like to keep my writing consistent so readers know when to expect when they dive in. Early last year I came up with an author logo that I hope will draw more attention to my books as a brand.
Follow-up: Is there a story as to how you chose the image for your logo? Why did you chose this for the Jordan Elizabeth signature?
Jordan Elizabeth: The story is kind of boring… I have an illustrator friend, Aaron Siddall. I asked him to come up with something for me and he showed me this as his first try. I loved it, so he didn’t offer other suggestions.
Janet Garber: My book was available to critics on netgalley, but I did not find that helpful. Reviews are important and I have sought those out.
Cynthia Vespia: The story is that it’s a play on my name and the biblical story of Adam and Eve where they are in the Garden of Eden and the snake encourages Eve to bite the forbidden fruit. AKA “The Original Sin”
Tim Baker: Blindogg Books is my own publishing company. I publish my own books of course and have published 2 that weren’t mine. With technology the way it is and the power of the internet it is very easy to become your own publisher.
Do you have a website or blog that you drive traffic to? How effective do you think they are?
Jordan Elizabeth: My website is JordanElizabethBooks.com. I would say it is 10% effective. The only people who view it are those who want to order signed copies. I would say the publishers’ websites are more popular and effective.
Carol Riggs: Yes, I have a website; I used to have a blog but it’s pretty much retired now. I post chapter samples of all my books as well as purchasing links on my website. I’m not sure exactly how effective these things are, but a thorough and professional-looking website is a must for an author. A website must be easy to navigate and not too cluttered. An author photo must be included, as well as contact links, social media links, purchase links, book covers, and book summaries.
My website: http://www.carolriggs.com/
Janet Garber: I have a website, http://www.janetgarber.com and an attached blog.
Cynthia Vespia: I have a website at www.CynthiaVespia.com where I will blog tips, news, and fun stories. I also have some free reads on the blog as well.
I have a Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMargarethStewart.
There I post all things related to my publishing life, books, novels, things I write, what I read, topics for writers: writing tips, residency open calls, and so on. I am sure this is important not only in building a career, but to being in contact with fellows alike. I am not quite impressed by authors and people who have a large amount of followers – much to the opposite; I like to discover new authors and new voices, either for the future or from the past. I am so much into independent bookstores, self-published and indie authors, forgotten voices and old manuscripts, initiatives that makes us grow and worry less about fame. In a society of celebrities and best-seller authors, I guess I took the unpaved road (lol).
Chris Barili: authorchrisbarili.com is my website, and while it’s not terrible effective at bringing people in, it’s very effective at relaying news to people already following me.
Chris DiBella: Anywhere I have a social media presence, my website address can be found, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. I even put my web address and email address in my books to help encourage interaction.
I think the blog is effective because the content changes regularly. I usually gain a new follower or two every time I post something new. My website is pretty static so it doesn’t do much for me – but it does give people a place to buy my books.
Art Rosch was unable to weigh in this week, but asked that his links be included here.
Arthur Rosch Books
Write Out Of My Head
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. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members.
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