“Go on Instagram,” said my publisher. “That’s where the teens are. Post pictures of your books. They’ll eat it up.”
I was new to Instagram, but I called up the website on my computer and attempted to join, only to find out you have to post using the app on your cell phone. That put a damper on things – I don’t have a smart phone. My phone flips up, costs $100 a year, and it does everything I need it to (as in, it sometimes sends texts and usually makes a phone call). My husband has a smart phone, so I download the app onto his device, put on a smile, and snapped a picture holding my book. I didn’t look all that great. I snapped a few more, and ended up just taking a picture of the book cover. It got a few likes. They were from people who already knew me on Facebook.
I posted a few more covers and the likes trickled in, still from people who were already my friend. It seemed I needed a new strategy. I needed to attract people who didn’t already know me. I took some pictures of just me doing cute poses or wearing cute outfits. The same thing happened – the same people “liked” my pictures. Next, I tried posting pictures of my cat. That earned me more likes, and a couple new people. While she is adorable, my goal for Instagram was to get my book out there.
I reached out to author friends for advice. Based on their feedback, I started posting inspirational quotes and setting up my books in gorgeous spots. I propped my book up on the porch. I set the book in a bed of flowers. I put the book on my actual bed.
I like to think I’ve gotten better at posing my book in different way. The books are models and I’m their photographer. A very poor photographer. Likes and hearts trickle in, and now they’re coming from people I don’t know. I’m getting there!
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. If you would like to follow her on Instagram, she goes by JayliaDarkness. The username is a shout-out to the YA fantasy series she’s currently writing.
You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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My husband always accused me of spending too much time ‘playing’ on Facebook, and although I do spend a lot of time on social media, what I’m really doing is promoting my writing and interacting with other authors and potential readers. The truth is, social media can be a valuable tool for authors, if they go about it with the right expectations.
Although I hear paid Facebook ads can drum up a few sales, but if we don’t want to spend a lot of money, we shouldn’t expect to sell a lot of books through social media. I know it doesn’t sound like it’s really very beneficial when you look at it from a sales perspective. But social media can be benificial if we use it to connect. Social media connects me with other authors and potential readers via several channels.
On Halloween, I co-hosted the Dead Man’s Party event, together with DL Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios. Though I had participated in several such events, this was my first experience with the organization of one. It was also the first audio event I had ever heard of. We mixed things up a bit by having the participating authors provided readings of their works of paranormal and horror, intermixed with the regular promotional posts, silly party games and giveaways. I had recently reviewed Dark Visions, a horror anthology compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre, which had just been released, and with his help, I was able to recruit many of the authors of the stories from the anthology. It was a learning experience, as many of these authors had never published anything before, or done an event such as this. I did many of the recordings and put together one video reading, as well as creating promotional posts for many of them. The whole thing was a lot of fun, drawing in over 1000 visitors I’m told. Overall, it was a success and a lot of fun, and I made many new friends and followers.
But, it was also a lot of work. The recordings took a lot of time to get them right, their were a few audio problems with the video presentation, and I made their promos like I do for my own work, with loving care. However, it was worth it all to get the experience and improve on my promotional skills, as well as in watching my number of followers grow. And one of my new author friends from the event will be joining the WtbR team as a contributing blogger to start the new year. The work I did also gave me some much needed samples of my promotional work, which I used to start my new Copywriting and PA Services page.
So you can see how this event benefited me greatly. Although I didn’t sell a single book, (the ones I gave away don’t count here), I did prosper from the event in many other ways. The message here is to social media to your advantage, but use it in the right ways and for the right reasons in order to avoid having your expectations left unfulfilled. But that’s how you have to approach social media promotion. The first word in social media is ‘social’. It’s there to make connections. That’s what we can expect to get from promotions on social media platforms. Promotion on social media can bring you authors to network with, or readers to build your platform. Any real book sales that you do get are just a nice bonus, but they cannot be expected.
I also gain followers through my Facebook pages. I currently have four pages. The primary page is my Kaye Lynne Booth – Author and Screenwriter page. I also have a page for Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth, for news concerning both my published western and for book 2, Delilah the Homecoming which is still in the draft stages, as well as pages for two WIPs: my scince fantasy series, Playground for the Gods – Kaye Lynne Booth, and my memoir, His Name Was Michael – Kaye Lynne Booth. Through these pages I hope to gain followers who are interested in my writings. By building my platform, I hopefully gain readers who will buy my book.
I’m a member of a large number of author and book groups that allow promotional posts, as well as discussions. We should realize that most of the participants in these events like the one I spoke about above are other authors and the ‘book sales’ you get will be from giveaways. I use this to my advantage by making these connections my goal, instead of going about it with expectations of increased book sales. I spend my time on social media sharing promotions for my blog posts, responding to comments on my posts, sending out friend requests, and interacting. Through the new author friends that I make at these events, I’m able to find authors in need of interviews or book reviews for Writing to be Read, and my followers are growing through my efforts, as well.
So, I say that social media can be a useful tool if we set the right expectations and use social media the way it is meant to be used. Connections can be valuable to an author, especially a new author. We just have to see it’s value and find ways to use it to our benefit.
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I’ve heard it asked if a reader platform is even necessary. So, let me ask you, as writers and authors, without readers what are we? Of course, we need to have a reader platform. All it is is a fan base equivilent, but it can make the difference between the success and the failure of our books. Without my readers, there would be no one to buy my books, read my books, recommend my books or review my books. So, how does one build a reader platform?
It’s a good question. And I’ve heard of many different methods of doing just that, and none of them require construction tools. Not even a screwdriver. All it takes is what we writers and authors do best: words, communication, contact.
I started out with this blog, Writing to be Read, and the number of subscribers is climbing as I work to improve the content. The thing is, there was no way for me to capture those subscriber emails or reach out to them. So, I created a monthly newsletter, and added a sign-up pop-up, offering a free e-book as a thank you for subscribing. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, which isn’t available anywhere else.
The trick is to get people to read your work in the first place. You can’t have a fan or a reader unless they have read something you’ve written and liked it. Nobody will follow you, or write a review, or join your reader group, if they haven’t first, read your book. One way to do that is to identify your target audience and promote to them, offering them all the reasons why they will like your work.
Another, and probably the most important, is to be sure your writing is fun and entertaining, if you’re writing fiction. With non-fiction, you need to make the subject matter interesting and present it well. And humor never hurts, no matter what you write. Even dark works can have dark humor. In short, whatever you are writing, make sure that it is quality writing. This should go without saying, but they won’t become your loyal readers if they can’t make it through the book due to the poor quality writing.
After all, a reader platform is really just a fan base of those who are interested in your work, and by finding them and adding them to your mailing list, you are effectively building a reader platform. With this method, I had a big initial burst of subscribers following the launch of a marketing campaign, then it tapered off to a slower rate of growth. My list is growing slowly, but I’m gaining a few new subscribers every month.
Other authors I know start Facebook reader groups or ask fans to join their street teams. I don’t know how well they work, but it seems there’s always activity happening in these groups and they seem to have lots of members. I would think you would have to have a solid fan base to pull ‘groupies’ from, so perhaps this is just an additional step, rather than an alternative method. Most of the authors I know who have street teams or Facebook reader groups, swear they don’t know what they’d do without them, relying on them to spread the word on new releases, post reviews on release day, find reviewers for their books, and/or show up for support at book events. These authors are harnessing the power of their readers and directing it to where it is needed most. And I’m thinking they might be on to something.
Part of the problem may be that I’m a multi-genre author. To date, I’ve published a western novel, Delilah; a paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets; and a science fiction time travel short story, Last Call. I’ve also had a dystopian short story and a crime romance short story published in anthologies, as well as shorts and poetry online. Western readers, science fiction readers and paranormal readers are not all included in the same crowd. I’m also eclectic in my reading habits, but most folks want to read only their preferred genres. Now how do I find readers that are so hard core they want to read everything I’ve published?
My answer is, I don’t. I’m finding that I must seek out readers for each one seperately and build a seperate reader platform for each one. The western readers who liked Delilah will be interested in the sequel, The Homecoming, when it’s finished, but they may not be interested in the books for my science fantasy Playground for the Gods series, when the first book is released. And many of my readers are authors themselves and they may be interested in the content on Writing to be Read, rather than any of my fiction works. When I look at it in this way, the task at hand seems to be enormous, the goal so far away. I’m not sure where to start, but I’m determined to find out.
I think a good start would be to find out which of my works the readers I already have are interested in, so I’ve added a genre question to the pop-up for the newsletter sign-up, so that I can place readers on different lists and then new subscribers can receive notifications concerning those works that they are interested in.
All of this marketing stuff is new to me and I’m learning as I go, so if you do sign-up for my monthly newsletter, I’d love it if you’d drop me an email and let me know how the whole sign-up process went, and what worked for you and what didn’t. After all, I’m smart enough to know that without you, my readers, I wouldn’t sell any books. I appreciate the fact that you stand by me. Let me hear form you at: kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
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There are changes for Facebook on the horizon, and they aren’t beneficial to struggling authors or small business owners. Many are already going into effect. I’ve already seen an impact on my Facebook activities and I’m not liking it at all.
Some of the expected changes are explained in the K-lytics article, How the New Facebook Algorithms Affect Authors, by Alex Newton,
“In other words, if you write a post promoting your most recent book, only a fraction of your page fans or friends will see it. If your fans do not follow your page, your post is going to end up in the alternative news feed, not the main feed, if it shows up at all….”
Social Media Examiner founder Michael Stelzner claims these changes are already occuring, including video getting less watch time and links to external pages getting less visibility, and he claims these changes will impact all people and pages. And I think he’s right. Just because someone follows you, doesn’t mean that they are seeing your posts in their news feed.
In the K-lytics article, Alex Newton claims Facebook is really after your money, trying to push you to pay for your promotions because starving artists and start-up businesses are taking advantage of their free promotion features and they aren’t making any money off of you,
“Remember, organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid distribution. If you had 3,000 fans on your page and you reached 300 (10%) with a post, you could consider yourself lucky. And these days, the percentage is so much lower.
The fact is, Facebook wants you to pay for your reach. Facebook wants you to run ads and “boost” your posts.”
This algorithm and Facebook’s effort to bully people into paying for what we used to get on their site for free has already had an impact. I have made a practice of being a member of many writing, author, and book groups, where I post each time I publish a new blog post and promote my books, short stories and poetry. I try to keep track of which groups allow promotional posts and the ones that allow them only on certain days, and I try to follow all of the rules. But because I share my posts in so many different groups, the Facebook algorithm has been known to tag my posts as spam, especially if I’m short on time and rushing through my promotional tasks. Facebook has cut me off for going too fast or for making too many shares. It’s not people reporting me, it’s their algorithms deciding that I’ve been a bad girl.
Most recently, Facebook has banned me for twenty-four hours and then as soon as I did three shares the next day, all to the “Writing Contacts” group that I started, they banned me again. And they don’t just ban me from sharing posts, they ban me from all group activities. I couldn’t even comment on someone else’s posts or contribute to the group in any way, so it looks like all I do there is promote. I try to be a contributing member to most of the groups I belong to and not just promote my work, but my time is often limited and I have to combine the two activities in order to get them both done. I have been doing things this way for at least eight years, but now they are slapping my hands for it.
Michael Stelzner suggests measures to increase the chances of getting your posts seen, such as posting less often, create content that promotes people to talk to each other instead of just you, increase your live video use, avoid posts that encourage people to comment (engagement bait), and pay for your ads and use Messenger chatbots. (If you are interested in learning more about this, you won’t want to miss the Social Media Marketing 2018 Conference).
To my thinking, if I play Facebook’s game and change my marketing strategy on their site, or pay for their advertising to make sure my posts are seen, especially when the majority of my posts are for Writing to be Read which I’m not making any money off of, then they win. Why should Facebook decide who gets to see my posts. If I’ve followed someone, I want to see their posts. That’s why I followed them in the first place. Those who have followed me should by rights, be able to see my posts. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but that’s not the way it does work with these new algorithms.
So, I have a different solution. I created a “Westerns” page here on the Writing to be Read site, to replace my Delilah Facebook page and I hope to drive traffic to it, instead of promoting the Facebook page. I plan to do the same with my Playground for the Gods page. I have a cool idea for marketing of the second book, but you’ll have to check in to my Westerns page to learn what it is. If I’m ever fluid enough to pay for Facebook ads, I’ll use them to drive to my website pages, here, rather than their Facebook counterparts.
So, I am asking for your help. You, dear reader, can help support my Facebook protest by liking my “Westerns” page, subscribing to email, (up below the Red Quill logo and the search box in the top right side of the page), or follow Writing to be Read on WordPress. Remember, authors count on you, not just to buy their books, but to like their posts and write reviews. These days, these are things that matter in the rankings. Also, watch for a new way to sign up for my email list to recieve news and updates on my work, and when you see it, please sign up. I need your support. And if you are an author, I call upon you to move your pages to a different platform and stand in unification against the big conglomerates who believe they have us by the short hairs.
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Frequently I rant about the time I have to spend marketing and promoting my writing instead of actually writing. It’s no secret that marketing is not my favorite author hat to wear, and I know a lot of other authors who feel exactly the same way. But the fact is, in today’s writing industry, the author must carry most, if not all, of the load when it comes to promoting their work and marketing their masterpieces.
Now, I’m a struggling author, just as many of you are, so I don’t have a big marketing budget and I can’t afford to hire someone to do my marketing for me. My promotions are limited mainly to social media marketing, usually the kind that’s free. Even when I have a little money to put into marketing, I don’t really know what avenues would be effective enough to be worth it.
A lot of the information about book marketing that is out there on the Internet today is geared toward marketing your non-fiction book, whether it be self-help, or how-to, or even a cookbook. These articles tell you how to show potential readers why they need your book, how your book can help them, which is great, except most of their strategies do not apply to marketing fiction.
As a result of this discovery, I’ve been doing some research of my own into the matter, but I’ve found that the effectiveness of any marketing strategy depends on many factors, and results vary from author to author. In this eight part series, we’ll take a look at my findings and interview seven different authors to learn what they’ve found to be effective in marketing their own work. All work and no play makes us all very dull writers, so we’ll get to know a little about each one of them and their books just for fun.
It’s my pleasure today to interview speculative fiction author, Cynthia Vespia. I have review several of her books, including her Demon Hunter saga: The Chosen One & Seek and Destroy and Hero’s Call, Lucky Sevens, and Life, Death and Back. In addition to her great storytelling, Cynthia is also a talented cover artist, designing most of her own covers, as well as working freelance.
Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?
Cynthia: Once upon a time I was a young mind hungry for books. I’d read Piers Anthony; C.S. Lewis; and comic books (my favorite being The Punisher). Then one day I stumbled upon a book by Dean Koontz called Intensity. To make a long story short it got me hooked and I knew then I wanted to write. My first novel, The Crescent, was written after seeing a documentary about female gladiators narrated by Lucy Lawless. I self-published it back when self-publishing wasn’t cool. It was fun to see my book in print. Flash forward to today and that same story is in pre-production as a feature film.
Along the road I’ve written several more books and short stories, each of which I’m very proud of. I received a Best Series nomination in 2009 for Demon Hunter.
Kaye: What made you decide to go with self-publishing?
Cynthia: I was published by small publishing houses but I never really saw any benefit when I could do the same things they were doing and they weren’t even really promoting me much. So much like a lot of other authors I’ve gone the indie route.
Kaye: As a fantasy writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Cynthia: Honestly, the majority of my work is completely created in my head. Recently the type of research I’ve been doing is for superpowers, modeling, and locations for the Silke Butters Superhero Series. And for my upcoming apocalypse trilogy there was a lot of research regarding weapons and safe-houses.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story/screenplay? What’s the least fun part?
Cynthia: The most fun part of writing for me is in the initial creation of the characters and their backstory. It’s like a sculptor molding clay. You breathe life into your subjects.
The least fun part is in the aftermath which is marketing and promotion. It’s so difficult to posture yourself out in front of a very large crowd of other writers all clamoring for attention.
Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?
Cynthia: Probably Sins and Virtues. I was at Alcatraz in SF and I went inside one of the prison cells for a photo. Afterwards, I felt a heavy cloak of energy from what I could only feel was a former prisoner’s spirit.
While writing Sins and Virtues I started to see visions of prison escapes that I had no business knowing about. If you read the first chapter you’ll get a taste of what I mean. That feeling stayed with me throughout the entire novel. It only left when I was done writing.
Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Cynthia: I’ve heard quite a bit of good advice over the years. I seek it out, and write it down in my journal. Lately, I’ve been falling back on one from Arnold Schwarzenegger where he said “earn it so nobody can say they gave you shit.”
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent/traditional publishing?
Cynthia: Sadly, the pros and cons are one in the same in that everyone can publish a book. There’s a lot of good work being published that would probably never see the light of day due to the politics of traditional publishing, but at the same time I’ve seen a lot of awful books out there too.
The other things I’ve been noticing is that it’s no longer about the writing. It’s become a numbers game. How many FB followers or Twitter followers do you have? How many likes did you get? How many reviews did the novel receive? How large is your fan base?
I struggle with that because I don’t have the time to spend all day on social media when I have other things that take up my time like earning a living. There’s people now who are even cheating the system with paid “likes” etc. to bump themselves up into the top spot. To me, that’s not what writing should be about. It’s about the story, not how much attention you can get for yourself. Sorry if I’m coming off very negative but I’ve been doing this for a very long time and the business model has changed so much now that I hardly recognize why I started writing in the first place.
Kaye: What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab?
Cynthia: I always do my own cover art. That is one of the beauties of going indie, you can have complete control over your cover. Although, I do have to point out that the comic book look of the Karma character in my Silke Butters series was done by an artist named Ka Rolding, whom you can find on Deviantart.
I also create covers for other authors too, so if you’re in need of a custom cover please look me up at http://www.cyncreativeservices.com/authorstudio
Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?
Cynthia: None…lol. I’d rather do a face-to-face event than spend time on social media promoting. But if I have to choose I like Twitter because it makes you think and be clever with your 140 characters. BTW, you’re all using hashtags wrong!
Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?
Cynthia: All of it! I’m a one woman show. It’s honestly extremely exhausting. Like I said, I just don’t have the time needed to put in to make a dent. I even bit the bullet and hired a couple people this year and it still didn’t make a difference. But I’m trying every day. That’s all you can do is try, right?
Kaye: You participate in book events on social media often. How effective do you see Facebook release parties and cover reveals, etc… being?
Cynthia: It depends on the crowd and your time slot. I’ve had some that were very active (including my launch party for Karma) and then others where nobody interacted at all, or not until later on. I find them effective for exposure. I’ve actually gained quite a few new FB friends from events so I’ll continue to do them. But I will suggest going in with a game plan and do some interactive posts, don’t just ramble on about how your book is for sale.
Kaye: What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?
Cynthia: For me, I like face-to-face conventions. Because of the genre I write in I can easily blend into comic cons. I liken it to an actor doing a stage play over doing a movie. In that regard, they get immediate audience reaction when they are doing a play, rather than waiting for box office receipts from a movie. The same can be said about conventions. I get an immediate reaction from readers (some have even come back the next day to compliment my work) where as stuff online I don’t really see what is working and what isn’t. Also, during conventions I keep a tally on how many books are selling and my 2009 Best Series nominee Demon Hunter is still the biggest seller.
Kaye: Why do you think some authors sell well and others don’t?
Cynthia: Again, it’s all who you know. And a lot of that comes from great networking. There’s something to be said for word-of-mouth. I also believe some genres sell better than others, that’s just the way it goes.
Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?
Cynthia: J.K. Rowling or George RR Martin. I’m fascinated by the amount of detail they’ve both put into their respective worlds of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Kaye: What kind of Chinese food do you order all the time?
Cynthia: I don’t always eat Chinese food but when I do I prefer orange chicken and lo mein.
I want to thank Cynthia Vespia for joining us and for sharing her marketing strategies with us. If you’d like to learn more about Cynthia, check out her author profile, here on Writing to be Read, or check out her website.
Be sure to catch Writing to be Read next Monday, for Part 2 of Book Marketing – What Works?, where I will interview the co-authors of the Silverville Saga books and Wild West Ghosts, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd, who will share their experiences in marketing and clue us in to which ones have been most effective.