“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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If you’re looking for Jeff’s Pep Talk, you’ll find his post next Wednesday. This week I wanted to let all my readers know about the Yuletide Jingle event on December 8th, hosted by Sonoran Dawn Studios. It’s going to be an audio event, with Christmas songs and stories intermixed with author promos. Of course, there will be games and giveaways, as well. Three authors will win cover art by Sonoran Dawn Studios. There will also be free books and other great prizes offered by the individual participants. It’s going to be a lot of fun. So click on the link below to reserve your spot and join in. Author Take Over slots are still available. I do hope I’ll see you all there.
Ask the Authors (Round 2)
Unfortunately, no quick fix to getting reviews. You can spend hours emailing book reviewers and suggesting your book to them for review, or you can pay for a platform to put your books out for review. Amazon is also making it harder for people to leave reviews, which makes reviews almost worthless when you don’t know how long your reviews will be up before being pulled by Amazon.
The best way I’ve found is to reach out to reviewers personally. I’ll send an email to bloggers and make sure it isn’t just a form email. I always tweak it to match their needs. Out of every 20 emails I send, I usually get 1-2 bloggers interested. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but its worth it for those reviews.
Not consistently. It’s one of those things where you scatter some free copies around and hope for the best. I have an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) list, but people have been drifting away from it–which is understandable. You could be the biggest DeAnna Knippling fan in the world and still not want to conscientiously read & review everything I freaking write! I have a free Instafreebie/Prolific Works account where I host giveaway copies, so I don’t have to manually send them out now, which is nice.
Asking reviewers who liked and reviewed one of my prior books is the easiest way. How did I get those first review for my first book? I asked EVERYBODY.
Honestly? I’m not sure it has, but I like that I have it there, I can update my books on my website, share a sample of my work and other authors I have come across.
People tend to look at my facebook page more than my website. When talking to people and the website comes up, they always seem surprised to find out I have one!
For me, advertising and newsletters get followers for books. My blog and FB sites are more for existing fan interaction.
I’ve signed up to so many, I probably couldn’t remember them all. Bookbub has so far been the most influential in bringing in followers.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Rayman/e/B00X5CR5QC
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9866872.Lilly_Rayman
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/lilly.rayman.7
BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lilly-rayman
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Lilly-Rayman
I’ve found Facebook to be the most lucrative.
Facebok Author page: https://www.facebook.com/JordanElizabethAuthor/
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jordan-Elizabeth/e/B00P0KBRD4
Curiosity Quills Author page: https://curiosityquills.com/authors/jordan-elizabeth/
A lot of these places, you don’t even know that you have an author page. But I’m involved in the Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub ones. I don’t know which ones are effective, but they seem to interact with the GR one the most.
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4456773.DeAnna_Knippling
BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/search?search=DeAnna+Knippling
I have a Blog, a Facebook page, and I use Twitter. I wouldn’t say I showcase my work on them all, but I do occasionally on my blog. That’s not how I gain followers, though. The blog is for other things, like interaction, writing contests, etc.
Blog Author page: https://danalatorre.com/about/
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/DanAlatorreAuthor/
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU
Goodreads Autor page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7847408.Dan_Alatorre
I offer a permafree book across all platforms, when I do a Facebook event I share the link. I also have details of the permafree in all my books. I also offer a flash fiction exclusively to subscribers of my newsletter. When I share with people on Facebook they can get a free read for signing up, they usually do.
I’ve done sales with free books. I’m not sure if its brought in sales for my other books. No one has told me that they read it for free and then bought more.
Free books have to be advertised, too, and on sites that make a splash. As mentioned earlier, those change all the time. The free book has to be of great quality or no one’s gonna read anything else you have, but you still have to have other things. Quality things. And a newsletter to keep everyone updated. A friend has had several books get over 100 reviews by using the Reader Magnets method and as far as I can tell, most authors with successful newsletters used a very similar approach. I mention this because I checked it out and I’ve seen it work, but most people don’t do it (including me). That’s changing. I started working on growing my newsletter last week and plan on getting it to 10,000 subscribers by December 31, 2019. That should help.
Dan, can you explain for those who may not know, what the Reader Magnet method is?
I use Instafreebie which is now called prolific works for my giveaway links.
I’ve found the best to be Amazon. You can set up a giveaway and plan to get followers on Twitter, Amazon, etc.
I use LibraryThing and Goodreads (on GR, I set up an event where I link to the giveaway code; I’ve also done GR print giveaways and liked those as well). I’m getting prepped to go back into Instafreebie/Prolific Works in a bit. I like them, but it tends to be more newsletter signups than reviews.
I don’t recommend sites publicly, but not because I don’t wanna give away my best secrets. (I can’t write enough books in a year to have a site all to myself, and I need other authors selling books and telling me which sites are doing well for them.) I don’t recommend sites publicly because they aren’t paying me to endorse them. Also, things can and do change quickly in this business. A site I used very successfully five years ago hasn’t done anything good for the past three years. When did it change? It was probably gradual, but what worked for me and my last book might not work for your book or still be working when you publish your Work In Progress. It’s safest to ask all your friends which sites work best right now and to get numbers, see what genre they wrote, and go from there. Track everything and keep using whatever worked, avoiding the sites that are crap. I will say this. When you do a free day or a 99 cent day or whatever on Ammy, do it in conjunction with a site (or sites) your friends have recommended. You’ll make a bigger splash and will usually sell books at regular price after the sale ends as long as your regular price isn’t crazy.
Which social media sites do you use to network? Which sites have worked best for you for gaining followers?
Honestly, I’m not the best at utilising social media. I have a more interactive network on Facebook, but I try and post in Google+ and Twitter when I remember. Generally, I prefer to be writing than to be trying to promote myself.
I use facebook (the best for networking), Instagram, twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.
I use Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads; Facebook’s the primary one, though. I don’t really do Facebook networking on purpose so much as read someone’s comment and go, “That was well said,” and friend them, and then get pulled along into something else because someone knew someone else who knows me. I think trying to use social media to gain followers is a bad idea in general, though. It’s the trying and trying and trying part that concerns me. “How can I try to get more followers?!?” asks the author, and ends up being a sleezy salesman for something that doesn’t naturally appeal to people. Like, if you want to be a good seller, ask yourself, “How can I make this so tempting they can’t say no,” not “how can I get more followers?”
I blog a lot, so that’s where people come to talk to me. Second is my Facebook page. After that, my newsletter, small as it is, and form there I rarely interact on Twitter or other social media. That’s not where my readers are. That can change with different books, though. For my upcoming YA book to do well, I’ll be pimping it on Instagram, etc.
I share posts from my author friends, and try and interact where I can on Facebook, my name being seen, being active within the Indie Community opens the door for other opportunities to utilise other authors and their followings, but its important to remember it’s a game of give and take. As long as you share as much as you hope others will share you.
I like to reach out to people who have enjoyed my books. I like to connect with other writers, especially so we can share tips.
I pass on what interests me. Is it fascinating? Funny? Horrible? Insightful? If it feels like something that I like that’s pretty normal for me to like, then I’ll share it. Like puns. I’ll share a good pun in a heartbeat. Doing that consistently, over time, tends to become your brand, or part of your brand, without being fake and calculated. Writers are there to entertain, interest, and educate people. Do that. Do the things that you’re comfortable with, and do them consistently and fairly. When people buy stories, they buy them because of your voice, your view of the world. So share that view of the world; don’t keep it bottled up. That’s my theory, anyway. And listen to and interact with other people. It’s networking. It literally is not all about you as an author 🙂
I’d say this: have a presence on them all, but only use the ones you enjoy. If you aren’t having fun using Instagram, it’ll show, and people won’t have a positive experience with you there. That’s bad, and it’ll hurt business. Take on one new social media every two weeks or so, and work it until you master it. Then decide if it’s for you, while you take on the next one, and the one after that. Don’t try to learn them all at once; it’ll be overwhelming. One at a time, on a regularly scheduled basis, so you actually get to them all, and then work each new one until you get it. THEN decide which ones are for you. I have a presence on all of them except a few, but I use my blog and Facebook because I like them and that’s where my readers are. Don’t try to be all things to all people. I have bestselling author friends who don’t do any of this stuff and sell just fine via lots of paid ads. That works for them. It won’t be the right approach for everyone. What works for your friend might not work for you because she writes murder mysteries and you write romance. That’s always a factor.
Facebook, posting in author or reader groups, participating in page hops, and online party events. Although my BookBub following is picking up.
Reaching out to bloggers has helped me to connected with the most readers, and that in turn has delivered the most followers.
I’m not sure, but I want to say Goodreads. But I’m a book nerd, as in I read more than I watch TV or anything else, and I review everything I read, so I end up attracting a lot of followers who are like, “I just want to talk about books in general, not necessarily yours.” Hm…either that or running with several giveaways on Instafreebie/Prolific Works. I got a lot of signups. I lost most of them, but the ones who stayed like what I write.
I definitely have the most quality followers on my blog. Twitter says 11,000 people follow me, but I don’t interact much on twitter, so it’s not the same quality as my blog. I’m too wordy for 140 characters. I interact most on my blog, then second would be my Facebook page. Most of my readers come from ads I buy.
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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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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.
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.