Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Marketing 101 for Authors

Marketing means different things to different people. With my product, books, the challenge is to get the information to the people that will appreciate it and act on it. I've made a list of some marketing techniques used by myself and other authors. Please feel free to add other methods in your comments and to say what worked for you and what didn't.

If you are brand new to writing, don't get overwhelmed. Begin marketing by being consistent in one style or venue and then expand your efforts through time.

Start with a website. If you don't have the wherewithal to do it yourself, hire someone. Ask around your fellow authors for recommendations. If you have a website you can't manage, you can hire someone to transition it to a more idiot-friendly platform. I did this recently, and it eliminated a lot of the frustration I felt in the delays to content updates by my former web person.

Blogs have been popular for a while. You can set up a blog through your Blogger or Word Press, though many people have their blogs at their websites because that provides fresh content routinely. Large group blogs, particularly ones that are anchored by top selling writers, are successful at attracting a consistent readership. If you aren’t in one of those, consider searching for groups like that and asking to guest blog. Alternatively, be aggressive and create such a blog. If you are consistent with your single person blog, you can develop a readership over time. The key here is consistency and delivering content that appeals to your followers. Essentially you are painting a word picture of your expertise in your “brand” area.

 Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, are delicate marketing platforms. People love to see book covers and photos related to your brand. They are not keen on seeing repeated messages to “buy my book.” These platforms work great for people who already have a following, and once a post gains momentum, the multiplier effect of reposting or sharing can go viral. There is a caveat, especially on Facebook, where there are author and reader groups that want you to publish your material. However, the number of posts in those groups is high, so your selection is quickly dropped down the screen as more posts come in. The more specifically you can target your groups, the more chances of reaching an actual reader you’ll have.

 Press releases work great in you live in an area with some population. My county has 10K people total and no stoplights. Papers from neighboring towns rarely cover my town, and even when I get a large spread in the weekly paper, it doesn’t assure sales or attendance at book signings. Many people do radio interviews now, or podcasts. Those are popular, but since I haven’t done them, I can’t gauge their effectiveness. If you live in a city of any size, you should be doing these press releases. Or you can contribute articles that are in some way related to a topic in your book for some subliminal marketing.

Newsletters get back to that one-on-one connection. I rely on my electronic newsletters to get the word out about my book. I put out a newsletter quarterly and make it as professional looking and engaging as I can. The tempo is upbeat. I use color photos. I offer extras (contests, recipes, appearances) when I can. All of my social media links are included in each newsletter. I use an inexpensive service, Vertical Response, to create the emails and send them out. Another similar utility is Mail Chimp. I’ve built my subscriber list up through activities in a marketing co-op.

 In person signings are a great way to spend time with readers, but you have to be prepared to promote the event and to hand-sell your books. The hand-selling is difficult for some introverts like me. Also, while events with multiple authors at a book store are more fun for the author, my experience has shown a dilution of sales for individuals. For local book signings, I make sure it’s covered in the paper or place an ad. I also send postcard mailers to every local reader on my snail mail address list. This ensures a great turn out. The same is true for an Online Book Launch Party - make sure your fans know when and where it will be held.

 Bookmarks are also valued at events where you have face time with readers, whether it’s a signing or a conference or the dentist office. Have some sort of handout in your car or purse that you can pull out. Some people leave these items various places in hopes someone will pick them up. I find that these items work best for personal interactions. Bookmarks can be any size, from an inexpensive business card to a postcard to the more traditional narrow rectangle shape. Vistaprint is an inexpensive online place to shop for these materials, though you can Google and find a ton more.

 Conferences, specifically fan conferences, are a great way to connect with readers. Some conferences cater to authors and readers, but cons like Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and RT pull in a boatload of readers. See if one of these is in driving distance for you to keep expenses down. You may still only sell a modest number of books, but you are building a reputation in that crowd, which will turn out to be worth its weight in gold. Be sure you collect names and addresses for your newsletter from each interested party.

Marketing co-ops like Booklovers Bench also create a buzz and a professional brand. I banded together with several mystery and romance writers a few years back to do this because I write mystery and romance. The net effect is that we’ve pooled our readerships, thus multiplying our potential market. We send book information to readers of our genres routinely. http://www.bookloversbench.com

Crowdsourcing is the new buzz word, or at least it’s new to me. The recent contract I won through the Kindle Scout program for my G-1 came as a result of reader input and viral marketing. Many authors are using utilities like Thunderclap to promote. As I understand it, authors get their friends to agree to post word of their event or book release on Facebook or Twitter. The Thunderclap utility has the tweet and FB post already uploaded. Folks agree and give the utility permission to post automatically (once) for that event on a certain day, thus ensuring a blitz of low-cost information hitting a wide audience. You have to have a minimum number of people to agree to help you. I think it’s 100 but I’m not sure.

To sum up, many strategies are out there to find readers. I’ve found I can’t do everything or even half of everything. It just makes me nuts. My advice is to do the things you like or that you don’t find objectionable. It’s also easier for me if I do a little each day. You can prewrite blogs or other social media posts. Heck, on my Facebook author page I can even upload and preschedule posts. That’s great when I travel to conferences and can’t “tend the gardens.”
 


 
Maggie Toussaint
writing science fiction as Rigel Carson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

34 comments:

  1. Hi, Maggie. I have done all you've said too. Blogging with a group is good because it brings a variety of peoples to the site and is less demanding. Sigh, I need to restart a newsletter. One more thing!

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    1. The challenge is to not get overwhelmed by all the various styles of marketing. I forget this daily! I feel like there's always more I could be doing, but realistically I could market 24/7 and still not blanket every potential reader. And what fun would that be? I'd rather be writing!

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  2. Maggie, all good things. The constant complaint I hear from writers, myself included, is that time marketing takes away from writing~

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    1. I share your pain and frustration, Marni. One thinks that at some point it will be prudent and affordable to hire an assistant or publicist. I don't feel as I'm at that point yet.

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  3. Maggie, so many great tips here for newbies and seasoned authors as well. I admire you for doing all the things you have talked about here. I don't know where you find the time. These are all such good points and ideas, and I wish I was able to do more of them. The book signings have never really gone well -- I think because our B&N here in OKC (2 of them) are not very author-friendly. And I think sometimes a group signing is much better than one person out there at the lonely table trying to make eye contact. LOL

    You are amazing! Thanks again for putting all these tips in one place---I put the link on my loops for PRP and all our imprints.

    Cheryl

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    1. Thanks for spreading the word, Cheryl. I appreciate the effort you make for your authors at Prairie Rose Press. You're the one who's a dynamo!

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  4. Hi, Maggie,

    You offer sound advice for marketing. A helpful blog.

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  5. Very good tips. The two that speak to me are about consistency and doing the things that you like. :)

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    1. I hear you, Angelina. Doing marketing activities that are like drudge work to you will soon have you not doing them at all. Find something you like marketing wise and pour your energy in it.

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  6. Thanks Maggie. I'm very impressed with your marketing experience and everything you've achieved. Congratulations.
    And thank you for sharing you experience with us. It has definitely given me some food for thought.

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    1. Marlow,

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope others can benefit from my experience. And I hope I don't forget what I've learned in the school of hard knocks. Appreciate you stopping by to comment. Please come again.

      Maggie

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  7. Thanks for sharing, Maggie. Very timely when I feel I'm turning myself inside out and getting nowhere - and no writing done because it is on my mind! "Little and often", the writer's mantra.

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    1. Linda,

      You made me smile because I've been dragging my feet about starting my new book. I just want to get a little more marketing done... Time to rein back in a little and focus on writing. I will feel a lot less fractured once I have a story full of people in my head.

      Appreciate the visit and the comment.

      Maggie

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  8. Maggie, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and suggestions in marketing. At times, more often than not, I feel overwhelmed with social media so your wise words have been very valuable to me. I think I will concentrate on the ones that I'm better at and enjoy and see if it's less frustrating, more fun, and hopefully more beneficial. Wishing you much success and happiness.

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    1. Hi Beverly,

      I'm glad that you found a take home message from my blog post. I often get spun up in one marketing rut or another and have to stop and take a look around at where I am and where I want to go. I can't get anywhere if I don't have more books coming out, so I set a priority on that.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.

      Maggie

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  9. Facebook has really helped me with marketing. Good reminder about being consistent writing blogs. I have two I do every month with western romance groups, but I've been inconsistent with my own blogs at my website and promoting my books in other genres. I really need to get busy with that. Great info, Maggie.

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Facebook is a good place to meet readers. I need to be consistent about blogging. That aspect of marketing took a nose dive once I became heavily invested in Facebook and Twitter. I know my marketing efforts are paying off because a lot of times I hear this from people I've never met: I've heard of you. Now if they would all buy my books!

      I wish you luck with your career and your marketing!

      Maggie

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  10. Thanks for condensing so much in such a useful piece, Maggie. It's easy to get overwhelmed without a clear overview.

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    1. Hi Christina,

      I was surprised at the depth of my experience, but the truth is, I've been at this for a number of years. Wade into the shallow waters at first with marketing. It's terrifying if you start on the high dive! Wishing you the best!

      Maggie

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  11. This is an excellent overview. The listing is so clear that it makes the whole process seem less overwhelming. No matter where we are in our careers, the marketing side is still work.

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    1. Hi Susan,

      Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad that my message is clear, but the truth is, the marketing message should be clear for all new authors. Be aware of the bigger game, and find a way to put yourself out there.

      Thank you for swinging by Mudpies!

      Maggie

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  12. These are all great suggestions. The problem in implementing them is the time and energy factor. You have to be selective and choose those activities that you might enjoy.

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    1. You and I are in complete agreement about that, Nancy. Time and energy are valuable commodities, as is creativity. I need more time to dream and write...

      Appreciate your comment.

      Maggie

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  13. Great blog post, Maggie. When it comes to promotion and marketing it's difficult to know where to start and what might actually work. I really enjoy reader-fan conferences like Rom Con and Left Coast Crime because you get to visit with other writers and spend time socializing with readers.

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    1. Rebecca,

      You've got a good handle on what works for you, so don't be seduced by the dark side of "I wish I could do more." Connections with readers and writers help us build stronger networks.

      I haven't hit RomCon, but I did attend Left Coast Crime the last time it was in Colorado Springs. I loved it! Very nicely done.

      I appreciate your stopping by Mudpies.

      Maggie

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  14. All great suggestions. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the social media stuff, but I do know how important it is. Being selective is the key.

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  15. Hey Carole,

    Selectivity and focus are a lot more likely to hit on a target than a continual haphazard scattershot marketing approach. You are doing fine!

    Thanks for visiting me at Mudpies.

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  16. LOOKs to me like you have covered the territory like a blanket. Well done.

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    1. Thanks Robert. Coming from you, that's high praise!

      Appreciate the visit.

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  17. What great advice, as always. You've mentioned a couple of places I'm not familiar with but will surely check out. Thanks!

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, June. I'm always on the lookout for new things to try marketing-wise. Some of them work, some are total pains, some of them are one-hit wonders. You have to have a flexible mindset in this business!

      Thanks for visiting me at Mudpies!

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  18. Thank you for your words, I understood that it was well and found what I was looking to make sure no mistakes, especially what you said the social marketing and its relationship with the post as gmail and others where we need to communicate with others differently . regards

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