Marketing as a Self-Published Author

To get attention, one must be loud. To get recommendations, one must be worthy. Being loud enables the potential for impulse purchases. But earning recommendations is worth more than any impulse sale. And so I must wonder, does being loud degrade a reader’s opinion of an author from being worthy?

But the lack of recommendations drives an author toward gimmicks, promotions, and generally just being loud. So how does one rise above? How can a self-published author earn the respect of his readers without surviving the gauntlet of traditional publishing? The answer seems simple: Write a really good book. But then we’re back at the beginning. How is the self-published author supposed to make the masses aware of his/her really good book? This is the vicious swirl that independent authors have to deal with.

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If you’re a reader, look above at the photo. Do you like any of it? The internet is a wealth of information – too much so – and websites are now filtering the content to our own individual preferences. This means that we are getting even less exposure to things outside of our “preference-bubble”.

I’ve recently submitted The Soul Smith for consideration to be promoted on Humble Bundle and BookRiot. My goal is to spread awareness, but marketing doesn’t come with a recommendation. Readers do that. We need more readers to give and write book recommendations these days. It’s the only way that a self-published author can come “alive” in this day and age.

What are your thoughts?

Should you Pay $5 to Promote Your Facebook Post?

If you have a professional Page on Facebook like me, I bet that every time you post something, you are constantly asked if you would like to Boost or Promote your post. So, after having it thrown in my face everyday, I finally decided to investigate to see what Facebook claims what level of exposure they can do for me if I choose to hand them my money.

First, this service becomes available to all Facebook Professional Pages once they have over 400 Likes. $5 is the minimum you can spend to promote your post, so I wanted to do some analysis to see if the ROI is worth it or not. On my page, for a $5 budget, it says, “This budget will reach an estimated 1,200 – 2,300 out of your potential audience of 140,000 people.” The more Likes you have, the higher this estimated number will be. In addition, the higher your budget, the more your estimated reach is. For example, if I spend $30, it says it will reach an estimated “4,100 – 7,700 people”. However, keep in mind that the reach you see when you promote your Page post is an estimate and may be affected by how many other promoted Page posts are running at that time.

This video shows what they claim it can do – that your promoted post will appear in the regular News feed and your exposure/audience will increase as a result. Everytime one of your followers interacts with your Promoted Post (either via a Like, a Comment, or a Share) your promoted post will become viewable to that person’s friends (and so on).

This is different from a Facebook Ad. FB ads show up to the right of the News Feed, and if look at this analysis of user’s Visual Attention Level as to what user’s look at on Facebook, you’ll see that Facebook Ads are just about useless, but Promoted Posts are great!

Source: AllFacebook.com

But in order for it to be worthwhile, business logic tells you that you need to get a Return on your Investment (ROI) for any marketing endeavor. So, as an author with a book for sale on Amazon for $0.99 (and I earn $0.35 per sale of the book), I would have to sell 15 copies of my book in order to make a profit from spending $5 on promoting my Facebook post. 

  • 15 x $0.35 = $5.25 (So I would come out ahead with a shiny quarter!)

However, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking of money as my Return on Investment (ROI), but I should be thinking about new readers as my ROI. If this $5 gets me a single new reader that loves my book, his/her enthusiasm for my book will in-turn convince others to purchase my book. (AKA a Maven, as stated in one of my earlier posts). Such a reader would be called a fan, and building a fan-base is the lifeblood of every author. Fans will most likely purchase your other books and continue to write great reviews.

So, it appears that promoting a post on FB, especially if you are advertising a sale, is a good way to go. You may want to think about posting it during an optimal time of the day, when most people are on Facebook and can engage with your post. If anyone has promoted their Page posts before, please feel free to share your experiences below.

San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Book Promo Ideas

Comic Con is a 4-day event filled with booths, attractions, and more for every sci-fi and fantasy entertainment medium for all ages. Some say it is a celebration of the popular arts, but the industry uses this event as the mecca for promoting all nerd-related activities.

During my visit on Saturday (July 20th), I saw streets filled with people. I passed by screenwriters working on their WIP in a coffee shop, I saw celebrities, I saw numerous people dressed as their favorite characters, and I saw bloggers & reports capturing their experiences in photos and words. To get an idea of how huge this event is, in 2010 they filled the San Diego Convention Center to capacity (130,000) and ever since, they have been expanding the booths and attractions out into the public, taking over streets, occupying vacant business buildings, and taking over and converting restaurants and hotels. It’s a massive event, and when I was approached by 5 girls – all wearing red clothing and red wigs – they handed me the promotional bookmark and button for Pierce Brown’s next science fiction novel: Red Rising (published by Del Rey Books). The back side of the bookmark says it is the most anticipated novel in 2014, and contains a bunch of great reviews. This is a brilliant promotional strategy.

First, everyone at Comic Con is wearing a lanyard; whether it’s a unique one from the booth, or the standard one issued that holds your ticket, the lanyard becomes the location for everyone to show off their “flare”. It gets filled with buttons and pins. Secondly, giving everyone a functional promotional item – like a bookmark – is FAR better than a flier. It stands a much greater chance of actually being used, which creates longevity in the life of the promotion. I was really impressed at the thought that was put behind this simple marketing strategy, but it lacked one critical component…

Someone in a picture-worthy costume to pass out the fliers. Giving out a flier is one thing, but making it into a bunch of people’s photo albums is one of the greatest ways to inject yourself into their memory of their experience at Comic Con. Mark my words, as soon as I have a release date for The Soul Smith, I will hand-build an epic cosplay of Erador (the character on my cover) and walk around while passing out bookmarks and buttons at Comic Con.

Author Spotlight – Sylvia Day

This is a new post that is different from my others, and I hope to do more like this down the road, but this is especially unique since the author I am featuring is a Romance author (and I tend to focus around Fantasy, if anything). Sylvia Day is what I would consider a very successful author and regardless of genre, there is something we could all learn from any author’s success and/or failures. Since my wife is a big fan of Sylvia Day, I have come to learn a lot about this author by proxy and since today (6/4/2013) marks the release of her newest book, Entwined With You, I thought it more than appropriate to speculate on the events that occurred.

Sylvia Day’s marketing plan for her newest book was impressive. This is the 3rd book (out of 5) in her Crossfire series. To develop hype for the release of her new novel, she released a “Snapshot” for each of her chapters once a week on her social networking sites, all the way up to the release date of her novel. The snapshot was simply just a picture that was a clue to give readers what that chapter was about. She received hundreds of comments per post from all the fans guessing at what the picture infers about the story. Leveraging her 63,000 Twitter followers and over 89,000 Facebook likes, this was an extraordinarily simple and successful marketing method.

In addition, my wife has informed me that Sylvia Day can finish writing a novel in just 3 months time. Must be nice to be a full time author, right? Well, let’s look at it from this angle. According to my wife, the two main characters, Eva and Gideon, were completely different in this book from the first two. Is this a side effect of the author spreading herself too thin by having too many projects going on at once? I’ll say this, if you are an author (published or not) it is definitely something to be aware of, as spreading yourself too thin degrades the quality of your work. If you are writing multiple novels at once, you might not be as engrossed in your characters as you would be if you focused on one novel at a time.

Watching the release of Entwined With You today (6/4/2013) confirmed that my wife is not alone in her opinion of the book. As evidenced by the NUMEROUS 1 Star reviews on Amazon, Sylvia’s characters and her story took a turn for the worse. Some say that this is because she turned what was originally designed to be a trilogy into a 5-book series. It’s interesting to see the backlash from readers on this when you consider Christopher Paolini and his Inheritance series. He did the same thing and stretched his story from 3 books into 4, but he did not receive the negative criticism that Sylvia Day received all over her Amazon reviews and her Facebook page. This is why planning and outlining your story is so important, and if you must deviate from your plan, ensure that it is handled with care.

UPDATE (6/7/2013): To be fair, I shouldn’t skew my review of the events that occured as her book reviews were not all negative. However, as an author that is learning from the events that transpired, the community backlash was powerful enough that she thought it needed to be addressed. Here are two posts from Sylvia Day’s Facebook. (By the way, in just 3 days since this original post, she gained 4,000 more Facebook likes, now over 93,000 fans). Let’s look at how she has handled this situation:

 

How to Market Your Book and Increase Sales, Part 1

Allow me to state upfront that I currently don’t have any books published at the time of this writing, so I don’t have personal success to reinforce my marketing plan (though you are reading this on one of my marketing mediums). But what I do have, in terms of credibility, is a business background. My comprehensive marketing plan simply applies basic marketing principles toward advertising your book; so as authors, we need to treat our novels as a product. In addition, as a currently unpublished author, I have zero dollars allocated toward a marketing budget, so you will find that most of my ideas can be implemented for free.

The marketing plan that I have outlined below goes into great detail and can be utilized by any author (published, indie, or otherwise). All of the other blogs and articles that I have come across about ways to promote/market your book only speak in generalities, however I have gone to great lengths to provide a very detailed marketing strategy so that you know exactly HOW to get things rolling. It probably doesn’t need mentioning, but you don’t have to do/try everything on the list. Things that work for some people don’t work for others. I will encourage you to pick and choose from my list so that you can tailor your marketing plan to your liking. But I will also encourage you to exit your comfort zone, try new things (especially if they are free) to see how well they work for you.

First, I’ll start with the goal of any marketing plan: Increase sales of your product. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he talks about how to purposefully start a social “epidemic” around your product, that is, to make your product be the next “must have” item. To summarize, there are 3 agents of change that cause a product’s success to “tip” into the epidemic stage; they are:

  1. The Law of the Few (Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen) – Products that have the potential to be “contagious” can tip simply by being associated with a particular type of person. There is always a critical person involved in spreading information that helps cause a tipping point.
  2. The Stickiness Factor – There is a maxim that an advertisement has to be seen at least 6 times before it will stick. But without a large marketing budget, your messages need to revolve around the target-market’s emotion, coupled with info on how to “act now” so that the message is irresistible. Ideas must be memorable and move us to action.
  3. The Power of Context – Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.

Keeping those principles in mind, please see Part 1 of my marketing plan below, but I feel that I must stress that you must have a quality product to begin with for any of this to be effective. The strength of your writing, the captivation of your story, the realism of your characters, everything that lends toward the quality of your novel all need to be a precursor to a marketing plan. Without it, the reviews of your product will speak louder than any marketing campaign:

  • Use products to promote other products. Published authors usually have the first chapter of their next book at the end of the one you just read to hook you in and create hype for their upcoming release. You can do the same thing, even on a smaller scale. As a fantasy author, what I am doing is writing short stories based in the same world as my novel (same characters too) and will sell them on Amazon (for $ or free). The story itself should be compelling enough to make readers want to read more, but in addition, I will tell them exactly how to find my novel at the end of the short story.
  •  Keeping the Law of the Few in mind, you may want to try to develop a relationship with an author that you think carries some clout in your genre and ask them for a favor. Ask them to write the Foreword for your novel. Don’t stop until you get a yes.
  • Begin generating a following of potential readers/buyers as early in the process as possible so that you have a mature online platform with which to deliver news and messages. This means that you need to participate in as many social gatherings and websites as possible.
  • Make a blog or website. I use WordPress because there is a built-in community of users that allows for more website promotion. I talk more in depth about the benefits of having a website here. I did pay $99/year for this service, but I felt that their templates gave me a professional look. Having a website gives you a place to link your potential readers/buyers to, so all the content on the website should make them curious about your book. You want it to create new readers, new subscribers, and ultimately new fans. So once they visit your website, it must be a place to capture them. To accomplish this, I believe having a sample chapter is necessary so they can see your writing style, put all your best book reviews on your website, and any extra content to keep them coming back.
  • In order to “capture” them, establish a mailing list on your website, where fans can enter their email address to subscribe to your newsletter. The best way to get people to sign up is to offer something for free in exchange for their email address. Maybe a desktop wallpaper of your book-cover, a free short story, etc. MailChimp.com is the only free place that offers this service, but you have to pay if your mailing list grows too large.
  • Link absolutely everything you can back to your website to increase traffic. Meaning, in every profile you ever create on any website, there is usually a spot where you can enter in your own URL. That’s your opportunity. So how else can you direct traffic to your site? Read on.
  • Sign up your website for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Center. Both will allow you to view the traffic coming to your website and enable you to help their search engine better display your website. These are free services that let you market your website through the world’s two largest search engines. They require you to verify that the website is yours by copying & pasting a Meta tag in the header of your website. If you use WordPress, you can easily accomplish this within your Dashboard. Click Tools > Available Tools and you’ll see it right there.
  • Submit your website into StumbleUpon.com to generate more traffic.
  • Use Pinterest to generate more traffic. This is the best website to explain how: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/pinterest-traffic-to-your-blog/
  • Register on MeetUp.com and find a book group in your area. Tell them about your book and your website, give them free samples, they may just be your word-of-mouth promoters that bring your book across the tipping point.
  • Add yourself as an author to Wikipedia. Add your book too (with a synopsis) while you’re at it. Since I created new races of creatures in my fantasy novel, I will also put them up in Wikipedia – crediting me and my book as being the origin of their appearance across fantasy lore.
  • Have your website always call your visitors to action. Use this Buy-This-Book widget on your website: http://www.twliterary.com/buybook.html
  • If you are a member of a Critique Group, they usually have a system in place to allow members to brag about recent publications. Critters.com has over 15,000 members and allows you to make an announcement to all of them here: http://critique.org/c/telldaworld.ht
  • YouTube: Create a video book trailer. It’s just like a movie trailer, but for a book. Animoto.com is a free service with an easy user interface that lets you put together a 30 second movie, but the controls are very limited. For a more custom tailored movie-making experience, I used Windows Movie Maker. Read more about it here. For more indepth information on the importance of creating a video book promo, please read http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/03/08/7-reasons-why-writers-need-to-start-using-video-for-book-promotion/
  • GoodReads.com. Is your book in their inventory? If not, you can manually add it in here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/new. Be sure to join their community so that you can promote yourself as an author here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/program
  • Reddit.com is a great online community that really promotes and supports their members. Be sure to join early and participate by commenting in discussions so that you look like a seasoned member as opposed to a newbie or a lurker. This way, when you announce on Reddit that you got your book published, they may up-vote it to the front page. Reddit.com is the 137th most popular site in the world (65th in the U.S.) as of 10/10/2012. Gaining visibility on popular sites like this can only generate more traffic which, with well thought out marketing on your website, means more customers.
  • If you are an indie author, you should love these links as they specifically offer marketing support for indie authors: http://www.thebooksdebut.com/ and http://www.epublishabook.com/2012/01/24/40-book-promoting-sites-part-1/#axzz20RtGJnzZ and http://www.books2heart.com/advertising/
  • Twitter.com. Start trending the hashtag (#) of your novel before its release to get the buzz going. In addition, you should follow each of these users on Twitter. Read each of their short bios to understand how to leverage each one to your benefit: @TweetYourBooks @GoodBookIdeas @WiseGreyOwl @FrontRowLit @TwitterBooks @IndieKindle @AuthorsLaunch @IHB6 @Whizbuzz @addthis @Authorupub @AuthorKarma @WorldLitCafe @ThirdSundayBC
  • Obtain more followers on Facebook and Twitter so that your messages and posts reach more people. The fastest way to do this is to use the following programs provided by World Lit Cafe for free. http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/ (See them on the right hand side of the page) They involve you liking/following every person in the list and then sending those people a specific message so that they will follow you back. (I actually suggested to World Lit Cafe that they add a WordPress Follow program. They said they loved the idea and would implement it soon.) Gaining more followers is the name of the game, so that when you have something important to announce, you can spread the word to a larger audience.
  • Join author discussions to spread awareness. LinkedIn.com has great author groups such as AuthorU and The Writer’s Network.
  • To utilize the Stickiness Factor, make your profile picture on every web site that you are a member of a picture of the cover of your novel. Don’t promote your face, promote your product.
  • Here are some helpful tips about how to run a successful Amazon promotion: http://heatherhummel.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-did-it-happen-over-25000-copies-of.html?spref=tw
  • If you have the money, you can pay for a professional book review to lend credibility to your work on your Amazon page. Kirkus is one such reviewer http://www.kirkusreviews.com/ I bring this up because of this lengthy article that details the success of a self-published author. Her only expenses were paying for a Kirkus review and for an online advertisement on a website that promoted ebooks. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-i-became-a-best-selling-author-.html

To end Part 1 of my detailed marketing plan, I would like to remind you that you must apply the 3 rules to each of the bullet points in order to purposefully create a social epidemic around your product. Don’t just sign up for Twitter and do the WorldLitCafe follow program and expect success. With each tweet you craft to your new legion of followers, you must apply the Stickiness Factor and give them a call to action. You must try to find the right people that exert influence onto others to spread the word of your book. I will continue this segment at a later date as I gain more experience with the traditional forms of book promotion. As always, feel free to leave a comment/question incase you would like me to elaborate more.