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As an author one of your jobs is endless self-promotion.

 

I did my first ever book bog tour. I mean a real tour, not one where your publisher sends your book to all of two fellow authors in their stable to review it and calls it a tour (yeah, this did happen). This, despite having my first short story published in an in-print anthology in 2009. (I’m not counting the multiple E-zine flash fiction and short stories), and my first book published in 2014 by that same Indy publisher, followed by another. (Wow, it feels so much longer ago than that!) And, I’ve been writing for a lot longer than that.

 

It was kind of terrifying. Okay, a lot terrifying. 62 book bloggers over 30 days received complementary copies of my 4-book series to blog and/or review at their discretion.

 

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

 

To add to the, ‘will they hate it,’ fear, I’m not entirely a conventional writer. I’m not a follow the traditional rules write to the long established scripted standards kind of author. I don’t conform to the status quo, the norms; the overall expectations of, ‘This is how it has always been done, so this is how you have to do it,’ mindset. I don’t obey the, ‘This is the currently popular style/person so you must do it too.’ Literary art, to me, is not meant to be kept in a tidy box of expectations.  (And, those expectations are expanding with the volume of Indy and self-pubbed books.)

 

 

 

 

 

Book blog tours is only one of the ways to try to get the attention of the readers at large in the hopes they will be interested enough to buy your books.

It is important to note here that people who manage book blog tours do not generally do it purely out of the generosity and kindness of their own hearts. Book blog touring is a paid service. While the bloggers and book reviewers are not paid (their only compensation is the free book), the tour manager will charge you a fee, and the rates will vary.

 

 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My book blog tour was a fail and I’ll tell you why. Predominantly, in going through each blog or Facebook page after their scheduled posting date, almost every one was like skimming through those Facebook groups of endless self-promotion. You know the ones, where countless authors hopeful and desperate seeming plug themselves in a never-ending stream of self-promotion posts that nobody looks at. Few of the authors posting on these groups take the time to scroll through the other advertisements, fewer still with the goal of finding something to buy. I doubt anyone else even looks at them.

 

 

The other problem was the genre. You need to sing to your target audience. Can you imagine Alice Cooper or Ozzie Osborn stepping on to the stage and belting out lyrics to a crowd who bought tickets to Michael Bublé or Beyoncé? As Alice would croon, “Welcome to my nightmare…”

 

Photo by Katie Montgomery on Unsplash

The blogs that signed up for the tour were mostly populated by streams of “book tour” advertisements for romance. Yes, romance. I write dark fiction; thrillers, dark mystery, psychological thrillers, drama with dark twists, not so cozy mystery with an underlay of you guessed it – darkness. I have not to date tried writing a dark romance. Frankly, I don’t think I could write a romance. Romance and dark fiction tend to appeal to very different kinds of readers.

 

I did get some positive comments on my book covers, even a few on the books’ write-ups. And I got one review so far from the 62 blogs. Do I expect to see any sales from it? It’s possible. Just because there was no uptick in sales during the 30-day tour, doesn’t mean no one who saw or participated will buy. Some buy later. I don’t think it’s likely, though; romance and thriller being unlikely crossover genres.

 

The comments were also generally from the bloggers themselves posting on the blog tour operator’s blog. They already got complimentary copies, so they aren’t going to buy the books. If a book farts in the woods and nobody hears it, will they buy it? There seemed to be little, if any, traffic outside those bloggers to any of the blogs.

 

 

Photo by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash

Can a book blog tour be successful?  Yes. The question is, ‘How?’ It’s about following basic rules of marketing.

 

Find your audience. If these were blogs featuring thrillers, horrors, suspense, mystery, and other related genres, odds of sales would have been driven up exponentially, assuming anyone reads the blogs.

 

Traffic is necessary. I suspect blogs that feel like Facebook groups of endless self-promotion ads with nothing else to offer probably get just as much meaningful traffic: little to none. You need blogs that pull traffic in, that have meat and potatoes and lactose free/gluten free/vegan-loving poutine (if such a thing exists). What you need are blogs the people who might read your book are interested in what they have on the blog menu.

 

 

Incentives are helpful. People love to feel like they got a deal. Thus, the giveaway. I gave away a couple of small Amazon gift cards and a few free copies of an eBook I was not trying to drive sales on in the book tour. If it was a short tour, I might have offered a discounted sale on the books.

 

Be inclusive and try to make friends. You want people to want to buy your book, and to make it as easy for them to do it as you can. Remember, everyone who might buy is your friend.

 

Personal touch is important. Self-promotion is not just about immediate book sales. It is also about building your author platform and growing your hoard of followers, some of whom will buy your books – eventually. More followers can be gained by being personable and engaging with them than standing behind a smokescreen plugging ads at them.

 

Be seen.  If nobody knows you exist, you don’t, right? Kind of like that Schrödinger-styled tree that may or may not have made a sound when it fell in the forest. Your marketing needs to hit as many eyes as you can, but not literally. This is not A Christmas Story or the Addams Family.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

How the book blog tour works is that the tour operator puts out a call for bloggers to sign up. Once the signups are complete, the bloggers are scheduled to blog on certain dates. It could be a blog, Facebook blog page, or other online site.  The bloggers get a complimentary copy of your eBook(s).

 

You fill out an author Q&A interview and/or write up some short guest blog posts to be shared with the bloggers.

 

On their designated day, the blogger puts up the blog post. It could be a cut and paste of the book tour info (all but one did this on my tour), they could post the relevant information and pictures with their own personal narrative introducing it, or they can post a book review.

 

Ideally, you want each blog post to be unique. Pre-written author interview Q&As or guest posts from you are key here. So is regular active participation from the bloggers, rather than blogs filled with empty cut and paste advertisements.

 

You visit each blog and make comments thanking the blogger and responding to any comments left by anyone else. Again, be personable and try to make friends.

 

Sit back and hope for sales, and don’t forget to tip your waiter/waitress.

 

 

 

Other ways to self-promote your self and books include, but are not limited to:

– Book and/or author website/blog is discoverable on internet search engines

– Social media. Be social online and blog.

– Newsletter/email subscriptions (ie Mailchimp).

– Category choices and keywords for your book sales listings and Google searches.

– First appearances. Your cover needs to make them want to pick it up.

– Book promotion. Pay for some outside promotion help.

– Give it away FREE! Allow free download of the first 10%-20%, free short/flash fiction.

– Book events. Set up author signing tables and schmooze, sell, and sign.

– Have some swag. Give away business cards and bookmarks.

– Submit to eZines, magazines, and anthologies featuring short stories and flash fiction.

– Get mentioned in local newspapers and newsletters.

 

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One of the problems with an author’s need to self promote is the need for those promotional efforts to come across as professional.

Having it look like your ten year old did your promotional material is probably not good. Then again, maybe your ten year old is better at it than you are.

If you want professional looking promotional material you need good quality photos and photo editing.

The first rule is to watch the copyrights for every picture you use in your promotional materials. As a writer you would not like to be plagiarized. Neither do artist’s and photographers.

Canvas.com is a good source of single use photos around $1 USD. It’s more for expanded rights.

If you are manipulating the photos or art, you need a photo editing program.

This is where I get stuck.

After realizing photo editing does not mean drawing on your screen with colored Sharpie and uttering a little swear, comes the knowledge that sooner or later I need to upgrade the program I have. I think it’s older than flip phones. Yes, I’m definitely pretty sure.

Cost is a huge factor. So is being user friendly. I don’t have the money to blow on something expensive, or to commit to a monthly subscription for a product I will use sporadically.

I don’t have the patience either to fight with it while putting Roxy dog aka The Big Dumb Bunny outside every three minutes.

I also don’t actually have a promotions budget, a software budget, or even a Sharpie budget for that matter. Cost of living expenses and all that tend to get in the way of little things like that.

If you are like me with a very small disposable income that gets sucked into the vortex of young teen children, you need to find the most cost effective (aka cheapest) way of doing everything.

So, here is a link to an article that says these photo editing programs are not super expensive.

We will see.

http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/multimedia/best-photo-editing-software/

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job experienceAt first glance, they may not seem to have anything to do with each other, the slogging away through job postings, sending out resumes, hoping for some slight recognition in the form of an interview that may or may not get you anywhere, let alone get you a job, and trying to plug your book.

 

When you think about it, they really are not all that different.

Both are selling yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer.

 

one in a crowdYou are an unknown entity, one small piece of paper in a sea of mail.  A single job posting can elicit hundreds of responses from hopefuls.  In the same way, your book is only one in a sea of books vying for the reader’s attention.  Worse, you are not competing against hundreds, but against thousands of hits that may show in a search before yours.

 

While it is easier for the professional to brand themselves, many professions being close-knit groups where everyone knows pretty much who everyone else is, publishing is more like the mainstream office flunky.  You are literally one in millions.

 

brandingBranding yourself and getting your name and image out there in local circles definitely can help.  Make your name itch their scalp with a sense of familiarity.  I heard that name.  It’s familiar.  It makes you harder to ignore.

 

But how do you do that?

 

I sent out news releases for my new release, Garden Grove, to every local news outlet.  One – only one – posted it.  And they got my gender wrong.  But that’s okay, because apparently books of this genre from male authors tend to sell better, but that is a topic for another day.

 

you are not famousApparently, if you are not already a well-known celebrity author, most news agencies won’t touch your new release.  Like the big publishing houses, they know big names sell.  Unknowns don’t.  So, now the challenge is to get past that.  After all, nobody will ever buy or read your book if they don’t know it exists.

 

Any skills you’ve learned in life in selling yourself or anything else, whether is the job hunt circuit or through your daily job, you can use that knowledge to help you sell yourself and your books.

how will your book get noticed.jpg


First, you have to get their attention
.  Why, out of the faceless stack of emails, letters, and other media, should they bother looking at yours? Don’t get buried, get noticed.  When there are literally millions of published books, hundreds coming out daily, on every site, how do you get the reader, or the person filtering through those news releases, to notice YOU?

 

get into their heads.jpgInsinuate yourself into their heads.  Plug yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Make your pen name go from the great white unknown of white noise to something that rings a vague sense of familiarity.  A sense of familiarity brings the world together.  When a reader is scanning a list of books, when nothing special about the covers pop out, what catches their attention?  The feeling of the familiar.  Familiar is safe.  Familiar is home.  Familiar is friends and family.

 

 

who are youThen, you have to make them know who you are.  Brand not just your pen name, but your photo as well.  Whatever that photo may be, whether it is you or not, that is your brand.  That is what becomes familiar.  Like the logo of so many products and stores, once it becomes familiar it is instantly recognizable and the human brain will target it in a lineup of unfamiliar images.

 

branding3What is branding?  In simple terms, branding is making something familiar; making it consistently familiar.  When someone sees it, they know exactly what it is about.  Branding is making it reliably about something meaningful.

 

When you see or hear the name Stephen King, you know exactly what it is about.  You know immediately, this is not a car or brand of chocolates.  You are not wondering if the book cover will be fanciful imagery of a scantily clad love-struck young woman mooning over a buff man in a field of flowers.  You know immediately who this author is and what he is about. You expect demonic clowns peering out at you from sewers, possessed cars, and anything else that may titillate your fears.  That is branding.

 

Find those little ways to get you and your book to show up, even if only randomly.  Advertising can be expensive.  So can trying to get yourself into local events.  In addition, there is the cost of printing up a bunch of books to give away or have on hand.  As a newbie author, you likely don’t have that kind of money to commit.

 

Randomly placed posters might be one way.  Get out and talk to random strangers.  Heck, maybe even show up for those fundraising used book sales where you can talk to people and maybe give away a few free autographed copies.  It may not do anything at all for you, but it may get a few people talking about you.

 

word of mouthThe best sales gimmick is word of mouth.  When I heard non-book readers talking about Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and all the negative hype about it, and how they needed to read it to find out what all the fuss is about, I knew immediately that his people nailed it.  They nailed making the word of mouth advertising work.  Instant hit.

 

But the hardest part of getting anyone to notice you and your book is to get anyone to notice you and your book.  There are as many ideas out there on how to do this as there are people trying to do it.  Some will work, some won’t.  None will work every time or for everyone.  It’s a bit of a crapshoot.  But you will try because it’ the only way to sell books.  Obscurity sells nothing.

 

 

i am addicted to youMost importantly, give them a reason to love you.  Your writing must be quality, and your editing even better.  Without a quality product, you are nothing.  The junky dollar store stuff that looks cheap, and is of poor quality, is quickly forgotten or tossed out.  But whether something cost a dollar or twenty, if it is quality that is what stands out.  People remember good quality.  They brag about it.  They are impressed and want others to be too.  They come back looking for more.

 

 

Garden Grove Cover-FinalGarden Grove can be downloaded in multiple ebook formats FREE on Smashwords using coupon code YV67F until Dec 31/15.

 

Reviews left on your favorite online retailer are very much appreciated.

 

 

Can you handle a little darkness in your life?

  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587705

 

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