Content is King

Content King

Content Marketing

Suppose you’re a writer who receives a visit from your fairy god-muse. Your fairy god-muse gives you a choice. Would you rather have:

(A) A fantastic cover, everything else just okay.

(B) A killer blurb, everything else just okay.

(C) 100 amazing reviews, everything else just okay.

(D) Incredible content, everything else just okay, and you have to start out with three horrible, gut-wrenching reviews.

I pick option (D). Nobody wants bad reviews, but content is king. If the content truly is incredible, I know all I need to do is get the book into the hands of the target audience and content will take care of everything else. Eventually, sales and good reviews will come.

The other options may do better short-term, but it won’t be lasting success. Option (D) will lead to long-term success and will help to sell other similar books.

Establishing Value

There is only one thing that determines the value of a product to a customer: Content.

Amazing covers tend to attract readers, but they will be disappointed if the content doesn’t live up to their expectations. A killer blurb might help close the deal; good reviews may make you feel better; but if the content doesn’t please the reader, this improves the chances of receiving critical reviews and losing out on valuable word-of-mouth sales.

Suppose you see a new candy bar in the store with an eye-popping wrapper that totally appeals to you. So irresistible! You just have to try it.

Sure, those other candy bars aren’t selling this week because everybody is trying the new one.

But if that new candy bar isn’t better than the others, once this craze ends, everyone will go back to what they prefer.

Packaging can help you reach your target audience.

But only content can establish value.

Customers want quality content.

Achieving Success

Pop quiz! Would you rather:

(A) Have pretty good sales right off the bat, then drop off and scarcely sell again.

(B) Have sales start out very slowly, but steadily grow and continue to sell for decades.

I’m going with (B) here as it has much more potential.

Not only will (B) bring lasting success, but:

  • The continued success of this product will help you sell all your other products.
  • The content must be better in (B), which will help garner valuable recommendations.
  • It may help your taxes not to make all your wealth in the same year, but to spread it over decades.
  • You feel better about producing a product that achieves long-term success.

Fashion Trends

Did you get caught up in the social media frenzy?

Are you keeping up with the latest changes in search engine optimization (SEO)?

Do you invest much time trying to stimulate reviews?

Maybe your time would be better spent creating valuable content:

  • Once you have several quality products on the market, each product will help sell the others.
  • As customers try your products out, word will spread and your brand will be associated with quality.
  • Exceptional content, especially at a good value, is more likely to earn recommendations and reviews naturally.

Content-focused marketing can start out very slowly, but it has amazing potential. It may be worth the wait. It can outlast the current trends.

With quality and value, you just need to get your products into the hands of your target audience and good things will happen much on their own.

Packaging is important, as it helps you attract your target audience.

Marketing is important, as it helps to get your target audience to try your products out.

But content reigns supreme.

Search Engines, Too

A website rich in content geared toward the target audience is a content-oriented way to market your products.

The idea is for the content to attract your target audience. This is successful when much of your website traffic comes from search engines, and when the searches are a good fit for the products you offer.

It can take months for this to show results, but can be a highly effective marketing tool because it’s based on content.

Why are the SEO trends constantly changing? Because the purpose of search engines is to provide the most relevant content to the customer, while businesses with mediocre or lousy content are trying to abuse the search criteria to get their results to show up higher in the results. The search engine companies are wise to this game, and therefore update their criteria in an effort to minimize the abuse (or, in some cases, punish it by driving those sites way down in the search results).

The client using the search engine wants to find valuable, highly relevant content.

The search engines want their clients to be happy, otherwise they will quickly run out of clients. The search engines do want to make $$$ from advertising, too, but they won’t be around long if people aren’t satisfied with the service.

Entrepreneurs (including authorpreneurs) want their websites to show up higher in search results.

If mediocre and irrelevant websites show up high in search results, this is bad for the client and the search engine. So the search engine will make some changes to try to fix this.

Everything is geared toward content. Quality content relevant to the target audience makes the client and the search engine happy.

It used to be all about keywords and categories. Now it’s more about finding keywords in the content. But consider this:

Garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage KEYWORD garbage garbage garbage.

Search engines aim to filter out the garbage and find quality, relevant content. They continue to make great strides to improve this.

Content is king. If the content truly is valuable and relevant, it will thrive in the long run.

Garbage won’t survive. It might try to find the right way to sprinkle signs of content among the garbage to look like quality, but it won’t last.

Don’t worry about garbage. It will eventually take care of itself. Focus on quality content and relevance for your target audience, whether you’re developing a website, writing a series of books, or creating products or services.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Marketing with a Blog

blog

Milestones

This blog is relatively new: I’ve been blogging actively here only for a little over a year.

Things started out very slowly. In the beginning, the numbers could easily have discouraged me, but I didn’t let them. We see many new bloggers show up, write a few posts, and vanish, which shows that many do get discouraged. But there is hope.

In my case, I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers recently. Over the course of the first month or even the first few months, there was no reason to expect that I’d reach these numbers in a little over a year. Things can improve. There are reasons to expect improvement, which I will describe later in this post.

About Marketing

I don’t blog to market. I blog because I love writing, I’m thrilled to be part of a revolutionary time in the publishing industry that offers much more freedom, and I see thousands of authors taking the indie approach.

At first I strongly loathed the concept of marketing. But I became increasingly curious about it as I realized that it’s not really about advertising or salesmanship. I discovered that this crazy concept we call marketing can be a means of sharing your passion with others.

I’ve become passionate about this perspective of marketing. I enjoy studying ways that marketing can help you share ideas that you have a passion for without seeming like advertising or sales. Traditional textbooks approach marketing like a business. Many people in the marketing world who are most qualified to discuss the underlying principles also view marketing with regard to business.

But I’m a writer who, like thousands of indie authors, doesn’t view writing as a business, but as an art. Sometimes it’s handy to think about the business side, but when I write, I want to feel like an artist. I can motivate myself to write when I feel this way. Similarly, I can’t motivate myself to market thinking of it in a business sense. But I can put time, effort, and thought into marketing when I view it as an art.

Marketing can be viewed as an art. You can be creative with it. You can market to share ideas that you’re passionate about, rather than market to stimulate sales. The end goal might be the same, but how you feel about what you’re doing is different in each case, and the distinction matters. It affects your motivation, your confidence, the passion you show in interactions, how easily you give up, and more.

Again, I don’t blog to market my books. I blog because I love to write and blogging lets me do that. I blog to connect with other writers, and have made some good blogging friends and connections this way. I blog because I see thousands of other indie authors who I feel might benefit from my perspective on marketing. It’s easy to get discouraged in the publishing world. I hope a few of my posts provide a little encouragement.

In the Beginning

My first trip to WordPress was somewhat embarrassing. I actually joined WordPress in May of 2011. I signed up, did one quick post called “A New Kind of Word Puzzle,” and vanished into thin air. The post consists of one paragraph describing puzzle books that I coauthored. It’s nothing more than self-promotion and doesn’t read well.

It had 3 views the entire month of May, zero likes, and zero comments.

I could delete this post, but I leave it there as a reminder. That’s my experience with trying this the wrong way.

From May, 2011 thru November, 2012 (that’s 1.5 years), I didn’t make a single new post.

In December, 2012, I tried a second time. I posted “Customer Book Reviews – Can’t Live With ’em, Can’t Live Without ’em.” As of this morning, this post still has only 5 likes and zero comments. If you’re one of the 5 and reading this post over a year later… wow, you deserve an award. 🙂 There were 6 views of this post in December, 2012, and it’s now been viewed a whopping 7 times.

This post was, I felt, a huge improvement over my Hello, World post on word puzzles. It relates to writing and publishing, the same theme as I adopt today.

My next two posts didn’t fair much better, but I finally received a couple of comments. I started to get a few followers. It was very slow: a few views, a few likes, a few follows. By few, I mean like 3 to 5. Few. It can be really tough starting out. I felt like my posts were helpful.

I felt, as many writers can relate, that it was easier to sell a book on Amazon than it was to get discovered on WordPress. In fact, it took several months of active blogging before my average daily views finally exceeded my average daily sales. The author who starts blogging with the intention of marketing a book could get really discouraged by this observation. Fortunately, I wasn’t blogging to market my books, so this never concerned me.

On January 5, 2013, I had the inspiration for one of my favorite posts of mine, “Reading & Writing with Passion.” Some other bloggers apparently liked this post, too, as it received some comments, a reblog, and a couple of pingbacks. This post had 39 views that month. That was huge for one of my first handful of posts.

Meanwhile, you check out your Reader or Freshly Pressed and discover blogs with hundreds of thousands of views and posts with hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. The grass isn’t just greener on the other side—it’s made out of 24-karat gold.

It Should Start Slowly

Wouldn’t it be great to achieve instant success? (Nope. It would be easy, but not great. You wouldn’t appreciate it at all. You wouldn’t feel like you earned it.)

Whether you would like it to take off instantly or not, a blog is a seed that you plant, nurture, and grow. It starts out buried in the mud. After several weeks, you might see a tendril poke through the surface. If you watch closely for several days, it might seem to get a fraction of an inch taller. Months later, when you see the first sign of a leaf, you jump for joy. Many blogs get planted, watered for a short while, and abandoned.

And that’s the way it should be, to an extent.

Your blog is new. You don’t have a preexisting fan base to find your blog in the Reader or get your post by email. You’re struggling to get discovered.

You’re discovering other blogs. You’re interacting with other bloggers. You’re hoping to get discovered. But many of those bloggers have hundreds of followers. Some are waiting to see if you’ll be a regular, or just one of the many passing followers hoping for nothing more than a reciprocal follow. Those who do visit your blog see that you’re brand spanking new: They’re waiting to see more content, to see if you’ll be here for the long-haul, and to see if you have enough posts that will interest them. They already have a very full Reader, so they’re selective about adding new followers.

The numbers game doesn’t help. You start thinking things like… I’m posting 3 times per week… Blogging 1 hour per day… Typing 3000 words per week in addition to my book… Getting 2 new followers per week… Getting 6 views per day… Getting 4 likes per post. At 2 followers per week, it will take a year to reach a mere 100 followers. At 6 views per day, active blogging for a whole year will give you a mere 2000 views.

But while blogging starts out slowly, there is much potential for improvement. I started out with very slow numbers.  Yet I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers after about 14 months of active blogging.

Blogging Potential

Everyone is different, but for most bloggers stats do improve significantly over long periods of time.

Your numbers probably won’t be identical to mine, but if you’re starting out, the growth of my numbers and those of many other bloggers may offer hope.

In January, 2013, I was getting just a handful of views and likes per post and follows per week. Slowly, over the course of months, this turned into dozens and then dozens more. Now, I have more than 100 views on my blog almost every day, even if I don’t post anything new. I usually get a couple dozen or more likes of my posts within the first couple of days. I get several new followers each week. Let me take a moment to shout THANK YOU to everyone who has been even a small part of this.

That’s a huge improvement, but I’ve only been actively blogging for a year and I’m still a small fish in a big pool. There are many bloggers getting hundreds of views per day, hundreds of likes per post, and who have over a hundred thousand followers. No matter how well you do, you can always find someone else who seems to be doing much better.

But I don’t blog for the numbers. If I did, I probably would have been one of the many bloggers who give up quickly and never return. I’m just sharing my numbers to possibly give some newbies a little hope.

One of the coolest things that happened to me was receiving an email from WordPress that one of my posts, “Once Upon a Time,” a poem made exclusively out of clichés, was being Freshly Pressed. Wow, they picked little ol’ me. They said I would be getting a lot more traffic at my blog, and they weren’t kidding. As of now, this single post has been viewed 1659 times. It has 167 comments (mostly clichés; these are among my favorite comments to read), 342 likes, and dozens of reblogs. I had my record number of views for a single day, 432, and received hundreds of followers during this period.

A blog can grow significantly over a long period of time, even if it might seem to do so very slowly. Several factors may help your blog grow:

  • A gradual increase in your following means a few more people reading your blog in the Reader or by email. Some followers are just hoping for a follow-back, and some followers are outside of your target audience. But as your following grows, your real following grows with it.
  • Discovery takes time. As you regularly interact with fellow bloggers and establish new connections, your blog will get discovered more. Not everyone will like your blog. Some will offer support, but won’t be in your target audience. But as your blog gets discovered more, your blog will grow. If you post a link to your blog from your books and other parts of your online platform, this will aid in discoverability.
  • It takes time to build relevant content and for the content to get discovered. If you post content that interests your target audience, it may eventually start to attract your target audience. Some posts get discovered through keyword searches through search engines. If you succeed in writing a few posts that get discovered a few times externally every day, this brings new people from your target audience outside of your blog-world to your blog. This is the idea behind a content-rich website. What starts out as a simple blog can grow into a content-rich website with material that will interest your target audience. This helps you share your passion with others. Your “target audience” is a wonderful group of people who share your passion.
  • The more you read other blogs and interact with other bloggers, the more you learn. You get ideas for how you might make your effective use of your blog. Your posts tend to improve over time. The appearance of your blog changes. You start to explore new features on WordPress. You have more content (i.e. all those posts you’ve written) to attract interest when your blog is discovered. Your most recent posts may be better than your old posts, helping you attract more interest.
  • You may expand, feeding your WordPress posts into Facebook and Twitter (but don’t cross-feed between Facebook and Twitter or you’ll get double or triple posts). Even if you don’t plan to make much use of Twitter or Facebook, this offers potential followers another way of following you. Some people prefer other forms of social media to WordPress. Let them follow you via their favorite platforms. If you do make use of other forms of social media, some of the people you reach over there will discover your blog that way.
  • The more posts you write, the better your chances of writing a magical post that goes viral. It can happen to you.

More than Just a Blog

Blogging isn’t about marketing.

There is so much here at WordPress:

  • There are many wonderful bloggers to interact with. Many of us feel that the interactions are the best part of the blogging experience.
  • There is so much wonderful material to read. Browsing through your Reader or Freshly Pressed is better than any magazine, in my opinion, and it’s free.
  • The WordPress community can be very supportive. This can be part of your support network.
  • WordPress abounds in creativity. It’s fun and inspiring.

In addition, your blog can be more than just a blog. It can also function as a content-rich website. This is the latest trend in marketing. The hope is to attract people from your target audience beyond your blog by posting relevant content. But I don’t think of this in a business sense. I see it as a means to share your passion with others. I see designing and growing your website as an art form. I don’t think of it as marketing in the usual sense of the word.

Visualize what your blog can be and work toward that. Enjoy it. Don’t focus on the stats, which can deceive and discourage you. Think positively.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Creative Marketing Ideas for Books

Envelope

Imagination. Authors use it to write books. Readers look for books that apply it effectively. So why not use that creativity in marketing, too?

Here are some creative marketing ideas for generating book publicity:

  • Small stickers with your book cover on them. Use them to seal envelopes and the recipient will surely see your book cover when opening your mail. An alternative is to print your book cover directly onto the envelope. Stickers can also be applied to many other items besides envelopes.
  • How about a nice tattoo of your book cover on a visible body part? What more could an author do to show how much he or she believes in his or her book?
  • But you can achieve a similar effect without the pain or a permanent mark on your body. It’s called a t-shirt. If it looks nice, other people might even wear them. It doesn’t quite show the commitment of a tattoo, but I’ve never met a reader who only reads books by authors who tattoo the covers on their bodies. In cold weather, t-shirts might get covered up, so a hat might be a good alternative.
  • Advertise your book on your car. The mild way to do this is with a bumper sticker. But you see more and more small businesses with extensive paint jobs to market their products and services. Sometimes, it’s just a website written on the back. Other times, the entire vehicle is transformed. Imagine thousands of people stuck in traffic, seeing your book on your car. Would this brand your book’s image effectively? Or would people think you’re a nut? Maybe it depends on how professional it looks and how mild it seems.
  • More traditional ways to publicize your book include business cards, bookmarks, flyers, and brochures. A bookmark that looks nice enough to use (i.e. not like an advertisement) helps to brand your image, at least with readers who still use print books. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone, who knows who, accidentally misplaced a few of your bookmarks inside similar books at a bookstore? How did those get there?
  • Wouldn’t it be cool to have some pens or pencils that feature your book? After all, you’re a writer.
  • Suppose you are friends with some experienced authors and between you, you have dozens of books. Imagine spending a day renting a small kiosk in a mall or other highly visible area, selling your books. Even if you don’t sell too many, people will see your books and browse them. In the worst-case scenario where you don’t sell any, you have a cool picture to post on your author page, blog, and all over the internet.
  • Think of all the advertising in sports: ballcaps, towels, golf tees and markers, wristbands, duffel bags, etc. You could have your book on one of these, advertising your own product instead of some big business. If your book relates to that sport, even better. People might even want one of their own.
  • I was watching a MLB game once where during the game the announcer mentioned a book that a fan had sent him and they showed pages of the book on the air. It had pictures of a fan’s collection of baseball memorabilia. If you send your product to a t.v. announcer, it probably won’t get aired, but if it does, that’s some major publicity. In the more likely case where it doesn’t get aired, it might still get read or mentioned to other people.
  • Don’t forget, it’s not just sight, there is also sound. People don’t just see your book, they can also hear about it. When you interact with people, let them discover that you’re an author and inquire about your book.
  • Imagine eating a peaceful dinner with your family. The phone rings. Telemarketer, of course. An author telling you all about his book. Yeah, this probably isn’t cost-effective for most authors, and might be rather irksome.
  • A less disruptive, more effective way to create book publicity is to get your book in the news. Prepare a professional-looking press release kit and contact newspapers and radio stations, for example. Start small and local. Many local papers have column inches to fill and like to highlight local talent; a small, local radio station might need to fill minutes. You can look for book reviews or interviews. You can also think of what else might make you newsworthy and let you plug your book.
  • Online, you can show your book cover and author photo and mention your book on all your sites. You can interact with your target audience at other sites and let them discover that you’re an author.
  • Write an article relevant for your target audience. Try to get it published in a newspaper or magazine, or a website online. There are so many websites online, that if you’re determined and your article is well-written and interesting, you have very good prospects. In the worst case, you can still post your article on your blog, so it won’t go to waste. Get your article posted where there is significant traffic from your target audience and you might get some healthy traffic to your book. At the end of the article, write Your Name, Author of Your Book.
  • There are many advertising opportunities online. The big question is whether or not it will be cost-effective. You can spend as little as about $5 a day and try to match your book with readers in your target audience at Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter, for example. The click-through rate is pretty small these days, less than a percent on average; and of the products and services offered, a book by an unknown author probably won’t attract much attention this way.
  • If you really want to invest big, you can spend $10,000 or more advertising your book or series of books online. For example, that’s the starting amount to advertise a book through Amazon’s marketing department. This is for a professional campaign for highly marketable books, for authors with multiple books. Even then, you might not recover the investment after a couple million shoppers see your book over the course of a month.  The publishers and authors who use this service may have other objectives that may offset an initial loss, such as the hope of getting on a coveted bestseller list or stimulating initial sales and reviews for a new series. This is a huge risk for a new author, as the worst-case scenario is virtually no sales; there are no guarantees.
  • A more cost-effective way to advertise may be to run a short-term promotion and promote the sale through a service like BookBub. You can find a sample list here.

Marketability

It’s not just about marketing. It’s also about marketability. Do you have a book that readers will really enjoy? Do you have a book that has a significant audience? It can be a niche audience, as long as it’s significant and you can reach your audience effectively. Do you have a cover that will attract your specific target audience? Do you have a blurb that will make your target audience want to look inside? Does the look inside grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to buy your book? Is your content good enough to get referrals, reviews, and recommendations? Will the editing and formatting satisfy the target audience?

If your cover isn’t appealing, or if your cover attracts the wrong audience, or if the blurb doesn’t make the reader curious, or if the look inside doesn’t attract the reader, or if the story doesn’t satisfy the reader, or if the reader finds many mistakes, or if there isn’t a significant audience for your book… then the first thing you need to do is improve your book’s marketability. You’re not ready to start marketing your book yet.

For an in-depth discussion of marketability, click here.

Target Audience

With any marketing and advertising, you need to gear it toward your specific target audience for it to be effective. Marketing efforts that reach your specific target audience effectively can do wonders for a highly marketable book. Spend time thinking about the characteristics and habits of your target audience. Interact with fans; direct them to your email, blog, or fan page. The more you interact with fans, the better you will understand the variety of people who enjoy your book.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The easy thing to calculate is cost. If you invest in an advertisement or service, you can easily estimate how much you’re paying. Remember, time is money, too. If you’re spending hours marketing your book, this is costing you even if it’s free.

The hard thing to calculate is the benefit. It’s not easy to predict what impact your marketing effort will have on sales. If you do some new marketing, you can try to see if it’s improving sales compared to your average, but there are many complications (like maybe Amazon also made changes to customers also bought lists at about the same time, or maybe you got a few new reviews).

There are also many valuable benefits besides immediate sales. Most marketing requires patience, on the scale of many months. Branding takes time. People don’t run out and buy products immediately when they see an advertisement. The might see an advertisement a few different times over the course of months, then one day when they are shopping for that product, they see one that was advertised and recognize it. Things like branding really complicate the figuring of benefits in a cost-benefit analysis. Branding is highly important, but difficult to predict, and a challenge to calculate after a couple of years.

Nonetheless, you should be weighing costs and benefits with all of your marketing.

Author Image

If you’re trying something creative, ask yourself how it might impact your image as an author. You want to be viewed as a professional author. An author’s brand is difficult to establish, but very easy to destroy.

Chris McMullen

I have a Ph.D. in physics, but don’t let that scare you. I love to read and write. If you just look around my blog or at the books I’ve published, you’ll see that I love to write. I’ve come to understand and appreciate the marketing aspect, too. I didn’t like it when I first started publishing, back when I naively thought marketing meant salesmanship and advertising. Now that I realize that marketing is more about branding, showing that you’re a person and not a name, and letting your target audience discover your passion—and more meaningful and subtle things like these—I’ve come to enjoy it. I hope to reveal the enjoyable and fascinating side of marketing—the parts that aren’t so obvious—to other authors. Focus on this side of marketing, and you may find yourself more motivated to do it, the process more rewarding, and hopefully better long-term results.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

A Different Kind of Book Marketing

New

Authors are trying to market their books. Yet this is only a fraction of the book marketing that occurs daily:

  • Many publishers, bookstores, and literary agents are trying to brand the notion that traditionally published books are much better. And why not? Many feel that it’s in their interest to reinforce this perception.
  • Many editors are striving to advertise common editing mistakes and the need to correct them. Indeed, editing is important. Exactly what is good enough?
  • Many cover designers wish to reinforce the importance of a good cover and to negate the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But will the benefits outweigh the costs?
  • Publicity consultants, e-book formatters, PR services, advertising agencies, professional review specialists, font licensers, contract attorneys… So many individuals and businesses have products to help you with your book. Which ones do you really need? You may need some, and it’s a tough call to make.

Do you see frequent remarks online pointing out problems with self-published books? That’s exactly what many businesses and individuals want. Some of the people pointing this out don’t have anything to gain by it; others believe that they do. The indies who point this out are shooting themselves in their feet; the overall perception of indie books does have an impact on sales.

Those in the traditional publishing industry, or who are closely tied to it, may also be shooting themselves in their feet when they blast indie books. For example, when they paint a picture of e-book formatting problems, it may deter sales of e-readers and e-books to some extent, affecting traditionally published e-book sales, too.

There are some indie books with formatting, editing, cover, or writing issues. The worst offenders aren’t selling much; they aren’t even discovered much in search results, since the bestsellers tend to be much easier to find. We know about them from customers who bought them by mistake and learned their lesson from not reading the blurb and checking the Look Inside (probably a more common occurrence with freebies), and it’s been reinforced by many people who, for whatever reason, like to point this out.

Nearly everyone in the book industry would benefit, whether they realize it or not, from painting a positive image of the best books, rather than focusing on negatives. Just knowing there are problems out there weighs on a reader’s mind. People like to shop for products where the experience seems positive. Indies, especially, should point out features of quality indie books. Marketing to help spread news of the best books helps everyone.

Just like authors need to market their books, editors need to market their services. The better way to go about this is to focus on the benefits of good editing, rather than describing the problems with poorly edited books. Here’s the difference: Painting a positive picture of books helps a little to stimulate book sales overall, whereas a negative picture deters book sales a little. The better books sell, the more demand there will be for editing and other services.

Similarly, cover designers should focus on the benefits of hiring a graphic artist, instead of pointing out the problems with lousy covers.

Authors shouldn’t just be marketing their own books, they should also paint a positive picture of books, e-books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, Kindle, traditional publishing, self-publishing, editing, cover design, and all things books.

Create a positive world that will attract and please book lovers of all kinds. This will maximize sales and services all around.

There isn’t a true distinction between traditional and self-publishing. Many traditionally published authors also self-publish; it’s becoming increasingly popular. What? Are they awesome at the same time as they are lousy? That’s ridiculous!

What counts, ultimately, to any reader, is how positive the reading experience is. A traditionally published book that provides a reader with a not-so good experience isn’t better than an indie book that wows the reader. Perhaps traditionally published books, on average, tend to impress readers more often. (Maybe not. Many indie books might be read mostly by their target audience with great pleasure, while some traditionally published books might be read by many readers outside their target audience. A personal marketing experience and fewer sales might, just might, on average result in a better reading experience. The pleasure of meeting and interacting with a small-time author has its benefits.)

But that’s not the point. The point is for everyone to sell more books by focusing on providing the best possible reading experience, and not for everyone to sell fewer books by focusing on the negatives.

Books that provide better reading experiences are inherently going to sell more. Advertising the negatives isn’t really helping anyone; books with those negatives tend to deter their own sales, as soon as word spreads. Rather, giving attention to those negatives is just hurting everyone, including those at the top.

The book industry is changing. Many publishers, bookstores, and agents don’t like it. Many fear it.

What they need to do is adapt; not complain about it.

The book industry is becoming inclusive. It used to be exclusive.

Publishers might still be inclined to play the exclusivity card. The proper way to try this is to market the benefits of publishing traditionally, not by marketing the negatives of self-publishing. Again, a positive experience for buyers helps everyone overall. This actually affects big businesses much more than it affects the small guys. If everyone loses 5% as a result of painting a negative picture, this hardly impacts the indie author at all, but 5% is huge for a big business.

There are benefits to publishing traditionally. Each author and book is unique. Some will benefit by publishing traditionally, others won’t.

Publishers could adapt toward inclusivity (and to be fair, some are moving toward this in small ways).

Amazon played the inclusivity card in a huge way: With CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), everyone can now publish a book.

Smashwords played the inclusivity card. Several other companies have, too.

This seems to be working well for them.

Imagine winding back the clock. What if Barnes & Noble or one of the big five publishers had played the inclusivity card before Amazon did? How might things be different today?

Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe there is a way for big businesses to become more inclusive without sacrificing too much quality. There may even be a demand for it. There are authors who would like something in between traditional and self-publishing, where you could get some benefits of both.

We can’t control what the big companies do.

We can be grateful for the opportunities that companies like Amazon, CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Smashwords, and many others have provided.

And most of all, we can remember to market a positive image for books in general in addition to marketing our own books and services, realizing how creating a positive reading experience for buyers may have a significant impact on book sales overall.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

A Look at a Successful Fiction Marketer

Charles Yallowitz

In this post, we will learn valuable marketing and marketability tips by looking at a successful fiction author. In addition to writing a highly marketable book, today’s author is also active with a variety of effective marketing strategies.

Sword and sorcery author Charles Yallowitz has a popular fantasy series called The Legends of Windemere. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you may know Charles, as he is an active and highly supportive blogger in our community. Even if you’re familiar with Charles and his series, hopefully you will still find some helpful tips about marketability and marketing in this post.

Beginning of a Hero

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower

Allure of the Gypsies

 

Let’s begin by taking a close look at the book covers for The Legends of Windemere:

  • The covers look like they are part of the same series. This is an important part of series branding. Once readers become familiar with the series, you want them to instantly recognize the brand when they come across new books in the series. The series name looks exactly the same, even in the same position, in each volume; and so does the name. The title has a cool style, consistent with each volume: Look at the first and last letters.
  • Volume 1, Beginning of a Hero, clearly signifies the genre. This is a vital ingredient of a highly marketable book. A fantastic cover won’t sell a book that lacks marketable content, but can really help a book that has marketable content. It’s a sword and sorcery novel, and there you see the protagonist with a sword on the cover. More than that, the artwork looks like it was done well, and the cover will appeal to the target audience (teenagers who read sword and sorcery fantasy novels).
  • If you have a person on your book cover, an important, but often overlooked, key is the facial expression. You definitely don’t want a blank stare, but even a subtle effect where the expression doesn’t seem to fit the scene can deter sales. The first volume shows a look of intensity on the protagonist’s face.
  • The most important cover is the one on the first book of the series, but the others are very important, too. The first one helps to draw readers into the series, but the subsequent covers can impact whether or not readers continue in the series. Volumes 2 and 3 have dynamic covers. It’s hard to pull off the effect of movement well, but these covers do it. You can see the gypsy dancing in Volume 3.
  • It’s not easy to follow the three color rule (primary 60%, secondary 30%, accent 10%) when drawing people and scenery, yet each of these covers is pretty effective at mainly using only a few colors. Although the color scheme changes from one volume to the next, the style and structure are preserved wonderfully.

Of course, there is more to marketability than just the cover:

  • The blurbs are concise, which works especially well in fiction. You want the blurb to reinforce the cover by revealing the same genre and content (you want the reader thinking, “Yeah, that’s what I was looking for,” and not, “Oops, that’s not what I expected”). You want to give just enough to create interest, and make the reader look inside to find more.
  • I read Volume 1, so I know firsthand that the storyline and characterization are highly marketable. These books are rich in great ideas. A highly marketable book must deliver something that readers will very much enjoy. For sword and sorcery readers, this storyline and these characters are a great fit. This no doubt creates many recommendations and reviews, especially valuable word-of-mouth referrals.
  • A marketable cover (that signifies the genre), a concise blurb (that signifies the same genre), and a variety of reviews help to get readers to Look Inside. These books have all three. The reviews partly reflect the story’s marketability and the author’s marketing skills (for one, the more effective your marketing is, the more readers you will get; for another, personal interactions and showing your humanity may help to elicit reviews, on top of the effect of your story).

I’ve interacted with Charles here at WordPress rather frequently, and I encounter his marketing here and at other sites. I have seen that he is very active with marketing, and utilizes a variety of effective marketing strategies. He clearly works hard at it, and he shows that hard work can pay off:

  • Charles uses his blog quite effectively, which isn’t as easy to do in fiction. One of his keys is variety. His poems are excellent, and they are a short sample that can create interest in his writing; weekly goal posts show that he is organized and provide a feel of a professional author; he does post about his own books, but these are supplemented by much other content; updates on his writing offer something for fans, yet also include questions to help engage his blogging audience; and some posts reveal a touch of his personality, family life, or humanity (you become more than just an author when readers recognize you’re a person, too, and of good character). Any one of these topics by itself would make his blog much less effective; this particular variety works very well for him.
  • If you’ve encountered Charles in the blogging or social media realm, you know that he is highly interactive. It’s amazing how much interaction he provides on his own posts, on other people’s posts, and on multiple sites; and very often his responses are almost immediate. He interacts with all bloggers, big and small. When you’re a tiny fish in a big sea and a big fish takes time to interact with you, it makes you feel special.
  • He is also very active with the Community Storyboard. Several authors make regular contributions to this interesting blog (you should check it out, if you’re not already familiar with it).
  • Charles is amazingly supportive of his fellow authors. It’s a great reputation to have because when he releases a new book or does a cover reveal, many authors whom he has helped are happy to reciprocate. It’s not just a matter of reciprocation: He interacts avidly and shows that he cares, and this helps to build engaging, supportive relationships. Another benefit of building connections is that you can receive valuable tips and marketing advice.
  • Blogging is just one aspect of the much larger marketing picture. Charles feeds his WordPress posts into Twitter and Facebook, and is also active at Facebook. He uses social media effectively, not just posting content, promoting his books, interacting, and building a following there, but also by joining and being an active participant in several Facebook groups (this is a valuable resource). He doesn’t stop with Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also encountered him at Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest. He is highly visible and connected this way.
  • Visibility is important. Charles posts regularly to social media and Facebook groups in addition to his blog. He is highly active with this, which helps him brand his image and give him exposure. He appears as a professional author (of course, he is, but some authors who are don’t create the same perception, but appear invisible in the background) by engaging in this activity. Readers are apt to be familiar with his name and covers from seeing them frequently. It’s not just about posting regularly, but also about searching for the right groups so you become visible with your specific target audience.
  • Author interviews and guest blogs are important, too. I’ve seen several guest blogs and author interviews featuring Charles, and I also see these on his site for other authors. As I mentioned previously, he is very supportive of other authors. Take the time to find bloggers that are a good fit for your content, and learn how to interact with them and approach them to make polite and effective requests. These can be very helpful in gaining exposure for your book.
  • Charles runs occasional promotions for his series. If you have a highly marketable series, your main concern is generating exposure among your target audience. You can give the first book of the series away for free periodically in order to get more readers interested in your series. A short-term sale can help to draw readers in. Charles has used some paid advertising sites effectively, including Askdavid.com, Goodkindles, Novelspot, Bookpinning, Indie Author Anonymous, and Indie Author News (click here to learn more). The key is to have a highly marketable book from cover to cover and to gear your promotions toward your specific target audience.
  • Getting onto any of Amazon’s top 100 lists can really help to improve your exposure. Charles shows that creating a highly marketable book and working hard to market your book effectively can help you land your book on these very helpful lists.

Charles uses a touch of humor, and does so effectively. He uses it occasionally in his marketing (I see it on his blog, for example) and also in his novels (he mentioned that his can help with character depth—but, of course, must be done in moderation, and only when it fits the character; some characters shouldn’t show humor).

So I thought it would be fitting to mention a little humor, coming from Charles himself. “I thought I lost my cellphone and went looking for it. I was carrying the house phone, so I decided to call my cellphone to find it. Well, I had my cellphone in my hand and called it anyway.”

Charles will be participating in Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books on December 10. All authors are welcome to participate (it’s free).

Check out Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere series at Amazon:

  1. Beginning of a Hero
  2. Prodigy of Rainbow Tower
  3. Allure of the Gypsies

Connect with Charles Yallowitz:

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Creating a Highly Marketable Fiction Book

M. Louisa Locke, author of the Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series

Today we will examine the books of a highly successful fiction author to learn some valuable marketability tips.

Historical fiction author M. Louisa Locke has a popular series called the Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series. The first book in the series, Maids of Misfortune, has over 500 customer reviews on Amazon.

Click on the image to view this book’s detail page at Amazon.

You can learn some things about marketability just by visiting the detail page for Maids of Misfortune:

  • The cover fits the genre very distinctly. This is incredibly important for a book to be highly marketable. You want your target audience to see the book and instantly recognize that it’s a perfect fit for them. One glance at the cover and you know it’s historical fiction. Your book will be seen in your marketing, search results, customer also bought lists, and more. If you want a significant percentage of the people who see your book to buy your book, you need the cover to grab your target audience.
  • Not only that, but the cover is appealing, looks elegant, and the title and author name are easy to read in the thumbnail. The challenge is to make the font interesting, yet still very clear, and fit the genre. This book pulls it off very well. Don’t underestimate the effect that font issues have on sales.
  • Check out the other covers in the series. They all fit together, which helps greatly with branding, yet each is distinct.
  • The blurb is divided up into short paragraphs. Shoppers have a short attention span, and this blurb addresses that. If the blurb doesn’t interest the buyer immediately and continue to engage the shopper, the shopper will hit the back button of the browser.
  • The first sentence of the blurb describes trouble. Now the reader is concerned. The second paragraph starts with a secret, the third introduces a problem, and the last speaks of murder. Each paragraph begins with some way of engaging the reader. Everything reads well and clearly, and no paragraph is too long.
  • Look at the categories. Normally, having too many categories poses a problem, but upon closer inspection, each subcategory is very specific and actually is appropriate to the book. You want your book to get into specific categories that are highly relevant for your book, but not to get into categories that aren’t highly relevant (buyers see this, become confused, and back out). Check out this page to learn some Kindle keyword tricks (thanks to S.K. Nicholls and others for pointing this out to me). Check your detail page periodically and contact Author Central if your book gets into a category that isn’t highly relevant.
  • M. Louisa Locke’s author photo is a perfect fit for her profile—a Victorian author and retired professor of U.S. and women’s history. Her qualifications certainly help; although she is a fiction author, her expertise relates to the subject her novels.
  • The 500 reviews really stand out on the product page. Excellent marketability and effective marketing help to earn sales, and a fraction of those sales may result in customer reviews. One way to help improve this percentage is to encourage customers to contact you and to mention that you would appreciate a review on Amazon. Check out the second paragraph of M. Louisa Locke’s biography.
  • If you write fiction, Shelfari offers many book extras that you can add to your product page. Check out the book extras on this product page.
  • This book is available on Kindle, paperback, and as an audio book.
  • The cover grabs the attention of the target audience, the blurb draws interest, and the reviews lend credibility, but it isn’t a done deal yet. We still have the Look Inside. This Look Inside seals the deal. The cover looks great not only as a thumbnail, but also in the much larger Look Inside. The book comes right out and draws interest right off the bat. You want to develop your story slowly, but readers don’t have such patience for a new author. Come out swinging with your best stuff. Grab the reader’s attention and don’t let go. This book draws interest immediately, and each paragraph starts, like the blurb, with some word or phrase that will draw the reader’s curiosity. The Look Inside fits the genre well, which is highly important, reads well, and appears to be well-edited. These three points can make or break a sale, even when everything else is perfect.

There is more to success than just creating a highly marketable book and product page and throwing it out there. But it’s not a secret. Many popular authors reveal tips that made them successful.

If you visit M. Louisa Locke’s blog, you’ll see that you can learn a great deal there about marketability and marketing. Especially, read these two posts and study the details:

M. Louisa Locke’s paperback books will be participating in Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books on December 10. All authors are welcome to participate (it’s free).

Learn more about M. Louisa Locke: website, author page.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Promote Your Kindle Countdown Deal or Select Free Promo (or Other Book Sale)

On Sale

The writer who carves a masterpiece out of words and publishes the book faces a new challenge:

  • how to help the target audience discover the book

As there are millions of books to choose from, this is no easy task.

One way to try to help stimulate sales is to put the book on a temporary sale, e.g. through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

  • Amazon has a new Countdown Deal available for books enrolled in KDP Select. This allows for a temporary reduction in price and shows customers how much they are saving and when the sale ends.
  • The older KDP Select free promo option is another alternative. (Note that you can’t mix and match Countdown Deals and free promos for the same book in a given 90-day enrollment period.)
  • Books that aren’t enrolled in KDP Select can still have a temporary price reduction by simply republishing at the new list price.

Everyone likes a sale. It’s great to save money.

But there’s a catch: The sale won’t attract buyers if customers don’t know about the sale.

You still have the problem of discovery. Just putting your book on sale through a Kindle Countdown Deal, KDP Select free promo, or other temporary price reduction isn’t enough:

  • A temporary sale, all by itself, probably won’t help much with getting your book discovered.

Nevertheless, a temporary price reduction can be effective if you succeed in spreading news about the sale:

  • Instead of just promoting your book, promoting that your book is temporarily on sale may generate more interest. That is, it can help make your marketing more effective.
  • Any promotions that you do to spread the news about your sale may be amplified by people in your target audience who become interested in your book.
  • If people develop interest in your book, the looming deadline may help to generate sales.
  • Sales that you may generate as a result of placing your book on sale can help improve your book’s visibility through sales rank, customers-also-bought associations, and customer reviews.

(Note that KDP Select free promos generate a free rank instead of a paid rank, but any subsequent sales once the free promo ends will help boost the paid rank.)

It all comes down to getting your book’s sale discovered by your target audience.

The usual marketing strategies—blogging, Twitter, Facebook, press release, building buzz, interacting with your target audience, readings, guest blogs, etc.—can help with discoverability. Instead of just promoting your book, you’ll be promoting the temporary sale of your book, which may help to generate more interest than your usual marketing.

Also, if you’ve been branding an image, prospective buyers who may have been considering your book might be sold when they see that your book is now on sale.

However, you probably want to use this golden opportunity to try and go beyond your usual marketing reach. For example, you might want to consider if a low-cost advertisement may be cost-effective.

Don’t focus solely on projections for how many people may view your advertisement. It’s also important to consider:

  • What fraction of the people who view your advertisement are in your specific target audience? They are more likely to make the purchase, appreciate your book, and leave a review.
  • How marketable is your book? Will the cover and blurb make the genre clear and appeal to your specific target audience?

If you have a highly marketable book in terms of both packaging and content—i.e. it will both attract and please a significant target audience—then it may be worth advertising at a site that can show your advertisement to your specific target audience.

One popular site is BookBub, but there are other options, like Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales. There are also sites to help you promote seasonal events. For example, check out Read Tuesday, designed to help stimulate holiday sales.

With a Kindle Countdown Deal or temporary price reduction, you earn royalties during the sale. Your hope is that these immediate sales and a possible increase in sales following the sale will recover your investment and then some, but as with any investment, there is always a risk.

In contrast, a KDP Select free promo doesn’t yield any royalties during the sale. Here, the hope is that if you succeed in creating interest for your book during the promo, then enough people will read the book (only a percentage who download it for free will eventually read it, and some will be from outside your target audience) and recommend it to others. That’s a big IF, and it doesn’t always work out that way. A successful free promo can lead to a significant improvement in sales, but not necessarily (it was more common in the early days of KDP Select, but still happens now; a highly marketable book and an effective promotion improve your chances).

A nice feature of the new Kindle Countdown deal is that any sales made during your promotion improve your paid sales rank, whereas your sales rank slides during a KDP Select free promo.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

 

The Publicity Paradox

Double Edged

Do you remember the days when you first applied for a job? Scouring the want ads, preparing resumes and cover letters, going to job interviews.

It seemed like everybody wanted you to have experience. The only problem was that you didn’t have any. You may have thought, “How will I ever get experience if I need experience just to get hired?”

Publicity suffers from a similar seeming paradox: You may feel that publishers, agents, publicists, editors, bookstores, reviewers, and even the media want you to have publicity before they will help you get more publicity. That’s great if you’re a celebrity.

Breaking through as a new author is a challenge. You’re an unknown. There are too many uncertainties. How will people react to your storytelling, characterization, and writing? How good is your idea? How will you handle the pressure? How effectively will your market your book? How well will you follow through with your commitments? How much help do you need? How professional or amateurish are you? How much do you need to learn about writing, editing, formatting, marketing, publicizing, social media, and making connections? And most importantly, how will you go from being a nobody to becoming an author with much publicity? Ah, if you only had that publicity (among your target audience) to begin with, that would help to make the risk so much more worthwhile.

How do you get publicity when you don’t have it to begin with?

If you had publicity, it would lend you credibility as an author; it would lend your book credibility, too.

If you credibility, it would help you gain publicity.

If you could lay an egg, you could make a chicken out of it.

If you could make a chicken, it could lay an egg for you.

It’s like you’re on a deserted island with no chickens or eggs, but you desperately need one or the other.

Baaak! Baak, baak, baaak!

I see a similar hurdle for Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books.

If we had authors with more name recognition, it would greatly improve the publicity that we could receive from the media, internal promotions, paid advertisements, etc.

If we had more publicity, it would help us attract authors with greater name recognition.

However, Read Tuesday has a big advantage. There are many indie authors who are experiencing the challenges of marketing their books firsthand who have been very supportive of the Read Tuesday event. This has helped to give Read Tuesday much initial support, and we are fortunate to have the participation of some authors who have achieved some modest levels of success (e.g. top books in their categories at one time, or ranking at around a thousand on Amazon for a limited time in paid sales). We also have a couple of small publishers who will be participating.

(We are fortunate to have every author who has agreed to participate, no matter how big or small—everybody is vital to our success, all participation is valuable, and each author is much appreciated. I wish for every author to have a successful Read Tuesday.)

Read Tuesday also has something to offer. An author with name recognition could gain increased exposure from the Read Tuesday promotional efforts, as the Read Tuesday publicity and promotions would feature this author’s name.

On the other hand, would the author who has risen to the top want to come back down and play with the small fish? Would he or she remember his or her roots? Would he or she support his or her fellow indie authors? Surely, it’s much easier to say what you would do if you get there than it is to do it when you’re sitting at the top.

The thing is, all indies have the same advantage that Read Tuesday has. There is a very large readership that supports indie authors. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of indie authors and hundreds of indie publishers, and their friends, family members, acquaintances, and coworkers raise this number to the millions.

Although some people try to paint a poor image of self-publishing, there are millions of people who support it. “This book was published with CreateSpace, was it? My niece published a book through them.” The books that have serious issues aren’t hurting anyone, while the large number of very good indie books and the growing number of successful indie authors show that indie publishing has much potential.

Ultimately, what the reader wants is a professional book. Whether or not the book is traditionally or indie published is secondary. A book that looks professional, pleases the target audience, and is discovered by the target audience can gain much support.

Read Tuesday also has the opportunity to help indie authors promote their own books. The event itself is far more popular than any single participating author. By promoting Read Tuesday in addition to the author’s own book, Read Tuesday has the potential to help authors market their books.

It can be a win-win situation for any author, tiny name or big name. Every author’s participation helps to improve the credibility and success of the event, and the event can help any author promote his or her own book in conjunction with the event.

Back to the publicity paradox. What you have to do to break out of the paradox is start small, work hard, be wise, be patient, market effectively and diligently, keep writing, and spread outward.

You gradually build a following, increase your number of connections, gain a little exposure, and build a little publicity. Continue writing and you’ll have a few books out.

The better your books are from cover to cover, the more they will help you grow your following, connections, exposure, and publicity. The better your marketing efforts, the more they will help you grow your sales.

Eventually, you may achieve some small measure of credibility and publicity. Once you finally get your foot in the door, you have the chance to run with it. Once you have a little credibility, it will help you gain publicity, and once you have a little publicity (with your specific target audience), it will lend you credibility.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook, Twitter

Read Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter

Build an Effective Author Website + Press Release (2-in-1 Post)

Free author resources at the Build Book Buzz website: http://www.buildbookbuzz.com.

Today I will show you a highly instructive example of how to build an effective author website. It’s actually the website for a former publicist, so it’s no surprise that the website excels at attracting the target audience.

We can learn a lot about how to attract our own traffic by studying the many cool features on this website. Also, there is an abundance of free content on this website, like how to prepare and distribute a press release to create book publicity.

In this way, we’ll learn two things at once:

  • how to attract your target audience through a website
  • how to prepare and distribute a press release

The website is called Build Book Buzz. This is the website that former publicist Sandra Beckwith uses to attract her target audience—authors who need help with book publicity (both traditionally published and indies). She no longer provides book publicity services to authors, but now helps many authors save thousands of $$ by teaching them how to do it themselves.

I will describe various features of her website, showing how they help to attract her target audience. This will be instructive if you check these features out as I describe them. Try to think of ways that you might be able to utilize similar features to attract your target audience.

Here is the link to her website: http://buildbookbuzz.com. Check it out.

Tip #1: The website name is geared toward the content, not the author. You know what the content is about instantly.

Tip #2: The homepage identifies the target audience and attracts their interest immediately. Notice how the website doesn’t mention who is offering this content (i.e. you don’t learn that it’s a former publicist’s website or who the former publicist is) until further down the page.

Tip #3: Nothing is for sale on the homepage. The homepage is geared around free content relevant for the target audience. It doesn’t look like an advertisement for a book, it doesn’t look like a fan page or biographical record, and it doesn’t look like a blog. Valuable free content that will interest the target audience is what will attract your audience to your website.

Sandra does have books and services that she sells, but none of these appear on her homepage. Think about this.

Tip #4: Visual branding. Study the images. The images aren’t the same, but most follow a similar blue, yellow/gold, and white theme, and feature a picture (not always the same) of an open book. Making the images slightly different helps you see that it’s not the same image, so you don’t ignore it. Having them all uniformly styled helps with the visual branding, and shows you that you’re clearly on the same website. Notice that they follow the three-color rule. The cover images look 3D, which helps to make a good visual impression. The information in the booklets is clear from the keywords that stand out in the title.

Tip #5: The homepage offers a free booklet. The content will interest the target audience. The offer appears first at the top to attract interest, and is repeated at the bottom so if you’re sold when you get there, you don’t have to scroll back up to the top.

Tip #6: The free booklet offer is a clever way to build an audience for an email newsletter. This helps to populate an email newsletter database (note that you must provide an unsubscribe option).

This is worth considering:

  • How do you get an audience for a newsletter? Offer a free booklet to sign up.
  • How do you get your target audience in the email list? Make a booklet that has content relevant for your target audience.
  • How do you get your audience to discover your booklet? As part of a content-rich website geared toward your target audience.

Tip #7: I recommend signing up for the email newsletter. (I did.) Why? Two reasons:

  • The emails you receive will provide a sample of how to use an email newsletter effectively. Although your content will be much different, there is much to learn here.
  • If you have a book that you’re trying to market, this content is relevant to you.

Tip #8: The website is easy to read. There isn’t a busy, distracting background. There is effective use of color with the text.

Tip #9: Free content. See the Tips page (each page can be found by clicking on the index at the top of the website). There are a variety of free PDF files of interest to the target audience. It’s a content-rich website, and much of it is free. This attracts the target audience.

Tip #10: Check out the PDF files on the Tips page. I highly recommend these in particular:

  • See the tips for writing a press release (book announcement). These are invaluable. A press release is critical for news publicity, and has a specific formula for its preparation.
  • Also see the tips for writing a tip sheet. Like the press release, this is something you need to help create news for your book.

The other tips on the Tips page are also worth exploring.

Tip #11: There is a blog on this website, but it really functions primarily as an author website, and the blog is just one of many components; it’s definitely not a website that was built around a blog. The blog, like the rest of the website, is content rich and free. You can probably find a lot of valuable information here.

Tip #12: Let’s jump ahead to the Press Room page. When you prepare the press release for the news about the publication of your book (if you haven’t already done so, you want to do this), you should add a Press Room page to your website.

Study the two press release examples on this page. They show you how to structure and format a press release. When you study the tips for how to write a press release, you should also re-read these two examples. This page also shows you how to format a Press Room page.

Tip #13: Check out Sandra Beckwith’s e-book, Get Your Book in the News. This is a detailed guide that spells out the formula for how to prepare a press release. I bought a copy, read it, and relied heavily upon it to write my press release for Read Tuesday. I recommend it.

Tip #14: Finally, check out the other pages. There are a couple of books and services offered that aren’t free. Note that there is an abundance of free content, but also some paid content. The paid content is different from the free content. Also, the free content is complete. It’s not a free sample; it’s free content.

There is ample free content, so you don’t feel disappointed or frustrated. If you don’t buy anything, you still feel that the website was highly useful.

The free content is very good. This gives you the sense of trust that you need before moving onto the paid content. The taste of the free content makes you consider the paid content. Note that the paid content also has a satisfaction guarantee.

I recommend that you take advantage of the free content on the Build Book Buzz website. There are a lot of valuable, yet free, resources there.

I was not asked to write this post. I was not asked to promote the Build Book Buzz website or any of its goods or services. I discovered this website, found much of the material useful, and thought it would be handy to share it. I did contact Sandra Beckwith to let her know that I would be writing this post.

I hope you found something useful. 🙂

Sandra Beckwith is a former national award-winning publicist who now teaches authors how to promote and publicize their books. Get free tips and subscribe to her complimentary Build Book Buzz e-zine at http://buildbookbuzz.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Twitter, Facebook

Learn more about Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books: website, Twitter, Facebook

Read Tuesday would Love Your Help

It’s going to be huge.

What is Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event just for books. In 2013, it will be Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

We’re off to a good start:

  • We have an official website up and running, with content.
  • We have a healthy start in terms of followers, especially the Facebook page and Twitter.
  • We have several authors who’ve shown interest and agreed to participate.
  • We have a press release and we’re now at the stage where we will distribute it.
  • We have been advertising on various websites to let both authors and readers know about the event.

Read Tuesday could use your help. If you can help with one or more of the following, your help will be greatly appreciated:

  • We’re looking for any name recognition that may help to promote the event. We have a little to begin with; the more we can get, the better. Any authors (or even indie publishers or booksellers), for example, who have achieved some small measure of success who may be willing to participate in Read Tuesday could help to promote the event as a whole. It’s a win-win situation, as we would include your name with our press release, press release distribution, and other efforts to promote the event (including paid advertisements and social media). This would help to advertise the authors (or entities) who have a little name recognition in addition to advertising the event. This will help to promote these authors along with the event. If you know anyone with mild success, please let them know about this offer. They can contact Chris McMullen at the email in the next bullet.
  • We can always use more participation, especially books and authors added to the catalog. We’ve had many more authors say they will participate than have taken the time to add their books or names to the catalogs. I expect they will be promoting their books on December 10 and participating. It would help the event be better if we could get more books and names in the catalogs. Simply email your ASIN (for a Kindle book that will participate) or a link to your book at a website where it will be on sale to Chris McMullen at greekphysics@yahoo.com. It’s that easy.
  • Tell a friend, or several friends; tell anyone. If you like the idea of Read Tuesday, you can help make it better just by helping to spread the word. Word of mouth, email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, any way you might spread the word will be valued. 🙂

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Chris McMullen, founder of Read Tuesday

Follow the Read Tuesday blog: http://readtuesday.com

Like the Read Tuesday Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ReadTuesday

Follow Read Tuesday at Twitter (@ReadTuesday): https://twitter.com/ReadTuesday