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28 minutes | 5 days ago
How to Overcome the Fear of Book Promotion
When a novelist does not belong to the group of readers they are targeting, they sometimes struggle to find beta readers. This is especially true for YA novelists. What’s more, the lack of initial readers may contribute to an author’s fear of book promotion. In today’s episode of “Ask The Vulcan,” we’re going to talk about how to find your readers and promote your book without guilt or shame. Author Daniel Rowel had questions about how to find readers, and he visited my new website, AskTheVulcan.com, to pick my brain (you can too when you click that link!). Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: Welcome to the show, Daniel. Tell us what you write and what your question is. Daniel Rowel: I’m an indie author, and I started out writing a middle-grade fantasy series. After a while, I realized middle-grade fantasy was tough to pull off in the indie world, so I moved to young adult fantasy for my current series. I’ve heard you say that I need to know what my readers want so that I can write the kind of book they want. But I’m struggling to understand that concept while writing my books. I think it’s a book they’ll want to read, but I’d like to get better at knowing if I’m actually delivering something they want. How do I know if I’ve written what my readers want? Thomas: Typically, the young adult audience is between 12 to 19 years old. Since you are 27 years old, you’re not part of the age group you’re writing to. Therefore, you need to get acquainted with readers within that age range. Do you interact with young people? Daniel: Yes. I’m the youth pastor at my church, so I have a lot of contact with young people. We have a smaller youth group. My group is a little niche because there are a lot of homeschoolers. I’m writing to a different audience and not the general public. I’m not necessarily opposed to writing outside of the young adult genre, but that’s another question. I don’t know if I’m really writing for adults or young adults. Where should I focus? Thomas: One principle of marketing is to play to your strengths and identify your unfair advantages. Your job as a youth pastor is your unfair advantage if you’re willing to leverage it. I recently went to a homeschool convention, and I saw an entire world of publishing with almost no contact with the outside world. Publishers in the homeschool market are making millions of dollars collectively. There are several different groups in indie publishing. There’s what I call the “20 Books to 50K” world, which is your standard indie author world. They dominate niches like romance and military science fiction. Many of those indie authors make a lot of money writing lots of books, and they apply a certain method to their writing and marketing. In the homeschool world, fantasy authors are making a lot of money using similar tactics. These authors attend homeschool book conventions wearing armor. They display armor at their booths. Nearly every author dresses in armor so that young readers will know which booths sell the kind of books they want to read. Hundreds of thousands of readers buy exactly that kind of fantasy sci-fi book. Homeschoolers don’t care so much about the genre label. Certain genre labels may turn them off. Homeschool kids want to read a good story that’s not condescending, but there are a lot of those kinds of books out there. When you said your group is niche homeschoolers, it sounded like you thought that was a downside. Is that the group you want to reach? Daniel: I’m not opposed to writing to that audience. I was just making the point that I don’t think they represent the general public. But if that is a niche that I could write for, I’m not opposed to that at all. Thomas: It’s important to understand that there is no “general public,” and there may never have been. In our age, there are many ways to divide people. Everyone is different. For example, political persuasion is just one of many separating factors. We have Democrats, Republicans, and the Please-don’t-talk-to-me-about-politics people. Those three groups are vastly different. We can separate people by whether they like to read books or not. But once you are done slicing and dicing people into groups, the number of people potentially interested in any particular book is pretty small. You don’t want to target a generic person, who might be called the “general public.” You want to target a specific person. I call this “finding your Timothy.” Timothy is a representative reader with a phone number. You can call him to ask for thoughts and feedback. Do you have anyone in your youth group who could be the “Timothy” for your book? Daniel: Yes, I have a couple of students. I’ve been hesitant to ask them because I feel awkward asking for feedback. I don’t want to seem like I’m self-promoting, especially as a youth pastor. I want to make sure that my priority is the relationship with my students. I’m not against asking, but that’s one reason I’ve been hesitant in the past. I’ve suggested it a few times, and I get an awkward vibe. I wonder if they think it might be horrible and don’t want to have to say so. How can I decode reader feedback? Thomas: If they are silent, you can assume they don’t like it. Typically, if you give a book to a reader and they give you vague feedback or no feedback at all, that means they don’t like it. If they give you specific feedback or talk about the ending, then that’s an indication they liked it. Readers feel honored to be invited to a beta reader team. You’re not charging them money, so you’re not self-promoting. You’re granting exclusive access to your book before anybody else reads it. If you reframe it that way, you’ll feel better about asking them. They’ll also be far more excited to join because who wouldn’t want to be involved with an insider club that nobody else has access to? Teenagers love that sort of thing. They want to be on the other side of the velvet rope. Pull that velvet rope across for only a handful of people. You might say, “I saw that you’re into this kind of book. Would you be interested in being a beta reader for my book?” Daniel: I know some students in our group who read fantasy and sci-fi. They weren’t silent about the book, but they seemed hesitant to even take it from me, even though I know they read the genre. To be fair, I didn’t push for it because I don’t want to come across as like I’m using my youth pastor position to gain readers for my books. Maybe I just need to reframe my thinking the way you’re describing and approach it differently. Thomas: Will your book be beneficial to these kids if they read it? Daniel: I believe so. I hope so. Thomas: Is it more wholesome than the standard entertainment they’re likely to be consuming? Daniel: One hundred percent, yes. Thomas: Then don’t feel guilty helping them. You’re making their lives better with your story. If you had some amazing healthy and delicious food and you see somebody eating Taco Bell, you can come to their rescue. Say, “Hey, I’ve got this food. It’s healthy and delicious. You don’t need to be eating that bean burrito from Taco Bell.” Your offer is kind and helpful. Your book is beneficial. You need to consider whether you believe in your book or not. If you don’t believe in your book, you come across as hesitant, and nobody else will believe in your book either. You must believe your book is a helpful and entertaining alternative to Netflix or Fortnite. If you don’t, then you need to work harder to write a better book. If you believe in your book, then promote it without shame because you owe it to the message in the book, and you owe it to your readers. If it will benefit them, why would you keep it to yourself? Daniel: That’s a great point. I’ve never really thought about it from that perspective. You’re right. I’m not asking them to do something they wouldn’t want to do anyway, since they already like reading these kinds of books. I do believe it will help them. Thomas: Pastors often display their books in the foyer of the church. Sometimes they give a book to guests for free, and sometimes they sell it. But you’re not even selling your book to these kids. You’re creating a group of beta readers. Hopefully, you can find one who is your super fan. Give your book to six kids in your youth group. Three or four of them will like it, and one of them will love it. That’s the one you want to keep happy because that kid represents all the other readers who will love it. Don’t feel guilty about promoting your book because that will hurt you. It will keep you from being an author. If you don’t believe in your book, you’ll never be able to convince anyone else to believe in your book. And if you don’t sell any books, people won’t read your book, and you’re wasting your time. You can feel even less guilty with your beta readers because you’re not even charging them. You’re inviting them to the “cool kids club,” where they get free access to your books before anybody else does. They get to give you feedback, and you listen to it and make changes. That’s fun. That’s power. Teenagers have no actual power, and yet they get to influence something in the real world. That’s exciting. Daniel: What if none of them provide any feedback. You said to assume they didn’t like it for whatever reason. In that scenario, maybe it’s the wrong audience, or maybe the story or writing was bad. How can I get more feedback? Thomas: Make sure to ask them, “At what point did you stop reading?” Make a note of the chapter or page where they stopped. If they stopped reading in the first page or two, then it’s probably the writing. The beginning must grip your reader, or they’ll give up. Perhaps they’re not the right fit for the genre, and the story doesn’t grab them. If all your readers are giving up in different places, it’s more likely to be the writing. If some people love it and others hate it, that means you have different kinds of beta readers. For example, some readers enjoy stories about elves. Other readers hate elves, but they love dragons. If your book has dragons and no elves, the elf-loving readers will hate your book. If readers aren’t getting far enough to find out whether it has elves or dragons, then you probably need to work on your craft, and that’s OK. How can I improve my writing craft? Everyone benefits from working on their writing craft. If that’s the case for you, I recommend reading books on the craft of writing and structuring a novel. In our course, The Five-Year Plan, we recommend a different craft book for you to read each month. After reading it, you write a short story to implement the lessons learned from that month’s book. By the time you’ve completed the course, you’ve written dozens of short stories, and you can use them for marketing and promotion purposes. Some of your stories will be great, are some of them won’t be. But you’ll learn a lot in the process, and you’ll have tried many new methods. The first step to discovering the issue is to get feedback from your target readers. You have an unfair advantage in this regard because you’re interacting with your target readers in real life. When you ask them how they liked it or where they stopped reading, you can look at their face and see the truth. You’ll be able to tell whether they’re just being nice to you or not. Daniel: That’s a really good point. I’ve wondered if homeschoolers might be a good market. I looked up some homeschool podcasts and reached out to a couple, but only one responded. That podcast asked for my book, which is free on Amazon, and they downloaded it from there. The feedback I received from that podcast said that the writing needed work. However, I have 200 reviews, and many of them are five-star reviews. I do get some bad reviews on the writing, but I think that’s because I couldn’t afford an editor, so I didn’t hire one. I know the book is suffering because of that. I recently saved up some money and paid an editor to edit that book. I’m going to work through those edits to improve the book, but that podcaster’s feedback made me wonder if maybe the homeschool market isn’t right for my book. What’s your opinion on that? What do homeschool parents want to see in a novel? Thomas: Homeschool parents are sensitive to proper usage and grammar. They want their children to learn proper English usage. If the copyediting of your book is weak, they won’t want their children to read it. For instance, Sesame Street is not popular with homeschool parents because many of the puppets use poor grammar. Cookie Monster says, “Me want cookie!” instead of “I want a cookie.” Most parents don’t mind that, but amongst homeschool parents, it’s very controversial. If you wear a Cookie Monster shirt, you’re showing the homeschool community that you’re not “one of us” because they want to use good English. Usage and grammar errors are a huge red flag to homeschool parents. They view it as something they’ll have to “un-teach” their kids, and your book is effectively making more work for the homeschool parent. The good news is that grammar and usage is the easiest thing to fix. You don’t have to be good at that. When I talk about improving your craft, I’m talking about becoming a better storyteller. You can hire a copy editor to fix passive voice, commas, spelling, and usage. New York Times bestselling authors who have sold millions of copies still need copy editors. I recently interviewed Jerry Jenkins, who has sold a billion dollars worth of books, and he still requires editing. I think he’s sold 60 million copies of his books. What if I can’t afford an editor? Instead of publishing an unedited book because you can’t afford an editor, I recommend putting it on Kickstarter to raise money for the editing. At Author Media, we have a Kickstarter Course. Authors who have completed the course have raised anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. Through crowdfunding campaigns, authors can pay for professional editing with the sales from their future readers who back the campaign. In addition, the Kickstarter campaign gets people excited about the book. Your supporters and readers want it to be good, so they help fund it. When you have the money on hand, you don’t have to risk thousands of dollars, and you still get that professional-grade editing. On the other hand, a failed Kickstarter campaign indicates that the marketing, pitch, or promise of the book is weak. Crowdfunding on Kickstarter is a great way to test the cover, back cover copy, and concept of the book. Most people decide to buy your book before reading it, so the initial sale isn’t impacted by the writing inside. It’s the pitch, promise, and cover art that make strangers want to purchase or back the campaign. The quality of the writing on the inside affects word-of-mouth marketing, but it doesn’t impact the sale to a total stranger. Daniel: You’re saying it’s likely that the issue with targeting the homeschool markets is the lack of editing, and when that issue is solved, it’ll be much more marketable to homeschoolers. Thomas: Yes. When a homeschool mom reads your book and sees typos or usage, she’s counting the issues that she’ll have to “unteach” her kid so that he gets a good score on the SAT. If your book feels like extra work, she won’t buy it. Your book needs to feel educational to the homeschool mom. That doesn’t mean it has to cover the Carthaginian wars with Rome, but it needs to be educationally edifying. Good editing is one way to make it educational. Daniel: I will definitely keep that in mind for my future books. I’ve never considered Kickstarter. My strategy was to make it permafree, and if it received good reviews, I figured it would be worth paying an editor. But Kickstarter solves that problem because you can test the book’s marketability before you even put it out there. Thomas: It helps protect your reputation too. When you publish an unedited book, you give the impression that you’re a worse author than you are. People are comparing your unedited story to somebody else’s edited story. You may be surprised how much better your book will perform with some editing. Daniel: I think my next step is to plan for editing and make sure I get all my books edited. I’ll look into Kickstarter, but how does an unknown author like me reach out to people to help pay for a book they don’t even know about yet? Thomas: I’d encourage you to listen to our episodes on Kickstarter. Kickstarter Tips and Tricks with Chris FoxHow to Crowdfund a Novel on KickstarterHow to Use Crowdfunding to Fund Your Next Book in AdvanceWorking with Beta Readers, Crowdfunding, and More with Curt Iles7 Kickstarter Mistakes we Made You can also visit AskTheVulcan.com. It’s a new search engine I created to search all my podcasts across all my websites. Type “Kickstarter crowdfunding” into that search engine, and you’ll find dozens of episodes on crowdfunding. But here are a few quick tips. Create a Stellar Kickstarter Page You’ll need great cover art. You’ll have to pay for the cover of your book before you launch your Kickstarter campaign, so you’ll need that money upfront. In your case, you already have good art on your website that you can use. Create a Video Record yourself talking about why you’re writing the book. In the video, explain why your book will be interesting. You’ll also want to include a written explanation in a block of text on your Kickstarter page. Contact Potential Backers Then create a list of 50 people to contact one-on-one. Say, “Hi. I’m trying to make this book happen. I’ve got these rewards. As a financial backer, you’ll be featured in the book.” Create Funding Tiers and Incentives Put together enticing tiers and incentives. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who want to support you and your book, especially when they know that their names will be included in the back matter. For an author, having your name in print isn’t that cool, but it’s really exciting for a reader. They’re immortalized for all time in the back of your book. Limited-edition signed and numbered copies are incredibly popular with Kickstarter backers. If your book becomes a big deal, their signed, limited-edition copy becomes an investment. An original Harry Potter book recently sold at auction for $70,000. The publisher printed only 500 copies initially, and three hundred of them went to libraries. That means there are only about 200 original copies in the wild. We cover other strategies in the course, but those will get you started. You may be surprised by the enthusiasm for a creative project like this, especially when backers know their name will be listed in the back of their very own copy. How can I overcome my fear of book promotion? Daniel: The more I hear you talk, the more I realize that my biggest issue is fear. I’m an unknown author, and I don’t feel like anyone would want to fund my books. That’s the mental hurdle for me right now. Thomas: Fear is probably the most common challenge for authors promoting their books. There are several ways to overcome that fear. Replace Fear with Another Fear Exchange one fear for another. For example, writer’s block is just another term for “fear of writing” or “fear of being misunderstood.” Most authors fight writer’s block with a deadline. They’re more afraid of missing the deadline and suffering the subsequent consequences. You can attach consequences to your deadline so that the fear of missing it is greater than the fear of writing. You might be afraid to jump off the diving board. But if somebody says, “Jump off, I’ll kick you,” suddenly jumping off the diving board is less scary than getting kicked while you’re up there. One fear can replace another. That’s one way to do it. Replace Fear with Love But you can also replace fear with love. Perfect love casts out fear. I don’t know if we can love perfectly, but if you love your readers and your book well, you’ll be less afraid to promote it. When you believe in the mission and purpose of your book, you’ll care about the mission. Imagine there is a big, scary thug beside a small mother. She might be scared. But if that thug is threatening her child, suddenly, the thug has a reason to be afraid of the small mom. Do not get in the way of a mama bear. Her love for her child makes her a force to be reckoned with. Your love for your readers can make you a force to be reckoned with. Get to know your readers so you’ll know how to serve them. You’ll fall in love with them, and that will instill the confidence to promote your book. Sponsor Ultimate Crowdfunding CourseLearn how to use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise money for your book before you publish your book. This course has helped many authors successfully crowdfund their books and achieve the publishing dreams they didn’t think they could afford. Novel Marketing patrons save 50% on the course, so it is well worth your time to visit Patreon.com to become a patron before getting this popular course. Featured Patron Shelleen Weaver, author of the children’s book Love Bird: Fruit Fables Series Book 1 The squirrel family has a new neighbor who is rude and mean. They devise a plan of action to restore peace to the backyard and learn that love is more than a fuzzy feeling. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode with one writer you think would find it helpful. The post How to Overcome the Fear of Book Promotion appeared first on Author Media.
40 minutes | 12 days ago
How to Create Press Releases
How do you get journalists to want to talk about you? How do you get them to talk about your book? One classic tool in the toolbox for every author is the press release. Some authors think press releases have gone the way of the dinosaur. “Not so,” says Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases. For 22 years, he’s been helping small businesses and authors increase their visibility and credibility through press release marketing. I interviewed Mickie to find out how authors can use press releases to get media coverage for their books. Thomas: Are press releases still a thing? Mickie: Yes, they are, and they still work. In some cases, a single press release can get considerable media pickup. Last year during the pandemic, we had a press release on a dining bond initiative. They took the concept of war bonds and applied it to the dining and restaurant industry. They were selling dining bonds to help local restaurants, and they got picked up. We stopped counting after about 150 news outlets responded. We had responses from The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and all the big media outlets, including some international media. It drove hundreds of thousands of people to their websites, and as a result, millions of dollars went back to local restaurants. A single press release made it all happen. Typically, a favorable outcome might yield two to four articles from a successful press release. Thomas: I used to host a drivetime radio show. For two hours every weekday, people would listen to me talk about news and politics. I had to fill two hours of airtime with interesting content for my listeners, so I had guests on the show every day. As a journalist, I wanted to receive press releases. Certain services would pre-create radio shows. They’d have all the press releases ready to go for different news stories. My job was to sort through the tsunami of news releases and find interesting stories to adapt for my audience. Press releases were very useful to me. What is a press release? Mickie: It’s an announcement to the media. It’s generally written in the third person, and it often includes first-person quotes from you. A press release must include the following: Author’s namePress contactHeadlineDateline ( For authors, it doesn’t have to be where you’re located.) Who, what, when, where, why, how information. A press release is fairly easy to write. The more difficult task is strategizing about how to use it. People need to spend more time figuring out what they’re going to write about instead of making sure it’s well-written. Thomas: The most important aspect of the release, from my perspective as a radio show host, is the hook. Journalists want to know how this story is interesting. A classic, boring press release says, “Acme Company Hires New Vice President of Operations.” The industry rags may cover it, but it’s not an interesting topic. How do you find that hook? How do you find that interesting element for your press release? How do you write a good hook for a press release? Mickie: Articulate what’s unique about whatever you’re announcing. A novelist should be able to explain what makes their novel different from everything else out there. Find a unique element for any of the following: settingstorymoodthe twist the protagonist What compelling thing can you say about your novel without giving it away? It’s difficult for a novelist to get media pickup through a press release because it is so difficult to translate. People often love a novel because of the writing style or how the story is conveyed. Those elements are hard to articulate in a press release. It’s challenging, but it can be done. Thomas: How do novelists articulate those things effectively? What’s the secret? Mickie: Persistence. One of our authors, Sam Jane Brown, write dozens of releases with us. She stayed true to it. She kept trying different hooks and angles. We kept asking what she could say that she hadn’t said already. What’s a different perspective? We brainstormed and came up with many different hooks and approaches until she finally found some traction. One thing that helped was that Sam Jane Brown had done a few releases with us, and our media outlets were a little bit familiar with her. People had skimmed her releases before, but maybe they hadn’t covered it yet. Eventually, she started getting some media pickup. Being persistent and trying different bait will eventually land you some hooks. Thomas: Journalists have an incredible bias against “boring.” When you write a book, it doesn’t feel boring to you. It feels interesting. But the job of a press release is to make your book interesting to a stranger. Journalists are always asking, “Is this newsworthy?” One way to make your novel newsworthy is a technique called newsjacking. When you connect your story with something that’s already going on in the world, or when you position yourself as the follow-up story, it’s called newsjacking. News happens fast. Let’s say there’s a terrorist attack, and in the morning, the opening story is about the attack. More information is coming out. It’s all anyone can talk about. But the next day, every journalist has to write another story about the terrorist attack, but there’s been no new information. Everything is still under investigation. The police chief is giving hour-long press conferences where he’s not saying anything new. Journalists are desperate for experts to interview to continue the story. And that’s where you, the author, can have that next part of the story. Perhaps your story is about something less salacious. Still, there’s just the one story in the news. Journalists need a follow-up story because it’s got some heat, but they don’t have any more information. They need an expert to interview. Believe it or not, by being an author, you can position yourself as the expert. What tips do you have for using press releases as a way of newsjacking? Mickie: Carefully consider the quote you include. Your quote is important because it’s where you can shine and be original. Compelling quotes that cannot be easily paraphrased are often included in articles. Journalists want to reach out and talk to that person because they can tell they’re going to get strong and relevant content. You can also use newsjacking to elevate the conversation. To elevate the conversation of the terrorist attack news story, you could talk about how people can prepare or discuss other vulnerabilities we might be facing. As you think about how to elevate the conversation, be prepared with useful and additional information that readers and listeners can use. Thomas: Think ahead about what kinds of news stories could be a good fit for you. Almost every book has some kind of news story it could attach itself to. You hear a lot of the same stuff every day, but each story has a different face. If your novel or memoir features a blizzard, you might wait for a winter weather event and offer useful tips on how to survive extreme temperatures or power outages. If you have an idea ahead of time, you can start preparing your thoughts. When the time comes, you’ll only have to write the portion of the press release that connects your book to the current event. The rest of your press release is your pitch, and it’s already ready to go. Besides newsjacking, what else can we do? Mickie: Provide data and statistics. Look for numbers, statistics, and data that tie in with your book. Can you say something interesting about them? One of our authors wrote a semiautobiographical novel. It dealt with the concept of “comfort women” from the Philippines during the war. The issue of human trafficking is prevalent now, and there are a lot of available statistics and relevant news stories. She was able to connect the two because, during the war, these things happened. Sadly, very few people talk about it today. Many who went through it just live with it don’t discuss or deal with it. This novel creates an opportunity for discussion. Because there is so much light being shown on human trafficking right now, there’s a real opportunity to start the conversation and to get people talking about what happened and what they experienced. Thomas: The term “human trafficking” didn’t even exist 20 years ago. They just called it prostitution. Now the conversation has changed, and that’s why it’s important to be familiar with what’s going on. There are media narratives, and each day the media is harmonizing with the previous day’s news. Trends change. Issues come and go, but you can only notice those if you take a step back. There was a time when concern over cameras on phones was the thing. The media was scaring people about these camera phones that would allow people to take a picture of you at any time. Everyone was spooked. That media narrative has run its course. People are no longer afraid of camera phones, but it’s important to be aware of media narratives. Your author was able to take nonfiction research she did for her fiction book and weaponize it for PR purposes. It helps vindicate novelists for all the time they spend researching for their stories. It won’t work as well for fantasy. But sometimes you’ll see sci-fi novelists interviewed on scientific topics, so don’t rule it out. Eight Steps for Generating PR for Your Book Thomas: Can you walk us through your eight-step process for creating a PR strategy for your book? Mickie: I have several different mechanisms for coming up with a strategy. Own Your Story Audit your story and take an inventory of what you’ve got. Brainstorm types of press releases you could do. If you wrote a novel about a blizzard, try the weather angle. Is there a survivalist component as well? Take an inventory of everything in there. Find out what would be a strong lead for a press release. Research the Genre and Setting. Mickie: If you write about a particular subject, make sure you know the industry well and then determine what new and interesting information you can bring to that audience. Maybe you see a blind spot in the industry, or maybe it’s something obvious that everyone in the industry is familiar with. What does your book talk about that’s different? How does it add to the conversation? Thomas: You can also research some of the top authors in your genre. Search for their names on news sites and see how they’re getting interviewed. What are they talking about, and what angles are they using? You don’t want to copy them exactly because you can’t Stephen King better than Stephen King. But if other authors like you get interviewed, take note. Those journalists may be looking for more folks to interview. At my college, the newspaper had a rule that articles had to include at least three student quotes. I had gone through a political media training right before I went to college, so I knew exactly how to give good quotes to journalism students. They would call me for a quote on whatever was going on in the news. In fact, they did it so often that the journalism department established a new rule that they couldn’t quote Thomas anymore. Journalists can’t keep going back to the same authors. They have to bring in new authors and new voices. Find similar authors, see where and how they are being interviewed, and reach out to those journalists. Say, “Hey, I saw that you quoted this person here.” Then you specifically send that journalist a press release. When you research, you learn where others have had success, and you increase your own chances of success. Quotes Mickie: The next mechanism for developing a strategy is using quotes. Develop compelling quotes that stand on their own. You’d be surprised at the number of stories that get written because the journalist wanted to build a story around your compelling quote. They didn’t want to lose the quote. Be the Friendly Jerk Another approach is to be the friendly jerk, also known as “the contrarian.” Is there something you can say that goes against the prevalent view? It’s almost the opposite of newsjacking. If everybody’s saying X, can you say Y? It’s easy for a journalist to find someone who is saying what everyone else is saying. It’s much harder to find a person who says the opposite but is still fair and balanced. If the journalist hears the opposite viewpoint, they’re certainly going to include it in anything they write on that subject. Thomas: That’s the ultimate newsjacking strategy because it makes the story more interesting. If you set yourself up as the antagonist, you get all the media you want. That strategy doesn’t work for every brand, but if you have the courage to present yourself as a contrarian, you’ll have an easier time getting media attention. Mickie: You can be a contrarian and still be completely levelheaded and reasonable. You can also come across as the crazy uncle, and you definitely want to avoid that. Thomas: Don’t be the crazy uncle, but don’t write this off just because you’re going to get criticism. That heat is exactly what makes something newsworthy. That’s what gets you quoted. People are terrified to buck what society is telling them to do and think. The world needs levelheaded and respectable contrarians. We need more people who are willing to say, “The emperor has no clothes!” Use Statistics Mickie: Use data, statistics, and surveys to pull out interesting and meaty numbers a journalist can work with. Sometimes a survey can be interesting. For example, if your novel starts when an auto mechanic finds something interesting left in a car, maybe you could survey auto repair shops about the strange things they find in people’s cars. Then tie the survey answers to your novel. Newsjacking Mickie: Newsjacking is another method we’ve talked about where you connect an aspect of your book to a current news event. Become a Local Media Darling Mickie: You don’t realize how difficult it is for local journalists to find content. It’s very easy to get local media attention. There are probably only about ten journalists in your area to contact, and that includes TV and radio. When you contact TV and radio shows, you’ll want to reach the producer or booker. For newspapers and magazines, connect with the actual writer. It’s as easy as calling and asking for the email address. You can also search on Twitter to find contact information. Journalists seem to love Twitter. Find out where they are, reach out to them, and form a real relationship with them. Even if you don’t have something to promote right now, reach out to them. You could provide information about something that’s hot in your industry or tell about a trend you’re seeing that might help them write an article. Journalists appreciate that kind of help. They’re much more likely to reciprocate in that relationship later when you want to promote a book or a reading tour. These strategies are ways of analyzing the types of news stories that run and discovering how you can tie your book to them. Read your local publications and other authors in print and try to determine the message of that story and how it worked. What was the lead? Is there a relevant piece that would apply to you? Thomas: Local media is a great point of contact. Many local news organizations have instructions from the editor to find the local angle for any story they’re going to do. Every single story you see on the nightly news has a local angle to it. Half the stories your local news reports are national stories, but they report on it like it’s a local story. For example, I was listening to a news show called The World and Everything in It. They did a humorous story about a medical school that only had 40 slots open, but they accidentally emailed acceptance letters to half a million students, most of whom had never even applied to the medical school. A local Houston affiliate interviewed someone from their viewing area who’d received that email. If you wanted to newsjack or establish a relationship with the media, you could have emailed and said, “Hey, I received one of those emails,” and they would have been happy to interview you. Most people would have gotten an email like that and deleted it. But if you would have contacted the media and offered to forward the email or give a quote, you could establish a relationship with them. As you watch the national news at six o’clock, start paying attention to how the local news covers the same topics from a local angle. Then start thinking about how you can be the local angle for that story. Most stores won’t be a fit for you, but some of them will. You never know when you will get selected. Let’s say an author finds that perfect angle or a relevant statistic to include in their press release. What are the elements that need to go into that press release? What should be included in a press release? Mickie: The headline is the most important element. The headline must get the journalists to click through and review the rest of the release for consideration. Your opening sentence and first paragraph are the most important. They must pull the journalist in and give information on the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the press release. There can be a boilerplate or an “about” section near the end about the author, but that’s not required. Include a contact number so that the media can reach you. They love to get quotes and talk with you to feel things out. Most of these journalists aren’t going to read your novel, but they want to know about the setting, characters, age appropriateness, and whether there is colorful language they need to be aware of. They love to talk to writers to get information and determine whether a book would be a good, safe thing for them to write about. Thomas: Prepare and be psychologically ready to jump on it. The biggest shift in thinking for an author is that there’s no rush to anything. Some authors believe deadlines aren’t real, and everyone’s really laid back. Traditionally published authors will wait two years for their book to come out. For journalists, it’s much different. A journalist needs your cell phone number right now because they need a quote when they go to print in 30 minutes. They need to get in touch with you. Include your phone number and email address where they’ll get an immediate response because there’s urgency for journalists, and the news moves quickly. Speaking of getting press releases out to the world, how does your company help authors get their press releases out to journalists? Mickie: Twenty-five years ago, I was in grad school for creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. It was an MFA program, and I just assumed I was going to be a waiter or a server the rest of my life. I did that for one summer and realized that didn’t work, so I started an office job. One of my tasks was to program the fax machine and hit send when we had a press release. The fax machine held 100 fax numbers, and we had 190 journalists to reach. Each day I would program it with 100 numbers and hit send. It took all day for the fax machine to send that press release. The next day I would delete it and add the remaining 90 numbers and send it again. We started to get requests from journalists who would call us and say, “Could you just email that as a Word document?” We published a lot of telecom traffic statistics, so they wanted to cut and paste the numbers easily. A light bulb went off, and I realized emailing press releases was very natural, and journalists seem to like it. I mentioned it to my boss, and he said, “That sounds like a great business. You should create it.” So I did. I spent a year contacting journalists, and when I launched a year later, I had about 10,000 journalists in my database. I would email them relevant press releases for their beats and topics. Over the years, it’s grown. At one point, PR Newswire reached out to me and asked to be included in the distribution. I told them, “Well, you charge $1,000, and I’m charging my clients $200-$400, so it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense for me.” Eventually, we found a win-win solution, and now we’re able to include a custom national distribution over PR Newswire without charging clients $1,000. Including PR Newswire gives you that that wide reach and that possibility of getting major coverage if your story is newsworthy or interesting enough that it strikes someone’s interest. We email your release to our journalists, and then we send it over the news wire through PR Newswire. It’s a great opportunity for small businesses to basically have the same lottery ticket that the large companies do. I think journalists like to cover small, hidden gems rather than the big companies. It’s a way to get major media attention and prominence. News coverage is not only for the rich or famous. Thomas: Some authors are hesitant to pay for a service like this, but paying for the service adds a filter. Many journalists get carpet-bombed with press releases that are not relevant. A service like eReleases.com doesn’t send every press release to every journalist. They have a filter according to beats. They send tech releases to journalists covering the tech industry and human interest stories to journalists who normally cover those. When eReleases sends a press release, they send it to a specific list. The fact that you had to pay means that the journalist isn’t getting a ton of emails from you every day. They’re only getting a handful, and that’s where the value is. Some people don’t believe press releases work, and if they’re going to a spam box, that’s true. Using a service like eReleases keeps your release out of the spam box and gets your press release in front of traditional media. But that service doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have a good press release. If somebody has a weak press release, do you help rewrite it to make it stronger? Mickie: Yes. When you call our office, you only speak to editors, not salespeople. We will look at your release, review it, and give you ideas. Sometimes we can get back to you on the same day, but we ask for 24 hours to get back to you because sometimes things are busy. We can give you some tips and suggestions to make the release stronger. We might feel that your third paragraph is stronger than your opening paragraph, and we will recommend a change. Authors are very close to what they’ve written, and sometimes they take for granted what might be compelling to the average person. I always recommend that authors talk with different people to ask about the most important aspect of the story, the work, or whatever you’ve created. Each answer you receive could be an approach that you lead with. Thomas: When your strongest point is in the third paragraph, it’s called “burying the lead.” I audited journalism 101 in college because I knew it would be a valuable skill, but I didn’t want to pay for the class because I didn’t need the credit. The journalism professor gave a classic example of a press release about a faculty symposium. We were supposed to do a write-up on this press release about the faculty symposium. All the faculty were going to it to be trained on something on Friday, blah, blah, blah. We were all writing essays, and she asked, “Did any of you figure out what this is about? What’s the headline?” The headline was, “There’s No Class on Friday,” but it was buried in all of the nonsense about the faculty symposium. If all the faculty are at an all-day event on Friday, that means they can’t teach class, and there’s no class on Friday. The lead gets buried. Journalists are trained not to bury the lead, but it’s a classic press release mistake. I’m glad you help authors with that. For the right book, a service like eReleases can be a good investment. Should authors embargo information and keep it only for release by the media? Thomas: Should authors embargo certain information to be just for the media, so it only hits at a certain time instead of releasing it on their blog beforehand? What’s the thinking in terms of strategy? Sometimes you have big news that no one can talk about until a certain date and time. Other times, when there’s no urgency, you want to get it out broadly and publish it as a blog. What’s the right strategy there? Mickie: For most people, an embargoed release doesn’t make sense. On the newswire, it’s never publicly released. It stays hidden on the back end for journalists forever. If you don’t embargo, you could be getting additional exposure. A lot of bloggers and other people check out the public releases on the newswire. You’re missing an opportunity if you do embargo. For large companies, and maybe for Stephen King, an embargoed release makes sense if you’re launching something. But for the average person, it doesn’t. I am a big supporter of taking your press release and putting it out there yourself. You can put it on your blog and website yourself. People who are part of your community will be your strongest champions. You should make it very easy for them to see your content and share it with others. Thomas: One hack is to create a category on your blog called “News Releases.” Any time you write a press release about your book coming out, put it in that category. If you’re using Divi, it’s easy to show posts from just one category on a page. On your media kit page, you can create a little module to “show all posts from the news release category.” Maybe you only have one or two press releases a year, but on your media webpage, you can have a professional-looking, automatically updated list of all your news releases. If a podcaster is trying to figure out whether to have you on his podcast, he can go to your media page and see all your other media kit elements. Check out our episode on how to put together a media kit. Media kits inform people about who you are and what you offer. Press releases are specific and explain what you have to say about a certain topic. They go hand in hand, but they often live on the same webpage. Get into the practice of writing press releases. They are like lottery tickets. You can’t control what journalists will pick up. Distributing your news release on a newswire doesn’t guarantee you’ll get picked up, but in general, it’s a lottery ticket, and it could be really big. It doesn’t happen often, but you never know. Don’t ignore the media and assume they’ll ignore you. They are looking for local voices. They’re looking for unheard voices, and they’re looking to scoop the other outlets. Allow them to be that scoop. Present yourself as that scoop, and you might get featured. Thomas: Do you have any final tips or encouragement for authors? Mickie: Many people feel they’re not worthy of press, or they’re very shy. Some of my most successful clients were very resistant to doing press releases. One author had contacted his local newspaper, and they didn’t want to cover him. He was doing a book reading, and they didn’t even want to put it in their calendar, so he didn’t think anything would happen with a press release. We wrote the release and positioned his novel as well as we could. He got the front-page entertainment section of USA Today. I told him to scan that page and send it to his local newspaper and say, “I’d like you to rethink that article about me.” Guess what? They did. Sadly, he only sold a few hundred copies of his book from the USA Today coverage. He was hoping it would be tens of thousands of sales, but still, USA Today thought his novel was relevant enough to share with their audience and put it on the front page of the entertainment section with an image of the book cover as well. Thomas: That’s a great credibility builder because now he can put USA Today on his media page. If you go to ThomasUmstattd.com, you’ll see logos from all the media outlets that have interviewed me about various topics. While journalists are looking to scoop each other, they are also looking for media-friendly and mediagenic people. Journalists want to know you’ve been interviewed before. Normally you start with small blogs and work up to big blogs. Eventually, you’ll get into radio, cable TV, and then main TV. But it can go the other way as it did for that author. If you’re placed on the front page of USA Today, you can trade down the chain with your badge of credibility from major news sources. Where can people find out more about eReleases? Mickie: You can visit our website eReleases.com. All our social media is on the lower right. I have my direct LinkedIn there as well, and I do respond to LinkedIn. When you call us, you won’t ever speak with a salesperson. You’ll speak with one of our six editors, and they’re ready to walk you through the process and explain things to you. To connect with Mickie or learn more, visit his website at eReleases.com. The post How to Create Press Releases appeared first on Author Media.
29 minutes | a month ago
How to Get Strangers to Want to Buy Your Book Using Reciprocity (Marketing Psychology)
Sometimes, the topics we cover are so powerful that I must begin with an ethical disclaimer. That’s right. It’s time for another discussion about Marketing Psychology. Today we will talk about reciprocity. The principles of reciprocity are so powerful that people can use them for good or evil. Please, use these principles to make other people’s lives better. Reciprocity will help you sell more books, but it will also help you make the world a better place through your marketing. What is reciprocity? Most people have an innate sense of justice. If someone punches you in the face, something deep within you wants to punch them back. Likewise, if someone does you a kindness, something inside you wants to return that kindness to balance the scales. The innate sense of reciprocity isn’t taught. My one-year-old son can’t talk yet, but he already has a sense of justice. If he sees his big sister doing something fun, he wants to do it too. Humans have an inborn desire for judicial balance. When a person expresses gratitude with the words “much obliged,” they’re communicating the feeling of indebtedness. They owe you. According to anthropologists, the reciprocal exchange of favors and gifts is the foundation of all known human cultures. To understand how you can use reciprocity to get strangers to want to buy your book, we will examine it from two perspectives. The first perspective comes from a biblical parable. The second comes from a famous scientific study. In other words, this marketing technique is both cutting edge and ancient. The Wiley Business Manager In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a story about a business manager. (Listen to the podcast episode to hear Christy Hall of Fame author and audiobook narrator James L. Rubart read the story from the New Living Translation.) “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’ “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Luke 16:1-9 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. Doing favors for your acquaintances makes them want to do favors for you. But does it work on strangers? Researchers conducted a famous scientific experiment to find out. The Coca-Cola Test In the experiment, researchers asked participants to evaluate works of art. As you might expect, art evaluation was not the point. Researchers wanted to know how participants responded to “Joe,” the participant’s art-evaluation partner, who was actually working with the researchers. Joe and the participant would evaluate the art, and after a while, Joe would leave for a two-minute break and return with two Cokes. He told the study participant, “They said I could buy a Coke during my break, so I bought you one too.” Then he offered the Coke to the study participant, and they always accepted. At the end of the art evaluation, Joe would ask if the participant wanted to buy some raffle tickets. In nearly every instance, participants spent more on raffle tickets than Joe would have spent on the Coke. Joe did not offer a Coke to the control group of participants, and that group bought far fewer raffle tickets from him. The number of tickets they did buy was closely linked to how much they liked Joe. Participants who received a Coke bought a lot of raffle tickets even if they didn’t like Joe. Even in versions of this experiment where participants overheard Joe being rude on the phone, participants still bought a lot of his raffle tickets if they first received a Coke. That is the power of reciprocity. If you feel like people generally don’t like you, reciprocity can make them want to buy your book anyway. Principle #1: Sow First If you want someone to want to do something nice for you, like buy your book, you must first do something nice for them. It’s important for the person to feel like you are giving them a gift, not preparing for an exchange. When you buy a can of Coke from someone, you don’t feel indebted because you paid for it, and you’re already even. That’s why discounts don’t trigger reciprocity. If a Coke is normally $1.00, but you buy it on sale for 50% off, you don’t feel like you owe the store. You feel like you got a bargain. Your readers must feel you have given them a valuable gift. Buying your reader a Coke probably won’t do the trick. So, what should you give them instead? It depends on your brand, your audience, and your book. Here are some ideas to get your creative gift-giving gears turning. Website Instead of making your website all about you, think of it as a gift for your readers. That change in thinking will transform your website into a place people want to visit and recommend to their friends. If you need help transforming your website into a gift for your readers, I have a gift to help you! In my course, How to Build an Amazing Author Website, I will first walk you through the technical aspects of building a website yourself. Then I’ll teach you about six kinds of visitors who will come to your website and how to thrill them. People look for different things when they visit an author’s website. If you can thrill those people in the way they prefer, you will have a powerful (and popular!) website. The course is my gift to you. Free Novella or Short Story For fiction, the most obvious gift is a free novella. A novella can introduce readers to your writing, characters, and story world. If you write well, readers will want more, and they will be happy to pay for it. Many readers are willing to exchange an email address for a free novella, but this exchange turns the novella into a reader magnet. It also makes it less of a gift since people have “paid” for it with their email addresses. But if you give them a stellar and lengthier story, it will feel more like a generous gift. Don’t give away the first short story you ever wrote because it’s probably not stellar. Each time you write a short story, you improve your craft. The carpenter doesn’t just build the house. The house builds the carpenter. Give away your best work. Hire a professional editor to polish it, and contract with a designer to create a great digital book cover. If your reader feels like you have given them a valuable gift, they will spread the word to other readers. Because of the power of reciprocity, readers will want to do something nice for you. Authors who take our 5 Year Plan course are prepared to give away novellas because, throughout the course, they have written a lot of short stories. It takes practice to learn how to write a short story that readers will love. Practice improves your writing, and it is worth your investment of time and creativity. You’ll see the returns when you complete a fabulous novel. For more on short stories, listen to the following episodes: How to Write Short Stories that People Will Love How to Create a Reader Magnet Email Newsletters Authors can also bless their readers and trigger reciprocal feelings by writing a helpful email newsletter. To trigger reciprocal feelings, you must write a helpful or entertaining newsletter. Your emails need to cover what your readers want to hear about. You’ll know you’ve sent a helpful email newsletter when subscribers reply to say thanks or forward it to their friends. What do you write in an email newsletter? Give your readers reviews on similar books. Book summaries and commentary can be particularly useful for nonfiction. As you read your competing books, write a review with your thoughts and comments. Readers are always looking for their next great read. Reviewing books in a genre they love is an opportunity to become a trusted source for recommendations. If you don’t know where to start or what to include in your email newsletter, get to know your readers and ask what they want from you. If you still have a small list, call your subscribers on the phone or take them out for coffee. Get acquainted (and do something nice!) so you can thrill them with the content of your email newsletter. For more, listen to Episode 57 – What to Include in an Author Newsletter. We also have over a dozen other episodes on email newsletters here. Blog Posts Helpful blog posts on your topic can be a great way to bless and thrill your readers. Writing blog posts can also help you hone your craft and message. Blogs can contain the same kind of content you use in your email newsletter, but they have two advantages over email. Blog posts can: appear in Google search results, making them permanently easy to findcontain rich media like video and audio. For many authors, the blog and the email are fairly similar. At Author Media, our weekly emails are a quick summary of that week’s blog post with a link where you can read the whole post. When each blog post is valuable, the emails also become valuable. I’ve noticed that authors tend to work harder to create a helpful blog post because they know anyone on the internet can read it. We are used to dashing out a quick email, and it is easy to do the same with an email newsletter. Take the time to craft an email that summarizes the benefits readers will get from reading your blog post. Podcast You can also create a feeling of reciprocity through a podcast. Readers engage with podcasts differently than they engage with emails and blog posts. While they tend to skim emails and articles, they listen to podcast episodes from start to finish. A podcast allows you to explore a topic thoroughly and potentially add value. The downside is that podcasts are slow-growing. People don’t often talk about the podcasts they listen to, and podcast episodes don’t rank well on search engines. However, blog posts do rank. Consider creating a blog post companion for each episode. Your weekly email can include a summary of the podcast and a link where readers can read or share the blog post. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because that’s what we do at Author Media. We use the same main piece of content as the basis for all three distribution channels: podcast, blog, and email newsletter. The blog post must be more than a transcript of the episode, and the podcast must be more than me reading the text of the blog. In a blog post, you can include photos, videos, and visual aids. If your podcast, you can give deeper insights, provide more examples about your topic, or share relevant case studies and stories. If you’re considering starting a podcast, the following episodes will be helpful: How to Start an Author PodcastHow to Start Your Own Podcast (Interview With Misty Phillip) YouTube In some ways, YouTube is a cross between blog posts and podcasts. People don’t watch videos as carefully as they listen to podcasts, but YouTube videos can rank in search results almost as well as blog posts. The same principles apply to video. Provide value, and people will want to return the favor. Adam Curry calls this “value for value,” and it makes the world go ’round. Think Outside the Box You could also bless your readers by hosting live events or offering live coaching sessions. The best ideas are formed where the reader’s desires and the author’s abilities intersect. Get to know your readers, ask them lots of questions, and listen for ways you can make their lives better. Principle #2: Reap Second You will only reap a harvest from the gift-giving seeds you’ve sown if you ask. Yes, this means you must be willing to ask people to buy your book. It’s much easier to ask if you’ve already blessed the person with a gift. When a reader has enjoyed your blog posts for a while, they already know and like you. They may even trust you. They might even be waiting for you to offer something they can buy. That is what happened with my blog. I started blogging on my personal blog about dating and relationships. One of my posts went viral, and over a million people read it. Many readers commented, “Please write a book about this topic.” I didn’t want to write a book about dating and courtship because it had nothing to do with my day job. I didn’t want to become the relationship advice guy. But I kept blogging about courtship, and the requests kept coming from friends, strangers, and even a Catholic priest. So, I put the book on Kickstarter, and my blog readers spread the word. We raised over $10,000 to help produce the book. Many of the Kickstarter backers only knew me through my blog. They enjoyed the blog so much that they were willing to donate dozens and sometimes hundreds of dollars to fund it. My biggest backer, who donated over $2000, is someone I have never met. Most of the book’s content was first published on my blog as free content. If I hadn’t sown the free-blog-posts seeds, these people wouldn’t have known me and therefore wouldn’t have funded the book. Giving away the free content helped my book sales. Why? Reciprocity! Reciprocity is such a powerful force that people will be willing to pay for something they already have for free. For more on the importance of asking, read the book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Affiliate Link) by Adam Grant. Principle #3: Don’t Be Manipulative Reciprocity can turn into manipulation if you use it unethically. Avoid being manipulative by doing the following: Give Readers What They Ask For Reciprocity can and has been abused. Robert Cialdini points out a classic example of manipulation in his book Influence (Affiliate Link). Members of the Hare Krishna religion used to give people flowers they hadn’t asked for and then immediately ask that person for a donation in return. The Hare Krishnas raised millions of dollars that way, but it felt icky to most people. It felt icky because the Hare Krishnas insisted on giving the flower, sometimes pinning the flower on someone’s suit without permission and refusing to take the flower back. Such manipulation is a high-pressure abuse of reciprocity. Just because it works doesn’t mean you should use it. While you can’t force someone to read your blog or listen to your podcast, you can send them an email they didn’t ask for. No one likes a spammer. Just because they gave you their email in exchange for a novella doesn’t mean they want to receive your emails. Or maybe they wanted to get your emails at first, but now they have changed their minds. Avoid being manipulative by making it very easy for readers to unsubscribe from your email newsletter. Don’t Keep Score Reciprocity is also abused when coupled with a “you owe me” attitude. Keeping track of who “owes” you a favor may work, but it is a miserable way to live. It doesn’t lead to a happy marriage, family, or friendship. Don’t maintain a tit-for-tat attitude with your readers. You’ll only become angry and repel your readers. Instead, cultivate a generous spirit. Trust that what comes around goes around and that you’ll reap where you sow. Not every seed will bring forth fruit, but not every seed needs to bring forth fruit. For example, the majority of our podcast listeners don’t support Novel Marketing on Patreon. That’s ok! The few who do support us donate enough to keep the podcast on the air. The patrons provide enough for me to cover my podcasting expenses and bring home a little extra to provide for my family. I couldn’t support my family from Patreon alone, but it helps. Some Novel Marketing listeners give back by telling fellow writers about the podcast. Others make an effort to use my affiliate links. Speaking of which… If you are a generous writer, you don’t need to hide your affiliate links or trick people into using them. In fact, you can do just the opposite. Label affiliate links clearly, and people will seek them out. Using your affiliate link doesn’t cost your reader anything extra, and it’s a way they can thank you for doing the research and making good recommendations. Most readers who download your free novella won’t go on to buy your book. Some will download it and never begin reading. Some will begin but won’t finish because they didn’t like it. And some people are welchers, looking to freeload on handouts and giving nothing in return. That’s ok! If your writing is strong, people will read and enjoy your gift, and then they’ll want to pay to find out what happens next. Keeping score will just make you sad and resentful. Final Thoughts From one perspective, nothing in this episode is groundbreaking. I have been recommending all these tactics on the Novel Marketing podcast for years. But, changing how you think about your website or email newsletter can change everything. If you view them as blessings for your readers rather than marketing obligations, you will have loads of ideas about what you can give, and your readers will want to return the favor. Instead of asking, “How can I get more readers?” ask, “How can I better bless the readers I already have?” Bless your readers, and the word will spread, and that will bring you more readers. If you want to learn more about reciprocity, read: Influence (Affiliate Link) by Robert Cialdini Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Affiliate Link) by Adam Grant You can also listen to my episode What Queen Esther Can Teach Authors About Platform Building. Sponsor My gift to you: 7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Course In this course, you will learn how to build your own amazing author website even if you are not a techie person. You will also learn how to craft the kind of website your readers will love. Best part? The course is 100% free. Students who have never built a website discover that by the time they’ve completed this course, their own website is live on the internet. Sometimes they do it in a single day. I hope you will use my affiliate links, but even if you don’t, the course is yours to keep at no cost to you. In this course you will get: Step-by-step video guide on how to get started with BluehostStep-by-step video guide on how to set up the Divi themeVideo tour of the WordPress dashboard7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Featured Patron Shauna Letellier author of Remarkable Advent With breathtaking imagery and captivating storytelling, Remarkable Advent will prepare your heart to celebrate God’s greatest gift with twenty-five daily readings for your family. Rediscover the wonder of the first Christmas in this Advent devotional. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode with one writer who would find it helpful. The post How to Get Strangers to Want to Buy Your Book Using Reciprocity (Marketing Psychology) appeared first on Author Media.
41 minutes | a month ago
How to Connect with Teen Readers: A Coaching Session With a Pre-Published YA Novelist
Kids these days! They read books and even write books, but how do you connect teenagers with your website and book? I recently coached Amy Earls, an aspiring young adult speculative novelist, through some strategies for connecting with teens. We recorded our coaching call so that Novel Marketing listeners could join us. Amy: As an aspiring author, I want to build my following, but I don’t have any teen followers right now. One problem is that teens don’t seem to be visiting websites. I hear they’re on Instagram and possibly on Facebook. They’re definitely on TikTok, but if I want to grow a following of teen readers, how do I market my website for a teen audience? How do I market my website for a teen audience? Thomas: The first step is to start connecting with teens in real life. Real-life teens will teach you how to target the other teens. More than any other demographic, teens hang out in tight clusters, and the behavior of one cluster will be very different from another cluster. Not all teens are on TikTok, for example. One group is into video gaming, while another is into hacking websites. Other groups are into clothes and boys. There are a million types of groups. You need to target a specific group of teens. J.K. Rowling targeted twelve-year-old boys, and that target allowed her to reach everybody. What is the specific teenager that you’re targeting with your writing? Amy: First, they are readers. I know Goodreads is a place to find readers who are interested in a specific genre. My tagline is Flyby Faith, so I’m writing specifically to Christian teens interested in growing their faith and finding their gifts. That’s a big part of my book. My characters have gifts they use for other people. How specific should I get when defining my reader? Thomas: Get as specific as possible. I recommend finding an actual teenager who is your representative reader. It’s easy for authors to create an imaginary friend who likes everything they’ve written. It’s harder to pick a human teenager. Connect with a teen who’s not related to you. You’re targeting Christian teens, so get involved with your church’s youth group. Volunteering in the youth group will help you learn the lingo. Teenagers right now are growing up in a very different world. I know every generation says that, but it’s vastly different for them right now because of the pandemic and technology. It’s hard enough for teenagers to communicate normally, but right now, they have to communicate in a world where they can’t see anyone’s face. They’re finding that communicating through a screen is preferable to face-to-face communication because they can control the screen. That’s important to them because there’s enormous pressure to conform. They could be ostracized. Every generation has faced the possibility of ostracization, but it’s especially intense for today’s teens because they know they can get canceled by their community if they don’t follow social norms. So they strive to be careful with their words and appearance. As you interact and listen to teens, you’ll learn where they hang out. Christian teens may hang out in different online places. Once you narrow down which table at the high school cafeteria you’re targeting, you will change how you interact with the teenagers. If you’re targeting Christian teens, maybe you’re not targeting any of the tables in the cafeteria. Maybe you’re targeting homeschoolers. Homeschooled teens read a ton of books. One of the authors in my mastermind group went to a homeschool convention a few weeks ago, and he sold out of his books in two hours. It was a two-day convention, and he only kept one book to show people coming by his booth. Homeschool teens are voracious readers, but they’re looking for different books than Christian teens in public school. Amy: I contacted a youth group to ask if any kids were interested in reading my book for feedback. One teen girl was interested, and she loved it. She said, “I’m a fangirling. I love this book!” How do you grow from getting one reader response to getting more than one? Thomas: First, ask her what aspect of the story resonated with her. Knowing the point of resonance will inform what you put in your back cover copy and your book proposal if you’re pursuing a traditional publisher. If you’re going to indie publish, it will inform what language you use in ads and how you talk about the book. Stories are made from different tropes. Tropes are the ingredients of stories, and different tropes resonate with people differently. Spending time with teens will help you understand what tropes connect with them. One of the challenges of writing cross-generationally is that we assume we know what a younger person feels or thinks. After all, you were once a teenager too. But right now, in this era, technology is changing quickly. Historically, each generation has been defined by the technology developed in their age. My grandparents were the first generation to have a radio. My parents were the first generation to grow up with TV. Generation X was the first to have cable TV. Early millennials grew up with computers, and later millennials were the first to grow up with the internet. Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with phones. The answers to their questions have been available to them via Google on the phone in their pocket. Generation Alpha, which is supposedly the next generation’s name, is growing up in a post-pandemic world. They’re potentially the first generation where the defining characteristic is not a new technology but the fact that everyone is wearing masks. That makes things different and weird. A story resonates when the elements connect with the pain points people feel in their life. That doesn’t mean you need to put masks on your characters. You don’t need to have a pandemic in your story. You need to have the same kind of core pains that teens today are overcoming. Every novel includes the protagonist overcoming challenges. If readers can relate to those challenges, then they’ll relate to the protagonist, and they’ll like your story better. Amy: Let’s say I gather five interested readers. If they like what they’re reading, and they’re ready to promote it, how do I get them to my website before I have a book published? Where do I invest my money so that I’m growing and offering my readers something of real value that will help them? Where do I invest my money to grow my readership and offer them something of value? Thomas: What’s your budget? The best way to spend $50 is different from the best way to spend $50,000. If you have $50,000, you start hiring professionals. The dollar amount needs to be money that you’re willing to lose because writing and publishing are risky. The rewards can be high, but the likelihood of commercial failure is also high. There are no guaranteed hits. Even big publishers lose money on most of the books that they publish. The only people who can reliably guarantee that their next book will be a hit are people whose last five books have been hits. And even then, they sometimes write duds. This is a high-risk, high-reward budget. Don’t use your kid’s college money or your mortgage payment. But you need some budget because the more you sow, the more you can reap. If you’re only putting two seeds in the ground, you’re hoping those two seeds are going to bring a return. Amy: I’m not sure what the norm is, but can I start with $1,000? Thomas: Yes. With a budget of $1,000, you can start by going through my free course on how to build an amazing author website. The course is free, but building a website does cost money. You want a good website built with WordPress.org on Divi that is search engine optimized. I walk you through all of that in the course. While kids may not think they go to websites, they go to Google all the time. They’re constantly Googling. None of your promotional efforts will do any good if you’re not ranking for your own name on Google. In fact, if you don’t rank for your name, it could even backfire. If a teen is searching for your name and finds somebody else, you’re just promoting somebody else. You need to rank first on Google, and it takes a while to build search engine results, so you want to get that clock started right away. That’s the first place I’d spend money. Divi (Affiliate Link) costs $89-$249, depending on the plan you choose. You can buy three years of BlueHost (Affiliate Link) hosting for $100. In total, you’ll need to spend about $400 to have a website for three years, but you can also get a lifetime subscription for those things. After you build a website, you’ll have about $500 left for other things. Before we decide where to spend the rest of the money, what’s your timeline? When will your book be ready, and which way are you planning to publish it? Amy: I’m planning on publishing traditionally. I rewrote the manuscript, and I’m in the editing phase, so I’m giving myself about a year as a loose timeline. Do traditional Christian publishers want YA novels? Thomas: I’ll just tell you straight up, there’s no real market for Christian Y.A. because, without exception, Christian publishers do not know how to connect with teenagers. None of them have it figured out. Occasionally, they’ll take a shot, but in the last ten years, they’ve had zero hits. In the secular world, there’s been Twilight, Divergence, and Harry Potter. In the Christian Y.A. world, there have been zero hits. A few books have paid for themselves, but there have been no runaway hits made into a movie. Christian publishing has had hits like Left Behind and The Purpose Driven Life, but nothing big in YA. I think it’s because Christian publishers fundamentally misunderstand the teenagers they’re writing to. They’re writing to teenagers as they want them to exist rather than as they really do exist. Authors who see the best sales in the YA genre have embraced the homeschool market. They’re quietly making good money, but they’re often doing it as an independently published author because the traditional publishers don’t understand the homeschool market. They don’t market to it well. I’m willing to be convinced that there are some exceptions, but I have not seen them yet. Authors who do well in the homeschool market have connected themselves to the homeschool market. They don’t depend on traditional publishers to do it for them. It sounds like you’re trying to build this website in order to build a platform to get a publisher interested. Having a platform is even more important for you because the publishers have no idea how to connect to the kids. Older people are running these big publishing companies, and they don’t know how to connect. You’ll have to use raw numbers to prove you have readers interested. The best raw number to show a publisher is the number of email addresses you have. But how much do kids use email? People don’t tend to do email much until they have a job. Once they have a job, especially a sit-down job where they’re in front of their computer all the time, that’s when email becomes magical. Your typical ebook reader has a desk job, and they’re in front of a computer all day. Emailing those readers is a powerful sales strategy. I’m not convinced that email is as good with teenagers. It’s good, but it’s not a golden ticket. It’s really hard to become an influencer, especially a cross-generational influencer. Instead of becoming an influencer yourself, go the indie publishing route and sponsor the influential teens who already have 100,000 followers on TikTok. Somebody with 100,000 followers on TikTok is not making any money. If you approach that person and offer to pay them $50 to do a TikTok about your book, they’ll probably be thrilled. You may be the first person to reach out and offer to pay them. On TikTok, 100,000 followers isn’t enough to interest big advertisers, but it’s plenty to interest you. If you’re targeting homeschoolers, the TikTok influencers need to have a homeschool audience. I know it hurts to narrow your target audience because you want to reach all teenagers, but you need to reach kids who won’t shut up about your book. The only way to get there is to pick which group you’re going to thrill. Will speaking at public schools help me sell books? Amy: Do you think that could work for even public-school kids? I could speak at public schools, but I don’t know if that would work as well. It sounds like homeschoolers would be the biggest market for young adult Christian books. Thomas: Public schools aren’t super friendly to Christian authors, especially if you’ve got your branding right as a Christian author writing a Christian book. They’re pretty biased against that. Public school librarians are very biased against it. It’s not impossible, but it’s probably the hardest path. Maybe someone has done it successfully, but it’s not a proven path. You’d probably be better off going to private schools and Christian schools. On the other hand, if you have a secular, mainstream book and connections in the public schools, you can be very successful with that strategy. Once you connect with 50 schools, you can rotate through them and speak at 25 schools each year. Every two years, you’ll meet a new group of kids, and you can just keep selling your books to that audience. It doesn’t make you a bestseller, but it can make you a living. It’s much harder to find that as a Christian author. What should I do if my domain name isn’t available? Amy: Another question. Right now, when I Google my name, the results bring up an artist with my same name. Does that mean I should change my name, or does increasing the SEO help people find me when they search my name? Thomas: We have an episode titled How to Stand Out When Your Name Fits In. First, determine how strong the artist with your name is. She has an advantage because she owns the domain name. I just searched, and this artist has AmyEarls.art. That means someone else owns AmyEarls.com. They may be willing to sell it, but it looks like it’s $10,000-$15,000. Amy: One website said I could buy it for $200. Thomas: That’s probably a domain broker. Domain broker sites want you to make an offer, and $200 is the minimum. For $200, they will try to find the person who owns the domain and see if the owner is willing to sell. Then they start the negotiation. It’s usually $80 to start that conversation, so don’t go into it thinking it’s only going to be $200. That’s just your opening offer. The owner may counter-offer $20,000, and you might settle at $500. That said, buying the domain you want from somebody else who owns it can be a good investment. I bought AuthorMedia.com and Umstatt.com from someone, and I’m glad I did, but it was more than $200. Ask yourself what it’s worth to have yourname.com. Since the person with your name is an artist, you won’t be fighting with her on Amazon. You’re the only person with your name on Amazon, so that’s good. If you decide to fight for your name and ranking on Google, you’ll have to be aggressive with your SEO. That means you’ll need to post new content on your website regularly. You’ll need to be blogging or podcasting and asking other websites to link to yours. The other option is to add a middle name or to have two initials. What you must not do is combine those strategies. Don’t use your first name plus a middle initial and then your last name. That is the worst. If you don’t believe me, ask James L. Rubart. Ask him about all the trouble that has been caused by using a middle initial. Amy: What about AuthorAmyEarls.com? Does that work, or is it better to just have my full name for the domain? Thomas: AuthorAmyEarls.com helps create a distinction between you and the artist. Your SEO meta-title should be “The official website for author Amy Earls,” or something like that. You don’t necessarily want to push the artist out of the search results. She hasn’t done you any harm, and she’s just trying to do her art. If the person who owns AmyEarls.com is willing to sell the domain for $1,000, for example, you could approach the artist with your same name and ask if she’d like to set up a website together. On that website, Amy Earls.com, you’d have your photo and her photo. When people visit AmyEarls.com, they can easily decide which Amy Earls they’re searching for. Companies with similar names occasionally use a disambiguation page. They make a truce, join forces on the .com website, and ask website visitors which company website they want to visit. Acme.com might take you to a page where you can click to buy Acme bricks or Acme dynamite. The other option is just to pick a middle name and use it as your pen name. Mathematically, you’re far less likely to have the same name as someone else when you use three names. That will help you with your SEO. Are podcast interviews a good way for authors to reach teens? Amy: You mentioned podcasts, and I’ve thought about pitching podcasts as a guest, but I don’t know how much teens are listening to podcasts. I know they’re not reading my blogs. Should I attempt to pursue podcasts more? Thomas: Teens haven’t historically listened to podcasts because they’ve had their parents’ old iPhones or their parents’ old Android hand-me-down phones. The old devices didn’t have enough space for podcasts. That was the olden days. Now that Spotify has plunged into podcasting, I’m seeing teens adopt the use of podcast. Now might be a good time to start a podcast for teens because there aren’t many teen podcasts out there. Teens are consuming lots of content on YouTube. YouTube is its own skillset, though, and it’s twice as complicated as podcasting because you have to figure out the audio as well as the lighting and camera. Talk with that one reader who liked your book and get a list of places she and her friends hang out online. Amy: I asked her, and she said she doesn’t do any of that. She said her friends are on different social media. She’s in a public school, and she reads a lot. She’s not on social media, but she loves to promote things to her friends. Thomas: I wonder if we will start seeing a trend where teens disconnect because the online world is so toxic. The cost of being online is developing real-life relationships, which are far more valuable than online relationships. If she doesn’t hang out online, offline marketing may work better for you. You may want to go to conferences and speak at youth groups. What you lose in not being allowed in public schools, you may gain in connecting with youth groups. If you can develop some strong youth group talks, you can approach a youth leader and say you have an engaging talk their students will love. Churches and youth group leaders are underfunded, and you’ll make them happy if you speak for free and give the youth leader a week off. Eventually, you’ll get more popular, and you can start charging, and that’s a strategy that works for all readers. Did your reader mention where her friends hang out online? Amy: She said Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. She said that some people had talked to her school before, but that may not be an option for me. Thomas: Another difference in teen social media use is that they’re less likely to broadcast, and they’re more likely to have one-on-one conversations. They use social media as a messaging app, and the messages are self-destructive. They last for a little while and then disappear. Teenagers are some of the most surveilled people in the history of the world. Their parents, school, government, and every corporation they buy from are all spying on them. They have very little privacy. They seek out social networks that are willing to give them the illusion of privacy. They believe their messages are being deleted. Can I be a successful author if I’m not on social media? Amy: Is there a possibility of success for authors who choose not to be on social media? Is that even an option these days? Thomas: Yes! That’s what I recommend for most authors. For authors targeting adults, the combination that works most effectively is an email list and a website with either a blog or podcast. After those are in place, they just need to write more books. For most authors, social media is not the best use of their time. It’s not completely worthless, but the return on investment per hour on social media is lower than the return on investment for pretty much any other activity. Most authors spend so much time on social media that it costs them about one book per year that they could have written. Their career would benefit more they would write that extra book because each book promotes the other books. Each book makes you a better writer, and each book makes you more money. Very few activities can compete with writing more books. Many authors spend five years on one book, and they need that book to justify five years’ worth of work. If you’re able to write a book in three months, it only has to pay for three months of your time. That’s an easier burden for a book to bear, especially if you’re just getting started. Successful indie authors learn to write faster and spend less time on social media. As they do, they improve their writing craft faster than authors trying to build a “platform” on social media. Social media, and Facebook especially, is a terrible place to build a platform. Facebook constantly changes the rules, and people’s platforms get destroyed with every algorithm change. Social media is like a seasoning you add at the very end if you need it. But not all dishes need that seasoning. Amy: That frees me a little bit to know that there doesn’t have to be this platform by performance where you need pretty pictures and funny things in your life that people might or might not like. Thomas: And—straight talk—it keeps you from having to get naked. Sadly, the popular female influencers are willing to share swimsuit photos. In many ways, social media is for beautiful people who are willing to show off their beautiful bodies. That’s part of the reason it’s so toxic for teenage girls. It creates an unreasonable expectation of what beauty is. Successful influencers are posting those kinds of photos, and they’re willing to be that vulnerable. If they’re not physically naked, they’re emotionally naked, and that’s not healthy either. To share every struggle in your life with the whole strange internet is not sustainable. I’ve seen people do it for years, and they burn out and end up spending a lot of time and money in therapy. I don’t think social media is the way. Imagine if you spent that time calling youth group leaders of small churches asking to speak at their church. If you spent 30 minutes a day making phone calls, you’d make a greater impact and ultimately sell more books than you would have if you had just invested your time in social media. Amy: That is a really good point. I love that. Thomas: Any other questions? What can I offer as a reader magnet on my website? Amy: I’ve looked at my web stats, and it seems like people look at one blog and leave. I’ve thought of publishing a short story so that there’s something appealing on my home page for people to sign up for. What are your thoughts? What else would be good? Thomas: We call that a reader magnet, and it’s a great thing to put on your website. Ideally, you want to offer a short story in the same story world as your book. One advantage of writing fantasy and sci-fi is that the world is part of the draw. You can share more of the world in short stories, and people can start to fall in love with whatever is weird about your world—for you, it might be your characters who fly. While the short story may or may not have all of your characters, the fact that it has flying people in the same world is great. Maybe you can create a reader magnet with some of the backstory you had to cut so you can start your book off with a bang. It can’t be an info-dump. It has to be reworked into a compelling story. When you’re writing for people other than yourself, it’s important to move the camera down to their eye level. If I want to see the world as my kids see it, I need to move the camera down to knee-level. Suddenly, obstacles that are no big deal for me are insurmountable obstacles for my kids. We just moved, and we had moving boxes all over. My children can’t step or climb over a moving box, so moving boxes are a massive obstacle for them. Often, when authors blog for teens, the camera is at the adult’s eye level. You must enter their world, learn their vernacular, and find out which issues they struggle with. Ask your reader what music she likes because that will tell you a lot about what’s resonating and what problems they have. Amongst Christian kids, NF is a popular artist. He raps about anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and he has millions of downloads. He’s even popular outside of the Christian market. If you’re listening to the music they’re listening to, you gain credibility, which helps you understand them. You’ll be able to see the world as they see it, which will help you write stories that resonate. You’ll also have an easier time writing blog posts because you’ll know what’s important to them. Amy: I love that. That’s super helpful. Thanks for joining us in this coaching session. If you would like to record a coaching call like this, apply here. You ask questions, I answer them, and everybody gets to listen in on the advice. Sponsor Book Launch Blueprint Have you launched a book? Were the sales a little below your expectations? Maybe way below? Then you’ll probably want to give serious consideration to joining the Book Launch Blueprint course, developed by Thomas Umstattd Jr. and bestselling, multi-award-winning authors Mary DeMuth and James L. Rubart. This course provides a comprehensive plan with the precise steps you need to take before, during, and after your next launch to give your book the best chance to hit the sales stratosphere. When you join, we’ll include you in a private group where we’ll walk you through the course day by day. You can ask questions and get answers from your fellow students and your instructors. There’s absolutely no risk. If it’s not right for you, let us know within 30 days, and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked. Registration ends April 9, 2021, and class begins April 12. Register today. Featured Patron Roger W. Lowther, author of Aroma of Beauty What would you do if a natural disaster decimated a huge part of your country? After Japan’s catastrophic Earthquake in 2011, Roger Lowther’s family and community found themselves reeling. In the aftermath, music had a healing power never dreamed possible. These stories of the aroma of God’s beauty and presence in the aftermath and devastation will encourage you, inspire you, and change you. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, or Audible. The post How to Connect with Teen Readers: A Coaching Session With a Pre-Published YA Novelist appeared first on Author Media.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
How to Publish Your Book Independently
This article will cover the whole indie publishing process, from start to finish. Consider this Part 2 of last week’s, 10 Decisions Every Indie Author Needs To Make. Indie Publishing vs. Self-Publishing There are three terms for publishing a book yourself: Vanity PublishingSelf-PublishingIndie Publishing These three terms describe the act of publishing a book yourself rather than publishing through a traditional publisher. The term someone uses reveals their degree of bias against the practice. A person who is hostile to the idea of authors publishing their own books will call it “Vanity Publishing” or “Self-Publishing.” Proponents of the practice call it “Indie Publishing.” I use the term “indie publishing,” and I have no dog in the fight. There are pros and cons to traditional and indie publishing, and I work with successful authors who make good money with both methods. I am also convinced that both methods require the same amount of work for the author to succeed. However, some authors are better suited to one or the other. To discover which method is best for you, you need to be fully aware of what the process requires. We’ve already talked about How to Get Published with a Traditional Publishing House. So with that out of the way, let’t talk about the indie publishing process. Step 1: Prep the Inside of the Book Write & Edit the Book The first step of indie publishing is to write and edit the book yourself. The writing should be as tight and compelling as you can make it before you share it. Beta Readers Getting beta reader feedback on your book is key to getting more five-star reviews. Test your self-edited book on your beta readers so your story will be more likely to connect with your readers. Developmental Edit After you get feedback from your beta readers, work with your developmental editor to fix the problems beta readers pointed out. While beta readers are great at pointing out problems, they rarely suggest viable solutions. Beta reader feedback often sounds like this: “When I hit the brakes, my car squeaks. I think it needs an oil change so it doesn’t squeak so much.” Your developmental editor can determine the real issue, just like a mechanic who can clearly see the problem is with the brakes, not the oil. A developmental edit is an edit of the ideas in a nonfiction work. For a novel, the developmental edit is an edit of the story. It is the big-picture edit. Add the Utility Pages Once you finish the developmental edit, it’s time to add the utility pages. Copyright Page: This page also includes the ISBN and other metadata. Table of Contents: If your book is formatted correctly, you can do this with two clicks. Correct formatting means you have consistently used the “Headings & Styles” feature inside your word processor.Acknowledgments: Thank the people who have helped you personally while you wrote the book, such as your friends, family, babysitters, and coffee shops. Back Matter: These pages in the back of your book encourage readers to read your next book, sign up for your email list, or write a review.Credits: Thank the people who helped you professionally. If you paid them, list them. You can also list members of your launch team, beta readers, and Kickstarter backers. I have found that people work harder and better when they know their name will be attached to the work. Once you’ve added your utility pages, your manuscript is complete! But your work is not finished. Copy Edit The next round of editing is an edit of the words. Your copy editor will take a detailed look at punctuation, grammar, and word usage. I recommend hiring someone other than your developmental editor. When most people ask for an editor, the copy editor is usually what they have in mind. When you are done with the copy edits, your writing is finished! But your book is not! Typesetting Typesetting is the process of laying out the words on the page. In this stage, your document goes from being double-spaced to single-spaced. Book pages are about half the size of a standard laser-printer page, so the words jump around a lot during this process. When the typesetting is complete, you’ll find out exactly how many pages your book will be. Everything before this point was an estimate. If you’re worried your book is too short or too long, there are many typesetting tricks to increase or decrease the number of pages. We discussed some of those tricks in last week’s post, 10 Decisions Every Indie Author Needs to Make Before Publishing a Book. In the typesetting process, you’ll make sure new chapters always start on the right page and that there are no ugly page breaks. When typesetting is complete, you create the ebook version of your book. Typesetting used to be a huge undertaking. In ye olden days, they used actual metal type and placed it on the printing press. They pulled the letters out of a “type case” where the big letters were stored in the upper case, and the smaller letters were stored in the lower case. That’s where those terms came from. Typesetting has come a long way since then. In the computer era, digital tools like Calibre or Indesign are easier than laying out letters by hand, but they’re still pretty complicated. Now you can use Vellum to typeset your book, and you can easily do it yourself. If your document is correctly formatted, typesetting could take as little as 15 minutes using Vellum. Book Sections should be Heading 1, chapter headings should be Heading 2, and chapter sections should be Heading 3. You can customize your headings styles, and your word processor will keep it consistent throughout your document. Remember, if you are changing the font size by hand, you are doing it the hard way. To learn about formatting, check out the following resources. Podcast: Ebook Publishing Tips, Tricks & TrapsEbook: Smashwords guide for using Word.Video: Microsoft Word formatting tips. When typesetting is complete, you will have an .epub file for the ebook and a .pdf file for the print book. Proofreading Errors are often introduced during the typesetting process. Sometimes errors that were present the whole time become more obvious after the words are laid out differently on the page. Hire a professional proofreader to give your typeset pages a final pass. You want fresh eyes on your document, so I recommend choosing an editor who hasn’t read your manuscript yet. Do not–I repeat–do not skip hiring a proofreader. You can either get proofreading from a proofreader or from 2-star reviews. Once you have a proofread and corrected .epub and .pdf file of your book, you are ready for Step 2. Step 2: Prep the Outside of the Book The outside of the book convinces potential readers to give your writing a chance. Back Cover Copy Back cover copy is the text on the back of your book that convinces people to buy your book. This text also goes on your book’s Amazon page and any other online sales page where people decide whether to buy your book. From a publishing perspective, the term “book cover” refers to the front, back, and spine of your book. Before your designer can create the cover, she needs all the components, including your final back cover copy. Decide whether you will include an endorsement on the back or front. If you want to use a line from the back cover copy on the front cover, make that decision at this stage. When the cover is designed before the back cover copy is ready, you’re likely to leave off credibility boosters that could help you sell more books. For more details, listen to How to Write Bestselling Back Cover Copy. ISBN Every book in the world is supposed to have an International Standard Book Number or ISBN. Libraries and bookstores keep track of the millions of books in the world with ISBNs. If you live in the United States, you can buy an ISBN at ISBN.org. In some countries, you can get the ISBN from a government agency for free. If you live in Australia or Canada, check with your local indie writer community before buying an American ISBN. When you buy (or register) your ISBN, you will set the metadata for your book. Accurate and complete metadata allows readers to easily find your book when they search for it online. Amazon will give you a free ISBN, but I don’t trust Amazon, and I don’t recommend using their free ISBNs. Whoever controls a book’s ISBN controls the metadata for the book. Metadata is the most powerful kind of data, and I don’t recommend giving away that power just to save a few dollars. To learn more about metadata, listen to episode 238, How to Use Metadata to Sell More Books. Bar Code Once you have your ISBN, you can use it to generate a barcode. Barcodes are numbers that computers can read. So the barcode is the ISBN number in a computer scannable format. After you generate the barcode, get a barcode scanning app on your phone and scan the code to make sure it works. After scanning the barcode on your phone, the resulting number should be the same as your ISBN. Typically, right above (or below) the ISBN on the barcode, you include the price. Choose a high price for the printed cover because the retailer can mark it down much easier than they can mark it up. It is hard for retailers to charge more than the price you print on the back of the book. A good rule of thumb is to find the bestselling book in your category that is the same size as yours and copy their price. Shelving instructions go above the price. Many indie authors leave these off, and this is one of the things that makes a book “look self-published.” Traditional publishers are very particular that books get put on the right shelf in the bookstore and rarely leave this off. So name the shelf you want the book placed on in the book store. This could be something like “Romance / Paranormal Romance.” or “Christian Living/Relationships/Dating.” List the general shelf first and then the specific section second. The person taking your book out of the box needs to know which shelf it belongs on. Book Cover Now you are ready to put all the components together in your book cover. There is much to say about book covers, but here is a quick summary. Your book cover needs to: Quickly communicate the genre of your book.Fit on the shelf with the bestselling books in your genre.Have a single compelling symbol that resonates with the reader.Make the reader want to learn more about your book. I have several episodes that talk about how to do these things: 10 Things Every Book Cover NeedsBook Cover Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your MarketingHow to Create a Design Brief for Your Book CoverHow to Avoid the #1 Cause of Bad Book Covers: Design by Committee I highly recommend listening to all four episodes before hiring a cover designer. If you do, and if you put together a design brief following my instructions regarding the elements we have discussed, you will be on track to have one of the top covers in your genre. At the end of the cover design process, you will get a .jpg and .pdf of your book cover from your designer. Use the .jpg in your online marketing campaigns, and use the .pdf for making the book. Step 3: Publish Your Book At this point, you have: an .epub file of the ebook a .pdf of the interior of the print book a .pdf of the cover your metadata entered correctly at ISBN.org Create a New Amazon Account Keep your business use of Amazon separate from your personal use of Amazon. To do this, create an Amazon account for your publishing business. Once you are successful and have a team of people working for you, you don’t want them to have access to your personal Amazon purchase history every time they log in to your KDP account to make a change to one of your books. Sign up for a new Amazon account at https://www.amazon.com/ap/register. If you decided to start an LLC, use your LLC info. Otherwise, use the DBA (Doing Business As) also known as an Assumed Name in some states from your county courthouse for your sole proprietorship. If you have tax and business questions, check out my course Tax & Business Guide for Authors. Sign Up for Amazon KDP Signing up for Amazon KDP is easy. It’s mostly a matter of clicking “next” a bunch of times. You can sign up at https://kdp.amazon.com/. Again, use your business info if you have it. If you don’t have an LLC, make sure you have a separate bank account for your business income and expenses. Keeping your business account separate will save you a lot of hassle when you prepare your taxes. Upload Your Files If you have been following along, this is a super easy step because you have all your files ready to go. Amazon will need the cover .pdf file, the interior .pdf file, and the .epub file for your ebook. Add Your Metadata KDP will ask for some of the same metadata that ISBN.org asked for. Make sure the metadata on ISBN.org matches the metadata you use for Amazon by copying and pasting your ISBN.org metadata into the KDP forms. If you open KDP in one browser window and ISBN.org in another, this shouldn’t take long. Print a Test Copy of Your Paper Book Once everything is entered correctly, Amazon will ask if you would like to pay to receive a proof copy of your book. Yes! Yes, you want a proof copy. Many things could go wrong in the printing process, and you don’t want to find out about them from your Amazon reviews. When you get your proof copy, check for the following: Do the words look good on the page? Sometimes the font seems to be a different size in real life than it did on the screen. Are the margins correct? Bad margins make a book “look self-published.” They also make the book harder to read. Does the cover look good? Too dark? Too washed out?Does the spine match? Many factors affect your book’s thickness, and if the designer does the math wrong, the spine will be off. The text on the spine may fall onto the back or front cover if the spine width hasn’t been precisely calculated. Pick an Audiobook Narrator Don’t forget the audiobook! FindawayVoices.com or ACX.com help authors produce audiobooks. Both have plans that allow you to produce your audiobook for free as long as you split the royalty with the narrator. If you don’t want to share royalties, you can pay your narrator upfront. For more on audiobooks: 7 Reasons Why Your Book Should Also Be an AudiobookHow to Turn Your Book into an AudiobookHow to Write & Narrate Better Audiobooks with Tom ParksAudiobook Production and Promotion with Brennan McPherson Once you listen to those four episodes, you will be prepared to produce an audiobook version of your book. Pick an Ebook Price Picking an ebook price is not a big deal. Unlike the paperback price, which is printed on the book itself, the ebook price is easy to change at any time. If you need help choosing the best price for your ebook, listen to our episode Book Marketing 101: How to Price Your Ebook. Pick a Publication Date I recommend choosing a date at least one month in advance. Ideally, you’d want two or three months, but one month is enough time to make sure everything looks good on your Amazon page. It also gives you time to plan your book launch. Click Publish This is it! Your moment of glory! Step 4: Launch the Book Every day, a thousand new books appear on Amazon. These new books compete with each other and with the millions of books already on Amazon. Most of them never get noticed. How do you make sure your book gets noticed? You have a book launch! Book launches are a time-tested method to break through the noise and get your book the attention it deserves. Authors who fail to plan their launch can plan to have a failed launch. Each book launch should include the following elements: Written Launch Plan Write down what you plan to do to promote your book during those first 30 days. When you implement many effective strategies in that first month, you will sell more books. The more books you sell, the more people you will have talking about your book. The more people you get to talk about your book, the more books you will sell. It’s a virtuous cycle. For more on wha to do and what not to do see Painful Book Launch Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way and How to Launch a Book: A Coaching Session with Krystal Proffitt. Editorial Calendar Write down when you plan to do those promotion activities. The only way to make sure you didn’t schedule yourself for five interviews at the same time is to keep a calendar. Your editorial calendar is the master planner of your launch. It will help you make sure each activity is scheduled properly with enough time between your various launch activities. For more on putting together an editorial calendar see: How to Create a Written Book Launch Plan. Launch Team Recruit the people who will help you spread the word about your book. It takes a team to launch anything successfully. Make sure you have a team willing to help you launch your book. If you need help assembling a launch team, I recommend you take the Book Launch Blueprint course. 2021 Book Launch Blueprint Every spring, James L. Rubart and I host a special course called the Book Launch Blueprint. We train a small group of authors to craft a launch plan for their book. Registration for the 2021 Book Launch Blueprint ends on April 9, 2021. If you are listening in the future, visit BookLaunch.fun to join the waitlist for next year’s course in the spring. Here is a testimonial from a student who went through the course last year: Featured Patron Daniel Bishop, author of Ralley Point: Place of Refuge (Affiliate Link) Leif and Dyanna Jo are devastated after she miscarries after so many years of trying to get pregnant. The miscarriage becomes a catalyst for their roller-coaster journey to becoming a foster family. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode with one person you think would find it helpful. Personal Update A few days ago, I counted all my podcast episodes across all my different shows, and I am about to record my 500th podcast episode! If you have any ideas for how we should celebrate, leave me a comment below. If you are curious about my other podcasts, listen in: Christian Publishing Show – This is my podcast for the Christian Publishing Industry. We have many episodes on writing craft, marketing, and publishing. I recently recorded our 100th episode in which I interviewed Jerry Jenkins, an author who has sold over 71 million copies of his books.Thomas Umstattd Guest cast – This is a compilation of my guest interviews on other people’s podcasts. I don’t count these toward my episode count, but you can still subscribe.Novel Marketing Patrons Only Podcast – This is a special podcast just for the patrons of the Novel Marketing podcast. You can get these episodes for as little as $3 when you become a Novel Marketing Patron here. Creative Funding Show – I recorded this show to teach people how to make money as a podcaster. It only ran for 28 episodes, but it is still around. Liberty Buzzard – This is a news and politics podcast I hosted for a time. cGames – This was my first podcast. I started it in 2007. It is no longer listenable, which is perhaps for the best. It was a great learning experience! The post How to Publish Your Book Independently appeared first on Author Media.
57 minutes | 2 months ago
10 Decisions You Need To Make After You Decide To Indie Publish Your Book
You’ve decided to self-publish your book. Congratulations! You’re about to begin an exciting journey. Now there are nine more decisions to make before you’re published! Some of these decisions will affect the rest of your career, and you don’t want to make the wrong decision. But never fear! This article will help you make good choices. If you are trying to decide whether indie publishing is right for you, this is an episode that may be helpful. If you’re already planning to publish independently, you can’t afford to skip this post. To give you two perspectives on these decisions, I interviewed Chautona Havig, an indie author who has written over 80 books and hosts the Because Fiction Podcast. She knows the indie publishing process inside and out, and she will help you avoid the pitfalls. Decision #1: Book Size Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: The first decision you need to make is what size of book you want to publish. The most common formats are 6 x 9 inches and 5.5 x 8.5 inches. The ideal length for a paperback book is 200-250 pages. If your book is too short, consider the 5.5 x 8.5 size. If it’s too long, consider going with the larger 6 x 9-inch size. A 200-page book is the sweet spot where you tend to make the most money and have the happiest readers. For every additional page beyond the 200-page mark, the cost of your book increases. When you’re printing your book on-demand, which indie authors do, the cost of printing goes up faster than the cost of the book. People expect to pay more for longer books, but they don’t expect to pay much more. The cost of printing a 450-page book is almost twice that of a 200-page book, but you can’t sell it for twice the price. Warning! If you are writing a series, you are committing to this format size for the rest of the series. If you want your books to look good on the shelf, consider keeping the same format for all your books. Chautona Havig: You may want to consider which size is more important to your reader. Some readers don’t like my 6 x 9 books, even though that’s the size I started with. Some hate it. Consider whether you want to make more money per book or sell more units. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: Pick whichever size gets you closer to 200 pages. If your books tend to run long, consider the larger format. If your books tend to run short, consider the smaller format. Decision #2: Print-on-Demand or Offset Printing? Indie authors can choose offset printing, which is the same technology that traditional publishers use. You can print 5,000 copies of your book for $1-2 per book, depending on your printer. Print-on-Demand (POD) costs $3-4 per copy, which makes offset printing sound like a good decision. However, there are many hidden costs with offset printing, like warehousing, distribution, fulfillment, and shipping. The upfront cost of offset printing for 5,000 books at $3 per book will cost you $15,000 upfront. If you can’t sell 5,000 books, you may never recover your costs. The upfront cost of print-on-demand is almost nothing. Chautona: A friend of mine printed 3,000 copies of her book with offset printing. She’s a speaker, and she knew her book would be easy to sell, so she chose offset printing. But 3,000 books require a lot of boxes. You need a place to store those books. You need a big garage or a warehouse to store them. Thomas: I know an author who did a Kickstarter campaign and raised $25,000 and presold a bunch of copies. She was able to offset print with the Kickstarter money. If you want to offset print, do a Kickstarter campaign first to see if there’s a demand for your book. If you sell all the books in your garage, that’s a win. But most of the time, the author cannot sell all the books because they overestimated the demand. They end up with hundreds or thousands of unsold books. It also ties up a lot of capital. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: For your first book, I recommend choosing print-on-demand. Offset printing is too risky and complicated for your first book. You can always offset later if your book is a hit, but print-on-demand is dramatically simpler. The print-on-demand machines are in the fulfillment centers. You don’t have to worry about warehousing, fulfillment, or shipping. All those complexities are taken care of by the print-on-demand companies. But if you already have several books on Amazon and are curious to learn more about offset printing, listen to episode 215 Print on Demand vs. Offset Printing for Indie Books. If you choose print-on-demand, you have two companies to choose from. Decision #3: KDP Print or IngramSpark? Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Print and IngramSpark both provide print-on-demand publishing. Other companies resell books from these two companies, but you don’t need to pay a middleman more money just to sell you one of these two options. Ninety percent of indie authors choose to publish through KDP Print (formerly known as CreateSpace) and IngramSpark. Chautona: I have used both, but I tend to be exclusive to KDP. I recommend people start with KDP because it’s easier. IngramSpark is more expensive. If you upload your perfect book to KDP and a reader finds a missing quotation mark in your book. It’s easy to fix. You fix the typo on your computer, upload your new file to KDP, and within hours the error is fixed. With IngramSpark, it will cost you $25-$50 to do the exact same thing, and it may take several days for the change to go into effect. There’s a charge for changing the cover and a separate charge for changing the interior. Start easy with KDP Print because you need to know what you’re doing before you deal with IngramSpark and all their fees. Thomas: If you’re a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, some of those fees are waived. Pros of KDP Print: KDP is easier. All your print books and ebooks will appear in a single dashboard connected to your Amazon account. KDP Print makes it easier to advertise your book on Amazon. If your paperback isn’t through KDP Print, Amazon won’t let you use their paperback marketing tools. Pros of IngramSpark IngramSpark gets you into more indie bookstores because many indie bookstores hate Amazon and won’t stock books from Amazon under any circumstances. IngramSpark has more options for book shape, size, and paper type, which are good for children’s books and specialty books. Standard fiction books don’t necessarily need those features. Some authors publish books with both companies because they can use KDP Print for Amazon orders and IngramSpark for non-Amazon orders. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: For your first book, go with KDP Print only. Make it easier on yourself. You can change later, but for your first book, don’t use IngramSpark. Chautona: I recommend you get three books under your belt before you use IngramSpark. Until you’ve hit most of the snags, Ingram can be overwhelming. Decision #4: KDP Select or Wide? This is the biggest decision. When you publish with Amazon’s KDP, you have two choices. You can sell your books exclusively through Amazon through their KDP Select program, or you can publish wide, which means your books will be for sale on Amazon and many other online retailers. Amazon, being the 800-pound gorilla that it is, wants you to publish your ebook exclusively with them in their KDP Select program. As an incentive, they give you twice the royalty if you are exclusive to Amazon. They also give you more book marketing and promotion tools within Amazon. You can offer your book for free from time to time. They allow you to do free countdown deals, and most popular for novelist, they allow you to be in Kindle Unlimited (KU), Amazon’s Netflix of books. Kindle Unlimited has a lending library. Readers pay a monthly $10 subscription fee to check out books from the KU library. Readers can then check out any book in KU for “free.” When they read your book, you get a piece of their $10 monthly subscription fee. You must decide if you want to sell exclusively through Amazon to get access to these marketing tools and be included in KU, or if you want to go wide and sell through iBooks, Kobo, and various other online retailers. Chautona: I recommend an author agree to be in KDP Select for one quarter. When you agree to the program, you agree to exclusivity for 90 days. In those 90 days, you can see what KDP Select does. KDP Select is easy, and it’s a great way to get discovered in the KU Library. Many of my readers have found me through KU. They search for “Christian Fiction,” and they see all my books. It doesn’t cost them anything extra to try out a new author, so it’s a great way for readers to discover new authors. Many readers think that authors don’t get paid for books in KU, which keeps some readers from joining KU. But authors do get paid for every page a reader reads. Thomas: KU pays authors per page-read. If someone checks out your book and then returns it without reading, you get no money. If they read the whole book, you get paid for every page. On the other hand, if they buy your book in the Amazon store and don’t read it, you still get paid. KDP Select rewards authors who write books people finish. In general, indie authors exclusive to Amazon through KDP Select make more money and sell more books. I have an episode with Joanna Penn, who is an advocate for publishing wide. She makes a good case for why you may want to publish wide and not sell exclusively through Amazon. If that’s appealing to you, listen to How to Develop Multiple Streams of Money from Your Writing Career with Joanna Penn. On the other hand, Lacy Williams makes a good case for why you should sell exclusively on Amazon through KDP Select in episode 230, What Indie Authors Need to Know About Kindle Unlimited with Lacy Williams. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: For your first book, choose KDP Select and sell your ebooks exclusively through Amazon. You’ll get access to their exclusive marketing tools. You can change your mind later, but the process is much simpler and more profitable if you stay inside the Amazon sandbox for your first book. Signing up to sell in other bookstores is unlikely to generate enough sales to justify the hassle. Chautona: I was wide for a long time. We noticed the wide sales start to dwindle, and I started losing money. I surveyed my readers and learned 93% of them used Kindle in some form. At that point, it was crazy for me not to be in KU. You must know your audience, and you can only know them once you have them, and you have to start somewhere. I agree that starting in KDP Select with the marketing advantages and the KU Library is a great choice for your first books. Decision #5: Publish an Audiobook or Not? If you listen to Novel Marketing, you know I am a big fan of audiobooks, and they are growing in popularity. In 2021, nearly every traditionally published book has an audio version. If you don’t publish an audiobook, your book may look self-published to someone who otherwise wouldn’t know. Pros: You reach more people. You reach audio exclusive readers like me!You reach more influential people. CEOs and Influencers listen to a lot of audiobooks.You reach more men.Publishing an audiobook is an indication you are financially committed to your book. Cons: If you publish your audiobook for free, which you can do, you’ll split the royalty with the narrator, and you may make less on each audiobook sale than on your paperback sale. Requires you to pick a narrator, which is difficult and stressful. If you don’t split with the narrator, narrating an audiobook yourself will be expensive and time-consuming. Chautona: I have become an audiobook fan. I listened to 120 books last year. In 2013, I hired two narrators, and it was expensive to pay them upfront. Those audiobooks have just barely earned out what I paid. Sometimes you have to view it as a long game where you can’t expect an instant ROI. For audiobooks, I don’t expect to make a lot of money right away. Audiobook listeners are binge readers who need the next one right away. Choosing a narrator is scary, especially if you want them to record a series. They become the voice of your characters. Last year, I hired an amazing narrator for a new series. I created my own royalty share, where I pay for half up front, and then we split the royalties. That way, we both have skin in the game. We’re getting the books out faster, and we’re getting sales faster. ACX narrators are getting more expensive. The good ones are less willing to do the royalty share. I started with ACX, and it was a good experience, but I now prefer working with Find A Way Voices. Your book gets out there so much faster. Find A Way Voices allows your book to be on Scribd, Audible, and Chirp. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: Go with ACX.com and do a royalty share with the narrator for the first book. Don’t spend a lot of money on your audiobook until you know you have an audience.Find A Way Voices is great, but ACX is simpler for your first books. As you get more advanced, you can hire a narrator and pay them upfront. Decision #6: Publish a Hardback or Not? Amazon is rolling out a new program that allows indie authors to self-publish a hardback via their print-on-demand services. If you’re reading this in the future, you may have this option when you sign up, but as of this writing, publishing a print-on-demand hardcover is by invitation only. I don’t see any downsides to offering a hardback option. Having a $25 hardback makes your other versions look cheaper, and some readers will want that $25 hardback no matter what. It’s like the $100 bottle of wine at the end of the aisle. It’s there to make the $30 bottle look cheaper. The other option is to have hardback books printed offset in a big expensive bunch. I generally don’t recommend this unless you are doing a crowdfunding campaign to presell those hardback copies. Printing a limited-edition hardback can get readers excited if you’re an established author. Signed and numbered copies of a limited-edition will allow you to demand a higher price. Chautona: Your biggest fans will want a hardback. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: Publish a hardback if you can do it via print-on-demand. Otherwise, hold off unless you are doing a Kickstarter campaign for your book. Decision #7: Do Your Own Typesetting or Hire it Out? You can’t just publish a Microsoft Word document. You have to convert your Word document into a typeset PDF for printing on paper and a typeset ePUB file for ebooks. Option #1: Do it yourself with Vellum. If you plan to write a lot of books, I recommend using the Mac software Vellum. With a few clicks, it turns a well-formatted Word document into a PDF and ePUB. If your Word document is not well-formatted, Vellum makes that easy to fix. Vellum costs $249 one time. Sometimes writers even switch from PC to Mac just to use Vellum. That’s a great move because Mac computers are now faster and cheaper than PCs because they no longer use the slow, expensive Intel chips that PCs use. Another option is to rent a virtual Mac for $1.00 per hour at MacinCloud. Chautona: You open your book file in MacinCloud, and you can format a book in less than an hour in Vellum. For $1.00 per hour, it’s like having two laptops, one Mac and one PC. It’s like someone has a screen share on their computer, and you take over. I still recommend that you learn to format your book in Word. Get the Smashwords guide on using Microsoft Word. Make sure you know how to use Word because once you learn headings and styles, Microsoft word becomes wonderful. Dave Chesson is building a new program called Atticus, which promises to do what Scrivener and Vellum do for the Mac. It should be available soon. Option #2 Hire someone else. Many of your fellow authors already use Vellum and may be willing to typeset your book for you. If you plan to publish only one book, it will be cheaper and easier for you to hire someone else to typeset your book, and you will have one less thing to worry about. Typesetting used to cost $500 if you paid someone to do it with InDesign. If you’ve formatted your Word doc well, you may get a freelancer to do it on Vellum for $50-$100. Warning: Make sure you get the Vellum file from the freelancer in addition to the PDF and EPUB file. I heard of an author who had a bad typo in his book. It turned a word into a bad word that changed the meaning of the sentence into a dirty joke. This would not have been a huge issue in some books, but this was a Christian book. It was hard for the author to fix the problem himself because he didn’t do the typesetting. To fix the typo, he had to get the book re-typeset by the freelancer he hired. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: Buy Vellum. If need be, buy a Mac. You can get a Mac Mini for $699, which is faster than PCs twice its price. A modern Mac Mini should last you 10 years, which brings the cost down to just $70 a year or $0.20 a day. Mac in Cloud is willing to sell you an hour of Mac usage for $1.00 because it costs them as little as $0.008 to loan you that Mac during that hour. That’s a hefty profit margin for Mac. Decision #8: Should You Offer a Pre-order? Many factors affect whether a pre-order period will be a good strategy for your book. We explore the pros and cons of the pre-order strategy in Episode 149, How to Setup Pre-Orders for Your Indie Book. The more pre-orders you get, the more Amazon’s algorithm will like your book, and the more books they will keep “in stock.” Since it’s print-on-demand, they’re not actually “in stock,” but a high number of pre-orders will affect how quickly Amazon fulfills those orders. Amazon doesn’t count your pre-order book sales toward its bestseller list on the day your book comes out. It counts pre-orders sales on the day the sale is made. If 365 people buy your book each day throughout the year, your book will show as having one sale per day. If you can get all those people to buy your book on release day, you’ll be higher on the bestseller list, and it will show as having sold 365 copies in one day. Some people go with the algorithm strategy. Others want that bestseller strategy. Chautona: I use both strategies. For most books, I don’t do a pre-order because I do want the launch-day buzz. When people have to wait longer for a book, I will do a pre-order because it stirs excitement, and readers spread the word. I run the pre-order for six weeks. When I run a pre-order, I drop the price at least one dollar through launch day. When people follow you on Amazon, they’ll get a notification when it releases, and they immediately buy the book. Sometimes I put a book on pre-order just to make sure I hit my own deadline. If you don’t meet the pre-order deadline, you go to Amazon jail for a year. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: For your first book, start your pre-order four weeks before your book’s launch date to make sure you have plenty of time to get your Amazon page exactly right. Don’t put your book up for pre-order until your book is completely ready. Don’t risk going to Amazon jail for a pre-order. If this is your second book, listen to our pre-order episode to better understand the strategy and the algorithm. Decision #9: What kind of company will I form? I am not a lawyer or a CPA, and neither is Chautona. The following advice is general education, not legal or tax advice. Talk to an actual lawyer or CPA for specific legal guidance on your situation. I did study business law in college, and I have formed a few companies myself. Every indie author starts a business. Some do it on purpose, and some do it without realizing it. You don’t become an employee of Amazon when they pay you royalties. Amazon pays you like you are a publishing company and not an employee. You don’t get a W2, benefits, or paid time off from Amazon because you are not an employee. You are a business. Option 1: Sole Proprietorship You have several options for forming a company. If you do nothing and just enter your Social Security Number, you effectively form a sole proprietor. A sole proprietorship is easy and cheap, at least upfront. In the US, if you say you’re a business, you are. But sole proprietorships have no liability protection. If you get into a car accident, someone could sue you and take ownership of your book. Or if you write about another person in a negative light, someone could sue you for libel and try to take away your car. If you’re writing fiction, you don’t have a high risk for liability, but that doesn’t mean there is no liability at all. The liability risk can be higher for nonfiction. Option 2: Limited Liability Company (LLC) Many authors form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for liability protection. An LLC can make you look more professional since your LLC can have a company name, and some authors like to have their books indie-published under their company name. Your LLC owns your books and keeps them separate from the rest of your activities. An LLC can also help with managing your intellectual property after you die. Once you die, the copyright lasts for 75 more years. This means you may have descendants who are not born yet who may be managing your copyright. If you are not careful, your book could be lost to history before it gets a chance to enter the public domain. Forming an LLC offers potential tax advantages for authors. You get to choose which chapter of the tax code you want to apply to your business. To learn more about LLCs, how they are taxed, and how it affects authors, check out our course, The Tax and Business Guide for Authors, taught by my dad, Tom Umstattd, CPA, who has worked with authors for nearly 40 years. Forming an LLC is more complicated than a sole proprietorship. It will take some money and a bit of work to set it up. Option 3: General Partnership My business law professor told us horror stories about general partnerships. They have the liability downsides of a sole proprietorship and include “joint and several” liability with your partner. That means, if you coauthor a book with someone else and don’t legally define your relationship, you could be considered a general partnership without having done any paperwork. In that case, if your partner/coauthor had a car accident, you could potentially lose your house as a result of their accident, even if you were not in the car. My business law professor made us swear never to form a general partnership on purpose and to be careful not to get into one by mistake. I want to pass that advice along to you. If you are working with someone else on your book, form an LLC and define the relationship with a contract. Everyone loses when general partnerships go to court. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: If you’re planning to write more than one book, I recommend forming an LLC before publishing your first book. You can do it fairly easily through LegalZoom.com, which charges as little as $79 to help you set up your LLC. Chautona: I agree. If I could change three things about my author career, I would start an LLC first, have a separate Amazon account for my author business, and seek out professionals who know the indie author business, which is easier to do now than it was in 2009. Decision #10: Should You Register Your Copyright? By law, if you create it, you own the copyright. You are not required to file that copyright in order to own it. If you jot down a poem on a napkin, you own the copyright for that poem. In terms of US law, registering a copyright doesn’t seem that important. However, you can register your copyright with the United States copyright office for $40-$100, depending on what kind of copyright you buy. In exchange, you get a government document that states you own the copyright. That’s it—a piece of government paper. For a long time, I did not recommend that authors register their copyright. I didn’t feel it gave them any protection they didn’t already have. I thought it was a waste of time and money because if you are in court, you have already lost financially, even if you win. However, I have changed my mind about registering the copyright. US law is not the only law you have to worry about as an indie author. There is a higher law that applies even if you are outside of the United States. Amazon law. Big tech companies are now so powerful that governments pay them taxes rather than the other way around. When Amazon wants to set up a new headquarters somewhere, it demands that the local government pay taxes or “incentives” to Amazon. Amazon wanted New York to give it over a billion dollars in “incentives” to build a headquarters in the state. These companies can cancel a sitting US president, and nothing can stop them. Indie authors end up in Amazon court all the time, but there is no courtroom where you can face your accuser. There’s just a murky haze of customer success representatives from around the world who may or may not have the authority to resolve your issue. If someone else claims that they are the author of your book and claims to own the copyright, and they register that complaint with Amazon, Amazon may pull your book from their store, thinking you are the plagiarizer! If that happens, the faux author will receive money from the sales of your book. What is the best way to prove you own your book? Register your copyright, take a picture of that piece of paper, and send it to Amazon. Amazon puts a lot of stock into registered copyrights. Many authors don’t register the copyright because they want to save money and avoid the hassle. Chautona: I 100% agree. I have that piece of paper for my traditional books. But if you get into a multi-author book set and it disbands, it will be difficult to show Amazon you own the copyright because it was originally under someone else’s name. Thomas Umstattd’s Recommendation: Spend the money and register the copyright. Sponsor 2021 Book Launch Blueprint Chautona: I spent $1,100 on a different book launch program. It was money well spent, but I was still floundering. When Thomas came out with the Book Launch Blueprint, I told my husband I was going to spend more money because I knew Thomas and Jim would do a good job. Interestingly, it was mostly the same information, but the way Thomas and Jim laid it out was so doable. The people launching books in the group are doing amazing work. Thomas, Jim, and Mary really nailed how to make it accessible. It doesn’t feel daunting like that other program. The Book Launch Blueprint is fun. Thomas: If you’re interested in joining us, registration for the 2021 Book Launch Blueprint ends on April 9, 2021. Novel Marketing patrons save $100 off the price of the course. There’s a link on Patreon to activate that discount. Featured Patron Amanda Wen author of Roots of Wood and Stone (Affiliate Link) Garrett Anderson just wanted to clean out his grandmother’s historic farmhouse before selling it, but his carefully ordered plan runs up against two formidable obstacles: Sloane, who’s fallen in love with the house, and his own heart, which is irresistibly drawn to Sloane. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. The post 10 Decisions You Need To Make After You Decide To Indie Publish Your Book appeared first on Author Media.
35 minutes | 2 months ago
How to Get More 5-Star Reviews
Many authors wrestle with the seemingly impossible conundrums of publishing. To get published, you need to have a history of being published. To grow an email list, you need to have people to email. To get good reviews, you need to have good reviews. It sounds like a catch-22. But for every publishing conundrum, there is obviously a starting point, because authors still get published, build email lists and, yes, even get hundreds of five-star reviews. Back in Episode 242, we talked about where negative reviews come from. While it’s good to eliminate the causes for negative reviews, you still need good reviews. Three kinds of people can help you get more reviews: beta readers, editors, and advanced readers. So how do you get more five-star reviews? You write a better book. Who determines whether your book is better? Your readers. Only readers leave reviews, so your book must be a “good book,” according to them. To ensure your book will be good according to your readers, you need to invite some of them to read it while you still have time to make changes. Incorporating reader feedback into your writing process will make your readers happy, and they will leave and leave great reviews, which will often generate more good reviews. Beta Readers What are beta readers? In the movie industry, filmmakers show early edits of the film to test audiences. Afterward, they survey the audience to see if the jokes were funny. They ask if the movie made sense and if the ending was satisfying. By the time a major motion picture is released, it has been tested on thousands of movie-loving viewers. Beta readers are like a test audience for your book, but you don’t need thousands. You just need a handful. But they need to be readers, not industry professionals or other authors. Beta readers are the voice of the future readers of your book. Why do authors need beta readers? If you are writing for a target audience you don’t belong to, it’s especially important to test your book with beta readers. For example, if you are writing to teenagers, test your book on beta-reading teens before publishing your book. If you are writing a mystery and haven’t read at least a dozen mysteries in the last year, you need beta readers. Nonfiction authors also need beta readers for all the same reasons. How will you know if your arguments are convincing if you don’t test them on beta readers? What to look for in a beta reader. Your beta reader should be a well-read fan of your genre. Your mom, who mostly reads cozy mysteries and only watched one Star Wars movie (though she doesn’t remember which one), is not a good beta reader for your space opera. She might be a great cheerleader for you, but she is a bad choice as a beta reader because she is the wrong kind of reader. Her opinions about books and tropes won’t represent the readers you will be targeting. In fact, the more your cozy-mystery-reading mom likes your space opera book, the less your readers will like it, and that will lead to poor reviews. A fellow author who writes space opera is also a poor choice as a beta reader. Even though she’s familiar with your genre, her feedback will be too prescriptive because she is an author. A test audience doesn’t teach filmmakers how to make movies. They simply let the filmmakers know whether the movie works. When a viewer says, “I didn’t like the ending,” she’s offering really helpful feedback. Where can I find beta readers? Goodreads Look for books that are comparable to the one you’re writing. Peruse the reviews on Goodreads and find the longest five-star reviews. Reach out to those reviewers one-on-one and ask if they would be interested in being a beta reader for your book. Superfans are often honored to become beta readers. Do not choose the reviewer who wrote a one-sentence review. Look for the reviewer who wrote a book report on how much they loved that book. There are also groups on Goodreads specifically for matchmaking beta readers and authors. Real Life Make friends with the kind of people who read the kind of books you like. The more you read in your genre and talk about it, the more you will connect with friends who also read and love your genre. Fellow Authors While fellow authors make for poor beta readers, they often have beta readers of their own, and they may be willing to connect you. Super Fans Once you have published a book, you can pull from your existing fans and readers. I heard of one author who received a three-page email from an existing reader who pointed out all of the continuity errors in her published book. This reader was on the autism spectrum, and these errors really irritated her. The email was a bit curt. Instead of taking the email personally, this author replied, “These are incredibly detailed insights. Would you like to be a beta reader for my next book so we can find these errors before it goes out?” The reader was thrilled to have the opportunity, and the author’s next books were sparklingly clean from a continuity perspective. Previous Beta Readers When authors continue to write, work, and publish books, they get better at writing. As I’m fond of saying, “The carpenter builds the house, but the house also builds the carpenter.” Besides improving your writing craft with each book, authors can improve the quality of the beta-reading team for each new book. Some beta readers will give more helpful feedback than others. Savvy authors retain the most helpful beta readers by inviting them to the beta team again when the next book is ready for input. Over time, your team of beta readers becomes a hand-selected squad of feedback ninjas. 3 Kinds of Specialty Beta Readers You may also want to pursue connections with some specialty beta readers. Alpha Readers Some authors have a small group of alpha readers who read and give feedback before the book goes to the larger group of beta readers. The author may do a round of revisions based on three alpha readers’ feedback before sharing the book with her larger group of beta readers. Expert Readers Modern readers have greater access to knowledge because of the internet, and because they know so much, they are more likely to notice technical errors in your book. An expert reader is a type of beta reader who reads to represent a technical specialty. If your main character is a doctor, you’ll need at least one real-life doctor to read and make sure your main character speaks as a real doctor would. If your character is an airline pilot, you’d better have a pilot read your book to make sure it makes sense. In filmmaking, these are called technical advisors. They point out inaccuracies and help protect the credibility of the author. In one of Brandon Sanderson’s books, he portrayed real-life computer hacking. It was the first time I had seen a hacker represented accurately. He described their work as it is in real life. The stereotypical hacker you see in a movie is furiously typing behind his laptop, and that is pure fiction. Since Sanderson’s portrayal was so true-to-life, I wasn’t surprised to see that he thanked real-life white-hat hackers in the acknowledgments of his book. In my experience, professionals love giving technical advice to writers. They are often tired of seeing their profession misrepresented by lazy writers. They’ll work hard to help set the record straight for your book. You may be shocked to discover how much access you gain to places and people when you say you are an author working on a book. Police will let you ride along in a patrol car and give you a tour of the station. You can visit the “employees only” sections of buildings, hospitals, castles, construction sites, and other locations, which are typically off-limits to the public. The key is to ask by phone call and not by email. Sensitivity Readers While an expert reader represents a certain kind of specialty, a sensitivity reader represents a certain type of person. If you are a man writing a story with a female protagonist, make sure some of your beta readers are women. There is a whole subreddit that makes fun of men who write unrealistic female characters. Sensitivity readers can look for issues related to gender, race, religion, or any other area where the author lacks understanding or familiarity. If one of your characters is religious, find a beta reader who practices that religion so you can get the character right. Feedback from technical and sensitive readers is important because any unrealistic description or dialogue will knock the reader out of the story. I recently saw a movie set in the South that portrayed every southern character as idiotic, evil or both. This is so common in film that when a character with a southern accent is introduced, it kicks me out of the story. I know that character will turn out to be evil or stupid. To portray people more realistically, get to know them in real life. Ask them to read your book and see if you’ve written anything unrealistic or stereotypical. Editors You may be asking, “If I have all these beta readers, do I still need an editor?” Yes. Yes, you still need an editor. Your editors may not reflect your target audience, so when they read, they are forced to make educated guesses about what readers like and don’t like. Beta readers from your target audience, on the other hand, can tell you for certain what they like and don’t like. Share your manuscript with your beta readers before sharing it with your copy editor. Incorporating their feedback before handing off your manuscript will mean your editor can work with a more polished draft, which means you’ll use her time and your money more efficiently. Authors who have written multiple books typically get beta feedback before they begin the editing process. However, if you are still working on your first book, you’ll want to get editorial feedback first. You are still learning how to write the kind of book people want to pay for, and an editor can give you feedback that is easier to implement. Editing is a process because you need at least three rounds of editing. No one writes perfectly. We all need help, and that’s why we hire editors. Many indie authors make the mistake of hiring only one editor. But you need three kinds of editors because they do three very different types of editing. Developmental Editor (Airforce) A developmental edit, sometimes called a content edit, is an edit of the ideas in your book. It is an edit of the story. If we were to use a military metaphor, the developmental editor is the Airforce that scouts the territory and drops bombs on enemy bunkers. Developmental editors usually insert comments into your document and send you a long email with their general thoughts. Copy Editor (Marines) The second kind of edit is the copy edit, also known as a line edit. This is an edit of the words. In this round of revisions, your editor will correct grammar mistakes, address usage issues such as passive voice, and fix typos. The copy editor uses Microsoft Word’s “Track Changes” feature to make specific changes to your words and sentences. Going back to our military metaphor, the copy editor is like the Marines landing on the beach and getting face-to-face with the typos. When people talk about editors, the copy editor is usually who they have in mind. Proofreading (Army) The final editor is the proofreader. When your book is typeset, the words are laid out on the page exactly as they will appear on the pages of your book. But the typesetting process can introduce new errors. Additionally, as the words are laid out differently on the page, you and the proofreaders may see errors you previously missed. In our military metaphor, the proofreader is the Army defending against new typos that may sneak in. Proofreaders edit the final PDF of your book before it goes to the printer. Since they are working with a PDF, they don’t use comments or the Track Changes feature. Instead, they create a list of typos and where to find them. The proofreader’s edits say things like, “The third paragraph on page 6 is missing a comma before the word ‘but.'” It is a hassle to identify and fix typos at this stage. If the copy editor does a good job, the proofreader’s job is much easier. After beta readers and editors have read your book and provided input, the next group that gets to read is your advanced readers. Advanced Readers Advanced readers get the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of your book. Unlike beta readers, advanced readers are not giving feedback to improve the book. By the time advanced readers get their hands on the book, it is too late to make changes. They read and review your book to let future readers know what it’s like. Your book’s first few receives set the tone for subsequent reviews, and that’s why it’s so important to select your advanced readers carefully. Many traditional publishers outsource the selection of advanced readers to a third-party matchmaking service, and that is a huge mistake. These services choose reviewers randomly, and it leads to unnecessary negative reviews. The reviews often say something like, “I don’t like this kind of book,” and “This book didn’t change my mind.” It is hard to write such a good horror story that it converts someone to that genre. In fact, this episode was inspired by a listener who faced this very problem. She had spent several hundred dollars on an ARC service that connected reviewers with her book. Those reviewers left negative reviews because they didn’t like the fact that the book had religious themes. As she moved into her launch period, she was stuck with a two-star average review rating. The low review average kept people from buying the book, even though they were the kind of readers who would have loved it. She couldn’t convince strangers to read it because the first five people left negative reviews. Unnecessary poor reviews had torpedoed the book she spent years writing. She would have been better off not sending out ARCs at all! Sending out ARCs, when done strategically, can be very effective. ARCs are a particularly good tool for helping you generate media buzz about your book. But you need to make sure your book has a chance at a positive review with the reviewer. If that reviewer has never given a positive review to your kind of book, don’t expect that you’ll be the exception. If you are launching a new BBQ restaurant, don’t invite vegetarian food bloggers to review your restaurant. Maybe your barbeque is so good, it will convince vegetarians to start eating meat again, but it’s not likely. Some authors skip sending out ARCs and instead create a book launch team to generate those early positive reviews. The book launch team strategy almost guarantees that your book will launch with a five-star average rating. Creating a launch team is a technique we cover in the Book Launch Blueprint. For some authors, the Book Launch Team is the most fun and rewarding part of launching a book. If you’ve written your book, incorporated feedback from people in your target audience, and if you are willing to hire editors to polish it, you’re ready to learn how to launch your book. To give your book the best possible start as you release it into the world, our 2021 Book Launch Blueprint course is open for registrations until April 9, 2021. Class begins Monday, April 12, 2021, so register today. Sponsor The Book Launch Blueprint is a course that will make the hardest part of your career a heck-of-a-lot easier. For many of us, writing, editing, cover design, and publishing the book isn’t nearly as intimidating as launching it! The Book Launch Blueprint course is now open for registration, and we only offer it once a year. You’ll get comprehensive teaching on every element of launching your book, as well as exclusive access to our private online group where you can talk to the instructors and pick their brains about every aspect of the course. Who are the instructors? Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: Professor of book marketing, former agent and publishing Marketing Director, and host of the longest-running book marketing podcast.James L. Rubart: Bestselling, Christy Hall of Fame author and copywriting guru. Registration closes April 9, 2021, and the course begins Monday, April 12. If you’re committed to seeing your next book reach its maximum sales potential, register today. Featured Patron Jess Lederman, author of Hearts Set Free Yura sets out with her son Luke on an epic cross-country quest to win back her husband—and destroy the woman who stole his heart. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. Encouragement You may have noticed we missed an episode a few weeks ago due to what Texans are calling “Snowvid,” also known as Snowstorm Uri. We got hit with a snowstorm like we’ve never seen before. It hit my family particularly hard. My grandmother lost power in her house in the early stages of the storm. She got up in the dark and tripped and fell and couldn’t get up. She spent the night on the floor of her cold house. The next morning her caretaker came to check on her and got her into bed and covered with blankets. We thought she was doing better, but about 36 hours later, she passed away. Since it was the beginning of the snowstorm, we weren’t able to gather as a family to grieve. We weren’t even able to drive because the storm shut everything down. It was a very difficult week, and I just couldn’t produce an episode that week. Most Texans lost power for at least a little bit. A friend of a friend bundled up in blankets and froze to death in his bed. The death toll seem to be worse than the media is reporting. I know at least two people in our circle who died in the storm. Fortunately, at my house, we had water and power the whole time. We are very thankful for that. My grandmother had a big impact on my life. She inspired my viral blog post and the book I wrote and dedicated to her. She was an encouragement to me in my writing. Occasionally she even listened to my “internet radio show,” as she called it. At 92 years old, she used Facebook, email, and FaceTime. She was a very tech-savvy person. She was a feisty, spunky, tell-it-like-it-is lady who had no filter and said what she thought. Maybe that’s where I get it from. Scooter Umstattd will be missed. I’m thankful we survived. I’m thankful the weather is better, and I’m thankful for you, our listeners, and the opportunity to host this podcast. The post How to Get More 5-Star Reviews appeared first on Author Media.
39 minutes | 2 months ago
The 2021 Book Launch Blueprint is Here!
The most important days of your book’s life are the first 30 days after release. It is during these 30 days that book stores decide whether to keep your book on the shelves or not. If you have a strong launch, book stores won’t just keep you on the shelves— they will order more copies. If you have a bad launch, even the books you think you sold will be returned unsold. Why are book launches so important? If you’re traditionally published, you’re expected to know how to launch and to take a significant role in your publisher’s marketing plan. If you come to your publisher with a strong plan, they are more likely to back it up with marketing money and efforts of their own. This is a great way of convincing your publisher your book is worth extra investment. If you’re publishing as an indie, getting the word out about your book is 100% on your shoulders. The more people you can get talking about your book all at once, the more people will hear about your book. It is really hard to get people talking about your 2-year-old book, but everyone wants to hear about your brand new book. So don’t waste those first precious days! That is why we are excited to announce that registration for the Book Launch Blueprint is open. Registration closes Friday, April 9. The course starts on Monday, April 12, 2021. What has made the Book Launch Blueprint so popular: Cohort Model We all go through each day of the Book Launch Blueprint together. When soldiers march together they can walk farther and faster, and are less tired when they arrive. The same is true for authors learning how to launch their books. You are way more likely to complete the course and put it into practice going through the course with everyone else each day. This is why registration closes on April 9, 2021. We want to make sure everyone is able to start together. The Perfect Blend of Pre-Recorded Sessions and Live Q&A Each morning a pre-recorded video pops up along with some homework. Then, later in the day either Thomas or Jim have office hours to answer your questions live. By the end of the day, you not only know the material, but you have a plan to put it into practice for your book specifically. Your Own Custom Blueprint Each day you get a handout you use to build your own book launch blueprint. We provide the cooking classes and the pantry and help you develop the perfect launch recipe for your book. We also answer any questions you have while you are in the kitchen. This makes the daily homework fun because it is tailoring the strategies to you and your book. The course is fun! It is not uncommon for students to go through the course again just because they enjoyed it so much the first time. Speaking of which… Grads Who Go Through the Course Again Returning grads give insight and examples of what they did. They share what worked and what didn’t. You can tap into their experience. So in a sense, you’re getting not only instruction from Thomas and Jim but from many others as well. Community Going through the course with other authors is not only fun, but also helpful long-term. It is not uncommon for authors to join each other’s launch teams and encourage each other even after the course completes. In addition, other authors will give you feedback and ideas on your blueprint as you develop it. Buy once, keep forever. Once you have access to this course, you have it forever. This includes all future upgrades, updates, and improvements. Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement The path of an author is not an easy path. We’ve found the students to be highly supportive of each other. It is dangerous to go alone! The course works! Authors who go through this course and put it into practice have significantly better launches than they would have had without the course. This is a course that pays for itself in boosted book sales. It is fun to watch in the months after the course as students report on which bestseller statuses they hit. What has changed in the 2021 Book Launch Blueprint? Each year we update and improve the Book Launch Blueprint. If you are a previous student, you get all the new goodies and upgrades for free! Here are the improvements we’ve made to the 2021 Book Launch Blueprint. Office Hours Every Week Day We experimented with this last time, and decided to make it an official part of the course. Each day, Thomas or Jim will hold live office hours where you can ask them questions and hear their answers for the other authors going through the course. These office hours were a huge hit in our experiments last year. Shifting from 3 weeks to 4 weeks. Wednesdays are now catch-up days where Jim and Thomas will host a combined office hours. However, there will be no new homework. New Module We have a whole new module called “From Tech-Timid to Tech-Savvy” which will be all about how to become a techie author. Updated Modules The Branding and Copywriting modules are getting completely overhauled, updated, and improved. The launch team module will be getting some updates as well. New Bonus All Students will be getting a copy of Thomas’ How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest course. This course normally costs $249 and is in addition to all of the other bonuses. Course Overview Week #1: Ready Monday: Session #1 How to Sell YourselfTuesday: Session #2 Branding (Completely revamped in 2021!)Wednesday: Catch Up & Combined Office HoursThursday: Session #3 From Tech-Timid to Tech-Savvy: How to Master Any Technology (New module!)Friday: Session #4 How to Maximize the Impact of Your Website Week #2: Set Monday: Session #5 How to Build a Rabid Tribe of FansTuesday: Session #6 How to Create a Launch Team (Updated for 2021)Wednesday: Catch Up & Combined Office HoursThursday: Session #7 How to Use Email to Launch Your BookFriday: Session #8 How to Write Bestselling Marketing Copy (Completely revamped in 2021!) Week #3: Go Monday: Session #9 How to Create a Media Editorial CalendarTuesday: Session #10 How to Write Winning Content for Guest Posts and ArticlesWednesday: Catch Up & Combined Office HoursThursday: Session #11 How to Use GoodReads To Find Your Readers and Sell More BooksFriday: Session #12 How to Use Amazon to Sell More Books Week #4: Run Monday: Session #13 How to Use Marketing Psychology to Create a Frenzy For Your BookTuesday: Session #14 How to Have a Wildly Successful Launch DayWednesday: Catch Up & Combined Office HoursThursday: Session #15 How to Nail Media InterviewsFriday: Session #16 How to Grow Momentum During The Next 30 Days How much does the course cost? If you hire a PR firm to launch your book, it costs $3,000 to $10,000 and they tend to focus mostly on getting you booked on radio shows and podcasts. This course covers how to get media bookings, but it covers so more than that. The course is not $10,000 or even $3,000. Or even the $1,200 – $1,400 we’ve seen similar courses price at. The Book Launch Blueprint is an investment of just $749 or 12 payments of $79. Bonuses: How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest course. ($249)MyBookTable Pro ($49)MyBookProgress Pro ($19)Art of Persuasion Course ($49)The Ultimate Crowdfunding Course for Authors ($99)Jim’s first three novels, Rooms, Book of Days, and The Chair. ($30)Total Bonus Value: $482 When does it start? Registration closes April 9, and Day 1 of the class is April 12. Featured Patron Peter DeHaan, Author of 52 Churches Peter and his wife visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This book is their story. Discover more about Jesus’s church, the people who go there, and just how vast our practices and worship are. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. The post The 2021 Book Launch Blueprint is Here! appeared first on Author Media.
43 minutes | 2 months ago
How to Improve Your Author Website with Carla Hoch
It’s no use having a good website if no one visits it. How can you create an author website that readers want to visit and tell their friends about? Carla Hoch is the creator of FightWrite.net, a website dedicated to helping authors write better fight scenes. She’s also written Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes. In 2019, she asked me how she could improve her website. After implementing my recommendations, her website traffic increased from 2,000 visits per month to 7,000 every month. I recently interviewed Carla about her success, and she shared how and why her website grew. Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: When we first started this podcast, the standard advice for authors was that they didn’t need a website because they could easily create a free Google Plus page. We were fighting that bad advice back then, and we’re still encouraging authors to have their own websites today. What was your website like back in the day? Carla Hoch: Well, let’s just say that you looked at it, and you sighed. First, you told me I needed to get off Blogspot. I started with a free Blogspot website because I had no idea if anybody would read it. I wrote a couple of posts, and about 100 people read them. I thought, “I am famous. There’s nothing better!” After a few years of blogging there, I had an interview with you, and afterward, you answered a lot of my website questions. But when you told me to get off Blogspot, I told you I didn’t want to invest money because I didn’t know if it would work. Well, you assured me, “It works.” So the first step was just getting my own domain name on a WordPress site. Thomas: Because you owned the domain FightWrite.net, but it was redirecting people to your Blogspot website. You shifted to WordPress, and now WordPress is running on your domain FightWrite.net, which makes it easier for people to remember your domain name. When you were on Blogspot, people saw your FightWrite.net domain for a split second, but then it turned into a Blogspot URL when it redirected. If people wanted to share that post, they had to share a Blogspot link rather than a FightWrite.net link. But now, your readers are sharing a FightWrite.net link, which means they’re more likely to remember the name of your website, and it will be easier for them to return to it. What other changes did you make to the look of your website? Carla: When we talked, I took copious notes, and you gave me homework. I also watched your course through the Christian Writers Institute, and I took copious notes there, too. Then I started following your advice. I contracted with Stormhill Media, a website design group that is well acquainted with the needs of writers. When they asked what I was looking for, I picked up all the notes I’d taken, and I knew exactly what to tell them. I wanted three callout buttons. I had an outline of exactly what I wanted the menu to look like. Everything I told them was 100% based on the advice you gave me. I bought a website overhaul, and my site became a place for people to read about writing fight scenes. It also became my digital desk, so to speak. You want my book? It’s on my website. You want to take a class with Writer’s Digest? Boom. Here’s a link to my website. You want to read more about a topic? Here’s my blog link. You want all the other ancillary information for FightWrite? It’s on my website. It became a one-stop-shop versus an information platform. Thomas: The strategy is to make your website the center of the wheel. It’s the hub, and all the spokes point to your website. Your courses, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and business cards direct people to your website because that’s your space. You control what’s on your website. Some authors want to send folks directly to their Amazon page, Facebook Page, or Google Plus Page, but you don’t control those spaces. Amazon, Facebook, or Google can change a URL at any time, and suddenly, the URL you just printed on 500 business cards is no longer valid. When you send people to a piece of digital land you don’t own, the owner of that space controls what people experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re malicious, but you have no say about their content. Thomas: We did a whole episode about how people can hijack an author’s Amazon page, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you do happen to get kicked off Facebook or Amazon, having your own website means you have a place where you can explain your side of the story and give people another way to buy your book. Carla: Absolutely. After the pandemic hit, I learned that not everybody likes shopping at Amazon. Not everybody uses a Kindle. Some people use different ereaders and shop at other online retailers. It’s great to be able to offer several buying options on your own website. I’ve noticed how the same concept helps with my podcast when people ask where they can find it. It’s available in many places, but instead of listing them, I just say, “Here’s the link for my podcast page on my website. You can find all the locations there.” When they visit that page, they can choose their preferred podcast platform. People like having options. Thomas: Speaking of options, at the top of your website, you have three big buttons that say, “Buy the Book,” “Read the Blog,” and “Get in Touch.” It’s clear. You’re not asking people to decipher your website or hoping they’ll find their way to your book. Your invitations are very clear. Authors who don’t have a published book can still copy this technique, because they still have something readers want. If you’re not published, your buttons might say, “Sign up for the newsletter,” “Get a free novella,” or “Download the tip sheet.” You have many options, but you need to have a clear call to action on your website. Carla: Your call to action should be front and center and require as few clicks as possible. If it requires more than two clicks, you’re going to lose people. On my podcast page, visitors click once to view the page and a second time to decide which podcast platform they want to use. Don’t ask your visitors to click, click, click, because they just won’t do it. Thomas: None of us like to spend 20 minutes trying to decipher where to go on a website. If you’re in a hurry or trying to squint through a small phone screen, you want the steps to be clear. Treat your readers as you want other webmasters to treat you. Make things easy and clear. Certain readers visit your website to find out how to buy the book. They want a list of places your book is available, and they want to know which versions and formats exist. If it’s easy to click and buy your book, you will make that reader very happy. Carla: I’m so glad you mentioned looking at something on a mobile phone. Always look at the mobile version of your webpages. The desktop view is often different than the mobile view. Check out both versions to make sure it’s not wonky. If it is, you’ll need to change some things. You also need to look at the SEO, and I’m going to let you explain that. Thomas: SEO is the process of making your website easy for people to find. I just recorded an episode titled Search Engine Optimization for Author Websites, where we walk you through the most important ways to improve your website SEO. For most author websites, including yours, Carla, the best thing to concentrate on is the meta title and the SEO description. When somebody searches on Google or Bing, the title is the big, blue, bold text at the top of the results. The description is the little paragraph underneath it. The words you put in your title are the words that appear on a Google search results page. But it’s also one of the only places you can put those keywords that Google pays attention to. Right now, when I go to FightWrite.net, it says “homepage-fightwrite.” Since FightWrite.net is your brand, you should include that in your meta title or SEO description. You should also include the keyword “fight scenes” because you help people write better fight scenes. Carla: Thanks for that tip! I first learned about SEO from a post I wrote for Writer’s Digest blog, and I’m still learning about it. I am the type of person who gets overwhelmed if I have too much going on around me. So just take it bit by bit. Start with the website. Then create a post. I guess my next step is SEO. Thomas: That is exactly the right mindset for maintaining a good website because you’re never going to have a perfect website. You’ll constantly be improving it. Having a website is like learning to play the guitar. When you start, you have these big, difficult learning spikes, but you learn to play the F chord. There’s a huge skill gap between people who have been playing for five weeks and five years. But even after you’ve played for five years, you can still get better. After you’ve played for 20 years, you can still improve. Even if you’ve been playing your whole life, you might go to a concert to hear somebody who’s better than you. If you want to play the guitar, you don’t give up when you discover someone is better than you. Be inspired by that person and allow their skill to encourages you to try and learn something new. It’s a difficult mindset shift for writers because it’s so different than writing a book. When you write a book, it has to be as close to perfect as possible because once you release it to the world, you can’t change it. Those copies will always be out there. When authors take that mindset to their website, they hide it behind a password until it’s perfect, but that’s not how websites work. You need to hit publish and never stop improving it. Carla: That’s what I did. I started the Blogspot site with no idea of how it was going to turn out. Over time, I learned. I looked at my Google analytics, and I could see which posts were doing better. If you have one area of your website that’s just killing it, investigate why, and look at the bounce rate. See how long people stay on that page. Make use of that information. And let me just pause and explain how proud I am that I even know what Google Analytics is because I certainly had no idea when I started. COVID changed all my analytics because people were home when they hadn’t been before. Now that people are going back to work, I’ve seen a shift in the more popular days and times. Thomas: COVID and the lockdowns changed a lot of behavior. Many websites got their primary traffic from people who were at work in front of a computer but not working. That’s why Cyber Monday is such a big deal. People are at work on their computers making purchases. Typically, people have Black Friday off, so they actually make fewer online purchases because they’re not in front of their work computer. How does WordPress compare to Blogspot as you’re writing new blog posts? Was it a painful transition? Did you even notice that it was different? Carla: Any time you’re new at anything, you’re not going to enjoy it as much. You don’t enjoy something until you gain some proficiency. Again, I am not a tech person, and there was a learning curve, but it wasn’t hard. WordPress is extremely user-friendly. Now, I had Stormhill Media design my site because my brand was growing so fast. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I needed their help. But you don’t have to hire someone. There are a ton of videos on YouTube that will talk you through each step. Stormhill Media gave me tutorials so that I could do basic upkeep. If I can use WordPress, you can use WordPress, I assure you. Thomas: The course you took on author websites has been upgraded. It now has step-by-step videos by me on how to build your own WordPress website from scratch. I don’t cover how to move from Blogspot to WordPress, so you might need help outside of my course for that. But if you’re building a site from scratch, I cover every single step, and the best part is, it’s a free course called “How to Build an Amazing Author Website.” Carla: Moving from Blogspot to WordPress was easy. I believe there’s a plugin that helps you do it. If you have an extensive blog that you want to index, you may need some outside help. I sure did. But now, every time I post, it immediately and automatically gets indexed alphabetically. It required some finagling, and even the folks at Stormhill needed to think on it for a while. In my case, I had to have an index because I started teaching classes for Writer’s Digest. Part of my contract with Writers Digest required me to have a link on my landing page that sent people to my class. With Blogspot, that wasn’t possible. If you find yourself in a situation like that, reach out to an expert. They don’t have to build the whole thing, but they can help you troubleshoot or get started. Don’t get sticker shock. It does cost money, but it is something you can deduct from your taxes. Thomas: Part of the transition of becoming a professional rather than a hobbyist is presenting yourself professionally. The primary way you do that in 2021 is through your website, especially while a pandemic is raging. People aren’t making judgments about your professionalism based on your wardrobe right now. Their first impressions are based on your website. Invest your wardrobe budget in building a professional website. A mindset was fostered about 10 years ago that said things on the Internet should be free. At that time, people didn’t realize that when you are not the customer, you’re the product that’s being sold. When you get things for free, you’re giving up your privacy, time, brand, and control. When you’re not the customer, you don’t have influence. You can’t go to Facebook and demand a change. You can’t even ask Amazon to change even though you have a business relationship with them. It’s important for authors to understand that it’s good to spend money building and maintaining a website. For some people, that means getting a job that will help support your writing career. There are many ways to make money in the author world before your book comes out. You can edit for other authors or work as a virtual assistant. Those are both great ways to earn money and learn. When you work with an author who’s farther along in their journey, you get paid to learn how to do certain tasks before you need to do them for yourself. Carla: It is absolutely fine to admit you don’t know jack-squat about technology or social media. Start there. When you pay for help, you assign greater value to it. That’s one reason writers ought to charge for their writing. People in your life will ask you to write something, and you have to pick and choose. Schools around here know I’m a writer, and they often ask if I can write a newsletter or other articles. At some point, you have to decide to charge for your writing because you’re viewed differently when you do. Your time and skill are valued when people have to pay. Do you agree with that, Thomas? Thomas: I think that’s a transition every author has to go through. First, you need to do it for free to practice because the carpenter doesn’t just build the house. The house builds the carpenter. It’s especially true of public speaking, but it’s also true for writing. You just need to practice writing for an audience, and you may not be ready to charge for it. But as you get established, and your writing improves, you can transition. Once you have the experience, a portfolio, or a book-sales history, you don’t have to do it for free anymore. What you charge is determined by the demand for your time and skill. I spoke with a photographer who spent a lot of money on marketing and advertising, and he let the demand for his photography dictate his price. When he got busy, he didn’t stop the marketing. He just raised his prices. He was a top-notch photographer, and he made a lot of money because he was aggressive with marketing, and he was good at his craft. He charged hundreds of dollars for a headshot because he was well-known and skilled. Even though people could get a $30 headshot at J.C. Penny’s, they were willing to spend hundreds with him because he was great at his job. As an author, once you have people asking you for more guest posts than you have time to write, then you can start getting choosy and put up those paywalls as a barrier. I think you have to earn the right to charge. Carla: People value what they pay for. If you are considering paying for a website, you must ask what the return will be. For me, the return was 100% valid. I’m very thankful for it. You also need a way for your visitors to get to know you personally on your website. Readers want to read your book, but they also want to know you a little bit. I have found that the more people know me, the more books I sell. Thomas: When you build your website well, you can allow people to get to know you if they want, and you can allow people to buy the book and leave if they want. You have a lot of flexibility in directing how they navigate the website, which again comes from the fact that you have control. You can incorporate those elements where you want to incorporate them. What was the return on your website investment? Tell us about your results. Your traffic increased 300%. You won a CAN Crown Award for author websites. Have you seen any impact on book sales? Your newsletter? Your courses? Carla: Yes, absolutely in book sales. Mine is a niche book, teaching writers how to write fight scenes. First, it’s for a small audience of writers. Second, it’s for a writer who has some type of action or violence in their story. It’s also about injuries, but the fact is, it’s a niche within a niche. When I sold five books, I was just as ecstatic as I was when 100 people read my first blog post. With my new website, I have been shocked at the number of book sales I’ve made. When you transition from Blogspot to WordPress, there is some lag time because you have to redirect folks. Stormhill Media told me that if we built it, they would come. And wow. It was out of nowhere that I started getting actual visits and not just views. There’s a difference between views and visits. The visits went from 2,000 to nearly 7,000. Then COVID hit, and the numbers have been up and down since then. Part of the variation is because I am not posting as often as I used to. If you want a blog people will visit, you must post new content regularly. Readers need to know when you will publish that content. Part of the drop in traffic has been due to a lack of content. But it’s also because I’ve been involved in so many different things lately. And I’ve been involved in other activities because I have a great website that tells people what I do how to contact me. It makes me look super legit. Thomas: When we want to know if someone is the real deal, we check their website. It’s what we do. Your up-and-down numbers are very common for a blog-based website because some posts resonate more than others. We recorded an episode on the Facebook changes a couple of weeks ago. The episode was popular, but the blog post version of that episode went viral on Facebook, which is ironic. It was a huge hit. We got tons of traffic because that episode came out the same week Facebook banned all journalists in Australia. It was serendipity. We did not plan for the episode to release during that event. In fact, I don’t know if it had even happened yet when I was recording because I didn’t reference Australia in that episode or blog post. But it caused many people to realize that Facebook can make major changes that have ramifications for authors. Carla: I’ve noticed those changes. I used to share a blog post on my personal page, and people shared it everywhere. Now, very few people even see the posts I share. Thomas: Yep. Bloggers are getting less traffic. You can still get traffic. I proved that with my post about Facebook’s changes, which is really funny because the article was about how Facebook doesn’t work as well as it used to for authors. But it still worked for that post. How can you use your existing content to create new content? That’s actually an idea that you can steal, Carla. That blog post was a podcast episode. We took the podcast’s transcript as interpreted by AI, and we edited it for a blog post version. The blog version isn’t a verbatim transcription, but it’s the same material presented as a blog post. If you do that with your podcast, it will rank better on Google because Google prefers a blog post to a podcast transcript. It also reaches a different audience because some people prefer to listen, and some prefer to read. It’s also easier to share a blog post with your friends than it is to share podcasts. If you were to move your podcast away from Libsyn and switch to Blubrry, your podcast could live inside your website, and every episode could be a blog post. That’s what we do. There’s a real advantage for traffic and engagement when you create several versions of the same material, but there’s also a cost. It’s work to turn that transcript into a blog post. But it’s less work than writing a new post from scratch. Carla: Is the reverse true as well? Would it be redundant for me to start making podcasts out of my blog posts? Would it be redundant for me to start making podcasts out of my blog posts? Thomas: Not at all. In fact, many Novel Marketing episodes came from our most popular blog posts. When I do a solo episode, I write a blog post version first, and then I record it as a podcast. I’m not reading it word-for-word, but I have detailed notes when I’m recording. I do a lot of research for my solo episodes. I want to make sure the links lead to the right places, especially when I’m talking about something potentially controversial or news-related, like the Facebook episode. I do that work ahead of time. For an interview episode, we lean harder on that transcript and turn it into a blog post. It really has made a difference, and it’s reaching totally different people. People either prefer to listen or read, and we’ve effectively doubled our audience. Carla: I’ve grown my audience by offering different formats as well. I was initially hesitant to do videos because I thought that if people could watch a video of me teaching, they’d never want to invite me to speak in person. But you pointed out that when you listen to a musician on the radio, you still want to attend their concert. Because of your advice, I now have a video series with Writer’s Digest. It’s why I’ve done IGTV and YouTube. Thomas: You’re reaching the audience that watches the video. Some people listen to podcasts, some read blog posts, and some watch videos. The more you control your website, the easier it is to incorporate all three formats. If you have a YouTube channel, you can embed those videos on your blog and your website. It’s the hub that connects all the different things. It’s not a surprise that you’ve seen your traffic increase because this strategy works. You’re not cheating an algorithm. It’s just a solid traffic-building strategy. You’re creating a better experience for humans, and it’s easier for them to share your content. How would you encourage writers? Thomas: Do you have any final tips or encouragement for somebody who feels intimidated by having a website? Carla: If you don’t think you have what it takes to do something, just keep doing it until you have what it takes. If you’re waiting on perfection, you’re going to wait forever. Don’t wait to be a master before you start fighting. That’s just not how it works. You do not become a black belt on your first day. You start as a white belt. You’re not going to become a black belt if you stand on the edge of the mat and watch. Get out there and make mistakes. There’s a podcast and a book called Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. He interviews famous people and gets their tips on success. He asks every guest, “What was your best failure?” It’s a great question. My best failure is being bad at what I do. I mean, I’m a good writer, but I’m not great with social media. I had to see how bad I was at social media and embrace it and get some help. It turns around, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Even if it does happen overnight, you can’t be discouraged by the ups and downs. A week of minimal sales isn’t a good reason to quit being a writer. Next week you may sell 25 books, and that’s just how it works. Blog traffic will go up and down with different posts. And by the way, if you’re a blogger, people are going to tell you, “Blogs are dead.” But I want you to know that my blog has been “dead” for nearly six years now. I don’t listen to those people. If you enjoy blogging, who cares if anybody reads it? You’re getting joy from it. If you’re enjoying it, people are going to read it. It is terrifying to hit “publish,” but go ahead and do it. Sure, people will send you emails saying you misspelled a word or you’re wrong about something. But that’s good because it shows you people are reading. You can disable comments if you want to, but more comments mean you have an engaged audience. My main piece of advice is just to do it already. There is no worst-case scenario. I mean, we all want to write a bestseller, but the odds of that are slim. I am five-foot-two, and I am the size of a strapping sixth-grade boy. When I was in middle school, women’s basketball had just become an Olympic sport, and I wanted to be a professional basketball player. Obviously, that didn’t come to fruition, but it doesn’t hurt to want something that doesn’t happen because it leads to other things. Don’t wait to be the best because you’ll never start. You have to ask people for help if you want to get better. That’s my second piece of advice. Ask for help. Ego will get you nowhere immediately. If you are at a writer’s conference, reach out and ask people questions. I have never had one publishing professional tell me not to ask questions. I’m so glad I asked Thomas about my website because I would not be talking with you today if I hadn’t. And you know I’m going to work on my SEO as soon as we’re done here. You must be willing to show your work. Sometimes it will go awry. People might be critical of you and your site, but guess what? They’re critical because they saw it and read it. Thomas: You can only learn to ride a bike by climbing on and pedaling forward. Once you’re on the bicycle, listen to advice. The same is true for your author career. Sponsor 7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Course Learn how to build your own amazing author website even if you are not a techie person. You’ll learn to craft a website your readers will love. The best part? This course is 100% free. Students who have never built a website before discover that by the time they’ve completed this course, their own website is live on the internet. Sometimes they do it in a single day. I hope you will use my affiliate links, but even if you don’t, the course is yours to keep at no cost to you. In this course you will get: Step-by-step video guide on how to get started with BluehostStep-by-step video guide on how to set up the Divi themeVideo tour of the WordPress dashboard7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Enroll for free here and get immediate access to the entire course The post How to Improve Your Author Website with Carla Hoch appeared first on Author Media.
42 minutes | 3 months ago
What the 2021 Facebook Changes Mean for Authors
When I was growing up, we had a book of business phone numbers called The Yellow Pages. It was delivered to our house every year. When new technology made printing yellow pages cheaper and easier, we received three different yellow pages business directories from three different companies in a single year. Then, the yellow pages stopped coming. The same technology that made printing yellow pages easy and profitable eventually killed the yellow pages. Why look up a phone number in a year-old book when you can search Google and get a current contact number plus reviews? The same thing happened to the typewriter. The electronic typewriter was a huge development in printing and communication, and some models even had a built-in spell checker! But the same electronic technology that made typewriters better and cheaper ended up killing them off altogether. The best days for a piece of technology often come right before the worst days. As an author, you don’t want to be caught printing yellow pages when the world is about to abandon that technology for the next big development. Facebook is about to undergo a major transition. They’ve made big announcements about the changes they are going to make to the platform. In addition, Apple and Google have also made announcements that will change how Facebook works. Facebook in 2021 will not be like Facebook in 2020, and that’s not speculation. The CEOs of all three companies have publicly announced the changes to their investors in their corporate earnings calls. These changes will have massive consequences for authors, and you need to know what’s coming. You can either surf the waves of change or be sucked underwater by them. The best way to surf the waves of change is to know they’re coming. To understand what these changes mean for authors and how you can stay afloat, you need to know where they came from. Let’s start with a short history of Facebook Marketing. A Short History of Facebook Marketing for Authors I first got on Facebook in 2005 when it was only for college students. At first, Facebook was just a list of profiles, like a list of “About” pages. You would upload your photo, your class schedule, and your interests. Since you were only allowed to post one photo, many students changed their photos every day. I remember walking through the computer lab seeing guys at every computer scrolling through pages of photos of their female classmates. In those days, it really was a book of faces. In 2011, Facebook added the timeline feature. Students could post updates on how they were feeling, and they could view a timeline of other student updates. Around that same time, Facebook added Groups. Initially, these groups correlated with existing campus groups. I was in a Facebook group of football fans at my school and a group for members of my small group at church. Many Facebook groups were political from the very start, so of course, the local chapter of college republicans had a Facebook group. About half the Facebook groups I belonged to in college were political. But politics in those days was a little bit different. Some of the most popular groups on Facebook at that time were committed to a cause. Protesting Facebook’s new newsfeed feature Mourning Pluto’s loss of planetary statusProtesting allowing high school students on Facebook. (We all knew that letting our younger siblings get on Facebook would lead to something worse: Our moms getting on Facebook. Perish the thought!) In those days, Facebook was also a dating app. When you added someone as a friend, you could also add how you became friends. Options included “had a class together” and “hooked up with,” among other options. Facebook advertising was limited. Ads were called “campus fliers,” and they were mainly a way to spread the word about campus activities. I liked it because, at my small, private university, it was the best way around the campus censors. If you wanted to post a paper flier in the student union for a campus activity, you had to get permission from the school. But that rule didn’t apply to Facebook’s campus fliers. I know it sounds strange now, but Facebook used to be a beacon of free speech. Eventually, Facebook opened to the public and later allowed companies to create “Fan Pages.” Fan Pages were a great way for authors to talk directly to their readers. If an author posted a status update or photo to her fan page, every single fan would get that post in their timeline. The more fans you had, the bigger your “platform” was. Publishers paid close attention to how many fans an author had on Facebook. The First Rise and Fall of Facebook Groups To promote the new fan pages, Facebook diminished groups until they were nearly impossible to find. I looked for the original “When I was your age, Pluto was a Planet” group that once had millions of members, and it looks like Facebook removed all but 26,000 members. But I suspect they removed all the members, and 26,000 people have rejoined the group. I found an archived article about the group, and this Wired article looking back on the group from 2007. In 2010, Facebook killed off these “Version Zero Groups.” If you were an author using a Facebook group to connect to your readers, your connection was severed. Your platform was gone. The groups feature was later reborn as a crippled version of its former self, and many groups were encouraged (or forced) to transform into pages. For years, the best way to interact with your readers was through a fan page. The Rise and Fall of Facebook Pages Facebook kept pushing pages and eventually dropped the word “fan” in favor of the word “like.” Instead of becoming a “fan” of a page, users “liked” the page. Around this time, they added a button to everything. Now users could click the iconic “like” button on posts, photos, webpages, and blog posts. Pages and profiles posted more and more content to the news feed. If you had 150 friends who posted twice each day and you “liked” 50 pages, you would have 400 pieces of content to see and sort through. That’s overwhelming! So, Facebook started to filter what users saw and didn’t see first. This gave Facebook more control over how users viewed the world. It also set them up for their billion-dollar platform change. At that time, the go-to Facebook marketing strategy was to buy ads to get more fans. Once someone liked your page, you could reach them for free with your posts. The more fans you bought with ads, the bigger your “platform” was. Then Facebook changed the algorithm. Suddenly a page’s posts didn’t go to all fans. It was only shown to some fans. First, it was 50%, then it was 25%, then 15%, then even less. I worked with clients who spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads to acquire fans, only to learn they could no longer reach all those fans for free. To reach all their fans, they would have to pay again to “Boost the Post” so all their fans could see it. Facebook made billions of dollars charging users to reach fans they had previously reached for free. Authors and companies had to pay between $5 and $500 to reach the fans they purchased through ads in the first place. Today, most users can scroll for a long time on Facebook without seeing a single organic post from a Facebook page. If you do see a post from a Facebook page, it’s likely an ad. The only way pages can reach their fans is to advertise. I did a couple of videos and a podcast episode about these changes in 2018. The Rise and Fall of Facebook Live Around 2016, Facebook started to push their live video feature called Facebook Live. Whenever you started a live video, Facebook would notify your fans that you were live. When your fans started watching your video, their friends would be notified that they were watching your video. For a while, Facebook Live was an incredibly effective way to reach new people. If you could be interesting and keep people watching, you could get hundreds or even thousands of people watching you. Facebook started slowly tuning down the feature in terms of how much promotion authors received inside the platform. Friends of fans stopped getting notifications, and the exposure declined from there. Then the Christchurch Mosque Shooting was streamed on Facebook Live. After that, Facebook tuned the feature so far down that you rarely see live videos on Facebook. Today, if you want people to watch your live video, you need to email them beforehand and get them to put it on their calendar, so they remember to tune in. The Second Rise and Fall of Facebook Groups After nerfing Facebook pages, Facebook decided to resurrect them with a whole new version of the groups feature. Groups grew in importance. So much so that Facebook’s 2020 Superbowl Ad was all about Facebook groups. For the last couple of years, an author’s go-to strategy was to create a group revolving around their book. In the group, authors could talk directly to readers, and readers could talk to each other. This brings us to 2021. When I log into Facebook, I see a few posts from friends, a bunch of ads from pages, and posts from groups. Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the upcoming changes to Facebook in his most recent earnings call. Zuckerberg said, “We can make it so that groups on Facebook are not just a feed and a place where you post some content.” But that is exactly how many authors use Facebook groups, and now it’s going away. The groups feature inside of Facebook will be overhauled and deprioritized inside Facebook. That means fewer readers will see group posts, especially group posts that don’t map to local, real-world groups. For instance, a Facebook group for “readers of knitting books” will get deprioritized more than the local “Austin, TX Knitting Club” group. What should authors do? First and most importantly, get the email addresses of your group members as quickly as possible. Remember, Facebook has destroyed the groups feature before. We don’t know how far they will go to disconnect you from your readers. The changes are already underway, so move quickly. You must be able to contact your readers regardless of what Facebook does. You need a reliable way to let readers know about your future books and about the future location of the group if you have to move. The icebergs are sinking. While you don’t know if your iceberg is sinking, you should jump off while the iceberg still floats. In addition to collecting email addresses, you may want to set up a MeWe group. MeWe is a rapidly growing alternative to Facebook. I have been stunned at the rapid growth in the Novel Marketing MeWe Group. MeWe works like Facebook worked in 2010. All posts are shown in chronological order, and there is no filter to determine what posts users see first. Many older authors have a bias against MeWe because the name sounds funny. If this is you, please realize that disliking the name is a bad reason to miss out on the next big social network. What I am doing about it. Currently, I manage three Facebook groups. I have one for Obscure No More, one for the Book Launch Blueprint, and one for Novel Marketing listeners. I plan to move all my groups to my own social network. I am tired of relying on unreliable, free platforms. The platform I’m considering is called Circle.so. Circle will allow me to create an Author Media community that is integrated with my courses. Circle’s Teachable integration is not available yet, but as soon as it is, I plan to start the migration. I do not recommend this move for most authors. Circle costs between $40 and $200 a month for the host. Once I launch my new groups, it won’t cost you anything to join, but it will cost me a monthly fee to maintain them. The Rise and Fall of Facebook Ads Facebook ads have come a long way since I bought campus fliers promoting Senior Skip Day. Over the years, I have managed roughly $100,000 in Facebook advertising spend. I have seen their advertising platform change. At first, the only way to target people was by targeting the pages they liked. An author who spent a small fortune getting Facebook fans actually helped her competitors because they could then target her fans on Facebook. These ads would be akin to, “If you like author X, you will love author Y.” But the tools available to advertisers now are far more robust. Facebook knows more about its users than they know about themselves, and that’s why Facebook ads are so eerily relevant. Facebook can accurately target users with ads because they use “lookalike audiences.” Anytime you target a “lookalike audience,” you are using Facebook’s neural network to find people who Facebook thinks will be a good fit for your ad. The more data Facebook has about a person, the more accurately it can predict their behavior and interests. In short, more data means more effective ads, which means more money for Facebook. Many indie authors discovered they could find and target readers of specific niches and turn a profit with Facebook advertising. Even some traditional authors have successfully used Facebook ads to grow their email lists by promoting their reader magnets. Facebook is not making major changes to its ads platform, but its ads will change regardless. Why? Because of Apple. Apple announced its plan to add significant privacy improvements to iOS. In short, Facebook will have to ask Apple device users for permission to track their online behavior, and most users will tap “no” when asked. In Silicon Valley, they say, “The devil is in the defaults.” By default, Facebook tracks the user’s behavior all over the web. Facebook knows what websites you visit and what you do on those websites. The best place to hide a dead body is behind the “advanced settings” link on a privacy page because no one ever goes there, and Facebook knows that. But the new version of iOS will present a popup asking users for specific permission to track them around the web. That tiny change will make all the difference. Most users are too intimidated by Facebook’s complicated privacy pages to dig through them and forbid web tracking. But if users are presented with a simple yes/no question, most of them will click “no.” Facebook is not a fan of these changes. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, had a hissy fit about them in the latest Facebook earnings call. Facebook does not want iPhone users to have a simple yes/no choice about whether Facebook can track what websites they visit. They want the privacy page to be intimidating because the more data Facebook collects, the more money they make. Facebook has been protesting Apple’s privacy changes in full-page newspaper ads. They’re waging a PR campaign against Apple. Their campaign argues, “These new privacy protections will hurt small businesses.” So far, the campaign has not worked, and Apple is standing strong for user privacy. Google saw how much goodwill Apple received from the announcement of this change, and now they have announced that they might implement similar changes to Android. That said, Google also makes money on user data and is less financially motivated to protect user privacy. At this point, it’s hard to say what Google will do for sure. While iPhone users make up a minority of users, they have an outsized impact for advertisers because they are wealthier and more educated. This is especially important for authors because it is believed that iPhone users buy more books than Android users. What These Changes Mean for Authors If you advertise your books on Facebook, you may have a harder time finding new readers. As Facebook collects less personal information about readers, your ads may become less effective and more expensive. If the costs of reader acquisition increase enough, it may become impossible to advertise on Facebook profitably. Facebook is expecting a 60% decrease in revenue for advertisers. Many advertisers may find that Facebook ads no longer work, and they will stop buying them. We can’t know for sure if that will happen, but Facebook is clearly terrified. That said, Facebook’s stock price is trading near all-time highs. Investors do not seem to believe Facebook’s advertising revenue will fall off a cliff. Who knows? Perhaps the changes won’t be as big as we think. Or perhaps the hedge funds are missing out on making a killing shorting Facebook. This change may hurt larger advertisers, and Facebook ads may end up getting cheaper for indie authors. As Yoda said, “Impossible to see the future is.” What can you do about ads? If you advertise on Facebook, track the performance of your ads carefully. Just because they were working last month doesn’t mean they will work this month. If you start losing money on your ads, Apple’s privacy changes may be the reason. On the other hand, your ads may become more profitable as other advertisers drop out. The only way to know what’s happening is to measure. I have a couple of episodes that will help you measure your data: How to Track Your Book PromotionHow to Use Marketing Data To Sell More Books Bottom Line I have been on Facebook since the beginning. For years, I’ve told authors that Facebook isn’t a good place to build a platform. Facebook is a foundation of constantly shifting sand. Authors who invest a lot of time and money in Facebook may see all their efforts turn to nothing overnight. Imagine an author who got into Version Zero of Facebook Groups. She invested countless hours inviting and interacting with readers, and suddenly it was gone. Imagine the author who spent a small fortune promoting her author page so she could reach her readers for free only to learn that reaching those same readers would now cost her $50 per post. Imagine the author who grew a following around her Facebook Live video streams only to see her viewer numbers drop off a cliff. She may have wondered if she had alienated her audience or didn’t have what it took to go live. But in reality, Facebook changed the algorithm due to an event on the other side of the world, and her platform was destroyed in the crossfire. Since the beginning of the Novel Marketing show, I’ve taught that authors should build their platforms on digital real estate they own. That means having their own website and email list. When I started recording episodes in 2013, authors were often told they didn’t need a website. A Facebook Page and Google+ Page were supposedly the only digital real estate an author needed. Facebook and Google+ were free, so why waste money on a website? Now, Google+ is gone, and Facebook is about to change again. My second episode was titled, “Do authors still need a website?” The answer is still yes. In that episode, we talked about the decline of MySpace and how websites and email were more effective and reliable ways to communicate with readers. It was true eight years ago, it is true now, and it will still be true eight years from now. Don’t build your platform on shifting sand! Don’t build your platform on Facebook. Sponsor 7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Course Learn how to build your own amazing author website even if you are not a techie person. You will learn how to craft the kind of website your readers will love. Best part? This course is 100% free. Students who have never built a website discover that by the time they’ve completed this course, their own website is live on the internet. Sometimes they do it in a single day. I hope you will use my affiliate links, but either way, the course is yours to keep at no cost to you. In this course you will get: Step-by-step video guide on how to get started with BluehostStep-by-step video guide on how to set up the Divi themeVideo tour of the WordPress dashboard.7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites Featured Patron Jennifer Lamont Leo author of Moondrop Miracle (Affiliate Link) During the Great Depression, a spoiled socialite must suddenly find a way to support herself and her child. Can she turn a homemade recipe for skin tonic into a livelihood? You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode with one person you think would find it helpful. Personal Update We are starting to get settled into our new home in Cedar Park, Texas. I have learned that moving with two toddlers is no joke. Moving is not a child-proof activity. There are lots of no-no things in the boxes. On the other hand, it has been fun to watch how magical moving is for a toddler. Our house is like an ever-evolving maze for the residents too small to step over the boxes. Each time they wake up from a nap, the box arrangement of the house seems to have changed. I have been hard at work on my new studio, and it’s almost finished. Once it is 100% finished, I may post a video for you. Right now, we are frozen in with the worst winter storm in my lifetime of living in the Austin, Texas area. The post What the 2021 Facebook Changes Mean for Authors appeared first on Author Media.
35 minutes | 3 months ago
10 Classic Branding Blunders Authors Make (and how to avoid them)
Authors with weak brands get ignored by publishers and readers alike. Learn how to avoid the 10 most common author branding mistakes. The post 10 Classic Branding Blunders Authors Make (and how to avoid them) appeared first on Author Media.
43 minutes | 3 months ago
How to Market Books to Homeschool Families with Tricia Goyer
These days, it seems everybody is homeschooling. Believe it or not, long before lockdowns forced many families to stay home, a large population of parents actually chose to homeschool their children. I grew up as that kind of homeschool student. While each homeschool family is different, most of them have one thing in common: a love for books. It is not uncommon for a homeschool family to own thousands of books. They don’t relegate their books to a single shelf. They have a room full of bookshelves. My mom now has two rooms in her house dedicated to books. While she has retired from homeschooling, her book-buying habit has continued. Homeschool often designate a significant portion of their family budget to purchase books. These are the kinds of readers authors want! So, how do you tap the homeschool market? How to get Homeschool Moms to Buy Your Book To find out, I interviewed USA Today Bestselling author and homeschool mom Tricia Goyer. She’s written 70 books while feeding and homeschooling her ten children. Tricia Goyer: You are exactly right about homeschool moms and bookshelves. I probably have 15 bookshelves filled with books. I’ve run out of rooms for bookshelves, and now I have the garage lined with boxes and crates of more books. I was looking for a book the other day and went through three bins in the garage, and I still didn’t find the one I was looking for. Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: You would think that selling books to homeschoolers would be easy. They’ve got a big budget for buying books because they need to own a lot of books. They don’t often have access to a school library filled with enough books for 500 students. So, a homeschool family basically creates their own library, and it’s shared between five to ten children. And yet, selling to homeschoolers seems to be a mystical, difficult challenge for many authors. Most authors have no penetration into the homeschool market. Why is the homeschool world so hard to reach? Tricia: First, most homeschool families are very conservative. They’re looking for a specific type of book. The good news is that if you have the type of book they’re looking for, they’re going to buy everything you have. They form their own little groups or huddles, so you have to learn where to connect with them. When they find something they love, they will tell all their homeschool friends about it. They love buying every book by their favorite authors. But you must know where they’re gathering and how to connect with them. Thomas: We recently talked about literary fiction on the podcast. The golden chalice for a literary fiction author is when their book becomes required reading in schools. There’s a big conference for English teachers, and it publishes a huge catalog of books teachers can use in their classrooms. Some authors think that their presence in that catalog would give them credibility with homeschool teachers, but it actually has the opposite effect. There’s a lot of distrust between the two groups. There may be less animosity now, but when I was a homeschool student, we felt persecuted. We hid from the police. At that time, police officers, garbage collectors, and mail carriers didn’t know what the laws were, and they’d call the truant officer when they saw kids at home on a school day. Children have been pulled from their homes because their parents were homeschooling. So, if public school teachers endorse your book, it’s actually a mark against an author in the homeschool market. Is there one large homeschool conference or are there many? Tricia: Homeschooling tends to be regional, but there are some big organizations. Teach Them Diligently has a conference in six different states. The Great Homeschool Conventions also span multiple states. But most states have their own state convention, and you’ll be able to find it by searching online. These are huge conventions. I was supposed to speak at a conference in Florida last year before the pandemic hit. They normally have 8,000-10,000 families in attendance. That’s not 10,000 people. That’s 10,000 families. The Florida conference draws people from all over because families can attend the convention and then go to Disney World to make a fun trip out of it. Those families come to the convention to buy books. I’ve spoken at many of these conferences. Sometimes speakers will teach on homeschooling, but they cover a wide variety of topics, including how to write a novel and teaching children about exercise. Speakers also have tables where they can sell books and resources. If you’re not a speaker, you can still pay for a vendor table. All the vendor tables are set up in a huge convention hall. While many big book conventions aren’t happening anymore, they are still happening in the homeschool market. If I’m not speaking, I’ll buy a booth, set up a couple of tables, and bring at least one assistant with me. We are busy the whole time because people want to make sure they visit every table. They want to know about the books. Usually, these are three-day conferences. On Friday and Saturday, people are mostly just looking. By Sunday, they’ve figured out what they want to buy, and they will go back to the booth to make a purchase. It’s important to have a presence at those conferences. Even before I started speaking, I found that the price of a vendor table usually paid off. First, you get your initial customers, but they’re also loyal customers. When they join your email list, you can continue to connect with them throughout the year. The next year, they’ll come back to you. Often, someone will buy a book to check me out. The next year, they’ll buy five books, and the following year they’ll come and say, “My child loves your books! You’re our favorite author.” Then they’ll want to buy more books. Once you get connected with homeschoolers, they are faithful readers. Thomas: Are you selling books so fast that you need an assistant at your book table to help you make transactions? Tricia: Yes. Absolutely. Thomas: In most industries, trade shows don’t work very well for making sales. Even before the pandemic, trade shows were becoming a less valuable marketing strategy because people weren’t coming to make purchases. They would come to your table to look, and then they would buy it from Amazon instead. Trade shows ended up being showrooms for Amazon. That is not the case for homeschooling. The big conventions are often the main social event of the year. My wife was homeschooled, and her father helped run the main homeschool conference here in Austin, TX. A solid strategy for selling books is to speak at the conference. When you speak, people will connect with you. The showroom is big, and you won’t be the only author there. If you can pick a topic that will resonate with a homeschool market, they will visit your table, and you will sell books. After a time or two at a homeschool convention, you’ll start to learn about the people and their vernacular. You’ll find out they expect very modest clothing. Don’t wear anything super edgy or too trendy. Homeschoolers often gather regionally. Being popular in one region doesn’t necessarily make you popular in the nearby region because there many regional differences. I used to sell at homeschool conventions. In fact, my first business was an audiobook business for homeschoolers. We made audiobooks and sold them at homeschool conferences. I learned that Alaska’s homeschool conference is one of the best conferences to attend because Alaska is one of the few states that subsidize homeschooling. When parents walk into that convention, they have money in their pocket, and if they don’t use it, they lose it. You can sell a lot of books at the Alaska convention. What are some tips for having a good booth at a homeschool book fair? Tricia: Arrange your booth so that people don’t have to walk into it. They like to be able to approach it without feeling like you’re going to jump on them. We set a table in front with all the books displayed so they can see the covers. They’re just getting to know you, and walking into a booth feels like making a commitment, so I make my booth approachable and my books accessible. I display all my books on little racks with signage about specials. I also put a simple newsletter sign up sheet on the table. They write their name and email address to sign up for my newsletter, and I tell them we draw for a $50 gift card at the end of the conference. Probably 90% of the people sign up because they want to get to know you. They want to know more about you, and the newsletter is a great way for them to do that. We also display a stack of books they can pick up and touch, and I communicate with them as soon as they approach. “How are you doing? Your kids are adorable. What grades do you have? Would you like to sign up for my newsletter?” Once you start the interaction, they love getting to know you. When I was just getting started speaking at conventions, I ended up getting a huge discount from my publisher on one of my books that was going out of print. I think I bought them for a dollar each. That year at the convention, I gave a free novel to everyone who came to my booth. It was great because many came back the next day and said, “My child was up all night reading your book. She loved it and told me to buy another one.” Once you get one book or a sample of your writing into their hands, they can see if their kids are interested in it. You often see kids sitting in the halls reading with piles of books beside them. If the parents are readers and reading is promoted in their home, the kids are readers too. If you get their kids excited about the books, you can guarantee the parents are going to be back buying more books from you. Thomas: It’s not uncommon for the children to outnumber the adults in the room at these conventions. Tricia: In my workshops, there will be at least as many kids as adults. Sometimes double the number of kids. They sit on the floors and in the aisles. Kids are everywhere, and they’re all reading. Often the kids will come up and want their pictures taken with me because I’m an author. When you’re at a regular book convention, bookstore owners see authors all day and night. Seeing an author isn’t special. But at the homeschool conference, kids think it’s great to meet an author. They ask how I wrote the book and how I did my research. Homeschoolers are curious. They want to know about everything. I tell them about my interviews with World War II veterans and what it was like to be inside a bomber. I will have a conversation with a 14-year-old for 15 minutes because he’s interested in the history. The worst thing an author can do is sit down in their booth and not engage. Do not wait for people to ask you questions. If you’re not trying to engage with people and their kids, they’re not going to engage with you. I’ve seen vendors sit in the corner of their booth like they’re scared of homeschoolers. Don’t do that. Homeschoolers are nice people, and they want to talk with you. Homeschool Parents Are Cautious Consumers Thomas: Your strategy of giving away a sample book is great because homeschool parents are cautious. A homeschool parent will often read the book before giving it to their child. It’s expensive to buy a book, read it, and then decide you don’t want your kid to read it because it’s got magic, dating, or kissing in it. Those are the things that conservative homeschoolers are checking for when they read your book before giving it to their child. These are the kinds of people who don’t like Harry Potter. That may be hard to understand, and it’s not true for every homeschool parent, but the ones who don’t like Harry Potter talk to each other. If you can get your book into the hands of a few of those parents, they will tell others, “Tricia Goyer is an approved author. We like what she has. She doesn’t have any bad content in her books.” That leads to sales. Generosity on the front end can help people get over that suspicion gap. Tricia: I tell them my books are clean. There are no curse words or bedroom scenes. I do have Amish romance books, but I explain that the relationship with God in these books is just as prevalent as the relationship between the boy and the girl. I tell the parents that the characters usually get one kiss at the end, and most parents can handle that. One year I took a friend’s books. She’s a well-known bestselling author who writes teen books with boy and girl romances, and I could not sell a single copy. The parents would ask if the teen characters dated, and when I said yes, they would pass. No one bought that book. You must know the type of parents in attendance, but once you’re on their approved list, they love you, they love your books, and they will tell their friends about you. Thomas: That is one big cultural difference. The social norms regarding romantic relationships are very different than anything that has existed before. It’s not traditional. It’s new and different. I wrote a book about it called Courtship in Crisis (Affiliate Link), and if you’re curious, you can find the book on Amazon. I’ve written about the history of how it emerged. It’s a fascinating subculture. You need to realize there are two groups of homeschoolers. One group homeschools because it’s convenient. In the other group, homeschooling is a subculture. It’s almost like an ethnic group without a blood connection. They eat unique foods, have unique diets, clothing, music, and books. It’s a full-blown subculture that doesn’t get any media coverage, which results in a lack of understanding. I breakdown the different homeschool subcultures in this episode of the Christian Publishing Show. Most people have no idea this other world exists because it’s not covered. It’s fun to sell to this group because it’s different and new, but it’s also challenging. What kinds of books do homeschoolers want? Tricia: They love stories that educate. They are thrilled when I tell them my historical novels are historically accurate because they feel good having their child read them as they’re studying World War II. If a bomb fell in my novel, it really fell at that place in history. I’m not making up stuff. Students will learn what it was like inside a bomber because I interviewed a veteran, and he told me about it. They also love a series where their child can get into the characters and follow them from book to book. Any material you provide that isn’t going to be a lot of work for them before they give it to their child is great. It needs to be clean. They don’t want to see cussing, drinking, sexual activity, any of those types of things. Chuck Black is an author who is often at conventions with me. He writes a medieval series and always has a huge line in front of his booth. He sells medieval swords and a board game that goes with the book. Kids and parents love products that go with the books. Kids run around checking out the tables, and they bring their parents to see what they’ve found. We often have stickers or candy to pull them in so we can get connected. But homeschool parents often like to read themselves. So even if your book isn’t one an 11-year-old would read, parents are also looking for books for themselves. You’re catering to the whole family. Even if you don’t write for kids, if you write clean fiction, you can definitely reach adults at the conventions. Thomas: Homeschoolers often read four or five grade levels above their actual grade. Once a homeschooler turns 12 or 13, they’re reading adult-level books. Many homeschool parents don’t even want their kids reading “dumbed-down young adult” books, not because of objectionable content, but because they want them reading complex material. These parents buy Victorian books that have not been adapted or abridged. When I was selling audiobooks at homeschool conventions, we offered books that were no longer copyrighted. Everything we sold was older than 1924, and much of it was older. Homeschooled kids read dense tomes. You may not write for children, but homeschool students may still flock to it. You need to know what homeschool buyers are looking for and typically they are looking for one of two things. The first is education. You don’t need to necessarily be religiously affiliated if the educational appeal is strong enough. The other way into the market is the religious angle. Authors with Christian books may do well in this market. Your sci-fi book doesn’t need to be educational if it has a strong religious component. Christian speculative fiction doesn’t sell well in the general market, and many authors have difficulty finding an audience. But Christian speculative fiction authors who attend homeschool conventions can have a line at their booth. Homeschool parents are looking for those kinds of exciting books for their kids. Some authors like to classify themselves as “a Christian who writes books” rather than a “writer of Christian books.” Well, homeschoolers are looking for explicitly Christian books or at least books written from a Christian worldview. Homeschool Parents Shop for Role Models Tricia: To homeschool my own kids, I use a literature-based curriculum, so I am always reading classic books out loud to my kids. Most high schools don’t read the books I’m reading to my third and fourth graders. My kids are used to the vocabulary and complicated storylines. Homeschool parents don’t want simple little stories. They also don’t want books about kids fighting or “nerd” books or “geek” books. Parents want to uphold a moral standard, and books like that don’t uphold their morals. Thomas: In the general market, there’s a push for relatable, flawed protagonists. In the homeschool market, the demand is for role models or ideal protagonists. The former is meant to be a realistic, believable person. The latter is meant to be an ideal to which you aspire. You find both in classical fiction and great works of fiction, but books with ideal protagonists sell better in the homeschool market. Homeschool Parents Read Out Loud Thomas: You also mentioned reading aloud as a family, which is very common in the homeschool world. When I was growing up, my family may have read 100 books aloud. We read about ten books each year as a family. If you’re writing for the homeschool market, it’s important to read your book aloud when editing. Your professional audiobook narrator won’t be the only one reading your book out loud. Parents will also be reading your book for the first time at the end of the day when they’re really tired. If your sentences are clear and clean, it will be easier for the parent to read aloud. Their kids will beg for one more chapter and then one more book. And suddenly, they’ve bought your whole series. Tricia: Andrew Petersen’s Wingfeather Saga series is a perfect example of that. He started reading his books out loud on Facebook, and my kids and I started tuning in. They’re fantasy books along the lines of The Chronicles of Narnia. I ended up buying the series, then the audiobooks, and then I bought the series for my grandson because my kids liked the series so much. Because Andrew Peterson read his book on Facebook, the news about his books spread. I think his first videos were viewed 17,000 times, and those people ended up buying books because he took the time to read them out loud. Readability is important. Homeschool Culture is a Book Culture Thomas: The homeschool community is a book-loving culture. It’s not a TV or movie culture. We joke that homeschoolers don’t know about the latest TV shows and movies. They’re more connected nowadays than they used to be, but when I was growing up, we only had a TV in the house half the time, and we weren’t watching what everybody else was watching. We were reading books and listening to Adventures in Odyssey. Tricia: It’s not even a gaming culture. I have ten children, and we don’t have a gaming system in our house. Our kids have tablets with some games they can play, but we don’t have a gaming system. We only have one television. My kids spend a lot more time listening to me read out loud than they do on phones, tablets, or television. Thomas: Again, there is a wide variety of homeschooling families, so this isn’t true for all homeschoolers. However, if you’re able to capture the most conservative part of the market, you end up getting the rest of the market for free. Tricia: The culture is also different from state to state. Homeschoolers from Ohio and Tennessee dress differently. When I’m in Nashville, Tennessee, I see homeschoolers with tattoos and piercings. But even those homeschool parents are looking for conservative books. They still want to know, “Is this OK for my child to read?” Thomas: You can make a good living writing for this audience. I know an author here in Austin who wrote General Y.A. books. He ended up writing a whole series of books specifically for the homeschool market. It was very savvy marketing and positioning. He wrote book after book and published them through a traditional publisher. Even for nonfiction, most of these principles still apply. Nonfiction sells primarily to the homeschool parent, but the kids may read it too if it’s the right kind of educational nonfiction. How can my books be used in a homeschool curriculum? Thomas: The golden chalice of writing for the homeschool market is getting your book listed as a required, or recommended book in a homeschool curriculum. Since you’ve dabbled in writing curriculum, Tricia, how can authors create a curriculum from their books? How can they make their books curriculum friendly? What’s the strategy there? Tricia: We are preparing to launch a curriculum for my book, Prayers that Changed History (Affiliate Link). The book features 25 people in history who prayed. Each chapter includes a section on a scientific development that happened during that period. It also has a section about literature at the time. For example, if we’re talking about how Helen Keller prayed, we’ll talk about when Braille was invented. You can take one little subject, expand on it, and call it a unit study. I’m also creating a curriculum for my World War II novels. We talk about where the bombers were built and what the maps looked like then versus now. Anything you write about in a novel can be pulled out for a unit study. You can also do smaller things for holidays. For example, on Veterans Day, I always talk about my World War II novels. I will explain what rationing was like in World War II, and then I have a printable of recipes they would have made from their rations. Of course, on the printable page, I include information about my book. Homeschool moms search Pinterest for St. Patrick’s Day activities or Fourth of July activities. They’re always looking for those types of things. Homeschoolers are still reading informative and practical blogs. Consider how you could expand on a topic in your book. Whether it’s related to science or writing, you could provide journal prompts or crafts for them to do at homeschool. Parents love that. If you’re at a conference, you can package those pieces together and sell them. If they’re on your website, parents will find your site and print them. Parents love anything that helps them make teaching fun. Homeschool parents aren’t teaching to a test. We’re teaching our kids to love learning. Most of us aren’t filling out worksheets or doing fill-in-the-blank activities. We are applying our learning to life. If you can do that with your books, you can really draw that market. Thomas: It’s kind of like creating small group resources for a discussion group, but it’s tailored to a homeschool mom doing a unit study around your book. Tricia: You could create a prayer journal or a writing journal. If you provide something they can print immediately and use during that day, they will love you forever. Thomas: Authors must get to know other vendors at the conference, especially vendors publishing their own curriculum. Make sure to bring enough books to give away so that everyone who has decision-making power over a curriculum leaves the conference with a free copy of your book. It’s like a lottery ticket, but if a curriculum picks your book as required or recommended reading, that could mean tens of thousands of sales every year. Tricia: Vendors support each other. Even online, we might come together and do a giveaway. I did an Instagram giveaway with three other homeschoolers, and we had a lot of people who wanted to find out more about our books. We also share each other’s books through our newsletters. One place homeschool parents gather is at Top Picks Homeschool Curriculum Fair. Authors can pay to be a vendor on that site. The last time I looked, 13,000 homeschool families are signed up there, and you can share about your books. I do giveaways, and it’s very inexpensive. It’s about $150 per month for me to be a vendor. I get certain slots to run giveaways, and I make a lot of sales through my online store when I share the story behind my book or when I run a giveaway. If I give away one free book, I might get 25 orders from that one post on that curriculum site. Start looking around. There are tons of online groups, but they don’t want you to be pushy. They want you to be helpful and informative. They want advice instead of a sales push. Thomas: And that’s not unique to homeschoolers. Everyone on the internet hates a pushy, hard-sell. That doesn’t work anywhere. Start connecting with the homeschool market by searching Google for “homeschool book fair in [your city].” Local book fairs are easy to attend. You don’t need to buy a booth. Just get a ticket, sit in on the sessions, and talk to people, especially if this is a foreign world for you. If you have just been blown away by discovering this world exists, you should know this isn’t a small group of people. There are millions homeschool students, maybe more after COVID. Tricia: the number of homeschooling families increasing because of COVID. What else would you recommend for authors who want to know this market better? Tricia: Start listening to homeschool podcasts. There are a ton of them. Some cover homeschooling others talk about curriculum. The Read-Aloud Revival is a great podcast if you like to read out loud. Every time she interviews an author or talks about their book, that author’s Amazon numbers will go crazy. They’ll be the bestseller in that category because suddenly tens of thousands of listeners buy it. Many of these podcasts have advertising opportunities. You can buy a 30-second ad on their podcast. You have to know what to say to reach them, but podcasts and YouTube channels are already connecting with a homeschool audience. If a host promotes you or interviews you, the listeners will trust that host and buy your book. Thomas: I have two other podcast episodes about the homeschool market on my other podcast. In a Christian Authors Guide to the Homeschool Market, I explain the difference between secular homeschoolers, academic homeschoolers, fundamentalist homeschoolers, and hippie homeschoolers. These are all different groups of homeschoolers. The second episode is What Authors Must Know About Homeschoolers before Trying to Sell Them Books, and it’s a good introduction to the market. Tell us about your collection of homeschool resources. Tricia: Visit my website, TriciaGoyer.com, and search “homeschool.” I probably have hundreds of blog posts with free printables on homeschooling and what books to read. Homeschoolers are always looking for additional information, so look at my freebies and see how I’m offering them. That will give you some ideas and examples so you can create resources to go with your books. We can also connect on my podcast, Walk it Out. Thomas: Most authors believe the only way to become a USA Today bestseller is to go through the mainstream market. There is a path to the USA Today bestseller list that runs through the homeschool market. Homeschool money spends just as well as anybody else’s. You may have a bias against homeschoolers, but you don’t have to have a bias against a homeschooler’s money. Sponsor: Novel Marketing Patreon With most things (food, movies, books) you pay for it before you know if you like it. Not so with this podcast. With Novel Marketing, you get to listen to the show for free and then decide how valuable it is to you. Has this podcast helped you advance your career? If so, consider becoming a Patron to help support future episodes. Patrons don’t just get the good feeling of knowing they keep Novel Marketing on the air. They also get a bonus episode every month, and at higher levels, access to the Podcast Host Directory. They even get featured on the show as a featured patron. Speaking of featured patrons… Featured Patron Kate Harvie author of Believe It and Behave It: How to Restart, Reset, and Reframe Your Life (affiliate link) Learn how to kick your inner shame and hatred to the curb. Whatever your personal setback, Kate will help you find new opportunities to make yourself better and stronger than ever before. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, or Audible. The post How to Market Books to Homeschool Families with Tricia Goyer appeared first on Author Media.
48 minutes | 4 months ago
Search Engine Optimization for Author Websites
Learn how to improve your website's SEO so readers can easily find you and buy your books. The post Search Engine Optimization for Author Websites appeared first on Author Media.
41 minutes | 4 months ago
Literary Fiction Marketing Guide
When I give marketing advice, I sometimes qualify it by saying, “unless you write literary fiction.” The regular rules and traditional strategies don’t always apply to literary fiction. Authors who want to write the kind of book English teachers will assign to their classes need to know what works and what doesn’t. What is literary fiction?What is literary fiction?How is it different than genre fiction?How do you market it successfully? To find out, I interviewed Jane Friedman. She is editor and founder of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. She is also the author of The Business of Being a Writer and Publishing 101. What is literary fiction? Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: Let’s start by defining literary fiction. What is it? Jane Friedman: It’s a torturous question because everyone defines it a little differently. There are a lot of arguments about what literary fiction is. One easy way to understanding it is that it’s the sort of fiction that the authors hope will be assigned as required reading in college classes. It rewards rereading. It could win a major literary awards like the National Book Award in the United States or maybe the Nobel Prize by the end of your life. Literary fiction are not beach reads. They’re meant to be taken seriously. They’re not clear cut. The language is elevated in a way that demonstrates the writers are taking seriously both the story and the expression of the story. Thomas: So if it has a giant dragon fighting a spaceship on the cover, it’s probably not literary fiction. Jane: Probably not, but this is where you can get into some really fierce arguments about what “literary” means. It’s sometimes defined by what it’s not, and literary fiction is not science fiction, fantasy, or romance. This is not to say that genre fiction is poorly written. That’s not the point. I went to school for creative writing and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. When you go into those programs, you don’t generally see genre fiction being read. We can argue about whether that’s right or wrong. But if you’re encountering a book in a Bachelors or Masters of Fine Arts program, it’s literary fiction. Thomas: With traditional fiction or nonliterary fiction, the language–the writing–is seen as a means. It’s a way of getting to a goal. For nonfiction, it’s a way of convincing your readers of your argument or helping them think in a new way. For fiction, the language is just a way of telling the story. Whereas in literary fiction, the writing itself isn’t necessarily the goal, but it’s a part of the goal. If I’m writing a literary novel, I’m not just writing a story. I’m also wanting the words and sentences themselves to be beautiful. Those nice definitions didn’t include the fact that literary fiction is the kind of fiction that’s hard to sell. How does literary fiction differ when it comes to marketing? Jane: It goes back to the MFA program issue. When those books are read in those programs, it produces a certain community. It has its own culture and value system with various pieces. People aske different questions of literary fiction. They want to know ho’s going to review you?What are their names and the reputations? Here’s an example. Flashback to the mid-2000s, when Oprah’s Book Club was still in operation. At that time one of the best ways to sell a book was to be featured in her book club. That club ended its first iteration when she chose Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections as a pick for her book club. The Corrections is a landmark literary novel, and Jonathan Franzen is the poster child for literary fiction in the U.S. When Oprah chose his novel, Franzen felt conflicted because the fact that Oprah chose it might have damaged his literary credibility. Oprah is known for chosing more commercially appealing, bestselling sorts of books. When he didn’t appreciate her choosing his book, Oprah was insulted, and she ended the book club. That’s the weight that that literary fiction has with within its own community. There’s status anxiety associated with the community. Thomas: Status seems to be really important within the literary fiction community. Anyone can write a dragon book or a romance, and they don’t need to be a part of “the club.” But it seems like if you want to write literary fiction, you have to be living in a really nice apartment in New York City and going to the right parties. People from low status areas aren’t even invited to the parties. Is that an unfair assessment or is that how it is? Jane: I don’t think it’s unfair. It’s very clubby. It’s about who you know, who’s reading you, who’s talking about you, who mentored you, and what sort of workshops and programs accepted you. From the outside, it doesn’t look very admirable. It has resulted in like some diversity problems for the publishing industry, which are now coming to the forefront. But it is very much like that, which is why marketing a literary novel is so difficult unless you have some sort of inroads into that club. Thomas: A lot of the traditional marketing would diminish your status. In the boardgame world, games are classified as a beer and pretzels game or a wine and cheese game. In a wine and cheese board game, you’ll play this simulation of World War II with tanks that have different values, and it’s an eight-hour game. That’s a wine and cheese game. Monopoly is beer and pretzels game. Marketing of literary fiction is a wine and cheese genre. Right. It sells to people attending events that cost $1,000 per plate. They talk about your book to other people who are paying a $1,000 per plate. Amazon ads may not do much for you if your literary fiction. Have you seen amazon ads work for literary fiction? Jane: There’s always ways to make it work, but you do have to have the right signaling. So much of marketing literary fiction is signaling. Literary authors don’t typically market themselves because it’s seen as beneath them. It would tarnish the whole enterprise to be seen as marketing your book on social media. So that’s one challenge. The other challenge is that the audience that you might be marketing to is really concerned with some of the signals that indicate the book matches their identity. They won’t buy unless they consider it a book they ought to be reading in order to keep up with the community they belong to. Amazon ads aren’t typically how that sort of audience finds out about its next read, but it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t work. You must be strategic. You need the right cover and the right description and all the right signs that show people it’s OK if you found this book through BookBub or Amazon or a Facebook ad. Thomas: If you look at the ancestry of literary fiction, it used to be written by aristocrats for aristocratic readers. It was for the landed gentry who didn’t need to work. Working was considered to be beneath them. They had stewards who looked after their estate. And so why would you market your book like you needed the money from your book? Obviously, literary fiction is no longer written by aristocrats, for aristocrats. Hopefully it’s a little more inclusive now. But some of that perception is still there. I often say book awards don’t matter. Readers don’t care about awards unless you write literary fiction. If you do, suddenly the fact that you won a Pulitzer Prize or a prestigious award really does matter. Which literary awards are important? Jane: There are so many of them and there’s a pecking order. Right. If you’re outside this culture, you might not know what the pecking order is or which ones you need. It gets messy quickly. In the United States we have the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, the PEN awards. They have a whole range of awards for different types of works. We also have some fairly important genre-specific awards like the Whiting Award. It’s important for literary authors to be submitting their book to the award organizations. But many of these awards won’t even accept your application or your book unless your publisher submits it. Thomas: There’s no submissions department at the Nobel Prize for literature, and it’s not a review where you pay $500 and they’ll see if your book is deserving of a Nobel Prize. You’re talking about the traditional publishers and a lot of people don’t realize that traditional publishers pay to get books submitted to various awards. This is the case for fiction across the board. The first panel of readers you must convince is the publisher, because since they have to pay per book that gets submitted. They may have published 100 or 200 books for that imprint in a year and they chose to submit one or two. If you’re independently published, often you’re not even eligible for the award. What are the tips for winning awards? Do you have tips for winning awards, or is it just a matter of writing the best book or having gone to the most prestigious MFA program? Jane: If you’re self-publishing or at a small press you will probably be submitting it to the award. Some awards are more accessible, and it’s not about who you know where else you’ve been reviewed. The Benjamin Franklin Awards, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) are more accessible. There’s a wonderful program run by Biblio Board called the Indie Author Project, which is a librarian-selected award. About 15 or 16 states and some Canadian territories participate in that program, and you don’t even have to pay to enter that one. You have to be careful because some awards are essentially for-profit enterprises that make money through the submission fees. You have to be really selective in where you decide to submit because some of these are really just there to take your money and then charge you for additional marketing if you win. You have to look at the aftereffects for an author. Research and see what the prize did to support that winner. Did the winner go on to do other things? You have to study the outcome. Thomas: Do you know of any list or curators of the prestigious awards? How do we know what the awards pecking order is? Jane: The pecking order isn’t really published anywhere, you just come to understand it over time. If you’re looking for literary style awards, Poets and Writers has a really nice free database at their site, and that’s a good place to start. Thomas: Indie authors often struggle with the status that we’re talking about, especially in the literary world. Is literary fiction open to independent authors? Or do you have to have already been accepted by a prestigious publishing house before the rest of it opens to you? Jane: You have to be a pretty charismatic individual if you’re going to approach the literary market as a self-published author with Book One. There’s a lot of leeway for people who’ve already got some traditional publishing experience under their belt. They’ve already had a couple of books released by recognized publishers in the literary community. They’ve already gotten some of the reviews from The New York Times or other important publications. In any event, you’ve already got the names, status, and credibility. After you’ve established yourself, you can look a little bit more punk or indie or cool if you go off and do some things by yourself. Usually, it’s possible to go back. Caroline Preston is one author who has done this successfully, and there are others. But if you were just going to self-publish from the start, I think you would have to be such a go-getter and not care at all about the way people will look down their nose at you. You’ll just have to be prepared to be ignored for a very long time. Thomas: We’re painting literary fiction with a dark brush, but there are many people who enjoy reading literary fiction. But there are so few gatekeepers who determine what’s good literary fiction. Is that something you see changing? Or is that just how it’s going to stay? Jane: I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Although, as I alluded to earlier, there are diversity issues that are coming to the fore. Some of the truly innovative and important voices are coming from small and independent publishers. If you look at an independent house like Grove Atlantic, which is the literary house that’s not owned by one of the Big Five, they’ve published at least a couple of the most recent big award winners. There are nooks and crannies where important work gets accepted. Maybe it’s not quite on the radar of the Big Five, but it’s still coming from the literary houses. They’re not paying big advances, and they do take more risks. But still, it’s hard to see it changing in the community that supports it. Independent bookstores, The New York Times, book bloggers that are more literary, literary podcasters. Now there’s LitHub which is the literary fiction solution to marketing. What is LitHub? Thomas: tell us a little bit about LitHub. Jane: Lit Hub was spearheaded by some of the biggest names in literary publishing, including Grove Atlantic, Andy Hunter, who launched Bookshop, which some of you may be familiar you may be familiar with as the virtuous alternative to shopping at Amazon for your books. They wanted to create the Huffington Post of literary the community, and they’ve been very successful at it. I think their site is very well trafficked. They’ve got multiple podcasts. They even have a crime-reads offshoot because crime can be literary, too. It’s been interesting to watch. Thomas: The golden chalice at the end of literary fiction isn’t a review in The New York Times, at least not financially. It’s having thousands of high school teachers force their students to buy your book. The education side of publishing textbooks makes just as much money as all of the rest of commercial publishing combined. Millions of fiction authors are fighting over their half of the stack of money. Meanwhile, there’s a handful of professors who are writing textbooks that students are required to spend $350 to buy. While your literary fiction will be won’t sell for $350, it will be purchased by thousands or tens of thousands of students every year. And that can be an enduring amount of money. How can I let English professors know about my literary fiction book? Thomas: Who are the gatekeepers in getting English professors and teachers to know about your book? Jane: Start by getting clued in to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs community. It’s a collection of more than 1,000 creative writing programs and creative writing teachers. They all convene annually at a conference which has a book fair, and they talk about things like how to teach creative writing and what sort of things should you put on your syllabus. Hopefully your publisher or you (if you’re independently published) would want to go to this event. Your publisher would be there with your books on display. They would be advertising in the program, which is the size of a phone book. There are other AWP related marketing activities you could participate in. You graduate from AWP to Poets and Writers after you’re out of the creative writing programs. Poets and Writers also offers advertisements in the classifieds that point to books and things that professors of creative writing are going to see. It’s a way to making sure your book appears again and again and those channels that professors pay attention to, aside from winning awards and such. Thomas: Winning awards is great, but the part that we’re not talking about is, but really needs to be stressed, is that you must write a good literary novel Writing a good book is the first button on the shirt. If it’s off, none of the other buttons are right. Let’s talk briefly about libraries, because I know that that’s another channel that can be really big for literary novels. What’s the path into libraries for literary author? Jane: If you’re independently published, then you really need to get your ebook distributed into Overdrive, which is the big distributor to libraries. That can be done through the distributors like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. For the print distribution, if you’re using Ingrams Spark, libraries will be able to order your print book, but they might not know it exists. That’s when we ask how much time you want to spend approaching libraries personally? You’d say, “Hey, my book is coming out, and I’m doing a marketing campaign to drive patrons to your library to check out this book.” Your one-on-one meetings with libraries has to be that specific. You have to detail what you’re going to do. This is where your Facebook ads can be useful if you let people know your book is available at your local library. The library sees there’s something in it for them. This all assumes that the library is going to be accepting of your book in the first place. If you’re self-published and have no reviews, if no one’s vouched for you, a librarian is probably going to be skeptical. They’ll want to see something that helps encourage them that the book is quality without them having to read it. Thomas: Libraries put a lot of stock in Kirkus, Publisher Weekly and Library journal reviews. So we’re not just talking about Amazon reviews. Jane: If you’re writing children’s work, School Library Journal becomes pretty important. Thomas: Literary novels, the top ones, are incredibly profitable. Jane: The most successful literary novels are very, very, very successful. But it’s always dangerous, especially for students in these creative writing programs, to make that their goal. They see that as a goal, but it’s such a small percentage as it is in commercial publishing that actually reach that pinnacle. Thomas: If you write To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s recommended in every English class around the country, you only need to write one book and you’ll still have one of the best-selling books every year. The Business of Being a Writer Thomas: Jane, you and I are on opposite sides of the same coin. I’m trying to introduce literary fiction to business-minded authors. You’re trying to introduce business thinking to literary fiction authors. You’re explaining to them that being an author can be a business. Tell us about your book, The Business of Being a Writer. Jane: I wrote it with the creative writing student in mind. I would go to conferences like the AWP conference and I’d see the same wakeup call happening again and again. Panelists to who had moved on into their careers after being attendees or students would say, “I wish someone had told me that I wouldn’t make any money at this.” Thomas: [00:26:50] Every high school student is told, go to college and get a good job and make lots of money. But they’re never told that the major you choose will dictate your employability and earning power. Jane: The level of expectation is astonishing. Maybe people see their professors and they’re making a living and they got a job. But those jobs are far and few between at this point. In addition to just seeing the unmet expectations, I saw a lot of questions about what needed to be done in order to get published. Students and fomer students were asking, “If I want to earn money that equates to a living, what else can I do aside from publishing a book?” There’s frankly too much book focus in the literary community. There’s also, a sense that they can’t share things on social media before they’re ready. Some of them think they have to go off and do their weird writer’s thing, and then come back to bestow their genius on the world, and that equals profit. My book is trying to destroy that that myth. Thomas: I really like that kind of business approach. In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits of effective people is to begin with the end in mind. To do that, you have to know what that end is. Otherwise it very easily becomes a Ponzi scheme where you’re see a millionaire author and someone says, “You too can be a millionaire author! All you have to do is spend $50,000 on an MFA degree and then you can make millions of dollars!” But what you don’t see is that last year none of the students became millionaires. The year before, none of the students became millionaires. In the year before that, one of them did. It’s a very, very rare outcome. It’s a lot like music school. A handful of famous musicians go on to perform, and everybody else ends up being music teachers. A lot of MFA students become editors. Others get jobs in other industries. Some of them become English teachers. But your book isn’t really about becoming a millionaire author. Jane: Correct. I’m trying to ease people into the idea that by sharing their work, by connecting with people in the community through literary citizenship, by having an online presence, by doing all of these things, they’ll have a more robust and interesting career than if they rely on a publisher to pull them through. There’s too much dependency that enters into the into the mindset of someone in our writing creative writing school. They believe they must be selected by a publisher to receive validation before they can continue. My book says, “No you don’t”. Thomas: There are other kinds of fiction out there, is that what you’re saying? Jane: There are other things you can write. There are other ways to make money aside from just being paid by a publisher. If you want to write books, then certainly you can do that. But you may have to compromise. If you only want to write books, you may have to compromise in terms of the genre that you’re writing in or how fast you write them. You might have to think more about the market if that’s all you really want to do. You can write whatever you want and play the literary game if you want. But you’re going to need a rich husband or spouse or inheritance or a day job in order to make that work. Thomas: This is real talk. Ladies and gentlemen. Successful authors have often had to grind for 10 or 20 years before getting any results. And it was a rich spouse or an inheritance that pulled them through. This is less true with genre fiction. I read Military Sci Fi, and I don’t care what awards my Sci Fi authors have. I want the space Marines shooting the space aliens. I’m expecting certain tropes. It’s a different kind of game. And it’s a more approachable game in that there are fewer gatekeepers. The readers themselves act as gatekeepers for themselves. They make their own choice when they look at Amazon reviews. With literary fiction, there’s a handful of very influential people that dictate what others read, sometimes literally forcing them to read. There’s a lot of power in literary fiction and there’s less kind of structural power outside of it. Jane: Going back to beginning with the end in mind, I’m reminded that when I was in a creative writing program, fiction was probably most highly valued because that’s where you saw both the fame and the commercial success come together. It’s hard to do that with poetry, and it’s more achievable with fiction. If I wasn’t going to be a professor of poetry, I felt like I had to write fiction if I wanted to advance in my career. But I actually wasn’t interested in writing fiction. It took me years after college to realize writing fiction wasn’t compelling to me. I was doing it because it was just part of the cultural value system I was taught. It takes time and self-awareness for the average writer, especially when coming out of a creative writing program, to understand actually what they want out of this. Thomas: One thing I’d love to tell every high school kid going to college is to try to get an internship or experience in the field of that you’re studying. So many students spend four years in school and then three years in law school, only to spend a week at a law firm, to realize they hate it. They hate their life and they’re $100,000 in debt and the only way to pay it off is to continue on the path of being a lawyer. If the kid could have just tried it ahead of time he’d have realized there are other ways. Maybe you really care about the community and society and you want to help. And being a social worker would have been the better, easier and more rewarding path. There are many other ways of accomplishing that goal that aren’t the stereotypical high-prestige professions. Writers need to know why they’re writing. Are you writing because you want prestige and acclaim? Potentially literary fiction does that better than anything else. The Nobel Prize is never going to be given to a military sci fi writer who’s having aliens shot by a space race. If that’s your goal, you need to be honest with yourself about it. Most writers write because they want to make a difference in the world or they write because they want to provide for their family. Both of those goals often can be better accomplished outside of literary fiction because you have a potential to reach more readers. Fewer people choose to read literary fiction. So you’re ultimately only reaching a small group of people. Granted, those people are wealthy, powerful, influential, and well-educated people, and there’s value in reaching them. But it’s not the only way to reach them. Because you know what? Even people who read literary fiction have a Netflix subscription. They listen to regular music like everybody else. Thomas: Where can people find out more about you and your book? Jane: Everything I do spins out from my website Jane Friedman.com. You can find my newsletters and classes and the rest of it there. Thomas: Let’s talk about the Hot Sheet, because that’s a really useful resource that you provide for authors. You basically summarize all the news that’s going on. Jane: The Hot Sheet is “Business intelligence for career authors.” Traditionally published and independently published authors subscribe. It’s for anyone who wants to understand how the industry is changing, what moves are being made by both the Big Five or the Big Four, as well as the tech companies and independent distributors. I look at new ventures, new agencies, and new imprints, which indicate which way the winds are blowing in the market. I look at scandals like the Audible Return Gate scandal that happened earlier this this month. I try to bring context and a cool head to some of these issues. I tend to see often there are camps, and the indie camp and the traditional camp are often at each other’s necks. I’m trying to get away from that and look at the common goals and interests of authors. So we look at the news and how it affects all of us. Thomas: You wouldn’t think that President Obama’s book would affect you. But when they’re printing over a million copies, and all the printers are running Obama books 100% of the time, you’re in the back of the line. So it does affect you. Indies are discovering a lot of things through innovation and experimentation that traditional authors can learn from, especially in marketing. Jane: I wish traditional authors, even literary authors, would pay closer attention, to what indies are doing. Any final tips? Thomas: Any final tips or encouragement? Jane: Whatever strategy you’re trying, be patient. It’s a long game. Many novels don’t even get recognized until years after they come out. You have to take one small step at a time. It’s rare than a writer will get a windfall of publicity on a single day. Thomas: Preach. I couldn’t agree more. That is true in this industry, not just for literary authors, but for all authors. Behind the “overnight success” is decades of preparation. Choose a pace you can maintain for the long term. Sponsor 5 Year Plan to Become a Bestselling AuthorI crafted this plan with bestselling and award winning author James L Rubart to be step by step guide through the first five years of your writing career. Learn each quarter what to do to succeed and avoid the mistakes that hijack the success of most authors. Learn more at AuthorMedia.com/courses. Featured Patron Lauren Lynch author The TimeDrifter Series (Affiliate Link) Explore ancient civilizations from a Christian worldview in the historical fantasy that is appropriate for readers of all ages. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Podchaser or through RateThisPodcast.com/novelmarketing. The post Literary Fiction Marketing Guide appeared first on Author Media.
53 minutes | 4 months ago
Amazon Advertising in 2021
Authors must stay up to date on the state of Amazon advertising. Amazon ads are those “sponsored” books you see at the top of Amazon’s search results pages. They appear on Amazon book pages. Ads for certain books will even appear on a Kindle’s lock screen. Amazon ads are a key strategy for many authors. I address the topic frequently because it changes so often. Right now, they’re one of the fastest-changing marketing strategies. Blogging strategy hasn’t changed much in the last five years, but Amazon ads have completely changed several times in that same period. In the olden days of Amazon ads, an author only needed to create an ad in order for it to be profitable. Not so in 2021. How have Amazon ads changed in 2021? What do authors need to know about the changes? To learn how authors can navigate the turbulent world of Amazon ads, I interviewed Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Show. Thomas: Why are Amazon ads such a popular strategy for indie authors? Bryan: Amazon ads are fairly easy to set up. Amazon’s ad platform tends not to overspend your money if you’re careful. Most authors sell the majority of their books on Amazon, and since the ad appears where readers are already shopping for books, it’s effective. Compared to other forms of advertising, it’s also relatively cheap and easy. It doesn’t take people off of a social media page or a promo page. People on Amazon are looking for books, and when they see an ad for yours, they are more likely to click on it and buy it. Thomas: It’s the equivalent of the in-store promotion at the grocery store. You’re already at the store in the aisle for the product you’re seeking, and there’s a big promotional ad right there in front of you. It’s easy for the customer to make that purchasing decision. It’s also easy for authors to create that kind of ad. If you compare Amazon ads to podcast advertising, which arguably has a higher ROI than Amazon ads, podcast advertising is complicated. You don’t have a Podcast Ads Dashboard. You have to find and connect with each podcast host on your own and track the activity generated by each show and each episode yourself. It’s so complicated that most authors don’t even try it. Tips for Getting Started with Amazon Ads Thomas: How do authors get started with Amazon Ads? Bryan: Start by doing a little research. Don’t go into it blind. You need to know your book well because Amazon Ads run on bids (how much you want to pay for a click) and relevancy (how closely related your book is to other books you’re targeting). If someone searches “Christian fiction,” you want to show up on that page if you write Christian Fiction. You don’t want to show up when someone searches for “paranormal cozy” because Christian Fiction readers will leave you one-star reviews saying, “This is about Satan!” Authors need to be smart about bidding relatively low while keeping relevancy high. It’s not valuable to create hundreds of ads on whatever you can find as a target. Thomas: That one-star Satan review brings up an important principle that applies to every reader. You can determine how many stars your book has partly by picking the right kind of readers. If you advertise to the wrong readers, they’ll leave bad reviews because they thought it was something it wasn’t. Or it may not be the kind of book they like. For example, I don’t read Amish fiction. I don’t have anything against it, but I prefer action and dragons. If someone bamboozled me into buying Amish fiction because I thought it was about dragons, I would not be happy. Choose your readers carefully, and your reviews will be better. Good reviews will help you sell books to more readers. How does Amazon ad bidding work? The ad auction is not a fine art auction where you raise a paddle. This auction happens 24 hours a day, and bots facilitate it. Bryan: Essentially, you tell Amazon, “I don’t want to pay more than this when someone sees my ad, clicks on it, and goes to the Amazon book sales page.” There are some bells and whistles you can play with to change certain circumstances. But mainly you’re saying, “I’ll spend no more than 35 cents for a click.” When your campaign is submitted, it goes into these magical bot auctions. Your ad with your bid is in the queue. Based on your bid, to a certain extent, the ads that have a higher bid than yours will show before yours because they wanted to pay more. Amazon likes money, so they tend to seat the higher bids ahead of the lower spenders. But, former Amazon ad employee Janet Margot taught me that relevancy is also a factor in where your ad is placed in the queue. It’s not always a line, but more like a carousel that shows up on the Amazon sales pages of books. You might see a section labeled “Sponsored Products” or “Books you Might Like,” or whatever they’re calling it these days. You’ll see about 15 pages of 10 ads each. You click an arrow to see the next 10. The order is determined partly by how much you bid and partly by how relevant your book is. But it’s not always a carousel. If I search “self-help book,” Amazon’s bots magically select a couple of books from the ad queue, and they show those at the top of the search results page based on how much was bid and how relevant the book is to the customer’s search. A little farther down on that search page, you’ll see a couple more sponsored books. There are about four ads per page. There’s also a “Sponsored Brand” ad space at the top, but I don’t recommend sponsored brand ads for authors. They’re expensive. It’s the Amazon version of buying “likes.” Sponsored Brand ads are used to bring exposure to your book, but it’s not a great return on your investment for authors. Thomas: With any kind of brand advertising like TV or radio, authors are bidding against profitable, wealthy companies who aren’t trying to make money on the ad. They’re just trying to establish their brand, and they’re not watching every penny. If they lose money on the brand awareness ad, they’re fine. They only care about building awareness. Nike and Coca-Cola build their brand this way. Even if an author has a $10,000 budget, that’s just a rounding error for large companies who buy those brand exposure ads. Thomas: I want to explain bidding another way. Let’s say we have three authors, Andrew, Betty, and Charlie. Andrew is bidding 50¢ per click, but he’s only budgeting a maximum of a $5.00 ad spend per day. Betty is paying 30¢ per click, and Charlie is paying 20¢ per click. Assuming they all have the same relevancy, Andrew’s bid will win the auction for that spot. But after Andrew receives ten clicks on his ad, he’s spent his entire $5.00 budget for the day, and Betty will be in line for the leftover spots. Once Betty receives enough clicks and spends all her budget, any leftover clicks will finally go to Charlie. Some days, Andrew is the only one of the three who will get clicks. If only three Amazon customers search for the keyword those three authors are bidding on, Andrew’s high bid will be the only ad to show. But when we return to the principle of relevancy, things change. If an Amazon customer searches for Author Betty, who is only bidding 30¢ per click, Betty will probably be listed first in the search results. She’s not the highest bidder, but she is the most relevant because that customer is searching for an author named Betty. Andrew, who’s trying to snipe Betty’s readers, is going to have to pay a whole lot more money to outrank Betty for her own name in that list of search results. Should I increase my bid to get more clicks? Bryan: For authors with equal relevancy, the higher bid will win. However, if Andrew has run the numbers and found that the most he can profitably bid is 40¢, then every time he pays more than 40¢ per click, he’s losing money. The temptation is to think that jacking up your bid will help your ad start getting clicks. You will start getting clicks, but we want profitable clicks that will keep us in the black. It’s easy to bid $2.00 for a click and use your budget every single day. But if you don’t have a 40-book series, it’s probably not an effective, profitable strategy. Thomas: If Andrew is paying 50¢ per click, but only 1 of 10 clicks leads to a sale, Andrew has to buy ten clicks to sell one book. If he’s selling his book for $5.00 and spending $5.00 to get a sale, he’s losing money because Amazon takes their piece of his $5.00, and he receives less than the $5.00 he spent. But if he has many other books in the series and a high sell-through rate, he might lose money on Book 1, but half of his Book 1 readers will buy Book 2. Some of those will go on to buy the other ten books in his series. Andrew is happy to lose money on those initial Book 1 sales. In the indie world, authors create books to fit Amazon ads rather than creating ads to fit their books. How do I write a book that is easy to advertise? Bryan: Chris Fox was one of the creators of the write-to-market concept. Certain genres sell better. Within those genres are very popular sub-genres. If you’re aiming for profit, you write a book that will help you put food on the table. You do the research and find out which books tend to sell. You investigate what kind of title, cover, and book description they have. You optimize the heck out of everything and make sure all the marketing is in place, and then you write a great book. With marketing that hit’s the bullseye, that book will sell better from paid advertising, especially if it’s part of a series. The stand-alone book you wrote several years ago without a marketing strategy that hasn’t been selling well may not benefit much from paid advertising. Not all books sell equally well with Amazon Ads. To the victor of the algorithm, go the spoils. Thomas: But what do you say to the author who just wants to write from their heart? Bryan: I’ve seen authors who don’t want to write to market. They decide to write what they want to write. But those authors go out and find 25,000 readers who like to read what they like to write. They don’t worry about Amazon ads, but they do run Facebook ads and use retargeting. Those authors treat their readers with great care and give them what they want. It’s a tough road, but authors do succeed on that path. Thomas: It still requires resonance with an audience, and authors must still connect with their readers. For every author who is successful on that path because they happen to be passionate about a kind of book that already resonates with millions of readers, thousands of authors try to walk that path and fail because their books don’t resonate. They’re not in tune with the music around them. They’re writing books for themselves. And it turns out their audience is just them and a few of their close friends. No matter which path you take, you have to care about what your readers want. Ultimately, you must write for your readers and not for yourself. Thomas: I interviewed Chris Fox on these topics. I talked with him about his book, Write to Market (Episode 151) and his ad strategy in Episode 193. Chris said he doesn’t believe you can profitably advertise a single book, and I pushed him on this. But he believes you have to have a series before you can run profitable Amazon ads. Do you agree with him on that? Do authors need a series in order to advertise? Bryan: It’s a sliding scale. When you advertise the first book in a series, you’re advertising a series. It’s easier to make money from the potential sale of multiple books. One nonfiction book may lead to the purchase of a course, and in that case, your ad is actually marketing two products. But for the stand-alone book or the first in a series that isn’t written yet, the profit margins are very small. People who sell $1,000 courses usually make $800 in profit. If you spend $200 to sell a $3.00 book, you lose $197. The margins are tight. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise, but you should run the numbers to see if you can have long-term profit on that book. Thomas: Of all the ad platforms, Amazon is the easiest for running numbers and seeing your ad performance and sales data. Bryan: Comparatively speaking, yes. But the Amazon dashboard is misleading in a way. My Amazon ad dashboard showed that in December 2020, I sold 215 books. They said, “We have tracked that your ads have definitely sold exactly 215 copies of your books.” I use a tool called Book Report to track sales. Since I only ran Amazon ads in December and did no other advertising, I’d expect my Book Report dashboard to show 215 books sold. But When I opened the report, it said I’d sold 850. How do I explain that discrepancy? Either I had 600 organic word-of-mouth sales, or I can attribute every single sale on my Book Report dashboard to those Amazon ads. Neither of those is completely true, of course. Maybe 20% can be attributed to word of mouth. But for consistency’s sake, I’m going to say those ads led to those 850 sales. Operating under that assumption, we can see the trends on a month-by-month basis. I have seen an author use this strategy to go from making $200 to $1,000 per month, and I’ve seen another go from making $4,500 to $11,000 per month. They began operating under the assumption that one particular ROI statistic in the Amazon ads dashboard isn’t helpful. Thomas: So you’re assuming all those sales were a result of your Amazon ads. You know that’s not exactly true, but it’s closer to the truth than Amazon’s ad dashboard number. And by believing all the sales come from amazon Ads, you’re able to be more aggressive in your advertising. That brings in more sales, whether it’s because a reader told their friends about it or because your ads resulted in more clicks than reported. Bryan: Right, and it’s much more scalable. The more accurate and scalable point of view ends up being the one I’ve seen authors succeed with. Thomas: If you market your book through multiple channels simultaneously, this strategy breaks down. If you’re buying BookBub ads, going on podcast tours, and swapping newsletters with other authors, this metric will not help your bidding strategy. You can’t assume all your sales are coming from Amazon ads. On the other hand, the more marketing you do for your book through multiple channels, the more effective your ads will be. More people will be searching Amazon for “Bryan Cohen” because they heard of you somewhere else, and that’s going to be a cheaper click for you than if someone was searching “young adult fantasy.” That search phrase will be a more expensive click. You’re less relevant, and you’re competing with more advertisers for that phrase. Fewer people are bidding on the keyword “Bryan Cohen,” so there is less competition, and you are the most relevant search result for Bryan Cohen. Bryan: I’m guessing that for a reader to click from Amazon to another Amazon page is likely to be a higher conversion rate than a person clicking from Facebook or BookBub to Amazon. You lose people when they go from one site to another. I had a client who was doing well in a popular sub-genre. She spent $10,000 on Facebook, and she made significantly more than that on her campaign. But I told her if she could spend that $10,000 on Amazon instead, her launch would go better. Well, it was hard to get Amazon to spend that much money, but we did it. She reached #18 in the Amazon store and had oodles of Amazon data. It was a huge success. She had previously seen evidence of success on Facebook. But when she got data from her experiment with Facebook and Amazon, she could make a valuable comparison between the two. Thomas: You’re talking about a sequential test. You test by only running Facebook ads in one month and only running Amazon ads the next month. Then you compare the data. I’ve watched this market, and one of the biggest changes is the number of people following your philosophy. They’re disregarding the Amazon ROI dashboard and using your strategy of dividing the number of clicks by the total number of sales. People who follow your approach are bidding more aggressively and are outbidding people who aren’t. Bryan: I recommend starting with a 30¢ bid for a stand-alone book and a 35¢ bid if you are advertising a series starter. It’s also important to know what you can bid, so you need to run your own numbers. One student learned she could bid $2.00 and still be profitable. If you know you can bid more and will make money, then do it. But you have to know based on data. When you understand your own numbers, you can bid confidently because you have data that shows how much you can bid and be profitable. Thomas: Amazon likes the approach of the higher bids because they keep more of the bid money. Amazon would prefer that people keep outbidding each other until somebody is making the tiniest sliver of margin. Eventually, you’re going to be giving almost all your profit back to Amazon in advertising costs just to get that little edge. The strategy may not work in 2025 or 2030 if people continue outbidding each other. That’s why it’s so important to know your own numbers. Experts like you and Chris Fox have different philosophies on Amazon advertising. But everyone agrees that you have to follow your numbers. Bryan Cohen might have suggested 35¢ per click, but that’s a starting place. You have to experiment to see if you should move that bid up or down for you. It’s possible that 35¢ is a terrible bid for you, or you may need to be more aggressive. Advertising becomes a little bit intimidating at this point because it requires math. It’s not vector calculus, but it does require addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. You break from the others when you instruct people to take the total amount of money and use that figure rather than Amazon’s number. Bryan: Yes. People get angry when I say that, though. Thomas: I’ve talked to almost all the Amazon advertising gurus. They’re all making money. But they all agree that measurement is the key. Bryan: I love that we have different ideas. If you’re following a strategy that’s working for you, then keep doing it. That’s why I don’t understand the angry responses from people. There’s evidence that all the strategies work for some people. It’s inaccurate to say one strategy doesn’t work because they all work for some people. I hope that authors will sample the methods and do what works. Thomas: Approach it like a scientist. In what other ways has amazon changed over the last year? New Markets Bryan: Ads have changed a lot this year. In 2020, Amazon ads expanded into new territories like Australia and Canada. In early 2020, they expanded to Germany, Spain, France, and some other territories. Thomas: Can you buy ads for those countries through the regular advertising dashboard? Bryan: You have to create new accounts, but Amazon makes it easy if you go through your KDP dashboard. For each book, you click the “Promote and Advertise” button. You’ll see a dropdown menu where you can choose the country you want to create an ad for. Then it will create your account for you. And you only have to do that once to create the account. Thomas: That’s a big change because it’s opening up new English-speaking audiences for American authors. Multi-Book Ads Bryan: I run a copywriting agency that writes Amazon ads and book descriptions. This year, Amazon allowed advertisers to include multiple books in a standard ad if you didn’t include any copy in your ad. Multi-book ads, without copy, were available in some international territories. Now they’re available in the US. You can create a campaign to advertise all 40 of your books, which will be shown to consumers one book at a time. You can create a campaign for all your books. We thought Amazon would take away the ability to include copy because multi-book ads didn’t include copy in the international markets. But in the last couple of months, they allowed advertisers to write copy on their multi-book ads. So, we’re not sure what they’ll do with the words that go on the ads, but right now, in the US, you can throw as many books as you want into an ad, and you can include copy with your ad. In all the other territories, you can run multiple book ads, but you still can’t include copy. Thomas: Amazon is constantly experimenting with their whole platform. They can do a split test and see the difference when they change the color of the “Buy” button. You might wonder why the button is so ugly. It’s because that’s the color that gets the most clicks. If Amazon gets 1% more clicks with an ugly button, that’s a huge amount of money for Amazon. That’s one reason Amazon ads and Facebook ads are changing so quickly. They’re constantly testing and changing the rules, and that’s why it’s so important to keep up. Amazon Advantage Accounts Discontinued Bryan: There was a backdoor, high-level Amazon Advantage account available to some advertisers. Not everyone had access to it. But this year, they closed the door on it. With an Amazon Advantage account, authors could run certain ad types, including the Sponsored Brand ads we talked about earlier. Authors with a regular ad account could not run those ads. Thomas: Were the Kindle lock screen ads only available through the Advantage Account? Bryan: I’m not sure if you could run those through the Advantage account. I don’t know. But I do know that with an Advantage account, those Sponsored Brand ads, which look like a logo with three little book covers next to them that show up at the top of your Amazon search, you could not run those ads through a regular ad account. But now you can. The jury is still out on their effectiveness. Like lock screen ads, which I don’t recommend for most advertisers, if you get a click on one of these ads, it doesn’t necessarily mean the customer landed on your sales page. Lock screen ads bring the reader to an intermediary page where they have to click again to get to your sales page. I don’t like it when Amazon changes the definition of things mid-stream because it confuses people. Thomas: Do they charge you for the first click on the ad or the second click on the intermediary page? Bryan: The first click. Thomas: So, the author advertiser has to pay for all the accidental clicks when someone grabs their Kindle wrong and accidentally clicks the ad? Bryan: That’s right. Thomas: Lock screen ads, banner ads, and sponsored brand ads were more popular with traditional publishers. Bryan: Yes. It’s what they’re used to because it’s more like buying space in a newspaper, and it’s what they understand. But it’s not easy to track. Sponsored Brand ads are the most confusing of all. Pamela Kelley, of the 20BooksTo50K® Facebook group, has some great “Why isn’t my book selling?” posts. She taught me that if a user clicks one of the book images in the sponsored brand post, it takes them to that book’s sales page. If someone clicks anywhere else in the banner, it takes them to an intermediary page that lists all three books again with greater detail, but it’s still not the sales page. To my knowledge, Sponsored Brand ad reporting does not distinguish which was a click to a book sales page and which was a click to the intermediary page. Since it’s confusing, I do not recommend lock-screen or Sponsored Brand ads at this time unless you are making a heck-of-a-lot of profit. Thomas: The fact that we have to ask how a click is defined is a very bad sign. Bryan, you work with people who’ve never run an Amazon ad before. What are the common mistakes people should avoid? How can I avoid common Amazon Ad mistakes? Bryan: Three things come to mind. Double Check your Bid Often people accidentally bid too high. They might enter the wrong number. When they see their budget spent, they don’t understand why. The best way to check this is to enable all your stats. They aren’t all enabled by default. Enable all the stats and then look at your “Cost per Click” metric. If you believe you’ve bid 35¢, but the cost per click is higher than that, it usually means there was a user error. Most likely, it means you accidentally bid 75¢, which is Amazon’s standard bid. Keep it Simple If you have five books, start by advertising one until you get your feet wet. You have to keep track of everything. If you suddenly go from tracking zero books to tracking ads and stats on five books, it’s overwhelming. Don’t Expect Overnight Results Advertising is a slow and steady process. Sometimes with these lower bids, 70% of ads don’t even turn on, and that’s a good thing. When people get upset because their ad isn’t spending or because their ad is spending, they panic because they expect immediate results. It’s not an immediate-results platform. Start with a low bid. Double-check the bid. Start with one book and see how it goes. Don’t worry about everything happening right away. Thomas: In other words, be faithful in the little things before buying ads on all 30 of your books. Tell us about your free course for beginners. Bryan: On January 11, 2021, we’re starting a free community course called the Five-Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge. It’s a lot of content for free. We love to help people learn to set this up themselves rather than making a magical promise on a webinar and then letting you figure it out later. We’ll have 47 support personnel on board for this event. They’re experienced authors who’ve taken the challenge before and had some success with ads. They’ll be available to help answer questions throughout the challenge. We’ll walk you through it for free, and a lot of folks get results from the free stuff. You can register at Sellingforauthors.com/January. We do it every quarter, so if you miss it in January, click here, and we’ll redirect you to the most recent one. Or learn more on the Sell More Books Show. Sponsor Author Media Mastermind Groups Would you like me to personally help you hit your publishing goals? I have worked with thousands of authors from beginners to New York Times bestsellers and I can help you go further faster in your career. You can get personalized interactive training and encouragement from me and a small group of other masterminds. Once you join a Author Media Mastermind Group you get access to the private Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video coaching session. Featured Patron Cheryl Elton author of Pathway of Peace: Living in a Growing Relationship with Christ (Affiliate Link) Learn how to calm the noises in your mind and experience more of God’s peace. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, or Audible. The post Amazon Advertising in 2021 appeared first on Author Media.
40 minutes | 5 months ago
How to Prevent Writing Burnout
I have worked with writers for more than a decade, and during that time, I’ve learned that the leading career killer is burnout. While author careers begin in a million different ways, most of them end in just one way: burnout. If you are tired, weary, or stuck in your writing, this episode is for you. I am no stranger to burnout. About 18 months ago, I woke up so overwhelmed that I couldn’t get out of bed. I had a mental breakdown and spent the whole day in bed, unable to decide what to do or what to work on. I was totally burnt out. I tallied my current responsibilities and realized I had 19 different roles. Something had to change. I used a tool developed in my mastermind group called the Project Value Planner. I used this simple spreadsheet to rank each of my activities according to how easy they were to complete, how much joy I received from completing them, and how much money they made. Each activity received a score of 1 to 10 based on Easiness, Joy, and Revenue. Formulas built into the spreadsheet multiplied the rankings into a Total Value score. Then I sorted my activities by Total Value score to see how valuable each project was and how they compared to each other. The results were pretty clear. Most of my 19 roles had mediocre scores, but a few activities on the list scored high. I started cutting the lowest scoring activities out of my life. It was painful at the time but so needed. Up to that point, the Novel Marketing show was co-hosted by James L. Rubart. He was also swamped, and he went through a similar process. Interestingly, the same process for him produced very different results. For me, the Project Value Planner made it clear I needed to keep hosting Novel Marketing. For Jim, the same process revealed he needed to stop hosting the podcast. The revelations of the Project Value Planner led to the famous Novel Marketing episode 204 Focus, Pruning and Why Novel Marketing is About to Change, where Jim stepped down from the hosting podcast. He still comes back from time to time but he is no longer on every episode. I think that episode saved the show. If we hadn’t taken these drastic steps, I think we would have podfaded. Jim desperately needed more time for his other exciting projects. Stepping away from the podcast opened up a lot of time to work on those projects. When I stepped away from my non-podcast activities, I gained a lot of hours to put more work into the podcast. Interestingly, around that time, many of the other book marketing podcasts podfaded. The Book Marketing ShowSci-Fi & Fantasy Marketing PodcastThe Smarty Pants Book Marketing PodcastBook Launch Show While Sell More Books Show didn’t podfade, it did have a host changeup. I will have a free template version of the Project Value Planner spreadsheet in the show notes if you want to try it out yourself. I don’t hold anything against the shows that came to an end. Podcasting every week is a lot of work. The return on the time investment must be worth it for the host. Patrons who supported Novel Marketing kept it on the air. Most of the writing podcasts that survived 2019 and 2020 have solid backing from their listeners on Patreon. I spent most of 2019 cutting responsibilities, many of which were generating income. Naturally, I saw a corresponding drop in revenue. It was a painful process and a tough year. But by the end of 2019, it was mostly done. On December 29, our son Tommy was born, and we entered 2020 with high hopes. When the lockdowns started in March, I had the extra capacity to do a series of free webinars. I put together a free virtual Writers Conference via webinar presentations. I wanted to offer online training for writers to make up for all the in-person conferences that had been suddenly canceled. This was back in the “We can get through this together” part of the pandemic where we thought it would only last for a few weeks. I enjoyed giving back to the community, and the webinars boosted my email list subscribers, so it was a win for writers and a win for me. But all those webinars, in addition to my two weekly podcasts, was a ton of work. When the webinars were over, I plunged into teaching the 2020 Book Launch Blueprint. As it turned out, it was the biggest and most intense Book Launch Blueprint to date. Many of our students were locked at home and worked on the course all day long. The first week’s intensity induced a stress migraine, and I realized I had committed to more work than I could handle. My mistake was not in hosting the webinars and course but in maintaining that frantic pace after the course was over. I learned the importance of taking breaks. When the Book Launch Blueprint ended, I picked up some consulting clients and spent a lot of time working with them even though my spreadsheet told me it was not the best use of my time. The problem was, I really liked my clients, and one of them was the New York Times bestselling author of a household-name book. When those consulting engagements wound down, I started to work on my newest course, Obscure No More, which brings us to today. Even with the previous year’s pruning, I have been going, going, going throughout 2020. This year has been a tough one for many. Depending on your situation, you may not have touched or been touched by another human for months. Some people haven’t seen another human face that wasn’t covered by a mask or on a screen. Some of us didn’t receive a paycheck for months, and others had to work harder to make the same money we made last year. For my family, 2020 has felt like one blow after another. Whether it was emergency ambulance trips to the ER, a death in the family, social isolation, or living in lockdown with an energetic toddler and a brand new baby, it’s been a tough year. It has also been a full year. Our growing family prompted us to begin the process of moving to a new house and selling our current house. The adrenaline of the pandemic has worn off, and we still have a long road ahead. Many authors took their pandemic adrenaline and put it into their writing. I know this because the literary agents tell me they are receiving twice as many proposals as they normally get. I suspect 2021 will be for the publishing world what 2019 was for the book marketing podcast world. A lot of authors are going to get burnt out and quit. As someone who has struggled with burnout, I want to share some lessons I learned the hard way over the last few years. Learn from my mistakes. By implementing a few things I learned the hard way, you can keep your writing career alive. Lesson #1 Rest is Important Writing is like exhaling. But if you want to exhale great writing, you must also inhale periods of rest. Interestingly, one of the Ten Commandments is about rest. Most of the commandments make sense instinctively. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, and don’t murder. But why is there one that instructs us to rest? I won’t pretend to know, but I will say when I am exhausted, I am not my best self. Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its members to assess their triggers using the acronym HALT, which stands for: Hungry AngryLonelyTired Alcoholics are most likely to relapse when they experience those triggers. When you set aside one day to rest and share a meal with your community, you address all four triggers. Rest makes it easier to be a better person and a better writer. When I set an unsustainable pace for myself, my life begins to suffer. It is fine to devote every spare minute to writing your novel for a season. But if every month is National Novel Writing Month, you’ll burn out. The ancients believed in three kinds of rest. Daily Rest Take a daily five-minute break from writing to walk around the block and clear your head. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation has been recognized as a public health epidemic, and it is taking a toll on us physically and emotionally. With everything locked down, you’d think we get more sleep, but the screens in our homes are the biggest enemies of rest. The CEO of Netflix once said that their biggest competitor is sleep. If you feel burnt out, try going to bed an hour earlier. You may be surprised how much better you feel after an additional hour of sleep. But that much-needed hour may require you to cut 60 minutes of activity from your day. What could you prune from your schedule to make more time for sleep each day? Try taking a nap. I was stuck on the outline for this episode and felt it was headed in the wrong direction. So I took a nap. When I woke up, I had a fresh vision, and this episode is better than it might have been. Science supports the power of napping. Weekly Rest Weekly rest is specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Resting for one day out of seven is beneficial to your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In college, I scored straight A’s during the semesters that I refused to study or do homework on Sundays. Resting my mind helped me learn better. My grades were worse in the semesters when I did study on Sundays. I realized that working longer is not the same as working better. My challenge with weekly rest is that I’m tempted to spend the whole day zoned out on one screen or another. In my experience, it’s actually more restful to hike with my wife and kids. I suspect I would be happier if I took my children to the playground more often. It would give them space and time to burn their manic toddler energy and would likely make our house a bit quieter after we returned home. Seasonal Rest Nearly every civilization in the history of the world celebrated holidays of some kind. Humans have a deep need for special rest days from time to time. Holidays allow us to celebrate triumphs and mitigate sadness. Imagine living in the frozen north before electricity was invented. Winter was dark, cold, and long. You would want a holiday of light near the shortest and darkest day of the year because it would remind you that the light, warm spring was on its way. The darkest, coldest time of the year can be transformed into the “most wonderful time of the year.” It’s helpful to take holidays collectively, as we do this time of year. Returning from a holiday is different than returning from vacation. After a vacation, I have a stack of work piled up by all the people who were not on vacation. It often takes me days just to catch up on email. But when I take a holiday along with everyone else, the pile of emails and undone tasks is smaller because no one else was working either! I want to lean into the Christmas holiday this year. To practice what I preach, I plan to take a break from recording new episodes for the rest of the year. This way, you can take a break too! I have never made a gingerbread house before, and now my daughter is old enough to enjoy that kind of holiday activity. She’s already made one with her mother, so perhaps they can show me how to do it. Lesson #2 Pacing is Important Once upon a time, a turtle and a rabbit had a foot race. The rabbit raced out of the gate but soon got tired and distracted. Meanwhile, the turtle kept going, and slowly and steadily he won the race. The slow, steady pace isn’t just for fables. It proves effective for people in real life (just as it proves effective for turtles in real life, as shown in this YouTube video!). Rest Now you might think that pacing and rest are at odds with each other, but they’re not. Rest is part of pacing. Just as you need to inhale in order to exhale, you must be rested to keep a steady pace. You could say pacing is resting while you work. Choosing a sustainable speed means keeping energy in reserve to be used a little at a time for the whole race. Beware of taking advice from the runner who sprints past you at the start of the marathon. You may find yourself passing them and their bad advice after a few miles of maintainable pace. Prune We are each allotted 24 hours per day. When you choose to work on one thing for an hour, you choose not to work on anything else during that hour. If you choose to multi-task for an hour, you choose to get nothing done except switching between tasks. We only get one shot at each day, and there are no checkpoints, save games, or do-overs. If you want to succeed at something, you must be willing to invest time and effort into that thing. Maybe that ought to be common sense, but I see so many authors who are stingy with their time and treasure and then become frustrated when they don’t see results. If you want to reap, you must first sow. Good activities can rob time and resources from the best activities. If you want a healthy tree, you must be willing to prune it. You cut some of the healthy branches so the remaining branches will receive more nutrients and eventually bear more fruit. The Project Value Spreadsheet is a pruning tool. It allows you to identify the healthiest branches in your life. Since it tracks joy and effort in addition to income, you’ll see the true value of each activity. Download it below to give it a try. Cooperate A sustainable pace requires a supportive community. Marathon runners have the support of people handing out water and Gatorade at hydration stations all along their route. Almost every book has an acknowledgments section where the author thanks all the people involved in the project. Authors without a supportive community don’t typically make it. If your spouse is jealous of your book, you have a rough road ahead. “If the pace of your life harms important relationships, it’s too intense. Slow down. Leave time to nurture relationships, and you will go farther.” Click to Tweet Supportive relationships help you go the distance. Choose a pace your family can keep up with. The more supportive your family and friends are, the more successful you will be. Lesson #3 Organization is Important I burn out faster when I’m disorganized because everything takes more work. It is like trying to cut down a tree with a dull ax. To sharpen your ax and make the job go faster, get organized! Use an Organization System The scientific law of entropy tells us that things naturally progress from a state of order to disorder. Humans are special because we can learn to fight against entropy. We can bring order to a chaotic world. If you say phrases like, “I’m not an organized person.” Stop! It’s toxic, poisonous, and self-defeating. No one is born organized. Now that I am a father, I know this with certainty. The first thing my children were able to make was a mess. Even their adorable attempts to clean make the area messier after they “help.” Organization is a learned skill. Instead of saying, “I’m not an organized person,” say, “I am the kind of person who can learn how to use an organizational system.” Some people can create organizational systems themselves, just like some people can start their own religions. But it’s rare. Most of us need to use someone else’s system. When it comes to choosing an organizational system, the best tool is the one that you will use. Some systems I like are: Getting Things Done (Affiliate Link)Kanban There are hundreds of systems out there, so pick one that works for you. If you are not sure which system to pick, the Productivity Lab Podcast reviews a new productivity system every couple of weeks. Then they record an episode about what they liked and disliked. Keep Your Workspace Clean When I was in Boy Scouts, I took the Auto Mechanics Merit Badge. One of the dads in our troop was a mechanic at one of the best auto shops in town, and he brought us to his shop to take the merit badge. He earned a six-figure income, and he was very proud that he made more money than most of the other dads in the troop even though he had what many would consider a “low-status” job. In his auto shop, mechanics were paid by the job. The faster the mechanic finished the job, the more money he could make in a day. Slow, sloppy work meant the mechanic had to re-do the job without extra pay. Mechanics who did quick, quality work made a lot more money. He showed us his toolbox filled with hundreds of tools. He said each tool had a specific spot, and he always returned the tool to its exact spot after he was done using it. “I never have to look for tools. This saves me a lot of time. I always know exactly where each tool is because it is always exactly where it goes. In fact, I can grab some of these tools without even looking.” Mechanics reach for tools hundreds of times each day. Minutes wasted looking for tools add up to wasted hours. Because of his simple organization system, he could work faster and produce higher quality work. His discipline to stay organized and focus on the work at hand made his work very profitable. He also kept his bay shockingly clean. Keep your writing space tidy and free from distractions. If you try to write while surrounded by visual reminders of uncompleted tasks (a.k.a. clutter), you’re likely to struggle with burnout. This also applies to your digital workspace. Keep your research organized. Turn off alerts and notifications on your computer. Some authors try to write with Outlook notifications turned on. Every five minutes, Outlook dings and pulls them away from their writing. Don’t be that author! Don’t let Outlook be the boss of you. In Judaism, the Feast of Unleavened Bread holiday includes a ritual where adherents deep-clean their house to ensure all the leven is removed. The Passover Meal at the end of the holiday is like a reward for doing the spring cleaning. What would happen to our productivity if we took a holiday to deep-clean our workspaces and houses? Use the Right Tool Sometimes work is hard because you are using the wrong tool for the job. If you are still writing books in Microsoft Word and relying on Word’s spell check feature, you are making life unnecessarily hard on yourself. I won’t belabor this point since I already wrote an entire blog post this year called the 2020 Software Guide for Authors. In that episode, I recommend tools that will make writing faster and easier. Refusing to use Scrivener because it takes time to learn is like refusing to drive a car because it takes time to get a license. Sure, you can ride your bike to work, but the time it takes to learn to drive will pay for itself many times over. Most people drive a car to work because it’s faster and leaves more time and energy for their job. For the same reason, most successful authors use Scrivener (or another Word alternative) to write their books. Lesson #4 Challenge is Important Stress is not the only cause of burnout. Some authors burn out because they get bored with their writing. I see this often with successful genre authors. Readers want a certain kind of book from the author, but over the years, the author may tire of writing the same kind of book. These authors often try to branch out into an entirely different genre only to find it doesn’t resonate with their current readers. So back to the grindstone they go. So, what should you do about it? Challenge Yourself Even if the genre or tropes begin to bore you, you can challenge yourself to improve your craft within the genre. Chose an area that you feel you can improve and create a challenge for yourself around that area. Jerry Jenkins, who had already written over 100 books and sold millions of copies, wrote The Last Operative (Affiliate Link) without any dialogue attribution tags. Most readers didn’t notice, but Jenkins’s creative challenge helped him hone his craft and made writing the book more creatively interesting. Ernest Vincent Wright wrote Gadsby, a 50,000 word novel without the letter E. That’s a silly example, but it illustrates the extremes measures authors will take to keep their writing challenging. Read Good Books Reading a masterpiece tends to inspire you to write better. As your writing improves, your appreciation for good literature will grow. If you reread your favorite classic book, as an established writer, you will see it with new eyes. Instead of just seeing what the book was about, you will see how the author used storytelling elements. Analyzing old favorites is inspiring because you can apply the same methods to your new book. Perhaps you notice how Mark Twain uses character voice as an element of foreshadowing that makes you want to keep reading. You may not be writing about a trip down a river, but you could implement that technique in your writing. Branch Out With a Pen Name Authors who are bored with their genre can also write a different kind of fiction under a pen name. J.K. Rowling used the pen name “Robert Galbraith” when she authored her Cormoran Strike series of crime thrillers. Writing under a pen name sets you free from the expectations of your existing readers. But it also means you will leave your readers behind. The pen name strategy works best for authors who have enough money to take the risk of starting over. Rest, pacing, organization, and challenge are crucial elements for maintaining a long and healthy writing career. Making a few important changes now will yield astonishing results in the long run and will keep you from burning out. Sponsor Author Media Mastermind Groups If you are looking for a community to help you hit your publishing goals, consider joining one of my mastermind groups. Each group is limited to ten members, so you’ll get personalized, interactive training and encouragement from a small group of other masterminds and me. Once you join an Author Media Mastermind Group, you can access the private Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video coaching session. Featured Patron Michael Jack Webb, author of Infernal Gates Time is running out for Ethan Freeman, an ex-Special Forces Ranger, to stop the conspiracy to free The Destroyer and his horde of Fallen Angels. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Audible, or Podchaser. Personal Update When I first talked about my pruning process on Novel Marketing, I mentioned that my goal was to get down to one business card by the time I turned 35. When I celebrated my 35th birthday last month, several of you asked if I had achieved my goal. Thank you for asking. I’m pleased to report I am the proud owner of a single business card. The post How to Prevent Writing Burnout appeared first on Author Media.
27 minutes | 5 months ago
How to Pick a Strong Book Title
O Romeo… ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy:Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. … What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet;”–William Shakespeare While a flower’s name won’t affect its fragrance, a book’s title can drastically affect how many copies it sells. So how can you develop an amazing title for your book? Over the years, I’ve observed an ironic quirk among authors: The better an author is at writing a book, the worse they seem to be at titling their book. Authors Need an Outside Perspective on Book Titles Here are a few prime examples. First is the original book title, followed by the publisher’s final title. All’s Well That Ends Well -> War and PeaceTomorrow Is Another Day -> Gone With the WindThe Dead Un-Dead -> DraculaPrivate Fleming, His Various Battles -> The Red Badge of CourageSomething That Happened -> Of Mice and Men I could go on and on. If you search online, you’ll find many more examples. You know too much about your own book to decide what’s best to feature in your title. It is hard to read the label when you are standing inside the bottle. The title, more than almost any other component of your book, needs an outside perspective. How can you get an outside perspective on your book’s title? If you are traditionally published, a team at your publisher will chime in on book titles. If you are indie published, a paid mastermind group with other successful authors can give you useful feedback.You can also test your book title ideas on your readers using a Facebook Split Test and then use the data to help you decide. But before you test them, you must created two good titles. What is the purpose of a book title? Back in the 18th century, the purpose of a book’s title was to describe the book’s contents. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles DarwinThe Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin. Things have changed in the last 200 years. Instead of publishing a few hundred books each year, authors and publishers now publish a million books every year. It’s no longer possible to read every new book, and a million books per year is a lot of books competing for attention. For these reasons, the purpose of a book title has changed, and the shift has confused authors. If your book title describes the contents of your book, you will get lost in the noise. Your title must attract attention rather than describe contents. Click to Tweet Book titles rarely sell books on their own, but they can attract attention and generate curiosity. This leads us to the first goal you should aim for when developing your book title. Goal #1 Evoke Curiosity Your title should make the reader curious about your book. Online, you want the reader to click on the cover. At a physical bookstore, your title should compel them to pull it off the shelf. You want your readers to say, “I know something about that, but I want to know more.” Why is it all quiet on the western front? What is the red badge of courage? Who is Dracula? The Curiosity Gap The science behind evoking curiosity is called The Curiosity Gap. Readers are not curious about things they already know. For instance, you are not curious about what your middle name is. You already know it. But readers also aren’t curious about things too far outside of their realm of knowledge. Chances are, you are not wondering who was the highest-paid cricket player in 1979. People are curious about things that are just beyond their current knowledge. While you might not be curious about your middle name, you might be curious about my middle name. You know I am a “junior.” I say “Thomas Umstattd Junior” in every podcast intro, but I always skip my middle name. Why? Why, in seven years of recording this podcast, have I never once mentioned my middle name? I admit this is a lame example. If you’re new to the podcast, you probably don’t care, but that helps illustrate the point. Not everyone is curious about the same things because not everyone knows the same things. The more I learn, the more curious I become. Know Your Target Readers To develop a title that generates curiosity and cross that curiosity gap, you must get to know your target readers. Are you writing a vampire book for people who read a lot of vampire books, or is it for people who typically read romance? Twilight is a better title for romance readers, while Vampire Diaries is a better title for hard-core vampire fans. If you have a broad target audience, you will have a harder time crafting a curiosity-generating title. Often, authors who struggle to create a book title haven’t done the work of getting to know their readers. You must get to know your readers in real life if you want to appeal to their curiosity. You must write for real human beings. Goal #2 Encourage Word-of-Mouth Word-of-mouth recommendation between readers is one of the most powerful ways for news about your book to spread. But if people can’t remember your book title, they won’t be able to talk about it or recommend it in a clear way. And if they can’t talk about it, it won’t sell. Brevity We shorten the title of Adam Smith’s book to The Wealth of Nations. We shorten Darwin’s title to The Origin of Species. The shorter versions are easier to remember and say. The longer your book title is, the harder it is to remember. (Also, the phrase “Favored Races” in Darwin’s book is obviously highly problematic.) The trend is toward shorter titles. Now, that doesn’t mean your title has to be a single word like Twilight, Emma, or Blink, but shorter names are easier to remember than longer ones. Don’t be afraid to create a one-word title. Clarity Your short and curiosity-generating title must also be clear. If you have a bad cell telephone connection and mention your title to the person you’re calling, will they write down the correct title? What if someone is listening to your interview on a radio station with lots of static? Will they be able to catch your title? Avoid using words that are hard to spell or are easily confused with other words. A book titled “Plain Secrets” sounds just like “Plane Secrets” to a radio or podcast listener. Is it a book about travel or a romance that takes place in Kansas? The homophone creates confusion. Simplicity Simple ideas spread faster. If your title requires an explanation in order to make sense, you have a bad title. Sometimes authors are too clever with their titles. A title that only makes sense after reading your book is generally a bad title. Your title must intrigue someone who has not yet read your book. Remarkability Your title should also be unique in an interesting way that causes people to remark. It can’t be too foreign, but it also can’t be too familiar. If you want people to talk about your book, its title must have an element of remarkability. When I was in college, a successful CEO of several companies gave a guest lecture. He recommended a book called The Simple Truth. This CEO was not the author, but he had purchased a case of the books and brought them along. He said the book was so good that if any student read it, he would ensure that the student received an interview at one of his companies. I read the book, and it was amazing. It totally transformed how I interacted with my clients. Later, I made it required reading for some of my employees, and it made my employees better at their jobs simply because they read it. Here is the kicker. If you search for “The Simple Truth” on Amazon, hundreds of books with that exact title appear in the search results. Many of them are business books! The unremarkable title of this remarkable little book makes it nearly impossible to recommend. Sometimes a title can be so good it is not good anymore. If many other books have your title, keep brainstorming ideas. You are not done. Familiarity However, your title can’t be so unique that people don’t know your book is for them. You’ll also want to avoid words that are so unique that no one would be searching for them. Authors must learn to manage the tension between familiarity and remarkability. One strategy is to use a single word in your title to connect with a concept that is already popular with readers of similar books. For example, when George R. R. Martin started writing epic fantasy, the number one series was the Wheel of Time. One element of those books was the Game of Houses, also known as Daes Dae’mar. It was the political intrigue that acted as the backdrop for what the story was really about. Fans of epic fantasy saw a book titled Game of Thrones and immediately knew it would be like the game of houses in the Wheel of Time books. Daes Dae’mar is a side aspect of Wheel of Time, but it is the focus of a Song of Ice and Fire. In this way, the book title was familiar to fantasy fans in just the right way. It was both subtle and specific. Goal #3 Rank in Search Most people buy most books through a search engine online rather than browsing physical bookshelves. Even a reader at the library is using a computer search engine to look for books. Your book must rank when people type search words into Amazon’s or Google’s search engine. If you want to learn how Amazon’s search engine works, listen to episode 226 How to Rank in Amazon Search Results with Dave Chesson. The title is the most important part of your potential for ranking in search engines. When it comes to how your book ranks on search result pages, Amazon and Google both give the title a lot of ranking points. In your title, include keywords that readers are likely to type when searching for a book like yours. How do you include keywords when your title needs to be short and catchy? There are several ways. Identify The Keywords You Want to Use What words are readers using when they look for your book? Publisher Rocket (Affiliate Link) is a tool specifically designed to help you research and identify the words your target readers are using. The temptation with Search Engine Optimization and keyword research is to paint a red dot around where the arrow lands rather than doing the research to identify a target first. Put a Keyword in the Title It’s not always possible to include a keyword in your title, but you will have a much stronger title if you can include at least one. Titles that include keywords are easier for readers to find. For instance, when people want to read about changing their habits, they search for the word “habit.” So it’s not surprising that a book like Atomic Habits included the word “habit” in the title. This is perhaps the most important keyword people use when searching for books on habit change. By using the word “habit” the author got an edge in search results, which led to an edge in sales and reviews. It started a virtual cycle that made his book the most popular book on habits. The author could have easily used words like motivation, discipline, behavior, custom, or pattern, but those would have been too clever. Most readers are not using those words in their first search on how to change a habit. Use a Subtitle While book titles are getting shorter, the combined title and subtitle are actually getting longer. A good example of this is Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud. The title is simple, memorable, and easy to say. But the subtitle is long and full of searchable keywords: Boundaries, When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. The subtitle uses a lot of keywords that people would type when searching for such a book. If you are tempted to put “a novel” as your subtitle, don’t do it. Which title do you think would sell better? “Eregon: a Novel” or “Eregon: A Dragon Riding Adventure?” Unless you are writing literary fiction, you can usually do better than “a novel” as your subtitle. Use a Series Name In fiction, sometimes a subtitle doesn’t work. In those instances, use a keyword-rich series name. For example, the book The Bake Shop “(An Amish Marketplace Novel Book 1)” uses the series title in the subtitle. Notice that the keyword “Amish” is included because readers of Amish books are using the word “Amish” when they type their search. Doing it Right Here is an example of a novel with a unique yet familiar book title and a keyword-rich subtitle and series name: Moon Dance: A Paranormal Mystery (Vampire for Hire Book 1). Let’s break it down. Title: Moon Dance It’s a remarkable title because it’s new but also familiar. The title is reminiscent of New Moon, which was one of the Twilight books. You want to create a title with this kind of subtle connection. If the title were “Twilight Dance” it wouldn’t have worked because it’s not subtle enough. It’s too “on the nose.” You want a subtle connection that people can’t quite put their finger on. This title is short, easy to say, and unique. The only other books that appear in search results with that title are a children’s book and a nonfiction book about fertility. Subtitle: A Paranormal Mystery This “genre as subtitle” is a very good strategy for search rankings. Why put “a novel” when you can specify what kind of novel it is. “Moon Dance: A Novel” is not nearly as compelling as “Moon Dance: A Paranormal Mystery.” Series Name: Vampire for Hire This series name includes the keyword “vampire,” which is a powerful keyword for readers of this genre. Notice that the subtitle and series name have different keywords so that they can work together. Someone searching for a “vampire mystery” is likely to find this book because the words “mystery” and “vampire” are in the title of the book on Amazon. Solid SEO is a major reason Moon Dance has sold so well and made the author very wealthy. Goal #4 Heal a Pain One tactic that works incredibly well for nonfiction is to use the title to include a promise to heal the reader’s pain. It can work for fiction, but it’s harder to pull off, especially for genre fiction. Step #1 Identify the Reader & Their Specific Pain Identify a point of pain in your reader. To know the pain, you must know the reader. Authors who regularly interact with their target audience can identify pain points easily. Pastors, doctors, counselors, and consultants know their readers’ pain points because they interact with them personally. Here are some examples. A young woman who is pregnant for the first time and nervous about how her body is changing. The specific pain? She doesn’t know what to expect, and that scares her. A mom who is at her wits end about her child’s bad behavior. The specific pain? She feels trapped with a terribly behaved child. A man struggles to connect with people. The specific pain? He feels lonely and powerless. Step #2 Promise to Make the Pain go Away Here are some titles that make a clear promise: “Read this book, and your pain will go away.” A woman who is pregnant for the first time and nervous about how her body is changing? What to Expect When You’re ExpectingA mom who is at her wits end about her kid? Have a New Kid by FridayA man who feels lonely and powerless? How to Win Friends and Influence People Step #3 Deliver on Your Promise If your book can deliver on the promise, word-of-mouth marketing can take off, and sales will soar. The book Getting Things Done didn’t take off simply because it made the promise that if you read the book, you would get more done. It took off because it delivered on its promise. People read the book, applied the principles, and actually accomplished more! It delivered on its promise. That’s why the book outsold its own sales record for years and also why it has over 4,000 five-star ratings across its two bestselling editions. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity delivered on it’s promise. Making promises and alleviating pain works better for nonfiction books. It can sometimes work with fiction, so keep it in mind as a possible strategy for developing your novel’s title. Now that you know how to create a title that works, you must remember one more important step. It is critical to get an outside perspective on your title. A publishing industry professional or an experienced and successful author will be able to tell you if your label matches what you’ve put inside the bottle. You can connect with label-reading friends by joining the Novel Marketing Facebook or MeWe groups. You might even want to start your own group, so you can return the label-reading favor. Sponsor: How to Start a Writers Group Most authors want to join someone else’s writers group. When everyone thinks someone else will do something, it doesn’t happen. The result? Most authors are not in writers groups, even though writers group membership is one factor that separates bestselling authors from authors struggling to make it. Don’t let that be you! In this course, you will learn how to start a writers group. Thomas has started nearly half a dozen writer’s groups over the last ten years, and he has learned a thing or two in the process. Patrons save 50%, and students of the 5-Year Plan get this course for free! And that’s a good price! Learn more at AuthorMedia.com. Featured Patron Shelleen Weaver, author of the children’s book Love Bird: Fruit Fables Series Book 1 The squirrel family has a new neighbor who is rude and mean. They devise a plan of action to restore peace to the backyard and learn that love is more than a fuzzy feeling. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Audible Podcasts and Amazon Podcasts, where we currently have no reviews. Yours could be the first! For those of you wondering and still reading, my middle name is Gregory. I am Thomas Gregory Umstattd Jr, but I omit my middle name to avoid being mistaken for my dad. I call myself Thomas Umstattd Jr., and he goes by Tom G. Umstattd, CPA. His firm has a sign on one of the busiest highways in Austin, and it would be easy for folks to get us confused if our names were more similar. The post How to Pick a Strong Book Title appeared first on Author Media.
26 minutes | 5 months ago
Parler, MeWe, and How to Navigate Social Media Splintering as an Author
Recently there has been a mass exodus of conservatives from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Conservatives are signing up for alternatives like Parler and MeWe. If your audience includes conservative readers, how should you navigate this splintering of social media? It’s a potentially dicey subject. As authors, we must react to the world as it is and not as we wish it would be. Authors who live in mental fantasy lands don’t sell books. I have discussed the splintering of our society from time to time, and it is tricky for me to navigate. Novel Marketing listeners (and patrons!) hail from both extremes of the political spectrum. We also have listeners who live in the “Don’t talk to me about politics” camp. But listeners have repeatedly asked for my opinion, so I feel like I need to chime in. What is happening? Social networking sites, and other platforms like MailChimp, have expanded their missions. While they used to function as platforms where people could communicate and connect, they are now functioning as gatekeepers, monitoring what their users can and should say. They are taking more responsibility for what is posted and exerting more control. If you ask someone on the left, they will tell you these platforms are fighting misinformation. If you ask someone on the right, they will tell you they are censoring speech. The left calls them “fact-checkers,” the right calls them “censors,” but whatever you call them, someone at the platform determines what users can say and to whom. For instance, last week, MailChimp banned a Tea Party group from using its email service because they were hosting a peaceful political rally. In fact, MailChimp has been booting a lot of conservatives from its platform recently. If you are a conservative and you want to stick with MailChimp, I recommend downloading your email list as a CSV file every week, just in case they kick you off. I’d also encourage you to listen to my episode on How to Pick the Right Email Marketing Service for You. Even if you’re not a conservative, you may still want to move away from MailChimp. MailerLite (Affiliate Link) is cheaper, and ConvertKit (Affiliate Link) is a lot easier to use. As for Facebook and Twitter, you can watch the senate hearing about censorship here if you’d like. I won’t rehash that because I expect most of you already have a strong opinion. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how you feel. It matters how your readers feel. Maybe you have no problem with social sites censoring content, but if your readers leave those platforms, you will lose contact with those readers and potentially lose sales. And a lot of readers are joining these new social networks. To give you an idea of how quickly these platforms are growing, they were the #1 and #2 apps in the app store for a time. If you want to catch fish, you must drop your bait where the fish are swimming. If your readers are switching social networks, you may want to switch with them. An Opportunity for Platform Growth Most authors will ignore these new social networks and see a corresponding drop in reach and influence. If you navigate these turbulent waters of change correctly, you will be poised for sudden growth in your influence and platform. If you want to gain followers quickly, joining Parler and MeWe right now is a lot like joining Twitter back in 2008. It was easy to get a lot of Twitter followers back then. I remember because I was there. One author I’ve worked with switched to Parler a few days ago, and he’s already gained more than 900 followers. Another client who switched in June has over 57,000 followers. There are advantages to being an early adopter and joining new social networks. From a purely pragmatic perspective, Twitter and Facebook are full. Their users aren’t looking to follow someone new. It is a hard sell to get someone to add yet another person to their feed. Even if they do follow you, your post may not get through the sticky web of their algorithm. Many people on Parler and MeWe are there to listen. So if you join the platforms to talk, it’s a lot easier for people to hear you. For now, these social networks are quieter. Here are three steps to take advantage of these changes: Step 1: Claim Your Name If you write for a conservative or mixed readership, I recommend you sign up for Parler and MeWe right away. It doesn’t cost money. If your name is relatively common, it might be especially important to claim your name early rather than waiting and wishing you’d claimed your name before someone else did. You can follow Novel Marketing on: ParlerMeWe (Page)MeWe (Group) Parler limits you to one account per phone number, so keep that in mind when you sign up. I was able to claim @ThomasUmstattd and @AuthorMedia, but I don’t have another phone number to use to get @NovelMarketing. Step 2: Cross-Post The next step is to cross-post on the new platforms. On Parler, you post whatever you post to Twitter. On MeWe, you’ll post what you normally post to Facebook. It is not much work to post your content in both places. This minimum effort will ensure that the maximum number of readers sees your content moving forward. Step 3: Post Tailored Content Each social network develops its own accent over time. Ultimately, the content you post to Parler and MeWe should be in line with the language and customs of the users on each platform. Over time, these platforms will develop their own personalities, and you should adapt to that culture. Now, let’s look at each platform individually. What do authors need to know about Parler? Parler presents itself as a platform for free speech. In their community guidelines, they commit to being “viewpoint neutral.” They are not in the business of policing or fact-checking posts. More important for authors, Parler does not curate content at all. There is no algorithm to game. Posts are posted chronologically. As a user, you have full control over what you see and what you post. Facebook and Twitter used to work like that years ago when they were better platforms for book promotion. In short, Parler won’t hide your post about your new book like Facebook does. Gizmodo reported that Parler had a rule against obscene language. I couldn’t find that specific restriction in any of Parler’s rules, but I would love to find a social network that had a rule against obscene language. Allowing people to swear at each other isn’t conducive to civil discourse. I know I sound like a dad, but I could see a social network becoming quite popular by instituting a policy that says, “If you can’t say it without cussing, perhaps you shouldn’t say it.” My guess about the purported rule against obscene language is that Parler flags posts with bad language as “sensitive content.” Then they hide that post from everyone who hasn’t opted in to seeing “sensitive content” in their feeds. Parler Features In terms of features, Parler is basically a clone of Twitter. Hashtags work the same as they do on Twitter. One difference is that you’re limited to 1000 characters, so you have a bit more room to say your piece. It’s also easier to get a verified account right now in Parler. You only need to prove you’re a real human being by submitting a photo of a government-issued ID along with a selfie of your face. Parler has a very strong anti-bot policy. Every time I log in, I have to type in a captcha and do an SMS two-factor authentication. While that’s annoying, it helps ensure I’m interacting with real humans. Parler is also growing crazy fast. In the last month alone, Parler has grown from 500,000 to over 4 million active users. That is an insane growth rate. The number of users has doubled, doubled, and doubled in one month. I don’t think Facebook ever doubled three times in a single month. I am not sure how Parler plans to make money, but with that many active users, they’re likely going to sell advertising. Culture Like Twitter, Parler is very news-centric right now, and it’s filled with hot takes on current news. This may or may not be the right fit for your brand, depending on your topic and audience. What do authors need to know about MeWe? MeWe presents itself as the privacy platform. MeWe has been around for a while, but in its early days, it was mostly used by people concerned about privacy. Now MeWe is growing in popularity because it is seen as being politically neutral. Since MeWe doesn’t sell advertising or user data, they make money by selling an upgraded user experience. Users can upgrade to a $5 per month Premium membership that provides a special profile badge, more storage for photos, and a few other features. The blue “Verified Account” checkmark on MeWe will cost you $5 per month. A verified account is free on Parler, but they require a photo of your diverse license. To set up a business page on MeWe, you’ll pay $1.99 per month, but authors can set up a personal profile for free. If you own a publishing company and you want a MeWe page for your business, $1.99 may seem like a lot. But remember, you don’t have to pay to boost your posts. All your followers can see all of your posts. For that reason, it will be cheaper than Facebook for many people. Since MeWe makes its money from the handful of users who pay, they have no reason to sell your data. Remember, if you are not the customer, you are the product being sold. Facebook and Twitter sell your attention to advertisers. MeWe does not. I really like MeWe for this reason. MeWe Features In terms of the interface, MeWe is more similar to Facebook than Twitter. You can create pages, groups, and events. Consider this your official invitation to join our Novel Marketing Group on MeWe. Culture From what I can tell, MeWe is less political than Parler. For people leaving Facebook, MeWe is the place to talk about life. For people leaving Twitter, Parler is the new place to talk about politics. Bottom Line In my opinion, signing up, reserving your name, and cross-posting your content on these new social networks is a no-brainer. The authors who join will likely see a big jump in their followers. I personally like MeWe better, but that’s probably because I preferred Facebook to Twitter back in the day. However, I also really like the “our users are our customers” philosophy. For that reason, I’m considering moving the Obscure No More Students Only Facebook Group over to MeWe. I love the idea of social networks that don’t hide your content from your readers. For years I taught people how to build a platform on Facebook, and I felt they did a bait-and-switch when they started charging authors to reach the readers they had already been reaching for free. Of course, that strategy made them one of the wealthiest companies in history, but at what cost? I am not trying to be preachy or didactic. I’m just trying to help authors navigate a very turbulent time in history. When I recommended that authors leave MailChimp, I never anticipated MailChimp would start purging accounts for political reasons. Every time I talk about cultural topics like this, I get angry emails, and I lose patrons. My episode on How to Survive Cancel Culture cost me several patrons. For the record, I still stand behind everything I said in the How to Survive Cancel Culture as an Author episode. I am, and have always been, in favor of free speech and against book burning, book banning, and censorship. Sponsor Author Media Mastermind Groups Would you like me to personally help you hit your publishing goals? Would you like to be able to text me your questions? I have worked with thousands of authors, from beginners to New York Times bestsellers, and I can help you go further faster in your career. You can get personalized interactive training and encouragement from a small group of other masterminds and me. Once you join an Author Media Mastermind Group, you can access the private Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video coaching session. Featured Patron Jon Shuerger, author of The Exorcism of Frosty the Snowman In the frozen north, children link hands in a ritual circle and sing a song they never learned to summon a primordial enemy they never knew existed. Frosty is just a fairytale, they say. They are wrong. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode on a MeWe group of authors who you think would benefit. Encouragement I celebrated my 35th birthday last week. The post Parler, MeWe, and How to Navigate Social Media Splintering as an Author appeared first on Author Media.
13 minutes | 6 months ago
2020 Cyber Monday Deals for Authors
According to legend, Black Friday got its name because it was historically the first profitable day of the year for many retailers. This year has been a tough one for many retailers, so they are trying to catch up with very aggressive discounts this week. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best and most useful deals for authors. Many of the below links are affiliate links. Using these links is a great way to support the Novel Marketing Podcast. Thanksgiving Before we get to the deals, I would like to talk about some things I’m thankful for. This has been a tough year for us as a family. With two children under two-years-of-age, lockdowns were rough. We had a death in the family a few weeks ago that really shook us. My episode about Author Taglines with Jim Rubart was an emergency episode. I wasn’t in a good place to do an episode, and I asked Jim if he had any material handy for an episode. So the first person I would like to say I am thankful for is James L. Rubart. A friend in need is a friend indeed. I am also thankful for the students of Obscure No More for being so understanding about the slow start of the course. Our very first live session had to be put on hold because I needed to spend some unexpected time with my family. I am thankful for the students in the Novel Marketing mastermind groups. I wasn’t sure how those would turn out, and I wasn’t expecting the Slack channel to be so much fun. Those folks are a never-ending source of episode ideas. They have also been very encouraging during this season of mourning. I am thankful for the team that helps me with these episodes. Moving forward, we are going to have credits at the end of each episode, but for now, thanks to Shauna Letellier for her help with the blog post versions of these episodes, William Umstattd for his help on post-production and editing, and Laurie Ressler for her help in editing the course videos. I am thankful for the Novel Marketing patrons. We currently have 197 patrons, and they are the reason I can have a team to help me with each episode. When we launched on Patreon, I didn’t know what to expect. To see that we have almost 200 patrons is encouraging. I enjoy our patrons-only Q&A episodes. Receiving questions from the patrons each month has helped me feel more connected during this disconnected year. Finally, I am thankful for our listeners. Thank you for your emails, questions, Apple Podcast reviews, and for telling your friends about the show. Many authors hear about Novel Marketing from a current listener. So with all that said, let’s talk about deals for authors. Divi Discount: 25%Affiliate Link Divi by Elegant Themes (Affiliate Link) is a page builder theme that makes building a website easy and fun. BlueHost Discount: 60%Affiliate Link This is the hosting we recommend for most authors. It is the best, cheap hosting out there. It is very WordPress friendly. BlueHost (Affiliate Link) is perhaps the most popular web host among authors. They have reasonable prices and a solid offering for the cost. This year on Black Friday, they’re offering the lowest price I’ve seen. Only $2.65 per month for hosting! They are also offering: Free MigrationsFree Multi-Website Management60% Off Select Website Plans30% Off Select Domains Deposit Photos Discount: 70%Affiliate Link Deposit Photos has long been my go-to source for stock photos. They have an amazing search tool where you can filter search results by the number of people in the photo, photo orientation, photo color, and so much more. Normally credits are $1.00 per image, and you can buy any size image for one credit. But AppSumo has a Black Friday deal where you can buy 100 credits for only $39. If you blog weekly, that’s two years of weekly blog post stock photos! Book Sweeps Discount: 25-50%Affiliate Link BookSweeps (Affiliate Link) is an excellent way to build your email list. You can hear our episode all about it here. They are offering 25% off all sweeps and 50% Book Sweeps Premium (Affiliate links). Happy Scribe Discount: 80%Affiliate Link Happy Scribe (Affiliate Link) is an AI audio transcription service. We use it to help create the blog post versions of our podcast episodes. You could also use it to transcribe your book. This is a more advanced transcription service than Dragon. You don’t have to worry about punctuation. You just talk. Normally Happy Scribe is around $14 per hour of transcription. But there is an AppSumo deal (Affiliate Link) where you can get a lifetime subscription of two hours per month for a one-time payment of $69. NameCheap Domains Discount: Up to 98%Affiliate Link I have used NameCheap (Affiliate Link) for over a decade for my personal domain collection. They have the best prices on a normal day, but on Black Friday, their prices are crazy! Domains ending in .com are only $4.98 per year. How to Build an Amazing Author Website Course Discount: 100%Link This is our popular course on how to build an author website. I just doubled the size of the course. So for those of you who have already taken the course, you might want to check back. The course is free. Five Year Plan Discount: 50%Link Christy Hall of Fame author James L. Rubart and I have a popular course called The 5-Year Plan To Become A Bestselling Author. Jim likes to joke that it’s a five-year plan to becoming an overnight success. We begin the course by focusing on the craft of writing, and as the course advances, we transition to learning how to grow your platform. Best Page Forward Discount: Up to $530Affiliate Link The folks at Best Page Forward have back cover copywriting down to a system. We have an interview with their CEO Bryan Cohen where we talk about how to optimize your Amazon listing overall. My Brilliant Writing Planner Discount: 50%Link Write more, faster, better by staying organized with this popular planner for authors. You can hear my interview with Susan May Warren, the creator of the organizer here. Amazon Kindle Discount 33%Affiliate Link Amazon always has big Black Friday deals, and this year is no exception. If you don’t have a Kindle yet, this is a great time to get one. Publisher Rocket Discount: Bonus CourseAffiliate Link Before you spend money on Amazon ads, you should spend money on Publisher Rocket’s software to help you do keyword research. This is the first time Publisher Rocket has run a Black Friday promo. Anyone who purchases Publisher Rocket will also receive a free Kindle Keyword course. We have a Novel Marketing episode about Amazon Search Optimization with Dave Chesson, the CEO of Publisher Rocket. Samson SR350 Over-Ear Stereo Headphones Discount: 30%Affiliate Link I was hoping to put more podcasting gear on this list, but most of what I normally recommend is either sold out or in limited supply. One exception is the Samson SR350s. These are the best, cheap monitor headphones you can buy. The last time I bought these, they were $13.99. Now they are only $9.62 on Amazon. KingSumo Email List Building Contests Discount:Affiliate Link This is is one of the most powerful email list building tools out there. It works by hosting a viral contest where readers get more entries by getting their friends to enter the contest as well. MyBookTable Pro & Dev Discount: 50%Pro LinkDev Link MyBookTable is a plugin that allows you to quickly and easily build an online bookstore on your WordPress website. Use it to rank #1 on Google for your book and to boost your book sales on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The pro version comes with grid view mode, landing page mode, and many other cool features. ProWritingAid Discount: 50%Link This is a super spell check. While I use Grammarly, ProWritingAid has some features that novelists prefer. Novel Factory Discount 50%Link Novel Factory describes itself as The Ultimate Novel Writing Software. We haven’t tested it but thought it was worth listing in here in case you want to check it out. Featured Patron Linda Thompson, author of The Mulberry Leaf Whispers A WWII Japanese naval officer. The teenage daughter of a legendary Christian samurai. Three centuries separate them, but a crucial question binds their destinies together. Which lives have value? Do you have a question you would like us to answer on the show? Call our listener helpline! 512-827-8377. You can also send us a high-quality recording on AuthorMedia.com/contact. The post 2020 Cyber Monday Deals for Authors appeared first on Author Media.
45 minutes | 6 months ago
How to Find and Work With a Virtual Assistant
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks required to write, publish, and market your books? As you experience success in your writing career, more demands will be laid upon your schedule, and they will pull you away from writing. As my dad says, “Only do what only you can do. Delegate the rest.” You are the only person who can write your books. Why spend most of your time doing tasks someone else can do? But how and where do you find someone who can help? In this article, you’ll learn how to find a Virtual Assistant and how to delegate tasks. Hiring a Virtual Assistant may be exactly what you need to dramatically increase your output as a writer. Why Work With a Virtual Assistant? Many successful authors have an assistant, and most of the assistants work remotely. Authors were ahead of the curve in hiring Virtual Assistants before the world was focused on flattening the curve by working from home during the pandemic. Working with a Virtual Assistant (VA) does not mean you are working with a robot. A VA is a real human who works for you remotely and only works as many hours as you need them to. Some VAs only work an hour or two per week. Your weaknesses are someone else’s strengths. As you become more successful as an author, you will be earning more money. With some of that income, you can hire a trained person to skillfully complete the tasks where you lack skills or desire. When you spend less time working in your areas of weaknesses and more time in your areas of strength, you will be happier, more fulfilled, and more productive. In other words, you will earn more money overall by paying a VA than you would if you tried to do every task yourself. Why spend the time and money trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths when you can just work with others? When you hire someone to do work they are good at, you make the world a better place. When you delegate, you create a job for someone who can’t do what you can do. You are the only person who can write your books. When you don’t delegate a task you could afford to delegate, you withhold a job from a willing worker, and you spend less time writing your books. Hoarding tasks you can afford to hire out makes the world a worse place. You might hire a house cleaner, but you can also hire someone to help you with your writing work. 7 Kinds of Virtual Assistants Most authors only have one or two VAs, but there are seven main types of Virtual Assistants. Different people have different strength zones. You want to hire a VA whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses. Administrative Assistant An Administrative Assistant’s primary job is to protect you from distractions so you can focus on your writing. You can delegate the following types of tasks to your Administrative VA. Reading and responding to emails Scheduling meetings and Zoom callsBooking travel arrangementsResponding to media requestsBookkeeping Administrative tasks What to look for: Friendly and confidentAble to give a friendly “no” to people trying to waste your timeOrganized Tech-savvy Quick learner The most important qualities to look for are organization and the ability to communicate in a friendly way. However, not every task listed above would require a person to be friendly and comfortable talking with people. Publishing Assistant This kind of VA is generally only needed by indie authors. A Publishing Assistant will help you publish your books and manage your backlist. Especially for indie authors who have more than a dozen books, a Publishing Assistant can take care of many of the technical tasks. They do this by: Formatting files into the correct format for paper and ebookCoordinating and communicating with editorsCoordinating and communicating with designersCoordinating and communicating with beta readersFollowing up with endorsersSubmitting copyright informationGetting the book on Amazon and other booksellersManaging metadata What to look for in a publishing assistant: Fellow indie authorOrganizedSomeone who has gone through the process before Many indie authors know the basics of the publishing process. They know how to deal with designers, editors, beta readers, and the copyright system. But for whatever reason, they haven’t written their bestseller yet, and they’re looking to earn money on the side. Other indie authors are a great resource, and if you find someone who’s already published their own book, you may not even need to train them. Marketing Assistant This person helps you get more sales by: Updating your websiteManaging Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook Ad campaigns Submitting your book to BookBub at the maximum frequency Drafting email newslettersReaching out to podcasters, bloggers, and media outlets to have you on as a guest Posting to social mediaDrafting blog posts or finding images for blog postsCoordinating book launch details Managing the launch team What to look for in a marketing assistant: Quick learnerListener to the Novel Marketing podcast. You may need to set up the processes first, but a Marketing Assistant can maintain them. If all you do is hire a VA to submit your books to BookBub every thirty days, the VA may pay for itself through sales generated by BookBub Featured Deals. Your Marketing Assistant should be the kind of person who listens to Novel Marketing. They should be interested in learning marketing techniques. Novel Marketing has over 250 episodes that would be helpful to your Marketing Assistant. Research Assistant A Research Assistant is generally only needed by nonfiction authors, and they help you look smart by helping you keep your facts straight. They do this by: Conducting original researchAnalyzing dataOrganizing existing researchTranscribing and cataloging interviews Fact-checking your writingManaging your citations, endnotes, etc. What to look for in a Research Assistant: A nerd on your topicGood with spreadsheets (depending on the kind of research you are doing)Organized Detail-oriented When I wrote my nonfiction book, I had over 500 pages of survey responses. We had to follow up with some of those survey respondents to include their stories in the book. It was a lot of work, but I hired people to help me comb through that research. Your Research Assistant doesn’t have to be good with people since they are only working with research. Your money is better spent on an organized spreadsheet wizard than a friendly but disorganized conversationalist. Writing Assistant A Writing Assistant is a research assistant for a novelist. They help you write better books by: Drafting chapters based on transcriptions of your audio recordings Editing your writing (WARNING: A writing assistant does not replace the need for an editor!) Keeping track of story continuity Maintaining your story/character/location bibleProviding another set of proofreading eyes What to look for in a writing assistant: Avid reader in your genre Fan of your previous books Authors have used dictation for hundreds of years. Before typewriters, Writing Assistants used shorthand to transcribe an author’s dictation efficiently. Now, it’s as easy as speaking into your iPhone. If you’re on a Mac, click “Transcribe” in Pages. In Word, you talk into your microphone and turn on dictation. After you’ve dictated your words to your artificial intelligence software, you’ll still need to edit it yourself or have a human, like your Writing Assistant, massage the wording. A Writing Assistant will help keep your story world consistent from book to book. But let me reiterate, your Writing Assistant does not function as a professional editor. You will still need a trained editor to polish your final draft. Media Assistant If you are a media content creator (you make videos or podcasts), a Media Assistant helps you make better content. They tend to come in one of two flavors: Producer and Editor. Producer: Identifying show topics and potential guestsGenerating interview questionsScheduling guest interviewsDrafting show notesPublishing episodesFollowing up with guests and answering guest questions Acts as an interface between you and the outside world What to look for in a producer: FriendlyOrganizedNot dazzled by celebrity Your producer should be comfortable saying “no” to a famous person and making sure the celebrity has the right microphone for high-quality podcast audio. The more famous a person is, the less they believe the rules apply to them. Your assistant should be friendly, organized, and firm. Editor: Editing the audio files and publishing the podcast episodesEditing your videos and uploading them to YouTubeCreating a video thumbnail or episode imageAdvising you on how to create better audio and video High-level podcasts and video channels will hire a Media Assistant to sit in the virtual recording room and act as an audio engineer. They help troubleshoot problems with sound, speakers, and microphones. What to look for in an editor: Expensive studio monitor headphones: A good editor will have great headphones because they know they need to hear every detail. Hobbyists won’t have great headphones.The necessary editing software: I recommend Hindenburg Journalist for audio editing and Adobe Premier or Camtasia for video editing. Do not hire a VA who uses free software like Audacity, Garageband, or iMovie. Free tools cause the VA to work slower because of the lack of editing features in the software. Their free tool will cost you more when you pay them by the hour, and it will also give you an inferior product. Editing training Invest in an assistant who has invested their money in the tools they use and has spent time mastering those tools. Since this is not a public-facing role, this person doesn’t need to have great people skills. Literary Agent Even if you are independently published, you may find you need a literary agent to help you interface with large, powerful institutions. Literary agents are not technically VAs since you don’t pay them directly. But they do work remotely, and since they make money when you do, they work for you. A literary agent helps you by: Representing you to foreign rights buyersRepresenting you to Hollywood: Do not deal with Hollywood without an agent. You’ll be eaten alive.Representing you to subsidiary rights buyers if someone wants to create a derivative work from yoursRepresenting you to publishing houses if you plan to traditionally publish For more on finding and working with literary agents, listen to the following episodes: 032 – What is a Literary Agent and Do You Still Need One?082 – How to Get an Agent083 – How to Get an Agent with Rachelle Gardner One of these types of Virtual Assistants can help you make more time for writing books that only you can write. But where can you find them? Where to find a Virtual Assistant Novel Marketing Facebook Group Fellow authors are better VAs than non-authors because they are familiar with the industry and your needs as an author. I encourage authors to hire each other. If you’re just getting started in this industry, working for a more established author is a great way to learn and earn money. You come to the table with more knowledge than other candidates because you listen to this podcast, and you’re going through the process yourself. You are welcome to post your job description to the Novel Marketing Facebook Group or the brand new Novel Marketing MeWe group. Authors who listen to this podcast are savvier than average authors because they hear me debunk many publishing myths. Over the last seven years, we have provided comprehensive training on all things publishing and marketing. Last time I hired a VA, I only promoted the position by announcing it on this podcast, and my biggest challenge was choosing from all the amazing candidates! Upwork Upwork.com is the most popular VA matchmaking site in the world. You post your job for free, and potential VAs will post applications. You pick the VA you want to work with, and then you pay Upwork, who takes a cut and then pays your VA. Upwork handles all the tax paperwork and filing for you. Your VA will make less money if you hire them through these matchmaking websites than they would if you hired a fellow author through the Novel Marketing Facebook group. But those sites provide a platform to connect, and they do the paperwork. Their cut pays for the services they offer. Similar Competing Sites: Guru.comFreelancer.comFreeup.net When you use these sites, you’ll receive applications from all over the world, and that may be a good thing for your business (as you’ll learn below). How to Pay Virtual Assistants If you are working with your VA directly, you will need to file the paperwork. I use and recommend Gusto (Affiliate Link) for handling payroll. If your VA is a contractor, it only costs $6 per month to have Gusto pay your contractor via direct deposit and create and file the 1099 at the end of the year. I’ve used Gusto for five years, and I’ve never had a complaint. Depending on the type of job and the laws in your state, your VA will either be a W2 Employee or a 1099 Contractor. Gusto can handle both, but W2 Employees are a bit more expensive. If you pay a VA as an employee, 20% of their paycheck goes to taxes. Virtual Assistants usually qualify as contractors, but check your local laws to be sure. Foreign VAs always qualify as independent contractors, and there are no taxes on hiring a foreign VA. How Much do VAs Cost? Virtual Assistants usually bill by the hour, and they may work as little as one hour per week or as much as 40 hours per week. The cost of hiring a VA is a function of their experience and the currency in which they are paid. Exchange Rate If you pay in a strong currency, like the US Dollar or the Euro, and your VA gets paid in Rupees or Pesos, the VA will receive a pay boost in the conversion. One US dollar turns into 70 Rupees at the time of this recording. You will not be taxed when paying a foreign VA, but you will be taxed when you pay a VA if you both work in the same country. Some VAs are willing to work for so little because the exchange rate benefits you and them. Their low hourly rate isn’t due to a lack of training or experience. They can charge less for their services because the exchange rate means that $5 buys more in their country than it does in the US. Someone in India who is charging $5 per hour is actually making 350 Rupees per hour. Remember that the exchange rate is always changing. Right now, if you’re hiring a VA in the UK, your dollar will only be worth $0.85. Experience The less experienced someone is, the less they charge. On the high end, you can expect to pay as much as $50 per hour for an experienced VA. Often, these VAs already work with several authors in a micro-niche. Working with the same VA makes it easier for authors to coordinate marketing efforts. It is not uncommon for multiple authors to work with the same VA. On the low end, VAs who are just starting out and live in low-exchange-rate countries might charge as little as $5 per hour. Many VAs charge a low rate until they are working full time. As they acquire more experience and add clients, they raise their rates because their time and talents are in demand. Most VAs charge $15-$25 per hour, depending on the kind of work they do. How to Hire a Virtual Assistant I went to business school and took classes on how to find and hire good people. I’ve hired dozens of people over the years, and I’ve learned that interviews are almost useless for determining whether someone will be good at their job. Employers who do interviews tend to hire applicants who are a lot like them in personality, temperament, and potentially even race, age, and gender. In other words, they tend to hire people for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability for the job. You’re hiring a person to work for you, not to be your drinking buddy. Conducting an interview only reveals whether an applicant is good at interviewing. An interview will not tell you if the applicant is equipped to keep track of the 27 different alien races across your solar system of 43 named planets. How do you determine if an applicant is any good? You host a tryout. If you were hiring a drummer for your band, or a first baseman for your team, you wouldn’t conduct an interview. You would host tryouts to observe their skills. Host a tryout for your VA job opening. How to Host a Tryout Create a sample task and have all of the qualified applicants complete that sample task. Then you can see who did the best job. If necessary, eliminate the worst applications and then do another tryout on a related task. Repeat until you identify the best candidate. If the sample task requires more than an hour to complete, you should offer to pay them for their time. Treat your applicants the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. If you use a platform like Upwork, you can “hire” multiple VAs at the same time on an hourly basis to try them out. Make sure you give all the VAs the same task. If you assign different tasks, you won’t be able to compare their work fairly. When they’ve all completed the sample task, you pay them all, even the candidate who did the worst job. Finally, you choose the applicant who did the best work. If you want, you can conduct an interview with your best candidate to make sure their personality will be a good fit for your team. How to Delegate Tasks to a Virtual Assistant For many authors, hiring is the easy part. The hard part is handing off tasks and responsibilities. Most people who complain about their VAs have skipped one or more of the following steps. It’s not magic, but it is important, and it will ensure clear communication and expectations between you and your VA. Here are four steps to ensure you and your VA have a successful partnership. Step 1: Do the task yourself and document your steps. The difference between working with a VA and an expert is that the VA takes work off of your plate. An expert cover designer does work you can’t do yourself. A VA relieves you of tasks you’ve been doing yourself. To be able to delegate a task, you need to be able to do the task yourself. You don’t need to be good at it, but you do need to be competent. As you do the task, document the steps you take and create a procedure document. You’ll need your procedure document for all the following tasks. It might be good to document your procedure before hiring the VA because this is where you’ll get your sample task for your VA tryouts. Let’s say you want to hire a VA to post to social media. Create a Google document with the exact steps they need to follow and include any information they will need to complete the task. Many VAs get stuck because they are missing your password or login credentials. If you are unavailable to provide the information, they can’t do their work. You will be disappointed in their speed, and they will be frustrated by the lack of information and responsiveness. Give your VA all the information they need to complete the job. Use a Google doc so your assistant can keep it up to date. It won’t take long for your VA to get better at the task than you are. You want them to have the ability to tweak the process accordingly. Using a Google doc also allows both of you to see the exact same document at all times. People who email Word documents back and forth end up with file names like Final.final.version.2.doc. Having a procedure document also helps with any cultural differences you may have with your VA. In my experience, a clear series of well-documented steps transcends cultural differences. You may expect your VA to figure out things on their own, but if their culture is different, they may do the task differently than you’re expecting. People without a clear, documented process end up not wanting to hire people from other countries because they think they are bozos. In reality, a lack of clear communication on the author’s part caused the working relationship to deteriorate. Your procedure documentation is an important asset for your business. It serves as a reminder for you if it’s a task you only do a couple of times each year. It’s also valuable for training a replacement VA or an additional contractor. Step 2: Do the task while the VA watches. Follow your procedure document from Step 1 while your VA watches live on a Zoom call. While you do the task, you may find some steps you missed. Narrate what you are doing and why you are doing it. The why is important. If your VA knows why you are doing a step, they are less likely to forget that step themselves. They are also more likely to improve that step of the procedure as they become familiar with the work. Encourage your VA to ask lots of questions during this process. Ask questions yourself like, “Does this make sense?” Step 3: The VA does the task while you watch. Watch the VA doing the task. Praise them when they do things well, and ask questions when they do things poorly. They may do something differently. Don’t assume your way is better. Ask why they did a task in a certain way. Who knows? You might learn something. Keep a close eye on the procedure document as they are doing the task. It is not too late to change the process. If they have a better technique, upgrade the process and use that technique. Step 4: The VA does the work. Most of the time, things are running smoothly at this point. If something goes wrong, check the process first. While you may need to micromanage at the beginning when they are still learning, you will need to get out of their hair if you want to actually save time by hiring VA. No one wants their boss breathing down their neck. If you do steps 1-3 well, you won’t need to be all up in your VAs business. Check in periodically. Ask questions. Praise good work. Give tips and feedback. Think about the best boss you ever had and then try to be like that boss. Remember, the goal of this process is to give you more time to write. So get back to writing! Sponsor: Author Media Mastermind Groups Would you like me to personally help you hit your publishing goals? Would you like to be able to text me your questions? I have worked with thousands of authors from beginners to New York Times bestsellers, and I can help you go further faster in your career. You can get personalized interactive training and encouragement from a small group of other masterminds and me. Once you join an Author Media Mastermind Group, you can access the private Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video coaching session. As of this recording, the published fiction group is full, the pre-published fiction group has one open spot, and the nonfiction/podcast group has four open spots. I am thinking about starting a fourth group for speculative fiction. Let me know if that interests you. Featured Patron Shauna Letellier, author of Remarkable Advent (affiliate link) With breathtaking imagery and captivating storytelling, Remarkable Advent will prepare your heart to celebrate God’s greatest gift. Through twenty-five daily readings for individuals or families, you will rediscover the wonder of the first Christmas. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you are looking for a VA or are seeking a job as a VA, or if you just want to hang out with other savvy authors who listen to Novel Marketing, then join the free Novel Marketing Facebook Group. The post How to Find and Work With a Virtual Assistant appeared first on Author Media.
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