“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
Podcasts are becoming more and more popular, and it’s time we all started paying attention to them, as publishers and authors. In this first interview in a series called Talking Podcasts, Abbie Headon interviews Amy Baker and Rosy Edwards about The Riff Raff podcast, which focuses on debut authors.
Jon Watt of indie publisher Type & Tell hails the return of the novella and the part authors have played in it.
A former journalist and author, Jon Watt is now Country Manager of Type & Tell, an innovative new self-publishing services provider offering free book layout and 100% author royalties. Here he shares his top tips for succeeding in the competitive world of self-publishing.
If you’ve begun to query agents and editors, you’ve heard the dreaded P word dropped.
In this blog post, Chris Singleton – director of digital marketing company Style Factory – highlights six tools that can help self-published authors handle the business side of being a writer.
Carly Watters is a VP and Senior Literary Agent at P.S. Literary. Here she shares her top tips on Instagram brand-building for us to share with authors.
Instagram is the last major social media frontier for many writers. It’s not new by any means; in fact, readers have been posting pictures of authors’ books since the platform’s inception. But where are those authors and why aren’t they engaging with all of those posts? Why haven’t writers joined Instagram as quickly as readers?
Many writers are reluctant to join Instagram for many reasons: 1) it takes time away from writing 2) it’s another platform to learn (when they were just getting the hang of Twitter!) 3) it’s against many writers’ natural instincts i.e. writers think they aren’t great at taking lovely Instagram-worthy pictures because they’re writers!
I’m here to argue that writers, you CAN be good at Instagram if you think of it like the storytelling platform it is. That’s right, successful Instagram users create a narrative that brings followers into their lives. That’s the key to those people that everyone wants to follow. You’re following their daily journey because they control the narrative they’re telling and reveal it in a compelling way (much like a novel, hint hint!).
For example, you can choose the parts of your life that you bring your followers into. Many successful users focus on certain elements: bringing a pet home, cooking and recipes, home renovations, a fitness journey, travel, and other hobbies.
Also, by combining the daily posts with complementary “Stories” (i.e. The Snapchat of Instagram, which are the circle icons at the top of your app), you can make yourself a destination that people want to visit regularly.
You need to engage with your readers. Sometimes they’ll tag you and sometimes they won’t, but search your hashtags (your name, your book’s name, your publisher’s feed etc.) and comment on readers’ posts, follow them, re-post their lovely pictures (which saves you from having to take your own), and make sure they want to pre-order your next. Early fans can become passionate brand ambassadors. They’re out there reading your work so make sure you welcome them into your fold and authentically appreciate the work they’re doing to spread the word of mouth on social media.
(One thing to avoid: talking too much about a work in progress. Unless you’re a multi-published author with a big fan base that’s craving a sneak peek it’s going to be lost on people. Focus on those tried and true Instagram hobby topics instead.)
Follow Carly on Instagram at @carlywatters.
Congratulations, you’re writing a book. You’re probably thinking, ‘I just need to get this finished and then I’ll begin to think about how to promote it.’ My advice would be, start thinking now. It’s never too early! Here are my top 5 tips to get your book and yourself PR-ready:
If you’re planning on hiring a professional publicist, bear in mind that they’re likely to want to start thinking about the campaign about 4 months ahead of publication. Good PRs get booked up, so start your research early.
When the project is close to your heart it can be hard to stand back, be objective, and accept that your book won’t be for everyone and to really pin down who it is you’re trying to reach. Your publicist will read your book, of course, but your help here is invaluable too.
I can’t stress how crucial it is to nail your audience – in order to create a targeted campaign (meaning one that results in book sales) your publicist needs to identify the media consumed by the audience you most want to reach. Are they the well-heeled, middle classes in the Home Counties who might enjoy their subscription to the Times or Telegraph; are they ‘heat seekers’ looking for their next beach reads; are they urban types who want to be ahead of any new trend?
Is it a non-fiction book that contains brand new research? What are the most salient, newsworthy points?
Are you uniquely qualified as an author on this particular subject? For example, bestselling crime writer Kathy Reichs is also a forensic anthropologist, so you always know that the science in her books is going to be spot on. That is her USP.
A publicist will be trying every avenue to get you publicity, so give them as much info as possible.
Twitter can be a godsend for authors, enabling them to engage with like-minded souls who might be interested in hearing about their book. Don’t be all ‘plug plug plug’ – let your PR do that for you – instead, find people talking about books that you like and join in.
Lots of book bloggers are very active on twitter and engaging with them early can be hugely beneficial when the time comes for your book to be pitched. Everyone remembers the person they had a lovely back and forth with about a shared interest.
Your publicist is there to do everything they can to get your book to the widest audience possible. Have an open discussion at the outset about your hopes for the campaign, and find out what their plans and their vision is, so that everyone is working to the same goal. Good luck.
Emma Finnigan has been promoting books for almost 20 years, at both the Orion Publishing Group, Penguin Random House and most recently as Director of Emma Finnigan PR Follow her on twitter at @EmmaFinnigan.
Carys Bray is the author of a collection of short stories, Sweet Home, and two novels, A Song for Issy Bradley, which was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, and The Museum of You. Here, she shares her experience about an author’s relationship with a publicist.
When my first book was published I was my own publicist. I managed to arrange a few appearances in bookshops, but if anyone approached me (I couldn’t bring myself to approach them) I found myself saying things like: ‘You can buy one of my books if you like, but you don’t have to – in fact, have you ever read any books by Carol Shields or Anne Tyler or Liz Jensen? They’re brilliant, you should definitely buy their books…’
I was a terrible publicist.
When, having written my second book (my first novel), I was assigned to work with a publicist, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know that publicists work on several books at once and face both time and budgetary constraints – I’d never really given it any thought. I quickly realised that although some of the trickier jobs (such as sending out review copies, speaking to bookshops and festivals, working with book bloggers, arranging interviews and so on) may no longer be exclusively mine, I needed to remain engaged and think about the best way to showcase my work.
Advice from other, more experienced writers was, and is, helpful. Here are a couple of thoughts from some experienced writers:
‘Publicists are expected to perform magic for every author, every time, and from what I’ve seen they go into it with absolute dedication and determination, but it doesn’t always pay off for reasons that aren’t always within their control.’
‘Writers need to make a leap of understanding – our books are only the single most important thing in our own universes. A book is not a story. Writers need to offer a publicist something – apart from their book – to work with.’
Every book is different and, as another writer friend advised, ‘A standard approach does neither the book nor the writer justice.’ I’ve tried to offer my publicists things to work with (at such times I realise how boring I am and vow to get some interesting hobbies!). It can be tricky to decide which parts of your life you’re willing to share and which are entirely yours and should remain separate from your books and writing life. A good publicist can help you to strike a balance.
There have been times when things haven’t gone quite right. I’ve spoken to rooms of mostly empty chairs and once to a room containing one person – it was actually quite fun in the end! I’ve carried bags of books to events and lugged every single one home with me. I’ve twice been interviewed by journalists who subsequently removed all the questions and chopped up my words to create a decontextualized first person narrative which sounded absolutely nothing like me. But I have had many enjoyable experiences, too.
When The Museum of You was published I spent a day riding around the northwest in an old-fashioned bus. When A Song for Issy Bradley was published a writer at the Guardian conducted a thoughtful interview addressing my feelings about Mormonism. I have given talks in libraries, interviewed writers at literary festivals, been an after dinner speaker and interacted with many generous book bloggers. Publicists have helped me to practice interview questions, smiled at me through the glass while I’ve done live radio interviews, helped me find my way around unfamiliar cities, and even offered consolation following a horrible gaff on social media. I’ve enjoyed working with my publicists and hopefully, between us, we’ve managed to find ways to introduce my books to people who will really enjoy them.
Writing a book can be a great way to market yourself and even make money. But actually finishing the steps to writing a book and achieving the results you want is much harder in practice. In this article I’ll share the eight steps to writing a book that sells: from determining your goals to writing to marketing.
As I mentioned, writing a book can help you achieve one or more potential goals. These goals include:
The steps you take to writing your book, and your strategies for doing so, must be influenced by your goals.
Some topics are extremely competitive on Amazon. If your goal is to make money, it might not be possible if you’re writing about one of those topics. If your goal is to make money, the topic you select is far more important than if your goal is to build your brand in your industry. However if your goal is to build your brand in your industry, the topic is mostly accounted for and the competition of your topic is less important.
Determining your audience is more of a thought experiment than a tangible deliverable. But it’s an important thought experiment that will impact the next steps to writing your book.
Without knowing who your audience is, how can you know what or how to write? Without knowing who your audience is, how can you know how to position and market your book?
To complete the step of determining who your audience is, create a customer avatar or “persona.” This is a practice common in business, marketing and product management. Basically, it’s a fictitious representation of your target customer or reader.
If you’re writing about self-publishing on Amazon, your target audiences might include:
Go beyond the bullet points above. Write out, in as much detail as possible, the demographics of your target audience, what their goals are, what challenges they have, what’s valuable to them, and what questions they have as it pertains to the topic of your book.
As questions come up while you are writing, producing and marketing your book – as they inevitably will – think back to your personas. What would they want from your book?
Picking book topic is about as important as picking a business idea. It requires finding a balance between supply and demand – finding a topic that your audience wants to read about but that there’s not too much competition for.
It’s ok if there’s competition if there’s enough demand. In fact, having some competition is indication that there is demand. Lack of demand is a big reason why businesses, and books, fail.
The topic must also be tied to your goals. If your goal is to market your marketing consulting business, you wouldn’t write a book about monkeys.
So, to pick a topic for your book, think about what challenges and questions your target audience has. What are they actively searching for on Google? What are they already buying on Amazon?
Browse Amazon. Look at the rankings of other books on your topic. Look at the appropriate category for your book. How well are the bestsellers in those categories doing?
If your goal is to make money, find gaps on Amazon. If your idea doesn’t meet an unmet need, it will be harder to make consistent income from it. But if you find a topic that’s valuable to your target audience and balances supply and demand on Amazon, you’re in a great place.
Some people like to set goals and form habits. If that works for you, eat your heart out. Maybe your goal will be to write 10,000 words by December 1st. Maybe your habit will be to wake up at 6am and write 1,000 words every morning.
I, however, prefer to build systems. To do this, I started by determining my “ends goals.” My ends goals are to be healthy (mentally and physically) and helpful – and writing helps me achieve both of those. I remind myself of those ends goals all the time. Doing so keeps me motivated and energized.
Then, I determined, through various experiments, when and how I do my best writing. It’s in the morning. So, I focus on creating a system that enables me to write in the morning and executing on the “inputs” that can enable it to happen. The inputs include getting high quality sleep, eating healthy, exercising, not overcommitting myself personally or professionally, and being around people I love.
In terms of the actual content of your book, be sure to provide value to your target audience, in the form of education and/or entertainment. The more readers like your book, the more good reviews you will get on Amazon. The more good reviews you get on Amazon, the more books you will sell.
Your opinion of your book does not matter. The only opinion that matters is your reader’s.
After writing, re-writing and editing your book over and over again, you will inevitably miss some obvious shortcomings and typos.
Get your book edited for:
Get feedback from your target audience on the content. How helpful was it? What questions do they still have about the topic?
Hire an editor/proofreader for style, wording, spelling and grammar.
Readers will take any excuse they can get to leave a bad review for your book. Make sure your book is crystal clean. By getting your book edited for all of the above, you’re more likely to get good reviews.
You could have the best written book with the most valuable content – and even do the best marketing in the word – but if people who landed on your book page aren’t compelled to buy it will all be a waste.
When a potential reader lands on your book page on Amazon, there are a few factors they have to look at in order to make their decision on whether or not to buy your book. These are:
Write a title that piques interest, describes what the book is actually about, and displays the value the reader will gain from reading it. Bonus points if it contains keywords that help you rank in Amazon’s search results. You can read my best advice on writing a book title here. If you’re stuck, use PickFu to split test.
Your book description should not be a list of the topics covered in your book or a brief summary. It’s purpose is to sell! Read my best advice for writing a book description here.
Design a cover that grabs attention and looks professional. Look at the covers of books in your niche that are performing well. Use a similar style…but make it much better! Ask friends and colleagues if they know a designer who’s designed book covers before. Look at their work before hiring them. Give the designer detailed instructions on what you want, what other covers you like, and give them feedback on their first draft.
I’ll talk about getting reviews in the book marketing section at the end of this article.
Authors are not limited to writing ebooks or waiting for a big publisher to choose their book. The amazing self-publishing platforms of today give authors access to the following formats:
I’ve created comprehensive and step-by-step guides to self-publishing your book on these platforms so I’ve linked to them above. I won’t cover that all again here. But if after reading the above guides, you still have questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your book is – if know one knows about it, no one will buy it.
There are two pieces of book marketing that need to be done right in order to get results: traffic and conversion.
The conversion part is covered in step #6 above on producing your book’s title, description and cover. So I’ll focus on traffic here.
If you don’t already have a big audience or email list, your best source of traffic to your book will probably be Amazon itself. But Amazon doesn’t promote every one of the gazillion books on it’s platform. Amazon promotes the books that will help the company make money. It promotes the books that their users actually buy.
How does Amazon know if your book is one of the good ones? It looks at factors like reviews and downloads. You can leverage book promotion sites to get downloads. Check out my case study on book marketing here to learn how to make all that happen.
But for significant success over the long-term, you will need a “platform.” Build an email list. How can you get people onto your email list? Try one or more of the below depending on what your audience uses and the level of competition for each in your particular industry:
My #1 piece of advice for getting good reviews is simply to write a great book. Without that step, none of the rest of these steps to writing a book that sells really matter over the long run.
If you want more detailed instructions on writing a book that sells, download the checklist below. Happy writing!
Writers Boon is a free, all-powerful platform that helps authors navigate the publishing and marketing maze, connects them with trusted resources, and saves them money by featuring offers, deals and discounts. The platform is built with Oracle technology, the world’s number one database solutions provider. Writers Boon counts about 260+ topics and 400 trusted professionals, all with exceptional reviews.
On the writers’ side, bloggers and aspiring or experienced authors of fiction and non-fiction books. On the vendors’ side, the best publishing and marketing experts and designers of tools & apps for writers.
Well, I do hope with all my “author heart” that it will provide real help to all the wonderful authors out there who brighten up our days, some of them at the beginning of their writing journey, others trying to come to grips with book marketing opportunities.
My vision is for Writers Boon to become the authors’ premier information source. Whether they are aspiring or experienced writers of fiction and non-fiction books, whether they want to find the best quotes generator tools, the best writing retreats, or whether they are looking for the best deal on writing software, now they know on Writers Boon they can find everything and everyone they need.
Carol Vorvain is a lawyer, author and founder of Writers Boon, the newest, most comprehensive platform for writers. Her books, When Dreams are Calling, Why not? – The island where happiness starts with a question and A Fool in Istanbul – The adventures of a self-denying workaholic have been featured in a number of travel magazines including the International Traveller magazine and can be found in libraries, bookstores and on Amazon.
Lisa Poisso is a fiction editor and book writing coach working with independent authors and new authors seeking representation. Lisa helps emerging authors tune their manuscripts to publishing industry standards and craft commercial fiction that resonates with readers. Find her at Lisa Poisso, follow her on Twitter at @LisaPoisso, or like her on Facebook. This guest post originally appeared on Lisa’s site.
Once your book is edited, where can you turn for reliable advice on the next steps in the publishing process? My favorite publishing resources for authors include books and articles on querying agents, submitting to publishers, finding a great cover artist, self-publishing tasks and schedules, marketing and promoting your commercially published or self-published book, and more.
Because this is the list I share with my own editing clients, I’ll update this page regularly as I discover new favorites.
We all live in the digital age and for us writers, that’s mostly a good thing. After all, it gives us more opportunities to tell others about our stories. The internet has evolved in so many ways through the years and the popularity of social media channels have given us writers a lot of platforms to put our works out there. And that’s a good thing, right? There are numerous channels we can choose from: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. And then there’s Snapchat. Numerous companies have been using Snapchat to promote their businesses and make a name for themselves. Don’t be under the impression that Snapchat is only for millennials or for the young ones, though.
What, exactly, is Snapchat? It’s an app that captures videos and photos, with its filters making it fun to do so. You can also send those photos and videos as messages to your friends. The only catch is this: whatever you upload in Snapchat is only available for 24 hours. Given its fun nature in terms of sharing, Snapchat has become a hit. As writers, I think we can use this app to help gain more audience and keep a stronger connection with existing readers.
As writers, here are the ways we can use Snapchat:
This will help your readers (both existing and potential) catch behind-the-scenes look. I think the rawness of this approach makes it more genuine and interesting. Think of capturing yourself while at a coffee shop, with your laptop or your tool of preference all ready to use and you talking about what it’s like to write there – your thoughts, your process, how the environment affects you, etc. Another interesting idea would be to talk about what tools you use when you write, like which software or what kind of pen and notebook. Letting your audience catch glimpses of these scenes help establish a deeper connection.
It’s already a fun app to use. Why not add fellow writers and see what they are up to within that day? This not only helps build friendship but it also encourages us to build each other up. We writers most certainly need each other, if not to keep sanity and loneliness at bay! Also, isn’t it more fun to send messages to each other with all those cute filters?
Ellen DeGeneres’ Snapchat account is a perfect example of someone else taking over your Snapchat. It promotes establishing connections in a fun way with fellow writers or other similar brands / influencers. This captures attention of the readers of all the writers involved. Fresh faces and candid footage or videos are always interesting. This article here talks about the ways to get started with Snapchat takeovers.
People are visual creatures. Let us writers leverage our Snapchat accounts by giving our audience some photos of a new book cover or maybe a snippet of that novel we’re working on. Or if you’ve been to a book fair or a book signing event, it’s a great idea to show them that. Sharing makes your audience feel like they can relate to you. Snapchat can bring you closer to others by simply sharing things about your novel and, sometimes, your life.
Don’t limit sharing to just yourself. Ask your readers to join in the fun. Like the aforementioned account takeovers, you can always ask your readers to share photos or their own videos. Encourage them to connect with you, be it via takeovers or Snapchat messages. Engaging them to participate and share with you helps create and foster familiarity and, hopefully, friendship.
Snapchat is really a fun way to grow your audience, expose your brand, and build connections. Why not give it a try and see how it goes for you? You can do just about anything with it while having a good time doing so. Got a story to share about what got you into writing in the first place? Or how about that time you got your first rejection and how that helped shape who you are as a writer? Perhaps you want to snap photos of that walk downtown as you clear your head when you’ve got writer’s block. Maybe you attended an open mic session and simply want to share that moment with your readers. The possibilities are endless! So go ahead. Use Snapchat for all it’s worth. Grow your audience and build your followers while staying true to who you are and what you’ve got.
Anna loves stringing words together to tell stories, be it horror or conversations with friends. She also wanders and tends to get lost in the internet, always on the lookout for something new to read. Armed with her love for coffee and horror, she writes regularly to keep sanity at bay. Check out her blog, and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
This is a guest post by Julie Proudfoot. Julie is an Australian writer and blogger and award-winning author of The Neighbour. Julie writes from her home in Bendigo where she lives with her husband and children and a menagerie of cats and dogs and kangaroos and snakes and lizards. You can find her on twitter, Instagram, Snapchat @julieproudfoots and at her blog, Proud Foot Words.
Bloomberg recently declared that over 150 million people are using snapchat, daily. That’s more users than there are on twitter. So as an author, why wouldn’t you get on board?
But how can we as authors best use snapchat as a tool?
There is so much to explore on Snapchat, don’t be afraid to try it all out. Be real, be yourself, and have fun!
I recently collaborated with an MBA student writing her dissertation. It was a fascinating experience, and a great opportunity for me to commission some top-class primary research into the way that the business of business books is changing.
One of the key findings of her research was that for business authors, the value of the book is its symbolic and cultural capital, and specifically the effect of that on the author’s brand, rather than any direct revenues. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that, but I WAS surprised at the unanimity of this view, across all stakeholders: existing authors, aspiring authors, publishers and agents alike consistently expressed the view that:
‘book-related earnings, or economic capital directly derived from publishing a book, are not the main source of books’ continued value to the business publishing network. Rather, intangible benefits, such as brand building and enhancement through added prestige and a bolstered position of authority, contribute the most to books’ value. Tangible benefits were ascribed to publishing a business book, including more clients and more (paid) speaking opportunities; however, it is important to note that this economic capital was indirectly derived from the book… All stakeholders in the business publishing network generally hold this view, irrespective of their diverse experience and expertise.’
So how do we square this circle? On the one hand, business authors want to publish with a big name publisher, to maximize their symbolic capital, which will bring them significant economic benefits (‘more clients, more speaking engagements, more consultancy work’). But traditional publishers don’t get a sniff of the real value they help create – they can only monetize sales of the book itself, and quite frankly that’s not going so well these days.
There are fewer and fewer traditional publishers as the market consolidates, chasing fewer and fewer customer dollars. They’ve already cut costs to the bone – cut any further and they risk losing the reputation for quality that brings authors to them in the first place. Most are focusing their efforts on selling more books through the regular supply chain, but that’s a marginal game. They could raise prices, but that would mean fewer customers, and less visibility for their authors, which (it turns out) is what they’re mainly interested in, rather than revenue.
So where are we heading?
One potential solution is that the credibility of self-publishing or partner publishing simply stops being an issue. This has happened already for some authors: ‘As long as it looks professional,’ one of my authors told me when she signed up, ‘and works for my business, I’d rather have the control than a big name on the spine. Nobody really recognizes publishers’ names anyway.’
Another potential solution is that traditional publishers move to capture more of the value beyond traditional book sales through traditional channels. There are several possibilities here:
Books are cheap, yet for business authors in particular they create enormous value. Imagine if more publishers saw their role with their authors as a partnership, maximizing the total value of the author’s brand, rather than simply trying to sell more copies.
Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com.
The Knowledge Base is powered by our Editorial Board.