Book Marketing Part 1: Fans are Your Best Bet

Whether you are a traditionally published, or an Indie author, or a hybrid author, you will be in charge of marketing your novels.

Many authors do not realize that they must treat their writing as a business. As an entrepreneur, your job is to make sure you have a constant source of income.

Just to be clear, by a traditionally published author, I mean someone who probably hired an agent, signed a contract, and received a four to five-figure advance from their publisher.

By Indie author, I mean someone who decided to publish on their own, who mostly offers e-books, and who earns their income directly from what they sell, minus the cost of the platform where the books are launched.

By a hybrid author, I mean someone who does self-publishing on the side and is also traditionally published. Today, I will talk about building your platform.

 

Having a platform is essential for any writer.

It’s usually a website you use not only to present your work, but also to offer goodies. Your platform not only tells your reader what you have to offer and where to buy it, it helps you connect with your fans and develop fruitful relationships.

Because you are facing a lot of competition, you have to offer something better and connect more.

First, focus. Write in one genre, one age group, and write series. Change your pen name when you write for different audiences. Fans like to stay as long as possible in the worlds they love. They like to know more about the characters they have admired. They like you to write the same kind of books they have enjoyed so that they can keep coming back for more.

Second, build your platform. Publishers will not take another chance on you if they do not see progress in sales. Sales do not depend on them anymore. They depend on you and how you present yourself. You can also chose to invest time in social media. Focus your energy on Facebook. Forget about Twitter. Make yourself available online for school visits, library events, and website tours.

Third, build your fan club. Some authors’ websites just display their books and where to buy them, but others offer a wide range of experiences. Some websites offer board games or video games to entertain their visitors and keep them coming. Others have a forum. Most forums/chat rooms nowadays have moved to Facebook groups, which allow much more freedom such as the use of live events.

EXAMPLES:

Games/Movies/Artwork: 
Brandon Sanderson: https://brandonsanderson.com/
Kit for educators: 
Brandon Mull: http://brandonmull.com/

Art gallery:
Chronicles of Alsea: http://www.chroniclesofalsea.com/writing-whoops-the-silencer/

Q&A: 
Books of Ember: http://www.jeanneduprau.com/answers.shtml

Mysteries included in Books: Spirit Animals: http://spiritanimals.scholastic.com/

Videos/trivia: 
Percy Jackson: http://www.percyjacksonbooks.com/

Note that some of those links use the name of the series rather than the name of the author. 

What you might offer:
  • Something for educators (novel guide or deal). 
  • A VIP password-accessible for loyal fans. 
  • Cut scenes, novellas, prequels to your stories. 
  • Maps, genealogies, charts, symbols. 
  • Drawings of characters & their clothes and food.
  • Fan art gallery.
  • Free novels in exchange for beta readers.
  • Talk about your writing process, where you write.
  • Be creative…

Engage the dialogue with your fans and answer their questions. Some people say 1,000 true fans are better than 10,000 sales. True fans will allow you to make a living while occasional buyers will come and go. To get the best fanbase, prefer connection to income.

Many Indie authors admit that they developed their fan base only after the third book, and they still have to write four or five books a year to maintain this fanbase.

If you are a traditionally published author, you might have to wait for years before the next book gets published, so a website is even more important for you to stay connected with your readership.

As a hybrid author, you probably can afford to wait a few years to get your next novel released in the market while you are offering novellas on the side or give a gist of your next world to your readers while they wait.

No matter what you do, build a strong platform. The more (long term / right kind of) work you put into it, the more successful you will get.

Trust me.

 

RESOURCE:

What Do Publishers DO? 
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/288447.html

Oliphant, Kirsten. What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

If you liked this article, consider reading Sussu’s articles: “Writers Get organized” at Novel Without Further ado: http://novelwithoutfurtherado.weebly.com/

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Behind the Scenes: My Experience as a Cybils Judge

This winter, I was able to serve as a judge for the Cybils, an award for children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. Established by bloggers, the Cybils recognize work that combines literary merit with popular appeal.

I’d been following the Cybils for a few years, and knew that it was a well-respected award. I’m a book blogger, too, at Kid Book List, and when I saw the call for judges, I thought I’d give it a try. I hoped it would be a good opportunity to discover some great books and meet new people in the kid lit community.

It was both of those in spades. I was chosen to be a second-round judge in the Poetry category. Lucky me! I am a big fan of novels in verse and kid poetry anthologies.

Anyone can nominate books for consideration in any of the categories; the only requirements are that they have been published in the United States or Canada in the year under consideration. Each Cybils category has first round readers who go through all of the nominated books. They narrow the nominations to a group of five to seven finalists for the second-round readers, who then choose a winner.

That’s where the fun began for me. We had a fantastic and incredibly diverse set of finalists in the Poetry category, which made our task both exciting and difficult. Our finalists were:

BOOKED by Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander, a middle grade novel in verse about a soccer-obsessed boy whose parents are separating;

FRESH DELICIOUS, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, an upbeat and colorful poetry anthology for the preschool and early elementary set, celebrating the joys of the farmer’s market;

GARVEY’S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes, a spare and lovely middle grade novel in verse told from the perspective of an overweight boy who struggles to win his athletic father’s approval;

GUESS WHO, HAIKU, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea, an adorable picture book in poem form centered on a barnyard;

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan, a middle grade novel in verse told from a remarkable eighteen perspectives and in an array of poetic forms, about the last year of a school that will be torn down;

TO STAY ALIVE: MARY ANN GRAVES AND THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE DONNER PARTY by Skila Brown, a young adult historical in gorgeous and unflinching verse;

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES: POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a beautiful anthology for early elementary readers that celebrates the garden through the seasons.

Once the finalists were in, we got to work. First we gathered the books from the library (or our bookshelves!), and a few that we couldn’t get in time were sent from the publisher. Our reading load was lighter than the first round’s, and I was able to get it done in the time we needed without too much trouble.

The great sweep of books in this category made it challenging to compare them, but after some email discussion, we decided that Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY was “the most appealing in its diversity, its capturing of the emotional lives of children on the brink of adolescence, and its poetic acrobatics.” See here for our write-up about why we chose it, and to read about the winners in all of the categories.

You can find out more about the Cybils here. If you’re interested in nominating a book, the deadline is generally in October. And if you want to apply to be a judge, the application is due in September. Follow the Cybils account on Twitter to make sure not to miss any announcements.

I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Cybils process. I discovered some fantastic books, analyzed what makes for a successful book of poetry for children, and met other dedicated readers of poetry and novels in verse.

Katharine Manning is a middle grade writer who spends her lunch hours reading poetry. She blogs here and at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. You can also find her on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram

Creating Your Social Media Platform

Welcome to the third post in the Basic Marketing for Authors series. Diving into social media, or even dipping your toes in, can be terrifying! Especially if you’re like me and grew up when face and book were two separate words.

We know social media is a great resource for connecting with writers, industry professionals, and learning tips about our craft, but it’s also a great way to reach kidlit readers, or more specifically, their parents.

FACEBOOK:  This is an extremely popular site with adults. Having an author page gives you a shareable site that links to your other social media accounts. On this page you can push your tweets and blogs giving you Facebook content without having to create anything new.

GOODREADS:  What a great site – one specifically designed for readers! A Goodreads author profile allows users of this site to learn about you, the books you’ve written, and connect with you based on books you’ve read and are passionate about. Additionally, you can sync your blog with your profile, which Goodreads will email to members who like your profile. This site is also a good place for discussions in a few of the thousands of groups available. And don’t forget about the reviews. Positive comments about your book go a long way in drumming up interest in your work.

INSTAGRAM:  This is a site for pictures and short videos and is used by middle-grade and young-adult aged kids as well as adults. This media tool is another way to showcase your personality. Post pictures of your workspace (even if it’s messy), inspirations for your books, and sketches of characters and maps. And don’t forget the fun pictures of your animals, favorite hobbies, and yummy food!

PINTEREST:  As an author, this site can be used to display your interests and grab the attention of parents with similar ones to yours, or have kids who are like-minded readers. For example, you can show your favorite spooky middle grade reads or edge-of-your-seat young adult thrillers. Along with your interests, you can post vision boards and fan art for your books, both great extras for readers.

TWITTER:  Twitter is mainly used by adults and they tweet about everything! (Good and bad) This is probably the best social media tool for making connections, not just with parents of kidlit readers, but also people in the industry. (For more information on using Twitter to connect with the writing industry, read Twitter-101-For-Writers.)

As an author, you should connect with bloggers, parents, teachers,
librarians, and others who are interested in kidlit books and have the resources to help you get yours to readers. The best way to connect is to become part of big conversations. Seek out hashtags on subjects you enjoy – or hate! – comment on them, and engage with the people tweeting. Find hashtags parents and teachers use and get yourself known in those circles. This will also give you opportunities to talk about your book’s topic and begin discussion questions, possibly creating your own hashtag.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS:

  1. Schedule content. Social media can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use tools like Buffer, TweetDeck, and Hootsuite to schedule daily and weekly social media content.
  1. Contests and giveaways. Have fans share a post or comment for a chance to win a signed copy of your book. Use giveaways to generate pre-release interest and reviews for your upcoming book.
  1. Promote events. Social media sites can be used to announce upcoming events like book signings, author appearances, and online discussions.
  1. Highlight important dates. Facebook and Twitter allow you to pin posts to the top of your profile pages, which will allow greater visibility. Use these for book releases, events, or contests.
  1. Use images. Tweets and posts with images are believed to generate more interest and more sharing. Show your book cover, a teaser quote, or even a stock photo or GIF video.
  1. Engage your audience. The more interaction you have with your fans, the more exposure you will have, as the conversations will be posted on your fans’ pages and seen by their friends.

I would love to hear how you use social media and about other sites not mentioned here. And if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can check them out Creating Your Brand and Creating Your Website.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

 

 

DIY Infographics and other Cool Marketing Things

If you’ve spent any time online recently (which, yeah, maybe you’ve been avoiding it as much as we have!), you’ve probably seen these cool graphic communication tools known as infographics.

A practice infographic on how writers can use different social media platforms

Infographic is really just a fancy way of saying “a picture and a few words working together to communicate key information or important messaging.” They give people an easy, at-a-glance way of gathering info, and they’re a great nod to those people who grasp pictures faster than they do words.

I’m a non-visual thinker — give me words any day! — but even so, I’ve grown to appreciate their amazing ability to communicate big complex ideas in a flash. So I wondered if I could learn how to make them.

The short answer is YES — anyone can learn to make an infographic, and depending on how fast you can pull together the content, can do it in 15-20 minutes! The longer answer…well, that’s what this blog post is for!

The Tools

There are at least half a dozen platforms that can help you design your own infographics. Most of them are free for the basics, paying if you want to get really fancy and customized. I found a great rundown of the major players here.

I used Canva to create both the samples I’m posting here. You can scroll through dozens of templates — some free, some paid — and find one that gives you the general look you want. The designs can be changed with photos, colors, textures, etc. I have only just started to play around, and found it easy and fun to mess around.

You’ll also want to have your statistics, facts, sources, images and a general outline ready before you start. I just dove in for the first one I created, and while I wasn’t trying to really create something I would use again and again, it took a lot more time than it could have.

And there aren’t only infographic templates available. You can use these platforms to design anything from wedding invitations to brochures to social media graphics and more.

The Whys

Which brings me to all the reasons you might want to get familiar with infographics.

Marketing. One Penny used Canva to create marketing materials for her upcoming book, saying, “I just took a stab at it, and take this from someone who HATES, no, abhors all forms of fiddly technology– I made a cool pamphlet in half an hour!! It still needs some tweaking, but it looks so much more professional than my 1st attempt using a word doc.”

Reaching readers. Kids are geared to accept visual ways of communicating, and as kidlit writers, it’s to our benefit if we can reach them in the ways they like to be reached. If you have a message for your readers, see if you can put it in infographic form.

Another practice with more in-depth information and graphics

Blog posts. As a blog reader and a blog writer, it can be really refreshing to see information presented visually. Instead of writing 500 words on writing great dialogue, why not try a graphic that explains what makes dialogue great?

Presentations. I occasionally give talks in my professional life and to school-aged kids. Infographics are a fantastic way to underscore the information you’re presenting orally — and help you stay away from the curse of the three-bullet-point Powerpoint slide!

Play around with a couple of the platforms to see which one works best for you. Once I tried one, the ideas started coming fast and furious. I’m looking forward to creating more and finding more ways to use them!

Creating Your Website

Welcome back to my series Basic Marketing for Authors. In the last blog post of this series, Creating Your Brand, I mentioned there are many uses for your brand including social media, promotion material, and websites.

Today we are focusing on websites. A scary, but necessary part of your platform and career-long marketing. (Who am I kidding? It’s all scary!) Okay, you have your brand. How do you use that to create a website?

Step one: take a deep breath. 

Step two: Buy a domain.

What is a domain? It is an easy to remember name that hides the technical IP address for web pages, and the easiest way for people to find you is by using your name. For example: halligomez.com. I am fortunate to have a unique name that was available (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that!) If your name is unavailable, try a similar variation such as gkbyrnebooks.com.

Step three: Decide on which company will host your site.

What is hosting? It is the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for websites. You rent space on a host computer which assigns an address for files to your domain so anyone can find your website on the Internet.

There are many choices and most have similar features, so it may require a little research to find which products and services best suit you. Keep in mind some products are free and some cost money.

Step four: Choose a template and theme.

What are templates and themes? A template is the layout of your website, or where you put pictures and words (think of it as walls and furniture in a house). A theme is the design of your template/website, the specific colors, pictures, fonts, and words you choose (or paint and decorations).

Before choosing the template and theme, you must decide what your website will be used for. Marketing your books with cover reveals? A calendar of events? Blogging? All three?

All templates and themes have customization options, some offer basic changes while others allow you to be more creative. There are many companies, each offering a dizzying number of templates, so take your time and find the one right for you.

Step five: You have your template and theme, you’ve incorporated your brand, now you have to decide what to put on your website. This is a list for published and unpublished authors, although not everything will apply to both.

  1. Your bio including a professional headshot (Ugh! Painful.)
  2. Links to your social media profiles
  3. A contact form for readers to subscribe to your website and for you to collect emails to send notifications of those very important announcements like your publication date(s).
  4. Book cover images and brief descriptions of your book(s)
  5. Reviews of your book(s)
  6. Links to major online retailers selling your book(s)
  7. Contact information for agent or publicist

Obviously you want your website to be a place for readers to find your books, but until you have some to offer, or before your next one is published, what can you do to engage readers? A few suggestions are promotions, giveaways, writing tips, daily/weekly/monthly inspirational quotes, games, and blog posts.

Which brings us to the question I hear the most when writers are creating a website: to blog or not to blog?

The answer has been consistent throughout the industry. If you are going to blog, you need a new post at least once a month. Once a week is even better, but a lot of writers have other jobs, families, and necessary activities such as breathing and showering (not necessarily in that order). Keeping up with a weekly blog is difficult.

No matter what format you chose for your website, it is important to remember who your audience is and will be. Before you have published books, your audience may be other writers and agents (I’ve heard some agents look for your online presence, including a website, and others do not.) When you have book(s) published, your audience will include readers, parents, teachers, and librarians.

I love to check out writer websites! Please comment and provide a link to yours.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.