legacy-of-kings-twitter-campaign

One Author Social Media Campaign Gets Creative

legacy-of-kings-twitter-campaignSocial media is an important key to an author’s success. That’s especially true for fiction authors, since most readers don’t find their next read by searching on Google; they find it after they’re exposed to it through their social circles. Hence, the need for an author social media campaign.

But one of the challenges many authors have is figuring out how to tie the theme of their book in to Facebook or Twitter. For example, what should the writer of a mystery/romance book tweet about to gain traction?

Well, here’s a creative idea, just launched by Harlequin Teen. It’s a Twitter campaign for Legacy of Kings, the first book in Eleanor Herman’s new YA series.

Here’s a blurb from Publishers Weekly about it.

Bryn Collier, digital marketing manager at the publisher, said she created the technology with a freelance developer over the course of a few weeks. The “bot,” as Collier referred to the oracle, will respond to the hashtag #asklegacyofkings with one of 100 statements. The idea, she said, is that readers can tweet a question to @HarlequinTeen with the hashtag—sent examples include “Will I achieve my goal of going to college abroad?” and “Will the guy I love ever love me back?”—to receive a “prediction” written by Herman.

The promotion, which launched on Monday, ties into the theme of the historical fantasy series, called Blood of Gods and Royals. One of the main characters in the books, Kat, is on a mission to kill the queen in order to avenge her mother, who was an oracle.

Herman, an adult author who is breaking into the YA space with the series, is also a historian. Collier said that the author relied on her knowledge of Greek history to create a digital oracle that “channels the [Greek] gods and goddesses” as well as “other prolific thinkers.” The responses therefore include tidbits like this one, credited to Athena: ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’ There is also this nugget, from Poseiden: ‘Journeys that start out rough often end in smooth sailing.’

In other words, this YA novel ties into Greek history. The twitter campaign takes advantage of a readers’ interest in sci-fi, Greek history, gods and goddesses, etc… to let them have their questions answered with wise words of wisdom. Brilliant!

So how can you do something similar? While you may not have the budget of a publisher to build a database like this, you can use this type of idea as a jumping off point. For example, if you’re a fiction writer, maybe the main character of your book series can answer questions about her life on twitter via a hashtag. Or if you’re a nonfiction writer, maybe you, the author, can respond to reader questions that tap into your expertise through a twitter chat?

This type of example is one all authors can follow — both those who are self-publishing and otherwise — to figure out what resonates with their readership and build a successful social networking campaign around it.

Happy Tweeting!

reading-on-the-beach

3 Ways E-Book Readers Are Changing How They Read (and Writers Write)

reading-on-the-beachI just read a fascinating article about how more people are becoming e-book readers on their phones (not even tablets or Kindles anymore!), and how that’s changing the whats and hows of their reading.

And, of course, when their reading habits change, then … well … an author’s writing needs to change as well. After all, it’s the law of supply and demand.

Here’s a summary of three types of changes in how people read, with quotes from the article on exactly how and why, along with a summary of how this will ultimately impact writers.

Reading change #1: People are skim reading more. 

We read webpages in an ‘F’ pattern: the top line, scroll down a bit, have another read, scroll down. Academics have reacted to the increased volume of digitally published papers by skim-reading them. As for books, both anecdotal and survey evidence suggests that English literature students are skim-reading set works by default.

Reading change #2: People have shorter attention spans and are often multitasking while reading.

[American linguist Naomi] Baron reports that a large percentage of young people read ebooks on their cellphones – dipping into them in the coffee queue or on public transport, but then checking their work email or their online love life, a thumbswipe away.

Reading change #3: People get less emotionally involved in the stories they’re reading.

…with the coming of ebooks, the world of the physical book, read so many times that your imagination can ‘inhabit’ individual pages, is dying. 

So how are writers and publishers reacting to these habitual changes? What does the future hold?

  • Publishers are experimenting with newer, shorter stories to cater to readers’ shorter attention spans.
  • Today’s novels have clearer plots and less twists and turns than their 20th century predecessors; this prevents readers from getting confused or lost when they check out of the book mid-chapter to browse Facebook.
  • Writers are using less complex prose and are doing less experimentation with fragmented perception. Skimming readers have more trouble absorbing sentences phrased that way.

Finally, here’s a quote from the end of the article on the general change in the role of novels in people’s lives today:

I remember reading novels because the life within them was more exciting, the characters more attractive, the freedom more exhilarating than anything in the reality around me, which seemed stultifying, parochial and enclosed.

To a kid reading Pynchon on a Galaxy 6 this summer, it has to compete with Snapchat and Tinder, plus movies, games and music.

Sad? Sort of … But in a business like writing and publishing, it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to.

article-blog-title

3 Musts for Titling Your Author Blog Posts

article-blog-titleNow how’s this for playing with reality? I’m blogging about blogging.

But seriously, each week, I have to first come up with an idea for a blog post, and then come up with a good title for that post. I’ve written extensively about the former — ideas for author blog posts. What I haven’t yet talked about is the strategy for writing good titles for those blog entries.

With that in mind, here are three things to keep in mind when you are coming up with your titles…

1. Keywords, keywords, keywords. For each blog post you write, have one particular keyword or series of keywords in mind. That string MUST make it into the title. For example, this particular blog entry has the term “author blog posts” as its primary key term. That string of words is in the title and in the body of the piece. So when someone goes to Google and searches for “author blog posts,” this piece should show up on their search results. Also, each post you write  should have a different keyword term to focus on … otherwise, you’re basically competing with yourself.

2. Think about numbers. For the last decade and a half, one thing has consistently been true about story/blog titles on the web. People love numbers. Have you ever noticed that a large percentage of my own blog entries start with “5 ways to …” or “3 things not to …”? There’s a reason for that. Titles that start with numerals quickly send a message to users that this piece will be easy to read and digest. It also gives them an idea of length. In other words, they know before they even go to the piece that it’s going to be a quick and easy read, and not a lengthy NY Times magazine piece.

3. Be provacative. Here are two potential titles for a blog post. Which one would you be more enticed to click on?

  • The Struggles I Had Writing My Book
  • 5 Reasons I Felt Dirty After Writing My Book

I think, if you tested these two, the second would get far more clicks than the first. Why? Well, it’s more provocative. And, like it or not, that’s what sells. A title like that would pique people’s interest. And not only would users be more likely to click on it, but they would also be more likely to share it with their friends. In other words, don’t be afraid to be a little bit daring with your titles and push the boundaries.

Now, obviously, it’s difficult do to all three of these things in the same title. If you can, great. If you have to settle for two, that’s okay. But I highly recommend you go through this checklist each and every time you’re adding a new blog post. At the end of the day, your site traffic numbers will benefit as a result.

hashtag_campaign

Creating a Social Media Hashtag Campaign to Promote Your Book

hashtag_campaignHere’s an interesting idea for promotion of your book … tie a social media hashtag campaign to it.

How would you do that? Well, start by following the idea currently being executed by Random House Children’s Books in conjunction with the ASPCA as an offshoot of the new, bestselling Dr. Seuss book.

Here’s a summary of the campaign they’re running, courtesy of Publishers Weekly:

RHCB announced that it would be teaming with Dr. Seuss Enterprises on a social media campaign that will support the work of the ASPCA to help animals in need across the country. The campaign celebrates the author’s “love for animals,” the publisher wrote in a statement, and calls for all pet owners nationwide to share a photo of their pets, tagging it with the #whatpet campaign hashtag. For every photo shared on Twitter or Instagram with #whatpet, RHCB and Dr. Seuss Enterprises will donate one dollar to the ASPCA, up to the first 15,000 photos.

So what would it take to run your own social media hashtag campaign like this? Assuming you already have your own social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter (if not, consider that step 1), here are the simple steps to take.

  • Step 1: Decide on a theme. Think about what types of images/stories are a natural fit with your book. For example, let’s say your book is about reinventing your career; a good idea for a hashtag campaign around it might be asking that people share inspiring photos and/or short stories about their first day at their new job.
  • Step 2: Create a hashtag. Continuing on this example, you might decide on a hashtag like #NewCareer. Before running with it, make sure it isn’t being used on any other large campaigns.
  • Step 3: Set a timetable. Social campaigns like this can’t go on forever. So pick a start and end date for it. It could be tied to holidays, seasons, school years, or just the number of people involved (i.e. the first 15,000, as in the Dr. Seuss campaign).
  • Step 4: Come up with a hook. What would be someone’s motivation for participating in this campaign? Is it a donation (like the Dr. Seuss example)? Is it to enter a raffle? Is it for possible inclusion of their story in your next book? Will there be a winner for best photo/story? Make sure you offer some kind of benefit for someone taking the time to send their story or photo.
  • Step 4: Make sure your book gets the proper promotion through the campaign. How is someone who buys into the campaign (be it by uploading a photo/story or viewing other people’s photos/stories) going to learn about your book? Without a connection to the book, all this is for naught. So make sure that your book and/or your website gets fair promotion within the campaign through links, ads, etc…
  • Step 5: Launch the campaign. Now it’s time to spread the word! Share a brief, well-written, engaging blurb about the campaign via social media (and your website, too). Ask your friends and family to share as well. The more eyes it gets in front of, the more participants there will be.

Voila! Your social media hashtag campaign is underway! And if all goes smoothly, you’ll not only have a new set of followers and increased book sales as a result, you’ll also have some meaty material to include in your future writings. It’s a win-win.

author-website-bio

5 Tips on Writing a Good Author Website Bio

author-website-bioNearly every author website has an “About the Author” page. This generally contains the author’s biography so that visitors and fans can learn more about the person behind the book.

In the decade plus that I’ve been working in this field, I’ve seen tons of different types of author bio pages. Some are written in the first person, some in the third person. Some are long, and some are short. Here’s a list of five tips I’ve put together (and examples of ones done right) that every author should keep in mind as they work on their author website bio.

1. Consider an unusual format. How many bios have you read in your lifetime. 100? 1000? And you pretty much know what to expect when you land on one, right? Well, maybe it’s time to throw your readers a curve. Consider moving away from the traditional bio and setting up the page in a Q&A format, or something else that’s a little less traditional. Use your imagination!

Example: http://chrislittlebooks.com/about-the-author/

2. Stick to the basics. I’ve seen author bios that include thousands of words. They talk about their childhood, education, professional career, etc… Keep your bio short and sweet. Make it easy to read and touch on the points that are especially interesting to your readers. It should not take five minutes for a visitor to get through your bio page.

Example: http://chipwagarbooks.com/about-the-author/

3. Include cute details. What would you like to know about your favorite author? Something fun and personal, right? Like if they have a pet. What they do in their spare time. Or their favorite guilty pleasure. Think about including these types of elements in your bio. They may not be the kinds of things that you expect to find on a page like that, but I’ve found them to be especially interesting to fans.

Example: http://www.marvinamazon.com/about-the-author/

4. Tie the bio into the book. Maybe you’re a nonfiction author who writes political books because of a personal passion. Maybe you’re a novelist who has always loved mysteries and is finally following her dream. Make sure that you tie your life into your bio, and explain why you’re writing about what you’re writing about. Don’t leave someone who has read your bio still wondering about your connection to the book.

Example: http://authorbillpowers.com/about-bill/

5. Include photos! This is incredibly obvious, and yet some people tend to forget. People go to your about page because they want to understand who you are. Are you 20 years old or 80 years old? Blonde or brunette? What kind of smile do you have? Are you a sophisticated urban gal or at home with nature? Include multiple pictures of yourself on your bio page to allow people to really get a peek into your world.

Example: http://jtcopeiv.com/about-j-t/
Are there other author website bio pages you like or recommend? Want feedback on your own? Use the comments feature below!

book-secrets

Creating a Book Secrets Page on Your Author Website

book-secretsAlmost every author website has the basics — a book description, excerpt, blog, contact page, about the author, news, etc…

But when I’m talking to an author about what we can do with their website, I like to try and think outside the box as well. One of my common recommendations for fiction authors? A “book secrets” page.

So what exactly is a book secret? It’s something that you — the author — knows, but someone who has read the book probably doesn’t know. Examples of the types of information that would be conveyed on a book secrets page includes:

  • The inspiration for the book
  • If any of the characters in the book are based on real people
  • How your characters got their names
  • Hidden secrets/clues in the book
  • Where in the story you might have hit writer’s block
  • Places in the book where you shifted course (i.e. you were originally going to have this person commit the crime, but then changed your mind)
  • Segments of the book that might have been cut during editing

These are just a few of the ideas … you can probably come up with more on your own. And wouldn’t these be interesting things to know about your favorite novel? Your readers would feel the same way!

Just this morning, I stumbled across an article about a perfect example of a book secret (albeit, a sad one). Do you know that children’s book, “Love You Forever”? It’s the one that includes this infamous song/poem:

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

Just recently, the author of the book, Robert Munsch, used his website to share the story about where the idea for that song came from. Warning, it’s a tearjerker!

And while you probably don’t have nearly as emotional a story behind your book, if you think hard enough, you’ll probably find some really interesting things that you can share with your readers via a book secrets page. Consider this page some bonus material for your loyal readers.

a-b-testing

Report: Author Website Copy That Sells

a-b-testingI stumbled across an absolutely fascinating report today. It was put together by BookBub and includes some interesting details on what they learned doing A/B testing of copy on author websites.

For those of you who don’t know, A/B testing refers to dividing site visitors into two random groups, each experiencing the site with one difference. For example, half of the people who arrive on a site would see the text in black (group A) and the other half would see it in red (group B). The testing then measures how the two groups behave differently, ultimately determining whether you get a better response from the group seeing the text in black or the one seeing the text in red. In the case of authors, a good response = a book sale.

This study focused primarily on what authors were featuring in the copy on their websites, how they worded book descriptions, how they included reviews and more.

This really is a must-read for authors. You can view the full report yourself here, but I’ve taken the liberty of including some key takeaways…

What Sells Books

  • When including reviews….
    • Mention authors, not publications. When the site quoted the actual author (not the publication) that gave the book a rave review, there was a 30.4 percent higher click-through rate.
    • Include the number of reviews. When a book had at least 150 five-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, mentioning the exact number of five-star reviews in the copy increased clicks an average of 14.1 percent.
  • When writing book promo copy…
    • Mention your genre up front. The example in the test compared “If you love thrillers, don’t miss this action-packed read!” to just “An action-packed read!” The one that clearly mentioned “thrillers” got 15.8 percent more clicks.
    • Cite the time period (when applicable). In the case of historical fiction, the site that clearly cited the time period had increased clicks at an average of 25.1 percent.
  • When promoting yourself…
    • Don’t forget awards! If you have won any writing awards in the past — either for this book or other writings — mentioning it would increase clicks an average of 6.7 percent.

What Doesn’t Sell Books

The report also includes a list of things included in author copy that made no difference at all in the A/B testing. Examples included:

  • Mentioning if the book is a bestseller (surprisingly, people didn’t care)
  • Writing the book promo as a question (i.e. “Will Sandy find her daughter?” vs. “Sandy searches for her daughter.”
  • Citing the ages of the characters in the book
  • Mentioning if it is a debut novel

The report goes on to explain various ways that you can try A/B testing on your own site to find out what is working best in terms of selling books.

I don’t know about you, but I find this information absolutely fascinating. It certainly is going to help me better guide authors that I work with on the dos and don’ts of author website copy going forward.

june-calendar

June Round-Up: 5 Must-Reads for Authors

june-calendarI can’t believe June has come and gone already! So in case you missed it … here are the five must-reads for authors from the month of June.

1. Facebook Advertising for Authors, by Mark Dawson: Part 1
Reedsy Blog
June 4, 2015

2. How to Sell Out a Book Signing Without Being a Celebrity
Build Book Buzz
June 2, 2015

3. Author Websites: 5 Big Ways to Create Loyal Readers
Reedsy Blog
June 16, 2015

4. How to Ask for Book Endorsements
A. Piper Bergi
June 17, 2015

5. Designing an Author Website Without a Book Cover
Smart Author Sites
June 25, 2015

Enjoy your month of July everyone!

author-tic-tac-toe

Author Wisdom: What I Wished I’d Known Sooner

author-tic-tac-toeI stumbled across this really interesting converstaion on LinkedIn. The question was posed to authors: “What’s the one biggest surprise or thing you wish someone would have told you about the authoring or publishing process?”

Here are highlights from some of the responses:

—–

You’re not just an author, you’re a marketing expert and a full-time promoter of your work. Writing the book is the easy part; selling it is a full time job and that job is now yours. If you know that going into it, and you educate yourself well, it’s great fun. If you don’t realize it ahead of time you’re in for a shock.
Susan Veness

This is such a great question and my mind is reeling with things I’d like to share, having been a professional cover designer for over 25 years ….new authors don’t realize that spine width drives that attention-grabbing factor, and that they can manipulate the book’s interior to arrive at a page count that increases perceived value. The ideal page count for a healthy minimal spine width of about a half-inch is 200+.
Kathi Dunn

If you’re going to be commission the photographer or illustrator yourself, make sure you have a robust, clear agreement ideally assigning copyright, or at the very least an exclusive right to publish in all formats without a time limit. You also need clear written (non-exclusive) permission to use any pre-existing material, text or illustrations, that falls outside fair usage allowances, again in all formats and without time limits. Permissions aren’t sexy but if you don’t get them right they can really bite you in the backside. Good luck with it all, look forward to seeing the result!
Alison Jones

That publishing one or two books is quite an accomplishment and you should be proud, but don’t quit your day job: there usually isn’t much money in books anymore.
Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD(c)

That 99% of the work would be the marketing of the book…. i thought it was all about writers block and empty screens.
Jeff Smith

As someone who helps authors build online presences for themselves, I find that the thing that surprises authors the most is the fact that they really need to build a brand — whether that brand is their name, their book title, their series, or their business name (of which their book is one piece). That brand has to be able to be summed up in one sentence and have a logo/color scheme. It’s difficult to take something as complicated as a writer or book and make it easily digestible, but that’s exactly what authors need to keep in mind all along the way.
— Me

———–

What surprised you? What do you wish you’d known sooner? Share your own author wisdom below!

book cover

Designing an Author Website Without a Book Cover

book coverIt’s one of the most important questions I ask an author when we first talk about designing their site: “Is your book cover finalized yet? If so, can I see it?”

The Relationship Between the Design and the Cover

An author’s website should — to some degree — resemble their book cover. If the site is focusing solely on the one book, it should resemble the cover a lot. If the most recent book cover is simply one of the many books, products, etc… being featured on the site, then it should only be a close resemblance. But either way, they should be related in some shape or form.

The one thing you don’t want is a site that doesn’t match a book cover. For example, imagine a site that’s purple and blue with a fancy script font. Then imagine a book cover sitting on it that’s black and green with a bold print. The cover clearly wouldn’t match the rest of the design. It would look like it was simply pasted somewhere it didn’t belong. It certainly wouldn’t help contribute to the brand that the author is trying to build.

The Conundrum

Many of today’s agents and publishers won’t even consider working with an author who doesn’t already have a following. So how does the author get that following they need to get published? That would be through their blog, their social media, and yes, their website.

And that’s the conundrum. An author needs a website to build the following that it takes to get published. But that means that he or she needs to build that site BEFORE there’s a book cover available to build it around. So what’s an author to do? What should go into designing an author website without a book cover?

Things to Keep in Mind

Here’s some advice that I give to authors who are faced with this situation:

1. Go with a flexible design. You very well may want to make some tweaks to your website design after your book cover is finalized. So make sure that you go with a template or design that can be adjusted down the line. For example a simple design with a space for a header bar would give you the flexibility to redesign the header bar down the line without having to rebuild the entire site.

2. Stay with muted colors. If you want to make sure that your ultimately-green book cover doesn’t clash with your orange design … well, don’t go with an orange design. Keep things simple in your initial design. Stick with a white, tan or gray background, and keep the accent colors relatively simple and neutral. This way, there’s no book cover that would look totally out of place.

3. Keep your design within your genre. You may not know exactly what your book cover will look like yet, but you probably have a pretty good idea of what the feel of it will be. For example, if you’re a romance writer, you probably won’t have a cover that’s brash and bold. If you write about investing in the stock market, your cover isn’t likely to be pink with a frilly font. You get the idea. Make sure that whatever site design you go with fits the feel of your book, and your cover is likely to fit in later.

Talk to your designer and make sure he or she understands the general feel of your writings. It’s so important that as soon as someone arrives on your site, they get the sense of exactly what you write about — even without a book cover in place.

Happy designing!