Getting the Introverted Author Out There

I just stumbled across an article in the NY Times about introverts finding a path to career success in a world of extroverts (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/jobs/01pre.html?scp=26&sq=author%20marketing&st=cse). And it got me thinking about authors…

The majority of people in the world are extroverts (experts say it’s 70%). But there are a fair number of introverts, too (myself included). An introvert is described as someone who is energized by quiet solo activities, as opposed to an extrovert, who is energized by being around people. And I would venture to guess that the percentage of authors who are introverts is greater than the 30% in the general population. It makes sense … people who enjoy spending time alone are more likely to choose career paths that don’t involve heavy interaction. An introvert would enjoy writing for a living far more than they’d enjoy going door to door trying to sell vacuum cleaners.

But here’s where it gets tricky. An introvert may choose to become an author because it allows them some autonomy and privacy. But what happens when they need to market their book? That means they have to go outside their comfort zone and do what they hate the most … “selling” the book.

I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve dealt with who know they need to have an author website but just cringe at the idea of having to blog, gab on a message board, or join a social network. Introverts just don’t enjoy those kinds of things. And in an internet world that’s becoming more and more social — with tweeting becoming a common part of everyday life — introverts begin to feel more and more like outcasts.

But here’s the thing… if you want to have a successful career as a writer, you HAVE to do some selling of the book online. It’s a part of your job — even if you don’t enjoy it.

So create that Facebook page. Start blogging and twittering. Unlike the people who do those things for fun, you don’t have to use these online tools to share your innermost personal stories. You use them to promote yourself as an author and expose as many people as possible to your writing. Just like an actor has a persona, an author needs one as well. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, here.

You can still be a quite, private and, yes, introverted person for 23 1/2 hours each day. But use that last half hour to put on your marketing hat and use the internet to advance your career. Your books will thank you for it.

A Blog Entry About Blogging

I was reading an interesting article over the weekend in Internet & Marketing Report magazine. It had to do with the benefits of blogging and how anyone can blog to drive traffic to their website. Here are some of the highlights of that article, and how the information specifically pertains to websites for writers.

According to the article, a major study has shown that blogs do pay off in terms of site traffic — even those that don’t require a lot of research or writing.

The study found that sites with blogs had:

  • 55% more visitors to their sites. That means more book sales.
  • 97% more inbound links. Other sites are more likely to link to a blog than to static web content. This can also help with SEO.
  • 434% more indexed pages (those that can show up on search engines). The more pages that have been “indexed,” the more likely your site is to show up on search engine results.

So the fact that a blog increases your site traffic is pretty much a no-brainer at this point. But what’s more challenging is authors figuring out what to blog about. Or finding the time to blog. Or differentiating their blog from others. Here are a few ideas mentioned in the article to help people start blogging…

  1. Go with the bare bones. You don’t need to spend hours writing detailed blog entries. Your blog entries could be press releases about your book, or links to industry news stories that are of interest to a similar audience.
  2. Let the ideas come to you. Not sure what to blog about? Maybe you don’t have to come up with the ideas. Again, industry news — and your take on them — is a great source of blogging material. Or ask your site visitors to tell you what they’re interested in hearing about from you and then blog on those topics. Take a frequent question that you get and use your blog to answer it.
  3. Go multimedia. A blog doesn’t have to be straight text. You can include photos from a recent book signing, an audio transcript of a reading, etc… Again, these are things that you can use elsewhere, but can also serve as blog entries.

See? Blogging can be a lot easier than you may think. And it can increase your site traffic by 55%! That’s not something to sneeze at!

SEO vs. SEM for Authors

I have worked with many authors who ask me about search engine optimization. Many aren’t sure what the difference is between SEO and SEM/Google Adwords, another service we author. So hopefully this post will clear things up a bit.

First, here are the simple definitions of each one:

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”)

Search engine marketing (or SEM), referred to on Google as Google Adwords, involves paying for your pre-written search result text to appear when someone searches for a specific keyword, and paying the search engine for each click you get on that ad.

Now, on the surface, SEO looks far preferable to SEM, since it’s free! You can get as many visits to your website as possible and not have to pay a penny for them. But it’s not so simple. Which of these methods works best for you (if not both) really depends on your situation.

With organic SEO, getting to the top of search results generally takes 6 months to a year of effort. We’ve done it for our business (search for “websites for authors” and we’re the top result), but it takes a great deal of time and effort. If you have a book coming out in two months, SEM is a lot more effective in terms of allowing you to appear on the first page of search results immediately.

In addition, the search engines are always changing how they rank sites. So even if you put in loads of effort to get to the top of search results, you may or may not stay there over time. It could all go to waste if they change their ranking system.

Organic search engine optimization also limits you to focusing on several keywords. For example, as I described above, our site shows up at the top if you search for “Websites for Authors,” but not necessarily “Author Websites” or “Writer Websiters” (although we’re working on it … partially by making those words links to our homepage right here). It takes a lot of work and very specific keyword focus to get it to work. So if your priority is to show up at the top of search results if someone searches for your name or your book title, that’s very doable through SEO. But if you have a variety of different areas you want to focus your keywords in, it gets a little more difficult.

SEM also allows you to keep incredible statistics of the clicks you get. You can see how many people searched for each keyword you’re bidding on, what percentage of people clicked on that keyword, and what percentage of those clicks turned into purchases of your book! In this case, you get what you pay for.

Now, this all may sound like I’m down on SEO and pushing SEM. I’m not really. They both work. But too many people opt for SEO simply because it’s free. And then they get upset when they’re not showing up at the top of search results right away. SEM can get you immediate results within your control — just at a price. SEO takes a lot longer and a lot more work — but it’s free. See how that works?

So here’s how I sum things up. If you’ve just built a writer website with the goal of promoting an upcoming book, you’re better off paying for clicks and ensuring that you get traffic to your website right away. If you’re building your author web site as a long-term resource, promoting your writings and your books over the next several years, then SEO may very well do the trick for you.

I could go on for ages about this (hence, there being books on the subject), but I won’t. Should you be interested in learning more about SEO or SEM, I’ll be happy to go through the details with anyone willing to listen. Just contact us.

Author Webcasts

On November 9th, Oprah.com, CNN.com and Facebook are holding a live Oprah’s Book Club webcast for the latest book in the Oprah book club, Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan. People can submit questions to the author now, and the chosen questions will be answered on the live webcast. The video will be streamed live from CNN.com’s video player on Oprah.com.

Now, all authors wish their book was as popular as one recommended by Oprah. But no matter how many readers and fans you may have, you can still steal this idea. Even a small-time author can take full advantage of the web and hold their own webcasts.

Collecting questions in advance is always a good idea. That way, no matter how many people show up for your live cast, you won’t be left “questionless.” If you plan to take any live questions as well (and why wouldn’t you), you might want to have a friend or two as a plant on the live webcast to start the conversation.

Webcasting has many advantages for authors; it allows you to really interact with readers, it shows people in the publishing industry just how tech-savvy you are, and, most of all, it creates a buzz. After all, what could be better for an author trying to promote him or herself than buzz?

The key is giving the webcast the proper promotion beforehand. The place to start is with your current base of readers and fans. Make sure to send them an email newsletter with the announcement — and don’t hesitate to send multiple emails. Ask them to pass it on to their friends. Contact local bookstores in your area to let them know about it. Tell your publisher. Whomever you can think of.

You never know. This could be the first step on your route to Oprah!

What Do Your Customers Want? Find Out With Skribit

Another great book marketing idea, courtesy of Michael Volkin…

If there is one thing I know, that’s book marketing, and from time to time I learn about a neat new tool that makes selling books online just a little bit easier.  I would like to introduce you to Skirbit.  Skirbit.com allows an author to easily add a small widget to their blog which gives readers a chance to communicate directly with the author. At the end of the blog, this small widget asks one simple question “What should I write about?” What a perfect question. This allows an author to customize blogs based on reader suggestions.

If you want to be one of those authors who are really in touch with your audience, Skribit allows you to do just that.  Learning how to sell books on the Internet is a meticulous process but if you can get feedback, not only from customers, but potential customers, it will make the process much easier.

Once you create an account with Skirbit, you are presented with an easy to use dashboard to easily create your widget.  Simply code the code given to you in your blog and you’re done.

Michael Volkin is the author of the new book Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth. Check out his book and book marketing services at www.SellaTonofBooks.com.

Keep Author Website Content New, Fresh and Interactive

How many writers websites have you looked at? What seems to be missing from most of them?

Based on my experience, one of the biggest problems with author web sites is that they’re stale and dull. They’re more like a portfolio than a website. They include author photos, a bio, and details on the books. But do sites like this really have readers coming back regularly? With hardly any new content, why would someone visit more than once?

Lesson number one in website content strategizing: Never let your homepage stay the same for too long. If someone comes to your website and the homepage hasn’t changed (barring them coming on the same day, of course), the odds are they’ll never come back. If you want people to continue to visit your site on a regular basis, use your homepage to feature the latest news, reviews, blog entries etc… It’s absolutely essential in getting return traffic.

And this ties in with another thing missing from many author websites: interactivity. After all, an author isn’t taking full advantage of the web unless they use their site to interact with readers. That could be done in a variety of ways — a blog, a message board, an “Ask the Author” section, a poll, a contest, reader-submitted reviews, etc.

Use your book web site as an opportunity to build and maintain a relationship with your readers. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your site visitors. And make sure these communications are on the website instead of in private emails … people love seeing that you read and respond to what they have to say. It makes them much more likely to feel actively engaged in your website.

These types of interactivity are just some of the ideas that I give to authors when I put together their free proposal. This is one of the greatest strengths of our company. We understand the importance of incorporating fresh, interactive content into an writer’s website. And based on the author’s book and genre, we come up with creative ways to do that in a style that’s perfect for their audience.

So contact us today and we’ll put together a free proposal for you.  Whether you’re a novice in terms of websites or a seasoned expert, we’ll help guide you through setting up the perfect writer website to achieve your goals. One that’s always fresh and interactive.

Want to Get FREE Publicity for Your Books? Try Pitch Rate

Another marketing tip from our friend Michael Volkin at SellaTonofBooks.com

As an author you are considered an expert in the field in which your book is written.  The press is always looking for experts to interview, especially during a timely news release. For example, my book on Social Networking for Authors recently drummed up some good press as someone interviewed me about the popularity of Facebook.  The press called me because they noticed I was an expert in the field of Social Networking.  You can get the same exposure for free, by going to PitchRate.com.

Pitch Rate is a free service that connects journalists with subject experts for free media coverage.

Simply create an account at Pitch Rate and fill in your profile as completely as possible. Your profile is what members of the press read before they decide to contact you.  This is your chance to show the world what you are an expert at and why you should be considered an expert.

You can set your account to receive daily emails from Pitch Rate to see who is looking for experts in your area.  Requests can be easily sorted by category or keywords by visiting the “Search Requests” tab once you’ve signed in.  Once you’ve found a request you’re interested in, simply make a pitch and all of your contact info contained in your profile will automatically be attached.  At this point, it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game to see if someone is interested in you and your book.

One of the constant struggles I see with authors is the need to be continually marketing your book to be successful.  A website like PitchRate.com is great for authors to be able to quickly set up an account and receive marketing opportunities for an extended period of time.  With just a few minutes of work, an author can expose him or herself to potentially hundreds of press opportunities.

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase his new book Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.

Author Takes Twitter to a New Level

An interesting article on PW.com yesterday talked about a new crowd-sourced short story on Twitter. Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is starting the story, and fans can continue it with their own 140-character contributions. BBC audiobooks will eventually compile the full story based on the reader contributions (they’re expecting about 1,000) and the audiobook will ultimately be available for a free download.

You can read the full article here:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6701457.html?q=marketing

This is just one of the many new ideas that authors and publishers are having about using the internet and social networking sites to interact with readers and allow fans to be a part of the writing experience. Just something that all authors can keep in mind going forward…

Should You Sell the Book Yourself?

Here at Smart Author Sites, we’ve worked with many authors, a fair amount of whom are self-published. And one question that I frequently get asked by authors who are self-publishing is how easy/difficult it is for an author to sell their book themselves through the book web site. If you’re wondering whether to take the plunge, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Think $$$. There’s no question that the profit on book sales is much, much higher if you sell the book yourself (as opposed to linking to Amazon to sell the book). You get to set the price and keep a much larger percentage of it.
  • Don’t forget about distribution. Some authors intend to actually house copies of their own book and manually send them out to people who purchase the book through the site. That’s great when you’re talking about selling 10 books a month, but what do you plan to do if your book takes off like wildfire? You may want to look into distribution right off the bat so that you know what you’re getting into.
  • Talk to an accountant about taxes. Depending on which state you live in, there may be different laws about how you have to tax purchasers of your book both in and out of your state. Make sure you do your proper research on this before selling the book on your own, as not charging tax could get you into some hot water.
  • Choose the right shopping cart for your needs. The only thing that’s a given when it comes to selling books online is collecting payment. But there are so many different shopping cart services that go above and beyond just payment collection. Obviously, the simplest and cheapest way to go is simply to allow people to pay you through PayPal, but that doesn’t really allow you to charge different tax rates for people in different areas, etc… There are also shopping cart services through web hosting services (GoDaddy, Network Solutions…) that offer more enhanced services, such as product details and tax rates per county, but they are a bit more expensive and can involve a lot of setup work. Do your research into different types of shopping carts and figure out which one best meets your needs before jumping in.

If you want to see what other authors are doing, here are a few of the clients that we’ve worked with who are selling their own books:

Bob Abrams — Watered Down Truth
Paula Davies Scimeca — Unbecoming a Nurse
Randy Kempf — Happiness Lost and Found
Lynn Butler — Buzzin With Buzzy

Feel free to contact us any time for more tips and advice on selling your book through your author web site!

Sell More Books With Viral Videos/Book Trailers

So what’s a book trailer? Or a viral video for authors? How do you get one made? What should be in such a video? How do you get it to actually go viral? How does this lead to book sales? We’ve got the answers from a variety of sources…

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From Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth:

Viral videos are a great way to sell books.  According to Wikipedia “A viral video is a video clip that gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or Instant messaging, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature”.

There are three key points to consider when creating a viral video campaign:

1) Provide great, but ambiguous, content – Everyone loves to hear a great story. But in a viral video, the story has to be short (less than three minutes). Don’t think of creating a video that will sell your book, think of a video that will keep people entertained.

2) Generate a “residual” fan base – Once your video is built you can integrate other social media tools to build a user base and communicate with them.  To do this, follow the lessons learned in Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.  It could be as simple as a subscribe link that notifies users of your updates.

3) SEO it– Your video has to be easily discovered through YouTube search and other popular online video sharing sites. Videos should have clear titles, an accurate description and appropriate keyword tags so that they can appears correctly in a YouTube search and targeted specifically.

A good viral video will spread over the internet like wildfire. See the top 20 viral videos circulating around the Internet now at: http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/

Check out this viral video I created for an author during the last presidential election. It got great coverage. The video is ambiguous but gets people curious as to what is coming next. A typical viral video will cost about $2,000 but will be a great return on your investment if it works properly:
http://revver.com/u/jspinx

Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth. His book can be found at SellaTonofBooks.com

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From Sheila English, Founder of Circle of Seven Productions:

On creating a good book trailer…

Some key elements to a book trailer are:

  • Clearly state what the book is about
  • Don’t have too much text
  • Make sure your text is readable. Pretty text isn’t always easy to read.
  • Don’t have your text and visuals compete for the viewer’s attention
  • Follow all copyright laws- Use only photos or music you own or have licensed.
  • Convey the genre or genres
  • Set a mood with your music, audio, text or visuals
  • Keep them under 2 minutes (30-90 seconds works best under most circumstances)
  • Don’t give away the whole story!

On distributing your book trailer…

Anyone can put a video up on YouTube and MySpace. And if you are using TubeMogul (www.tubemogul.com) you can get your video up on 15 or so sites at one time.  But, which of those sites are best for your book or brand?  With over 450 online sites that take book video do you really want to have yours only on the sites where everyone else is? If you’re writing YA or chicklit are you posting to TeamSugar or Popbytes? If you’re writing urban fantasy are you sending to TerrorFeed or Crackle Horror? If you’re writing historical are sending your video to Clipblast or Magnolia? You need those micro sites that reach out to people who already have shown a predisposition to like your genre or storyline.

Distribution should go out to online communities to reach people, but it should also go out to booksellers, libraries and book clubs. All COS videos are sent to over 300 booksellers and over 5000 libraries. These are essential venues.

On services and cost…

We offer several different kinds of video. We have a Cover Story video that starts at $300 that includes distribution to popular and micro sites, booksellers and libraries.

Here is a link to where you can see the different types of videos:
http://www.cosproductions.com/OurWork/index.php

Whether you’re going to use COS or some other company you should take some time to know what you’re paying for and make your expectations and goals clear. Get references on the company if you’ve not used them before. Ask them what you will get for your money. A book trailer is a marketing tool. Like any tool you need to know how to use it for the best results.

Resources:
http://www.cosproductions.com/Resources/index.php

Includes:  White paper on Residual Marketing Effect of video utilization.

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Publisher’s Weekly also published a blurb yesterday about one particular book trailer (or viral video). This one  has broken from the traditional mold — basically, a movie trailer for a book — and is going viral on YouTube as we speak. Not a bad idea … thinking outside the box when it comes to book trailers.

Check out the book trailer for God, the Universe and Where I Fit In: A Psychic’s Reflections on Figuring Out the Rest of Your Life (HCI)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVIE9pXd_Gs

Read the full Publishers Weekly article:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6687830.html?q=trailer

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Whew! That’s a lot of information. But are you sold yet? The truth is that creating and distributing the right video can make a huge difference in terms of really getting your book out there.