writer fiction or nonfiction

Fiction or Nonfiction: What’s the Difference?

writer fiction or nonfictionSo you want to be a writer. But you’re not sure where to begin. Which should you write? Fiction or nonfiction? How do you know which one you’d be better at? What’s the difference between being a fiction or nonfiction writer?

First, let’s start with what you probably already know: the basic difference is their definition. A fiction book is a … well … book of fiction. In other words, it’s an untrue story. It’s made up. It’s created in your mind. A nonfiction book is a true story. It’s full of facts. If something in it is found to be untrue, the book is no longer considered respectable. (I won’t even begin to go into today’s political climate and the blurring between fact and fiction, because that’s a book in and of itself).

So now that you know what they are, how do you know which path to take going forward? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Fiction or Nonfiction: Which Would You Be Better at?

You might want to consider writing fiction books if you…

  • Have a knack for creative writing
  • Always tell stories (and are good at it)
  • Have vivid dreams that resemble real tales
  • Love choosing words to really create a picture (i.e. her auburn hair blew in the breeze)
  • Want the freedom to let a story go where it takes you
  • Are more interested in entertaining people than educating them
  • Associate yourself more as an artist than a journalist
  • Are outgoing and willing to network to get your book out there to the right audience

On the other hand, you might be a better nonfiction writer if you…

  • Are passionate about a specific, real-life topic
  • Want to change the world
  • Aim to share your knowledge with others
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Are never afraid to ask questions
  • Can take complicated topics and break them down clearly
  • Are willing to let the truth tell and shape the story
  • Bring an interesting perspective to a topic

Fiction or Nonfiction: What’s the Same?

In some ways, writing is writing, regardless of the genre. You need to have good writing skills to do either. Here are the tenets of writing any book — fiction vs. nonfiction.

  • Your story needs a beginning, middle and end.
  • Your book needs to have “characters” (be they real or imaginary) that are engaging and entertaining
  • You should have an outline of the book before you even get started.
  • You need to be prepared to deal with feedback on the book along the way, and be open to recommendations
  • You will need to do some legwork after you write the book to get it out there to your audience

Fiction or Nonfiction: How Do You Market the Book?

I’ve said it before many times, but marketing a fiction book is drastically different from marketing a nonfiction book. And it’s important for you to understand what type of marketing you would need to do with each category of book before you become an author in that genre. Here’s what you need to know.

In many ways, nonfiction books are easier to market than fiction. That’s because you are likely starting with a ready-made audience of people looking for books like yours. Here are a few examples.

  • If you write a self-help book about career change, you have people already searching on Google for information about changing careers. You also have people browsing job sites, LinkedIn, etc… looking for this information. You just have to get the book in front of them.
  • If you write a book about today’s political climate, you’re touching on a topic that many people already spend hours a day reading about online. And if, say, your book is leaning to the left or to the right, you know where the readers who have those leanings are. They’re on certain blogs, certain news sites. Again, you just have to get the book in front of them.

These are just two examples, but the rules pretty much hold true for most nonfiction authors. As a result, I frequently recommend strategies for these authors like:

  • Social networking on the appropriate channels for that audience
  • Search engine optimization and keyword research
  • Guest blogging on relevant sites

Marketing fiction books is a bit harder. That’s because no one goes to Google and searches for “new romance novel,” or “good mystery books.” But there are some strategies fiction authors can use. They might just take a little more legwork. They include:

  • Building strong presences on Amazon and GoodReads — where fiction readers often spend their time
  • Getting local press and using connections in their local areas for book signings, book club readings, etc…
  • Building relationships with other authors who write for the same audience

While all of this is in no way exhaustive of the difference between fiction or nonfiction, I hope it gives you some idea of which way you want to start leaning. Good luck, and good writing!

strategic marketing for authors

Strategic Marketing for Authors

strategic marketing for authorsAll authors need to do some form of marketing to get their books out there. But there’s a difference between generic marketing and strategic marketing for authors. Here’s what strategic marketing is, why it’s important, and how authors can put together a strategic marketing plan for their unique needs.

What Is Strategic Marketing and Why Should I Use It?

According to BusinessDictionary.com, strategic marketing is “Identification of one or more sustainable competitive advantages a firm has in the markets it serves (or intends to serve), and allocation of resources to exploit them.”

As its name implies, strategic marketing means marketing with thought and purpose. By mapping out your marketing plans early, and having clear and consistent goals related to it, you can figure out how to allot your time and money appropriately. You can make sure your marketing work is always laddering up to a marketing goal. You can prevent yourself from getting pulled off track on opportunities that come your way but that may be outside your target.

Doing all of this starts by putting together a strategic marketing plan.

What Goes Into a Strategic Marketing Plan?

All types of businesses put together strategic marketing plans. According to TheBalance.com, these are the five steps that go into a strategic marketing plan for any business.

  1. Company Positioning (Where are you now? What hold do you have on your field?)
  2. Goals and Strategies (What would you consider a success? Where do you want to go?)
  3. Market Opportunities (What markets are out there for you to target? Who is already reaching those markets?)
  4. Target Market Defined (What does that market want? How can you differentiate yourself from what else is out there?)
  5. Marketing Budget (How much do you have to invest in your marketing — both in terms of money and manpower?)

How Do We Turn This Strategic Marketing Plan Into Strategic Marketing for Authors?

Let’s translate those five pieces above into author speak. Here are questions for you to ask yourself as you put this plan together.

1. Author Positioning

  • Are you already known by some in your field?
  • Do you have relationships with publishers, agents, booksellers, etc…
  • Do you have a blog that people follow already? An email list?

2. Goals and Strategies

  • Is your primary goal for your first book to be a bestseller?
  • Do you plan to publish future books and build an audience for those?
  • Do you want to build a platform to get yourself out there as an author, speaker, coach, etc…?

3. Market Opportunities

  • Who does your book speak to? What age/race/gender?
  • Are there platforms that already speak to these audiences?
  • Who do you know that can reach them?

4. Target Market Defined

  • What research is out there about your target market and what they’re looking for?
  • How can you meet their needs in a way that no one else currently is?

5. Marketing Budget

  • How much money do you have to spend on marketing?
  • How much time do you have to spend on marketing?
  • What resources are at your disposal to help?

So What Would Strategic Marketing for Authors Look Like?

I’m going to create an example here. Obviously, you would customize this for yourself based on your book.

But for the sake of this exercise, let’s say you’re writing a self-help book for middle-aged people looking to reinvent themselves.  You might put together a strategic marketing plan that has an outline sort of like this.

Target Market: Men and women ages 45-55

Goals:

I want to….

  • Become a successful author, speaker and life coach for this audience
  • Sell 100,000 copies of the first book
  • Build enough of an email list to sell future books and get other work speaking/coaching on the site

Ways to reach that audience:

  • This age bracket spends a lot of time on Facebook, so creating a Facebook presence is essential.
  • A formal author website with a blog is also important for me. Many people are actively searching for information on reinventing themselves, and having an active blog can drive that traffic to my site and lead to book sales and list building.
  • This age group also includes some empty nesters or divorcees who join book clubs and community groups, so I should invest some time in off-line efforts in these areas.
  • This age group is also generally avid readers of publications like HuffPost, so I will reach out to HuffPost and similar organizations about potentially becoming a regular blogger.
  • Many of the women in this age group spend time on GoodReads, so I should create a profile there.

Meeting their needs:
Example:
This book is different from any other services out there that help with reinventing yourself because XYZ. Research shows that people in this situation really want help with X, but everything else that’s out there is only doing Y. I need to brand myself and my book as the only resource that meets this particular need. So I need a tagline on my website that clearly spells out what makes me and my book unique. And that should also be on my business card, and part of my elevator pitch.

Investment:
I have about $3,000 available to invest in marketing. Based on the information above, I will divide it as follows:

I also only want to spend five hours a week on marketing. With that in mind, I will:

      • Spend one hour a week blogging (both on my site and on other sites that reach my target audience)
      • Spend one hour a week on scheduling Facebook posts and responding to Facebook comments
      • Spend one hour a week on GoodReads (starting conversations, joining groups, etc…)
      • Spend one hour a week reaching out to locals in my community that might have book groups, support groups, etc…
      • Leave my last hour per week for any miscellaneous marketing needs that may come up

The End Goal of Your “Strategic Marketing for Authors” Plan

By mapping out what your needs and goals are, and how you can position yourself to reach your target audience, you can make sure all your time, effort and money are being distributed appropriately. For example, after putting this marketing plan together, you know that Twitter, for example, is not a good place to invest your time and money. Having this mapped out and ready will prevent you from making costly marketing mistakes in the future.

facebook author page

Author Page: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One On

I often hear the term “author page” thrown around by clients as something they should have. I think it’s important that I first define what an author page is — and why it’s not the same thing as an author website.

The term author page refers to one page on the web that is dedicated to an individual author. It generally highlights who they are, what they write about, and why a reader might be interested in becoming a fan. This is not to be confused with an author site, which is generally comprised of many elements.

With that in mind, here are five sites that you should consider having an author page on (and tips on how to maximize each one).

Sites for Your Author Page

1. Your author website. As I alluded to above, an author page is a subset of an author site. Think of it like a thumb being a type of finger. You have five fingers on your hand, one of them is a thumb. You have an author website with many pages, one of them being an author page. Your entire site will likely be comprised of a blog, pages dedicated to your books, a contact page, a media page, etc… And yes, an author page.

Tip: Learn more about how to create a great author bio on your own website.

amazon author page2. Amazon. If you have books for sale on Amazon, you absolutely need an author page on Amazon as well. This will allow your name (wherever it appears on Amazon) to serve as a link to your author page. Once someone arrives there, they can view your photo, your bio, a list of all your books available for sale, and highlights of the reviews your books have gotten on Amazon. It essentially becomes a one-stop shop where people can learn more about you and your writing. And best of all, it’s free. You can start by joining Amazon Author Central.

Tip: In addition to all the basic information, your Amazon author page can also be customized to include a blog feed (pulling in your most recent blog entries), details on upcoming book tours, and any video you’ve created. Plus, on the back end, it allows you to access a book sales tracker and see how your books are doing in real time.

3. GoodReads. Much like Amazon, building an author page on GoodReads is free. All you have to do is join their author program. By creating this page, you are essentially claiming your space on GoodReads. Not only will this mean people learning about your books will also be able to learn about you, but it will also provide you with the official Goodreads Author badge that will appear anywhere you post on the site — like answering reader questions or reviewing other books in your genre. Fans will then also be able to follow you on Goodreads.

Tip: There are various book marketing tools that also become available when you build an author page on GoodReads, like being able to run a book giveaway or advertise your books through the site.

facebook author page4. Facebook. You probably already have a personal profile on Facebook. But what you may not have is an author page. And it’s important that you understand the difference. Unlike a Facebook profile, which is for an individual and allows you to friend people, like posts, etc… a Facebook page is defined as “a business account that represents a company or organization. [It] allows businesses to promote specials and contests to followers who have engaged with their page by ‘liking’ it.” In this case, your business is your authorship, and it needs a page that both friends and fans can follow. Another way to put it is that while your Facebook profile has friends, your Facebook page has followers. This is also free to create.

Tip: Make sure to take advantage of Facebook Insights, which you get when you set up an author page. It allows you to track how successful your social media efforts are. It also allows you to schedule posts in advance, launch contests, or run Facebook ads (not free).

5. Your publisher’s site Depending on who published your book — and even if you published it yourself — the publisher’s site is likely to have a place where you can create your own author page. This probably won’t be your most heavily-trafficked author page, but there’s no harm in getting it set up. Make sure to ask your publisher or self-publishing company if and how you can go about creating this page on their site.

Tip: Given the fact that you’re unlikely to spend a lot of time working on maintaining this author page, I highly recommend that you work in a link to your author website somewhere on the page. That way, a visitor who wants to stay on top of what you’re doing knows where to go.

Which author page worked best for you? What tips would you give other authors? Share them with us!

author marketing plans

Author Marketing Plans: Why Yours Should Be Unique

Are you looking for ready-made author marketing plans? Hoping to find a simple checklist that tells you everything you need to do to get your book out there to a wide audience? Well, sorry … I have some bad news for you.

Why Author Marketing Plans Need to Be Customized

author marketing plans

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No two books are alike. No two authors are alike. And the audience for one book will be drawn to things that are drastically different from the audience for another book.

Here’s are two examples (note: these are completely made up):

Judy Smith: A children’s book author who writes a series for girls ages 8-10 about tween drama.

Mike Jones: A historian who writes biographies about war heroes in American history.

What would you recommend as a “standard” marketing plan for these two authors? What things should they both be doing?

Sure, some of it would be the same. Yes, they each need an ISBN. And yes, likely an author website and/or a Facebook page. But beyond that? Almost nothing about their author marketing plans would be the same.

Some examples of what Judy’s author marketing plans might include are:

  • A press release speaking to teachers/librarians about her series
  • A presence on Instagram/Facebook (to reach moms)
  • Fun online games on her website for girls in her target age group
  • Offering free copies to parents she knows and asking them to spread the word
  • A fun book launch party at her local community center, dance school or gymnastics school
  • Speaking engagements at elementary schools in her area

And Mike’s author marketing plan might involve:

  • Local events at libraries/senior centers
  • Book readings for local veteran’s groups
  • A presence on GoodReads, speaking to those who are interested in history
  • A comprehensive SEO strategy to drive traffic to his author website when people search for terms surrounding historical war heroes
  • Some targeted ads on Facebook for those with an interest in the topic

See? Night and day.

One Example of a Unique Author Marketing Plan

guy-garcia-swarmI recently came across this article about a bestselling author using virtual reality as a marketing tool for his book. I must admit that I had never thought about this as an option for authors, but it made all the sense in the world.

Guy Garcia’s new book, entitled Swarm, is described as a fast-paced, action-packed novel with an undercurrent of technology, showing how its evolution is faster than we, as people can absorb or understand —  and how it’s changing us in ways we can’t possibly predict.

So, of course, people who are interested in that type of book would be attracted to virtual reality. Hence his idea to use VR as a marketing tool.

In the VR experience he created to promote this book, he allows readers to “enter Swarm’s virtual reality” and “bring readers inside the mind of a character who is born online and rules a digital realm with the power to transform the real world.”

Here are a few quotes from him about how he came up with this idea and why….

“The key to marketing your book is embedded in your characters, and your story and the emotions and ideas that drove you to write the book in the first place … That’s your audience, find out what they do and where they are and go after them.”

“You are the best salesperson to represent your ideas and passion, and the most convincing billboard for why people should pay for the privilege of reading your work.”

Swarm, because of its subject matter and story line, is inherently suited for mixed reality marketing platforms, but marketing books of any kind with only standard ad and promotion channels in mind is a limiting strategy, full of missed opportunities.”

How to Create Your Own Author Marketing Plans

Not having much knowledge myself about virtual reality or the genre of his book, this is not an idea I ever could have come up with myself. But as Guy says himself, YOU are the best person to come up with your marketing plan.

In other words, you may have a wonderful team of people that can create your online presence for you, write press releases, and try to spread the word about your book. But no one knows your genre or your audience better than you do. And the best ideas about how to reach them in a new and unique way is likely floating around in your mind.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you try to come up with your own version of the virtual reality idea…

  1. Who is reading your book? How old are they? What gender are they?
  2. Where are these people spending their leisure time? Online? At a senior center?
  3. What is it about your book that appeals most to them?
  4. What can you offer them that’s different and unique?
  5. What do you know that your readers would like to know? How can you share that with them?
  6. How can you take advantage of technology to connect with them?

Again, I can’t spell out your author marketing plans. I don’t know your book, your subject matter, or your audience the way you do. Nor can I create a templated list of items that each and every author should check off to promote their books.

Instead, I hope this advice will help spark ideas for you to put together your own successful marketing plan. Good luck!

author tip sheet

Author Tip Sheets: The Whys and Hows

author tip sheetYou may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. You may have even been told that you should have one. But what in the world is an author tip sheet? Let’s answer some of your questions.

What Is An Author Tip Sheet?

Think of an author tip sheet as a resume or a brochure for your book. It’s your one-page pitch about what the book is about, who it’s for and what people need to know about it. I like to think of it as sort of an abbreviated print version of  your author website.

Why Should I Have an Author Tip Sheet?

Every business person has a business card. Every company has a brochure. Your author tip sheet is the equivalent. When you meet someone who might be interested in your book — be it an agent/publisher, bookseller or reader — your author tip sheet is the thing you want to leave behind. Many authors swear by it as a primary way to make a meaningful connection with people who can take their book to the next level.

What Should Go Into an Author Tip Sheet?

As I mentioned before, an author tip sheet is very much like an author website. It should be a one-pager that includes the most important elements about your book.

There are certain musts on an author tip sheet, including:

  • Your book title and book cover
  • A brief book description
  • Publishing details (publisher name, ISBN, pub date, price, page count, etc…)
  • Purchasing options (formats, bulk order options, etc…)
  • Your target audience and why they will be interested
  • Your website/blog URL and/or social media accounts

Other optional elements to include (depending on your subject matter, book publishing status, etc…) could include:

  • Your book marketing plan
  • Comparable titles
  • Review blurbs and/or testimonials
  • Special honors you or the book have received
  • Your bio and/or a list of other books you’ve published
  • Fast facts about why your book is a must read, (i.e. Did you know that 1/3 of Americans …..)

What Format Is It in?

As you have probably figured out by now, an author tip sheet is usually a printed one-pager that you can leave behind when you visit a bookstore or other professional contact. Experts also recommend that the one-pager be available as a PDF that is accessible through your website. This will allow site visitors to print it out — and start handing it out — thus increasing your reach.

Do You Have Examples of Other Author Tip Sheets?

Yup. Here are a few that might serve as good models for you if you’re interested in getting started.

Dorothy Hamilton, Love What You Do
(created by iUniverse)

Brian Thomas Schmidt, The Worker Prince

Tom Harbin, MD, Waking Up Blind

So How Do I Make One?

If you’re working with an outside firm that handles anything from web design to book cover design to PR, they should be able to create an author tip sheet for you. But if you’re going it alone and want to create one yourself, there are a variety of websites that offer downloadable templates. Here are just a few we’ve found:

Hopefully, this has helped you better understand what an author tip sheet is, why you need one and how to make one. If you have experiences — good or bad — with your author tip sheet, please share them with us in the comments box below.

Group Blogs: The Hows and Whys for Authors

So you know you should blog to promote your book. But you worry it will be a waste of your time and effort. The solution? Group blogs.

Why Authors Should Consider Group Blogs

First, let’s define group blogs. These are individual blogs on specific topics that have multiple authors, each contributing posts.

Group Blogs for Authors -- Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, in other words, you might create a group blog on, say, weight loss. Then you might have five different authors who each have written books on diet, exercise, etc… who regularly contribute to this blog with their own individual posts. People who visit the blog would be able to read all the posts in chronological order, or simply read the ones by the contributor they are most interested in. Each of those posts would also include promotion of the individual titles that each author has written and/or links to their personal site.

The benefits of group blogs for authors like you is numerous, including:

  • You can expose yourself to a new audience. In other words, people following one of the other blog contributors are likely to see your posts as well.
  • The shared responsibility of keeping the blog updated doesn’t sit solely on you; it’s a team that keeps it alive and kicking.
  • More posts = more traffic = more book sales. It’s simple.

Creating or Joining Group Blogs

If group blogs sounds more palatable to you than blogging on your own, how would you go about doing it?

First, see if there are already any group blogs created in your genre. Do some Google searching to identify any that may be out there, and then reach out to those bloggers about becoming a contributor.

If there aren’t any group blogs in your genre, you can start your own if you’re willing to take on the responsibility. Start by setting up a blog for free at WordPress.com. Post one or two entries yourself to set the tone and theme. Then reach out to other authors in your field (if you know them personally, great; if not, a simple search should allow you to find authors promoting themselves) and ask them if they’re interested in being a contributor. Create posts on Facebook and/or LinkedIn pitching group blogging — you can link to this blog post — and asking those who are interested to reach out.

Group Blogging Tips

If you are going lead a group blog, here are some tips and things to keep in mind.

  • You can add authors and contributors easily through WP Admin. Go to Users → Invite New to invite others to join your team to be contributors or authors (more on this distinction below).
  • Decide if you want final authority over everything posted on your group blog. If you give contributors “author” rights, they can post and publish instantaneously. Or you can decide to make them “contributors,” in which case you would be able to review each post before it goes live.
  • Make sure to have each contributor create a user profile and gravatar. This will allow visitors to easily differentiate between each contributor.
  • You can also have each author be his or her own “category” of posts, making it easy for readers to sort posts by contributor.
  • Have all your contributors follow the same guidelines about tagging blog posts, optimizing them for keywords, etc… Consistency is key.
  • Use the super-cool author widgets that WordPress offers. Consider “Author’s Widget” — “an easy, direct way to display your team, as shown on The Smoke-Filled Room. When configuring the widget, you can adjust some settings, from a custom widget title, to the number of posts to show for each author, to the ability to specify avatar size.” Or try “Author Grid,” which brings in the photos of each of your authors/editors.

Have you tried group blogging? What worked for you? What pitfalls did you face? Share them with us!

marketing tips for getting an agent for a book

Getting an Agent for a Book: Why Self-Marketing Is Essential

So you’re starting to think about getting an agent for a book. Your manuscript is almost finished and it’s time to get it out there. Where do you start?

In today’s world, I would argue, becoming a self-marketer before getting an agent for a book is essential. Now, not everyone agrees with that. I was just looking at a conversation on LinkedIn specifically about this. Here’s how it went…

marketing tips for getting an agent for a book

I personally got a kick out of the “trying to get your kid into Harvard before you meet any women” reference. But I would venture to say that argument is wrong. Here is why.

Point #1: You Need to Prove Your Marketing Chops Before Getting an Agent for a Book

In the olden days, authors were just authors. Publishers did everything else — from book editing to cover design to marketing. Well, the world has changed.

Some people mistakenly think that only self-published authors have to wear all those hats. But what they don’t realize is that the publishing industry has changed significantly in the last decade. Sure, publishers invest lots of time and energy in making sure that the upcoming books of their bestselling authors have the perfect covers, press releases sent to premium media outlets, and great presences on social media. But that’s only done for the authors that have already made them loads of money. Every other author they work with? They are on their own.

And that’s where pre-pub marketing plays in. Since a publisher knows that the success or failure of your first book depends, in part, on how good a marketer you are, they want to work with authors who understand marketing and have shown some success with it in the past. And agents know that. In other words, “good marketing=agent interest=publisher interest.”

Point #2: You Need to Sell Yourself to An Agent, So They Can Sell You to a Publisher

You may have written the best manuscript in the world. But unless you know how to sell it, it’s for naught. Trust me: the last thing an agent wants to have to do is spend his time helping you rework how you’re positioning your book before reaching out to publishers.

So as you start the process of getting an agent for a book, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who does my book appeal to?
  • Why is it different or unique from other books out there?
  • What is the most compelling aspect of my book?
  • How can I summarize my book in several paragraphs?

Keep these points in mind as you craft your inquiry letters and book summaries. These are questions a marketer would ask herself as she starts to scope out her brand — whether she was selling jewelry, real estate, or a book. So put on the hat of a marketer before reaching out to an agent. You need to show that you can sell your book before he will put himself out there to sell your book.

So How Do You Start Marketing Yourself?

While the term “marketing” can sound somewhat intimidating for some, here are some simple ways to get yourself started:

  • Build yourself an author website. I could go on and on about this. Or you can just contact us for a free consultation.
  • Create at least one social media presence for yourself. Here are some ideas on how to choose the right ones.
  • Start blogging to drive traffic to your site and help build your brand.
  • Collect email addresses. When an agent asks you how many names you have collected, be prepared to answer.

There’s obviously plenty more you can do, but taking these four steps are a great way to dip your toes in the marketing necessary for getting an agent for a book.

how to promote your book

How to Promote Your Book on Your Website

how to promote your bookEver wonder how to promote your book online? Whether or not you already have an author website, there are definitely right ways and there are wrong ways to feature (and hopefully sell) your book there. Here are some examples of the dos and don’ts.

How to Promote Your Book: The “Do’s”

  • DO make sure your book is prominently featured on your homepage … “above the fold” as we call it.
  • DO have a separate “book” page that people can land on if they are looking for more information.
  • DO include your book cover and links to purchase it on every page of your site.
  • DO create/highlight a book trailer … or even a video of you talking about the book.
  • DO have a book teaser on your homepage, and a longer book summary available for readers on the book page.
  • DO offer a free chapter and/or book excerpts that will allow people to get a sense of the tone.
  • DO include reviews/testimonials about the book.
  • DO add some “book extras” to your website, like a “behind the book” story or secrets about how certain characters got their names.
  • DO make it super clear who your book speaks to and why that audience would want to read it.
  • DO maintain a blog and/or a social media presence to continue tying your book into current news and events.
  • DO optimize your site for the search engines so that people can easily find your book.
  • DO include any honors your book may have won. Why not???
  • DO make it clear all the ways your book may be available (hardcover, paperback, e-book, etc…)
  • DO make it clear if you’re working on another book or if your book is part of a series … you want to build a legion of fans who follow your writing.

How to Promote Your Book: A Few “Dont’s”

  • DON’T only feature your book on your homepage. It deserves a page of its own!
  • DON’T expect people to buy a book when the description of it is only a paragraph or two long.
  • DON’T make it hard for people to buy the book. Make the buy buttons prominent and clear.
  • DON’T make your book excerpt so cool or flashy that it’s not readable on all devices. A PDF is fine!
  • DON’T use a low-quality photo for your book cover. You want this to be large and attention grabbing!

Do you have any additional dos or don’ts you’d want to add to this list? Anything on other author sites that impressed you (or did the opposite)? Share them with us!

sell books

How to Sell Books Through Your Author Website

It’s one of the primary reasons an author creates a website: to sell books. And yet, these same authors still seem to be confused about some of the logistics of how to sell books. Here are some frequently asked questions.

sell booksCan I include links to Amazon, B&N, etc… to sell books?

Linking out to Amazon, B&N, your publisher — or any other sites that sells your book — is incredibly easy. In fact, we often recommend that authors include links to ALL the sites that sell their books (so as not to appear to favor one seller over another). All you have to do is choose the text and/or icons that you want to serve as links, and then use the handy dandy link feature in WordPress to make sure each one goes to the right place. Voila!

Can I sell books myself?

Absolutely. There are a variety of ways to do this — some easier than others. The simplest is to create a PayPal account. PayPal will then allow you to set a price for the book, a shipping charge, and a tax percentage. You then get an embed code from PayPal that you can put on your site. Once someone clicks on that “buy” link, they make the payment through PayPal, you get notification via email, and then you can take care of shipping it to the buyer.

There are far more complicated systems as well, but most authors start with the basic PayPal function. If you want more detail on your options, check out this blog post on the various ways to sell books.

How do I know if someone has bought my book through my site?

This is actually more complicated than it sounds. Obviously, if you’re selling the book yourself via PayPal, you know if someone has purchased it. But tracking that purchase can be a lot more complicated when it’s simply someone coming to your site, clicking a link to Amazon and then making the purchase.

My recommendation is that you set up an Amazon Affiliate account. This will allow you to put a specific tracking code on your links. Not only does this let you see who has gone from your site to directly to purchase your book on Amazon, but it also actually gives you a small percentage of the sale price as a commission! That’s a win-win.

What kinds of incentives can I offer on my website to sell books?

If you plan to sell the book yourself, there are a variety of incentives you can offer for someone to make the purchase. Since you’ll be doing the actual packaging and shipping, you might opt to include a “bonus” gift along with the book. That could be a printable discussion guide, some swag that relates to the book … or whatever else you can come up with. I’ve also worked with authors who autograph each and every copy of the book that someone buys through them. So if it ever becomes a bestseller….

Incentives are more challenging when you’re not the one selling the book. But if anyone has found a successful idea, please share it with us!

How do I get people to my website in the first place so that they’ll buy my book?

It’s true. People actually have to arrive on your website before they can decide to buy your book through your website. And there are professionals who make careers out of telling authors how to drive traffic to their site, so it’s not exactly a science that i can explain in a few sentences.

But here are some strategies (and more info on each one) that we have found to be successful for authors:

Any last tips on how to sell books through my author website?

Yes! Make it easy for a visitor to your site to buy the book. Don’t make people click around in order to figure out how to make the purchase. Have a “buy” link on each and every page. Make sure it’s clear and prominent. It’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often I see that happen.

Happy book sales!

book publishing facts

Book Publishing: 5 Things That Might Surprise You

book publishing factsYou’re writing your first novel. You, of course, would like to get published. So how do you break into book publishing?

Like many fields nowadays, book publishing is an industry that is changing by the minute. Here are five recent statistics that might surprise you.

Book Publishing Stats

1. In 2015, there were 727,125 self-published books. That’s right: nearly three-quarters of a million books were self-published last year. That’s up 21% in the last five years, according to Bowker, and it’s estimated to be roughly two thirds of the total number of books published. And that number is only increasing.

2. Traditional publishers do little to market most books they publish. It’s true. Unless you’re already a bestselling author, it’s unlikely that the publishing company that opts to publish your book will invest a lot of time and money to get it sold. Instead, they will rely on you to get your hands dirty. That’s why, if presented with two books that are equally good, a publishing company is far more likely to publish the book that has an author with a bigger following on social media, or a ready-made email list and promotion plan.

3. The book publishing market has met crowdfunding. Just this week, a milestone was hit. “Crowdfunding giant Kickstarter has hit a landmark, recording $100 million in pledges to small publishers and self-publishing authors,” according to SmallBizTrends.com. This means that not only are there two options for publishing any more — pay for it yourself (self-publish) or let a publisher pay and keep most of the profits — there’s now a third option: get funded.

4. Most authors never make a penny. It’s sad, but true. Here are a few stats from Income Diary:

  • 70% of books don’t make a profit.
  • Traditional publishers keep 90% of the profit from a book’s sales.
  • If a book sells 10,000 copies, it’s considered successful. “The average royalty through a traditional publisher is 10%. So even if you sell 10,000 copies of $10 book (through a traditional publisher), you’re only walking away with $10 grand.”

And yet, all of this doesn’t mean that you’re destined to continue at your full-time job for the rest of your life. In fact, even some self-published authors have gone on to make a very good living. According to Tharawat Magazine, “Mark Dawson, one of Kindles most successful self-publishers, gets paid $450,000 annually.”

5. It takes a village to publish. While it’s true that authors are now more independent than ever — they can self-publish their books with little to no help from a traditional publisher — authors still need a team of people to help get their book to the finish line. Every author should be working with a professional cover designer, book editor, and website developer/marketing consultant to help them get their book to where it needs to be. After all, what good is a wonderfully-written book if the cover looks shoddy or the website is amateurish? You might be a wonderful writer, but you’re probably not a professional at all of these things.

What else have you learned dipping your toes in the book publishing industry? If you have other surprises you’d like to share with authors just starting on the journey, please share them below!