kids reading books: children's authors

6 Tips for Children’s Authors

kids reading books: children's authorsChildren’s authors face some unique challenges. While authors of books about religion or history — or even a romance novelist — have a ready-made audience of people interested in that genre, children’s authors have more of an uphill battle. They need to identify their target audience and convince them that this book is the right one for their kids.

So how should children’s authors get their books out there and in the hands (and minds) of the right people? Here are six strategies to try.

Children’s Authors: 6 Things to Keep in Mind When Marketing Your Books

1. Word of mouth is key. There’s no one out there searching Google for “great kids books.” It just doesn’t happen. So how does a children’s book make it onto the bestseller list? The key is usually word of mouth. In other words, one child reads the book and loves it. Her mom is sitting at the playground the next day and starts talking to her friend about the great book that her daughter read the night before. That’s the beginning of what is ultimately a long chain of conversations about this “book my child loves.” So start by getting your book into the hands of as many parents as possible. Give out free copies. Offer a special deal for your e-book. The more kids that can read it, the more parents that can talk about it.

2. Talk to multiple audiences. Who buys children’s books? Well, parents buy children’s books. Teachers add children’s books to their curriculum. Librarians make children’s book purchases. And, of course, you’ve got the kid who comes home from school and says, “Mommy … will you PLEASE buy me that book that little Timmy was reading?” In other words, children’s authors need to sell their books to multiple audiences. You, of course, want kids to love it. You also want to convince parents that it includes a good lesson for their child. And you want teachers and librarians to know that it’s a great book that will help their kids read (and maybe learn other things along the way). In other words, you need to position your book to each of these audiences uniquely, and possibly even dedicate specific flyers, social media messages, or pages on your website accordingly.

3. Think about events. An event can be many things. It can be a speaking engagement at the public library or local school. It can be a book reading and signing at a bookstore. Or an event can be a fun gathering at the local park or rec center. Maybe you invite kids there with lots of food, snacks and activities. Maybe you create life-like versions of your characters and have the kids interact with them. You can think as big or as small as possible, but actually having the opportunity to interact with parents and children will help you build a loyal fan following. You can find examples of great children’s authors’ events on the Children’s Book Council “Kid Lit” page.

4. Join a children’s book community. There are various organizations out there full of children’s authors (and sellers!) For example, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) boasts more than 22,000 members, and has various regional chapters that hold conferences throughout the year. Conferences like these — and others — allow writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, and agents to meet and get to know one another. Connect with professionals in the industry, and get a chance to schmooze with top children’s book publishers.

5. Make the online experience fun and interactive. Remember: your book is for kids. That means it needs to be fun. So make your children’s author website or social media presence just that. Examples of ways to do this can include:

  • A social media campaign in which you ask users to submit cute photos of kids reading your book
  • An online poll in which you allow readers (parents and kids alike) to choose the name of a character in your next book
  • A fun crossword puzzle that uses the names of characters/places in your book
  • A kids’ writing contest, in which kids can submit their own book reviews, recommended additions to your story, etc…

These are just a few ideas of ways to bring your story into an interactive online experience. Get creative and come up with your own.

6. Think big (and yes, I know that’s the name of a popular children’s book). What makes your book different and unique? How can you market it to your audience? Publishers Weekly recently cited a few good examples of authors who did just that. In promoting his children’s book about little league baseball, The Hometown All Stars, Kevin Christofora sold copies of it in bulk to a local little league team, which they could then re-sell to parents at full price as part of a fundraising effort. Laura Barta, author of My China Travel Journal, actually founded a toy company and included the book as a learning tool in a larger set of educational materials about China that also includes “color story cards for reading comprehension, a fabric play mat, and standup puzzle pieces.”

Get your book in front of as many kids, parents and teachers as possible, and let the word spread!

amazon books publishing

Amazon Books: 10 Things You Need to Know

amazon books publishingBoy how times have changed. Today, self-published Amazon books are some of the best-selling books out there. If you’re considering self-publishing through Amazon, here’s are 10 things you need to know.

Amazon Books: What You Need to Know

1. CreateSpace/Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) are the names of the self-publishing companies run by Amazon. CreateSpace is the one in which you would publish a book in print; KDP is for Kindle versions of your book. Speaking of which….

2. You can decide if you want Kindle, print or both when you publish through Amazon books. Publishing on Kindle is totally free. Publishing in print requires actually printing the book (which isn’t free), but since it’s print on demand, you would really only eat that cost when your book is ordered online.

3. Amazon will allow you to create an author profile page. Do it! When you publish your book through Amazon, you will have the opportunity to create an author profile page with your photo, bio, genre, keywords, etc… Make sure you do this, as it can make a difference in the number of books you sell.

4. Yes, you can easily link from your author website to buy the book on Amazon. I get this question from authors all the time … if you build me an author website, can you link to Amazon so people can buy the book? Yes. Absolutely we can.

5. You can set your own price. Yes, when you self publish through Amazon, you can decide how much your book costs. Offer your e-book for only 99 cents if you want to increase readership. Or decide that $3.99 is a fair price. It’s your call.

6. You control the whole process from start to finish and retain all the rights to your book. Unlike going through a traditional publishing house, you are in charge of what your book is titled, what the cover looks like, etc… Best of all, you retain the rights to your book and can even sell it to a publisher later.

7. The percent of your sales that you collect may vary. It’s basically either 70% or 35%, depending on your pricing, your location, etc… Check out the Amazon guidelines to understand which bucket you would fit into. Either way, it’s a lot more than what you’d keep through a traditional publisher.

8. You can take advantage of Amazon books promotions. I’ve spoken with many authors who have found that taking advantage of one of Amazon’s many promotions — like giving away your book for free for up to 5 days — made a huge difference in exposure. Other promotions include earning money when people borrow your book, the Matchbook program (which offers the free Kindle version with a hardcopy) and the Kindle Countdown Deals.

9. Publishing is free, but you may still need to pay for various services. It doesn’t cost you a penny to self-publish through Amazon (except the printing of purchased books). But what doesn’t come with self-publishing through Amazon is the services you usually get through a traditional publisher — editing, book cover design and any marketing services. And these aren’t areas you want to cut corners in, so make sure you set aside some budget to get professionals to help you in these areas.

10. Don’t forget to start building reviews. Once your book is available on Amazon, people can start posting reviews of it. And you want them to! Ideally, you’ll want to readers themselves to be raving about your book in a review on the book’s page. But before that happens, you can ask friends and fans to get that conversation started. Having reviews posted can make a world of difference for a prospective reader.

Okay, so what have I forgotten here? What was your experience with self-publishing Amazon books? Share your experiences, opinions, little known facts, etc… in the comments box below.

facebook live for authors

Facebook Live for Authors: What You Need to Know

facebook live for authorsIt’s the hottest new trend in marketing. It’s called Facebook Live. Here’s what you need to know about Facebook Live for authors, and how you can jump on this bandwagon while it’s still hot.

What Is Facebook Live?

Facebook live is actually a video that you shoot from your phone and air live on Facebook. It’s different from pre-recording a video and then just uploading it (which you can also do). These are real-time video posts on Facebook. In other words, you turn on the camera and your video is recorded live on Facebook until you stop recording. And while these videos actually are visible while they’re being shot, they will also appear in the news feeds of friends and followers for some period of time afterwards.

How Do You Actually Do Facebook Live?

A Facebook live video can be anywhere from a few seconds to up to 90 minutes. To start recording and have it appear live on Facebook, just follow these directions.

Just How Popular Is It?

Well, no one yet knows just how far Facebook Live is going to go. But I can tell you this: Everyone with a hand in social media is experimenting with it now. Facebook has openly shared the fact that they are ranking Facebook Live videos higher on newsfeeds than pre-recorded videos that are uploaded. That’s because, according to Facebook, “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact.”

Are There Any Tips for Doing a Successful Facebook Live Event?

Again, it’s still pretty new. But in scouring some of the leading sites on social media marketing tactics, here are some tips I put together.

  • Take advantage of the “live” aspect. There’s no point in doing Facebook Live if there’s nothing urgent/timely about it.
  • Let people know in advance that you’re planning to broadcast. And write a kick-ass headline that piques people’s interest.
  • Check your connection before starting. Nothing worse than Facebook Live that cuts in and out.
  • Reduce background noise and speak loudly and clearly.
  • Play around with different live video times to see when you have the biggest audience.
  • Include a call to action at the end, like “Check out my website at …” or “Get a free copy of my book today by….”

How Can I Take Advantage of Facebook Live for Authors?

All types of businesses have started using this feature. And some of these ideas may be applicable to authors. Here are three ideas I found:

  1. Use it for live Q&A sessions with readers. Allow readers to tweet/text/IM you questions, and answer them live in real time. According to an article on Forbes.com, you should “Ask for feedback, respond to questions, and make the experience as participatory as possible.”
  2. Give your readers an “inside peek” at your world. Fans of your writing want to know more about you. Use Facebook Live to let them do that. One recommendation from Digital Book World is that you, “Switch back and forth from the front and the back of the camera so you can talk to your audience and also show your audience something else, like where you are, or the book you are talking about.”
  3. Broadcast live events. Are you going to a writer’s conference? Doing a book signing? Offer your fans the opportunity to follow you at this event through Facebook Live. As described by PostPlanner.com, “Are you at a conference, a concert, or some other place others would love to get a glimpse of? Share it live! But don’t forget to engage with the audience while you’re filming. Walk and talk them through every bit of it — and answer the questions that are sent your way.”

Have you used Facebook Live yet? What has or has not worked for you? Share your ideas with us!

E-mail Tips for Authors: Building and Using Your E-mail Lists

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Some people think email is soooo 2000s. After all, isn’t everyone communicating via Facetime, Snapchat, Twitter and such… now?

Not necessarily! Email can still be extremely useful as an author marketing tool. Here are some basic e-mail tips for authors … from collecting email addresses to using your lists wisely.

Step by Step E-mail Tips for Authors

Step 1: Set up an email collection system
In order to start collecting emails on your author website, you need to have a place to store them. There are a few basic systems that you can choose to use.

The first is a simple WordPress plug-in (assuming your site is built on WordPress). One basic one is just called “Newsletter.” This is a free system that stores any email addresses that people enter on your site, and offers some bells and whistles, too, like newsletter creation, the ability for users to unsubscribe automatically (a legal requirement) and more.

Other people opt to go with something a bit more complicated, like MailChimp. This service is also free up to a certain point (once your email list gets to about 2,000, there can be a charge involved). It offers a bit more flexibility in terms of newsletter design, analytics and more.

Then there’s a more advanced service, like Constant Contact. There’s a monthly fee associated with this one, but it has more bells and whistles.

All of these types of services are incredibly easy to set up and give you a simple code to put on your site. Which one you choose should depend on how much time, energy and money you want to invest in this project. But the concept of all of them are relatively similar: Any email address entered through the site is automatically stored in the system, and that list can easily be accessed any time.

Step 2: Plan your communications with subscribers
Just collecting email addresses isn’t enough. You actually need to … you know …. use them. And this plan should be mapped out before you start collecting addresses, because (as you will see in step 3), you need to tell people what to expect before they sign up.

Start by planning how frequently you’re going to send to that list. Will it be a monthly newsletter? Will you just send everyone a quick notification every time you post a new blog entry? Or will it be a news-based notification — like if you’re doing a radio show tomorrow?

Once you’ve figured out the strategy you want to use, then make sure you have everything you need in place — like a newsletter template, a blog feed etc… — to make this actually doable.

Step 3: Start collecting emails!
So now that you CAN collect email addresses, how do you actually convince people to start giving you their email? It’s not as easy as you may think.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, like in this post: 4 Ways to Improve and Increase Your Email Sign-Ups. So I’ll keep this one short.

But here’s the gist of it: People need a reason to sign up. They’re not going to give out their email for no reason. So offer an incentive, like a free download. And make sure you spell out what they should expect to receive and when if they give you their email address.

Finally, it’s important that you tell anyone and everyone that you will not sell or share their email. That assurance of security is essential.

Step 4: Think outside the box about utilizing your list
In this super-helpful recent article on PW by Jane Friedman, she outlines many of her recommendations for using email lists creatively. Here are some highlights.

  • Review your list and determine if anyone on it might benefit from an individualized email instead of a mass email. For example, if someone is an influencer (like a blogger who reviews books), this is someone that you might want to pull out of the larger list. You can then reach out individually to each of these influencers with a more customized message. This will increase the likelihood of making the most of that relationship.
  •  Your email list can be an essential tool in your book release strategy. For example, if you send out a newsletter pre-launch, you can include key details about where the book is available. You might also want to consider offering bonuses for people who buy the book on a particular day (like the day of launch). This can help you sell a lot of books at once, and might allow you to make it on one of Amazon’s top seller lists.
  • Consider collecting additional information from users, and then segmenting your email lists. Asking for more than just an email can be risky (the more you ask for, the more people will bail out). But if you want to be bold, consider collecting additional information, like where someone lives or how many of your books they’ve already read. This will allow you to segment your list and do what’s called “targeted newsletter sends” — dividing your list based on the specific message. In other words, you could notify only people in the midwest if you were doing a local book signing. Or allow you to send separate newsletters to people who are already your superfans vs. the newbies.

As Jane says at the end of her article, “That’s the point at which email marketing becomes among the most valuable and profitable marketing tools, where you can tie specific sales goals to each email you send out.”

I couldn’t agree more.

should i be blogging or using social

Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

should i be blogging or using socialAuthors have limited time on their hands. In today’s busy world, who doesn’t?

So I frequently have authors who are wondering where they should invest what little marketing time they have.

If you’ve ever asked the question, “Should I be blogging or investing my time in building a following on social?” we finally have some answers.

Thanks to our friends at Contently, who recently published Does Your Content Need a Permanent Home? we have some important questions you can ask yourself when making this decision…. I’ve taken their recommended questions and customized them for authors…

Questions to Ask Yourself: Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

1. Who’s your target readership?
Who will be reading your book, anyway? Is it 50-year-old businessmen? Fifteen-year-old girls? If you’re primarily looking to reach an older, more academically-minded audience, a blog is probably a good place to dedicate your time and effort. That will allow you to drive them to your site, where you can offer additional materials and really sell your brand. If your audience skews younger, you’re probably better off offering snack-size bits — in either text or video format — that they can enjoy for a quick moment, and then go on with their day.

2. How important is ownership to you?
Do you know what the biggest difference between a blog and a social presence is? Well, it’s that you actually own your blog, and you have no ownership of anything on social. Not only does that mean that a social networking platform can take down anything you post if they’re so inclined, it also means that if they shut down their site, everything you’ve written there can disappear completely. And here’s another downside of lack of ownership when you post on social … you don’t really own the list of followers you acquire through social. So you may have 50,000 people following you on Twitter, but if Twitter were to cease to exist, that list would vanish completely. And if Twitter became less popular and people stopped paying attention to it? You would have no way to reach out to those followers again, short of getting them all to follow you on a new platform. Collect the same list of followers on your own site, for example, and you can collect contact info, etc… That is then yours, and you can use it for ever and ever. So if owning your material and your contact list is important to you, then blogging makes the most sense. If not, social will do just fine.

3. Do you regularly post about time-sensitive things?
Unless your blog grows to the point where it’s rivaling CNN, your blog posts are never going to be showing up at the top of a Google search result on the same day that you post it. Your social posts, on the other hand, very well might. So here’s a scenario: Let’s say you write a book about global warming. And then there’s a tropical storm, which you attribute to global warming, about to hit the US. You want to write about that, right? If you do it in blog format, it may get read … but certainly not when the search term “Tropical Storm Alberto” is trending on Google. If you post in social, with the proper hashtag, you have a much better chance of jumping on that opportunity.

4. What’s your primary online goal?
I frequently ask authors what their primary goal out of their website is. It usually falls into one of two categories: getting his/her name out there and building a following, or selling books. If your goal is the former — building your name — then social may be a good place for you to focus your efforts. By building followers on Facebook/Twitter, you are getting your name and your posts in front of a large number of people. They will regularly see you in their feed, and they will get to know your name, your face and your brand. Mission accomplished. If, on the other hand, you want to focus more on selling books, a blog may serve you better. People are far less likely to go out of their way to buy your book off of a series of cute social posts. In order to take the plunge and actually make a purchase, it usually requires something a bit stronger: an impressive blog post on an impressive website that nicely ties your book in to your overall message.

5. Is your website mobile-friendly?
While this isn’t directly related to the social vs. blog question, it is something to keep in mind. I wrote a post just a few weeks ago about the damage that can be done to your site if it’s not mobile-friendly. If that’s the case, and your site is less than optimal for the mobile audience, then it’s probably not worth your time to invest heavily in a blog on that site. Unless you plan to redesign in the near future, focus on social.

6. Do you write fiction or nonfiction?
This is another common conversation I have with authors. The truth is that marketing a fiction book is very, very different from marketing a nonfiction book. That ties back to two big reasons.

  • People read fiction books for pleasure, and nonfiction books for learnings.
  • People usually get fiction books recommended to them by friends/colleagues, while they very well may find out about a nonfiction book through browsing sites on topics that they find especially interesting.

Both of these scenarios spell out the following equation:
fiction books > nonfiction books on social
nonfiction books > fiction books on blogging

Now, you may have answered these six questions and still felt unsatisfied. After all, you might have answered three questions in one direction and three in the other. In short, we haven’t answered the question yet: “Should I be blogging?”

And that’s not for us to answer. That’s for you to ponder and figure out. Hopefully this post is a good first step in helping you do that.

identifying your target reader

Identifying Your Target Reader: Tips for Authors

identifying your target readerIt’s true. Writing is a business. That’s especially the case in today’s world of sell-it-yourself self-publishing. So as a business person, you need to put on the thinking cap of a business executive. First task? Identifying your target reader.

Just as the people who founded Pepsi Cola, Hasbro or Amazon mapped out their business plans and identified who their customers would be, you — the author — need to do the same. After all, if you’re not keeping your readers (aka customers) in mind at each and every step of your journey, then you’re potentially costing yourself success.

How to Go About Identifying Your Target Reader

Start with your genre. Which type of user generally reads that type of book? Are they male or female? What’s the age range? Are they more likely to read a hard copy or an e-book?

Chris Jones, an award-winning writing coach, recommends in a HuffPost article that you actually, “create an avatar, a fictional character on paper based on who your ideal reader is” to help you to stay on target with your message and your marketing. Here are some questions he recommends you ask as you’re creating this persona:

  • What do they look like?
  • What are their book buying habits?
  • What do they most like to read about?
  • Where do they like to find information on their favorite authors within your genre?

The Realities of Identifying Your Target Reader

So how will identifying your target reader actually change what you’re doing as an author? Well, there are a few different ways your daily activities can — and should — be adjusted by your continual reminders about your target reader.

First, it can impact the actual writing of your story. For example, if you have identified that your target reader is older, you may decide that you want to be a little less gruesome in the way you tell the story of a character’s death. After all, a 60-year-old probably isn’t as enthralled by the blood and guts as a teenager would be. Or, conversely, if your story is geared towards 20-somethings, you may decide that you want to tweak the habits of one of your characters to make him or her more relatable to that generation. Similarly, if your book speaks to the less educated, you may want to write shorter sentences and paragraphs, while a more savvy audience may find that structure a bit patronizing. There are various ways — both big and small — that keeping your reader in mind can impact your writing.

Second, identifying your target reader can impact the whens and hows of publishing your book. I mentioned before that it’s important to think about how your readers will ingest your book. Will they be binge readers, in which case you may want to release all three books of your trilogy simultaneously? Will they be reading it as an e-book or a hard copy? Do you really need to publish it in both formats, or is it a better use of your time and money to focus on one? Is your reader more likely to read your book on the beach in the summer? If that’s the case, time your release accordingly.

Lastly — and possibly most importantly — identifying your target reader should be a crucial piece of your marketing efforts. After all, how are you going to get your book in the hands of the right people if you don’t know who they are, where they are, and how they’re investing their time?

For your online efforts, pick your website strategy and social networking channels accordingly. If your audience is a group of professionals, LinkedIn may very well be worth your time. If your book is aimed at teenagers, then Instagram or SnapChat might be a better use of it. Similarly, create an author website and blog that meet your readers’ needs and preferences. Would they prefer to read a humorous blog post each week? Or would a more static site that they can turn to for information at their leisure better serve them?

Your offline efforts can also be impacted by this. If you’re trying to reach suburban moms, speaking events at book clubs or libraries may be worth your time. That effort would be far less impactful with a younger audience. Once you’ve identified your target reader, think about how and where you can meet them where they are: nursing homes, community centers, schools, etc…

The Benefits of Identifying Your Target Reader

The benefits of all this should be obvious: increased book sales. By properly identifying your target readers and making sure that all aspects of your book efforts — from writing to publishing to marketing — are geared specifically towards them, you’re increasing the likelihood of them hearing about your book, buying your book, loving your book and telling their friends about your book. And that, folks, is how bestsellers are made.

How Do I Get My Book Out There? Tips from the Experts

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-thereThis is the question just about every self-published author is asking. And so are many authors who went through publishing houses, too. “How do I get my book out there?”

In other words, authors are asking what they can do to get readers to take a chance on their work. What strategies or techniques will get the average reader to dedicate some time (and hopefully money) into reading your first book. Because if you’re confident in your work, you know that once they read the first book, they will be a fan for life.

Someone posed just this question to a team of successful authors and publishing experts at Publishers Weekly. Here are some suggestions, as proposed by the panelists.

1. Write more books!

Bestselling author Bella Andre recommends that you get started writing your second, third, and even fourth book before your first is a hit. “Once you have a four to five books out, and especially if they are in a connected world/series, then you are best able to begin promoting your books to readers,” she adds.

2. Become a good marketing copywriter.

Another bestselling author, Hugh Howey, says that a good writer should be able to write more than just a good book. He recommends that you hone your writing skills so that you can seamlessly craft interesting blog posts, book teasers, social networking posts and more. “Can you sell your book in a single sentence? If not, keep working on that sentence.”

3. Consider a giveaway or promotion.

The great publishing vet Jane Friedman shared her top recommendation: free stuff! As she put it, “The number one tool for any new or unknown indie author is the giveaway, whether that’s through Amazon, your own site, or a marketing service like BookBub.” And she’s right. I mean, who doesn’t want something for free? Joanna Penn, bestselling author and blogger, agrees. “Having a book for free is the very best way to get people to try your work. I have my first in series free on all e-book stores and I give away a novella on my site to entice people to sign up for my email list. You can also do giveaways on Goodreads and other sites.” Bella Andre chimes in here as well, suggesting, “You can try a temporary sale on the first book.”

4. Own a space in your genre.

Figure out exactly what type of book you have written. Then market accordingly. Jane Friedman notes that it’s especially important to make sure your website is properly updated with the right keywords for your book. “Ensure your book’s metadata is accurate and specific (your categories, tags, and description) — to make sure readers who are searching for your work’s themes, settings, or characters will be more likely find it.” Joanna Penn also recommends that you reach out to other book bloggers or reviewers in your genre to build relationships.

5. Make the right investments.

Sure, some things cost money. But many of them are worth it. Bella Andre points out that you can buy some online ads at a reasonable cost to increase the visibility of your books. Similarly, she talks about the importance of a really nice, professional-looking cover. I couldn’t agree more that getting a good book cover designer is definitely worth the investment. And, in my humble opinion, the same goes for working with a good author website development firm.

So if you’re asking the question, “How do I get my book out there?,” these five ideas will hopefully serve as a really good starting point.

5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

author-blog-seoI just got off the phone with a marketing consultant who helps self-published authors promote themselves. We spent a long time talking about author blog SEO … and I was really surprised just how little even professionals understand about the dos and don’ts of search engine optimization.

With that in mind, here are five common mistakes I see/hear about from authors…

1. Optimizing for too many keywords.

How many keywords was your most recent blog post optimized for? Five? Ten? The truth is, each post should have one primary keyword. The days of entering 10 keywords in the traditional meta keyword field and thinking that your post is optimized are long gone. Nowadays, it takes far more work than that to get your post to show up on a search result page. Pick your primary keyword and then optimize your entire post for it. Speaking of which…

2. Not using headlines, URLs, images or h2/h3 tags.

Yup, these are the places that really matter. The primary keyword you select should be worked into your blog headline, your URL, your intro paragraph and in h2/h3 tags (subheads). See how the words “author blog SEO” appear in all those places here? This post is properly optimized. Unless you work your keyword into each one of those places, you’re not doing your post justice.

2. Optimizing for keywords that are too general.

Let’s say you wrote a book about the history of baseball. Common sense would say that your blog post should be optimized for the keyword term “baseball,” right? Wrong. There are probably hundreds of thousands of blog posts out there optimized for the word “baseball,” and the chances that you could compete with them is minimal. After all, ESPN has kind of mastered this stuff. So you need to get more specific in your keyword choices. For example, “Babe Ruth,” “1919 World Series” and “the origin of baseball” are keywords that are far more attainable. It’s a much better use of your time to focus on those. So how do you find those keywords?

3. Not doing author blog SEO keyword research.

I’m a big fan of the Google keyword tool to analyze keywords; it tells you how many people are searching for each one, and how much competition there is. But even if you don’t have this service, you can simply go to Google and start typing keywords into the search box. See how Google is actually finishing your search for you? Take a look at the keywords Google is filling in. This is a good starting point for determining what people are actually searching for. Identify those keywords first, and then optimize your post accordingly.

5. Reusing the same keyword in multiple posts.

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? In terms of keywords, yes. If you already have a blog post optimized for, say, “the best author blogs,” and then you create a second blog post with the same keyword, what’s the result? Well, according to the experts, it in no way makes your site any more of a destination for that search term. Instead, it basically just sets you up to compete with yourself. It’s recommended that you have one destination (or in this case, blog post) for each specific keyword, and that you’re better off optimizing future posts for a variation of that keyword.

Now, SEO is an ever-changing field. What I’m telling you today may or may not still be applicable five years from now. But these are some good guidelines to start following to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck in terms of SEO for your blog. If you’re looking for more advice on building your author website, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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The Latest Trend: Author Apps?

author apps iconYou know you need an author website. That’s what just about every successful author has nowadays. But what about an author app? Do you need one, and what should it do?

It’s a little early to answer the question about whether or not authors are benefiting from their author apps, but what we can do is take a look at author apps that have been created to date and what purpose each one serves. If you feel like one of these ideas is worth investigating for you or your books, consider consulting with an app development firm to figure out if this makes sense for you.

Here are examples of some custom author apps I’ve found so far. Each of these are uniquely built to meet the needs of an individual author and his or her readers.

  • As author of a fan fiction series, Anna Todd, has teamed up with a California-based app development firm to create an app for her After series. As it is described on HollywoodReporter.com, “The app will give fans of the After novel franchise an opportunity to collaborate with Todd on ideas for her upcoming books, including new characters and cover art. They will also be able to participate in creative contests and receive exclusive advice from Todd about how to self-publish their own work.”
  • Author Peter May created an app to support his Lewis Trilogy crime series. According to his website, the app contains, “interactive map of the islands and locations featured in the books, with photographs; audio guide to pronunciation of Gaelic words; excerpts from the 3 books in The Lewis Trilogy: The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, The Chessmen; the background to the books; and author Peter May’s own research video of the islands.”
  • Bestselling cooking author, Mark Bittman, has created various apps that include his recipes, cooking tips and more.
  • The famous James Patterson has his own series of apps now, too. My favorite is simply known as the James Patterson app and includes, “Everything from the world’s #1 bestselling author—now in an app!”
  • Stephan Pastis, author of a syndicated comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, released an app that includes, “250 of the best Pearls Before Swine strips in full color, handpicked by Stephan; 125 integrated audio commentaries; 22 integrated videos; 12 animated strips; a window into Stephan’s creative process, inspiration for the characters and strips, and life; an interactive tour of Stephan’s studio and writing room; functionality to tag favorites and share through social media; search and bookmarking tools.” He even created a video to promote the app!

There are also companies (I have no affiliation with or knowledge of them) that help authors create templated apps — much like other web development firms help authors create websites off templates. These are obviously much less expensive than custom apps, but have limitations. Examples include:

Have you seen any author apps that you love? Have you built your own author app? Share your thoughts on this below!

Marketing Your Books Through Current Events

googletrendsQuick. Check out Google Trends. What do you see?

In case you’re not aware of Google Trends, it’s the branch of Google that shows you which search terms are being entered the most right now. And what is the thread that always seems to carry through each and every one of them? That would be news.

In other words, on the day of the Super Bowl, the most popular search terms were “Super Bowl,” “NFL,” “Denver Broncos” etc… On the day of a presidential primary, the top search terms are the names of the candidates, the state that’s voting, etc… This isn’t rocket science. People are searching for what’s top of mind that day.

So why does this matter to authors? Because taking advantage of these top trends can play a role in marketing your books. Let me explain…

Making the Connection

“What does my book have to do with today’s news?”, you might ask. For some people, making this connection is easy. If you’ve written a book on politics, it’s a no-brainer to think about how to tie your book in to the conversation surrounding the presidential election. But for a large majority of authors, this isn’t such an easy connection. That’s where your creative mind comes into play. Here are three scenarios of book topics and things in the news as I write this … and how you can link them.

Romance Novel and the Super Bowl

These two things seem to be polar opposites, correct? Well, that’s exactly where the connection lies. What a great opportunity to bring up the fact that chances are, if you’re a fan of romance novels, you are not all that into watching the Super Bowl. This is where you create, say, a live chat with the author during the Super Bowl. Or you remind people that your book is the perfect one to read while their significant others are wrapped up with football.

Psychology Book and the Presidential Election

This year’s Presidential election is … well … fascinating. We’ve got competitive candidates in both parties, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are using extremely non-conventional approaches to the election. And no matter how you feel about these candidates, studying their tendencies — and their supporters’ devotion — is practically a psychology experiment. This is the perfect time for an author to step in and talk about the intensity of the feelings behind the support for these candidates. Are they feeling angry? Why? What’s the best way for them to express this anger? Is there room for personal growth for either these candidates or their followers? Or are they MORE in tune with themselves than the other candidates? Again, this is ripe conversation for fodder among authors who dabble in the spirituality/self-help/psychology arena.

Historical Biography and the Flint Water Crisis

So we’ve all heard about the awful situation in Flint, Michigan. Kids — and let’s not forget pets — are being filled with lead through the drinking water. The results are already awful, and could only get worse over time. So what does this have to do with a historical biography? Well, let’s look at the leadership in Flint, in the state of Michigan and in the US government. What are they doing to fix the problem? What caused the problem in the first place, and who is responsible? If you have written a biography on, say, John F. Kennedy, Jr., you probably know something about his position on the involvement of government in this type of issue — both on a local and national level. Maybe you even know if he worked on any bills related to clean drinking water. If nothing else, this is your opportunity to write a piece along the lines of “What Would JFK Do?” in response to this current crisis.

Obviously, you are not likely to fit into one of these three scenarios exactly. But this (hopefully) will give you some ideas about how to think outside the box and find the link.

Utilizing the Connection for Marketing Your Book

So now that you’ve found the connection, what do you do with it? Here are a few different ways to take advantage of the news cycle and use it as an opportunity to market your book. All of these routes will help — in one way or another — get a mention of your book in front of a portion of the many, many people searching for these popular keywords.

  1. Blog, blog, blog. Yup, it all goes back to blogging. This is the easiest and quickest way for you to get your message out there. Write one or more blog posts specifically tying your book to a top news story. Make sure to use specific tools/plug-ins that allow you to properly optimize the piece for those search terms. For example, here are dummy titles for each of the three scenarios outlined above:

    “Forget the Super Bowl! Read _____” (optimized for “Super Bowl”)
    “Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the Psychology Behind Them” (optimized for the candidates names)
    “The Flint Water Crisis: What Would JFK Do?” (optimized for “Flint water crisis”)

    By properly writing and optimizing these pieces, you can try to break through to the audience specifically looking for more on these news items. Is it easy to compete with top news organizations for these keywords? Of course not. But a good effort might just sneak you in. And if your title is interesting and clickable enough, it will attract the perfect audience of potential readers.

  2. Pitch articles. There are hundreds of sites out there just looking for good writers to pitch good story ideas to them. Giving an interesting slant to a popular news story is just icing on the cake. Think about local publications/news sites that you can easily reach out to, and also think big — like HuffPost — and pitch your ideas there as well. It may be as simple as finding other bloggers and asking them if you can guest blog on their site. Depending on the specific subject matter, identify five or so relevant sites that accept story submission ideas and make your pitch.

  3. Use social media. How many people are talking about top news items via Twitter or Facebook? That would be a lot. Just look at how many tweets were sent out during the Super Bowl. Do some quick sleuthing online to find out which hashtags are being used for tweets related to the news item you’re connecting with. Then use that tweet to inject yourself into the conversation and make the connection with your book. For example, a post that reads, “#superbowl Bored to tears? Buy an e-copy of ____ now” can reach your target audience. Ditto with Facebook … find conversations going on related to hot news items, and chime in with your quick blurb (or link to your blog post).

Again, there are a million ways you can go about this — both how you make the connection and how you get the word out. But no matter what type of book you’ve written, piggybacking on today’s hot news items can be your ticket to reaching a whole new audience.