5 Common Social Media Mistakes Authors Make

social media mistakesI seem to spend a lot of time discussing social media lately. That’s because … well … it has become a crucial part of an author’s online marketing plan.

And yet, many authors continue to avoid social media at all costs, or worse, make some serious mistakes while investing their time and energy in social media.

With that in mind …. presenting, five common social media mistakes authors make.

1. Being too promotional. It’s social media. It’s not a commercial. If you make the mistake of treating it like an advertisement — and only talking about your product — people are going to treat your social media presence like they would treat any other advertisement: fast forward through it.

2. Not interacting with readers. Part of why social media has spread like wildfire is because people love that it truly is a conversation. An author website is a place where authors can talk and readers can listen. Facebook, Twitter, etc… is where readers can communicate with writers as equals. So make sure to pose questions to your followers, respond to questions and comments, etc… Remember: it’s a conversation.

3. Posting too infrequently. In this way, social media is much like a blog. People are only going to follow you if you post in a timely and frequent manner. That means that you share your opinions on news and events as soon as they happen (not weeks later), and you respond to questions and comments while they’re still fresh in the minds of the people who posted them. Just take five minutes a day to pay attention to your social networking profiles and it can make a world of difference.

4. Confusing professional and personal.
I’ve had many authors ask me if they need to create a separate professional profile on Facebook. The answer is a resounding “yes,” and for a multitude of reasons. To begin with, what you want to share with your readers is probably very different than what you want to share with your second cousin. The latter may care that your toddler was picking his nose yesterday, but the former probably doesn’t. In addition, it’s important that you remember that your professional profile is just that: professional. I recently was reading a conversation on LinkedIn in which someone was talking about how an author had linked her professional profile as a children’s author and her personal profile, in which she was venting about her own political beliefs. Sure, she has the right to talk about whatever she wants. But why alienate readers when it’s completely unnecessary?

5. Not measuring results. I say this all the time about websites. The same is true with social media. If you’re not paying attention to which posts are getting read/liked, and which Tweets are getting retweeted, then you’re working blindly. Pay close attention to what’s working — and what’s not — and alter your social media strategy accordingly. If you don’t know how to do that, you can find plenty of tutorials online about Facebook insights and the corresponding tools on other sites.

Sure, social media can be a pain. It can be a time suck. And you probably would rather spend your time … well … writing. But do social media right and you can see a hefty reward.

5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Into Your Author Website

You might love social media. You might hate social media. But there’s one thing you can’t deny: it’s practically a necessity in today’s world of author marketing.

So how can you integrate social networking tools into your author website without creating even more work for yourself? Here are some ways to do just that…



icons1. Links to your social networking profiles. This is practically standard nowadays. On just about any author website, you’ll see little buttons that represent Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… Most people understand exactly what those icons mean and know that if they click on them, they will be taken directly to your profile on the corresponding site.
like


2. Like buttons. Have you ever seen that little thumbs up sign with the word “like” next to it? That’s a Facebook like button. That allows site visitors to tell all of their Facebook friends that they “like” your website. Plus, Facebook will keep track of how many people have “liked” your site, and even show the faces of those who did. See our example on the left.



3. Blog-post-to-tweets. You’ll be happy to know that there’s a relatively simple way to set things up so that every time you post a blog entry on your site, Twitterfeed automatically takes the first 140 characters and “tweets” it out to your fanbase. That tweet then ends with a link to read the full post on your site. Again, this is a great way to get your message out through multiple channels without having to do any additional work.
share



4. Share buttons. In today’s social media world, there’s no better way to get more eyeballs on your site than to have readers “share” your articles, blog posts, etc… with their friends. It’s the equivalent of a personal recommendation. Make sure that every piece of content on your site includes share buttons that allow readers to spread the word about your good read through their social networking site of choice. See the example on the right.




widget5. Widgets. I just love Facebook and Twitter widgets on author websites. These little snippets of code that you can embed on your site mean that your latest posts, comments, pictures, etc… on your favorite social networking channel will automatically feed into your website. Put this on your homepage and you’ve got a site that always looks fresh and up to date … without your having to even touch it. See an example on the left.


Remember: every one of your readers has a preferred way of staying on top of what you’re doing. Some prefer to visit the site. Others prefer to follow you on Facebook or receive your Tweets. By seamlessly integrating all of these methods, you’re allowing your readers to follow you in the way that they like best. And that can only be good for you.

To (Give It Away for) Free or Not to Free? That Is the Question

Okay, I apologize for the tacky play on words in the title. I just couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I came across a conversation on LinkedIn this morning about the benefits (and arguments against) giving away ebooks for free.

The post that started the conversation certainly grabbed my attention. It read:

We authors needs to band together and say “NO MORE FREE BOOKS.” Does a CEO offer his services for free? Does an employee tell their boss “This week I’ll work for free?” How do we solve it?

The responses were  … well … quite mixed. I thought I would pull out the most interesting quotes from the arguments on both sides so that you can help form your own decision about whether or not to offer your book for free as part of a promotional package.

The Pros

The Baen Free Library has demonstrated that free books increase sales of backlist titles. I am putting another of my books up there soon. I also “snippet” — post chapters of — forthcoming books for free, up to about half the book’s contents.
Ryk Spoor

My sales were increased tremendously by using the program on Amazon. At the start my sales were up over a thousand percent over the pre program sales figures. And now, at the end of nine months with the program my sales are consistently two hundred percent over pre program sales.
Michael “Duke” Davis

“Free” is not a new concept. Free attracts people who might pay for your stuff in the future. Think of a free e-book as your loss leader.
Susan Wenger

I find it works extremely well when you have a series. I gave away book one of my vampire series and book 2 sales soared. Giving books away is a long term investment and the more books you have published, the better it will pay off!
Janiera Eldridge

When I started this writing gig, I questioned the “free” thing as well. Then I was picked up by a small press who absolutely does not agree with “free”, but does encourage giveaways. On the release of my debut novel, I was provided with 25 free Smashwords coupons to use for reviews, promos, etc. I’ve used them judiciously, and have seen some good return. I agree with others here, “Free” is a marketing decision, and is typically for a limited time. Ever hear of “buy one, get one free?” This has been used by some of the world’d biggest retailers and suppliers for years, because it works.
Debbie McClure


The Cons

Since I signed up for KDP which locks you in for 90 days, I’ve learned that it’s almost a game with many to dowload as many free books as they can – many times in the triple digits. And, they don’t read them, they just collect them. If it were mandatory that there were no free books online ever, the good, the bad and the ugly would be weeded out fairly quickly. With 1300 downloads, I’m think Wow! People will review and the word will get out. Not true. I’ve had l7 reviews in a month (since it was printed) and most of these people have written me via my website and paid for the book. Fifteen five-star and two four-star. As far as I can tell, the free downloads did not help my sales. Maybe they will eventually, but not yet.. If you pull a book up on Amazon or B & N and read the first page, you know whether the book is worthy enough to read. I’m not saying mine is worthy or better than others, I feel that a book should be purchased because it’s a good book,not because it’s free.
Kimberly Shursen

Some authors choose to put their ebooks up on sites like Smashwords for free. That is a personal choice, although it’s been argued that a lot of these are worth even less than the asking price. Some writers do this because they simply want their books to be read and don’t care about bringing in money. Others are looking to create a following as they develop their talent. Either way it would be very rare to hear someone say: “wow this is such a great book I would have paid to read it!”
Gordon Williams

Just remember if you sell yourself cheap why should a reader value your book more than you do?
Ron Mahedy

———–

In summary, I think the pros outweigh the cons. But what really came through in the responses to this original post is that it’s up to each and every author to decide whether this is the right form of marketing for the book in question. As one person so succinctly put it: I don’t see anyone forcing authors to give away their books for free.

Should Self-Published Authors Take Advantage of the Kindle Select Program?

Nearly every new author today is opting to self publish. Okay, not always opting. Often, it’s their only choice. But regardless, there are thousands of authors out there self-publishing their books, and each of them is looking for a way to make their book stand out. Enter Kindle Select.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select) is a program that Amazon offers to their self-published authors. According to Amazon, here are the benefits of such a program:

  • Earn higher royalties Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund amount when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Plus, earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India and Brazil.
  • Make your book free to readers worldwide for a limited time The Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly schedule and control the promotion of free books.
  • Reach a new audience Distribute books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and reach the growing number of Amazon Prime customers on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de and Amazon.fr.

But, as with anything, there is a drawback. As Amazon explains: When you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

So how does an author know whether Amazon Select is the right option for their newest release? Well, they turn to other authors, of course. I came across a conversation among authors on LinkedIn this morning about just that, and I thought I would include some excerpts so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Here are some of what the authors had to say:

———–

The Positive

I have eight books in the Select program and think it has been the greatest thing since sliced bread,

I use the give-a-way program carefully. The first month I was in it I gave away about 2200 books for free, However, I also raised my sales over 1000%. After that for the next five months it dropped down to where I was giving away maybe twenty books a month but still selling about an average 200% above my starting sales numbers.

I am now going to drop out of the program and put my books back into all the markets and see how I do. I am quite happy with my six months results and would recommend it to anyone. But my name and books are much more well known now and I am getting a nice little following. So it’s time to spread out.

When I say I use it carefully here are some of the things I learned. If you are only going to try one book in it, don’t waste your time. You only get five days in three months to use the free book bit. Of course that isn’t going to get any notice. Eight books worked out wonderfully for me. What I found worked best for me is I give away a different free book every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I start the rotation with one of my best books. The second book is also one of my best, the third (or Sunday book) would be one that wasn’t doing so well, and I just keep rotating them in this order through the ninety days. I don’t give away any books om Monday thru Thursday. I found the response to be very low on those days.

Some people have told me that I would have still had a lot of sales for that period if I weren’t giving away the books. I guess that could be true, but for the two years leading up to that point my sales were poor so what else could have jump started my income?

A lot of the success still depends on your marketing. There is no substitute for good marketing. I am learning all the time…

Michael “Duke” Davis “The Dukester”

I gave away a lot of free books, but I’m not sure how much it helped my sales. But as a new novelist, I felt it was more important to get the first novel out rather than try for a big profit.

From the standpoint of getting my name out there, the select program worked. I’ve recieved lots of “fan mail” via twitter/facebook/email and have to field daily questions about when the next book will be out. So it looks like I’m on my way to a loyal following.
Alex Reissig

The Negative
This issue has been fully debated on various blogs, forums, and especially the Smashwords blog and on Mark Coker’s updates. Coker makes very strong points that it’s not good to have books exclusively on one site since you’re sacrificing sales at all other sites, i.e., iTunes Store, Nook, Sony Reader, and smartphone apps. Amazon may still be the largest seller of ebooks, but their share of the market is declining.

You’re giving readers more places to find your books if you have them distributed widely across all tablets, readers, smartphones.
Jack Erickson

—–

Not a lot of comments, but some insightful ones. If you have any experience with Amazon Select that you would like to share, do so in the comments box below.

And for the rest of you … good luck making your decision!

Why (and How) Authors Should Build LinkedIn Profiles

I know. You’re probably cringing. Because after all this advice that you’ve been getting about blogging and building presences on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc… the last thing you probably want to hear is about why you should dedicate a little time to LinkedIn. But that’s what I’m about to tell you.

Now, LinkedIn isn’t necessarily for each and every author. But if you fit into one of the following categories, you should seriously consider it:

1. You’re a nonfiction author. Yea, that’s about half of you. If you’ve written a nonfiction book, then you’re an “expert” in that field. So it’s important that you build a LinkedIn presence that establishes you in that genre. Because when the media is looking for someone to interview on the subject, LinkedIn may be one of the first places they go.

2. You’re looking for a book deal. Okay, that’s a lot of you, too. Unless you’ve self-published your book and are dedicated to doing the same going forward, you’re probably open to inquiries from agents and publishers. In that case, creating a professional author presence on LinkedIn will help you get noticed by those in the publishing field.

3. You want to build connections. Well, who doesn’t? The truth is that there are tons of other authors (or people in the field that you write about) who may be very good people for you to know professionally. LinkedIn is all about these professional connections … and those are hard to make without a professional profile.

Okay, so are you convinced? Now that you know you should create your profile, here’s some advice on exactly what (and what not) to do, courtesy of Social Media Today

  1. Make sure that your profile is “complete.” This means adding (at least) your industry, location, special skills, education, a summary, and two past positions.
  2. Make sure that your headshot is a good one! Don’t just crop a picture out of a recent family photo. Make it friendly, appealing, close range (filling the frame), and professional.
  3. Add “Author” and the name of your book to your work experience. Be sure to include a description of the book, and a link to purchase in the work history.  …  Also be sure to upload your book cover image and if you have a book trailer, add that as well. You can even offer a sample chapter here as well.
  4. Create a vanity URL. People won’t remember the system-generated URL, but they may remember your name.
  5. Connect your author website and/or Amazon page to your profile. LinkedIn lets you connect three other URLs to your profile. If you have an author website, always use that one. Other choices include your Facebook page, your author page on Amazon, or a glowing book review.
  6. Write your background summary in a conversational style. I use first person. Making your summary conversational demonstrates that you’re accessible and easy to communicate with.
  7. Think keywords! Make sure that the summary includes keywords related to your topic of expertise. Keywords for LinkedIn profiles can be sprinkled throughout the profile (in the headline, job descriptions, summary, etc.), and should be done without naturally.
  8. Add your book titles to the Publications section, as well as any guest posts you’ve written. Consider this an opportunity to showcase your work beyond what they can find on your website.

And I would like to add another tip to this list. Join author groups on LinkedIn and chat with your fellow authors about what they’re doing, what’s working, and what they feel is a waste of time. I belong to about five such groups and I find the advice extremely useful. Heck, I get most of the ideas for blog posts from those conversations.

In short, take a few minutes and set up your LinkedIn profile. It’s a lot less time consuming than Facebook, and may be a whole lot more helpful.

3 Websites That All Authors Should Know About (If They Want to Sell Copies of Their Books)

We’ve talked at length about the need for authors to create presences on Facebook, Twitter, etc… But there are some other, lesser-known sites out there which can provide a great service to authors who are looking to market their work.

Without further ado, here are three that I’ve heard authors raving about…

1. GoodReads. You’ve probably heard of it. What you might not understand is how it works and what its benefits are. Here’s how the site is described: “The Goodreads Author Program is a completely free feature designed to help authors reach their target audience — passionate readers. This is the perfect place for new and established authors to promote their books.” And some of the features that GoodReads offers authors includes the ability to promote upcoming events (like signings/speaking), a place to share book excerpts, the ability to post videos, and the ability to lead a discussion group or list a book giveaway. In other words, GoodReads is a great place to find your target audience and speak directly to them about why your book should be next on their reading list.

2. Novelrank.com. Have you ever wondered how many copies of your book have been sold on Amazon? Probably, because it’s nearly impossible to find out … or so you think. Somehow, the experts at Novelrank.com have solved the mystery. According to the site’s homepage: “NovelRank is a completely free website for tracking books or other product’s Amazon Sales Rank on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de (Germany), Amazon.co.jp (Japan), Amazon.cn (China),Amazon.it (Italy), and Amazon.es (Spain). NovelRank is the best free resource for self-promoting authors to track their print and ebook sales and Sales Rank on Amazon with charting, RSS feeds, and real-time data.”

3. ReadersCircle.org. Ah, book clubs. They’re the target of many authors’ marketing efforts, but to no avail. Thankfully, we now have Readers Circle, where book clubs around the world form and gather. “Each year Reader’s Circle serves 90,000 inquires for local book clubs in 5 countries,” according to the site’s homepage. And as some savvy authors have discovered, Readers Circle is a great place to find and target book clubs specific to their genres. Through Readers Circle, you can get the names and contact info of book club organizers, and send them emails offering a free copy of your book, a discussion guide, the opportunity to have you meet with the group via Skype, etc… It’s a win-win.

If you’re an author who is working to market your latest (or future!) book, all three of these sites are worth visiting. And if you know of any others that have been helpful to you, share them with us in the comments field below!

How These Authors Took the Bull By the Horns (and How You Can, Too)

Photo: Angela Mann, Kepler's

I came across an interesting read on PublishersWeekly.com this week. It’s about four YA authors who got together and organized their own book tour.

Here’s a summary of the article:

  • The touring authors – Martha Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention, Scholastic/Levine), Sean Beaudoin (The Infects, Candlewick), Kevin Emerson (The Lost Code, HarperCollins/Tegen), and Cat Patrick (Revived, Little, Brown) – are friends who met through the Seattle writing community.
  • The “You Are Next” tour, a nod to what the group calls “the next generation of books for the next generation of readers,” launched in January, with visits to schools and bookstores in Las Vegas, and San Francisco, and Portland, Ore.
  • To chart their itinerary, the authors brainstormed about West Coast cities they’d like to go to and bookstores they’d enjoyed visiting in the past. They contacted booksellers to arrange store and school visits, and circulated flyers announcing the tour.
  • The tour will next touch down in greater Los Angeles, where the quartet will make several store appearances during the week of March 25.
  • Capping off the week is a visit to Disneyland on March 30, when they will be joined by several other YA authors, plus bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and fans for a day of play.
  • At each stop on the You Are Next tour, which the authors are publicizing through its Facebook page and through their respective Twitter feeds, the authors offer a panel presentation that involves significant audience participation.
  • The authors show embarrassing photos of themselves (“including but not limited to prom photos,” she says), read from their books in voices mimicking those of celebrities, and give kids prizes if they guess correctly which “fun facts” pertain to which authors.

What a brilliant idea! These four YA authors came up with an innovative way to get their books in front of their target audience … and have fun all the while. I’m not sure who is paying for this trip — or how much the total cost will be — but this should be a model for authors everywhere.

Communicate with other authors in your genre. Think of them as idea-generators, not competitors. Together, you can think outside the box and come up with creative ideas like these four women did.

Marketing Techniques That Are Working for Other Authors

I spend a good chunk of time each week browsing author conversations on LinkedIn. This week, there happened to be a lot of discussions regarding what other authors are doing to promote themselves and their books. I took it upon myself to gather some of the highlights and share them with you…

—–

One of the best ways to create visibility is by getting a story in the local newspaper, or an interview on radio and TV. Once this happens, there is the potential to reach thousands of people at the same time.
–Rachel M. Anderson

Every author needs a blog – even traditional publishing houses are now recommending authors blog. Of course, you need a plan to make the most of it. I blogged for 2 years before publishing my first book and my (award winning) blog is the home base for all my book marketing.
–Marquita Herald

I recommend doing guest posts on blogs relevant to your material.  Also, giveaways can sometimes drum up some attention (ie Goodreads)
–Cynthia Vespia

Not a secret, but speaking in public has worked well for me. It builds a very loyal following because the audience feels they know you like a friend.
–Carol Topp, CPA

Every time I give a book away free, I sell two. I’m sure the one I give away is passed around among friends, but so what if there are sales in there somewhere. Of course, this works with digital books. Print books are much too expensive for this tactic.
–Larry Winebrenner

I’ve found that having lectures in libraries, book stories and having friends throw book signing parties, advertising anywhere and everywhere, placing ads in the local papers and the list goes on and on…
–Pattimari Sheets Cacciolfi

TWITTER! I have made a great deal of “contacts” and friends there. I have made MANY on this site joining groups and participating in conversations like this one: www.KristinaLouise2012.com
–Kristina Louise

—–

Hope this helps!

Author Success Stories: John Kuhn and Mark Mullins

John Kuhn and Mark Mullins are business consultants with decades of corporate, entrepreneurial and academic experience. Their newly published book is Street Smart Disciplines of Successful People – 7 Indispensable Disciplines for Breakout Success. And their website, StreetSmartDisciplines.com, has been a success as well, with over 500 visitors in the past month. So how did they do it? Read on to hear their answers to our questions…


Who built your website? How was the experience?

Smart Author Sites did our website. It was a great experience. A very seasoned team of pros that understand what authors need. Outstanding guidance and quality creative suggestion. Completed ON TIME and ON BUDGET!

Which social networking sites do you regularly participate in? Facebook? Twitter? GoodReads? LinkedIn? Any others?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, GoodReads

How has your online presence (be it through a website or social networking profiles) increased your visibility/book sales?

We have used our website as the primary platform to communication our book’s message and the value to the reader… As we designed our social media campaign, we built it to direct people to our website and let the website do the selling for us.

What is your “secret” to achieving this success? Were there any tricks or creative ideas (i.e. a contest) that you used?

Provide overwhelming and compelling evidence to our potential readers that they will gain tremendous value from reading our book. We recommend that all authors provide entertaining and informative details regarding the book and be selling ALL the time.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in the process of building your online presence as an author?

Being “famous” online does NOT translate to book sales! You have to be actively soliciting people every day to buy your book… use blogs, use articles about your book, post pictures and create some video to post as well… Any time we posted these items we got more traffic, which usually resulted in more book sales.


How and where do you promote your website? Is the URL on business cards? Your email signature?

EVERYWHERE… Every blog, every article, email signatures, business cards, in our book, in our videos, we mention it in all radio interviews and have the show host post it to their website and on all promotional materials.

Final words of wisdom for any new authors wondering how to get started….

Don’t quit! This is really hard. Edit your work a bunch of times and then have other editors look at it too… Then have someone, at the end, when you think you’re done proof the entire book… You will be shocked at how much you missed that was just about to be published! Yikes!

5 Tips for Sending Successful Emails to Readers

author email listIt’s one of the things I push to all authors I work with: amass an email list. Facebook “likes” and “fans” only go so far. There’s nothing like a ready-made list of email addresses with people you can notify when you have a book signing, upcoming radio interview, or new book available on Amazon.

That said, collecting email addresses is the easy part. The hard part is creating emails that are effective. Despite what you may think, putting together a successful email campaign takes a whole lot of thought, planning, and testing.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Pick your time wisely. When do you schedule your emails to go out? Chances are, you’re not thinking nearly enough about it. Did you know that click-thru rates from emails spike between 8 am and 10 am? And then again between 3 and 4 pm? Make sure to schedule your emails to arrive in people’s boxes at or near the beginning of those time periods. Keep time zone differences in mind, as well. Personally, I would lean towards the afternoon times instead of the morning: people are less likely to be bogged down with emails towards the end of the day.

2. Be late and you’re dead. Did you know that five hours after they’re sent, an email is essentially dead. In other words, if your email isn’t opened in the first five hours after it’s sent, it’s likely never to be read again. So avoid sending middle-of-the-night emails, weekend emails, or emails when people are commonly on vacation (like when school is out, for example.)

3. Choose your subject line with care. Authors commonly spend a lot of time perfecting every word in an email. And the subject line? That’s usually just an afterthought. But that’s a big mistake. For example, an author might tell me to use a subject line like “Newsletter — January, 2013.” Okay … but would you open that? Does that pique your interest? New York Times best-selling author Chris Brogan recently shared a killer list of email subject lines. They included, “2 Minutes to Read …” “Need Your Decision: …” and “Yes or No: …” Now those encourage people to read and take action.

4. Keep it short. Sure, we might call it a newsletter. But don’t make the mistake of putting tons of text in it. People just don’t read that much in an email. Keep your points brief, and include links and calls to action where people can learn more, by the book, etc… Here’s a rule of thumb. If it takes up more than one screen, it’s too long.

5. Include forward/share links. If you write a good newsletter, people are going to want to share it with their friends. And that’s the best thing that can happen to you. So make it easy for them to do so. Embed “share” links whenever possible. Include a blurb at the bottom that encourages people to forward the email to their friends, or encourage them to sign up themselves. Remember … there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth!