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.

blogging mistakes

6 Blogging Mistakes Authors Often Make

blogging mistakesI’m a big proponent of authors blogging. That’s because a blog is truly the best way for an author to:

  • Keep the site current
  • Build a following or email list
  • Drive traffic to the site via search engines

Many authors hear this. They know they should be blogging. What they don’t know is how to blog, or how to make sure they are not blogging “into thin air” so to speak. With that in mind, I present…

5 Blogging Mistakes Authors Often Make

1. Not blogging often enough. 

Now, authors certainly don’t need to blog every day. Not even every week. But probably more than once a month. And certainly more than once a year. I’ve looked at too many author sites in which the most recent blog was posted over a year ago. That just tells me that not only is the blog not a priority for the author, but the website as a whole is not a priority. It’s almost like a big billboard to a visitor that says, “I’m not spending time here. Why should you?”

2. Not looking at their blog analytics.

Look at your analytics people! Not doing so is kind of like publishing a book and then not paying attention to if anyone is buying it. Setting up a Google Analytics account is free. You can then log into that account any time and see who is visiting your site. You can learn a lot more about how to review and interpret your analytics report, but let’s stick to the basics here. View your report regularly. See how many people actually visited your blog in a given time period. Find out how they got there. Was it via Facebook? Search? Which posts got the most visitors? Is there a trend in posts that seem to resonate? This information is key in helping you figure out what’s working and what’s not working. This will help you avoid future blogging mistakes.

3. Not optimizing for SEO.

This is yet another of the common blogging mistakes. If you’re an author — especially a nonfiction author — your blog is likely the most common entryway into your author website. But in order to do its part, it needs to be optimized for the right keywords. There are a bunch of steps that an author can take to do this, but the basics include:

  • Installing the right plug-in (like Yoast, for example)
  • Researching the right keyword for each post
  • Working that keyword into the blog post title, URL, etc…
  • Ensuring that post is submitted to the search engines

Once all of these pieces are working in tandem with one another, your blog posts can each start serving a purpose in driving traffic.

4. Not having a clear voice or message.

Contrary to what some authors might believe, a blog is not a dumping ground. It’s not where you might stick a short story one day, a personal musing the next and a firm editorial after that. A blog is a place where people come to follow your writings. So you need a consistent voice and message. For example, your blog could be a place where you post a weekly short story. Or it could be the venue through which you write a pointed editorial when an item in the news touches on your subject expertise. Or it could have a daily uplifting message — straight out of your book. There are a million ideas for what a blog can be, but it has to be one thing and people need to know what they’re getting. Otherwise, why would people continue coming back?

5. Not categorizing blog posts.

Blog post categories are a nifty, difty feature that come with every blogging tool. But they’re not utilized often enough; another of the common blogging mistakes. Categorizing blog posts allows you to break up the hundreds (or thousands) of posts you may have into logical groups. So if, for example, you’re a life coach who works with people on career success, financial independence and relationship issues, you may regularly be creating blog posts (in the same message and voice, of course!) that cover all three of those topics. But maybe a site visitor is only interested in financial independence and isn’t really looking for relationship advice right now. Or vice versa. By being able to categorize your blog posts by topic, you can allow visitors to easily sort your posts by topic they’re especially interested in.

6. Not including enough links. 

One thing that you will notice when you study your analytics is something called the “exit rate” on specific pages. This refers to what percentage of people leave your site after reading what’s on this page. Blog posts, in general, tend to have high exit rates. The reason? Not enough links to other things on your site. There are several ways you can fix this common blogging mistake:

  • You can work multiple links into the blog post itself. Those can be to other blog posts, your books, etc…
  • You can promote other elements of your site on the blog page. For example, if you offer a free chapter of a related book, that should clearly be called out.
  • You can use a plug-in that will automatically include links to other blog posts in the same category at the end of the piece. It would look something like, “Read more like this ….” at the bottom of the page, and then send people to related posts.

Fix the six problems above and you’re more likely to not only get more traffic to your blog, but ultimately sell more books as a result. That’s a win-win.

author website analytics

Your Author Website Analytics: What It May Be Telling You

author website analyticsAre you looking at your author website analytics? What is it telling you? Might you be missing some important clues?

I’ve written other blog posts before about viewing analytics. I’ve talked about what to look at and what it means. After all, too many authors can’t really tell you what “bounce rate” is or how to define a conversion. But that’s not the point of this post. No, what I’m talking about today is some of the hidden messages that you might not notice when you look at your analytics report.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for on your author website analytics report, and what those stats might really mean…

1. Total visitors over the last six months. Total visitors is probably the thing that everyone looks at first in their author website analytics. But have you looked at it as a trend? Compare this month to last month. Then compare it to six months ago. Occasionally, you may want to compare it to a year ago. Only by looking at this data over a period of time can you pinpoint if you’re getting better or worse in terms of traffic. You may also want to look at your traffic on a daily basis. What was your highest trafficked day of the month? What do you think made it the highest? This can be a clue to what’s working and what’s not on the traffic driving front.

2. Site content. This allows you to see the pages on your site that get the most traffic. And what’s here might surprise you. For example, you may discover that a whopping amount of your traffic goes to the homepage. Other authors see exactly the opposite: they notice that their blog posts are the primary traffic drivers and that hardly anyone even sees their homepage. This can give you a clue as to how people are finding your site and what they’re doing when they’re there.

3. Time on site/bounce rate. It’s great that you’re getting traffic to your site. But are those people staying on the site? Your author website analytics report will tell you how long people stay per visit, how many pages they visit, on average, and how many people “bounce” (i.e. visit one page and then leave). This will give you a good idea of your website’s stickiness. In other words, if they’re simply arriving and leaving (i.e. bouncing) you may not be doing a good enough job selling yourself or your book.

4. Exit rate per page. Similar to time on site, this data can tell you which pages on your site people are leaving. In other words, if you notice that 70% of the people that leave your site do so from the “About the author” page, then maybe that means that the page doesn’t have enough links on it. Or maybe it doesn’t entice people to learn more after they’ve reached the bottom. By really studying which pages people are leaving, you can figure out where to focus your efforts to keep people engaged.

5. New vs. returning users. How many people visited your site last month? How many people visited more than once? This is an important metric, because it tells you whether people are stumbling upon your site by accident or if they intentionally come back on a regular basis because you had an impact on them. The most common reason for return visitors on author sites is a strong blog series and/or email newsletter. If one of your goals is to develop a fanbase that will follow you, then having a low percentage of returning users should be a concern.

6. Technology. What platforms are people visiting your site on? What platforms are they LEAVING your site on? In other words, if 55% of people visit your site on mobile and the exit rate on mobile is significantly higher than desktop, then that may be a sign that your site isn’t easily usable to the mobile audience.

7. Acquisition channels. Where is your traffic coming from? In an ideal world, your traffic is nicely divided among the three primary sources: organic search, social and direct traffic (i.e. people typing in your URL). The reason it’s nice to have these balanced is that if one falls off, your site still has other traffic sources. So if, for example, Google changes their algorythm and your site falls from page 1 to page 5 on a search result, you will still have social to keep you afloat. If you look at these stats and one is significantly higher than the other two, you might want to invest some time in finding a better balance.

8. Site speed. I talk about site speed a lot. That’s because so many authors I’ve worked with value site design over site speed. But a slow site can seriously increase your bounce rate. It can also hurt your Google search results placement. If you haven’t taken a look at your site speed in your author website analytics report, now’s the time to do so. Make sure to delve into average site speed, site speed per page AND your site speed on different browsers. The numbers may surprise you.

9. Conversion rate. Many authors I work with don’t define a conversion on their site. And that’s quite a missed opportunity. Whether you consider a successful visit a book purchase, an email sign-up or something else entirely, how do you know if your site is achieving its goals unless you clearly define a conversion and track who converts? This can easily be set up in your author website analytics report. Keep an eye on your conversion data to keep track of what percentage of visitors are converting, which pages they tend to visit before converting, etc… This data can give you worlds of knowledge!

See, there’s probably a lot you can learn about what’s working — and what’s not — on your author website. You just have to know how to interpret the data.

If you want help getting your Google Analytics report set up properly, and help interpreting it, contact us today for a free consultation.

 

 

adding a new book to your footer

5 Steps to Adding a New Book to an Author Website

So you built that author website when you published your first book. Now you have a second (or third or fourth) coming out. Do you need to scrap that old site entirely? Probably not. Here are the five steps to updating your author website when you are adding a new book.

Tips for Adding a New Book

1. Consider the domain and design. Was your original site designed for your first book? Or was it more broad, focusing on you as an author? If the answer is the former, you may have some work on your hands. In other words, if the site was named after your first book and uses all the images/photography/colors from that first book cover, you really should consider some rebranding of the site before adding a new book. That might mean changing the domain name, imagery and/or the color scheme. This is why I frequently advise authors that unless this book is the only thing they are ever going to write, they should build a site that can easily encompass future books as well.

2. Reorganize your homepage. Your homepage is probably built to promote your first book. Maybe it includes the book cover, a blurb about the book, a testimonial or two and links to learn more. Now that you have another book out, you may decide that you want to give the homepage a similar treatment, but with more prominence for your new book. Or you may decide that you want a rotating slider on the homepage that features one book at a time but shifts from one to another. A third option is to have the homepage include a blurb about you and what you write about (assuming both books can fall under the same umbrella) and then call out each book as a subset of that larger message. Either way, you want to make sure your newest title gets the prominence it deserves on your homepage.

adding a new book to your footer3. Adjust your book promo/buy the book modules. You probably have a header bar, a right rail or a footer that appears on every page of the site and includes some sort of book call-out. Often it includes the cover, links to learn more about it and/or a “buy the book” link. But now you have two (or more) books to feature. So you may want to consider either adding a new book to that module, or redesigning it so that it can naturally encompass more than one title. In some cases, that means making the first cover smaller and giving the newer title more prominence.

4. Add a new book page.
This one is obvious, but it’s not to be forgotten. Each book you write deserves its own page on the site. Take a look at what you have for your first book and replicate it for the second. Maybe it’s a page that includes a detailed book description, a link to a featured excerpt, testimonials, etc… Aim to populate as much of that content as possible on your new book page as well. You may not have all that information handy yet (testimonials aren’t always readily available pre-pub), but you can always add them later. And if your first book has all of that information divided into multiple pages on the site, you may want to consider combining it all. Now that you’re a multi-book author, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to find all the information for an individual title in one place.

adding a new book to your navigation5. Restructure your navigation. Chances are, when you built the navigation on your site, you didn’t have a page title that matched the first book title. In other words, if your first book was called “Rose Petals” you may not have literally had a page called “Rose Petals.” You may instead have had a page called “About the book” or “Featured excerpts.” Now that you are adding a new book, you will need to clearly retitle each book page so that it matches the book title. You might also want to consider having the tab that’s visible in the navigation be called something more like “Books” and allowing each book that you have to be a subpage that appears when you scroll over the “books” tab (see right). This type of set-up will allow to add even more books in the future with little to no hassle.

Voila! These five steps will take your author website from a one-book site to a multi-book site. You may, of course, have additional updates that you want made. After all, each and every site is different. But these basic changes should ensure that once your newest visitors have arrived, they will be able to see that you are a multi-book author … and most importantly, to learn about (and hopefully buy) your newest book.

mass market books

Have E-Books Replaced Mass Market Books?

mass market booksYou probably remember the term “mass market books” or “mass market paperbacks.” But you also probably haven’t heard it in quite a while. There’s a reason for that. And that reason sits primarily in the e-book space.

What Is a Mass Market Book, Anyway?

People often used to confuse the term “mass market book” with “trade book.” So let’s start by defining what each term means.

Both of these types of books are designed for the general consumer. Most could be categorized as romance or mystery. But trade books were intended to be sold primarily through bookstores. Mass market books, on the other hand, were intended to be sold predominantly through “mass” channels beyond traditional bookstores. They often would be available by the register at a drug store, supermarket, etc…

Mass market books were also generally printed on less expensive paper than trade books, making them cheap to produce and cheap to sell.

What Happened to Mass Market Books?

Well, e-books happened. If mass market books were originally intended to be cheap and easy reads … well, what’s cheaper and easier than paying 99 cents to download the book on your Kindle? As more books became available in e-book form, people’s desires to read the same book in paperback (and pay a lot more for it) dwindled.

Now, note that not all genres were sacrificed by e-books. There are still plenty of topics in which people prefer to read a hardcover book — like autobiographies and self-help books. But “light reading” — the types of books that had always been mass market — has not been shown to be one of them.

Experts also say that there’s been a reduction in shelf space on the retail side. But that’s a chicken/egg thing … did that happen because of reduced mass market success? Or vice versa?

So Is Mass Market Dead?

It’s not quite dead, but it’s on life support. Here are a few stats from Publishers Weekly:

  • According to NPD BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, mass market titles accounted for 13% of total print units sold in 2013; that figure dropped to 9% last year.
  • The Association of American Publishers reported that dollar sales of mass market titles fell 30% in 2015 compared to 2012.

So What’s an Aspiring Mass Market Author to Do?

You might have spent many years aspiring to be the next Michael Crichton or John Grisham. And you might be wondering if that’s still a possibility.

Rest assured, there are still new mass market books being printed all the time. In fact, according to PW: “Bricks-and-mortar mass merchants continue to be the outlets where these books are most popular, with Walmart being one of the most important retailers among that group. (Depending on the publisher and the book, though, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target can be just as, if not more, important.) With exceptions, women remain the top customer group for mass market titles because, in genre fiction, romance is one of the biggest drivers of sales. Mass market books also remain, publishers believe, impulse buys. (All the publishers interviewed for this story said that Amazon is not a significant outlet for mass market books.)”

So there’s hope.

But here’s the rub. Given the changing industry, publishers aren’t actively looking for the next mass market author the same way they are looking for the next great historical fiction writer. Because there’s not a lot of money to be made there. Instead, they are opting to publish books by already-successful authors as mass market.

So here’s what that means for you…

You need to become a successful author BEFORE you find success in mass market. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is by breaking in via e-books. Build an audience through a success author marketing campaign (including an author website, of course). Gain readers and followers. Then approach a publisher as a proven success story and pitch yourself as a mass market author that’s worth the small investment.

Times are a-changin’.

author reads april 2017

April Round-Up: 5 Author Reads Worth Your Time

author reads april 2017April showers bring May flowers. Or, in this case, good author reads from April (will hopefully) bring some additional book sales this month.

But seriously, here’s a recap of the five author reads you might have missed in April. Now’s your time to catch up.

Can’t Miss Author Reads

1. How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch
What you need is a system to ensure you’re predictably and steadily bringing in reviews from the moment you hand out your first advance reader copy (ARC). So, let’s get to it.
Book Marketing Tools | April 10, 2017

2. DIY: Book Awards for Self-Published Authors
With hundreds of thousands of self-published books hitting the virtual shelves every year, indie authors need to find ways of standing out.
Publishers Weekly | April 10, 2017

3. Authors: Don’t Make Your Social Media All About You
I get it. In the hyper-competitive world of social media, it seems counter intuitive to use one’s precious bandwidth to promote something other than your own work. But it works, and here’s why.
Joel Pitney | April 11, 2017

4. A Quick Guide to Pricing Your E-Book
There’s one question that we editors hear again and again from self-publishing writers we work wit: How much should I charge for my ebook?
Build Book Buzz | April 19, 2017

5. Author Pages: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One on
Here are five sites you should consider having an author page on – including Amazon and Facebook – and tips on how to maximize each one.
Smart Author Sites | April 24, 2017

If you read any articles recently that you think would be helpful to other start-up authors, share them below in the comments box. You can never have too many!

Happy book selling, and happy May.

An Author Website Book Publishers Will Love

I work with authors at all different stages of publication. Some who are self publishing. Others who reach out to me when their books are only a few months away from release through a major publishing house. The saddest of all are the authors whose books came out six months ago, and only now are they realizing how little publicity their book publishers are doing for them.

But some authors actually reach out to me way sooner than that. In fact, many of them haven’t even finished their manuscript yet.

How Soon Is Too Soon to Build an Author Website?

I’ve written about this before. It’s honestly never too soon. But be aware that the website you build prior to finishing your book is going to be drastically different from what it will be a year later. Once you have a finished book (and cover), book reviews, testimonials, links to buy it, etc… the site will look different because your goals will be different. At that point, you will be aiming to get readers to buy your book. But now, you have nothing to buy.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have a site this early in the process. Building an online presence is an important piece of being a successful author today, and that’s something that takes time.

So What’s the Site for If It’s Not Selling Books?

Well, some of that depends on if you’re self publishing or reaching out to book publishers. In the case of traditional publishing, you want to make sure that when the person who receives your book pitch takes a look at your site, they are impressed and think, “Now, that’s an author I want to get behind.” More on that below.

Obviously, if you’re planning to self publish, you will be less focused on appealing to book publishers. But in many ways, the goals of the site would still be the same.

This early in the journey, the goal of your author website should be to build a following. That can be done in a few different ways, including:

  • Blogging regularly
  • Driving traffic to the site through Facebook/Twitter
  • Collecting email addresses and building fans/followers
  • Optimizing your site for search terms that readers might be looking for

So What Type of Site Would Appeal to Book Publishers?

Author websites for book publishers

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is receiving your manuscript. Let’s call her Jane.

Picture this scenario….

Jane comes across your book pitch. She sees your name and does a Google search for you.

Does your site show up right at the top of search results for your name?

Jane is now clicking around your site. The first thing she wants to know is if this site looks clean and professional.

Did you have it designed by a professional? Is it mobile-friendly?

Jane now wants to know what you look like. After all, she likes to attach a face to a name and is curious whether you’re 25 or 65.

Do you have a professional photo of yourself on the site?

Now, Jane is going to take a look at your blog. She wants to know what you write about, how dedicated you seem to be to it, and if people seem to be visiting it regularly.

Do you post entries on your blog on a regular basis? Are people commenting, and are you replying?

While she’s at it, Jane wants to get an idea of if you’ve already built a list of followers/subscribers. The more people you already have following you the easier it will be to sell the book to a larger audience once it’s published.

Do you prominently collect email addresses on the site? Do you have a social widget that shows how many followers/fans you already have?

Now, let’s not forget your writing. Jane knows that your book pitch is good, but how does she know that you did that yourself and didn’t hire someone? She wants to know what writing you’ve done in the past and where you might have been published.

Do you have a page on your site dedicated to previous writings (articles, book chapters, etc…) and a place where they can be read? Do you highlight any writing awards you’ve received?

 

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, a book publisher like Jane is more likely to take you seriously. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s going to publish your book. That’s still a ways away. But if, at the end of the day, she’s deciding between two promising authors and you’ve checked more boxes above than the other author she’s considering, you have a serious advantage.

Happy site building!

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!

vanity publishing and self publishing

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s the Difference?

vanity publishing and self publishing

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you know a fair amount about self publishing. And if you’re over the age of 40, you probably have heard about vanity publishing as well — and likely not in a positive way. Just the name itself is awful (who thought that “vanity” was a good name to put in anything?!?!) But, in all seriousness, what’s the difference between vanity publishing and self publishing? Is there one, or has the industry simply undergone a name change?

What Are They?

Let’s start with simple definitions of each one.

A vanity publishing company is a business that an author can pay to essentially be their book publisher.

A self-publishing company is a business that gives authors the ability to publish their books themselves and pick and choose the needed services to do so.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s the Same

In many ways, self publishing is simply an evolution of what used to be called vanity publishing, but incorporating much of the 21st century technology available to authors. Here is what the two still have in common:

  • They allow authors to publish books themselves, without going through a traditional publishing company.
  • They involve some sort of financial investment from the author.
  • Marketing and sales of the book sit exclusively with the author.

And yet, in many ways, these businesses are very, very different.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s Different?

So now we get into the nitty gritty of what differentiates vanity publishing from self publishing. These are important differences that you need to know before choosing a publishing route.

  • Vanity presses have been around for nearly a half century, while self publishing is relatively new in comparison — only a few decades old.
  • Vanity presses almost always offer “cover to cover” service — everything from editing to cover design to book binding. Self publishing companies may or may not offer such services, and authors who are self publishing are less likely to rely on their publisher for such services.
  • Given the age of the medium, vanity publishing still offers books primarily in print. Self publishing allows you to print books, offer e-books, or both.
  • Vanity presses usually require more money up-front from an author. This makes sense, since their services are far more complete.
  • Here’s a really important one … If you go through a vanity publisher, that publisher will assign your book an ISBN number that belongs to them. This makes them the publisher of record and they may or may not collect additional royalty whenever that book sells. They will, forever and ever, own the rights to that book. A book that is self-published, on the other hand, is fully owned by the author.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: Which Should You Choose?

Almost everyone will tell you that self publishing is the way to go. It offers you far more flexibility than vanity publishing, and — most importantly — allows you to retain the rights to your book in perpetuity. You should definitely lean towards a self publishing company if you:

  • Want to offer your book in multiple formats
  • Have the goal of publishing multiple books and/or becoming a bestselling author
  • Want some flexibility in terms of costs and services

However, that doesn’t mean vanity publishing should be excluded in all circumstances. Vanity publishing may do the trick if, for example, you:

  • Want to print a book that is exclusively for a small audience (i.e. an autobiography or family cookbook that you want passed down for generations)
  • Don’t want to invest a whole lot of time and energy in getting the book published
  • Don’t mind putting some money down up front

Hopefully, this has helped you understand the similarities and differences between the two industries and it will help you make the right choice for getting your book out there in the world.