Creating a Social Media Hashtag Campaign to Promote Your Book

hashtag_campaignHere’s an interesting idea for promotion of your book … tie a social media hashtag campaign to it.

How would you do that? Well, start by following the idea currently being executed by Random House Children’s Books in conjunction with the ASPCA as an offshoot of the new, bestselling Dr. Seuss book.

Here’s a summary of the campaign they’re running, courtesy of Publishers Weekly:

RHCB announced that it would be teaming with Dr. Seuss Enterprises on a social media campaign that will support the work of the ASPCA to help animals in need across the country. The campaign celebrates the author’s “love for animals,” the publisher wrote in a statement, and calls for all pet owners nationwide to share a photo of their pets, tagging it with the #whatpet campaign hashtag. For every photo shared on Twitter or Instagram with #whatpet, RHCB and Dr. Seuss Enterprises will donate one dollar to the ASPCA, up to the first 15,000 photos.

So what would it take to run your own social media hashtag campaign like this? Assuming you already have your own social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter (if not, consider that step 1), here are the simple steps to take.

  • Step 1: Decide on a theme. Think about what types of images/stories are a natural fit with your book. For example, let’s say your book is about reinventing your career; a good idea for a hashtag campaign around it might be asking that people share inspiring photos and/or short stories about their first day at their new job.
  • Step 2: Create a hashtag. Continuing on this example, you might decide on a hashtag like #NewCareer. Before running with it, make sure it isn’t being used on any other large campaigns.
  • Step 3: Set a timetable. Social campaigns like this can’t go on forever. So pick a start and end date for it. It could be tied to holidays, seasons, school years, or just the number of people involved (i.e. the first 15,000, as in the Dr. Seuss campaign).
  • Step 4: Come up with a hook. What would be someone’s motivation for participating in this campaign? Is it a donation (like the Dr. Seuss example)? Is it to enter a raffle? Is it for possible inclusion of their story in your next book? Will there be a winner for best photo/story? Make sure you offer some kind of benefit for someone taking the time to send their story or photo.
  • Step 4: Make sure your book gets the proper promotion through the campaign. How is someone who buys into the campaign (be it by uploading a photo/story or viewing other people’s photos/stories) going to learn about your book? Without a connection to the book, all this is for naught. So make sure that your book and/or your website gets fair promotion within the campaign through links, ads, etc…
  • Step 5: Launch the campaign. Now it’s time to spread the word! Share a brief, well-written, engaging blurb about the campaign via social media (and your website, too). Ask your friends and family to share as well. The more eyes it gets in front of, the more participants there will be.

Voila! Your social media hashtag campaign is underway! And if all goes smoothly, you’ll not only have a new set of followers and increased book sales as a result, you’ll also have some meaty material to include in your future writings. It’s a win-win.

Creating a Book Secrets Page on Your Author Website

book-secretsAlmost every author website has the basics — a book description, excerpt, blog, contact page, about the author, news, etc…

But when I’m talking to an author about what we can do with their website, I like to try and think outside the box as well. One of my common recommendations for fiction authors? A “book secrets” page.

So what exactly is a book secret? It’s something that you — the author — knows, but someone who has read the book probably doesn’t know. Examples of the types of information that would be conveyed on a book secrets page includes:

  • The inspiration for the book
  • If any of the characters in the book are based on real people
  • How your characters got their names
  • Hidden secrets/clues in the book
  • Where in the story you might have hit writer’s block
  • Places in the book where you shifted course (i.e. you were originally going to have this person commit the crime, but then changed your mind)
  • Segments of the book that might have been cut during editing

These are just a few of the ideas … you can probably come up with more on your own. And wouldn’t these be interesting things to know about your favorite novel? Your readers would feel the same way!

Just this morning, I stumbled across an article about a perfect example of a book secret (albeit, a sad one). Do you know that children’s book, “Love You Forever”? It’s the one that includes this infamous song/poem:

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

Just recently, the author of the book, Robert Munsch, used his website to share the story about where the idea for that song came from. Warning, it’s a tearjerker!

And while you probably don’t have nearly as emotional a story behind your book, if you think hard enough, you’ll probably find some really interesting things that you can share with your readers via a book secrets page. Consider this page some bonus material for your loyal readers.

June Round-Up: 5 Must-Reads for Authors

june-calendarI can’t believe June has come and gone already! So in case you missed it … here are the five must-reads for authors from the month of June.

1. Facebook Advertising for Authors, by Mark Dawson: Part 1
Reedsy Blog
June 4, 2015

2. How to Sell Out a Book Signing Without Being a Celebrity
Build Book Buzz
June 2, 2015

3. Author Websites: 5 Big Ways to Create Loyal Readers
Reedsy Blog
June 16, 2015

4. How to Ask for Book Endorsements
A. Piper Bergi
June 17, 2015

5. Designing an Author Website Without a Book Cover
Smart Author Sites
June 25, 2015

Enjoy your month of July everyone!

Author Wisdom: What I Wished I’d Known Sooner

author-tic-tac-toeI stumbled across this really interesting converstaion on LinkedIn. The question was posed to authors: “What’s the one biggest surprise or thing you wish someone would have told you about the authoring or publishing process?”

Here are highlights from some of the responses:

—–

You’re not just an author, you’re a marketing expert and a full-time promoter of your work. Writing the book is the easy part; selling it is a full time job and that job is now yours. If you know that going into it, and you educate yourself well, it’s great fun. If you don’t realize it ahead of time you’re in for a shock.
Susan Veness

This is such a great question and my mind is reeling with things I’d like to share, having been a professional cover designer for over 25 years ….new authors don’t realize that spine width drives that attention-grabbing factor, and that they can manipulate the book’s interior to arrive at a page count that increases perceived value. The ideal page count for a healthy minimal spine width of about a half-inch is 200+.
Kathi Dunn

If you’re going to be commission the photographer or illustrator yourself, make sure you have a robust, clear agreement ideally assigning copyright, or at the very least an exclusive right to publish in all formats without a time limit. You also need clear written (non-exclusive) permission to use any pre-existing material, text or illustrations, that falls outside fair usage allowances, again in all formats and without time limits. Permissions aren’t sexy but if you don’t get them right they can really bite you in the backside. Good luck with it all, look forward to seeing the result!
Alison Jones

That publishing one or two books is quite an accomplishment and you should be proud, but don’t quit your day job: there usually isn’t much money in books anymore.
Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD(c)

That 99% of the work would be the marketing of the book…. i thought it was all about writers block and empty screens.
Jeff Smith

As someone who helps authors build online presences for themselves, I find that the thing that surprises authors the most is the fact that they really need to build a brand — whether that brand is their name, their book title, their series, or their business name (of which their book is one piece). That brand has to be able to be summed up in one sentence and have a logo/color scheme. It’s difficult to take something as complicated as a writer or book and make it easily digestible, but that’s exactly what authors need to keep in mind all along the way.
— Me

———–

What surprised you? What do you wish you’d known sooner? Share your own author wisdom below!

5 Author Must Reads From May

mayApologize for posting this a little late this month. But with May quickly behind us (this time of year goes so fast!), here’s a summary of the the author must reads from the month.

1. Develop Your Author Platform to Position Yourself as a Leader
Eunice Nisbett/LinkedIn
May 1, 2015

2. Kick Ass Book Launch Tips (from Two Authors Who Really Know)
Publication Life
May 13, 2015

3. Another Reason to Perfect the Mobile Version of Your Author Website
Smart Author Sites
May 14, 2015

4. Author Blog Tips
Build Book Buzz
May 19, 2015

5. 5 Free (or Almost-Free) Ways to Market Your Book
Smart Author Sites
May 28, 2015

Happy June, everyone!

Should I Be Running a Paid Social Ad Campaign?

paid-ad-campaign-scaleI get this question from authors all the time. I’ve even seen recent conversations about it on LinkedIn. Here’s the primary question: “Should I be running a paid social ad campaign — like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, or Amazon ads — to increase awareness about my book?”

And the answer? Well, that’s almost always a resounding “no.”

Why Not?

Any time you invest money in something — especially advertising — what you’re looking for is a good ROI, or return on investment. In other words, you want to make sure you get more money back than you put in. That’s a pretty basic concept.

And yet, when it comes to authors investing in paid advertising campaigns, the ROI generally doesn’t add up.

Here’s why: If you sold jewelery, for example, and your margin of profit on each piece of jewelry sold was $500, you’d be more than willing to invest a fair amount in advertising in the hopes that you sold just one piece of jewelry. As long as you spent less than $500, you’d have a good ROI.

But when you sell books, the numbers are drastically different. As one LinkedIn user by tne name of Richard Milton breaks it down in regards to Amazon’s ad campaigns:

As the most efficient book retailer in the world, Amazon knows perfectly well (but don’t tell you the advertiser) that the industry standard click through rate is 0.1 per cent (one visitor in a thousand will click your ad) and the highest industry standard conversion rate (Amazon’s own) is 4%. This means that if 25,000 people see your ad, 25 of them will click on it and 1 will buy your book.

The average cost per click on Amazon currently for fiction is around $0.60 – $0.65.

Unless you are a megastar author or your book is a runaway best-seller, this means that you will spend more than receive.

I have found the same soft of logic to be true in relation to Google Ad campaigns and the like.

Let’s Do the Math

Here are the basic numbers that I saw when I was looking at these types of campaigns for authors…

Let’s say you’re spending 75 cents per click on your Google Adwords campaign, and you’ve capped your budget at $500/month. That means you get 667 clicks a month.

If you have a conversion rate of 5% — which would actually be relatively good — that means that 33 of the 667 visitors will have bought your book that month.

Now, let’s say you yourself make $3 per copy sold (and that would be a lot less for Kindle versions of your book). You would be bringing in $99 that month, significantly less than the $500 you invested.

Is It Ever Worth the Money?

I’m not one to be making grand statements that something does or doesn’t work for everyone. If you happen to write a great book about a topic that is extremely popular, it’s possible that you could make money off of these types of campaigns. After all, if your conversion rate is a lot higher than the 5% cited above (more like 25%), you would at least break even.

But based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, I have yet to find one author for whom this is the case.

As another author in a similar LinkedIn conversation added: “Unlikely. I tried it for a while but got nowhere with it.”

So What Can I Do? 

I highly recommend authors use many of the free promotional online tools. These include:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Creating Facebook/Twitter profiles
  • Starting a blog
  • Reaching out to other sites about guest blogging

Here’s a recent post I wrote about free (or almost-free) ways to market your book. All you need to invest is time.

Happy promoting!

5 Free or Almost-Free Ways to Market Your Book

free-ways-to-market-your-bookWe build websites for authors. And no, we don’t build them for free. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t provide authors with lots of ideas about other ways they can market their books at little to no cost.

Based on what I’ve heard from authors in the decade I’ve been doing this, here are five ideas for free or almost-free ways ways to market your book.

1. Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t done so already, create your own professional profile on Facebook. Make sure it’s completely separate from your personal Facebook profile.  Same thing with Twitter. Then use those platforms to post teasers about your book, share news about its release, and send traffic to your blog, YouTube page, etc… (more on that below).

2. A virtual book launch party. Celebrate the launch of your book by hosting a virtual book launch party. Here’s a great read on how to plan such a party, who to invite, and how to make it a can’t miss event. Again, the cost is minimal, and the potential benefit is plenty.

3. A blog. I’ve written many, many posts before about the importance of an author blog. In short, a blog is one of the best ways to attract an audience and expose potential readers to your book. Hook people with your blog, then present your book to them. And those “people” can be readers … or they can be agents or publishers. As another writer recently shared on LinkedIn: “E L James who wrote 50 shades of Grey had a blog for two years and each month had a new chapter she ended up with over 200,000 followers before the book was published.”

4. Video, video, video. Video is only becoming more and more popular. Check out this post on why video is practically becoming a must for today’s author. And while video can be very expensive (if you hire a top-notch production company), it can also be free. Equally free is the YouTube channel that you can use to share your video and get the word out about your book. Think about this: YouTube is now the second most-used search engine after Google. Without video, you are excluding yourself from the second largest search engine.

5. Guest blogging. Almost every blogger would love to have someone in their genre offer to write a guest post for them. I know I would. It’s free work that someone else is willing to do for you. Plus, a guest blogger is often willing to share that post with their audience, thus driving more traffic to your site. So consider bringing guest bloggers on to your blog. And, even more importantly, offer to guest blog for other bloggers in your genre. It can just be a short post about your subject matter, with a reference to your book. You can even offer a copy as a prize drawing. Again, it’s a great (and free) way to introduce your book to a new (and engaged) audience.

Do you have other ideas about free ways to market your book? Share them below!

5 Creative Ways to Use a Book’s Call to Action Page

eBook-Call-to-ActionI stumbled across a conversation on LinkedIn today about a “call to action” page in a book. Now, I know a lot about calls to action on a website (sections of a site that direct you to take a specific action, like buy the book or sign up for the email list), but I haven’t heard of such things in print before.

Here’s what I learned: the last page of your book is the perfect place to put a call to action. In other words, now that someone has read your whole book (and hopefully enjoyed it), it’s the time to encourage them to do something else.

Here are five things you can encourage people to do in your book’s call to action page.

1. Visit your website. This is a no-brainer. Use the last page of your book to give people the URL of your author website and explain what they can find there. Examples of things you can say include: “Enjoy this book? Learn more about [subject matter] via my blog at yourname.com/blog” (great for nonfiction authors), or “Find bonus material from the book! Download a discussion guide, read book secrets, and more. Visit yourname.com” (a good idea for novelists).

2. Purchase your previous books. If someone likes this book, chances are they’d like any other book you’ve written as well. This call to action page at the end is a great chance to list your previous books, display covers, and include any relevant information on where the books can be purchased (your site, Amazon, etc…).

3. Contact you for speaking engagements. Do you do any speaking on the subject matter that you wrote about? Then consider mentioning that on your call to action page, along with a specific way readers can contact you if they’re interested.

4. Review the book. There’s nothing that sells books like good reviews. So take this opportunity to ask the readers who have enjoyed your book to share their thoughts. Direct them to go to Amazon, GoodReads, etc… and post their own review.

5. Recommend the book via social media. This is another great way to get the word out. Direct your readers on exactly what you’d like them to do — maybe that’s following you on Facebook, tweeting about your book, and/or “liking” your author website.

Now, these are just five ideas. You might have more (and feel free to share those). But regardless of which of these calls to action you choose to use, here are a few guidelines that may be helpful…

  •  Be specific. Make things as simple and easy for your readers as possible. Include URLs, and give specific direction. In other words, don’t just tell someone to visit your site. Tell them the URL of your site. And instead of just asking people to review your book, tell them exactly what they have to do to get a review posted on Amazon.
  • Narrow a user’s options. While all five of these are good ideas for a call to action page, you definitely wouldn’t want to ask people to do all five. The very definition of a call to action is to clearly direct people to take an action. In other words, recommending five different actions would most likely be a confusing experience for users. Asking them to do one or two seems simpler to tackle.
  • Make it about them. Make it clear to your users that by taking this call to action, there will be some benefit for them. Maybe that’s the free downloads you offer. Maybe it’s a donation that is made for copies of your book that are purchased. Try not to present these calls to action as a favor to you; instead, make it a way for your user to feel like they’re doing something, accomplishing something and/or getting something.

Did you print a call to action page in your book? Share what worked (and didn’t work) in the comments box below.

FAQs About SEO for Author Websites

SEO_search_resultsI apologize in advance for the abbreviations in the title. I know that terms like SEO can be kind of confusing (and even intimidating) at times. And I often get questions about what SEO is, why it’s helpful and how to execute it properly. With that in mind, here are some of the questions I get asked most often about SEO for author websites — starting with the basics and moving on to the more advanced.

What is SEO, anyway? What does it stand for? 

SEO stands for search engine optimization. The most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Search engine optimization refers to making tweaks to your site so that it shows up at the top of search results on these search engines. In other words, if someone searches for “self-help book” on Google, your site may show up near the top of their results with proper SEO.

How would SEO help me?

By showing up at or near the top of search results for particular terms, you’re going to increase traffic to your site, thus increasing your number of copies sold, fans of your book, etc…

How do you choose the right keywords?

We offer something called an advanced SEO package. This means that not only do we optimize your site for various keywords, but we actually help you choose those keywords. To do that right, we use the Google keyword tool that allows you to enter various search terms and learn how many people are searching for each type of keyword, which variations of each one are most popular, and what the level of competition for each keyword is. By weighing each of those three results, you can select the specific keywords that will offer you the best bang for your buck.

Is SEO based on single words or would a book title or person’s name be counted as one keyword? What about versions of the same word? (nurse / nursing, for example)

The industry term might be “keyword,” but it definitely does not refer to one word. So a keyword could be “self-help books” or “resume building.” And yes, versions of the same word are important. So if your book is about becoming a nurse, you would want to make sure to work in both “nurse” and “nursing” as part of your keywords.

In choosing keywords, is it better to be more general or more specific?

The more specific the better. So, for example, rather than “nurse,” you’ll be much better off selecting a keyword like, “how to become a nurse.” This may seem counterintuitive — since it would reduce the number of people searching for your keywords — but there are two big benefits that come with the specificity: 1) you have far less competition, thus making you more likely to show up at the top of results; 2) you are reaching an audience that you know is looking for books specifically on your subject matter.

Does any keyword optimization come automatically with a web site, such as my name or book titles?

This type of basic SEO should come automatically with any website build. This is just a piece of the advanced package I described above. As long as your site is readable by the search engines (which someone would have to go out of their way not to be), your site should start showing up relatively quickly for your name or your book title. After all, unless your name is Jane Doe, it’s not like you’ll have a huge amount of competition for those keywords.

How long does it take to see results from SEO?

For a brand new site, it can take weeks to months for the site to start showing up on the search engines. And even then, it won’t immediately start off at the top. The search engines value time, and the longer a site has been around, the higher it will appear on search results. So expect your site to take a good few months before you actually hit your final placement. If your site has already been around for a while, however, and you are simply making changes to improve its SEO, expect those results to start paying off in about two to four weeks.

Are there any WordPress plugins to help with SEO?

Yes, there are many WordPress plug-ins that can help with SEO. Two that we recommend include “All in One SEO Plug-in” and “WordPress SEO for Yoast.” These types of plug-ins allow you to select keywords for both the site and for individual pages. In addition, the Yoast plug-in babysits your blog posts to make sure you do everything possible to optimize each post for the selected keywords. Best of all, these plug-ins are totally free.

Will redesigning my site impact my search engine rankings?

Generally, redesigning a site does impact SEO. At first, a site can take a brief hit from a redesign, and fall slightly on search result pages. However, almost always, the change ends up improving a site’s rankings (assuming it’s redesigned properly) and it should start showing up with better placement on search results within a month or two.

Is SEO work mostly on the front end (what users can see) or the back end (what users can’t see)?

The answer is really a little bit of both. There is a lot of work that can be done on the back end to improve your site’s search engine rankings — including alt tags for images and links, metadata, and more. However, there are a fair number of things that can be done on the front end as well, including ensuring that one or more specific keywords appear as a header or in the first paragraph of a particular page. So, in essence, proper SEO is done by both you (in terms of making sure you use the right terms in the right places) and your developer (to make sure that everything on the back end is optimized as well).

Have more questions about SEO? Post them in the comments box below and I will be happy to respond!

February Round Up: 5 Must-Reads for Authors

winterAnother month has come and gone. With that in mind, here are some of the must-reads for authors that I put together in the month of February.

  1. 21 free resources for authors — Build Book Buzz
    What are your favorite free resources for authors?

  2. 5 Ways to Go from an Author to an Authorpreneur — Smart Author Sites
    Here are seven steps you can take to turn yourself from a writer into a successful author in today’s complicated world of publishing.

  3. Keeping Tabs on Best-Seller Books and Reading Habits — NY Times
    Last year, the release of the Hollywood adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel “Gone Girl” propelled the book onto best-seller lists in several countries around the world. Millions of people bought it, but how many of them actually read it from cover to cover?

  4. How to get media exposure that helps sell books — Build Book Buzz
    You’ve written a book. Congratulations! But now what? How do you get your book to its audience?

  5. How To Build A Top-Notch Media Kit — Molly Greene
    What comes to mind when you think of a Media Kit: A trad-published author with representation and an assistant tackling all the press and promo needs? Do you think this level of preparation is too fancy for a self-published author? I’d suggest you reconsider.

Enjoy! And Happy March, everyone! Spring is just around the corner!