3 Ways to Make the Most of Facebook

Most authors today are well aware of the fact that it’s almost a must to have a Facebook presence. But what most authors don’t know is exactly how to measure their performance on Facebook.

In other words, how do you know that the time you’re putting in to social networking is actually promoting your book? Or leading to book sales? The truth is, the majority of authors don’t. Which is why so many of them continue to make the same mistakes over and over again on social networking sites. If there’s no way to know whether or not your efforts are successful, how could you ever determine whether or not it’s worth your time? Or how to improve what you’re doing?

Instead of just looking at how many friends/followers you have on Facebook, use these tools to determine the success of your efforts:

1. Traffic to your website. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up for your site yet, do so ASAP! It’s free, and it’s an incredible way to keep track of what’s working on your site. In the section called “Traffic Sources,” you can determine exactly where the traffic to your site is coming from. That includes Facebook. If you’re not getting much traffic from Facebook, then consider tweaking your social networking efforts.

2. Engagement. Have you been using Facebook Insights? Much like Google Analytics, it’s a great (and again, free) way to factually determine the success of your Facebook campaign. It will show you how many likes and comments your posts are generating, which is super important: the posts with the most engagement will appear higher in the feeds of fans and friends.

3. Shares. This refers more to the content on your website and how you can try and increase the number of people sharing your information with friends via Facebook. First, make sure to include a “share” button throughout your website: it’s especially important when it comes to blog posts. Then, follow how many people are actually sharing each of your posts. If one happens to take off, then try to replicate it in terms of subject matter and tone in future posts.

Facebook recently came out with a list of the most shared stories of 2011. See what you can cull from the list and try to follow the lead of other writers who have had their stories go viral. Some of the ones from this list that I recommend you take a look at include Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps, Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, and Why You’re Not Married. You don’t need a journalism degree to write a story that goes super-viral.

You just need a good idea, some opinions, and a little bit of wit.

Happy Facebooking!

Should You Sell Your eBook Through Your Website?

I often deal with authors who are struggling with the issue of whether or not to sell their book themselves: be it an ebook or a paper book. As always, there are benefits and drawbacks of each.

Hats off to Gary McLaren, author of “The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks” for his recent blog entry on the subject. I’d like to convey a few of his ideas about the pluses and minuses of doing so.

The Benefits

  • A greater percentage of revenue. Obviously, when you sell your book yourself, you can keep 100% (or close to it … PayPal does keep something) of your profits. When you sell through Amazon, you can end up with anywhere between 35% and 70% of the total (depending on the price of the book.)
  • Your own marketing and community. Unless you’re allergic to doing your own marketing, why would you decide to send readers to Amazon or B&N instead of your own site? If you have a following already, utilize it: send out an email blast about your book and promote it to everyone who arrives on your site or follows your blog. Conversely, you can use your ebook to start building your marketing campaign. After all, if someone buys a book from you, you now have their contact information and can continue to reach out to them. If the same person were to buy your book from Amazon or B&N, you wouldn’t have such information.

The Drawbacks
As with everything, there are challenges that come along with the benefits. In the case of selling your own ebook, those are…

  • Customer service. In my mind, this is the biggest time-sucker of all. If you plan to sell your ebook, be prepared to deal with questions from people who don’t understand the different formats of the ebook, are having trouble downloading, etc…
  • Formatting. Some authors only offer to sell their ebooks as PDFs (i.e. to be read on a computer). But anyone who really wants to become a player in the book industry needs to have their book available for Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc… If you plan to sell the book yourself, you’d better have it prepared in all of those formats.
  • Less of a presence on Amazon. Let’s face it: Amazon is the primary source of ebook purchases today. And while you can sell your ebook both on your own site and on Amazon, you’d be somewhat disadvantaged on the Amazon site. That’s because: a) sales through your site won’t rank as sales on Amazon, which means that your sales rank may suffer and; b) While selling an ebook at your own web site you are giving up the option of enrolling that title in Amazon’s Kindle Select program.

Is there a definitive answer as to whether or not you should sell the ebook on your site? Of course not. But hopefully, this information will help you make a more informed decision.

5 Book Marketing Mistakes That Cost You Sales

I came across a GREAT blog post today by author marketing guru Judy Cullins. Here are some of the highlights, quoted directly from the post…

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Most authors sell only 200 self-published books. … In my 25 years of book coaching, so many clients don’t do the homework (actions) necessary to make their books well known to their target audience. … Here are 5 mistakes you don’t need to make…

1. Your name or your book aren’t well known enough because you don’t invest the time for a Social Media Book Marketing Campaign. Yes, your book is on Amazon. That’s not a big deal if you don’t send your audience to buy it there. Put up an author page and remember to add your Amazon book cover and blurb to your LinkedIn profile.

2. You present the wrong message about your book. Remember, it’s the hook, not the book. Your audience only cares about what the book will do for them. They don’t care about your story. They don’t care about the number of pages or the quotes or even what’s in the book. If you are a good marketer, your efforts will pay off.

3. You are not savvy with SEO strategies. Aim for top ranking in Google. It takes some time, but you can make it happen with the power of keywords.

4. You don’t realize the importance of a book website and getting targeted traffic there. Conversion rates of opt-ins and book sales are all important, so you must also produce a short sales message for each book, product, or service you want to market.

5. You give up too fast. You need to keep writing valuable content for your blog until you build a following and community who likes you and your information. Think at least six months.

—————

Amen, Judy!

Why a Writer Needs to Be More Than a Writer

I came across this excellent blog entry today. Its name says it all: The 8 Jobs of Modern Writers.

For the purpose of this blog entry, I’m not going to focus on the editing or the accounting that goes along with writing.

No, I’m going to focus on the marketing that Robert Lee Brewer mentions.

The [sad] truth is that he’s absolutely correct. I hear this from writers all the time. There was once a time when a great writer could simply be a writer: nothing more and nothing less. If his or her writing was good enough, success was sure to come.

But, like in every other field, times are changing. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world would tell you that the people who move up the corporate ladder generally aren’t those who do the best job. No, the people who get the promotions are the ones who’ve kissed the most ass.

In the case of authors, today’s writer also needs to be an expert marketer. Put yourself in the shoes of a publisher. If you have two authors who both send you excellent manuscripts, and one has an entire marketing campaign already in place, which one are you going with?

You may not be a marketer. In fact, you may not want to put together a marketing campaign. As Robert points out in his blog entry, many authors are introverts, making marketing themselves a pretty unpleasant experience.

Every job has some unpleasant responsibilities. Yours is marketing yourself. Here are a few ways to do just that.

  1. Build yourself an author website. Use it to highlight both yourself and your writing. Include photos of yourself, your bio … anything that makes you appealing to both publishers and readers.
  2. Get involved in social networking. Create yourself a Facebook fan page. Join LinkedIn, Twitter, GoodReads. Over time, determine which ones seems to be getting you the most interest from readers and stick with those.
  3. Blog, blog, blog. It’s true: blogging is a bit of a time-sucker. But it’s also one of the primary ways that people learn about you. It’s only through your blog that people will find your website, learn about your book(s), join your mailing list, etc…
  4. Connect, connect, connect. Reach out to people who are interested in your type of writing. Join communities and groups of readers in your genre. Connect with other authors and share ideas. The more people you connect with, the greater your network of friends and followers.

Getting Media Attention for Your Book

So you have a book and a website. You may even be getting some great feedback on them. But how do you go from a few people telling you that you’re a great writer to actually being a successful author?

Thanks to browsing a few conversations within author groups, I have amassed the following quotes from other authors on what’s worked for them….

“I have found that pledging a donation to charity with every copy sold has helped move a few off the shelf, and the bonus is that with a win-win relationship like this, I have had the opportunity to present at and be involved in a range of activities with the relevant charitable organisations for free while also being part of raising awareness for issues that arise in my book.”

“Today I got a call from a large hospital in my area, and they want to interview me and allow me to sell my book through their offices and their email contacts as well. All because I dedicated my book to them.”

“Send a copy to a big (online or print) newspaper in the market you wish to cultivate, with a nice “sell sheet” that basically has your back cover info on one full-color page, and a personalized cover letter to the editor or the book reviewer (or both).”

“Go to local book stores and secure signings (you might have to contribute wine). Participate in teleseminars. Place guest posts on other blogs. Invite other writers to guest post on your blog.”

“A Twitter account can help increase your presence online and help you connect with the folks you want to connect with. It takes some time out of your day to post Tweets, correspond and reply back but it’s worth it.”

“Post links here to where your book is on sale, put them on your profile, send out a ‘global’ message to all your contacts and connections, make a FB page for the book – and yourself – and invite people to ‘like’ it and share it.”

“One thing that Paulo Cuelho and his wife, Chris, did was to print pamphlets and hand them out at cinema and other queues – captive audiences.”

“Why not make a ‘fan’ page just for your book – loving the title and cover BTW – you can garner ‘likes’ for it and spread the word that way.There are chains and groups that will help you promote.”

Do you have additional ideas about how to spread the word? Share them in the comments box below!

How Book Marketing Is Being Turned Upside Down

I just read a great post by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, on rethinking book marketing. It sums up why marketing a book today is completely different from decades ago, and offers tips and advice for updating your marketing strategy to reflect today’s market.

First, he bases his ideas on a survey of ebook readers. What he learned from the survey is that people find books now in a very different manner from how they used to. According to the survey results:

  • 28 percent of survey respondents said they prefer to read books recommended by fellow online readers in message boards and blogs.
  • 27 percent of readers find books by some form of “random discovery.” That could mean that they stumbled upon the book based on a Google search, they saw the cover and it intrigued them, they were impressed by a review of the book, or they were offered a free download.
  • 18 percent of respondents search for books by their favorite authors

If you notice, none of these three “heavyweights” in the survey results have much to do with marketing. Most of these readers didn’t find the book because it had a full-page ad in the NY Times or because the author was doing book signings. In short, many of the traditional methods of marketing just don’t work in today’s world of the ebook.

So what does work? Here are some recommendations from Mark himself…

  1. Target online communities. People are more likely to read a book that was recommended by someone who has similar taste. Luckily, there are groups just perfect for this forming on sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, etc… Join them. Market your book there.
  2. Distribute, distribute, distribute. People buy books now from a whole slew of online stores. So don’t just sell your book yourself. Make it available from as many ebook sources as possible. No one will stumble upon it unless it’s there.
  3. Create a kick-ass book cover. Okay, so Mark didn’t use the phrase “kick-ass,” but I did. Based on his survey, book covers matter. Don’t miss your chance to capture the attention of a possible reader.
  4. Create your brand. Once you have a fan of your writing, you don’t want to lose them. After all, the survey reveals that people are often looking for new books by their favorite writers. So make sure to find a way to stay in touch with people who have read your books. Friend them. Collect their email addresses. And make sure to notify them when your next book is available.
  5. Don’t be afraid of “free.” Some readers might not be willing to pay to download your book … but would be more than willing to sample it for free. Just like a chocolate shop that gives you free samples when you walk in, have enough confidence in your writing to let people read your first book for free. And if you only have one title, offer it for free for a short period of time. Once people download it, read it, and love it, they’ll tell their friends … and their friends will be willing to pay for it.

5 Ways Authors Can Benefit From e-Commerce Strategies

I came across an article today in my trusty Internet & Marketing Report magazine. On the surface, this piece, with the subtitle “Best ways to improve product page results by year-end,” doesn’t seem to have much to do with authors. It’s really written for people who run e-commerce websites with shopping carts and the like. And yet, I think there’s a lot that authors can learn from it.

Remember, one of the primary goals of an author website is to sell the book (or books). Some of the principles outlined in this article focus on how to sell products, which in the case of authors, is their book. Here are some of the tips that I think authors can benefit from:

  1. Include multiple calls to action. Don’t be afraid to have “Buy the book” links everywhere. If someone scrolls down to read  a book description or review, you don’t want them to have to scroll back up to purchase the book.
  2. Post prices. Don’t make someone click through to Amazon, B&N or PayPal to find out how much your book costs. Display the information in a way that is easy for people to see.
  3. Optimize your pages. Put your book title in your URL, your title tag, and your page description. This will increase the likelihood that people who are interested in your book will wind up on your website … instead of, for example, another blog that simply reviewed your book.
  4. Write killer copy. This is a no-brainer. Make your copy easy for the eye to scan, and have it be chock full of bullets, bolded elements, etc… Grab your potential reader’s attention and don’t let it go!
  5. Share, share, share. Your site visitors are potential marketers. If they like your site, they may decide to share it with friends and family. So add buttons to “like,” “share,” “tweet,” “follow, ” or”+1″ wherever you can.

See? Maybe more authors should be thinking of their websites as smaller versions of the successful e-commerce sites out there. Move over, Amazon…

Blogging Tips from a Bestselling Author

This is a great read for all authors. Whether you’re planning to blog, having trouble figuring out what to blog about, or hoping to draw more readers to your blog (which covers practically everybody), don’t miss this article by Peter G. James Sinclair on achieving blogging success:

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/11/06/what-i-learned-as-a-bestselling-author-that-can-equip-you-for-blogging-success/

Are Authors Feeling Discouraged?

I came across a conversation on LinkedIn today. Just the title of the topic of discussion says it all:

Internet blogging, social networking et al has no effect on sales for 99% of new self published writers well certainly not for this one. Agree?

Sadly enough, most of the people who participated in the conversation do agree. Here are some excerpts of what they had to say:

Most of the time we’re blogging to other people who are trying to sell something to us — books, marketing, web design, etc. Same with Twitter. Has anyone else concluded that that almost no one reads other people’s tweets? I almost never do. I can’t understand 90% of them anyway.
–Peter Pollak

That is true I have almost given up. If you book is not getting shelf space and advetising somewhere it’s not moving.
–George Mavromates

I quite agree. My first book was with amazon/createspace. Zero-zilch-nothing in the way of promotion / marketing / sales…
–William Spencer

I thought maybe I was just being impatient–I just published last week, but it appears my concerns are justified. I do have some ideas that might help my sales, but I’m not encouraged. I’ve chatted on other sites with other authors with same concerns.
–Bracy Ratcliff

Boy, that’s depressing. But here’s my take on things (which will hopefully have you feeling a little more positive).

First of all, becoming a successful author is much like becoming a successful actor. You have to go into it knowing that the likelihood that you’ll be rich and famous is minimal. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to pay your bills on the money you’ll make. Deal with it. If you want more stability than that, go into banking.

That said, if you don’t do the things you need to do to become a successful author, then there’s no chance (none, niet, nil) that you’ll make it as a writer. Even the most talented writer probably won’t be successful unless he or she properly executes the non-writing requirements of being an author: in this case, blogging and social networking.

Thankfully, a few of the authors in this discussion agreed with me. Here are their comments.

It takes time to build a following and to expand your networks. Keep at it and the momentum will build.
–Lucy Adams

If you don’t do any of these things, there’s just no chance you’ll ever get yourself out there. Can’t win if you don’t play.
–Zihong Gorman

You’re right, Zihong. You have to play — and play well — to ever have a chance. So keep your head up and give it your best shot. If you don’t, you’ll regret it later.