Archive for the ‘Marketing Tips’ Category

I have two Troys in my life. The first is Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The second Troy is Troy Landry, the hard-working man-of-the-land of Swamp People fame.

Love him or hate him, most people can recognize Troy Polamalu by his hair. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you might have seen him in the Head & Shoulders commercials.

Polamalu’s luscious locks are a tribute to his American Samoan descent. Whatever his reason, he likes it long, and he is staying true to who he is.

I see a lesson in marketing in this. Here’s a guy with something that makes him stick out. It isn’t a forced publicity stunt. He doesn’t do it for the attention. But he’s also not afraid to capitalize on it. In addition to endorsing Troy, Head & Shoulders even insured his hair for $1 million.

What is it about your or your writing that makes you stick out? How can you use it to your advantage? Maybe you don’t see anything special about yourself. I suggest you ask your friends what it is that makes you unique. It is harder to tell what is unique about yourself because it just seems natural to you. Let’s take a look at the other Troy.

I don’t actually watch Swamp People. Usually I read while my husband watches the show and I look up from time to time. But I have seen enough to know a little bit about Troy Landry.

This Troy is an all-American kind of dude. He’s an outdoorsman. He’s a family man. He’s dedicated. He loves his work. When he does something, he goes all-in with no second-guessing (which is kind of necessary in his line of work).

Again, I see the lesson of being true to who you really are. But I also see the value of strong commitment to whatever it is that you are doing. Maybe writing a book isn’t as life-threatening as hunting alligators, but the principle remains. Especially when it comes to marketing.

Once you decide what it is that you need to do, go for it. Stop second-guessing yourself. Remember your passion for your subject. Don’t back down when things get uncomfortable. That’s when you need to push through and get the prize.

It will be worth it.

Photo:Troy Landry. (2012). The History Channel website. Retrieved 1:27, July 10, 2012, from http://www.history.com/shows/swamp-people/bios/troy-landry-s3.

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If I had to pick one key buzzword from the past several book industry events, it would be discoverability. As more and more people turn to the internet for book purchasing, whether electronic or print, the need to provide good title information is huge.

Just a few years ago, your biggest challenge and goal was to get your book in front of the world by getting it on a bookshelf.

Now your challenge and goal is to get your book to come up on a screen.

For most search engines, the more your book sells, the higher up it appears in search engines and the more likely to be sold again. It is a great cycle once it starts. But what if you are just starting out?

There is another key to discoverability: excellent metadata.

Metadata is data about data. In this case, it is information about your book. Very basic metadata includes binding type, number of pages, subject, title, author, and description. You would be surprised at how often people neglect to take care in providing this information.

Our company uses a new title form to collect this information. As forms tend to be, it can take a little time and be a bit tedious. But if this is now the key way the public discovers your book, don’t you think it is worth it?

Along with the need to provide good information, the industry is now pushing to have that information earlier in the process. We’ve recently had to rethink our new title submission deadlines in order to keep up with the requirements of the larger customers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Please take great care in providing as much detail as you can about your book. If you don’t know what one of the terms means, ask. Take the time to write a concise and compelling book description. Use your author bio as a chance to connect with readers about your book, not to talk about your dog (unless, of course, a dog is central to your book).

Do a little research to figure out which subject codes best represent your book and give it the best chance of selling (the more specific you can get, the better). List comparable titles that are actually comparable (“No book is like it!” doesn’t work. Neither does listing a selection from the best-seller list when your marketing plan and budget doesn’t look anything like theirs).

By being meticulous with your metadata, you give your title its best chance in the online world.

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Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro ArticleYou have probably read over and over, or heard from many well-intentioned friends and acquaintances that you should have a blog to promote your book. This sounds easy enough, and it really is pretty easy to set up a blog site, but how do you do it in a way that will actually help your book sell?  Here are a few key points to keep in mind.

1. The blog should be for your audience, not for you.

Your blog is not your personal journal. I’m not saying that you can’t document your thoughts, feelings, dreams, etc. I am saying that you need to keep your audience in mind and write with their interest in mind. In a few of the blogs that I follow, I actually enjoy an occasional rant or off-topic post, but if that is all I find, I stop following. And unless you have a book about writing or something associated, a blog centered around your progress as a writer isn’t likely to sell you any books.

2. Post consistently.

This can mean once daily, two times a week, or once a week. Figure out a schedule that will work for you and the time you have to devote to blogging, and stick with it. People will find comfort in knowing when to expect you to post. I don’t recommend going much longer than once a week, so that people don’t forget about you, but do what you can.

3. Make it social.

Most blogging platforms give you the ability to include share buttons. Use them.

4. Include “dig deeper” spaces.

Create tabs where you can house static information like an author bio with a picture, and a tab for your books (with links to buy). Don’t go tab crazy or it gets overwhelming, but include enough that your followers can see what you are about and who you are. People love the personal touch.

5. Fiction and nonfiction are different, but each can gain a following.

I’ll start with nonfiction, because it is easier. With nonfiction, you generally have a topic and your blog can be used to expand your audience of people interested in that topic, and it can also build your reputation as an expert in your field.

If you write fiction, your task is a little more difficult. Start with topics you cover in your book. If you write historical fiction, go more in-depth about that time period. Others write short stories or in-depth character information. Still others put out teasers for future books.

6. Don’t spam.

Remember that the first point was about writing for your audience, not for you? The same rule applies for spamming. You will want to reference and link to your book throughout the life of your blog, but no one wants to read straight-up advertising all the time. Your mom wouldn’t even keep following you if you did that. People will follow good content and will tolerate a sales pitch if it is relevant and a small part of what you are offering.

7. Find the hook.

Not all posts have to be content pulled directly from your book. Remember, you are writing for your audience. Determine what it is about your book that interests them, and then expand. Maybe you wrote a book about coffee mug design. I don’t imagine there are too many people out there who are strictly interested in coffee mug design alone. Your audience would likely also be interested in plate design, or flatware design, or home design in general. Expand your scope and in turn, expand your audience. Who knows, maybe you will start generating material for a new book, and you will already have your platform built

8. Start your blog before you publish.

Speaking of building your platform, you really ought to do this before you ever publish, whether it be print or an eBook. Blogging first lets you build an audience so that you have people to announce your book release to. If you are consistently putting out valuable information, your followers will be happy to support you when you finally have a product. They won’t resent the pitch because you’ve been a part of their community without constantly spamming them.

9. FOLLOW ALL THESE RULES, but really, do what you are most comfortable with.

Just like I ended that sentence with a preposition (yea, you aren’t supposed to do that), it would have sounded weird to me had I put “do that with which you are most comfortable.” It just sounds unnatural, and I don’t like it. You don’t want that feeling to follow you into your blogging.

When you are uncomfortable, it shows in your writing. That is not to say you shouldn’t try to push yourself, but you want to work in your strengths. Let’s say you’ve done a great job at posting two times a week for months, and then all of a sudden it’s the holidays and you have unexpected travel for work thrown in and on top of that your kid gets sick… You end up not blogging for three weeks. Don’t fret, just pick up when you can and go forward.

Or if you need a day to rant about your frustration about trying to write your book, even though your blog is about dog grooming, then do it. Your followers may appreciate the break. And even if they don’t, it will give them pause to remember that you are just another person, which is always good when you are doing your promotion.

These rules are guidelines, and using them to work for you will give you a blog that is engaging and interesting. Best wishes!

Photo: Annie Mole, Creative Commons

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booksSo you got a good review? Great! Grand! Wonderful! Now what?

Everyone knows that a good review is great for your book. But it will not, on its own, increase sales for your book. You have to use that thing!

1. Use a portion of the review on your book

Front Cover If the review is good, and I mean really, really good, and it is from a very noteworthy source, and you are ready for a new print run, you might want to put a snippet from the review on the cover or back of the book. This only works well when the reviewer is likely to draw attention. This is not the place for a review from an Amazon customer.

Inside Flap or Back Cover These are also good places to put reviews. These work when you have too many quotes to put on the front or the review isn’t from someone high-profile enough for the front cover.

Inside the Book If your review is from a B-list actor or an author in your genre that maybe isn’t very well-known, or just, in general, does not meet front-of-the-book status, you can put the review on a page inside the front of the book. This is a great place to put multiple reviews, and to put a little more of the review text.

2. Run some advertising that uses the review

Make sure to use snippets of reviews in all of your marketing going forward. It is one thing for you to promote your book, but it gives the promotion legs whenever you pair it with favorable words from an outside source.

3. Link your social media to the review

Lots of reviews today are done online or have an online component. Run the link on your Facebook page, Twitter, or whatever other social media you are using. You can run the link more than once. First, you might thank the reviewer for their kind words. A week or so later, you could reflect on the review. A little later you could tag it with “see what others are saying about my book.” You can get a lot of mileage out of the review this way. If you have a website, that is also an excellent place to post the full review.

4. Alert the marketing team about your review so they can let sales reps, book sellers, and online retailers know. We have a marketing update form for a reason. We often hear about reviews in other ways, but we don’t want to miss an important one that we can use as a sales handle. Also, lots of well-established reviewers will automatically post your review with online retailers like Amazon, but not all do, so we can facilitate that for you.

5. Encourage friends and readers to give online reviews

Though you don’t want a review from an Amazon customer on the front of a book, these are still a great way to promote the book. As online sales continue to grow and bookstores continue to shrink shelf space, a big issue is discoverability. A good review on these outlets can push a customer to buy. Goodreads is another excellent site for customer reviews.

6. Update promotional tools displayed in all tradeshows and book signing events to include the review

Any time you are promoting your book, you want to use your reviews. Reviews lend credibility to your book at these types of events. At trade shows, attendees see a lot of material all at once, so you need to use whatever you have to make your book stand out in their memories. A good review is a great way to do this. At a signing you are face to face with your customers, and again, a good review gives you credit.

A while ago I saw a bit about reviews for The Funny Man by John Warner in Jane Friedman’s blog, Jane Friedman: Being Human at Electric Speed. For this book, he has solid reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The Daily Beast named the novel one of the best debuts of the fall season and it was recommended by Picky Girl. He also has several blurbs. This guy seemed to have it all.

He says in the interview that he is “eternally grateful for all of these things…but by themselves, these are not even close to ‘enough’ to sell the book to anything other than relatively paltry, ‘friends and family,’ numbers. That said, I’m hopeful that all these little sparks have the potential to catch fire.”

I think this is key; to remember that a good review is a piece of a puzzle that helps to sell a book, but it takes a lot more as well. It certainly doesn’t hurt, though! Again, congratulations, and here’s to using that review to its potential!

Photo: Robert Brook, Creative Commons

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About six months ago I shared a link on Facebook titled Stop Treating $9.99 as the Magic E-Book Price.

This article sparked some good comments such as:

“What price would you prefer?”

“How do you feel about 99 cents?”

“My friend has hers set to $8. Lol, she says it’s her magic number.”

“plus from a numerical standpoint, nine is a very powerful number, but when it shows up in threes? Total awesomesauce”

“Is it wise to stagger prices by year of release?”

There are obviously a lot of questions. And though we are half a year further down the e-revolution from when I posted the article, I think eBook pricing is still a very relevant question.

Rolled dollar

Since that article ran, I’ve heard various thoughts on eBook prices. Some say $.99 is the way to go. Others say $.99 indicates that it is not a good book and that pricing it so low devalues publishing as a whole. There are many who fear that the buying public expectation will be that all books should cost $.99, making it hard for many authors and publishers to continue their efforts.

Some say that it depends on the genre. Your pricing may also be dependent on how you go about selling your content. Depending on your terms, a different pricing strategy might work better on a given platform than on a one-size-fits-all strategy.

From our experience at Bookmasters, our recommendations start at $5.99 and fall from there. We have found that there is more volume sold at a lower price point. For instance, if you sell 2 copies at $9.99 compared with 4 copies at $4.99, you should choose the lower price hands-down. More copies sold means more exposure for your book and your name.

For most of the publishers and authors that we work with, this range seems to be the sweet spot. What eBook pricing strategies have worked for you?

Photo: MoneyBlogNewz, Creative Commons

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QR CodeThink writing a book is hard? Authors know the editing process can be even more painful. But ask seasoned authors and they will likely tell you that marketing a book could be about the hardest part of the whole book process.

Luckily technology is making marketing a whole lot more interesting. Now you can combine print and web marketing through using QR codes.

Bookmasters has successfully been implementing this strategy for the past year with innovative business cards containing author contact information and QR codes that link to social media sites, marketing widgets, and eRetail sites for direct book purchases in both print and eBook formats.

Call us (888-537-6727) to spice up your marketing efforts.

Photo: Faheem Mir, Creative Commons

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“If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?”

I heard this question in the trailer for Disney’s Brave, which comes out today, and I thought, “what a deep question for a kids’ movie.”

At least for fiction writers, isn’t that what we do? We step out of our own lives with the ho-hum details of laundry and family problems and create a new fate for our characters where we have control.

While this takes a kind of bravery, you do still have to live in the real world and deal with your fate.

Or do you?

I hear of so many people in publishing complaining about the ills of the industry:

Shelf space is limited.
So many books are published.
How can I be heard above all the noise?
People only buy big names.
eBooks are killing print books.
Amazon is ruining everything.

Blah, blah, blah. If your book is to succeed and defy the fate of many books being published today, you have to do something about it. Quit whining about how the odds are against you and use these three tips I picked up from Disney’s marketing of Brave.

1. Quality content. Disney didn’t get international brand recognition by putting out shoddy content. They use excellence in storytelling, animation, voice-overs, etc. From the trailers for Brave, it appears this movie continues in this tradition of excellence.

2. Be creative. I had heard that there were several title choices for the movie, but Disney selected Brave because it would appeal to both boys and girls. This is different than when they chose, say, Sleeping Beauty. Times have changed and this is a different movie, and so their approach has changed as well.

For too many authors their creativity stops when they finish the book. They want to know what worked for someone else so they can copy it. But you and your book are unique. How can you reach people in your area and in your niche in a way that makes them remember you? What is it about your book that is different than all the rest out there.

3. Engage. I visited Disneyworld a year and a half ago and already they were promoting the movie and offering interactive experiences. Visitors could view sketches in progress and visit a little section dedicated to the movie. It made you feel like you were in on the ground-level of something, building anticipation for something that was still more than a year away.

You can do the same thing through social media. Before your book is even completed you should start building and engaging your target audience. Let them feel that they are alongside you, in on something that is going to be big. Then when the final product is ready, you will have fans that are ready to buy and brag to their friends (other potential buyers) that they knew about this book before it was ever published.

May you be brave enough to do the hard things to give your book the attention it deserves.

Image: Disney, used with permission

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I have an idea @ homeAs writers, we are told over and over to write from the heart. You hear writers talking about a book, saying, “it was the story of my heart” (awww, heart-warming music swells, eyes grow misty).

But what if the story of your heart won’t sell?
(huh? music screeches to a halt)

Sorry I had to bring you down, but yeah. It happens. We pour our hearts into a book that means the world to us only to find that no one, especially a publisher or agent, would read it. In fact, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that happens way more often than selling to an agent or publisher. Especially in these days, when publishers are looking for the next big thing and won’t take the chances they used to take on a new author, say, five years ago.

So what’s a writer to do?

I say, write from your heart, but write it smart.

What I mean is — put all the passion you feel about your book into a format/story that will sell. If you want to tell your grandmother’s story about growing up on a farm and her life married to an abusive husband, take a look at what’s going on in woman’s fiction. If you want to write it with a twist of humor and a snarky voice, check out chick lit – yeah, it’s still around. If you want to write it as a romance, so in the end she finds the right man and marries him, go the romance route. If your grandma was a shocker, maybe even erotic romance! If she discovers a body in the well and sets out to discover who it is and how it happened, how about a mystery?

Yes, you could write it as a memoir, but they really don’t sell unless you’re someone famous, and I don’t mean in grandma’s home town, population 560.

And selling books is what we’re talking about, right? Not just getting published. Anyone now can publish a book, it’s selling it that’s the hard part (besides writing, yes).

If you just want to tell the story and have a few friends and family read it, fine. But if you’re talking a career in writing, then you’re going to have to be smarter in what you write. You’re going to have to figure out where your story fits in the genres that are selling, and write your tale to fit.

Because when you write within known and popular genres half the battle is over. There is already a huge audience out there who loves to read…women’s fiction, romance, adventure, mystery, suspense, horror, or chick lit. You don’t have to hunt up readers, or depend on that town of 560 to each buy a copy of your book.

Can you take her exploits and drag them onto the future? Can she wake up one morning and discover zombies overrunning her farm. She gets the kids, barricades the doors and window, loads her shotgun, and…well, you get it.

Making your book marketable – no, it’s not a dirty word, folks — is the key to selling. How are you going to sell that memoir, or that story you thought of when you were a kid and now want to write?

First, write a book people want to read.

Second, the best thing you can do for your first book is to write the second, and the third, and keep writing.

What happens when a reader finds you, reads your book, likes it and goes out to get the next one, and oops! It’s not there? No more sales. They’ve hit a dead end and move on to another author, one with more books, prettier, shinier, and younger books than yours.

But if you’ve written the next one or are in the course of writing it, and you promo it in the back of your first book, it gives the reader hopes that, hey, coming next year, or in the spring, a second book from this newly discovered fabulous author will appear!

They might even put your next book in their To Read list on Goodreads!

Lynn Lorenz lives in Texas, where she’s a fan of all things Texan, like long horns, big hair, and cowboys in tight jeans. She’s never met a comma she didn’t like, and enjoys editing, drinking, and brainstorming with other writers. Lynn spends most of her time writing about hot sex with even hotter heroes, plot twists, werewolves, and medieval swashbucklers. She’s currently at work on her latest book, making herself giggle and blush, while avoiding all housework.

Find her books at http://www.lynnlorenz.com and at Amazon and her publisher’s websites. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Photo: Julián SantacruzCreative Commons

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Favorite BookstoreThis week I got a message from one of our fans on Facebook asking how to get her booked stocked by her local Barnes & Noble in the local history section. Her book is quite regional and would be a good fit.

I figure there might be a lot of you who wonder the same thing. Maybe you book wouldn’t fit into local history, but you wonder how to get a local store to carry your book and maybe even put it in a local section.

First it is important to note that national chains operate differently than small regional chains or independent stores. I’ll address how the chains operate first.

Once a book is in the chain’s system (the primary goal of distribution), it can be ordered into any store. But for most stores to actually stock the book on their shelves, a head buyer at their national headquarters has to make that decision. Buyers generally buy according to topic, but they also have regional buyers for local interest books.

National buyers typically make this decision pre-publication. For them to act on something once a book is past its publication date, they will want to see some pretty convincing sales data or a pretty major current event hook (could be something on the book’s subject or something major going on with the author).

You can also try to arrange a book signing with the store’s event manager. The store will then bring in stock for the signing, and if the book sells well, they may keep it on their shelves.

Independent stores have a little more leeway in terms of what they stock and when they decide to carry it, but they are still very cautious about their retail space. You may want to try to approach the store’s manager directly about carrying your book.

You should do this respectfully and come prepared to explain why the book would be a good sell for their store. “It’s a great book!” is not a good enough reason. Again, you could mention something going on relevant to the book’s topic, or tell them about an event you are doing to promote the book and that you will be referring people to their store to purchase copies.

Also, you should try to make it a habit to start shopping at the store. I’ve heard different independent store owners lament that authors will come to their store trying to push their books into the stores, and somehow slip in that they do most of their book buying online. This doesn’t give the store much incentive to support you.

The best way to get your book on any shelf is to create the demand to get it there. If a store notices that lots of people are coming in looking for the book, they will carry it. Sales talk.

Photo: Juhansonin, Creative Commons

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Advice to a Young ArtistWe have just a few days left of our March cover contest, in which we invite our fans to vote on their favorite book cover (that has been submitted by other fans in hopes of winning a free NetGalley promotion). If you haven’t already, check out our Contests tab and vote, or go to our Facebook page and vote there.

Running the contest brings up a good question. What are the elements that make a cover a good cover? I know that for the contest, a lot of votes probably come from friends of the contestants (and that’s not a bad thing, see the post Using Our Contest to Your Advantage). But of course, that’s not the only thing.

Here are a few quick things that distinguish a good cover:

Eye-catching art
Readable text
Good color combinations
Good title
Fits certain expectations within its genre
But doesn’t look exactly like everything else…it stands out

There are also elements that make a book stand out as having a terrible cover (check out this post covering that topic: Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover?

Though some of these covers are good for a laugh, they point out the importance of taking the time, and yes, spending the money, to have a great cover. You don’t want to lose sales all because you lost the customer when they saw your cover.

What do you think makes a cover a good cover?

Photo: Cliff1066, Creative Commons

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