Facebook: Friend or Enemy?

Facebook. So what IS it about marketing on Facebook that makes us all cringe? I know I’m not the only one who wants to forget about it and get to work writing my next book!

But after a couple of valuable appointments with marketing gurus at the ACFW conference in September, and after reading last month’s post by Casey Herringshaw, I started looking at Facebook a little differently. It is part of our lives, and it can be a valuable asset to our writing careers.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

  • Treat both your author page and your personal page the same. Both of them are seen by your readers and potential readers. Once you’re a published author, you don’t have a private life on the internet. If you aren’t published yet, act as if you are!
  • Stick to your brand. I write historical romance books. Most of them are Amish, with a foray into a western being published by Love Inspired next year. On my sepia horse and buggyFacebook author page, I share Amish tidbits plus a fun picture of cowboys once in a while. That’s what my readers expect, and I try not to disappoint them! And yes, when I have news about one of my books, I’ll post about that, too. But that kind of post is rare.
  • Post regularly. Some authors use a service like Hootsuite to schedule their Facebook posts, but I’ve found that I like to fly by the seat of my pants when posting on my author page. I try to post at least once a day, only because that drives up traffic. Regularity is a key to reaching larger numbers of my readers.
  • Understand that even if you aren’t a public figure now, you will be. (At least 040that’s the goal, right?) As you’re sharing all about your dogs, grandchildren or passion for hang-gliding, don’t forget to insert a layer of protection between you and your reading public. Certain things need to be kept private. You can give your readers quite a bit of information about your life – and let them feel like they know you – without divulging every detail.
  • Be friendly. Whether on your personal Facebook page or your professional one, the personal distance you need to maintain shouldn’t keep you from giving your readers9780373282777_p0_v1_s260x420 a genuine smile of welcome when they drop by. Let your voice shine through. Be inviting. Make them want to spend time with you in your books.
  • Be professional. Facebook is not the place to air dirty laundry, complain about or celebrate political events, or argue theological differences. Never, ever complain about your spouse, children, in-laws, bosses, or co-workers. And never, never, never (can’t say enough nevers!) complain about or divulge information about editors, agents, or anyone else in the writing business. What appears on the internet has a horribly tenacious way of sticking around.
  • Be a good neighbor. Don’t you love when your peers share your latest status with all of their friends? Especially when you’re trying to pull readers to your latest blog post or publicize the sale price on one of your books? Do the same for them.

Sometimes I think of Facebook as a necessary evil, one of the many things we need to negotiate in order to be successful in this modern life. It won’t last forever, but as long as it’s around, we should use it to our advantage. And meanwhile, enjoy it!

Tips for Managing Time as a Writer

You’ve heard the age-old story: Creative individual decides to write a book. They sit down with paper and pen or keyboard, and painstakingly write that heart story. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it takes years. When talking with their friends, you often hear them say, “Something came up. It isn’t quite right yet. I just haven’t had the time.”

It’s pretty clear that time is precious. In fact, outside of my loved ones, my time is my most treasured possession. Since signing my first contract in January 2013, I have learned an important writing tip, probably the most important tip.

There is NEVER time, unless you choose to make it.

In fact, I’ve noticed one common trait among the published: They make time to finish. Once you sign that dotted line and make a commitment, “I didn’t have time” doesn’t fly with the publisher. Neither does “it’s just not ready yet.” You better make time and make it ready fast or risk losing your credibility.

After signing that contract, time to market becomes important. And time to edit. And time to promote. And time to interact with readers. Lots of time. So it’s important to figure out how to manage it.

My friends hear me say that I’m overwhelmed more than anything else. But I’m learning how to carve out time, discipline myself to finish, and not miss out on the world around me. We aren’t only writers. We are marketers, publicists, graphic designers, speakers, and more. So I’ve learned a few tricks to maximize my time in every area of this writing journey.

Kariss Lynch - timeCreate margin.

I am a night owl and can write and create relevant marketing content easier when my checklist for the day is accomplished. It clears my mind to be creative. Determine your best time of day to write or create, and maximize those short windows.

Set a timer.

Write every day. Set the timer on your phone for an hour, then put your phone on silent and put it on the other side of the room. Clear your mind and write. I found when I did this, I could easily write close to two thousand words if not more in an hour! When the timer goes off, I feel accomplished, satisfied, and ready to write even more.

Carve out marketing time for social media.

I work full time as a writer for my company, so in the middle of the day I am tired of writing. I’ve started taking thirty minutes of my lunch break or fifteen minutes in the morning or afternoon to create social media graphics that I then pre-schedule so I don’t have to think about them. Think about content that is relevant to your brand, then have fun with those designs.

Strategize for online interaction.

The internet is a wonderful tool, but managing our online interaction can eat our time if not handled correctly. Block out thirty minutes every few days to catch up on emails. Take a few minutes to respond to every person who comments on social media (within reason of course). Know your brand, what you are passionate about, and have character and author interviews on hand for guest blog posts. Don’t overthink. Just do.

Know your audience and limits for speaking engagements.

My favorite interviews and speaking engagements are via Skype since it helps me conserve my time, but I’ve also enjoyed those in person speaking engagements with small groups or crowds. Determine your price (if you have one), the size of the group you are willing to speak for, if it is wise to travel or Skype in (this is great for book clubs and classes that may not be close). Bottom line, know your options and then plan accordingly. Don’t forget you still need to write and market and live life, so carefully plan the weekends you will be gone.

Managing time is as much mental as it is physical. At the end of the day, be satisfied with what you accomplished and leave the rest for tomorrow. What tips have you found effective in managing your time?

Making It Real

Hoh River Cascading Through RainforestWhen I first started writing my Birder Murder Mystery series, I wanted readers to feel like they were actually walking in the footsteps of my protagonist, so it was a logical choice for me to use real locations for book settings. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much readers enjoy books that take place in areas they know and how much those real places can shape what I write. Once I figured out that my real locations were one of the more powerful means of attracting readers, I began using real places as much as possible, not only for marketing later, but to provide me with inspiration for other pieces of my story.

As a result, I now take detailed notes of places I visit in the course of my book research. Fat Daddy's BBQ in WeslacoFor instance, last January, I was researching McAllen, Texas, for my next murder mystery. Since friends had recommended I try the barbeque at Fat Daddy’s, I made sure I had lunch there one day. As I ate, I observed that large groups of National Guardsmen sat at many of the tables, which I also noted in my daily travel journal, along with descriptions of the patriotic posters and flags adorning the walls. When I developed my plot, I found that the soldiers I’d seen could play into my story in a critical juncture, so I wrote them in – something I never would have come up with if I hadn’t personally visited Fat Daddy’s. Now, when anyone from the area reads the book, they’ll immediately be able to say, “this author really was here!” and it gives me the instant credibility which every fiction writer craves to lure readers into the story.

diner open signAnother big benefit of writing real places into your books is that some readers identify so much with a favorite place, they tend to talk about your book simply because of the setting. In one of my books, I used a small diner where one of my daughters waitressed years ago. Not only did it give the story a strong local connection, but once it was published, the diner owners prominently displayed the book, which delighted all their customers, who then told their friends that their favorite diner was in a book. By using the diner as a piece of my story, I also didn’t have to think twice about what that setting would look like, because all I had to do was describe what I saw.

Perhaps the best guideline I can provide about using real places in your fiction is the rule my publisher gave me: If you say nice things about a place, use the real name; if you want to be negative, make up a place. That should give you more readers and happier business owners (who will become your friends if they aren’t already!), and much less chance of getting sued.

Who knows? You might even get a sandwich named after you…

Black Friday Cyber Monday Marketing for Writers

Whether you participate or not, odds are you’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For bargain shoppers across the globe, they’ve become the holy grail of all shopping days. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, then you might think, no big deal. 

But you would be wrong. Women and men, all over America, rise earlier than the roosters to snatch discounted gifts — sometimes directly from the hands of an unfocused shopper right next to them. This is serious business.

See for yourself:

Here are ways we as professional writers can use the tips offered in the Hip2Save YouTube video for our marketing.

1. Be prepared. Make a list. Do your research. Check the layout.Question Mark

What this means for writers: Study your target audience. What interests them? When do they have time to read? Where are they going for fun? How do they handle tough challenges? Who do they turn to for help?

2. Know the best times to target your audience.

What this means for writers: All times slots are not made alike. Is there a particular season, celebration, or time of day that will heighten their interest in the message you have to offer? When will they have the least interest in what you have to offer?

3. Gas up beforehand to save time when the minutes count.

What this means for writers: Take care of everything you can ahead of time. Don’t wait to cover the fine details until the final moments before you launch a marketing strategy. Make a list and check it twice.

4. Prepare to stick it out for the long haul.

What this means for writers: Marketing books is not for wimps. Know in advance this is a long-term commitment, not a short-term hobby.

5. Buddy up to save time, energy, and money.Agenda

What this means for writers: Partner efforts with your peers. No two of us write exactly alike, so there’s no reason to fight for customers. Cooperate, don’t compete. You can save much time, energy, and money when you pool resources with those who truly understand what you need to accomplish.

6. Don’t give up if you don’t get the results you want the first time.

What this means for writers: We’ll all try some things that won’t work, but with persistence and tenacity, we’ll learn along with way, and become leaner and meaner marketing machines.

7. Ask yourself if the deals that work for others will really work for you.

What this means for writers: Don’t try to mimic everything you see or hear. Look for good marketing fits for your personality and message. Trying to force yourself to be someone you aren’t will water down your efforts.

8. Keep good financial records so you can measure the effectiveness of what you spend, and potentially save wasted money in the future.

What this means for writers: Let’s face it, you’ll have to invest money in your marketing, but you don’t have to break the bank. And one way to ensure it doesn’t happen is to monitor your spending, so you can make informed decisions when future marketing opportunities come along.

How to Write a Press Release

A Good List Helps You Prepare

9. Promote your books/products to the growing number of buyers who are skipping Black Friday and waiting for Cyber Monday deals.

What this means for writers: For decades, books have made great gifts. But how people get them has changed drastically. Instead of fighting the technology tide, why not jump in? Create your own Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales events. Better yet, partner up with several of your writing peers, and create a wave of your own.

We live in a culture driven by perceived value. This is a vital piece of information for those of us who have something to sell. We should always create good content with lasting impact, but sometimes we have to prove it to the world. When it’s all said and done, that’s what strong marketing does.

Happy Holy Days and Merry Christmas!

 

Marketing Magic for Authors and Speakers

“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” — Seth Godin

In June, at the Advanced Speakers and Writers Association National Conference, I shared the stage with a panel of writing greats. We spoke to this Christian group of women on increasing speaking opportunities in order to sell more books — or as I like to call it, Marketing Magic for Authors and Speakers.

The room was filled, and the audience leaned forward in rapt attention from the opening sentence. Heads were down as they scribbled to keep up with the flow of information. Hands popped in the air like jack-in-the-boxes to ask questions. Three things in particular spurred their interest.

Marketing Magic for Authors and Speakers Top Three:

  • Creating a marketing calendar — Strategizing timelines for posting on social media
  • Thinking outside the marketing box — Re-slanting your message(s) to reach groups you’ve never thought to target
  • Telling your marketing story — Compelling your audience to buy through a heart-felt message

Marketing is Not Selling“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” With this statement, John W. Gardner simplifies the problem many of us have with marketing.  We make more out of it than what it is. In reality, if we don’t overcomplicate it, marketing is simply doing something ordinary, sharing something we’re passionate about, with like-minded people. We just need to find the most effective way to reach them. And that won’t look the same for everyone — we aren’t cookie cutters of each other.

If you need to create some marketing magic for your books, or need to increase speaking opportunities to help you reach a wider audience, I invite you to contact me. Email anita@anitabrooks.com for the handout from the AWSA seminar, and I’ll be happy to share. Not only will you find bullet-point tips, timeline suggestions, and examples of Press Releases and Marketing Maps, but links to the following:tell them your story

  • American Library Association
  • A listing for every national association in the U.S.
  • Christian radio stations
  • Christian television stations
  • Mega-churches

If you’d like to learn more information on another exciting way to improve your marketing strategies, follow me at anitabrooks.comMy heart is to help fellow authors and speakers reach more people — but not in the traditional way. Together, we can create marketing magic, when we offer each other a helping hand.

What unique ways do you use to sell more books? Want to see an example of a brilliant marketing piece? Watch this YouTube video for one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Authentic Marketing

dart-103020_640Ugh. The big, bad “M” word. It’s not one of my favorites and truly, if there were fewer letters in it, I’d be labeling it a four letter word.

In fact, just so I feel better, let’s go ahead and label that “M” word something not-quite-so-delightful. Imagine it as a dart board and we’ll send flaming arrows into it…

As a writer, you can never get away from marketing. You will always have to market yourself, because only if you become Richard Castle, Dan Brown, or Janet Evanovich will you never have to market yourself again. And I’m pretty sure those writers all got to be who they are because of good marketing.

Publishers don’t have as many dollars and the ones they do have are being stretched thinner and thinner.

So how do you authentically market yourself without burning out and turning everyone away from your product? Here are a few things I’ve learned and have proven helpful in my journey to market myself.

  • Let Twitter/Facebook fan pages be your mouth piece for promotional work. Personal facebook pages (different than public fan pages) are viewed more as a way to connect with friends and family—not to market your product. Once in a while is fine. More than that and people start to ignore you.
  • Get on social media now. Not later. Not when you have a book contract. Not when you finally have an agent or finish that book. Get on it now. You’ll have less pressure to get out there and learn it all at once and instead can take in small bites.
  • Mix personal with professional. Everyone likes to know a bit about a person, beyond just the fact that you want them to buy your book. Be relatable, but learn the balance between oversharing/posting and posting what people are going to be interested in.
  • When in doubt, don’t post it. If you’re unsure if you’re oversharing, posting too many times in a day, don’t post. It’s better to post once in a while with something witty and fun to read than every hour with a long, drawn out diatribe.
  • People are visual, so find images that market your brand and share them in your status updates, tweets, etc.
  • Realize you are becoming a public figure. People will start to recognize you at conferences. They will read your content and have a connection with what you are saying. No matter if you are doing this because you like to blog—and people really like what you have to say—or you are doing this because you are trying to build an impressive audience, you are becoming someone people will notice. Don’t be noticed because you’re annoying; be noticed because you’re authentic. Think about a door-to-door salesman or the salesman at the local car dealership, the cashier at your favorite grocery store—do they make you want to have repeat encounters with them? Why or why not?
  • Be personable. Be unique. Be authentic. I can’t stress that last word enough. It’s the only way to stand out in social media and on the marketing platform.

Nothing in marketing is a fast process. It’s a slow growing yeast, mixed in a little bit at a time until you look back and see that an audience has been built with you just being…you. Take time to get to know and invest in other people’s interests and promote them. Show unabashed support for your fellow writers. You’re in this together and together you’re a mighty force to reach readers.

What are your best marketing tips?

Power in Numbers

Inumbersequalsmile‘m an odd duck.

I’m one of those writers who, while I love crafting words to make a story, also have this strange love of all things numbers.

About 90% of you just had an icky shudder run down your spine.

I was chatting on the ride home from ACFW a month ago with Carol Award winner Patrick Carr. Patrick is a fellow numbers lover, a math teacher by day and former engineer.

In our chat, I finally found someone who does the same thing I do — follow the numbers!

Granted, the numbers can royally stink. I’ve known a lot of authors who purposely do NOT look at their sales numbers or Amazon rankings because it is depressing.

I get this. Oh BELIEVE me, do I get this.

But the thing is, there can be power in numbers if you use them correctly and don’t overly obsess.

Any savvy business person knows the key numbers of his business off the top of his head. In a previous career, I was a corporate payroll manager for a billion dollar company. (Yes, I knew their annual sales numbers…). One thing our executives required was that all corporate managers know their numbers. At any time, I needed to be able to spout off total annual payroll dollars, number of employees (and by company too, as we had 16 of them…), and a host of other metrics related to my department. The point was to be an expert on your area of influence, and an expert knows their numbers.

Numbers matter. They tell us a host of facts and help us make wise, educated business decisions.

Below is a list of numbers I think would be useful and necessary to all (published) writers who are treating this whole publishing thing as a business. (Because not all of us are… and that’s okay!)

1.) Profit and Loss. Basic accounting here. Income minus expenses = profit. If that number is a negative, it’s a loss. If you’re operating at a loss, two things to do: Increase income and/or decrease expenses. I suspect many of us operate at a “loss” for the first few years. It’s our start-up cost, if you will. But keeping an eye on profit and making sure you’re not overspending is a sign of a good business-savvy writer. Don’t wait until the end of the year when you do your taxes. At least once a quarter, do the math. Make a plan for the next month. You’ll be more fiscally responsible for it.

2.) Trends. I tread lightly here. Paying TOO much attention to trends (i.e. checking our Amazon Sales ranking on a daily or *ahem* hourly basis, not that I would EVER do that…) can be counterproductive, because you waste WAY more time than it’s worth. But following trends, especially after particular marketing events you’ve done, is super useful. You can get an idea of the value of your marketing dollars, whether spending $X amount of money for an ad on that blog was worth it or not-so-much. I’ll be the first to say, I am a firm believer that marketing value is about more than the immediate hard-dollar sales impact. It’s about building your brand and getting your name out there, and a GOOD marketing campaign will have worth beyond anything you can see on immediate sales trends. BUT! If you have little or no impact on the short-term, chances are you’ll have little or no impact on the long term either. So check those numbers, know what they mean, know what your “normal” is. Then use that information when formulating your marketing plan.

3.) Goals. In the accounting world, you have “sales budgets” but in the writing world, I call these sales goals. What numbers do I WANT to hit and NEED to hit? Personally, I usually set my goal number really high, but not so high it’s unattainable. Mostly because for ME, I like to hit goals. I don’t always do it, but if I have a good, high goal, some internal oomph in me says, “Hey, I’m lagging, I need to step it up!” Other people need smaller goals, and that’s good too. Set that goal, and when you achieve it, set a higher one. Regardless your method, set sales goals and work to achieve them.

4.) Platform numbers. At ACFW, I sat down in a pitch session with an editor from a publishing house and in our talk, we chatting about social media. I rattled off a few of my numbers…total fans on my FB page, total friends, etc. She wrote the estimates I gave her in a notebook and nodded, saying, “Good. I was just going to ask you that.” Publishers want to know your numbers too. What is your reach? Even if it isn’t as big as you like, know your numbers. Be proud of them, because you’ve worked hard on your platform building. (Then see #3 about setting goals to achieve that next level!)

5.) Your agent’s phone number. Just sayin’. It’s a nice number to have for when you get overwhelmed at the numbers and need to be talked off of the ledge! (Not that I’d ever do that to Sarah…) Oh, and your accountant’s phone number would be helpful too if you have a little tic in your neck after reading all this!

A few numbers to not worry about….

- Hourly rate. I’ve known a few people who log their writing hours and then once they are published, calculate out how much they “made” per hour on that book. My advice: Don’t do it. If your sales numbers don’t depress you, THIS number surely will! It has no intrinsic value, because it’s hypothesizing that you wouldn’t have written those same hours at a rate of zero. And let’s face it: We probably still would have.

-Nitty-gritty details. Number of blog comments per year, number of Facebook likes on comments, number of tweets, number of gross sales vs net sales (really, you only care about the net). So borrow from the Bible… Meaningless, meaningless, they are all meaningless. Only spend your time on the numbers that have value in knowing them.

Let’s chat: How you do look at your numbers? Do you study them or just leave them alone, figuring they are what they are? Any interesting ways you’ve put your numbers to work for you and used them?