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?

Marketing: Sharing the Treasure You Discovered

Sharing the Treasure

Sharing the Treasure

In a charming café tucked in the corner of an eclectic bookstore not far from the center of town, you stare into your latte, mesmerized by the heart-shaped swirls of steamed milk. This peaceful instance of solitude is so perfect you decide to share it on Instagram.

After venting the domed lid of your new Big Green Egg backyard cooker, you reach for tongs to lift ribs dripping in a tangy barbeque sauce onto your plate. Your friend, sensing the momentous nature of this occasion, captures the moment for Facebook with her smartphone.

You weren’t trying to market a bookstore or a cooker. You simply found a treasure and you were sharing it with friends.

Draw A Treasure Map
As I prepare for the launch of my first book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith, I am learning how to assist in the marketing process. Buried treasure helps no one. A book cannot fulfill its purpose unless readers find it. So I have begun to view marketing as the process of drawing a treasure map to help potential readers locate my book.

Everyone draws a map unique to a particular treasure, but here are some ideas:

  • Have your social media bio mention your book and link to your website.
  • On your website, include links to a variety of online retailers and bookstore websites that are selling your book. Use a pull down menu of retailers if the list is long.
  • Mention your book in bylines to articles you write.
  • Blog and guest blog, mentioning your book in your post or your bio.

Supply the Digging Tools

Once the map leads you to the buried treasure, you need tools to dig it out so you can enjoy the treasure and share it with your friends. In the same way, marketing involves not only drawing a treasure map for potential readers, but also supplying the digging tools so others can unearth the treasure and share it with others. Here is a list of a few tools I am using to help others spread the word about my book:

  • Bookmarks
  • Flyers (both paper and PDF format for sharing by email)
  • Publicity photos
  • Link to discussion guide for book
  • Social media page for each book

Prepare to Celebrate!

What are some things you’ve found helpful for marketing your books?

How to Avoid White-Noise Marketing

new-143095_640We were talking as a staff in our FaithHappenings.com meeting about marketing and social media and how much white noise is filling up Facebook and Twitter especially. Everyone wants a chance for their voice to be heard, but none of us really want to pay attention. As consumers we are constantly bombarded with deals we should take advantage of, the latest giveaway to enter, the newest site to sign up for (though, please, please go sign up for our FaithHappenings.com site—I promise you will not be disappointed. ;-) ), the latest and greatest constantly in giant all-caps and flashy billboards. Unless something truly captures our attention, most likely we’re going to just keep on scrolling.

I know I am guilty of this habit.

So how do we grab the attention of the consumer we are trying to reach? Each platform is going to be handled a bit differently, but I’ll tackle Facebook and Twitter with a side of Pinterest and Google+ thrown in.

Facebook: DON’T post your agenda all the time. In fact, I only post on Facebook a couple of times each week—not a couple of times per day. When you post less often, you actually become something of a novelty when you do finally post. You’re a fresh face in a sea of constant posters and most likely people are going to pay more attention. (Note: this concept is a good idea for personal profile pages. Fan pages require a different strategy and more frequent postings to avoid falling off your fans’ radar)

Twitter: DO post your agenda more often. Don’t, however, push a constant promotion. Twitter feed is constantly changing and moving so it’s a good idea to keep your face and fresh content in front of your followers. For every 1-2 tweets about your product, be sure to share 3-4 either retweets and content that is not pushing one particular point or agenda.

Pinterest: If you are a business or an author who is trying to promote reviews, products, etc., keep it to one or two pins per day of that particular felt need. Too much of the same thing will just annoy the follower and they will scroll faster–or worse, unfollow you.

Google+: Chances are you are going to have many crossover followers on Facebook, as you do on Google+. If you have a gmail account, you automatically have a Google+ account. Build your circles, find material you can share publically. You can share the same information as you did on Facebook and Twitter, but find a different way of sharing it. And remember to vary business with pleasure/personal. People want to get to know you, not just a promotion pusher, ie: white noise creator.

Need some other ideas to avoid being social media white noise?

Be funny. Have a sense of humor. Don’t post long updates. The shorter, the absolute better. Don’t carry a negative point of view on all your posts. Be positive. Avoid links.

Yes, I am telling you to include fluff in your marketing campaigns. We are a society surrounded by depressing worries. If you truly want to be noticed, be encouraging. Speak into people’s needs. Make them laugh. Build a brand awareness around who you are and what you’re offering that is unique, brief, to the point, and meaningful.

Seems like a tall order to fill!

But once you get the hang of it, it becomes more second nature than something that has to be over-thought.

Remember the key points: Facebook—don’t post all the time. Twitter—you have more freedom, so share and have fun. Build a rapport with your followers. Pinterest—let this become an extension of who you are. Google+ –provide fresh content separate from what you post on the other social media platforms as chances are, you will have many of the same followers across all platforms.

12 Reasons for Writers to Love Facebook

facebook

True Confession: For me, Facebook was love at first post.

Apparently I am not alone. Facebook reigns as Social Media King, with 750 million active users. Here are a dozen reasons why Facebook is this writer’s Social Networking BFF.

1. Cure for Isolation: I am a relational gal and it is no secret that writing can be an isolating business. Facebook is a 24 Hour Kitchen Table “Come and Go” Conversation that never ends. I can connect to other writers who are also trapped at home on a deadline. In fact, Facebook is a virtual water cooler for thousands who work at home in their PJs but enjoy a little human connection with their coffee break.

2. Primes My Writing Pump: I read Facebook the way some read the morning paper (before newspapers all but disappeared). I like to peruse my friends’ thoughts while I sip my coffee. Writing a comment here, a question there, gets my writer’s juices flowing. Before long I fill in my status, which is much less daunting than writing a first sentence on an empty page. Interacting on Facebook eases me into a writing frame of mind.

3. Testing Material: Since I write humor, Facebook is a great place to test comedic material. If I get lots of good comments, I cut and past the post into a “Humor File” to use later in a blog or book.

4. Finding Topics that Hit a Nerve: Recently my daughter wrote a FB status about the pros and cons of when to share news of a pregnancy. More than 300 passionate responses from readers later, Rachel knew she’d stumbled upon a hot topic for her blog (www.thenourishedmama.com).

5. Easy Daily Journal: Everyone knows writers should journal daily. But what with all the social media we are now required to do to build our platform, who has time to journal, too? It’s a comfort to me that I have recorded the highlights of my experiences in a brief (publicly read) journal over the last 5 years… on Facebook. Romance novelist Eloisa James wrote an entire memoir (Paris in Love) based on a year of Facebook posts! Because the posts were so well-written, to my surprise, the book was hard to put down.

6. Gathering Ideas from Readers: In her bestselling book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin sprinkles short tips and thoughts from her blog readers’ comments throughout the book. This added interest and variety to her book, especially when presented in bullet-point format.

7. Finding Original Quotes, Quips, and Anecdotes From Others: I wrote a couple of Facebook posts during a vacation when my husband and I both caught the flu. An author friend, writing a book on marriage, asked if she could use my posts as anecdotal material. I was happy to share; and she was gracious to attribute the quotes to me and mention my latest books as a reference in her book. A win-win!

8. Practicing “Writing Tight”: Today’s internet-skimming readers don’t have patience for long, meandering prose. Writing short FB posts is terrific practice in the art of writing tight. Today’s writers must know how to nutshell and extract worthwhile thoughts with as few words as possible. This past week I experienced two incredibly fun hours at a birthday party with four of my grandsons. Rather than bore my friends with a blow-by-blow account of my adorable grandchildren, I posted: “I went to a birthday party at a skating rink today and did the hokey pokey with four of my grandsons. And that’s what it’s all about.”

9. Facebook Friends are Faithful Fans: I’ve discovered Facebook friends to be faithful supporters of my blogs and books, generous in helping get the word out by re-posting press releases, book sales, and good reviews.

10. Networking: You never know how a Facebook relationship can lead to opportunities for writing or marketing your book. My daughter struck up a friendship with another prolific blogger who asked Rachel to guest post for a popular teacher’s blog. Rachel did so well that she was offered a paying gig to write regularly for http://www.weareteachers.com. We’ve also landed radio, podcast, and other web interviews because someone in media saw and liked our posts, blogs, or book topic on Facebook.

11. Random Polls: In our upcoming book Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep (Zondervan, January 2015), my daughter (and co-author) wanted to address the Top 10 Everyday Stressors Women Face. So I posted the question, “What are the daily things that slow you down, trip you up, and steal your peace?” We gathered dozens of replies and categorized them into 10 areas that formed the basis for an entire book.

12. A Word for the Weary: How often have I received the perfect word of encouragement, comfort, or advice from someone on Facebook, exactly when I needed it? I’ve also had the privilege of regularly encouraging others via Facebook. For those who welcome it, Facebook connections can be a true ministry of words, whether or not you are professionally published.

How have you used Facebook to reach your readers?

ACFW 2014 Wrap-Up

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.Fall brings not only great weather (autumn is my favorite season!) but also several big-name writers conferences. The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) gather every September to celebrate great inspirational fiction (in the culmination of the Carol Awards) but also to inspire and teach the craft of fiction writing.

Here are a few of the things I took away . . .

1. Indie is IN! It used to be the scourge of writing to even breathe that you might publish your own book either through a vanity press (paying a company to process your book) or indie publishing (or self-publishing) where you become your own publisher and own all aspects of book production while fronting the costs yourself. This can take several forms. Established authors indie publishing their backlist once rights revert back to them. Traditional authors using indie publishing to supplement their income. I even heard one indie author say her traditional publishing contracts offer her a “bonus” but she mostly depends on her indie books to meet living expenses. Then there are those going solely indie because they enjoy the process, the control, and/or may be using it to catch the eye of a traditional publisher if they can hit a certain number of sales. The only cautionary note was, if you have a traditional contract, to ensure that your publisher is okay with the content of the indie book and that release dates don’t compete.

2. Effective marketing campaigns may not be realized until later. Last year, my third novel Peril was a newborn. To ACFW, I brought full-size Hershey bars with a sticker attached to each one that had photos of all my books together and a link to my newsletter. I definitely got some additional newsletter subscribers but this year, several people commented to me about those chocolate bars. I think a good marketing campaign is something memorable that lasts long after the item is gone. Trust me, bookmarks get lost in a sea of other bookmarks and postcards. Take the time and maybe spend a little extra money for something unique. Honestly, this year, there weren’t a lot of interesting giveaways.

3. Networking is important. Even if you’re not pitching, you need a network of other writing peeps to help keep you sane. They understand that it’s normal to talk out loud while arguing with a character. They’ll help you in the writing valleys and celebrate those writing highs. Always go into a conversation open to the possibilities of new friendships. Sit with people you’ve never met before. Introduce yourself to those of the other gender (men might feel a little lost in a sea of mostly women they don’t know!). Make face-to-face contact with an editor who rejected you and say a sincere thanks for any feedback they offered.

4. Professionalism is key. Everything you put out there speaks about you as a writing professional. It’s probably not too far-fetched to say that you’re in one long job interview. The way you dress. The way you treat others waiting for appointments. Are you on time for your appointment? If you yell at an appointment coordinator over some perceived slight, it’s not going to come back to you in a positive way. When you submit your work for a paid critique, format it correctly with no typos. Always be helpful to someone else first; this reaps large rewards in the end.

What have you learned recently from a writers conference?