Stupid Marketing Tips

stupidmarketingideasSo, here I was.

Sitting here, trying to think of a fabulous post about marketing books.

The thing is, the “m” word tends to bring up fabulous pictures in my head of those middle of the night moments when one of my children come to me, saying, “Mommy, my tummy hurts–” then proceeds to vomit all over my side of the bed and floor, at times giving me and my PJ’s a good dousing as well.

I, uh, am not the biggest fan of marketing, if you can’t tell.

I take that back. I LOVE the idea of marketing. I KNOW it is needed and I LOVE the bi-product of it: my books being known by people and being PURCHASED by people.

Maybe it just brings back bad middle school memories of trying to get people to like me when I was a pimple-faced, slightly overweight, 4-eyed and teeth-gapped teenager…. the thought of trying to get people to like my books (thereby, it feels like, ME) still creates that knee-jerk reaction to curl up on my bed with chocolate and a romance novel to take me to another place.

But enough about my traumatic teen years.

Marketing is hard for a LOT of writers. Maybe we can WRITE some fantastic marketing copy, but getting out there and trying to peddle books out of our comfort zone is HARD! (Those of you who find it super easy… feel free to market mine too. I won’t mind!)

But in putting ourselves out there, it’s also common to get tripped up by some really BAD marketing ideas, in an absence of good ones.

I remember when I first started researching publishing back in 2007 after I’d completed my first novel. I was searching online tips for getting an agent/editor to look at your book. One place touted the value of STANDING OUT in the slush pile. Print that proposal on colored paper! Use FUN fonts with lots of bolds and italics! Send goofy gifts that relate to your book in the mail to that editor. (one example was a baby shoe for a book about babies…??) Make them be like, WOW, this person is really SERIOUS about wanting to be published!

I laughed, then decided I would probably NEVER be published because no way, no how, would I ever sink that low to use silly gimmicks.

Then I found a few agent blogs that suggested that when they got those out-of-the-norm proposals, they were immediately trashed for their stupidity.

PHEW!

The same goes with marketing. Creativity is a MUST, but sometimes in the name of creativity, we stumble on ideas that can be counterproductive.

Here are just a few things I’ve seen over the past 8-ish years I’ve been on this journey–that have made me NOT want to read a book.

1.) THE WORLD IS ENDING! THIS BOOK IS YOUR ONLY SALVATION! Maybe not those words exactly, but scare tactics or broad, unsubstantiated claims does not a good marketing plan make. “THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER.” (different than saying something a little more docile like life-changing fiction, etc) “GOD WANTS YOU TO READ THIS BOOK!” (let HIM tell me that, thank you!) Sure, you might get some saps to buy it, but you probably won’t find publishing success with this type of marketing for books.

2.) BUY MY BOOK (five minutes later) BUY MY BOOK (five minutes later) BUY MY BOOK (repeating 100 times per day!) Over posting on social media is a hard one, because there is a fine line. We NEED to be bold and proud of our books and market them on social media, no doubt. However, tact is needed. When my Facebook newsfeed is filled with 6 different posts by the same author marketing the same book all in the same day? It’s a good way to get yourself unfriended or at least blocked. Your Facebook marketing should draw people in, not annoy them.

3.) I MEAN, YOU DID BUY MY BOOK, RIGHT? Guilting people into buying your book is uncool. We all have different budgets and different reading tastes. I’ll readily admit, there are some writing friends I have (who will remain nameless) that I haven’t purchased their books. Why? Partially because I’m a broke mom of 4 kids trying to make a living as a writer. HA HA! But also, I have my writing friends than I have time. The idea of marketing is to ENTICE them to read your book, not twist their arm.

4.) NOTHING. This is the stupidest idea of all. Just not doing anything because you’re afraid of it. It’s the one I’m most guilty of. Oh, I market, but I’ll get an idea and think, ‘Oh, no, that’d totally bomb” and move on. Just like in publishing, sometimes you have to fail a few (or a hundred…) times before you find that golden ticket/agent/editor/marketing scheme. But if you just sit back, cross your fingers and toes, and hope your books sell? Yeah. That is the WORST marketing idea of them all!

A Side of Faith - front only(putting a picture of my book of my most recent book release as well as a link to purchase it is an example of a not-as-stupid marketing idea… as is to mention that my next book, A Side of Hope, will be releasing later this month…. )

I’m Hooked on LinkedIn

hooked onAfter three years of experimenting with social media networking, I’m finally closing in on what works best for my marketing needs at this time.

But before I share with you what I’ve discovered, I need to make some qualifications of phrases in that first sentence.

  1. ‘Experimenting’ – I’ve had no formal training in using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Pinterest. Instead, I’ve read countless books and blog posts about using them, taken online webinars and asked others what they do. I’ve tried some ideas (mostly the ones I understood how to do) and rejected others (the ones I had no idea how to do). My experimenting has truly been all over the net, kind of like sampling all the flavors in an ice cream shop – a small bite at a time.
  2. ‘Works best’ – I define this as ‘what I can successfully manage, given limited time and ability because I am not a social media guru, nor do I aspire to become one.
  3. ‘Marketing needs’ – For me, this is publicity and audience building. I don’t sell books myself; I focus on branding myself to create the desire in my audience to go to vendors. Ultimately, I want my audience to become my sales team to sell my books to others, since there are a lot more of them than there is of me!
  4. ‘At this time’ – Marketing needs change over time, as do the ways different media platforms function. I dread every announcement that a social site has made ‘changes,’ because it means I have to learn/relearn how to use it.

All that said, I have found MY most successful audience builder to be LinkedIn. That’s because I focus there on connecting with others who work professionally in the fields in which I write: dogs, birds, health and wellness.

Yes, you read that right – my Birder Murder Mysteries and girl-meets-dog memoir appeal to three audiences, yet they overlap because my overarching brand is about getting outside to get healthier and happier. My contacts are working professionals at state parks, dog or bird-related businesses, wellness advocates, animal rescue groups, and ecotourism, to name a few. My strategy is to strengthen my social relationships with those contacts by engaging in conversations with them individually and collectively, which is what LinkedIn shines at. I see my contacts as distribution points – when I engage them meaningfully, they share my brand/message/content with their own networks. And LinkedIn makes it easy for me to find people who already care about my topic(s) with their group listings and recommendations.

My marketing strategy will continue to evolve, as healthy marketing strategies do, and I know that my experimentation with other networks is far from over. For now, though, LinkedIn is the backbone of my social networking strategy since it yields me the most new contacts, opportunities to market, and book sales numbers of all the platforms.

Which social media platform is working hardest for you? How do you measure that?

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Three

Three months into this marketing plan, I’ve been able to avoid a nervous breakdown, work on the edits for The Aleppo Code, and Kregel Publications is about to launch its spring marketing for the fall releases. Now is the time to pick up the pace.

SocialMediaI’m still working the basic plan:

Social Media:

  • Twitter – Daily
  • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
  • Blog Posts – Weekly
  • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly

Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month:

(One of my goals for the newsletter as we get closer to the launch is to use contests or other vehicles to tie the three books together as THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series … accelerate the idea of people thinking of them as a series.)

 

March – Contest: Guess two of the main scene locations used in The Aleppo Code. Some of the scenes in the first two books were The Collector’s Club and the Humanities and Social Science Library on Bryant Park, NYC; The Western Wall and Zechariah’s Tomb, Jerusalem; St. Anthony’s Monastery, Egypt; Cairn T, Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland.

April/May – Tie in with Kregel Back List promotions.

June – Contest: What is The Most Powerful Weapon the world has ever seen?

July/August – Unveil the cover of The Aleppo Code.Aleppo Code Cover

September – Promote the coming E-Book promotion from Kregel.

October – Launch date for The Aleppo Code – create some tie in to ‘Midnight Madness’ … at midnight of launch day, the first 12 people who send me an email get a free autographed copy of The Aleppo Code.

Tasks For Me to Tackle:

  • Keep my website and Facebook Author page active and current.
  • Schedule out-of-town speaking engagements for May through December, particularly in those areas where I show higher readership; (This one is a reach, but it’s worth a try.)
  • Engage services of a marketing consultant to increase my standing and visibility as an ‘expert’ speaker on events in the Middle East.
  • In the summer, begin purchasing advertising on Facebook (Goodreads? Other outlets?) and discuss with Kregel and marketing consultant how to get the most impact and best results from these ads.
  • As the launch date gets closer, recreate some of the Guerilla Marketing that I did in New York City prior to the launch of The Sacred Cipher … plaster subways and Metro North trains with The Aleppo Code postcards … when the books show up, visit every B&N in New York City area, hand out post cards, autograph the in-store books, talk to store staff about placement.
  • In September/October schedule local speaking engagements/book signings including local libraries, churches, etc.
  • Arrange in advance for on-line interviews and any other interaction I can have with bloggers, reviewers, podcast producers, etc.
  • Tasks For Kregel to Tackle:
  • Continue to actively market the new series title – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES – in all possible outlets.
  • A place we stumbled during the launch of The Brotherhood Conspiracy is that the reviewers on the blog tour were different than the ones used for The Sacred Cipher. Many of the early reviews started “I wish I had known this was a sequel …” For that reason, setting up an effective blog tour for The Aleppo Code is critical.

(One of the great commitments Kregel has agreed to is to strengthen the blog tour for the Aleppo Code. Under consideration is a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.)

 

  • Implement a Back-List promotion to drive people to book stores.
    • Create E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.

I’ve learned a few things from creating this marketing plan and then trying to implement it. One, this marketing stuff takes a real commitment – and a lot of time. Two, it’s worth it. And, three, the work doesn’t end once the book is launched. Great … when do I get some sleep?

Have you ever developed a marketing strategy like this? What was the most successful thing you did?

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Two

How to Breathe Life Into A Back-List

MarketingI’ve never been much at the marketing side of this writing business … and I was born in the wrong generation to be adept at social media.

But I knew I had to do something out of my comfort zone. My first book, The Sacred Cipher, is still going strong after five years. Sales for its sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, are disappointing. With the third and last book of the series, The Aleppo Code, due for an October launch, I needed to get to work.

So I proposed a year-long marketing plan to my publisher, Kregel Publications, and asked for their support and participation. This is what I proposed for the first three months:

The Marketing Plan – December thru February:

  • Social Media:
    • Twitter – Daily
    • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
    • Blog Posts – Weekly
    • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly
  • Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month (I currently have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list and cull it after every mailing). A regular newsletter proved to be very valuable in creating buzz for the first book:
    • December – Announce the name of the series – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series; Promote the October launch of the third installment; create a giveaway offer for Conspiracy and promote it in Facebook posts and on website.
    • January – Run a contest – What will be the section titles for The Aleppo Code?
      • Put all contests up on my website and on my Facebook Page – blog post and Tweet about them;
    • February – Additional clues for the section titles contest; Promote Kregel’s month-long Book Giveaway promotion on Goodreads.com.

What Was I Willing to Do?

  • Tasks for me to tackle:
    • Look for ways to expand my marketing reach – Connect with other CBA thriller writers to cross-promote … Follow 10 journalists on Twitter … Follow 10 thriller writers on Facebook – friend them and follow them (all in progress).
    • Begin sending personal messages to my 500-plus Facebook “Friends”.
      • Ask them to “Like” my Facebook Author page and be a follower on Twitter.
      • Write 50 posts per month for 10 months leading up to Aleppo Code launch.
      • Get them all done at least 30 days prior to Aleppo launch, if possible.

Authors on Facebook

(As of January 27, I have written personal Facebook messages to 186 of my 507 Facebook “friends”, asking them to click on the link and “Like” my Facebook Author page. My “Likes” have increased from 134 to 209, up 71 in the last week – 545% from the previous week )

 

What Was I Asking Kregel to Do?

  • Tasks for Kregel to tackle:
    • There is no obvious link connecting the first two books into a series. I asked a lot from Kregel to help create that linkage.
      • Redesign the E-Book covers to add THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES to the cover … or add a tag line under my name on the cover, “Author of …”
      • Create “Back Ads” in each book promoting the others … or add thumbnails of the book covers to the bottom of the back cover.

(A lot of these requests were not practical. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that it would be too confusing to make changes to the covers of the E-Books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble but not be able to make any changes to the printed books already in circulation. But they did agree to create Back Ads (pages inside the books promoting the other books in the series) in The Aleppo Code and – if it goes to another printing – in The Sacred Cipher. – Terry)

 

  • I also asked Kregel to implement an E-Book promotion in February for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy. During an E-Book promotion in January of 2014, Cipher hit #2 and Brotherhood hit #6 in all E-Book sales on Amazon for that week. Wow! Let’s do it again.

(The entire E-Book promotion I asked for in February has been moved back to coincide with the launch of The Aleppo Code. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that there is a law of diminishing returns with E-Book promotions. They did one a year ago for both books and believe postponing the E-Book promotion until the fall will benefit all three books.)

February 6th: Accelerating the Pace Down the Stretch.

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part One

When I saw the marketing plan that Terry Brennan had put together for book #3 in his series, I knew others had to give it a long look. This plan has some remarkable forethought to it. It’s aggressive, thorough and … I think it’s going to work to help create awareness of his new book, as well as move copies of his previous book. If you’re a traditional or independently published author who has or will have a trilogy, keep this post handy.

–Greg Johnson, President, WordServe Literary

When a Series Didn’t Start That Way

Sacred Cipher CoverI’ve been fortunate and blessed to have two novels published and a third one on the way. The Sacred Cipher, published in 2009, has done well. It appears the book may soon go to a third printing and today, five years later, people are still picking it up – and posting their reviews on Amazon. The sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, was released in 2013. It got a great review in Publisher’s Weekly and better reviews on Amazon than Cipher. But sales have lagged.

One reason is that I was very ill at the time of Brotherhood’s launch (I’m fine now, thanks). Another is that neither I, nor Kregel Publishing, knew this would be a three-novel series. It just started out as one book. So it wasn’t marketed as a series and Brotherhood hasn’t benefited from the “pull” that Sacred Cipher generated.

Since I have a personal stake in the success of these books, and a lot of years invested in them, I want to do everything I possibly can to promote the increased sales of The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy, particularly in anticipation of the launch of The Aleppo Code in October – the third and last book of the series.

 

How Do I Connect These Books?

Brotherhood ConspiracyI created for myself an aggressive one-year marketing plan starting in December, 2014. The plan includes a month-by-month listing of what I will do to help accelerate the sales of the first two books, including a commitment to create a consistent social media presence, to produce a monthly newsletter (I have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list) and to personally undertake a series of other marketing initiatives over the next year.

I included in that plan some requests for Kregel to join in this marketing effort. The team at Kregel has been wonderful to work with over the past several years and I deeply appreciate all they have done to support and promote my books. It’s been a great partnership and, because of that relationship, I believed it was acceptable to include some requests for additional support from Kregel.

Essentially, the requests of Kregel fell into two buckets:

  1. What can we do to link the books together as a series to create some momentum and expectation in the short-term for The Aleppo Code launch next fall?
  2. And what additional promotional effort is realistic for Kregel to invest in marketing the first two books over the next twelve months?

There’s No Harm in Asking!

I was thrilled when Kregel responded to this marketing plan, and my requests, with four major initiatives they were willing to undertake:

  1. The Jerusalem Prophecies series title has been added to the ONIX data feed that Kregel provides to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. for the book’s online pages and will be used in all promotions.
  2. Kregel will create an E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy just prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.
  3. Kregel will implement a blog-tour for The Aleppo Code launch – but they are also considering a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.
  4. Kregel will also run a “back-list” sales special for the first two books during the October launch.

I’m told this is an unusual step for a publisher to take to invest promotional resources into back-list titles. Bless them that they did. Now it’s up to me to implement and fulfill the elements of the marketing plan.

Yikes!

February 4th: What the first three months of the plan look like.

The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform – Part 1

With a glazed look on my face, I obediently handed my phone over to “the expert” sitting beside me. As she looked up my twitter account which had an oval egg shape for my picture, I couldn’t help feeling intimidated by the task of building an author platform.

I had spent my entire life serving in pastoral ministry. When social media first came on the scene, I was suspect of the enemy’s evil intent to use the media to entrap our children.

Now here I was, listening to Michael Hyatt talk about the power and necessity of every author building a platform to launch their book. Much of what he was saying went over myplatform head. Yet as I listened for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to guide me, I simply heard this word: engage.

As I engaged in the social media platform beginning that day two years ago, I grew from 4 twitter followers to over 21,000. I joined the social conversation and found a whole new world of influence.

Since my first book, 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Mom, hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Christian Women’s Issues, I regularly have authors seeking my advice on how to build their own platforms.

Let’s Begin at the Beginning

Watch Michael Hyatt’s simple video on Platform Building.

1. Start with a Blog

Begin to build a following. Give people an opportunity to get to know your heart. Use your blog as a spring board to all of your other social media engagement.

If you are an author of a number of books, you are probably your brand. You may write on a number of blogs. A foundational part of your strategy is your own blog where you can share your passion and build a loyal following. I chose to use my own name for my primary blog at SueDetweiler.com.

2. Develop a Social Media Strategy

You are unique. Social media needs to work for you. As you begin to see the power of social media, use these principles as a guide: 12-28-14 Social Media

  • Use Time Management Tools
  • Link Social Media Posts
  • Strategically Post Throughout the Day

The key to social media is to see it as an ongoing conversation with a friend. You are sharing about all the things that you care about. People who read your tweets will know what you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to share your personal story and pictures. Provide your tribe with ongoing helpful resources.

3. Be Real

Don’t try to appear to be anyone else than who you truly are. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, one of the ways that people will be drawn to you is when they sense you are transparent. Don’t try to be Barbie or Ken; just be who God made you to be. Let your quirks come through in your social media platform.

Don’t be tripped up by your own perfectionism and fail to launch into a new thing. Allow yourself the freedom to try something new. Stoke the fires of your own adventurous spirit.

4. Use Video

Video can be really simple. The technology on your smart phone will allow you to do video in minutes. As an author, you can use the power of video to sell your book. Here’s a simple book trailer that was created for me on Fiverr.com. Video doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to be effective in telling your story.

I also used simple video introductions of each chapter of my book as an additionalbuilding your author platform resource. At the end of each chapter a simple code invites the readers to watch the video or download a printable of written prayers that enhance each chapter.

5. A Gateway to Traditional Media

As you build your platform as an author, others will become excited about your message and help get the word out about your book. Build relationships with other authors, radio hosts, and television hosts. Two events that I think are helpful to connect authors to traditional media are National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). There may be other events that your publisher encourages you to attend to build relationships with the media.

Next Week

We are just scratching the surface of things that you can do to build your platform as an author. Join me here at The WordServeWaterCooler for part 2 of The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform.

Also connect with me on social media! Let’s start a conversation. Let me know if there is any way I can help you get your message out.

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!