Marketing In and Out of the Box for Authors and Speakers

“It’s getting harder to find places to sell books.”

Anita Brooks Conference Speaker

Find an Audience and Speak to their Needs

Public speaking is still the most effective sales tool for book authors according to many professionals. But with conference attendances lowering, and some closing down, the opportunities are dwindling.

And without a strong marketing plan, you often can’t get a publisher to bite on a proposal anyway.

So what’s an author to do?

You’ve probably heard “think outside the box” when it comes to marketing, but what does that mean?

Don’t lose hope, there are still effective things you can do to strengthen your marketing strategy through speaking. For instance, re-slant your messages to fit groups you might not normally speak to, or have never thought of speaking to.

Conference Speaker

Every Celebration & Educational Event Needs a Speaker

  • If you speak on marriage, have you targeted business groups and associations where couples may work together, or have employees who do?
  • If parenting is your theme, have you contacted day-care centers who often spend more waking hours with children than parents?
  • If grief or trauma is your message, what about speaking to Chambers of Commerce, or association conferences about how their members can help the hurting, promote good will, and further their mission as a result?
  • Is there an awards banquet you can connect a presentation to?

When contacting churches and ministry organizations, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are the biggest problems I see in society today?
  • What are my greatest pet peeves?
  • What do I hear people complain about most often?
  • What do people say they are lacking?

Those are the areas you can target to reach audiences in a relevant way. Many ministries are looking for speakers who can address concerns of a younger crowd growing more jaded, more “accepting,” and more in need of spiritual wisdom than ever. But wrapped in practical twenty-first century applications.

The Whole Earth Needs Hope

People All Over the Earth Need Hope

The fact is, human beings all over the planet are drawn to messages of hope and encouragement, and like-minded people flock together. The key is to develop a strategic marketing plan, do your homework, study potential audiences, make consistent contacts, and follow up on a regular basis. Over time you will begin to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Set goals and stick to them.

To help you get started, here’s a link that offers info on associations of all kinds.

Finally, I must mention the most important thing of all. Partnering with God through prayer, trust, AND practical action.

Here’s my real secret to any marketing success. Based on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, I ask God who the bankers are that He wants me to invest my talents with, and then I look and listen. I’m often surprised at the opportunities available; it simply takes looking at things through fresh eyes. Sometimes in the box, and sometimes by stepping out.

Have you discovered any unique ways to market books or sign more speaking events?

How to Maximize Your Social Media Time

Early in my wanting-to-pursue-publication journey, I heard a woman give a talk about maximizing your time. She said, “Nothing you do should go to waste. If I see a movie, I’ll figure out a way to use it in my writing. I’ll write something about it.”

Social media conceptHonestly, at first, I did kind of give a big eye roll. Really? Nothing could be sacred, private, and free? Couldn’t my mind ever just have a void where I didn’t have to think about marketing?

Now, I might have changed my opinion on that somewhat.

Marketing is hard work. Author Richard Mabry once said to me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” And this is the truth. When your book releases, there is usually a flurry of activity to launch your baby. But, there comes a time when you need to begin to focus on the next book while still keeping your other marketing activities going. This may be less about your book and more about growing your platform and social media presence.

Consider all your activities: can they aid in growing your social media? Can they give you a blog topic? Can something you do for fun give you a possible return on your time investment?

I recently read the book Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner. I wanted to read this book. Lisa is a favorite author of mine so I put most other books aside to enjoy her new releases.

On the marketing side, this is how I used my leisure time to help my social media.

1. I wrote a Goodreads review on the novel. This is good for authors. It gives people an example of your writing style and can help readers find you. After all, you likely write what you like to read.

2. I pinned it to Pinterest. Some readers/followers are more visual and I do find people repinning books from my boards.

3. I blogged about it– in two different places. My main blog is Redwood’s Medical Edge and it deals with medical accuracy in fiction. Fear Nothing had a character with congenital insensitivity to pain so not only did I blog about this particular medical disorder but I also did a post that was a review of the novel and some of its medical aspects. And now, I’m here blogging about how to use one activity to foster multiple marketing efforts. So, I guess that’s three blog posts.

Your activities should become the ultimate wardrobe, where all pieces can be mixed with one another. Ultimately, a book I read for fun ended up being used to build my platform (a medical nerd who writes suspense novels) and, hopefully, keep up interest in my social media.

What about you? In what ways have you used fun activities to maximize marketing efforts?

The Business of You

me-myself-and-i-021Social media is full of the white noise of people promoting themselves. Writers promoting books, ministry leaders promoting tools for church growth, singers promoting new releases, churches promoting their church, and on and on it goes. Tweets for how to lead your church, how to get more followers, how to make money off your blog. The list is endless. Social media has become a clogged highway of everyone promoting themselves and their newest content that will help you _____________ (fill in the blank). The problem is, I have been pulled into this white noise that seems to get lost on the people who are seeing constant media feeds in Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and the other social media sites.

What is a Christian to do when it comes to self-promotion in a me-driven world? As writers and artists, we produce content we believe others would benefit from consuming and implementing into their lives, ministries, or business organizations. Is it wrong or sinful for us as Christians to promote ourselves as writers, artists, pastors, and ministry leaders? The fine line we have to walk keeps some people from promoting themselves and their work. On the flip side, other believers promote themeselves without shame and almost to the point of being obnoxious.

1. It’s Not About You

Rick Warren popularized the statement “It’s not about you” in his best selling book The Purpose Drive Life. Even though we verbalize this thought and half-heartedly believe it, do we live it out when it comes to self-promotion? The way you live this out without putting yourself front and center is to focus on other people. When you tweet, FB, or use other social media, always make it about other people, not yourself. Put the focus on God, your spouse and family, other leaders, and people who have made an impact in your life.

2. Self-Promotion Is Not A Sin, But Can Become Sinful

Self-promotion in and of itself is not a sin, but when all the focus all the time is about you, it becomes sinful. While everyone wants to think they are agents of humility, that rarely is the case. Humility and pride are opposing forces in our lives. We believe that we are not prideful and have humble motives. But motive plays a part in this equation. Why are you promoting yourself? Are you looking to make a living? Wanting to become well- known?

God created the creativity that flows from your writing, your voice, and your speaking, and it can be used to provide financially for you and your family. Never should we promote the creative gift we have as ours and claim it as our own. God gave us the gifts we have to be shared with others, so they can enjoy and benefit from the content that flows from what we create.

Strive to be humble, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

3. Your Identity Is Not In Success

Our culture values success in everything that we attempt to accomplish and there is nothing wrong with being successful. The problem comes when we worship success and when our identity is grounded in whether or not we achieve that success. Our identity, as followers of Jesus, is in Jesus. We should teach our children and others to be successful, but only in order to bring glory to Jesus. Athletes are often criticized for glorifying God when they are successful. What the critics do not understand is that those athletes know their success is not for themselves but for someone else.

If you look at my website, you see that I promote my writing and other endeavors I undertake. I struggle with self-promotion. It probably has to do with one’s personality and experiences in life, but I find it distasteful sometimes that I toot my own horn. What about you?

A Valentine For Our Readers

rosesRoses are red, violets are blue,

I love you, my readers, for all that you do:

To your families and friends, you talk up my books;

You buy the hard copies, Kindles and Nooks;

You come to book signings in out-of-way places.

I’m always so happy to see my fans’ faces!

You sign up for my newsletter and say lots of nice things

On Goodreads, in book clubs – you make my heart sing!

You share kind reviews, both oral and text,

You give me ideas for what to write next.

You twitter my Tweets, like my Facebook page, too.

I’m so very grateful for readers like you who

Help me find new folks that I want to reach

And invite to the fun of being my peeps!

For YOU, my dear fans, are the reason I write

All through the day and into the night,

Wrestle with words and struggle with plots

(which sometimes are great, but sometimes are not!).

When all’s said and done, I have to confess

There’s only one way I measure success:

If I’ve made you laugh, touched your heart in some way,

My work is done, and YOU’VE made my day!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo……..the WordServe Literary Agency authors

Marketing Like Your Favorite Authors

I’d studied the writing blogs, so I knew when my novel released it was time to get busy. I lined up guest blogs, interviews and book reviews. I advertised on every social media site I could think of. My new website was up and running and I’d had a personal blog going for a few years. I spoke of the book to everyone I came across. I even hawked my book at a nearby fair. You want platform, I’d give you platform.

After a few months, I was exhausted. My introverted self felt raw after all of the exposure. And despite some great reviews of the book and a ton of five star comments on Amazon, the book hadn’t soared to the bestseller list. Actually, while it definitely had some fans, it hadn’t picked up a lot of notice at all.

I wondered why I’d signed up for a writing career in the first place. I had a busy life with a full time job and a family. Who had time for all of this marketing, which by the way, was definitely not my forte? Marketing had taken so much of my time, I’d forgotten about the joy of writing fiction. Because of course, I wasn’t writing fiction. I didn’t have the time.

I began to study some of my favorite novelists and surveyed what they’d done as far as platform, and the answer was surprising. Almost nothing.

They all had websites of course. Lisa Samson started a blog, but stopped, saying the blog was stealing the creativity and time she needed to write. Dale Cramer and Athol Dickson blogged, but were invariably inconsistent, sometimes going a ctypewriterouple of months without a post. Davis Bunn’s blog posts were regular, but were strictly announcements about his book events and reader praise. Penelope Wilcock writes hers like a diary, simply telling about searching for a lost cat or going to the dentist.

Sure, most writers did interviews and some guest pieces when a book came out. They did a few bookstore signings around the release and perhaps a speaking engagement or two in between. But they focused their time on what they were best at: writing amazing novels.

Because they were single-minded and purposeful about their fiction, they had output. They improved their craft. They built a readership.

No press in the world will help you if you’re not writing new material, right? And yes, getting noticed is a bit random. Fantastic writers sometimes stay near the bottom of the midlist while so-so writers are household names.

But I’ve decided to follow my writer role models, best sellers or midlist. Yes, I’ll do occasional blogging and other marketing. I’ve got my social media set up and will make some posts and connect to readers who contact me.

But in the end, I’m not a social media expert or a blogger or a speaker. I create story worlds and characters. I play with words. I edit what I’ve written until it’s the book I’d want to read. It’s what I’m good at and it’s what I love. It’s also what makes me a writer.

So this is the best marketing advice I’ve got, as backwards as it might seem: write more, write better.

WordServe News: January 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

ScrapsBarbara Cameron released Scraps of Evidence (Abingdon Fiction).

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ForgivingLeslie Leyland Fields released Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers (Thomas Nelson).

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WintersPromiseKen Gire released Winter’s Promise (Harvest House Publishers).

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FleshHugh Halter released Flesh (David C. Cook).

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HandsofDarknessHeather James’s Hands of Darkness (Kregel). This is book #2 in the Lure of the Serpent series.

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ShakenKariss Lynch’s debut novel, Shaken, releases February 4th (Charisma Media).

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The KnightTara McLary Reeves and Amanda Jenkins released The Knight and the Firefly (B&H Kids).

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YouFoundKeith Robinson released You Found Me (Regal Books). His first book!

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RethinkDave Stoop released Rethink How You Think (Revell).

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WayfarerJanalyn Voigt released WayFarer (Harbourlight Books). This is book #2 of the Tales of Faeraven series.

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LifeComesBackTricia Williford released And Life Comes Back with (WaterBrook Press). Her debut book!

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New WordServe Clients

Linda Kuhar, miraculous cancer survivor, Certified Christian Life Coach, and teacher on Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies’ Executive Leadership Team signed with Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross, in combination with Back to the Bible Ministries, have signed a 13 book contract with Barbour Publishers to launch a series of books in the “goTandem” line, primarily direct-to-church, in support of the goTandem Bible engagement app being launched May 1st of this year.

Tami Weissert signed with Authentic Publishers for a book with a working title of Off the Page (and into your heart), 12 stories of how women in different stages of life engage with God’s Word.

What We’re Celebrating!!

FlightCongratulations to Capt. Dale Black and Ken Gire. Their non-fiction book, Flight to Heaven, made the New York Times Best Seller List!

Wounded Women of the Bible co-author Dena Dyer was recently honored with two “Best Of” awards for her articles on The High Calling, an online magazine sponsored by The Foundations for Laity Renewal. The two articles, chosen out of hundreds which ran on the site in 2013, were Resting my Mind in the faith category and Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom in the family category.

Amy K. Sorrels, author of soon-to-be-released How Sweet the Sound, received a wonderful review in Publishers Weekly: “Debut inspirational novelist Sorrells opens her story powerfully, with a rape and double murder within the Harlan family, who grow pecans in Bay Spring, Ala. This strong stuff is Southern gothic, but it’s also biblical, a retelling of the story of Tamar, who is raped by her brother, a son of King David. The story of this event and its tangled consequences is narrated alternately by Anniston, who is 13 and has seen her father murdered, and her aunt Comfort, the rape victim. The family’s secrets emerge, even as healing, propelled by faith, begins. Sorrells’s ambitious work has beautiful elements, chief among them the strong voice of Anniston. Others need work: Princella, the Harlans’ matriarch, could use more development and subtlety, and so could the prose (“The haze of quiet sunlight floated into the room like a slow dance between dreaming and waking up”). Sorrells will likely move many readers of faith, and she’s worth watching. Agent: Sarah Freese, WordServe Literary Agency. (Mar.)”

Lucille Zimmerman got a guest post gig on Michael Hyatt’s blog. Here is the link to her thoughts on “The Placebo Effect.” How’d she get it? She asked. Great lesson, Lucille. Remember, the worst anyone can say is “no.”

Four Tips to Grow Your Platform–Part 1

I don’t care what you write, if you want to publish and sell books, you’re going to hear the words, “You need to grow your platform.” This is true no matter what route you take, traditional publishing or self-publishing.4 Tips to Author Platform Growth

There are numerous books, articles, websites, and programs, telling you everyone’s advice on how to do so. I’m going to tell you now, there’s no secret or quick one-time overnight trick. If someone is trying to sell you this, they’re probably trying to make a quick dollar. But there are tips and ways you can build a solid platform before, during, and after the book deal that are legit and work.

I’m going to share with you what has worked for me and ways you can do the same.

1. What do you have to offer? None of these tips will work if you don’t know what it is you have to offer people in the form of your books, blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos, and interviews. Once you know what it is you have to offer people, you can begin researching who your target audience is and how best to reach them. Need help defining your target audience and your brand? Here’s a free workbook to get you started.

2. Where and how will you offer it? You need to have a website that reflects your brand, immediately tells readers how they’ll benefit from your site, great content, social media share buttons (you’d be surprised how many sites I visit that don’t use these), and a way to capture the emails of visitors so you can stay in contact with them. Other things to offer on your website are podcasts, videos, articles, interviews, e-books, and e-courses. You don’t have to do all, but choose the ones that work for you at this time and for your audience.

3. Social media presence. You can moan and groan all you want about social media or you can choose to look at it as a chance to share your message with people who need it and can be helped by it. I guarantee you the latter response will take you farther and benefit not only you, but others. Choose which social media outlets you enjoy and your readers respond to. Don’t try to master all of them. You’ll go crazy.

Pick two until you feel confident and then analyze where to spend the rest of your time. I use my Facebook page and Pinterest the most frequently. My audience prefers these two sites. Pinterest (Using Pinterest for Writers) sends me the most traffic, but I get more reader conversation and interaction on Facebook (Using Facebook for Writers). Some folks love Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or the new social site to watch, Instagram.

The main thing to remember about social media is to share relevant content with your audience. Everything you share should benefit them in some way or another.

4. Join or create a blogging network or group. Find a group of bloggers (or contact and start your own) who write similar or complementary content to your own. Agree to share each other’s content on your social media pages. This gives you great content to share with your readers and gets your work in front of other readers who want what you have to give or say. You can also work with these people to brainstorm new projects or marketing endeavors. This has helped my own platform take off. Plus, I get the added benefit of advice from people who have been there and offer support when needed, because at some point, we all need it.

Here are some of the most helpful books I’ve read regarding growing your platform and marketing:

Platform by Michael Hyatt
Sell Your Book Like Wildfire by Rob Eager
Pinterest Savvy by Melissa Taylor

What has helped you grow your platform? Where do you need help? What books have helped you the most with marketing and platform growth?

Cry. Another Bookstore Bites the Dust.

bookshop closedThe last local bookstore in my town is closing. This will only leave us with a Barnes & Noble, but what you should know is that more people shopped at the other store, the local store that’s closing. That’s the scary (or scarier) part.

To put it into perspective, I had a book signing last winter at both places. The smaller, family-owned bookstore had about triple the amount of traffic and I sold and signed almost a hundred books. At Barnes & Noble, someone walked into the joint maybe every ten to fifteen minutes, sometimes for a coffee, and I only signed and sold four books.

I’ve heard all the sobbing and woe over the book industry for years now, but I didn’t ever think it’d make my hometown bookstore close up for good. I suppose the Barnes & Noble will be next, too. And then, in a county that’s home to over 850,000 people, we’ll have no bookstores for new material.

Yet, I’m an offender.

I read almost all my books on my Kindle. Or, the Kindle app on my phone.

Did I contribute to the closing down of my town’s last family-owned bookstore? Yes.

Am I sorry? As an author, absolutely. I lost a sure-fire spot to conduct future book signings. It was an easy in, my hometown advantage.

Am I sorry as a consumer? Tougher question. Like I’ve said, I’m an offender when it comes to the death of print because I adore my e-reader.

I hate to see the world in which I operate and play in get messy . . .  a world where an author who prefers e-books strongly laments the perpetual closing of bookstores.

I’ve also yet to witness how this transition away from honest-to-goodness bookstores to the world of e-readers and internet sales affects my bottom line. As far as I know, most of my sales are coming from Amazon anyway, so I won’t begin to poo-poo them for taking over the book-selling world.

If what’s happening in my county is happening all over, does that mean the death of book signings all together? Maybe it does. But it is certainly not the death of interacting with your favorite author.

With the advent of Facebook fan pages, Skype for book clubs, Twitter, and YouTube, there are more ways than one to “meet” an author. Besides, if fans are e-book readers like me, they probably don’t want you to sign their device. (In fact, they might punch you for that.)

So, is it all for the better, the worse, or is it a different kind of the same? I’ve heard mixed reactions. Some authors admit that if not for the reach of Amazon, they wouldn’t have sold any books. Other authors feel they get lost in all the zeros and ones of Amazon digital code, as well as the influx of self-published books, side-by-side their own in the search query. Whereas, in a store, they’d be easier to spot in their niche.

In the end, it’s hard to say that consumers are upset with these changes. They direct the market after all, and the direction they’ve chosen is that bookstores aren’t a necessity for their literary enjoyment.

But as an author who’s feeling the death of bookstore marketing events. . . we’ll see.

What about you? What would your world be like if your town lost all its bookstores?

Your Friends in the Book Marketing Business

Book marketing can be rather overwhelming, especially here in the middle of the publishing revolution. The good news is that there are more and more emerging companies out there who bring a lot of light to this dark arena. Whether you are an author looking for assistance or a reader trying to find the best deals available, this post is to create a compilation of resources you may find helpful.

Pubslush: A global, crowd funding and analytics platform for books only. This platform allows authors to raise money and gauge the initial audience for new book ideas, and for readers to pledge their financial support to bring books to life. Pubslush is entirely about giving: giving an opportunity to authors, giving a voice to readers, and giving books to children without access to literature. http://www.pubslush.com 

Businessman Midair in a Business Meeting

Author Marketing ClubAn author member can submit books for promotional opportunities, as well as access free online training and resources related to book marketing. A reader member will get notified about new and discounted books, and can discover new authors. This service is free for both authors and readers. You can upgrade to the Premium program if you wish for additional benefits, but it is not required for you to do so. Some of the options offered under a Premium membership include an Amazon book reviewer tool that can help you find reviewers who focus on your literary genre.  http://authormarketingclub.com/

BookBub: The best marketing dollars I have ever spent have been with BookBub. BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and they email you great deals in those genres. BookBub features ebooks ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors. During my last campaign with BookBub, I spent about $260.00 and yielded thousands of downloads as a result. If you are looking for new readers, do yourself a favor and check out BookBub: http://www.bookbub.com/home/

Other great resources for readers:

Pixel of Ink: A website which features daily publishing of Free Kindle Books and Hot Deals. On any given day, there are thousands of Free Kindle Books available.  http://www.pixelofink.com/

Inspired Reads: The best Christian Kindle books on a budget. http://www.inspiredreads.com/

Kindle Daily Deal: The best deals available for Kindle. http://amzn.to/KindleDailyDeal

What are your favorite book marketing resources, websites, and venues?

Extra! Extra!

So many new books to celebrate for the month of December that WordServe is doing an extra announcement about these releases.

TheListeningHeartThe Listening Heart: Hearing God in Prayer by Judy Gordon Morrow (Regal Publishing) is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, and GospelLight.com. In The Listening Heart, Judy invites you to spend a year hearing from the God Who Speaks—the God who wants to speak to you. Each daily devotion echoes the Father’s love and care for you, offering hope, comfort, encouragement and more—a rich closeness with God that will satisfy the longings of your heart. A wonderful Christmas/New Year gift for your friends and family–or for yourself!
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WhenaWomanWhen A Woman Finds Her Voice: Overcoming Life’s Hurts & Using Your Story to Make a Difference by Jo Ann Fore (Leafwood Publishers) is now available in major bookstores. Jo Ann wants women to know they have a message worth sharing.  With straight talk, insightful biblical truths, and heart-aching stories of hope, Jo Ann leads women on the unparalleled adventure of finding their voices and using them to make a difference. You will be moved to share the stories you’ve been hesitant to share—those healing stories that have the power to change both your life and the lives of others.