Crowd Source Marketing

finger-769300_1280There’s an old adage in marketing that says in order to get a consumer to pull the trigger and buy something, they have to hear about the product three times. There was a time when the blueprint to accomplish that was pretty straightforward. Get reviews from newspapers or magazines and get interviewed on television or radio. Then, go make public appearances at bookstores or book fairs or local meetings, and don’t forget to keep writing.

None of those were easy to accomplish and they all took a lot of work to hit the magic three, but at least there was a path to follow that thousands of authors from decades past had taken with some success.

Times have changed. Not only have they changed, they keep changing at an ever-increasing pace.

The internet opened up the world and made it so much easier for authors to reach the public directly. That’s the good news. The flip side is there are hundreds of different ways to do it and a lot of them are really good, but may not be right for you.

So, the goal becomes finding the right tools for your genre and your personality and staying up to date about everything that’s new, while still finding time to write, and then have a life.

This is where just a little organization can funnel the hive mind of social media down to the essentials. Look for groups, particularly on Facebook, that are not only devoted to marketing books but are also in your genre. If you’re in traditional publishing, include that on your checklist. If you’re going the indie route, make sure the group is too.

A few other things to add to your checklist are:

  • The group is devoted most of the time to marketing – not selling, not writing
  • It’s invitation-only, so that it’s a safe place to share and there’s some control over the postings
  • There’s a monitor who shows trolls (people who complain or bully) the door and kicks them out of the group
  • Active members who are sharing information and are willing to answer questions – lots of questions
  • Be one of those people and share when you can – admit when you don’t know enough to add to the conversation. In other words, participate.

Some of the benefits you can reap from joining together are:

  • Doing cross-promotions with others in your genre. There’s power in numbers.
  • Getting a heads up about a new site that’s working for someone. And getting a thumbs down for a site that would only waste your time and your dollars.
  • Sharing each other’s ads or promotions on each other’s social media sites. Again, it’s that power in numbers.
  • Gaining a realistic view of how well you’re doing. It’s the equivalent of your water cooler.
  • Getting applause when things go well and getting some inspirational chitchat when they don’t.
  • Testing out new blurbs for your book or, if you’re indie, testing out new covers and getting early feedback.

Everything is easier when we work in cooperation with others and come together as a team, building on the information, adding in a post to what’s already there. That’s the definition of crowd sourcing.

Since I’ve found my own peeps I’ve been able to course correct a lot of mistakes I didn’t know I was even making and I’ve come up with a streamlined ad campaign that is even more in line with my budget. Best of all, though, I’m having a lot more fun sharing ideas and cheering on my fellow authors.

Double Booked by Two Authors

Photo/KarenAnita“Did you find your book?” I asked.

“No, but yours is on this aisle,” Anita responded.

Then the young lady standing near us asked, “What books do you need? I’m looking for one about anxiety and worry.”

“Well, I’ve got the perfect book for you,” I grinned. “I just wrote a book about the lessons I’ve learned about worry.”

Anita added, “It’s called Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul. They have several copies of it here. It’s a great read!”


The lady looked stunned as she examined the back cover of my book and my photo. “Seriously, you wrote this book?”

“Sure did,” I smiled. “And if you need a book about Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I highly recommend this one.” I pointed out Anita’s book: Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Stories, Tips, and Inspiration to Help You Move Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom.

“I sure do! I’m looking for a book to encourage my friend, whose son was killed in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago.“

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book Cover“Well, Anita’s book contains several inspiring stories about people who walked through some really difficult situations. I think it would be helpful for a person going through grief and post-traumatic stress.”

“Are you both authors? And you wrote both of these books?” Our new friend appeared confused.

“Yes, we attended a booksellers’ event here in town during the past few days. So, we decided to stop by this bookstore on our way home to see if they carried our books.”

Glancing at the two books in her hands, our new reader looked back up at us and giggled, “Well, I’d love to buy both of your books!”

“Awesome! Would you like for us to autograph your copies?” I asked.

“Yes, that would be great,” she smiled. “I still can’t believe you both really wrote these books!”

“Well, we’re finding it a little hard to believe that you were looking for books that deal with those topics.”

“I’m serious—these are exactly what I needed!” Then, she added, “This has to be a “God-thing.”

“Yes, a ‘God-thing’ for sure.” We agreed.

Photo/AnitaKarenThen, one of us suggested, “Hey, let’s take a ‘selfie’ to capture the moment.”

After I fumbled to find my cell phone in my purse, I said, “Okay, let’s strike a pose. Smile!”

After our brief photo shoot, we all embraced, recalling our unexpected encounter.

“Can we pray for you and your friend before we leave?” I offered.

“I would love that!”

“By the way, what’s your name? And what’s your friend’s name?”

“My name is Kendra. And my friend’s name is Karen.”

“Well, of course her name is Karen,” I laughed.

As Kendra walked to the register to purchase our books, we heard her telling the assistant manager about our encounter.

Anita and I waved at both of them as we turned to leave the store.

“What an awesome ending to a very productive week,” I commented to Anita.

“I told you we needed to stop by this bookstore!” Anita laughed.

Before we left the parking lot, Anita posted the photo of us with Kendra on Facebook, sharing our experience at the bookstore.

Best bookstore stop ever! Met this beautiful young lady named Kendra. She was looking for a book on anxiety and worry for herself, and another on grief for a friend who just lost a child. Talk about a God moment.

When she found out we were authors, and Karen wrote a book titled Words That Change Everything, and I wrote one called Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, she took a copy of each off the shelf. After a quick, impromptu signing, we parted ways—all of us stunned in a great way. People like Kendra are why we do this.

 Amen, Anita. This IS “why we do this.”

Tell us about one of your God-moments as an author.


Thank God for My Virtual Assistant

I made a bold decision this year: I hired a virtual assistant. Now before you think that means I’m really prime-time, know that I’ve been blogging for six years and have three books out – plus she only puts in about 10 hours per month for me. But, still, what a godsend!

If you’re wondering whether to hire a virtual assistant for yourself, let me tell you how things have worked with mine.

Virtual Assistant

What do I have her do?

Since I blog three times a week, on the other days my virtual assistant posts archived articles from my website to various social media sites. She also shares all of my posts, as well as other website links I send her, to Pinterest – a great social media site that overwhelms me because I’m not at all visual. She puts together my monthly newsletter, after I provide content, and sends it out. She moderates comments on my blog when I’m going to be out of town or I’m too busy to take care of that aspect of my website.

But virtual assistants do all kinds of things, including interacting on social media, generating newsletters, scheduling appearances and speaking events, creating promotional graphics, coordinating giveaways, mailing gifts and thank-yous, tracking site statistics, etc. What your virtual assistant does for you depends on what you need, what services they provide, and what deal you strike.

How did I find her?

I got lucky. Or, if you’d rather, blessed. I mentioned on my website that I was looking for a virtual assistant, and three people contacted me. I emailed each the job description and requested a résumé and references. I ended up with a primary candidate, interviewed her by phone, and decided it was a great match. And yes, I prayed about my decision before offering her the position.

Like it or not, becoming an author means you’re now CEO of Me, Inc. If you hire a virtual assistant, you need to seek that person in a professional manner. Get a résumé, check references, interview, and know upfront what you’re willing to pay. The virtual assistant may have a standard rate or be willing to negotiate, but you need to know if your expectations are on the same page. Choosing a virtual assistant also feels like a personal decision, because this person will at times be the face of Me, Inc., and you need to be able to trust him or her with that responsibility.

What positive results have I seen?

I have more time to write! Which is why I got into doing this to begin with. I’m also not spending time trying to figure out how to feel comfortable and be effective on Pinterest, or feeling guilty for not being there even though I want to connect with those readers. Following a death in my family, I turned the reins of my blog over to my virtual assistant and didn’t have to worry about comments being moderated and posted. Her sharing of archived posts has boosted my Facebook reach and thus my number of followers by hundreds. And I can’t prove it, but I believe my greater reach has translated into book sales – sales I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

On a personal level, she’s also been a real encouragement. I know she’s got my back, and she knows I care about her life and success as well. I haven’t met my virtual assistant (she lives several states away), but I hope to someday. Because not only do I think she deserves the small paycheck I give her each month, I’m eager to give her a hug to thank her for all she does. In the meantime, I’m thanking God for my virtual assistant.

What questions do you have about virtual assistants? And is it time for you to hire one?

Kick-start your career with anthologies

Smiling Group of ProfessionalsIf you’re new to the authoring game, here’s a way to find more readers who might be interested in your work: contribute to an anthology.

While it may not produce any income for you, the non-financial rewards are well worth your involvement. Consider the following reasons to contribute an essay, short story, or excerpt the next time you have the opportunity to participate in a project that uses the work of multiple authors:

  1. Your work load is significantly less demanding. It’s (generally) a lot easier to produce a short piece when someone else gives you the parameters for writing than when you have to do all the creative work of coming up with an idea and choosing the treatment or genre, let alone actually write the piece.
  2. You control your time commitment. Minimally, you write a piece to submit and you’re done. You don’t have to do the editing or manage the publication process, hound the other contributors to get their pieces done, or design and implement the marketing plan. If you want to help with marketing, you can decide how much of your time you want to offer; it’s not your baby alone as when you’re the sole author.
  3. Your work will be exposed to new readers when fans of the other contributors read your piece. One of the smartest things I did as a fledgling author of a cozy mystery series was to contribute a short story to a mystery anthology edited by a friend of mine. It immediately granted me access to new readers in my target audience, and thanks to my friend’s reputation, it also gave me credentials as a good writer. Either of those results alone would have been worth my contribution; combined, they were a win-win proposition that gave me a big boost as a new author.
  4. Chances are good that the other authors will be doing some marketing of their own for the anthology, which means you get more publicity than you alone could produce. Again, it’s more exposure for you in readers’ circles beyond your own fans.
  5. You have an excellent opportunity to network with other authors when your work appears with theirs in the anthology. At the launch party for my friend’s anthology, I met more than a dozen authors working in my genre in my metro area. Many of them were local icons. A few of them were nationally known authors. Some were newcomers, like me. It was a genuine pleasure to meet them all and hear their stories of career development or marketing snafus. I was honored and humbled to be included in their ranks, and that experience reminded me that as a newbie, I had much to learn and a long way to go in my own writing journey. Moral support like that is essential for a new author, and the opportunity to learn from those who are also on the road is priceless.

Have you considered contributing to an anthology?

The 15-Minute Writer: Book Marketing in Life’s Margins

woman writer

Photo by Bench Accounting via

We writers wear many hats these days. In addition to writing proposals, queries, and manuscripts, we’re expected to market and promote our books through social media, speaking, radio/television interviews, and book-related events. Whew! What’s a busy author to do?

First, don’t get too overwhelmed. No one can do everything, so take that expectation off your shoulders. Take deep breaths. Now…don’t you feel better? Let’s do our part, and leave the rest in the hands of the Author of our life stories.

Second, after you write it but before your book releases, experiment with different marketing ideas to find out what you enjoy and are good at naturally—Facebook parties? Speaking engagements? Library visits?—and concentrate on those things. The fun you experience will come through, and you’ll sell more books (and even if you don’t, you’ll have more joy. And who doesn’t want that?).

Third, pray for wisdom, discipline, and creativity. After all, God gave us the idea and the opportunity to write a book, and He cares about the people who will read the message we’re sharing.

Finally, clear a few minutes in your schedule and write “marketing” on your calendar in a small window of time. This way, you’ll do a little bit every day. (It’s like the old question, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)

To help you get started, here are a few book marketing tasks that take 15 or 20 minutes, tops (just make sure each is related in some way—via a hashtag, link, or text—to the volume you’re promoting):

  • Write a short blog post
  • Draft a newsletter for your email list
  • Brainstorm a free resource to offer your list
  • Update a social media profile to reflect your new release details
  • Write a Facebook status or Twitter update
  • Take an Instagram picture and upload it
  • Read a blog post on another author’s site and comment on it (thanks to Michele Niefert for this idea)

    A photo by Alejandro Escamilla.

    Picture by Alejandro Escamilla via

  • Rate/review a similar book you’ve read on one of the major bookseller’s sites
  • Ask friends on Facebook or Twitter to review your book for you
  • Share another author’s book, which is related in some way to yours, on a social media platform
  • Update your website or blog in some way
  • Draft a query letter to a magazine on a subject related to your book
  • Ask other bloggers to review your book (Elizabeth Evans shared this tip with me)
  • Create an image on Canva or PicMonkey with a reviewer’s blurb on it and Tweet it (a terrific idea from journalist and author Simran Sethi)
  • Write a thank-you note to a book reviewer, librarian or bookseller
  • Follow-up with a meeting planner or editor you pitched but haven’t heard back from
  • Set up an Eventbrite page for a future workshop or seminar you’ll lead on the book topic
  • Read a book marketing article on line or in The Writer, Poets and Writers or Writer’s Digest

Now it’s your turn: share in the comments. What are your favorite—or most effective—quick marketing tasks?

“I Want to Write a Book”: Five First Steps For Aspiring Writers

When folks contact me because they want to write a book, especially someone who hasn’t been writing, I’m often pessimistic. I want to be able to encourage them, but I know this:  An agent or publisher needs to see that a communicator is reaching an audience. So what’s a first-time writer to do?


Write an article. Online magazines usually have writer’s guidelines available at their sites. (Also google-able)

Pitch articles to magazines that are already reaching the audience who will read your book. If you don’t know what publications those are, ask among your friends on social media: “Moms, what blogs do you read?” “Business people, what magazines do you read?”

Your pitch to an editor—explaining what you want to write, how it will serve his/her audience, and why you’re the best person to write it—needs a hook. No editor will respond well to a pitch from you offering to write on “parenting,” but if they might be interested if your hook is, “What I Learned About Parenting During My Time in Prison.” Give your pitch a strong hook.

Having a number of articles that appear in print or online communicates to an agent or publisher that you’re reaching audiences.


Drum up speaking gigs. Ask folks you know to help you find venues where you can share the message you’re passionate about. Start by speaking for free to build your resume.

Speaking builds your audience and helps you hone your message.



Build a website. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Before you pitch one article or seek one speaking gig, build a simple site to let others know who you are and what you’re about. Include experience and endorsements to give editors, agents, organizers, and publishers confidence that you have something to say and that others want to hear it.

A website legitimizes your credibility as a communicator.


Grow your audience. Beyond building your website, be intentional about your online presence. If blogging feels manageable—and it might not!—consider blogging regularly. Guest post on other writers’ blogs. Post quotes or memes on social mediate that relate to your message. Don’t always be self-promoting, though: share relevant content, from other worthwhile sources, with your followers.

Providing valuable content builds your audience.


Attend a writer’s conference. Even if you’ve never considered it, the chance to grow in your craft and network with other writers and folks in the publishing industry will serve you well.


Bottom line: If you’re not willing to start building with one or more of these building blocks, it’s unlikely that an agent or publisher will consider the book you’re holding in your heart.

The exception, of course, is if you are: the President of the United States, the MVP of the NBA, or someone whose face has graced the cover of People magazine. If you are any of these, disregard this post. The rest of us, though, need to be hustling to build an audience.

Your future agent or publisher will thank you.

Reflect: Which one of these 5 made you balk? How willing/unwilling are you to move forward on any of these? What can you learn from your response?

How I boosted my book to 30x more people

ebookI finally bit the bullet. I boosted a post on Facebook.

For years, I’ve seen that annoying little message you get on your author page about paying to boost your posts. Because I’m cheap (and still suspicious of social media’s REAL intent, i.e. who needs to know what I buy, who I connect with, and what I like? Creepy…), I refused to give it a try. If my books can’t make it on their own merits, so be it – I’ll be content with small audiences, extremely limited financial reward, and the personal gratification that I haven’t caved to crass commercialism.

And then last month after I started getting consistent raves about my new thriller “Heaven’s Gate,” I thought, “What the heck. It’s only $20.”

Actually, it ended up being $60, since I decided if I was going to experiment, I wanted to see what a week of boosted posts could do rather than one day, which is what $20 will buy. Knowing that most buyers need to be exposed to a product seven times before they buy (do you know the Rule of Seven?), I figured one day of boosting was throwing away cash, but seven days might just convert into some sales. I can now tell you, without reservation, that $60 worth of boosting on Facebook can go a long way in giving your book exposure and building your audience, and now I can’t wait to give my other books the same treatment.

Here are the numbers from my week-long experiment:

  1. Organic reach peaked at 305 on Day 7, while paid reach was 9045. That’s 30x more people reached than my normal posting! Not only that, but thanks to my OCD tendencies, I checked one last time on Day 10 (remember I only paid for 7 days of boosting) and was happy to see a new total of 9432. The post was still being shared after my paid boosting! Score!
  2. I monitored my book’s print and ebook rankings on my amazon Author Central page (you do have one of these, right?) for the boosting’s duration. By Day 6, my ebook ranking had reached 924 in the Paranormal category after starting on Day 1 at 3366; the biggest jump was from Day 1 to Day 2, which tells me that first burst of posting made an impact that powered the rest of the week. Recalling the Rule of Seven and the impact of repeated impressions, though, I looked again on Day 18, only to find my ebook ranking better than ever at 831!
  3. As for print, my book moved from its initial 76,331 ranking to 8535 on Day 5. Clearly, somebody was paying attention.

Even knowing that rankings are a superficial measure (rankings don’t equal sale units), I decided that post boosting may not be such a bad idea for marketing after all. While the actual sales numbers are still in question, I know for a fact that more people have seen my book’s cover thanks to post boosting than would have otherwise. And that’s one step closer to buying my book.

Have you tried Facebook post boosting? What was your experience?