The Magic of Collaborative Marketing for Writers

Zig Ziglar Motivational Quotes“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar, the ultimate motivator, knew that when we authentically and unselfishly support other people, great things happen. I’ve experienced the truth of this principle many times in my life, but especially recently, when I joined forces with two other WordServe authors.

Karen Jordan, Kathryn Graves, and myself decided to collaborate on writing a non-fiction book for women. By doing so, we discovered some surprising side benefits. We’ve found the magic of the collaborative process for writers improves marketing, increases our income potential, and adds a fun element to the author’s journey.

The pressures seems lighter, because we’re in it together.

Untangled A Women's ConfereneceOne of our most exciting accomplishments came from developing a women’s conference based on our book’s title and message. We outlined options for a one-day conference as well as a two-day event. We came up with a suggested ticket price and estimated income from the event based on a variety of attendance number ranges. We brainstormed ideas for other creative ways to support the Untangled Women’s Conference. And we reviewed different expense scenarios, weighing convenience against cost.

Then we formalized our thoughts.Untangled A Women's Conference

We created an Event Planner’s Kit to make it easier for churches and organizations to host Untangled. (I found it much more efficient and thorough to generate resources as a team versus what I might accomplish on my own.) We created a marketing flyer, and put it on our speaking tables at events, mentioned it in passing conversations, and posted it on social media. One of the most important actions we took was praying for and with each other.

We didn’t wait long before seeing results.

The response amazed us. Within a week, we had a conference scheduled and on the calendar in one state, while two other states began serious talks with us. Within three weeks, we had sent out four more conference kits to other states by request. Because of our collaborative marketing efforts, this coming fall/winter/spring should fill up fast with paid speaking gigs and greater book sales.

As we traverse this new world of collaborative marketing, we are learning many things. But the truth of Zig’s words is already evident — by helping each other through the collaborative process, we are all winning. This is what we can tell you so far:

8 Reasons the Magic of Collaborative Marketing for Writers Works:Collaboration Works

  • You build off of each other’s ideas — growing creative efforts.
  • You share the expenses, reducing costs for each individual.
  • You expand the message reach further than one individual can accomplish on their own.
  • Your mind moves from thinking of your efforts as self-promotion, to that of helping your fellow writer(s).
  • You enrich the lives of readers, event planners, and audiences by offering them a diverse experience through multiple voices.
  • You sell more books as an author by increasing your opportunities to speak and participate in other cooperative public events.
  • You feel more courageous to step out and try new things.
  • You have people to support and celebrate with, who really understand the emotional highs and lows of writing and marketing.

Have you collaborated with other WordServe authors? If so, what did you do, and how did it affect your book sales as well as your morale? Would you be interested in brainstorming and collaborating together?

20 Reasons Books Don’t Sell (Part 2)

stock-624712_640You can catch part one from Monday here on the Watercooler. Feeling discouraged yet? You’re not the only one trying to make a go of it in publishing and it’s a tough business, but my post isn’t over yet, and I hope you’ll find some room to breathe by the end of this post. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

10:The book is poorly written. You didn’t get a good edit. This is more common with independently-published authors who don’t pay for developmental or copy edits, but not unheard of in traditional publishing.

11: All we hear is crickets. The book never got word of mouth or enough great reviews (50+). There is no tangible buzz about you as an author or the book. Like a movie that no one talks about will sink after week two, the same is nearly true with books. Most books can sell 3,000 to 5,000 copies with little buzz. But if a book has sold more than 10,000 copies, it’s because people are talking.

12: Publisher oversight. The ebook didn’t release simultaneously—and in effect the marketing and PR upon the book’s initial release went to naught – without the e-product available “on the shelves” during the launch. Years ago, one marketing director I was dealing with didn’t know Facebook could be used to promote a book (luckily his PR person did). While gross incompetence is rare, mistakes happen out of the control of the author or agent.

13: A book was written and it should have been an article. We’ve all read books that were all but over after chapter 4. The story was predictable or the points over-used. Yes, there is nothing new under the sun, but try to make sure you’re conveying content that you can’t get in a few blogs.

14: One careless word. The book had a swear word in it so Lifeway wouldn’t carry it. This happens a fair amount of times because authors insist that profanity makes it more “real” (which it might) and they’d rather sacrifice sales than not be real. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you?” If you want to play in certain sandboxes, you have to play by the sandbox’s rules. Sorry.

15: Setting and storyline. If it’s fiction, having a setting outside of America, England or Ireland. “Because I love Russia (or Africa or Thailand)” just plain rarely sells well in America. Or having a storyline that is not entertaining—and very hard—to read (i.e. child abuse, sexual abuse, deaths of key characters).

16: Changing reading habits. People don’t read as much as they used to. Or if they do, it’s blogs and articles that are free on the web. More true with nonfiction readers. The attention span of today’s internet-soaked reader has shortened radically.

17: Cheap buyers. People are waiting around for the free or cheap ebook that comes out a year later instead of spending $10 to $20 on a new book they know they will get eventually and pay less (or nothing) for. Also, the proliferation of self-pub’d books that have a lower price tag has put a dent in a traditional author’s sales.

18: Life happened. Something happened in the author’s life so that all of their well-laid plans to launch and promote their book flew out the window. Or it happened to the in-house PR person’s life. Or the outside PR person’s life. Or the agent’s life. Or their famous author friends’ lives. “Life happens” all the time, and I’ve seen more than a few books sink because cancer or a death occurred in the family of some key person trying to make the book a success.

19: Book retail has gone bye-bye. If you’re a Christian writer, the lack of stores to sell into can certainly be one place to put the blame. When I first started as an agent 21 years ago, there were 6,500 Christian bookstores. Now there are about 1,000. So . . . “no one walks into Christian bookstores anymore” is fairly true.

20: The industry. Frankly, publishing is hard. Every publishing house is working harder for less money. Every editor, marketing and PR person, sales person . . . is overloaded with work because margins are thin. If there is a “new normal” that will get us back to center in publishing, it hasn’t happened yet.

These 20 reasons, and likely a few others, would all not count a twit if people could just find out about the new books they want to read. Agents and editors are still finding great stories, fabulous writers and motivated publishers. The problem? Creating awareness for these great books! Retail continues to shrink, magazines are all but gone, and with over 100,000 new bloggers (on WordPress alone) starting blogs every day, it’s only a matter of time before most of us are tuning out all of the content coming into our inbox (if we haven’t already). How will people start finding out about all of these good books?

The newest and biggest elephant in the publishing room is this:  How, with the demise of print media and bookstores, do we find and target regular book-buying readers who are interested in a particular genre and book topic?

Faithhappenings.com was created to help answer this question. FaithHappenings offers the following unique benefits to authors, publishers and reader-consumers:

  • When a member checks specific boxes on their preferences, it will send readers an email when a new book comes out in any genre they enjoy and buy.
  • FaithHappenings also lists music and videos, independently published books and music, local events of every type, scripture, blogs, devotionals and much more… and all a member has to do is check a box to find out about them. It only takes three minutes to fill out a profile, and it is free to do so.

Check out www.faithhappenings.com. There are 454 local websites that carry local and national info, with a big emphasis on books!

The Shocking Marketing Surprises I Learned After My Book’s Release

A little more than a year ago my first book was published.

In the years before it was released, I made a persistent effort to build my platform.

For instance, nine or ten years ago, I started building a social media platform, first on Facebook, and then on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram.

For about six or seven years, I have been consistently blogging. I have been grateful to be featured as a guest blogger on many sites. Still, I did not fully understand the extent of marketing I would be doing once my book released.

The not knowing was painful at times.

Hopefully this post will give you some of the information I wish I had known ahead of time.

Here are the five biggest marketing surprises, good and bad, I learned after my book released.

wow big sale1. You won’t just market for a month or two, or three, or six.

I didn’t realize I would be expected to market for years. In fact, I think as long as you have a book being sold, you don’t ever get to stop.

2. Most of the time you won’t have any idea how well your book is selling.

I assumed publishers would send reports every month or every six months. That didn’t happen. At least not for me. I guess it’s difficult to determine the exact number of sales, partly because bookstores may order a few dozen copies but then send them back at a later date. I did receive a statement 12 or 13 months after my book released but it’s still not an accurate representation. By the time a statement is compiled and mailed out, more books likely sold. Without knowing how book sales are going, you have to market anyway.

3. You will market 101 ways and you won’t have any idea which marketing ideas will be most beneficial.

You’ll do contests, hold signings, and have book launch parties. You’ll do giveaways and attend conferences. You’ll have write-ups in college alumni newsletters, you’ll give hundreds of books away to potential endorsers and media types. You’ll speak to groups, and give radio and TV interviews, all the while hoping for sales.

amaz1

Here are two of my biggest marketing surprises:

*My pastor gave a sermon on Mother’s Day and mentioned my book. I sold about a 100 books. People rushed into the foyer after church to buy multiple copies for aunts, grandmas, sisters, girlfriends, and moms.

*Ann Voskamp mentioned my book on her list of links one Saturday morning. My book sky-rocketed on Amazon. It was fun to watch the numbers for a day.

Amaz

4. Your publisher is likely to give you books in order to help you market.

When I signed my contract, my agent negotiated a certain number of free books I would receive in addition to my advance. However, I have been surprised with the generosity of my publisher. Several times I’ve headed to conferences and my publisher has given me books to give to the attendees. Also, Goodreads has a program where authors can participate in giveaways within the first six months of a book’s release. My publisher alloted quite a few books for these giveaways.

5. The things that make you the most happy won’t be the sales but the people you touch.

It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I am humbled each time someone sends a thankful email or posts a review on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. This week I received a letter from someone who said my book encouraged her to go back to school to earn a graduate degree in Christian counseling.

If you’ve marketed a book, what surprised you the most after it released?

Beyond Boring Bookmarks

bookmarksThere’s no way around it anymore. A writer has to market. You can flail your arms and scream like a little girl all you want, but other than scoring yourself some raised eyebrows or possibly a straitjacket, you will need to market your writing. Allow me to teach you the three most important words I taught my children. No, it’s not “please” and “thank you”…it’s “Get over it!”

Now that we’re past the lecture, let’s move on with some ideas to get your book out there that don’t involve the standard lukewarm fare of Twitter and Facebook. Not that I have anything against social media, mind you. It’s just that all the authorly Who’s from Whoville are already there, shouting their little lungs out.

Create a “Night Out” Event

This is a great way to cross-promote local businesses and your book. Look for small restaurants, clothing stores, kitchen gadget shops, whatever you can possibly tie into your book. Approach them with an idea to have a Women’s Night Out or Man Cave Night wherein you’ll offer to do a reading, or demonstration, or if you’re really confident, to be the chump in a rousing round of Stump the Chump for cheap little prizes.

Meet-Up Groups

Locate some meet-up groups in your area that might be interested in your book. Does your story have a sweet little dog as a character? Find a dog walking group. In my recent release, A HEART DECEIVED, I talk about the cook’s fantastic marmalade, so I’d go for a cooking group. Offer to speak to those groups for free (with a handy dandy book table at the back for afterwards). Need help finding a group? Meetup is the place for you.

Direct Marketing

Unless you live in Podunksville, USA, you’ve probably got a local company that ships products directly to customers. Ask if you can place postcards advertising your book in with their shipments. Obviously, if your novel is a romance, you probably don’t want a card going out with an order of hedgehog vitamins (not even kidding…check this out). Make it related in some way.

Sales Parties

Yes, Tupperware ladies are still around, but they’re not the only ones who do in-home parties. Pitch an offer to some reps to come along to one of their shows and do a short reading as an icebreaker. Sales people frequently love opening a conversation with potential buyers by talking about a novel instead of trying to do an immediate hard sell. It gets your name out there, and more importantly, gets people talking about your book.

BOGOMy latest scheme involves offering a BOGO (Buy One Get One) for my recent release. Since my book is set in England, I used the Keep Calm-o-Matic site to create my own poster. For one weekend, July 12-14, I’m offering to mail a signed copy to anyone who can show me a receipt for a book they’ve purchased. Details here.

Remember: the goal of promoting your work is to entice people to buy. Whapping them upside the head with BUY ME, BUY ME not only isn’t going to work, it’s going to annoy potential buyers to swerve way around your train wreck of a marketing ploy.

After all, one can own only so many bookmarks before the recycle bin is filled to the brim.

Marketing Beyond Social Media and the Internet

We know how powerful social media and the internet can be in marketing and building our author platform. But have you been overlooking your own back yard?

Backyard

With the launch of my new book, Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned WayI embarked on  traditional on-line marketing with guest posting, blog tour, and special bonus gifts for those who purchased the book.

But I’ve had the most sales from my home town. I asked our local pharmacy and grocery store to sell copies of my book. They agreed and I’ve sold out at both locations. I made sure to let the owners know I’d be announcing on my social media pages that copies would be available there. (It needs to be a win for both parties)

We have a local movie theatre that is in the homestretch of fundraising for a new digital projector so they can stay in business. The owner is running an ad for my book in the previews before every movie and selling copies with part of the proceeds going to their digital fund.

I’m teaching two classes for the community. The first was a bread class where I showed how to make the artisan bread and thin crust pizza dough. The second is a jelly making class (all from my book). I sold out of books at the first class with more ordered.

Social media is great, but don’t forget about local. Think of places in your home town where people go frequently.

Tips for making businesses say yes to your book:

1. Make an appointment ahead of time with the owner or manager to discuss putting your book in their store. Remember they’re busy and show up on time. Think of this like a job interview.

2. Think of ways their business will benefit from having your book.

3. Don’t expect them to just let you sell your book without giving it to them at a discount so they make money off the sale too. Be sure you know what your bottom line price per book is so you both make a profit.

4. Bring a large amount of copies with you, but ask them how many they’d prefer to start with on their store floor.

5. Keep a file at home noting how many books are at each place. Check in on a regular basis to see if they need to be re-stocked. Make sure they also have your contact info. One of the store’s employees called me to let me know they’d sold out and needed more books.

What ways have you marketed your book in your home town? Are there businesses you could tie the content and theme of your book to beyond bookstores?

Does Free Really Help Sell Books?

As I’ve been working on the launch of my new book, I’m struggling with how much to give away for free. I’ve read conflicting reports on offering your book without cost.

Some say you’ll gain so much word of mouth that we all should do it. Others say you devalue your content and make those who have paid for it feel cheated.

What is an author to do?Melissa K. Norris new book Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way

My new book, Pioneering Today: Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way, launches today.

I decided to give something away for free and a bonus gift. But I put a time limit on it. If I know I’ve got a limited time frame it makes me get to it first. I’m thinking I can’t be the only one who thinks this way.

I’m offering up my first chapter for free. Now that’s nothing new, you say. Authors do this all over the place.

But not all authors use this great free application called “Pay with a Tweet.” In order to read my first chapter, people can choose to pay with a Tweet or Facebook share. It represents word of mouth marketing for me and also gives the reader something for free. Want to see it in action? Go to my book page here. 

That’s not my only freebie. For every reader who purchases my book on Amazon and forwards me the copy of their proof of purchase, email, and mailing address, I’m going to mail them a secret recipe and the link to a full length bonus chapter, but only through October 31, 2012.

I’m hoping this will help people to purchase now, before it falls onto their to-do-list and is forgotten. I also feel that these items provide real value and content to the readers of my book.

Because that’s what great marketing boils down to. The reader asking what’s in it for me?

Have you ever bought something from an author because you enjoyed their free content? Do you think free is better or do you believe you get what you pay for? Have you seen a jump in sales from giving away free copies?

Profits from Back-of-the-Room Sales

Let’s be honest, most work-horse writers cannot make a living by advances alone. However, if you combine writing with speaking and profitable back-of-the-room sales, look out! Writing, speaking and book/product sales is a true triple whammy, each avenue supporting the other. Each leg of this career stool brought in roughly one-third of my income.  Here are some ideas for a money-making book table.

Bundle or Bag ‘Em

Bundle items into gift bags. For example, I would put my humor books for moms in clear gift bags with a pretty sheet of tissue paper and call it “Laughter Rx for Moms.” I created another bag I called “Smiles for the Stressed-Out Soul” that included my books on slowing down and thriving. People want to give their friends some tangible love, so selling your books in gift bag form makes them instantly ready to share.

Something for the Kids

I wrote four books for young kids (Gabe & Critters)  and five “first chapter” books for ages 7-11 (Camp Wanna Banana). Moms and grandmas love to buy something for children. I found darling finger puppets, cute plastic “bookworms,” and small plush spider monkeys that tied in with the books’ themes. The eye appeal of colorful items surrounding the books proved irresistible. It took time to find items that were lightweight, small, fun, sturdy, and profitable. But when I did, books flew off the children’s section of my table.

Offer a Bargain

In what I now view as a great business opportunity, two of my books went out of print. I negotiated to buy a literal truckload of them for 72 cents each. I bought 10,000 books and filled up an empty guest room, wondering what in the world I had done. However, I sold every book by offering them “2 for $5.00” to retreat attendees. A profit for me, and a great deal for them. The event planner put a coupon in the retreat bags for this “special bargain,” ensuring a rush to the book table.

High Profit Items

I quickly discovered that women wanted to take my “retreat talks” home or share  with a friend. So I had audio CDs made of my talks and called them “Girlfriend Getaway.” I sold four talks for $15.00. My investment in the CDs (including case) was only $3.00 each. Many speakers create their own workbooks or study guides to go with their books and make a nice profit.

Mention in Your Talk

I am turned off by speakers who hawk their books like an infomercial. I’ve found it much more natural to say, “In my book, Worms in My Tea, I told a story about a time when …”, then simply tell the story.  People would always show up at the table asking for the book that contained the story I told.

The More Books, Higher Profit

The greater the variety of books you have on your table, the higher the profit; however, you don’t have to author all the books you sell. If you refer to books by other authors in your speeches, negotiate with a publisher to buy them in bulk at a good discount and sell them on your table. Or sell other product-tie-ins. If you wrote a cookbook, you might sell adorable aprons. If you teach writing classes, you might offer pens and blank journals that have fun literary themes.

Information Sheet for Event Planner

In a packet of information that I would mail ahead or email to the event planner, I included a Book Description Sheet. It had the picture and title of each book with a one or two sentence description below it. This would help volunteers get quickly familiar with the products. Always ask for at least two volunteers to help with the book table, giving them free books as a thank you. After you speak, women will want to chat and have you sign books, so having others take care of the money exchange is essential.

Bookmarks

Create a cute bookmark to be tucked into the books you sell on your table with information leading to your website, other books, etc.

Signs & Set Ups

I typically only put about ten copies of each book on the book table at a time, re-filling it from a box under the table as they sold. Make clear concise signs to prop up on your table that clearly show the price of your books. Go for visual clarity rather than cuteness. And be sure to take credit cards; it greatly increases sales.

I hope these tips prove helpful to you and increase your profits as you speak and write. Feel free to ask me any questions.

What advice do you have for other authors to help sell their books?

 

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