Monday, February 20, 2017

Night Owl Reviews: Marketing Fun With Friends

Morgan says:

Okay, okay...normally we don't promote specific sites or services and even our comments on software come with caveats. BUT, I have to let you all know about a FUN way to do some cross-promotions. Author Scavenger Hunts! As a marketing professional, I'm a pretty tough nut to crack with regards to messaging. However, this event caught my eye AND I've purchased TWO books (thus far) because of, I felt it merited some analysis. 

Night Owl Reviews' latest Scavenger Hunt

The folks at Night Owl Reviews (NOR) are currently having an author scavenger hunt. Now, before you think that you have to go running all over the inter-webs to find information, take a deep breath and relax. NOR's scavenger hunt has entrants go to the author pages on their site...and the author pages have NOR's starred reviews, back cover copy, and book BUY links to accommodate an impulse buy. They even have a handy video to tell you how the whole thing works. The more author pages you visit, the more chances you have to win prizes. In addition, if you share the link to the scavenger hunt on social media, you get even more chances to win.

Here's why this marketing promotion works:

  • 46 Authors are involved. Imagine that each of those authors has 100 friends, readers, or associates who are willing to check out the link to this scavenger hunt. That would be 4,600 potential readers who may stumble upon your book. (Well, 4500 if you subtract the 100 folks you bring to the party as one of the participating authors.) Plus, that's just author's promoting the event, NOR and NOR affiliates (like me*) are also drawing attention to the scavenger hunt. The sheer number of eyeballs (readers) who may find your books is worth the effort of signing up.
  • Readers HAVE to visit your author page. Sure, there will be some folks who race to the key word needed for an additional drawing entry. But your beautiful covers and amazing cover copy will give them pause and even entice a few to click the BUY button. (I did...TWICE...for authors and books that I didn't even know existed until I played along with the hunt.)
  • Participants promote the event. They get another entry if they re-Tweet the event Tweet...which means even more folks helping to spread the word to potential readers.

Cross-Promotions at its best:

The way this event is structured is an excellent means for cross-promotion. The beautiful thing about it is that it's NOT genre specific. Sure there are quite a few romances among the featured titles, but there are also some paranormal, fantasy, adventure, YA, and historical fiction mixed in there, too.

Now, of course, you could organize your writer friends and do something similar or you could work with a site like NOR to handle the infrastructure and logistics. And, who knows, you may just find some new readers along the way.

*Full disclosure: I write a column for NOR's e-magazine, so I am most definitely a NOR affiliate. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Holiday Hiatus....

We're on holiday hiatus... we hope that you and your families have a wonderful holiday season! 

New content will be posted in 2017 and we advise subscribing to this blog, or follow by email, so you do not miss a post. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Your Website is Your Business Office and Bookstore

Theresa and Morgan Say:  There’s a plethora of advice on how to publish and sell books. Before you bother with any of it consider if being an author is a cool hobby for you or a career path. Either choice is fine but whether you have one book or a hundred – you need a website. Even social media stars have a website. 
Here’s a truth – there are readers who will find you IF you give them something to find and a way to buy your books. The best way to do both is with a website that is your business office and bookstore. It’s all about you and your books!

Basic Web Content for PRE-Published Authors:

Home Page - This is your landing page and home base for your website. It always contains the most up-to-date information. This is where You and Your Work shines at first glance and engages the reader. ALL your digital posting and physical handouts contain this Website Address. Think of this Home Page as the Reception Area of your office-store and the first impression a customer or client has when they walk in the door. How they are greeted will flavor whether they want to step farther into your realm. If you write horror stories your readers want daggers and darkness when they arrive. Don't expect them to be happy with plush ivory couches for a cozy reading experience. Avoid anything that takes time to load like music, video, or extensive graphics.

Author Bio / About Me Page: Here is where you provide some background information about your author PERSONA. Content can include: why you write a specific genre, what inspires you, quirky facts, jobs, hobbies, astrological sign, etc. Whatever you put on this page should provide some peek at your voice / writing style. Access to this page is only through the reception area where the reader, or agent or editor, has entered and you've shaken hands, you now welcome them into your Personal Office. This is your professional BIO expanded into an engaging persona that can interact with both readers and financial backers.

Contact Page: Either as a separate web page / tab on your navigation bar or prominently displayed as a sidebar on your home page, this is to encourage people to contact you. Here is where you put your links to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. in addition to your direct email address. This is a good page for a POP UP request for them to subscribe to your newsletter or New Release Notice.

** Even if you have a full sidebar of every social media graphic, Direct Contact Email is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Professionals at every level are busy and prefer to dash off a quick email if interested in you.

Optional Page: Research Projects / My Crafts / Why it is worth your time to Check Me Out: This is sort of like a HOLDING SPOT for your future Books Page in your office-store. It is NOT recommended to advertise your books until you have something to sell or a release date. This page can be a blog where you present something engaging on a consistent basis that welcomes audience participation. An avid reader will love interacting with you so here's where your Author Persona needs professional polish. Be gracious when you respond to a reader who gushes about how your book helped them survive the hours of agony while their spouse passed a kidney stone. Give your future readers a peek at your writing, But NOT your plot. Do NOT post mock covers of your books....readers always seem to miss the fact that the book isn't published. They will head to the store only to be frustrated when they can't buy your books.

Basic Web Content for Published Authors:

Same as ABOVE: Home Page Author Bio / About Me

Contact Page for Published Authors compares to a business Conference Room and should be updated and reviewed at least once a month. Think of this page as your Most Professional Author Persona. Your Business card and Media Kit is displayed on the table in this room. Publicists, reviewers, editors, and estranged family members, can have an easy to download packet of the most fabulous you. ALSO make sure you have a DIRECT EMAIL or Contact form that works (send yourself tests through random computers once a month).

Books Page: IS Your Personal Bookstore where you have BUY links for all the outlets where your books can be purchased. Make sure the links go directly to the purchase page - you want to be able to accommodate a quick impulse buy.
This is a Store! It is a Retail Business and here your amazing book covers and blurbs are front and center. In this Bookstore you personally place your fabulous book into readers trembling hands, and you will accept a variety of payment options. It's best to plan this page so the readers can peak inside and read the beginning of your story. At the end of the excerpt, Thank them for reading and include another BUY link for them to purchase the whole book.

Don't make your readers work to find LINKS TO BUY for every Point-Of-Purchase - like the little signs on the doors and by the checkout of your favorite store, or restaurant, listing all the credit cards accepted.
For Great Examples of how to organize your books and series see our post on: Book Page Organization

News & Events: List where you are going to be for book signings, blog tours, contests, conferences, workshops, etc. Include a Calendar of where and when you will be at public events, with ALL the information for someone to find you. This includes if you are participating at a local farmers market or craft fair or any other activity that is open to the public. Always have promotional flyers about your books, even if you are not actively signing or selling.

Beyond these basics, published authors have also included:

Media Kit: Contains high-resolution images of your book covers and author photos for media use, in a variety of printable downloads and digital files. Also add the links to published articles by or about you, and interviews.

Multi-Media Page: Here is where you can post anything that requires time to spool or download like book trailers, video journals, interviews, games, etc.

Book Club Info: Reading guides for book clubs complete with questions and themed party suggestions. If you are not a Book Club type author consider a Game room or Playhouse that is interactive and where you can actively engage with your audience.

Bibliography / Library: Some authors include this page as an Easy To Print list of their books and series chronologically.

For Fans: These pages can be a catch-all for everything from character profiles to world building glossaries. JD Robb includes a story arch synopsis for the 30+ books in her In Death Series. This page also includes active BUY LINKS!

Blog Link: If you maintain a blog, promote it on your website. Pre-published authors should also link to their blogs, if they have one.
Your website is the office-store of your dream career as a Professional Author. You can have a family portrait behind your desk and a few framed diplomas on your walls. Your novels may be paranormal-historical-alien-thrillers but you write your books on equipment available in the 21st century on Mother Earth so make sure your office-store is easy to navigate.
REMEMBER: This is your virtual office-store that reflects your Professional Author Persona and Books - not the coffee shop or closet where you really work.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Author Media Kits: What the heck do I need?

Morgan says: 

In past posts we've discussed author websites, how to cultivate your author PERSONA via your website, and what your site needs to contain. In this post, we'll take a moment to do a deep dive into the contents of your author media kit.

Now...some folks would argue that this information isn't needed until after you've published your book...and isn't this something your publisher should be handling? *snort*

I would argue that developing an author media kit page for your website is a great thing to have, even if you are still pre-published. (In fact, it is something I need to add to my own website.) Having a media kit will be one more indicator that you:

  • take your writing career seriously
  • want to work with media outlets (bloggers, news, television, print, etc.)
  • are a professional
  • want to be 'easy to work with'

So...What the heck do I need to include in my media kit?

A basic media kit should include:
  • at least one high resolution author portrait (preferably a professionally produced portrait, not a blurry selfie taken with your smartphone)
  • a brief bio (content that would be used at the end of a guest blog post or article)
  • a full bio (content that might be used if you were to ever be a keynote speaker)
  • high resolution images of your book covers (if published)

Some media kits also include:
  • press releases 
  • book trailers
  • links to articles, interviews, and guest blog posts
  • upcoming events
  • brag sheet (awards won and other honors)
  • an 'about me' type interview sheet (your very own question and answer page)

If you do a little research, you'll find that many big name authors do not have media kits. Instead they have contact information for their publicist, agent, or other public relations resources. We would all hope to be on this level one day...but in the mean time, here are links to media kits on the websites of two of my favorite successful authors:

Kristina McMorris - notice that Kristina also include video clips

Where should you put this information on my website? You can make a new tab named 'Media Kit' or include this information on a combination 'Events & Media' page. Or you can include your media kit as part of your 'About Me' or 'Contact' page. 

Consider adding a media kit to your website. 
You will make a lasting impression and be perceived as an organized professional.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Critical Element - Six Years Later

The goal of marketing is to generate sales. Marketing is a process, not an app.

Regardless of all the digital tools and apps that have been developed in the six years since we presented our first workshop, the core pages on this site ARE still exactly what you need to know as the backbone of your marketing strategy. You need to develop a Persona/presence to Push your message and Pull your audience to a Point-Of-Purchase. These are critical elements to marketing before the apps and tweets.

In 2012 we made this site interactive by posting three days a week with the following topics: Myth Busting Monday, Workshop Wednesday, Finer Points Friday. It was a lot of fun and let us focus on the extra stuff we stripped out of our core pages to keep our message clean.

In 2013 we posted less for two reasons: 
  1. The analytics showed a post got more views and shares when it was the main post for a week or more. That means the quality you present in social media is more valuable that quantity. 
  2. A small press wanted us to publish our Guide & Journal so we had to create it. 
Through 2015 we consolidated those workshops from 2012 and brought them forward in a stronger message and to make them easy to locate. We also shared personal stories from authors regarding their publishing and marketing journeys.

This year has been all “Finer Points” of promotion and professionalism as that is the stage we are at today – and we’re having fun! Scroll down the right sidebar of this site to see all the topics we’ve already covered for you and the journey creating your career.

Unfortunately, all the myths we covered through these years regarding marketing advice for authors are also still relevant and being promoted to authors. Any promotions/products/promises that have a secret to success flavor with everything in one magic button, is usually a myth. It was the myths that made us mad enough to debunk them and create clear and effective marketing tools for you to generate sales of your books. No magic here, just proven tools and processes.

To quote Neal Thompson, director of Author and Publishing Relations at (from RWR, vol.36, num.8, August 2016) “Finding your readers has always been a challenge, long before this empowering new age of indie publishing. That means indie authors (and, honestly, all authors) need to get the most out of every reader-engagement tool that’s available to them.”

Yep! We totally agree! Then Mr. Thompson states that the CRITICAL ELEMENT TO FINDING READERS (our emphasis) is for authors to concentrate on Writing The Best Book Possible! To which we also agree! The Best Book. The best marketing will not generate sales for a lousy book.

September is Back-to-School month in the USA so take this month to click on the Persona, Push, Pull, POP page tabs below our banner (above) and review each of The 7 Primary Points To Stand Out From The Crowd so you can effectively use all those digital tools and apps to generate sales of your Amazing Book.

Remember, the author journey includes continuing to improve your craft. So here's some links to also review:

Morgan says: Like we've said before and we'll say it again, the best form of marketing is writing a GREAT book! And many of the best authors are perpetual learners. With these thoughts in mind, I followed Gina Fluharty's lead and enrolled in Mary Buckham's Power Plotting Workshop. This two-day class was a working session based on the book she co-wrote with Dianna Love titled:Break Into Fiction.

Marketing Children's Books - It is All About your Characters - Nov 15, 2013

Children's book authors have character based websites and promotions. Children tend to ask for books based on topics and characters. "I want to read dinosaurs" or "I want to read Angelina Ballerina" have both been uttered by any number of children around the world.

Marketing Non-Fiction Books - It's your Persona and Topic - Nov 8, 2013

Our personal opinion is there are loads of wonderful How To books for nonfiction authors to build their author platform, especially if it is a How To or Specific Topic platform. Writer's Digest Books and Magazines are chock full of decades of advice for authors to become known as being an authority on their topic. However: Memoirs are 100% the professional nonfiction writer in a specific and genuine Author Persona With a Topic.

Beware the Book Marketing Expert - Friday, August 22, 2014

One of our primary messages is an author's time is a precious commodity and not to spend it foolishly by jumping on the bandwagon of the latest promotional gimmick or hot blog.Our primary objective is to educate our fellow authors so that it's easier to discern the truth from the hype without wasting your hard earned dollars. Everything about this AM101 blog and our book is focused on how to apply basic marketing principles to design and implement a PLAN that is effective to generate sales of your novel. We focus on novelists because they have unique marketing challenges not addressed until now.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Panels Anyone? - Leveraging panels to build buzz and spread knowledge

Ok, ok... we know that many authors are introverted and prefer the safe and quiet spaces of your writing hovels to speaking in front of an audience. However, speaking at conferences is one of the best ways to build buzz about your books and author persona. Keep in mind: no one ever said you had to speak in front of an audience ALONE. Try participating in a panel.

There are two types of panels at conferences:

  1. Author panels tend to be focused on specific genres or market segments. A group of authors come together to talk about what they write and their latest releases in front of an audience. Young adult (YA), erotic romance, mystery, etc. are all examples of a common trait among authors on a panel.
  2. Subject matter expert panels can be composed of authors, industry experts, or a mix of both types of speakers. Writing steampunk, mixed martial arts fighting, FBI procedures, New Orleans traditions, getting published, are all topics that could be covered in a subject matter expert panel. It is the subject that unifies the speakers on the panel.

How do I get on an author panel?

  1. Create a panel: Writing conferences need presenters....otherwise it's just a string of parties. Most conferences put out a call for training presentation and panel proposals about a year before the date of the event. Check out the conference websites for information on how to submit a proposal. BUT FIRST round up a group of authors or subject matter experts who are willing to attend the conference (and pay all of the associated registration / conference fees).
  2. Make it known that you are open to being on a panel: How will people know you are interested in being part of a panel if you don't tell them? Tell your author friends, writing organizations, local clubs, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) followers, anyone who will listen that you are interested in speaking at conferences in a panel format.

Let's rewind to do a slightly deeper dive on creating a panel....

We've all been to great panel discussion sessions that have provided wonderful insights into a genre or specific topic. We've all also been to terrible panels where one person 'knew everything' and hogged the microphone postulating about how wonderful they are.

There is definitely an art to coordinating a panel. Here are some things to consider:
  • The personalities and professionalism of the people you approach are key. How will this person react if they disagree with another panelist? Will they be gracious and kind enough to share the stage and pass the microphone? Remember, your audience will be full of readers. You'll want to make sure that you and the panelists make a good impression and NOT spend the entire session bickering.
  • Three to five folks on the panel (including yourself) is plenty. Go too much beyond five people and it will be hard to get through the introductions, let alone have a conversation with the audience. Have less than three folks and it will feel more like a Johnny Carson styled interview. The more people you have on the panel, the less time each person will have to speak. Plus, the more people you have on the panel the more cross-marketing and promotions should occur.
  • Prepare your questions for the panel ahead of time. As the panel coordinator, you are the one who sets the tone and keeps things moving. Don't rely on the audience to provide all the questions. Prepare some questions before the day of the panel and (even better) share them with the panelists so that they can have their answers at least somewhat ready.
  • Ask the panelists to promote the panel! Everyone involved should be spreading the word about this awesome panel they'll be on at an equally awesome conference. Who knows, you each may find new readers through cross-pollination. 
  • Keep things moving! There is nothing worse than a boring panel. As the panel coordinator, you also take on the role of moderator. Which means you have to be willing to keep the discussion moving. Often audience members (readers) and some panelists (there's always one) try to take a dive down the rabbit hole and do a deep dive on some random topic that only a tiny portion of the wider audience is interested in hearing. A simple "let's continue this discussion after the panel" will suffice to move on to the next question or topic.
  • Bring your books...or at least your latest book. Have your book standing up on the table as a silent 'buy me' beacon. A tabletop plate stand or display easel is a great way to showcase your book and its cover. Remember, many people are visual and they will remember your cover better than your name.
  • Handout business cards and bookmarks. Your goal is sell more create a way for people to walk away with some means of finding your books after the panel.
Participating in an author or subject matter expert panel allows you to take the stage and share the spotlight. Yes, you will still need to talk and interact with your audience, but the burden of filling the presentation time won't be a solo effort.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Conferences and Conventions - What to do and How to Work Them

Often at conferences we see many examples of authors behaving badly. So in honor of our conference excursions, here are some Do's, Don'ts, and Be Sure To Go tips for attending conferences:

Industry Focused Conferences
An industry conference focuses on the business and craft side of the publishing industry. Only aspiring authors, published authors, editors, agents, and other industry professionals are permitted to attend.

  • DO put your best foot forward and wear professional attire that is comfortable for long days. It is better to err on the side of being too conservative than show up at an event in clothing that is too casual. You also don't want the distraction of pinched toes, rolled elastic, or scratchy fabrics. Look Good and Feel Good to present your best professional self.
  • DON'T sit in a corner or huddle with only people you already know. You are paying money to attend a conference - and publishing professionals are investing their time to meet you and learn about your projects. Try to break out of your shell and network with new people - how else are you going grow your network? If you're an introvert, stand tall beside an extrovert author friend to smile, listen and learn! 
  • BE SURE TO GO to the bar...yeah, yeah, twist your arm. All sorts of folks hang out in the hotel bar during conferences. Grab a soda, or beverage of your choice, and take a stroll around the room. Morgan typically wears steampunk jewelry - it's a great conversation starter. Therese has chatted with many agents and editors in the smoking areas but don't hang out there unless you are a smoker and understand the etiquette of that social sphere.

Reader Focused Conference
At reader focused conferences you should be fully in your author persona, but still be professional. Many of the folks who attend industry conferences also attend the reader events. Overall, the atmosphere is much more casual. Reader conferences tend to have more of a party atmosphere.

  • DO have fun with your author persona. Wear your persona specific attire and engage your audience.
  • DO take the time to reach out to bloggers. One author friend made formal appointments with bloggers who specialized in her genre before the conference. She even had little thank you gifts for them.
  • DON'T forget that you are still a professional. Do you really want to be remembered as the author who got sloppy drunk and sang "Free Bird" at the top of your lungs? No, no, triple no!
  • BE SURE TO GO to the lobby. If you have to get your word count done for the day, write in the lobby. Yes, it may be hard for you to get your words on the page, but you never know who you are going to meet. Morgan bumped into two key editors form St. Martin's Press while looking for coffee. And of course, there is always the bar....but, see the DON'T note above.  :D

Overall Essentials:

  • DO have business cards. (See our posts here, here, and here on business card content.)
  • DO have your pitch ready. And we mean both your pitch for new projects and the answer to the question "So, what do you write?".
  • DO have some books and free reads to give to readers IN YOUR AUDIENCE.
  • DON'T canvas or blanket the conference with your fliers and bookmarks...(Canvasing would be exercising the shotgun method.) Many of these items end up in the trash. Be selective on who you give your promotional materials to, know and find your audience. A promo piece handed to me personally by an engaging author will get read. The HUGE pile of promo materials in the conference bag often don't make it to the second day of the conference before hitting the recycling bin - this is because it is information overload. Our primary message here at AM101 is not to spend cash on what goes in the trash!
  • BE SURE TO GO to a variety of events or sessions and HAVE FUN! People will want to approach the person having fun. If you would rather be somewhere else, save your time and money and go there. <harsh, we know...but so true>

How To Work A Conference

What do we mean when we say "work" a conference?

There are two kinds of people who go to conferences and conventions:
1) People who are there to ATTEND the conference (attendees).
2) People who are there to WORK the conference (workers).

Each of these types of conference / convention goers is there for specific reasons. The attendee's primary objective is to learn and be entertained. The worker's primary objective is to network and make a sale. Both types are there to make connections. It is what they choose to do with these connections that differentiates an attendee from a worker.

How do you "work" a conference?

1) Choose your conferences wisely
There are loads of conferences and conventions that you can attend throughout the year. There are national, regional, and local shows that cover all aspects of the craft of writing and publishing industry. No matter how much buzz is associated with any given show, take the time to do some research before you sign up. Find out who typically attends. Is an editor from one of your target publishers going to be there? How about your top three agents? Will your favorite author be signing books or speaking on panels? Are there panels or classes that will help you with research or otherwise further your career?
2) Set Goals
Now that you've selected the conference(s) you want to attend, set some goals. The first time you go to a conference go primarily as an attendee. Make having fun your primary goal while you discover all the things a given show has to offer. At future shows, maybe set a goal to talk with at least five readers and two bloggers. Or maybe your goal is to pitch your latest manuscript to at least three of your target publishers in attendance.

3) Leave Room for Serendipity
It is easy to 'over' schedule your time. Running from panel to panel or meeting to meeting constantly can leave you exhausted. Allow time for sitting, observing, and random conversation. Everyone at the conference is a potential reader, until you know if they are or aren't in your audience. Some of the people attending will become great contacts for your writing career. You never know who you are going to sit next to or bump into.

4) Be Prepared
Have your pitch for your latest book practiced and polished. Have a quick answer ready for the question: "So, what do you write?"Mentally prepare yourself for the social interactions at the conference. Be in your author persona. Have your business cards and promotional materials ready to give to business contacts and members of your audience. If you are signing books at a book sale or fair, confirm that your books have been ordered and find out how much table space will be available for your book signing set up.

Attending conferences and conventions can be both fun and rewarding. Take the time to plan and prepare to squeeze every ounce of opportunity out of the experience.