Friday, March 29, 2013

Blogging as a Push - Pull

This card is all workshop attendees carry home. 
Since this is the 5th Friday in March, and an extra post for the month, we'd like to remind our readers that we began this AM101 site to be a handout for our workshops! 
We want to help our fellow authors and aspiring novelists gain a better perspective on the marketing dragon. It's a whole career process and a one-time conference class is not effective. The card for this site is our handout because our workshops are hands-on, interactive, and include crayons. We obviously have more advice than a 90 minute time slot and wanted to be more "green" than a paper handout packet. 
This site is FUN for us! We're thrilled that our attempts to help our friends is now gaining global attention. We're glad to help and ADORE all the new friends we've made by posting marketing advice. 
 There's tons of awesome marketing services, guides, and publicists, and we aren't that. We're the basic, the preliminary, the first step of marketing, the 101 class. This site will help you determine when you need professional services for your career - and be knowledgeable enough to spend wisely. We don't want anyone to be scammed, or spend cash on gimmicks, or waste time on a trend that's not beneficial to their career.
Now for some more advice:

To Blog or Not To Blog – that is one question few seem to ask prior to creating a blog. So let’s break this down to the basics as well, what is a blog? If you can’t answer that question the first thing to do is start reading blogs. The best example is journalism, with a variety of topics specific to you. You'll quickly notice that many bloggers are really only self promoters. There's nothing wrong with that! It's using the blog as a PUSH. A better blogging intent is to also use it as a PULL with interesting content FROM the Author Persona.

A blog requires having something interesting to say beyond a limited text block. A blog is one of the venues used to post the interesting stuff that is then shared through tiny URL links on other social networks. A blog site can easily be set up to be a free website and your primary real estate in the internet cloud.

It is a myth that you need a blog. You need books, BUY links, and a professional online presence. Good networking within niche communities and social venues is better than blogging. Here's where our advice is perched on a ledge. We like blogging. We like being able to present our message without limitations of space  or format. We like that our posts get shared. Our advice on blogging is tainted because we like it - and it's FREE.

Before you dismiss the whole blogging venue, consider some of the options and examples of how blogs can PULL & PUSH. All of these (and many more!) are in our Reader Feed so we never miss a post!
Therese has switched to The Old Reader since Google announced the demise of Google Reader. Morgan is testing the waters of where she wants to read her news. Technology is in flux, the power of stories and the venues of promotion for a good book, they don't change as fast. That's another reason we're glad we chose the 101 level of the four basic P's of marketing. Push, Pull, POP, Persona. How those basics are used still relate to the latest and oldest venues. Maybe this time next year blogs will be something else. But it's still good to understand what's current as they may be valid for a decade or more:

TOPIC SPECIFIC BLOGS: 

A Bit O’ Muslin – Sex and History. New Posts are Delivered Every 1st of the Month 
Paty Jager - Mystery Monday, Western Wednesday, Farm Friday 
Tawna Fenske - Don’t pet me I’m writing (Ribald Humor!) 
Smitten by Britain (history!)
67 Not Out - Coincidence and mysteries of life
Disability is Natural

JOURNAL STYLE BLOGS 

PROMO and VARIETY BLOGS

Maggie's Meandering
See Jane Publish
Jane Porter

We're Not Sure How to Classify Them - BLOGS...

The Passive Voice (variety of writing/publishing topics!)
The Genre-istas
The MacGregors - From UFO's to Dog Park Politics

And - experienced writers should consider when it is time to stop blogging via Jane Friedman and L.L. Barkat.

The most important thing to remember as you explore marketing, yourself as an author, is - learn the rules so you can break them with confidence.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Push, Flex, Research - Start Early


Today's Repost is from Editor Devil - the fabulous Christine M. Fairchild 

Writing teacher and author of Editor Devil Writer Guides, and the taut, action-packed romantic suspense that keeps you on edge: An Eye For Danger

More Lessons from Indie Publishing

Since this is my birthday week (Wed, FEB 6 is my bday), I decided to share what I've learned in the last year since publishing four books as an indie author.

1) Getting READY to be published definitely took a village.
I couldn't be where I am without my husband, who's supporting us financially, and my critique group partners, who helped whip my books into shape and whipped me when I got out of line (just kidding) and wanted to quit the book because I was sick of editing.

The big lesson here was about the psychology of burn-out. Sometimes for authors, this problem manifests as writer's block, sometimes illness, sometimes disgust for one's own work. Basically, you lose rational perspective. This is when friends/family/critique partners are very important in helping you see more clearly. Listen to them and don't give up!

I burned out hard on An Eye For Danger near the last edit rounds, but my village pushed me through. Including my readers at Wattpad, who with every chapter were sending me emails demanding more more more. So don't underestimate the power of having fans. Whoa, that pulled on my heart strings. I couldn't give up at that point, because I hadn't the heart to let them down.

TIP: A big helper was that I created my book cover early, so that made the book feel like more than words hidden in a file on my computer. Making your book real, via announcements and fans, makes you work much harder to reach the finish line!

2) Having no marketing budget makes you very resourceful.
Granted, my husband is carrying our bills so I can launch my author career. But my marketing budget still had to come of my own sales. So there's the chicken and the egg dilemma. How to make sales so you can advertise to make more sales?

My choice was to enter the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program so I could manipulate exposure of my book via the 5 free days. There are so many sites that will promo your book if it's free on Kindle, that the free advertising was indisputably a leg up. My first run scored 12,000 downloads. Yes, free, but the resulting book reviews by readers and the sales bump for the next week were both worth the sting to my ego. 

In a six-week period I used up my free days (2 days, then another 3-day run at the end of Oct) and garnered about $1,100 in resulting sales. AND my second free run was a complete disaster, because Amazon's ranking system failed and I didn't get picked up by the major announcement sites (Pixel of Ink and eReader News Today).

But I'm still proud of all the free blogs and promos I did because I made new connections and found new authors and learned new lessons. Very worthwhile to have to forage that hard for exposure!

TIP: Get a blog or web site going via a free tool, like Blogger or Wordpress. But be clear how much time you have to spend on these and what you want to say. I like to give away information and teach, so a short blog is perfect for my personality and time constraints.

3) Staying flexible matters, but the definition may surprise you.
Editing is critical, especially when you're dyslexic. There is no end to the amount of editing I can do on a book. That's partly my problem: I over edit material. Worse, I introduce new errors due to my dyslexia. So staying fluid about updating my book regularly was important. There are still changes I want to make to the current version, and no one can tell me "no" because I own the process. And the book improves every time I clear up more issues.

And then there is my husband, who is the voice of reason. My goal should be to finish writing book 2, not still fidgeting with book 1, he says. Why does that man have to be right so often?

So... flexibility sometimes means NOT acting on your impulses. Hence, I have edits waiting till my other goals are met for the month. Since I was out of the office nearly four whole months due to family issues and personal illness, let's just say I was VERY behind in reaching goals. Again, staying flexible according to what's important matters. The health of your loved ones (and yourself) is more critical than any book!!!

TIP: Get a life coach, editor or a good friend to talk publishing "goals" with you at least once per quarter. I'm easily distracted, so having someone remind me of my life-centered goals kept me on track. Of course, I can't get everything done. But did I get done the things that make me happiest? YES!

4) Starting early with networking and research gives you an advantage.
Sure, I had a website and a blog site and Twitter account and Facebook page...all those are important to have BEFORE you go to market. But I also joined several writing and marketing groups via Yahoo Groups before I entered the game, and thank God for that! I learned so much from folks who were "several hamburgers ahead of me in this restaurant" so I was able to anticipate and make decisions more quickly.

An important aspect to networking is discovering which book sites, reviewers (I wish I'd paid more attention to these sooner!), and bloggers you want to leverage once your book hits the shelves. Let's just say that when I come out with book 2, I'll definitely put my interview and review requests into the right sites sooner! Like before the book is published!

Another example of learning from others: I've been reading posts from authors who've used BookBub, a service that announces books to a mailing list of dedicated readers. Their experience and sales numbers are impressive. So I saved up $360 and bought my own spot (comes out Feb 21st), because I put my book, An Eye For Danger (http://amzn.com/B008QPZ8O4), on a $0.99 special for my birthday month. Best part, I could rationalize this to my husband by pointing to the testimonies of other authors.

TIP: Get on Goodreads early. These readers are tough on books, but if you win them over, you get great reviews and they pass on the word. And set up a promo schedule FAR in advance if you want to use eReader News Today or Pixel of Ink or BookBub services. These are the best, but they are booked! So "last minute" promos don't fly well with them, and having them on your side can mean hundreds of dollars in profits! Not having them can mean a flailing promo, which can discourage your future efforts. Nothing ruins a book career faster than discouragement!

I hope these lessons help you move forward in your own publishing journey, whether you go indie or traditional! And remember, life is not a vacuum--we need each other. So pass on what you learn to others :)

Yours truly,
The Editor Devil 





    



Friday, March 15, 2013

Workshop # 9 - Creating a Newsletter

We touched on the topic of newsletters at the end of our Friday, 01 March 2013 post: Push Marketing - Make it Seamless.  As much as we all love to talk about social media and blogs, there are some readers who still get a warm fuzzy from a newsletter popping into their email inbox.    Collecting a list of reader email addresses and sending them the occassional note or newsletter is a tried and true PUSH marketing method.

Never created a newsletter? No worries, here's one method to create your own...

In the example below, I'm using MS Word 2010 on Windows XP.  Newsletter templates are standard in MS Word.  Simply open Word and select "New" from the "File" menu, then select the "Newsletter" option from the available templates.


A variety of Themes are available for your newsletter.  Select the theme that best suits your PERSONA and writing.  Since I write futuristic, urban fantasy, and my blog is music focused, I chose the "Edgy Smudge" design because it has an urban feel.  (Note: be sure to have your computer connected to the internet, so that a wider selection of designs are available for your use.)


Double click on your desired theme / layout and the base document will load into an active Word document.  Use your mouse to select specific elements if you want to change the colors or font sizes.


Upload pictures and text, as needed.  Remember, you are creating a newsletter to communicate to your readers. Here are a few design and content suggestions:

  • The first thing your readers should see is the cover of your latest book.  Be sure to mention that 'buy' links can be found on your website.
  • Make your web address prominent - remember, your website should be your home base for communications.
  • Include the location of any appearances, book signings, workshop you will teach, etc.
  • Make sure your content is aligned with your PERSONA, website, blog, marketing collateral, etc.
  • Pay it forward: sometimes readers like to know which books you are reading and what music you listen to while writing.  Why not help out another artist or author by mentioning their work?
  • Pictures are a good thing!  Relevant pictures are even better.



KEY STEP: Once you are finished writing your newsletter, print it to a PDF file for emailing.  PDFs are much smaller file sizes than Word documents, especially if your newsletter contains pictures.  By having a small file size, your email is less likely to bounce back as 'undeliverable due to file size.' 


How do you print to a PDF?  The version of MS Word that I use includes PDF Complete as one of the printer options.  By selecting PDF Complete as my printer, my document will print to a PDF file instead of to a paper output printer.  You can also use the Adobe software suite or packages like CutePDF Writer.



How often should you send out a newsletter?  Quarterly seems to be the common practice, but the real answer is: Send out a NEWSletter when you have some new NEWS to communicate to your readres.

If you have collected a reader email list, consider PUSHing book launch, book signings, or any other events / adventures via a newsletter.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Covers are still the First Push

How are you going to attract readers - like the flower has to attract the bee to the pollen.

RePost from The Passive Voice 14 December 2012 


Cover Copy Primer 

From author and regular visitor J.M. Ney-Grimm:

I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. I’m going to don my reader cap for a moment.
How do I choose my reading material?
When I’m lucky, a friend recommends something that’s right, but my voracity has exhausted most of my friends’ reading lists. (Grin!) More often, I must browse the shelf of new books at the library, check what my favorite authors are reading (because I’ve read all their stories), or fish among Amazon’s recommendations (which are still very hit-or-miss for me).
All these methods, however, eventually confront me face-to-face with a book cover (I’ve blogged about cover design here) and cover copy. Sometimes cover copy might more properly be called web copy, but it’s the same stuff. That cover copy – even on the tail of a friend’s recommendation – must get me to either buy the book outright or flip to the first page of the story. (Which must then make the sale, but story openings are another blog post!)
How does the cover copy do its job? It has an underlying structure. Let’s examine it.
. . . .
Several months ago I blogged about the two most essential elements of cover copy: theme (not plot) and active verbs. If you missed that post, you’ll find it here. But what about the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts of writing such copy? Theme and active verbs are necessary, but not sufficient for the job. What about the rest?
. . . .
What is the theme of the story, and what are the repercussions of this central idea?
This is the big reason a reader wants to read! Is the story about star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, catching a dream, or what? Spell it out, but don’t descend into your plot. Stay with the big ideas; avoid the finicky details.
. . . .
What is the initial conflict?
Again, do not list plot details. What is the heart or essence of this conflict? Focusing on theme helps you avoid spoilers. You want to give a sense of the story without revealing elements best encountered within it.
. . . .
What is the hook?
A hook is something that provokes tension in the reader, often a question. Such as: how can he convince her, when she won’t even talk to him? Will her gift for improv poetry be enough to catch the god’s eye? Can he run fast enough, leap high enough, drink deep enough to surmount the walls of Olympus?
Link to the rest at J.M. Ney-Grimm
Here's some more links from us and our friends around the websphere:

Never Judge a Book by It's Cover - Just Click on It

Surrender - Deborah Cooke: working through the dilemma of new covers for her backlist novels, and only recently figured out how to use her sidebars as point of purchase links. She also shares her knitting projects!

And some size details from ebookbuilders - E-Book Covers - Does Yours Meet the New "Industry" Standards?

Why Indie Authors Must Have A Top-Notch-Cover and 5 Steps To Getting There - From Wise Ink


Friday, March 1, 2013

Push Marketing - Make It Seamless

The catch phrase for authors a few years ago was to Market themselves in Shameless Self-Promotion to increase sales. Not surprisingly, authors balked at such antics, tucked tighter into their writing holes and cursed the Shame of Marketing. And the myths grew like double headed dragons.

PUSH Marketing is Promoting your books through your Persona, to specific target audiences - with a purpose. You PUSH (share-inform-advertise) your release date, your cover, your appearances, your contests.

A good PUSH is another PULL to your Persona and Books. This process is seamless and the basis of marketing. Invest your time and energy into a dynamic plan instead of tossing cash into gimmicks.
Morgan says: There are two ways you can execute PUSH marketing: 1) Utilize a well thought out, targeted, and precise plan or 2) Blast your promotions to as many warm bodies as possible.  Another way to think of it is to compare the art of George Seurat to Jackson Pollock.  Seurat was a pointillist who used tiny brushes to apply even tinier dots of paint to his canvases. Up close, his paintings look like a collection of dots of random colors.  Stepping back from the canvas reveals a painting filled with vibrant colors and contrasting shadows for distinct figures.  Jackson Pollock was a drip painter who used sticks and brushes to wildly splash and drip paint onto his canvases.  Both methods produce A painting....but one method produces a clearer picture.  As an author (or small business owner), taking the time to plan and focus your efforts will produce a much clearer message for your target audience.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Pierre Seurat, a superb example of French Post-Impressionist pointillism!
 
Autumn Rhythm by Jacson Pollock, fun & energetic, abrastract expressionist, drip painting.


Focus on connections with READERS and their desire to be entertained and informed about a topic. Writers may be readers but not all readers are writers!
Therese says: For example: You are a fan of motocross but your Author Persona writes historical fiction. The only way a dirt bike will show up in your stories is with a time travel element. However, because you are part of the motocross community you know there’s plenty of time to read a book between events at the track, especially when your reader is a bystander, or part of the crew. This is your broader audience who will buy your book to read because you are part of that community.
It is common for readers to choose their books because they like the author, or a friend recommends it, so being part of a social media community gives you the chance to be both online, instead of in the path of exhaust or mud.

Social Media Tools are FREE so go wherever the FUN is for you. Where you want to be is where you will find readers while being the genuine you. Gaming, Tweeting, interacting on sites like FaceBook, GoodReads, and many more, are current tools of the PUSH process. Finding more focused communities and niche markets are even better! 
Morgan says: This is where authors stumble and find the social media process daunting or a waste of time that would be better served writing another book. Often they enter a social sphere with a new account and unique password but without a Persona or a purpose, or they didn't set it up with a direct website link. OR {the biggest waste of time} they jumped into the latest new social fad for a flurry of promoting then avoided it forever after. It is SO important that you select a medium that you like and will CONSISTENTLY use.  Remember, your goal is to become an accepted member of whatever social media community you choose to join....repost links, reTweet, pay-it-forward...{here's what most authors miss} Social media communities are based on a give and a take.  If you post infrequently and all of your posts are 'buy my book', I guarantee you will be ignored.
PUSH information to your readers to inform them of your latest release; appearances, contests, free reads, etc., via Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads, or whatever social media tool you like. There's no way to know where the new buzz will be. Maybe it's your knitting network that's all abuzz over your book. Those knitters probably love audio books, and then buzz about your books into networks that could be global.
Therese says: Each time your name appears in any social media sphere you are opening a gateway to your Author Persona Experience. To make Social Media Tools work for you, you cannot be a stagnant profile with information that includes a book. You must be willing to engage in the experience of the community within that chosen social sphere. You want to be in that community, engaged socially in a way that enhances and encourages Your Experience as your Author Persona. This is how it circles back. You're having an Experience within that Social Media Community that engages You. That enthusiasm will generate interest in You and PULL readers to the Experience you've created at your website.
One of the most practical PUSH methods, at the moment, is a Quarterly email newsletter that Readers have Requested to Receive. The best place to request a reader sign up for your quarterly NewsLetter is through a  sincere plea for readers to sign up for your NewsLetter - with the link listed in full text - in the Author Bio, at the end of your book. The only drawback for this method is your audience has to first read, and love, your book. That's why all the above methods are suggested to get those initial readers.

You are missing the bulk of your audience if you only connect with writers.

What does your Persona do when not writing?
What do you do?
Find your readers there.