Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why Do I Need an Online Presence?

At least once a week, I speak with a new author who tells me "I don't really use a computer. I don't see the need for a (fill in the blank) web site, Facebook/MySpace page, blog, etc."

Ten years ago, it probably didn't matter if an author had an online presence. That certainly isn't the case anymore. Think about the number of books sold on Amazon.com, BN.com or Borders.com, and you'll quickly realize that if you are an author, you should definitely have some kind of online presence.

What kind of online presence do you have now? To find out, just Google your name, or the name of your book. If you only have 2-3 pages of search results which pertain to you or your book (or worse yet, none at all) you don't have enough of an online presence.

Your name is your brand. It is the thing that readers look for when readers want more information about an author or their books. If your name or the name of your book isn't the first thing that appears in the search results when you Google them, you've got some work to do.

So how do you build an online presence? Fortunately, the fixes are simple, and in many cases, free.

1. Get a web site. As an author, this should probably be one of the first things you get to build your online presence. It doesn't have to be a huge web site with a bunch of bells and whistles, as long as what you have looks professional. At a minimum, it should have an author biography, information about the author's books, a way of contacting the author, a schedule of author appearances and a way of purchasing the books. If you can't build your own web site, you can hire someone to build one for you, and it doesn't have to be expensive.

2. Get a Facebook/MySpace page. This is a fast, free and simple way of developing an online presence and staying in touch with your readers. Setting up an account is free, although if you don't know what you're doing there are services which will customize a page for you. The key here is to post to your pages frequently, and to build a list of "friends." You can start with your family and friends, and encourage people to join your page through your web site. The more friends you have connected to your Facebook page, the more effective it will be. Even better, your friends can recommend your page to other people.

3. Get a Twitter page. This is kind of like having a Facebook or MySpace page, but your updates are limited to 140 characters or less. I use Twitter to pass along marketing tips and links to articles I think authors will find helpful. Authors can use it to notify people about their book signing events and the latest news about their book. Getting a Twitter account is free.

4. Get a blog. If you are reading this, then you already have a pretty good idea of what a blog is. It's like having a web site, but you can update it often...even daily if you want to . Posting to a blog frequently is most effective, and the posts should be concise and informative. If you are working on a new book, tell your blog readers. If you have a book signing event coming up, tell your blog readers. The idea is to build as much traffic to your site as possible, and I'll tell you how to do that in an upcoming post.

5. Comment on posts on other blogs and message boards, and sign them using your name. This is another fast way of building an online presence. The key here is to leave short, informative feedback on other blogs and message boards, and include a link to your blog or web site so people can click on it and connect with your directly. The more incoming traffic you have on your web site or blog, the more your name or the name of your book will come up in search engine results.

Of course, you don't want to spend every waking moment of the day managing your online presence, but it only take me about ten minutes to write a blog post and post updates on Facebook and Twitter. These few extra steps will help you build an online presence and help spread the word about your and your book. Authors can't afford to be shy. If you aren't connecting with readers, readers will be connecting with another author.

What methods have you used to build an online presence?


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Friday, November 27, 2009

How To Conduct Successful Media Interviews to Sell Books

At some point during your career as an author, you will likely be asked to do an interview with a member of the media, a reporter or book reviewer who works in radio, television or print. These are great opportunities to raise awareness for your book, and to help generate some sales, too. However, this only works if it is done properly.

Believe it or not, some authors get so excited to get the opportunity to talk about their book, that they forget to mention crucial pieces of information during the interview, such as:

When the book is available.
Where the book is available.
The title of the book.
The fact that they have a book (they were so wrapped up in talking about the subject of their book they failed to mention their book at all.)

Failure to mention any of these things results in lost sales and promotional opportunities, which is the reason an author does the interview in a first place.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list of tips for authors to help them prepare for media interviews:

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:

  1. If approaching the media on your own about doing a story or interview about your book, be friendly. Producers or reporters might sound short on the phone. They are very busy people. You may have called them while they are on a deadline (never call an hour before a newscast on a TV station). Ask if it’s a good time to speak to them about a possible interview, and if it isn’t ask when you can call back.

  1. Be persistent. Unless an interviewer or producer flatly states “we simply aren’t interested” the word “no” sometimes means “not now” or “we’re booked for the week”. Follow-up calls are a good idea, but don’t be pushy. Be sure to tell the reporter or producer WHY your book would make a good interview topic. The fact that you wrote a book usually isn’t enough. TV and radio stations and newspaper book editors are pitched by authors all the time.

  1. When you set a date/time for the interview, stick to it. Unless there is dire emergency in your home, there is no good reason to reschedule an interview. TV/Radio shows usually spend some time before the interview promoting the fact that you will be appearing at a specific time. Stick to it.

  1. Don’t be late for your interview, not even a little. In fact, if you are supposed to call in or personally appear on a show, be a little early. Nothing frustrates a host more than wondering if their guest is going to be on time. Radio and TV shows stick to strict time limits. Late guests throw off that schedule and you could find yourself without an interview.

DURING THE INTERVIEW:

You have lined up an interview with a newspaper, radio or television reporter. Great! Interviews are a great way of selling books, but there is a difference between talking about your book during an interview and selling your book through interviews.

  1. First and foremost, don’t sound like you’re selling your book (even though that is exactly what you are doing). Radio hosts in particular don’t want to schedule an author to come on their show only to wind up with an infomercial about a book. Phrases like “if you buy my book you’ll read about” are not good selling points. Sometimes the story behind the writing of the book makes a great interview.

  1. No one-word answers, especially in rado and TV interviews. Nothing will kill an interview faster than giving a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the interviewer’s questions. You can answer with a “yes” or “no” but also explain the reason why the answer is “yes” or “no”. On the flip side of that:

  1. Do not ramble. Time is usually very limited for radio and TV interviews, and saying more than you really need to could lead to you saying the wrong thing, or worse yet, boring the audience.

  1. Be entertaining! Sound like you are happy to be on the program and excited to talk about your book. Make the interview interesting and informative, and you will not only be welcomed back to the program, you will interest the audience in buying your book.

  1. Help out the interviewer. If possible, send the interviewer a list of suggested questions about a week before the interviewer. Some interviewers will not use suggested questions, but others appreciate it. An interviewer is not always able to read a book before interviewing the author. A list of questions will help them out a great deal and make their job easier. Also, include a short autobiography about you so the radio/TV interviewer has an interesting way of introducing you on the show.

  1. Book giveaways. These can be tricky. You are on the show to sell your book, so is it a good idea to offer books as on-air giveaways? Giveaways can be a good way of generating interest in a book, but make sure that when the host does the giveaway that they also announce where the book is available for sale. It does no good to give away books and not mention where those who did not win a copy can actually go and buy one.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

  1. Thank the interviewer for their time and for having you on their program. There is a lot of competition for time on some shows, and they thought enough of your book to have you on as a guest. A little courtesy goes a long way, and you’ll likely be invited back.

  1. If doing a TV/Radio interview, ask to have information about your book and where it is available posted on the station’s web site. By doing so, audience members can refer to the web site later for more information and find out where they can buy your book.

  1. Give information about your book to the station’s receptionist. This should include the title of the book, a brief synopsis and where the book is available. People listening to radio interviews in their car don’t have the time to write down information about the book, but they may call the station later for more info. Who is the first person they are going to talk to? The receptionist.

  1. If doing a newspaper interview, ask to have the paper’s book reviewer do a review of the book as well. Sometimes the reporter interviewing you is not the paper’s book reviewer. This could help you get even more coverage in the paper for doing one interview.

Offer yourself up as an expert. This won’t work well with novels, but if you have a non-fiction book and it is relatable to newsworthy events, give the interviewer your card with your contact info. For example, if you have a book about unrest in the Middle East and how it relates to the End Times, you could say to the host “anytime you’re doing a show on tensions in the Middle East and need an expert opinion on something, feel free to give me a call”. You could become a regular recurring guest, and you can use those opportunities to promote your book. For example, the host would likely introduce you as “John Smith, author of the book…” This helps raise awareness

Finally, don't forget that simply appearing on one radio or TV show, or getting one newspaper book review won't guarantee your book will become a bestseller, or that you will sell any books at all. It is just part of an overall marketing strategy for your book, which should include multiple media appearances, book signing events and gearing your title towards its niche market.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Do You Have a Platform?

As someone who works with authors and helps them market and promote their books, I get this question every day. "When should I start promoting my book?" the author asks.

When the manuscript is finished?
When it is sent off to print?
When it is released?
When the publisher schedules a book tour?

The real answer is...none of the above. An author should start promoting their book before they start writing it.

What? How can I promote a book if it doesn't exist? you might ask. Good question.

Many authors write books without thinking several steps ahead to one of the most important questions in book marketing: who will read this book once it is finished and published? Many authors are tempted to think their book is for "everybody", but NO book will appeal to everybody in the book-buying public, not event New York Times bestsellers. I once had someone tell me "the Bible is for everybody." Really? Try telling that to a Hindu or a Muslim. I'm sure you get my point.

Authors must think about who is going to be the end user of the book. Perhaps it is a very broad audience, or perhaps it is a very tight niche market, but either way, the book has to appeal to somebody, or it will be read by nobody. So, let's say you have written your query letters and you have a publishing house interested in the idea you have for a manuscript, or you have obtained an agent and they are sold on the idea of your manuscript, or you already have a publishing contract and now it's time to start writing. That is also the time you should start working on promoting your book...or at the very least, yourself.

How do you do that, you ask? There is a buzzword floating around in publishing these days. Platform. Publishers want their authors to have a platform from which to launch their book. In other words, authors who already have a following or prospects for a following. Authors who:

1. Blog, blog, blog. Authors should be writing about, well, writing. Things they are writing, things they have written, what it's like to write and be an author, etc. Perhaps post some short stories or poems or articles that you have written. Get people interested in your writing.

2. Write articles. These could either be for newspapers (which, sadly, are a dying medium) or for sites like Associated Content, Suite 101 or, if you are hired, About.com. Not only will this give you a chance to write about something at which you are an expert or know something about, but it will give you a venue for your writing and a chance to develop a following. The best part? You get paid, too.

3. Get social. You should have pages on MySpace, Facebook and a Twitter account, at the very least. A web site would be great, too. If you don't know how to build your own, have someone who is tech-savvy help you. New connections are made online these days, and if you aren't keeping up with the latest social media you are going to get left behind.

4. Network. Join writers' groups or book clubs in your local area. Develop a following in your own back yard. If you can't make a splash there when your book is release, you're going to have a tough time "going nationwide" when your book is released.

These are just a few ideas, but I'm sure you get the picture. If you wait until your book is released to build an audience or a following, you are squandering valuable time and potentially missing out on big opportunities to introduce people to you as a writer, and to your work.

It will be tempting to spend all of your time building your "platform" or "networking", but keep things in perspective. You'll actually need time to write your book, too.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is a "consignment" book signing event?

When you schedule a book signing event, bookstores have the option of ordering books from the publisher or distributor, or scheduling something called a "consignment" event. What does it mean to do a consignment event?

Basically, it means that the author is providing and selling their own copies of their book. Ideally, the author has purchased their copies at wholesale (or below wholesale) cost. The day of the event, the author brings their books to the store. Sometimes the store will ask for copies ahead of time so they can display them, promote the event and even sell some books prior to the event. Once the author brings books to the store, the manager of the store will either scan the books into their store's merchandising system or they will have some other means of tracking the consignment sales.

Traditionally, the split is 60/40, with the author receiving 60 percent of the retail price for each book sold, and the store receiving 40 percent for hosting the event. Some stores have different splits, so always ask about this prior to the event. Sometimes a store will let the author keep 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their own books. They just want the author to bring additional customers in the door because those customers will likely purchase something else while they are there and become repeat customers.

The benefit of doing a consignment event is that the author doesn't get socked with any returns if there are unsold copies. The author simply brings those copies home, or the store may keep the books and sell them for the author on a consignment basis after the event, if the event went well.

"But," the author may ask, "how will this help me get my book carried in bookstores nationwide?" Well, initially...it probably won't. There is nothing wrong with swinging for the fences when you first get into the (publishing) game, but every author has to start somewhere. Every author wants bookstore chains, Wal-Mart and Costco to carry their books nationwide on the book's release date. The fact is, a very small percentage of books get that kind of treatment. Bestselling authors with several titles under their belts, celebrity authors and those who are infamous for one reason or other (think Donald Trump) see their books blasted to stores all across the country when they first become available. For the author just starting out with their very first title, they have a long, hard road ahead of them, and consigment events might be some of the very first bookstore events they land.

It's not as bleak as it sounds. Some very successful authors started out this way. The authors of "Chicken Soup for the Soul", for example, engaged in a grass-roots effort to sell their book when it was first released. It wasn't availalbe in every bookstore and supermarket then like it is now. They did speaking engagements wherever they could get them, sold books through beauty shops, and I am sure they have more than one consignment event under their belts. You know the rest of the story. Now there is a whole series of "Chicken Soup" books, and the authors are very, very successful.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and for many authors, this means starting with consignment events at their local independent bookstores.
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