Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Most Popular Posts of the Week

It's time once again to mention the Top 5 posts of the week.  If you missed them the first time around, here is your chance to check them out.  The Top 5 posts of the week, in order and by number of readers:

1.  Author Interview:  Tom Llewellyn

2.  What's It REALLY Like to be a New York Times Bestselling Author?

3.  How Do Books Get Stocked in Bookstores?

4.  How to Market Your Book on Facebook

5.  How to Sell Your Books in Bulk
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Author Interview: Tom Llewellyn

If the name Tom Llewellyn sounds familiar to you, it's because he has been featured in a previous post on this very blog.  Tom had blogged about his publishing contract with Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House, and just how much money he could expect to earn from sales of his new book.  Since then, Tom has learned that the future of his next book, Letter Off Dead, is up in the air, now that Random House plans to shut down Tricycle Press.

Tom was kind enough to answer a few questions about how he marketed and promoted his first book, The Tilting House.  What stuck out to me in the interview is that Tom doesn't take credit for the sales or success of his first book, but it is apparent from his answers that he has worked very, very hard to promote and market The Tilting House.


How many copies of your first book have you sold?

The last I heard, The Tilting House has sold a little over 8,000 copies. It’s in its second printing. The first printing sold out in about a month. It was made a Junior Library Guild selection, which helped a lot.

Where did most of your sales occur?  Online?  Bookstores?  Self-sales? 

I don’t know where the books sold—definitely not by me. As far as I know, sales have come nearly solely from Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and to libraries and schools. I wish I had a clearer view into where sales were happening.

Was your book widely available in bookstores?

Yeah, it was (and is) in Borders and Barnes and Noble nationwide and available via Amazon. I know through word of mouth that many independent bookstores carried it as well, like Powell’s Books, University Bookstore in Seattle, Kings Books in Tacoma, etc.

How much help did your publisher give you in the marketing of your book?

Not as much as I expected (he says, while hoping he sounds grateful to be published at all). They sent out promotional copies, distributed the book in their catalog, blogged about it and sent me a whole bunch of customized bookmarks. They might have done a lot of other important activities as well.

Did you hire a publicist, or did you work on marketing and promotion on your own? If you hired a publicist, what types of things did they do for you?

I did not hire a publicist. Should I have?

What types of marketing activities did you handle on your own?

I’m a marketer for a living, having worked as director of marketing for a number of firms and currently working as creative director for a major financial services company. So I’ve got a bit of a head start in this area. A very talented designer friend of mine built a cool website (www.thetiltinghouse.com) and created a book trailer you can see there as well. I setup and completed interviews in local newspapers. I held a pretty massive book launch party—about which the publisher’s rep said it was the biggest launch party she’d ever seen. I’ve done a whole bunch of author talks at local schools and still continue to do them. And I’ve done a whole bunch of blog interviews—kind of like this one.

I also have a number of other projects, including a book blog—(www.letteroffdead.com) and a street art project (www.beautifulangle.com). The followings I’ve created on those projects have definitely helped with The Tilting House.

Which marketing activities have been the most helpful in selling your book?

Since I don’t have much insight into where the sales are coming from, it’s difficult to know. They all seem to help a little bit, but it would be hugely helpful if there was more transparency into the sales sources. If I, the author, am given the responsibility for marketing, which it seems I am, then I should also be given the information to allow me to do an informed job.

What was the biggest misconception you had before you started promoting your work?

I assumed the publisher would take a more active role. As a professional marketer, I’m a huge believer in the power of marketing. Statistics consistently show that investments in advertising dollars nearly always pay off through increased sales. Especially with books, when a book sale is literally one click away from a banner ad or a search engine marketing term. So I’m surprised the publisher doesn’t spend more on that. It wouldn’t make sense for me, because I simply get too little of the sales proceeds. But I wish the publisher would pony up a little more dough and effort on promotions.

How vital is social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to your marketing?

It’s huge. I tweet a huge amount. My next book, Letter Off Dead, actually started as a blog—and was generating 10,000 unique visitors a month in less than six months. And I connect with other bloggers—like you—as much as I can stand.

How vital is niche marketing to promoting your work? How do you identify and reach out to your book’s niche audiences?

My first book, The Tilting House, is not really a niche book. It’s broad market middle reader fiction. My second book, Letter Off Dead, has more of a niche appeal as it deals specifically with junior high school, death and the afterlife. So I’ve been reaching out, via blogs and twitter, to junior high librarians, to grief counselors and to those interested in exploring metaphysical themes.

What advice do you have for new authors when it comes to marketing and promoting their books?

Don’t think that your job stops when you’re done writing your manuscript. Learn how to blog and tweet. Learn how to pitch the unique aspects of your story to local news sources. Network like mad. And never let a blog post that relates to your book go by without asking for an interview. You just might get one.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Most Popular Posts of the Week

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Think a Major Book Deal Guarantees Sales? Think Again.

Every once in awhile, I receive an email from an author that goes something like this:

"I think for my next book I'll try to get a deal with a big-name publishing company.  Then my book will be in every bookstore and I'll have more sales.  I'll definitely make more money." 

This may be true of some celebrity authors, but as I have pointed out in the past, celebrity authors didn't start that way.  They had to work, often for several years, before they got to that point.  Besides, signing with a "big-name publishing company" isn't necessarily a guarantee of success, either. 

Case in point, Tom Llewellyn, author of the soon-to-be published book "Letter Off Dead."  Tom signed a deal with a "big-name publishing company"...Random House.  In the publishing industry, they don't get much more big-name than that.  Tom recently blogged about his publishing contract

Basically, it looks something like this (in Tom's words):
If the book sells well enough to go into second printings, then I get royalty checks a couple of times a year, based on sales. Fee breakdowns are as follows:
Hardbacks: 15% of THE AMOUNT RECEIVED BY THE PUBLISHER
Paperbacks: 12%
Audiobooks: 10%
E-books 25%
And then, if someone pays a bazillion dollars for the movie rights, I get 70% and the publisher gets 30%

Now, let's assume (since we don't yet know) that the hardcover edition of "Letter Off Dead" will retail for $20.  The distributor will get a 55 percent discount, so the price Random House receives would be in the neighborhood of $9.00 per copy.  Of that, Tom will get 15 percent, or $1.35 for each hardcover copy that sells.  If the second printing of the book is in the range of 5,000 copies AND they all sell, Tom stands to earn about $6,750 from the second printing of his book.  Of course, we are assuming the retail price here, but you get the idea.  It's hardly the multi-million dollar deal many authors envision. 

Tom states it himself in his blog: 
"How much money does a guy like me make on a book like this? Not much. It works out to be about a buck a book – in hardbacks. So if I sell 10 million copies, I’m rich.
But if I sell, 10,000 copies, the whole thing works out to be about 50 cents an hour. Paperbacks pay less, because they sell for less."

Writers don't write strictly for the money, of course.  They write because they love it, and as I've stated here before, few writers can live on royalties alone.   Of course, Tom does have other projects, such as his other title The Tilting House.   

So what's the bottom line?  Having a connected publisher helps, but does not guarantee the success of any book, and those multi-million dollar publisher contracts are few and far between.  All authors need to work to promote and sell their books, no matter who is publishing their book. 
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Most Popular Posts of the Week

These are the most popular posts of the past week, according to the number of readers.  If you missed out on one of these posts the first time around, here they are again!

The Biggest Mistake Authors Make

How to Market Your Book on Facebook

Seven Simple Tips to Getting Your Book Reviewed

Brand Your Name, Don't Promote Your Book

How Do Books Get Stocked in Bookstores?
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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Biggest Mistake Authors Make

When an author first releases a book, it is a given that they will make a few mistakes when it comes to marketing and promoting their book. That’s OK. You are basically starting a new business from scratch, and not every idea for promoting your book is going to be a good one. This blog is dedicated to helping authors avoid some of those mistakes and concentrate on the things that actually do work.

However, of all of the rookie mistakes a first-time author can make, there is one that towers above all others, and guarantees that a book will not be a success. It will relegate a title to the remainder bin of bookstores, or even worse, cause an author to have several copies of their book collecting dust in their garage. What is this mistake, you might ask? OK, here it is:

Doing nothing.

That’s right, if an author does nothing to promote and market their book, their book is not going to sell, no matter how hard a publisher may try. If an author isn’t involved in the marketing and promotion process, nothing a publisher does is going to make that title fly off the bookstore shelves and get into readers’ hands. Jim Miller, one of my co-workers, says it best: “Readers purchase books based upon the reputation and talent of the author. We can’t create that for you.” He’s right.

So why would an author do nothing to help get their book into the marketplace? Here are a few common reasons:

1. Fear of failure. Authors love to write, but they don’t always love to meet people face-to-face, sell themselves (and their book) or read negative reviews of their book. The thing is, this comes with the territory of being an author. Think about how often actors and celebrities come under the microscope. When someone releases a book and it gets some attention, some of that attention is going to be focused on the author, and it isn’t always the good kind. Remember, it’s not personal. It’s just business.

2. Unreasonable expectations. On the other hand, some authors feel that once they have written their book and it is printed, their job is done. They expect a publicist and the publisher to do all of the selling. While you may get some assistance from a publicist and a publisher, the lion’s share of making your book known to the reading world falls on you. After all, you are the person who wrote the books. If a bookstore is interested in hosting an author for an event, or if a media outlet is interested in doing an interview, they don’t want the publicist or the publisher, they want the person who wrote the book, the author. Even if your book is stocked by several bookstores, forget about just sitting back and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in. You have to help those books move.

3. Disappointment. Many authors have visions of hitting their book’s release date and seeing it take off like a rocket to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. This rarely ever happens. Bestsellers are often the result of an author spending years developing a readership and a fan base that will go to the bookstore and buy anything the author writes. When authors don’t see the kind of sales they expected, many of them get disappointed and give up. Often, this happens just a few months, or even a few weeks, after the book is released. Remember, you are starting a new business venture, and those are not built in the matter of a few weeks or months. It takes time to build a fan base. Working hard to promote a book won’t guarantee success, but doing nothing to promote yourself and your book will most definitely guarantee failure.

Marketing and promoting a book can seem like a daunting task, but if you do just one thing a day to raise awareness of yourself and your book, you can break it down into manageable, realistic chunks. Avoid the mistake of doing nothing, and you will see something happen with your book.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brand Your Name, Don't Promote Your Book

Brand Your Name, Don't Promote Your Book



Brand Your Name, Don't Promote Your Book

By Joanne Troppello


That's a strong statement, I know, but I wanted to capture your attention.

Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, Michael Crichton, James Patterson, Anne Rice, Mary Higgins Clark...we all know those names or at least a good portion of them. So what's my point? Just that...we know their names; we don't all remember the names of their books.

Your fans are not going to always be able to spout off the titles of all your books, but if they like your work and if you've become popular, they will remember your name. If they know your name, they can easily find you online or in the bookstores. When they find your website, then they can look up your books. When they go to the bookstores, they can find your specific titles.

As an author, hopefully you will continually be writing more books. Your readers may not always know your current works, but they'll keep track of what you're working on and when your new releases come out. So, how do you (and me), as up and coming authors waiting for the day you'll be on the best seller lists, brand your name and market yourselves as authors?

That question being put out there, you still, of course, need to work hard on marketing each of your books, but the way to really become popular is to market your name.

One of the best ways to brand yourself is to have a website. You always need to have an online presence; that includes branding yourself in the social media networks. Another good idea is that you should always try to write articles in your trade, and post them in free online writing networks. Usually, you just need to register and then you can begin posting articles; sometimes certain sites will need to review your articles first. These sites will allow readers to link to your profile, where they can follow a link to your website. Other online article posting sites allow you to list a byline with a direct link to your website.

You must remember that you are your greatest fan and you need to take advantage of that fact and promote yourself wherever you go. Of course, some people may feel this is taking you down to ego-land, but there are ways to promote yourself and your work without seeming to be overbearing. I don't usually like to be in the center of attention, but as my husband mentioned the other day, I'm an author now and I'd better get used to it.

Join writers groups and other writing associations and always attach your byline in everything that you write and have your "elevator speech" prepared and ready to use at all times. So what's an elevator speech? It's a short pitch on something you're trying to market and since you're trying to market yourself, be prepared to tell people that you are an author and when your next book is going to be released. Be ready to hand out a business card or at least be able to give out your website.

Blogging is another way to brand your name. You always want your readers, potential readers and the press to go to your website. You can do this by offering them something. How do you do that? You need to provide good content that is always updated. That's why it's good to have a blog directly on your website or if you have it through another online service, to at least have the blog link prominently displayed on your site. You can even create a newsletter. This will be a bit more time consuming than writing a daily or weekly blog, but it is something that you can think about as you get farther along in your writing career.

Don't forget to keep on promoting your name. You are your biggest fan! Make your marketing count!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Five Reasons Authors Need a Web Site

Do I need a web site?

This is a question I get often from new authors who have books that are about to release. They aren't sure if they should invest the time, money and effort into building a web site to help promote and market their book.  Some authors decide that they don't want to mess around with a web site, and decide they'll just build a Facebook fan page and call it a day.

Big mistake.

About three years ago, the Codex Group conducted a survey of nearly 21,000 book shoppers.  They discovered that the majority of readers depended upon author web sites as a means of getting to know the author better.  Also, of those who had visited an author web site in the past week, 38 percent purchased a book.  Bottom line:  if a reader can't find you online, you are missing out on readers (and book sales).

Too many authors make the mistake of using their web site as a billboard for advertising their book, but an author web site should be much more than that.  Here are five important reasons and author needs a web site:

1.  Readers want to know more about you.  If you are a new author releasing your first book, nobody outside of your circle of friends and family know about you or your book.  Why did you write the book?  When did you start writing?  Where did you go to college?  Where in the U.S. do you live?  Who is your favorite author?  What books are you reading now?  Are you writing anything else, and if so, can you post a few samples on your site?  These are things readers want to know.

2.  The media want to know about you.  Almost every time a reporter contacts me about doing an interview with an author, one of the first questions they ask me is "what is the author's web address?"  They want to check out the author and get to know about them before the interview.  If the author doesn't have a web site that is definitely a handicap.

3.  Shoppers research their purchases online before buying.  Even if a reader intends to buy a book at a bookstore, they may very well do some comparison shopping online, looking for reviews and articles about the book.  If an author has a web site with a page dedicated to endorsements, articles, reviews, etc., it helps "seal the deal," even if the reader doesn't purchase the book through the author's site. 

4.  Readers are buying more books online.  Bookstores have seen declining sales, not just because readers are buying fewer books, but because they are buying their books online.  Ebooks are also taking a bite out of the bookstores' bottom line.  If you don't have a web site to catch some of those potential readers, there are many, many other authors out there who do have sites that might catch their attention instead.

5.  You never know who might see your site.   I personally know an author who got a movie deal in part because the producers visited the author's web site after hearing about his book and liked what they saw.  I constantly hear from authors that they want "nationwide" promotion and publicity for their book.  Why stop there?  Get a web site and you potentially have a worldwide audience, and one of your web site visitors could give you the big break you have been working so hard to get. 

Look at it this way:  every company in the U.S. that is successful has a web site.  Every successful, bestselling author in the U.S. has a web site (you can see Jeff Kinney's web site here).   If you want to be taken seriously as a professional author, you should have a web site.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Market Your Book on Facebook - 14 Steps to an Awesome Fan Page


How to Market Your Book on Facebook - 14 Steps to an Awesome Fan Page



How to Market Your Book on Facebook - 14 Steps to an Awesome Fan Page

By Patricia Benesh


Today's authors are capitalizing on the promotional opportunities for creating readership on Facebook. They know that 250 million users log into Facebook once a day, spending an average of 55 minutes on the site, while more than 500 million active users log in at least once a month. Plus 150 million get their Facebook fix on their mobile devices. It's no wonder that Facebook is number two in terms of Internet popularity, after Google. A Facebook page is as essential as a web site or blog, offering writers an unparalleled venue for engaging with readers.

More savvy authors are taking Facebook a step further-creating fan pages. Fan pages are extraordinarily effective in promoting books. A perusal of authors' fan pages shows they display all manner of content to attract and hold audiences.

Deepak Chopra's official fan page features the meditation music and the photo album of serene images we might expect to see from this world famous spiritual leader.

Tony Robbins's page includes an event schedule and workshop video clips, showing the power behind this nationally known motivational speaker.

Justin Halpern includes reviews and his older SMDS to keep his Sh*t My Dad Says fans laughing.

At Arielle Ford's fan page, readers can sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date with her books and latest PR information.

In launching his touching new book about gratitude, Walter Green prominently features a heartfelt author video on his fan page.

While all very different, these fan pages have one critical element in common. They speak to their target audiences. According to Online and Social Media Marketing Consultant, Amy Porterfield, "The secret to a successful Facebook Page is artful engagement. When you take the time to really get to know your fans (their likes, interests and triggers), you can deliver content and experiences that will capture their interest quickly and keep them coming back for more. Make it about them (and not about you or your brand) and you will have a fan for life!"

Ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle your own fan page? You need only 14 steps and you are on your way to creating a powerful ingredient to your marketing mix.
1. Log into Facebook.

2. On the left column click Ads and Pages,

3. Click the Create a Page.

4. On the right side, under the Official Page, click brand, product, or organization.

5. In the text box page name, enter either the title of your book or your name as author.

6. Check the box stating you are the representative of the business.

Now you are ready to develop your new fan page:
7. Upload a feature photo. Realize this is the primary image associated with your site. You might choose the book cover (like Halpern) or your photo (like Robbins and Ford) or a combination of the cover and photo (like Green). Remember, you can post lots of other photos in albums on your site. The primary photo should be strongly associated with your book or your brand.

8. Provide basic information-Highlight content related to your pitch, endorsements, back cover, and dust jacket material.

9. Import relevant content, such as RSS blog feeds, YouTube videos, images, music, and other elements associated with your book that will engage your audience.

10. Post updates-weekly at least and inform your fans about your news and relevant news from other sites.
11. Promote the page with a "like" button. (Note that Green's page uses a red arrow to make sure viewers don't overlook the button.

12. Set the page to your mobile phone

13. Send status updates to Twitter

14. Enhance your page with apps, such as polls, games, and other apps to make it fun and engaging. For thoughtful reviews on Facebook apps visit the Facebook applications blog. Consider developing a custom app for your Facebook fan page. Although it can be pricey, but it can add great value to your page.
Important note: Since Facebook pages do not provide for "friending" someone, as on a standard Facebook page, you will need to invite your contacts to become fans of your page. Publicize your page by putting a button or link in your e-mail signature line so it is seen by everyone you e-mail, post a button on your web site and blog, and announce your page through Facebook and Twitter. Don't forget to include the link on your business cards and other promotional literature.

A last thought: Patiently tend your page to build your fan base, devoting a few hours each week. Be sure to add fresh content that provides value to those who read it-then promote, promote, promote! Soon you will see how this amazing social media tool benefits you and your readers.

For a decade, Patricia Benesh has been providing personal coaching and a range of "success-oriented services" to fiction and nonfiction writers at http://AuthorAssist.com. No matter what your writing level or publishing goal (traditional publishing, self-publishing), AuthorAssist helps ensure you are ready to publish and promote your book. Get complimentary feedback on your writing at http://AuthorAssist.com/complimentary.html.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Authors and Taxes

Each week, I am assigned new authors to work with on marketing and promoting their books.  I look forward to working with new authors and learning more about a new book that Tate Publishing is releasing into the marketplace.  I am asked the usual questions about the media, bookstores, book signing events and if I can get the author on Oprah, but by far the most often-asked question I get concerns taxes.

Specifically:

Does the author have to collect sales tax when they directly sell their books?
How do they report royalty income on their federal and state income tax returns?
Does the author have to get a business license or state tax ID number in order to collect sales taxes?
Can I "write-off" my expenditures as business expenses?

The short answer to all of this is this:  I am in no way qualified to give anyone tax advice.  I'm not an accountant, and after taking two accounting courses in college, I decided I would never want to be an accountant. 

However, smarter people than I have already written about this subject.  I'll condense some of the info here, and include links to the complete articles so you can look them over yourself. 

1.  Does the author have to collect sales taxes when they directly resell their books?  This really depends upon the state in which you are selling your books.  Each state is different, and in fact, different counties within those states can have differing sales tax rates.  The short answer is "yes, if your state has a sales tax, you'll need to pay the tax for the books you sell."  You can either add that cost to the sales price of your books, or just take a smaller portion of the sale and pay the sales tax yourself.

2.  How do I report royalty income on my income tax returns?  Basically, royalties are treated like income.   Whenever I have done some freelance work in the past, I always had to report that as self-employment income, and there is a form for that.  If your royalty income is very small there are certain conditions under which you can claim your writing is a "hobby," but for the most part, Uncle Sam wants his cut of your royalties.

3.  Does the author have to get a business license or state tax ID number to collect sales taxes?
Again, depending upon the state where you are located, you may need to get some type of license to collect the sales tax, and you might event realize some tax advantages to treating your writing like your own small business and get a business license.  This is something which you will REALLY want to run by an accountant (again, that is so not me).

4.  Can I write-off my writing expenditures as business expenses?  There may be some expenses that you can write-off, especially if you are working out of a home office and your book is providing you with income.  As long as you can prove you are actively pursuing writing as a career, you may have some deductions at your disposal.

Disclaimer:  Did I mention I'm not an accountant?  OK, good!  Seriously, this article is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as actual tax advice.  If you are serious about being a professional author and pursuing writing as a career, find yourself a great accountant!

Other articles I recommend (seriously, you should really read these):

Simple Record Keeping and Tax Deductions for Authors

The Issue of Sales Tax on Books

Taxes and Finances for Writers
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