Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Newspaper Book Reviewers on the Chopping Block

It's not just bookstores that are struggling in today's economy.  Newspapers are having a tough time of it, too.  As they look to cut costs, one of the positions they are putting on the chopping block is that of newspaper book reviewer. 

According to Publisher's Weekly, the L.A. Times gave the ax to all of their freelance book reviewers.  In addition, some long-standing book review columns will also be disappearing from the L.A. Times.  For authors who depend upon reviews from major newspapers to give their books a promotional boost, this comes as bad news.  It is also another sign of the times.   Newspapers are seeing less of a demand to dedicate valuable space to book reviews when readers can get that information online at places like, written by fellow readers. 

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, then you already now that you don't have to depend upon the blessings of a review from a traditional major newspaper (although smaller local newspapers will still sometimes dedicate page space to book reviews and interviews with authors).  These days, there are a number of different places online where you can get your book reviewed, which we have mentioned here before. 

While this is bad news for book lovers who read the L.A. Times (and for the folks who last their jobs) it is a further reminder that authors need to work ahead of the curve and not be so dependent upon the traditional ways of promoting their books.  The days of hoping a newspaper will review your book and doing one or two hugely-attended book signing events at the biggest bookstore in town on your book's release date are over. 

Now, authors are doing blog tours, getting their books reviewed by readers on Facebook, doing interviews and book club appearances via Skype and conducting book signing events at local, well-attended fairs and festivals.  The successful authors are those who keep up with the changes in the marketplace. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Are Paper Books Dead?

Since the news broke that Borders is closing its remaining 399 stores and firing 11,000 employees, authors, publishers and many in the news media are asking the same question:  "Is the printed paper book dead?"

After all, Borders couldn't make a go of selling paper books, and lost market share to Barnes & Noble and Amazon, which sell their own ebook reading devices.  Then there is the news that ebooks are rapidly outselling hardcover books at Amazon.

Well, hold on.  There are a few pieces of information missing from the picture.  First, Borders didn't go bankrupt just because it was behind in the ebook game, although that was a contributing factor.  There were many other things at work here, including the very important fact that Borders had not turned a profit since 2006, prior to the explosion of the ebook market.  Borders made a number of bad business moves, and it would have gone out of business even if the ebook didn't exist.

Let's also examine more closely the fact that last year Amazon said it was selling more ebooks than hard cover books.  Well, exactly how many is that, exactly?  Amazon hasn't been forthcoming with exact numbers, but Business Insider took a stab at it.  The number they came up with (as of June 2010):  Amazon sold about 22 million Kindle ebooks last year.  That's the equivalent of about 6 percent of the total print book market.  A more recent figure from May 2011 shows that Amazon sells 105 Kindle ebooks for every 100 print books sold.  That's not 105 for every one print book sold.  That's a five percent advantage in favor of Kindle.

What Amazon doesn't say is this:  Amazon is not 100 percent of the total book market, they REALLY push the Kindle on their site and elsewhere, and the majority of ebooks sold are priced a lot cheaper than print books.  In some cases, Kindle ebooks are actually sold at a loss.  With that being the case, print books remain more profitable than ebooks overall.

So, are printed paper books dead?  I think the real, true answer is "Not right now, and not anytime soon."  One day, printed paper books might follow the path of vinyl record albums:  not as many people use them anymore, but they still use them.  For right now, the printed paper book is still holding its own, and I think it will be around for as long as people prefer to collect an actual physical copy of a paper book that they can hold in their hands and discover in their favorite bookstore. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Have You Really Done "Everything" to Market and Promote Your Book?

Sometimes, authors hit a brick wall when it comes to marketing and promoting their book.  "I have tried EVERYTHING to market my book," is a phrase they might use.

But, have they REALLY tried "everything?"  Probably not.  What they really mean is they aren't sure how to move forward.  The author may be out of ideas, may not know what the niche market for their book is or maybe they identified the wrong niche market for their book, which is actually common.  Sometimes, the niche market for your book isn't what you think it is. 

Many authors focus on bookstores at the expense of everything else.  With the recent closure announcement from Borders, we can see that bookstores are struggling, too.  Bookstores do sell books, and should be a part of every author's marketing strategy.  However, it shouldn't be the only place where authors try to promote their books. 

Here are a few ideas you may not have tried.  Or, if you have tried some of them, this list might serve as a launch point for you to come up with some other ideas you may not have considered.  In my experience, there is always something new you can try to promote your book.  Even if it doesn't work, at least you can say you tried it.

Contact local book clubs and offer to speak to them about your book.
Contact local schools and offer to do presentations about writing a book, being an author or the subject matter from your book.
Contact local day care providers (if you have a children's book) and offer to come in and read to the kids.  Send order forms a week prior to your appearance so parents can order your book.
Contact the local chamber of commerce and let them know you are available as a guest speaker.  
Contact your local visitors and convention bureau and let them know you are available as a guest speaker for any conventions or conferences coming up in your area.
Contact your local gyms and fitness centers (if you have a diet or fitness book) and offer to teach a free class (where you can sell your books).
Contact your local Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs.  They are always looking for guest speakers.
Contact the organizers of local fairs and festivals and get a booth at their event where you can do readings and sign books.
Contact local museums (if you have a book which deals with history, especially local history).
Contact local public libraries and let them know you are available for signings, speaking engagements, and author events.  They may stock your book, but even if they don't you can usually sell your books at the events.
Join writers groups to network and take part in local author events.  These are not places to try to sell your books directly.  Other members are trying to sell their books, too.
Network on Facebook.  REALLY network (with readers).  Joining author pages and writing groups is fine, but they are made up of other authors trying to sell their books.  You should be trying to reach READERS in these groups.  

This is just a short list to help you brainstorm and get started.  Do you have other ideas not included in this list?  Post them in the comments section!  Thanks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guest Post: Harry Potter Just Made $476 Million – And How is YOUR Business Doing?

Call it what you will – the summer doldrums, the dog days of summer, the summertime blues. It really doesn’t matter what you call it, but most all of the statistics show that businesses slow down during the summertime.

Now, if you’re content to follow the crowd, by all means, feel free to follow suit. But, I certainly can’t run my business based on seasons of the year – and as a marketer and CEO, I can’t understand why other businesses would, unless they’re seasonal in nature. So, if you’re able to disagree with the crowd logic (or as I see it, “illogic”), then while everyone else is following the trend, you could be spending your time and energy transcending it.

But, don’t take my word for it. Just ask Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Brothers. Just last week, the latest Harry Potter film chalked up a record-breaking $476 million for its opening weekend. And, Warner Brothers is also spending advertising dollars promoting its summer 2012 blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, the last chapter in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy. The release of the trailer trended high on all the news search engines over the last two weeks, and according to some fans, added more reasons to see the Potter opening weekend debut.

Granted, summer loves the movie industry, but it’s not so much about the industry as it is about one glaring fact: people and businesses don’t stop spending money over the summer. So, in defense of summer, let me offer a few important reasons why now is the perfect time for a full-court promotional press.
  • People Still Spend Money - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail sales rose .01 percent in June, maintaining a 20-month streak of monthly increases in consumer spending. In fact, despite a lackluster recovery, the U.S. is barely .02 percent away from breaking the record for consumer spending in a single month. That’s not half bad for the summertime. And wait until they calculate a few hundred million dollars worth of movie ticket sales for July.
  • Opportunities Abound - While others are sitting back, you could capture the spotlight. One of the truisms about the media is that it never sleeps. It never takes a single day off. And, with iPads and smartphones enabling people to take the news with them, the media is more and more becoming a moveable feast. Consumers don’t have to be home anymore, listening to the radio or sitting in front of a TV, to receive your message when it’s delivered by the media. If things actually do slow down for your business during the summer, then factually, the only answer to turning them around IS promotion, promotion and more promotion.
  • Planning Smart - In the event that the summer isn’t a good time for you to promote, it is still a good time for you to prepare to promote. One of the pitfalls in promotion is that you don’t realize you need to do it until it’s too late, and then you’re constantly behind the 8 ball trying to get it done. You wind up behind schedule and you settle for something less than perfect because of the short timetable. Whether you are actively promoting or simply using the summer months to prepare to promote, one thing is for certain – summertime can be the most productive time of the year for your marketing effort.
The summer doesn’t have to be slow. It can be a time when you recharge your promotional efforts and move yourself forward. But feel free to take a break to go see Harry Potter, so you can see how the big boys use the summertime to do more than just take in a little sun.

Marsha Friedman launched EMSI Public Relations in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. Some of the more prominent names on her client roster are Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and the famous Motown Group, the Temptations.
She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity.

Outside of the office, Marsha is a mother of three and a grandmother who also raised one of her grandchildren. She is also the founder of a non-profit organization called the Cherish the Children Foundation. In 1996 the White House recognized her charity which sets out to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged and foster children.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

About Me/About the Author: Creating a Friendly and Professional Author Biography

About Me/About the Author: Creating a Friendly and Professional Author Biography

About Me/About the Author: Creating a Friendly and Professional Author Biography

By Irene Watson

Your "About the Author" or "About Me" page is one of the most important pages on your website, perhaps second only to the page that allows people to buy your book. Why? Because your potential readers want to know you are human and to be reassured that you know what you are writing about. They also want to put a face to your name, so that means using an up close and personal headshot.
Before you rush to put up that "About the Author" page or you go to revamp one you already have, here are some key Do's and Don'ts for creating your "About the Author" page, including what to include and what to leave out.
Your Bio Content
Your bio needs to accomplish several things and in a small space. Here are key things to include:
  • Where You Were Born:Your city, state, or country if you were born outside the United States. This simple fact helps to start building a relationship with people. If a reader is from the Midwest and you were born in Ohio, the reader might feel a connection to you, or the reader may have visited and liked Ohio. That connection makes the world a smaller place. If you were born in Sri Lanka or Germany or Australia, the American reader might find you a little exotic or intriguing and want to know more about you and how you ended up living in Delaware, thereby piquing the reader's curiosity about you-and your book.
  • Your Education:You don't need to include every school you went to, but simply any universities or programs relative to what your book is about. For example, if you wrote a novel, mentioning that you have an MFA in Creative Writing is important. If you are a novelist, a degree in computer programming may be less relevant, unless maybe you're writing a science fiction novel about people who get sucked into a video game they are playing, which may reflect that you know something about how computer programs or video games operate.
  • Your Experience:As with your education, your experiences might be noted. For example, if you're writing about health and nutrition, then your experience as an Olympic athlete is definitely relevant. If you're writing about the Civil War, that you belong to a battle reenactment group is interesting and gives you some expertise for writing battle scenes.
  • Previous Books You Have Written:If you haven't published any other books, no problem, but you could say something like, "Joe has been writing stories since he was eight years old" or "After fifteen years of researching his topic, Mark finally published his book." If you have written several books, go ahead and list them all. Readers may not know your name, but they may know the title of one of your books, which may make them more willing to take a chance on buying your newest book, or even an old one.
  • What You Stand For:Perhaps you want to mention groups or causes you are involved in, preferably not controversial ones, unless relevant to your book. For example, if your book is about teaching sexual education and you're involved in a Planned Parenthood group, it would be appropriate to mention it. However, if your book is a fantasy novel, Planned Parenthood may be irrelevant, or it might even hurt you if people have different opinions than you on birth control and then don't want to buy your book. If your book is about education, by all means, mention the teaching association you belong to. Stating that you're a Republican might make you lose most of the readers who are Democrats, or vice versa, so pick and choose who your audience is and avoid anything that will isolate potential readers.
It's more important that you come off as a real person than that you come off as intimidating or overly knowledgeable. Depending on your topic, that you have three cats might help you sell more books than that you have five Ph.D.'s. People want to read about people like themselves, or whom they perceive to be a little smarter, more advanced, or more successful than themselves; they want to feel good about themselves and believe that you have been where they are, but that you have gotten farther than them and maybe can help them to do the same. In short, you want to inspire people. Try to come off as a real person your readers could sit down to chat with, not someone too stuck up to talk with them or who will intimidate them. Write like you talk so the reader can resonate with you. Be human.
The tone you want to convey may also influence whether you title your page an "About the Author" page and write it in third person, or an "About Me" page and write it in first person. Either can be fine, but a first person page that lists a lot of accomplishments may sound like you are bragging, so be careful how you word it. At the same time, you can sound more human and friendly in first person. You may want to write two separate bios, one in each voice, to see which one feels more comfortable to you. Then get some feedback from others to see which one resonates with them the most.
I just gave you a bunch of things to include in your bio, but remember to include it all in a short space. You're not writing your life story, just enough information to interest the reader. No one wants to read a long biography of you. Aim for about three paragraphs or a page at most, and less than five hundred words. You probably want a bio that will fit on a website page without the viewer having to scroll down much, and you may want to include the same bio on the back page of your book, generally so it fills one page while leaving room for a photo.
Remember that online, people tend to skim, so if you really want them to read your bio, shorter is better. You might also consider breaking it up into bullet points or a timeline, such as for listing all ten of your books or some other key information, so it's easier to read.
Finally, consider that the media may need just a short blurb about you if they interview you. Keep it short and to the point so they can just copy your bio from your website without their having to do a lot of rewriting. You may also get requests from the media to email them your bio, in which case, you may want to keep a copy of it, maybe even a shorter version, on your computer to have handy when they request it.
Author Photo
It's imperative you have a good, high resolution, author photo. That doesn't mean a photo taken with a cell phone that is blurry, dark or small, nor a mug-shot or driver's license looking photo. And not a photo of you with your spouse, three kids, and two dogs where the viewer has to pick you out from among several people. You want a headshot of yourself that is large enough that it makes the viewer feel like he is making eye contact with you. It doesn't have to be a fancy studio photograph, and you don't have to get all dressed up for it since it's a headshot that will at most only show your shoulders. But you can wear a tie if you like, or a necklace, or whatever clothing you feel will project who you are as an author in relation to the kind of book you have written. You basically want to look like yourself on a daily basis.
Consider also the background of the photo and how it reflects your author image. If you've written a business book, you may want to wear the suit and tie and have a plain background. If you're writing a vacation or travel book, you may want to wear a Hawaiian shirt and have the ocean in the background. If you've written a book about dog training, you might be holding a puppy, but if your book is about gardening, trade the puppy for a gardening smock and some greenery in the background. Remember, you're telling the reader through this photo who you are so the reader can resonate with you-at the same time, you don't want to disappoint readers when they meet you in person, so make sure it's a current photo. A photo of you at twenty-five may look nicer than a photo of you at sixty, but if you're sixty, use a current photo. Stay current by updating your photo at least every few years.
Contact Information
You may have a separate page for contacting you on your website, but it doesn't hurt to include your contact information on your "About Me" page. Once readers see and resonate with you, they may feel a desire to contact you, so it's best to have that information on two pages. A lot of authors have contact forms on their pages, which works to decrease spam. Be sure if you are going to give your readers a way to contact you that you respond to their emails, and make sure your contact information (email address or phone number) is always current.
Remember it's an honor to have someone interested in you and your book enough to want to write to you. Be polite and friendly by responding. Your "About the Author" page can become the stepping stone for building a relationship with your readers, and a simple personal email can be the second step toward a lasting relationship. Not only will you sell more books to the individual reader by letting him or her contact you, but you never know what information or stories readers may have to share with you that will lead to new ideas for future books or speaking engagements.
A Final Note: Does Your Reader Know Who You Are?
By following the advice above, you can create a simple and effective "About Me" page. When you are done, ask yourself and some friends/potential readers:
  • Does the page tell my potential readers who I am?
  • Can the reader resonate with me?
  • What is on the page that makes me human?
  • Is there something on this page that will make my potential reader say, "Yes, I want to read this author's book! This author sounds like someone I can relate to"?
If the answer to all those questions is "Yes," you've created a successful author page. Just remember to update it (information, photo, contact information) as needed so it stays effective. Now, you're ready to meet your readers online.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

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