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Books, Bookmarks, Business Cards Or Digital Giveaways. What Should Authors Be Ready To Give Away?

Online marketing is a big part of every author's focus, but we shouldn't forget about the value of meeting readers in person. In this article, C. Penticoff offers four types of giveaways for conferences and other in-person events that will expand your reader base and connect you with those in the book industry.

Books, Bookmarks, Business Cards Or Digital GiveawaysOne of the first things every entrepreneur does after launching their business is to order business cards.

This seems logical, especially since it’s an affordable and professional way to distribute a physical piece of content providing all the ways to find and contact you.

You may have already done this, or you may be thinking about ordering some business cards. But, let me ask you this…

What’s one of the first things you do when you’re handed a business card?

It’s probably thrown away, stuck in a wallet, or tossed into the bottomless pit you call your purse… never to be seen again.

Even though business cards are a very affordable option, what’s the point in spending even a penny for something that is hardly ever effective?

If you’re an author, it seems business cards are even less effective if you’re handing these out to readers. Readers aren’t as interested in contacting you as they are in simply doing what they love to do–read your books!

There’s no doubt having something physical to hand out to readers and other professionals in your industry is beneficial, but let’s make sure every dime spent on your business drives your brand further up the ladder.

So, what can you hand out that will drive your business forward, instead of something that will end up in the trash?

1. Books

One great idea for an author is to hand out a book rather than a business card. Books will cost quite a bit more to hand out, but there is no doubt this can be an effective strategy.

Giving booksThe reader will read your book, and because they’ve met you in person, they are more likely to spread the word about your book and become a serial reader.

Be sure your back or front book matter lists ways they can subscribe to your mailing list. Inserting a separate sheet of paper into the book with that information is a great way to engage your reader, and including a bookmark with that information is ideal!

It’s important to note when you hand out a book to someone you make sure they know right away what is in it for them. When you hand a book to someone and you say something like, “Here is my book you can have for free” — that statement makes the free copy about the writer.

When you say something along the lines of, “Do you want to learn how to double your income as an author?” it makes the statement about the reader.

For my genre, I would say something like, “Do you want to get lost in a magical and enchanting world?” You can come up with a phrase that would best fit your book.


If handing out a book is out of your budget, then handing out bookmarks is a fantastic alternative! What’s great about handing out bookmarks is it will have the useful information a business card would, but it’s something the reader can actually use!

You might be wondering where you can go to get a bookmark design. A Novel Connection creates custom bookmark designs for only $25. After you get your design, head to a website, such as 48 Hour Print or Vista Print to purchase your bookmarks. You can easily get 500 bookmarks printed for less than $80.

Psst…Bookmarks are also great for giveaways on social media or your website!

Your bookmark design should include on the front:

  • Your name/logo
  • Your social media handles and website
  • Eye-catching colors and graphics that matches your brand (Have your designer help you with this)

Your bookmark on the back should include:

  • An easy-to-read link that drives your reader to your mailing list, as email marketing is arguably the best way to reach your readers directly.

Email marketingBonus Tip: My mailing list subscription link is ridiculous in length, which is not ideal for a physical item. Therefore, I created a page on my website that includes my mailing list form that is easy to read: That is easy to read and easy to type into a computer.

Your goal should always be to get readers to your mailing list. For example, I offer my mailing list subscribers a free fantasy book every Friday that I hunt down on Amazon; in addition, I offer free writing tips to writers who opt into that feature.

Read The Creative Penn’s post on How to Build Your Email List for a better grasp on email marketing.

3. Business Cards

If books and bookmarks are out of your budget, then business cards are a good option if you do it effectively.

When you design your business card, consider ordering double-sided cards, allowing you to get everything you need on the card without it looking jammed into a tiny space.

What to include on the front:

  • Your logo (Or just your name if you do not have a logo designed yet)
  • Your tagline

Bonus Tip: Your tag line is a one sentence phrase that sums you up as an author.

  • Western Romance Writer
  • New York Times Best-Selling Author
  • Award-Winning Fantasy Author
  • Teaching Writers How to Build Their Brand

What to include on the back:

  • Contact information: email address and/or phone number
  • Website
  • Social media handles
  • Easy-to-read mailing list subscription link

Remember, the mailing list is the money maker, so the best way to use a business card (or any physical item like this) is to include this link and what is in it for them when they subscribe.

4. Ebooks

It is beneficial to have something physical to offer readers and other professionals, but if books, bookmarks, and business cards are out of your financial reach, then you can always give away an ebook, which will be of no cost to you.

books and ipadThis may not be a physical item that readers can hold in their hands, but it sure beats nothing, right?

Make sure you have their explicit permission and then send them the file to your ebook. In the email, be sure to ask them if they want to subscribe to your mailing list, and what’s in it for them when they do, then provide a link where they can easily subscribe.

[Note from Joanna: BookFunnel also offers Instant Book Giving for ebooks as part of their service features.]

What happens if a business professional asks you for your business card?

At this moment, you would offer them whatever physical item you have to give away.

But, do you stop there?

Oh, no! You’re far too savvy of an entrepreneur to leave it at that.

You ask them for their business card and you contact them. There is a very good and strategic reason behind this. When a business professional asks you for your contact information, there is a great chance you will never actually hear from them.

This is especially true if you met them at an event where they also met dozens or even hundreds of other authors or professionals in your industry and/or they are a well-known figure in the industry who is very busy.

After you obtain their business card, give it a few days (I mean, you don’t want to seem desperate), then email (or call) and remind them who you are, what you discussed, and why they were interested in contacting you in the first place. This maximizes your chances of the professional following through in whatever was discussed.

What do you give away at conferences and other in-person events to connect with readers and others in the book industry? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

C. PenticoffTo find more useful writing and entrepreneur resources from C. Penticoff, head to her website, and be sure to subscribe to her mailing list for a free fantasy book every Friday. For authors, check the “writer” box to receive writing tips.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn

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3 Book Marketing Myths to Avoid

By Sandra Beckwith

When I was in college, one of the girls in my dorm terrified us with the “true” story of “The Hook,” a killer with a hook for a hand who attacked a couple in a parked car.

The storyteller insisted it was true because it happened to the cousin of a friend of a friend on Long Island. How could we argue with that? TRUTH!

You’ve probably heard the story, too, and by now we all know it’s a classic urban legend.

Urban legends aren’t limited to horror stories, though. In the book publishing industry, a better term for them is “myths,” and there are a lot of book marketing myths. They spread from author to author quickly thanks to online groups and social media. Authors believe and accept them automatically, probably because they see the myths repeated so often.

Accepting book marketing myths as fact can hurt your writing career, though, so let’s set the record straight on three of the most common.

Do any of these resonate with you?

Myth 1

You should pursue a traditional book publishing contract because the publisher will do all the marketing so you don’t have to.



Your publisher will probably send advance review copies, but quite often, that’s it. The support you get varies from publisher to publisher but unless you’re in Celeste Ng’s league, you’ll have to do the vast majority of the marketing yourself.

Book publishing is a business. Publishers throw their marketing money behind those titles they think will sell the most. It might not be yours or mine.

Need proof? Ask any author with a mainstream publishing contract. Those who bought into this myth usually admit that they were naïve about what the publisher would do to market their books.

There are many valid reasons to pursue a traditional contract, but “the publisher will do all the marketing” isn’t one of them. That’s an urban legend that just won’t go away.

Myth 2

You will succeed if you just copy what other authors are doing.

Unlike plush hotel robes, book marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Your book marketing plan will be based on your book’s target audience — those people most likely to buy your book. The people who will love your book aren’t the same people who will love mine, so we shouldn’t copy each other.

That doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch, though. What you want to do is find authors with the same target audience as yours who are also successful. Copying somebody with different readers is a waste of time. So is copying somebody who isn’t selling many books.

For example, if you’ve written a book on entrepreneurship, find another author who has also done that, and done it well. Study that author’s social media accounts; Google the book to see where it’s been reviewed or media outlets that have interviewed the author. That’s when “copying” that writer’s approach makes sense.

Myth 3

Once you’ve finished writing the book, you should wait until it’s published to start the marketing process.

Ideally, you’ll start actively marketing your book at least six months before your publication date. But if you’re like so many who waited until the Amazon link went live before even thinking about marketing, don’t give up.

Better late than never.

To enjoy the most success and exposure for the book you’ve put so much into, you want to start the marketing process early. That’s because you want an audience waiting for your book as soon as it’s available. Building that audience takes time and effort.

My article, “Book promotion timing: Implement these 9 strategies as soon as you’ve finished the first draft,” will give you ideas. Select one or two and learn how to do them well. Otherwise, you’re likely to get overwhelmed.

Your goal is to make sure you have the right network and tools in place to sell books as soon as yours is available. Some people have the network and connections they need even before they start writing. Others need to work on it.

Spend time learning

As with everything else related to the book publishing industry, knowledge is power. Take the time to:

  • Learn as much as you can about book marketing long before your book is published. Then, when you come across conflicting information, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate what makes the most sense.
  • Consider the source of the information rather than accepting what you’re seeing as fact. I’m in a Facebook publishing group that includes a vocal self-proclaimed expert who shares misinformation. And . . . people tend to believe the loudest voice, as if volume equals knowledge. Beware the loud “expert.”
  • Think before you blindly accept what you see about book marketing online. For example, if someone insists that the best way to get reader reviews on Amazon is to ask your family members to write one, go right to the source: check Amazon’s terms of service. (That tactic is prohibited.)

Book marketing isn’t hard, but when you buy into common myths, it becomes more difficult. Don’t allow youself to be misled by publishing’s version of “The Hook.”

Let’s bust a few more myths! What other book marketing myths are you seeing or wondering about?
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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How To Use Your Book Cover To Sell More Books

Your book cover design is an essential part of your book marketing strategy. Today author and graphic designer AD Starrling discusses how to make the most of the cover design you've worked so hard to get right.

sell with book coverCover attracts, copy sells.

I can’t recall where exactly I first read this eye-opening line but I now live by this motto as both a writer and a designer.

When it comes to selling books, there is no doubt that an eye-catching cover that fits your main genre and targets your ideal reader is an important element to get right.

There are dozens of articles out there by some very big names in our industry about how changing covers changed their sales figures and in some cases, their entire careers.

Our very own Joanna Penn has written a couple of features here and here, and there is this sobering example by H.M. Ward which I always quote as an example of very effective redesign and rebranding.

I also strongly recommend checking out this podcast interview with Stuart Bache on book covers.

So, now that you’ve got a great book cover, what can you do with it besides putting it out there in the world when you launch your book? It turns out you can do a lot, especially to market it. So let’s break this down into three phases:

  1. Prelaunch
  2. Launch
  3. Branding

1. Prelaunch

Buzz building is a crucial element of most bestselling authors’ marketing strategy when it comes to their new releases. Getting your existing readers excited about your upcoming book and attracting new readers to your writing world is a great way to ensure you get good sale figures when you launch, especially if you’re doing preorders.

I would particularly emphasize targeting your existing readers. Remember the Rule of 7 in Marketing 101. Even your fans may have to “see” your book several times before they click the preorder or buy button.

Here are several ways you can use your book cover to build buzz about your upcoming release before your book goes live. You should start thinking about this 1 to 3 months before your book launch.

A. Cover reveal

A cover reveal is an easy, simple, and effective way to build buzz about your upcoming release. From exclusive cover reveals with preorder links to your mailing list and fan groups, to posts on your social media platforms which you can boost, to paid cover reveal book tours. All of these are easy ways to get your book out there to existing fans and potential new readers.

Many authors do giveaways with their cover reveals to engage their existing readers and attract new ones.

There are two ways you can use your book cover for cover reveals. Just use the cover itself or create attractive graphics that include your cover. In terms of cover reveal book tours, romance and YA fantasy are the two genres that can do well with that particular form of buzz building.

This is the cover reveal graphic I’m using for my upcoming release. Here, I used elements of the book cover for the background, a 3D render of the book, and a tagline with a clear call-to-action.

Blood and Bones Pre-order post

And here’s an amazing cover reveal post where the author uses their actual book cover to full effect (note this is not my design).

Cover Reveal Jovee Winters

B. Profile picture

Another simple way to make your upcoming release highly visible is to change your author profile image on your various social media platforms, your Amazon author page, and even your Bookbub page.

Here are a couple of recent guides which will help you get the dimensions right: Sprout Social Social Media Image Size Guide and Hubspot Ultimate Guide Social Media Image Dimensions.

Social media platforms often change their image dimension requirements so make sure to revisit them at least once or twice a year to ensure you’re using up to date sizing guides.

C. Website

Always try and keep your website up to date by displaying your upcoming release prominently on your Home page. Your cover or an attractive graphic with a tagline and preorder links is an easy way to make sure your readers know what’s coming next, especially if you’re driving traffic to your website with advertising.

Consider adding your book cover with its preorder links to your mailing list sign-up page.

Here’s a website Home page graphic I made for Melissa J. Crispin when we redesigned the cover of her fantasy novella The Crimson Curse.

Sample website banner

D. Banners

Adding your book cover to your social media and newsletter banners is another easy way to boost visibility. Many authors regularly change their banners to not only showcase their upcoming releases but also when they’re doing sales on one of their titles.

Here’s the Twitter banner I made for Melissa J. Crispin.

Melissa J Crispin Twitter banner

E. Ads and teasers

Using your book cover in ads is a brilliant way to boost preorders and increase visibility.

You can either use the book cover itself, elements of it, or images that are evocative of the story in your ad graphics.

Here are two Facebook ads I designed for S.E. Wright when we did her boxset cover.

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Here’s a teaser template I created for Melissa J. Crispin, which she then used to add content to use in her social media posts.

The Crimson Curse Teaser

2. Launch

Launching your book is a crazy whirlwind of newsletters, social media posts, advertising, and watching sales and reviews come in for your new baby. If you’ve put in the hard work for your prelaunch, it helps make the launch period that much easier.

Your existing and potential new readers have already seen your upcoming book cover several times in the form of the above buzz-building tactics. Now’s the time to dial things up and get them to click buy if they haven’t already pre-ordered your book.

A. Website and social media banners

Once your book is live, updating your website Home page and your social media banners with new launch graphics is a must. Nothing says “There’s naff all to see here folks” than going to an author’s website or social media page on launch day and seeing the proverbial tumbleweed roll across the screen.

You have a web presence. Use it to the max when it comes to your book launch. Remember the Rule of 7.

B. Boosted posts

Boosted posts targeted at your existing readers is a clever way to get sales on launch day. Sure, you would have sent a newsletter out too, but not everyone will open it on launch day and a boosted post doesn’t hurt visibility.

The book cover itself or a pretty graphic featuring the book and your buy links works well for this.

C. Ads

This is where most bestselling authors concentrate their marketing money. Most authors with a backlist that generates good read through and ROI have ads running in the background for their first in series, a boxset, or their reader magnet for mailing list sign-up anyway, but launch day is when the big guns come out.

Since you have no control over your Amazon ads graphics, ensuring the book cover itself is eye-catching from the get-go with a title or author name readable at thumbnail level is the best chance you can give your book in terms of those few precious seconds you have to catch a reader’s eye on a busy Amazon page.

For Facebook, Bookbub, or Twitter ads, the world is your oyster. Here, you can experiment with all sorts of graphics, images, and elements of your book cover.

Bookbub Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE WrightThe advice for Facebook ads is usually that simple images work better than graphics featuring book covers. But I have seen lots of great Facebook ads featuring book covers that work really well when you consider their social proof.

At right is a Bookbub ad I did for S.E. Wright for her boxset.

Here are some fantastic examples (note these are not my designs) of how you can use a book cover and its elements to create brilliant ads.

Sample Facebook ads

Shayne Silvers FaceBook Ad

3. Branding

The other function your book cover has is to convey your author brand or series brand to readers. It’s advisable to revisit your author branding regularly (I would recommend at least once a year) to make sure you keep things fresh and on target for your genre and the kind of readers you are trying to attract.

A. Website and social media

Here are some great examples of authors who are constantly updating their websites and social media banners to reflect their latest release and branding (again, not my own designs).

Shayne Silvers books

Domino Finn ad

Elise Kova Facebook ad

When I designed the covers for my upcoming urban fantasy series Legion, I decided to give my website and my newsletter a makeover to reflect my new series branding.

AD Starrling newsletter header

B. Swag

Another brilliant and fun way to use your book cover for branding and marketing is by incorporating them in your business card, author event banners, and all your fan swag. So bookmarks, postcards, posters, mugs, T-shirts, tote bags, fridge magnets, popsockets, etc.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to swag. And you can even monetize these designs by having your own author store on Zazzle or Society 6, or your own website.

[Note from Joanna: for more information and ideas about merchandising that ties into your books and author brand, listen to this episode of The Creative Penn podcast.]

Here are some great examples: Elise Kova, JA Huss, and Marie Force.

One thing to ensure before you sell physical products though is that you have the correct licenses with regards to the images used.

So now that we’ve talked about the various ways you can use your book cover or elements of it for marketing, what about the tools at your disposal to create these eye-catching graphics?

Here are the three I would recommend right now:

  1. Photoshop
  2. Canva
  3. Book Brush

When it comes to design, every designer swears by Photoshop. It can look like the tool of the devil at first but I would recommend starting with Adobe’s own tutorials if you’re new to the software.

If you don’t fancy paying for Photoshop, then I recommend Canva as a great platform for creating stunning graphics.

The other platform to consider is Book Brush. The new kid on the block, Book Brush promises to help you “create professional ads and social media images for your books”.

Before I started my design business, Canva was my go-to tool for all my graphic needs. Photoshop is now my personal tool of choice because it’s so versatile. If you’re not a designer, then I would recommend trying both Canva and Book Brush’s free plans before committing to a paid plan with either of them.

One advantage Canva still retains over Book Brush is that you can do more than just ads and social media images on there. Canva offers a plethora of design features including business cards, book covers, flyers, and posters among many others.

The good thing about both Canva and Book Brush is that they are constantly innovating and adding to their platforms so you will be sure to get a solid product that will only gain in value over time whichever one you choose to go with.

Your last option when it comes to ads and social images is to outsource this completely. There are a few book cover designers who also offer social media kits and ads packages, including my previous book cover designers, the amazing Deranged Doctor Design. And of course, my own design business 17 Studio Book Design.

[Note from Joanna: You can also find more book cover designers here.]

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and will go forth with a better idea of how you can effectively use your book cover in all your marketing endeavors.

Have you used your book covers in your marketing and advertising graphics? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

AD Starrling17 Studio Book Design is the brainchild of bestselling fantasy and thriller author AD Starrling. Having done all her marketing designs since 2016, AD launched 17 Studio Book Design in October 2018, after obtaining her Adobe Associate Certification.

What can you expect from her? Stunning, professional covers that fit your genre. A reader for over 30 years and an author-publisher-marketer for over 6 years, she knows how this business works. Do check out the 17 Studio Book Design portfolio to see what kind of covers and marketing packages she can create for you.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn

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Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – February 2019

By Amy Collins

This month has been all about working with authors to help them focus on their markets and really find their readers. If you are having trouble finding your market or connecting with your readers, may I suggest you join us in this month’s DO THIS NOT THAT as we take a moment and truly outline:

  • who we are writing for
  • who we are writing to
  • how we are going to use that knowledge to promote and market our books in the future

I have spoken with dozens of authors in the last few weeks who cannot answer the question “who are you writing for?”

What They Did

They wrote a book without their reader firmly planted in mind. They had a vague idea of their future reader while they were writing, but nothing concrete.

Some authors write with a very specific reader in mind. However, when questioned, they will admit that their “target reader” looked a lot like them. I know a lot of 61-year-old romance authors who wrote with themselves in mind.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that if indeed that is your market… But how do you know for sure? And if you’re only writing for people just like you, what sort of markets in sales might you be missing?

What They Should Have Done

Learned the specifics of the avid readers that make up the majority of purchasers of books in their genre.

What age group is the number one age group for romance novels right now? Do you know? No? Okay…. Do you own a computer?

It is not hard to find out who you should be writing for and writing to. It took me less than 5 minutes to find these facts and another 10 minutes to email them to a few librarians and booksellers I know to verify the stats I was finding online.

(Hint: Don’t just trust everything you read online… Verify…)

I got all of those stats about romance writers simply by googling the question “what age group buys the most romance novels?”.

I was immediately taken to a number of sites and studies that highlight facts and figures given by the Romance Writers Association of America and several other well-regarded organizations. Google it folks, but then check out what you learn with others.

Who is the romance reader of today? According to the Romance Writers of America, 84% of romance readers are women and 16% are men.

70% of romance readers discover the genre sometime in their teens. But the average age range of an romance reader is between 30 and 50 years old. She is likely to be coupled or married and has an average income of $55,000 per year.

The most highly represented geographic area for romance book buyers is the south.

Huh? So, if you are a 61-year-old single woman who lives in New England and you are writing your romance novels for women just like you? There’s a chance you’re missing most of your market. 37-year-old women from Jacksonville Florida… That’s your target!

Okay, I am NOT saying to not keep yourself and your demographic in mind, I am saying that it is helpful to really KNOW the reader of your genre while you are writing and CERTAINLY while you are marketing your book.

What We Should Do Instead

Well, there’s nothing particularly artistic or creative about it, but I would argue that before we pick up pen or keyboard, all of us writers should have a firm vision in our mind of exactly who were writing for and write AT them.

Once the book is finished, market TO them.

If you know that your reader is an avid library patron and has an income that does not lend itself to purchasing a lot of books, then you know you’re going to want to market heavily to the e-book, library, and lower-cost parts of our industry.

You can focus all of your sales and marketing and distribution efforts to where your readers are. But if you’re selling to a low income avid reader and you offer them $35 hard covers? You’ve missed the boat in more ways than one.

So What Am I Going To Do Now?

As I write this blog, I am writing to a 61-year-old romance writer.

  • She rents her home, works full-time, has two adult kids that she helps out a lot.
  • She is not a grandmother yet…
  • She’s college-educated but doesn’t have a degree.
  • She is always a little short on disposable income (helping out her kids most likely) but has a great circle of friends.
  • She’s an avid romance reader.
  • She’s taken a few courses over the years, but she’s not a member of a writer circle or writers group.
  • She’s too shy or busy to join any local writers organizations.
  • She does most of her work in the bubble of her own home.
  • She where is wonderful flowing tops and her hair could use a rinse.

I’m going to call her “Angela.”

Don’t laugh…

By writing specifically to Angela and knowing exactly who she is, this blog is going to reach thousands of people with a very strong focus and will reach out to all the Angelas of the world who need this advice.

And if you are “Robert” or a “Ginger”, you hopefully enjoyed this to. I am not excluding anyone, I am simply keeping the focus where it belongs.

Understand that I am simply advocating building understanding of the person you’re writing to. But I am not suggesting that you alienate or ignore all the different people you’ll be riding FOR. So have a broad understanding of who you’re writing for. (Example: if 16% of romance readers are men, then I am writing for men as well…)

But if I did not have Angela in mind while writing this blog, my advice could wander off in any one of a number of directions. But with a reader firmly in my mind, I stay on task and on message.

Here Are The Steps

  1. Get the facts, figures, and stats on your genre.
  2. Build a very specific person in mind that you will write to.
  3. Write your book.
  4. As you’re writing your book, figure out where the person you’re writing to shops, what websites they visit, what kind of clothes they buy, keep digging.
  5. Go to where your readers are and offer your book.

The more specific you get and the more you know about this person, the easier it will be to find them when you start selling your book.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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3 Author Success Essentials

By Sandra Beckwith

One of the most common posts in the self-publishing and book marketing group I co-moderate on Facebook is some variation of this:

“I just wrote my first book and I’m so excited! What do I need to do now to get it published? Can anyone tell me? I really want this to be a best-seller!”

Group members typically share advice about what they’ve learned, often the hard way.

They address formatting and ISBNs and uploading to Amazon. But members rarely venture beyond the mechanics of publishing to offer advice about what’s required to sell books to more than your cousins and the folks in your writers group.

New authors are often focused on the mechanics of publishing, plain and simple. It doesn’t occur to them that getting the book into the system is only one piece of successful book publishing. So, when the book doesn’t sell, they’re confused.

To be successful as an author, you need to know about more than how to upload to Amazon or what to price your e-book.

Here are three author essentials that will lead to the success most authors seek.

1. Write and publish an excellent book.

Your book should look and read like a traditionally published book.

To achieve that quality, you’ll have to spend money on:

  • An editor (and possibly more than one, depending on how much help is needed)
  • A proofreader who reads the book once all editing is finished
  • A cover designer

Be selective about who you hire so you get the quality and professionalism you need. Just last week, I saw typos in the Facebook profile Intro of an “editor.” That’s not a good sign.

Because beginning writers often struggle to recognize the difference between good and bad editing, I recommend starting the search for an editor and/or proofreader with organizations for serious professionals. Try the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Look for a cover designer with experience in your genre or category.

2. Know your audience.

Here’s the key question to ask: Who will love my book? (Clue: It’s not everybody.)

When you ask that question, be as specific as possible. You want as narrow an audience as possible.

Why a narrow audience? Doesn’t that limit the number of books you can sell?

It would seem like that, but in reality, the more focused you are with your marketing, the more likely you are to reach the right people. When you zero in on a narrow, targeted, audience you’ll waste less time and money. Only the right people will see your book marketing messages.

Let’s say you wrote The Complete Guide to Urban Container Gardening. Who is more likely to buy it?

  1. (a) Everybody
  2. (b) Gardeners
  3. (c) Gardeners in urban settings

The answer is (c), of course. “Everybody” is too broad. While “gardeners” comes closer, it still includes too much waste. Rural and suburban gardeners with acreage and yards won’t need urban tactics.

After you’ve defined that narrow audience, learn as much about them as possible. Take into account both demographics – age, gender, marital status, income range – and psychographics such as lifestyle and life stage. Are they active or reclusive? Young couples or empty nesters?

The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to focus your marketing on where you’ll find them both online and offline.

3. Monitor your marketing.

Your goal with book marketing is always the same: Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

You won’t know what’s working and what isn’t if you aren’t monitoring what happens after you use a marketing tactic.

This applies to more than book sales, too. If your goal is to get more readers on your email list, you need to watch your list size every time you do something designed to help you get more subscribers.

Are you looking for more Twitter followers to boost your platform in anticipation of shopping around a book proposal? You need to know which tactics are getting you more connections and which aren’t.

If you’re traditionally published, watch your sales rank online as you try different marketing tactics. If you’re self-published, you can monitor book sales in your Amazon account every time you do something to promote the book.

Your promotion tactics might be sharing on social media an image quote pulled from your book or a tip sheet you’ve sent to the media and bloggers. Maybe it’s ads on Facebook or Amazon.

Monitoring is most effective when you try one tactic at a time. Otherwise, you won’t know which activity is responsible for the outcome, whether it’s a step forward or no change at all.

Hobbyist or professional?

How much attention you pay to these three essentials might depend on whether or not your goal is to sell books.

If you’re simply writing the book that’s always been in you without expectation that anyone will want to read it, you’re a hobbyist. You just want to say you finally wrote that book.

Professionals write for other reasons:

  • to earn money
  • support another aspect of their business
  • attract clients
  • even win awards

To achieve those results, they must be constantly focused on quality, audience, and marketing results.

With these three essentials firmly in place, you will be well-positioned to achieve success – however you define it.

What advice would you give a first-time author just starting out? What have you learned that could help others?
Photo: BigStockPhoto.

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Book Marketing Insanity

By Judith Briles

Authors often don’t want to hear what works to sell books.

John Kremer, marketing expert, often responds when an author asks, How long should I market my book? with How long do you want book sales?

If you want books sales, doing repeatedly what doesn’t work is book marketing insanity. Successful book sales need some type of book marketing campaign behind them. As in what is needed to create a successful book marketing campaign—a campaign that includes the creation, the execution of pushing the book out. It’s called a plan.

What holds authors back?

  1. Many don’t like marketing.
  2. Many would rather be writing … not marketing.
  3. Many didn’t realize that they must do marketing.
  4. Many tried marketing, but what was tried didn’t work; therefore, the belief that nothing will settles in.
  5. It takes time.
  6. It takes money.
  7. Or, if they had cost overruns in creating the book, they refuse to do anything to support/market their book once they have all those books sitting in the garage.

Could any of the above be you?

Stop the insanity …

Start with the What’s next? question. Of course, the answer to What’s next? has to be the marketing and selling of it.

  • What’s next is educating yourself—learning what other authors are doing that works …and doesn’t. Following the best-selling authors and top influencers in their blogs and social media and studying what they do and mimic where appropriate.
  • What’s next could be getting help. Virtual assistants have become the right hands, eyes and fingers of many authors. Get one.
  • What’s next is to stop rationalizing, making excuses and justifying why you can’t market it. My belief is, “Yes you can.”
  • What’s next is connecting with others—it’s a huge shout out time. Anywhere … everywhere.
  • What’s next is telling the world.
    • in person
    • with your connections
    • with groups that you belong to
    • with creating a press release and doing a push with it

    So, using the town hall of marketing: social media and the appropriate platforms.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Pinterest
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn


  • What’s next is connecting with groups that want to “hear” your message—speaking and book clubs—both areas can be done via in-person and online.
  • What’s next is for you, dear author, to commit—recommit—to your book and yourself. That is, if you want book sales.

But … you think … and say:

I’m tired… Welcome to the club. The creation of a book can lead to Book Fatigue Syndrome—you want a time out. Do it—take a week or two off … but then, it’s back to work.

I’ve already committed so much money, I can’t put another dime out… What were you thinking in the first place—that if you just held a copy of your finished book that the world would flock to the stores, the Internet, your website, your front door, you, to get a copy? That would be a rarity. You need help … starting right now. This is where “hanging out” with other authors helps—what worked for them (and didn’t)? Would it work with your book?

I just want to write… Get over that one, too. Yes, keep writing. You get better; and you need to have “new” books forward. In a recent podcast I did with agent Michael Larsen, he revealed that for fiction authors, it’s book #5 that opens the door.

I hired the wrong person to help me… It happens. The reality is: most have, including me. Lick your wounds—determine what went wrong in the process—then get back to work.

I don’t know how to do all this social media stuff… Welcome to the crowd … but there are those out there who do … and guess what—they are part of the book marketing campaign—your book marketing campaign and included in your book budget.

Book marketing takes work. Lots of it.

Yes, there is marketing overwhelm—so much to do in what seems so little time. Yet marketing is stretched over a period.

Can you get author and book marketing fatigue? Of course.

Wise authors work in projects, get help where they need it and get that it’s not an all or nothing basis. Effective marketing can be in nibbles. What needs to be consistent and a plan behind it.

Too, too many authors abandon their book early in the process. And what do they do? One of two things:

  1. Many start another book—maybe a variation of what they just did. And what will happen when they finish? Disappointment.
  2. Others walk away and become MIBAs … missing in book action, abandoning mega hours of blood, sweat and tears and what could be a successful book—desired and needed.

In effect, many authors become unfit author-parents. What were they thinking?

Part of authoring is connecting with potential and ongoing book buyers. It means:

  • marketing
  • marketing
  • and more marketing

No author gets to do the ostrich bit. That is, if they want author success.

Stop the insanity.


Photo: BigStockPhoto

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Street Teams: How to Run a Smooth and Successful Campaign

By Angela Ackerman

The prospect of a book launch can be intimidating. In today’s post, guest post author, Angela Ackerman, shares many tips about how to work with a street team to make your book launch a success. You won’t want to miss this article.

There are many strategies and tools an author can use when launching a book, but one of the most powerful resources to leverage is a Street Team.

Directed by the author, the team works to use their contacts, personal resources, and social reach to ensure the book has the best chance of being noticed by potential readers. They may also support the author by providing:

  • early reviews
  • coordinating online and offline launch events
  • offering blog support
  • encouraging book discussion
  • generally being a champion of the book and author

For a range of ideas, check out this list.

A Street Team sounds pretty amazing, right? It is! I’ve released six books to date and each time, my Street Team made the launch a fantastic success. Whether ten people join your team or two hundred, everything is much easier with help.

Many writers understand the power of a street team but may be hesitant to form one due to self-doubt. This is a road hazard of writing I think, as we take a lot of ego hits on the path to publication. It can be easy to believe the inner voice that says I don’t know enough people willing to help, I’m not popular enough, I don’t want to be a burden to the people I know, and so on.

These thoughts are ones we should push away. Each of us have people in our lives, online and off, who enjoy our writing, like us, and would jump at the chance to help if they knew how. Inviting these people to join our inner circle is a great way to give them the chance to support us and what we do! (For more hints on how to form a street team, visit this post.)

Once a team is in place, a new challenge emerges: how to best manage the group leading up to and during a launch campaign. I’m working with my team now for my seventh book launch and I’d like to share elements to help you make the most out of this incredible resource.

Know Your Audience

When we write a book and set out to market it, knowing our audience is key. This same mindset helps with a street team because if we investigate those signing up, we can better understand how they might be able to help us.

Do they have a podcast geared toward our readership? Do they blog reviews or post about a topic that ties into our novel? Maybe they have media connections, have pull with conference organizers that would be a fit for a teaching opportunity, or are well integrated with a school or library.

When I communicate with my team I ask if they have marketing ideas to share or know of a way they might be able to help. Great opportunities have come from this: invites to speak, offers to connect me with a high-profile blogger or podcaster, and even an offer to have Santa “unbox” the book live by video (one of my ST member’s partner was a professional Santa!).

Be Authentic

When you build a street team, you are inviting readers and supporters behind the curtain to see and interact with the real you.

When communicating by group email, you’ll want to put extra effort into making people feel welcome, appreciated, and valued. These people joined because they care about you and what you write, so be yourself.

Show your personality, your sense of humor, or whatever else is uniquely you. Show emotion—your excitement, love of this book, and yes, even your nervousness. Everyone will understand and relate to these feelings. Your willingness to show them brings each person in close and shows them the real you.

Have A Plan

Your team will be looking for leadership, so have a plan for how the launch will go before you start communicating.

If you know you’ll be hosting a contest or running a giveaway at your blog, have a clear idea of what that will look like and how street team can help. If you plan on asking if you can take over their blog at launch to point to this giveaway event, have a way to organize those willing to help.

If you want everyone to rally around a series of Facebook live events, an in-person launch party or whatever else, be ready to explain how you envision it working and what you’ll need.

You can always leave room in your plan for innovation as your team may come up with ideas to make it better, but have the basics thought out in advance.

Be Organized

When it comes to giving the team what they need, make it simple and easy, meaning prep and organization on your part.

Provide ARCs early so they have plenty of time to read and review.

If you are staging a blog takeover, have a pre-written blog post ready to use. (I send it in plain text and HTML so people can cut and paste if they wish.)

If you are asking them to share images or links, make it easy. (Prewrite tweets with hashtags, for instance.) If there’s a timeline, provide that too.

Basically, people are giving you their time—time away from their own work, family, and writing—and so respecting that is key. Make it easy and fun to help and they will likely be first in line to sign up for the next launch!

Communicate Respectfully

Tying to the last point, we want to respect the inboxes of our street team by not flooding them with communication. This is where having a plan and being organized will really pay off.

One thing I do early in the process is send my team a form to fill out that will show me what they would like to help with. My campaigns have 3 or 4 prongs:

  • Book Reviews
  • Blog Support
  • Social Media Support
  • Newsletter Giveaways

Once people submit their preferences, I make sure they only see email paired with what they wish to help with. (To see how I do this, here’s the current form for my latest release.)

Show Appreciation

People who signed up are giving you two precious gifts: time and energy. Try to always show your appreciation, even when your own well of energy dips low. Saying thank you and offering a personalized response to a question shows you care.

You can also do something special for the team, like run a giveaway, gift an eBook, or do something else that fits their interests. For example, Becca and I give free education in the form of a street team only webinar. Showing appreciation in this way reinforces your belief that team members are special.

Need more help?

For more information on Street Teams, visit this special page at Writers Helping Writers.

In the Marketing Section, you’ll find a launch deconstruction webinar with Jennie Nash (a past member of my street team). There’s also a Street Team swipe file filled with email communications and marketing materials. I hope they help you!

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, as well as five others. Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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Book Marketing: Social Media Tips For Introvert Authors

Writers and creatives know we need to be present on social media – and it's no surprise that many of us are introverts.

Social Media Tips For Introvert AuthorsSo, how do we reconcile being introverted and being active on social media? In today's article, Ella Barnard gives us some tips.

First, keep in mind that while extroverts like attention, introverts can be amazing at engaging with people on social media, especially when they have the right mindset and tools. Introverts are great listeners, they think before they speak, they are great observers, and they are compassionate leaders.

As an introvert on social media, you can bring all those qualities to your interactions with people. You will stay on the right topic which is the books and readers. You can be genuine, thoughtful, curious, and caring. You just need to know how to express it.

Why is it so important to be engaged with people on social media? Because it’s a key part of building your indie author platform. You don’t have a huge marketing team putting your book all over the internet.

But that’s okay because there are benefits to having direct access to your potential readers on social media. It’s where your readers:

  • spend time
  • chat about what they are reading
  • go to get recommendations

And it’s where you get to interact with them for free! In one friendly interaction, people can go from stranger to friend, or from random customer to your customer.

But knowing all that doesn’t do any good if engaging with strangers is a challenge for you. And if you’re an introvert, you know how difficult it can be to put yourself out there.

First, take some of the pressure off.

You don’t have to BFF everyone on the internet. It’s okay to start with baby steps. Make one comment. Meet one new reader friend. Celebrate and acknowledge your progress.

Here are some ways that introverts can easily start interacting and building relationships with their ideal readers and fellow authors on social media:

Where to Start

1. Join genre-themed Facebook groups. Groups are hot right now. They get a lot of engagement and have a lot of people interacting with each other.

FacebookThey’re great for introverts because, unlike a Facebook Page, the pressure of producing content doesn’t fall solely on you. They’re a great place to lurk and see what’s happening with the fans of your genre.

2. Show up as a person. A big resistance for many indie authors is they don’t want to come across on social media as salesy or sleazy. Which makes sense.

For introverts and extroverts alike, being too salesy feels gross. That’s why when it’s time to interact with readers online, put your “sales” hat away and show up in the groups as a regular person, or better yet, as a fellow fan of the genre.

3. Uplevel your “Like,” by leaving a short comment. Instead of clicking “thumbs up,” “heart” or “wow” emojis, uplevel your response and leave a short comment.

It can be something as simple as “This is great!” or “I love this,” or actually typing out, “Wow!” The couple of seconds it takes to actually type a response pay back dividends over time.

I have a friend who leaves simple comments like, “Thanks!” and “You too!” and he gets exponentially more engagement on his posts because people know that he cares enough to type a real response. This is great for introverts because you don’t actually have to come up with interesting comments. You just have to type out the words instead of clicking and emoji.

4. Comment with a gif. People LOVE gifs! Again, instead of just clicking the “like” button, take a few seconds to choose a pertinent (or funny) gif.

For introverts, this is awesome because you don’t even really have to say anything. Just post a gif as a comment.

What to Post

Diverse Group of PeopleThese are the most effective strategies and they’re great for introverts because they put the focus where it should be, on the readers. It’s not about you or your book. It’s about the other people in the group–your potential readers.

Here are some simple ways to give amazing value without giving too much of yourself:

1. Recommend books (not your own). Readers love book recommendations. They’re always looking for new authors and good stories. So help them out with a simple recommendation.

I’m not talking about lengthy, in-depth reviews here. A screenshot or image of the book cover and some brief text is enough, “Hey! I just read this book and loved it. It has dragons!”

This is great for introverts because the bulk of the process is reading the book! Yes! Another excuse to buy and read more books, “I needed it for my social media!”

2. Post subject- or genre-related games and memes. You know those predictive text posts? They’re super fun, but minimal effort to find and post.

Go to Pinterest and search for “Facebook games” or “reading memes.” That’s right. You don’t have to make them up yourself. You can post someone else’s game, easy peasy. Just make sure they are related to books, reading, or your genre.

3. Start conversations with a question. Don’t want to talk about yourself? Great! Be interested in everyone else.

question markIn Facebook groups dedicated to your genre, ask simple open-ended questions. My favorite conversation starter is “What is your favorite [your genre] book?”

Asking questions works well for introverts because you don’t have to talk about yourself. Instead, you create a space for your potential readers to talk about themselves.

4. Keep asking questions. Be curious. When someone comments on your post or replies to your comment, ask a follow-up question. Let the focus stay on them.

All you have to do is be interested in who they are. That should be natural; you’re writers. Observing and learning people is a big part of what you do. If you are engaging back and forth, and run out of questions, fall back on some of the tips from above, leave a short comment or a gif.

Like anything, engaging with readers on social media gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel. Especially as strangers turn into friends, readers, and fans. It takes time, but not as much time as you think.

Keep in mind, they’re probably introverts too. And you already know you have something in common–your shared passion for books!

Are you an introvert who's active on social media? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Ella BarnardElla Barnard hosts the Author Like a Boss podcast. She helps authors who are ready to jump into self-publishing so they can quit their job and make a living with their writing. It’s hard work. It isn’t sexy, but it’s doable. And it’s easier with friends.

She coaches indie authors in her Author Boss Academy. To find out more, or sign up for a free training, go to

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn