Because I think we all need a little more whimsy in our lives, I’m giving away some goodies over on my Facebook Author Page. Click here to enter: Comfort Kit Giveaway
*Giveaway open to residents of USA/UK/Canada/Australia only
Because I think we all need a little more whimsy in our lives, I’m giving away some goodies over on my Facebook Author Page. Click here to enter: Comfort Kit Giveaway
*Giveaway open to residents of USA/UK/Canada/Australia only
Authors, like every other person or company plugging their products, are constantly refining their marketing message and dry-running new social media strategies, trying to figure out how to engage our potential readers – whoever they are. It’s all a very frustrating exercise in futility, most of the time, because who knows? No one, really.
There are paid services and books and blogs with tips-o-plenty, but the truth is no one knows what makes a video or photo or post or tweet go viral, just like no one knows which books will hit the best-seller lists or get made into blockbuster films. The only thing we know for sure is that there IS a cultural stream of consciousness out there that everyone is tuned into on some level, and if you’re lucky enough to accidentally tap that vein, anything is possible.
Accidental advertising is just what the term implies – unintentional. You can’t plan for it or pay for it or pick the place or time to show up. It happens organically, but oddly enough, not necessarily randomly.
One of the universal truths in marketing is that people respond to messaging with their emotional right brains more than their practical left brains – even when making a perfunctory purchase. They respond to things based on how those things make them feel more than anything.
Take as study the most amazing example of accidental marketing I’ve seen in years – the case of Dillon Josephsen, who inadvertently blew up the internet last week by tweeting something kinda silly-sweet he noticed about his dad’s business Facebook page. Dillon discovered that his dad, a flooring guy in New Jersey, had been taking pics of dogs he met on the job (in his clients’ homes) and posting them on the page as his “employee of the week”. Super cute, right? Dillon innocently tweeted a collage of the photos to his friends, and inadvertently staged a mega marketing coup.
EVERYONE LOVES DOGS! Who knew right? I know *I* do. When I saw that tweet retweeted in my feed by someone I follow, I clicked on it SO FAST. And then I clicked through to Dillon’s dad’s Facebook page because I just had to see it for myself.
And now, like over 14,000 (!) other people across the globe, I am a fan of Stairfaces & Josephsen Hardwood Floors for no good reason, except DOGS, and of course one day I might move to New Jersey and need some reclaimed barn door planks refinished and installed as flooring in my home office. It could happen, right?
But, even if it doesn’t, my heart has been warmed by some guy I’ll never meet and the pets he posts on his business page. I’m ALSO now following his college-age son on Twitter, because this kid? He’s trying to make something of himself, maybe in the media/entertainment industry, and I’ve got a daughter his age who is trying to make her mark as a vocalist. ABN (always be networking), people!
See how this works? Sometimes it’s just about being yourself and sharing information that matters or moves YOU. If it makes YOU happy or sad or mad, odds are pretty good it will affect others the same way. Being a member of the audience you are trying to reach and engaging in honest dialogue without contrivance or artifice or hidden agenda is the easiest form of social media marketing and networking there is. And it works surprisingly well!
To learn more about Dillon and his dad, here’s a great article (one of many) that popped up after that tweet went viral:
Advertising, Audience Capture, Book Marketing, Book Promotion, Increased Visibility, Marketing Monday, Marketing Tips, Referral Business, Roberta Trahan, Social Media, Social Networking, writing life, Writing tips
A measurable result is one of the touchstones of any successful marketing campaign. But how do you define it? Most folks look at number trends before, during and after a promotion and look for an uptick in sales. Metrics are an obvious measurement of whether or not our marketing efforts (and investment) have paid off. But, they are not the only yardstick of success.
Increasing your sales, and ultimately your bottom line, is the prime objective. However, specific marketing efforts rarely correspond directly to an increase in units sold. A lack of a sales spike, however, does not necessarily mean your ad plan has failed. There is more than one way to measure success. For example:
Increased Visibility in the marketplace – every campaign or promo you run will at the very least garner you attention. Most of the people who see a sponsored post, tweet or Instagram ad respond impulsively to the concept if it interests or appeals to them. They will “like” your promo, but don’t click through to purchase. They aren’t actually shopping. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impact. The hope here is that when they are looking to buy, they’ll remember you. There are sales conversion formulas that calculate how many impressions (number of times someone sees your ad) it takes to convert a sale. It varies, but every person who notices you gets you one click closer to that purchase. In the long run, how many “likes” you get matters.
Audience Capture is just a sexy term for saying followers or fans, and is another important measurable result. These are folks who aren’t yet ready to buy, but have more than just a passing interest in what you have to offer. They take the extra step of connecting with you – becoming a fan of your FB page, following your blog or Twitter or Instagram account – in order to keep you and your offerings in their que for later reference.
Referrals (or “shares”) are also a powerful measure of a successful ad or promotion. It’s harder to track these results directly because there’s no way to follow the sale back to the source, but every time someone retweets your Tweet or shares you FB ad or blog post, you are reaching a new potential market you had no way of reaching otherwise. It’s essentially free advertising, and should be counted as a win.
The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to evaluating your marketing plan is to expect a dollar for dollar return on your investment. Factor the long term payoffs from increased visibility, audience capture, and referrals into the equation. In other words, don’t sell yourself short. Building a customer base or audience takes consistent effort over time. And remember, sales metrics are not the only measurable result that matters.
One of the things I struggle with most as a writer is consistency. Creative people have ideas, lots of them, all the time. If you are of the goal oriented ilk, mustering the discipline to stay on task and see each one through to a timely conclusion comes easy to you. If you’re like me, and you’re of the passionate-about-process persuasion, not so much. I tend to follow inspiration from idea to idea, herding my many projects like sheep along a meandering road at their own pace. Some of them get lost along the way. Others die from neglect, and sadly, precious few reach the end of the process path.
After many MANY failed attempts at regimenting my work day with accountability tools and word count goals and self-imposed deadlines, I have come to accept my creative wanderlust as less an affliction to be cured and more an attribute to be better utilized. We all need structure and context, just like our stories, but we also need to let the muse lead now and then.
I don’t mind boundaries, but I don’t like fences. So, to keep myself from jumping the rails, I have decided to pencil some loose parameters around my writing week. Today, I’m going to kick things off by resurrecting Marketing Mondays – a blog column I abandoned quite some time ago for no good reason. To bookend that feature, I’ll be returning with the Week in Review post on Fridays.
Marketing Monday is all about shameless self-promotion. Each Monday, I am going to do my level best to accomplish a short-list of marketing tasks. To be effective, and manageable in the long run, these tasks should be specific, actionable and have measurable results.
Here’s the list for today:
What about you? Do you do Marketing Monday, or do you have a different strategy for promotion? I’d love to hear your ideas – goddess knows I need the help!
So far I’ve completed two of those three tasks for this Marketing Monday, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I should have that third bullet checked off by the end of the day. My “to do” list for the rest of the week is pretty long, and I’ll let you know how it goes on Friday, with my next Week in Review post. See you then!
In my opinion, this is an excellent analysis of the SFF community at large. I’d count myself among the Progressive Fantacists, although my creative DNA might also include traits from the 9th Tribe. What do you think? What Tribe are you?
UPDATE 1: the most excellent Paul Weimer suggests a 9th tribe, and it makes a whole lot of sense. The 9 tribes of scifi? I like it. Paul’s thinking is as follows:
The tribe I think you missed is what could be glibly called The Worldbuilders. Worldbuilders have been under stress lately, as what makes a realistic world and what doesn’t has been riven with internal strife over the roles of women and POC on the fantasy side of fantasy. But Worldbuilders, both fantasy and SF flavors, are the kind of people who see a 800 page epic fantasy or SF novel with a rich and detailed world, and dive right into it, seeking deep immersion with a world and its characters. Maps. glossaries and appendices for these books are features, not bugs. Readers of stuff ranging from Kate Elliott to Brandon Sanderson to Peter F Hamilton and James S…
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One of the toughest parts of the process for a writer seeking publication is querying agents. Don’t we all wish there was a tried and true template for success? I’ve seen a lot of examples floating around out there, but today’s bit o’ wisdom from SFF agent Amy Boggs over on on Pub Hub is the best I’ve read. To feast on her expertise, click the banner:
47North, Amazon Publishing, Contemporary Fantasy, Dead Spots, Denise Grover Swank, Echoes of Empire, Fantasy, Harrowgate, Horror, Jodi McIsaac, Kate Danley, Kate Maruyama, Maggie MacKay Magical Tracker, Mark T Barnes, Melissa F. Olson, Miserere, Richard Ellis Preston Jr, Roberta Trahan, Roberto Rodriguez Calas, Romulus Buckle, Stant Litore, Steve McHugh, Teresa Frohock, The Curse Keepers, The Dream Stewards, The Hellequin Chronicles, The Keys to the Realms, The Pillars of Sand, The Scourge, The Thin Veil, The Well of Tears, The Zombie Bible, Urban Fantasy
Did somebody say PAR-TAY? Yup, that ‘s right. To celebrate the release of THE KEYS TO THE REALMS – The Dream Stewards Book Two, I am hosting a virtual launch extravaganza! There won’t be cake, but there will be SPECIAL GUESTS and LOTS OF SWAG!
Come and hang out with me and my friends as we discuss “Making Your Own Mythology”, chat about books, and giveaway books and other goodies. Here’s what’s happening and when:
Special Guest Authors:
3:15 PM – Mark T. Barnes (Best-selling author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series- The Garden of Stones, The Pillars of Sand, The Obsidian Heart)
3:45 PM — Kate Maruyama (Author of the hair-raising horror novel Harrowgate)
4:15 PM – Roberto Rodriguez Calas (Author of several novels, including The Scourge and Nostrum)
4:45 PM – Melissa F. Olson (Author of The Scarlett Bernard Urban Fantasy Series – Dead Spots, Trail of Dead)
5:15 PM – Stant Litore (Best-selling author of the popular horror series The Zombie Bible)
6:15 PM – Teresa Frohock (Acclaimed author of the epic dark fantasy Miserere – An Autumn Tale)
6:45 PM — Denise Grover Swank (NYT and USA best-selling author of many novels, including her new Urban fantasy series The Curse Keepers. Look for her latest release The Curse Breakers (Curse Keepers #2) – on sale April 29th!
7:15 PM – Jodi McIsaac (Best-selling author of the contemporary fantasy series The Thin Veil – Through the Door, Into the Fire)
7:45 PM – Steve McHugh (Best-selling author of The Hellequin Chronicles – Crimes Against Magic, Born of Hatred, With Silent Screams)
8:15 PM – Kate Danley (Best-selling author of the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker urban fantasy novels – Maggie for Hire, Maggie Get Your Gun, Maggie on the Bounty)
8:45 PM – Richard Ellis Preston Jr (Author of the extraordinary steampunk series Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin – Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders, Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War
Each of my author guests will be talking about their books and hosting their own special giveaways – and I’ll be offering a few prizes of my own. After all, I am the party girl ;). Autographed books, themed swag, Amazon gift cards, and more. If you haven’t already sent in your RSVP – DO IT NOW!
Click on the link above or the image below, and we’ll see you there!!
From the uniquely talented (and as you will see for yourself) supremely insightful Robert J Bennett on the nature of writer – reader relationships. Good advice for every one of us author type people. Read it, and heed it.
I’ve received repeated requests to re-publish this very helpful guest post by author Rob Kroese. Got questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll make sure Rob stops by to answer!
Recently I made the transition from web developer to full-time writer. I decided I didn’t want to spend my days writing code when I could be writing novels. So as part of that transition, I rebuilt my author website to make it as simple as possible to maintain. What I wanted was a site that I could set up once and then forget about, except for posting blog updates.
Here’s my list of requirements:
I’m going to walk through the basic process of setting this all up. Note that I’m going to be using the WordPress blogging platform for my example, because I think it’s the easiest to set up and manage.
You can see the final results of this process at http://robertkroese.com. I’m not saying it’s the most beautiful site in the world, but it does everything I need it to do – with minimal ongoing effort on my part.
First, you’ll need to register a domain and get a basic hosting package. (You can skip this step if you don’t mind using a subdomain on someone else’s site, e.g. RobertKroese.wordpress.com or RobertKroese.blogspot.com. If you’re short on money, that might be the way to go.) I use a company called MyHosting.com, which has reasonable prices and has been fairly reliable for me. I recommend going with a hosting company that uses the Parallels Automation tools. Parallels provides a simple web interface that allows you to upload files, install applications, and change settings for your website.
The process of registering a domain and setting up a basic hosting package through a company like MyHosting.com is pretty straightforward, so I won’t go into detail about it here. Just be aware that it might take up to a day for the hosting company to get everything set up. Once it’s set up, you’ll be able to log into your site control panel. You’ll see something like this:
(This is the Parallels web interface. If your hosting company is using a different service, it will look different.)
If you don’t have an email address set up for your domain (e.g. Stephen@stephenking.com), I’d recommend clicking on Add New Mailbox and doing that first.
After that, click on Site Applications in the Websites section. You’re going to want to click on the big +Install button.
You’ll see a list of applications you can install. Click on WordPress.
Step through the installation. You can just accept the default values for most things. One thing I would recommend changing is the default URL path. It will want to put WordPress in a /wordpress directory, which means that to get to your blog, users will have to go to that directory. This is useful if you want your WordPress blog to be just one part of your website, but for simplicity we’re going to manage the whole site through WordPress. That means users who go to yourauthorsite.com will see the WordPress content without having to go to yourauthorsite.com/wordpress.
To accomplish that, change this…
Step through the rest of the installation and you’re good to go.
Now if you click on the Site Applications link, you’ll see WordPress installed.
To log into WordPress, click the Login => link. Unless you’re happy with the default WordPress theme, I’d recommend clicking the change your theme completely link. Spend some time browsing the various themes. Remember that you want something that captures the feel you want for your author site as well as having a place for all the links and widgets you’re going to want on the page. You can change this later, but plan on losing any customizations you made to the previous theme.
Once you’ve selected a theme you like, you can make simple customizations by clicking on the big Customize Your Site button.
Next, you’re going to want to add some plugins. The first one you’ll want to add is the Akismet anti-spam plug-in. You may already have this installed, so check under Installed Plugins on the left nav menu first.
If you see Akismet listed, just click Activate to activate it. If it’s not listed, click Add New on the menu and search for “Akismet”. Install and activate it. You can also click Settings to manage how Akismet handles suspected spam comments.
There are thousands of other plugins you might find useful, but for now let’s just add two others. These two plugins are needed for integrating your site with social media platforms. We need one plugin to display links to your Twitter/Facebook/etc. pages from your sidebar and another to let people easily share your posts on these sites.
Click Add New on the Plugins menu and search for “social media”. You’ll find a bunch of social media-related plug-ins. What we’re looking for is something that will allow readers to easily share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, etc. I use Acurax Social Media Widget, which seems to work pretty well. Install and activate the plug-in.
After installing the Acurax plug-in, you’ll want to configure it. Click the Acx Social Media Widget Settings button on the left nav.
Select the button style you want and enter your social media account information. You can leave boxes blank if you want; the widget just won’t display those options to the reader.
Now click on the Dashboard link on the left nav and then click Manage widgets.
You’ll see a list of Available Widgets, including the Acurax Social Media Widget. To the right, you’ll see all the widgets currently installed on your site. Drag the Acurax Social Media Widget to where you want it to appear.
It will look something like this on your site:
Next, we need a plugin to allow users to easily share your posts on social networking sites. Click Add New on the Plugins menu and search for “social media” again. I use a plugin called “Social Share Buttons” by Loskutnikov Artem. Again, there are plenty of other widgets that do basically the same thing. Install and activate the plugin. When you’re done, you should see sharing options at the bottom of your posts. It will look something like this:
There are special WordPress plugins for displaying data from Twitter and Amazon.com on your site, but I found it simplest just to use the code provided by Twitter and Amazon, respectively. (I’m assuming you already have a Twitter and Amazon Affiliate accounts set up.)
To get the code to display your recent tweets, go here: https://twitter.com/settings/widgets.
To get the Amazon widget code, go here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/. You can easily use Amazon’s tools to create a widget displaying all or some of your books, with links to the Amazon page.
Copy the code for the widget. Then go to the WordPress dashboard again and click Manage widgets.
Drag a Text widget to where you want it to appear on the site.
Then click the widget header, give the widget an appropriate title and paste the code. Click Save when you’re done.
Make a separate text widget for Twitter, Amazon, and any other arbitrary text/code that you want to display.
Here’s a screenshot of my blog:
The sidebar below my bio/photo is comprised of:
OK, your site is all set up! You’ve got all your basic information on the site and made it easy for readers to connect with you on various social media platforms. There’s just one other step you should take to make life easier for yourself in the long run: set up your blog to automatically post to your favorite social media sites.
First you’ll need to find the URL for your blog’s RSS feed. A link to your feed URL will generally appear somewhere on your blog sidebar, depending on your theme and settings. If you right-click on the Entries RSS link, you can copy the link address.
The RSS feed is basically a version of your blog that’s easy for automated services to read.
The best service I’ve found for auto-posting to social media sites is TwitterFeed.com. Simply go to TwitterFeed, create an account and then click Create New Feed. Paste the URL for your RSS feed into the text box. You can click the test rss feed button to make sure you did it right.
Click Continue to Step 2. Select the service you want to publish your posts to. You’ll be prompted to connect your social media account(s) to TwitterFeed. When you’ve done that, click All Done! That’s all there is to it. (Using the default settings, it might take up to 30 minutes for new posts to show up on the selected social media sites.)
Note that for Facebook, you can choose to post either to your personal wall or to your author page (if you’ve set up a separate author page). If you want to post to both, simply repeat the process. You can post to as many pages as you want. Repeat the process again to post to a Twitter account or other service.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why you don’t see an option to post to Google Plus, it’s because the G+ API doesn’t currently allow write access. I couldn’t begin to speculate why. Hopefully that will change at some point.
There are all sorts of advanced settings I won’t get into here. You can also get really clever with Twitterfeed by using categories in WordPress. For example, I’ve set my blog up to post all blog entries to my personal Facebook page, but only book-related posts to show up on my author page. To do this, create a category in WordPress (for example, “Book Promotion”) and then create at least one blog post in that category. Go to that post in your blog and click the category to open the archive for that category.
Your browser will open to a page with an url like http://robertkroese.com/wordpress/?cat=6. In this case, “cat=6” means that 6 is WordPress’s identifier for the “Book Promotion” category.
Go to Twitterfeed and create a new feed, using this format: http://robertkroese.com/wordpress/?cat=6&feed=rss2 (replace my domain with yours and the number 6 with the appropriate category identifier for your site). Click Continue to Step 2 and select your author page as the destination. Now any posts in the category “Book Promotion” will appear on your Facebook author page. This is handy if you don’t want your readers to feel overwhelmed by posts about your cat, children, political rants, etc.
And you’re done! Now you’ve got a website that provides all the basic information potential readers need and makes it easy for them to share your posts and connect to you on social media sites. It even automatically posts all your new blog posts to those sites for you! All you have to do is write your posts. Have fun!
About the Author: Author Rob Kroese’s sense of irony was honed growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan – home of the Amway Corporation and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, and the first city in the United States to fluoridate its water supply. In second grade, he wrote his first novel, the saga of Captain Bill and his spaceship Thee Eagle. This turned out to be the high point of his academic career. After barely graduating from Calvin College in 1992 with a philosophy degree, he was fired from a variety of jobs before moving to California, where he stumbled into software development. As this job required neither punctuality nor a sense of direction, he excelled at it. In 2009, he called upon his extensive knowledge of useless information and love of explosions to write his first novel, Mercury Falls. Since then, he has written two sequels, Mercury Rises (2011) and Mercury Rests (2012), and a humorous epic fantasy, Disenchanted. He has just finished a new novel called Schrodinger’s Gat, which he calls a “quantum physics noir thriller.”
47North, Amazon Publishing, author marketing, Author Rachel Abbott, Christine Kling, Marketing Monday, Marketing Plans, publishing, Rachel Abbott, Roberta Trahan, The Dream Stewards, The Well of Tears, Thomas & Mercer, Writing
Fortune favors the bold. An old idiom, ancient even, but nonetheless true. The past couple of weeks I found myself growing more and more annoyed with comments by wishful writers on the blogs of authors who have earned some measure of success about how lucky said authors are. As if publication and sales were random acts of kindness bestowed by the universe. Gah. Really?
What successful writers have that those who watch from the wings don’t is grit – sheer gumption, as my grandmother would have said. They have work ethic, a willingness to bear criticism and learn from it, to face rejection and come back for more, and most of all, the guts to take chances and ask for what they want.
Luck? Sure. There’s some of that – convergence of circumstances, random opportunity, being in the right place at the right time. But if you don’t have the grit to stay in the game, luck will never find you.
Though I wouldn’t yet list myself among the ranks of successful authors, I am published. How this happened for me is a perfect example of how grit matters. A year after my agent and I had abandoned hope of a publishing deal, the opportunity arrived as if it had been waiting to reveal itself all along. If you’re interested in the story of how I got here, read this post , or this one.
Hard work and stick-to-it-ed-ness has its pay-offs. This past weekend I had the opportunity to sneak into an event being hosted by my publisher for one of their other imprints (living in the same town as the headquarters has its perks). Amazon Publishing hosted a retreat / conference for the authors of Thomas & Mercer, the mystery/thriller group. Part of the event included a series of panel discussions for an open audience, which I was invited to attend. Wow. I came away with a big ol’ bag of swag, new author friends, and a ton of great advice. But most of all, I came away with a renewed sense of gratitude. For my publisher, and for the people who encouraged me to hang in there when things got tough. Persist Until You Prevail.
I started to write a lengthy post about the event, but mystery author Christine Kling said it better than I ever could. I invite you to read the article on her blog “Write on the Water”, aptly entitled Gratitude.
Another important kernel of wisdom I heard on that day came from author Rachel Abbott, who repeatedly attested to the value of a marketing plan. I’ve been saying this for-ev-ah, and was so pleased to hear Rachel talk about how it helped her build sales for her books. So that’s my tip this Marketing Monday – make a plan. For some suggestions on how to do that, read my post Three Marketing Strategies Every Career Writer Can (& Should) Use.