We sign up for a mailing list to receive updates from people who inspire us or a business that we want to support. You can learn about specific topics, get advice, as well as score deals and freebies.
But, as we change and grow, so do our needs. Perhaps you've gotten all of the information and guidance you could from the Instagram guru you've been following, or the publishing house that promised to send marketing trends ended up not fitting your topic.
Since the New Year is known for freshness and new goals, you want to go through the mailing lists you are subscribed to and check to see if the information being delivered to your inbox is still serving a purpose. Are you learning? Are you inspired and motivated? Are you getting something beneficial out of it?
If you answer yes to any of the above, then by all means, stay subscribed. Sometimes we are hesitant to sign up for new mailing lists when we are already receiving so many. That's why I think it is important to do quarterly, 6-month, or even annual maintenance on the mailing lists we receive. We want to surround ourselves with uplifting and exciting news and information. It helps big time when working on specific goals.
Also, if you send out a mailing list, please don't get sad or take it personally if someone unsubscribes from your list. It just makes room for the people who need your information.
Each time you get an unsubscribe - and you will - go through the content you are sending and make sure that it is valuable for your readers. If you feel confident with what you are sending out, then just continue to work your stuff, and you will attract your people to you. Trust the process!
If writing and self-publishing a book is on your list of things to do, keep reading.
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Lately, I have had one too many facepalm moments. It just saddens me. I see authors in prime opportunity positions to network and build their fanbase, and then they drop the ball. Sometimes so hard that it plummets through the floor into the far depths of doom.
But, I am going to use these moments to hopefully inspire and nudge some of you. Those who need the inspiring and nudging. Or maybe you are neither, but you understand my pain, and you are reading in solidarity. Either way, pull up a chair and listen.
A few weeks ago I attended an author event. There were about thirty different authors from around the area tabling with their work. As I approached a table, the author perked up and began to tell me about her book – which is great, that is what you should do when someone walks up to your table. I kept eye contact and listened to her. I appreciated her time, but ultimately her book wasn’t one I felt drawn to purchase. I thanked her for her time and let her know that I just arrived and was going to do a walk around before making any purchases – which was true!
Within seconds, the author’s smile dropped, and she plopped back into her chair. I was stunned to see her … sulking!
Apparently, she was annoyed that I had wasted her time since I didn’t throw a twenty dollar bill at her as soon as she finished telling me about her book. What a complete turn off for a customer and reader.
I have been tabling events for over fifteen years, and I understand that the initial contact with a potential customer is everything. I will forever remember that lady as the adult-child who was angry that I didn’t buy her book. When you have a large space packed with vendors, you can’t possibly think that every person attending is going to buy from everyone. Some people may stroll in off the street after reading an outdoor sign, eager to check out the event, and not even have any money on them.
Of course, you want to sell books, but at the very least, you want to be remembered positively. Maybe if this particular author had just simply handed me her card or bookmark and wished me a fun time, I would have thought about her book for a future gift for a family member or friend.
Unfortunately, she did not and I will not.
Over the past five years, I have been planning blog tours for authors who write books in all different genres. I have seen changes in the indie book industry, and how authors have to adjust the way they create, distribute, and promote their books. When big distributors like Amazon change their policies, authors are affected. I am constantly educating myself and trying to stay on top of new trends and changes so that I can help authors to the best of my ability.
Recently, I came upon a blog post written by an author who claimed that blog tours were a waste of money. As a blog tour coordinator, the article didn’t upset me, but I found it disappointing. I don’t think the person who wrote the post was very informed about blog tours and how they work. I felt that someone who was researching blog tours and came across this particular piece would be receiving some incorrect information and possibly miss out on the opportunity to benefit from a blog tour.
Let’s talk about blog tours.
A blog tour is an online promotional event. Authors have the opportunity to receive book reviews, participate in interviews, have their book featured, host a giveaway, and write guest blog posts. It is an excellent publicity opportunity for any author.
So, why would someone say they are a waste of money? Well, two reasons. One, they are expecting nothing but reviews throughout their tour. Two, they are expecting a sales extravaganza during the blog tour.
Book Reviews – I’m an indie author; I know exactly how important book reviews are to an author. We need them! But, let me give you some perspective. Roughly 1.1 million ebooks will be published this year. Now, can you imagine if just one-fourth of those authors contacted book bloggers to request a book review? There just aren’t enough book bloggers to accommodate all of the authors in a timely fashion. Book bloggers are slammed. I have a lot of them tell me how they have to be pretty picky about which books they select to read because they are limited on time. They truly need a book cover and synopsis to grab their attention!
Sales – Have you read at an author event? Normally, you have space to display your books and book swag. You introduce yourself to the audience, read a passage from your book, and answer any questions you may receive afterward. You cross your fingers that someone may be interested enough to purchase your book. But, you don’t always sell books at events. Does that mean they were a complete waste of time? No way! Any opportunity you receive to promote yourself and your book is never a waste.
I want to share an awesome blog tour post from an author I have done at least a half-dozen promotional tours for over the past few years. Her name is Lisa Brunette, and she recently wrote about her last blog tour experience on her blog, The ‘Bound to the Truth.' Blog Tour.
Lisa knows how to take each blog tour stop and turn it into valid content to share with her followers. She stays interactive online throughout her tour and offers some fun giveaways!
Before you think a blog tour is a waste of time, look at how you are utilizing the blog tour stops. If you don’t know how to take advantage of the promos, please email me. I am always happy to help.
Last month, I was doing what many other people were doing – holiday shopping. I try to avoid the malls and spend more of my time hitting local craft events and holiday bazaars. As I was browsing the many tables at a craft fair, I came across a table that was carrying handmade soap bars and liquid soap. I was delighted! I love handmade soap, but I have never found someone in my area who offers the liquid soap. Yes, I can make this on my own, but that takes the fun out of supporting a local crafter.
I did the smell test and chose the two liquid dispensers that I was interested in purchasing. I looked around the table for a business card. When I enjoy the product, you have a loyal customer on your hands. I couldn’t find one, so I asked the ladies behind the table for their contact info. They looked at each other a bit dumbfounded. A business card? They told me that they didn’t have any. This was their first craft event. I asked if they had a website or maybe had their goods available on Etsy? The two ladies looked at each other confused, and then it became my turn to be dumbfounded.
I finally said, “Well, what happens if I love this soap and I want to order more?”
The older woman replied, “Oh, we’ll be tabling at the blah blah blah craft event on December blah blah blah.”
Okay, she didn’t say blah blah blah. Her words just became that way in my brain. After telling them I probably wouldn't be able to attend their future event, she didn't attempt to connect with me as a customer on any level aside from selling me the two liquid soaps.
I don't mean to sound unpleasant, but how do you invest your time and money into a product, pay to table a craft fair, and then drop the ball because no one can contact you with praise, feedback or reorders? My inner entrepreneur was silently screaming. I smiled and left knowing that I probably wouldn’t see those two again. And the sad part? I adored their handmade soap. I would have happily ordered more.
What does this have to do with you, dear writer? Everything! Your book is your business. You have to make sure people can contact you. For a reasonable fee, you can visit sites likes Vistaprint or GotPrint and create a simple but effective card with your name, email, and website/blog address.
You never know when you’ll be sitting in a doctor’s office or at your kid’s sporting event and someone starts talking about writing or being a book nerd. You will want to tell them about your writing and leave them with a way to follow you further. Every encounter with someone who loves books is an opportunity! Don't lose out because you were unprepared.
I planned on writing a blog post about patience because it’s a wonderful thing to work towards when working on a publishing project, but then I received an email for a book review request. That’s when my brain did a u-turn, and I decided I wanted to write about lazy marketing. Oh, yes. I said it. What is lazy marketing you ask? Well, here is an example:
Treasure Chest Mysteries was released on August 18, 2016. This frightening tale of two pirates deserted on a desert island is sure to give you chills. Review copies are available through Super Lightning Publishing. Email my publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay, first, I made all of the above up. It is based on the many emails I, along with a lot of other readers receive from authors. It’s lazy marketing. Let me deconstruct this for you.
Problem #1 – The greeting doesn’t include my name. Now, I know there are way too many people who do not include their name with their contact info. It’s a must if you are trying to gain a following or be contacted with great opportunities. But, I know for a fact my name is always available. So, if Bob Author was able to locate my email, he was definitely able to locate my name. Not including my name lets me know that Bob Author simply copy and pasted a generic request and sent it off to my inbox. He didn’t choose to email me because he thought I was a good fit. He was lazy and didn’t do his research.
Problem #2 – He never introduces himself. He immediately assaults me with his book’s info. It would have been nice for him to start off with, “Hi, my name is Bob, and I am a mystery writer based in San Jose, California. I recently released my debut novel, Treasure Chest Mysteries.”
Problem #3 – Where are your links at, bro? I’d like to check out the cover, your publisher, your bio, etc. If you are contacting me with a request, why in the world would I need to hit Google to search for your book? You need to make things convenient for me. Why? There are by far a lot more authors than there are book reviewers. Book bloggers receive more requests than they can read, so you need to be creative and informative to stand out and grab their attention.
Don’t be lazy. Take the time to choose reviewers. As a book marketer, I know you can’t write 300 original book review request emails per week. Or month or year. What you can do is take the time to read the about me and contact page of the reviewers to get to know them. Pull info out of their provided information to include in your email to them that shows you made an honest attempt to select them for a solid reason. It matters. I promise.
The ultimate struggle for indie authors is selling books. A crucial piece to the book selling puzzle is collecting book reviews, especially on websites that control the bulk of online book sales, like Amazon. Amazon has a very specific review policy for those who want to write a review for a book on their site. Once you have submitted your review to Amazon, they process it to make sure that it doesn’t violate any of their policies, and then they either add your review to their website, or mark it as unacceptable. Most people would assume that all you have to do is follow Amazon’s review policies and everything will be fine, right? Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way. Reviews have been removed that clearly don’t violate any of their policies, but something triggers Amazon to take action. I am not here to debate this growing issue. It’s frustrating as an author and book promoter, but who can fight a giant like Amazon?
Instead, my goal is for you to make the most out of every review, so that even if it is unable to make its way onto Amazon, you can still use it to market your book:
Yes, it’s incredibly discouraging when a great review doesn’t make it onto Amazon. But I hope that the suggestions above helps you find some ways to use each review you receive to your advantage on your marketing journey. Losing reviews on Amazon is a bummer, but doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
It’s common for authors to hit a plateau during their publishing journey. They question why their sales are lacking, or why it’s so hard to get readers to post reviews of their book. During this time, keep the pity partying to a minimum. I am not saying that you can’t have a day to whine, but dust yourself off and try again, knowing that there are a few things you can do during a plateau to improve your situation:
Give your book cover a hard look.
Was it professionally designed? Is it a pre-made cover that is often used? Does your book cover accurately represent your story and genre? People do judge a book by its cover, so you want to make sure your book cover is as fabulous as it can be. How awful to have someone pass up reading your book because you didn’t put effort into your cover. It’s just as important as your manuscript.
Reevaluate your book’s description.
You want a captivating description that has readers eager to read your book. Some book descriptions can be too short, not giving enough information to grip the reader’s attention. Other descriptions may be entirely too long; giving away the good stuff. You want to find a good balance between the two. Hook your reader, but don’t give away the farm.
Get a second opinion on your author photo.
Believe me, people will pass up your book if your author image looks like you are lounging on your couch during a family potluck. I’m not saying that you should have a stiff portrait photo taken at your local JC Penny. Please, show us your personality, but there is a fine line between fun and tacky. While you are at it, read through your author bio, too.
If you are already experiencing a plateau, then you have nothing to lose at this point, so take the time to follow through with the above suggestions. If you feel that you are on top of your game and none of it applies to you, then I highly recommend you rethink your marketing plan and social media presence. How active are you in meeting potential readers? I am referring to both online and in-person events.
Don’t sit around feeling hopeless. Shake things up! Make some changes and try again. Nothing good ever comes easy.
I am often asked: when I took the leap into starting my own business, how did I know I was ready? The answer is simple. I started investing in myself. I took multiple courses online that were both creative and business-oriented. I bought the tools and resources I needed to succeed, such as planners, books, and computer software.
I feel that this same advice applies to writers. In order to move to the next level, you need to invest in yourself. In my eCourse, Self-publish with Confidence, I explain some productive ways that writers can invest in themselves – eCourses, writing groups, software for authors, and attending writing conferences.
I know it can be challenging to do these things without having money readily available to spend. So it’s important to create space in your financial budget for your writing. Just as you would plan for your monthly water or phone bill, you should begin to plan on how much you can set aside for your writing. It may not be easy if you are already living on a tight budget, but I also believe that it’s not impossible.
The first no-brainer is to locate where you spend money unnecessarily . Are you eating out, ordering pizza, buying a lot of coffees from your favorite barista, or meeting at a local hangout to get some drinks with your friends? This is the easiest place to save money. Setting aside a month worth of Starbucks coffee money could probably buy you a weekend pass to a nearby writer’s conference.
Maybe your budget is so tight that you are unable to spend any extra money on food or drinks, or any “fun” activities. I hear you and understand that. So here are some ideas I have for you:
At the very least, utilize your local library in the way of ebooks, print books, audiobooks, and free business courses. Call your library branch, let them know what you are looking for (free classes or reading material) and they will guide you in the right direction.
Most importantly, don’t give up! Even if you can only collect a little bit at a time, that’s okay. Just keep moving forward to your goal.
It’s important to continue educating yourself, regardless of what trade you are in. As a writer, I take numerous writing and business courses online each year. When your sales depend on the quality of your work, it is a must that you keep learning. If you are looking to publish a book, your skills have to broaden past creative writing and proper grammar. You’ll need to understand the process of book formatting, printing, distribution, and marketing. Not everyone has the means to go to a community college or university, and to be honest, all the information you need can be found outside of traditional school doors. What you do need is motivation and passion for expanding your knowledge.
There are a number of different avenues to take when approaching continuing education,and it can become overwhelming and expensive. You have to do your research. But you can learn a lot without breaking the bank. First, you should determine what topic you need the most help in. Second, decide how you learn best – in person, online, solo, in a group? Third, determine how much time and money you are able to put into a class or course. Once you have a basic outline of your needs, you will be more prepared to find the best match for you.
Here are three ideas to consider:
The library – We live in a time where our libraries are an incredible resource. We are able to check out physical books, audiobooks, and films. If you’d rather work at your own pace and on your own, then consider using the library as your main source to locate books and other materials. The library also hosts many different speakers, author events, and book clubs, and these are usually free events. There are community boards located in libraries where you can keep an eye out for local classes, or even like-minded individuals to connect with. Finally, don’t forget to talk to librarians. They’ll be able to make wonderful recommendations.
Join a writer’s group - You can use Google to locate a local writer’s group or jump on a website like MeetUp.com to find a group near you. If you can’t find one, start one! If you have a coffee shop, bookstore, or library in your town, then I am sure you will be able to find a writer’s group. While these aren’t writing classes, they are good opportunities to share your work with people who frequently read and write stories, too. Their feedback can be instrumental in your writing growth. It’s another opportunity to network and learn from others.
Take a Class – Writing and marketing classes can be found through your city’s park and recreation department, bookstores, and online. I love taking online classes. Many are self-led, meaning that you can take them on your own time around your schedule! This is very convenient when you have a jam-packed life, which most of us do. Some online classes are one-day, while other are a multi-week series. You can also choose to take an online class on your own, or participate in an online group. It all depends on your personal preference. I offer an eCourse called Self-publish with Confidence that is always running, so you can jump in at any time and work at your own pace.
At the end of the day, please remember to invest in yourself and your writing craft. You are worth it! If you want to be taken seriously and build confidence in what you do, then you have to be on top of your game. You need to know what’s going on in your field.
Good Luck and Happy Learning!