Keys to marketing as an author

You’ve written your book or maybe you are on your second or third or perhaps your book isn’t even out yet, but your mind has turned to marketing. How the heck do you get your book noticed in the sea of other books out there?

There really is no sure-fire method for marketing. What works for one author may or may not work for you. But there are two main keys to marketing.

YOU are the BRAND.

The first thing you need to realize is that you are marketing yourself and not your book. Your marketing efforts are building recognition of your brand, which is YOU.

By working on name recognition, your marketing efforts will eventually lead to sales. The key word is “eventually.”

It works the same way as a company running TV commercials. The viewer of the commercial is not often in the position to buy that product right at that moment, but the company wants the viewer to remember their name so when they are at the store, they will see and buy their product.

You need to apply this principle to your marketing. You want people to recognize your name so that when they see your book, they want to buy it (or at least be interested enough to click the button and read the book description.)

That takes me to my second key to marketing….

Marketing takes TIME

So you began marketing – a Twitter campaign, a guest post, a contest or even an ad on a website – and then there is no spike in sales. That does not mean that your promotion failed. You should not expect instant results.

People typically have to see a name (or book title) many times before they take the time and effort to learn more. So you need to look at this from a long-haul marketing plan.

This means you need to be advertising at all times – not just when a new book is released. You may choose to do something once a week or once a month, but you need to consistently work to get your name out there.

And of course the best bet would not be to pick an activity at random but to look for something that will reach your target market. Go where your readers are. This might mean connecting with readers on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat but remember that social media may not sell books but can build the relationships that help you sell books.

The main thing to remember is that it will take you months to see results of your marketing efforts. Patience is the key here. Remember marketing is more of a long-distance marathon than a sprint. And of course don’t forget who you are marketing – yourself!

 

Today’s Featured Author – Julia Fellner

Please welcome to my blog author Julia Fellner. Her book, To Be a Hero, was released last October.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello, my name is Julia Fellner. I wrote my first novel, Revealed, when I was sixteen. It was published two years later by Rogue Phoenix Press. For my second novel, To be a Hero, I decided to self-publish. This has also led to me blogging about publishing and what I call authorpreneurship. Authorpreneurship means as an author you have to be an entrepreneur as well because even if you don’t self-publish, marketing is mostly the author’s responsibility.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Rather than being a full-time writer, I consider myself a full-time storyteller. I also work as a brand and digital marketing consultant. Tasks like telling an organizational brand story or producing an advertisement video all require a heavy amount of storytelling.

Admittedly, time to write fiction rather than texts for social media or another form of copywriting can be tough. Therefore, fiction writing time is my reward for ticking off the other tasks on my to do list. However, what has also worked for me is that during school time I would get up an hour early to get some writing done because afterwards I would be too tired.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Like, I think, many people I first started referring to myself as a writer in front of other people when I got the publishing deal for my debut novel. However looking back, being a writer is something I identified with for the longest time before that, ever since I started taking writing seriously and doing it regularly.

Now I consider myself more of a storyteller as I’m branching out into producing and brand marketing. These may sound like completely different professions but storytelling is still essential to them.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Writing may be hard work but for me the writing itself is the reward. Of course some days when I don’t feel motivated to work I have to force myself to do it. But once I get into the flow of writing I’m always happy I sat down to write.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I always write a vague outline of a story, before I start writing the first scene. The outline doesn’t need to be fully filled in because I look at my outline as a suggestion rather than a fixed plan.

While outlining my story beforehand does help me revise the plot and avoid potential plot holes from the start, I think you also need to be prepared to give your story the option of developing in a different direction than you originally planned. It’s a natural progression of writing that the book always changes as you work on it. You might have set out to write one book and end up writing one, which is completely different, albeit with similar characters and themes.

What inspired you to write To be a Hero?

When I first had the idea for To be a Hero, super hero films just started going into fashion. My friends and I talked a lot about them, so I started wondering about how a nerdy girl would react if a self-proclaimed hero showed up in her town. Can there be heroes in real life?

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didnt expect?

The story didn’t turn out like I expected at all. I set out to defy Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and the typical hero’s journey. However what I ended up doing was replicating it. Between the first and second draft I also cut 35 000 words and rewrote them. Sometimes if the way the plot develops doesn’t work, you have to simply go back to page one, find out where it went wrong and start anew from there. It’s a difficult decision to just cut so much of your work but sometimes it’s necessary.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? 

The worst writing advice, which I see being given by many people, is “Write what you know”. For some people this piece of advice might work. However, often I think people see it as limiting. If you want to write about dragons or fairies or write crime, don’t rely on getting to know a dragon, so you can write about them. Don’t limit your imagination like that.

The best writing advice I believe is “Keep writing”. It sounds simple but seriously keep writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Writing can be though and it can take time until you start seeing progress. But I promise you the more you write and the more you make it a habit, the easier it will come to you.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

For me personally, the best part about being a writer is the actual writing. While the writing process might be really frustrating at times, it is also the most creative part.

The worst part would probably have to be the editing. In my case it is the stage when all the insecurities creep in because you have to be very critical of your own writing to make it the best it can be.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Since my newest book, the Marketing Handbook for writers, which you can download for free, is out now, I’m focusing on fiction again. I’m currently putting together a small short story collection called Lesbian Adventures through Time. These stories all have strong queer women as protagonists, while also having very action-centered plots since these are stories my friends and I are struggling to find on a mainstream book market.

Book Blurb

To be a HeroValerie has loved stories about heroes ever since she was a child. Now it’s her chance to become one herself.

When a masked, self-proclaimed hero called Shadow appears in her hometown, she decides to team up with him and become a hero herself. Valerie is an unlikely adventurer. She can’t run fast and she is a little insecure. But she is passionate about turning her life into an interesting story.

However, soon she has to learn that living a story is not as easy as she had thought. In a small town with no big adventures, the person underneath Shadow’s mask is the only mystery worth exploring. When Shadow’s secrets pile up, she has to learn to face problems without her mask.

In a world that believes it no longer needs heroes, can Valerie and Shadow prove it wrong?

About the Author 

I wrote my debut novel, Revealed, at the age of sixteen. After this first experience with the publishing industry I wanted to become more entrepreneurial than just writing.

Therefore, I self-published my second novel, To be a Hero and a short story collection, Adventure Stories of Pirates, Robots and Coconuts, also very much enjoying the management side of the process. Based on my experiences as an authorpreneur, I have also released two free eBooks, the Self-Publishing Handbook and the Writers’ Handbook to Marketing.

I graduated from Vienna University with a Bachelor in English linguistics, literature and cultural studies and completed a Master degree in Management in the Creative Economy at Kingston University London. Currently, I live in Austria, where I am working on exciting new projects.

You can find out more about Julia on her website. Or you can follow Julia on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy To Be a Hero on Amazon.

You can download her Self-publishing Handbook for free from Smashwords.

 

Readers returning E-books

No this isn’t a post about ME returning a book but rather other readers returning an e-book they purchased. As usual, I am late to the party over this issue but reading online it seems it was a big uproar a few years ago with self-published authors.

I guess I am only thinking about it now as I finally have had readers who have returned my books to Amazon. The majority of my books are sold on Amazon, and those sales have been going pretty well since the release of my latest book, The Heir to Alexandria.

But as I looked at my past six-week royalty report, I noticed I had four returned books.

Returned books – April 19 to May 16

The Heir to Alexandria – 2

Summoned (Book 1 of The Elemental) – 1

The Elemental Box Set – 1

This had me wondering why these people returned the books.

  • Did they make an accidental purchase?
  • Did they begin reading it and decide it wasn’t for them? (genre or writing style based)
  • Did they (as many people on the Internet assume about self-published books) decide it was riddled with grammar errors, and they couldn’t read it?
  • Or perhaps they read the book all the way through and returned it?

Unfortunately, I will never know. But Amazon does make it easy for readers to return an e-book.

Amazon’s e-book return policy (from their website)

Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you will no longer have access to the book.

I did read on several different sites that Amazon will stop allowing returns if the purchaser abuses the policy. But that ban doesn’t seem to happen until they have really abused the policy with an excessive amount of returns (say 30 returns in a year’s time. These numbers are just based on what I read. Amazon does not list an actual policy on how many returns you can make in any certain period.)

Of course, I am not against a return policy. Who wants to buy something without the possibility of returning it? I am all for people returning accidental purchases or books they truly dislike. But in most cases I am thinking a 7-day policy is too lenient.

Let’s look at the four scenarios from above.

1.) You accidentally bought the book by clicking the buy-now button. If you did so, I expect the return to be made right away. Same thing applies if you bought the book not realizing you are no longer in the romance section but somehow ended up in the fantasy section, and this isn’t a genre you read. Accidental purchase can happen. No problem. Return it promptly. (This should be done immediately and not take seven days.)

2.) So you bought the book and decided after beginning to read it that it wasn’t for you. It can happen. The book blurb could be well written enough to fool you. But if you do this a lot, I would suggest next time you download the sample. That gives you 10 to 20% of the book to read and find out if you like it BEFORE you purchase it.

3.) So you bought the book and were troubled with the grammar or plot line…again, I say next time you should download the sample. With 10 to 20%, you should have an idea if this is the book for you. And you should most definitely not be allowed to return it because you didn’t like the ending.

4.) There are a few people (I am hoping it is just a few) who will game the system by actually reading the book and then returning it. I read one person who said they return 60% of the books they buy. Even if they read it all the way through, if it wasn’t something they wanted to read again, they returned it. If you read the book, pay for it. It’s not that complicated.  People who read the books and then return them are short-changing the author their royalties.

Many people bring up the argument that brick and mortar book stores also accept returns. That isn’t a great argument as I don’t think those readers should be reading my book (assuming I had a physical copy of my books) for free either. The only person who should be reading it for free is those who downloaded during a free promotion, from a library or a friend who has already paid for it.

Could Amazon change their policy to benefit both readers and authors? Possibly. They could change the return policy to allow returns within “seven days or 30% or less of the book read – whichever comes sooner.”

Do I really expect them to change their policy? No. But I do wish that authors had more knowledge of exactly why their books were returned.

KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.

 

Do you need to copyright your self-published novel?

This is often a question that new self-published authors ask. And the quick answer is no. As soon the words leave your mind and you put them on paper (or type them into your computer file), it is already protected under U.S. copyright law.

Now before I go on, let’s cover what copyrights do NOT cover. They do not cover words, names, symbols (though some symbols can be trademarked) and ideas. That last one is something that often confuses people. If you go around talking about an idea for a novel, it isn’t copyrighted and anyone can take that idea and write a story that is 100% theirs. But as soon as you put those words on the page, those words, your story, is yours and copyright protection is extended to you without having to apply or pay for it.

Now some people will tell you that you need to register your work to get copyright protection, but this isn’t true. As of March 1, 1989, you are automatically protected. You can still register with the U.S. Copyright office for a fee. I found a few websites that said you need to have it officially registered to have your copyright hold up in the court of law. This is FALSE.

So what does registering your copyright provide you?

  • It gives you a public record of when your book was created.
  • Registered works can be eligible for additional statutory damages and/or attorney’s fees if someone violates your copyright, and you take them to court.
  • Registration is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law (which roughly means that is considered a fact without needing further evidence.)

If you are interested in registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, here is how to do it.

Note: If you are submitting your work to a traditional publishing house, do not file an official copyright before you submit it. This is something the publishing house will do after they agree to publish your story.

Speaking of copyrights…you should have a copyright page as part of your front matter.

So what goes on your copyright page?

  1. The © symbol, or the word “Copyright”
  2. The year of first publication of the work; and
  3. an identification of the owner of the copyright—by name, abbreviation, or some other way that it’s generally known.

Together, it should look like this:

© 2015 Susan Leigh Noble

Your copyright page will also have your legal notices and any disclaimers you want to include.

Here is what appears on the copyright page of Summoned.

Note: Since I had submitted my first book, Summoned, to several publishing houses before going the self-publishing route, I listed the copyright date to reflect that.

*******************

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblances to persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

 

Original Copyright © 1995 by Susan Leigh Noble

First Digital Publication: August 2011

 

Published by Susan Leigh Noble

Cover design by Donna Casey (www.digitaldonna.com)

Photos used to create the cover were obtained from dreamtime.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system — except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the web — without expressed written permission from Susan Leigh Noble.

*******************

So basically it is up to you to decide if you want to officially register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. I have not done so with any of my books – and that was with the advice from my husband who is an attorney.

 

My top 5 writing and my top 5 publishing posts from 2014

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

As 2015 begins, I wanted to take a moment to list some of the better blog topics from 2014…Since I do both writing and publishing topics, I picked five of each to showcase – listed in no particular order. If you want to check out these blogs, simply click the “more” link next to that topic.

Top 5 Writing-related blogs

1.) Writing a novel with multiple points of view – Last year, I wrote a blog on deciding which point of view – first, second, or third-person – to use in your novel. One thing I didn’t address is writing your novel from multiple viewpoints – using one or more characters to tell the story. (more)

2.) 9 ways to brainstorm story ideas – Many authors are teeming with story ideas, so they just need to pluck one and develop it into a novel. But newbies and even a few veteran authors sometimes falter when finding a story to write. (more)

3.) Beware: Too many or too few speech tags – A speech tag lets readers know who is speaking. She said, he snapped, Aunt May whispered. But using a tag on every line gets to be cumbersome to read. (more)

4.) Killing off your characters – No matter what type of novel you are writing – thriller, mystery, romance – there may come a time when you need to kill off one or more of your characters. This is challenging for some writers who grow attached to their characters. It can be equally hard for the readers when a favorite character dies. (more)

5.) Conflict drives your story – Every story needs some form of conflict. Without conflict there would be nothing to drive the characters and plot forward. It is the character overcoming obstacles that supply the drama, the suspense, the tension in the story. (more)

Top 5 Publishing-related blogs 

1.) Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone? – You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you? (more)

2.) Most authors won’t earn a living as an author (at least right away) – When I first self-published my fantasy novel, Summoned, I had no delusions that it would be an immediate “best seller.” Heck, I knew from the start that it would be hard to find readers when there are so many other books vying for their attention. It is a daunting task for any new indie author and one that I think many are unprepared for. (more)

3.) Promoting your novels within your (or someone else’s) book – As an independent author, promoting my books is always high on my list of things to do. One of the easiest ways – and sometimes the most overlooked – is promoting within your published book. (more)

4.) Don’t be in a rush to self-publish – You’ve dreamed of the day when you can hold in your hands a copy of your own book. You imagine showing it off to friends and family as you proudly declare you ARE an author. But as you are preparing to self-publish your own book, I urge you to make sure you – or more importantly your book – are ready. (more)

5.) Tips to improve your author website –  Every author should have either a website or a blog to promote themselves. Here are some tips for those of you who choose to set up an author website. (more)

And here is to another great year of blogging about being a self-published author. If any of you have suggestions for topics, please leave them in the comments….after doing this for three years, I can certainly use the suggestions.

Selecting an Author Photo

Last May, I wrote a blog with tips for drafting your author bio. Because I feature authors on my blogs, I see all types of author bios – some good and some really bad ones. (Remember – short and relevant and above all don’t list every book or award you have ever published or won.) Now while not all authors supply me with an author photo, I get bad and good ones of those too.

As with your author bio, you want to take some time and find the best author photo. If you are serious about being an author, you need to think of writing as your business. If you want people to take you seriously, invest in the time to find a good, professional-looking photo.

This means don’t use the fuzzy photo taken of you at the last picnic or use one where you have cropped out your honey’s arms around you. You don’t need one of you with your cat or your kids (unless you are known for writing about these topics.)

Here is my author photo which was cropped from a picture taken inside my house.

Here is my author photo which was cropped from a picture taken inside my house.

Now this doesn’t mean you need to hire a professional photographer or go down to a studio for pictures. In fact, studio pictures may be too formal for your author photo. You can opt to do the photo yourself (or with the help of a friend).

When deciding on a photo, you need to think about the setting, pose and clothing. If you write gardening books, an outdoor shot might be appropriate. If you are writing comedic stories, you won’t want to be wearing a suit as you might if you were writing about a legal thriller or discussing business topics.

My suggestion is to take a LOT of pictures with different poses and settings. You might consider some with a smile versus a more serious look. You never know which photo you will like or feel fits the image you want to project. Take your time to find the “right” one. (You can read online all sorts of tips such as looking above the camera to reduce red eye as well as tips on picking the best clothing colors and backgrounds.)

Remember that you will need several versions of the photo. For printed material like book covers and promotional flyers, you will need a high-resolution image (300 dpi). For online use, you can use a low-resolution image (usually 72 dpi). Using a low resolution image will allow for faster page loading and take less room on the server.

It is a good idea to use the same photo everywhere so you can build face recognition. But you may need to crop the photo depending on the use – a tighter crop for Twitter while using a wider shot for Facebook or your own website.

Whatever photo you decide to use – formal, fun, serious, or happy – just make sure it projects the image you want to convey as an author.