• August 21, 2012

    Where do I start marketing my book? (Part Two)


    Continuing our look at how an author starts the basic process of marketing…

    Fourth, you already know this, and it may seem to simple, but you really need a good website. For some reason there’s been a movement in writing circles about websites being passe. I disagree — a site will give readers a way to find out about you and get introduced to your books. But don’t scrimp here. If you can, work with a pro to get a great web site — something interactive, that puts you in touch with your readers and keeps conversation going. Be sure to include an online store, so that interested readers can buy your books (either directly from you or linked to a web retailer like Amazon or Barnes&Noble.com). I frequently see author sites with no way to purchase books. 

    Fifth, you might need a blog too. It’s not absolutely essential, in that many successful writers don’t keep a blog because they have all their conversations via the website. But if you can create the time to keep it going, consider it. Our culture is in love with interaction, and a blog allows the reader to feel that they get into your life. And that means you’re going to visit other people’s blogs — in fact, you’ll probably want to visit a lot of them. When you’re promoting your book, you’re going to want to participate in as many social media interviews as you can. You’ll go on as your book is releasing, answer questions from people, and chat up your work. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of reading group and book review blogs. It may seem tedious, but you’re going to want to hit as many of them that fit your audience. And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re hearing from people on your blog, you need to go back and connect with them, so that you begin

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  • August 20, 2012

    Where do I start with marketing my book? (Part One)


    I’ve had several authors ask me about marketing their books recently. May I offer some thoughts?

    First, your publisher isn’t going to do that much marketing. They’ll do some things, since they want to help your book succeed, but you can’t rely on your publisher to take charge of your book marketing. You know the message best. You understand how to talk about it. You have the most at stake. So that means YOU have to take charge of the marketing of your book. You’ve probably heard me say this before, but if you’re waiting for your publisher to create a great plan that will take you to the next level, you may be waiting a long time. Publishers are relying on authors more than ever, they’re not hiring lots more marketing people… and that means the poor publicist who is working on your title is also working on 20 other titles. Show her some love, and say something about how much you appreciate her work, but plan to do your own marketing. Decide right now that you’re going to take charge of marketing for your book.

    Second, you’re probably wondering, How do I do that? Well, you need to become familiar with the process of marketing, so that you can begin to create an actual plan. To start, that means you may have to do some research. Let me suggest a couple books to consider. To understand the basics of marketing, consider reading Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries and Trout, or a marketing textbook like Philip Kotler’s Principles of Marketing. You can also look at a Dummies guide – they have them on marketing, publicity, web marketing, internet marketing, and email marketing. If you want to focus on internet marketing, take a look at David Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR or Mitch Meyerson’s Mastering Online Marketing. For

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  • August 17, 2012

    I want to be a career writer…


    I was at a big writing conference a couple years ago, and there was a glob of literary agents yakking it up on a panel. We were asked about the role agents play in the contemporary publishing industry, and one of the agents who spoke made a point of saying, “The most important thing we do is career planning for authors.”

    I almost laughed out loud. She happened to be an agent who…um… I want to put this delicately: She has no idea what she’s doing. One of those people who can’t seem to figure out what this job actually entails, besides sending emails and collecting checks. So to hear her talking about “career management” made me smile. It’s not that I disagreed — I happen to think that assisting authors with their careers is probably the most important piece of what I do. It’s just that I believe to some agents “career planning” can be defined as nothing more than “find a deal for my author.” In other words, a writer who doesn’t have a book contract simply needs a deal in place, and he or she will have a “writing career.” But anybody with a lick of sense could figure out that a book contract is sort of expected if you’re going to make a living as a writer of books. I mean, every author who signs on with an agent expects to land a book deal.

    So, for an agent, there’s a bit more to it. In my view, a career plan for an author is created by helping the author figure out (1) where they are now, and (2) where they want to be in the future. Because, you see, “success” is going to be defined differently for each author. There’s no one level we reach that equates to “success” for every writer. Some people really want to make their living writing; others don’t

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  • August 16, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 4


    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

    You have your career focus. You have your brand. So how do you maximize time at a conference and make sure to come away from the event with more readers than when you went in?

    As usual, I’ve got a smattering of ideas…

    How to Promote Yourself at a Writer’s Conference

    1) Go all-out with brand. So let’s say your brand involves wearing purple shoes…that’s how people are going to remember you, and it’s fitting, since you write romantic comedy. All your materials (your business cards, one-sheets, web addresses, web sites) should support this brand. This is because people aren’t going to come away from the conference, thinking I really liked Halee Matthews. They’re going to think, I really liked that writer with the purple shoes. And they’ll dig through their stack of cards/one-sheets/odds and ends LOOKING for those purple shoes. If they don’t see them, you’ll disappear.

    2) Meet people. As writers, it’s easy to latch on to one or two people at a conference and call it a day. That’s because most of us are introverts. But if you’re serious about getting people on board with your writing (whether you’re published or unpublished), you need to branch out. Sit at a different table every meal. Form relationships with the people sitting next to you in workshops. Attend the parties and the late-night gatherings. It will be exhausting, but it’s exactly what you need to do to spread awareness.

    3) Talk about yourself. I don’t mean force people to listen to your book premise or your publishing history. I’m just talking about having some rehearsed and appropriate ways of bringing your book up in

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  • August 14, 2012

    What is success?


    A while back, an author wrote with a simple question: “In your view, what is success?”

    I have purposefully stayed away from this topic on my blog, figuring a lot of people would give nice, religious answers in the comments section (“Success is just doing the right thing” or “It doesn’t matter if I have success, as long as I feel like I’m serving God!”). My problem is that I’ve been in this business for years, and I don’t believe that sort of thing is honest for most writers. We were all born with a desire for power, attention, and success. This is a business filled with egos. To most writers, “success” is defined simply by book sales. You sell a lot of books, you’re a success. You don’t, you’re a failure — even for people writing in the religious market. No, that’s not the BEST thing for a writer to focus on, but I have to be honest and say that “sales” tends to outweigh “obedience” or “calling” when most of us talk about our writing careers.

    So… how do I define success as a writer?

    Years ago, I used to teach a workshop on creating a plan for your life. (Remember, I’m the guy who went through a doctoral program in organizational development.) In that workshop, I used to tell people that “success is the feeling you get when you reach your goals.” I still stand by that definition. (And that wording is not original to me – it’s a bit of wisdom from management guru Bobb Biehl.) If you set a goal of getting one book contract this year, when you actually sign the deal, that wonderful feeling you have is the feeling of success.

    That, of course, is why some people never feel successful, even if they’ve sold a boatload of books. If an author wants to sell 250,000 copies, but only sells 100,000, she doesn’t

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  • August 10, 2012

    A guest blog: BookJolt


    Last week I mentioned Athena Dean, who founded WinePress Publishing. She got in touch with me to tell me what she’s doing these days, and I thought you’d find it interesting. So today’s guest blog comes from Athena, who has helped coach authors through the daunting task of book production, publicity, advertising, and promotions as they try to find success with their self-published books… 

    The Power of Free: Promotion Your Way

    Recently I canvassed some successful authors and learned that one-third of those surveyed absolutely hate promotion. Some called it their biggest frustration as a published author. I don’t blame them. For many, promotion can be a frustrating and a hard-to-measure endeavor — but it’s necessary if a book project is to achieve success. I think Bob Mayer and Jen Talty sum up the importance of promotion in The Shelfless Book: The Complete Digital Author: “Content is King and Promotion is Queen: together they rule the publishing world. Today, you really can’t afford one without the other.”

    Contrary to the experience of many, promotion doesn’t have to be agonizing. Not long ago I got together to brainstorm with a couple of friends of mine—the Miller brothers, whose minds run on wired-to-promote tracks. For years the Miller brothers have dreamed of giving their books away for free in a format that could go viral and create visibility and a platform for their other books. As award-winning Warner Press authors of young adult fiction and technology, as well as design and marketing experts, they are passionate about getting their books—and the books of other authors—in front of the right audiences. My experience as head of a publishing company has been in coaching hundreds of authors through production, publicity, advertising and promoting of their book products. So when Christopher and Allan Miller and I started talking about implementing our ideas about how to make promotion easier for other authors, the light bulb went

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  • August 9, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 3


    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

    Last week, we started to touch on brand and how a great brand can help you stand out at a conference. If you didn’t catch his posts, Chip’s been talking about brand as well over the past few days. His first post on author branding is here and his second is here.

    Take a minute to read through those. There’s quite a bit of good content there, and “brand” really is so important these days.

    So clearly, one of the first things you want when promoting yourself at a conference, is a brand. A promise. Clarity on who you are as a writer and what kind of content you produce. Whether you’re published or not, the same is true…you want to communicate what you’re about so that the right readers and the right supporters are attracted to you.

    Which leads us to not only a vital piece of the conference puzzle, but a major piece of the author career puzzle: who is your target audience? and what is your genre?

    The last thing you want is to walk around a conference, declaring yourself the author of historicals, YA, thrillers and picture books. Not only will your conference experience lack focus, but every professional who comes in contact with you won’t take you seriously. And every potential reader you meet is going to wonder whether they’ll have to wade through a bunch of historical or YA muck to get to your Thriller stuff (and so on).

    I argue this at least once every conference when meeting with authors…careers aren’t made by dabbling in multiple genres. Careers are made by focusing on ONE genre, to ONE audience type.

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  • August 8, 2012

    What else does an author need to know about branding?


    More thoughts on branding for authors…

    6. Clarifying your brand is crucial. Figure out what need your writing addresses, what connection you make with readers, what defines you as a writer. Branding consultants are always asking, “What’s your core message?” I believe a brand comes from the inside out — it’s not something imposed onto your work (“I’m going to try and sound deep”), but instead is rooted in your unique voice and message. Your brand is a natural extension of who you are, so think about how you’re different and what you want to be known for. Once you figure it out, you work that brand consistently.

    7. Branding means being both unique and consistent. You can’t really be “the Queen of the Cozy Mystery” — Agatha Christie sewed that up 40 years ago. You need to figure out what’s unique, what is different, and then you need to hammer away at that same message again and again. Talk it through with marketing and sales in advance of your next release. Be sure the packaging reflects your brand. Get the word out with every editor and author. Focus on your brand with every media contact (rather than only talking about your immediate release). Target specific audiences who will be receptive to your brand, rather than aiming for a wide audience. Look for groups who should be reading your books, prioritize them, and find avenues for reaching them. You want to be clear and concise (most authors spend far too many words trying to describe their brand) and consistent in pushing your brand. And remember to show evidence for your brand; don’t just make a claim (“The best romance writer on the planet” probably won’t fly with readers unless you can buttress that claim with awards, acclaim, and sales numbers).

    8. Branding may not be for you. You may not be ready to brand yourself. Maybe you’re currently working in

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  • August 7, 2012

    Do I need to have a writing “brand”?


    I’ve had several people ask me for my thoughts on branding (currently a hot topic among authors and publishers). Some folks wanted it defined, others were looking for how-to’s, and still others are trying to weigh various interpretations of what branding means for authors. It seems like most of the information writers share about branding is a bit vague, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to clarify the topic a bit.

    1. Make sure you understand what a “brand” is. In simple terms, a brand for an author is “what you are known for” or “what a reader has in mind when he or she walks into a bookstore and sees your book.” I once met with a branding consultant to talk about his doing a book, and when I asked him to define a brand, he said to me, “In many ways, a brand is nothing more than a series of perceptions people have about you.” So think about that for a moment… What perceptions do readers have about your from your books? If they were to read three or four of your books, what images/themes/messages/genres would they come away with?

    2. A brand is like a promise. That branding specialist told me that one of the common phrases used by marketing consultants is that “a brand is a promise consumers believe in.” If you make them a promise to readers that you’re always going to deliver a taut action thriller with cheeky heroes and conspiracy overtones, you have to deliver that every time. So ask yourself… Are you ready to do that? Do you want to focus your writing so that book buyers know what to expect when they see your name on store shelves? Can you clarify what your brand is right now?

    3. A great brand makes selling easier. A brand establishes a comfort level with readers. It fosters a relationship with loyal customers

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  • August 6, 2012

    How can I get the most out of a writing conference?


    As you begin preparing for this year’s summer conferences, I’d like to suggest you keep ten words in mind…

    1. READ. Don’t just show up and wonder who the speakers are. Read the blog of the keynote speakers. Read the books of the workshop teachers. That way, when you get to hear them, you’ll already have a context for their information.

    2. RESEARCH. If you’ve signed up to meet with an agent or editor, check out their bio, see what they’ve acquired, and get a feel for the sort of books they like. By doing that, you’ll be much more apt to talk with someone who is a fit for you and your work.

    3. ORGANIZE. Before you show up at the conference, look at the schedule and figure out what sessions you’ll be going to, which ones you’ll miss (so that you can share notes later), and when you can take a break to see friends.

    4. PRACTICE. When you sit down across from me in order to tell me about your book, it shouldn’t be an off-the-cuff conversation. Practice what you want to say, how you want to describe your work, and what your hook is so that you’ll grab me.

    5. GOALS. Ask yourself what your goals are for this year’s conference. Don’t just go with bland hopes. Plan to attend with some specific, measurable goals in mind. Write them down beforehand, so that you can evaluate yourself and your experience after you’re back home.

    6. PROJECT. Come to the conference with a book you’re writing firmly in your mind. That way, when you’re listening to a speaker, you can apply the information to the project you’re writing. Even if you later decide to write something else, the fact that you’ve put the techniques into practice will help you improve.

    7. NOTE. Don’t just sit there in workshops and nod at the things you agree with. Take

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