apps, Book Promotion, Marketing

Snapchat For Authors

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Just say the word Snapchat to an author and you’ll probably get a confused look or a flat-out eye roll.  For those of you who aren’t 13 years old, Snapchat is a mobile social media app, and it’s not quite like any other.  Snapchat has its roots as a popular sexting app for college kids because the content disappears after 24 hours.  And with the proliferation of social media use, many teens were finding their posts and embarrassing photos being used against them when applying for jobs or colleges.  This need for privacy and control over personal content triggered what social media marketers have now called: the mass exodus from Facebook, where millions of young people either abandoned or deleted their Facebook accounts.

If you are an author marketing to teens and young adults, then Snapchat is definitely the place to check out.  As of 2018, the site boasts of over 187 million daily users reaching 40% of people between the ages of 18-24.  It’s gotten so popular that even the White House joined in 2016.  Millennials and Gen Z are a demographic that’s hard to reach, and nobody knows this fact better than Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who tried to buy the app in 2013.

Why Snapchat Confuses Older People

Snapchat isn’t like the other social media sites by design, because all posts (snaps) are not permanent. Snaps are deleted after 24 hrs of being viewed (unless you take a screen pic) and those snaps that remain unopened are deleted after 30 days.  Snaperchatters are rewarded with points and trophies for account activity, which can be too video gamish for most adults.  Another deal breaker seems to be the pointless small talk, as well as Snapchat’s silly photo filters.

Snapchat pic for Writing By The Seat of My Pants
Really not feeling this.

As you can see, Snapchat isn’t a place to be serious, so you can’t treat it like Twitter or LinkedIn.  That fact alone, disqualifies authors who schedule content and blast it out to all their social media accounts.  Those techniques just won’t work on Snapchat, I’ll explain later, but for now, let’s see where authors are tripping up.

Where Everyone Goes Wrong

As I said previously, Snapchat is a spur of the moment type of site.  Most young people send private messages and respond to snaps with more snaps of their own.  You are often rewarded for keeping threads going for extended periods of time with points which can can earn users the right to access trophies for completing certain tasks or reaching milestones.  This is a psychological trick the site uses to keep people on Snapchat for longer periods of time and it works well.

Also, like other social media sites, video is a popular feature however, unlike all the other sites videos on Snapchat are only 10 – 60 seconds long.  That means traditional marketing won’t fly here.  So not only do you have to be brief, but you need to be interesting in a visual format. This can be a challenge to authors who are used to expressing themselves through the written word. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, there are authors and book reviewers doing well on Snapchat.  But before I tell you who, let’s get the basics down, below, I’ve listed five important steps to getting started on Snapchat.

Step #1: Watch A Few Snapchat Tutorials

For those of you willing to take the plunge into the Snapchat universe, there are several tutorials that you should check out before signing up:

Step #2: Get Followers

Okay, so you have a basic understanding of Snapchat, now it’s on to the next step and that is getting your first followers.  The common advice for building a following is to leverage the ones on your other social media accounts or from your email newsletters.  However, if you don’t have either one, you can find Snapchat groups where you can promote your account.  Just be sure to mention you’re an author and are looking for people who are into books and be sure to share your snapcode.  If you don’t know what that is please, return to step one!

Below are a few Snapchat groups you can check out:

Another way to find Snapchat followers is to go to the search engine of your chosen social media site and enter the words “snapchat” and look for promotional groups.  I’ve found Facebook and Google+ to be excellent sources to find Snapchat communities.

Step #3: Stay Away From Third Party Apps

I know a lot of authors want to manage their time wisely on social media and the best way to do that effectively is through scheduling posts.  Sadly, Snapchat still wants people to post content directly through their app. This policy will most likely change in the future, as it did for Pinterest and Instagram but for now, users are stuck in a scheduling purgatory.  There are scheduling apps that do exist but all of them violate Snapchat’s terms of service. That means your account could be suspended or shut down if you’re discovered using one, which is why I’m not mentioning any of their names here.

Step #4: Find A Few Influencers

Now that you have a few followers, it’s time to start networking with influencers. Since Snapchat doesn’t have a normal directory, people generally go to an app called Ghostcodes.  Ghostcodes, is a database of Snapchat users who are looking for followers. They sort out accounts under the categories of; storytellers, entertainment, business and even viral stars.  Now, I know what you’re thinking Rachel, didn’t you just say that Snapchat forbids third party apps?  The answer is yes, I did, but Ghostcodes isn’t a third party app, which means it’s not an app that links to your account, so you’re free and clear.

For those not interested in being a follower, you can always ask to be featured on the app, but you’ll need to fill out this form.

Other directory apps that are similar to Ghostcodes include:

Step #5: Figure Out What To Post

Since your content disappears after 24 hours, and videos are only 10 seconds, time is of the essence on Snapchat.  I know that sounds like a bad thing but Snapchat can be ideal for things like a flash sale or even a cover reveal.  The types of content that do best are snaps that are humorous, unique, and relevant.  Here are more ideas on the type of things you can create on Snapchat:

  • A quick author reading
  • Hold Q&A’s
  • Share advice or tips
  • Announce a sale, giveaway, or offer a coupon
  • Share a short quote, or joke
  • Snap a live event
  • Upload a book trailer
  • Create a story based on older snaps or photos from your camera roll. You can introduce yourself, or put together a little slide show explaining your work.

Book People On Snapchat

Despite what you may believe there are YA authors, as well as book reviewers on Snapchat, so it would be wise to watch and observe how they use the site if you’re struggling with ideas.  Here is a small list of just some of them, you’ll have to search for them in Snapchat’s search engine:

  • BookFerretSnaps (Reviewer)
  • Zoe Sugg (Author)
  • RomanceBeckons (Reviewer)
  • OneIllLouise (Author)
  • JohnGreen (Author)
  • BookRiot (Reviewers)

In Closing: A Discussion On Bad Marketing & Respect

Teens initially left traditional social media like Facebook, due to lack of privacy and respect.  It doesn’t matter that Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world, teens saw that it wasn’t serving their needs so they took off.  In fact, social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, made this comment about Snapchat: “There are two things that are very true when it comes to teens. One, it’s not cool to hang out at the same club as your mom (Facebook). And two, you want to lock your room.”  So far, Snapchat covers all these bases.

And while we’re at it, I have to mention a huge mistake I see adults committing on social media and that’s trolling (rudeness and disrespect).  You might be shocked to see how many authors love to discuss how dumb and weak Millennials and teens are.  Now here’s my question, how can an author despise the very people they’re trying to sell to?  YA authors in particular, need to be careful and use tact when addressing tragedies or when giving unsolicited advice.  If it’s not from the heart and from a place of understanding, then it’s best to keep it to yourself otherwise, you may come off as a know-it-all or worse yet, a shill.  Remember, good marketing requires that you care, and if you can’t do that, then do everybody a favor and just stay on Facebook.

Rachel Ruebens Snapchat Pic

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apps, Book Promotion, Marketing, writing

Chatbots: How Authors Are Using Them For Marketing And More!

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In the past three years, a new type of book marketing has emerged using internet bots which has indie authors buzzing.  Now bots have been around for years, but they were only available to those who understood coding or had deep pockets to hire someone else who did.   Today,  I want to explain the possibilities as well as the pitfalls of this new marketing tool.  But before we move on, let me explain what a bot is…

According to Techopedia, an internet bot is piece of software that is programmed to do automated tasks on the internet. This can include things like; answering questions, collecting data, selling products, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.  In an article from the Atlantic, it was estimated that more than half of all internet traffic now consists of bots.  So you’ve most likely encounter one either on social media or at a major retailer’s site.  Internet bots can be a life saver for small businesses, because they save both time and money.  Imagine having a bot greet a person who just signed up for your email list right on your website, or who answers questions on social media.  Now let’s take it a step further, image a bot conducting a giveaway or doing deep research on your behalf.  Neat, huh?  Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of technology.

The Publishing Industry Is Already Onboard

Last year, Harper Collins launched its own Epicreads chatbot for teens on  Facebook Messenger, they also have another bot called, Book Genie both bots offer book suggestions to readers.

 

Epic Reads Bot
Epic Reads Chatbot

 

The traditional publishers aren’t the only ones getting onboard with social media bots, indie author Nick Stephenson, has a bot of his own on Messenger as well.  His bot alerts you to new articles and free video training.

On the Self-Publishing Formula podcast, host James Blatch spoke with indie author Kerry Gardiner, who gave examples of how authors are using bots in order to;

  • Build up their email lists
  • Increase their social media following
  • Ask for reviews
  • Create choose your adventures for readers

She has a bot of her own which she created for her website called, BookBotBob.  On the site readers choose whether they want a free or discounted book.  Once the choice is made, the bot eventually moves the conversation over to Facebook Messenger.

Kerrys Book Bot
BookBotBob Chatbot

Kerry also has a course in which she teaches indie authors the in’s and out’s of creating a bot for Messenger.  (Not affiliated.)

The Pitfalls of Automating Your Marketing: A Warning

There are numerous stories of people who have used bots to automate their marketing and failed miserably.  The results include situations where bots spouted inappropriate gibberish at random people, to bots that got social media accounts deactivated for violating terms of service.  Remember, before creating your bot for a social media site learn about the rules because bots need to be approved before they can deployed on any site.  For example, did you know that on Facebook Messenger, promotional content is allowed for standard messaging but not allowed for subscription messaging?  Strange, huh?  To learn more, check out more about Facebook’s rules and regulations for developers here.

How To Create Your Own DIY Bot

Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to learn how to create a bot, because these days you don’t even have to know how to code to do it.  There are several services also that will allow you to create a basic bot for free (restrictions apply).  The service that lots indie authors are going gaga over is ManyChat because it’s a free site and easy to use.

Here are just a small list of resources which can help you to design your own bot:

If You’re Not Technically Inclined

If you aren’t technically gifted, you can always find someone to do the job for you.  Below, I’ve list several websites where you can find a freelance chatbot developer.

Final Thoughts

Marketing experts believe that bots are here to stay but there are others who believe that AI devices like voice assistants are the future, and will make bots obsolete very soon.  Personally, I can’t say what the future holds but if bots can help make our lives easier now then why not use them?  They are much cheaper than hiring an assistant and they don’t need rest nor do they give you (the boss), attitude.  If you’re an overwhelmed author who can’t find the time for things like social media or email marketing then bots may be the answer for you.

 

 

Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media

The Future Of Book Publishing: Figuring Out The Next Move

The Future Of Publishing
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It’s 2018, and 2017 is finally behind us which has a lot of authors wondering, what’s next?  Well, I took out my crystal ball and tried to see what the future holds for the publishing industry?  Will bots replace authors?  Short answer—not anytime soon.  Will AI technology replace word processing software like Microsoft Word and Scrivener?  In a nutshell—not yet.  Do we finally get our jet packs?  Again—not anytime soon.  So what will change next year?  Well, read on and find out…

Prediction #1: No More Superstars

It was pointed out at one news outlet that there were no breakout books in 2017.  Many blamed the slow down due to various political elections around the world and although, that could be the case, it could also be an ominous trend.  One only has to look to the music and movie industries to see where ours is heading post digital revolution.  For the past ten years, shelf space at brick and mortar stores has been disappearing and there are no indications that trend will cease.  When Barnes & Noble announced they would focus less on books, and applied for a liquor license, the publishing industry shuddered.  Amazon alone, now controls 71% of the ebook market, and accounts for 37% of all print book sales in the U.S. and has no serious rivals as of this posting.  This leaves the publishing industry at a huge disadvantage.

Major publishers are finding it harder and harder to introduce new books to the masses which has them turning to their backlists in order to make a profit.  Also, it’s been reported over the past few years, that midlist authors are being unceremoniously cut loose by major publishers.  So what does this mean to indie authors?  It means that the industry is getting careful about their spending and they’re doing everything they can to squeeze every last dime out all of their intellectual properties.  Many authors will have to either move on to another line of work, or seriously consider self-publishing.  This will ultimately mean more competition for indie authors.
In fact on the Creative Penn, this was discussed and the conclusion was made that the superstars like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King will become a thing of the past.  Mainly, because there won’t be any money to invest in an author’s career anymore.  This will lead to self-publishing becoming a default setting in an author’s early career.  In other words, self-publishing will become the norm and the only way to get a contract with a large publisher. That’s if large publishers can remain relevant.

Prediction #2: Social Media Is Going To Get A Lot Harder

In October, Facebook, began dividing their user’s newsfeeds in two, between personal and promotional posts in an experiment.  Without warning, people in six countries found their newsfeeds had changed, dramatically.  It was similar to what email services like Gmail and Outlook, did when they divided their inboxes between promotional and primary tabs.  Though Facebook says it doesn’t plan on rolling out these changes to every single country just yet, it does makes sense to begin shifting your marketing plan away from your page and possibly focus more on Facebook groups or maybe consider spending money to get your posts seen.

Prediction #3: Authors May Turn To Mobile Apps & Texting Services To Reach Readers Directly

With the effectiveness of email and social media marketing coming into question, those authors who went mobile won’t sweat it too much.  Believe it or not, apps and texting services aren’t for big businesses anymore, celebrities, athletes and even musicians are embracing the technology.  Romance author, H.M. Ward, said during an interview at the Self-Publishing Formula that most of her readers open her emails on their phones which is why she has a texting service to reach them now.  However, she does also say that your list has to be worth it (profitable) to warrant the expense.  The good news here is, is that these options are becoming less expensive with each passing year which, is perfect timing for authors looking for a new way to connect directly with their readers.

Prediction #4: AIs Will Make Books More Accessible   

You’ve probably heard by now that podcasts and audiobooks are very popular in this busy world we live in.  Instead of mindless corporate playlists on the radio, people are listening to niche podcasts and even audiobooks on their way to work, or at the gym.  Amazon saw this coming and developed their AI, Amazon Echo, to easily link with their ebooks and Audible library.  So readers can now have their audiobooks accessed and played while, ebooks can be read by Amazon’s AI for free.  Google and Apple are likely going to follow suit because they also have AIs and a somewhat healthy book catalog.  In fact, it’s believed that AI technology will only continue to evolve and affect every area of our lives from healthcare, to warfare.  Physicist and author, Stephen Hawking, has gone on record predicting that AIs will eventually take over the world.

Prediction #5: Virtual & Augmented Reality Will Present New Opportunities

In October of 2017, Harry Potter fans were treated to a thrill when Google announced it would be offering on their virtual reality platform Daydream, a gaming adventure based on the book series.  Also, this past year, The Washington Post, published an augmented reality article based on the Freddie Gray case.  It’s believed that in the future, media outlets will begin using augmented reality more in order to present complex stories.  As if that weren’t enough, The Washington Post also has a robot reporter who already published 850 articles.  Called Heliograf, it is being used to free up staff from redundant projects as well as helping with big data sets.  So what does this all mean?..

It means that it’s not beyond reason that publishers could use this type of technology when presenting both fiction and nonfiction books.  Several decades ago, publishers were producing choose your own adventure books where an author would write alternative endings to a story and readers would decided which one they wanted to follow.  This was popular for a short while but it may be revived if technology evolves.  That could mean interactive books will take on a whole new dimension and authors, as well as publishers, will have a new potential income stream.

It also means that big data is going to play a larger role in aquisitions, meaning data trends will soon play a role in how much a publisher will pay for an intellectual property.

In Closing

I hope I gave a balanced view of the future, there is a lot for indie authors to look forward to as well as several challenges.  Isn’t that always how reality goes?  Now, I’m handing the mic to you, if have any predictions of your own, add them in the comment section.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Writing Business

Why Authors Need To Learn Social Media: The New Reality

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Lately it is becoming more and more common place for agents and publishers to assess an author’s platform before signing them.  That means they are looking for authors who can reach the readers they are targeting.  In fact at the Digital Book World Conference & Expo in 2017, representatives from Hachette and Perseus admitted they are checking out author platforms and social media engagement then reporting those findings at their acquisitions meetings.  Like it or not, publishers are using social media as a measuring stick so wouldn’t be nice if we could impress or at least pass the inspection?

While doing research for my upcoming book Social Media Hacks for Authors, I came across several resources, in the form of courses and tutorials that can help authors who struggle with social media.  And here’s the plus, many of these resources are available for free directly from the social media sites themselves!  I understand that many authors can’t afford the more expensive social media courses so I went on a mission to find the help we all need for free or at the very least, real cheap.

Below I list several resources and no, I’m not affiliated with any of the services or products mentioned.

Direct From The Horse’s Mouth

Did you know that Facebook has its own set of video tutorials that cover everything from advertising to analytics?  Twitter, also has a Skillshare video featuring their marketing manager Sandra Vega and you can view it for free.  Below I list the top 7 social media sites in the English speaking world.

General Social Media Courses

If you want to go further in your education there are several websites that will help you with your social media marketing.  The course topics range anywhere from content creation to targeted marketing.  Some of these are free while others have both free and paid options.

Tip:  Take advantage of the free material and later, if you feel like taking a more targeted course like Mark Dawson’s Advertising for Authors then go for it.

In Closing

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not an overnight sensation because building a following takes time nonetheless, you do have to start.  Gone are the days where social media was optional, today’s authors are expected to have an online presence no matter if they choose to go the traditional route or not.  Yes, this is more work but it is also a good thing because whether we choose to go traditional or not, our audience will follow us, not our publisher.  It’s this connection to your audience that is the key to a long-term career and isn’t that what we all want?

Advertising, Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media, writing

How To Market Your YA Book Part 2

Book Marketing
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A few years ago, I wrote about marketing a YA novel and since then lots of things have changed for one, there are more marketing avenues as well as many more pitfalls.  When I wrote that post in 2013, mobile phone usage was on the rise worldwide and tablets were new.  Fast forward 4 years and mobile phones are a necessity, while tablets are now being used by cats and infants.  I kid you not.

In this post I answer the questions, where are the young people and what do they want?  Also, I address some important trends that are revolutionizing the publishing industry.  So let’s get started…

More Media, More Problems

In the past few years, Facebook, has reigned as the undisputed king of social media with over two billion monthly users but it does have competition particularly, when it comes to reaching young people.  However Facebook tried to resolve that issue by purchasing two popular apps Instagram and What’s App.  Despite that, it’s still hard to find teens on Facebook itself, preferring; Instagram, Snapchat, Kik or Periscope, to the overpopulated, Facebook.  These newer platforms have a growing and active user base of 13-34 year olds, which has the attention of online marketers looking to reach Gen Y and Z.

Why do young people favor these sites you ask?  Because most of them have richer forms of content like video and gifs which are ideal for quick scrolling.  You know they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and this is especially true for short videos which dominate the feeds of most teens.  That means if you want to reach this demographic, you’ll have to use visuals like video and eye-catching images.

Short Is The New Long

The trends in publishing on both the adult and teen market is shorter, serialized books.   In fact, many online retailers have launched programs like; Kindle Singles, Kobo Exclusive Shorts and Nook Snaps which all feature short books.  Even bestselling author James Patterson, has begun focusing on shorter and cheaper works.  It seems those within the publishing industry have been watching indie authors closely.

Your Advertising Has To Be Different

Indie authors have been told to build a strong brand which is good advice but most teens say they don’t feel connected to any particular brand.  In fact, they say most brands don’t understand them at all and sadly, they’re right.  Gone are the days where you could just yell BOGO (Buy One Get One) and get someone’s attention.  Today, the question is can you contribute to the conversation teens are having or are you just trying to take it over?  The advice that most marketers give today is to make your ads look like native content which basically means that your ads shouldn’t look like ads at all.  Your advertising has to add to the conversation —their conversation.  So if your book can’t mesh with what teens are talking about, then it may not be as marketable as you think.

Young People Don’t Wish For Diversity, They Demand It

We live in a global society and this generation of children has grown accustomed to being exposed to different cultures and customs.  Gone are the days of living in a homogenized bubble, young people want to explore and learn, if you can provide these things, you stand to make a splash.  In 2014, the hashtag: #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks became a movement when a Twitter discussion about the lack of diversity in the children’s genre went viral.  Several major publishers finally heard the cry and began publishing books with diverse worlds and characters.  Since then books like Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai, and The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste, have rose to the top of the bestsellers list.

Social Media Influencers Are The New Celebs

Gone are the days where the radio or television executives chose the next big star today, algorithms and SEO determine who gets an audience and who won’t.  The party is online for teens and young adults, because the internet offers them a plethora of choices that traditional media just cannot.  Many of these choices are DIY Youtube channels and Snaps where regular people entertain, post tutorials and review products.  I talked about this in a previous article called: Booktube for Indie Authors which opened the eyes of a lot of authors who knew nothing about this subculture of book reviewers.  To the shock of many marketers, teens consider Youtubers legitimate celebrities right along the lines of Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner.  This means that to teens, Booktubers are seen in the same league as the New York Times reviewers.

Young People Aren’t Difficult, They’re Different!

This paragraph may anger a few people but I have to tell it like it is.  Many older people fall into the same trap of previous generations who criticized or dismissed their youth and did so at their own peril.  When the World War II Generation ignored the Baby Boomers (think Vietnam), they in turn were ignored and marginalized later on in politics, and pop culture.  If you don’t try to understand this generation then everything they say and do will be foreign or scary.  You will miss out on modern culture and even risk losing an opportunity to make relationships which is the backbone of any marketing strategy.  So don’t run from them, do your best to understand them, who knows maybe they will take the time to listen to you as well?

Beta Readers, Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking, Social Media

How To Communicate With Readers

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Most indie authors are interested in finding out, how to get readers.  In fact, there are webinars, books and businesses that are devoted to that very subject.  However, not many of us ask the more important question like: What do we do with them once we got them?  We’re so focused on bumping up our email subscribers or social media numbers that we forgot about the human aspect of our job.

As I did the research for my latest social media book, I noticed authors asking over and over again, what do I say?  Honestly, there is no rule for that because it all really depends on your book and your message.  Do your books have a theme or moral?  If so, then your content should revolve around that.

I’ve been studying some of the indie elite, looking at their social media pages and even their newsletters and came up with a few tips that will work for those authors who want to not only get fans but keep them long term.

Idea #1: Plan Ahead

Many social media influencers and newsletter writers often plan months in advance what they’ll post.   One Instagrammer /model confessed to using a mood board  to integrate certain colors into her feed to create the perfect aesthetic effect.  I don’t recommend that unless color or fashion is at the top of your agenda but thinking about what you’ll say and sharing things on that topic keeps your message consistent.  For example, if you’re writing about 1940’s gangsters, then your social media posts should consist of posts about 1970’s fashion.  Your readers didn’t sign up for that.

Idea #2: Express Gratitude

When readers sign up for bestselling author, Bella Andres’ newsletter in the first auto responder, she thanks readers for their support saying, “Hello! First and foremost, I want to thank you for reading my books! I’m beyond grateful that I get to dream up and write romantic stories every day—and it’s all because of you.”  If I were one of her readers, I would’ve converted to fan status after that interaction.  I mean who doesn’t like heartfelt appreciation?

Idea #3: Be Sincere

In the summer of 2016, a social media influencer publicly quit Instagram because of what she called, “contrived perfection made to get attention.”  She publicly confessed to having photo shoots for her social media account just to make herself look perfect in all her posts.  She even discussed fake relationships on Instagram.  In essence she confessed to being a fraud.  Don’t fall into that trap, it’s one thing to edit wrinkles from a selfie and another to have a completely fake life.  Remember: You don’t have to create a persona or a character of yourself.  The top celebrities on social media hire professional photographers all the time but authors don’t need to because we have an actual story to tell.  They on the other hand, can only appear interesting.

Idea #4: Hold Real Discussions

I’ve seen so many authors fail at this and it’s because we haven’t really learned the art of conversation.  You know the saying, “People only listen with the intent to respond, not to understand?”  That’s exactly what I see authors doing, they’ll ask a question and answer it or they’ll try to tell their followers what to think.  That is not a discussion, it’s just them standing on their soapbox.  If you want examples of good reader-author conversations head on over to Indie Author & Book Blogs’ Facebook page.

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Here are a few tips about how to get a conversation started:

  • Give facts about a subject you know a lot about.
  • Hold open confessions.
  • Ask an open-ended questions like; Who are the most talented writers of our century?, How do you see (insert character’s name) life unfolding?, What should be addressed in the next book?
  • Hold a Q&A
  • Share a quote from your book on an eye-catching pic.
  • Record a video
  • Have contests
  • Do cover reveals
  • Hold giveaways

Idea #5: Reward Your Subscribers

Many marketers say that the fewer questions you ask, the higher your conversion rates (for your newsletter) will be.  However when I signed up for Stephen King’s newsletter in 2008, I was surprised to receive a birthday greeting on my actual birthday.  Back then when you signed up, you were asked for your name as well as your birthday.  Needless to say, I thought a birthday greeting was super cool but personally,  I would’ve taken it a step further and offered a coupon code or a free gift to my readers.  Why not one-up the man?  😛  Just explain why you’re asking and allow readers the option of skipping the question.

Idea #6: Cross Promote

Long ago, I was listening to a podcast (the name of it escapes me) and an author was asked if she was afraid of the competitiveness of the market.  Her answer was simple, “I don’t see other authors as competition but as colleagues.”  That was the most brilliant way to answer the question and since we indie authors are on our own, we need to support each other when we can.  Interview other authors in your genre and start the good Karma train rolling.  Who knows maybe one day they’ll interview or promote you.

This could be a lot of fun for readers who will be introduced to a new author, and it gives you content to use for social media, newsletters, and blogs.

Miscommunication

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t flip the script and talk about what happens when readers reach out to authors only to get repulsed by the response.  Case in point, just a few months ago, S.E. Hinton, author of the Outsiders, got into a Twitter scuffle with a teenager when asked about the sexuality of one of her characters.  Anyway, Hinton came off looking a bit homophobic and I’m sure she’s not, but the question could have been handled a lot better.  Note to authors:  If someone asks if one of your characters is gay or transgender, a simple yes or no will suffice.

In Closing

Socializing isn’t necessarily complicated if you plan ahead.  When interacting with readers make sure you’re open to hearing them.  You don’t have to understand exactly where they’re coming from but it would be nice if you simply acknowledged their responses.  Your readers will thank you later and who knows they may even start conversations with you.

Beta Readers, Book Reviews, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing

Why Book Reviews Are Important: The Stats

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Recently, there was an article in Publisher’s Weekly, which featured a literary agent giving his opinion on book reviews.  It was called, “Why Most Amazon Reader Reviews Are Worthless” and despite what the title implies, I agreed with some of his views.  In it, he talked about how publishers used to con their way on to the NY Times bestseller’s list by purchasing books at the outlets they knew the NY Times used to gauge their list.  He then compared it to today’s Amazon algorithm which favors quantity over quality and drives some desperate authors to purchase reviews.  Anyway, he’s right the system is corrupt and always has been but reviews still matter when it comes to online marketing.  Let me show you how…

Reviews Aren’t Important, They’re Vital!

Today’s consumer usually does their research before making a purchase and online reviews either motivate them to buy a product or walk away.  Reviews in fact help them learn about your book from people other than you.  According to a 2014 survey by Bright Local, consumers are 84% likely to trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.

So how many reviews does it take to form a positive or negative opinion in the mind of the consumer?  According to the survey, after ten reviews 88% of customers have already formed an opinion of a product.  So good reviews are important, don’t let anybody tell you anything different.  In fact, I’ve seen several authors incorporating Amazon reviews onto their websites via widgets.  Another technique I noticed is authors building a sales page for their book and including reviews right after the blurb.  Bestselling indie authors Bella Andre has her reviews right under her blurb as does J.F. Penn.

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Faking It Until You Make It Or Social Proof?

It’s been said by some marketers that people are sheep and will follow a crowd and sadly it seems to be true in certain aspects.  An old trick used by new restaurants desperate for buzz, was to hire people to stand in line or sit at tables to make the place appear busy.  Even if an identical restaurant was across the street serving the same food, the one that appeared busy was always chosen by patrons.

The psychology behind social proof is the idea of social influence, people following the crowd in order to avoid ridicule or missing out.  And it’s not limited to restaurants, in October of 2016, talk show host Wendy Williams, admitted to hiring screaming teenagers to stand outside of her studio and sit in the audience for pop star Justin Bieber’s television debut (at the 18:10 mark).  She says, they did it to make him look like a big deal.  This practice is called astroturfing and it’s used by politicians, corporations and yes, even artists.

This type of thing isn’t exclusive to show business, there are authors over the years who have used smoke and mirrors to inflate their image. For example, it’s been alleged that sci-fi author and founder of Scientology, L.Ron Hubbard’s followers purchased his books by the dozens to make him appear like a big deal after his death in 1986.  By the way, this  kind of stuff is considered black hat (unethical) marketing but that doesn’t stop a lot of desperate people who need that fifteen minutes of fame.

Back To The Point…

The reason why celebrities and artists do this is because it works.  I don’t recommend you buy fake reviews and astroturf your Amazon page because with technology today, that can be easily detected.  However I do recommend that you try to get at least ten good reviews in the beginning.  I know of authors who passively solicit for reviews years after their book’s been published.  Imagine if you pitch ten reviewers per week and only half of them respond, you’ll still have five new reviews per week.  That adds up to 260 at the end of the year.  Also, don’t stop at Amazon, try to get good reviews on Goodreads, as well as any other major outlet your book is sold.

In Closing

I know we grew up thinking that books made it to the bestseller’s list based on merit and popularity but that’s not 100% true.  The missing piece to this equation is hard work and smart marketing, you don’t have to be sleazy and trick people into thinking your books are popular.  If you’re in this for the long haul and want a career in publishing, then time is on your side.  I believe people who focus on their fifteen minutes of fame are selling themselves short.  Most readers these days don’t care if a book was a NYT bestseller, that’s been proven, but what does matter is if you connect with readers through your work.  The readers matter the most, not the lists or awards because without our readers all those things are meaningless.  This is the biggest reason why genuine book reviews not only matter but are vital.