Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Writing Business

How To Survive The Recession: Author Edition

Image by Peggy_Marco via Pixabay

Just a few weeks ago, there was an article that published a survey of the world’s top economists and 80% of them said that they believed this current recession is going to last for 1 ½ to 2 years.  They also predicted a double dip recession where things would look like they were recovering only to “dip” again.  Sadly, this isn’t your typical recession where things look bleak and then slowly improve.  This thing is going to take a while which will be catastrophic for companies that were already struggling before this recession hit.

If you are an author who is contracted with a publisher that isn’t doing well, now may be the time to start securing your future before you find yourself without an income.  Below are six tips that will put you in the driver’s seat during this recession.    

Tip 1: Update Your Online Presence

This includes your website, social media accounts or blog, if your information is outdated, or if there are any broken links, then you need to correct that.  If you’re looking for an agent or freelancing you should let people know.  Your professional online presence needs to speak to the type of people you are looking to attract.  If you don’t know who that is, then you need to sit down and figure that out.      

Tip 2: Start Leveraging Your Network

Hopefully, you’ve been socializing online and have made a few author friends.  I’m also hoping you’ve joined groups and maybe even started one yourself?  If so, congratulations, you have friends in the industry who can help you out.  Hopefully, these people are professionals who can help you find publishers, agents or just good editing software. 

Your network should also be able to help you avoid scams which is important since there’s been a recent rash of con-artists impersonating well known literary agents and major publishing companies

Another thing a good network can even give you is the latest gossip on who’s paying authors and who’s not.  An excellent example of this was the Ellora’s Cave controversy where authors shared stories about late or missing payments all over social media.  A short while later, after a lot of drama, the company folded.  Keep in mind, there is strength in numbers, and this is especially true during a crisis.

Tip 3: Diversify

Most successful authors write in multiple genres, usually out of boredom but some do it to create multiple streams of income.  For example, if romance is no longer selling then they can count on their sci-fi or thriller novels to pick up the slack.  

Also, authors who are signed with a traditional publisher may want to look to self-publishing or work-for-hire opportunities in order to supplement their income.  It’s basic financial sense to not depend on one source for your livelihood.   

Tip 4: Raise Your Expectations From Your Partners

If your publisher isn’t selling books successfully, then it may be time to look for another publisher.  I know authors who’ve published with companies and even during good times the company struggled to sell books across the board.  To make matters worse, there’s always an excuse which usually includes, Amazon, the internet, or problems with the printers but you can’t afford to keep accepting excuses.  You’re running a business and your publisher is supposed to be a business partner and partners are supposed to carry their own weight.  This might mean buying back the rights to your work. If that’s not possible, then you may have to start over with a new company or even self-publish.     

Tip 5: Gold Digging

In a recession it makes sense to research the company you want to do business with.  Be sure they’re making real money and have more than just a handful of employees.  Big companies generally do well in a recession in fact, most of them see economic meltdowns as an opportunity to buy more IP (intellectual property) or entire companies.  It’s the large companies that are still buying and not cutting back, and that’s where the opportunities lie for authors.

Tip 6: Increase Your Marketing Effort

It should go without saying that during a recession you’ll need to increase your marketing efforts.  That can mean increasing the amount of queries you send out, to expanding your social media outreach, or running more ads for your business.  Even if hard times haven’t hit you yet, that doesn’t mean that they won’t hit the people you do business with.  As a business owner, you need to keep your options open.

A Final Word

Recessions don’t have to be scary, remember there are people who make their fortunes during tough times and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.  Instead of seeing a recession as an apocalyptic disaster, see it for what it is; a time where sectors of the economy get shaken up.  We have to keep in mind that as things shift we can actually find ourselves in a better position than before.  The publishing industry will figure this out, and before you know it, we’ll all be complaining again about how boring the industry is and wishing again for a little excitement.       

Advertising, Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Writing Business

The Future Of Self-Publishing 2019: Figuring Out The Next Move

Pic via Pixabay

Last year I made several predictions about the publishing industry and some of it came true.  So this year, I decided to put my psychic powers, okay, my powers of deduction to the test yet again and look into the future.   

Social Media Will Continue To Lose Users… Oops, I Mean Pivot

In September of 2018 Facebook reported a 7% loss in content consumption across their platforms; Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.  The flagship company itself, saw a 20% decline in consumption per person.  This could be due to the data and hacking scandals but nonetheless, sites like Facebook still boast over one billion daily users per day.  Even with the drop in content consumption, Facebook is still a powerhouse on the internet.  This means we have to be more thoughtful about what we post and why we’re posting it.  If you want to spend your time wisely on social media you need to make networking your number one priority and posting content your second.

Social Media Ads Will Get More Expensive

If you haven’t noticed, there is a fight for cheap advertising pretty much everywhere online.  Advertisers are now in a bidding war for key words just like in the early 2000s with Google Ads.  This time the fight is taking place on Facebook, which means ads will become more expensive if history is any indicator.

Voice Marketing Will Be A New Avenue For Authors

Everyone has heard of voice assistant technology like Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant which have revolutionized homes all over the world.  These “smart speakers” can search the internet, control light bulbs and even adjust a house’s thermostat simply through verbal command.  Amazon alone sold over 50 million Echo systems and it’s predicted that 55% of adults will have some sort of smart speaker by 2022.  Advertisers have been watching closely and are creating ads and chatbots specifically for voice.  I know what you’re thinking, aren’t those called radio ads?  No, not quite, unlike static ads on the radio where a company speaks to a customer, these ads can not only speak but respond to customers.  I see publishers and indie authors using these ads to read excerpts and answer questions about characters and upselling them on other books or possibly getting readers to signup for mailing lists.  It’s not unrealistic to assume that indie authors will be adding this technology to their marketing toolbox very soon.

Influencers Will Continue To Be Vital In Marketing

As I explained in my previous post, Bookube For Indie Authors, both Gen Y and Z consider Youtubers just as relevant as stars like Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner.  In fact, the top Youtubers, podcasters and bloggers are making more money than some television stars.  If you can reach out to an influencer, and get them to help you with promotion, it could help with book sales.

Defending Intellectual Property Is Going To Be A Real Concern For Authors

Over the past few years author and blogger, Kristine Kaythryn Rusch has sounded the alarm about publishing contracts.  That’s because things have dramatically changed in the publishing industry with contracts being the most important of them all.  Listing example after example, she presented how authors are foolishly signing away their entire copyright for paltry sums of money.  This should be unacceptable to a professional author but there are still those who refuse to educate themselves about the publishing industry.  

Even indie authors must be careful because book publishers aren’t the only ones looking to take your copyright, literary agents, television producers, media companies and even the movie industry would love nothing more than to get their hands on cheap intellectual property.  In fact, IP is considered a big thing in business and some companies are hoarding as much of it as they can like stocks, in hopes it will gain value in the future.

Amazon Will Lose Its Grip On Retail

According to an article in CNBC, Amazon’s Founder Jeff Bezos was asked during an employee meeting about the future of Amazon to which Mr. Bezos responded, “Amazon is not too big to fail. In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.”  He also urged employees to stay hungry and obsess about their customers.  It was a sobering statement made by a CEO whose company is being accused of antitrust activities by the European Union and has even had their Japanese office raided by law enforcement last spring.  Also, U.S. President Trump has voiced his concerns about Amazon on numerous occasions.

Nevertheless, it would be a smart move for authors to stay current with the retail world considering we do sell our books through stores whether they are online or brick and mortar.  It’s no secret that old box stores like Sears, Barnes & Noble and J.C. Penny are in big trouble and are either looking for a buyer or are filing for bankruptcy.  Now before you mourn the good ol days, just know there will be others waiting in the wings.  For example, there is a retail app called Wish, that most people haven’t even heard of yet which is now worth more than Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penny’s combined.  No, I’m not telling you to sign up for Wish, I’m telling you that even though it seems like stores are being crushed, others are quickly rising to take their place.  This is actually a good thing, it means that the industry isn’t dead, it’s just changing.

Wrapping It Up…

It seems there is a recurring theme this past year and that was change, and depending on how you look at it that can be either a good or a bad thing.  I’m not the type of person to BS you and tell you that there aren’t challenges ahead.  Trust me, there are!  But there are also opportunities ahead, and believe it or not, our industry is thriving.  So go out there and conquer the publishing world but save a little for the rest of us. Oh yeah, and happy 2019!

Marketing, Networking, Social Media

The New Rules For Social Media: The No BS Guide

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It’s no secret that social media has gotten tough for authors with many reporting dismal reach and even worse engagement rates.  This past year, the biggest social media site Facebook, announced they would show less content from business pages and favor community groups.  This was a huge blow to authors with business pages.  So what is an author to do?  Believe it or not, there are still ways to reach your audience without having to pay a site to promote your posts.  However, it will require time and effort on your part, so if you’re willing to put in the work, you can maintain your connection to your followers.

Old Tricks On A New Day

The problem that I often see on social media is that many authors are still following rules that don’t work anymore.  The hacks, tips and tricks that were supposed to help you game the system years ago may actually be hurting you now.  Below, I put together a list of just a few tricks that just don’t work anymore:

Trick #1: Posting Frequently

Several years back when I created my author page on Facebook, the marketing gurus told people to post frequently and that worked, for a while.  But social media users complained when spammers and the power users began overtaking their feeds so algorithms were given the task of prioritizing content.  This meant that it didn’t matter if you posted 5 or 500 times per day, it would all be ignored if your content wasn’t relevant to your followers. In fact sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have a limit on how much activity an account can have before it’s flagged as suspicious.  This means you can be locked out of your account for 24 hrs or even have it suspended indefinitely.

Trick #2: Like Groups & Events

On Chris Syme’s podcast: Smarty Pants, her guest, author Shawn Inmon, talked about the regret he had about holding “like events” where he would invite other people to like his Facebook page.  He described those likes as, “An anchor around your neck,” because those people who liked his page, did so, and never returned.  You see having a large following but no interaction is pointless on a site like Facebook.  The same goes for Twitter and Instagram.  As you can imagine, when your followers far exceed your engagement, the algorithms assume your posts aren’t of a good quality and so your content gets less priority.

As if that weren’t enough, this past May, it was reported that Facebook shutdown several large Instagram groups, who were artificially inflating the popularity of certain posts, violating the company’s terms of service.  I believe things like this will continue as Facebook desperately tries to clean house after their recent data scandals.

Trick #3: Blindly Following & Unfollowing

I still hear this one being repeated as a sure fire way to get a large following.  In fact, there are services that deploy bots which follow and unfollow people en masse to help their clients build up their social media following.  As you can imagine this type of technique was abused by shady marketers and now, algorithms are programmed to detect this sort of thing.  So if you’re following and unfollowing more than 40 – 50 people per day, it’s possible that you can trigger the algorithms and get locked out of your account for suspicious behavior.

Trick #4: Posting & Running

Most authors are guilty of this and I am no exception, it’s the set it and forget it technique where you use a scheduling app to post on your behalf.  However, algorithms these days monitor what people respond to and if nobody is responding to your content then your scheduling is in vain.  Today, authors must show up and engage their followers so leave the scheduling for important things like announcing publication dates, sales or public appearances.

Trick #4: Using Quotes

For years authors have been urged to create quotes on stunning backgrounds to get attention.  However, that too has become blasé, in fact, it’s actually become a meme on social media:

-Very Famous Person (2)

 

Visual posts do garner the attention of people but take quotes from your own books.  Trust me, famous people don’t need our help to promote them on social media.

Trick #5: Clickbait Headlines

For those of you who don’t know what clickbait is, it’s basically a headline such as: “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!” which is a ploy designed to get people off of one site and onto a less secure one.  Clickbait is a popular technique used by criminals and shady marketers which is why sites like Facebook and Twitter now have rules against it.

Things That Still Work…For Now

Okay, so now that you know what doesn’t work, I’ll explain what does.  Surprisingly, it’s not all that complicated but it does require a bit of your time and effort.  Below, I have just a few tips to help you to remain visible to your followers:

Tip #1: Creating a Community Group 

Groups are nothing new to social media, you can create them on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  As of this date, none of the social media sites have tried to monetize groups—yet!  This means the members of your group will see ALL of your posts.

Now I know what you’re wondering, how can you build a group on a site like Twitter? Well that’s simple, you can create your own hashtag around an important topic and build a group that way.  If you want to take it a step further, you can even register your own hashtag with a service like Hashtag.org.  It won’t mean that you own it or can prevent others from using it but it will mean that your account will be linked to the hashtag.  So when people look for it in the search engine, your account will pop up at the top of the results.  Neat, huh?

Tip #2: Networking

Okay, I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again, you’re not on social media only to promote yourself.  You’re there to establish relationships with your readers as well as book reviewers, influencers and authors in your genre.  If you’re doing those things you are one step ahead of 80% of your peers who just auto post.

When I say go out there and socialize, I mean go out and find where the book and writing conversations are and contribute to the discussion.  I know authors who set goals of commenting on at least 50 discussions when trying to grow their following or boost their engagement.  Most of the time it works for them plus, it doesn’t cost any money.  I talked about this in my post: How to Approach & Pitch Influencers several years ago, you might want to give it a look.

Tip #3: Videos

In the past year or so, all the major sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have begun favoring video content.  They seem to be trying to amass as much video as possible in order to keep users on their site instead of Youtube, or Snapchat.  Now, I know what you’re saying, “I don’t have the money or skills to create a video!“.  That’s where you’re wrong.  You may not be able to deliver Steven Spielberg work but you can do a basic video where you stream together pictures and add a little text or music like a slideshow.

Most authors can create basic videos using software that’s probably already installed on your computer like Windows 10 Photos, or iMovie.  You can even create a basic video on your smartphone with software like Magisto and iMotion.

Tip #4: Live Streaming

Live streaming began in social media with the launch of Periscope, a video app which was acquired by Twitter in 2015.  Since then, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram all have their own version of live streaming.  It’s still relatively new so it’s given more weight by the algorithms.  If you want to see indie authors who have used this feature well check out Mark Dawson and Toby Neal.

In Closing

As you may have noticed, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are designing their algorithms to keep users on their sites for a longer period of time.  Gone are the days where you could put your social media accounts on autopilot and not log in for days.  Today, you need to show up and interact with actual human beings.  If you don’t, you stand the risk of becoming invisible to your followers.  This is the new reality of social media and if you’re not into the whole community aspect of things, then you might have to pony up with some cash in order to stay on minds of your followers.

Now I’m handing the mic to you, are there any social media tips that you find don’t work anymore?  Tell us in the comments section.

 

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

How To Market Your YA Book Part 2

Book Marketing
Image via Pixabay

A few years ago, I wrote about marketing a YA novel and since then lots of things have change.  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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Image via Pexels

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.

*You have to be logged in to see the post.*

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.