Blogging, Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media

Why Bother With A Platform? Hint: It’s Not About You!

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Image via Pixabay

When I first started out in 2007, many of the marketing gurus told writers that a website was optional.  Some of them were telling writers that Facebook or LinkedIn were more than enough for a web presence.  But a lot has happened since then and with social media sites charging for visibility, it’s nearly impossible to reach an audience organically.  Also, there’s the control issue, does a business owner (you) really want a middleman controlling when and if you have access to your readers?  So today the advice is to get people FROM social media on to your newsletter or website.

This doesn’t mean abandon social media completely, what they mean is have other avenues that you can rely on to get your message out there like podcasts, blogs and of course newsletters.  If you can only reach your readers via Facebook then you might want to take things to the next level and start branching out.

I can already hear you all asking: why are we doing all this work?  It’s hard and at times tedious, well I’m glad you asked…

Reason 1:  Information Gathering

I know many authors are blogging and on social media believing they’re there to build a massive platform (whatever that means to them) but that’s not exactly why.  The truth is you’re reaching out to readers because you need to learn from them.  And by the way, social media is a great place to mine data from customers (readers).  As you put your life and thoughts on display, you should be exchanging information with your readers, so try asking them questions (open ended ones) such as:

  1. What authors are you reading?
  2. Name one personal pet peeve you have about modern books?
  3. Who are the most influential authors today?
  4. What kind of stories do we need to see more of?
  5. Which book character deserves closure and why?

Author H.M. Ward once discussed meeting with a New York publisher and when she began talking about her demographic, she was astonished when one of the executives asked her, “How do you know this?”  Well duh, she monitors her social media and newsletter analytics.  By the way, she has over 50,000 subscribers on her email list and over 59,000 Facebook fans.

If you feel like you don’t know what to say, study the indie authors who are good at connecting with their readers people like; Mark Dawson, Bella Andre, Adam Croft and Marie Force.   Look at their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters and see what they’re doing right.

Reason 2:  Showing Your Expertise

This is particularly for nonfiction authors who need to show their knowledge of a given subject.  A platform gives you a non-censored channel that you can use to educate or inspire.  It also gives you an opportunity to connect with other thought leaders in your field.

Reason 3:  Promotion… Of Others

It goes without saying that promotion is one of the main reasons authors build a platform.  However your books aren’t the only thing you can promote, you can promote other authors, there are tons of them out there who have little to no support, and a shout-out or friendly word never hurt anyone.  Another good idea is to promote your readers, these are the people who should get regular shout-outs.  Thank them for their positive reviews and support.

Reason 4:  All The Cool Publishers Are Doing It!

Over the past few years, several major publishers like Penguin Random, Guardian Books and even Harlequin have started their own podcasts.  Those same companies also have newsletters and social media sites even though they’re already household names.  Despite what a lot of authors think, they’ve been watching indie authors closely and have been taking notes. This means we indies need to step up our game, and that requires us to learn from each other.

In closing, if you learned anything I hope it was that you can’t depend on anyone to reach and build your audience.  This is your job no matter if you’re a traditionally published author or an indie.  It’s your job to know who your readers are and what they want.  This is what a platform is really about, it’s not about stats or image, it’s about connecting and building relationships, real ones that will endure your entire career.

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Book Promotion, Business, Indie Publishing, Publishing

Lessons Learned in Publishing

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Image via Pixabay

It’s almost 2015, and like most people, I’m wondering where the heck did all the time go? Luckily, I had a pretty productive year, I finished one book and published another. I also made more friends and learned more about the publishing industry.  Yes, after years in the business, I’m still learning new things.

Here are just a few of the bigger lessons I discovered this year in 2014…

Book Marketing Has To Be Taken To Another Level

Last month, an author sent a lamb chop into space to promote his book: Meatspace. He recorded the whole thing on Youtube and so far it’s netted him over 250,000 views. It was the most odd, yet, spectacular marketing ploy I’ve ever seen. So much for creating bookmarks, eh?

Despite what you may have heard, you still have to promote your book to some extent. Whether you decide to do it via blogtours, advertising or social media, you should let someone know your book is available. Many of the most successful authors have marketed their work continuously, because they can’t afford to leave it up to chance.

Repeat After Me: Amazon Is Not The Savior Of Publishing

Not long ago, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, referred to authors as customers in a meeting with investors. A Bloomsbury executive also referred to authors as customers at the Frankfurt Book Fair this past year. Although, I don’t agree with the customer label, I do believe we are treated more like employees rather than business partners.  Think about it, publishers have been using authors as brand ambassadors to promote their companies for years.  One author in my writer’s group put it like this: “Yes. We’re Amazon’s unpaid marketing department. And all those little ‘Amazon affiliate’ booklists are their marketing funnels. We’re all herding readers into the chute so we can cut our own throats. Maybe it’s time we all woke up and stopped committing professional suicide by supporting a one-platform market?” A strong but very true statement.

Consider All Possible Income Streams

Many of the literary elite like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King have made a lot of money from selling books but they’ve also made lots of money from other things like movie deals, speaking engagements and yes, even merchandise.

And why not? If you don’t take advantage of all the opportunities available to you someone else will. For example, I found a lot Fifty Shades of Grey merchandise online but none of it was official, meaning the author E.L. James, is likely not getting paid for any of it. How do I know? Well, on the author’s website there is no mention of merchandise and ditto for her publisher’s website. However, that hasn’t stopped many of these so called “fan sites” from taking the image of the book (a copyright violation), and slapping it on multiple products.

Don’t ever forget publishing is a business, not an art. It’s sad when bootleggers understand this so much better than the authors they rip off.

Free Books Aren’t Devaluing A Damn Thing!

If you believe that giving away a free book is going to ruin your career, you’re insane. There are lots of bestselling authors who have free books available. They often use free books to get reviews or to build up their email lists just like their indie counterparts.  That’s because free books have been proven to be way more effective at building an author platform than advertising and social media.

We Need To Promote On Social Media But Only In The Right Places

Social media is getting complicated as Facebook and Google limit the reach of their users. Many are finding that even advertising and promoting posts aren’t working so they’re abandoning their pages in droves. I think this is a bad idea. I believe social media can be useful but only if you network properly. We authors need to become a part of a thriving reader community and make the leaders of these communities an offer they can’t refuse. I discussed this in my post: How to Approach and Pitch Social Media Influencers.

We Need To Accept There Is No Such Thing As Luck!

Many authors who’ve succeed at publishing often put years into their careers. They’ve learned their craft, studied the business, and experimented (both artistically and business wise) in order to make a living at publishing. Luck by the way, is often seen as a four letter word to successful people.

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From Thumbpress

You’re A Writer After You’ve Actually Written Something

Don’t let others fool you into thinking that you need an agent or contract with one of the NY Big 5 to be considered an official author. No one will ever anoint you with fairy dust and make things happen for you. That’s way too Cinderella! A real author is someone who has published a book and made a connection with their readers.

In Closing

Though I think the industry is stabilizing, I do think things will continue to change, but not at the pace that they have been. In times like these, we have to constantly remind ourselves this is a business and not a calling.  As with most businesses, we’ll face many ups and downs, that’s just life in general.  No one gets a free pass.  Absolutely no one!

 

Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Writing Business

How To Know If Your Book Will Sell Before You Publish: Finding Out What Readers Really Want

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Image via Pixabay

Before I begin, I have to give a hat tip to Steve Scott and his book, “How to Discover Best-Selling eBook Ideas,” which inspired this post. After reading his book, I asked myself how could I apply what I learned to the fiction market and ended up with a few surprising ideas.  And no, it has nothing to do with KDP Select, nor will it require the blood of a goat.

With the proliferation of the internet, it has never been easier to access book lovers.  I mean, they’re everywhere!  I believe if indie authors would just take the time to listen to what readers are saying maybe they could provide readers with the novels they desperately crave.  Most publishers already know which genres are in demand and make sure not to publish books that have no readership.  So how do indies find out what books will sell?  I’m so glad you asked…

Forget Amazon Rankings

Over the past few years, Amazon rankings have been used as a measuring tool for a book’s popularity and profitability.  That’s nice and all, but those rankings don’t tell you anything really important. For example, can you discern if a genre is more popular than another? Answer: No, not on Amazon. Even the New York Times Bestseller’s List isn’t a good source for that because you can only find out if a book is selling big.

How To Find The Hot Genres

When doing research for my post Cheap Advertising for Indie Authors, I stumbled across something interesting.  As I was scanning the prices for Bookbub and Kindle Nation Daily, I noticed that they charged more for certain genres like mysteries and romance, while charging less for others like, chick lit, children’s and YA.  Now why would that be? Most likely it’s because they base their prices on what sells best. This should give you a clear picture of which genres sell but there are ways to verify this information…

What Readers are Begging for: Checking the Math

To confirm what the ad prices are telling me, I went to Goodreads to find out what genres are the most popular. I did this by looking at the giveaways. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Rachel, giveaways are going to attract tons of people looking for a freebie,” but that’s where you’d be wrong. I noticed that the number of people entering the children’s giveaway contest is lower than the number of people entering the romance giveaways. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

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Romance giveaway on the left, children’s on the right.

P.S. I omitted young adult (YA) books even though Goodreads includes them in the children’s category because most advertisers and readers consider them two different genres.  Also, this picture represents the most popular giveaways for the day of 11/18/14.

As you can see, 2,692 people entered the romance giveaway, while only 834 entered the children’s book giveaway.  I found this pattern over and over again. The children’s books just couldn’t measure up in popularity to the romance novels.  So logically it makes sense, if you can’t giveaway a book, then why would anyone pay for it?  

More Analysis

If you want to delve even deeper into this you can look at Goodreads’ Lists, Most Read This Week, and Most Popular Categories.  These particular threads will give you a peek into how popular a specific book is, and which books readers are talking about.  To find the categories for your particular genre just go to Goodreads.com/genres and click on the one you’d like to study.  Goodreads will take you to a page that will list everything you’ve ever wanted to know about that particular genre.

If you are a wise author, you would find a few books similar to yours and look at the reviews to see what readers are saying.  What are their most common complaints?  Now do your best to omit that stuff from your book.  Next, try to find out what are they going gaga over?  Now be sure to include lots of that stuff in your books.

This type of research will give you an advantage over the competition who are just following their muse, because unlike them, you can craft your book according to the desires of the readers rather than just guessing what people want.

This can be replicated on other book centric sites like Library Thing, Jacket Flap and even Shelfari.

But I’m an Artist…

Yeah, I know you’re an artist and your muse will guide you to the work you are destined to create. However, for the rest of us who would like to make money from our books, we need to know what the market looks like.  We also need to be realistic about the odds of our book’s success. That way we don’t waste time and money promoting a book that has no fan-base.

I’m not saying don’t write the book you were inspired to write, that’s the cool thing about being an indie author, it’s not all about profit margins.  You can publish whatever you want, but you shouldn’t go broke promoting that whatever.