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

Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work Anymore

Book Marketing
Pic via Pixabay

Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business with the 5 biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10%.  And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33% of the ebook market.  However the tables were turned in 2016, when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on the ebook market not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses.  So now it’s more important than ever that we indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.

Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows and we indie authors need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market.  What worked in 2007, won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.

Post An Eye-Catching Photo With Social Media Posts

The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo and it worked pretty well.  Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.

For example:

Pinterest

james-patterson-pinterest

Facebook

james-patterson-fb

 

Banner Ads

Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore.  Today, the click through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1% down from 50% in 2000.  Sadly places like Goodreads, offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package which can cost anywhere between $6,000 and up.  However most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like; BookBub, Bargain Booksy and Free Kindle Books & Tips.

Perma 99 Cents

A few years ago the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible which is what tons of indie authors did.  As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore, the new advice is to try price pulsing.  That’s where you lower your price for a limited time and then set it back to a more reasonable one.  The feelings are mixed, many say you have to promote the lower prices but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.

Black Hat Marketing

This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business but with technology most people can easily spot a fake.  Not long ago, U.S. President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign.  Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestsellers list by buying large quantities of the author’s book.  They might have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it.

Same goes with social media, a few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.  To make a long story short, your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.

You Need To Be Everywhere on Social Media

It’s old advice that’s still being repeated and it’s just not true and never really was.  Your goal on social media is to build a community which means conversations and engagement.  You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day.  So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there.  If your book is for young adults try sites like; Snap Chat, Instagram or Tumblr, and if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Spamming Works

For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own email lists there are services who are more than willing to sell you email addresses.  Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book and sending unsolicited emails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act which can result in a fine of $16,000.  Also, it’ll get you banned from email marketing services like Mail Chimp or AWeber.  As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime which is why most email filters send these emails straight to the trash bin.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads.  I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete  waste of time.  If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling “Buy my book!”  This is pointless unless, your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books. 😉

So What Does Work?

Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully.  No tricks, just hard work and persistence, oh yeah, and time.

  • Write a book people want to read
  • Edit professionally
  • Get a nice (industry standard) book cover
  • Start building your platform.
  • Invest in your education: Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing and editing.
  • Join a network of professional authors, there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as websites like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) who help educate and support self-published authors.

In Closing…

There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017, that’s inevitable but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage see it for the opportunity that it really is.  As more and more indie success stories become common place, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.  So until next time, here’s to a creative and profitable 2017 to indie authors everywhere!

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By Leland Francisco
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writing

Okay, So I Was Wrong About Pinterest: An Author’s Guide to Using Pinterest

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Image via Pixabay

Recently, I had to eat crow when it came to Pinterest. Though I never said anything publicly, I did once joke (privately) about how Pinterest was social media for people who couldn’t read. However, on June 18, that all changed when I was graced with a repin by a Pinterest power user. From that one user, I got almost 150 new visitors to my blog, as well as 5 new subscribers in just a few hours. The last time I’ve seen results like that it was from StumbleUpon.

But I’ve been wrong before remember, when I talked trash about Wattpad last year until I learned how to dominate that site? Honestly, I don’t mind being wrong, however, I do mind staying that way. When I realized there was something to Pinterest, I had to investigate and of course, share what I’ve learned with you.

Do SEO & Hashtags Matter?

Yes, Pinterest is heavily focused on all things visual, but they also have an algorithm that favors certain keywords.  However the jury is out, when it comes to hashtags, not everyone agrees that hashtags even matter.  That’s because recently, Pinterest changed their algorithm so that certain hashtags aren’t searchable.

The Pinterest experts suggest that in order to get repinned you must have a good photo with key words in it as well as keywords in the description!  Notice how it isn’t as simple as post and run?

Meeting the Pinterest Superstars

As with Facebook and Twitter, there are power players that you should know about. In fact, it would wise to befriend these people so that you can enlist them in your Pinterest army. Pinterest itself makes it real easy to find power users.

As if that weren’t enough, there are also Pinterest boards that authors should be aware of. Here’s a list of “Bookish Pinterest Boards” via Book Riot.  Some boards are public like this one, which means you can post on their boards but only if your pin is relevant to the board.

The Time You Pin Matters Tremendously

Just like with any social media site, you need to be most active when your audience and the power users are online, otherwise, what’s the point?  If you haven’t noticed, Pinterest buries old content further and further down the timeline with newer, fresher content like Twitter.

From what I’ve noticed, my best results have been around the late afternoon and evening hours. It makes sense, people are most active online after school and work.  You can even schedule your pins using sites like; Hootsuite, Viraltag, and GoPixel.

Authors Who Would Benefit From Being on Pinterest

Pinterest’s audience consists predominately of women, at 68% and of those women 50% are parents. Their ages range anywhere from 25- 44 but keep in mind, some of them are teachers, librarians as well as authors. If you’re a man don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-male site.  For example, I know of a male author on Pinterest who writes about mobsters as well as crime and he not only pins his books, but also articles about famous mobsters.  His account is well set out and you won’t catch him pinning things that don’t exemplify his personality or his work.  Same goes for Orna Ross author and founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors she also has an awesome account as well.

Tip: Don’t just use your boards to promote yourself, create one or two to help to promote others. I did so here with my board, “A Few Authors I Know” and another called, “Stories on Wattpad.” Even if you don’t have a large following, people will appreciate the effort and will reciprocate. This is how you build a loyal following on any social media site.

Short Cuts: Building Your Following Quickly

It was only a matter of time before people starting looking for ways to increase their following numbers and there is one website that caters to just that.  Hat tip to Hazel Longuet and her site “The Novel Experience” for the awesome Pinterest hack.  Viralwoot is a website that is similar to Twiends and ILikeTraffic where you pay for seeds and those people collecting seeds repin one of your pins.  It’s almost like cheating the system but not quite.  Those people who get free seeds can then use them to promote their own pins and yes, they can unpin or unfollow you quickly, it’s not unheard of with sites like this.

Well I hope I gave you a few ideas for using Pinterest to promote your book. I also hope I showed you not to knock a site until you’ve actually tried it.  I’ve opened the comments section if you want to share a link to your Pinterest account please feel free.

Book Promotion

How To Publish And Get Featured On Barnes & Noble

 

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It’s the second largest book retailer after Amazon depending on who you ask. There’s no doubt the past few years has been rough for Barnes and Noble with plummeting Nook sales, store closings, as well as many layoffs.  But in spite of all that, B&N has begun to gain some steady footing by reorganizing their company and hiring a new CEO.  So despite the rumors of Barnes & Noble’s demise, they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Why not go Exclusive with Amazon?

Not long ago, I had a friend ask about my print book and when I told her it was available on Amazon, she ordered it through B&N which, I thought was a bit extreme.  You see, there are many people who believe Amazon is the evil empire (generally those within the publishing community) and are actively boycotting the site. However, with the recent investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after the death of two employees and multiple worker complaints, even I can’t ignore Amazon’s declining reputation. If they insist on going the Walmart route, many of us will have to question whether to bother publishing with them at all.

Also there is the fact that once Amazon becomes a monopoly, (and it seems like that’s inevitable) they’ll change their royalties so instead of 70%, that could be lowered to 50% or even 20%.  Sorry, but that’s what usually happens in a monopoly.

The Difference between Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Barnes and Noble was a company founded in 1886 and began as a simple book shop in New York. To this day, it’s said that B&N still sells more print books than Amazon.com. However, Amazon dominates the digital market (eBooks).  Amazon also sells a plethora of products on its site such as air conditioners and clothing, while B&N just sells books and entertainment items on theirs. The only real advantage they have over Amazon, are their brick and mortar book stores. B&N is offline as well as online and can offer things to authors like book signings and even bookfairs in their stores. All one has to do is call up one of their many book stores using their store locator and speak with one of their managers directly.

In the Beginning there was the eBook…

When eBooks first hit the market, readers had two choices, Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and believe it or not, many book lovers preferred the Nook over the Kindle for a short time. That alone is why it’s a good idea for indie authors to get their books uploaded to the Nook. Also, B&N is launching a new device in May of 2015 and who knows, it could rival the Kindle once again. Don’t snicker, it could happen!

The Site Formally Known as Pubit

For those of you who don’t know, Nook Press (formally known as Pubit) is the only way indie authors can upload their ebooks to the Barnes & Noble site directly. For those of you on a shoestring budget, it would be wise to upload your ebooks directly to as many sites as possible so you can cut out the middle men like Smashwords or BookBaby. You really don’t need to give 20% of every book sale to an aggregator when there’s software like Calibre and OnlineConvert.com that’ll convert your MS Word docs for free.

Wait a Minute, You’re not Done Yet!

Like Goodreads, Barnes & Noble has a newsletter called B&N Review where they interview authors and review books. It would be wise if you sent them a proof or review copy of your print book to their address:

The Barnes & Noble Review
Barnes & Noble.com
76 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

In Conclusion

I like Barnes and Noble but I spend most of my money online at Amazon because they have so much more to offer and let’s face it, it’s convenient. Also there’s the issue with the Barnes and Noble search engine, it’s nowhere near as good as Amazon’s.

However, Barnes & Noble has a physical store that offers people experiences like author signings and workshops.  Some stores even have a cafe with cupcakes to die for!

But needless to say, if B&N doesn’t change their operating model soon and rely less on entertainment products like DVDs and CDs they will go into extinction like their competitor Borders.

So there you go another promotional hack for your book launch.  Next week, I’ll be discussing the art of the pre-launch so stick around.

Advertising, Book Promotion, Marketing

The Indie’s Guide to Researching Potential Book Promoters

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Image via Pixabay

In the age of the indie author it’s pretty cool to have multiple avenues to promote our work. However not all services are created equal and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s on the up and up when it comes to value and integrity. Today, I hope to show a few techniques that I’ve used to check out services claiming to promote books to the moon.  Whether it’s advertising, newsletters or blogtours, I’ve got you covered.

Newsletters

In my opinion newsletters are the hardest to research because many promotional sites won’t reveal their numbers. Those that do, only reveal the total sum of their subscribers however, that can be problematic if they have multiple newsletters. For example, if a site claims to have 20,000 subscribers but has 10 newsletters, then that 20,000 becomes a very small number when you divide it by 10.  Also, you have to take into consideration that not every subscriber opens every single newsletter, some are likely getting deleted.  In fact, a great deal are being deleted.

So how do you get the stats? You can obviously email the site personally and ask, or Google the name of the site as well as the words; reviews, or complaints. But if that doesn’t turn up anything, I’d type the question: Has anyone used (Insert name) Promotions? Half of the time a conversation on the Kboards or Absolute Write will pop up.  You know we authors just love to dish! 😉

Online Advertising

With advertising it’s a little easier, you can always gauge activity by looking at their rankings on Alexa, Google Analytics or Clicky. But what is a good number? Let’s try to put all of this into perspective, Google usually has an Alexa ranking of 1, while Goodreads has a ranking of 125.  A small blog like mine, has a ranking of  43,000 on a good month and 90,000 on a bad one.

Alexa Stats for Writing By The Seat of My Pants
Alexa stats for June

However, I’ve seen sites with rankings worse than mine charging hundreds of dollars for ads.  This blog gets a few hundred visitors on a good day and half of them don’t click anything.  That’s why I don’t allow advertising on this blog because it won’t work.  And  despite what you may have heard, the numbers do matter because a site needs significant traffic just to get a few clicks.  More importantly, a site needs a loyal following just to get a few conversions (buyers).

Now here’s an interesting fact, Publisher’s Weekly Select, (the indie version of the website) has a ranking of 3,087 and they seem to charge more for advertising than Goodreads. Does that make sense to you?

Social Media Promotional Sites

There are many authors who want nothing to do with social media and prefer to farm out

this aspect of their marketing to a social media promotion site and that’s totally cool. But not all sites are created equal and here’s how you can investigate whether a service is worth your money.

• Investigate their followers by clicking on their profiles and check to see if they’re all authors or spammers.  If so, run away!

• Check out the interaction on their pages, if they have 10,000 fans but there’s no conversation going on then it’s time to move on.

• Look at how their social media pages are arranged, are their header photos professionally done? Do they collect emails? Also, if they’re not actively reaching out through promoted posts and ads then they aren’t the social media superstars they would like you to believe.  In other words, if they’re not promoting their own page why would you trust them to promote your book?

Blog Touring Services

This one is super easy, if you can not find any authors who’ve worked with them previously, don’t do it.  A service like this should have some sort of testimonial to speak of.  Another way to investigate is to check out their previous tours by Googling their name and see what kind of interaction the bloggers had with their fans.  If you see no comments or shares, then this isn’t the place to put your money in.

I hope I gave you something to think about before you pay for that ad or Twitter blast.  Next week, I’ll be talking about how to get featured on Barnes and Noble.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Writing Business

Should Indie Authors Approach Book Clubs?

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Pic via DesignFeed.io

It’s an area most indie authors ignore when promoting their work, and it’s a shame because many readers love to connect with authors. Whether it’s on social media, podcasts or live and in person, readers want to know more about the people behind the books they enjoy.  Made popular by the suburban housewife, book clubs are everywhere and not only that, there are book clubs in schools, libraries and even prisons.

There are two routes you can go, approach an online book club or make an arrangement to meet with them live and in the flesh. It’s really up to you but I would recommend starting online and as you become more comfortable then, meet up with a group in your area.

Finding Book Clubs Online

It’s easy finding book clubs online because they’re pretty much everywhere but not all are author friendly. So here are a few places I found that offer to facilitate a phone or online get together with readers.

P.S. don’t forget to check out Goodreads, Shelfari and LibraryThing as they have many groups that would love to hear from an author. Again, just make sure the group is author friendly before approaching.

  • Readers Circle (International) make sure to click list your book
  • BookBundlz has both free and paid services but I would just use the free one since their website doesn’t seem to get much traffic.
  • Skype has a program called Skype in the Classroom which offers free skyping to schools with an author.

Finding Book Clubs Offline

Many authors start off by meeting book clubs at their local libraries, I know the main branch where I live host lots of writer and reader events. It’s worth checking to see if your local library has an author program or book club.

Here are a few library databases as well as a few book club directories.

Libraries in the U.S.:

Libraries 411

Public Libraries

Libraries In the U.K. 

Find a Library

Canadian Library Database

LibWeb

Offline Book Clubs

  • The Loft Literary Center: Here you can post a community bulletin asking groups if they’ll host you like this author did here.
  • Book Clubs on MeetUp.com
  • Authors who are willing to travel can add their name to this database.  Hat tip to Galley Cat on MediaBistro.

Take Heed:

Remember, when approaching a book club be polite and explain why your book would be a good fit for their club. Just suggest your book and let them know you’re available to do a personal appearance. It would be helpful if you could compare your book to something they’ve heard of, if that’s possible.

Also, keep in mind these are readers so no hard selling, it’s annoying and it may bite you in the butt down the road when they decide to give you bad reviews just based on the way you behaved.

So there you have it another book promotional hack you can actually use.  Stay tuned for next week’s post when I talk about researching promotional sites.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Writing Business

Noise Trade: Letting Others Decide Your Book’s Worth

NoiseTrade

Noisetrade began as an indie music site where up and coming musicians could give away their work for exposure. However there was a twist, unlike most freebie sites, customers could tip artists. It was sort of a pay what you can thing.  Recently, Noisetrade got into the book business, and indie authors like Hugh Howey, are all onboard.  You see, all the cool authors are doing it but should you?

The Good, the Bad, the What?

According to the site, authors upload their ebooks and readers get to download it for free and if they (the readers) feel moved, they’ll tip you.  Noisetrade only takes a 20% cut and that’s how they make their money.  However, most people won’t tip at all and when they do, you might be able to pay your Netflix subscription with it.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Another point brought up by several authors is the permission issue. You see, when people download your book, they must give an email address. You are then sent that person’s email address via NosieTrade.  However you, the author, may still need to get their permission to email them or you could be spamming because it was NT that originally collected the data and not you.  It’s all contained in this line on the website, “Author/Publisher shall comply with all laws and regulations applicable to user data collection, data disclosure, and data use practices. Unless agreed to otherwise, NoiseTrade and Author/Publisher shall jointly own all user data collected from the Services”  In other words, you may need to send readers an opt in form just to make sure they’re cool with hearing from you.

Why Even Bother?

Noisetrade is being used by authors to build up their email lists or to amass a following for a book series. It’s no secret, free books are the most marketable because there’s no risk on behalf of the reader. Though I’m not a believer in giving things away for nothing, I do believe in a fair trade. If Noisetrade can get you a few reviews or new subscribers then why not? With a well rounded marketing strategy, NT can be an asset to any indie author’s book just like NetGalley or free-ebooks.net.

You can be Featured on Noisetrade for a Price

To be featured on their site you will need $250 which is a lot of money considering the site is new to the book business.  But if you want to take a chance you can email Joel Rakes: at joel@noisetrade.com and he’ll hook you up.

Honestly, you don’t need Noisetrade or any other site to giveaway your book. Many authors especially nonfiction authors, are giving away their books and using the pay what you can tactic on their very own websites.  However, if you want to spread the word about your book, you might want to expand your reach to where the readers are.  But since this is a new site there aren’t many authors who can vouch for NT’s effectiveness in moving books.  I encountered one author on the Kboards who claims she’s only had 50 downloads in a month and that was with promotion!

The Takeaway

It’s hard to say if Noisetrade will become the next KDP for indie authors, because it’s just too early but it is an avenue to consider if you got a free book to offer.  Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with paying for promotion because it probably won’t give you more exposure.  At least not $250 worth.

Okay, there you go, another promotional hack to add to your arsenal.  Next week, I’ll be discussing book clubs, how to find them and how to approach them.

Book Promotion, Marketing

How to get Featured on Kobo

Kobo
Via Wikipedia Commons

Kobo is quickly becoming a retailer to be reckon with, with over 12 million registered users on its site, I believe it’s time indie authors start paying more attention to them.  Since the acquisition of Sony’s ebook library  (U.S. & Canadian only) Kobo is likely to continue growing.  And although they don’t have a large share of the American market, (that honor belongs to Amazon) they do command 20% of the global ebook market.

So how do you make your run with Kobo successful? Easy, you take advantage of Kobo Writing Life, which includes a blog as well as a podcast that gives authors good tips on how to promote their books on the site. Also, you get your ebook featured on Kobo’s website.  And unlike Goodreads, Kobo, will feature a book for free if you meet their requirements.

Just like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo, has several newsletters that regularly go out to readers alerting them of sales and new releases.  To add icing to the cake, Kobo prominently features books on the front of their website and guess what, it’s indie friendly!  Though, I couldn’t find the numbers on how popular their newsletter is, the Indie Next List section on their website has an Alexa rating of 5,000 globally which isn’t bad.

The Kobo BookHub Rules

Even though it’s free to submit, you still have to make sure the links you provide are from your book’s Kobo page and not Smashwords or *gasp* Amazon.

Here are the rules from Kobo’s own blog: What You Need to KnowNot all books will be featured; the selection will be made based on perceived quality and available slots. There will be more free books featured than bargains, and more bargains than full-price books. *Bargains are all books priced below $2 (regardless of whether it’s a promotion or not), Full Price are all books priced above that.*

So what does this all mean? It means your book needs to be free or cheap to get a push from Kobo. Also, your book needs to have several reviews as well as a sweet cover and blurb. So if you think you got what it takes, submit here.

How to Capitalize on the Free Publicity

Kobo isn’t as sophisticated as Amazon with its chat boards and multi-layered website but it is slowly catching up. If I were an indie with a new book, I would do this about the time I did a big push, mainly, to keep my book on everyone’s mind. I’d lower my price or go free, and tell the world about it on all the websites that feature book sales and freebies.

So there you go, another blog post, another promotional hack.  Stay tuned because next week, when I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of Noisetrade.