Monday, July 14, 2014

Authors' Marketing Panel

Want juicy marketing secrets? Here's the follow-up to my Author's Publishing Panel (reposted last week). Today's participants don't claim to be experts (in fact someone called it a crap shoot!), but I'd bet we can gain from their secrets, er experiences. Afterall, marketing is simply finding the best ways to talk about your book(s).
In order of the responses as they came to me, let's meet the MARKETING PANEL (*drumroll):

Cheri Chesley, author of The Peasant Queen Series, believes in miracles and the magic of books in everyday life. When not writing, she can be found reading the dictionary for fun or devouring any of the many books in her library. She lives with her husband and numerous children in Waurika, OK. Look for updates on her latest works at www.cheri-chesley.com
Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming and is the author of The Geis series for young adults and The Book Blogger's Cookbooks. Christy is a World Champion Irish dancer and when she's not reading or writing, she's probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen. She is the author of Awakening, available on Amazon and B&N. www.christydorrity.com
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Maria Hoagland writes LDS women's fiction with a medical twist. When Maria is not working at her computer, she can be found walking barefoot in soft grass, remodeling houses with her husband, or enjoying campfires with their three children. She loves crunching leaves in the fall, stealing cookie dough from the mixing bowl, and listening to musicals on her iPod. Although she adores mountain resorts near her Idaho home, she is no longer a fan of ice skating. She is the author of two novels: Family Size and Nourish & Strengthen. You can find her at: http://www.mariahoagland.com/ https://www.facebook.com/mariahoaglandauthor.

Ronda Hinrichsen (Kathleen Marks) is the author of Romantic Suspense, Mystery, Adventure, and Speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order 1 chapter book series. She has traveld throughout the world in search of exotic settings and intriguing characters, and loves introducing them to her readers through her stories. Ronda just self-published a novella titled To Sleep No More (A Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery) under the pen name Kathleen Marks. Her next traditionally published novel will be released in June 2014 with Covenant Communications. It is titled Betrayed.
If you'd like to subscribe to her newsletter, please email her at rondagibbhinrichsen@gmail.com.
Blog: www.thewriteblocks.blogspot.com

Gregg Luke says that he started writing seriously after graduating from college. Even then, it took nearly ten years before he had any success getting published. He has published in the New Era, Destiny Magazine, and Pharmacy Times. His literary claim to fame is being a finalist for a Whitney Award in 2008 for Do No Harm, in 2009 for Altered State, in 2010 for Blink of An Eye, in 2011 for Bloodborne, and in 2012 for Deadly Undertakings. His favorite reading genre is science-based thrillers.
Website: www.greggluke.com
(I appreciate Gregg's participation at my invitation, with his different perspective. He gave me a few comments, which I have put into the questions below.)

M.E. (Melissa) Cunningham came from a land far, far away, and ended up on a little farm in Northern Utah, living with numerous magical creatures: horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and a goat. M. E. began writing quite by accident when the fall through the fabric of time dropped M. E. into the mysterious land of Terratir.
Favorite topics include ghosts, monsters, dragons, and magic. M. E. also likes TV, going to the movies, and camping in the mountains as long as there are no spiders, mosquitoes, or ticks.
Cunningham's first book, Relucant Guardian, was published in August 2013. The Eye of Tanub is now out. While always in search of the strange and unexplainable, this author will write each story as it is discovered. Be on the look out!
See more at: http://www.cleanteenpublishing.com/pages/m-e-cunningham#sthash.Rqk7IND5.dpuf 
Website: www.melissajcunningham.com

Nichole Giles, the author of DESCENDANT (Jelly Bean Publishing May 2013), and BIRTHRIGHT (May 2014), has lived in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. She loves to spend time with her husband and four children, travel to tropical and exotic destinations, drive in the rain with the convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.  
FBpage: https://www.facebook.com/NicholeGilesAuthor?ref=hl 
 
Now on to the MARKETING QUESTIONS!
1. Getting Noticed: What has been your most effective marketing tool for getting your name known, early stages and/or later on? 
Cheri: When just starting out I did very well with a hectic series of Costco signings. Sales for that month were great. Though I'm still building and working on broadening my writing platform, what has currently helped to keep my name "out there" is offering one short story permanently free. It has a consistent number of downloads every month.
Christy: I think the best way for getting my name out there came from the interactions I'd had over the years as I made friends with writers, authors, and readers. Social media plays a key in this. And now that I have a newsletter I'm beginning to see how that one-on-one connection truly is the jackpot of all marketing. 
Ronda: Writing books, connecting with people, and presenting/ teaching classes.
Gregg: I do very little if any marketing of my books. Covenant Communications does all that for me. (Renae's note: This includes getting books in the publisher's catalogue and setting up interviews.)
Melissa:  I use Facebook to its full ability. I've joined a ton of different pages that will advertise for me, and I also have my account set up so that it automatically posts to twitter and vice versa. I have a Pinterest account where I pin picture of quotes from my books. Being a member of Goodreads will do you a world of good also. The biggest help I have is my publisher. They go above and beyond to help me in any way possible. Not everyone has that, so these other avenues are vital.
Nichole: Years ago, when I first started writing, blogging was the thing. Reading blogs, posting blogs, participating in group blogs, swapping guest blots—it was all the rage. Now that Facebook and Twitter have gained momentum though, blogging seems to be sliding a bit, even though book bloggers still have a very strong hold on the review market. I think now, even though focus has shifted slightly toward social media, it’s important to be diverse in spreading the word. Blogging, social media activity, Goodreads are all great ways to be seen and heard. Another really good way to get your name out there with other writers is to attend and participate in conferences and conventions. There is SO much value in meeting people in the industry.

2. Audience: How can authors widen their audience? How do you build connections or keep your audience interested?
Cheri: This is something I'm still working on, and I think I will continue to work on it throughout my career. When writing YA one has to consider that every year brings another group of youth eager to read and discover a new book/series. So it's important to try and stay fresh. Another thing is to post regularly to your social connections. If you're on Facebook, post book updates, fun tidbits, etc, to engage readers. Post consistently on your blog/website. Post to twitter. Be engaging and positive.  
Christy: Be where your audience is. Interact with readers online. I would suggest picking one social media tool and then keep up on it daily. Twitter isn't your thing? Fine, get on Instagram. Don't like Instagram? Master Facebook.
Maria: Getting the word to your target audience is a must. Because I write for such a small niche market, I have difficulty getting to them.
Gregg: I do post occasionally on Facebook, teach writing classes, and do book signings when I have a new release. I go to various writing conferences and sell my books there.
Melissa:  A street team can really get the word out there. They will read your book, advertise, and write reviews. I love our street team.
Nichole: Word of mouth is a huge thing. If you put out a high-quality product, people read it and they talk about it, and they tell their friends, and those friends tell their friends. The hardest part, I think, is finding those initial readers who will get the ball rolling, so to speak. When you do find those initial readers, the next biggest important thing is to encourage (or beg) them to leave reviews. Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc. Reviews sell books. Period. The more reviews a book has, the more exposure, and the stronger the author’s ability to choose to purchase good advertising space.

3. Getting Subscribers: How do you build that all important e-mail list? How big a role is it for you?
Cheri: I have yet to effectively employ my subscriber list.
Christy: Newsletter subscribers are gold. Even if all of the social media sites were cut off and you were alone in your little house, with no one to promote to, you can always contact your newsletter subscribers. These are people who have given you permission to tell them when you have a new release! Every time I have a speaking engagement, I hold a giveaway for those who sign up for my letter. When I do signings, I encourage those who look as if they would buy my book if they had the money to sign up-it's free! And if anyone asks for donations for an online launch, offer to donate something (even an ebook), in exchange for the contest goers signing up for your newsletter. It grows a little bit at a time.
Nichole: My focus hasn’t been solely on my email list, though I do think it’s important to have a list and send a fairly regular newsletter. I send mine about once every two or three months, usually around the first of the month, or when I have news I think will interest my readers. Other than that, I try hard not to spam my subscribers inboxes with notes about how I spent my holiday weekend, or where I’m going on a family vacation or research trip.  

4. Selling: What ways do you sell your books and which have been the most effective?
Cheri: Again, I find that offering a free quality sampling of my work creates interest and draws readers to check out my other books. Also have occasional sales of the other books in a series when you release something new related to that series is not only fun but can be quite successful.
Christy: As an Indie author, my focus is on online ebook sales. I do a small print run as well.
Maria:  About the only thing that has worked for sales is doing group sales where we cross market. To get reviews, often times I do Google searches and look for bloggers to read and review my books. I don't know if it helps, but it does increase reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and B&N.
Maria: I do sell more at 99 cents than full price (we all want a deal, don't we), but it seems to only work if I temporarily lower the price. If I keep it at 99 cents all the time, it isn't as effective.
Ronda: I consider my audience and what I believe they want from a book before I write. After the book is complete/on sale, I create quick pitches that I hope will hook my audience.
Gregg: I go to various writing conferences and sell my books there. (His books can also be bought on his website as well as traditional means.) I have no idea what impact any of it has on sales; I do it because it's fun. But I can tell you Covenant has sold out of all my books in the past. (Why they don't reprint them is anyone's guess!)
Nichole: My books are available everywhere online, and can be ordered through any brick and mortar bookstore. I don’t have a storefront or sell them from my website but I do link to the places that do.
As far as garnering sales, I have recently discovered some great places where I can get free or inexpensive advertising for short-term promotions, and the ones I have tried have been very effective. The biggest trick is carving out the time to visit these sites and enter all the information and links, and researching to figure out which ones are worth paying for, and which ones are not. Nichole shares a few links she likes:

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/free-ebook-promotion_b52130  5. Failures: What has been your least effective marketing tool or biggest waste of time/money? Other lessons learned? How do you deal with discouragement?
Cheri: T-shirts. When I first started out I ordered shirts for each member of my family advertising the book with the cover and website info. Not only is this not terribly cost effective I saw very little return. Conversely, I have had several authors write me about where they can purchase wrist bands that can be imprinted or embossed with their book's information, as I have done for each of my Peasant Queen series novels.
Christy: When I launched my first book I did a 13 hour Facebook party BY MYSELF! I seriously started having anxiety problems after that day. Although the party was a great idea, I'm not sure it was worth all of that time and stress. I could have limited the party to a few hours and seen the same results.
Maria: I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I wonder why I'm even writing since I am nowhere near to making back the time I have invested. But I think a lot of that is because of the genre. So I've decided to branch out and try something new--a new genre for a general market. It might help with sales, but more than that, it's given me the spark I needed to keep going (it's always fun to start a new project).
Melissa: I don't know that I've had failures other than I wish I could have been more active in advertising my book. I have been sick and it really put a cramp in my style for a while. But being actively out there is something to work on.
Nichole: Believe it or not, I have found giveaways to be almost entirely ineffective. People are happy to enter to win a prize if they don’t have to work for it, but if you require them to tweet or Facebook or leave a review, they are far less likely to care unless you are giving away a crazy expensive or rare prize. I am not well enough known for rare, and not rich enough for crazy expensive, so I tend to give away books or gift cards, and while those promotions are fun, they NEVER boost my sales. Ever.

6. Analytics: How do you measure your marketing's effectiveness? What analytic tools are employed?

Cheri: I still measure my success in terms of sales. Lately, because I haven't released anything new, my sales are down. But I am planning a fairly large "comeback" for later this year that I hope will drive sales up again. 
Christy: That is an area that I am not very good at. I do keep track of my sales during a promotion so that I can see what works and what doesn't.
Ronda: If my book(s) sell during or after an event, such as presentations or online events, then I know what I did that day worked. 
Gregg: I have no idea what impact any of it has on sales.
Nichole: I recently tried a promotion where I gave away the first book in my series for free for five days. During that five days, I ran several inexpensive ads, and a few more free ones. The experiment was for me to see how many downloads for each day (depending on which ad was running—or not running) and what happened on the days when I didn’t advertise at all.
Because it was a Kindle promotion, I used strictly the Kindle analytics tool on KDP, and I watched the graph change throughout the day. (Yes, I did get a little obsessive with the refresh button—sadly.)
It turned out to be a highly successful promotion, with an overall total of just under 10,000 new downloads, which have resulted in new sales of the next title in the series (the third of which has not yet been released). I am still using that same tool to track my daily sales. Most sites have those analytics capabilities, and I plan to learn to use them all.

7. Parties: What has your experience been like with book launches, blog tours, virtual tours, swag, or other devices, as far as enjoyment and effectiveness?
Cheri: I find the online parties/tours/launches to be far more successful than book launches held in stores. It's easier for people to participate online and it's a lot less inclusive. My in person launches have been met with much less success, though I can't say the same for better known authors. When Shannon Hale or Brandon Mull show up at your local bookstore it will pull you out of the house!  
 Christy: Like I said, doing the long Facebook party by myself was not great. Since then I've participated in multi-author parties and the burden is spread out. I like that much better! I have done my own blog tours, and hired some out. It just depends on how much time I have.
Ronda: For me, the biggest value in these events is that they help an author/book get noticed. I don’t know that they increase sales, initially, but hopefully they will in the long run.
Gregg: My publisher would love it if I got out and did a bunch of self-promotion, tours, blogs, etc, but as I have a full time career as a Pharmacy Director for three clinics, I have barely enough time to write the books, let alone market them.
Nichole: I have tried all these things. My book launches have had great turnout from family members and friends, and always result in a significant number of books sold on that particular day. Also, I think for me the launch of a new book is (or was) a rite of passage that made my career as an author feel more real. So I do recommend launch parties for first time authors. Maybe for every time authors, I don’t know. I didn’t do a launch for the second book in my series, and I sort of wish I had. Swag has been effective only when I am signing books in person. Giving it away online and having to mail it to far away places really hasn’t been all that effective in my experience, and can be costly. (Do you know how much it costs to ship bookmarks to Romania? Books to Australia? South Africa? I do. Not cheap.)
Blog tours are a great way to gain exposure and gather reviews from important book bloggers, which will often also post their reviews on sites in addition to their blogs. Reviews (as mentioned above) are EXTREMELY important to help books get noticed, so I have found it worth giving away free e-copies to a few reviewers for the long term benefits. HOWEVER, blog tours can be expensive, and they don’t generally help sales much (at least, they haven’t really affected mine significantly) so if you’re going to schedule a tour, make sure you know why you’re doing it and have a clear goal in mind.
 


8. Social Media: What role does social media play in your marketing plans? Has it been effective?
Cheri: The rising generations are the people I write for, and their lives are much more online than the previous generations' lives. One has to have an online presence in order to reach one's target audience. It's important to stay tuned in to the current trends. For instance, Twitter is much more widely used by tweens and young adults than Facebook.
Christy: I like Facebook because it gives me an opportunity to interact with readers, and brings in new readers. It takes time, but I do believe it to be effective.
Maria: I feel like I've maxed out with my Facebook friends, but am in the process (next on my To-Do List) to look at how marketing on Pinterest might work. 
Ronda: It helps with getting noticed, and sometimes it does help sell a book.
Gregg: I post occasionally on Facebook.
Melissa: This is huge these days. Even the big guys use it now. You can instantly have your book's cover all over the internet. One of the things my publisher has encouraged us to try is a vlog. I've yet to do that, but I think I'll give it a go. Read from your book, teach a mini class on something, or just share your feelings on any given topic. SCARY!
Nichole: Social media is very important to my marketing success. I think it’s important to have an online persona who people can connect with and see regularly. But I also think it’s important to make sure you’re there as a person, and not just a marketer. No one wants to have you constantly shoving your book down their throats. You will lose more readers than you will gain that way—in my experience (on both sides of that fence).
One thing about social media is that it can be overwhelming. There are SO many platforms from which to choose, and no one person can keep up with all of them. I think you pick one you like, and focus mainly on that one. Or two. Stick with those, and leave the others alone until you’re tired of the first two, or until they cease to be effective.

9. Advice: Any other advice or tips to leave with us?
Cheri: One thing I love to see is authors working together. If a group of authors team up and throw an online launch (say, if they have books coming out around the same time) then they can draw readers from each of their circles. It's a win-win since readers get to broaden their horizons by checking out new authors and authors enjoy the benefit of meeting new people, which often leads to book sales.
Christy: I've heard this time and time again, and I believe it to be true: The best thing you can do to market your book is to continue writing and publishing quality books. If you tell good stories and keep publishing them, you will build your presence as a writer. 
Ronda:  Marketing has always been a trial and error experience, partly because I’m learning as I go, and partly because what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, so overall, my advice is to try different things that you’re comfortable with and see if they help you reach your goals.
Melissa: Just don't give up. Keep going. It's those who give up that never get published. Keep plugging away and you cannot fail! 
Nichole: Find what works for you. Every author is different. Some of us join groups of other authors and team up for marketing. Some of us feel overwhelmed by groups and choose to do our marketing solo. Some people pay for advertising, others take advantage of every free exposure opportunity known to writers. ALL are good choices, even as they’re different. The key (in my opinion) is to keep an open mind and be willing to try new and different things on a regular basis.
Also, every once in a while, be willing to do something big to shake things up. Stir the cold pot of soup.
 
Thank you, participants! I'm sure we all got something from your valued comments. If any visitors would like to add their favorite tip from these comments or from personal experience, we would love to hear from you too!  

3 comments:

kbrebes said...

Terrific comments from all. Thank you, Renae! Thanks to all!

Renae Mackley said...

Glad you liked it, Kathleen. Thanks for coming over.

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Hey I never thanked you for doing this! So... THANK YOU SO MUCH! I miss you!