I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “It takes money to make money.” This is true even in publishing – maybe especially in publishing. This post isn’t going to harp on the recent scandal involving the YA author who bulk-purchased her book in order to inflate sales numbers. Nope. This is about the cost of marketing and the never-ending pressure on authors to spend more and do more.
Any author out there will tell you marketing is one of the most challenging aspects of being an author. It’s hard to get your book in front of readers, and in most cases, word of mouth is not enough. I once had a book hit #98 (paid!!!) in a very competitive Amazon category. It was an amazing day! And, I hadn’t spent a single penny in advertising! But, in most cases, rising to the top of a any list, especially a bestseller list – and staying there – requires a tremendous amount of hard work and sometimes a considerable financial investment.
While some advertising is inexpensive, in order to create the type of buzz that puts your book on a bestseller list, you will likely need to place multiple ads in multiple places – Facebook, Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, and paid blog tours. All of this ads up and while the investment in your book might be worth the cost of paid advertising, some authors simply do not have the money to give their books that extra boost.
There have been times when I have been fortunate enough to invest in extra paperbacks and swag for giveaways. I have been able, at times, to participate in paid blog tours. I’m lucky to have been able to put aside money to pay for my own domain, though a self-hosted site is not something I have been able to invest in yet.
There have also been times when our family has been struggling to pay our bills, so even the minimal cost of buying a paperback copy of my own book has been out of reach. I can remember a time several years ago when we didn’t have internet service for two weeks, so the idea of paying for a book tour or an expensive book cover was simply unimaginable.
When I see posts by authors (or worse, book promoters and PR services looking for a buck) telling authors that if they are REAL writers, or if they take their careers seriously, they MUST invest lots of money in their writing career, it’s infuriating. When I see smug posts by authors bragging about how they made a few sacrifices (dinners out, new fall wardrobes) in order to go to a conference or invest in multi-author opportunity, because THEY actually take their writing seriously, unlike wannabe writers who waste potential advertising dollars on their silly water bill or feeding their kids…. well, my blood just boils!
Most of us aren’t wealthy. We are doing the best we can with what we have. What might be an enormous sacrifice for one author, might be something another author takes for granted. Just because an author can’t take a class or attend a conference doesn’t mean they don’t take their writing career seriously. Some people don’t have extra money, no matter how much they cut back or how many hours they work. Being scolded by other authors, or being put down by marketing experts as being “not serious enough about your career” doesn’t help. Yes, we know publishing books is a business. No, that knowledge doesn’t help us pay the bills or feed our kids.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending money on advertising – if you have the money to spend. I think it is wise to invest in your dream, but only if you have the money to invest. No author should feel obligated to spend money they don’t have. Authors should spend only what they reasonably afford, whether it’s on advertising, editing, or book cover art.
The sad reality is that it DOES take money to get noticed. The bestseller list often comes with a cost, particularly for indie authors. The bestseller list is reserved for very few books. Not every book will become a bestseller, no matter how well-written or well-promoted it may be. And, you know what? That’s fine. Not every book is going to receive an award, and that’s fine too. But, I hate to see people give up on creative pursuits because a few jerks have convinced them that writing or art is only for an elite few. No one should give up on writing just because they think they can’t afford to do things the “right” way. And, no one should feel like they aren’t a REAL writer just because they can’t afford to pay top dollar for advertising and promotional services.
When your dream is bigger than your budget, what can you do? Some people will tell you to hold off on publication until you can afford the $1000 editing package, the $500 book cover, the blog tours, and the swag. And, you know? I can’t disagree that it’s important to have a good editor and an eye-catching book cover. But I can tell you that spending massive amounts of money does not guarantee you’ll end up with a bestselling book.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cut down on (or even eliminate) publishing costs:
Happy writing and publishing, everyone!
Last week, I discovered a broken link on my blog. This might not sound like a big deal to you, and in reality, it probably isn’t – unless my broken link directed a potential reader away from my blog. A broken link can cost you a book sale. It can cost you the opportunity to connect with readers and other authors.
I don’t want my blog and website visitors to encounter broken links and pages that lead to nowhere, nor do I want to send them on a treasure hunt to find the buying links for my books. I want to make things as easy to navigate as possible. I’ve blogged about creating a Reader Friendly Blog in the past, so I probably need to practice what I preach, but when you’re juggling multiple social media sites, sometimes things fall through the cracks.
On certain websites, a slight change in the page name can change the URL. So, if you’ve shared a link to that particular page, it’s no longer valid once you’ve made that change. If you make changes to the name of your Facebook page or Twitter handle, the link changes and you’ll need to update this on your website and social media pages. You’ll also need to update the media kit you send to bloggers when you’re interviewed or featured.
Here’s another thing to look out for: Sometimes, when copying a URL, letters or slashes can get deleted or changed, resulting in a “link” that leads to nowhere. It’s always a good idea to double check your links just in case.
I’m not the only person who might have missed some opportunities due to broken links. Here are some examples of things I’ve stumbled across recently:
No contact information on an author blog. Authors should have an email address posted on their site or at least a contact form. Sure, I can search for them on Facebook and try to send them a private message, but does the author really want to make their readers (or potential agents, publishers, film makers who want to offer them a multi-million dollar deal) work that hard to find them?
No buying links on an author’s website. While visiting an author’s blog/website, I liked what I saw and wanted to learn more about their books. Only two of their three books were listed on their “books” page, and there were no buying links. I looked around from page to page, and all down the side panel. No buying links anywhere.
Incorrect or incomplete links. An author was offering a free book on Kindle, so I clicked the Amazon link provided on their Facebook post. The author didn’t set this up properly, and the link went to Amazon’s home page.
Broken links on a Facebook Page. I found an author on Facebook who I really liked. One of their posts caught my eye, so I clicked on the link to their website because I wanted to learn more about them. I guess it was an old website or something, because the link gave me a 404 error message.
Twitter Validation Service. I wanted to follow an author, but couldn’t because they use a verification/validation service. I suppose I could have filled out all the stuff they wanted me to fill out, and given this service access to my Twitter account, but… wait! No way. Sorry, but I don’t do Twitter validation services. Of course, each author must make his or her own choice when it comes to using or not using such services. I’ve decided to avoid validation services, even if it means having to miss out on Tweets from some of my friends and favorite authors.
When it comes to missing or broken links, I suppose it isn’t a huge deal. If I’m really interested in a book or a website, I’ll try to find it. (Well, unless I get distracted by something else during my search.) A broken link isn’t the end of the world, and forgetting to update your site when you release a new book is probably not going to affect your sales significantly. If you choose to use a validation service, does it really matter if it drives away a few potential followers? That’s for you to decide.
I hate the idea that people have to work extra hard to find something they’re looking for, especially when the solution to this problem is as easy as me double checking my website and links periodically just to make sure everything is working the way it should.
While a broken link certainly won’t chase away your friends or fans, it might prevent potential readers from discovering your book. Regularly check your links and sites. Make sure buying links are clearly displayed and that there’s an easy way for people to contact you if they need to. Don’t miss out on any opportunities!
Facebook. It can be a fun social tool, an addictive time-sucker, or both. It can also be a useful part of your author platform. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t come into the world of social media knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. And I’ll bet you didn’t learn Facebook in school. (Actually, Facebook didn’t even exist when I was in school. Neither did the internet.)
A lot of social media experts recommend promoting your book on Facebook. Some give good advice on how to do this. Some give bad advice. Over the past three years, I’ve learned a few things about using Facebook as a social and promotional tool, and I’d like to share them with you:
For some of you, this might be pretty basic stuff based on common sense. For those who are new to social media or book promotion, I hope you’ll find this information helpful.
If you’re looking for more advice on promoting your book or author etiquette in the blogosphere, I’d like to recommend this excellent article by Susan Toy: HOW to get promotion for yourself and your book. Susan’s blog is full of helpful information and straightforward advice. If you’re not already following her blog, I highly recommend subscribing to it.
If you would like more information on Facebook basics, please leave a comment below. I’d like to make a post sometime in the near future about Facebook fundamentals such as changing your privacy settings, creating a Facebook page, etc. Please let me know what information would be helpful for you. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting below, or if you have a very specific question, please feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Sometimes I stalk authors. If an author posts a particularly intriguing article on a blog, or if an author interacts with me on a social media platform, I might get curious about the author’s work. I want to find out more about their books. I might even want to buy one of their novels. If I’m already on an author’s blog, I expect to see their books either listed on the sidebar or on a separate page. If I don’t see their books listed on their blog, I’ll go to Amazon and search for the author’s name.
I’m pretty persistent. If I really want to find a book, I’ll find it.
Unfortunately, some readers aren’t that persistent. There are lots of demands on our time. It’s easy to get distracted. Kids demand our attention. Cats knock over a potted plant. The phone rings. By the time we return to our computer, we forget what we were looking for, and suddenly, that book we thought we’d check out might not seem so important.
Hundreds of books are published every day. If a reader can’t find yours, they won’t have any trouble finding something else to read. If you’ve been fortunate enough to attract a reader’s attention, don’t drive them away. Don’t make the reader have to search for fifteen minutes to find your books. They shouldn’t have to scroll down to the bottom of your blog or have to search through multiple posts in order to find information on your most recent publication. They shouldn’t have to leave your blog in order to find you on Amazon. Everything the reader is looking for should be right at their fingertips.
Your blog or website should be a one-stop-shop for all your books and social media links. In other words, your books should be accessible with a few clicks of the mouse. The fewer clicks, the better.
Things to consider when setting up your blog or website:
Basically, there are a million ways to organize your blog or website. You can jazz it up or keep it simple. Have multiple pages, or a one-page, streamlined blog. Just remember your blog or site is for your readers, so make it as reader-friendly as possible. Have fun with your blog, put your personal stamp on it, and make it uniquely yours.
Last week, I blogged about Marketing for Introverts. I listed a few marketing tips I hope will be helpful. Today, I’d like to talk about marketing etiquette. As an author and a book blogger/reviewer, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share with you. Recently, there have been some rumblings on Facebook and Twitter in which other bloggers have voiced their frustration with authors. It seems there are a few authors who might need to brush up on their communication skills. For some of you, the following list of tips might seem like common sense. For others who are new to the art of book promotion, some of these tips might come in handy.
Book Promotion Etiquette:
If you’re a writer (published or unpublished), I’m sure you’ve heard about or experienced the difficulty of marketing a book. It’s hard to draw attention to your book when there are thousands of other books competing for readers’ attention. I’ve blogged about this topic before, so I know I’m not the only one who struggles to shine the spotlight on my book. There’s no single magical, free, easy way to sell books, but for those of you who have time, energy, and very thick skin, here is a list of marketing strategies that have been very effective for many authors:
Some of you are probably bookmarking this post, ready to dive headfirst into marketing.
Some of you have already figured this out on your own and are waiting to hear back from the editor at your local newspaper.
Others might be shaking their heads, wondering how they’ll ever have the time or money to follow up on these suggestions.
Still others are recoiling in horror at the thought of visiting their local bookshop or writing a press release.
For those who are shaking your head or recoiling in horror, I understand. I’m with you. I have zero marketing budget and no backbone. I have heart palpitations at the thought of picking up the phone to order a pizza, so the very idea of waltzing into a bookstore with a stack of books to sell fills me with terror. The list of marketing strategies above have worked for some authors, but they might not work for you. This list if for those who are ready to take a fearless approach to marketing. It’s for those who have the time and resources to invest in their books.
For the rest of us–the introverts, the writers with full-time jobs, the author with four kids, the novelist battling health problems–this list might not offer much comfort. So, what do I have to offer you?
I offer you unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding. I understand why you’re terrified at the idea of showing up at your local bookstore with an armload of books and a stack of business cards. I understand why you don’t have time to contact reviewers. I understand why you can’t spend this month’s grocery money on a Goodreads ad. I understand.
We all do what we can. Sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we have to take risks. I challenge everyone to try just one tip on the list above. Send one Tweet. If you don’t want to tell everyone how great your book is, I’ll do it for you. If you don’t have time to contact a list of bloggers, send me an email. I’ll promote your book on Authors to Watch. It might not make an immediate difference in terms of sales, but that one Tweet might be the start of something. That one feature on Authors to Watch might give you the incentive to reach for more.
I’ve recently decided to promote myself on Twitter once a day. For some authors, this might sound like nothing, but for me, this is a big step. Maybe one day I’ll work up the nerve to contact a local bookshop, but for now, I do what I can. I believe in myself even if I might not be in a position to act on some of the marketing tips I listed above. I haven’t given up. Neither should you.
I believe in you. I have faith in you. Your books deserve to sell. Even though marketing can be expensive, time-consuming, and frightening, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can, even if it’s only one Tweet per week. At least it’s something. So, don’t give up. Email me at email@example.com if you’d like to be featured on Authors to Watch, or if you just want to talk. If you have any marketing tips, leave a comment and I’ll update the list above.
As a newbie writer, I resisted the pull of social media for as long as I possibly could. I avoided Facebook, had no clue what Twitter was used for, and shunned the internet altogether. For me, the internet was a necessary evil, a large-scale phone book I referred to when I needed to look up directions or a phone number. I was utterly un-Google-able. You couldn’t find me anywhere in cyberspace.
Eventually, I branched out, signing up for different online writers’ groups. At the urging of one of my local writers’ groups, I even set up a blog. Facebook and Twitter came later–much later. Maybe too late.
When I began querying my first novel, I had no author platform, no beta readers, and no clue what I was supposed to be doing. I’ve since discovered an author platform is essential. Some experts advise new writers to set up their blog, Facebook author page, and Twitter account BEFORE they finish their first book. By the time you’re ready to query, your author platform should already be in place. Agents will Google you. They will check out your author platform. What will agents find when they search for you?
If you don’t have an author platform, it isn’t too late. But, where do you start? How much is too much? What does a new author really need? I think most social media gurus would agree a Facebook presence and Twitter account are musts. Do you have to set up an Author Page on Facebook right away? No. But, it’s something to consider. Here’s something else to consider–if you’re going to set up a social media platform, commit to it.
Don’t start an Author Page and then abandon it after one post and ten likes. Your Twitter account will look a bit silly if you only have seventeen followers and your only Tweet says, “I don’t know how to work this Twitter thing.” Yeah, some of you might be laughing, but that’s what my Twitter account looked like for six months. It takes a while to expand your audience on Facebook or to attract lots of Twitter followers, but keep at it.
What about a website or a blog?
A blog is a stream of separate posts. It’s articles, random thoughts, poetry, short stories… whatever you want. A website is for static content. For some authors, a blog is part of their website. They have pages with static content and one blog page where they post updates and articles. Many authors use a simple WordPress or Blogger blog in place of a website. Other authors don’t blog at all. They set up a website and only update information when necessary.
Personally, I think a website or blog is important. Is it necessary for you to spend hundreds of dollars to set up a fancy website with all the bells and whistles? Absolutely not. WordPress, Weebly, and Wix have free templates you can use to set up your own website or blog. For a fee, you can register your own domain name (example: http://www.awesomeauthor.com). Or, you can stick with a free set-up (example: awesomeauthor.wordpress.com) Either way, I think you need a place readers (or agents) can go to find out about you and your amazing talent.
Wondering what you should put on your website or blog?
You’ll need an “About the Author” page where you’ll list your bio. For the published author, you’ll want a page (or pages) to display your book (or books). Published and unpublished authors can list works-in-progress. You can also add pages for short stories, poetry, helpful links, or anything else that adds to your image as a professional, serious writer. Of course, you’ll also want to prominently display your social media links–Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.
What about your blog?
If you choose to blog, you can link this to your website. Or, you can set up a separate blog. I have a website and a blog. My static content lives on Weebly. My blog is here on WordPress. Why? Because Weebly has lots of pretty templates I can use to best display my static content. But, it’s much easier to foster a sense of community on WordPress. Other bloggers can find you on WordPress. On Weebly, it’s much less likely readers will accidentally stumble across your content. I’ve made friends on WordPress I never would have met if it wasn’t for our blogs.
Still not sure if you need a blog or website? Or both?
It all comes down to personal preference. If you’re just starting out as a writer, a simple blog with a couple of pages is probably enough. You can always set up a website later. Once you’ve published a book or two, it’s nice to have a website to organize your content and showcase your accomplishments. A website can be simple or dynamic. That’s entirely up to you.
You don’t have to have a blog. Or a website. Or anything at all. But, if an agent wants to research you, what do you want them to find? Setting up a website or blog allows you to control some of the content available on the internet. And, it tells agents, publishers, and readers that you are a serious, professional writer.
For a new author, an online presence is essential. You must be active in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc), maintain a blog, market your published book, and still find time for writing. Face it—being an author is hard work. We all get busy with life and forget to blog, fail to Tweet, and slack off on our marketing efforts. I have a hard time balancing family, work, promotional efforts, and writing, and often find it’s been two weeks since I blogged, or discover I haven’t posted to my Facebook author page in a month. Life gets in the way. It happens. We’re human. We don’t have to be perfect.
While there’s room for mistakes when it comes to how often we blog or engage in social media, there are a few mistakes that can destroy your career as an author. While there are exceptions to every rule, there are a few guidelines you should always follow when it comes to maintaining a favorable online presence.
Rule#1 Curb those angry rants. Everyone vents on Facebook and Twitter, and that’s okay. We all get frustrated or annoyed occasionally. Not every day can be a good day. Venting frustration shows you’re human. We all need to rant sometimes. But, how often do you rant? Are all your posts venomous and angry? Are all your Tweets negative? Do you spew curse words that would make your mother blush? Don’t post when you’re furious. Think before you hit the ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button.
Rule #2 Never argue with a reviewer or rant about a review. This rule is an extension of Rule #1. Arguing with a reviewer or complaining about a review never ends well. If you must complain about a review, complain to a trusted friend or family member. Vent. Get it off your chest. Just don’t do it online. You’ll come off as a bad sport at best—or a raving psychopath at worst.
Rule #3 Steer clear of politics and religion. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re a political writer, discussing politics is part of your author platform. Likewise, if you’re a Christian romance author, religion is an essential part of your author platform and your life. For many of us, religion and politics are very important. Having an opinion is okay—belittling someone else’s opinion is not. Be sure to celebrate your beliefs without trampling on someone’s else’s.
Rule#4 Proofread. As authors, every post or Tweet we make is an example of our ability to use the written word. A horribly misspelled Facebook update is NOT going to make people want to buy our books. It only takes a few moments to self-edit your post before you publish it.
Rule #5 Pay it forward. When someone does something nice for you, you can’t always return the favor. I can’t begin to list all the nice things my fellow authors have done for me. I couldn’t begin to pay them back, nor would they expect me to. So, I pay it forward. I try to help people when I can—not because I hope they’ll do the same for me, but because it’s a nice thing to do. Paying it forward creates a sense of community among writers, and since writing is largely a solitary endeavor, we all need to stick together and help each other out.
Rule #6 Be nice. This is an extension of the last rule. Be a nice person, whether that’s sharing a link for a fellow author’s new book, tweeting about a blog post you enjoyed, or just liking someone’s celebratory post on Facebook. The click of your mouse or a quick, encouraging comment might mean the world to someone else. We’re all busy, but never too busy to spread niceness. Doing nice things not only helps other people, it makes us happy. Happy people are creative people. Spread niceness everywhere!