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Reader Question: Should I Hire Someone to Build my Social Media Presence?

Today I’m visiting Australasian Christian Writers to answer a question from a reader:

Building Your Social Media Presence

An agent liked my manuscript, but said I needed to build my social media presence before he’d consider representing me. I work full time. Should I hire someone?

Short answer: Maybe. Long answer …

Maybe. It depends on what your agent means by a social media presence, the kind of books you write and plan to write, on your brand, and on what God wants for your writing …

To read the rest of this post, click here to visit Australasian Christian Writers.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post, please email me via www.christianediting.co.nz/contact, or tag @iolagoulton on Twitter.

Websites for Writers: Which Platform is Best?

Writer websites - Christian Editing ServicesWhy have a website?

It’s your “space” on the internet. It needs to be a space you control, because otherwise you’re at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms and terms of service.

(This is also why marketing experts recommend developing an email list. Because you own it.)

I recommend having a self-hosted WordPress.org site rather than a free Blogger or WordPress site.com. There’s nothing wrong with Blogger or WordPress.com, but the point of a website is that you own it. And you don’t own a free blog. As I found out …

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Blog

One day I woke up to find my Blogger site, Iola’s Christian Reads, had disappeared. Instead, there was a message to say my site had been removed because of “inappropriate content”. It was a book review blog. Of Christian novels. What could possibly be inappropriate about that, beyond a few critical reviews of books I didn’t enjoy because of dubious theology?

Who knows? Anyway, I followed Google’s instructions and Google must have agreed with me, because my site was soon restored. No harm done. Even if I had lost material, I could have recreated the site. I have Word copies of all the reviews. Most of them have also been posted to Amazon and Goodreads, so it’s not like the content will disappear forever.

But that story could have had a different outcome.

And that’s why I recommend having a self-hosted site: because then you’re not at the whim of Google (or some disgruntled reader who’s reported you for being “inappropriate”). And I’m not alone in this: every book marketing expert I know of recommends the same thing, including Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, Kristen Lamb, Joanna Penn, Nick Stephenson, Chris Syme, and more.

What does Self-Hosted Mean?

Hosting refers to where the site is stored online. It means you either have to host the site yourself (and I have absolutely no idea if that’s even possible, let alone how much it would cost). Or you have to use a service like Bluehost or Dreamhost to host your site. And that does have a cost—$5-$10 per month depending on the size of your site and how much you pay in advance, but a cost nonetheless (Bluehost is US $3.95 per month if you’re prepared to pay three years up front).

You can often tell from the website address whether it’s a hosted or self-hosted site:

Experts say you look more professional if you have your own site name rather than a Blogger or WordPress address. It says you’re serious—a Blogger address says this is a hobby. And I’m fine with that for my book review blog, but not for my professional sites. (Yes, you can use your own website address on a free Blogger site, but there is a charge for this.)

If you want to understand hosting options better, then I suggest you listen to this podcast episode from The Novel Marketing podcast: Website Hosting for Authors (13:58 long).

What Are My Website Options?

The main options are:

  • Blogger
  • SquareSpace
  • Weebly
  • Wix
  • WordPress.com
  • WordPress.org

Blogger

Blogger is owned by Google, and it’s more basic than Weebly, Wix or WordPress, which means it’s an ideal first website for many people (including me). But Blogger has limited ability to change the blog’s appearance (which limits your ability to brand yourself), and has limited functionality.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace has a free trial, but appears to cost USD 12.00 per month (when paid annually). It’s another simple platform, which makes it easy to use, and the themes are apparently among the best. All themes are mobile responsive, and it integrates with mailing programmes such as MailChimp.

Weebly

Weebly is a drag-and-drop platforms. This means you get to choose how your site looks. The basic site is free, but runs off a subdomain (so your website address is www.yourname.weebly.com), has a 500MG storage limit, and displays Weebly advertisements. And running a site though Weebly means it’s their site. Not your site. Only some themes are mobile responsive.

You can have up to ten pages on a free Weebly site (and I don’t know if that includes a blog or not). That might seem a lot when you’re first setting up a site, but in time you’re going to need a page for your books, and a page for each individual book. You don’t want to get to the stage of launching your third or fourth book and realize you need to move your website. Better to think longer-term now.

Paid Weebly plans start at USD 8.00 per month (when paid annually), and allow for a custom domain and no advertisements. See https://www.weebly.com/pricing for prices.

Wix

Wix is similar to Weebly, in that it is a drag-and-drop platform, and the free version runs off a Wix subdomain (so your website address is www.yourname.wix.com), and displays Wix advertisements. Themes are not mobile responsive, which is a big issue as mobile use grows.

Paid Wix plans start at USD 4.50 per month, and allows a custom domain name but still display advertisements. See http://www.wix.com/upgrade/premium-plans for prices.

If you use Wix and you’re planning to develop an email list and have a newsletter, then you won’t be able to use MailChimp or any of the more common email programmes. You’ll have to use ShoutOut, Wix’s email programme, and this will mean more work for you when it comes to building your email list.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a free site, hosted by WordPress. While it has a lot of the functionality of WordPress.org, it also has all the disadvantages of free. And free can cost … as social media Jedi Kristen Lamb recently found out when she migrated her website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Kristen’s web dude was able to migrate all her posts, and she now has a fabulous new site.

But she lost 21,000 followers in the process. Yep, read that again. Twenty. One. Thousand.

Some of them (including me) will find her new site because we’re following her via Feedly (web dude must have done something clever there!). Others will find her because they follow her via email, or because they are members of her #MyWANA tribe.

As she says, learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re serious about being an author, start as you mean to go on. And that means a WordPress.org website.

WordPress.org

All the experts recommend self-hosted WordPress sites, which is what I’ve gone for and what I recommend for this challenge. The main advantages are:

  • You don’t have the telltale .blogspot.com or weebly.com or wix.com or wordpress.com address
  • You have a lot more options around customising your site so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s sites (when I first started my book review blog I used a theme with books in the background—and so did every other newbie book blogger. That’s not good branding).
  • There are hundreds of free and premium (aka paid) plug-ins available for WordPress sites.

A plug-in is basically an app or program that adds some kind of useful functionality e.g. automatic site backups, or contact forms. If you’re on a hosted site (WordPress or other), you won’t be able to access a lot of this functionality.

The main reason I’m suggesting WordPress is because I found a fabulous 5-Day Challenge which enables you to build your own self-hosted WordPress site from scratch. I built both my sites with it, and absolutely recommend it,.

Which platform is best is going to depend on what you want to do with your site.

But I’m going with all the experts and saying that if you’re a professional author, your best option is self-hosted WordPress.

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway via Christian Editing ServicesHave you ever wondered what’s involved in planning an online giveaway? Or how to run a giveaway?

Over the last three weeks, I’ve published a series of blog posts at Australasian Christian Writers. The subject has been email lists and author cross-promotions:

Today I’m going to share six factors to consider in planning an online giveaway.

 

1. Consider Your Strategy

Just because I’ve been extolling the benefits of online giveaways and multi-author cross-promotions doesn’t make it the right tool for you.

The best cross-promotion opportunity for you might depend on your overall marketing strategy. A multi-author cross-promotion to encourage newsletter signups is going to be of little use if you don’t have an email list (although it might be the prompt you need to start one).

Ask yourself: Is this opportunity consistent with my overall marketing strategy?

 

2. Consider Your Brand

With a one-on-one cross promotion with another author, you are effectively endorsing that other author by recommending him or her to your readers. You need to make sure the author is one you want to endorse, in order to protect your own brand—otherwise, you might find yourself in the awkward situation of losing readers if they have an issue with the author you endorsed.

You might need to consider:

  • Genre
  • Content (language, violence, sexual content)
  • Quality of the writing and editing
  • Size of audience—you want the other author to have a similar-sized audience to yours

This is less of an issue with a multi-author cross-promotions, as most allow readers to choose which specific author lists they sign up for.

Ask yourself: Is this promotion opportunity consistent with my author brand?

 

3. Plan Your Giveaway

You’ll need to promote the giveaway to your existing email list, and via your social media channels. You’ll also need to meet any group expectations and requirements in a multi-author cross-promotion. How are you going to do that? Can you schedule a series of social media posts in advance?

Ask yourself: How will I promote this giveaway?

 

4. Plan Your Follow Up

Will your new subscribers be automatically added to your email list, or will you have to add them manually? How are you going to do that? What are you going to do with your new subscribers? Are you going to let them languish on some forgotten list … or are you going to follow up with them right away? Do you have a free download for them, to encourage them to stay on your email list? How are you going to send that to them? Do you have time to individually follow up every email?

This may mean setting up an auto-responder sequence to automatically send a short series of emails to every new subscriber. This needs to written and actioned before the giveaway begins. Note that auto-responder emails aren’t a free feature of most email providers. I’m told they are free with MailerLite, but that tool doesn’t automatically integrate with Instafreebie–so you’ll have to send the emails manually, or pay for a provider like MailChimp.

But the beauty of a pre-prepared auto-responder sequence is once you set it up, it’s there for any future promotions.

Ask yourself: Can I easily set up the appropriate follow-up emails?

 

5. Consider During the Giveaway

The reason I recommend setting up the social media schedule and auto-responder sequence in advance of the giveaway is that you’re likely to get a lot of emails during the period of the giveaway (unless you’ve paid someone else to organise the giveaway for you).

The host of the multi-author Instafreebie giveaway I participated in reported receiving a lot of emails from people who didn’t know how to transfer the file Instafreebie emailed them to their ereader device. Fortunately, she had a relevant YouTube video, so she was able to respond to enquiries by sending the link.

I ask several open-ended questions in my auto-responder email sequence, and several people emailed me with answers … and more questions. Each question was unique, so each response took time (although I will later repurpose several of my answers as blog posts!).

Ask yourself: Will I have time to follow up on individual emails and requests?

 

6. Consider After the Giveaway

Once you’ve run your giveaway (or participated in a multi-author giveaway), you’ll need to find some way of delivering your books to the winners—if this doesn’t happen automatically (e.g. via Instafreebie).

You can:

  • Email the book directly to the winner e.g. epub, mobi or pdf file. Some authors are hesitant about this, because an unscrupulous winner could email the file to their 5,000 closest friends.
  • Gift them the ebook via Amazon, Smashwords or some other online retailer. This is safer, but does cost you money. And you might be unable to gift via Amazon—or the winner might be unable to accept the gift if they’re not on Amazon US.
  • Use a third party such as BookFunnel, Instafreebie or NetGalley.

BookFunnel

BookFunnel is a way of distributing ebooks to bloggers, influencers, reviewers, and street team members. It can also be used to distribute ebooks to your email list. You load up your book in ePub and mobi formats, and BookFunnel creates a link to that book. This can be a unique link for each reader (e.g. for a review team), or a general link.

Prices start at USD 20 per year for the Basic plan. This allows authors to upload up to five books with one pen name, and delivery of up to 500 books per month. This does not include giveaways or MailChimp integration. The Mid-List Author plan is USD 100 per year, and includes giveaways, unlimited books, and up to 5,000 downloads per month. MailChimp integration costs an additional USD 50 per year.

BookFunnel is similar to InstaFreebie, but will provide readers with assistance to get their book delivered to their device.

However, it doesn’t promote giveaways in the same way as InstaFreebie does—it relies on you promoting your book in order to get people to sign up to your email list.

NetGalley

I’ve blogged previously about NetGalley. One of its features is the ability to email a widget that allows the recipient to download the ebook in epub or mobi format. However, NetGalley is expensive, so this is probably only an option if you or your publisher are already paid-up members.

Ask yourself: Do I need to invest in any tools to manage this giveaway?

 

What else might you need to consider in planning a giveaway?

 

A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible

I’ve read and enjoyed all Keely Brooke Keith’s Uncharted novels, which I guess I’d describe as futuristic historical fiction–they’re set our future, but in a society which has had no external contact for about 200 years, so still has only 1860’s levels of knowledge and technology.

Keely impressed me with her debut novel, not only with her actual story and writing, but with her professional approach to marketing. So I’m delighted to welcome her to Christian Editing Services today to share some of that knowledge with you, and to introduce her first non-fiction projects: The Writer’s Book Launch Journal, and The Writer’s Book Launch Guide (which I reviewed yesterday—click here to read my review).

A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible

The Writers Book Launch Journal by Keely Brooke KeithBy Keely Brooke Keith

Congratulations, it’s a book! Whether you are approaching your first book launch or your tenth, it’s time to take a long slow breath and relax into the creative process of promoting your release. You’ve done the hard work, and someone out there needs your book.

While there is no one-size-fits-all book promotions plan, there are certain essential tasks both traditionally published authors and independent authors should do (or delegate to their assistants) to ensure a fulfilling book launch. I’ve written a handholding book marketing guide to help (The Writer’s Book Launch Journal, Edenbrooke Press), but here are a few basics to get you started:

Ready your website.

Your website is the online version of your office or storefront. It could also be your catalog, your bulletin board, or your yearbook. It should not be a cobweb-covered single page you set up years ago and haven’t touched since.

Unless you are an avid blogger or content provider, the author website is not how readers discover you. It’s where they come to learn more about you. Your web address should be the simplest form of your author name as possible. And it should be the link you share more than any other.

Before you create (or update) your author website, look at the websites of some of the top authors in your genre. Decide what you like about them. Notice some of the elements the websites all have in common. You will probably find most of them have basically the same pages. Choose a theme, or the look of your website, that reflects your brand.

Ready your social media.

While the social media landscape changes as quickly as highly-caffeinated developers can write code, the purpose and best practices of an author using social media for book promotion remain the same. Your readers want access to you (or will once they read your fabulous book). They want the inside scoop on your story, your research, and your writing related events.

Your social media presence should be just that: social.

And it should be professional. And yes, you should also use it to let people know when you have a new book coming out, but recognize that social media is largely a post-discovery point of contact with your readers.

Create or update your social media accounts. This should include an official author page on Facebook, a Twitter account, and a Google+ account. Depending on your genre and target audience, you might also want to have a presence on other platforms. For example: Instagram and SnapChat are popular with teens at the moment, while Pinterest is the website of choice for a large sector of 35+ year old women with college degrees. Twitter is a great place for writers to connect with each other and keep up with the industry.

It might take setting up an account on each major social media site and experimenting to find out what works best for you and where your readers will connect with you. The important thing is that you maintain a consistent, professional presence and, of course, that you choose a platform you enjoy.

Build your connections.

Writing allies are the people who support you and make your writing life possible, enjoyable, and peaceful. You can usually find a writing group by searching online or even through your social media interactions.

Writing conferences come in all sizes and offer a menu of classes to sharpen your skills. There are a variety of professional organizations that support every genre. Consider joining the writing organization that would best align with your writing goals.

Many radio and television programs feature authors, as do newspapers and magazines. Often local media outlets are more accessible to new authors.

Build your dream team by creating a sign-up form and promoting it online. Often the promise of an early review copy of your book is all it takes to get booklovers and bloggers to join your team.

If you like the sound of your own voice, consider starting a podcast and interviewing others in the field related to your book.

Perfect your product.

If you’re traditionally published, your publisher should ensure your book has been professionally edited and formatted and has an eye-catching, genre-appropriate cover. But if you’re independent, it’s up to you. If you’re signed to a traditional publisher, they might write compelling copy for your book. They might not. If you are an indie author, you will have to write it yourself.

Either way, take the time to perfect your book description. Also, consider writing a reader’s guide or book club questions to include in the back of your book.

Create your media kit.

A media kit (also called a press kit) can be as simple as a document file containing your author bio, professional photo, book release information, book cover image, book description, sample Q & A, book excerpt, and endorsements. You might not have all of the information available yet, but go ahead and start the document so you can add to it as you go.

Find potential reviewers.

Book reviewers can be found in groups on social media, on Amazon by looking at the reviews of comparable titles, and on book sites such as Goodreads. You can search online for book bloggers in your genre who accept review submissions. Create a sign up form for new reviewers. Promote it on your social media and send it to your email list.

Find potential endorsers.

Books endorsed by popular authors in the same genre or influencers in the field related to a book tend to sell better than those without endorsements. Who might you ask for an endorsement? If you don’t know the potential endorsers personally, email them individually.

What do you do once you have the basics covered?

Let The Writer’s Book Launch Journal guide you through the marketing and promotional tasks every author should do to ensure a successful book launch. Filled with checklists of essential tasks, an abundance of publicity suggestions, and questions to personalize your promotions, The Writer’s Book Launch Journal will lead you on the journey to a fun and fulfilling book launch.

And since some authors want the information in The Writer’s Book Launch Journal but prefer to scroll through the checklists on their computer, I’ve also written the ebook The Writer’s Book Launch Guide: A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible. This ebook is a good companion to The Writer’s Book Launch Journal because the tasks are explained in more depth. I recommend getting both the journal and the ebook together.

About Keely Brooke Keith

Keely Brooke Keith is the author of The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.

#Instafreebie Non-fiction Books for Authors and Writers

Do you use Instafreebie?

Have you used it as a reader looking for books, or as an author looking to promote your work?

http://indiebookpromo.com/2017/02/instafreebie-non-fiction-books-just-authors-writers/

I’m currently in the middle of my first ever Instafreebie promotion, #Instafreebie Non-fiction Books for Authors and Writers.

It’s going well. Really well. In the first 24 hours, I received 60 new newsletter subscribers. To put that in context, it took me 18 months to get my first 60 subscribers.

 

But how did I get here?

I’m a member of the Self-Publishing Formula group on Facebook, and I’ve signed up for their email newsletter. One newsletter talked about forming smaller genre-based groups for cross-promotion. I joined a couple of groups, including the non-fiction group.

I’d only been in the group a couple of days when one of the members, Jackson Dean Chase, floated the idea of a joint promotion of books for writers.

All I had to do was have a book I could use as a reader magnet, and have it uploaded on Instafreebie.

Well, I had a book—Christian Publishing: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian fiction. I didn’t have it uploaded on Instafreebie, but a couple of hours on Canva and Calibre fixed that. And I was in.

Jackson contacted Instafreebie, who promised to promote the giveaway if we could get ten or more authors involved.

We got 18.

All participating authors agreed to email our current lists, and to promote the giveaway on social media. The beauty of this promotion was that participants weren’t required to have a minimum number of subscribers. Many cross promotions do … which makes it difficult for authors with smaller mailing lists (*raises hand*).

Jackson created some graphics for us to use, and Barb Drozdowich collected all our covers and set up a landing page. She linked the 18 books on the landing page to the book pages on Instafreebie. Visitors can click on a book cover and be taken to Instafreebie to sign up for the author’s mailing list and collect their free download.

Promoting on Social Media

Jackson set up a Headtalker campaign to run on the first day of the promotion. This hit the targeted number of supporters, and meant 53 supporters combined to reach 1,221, 732 people on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

Yep, that’s more than 1 million social media contacts. It wasn’t difficult to reach because we have 18 authors in the cross-promotion, and many of them have more than one social media account. It helped that one of the authors in the cross-promotion has over 180,000 Twitter followers!

We have also set up a Thunderclap campaign for 11 February, the day before the cross-promotion ends. (We’re still recruiting supporters—Thunderclap requires a minimum of 100 supporters in order for a campaign to go ahead).

We got mentions on a couple of big author groups on Facebook, including The Smarter Artist. Giveaway authors also posted on groups they are members of. For example, I posted on Australasian Christian Writers, Christian Writers Downunder, and New Zealand Indie Authors, and Romance Writers of New Zealand. I’ll post on some other groups later in the week—making sure I only promote in groups which permit self-promotion, of course!

I’ll be blogging more about cross promotions at Australasian Christian Writers over the next few weeks, and I’ll post links in my next newsletter. If you’re not already on my newsletter email list, you can sign up at Instafreebie (surprise!).

Here’s the link: http://indiebookpromo.com/instafreebie-books-just-authors-writers/

There are some excellent books on offer—and they’re all free!

And if you’d like to support the Thunderclap campaign, click here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/52900-nonfiction-books-for-writers

We need 100 supporters in the next four days in order for the campaign to go ahead. It doesn’t matter how many likes or followers you have—you still count as one supporter for Thunderclap.

Have you participated in any author cross promotions? What was your experience?

If you’ve never used Instafreebie, what questions do you have?

Book Launch Case Study: Heather Day Gilbert

Today I am interviewing Heather Day Gilbert, who is talking about the release of her first novel, God’s Daughter, which I recently reviewed on Iola’s Christian Reads. Heather’s second novel, Miranda Warning, will release on 20 June 2014.

Welcome, Heather!

What platform did you have prior to the launch of God’s Daughter?

I’m so thankful I had an agent who encouraged me to build my platform while my book was out on submission (it was out for almost a year and a half!). In that time, I joined Pinterest, Twitter, and started a Facebook Author Page. I changed my email, website, and twitter handle to reflect my author name (not an idea, like @vikingwritergal). I joined with two other authors, Becky Doughty and Jennifer Major, in a group website dedicated to the love of fiction and the need to nurture marriages (Married…with Fiction, which is no longer an active blog).

So by the time I realized God wanted me to self-publish my Viking novel, I had a firm platform in place. I would say I had at least 1,000 twitter followers and 200 Facebook fans at that time. I truly feel Facebook is where I connect most easily–it doesn’t require long posts so I can get relevant info out fast and regularly touch base with readers. Pinterest is also a wonderful way to connect with other Viking-lovers all over the world.

Since my launch, I’ve added more outlets–a newsletter email list, a Goodreads/Amazon author page, and a Soundcloud account (for my audiobook).

What was the strategy/planning behind your book launch? Where did you get your information and ideas?

I got my ideas two ways:

  • Reading self-publishing blogs, such as The Creative Penn.
  • Watching traditionally published authors’ marketing strategies very carefully and emulating what I could afford to.

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

I’ve actually run a 4-part series on this topic on my blog, titled “So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish“.

The first and most critical step is to have a great blurb and cover art in place (not to mention a well-edited book!).

The second step was to lock in early readers, so the early reviews on Goodreads/Amazon were well-thought. Then I gave them 2-3 months to read and/or endorse the book.

The third step was building buzz for my book (I pulled quotes from my book and created pinnables, did vlogs, lined up blog tour, etc).

The final step involved the actual launch–sticking to a firm launch date, getting the CreateSpace softcovers loaded, and giving myself a little wiggle room while formatting for different uploads (Smashwords is different than Kindle, etc). This stage also involves book giveaways on blogs, Goodreads, etc. And the marketing at this stage goes on endlessly.

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

My novel, God’s Daughter, released November 1, 2013. I was marketing for at least 2 months ahead of that to build buzz, then I did about 39 guest posts for the blog tour over the course of 2-3 months, and I honestly haven’t stopped marketing since.
I knew I had to give over 100% to get the word out on my debut novel, or I’d be invisible in a sea of Amazon books. I tried not to cross the line into spamming territory (scheduled tweets, etc), but I was an aggressive marketer. I actually enjoy marketing.

I think the key to marketing is believing, at your core, that your novel is worth reading and sharing. I was passionate about this novel because I believed people don’t know enough about this period of Viking exploration and they like to ignore the fact that some Vikings were documented Christians. Also, women played a huge and undeniable role in Viking society, as my main character historically sailed with all three husbands…and with one to North America, no less! I also strongly believe we need more CBA books with married main characters readers can relate to, not just dating characters.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

In my mind, it was quite successful, because it exceeded my expectations (though I try to keep my expectations low!). God’s Daughterhit three bestselling lists on launch day, as well as the Hot New Release lists. It stayed on those for about a week or two. It has stayed on the Amazon Norse/Icelandic Bestseller list for seven months now. I think creating buzz around release day had a lot to do with it. Not to mention God’s blessing!

The book continues to reach people and garner reviews, and was recently picked up to be sold at the Royal BC Museum Vikings exhibit. There is now an audiobook version of God’s Daughter on Audible.com (narrated by my crit partner, Becky Doughty, of Bravehearts Audio). So I feel the book will continue to expand its reach.

But the real definition of success is finding readers who are hungry for this novel and find it unforgettable. That just revives my little author heart and makes me want to keep bringing books to them.

I saw you used NetGalley to get book reviews. What made you decide to use NetGalley?

How NetGalley work for you? Would you use it again? Did it represent value for money? Would you recommend it to other indie authors?

I would not do it again the same way I did. I paid for a monthly slot, but it was with a publishing house that primarily sells romance. Therefore, I think the readers came into it thinking my book was romance (it is not categorized that way, since the main character is married, although I would call it a love story). Not onlydid I receive very few reviews from that, the reviews I received weren’t stellar, as I think it hit the entirely wrong demographic.

I found the most effective strategies for garnering reviews were:

  • Tracking down every book reviewer I could find who reviewed historicals and offering an ebook in exchange for honest review (time consuming!).
  • Doing a Kindle Freebie of the book, which necessitated pulling it from Barnes and Noble (Smashwords) and going with Kindle Select. This garnered some reviews from non-demographic readers, but it also reached many soon-to-be-loyal readers I couldn’t reach otherwise.

Miranda Warning

What will you repeat for your upcoming book launch? What will you change?

Great question! This time around, I’m not focusing so heavily on author endorsements. For my debut novel, I wanted as many as possible to prove I wasn’t a complete unknown quantity. But I’ve asked my Facebook fans about this, and most say they rarely, if ever, read endorsements, unless it’s an unknown author. I do have a couple so far, which I’m so thankful for, but that is not my focus this time.

I’m also not lining up such a strenuous blog tour. I’m pretty wiped out, having gone basically nonstop from about June 2013. When my mystery, Miranda Warning, releases June 20th this year, I am hoping I can pull back from marketing somewhat. That said, I don’t truly believe books will just sell themselves. As an author, you need to stay on top of your sales (which is sadly impossible for traditionally published authors), and tweak your marketing strategies to fit your numbers. This is a true benefit of being an indie author. I can implement marketing ideas and see immediately if they’re working or not. I’ve definitely had some hits and misses!

And I’m starting out with only a softcover version and Kindle version of this book, so I’m going with Kindle Select, versus trying to upload to Smashwords (Barnes & Noble) as well. I love having control over my freebie/discount dates.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their book?

My best advice (primarily for indie authors) is don’t rush the launch process. I love having a firm launch date, but I try to set it late enough so that I give my early readers time to read and so I can make sure my cover art/formatting is in place.

For traditionally published authors, I would say be as involved in the marketing process as you can be. I know your hands are tied on scheduling freebies/discounts on your books, but you can build your Facebook page, pin pics of your book topic, etc. I know many traditionally published authors are doing marketing work, outside the publicity firms.

To be perfectly honest, I think one author, 100% dedicated to getting the word out on his/her book, can be as effective as a publicity firm. We might not be able to afford expensive electronic gadgets as giveaway gifts, but we can keep the pedal to the metal and be relentless in our marketing. And I believe that’s what it takes. A publicity firm only works on one book a limited amount of time. As an author, you can promote your book at any time. This is something I’ve definitely learned from being an independent author.

Thank you so much for having me, Iola! What wonderful questions, and I hope this interview encourages many authors out there!

About HeatherHeather Day Gilbert

HEATHER DAY GILBERT enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, will release June 20th.

 

Book Launch Case Study: Paula Vince

Today I have a guest post from Paula Vince, an award-winning Australian author, about her new release, Imogen’s Chance. This was recently reviewed on Iola’s Christian Reads as part of Paula’s book launch.

About Paula Vince

Paula Vince’s youth was brightened by great fiction and she’s on a mission to pay it forward. A wife and homeschooling mother, she loves to highlight the beauty of her own country in her stories. Most of them are set in the lovely Adelaide Hills, where she lives. Paula’s books are a skillful blend of drama and romance. Together with elements of mystery and suspense, you will keep turning pages.

Welcome, Paula!

What platform did you have prior to the launch of Imogen’s Chance? How did the book launch improve your platform?

I’ve been published since 2000 and Imogen’s Chance is my ninth novel. In that time, I’ve seen many changes to internet marketing opportunities. I hate to admit it, but fourteen years ago, many of us were still getting used to sending emails to each other. I’d never heard of blogs, Facebook and Twitter were still several years in the future, so the platform for my first few books consisted mostly of paper mail-outs and word-of-mouth.

Within the last three or four years, I have set up a Facebook author page, a Goodreads profile, a Twitter account and two blogs. I have also joined Pinterest and Google+, although I don’t visit or update them as often.

My book launch resulted in several extra likes and followers on my three main forums (blog, Facebook and Twitter). More importantly, it’s made me aware of several generous bloggers and their lovely blogs, which I wouldn’t have heard of if I hadn’t put the blog tour together. I have joined their blogs and pages as a follower, and now receive interesting updates. I’m hoping steady continued communication may result in even more opportunities for the future. That’s what I’m reminding myself to keep in mind. The results of any blog tour may be further reaching than just the month it runs for.

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

For a few years, I have been involved in several on-line writers groups. For each of these of which I’m a member, I emailed a request asking whether others might like to support me by offering me a guest post to help promote my new release. I was delighted to discover that several people, who love to host guests on their blogs, considered that the favour was reciprocal.

I made a list of people who agreed to host me, running all the way from the tail end of March through April and into May. I tried to spread these all through the time period. Some offered interviews, some asked for guest posts, and some wrote book reviews. They all went into my blog tour and I’m pleased with the good combination.

I made up a blog page all about the tour, to make it easier for anybody interested in following along to tick each one off. And I decided to offer prizes. Several of the bloggers agreed to have a giveaway, and I plan to have several more prizes on the Grand Finale post, which will be May 31st.

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

I sent the request emails in January, three months before the tour was due to start. Getting the list finalised was ongoing job, and actually writing the guest posts and answering the interview questions was enjoyable but time-consuming.

I am not naturally the most organised person, so I took particular care to start working on the blog posts as soon as I’d finalised each date and had the questions sent. Even giving myself time, I found I had to work on it steadily. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d left them all until the week before the tour. It’s definitely not the easiest venture I’ve attempted, but well worth it.

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of planning ahead. I’m typically scheduling posts two months in advance for my book review blog, Iola’s Christian Reads, so it’s vital to give bloggers plenty of advance notice. You don’t have to have the book ready to send them, but you do need to contact them to arrange to save the date. 

What support did you get from your publisher?

When my publisher found out what I was doing, she sent me an electronic copy of the book suitable for Kindles, so that I could offer it to some of the bloggers who requested a copy in return for a spot or a review. I really appreciated that, as it would have become a fairly costly venture if she hadn’t.

Paula Vince ICHow successful was the launch (and how do you define success?)

Although I’m still not sure about the overall number of sales, I do consider the launch a success. You’ve asked a good question, as I don’t think success can be defined solely by numbers of sales or positive reviews. Success is pretty personal when it comes to writing.

If you end up happy with the story you’ve told and the characters you’ve created, it’s a success no matter how many readers it reaches. As each of the guest posts helped highlight the interesting and unique qualities about this new book, every time anybody saw a post and maybe left a comment was a success.

I like your attitude about success! 

What will you repeat for your next book launch? What will you change?

At this stage, I think I would do pretty much the same. I’ve got that blog page with the list of every stop in my blog tour, and I’ve never had anything remotely similar for any of my previous books. It will be a great online keep-sake to look back upon. Having said that, I am open to taking on board other people’s good suggestions, things I haven’t considered yet.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their books?

Make an early start—at least three months before the blog tour, as I did. You’ll be working hard on it through all those weeks, believe me. And it takes this time gap to make sure your guest posts will coincide with the release date. If you leave it until just a week or two before asking, bloggers will be telling you they’re sorry but all their slots for that month are full.

Don’t forget to return to each post, once they are published, to reply to comments. It’s good to touch base for at least one working week after each one. You’ll find the connections with interested strangers and new friends well worth the time.

And I believe readers (and blog owners) like and appreciate the interaction with guest authors. Thank you for visiting, Paula.

 

Book Launch Case Study: Michelle Dennis Evans

Today I’d like to welcome Michelle Dennis Evans to Christian Editing Services, to talk about the launch of her debut YA novel, Spiralling Out of Control.

What platform did you have prior to the launch of Spiralling out of Control? How did the book launch improve your platform?

I spent 4 years creating a platform of sorts, mostly using Facebook, Twitter and Blogger. I am also an active member of the John 3:16 Marketing Network and there are a few other networks at which authors help authors that I’ve joined in with over that time.

I don’t feel my launch improved my platform, I believe the author platform is self driven (unless you make it bigtime or something goes viral).

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

I went on tour.
I sent my book out to loads of people asking for reviews.
A couple of months before the launch, I contacted everyone I thought might host me on their blog. I wrote posts, was interviewed, shared excerpts and even I interviewed my main character. I advertised  – both paid and free on several sites that were recommended to me, and I tried to create a little excitement around the launch on my social media platforms.
Lots, then!

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

I spent a solid three months preparing and then the 16 day focused launch pretty much consumed me. It wasn’t so much difficult as it was time consuming.

What support did you get from your publisher?

Lilly Pilly press have supported me by sharing my posts, and posting about the books on social media. They have listed my books in their online shop.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

In particular, you did a launch through the John 3:16 Network which got you to #1 – but I later read a post from Lorilyn Roberts where she said only one author from that launch (you?) reached #1 in a subcategory, and they won’t be doing any more launches like that because they can no longer guarantee a #1.

Why do you think your book made #1 when the others didn’t? What did you do differently?

Yes, that was me. In the launch last December, there were more books included than usual and a few things didn’t work as well as previous launches. But the group has launched books a couple of times since. I had decided to end the launch on a high and put everything into it. I was on a fairly tight budget so I had to spend my paid advertising wisely. It was possibly a mixture of the two paid ads I’d scheduled for the last two days of the launch, the network helping to promote via Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc along with Lorilyn’s email to her ‘opt in’ list that bumped me up the ladder to achieve ‘best seller’ on the last day.

As for how successful it was? Achieving ‘best seller’ status on Amazon, gives your book social proof. Because I hit it once,  it will always be an Amazon Best Seller and I have the option to use the tag in my signature etc.

Financially, I spent more than I made that month, but I do believe I’m still reaping the harvest.

As for why some of the others didn’t make it to #1, I’m not sure if they put in the leg work beforehand. Some did, some didn’t. Part of the John 3:16 formula is to reduce the book to 99 cents while on launch—not everyone did that or had control of reducing their price. Lorilyn’s book didn’t do as well as she’d hoped, but maybe that was because it was a picture book.

What did you repeat for the launch of Spiralling out of the Shadow?  What did you change? Any ideas what you will do next time?

I haven’t officially launched Spiralling Out of the Shadow yet… I’ve done the same so far in that I’ve been requesting reviews from a broad range of people (because books with more reviews online sell more).

I found last time the blog tour was very time consuming and I didn’t see a conversion to sales, so this time I’ve asked people to be a guest on my blog, and I’m finding it more streamlined that way. And instead of just promoting myself, I’m promoting other authors.

I’m still undecided whether I’ll launch through the John 3:16 network again though I find their help and forum invaluable and would love to see something like that set up in Australia one day, or more Aussies/Kiwis join the network.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their books?

If you are traditionally published, check how much flexibility you have.
Don’t do it alone.
Find a network.
Launch with a friend or friends.
Promote others more than you promote yourself.
Seek God first before stepping into anything.
That’s a great final point, and one that perhaps isn’t mentioned enough. Thanks, Michelle!

Michelle Dennis Evans

Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release.

Michelle lives with her husband and four children on the Gold Coast of Australia. She believes you can find healing and hope when you read someone else’s story, fiction or truth. Her life is full and at times overflowing but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Book Launch Case Study: Narelle Atkins

Today I have a guest post from Narelle Atkins, an author of contemporary romance. I reviewed her debut novel, Falling for the Farmer, earlier this year on Iola’s Christian Reads, and reviewed her second novel, The Nurse’s Perfect Match, yesterday.

Narelle is published by Heartsong Presents, a Christian imprint of Harlequin Mills & Boon, and I was interested to know what support a first-time author gets from one of the biggest romance publishers on the planet.

Welcome, Narelle!

What platform did you have prior to the launch?

I have an author website, personal blog, Facebook profile, Facebook author page, and Twitter account. I also have a presence on Instagram, Google Plus, and Pinterest, although I don’t spend a lot of time on these platforms.

I belong to three group blogs: Australasian Christian Writers (ACW), International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW) and Inspy Romance. ACW also has a Facebook Group for writers and readers. ICFW members either live outside of the USA, or write books with international settings. Inspy Romance is a contemporary inspirational romance group blog based in the USA.

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

I sent print books and electronic review copies to people interested in writing a review.

I set up a mailing list with Mail Chimp.

I organised a blog chase on my release day that started at the ACW group blog. Falling for the Farmer is a runaway bride story. I posed the question: If Kate (my heroine) ran away to …. what could she do? We had four blog stops in Australia, and two in New Zealand. Readers were asked a question at each stop in the blog chase, and they completed an online entry form for the book giveaway at the final stop on my blog.

Iola says: I was one of the hosts for the blog chase. You can find my post here: Falling for the Farmer Blog Chase

I organised a book review and author interview on two consecutive days during the release week on the ICFW group blog.

My critique partner’s contemporary romance, True North, released the week before Falling for the Farmer. I interviewed Susan Diane Johnson on the Inspy Romance group blog, and we did a joint book giveaway.

I organised author interviews with book giveaways on half a dozen blogs in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

I set up a print giveaway on Goodreads (US, CA, UK, AU, NZ) that was open for the entire release month.

I participated in a giveaway of Love Inspired and Heartsong Presents books on the Soul Inspirationz site.

I did a blog tour with Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA) in March, a month after my book released. I sent print review copies to the ACRBA members who requested my book, and they posted their reviews on their blogs during the blog tour week.

I added a book launch post on my blog during the week prior to the book release, outlining where readers could find me online and enter the book giveaways.

I uploaded my book information into ACFW’s Fiction Finder site.

I emailed my book release information to my writing groups, for inclusion in their member newsletters and/or blogs.

Okay. That’s a lot of blogging. How long did it all take? How difficult was it?

It was time consuming, both the set up and execution. It takes time to write blog posts and answer interview questions. I had planned to focus my attention on book promo during the week of my book release. I spent time interacting with readers on blogs and social media.

The book launch wasn’t difficult because I was organised. I set up a spreadsheet and put all the promo dates in my diary. Each day I knew what I was doing, and I allocated time to blog visit and interact with readers.

What support did you get from your publisher?

Harlequin sells their category romance titles through their direct-to-consumer Reader Service. I was blessed to have the opportunity to write an article for the February inspirational issue of Harlequin’s Simply Books magazine. It’s a free magazine that is mailed to their Reader Service subscribers with their book shipments. There are inbuilt marketing benefits for books that are published by a known brand.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

My primary goal was to meet readers and gain some name recognition. I was happy with the results, and I appreciated the support of my writing friends. I think it would be harder to launch a book without support in the writing community.

I haven’t received a royalty statement, so I can’t judge or measure the success of the launch from a sales perspective. Typically, an author gains readers with each new book release, and becomes more visible in the market place after their third book is released.

The frequency of my new book releases will help me find my tribe of readers. Not everyone will like our books. Different genres, plots, and characters appeal to different readers. I hope to connect with the readers who like my genre, writing style, and the types of stories I love to write.

What will you repeat for your next book launch? What will you change?

I’m launching my second book, The Nurse’s Perfect Match, in May 2014. I’m not doing a blog chase or ACRBA tour with this book. An author can only tour a book once every 6 months with ACRBA (the tours are free), and I have an ACRBA tour booked for Her Tycoon Hero in November 2014.

I’m doing book giveaways on my personal blog and group blogs, and I’ve lined up a few blog visits with giveaways. In March I set up a Love Inspired Heartsong Presents Goodreads group with my Heartsong author friends. I’ll be doing my first Author Q&A with the Goodreads group in mid-May. I have a Goodreads giveaway running for the whole month of May.

Falling for the Farmer, my first book, became available in April in my local Christian book store. I’m planning an in-store book signing at Koorong, Fyshwick in May on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Plus, a radio interview before the signing with local Christian radio station, One Way FM. (You can access the interview as a podcast by clicking this link.)

 

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their book?

The importance of pre-planning can’t be underestimated. Many blogs schedule their calendar months in advance. Many reviewers have a queue of books waiting to be read and reviewed. The ACRBA blog tours, especially the fiction tours, are usually booked out six or more months ahead of time.

If you’re familiar with Excel, set up a spreadsheet to keep track of your book promotion activities and giveaways. I have a page for each book release. The spreadsheet helps me to stay on top of all the little details.

I recommend allocating twice the amount of time you’ll think you’ll need for your book launch. Make sure you factor in time to reply to everyone who comments on your blog posts, and contacts you on social media. I encourage authors to enjoy the experience, and cherish the opportunities to connect with other writers and readers during their book launch.

Book Launch Case Study: Emily Rachelle

Today I have a guest post from Emily Rachelle, an author of contemporary teen fiction. I reviewed her debut novel, Sixteen, earlier this year on Iola’s Christian Reads, and I was impressed by the professional way Emily organised and conducted the blog tour, and have invited her here today to share how she went about organising her book launch. Welcome, Emily, and thank you for joining us.

You can find Emily every Tuesday and Thursday at her blog, Emily Rachelle Writes.

What platform did you have prior to the launch?

I followed and commented on several book-related blogs and websites to get my name out. I had a Pinterest account with hundreds of followers (currently just under 700, but I’d guess back in December that number was closer to 600), a personal profile and a public blog page on Facebook (with much smaller numbers than Pinterest), and a fledgling Twitter account. I also had my GoodReads account, but I honestly don’t use that much outside the book reviews I do for my blog.

My biggest platform by far has always been my blog, which now doubles as my author website. Sometimes I focus on books (lots of book reviews, with an occasional writing post thrown in), but I also write about other stuff too — movies, social media, hot button issues. Whatever strikes my fancy, really. I follow the idealogy that if I’m passionate about something, if I love what I’m doing for promotion/marketing, that will shine through to my readers; whereas if I’m doing something because I feel like it’s required or because I’m trying to stick to a plan or someone else’s advice, then my frustration or boredom will also be clear to my readers.

What was the strategy/planning behind your book launch? Where did you get your ideas, information?

I’m not the best at strategy or business plans. I didn’t really have the concrete goals an author should when launching a book. Basically, I brainstormed some things I thought would be fun, added ideas I found online, and then gave myself a few deadlines and ran with it. I focused on online marketing because originally, this was going to be an ebook-only venture, and even when I decided to add print, the first launch in January was staying ebook-only. Most of my ideas and advice came from DuoLit. They’re a great resource for self-publishers, especially in regards to marketing and promotion. Another website I love for indie authors is Catherine, Caffeinated.

What activities did you undertake to launch Sixteen (e.g. organising this blog tour)?

Well, once I had all the actual prepping-the-book tasks covered, I started with social media. I made a separate Facebook page for the book and set up a GoodReads book page and author profile. I logged the book into LibraryThing, a website similar to GoodReads, and set up my Amazon Author page. Some of these things — specifically the GoodReads and Amazon pages — I had to wait until the day the book came out to do, since I needed links to the book’s Amazon purchase page.

To prepare for the blog tour, I started by listing ideas for the posts. I’d participated from the blogger’s end in numerous blog tours before, so I found the original emails from the authors of my favorites and borrowed a few ideas from them. I also skimmed through my manuscript of the book to come up with posts that would be unique to my book and its story and themes. Once I had a list of posts to write, I emailed bloggers I was interested in and invited bloggers I knew in my writers’ group to host a spot in the tour. Through several emails, I arranged a blog to host each day of the tour. They each chose which post appealed most to them. Then I wrote the posts in Google Drive and gave each blogger editing rights once I was finished, so they could copy and paste the posts into their own blog. As a thank-you for hosting, I sent a free advance copy of the ebook to every host. A handful of them did review it — and I loved reading their reviews, the first I’d ever received as an author — but it wasn’t required.

On my blog, I set up a new separate page for the book, and posted the cover reveal a while before the launch. On the day of the launch, I posted a list of the blogs participating in my blog tour, a giveaway, and a few fun extras related to the book (a clip from The Sound of Music, for example). In the actual blog tour, I wrote a variety of posts: interviews, excerpts, dream casting for a movie version of the book, a playlist that corresponds to the book and its characters, explanations about the book or why I chose to self-publish it, quotes relating to the book’s theme, etc. You can see the full list of tour posts here: Blog Tour 

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

I started researching a few months beforehand, but I didn’t really start working on everything until two months before, when I started recruiting bloggers. It took me hundreds of hours total, I’d guess, over the course of those two months. Sometimes I enjoyed it; sometimes I felt like trashing my computer and forgetting about this whole author business. I think my stress levels and idea of difficulty were a little skewed, though, because I was also running my annual blog party — which went wrong in more ways than I can count this year — and it was my first time working a regular job during the holidays.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

Personally, I’d say it was successful. It got the word out and got readers and bloggers talking. People loved my book (yay!). In fact, I discovered that readership in general seemed to think more highly of the book than I did by that point. (I was so sick of the thing after editing!) Like I said before, I never really set any concrete goals. Writing is my hobby, not my career; I’ve always been clear about that to myself and others. Therefore, I tend to focus less on the business side of things than most self-publishers have to to make a living. The launch got my book out into the world and created a little buzz. That’s all I wanted, so that made me happy.

What will you repeat for your next book launch? What will you change?

I’ll definitely do a blog tour-focused launch again. As a reader and as an author, I love blogs as a way to promote and discuss books, and it definitely succeeded in generating hype. However, I’ll plan to do print and ebook combined rather than separately. I think sales and the launch would have been more successful had both options been available for purchase simultaneously. I was surprised by how many people wanted to wait and buy the book in print. Plus, the in-person options print/live marketing efforts are a lot of fun. I’m scheduled to do a presentation at the library for homeschool teens about self-publishing in April, and I hope to do a book signing at my local indie bookstore this summer.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their book?

Plan way ahead. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. With my crazy work schedule, the blog party, and one of my hosts dropping out last-minute, the tour took more time and work than I expected. It’s so worth it, but if I’d given myself more time between self-imposed deadlines — and assigned myself less work over the same period of time — I think it would’ve been much easier on my stress. Patience is key here.

That, and definitely check out DuoLit and Catherine, Caffeinated before making any big plans. I can’t recommend these blogs enough to fellow self-publishers. DuoLit is great for getting your marketing brainstorm started, and Catherine’s word is Bible when she says something is a good or bad idea (or whether or not something’s worth worrying about.)

~ Emily Rachelle