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Marketing 101: Recommended Reading

Popular Author Marketing Books Reviewed

If you follow my blog through email, you’ll have noticed I’ve been posting reviews of marketing books over the last three months. This post is a brief summary of all those reviews (with links), along with my recommendation of the two books any savvy author should buy and read (and why):

Recommended Reading

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

The best book I’ve found on the basics of marketing as applied to books, and includes dozens of useful web links. It can be read at any stage of the writing and publishing journey, but the earlier you read the book and apply the lessons, the better. Applicable for self-published and trade published authors. Click here to read my review.

Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

Explains the Amazon algorithms (the way the computer programmes select what goes on the best-seller list and what books are recommended to customers). Understandable and actionable. Best for self-published authors who are about to publish on Amazon, or those who are already self-published through Amazon. Small publishers will also benefit from reading this, as they too need to maximise their exposure on Amazon. Click here to read my review.

Suggested Reading

How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers

For those who are about to publish or who have published. My only complaint with this book is that I didn’t think to write it myself. A solid batch of Amazon reviews is seen as an essential part of the marketing plan, and this book will show you the best ways to get reviews. Click here to read my review.

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

Some of the information is outdated (even though it was only published in 2011), but still provides an excellent introduction to why authors should consider self-publishing, and how. An introduction to Let’s Get Visible. Click here to read my review.

The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke

Written by a literary agent, so useful for that perspective, and targeted towards the almost-published author. I found the most useful information was in the Kindle sample—the rest of the information is available free on her blog. Click here to read my review.

10 Keys to ebook Marketing Success by Karen Baney

Good, apart from the awkward spelling mistake on the first page (just before she starts talking about the importance of good editing and proofreading). She has some good tips on promoting and pricing a series, but despite having an MBA, she doesn’t seem to understand that there’s more to marketing than promotion (a mistake I see with a lot of self-published authors). Click here to read my review.

Is $.99 the New Free? by Steve Scott

Short and to the point. The information is good, but nothing new. Click here to read my review.

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Good information, but seemed to focus on non-fiction authors who already have at least a couple of books on sale. I see this as being of limited use for first-time fiction authors. Click here to read my review.

Not Recommended

The Book Publishers Toolkit

A series of essays from members of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Interesting enough, but the articles are fairly broad-brush and in some cases contradict each other. Only worth reading as a free download. Click here to read my review.

How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days by Austin Briggs

A step-by-step process to build a writers platform in the 90 days before your book launch. Unfortunately, the editing and reviewing processes are cramped into too short a timescale, which makes me question the whole concept. Click here to read my review.

How to Launch A Christian Best Seller Book by Lorilyn Roberts

Only useful if you are considering joining the John 3:16 Marketing Network, in which case it’s an essential read. Just be aware that the advice isn’t always good, and in some cases actually goes against the rules and guidelines of online communities such as Amazon and Goodreads. Click here to read my review.

Advanced Book Marketing by EJ Thornton

In fairness, I didn’t actually read this (which is why I haven’t written a full review). It was recommended in a blog post I read, so I downloaded the Kindle sample which was rather too self-congratulatory for my tastes. However, my major issue was that it was it was published in 2009, before the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, which means any information about publishing is so outdated it is useless. The rise of social media will have rendered much of the information on marketing equally outdated. This was also the most expensive book I looked at. I’m happy to spend $3.99 or less and risk a dud, but not $9.99.

This is my final post in this current series on marketing, but I will be back later in the year with a series on building your platform.

In the meantime, what is your favourite marketing book? Why would you recommend I read it? And what books on marketing have you read that weren’t helpful? Why not? Would you like to review it for us?

 

Next week, I start looking at Plot. Sign up to follow my blog by email to ensure you don’t miss any posts.

Marketing 101: Top Ten Blogs to Follow

Last week I looked at five things not to do when promoting your book online, mostly focused around reviewing ethics. The week before I looked at marketing from a Christian perspective, and concluded there are a lot of ‘experts’ telling authors what to do, and it wasn’t always easy to tell the gold from the dross.

How do you tell who is giving good advice? I’ve spent a lot of time surfing the internet, learning about publishing and book marketing over the last few years. This post will introduce you to what I believe are the top ten blogs for Christian authors to follow.

Actually, they are the top 10 blogs for any author to follow (while some of them have a Christian focus, most don’t). Some are focused on traditional publishing, while others have more of a self-publishing bent. It’s important to read both, in order to make an educated decision about the type of publisher you want to work with.

So, in alphabetical order:

  1. Books & Such Literary Agency
    Books & Such is a literary agency representing a range of authors published in the Christian and general markets. As with most agent blogs, each agent will post on a regular basis, and they also have some guest bloggers (usually authors represented by the agency). When reading agent blogs, be aware that they make money by selling books to traditional publishers, so their focus is on encouraging authors along that path—which might not be right for everyone.
  2. Rachelle Gardner
    Rachelle is a literary agent with Books & Such (above), specialising in Christian publishing. I have noticed that the quality of her posts has declined over the last year (her best posts are now just links to Books & Such), and her commenters tend to be overwhelmingly agreeable (I suspect most of them hope to land Rachelle as their agent one day). Despite these drawbacks, there is a wealth of information on her blog about writing craft and literary agents, and you would be advised to spend some time going through her archives.
  3. David Gaughran
    David is the author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. Like several other bloggers on my list, Gaughran has a nasty habit of unveiling the truth about spurious publishing headlines. (Marketing hint: when responding to a controversial post, calling the other person “full of s***” means you have lost the moral high ground—and the argument).
  4. Joe Konrath at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
    Joe offers excellent advice on self-publishing and marketing. His vocabulary is often a little, let’s say, earthy (he’s not a Christian, and his language can reflect that) and his tone is self-congratulatory. He’s earned around $1m from Amazon sales over the last year, so I think that gives him the right to say he knows a bit about writing and book marketing. Joe has little patience for traditional publishing, which makes his blog an excellent contrast to the agent blogs.
  5. Steve Laube
    Steve is owner of the Steve Laube Literary agency, and the new owner of Marcher Lord Press, publisher of Christian speculative fiction. His blog doesn’t get as many comments as some of the others on my list, but the posts are intelligent and insightful, and include weekly posts from each of the four agents.
  6. Amanda Luedeke
    Amanda is an agent with MacGregor Literary, owned by Chip MacGregor, and writes “Thursdays with Amanda”, a weekly marketing post (that I read on Friday, because of the international date line). The blog also has regular posts from Chip, from his other agents, and some guest blogger posts. These are good, but Amanda is better. Again, I’d advise you to go through the archives (or read Amanda’s book).
  7. Kristine Kathryn Rusch
    Kris doesn’t post regularly, but when she does, it’s worth reading. She is especially good on explaining the business of writing and publishing, and issues with contracts (such as interpreting royalty statements, assignment of rights, and reversion clauses). Essential reading.
  8. The Creative Penn
    Joanna Penn covers self-publishing and marketing, with a combination of blog posts and podcasts. A wealth of information, much of which is covered in her book, How to Market a Book.
  9. The Passive Voice
    The Passive Voice isn’t a like most blogs, where the blogger (or a group of bloggers) post their own views and experiences. Passive Guy compiles interesting and relevant posts on publishing and marketing from around the internet and adds a dry comment or two. (He also posts relevant literary quotes, and the occasional promotion for Mrs PG’s new book).
  10. Writer Beware
    What’s going wrong in the world of publishing, including agents, awards and publishers to avoid (and why). Writer Beware is one of the best places to look if you think something looks fishy (see their invaluable “Thumbs Down” lists). Again, an extensive and informative archive.

If you only have time to follow one blog, which one would I recommend? Easy.

The Passive Voice.

Why? Two reasons:

  • The Passive Voice is run by Passive Guy, a lawyer specialising in contract law, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to publishing contracts and legal issues. Mrs PG is a self-published historical fiction author, so he has an interest in self-publishing. You can find his professional website here.
  • The comments are outstanding—comments on many blogs are mostly congratulatory, but PG attracts a range of readers and encourages friendly debate. For an example, see the recent post on author earnings which attracted over 300 comments.

What writing blogs do you read? Which ones do you recommend, and why?

Book Review: Your First 1000 Copies by David Grahl

I liked Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book because I liked Tim Grahl’s marketing ethic: creating lasting connections though a focus on being “relentlessly helpful” (a tactic which works, as I’m much more likely to buy a book from an author whose blog I follow. However, it’s possibly a tactic that’s going to work better for the non-fiction author than the novelist who might not have so much relentlessly helpful information to share with readers).

There was some good information here that I plan to implement, including a pop-up invitation to subscribe to my mailing list (with a useful incentive!). He emphasises the importance of creating content that can be reimagined (so can be used in multiple ways) and that stays current over time (which he refers to as ‘evergreen content’).

I also liked the way he referred readers back to his website in several instances, particularly where information changes regularly. This serves two purposes: it ensures the book doesn’t date as quickly, and it drives traffic to the website (where, presumably, visitors are invited to join his email list). Clever.

As with several other book marketing books I’ve read, Grahl focuses on the importance of developing a strong mailing list, and using that list properly. There is one fault: despite the title, Your First 1000 Copies is geared towards authors with one or more titles on sale already, not those releasing their first book and looking for their first 1000 sales. I also suspect the tactics will work better for non-fiction authors than for novelists.

Nevertheless, Your First 1000 Copies is still worth reading, as it offers some ideas I’ve not seen in the other marketing books I’ve read.

Review: Is $.99 the New Free? by Steve Scott

As most authors know, making Kindle books available free through KDP Select no longer has the powerful marketing effect it did a year ago. In Is $.99 the New Free? The Truth About Launching and Pricing Your Kindle Books, Scott explores whether free still has a place in a marketing plan, or whether pricing books at 99 cents is a better strategy.

He starts by examining the four essential metrics he believes all authors should track (including sales and reviews), then discusses five pricing strategies:

#1 – Free Book Launch
#2 – $.99 Book Launch
#3 – Free Pulse
#4 – $.99 Pulse
#5 – Perma-Free

Scott then offers an eight-point strategy to developing an author platform and marketing ebooks. This isn’t new information, but it’s presented well and appears accurate (which is more than I can say for some of the marketing books I’ve read). Useful information, but covered in more depth in other books.

Is $.99 the New Free? iss around fifty pages, and currently costs less than a dollar. For that price, I think Is $.99 the New Free? represents good value for money, and is worth reading.

Marketing 101: Platform

SMMStatistics_Draft1.0Platform

It’s the buzzword in author marketing. Agents and publishers want new authors (especially non-fiction authors) to have an established platform: a network of contacts in real life and in social media that can be leveraged to purchase the book and influence others to purchase the book.

The foundation of any good author platform is a website. Have a custom website address (not a wordpress or blogspot address) so you own both the content and access to it. However, search engines such as Google don’t like static websites: they like to see sites where the information is updated regularly, which is why so many author websites incorporate a blog.

The trick to developing a solid platform is having something your target market wants. For example, I’ve gained over 1,000 Twitter followers tweeting information that will be useful to writers. My daughter has gained over 2,500 followers on Tumblr posting references to a popular young adult books series and TV show. That pales into insignificance compared to Jamie Curry, the New Zealand teen who currently has over 200,000 Twitter followers, and 7.5 million Likes on Facebook (yes, you read that right. More people follow Jamie Curry than actually live in New Zealand).

That’s a platform …

So what are the major social networks?

Facebook

Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg as a way for Harvard students to contact each other. It now has over one billion registered users (although it’s estimated that 8.7% of them are fake accounts), and most major brands are represented on Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter started in 2006, a a microblogging social and information network that allows users to send messages of up to 140 characters. Tweets can include links to other sites and #hashtags, words or phrases used to group posts (e.g. #christian, #fiction, #writing, #editing or #socialmediatips).

Pinterest

Pinterest has been operating since 2010, and at the third-largest social network in the US, it’s probably the fastest-growing. It centres around illustrations—‘pins’—which users can pin to themed boards. A majority of users are women (which is makes it an important site for authors, as most readers and authors of Christian fiction are women).

Google+

Google+ launched by Google in 2011 and claims to be the second-largest social networking site after Facebook (with 500m users). However, this could be because they automatically assigned accounts to all gmail users … The average Google+ user spends less than 5 minutes on the site each month, compared with 7.5 hours on Facebook.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is usually described as Facebook for professionals, even though it predates Facebook (LinkedIn was founded in 2002). The site encourages networking through groups, and providing personal recommendations and endorsements, but it is a professional site: it’s probably not useful for writers unless writing is their major source of income.

Others

There are dozens (probably hundreds) of other social networking sites with various degrees of popularity. Major sites include YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram, but these are seen as being of less interest to writers—although research shows Tumblr and Instagram are more popular with teens and those in their twenties.

In all cases, the point of social networking for authors is to build relationships so your contacts will influence and advocate your brand (book) and enhance discoverability.

I’ll be going into more detail about each of the major networks in a series of posts later this year. Which social networks are you a member of? Which do you prefer? Why?

More importantly, which social networks do your target readers use?

Review: How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days by Austin Briggs and Max Candee

There’s a saying in marketing that we know 50% of marketing activities work—we just don’t know which 50%. The same could be said for How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days. It includes what looks like some excellent information and advice—but that advice is wrapped up with advice that is incorrect, and it worries me because someone reading only this book won’t know what is good advice and what isn’t. Even I don’t know. I may praise something as being good advice and find it’s totally wrong.

I’m a book reviewer and freelance editor, so those are two subjects I know a lot about. I know less about building and maintaining a writing platform—while I have a degree in marketing, it dates from the dark ages before the intrusion of the web into every area of our lives. So while the principles of marketing are the same, the internet and social media have changed the practice of marketing.

That’s why I’m reading books like this: to understand how to do it now. And I think How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days does that well. But I can’t be certain. Because there are some elementary mistakes around how Briggs and Candee integrate editing and reviews into their 90-day timetable, so I’m not convinced they are accurate and believable in their claims in the areas I know less about.

The book starts by saying that before you begin this 90-day journey, you’ll need the final draft of the best book you can write, and a website. But the discussion on editing makes it clear that this ‘final draft’ hasn’t been edited. The authors then proceed to confuse beta-readers with editors (which is ironic, as one of them offers manuscript assessment services on his website).

Then there’s the editing. The schedule doesn’t allow nearly enough time to get the work professionally edited (which will take at least two weeks, and may take months if your preferred editor has a queue of books—as many good editors will have). Given most books need to go through at least two editing passes and two rounds of proofreading, I think this needs to be completed before the 90 days begin, not as a part of the 90 day launch project.

The timing of reviews is equally ridiculous. Most book bloggers have a two to three month waiting list, so sending them a book on day 76 and expecting the review on day 77 is unrealistic, to say the least (not to mention the advice to copy their review to your website: a copyright violation if the reviewer hasn’t specifically given you permission).

Overall, while there might be some good ideas in How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days, they are outweighed by the bad advice. Not recommended.

Review: The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke

If you have a website and are already active on Twitter and/or Facebook, then The Extroverted Writer probably isn’t the book for you. It gives good advice on why authors need to set up a website and be active in social media, but it doesn’t give much in the way of new advice on how. I’m speaking as someone who has followed Amanda’s posts on the MacGregor Literary blog for the last year or more—if you don’t read that, The Extroverted Writer provides a useful introduction to the subject.

Topics covered include:

  • Knowing your audience (i.e. book genre)
  • Knowing your online marketing goals
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Other social media sites: Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, YouTube, LinkedIn

She gives hints for building a following on Twitter and Facebook, but these are not the only ways. I have over 1000 Twitter followers without using any of her ideas (I simply follow interesting people and hope they follow me back—most do). And her Facebook ideas are targeted towards the published or almost-published author (things like posting cover art and back cover copy). Good advice, but I think if you’re only just starting to build your online presence when you get a publishing contract, it’s a bit late (but better late than never, I suppose).

Amanda doesn’t really comment on when is the best time to begin building an online presence. I suppose she feels that if someone is interested enough to read to read the blog and buy the book, they are ready to begin. That’s probably not far wrong. My view is that authors should start building their online presence when they decide this writing thing is more than a hobby—it’s something they want to pursue as a viable career option.

The things I found most useful were here ballpark figures of the number of followers an agent or publisher considers ‘good’, and her explanation of the necessity to understand your market segment (i.e. genre). However, this information was all in the free Kindle sample!

Book Review: Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books begins by explaining the intricacies of the Amazon algorithms (the computer programmes that dictates lists such as the bestseller lists, as well as what each individual customer sees on screen). He explains both what they algorithms are (as best anyone outside Amazon can know) and why understanding the algorithms is important.

He then moves on to an analysis of pricing, including a comparison of free and paid, with a focus on using free and discounted pricing as promotional tools. This all makes sense—because he’s explained the underlying algorithms that drive Amazon. He’s focusing on how the system works, and how you can then work within the system to drive results.

The book then moves on to the best sites for advertising, designing a promotion, and designing a book launch (for which he provides three options, as well as convincing evidence—based on the algorithms—of why the ‘traditional’ launch strategy no longer works).

Some key lessons are the importance of centring marketing around a mailing list you control (rather than, say, a Facebook Fan page), inserting a link to the mailing list signup form at the end of each book, and asking for reviews (with a link to the Amazon book page).

Following Gaughran’s advice will ensure you and your book look professional and are able to compete in the highly competitive market that is Amazon. The book is aimed at self-publishers, but small publishers will also benefit from the information.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: 10 Keys to ebook Marketing Success by Karen Baney

10 Keys to Ebook Marketing Success delivers what is says on the cover: ten steps to kickstart your ebook marketing efforts. What sets this ahead of some of the other marketing books I’ve read is Baney’s professionalism. She is a professional, and she expects her readers to act in a professional manner. Other self-published authors would do well to emulate her.

The 10 Keys are:
Key 1 – A Good Book
Key 2 – Target Audience
Key 3 – Internet Presence
Key 4 – Pricing
Key 5 – Distribution
Key 6 – Book Reviews
Key 7 – Guest Blogging
Key 8 – Reader Communities
Key 9 – Social Media
Key 10 – Paid Advertising

I appreciate her insistence on the importance of good editing—that’s a lesson she’s learned the hard way—and her thoughts on defining your target audience (and genre) were clear and useful. Her pricing chapter is particularly good—not as thorough as Let’s Get Visible, but well-written and easy to understand.

On promotion, I personally think she tweets too often, and too much of it is promotion, but she saw a 47% increase in sales through her tweets, and that’s hard to argue with (although I wonder if attitudes and results may have changed since she wrote this).

The one thing I don’t understand is her comment about her contemporary novel, Nickels. She says it hasn’t done nearly as well as her historical novels, which I find strange. I’ve read them all, and I enjoyed Nickels far more than the historicals (two of which featured rape scenes, which I don’t enjoy).

Overall, 10 Keys to Ebook Marketing Success is a quick and easy read that will provide new authors with a simple marketing framework to use, and those who have read other marketing books may benefit from the book’s clear structure, and from having another point of view on subjects like pricing and promotion.