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How to Build an Author Brand (and why Genre matters)

How to Build an Author Brand (and Why Genre Matters)

In Sell More Books with Less Marketing, Chris Syme talks about different levels of author, divided by genre (fiction or non-fiction), by the number of books and series you have published.

Reading this was a lightbulb moment for me, because it explained why so much of the author brand and author marketing advice I read online felt “off” (yes, that’s a technical term).

It was because the advice was written for authors several levels ahead of me. Take Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers course (which I have bought), or Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (which I haven’t). These authors are both multi-published thriller authors, and both have at least one long series of books available for sale.

I’m not, and I don’t.

Their information is excellent … but their tactics will work best for authors at that level. They are unlikely to work for authors who only have one or two books published, not one or two series. They are especially unlikely to work for pre-published authors, who are trying to learn everything at once. And there’s a lot to learn.

So what’s the pre-published author to do?

Does the pre-published author need to build an author platform?

If they want to be published, yes.

And that’s whether they want to be traditionally published, or if they want to self-publish.

I see authors out there building their platforms. Some are doing a great job. Others … not so much. They don’t know where to go to get good advice, so often it’s the blind leading the blind.

And a lot of authors stall their platform building efforts by concentrating on the wrong things. They focus on tactics, not strategy. They ask questions like:

  • Do I have to have a blog?
  • What social media platform/s should I be on?
  • What will I blog about?
  • Do I have to have an email list?
  • What should I email about?
  • Do I have to have a sign-up gift for my website?
  • What kind of website should I have?
  • How do I build a website?
  • How much does a website cost?
  • Do I need an agent?
  • Should I self-publish?
  • What marketing will my publisher do?
  • Do I need a logo?
  • What should my tagline be?
  • How do I get reviews?
  • How do I use social media to sell books?

These questions are all good questions, but they are all about tactics. Yes, we need to answer these questions, but they aren’t the first questions we should ask or answer. They aren’t the important questions (and for some of the questions, the answer is “no” or “you don’t”).

All the blog posts about how to grow your author platform are useless for someone who doesn’t have a platform to grow.

I did some investigating. I found books and courses on how do set up a website or how to sell books on Twitter or how to use Goodreads as an author. Those are all good things, but most treated Twitter and Goodreads as an add-on to an existing platform. They didn’t take the author-reader back to those early stages of creating that platform in the first place.

I found blog posts on how to use various cool WordPress plugins to add extra functionality to your website. But that’s no good for someone who doesn’t have a website. Or who only has a free Blogger site.

I found posts on how to use RSS feeds and scheduling programmes to curate, collate, and automate social media posting. But that’s no good for someone who doesn’t have social media, or who only has a personal Facebook page to share pictures of cats and children.

I even found courses on how to build an online platform. Expensive courses—a one-off cost of $399 or $499, or a monthly fee of $49 or more. And that doesn’t include website hosting or any other costs.

Most of the writers I know don’t have that kind of money.

Many are solo parents, retirees, stay-at-home moms, homeschooling moms. Cash is tight. Many haven’t decided if they want to do this writing thing, and don’t want to invest big bucks in case they change their mind. Many are apprehensive about putting themselves “out there” . Many are writing as a form of therapy or ministry, and don’t have the money to invest in an expensive programme.

The people I knew needed was a way of getting from absolutely nothing to the stage where the blog posts on how to build or grow a platform were useful.

So I developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge.

Instead of starting with whether you should use MailChimp or MailerLite, WordPress or Wix, we start at the beginning. Strategy, not tactics.

  • What do you write?
  • Who are you writing for?

In other words:

  • What genre do you write?
  • Who is your target reader?

These questions inform our high-level marketing strategy, because:

  • An author who writes fiction is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes non-fiction.
  • An author who writes articles or devotions or short fiction is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes novels or book-length non-fiction.
  • An author who writes picture books is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes adult thrillers.

If we understand what we write—our genre—that will help us identify and understand our target reader.

Our customer. Then we can build a brand that appeals to that reader or buyer. Part of that includes how we look—our visual brand. But it’s also how we act. Our values and beliefs. Who we are behind the pretty visuals.

Author brand isn’t about being everything to everyone. Author brand is about:

  • Understanding your genre.
  • Understanding your target reader.
  • Being true to yourself.
  • Choosing the parts of yourself to show online.
  • Being consistent.
  • Connecting with your target readers.

I’ve developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge to do just that. The objective is to help pre-published and just-published authors develop the bones of their marketing platform. It’s an email Challenge, with one email a day for 40 days.

By the time they’ve completed the Challenge, participants will have:

  • A better understanding of their genre
  • A better understanding of their target reader
  • A branded author website
  • Branded accounts on the major social media platforms
  • An email list with a sign-up freebie
  • A list of topics to blog about, and share about on social media
  • Ideas for finding and connecting with their target readers
  • A network of writers

Interested? Click here to find out more information and sign up.

What is or was your biggest challenge in developing your online author platform?

Sell More Books With Less Marketing

Book Review | Sell More Books With Less Marketing by Chris Syme

Chris Syme is rapidly becoming one of my go-to sources for up-to-date information on book marketing.

Many of the other experts excel in saying what’s worked for them, and don’t realise why that can’t or won’t work for everyone. Sell More Books With Less Marketing starts with a hard truth many book marketing experts gloss over:

You must write a good book. This means beta readers, editors, and good covers for a start … you must do the work … all the work.

Chris Syme doesn’t have a gazillion book sales of her own. But she does have her daughter, Becca, a NYT Bestselling author who writes in a couple of different genres (and is a guest lecturer at Lawson Writer’s Academy, which means she knows her stuff). Chris and Becca co-host The Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast, and Chris has her own Facebook group.

Some of the material in this book is repeated from her earlier book, The Newbies Guide to Selling More Books with Less Social Media. This includes her explanation of the sales funnel, and her stage of a published writer. This was the lightbulb moment for me in regard to her first book, as it illustrates why so much of the marketing information out there doesn’t work.

Because it’s not written for newbie authors.

This book is.

If you haven’t read any books on book marketing, this is an excellent one to start with. It covers the basics in a straightforward way, so a new author won’t get lost in book marketing jargon that’s years ahead of where they need to be.

It’s aimed at authors with fewer than three books published, and little in the way of an online platform.

This means readers can focus on what’s important now, rather than wasting time chasing the next must-do strategy that only works effectively for authors with multiple books published, ideally in a series.

Sell More Books with Less Marketing covers the sales funnel, the three-must have marketing tools all authors need, and each chapter has actionable steps to take. Chris Syme also provides readers with access to her exclusive Facebook group, and access to a free email marketing course.

Syme asks readers to make three commitments:

  • A commitment to consistency
  • A commitment to perseverance
  • A commitment to excellence

Like most professional marketers, Syme subscribes to permission-based marketing rather than the old interruption marketing. This is intelligent marketing, because it’s marketing to people who’ve asked to be marketed to e.g. via an email list.

She like threes: she has her three commitments, her Big Three Goals (discoverability, sales, loyalty), and the Big Three Components you’ll need to succeed (website, email newsletter, Facebook page).

Syme cuts through the plethora of advice on book marketing to deliver three threes that will form the basis for a solid marketing platform, with no slimy selling involved.

Recommended.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 22 July 2017

Writing

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

This week was the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop hosted by Raimey Gallant. Over twenty writers shared their tips on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Erika Timar has helpfully compiled a listing of all the posts—and there are some good ones. I’ve included a couple of my favourites in this post.

LM Durand presents 35 ideas for marketing your book on Instagram.
Kristina Stanley shows how to open a scene.
ML Keller shows us when and how to transform telling into showing.

Song Lyrics

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about whether authors can use song lyrics in their books (short answer: only if the song’s writer has been dead for over seventy years).

In Should I Use Song Lyrics in My Writing?, published at The Steve Laube Agency blog, Christian literary agent Tamela Hancock Murray suggests we’re asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t be asking “can we?”. Instead, ask “should we?”

Marketing

Marketing Must-Haves

Chris Syme shares a short post introducing her three marketing must-haves for newbie authors. At the risk of stealing her thunder, I’ll tell you what they are:

1. An author website with a URL that matches their author name (e.g. www.iolagoulton.com).
2. An email list.
3. A Facebook business page. No, your personal profile isn’t good enough (click here to find out the difference).

Chris goes into more detail about each of these in her marketing books, all of which I recommend:

SMART Social Media for Authors

Sell More Books with Less Social Media 

Sell More Books with Less Marketing

 

Marketing Plan

Everyone tells us we need a marketing plan. There are even some internet templates to help you write one. Unfortunately, most are so long it looks like writing the book would be quicker.

In this short post, Joel Friedlander takes us through the five essential questions that need to be answered in a book marketing plan (actually, substitute “customers” for “readers”, and it will probably work in other industries).

Missing Lettr

Over the last two weeks, I’ve written posts explaining how I use the paid versions of Buffer and Social Jukebox to manage my social media sharing. There are other tools, such as Hootsuite and CoPromote.

Missing Lettr is another tool. It allows users to promote blog content over the next year. The free version allows users to share one campaign (i.e. blog post) a week, from one website to one social media profile.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books are sharing a limited-time promotion on Missing Lettr’s paid plans—6 months for the price of 1. The cheapest paid plan (Personal) is usually $15/month, and allows users to schedule four campaigns a week from up to two websites, to four social media profiles.

It’s a good deal, and I might be tempted if I wasn’t already using the Power Scheduler and Buffer’s Awesome plan ($10/month) to achieve the same result. Let me know if you sign up for Missing Lettr—I’d love to know how you find it.

That’s all for this week! Which post did you think was the most interesting?

Best Book Marketing Websites

#AuthorToolBoxBloghop: 9 Best Book Marketing Websites

This post is part of the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, the brainchild of  Raimey Gallant. There are over thirty authors participating in the blog hop this month, each sharing on a topic related to writing, publishing or marketing. There are three great ways to follow the blog hop:

  1. Check out the list of participating websites on the main blog hop page
  2. Follow the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop hashtag on Twitter and other social media sites
  3. Visit the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop board on Pinterest

So … on to my 9 favourite book marketing websites.

I’m not yet published. Well, not in a book sense. I’ve got thousands of words published online in the form of hundreds of book reviews and blog posts–my book review blog will hit 1,000 posts in a couple of months, and at least 80% of those posts are reviews.

Even though I’m not yet published, I’ve been studying the art and science of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing for several years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the road to publication, it’s this:

Marketing starts a long time before you publish.

Which means everyone who wants to publish should have at least a passing awareness of current marketing trends. And there is a lot of marketing advice out there—some excellent, some good, and some downright misleading.

(I think the worst was the one which advised readers to add everyone they knew to their “opt-in email list”. Had she heard of the CAN-SPAM Act? Did she understand the meaning of the words, “opt in”? I can only assume not.)

Anyway, today I’m sharing the nine websites I find most useful when it comes to identifying book marketing trends.

1. BookBub

BookBub is the gorilla in the room of book marketing. They charge authors hundreds of dollars to advertise in one of their genre-specific daily emails, and turn down more potential advertisers than they accept. I’ve only heard of one author who didn’t make her money back on a BookBub ad (the book was middle grade fiction, so it doesn’t altogether surprise me. My kids are on their devices 24/7, but still prefer paper books).

But the power of BookBub’s featured advertisements isn’t why they are on my list. BookBub analyses their sales and other data to provide detailed articles on what sells, and what doesn’t. And that’s worth reading.

Chris Syme

Chris Syme is the owner of Smart Marketing for Authors, and the author of Sell More Books With Less Social Media, and the soon-to-be-published Sell More Books With Less Marketing. She also co-hosts a book marketing podcast with her daughter, bestselling romance author Becca Syme.

Reading Sell More Books with Less Social Media was a lightbulb moment for me, one of those times when someone says something that seems obvious, yet I’d never seen it before:

Not all authors are at the same level when it comes to writing and publishing, and our marketing needs to take that into account.

Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the owner of WeGrow Media, who help authors connect with readers. He has recently published Be The Gateway, where he shows authors how to research and understand their target audience, then work out how best to connect with those people. It’s about playing the long game in an industry where many people are looking for quick wins.
Be the Gateway
I like Dan’s philosophy of marketing—it’s similar to Tim Grahl, and is one I can embrace as someone who hates asking for the sale (something I’m working on). I enjoy reading his blog posts and newsletters—like his recent post reinforcing the importance of word-of-mouth marketing.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran is the author of Let’s Get Digital (why authors should consider digital self-publishing), and Let’s Get Visible. He was the first author to show me the importance of understanding and using Amazon algorithms to drive sales. The books are a few years old (and I read them both as new releases), so the information may have dated a little.

The other reason I like and follow David is because of his personal war against the vanity publishing, and the valuable information he provides on their various schemes. You might not think so, but this is marketing as well: it’s part of Product, one of the four Ps of marketing strategy.

Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander is The Book Designer. He hosts the monthly Cover Design Awards, where he critiques author-submitted covers. He also hosts a monthly Carnival of the Indies, a round-up of what’s new in indie publishing (and writing, and marketing). He also attracts guest posts from some of the top names in digital publishing.

Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson of BadRedHeadMedia is the mind behind #MondayBlogs and the weekly #BookMarketingChat on Twitter.

She’s also the author of The 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, which was the inspiration behind my own KickStart Your Author Platform challenge. Rachel doesn’t pull her punches, and brings twenty-plus years of pharmaceutical sales experience to her marketing advice.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin invented the idea of permission-based marketing, that we should work to grow a tribe of people who support us and our work. He posts a short blog post each day, and all are worth reading.

The Buffer Blog

I love Buffer. I loved their free version, and I love the Awesome plan even more. Buffer enables me to manage my social media sharing without going mad. Hootsuite has similar functionality, but I find the Buffer interface much more user friendly.

But that’s not the reason Buffer is on this list. They’re on my list because of their blog. They share millions of social media posts, and collect information on the performance of those posts. That enables them to write meaty blog posts that answer a lot of social media questions: when is the best time to post? How many times a day should you post? Do you need to use hashtags? Images? Which social media networks perform best?

Buffer knows, and Buffer tells us.

Tim Grahl

Tim is the owner of Outthink Group. He is the author of Your First 1,000 Copies (which preaches the importance of building an email list and using those connections to market your book), and The Book Launch Blueprint (which reinforces the importance of building an email list, and using those connections to launch your book).

He’s not about sell-sell-sell. He’s about building meaningful connections, about getting permission to contact people (through the email list), delivering relevant content, and outreaching from there.

It’s been several years since I read Your First 1,000 Copies. I’ve recently realised that while I’m doing Permission and Content reasonably well, I need to work on Outreach.

That’s my list of the best book marketing websites. What are yours?

 

Best of the Blogs: 25 February 2017

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing ServicesBest of the blogs – the best posts of the week on writing, publishing and marketing your books.

Writing

Larry Brooks (the Story Engineering guy) has a great post this week. He’s examining the fiction trifecta: three qualities to evaluate about your story intention, and execution. Read The Triad of Storytelling.

And Kristen Lamb shares about the importance of hooking the reader (and not letting go). Kristen is going to be speaking at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in Rotorua in August, and I’m looking forward to hearing her.

Publishing

The jury remains divided on whether cover design or editing is the most important aspect of your book. While I have an obvious bias, I do acknowledge the importance of a great cover. The cover entices the potential buyer to check out those important first few pages. The writing and editing are important, but only after someone has picked up the book.

If you don’t read Joel Friedlander’s monthly Cover Design Awards post, you should. It will give you some great ideas about what to look for in a great cover (and therefore a great cover designer), but also what to avoid.

What always strikes me is the number of covers which get things half-right: a stellar illustration pulled down by indifferent font choices, an illegible book title, an illustration that fails because it’s too busy.

Joel also makes an important point on one of the non-fiction covers: the cover should be aimed at the intended buyers, not the author. Anyway, check out the January 2017 eBook Cover Design Awards.

Social Media

I’m not on Medium, but How to Use Medium from Nicole Bianchi makes me wonder if I should be. It doesn’t seem like a lot of additional effort—after all, I’d only be reposting content that has already appeared on my blog.

On the other hand, I also need to ask how Medium might fit into my overall marketing strategy. If it doesn’t fit, I shouldn’t use it (and then I don’t need to feel guilty about not using it).

In Sell More Books with Less Social Media, Chris Syme says we should spend a (small) portion of our marketing time researching new tools and adopting those which fit. Have you researched Medium? Do you use it? What do you find?

Marketing

I often see authors on social media asking about swag: those promotional gifts authors give away at book signings or conferences to entice potential readers. Bookmarks are the most common, but I’ve also had badges, pens, teabags (lovely!), chocolate (even better!) and a cloth for cleaning my glasses (which I use most days).

I’ve never seen book charms, although it’s a great idea. I love books and I enjoy crafting. But I’m not sure I have the patience author Deborah Crooke (who also writes as Claire Delacroix) demonstrates in this blog post, Making Book Charms. You know you’re doing something right when your fans offer to pay for your promotional gifts.

One More Thing …

The beginning of March is creeping nearer, as is the start of my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. If you don’t have an author website (or if it’s been neglected of late), this is your opportunity to get it into gear. Click here before 1 March to sign up.

See you next week!

Best of the Blogs: 4 February 2017

The best blowww.christianediting.co.nzg posts on writing, publishing, and marketing I’ve read in the week to 4 February 2017 (and can you believe January is already over?):

 

 

 

What is Christian Fiction?

Can we define it? It’s a question with as many answers as authors. Or perhaps as many answers as readers. E Stephen Burnett shares his thoughts in How to Fix Christian Fiction: More Christianity. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he raises interesting points:

http://www.speculativefaith.com/fix-christian-fiction-christianity/

I’ve previously shared my definitions of Christian fiction on my author website:

Writing Life

Balancing life and writing is often a challenge. In this encouraging post, Tricia Goyer visits The Steve Laube Agency blog and says the key to doing it all is to not do it all, and to batch tasks: How to Balance a Busy Writing Schedule and a Busy Life.

We’ve all read the advice: write every day. We’ve (probably) all felt bad that we don’t reach that standard. I found this post encouraging because it reminded me I do write every day (well, almost every day). What do you think?

Publishing

Over the last month, I’ve revised and reposted several of my own posts warning against vanity presses. These posts appeared at Australasian Christian Writers:

I also spent a good part of yesterday adding another nineteen (!) publishers to Christian Publishing: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction. I’ll include those in the next edition of my newsletter—use the box on the right to subscribe if you don’t already.

Marketing

The eternal challenge … I’ve spend the last two weeks immersed in marketing books and blog posts as I prepare for my first-ever March marketing challenge: Kick Start Your Platform (if you’re interested in participating, click here to sign up).

I’ll be sharing a heap of marketing resources during March, but I have two I want to share with you today. This post from Nina Amir takes you through the big questions of how to create a social media marketing plan, then ends with helpful tips from other writers.


And I’ve just finished reading Sell More Books with Less Social Media by Chris Syme, and was gratified to find my planned curriculum for March exactly matches up with her recommendations. If you’d like to find out what they are, you can buy the book on Kindle. She also has a free online course to go with the book.

Okay, so that’s not a blog post. But it will be once I’ve written and published my review!

 

What was the best or most useful blog post you read this week? Share in the comments.

Best of the Blogs – 14 October 2016

The best blog posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing and marketing (and a bit of fun, and a new release from client Elaine Fraser):

Writing

Two big things any aspiring fiction writer needs to learn are how to use point of view, and the importance of showing, not telling. In this post at Romance University, author Janice Hardy shows (!) how using point of view affects showing and telling:

How Your Narrative Distance Affects Show Don’t Tell

Editing

Julie Lessman interviewed Revell editor Lonnie Hull Dupont at Seekerville. They discussed what Lonnie looks for in a novel, her pet peeves, the acquisition process, and her views on ‘edgy’ Christian fiction:

9 Questions I Asked My Editor

Publishing

The Alliance of Independent Authors blog are well known for their anti-vanity publisher stance (which I fully endorse). They have published two valuable posts recently. The first is a list of publishers and publishing services companies, with advisory notices for many of the vanity publishers:

ALLi Service Ratings

And John Doppler posted 12 Self Publishing Services Authors Should Beware

If your “publisher” is offering any of these as a selling point or (worse) making you pay for them, then your publisher is likely to be a vanity press.

(Sign up to my mailing list if you’d like to receive a free list of Christian publishers, including the vanity presses specialising in the Christian market. The sign-up form is to the right >>>)

Marketing

Social Media expert Chris Syme visits Jane Friedman’s blog to talk about push vs. pull marketing … and how good social media marketing uses “pull” strategies: providing consumers with what they want, rather than pushing them to buy something they may or may not want.

Are You A Push Marketer or a Pull Marketer?

Fun

Coke vs. Pepsi might be the big-name food war, but Kiwis and Aussies have our own battle going with Marmite and Vegemite … and the national Marmite shortage resulting from the Christchurch earthquakes.

Kiwi Culture 101: Marmite

Also, congratulations to Christian Editing Services client Elaine Fraser on the release of her latest novel, Amazing Grace. Andrea Grigg has reviewed it at Australasian Christian Writers:

Book Review: Elaine Fraser

That’s all for this week! What’s the best blog post you’ve read this week? Share in the comments.