Growing Pains: Part VIII

We all know how bombarding the marketplace can be. Ads are constantly smacking us in the face every time we open a webpage or app on our phones, computers, iPads, Kindles, turn on the TV, drive down the road, attend an event, etc. etc. Some ads just hit us and go in one ear and out the other, but some ads really stick out (for better or worse), and those are the ones we remember. In a world where you have a few seconds to make an impression, you need to embrace being different and standing out, because the first impression may be the only one you get to make before you blend into the white noise of the everyday marketing buzz.

This week, I’d like to talk about how being different can help you grow your business as a self-published author. You want to be able to hook customers off of more than just a random purchase based on your book cover. Yes, do stand out and hook customers with a unique book cover, but don’t be a one-hit wonder. Being “different” (whatever that really means) is something that you need to aim for in the long term, on a bigger scale. You want your readers to feel like they are consuming a product that also makes them different via consumption. We all know those niche, cult-classics that those really “hip” and “in tune” readers flock to just so they can say they read it, and when they do people will nod and say “oh yeah, I’ve heard about that!”. The kind of books people read in busy coffee shops so that everyone knows they’re reading it. You want to be produce that book.

Think in terms of 80s and 90s Apple ads, where Apple stressed how different they were from other companies, and how using Apple products would make you different too. Was this marketing effective? Take a look at everyone in your immediate vicinity and see if they aren’t staring into an iPhone, iPad or MacBook and you tell me. Is it possible for books to have this same effect? Think Fight Club, Infinite Jest, V for Vendetta, On the Road. People want to say they’ve read these books and they want to tell you how these books transformed them when they read them in highschool, college, on a road trip, etc.

How do you become a book like that? Well, it’s not easy, to be perfectly honest. But those authors probably didn’t know they were writing a cult classic when they wrote it, they just wanted to try something different. If you have a creative instinct that doesn’t follow the normal plot line, character structure, story structure, format, etc. — follow it. It could give you that “different” edge that will set you apart from the slew of book titles that people are bombarded with at bookstores and on Amazon every day. Be the different you want to see in the marketplace…to distastefully appropriate a Ghandi quote.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part VII

When a business starts to grow, it should reasonably take up more space. This could be space on your desk, in your schedule and just in your life in general. When something begins to take up more space, sometimes the next logical step is to literally give it more space. With that in mind, this week, I’d like to explore the topic of expanding your business to another location.

Because it is 2017, I’d like to begin by saying that this other location need not be in physical space, but can also occupy the virtual reality we all seem to spend so much time in nowadays. If you don’t already have a website for your books, products and services, do yourself a favor and get one. Online marketing is crucial in this day and age, as a significant amount of shopping done today is online. If you’re not online, you’re simply missing out on one of the largest customer bases there is, period.

Further, a website is not always enough. A lot of people get their news and advertisements and ideas of what to buy via social media, thus, expanding your product to these other outlets is a fantastic idea. The more your page is “liked” or “shared,” the more it will show up on more people’s feed, and the higher the chances you have of exposure for your business. Be shameless with the use of hashtags and tagging of people and companies relevant to your work. This is another helpful way for people to find out about your work. Expanding into the digital world has got to be one of the most profitable and lucrative moves you can make as a business owner.

If you find yourself needing to expand your business in actual physical space, this is a whole different ball game. Expanding in this way can be as simple as asking for a display in a lock coffee shop, toy store, library, women’s shelter, Post Office, etc.  Make sure your displays are aesthetically pleasing and call to customers who may not be in that establishment for books, but may find themselves picking it up just out of curiosity. You want your display to have the same zest and pull that you want your cover design to have. Get creative, handcraft a wooden display or ask a handy friend to make one for you. Your display should add to the ambiance of the establishment its in, rather than be a nuisance pile of books with an 8 and a half by 11 sheet of paper next to it scotch taped to the counter.

If you actually need more physical space just to store your back stock of products such as books, manuscripts, files, etc., consider getting a storage unit or devoting a room in your house to just that. Nothing drives me crazier than a bunch of stacks of books and loose papers in my work space, and I think creativity will falter in such an environment. Always give yourself the space you need to both work and operate as a business!

bookshelves
Filling the shelves.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part VI

Together, we conquer, divided we fall. This is true is many aspects of life, and it is especially true in business. With that thought in mind, I wanted to discuss how joining forces with another business is a great way to grow and promote your company (and hopefully theirs too!).

Networking is crucial in the book marketing and writing world. Through networking, you can make important connections with other authors that can lead to new insights for marketing strategies that the two authors, before meeting, may never have considered. Sharing ideas is the first way to join forces with another “business”/author. Talk about what has worked best for you on your website and social media pages and ask how another author runs a successful marketing campaign for their books.

If, through sharing ideas, you decide that you could benefit one another’s business, start strategizing with them. Two heads are always better than one, and it always takes an army just to get a book in published form in the first place. Working with someone else can open up possibilities that might seem too daunting to take on alone.

For example, if you want to host an event but don’t want to do so alone, joining up with another local author who will help with the logistics, social outreach and hosting of the event, it becomes a much more reasonable task. This benefits both of your businesses (if the event is a success), because both of your names will be attached to it and you can both promote your work during and after the event as well.

Another key way to utilize another business is to team up when creating discounts and/or giveaways. Strategically place your books on sale and promote one another’s at the same time during the holiday season and beyond! You scratch my authorial back…kind of thing.  You then both gain access to one another’s clientele that you would not have had otherwise.

Utilize the online sphere and host one another on each of your blogs and/or websites, social media pages, etc. You can do this by featuring a review of that author’s book on your blog and then asking them to do the same for you in exchange. Or simply write up a bio of them with a link to their website page as an equally effective means of promoting them (and in turn, yourself). You could also promote a vlog style interview of that author and vice versa, featuring them as an author in general or asking them specifically about their latest or greatest release.

Whatever you do, always make sure that the joining of forces is mutually beneficial and not parasitic on one end or the other. It is equally as important to make sure you hold true to your end of the plan as it is to hold the other person accountable for them. Being taking advantage of, or taking advantage of another person is unacceptable and a great way to burn bridges and leave you swimming in high tide with no life vest…at peak runoff…in a lightning storm. Or something like that.

handshake


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part V

When a business is young and small, it is easy enough to care for on one’s own. However, when it starts to grow, you may find yourself unable to keep up with all the different aspects of the business that make it flourish; this can be anything from answering emails to sending out mail, writing blog posts, keeping up on your social media presence and well, writing your book. Sometimes the key to keeping a business growing, and keeping it from falling under its own weight, is to hire someone to help you out.

Hiring someone may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be anything too serious; you can hire your husband, wife or kids to make social media posts or to help you get organized. If you want something more involved, getting an employee freelancer, intern or independent contractor to act as secretary, editor, assistant, etc. is something you should absolutely consider. Just think if you had someone to answer emails and calls for you, edit your work or manage your social media and marketing for you. Of course, Outskirts Press can help you in a lot of those avenues with our marketing packages and author consulting, but maybe you want someone who you can get some serious face-to-face time with that you see on a regular basis.

growth chart

As with most businesses, hiring extra help makes the business run smoother. In a busy coffee shop, if the owner has to manage all the ordering of beans, cups, syrups, foodstuffs, etc. and act as barista, baker, manager, etc., the business is going to be hectic and seem ill-prepared when things get busy. With enough staff to cover the front of the house, a business owner can return to the managerial tasks that keep the business running smoothly. That means first and foremost, hiring people you trust to uphold the values of your business, and with whom you would want your business associated with. Hire people who are professional, who will show up on time, do the tasks you’ve assigned to them and not leave you hanging when you need their help most.

Again, if you only need this person’s assistance for a few simple tasks and only need help for a few hours a week, be clear with your future employee that this is just a side job that will help you out tremendously. Always offer a stellar reference (especially if you’re hiring an intern), treat them well, and pay them accordingly. A few hours of work a week might not seem worth it for a lot of people, so it’s best to be able to offer an awesome work environment (and boss) so as to justify the time they spend assisting you. Writers often find joy in helping other writers achieve their dreams and keep from getting too stressed out along the way, but remember to express your gratitude for anyone who ends up helping you along the way. You, and your business, are better off with their help.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part IV

Sometimes growing your business can happen from within your own, already existing customer base. Imagine your business as a tree trunk, the branches your customers and the leaves that come off of each branch a good or service bought from one of your customers. The more leaves on the tree, the better and healthier the tree. So how do we get a nice, full tree?

Young plant

Think about it, you already have someone who is interested in your goods or services, they have already decided you have a product worth purchasing, so the key is to keep providing them those quality products or services. Not only to you have to have a supply to both create and feed the demand, but you have to market that supply properly.

Let’s say we’re talking selling books. You have a loyal fan base already. That’s great. Make that work to your advantage. If you’re writing a series, make sure you keep an email list of those who have already purchased your first or second book in the series and alert them when the newest one is coming out. Maybe offer them a loyalty discount to show your appreciation for their support. Better yet, maybe you have older books that they don’t know about! Be sure to clue them in on past work you’ve done and how/where they can find or purchase that as well. That way, while you’re working on creating new material, you’re still able to move products you already have on hand.

Also, make sure you’re following your fans on social media and vice versa so that they can be in tune with developments in your writing and publishing stages. That way, they know you have a book coming out, you can build anticipation for it, and they’re excited to buy your next book. Be active on their pages, let them know that you are just another person who’s not too busy to keep up with their fans.

Keep in mind that the key to keeping a good customer relationship comes from after-sale support and contact. Ask your readers for feedback. Let them know that their opinions matter to you. After-sale support and contact may determine whether or not that customer will be a returning customer. When a customer feels that their business or opinions are valued by a business, they are more likely to support that business.

If you do offer other services, such as editing, formatting, marketing, etc. make that known to your customers. People who are already fans of your work, who find your books appealing or well-written, will most likely value your advice on how it is you produce a professional, quality book. Start by hosting free (or small-fee) webinars where you offer your advice with the option at the end to hire you personally for your services.

Thinking of your business as a living growing entity will remind you that you need to give it the proper care and attention it deserves so that it can continue to expand and grow stronger over time. Keep watering that tree, letting those leaves bask in the sunlight, and you will have shade and fresh air to breathe in for ages to come. Ignore it, or give it too little attention and you will watch it wither away and be left with a lifeless stump.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part III

Last week, we explored the ways in which you can specialize in certain key products and services you offer so as to streamline your business and “grow” your sales. This week, I’d like to speak to the ways in which you can expand upon your product line, if you’ve found that you’re comfortable with the level of work-sales ratio you’re receiving with your current products.

    If you plan to expand your product line, it is crucial that the products and services you add complement those you already provide. By this, I mean that you can see a connection between these things and that your marketing efforts can be used seamlessly between one and the other.

   Let’s say you’ve become a prolific self-published author. You’ve gone through the trial and error processes of editing, formatting, illustrating, marketing, etc etc. You’ve seen what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work. A complementary service you could offer–with this knowledge you’ve acquired–could be assisting other aspiring self-publishing authors.

  By offering copy-editing, formatting or marketing assistance, you would only further those skills for yourself as an author–so long as you didn’t let it replace the time you spend working on your own books.

     Or, let’s say you’ve found great marketing success is hosting events–book readings, poetry slams, etc. Maybe you’ve even found you have a certain knack for planning these kinds of events. Plenty of authors dread orchestrating such things, and you could use that skill to assist them, while simultaneously building your networking platform. A well-planned event is great marketing for you as an event planner, and it may even turn into great marketing for you as an author.

    Another option: you write children’s books and they’ve become rather popular. Consider branching out and creating book themed toys that model characters in your stories, children not only love interacting with illustrations in your stories, but they especially love being able to have tangible versions of your characters to play with in real life! How exciting would it be to have it be an option to add that toy during a check out of a purchase of your book?? This would be especially great during the holiday season.

  With any of these options for “growing your business,” always keep in mind what your priorities are, or what they should be. Don’t let your side projects take over or take you away from what you love. Put yourself and your work first always. Helping someone else market will only help you if you’ve made enough time to market for yourself first and foremost. Editing someone else’s work will only help you if your work is thoroughly edited and given the attention it deserves. Planning events for other authors should never take precedent over planning events of your own.

In summation, if you don’t have the time or energy to offer these other services, don’t. If you find yourself with extra time and motivation, by all means go for it! The sky is the limit!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Growing Pains: Part II

Continuing in the vein of growing your business or brand as an author, I want to talk about how you can hone in on what product or service it is you provide. As an author, your product is probably books, right? You might also offer other services though, such as freelance writing, editing, illustrating etc. Make a list of the products or services you supply and pick the most important item from each. It’s important to focus on the most important “thing” you want your business to be known for. Having too many options or services to market and sell will be overwhelming not only for you, but also for your customers.

growing pains marketing

The first step to ensuring you can expose your product or service to the marketplace is to, of course, market them. Marketing is definitely the dead horse we beat on this blog, but it is a crucial piece of being a self-published author. Here are some easy ways to market your book or writing services:

  • Social media! Use relevant hashtags (if you’re stumped, google relevant hashtags for ideas). Add and follow people and actively comment on their posts to get your name out there and encourage them to look on your page. Be active on forums, blogs, your website, etc.
  • Local events. Host local readings, poetry slams, etc. to network with other local authors.
  • Engage with those who already consume your products to ensure a good business/customer relation that will continue on in the future.

The next step is selling your product. Do you have a website where people can easily purchase your books or contact you for your services? Do your social media pages have links to your website? Do you have business cards to hand out at events?

You want there to be a certain ease of purchasing products for your customers. There’s nothing more annoying than a broken “purchase” link, or a giant “out of stock” next to your item. Make sure you have product to sell and make sure you have a means for people to buy it. If you go on tour, think about investing in a “square reader” for your iPhone so that if someone wants to buy your book and they don’t have cash you don’t lose that sale. Often someone will want to buy something on the spot, but if the opportunity passes, they will talk themselves out of it later or forget about it entirely, losing you a sale. Always be prepared to sell. This could be as simple as keeping books in your car or bag so that if you strike up a conversation with someone on the subway you have the opportunity to show them your work, or maybe even sell it.

Ultimately, once you’ve identified what you’re in the “business” of selling, it should be relatively easy to figure out how it is you can grow your business. Once you’ve nailed down who your customer base is and figured out how best to market to them, it’s time to streamline a way to sell your products and services to them.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com