Planning for 2017: Damage Control

I think a recurring theme in 2016 seemed to be that a lot of things can go unexpectedly wrong at highly inopportune moments. If your New Year happens to still be clinging on to that pattern from the year just passed, let’s talk damage control.

damage control

First damage control worthy scenario: maybe your holiday marketing plan was a flop, or you were too busy to enact one at all, and you’re still stuck with a pile of books. This is no time to tuck your tail between your legs and wallow in self-pity or defeat. Get online and create a compelling promotional copy for your Amazon book and ebook page, and get some endorsements! Test out your drafts for your promo copies on some members of your target audience and gauge what types of descriptions they find most intriguing. If you’ve written one that generates enough interest to trigger a purchase, then pat yourself on the back and put those marketing pants back on, because those books aren’t going to sell themselves!

Or, let’s say your resolution to spend at least 30 minutes a day on writing or marketing has already fallen through because you’ve become unexpectedly busy at work or home. Maybe recovering from the holidays and trying to get back into your old routine has taken longer than anticipated. I have a few quotes that I try and turn into mantras when I’ve fallen off the writing or marketing bandwagon that I’d like to share with you all, because motivation ultimately has to come from you, and I find that I can really inspire myself to get back into gear by just reading some motivational tid bits by other authors–or just reading in general!

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e. do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.”

–J.K. Rowling

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very successful careers.”

Ray Bradbury

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little bit faster.”

–Isaac Asimov

Maybe you have been writing, but your book is taking a different direction than you anticipated and you are trying to reconcile your original plan with the reality of what you’ve got down on the page. My advice to you here–readers love surprises. A book that goes exactly according to plan can sometimes be dull to read, especially if the plan was generic and not authentic to you and your voice. Since we’re talking damage control today, let’s use the comparison of a story taking an unexpected direction to your car hitting a patch of black ice. If you over correct the wheel to try and veer yourself back on course, you’ll end up off the road, or worse, cause an accident. If you slam on the breaks and try and bring the car to a halt, you’ll probably have a similar outcome. But, if you try to calmly go with the flow and let the car get itself back on track, you’ll hopefully ride it out safe and sound. Once your heart rate returns from the shock of the unknown, see where this unexpected turn in the story takes you, and you’ll surprise yourself as much as you’ll surprise (and excite!) the reader I’m sure.

Absolute worse case scenario: you have been writing and you’ve lost your manuscript. Maybe you spilt coffee on your laptop, or the file you were working on was corrupted. Don’t lose all hope. There are a lot of computer nerds in the world who can help with file recovery.

I remember just recently an article I had written for a magazine had been saved in a place I thought to be very safe–Google Docs–but the editor I shared it with accidentally deleted the entire thing! I felt nauseous when she calmly relayed this little factoid to me via email, because I had poured HOURS into the piece. However, after I calmed down, I spent a half hour on Google researching how to recover the older version of the document, and lo and behold, it worked! Now, that was an ideal situation, but I do highly recommend keeping online versions of all of your documents, in case there ever is an issue with your computer. If your manuscript really is unrecoverable, feel free to mourn, you’ve lost something you’ve worked hard on. However, do not let it stop you from starting over with a tabula rasa–something good always rises from the ashes.


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

Marketing Missteps Episode 3 : Waiting till the book is done to start marketing

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been delving into some of the marketing mistakes I’ve made or seen made over my many years of experience in the self-publishing industry as an author who works alongside other authors to bring books to fruition. The first mistake? Devolving into a self-centered campaigner.  And the second?  Confusing the sales message with the marketing campaign.  I’d like to stress that both of these mistakes–in fact, all of the missteps I’ll be unfolding over the course of this blog series–are incredibly easy to make, and have more to do with the vast numbers of authors flocking to indie publishing each year, with little to no experience in marketing to start, and no easy way of filtering through the noise of the countless resources available online.  A blog post like this one is only helpful if it actually cuts some of the clutter, right?

 

Which is why, as we tackle the third most common misstep I see self-publishing authors make in marketing, I am reminding myself of one very important fact: No grandstanding.  Just deliver the facts, with exactly the right amount of necessary context, and shine a little light on the path forward for busy authors with limited time to spend marketing much less researching new marketing strategies.  And with no further ado, I give you:

He Who Waits To Finish–May Never Really Get Started

 

 

waiting

I speak with authors on a regular basis who are just one month–or one week–or one day away from having their book out, but who haven’t yet launched a website.  “I’ll get around to it when the book’s actually ready for people to read,” they often say.  And when’s that?  When it’s already on bookstore shelves but there’s no buzz to sell it?  But the fact of the matter is, if an author waits that long, anything they try to do after the fact will be too little, too late–no matter how much time and effort he or she pours into the attempt.

power blogger

Don’t wait to launch your website, your social media platforms, your blog, and other aspects of your digital strategy.  I want to repeat that: DON’T WAIT for your book to come out before you start marketing in earnest.  Sometimes, a delay can’t be avoided–and I get that, really I do–especially since self-publishing authors are carrying a heavy burden on top of already busy lives.  But in most cases I’ve run across, maybe eight out of ten, the delay is artificial, not practical.  And it’s usually because the author in question underestimated the months and even years it can take to generate traffic on a website.

The instant a website is live, it can be paired with all of your existing online interactions.  If you’re already blogging, fantastic!  If you’re already on Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and Facebook and YouTube and Goodreads, great!  Start shepherding your existing followers in the direction of your official website for updates.  Get them used to turning to your website as a resource before your book is out–and that way, they can become advocates for your book even before its publication.  One of the toughest things to do as a book-lover is to recommend a new book without having either the actual book in hand or some easy-to-find website to point new readers to.  But if your website is live, then you leave room for anticipation and that much-desired “buzz” you’ll need to start selling books on the day of your book’s release.  And don’t forget, you are the most undervalued tool in the toolbox.  New readers don’t just fall in love with books; they fall in love with the people who write them, too.  They will (understandably) want to know more about you, and when your next book is coming out, and where they can contact you for media and review inquiries–all of which is made 500% easier if you launch a website … and early.

One more time for those in the back: don’t wait!


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. ♠

KellyABOUT 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. 10:00 AM

In Your Corner : On Marketing

 

importance of marketing

Marketing, for the self-publishing author, is a many-headed hydra and prompts endless questions and dilemmas.  Major publishing houses have plenty of time and money to throw into marketing (although they would argue otherwise), particularly in comparison to you or me and any other self-publishing author out there.  They hire people whose entire careers revolve around taking care of the marketing process for their A-list authors, an enviable prospect because all we really want to do is write more books, right?  And yet, instead, we have both the blessing and the burden of running our own publicity campaigns.

Sometimes, I wake to a new day packed full with plans and routines to balance against each other, and I wonder:

  1. Aren’t we always told that the hardest part of writing a book is writing the first paragraph?  (Whoever says such things has clearly never attempted to tackle the tricky beast of self-promotion.)
  2. Are there ideas I can steal from others about how to be more effective, so that I have more time to spend on what I actually love?  (Which is, of course, writing.)
  3. Who gave the world permission to make me wake up to an empty coffee pot?

In all seriousness, though: the way we approach marketing, as self-publishing authors, matters.  Because it’s not optional.  It’s not something we can get away without doing.  We won’t sell books, and we won’t make room in our lives for the next book, either, if we don’t give some of our time over to marketing.

As Gareth Howard over at Infinity Publishing puts it: “Would you bake a delicious cake and not even eat it?  Would you revise for important exams and not bother sitting them?  Would you book an exotic vacation only to stay at home, wasting that precious deposit?”  The answer is, of course, no.  No, you wouldn’t want to waste the precious time and energy you’ve invested in crafting a beautiful manuscript–you want it to be read.  You want your ideas to reach your readers!  And sadly, we still haven’t figured out a way to guarantee authors that their books will just magically sell once they’re published.  There’s still a vital legwork and elbow-grease component to the whole thing.

You do, thankfully, have an advantage over the enormous publishing houses with their big budgets and their paid professionals: You can make it personal.  You can lend the marketing process a human touch, and you can take advantage of the most effective means of self-promotion known to humankind: your existing social network.  You can also pick the things you do well, and reach out for professional help (with a shout-out to my day job) only when you really need it.  The key is, of course, being prepared to work and work hard to achieve your marketing goals.

Others here on the SPA blog have written about marketing before, and have presented a number of ideas on how we can all be more effective at self-promotion as self-publishing authors.  This holiday season, however, I’d like to issue a specific challenge to you (and myself!): Let’s figure out the next workable, manageable, and sustainable step that we can use to bolster our existing strategies.  It’s no good if we have lofty goals that we never reach, so let’s be specific even while we’re also being optimistic.  I bet you my best unsharpened pencil that we can do better in 2016!

There is, of course, a danger in all of this:

Once we acknowledge just how important marketing is, the process has a tendency to take over our lives and erode away all semblance of spare time we might have.  Fortunately, there are a whole host of resources out there for you–to get you started, and to help you along once you’re already partway down the path.  And of course, I’m here for you too–and the SPA email as well as comments section is always open to lend you a listening ear.

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Why are book reviews important for self-publishing authors?

Customers searching online for books will often glance at book reviews when deciding whether or not to purchase a book.  They may compare the review information for one book with a similar book to decide between the two which they want to purchase.  Doing a quick search on Amazon for “book marketing,” for example, brings up 201,642 results.  A customer has to narrow it down somehow, so they may glance through some of the books and look at things like the cover, publish date and reviews among other things.  Comparing the two following books from this category, which would you be more likely to purchase?

#1 – A total of 3 reviews (in 5 years) with an average rating of about 3.5 stars.

#2 – A total of 187 reviews with an average rating of about 5 stars.

There may be other factors involved for a customer comparing these two.  For instance, #1 is priced much lower.  Sure, pricing is important, and the lower the better to encourage sales, but is a lower price more important than really great feedback from other readers?  Customers probably won’t think so.

I wrote a few weeks ago about paying for book reviews.  If it isn’t in your marketing budget to pay for reviews or you simply want to pursue free review services, here are a few places to start:

http://www.bookpleasures.com
http://www.bookreviewsrus.com
http://www.midwestbookreview.com/
http://readersfavorite.com/
http://readerviews.com

* To read my review of Plug Your Book! by Steve Weber, visit: http://goo.gl/EkTYv 

DISCUSSION: Do you know of other great FREE book review services our readers should know about?  Post them in the comments below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT:
Kelly Schuknecht works as the Director of Author Support for 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Is Marketing Your Own Book Distasteful?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with an author who is in the final stages of writing his book.  He was trying to get prepared for the publishing process and get an idea about how book marketing will work.  He made it very clear that he thinks an author marketing his own book is distasteful.  Once the book is published he wants to do absolutely nothing to promote it and wants to sell one million copies.  He asked if I thought this was reasonable.  In a word?  No.

As a self-published author, your marketing efforts are the most important thing when it comes to your book sales.  You could write and publish the most amazing fiction story with beautiful formatting, an eye-catching cover design, have it edited to perfection and available for sale (print-on-demand).  If at that point you choose to sit back and watch the sales grow without putting any effort into promoting your book, chances are there won’t be anything to watch.  Sure, someone might discover it and share it with a few friends and you might have a few sales here and there, but it is unlikely that your sales will gain momentum.

Is marketing your own book distasteful?

Not if it’s done right.  Constantly talking about yourself and your book can certainly be a turnoff for most people.  Subtly promoting your book is very different from constantly cramming it down everyone’s throat.  For example, if you are using social media platforms to promote your book (such as setting up a Facebook page for your book), you might choose to “like” other pages on Facebook that give you the opportunity to promote your book even more.  You can choose the distasteful (spam) route of posting a link to your own Facebook page, website or listing for your book on Amazon every day on those other pages.  OR you can present yourself as an expert in your field, whether it be as a writer, or something more specific to your niche audience, and get involved in conversations, comment on what others are saying and post your own unique comments and discussion questions.  You might ask: how does this promote the book?  As you begin to interact with people more, they will want to know more about you.  They might choose to “like” your Facebook page or visit your website (assuming you have a link to it on your Facebook page) and there they will discover your book.  Having already been won over by your excellent comments, advice and discussions, they are instantly interested in buying your book.

What if I’m not promoting my book online?

I gave an online marketing example above because marketing with social media is becoming more and more popular every day.  It’s easy and it’s free!  If you aren’t using social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the same idea applies for face-to-face marketing.  Every author should have business cards with their cover image on one side and their website URL included in their contact information.  If you pass out your business card to everyone you pass on the street, chances are the majority of those cards will get thrown in the trash.  The key is to give away your cards to people you’ve already engaged in conversation about your book (when the time is right).

So, is marketing your own book distasteful?  Absolutely not!  You need to find the balance when it comes to promoting your book.  Don’t cram it down anyone’s throat, but take the opportunities that come to you.  You don’t have to make marketing a full-time job, but you do need to make sure you are promoting your book as much as you can in order to increase your sales, if that is your ultimate goal.

DISCUSSION: How do you plug your book?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT:
Kelly Schuknecht works as the Director of Author Support for 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.