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

Time For a Spring Reset!

Spring often signifies new beginnings in literature and poetry, a rebirth, if you will. All that which lay dormant in winter now slowwwly stretches its limbs, lets out a big yawn and sigh of relief and comes back out to bask in the sun. The trees are budding, the deer are grazing, we now awake to the calming sounds of birds chirping, the sun stays with us well into the evening, it’s finally warm enough for sandals and everyone seems to be in generally better spirits because of those things aforementioned.

spring stretch

The charm and warmth of spring should not only put a pep in your step in your day to day life, but it should also be a time to pep up your writing and marketing efforts!

 

  1. Let spring be a new beginning for you. Make a list of things you’d like to begin with a fresh start. Do you need to begin editing, creating a marketing plan, blogging, etc? Now’s the time to do it!
  2. Use some springtime writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing and to help you “reset” after winter. Write about how the sunshine affects your mood and creativity, write about spring as a symbol of birth/life, write about the your sensuous experience wandering around in the natural world in springtime, etc. etc.
  3. Host an outdoor reading event in your community. Pick a nice sunny afternoon to encourage members of your community to get outside and share their love of the spoken and written word. This is a great way to network, to connect with other writers in your area and to have some fun in the sun!
  4. Start being more active on social media! Take pictures of the beauty around you, toss in a quote from a work of yours or of your favorite author’s and share with your audience! Blog, post about new developments in your publishing process, connect with readers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! Now that the butterflies are back, why not be a little social butterfly?
  5. Spruce up your website. Who knows more about you than…well, you? Write up a fresh author bio that includes recent accomplishments, publications, life developments and so forth.
  6. Join some forums, join Goodreads! These are both terrific venues for marketing your book and they help you connect more intimately with your audience.
  7. Host a drawing contest for the cover of your next book! The winner gets a free copy of your book and gets featured on your website and social media pages!
  8. Add a “Store” page to your website. This is a great way to increase sales and to have your readers buy directly from you rather than some third party website.
  9. Do some spring cleaning of your writing space and bookshelves. See our last few blogs for tips on how to “declutter” as a writer!
  10. Take advantage of this nice weather! Try writing outside, even if it’s just brainstorming. A little vitamin D and time in nature can go a longgg way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

Spending Money to Save Money!

Ever find yourself lured into buying something simply because it’s cheaper, only to find that it doesn’t work and then you have to spend more than twice as much money trying to replace it with what you actually need? We’ve all been there. We’ve chosen the cheap mechanic or car salesmen only to have our car break down just a few miles up the road.

As self-publishing authors, the temptation to choose the cheapest route is a dangerous one. A cheaper illustrator for your cover may save you a few bucks in production, but it could cost you exponentially more in sales. Spending money to make money always hurts initially. It’s a risk-based investment that you can’t guarantee will pay off. However, you can almost always guarantee that going a cheap route to save money will  never pay off.

Here are some things that cost money and are worth every penny:

  • Proofreading!!!!!
  • Developmental Editing and Copyediting
  • Interior Designer
  • Cover Designer/Illustrator
  • An up-to-date, visually appealing website
  • A book trailer or other social media marketing tools
  • Education — attend conferences, classes, writing retreats, etc. These things make you a better writer and will improve your sales, your networking and reputation as a writer.

Look at these investments as what they are: things that will pay off in the future. You invested so much time into creating a manuscript that you felt proud of, so don’t sell it short. Invest the money in it that you would like to get back and you will be amazed at the returns. If you just want a book to give to friends and families, feel free to skimp, but if you’re trying to market yourself, spend your money on quality investments.

money dollar bill


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

From the Archives: “Book Marketing: Magazine Reviews”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 2nd, 2010 ]

The following list comes compliments of ForeWord magazine in the interest of helping you secure reviews with not only their magazine, but all magazines you pursue.

1. Become familiar with the magazine
2. Read the submission guidelines for each magazine before submitting your book for review
3. Create a good cover letter
4. Include a sales sheet (ask your self-publisher or publishing rep).
5. Follow-up

The best way to familiarize yourself with a magazine you want to review your book is to read the magazine first.

You can usually find submission guidelines for magazines on the magazine’s website.

When sending your book out for review, always include your contact information so the reviewer can get in touch with you if necessary. This should be a part of your cover letter. You can also politely request that a reviewer notify you when/if they review your book (but realize that many may choose not to do this).

 

Is the day of the magazine editorial dead?

What about magazine reviews?

magazine magazines rack

No. No they’re not.

At least, so say the print magazines themselves–and yes, they have  a vested interest in trying to impress their shareholders as much as possible, but when everyone from CNN Money to the New York Post to Wired Magazine lines up to say it’s not so, ti’s time to listen to what they have to say. (It’s worth noting that these periodicals are often at odds over ethics disputes and general worldview, so for them to agree is something magical. And also, it’s far more in their interest to say they’re doing well despite industry trends than to state that everyone’s doing well. They want people to defect to be their subscribers, after all. That’s just marketing.)

And we’re here about marketing, too.

So how does knowing print’s not dead help you market your book?

First of all, it opens up untold numbers of possibilities that the average author might not think of for ad placement and reviews. Facebook, sure. A local radio station, sure. But a print magazine or journal? “I thought those were dead,” you might as well have said. But they’re not. They’re not dead. In fact, they’re thriving–so long as they reach a dedicated niche audience.

Secondly, print magazines and journals have a vested interest, too, in upholding the work of talented authors in a way that a local newspaper may not. Newspapers are looking for news, while magazines and journals are looking for talent. If you have it, and you reach out to the right ones, you might very well find yourself being scouted for additional pieces, or find yourself pushing against an open door as far as promoting your book goes.

So don’t give up on magazines. Well, maybe give up on some. Do your research, and dig around a little bit to see what your ideal reader is picking up at Barnes & Noble or their local indie bookstore or subscribing to digitally. Instead of firing scattershot into a great void and hoping to land some hits, you should spend your time and energy firing precise, surgical volleys at market niches which will both welcome you and connect you with more of those ideal readers.

Long live paper!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


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.

Ringing in the Holidays: Black Friday Edition!

Black Friday brings a lot of not so flattering imagery to mind, from shoppers pushing each other out of the way in Wal-Mart aisles to lines of people camped out outside stores and lines of traffic stymied on the highway. Black Friday has become a quasi-holiday of sorts, mainly because it is an American tradition that dates all the way back to the 1930s. Yes, that far back.

Regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season (again, ‘quasi-season’), retailers began opening their stores a bit earlier the day after Thanksgiving back in the 1930s. Today, some major retailers will open right after Thanksgiving dinner, or midnight–or other hours no one should be out shopping–offering promotional sales to those who are obviously not suffering from a tryptophan induced turkey coma, and who are thus able to storm out into the night for the deal of a lifetime.

Supposedly the cognomen “Black Friday” originated in the 1960s in Philadelphia, where people used the term to describe the abundant foot traffic and cluttered streets. I rather like to imagine that it’s perhaps more fitting today; people whisking out into the dark night, stalking up and down aisles and preparing to battle other predacious consumers over that new X-Box or flat screen TV. If you think that’s a dramatic depiction of Black Friday, keep in mind that seven people have died on this day since 2006, and there have been about 98 injuries associated with the Black Friday shopping madness.

Entertaining history digression aside, Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, which means that as an author with a book to sell, it is not a day to sit back and relax. So, what can you do to rake in some of the Black Friday business?

black friday holiday

First of all, BIG discounts are all the rage on Black Friday. Offering your book for an extremely cheap rate will assuredly promote ‘impulse’ buys from people who might otherwise have considered giving your book a chance. While you don’t always want to offer your book out for an extremely low price, doing so on this particular day could be beneficial for gaining new readers!

Another thing to consider: 99 cent or free ebook editions of your book can gain you free advertising on free or bargain ebook sites. These sites will want to feature your book when it is discounted, and that feature will be free advertising for you, before people even buy your book! Notify these sites when you discount your book, and try to line it up with Black Friday; snag online shoppers who are looking for a deal or to try something new!

Collaborating with other others who have books similar to yours is also a great way expand your marketing efforts. When you combine promotional efforts, this means that their audience becomes your potential audience! It’s a, ‘You scratch my authorial back, and I’ll scratch yours,’ kind of thing. The best thing about this collaboration is that you will enhance your network for book marketing in general, which obviously expands well beyond Black Friday!

So, whether or not you see yourself armed with pepper spray for self-defense as you go out to buy the new iPhone 10–or whatever number they’re on now–just remember that before Black Friday, there’s a lot you can be doing to market your book. More importantly, none of those things require the bravery and fortitude it must take for someone to actually go shopping on that day.


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

In Your Corner: Know Thyself (& Thy Genre)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time looking a few of the many choices authors have to make during the self-publication and marketing processes, starting with the Big Whopper (“Choosing a Self-Publishing Company“) and then moving into choices regarding the text itself (“Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book“).  This Thursday, however, I’m writing less about making a choice than I am about detecting past choices you may not have been aware you were making … and then totally exploiting them for marketing purposes.

Let me explain.

You Don’t Choose A Genre So Much As Discover It:

It Probably Only Matters for Marketing Anyway

Thinking back over the history of publishing, I can’t begin to count the number of times a book has been rejected as “too weird” or “too out-there” when really, the issue at hand was the fact that the book in question didn’t fit neatly into one of the prescribed genres (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Western, Biography, etc).  And the marketing folks at a traditional publisher know: it’s hard to market something that doesn’t fit neatly into a category, because doing so requires flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking.  Hybrid thinking.  Opinions are changing, slowly, but not fast enough within the Big Five traditional publishing houses.

Self-publishing gives you a third way. You don’t have to pick a genre while writing, but you can take advantage of a book’s genre or genres plural by approaching genre as a diagnosis after the fact, and an expedition in search of what the Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky calls “a ‘web of resemblances’ created by intertexual references” that are “constituted basically by social and cultural agreement,” quoting John Rieder and Jason Mittel.  It’s a hunt for markers that point you toward certain resemblances … resemblances you can capitalize on for their social currency.

genre

The diagnosis process is simple:

  1. What books have you read that influenced your work in a measurable way?
  2. What books on the shelves in bookstores now bear resemblance to yours in style and content?

Once you sketch out a couple of lists to answer this question, it’s time to hit the bookstore and your library.  Libraries tend to scale the number of genre sections they stock according to how much shelf space they have, so bigger libraries will have finer distinctions between genres, while bookstores tend to pick the genres they’re going to stock according to what’s popular.  If you survey both your local Barnes & Noble, Tattered Cover, or (*gasp*) actual real-life physical Amazon Bookstore as well as your local public library, you’ll pick up on some of the more common genres out there, including:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Biography
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  • Horror
  • “Literary” Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Thriller/Suspense
  • Romance
  • Self-Help
  • Westerns
  • Women’s fiction

But the list could be a lot, lot longer.  I haven’t, for instance, mentioned more obscure genres like Steampunk and Grimoire.

Once you’ve found the shelf or shelves on which you could picture your book sitting in a bookstore or library, you’re ready to start integrating genre into your publishing and marketing processes.  Now, your book may have “resemblances” to any number of genres, but for simplicity’s sake it’s a good idea to pick just one or two that have left very clear thumbprints on your text.  You can take a quick poll of your early readers, or consult the professionals, for what they find most striking about the style and tone and voice of your book if you end up stuck for answers.  And before committing to your genre or genres, you’ll want to consider your readership.  What are they likely to connect to the most in terms of language?

Genre safely discovered and stowed away for future use, it’s time to start putting it to work.  The language of genre is rich with possibility in terms of “buzzwords” for marketing purposes, so sow them liberally amongst your back-cover blurbs, your press releases, your Amazon and Goodreads listings, your website and blog posts, as well as your social media interactions.  (Genres like #biopunk and #horrorlit make for great hashtags, don’t you think?)

There are lots of ways to use genre once your book is already written and ready to meet the world…but remember, it’s all a matter of timing.  You don’t need to write your entire book to meet a genre’s proscriptive requirements…just your promotional materials.  Genre can be confining, so it’s best to bring it into play only after the creative work is already done.  In my opinion.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

Marketing Missteps Episode 1: The Self-Centered Campaign

You’re a self-publishing author, recently come out with a new book, and you’ve already decided to throw yourself into marketing in a serious capacity.  So what next?  Finding that starting point is a tough first act, but it’s always helpful to know a couple of false starts that others have made before you, isn’t it?  That way, at least you know a couple of places not to start, and you can find a path to success that fits your own indie experience, bolstering your skills and steering clear of your weaknesses.

Today, I’m going to begin a new series that will take a close look at several of the most important marketing missteps to avoid; the story doesn’t end here, of course, but hopefully this series will prompt you away from the edge of a few abysses.  One or two of the mistakes I’ll point out may strike you as “common sense” points, but as my dad once whispered to ten-year-old me on a sidewalk corner facing a four-way stop in heavy traffic where nobody could quite figure out the correct right-of-way: “Common sense ain’t so common now, is it?”  Even if a mistake strikes you as obvious, every reminder is a good one!

This week’s post is going to examine one of the most pernicious of all marketing missteps: that of the self-centered campaign.  At its simplest distillation, the self-centered campaign will alienate you from your readers quicker than a ten-year-old at a traffic stop.  Why?  Because readers are smart.  (I find it’s a wise policy to always assume my readers are smarter than I am, and they always seem to notice even the tiniest of continuity errors in my work before I do!)  They will pick up on the arrogance–intentional or unconscious–of an author who makes their marketing campaign all about his or her excellence instead of shining the spotlight on the real stars of the show: the book itself, and the readers who have so cleverly fallen in love with it.

arrogance in marketing

Here’s a hard fact to swallow: Your readers won’t always care about you, the author.  You might be able to persuade them to, a little, over time, simply by virtue of writing excellent social media posts or demonstrating sensitivity to others.  One crucial misunderstanding that self-publishing authors make is believing that they and their readers value the same things.  Hopefully, your readers will care about your humanity and the work you produce, but beyond that is murky waters.  How do we un-murkify them?  By doing the work.  By doing the research.  By figuring out what you do for your readers that no one else can.

To successfully market your indie book, don’t sell the customer your product (or book) … sell them your solution to their needs.  What issues interest your readers?  What subjects compel them?  These are the basic components with which you can build a successful marketing campaign.

Market research, even basic, is more than just helpful.  It’s necessary.  It is the one magical ingredient that will move your strategy away from something self-centered and toward something that is product- and consumer-centered.

But how to get there?  What are the best strategies for research?  One consideration might be to craft a simple survey with SurveyMonkey, or to poll a small focus group.  I recommend steering clear of using friends or family as focus group members, since their personal connections to you will skew how they answer.  And besides, online crowd-sourcing platforms like the aforementioned SurveyMonkey (as well as Facebook Groups and Google Forms) make for an inexpensive replacement for focus groups.  What you ask depends on what you find useful, but it might be worth crafting a few questions that speak to your readers’ genres of interest, the amount of time they spend reading or on social media, and how they like best to engage with fellow fans and their favorite authors.

Whichever avenue you pursue, these basic data-gathering methods should give you new insight into your readers, and help you shape your marketing message to focus less on you and more on the 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. ♠

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