In Your Corner: Marketing for Anything-But-Dummies

Have you ever wondered what “proper” marketing support might look like, and how imperative it is to self-publishing successfully? What about implementation–have you ever wondered what effective implementation of your carefully-planned-out marketing plan might look like, too? I’m going to spend a bit of time this Thursday thinking through some of the answers to these questions.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years of working with self-publishing authors, both as an author myself and as an author advocate and representative for other authors with Outskirts Press, it’s that there’s quite a lot of truth to the statement that “preparation is the key to success”–but as Marie Forleo puts it, sometimes “the key to success is to start before you’re ready.” How do we make these two things compatible? Aren’t they mutually exclusive?

the key to success is to start before you're ready marie forleo

Here’s a thought: what if they’re not?

I don’t think they are, and that’s because I think “preparedness” and “readiness” are two separate modes of being. Preparedness, in my mind, is the process of taking concrete steps to plan ahead for whatever you can, and putting in place measures–good habits, good coping mechanisms, and good thoughts–that will see you through any times when being prepared will do no good. Readiness, on the other hand, has more to do with confidence–and sometimes, your sense of how ready you are for a thing may or may not line up with what you’re prepared for. Sometimes, we won’t feel ready to get started on a thing even if we’ve planned thoroughly and set our good habits in stone. Those are the moments, I think, that Marie Forleo speaks to–the moments when we just need to get started, whether or not our feelings line up with reality.

Proper marketing support, then, should help you both prepare and, hopefully, acquire the confidence to feel that you’re ready as well. And as my fellow writer Kelly Schuknecht pointed out in her “Marketing Master Strokes” series of blogs earlier this year, effective marketing strategies require a willingness to reach your readers where they live, to incentivize, and to play well with others–among others. “Proper” marketing support will assist you in doing all these things–and if that seems a bit beyond the pale for the ordinary self-publishing company, luckily, there are several extraordinary self-publishing companies–and I know I’m a little biased, but I happen to think my coworkers among the Personal Marketing Assistants working for Outskirts Press count as extraordinary. So if you feel like some of these points might be beyond your reach, consider reaching out and making contact with the experts, either through a paid service or through a more casual network, as on social media.

The best part of looking to the experts is that doing so will assist you in execution as well as in planning–so you’ll get the best of both preparation and readiness. Or at least, that’s the goal.

It’s hard to boil down all of the salient points regarding marketing into one coherent blog post, but luckily, and perhaps it’s a little trite to say “oh, I’m not ready to do that” given the context of today’s subject (you can tell how some of my jokes bomb around the dinner table, can’t you?). But the fact of the matter is, Self Publishing Advisor has been a resource for self-publishing authors looking to market their books for most of a decade now, and our archives are rife with posts on the subject–including those by Kelly that I mentioned earlier. If you’re looking for those concrete steps to transform the broad strokes we’ve brushed here into tangible steps, her series is spectacular. I highly recommend taking a look!

Marketing Master Strokes:

  1. What do ears, geysers, and self-publishing have in common?
  2. Be willing to reach your readers where they live
  3. Incentivize!
  4. Play Well With Others
  5. Try Every New Thing

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.

Ringing in the Holidays: Veteran’s Day Edition!

Veteran’s Day is day where we pay tribute to those who have served our in our country’s Armed Forces; this can be done by attending parades, by bringing flowers to veteran’s graves, hanging an American flag, etc. This day originally marked the end of World War I–the war to end all wars–and was deemed Armistice Day, a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.

Those of us with hindsight on our side know that unfortunately, WWI did not lead to world peace, but rather to the even more devastating WWII. Following WWII it was decided that November 11th would instead be a day to commemorate all veterans, not just those who served in WWI.

It is important to express gratitude for those amongst our country’s citizens who have been willing to put their life on the line to protect not only our country, but also the people of the countries where they are stationed. The amount of sacrifice demanded of such a task is one that should be given the utmost respect.

veteran's day

I want to point out to authors reading this that the word veteran points beyond that of military service and extends to anyone who has a lot of experience in a particular occupation or field. While there of course can be no real comparison made to veterans of war and veterans of say, self-publishing, I would like to suggest that veterans of the self-publishing field should begin to think of themselves as people who provide a different sort of service for our country.

To publish your ideas, your stories, your beliefs or your experiences means that you are in a way paying tribute to those who have fought for your right to do so. To not utilize that creative spark inside you is to shun the gift of living in a country and in a time where you have the means to do so.

Think of the amazing diaries of someone such as Anne Frank. Frank had to hide away from the unjust persecution that would eventually take her life before she could, by her own volition, share her story. We have the liberty in this country to write freely, and it is not one that should be taken for granted. Our stories can change people’s lives, they can change the way people think, and we don’t have to hide away to create them.

The veterans who fight abroad to keep our country safe make it possible for some of us to become veteran authors, readers, editors, publishers, etc. Honor those authors, readers, editors, publishers, etc. who have decided that they will not turn away from such a priceless opportunity. You have the freedom to sacrifice your time to do something you love.

Those in the Armed Forces have sacrificed time doing what they love, they have spent a great deal of time away from their families and loved ones–don’t let it be for nothing.


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

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

Ringing in the Holidays!

The trees have shed their colorful fall foliage, the air has grown crisp, the kids are back in school, and you know what that means? The holidays are just right around the corner. This is a time of year to celebrate, not only because it means the return of pumpkin spice lattes and apple crisp, but because it is a time of year devoted to giving thanks, sharing delicious food and thoughtful gifts, and it is a time to gather with and spend time with those we love and cherish.

You can further celebrate this time of year as an author by innovating your marketing strategies, as there are certain advantages to marketing this time of year that aren’t available to you on just any summer day.

With an increased amount of shoppers trying to fill stockings and fill out the base of their Christmas trees, it is imperative that you’ve nailed down who exactly your audience is. Is your book a children’s book? Make sure your book is made available in local toy stores and maybe put some flyers up in local day care centers, libraries, and schools. Also, think of how great your book could be as a stocking stuffer for family members; being generous with your book this time of year could lead to more readers not only within your family, but whoever your family ends up sharing it with as well.

This is also a great time of year for holiday giveaways online. Vamp up your blog with relevant tags, and host your giveaways there! Post on pages relevant to your story–this could be anything from a Facebook page of the state your book takes place in, a Facebook group of readers that your book might appeal to, or maybe even to a Facebook event in your area that fits the theme of your book.

Remember that Christmas stockings are often full of Amazon gift cards; do you have an ebook to offer all these new potential buyers? Going digital means that there were literally be MILLIONS of people who will have access to your book, who never would’ve come across it otherwise. If you already have an ebook version, ask your readers for a priceless holiday gift: a good review online.

We know here at Outskirts Press how busy this time of year is. We know that you’re also out shopping for you families, preparing turkey feasts for your families, carving pumpkins for your porches, etc. etc. Don’t hesitate to treat yourself to the gift of our services that can help you with these marketing tasks that are so important this time of year!

holiday sales marketing

At Outskirts, we have a marketing package that includes a custom press release, an author platform setup through social media, a book trailer with social network distribution, AND you get 5 hours with your own personal marketing elf…I mean, assistant. This is a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on the perks of holiday marketing, but also ensuring that you don’t miss out on the holiday cheer because you’re too busy worrying about marketing your book!

Click here to find out more:
http://outskirtspress.com/book-marketing.html


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

The Book Beautiful: Summary Edition

The past six weeks we’ve been looking in depth at all of the steps that it takes to turn a manuscript into a polished, professional, finished copy of a book. As we’ve learned, this is a complex process full of choices such as whether or not to go with hard or soft cover, what cover illustration to use to draw in your readers, what information to include in your front and back matter, how will you format your text and your back cover, will you illustrate your piece, etc. etc. This process can be long and daunting, especially as a self-published author, which is why we at Outskirts Press want to assist our authors through it with our advice on this blog, but also with our hands-on services as a company.

*****

I’d like to wrap up the last six weeks by evaluating what it is I think authors should take away from each in depth look we took at the different aspects of bringing a text to life. It seems critical to note that each of the choices you make while publishing all answer to a reader’s unconscious sensuous experience of picking up your book in a store. Each choice you make when formatting or designing the final copy of your book is something that a reader will be assessing from the minute they walk by it on the shelf, to the first time they pick it up in their hands, thumb through the pages, read the back, and decide whether or not to bring it to the counter to purchase it. This is really about first impressions, and we all know how important it is to make a good one when someone’s approval is important to us.

first impressions
[ first impressions matter ]
What is the first thing a potential reader will notice about your book when they walk by? Presumably if it is hard or soft cover. Do you need to go with a hard cover to look professional? Certainly not. In fact, it seems that the chance of selling your book in soft cover is much higher. The next thing to make an impression after someone has read your title and pulled the book of the shelf will most likely be the cover illustration. I feel I gave some entertaining examples of what not to do, but the best advice I feel I could give is again, use something that embodies your theme and draws in your target audience. Also, remember that less is more, don’t clutter the cover with unnecessary or flamboyant text or illustrations.

As far as formatting the interior of your book is concerned, remember that the status quo is usually the way to go here. You don’t necessarily want the formatting of your book to stick out, but to ‘fit in’ to what people expect to see when they open a book. That’s not to say that you don’t have some creative freedom when it comes to formatting the text and illustrations (the standards of which often vary from genre to genre), but going out on a whim with a bizarre font choice is not necessarily a wise idea either. Remember that you have creative liberty with which front and end matter you want to include, such as a personalized dedication, epigraph, acknowledgements, bio, etc.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t forget how critical the back cover of your book is. With the 150-200 words you have to sell a reader your story, you get more space than let’s say…a Tweet, but not much more. Make it exciting without giving anything away.

Remember that these aren’t decisions you have to make alone. If you have questions beyond what has been provided in these blogs, don’t hesitate to contact one of our professional, knowledgeable representatives at Outskirts Press. Our experience as writers helps us guide new authors toward the best decisions. We will always put our authors first.


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: “Determining What Book Readers Want”

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.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: July 20th, 2010 ]

Your book content – fiction, non-fiction, children’s, religious – naturally presumes a value to readers intending to be entertained or learn something from your work. How do they decide they want to read your book?

They don’t. You do. Sound like an incredible power? It is. Its name: Marketing

When Thomas Edison turned 16 do you suppose he wanted a Tesla Roadster? Probably not. In order to want something you need to know it exists. One definition of marketing is convincing a a mass of people to want what you have. That puts you, the author of your book, in the cat bird’s seat. Who knows your book better than you, after-all.

How readers know about books has changed a great deal over the past decade, and my guess is that trend will continue. With Amazon, Twitter, Podcasts, Bookfinder, etc. we no longer rely on a single-minded source for telling us about books. A good CEO (the self-published author) knows how to leverage the expertise of others and delegate work. Consider the long-term. Research self-publishers with ongoing marketing support and services. Being published is rarely even enough.

– by Kelly Schuknecht

“Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

***

When we talk about knowing what we want and making our readers want it to, it’s not quite the same thing as the sales pitch for selling a car. (Although sometimes I envy car salesmen their confidence.)  When we talk about selling our readers on our book, we’re talking about something more grand and with farther-reaching effects–we’re talking about selling that reader on a dream.  We’re not simply marketing, as nice and simple of a descriptive term that might be. We’re in the business of changing the trajectories of peoples’ interests … with nothing more or less than the power of words.

know what you want

Which is not to discount the profound importance of marketing in the world of self-publishing! Marketing isn’t optional for the self-publishing author–it’s absolutely vital. How else will new readers know that your book exists? How else will they know where to track it down and buy it?

You can’t sell readers on a dream if they don’t know it exists.

So how do you keep your marketing strategy from dipping into the hazardous waters of the car salesman’s sales pitch? Several thoughts:

  • Be authentic. We dislike car salesmen as a stereotype at least because we’ve been taught to perceive them as fake.
  • Actually care. Care about your reader. Remember, writing and selling a book isn’t just about your bottom line. It’s making sure your book is received by its ideal audience at the ideal moment. Money is great, but it shouldn’t be the sole purpose of what authors do–and your readers can sense when it is. Prioritize your readers’ needs by putting yourself in their shoes. What is their native habitat? Where do they feel safe? How can you reach them where they already live?
  • Be engaged. You might not be able to respond to every tweet and Facebook comment you receive as an author, but making an effort to respond to readers regularly on the platforms they love is a great signal that you’re not some aloof writer who’s out of touch with the world you live in.
  • Give back. There are a lot of fun ways to do this that drum up your marketing base, too–giving is, in fact, necessary to receive. Consider giveaways, donations, free webinars or live chats, and all of those other ways in which you as an author can interact with your readers in a way that’s fresh and honest and mindful of their needs.

Remember, too, that marketing doesn’t have to be boring. You’re not selling a car. You’re selling your book. And your book is amazing!

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.

From the Archives: “Give me six hours…”

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.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: August 7th, 2009 ]

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and
I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
– Abraham Lincoln

Let’s look at breaking down your self-publishing book project into the short, mid, and long range in terms of the process in goals. The actual time involved for each phase varies with each author and each project. Nevertheless, you’ve worked hard on writing, revising, and preparing your book for publication. Congratulations. The first step or phase is done or nearing complete, and it’s time to publish.

Many authors confuse this second step – actual publishing – with step 3. Let’s slow down and take a closer look. Phase 1 is the writing, or artistic phase. Step 2, the publishing or business step. Time to begin sharpening the axe. Upfront prices are important, but take the time to avoid the ever present instant gratification of free and quick publishing and research beyond. What kind of pricing control will you have? Professional production options? Will your book be situated to retail competitively on the market? What kind of marketing services and options are available after publication? These are critical questions to ask as you research full-service self-publishing options, customize your mid-range work, and begin to look at getting your published book into reader’s hands. Now your prepared to chop the tree.

– by Karl Schroeder

Karl’s recommendations for breaking the publishing process down into three simple steps has as much to offer the self-publishing author in 2016 as they did in 2009. The steps are straightforward:

  1. Writing (the “artistic” phase)
  2. Publishing (the “business” phase)
  3. Publishing (the “chopping of the tree” phase)

There’s some lack of clarity between these two final points in Karl’s original post, but there doesn’t have to be. Think about it more like the distinction between planning and execution, which in reality ought to be separate steps and given equal weight from the outset. If the planning is not given your full attention, the execution can only ever be mediocre. And your book deserves better than mediocre!

planning

There are plenty of services out there to help you organize your plan and navigate the oft-hazardous process of publishing. If you’re still in the process of writing your book and you need a little more structure, I can’t begin to recommend the Scrivener writing software highly enough. Better still, you can try it for free for 30 days, which if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this November may be just enough time to knock out what’s left of your book.  If not, the renewal fee is minimal. It is, at its core, a digital studio space.  That’s Stage 1 taken care of.

If you’re at Stage 2, however, it might be time to reach out for help.  In doing your research for Stage 3, you will have stumbled across any number of companies offering self-publishing services–but how many of them have customer support?  Even if you’re not ready to commit to a specific company, it’s well worth getting to know who’s on the other end of the line when you call in.  In the case of Outskirts Press, you’re hooked up with a Publishing Consultant almost right away. (A real live person, in the age of the Internet?? Amazing.)  Some of your early questions can be answered by such a person, but if your questions require further attention, it’s worth paying (a reasonable amount, one would hope) someone like a Personal Marketing Assistant for that insight.  After all, as Karl said, marketing needs to start before your book hits the shelf.  It’s more of a lifestyle than a small component of a larger project.

Stage 3 is easy if you have knocked out the first with your customary thoroughness, in part because extensive planning will have made you aware of what you value most in a self-publishing company, and what steps to take once you’ve chosen one.  It might seem simple or reductive to break the publishing process down into just three steps … but then again, it works!

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.