Marketing 101 with Sara Hood

Hey – if it’s what you celebrate – ‘Happy Easter’! I do, and as always we had a lovely time easter bunnywith family. Happy times and happy memories.

Today I will also be announcing the winner of my giveaway! But first, something way more exciting! Read on! 

So, we keep saying but in case you missed it: over here at Aussie Owned & Read, we’re talking about MARKETING this month. Now, I’ve been around publishing for a l-o-n-g time and when I was first pubbed, marketing wasn’t such a big deal.  Your publisher took care of most of it.  But now? Oh wow – where would I begin to elaborate…

Actually I didn’t. Begin, that is.   It took me three seconds to realise I needed help. So, I went to the woman I believe is the bomb for marketing. When prepping for an extensive workshop at RWA a couple of years ago, she  worked with Harlequin author Sarah Mayberry in an experiment to demonstrate how her methods would work.   In one month they grew Sarah’s email list by 900. Not just 900 names – but 900 invested followers/readers.  900 invested readers/followers = 900 extra sales. Plus back sales.

Sara Hood

Sara Hood

Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Sara, I know you’re amazing and inspirational 😉 , but maybe not all our readers would know that. Can you tell us what you do?  

Thanks for that wonderful rap!  My background is in marketing communications. I’m originally a Brit who was offered the chance to work in Australia for three years by my then-employer but within two weeks I knew I was born to live here and wasn’t going back!  That was almost 30 years ago and now I’ve married a local, become a citizen and consider myself a true Melburnian.  I’ve worked with and for companies like DuPont, Yamaha Music, Sony and Ericsson, but like many these days I now wear several hats. I run a business that manages associations in the creative industries, mainly the music industry. We look after membership, admin, social media, member communications, conference management and website development on behalf of the association. Then I trained as a life coach, as you do, but don’t practice because it’s far too scary!  And I have this business called Marketing4Writers, which is to support and coach writers of popular fiction so they can sell more books. Oh!  And I’m attempting to write a romance novel. ‘Attempting’ being the key word.

The thought of having to market ourselves and our products is like kryptonite to the author. We’re terrified of it; the very thought sends us into a sobbing heap. So, how important is marketing to today’s author?

So can I put my life coach hat on for a moment? This is what brought me to set up marketing4writers. It was seeing writers spend hours tearing themselves to bits over ‘this marketing monster’. Getting themselves so upset about needing ‘to do it’ or spending time on it and seeing no results.  Or just deriding it or deriding the publisher for not doing it for them. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be scary. And it most certainly shouldn’t terrify anyone or make them sob in heaps. It’s like anything, when you know how it just becomes second nature. A bit like driving a car. My first lessons were horrible! You have no idea how many times my instructor took over the controls. But now I jump into the car and don’t think twice about how to make it go where I need it to because I know how and it’s second nature. The problem with marketing is that bad marketing is very visible and annoying, so people think that’s what they need to do. It’s not.  Good marketing is almost invisible, not because it’s sneaky or manipulative but because you’re talking to the people who want to hear from you, so they don’t think of it as ‘marketing’. And it’s certainly not posting interminably on social media to say ‘buy my book’.

So back to the question: how important is marketing to today’s author? Totally critical.  But you knew that already, right? I’m not sure there ever was a time when you could just write a book and it would magically be discovered and you’d become a millionaire overnight, but that time certainly isn’t now. As we all know, the issue now is discoverability in a way it never has been to the same extent before. There are now almost no barriers to loading a book to Kindle and the problem is that a lot of people who ought not (yet) do. The issue, though, is two fold:

  • Discoverabilty: the right people hearing about and finding you book
  • Quality: convincing people that once they’ve found your book it’s worth buying

Everyone focuses on the first point but the second is also important. You may think what’s the fuss when the book cost less than a cup of coffee but that’s not the point.  What was the buyer doing when they bought your book?  They were buying the anticipation of entertainment.  They sat down to read, investing their precious time, to be entertained.  And then the book let them down.  Now they feel robbed and that’s why then they complain it can be out of all proportion to the actual cost.  Even when the book is free. Readers, though, are now getting smarter.  Having been burned a few times, they are now looking for clues about whether this book is going to be worth investing their time and their hope in. That’s another reason why your brand (author) platform and marketing are so important.

marketing-strategy

Is it possible to do too much marketing? (Asks she who will never be accused of too much. Too little? Sigh. All day every day.)  

Oh yes, it is possible to do too much marketing. It’s also possible to spend too much money or time on marketing. And it’s also all too possible to be doing quite the wrong marketing.

I loved your RWA workshop with Sarah Mayberry. I would so it all again in a flash – only next time take a day to do it so I can retain it! In that workshop you spoke a lot about Taking Control. Can you elaborate?  

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a blast working with Sarah.  One of life’s good people.

Taking control means nothing more complicated than making a thoughtful, purposeful plan. Too many writers don’t make a plan.  That means they have no idea where they’re going, they have no idea if they’re achieving anything useful, and they have no idea if they’re getting anywhere.  Imagine if your job was to build a bridge across a lake.  Would you do that by throwing in pebbles, one at a time?  The ripples each pebble makes are going to be really pretty, but throwing pebbles into a lake ain’t never gonna make a bridge. Yet that’s what many are doing.

So what sort of plan do you make?  The model I use is called a sales funnel and Kaz asked that question next so I won’t outline it here.  

You also make mention of the Sales funnel. Can you explain?

The sales funnel is a simple model that helps writers think about, plan, implement and review their marketing.  (Review!  So many people don’t review!) It’s about what I outlined above: taking control!

A sales funnel is about recruiting likely strangers (not just any old person) and building a relationship with them of ‘know, like and trust’.  As they get to know you, hopefully they move along the funnel to become acquaintances, friends, fans and then super fans.  People, of course, though aren’t predictable, so some will come in as fans and some will exit as friends.  Some may stick at friends, but progress no further. That’s life. What is also normal is that the numbers you recruit will dwindle as they progress towards super fans, which is why it’s important to be always recruiting. You need to be always bringing in new likely strangers to your funnel.

With a sales funnel you look at every activity you do and assign it a purpose. You add more activities or remove activities accordingly so you have the plan you need. That means it also fits your available time and budget. You optimise those activities, which simply means making them the best they can be.  You then connect everything up so it’s funnelling readers along a path and not just one of those pebbles going into the lake.  The heart of the plan is your website and your email list, but as writers you also have the great benefit of e-retailers, and your marketing plan needs to include optimising your product (the books) and presence in those e-tailers.  That’s part of your sales funnel.

With a sales funnel you work with an end in mind and don’t confusing activity with outcomes.

You set time frames, milestones, budgets and a date for a review. So many people don’t review. Or panic after a few weeks because ‘nothing is happening’ so they dump their plan and switch to another one.  Erk.  
marketing 4 writers You can find a copy of the presentation (on Sara’s site) used at RWA here:

http://www.marketing4writers.net/rwa-conference-workshop-with-sarah-mayberry.html

Which social media platforms should the author be focussing on?

Number one is Facebook.  It’s tougher to get results now from Facebook, but that’s because it’s become so popular because it works. So I’d say for social media your number one choice should always be Facebook.  A business page and not a profile.  Yes Facebook has the infamous algorithm, but don’t listen to anyone who say that Facebook is using that algorithm to limit who sees your posts to make your advertise.  That’s not true.  Or that they’re limiting you to 6% of your fans. Nope. Those myths have appeared largely because, as I said, it’s harder to make Facebook work for you now plus there are a lot people out there who want to sell you courses about how to use Facebook. It suits them to blame Facebook.  Yes, you do need to know something about how the algorithm works (and Facebook isn’t going to share all the details with the world because that’s their proprietary property) but a lot of it comes down to you. That’s not comfortable to know, sometimes. But if your posts aren’t getting any reach it means there were better ones out there and those got ‘served’ to your fans instead.  The deck is not stacked against you.  The hard truth is that you just have to get better at this Facebook thing.

So that’s my Facebook rant.  What other platform should you consider? Depends on how much time you have.  It’s much better to do Facebook well than to skimp it because you’re also managing another two or three of even four platforms as well. I’d usually suggest Twitter as your second string, if you have time for it.  I am just discovering the joys of Instagram and that’s fantastic but you need to be sure it’s for you because it is very specific in how it works.  You need to have great images, you can’t add live links and you can’t schedule your posts (easily).  Pinterest is great for creating private boards where you can keep the pics you used for your research or inspiration, and then you can make them public as part of your book launch.

I hope that doesn’t sound too boring or arduous. I’ve tried to summarise what is a day’s worth of workshop and that’s never that easy to do! Those who are organic writers and like to just jump in are usually going cross-eyed at this point. The reality is that you can do that when marketing, but it makes it so much harder and more frustrating. Sometimes a bit of planning is a good idea. Can you trust me on this?

marketing 2

I read that the most valuable tool in the authors marketing tool box is an email list. And that a survey showed that an email subscriber is 24 time more likely to buy a book than through FB.  Do you share this opinion?

Rule number one in marketing (there are a lot of number one rules, by the way) is to remember that figures like this are averages often being used by someone to sell a course or a way of thinking or their ‘insider expertise’. And, anyway, we all know where averages come from, don’t we?  There are so many other variables here that my brain spins trying to work out if this figure has any meaning at all!  Do I think email is important? Yes.  But I also don’t think Facebook is a great medium for selling books, so that anything is 24 times better than Facebook is more a reflection on Facebook than on what it’s being compared with.  For a writer, Facebook is much better used as a place to recruit those likely strangers and build relationships with them.  Facebook, itself, is about entertainment and connection.  Who sits down of an evening and thinks “I’ll just have a look at Facebook to see what people want to sell me?”  By all means advertise to your fans when there’s a new book out, or post about it, but email is usually a much better option for converting to sales.  Those people have trusted you with their email address.  That means they’re much more engaged than your average Facebook fan.  There seems to be a riff at the moment that ‘email is over’ and ‘readers don’t want to get emails any more’.  Hmmmm…. no.  Like Facebook, email is really good at what it does so every writer and her dog has jumped in and now you have to be better, sharper and deliver more value to get people to stay on your list and open the emails you send them.

What are the top three things an author should be doing right now?  

    1. Creating a thoughtful, purposeful plan (a sales funnel)
    2. Implementing that plan
    3. Reviewing that plan

What’s the worst thing we as authors can do?

Have no plan.  That’s it.  No plan is the worst thing you can do. No plan is worse than a mediocre plan. It’s probably worse than the wrong plan.  Probably.

marketing-management 4

Finally, if it’s not a repetition of Q#7, what is one thing we could do today to make a difference?   

So that’s the converse of the previous question.  The one thing you could do is to have a plan. Is this getting repetitive?  It’s easy to say that you should have a plan, but researching and creating that plan is the important part.  You can dream up a plan in 10 seconds, but unless you’re some marketing Einstein then it’s probably useless because it hasn’t been created thoughtfully and purposefully. It takes a while to build a sales funnel, but it’s not arduous and I use coloured textas which helps make it a bit more fun.  A bit.

Do you think blog tours are worthwhile?

Hmmm.  Depends why you’re doing them.  If it’s about sales, then maybe not.  If it’s about brand awareness then why not?  In marketing jargon you need to be looking at ‘multiple touch points’ with your readers.  And a bit more techno-speak, you need to think about which of your activities are about brand awareness and which are about sales. That’s where inexperienced marketers can go wrong.  They try to make everything about sales.  As I mentioned before, these days most people buy from people they know, like and trust.  From time to time we will buy from strangers, but not often.  If you do a blog tour to build that know, like and trust that’s fine.  If you want to sell, sell, sell, then there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.  One final point with blog tours is to make sure that you are matching your readers with that blog’s readers.  There’s no point getting promotion on a blog that doesn’t reach people who will likely read your books.  
How can our readers contact you?

Come and join me on my Facebook page or website.  Hey, why not sign up for my email? Or I’m at sara@marketing4writers.net

https://www.facebook.com/MarketingforWriters/

http://www.marketing4writers.net/

Thank you sooo much Sara! I’m going to be (again) pouring over your past posts. You’re a busy lady and we here at Aussie Owned & Read are most grateful for your time, especially given the extensive answers you’ve provided. Mwah times plenty!  You’re a true star.

And now – the winner of my giveaway (in a blind draw) is:  Drumroll…..

Billiondollarprincess!  Please contact me at kazdelaney01@gmail.com with your deets! Thanks for commenting! 

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.