Why marketing is all about relationships – a guest post by L.M. Merrington

Today’s post is by L. M. Merrington, an Australian writer of Gothic fiction. Take it away, Lou!

Two years ago, almost to the day, my first novel, Greythorne, was released. Because I had a contract with a digital-first imprint of one of the Big Five publishers, I (naively) thought that this meant they’d take care of a lot of the marketing. I quickly discovered, as plenty of debut authors have, just how wrong I was.

Fast forward two years and I’m about to release my second novel, The Iron Line, which is out on 4 December. A lot has happened in the intervening time – the imprint I was with closed down, leaving me with some big decisions to make. I eventually got my rights back and, rather than pursuing another traditional contract, chose to go indie. (If you’re interested in reading more about how and why I came to that decision, I recently wrote an article about it for online magazine Inside Story). In terms of marketing, this means I’m now completely on my own, but I’ve also got far more freedom than I had before.

There’s so much out there about book marketing, especially for indie authors, and especially using online tools like email lists or Facebook and Amazon ads. I don’t want to rehash that here; rather, I just want to share a few of the things that have worked for me over the last two years. I’ve discovered a lot of this through trial and error, and growing an audience for your books is a slow process. But the main thread that’s come through for me is the importance of relationships and authenticity.

  1. Build your networks

Networking has always been a major factor in my career success outside of writing, and I’m finding that it’s exactly the same in Book World. By networking I don’t mean getting up in people’s faces and selling aggressively, but rather establishing and maintaining relationships with people who are genuinely interested in what you do. These can be online, in person, or a combination of both – one of my first speaking gigs as a published author was via Skype with book club members at a public library in Ohio.

In fact, one of my most fruitful ongoing marketing efforts has developed as a result of networking. While I was writing Greythorne I happened to get back in touch with my former English teacher, who is still teaching at my old high school. I asked if she’d beta read for me, which she did, and after the book was released she invited me to give an author talk and run a writing workshop with students. Based on the success of this, Greythorne was added to the Year 8 reading list – although it’s not strictly a YA book, it has a young protagonist and themes suitable for teenagers.

The teachers also encouraged me to run a workshop at a conference for Victorian Association for the Teaching of English, and an attendee at that workshop subsequently got Greythorne added to the Year 8 reading list at her school. In addition, I was also contacted by a parent of one of the students, who had contacts in the film industry and was interested in passing the book on to them for consideration. So you just never know where things might go. I hadn’t initially considered teachers as part of my marketing plan, but now I see these relationships as invaluable.

  1. Make life easy for your audience

Over the last two years I’ve built up quite a few supplementary materials for Greythorne, aimed at libraries, schools, and journalists. These include book club notes, teaching notes, and a media kit. All of these provide extra information about the book (in the case of the notes), or about me (in the case of the media kit), and they’re all available for free on my website. Teachers and journalists in particular are very time-poor, and are more likely to engage with your book if you’ve already done some of the hard work for them. A Canberra news site, The RiotACT, recently published an article on my new release using material drawn almost entirely from my media kit.

  1. Say yes to things

Say yes to opportunities, even if they’re a bit outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be amazed where they can take you. Give talks at libraries (or schools, or nursing homes); do interviews with local media; run free writing workshops with your local community; write guest blog posts or articles; attend conferences and markets; and give your readers some way to contact you (and of course make sure you always respond). And ask the people you interact with if they know anyone else who might be interested – word of mouth is a powerful thing. When I was still with a traditional publisher, I sold considerably more books myself than the publisher did, even without access to online promotional tools. In the two months since I’ve gone indie, I’ve sold more paperbacks than the publisher did in a year.

For many authors, the idea of getting out there and spruiking your wares is terrifying, and as an introvert myself I can understand that. But I also see it as a huge privilege that people even care about my little book and want to hear more about it, and I love interacting with readers. There are also so many organisations – especially libraries, schools and local media – who are keen to support local and emerging authors, so they’re relationships that are really worth building.

I believe it’s a very exciting time to be an author – we have more options and opportunities to reach our readers than ever before. Marketing shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable or scared; you just need to find a way that works for you.


L.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications and Chinese, and a PhD in international relations. A former journalist, strategic analyst, and university communications manager, she currently runs her own business, Pure Arts Communications. She is also the author of a non-fiction book, Communications for Volunteers: Low-Cost Strategies for Community Groups, released in early 2017. She lives in Canberra with her husband, Tristan. Her first novel, Greythornewas published in 2015, and her new novel, The Iron Line, will be released on 4 December 2017. Her website is www.lmmerrington.com.

Five totally legit outside-the-box ways to market your book

This month at Aussie Owned we’ve been talking marketing. The others have written excellent posts covering everything from school visits and marketing plans to Facebook advertising and ways to go viral. Their posts have been comprehensive and, if you’ve missed them, are definitely worth a read. They’ve given me a ton of ideas.

They’ve also meant that I, as the person posting last in the month, have had to really rummage around in the old brainpan for other ideas. Luckily, I have huge ideas. The very best. (I am also drafting this on cold and flu medication, so … there’s that.)

Here are my five top totally legit ways to market your book (that the others haven’t already covered).

Book cover tattoos

Get a tattoo of your book cover somewhere visible on your body (or — with their consent — on someone else’s). Your upper arm would be a good spot for a summer release tattoo, but for winter releases I’m afraid it will have to be your forehead or cheeks, especially if you live somewhere cold. Don’t forget to leave space on the ol’ noggin for the next book in the series.

As an alternative, tattoo your website URL there instead. This is a good alternative for those planning a LOT of books. Just make sure you don’t let the domain name expire.

Sky writing

Sky writing — the scrawling across the sky of words by an aeroplane — is limited to, well, words. You won’t be able to emblazon your book cover across the heavens or anything. Think of what you’d put into a 140-character tweet and then go with that. For example:

Hot new urban fantasy <YOUR TITLE> out now! My mum gave it five stars! #aussie #ebookonly <YOURURL.COM>

Sky writing is about as temporary as a tweet is, and is a LOT more expensive. But you love your book baby, right? Besides, you will generate enough buzz that people will be talking about it for days. Or maybe minutes? Who knows?

Stock from pexels.com

Convince your friend to name their newborn after your main character

Speaking of book babies…

This idea works particularly well if you’re writing in a speculative fiction field where the names are made up, such as sci-fi or high fantasy. If your main character is an “Isla”, like mine, that isn’t quite as distinctive and will generate less word of mouth. (“Melaina” is more unusual, but people keep misreading it as “Melania” these days. Sigh.) It works even better if your friend’s child is the first one born in the new year or on Mother’s Day — or if they were born in the back of the car on the side of a freeway. The newspapers LOVE to write a heartwarming story about those kids.

Look at all the babies out there named Bella and Edward. It worked for Stephanie Meyer.

Serialise your book on Twitter (or in chalk graffiti)

This idea has the benefit of being free, if somewhat time-consuming. I just did the maths, and my Lucid Dreaming — which is a total of 407,501 characters (including spaces) would require 2911 tweets. And that’s if I don’t include any hashtags or links.

Unlike a lot of marketing ideas, this one has LEGS. That’s months or years of fresh content, and people will get so impatient to find out how the story (or sentence) ends that they will totes buy your book.

As an alternative for those who don’t like Twitter, consider serialising your book in chalk graffiti at the local pedestrian mall. I’d suggest using chalk rather than anything permanent as you can reuse the same space every time it rains. Besides, you don’t want to do anything illegal, right?

Sneak your book into the local bookstore; leave a fake “staff picks” five-star review

There are some drawbacks to this idea: if the bookstore then sells your book, you won’t see any money for it (unless you lurk near the till and wait to demand your cut, which can be … tricky). But this is about raising customers’ awareness of your book, right? And what gets more notice than a jaunty little note praising a particular work? I know I always read those things!

For bonus points, take a photo of the lovely review and share it on all your social media platforms so your grandma can “like” it. Maybe then she’ll forgive you for the facial tattoo.

Leave your other ideas in the comments

Book marketing is a tricky business, and the book community is a supportive place that loves to share its ideas. In that spirit, if you have any other totally legit, legal ways to market your book, please leave a comment!


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer who doesn’t actually endorse any of the above ideas. Tattoos are kind of permanent, you guys, and book covers can change over time, what with new editions or changes in publisher. 

Still, if you want one, you do you!

Five Book Marketing Tips You Can Try Today

We’re talking marketing for April and I immediately panicked and flailed. Then, I decided to consult an expert. When I think of YA authors who’ve done marketing well from the ground floor, I think of THE YA GIRL, Jennifer Bardsley.

I asked her for her 5 best Marketing tips… And as luck would have it, she was happy to share!

Five Book Marketing Tips You Can Try Today By Jennifer Bardsley
It would be fun to have a bank account stashed with cash, a nanny at the ready, and a private jet to shuttle me off to book conferences all over the world, but the reality is that when it comes to marketing my books, I need to concentrate on free things I can do on my phone while my kids are taking swimming lessons. Here are five strategies I’ve learned to help connect my books with readers:

Start a Facebook Page
Here’s how.
Post a couple of times a day.
Be brief and witty.
Provide entertainment and encouragement.
Don’t constantly sell yourself or your book.
Only do a “buy my book post” once every twentieth post.
Respond to every comment.
See my article in SCWBI: Tips for Building up your Facebook Author Page.
Read my article for Adventures in YA Publishing Facebook Rules are a Must Read for Authors.
Join the Bookstagram Community on Instagram
Heart as many posts as possible.
Leave as many comments as possible.
When a new account follows you, give that person lots of hearts.
Tag your location in every picture.
Watch for new hashtag trends.
Don’t share another account’s photo without permission!!!!!!!!
Read my article for Adventures in YA Publishing: Great tips for writers using Instagram.

 

Join the #YAlit Community on Twitter
Post a few times a day.
Retweet to make friends.
Only use two or three hashtags.
Organize your followers in lists.
Uses lists to engage with targeted audiences.
Use Manage Flitter to unfollow people who don’t follow you back.

Build a Newsletter Mailing List
Have a sign up form on your website.
Include a sign up at the back of your book.
Run a Rafflecopter to encourage subscribers.
Stay with MailChimp until you hit 2,000 followers.
Switch to Mailer Lite when your list grows beyond 2,000, because it’s cheaper.
Shoot for a 50% open rate.

JB

 

About the Author
Jennifer Bardsley writes the column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. Her novel “Genesis Girl” debuted in 2016 from Month9Books, and the sequel “Damaged Goods” came out in 2017. “Genesis Girl” is about a teenager who has never been on the Internet. Jennifer however, is on the web all the time as “The YA Gal” with over 21,000 followers on Facebook, 19,000 followers on Instagram, and 11,000 followers on Twitter. Jennifer is a member of SCBWI, The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and is founder of Sixteen To Read. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives near Seattle in the United States of America.

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Website Twitter Instagram Facebook Goodreads

 

I love these tips and can’t wait to try them out! Thanks so much for visiting today!!

🙂

Beck

beck nicholas_ bec sampson

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

7 Tips to Ace Your School Author Visit

April has seen Aussie Owned and Read talk about all things marketing. So far, the focus has been on online marketing strategies, but today I’d like to take a look at a face-to-face strategy particularly useful for YA authors – school visits.

IMG_3261 by Kian McKellar via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qzBhBH

Image by Kian McKellar Flickr CC

“Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is”

In my role as a high-school teacher librarian I have been lucky enough to attend numerous school author visits. Authors LOVE to talk about their books, BUT there’s no quicker way to send a class of teens into a coma than to wax lyrical about every detail of your publication journey and current book baby. There’s a good chance most of your audience haven’t even read your book, so your mission is to make your story sparkle brighter than Edward Cullen on a cloudless midsummer scorcher and give them good reason to give up six to nine hours of watching funny cat videos on YouTube to want to read it.

So, how do you grab their attention, you ask?

Make connections. Establishing a relevant context for students by drawing connections between your experience and the students’ can leave them with a more rewarding experience. Try these ideas:

1. Tie into the syllabus content covered in class. Speak to the group’s teachers / teacher librarian before the visit and ask about the units the class is currently studying in different subjects. You’d be surprised where you can find crossover content to help make your novel’s subject matter relevant. English, yes, but also, History, Science, PDHPE.

2. Talk about your research. High school students are familiar with different research strategies for school assignments. Ask about their surprising / funny / unexpected research experiences then tell them about yours:

  • How did you go about your research?
  • Did you go anywhere special?
  • Did you meet / interview anyone in particular?

A visiting author I once saw had a hall of ninth graders in the palm of her hand when she told them about the time she was set on fire (under controlled conditions!) in the name of research.

3. Unpack the revision process. Talking about the evolution of your manuscript and all the challenges along the way can be effective if discussed in the context of the students’ creative writing.

  • Bring visuals of marked up pages – scrawls and scribbles of red by you and suggestions by your editor.
  • Show students the different stages of editing, allowing them to see all the work that goes into the finished product. If nothing else, the English staff will love you, because you’ve vindicated them in their constant mantra of ‘writing is re-writing’.

Image by Laura Ritchie via Flickr CC

Now, all this talking is fine and good, but to make your author visit a success you’ll need to balance your gabbing with something else, namely …

Less words, more action. One repeated negative piece of feedback I hear from students and teachers is that the author spent most of the session talking at them. To mitigate your audience tuning out, try the following:

4. Break up your presentation into segments. Five to ten minute segments are best, each with a different focus but with clear transitions linking one to the next.

5. ‘Activity’ is king. Involve your audience as much as possible!

  • Got a YA fantasy involving martial arts? Have students learn some basic martial arts moves.
  • Got a YA contemporary featuring dance? Get the kids grooving with a ten second dance routine.
  • No martial arts or dancing in your novel? No problem. Pick a bunch of students to act out a short scene from your book while you read out the excerpt.

Anything that involves the audience will make for a better experience. Even something as simple as …

Props and visuals. Everyone has a dominant learning style, be it visual, kinesthetic or auditory, so it’s good to include visual and hands-on material in your author talk, such as:

6. Slide-shows.

  • If you’re reading out a passage from your novel, have a slide-show ready to help set the mood or introduce the physical setting.
  • You could show pictures (hello Pinterest!) of your ‘cast’ of characters using actors.
  • Share images or video related to your research – people, places, activities.

7. Relevant props.

  • So your novel features martial arts, but your attempt at a roundhouse kick is likely to land you in emergency? Bring in a mannequin dressed in a dobok instead and show some video footage you came across during your research.
  • Is your novel a YA historical? Try to source some replica artefacts linked to your story that students can touch and examine.

The idea is to bring alive aspects of your story world to spark your audience’s interest.

Black Beauty by Carol VanHook

Image by Carol VanHook Flickr CC

If you include props and visual media, make sure your audience has plenty of opportunity to be involved, and you draw connections between your writing and their experience, you’re set for a successful author visit.

But how exactly is one successful author visit a marketing tool, you ask? Teachers and teacher librarians have wide reaching professional networks and word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is. One successful author visit will likely result in invites from other schools.

Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you when visiting schools. Leave your comments below.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Marketing and the Potato

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As we’re talking about marketing this month, Rebecca and Heather are going to look at what different mediums have done to successfully gain viral attention. In doing so, we will break down what it was about these marketing ideas that we found so memorable, and look at how they would translate to literary world.

We’ve broken these marketing ploys down into four key areas.

curiosity

Curiosity

These were the ideas that piqued the interest of the target audience by withholding information. By only providing part of the picture, the consumers were left searching for more pieces of the puzzle which generated hype and global reach across social media.

Cards Against Humanity’s 30 second Super Bowl ad that was a single shot of a potato with the word ‘Advertisement’ etched into it. It sent Twitter into a frenzy as people tried to decipher what it was about.

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Yes this is the real ad

The Matrix and u: hygiene products used a similar concept. The Matrix advertising posed a single question–‘What is the Matrix?’ and had a site set up devoted to the furthering the riddle.

 

Every question needs an answer.

deanmitchell-vip-logo-web-1

The VIP Experience

Making your consumer feel extra special is a great promotional tool and can create lifetime loyal followers. Everyone loves exclusivity, we all want to be a part of that little club. As a whole, people have the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, we all want more, and when given the opportunity to get something extra that no one else has, we more often than not jump at that chance. So using this main trait to your marketing advantage would be wise.

For example, Skyrim offered up free games for life, but the catch was you had to name your baby that happened to be born on the games release day the main protagonists name… Dovahkiin. You didn’t need to be one of the two people who actually went ahead and won this prize to be drawn to the weirdness of it.

You don’t have to offer up anything this dramatic, limited editions, and VIP tickets are also great draws, with youtube unboxing a few simple extras thrown in with your advanced copy can be the star of the show.

scavengerhunt2

Interactive

Get people involved. Get them out looking, talking, generating excitement. Your audience are the ones who can get word of mouth happening in a big way and usually drive awareness the most.

A great example of this was Bioshock 2s launch when they created ten promotional images and hid them in wine bottles. These bottle were placed on ten random beaches worldwide with clues for their fandom on where to find them. Kind of like what Willie Wonka did with his golden tickets.

You could do something as simple as a blog post scavenger hunt with a prize for the winner. Facebook launch parties get the word out there, and Instagram is a good tool to get people taking pictures with your book on launch day.

Resident Evil utilised a gruesome scavenger hunt where the winner would receive a trip to Africa. Which leads us into our next point.

shock

Shock Value (Trigger Warning for extreme gore)

Resident Evil rules shock value. Shocking your consumer either works for or against you, but either way it generates conversation.

With the scavenger hunt, body parts were scattered around Trafalgar Square in London. This gained media attention, and freaked out the onlookers who weren’t involved in the stunt.

Resident Evil 6 went a step further with a butcher’s shop in London’s famous meat-market Smithfield, selling ‘human meat’. The proceeds of these sales went to the Limbless Associate, a U.K. charity for amputees and other who have lost limbs.

rebutchers

Now, obviously you don’t need to go to these extremes, but pushing the envelope so your marketing ideas go against the grain of what society deems ‘acceptable’ or ‘expected’ is one way to get people talking.

The most important part of marketing is to be memorable.

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Marketing: How to lose friends and not influence people

Since it’s something we here at AO&R struggle with to varying degrees, the crew decided that this month’s topic should be marketing, so hang on to your seats … we’ll be talking about marketing mayhem all month!

Now, I’m no expert on the topic, but I am a regular Joe on all the regular social media channels. I also have friends who frequent social media, many of which are young adults. I’m a member of a few author groups and a few reader groups both on Facebook and in real life. So although I’m not experienced when it comes to marketing, I do hear a little about what people love and hate. There’s one thing all these groups and people have in common (other than a love of books) and I hear it often.

From the authors:

How can I get people to buy my book?

From the readers / regular Joes:

How can I empty my social media of all the crap people are trying to sell me?

Oh dear.

As authors we want visibility. We want people to know our books exist, to read them, to love them, to gossip about how great they are, but how do we make this happen? I’m going to leave that to someone else to expand on and instead let’s talk about the quickest ways to make that not happen.

“If I’ve never heard of the author or my friends haven’t recommended them I won’t one-click.” (facebook group)

“If an author continually posts ‘buy my book’ I unfollow them. I want to know the real them, not the sales pitch.” – R (facebook readers group)

“If I wanted to buy a book I’d go to the bookstore, not click a link.” – Miss S (14 y.o)

“Authors are all the same on twitter. They just want you to buy their (retracted swear) book. BORING.” (facebook group)

“I hate seeing ads in my facebook feed. They get in the way of my real friends’ posts.” – V (School mum)

“I followed my friend’s page to support her, but…” *shrugs* “she just wanted me to share her posts and all that did was annoy my friends. I eventually stopped reading her posts.” – H (school mum, in reference to a small business, not books)

“I didn’t click to buy it the first time she posted. What makes her think I’d buy it on the tenth post?” – H (school mum)

Righty-o then. :/

 

Given all of those comments, how does one market on social media? Carefully, thoughtfully, and with the right targeting. If you want to stop potential readers from scrolling right on by I suggest avoiding the following things I’ve heard our target audience complain about;

  • Unsolicited ‘crap’ in news feeds
  • Being expected / asked to share promotional material
  • Only seeing promotional posts / photos from a page
  • Continually seeing pitches for the same product
  • Instragam photos full of nothing but the author’s books
  • Tweets full of links (sorry tweeps)
  • Facebook posts flogging products, even if it’s a different product each time
  • Spamming (that’s the same thing posted/shared repeatedly)

So, how can an author effectively sell books? Lauren had some great ideas on Facebook marketing last week. And if you tune into the rest of our posts this month, AO&R’s other bloggers have some more ideas. Plus, we’ve got an interview with an industry professional coming up, so make sure you stay tuned. There is sure to be some great advice!

While we’re waiting though … what’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to social media advertising?


Stacey Nash hates marketing with a passion, but she’s trying to get better at it. How else will she sell all the great books she’s written? To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

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3 Facebook advertising tips

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking marketing for authors.
When I first learned of this month’s topic, my first idea for a post went something like this:

  1. Hi, fellow authors. My advice is to study what I’m doing, and then:
  2. Don’t do it. It’s not working.

But that’s not entirely true. After all, I know some marketing activities have worked for me, resulting in sales of books and website views, more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Sound too to be true? That’s because in a way, it is. This method I’m talking about requires patience. It requires time and research. And worse than all that? It requires money.

Yep. I’m talking about Facebook advertising.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, I have found it to work for me quite successfully in the past after carefully choosing my target audience. Here are my top tips on making it work for you:

  1. Know your market. It can be daunting, picking the right key words for your ads, and I have to admit that it took me a bit of trial and error. Start with the basics (e.g. eBook readers) and then narrow it down to those who like reading eBooks AND enjoy your genre AND say, read books by one of three authors you would consider yourself on par with. Keep defining your audience until you are quite narrow.
  2. Have a compelling call-to-action. While I have found some generic book ads work well, the ones that have worked the best for me are either promoting a limited-time-only price reduction, or a new preorder. I think that implication that if they don’t get on the gravy train now, they could miss out, makes people more likely to one-click.
  3. Create strong ad content. Whether you’re using a teaser quote image from your book or a combination of the cover and perhaps five stars, letting browsers know this book has been positively reviewed, make sure your visual is clean, consistent, and fits with Facebook’s recommended size guidelines. I also always include my tag either in my image or in the copy of the ad, to try and intrigue the audience, for example in the below: Young woman at the beachThe quote about her world turning upside-down had quite a few readers leaving comments and I believe helped this ad convert to many sales.

There are many courses out there telling you how to use Facebook ads, including a great one by Mark Dawson. I by no means proclaim to be an expert, but these are just a few things that I have found work for me.

What about you? What do you think of Facebook advertising?

Lauren 1

Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find her on Facebook here or at her website.