Do you feel like you could be doing a better job at keeping up with your blog? Do you find it hard to dig up inspiration when it’s time to write a new post?
Making an editorial calendar and mapping out your content is a great exercise; it helps you stockpile topics and ideas designed to reinforce your brand identity while providing valuable information to your audience. It’s also simple and completely worth the effort—it will save you time in the long run and make the process of regular blog posting more efficient and enjoyable.
Start by sitting down with any existing content you can pull inspiration from—whether it’s a manuscript, a finished book, old articles, or previous blog posts—and a list of other topics related to your overall platform. From there, identify relevant and timely topics that help you connect with your audience. Then, research and map out 3-6 months’ worth of blog post/article topics, outlining the key points you want to make in each one. Be sure to spend enough time researching and writing the content so that it is consistent with your authorial voice and relevant to your audience.
Once you have a list of good ideas together, get out your calendar and put them in an order that makes sense, tying the post in with things that might be seasonal to your business, or aligning them with a particular holiday or event you already have scheduled.
Now that you’re armed with an outline, as you come across related articles or news or think of specific points you want to include in any particular post, you can add them to your map. Then, when it’s time to write up that next blog post, you already have a solid place to start, making it easier to consistently share your content in a meaningful way.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/3500
Have you ever written a blog post that you’re super excited about only to find that you’re missing the perfect photo to complement your writing? Or the perfect background music to accompany your video? Creative Commons to the rescue!
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of digital content through free, legal tools that work alongside copyright to give people the right to share, use, and build upon work that others have created. That means that if you’re looking for content you can freely and legally use—everything from songs, videos, academic materials, photos, and more—you should start your search with Creative Commons–licensed content. It also means that if you’re an artist, photographer, or academic and want to put your work out there for others to use, you can assign a license and give them permission via Creative Commons.
The most commonly used type of Creative Commons content is photos, and photo-sharing site Flickr has more than 200 million public Creative Commons–licensed photos available, making it the largest free photo repository in the world. Writers can search for images for use in blog posts, book illustrations, and even book covers thanks to photographers and artists everywhere taking part in Creative Commons.
Have you used Creative Commons content? Have you licensed any of your content with Creative Commons?
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/3498
By now we all know that a blog is an integral part of an author website. It serves as a place to connect with readers, establish yourself as an expert, and build your platform. It can also be a place to flesh out new ideas, get feedback, and weigh in on hot topics. But after months or years of blogging, how do you keep things fresh?
Change up the design. Apply a fresh coat of paint to the ol’ blog every now and again. A new background or color scheme is a quick and easy update that your readers will notice and appreciate. If you’re Photoshop proficient, try changing your header image every month—it’ll give readers who use a feed a reason to click through to your site.
Ask your readers what they want. Since you’re the expert, your readers will undoubtedly have questions, and those questions can turn into great blog posts (or even a series of posts) on a topic you may never have thought of. Give your readers what they want and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Go multimedia. You’ve hopefully been incorporating photos and video into your posts, but how about creating your own? They don’t have to be anything fancy—most smartphones can record and upload videos directly to YouTube. Just make sure the camera is steady and the sound is good, and the content will speak for itself.
Experiment. Do you usually write text-heavy posts? Try an infographic. Do you usually post on Monday-Wednesday-Friday? Post on the weekend. Try new things and see how your readers respond. You may hit blogging gold, or you may find that your readers like you just the way you are.
Also check out these tips from ProBlogger on 31 days to building a better blog and Rachelle Gardner on 13 simple tips for a better blog.
What do you do to keep your blog fresh?
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/3493
Copyblogger recently posted a few of their favorite must-click writing and marketing links on their blog The Lede, including some great tip-based posts including “How to Write Better: 7 Instant Fixes”, “33 Things to Ask Before Hitting Publish” , and “10 Things Your Customer Wishes You Knew About Them.”
Their post made us reminisce about the first times we were introduced to great publishing blogging. In case you’re new to the world of book blogging, we’d thought we’d give you the beginner’s guide to our favorite reading, writing, publishing, and book marketing resources around the web.
PWxyz is the blogging home to the staff at Publishers Weekly. PWxyz is a nice blend of publishing news, marketing tips, and creative, fun posts. Right now on the front page you’ll find a post about paid book reviews, the future of children’s ebook design, and a list of the top ten bestselling books on Amazon in 1995.
GalleyCat is another classic in the book blogging arena. GalleyCat, deemed “the first word on the book publishing industry,” is maintained by MediaBistro, a large online portal for jobs and classes in the field of communications. Like PWxyz, GalleyCat has a good range of topics and tone. They also post job opportunities frequently.
Shelf Awareness is a free newsletter for both readers and professionals in the book trade, with a focus on booksellers. The newsletter is tidy, interesting, and a great way to discover new authors. It’s one of the only emailed newsletters you won’t automatically delete.
Nathan Bransford is a former literary agent and current author who blogs weekly on topics in the publishing industry. He’s very conversational and encourages reader participation. If you subscribe to his newsletter, you’ll receive his infamous “This Week in Books” posts. Plus, you’ll have access to some hilarious archived articles, including this Publishing Process in GIF format.
The Savvy Book Marketer, run by author and marketing coach Dana Lynn Smith, is a great resource for authors embarking on their marketing journeys. She posts several times per week on relevant topics like content marketing, word of mouth, author success stories, and online marketing plans.
Penny Sansevieri runs Author Marketing Experts, Inc and the blog for the company. Penny does a nice roundup of the best web marketing tips each week. She also works with other authors and bloggers quite a bit, making the site a nice blend of perspectives.
While not strictly a book marketing site, Digital Book World does provide more tailored and online-focused content. They offer an extensive webcast database, many of which are targeted toward first time authors and self-publishers. They also have an excellent marketing resource section whose topics speak to popular author questions such as how to increase ebook sales during the holidays and how to get your audience to pay for content you give away for free.
BookRiot is a blogging community written and edited by a few well-known book bloggers. Several authors post several times per day, mostly about playful topics such as “5 books to watch out for in September,” “13 Terrific Bookish T-Shirts,” and “How Having Kids Changed My Reading Life.” They also post quizzes like “Name That Author” and host cover face-offs. If you’re looking for a new stack of books to read, this would be a great site to visit before going on a buying spree.
FlavorWire is a cultural news site that covers television, film, books, and music. Most of their book-related articles are presented in the form of slideshows, are great bookish eye candy, and verge on what might best be described as literary gossip. In short, we love it.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/3255
You’ve probably been told at some point to explore guest blogging opportunities as a platform building strategy—maybe even by us. Guest blogging can be a great way to identify key influencers in your area of expertise, create professional partnerships, and—perhaps most importantly—attract a new potential readership. But not everyone has immediate access to a thriving blogging community. So how can you find a popular guest blogger in your specialty? We’ve gathered a few of our favorite tips below.
Google is likely to be your first stop on the hunt for a perfect guest blogger; in fact, it’s practically a requisite. In order to make the most of your search time, be sure to come up with a list of keywords and phrases that bloggers in your arena are likely to have used in their metadata (this is a helpful exercise to engage for your own website optimization as well). The more specific you can get, the more likely you’ll be to find an expert in your ideal niche. You can use Google’s Advanced Search function to streamline your results. Remember that placing quotations around a phrase guarantees an exact hit (ie: searching for the phrase “emotional intelligence” will only bring up pages that mention those words in tandem) and putting a minus sign in your search is a great way to minimize erroneous results (ie: searching for “motivational speaker” –religious will only bring you pages that mention motivational speaking but not the word religious).
The first places you might consider branching out to after a Google search are blog directories. Sites like Technorati, BlogCatalog, Blogarama, Alexa, and Alltop allow you to crawl blogs for specific keywords and browse blogs by category and popularity. Directories can be overwhelming, so don’t go too crazy researching every single site. Focus on those that look professional and seem to have a lot of comments, yet are also within realistic reach. Also be on the lookout for any past blog swaps.
Social media is a tried and true way to identify influencers in your area. Searching for phrases on Twitter will give you the top tweets mentioning the keywords and a list of people whose profiles mention the phrase as well. You want to pay the most attention to those with your phrase in their biography line on Twitter since that typically indicates a more in-depth expertise on the subject. LinkedIn Q&A can also be a good place to drum up some fans and also to make connections with other bloggers. Social media is a great way to make an initial connection. You might try commenting or tweeting back and forth with your prospective guest blogger to create a level of familiarity before formally approaching him or her.
HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is an excellent tool for prospecting potential bloggers, commentators, and experts. HARO is a free daily list serve that compiles requests for sources from reporters and then sends them out to more than 200,000 experts. We can’t recommend HARO enough to authors and experts building their platforms. You can sign up here.
If you’re starting to feel exasperated by the number of potential bloggers you’re finding (or not finding, as may be the case), you should look into joining a blog-matching site. We’ve written about sites like this in the past. Mashable also recommends BlogDash, eCairn, and GroupHigh as valuable “blogger dating” services.
Think Outside the Blog
Don’t forget that it might make sense to reach out to experts who aren’t necessarily bloggers. There are plenty of experts out there with strong social media and website followings who might be willing to write a quick post for you. Another way to “think outside the blog” is to suggest a video blog or social media swap. Many experts don’t have time to type an entire blog post, but might be willing to record a video with a few tips or write an advice-oriented tweet or post.
Once you’ve found your perfect blogger, you can follow our guidelines on how to best contact them and run your event. You might be asked to swap a blog post with your guest blogger. In that case, be sure to check out our suggestions on being the perfect guest blogger for your host.
Let us know any other ways you’ve found the perfect guest blogger in the comments below!
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/3217
Originally posted on March 31, 2009.
One of the most common questions we hear from authors is "Why does Ingram return my books only to order more the next day?" And it’s true: Ingram, the biggest player in the book wholesaling game, will frequently send books back to a publisher’s doorstep only to turn around an place an order a few days later. Why on earth didn’t they just keep them?
All books that bookstores ship back to Ingram are sent to their Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, warehouse for processing and then are directly returned to publisher or distributor of the title. Unfortunately, Ingram does not restock returned inventory. (You can imagine that tracking, inspecting, and restocking undamged returns would be a time-consuming endeavor for an operation of that size.) At the same time, Ingram has to bring in new stock to cover ongoing demand.
Another scenario that creates returns followed by more orders is a shift in regional demand. Ingram has four warehouses serving the country by region (in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Indiana, and Tennessee). If your cookbook is overstocked in Seattle bookstores, but you just did a great local radio tour in the Chicago area, Ingram’s going send the Seattle books back to you while simultaneously asking you for more to cover the new demand in Chicago—no matter how inefficient that seems.
The best way to minimize returns is to balance supply with demand by trying to maintain supply at a level that will sell in less than three months. So, as we’ve told you before, avoid overstocking and subsequent returns by always communicating your marketing and publicity activities to your publisher or distributor.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/2531
In this series we will address one of the biggest questions facing authors today: how will I publish my book? As little as ten or fifteen years ago, this answer would have been simple: get an agent, who will then pitch the book to major publishers on your behalf. Now, with the wide variety of options available, it can be hard to decide what route to take. This is why, one post at a time, we’ll dissect each of the options in an effort to help authors better answer that question.
In our last post, we talked about how traditional publishers work. Today we will discuss the burgeoning business of self-publishing. Self-publishing (not to be confused with vanity publishing, which we’ll discuss next time) is basically the process of contracting with a variety of professionals to create a book. That might include editors, graphic designers, book compositors, printers, and distributors. So, for example, if you have a complete manuscript, you’ll have to find and pay an editor to work on the content; then a compositor to do the interior layout; then a cover designer to create the cover, back cover, spine, and flaps; and so on. You can also hire book shepherds or packagers, who have a stable of contractors and who will coordinate the work on your book.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, there are some good reasons to do it yourself, and we’ll share some of the downsides as well.
Ownership. Since you created the book, you own the publication rights to all versions of the book (ebooks, foreign editions, film adaptations, etc.)—unless you sell them to a traditional publisher. Retaining your rights is especially useful if your brand or business is tied to the book and if you’ll want to incorporate parts of the content from the book into your website, seminars, materials, and the like. When you self-publish, you pay the upfront cost, but you also keep a much larger percentage of the profits (to the tune of 35 to 45 percent of the retail price versus 2 to 10 percent with traditional publishers).
Creative control. Since you’re calling the shots, you get to decide exactly how you want your book to look. You have final say on everything—from how the editor approaches the content, to what colors the designer uses in the cover, to the printing specifications and technology.
Speed to market. Having control of the project also gives you the ability to get your content to the market faster than a traditional publisher would be able to. If you have something timely you want out in six to twelve months rather than two or three years, self-publishing is the way to go.
Quality. Even when working with purported “experts” you should always be wary of the experience an editor or designer brings to your project. There are plenty of contractors out there with little experience creating a commercially viable book, and it can be a hard pill to swallow if you get stuck paying for low-quality work. Additionally, a self-published book can lack the unity of having one team working on it, as well as the polish a seasoned publisher can provide. Even if you’re working with highly skilled professionals, unless they are receiving the kind of feedback from national retail buyers that major publishers are getting, they will never have the same insight and therefore won’t be able to provide the same level of quality. Many self-published books unfortunately possess a few major missteps that keep them off the shelves of major retailer.
Distribution. Since anyone can self-publish a book, there is no guarantee of quality and self-published books are often viewed poorly by the media and retailers. And because self-publishers generally do not receive feedback from retail, they lack the ability to adapt to the market the same way publishers can. Since retailers can be squeamish about self-published books, getting into retail channels, even with the help of a distributor, can be difficult.
Distinction. For the reasons we’ve discussed (quality control, lack of retail feedback) self-published books can sometimes carry a stigma. Since they generally lack solid retail distribution, their sales histories are usually weak, which makes them a riskier bet for retail buyers. For buyers, it’s a question of choosing something untested with no track record (a self-published book) over a product that has a record of excellence (a traditionally published book).
So what now? There is a wide variety of resources and articles out there for self-publishers (like this one from Nathan Bransford on self-published millionaires). Here are a few websites and books to check out:
- Dan Poynter’s website on publishing, complete with everything from writing and editing advice to information on how to typeset your book and find a printer. Poynter also has quite a few books out on self-publishing.
- John Kremer’s site focuses on book marketing and also offers all kinds of resources for self-publishers.
- Self-Publishing for Dummies by Jason Rich: This book is a simple introduction to the business of self-publishing, complete with the traditional For Dummies graphics.
- The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross: This book surveys the entire process from writing to printing to promoting.
If your goals as an author are aligned with the pros above and the cons are something you can stomach, it’s probably a good idea to dig a little deeper into self-publishing as an option for your book. Once you’ve done your research, the next step is identifying vendors. The resources above should point you in the right direction and help you find qualified professionals who can provide the services you need to create your book.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/2247
Writers are an enthusiastic and passionate bunch, but when it comes to marketing, we see more confused faces, blank stares, and resistance than in any other industry. It's easy to be idealistic about writing a book, but when it comes down to it, publishing is a business, and authors who want to sell books need to be on top of marketing. To offer some guidance on the topic, here are the top five mistakes we see authors make in their marketing efforts.
#1 Not Doing Any Marketing at All
The worst thing you can do as an author is nothing. Publishers and bookstores alike are concerned about bottom lines and profit margins. They won’t risk their money on a title with no marketing support. Even if you do manage to get it into bookstores, if you don’t drive people in to buy your book, you may be stuck with hundreds of returns as the books that never sell make their way back to the warehouse (leaving you looking like a dud not worth publishing again). In many cases, you have roughly three months from the date of publication to prove the strength of your title. If it doesn’t move, you can say goodbye bookstore and hello backlist.
#2 Waiting Until They’re Published
Everyone wants a bestseller. Did you know that bestseller status is based on velocity of sales and not on the total amount of sales? That velocity is built largely on preorders from retail stores? Retail stores start making their purchase decisions as many as six months before the date of publication, which means you have to prove you have the followers before you even have a book. You need to start building your author platform now. It takes three months to get traction, six months to see results, and a good year to build up a decent platform. Don’t wait.
#3 Expecting the Publisher to Do It All for Them
Again, publishing is a business. If you go out and start a business, you don't expect the bank who fronts the loan to do marketing for you. Publishers take on titles based on the assumption that you will actively sell your book, and they are expecting you to deliver. Even though this can be frustrating, it’s your career hanging in the balance if the book doesn't sell.
#4 Automating Everything
Too many people—not just authors—think that marketing is automated content. It’s not. I’m all for re-purposing content and streamlining processes, but a constant stream of one-way ads and promotional posts is a cop-out. Today’s market demands engagement. They want direct access to the real you in real time. Don’t set your marketing on cruise control.
#5 Not Making It Professional
Last but not least, too many authors plop a DIY website with no content and a few weak profiles on the Internet and attend one writer’s conference and call that being a professional author. You have to dress for success, and your marketing materials have to be up to snuff. You need to invest in professional websites, vibrant materials, and a professional appearance so you always make a great first impression. Any author with the intention of getting into Barnes & Noble should expect to spend at least $5,000 to $10,000 on marketing.
If you are an aspiring author, I implore you to take heed and put some thought and money into your marketing. To succeed in retail, you need great marketing in addition to a great book. Don’t leave it up to chance!
Shennandoah Diaz is president of Brass Knuckles Media, an uncensored PR & Marketing firm catering to creatives and the avant garde. Passionate about education, Diaz empowers creatives by sharing articles and teaching workshops on marketing, social media, and publishing. Learn more at www.brassknucklesmedia.com or at www.shennandoahdiaz.com.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/2244
It’s that time of year. Time to sign up for gym memberships, to clean out cluttered spaces, and to make grandiose lists of things to-do in the New Year. All joking aside, if you want to make a real go at becoming a published author in 2011 there are a few commitments you need to make.
1. Commit to Read More
If you want to become a published author you need to know what’s selling in your genre. You should be reading the bestsellers plus the others to see what’s getting published and what’s standing out. In addition to reading in your genre you should be reading about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. The more you know the better your chances are of getting published (and not getting screwed).
2. Commit to Learning
No matter how good you are you could always be better. Take a class online or at your local writer’s group. Watch webinars, read, and attend workshops. Set aside at least 30 minutes every day to learn and improve your skill.
3. Commit to Making Friends
Writing is a lonely pursuit. Don’t work in a vacuum. Make friends with other writers and passionate readers. There is so much you can learn from them and the support they give you can help you weather the rejections and bouts of writer’s depression.
4. Commit to Marketing
Publishing is highly competitive. Everything you can do to raise your name above the crowd and get noticed will help you get a book deal and, once the book is published, make sales. Figure out your “brand,” get involved on social media, and start networking with your readers.
5. Commit to Writing
You need to commit to writing and submitting your work several times a week. Build a solid writing practice, line out a schedule you can stick to, and hold yourself accountable. You can’t publish a book without a finished manuscript. You have to put in the work.
6. Commit to Passion
You should write because you love it. Yes its work and yes sometimes its hard, but you have to fuel your passion and drive your creativity to its limits if you want to succeed. Any gains you make mean nothing if you aren’t passionate about what you do.
Shennandoah Diaz is the President of Brass Knuckles Media, an uncensored PR & Marketing firm catering to creatives and the avant garde. Passionate about education, Diaz empowers creatives by sharing articles and teaching workshops on marketing, social media, and publishing. Learn more at www.brassknucklesmedia.com or at www.shennandoahdiaz.com.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/2236
When it comes to building a brand as an author, there is one asset that can’t be measured in dollars: brand equity. The power that comes from building a personal brand that dovetails seamlessly with the book releases can turn perception into profits. While there is no single secret to success when it comes to building a brand as an author, here are ten New Year’s resolutions that you can make in 2011 to strengthen your own personal brand:
1. BE COURAGEOUS, OFTEN
Take bold steps to stand out from the crowd. Reflect on 2010 and look at what you did well, and what you could have been different. Take courageous steps to help your brand stand out in 2011.
2. REVISIT AND REFINE YOUR PURPOSE
Take the time to look back at your mission and vision and ask if you were living it in 2010. Look for places to bring it to life with your team and explore whether you need to refine it. Remember: the words aren't set in stone. If they're not resonating, rewrite and revise!
3. SHUT UP AND LISTEN
There's a lot to learn if you just take the time to listen. Make sure you ask your team for feedback, ideas and suggestions. Listen to your consumers and pay attention to research. Listen to what they have to say and act on what you've heard. Honest, unfiltered feedback is fuel for change.
4. FIND AN ENEMY
An enemy gives you and your team something to push against–something to challenge. An enemy inspires passion! This year, define a clear enemy and rally your team. It could be a competitor, a trend or an element of your internal culture. No matter what it is, create a plan to beat it, share the mission with your team and go forth!
5. STRETCH AND SET SOME BIG GOALS
Set at least one wild and audacious goal for 2011–something you've never tried before. Outline the goal, share it with your team and challenge them to play their part in achieving it. Just don't forget to celebrate the small victories and successes on the journey.
6. BUILD A PASSIONATE AND ENGAGED TEAM
Your most valuable resource is your people. This year, weed out those who don't contribute and aren't engaged. Replace them with active, passionate and energized people who will make a true difference to the rest of your team and your brand.
7. INJECT FUN INTO THE EVERYDAY
One of the best motivators for your team is a great work environment. This year, start doing small things that make your employees happy. A monthly massage for a those who have put in extra hours or a weekly pot-luck for the team. Small gestures or events can make a big difference. And the benefits won't just stop with your team - they will show through everything that your brand does. Happy people equals happy brand.
8. PLAN FOR LEARNING
This year, make a commitment and ensure your company is continually learning and is inspired by the word at large. Create a program that allows your team to take classes. Host a "learning lunch" monthly with guest speakers. Injecting new thinking into your organization will energize your team and, ultimately, benefit your brand.
9. MAKE FRIENDS WITH OTHER BRANDS
Partner brands can be your best ally–whether they're in your space or not. This year, chart a "circle of love," identifying brands with similar values that you'd like to partner with in 2011. Set one member of your team with a potential relationship and have them explore how to collaborate. You'll be surprised by the results, even just the initial conversations you'll have about your own brand.
10. SAY THANK YOU AND SHOW THAT YOU REALLY MEAN IT
And, lastly, do what your mother told you! Thanking people goes a long way to creating valued and appreciated fans–internally and externally. This year, find new ways to show you appreciate your team, your customers and your partners, in ways that truly make a difference in their lives. You'll be surprised and delighted by the results.
Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, a design and innovation consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients include Starbucks, Pepsi, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, Virgin, Disney, Nike and American Eagle Outfitters.