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Platform Development Series: Influence

September 29, 2011

Got Platform?

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

 

Platform, Part 2: Influence

Money is personal. Spilling your economic guts to anyone other than your spouse, partner, or family members is unheard of to most people. But not to Suze Orman. Orman, a financial advisor-turned-television host and bestselling author, listens to personal financial pain on a daily basis and gives empowering solutions for people in tough situations. It’s especially helpful in today’s economic climate. Her advice is often abrasive. She challenges her fans to make immediate proactive changes in their financial lives. And as creatures of habit, it’s never easy for us to make changes like these.

 

With her loud, in-your-face approach and established expertise, Orman’s reach extends to millions of people. They love her, and her Twitter community alone shows it, topping 1,100,000 followers. Her TV program, The Suze Orman Show, has been on the air for ten years and continues to be one of the most highly rated programs on CNBC. She’s also penned nine consecutive bestsellers and hosted the most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS. That’s powerful.

 

Everyone wants Suze’s advice. And when Suze talks, not only do people listen—they share what they’ve heard with others. She gets people talking, which helps drive word of mouth. It’s hard not to admire Suze’s ability to wield widespread influence and connect. And her path to platform success is worthy of study. It didn’t happen overnight. But she tapped into a deep need (personal financial advice) and transformed that into a brand—one that allows her to continue to capture people’s attention.

 

Interaction sphere

 

If ideas are your foundation when it comes to building a successful platform, influence is your most important tool. Without meaningful influence, great ideas can die. So you want to be sure to find your audience, cultivate your relationships through offline and online channels, and build a following.

 

Remember, influence is about capturing people’s imagination and emotion, their hearts and minds, and engaging them to share your ideas. It’s essential for your platform. Influence also allows you to amplify your message as it moves from person to person to group to larger networks. Here are four driving points behind building influence:

 

 

1. Provide great content. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You need to begin with a solid content strategy. You need content designed around a problem or pain point for your target audience, content that exists in different formats to help different types of learners. Orman’s audience needs financial advice. She provides it across several media: her website, TV, radio, social media. And Orman not only makes sure that her financial recommendations are top-notch, she also makes them in a way that’s unique and personable.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUhx66ANiqY

 

 

When you create consistently great content in different formats, you provide value and benefit to your audience and win mindshare. You get them talking. Eureka! That’s influence.

 

You can read about how to get started on creating content that people care about in Part 1 of Greenleaf’s platform development series.

 

 

2. Help your audience share your content, online and offline. People want to share. Sharing information is not only entertaining, it’s educational and gratifying, too. Use our natural tendency to share—your job is to connect with people and give them tools to share your message.

 

Your content should be designed to resonate and get people sharing. If it’s not worth their time, they won’t share it. And it’s not worth your time to create. So make it shareable, fun, different, or controversial.

 

It’s essential to have a diversified web presence. A clean, professional, well-designed, and easily navigated website experience is a necessity—but don’t stop there. Start blogging regularly and reach out to other bloggers in your arena. Consider doing a blog swap to build your readers. Maintain your social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and make an effort to regularly post relevant information and interact with your followers. Making a webinar, podcast, or video series is a great way to share your content—and those media are usually the most viral.

 

According to a HubSpot survey, U.S. Internet users spend three times as many minutes on blogs and social networks than on email. Forty-six percent of people read blogs more than once a day. Is your content part of their conversation? Track your online influence by comments received, feedback given, number of likes, and the frequency of sharing among your readers, fans, and followers.

 

Face-to-face sharing is also a part of your influence. Offline, conversations happen following a presentation you give or an appearance you make. Always give them a (branded!) handout with your most valuable content—something that people will leave on their desks and discuss with their coworkers.

 

 

3. Do some sharing yourself. Linking to videos and sharing links to notable content, even if it’s not your own, is low-hanging fruit you can do every day to create interaction and build up your influence. Show your followers that you care enough about them to share content that others create—use your influence for more than just a personal advertising tool, and it will, ironically, become one. Note that your brand and image alignment matter. So if you’re a health expert, make sure you look like the embodiment of health and that you’re sharing information about well-being.

 

Your fans will want to know a little about you, too. In return to her fans, who share very private information with her on a daily basis, Orman makes sure that she puts herself out there as well. On Suze’s “About Me” page of her website, viewers find a video—not the usual paragraph upon paragraph of description. The video not only gives viewers a sense of Suze’s expertise—it gives them a sense of her personality. She also has a highlighted section of her website devoted to “scrapbooks.” You’ll find her fans calling her “girlfriend” left and right.

 

Sharing notable content from others—in addition to the content you create on your own—will help you build influence and trust. You’re adding value, including people in your conversation, and building your credibility. You’re promoting great content. And you’re coming from a place of contribution. Your fans know that they can trust you to give them valuable information, and they’ll tell other people to use you as a resource.

 

 

4. Quantify. Regularly quantify where you are in terms of influence. Analyze the number of online connections and offline contacts you have. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure where you are monthly or quarterly. Track the number of fans, followers, and page hits you have. This is especially important if you’re spending any money on ad campaigns. Make sure your ad spend is converting into influence.

 

A quick tool for measuring your influence is Klout Score. Klout Score gives you a ranking based on a few different components, including the number of people who see your social media posts; the number of people who re-share your posts; and the relative influence of other people in your network. Our bet? Orman has a great Klout Score.

 

 

As you move forward to build influence, focus on setting goals and growing your networks exponentially. Your platform grows with each “like” and each mention you receive. Facilitate the process by providing great content, interacting with your audience, sharing relevant links, and measuring your status. Pay attention to those—like Vaynerchuk, Orman, and others—who have mastered the art of influence. And most importantly: have fun with your influence-building. What’s more exciting than sharing your ideas and making new friends?

 

Platform  Dev Diagram

Check in with us tomorrow for part 3 of this series, where we’ll uncover how you can use the combination of great ideas and high influence to generate income.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

 

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Platform Development Series: Ideas

September 28, 2011

 Got Platform?

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and incomeand your book’s success depends on it. 

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain, and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit www.greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

 

Platform  Dev Diagram

Platform, Part 1: Ideas

 

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as “Vayniacks.” In short, he’s a walking billboard for what a concentrated platform can do for you.

 

Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.

 

Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.

 

 

1.    Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about.

 

Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. If you’re a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you’ll have to work a lot harder than the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.

 

 

2. Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:

  • Who are they?

    Ideas circle

  • What do they do?
  • What do they struggle with?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who else do they admire?

Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field.

 

 For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started winelibrary.com in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.

 

 

3. Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?

 

You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you’re creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your “self” is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it’s important that fans feel like they’re interacting with the real you—not your personal assistant. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”

 

Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (recently-retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.

 

 

4. Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well. Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.

 

When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging. 

 

Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.

 

 

Check in with us tomorrow for Part 2 of this series, in which we’ll take a look at influence—that is, how to spread your ideas through interaction with your audience.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. Once you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level.

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Market with a Shout-out! Widen your Network with Social Media Swapping

August 23, 2011

Twitter accounts with four followers. Stagnant Facebook fan pages. Blogs that languish in the wilderness of cyberspace, never to be viewed by human eyes. We’ve all seen them (in fact, we’ve even owned some of them). Does this sound eerily close to your own situation? Don’t give up yet.

 

One of the best ways to kick-start your social media strategy is to participate in a content swap. Content swaps can range from exchanging Tweets to hosting reader giveaways to sharing guest posts with another blogger. All these strategies can increase your exposure and help you widen your social media reach.

 

Intrigued? Here are seven simple steps to running your own content swap:

 

  1. Figure out whether content swapping will work for you. Social media exchange would work well for someone trying to build his or her online platform. If you’ve had a Twitter account for a while but feel underwhelmed by the 147 friends you worked tirelessly to acquire, try content swapping. Exchanging social media is probably a good idea for everyone, though. Whether you’re a social media celebrity wanting to offer something new to your followers or a complete blogger noob looking to establish a following, you can benefit from content swapping.
  2. Decide what it is you want to exchange. Do you want to swap posts? Tweets? Or do you want to offer a free giveaway per Tweet mentioning you? The possibilities are as wide as you are creative. A simple swapping of blog posts is probably the easiest, but if you’re targeting your Twitter account, getting bloggers to mention your free giveaway for followers might be a better strategy.
  3. Determine whether you will offer any add-ons for readers. Will you give a free guide or download to the readers of the blog you are guest posting on? This would be a good way to get people to listen to you and actually read your guest post—an especially good option if you aren’t established in the market yet. People love free stuff, and if you’re offering a complimentary ebook download with your post, it might make the difference between being ignored and being read.
  4. Identify a relevant blogger. You want to look for a blogger in the same niche as yourself. Spend some time researching your audience: Who are they? What do they care about? What do they do online? Who do they read? Once you identify a few bloggers in your space, be strategic in who you choose to reach out to. You want someone who’s similar without being in direct competition with you. Also be sure to target someone that’s popular but also accessible (i.e., don’t try to hit up Perez Hilton on your first try).
  5. Contact the blogger and outline the plan. Make sure to be clear about what, exactly, the mutual benefit is in your swap. Will this blogger’s readers get a freebie? Will he or she gain more followers by being on your blog? After all, a blogger sharing content with you will want to get something out of the deal as well.
  6. Execute the swap. Write the post, making sure it is specific, actionable and relevant. Include your contact information in the post. You can even note that the post is open for syndication on other blogs, as long as you grant permission. Before the post goes up, try reaching out to other people in your blogging arena, asking them to make a quick one-line mention about the giveaway or guest post. Keep up with any inquiries you receive and be sure to check the post often. Respond to comments as they come in, and interact with the readers or Tweeters.
  7. Evaluate. Was the swap worth the effort you put into it? Did it result in more “likes,” more followers, and more page views? Even if it didn’t translate into an explosive increase in followers, check your page analytics to see if more people visited your site. If you run a business, exposure for your company will be more important in the long run than an extra Twitter follower.

 

If you don’t have the time or energy to go through the research and coordination it takes to participate in a social media swap, have no fear. In the last few years, several companies have popped up that specialize in facilitating content swapping.

 

Pay With a Tweet allows users to “sell their products for the price of a Tweet.” According to the Pay With a Tweet website, French electropop band The Teenagers is swapping its new single for mentions on Twitter. AppStorm has a great guide to setting up a “Pay With a Tweet” button on your website.

 

Social Media Swap is a free, member-based portal meant to connect users with other people interested in exchanging everything from Tweets to “Stumbles” to Facebook page likes. The site allows you to pay, buy, and swap. Similarly, Smorty, a blog advertising company, coordinates blog post exchanges by connecting active users with each other.

 

Whether you go DIY with your content swapping or take advantage of one of the companies offering swap services, a strategic swap can give you targeted readers, more page views, and an increased page ranking—all great benefits for a one-time deal. Looks like your involvement in bartering and trading didn’t end when you got rid of your copy of The Oregon Trail after all. Happy swapping!

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Getting a Jump on Sales with Preorders

July 11, 2011

Many authors begin the hard work of generating sales for their book long before the actual release date. There are many different options for collecting these preorders, as well as many ways to make the most of them, helping you meet your goals and priorities for the project.

 

One method of collecting preorders is to set up a preorder button on the book's website. During the preorder process, customers will be prompted to fill in their basic information and make a payment through the website for the book (or books) they order. Matching Amazon pricing or offering signed copies can be an added hook to get people interested.

 

It is also common to create a dedicated landing page for preorders, which you can utilize in your marketing initiatives, that drives consumers to a central location to make their purchase. This is a popular option when you are incentivizing customers by giving them access to extra content at no charge with an order. The landing page can host this content, and once the order is placed, the customer can be given a code to access the free content.

 

But collecting preorders can also be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet with all the information that you manually collect from customers as they place orders directly through you leading up to the pub date.  

 

A different route is to simply send people directly to a retailer, such as Amazon, to place their order during a specified period of time, usually immediately following the release of the book. In this case, it's important for your publisher to know how many orders you expect to be placed at least three weeks in advance so they can ensure that adequate stock is in place in the supply chain to meet the rush of demand. (Also see our recent newsletter tip, In The Loop.)

 

Regardless of how you collect the orders, the idea is to have a complete record of all customers and their orders at the end of the preorder campaign.  

 

Once all of the preorders are collected, you have to decide what your priority is for these sales. Have you generated all of these preorders so you can generate maximum revenue from your book right away? Or is your goal to have all of these sales count towards your retail track record? (Shameless plug: With Greenleaf, you have the flexibility to meet either goal, and we can help execute the orders or connect you with experts in the field that specialize in placing those presales in a strategic and planned way for maximum impact.)

 

If the primary goal is to maximize revenue with preorders, you’ll want to sell the books directly. Revenue generated through direct sales is not shared with a distributor or retailer, allowing for larger margins. Remember to bill the appropriate shipping charges directly to your customers if you want them to cover the cost.

 

If the goal is to drive retail sales as high as they can go, run preorder sales through a retail channel that reports to BookScan (the book industry’s go-to tool for measuring retail sell-through). This will make these sales a part of the book’s auditable track record.  For bulk preorders, we work with a company called 800 CEO Read and they make this process very simple. Corporate customers (or your own company) can buy the books from 800 CEO Read, which reports sales to BookScan.

 

If you plan on generating thousands of preorders and want to use them to make a run at a bestseller list, we recommend working with an expert who specializes in handling this type of campaign.  A campaign like this requires careful coordination and planning and the ability to process thousands of individual orders in a short time span.

 

What are your goals leading up to pub date? What’s worked to help you generate preorders? Share and discuss!

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Rollin' in the Digital Dough: Make the Most of Your Ebook

July 5, 2011

 

Now that you’ve successfully converted your manuscript into an ebook, it’s time to start selling your hard work. Making money from your ebook all starts with a good blog. Ideally, you’ll have been blogging like a madman for the past year or longer, gradually gathering a strong base of readers who share your interests and interact with you on a daily basis. Sound about right? (If not, check out these links on ProBlogger and ViperChill on developing a popular blog.)

 

Once you have a group of people following your free content, you have a built-in audience for your words with a price tag.

 

Pre-pub hype

Begin by doing one of the things you do best as a blogger: talk about yourself. Create hype on your blog by posting about your ebook in advance of its publication. Ask your readers to contribute ideas and feedback; if your audience feels like they had a say in what went into your book, they’ll be more likely to pay for it when it comes out. Continue mentioning it before its publication to create a sense of anticipation. Your excitement will be contagious and your readers will feel like they’re a part of the process.

 

Landing page

While readying your ebook for its launch, pay special attention to the creation of your landing page. Give your ebook its own exclusive URL; this adds credibility and authority to your ebook. Write great copy for the page once you have it set up. A catchy slogan at the top will be effective, as will a well-written description and “About the Author” page. Try to avoid sounding too pushy or salesman-like in these areas.

 

The design of your landing page should complement your ebook; be sure that you have a great cover and promotional images. Just because your book may not make it into the physical world doesn’t mean you should skimp on design.

 

Any extras you can fit onto the page will make the site more dynamic. Sarah Mae, author of How to Market and Sell Your eBook, recommends a video of you talking about your ebook—but try to keep it under two minutes!

 

Don’t forget to include some testimonials from well-known bloggers and experts, and be sure that the all-important “Buy” link is easy to find.

 

Online interaction

Now is the time to harness your online community. The key to selling a lot of ebooks is getting high-traffic sites to link to your blog. Start by identifying your target audience; after all, you don’t want to bother commenting on a juggling blog if your book is about real estate. Write down who you imagine your audience to be and research those communities online.

 

Once you find the relevant online forums and blogs that will help you develop your platform, participate in them. Offer suggestions, advice, and comments; remember to make your username the same as your blog name so that people know how to identify you. Keep in mind, though, that no one likes a spammer. Readers should trust you and know you as someone in their loop. Start mentioning other bloggers’ sites on your blog and they will eventually mention yours as well.

 

Volunteer to be a guest on a podcast. Write articles for free. Start contributing to sites like AllExperts and eHow. If readers know you as an expert, they will not only want to read your blog; they will want to buy your book.

 

Keep it cheap

All of us consumers know what it’s like to bypass an ebook simply because of its $11.99 price tag, even when you’re dying to read it. People just aren’t willing to pay a lot for digital content. Use this to your advantage.

 

Start by giving away sample chapters, both before your publication date on your blog and post-publication on your landing page. This will not only prove to readers that what you have to say is worth paying for; it will also create a buzz around your launch. You should consider coordinating a giveaway with your publication date. To celebrate, give away gift certificates, prizes, and your book. For example, if you are an attorney, you could give away a free hour-long legal advice session in addition to your ebook.

 

Check out Carolyn McCray’s “Anatomy of a Successful Ebook Giveaway” article, in which she breaks down the measurable impact of giving away your book. For instance: If you are planning on giving away a hundred free ebooks on six different blogs, you can expect in return ten backlist sales; seventy-five email addresses you can add to your newsletter; five reviews of your book; and three long-term contacts. Not too shabby, right?

 

McCray also advises taking some time to develop your “you’ve won” email. Include a coupon for a major discount on another one of your titles to get readers buying. Also ask them to sign up for your newsletter, offering the chance to win a gift card to the first hundred to do so.

 

Pricing your ebook strategically will ultimately bring in more money than demanding a hefty price will. Keep your asking price under $9.99; $5 is even better.

 

Stay involved

Finally, don’t relegate ebook marketing to the bottom of your to-do list after the initial few months. Make sure you remain engaged in relevant online communities and be sure to keep up with your posting. Readers should be able to depend on you to be a regular poster, regardless of whether you’re prepping to release your book or not. Maintaining a regular readership will help to continuously sell your ebook and will also open up the opportunity for future publications—two things we’re comfortable assuming you want.

 

 

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Read a Few Thousand Good Books Lately?

June 20, 2011

Today's post is by Brian Feinblum, the chief marketing officer for Planned Television Arts, who has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. You can reach him at feinblumb@plannedtvarts.com or catch his blog at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com.


Imagine being sequestered somewhere for about a year, getting paid to do what you may love the most: read books. Lots of them. Every day. Nonstop. A marathon of books, books, and more books. Could you do it?

 

The equivalent in sports-watching is taking place right now. Major League Baseball, in its infinite marketing wisdom, is paying two guys to watch baseball day and night throughout the season. They will watch 2,450 regular season games and then the playoffs and World Series. They are on display to the public—you can go to their first-floor “fan cave” in a space formerly famous for occupying the original Tower Records on East 4th Street in Manhattan.

 

Besides watching games, the two superfans film a reality show that airs on www.MLB.com. These unabashed baseball addicts interest me because they call into question the old adage about too much of a good thing. I wonder, after it’s all done, will they’ll ever want to watch another game? Or will they come away as addicted as ever?

 

Can publishing sponsor some gimmick like this? Could Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, or Macmillan pay someone to read books by its best authors, nonstop? Would Amazon sponsor a read-a-thon to highlight the readings of its best customers? Should Barnes & Noble pay someone to read as many books on its Nook as possible over the summer? Maybe someone wants to set a Guinness World Record for most books read and blogged about in one month?

 

The writing profession does get its due—there are many book and author awards out there. There are a number of best-seller lists one can make. There’s attention drawn to a book by reviewers and bloggers. There are public book signings. And there is countless coverage on social networking sites. But maybe the industry, as a whole, needs some fanfare. It’s been a rough few years for traditional publishing, considering layoffs, consolidations, shrinking sales, and store closings.

 

It’s time to celebrate the profession and art of writing. Go buy a book—or read one.

 

Or a few thousand of them.

 

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Utilizing Amazon Author Central

June 7, 2011

Are you using Amazon Author Central? If not, why? It’s an excellent author-friendly tool that can be used to promote your book and your platform that only takes minutes to setup. If you have more than one book, it’s a central location where an Amazon shopper can find your entire bibliography in one place. How’s that for an easy way to cross-promote your work?

 

Amazon Author Central allows authors to create a custom profile that customers then use to learn about the author and make purchases. The content you can place on your Author Central page includes:

  • A bio—Tell readers a little bit about yourself so they'll connect with you as a person.
  • Photos—Include your author photo and any other images your readers may like to see, perhaps your workspace or things that inspired your writing.
  • Video—Want to get that trailer up on Amazon? Uploading it here only takes a few minutes!
  • Events—Want to drive traffic to your speaking engagements and readings?  Advert them here.
  • Blog feed—Linking your blog to your Author Central page is just another way to grow your list of blog followers and give readers more of what they want: a connection to you as an author!
  • Twitter feed—Extend your social media outreach even further by displaying your tweets on your author page.

Recently, Author Central began providing weekly sales data from Nielsen BookScan (a service that tracks sales of print books in stores across the country) for free to authors who sell their books on Amazon. You can view your sales data in a variety of ways.  Amazon gives you a basic total from BookScan and shows how many units more or less you sold compared with the previous week. They also visually display your most recent four to eight weeks of sales data on a map of the United States. Alongside that display you will find a list of geographic areas from New York to Los Angeles and the number of books you sold in each. 

 

Access to BookScan data can help you determine whether your publicity efforts are paying off, and tells you what markets you have the most demand in so you can amp up your promotion accordingly.

 

Finally, for those who like to keep tabs on their Amazon sales rank, the sales data tab displays a line graph of your book’s sales rank history on Amazon and tells you what your current rank is. As with all sales rankings on Amazon, the data is updated hourly. 

 

You can also use Author Central to modify the description of your book listing on Amazon or write a message directly to your readers. 

 

We encourage all of our authors to create an Amazon Author Central page. Even William Shakespeare has an Author Central page. It has to be cool.

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Book Marketing Strategies Found in a Casino

May 16, 2011

Today’s post is by Brian Feinblum, chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts, who has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. Brian blogs at Book Marketing Buzz Blog.

casinoOn a recent trip to the Mohegan Sun casino, it occurred to me that many similarities exist in one’s approach to gambling and book publicity. I’ve working in this field for over two decades, and I’m constantly drawing mental parallels between promoting books and the other areas of my life. But this gambling connection proved particularly fruitful, so I put together a few truths that are just as applicable to your campaign as they are in the casino.

1.   Don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose. Lesson: Invest your time and resources to support your book, but don’t mortgage your house or quit your day job to do so.

2.   Never put all of your chips on one bet. Lesson: Don’t pin your hopes and dreams on one particular media outlet. Go after big, medium, and small wins. They all add up.

3.   Diversify your efforts and play more than one type of game. Lesson: Don’t focus all of your efforts solely on blogging or TV interviews. Instead, approach a number of media, both local and national—radio, print, radio, and online.

4.   Be aware that the odds are not stacked in your favor. Despite that, the only way to win it is to be in it. Lesson: You need to catch a lucky break, and it can only happen when you get off the sidelines and play the game.

5.   Look before you leap. Watch the betting strategies of others before you play. Lesson: Observe the campaigns that result in the big successes, learn, and then live it.

6.   Don’t bet on something you don’t understand or feel comfortable with. Lesson: Only market and promote in a way you feel secure in; otherwise, hire a professional or avoid it.

7.   Enjoy the win. Celebrate! Lesson: When you do experience success in your PR and marketing efforts, celebrate it and value the moment.

8.   Play the hot hand. Lesson: It may be luck or skill or being in the right place at the right time, but whatever it is, keep doing what works until it doesn’t.

9.   Take a risk—the reward can be huge. Some bet on the long shot knowing that if they win, they’ll get a huge payoff. Lesson: Take a chance on the long shots publicity opportunities—the big-name holy grails of book promotion—and enjoy the reward if it comes through.

10.  Know when to walk away. In gambling, the more time spent betting, the more likely you’ll lose. In marketing and PR, the opposite is true—you need to keep at it to have a chance at success. Lesson: In either scenario, assess where you’re at regularly and know when it’s time to call it quits.

In case you were wondering: I won fifty bucks at the Mohegan Sun’s roulette wheel—after being down $250. I got to walk away feeling like a winner.

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Top 5 Marketing Mistakes Authors Make

March 2, 2011

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.

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Becoming an Expert Is Good for Business

February 18, 2011

How to Establish Yourself as an Expert to Grow Your Network and Client Base

Everyone is an expert in something, whether it’s basket weaving, social media marketing, or book editing. Consider this: being known as an expert in your field or area of interest affords you (and your business) all kinds of good stuff: credibility, a wider network, new clients or readers, and chance to cut through the noise. For all types of authors, an expert status can lend itself to getting the word out about a book and grabbing the attention of new readers. Here are three easy steps to get you started:

1.     Figure out what you know.

In which fields do you have credentials, a strong knowledge base, or passion? What do people ask you about? What do you just love doing?  Answer this question and—voilà—you have your specialty. Next: specify, specify, specify. Don’t be just a branding expert; be an expert on personal branding for LinkedIn. A health guru could work toward becoming a clean-eating coach, and a leadership consultant could specialize in educational or nonprofit leadership. By narrowing your area of focus, you stand out among your competitors and peers and attract the attention of the right people.

2.     Do your homework and build your message.

Once you’ve identified your area of expertise, it’s time to do some research. Figure out what leaders in your field are saying about the topic at hand. To continue one of the examples above, how do other experts approach the topic of clean eating? Scour books, industry journals, and the Internet to see what’s already been said so you can position yourself in a unique way. Your message is your value proposition, and it should continue the conversation in your voice, with several clear points. For the health guru, that could look something like this:

“Providing busy families with a clean-eating plan that sticks” or

“Teaching parents how to eliminate processed foods from the kitchen.”

3.     Deliver your message.

So now that you know what you’re talking about and have surveyed the landscape, how do you get the message across to your people? There are several ways:

  • Write helpful articles and post them to article aggregators and industry publications, or start a blog or newsletter and post your content there. You can also check out other blogs or websites in your field to see if you can write guest posts for them.
  • Look for local groups, organizations, conferences, and seminars where you might be able to teach or speak. You could host your own seminars, webinars, or Internet radio shows to educate people on your topic of expertise.
  • We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—write a book! When you hand someone your book, or they see it on bookstore shelves, it’s instant credibility for you. Just make sure you do your research before you get started, as we’ve discussed many times. The book industry can be tricky, especially for newcomers.

These tips are meant to point you in the right direction, but becoming an expert is not something that happens overnight. It take quite a bit of time and hard work to amass the content you need to disseminate your message, so taking it slow and moving one step at a time is key. For more resources, check out Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog or one of these titles: Trust Agents by Chris Brogan, Good in a Room by Stephanie Palmer, or The Brand You 50 by Tom Peters.

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