You’ve no doubt been advised at some point to use your content to market your message. You’ve probably been told to give some away in order to get something in return, such as an email address for your newsletter. People call this content by many names. Extras, goodies, ancillaries, and freebies are all popular choices.
Any author or expert working hard at developing his or her platform should have a stash of these extra good ancillary products at the ready. (They aren’t just for giving away either! See here.) Below is a list of suggested items you can create, provide, and leverage for the betterment of your brand.
- Articles: these can be reworked chapters of your book, research your have compiled on your area of expertise, or case studies.
- Ebooks: you can use small chunks of your book to make small ebooks or convert the entire manuscript, not forgetting to convert previous works, too.
- Audio downloads: again, you can have small bits of your book in audio format or the entire thing.
- Podcasts: provide access to interviews or discussions with you and other relevant experts in your field.
- Videos: deliver mini lessons or tips in short video segments.
- Infographics: boil down a big amount of information into a one screen graphic.
- Workbooks: putting your theory or strategy into practice for those ready to implement what you have taught them.
- Apps: create an app that shares lessons or tips that people can access anywhere, anytime.
- Direct access: give them direct access to you for a consultation on the phone or via chat.
- Members only access: have a special place to send people that requires special membership to access and give them any of the above once they get there.
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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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I know what you’re thinking. What’s an author tagline?
It’s that catchy phrase, that clever one-liner that helps readers identify you and that your publicist can use to help you develop your platform. Why do you need it? So you can have a focal point, a clear and concise foundation from which to build all of your marketing efforts.
The tagline is the heart of your message, the slogan for your author campaign, but coming up with one may take some trial and error. Before you can start developing your tagline, you first need to answer a few key questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What value do you bring them?
- Why should you be the one to bring them that value?
The answers to those three questions establish the guts of your platform. For the sake of developing an example, lets say your audience is thirty-something divorcees and that your expertise is helping them jump back into the dating scene. You are the best person to give them this advice because you are a matchmaker with a ninety percent success rate and you have just published a book that outlines your top dating tips and advice. From there, you can create a list of possible taglines:
- “Getting you back in the game”
- “Divorced, but not dead”
- “Second time’s a charm”
When developing your own tagline, you would want to make a list of more than three, and even mix and match parts of several to come up with a phrase that is both short and catchy. Though not related to an author platform, here are a few tag lines that work well:
- “Funny name, serious sandwich” —Schlotzky’s Deli
- “Just do it” —Nike
- “Think outside the box” —Apple
- “The Uncola” —7up
- “Life Unscripted” —TLC
You get a sense of what each company is about based on the tagline. Each company’s brand springs forth from their tagline and all of their marketing efforts work to perpetuate the idea established by their tagline. Keep that in mind when developing your own tagline.
Also, you don’t want to rush the process. Take your time. Bounce ideas off several people whose opinion you trust. Sleep on it a few nights to make sure it’s something you can live with. It’s much more difficult to switch paddles midstream than it is to start with the right equipment in the first place. So, once you commit to a tagline, stick with it and make sure your outreach efforts and all of your marketing stays consistent with your message.
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Whether you are publishing with a traditional house, an independent publisher, or self-publishing, the bulk of book marketing responsibility is on you as the author. Many authors are choosing to hire a book publicist to help connect with readers and potential audience members.
Before you hire a publicist, it is important to ask a few basic questions to help you determine if he or she is legitimate, effective, and has the background and strengths that you are looking for:
Payment & Fees
- Do you charge a monthly retainer or is payment based on bookings?
- How much is the retainer?
- How long do most of your campaigns last?
- What type of publicity do you book most: radio, TV, online (blogs, etc) or print?
- Can you describe the involvement required from me?
- Can you describe the extent of online initiatives? The balance between online and traditional media?
- Who will be involved in my campaign?
- How far in advance of publication do you start working?
- What kind of results are reasonable to expect?
- What results do you consider particularly successful?
Former Clients and Books
- How many national bookings have you gotten in the past 6 months? Which ones? For what book?
- Will you send me a sample schedule for a client with a book similar to mine?
- May I speak with some authors you've represented?
Every author may not need to ask every question, and some authors may want to go into more detail about what they are specifically interested in. But these represent some of the most important items to know before you hire your publicist.
Visit Galleycat to see a great list of book marketing experts and publicists to follow on Twitter.