Monthly Archives: July 2010

Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 7

PART SEVEN: Your Promotional Plan

Trust me, you NEED a promotional plan. A good, strong, well organized and pin point targeted promotional plan. I’ve been in PR, marketing and promotions most of my professional life and this is truly a subject you simply can’t ignore. I’ve seen it happen in every industry, not just the business of being a writer. It goes back to the basics of being a professional.

The basics are the nuts and bolts and these principals have been vital since the cavemen convinced each other to trade shells and feathers for goods and services. If you don’t tell someone you’re an expert at something, how will they know? If you don’t show them your skill, how can they decide they want it? If you don’t promote … you basically don’t exist.

Promotion is vital and it’s vital early. As writers, we’re all told to have a web presence. I have heard several people tell me that yes, they have a website for their book but it’s basically static. Not good. You MUST update your book and your author websites often, just like your blog. Granted, a blog may receive far more self gratification through responses and viewer numbers, but don’t confuse numbers with creating awareness. Your sites are where your creative juices and polished talent get to really shine.

Update your websites at least once a month, more if possible with anything that works – news, snippets of cut scenes, interviews with your characters. Remember, a writer has an unwritten agreement with a reader. If they come to your website, they need to know that you were there too, that you continue to talk with them and that you are aware of them. The other side of the coin is a static website, one that gives a reader/viewer/follower no good reason whatsoever to pop by at all. If you write literary novels, add a page that can feature your research techniques. Fantasy? Explore fantasy through the ages. Update information as to where you are on your next book, or how to buy your current book. List where you will be speaking or signing your book and what events you’ll be attending. Do small pieces on your characters. Be sure to put sample chapters up (more than a small excerpt )to hook your visitors. Make sure you have a ‘contact the author’ button so visitors can communicate with you. Embed your blog.

Your websites should NEVER be stagnant. They need to be living, breathing sales entities AND you need to tell as many people as possible that there’s always something new to see there.

Another promotional tool is social networking to shout out your accomplishments, but always remember that social networking loses its power when all the viewers see is you trying to sell your book. Be a person, make some friends, have some fun and your new found circle will be interested in knowing more.

Find other venues to promote yourself and your work. Step outside the box. Find other websites to become visible and active within. Find interest groups and connect on a common subject with your book’s topic. Make friends with other authors. Share excerpts with them. Look for other authors to promote when you tweet or blog or update your own site. Friends help friends and friends trust friends. It’s a basic key to good promotion. Look into free and minimal cost promotional services. Book videos and wonderful interviews you give mean nothing if you don’t promote them and no one ever sees them.

When do you start all this? Here’s the kicker, you should have started when you got the idea to write a book. Honest. When an agent or publisher is interested in you, the first thing he or she does is Goggle your name. When was the last time you Googled yourself? It might be a good time to check your online presence by taking a look. If you have little or no presence, no matter how great your book is, you may discover that not only is an agent or publisher less willing to look at you seriously … but so are prospective buyers for your book. They just don’t know you exist and it’s your job to tell them.

Promoting yourself and your book should be easy and exciting. After all, you are passionate about your book or you wouldn’t have written it … and second, making friends and telling your story as an author is a fabulous, quickening experience.

Get out your notebook and let’s get started.

  • Review your products (that’s you and your book) and clarify your message. This is vital, you do have a message, whether you write non-fiction how-to books or supernatural fantasy novels. Hone in on your message.
  • Understand your competition. Take some time to look at other authors and books in the same genre. Examine what they’re doing to promote, track their success and understand how the market accepts, understands and embraces them. Nothing serves a promotional plan better than knowing what works and doesn’t work … especially when someone else did all the legwork. (BTW, with a little luck, someone someday will be shadowing your promotional efforts too.)
  • Perfect your multi-level strategy. Determine how many powerful targets you want to approach and take aim. Good promotional strategy speaks to at least three targets in as many as a hundred different ways. Press releases. Social networking. Electronic media. Publications. Live appearances. And much, much more. Where, when and how do you want to shout out your message? Plan carefully and keep records. After all, any good promotional plan will happen again and again, but how do you know if, for example, buying a billboard on Sunset Boulevard actually worked if you don’t track its response? How many people came to a speaking engagement purely by word of mouth, how many from info in your Author Website Media Room, how many from press releases printed in newspapers or magazines, how many from a previous interview at a radio station or online blog? Know these things and every time you regenerate your promotional plan, you’ll be able to tighten it more and more until it holds nothing but the elements that work best for you and your book.
  • Careful with your timing and budget. There are good times and there are not so good times to promote. If your book is about a tsunami and one hits an island somewhere in the south Pacific right before your book is released, is it good timing or bad timing? If your book is about zombies, still unpublished but represented by an agent and there are fifteen new zombie books hitting the shelves in the next eight months, is it a good time to promote or not? Is it worth the time to drive across the state (or across the country) to speak at bookstores, libraries and writing groups? Is $10 too much to pay for an online ad? Is $800 too much to pay for a book video? The answer to all these questions lies in just two more questions … What value do you get for your dollar and/or effort? What’s the payoff? The answer to those questions helps you be more careful and efficient with your time, promotional timing and budget. For example, an $800 book video that also offers promotion for the video that can be tracked, as opposed to a book video made by your geek video-making friend then plopped on YouTube, may make you think twice. Is the expenditure worth it? If you must spend not only the time working with your geek friend to create your free book video, then spend additional hours trying to get everyone to pop in and see it, maybe it just doesn’t compare to paying a legitimate company $800 for a professionally created book video that’s guaranteed to appear on real television. Think value. If driving across the country requires staying in motels then speaking to massive groups of people waiting to see you and buy your book, there’s the payoff. If your zombie novel kicks butt over any other zombie book because it’s so unique, that’s counting coup. If your book sales soar because your romance book video appeared on the Lifetime Channel, you win. If not? Back to the drawing board. Being careful with your timing and budget means doing all the homework first.
  • Good follow-up matters! Even if you think it doesn’t, it does. If someone comments on your blog, respond immediately. If a fan sends you an email, return an email. If you send one press release to a newspaper and they don’t print it, keep that contact on your media list and send the next release and the next and the next. Eventually, they will print your news. If a reporter wants to talk, of course you would respond in a heartbeat. If someone wants to sell you a service, listen to them too, it might have value (if not for you, perhaps for another author you know, thus you’ll create two friends). If a fan writes every time you post a new entry on your book website, thank them for their loyalty. These follow up activities are easy, usually free and worth millions. Never leave anyone unanswered, and never forget to talk to that person, business, media outlet, agent, editor, publisher or movie studio when they ask to talk to you. And don’t ever forget – the lowly fan who simply posts a happy face on your blog is as important and Mr. Movie Studio Man. Good follow-up matters, because it’s how we build our public and fan base. It’s why people like Niel Gaiman and Russell Crowe use twitter, it’s the reason authors have facebook fan pages, it’s the reason the newspapers eventually do respond to your press releases and grow to respect you. Nothing makes a newspaper person happier than good follow-up.

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets

Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan

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Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 6

PART SIX: Your Exposure Plan

Too much exposure? Not enough exposure? Exposure of what? Who really cares? And when is it time for brownies and milk? Truffles and fine aged bourbon? A good cigar? Whipped cream cake?

Yup, that’s pretty much how I feel too by this point in the game. You’ve struggled through determining how to be the perfectly balanced writer and businessperson, you’ve determined how long your book (and commitment to it) will be, you’ve discovered and uncovered unique hooks and new markets for your book, and you’ve separated your author platform from your book platform. You’ve identified target markets and all along the way, polished and honed your work. Definitely … it’s time for a little indulgence, and exposure is part of that indulgence, believe it or not.

Remember all those stories about the pretty girls who would send themselves flowers and candy just to make sure the object of their affection knew that they were indeed desirable and worth having? What fun (and I’m not admitting I ever did anything of the sort!), right? Now, creating exposure isn’t quite like that, but it serves the same purpose by clearly stating that your book is something desirable and worth reading. Without having to send yourself fake acceptance letters from bogus publishers, there are several ways to get exposure without cheating, lying or breaking the bank.

But …

Before we move on, I want to explore that image of pretty girl sending herself flowers a little further. Oh to be her. To have that kind of confidence! To know, without a doubt that she is a real catch and point it out so blatantly. I talk to writers and even published authors every day and am always shocked and amazed by two things.

  • The lack of confidence
  • The inability to see the focus

Lack of Confidence

As writers we start out feeling pretty good. I call this the Germination Period, the point where we realize we really do have a unique and powerful story to tell and the ability to write it. Then we go through the actual work, the writing, the critique groups, the mentorship, the rewriting and the polishing. This is the Lookie what I can do! Phase. We’ve defended and learned, grown and sharpened our craft, then we go into the Dark Realm Period and that’s where everything gets haywire. The Dark Realm? Querying, getting rejection after rejection and somewhere in the shuffle of kind and not-so-kind rejections, we lose the girl sending herself flowers. We forget who we are and begin to feel like failures. There’s only one way to combat the dark realm period. Get the hell out of the dark realm by moving faster ahead. Face facts, there are a lot of stones on the road to Oz and you are going to trip on every one of them. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember … it only takes one “yes”. Keep that original confidence, in fact, make it stronger as you go.

The Inability to see the Focus

Okay, now this one really baffles me. Aside from fear of rejection, almost all writers and authors have one other career destroying flaw – the inability to see the true focus of their journey. It never fails, every time I talk to a writer or author it’s the same story. They think that it’s not time to expose their work yet, that the book isn’t done or represented or contracted or published yet, so it’s too early to actually expose it or even plan for its success. This is a fundamental problem that must be addressed and obliterated. First of all, and I know this may sound crazy insane to some of you but … your book is NOT the product!

YOU ARE!

Honestly, it’s YOU you will be exposing, promoting and getting people excited about. It’s YOU who will be sharing the journey and excitement about writing your book. It’s YOU! How do I know this? Simple. Ask yourself a simple question. Is this the only book you will ever write? If so, we have nothing more to discuss. Sayonara. Have a nice life. But I can tell you one thing; I have yet to come across a writer who seriously aspires to be a one book wonder. YOU are the first product, YOU are the last product. YOU are THE product. Once a writer focused on that simple truth, everything gets easier. And of course, it gets more active.

Activity buffers the rejections. It plays into the universe’s plan for advancement against all odds. We didn’t write our books on a cave wall, right? Advancement started when man started and now we can move into the magic activity of getting exposure!

Here are the seven sexy ways to get exposure and recognition early and for a long time.

  1. Be consistent. I’d like to start with just a brief few words about consistency. A writer has an unspoken agreement with their readers, whether those readers are twitter followers, FaceBook friends, blog followers or critique group associates. That agreement is to be consistent. Period. It’s a promise that you’ll be there, keep writing, keep being the nice person you are and continue to earn their loyalty. You can’t keep followers or friends if you’re only around sporadically. Be honest, be interesting but most importantly, be there.
  2. Intensify your social networking. Make it more targeted. A friend of mine is a pilot so we’ll use him here. Suppose you’re a pilot. If you’ve written a book about or surrounding aviation, make sure your followers on Twitter and friends on FaceBook are, if not pilots and aviation workers, at least interested in the field. Talk about your story … without talking about your story. I know, it sounds complex but imagine yourself at a cocktail party when someone your talking with mentions a flight to Bali they recently took. You smoothly mention a flight you piloted there, what happened on your layover and that the experience was so interesting, you even put it in your book. Easy conversation is what Twitter and FaceBook require for optimum results. Your followers and friends need to know and like YOU first, then learn you’re writing a book, then want to know more about the book. Good job at the cocktail party. You’ve just gotten several future sales. Go to the head of the class.
  3. Use your expertise. A pilot knows a mess of things outside flying a plane but still connected with the experience of flying. Are there areas of special interest about a plane that not only hook into your book, but also spark the imagination? For example, are there little known facts that prospective buyers of your book might like to know? How many times birds bump into a plane, for example. If that’s something interesting and in a small way connected to your book, why not create a blog, written by a bird who often bumps into planes. On the ground, in the air, during landing or take off. The Bruised Bird Blogger (probably a professor-ish pelican with an elegant lisp) could expand the entries beyond the thud and resulting dizziness into what’s going on with the plane itself. He can be the expert passing on knowledge about take off and landing, about what he sees through the windows of the cockpit and the expressions on the passengers’ faces during landing. It could be fun to write, it could be entertaining to read, it could be informative but most of all, it could promote your expertise. It exposes YOU as the author, the Bruised Bird Blogger and the future best seller you’re writing. This is part of what makes agents and publishers think twice before saying “no thanks”. This kind of exposure says that you’re in this as deep as an author can get.
  4. A friend tells a friend who tells two friends who … Never underestimate the power of “word of mouth”. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the more people who know you are writing a book, the better your chances of exposing it. Everyone you work with should know you’re writing a book. Your dentist, your vet, your drycleaner, your gardener. Spread the love further. Expose it in your email tags, even if it’s something as simple as a line stating, “Writing a book, pray for me”.
  5. Be a joiner. There are writing and author groups everywhere in the world. If you can’t find one in your town or city, look online. Join Linkedin, I found a few wonderful writing groups there. The cool thing about joining writing and author groups, aside from the wonderful sharing of information and experience, is the fact that it makes us accountable. You tell someone you’re going to write 10,000 words by Thursday or you intend to finish a plot or chapter by Friday and guess what? Someone knows so you have to do it, you just have to. There are no excuses for failing a serious commitment. A promise broken is one of those stones we trip on along the way. Making ourselves accountable to someone helps keep us all honest and moving ahead. Another BIG benefit to joining groups is simple … it’s another universe, another place to expose your book and yourself as an author. Never forget, authors buy books as well as write them.
  6. Unofficial reviews work. If you have friends who’ve read your book or sneak peek chapter of it (no matter where it is in its process; finished, looking for critique or in the high polish lane) and they love it, get them to say so. Ask them to comment on your blog, or talk about it on Twitter. Ask them to write a guest blog review or tell their friends what they think. Nothing gets more ears perked than when a discussion about a book spontaneously happens on Twitter between a few people. They might mention one of your characters, you will respond, someone else chimes in with a comment then before you know it, someone asks what this is all about and the ball rolls further. Ask for written reviews every time someone reads you work and use those comments to expose the fact that you’re writing a book people really like! This is a perfect thing to put on your book website too, as well as on your author website. Of course, as real reviews come in after you really do make the best sellers list, you will always look fondly on the reviews that came before it was even finished.
  7. FREE!!! January Magazine. BookBuzzer. Whispers of the Muse. And there are many, many more. What are they? Free or extremely inexpensive ways to get exposure for your book, about your book and in some cases, your book doesn’t even have to be published yet. Take a day and explore the internet for free tools to create an exposure for you as a writer and your book in the works. Write eZines and blogs or even guest blogs about the writing process. Create venues to share the frustrations and thrills of your journey. Nothing wrong with a writers’ night out or online pub (as in publication) crawl. Actively look for people to read sneak peeks chapters of your book and ask for feedback.

Getting exposure is easy. Keeping it going and growing is fun. All you need to do is be creative, keep your confidence and keep your focus! And maybe send yourself some flowers too.

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets