Archive for the ‘Marketing and Platforms’ Category

Thursdays with Amanda: Should You Take a Holiday Break from Marketing?

December 18th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Disclaimer!!! I apologize for any typos! I have a blinding migraine today (yes, those are real things!), but I wanted to get the post out. :)

Every year, around this time, I struggle to figure out what to blog about. I’m so very tempted to slap a Christmas meme up for my Thursday post, or do something easy and less informative like last week’s list of author marketing books. This desire to cop out is INTENSE. And I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

After Thanksgiving, that weekly column you do seems like busywork. Those individuals who have Tweeted you, expecting a response, come across as more things to add to your to-do list. That sale that your publisher is doing on your book doesn’t have the full marketing push behind it that your previous sales have had.

Basically, you’ve run out of steam because your life is just so full of so many other things.

This can happen at any time of year; not just the holiday season. The difference, however, is that December is a month of spending. And gift-giving. And things. It’s a retail rush, not only in the weeks leading up to major holidays, but in the weeks following (you gotta spend those gift cards!). So where am I going with this?

I do believe wholeheartedly in taking time off during the holiday season. I believe in focusing on family and friends and others. But I also think it’s important to have some kind of a marketing strategy in place during the holiday season. It can be as intensive as you want. It can be something that you even plan out months in advance so that you’re relatively off the hook for day-to-day maintenance. But I think it’s important that you keep your marketing mindset. Your career is a business, after all. (So often we treat it as a hobby that can be set aside). And most business close for a week at the most during this season. So I encourage you to adopt that mindset and to keep marketing. Keep doing what you do to spread the word.

Because all that gift card money that people end up with has to be spent! And it may as well be spent on your book.

What’s your plan of attack this time of year? Take the month off? or try to keep going as usual?

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Author Marketing Books That Won’t Disappoint

December 11th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 2 Comments

Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Need author-y gift ideas for yourself or your friends? How about gifting some marketing help?!

No, I’m not talking about buying your writer friends a phone chat with a publicist or sending them an AdSense gift card. I’m talking about books! Marketing books, to be exact. The kinds of books that every author wants, because they know them to be helpful, but may not want to shell out money for (because come on…if they’re going to choose between the latest novel from their favorite author or a book that tells them how to work harder, the choice is obvious).

Here are five books that I’d recommend gifting to your author friends or yourself:

1. The Extroverted Writer: An Authors Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform by Amanda Luedeke (Currently $8.09 for a print copy from Amazon and $2.99 for digital)

I figured I’d get my book out of the way, since OBVIOUSLY I’m going to include it in this list. But before you brush this off as shameless self-promotion (which it is), take a look at the reviews. I don’t know many of those people. I didn’t solicit their two cents. But feedback has been very positive! I like books that are practical and fun, and that’s what I tried to write.

 

2. The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing by various NYT bestselling authors (Currently $11.11 for a print copy from Amazon and $4.99 for digital)

I haven’t read the whole thing, but from what I have read, I love how chock-full it is of links, ideas, tips, and more. Indie authors are known for sharing everything they know about the business, and this book proves that. While they write with indie authors in mind, most of the content is applicable for any writer.

 

3. The Tricked-Out Toolbox: Promotion and Marketing Tools Every Writer Needs by Tonya Kappes & Melissa Bourbon Ramirez (Currently $13.08 for a print copy from Amazon and $4.99 for digital)

Another book packed with information you can take and use immediately. A bit brief in places that could use more detail and examples, but overall a great resource.

 

4. The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan that Attracts More Readers and Sells More Books by Beth Jusino (Currently $11.24 for a print copy from Amazon and $4.99 for digital)

This book has a bit more theory than others on this list, but it has a great section on marketing plans near the back. When I say “great” I mean “Complete with a worksheet and everything!” Beth has been in the industry awhile, as an agent, among other things. So she has a great perspective.

 

5. Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson (Currently $14.99 for a print copy from Amazon and $6.99 for digital)

Another great book with tools you can USE…and its focus is social media!! Many know Edie from her blog, and if you’re familiar with her knack for online marketing, then it follows that this book is worth it. Numerous topics with do’s and don’ts included, Edie really did her best to cover the gamut of social media marketing.

Which of these books do YOU want for Christmas? Or maybe there’s a book you want that I didn’t list? 

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Steps to Create an Author Brand

December 4th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms | 2 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The past few Thursdays we’ve been talking about creating an author brand. The main points of the posts have been:

1. Your books are not your brand. YOU are your brand. Your brand infuses your books and not the other way around.

2. You can be the one to determine what your brand is.

3. If you don’t determine your brand, others will do it for you…and you probably won’t like the result (after all, most of us want to be known for more than physical traits such as “blond” or “tall” or “old” or … you get the picture).

We touched on a few of the questions that you need to ask in order to discover what kind of an author brand will work for you, such as:

– What are my hobbies?

– What is my personality? Am I sassy? Contemplative? Old-fashioned? Radical?

– In what areas am I an expert? What are things that I know more of or do better than others?

– What life experiences have I had that stand out?

Once you’ve identified what kind of a brand you want to give yourself, how do you implement it? How do you go from being an author, to a brand?

1. Look your brand. Let’s say that you have skills in refurbishing and decorating vintage pieces. Your fiction always tends to be set in vintage eras (or it focuses on characters who appreciate that style) and so you feel having a vintage brand will carry throughout your career. Now, you could go around living life as normal. OR you could replace your professional wardrobe with vintage clothing, update your online spaces to have clear vintage themes, adopt some vintage phrases, and so on. By doing this you are connecting the dots for your readers, and you’re also making it easy for fans of all things vintage to gravitate toward you.

2. Talk your brand. In the above example I mentioned that someone with a vintage brand could adopt some vintage sayings. But “talking your brand” goes beyond that. In interviews, on panels, and in discussions with readers, you want to drive your brand home. So let’s say your brand is “the MMA pastor.” In interviews and conversations, you don’t want to just talk about your book or your career, you want to talk about MMA! Talk about your favorite matches and share experiences you’ve had in the ring (do MMA matches happen inside a ring??).

3. Expand your brand. Let’s say you’ve started talking and looking the part, but thanks to social media, readers are looking for an experience. There is a huge opportunity to make your brand bigger than you and your career. Instead of always focusing on you and your life and how it ties into your brand, you want to be aware of the lifestyle that is associated with your brand.

There is a very specific lifestyle (a set of likes, dislikes, events, groups, blogs, etc) associated with “vintage.” There’s another lifestyle associated with “MMA.” Let’s say that the brand you’ve given yourself is the “Fashionista author”. There is an entire world of fashion that goes way beyond your books and career and small corner of the Web. You want to be aware of this bigger world and take part in it. You want to share pertinent news about this world with your followers. You want to know what’s going on. And you want to connect with those who are also influencers within that corner of the web. By doing this, you’re expanding your brand into something much greater, and that’s a powerful thing!

4. Develop brand standards. Every company worth its weight has a set of brand standards, which is literally a book or document that details out what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to marketing, logo, communications, etc. These things are usually super detailed, going so far as to identify which fonts can be used on various publications. While you don’t need to go that far, you should have a set of rules for yourself. A system of checks and balances so that you don’t find yourself straying from your brand. Because believe me, when life takes a turn, it’s so easy to start blogging and Tweeting about those personal things when it’s all you can think of. But your audience doesn’t care about those things! So you want to limit the amount of time spent talking about the “randoms” of life or things non associated with your brand and balance that with plenty of content that provides the takeaway your readers are looking for.

5. Have fun with your brand. Your brand should be something that feels comfortable. Natural. And yes, while we talked about changing your look and online approach to better embody your brand, it shouldn’t be a fish-out-of-water experience. Your brand is built from YOU. So it should be fun! And spending time in your brand’s world should in a sense be a natural extension of who you are. So, don’t sweat the small stuff. Be yourself. Be your brand. And it’ll come together!

Any questions?! Let me know!

ASK THE AGENT: How can I make radio interviews effective?

November 24th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

I recently had an author ask me about radio interviews. He’s working with a publishing house that has a great relationship with a couple of radio networks, and tends to push its authors to do a lot of talk radio. He wrote to ask me, “What advice would you offer a speaker who is suddenly being asked to do a bunch of radio interviews?”

I’ve got six principles to suggest…

First, learn to tell your stories briefly. Radio is fast-moving, and they aren’t going to let you tell a five-minute story. Listeners want stories, but they want them quick and to-the-point. So practice beforehand, and have several stories that illustrate your points to share with listeners.

Second, no matter what the host asks, tell your stories. Look, if you’ve done a book on “saving money to pay for your child’s college education,” you pretty much know what the host is going to ask. With every interview, the hosts are going to ask questions about two things: YOU and YOUR BOOK. So a lot of media trainers will give you this advice: Ignore the question and tell your story.

Third, don’t expect the host to have read your book. Either you or your publisher will have sent the host a series of seven to ten questions to ask in the interview. Some will just go down the list of questions. Others will take it and make it their own. But always remember this bit of advice: There are two kinds of hosts – those who haven’t read your book, and those who don’t know how to read. None of them will have actually read your book.

Fourth, be friendly, even if the host is a jerk. Some hosts like to spend all the time talking about themselves. Some want to be shock-jocks and challenge you. I once had a terrible experience with a very popular radio talk show host who wanted to keep arguing about Hillary Clinton, even though my book had almost nothing to do with her. If you watch a lot of Fox or MSNBC, you’ll find a lot of yelling… but that doesn’t work well on radio. People simply turn it off. If you want them to remember your book, be winsome.

Fifth, understand that most interviews are either 5 to 8 minutes, 11 to 15 minutes, or 24 to 30 minutes long. Find out which type of interview they’re scheduling, so that you can prepare. The short interviews just want a couple bang-up stories and ordering information. The medium sized interviews want some personal info added in. And the longer interviews want you to interact with the hosts.

Sixth, if you can set up your own radio blitz, by all means do so. You can start between 6 and 7 AM on the east coast, set up an interview every 15 to 30 minutes, and move west, where drive time ends between 9 and 10 Pacific time. That gives you a block of 6 to 7 hours you can fill, back to back. And you can do it again on the drive-home, starting at 4 PM on the east coast and going until 6:30 or 7 PM on the west coast. I once did that for three days straight, and got nearly a hundred short interviews for my book. (A radio booker charged me $600 to set this up.) It takes stamina (and a strong voice), but gets the word out fast and heavy.

If you’ve done a lot of radio interviews, what advice would you suggest to authors?

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Change Your Author Brand

November 20th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Last week, we had some great discussion on author brand and how to get started with creating one. The driving idea behind the post was to think about who you are, your likes, interests, hobbies, experiences, etc. and to turn that into a brand. We will eventually talk about HOW to turn that into a brand, but in the meantime I want to address an issue that was raised by fellow literary agent…I don’t know if she wants to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her Agent Example.

Agent Example said that she has suddenly realized she is being thought of as the “Picture Book Agent”…which really really really isn’t what you want if you’re hoping to make money at this any time soon. It’s like a career death sentence. Especially if you work in CBA.

How does this happen?! How do you end up with an author brand that you don’t want?

Remember, you give yourself a brand. You don’t sit back and wait for brand to happen. In Agent Example’s case, she probably wasn’t as aggressive as she could have been about her brand, and before she knew it, she was the picture book agent. Here’s how this works:

1. When you are a person of interest, the very group that is interested in you will look for ways to differentiate you from others like you. So when there’s a panel of agents on stage, authors in the audience are looking for ways to label each one so that they can process things, tell others about the agents, and determine whether or not said agents are worth their time.

The same is true with authors. When there are a gazillion romance novelists to love and follow, readers of that genre look for reasons to attach themselves to specific ones. If a novelist does not give them a reason to attach to HER specifically, then readers will attach themselves to others. Or, they’ll attach to a book. And like I said last week, books are fleeting. A reader who loves your book could easily move on to a different favorite author once that series is over. But a reader who loves YOU will stick with you for every book you release.

2. When you don’t provide that label for them, they will fill in the blank themselves. And that is scary, because…

3. When they fill in this blank, it will always point to what stands out the most to them. In Agent Example’s case, they latched on to the fact that she is open to considering picture books (few agents working in CBA are). This is a characteristic of her as an agent makes her unique. Plus, it’s a piece of information that is valuable to her clients and audience. So it was a clear choice.

4. When your brand is chosen for youchances are it’s not what you want to be known for. It will be something super specific to the point of driving potential followers away (like in Agent Example’s case), or it will be purely superficial. Like, “oh, that’s the author who wears hats” or “that’s the super young agent.”

Superficial brands are helpful to a point…they can get you noticed in a crowd, and they can help people remember who you are. But if they aren’t paired with something of substance, then you will never evolve past that one physical trait that defines you.

So what do you DO when you find yourself with an author brand that you don’t want?

There is a reason that people have given you whatever brand they’ve given you. They didn’t just make it up! They created your brand from what you offered them.

So, the best way to change the way people think about you is to stop promoting that very thing that you don’t want to be known for.

In Agent Example’s case, she should limit how much she talks about picture books. It may be tough! And it may feel like she is keeping a secret, but since that is what people are gleaning from her talks and from her panels and since it’s not what she wants them coming away with, then it needs to be downplayed.

Following this, she should FILL that picture book void with whatever it is she does want to be known for. Then, she needs to infuse this new thing in everything she does and says.

For example:

Let’s say she served in the military and wants a military agent brand. Whenever she talks or blogs, she needs to pull examples from her military service. She needs to talk about how she runs her business the way she would lead a squadron or how she is organized like a soldier. I realize these may seem silly! But I can’t tell you how clear and great of a picture this kind of brand would paint. She’d become the military agent. And frankly, I think that is a kick-butt brand.

I hope this is making sense! What questions do you have? Have you found yourself with a brand you don’t want? What is it, and what would you like it to be?

ASK THE AGENT: How can I make a book signing successful?

November 19th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms | 13 Comments

I just had an author friend write to say, “I’ve been asked to do a book signing party at our local bookstore. It seems like most booksignings I’ve been part of were a disaster. Do you have any tips for making a book signing successful?”

Anyone who has spent time in this industry has been to a dud of a book signing party. The author shows up, sits at a table by herself, and fidgets while a couple people wander by, ignoring her. Eventually an older woman hesitantly approaches, looking furtively around, and asks, “Hey… can you tell me where the ladies’ room is?”

Nothing is as deflating to an author as throwing a party and having nobody show up. The fact is, if you want to do a book signing, the first rule is simple: Don’t rely on the bookseller to get people there. They might send out a flyer, or put it on the company website… or they might now. (I remember one A-level author who showed up with me for a book signing only to find the staff hadn’t been told, there was no signage, and her boxes of books were actually locked in the manager’s office, and he was away on vacation. True story.) So, like in everything else in marketing, don’t rely on someone else to do the work – YOU do it, and have a plan for succeeding. Some tips…

1. Invite people. Again, don’t sit and wait for people to show up. Go out and invite them. Make it a party. Tell your family they need to show up. Personally invite all your friends – call them, send them notes, check back with them and get some commitments to be there. Focus on inviting some groups, since groups of people will make it feel like more of an event. (So invite your co-workers, your neighbors, the people at church, the people at the gym or the civic groups you belong to.)

2. Call people. Remind them. Bug them. Get them to commit to showing up. Events like this are successful if people show up. If they don’t show up, you don’t have a party; you have an empty room.

3. Make it a party. In other words, don’t just have people show up to see you, especially if it’s near your home town. Those folks can see you anytime. Have a theme. Make some noise. Do a reading. Dress up. Ask the bookstore’s event person for suggestions – if you get the bookstore staff involved, they’re more apt to act supportive of the event.

4. Bring stuff to give away. You want to SELL books, but you can give away swag. Bookmarks. Pens. Buttons. I’ve known people who have had drawings for bigger prizes.

5. Talk to everyone who comes. As an author, you’re most likely an introvert – but at a book signing, you’re going to pretend you’re an extrovert. So walk up to everybody who shows up, smile, thank them for coming, ask their name. If you need to, have a couple questions in mind to ask people. Be able to talk about your book without sounding like you’re desperate to sell some copies. And by all means, let the bookstore staff hear you say, “If you like this, you should check out these other books while you’re in the store.” Let’s face it, the bookstore isn’t doing this to be nice to you – they’re doing it to bring in potential book-buyers.

6. Have a handler there to manage the line, if there is one, and to chat up people while they’re waiting to get you to sign a book. A friendly and attractive person who can smile and chat up people at a busy booksigning is a real help to you.

7. Contact your local TV and radio people. Get in touch with the local arts and entertainment reporter of the paper. Tell them it’s a “local girl makes good” story, and invite them to be there. Make sure to build in time for an interview, before or after the signing.

8. Have someone taking pictures. You can use them on your website later. Make sure to get one with the bookstore staff.

9. If there’s a crowd, read from the book and take questions. If you’ve invited the local book groups or the local writing groups, they’ll want to hear you read a bit, and they’ll want to ask about your writing techniques. In a setting like that, read three or four passages from your book, for maybe 20 minutes, then answer questions for 20 to 30.

10. Have candy for everyone. If possible, serve coffee or wine, since food and drink loosen people up and make it feel like more of a party and less of a sales pitch.

11. Again, talk about how great the bookstore is. Mention friend’s books that are in the store. Or, if you’re not doing this at a bookstore (let’s say you’re doing this at a country club or a community center or a restaurant), then make sure to invite people to do something there, or buy something, or be involved in some way. In other words, try to get the venue and its staff on your side.

12. Get there early. No matter how well you plan, the arrangements won’t be right.

13. Dress nice – the rule of thumb is to dress one level above where your audience is. (So if they’re in jeans, you’re in business casual. If they’re in business casual, you’re in something a bit more formal.)

14. Show your personality. Your book reveals who you are, so readers want to see you. If you’re funny, show some humor. If you’re dark, offer them a bit of mystery. But don’t just show up thinking you can sign books, shake hands, and walk away. People who are coming want to either support you (if they know you) or get to know you (if they’re simply fans of your work). So they all want to see the real you.

 

What other tips would you offer to someone doing a book signing?

Thursdays with Amanda: Creating an Author Brand

November 13th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms | 16 Comments

Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In response to last week’s post on author brand, some of you admitted that you didn’t really know how to answer the question of “who am I?”

This is one of the many questions that a company or individual will ask when on the hunt for a clear brand identity. They may also ask:

“What comes to mind when hearing my name (or company name or product, etc)?”

“What feelings do people have when thinking about my name/my company/my product?”

“What do they associate with my name/company/product/etc.?”

“What do I want them to feel or think or associate with my brand/company/name/etc?”

Many companies will pay tens of thousands for answers to questions like these. They end up with lengthy research reports on their brand, the image it conveys, the climate of their client base, etc.

But authors don’t usually have tens of thousands of dollars, do they?

So let’s try a back door approach.

EXAMPLES OF AGENT BRANDS

You may think that agents are just agents. That we have no use for a brand, and that there isn’t really anything that defines us as individuals aside from the deals we do and the authors/genres we represent.

But let me show you something…

CHIP MACGREGOR

If you’ve met or are familiar with our agency president, chances are you didn’t just think “agent” when reading his name.

Instead, you probably thought of his Scottish heritage and penchant for wearing a kilt. You probably thought about how he is blunt and intimidating (things I’ve heard him described as), or how he has a strong personality but a kind, generous heart if you get to know him.

Chip isn’t just an agent. Chip has a brand. His name or picture evokes a reaction that is more than his job title. Authors who want to work with him want to be part of that brand. And conversely, authors who don’t want to be part of his brand, don’t want to work with him.

AMANDA LUEDEKE

When reading my name, do you just think “agent?”

Maybe…I mean I’m not really around when people are talking about me. But I do know that folks have described me as “young,” “funny,” a “straight-shooter.” But those things don’t really stand out, do they? At least not in the agent realm, because there are tons of young, funny, honest agents out there.

When I first became an agent, I knew I needed a brand. I needed to capitalize on something that I possessed that most agents didn’t. Sadly, I couldn’t choose “former model” as my brand or “heiress” or “moonlights as circus performer.” But I did manage to find an angle…

I’m the “marketing agent.” The agent who used to work for a real life marketing firm. The agent who has been part of big marketing campaigns with national brands. The agent who has done market research and launched YouTube channels and Facebook pages and taken risks with large clients. The agent who is willing to share with authors all she knows about marketing and who strives to communicate these things in a practical way.

This is the brand I gave myself. Did you hear me? I GAVE MYSELF A BRAND. It happened in an afternoon. I spent a bit of time thinking about what would set me apart and what skills I had to pull from, and BAM. My brand was born.

I put this brand everywhere. In my bio and in my conference workshops (you’ll never see me offer a class on craft). I started blogging about marketing every Thursday (and years later, we’re still trucking!). I embraced the “marketing agent brand” because it allowed me to stand out. It was something that other agents weren’t doing, and it was something that authors craved.

If I gave myself an agent brand, then you can give yourself an author brand.

When we approach this question of “who am I?” I want you to couple it with the question: “what do I have or what is it about me that others want/like/need?”

Think about your hobbies.

Think about areas in which you’re an expert.

Think about your job experience.

Think about the volunteer work you do or the causes in which you’re active.

Maybe you’re awesome at genealogy research or scrapbooking or cooking. Maybe you used to be or are a psychologist. Maybe you worked in television or news. Maybe you love animals and volunteer at a shelter. Or maybe you’re into local politics and give your time that way.

Each of these things could be the start of a brand. The key is to think about who you are. Who you want to be. 

This isn’t about your books. Books are so…fleeting. But your brand should stay with you forever.

So, consider the prompts above… what are some things that define you? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Be detailed. I want to know what you’ve come up with!

Thursdays with Amanda: What is Your Author Brand?

November 6th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 7 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Random Note: We’ve been having some issues with our comments, so if you left a comment in the past few months, I’ll be going through and responding today/tomorrow!

If you haven’t noticed, Taylor Swift is creating major buzz with her gigantically successful album release. (You can read about it at the Washington Post, Billboard, or really anywhere else.) Swift quickly used her ridiculous success to take aim at Spotify, a streaming service that many musicians feel is hurting the industry. But let’s get back to Taylor and her reign…

I found this article about how ridiculously successful her career has been. She is seeing sales numbers that haven’t been seen in over a decade. Her name is right up there with the far-more-gimmicky Lady Gaga…and Taylor is only 24 years old. She doesn’t have gimmicks. She’s not even that great of an actual singer. But she has a brand, and it’s working.

So where am I going with this?

It’s clear that the music industry, an industry wrought with the same issues and hurdles as the book industry, is now in the business of making stars. Sure, they still make music, but it’s the image, the brand, the celebrity of a particular artist that seems to drive that industry.

The industry’s top sellers happen to be appearing in movies (Taylor was in Valentine’s Day and will also be in The Giver). They’re doing ads (Taylor was the face for CoverGirl). They’re doing tv shows (Taylor appeared on NBC’s The Voice and Fox’s New Girl). Basically they’re doing their music thing and then they’re doing a million other things in an attempt to promote their music thing.

Do authors need to follow suit?

I tend to believe the answer is yes.

Sure, we still have authors breaking out based on their books and nothing else. But then we have John Green

He’s not just an author. He’s a vlogger (he does this as an unrelated venture to his author career, though he does talk about his books every now and then). He works with Mental Floss. He’s an intellectual. He has a brand that is so much more than this printed books and words on the page. And in a genre that has seen many many hits, John is the only author that I can think of to have consecutive hits that aren’t part of a trilogy or series of books. He writes standalone novels. And he’s kicking butt at it.

Remember, JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer both tried the standalone approach…and it was a struggle for them.

In poking around John’s site, I found this morsel of wisdom (bolded emphasis mine):

Q. How have YouTube and other social networking sites changed your life?
A. If it weren’t for youtube, I wouldn’t be best friends with my brother. I wouldn’t have the words “New York Times bestselling author” associated with my name. I wouldn’t have a way to join forces with other people and pool our resources to build huge water filters for villages in Bangladesh, and I wouldn’t be able to meet those villagers over video and come to know and care about them as people and not just two-dimensional images of poverty.

Here is my challenge to you: If this is an age in which artists must also be celebrities…if what we’re seeing in the music industry will eventually trickle down to the book industry (if it hasn’t already), then WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?

What’s your brand? What’s your angle? Who are you in addition to being an author?

 

Marketing your heart out is great, but it’s nearly impossible to do if you are no more than a book cover.

WHO ARE YOU?

The reclusive ways of Salinger and Harper Lee simply will not work. So let’s talk about this issue of brand…what’s your brand? Do you even have one? And if not, how can I help you figure it out?

The Work of It (a guest blog)

October 31st, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, The Business of Writing | 0 Comments

Unless you’ve written the best and most original piece of work since To Kill a Mockingbird—and of course you have, darling—you’re going to have to hustle to sell your book. Online, in-person, over the phone to booksellers who’ve never heard of you and question your desire to sit-and-sign at their store. However you decide to do it, it’s part of the job, and you might as well enjoy it.

From my first conversation with Chip MacGregor, he made it clear he was all about the business of writing. It’s not enough to write well, to craft compelling stories, to engage readers on the page. Like any other profession, roughly a third of your time and energy has to be committed to finding work and selling your product. It was true when I ran a software company and it’s true now.

Long before I had my deal with Down & Out Books to publish Stinking Rich, I’d decided the best thing I could do for my debut novel would be to tour it. I have the luxury of time and the dollars I’d spend on gas and accommodation would never generate anything beyond a blip in advertising. What I didn’t know was how much work would be involved beyond the hours on the road.

Pulling together a database of independent bookstores is an interesting task in an era of store closures. With mystery bookstores in particular, it felt like one in three had disappeared since the start of the 2008 recession, coincident with the surge in ebooks and online retailing. Still, most of the people still in the game are deeply passionate about what they do, and many are bound to succeed regardless of market changes. I even met one bookseller brave enough to respond to the local Barnes and Noble closure by opening up last year. She couldn’t imagine her town without a bookstore.

Booking events, even with the help of Christy Campbell, my publicist at D&OB, was a challenge for a debut genre writer from a small press in peak book season. (Hint: try NOT to wind up with a September publication date your first time out.) But we stuck at it and wound up with over twenty gigs, a mix of author co-appearances, solo book store events, sit-and-signs, and readings in bars.

I’d started doing library readings and Noir at the Bars about a year before my novel came out, so I’d like to say it was a breeze, but that’d be a lie. The readings came off okay—I stuck to sometimes abridged segments loaded with dialogue, and audiences usually get a kick out of the dark bits in my work—but the open author discussions took some getting used to. All of a sudden, I felt expected to perform without a script, without the luxury of editing my words or rehearsing what I’d say. Even in the most comfortable and friendly environment, I had to be “on”.

And before and after each event, chatting with the bookseller, I still had to in sales mode (which for me has always meant active listening). If I’m going to meet 50 or 60 booksellers over a two-month period, I’d better not let them become a blur. These are the people I want hand-selling my third novel two years from now. I need to know what makes their business hum.

But wait, 50-60 booksellers? Wasn’t I talking about 20-some events? Who are the other ones? They’re the ones along my route who said, “No, thanks” to my appearance. The ones I heard of from people I met on the road or who turned up on Google that I’d somehow missed while planning the tour. They all get a visit, a quick chat, and where it makes sense, an ARC. And some of them will host me next time I’m out. Because I’ve made an effort to get on their radar.

Sound like work? Sure. Exhausting? You bet. But when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel that way. And when I finally hit my desk again, there’s a boatload of new stories to spill.

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Rob Brunet is the author of Stinking Richwhich has just released with Down and Out Books. What could go wrong when a backwoods motorcycle club hires a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Um… plenty. Have a look at Rob’s funny, twisted look at the local good ol’ boys. Famed writing guru Les Edgerton called it “one of the wildest romps you’ll ever go on.” Rob is currently out on the road, pitching it to readers. 

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Misconceptions about Book Marketing

October 30th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

Halloween Amanda Luedeke

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Amanda Luedeke is an undead literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Let me make one thing clear: There is nothing easy about marketing.

Spend any amount of time reading up on author or book marketing, and you will start to wonder if you’re the only want who is struggling! Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park, and it’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single comment on your blog. Please, throw that mindset aside! MARKETING IS HARD. It’s one of the hardest aspects of any business because it can be is a complete crapshoot.

Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why we aren’t doing this or that or why we haven’t launched any kind of marketing strategy. These excuses may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But if it IS marketed, then by golly, it has a chance!!! And this is definitely a business of chance and risk.

So here we go…

5 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BOOK MARKETING as gleaned from the many writers I’ve talked to over the years.

1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.

I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick flicks and How I Met Your Mother and Bridget Jones hang out. Spend time with them. Develop relationships. Get them reading a personal blog of yours that touches on topics that interest them. This is how you market without a book in-hand.

NOTE: If you write nonfiction, your entire career is based on your platform. This means you need to have a substantial following before you even begin the submission process. Why? People buy nonfiction because they have a need or they have a question that needs to be answered. Nonfiction books present solutions. No one wants advice or a solution from someone they’ve never heard of! They want tried-and-true. So all you nonfiction folk, it’s important to establish yourselves as experts. You need to be somebody to some people.

2. Book marketing is expensive.

If you hire someone to handle it for you, then yes. It’s ridiculously expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can do marketing yourself. I promise. It just takes some time and perseverance. And if you choose to focus on online marketing, as opposed to traveling around (expensive!) and selling books out of the trunk of your car (costly AND time-consuming!), then you really can get going on this marketing thing with no more expense than the cost of Internet.

If you want to get serious about marketing and need a little jump start, check out my book, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a PlatformI promise it’ll give you some ideas and make the whole marketing thing feel DOABLE.

3. Book marketing takes away from my time to write.

For a few, this is probably true. Life really is too crazy for them and they barely can get writing time in amongst all their other responsibilities. But for most, it’s all about priorities, and while I’ve met plenty of authors who say they don’t have time to market, I’ve also found that those authors somehow always have time for their favorite tv shows, etc. (And because we’re storytellers, most authors follow numerous tv shows every season! Not just one or two). So is it really marketing that is taking away your writing time? Or is the issue that you’re unwilling to move around other things in your life to make room for marketing?

AND let me point out, that if in order to make room for marketing, you feel you need to cut into your writing time, then that is very telling as to where writing falls on your list of priorities…right at the very bottom.

Something to think about. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have down time or entertainment time. I’m just saying that for many of us (myself included) that time takes up way too much of our week.

4. My efforts to market my book go nowhere. It’s a waste.

It would be great if marketing efforts always got immediate results. But they don’t! That’s not how people shop. Think about the last book you read that was by an author you didn’t know…

Chances are you didn’t run out and buy it the first time you saw an ad or the first time a friend mentioned that it was good. You didn’t add it to your shopping cart the first time you saw it on BarnesAndNoble.com or the first time you spotted it on the shelf. Instead, it was only after you’d seen it in a number of these places that you realized you should probably check it out. And even then, the act of actually buying the book was probably the result of some coupon or some promo or some final piece of marketing that pushed you over the edge.

This is why marketing takes time. People are choosey about their books. They are especially choosey about the books they spend money on. So keep at it. The more touchpoints you can have with your potential readers, the faster you’ll be able to push them toward making the purchase decision.

5. Publishers aren’t going to be impressed by my silly ideas and pathetic numbers.

If you write nonfiction, then yeah…this isn’t a misconception; it’s truth. But if you write fiction, an author who is doing something is a million times more appealing than an author doing nothing. So while you may feel as though your numbers don’t impress and your strategies are n00bish, remember that fiction houses aren’t always expecting to be blown away. They just want to know that you think of this like a business. You recognize the need to try. And you’re willing to do what it takes.

When it comes time to presenting your platform, try to think outside the box. Try to show your growth over time or show examples of strategies that you believe have worked in the past for you. If you can communicate that you’ve had some success and that you are on the right track, then you’re going to be able to position yourself as an author who is moving forward. And no matter how small your actual numbers, it will cast you in a positive light.

 

Book marketing isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. So I want to know…what comes to mind when you think about marketing?