Archive for the ‘Marketing and Platforms’ Category

How My Lack of Platform Helped Me Get Published (a guest blog)

January 23rd, 2015 | Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

It was every hopeful author’s dream. I had just finished pitching my book idea in front of seven other hopeful authors and (more to the point) an acquisitions editor. As we all stood up to leave, he discreetly handed me his card and said “Let’s talk.” Long story short, I am now a published author.

I have, in fact, shortened the story so much as to be deceptive. When he and I talked at lunch the next day, he didn’t even look at the proposal I had spent three months perfecting. First, he wanted me to address several issues. Six grueling months later, I sent him the revised proposal. To my delight, he loved it. But he wanted me to completely rework my sample chapters, which took another five months. Finally he believed it was ready to be presented to the publication committee.

As you may know, publishers are looking for three things in a proposal: 1) a great concept, 2) great writing, and 3) a great platform. But, as my editor said, they’re willing to over look one of those three if the other two make up for it. I had no platform, so my editor kept pushing me to refine and improve my concept and writing.

There were many points in the process that I wanted to give up. Two years is a long time to spend on three chapters. But because I didn’t have a platform to fall back on, I didn’t have a choice. And now, having seen too many mediocre books from well-known personalities, I’m glad I didn’t have a platform to lean on. I know myself – if I could have gotten away with less effort, I would have.

By the way, I’ve also seen a lot of authors fall back on “I can always self-publish.” I’m NOT saying that self-publishing is necessarily an easy way out. It’s probably the harder path because you’re the only one holding yourself to a higher standard. I’m simply saying that if you view self-publishing as a back-up plan, your quality will likely suffer.

In the end, the publication committee caught my editor’s vision and decided to take a chance on an unknown author. But my point isn’t that anyone can be published if they work hard enough. There are no guarantees (even a great platform isn’t a guarantee). My point is that a lack of platform can be a blessing. It can drive us to write at the highest level we’re capable of. And that should be our goal, shouldn’t it?

What do you think? Is your lack of a platform a blessing or a curse? Is self-publishing an easy way out?

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Josh Kelley is a speaker and author of Radically Normal (Harvest House). His website is www.joshkelley.ink.

Thursday with Amanda: How to Write a Novel that is Easy to Market

January 22nd, 2015 | Marketing and Platforms | 10 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. You can also check out her marketing skills on Fiverr. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Does this sound familiar?

You have a novel that seems to be going nowhere. It’s a romance, after all. And there are a bazillion other romance novels out there, competing for the same readers. So you try to think outside the box. You can’t really promote yourself, because it’s the beginning of your career and you don’t have a massive fanbase yet, so you turn to your book to help you. It’s really all you have to offer.

You blog excerpts of your book and set up character Twitter accounts and pin a ton of pictures that remind you of your novel and you do gift card giveaways and chapter one booklets and you order bookmarks and go to bookstores and … nothing seems to be working.

You’re still a voice among thousands of other voices. And you’re doing your song and dance along with everyone else, while this mass of potential readers watches.

Novels can be next to impossible to promote or market. Unlike nonfiction, they don’t solve problems (in the conventional sense) or help readers out of holes. They don’t impart knowledge and wisdom in the same way that nonfiction books do, and they certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. Nope. Instead, fiction is viewed as a form of entertainment. A luxury item for those who have the time.

This means that each time a novel is read it’s because that person has chosen to spend their free time not with movies or Facebook or friends or church or shopping or playing sports or hanging out with their kids or ANY other hobby that they may have. No, they are choosing to read a story.

And because they have chosen to read this story instead of doing any of the other countless awesome things they could be doing, they want that story to be a perfect fit. They want it to be the right choice.

So it’s really not a big surprise that readers don’t simply pluck any old book off the shelf. They weigh recommendations from friends. They weigh their mood. And they weigh the likelihood that they will connect with a story based on their interests. 

This is where many novels fall short.

A majority of romance novels that are pitched to me involve the same idea. There is a young woman. There is a young man. There is a small town. There is a family business (maybe a B&B or something of the sort). There is conflict. There is resolution.

Nothing about this idea, aside for maybe the B&B, stands out. Nothing.

Here’s a typical women’s fiction idea:

There is a woman. She is struggling because of ___ (divorce, infidelity, abuse, etc.). There is a man. He is nice but she doesn’t trust him. There is a town and a few friends. She walks around. She hangs out with friends. She slowly heals. Something happens to set her back (ex-husband comes back into town, she finds out she’s pregnant, she becomes afraid to go out alone, etc.). Friends and man help her through. She heals.

Again…nothing stands out. There is nothing to connect this story with the reader. There is nothing that screams HEY! I THINK WE’RE A MATCH!! because there is nothing that connects the reader to the story. There is nothing specific about these stories and these characters that readers can latch on to.

Which means they’re impossible to promote.

The more unique a novel is–the more it targets a specific type of person with specific hobbies and specific tastes–the easier it is to promote.

What do I mean by this? Let me point you to two examples.

From the Start by Melissa Tagg and Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge are romance novels. They pretty much fit the above romance description, but they’re also MORE than that.

In From the Start you have themes of sports and writing and movie-making ON TOP of the typical romance themes. By taking any one of the unique themes, the author has an entire world of marketing opportunity. She can tailor her marketing to readers who are also fans of football or readers who have a soft spot for those made-for-TV movies.

In Reservations for Two, you again have all the typical themes, except this is a foodie book! So anyone who is part of that foodie movement will see this as a perfect match. A perfect way to spend their free time.

When writing your novel, think about reader groups. Think about hobbies or things of interest or pastimes that you can put into your book. Then, when it comes time to promote, you simply target those groups and make them aware that your book exists. The best part? They won’t be facing this huge question of “Will I like this?” because you’ve answered that for them by putting things that they like INSIDE THE BOOK.

It’s a beautiful thing that not only strengthens marketing, but it will help your book stand out.

Is this making sense? I feel it’s a big topic to cover in one post, so let me know if you have questions! I’m happy to try and help you figure out how you can make YOUR novel a better fit for niche groups.

Thursdays with Amanda: The Importance of Networking on Twitter

January 15th, 2015 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 4 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. You can also check out her marketing skills on Fiverr. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I barely have any Twitter followers!

No one tweets me! Heck, no one even retweets me!

My Tweets fall on deaf ears!

Have you ever wondered why Twitter isn’t working? Have you ever stared blankly at your Twitter home page in a painful attempt to write something that is reTweetable? Favorite-able? Enjoyable? And then have you whittled your overly long message down to 140 characters (link included!) and sent it out to the masses only to go…unnoticed?

If this fits you, know that you’re not alone! Many struggle with Twitter, and it’s understandable. We treat it like we treat Facebook. We throw something out there and wait for the interactions to roll in.

But Twitter isn’t like Facebook. With Twitter, you have to be far more relational.

It’s a scary thing to promise marketing results, because let’s face it…marketing is a gamble each and every time. So I was a bit hesitant when I set up my Fiverr account. I felt fairly confident that I could (and can) provide social media copy that gets results, but I had doubts. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to go back to my clients and tell them that I don’t know how to help them. That I’ve done my best and my best isn’t working.

But eventually, I put my fears aside, created my page, and told a few people about my account.

The general idea behind the services that I offer on Fiverr is to help people understand how they can better communicate via social media. Yes, I write copy for them, and yes, I do research and handle a lot of the legwork. But my goal is to also show them how they can improve.

My first Fiverr job was to write five Tweets for an author that I knew. The goal? To help the author gain followers. After a bit of panic and sudden onslaught of self-doubt, I put my head down and worked.

I reminded myself that to gain followers, the author had to IDENTIFY A TARGET AUDIENCE. For this author, a clear target audience was “geeky pastors.” Once I had that nailed down, I knew that the next step would be to FIND THE TARGET AUDIENCE ON TWITTER. With the help of Google and Twitter’s search engine, I found 4-5 individuals that fit the bill. Which only meant that I needed to WRITE COPY THAT WOULD ENGAGE THOSE USERS.

I whipped together a few Tweets, sent them to the client with a note as to how to use them, and the next thing I knew, the author was showing me screen shots of this crazy long Twitter conversation he was having with these five Geeky Pastors.

If he keeps it up, he’s going to get some new followers. He’s going to have direct contact with potential readers. And it’s going to make his job of marketing his books a whole lot easer. Plus, imagine what will happen if he keeps finding NEW geeky pastors?! The sky is the limit here, but it all starts with being proactive.

The worst thing you can do on Twitter is sit back and wait for followers. The best thing you can do is find those who fit your audience and engage them in conversation.

I don’t mean for this to be an advertisement for my Fiverr page, but if you’re curious to see what $5 can get you, check it out. I also plan to add a few more gigs, one being where I will research Twitter users for you and find some that fit within your target audience.

Until next week!

Creative Marketing Strategies (a guest blog)

January 9th, 2015 | Marketing and Platforms | 2 Comments

Authors are great at pulling from life’s experiences, good and bad, to make their stories the best they can be. When it comes to marketing those stories, however, they often hide under the covers and pray the book takes off with any strategies or effort on their part. Oh, if only they had a magic wand, something creative and fun, to help get the word out about their books. Then the process of marketing could be as enjoyable as the task of writing.

 

Those of us who are represented by MacGregor Literary are blessed because Chip and Amanda give so freely of their time. They want us to excel as marketers and give us the tools to do so. Their yearly marketing seminar is above and beyond. I’ve attended for three years running and always come away with a thousand ideas running through my head.

 

Then again, I’ve always been a creative soul. I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb doing a song and dance number. Mom says my first sentence went something like this: “Hey, do you want to put on a show?” Okay, okay, totally lying about that part, but it’s true that I thrive on creativity. So, when it came to the task of marketing my books I decided I needed a unique, fun approach. I began to explore new options: using Facebook groups, for instance. Back in 2012 I came up with a fun virtual cruise idea to market my novel Queen of the Waves. Chip was kind enough to let me blog about it at the time. Since then I’ve used every creative angle I can think of to plug my books.

 

I complied some of my ideas into an ACFW Continuing Education course titled Creative Marketing Strategies: Innovative Marketing Tip FOR Authors FROM Authors, which I co-taught with Kathleen Y’Barbo and Anita Higman. The response was overwhelming. Novelists at every end of the spectrum got so jazzed at the idea of marketing their books in a fun, innovative way. Many wonderful authors couldn’t attend the conference, though, and I knew they needed the inspiration. With that in mind, I started a Facebook group titled Creative Marketing Strategies. Authors are flooding in. Fiction. Non-Fiction. Traditionally published. Hybrid. Indie. Doesn’t matter. All are welcome!

 

How does the group work?

 

On Mondays I post a teaching, usually something really creative. I pull from my online course materials and from our ACFW course. All innovative ideas. Then, on Tuesday through Friday, we work together to come up with a marketing plan for one author per day. It’s a lot of fun! The author fills out a basic “Getting to Know You” form and uploads it to the files section of the group. The others open it, get to know the author and his/her book, then come up with a flood of ideas. And trust me when I say they’re creative! We’re trying to think outside the box, after all. Our “project of the day” is always pinned to the top of the page, so there’s never any searching. Of course, other conversations whirl around us in other threads, and that sort of chatter is encouraged, as well.

 

Whether you’re writing, pitching, publishing, editing or launching a book, you could benefit from this group. Because it’s a closed group I will have to accept you. (Doesn’t it feel good to know you’re accepted?) Once I sneak you in through the secret door, a world of possibilities will await you. Go to the top of the page to the “files” section and open the calendar. Choose a date to market your book, then download the “Getting to Know You” form and re-upload with your name in the title. (Example: Getting to Know You Janice Thompson). It’s really that simple! Then join in the conversation to help the author of the day. Make sure your ideas are creative. That’s really the only catch.

 

Marketing doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, with the right tools, it can be every bit as much fun as the writing, itself. I could carry on all day about this, but, alas, I’m off to market a book. Be blessed, y’all!

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Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over ninety books, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children’s books, and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. 

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

December 18th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 3 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.

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 | 3 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?