Showing posts with label BookMarketingWithoutBS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BookMarketingWithoutBS. Show all posts

Friday, January 8, 2016

Announcing an A-Z and DIY Book Publicity Course -- with Me!


Announcement

(Note: as of 15 January, the early interest form is closed. I expect to launch the course this week. If you are still interested in being part of the early interest group, however, email me and I'll handle it.)

Hello again, friendly readers! I am pleased to announce that this winter I am launching a course on Udemy. It will be on DIY book publicity, which I often talk about, but it's going to be a total package, an A-Z course on what I do for my clients, how I do it--and how you can do it, too. If you are interested in knowing when it launches, enter your info here. The people who tell me they are interested using this form will get first dibs and a discount code for the course if they join in the first month! Feel free to spread the word if you think you know someone else who might be interested. If you refer three or more people who enroll in the course, you'll get something extra special just for you.

If you take the course you can look forward to knowing how to identify the best places to get publicity for your creative work, what to say when you contact them, and how to keep the whole thing organized. You'll also get office hours where I'll be available for Q&A, a message board just for fellow students in the course--and lots more. Sign up now to be among the first to know when it's live, and get yourself that discount on tuition the process.

Goals and 2015 Wrap-Up

2015 was the year of nearly no blog posts for  me. While I don't foresee ever being a particularly prolific blogger, I'd like to offer you more value this year.

See, the thing with my Book Marketing without BS brand is that if I have nothing to say, it seems silly to me to create a blog post to say nothing or to repeat myself. That said, I think I can do better than I have. I have retained some topic suggestions from the last time I asked people what was on their minds, but please let me know (in the comments or by email) what topics you'd like to see with regard to book publicity and marketing.

Those are my goals. What are yours? What do you look forward to this year? And don't forget to tell me you're interested in my course so you can reserve an earlybird discount code.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Self-Planning for Self-Promotion: A Book Marketing without B.S. Web Workshop

I am doing an in-depth online workshop on self-promotion for all authors and comic creators. This isn't just for the self-published, either. If you're published by any house, big or small, you know how much work falls to you for your own book marketing and publicity. In fact, it's telling that my clients primarily fall in the small-to-medium publisher category, with the next largest being major publishing houses. (And yes, I have a few self-published/owner-created comics clients, too!)

Right now there are two dates: Thursday, March 27th at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and Sunday, April 13th at 1 p.m. Eastern Time (get those tickets here). I will do this again a few times a year as long as there is interest, so if you miss these, let me know what time is good for you and I will take that into consideration when I schedule the next one. (Also, if you can gather 6 or more people interested in the workshop, I'll create another event at a time chosen by your group.)

Here is a tentative course outline:
  • Pre-Planning
    • Honestly determine your strengths and capabilities
    • Choose the right tools for you
    • CreateSpace and other print-on-demand vs. traditional printing vs. ebook-only
    • Decide whether to create a business entity or publish under your own name
  • First Steps
    • Plan and Outline
    • How far in advance to send review requests?
    • How far in advance to hire help if you are going to?
    • How to get blurbs?
    • Publicity: interviews, guest blogging
    • What about traditional media?
    • One-sheets for mailed books
    • Book trailers and other video
  • Details
    • How many and what type of targets?
    • Get your data right here!
    • Review copies: physical vs. electronic
    • Keep consistent, good records
    • What does return on investment mean in this context?
    • Social media: tips, tricks, and useful apps
  • Obstacles
    • Toughening up to criticism--or how to cope if you can't
    • Connections and networking: more important than you think
    • Growing too fast: slow follower growth is GOOD
    • The importance of honest people
    • Self-publishing and industry respect
  • Q&A
This should all take between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on how many questions there are--and please do bring questions! Also, feel free to email me questions ahead of time if you don't see them addressed in the outline and I'll do my best to work them into the material.

Buy tickets here:
I look forward to meeting with you soon!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Promise of Better Craft in Self-Publishing (or Slow the Eff Down): Book Marketing without B.S. #10

The other day Chuck Wendig shared a blog post he wrote entitled "Slushy Glut Slog: Why the Self-Publishing Shit Volcano Is a Problem". You should read it, assuming that some "shit" and "fuck" aren't going to be offensive to your delicate sensibilities, and particularly if you're thinking about taking the self-publishing path or starting a small publisher. It's already up to almost 200 comments, including a long one from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Stick with reading it even though it's long and it may piss you off. It's not an anti-self-pub screed; but, a way toward a solution that elevates independent writers--and to be perfectly blunt--a number of small publishers, too.

Anyway, I won't rehash Chuck. He breaks it down so well that there's no point in my repeating it. Just read.

So... why exactly did you share this as a "Book Marketing without B.S." column?

I am so glad you asked. It's because the flow of the shit volcano reaches my doorstep, too. Now that I accept queries from potential clients, I see work that ranges from amazing to decent to incomprehensible to despair-for-humanity-inducing. The worst ones never reply when I (invariably) suggest obtaining the work of an editor. Well, sometimes they send a nasty reply back, but mostly I take the silence to mean that they stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la la".

I haven't banned self-published authors (and indeed, some of my fine, fine clients are small publishing house and self-pub), but the vetting process for small publishers and self-publishers takes up valuable time for which I do not get paid. I don't typically have to work this hard at vetting work from medium and large publishers. So in a real and fully tangible way, self-published authors and small publishers (you know the ones I mean: they're made up of one harried person who is putting out too many books per year and thus isn't spending enough valuable time editing) cost me money. Someday I may decide I don't want to pay anymore.

So here is my point that I feel fits nicely with Chuck's blog post:


Slow down

I know you're excited because you think you're done with your book; but you're almost certainly not finished. Walk away for several days or weeks so that you can return to it with fresh eyes. You probably need an editor which you can get for low cost if you can't afford the most experienced people. Or perhaps it is time to look for a really good writers group. Or at the very least cultivate friends who aren't afraid to tell you when something could be improved in your writing. And let's not forget the cover art issue: bad cover art is debilitating. Invest in your cover to the best of your ability.

If you want to put out your best work, you can not be in a hurry to publish. It's about getting it right and putting out a quality product, not about how fast you get your book to market. If you are in a hurry because you're counting on sales of your books for financial support, you are likely making a mistake. Well, unless you're already a known author; but, I imagine if you are that you already know this anyway. If that's not the reason, then why rush this thing? You will, rightly and justifiably, be judged by this product, so make it the best it can be. Slow. The. Eff. Down.

Don't forget that part of the reason more traditional publishing is slow is because the books go through multiple edits and re-writes, and even when all that happens there is often still more that could be done, So why would you think that your first or second draft that no one else has ever looked at was ready? Even a second draft after a few people who just say "it's good!" isn't going to be much help either. Every writer needs an editor--a real editor, not just a yes man--who can help them find structural problems and inconsistencies and typos and strange word choices. You're not any different, which is fine. It means you're in good company.

Even Smashwords' Mr. Coker says in Wendig's comments, "It takes a village to publish great books." So don't do it alone, not because I have sympathy for your overworked plight (nearly all writers are overworked, my special little muffin), but because the best quality books are simply not put together alone. Find your team, the one that works at the level you can afford, however that looks. Be prepared to let things sit for a while. Be prepared to accept constructive criticism and suggestions for edits. Be prepared to re-write.

So make yourself the promise of editing, re-writes, and patience. Make yourself the promise of craft. Even if the way poorly published independent books bring the whole thing down doesn't matter to you (and it really ought to), it should matter to you whether or not you put out the best work that you can. You'll do better in the long run in the most self-interested of ways, and I'd like to think the entire big, messy community will get better, too.

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here, and please send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com. Thank you for your continued support!

Monday, January 27, 2014

How to Handle Social Media Missteps: Book Marketing without B.S. #9

Twitter is often an important tool in the writer's networking arsenal. It's fast, it's short, it's connected. Author Peter V. Brett was reminded last week that those strengths are also its obstacles. Today's blog post is to illustrate that being careful how you compose tweets about controversial or sensitive topics makes a difference, and how you handle it when you misstep makes an even bigger difference. (And if you're active and engaged, it is likely that you will at some point make a social media mistake.)

A Social Media Problem is Born

Last week's genre author twitterstorm was set off when Peter retweeted the following:


How did you read this tweet? Some people took it as he intended (more on that later), but many, many people took Peter to mean any number of things like "It's not fair I can't have more rape without people complaining about it" to "I am making light of a serious topic" to many other things, none of which he intended. It should be noted that Peter has had some controversy about rape in his novels before too, so--fairly or not--he may already have people feeling unsure about his sensitivity.

So he didn't mean it? You'd think I was just taking his word for it; but,  here is his next tweet, posted just a minute after the first one:


If you saw the second tweet, you'd likely get a meaning closer to what Peter intended; but, the problem with Twitter is that the tweets flow by fast and furious, and seeing one is never a guarantee someone will see the next one. I am guilty of dividing thoughts up into two tweets sometimes, so I can understand why it would happen. The low character count feels too limiting sometimes; but, this is a lesson to us all that a complete thought in one tweet is a best practice, especially when it's a sensitive topic such as rape. So what can you do to prevent this on the front end?

Stop and Think

While Peter's intention was good, much like editing in your writing, his meaning would have been much clearer if his second tweet had been his first tweet, and there had never been a second tweet at all. Usually you can be casual on Twitter, but when sharing (again, especially sensitive material,) it is best that you take a moment and consider how it might look to someone else. Put yourself in someone else's shoes and imagine. If you're creating  and writing, this should be something you already do anyway.

It is important to always remember that the only thing we're in control of as is what we say. We can not control how others perceive what we've written, how they'll feel about it, or what they'll say about it. 

Best Way to Handle a Social Media Problem

Problems like Peter's really can happen to anyone. The internet moves so much faster than you could ever anticipate, and it seems bad news travels further and faster than good news. We all have the potential to tweet something that either we should just plain not have said at all, or more commonly, that will be taken in a different way than intended. Maybe you'll realize it right away and delete it in time. Maybe you won't. And if you don't, and you want to handle it with grace, dignity, and humility. In my estimation, Peter handled this (mostly) well. What lessons can you draw? Here is what he did right:

His response was swift
Instead of letting it fester without comment (one of the worst things you can do with your "brand",) he replied quickly and profusely. No one could doubt Peter was doing his best to manage the issue in a timely manner.

He stayed calm and rational
He got a defensive at a few points (more on this and the language of apology later), but given the harshness of some people's reactions and how fast things were moving, I can understand his feeling how he did about it. Overall he kept it sane and decent. He never called names, he never got into any nastiness beyond initial defensiveness.

He expressed remorse
He apologized numerous times and admitted he could have done better and that he understood the other people's points of view.

He had humility
Even to defenders, Peter said he understood how the tweet was interpreted and expressed that he wished he could have handled things differently. He could have just soaked up his numerous supporters' comments and used them to say "See? You people who misinterpreted this are just plain wrong!" but, he did better than that. Here is a good example:


Finally, he put his money to work by donating to a related charity

This was a class act kind of a move, and can never hurt.



What should you do if you have a social media problem?


React quickly, calmly, and evenly as possible
You'll undoubtedly be feeling emotions such as defensiveness, anger, annoyance, and embarrassment; but, from a public relations standpoint you have to put those on the back burner. If you are not able to do that--at least in writing--ask a trusted friend for help in composing your response.

Also, take responsibility completely
That's the one area Peter could have improved on. His apologies were touched with the "I apologize to those who took my comment that way" and " I apologize for wording that could be interpreted as such". This (I assume unintentionally) serves to put some of the responsibility back on the offended party, and also doesn't indicate any sympathy for the people who were upset--which is important in smoothing over feelings. Better phrasing would have been something along the lines of, "To those I hurt by my earlier tweet, I offer my apologies. I was not careful in composing my earlier RT. I'll do better in the future." It removes the "if you took it wrong" language, and turns it into "I am 100% accountable" language. Even if you don't fully feel that way on the emotional level, that's how you apologize. That's how you take responsibility.

I should also say that I don't mean to pick on Peter. He did well on the spot and under a lot of pressure. He is not trained in PR and let's be real: writers don't have the money to have staff to help with this sort of thing. I was simply inspired to write about it to help all of you understand how easily this might happen to you, and more importantly how to handle your own social media problem situations as they come up.

I hope you found this useful. I'd be interested to see other situations you think were handled well (or handled badly) if you want to share them in the comments.

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here, and please send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com. Thank you for your continued support!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Value of Vulnerability: Book Marketing without B.S. #8

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Today I retweeted a blog post by writer and Guardian columnist Damien G. Walter. It was called The DOs and DO NOTs of Getting Your Book Reviewed and in it was the kind of solid, realistic advice I appreciate (and have written many times before). The first thing he says is that you probably need to work on your craft and write something good. Write something better. It seems obvious, but so many authors and smaller publishers don't give the book enough time to go through plenty of editing and rewriting. (Well, sometimes the editing is lacking at the big houses lately, too, but the shrinking corporate reality of the big publishers is a blog post for another day.)

The second piece of general advice is this: "put yourself, as a writer, in the shoes of the people and publications who review books". Ah, yes. My old saw, empathy. Everyone's busy, everyone's inbox is overflowing, and of course we must not lose sight of the fact that reviews are not mere publicity tools, but information for readers (the consumers of your books). Walter also writes about having conversations, about engaging and being a part of the community of readers, writers, and super-fans.

By the time I finished reading, my impression was that the thread running through his advice is that of how important it is to be a real and social human being: don't spam, don't fake popularity (i.e. don't buy followers!), tell your story, share successes and failures. What does all of that sound like? To me it sounds like relationships. It sounds like human interaction.

In particular his advice to share both victories and defeats resonated with me. This was for two reasons. The first is that sharing in this way is a reflection of real and healthy human relationships. If you're with your friends, do you constantly chirp only your best news, neither listening nor sharing vulnerabilities? I certainly hope not, for your friends' sake if not yours!

The second reason relates to an experience I had during my recent talk at SFContario. Our energetic discussion arrived at the subject of how important contacts and relationships are in publicity. I candidly shared an experience I mentioned here in which I talk about the time I had to contact outside of my usual area, and how my rate of success had been much lower. I told the audience that the true lesson of the situation was in the humbling experience of realizing that I didn't have some magic in my query letters, just the more mundane reality of time spent on getting to know people and what they like, and building trusting relationships with them. Afterward, a few people told me that they appreciated my honesty, and that it helped them feel they could better trust my advice. While this was by no means a calculated move on my part, it illustrated yet again that the way you treat other people--the way you interact with them--makes a big difference.

You hear frequently that people don't want to be spammed, that they don't want you to just say "buy my book" over and over. Do you listen? Well, Walter's post is an example of a person telling you what they want, very clearly and concisely. Are you going to listen and examine your behaviour critically, or are you going to make excuses about why it doesn't apply to you?

My advice is to take a deep breath and remember that this is a long game. In our brave new world of publishing, your overnight success will take years, and--whether you like this or not--it will absolutely depend on two things: your attention to your craft and your ability to have real conversations with other human beings.

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thank you once again for your continued support.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Amazon Exclusivity and KDP Select: Book Marketing without B.S. #7

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Once I began working independently of a publisher, I ran into an issue that I hadn’t dealt with before: exclusivity with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. From a publicity perspective I found it frustrating, as I have contacts affiliated with other book-buying outlets and I am unable to call on them in exclusivity situations. Why would they help with a book they can’t sell, after all? Still, I know it is more complicated than that, so here are some thoughts. I hope you'll share yours, too.

I want to make clear that I have no problem with authors and publishers who choose to use the KDP Select program. I understand why. What I am bothered by is Amazon's program itself. Since people make a large percentage of sales through Amazon, they’re often going to be tempted by the higher royalty rate, or rather, seek to avoid the punishment of the 35% royalty rate. There are other benefits as well, such as five days of being able to offer your ebook for free download (though Amazon has nerfed the impact of that  by changing the visibility of the top free books list) and members' books are available for free borrowing by Amazon Prime members, which may net more reviews and definitely nets a share of money.

In a fascinating article by Eoin Purcell,  he compares KDP Select's desire for exclusive content to Netflix’s production of exclusive content. The point that sticks out the most to me is that it reduces user churn. In other words, Netflix wants to keep its current viewers as much—if not more—than it wants to attract new ones. It does this in part by producing and purchasing content that only appears on Netflix. Netflix then promotes this content and funnels it to viewers' eyeballs.

While we have no direct evidence of this one way or another, it makes a lot of sense that Amazon may be trying to do something similar. It wants to keep people paying for Amazon Prime membership, and one of those benefits is free borrowing of ebooks exclusive to Amazon Kindle. It’s no-overhead income for Amazon. Indeed, retaining subscribers is a big moneymaker for pretty much anyone who does subscriptions. While Purcell contends that Amazon is getting this exclusive content without paying for it, I’d argue that it's paying for it with higher royalty rates. Still, they’re not paying publishers and authors what they probably should be given the extent of the benefit to Amazon, and given that all the work of writing, editing, layout, marketing, advertising, and publicity falls squarely on the creators and publishers.

Purcell raises another interesting point when he says that Amazon also gets to see how self-published authors sell during this exclusivity period, which gives them an edge in possibly offering publishing contracts for Amazon Publishing, and of course scads of general sales and marketing data, all paid for (in many ways) by publishers and writers.

One thing that was previously difficult for creators and publishers to control was the timing of promotional pricing. It was hard to predict exactly when it would kick in. Now Amazon has introduced Kindle Countdown, which lets one set parameters of timing. But, naturally, one has to sign up for KDP Select to use it, creating yet more pressure for exclusivity, when someone really ought to be able to schedule the dates and pricing anyway.

How big is the benefit to creators? Many argue that it’s not worth the exclusivity to limit yourself. I myself don’t have any experience that is definitive one way or another. Two publishers I’ve worked with prefer to go this route, but others don’t. I can't argue with the ones who like it when they feel they get a consistent benefit from it, after all. Still, both publishers are fairly young and neither had large marketing and publicity campaigns (of which I am aware, anyway!) prior to doing the exclusive arrangement.

This piece by Jane Litte over at Dear Author raises a really good point that gets to one of the reasons I feel uncomfortable with exclusivity. It starts to feel (to me, not in Litte’s words) a bit like the “company store” phenomenon. What Litte does say is that it can be dangerous because with all your eggs in one basket, what happens if the bottom drops out of the basket? Remember when Amazon removed lots of erotica? What if they come for what you write next for some reason? I know that’s a long shot, but exclusivity gives them complete control over that if they choose to exercise it. What if they decide to change terms in some other legally-covered way? You’ve undoubtedly agreed to a host of terms and conditions when you go with KDP Select, and Litte points out that Amazon changes terms at other times writing, “Just recently they increased the amount you have to buy in order to get free shipping from $25 to $35.” Do you fully understand what you signed when you joined KDP Select?

She also argues that exclusivity harms readers, too. Litte says that by reducing or eliminating competition, some of the drive for innovation—and thus perks for customers—disappears. If Amazon has no competition, they don’t need to win your business. They’ll be the only game in town, then we’re back to the company store of books. Again, though, I can’t blame people for doing it. When most of your sales come from Amazon, and Amazon sweetens the deal, then what’s a struggling small publisher or self-publisher to do?

In any case, many people have looked at this more closely than I have, and authors have generously written about their experiences. You can read, in addition to the above, the below interesting posts, and I am certain that a quick search will net more.


To sum up, on a purely theoretical basis I encourage people not to use Amazon’s KDP Select/exclusivity; but, in the pragmatic sense, I understand why people use it, and I still gladly work with publishers who are part of the program. We all have to work with the resources at hand, and when money is tight (and when isn’t money tight for a small publisher?) then we take what we can.

I am really interested in your experiences and I can even do a follow-up post about what readers are willing to share. Contact me at beverly@beverlybambury.com if you want to discuss your KDP Select experiences. I imagine there is a wealth of experience out there!

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thank you once again for your continued support.

Remember, I am on blog hiatus until the second week of January. Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Inspiration vs Newsjacking: Book Marketing without B.S. #6

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

My client, writer Chris Irvin, did a blog post about the assassinated Mexican physician and politician Maria Santos Gorrostieta, which inspired his novella, Federales. He was concerned that the post might be interpreted as using a tragedy for his own marketing benefit. I advised that the post was just fine, and that the real problem were things such as the infamous Cairo tweet from Kenneth Cole. Sure, Kenneth Cole got a lot of attention; but, the majority of it was bad, and despite what you may have heard, bad publicity is not as good for your company as good publicity. 

It's not hard to learn more about this concept of marketing tie-ins to tragedy or events. In general, this is often called “newsjacking”, a term coined by David Meerman Scott. Scott does not advocate the use of tragedy in this way; however, and even spoke out against marketers making light of Hurricane Sandy, which you can see in the comments of this controversial HubSpot blog post.

I admit I don’t see how newsjacking could ever be a positive term. I think appending “-jacking” onto something creates a negative connotation. So, what is good newsjacking, then? Why is it a thing? This blog post was a helpful run-down of positives and negatives to watch out for. Finally, if you're interested, it may be useful to also read Danny Brown's reply to the HubSpot post and its replies. .

Consensus is definitely on the side of staying empathetic, kind, ethical, and.... well... classy. Of course there still seem to be people who have no problem making light of tragedy with an eye to profit. I personally find things like that distasteful and certainly the person doing the newsjacking may create a negative association for the brand or individual in the eyes of many potential customers. It's risky at best, and dangerous and cruel at worst.

So did Chris newsjack in a bad way with his post about Maria Santos Gorrostieta? No, not at all. For him--and for all artists--this served as inspiration to create a bigger story, to create art. This wasn’t a casual, off-the-cuff tweet intended to drive traffic to his web site. Indeed, I think painful or tragic incidents are often the inspiration for people to create, which is a healthy, humanist response. A callous marketing effort this was not, and so I feel comfortable saying that inspiration is not newsjacking. They're totally different things, and respectful blog posts about one's inspiration, such as what Chris wrote, is something you should feel completely free to do. If you're ever worried about the tone, ask a trusted (and 100% honest) associate for his or her thoughts.

What do you think about newsjacking and using tragedy to inspire art? Is there a difference? What examples have you seen (of either) that have been particularly bad, or particularly good?

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thank you once again for your continued support.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review Copies, Ebooks, and Pirating: Book Marketing without B.S. #5

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Want reviews? Of course you do! This means that you have to send review copies, and this can get expensive with numerous physical books to send. Many of you are paying for these directly or are with a small publisher whose budgets are as tight as your own. A few of you lucky devils will be with large publishers who furnish all review copies, whether physical or through NetGalley. In fact, this post may not be as useful for you if you're on a major publisher. Check back next week!

Anyhow. I digress.

For the rest of you, this means you're thinking about ebook review copies. For some writers this is a stressful idea, bringing on fears of piracy and the death of sales. First this post will look at how to prioritize physical vs. electronic review copies, and then I'll discuss piracy fears and why you probably shouldn't worry too much about it.

How should I prioritize who gets physical review copies and who gets ebook review copies? Generally it's good to prioritize this with a simple cost/benefit analysis. If a site or publication is higher-traffic or is heavily influential, seriously consider a phsyical copy--if that's their preference. Some actually will prefer an ebook. If it is a lower-traffic or a less influential site/publication, then it is most cost effective to see if they will accept an ebook version to review. This applies to comics as well as prose books. The final choice is between you, the reviewer, and your publisher; these ideas are simply decision-making tools.

You can determine priority by checking site traffic using a tool such as alexa.com to compare statistics among the places you want to review your book. A lower number is better (i.e. a higher rank), and if you can get sites better than a 500,000 rank, it's a great start. I can't suggest that you only decide with site statistics, however. You should be aware that some sites might have lower traffic ranking, but are influential. A good example of this is Weird Fiction Review. It's a site with strong influence among many authors and readers in genre circles, but its Alexa ranking is so-so at over 1.8 million. Still, it would be a plum spot if you wrote the type of things that they like. Try your best to strike the balance between web traffic stats and less measurable aspects of influence. And, as always, take the time to read submission policies, reviews, and articles so that you get a good feel for what the site is looking for. It always benefits you to ensure that it's a good fit for your work before you approach them.

One other note: if you send a physical review copy unsolicited, make sure it comes directly from you or your publisher, and includes a one-sheet. If you've corresponded with the person on the other end and they're expecting it, it becomes solicited and this is when you can consider having it shipped right from the source (without the one-sheet) if you're doing print-on-demand.

What about ebooks and piracy? First, let me be completely, unequivocally clear: I want creators to be paid for their work. If you don't get paid, I don't get paid. So read this with the understanding that I am firmly on the side of your intellectual property rights.

OK, all that out of the way, I want to say that piracy is not likely to be a big deal for a majority (though not all) writers and comic creators. Let me explain: chances are if you're looking for marketing advice you are in need of audience growth. Audience growth will result from reaching more readers. Reaching more readers happens with word-of-mouth and well-placed advertisements. Ads are really expensive, so the majority of your marketing, especially early on, will be reviews by professional reviewers, and reviews by readers who share their thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads, and other similar sites.

Reviewers to whom you send an electronic review copy are nearly all good, ethical people who will not share the ebook with anyone. The few who may leak it can't be helped. If the book gets out and gets read by people who then discuss it with others, some of those people will end up with a pirated version; but, some of them are going to buy your book. If you somehow are lucky enough to go viral on torrent sites, you're going to get more sales and more fame even with people illegally downloading your work. This will ultimately translate into more money for you down the road. And really, the chances of your book going viral are quite slim anyway, so your lost revenue is negligible, if anything at all.

One of the best ways to get more readers for your work is to keep writing. The more you write, the more you tend to sell. So focus as much of your energy on writing and creating as you can, and over time it is most likely that you will get better sales.

One other thought about piracy is that it's difficult to measure the impact. Are the people pirating your ebook the kinds of people who would have bought your book in the first place? It's impossible to say, really. I suspect that in many cases they wouldn't have bought it anyway. I know, I know. I don't have evidence, but going on the principles of word-of-mouth marketing and the effectiveness of samples as a sales tool, I think it's rational to conclude that over time a few pirated copies will ultimately benefit you.

So send review copies, ebook and paper, as you need. Don't worry about it. Don't fuss over DRM. (Unless, of course, you're with a larger publisher and don't have a choice. In that case you can use NetGalley, or send plenty of paper review copies that aren't out of your own pocket. Lucky devils indeed.)

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!

Tonight don't forget to join #GenreLitChat with John Mantooth, Nathan Ballingrud, and Heidi Ruby Miller. Tomorrow is Calls for Submission #2.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Far in Advance to Hire a Publicist and a Book Marketing Plan Timeline: Book Marketing without B.S. #4

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Today brings another pair of related questions. The first is "How long before my book comes out should I hire a publicist?"

It depends to a certain degree what you're looking for and on how in-demand the publicist is. My business is relatively young, so six months is plenty of lead time for me, and I can absolutely work with much less if required. I've even done emergency publicity!

Ideally, for prose novels, pre-work work for publicity should start anywhere from 4-6 months before release (for long lead-time review spots such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal). It is helpful to give your publicist plenty of time before that to plan and, if necessary, work with your publisher. Graphic novels and comics can work with a bit less lead time.

While this represents the ideal, it's possible to do good work with much less time, too. Just bear in mind that for the biggest and busiest review spots that if you don't give them at least a few months you aren't likely to get reviewed. Other than that, 1-3 months is plenty for most reviewers and for setting up a lot of your publicity.

What if you try it yourself and suddenly realize, right before (or right after) release that you want some help after all? You can get help at the last minute, too, but it's important to understand that many major spots won't accept books that are either close to or post-release. Many excellent reviewers and sites will; however, so all is not lost. Just realize that you're not going to get The New York Times from a book that is already released. Not even John Scalzi's Big Idea, for that matter.

So for you TL;DR types: the best time to contact a publicist (at least for this publicist) is 5-6 months before release, but anything can work (even post-release books) as long as what you expect from your results is realistic.

The next question is "What timeline should I use to plan my book marketing?"

As  I mentioned above, if your book is eligible to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Book Slut, and other long lead-time publications., then send those review copies/galleys out 4-6 months before release date. Send these with a one-sheet, which is important to include with mailed copies.

For the rest, you'll query. (Unless they say it is OK to send a book, of course, then you send the book with a one-sheet or via email/NetGalley, depending on the reviewer's preferences.) A query is just seeing if a blogger or reviewer wants to look at the book and of course an offer to send one. As far as the timing, my assumption is that you've read other websites' and publications' and bloggers' review and publicity submission guidelines. If you have, you'll know how to stagger the rest of the schedule. Some will need to go out 3-5 months, some 1-3 months, some 5-6 weeks. This is one of the more time-consuming things: finding the right targets and making sure that you have them scheduled correctly. Don't be shy about writing these down in order or using an electronic calendar to keep track. 

Make sure that as you query--particularly blogs and media you know accept guest posts and do interviews--ask for what you want from that site. Something along the lines of "If you like the idea or the book enough, I'd love the chance to do a guest blog post for you. I can do it on (sample topic 1) or (sample topic 2), or if you have something you'd like to hear about, I'll gladly write that instead."

2-4 months before release: if you want to set up book signings or readings, now is the time. Note that very popular reading series, such as KGB, may require 6-7 months of lead time. 

3 weeks to release date: handle your correspondence and write guest blog posts as required. If you have an interview or need to finalize any in-person events, make sure you have what you need. If you do book signings/talks, then you'll want a poster of some kind to take with you.

What about those queries? Once it's been 2-3 weeks, it is OK to follow up with people to whom you have sent QUERIES. If you've already sent an actual book (often those long lead time publications from above,) then don't follow up. While we're at it, if you ever send a press release (and usually you do not send those for books,) don't follow up on those, either. Anyway, queries you can follow up, but they should be super polite and low pressure. 

At release time and after: make sure you're meeting your deadlines and following through on commitments. If you get a good review or a guest blog or an interview, share it. Share when your book is released, too. Anything like that is fine. A bit more often on Twitter than on Facebook. Don't forget though: if all you do is push your books, people will stop listening to you.

You may also find it helpful to revisit 5 No-BS Twitter Tips for Authors and 5 Steps to a Quality Blog Tour

Anyhow: this is a very rough and basic guideline. Each project will have to be planned based on its own requirements and based the resources of you and your publisher. As always, let me know if you have any questions about your situation.

That's all for this week. Keep an eye out for the first of the semi-regular calls for submission columns. 

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Changing/Correcting Guest Posts or Interviews, and More Replying to Reviews: Book Marketing without B.S. #3

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Today there are two related questions. The first person asked "What if I want to change an interview or guest blog post reply after it's already gone up?"

Naturally, if there is an error of some kind--whether factual or typographical--you should politely ask the journalist or blogger to make the change and explain why if it isn't obvious.

I can't think of any other reason you should ask to change something you've already vetted and has been published. It is possible you'll be embarrassed by something you've written, or realize it might have been more clear stated another way; but, those aren't good enough reasons to ask for a change.

If you're worried this may happen, have one or two trusted friends read through what you have written and give feedback. At the very least, try to finish a day or two before deadline so you can sleep on it overnight and see if you still like it in the morning.

The next question was "What do you think about writers replying to their reviews?" Now, I have already written about this; but, I realized that I could add one more piece of advice.

If you see that the negative reviews have similar themes, there may be something you can learn from them, and it may be worth it to reply in the form of a blog post. Be very careful to not specifically address individuals if you do this. You can say something such as "I've noticed a trend in my 1- and 2-star reviews" and that covers it. You can always link to the book at an online store and people can look at all the reviews for themselves. Plus it's the link where they can buy your book, so there's that, too!

An essay will let you explore your thoughts on the topic without seeming confrontational. I still think the best option is not to address it publicly at all, but if you feel there is interpretation to share, or that you have something interesting to add to the conversation then go for it.

Finally, be careful about tone if you go this route. It's still important to not look like a asshole or a whiner. You are your own branding online, and your choice of words makes a difference. So, as you would with your fictional writing, have trusted associates read through your post first and give their feedback serious consideration.

That's all for this week. Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Social Media for the Misanthropic and the Anti-Social: Book Marketing without B.S. #2

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

One of the best things about being a publicist, is that I get to do all the social, extrovert, asking-for-things work that my clients usually don't want to do. I get to give them more time to create, and take away the stress of putting themselves directly out there. Also, given that my clients are overwhelmingly writers of dark fiction of some kind or another, they're frequently put off by other social media tone and content. It's too perky and bubbly. It doesn't feel genuine.

In last week's column about why you shouldn't purchase followers, I looked briefly at the question of "So how do I build audience?" and the imagined comment of "But, I'm dark and serious and not that social. Plus I don't sell glasses. This advice sucks!" I get into the topic a little there, and in this post I offer you a few examples of people whose social media skills I admire.

Note that for this article I am only focusing on Twitter. The reason I am not discussing Facebook more is that Facebook's brand pages consistently decrease in direct benefit, and it's a topic for another day. That said, the general ideas still apply for Facebook or anywhere else. If you have questions, leave a comment and I'll reply to it as soon as I can.

There are a number of people whose technique I admire, but I am going to have you take a look at three specific people: Chuck Wendig, Caitlin Kittredge, and Sam Sykes. All three of these writers share common characteristics that have served them well on Twitter.

1 - They don't focus completely on their own work. They do sometimes post about their work or ask us to buy their books. That's perfectly fine and to be expected. Notice though, that it's overall uncommon. Every tweet or every other tweet, or even every tenth tweet doesn't contain promotional language. As I've said before (and based on what I see on twitter every day, I have to keep saying it over again!) you should focus on being an integrated, complete person on social media. This is our new town square. Do you really want to talk to someone or hang out with someone that says the same thing over and over again? You do? Well, you're in the minority, ya big weirdo.

2 - They are highly responsive. They don't reply to everyone who tweets at them, and really, given the amount of stuff coming at them every day there's no way that they could; but, they do respond often. They interact. They are social. If you ignore every tweet that comes at you and you just broadcast and don't use social media for its intended purpose of interaction, you're missing out. Note: sometimes if you're really famous already you can get away without bothering to reply. Many brands and many celebrities can post announcement-only and that works for them; but they were already famous. You can't do that. You're not famous. (Unless you are, in which case, thanks for reading this far, famous person!)

3 - They use their own voices. They swear, they grumble, they don't use bubbly, insincere language. Once again, they are complete, integrated human beings who sometimes talk about their personal lives, sometimes what they're reading, what they're watching, what they're doing, sometimes about community issues, and sometimes about other people's work. (See #4.)

4 - They build community by sharing the work of others. These people also tweet about other people's work. They understand that a strong community and strong sense of teamwork are their own important mental and social benefit. They also understand that it helps sell more books than isolating themselves and acting like they're the only game in town. Remember (and this may be the most important takeaway) word of mouth has to come from other people. If it comes from you, it's as good as useless. So keep sharing the work of others, keep being a member of a community, lead by helping others up and not by cutting them down.

So what can you, personally, do? I really like lists, so let's have another list.

1 - Listen.

2 - Reply to people when it's relevant, and about what they're into. If you reply to push your work you've already failed.

3 - Listen.

4 - Share an appropriate amount. Aside from replies, you shouldn't tweet so much that people's feeds are overwhelmed. And anyway, what do you have to say that's so important? Don't be afraid to be quiet on the original Twitter content if you're interacting frequently with others. Naturally, if you think of something interesting, fun, or relevant to say, then by all means, say it!

5 - Follow others, even if they do not follow you back. Yes. Read that again. You can follow people even if they don't follow you back. Sometimes you may want to tidy your list, and that's cool. I unfollow people if it's just not working for me; but, if you like what someone is saying, or you like their work, just keep following even if they don't follow you back. Of the people I list in this article, only one follows me back, and that's just fine. I like what they have to say and they don't owe it to me to follow back. If you're really there to meet people and grow audience, being relaxed about this sort of thing is a good start. After all, if you only follow people who follow you back, what quality is your audience, anyway?

6 - Listen.

7 - Like I said in #5, quality over quantity. When you get a new follower that might be interested in reading your book, make sure you check out their feed and reply to something of theirs. Don't tell them about your book in this tweet. Why? Because it's already in your profile and probably one or two of your tweets. It's completely unnecessary and redundant, and makes you look desperate. Also see the link in #8.

8 - DO NOT FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY USE DIRECT MESSAGES TO PROMOTE TO YOUR NEW FOLLOWERS. Read this. (And yes, this relates to that point in #7.)

9 - Share different types of content. You can share pictures, you can share links (and try to say why you think they're interesting if you have characters with which to do so,) you can share other people's work you think is good. And yes, sometimes share your work, too.

10 - Social skills and listening: I maaaaay have said something about listening already (maybe), but I want to reiterate, read what people are saying. Reply. Don't make this all about you. It may seem like a paradox to say that getting people to like you is not about you, but in many ways it isn't. Social skills may not come naturally to you, but they can definitely be learned, and if you need to do your own marketing and promotion, it's worth your investment to really stop and look at your behaviour honestly.

So, like I said last time: you won't have a million followers. Respect the ones you have. Cultivate them. Give them the kind of experience you want when you follow people on Twitter.

Thanks for joining me once again. Let me know what you think, and you have my deep appreciation for reading this far. I hope you come back again, and if you're forgetful like me, you can sign up by email.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Buy Followers: Book Marketing without B.S. #1

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach.

The marketing and publicity worlds are important for understanding audience and customers, and getting the right word out to the right people; but, let's be honest. There's also a lot of bullshit. My goal is to help you cut through the B.S. with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow.

Welcome to my inaugural Book Marketing withouth BS column. Today's question was asked anonymously, and it's about purchasing followers on Twitter (and by extension, purchasing likes/on other blogs and social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, etc.).

The short answer to this is "Don't do it". Below is the breakdown on why, but first, I should say that other people have written about this. Just Google "Should I buy Twitter followers" (without quotes) and you'll find other discussion.

Here are more thoughts on the topic, and be sure to leave yours in the comments. I'll share the best in my next post.

1 - It's dishonest, and if you're found out, people will think less of you. Remember what happened to President Obama and Mitt Romney in the recent election cycle?

1.1 - It's also pretty corny. Honestly. See #2.

2 - It's much more obvious than you think. If you're not famous, but you have tens of thousands of followers (and you're only following a small number yourself), no one is going to believe you've got that many followers. Really, really.

There are people I know and otherwise respect that I am certain have purchased followers. I feel bad for them in the way you feel bad for someone who buys a bad hair piece or who has a comb-over. They don't seem to feel good enough as they actually are, and so they try covering it up. They don't need to do it though--they're already cool on their own. They're just looking for an easy way to get a boost, not realizing that there's no easy way with social media. More on this later.

One other note: Facebook's analytics tell anyone where a page's audience is, not just the page owner. One of the people I know had around 85% of his followers from a former Russian republic. It's there for all to see, and it looks plain bad.

3 - Most importantly: it won't deliver results. There may be a few little metrics here and there that will boost, but mostly it won't work. Why? Well, if you're paying for followers, and the vast majority of them are fake/inactive, you are not expanding your audience at all. You're only buying a bigger number and nothing more.

The 30,000 followers you bought? None of them are going to buy your graphic novel. They aren't going to share your book with anyone. If they do--by some crazy chance--they're sharing it with other fakes. It's a waste of your time and money, and you don't have enough of either, right?

It's possible a few people who stumble across you will be impressed with your numbers, but you know what? If you're posting useful, relevant stuff already, they'd have followed you when they stumbled across you with or without high numbers. Also, the more savvy people get about fake followers, the more likely it is to be a turnoff. Once again, I refer you to #2.

In all my research I saw no one, even anonymously, saying that they were thrilled with their results (aside from a few stray blog comments that were so awkward and ham-handed that they were obviously from people who sell the fake followers). Surely someone out there would boost them if they were effective, but I don't see that. Have you seen a trustworthy source ever say it was a good idea? I personally have not.

I also interviewed three people who have bought followers or likes, some on Twitter, some on Facebook. (And yes, I know this is not a scientific sample. I just wanted some directly shared anecdotes!) All three of them say they saw no tangible results. Two of them are specifically unhappy and regretful and one has neutral emotions about it. One said that some of the Facebook "likes" occasionally interact with his page, but that there's been no boost in sales. That person also wonders whether it might have made more sense for his business if he'd waited. I concede that it is possible that this purchaser might appear a bit more often as a suggested page on Facebook because of the likes; however, I still think it won't likely boost sales since the purchased followers have zero emotional connection/interest with you or your product/service.

The main thing to remember is that it's really tempting to buy followers for many reasons. Some of that is what I mentioned above: feeling unsure, desperate, insecure, worried. Some people are more mercenary and genuinely think that they're going to improve their standing on social media and they see it as legitimate. I can understand all of those reasons and more. You want to look good. I get it, but this isn't the way.

"So how do I build audience?", you ask. It's actually not too difficult. The problem is it takes time and effort, and that's why it's hard. Time is short. We're all tired and hoping for a shortcut. The only good way is to interact with people. Share other people's content and ideas. Share about your dog, your wife, your kids--and also your books and creations. Try not to let all of (or even the vast majority of) your tweets be "BUY MY BOOK" stuff or "READ THIS EXCERPT NOW!" stuff. Some rules of thumb say 10% of your stuff should be about your stuff. I think that may be about right. Some weeks it will be more, some weeks it will be less. Mainly remember that (and yes, I am repeating myself) social media is social. Be a real, integrated human being who sometimes shares his or her work, and you will build a following.

Will you ever have a million followers? Almost certainly not. The followers you have, though? They're actually interested in YOU. Respect them. Cultivate them.

Check out Zenni Optical on Twitter. Whomever does their social media is skilled at building loyalty and feelings of community. They tweet back to people who mention them. They ask about what the potential customer is interested in. Not only are they building followers with genuine interest and interactivity, but they're offering a good, high-touch customer experience and that's going to garner a healthy percentage of followers who are likely to spend money. Not only that, but Zenni is getting real data from consumers about what they like and don't like, and what products are popular. This is incredibly valuable information.

"But, I'm dark and serious and not that social. Plus I don't sell glasses. This advice sucks!" you say. OK, I'll grant you that. It's not the same thing, selling glasses and selling dark fiction or surreal graphic novels. And, well, yeah, that overly happy voice isn't a good fit for everyone, but that isn't the point. The point is that they are social. They interact. They participate with potential customers instead of broadcast, so despite that perkiness that may not appeal to you, those principles are the same, and I'll cover them more specifically (along with examples that you may find more relevant) in next week's column.

Thanks for joining me for the inaugural Book Marketing without BS. Let me know what you think, and you have my deep appreciation for reading this far. I hope you come back again, and if you're forgetful like me, you can sign up by email.

Have a questions you'd like to see answered? Email them to beverly@beverlybambury.com.