Tag Archives: reputation

Growing Beyond Your Local Area

Last week, I was talking to Sheldon Larmore, author of Be Quiet and Listen. It is the story of his family’s journey through the pain and loss that came through their son David and his will to live as long as possible with spina bifida. After he passed away, they set up a memorial fund to help children with disabilities, and they fund it with the proceeds from their book sales. Sheldon told me they have had great success and feedback locally, but they haven’t been able to get much going beyond that. He and his wife still speak at churches and civic groups at least once a month, which is still quite active. This is a common thing I hear from authors. How do you take that activity to the next level?

Moving your book beyond your local area involves personal appearances, which means the pace will need to be adjusted according to your availability, interest, and desire for doing them. The cost of travel will need to be taken into account as well. This works best when you have established a solid footing locally, so if you haven’t yet, do that first. With all those things in mind, here is the idea:

Whenever you go to a group to speak, ask them who they know in the next town that might benefit from having you come. Then contact those people and set up speaking engagements there, and so on. You can expand out as far as you want to travel. Work towards the major metropolitan areas because you can get in front of more people in less time that way.

The reasoning behind this is that the best way to spread a message is still by word of mouth. Technology has increased the reach for all of us, but it is still word of mouth that causes your audience to grow beyond your reach. So the question becomes, how do you increase word of mouth?

It starts by asking for it. Every time you speak, add a simple sentence to the end: “Tell everyone you know about this.” The fact is that most people won’t do that, but it’s just as much a fact that some will. And those who do will tell a lot of people. And some of those people have reach well beyond just their local area. See Readers, Fans, and Evangelists for more details on getting others to help you grow your audience.

It helps if you give them something to spread. This is where social media fits in. If you speak, start a YouTube channel. Get someone with an iPhone to record a video of you sharing 30-second to 1-minute bites of some of your best stuff. Post them as often as you can (weekly, monthly, etc.) Take the audio and turn it into a podcast. I’m no expert on any of those, but do a Google search of those terms and start educating yourself. If speaking is not your thing, you probably haven’t even read this far, but get better at it or get very good at blogging. You can learn how to do that here.

If you’re reading this thinking, “Man, this sounds like a lot of work!” Congratulations. You’re right! It was a lot of work for the Apostle Paul trying to spread the gospel of Jesus, too. Thankfully, we don’t have to put our feet to the ground (or our boats to the sea) as much as he did, but the attitude and work ethic are the same.

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Filed under Growing your platform, Internet ideas, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements, Uncategorized

Want 10,000 followers? Do 10,000 things!

I had a conversation with my 12-year-old one morning (3rd of 3 sons, 4th of 5 kids) that was a step further than the same conversation we have every morning. He has maybe 3 things he has to do to get out of the house every morning, and I have at least 10. Most mornings, he is standing at the door grousing about being late while I’m going around the house turning off lights.

The difference today was the suggestion I gave him: Instead of complaining about what I’m doing while you’re waiting, look for things you can do to help us get out the door. It wasn’t spoken in anger. I didn’t talk down to him. I gave it to him straight, like the revelation it was for me. I continued as we got in the car, telling him that this is a good lesson for life in general. You rarely control what others do. You always control what you do.

As an author, what do you control?

You DON’T control retailers, distributors, your publisher, your marketing consultant, your publicist, your agent, the media, or the whims of a fickle public.

You DO control the things you do to reach people. So how much do you need to do? If you want to build an audience of 10,000 people, you should plan to do 10,000 things. That means you only need to average one new follower for each thing you do. Some of those things are going to result in a lot more than one new follower. Some will result in none. All are valuable, even if the only thing you learn from any one of them is what not to do!

What counts as a thing?

Small things:
A conversation about your book, a blog post, a tweet, a post on facebook, a bookmark/business card/push card given to someone, making a new connection on LinkedIn.

Big things:
A speaking engagement, a networking event, an email newsletter to a couple hundred people who have signed up to receive it, a booth at a fair or festival, a visit to a book club.

Long shots:
Contacting someone in the national media, presentations to organizations that could potentially buy your book in bulk.

IMPORTANT: What doesn’t count as a thing?
Googling yourself, looking at your sales ranks on Amazon, consulting with the people listed above that you can’t control, reading and re-reading your book for errors, wondering about your book’s sales.

EQUALLY IMPORTANT: None of these non-things are bad, but none of them will help you to build an audience, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

Do 10,000 things strategically, and you’re likely to get the 10,000 followers you need, if not more. The strategy to follow is to do the small things more often than the big things and the big things more often than the long shots. Keep track of everything you do in a notebook, on your computer, somewhere. Measure the results (by doing the non-things) the best you can, but not too often. You don’t want measuring to become the focus, or you’ll spend a lot of time measuring nothing. Make adjustments in what you do according to what the results tell you.

If you focus on 10,000, you won’t be discouraged after doing 100 things and seeing little results. You’ll realize that that is normal, and as you go and learn, you’ll find that each one builds on the things before, and effectiveness multiplies. You may get zero followers after 100 things or even 1,000. Keep going until you get to 10,000. Commit to yourself that you won’t quit until you get there, and you’ll be amazed at your results.

What are some of the things you’ve done that count as one of your 10,000? Comment below!

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Filed under Blogging, Growing your platform, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements, Uncategorized

Top 3 Marketing Questions Most Authors Have

Most of the authors I work with are brand new to the worlds of publishing and book selling (and make no mistake: those are two different worlds). Even though these questions are addressed in a lot of websites and blogs, they remain prevalent in the minds of authors who are trying to wrap those minds around an industry that doesn’t work at all like it seems in the movies. So I thought some pointed and concise answers to these 3 questions would be helpful.

1) Who sells books to bookstores?
The quickest answer is no one. That’s because bookstores don’t need to buy books this way anymore. They used to have to try to guess which books were going to succeed the way a mutual fund manager picks stocks. They employed buyers who showed an ability to be right more often than they were wrong, and their profits from when they were right would more than make up for when they are wrong. Now, all a bookstore has to do is look to see what is selling on their website. So they laid off all those buyers. They can carry an infinite number of books on their site and a finite number of books on their shelves. The ones that sell best on their sites make it to their shelves. Your publisher fills orders that bookstores place, but they are not out there trying to convince bookstores to guess when they have no good reason to do so. Buyers for stores now watch trends on their sites and in their stores to determine what to order.

2) Why should I buy copies of my own book?
Simple: To sell them. You don’t have to become a slick salesperson or open your own bookstore to do so. You do need to learn how to connect to the natural audience for your book. Unless you have an audience clamoring for everything you write, you will sell more books this way than any other way, you will make money per book, and you will get it faster. And if you do it right, it is the easiest way to sell books. (Ask any of the millions of authors who have tried to push their way into bookstores.) It’s also a lot of fun because you’re spending your time among like-minded people. The more time you spend among them and the more people read your book, the more you’re seen as a leader. That increases your opportunities and the cycle continues upward to greater and greater success.

3) What should a marketing consultant do for me?
There are three things a good marketing consultant does that you can’t do for yourself:
1) Get your book in distribution – Really, this is what a publisher is for. If your consultant doesn’t work with a publisher, they may still have contacts to help you. This is what makes your book available to bookstores. In all likelihood, your book will start on their website before it is physically in a store, but it can’t rise up the list if it isn’t on their site. Tate Publishing, who I work for, does all that for our authors with every major retailer and distributor.
2) Teach you how to grow your audience – You can do this yourself, but book marketing consultants have the benefit of not only our own experience, but the experience of every author that we’ve worked with. We know the most common potholes and pitfalls to avoid. We know the things that are most likely to produce positive results. Most importantly, we know how to communicate this to you.
3) Publicize your events, your release, and your achievements – Again, you can contact the media yourself, but do you know when are the appropriate times and who are the appropriate contacts to reach? We do. We also have the tools for doing so. Contacting the media and getting interest back are two different things, but you can’t get the latter without the former. If you aren’t getting media coverage, it’s not because our team is bad. It is because you, your book, your message, and your activity are not yet noteworthy enough. That’s a sign that you need to do more or give yourself more time to grow your audience.

Most authors would rather skip all this and just be a household name selling books without much effort. I wish there was a spell or an enchantment I could utter to make that happen, but I’m not a wizard or a genie. The real world doesn’t work that way.

There will be some who will interpret things I’m saying here as blaming the author or trying to escape my responsibility or some other nonsense. It is nonsense, but it is understandable, and I don’t blame you if you feel that way. However, this isn’t a judgment on the quality of your book, your message, or you as a person. It is a reality check to let you know where you stand on the track where you’re trying to run. If you haven’t seen the book sales you want to see — and getting no reports from your publisher means you’ve had no sales — then you are closer to the starting line than the finish line, and it is time to run.

If you are an author not signed to Tate Publishing, contact us and one of our acquisitions editors will be happy to talk to you.

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Become a source for reporters and radio hosts

I’ve been doing some research the last several months finding ways to help authors find and work their niche. I’ve spoken to other marketing reps, authors who are successful, authors who are frustrated, and I’ve read articles and blogs like crazy. As I compile this research into actionable items, I will send it to you in an email like this.

Selling books in today’s environment is challenging. To be successful, you need to stand out from the crowd. If you want to sell books like Sarah Palin, you need to make a name for yourself like Sarah Palin.

Unless you’re in line to be tapped for the next VP nomination, you’ll have to start small. However, thanks to the internet, small no longer means interviews with just the East Sticks Tribune and the Hayseed Times. There are a number of communities emerging to help people with a platform find people with something to say.

The biggest and the best is www.helpareporter.com. It used to be a facebook group called Help a Reporter Out. Their daily HARO emails let you know of reporters looking for sources on certain subjects. If you can speak to the subject and help the reporter, you are establishing yourself as an expert in the field. And how does the reporter establish your credibility? By mentioning your book, of course!

Other similar sites include www.pitchrate.com and www.reporterconnection.com.

All of these are free. They make their money selling advertisements. (My suggestion regarding these? Read them. Supporting people who are helping you is a good idea.)

There is also a similar free site for radio interviews: www.radioguestlist.com.

If you’re a fiction writer, you might be thinking, “Thanks a lot, Jim, but this doesn’t apply to me.” Think a little further. You wrote your book for a reason, right? To make some sort of point, right? You’re doing with story the same thing that nonfiction authors are doing with facts. And if nothing else, you’re a source for writing stories.

The more you get your name out, the more likely the press is to start coming to you.

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Engage your audience, so to speak

This month’s tip is about setting up speaking engagements. For those of you who are terrified of public speaking, the best way to work through this is to check into your local Toastmasters. Speaking engagements are by far one of the best ways to increase book sales and build your name and reputation. It is well worth the time you invest in it, even if you have to drive a ways to get to a Toastmasters meeting.

Where do you speak? Civic organizations like Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus are good places to look. If your book is a Christian book, churches and Bible studies are the best places to look for speaking engagements. If you have a novel, libraries and schools are what you’re looking for. If you have a children’s book, schools and daycares are great places to start. Remember this: When you’re starting out, no place is too small. Until your name and reputation are well established and people are volunteering to pay you to come speak to their group, these places are doing you a favor as much as you are helping them.

The most important part is to turn the speaking engagement into an opportunity to sell books. Notice, however, in the wording below, I don’t say “sell books”. No one wants to talk about selling in a school or church or wherever, even though it happens all the time. No one likes the word “sell”. Everybody likes the word “buy”. If you say what I’ve said below, you won’t turn people off with your words. Unless speaking is part of your everyday business, and you already know how to do this, these tips will be very helpful to you. When you have a captive audience like this, book sales come very naturally.

If your audience is adults, this is easy. When you are making arrangements with the organizer, tell them that you don’t charge a fee. All you ask is that they give you an opportunity to sign books for those who want to buy them.

If your primary audience is children in schools, you need to plan ahead a little more, but it is still not very hard. Still tell the school that you don’t charge a fee; all you ask is that you have an opportunity to sign books for kids who would like to buy them. Tell them you will send them an order form that they can send home with the kids a week before your visit. (You will have to create this order form. You can just make a Word doc.) Say you’ll call them the day before so you know how many books to bring. (You can sign the books ahead of time and personalize them when you’re there.)

We’ve found that securing speaking engagements works on personal connections more than anything else. When we are the first ones to call, we’re viewed with suspicion because they look at us as a company with a product to sell. As a result, our success rate is extremely low. When authors call first, they are more likely to look at you as someone with a story to tell. If that story matches their constituency, you are more likely to have success. Besides, these places always want to know more about the author, and no one knows the author better than the author.

Even still, it takes time to build that personal relationship. Building relationships is one of the things we can’t do for you. Churches are the most particular about this, and it makes perfect sense. Pastors are tasked with protecting their sheep from wolves. Any pastor worth his salt will check you out to make sure you’re not a wolf.

Here is what we’ve learned from authors who have been successful at building relationships with these niche markets:

  • The first step is finding out who the right contact is. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it takes time, depending on what kind of gatekeeper they have.
  • The next step is discussing with that contact how your book will help their people. You have to put others first to be successful with spreading your message. You wrote this for a reason; this is the place to tie that reason into the mission of the organization you’re contacting.
  • Only then can you ask if they would be interested in having you come.

Sometimes all of these steps can be accomplished in one phone call. Sometimes it takes months of cultivating a relationship.

You will have a tremendous advantage if you have already planned in advance what your presentation will be. If your book is fiction, you can always talk about creative writing, but don’t limit yourself to that. Your theme has a point that is likely either political, social, spiritual, or scientific. The research you’ve done and the knowledge you have in these areas can be the basis for your speech. You need to be able to tell them in 15 seconds why they need to have you come. That 15-second speech will be the basis for their decision on whether or not to keep talking to you. The best 15-second speech ends with a question they are compelled to say yes to. Examples: “Would your church grow if people were more excited about evangelism?” or “Would the social studies teachers in your school benefit from having a guest speaker teach for 20 minutes of one of their classes?” or “Would you like to see more people come to your library?”

Make sure the question is something you can deliver. Prepare a brochure you can send them that will spell out how you can deliver. (Note: Sending a word doc or PDF by email is free. Printing brochures and mailing them costs a lot of money.) If you can’t secure an event with the first phone call, this is your fall-back objective.

Here’s where we can help: Sometimes you have been building a relationship or have an existing relationship with a speaking venue, and it seems to have stalled out. They haven’t said yes, and they haven’t said no. Keep track of your contacts, and when you get 4 or 5 like this, send me the name of the venue, the address, contact name and their direct line. Include a sentence or two describing your contact with them to date. Also send us your brochure. We’ll call these for you and report back the results. Sometimes, they really do want to hear from the publisher. Sometimes there is something they’re not telling you that they’ll tell us. Sometimes it’s just an issue of bad timing. Sometimes, we’re not able to get ahold of them at all, and the best we can do is leave a message. At any rate, it gives you another reason to follow up.

And don’t forget that we can help publicize your speaking engagements by sending out a press announcement. Email me the name of the venue, the address, the date, the time, and any other critical details, and we’ll alert the press 7-10 days before the event.

Usually, once you get one or two, it gets a lot easier to get others. It can feel like a lot of hard, fruitless work, but then when something pops, all that work bears fruit. Make sure you always ask for referrals after a successful event. This is as simple as asking, “What other (teachers, pastors, ministry leaders, organizations) do you know of that would benefit from this?” People who you’ve helped will be eager to help you help others.

The bottom line in all of this is helping others. I’ve heard it said that the best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. A wise old Hebrew fisherman once put it this way, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6, NIV)

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Amazon’s tools are AMAZING!

You’ve probably heard me say that nearly 70% of books are sold online. And who do you suppose gets the majority of that business? If you said Amazon, you get the prize. If you’ve ever been to Amazon.com, you know that they sell everything. They started with books, but they sell everything that can possibly be sold. How in the world do you make your book stand out among the millions of products they have available?

Fortunately, Amazon has some handy tools that any enterprising author can use to increase the impulse buys that Amazon is so good at promoting.

There are two in particular that will help people looking for books like yours to find yours: customer reviews and tags. Ask everyone you know who has read the book to go to Amazon.com and do these things. All they need is a user account with Amazon, and they can write a customer review of your book. In describing the book, they will naturally use key words that Amazon and other search engines will then associate with your book. You can make sure they naturally use them by identifying some key words and asking them to use those words in their review if they see fit. You’re not writing the review for them, but you’re helping them use key words. Where do you get those key words?

This is the best part. The key words you give people to use in their reviews can come from the tags of other books that are similar to yours. Tags are words that customers associate with your book. Anyone who is logged in can add one or “vote” for an existing one. Look up the books from 2 or 3 authors whose books are like yours and see what tags they have associated with them. (Once you get to the book page, scroll down until you see the section called “Tags Associated with This Book.” It’s below all the reviews.)

In addition to using them for reviews, you can ask people to add and vote for these key words as tags on your book. I recently looked up the most commonly used tag on a popular fantasy novel. It was “epic fantasy” with just 114 votes. Here’s the key question: do you have more than 114 friends willing to tag your book with the most commonly used tag for books similar to yours? If so, then Amazon’s computers will see your book as more strongly associated with that term than that popular book you just looked up.

How does this matter?

Initially, it doesn’t make a huge difference. But have you ever logged in to Amazon.com and seen a welcome screen? It will say, “Based on your recent searches, you might like these items”, and it lists various products Amazon has on their site. How does it make these associations? By comparing the tags on the things you’ve looked at to the tags on other things. The more closely the tags on your book resemble the books you looked up, the more likely your book will show up when people who bought that book (or the movie based on it, or the coffee mug with main character’s face on it or the T-shirt) log in to Amazon. Now people who are VERY interested in your genre will start seeing your book every time they come to Amazon. Then those people will start buying your book through Amazon. That’s when another nice little bit of magic happens.

When people who have bought these other books also buy yours, your book will show up on those pages in the list titled “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. Your name will also show up in the lists called “Customers Also Bought Items By” and “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item”. At first it won’t be at the top of the list and people may have to click a link to find it, but the more people buy your book this way, the more likely it is to rise to the top.

The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost anyone a dime. You can open an account with Amazon without buying anything. (NOTE: Amazon does require you to have made a purchase with them at some point in time in order to post a review.)

Barnesandnoble.com has similar features on their sites, so you might be able to do the same things there. I haven’t done the research on them, so I don’t have any further details. I do know you can at least have people write reviews there.

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Use the internet to your advantage!

There are some things you can do that cost you nothing that can help you build a following for you book in your spare time without even leaving your house.

What magazines do you read or are you aware of on the subject of your book? Find the websites of these magazines, and look for their submissions guidelines. Sometimes there is a link for them, and sometimes you have to go to the “Contact Us” section. You could submit articles to them either that you write new or that are excerpts from your book. This is a great way to publicize the book. When you write articles, you often get to write your own bio, and you can include in the bio that you are the author of your book. You can even direct people to our website to buy it, where you get 40% of the retail price for every one sold. And sometimes magazines pay you for articles like this. In fact, the vast majority of people who earn their living writing are freelance writers. Their book is only a part of their income.

You can also find new magazines, blogs and forums where people have conversations about this subject. To find them, go to Google and type in some key words from your book followed by “magazine”, “blog” or “forum”. Blogs and forums are communities of people who gather around similar interests. One of the factors in Google’s rankings is the number of readers or participants, so a simple Google search like this will yield the best results on the first page. Join the community and post comments on blogs and responses to the forums. When you sign the response, sign it with your name and the title of your book under your name. Sometimes you can even include a link where people can buy your book. (Look for a box that says URL when you are posting your comments.) Since these people are as passionate about your subject as you are, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and even make some new friends.

Another way to get your name out without leaving the house is to get Google to do some work for you. You can use Google alerts to make sure you’re on top of every news story that is related to your book. Terry Cordingley has written a great post about this: http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com/2010/03/google-alerts-publicists-secret-weapon.html

Do a little every day to get the word out about your book, and you’ll see success.

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