It’s October already. The holidays are literally right around the corner.
Are you ready?
If you are an indie author, now is the time to start ramping up your marketing efforts and making the extra push to get as many sales as you can this holiday season. Today, I’ve got some tips and advice to help you meet your marketing goals without absorbing all of your free time over the next couple of months.
Independent publishing demands an effort on the author’s part to self-promote. The task may seem daunting, as many of the tasks involved in self-publishing can, but thanks to the power of the Internet, you can promote yourself online with minimal effort. One of the most potent is the author website.
Creating and maintaining a website dedicated to your work can have a multitude of benefits and uses. Get your name out there on the web, and provide interested and potential readers a location to learn more about you and your work with an author website. The following list provides some basics about creating a website, the content you should include, and the benefits.
1. Hosting and Domain
The first step in creating an author website is actually locating the site on the web. There are a variety of low-cost services like WordPress or Wix that can be used to create a simple website. These services, among many others on across the web, offer template and layout tools to help you design the page and keep it looking fresh and up to date. Remember, fashion and standards on the web are always evolving, so keep up to date on the latest trends in web layout and adjust your site accordingly. You don’t want your site to look like something from 2002. You’ll want to purchase a domain, preferably something using your name (like www.firstnamelastname.com) or something including the word “author” alongside your name. This is key for discover-ability and indexing in Google searches and will help potential readers find you. With your site domain ready and a service selected, the next step will be actually building your author website.
One very interesting new tool currently available to authors is TitlePager. The service is low cost ($12/month) and provides software to directly import your book’s information into a website template. For authors less interested in learning the ins and outs of website design, TitlePager is a good alternative to consider.
2. Design and Layout
Your website should have a few “pages” to segment information and help your readers find the information they need quickly and easily. Most websites will use a navigation bar along the top of the page to guide visitors. For an example, look at the navigation bar at the top of the Lulu Blog:
You’ll see Home, About Lulu Self-Publishing, Commentary, and Guidelines for Guest Posting. (Note that this is an older image) Each of these links leads to a unique page on the blog website. For your author site, you’ll want a home page, a page listing your books with sale information, a page with personal information about you, and possibly a separate page for posting blog style articles.
Think about your audience when designing the site. Starting out, you won’t likely have the following of the world’s most well-known authors, so you may want to avoid a site that is packed and busy like this one. A good example of a modern, clean layout that still has a lot of content like this site, shows how you can use distinct pages for specific information while keeping the front page interesting and inviting. Again, these are highly successful authors, who likely have a rather large budget for creating and maintaining their author pages. Look to these examples for ways you might pick and choose elements to emulate that fit your particular needs.
As the owner of your site, you have a tremendous amount of flexibility, and you should do some research to see how other authors build their sites for inspiration. The key elements will be the attractive home page, the succinct book’s page, and the about page. Consider your genre, the number of books you have or will be publishing, and the target audience when you are planning your website. For example, if you have accompanying video content, you might want a “videos” page to house this material. Or if your work is non-fiction and uses a number of references, you may want to make reference links and citation information available on a page of your website.
Another good idea for your author website is to include a subscription option and social media links. You want anyone who lands on your page to share on Facebook and Twitter and capturing emails through a subscription box provides a way into their inbox, allowing for some direct email marketing and building a mailing list to promote events and new publications. Don’t underestimate the power of a mailing list. The ability to directly connect with potential customers is a tremendous asset.
We touched on this above, but the most important piece of an author website will be the content. Is the layout appealing? Are the images relevant? Can visitor’s easily find and buy your books? Keep those questions in mind when working on the layout of your website. You’ll want the pages to be simple but appealing, and avoid cluttered or “busy” pages in favor of simplicity. Readers are coming to your site because they followed a link you provided or because they came across you while searching. Either way, they will likely already be interested in your content, and your site’s goal is to assure them that they should buy your book.
It’s not a bad idea to include a link to your Lulu Author Spotlight, along with direct links to your books. Many author websites will also include some publishing industry news or a feed of news from their favorite publishing industry sites. This kind of content will reward users for returning to your site, which can eventually lead to purchases of your backlist. And it helps ensure they notice new works as they come available.
Another activity to consider is blogging. Keeping a blog and updating it regularly (as in, at least once a week) will provide a flow of content to drive readers back to your site, and gives you a great reason to make use of that mailing list you’re building. The goal is to give anyone who comes to the site, or follows you on social media, a reason to keep coming back.
Your website will be the primary tool in developing yourself as a brand. It will serve as a location for your various marketing efforts to point to, a destination for those finding you on social media to learn more (and hopefully make a purchase), and yet another way for you to show your authoring skills. Think about the website as a project, similar to writing a book.
An author website gives you a means to connect with readers and potential readers, a way to display your skills and work (maybe you offer excerpts free or teasers for a new book), and a central location for your brand. As a self-published author, the key to success will be branding yourself. Highly acclaimed authors are read as much because of their brand as their quality. Your website allows you to promote your own brand, and when coupled with high-quality writing, is the best way to grow your readership.
Marketing and promoting your book can be an arduous job. Take the first step to promoting yourself and building your author brand. Create an author website and start selling your book today!
Synopsis – a brief summary or general survey of something.
Might seem like a simple thing. You wrote an entire book! Now all you have to do is write summary of said book. Should be no problem, right?
Well, not exactly.
You see, the synopsis is more than just a general summary or description of the book. It’s also a pitch for the book. Be aware too, that in the world of traditional publishing, the synopsis is a bit different than for self-publishing. When you’re pushing your manuscript out to traditional publishers or agents, they will likely ask for a synopsis following a specific format, with a specific word count to summarize your book. In self-publishing, you’ll be using the synopsis in a different way; primarily as a guide for the description and back cover text, or as that text itself.
Think of your synopsis in the same way you think about your cover. Its the first piece of text your potential reader is likely to read. This is (after looking over the cover) the hook that will make your potential reader either buy this book, or keep browsing.
The element that is unchanged is the purpose: your synopsis is meant to sell your book.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a high quality cover, and we’ll talk more about that in a future post (and we have talked about it in past posts as well). Today is just synopsis.
Accepting that the synopsis is a critical piece of marketing material for your book, how should you go about writing one that will hook readers, convey the message of your book, and only take up 400-500 words (about one printed page) of text?
Here’s a quick list to help you get the most out of your synopsis:
Set up the premise, define the plot, and introduce your protagonist. This may not be as critical for a work of non-fiction, but for the fiction author, you’ll need to clearly define for your would-be reader the plot and the hero. Now, this does not mean telling us every precise detail about the story, nor does it mean painting an elaborate picture with words so we can visualize the main character. Brevity needs to be balanced with concision. Tell your reader enough to spark their interest, to make them curious enough to read more.
For non-fiction, this is most often expressed in terms of the premise. You may not have a character (though if you do, be sure to let your reader know about them), so you’ll focus instead on the purpose of the book. Is this a field guide to bird watching? Why is it more relevant or useful than other, similar works? Or what specific elements does it add that other books do not?
Clear, concise language. It is critical that your synopsis be free of any spelling errors. A spelling error or grammar mistake in the body of the book can be accepted. A reader expects a mistake here and there. But not in the synopsis. This piece of text is how your reader will decide to pay money for your book, so you need to put your absolutely best foot forward. You want your reader to quickly see that your book is worth read, and to regard you as the professional you are.
Keep it focused! Your synopsis is going to be short. When writing for an agent or publisher, you can get away with 800 words, possibly even more. But self-publishing is a fast paced world, and you need to get the maximum impact with the minimum number of words. Hook your reader with the key elements of the plot, weave in introductions to your main characters, give us a hint or two about the conflicts, and do it all with a sense of urgency.
The same advice applies to non-fiction works. Outline the premise or argument you’ll be making, give us enough details to make the reader want to know more, and be absolutely sure you give us a good reason to read your book over another that may address the same concerns or issues.
Perspective. The general consensus is that the synopsis should be written in an active voice. Use present tense and third person point of view, even if the novel utilizes first person. Remember that the synopsis is a tool for drawing in readers. While the story might hinge on the inner workings of your protagonist, the synopsis is a detached overview of sorts, and will function most provocatively when the reader is at a remove.
Lastly, realize that there is no definitely correct formula for writing a synopsis (or anything for that matter!). The above points may help create a synopsis in line with the general market. Use this advice to help create a marketable blurb, to entice and excite your readers!
Over the past week, debate has intensified over the practice of reselling eBooks. Amazon and Apple both filed patents last week to make reselling eBooks a reality, and the collective reaction by readers and book-buyers across the Internet was ambivalent. Of course, selling and buying used books has long been a practice in the publishing world, but eBooks provide a series of new issues that need to be resolved before the practice can become widespread.
When you would buy a physical version of a book, you would buy the rights to owning one copy of that book. It could be resold to whomever you chose, at whatever price, but at least there was only one copy of it. eBooks are a little more complicated with their ability to be copied as well as the multiple Digital Rights Management choices out there for authors. Every author’s worst nightmare is seeing their book go out there, become a hit, and everyone reading a pirated copy. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case so far for eBook readers. A lot of readers enjoy buying their books, which is good. But at what price do they want to pay for it?
If the book resells for a dime, wouldn’t it cut into the profit margins of the author, especially if it is being resold right next to the original full-priced eBook? Mark-downs are common for used copies of physical books, but that’s because they physically degrade. A “used” eBook would look just like the original one.
David Pogue over at The Timestries to sort through this complication — physical degradation of a book is necessary for its discount. He goes through the patents filed by Amazon and Apple and doesn’t quite find a solution, but believes that publishers and writers will find a common-ground that allows for used eBooks to help writers make a living, while also making their work more available and affordable.
What do you think about the possibility of used eBooks? As writers, do you want their to be a secondhand marketplace?
When it came time for Lulu author Morag Embleton to publish her book Old Knobbley the Oak Tree, she had a dilemma: how could she get her marvelous book to more readers without contributing to deforestation from the printing of her book on paper?
Lucky for her, she found WeForest,an “international organization dedicated to sustainable reforestation” that can help her offset the printing of the book by donating some of her profit to planting more trees.
“I love trees and my book is made from paper. I couldn’t be sure that here in the UK the Lulu printers would be using FSC paper. I know print on demand is much better than print runs of thousands that may or may not sell, but I just couldn’t bear the thought that something that I had created would increase deforestation and biodiversity loss. I did the math and it was feasible with the ‘buy 2 get 1 tree’ idea (for every two books printed, one tree will be planted) to more than off-set the paper in the books. Plus my book is about an 800 year old tree (Knobbley), and he insisted.”
Morag is now a volunteer at WeForest and has spent years focusing on environmental issues.
“I’ve been concerned about deforestation since the 1980s when I learned about the large tracts of rainforest being felled in the Amazon. All these years on and trees are still disappearing faster than they are being replaced. When I heard that WeForest’s founder Bill Liao had a vision to plant 2 trillion trees, I quickly found their YouTube video about how to repair the world. WeForest’s work puts local people at the center of the tree planting process so the trees will be cared for and in turn provide food and an income. A winning formula!”
Author your vision, Live your purpose with Kevin Powell
Author Kevin Powell stepped off the stage into a packed room of over 700 people after finishing his keynote speech in Raleigh, North Carolina last February. He didn’t leave until he had personally spoken to every single attendee who had come to hear him speak.
Powell knows how to command a room, but will leave you feeling like the star. That’s because to Powell, you are the star. We all are.
Former MTV reality show personality, turned journalist, turned activist, turned congressional candidate, turned riveting political author, Powell has lived a life not unlike a real-life Forrest Gump (or so his friends say). His uncanny ambition, open-mind, and big heart have taken him all over the world and allowed him to experience diverse people and perspectives – uniting them all under the simple concept of helping your fellow man.
“Life isn’t a straight line,” Powell says. “It is an all over adventure.”
Powell remains grounded through it all, though – truthful to his humble beginnings in New Jersey and Brooklyn and the life lessons his southern single mother provided him as a boy. It is this amazing balance between where Powell came from and where he is today that makes him more personable and more real than anyone else you could encounter – even while standing up on a stage in front of hundreds of people.
“There was a point in my life when I needed to step back and figure out what was important to me. It wasn’t fame or attention; it was making the world better – helping people. I love people. If you can remember where you came from – be proud of where you came from – and love yourself, then you can start to love others, too.”
Powell’s love for writing started when he was just a child. He remembers his mother taking him to the library every Saturday and Sunday and being fascinated by books and their authors.
“At 11 years old I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway,” Powell recalls. “I didn’t necessarily understand it all, but I was hooked. I researched Hemingway, learned he ran with the bulls in Europe, lived in Key West, and thought: ‘Wow, this is what you get to do as a writer.’ Reading had a profound impact on me. It took me places and filled my imagination.”
One of the first things Powell did once he found his stride as a writer was travel to Hemingway’s home in Key West as a “thank you” to his idol and to just be in the same place as where Hemingway had worked and lived.
Growing up, Powell’s mother didn’t exactly see his artistic vision quite as clearly as he did, however.
“My mom came from farm life,” Powell says. “That was working to her – not writing. At first, my mom thought I was out of my mind.”
Powell went to college at Rutgers in New Jersey where he fell in love with journalism and discovered activism. A nearby friend happened to have started an indie newspaper and hired Powell to write for 20 bucks an article.
“I was just happy to have a byline,” Powell says. “I started to find my voice. It was the most liberating time of my life. I spent the entire summer of 1987 sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library writing in my journal. I couldn’t stop.”
Powell continued writing, oddly found himself on a popular MTV reality show, then landed a spot writing articles for Vibe Magazine working for another childhood idol Quincy Jones.
“Now my mom started to come around,” Powell laughs. “People in the neighborhood started talking about me. Now my mom is the first person to tell people about my book. Whenever I release one, she’ll call and say: ‘Did you say anything about me?’”
So how, then, does a successful author and speaker who has run for congress find self-publishing?
“If you’re ever in the world of media, you inevitably think to yourself: ‘There has got to be a better way,’” Powell says. “I’ve had agents and publishers turn to me and simply say: ‘We’re not gonna represent you anymore.’ They try to force you to make choices like ‘are you an artist or an activist?’ A person can be both. The people at Lulu have been some of the coolest to work with, and there is something to be said for feeling like you’re dealing with real people, where the CEO will actually reach out to you if you need him. Lulu really practices what I personally believe in how you should treat people.”
We’re on such a roll, why stop now? The opportunities eBooks bring to reach new readers is so great, we just keep looking for ways to enhance our e-offerings even more.
Today, we’re happy to announce another eBook feature to give you more selling flexibility over your digital works: Free pricing. eBook authors can now distribute and sell their eBooks in the iBookstore with a price tag of $0.00.
Right about now I’m sure you’re asking: “How will being able to sell my eBooks for free get me more sales?” Well, the answer is simple: Everyone loves free. Heck, we’ve built a business off the principle with our free publishing solutions.
So far we’ve seen authors use free pricing in a number of clever ways to better market their works:
Free eBook Previews: Letting your readers sample the first chapter or two of your eBook is a great way to get them hooked on your story and more likely to but the complete work.
Supplements to Your Print Version: This is a great way to keep your fans interested in your work, even after they’ve finished reading it. A free supplement could include character bios, background details on how you started your story, etc. Think of it almost like your own creator’s commentary for your book.
Word of mouth: In an article in the Guardian, best-selling author Cory Doctorow says nothing sells books better than word of mouth. “Personal recommendations…enabled by freely copyable eBooks act as a force-multiplier…by letting readers make informed guesses about who else will like it, and giving those readers a persuasive tool for closing the sale.” Most readers buy a book because someone recommended it to them.
Impulse buying: Doctorow goes on to say that “the Internet’s attention span is about five minutes, so unless the reader can do something affirmative to acquire the book within five minutes of being enticed by the eBook, there is a good chance they never will.”
Best-seller Lists: Remember, most e-readers count and display best-sellers on actual units sold, not how much money the author has made. According to the New York Times, currently more than half of the best-selling eBooks on some of the most popular e-readers are available at no charge. Getting to the top of the best-seller list guarantees better visibility.
So there you have it, you’re now free to play around with your pricing however you want to better reach your readers. To learn more, or to start your own eBook with just a few clicks of a button, visit our eBook publishing page.
If you’ve clicked on the link that brought you to this post, I commend you. It’s easy to see a headline from a self-publishing company about using GIFs and think “why?” But just bear with me a minute.
Think about this: You’re trying to stand out in a sea of online content. And you only have a few seconds to convince any single scroller to consider your book. You need any edge you can get. Online, an edge or advantage is almost always synonymous with virility. And achieving virility means using the most popular and trendy forms of media.