Marketing Tips

Opportunities for Self-Published Authors with Shelf Unbound

A guest blog post from Shelf Unbound founder Margaret Brown.

When we launched our first Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book last fall, I was thrilled by the response (800+ entries), by the quality of the submissions, and by the sense of community I felt from engaging with these authors and their works. In response to all of that, Shelf Unbound has some new initiatives for 2013 that might interest self-published authors.

First, the call for entries for our second annual writing competition for best self-published book will go out in the middle of the year – if you sign up for a free subscription to Shelf Unbound magazine, you will be the first to know when we announce it. The winners of the 2013 competition will be featured in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound magazine, which reaches 125,000 avid readers in the US and in 57 countries around the globe.

Second, we’re launching a regular department that will feature notable books submitted to our competition that did not make it into the “winners” issue.

Third, in an effort to provide a forum and community for self-published authors, I’m inviting self-published authors to be guest bloggers on the Shelf Unbound blog. I’m looking for 250- to 300-word essays on writing and/or self-publishing — feel free to talk about your book and give it a plug and include your website and/or links to your book. Just email me your text and I’ll let you know when I run it (margaret@shelfmediagroup.com). Please put “guest blog” in your subject line.

Finally, we have ad rates for self-published authors starting as low as $250 – shoot me an email if you’d like details – Margaret@shelfmediagroup.com.

I invite you all to be a part of the Shelf Unbound magazine community. I wish you all the best in the New Year. Keep writing. – Margaret Brown, publisher, Shelf Unbound.

BIO

Margaret Brown is the founder and publisher of Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2012 Maggie Award Finalist for Best Digital-Only Magazine. She is a lifetime member of the National Book Critics Circle.

How to Market Your Book During the Holiday Season

November and December are the most lucrative months of the year for retailers because people are in a crunch to find and buy the perfect holiday gifts for their loved ones. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the season and show off your written wares.

Publicize your ultimate holiday gift list. At this time of year, people looking for the perfect gift often need help in the form of suggestions and ideas. Offer up your suggestions on your blog, on a contact’s blog, or perhaps even for a local magazine or newspaper. Whatever you suggest should be in line with what your book is about. For example, if you’ve written a cookbook, then come up with a list of the best bake ware — and no matter where you publish your gift tips, make sure you provide a bio with a link to your book.

Make a donation. Giving during the holiday season means more than handing out shiny new presents to friends and family, it means giving back to your community. Pick a charitable organization that inspires you and offer to partner with them. Offer signed copies of your book as perks for donors who contribute at a certain level (perhaps the charity will even name that level after you or your book!) You can also vow to donate a percentage of your profits to a charity that you support. This is a great way to boost holiday spirit and to get a charity to help promote your book to their audience. You can also donate books to families, libraries and schools that are in need. There are countless ways to give back. Which will you choose?

Drop the eBook price. Between the iPad, the Kindle, the Kobo Reader, and the Nexus 7, among many others, e-readers are becoming more and more hot, and with every new user comes the potential for many more eBook libraries. So entice potential customers by dropping the price of your book for a limited time.

Give away copies to friends, family, and social media followers/fans. Perhaps the most obvious tip but not to be overlooked since the best way for people to learn about your book is to hear about it from others. So order extra copies and stuff them in stockings or offer signed giveaways to fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter.

Strategize for 2013. There are another 365 days coming up… soon. This means you have holidays to capitalize on, anniversaries to plan, promotions to fund, and even new books to promote. Spend the last few weeks of this year thinking about how you want to handle the next 52 weeks and come up with a marketing and social media plan that will get you to your new year’s goals. This may help: Pre-Publication Marketing Timeline for Authors.

Tell us, what are you doing to prepare for the holiday season? Are you buffing up your marketing efforts?

 

Mark your calendar with inspiration for 2013

Alert! There’s only one more page on my calendar. I’ve already hit the dilemma that there’s no page in my calendar for me to scribble down exciting things that I have planned for 2013, which means that it’s high time for me to create my 2013 calendar.

For me – someone who lives and dies by her calendar – creating my calendar is a very important process for me. It’s a chance for me to reflect on what my goals are for the coming year and to select pictures that will keep me motivated and remind me of what’s important to me.

So, what’s important to me? Travel, family, fun, charitable giving and my local community. So, these are what I highlight in the pictures I select for my calendar. Seeing these pictures each day beside my desk keeps me motivated and brings a smile to my face as I recall each memory.

Earlier this season we invited local North Carolina groups to create calendars that reflect the things that will motivate them in 2013. Below we’ve highlighted four participants who are in the running to win $1000 based on most calendar sales by the end of the year. What I love about these examples is how they reflect the same things that I hold dear: supporting local food and communities, having fun, supporting charitable causes, promoting good health and celebrating a love of reading.

The Freebooksy Bookish Quirks Calendar celebrates readers by pointing out funny things that we readers do or think. In short, it’s a collection of quirks from bookish people!

This 2013 calendar showcases some of the many talents our amazing instructors here at Cirque de Vol have and love to share with the community!

Calendar featuring selected images from Cafe Helios in Raleigh, NC.

Mental Image is giving 20% of all profits to the Help April Breathe Easy Foundation. Body Painters include Tiffany Bickler, Emily Wagner, Emilio Jeffries, and Lisa Snead. We are using our healthy body’s to stop this disease.

 

These are just four great examples of calendar ideas. We hope you found some inspiration here. Calendars make great holiday gifts and they are also a way for your company, group, organization or charity to raise some money. If you do decide to create a calendar in order to raise some money, here are a few tips for marketing and selling your calendar:

1. Announce it on your Facebook page. Be sure to include a link to your calendar.
2. Write a blog post about your organization’s goals, motivations and commitments for 2013 and explain how your calendar reflects those. Be sure to include a link to your calendar.
3. Link to the calendar from your website.
4. Order some copies of your own calendar and sell them at the register or at events.
5. Link to your calendar in your newsletter

What are your motivations for 2013? Have you created your calendar yet?

Mozilla Popcorn for Online Video

As Mozilla’s Ryan Merkley points out in his TED talk, the nature of video on the web hasn’t changed much over the past few years. Besides a higher resolution and faster streaming times, videos remain static and non-interactive. Even books, with the advent of interactive eBooks, have found ways to become interactive and use the full resources of the Internet. But with a new product called Mozilla Popcorn, that might all change. Popcorn allows content creators to adorn videos with links, and other media, like maps or a photo stream, to create a full-content experience. The interface is simple, and the product itself, in keeping with Mozilla’s open-source principles, is free.

As content creators, writers are constantly looking for ways to promote their own work. While book trailers are popular, they often fail to capture the artifice of the novel they are producing or match the quality that other media outlets offer. Popcorn allows writers to promote their books by interlacing an online video with links to text, illustrations, and even the link to buy the book itself.

How To: Create Your Own Audiobook

When publishing an eBook, it’s smart to promote it with sample chapters or an author interview. But what about producing your own audiobook to accompany it as well?

Producing an audiobook can be time consuming, but it’s extremely fun and makes your book available in yet another medium. You can just choose a brief excerpt to use, maybe a funny scene or illustrative passage, which will help promote your book when you give it away on your personal website. Here’s a short guide to how to create your own audiobook, entirely for free.

1) Get an audio editing program. If you don’t have professional audio recording programs, like Protools or Ableton, don’t fear! A simple, free program called Audacity is incredibly simple to learn, and can be used on almost any computer. If you have an internal microphone, you’re all set to record.

2) Pick a passage to record. For starters, pick a manageable goal. Try not to aim to record your entire book. Consider focusing on a scene or chapter you find particularly strong, and maybe one that includes a variety of characters, to allow for some fun voice acting.

3) Cast and record. Cast your audiobook by either reading it yourself, or sharing the narration with a variety of friends or colleagues who have been assigned roles. You don’t even have to be in the same room — you can record different parts at different times.

4) Edit. Try to make the recording as clean as possible by eliminating pauses, editing out background noise, and re-recording unclear parts. If you haven’t edited audio before, it should take just a little practice to get the hang of it.

5) Add some character. Here’s where you get to have a lot of fun. Add some background music and sound effects to liven up your narration. Just a few additions can completely change the quality of the audiobook. For some free background music published under Creative Commons license, check out the Free Music Archive. For sound effects, be sure to explore FreeSound.

6. Post. After making sure everything sounds right (make sure to play it for a few people), post that audiobook! Be sure to post in a compressed format, such as .mp3. You can even post streaming audio at Soundcloud.

So now that you have the tools, the red light is on!

Who’s tried this? How’d it go?

You may be a Lulu Author, but are you a Google Author?

If you’re reading this blog it’s likely you’re either already a published author or aspire to be one (and nobody can make that dream come true faster than Lulu!). But are you a Google Author?

What is a Google Author?

By now you’ve probably seen search results in Google that look like this:

google-authorship-rich-snippet

This is known as an “author rich snippet search result.” Google supplies a photo of the author of the content that the search result links to. In addition, this author usually gets a byline (which links to his or her Google profile), and a link to search results for more of that author’s content.

How do you get such a result? By participating in the Google Authorship program. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first let’s talk about the “why.”

Creativity Strikes! Interview with Children’s Writer Sandra Arthur

As the social media manager here at Lulu, I have the lucky task of monitoring our Facebook Page. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to communicate directly with so many of our authors and to get a chance to see the creative ways you all have to reach your readers. I’m constantly impressed. The other day I saw a post from an author named Sandra Arthur and wanted to share with you about an ingenious workshop she created to get kids excited about reading and to teach them about endangered orangutans and the rainforest of Borneo. She kindly agreed to an interview (shown below), so I hope you will enjoy getting to read a bit about one of your fellow Lulu authors.

Can you please share a few words about the Jungle Workshop you organized?

I ran a “Jungle Workshop” to provide a fun storytelling experience for children. I was lucky to get support from a local, independent bookshop/café/toy shop. I created a Rainforest Room with a tent and decorations.

How To: Market a Self-Published Book

As an independent author, dozens of companies, sites and services will offer to show you how to market your self-published book – for one low fee, naturally. However, the reality is such: Provided you pick and choose your battles, and are smart about evaluating opportunity costs, doing so typically requires a greater investment of time than money.

Thanks to the rise of technology, online and social media tools, suddenly, anyone can advertise and promote their works affordably – meaning, for the most part, that you can tell coaches and consultants to take a hike. However, for those who do choose to go the DIY route, it also bears remembering: Even in the best of cases, from a promotional standpoint, due to the sheer volume of products, services and announcements competing for attention, you’re still screaming into a wind tunnel.

Happily though, with a little ingenuity and a good hook, you too can effectively market your works to the masses, potentially scoring high-profile placements and media mentions. Interested in getting started? We counsel keeping in mind the following hints, tips and advice.

Image is everything: People are visual creatures, and tend to accept what they see at first glance: From book covers to websites, social media profiles and business logos, everything needs to look top-notch, as it directly impacts perceived value. So if you have to cut costs anywhere, don’t let it be on presentation: If a picture says a thousand words, they should all be positive. Happily, professional-looking covers needn’t cost a fortune, crowdsourcing design sites can aid with affordable graphics and you can easily use off-the-shelf blogging solutions and plug-and-play visual templates to create high-quality websites.

Source advance quotes to build credibility: Ask recognized experts in your field, including thought leaders, well-known executives and other authors to read your manuscript and offer some endorsements (“Joe Smith’s work is a must-read!”) before even announcing the volume.

Explode Your Author Fan Base with Google Plus

Anyone who loves books eventually falls in love with their authors. I don’t necessarily mean romantically in love (although I’m sure that happens!), but simply that when people have spent significant time in someone else’s thought world, they feel like they know that person. Then anything that makes that connection more real and solid in any way takes on immense significance for the reader. It’s one of the major factors in someone going from reader to “fan.”

That kind of connection used to happen primarily through personal appearances, at a reading or bookstore signing. For a fortunate few, there might have been a radio or television interview. But now social media has opened up all sorts of possibilities for authors to reach out to their readership, and for readers to feel more connected than ever.

The Green Machine

For some of the most popular authors today, social media has been key to their success. One of my favorite examples is young adult writer John Green (author of bestsellers like Looking for Alaska). On YouTube and Twitter Green built a community of intelligent, disaffected young people who identified strongly with the characters in his books. They even formed an impromptu “organization” known as the Nerdfighters (not fighting against nerds, but rather against “worldsuck”). To the Nerdfighters, Green isn’t just a favorite author, he’s their leader.

That might just sound like a bunch of fun and games, until you hear something like this: When Green announced pre-orders of his latest book on his Twitter account, it went almost immediately to #1 on Amazon…six months before the book was published.

Top Awards for Independently Published Authors

As the end of the year nears, it seems like every few weeks another round of traditionally published books and authors win the Pulitzer, Man Booker, National Book Critics Circle, and Hugo awards — to name a few. It feels endless — and sometimes deflating. What about the independently published authors who’ve put their heart, soul and countless hours into their books?

Let’s face it: the desire to win an award is two-fold. Not only does it give you, as the author, validation, but it also gives you more credibility among readers looking for their next good read. There are plenty of awards out there specifically for independent authors. Here we list just a few worth submitting to:

Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards: Yes, you read correctly. This is sponsored by the same Writer’s Digest many of us read for advice, so you know it’s legit. Although submissions are closed for this year, future authors take note. Entering a book into one or more of their nine open genres means you have a chance to win $3,000 (or $1,000 for nine runner-up winners), a paid trip to the annual Writer’s Digest conference in New York City, access into a number of new distribution channels, 10 copies of your book for submission to major publishing houses, and much, much more.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards: It’s been five years since the first awards were handed out, and it’s still going strong! Enter your book into one of more than 60 categories and you may be the recipient of a cash prize of up to $1,500, you’ll be attending the gala awards ceremony in New York City, and you’ll be listed in the awards catalog, which goes to “thousands of book buyers, media, and others” according to the website.