Marketing Tips

Bring on the Reviews!

Thank you, Internet for connecting all of us, all the time. I can’t make any decision without consulting the web for reviews. Need new tires? Find some affordable options and compare reviews. A new computer? Same. Dinner out? More of the same.

Books are different. I’m not going to pick a handful of books and make a choice based on the reviews. Buying books is more subjective. I actually decide whether or not to consider buying based on reviews. Those little stars can be the difference between trying out a new author, or passing them over for someone I know and trust.

5stars

In this way, getting reviews for your book may well be the most important factor in hooking new readers (a good cover and well crafted description being the other elements). The question becomes: how do I get reviews for my book?

The first thing to do would be to tap resources you have on hand, such as friends, family, coworkers, or fellow writers. These are the folks who are willing to read your book and give reviews initially. It’s a great place to get started, particularly if you have a network of authors and fellow writers who can provide honest feedback.

Remember, not all reviews are going to be glowing. But a specific criticism or suggestion can be more valuable than simple praise. This is self-publishing, so a well crafted critical review could be the impetus to revise the work, in the end landing you an even stronger book!

Once you’ve reached out to your friends, family, and fellow writers for reviews, you might consider sources like Publishers Weekly or Kirkus, who offer paid reviewing services. This is a good way to get a “professional” review, but this may not be the most important element in increasing sales and visibility.

In fact, what might matter the most, are the stars. Invesp is a site dedicated to the commerce of opinion, and they present a nice little info graphic (see below) that highlights how important it is to have stars on those reviews. The main takeaway here is that getting 4+ stars can be as important, if not more important, than having a written review from a paid service like Publisher Weekly. Another crucial point this information brings up is review quantity. Most buyers feel confident with 4 to 6 good reviews. What this means is that you don’t actually need a lot of great reviews to get your book that extra attention. Just a few reviews with 4+ stars can be all it takes to start pulling in new readers!

bookheartEither way, as a self-published author, if you hope to have your worked noticed and picked up by new readers, you’ll want as many stars and reviews as you can get. These reviews are the “word of mouth” you’ll need to help find new readers and get them excited for your book.

 

It’s a lot of work, arguably more work than writing the book, but in the highly competitive self-publishing world, getting attention is the cornerstone of growing your book’s readership.

Bonus – Lulu has a section in our Forums called “Shameless Promotion” for, well, shamelessly promoting your book. It’s a great way to get the attention of the Lulu community and test the waters for reviews.

The importance of online customer reviews - editable

 

Infographic by- Invesp

Additional Resources:

Need Some Help Marketing? Ask a Friend

Driving Online Traffic and Book Sales

Free Access to Author Learning Center

 

Pitch Perfect: Pitching a Guest Post

Have I got a Story for youFor authors and writers who are just beginning to build an audience, guest posting an article on an established, related blog is an excellent means to expand your reach. Your post will be seen by a completely new audience who may then decide to follow your blog or maybe even purchase a book or two. The challenge for new writers is in finding sites with a dedicated readership related to your area of expertise that are also willing to accept unsolicited articles from an unknown writer. Therefore your pitch letter must be near perfect to catch the editor’s attention.

 

What is a Pitch?

In its purest form, a pitch includes:

  • An introduction: Who are you?
  • Relevance: How does your proposal fit with the existing audience?
  • Topics: What do you propose to write about?
  • Value: What benefit will readers get from the article?

Your pitch should not be a bulleted list, nor should it be an epic love poem in long form. Keep it brief, to the point, and grammatically correct. This is the one piece of your writing an editor is guaranteed to read. A convoluted, poorly composed, error-filled pitch does not make a good first impression.

Do Your Research

Spend some time reading, yes actually reading, the blog to which you intend to pitch your article. Look for existing topics you think can be expanded upon by your expertise or fresh outlook. While researching, take note of not only the subjects, but also the typical article length, their structure, tone, and use of imagery.

Also, a little investigative work on your part goes a long way in making sure your pitch is welcomed. Addressing an editor by the wrong name, wrong gender, or the generic “to whom it may concern” makes a terrible first impression. Find out as much as you can about the editor and their interests, then incorporate that information into your introduction to make a connection.

Get Their Attention

Based on these subject lines, which email would you open first?

Posting Inquiry

E-Reader Covers: What They Say About What You Read

Enough said.

Show Them What You’ve Got

Nothing gets a reader’s attention like effective imagery. You will get more notice with original work than from stock photos.

Be Patient

Depending on the blog’s popularity and posting scheduled, there may be a publishing calendar that is planned out for the next 10 days to two months. There is no need to follow up every day to see if the editor received the follow up you sent yesterday. If your article was accepted, the editor will let you know when it will go live.

While You Wait

It’s acceptable to write articles ahead of time while you wait for responses, but we recommend you do not publish them. If you plan to submit an article as a guest post, it should be an original post.

Don’t forget to compose an author bio that is accurate, succinct, and relevant to the audience. Include a link back to your blog or a link to your book page so that your potential new fans can find you.

share share shareCongratulations!

If your article is accepted, tell all your friends, post about it on your blog and link to it from your social media sites – all of which boost your article’s search results and your online reputation. And, don’t forget to send a thank you note.

 

Guest Blogging: Building Your Online Reputation Using Someone Else’s Platform

Author Platform 1Since joining the Lulu team, I have attended publishing trade shows around the country in an effort to keep up with industry trends. After a few years, I noticed a distinct pattern. Each year it seemed the industry latched onto a particular theme or buzzword around which all shows were organized. One of the first of these themes focused on the need for creating an author platform.

Once I learned what an author platform was, it seemed like a rather simple and logical approach to publicizing your work. All you need to do is set up a website, start a blog and interact with your fans on social media. Easy right? According to the experts, an author platform makes current fans feel connected to the author while at the same time attracting new readers thereby ensuring a steady flow of money into an authors’ bank account.

The thinking here is solid.  If we conduct a quick online study we will find most successful, independently published authors already have an author platform in place – likely built by a member of their publishing team (another year’s theme). If you conduct a search for these authors on the internet, not only would their books be returned in the search results, but also links to their social media pages, discussion boards, blog posts, and articles – all of which contribute to their online reputation.Guest Bloggers Welcome

For new authors the question then becomes, “How can I get some of this search engine goodness for myself?” If you don’t have access to a social media team or a neighborhood kid to build your website, the easiest option is join a few discussion groups or to make use of another person’s platform by guest blogging. Both of which give you an opportunity to reach new audiences.

You may respond “I don’t write for free.” Well, yes you do. You write for free until someone buys your book. Once enough people have bought your book you can set your own price for articles. Until then, your best bet is to find a site that appeals to your target audience and pitch them an article. Most bloggers are constantly on the lookout for new material. So much so they will even let you plug your book in return for free, compelling content..

This strategy is a win/win for everyone. The site owner gets content to fill their pages.  You get more search hits, a new audience for your work, free advertising, and a bump in your online reputation score.

Coming up: Tips on Pitching a Guest Blog

Using Lulu Coupon Codes in Your Marketing Emails

Jan 28 JANEND20 Full(This Post will be updated each day when new consumer coupon codes are released, so check back often.)

Let’s try out a few seasonal metaphors for your email marketing efforts…

Stuff your readers’ stockings with email! Deck the halls with deals on eBooks! Pass the turkey and mashed potatoes… and… strategically develop an email marketing plan that takes advantage of Lulu.com’s sales and special offers…

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really flow. But – it’s good advice all the same. Email marketing that coincides with Lulu’s impressive special offers is the next best thing to having your books carried right down your readers’ chimneys.

What’s so great about it? For starters, email marketing works. Social media may seem the savvier approach, but email is roughly six times more effective at bringing in new buyers than Facebook and Twitter. Email gives you a great platform for sharing special offers and introducing new books, without your carefully crafted content getting lost in the endless scroll of tweets and status updates.

Here’s a sample email template you can use:

Email Subject Line:
Get <Book Title> for 20% Off on Print Books and Calendars

Email Body:
Have you ordered your copies of <book title> yet? <Placeholder for one line book description>  If not, order today and save big.

Order today on Lulu.com and save 20% with coupon code JANEND20 thru January 28th.

To place your order, simply click this link: <Placeholder for link to book>, click Add to Cart and apply the code at checkout.

Plus, you can order extra copies at this discounted price to share with friends and family.

Order today and save! <Link to book>

<Author name>

**Don’t forget, coupon codes are case-sensitive.

 

See? Simple. You can highlight the current savings, briefly describe the book, and gives easy instructions. It’s low-pressure, good-natured, informative and brief. You can even provide a link right to your Author Spotlight and save your readers from searching. If you have multiple titles, you may wish to include a link to your Author Spotlight page to encourage shoppers to browse your catalog.

And, though we are currently entering the season of sharing and shopping, this strategy works year-round. At Lulu.com, we’re always looking for ways to promote you and sell your books. Whenever we have a sale — seasonal or otherwise — send out an email blast letting everyone know. After all, ‘tis always the season for reading!

All current discounts, coupon codes, and expiration dates are listed on the Lulu home page: www.lulu.com/home

 

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online

Want to be a successful author in the 21st century? You have to be online. It goes beyond a suggestion into the territory of necessity.

But how do you strengthen your online presence so you can be sure the greatest number of people see you and know to buy your work? Being visible, engaging with your readers, and having the right attitude online all go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of your digital efforts.

Be visible

In order to have a strong online presence, you need to make yourself available online. Seems obvious, right? Basically, you don’t want to make it hard for people to find you. We’ve talked before about the importance of having your own website, and that’s a great place to start. Free or cheap hosting services, premade templates, and easy-to-use software have made making your own website a snap. If you have a central hub, readers will know where to go for the latest news, writing, and where to buy your work.

It’s also important to look outside your own website. Take advantage of social media; it’s a great place to build a community because of the built-in audiences of these sites. No need to start from scratch when you can find readers already sharing their comments on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, don’t be afraid of interacting with other authors, publishers, and thought-leaders on their own sites. After all, your goal is to be visible. See if there are any blogs looking for guest contributors. Sharing your own tips, insights, and experiences is a great way to engage potential customers, and if you’re writing for another site you can tap into the audience they’ve already built.

The key is being in as many places as possible. Different platforms have different audiences, so just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on Twitter, and just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re reaching the same audience you would if you were also on Facebook. Experiment and find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Speak with readers

What’s the best way to grow an audience? Build relationships with your readers (and potential readers). Readers don’t want to feel like they’re just customers – someone you’re only trying to get a buck from. Make them feel like they’re partners in your writing and they’ll be a lot more likely to support you. Speak with them, not just to them.

Social media makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with readers. Have conversations with them, but don’t always keep it just about your next book. Share your thoughts and interesting articles with them; respond to their posts, even if they aren’t directed at you, to show that you’re just as invested in them as they are in you.

In short, make yourself look human. One of the benefits of independent publishing is that you aren’t beholden to a giant publishing conglomerate that’s just looking for the next best seller. You have the chance to try new things and work on a smaller scale. Being a friendly face, and not just another cog in a marketing machine, is endearing to readers and likely to help you stand out from the crowd.

Choose Your Words Carefully!

You’ve heard the old saying: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s never been more important than in the digital age. Why? Because as a newer old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Comments on social media can be shared in an instant, screenshots and backups can be taken be complete strangers, and before you know it that one little snarky comment you said before you had your morning coffee is living in infamy.

So how do you say nice things, even when other people aren’t willing to? Sometimes it just means taking the high road. Ignoring negative comments is a good start; if you don’t engage the haters, they can’t gain any traction.

Of course, it’s not always a case of people being mean. A bad review of your book can sting. You might be tempted to shoot off a tweet about how the reviewer is a hack and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But what if you decided to look at it constructively instead? Take what the review says to heart, look at it as objectively as possible, and see what merit the comments have.

If you have to engage the reviewer, thank them for taking the time to read your book and give their thoughts. It probably won’t change the review, but the reviewer – and every potential reader out there – will see that you’re willing to take criticism gracefully and are trying to improve your craft. They might be more willing to check out your next book to see how you’ve grown.

Independent publishing means putting in a lot of legwork to get some great rewards, and marketing is no different. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a great way to market yourself and your work for relatively little money. Growing your audience organically by putting a real human behind that author name

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.

 

How to Write a Killer Author Bio

Insert life story hereYou are a writer. Using your keyboard you can create an entire world, the people who live in it and the circumstances for all sorts of interesting things to occur. At peak production, you are churning out 500 to 1000 words a day. So why is it so difficult to write 100 words about yourself? It is, after all, a topic in which you are intimately familiar.

It is likely that you have not even considered your author bio until you are asked for the information from your cover designer. And, as a reader I don’t recall ever not buying a book due to an uninspired “About the Author” blurb. I have, however, upon completing an enjoyable book returned to the bio to learn more about the author – especially if I am interested in reading more of their work. When considered from this perspective, the author bio is really a marketing tool that allows your newest fans to connect with you, possibly leading to increased sales.

So how do you boil your life experience down to a concise and compelling blurb?

Start Big – Go Small

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. You will need to create three author biographies:

  • Long form version for your website, interview sheets, and press releases that includes your age, location, credentials, background, inspiration, fun facts and contact information.
  • Medium length (approximately 250 words) version for queries, guest blogs, and marketing materials
  • Brief bio (approximately 50-100 words) for your book cover and social media profile

The good news is that once you have the long form version complete, it is much easier to edit it down to include the most relevant information based on the context in which the bio will be presented.

Who is your reader?

What’s relevant for inclusion in your author bio depends on your intended audience. An author bio is much like meeting someone at a party. You need to keep it brief, but memorable. Therefore only share the information your audience will find most interesting. Are you writing for an academic audience, summer beach readers, memoir enthusiasts, young adults, or children? An academic reader is probably not interested that you have four children just as a young adult reader will not fully appreciate the effort required to earn that long list of academic credentials listed behind your name.

Brag Selectively

Speaking of credentials, if your name is followed by a bowl of alphabet soup, choose the credentials most relevant to the work you are publishing. The same applies for multiple degrees, certifications, previous publications, articles, and awards. A PhD in astrophysics is impressive if you are publishing a book about the far reaches of the universe – not so much if you are writing a cookbook.

Imitation is the purest form of flattery

So, how do you know what to include in your author bio? Easy, just go online or to your local bookstore and take a look at a few books in your genre or field of study. When you find an appealing author bio, copy it substituting your information and voila! Author bio complete.

What makes you human?

While researching (see above) author bios, you will notice there is usually something included that differentiates the author from their fellows. They may be avid collectors of porcelain Chihuahuas, share their home with 15 hedgehogs, or live off the grid in the Scandinavian woods. This type of information sets you apart from other writers in your field. Other types of humanizing information include your locale or profession, but only if either plays a part in your work.

A picture is worth…..

You only get 50-100 words to share your life story on a book cover or flap. A good picture can help you tell it with fewer words. If you can afford it, have a professional head shot taken to include with your bio. If you can’t afford it, make sure the picture used is in an appropriate setting for your material, is in high resolution and prominently features your face –not your dog, not your car, not your collection of porcelain figurines. It’s called a head shot for a reason.

And finally

Use third person to refer to yourself and read your bio out loud before you publish it. You may choose to create several versions of your brief bio for use in articles, guest blogs, speaking introductions, interviews, and social media. Don’t forget, just as you would update your professional resume, periodically review and update your author bio to include new publications, awards, areas of expertise, and life changing events.

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