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"Authors, Don't Confuse Us!" Basic Marketing Tips for Your Brand

by Annie @JustReadTours


Hello! Annie here. As an avid reader, I also love to check out author websites, social media and book sites like Goodreads and BookBub for the latest reads from my favorite authors or publishers.  Though at times, I come away more confused than satisfied. Ever felt that way?

"If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."  - Tom Peters

Well, in that case, I'm paying attention. 😁 With JustRead Tours, we come across more specific areas that I'd like to share with authors here, particularly with an author's online presence.


Website
Authors themselves are their own brand. Therefore their website should reflect who they are, and what they want to present.

  • Websites should be easy to navigate. Navigational menu short, sweet and to the point.
  • Invest in getting your own domain. Preferably as your name such as http://authorname.com or .org or whatever works.  Another option is a tagline that associates with your brand. 
  • Home page should be simple and to the point. If your home page directs to your blog, make sure it doesn't create more confusion with your content. 
  • Don't over crowd your sidebar (if you're using a blog format). Create distinct segments.
  • Make sure all your links work and direct to the correct web page you want to direct to.
  • Include all your social media links using icons, and make them easy to find (top, side or footer of your website). 
    • Be sure to only include the platforms you use for your brand (not personal accounts, especially if you have an author one).

Social Media
Social media platform is a crucial marketing tool for authors and publishers. However, done wrong, it can more often than not, confuse or turn readers off.

  • Depending on the platform, separate personal and author accounts. 
  • Create accounts on platforms you will be active in.  If possible, use the same username for each one. For example, @justreadtours is our username on all our social media platforms we have.
  • Be active! 
  • Make sure your author accounts are linked correctly on your website, newsletter, and even in the profile of other social media platform.
  • Even if you do not have an account on one particular social media platform, the use of hashtag such as #authorname is sufficient if you or your readers are sharing something.


Goodreads, BookBub and Amazon
These three sites are important and essential for authors and publishers alike for different reasons, but definitely relative.

  • Create an author profile if you don't already have one for each of these sites.
  • Make sure you only have one author profile for each of these sites.
  • Include your website link.
  • Add the same short author bio for all three sites. 
  • As to books, make sure there are no duplicate listings for the same book. (This concerns Goodreads particularly. One time, I found 4 listings for the same book!)
  • Consistency is key. If you update or change something, specifically in the book blurb, make sure to update on all relevant sites, including these three, plus others like the publisher's book listing on their website, and your own website. 

"That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well." - Abraham Lincoln


That's it for now. I might make this into a series if you're interested, since I actually could've added more! 🤣  Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you're interested in entering the giveaway. 



Giveaway
JustRead Publicity Tours will be launching our Author Services this Fall, and to start it off, we're giving away an Author Media Review to one interested author! An Author Media Review is to review your current social media and website platforms to relation to your current book, and provide a written assessment for you to consider working on. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. 





Annie is an avid reader and former book blogger at Just Commonly. She is the co-owner of JustRead Publicity Tours, a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the inspirational and clean genres. She is also the co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat. 

Falling into a Festival



by Pam Hillman

Fall festivals are just around the corner. I don’t know about you, but I love attending a couple of local festivals. I live in a small town…Well, actually, I live out in the country, and the closest small town is five miles away. The next is 10 miles away and is so small that when Andy Ogletree won the US Amateur Golf Championship this past weekend, Fox News said the town was so small that there wasn’t even a population count. Obviously, everyone in our community is proud of our new celebrity!

Falling into a Festival

Falling into a Festival

But back to small town festivals where everybody knows your name. Well, almost everybody!

I remember a festival from last fall. You know that weekend or cluster of days where you’re already booked 24/7 and then you get an additional 30-40 hours thrown in the mix? That weekend was mine. But everything was good… great, in fact. 


Falling into a Festival
Me and Louis, one of my most loyal fans.


I started at 6 am Saturday morning with a booth at our local really small-town festival in Sebastopol, MS. This was my 4-5th year and, hands-down, it’s my best venue. I sold/gifted 49 books, I think. Most of these people are already fans and they stop by every year to get my latest book. And, I always gain a few new fans. Some bring books they bought to get them signed.

Falling into a Festival


Falling into a Festival
Me and my cousin, Geraldine.

Falling into a Festival


Falling into a Festival

Falling into a Festival
I do 2-4 MAX of these a year, mostly clustered in Oct/Nov. It’s for friends at local events because the closest bookstores are 50 miles away. And these people want signed books. One guy, Homer, has all my books on a designated shelf at his house and it sounded like “woe to the person who moves them!”

I’ve had some good days and really bad days at these events over the years. Selling a handful (or NONE!) of books is bad, but we know to expect that at some events. But I’d say the worst is hauling everything out, tent required outside, etc., and it either be raining, so miserably cold you can’t feel your feet, wind blowing tents away, or so hot you literally are on the verge of heat stroke. Yes, I have experienced all of these even here in MS, some on the same day.

Last year, Sebastopolooza was the PERFECT EVENT. The weather was gorgeous, which was great for set-up and take down at the end of the day, plus people came out for the festival due to the great weather. A cool 56 degrees so my Western-style boots and light corduroy jacket were great for the morning crowd. It climbed to 70 during the day, so I switched to a lighter knit pullover.

Falling into a Festival
L-R: Me, my mother, her cousin Jeanette, and two of their friends from school

Falling into a Festival


 At this event, we’re allowed to set up from 4-6 pm the night before. Since Sebastopolooza is 4 miles down the road, my Cowboy and I took my tent, table, old doors and 2 bales of hay and set them up. I was in a different spot than I’d been in years past. Hubby wanted to know where I wanted the table, but I told him just put it under the tent and leave the tent at “half-mast” and I’d figure it out when I got there the next morning. My set-up would depend on how many open sides “entry points” I had.

I arrived before 7 am and unloaded my car. Boxes of books, burlap, camp chairs, money, pens, bookmarks and more. Cars had to be out of the area by 7:30, so I quickly unloaded, moved my car and started setting things up.

Falling into a Festival

This is where it becomes tricky, and I’ve learned that I’d rather NOT have help. Each event is different, and I have to set up my space depending on what I have to work with. Hubby wants to just “do it”, but I can’t be rushed here. Do I have one, two, or three open sides to my tent (ie. are there tents set up next to me and behind me, or not)? What’s the weather like? Where’s the afternoon sun going to be?

This event, I ended up with two open sides, so decided that I would set up my area so that it would be a FLOW-THROUGH allowing people to walk through my tent from one side to the other. I have a burlap “curtain” that my son and I made at my first event (literally AT the event) to block the wind that year. It’s come in handy for wind, rain, and sun. This year, I hung it along the SW corner of my booth, knowing the afternoon sun would be brutal.

Falling into a Festival
A booth has to be inviting, appropriate to what someone writes and catch people’s eye. I’ve used the same theme year after year, a rustic, Western-style with old doors, burlap, a couple of bales of hay if outdoors. I tone it down considerably for indoor events (churches, libraries, bookstores). There, I only take books, and an easel banner, and tablecloth and/or burlap for my table. 

My list that I keep in the notes on my phone. We’ll start with the obvious essentials and what you need to sell books:

Books: I inventory my books by title on a notecard before the event. When packing up, I inventory them again. When I get home and rested, I figure up the difference and that tells me how many I sold/gifted. I write books sold and money taken in on the card and keep it for my permanent records.
Falling into a Festival
Bank Bag/Cash: I know how much cash I have before leaving home. After arriving back home, I count the cash again and add in any credit card sales. The difference between beginning and end is profit. This figure goes on the permanent card mentioned above. Each event has a card with total sold and $$ taken in. If you’re concerned about messing up your $$ count, take an extra $20-$30 for incidentals like a soft drink, hamburger, chips. If you take money out of the bag for stuff like that, jot a note on a notecard and throw it in the bank bag.

Card Reader: Make sure to update phone/ipad and check that all is working before event. I learned this the hard way when my IOS needed an update. 

More essentials: Pens, bookmarks and/or postcards, notecards or guestbook for newsletter signup, plastic bags (I offer to anyone who buys several books or looks like they might need it!), business cards.

Falling into a Festival

Tent, table, and chairs: This is self-explanatory if you’re outside. Trust me.

Everything else is debatable, but you want your booth to draw readers in, and you have a 10’x10’ space to have some fun. Also, I have a few personal items that I like to take for my own comfort.


~ Tabletop Easels to display books. Also, you can use empty boxes under your tablecloth to give height to your books if needed. You can get these at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, etc.

~ Floor Easel and large poster(s) if you have them.
~ Clothespins, safety pins
~ Twine / string
~ Knife or scissors
~ Large Chalkboard (Hobby Lobby)
~ Small chalkboards (Walmart, Hobby Lobby, etc.)
~ Chalk pens


Miscellaneous comfort. Authors cannot leave their booth for long, and I like to have my own healthy (preferably COLD) snacks on hand. And it needs to be something you can take a bite of, swallow, then shove to the side and smile at a customer. I’ve been blessed to have a family member (husband/mom/niece) come through every few hours or so, giving me a quick necessary break.

Falling into a Festival

Falling into a Festival
~ Cold pack for frozen water bottles, frozen yogurt, iced coffee with protein, etc.
~ Nuts or other healthy snacks
~ Toilet paper
~ Paper towels
~ Extra shoes
~ Dress in layers
~ Comfortable shoes
~ Rechargeable fan and a USB charger

Falling into a Festival
Now, for the fun part. Everything below has to do with making your booth inviting. It’s not necessary, I suppose, but I’ve always gone all out on my booth space from day one. I think it pays off. Just decorate it to fit your genre and you’ll be fine.

Falling into a Festival
My props have evolved from some heavy items the first few years to much lighter fare. My husband is willing (sort of) to haul heavy hinged doors and bales of hay in his truck to trick out my booth, but I’m slowly figuring out ways to have an eye-catching display with stuff I can haul in my SUV in ONE TRIP, especially since one of my festivals only allows set-up the morning of the event. So, the hay bales and large, hinged doors are out.

Extras that I’ve used for display purposes at various times:

~ burlap or genre appropriate curtains, tablecloths
~ mums
~ wooden wagon
~ old doors (two hinged together)
~ old metal suitcase
~ small rustic bookcase
~ square bales of hay

Falling into a Festival
And, last, but not least, a collapsible wagon is a wonderful thing to have. It’s great for hauling stuff to and from your car if needed. It can do double duty as a display by stacking empty boxes inside and draping a tablecloth over it, then topping with books.

So, there you have it. My method to creating an eye-catching, welcoming booth at the small handful of festivals I attend each year. Seriously, if you live in a small town, renting a booth space is about the cheapest and coolest way you can see all your friends and family in one day without exhausting yourself.

And you might even sell a few books in the process!

Mayday! Mayday! Is Anybody There?

by Pam Hillman

Have you ever been a guest on a small radio station and wondered if you’re talking into a vacuum? Or even been invited to participate in an online video chat and you’re not even sure if anyone is listening?

Ever watched a movie where stranded sailors cobbled together a short-wave radio and started sending out distress calls, “Mayday! Mayday!”

What about Cary Grant in the movie Father Goose? At one point, Cary Grant is desperately trying to raised the commander on the other end of the radio.

 

And then there’s that old saying, “If a tree falls deep in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

Well, if an author publishes a book, how does she know if anybody reads it? Is anybody listening? How does she know? Let’s talk about 8 ways authors can estimate if their message is being heard.

Reviews - Authors love reviews. We love reviewers. And we love readers who love reading and love to tell others about the amazing stories they’ve read. Goodreads and Amazon reviews are a mix of reviews from readers who’ve either purchased a copy of your book or been given a copy in exchange for an honest review. Romantic Times, Library Journal, Fresh Fiction, just to name a few, review many of the newest releases. Reviews mean somebody somewhere is getting your book and is reading it. You are being heard.

Interaction on Social Media - We’ve had several posts related to social media here in Seekerville. It’s part of making noise. Make some noise. Let people hear you roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your newsletter, etc.. But just as it can be really irritating when the neighbors party all night long, be aware when you’re becoming too loud, too pushy, or too obnoxious. That’s when it’s time to ask how they’re doing, or take a breather and post some cute cat (or calf) videos! You are your message and your message is being heard when others retweet you, when others share your cute meme, or your latest book news.

Analytics - Social media sites all provide analytics to help you determine if you’re being heard. There’s also Author Central where you can get a bit of a handle on which books are moving, rankings among other authors, etc. If you self-publish a book, or even traditionally publish, those analytics can give you an inkling if people are seeing your name and your book. It’s not perfect, but if you have a special sale or a free book, you can definitely see those spikes in the rankings.

Local Events - Be heard and seen in your community. Schedule book signings at local bookstores. Speak to a book club, a ladies group, a retired teachers’ association. Connect with groups who have your same interests. It’s a great way to be heard, and even though it might not result in huge numbers in sales, every connection counts.

Name Recognition - Which leads us to the next point. Name recognition happens when you have books (print or ebook) in the marketplace. Name recognition happens when you blog, post on social media, write articles and interviews, appear on the radio, attend events, or just go out of your way to be nice to others, your name will become known.

Awards and Contests - Finalling or winning a contest means you’re reaching another aspect of the reading community. Judges love to read, and many of them pass your books on to others.

Reader Response - It’s so exciting to hear from readers. Sometimes they just want to tell authors how much they enjoyed their books. Other times they want to know when the next book is coming out. And sometimes, their emails might not be quite as gushing as we’d like, but they are readers, and they bought your book. With a bit of work and communication, they’re likely to buy your next one.

Sales Numbers - All of the above is wonderful feedback and can give an author an indication of how well they’re being heard, but the final indicator is sales numbers. Sometimes sales numbers might not be as wonderful as we’d like, but we don’t grow a readership overnight. On the flip side, write the best stories you possibly can, and continue to cultivate the first 7 tips on this list, and eventually, your readership will grow.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com

Home

Guest Amy Anguish
Home


Home.

Just four short letters, and yet, it’s a word that packs a powerful impact. Think about all the songs and sayings related to it.

“Home is where the heart is.”

“There’s no place like home.”


Home


“Home is where you hang your hat.”

“Who says you can’t go home?”

You get the idea. Okay. So, home is important. We all have one, right? That depends on how you define home. If you simply define it as the address where you receive your mail, then yes. We all have a home. If you define it as something deeper, a system of roots, a place full of memories and love and growth and all that entails, then no. Some of us don’t have that. Not in one place, anyway.

I’m a preacher’s kid. My daddy has always preached in small congregations in small towns. Unfortunately, that meant we moved every few years. I’ve never lived anywhere longer than six years. When people ask me where I’m from, I simply say “the south.” It’s easier than saying, “Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.” I’ve added Texas to the mix since I got married, for the record. I grew up everywhere. As a child, that was hard. After all, no one wants to leave their best friends behind, start a new school, try to fit in. Especially in high school. College was a balm to my soul, with all those people who just accepted me because almost none of us had been there our whole lives.


Home


Now that I’m an adult, I can see benefits to the way I grew up. After all, not having an earthly place to really think of as home keeps me focused on the heavenly one I’ll get one day. And it’s helped me lose any shyness I had when younger, giving me a willingness to put myself out there and find friends. And it’s helped me help my husband learn to acclimate to new places as we’ve moved around in our fourteen years of marriage (he grew up in the same place his whole life).

The more I write, the more I find my “lack” of a home has also affected my writing. “Home” has become almost a recurring character in my stories. It started out sneakily, but has become more and more prominent.

In my novel, An Unexpected Legacy, my characters Jessica and Chad are both transplants to the central Texas area. After they start dating, they find out their families are actually from the same small town in Arkansas--the town Jessica thinks of as home because of all the good memories with her grandparents and aunt there. Unfortunately, when her aunt demands she quit dating Chad, that sense of home is ruined for Jessica unless she can figure out what the aunt has against her boyfriend.

In my novel coming out in April, The Greatest of These, two sisters Faith and Hope are thrown together for the summer, despite not getting along. Faith has chosen to live in Texas with her husband Sam. Hope made her home in Mississippi and hates to leave it, but needs a job. Hope has to overcome her prejudice against the state of Texas as well as realize that location isn’t so much what makes a home as the people.

I have a couple of other stories still in edits before I can have them published, too. In one, Michelle moves back to her small hometown after being away for several years. But everything is not the same, including her best friend, Greg. She comes back with dreams, goals, and a baby, and has to figure out how to fit back in to the place she loves most. And in another, my character, Adrian, is a lot like me. She grew up a preacher’s kid, moving every few years. Unfortunately, that caused her to give up on God and choose to live working a job that doesn’t allow her to settle. After all, if she never settles anywhere, she won’t have to go through the pain of leaving friends behind. She also has to learn the true meaning of home.


Home
The house in Kansas where I lived as a baby.

I didn’t set out to write my stories to be so “home-centric,” but it’s there in each. It’s not necessarily the main struggle or even the main theme, but it’s big enough that you know it’s there. Each character has to realize that home is more than just a place. It’s wherever you can be yourself, be comfortable, be loved. Because without love, it’s just a place.

Last summer, I was privileged to attend the Ken Ten Writers’ Retreat in Tennessee. In one session, Linda Fulkerson, an author who is amazing at marketing, told us that to market well, we have to figure out what our platform is. Then, we need to write about that. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my platform was, besides getting the stories out of my head and into people’s hands. But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s “home.”

After all, everyone wants a home. It’s a God-given desire, the longing for a place to belong, to be comfortable, to be loved. And if I can tie that in to my stories, as well as the longing for our eternal home, that sounds like a great platform, a way to reach out to my readers and find a common ground.


Home
The house my husband and I bought last year here in Tennessee.
What about you? Do you have a theme that is so big you can almost call it a character? Do you have something in your past that sneaks its way into your stories and somehow ties them all together? I’d love to hear about it!

*****

Amy will be doing a giveaway today! Just let us know you'd like to be entered.

Home


When Chad Manning introduces himself to Jessica Garcia at her favorite smoothie shop, it's like he stepped out of one of her romance novels. But as she tentatively walks into a relationship with this man of her dreams, secrets from their past threaten to shatter their already fragile bond.  Chad and Jessica must struggle to figure out if their relationship has a chance or if there is nothing between them but a love of smoothies.


Amy R. Anguish
Author of An Unexpected Legacy

Amy R. Anguish grew up a preacher's kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.


Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding

Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding

Hello, Villagers! My marketing nerd heart is so full that I get to talk more about branding with you today. If you missed our first Seekerville post on the subject, you can click here to read more of the specifics on honing brand, audience, and strategy.

Today, we’re going to focus on visual branding, which includes the colors, imagery, typography, and other design aspects that help tell the story of what we write and what our audience can expect in our social media spaces.

To start, I’m going to lay a few easy ground rules. The possibilities for self-expression are as unique and numerous as fingerprints, but the most effective platforms:
  • Keep it clear: Once they’ve determined the core vision and mission of their platform, successful brands make sure no part of their visual branding conflicts with it. If they’re going for entertainment, their colors might be whimsical and bright. If their subject matter is poignant and serious, then every image, font, and color they choose reflects that.
  • Keep it simple: Less is always more when it comes to branding. That includes text, white space, and clean design. Marketing expert Donald Miller, of StoryBrand, advocates promotion that requires the least amount of thinking for the audience. Just as vague branding can deter a potential reader (or an existing one), visual elements that are too busy can have the same effect. In today’s digital world, the goal is to create content that will get readers to notice and stop their scrolling. 
  • Keep it consistent: Effective brands choose a few fonts, colors, and layouts and then use them everywhere they like to play on the internet--website, social media, newsletter headings--a cohesive package wrapped in a shiny, on-brand bow. When readers know what to expect, this builds a trust that makes them more likely to engage.
So now that we have some basic ground rules, let’s look at ways we can make stylistic decisions that reflect our brand, even if we have no experience in design. (*Ahem* Like me!)

Colors

Pick a palate of complementary colors. Three or four will be enough. If you have no idea where to begin, mood boards are helpful with images that capture what you’re going for. Is there a common scheme? Tons of articles talk about color psychology in branding, but I don’t think it needs to be that complicated. Say you’re a historical romance author who captures all things vintage in your brand. You might find an inspiring photo and experiment with a cream for the aged lace in the shot, a warm brown from the antique suitcase you loved, a dusty pink that matches the pretty vintage ribbon. Voila!

Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding
If you do an online search, there are plenty of color palates and wheels. When you find the ones that work for you, be sure to keep the HEX code for each color handy, which starts with a pound sign followed by six symbols (i.e. #99FFFF is a lovely teal color). This is a magical internet-friendly code that will produce the exact color in most programs and applications.

Now, incorporate them into your logo, business cards, and one-sheets. Put them in your newsletter, your social media graphics, and website. Use one, a few, or all of them, and readers will know they’re yours.

Images

Images can help enhance the tone you’re trying to convey and show off your sparkling personality. But the number one thing to remember is that they must be your own, public domain/licensed under Creative Commons Zero, or used with permission and clearly attributed to the original source.

If you frequently post your own photos on social media, then using a distinct filter, lighting, or composition can also contribute to your visual branding. For example, if your content is poignant and introspective, then artsy, moody images with deeper saturation might complement it well. There are so many apps that can help make your photos unique (author Mary Weber, aka the Instagram Queen, has some wonderful tricks and techniques in her Instastories).

Typography

Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding
The language of sans and serif might as well be Mandarin to me, but typography definitely contributes to the tone and personality of brand. The fonts you pick for your website and graphics largely depend on the software you use and the choices available therein. One of my favorite resources for inexpensive, gorgeous typefaces is CreativeMarket.com, which has a demo area that shows what sample text looks like before you buy it.

When making your choice, it’s important to ensure fonts are clean and legible across multiple browsers (and small phone screens, too), particularly if they’re for a blog post or another large body of text. While I’m a huge fan of a strategically placed accent fonts, too many fancy scripts or ornate flourishes can be distracting and unpleasing to the eye. So keep it simple, friends!

Templates

There are loads of programs that can help even the novice graphic designer create a cohesive visual footprint on the web. Whatever program works best, you can make templates for blog and social media content and simply interchange text, images, and colors for new posts. Also keep in mind that different social media platforms have different optimal sizes. Minding these dimensions will ensure that all of a graphic is visible and that it doesn’t get resized or warped.

Say you want to do a Question of the Week post on your business Facebook page. You would find the correct size for Facebook (1200 x 630 pixels, according to SproutSocial.com), crop an on-brand, eye-catching image or solid-color background to that size, and overlay text and colors on it. Then the next time, all you’d have to do is open that saved template and change the question, adjusting the background and colors if you want to.

Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding Deep breaths…

Does this sound like a foreign language to you? That’s okay. While I worked in PR for many years, I’m much more of a word-nerd copywriter whose hot mess graphic design offerings leave the real pros shaking their heads. So I encourage you to feel around in the dark until you get it, even if it means bumping your shins a couple of times.

Don’t be afraid to let that brilliant personality shine in your visual branding. And when in doubt, keep it clear, keep it simple, and keep it consistent. I have full faith in you!


What do you want your visual branding to say about you?
What authors are doing this well?




Slow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding Laurie Tomlinson is the award-winning author of That’s When I Knew, With No Reservations, and The Long Game, currently featured in the Once Upon a Laugh collection. Her stories are fueled by faith, steaming mugs of tea, and her belief that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles.


Find her on Facebook @AuthorLaurieTomlinson or her website, www.laurietomlinson.com.



More Visual Branding Resources:
Gorgeous color palettes to inspire you
Lots of colors (and their HEX codes) here
Adobe’s fun tool to help you experiment with color palettes
A list of resources for free stock photos + licensing guidelines
Some helpful font combinations for inspiration
A comprehensive list of optimal social media image sizes
Simple photo and graphic editing programs to experiment with
The best phone apps for photo editing and filters

What do I know???

What do I know???

It's my turn to teach you all something, 

beloved Seekervillagers.

I want to talk today about marketing. One aspect of it, because if I think of TWO things to talk about...I'll save the second one for next time.

Keep in mind I barely know what I'm doing.

Teaching isn't my greatest gift....and that's sad cuz I was a teacher for eleven years.
There is actual paperwork on file proving 
people often are dumber after I've tried to teach them something.
It's notarized!!!

There's the disclaimer, so now I'll tell you something I learned self-publishing. 

I'll begin with this...I have never loved my publisher more. 
It is interesting and challenging and humbling 
to try and do all the jobs Bethany House has been doing for me over the years.

I'm trying to figure out how to market my books.

I really have no idea.
Send out a newsletter and post to social media. What else?
What do I know???
As my great attempt at marketing I bought an Amazon ad because I was told they are so easily tracked to see if they worked.

Except I did it and have no idea if it worked.
Whatever tracking I can do, I can't do.
What do I know???
When you're self-publishing EVERYTHING IS YOUR FAULT!!

But on the other hand, I can't tell that a single person bought a single book due to my ad.
On the Other other hand, I'm not sure the ad is running yet.

So anyway, I go to marketing sessions at writer's conferences because FRANKLY those are the classes they offer to people who have books in print.

I often ignore them and go to more basic classes hoping to learn how to write.
But I have to sneak in.

So I bought the ad.
I have a professional editor and book cover maker and formatter.

I am trying to figure out where to go indie-publishing-wise after these five books come out.
(I've got an idea)
And in the meantime, I'm floundering.
What do I know???

Has anyone, by any chance seen an ad for my books...anywhere?
I sure haven't.
Tell me what I should do about marketing. 
(Oops, I just slipped away from teacher and turned to asking you to teach me!!!) 
What works? 
Have you ever seen an ad that made you click on a book?
A blog post?
A book reviewers blog?
What do I know???
I have considered giving away the first chapter free..........but I don't know how. 
Still........that's in the List of Ideas folder.
Help me!
And ask me questions, too. 
Heaven knows if I can help you, but I'll try.
And maybe we can help each other!
Today I'll draw two names from the comment section to win a copy of one ebook, 
and 
Two ebooks. Two winners.
Also available in print versions.


Selling Without Bragging



By Guest Blogger Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
 
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/7570

Most of us grew up knowing it’s not polite to brag about ourselves. Not just ourselves, but also our work / our family / our home / our good fortune. And when we have the good fortune to complete a book worthy of publication, all too often the reminder of “Boast not thyself” stops us from bragging about what we’ve achieved.

Maybe our inner promoter argues that it’s NOT boasting if we’ve created a book that other people will love. If that’s the case we’re doing the world a favor by making it possible for them to read our book, right?

Even so, pitching an editor or agent is still something a lot of writers dread.

Of course there are ways to avoid ever doing a face-to-face pitch, and for anyone who can’t stand the idea of meeting an editor or agent in person -- “I’d just be too nervous!” -- contests and queries and Twitterfests all work fine.

But for writers who are going to a conference where editors and agents will be actively looking for books they can make into best-sellers, pitching is an extremely useful tool.

Are you thinking about it?

If so, you already know the basics. You want to tell them about your work in a way that’ll convince ‘em “I absolutely must read this person’s manuscript the minute I get back to work!”

But there might be a few things standing in your way.

Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/1075

1. FEAR OF THE PITCH


This is far and away the biggest problem. Writers aren’t known for being the most extroverted people in the world -- otherwise how could we possibly spend so much time alone at the keyboard? -- so sitting down with a Big Important Person who has the power to Make This Book A Bestseller can be a scary prospect.

There are seven techniques for dealing with fear, both during the actual pitch and also before you ever show up at the conference. (We’ll go over all of those next month in my Perfect Pitch class.)

2. NO COMPLETION DATE


Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/15139
If the book is still in your mind but there’s nothing on your hard drive yet, it’s a bit harder to convince the editor or agent that you’ve created exactly the story readers worldwide have been waiting for. Conversely, if it’s ready to send the minute they say “okay,” or if you can confidently say it’ll be ready to send as of two months from today, the pitch is a whole lot easier.

And if you’re not sure WHEN the finished manuscript will be ready, you might want to just use the time for getting a feel of what this person likes. You can spend your appointment time asking for advice on your query, discussing your favorite of the books they’ve been involved with, and leaving them with an impression of you as someone they’ll enjoy hearing from again once your book is complete.

3. UNDEFINED AUDIENCE


Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/9551
For writers who are specifically targeting a certain type of reader-- those who want cozy mysteries featuring a chef, or inspirational Regency romance, or middle-grade adventure, or whatever -- it’ll be no problem defining who’s gonna love your book.

But what if the answer to “who’s this book for?” is something like “uh, well, everyone who can read English,” that’s a clue it’s time for some homework.

Sure, a few writers will say it’s the AGENT’s job to know that -- THEIR only responsibility is getting the story down on paper. Still, an agent will be much more impressed with a writer who’s willing to help them do their job by explaining right up front what audience will be interested in the book.

4. TOO MUCH INFORMATION

Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/15349
We’ve all heard four-year-olds trying to describe the plot of, say, The Three Little Pigs. “So the pig had a hammer. And there’s some wood. There’s another pig who’s eating popcorn. One of the pigs had a hat on. Oh, and the wolf comes! They made a house out of wood. The pig with popcorn doesn’t see the wolf.” And so on.

Clearly these four-year-olds haven’t spent much time analyzing the characters or the plot or the resolution, and there’s no reason they should. But all too often, we authors wind up in the same boat. WE know the story so well, and we love it so much, we can’t help wanting to tell the listener all the most wonderful details.

And the listener is baffled. That’s why it’s crucial to outline your answers to the Four Big Questions -- which, again, we’ll cover in class -- before ever sitting down to describe your story.

5. RUNNING OUT OF TIME


Selling Without Bragging
Photo credit:
http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/16756
You might have a fabulous description in mind already. Your critique partner loves it. Your family loves it. The lady behind you in line at Costco loves it. But none of them was keeping an eye on the clock while they listened.

If you’re guaranteed all the time you want with an editor or agent, this won’t be a problem. If you’re at a conference where appointments are limited to a specific duration, though, make sure you time yourself during the “rehearsal.” For what it’s worth, the average person speaking aloud can deliver about 140 words per minute -- so keep that in mind as you plan. And don’t forget to allow time for the listener to ask questions!

AND SPEAKING OF QUESTIONS...

Here’s one for you: What are some helpful “Do's or memorable “Don’t's you’ve heard (or experienced yourself) when it comes to pitching?

Share those with whoever’s reading, and you might be the winner of free registration to Perfecting Your Pitch, coming up from June 3-14.

I can’t wait to hear some useful -- and entertaining -- advice!

Selling Without Bragging
http://romanceuniversity.org/ru-contributors/laurie-schnebly/
Selling Without Bragging

ABOUT LAURIE


After winning Romantic Times‘ “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts, Laurie Schnebly Campbell discovered she loved teaching every bit as much as writing...if not more. Since then she’s taught online and live workshops for writers from London and Los Angeles to New Zealand and New York, and keeps a special section of her bookshelves for people who’ve developed that particular novel in her classes. With 43 titles there so far, she’s always hoping for more.

Review Dos and Do nots

Hello again, friends! It’s me, Beth! *waving enthusiastically* Since I haven’t gotten myself kicked out of Seekerville yet (that’s mostly my irrational fear and insecurity showing), we get to hang out and chat about reviews! YAY! 

As we established last time, I am not, nor do I desire to be, a writer (#ratherbereading)… however, I am (or at least I strive to be) an encourager! A few years ago, I (like many readers) simply didn’t realize the significant role reviews play in the successful launch of a book.

Listen up, readers! 
Reviews play a significant role in the successful launch of a book!

Authors need YOU, the reader, to play an active role in book marketing! Maybe I’m the only one around here with a hyperactive need to be needed but that got my attention. Books NEED reviews to increase visibility on retail sites and attract the “right” readers.

Review Dos and Do nots


I am asking you to join me in this endeavor, reader friends, but I will resort to forcible conscription if need be. We’re going to break this down and keep it simple, here are some things to remember as you embark on your new mission as reader reviewers:

Do...
Write the reviews! Be they short and sweet or even quirky (example food swoof), find your own voice and embrace it. You are the very best you there ever was or will be, after all!

What you include in your review is up to you. Simply share what you liked (or didn’t like) about the story or characters or share who you would recommend this book to. What makes a reader (or consumer) review unique is YOUR experience of the story.

Disclose when you receive a copy of the book from the publisher or author! This is non-negotiable. You MUST “clearly and conspicuously disclose” that you received the book free of charge according to FTC rules. Those are the big dogs, y’all… they are not playing!

go the extra mile...

Post your review on multiple sites from goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com, to Walmart, Target, Kobo, Google Play, BookBub, and more!

Share your review on social media! Include a cover photo, tag the author and/or publisher, and pop a goodreads or retail link in the comments!

Do not...
Spoil the story for other readers!!!! Not even a hint or smidgen of spoileriness shall dare taint thy reviews or great will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth thou whilst surely deserve!!! (If in doubt, restrain yourself with the spoiler feature on goodreads.)

Summarize the story, this is what book blurbs are for (also refer to our first “do not”), focus on sharing your opinions. Your review doesn’t need to be lengthy, a few sentences will suffice, I have also seen recommendations of anywhere from 150 to 250 words as an ideal length for consumer sites.

Attack or question the author’s personal values, or beliefs. It’s okay to disagree or dislike the story but let’s keep it classy, friends!

Remember...
To review on Amazon, your account must have purchases totaling at least $50 for each 12 month period (excluding Prime membership fees) and your review must not be a requirement in exchange for the book or influenced by the author or publisher. 

Here's an example disclosure: "I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own."

Authors and reader reviewers can connect through Facebook groups (for example, search “Christian reviewer” then click on the groups tab), publicity groups (such as JustRead Publicity Tours), or individual author or publisher influencer groups (aka street teams). Readers, know the difference between reviewing and influencing. Author friends, please take the time to remind your reviewers about the FTC disclosure when you request reviews.

Review Dos and Do nots

Now that y’all are equipped with the nuts and bolts of reviewing, Annie, Carrie, and I will share our answers to a few questions generously provided by some author friends.

How do you decide how many and which books to review?

Annie: It all depends on my schedule and if I've committed to it. I have a horrible habit of judging a book by its cover and can never say no to a pretty book. The only conundrum is when I'll be able to review, unless I've already scheduled it on my calendar.  I also like to jump around genres, so that has an impact on what I read.

Carrie: I have no self-discipline when it comes to books. I see a pretty cover or a great synopsis and I add it to my 'must review soon' stack. Which is actually threatening to take over my house. But realistically, I don't do more than one review a day - or try not to. That discipline thing again. ;)

Beth: How much time I can devote to reading determines how many books I review (about 2-3 books a week for this year) and I try to choose books in a variety of genres and settings.


How far in advance do you fill your calendar or do you just make a big stack and pick a book randomly?

Annie: My calendar fills up fairly quickly and far in advance, but I do leave a good amount of "free time" for the books I'd love to read but haven't had the chance, or for author friends that sends me last minute requests. I'm also a big stack kind of gal.

Carrie: My calendar basically fills up four months out. So, in other words, I'm 'booked' through September right now. But that doesn't mean that I won't squeeze in another one because of a pretty cover or a great synopsis or a favorite author. I do a lot of blog tours and that keeps me on a schedule - otherwise i get overwhelmed with all the options to read next lol.

Beth: I tried the stack but that didn’t work out so well. Google calendar and Trello are my BFFs so I am scheduled out about 6 months in advance with only a little wiggle room.


Review Dos and Do nots
Suzie's summer cut left her chilly.
What aspects of the story or reading experience do you tend to cover in your reviews?

Annie: I'm more of an emotion-based reviewer. I don't do story paraphrases, but rather how it made me felt, what I thought about the storyline and the characters. Did they evoke some level of emotion from me? I might also touch on the writing aspect too. For difficult or negative reviews, I often pray about it since I want to be constructive in my criticism, but also being kind and showing grace in the process.

Beth: I tend to be character focused and share my experience (for example, kept me up all night or made me laugh out loud) because it helps me avoid spoilers (I also use the book blurb as a sort of spoiler-proofing guide).


Do you review immediately after reading?

Annie: Most of the time I do, but there are instances where I couldn't even go there yet. That has more to do with the book and the storyline, but at times, it's just because I don't have the time to sit and contemplate my review. I'm not one to write my reviews on my phone. I need my laptop for that, and I don't always get to my laptop right after.

Carrie: Mostly. I like to review the book while everything is still fresh in my mind.

Beth: That approach would probably work best but I tend to read more than one book at a time and then have a blogging binge.


What reviewers are eagle-eyed about? Do you look for discrepancies or are you more of a character driven/story driven reviewer who forgives a small error?

Annie: I'm more emotion-based and love a good balance of both character/story driven.  I'm not picky on mistakes, but if a book is supposed to be edited and proof prior to release, I'd expect a rather clean copy. Formatting is also big too, especially if it hinders the reading experience. A typo here or there won't be an issue, but if it's throughout, along with grammatical errors, then I do tend to point it out. That said, I also will notify the publisher/author if a second printing or a digital fix can be done. 

Carrie: What Annie said.

Beth: Although there are eagle-eyed reviewers, I’m here to enjoy the stories not nitpick so unless there are so many errors that it takes away from the story, yeah… what Annie said.


Review Dos and Do nots


Are YOU a reviewer? 
All reader reviewers get a big hug from me today! Y'all play an invaluable role in the publishing industry! 

What reviewing dos or do nots would YOU add to our list?


Speaking of do nots... don't forget to pick up a donut or two (these are super tasty, zero-calorie virtual donuts so don't be shy!) while we visit and chat!!! 
Let me know what flavor you want!



I feel obligated to leave this here, just in case...
Review Dos and Do nots
Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. Beth strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. She also contributes to the Hoarding Books & Diversity Between the Pages blogs. Beth is a Christian Fiction Readers Retreat associate and reviewer for RT Book Review's inspy category.

Proactive Marketing and Promotion

Guest Blogger DiAnn Mills

Proactive Marketing and Promotion

A successful writer builds her marketing and promotion platform long before a single word is written. When a story idea settles into the writer’s heart and mind, she considers how the story content can draw in readers. This doesn’t mean the writer looks to the latest trends to mine book topics, but it does mean she actively seeks opportunities to share her story in ways that provide inspiration and encouragement for her readers.

The focus on marketing and promotion doesn’t divert from creating a quality project. It adds value with fresh writing and enhances the ability to propel the project into the reader’s hands.
                    
When developing a marketing and promotion program, consider all that drives a book to the retailer’s shelf: readers’ specific needs, dreams, strengths, challenges, and desires.
      
How can story content meet those criteria? Develop blog themes, contests, memes, book signings, speaking events, hashtags, giveaways, podcasts, Pinterest board(s), posting tips, videos, speaking topics, and whatever other social media platforms that will fit into the writer’s brand.

Agents and editors are attracted to writers who embrace a can-do attitude to marketing and promotion. The following are a few items to consider in proactive marketing and promotion.

        When a writer has a grasp on how to approach readers with a targeted topic or genre, every thought has value.
        Each scene or section of a book has potential. Look to the subject matter for distinct possibilities to draw attention to the writing project.
        At the completion of the book, the writer is able to compose and calendar blogs, contests, memes, hashtags, tweetables, giveaways, and events.
        The writer can request guest blogs months in advance, ensuring the exact date of the book release corresponds with the blog post.
        Promotion events can be scheduled, planned, and perfected months ahead of the designated time.
        A successful writer who has mastered marketing and promotion is eager to begin the next project.

Proactive Marketing and Promotion


For example: Bonnie Bestseller is writing a novel about a heroine who works as a coffee barista in Telluride, Colorado. The story takes place in January when the town is filled with skiing enthusiasts. Business is booming, and the coffee shop centers as a conversation spot. Bonnie has sworn off dating and refuses any of the male flirting tactics.

In the midst of keeping customers happy, the coffee shop is sold to a single man who knows nothing about roasting coffee beans, making delicious drinks, or keeping patrons happy. He’s shy, extremely good looking, knows nothing about snow or skiing, doesn’t drink coffee, and requires the heroine’s help to make the coffee shop a continued success. The thought of working for her boss is detestable, but she has no choice.

The writer creates a spreadsheet titled: Marketing and Promotion. She lists the ideas that pop into her head with the understanding some will be tossed and others will be valuable. For example:
      
       Blog:
       Skiing Tips the First Day on the Slopes
       Coffee Addicts are Fun
      
       Memes or Instagram:
       A photo of someone reading your book and drinking coffee - “Common          Grounds is the best romance ever!”
      
       Facebook:
       In my new novel Common Grounds, my heroine is a barista who works for a man who hates coffee or tea. What is your favorite go-to beverage when it’s cold outside?

       Tweet:
       Love #coffee and #romance? Common Grounds @BonnieBestseller will thrill you. (click to tweet)
      
       Videos:
       A humorous video on grinding coffee.
      
       Contest Giveaways:
       Coffee
       Gift card to Starbucks
      
       Speaking Topics:
       Coffee Research
      
       Pinterest:
       Board about coffee roasting, brewing, etc.
       Board about skiing tips
       Board about what to see and do in Telluride
       Where I find story ideas.

Re-visit and complete this process when the story is in the galley stage while the contents are fresh on your mind. The technique saves time and is filled with numerous ways to promote your next book.

Click on this link where you’ll find a spreadsheet titled Proactive Marketing and Promotion to assist in the process of marketing and promotion during the writing phase. 

With a little forethought, traditional and Independent publishing efforts become enjoyable and simplified.


Are you ready to accept the challenge?


Proactive Marketing and Promotion

Proactive Marketing and Promotion
https://diannmills.com/books/high-treason/
High Treason

When someone attempts to assassinate a Saudi Prince on U.S. soil, FBI Agent Kord Davidson and CIA Operative Monica Alden head up a task force to keep the Prince safe and find those responsible to avoid an international incident that could have devastating consequences.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational ReadersChoice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

Proactive Marketing and Promotion
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.


DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.
"Authors, Don't Confuse Us!" Basic Marketing Tips for Your BrandFalling into a FestivalMayday! Mayday! Is Anybody There?HomeSlow the Scroll: How to Capture Readers with Visual Branding What do I know???Selling Without BraggingReview Dos and Do notsProactive Marketing and Promotion

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