Guest Post: How to Sell Books by Allison Conley

Welcome back to this week’s special guest series by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’re offering writing tricks, providing advice on how to sell your finished book, and sharing their must-know items for new authors. Here are Allison’s book marketing tips!

beta witches guest post

Hello indie authors, this is your customer speaking. As an avid reader, beta tester, communications writer and copyeditor, I have literally read some of the best books out there and some of the worst books that I wish never made it out there. Every genre has been equal opportunity. I will buy your book as long as you tell me a good story period. However, you may have to work a little bit harder to reach the other bookworms who have not necessarily been in your shoes. Here are some tips for turning those black and white pages into green and white paper!

Sales equal sales. Through my journey as a sales and marketing manager I have figured out through practical application that discounted price points are the key. This can make or break your sales tremendously. When you are coming up with the price points for your book, make sure you incorporate some budgets for deep discount sales at he very beginning. Every customer loves to feel like they are getting something good for cheap. Many times me and my cohorts have bought a book online or in the bookstores because of the “today only .99” or the shiny neon starburst with 20% off. As a new and or independent author, you may not be able to afford to do this with out giving your product away and that is not the goal here. So set some good price point in the beginning and have some sales to draw attention to your books and get your customers buying.

Have a strong web presence for your books/brand. We live in an age where social media is king, queen and the entire royal court, so you must have a web site for your book at a minimum. If you have social media for your book, that equals more sales. Every digital community is a direct place to meet customers. If you put you product out there, someone will buy it. Use the site to give snippets of the book and where you will be promoting your book even if it is at the local library. (F.Y.I. most libraries have rooms you can reserve for such said occasions.)

This is a good place to segway into my next point. Use clever marketing tools. And yes, social media is one of them. Go live on Facebook about your new book and tell us that you just found an antique chest just like the one your heroine keeps her weapons in at a yard sale or that you have a Christmas cookie recopies inspired the frosty villain in your book and you will show us how to make it on You Tube. You don’t have to tell us your book verbatim but give us just enough to keep your book on our minds and keep it out there.

Make sure you make it easy for customers to pay you. Provide links to your website or other places where people can directly purchase your book.

Make sure you elevator story is on point. Yes this is your summary. You should be able to articulate this as fluently in person as it is on your cover or in the Amazon summary. As a communications specialist, I know the importance of getting your point across effectively and quickly. You only have mere seconds to get your reader/customers attention so you should be able to do this on paper and in person. Test it out on your family and friends who will not blow smoke up your behind and them hit the road with your act. Try it out in bookstores and literary conventions and any place you feel like you can get your point across. If you can grab you customers’ attention quickly you can turn it into a sale.

With these tips and trick you should be able to make some progress selling your books.


About Allison

Allison Conley has a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a minor in Sociology. She finished the Seeding Entrepreneurs Across the Midsouth (S.E.A.M) program in 2016 for her work as an entrepreneur and artist in the greater Memphis Tennessee Area.

Genres Allison Beta Reads: Fantasy, Young Adult, Regency Romance, Romance, Erotica, New Adult, Contemporary, Christian Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Thrillers/Mysteries, Horror

Building Your Author Platform: The Purpose of Social Media

Don't be this guy.

Don’t be this guy.

Social media has become increasingly more important to all businesses. Consumers (in our case, readers) often look to brands’ (in our case, authors’) Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram accounts before going to their actual websites.

Why do they do this? Numerous reasons.

Partially, it is much more convenient to do research on a site they are already on. At the same time, they are looking for social proof — How many likes does this business have? Do any of my friends like it? What are the ratings? What are people saying? And maybe, they could simply be searching for relevance. After all, if a company isn’t on social media, are they even really trying?

As an author, especially as an independent author, social media is an important part of your author platform. However, it is important to understand why you should be on social media and how you should use it. Contrary to many authors’ beliefs, social media is NOT the place to sell your books.

Now, before I explain, let me add my fail-safe caveat. Might thousands of readers stumble upon your book in their Twitter feeds or hashtag searches and buy, buy, buy? Sure, it could happen. But for most authors, it doesn’t, and spamming followers with their buy link only makes them run for the hills.

So, if social media isn’t a selling platform, what is it and why is it useful?

1. Branding and networking

For authors looking to go the traditional publishing route, social media is a great place to begin crafting your brand and gaining a following. Often, agents and publishers will not even consider taking you on as a client until you have proven that you can market yourself and your writing on your own.

For independent authors, the same is true. Social media is a perfect place to establish your author brand (more on what this means later) as well as start gathering your readership. Likewise, social media is a fantastic place to network with other authors, podcasters, designers, editors, and anyone else who could help you grow your author business.

To begin, start following the “big names” in your field. This could be your favorite authors, publishing houses, literary agents, podcasts, etc. See how they run their social media platforms. What do they share? What do their biographies say? More than likely, they won’t have time to interact with you. But their followers will. Who are their followers? What do they talk about? What hashtags can you use to engage them?

2. Engagement

Social media is a place to have conversations. At first, you will need to join in conversations with others. This can be done by getting active on others’ pages and joining in common hashtags (#amwriting, #amrevising, #writerslife, etc. for writers and #bookworm, #bookwormproblems, and #amreading, etc. for readers).

Once you get a decent following, you are more likely to receive responses for the conversations you start. Make sure to reciprocate engagement with responses, likes, favorites, shares, etc. To make your content even more alluring, you can follow the five “I’s” of social media, which I outline in this post for my previous employer.

No matter how often or with whom you engage, make sure you are genuine. If you sound like a salesperson or magically wiggle your book into every third comment, people are going to get tired of talking to you and delete you. Absolutely make it known that you are an author and have a fantastic book (or books) published (or in the works), but don’t bring it up constantly and don’t start conversations with a link to your sales page.

3. Funneling 

Perhaps the most useful purpose of social media is to funnel prospective readers into the markets that do sell. Think of social media like a net — you cast it wide, put a little bait on the fringes, and wait for the readers to swim deeper down for more. Your social media is your gateway drug, beyond which lies your author website and your email newsletter — the latter of which is your best sales tool of all.

So how can you move readers through this funnel? First and foremost, make sure that your author website and/or email newsletter sign up are clearly displayed on your social media accounts. Second, offer FREE content that will attract readers to visit your author website or sign up for your email list. If you blog, this could be as simple as linking to your blog posts. If you don’t blog, this could be a short story, a giveaway, or an interview or guest post you did. Last, offer your readers something they need. If you are a nonfiction writer, answer their questions about your topic. If you are a fiction writer, be that burst of entertainment and relief from the daily grind. As Tim Grahl says in Your First 1,000 Copies, the best marketing is being relentlessly helpful.

Remember — social media is not the place to sell your books. It is a place to demonstrate your brand, network with industry peers, engage with readers, and funnel readers into more effective parts of your author platform. Be genuine, be helpful, and eventually, your follower count with grow. And if you happen to be one of the dozens of indie authors who I follow on social media and who happens to post about his/her book every hour on the hour, please stop.

In my next “Building Your Author Platform” post, I will discuss ways authors can use the most common social media sites as well as helpful social media management tools.

To read the entire “Building Your Author Platform” series, click here.

Guest Post: Play in Google’s Schoolyard: Basic SEO Principles for Bloggers and Authors by Whitney McGruder

 

seoYou’re probably already aware of what SEO is by other names: marketing or self-promoting to name a few. Search Engine Optimization is basically a set of tactics that companies use to push their website towards the top of a Google search.

To stay on top, companies of any size usually hire someone to study keywords, trends, and consumers to know how to best promote their company website. Yeah, it takes enough work that companies often pay someone to do it full-time.

So as an author—going indie or traditional—you can still understand and use these tactics for yourself. Here’s a quick rundown of how Google decides which sites should move up, and how you can promote yourself.

The Basic 411 on SEO

  1. Google finds a website.
  2. They send “spiders” to “crawl” all over your website or page—on visible content and coding involved.
  3. Google decides whether a site is useful to readers. If it’s useful, it gets bumped up. If it’s not, it remains stagnant.
  4. Google constantly changes their “rules” to weed out good websites from the spammy ones.

So to move up, you have to follow Google’s rules in order to prove that you’re genuine and creating content or services that would benefit the user searching for the keyword. Below are a few tips to show you mean business.

Offer Legitimate Comments

You can boost your website through good comments. While it may seem counterintuitive to give good comments on other pages, it reflects well on you.

It’s easier to describe what not to write as a comment. To Google, a spammy comment is often linked to a sketchy website or doesn’t use proper English—think something that looks like a Google Translate disaster. The comments are also vague and could apply to any topic like, “I had a good friend who knows this stuff. I will share this good information with them.”

A quality comment usually fodders more conversation by adding a new take to the topic. Try to leave comments that could be followed up with intelligent comments from other viewers or the author.

But why leave comments in the first place? Often, when you leave a comment, you get the option of leaving your URL as a link for others to view your work. Bingo! More viewers. Google pays attention when websites refer to you as a good reference and people want to visit your content.

Consistent Quality

A website is often considered legitimate and quality when there’s a lot of diverse content that is published on a regular basis—as in, no two-year lapses. Spammy SEO tactics involve posting the same content multiple times—plagiarizing themselves in effect. Google’s no dummy and will see right through that.

Consistent quality also means that you’re consistent and prominent on social media platforms, too. Starting to see why companies hire people to do this stuff? Who has time to promote themselves on the daily via Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and do the job they are initially promoting?

Utilize Keywords

keywordA keyword is a word or phrase that helps Google know what kind of content you have. That way, when viewers are looking for information, Google knows what to pull up.

Right now, a keyword could be something like “ways to improve writing” as opposed to just “writing tips” since web readers tend to search for a full phrase rather than just a noun.

Some people choose a keyword and then write a post around it, and other times, writers create a post and pick a keyword that best represents it. Both ways are great as long as the info matches up to the keyword.

You want readers to stay on your page for as long as you can hold them, so if they’re looking for information about character tips and you’re just talking about your favorite TV characters, readers will move on to something more relevant to their needs.

Google can even tell how long people are on your page and consider your page useful if a lot of people are taking the time to read through the piece or click on links within your main webpage.

Some writers will hyperlink to other pages on their website. This is awesome, but don’t overdo it. “Keyword stuffing” is basically linking to the same website a lot or excessively repeating the keyword to make the page look super relevant. Google is no dummy! This is what spammy SEO looks like and Google wants to promote quality sites, not desperate sites.

Check out AdWords via Google to do your own research on what your target audience is searching for when it comes to writing (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner).

Plug in Some Plugins

For those who own your own website, you can use plugins to help you with your SEO work. Plugins are sort of like widgets that enhance your website. You use plugins for aesthetic appeal, coding, and analysis. There are a few big SEO plugins that you can use to analyze how you’re doing, as well as help you optimize your page. Yoast SEO is one that I use. You can also use Google Analytics to get feedback on how you’re doing and where you can improve.

Okay, so that seems like a lot to juggle. And it is. For those of you who are working on a novel, have a job, and try to promote your work, it’s hard to find the time to do all three. But it’s manageable, and well worth the effort.

SEO takes planning and patience. Even if you did everything mentioned here, you won’t see immediate success. It takes weeks or months to get those good numbers, as any blogger knows.

I would suggest to crank up your SEO once you approach major milestones. It’s great to get people to your webpage before you finish a book, but it really counts once you have something complete to offer.


Whitney McGruder puts the “Wit” in Wit & Travesty–a website she runs with her author-husband, Travis. She works for an SEO company by day, and edits her novel, cross stitches samplers, and reads comic books at night.

*Banner photo credit http://witandtravesty.com

Guest Post: YouTubiness by Jonas Lee

YouTube… just let that site register for a moment.

cameraNow, what do you look at on there? Most of the time, for me, I watch a variety of three genres: gamer videos, dub-step dancing and movie trailers. There is an entire world of information, entertainment, nonsense and animal videos. Where does an author / book lover rate in that grand scale of things? Heard about Pluto lately? It’s rather lonely for an author out there right now. Can it change? I hope so. The next generation of authors are going to be more social media cognizant and try to reach as many platforms as they can.

Personally, I have my own channel (equipped with playlists) and I plan on developing it over time to make it something for fans to look at. It currently takes a look at various authors in stages of their careers as an interview. We talk shop and also get to know our personalities on the side. I’ve been able to have all walks of people so far from a best selling author, to seasoned Indies to people looking to publish their first novel. On top of that I am working on a couple of other YouTube projects sharing my experience being an Indie and some book reviews.

Now, think what you could do on channel of your own. What would you want to discuss, share or allow people to see? Even if YouTube is not your cup of tea, imagine completing an interview. As an author, what questions do you love answering? As a reader, which ones do you love reading? The main thing about sharing your personality is to always keep in mind to be you. It might throw your audience for a loop knowing that their favorite horror author loves watching cat videos or that the new YA author on the block wishes they could break dance (ok, that’s me).

The format you choose will dictate how much time you can devote, so pick wisely and don’t strain yourself to get followers. This is mostly for your own benefit at this point, no one else. That being said, if you aren’t on the YouTube’s that often, check out my site. Check out Kate’s site. Check out some fun stuff. I have my favorites below in case you’re curious (don’t judge):

Epic Rap Battles: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMu5gPmKp5av0QCAajKTMhw
Poppin John: https://youtu.be/lb08ewwocvk
BattleField Friends: https://youtu.be/kJgqc9h2jV4?list=PL1DD2991C3D415547
Skittles Commercials: https://youtu.be/AyYJlYxVJDc

Building Your Author Platform: 8 Essential Elements for Your Author Website

So, you’ve set up your author website. Now what in the world do you put on it? First and foremost, know that it is your website. Your brand is unique to you, and there is no cookie-cutter model that will fit it perfectly. Only you can determine what features and content should fill your author website.

That being said, there are a few elements that I strongly suggest every author include. I will keep this post relatively simple and expand on some of these features in later posts. This is simply a “what” and brief “why” post — not a “how” tutorial.

1. Author Head Shot

Your readers want to connect with you, and nothing does that quite like seeing your face. Don’t worry — this doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Simply find or take a photograph of yourself that focuses on your face. It should be clear (high resolution) and cohesive with your brand. For example, romance authors may want to look dressy and sophisticated, while thriller authors may want a more brooding, black and white photo. You can read a more thorough post on this topic here.

2. Author Biography

You can read a detailed post on writing and placing your author biography(ies) here. However, no matter how much research you do, make sure you say something about yourself on your author website. Your biography can be written however you like, but it should definitely include: your publications/writing experience, any relevant education, and/or something personal about yourself.

3. Your Books or Works-In Progress

If you already have published books, fantastic! Make sure to advertise them! Include your book cover, book description, and links to purchase your books everywhere they are available. You never know where your reader may want to buy, and only including “big names” like Amazon could limit your market. Likewise, I strongly suggest allowing your readers to buy directly from your site. You cut out the middleman and keep 100% of the royalties yourself this way.

If you do not have published books yet, don’t worry! At the time of this writing, I don’t either! Instead, share the title of your work-in-progress, its genre, a short description, its production stage, and/or an estimated release date. Informing your readers about what is coming builds anticipation and creates a connection even before your creative product hits the shelves.

4. Email List/Newsletter Sign Up

You should have an email list. Seriously, it is your best marketing tool as an author. For more on why you need an email list, read this post. Make sure to include a link or widget to allow readers to sign up for your newsletter. If they are on your site, they probably want to hear more from you, and reaching them directly will be key to building relationships and generating sales.

5. Social Media Links & Widgets

Social media is a great way to craft an identity for your author brand and get in touch with your readers. There is so much to be said about what social media sites to use and the best way to use them (more to come). However, when you do commit to social media sites, make sure that it is easy for your readers to A) find you on them, B) see what you are doing on them, and C) share your content on them all from your website.

6. Contact Information

At some point, your readers will want to contact you. Maybe they want to tell you how much they love your book, maybe they want to tell you about a typo, maybe they want to offer a guest post on your site. Whatever the reason, make sure they know how to do it. Being accessible will make you likable and probably be a lot of fun for you, too!

7. Testimonials/Reviews

If you offer a service, make sure to have testimonials from previous clients on your author website. After all, knowing you offer editing services and seeing John Doe rave about your editing services create two drastically different impressions in the minds of your readers and potential clients. Likewise, knowing that you have a book on the market and seeing that other readers judged your book “Brilliant!” “Fantastic!” “The best YA book I’ve ever read!” give two incredibly different messages.

8. Content (Preferably lots and a variety)

If your author website never changes, readers will view it twice (the first time and once again to look for updates) and never return. Moreover, if you only ever update when you have a book for sale, readers will feel you are just a salesperson and never check your site. You have to figure out what works for you. Some authors blog, some vlog, some post interviews, some share book reviews, some write stories and poems. Whatever you decide, figure out content that you can put out consistently that is relevant to your reader and cohesive with your brand. As with other topics, more on this in a later post.

Remember, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, ultimately, your author website simply needs to work for you, your brand, and most importantly, your readers. Think carefully about which of these features you would like to include and how you can tailor them to your unique website. And, of course, have fun with it!


For more on building your author platform, click here.