Do authors absolutely need to blog?

Blog by Christian SchnettelkerMy reasons to start My Musings three years ago were twofold. First, best-selling authors were suggesting that blogging was one of the best tools in the writer’s platform for developing a following and building a relationship with readers. Once having established this relationship, I hoped to convert these fans to book readers. Second, I wanted to chronicle my journey into writing and self publishing and to provide strategies and support for indie authors. I hoped they would learn from my mistakes and be encouraged by my successes.

After a while, blogging took on a life of its own. I was spending more time researching and journaling then writing. I only realized I’d lost perspective when I tried to revise my bio for an upcoming book. Since I did not know who I was as a writer, I could not succinctly describe who I was in the short 140-character bio.

I took a three-month hiatus from writing to tend to a sick parent and the subsequent death. I returned with a better understanding of me as a writer. (See Death lead to focus and clarity.) I am primarily a writer of hiking adventures who blogs about the business of indie authoring—two different audiences. I feel there is little crossover in readership. There is no direct correlation between my postings and sales. If I were to use the affect on sales as the sole criterion for blogging, I would say it is a waste of time.

But, there are other advantages. (See Too busy to blog.) Blogging has made me a better writer than I was three years ago. (I hope you agree.) It has helped my find my voice; I don’t think I would have done as well with writing exercises alone.

The blog is also a tool in my writing business. I use it to strategize and to help keep me on track. As an authorpreneur weighing the pros and cons of My Musings, I deem the blog a necessity to my writing career. I never begrudge the time or effort spent on the blog—in fact, I enjoy it.

For me, guest blogging is a better tool for increasing book sales primarily because I am writing to hiking and biking sites. Had I chosen to blog about my outdoor adventures in My Musings, my audience would have been receptive to my books, and my blog would have been indispensable to my success. I should have paid more attention to my advice: before you start blogging, clearly identify your audience. (Things to consider before setting up a blog.)

To compensate for not having better targeted my audience in by blog, I developed Pinterest Boards around my topics. I notice a direct correlation between my pins and my sales. These pinned visuals do little to develop rapport with my readers, but they do give me an online presence. Additionally, on Woman on Her Way I journal about my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wanderings, and I enjoy reading and responding to the comments.

Debunking Blogging Myths

  • “Creating an online presence is essential, but blogging doesn’t need to be a big part of it.” 

According to Social Media B2B, companies that blog regularly generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t. As the CEO of your writing business, why would you want to limit using a tool that generates more readers and increases your online presence? There are many types of author’s blogs (See The Author’s Dilemma: To Blog or Not to Blog by Claire E. White). Pick the blogging style that best suits your time and abilities.

  • “Blogging is a better tool for non-fiction than fiction writers.” 

It makes no difference what your genre is, blogging successfully can help you reach readers. See 5 Steps to Blogging Mastery for Fiction Writers by Kimberley Grabas and 16 Plog Post Ideas for Novelists that will Engage the Right Audience by Chris Well

On a LinkedIn post, Elyse Sussman Salpeter wrote “I am a fiction writer and I blog because it allows me to create a relationship with my readers. I don’t consider it a chore and I’m able to promote my novels, my thoughts on everyday life and offer writing tips. I completely think it has helped me on many levels to gain followers across the board. Do it because you want to, and have something to say, not because you need to. I get a lot of interaction from this blog that I might not get in other channels. This blog is also a great place for me to put updates and mimic what I do on my webpage as well. I don’t spend a ton of time on it, just a bit of time to write it up, then some time editing and cleaning it up.”

  • “There are many authors who don’t blog and plenty of author Websites without a blog.” 

First, don’t confuse a book’s landing pages with the author’s website. Though blogging implies have a dedicated Webpage to write in an informal, conversational style, several of my indie author friends use Facebook to “blog” or converse with their readers. What is important is keeping the reader involved, and doing it consistently.

Second, many successful and traditionally published authors have a publishing house supporting their ad campaigns or have reached name-recognition, and count on their large following to continue buying books based on their name. Unless you have achieved this status, blogging is a good way to create a buzz around your name and books.

  • “Blogging takes a lot of time.” 

How much time it takes to write a blog depends on your style, available, topic, research, etc. Writing informally about a topic you are well versed in and opinionated about can take less time than something more formal. This is your blog, spend as much time as necessary to deliver a well-written and engaging post.

Alternatives to blogging

  • Guestblog
  • Use other social media tools such as Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest to keep readers actively engaged.
  • On your Website, post author interviews, book tours, and book reviews—whatever you think will interest your readers and keep them coming back.
  • Build an email list, and then send out occasional letters.

My suggestions are to blog and use all the alternatives mentioned.

Do you think you absolutely need to blog for your writing success or do you find it a waste of time? Please comment.

Death lead to focus and clarity

A lot Focus by Dimitris Kalogeropoyloshas happened since I last wrote for My Musings. After a long illness, I lost my father on January 1, and then had to care for my ailing mother and all the minutiae that follows a death. With my mom’s improved health, I am returning to my life as a writer, like a crocus awakening with the sun’s warming rays.

It feels good to be able to write again. Free from the worry, I am once more open to the creative process.

Strangely, dad’s death has helped me find focus and clarity. For months, I had been struggling with my identity as a writer. Even after writing my blog You need to know who you are before you can find direction, I was still uncertain about the primary purpose of my writing.

The hiatus has emancipated me from old habits and restrictive thought processes. My mind is clear: I want to publish my book and to write additional ones. I am essentially an adventure writer. My Musing, is an offshoot of my being a writer, not the primary purpose for my writing.

With this clarity of purpose, I am establishing my goals for 2015. Since I will be working on many of these projects simultaneously, I am not setting deadlines, except for my primary goal.

  • My number one goal is to release my new book: Hadrian’s Wall Path: Walking into History. Depending on when I receive the testimonials, I would like to publish by March 15. Prior to this I must complete the Webpage, finish the trailer, and develop the launch.
  • I will start my next book based on my attempt to bicycle from Barcelona to Santiago. I am shooting for a fourth quarter release.
  • I will  reorganize my Websites to remove the ambiguity and focus on what is most meaningful. The changes will be subtle—a new order, a different emphasis, and better presence. Hopefully, removing the clutter will help viewers see the value of what I have to offer.
  • I will continue to provide strategies and support for indie authors with my blog, tweets, and reviews.
  • I will go on at least one adventure this year.

Have you set goals for 2015? If so, have you completed any? Please comment.

 

 

Reasons why writers need to understand finances

Break-Even PointShrewd writers, like industry leaders, understand the importance of finances. When making decisions, they look at the impact the options will have on the bottom line. They trust the numbers more than their guts.

To be a successful author, you must see yourself as the CEO of your writing business. Whether you are a published author or just starting off, combining your creativity with entrepreneurial discipline (becoming an “authorpreneur”) will help you focus your time, energy, and money on getting the most for your efforts.

As a writer you cannot assume that agents and publishers have your best interest in mind. They are in the business of making money, and the more the better. If you just don’t have an aptitude for reading contracts and understanding financial negotiations, hire a lawyer. As Jerry Maquire said in the movie, “Show me the the money.” Insist on the best deal for yourself.

Before signing, crunch the numbers to evaluate if signing is better than indie publishing. CreateSpace has a royalty calculator to help you determine what you would receive from the price of your book minus their cut and the cost to fabricate the book. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that the remains is profit.

Profit is total revenue minus total expenses.

Even with digital books there are publication costs to consider. Did you hire an editor or a book cover designer? Did you travel to do research? What is the cost of the time you spent writing the book? How much will you spend on marketing and will you have enough money to replace your old computer.? How many books will you have to sell to recoup the costs? And at what price will you sell them?

These are they type of financial questions you need to ask yourself to determine your break-even point. The BEP is the point at which the total cost of your book equals the revenue from the book. Before the BEP there is loss, after there is profit. Once you determine this, you can better decide if the deal your agent is offering you is better for you in the long run than going indie is. You can also use the information to negotiate a better deal. But you can’t do this without understanding the finances.

In addition to understanding your book’s finances, you need to know basic accounting practices. If you are not skilled in this, get an accountant, but learn what is needed to comply with taxes and record keeping, and how to read profit and loss sheets. An accountant may make recommendations, but you make the decisions. Learn what you need to make wise ones.

To help you get started in recording your spending, inventory, and revenues. here is an Author Ledger Template similar to the one I use. From this, it is easy to determine your balance sheet and see if your are making more than you are spending or vice-versa.

 9 Reasons why writers need to understand finances

  • To make sure the contract terms are in your favor:
  • To determine whether to be indie published or not
  • To better negotiate with vendors and suppliers.
  • To comply with accounting practices
  • To accurately report taxes and comply with government regulations
  • To know whether it is better to write more or market more
  • To know if you can afford marketing expenses
  • To determine when you can quit your day job
  • To know if you are making money

Resources

 

To supercharge your sales, use your best-looking portraits

To supercharge your sales, use your best-looking portraitsIn the past, I’ve talked  about the importance for authors to see themselves as authorpreneurs, the CEOs of their writing business. Just like with those corporate leaders, authors need professional portraits.

Writers know that people judge a book by its cover. The more compelling the cover, the greater the odds that a reader will pick up the book to take a closer look. So why is it that writers use less than flattering images to promote themselves? Twitter #author or #writer, and then notice the selfies and unprofessional headshots that are less than complimentary.  There are pictures taken from so far away that its impossible to see the person’s  features. In some photos, hats and sunglasses cover the face; in others the pose is threatening. I cannot understand why an author, unless they write about animals, would  choose a cat or dog as an avatar and consequently miss an opportunity to connect with the reader.

A good headshot (a close-up portrait which shows the top of the shoulders up to above the head with the eyes in the middle of the photo) can help you sell yourself and your book. Unless you are an established author like Stephen King who is deliberately posing for the macabre, you want to appear approachable. You want to make a good first impression. You don’t want to turn off people with a maniacal expression as in Jack Nicholson’s photo from The Shining.

Your headshot is a form of branding. It should show you as you currently appear. For this reason, get new photos as you age, change hair color or hair styles. You can choose a background to illustrate your personality, but be sure you want that photo to represent you everywhere. I recently replaced a professional headshot with one my husband took of me in Nijmegen. I thought the background characterized the Woman on Her Way book series better than the studio photo, but it was less than flattering. Although it looked okay online, it was not suitable for print. Realizing I needed a quality for both the media kit and online marketing, I have scheduled a photo shoot.

Since I speak about my adventures and about writing and authorpreneurship, I decided to go for a studio photo. This way I am not limited in its use and the consistency will help brand me as an author and speaker. Decide how you want to brand yourself before the photo shoot so you and the photographer are working to best showcase you and the message your want to convey with the photo. Try not to go for formal or stuffy but as someone that the reader (and press) can communicate with.

To supercharge your sales, use your best-looking portraits

  • Use color photos and offer them in black and white.
  • Use 72 dpi for the web (612 x 792 px) and 300 dpi (2250 x 3300 px) for print.
  • Create a Gravatar, an image that follows you on the web as you comment on posts or blogs.
  • Use a good photoeditor to resize the photos for the media kit. Offer at least a small and a large photo.

Resources

Do you have a professional headshot in your media kit? Tell us about it or provide a link to it.

You need to know who you are before you can find direction

You need to know who you are before you can find directionLittle did I know that attending a Webinar about creating a media kit would lead me down such a rabbit hole. Like Alice, I am on a search for self-identity. When I look in the mirror, I no longer see the fledgling author, nor do I see the seasoned authorpreneur, an author who manages her writing business. Even though I know what I have to do, I haven’t taken enough steps in the right direction. I think this is because I haven’t yet defined my purpose. I haven’t yet verbalized who I am at this point in my life and what it is I do.

Some people are lucky and know from an early age what they want to be. Others have to work harder to find that single purpose in their life. I am one of those.

You may ask how this is possible. I am writing my second book, I write a blog, I promote my work. How can I not know what I do?  The best way to explain it is that I am doing these things without conscience intention, more like a knee-jerk reaction. At times I am confused by the amount of work that I have to do. I am pulled in so many equally important directions: write more, blog, more, tweet more, tend to the business more, etc. Without focus, I am having trouble setting priorities. Instead of moving forward at a steady pace, it feels as if I am just inching along. Until a few days ago, I had not been able to pinpoint my problem.

This self-introspection all started with my trying to write a 140-character bio. In such limited space, I could write about being an author, being a blogger, or being an authorpreneur, but not all three at once. I came up with the following:

  • Twitter bio option 1: Jane V. Blanchard, author of the Woman on Her Way series, writes and speaks about her adventures on the back roads and trails of the world.
  • Twitter bio option 2: Jane V. Blanchard’s blog, My Musings, provides strategies and support for indie authors, helping them take charge of their writing business.
  • Twitter bio option 3: Jane V. Blanchard writes the Woman on her Way series for your escape and adventure. Her blog, My Musings help indie authors be successful.

Options one and two are very specific and lead well as first sentences in the short, medium, and long bios. They even work well in the introductions. Option three is a mixed-bag. None really describes me or my work. Before I could write this short bio, I needed to honestly define who I am and what I do.

I went out and did yard work. When I returned, I wrote the following: My purpose is threefold. I want to write about my adventures, run a successful business as a writer, and help other indie authors become successful.

You may read this and think, “So what? It’s just semantics.” But to me, it is a revelation. For the first time, I feel integrated, whole, and empowered.

This is the focus I have been looking for for months. No longer are each of these elements competing with each other—they are part of each other, and only together do they fully define me. This makes so much sense to me on so many levels. From writing my bios, to redesigning my webpages, to scheduling my time; I now have a road map, and I write the perfect Tweetable bio:

Jane V. Blanchard writes about her adventures, runs a successful business as a writer, and helps other indie authors become successful.

Being well-focused is crucial for success.

Most companies write a Mission Statement, a statement about its purpose and reason for existing. This is used to guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. I feel that this short bio fulfills those requirements

The lesson I would like you to take from this is obvious: You need to know who you are before you can find direction. For me, limiting my bio to 140 characters gave me clarity and helped me crystallize my purpose. If you are looking for focus as an author and business person, I encourage you all to do a similar exercise. Then let’s see how far and how fast you move forward.

Do you have a mission statement? I would love to read it. Please comment.

Add impact to your blog with these free tools

Add impact to your blog with these free toolsFor a little more than two years, I have been blogging and marketing my book. Over time, I have collected tools to help me work more efficiently and effectively. Some I used only temporarily, other are permanent implements in by writer’s toolbox. Let me tell you about them and how you can add impact to your blog with these free tools.

Blogging Tools

  • Headline Analyzer Use this tool to determine your headline’s Emotional Marketing Value (EMV). Edit the words until you write a heading with the most impact and reader appeal.
  • Content Idea Generator “The easy way to brainstorm blogs, articles, press releases, tweets, yada, yada. How Does It Work? Answer 18 simple questions about your products and services, and then in less than one second the Content Idea Generator generates literally hundreds of great ideas for blog posts, articles, tweets, white-papers and e-books, videos, podcasts, press releases… and just about any other kind of content that will attract more visitors to your website and get more inquiries about your products and services.”
  • MyBlogGuest I’m still learning how to use this tool to find bloggers for my website and to find websites for my blogs. This is a great way to get  exclusive content, targeted traffic, and a fresh perspective to your Website.
  • Creative Commons This is a repository for photos

Photo Editing Tools

  • Canva Use Canva to create posters, covers, memes, or photos for social media. Many of the templates are free, while others have a small fee. The tutorials are helpful not only for this tool but for using other photo-creating software.
  • PhotoFunia Use this online photo editing tool to “add a spark to your photos, make them special and more original.” Place your book cover on a  New York City billboard or put your picture on the cover of a magazine.  Have fun! Use the photo editor to add pizzazz to your blogs.
  • PicMonkey This editor creates “the most eye-exploding photos.” Bright colors, primo effects, and extreme fonts. I like it for making great-looking head shots.

Marketing Tools

  • Hootsuite I use this social media manager to schedule daily tweets. There is an extra fee to schedule for a month at a time. It  has a great dashboard for organizing Twitter.
  • RoundTeam. Based on the recommendation of other tweeters, I am considering using this to enhance my Twitter reach.
  • Press Release Grader This tool by PRWeb shows you “ways to make your press release more visible to search engines (so you get found faster), more engaging (so people share it), and a better driver of traffic to your website.”
  • Pinterest Do not underestimate how powerful a tool this is. I use an “ugly board” to provide Camino Tips. Each tip refers back to my Webpage.  Pinterest visually engages people, just make sure each image you upload has your URL or name on it.
  • Woobox Is a marketing app that helps you create powerful contests, sweepstakes, coupons, and more to grow your fans and amplify your marketing.

Miscellaneous Tools

  • Identifont Have you found a font you would love to use, but don’t know what it is. This tool will help you identify it.
  • Quotes Meme Maker Use quotes to promote on social media
  • EasyBib website citation tool. I love this tool! When crediting from a website, this tool creates a properly formatted citation for your bibliography.
  • PowToons is an animated video and presentation maker. I find this a bit cartoonish, but great for when the occasion arises.

Do you have a favorite tool? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

How to choose the perfect writers group

How to choose the perfect writers groupIn the post  What walking the Camino de Santiago taught this indie author I talked about the importance of building friendships and making connections with other authors. This post provides links to writers organziations, associations and groups and discusses how to find ones that are perfect for you. Joining these group not only helps you meet other writers like yourself but also offer advice, training, contact information, networking opportunities, and lots more. Whether you are a fiction or nonfiction author, a poet, or a special niche writer, there are organizations geared for you.

What different types of organizations can offer

I belong to national, state, and local organizations.  Selecting the ones that best fit me depended on genre, location, cost, and benefits. I encourage you to check out the resources listed and find groups to join. To find groups on the local level, search the web or check out the library, the local bookstores, and meetup.com.

National: Being a member of a national writer’s group is prestigious. Like name dropping, you can display the associations’s medallion on your website. It may or may not impress your readers, but it does communicate to others that you are a serious writer and are committed to your craft.  These large organizations tend to attract excellent speakers at their conferences and provide opportunities for contact with leaders in the writing world. Some offer free services and benefits such as contract or contracts and grievance guidance, copyright advice, and consultations on writing problems. Many have national contests. Some organizations, such as the National Writers Assn, offer vision, dental, and medical insurance and legal services.  Some of the organizations have membership fees, others are fee.

State: Many of the national associations have state chapters that offer the benefits of the mother organization in a local setting. State-only organizations are often exclusive to out-of-staters, offering help with state and regional matters. Their conferences may be closer to attend, less grandiose, but just as fulfilling and informative as those on a national level. Because there are few attendees, there may be more one-on-one contact. I find Attending a writers’ conference is a rewarding experience.

Local: Locally, you get to rub elbows with fellow writers. In my community, there are many New York best selling authors as well as struggling indie authors. I enjoy getting to know my contemporaries, helping each other promote books, sharing tables at local book fairs, and giving/receiving individualized training.  Unlike at the national or state level, local clubs meet more often, offer a greater chance for camaraderie, and can target your needs as a local writer.

How to choose the perfect writers group

  • Just like defining your target market, define the type of writers’s organizations you want to join. Are you a fiction or nonfiction writer? What is your genre or specialty?  What are your immediate needs as a writer? Do this for each level—national, state, or local—that you wish to join.
  • Check out the organization’s structure, literature, and benefits. Do they meet your needs?
  • Check out the past conferences. Are the speakers and topics interesting. Is the location good for you? How about the cost?
  • On a local level, attend a meeting before joining. Are the other writers approachable? Did you learn or can you offer something?  Most important, did you have fun?

I highly encourage seeking out organizations that meet your needs, and then becoming participative in these groups.

Resources:

I am a member of the Nonfiction Authors Association (NFAA), the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA), and the Sarasota Authors Connection. Perhaps in time, I will join others. Which writers groups have you joined, and why? Please comment.

What walking the Camino de Santiago taught this indie author

Four yWhat walking the Camino de Santiago taught this indie authorears ago today I left for the Camino de Santiago, and my life changed forever. One of the unexpected results was becoming an indie author—with all the work that it entails. Today, on Labor Day, I reflect on the lessons I learned on this adventure and how they affect me as an indie author.

The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Originally a religious trek, it is now a European Cultural Itinerary. I walked it in September-October 2011, taking 43 days to complete my first long walk. Today, as I think about what I learned, I want to share what walking the Camino de Santiago taught this indie author.

Lessons learned

  • Look for the signs. The Camino trail is marked with yellow arrows. All one has to do to reach Santiago is search for and then follow the arrows. Sometimes they are hidden or not very easily found. If you get lost, all you need to do is double back to the last arrow, and then proceed forward. It requires trust not only in those who marked the trail, but also in yourself to find them. At times, there are multiple route choices, each well indicated, each ending at the same destination, but with a different path. The alternate route may be easier or more difficult, more or less rewarding, offering a distinctive experience, but ultimately ending in the same place.As an indie author, there are many people who would like to guide you. There are bloggers, marketers, other writers, etc. You must learn to differentiate between the true “arrows” and the misdirections. I think the only way to do this is to look into your heart to see if the path they are leading you down feels right.

    When I was just starting out as an indie author, I followed lots of advice and quickly learned that most was not a fit for me and my needs. As I gained more confidence, I started to find my own way. When I realize that I am not heading in the desired direction, I stop to look around for the yellow arrows, indications that confirm if I am on track or not. For me, the yellow arrows are sales, contacts, reviews, followers, and,  most important, whether I am having fun or not.

  • Be in the present. On the Camino, I learned to live day-to-day, not in the future. As an indie writer, have a future goal and work on it each day, but without fretting about how long it is taking you to reach that goal. Sometimes it may feel as if you are barely progressing, even going backwards. Other times, you may find a shortcut, or an easier path.When I injured myself on the Camino and had to take three days off to heal, I wondered if I would reach Santiago by my return date. Taking the break not only allowed me to heal, it reenergized me so I could walk farther and faster. I arrived in Santiago with enough time to visit Cape Finisterre, where the Camino meets the Atlantic Ocean. I exceeded my expectations.

    Living in the present also means being fully immersed in what you are doing. On the Camino, I learned to hold the endless chatter of modern life at bay, to deal with what is important, and to let the rest go. Being able to fully concentrate on the task  at hand has immeasurable and obvious benefits.

  • You are not alone. Each year hundred of thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino. They stay in various hostels, and become friends with the other trekkers. They build a camaraderie and trust.  There is no competition and pilgrims help each other.I found the same to be true with indie authors. I feel a bond with other writers. We help one another by promoting each other’s work, answering questions, and giving heads up to new technology, contests, and success tips. We commiserate and support each other. To meet other authors, join forums, writing clubs, or reach out directly to one you admire. The indie environment is very supportive.
  • Be yourself. One of the gifts that the Camino teaches is the freedom to be yourself—a very liberating experience. Many novice writers start by imitating other authors and, with time, develop their own voice and style. It takes courage to put yourself out there. It is you that readers are  interested in, not mimics.  Be unique; be you.
  • Don’t be a coward. On the Camino you meet people from all over the world, many who do not speak English or Spanish. They are exposed to different cultures, foods, values. For many, this is their first long walk, or first time away from home. The trail can be difficult, boring, lonely, painful. It can also be joyful, thought provoking, and a learning experience.Indie authors also are on a journey venturing into new territories, learning the ins and out of self publishing and marketing. It can seem dauntless. Don’t be afraid to take on these challenges. To be successful, be courageous.
  • Learn patience. The Camino taught me to be patient with others, with dealing with complications and disappointments, and, most important, with myself. I learned not to rush to Santiago, but to appreciate each step of the way.Indie authors must also learn patience. We all want our books to be successful. For most of us, that happens only with a lot of hard work and diligence, and with going forward one step at a time. I rushed my first book into print because I was speaking about the Camino and wanted the accompanying book. Prior to the speaking engagement, I had made corrections based on family, friends, and beta readers, but had not waited for feedback from my editor. As a result, I destroyed almost all of my first editions, too embarrassed to sell them.
  • The value of time. We all know that time is priceless, that it should not be wasted. On the Camino, I learned that taking time was as equally important as not wasting time. I took 43 days out of my life to walk the Camino. Each day I lived in the now, completely focused on the experience. I learned to trust my instincts, and for my efforts, I received insights about myself that I never would have received had I not taken the time. After three years, I routinely take time to rekindle the spirit of the Camino, to reconnect with the peace that taking the time gave me, and to open my mind to the possibilities.Taking time was a wondrous gift I gave myself. I encourage all you indie writers to take time to appreciate the journey you are on, to reconnect with your purpose, and evaluate if you are on the correct trail or need to look for the yellow arrows. Taking this time can make such a difference.

 Have you experienced something that profoundly changed you and that can relate to indie authors. If so, please comment.

 

A good way to pump up weak book sales

A good way to pump up weak book salesRecently Lisa Day, an author friend suggested adding a virtual book tour, sometimes known as a book blog tour, to my author platform’s arsenal. Always looking for a way to pump up weak book sales, I searched the internet to find out more. This is what I found.

A virtual book tour is similar to going to stores or signing events in hopes of finding new readers. Instead of making personal appearances, the author goes from one blog to the next. During the length of the tour (usually one to four weeks), the author makes “tour stops” on various blogs, book review websites, and internet radio shows. On these sites, the author guest posts, has video interviews, and does podcasts with other authors. Often they offer prizes like ebooks, signed copies, or other book-related swag. The purpose of the media blitz is to increase sales, name recognition, and ranking.

Do the virtual book tours work? Author Fiona Ingram, comments on the Savvy Book Marketer:

In my experience the answer is a resounding yes. My tour literally propelled my author profile into the stratosphere and I still get Google Alerts from it. 

Why blog tours are effective

The most obvious reason is getting your name out to people who don’t necessarily follow you. Appearing on different sites and providing different content on each increases your audience reach and provides you with opportunities to spotlight different aspects of you as an author. This exposure is a wonderful opportunity to connect with readers in ways you may never have thought of before.

As each tour stop spreads the word about you via their social media, interest in you and your book skyrockets, and hopefully so do your sales.

Spin-offs are possible. If someone likes what your say, you may be invited to guest post or make a appearance on their blog.

How to create a successful book tour

The most important thing you can do is plan. Make your preparations two to three months before the tour.  Book reviewers need time to read the book and write the review. You need time to answer questionnaires, write guest posts, and create or organized other content.

Assuming that you have already identified your ideal reader, search for sites where they most likely hang out. Become participative on these sites: comment on posts and provide links to interesting blogs via your social networking. This interaction increases your exposures to the website owners and to their readers. Besides being good PR, having this name recognition may help when you contact the site managers about your book blog tour.

Focus on book review sites; readers ready to purchase books come to these specifically for the reviews. Google “book bloggers” and search the lists for relevant sites. Look at Goodreads for authors in your genre to participate. Search LinkedIn and Facebook for potential hosts.

To add variety to the tour, select sites that differ from others. Some sites have you fill out a questionnaire, write a guest post, read or provide excerpts, discuss why you wrote the book or choose the main character. Perhaps you can join an author’s panel to discuss your genre. Be creative and make the tour fun for your readers. Varying the content, keeps the audiences’s attention, and they may actually follow the entire tour.

Start a spreadsheet listing these sites, the type of content they use, and contact information.

Once you have chosen the target sites, contact them to pitch your virtual book tour. In your proposal letter, list the dates of the tour, the type of content your can provide, if you will be offering books or swag as giveaways, a brief intro, and a press release for the book–anything that can help them determine if you are a good fit for their audience/website. Always follow up with a thank you note. Your book may not be the right fit at this time, but might be a fit in the future, or you may have another book to pitch.

Whether you hire a company to make the arrangements for you or you plan the tour yourself, you need to promote the events. Tell your fans where and when you are appearing and the kind of content you are providing at each stop. Create an event calendar on your Website and promote the tour via social media. If you currently do not have a lot of followers, start developing them so they can help promote your tour when the time comes.

Creating an effective blog tour seems like a lot of work, but I am going to give it a try with the release of my next book. Timing is everything, so I guess I’ll get started now.

Resources

Have you done a virtual book tour? What advice would you give me as I start planning mine? Please comment.

Attending a writers’ conference is a rewarding experience

Attending a writers' conference is a rewarding experience This weekend I attended the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was my first writers’ conference. It will not be my last.

Attending a writers’ conference is a rewarding experience. Not only did I meet other talented and knowledgeable writers but also publishers, illustrators, designers, and agents. As an indie author, making these contacts can be a very positive step towards advancing your writing career.

Exposure to new ideas

This conference had two seminar tracts. My husband and I decide to go separately. I went to the Children’s Books Show and Tell Workshop while he went to the Nonfiction Book Workshop – Creating and Marketing Non Fiction Books. Afterward, we shared what we learned.

Until this weekend, I had not considered writing children’s books. After attending the seminars, I see this genre as a new revenue source for my current books. As I imagined having accompanying illustrated books for my upcoming series of travel books, I got really excited. I’m not sure if writing for children will pan out, but it did get me thinking about all the other revenue streams that I am missing by thinking merely as a writer. Children’s books have lots of spin-offs: toys, coloring books, and games. Perhaps I can do something similarly, but for adults. Something to think about.

Practical information

Additionally, I picked up a few tips for cutting promotional expenses. One was to create postcards on nice stock, and then cut them down for two bookmarks or three business cards. I haven’t checked to see if the savings were worth the effort, but I did see several different people with shears in hand.

Several writers have created their own publishing business to enable them to sell directly to large box stores and book chains, or to use for distributing their books. Most distributors require a minimum of three books. If you don’t have three books, you can join with others. In choosing a business, do not use the name of one of your books, and pick one that is usable in various languages.

Several of the speakers at the conference had their own publishing business. Florida Kids Press, Inc. (owned by author Jane Wood) did not have its own Webpage while MarkWayneAdams. Inc did. I think the difference resulted because, as an illustrator, Mark Wayne Adams business differs from that of the author. If you are thinking of going this route, you will need to decide whether or not to set up a Website for your publishing company.

Making contacts

This was a writers and publishers event, so there were lots of cool (influential) people to meet. I came home with lots of contact info. Before long, we were following each other on social media and ready to help promote each other.

Its fun

In addition to the great training and resources, it was fun just hanging out with other writers, translators, graphic designers, and publishers. Over a glass of wine, we chatted about books and book promotions. Though there were not too many fresh marketing ideas for me, others were jotting down notes. It was interesting to learn how each had a favorite marketing tool and why they chose that one over others.

It’s energizing

There was a lot of good energy among these creative people, and I left the conference recharged. I was psyched!

Awarding

At the event banquet, qualifying authors received the FAPA President’s Book Awards, honoring book excellence among authors and publishers. Truely a highlight of the evening.

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