Archive for the ‘Independent Publishing’ Category

Have You Built Your Author Platform?

March 29, 2017

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Ever had trouble getting someone’s attention in a particularly noisy public place? If you’re an indie author trying to promote your book, you’re going to find yourself in the midst of that noisy place.

Even with a fabulous story, the competition for notice is fierce, and that’s exactly what it’s like … screaming in a crowd.

Without a dedicated platform, you may never rise above the noise.

Your job in creating that platform, which even the big publishing houses will expect you to do, is to provide support for influencers in the media, trust with booksellers and libraries and, most of all, help build demand for your book(s) with future readers.

Here’s what it takes:

#1) You Need an Author Hub
It’s essential to have your own, personal space on the web. Not a social media profile … as helpful as they can be. You need a page on the web with a URL that you control … your author website or blog … to serve as the central hub of your online presence.

Build it on your own land. Building your author platform on someone else’s space is not a good idea. You need to connect with your audience in such a way it doesn’t matter if Amazon falls, Facebook goes dark and everyone suddenly switches from Google to some other search service … you’ve still got a way to find new readers.

If the platform is your own, all that other stuff can go away and you’ll still be able to reach them.

Think of it as your online headquarters. Your web site is the center for your author presence, with information about your books and links to your publicity materials. It doesn’t need to be complicated … but it does need to be yours.

#2) Treat Your Other Profiles as Branch Offices
All the other places to find you online should be treated as branch offices. Just like the relationship in an actual company, the home office establishes the brand, and the branches carry out the brand’s mission in different localities.

Your social media profiles allow you to connect and engage with your readers where they are, but never forget each of those branch offices need to line up with the brand … and never confuse your social media following as your reachable audience.

They aren’t.

Looking for opportunities to reinforce my brand, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of thinking I need a profile on every kind of social media that comes along, but that’s a recipe for failure and burnout. If you spend all your time marketing, when are you ever going to write?

My best advice? Be where you enjoy being, and where your target readers are. If you can accomplish that with only one or two social media accounts, there’s no reason you should feel compelled to add more to the list.

However, retail sites are important. You DO want to maximize your opportunities with retailers … because those are the places most people buy your books. Your website should point to all relevant retail sites where your works are sold.

Be sure to link directly to your book. Don’t just send people to a site’s home page and hope they’ll go to the trouble of hunting for you.

Your content and appearances on other venues is important, too. This can range from being the subject of an interview (see the link to my recent radio interview on my home page), to writing a guest post for a fellow author’s blog.

#3) You Need to Build Your Mailing List
Still, I can’t stress enough how much you need to be able to access people. If you don’t have access to your readers, you don’t have a fully working platform. The best way to make sure you can reach someone is to get his or her email address. I haven’t done this very well yet myself.

For instance, look at how many followers I have to this blog … 50,000, which is flattering and nice to know … but I can’t reach them individually to ask why they’re not all buying my books … and I know they’re not.

If they were, I’d be on the best-seller list.

Now, having a mailing list is not a perfect system … but it’s way more efficient than trying to connect with followers through social media you can’t control.

Whenever you have something new to share, you can leverage the media attention when you share it with your email list. The more people who see it, knowing who you are, the more likely it is that another media outlet will find it as well (see Earned Media tag below).

To build that leverage, you need an email list of engaged readers, followers, and fans. Even a small list that’s engaged is more powerful than a bloated list of people who don’t understand how they ended up on your site in the first place.

So, how do you build your email list?

Get an email service provider. The most inexpensive options include MailChimp, Aweber, and Vertical Measures. Build your list on your web site or blog. You’ll need two things to make this work:

a) An opt-in box. For someone to give you his or her email address, there needs to a box to type in that address. There are different ways to include this on your website … including a box in the sidebar, a box at the end of your blog articles, or a box that pops up.

Most email service providers offer a way to create one of these, which you can then add to your website. You can also put one of these boxes on your Facebook profile.

b) A “lead magnet.” This is something you offer for free in exchange for those email addresses. It needs to be something relevant to your brand, so the people who want that free thing are your prospective readers. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

In fact, experts suggest that the simpler you can make your free offer, the better. Some suggestions include: a free flash fiction short story; a checklist or a chart; or free writing tips/training.

Once you have your email service provider and your opt-in sequence in place, be sure to create an opt-in form on a dedicated landing page. That way, you can link to that page and invite your followers over from Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, or any of your other branch offices. I’ve used one before, and my permanent one is coming soon. You can also include a link from inside your books.

Once you begin to build your list, you can keep in touch with your readers. Depending on what is consistent with your brand, you can email out reviews of books you enjoyed; send out samples; send out a newsletter; or simply collect the email addresses and wait until it’s time to announce your next book when it’s ready for pre-order.

#4) You Need a Press Kit
It sounds like you’re already expected to do a lot, but it would be difficult to overstate the value of a quality press kit on your website. It can make all the difference in growing your author platform. A good author press kit is going to build bridges between you, the media and your future readers.

I have my media pages on a separate site, that I link everywhere.

When people come to your author website, particularly journalists and book-bloggers, you only have a matter of seconds to show them what they’re looking for, before they bounce off to find another author instead.

Most of them won’t go to the trouble of contacting you for more information. They don’t have time to waste tracking down the simple details you should have posted.

Having it readily available establishes your credibility. It explains who you are as an author, what you write, and why you write it. It helps convince them that you are worth interviewing, writing about, carrying on their shelves and reading.

So, what are the most important elements of an author press kit?

First, you need to create a series of materials explaining who you are as a writer. Second, you need to explain your book and why it’s important. The third category is images … at least one strong author photo, and an image of your book cover(s).

Another reason the complete press kit (or at least a link to it) needs to appear on your website … some members of the media might be swinging by at all hours of the day or night, and they don’t have time to wait for you to check your email or to get home from that trip to reply to a message. They need what they need right now.

So, your press kit needs to be complete and available for their use when and if they show up. It’s kind of like insurance … if you wait until you need it, you’re too late.

#5) You Need to Build Your Authority
Once the foundation is in place … your author website; the ability to collect reader emails; and the press kit to support your brand … the next stage in building your author platform is to grow the number of people who visit your website and sign up for your mailing list.

We’ll talk next time on how to do that.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Visit my web site to hear the remarkable interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show. By the way, “Blood Lake” was just selected as a 2016 Forward INDIES Book of the Year Finalist!

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I will be attending the Rochester Writers’ Spring Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, April 1, 2017. On April 30, I will participate in a book-signing event by local authors at the eclectic store, Leon & Lulu.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Indie Publishing Milestone?

January 10, 2017

faith

Perhaps you don’t realize it (I know I didn’t), but the year 2017 marks a special milestone for the book industry. Amazon released the Kindle, its first e-reader, on November 19, 2007. It sold for US$399 … and sold out in five-and-a-half hours.

kindle
As recently as ten years ago, it was a print-centric world. Print books accounted for nearly all book sales, and the traditional publishers controlled the means of production, distribution and sales.

Traditional publishing houses decided which writers actually became published authors; which books would become available for the public to read; which authors would remain in print … and which would be allowed to publish another book.

They were essentially the bouncers of that world.

The brick-and-mortar book retailers placed additional constraints on opportunities for writers. There were 1,000 or more titles competing for every available bookstore space. This hasn’t changed very much.

If anything, given the demise of many big-box retailers, there’s less shelf space now than ever.

Yet, ten years ago the biggest challenges faced by writers weren’t all that dissimilar to the challenges every indie author faces today….

How do I make my books more discoverable to readers?

Publishers assisted authors with editing, print and digital production, translation, pre- and post-publication sales, distribution to retailers, accounts receivables and payments, promotion, tax compliance, sales reporting and analysis, merchandising support and more.

Self-Publishing Revolution
In the last decade, thousands of writers have joined the indie author movement. Self-published books, a significant percentage of them e-books, have taken off, up from essentially nothing a decade ago.

According to one of the latest Bowker Reports (September 7, 2016), more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015, which is an increase of an incredible 375% since 2010.

Indies have been drawn by the advantages of self-publishing … faster time to market, complete creative control, pricing and promotion flexibility and the opportunity to earn royalty rates up to five times higher than traditional publishers pay.

Traditional publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors.

Self-publishing has become big business.

Indie authors are now a major force in publishing, and I expect their influence to increase in the years ahead. However, as self-publishers, indies have had to assume responsibility for all the roles once fulfilled by traditional publishers.

As you might expect, thousands of service providers (both good and bad) have popped up to cater to self-published authors. If you’re a service provider, however, it’s not necessarily a winning story.

Publishing Prediction for 2017
Today the market is glutted with service providers competing for the favors of writers. There are too many cover designers, editors, e-book formatters, and book publicists.

In most industries, natural forces bring systems back to a sustainable balance, and indie book publishing is not immune to these natural forces. This is where I see industry consolidation coming.

If you believe as I do that indie authors are the future of publishing, it starts to become clear some form of consolidation is inevitable, because the business opportunity to serve readers by serving authors is so enormous.

It has already begun at Simon & Schuster.

In 2017 we’re likely to see increased merger and acquisition activity as large publishers, retailers, distributors and larger service providers recognize an opportunity to take advantage of the glut to strengthen their indie-author portfolio and grow their businesses.

Despite the challenges writers and publishers face, I believe there’s never been a better time to be a writer, or to be involved in publishing.

Today, you have the freedom, knowledge and tools to chart your own course in this industry. You have the power to support those players who work for you, and to resist those who are working against you.

All you need to do in the meantime is write good books.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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