The Indie Files, Part Eight: Sell Yourself

We’re almost to the end, my friend, the beautiful end…

‘Scuse me, I’m feeling a bit punchy. Literally. I spent most of the previous evening trying to get the formatting to work for Fracture and I want to punch my computer. Now I understand why authors pay other people to do this shit for them. Sigh. Someday I’ll figure it out and it won’t be such a hassle.

Anyway, let’s talk marketing. I’ve already covered it in some previous posts, without realizing it – covers and meta data. So let’s backtrack a little, hmm?

You know your cover is important. People really do judge books by their covers – you want something that’s going to stand out and get people to click on the thumbnail to enlarge it. But your cover can be part of your brand, too. If your books are part of a series, you want the covers to be similar enough to be identifiable as a series, right? Seems obvious, but it never fails to surprise me how often people don’t do this. And it’s not just the cover image. It’s the font, too. The colors. Having something that’s identifiable as yours will get readers to pick up your next book even if they don’t follow you on social media.

Speaking of social media, you’re on it, right? RIGHT?! You’ve got those links, and the links to your other works, in the back matter, don’t you? Back matter links are simple and don’t cost anything. You can shorten your links with sites like Bit.ly (which is free), and while it adds an extra step for buyers, you can have all the buy links go to your website first, and once they land on the book page, they can click the appropriate vendor.

And can I just take a minute to point something out? When you’re putting together your marketing packet, it looks so much cleaner to make them look like this:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Than like this:

Website: https://amandakbyrne.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authoramandakbyrne Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AmandaKByrne

If you hyperlink in a Word document, bloggers only need to copy and paste and the links are live in the post. If you want that little vertical line, it’s Ctrl + backslash.

/rant

Now. Social media. My personal feelings on social media are that we live too much of our lives online these days, and that it’s become a substitute for face to face interaction (or even voice to voice interaction; no one calls anyone these days, either). But for a lot of authors, particularly genre authors, social media is where your going to make the connections that will sell your books, both readers and reviewers.

For a long time, I fought Twitter. I thought it was pointless. I’m stupid, and realize it’s no longer pointless. Twitter is where you’ll connect with editors, agents, and, more importantly, other authors and reviewers/bloggers. Some of your reader base may even come from Twitter. There are whole posts out there about dos and don’ts for Twitter, so I won’t go into them here, other than don’t be boring. Don’t make your feed all about promoting your book, or someone else’s book. Be interesting, or, as Cole McCade put it, be approachable. The man managed to do very well with his debut because he made friends (through Twitter) with a few bloggers and readers.

When I was gearing up for the release of One Night in Buenos Aires, I was told I needed a Facebook page or profile. I already have a profile, but it’s private, for friends and family only, so I set up a page. I’m not terribly active on my Facebook page, but Facebook allows for lengthier interactions with readers, and frankly, a reader is more likely to have a Facebook profile than a Twitter handle. Whether you have a page or a profile is up to you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but for me, it came down to privacy – I have a number of friends with young children, and they’re constantly posting pictures. Said pictures are generally cute, so I comment, and that’s not something that my readership needs to be able to see.

Yeah. Think about the stuff that shows up in your Facebook feed, and let that guide you in your decision.

There’s other platforms out there – Tumblr (mine is sorely neglected), Pinterest (I know a number of authors who post storyboards), Instagram, tsu, Goodreads, your personal website or blog, even Spotify. Every playlist I include in the backmatter will have a link back to the Spotify playlist, so readers can listen to it.

You know what else you should have in your back matter? A link to sign up for your newsletter. Why a newsletter? Why not a newsletter? It doesn’t need to be anything outrageous, and it’s a good option if you’re not much of a blogger, don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, and/or you have readers that are just busy (like me). It’s a great way to offer fun things like deleted scenes or alternate endings that you might not have space for on your website, and it’s not hard to do exclusivity – if you were planning to announce pre-order links or a release date, just make sure the information gets into the newsletter first, for all those people who don’t subscribe to your blog or follow you on social media. Keep it short, too. I signed up for Mary Ann Rivers’ newsletter a while ago when she was promising a peek at what Carrie and Brian (the characters from The Story Guy) where up to. I just got her second newsletter ever. It had a quick bit about a release she’s doing with Ruthie Knox plus an update on her Burnside series for the year. Jen Frederick serialized Losing Control in her newsletter last year before releasing the full book to the public.

There are a couple of newsletter programs that get recommended frequently – Mailchimp and MyAuthorBiz. Both offer free accounts with a limit on the number of emails you can send per month (2,000 for Mailchimp, 3,000 for MyAuthorBiz). Mailchimp has a widget you can install on your website that will dump directly into your newsletter list. If you have a WordPress.com site (like this one is), you can’t install the widget. All sign up emails I get dump into my author email account and then I migrate them to the list. There are templates and step by step instructions on how to construct the actual newsletter, too.

I want to go back to something I said earlier about the marketing packet. This post on putting together your own blog tour has a handy list of what to include in your marketing packet. Specifically, I want to talk about images – the packet should include your book cover, author photo, a banner if you made one yourself, and graphic teasers.

What’s a graphic teaser, you ask? In addition to picking the best excerpts to showcase not just the story and your writing, you want to include a few memorable quotes. And in romance, particularly, that translates to the visual – so you want a picture that goes along with your quote. You want something memorable, but keep it to who your story focuses on. One of my absolute favorite quotes in Game of Shadows is one I can’t use in promotion – “I have no problem robbing cradles.” Why? Because the guy who said it is the hero’s cousin. Not the hero. On the other hand, I can use this one – “Someone paid me to kill you. Piss me off enough, and I will.” Who said that? Cass…the heroine of Game of Shadows.

But how do you make these teasers? You can pay someone to do it – some cover design companies will do them for you for a much lower price than what you’d pay for the cover itself (Cover Your Dreams, who designed the cover for Fracture, offers 3 for $50, for example). Don’t want to pay someone to do it for you? Download a couple of images from a photo site like Shutterstock and make your own. You can use a program like Photoshop or even the simple photo editor that comes with your computer’s operating system – Microsoft Paint will allow you to add text directly onto photos in a variety of fonts. If Photoshop is too expensive for you (because let’s face it, it’s not worth it unless you plan on designing your own covers until the end of days) there’s a program called GIMP. It’s a photo manipulation program similar to Photoshop that’s a bit more sophisticated than Paint (or its Apple equivalent).

Here’s an example of a teaser from a recent promo post I ran for Lili St. Germain’s Cartel:

cartel teaser 2

Readers and bloggers will be able to add these to their tweets, Facebook posts, and they’re super easy to load onto Tumblr.

What else can you do for your book? You can purchase ad space on review sites, post the first chapter on Wattpad, run $.99 sales if the next book in the series is due out soon (or reduce the first book to free).

But to an extent, you have to remember this is just as much about promoting you as it is your book. Hardcore readers tend to treat authors like big-name celebrities. If I ever met Tana French, I’d fall all over myself and become completely unintelligible. And Nora Roberts? Picture me with stars in my eyes and my mouth hanging open and yeah, that’s pretty much what would happen. Readers like that little glimpse into your life. I’m not saying you need to be wide open with them (and for fuck’s sake, don’t post on social media that you’re leaving on vacation. Hi, burglar, come on in!). But you get a new puppy, or you’re going to see Kingsman: The Secret Service (which, if you haven’t seen it, do, because it’s violent and fun. Yes, fun), talk about it. It’s like a gentle reminder that you’re human, not a robot.

And as I am a human, and not a robot, I’m going to end this post and go eat something before I resume banging my head against the monitor while trying to get the formatting to work.

2 thoughts on “The Indie Files, Part Eight: Sell Yourself

  1. So much good info…
    I’m having the same kind of reaction toward a newsletter as you had toward twitter. I keep reading I should do it. I keep ignoring that advice.

  2. If you sit and think about it, it kind of makes sense – our lives are so busy that sometimes the only thing we remember to do is check our email. Maybe subscribe to a couple of your favorite authors’ newsletters first to see what they do?

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