Are you using content marketing to promote your fiction and nonfiction books? If not, why not? In this week’s #AskALLi session, ALLi director Orna Ross (stepping in for Adam Croft) and blog and conference manager Sacha Black talk about how content marketing is a necessary skill all authors must develop regardless of whether they're writing fiction or nonfiction books.
They drill down into how content marketing differs for fiction and nonfiction. And they introduce the new “#AskALLi Ultimate Guide” blog series and the #AskALLi Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Fiction
- What content marketing is
- How to use it effectively for both your fiction and nonfiction books
- What “content themes” are and how to use them to create your content marketing strategy and plans
If you want to use content marketing to increase your book sales and grow your impact and influence, this salon's for you.
Our fiction and nonfiction salon is brought to you by sponsor Izzard Ink.
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Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
About the Hosts
Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha has been a long-time resident writing coach for website Writers Helping Writers. She is also a developmental editor, wife and mum.
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcript
Orna: Hello, everybody, and welcome to The Alliance of Independent Authors, Fiction and Nonfiction Self-Publishing Podcast with me, not Adam Croft, but Orna Ross, standing in for Adam this evening and Sacha Black. Hi, Sacha.
Sacha: Hello. Hello, everybody.
All About Content Marketing
Orna: Yeah, so we are very excited to be talking about one of our favorite topics. We both talk about this ourselves quite a bit and it is content marketing, for fiction and for nonfiction. We're going to be looking at what they share? What's different? What is content marketing and why you should be doing it to some degree, no matter what kind of other marketing you do, I think, anyway. We'll talk about that, but before we get into it, we just like to talk a little bit, Sacha is, as many of you know, the blog editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors blog, on our Self Publishing Advice Center. And we been changing it up over there. Do you want to tell the people what's going on?
Sacha: So, the changes are because of algorithmic changes, from Google, who made a lot of changes towards the end of last year. To increase Google's natural language processing abilities, because lots of us are now doing searches on Google using our voices. So, we say and hopefully, we have a device and a house with a female name and I won't set it off, but we'll say, hey, that person and then we'll ask a question, we'll do it on our phones. And so, Google wanted to change all the algorithms to make sure that it was picking up and giving highly relevant searches, as part of that we have to change the way that we are doing our blogs.
So we need to do slightly longer form blogs, we need to make sure we are answering a very tight question on each of the blogs and providing things like case studies, which hopefully some of you have seen that we've already been starting to add case studies from our members. So, I suppose those are the biggest changes, I would say.
Search and Traffic
Orna: Yeah, so for those of you who, I mean, this is actually plays right into our topic of this evening because it is all about search is very much part of content marketing. You know, how you get found and why one of the reasons you do content marketing of any kind, is because of search. And you need traffic, for content marketing to work in terms of bringing people back to your old website and one of the best ways to attract traffic is to blog consistently on a particular topic. And so yeah, are we have been blogging since I think 2013, probably over 2000 posts on the ALLi blog and what we have traditionally done is had all sorts of topics, we've blogged pretty much every day for years and our members, write, the most of our blog, our members, or our advisors or our team, write our blogs, you have to be a member to contribute to the blog, and that will continue. And we will, of course, continue taking member impulsion in various ways, both through the case studies, but also, you know, we will still have room for member posts in a different sort of way.
So, yeah, it's exciting because it's giving us the chance to really delve deeply into some topics. The first one we did was last week on ISBN’s, everybody’s favorite and really comprehensive, huge posts, which we did, and along with Nielsen here in the UK, who managed the ISBN’s for authors and publishers here in the UK. And they did, yeah gave us some fantastic insider tips from their perspective. But of course, authors make up their own mind around ISBN’s. So, we teased out all the issues around that. And today, we released our second big long post, which is the ultimate guide to contact marketing for fiction and that's one of the things we're going to be talking about tonight, because a lot tonight here in London, and a lot of people think that content marketing is you know, what, I've just been talking about the ALLi blog type situation nonfiction and informational stuff that then at the end of it, you have a link to your book and of course, that is a very widely used model but content marketing works for everything, poetry and fiction also. So, the blog today particularly focuses on fiction, we will have another long post in a while focusing on nonfiction and a third one focusing on poetry. But tonight, we're just going to tease out the differences between fiction and nonfiction. So yeah, you love content marketing for nonfiction. Would that be fair to say?
Sacha: Yes, I do. And I've been doing it for a really long time. I actually started content marketing for nonfiction completely by accident. And I didn't know it was what I was doing for a really long time as well. But I was blogging and writing up lessons that I've learned and on my journey to writing full time and in sharing those, obviously, it is answering questions and solving problems for other people, which is usually what not a nonfiction content marketing is that tends to focus on solving a problem, answering questions or providing content on a particular theme, related to a nonfiction book and, yeah, so I just started sharing all of these lessons on my blog and then learnt that I had very happily been content marketing for a while. But yeah.
Your Mission and Passion
Orna: Yeah, I think that happens a lot in in the indie world you do things that makes sense. And then somebody comes along and kind of names it, gives us a title and then you realize what you've been doing all that time. So, I love content marketing for fiction. While I like, I love it generally, I think it's worth saying that one of the reasons why I think it's so great is because it actually allows you to take the you know, the mission and the passion and everything that made you want to write a book in the first place and it's the only kind of form of marketing where you can take that and turn it into smaller pieces, which further the same kind of mission and passion. So, it's all part of what you do, and you don't feel like it's just marketing. You're just trying to get people to buy the book.
You're actually happy just maybe to get the point across or just to talk about the beautiful place you set your novel in that you really love and want more people to know about or whatever. So, people often say to me, What is content marketing for fiction? They can't seem to quite kind of get their heads around what it can be, and the simple answer is that it's really anything to do with your book. So anything that kind of relates into your book, but there is more focused answer which we will get to in a while, but before you kind of drill down into the into the focus stuff, you know, just thinking about everything around your book. So your settings, quotes from the book, extracts, behind the book information about why you wrote this particular book or, you know, crazy characters came from, plot points and where they emerged from what they mean to you as the author. If you think about the books that you love to read, and the authors that you admire and look up to and think about how when you really enjoyed the book, you really want to know more, you just want to let you have that feeling of, you know, give me more work on the thing.
So that's what content marketing does is it kind of satisfies that perfection, it satisfies that craving that the reader has to the story behind the story, if you like more story about that particular thing, so anything that's, it's, you know, it's good if it's personal themes, you know, why you wrote this particular book, and not another, maybe even TV or music or cinema that's related to your book, or that takes a similar approach to a topic that you're writing about. There's just so much you can do, and I think it's one of those things that you think, oh, I can't think of a single thing and then when you start to think of one or two or three things, loads more common behind so it's, it's a sort of a 90 minute brainstorm, to sit down with yourself and see how many different kinds of ideas you can have around your affection, and then narrow those down to the ones you'd really like to do.
Sacha: Yeah, and also, I think one of the things that I am lucky with is that I read the genre that I write. So, I, although obviously, you know, but they say you aren't your ideal reader yourself. I am within the genre of ideal reader and so I think about the things that I would like, as you've mentioned, from other authors, but also things that are connected.
So, for example, you were mentioning films and music that's connected, but what about the music that you've listened to whilst you've been writing. You know, those are also things you would think that nobody would be interested at all. It's just what I listen to, you know, I, I'm just the author, but actually, and your readers want to get to know you past me and so do you have a pet that's always on your lap. Oscar writing people love cat photos. You know, if you have a writing buddy or, you know, do you have a type of food that you always snack on? You think these things aren’t interesting, but actually, if you formulate them into pictures, or, you know, Instagram stories or whatever, this is all content marketing.
So Many Options
Orna: Yeah, absolutely and that's before you even get to the content of what's actually in the book. And I think it's really worth pointing out how lucky we are to have the options to do these things. Because in the old days, I remember them well, and it's not that long ago. The only way you could get information out about your book was to go on a book tour. So you have to go off and, you know, sit at a chat show on TV if you were lucky and radio more likely local radio most likely, and talk about some aspect of your content, just exactly what we're talking about.
But it was, you know, a couple of weeks around launch time It was exhausting. It was really grueling. You never felt satisfied by the experience and soon as you were finished, you're out of all those smart and wonderful pieces of snippets of content you should have shared. And so, we're so lucky now to be able to really kind of delve into this and really engage with our content from a different angle. And we say content by the way, and not words in the world words. And it's what we say content because video and audio, can make up quite a bit of your content marketing and possibly should give you a rest from the words thing, but also because people you know, they'll hop on a video, they listen to an audio and different readers like to consume content in different ways. And it's good to put it out there in lots of different ways.
Share all the Love
Sacha: Absolutely, yeah and there's, I suppose one other thing that I would add to that types of content for fiction and it's the sharing the love of fiction itself. So rather than sharing always content about the book or always content about the, your words particularly or the inspiration for the book, you can also just share in the love of reading. And I always call it like book nerdy stuff or book geekery. But you can, there are memes, for example, or, you know, I don't know, quotes or silly jokes about, you know, the love of writing or the love of reading and those kinds of things also make up Instagram stories or Facebook page posts or, you know, things like that.
Orna: Yeah and you came up with this great idea of actually getting quite formal about the themes, and I found this really interesting, you know, dividing it up in that way, and we talk about the different kinds you can do in a moment. I think we've covered them but just again, to list them in a slightly more structured way and I think you, this is important after you’ve done, you know, listen to everything we've said thought about it yourself, done a big brainstorm, look at all the different things you could do. Then it's about well, yeah, great, I could do it. It's like everything in indie author land, I could do a million things, but what am I actually going to have the time to do? What am I going to be able to take into my process?
So, it doesn't take me away from you know, the actual work of writing but, and that it furthers that I mean, one of the things that I think is really important is consistency. So, it's okay to take a break every now and again, because you probably will need to do that. But it's really important to be consistent in putting stuff out there and to not go away. As soon as you kind of go away. It takes a dip. And I think that's the other really important thing to say is that this is not something that you do you know, today you put out a piece of content and suddenly the readers come flooding in. I mean, very, very occasionally.
Everybody talks about going viral and it's almost never happens. And even when it does, I did have the experience of going viral once, and back through stumble upon, which was a kind of a discovery tool that a lot of people were on back in 2012. And something I can't even remember know what it was, just went crazy one day, and they were just literally, you know, thousands of thousands of people on my blog and within a couple of weeks, only a few of those actually, were still there. They were only just not one little thing. They came and they went kind of thing and I think what we're talking about here is a much slower, steadier build over time, of people who really like what you do, who haven't just helped him because of one particular topic, because that kind of wave comes in and it goes back out. Again, it's a long game and it builds over a number of books and changes as you change it develops with you. That's one of the other good things about I think
Measuring Content and its Challenges
Sacha: Yeah, and alongside that, I think is the point that it's actually incredibly hard to measure content marketing, unlike paid advertising, where you are spending x pounds, and you are seeing X number of book sales, you can quantify that, but content marketing, you cannot. And there is no, I mean, yes, okay, you could measure the number of clicks from a blog post through to whatever, you know, book platform you've put your link to, but, you know, then if you're doing ads as well, then it's very hard to discern whether your sales are coming from the content marketing or from the paid advertising.
So, this is something that, you know, lots and lots of people are doing there for us. But it is you know, reaping the benefits but you can see it from, for example, if you go onto some of these podcasts, you will see sales coming from that podcast, you know, for a few days or a couple of weeks around when that podcast was on. So, there are ways and means of measuring it, but it is much, much harder and just not to get disappointed or disheartened when you cannot directly measure sales output from
from your content marketing, that's something I would add.
Enjoy What You’re Doing
Orna: Yeah, very important. And I think that's why it is so important that you like what you're doing. That you actually enjoy, it's like writing the book, you know, it's as much for the joy of actually doing the thing itself. As for the reward that going, you want both you want to balance both the outcome, but you're not just focused on you know, getting as many likes as you can and getting as many shares as you can or whatever you're actually also using it as an opportunity to do something that you find enjoyable. So, we have Walt here who is talking about finding the time to generate that content, he is saying for him, that's the biggest challenge. And I think that's, you know, the biggest challenge for everybody. And how you manage that, I think is very important. How do you manage yours?
Sacha: So, I am in the process of changing how I manage it. But and so I'm quite excited about this, which is why I want to talk about it but repurposing is I think one of the best ways to prevent yourself from having to spend, you know, hundreds and hundreds of hours always developing new content.
So, I'm a very pertinent example is the fact that we wrote a Content Marketing blog post, which went live today and now we are taking that, and we have mentioned of some of the things that are in that post. But we are also expanding on it and talking about some other things in this podcast, which is a second form of content marketing, but using the principles and the main themes from the blog post. After this podcast, we will then take both of those two things and add some more to it and hopefully, potentially it will become one of our quick and easy or not so quick and easy, but you know, one of our comprehensive ALLi guides. So that is just three ways in which we can transform the same content, a few other things to throw in, we could create some graphics, and that take quotes out of our blog. And we could put those on social media. So, we could have a tip of the day, for example, from the same blog post, and because obviously social, different social platforms will reach different types of readers. So, we are again repurposing the same content. You could for example, do light bite three-minute Quick Tip videos for YouTube using the same content from the blog post. So, there are lots and lots and lots of different ways in which you could repurpose the same content. One last one, sorry what as I was thinking. So, once we have the guide, you could then from the guide, you could then create a checklist, for example, for your content marketing, and you could use that as a reader magnet and you know, and we could attach that to the blog post. So yeah, I get like, you can, I'm all giddy and excited, but I love this repurposing and, you know, being efficient, it's so efficient and effective, and I just love that.
Orna: The eff words. I think that's a really good repurposing. Okay, Walt, that's one way and the other thing that I find really useful is I do it all, once a week. I sit down and kind of do everything for next week. And that's something that I only started doing relatively recently. So, I'd like to talk for a minute about how wrong I got all of this for a very long time. Because I enjoyed it. I think I never really mind it and I still don't mind. But I write across three, the three macro genre poetry fiction and nonfiction and I never really segmented properly.
So, I was kind of putting everything out everywhere and kind of always putting out stuff but not in a very focused or directed way. And really, fairly late in the game considering how long I've been doing this, I, it started to actually work and it was quite a bit of work and in fact, it's not quite complete, separating out, so that my the people who are interested in my poetry, only hear about poetry from me. People who are interested in my historical fiction, only hear about historical fiction. And I do have then a reader and membership for people who like a bit of everything because I do have a lot of people who read my work who are also ALLi members or you know, there are all sorts of sounds or creators so they do take an interest in all of that kind of stuff. So, I do have that but, it’s made very clear. This one's for you. If you like condition, everything This is for you if you'd like fiction this is for you if you like poetry and even on the emails I send out every week, down at the bottom is are you getting the right one, you know, so segmenting all of that, and then I split up as well the different social channels for different kinds of, now really got to defend myself a bit better on this but I'm trying to keep Facebook or fiction, Instagram for poetry and Twitter for the self publishing, self publishing the nonfiction essentially self publishing and creative stuff. And I think that's really important.
It made, it has made a huge difference to my poetry, particularly the poetry is getting completely lost in in among everything else I you know, the rate of signups for my list and poetry wise has just went way, way off from not very, you know, from a little start, but yeah, it was really, really noticeable and it's increasing more and more And in fact, if you're noticing to me, I didn't do I didn't know you wrote poetry, we're now kind of realizing it because it's been organized that way. So once a week I sit down, I work out what’s going to go where I have ideas during the week, of course, things that I'd like to tweet or write, but they don't get sent out until next week, unless they're time sensitive. They go into an Evernote notebook. And then on a Friday, usually I sit down and work out what's going to go out the following week. And if I have a really crazy busy week, I don't get to doing the social end of it but most weeks I do and it's much more consistent with most of the platforms, you can actually, you know, schedule your stuff ahead with some of them, you can't but you work that out and you work out ways that you can do it quickly.
So, I think a lot of the time, the waste of time. Sometimes it's just in the process of how you do your pictures, you know where you store them how you, kind of put them together with the words, all that kind of stuff. If you can work out a good rhythm for yourself on that, like, I think that's also a big-time saver.
Sacha: Yeah. And implementing a system so, for example, you were talking about your graphics and images there. If you can create for yourself a template, where perhaps you only change a color on an image or you if say, you're always quoting yourself or quoting for a book or protein or poetry, having a standard template where you can just drag and drop text that also saves time, I think and it's just creating a system there.
Orna: Exactly so get a little bit more perhaps, you know, a little bit more, yes, structured in terms of how you do it, I think is a bit is a big, big part of getting of getting the time thing, right. So yeah, talk to us. We've spoken quite a bit there about fiction. So just talk to us in terms of the content itself. The types of things that people do okay, we spoken about how to fiction, but there are other kinds are sorry, how to nonfiction. There are other kinds of nonfiction. And there are other ways to do this anymore kind of ideas?
Sacha: So, podcasting is another one. And you can create podcasts, obviously, for your nonfiction, and obviously lots of people immediately think, it has to be a writing podcast. It doesn't at all. You could do one on pregnancy, you could do one on stone masonry, I don’t know where that came from, but you know, you could have a podcast on treating animals if you were a vet, and you are trying to, you know, recruit new people there. So, whatever your content is, you can create a podcast around that. And what else can you do? Obviously, we spoken about blogging, and your mailing list again, is a different type of content, any social media and that you do doing lives as well, live events and be it on your Facebook, your YouTube, your Instagram, you can then take those files, transcribe them using free AI type software that just need a proof. And that, again, is creating different content, audio books as well, you can pull chapters, you can pull a chapter from your audio book, that's a different type of content. You could and yeah, I mean, I think that's.
What Platforms are you Using?
Orna: Yeah, lots, lots, lots to go there and the other thing I think, then finally, probably and you need to think about it is that different platforms are good for different kinds of content. So, you can find that doesn't mean you necessarily have to kind of use that one for that thing. Maybe going against the grain might actually be a way to get more attention on a particular platform.
So, I'm thinking that you know, Twitter is generally for people who have opinions and want to talk, it's kind of the chattering classes and social medium, where Instagram is fantastic for poetry and clearly for anything visual, and so on. So it's important that even if you're going against the grain that you know what that platform is good for, and that you're aware that you're, changing it other words, that you know, the rules before you try to break them. And so not trying to, you know, do the wrong thing on the wrong platform, knowing which platforms visual picture, verbal, and so on.
And also knowing which ones you like. So I think it's really important that you are user not to enjoy that particular platform, and probably not a good idea to spread yourself too thinly, so much better to do one, and do it well and go deep and, you know, be genuinely engaged on that platform. So, it's not just about sharing your content. It's also about all the other great content on our platform, and you know, sharing other people's stuff, and seeing, you know, getting to know people whose genre niche, micro niche or similar to yours or and or readers who love that kind of work that happens through engagement and genuine sort of enjoyment of the platform, it doesn't happen so much when you're going in with a very fixed agenda. I want to sell books, you know, and here's how I'm going to do it today. So yeah, the platform that is enjoyable for you is the one to think about working with.
Orna: And then once you've decided your platform, and you've decided your types of content, you mentioned earlier, being consistent, and I think that is so, so important about the type of content that you're sharing as well. So, if you are, for example, sharing about writing craft because you write writing craft nonfiction books, then don't then start posting pictures of your dinner because people aren't really interested in that will then turn people off. So it's not just about posting consistently as them once a day, you know, roughly in the afternoon, it is also about them being consistent with, with the content and the type of content that you are pushing out into the world.
Alignment is Key
Orna: Really important, and that aligns with the books. So, you may write a lot of different books, and you have to think about this. And that's why I split off in different directions, it was just too difficult for the people who like to read the nonfiction, to be listening to the person who wrote the poetry because it's kind of so different. But if you can find something that gels across all of your work, then it's good to do that on to turn that then into a kind of a signature so that people who do well with content marketing, put a lot of time and thought, you know, that whole concept of finding your voice in when you're writing a fiction book or a nonfiction book, it's the same with the platform. The medium you choose to take your content out into the world, you need to find your voice on that platform. And you're probably likely to be there for a while before you begin to, to feel your way around that. And to get a consistent sort of tone, tonal register, I think is what we're talking about there.
And the kind of engagement that actually does make people look at your profile and actually go over and think I wouldn't mind buying that book. So, you want the messaging that's going out there to be related enough to your book for that connection and bridge to be made. But not just to be a replica because you're going to write more than one book anyway.
Sacha: Absolutely. You wrote a post a little while ago, that really changed my thinking on this and you mentioned about finding the thing that was unique to you, and using that as the umbrella and I think it's often comes and not from the things that we like necessarily because those tend to be content, but from In a values, and I think looking at our values and what we hold, that's important, and quite often is one of the ways already.
Orna: I don’t know where it is. Oh dear.
Sacha: Finding the thing that you hold in value really important is one way, I think easy way of finding an umbrella for yourself
and to go across all of your content.
Orna: That's such a good point you’re making. Don't stop now in a second. Sorry, I couldn't even find it. That's my family phone ring so that I know it's my son or my daughter. I can hear it everywhere. And now you've all heard it too. Sorry about that, folks. You were making a really good point. So just in case people missed it, would you mind repeating here? Sorry.
Sacha: Yeah, no, that's fine. So I did a while ago that you wrote a blog post and you were talking about finding something that is uniquely you and using that thing that is unique to you, to go niche and to attract readers who are like you, and, and I think one of the easier ways of doing that, rather than thinking about the types of content that you'd like, it's to think about what's inside and our values and what we hold dear, rather than just our likes and dislikes, because those things change in air with time. And there are sort of on the shallow surface of ourselves. Whereas looking at our values and going deep, those don't really change. So, I think that is a good place to find what's unique to you.
Orna: Definitely and make that the umbrella and that means you're attracting people who have similar values to yours, and that's something that lasts and that's what we're looking for here, something that's kind of sustainable and scalable, and that grows over time. So that and yeah, and if it's coming from that deep play, so as we said at the beginning, it's going to be part of you and you're going to you're going to enjoy doing it for its own sake. And I think that's, that's really key as well. So, we are almost out of time so yeah, and anything any final tips or all tipped out?
Sacha: No, we have had a couple of comments. I don't know if we want to just if there's anything there.
Orna: Yeah so if there is anything there.
Sacha: I think the name is Gimpy, Gimpy Henry says, as a tip, they don't have much time. And so, they've actually found a family member who can help. And so that's one thing that you can always look at is getting family members to help you and in particular, they're using their granddaughter. And because of their have, I'm assuming they're young and know about social media, perhaps more so than even you know, anybody else. And so therefore teens and tweens today, she — are helping her and gives us some pocket money. So, I think that is one thing. If, if it doesn't bring you joy, as Mary Kondo might say, then you know, can you hire this out? Can you find help?
Orna: Yeah, get the help with the bit you don't love. So presumably Gimpy doesn't love the tech bit, but then you can concentrate on the actual core of the content, which is probably the bit that you do enjoy. But I think it's important to also say that it isn't a hand of situation, by war it was or your hiring help or whether it's a family member or you know, somebody, no matter wash it needs they need to fully understand what you know, the end game is what you're trying to achieve the kind of values you are working from the kind of people you hope to attract, and so on. So, it's something you would work very closely together. So, it's complements there from AD Gibson, who says, this has been terrific great. Let's go to I'm glad. And next time, do you know what's on the cards for next time because it's you and Adam, and just putting Sacha on the spot there. Don't worry we will put it into the show notes what you can expect next time on the fiction nonfiction podcast. And this will appear in audio and on our blog Friday week. And we'll have all the show notes and links on things to the content marketing guide that we were talking about on the blog, which you can find at selfpublishingadvice.org/fiction-content-marketing. So that's it for this week. We'll be back next week with the Member Q&A. Till then, happy writing, happy publishing, happy author business.