Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it's our monthly beginners' self-publishing salon with advice, tips, and tools for indie authors just starting out.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
Topics discussed this week include:
- When should authors start marketing their book
- Why it’s essential to be good at marketing
- Online and offline channels to marketing
- Social media groups and online communities
- Events and conferences
- Content marketing
- Personal branding for authors
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.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the AskALLi Beginners' Self-Publishing Salon
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or via our RSS feed:
Watch the AskALLi Beginners' Self-Publishing Salon
About the Hosts
Jyotsna Ramachandran is the founder of Happy Self Publishing and author of the international bestseller Job Escape Plan.
Tim Lewis is the author of three time-travel novellas in the Timeshock series and three fantasy novels in the Magpies and Magic series under his full name of Timothy Michael Lewis. He is the host of the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast and is currently working on the book Social Media Networking- a guide to using social media to find your dream job, find love and boost your travel experience.
Read the Transcripts
Jyotsna: Hello everybody, welcome to Ask ALLi Self Publishing Advice Beginner Salon Podcast, I'm your host Jyotsna Ramachandran and with me we have our co-host, Tim Lewis. Hi, Tim.
Jyotsna: How are you doing?
Tim: I'm not doing too badly, thank you.
Jyotsna: Wonderful. So how's the weather in your place? It's getting colder, right?
Tim: Yeah, it's not as cold as some of the places in the US I see on social media, though, it's still sort of, well I don't know what you would say, I'm one of the strange people in that I grew up when the UK changed from using fahrenheit to celsius, I kind of know cold temperatures in celsius and hot temperatures in fahrenheit and at the moment we're in the bit where I don't really know because I don't know it in either celsius or fahrenheit, so-
Jyotsna: In the U.K we usually call it as celsius, right, in the UK?
Tim: Yeah we do use, we're a peculiar the mix of units here, though, because we still use miles and pounds, but we don't use kilometers like the rest of the world, apart from the US. But the US have got their own measures which are different from our ones, so it's odd.
Jyotsna: Yeah, so this week let's talk a little bit about marketing for authors, especially for first time authors, where not so comfortable or familiar with marketing, I think it's really important that they know the basics so they do the right things with the very first book. So how difficult was it, Tim, for you when you started writing and self-publishing?
Tim: Well, my situation, it was, it was a little bit unusual because I spent ages waiting for my company to be set up so in that time period I ended up listening to like loads of podcasts and reading loads of books about marketing and actually the book that kind of got me into it, my publisher Pete had its own kind of prescribed way of doing book marketing. But I know from my podcasts that one of the number one issues that authors have is marketing and marketing is not easy at all, I mean.
Jyotsna: Right, so I was going through the same kind of things when I started out I would just listen to every podcast, every blog post about this and try and implement whatever has worked for others because I feel that most authors are too shy, especially if they're first time authors and they're not used to marketing or sales in a company, they feel that an author's job is to write and once they've done a good job, the book has to sell on its own but that never happens, so I strongly believe that if an author truly believes in their message or their story, it becomes their duty and responsibility to market it so that the book can reach more and more people.
So it's not about the author trying to become famous but it's about the book's content that has to reach out to people and I think in that sense marketing becomes so important, right?
Tim: Yes, I mean one thing that I think is important is the level of confidence you have in your book. And certainly things like making sure you get a decent cover and you get the editing that you think your book needs helps with the level of confidence in your book because I've noticed it with my latest book, which in some ways I'm much more confident in the content because it's nonfiction and it's stuff that I know about, just having that confidence in your book helps with your sales and marketing in as much as being able to push it forward, really.
Jyotsna: Absolutely, yeah. So that's why I think, you know, once you do your job right in terms of writing a great book and having all the good things in place like the cover, well-edited manuscript, formatted well and I think then you really get the confidence but one thing I've noticed is people usually consider marketing as a last step, right, just after they publish they think, “What should I do about marketing it?” but I think that it's a wise thing to start marketing the book from the day you start, you decide that you want to write the book. So, it could be too daunting, it could be scary for a lot of people because they are not sure of the result, but if you're sure that, you know, you're going to put out a great book, then it's absolutely OK to start marketing it while you're writing.
Tim: Oh yeah, I mean, some people, many of the more successful online people who've created a book, they have actually, the book is the end process of their own marketing campaign. So, I mean, one of the concepts that people talk about in marketing is finding an audience for your product. This is a group of people who
may be interested in your book and something that, I mean, I suppose there might be the odd book, but generally speaking, most books are not for everybody.
Tim: There is only a certain proportion of the people in the world who your book will actually appeal to.
Tim: And what you ideally want is some kind of audience of people who you can put your book in front of somehow or other, who will be minded to buy your book or at least or even talk about your book actually.
Jyotsna: Exactly even if they share it's pretty good, they don't necessarily have to buy; So what you said makes a lot of sense, Tim, because most authors, you know when I talk to clients who are just writing their books and I ask them “Who's your target reader?” and they say, “My book is for everybody.” They just wish that everybody reads and a million copies sell but what they essentially don't get is that if you write just for a specific kind of a target reader the chances of that book becoming a success is far higher because you're really going to appeal to that one person and that one person is not just one person, but a group of people with similar demographics, psychographics etc.
So I think it's a good exercise for not how to actually create a proper reader avatar but as much detail as we can put into it in terms of even. what's the name of the person, what do they do or what do they do when they have free time, how many kids they have, you know, proper avatar, so then it becomes really easy to even run Facebook ads, for example, you can really target them very well, right?
Tim: Yeah, I mean if anybody's wondering what you mean by avatar, this is kind of almost like a example person who would like your book. Avatar, I keep thinking of guys that were green or blue aliens or ever in the film. Actually, I would so prefer if the online business community started using the word archetype rather than avatars because I think it's more appropriate. I'm not big in internet marketing so I can't make that change.
But yeah, having the idea of who likes your book, who would potentially like your book is very, very important. I mean, in some ways there, with fiction it's different from nonfiction in as much as in fiction you can be very successful being either very, very similar to existing books or very, very different.
So if you're writing, say, a vampire romance book and you see, you've read Twilight and you write a book that is virtually identical in theme and other things then that is actually not necessarily a bad idea from a marketing point of view because you know people who like Twilight might like your book.
And there were lots and lots of genre people who do that and there were lots of lots of self-publishers who are almost industrial churning out books that are basically all from the same format, so I mean, I met people who do like lesbian fiction and they know what works in their genre and that's what they churn out day in day out.
Jyotsna: I think that clarity should be there, sorry, even when they actually write the book, right, because it's nice to have one person in mind when you write so that you have more clarity and focus, right?
Tim: Yeah, I mean I've made the mistake or quotes mistake, may not be a mistake in the long term, of writing books which are very different from the genres that they're in. So I write my take on fantasy or my take on time travel.
The time travel ones were a lot closer to what you might call adventure time travel, so more successful but there is an argument to say that if you write a very different book and it could stand out from the categories. It's just saying like a lot of these story writing books, there are certain tropes and things about particular genres that people expect to be in there so you don't really expect a romance to kill all the characters off at the end, for example. Though, for something like a thriller, then that might potentially happen.
Tim: So, it's kind of like, if you really stand out then you've got the potential of having real success because your like, the book that everybody is going to is the new or if you can find a new genre that's just suddenly arriving then that's good as well from a fiction side.
Jyotsna: True. Once this author has a complete understanding of who could potentially like the book then the next question that would arise is “Where do I go and find these people who will buy my book?” so could you share some of your ideas, Tim? Let's look at both online and offline because people exist in the real world and in the virtual space so where would you go initially to find your readers?
Tim: Well I mean the easiest place in some ways is social media. I mean, I've just given the talk of Cambridge social media day about the very similar thing. I mean, even doing a search on Facebook for Facebook groups are about communities are similar to what your book topic is about-
Tim: That provides a fantastic, I mean there are two billion people on Facebook so chances are there will be a Facebook group set up by people who are interested in whatever your book is about.
Tim: So that's one place you could go. Actually, ironically, one of the places that I found a lot of connections when I was writing one of my time travel books was Goodreads, the communities on Goodreads. Now the trouble with Goodreads is it is a bit hit and miss. Some of the communities are bit, there is not really much going on and it's the same with Facebook groups or any kind of, like, online community. I mean, it may be somewhere like Reddit or one of those sites is where your community of people who would be interested in your new book would be and you can't just go on to them and say “Buy my book! Buy my book!”
Jyotsna: Exactly. I was about to say that because each community has their own rules and regulations and we must respect them, right?
Tim: Well just from a, like, if you imagine it was kind of like I go into a bar and I sort of say “Hey, girls! I'm single” and nobody knows who the hell I am. My probability of success of actually finding a woman who might like me is going to be fairly minimal. But if I go into a bar where people already know me and maybe I've helped people out, I know the bartender, the rest of it.
Tim: That level of, they say it's “know, like, trust” is this kind of like, it's what you hear a lot in marketing circles.
Jyotsna: I think, I just want to mention I did something very similar with the Ukrainian community where we both are members of, so a couple of years ago when I joined the community I really wanted to go and tell everybody that “Hey, all you guys must write a book and I'm the right person, come and meet me” but of course, that's going to be really a very bad way to market myself so I requested Chris Tucker, the founder of Upreneur, “Can I do a free workshop for your group?” and he was more than happy and he said yes and I recorded a workshop, like a webinar, and I posted in the community, without marketing, without telling anything about my business but once they saw that a lot of people wrote to me asking more about what I do and how they can work with me. I think the same applies for book marketing as well, right, when you're a part of all these groups you try to add as much value as you can, build real connections and then eventually people are going to figure out that you're the author of this book and that can really help you market your book.
Tim: Yeah, I mean I put a slide up saying “look learn listen” so a person need to lurk and find out if the group is actually, because there are a lot of sort of sham groups where it's just one person to set up a group and they're trying to build their own community and it's not there yet or there is an agenda behind the group or whatever. So you need to spend some time just finding out if it's worth your time to hang around in this particular online group and then you're like, then you just need to start sort of listening to what people are saying in the group so you can know that “This person doesn't like this thing or this person doesn't like that thing” and then you start learning and after that, that's when you get to the point where you can start being more forward about promoting and talking about your product but you should never ever be just all you do is just like complete broadcast mode because that just doesn't work very well. We said about online and offline, I mean, another place offline is conferences and events and-
Tim: And I've had actually recently, I mean, I've not been selling huge quantities but I'm able to sell quite a few copies of my social media book at social media conferences. Just hand selling it, so and again it's because there's community there, I mean, I've been to loads of conferences so people know me a lot of time anyway so it's not as hard as selling to totally new people. But certainly if you're speaking at an event and it's relevant to what your book is about, then you should be thinking and trying to kind of sell books at these conferences or events.
Jyotsna: I think some conferences let the speakers actually have a table at the back of the room to sell the book. If even that's not allowed I think the speaker, the author who is now speaker at the conference can provide enough value that people will check out their Facebook page and then, you know go and give the book. In fact, I've seen speakers give away a lead magnet at the end of the speech, so that could be like a checklist or something interesting so that they can become, I mean, somebody else's audience becomes their audience and slowly, they'll start getting to know more about the author and eventually they can buy the book.
Tim: You're mentioning the word, term, lead magnet which I always think is funny because it could be read as “lead magnet” in text, comes onto the very important point of email marketing. Now, I'm terrible at e-mail marketing, though actually the concept of what a lead magnet is is something where you provide a bit of free content in the hope that somebody will sign up to something, usually email. It could be a messenger bot or it could be potentially some other kind of non-email based service but you're basically providing, so like for nonfiction, it's probably easier because you can provide snippets and other bits of information, checklists or whatever and then people will sign up to your email list and then you've got their email so that when your next book is out or when you're trying, you've got special offers on your book you can send an email out to that list so that's an important marketing thing that an awful lot of authors use very well.
Jyotsna: True, yeah. So I also want to touch upon this idea, Tim, that a lot of first time authors may not have their own email list yet, even if they have it can just be a few hundreds so it's always a good idea to collaborate with other people in the same industry who have a huge follower base and provide them something of value. So I see a lot of authors going on other people's podcasts as guests, writing guest blog posts for other people's websites and somewhere at the end where they have your bio, you also mention “author of the bestselling book” and a link to the Amazon is there, so I think that's also something that authors should actively do and actually a lot of people know a lot of things but when it comes to the discipline of doing it, that's where, you know, I think most people, including me, you know, falter, so I have told my content marketing assistant that she has to get me on four podcasts every month, so that's her target, so she'll reach out to people and get it done because we know it works but then we just don't have time so I think if authors create some kind of a marketing, monthly marketing plan where they go to reach out to these many people and they go to talk about their books on this many stages, even if it's just one a month, it's still worth it.
Tim: Yeah I mean there are a whole load of opportunities for media, because I mean, I'm a podcaster, I'm not at the moment doing guest interviews. I've switched the show format to be more following people in their book writing journey, but I mean, I've been a guest on quite a lot of podcasts myself. A lot of the time it's because they've been a guest on my podcast, this is one reason for having a podcast and we can talk about that, the whole content marketing thing later on. But, yeah, I mean there are loads and loads of podcasts out there.
Many of them who've got like podcast hosts who aren't particularly social and would be glad to have people pitching them to be a guest. But one thing I would suggest, if you are any kind of media so, like a Facebook live show or podcast, actually watch the show before you pitch. Because the number of people who like try to pitch me for my podcast as a guest clearly never, never, ever listen to the show and you can tell, I mean, you can tell. I mean you do see some people who are a step above that who clearly get somebody to listen to one episode and then they pull out some random facts which makes no sense at all and I really liked that bit where you talked about this and I'm like “What?”
But yeah, I mean listen to the shows. And if you can get on to a niche podcast about what your book is about then that's all the better. Spend the time to actually listen to the podcast before you just randomly get somebody to pitch 500 shows.
Jyotsna: Totally agree, Tim. So I'll give those instructions to my content girl. I think one idea is to go on other people's show but as you mentioned, it's also important to have your own content marketing plan, whether it's a blog or podcast, it's good to have your own website with your own regular content going out there, right?
Tim: Yeah, well I mean, I'm going to be a little bit controversial here. I think a lot of people rush into content marketing. So this is writing your own blog, which is basically each week you get out or each day or however what you want you get a new article appearing on your website that people can read, which is basically a blog, it's a written bit of content.
A podcast is an audio show like this, I mean, you may be listening to this or you may be watching it on YouTube. YouTube isn't really a podcasting platform, but Apple iTunes, Apple podcasts as it's now called, it's a podcast, so that's regular audio content or you can create regular video content as well. All of these are kind of content marketing because the idea is that by producing useful content you're going to attract people towards your brand and they're going to buy your product.
Now the word of warning I would give people is that I see too many people just rushing into producing blogs and then they have no idea what to blog about, so if it's your 1st blog post is how you got a sandwich at the Pret A Manger in Houston and then your next blog post is about how you went to a conference and your next blog post, nobody, I mean-
Jyotsna: Nobody cares.
Tim: Nobody cares, I'm thinking of my blog actually here, it's a little bit about my blog actually, and you need to be aware that things that worked like 5 years ago in terms, it used to be Google would pick up on decent content quite quickly, now it doesn't happen. So you do need to promote your content.
Tim: And it's a lot of work to doing regular content so I would say that what we were talking about, going into communities and trying to understand your avatar so to speak, if I can use that word, your customers, your potential customers, is really important before you start producing content so that you, when you start producing your regular blogs that you know it's laser targeted to the people who are going to like your book. So if you're writing vampire romance, you don't want to be writing cooking tips on your blog, most likely.
I mean, there is some element of what is your personality, your personal brand but you probably want to be writing something about vampires or romance or both or even reviewing other books. So you have to be careful of content marketing because I think it's gone from the stage where people weren't doing it because they were frightened of putting themselves in front of a camera or frightened to produce a blog to actually making sure you create the right kind of content.
Jyotsna: Yeah, absolutely, I think it also leads to content fatigue. Even if you have enough topics, you keep writing or posting videos or podcasts and you realize after 6 months that nobody's consuming them so it's important to have these, I think that's where social media and all these communities play a role where you create something on your website, but you don't expect people to magically land over there, you have to go to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, where ever your target market is hanging out and regularly post and engage on other people's pages and basically, I totally agree, it's a lot of work but again, if people can probably have a discipline that “I want to spend 15 minutes a day on these Facebook groups”, something like that, then they can be consistent, provide value and also receive.
Tim: Yeah, I mean a tip I've given people is rather than just going to Facebook itself, set up like shortcuts to the appropriate groups so that you don't end up seeing that your friend has got a new cat or your friend has got a new video. You go direct to the group and then you look at that group in itself, as you say, and also you probably want to be turning off as many of the actual notifications on the social apps as possible and then replacing it with your own, so put in a reminder to say, “Check Facebook Group A or Facebook Group B at 3 o'clock, 5 o'clock, whatever but don't let, I mean, when you do this, tell me how to because I am still, like, vulnerable, but it's mainly messages I'm vulnerable to in terms of notifications.
Jyotsna: Once in a while, I try to get very productive and want to eliminate all distractions, what I do is there is a Google extension called a News Feed Eradicator So when I turn it on, I don't see anything on my newsfeed, I can directly go to the groups or, you know, message somebody on messenger, so that helps in cutting down your social media hours to a great extent.
Tim: Yeah, I mean it's very easy to get sucked into social media and do nothing productive for days. On the other hand, I think you should be social on social media, I mean, but you kind of have to think like, “Am I being social on social media with just my friends because it's something I feel like doing? There's nothing wrong with that. Or am I doing this from a business social media connection point of view? Where I want to be making connections in a group of people who are relevant to my book.”
Jyotsna: I think it's all about striking a balance.
Jyotsna: Right. Also, Tim, I wanted to talk about author branding also because I see a lot of new authors promoting their book but I think your own personal brand is as important or even more important than your book, so probably having your own, apart from your profile on Facebook, authors can think about creating a page for them, though these days Facebook pages don't get shown to people but at least you can use it to run ads and things like that, so building your own brand and getting some good headshot photos and things like that, investing in your personal brand, creating your name logo and things like that are cool and also looks professional and people will regard you as an author when you hand out a business card that says you're an author, probably with a picture of the cover of a book or something like that those are little things that people can do to constantly remind the world that they have written a book.
Tim: Yeah, I mean it it takes a while to get confident enough to say “I'm Tim Lewis, the author of Social Media Networking” and to get my book everywhere. But you don't want to be the guy who is like “Hello, I am” and that's all you do, on the other hand you shouldn't, like, be ashamed of it. Or you feel like it's a bit icky. There's certainly a thing, certainly in British culture about, which is like people in the U.S. are coming out much more in your face. But you have to be there and kind of say, “Yeah, I'm proud of my books and this is why” but not just like the first thing you say is that “I've written a book.” So yeah, you're right, you do need some kind of personal brand. I mean, they say you've got a personal brand whether you know it or not so you might as well be the person who decides what your personal brand is.
Jyotsna: Exactly, yeah. True. Great, Tim, so I think those were some very useful marketing tip for beginners especially because these are small pieces of the puzzle, I think, if you start putting each one together it can really create magic for your book as well as your personal brand.
Tim: Oh yeah and there are loads of resources about marketing online available, loads of free podcasts. There were loads of good, there are loads of paid courses, I wouldn't necessarily recommend a lot of them but yeah and there's loads of conferences about marketing out there.
Jyotsna: A good thing to do is to probably look at the bestselling authors in your niche and see what they're doing and just try to copy, yeah.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot to be said for copying because it's kind of and sometime it is just marketing to their audience, you can pay for Facebook ads and if your book is very, very similar to somebody else's book, then that's where paid targeting ads can really work.
Jyotsna: So, all the best guys, with your book's marketing and we both will see you with yet another episode next month and until then, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and our podcast on iTunes. See you then! See you! Ta-ta!
Tim: Thank you!