As part of our new #AskALLi weekly podcast we’re releasing popular Indie Author Fringe speaker session highlights as podcasts. This means you can catch up on sessions you may have missed, and listen to them on-the-go or in your car. We are also publishing transcripts for those who prefer to read rather than listen.
This week we’re showcasing 20 minutes interviews with three successful travel memoir authors who have self-published:
Hybrid Author Jack Scott: How to use your blog content to write and promote your book
Indie Author Karen McCann: The importance of defining your audience and how you use your blog to attract your target demographic.
Indie Author Joe Cawley: The benefit of Collaboration: Cross-promoting with other authors.
These three sessions are ideally targeted at beginning memoir authors who are looking for tips and advice from other successful authors in this popular niche. Their advice will not only help you reach readers and sell more books, but they deliver a heavy dose of inspiration in too.
Read to the Indie Author Fringe Highlight Transcripts
Hybrid Author Jack Scott: How to use your blog content to write and promote your book
Jay: Hi. The next guest on our How to Market and Promote your Memoir interview series is Jack Scott. Morning Jack.
Jay: Jack is the author of two memoirs about his relocation from the U.K. and integration into Turkish culture. His first book was Perking the Pansies and Turkey Street was the follow up. Today we’re going to be discussing how to use your blog to promote your book and Jack’s going to be sharing his top tips about how a blog and its content can make an effective book promotion tool. So Jack before we get started, can you just give us a little bit of an overview on how you came to write your two memoirs?
Jack: Sure, yes. I’m an accidental writer, this is what I always say. I never intended to write, that’s not my background. But when my husband and I went to live in Turkey, within about six months I got a bit bored. A lesson there for us, I think, was that many people who relocate abroad for retirement rather than for work concentrate on the destination, the dream of getting there. And when they realize the dream, they suddenly realize they haven’t prepared themselves for the destination. “What am Igoing to do for the rest of my time”? After about six months, I got a bit bored watching the fabulous sunsets and I thought, “well I need to occupy my time, I need to do something”. I started a blog called Perking the Pansies, and I thought nobody would read it, and I thought it would just be, a little diary for me to keep a memoir of our encounters. But it became very popular. Even got mentioned in the National Press in Turkey and it got me thinking. And people said to me, “well there might be a book in this”. “There might be something here that you could write about”. Because we quite like your writing, you’re quite funny. So why don’t you give it a go”? So, that’s essentially how it happened. I wrote the blog, it was about a year old when I started compiling some of the blog posts and compiling them into a book. I sent that off to a publisher and lo and behold, they said “yeah, we quite like this. We’ll publish it for you”. So, that’s how it happened.
Jay: When you started writing your blog, and then decided to write a book, did your blog writing evolve or change because you knew you had that idea of a book in your mind?
Defining your Angle
Jack: It didn’t actually. Because I think maybe subconsciously when I was writing the blog, I was writing, if you like, an expose of expat life that lent itself very handily to a book. There were two main angles really, to the blog, and also to the book. One of the angles was that we were a gay couple living in a Muslim country. And that’s an unusual angle, not many people have written about that. And secondly, we found ourselves surrounded, by and large, by some nice people, but they weren’t all nice. And we found ourselves hitting up against a degree of intolerance and homophobia from the expat community, not the Turkish community, which is ironic really. So, that was my angle really. But what became an important distinction between the blog and the book was that the blog was, if you like, a series of discreet posts about our experiences, fairly random sometimes, it wasn’t always about the people around us. Sometimes it was about visits that we made and trips that we took. But the book, even though it’s a memoir it couldn’t simply be a series of blog posts. It had to have a structure to it. So, even though it was a memoir, it had to read as if it were a novel. And that was a very important lesson, I had to take the diary entries represented in the blog and then weave them and rewrite them into something which was structured in such a way as to be presented as a book that people might want to read.
Getting Mileage out of your Blog Content
Jay: Can you tell me a bit more about how you got mileage out of your blog content, because I know you self-published a couple of other books. There was an e-book two volume set of the best of the blog. And you also did a travel related ebook that you published yourself. Can you tell us how you came up with those ideas and the approach, and how you brought those to market yourself?
Using Blog Content to Create Freebies
Jack: Well they were ideas that I thought of myself really. After the first book was published, we were still living in Turkey and I wanted to promote the book, I wanted people to buy it. I’d already built up quite a large network of people who wanted to buy the book. Obviously I wanted to keep that kind of thing going and I had a whole body of work, a whole body of posts that went back years by that stage. And I guess what a lot of bloggers don’t think about is how valuable that is, or how valuable that can be depending on the type of book they are trying to promote. That they have a whole rich stream of information that they may have at their disposal and mainly bloggers think that once you’ve published a post that’s the end of it. Others say, “Once it’s read, it’s dead”.
That’s not true necessarily, so in order to keep the book, that memoir, which was my main event really, to keep it going in this marketing sense,the first idea I had was to republish the blog posts into a two volume set. One was about Turkey, the other was about the expats. And it was a diary. It was simply a production of the blog posts. I did go through them, I did edit them and there were some posts I didn’t publish and there were some bits that I added. Those I self-published. Firstly, actually to experiment with the whole self-publishing market to see. Because I didn’t have any skills in this area, I didn’t know what you did and actually by producing those books, ebooks, I’ve never published them as paperbacks.
The second point was to promote the memoir. What actually happened is they also took off a bit and they became quite popular and so I made bit of money out of selling them relatively cheaply as e-books. I was very pleased about that. But one of the bits of advice I give to people who want to promote their book. Is that you can do that and use it as a marketing tool. If you take the blog posts and then you reconstruct them into a book, you can give them away for free, as a mini freebie. When people buy your book, give them the e-book. It’s a nice little touch. One of the things you could do, if you have a large body of work, is to reproduce and republish your blog posts as e-books and even paperback now with things like CreateSpace. And give them away or sell them at a small cost or discount them in some way. That’s one way in which you can market your primary book. In my case that was the memoir, as a way of supplementing that, that worked for me.
By buying the two e-books that I wrote, that led to sales of the main memoir and then the second memoir. So I think that worked quite well. That was one tool that I used. Another tool I used was the blog posts I had written about the trips we took while we were living in Turkey, because it wasn’t all just gossip about the expats experience.
Using Competitions to reach new readers
Jack: Two things that I did there, the first was that I started entering travel competitions. I wrote a few blog posts around Istanbul and our experiences in Istanbul and what to see and what to do. And I took those posts, I revised them into one travel competition entry which I didn’t winbut it did get me publicity. People who previously perhaps were unaware of me, became aware of me because I was, if you like piggybacking on the back of the competition. I then entered a second competition and it was about Alicia which is a very, very beautiful part of Turkey and I entered a travel competition about a particular area, giving a particular angle, my view of it. What is good, what to do, what to see, what not to see. And that did win, but that wasn’t the main purpose. The purpose wasn’t necessarily to win, although it’s a lovely, lovely surprise. It’s to publicize your work. Because at the bottom of your competition entries you will put links back to your blog or to your website or whatever it may be in order to promote. And people will link back and they will see ok, “I quite like this article. He clearly has an interesting way of writing if it appeals to you”. And that might prompt them to buy the book. It’s a good thing.
Blogging a Book
Jack: And thirdly what I did was, I took all the travel articles I did on Turkey while we were traveling around and then compiled it into a paperback and an e-book, which I then again self published and it has done quite well. You know it’s my particular quirky view of Turkey. Again that helps to promote my writing, it promotes, therefore, my book by implication. And it drives people back to my website, where they see I’ve done other things. They’ve read some of my work, they think, “well yeah, I’ll give his book a go, why not”?
Jay: You’re creating more and more books and you have your website. How do you manage all of that content so that you’re going out with one consistent message and you’re trying to get all of the pieces of the puzzle working together. How did you approach that?
Evolving from Blogger to Author
Jack: It’s all been fairly organic really. The two memoirs, the two main events if you like, were written some time ago now. Perking in the Pansies came out in 2010 and now, in 2017, it’s still selling consistently which I’m very pleased about. It has taken on a momentum on of its own. I have now movedon my main event these days is earning a reasonable living from publishing other people’s books as a niche publisher of expat publications. So, in a sense, I’ve evolved from a blogger to an author, and now publisher. It’s happening in a really evolutionary way and I try all sorts of things. I don’t have a particular marketing plan. I don’t sit down with a piece of paper and say, “I’m going to do this, this and this”. This is not how I work. I tend to work organically.
Jack: The other thing that I was going to mention, which I have done to help promote me and the books, is to write articles, not competition articles necessarily, but articles of other bloggers. Everybody is always looking for content, so if you offer your services as a writer to provide material and content for somebody else’s blog, in general terms they’re going to say yeah and of course in return they all provide links back to your blog. You need to be a generous person. You need to provide and give, in a sense, it’s not the right moral aspect that you give to receive in a sense. You do have to play that game and be generous. Write guest posts on other people’s posts and allow people to write guest posts on your blog in return. Comment on people’s blogs. I would also say if you’re going to promote a book, do so lightly. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your book, but if all you’re doing is banging on about it constantly, people will become very bored and will be turned off. So, whatever promotion tools you use, use them lightly.
Building your Audience
Jay: I think that’s one of the key points about being in an indie author. You can’t do everything yourself, collaboration is key. And doing those reciprocal arrangements of guest blog posts works really well and, if you’re a writer, it’s more or less effortless. It doesn’t take much to put 500 words together and a few links and you’re done and then you get mileage out of it. And you get to tap into other people’s blog audience. You mentioned that you’re doing publishing for other authors now and they’re in the same niche. Obviously you recommend that they all have an author website, because every author needs to have that, even if it’s just a one page website. But do you also recommend that they start a blog if they haven’t already got a blog?
Staring a Blog
Jack: I do say to people, it would be great if you did start a blog because the thing about blogging is that, because you are constantly updating it. It’s new and fresh content. And search engines love new and fresh content as opposed to static websites like an author website that doesn’t change very often. And it helps to get you up the ranking, so that’s really,really good. But of course you have reasonable with people. Not everybody wants to blog, not everybody has the time to blog. I would recommend to people they blog, but don’t beat themselves up about it. People have busy lives, if you can’t do it, don’t do it. Because if you find it a chore, and I don’t, I quite enjoy it. But if you find it a chore, you’re not going to put any effort into it. If you don’t believe in your own writing, nobody else is going too. So, don’t just do it for the sake of it, do it because you enjoy it and then people will be interested in what you are interested in. That was my main message to some of our authors. Some of our authors are wonderful, really, really proactive. They’re out there blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, all the rest of it. Other’s, they’re not interested, so they don’t. I would say though in these days of social media that if you’re not willing to engage with social media you are really missing a trick. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing because it’s mostly free. Why not do it?
Jay: Did you join any communities related to memoirs or people moving to other countries or expats to try and tap into that audience and attract readers to your book or your blog?
Jack: Yes I did. In Turkey there are a number of expat forums or people who are interested in Turkey, they are not all expats. And I joined the largest one which was the Turkish living forum and that generated quite a lot of interest. It wasn’t always positive but it did provide publicity. People who didn’t know about me, some were attracted to buy the book and some that weren’t. And that’s fine. But if people don’t know about you, they not going to buy the book anyway are they?
Defining your Angle
Jay: You’re more intimately involved with publishing memoirs and expats and people moving to other countries. Are there any insights or ways that you’ve seen the industry move or things for the future that might help other memoir writers? Are there things that you’ve seen in the years you’ve been involved in the memoir publishing arena, that might help give some insight to other people that are thinking to break into it. Any kind of tips or suggestions?
Jack: Well the main one really, I think I mentioned it earlier. You need to have a unique angle, you need to say something which is different from what anybody said before. Or, set in a interesting country that nobody has written much about. One of the books that we carry is called, What about Your Saucepans. It’s a story, it’s quite old now, the story of a middle-aged woman who relocated to the Dominican Republic where she met a young Dominican man and they married and they live in the middle of nowhere. There aren’t many books about the Dominican Republic and it’s quite a dramatic book, her life there has been quite dramatic. And it sold really well. She had a specific angle that people were interested in. Most of our lives aren’t that interesting to other people, the fact that you’ve moved to a country and you buy a house, and you decorate that house, and you learn to speak the local language. Well, so what, it has all been written before. The important thing is to make sure you have an angle, a particular angle that you think people will find interesting.
Jay: Does she blog?
Jack: She does. Yeah.
Jay: Yeah. Did she blog before she wrote her book?
Jack: She started the blog first and hers is an interesting story because she became quite involved in Dominican politics. Her husband stood for election. Considering she came from a very comfortable, professional middle class life living in Britain and then she finds herself in a third world country. It’s certainly a third world country where where no electricity can be guaranteed, no water can be guaranteed. That’s quite an adjustment for people to make and that’s what made it interesting.
Jay: When you’re looking at writing blog content, would you say that your blog content has to also support that unique angle? Or is there more flexibility and leeway in a blog that as long the majority of it does then the rest of it can be fluff around the outside, what do you think is the best approach for that?
Avoid Over-promoting your Book
Jack: I think latter personally but the reality is that most blogs, well most blogs I read, tend to be centered around some sort of theme. That’s what people write about and they become authorities on that. And maybe, if that’s where the book has emerged from, then obviously you are going to continue to write on that theme. And that’s fine. If you have written your blog and within your blog there is lots of material to promote your book that’s fantastic. But it goes back to the earlier point, don’t continually bang on about the book. Because if people are reading your blog because they find your life interesting, they’re not necessarily reading the blog because you’ve written a book so, light touch. But of course always keep an eye on the main event. Always bring your blog backto your main theme. On the odd occasion I write about Turkey even though I no longer live there and sometimes I write posts about Norridge and reference back to Turkey just to provide that quiet subtle link, like a subtle reminder.
Jay: Anything else you want to touch on, before we wrap it up today Jack?
Making it easy for readers to buy your books
Jack: One of the other things I wrote down when you asked me to do this. You want to make it easy for people to buy your books so the fewer clicks that people have to make, the better. Because we’re busy people and people are surrounded by lots of things to do, lots of busy things going on, lots of technology. So make it easy. If you’re putting links from your articles, from your competition entries, from your blog posts, from your guest posts, whatever it is you’re using to promote what it is you’re trying to promote, make it easy for people to get to where you want them to get to. I’ll give you an example. If you want them to buy your book, then put a link to Amazon. Because you want them to do one click to Amazon and buy the book. Now, that presents a problem because if you’re living in the United Kingdom you will automatically want a link back to the U.K. site, Amazon U.K. If you’re living in the Netherlands, you want a link to the Netherlands site. Get yourself a universal link.
The way that works is that you have a universal link which will direct people to the Amazon store in their own territory. Other ones I use are booklinker.net or Draft2Digital’s books2read.com, very easy to use. You enter the URL for your book in any Amazon store, it will give it a universal link, that’s the link you’ll use in your articles and your entries and that will take readers, potential buyers to their own Amazon store. Isn’t that neat? Doesn’t that work brilliantly? If you’re an Amazon affiliate, of which I also am, you can add your affiliate code so you get a little extra income from it. So, isn’t that good too?
Jack: And there’s a second link I would recommend to people which is a universal link to all book stores. So, if like, my book, Perking the Pansies is available to buy as it is, on Amazon and Waterstones and Barnes and Noble and various book shops, there’s an universal link which will take people to a page about your book and it will display those stores where it is currently available because not everybody wants to buy through Amazon. People want to buy from a different store. And that is called, Bookstoread.comand they have a link, you just put in any link say to Amazon for your book, they will then search through most popular books stores and provide links within a single page.
Jay: It’s logical and it makes sense but so often authors overlook these simple things. I mean I’ve lost count of the number of times that I look on an author’s website and there’s no reference to their social media even though I know they’re active on social media, or links to buy their books.
Jack: You’ve got to try, make it easy for them. And it may well result in increased book sales for you which is, of course, the thing you’re aiming for.
Jay: Ok Jack, well that was brilliant. Thanks so much for all those tips and advice today to help other memoir authors reach readers and sell more books by using their blog and re-purposing their blog contents. So, thank you very much.
Jack: It’s my pleasure and I hope this can help.
Jay: Very helpful. Thanks very much. Bye.
Indie Author Karen McCann: The importance of defining your audience and how you use your blog to attract your target demographic
Jay: So, our next guest on our How to Market and Promote Your Memoir interview series in Karen McCann, hello Karen.
Karen: Hello Jay.
Jay: Karen is the author of three best selling travel books. She’s an American writer who moved to Seville, Spain, in 2004, just for a year and has been living there ever since. Her travel tips and adventure stories have appeared in the Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times and Lonely Planet. Karen is an avid blogger and today we’re going to be discussing how to define your audience and why it matters and how to use your blog to attract more readers. Before we get started Karen, can you just give us a little bit of an overview of your author journey and how you came to write your books?
Karen: Sure. I grew up in California and lived in Cleveland, Ohio for 20 years and when my husband and I first discovered Spain and fell in love with it, we moved here with the thought of doing all sorts of things but writing was not really big on my list at that time. I’ve always been a writer, a journalist professionally but I decided not to pursue that when I was here. I just wanted to live, and absorb and figure out how to speak Spanish and learn how to dress the way they dress here and all that stuff. But as so often happens, I kept telling my stories to people, they seemed to enjoy them and, as a writer, that’s like catnip, and then there’s a tickle in the back of your brain that says, “Gee, this is sort of fun. Maybe I should someday put together a book”. And then, one of those odd things, I just woke up one morning and the whole structure of the book, the stories I would use, everything, was in my head all at one time. We’d lived here in Seville, Spain, for maybe, four or five years. And so, I just began the process. I just jumped in and started writing. And I have been doing a ton of writing ever since and it has been wonderful. I’ve been very lucky and I’ve had great readers too.
Using your Blog to Attract Readers
Jay: Let’s delve into the topic of audience definition and how you use your blog to attract your readers. So, how long have you been blogging?
Karen: The first blog went up, I had to look it up, I couldn’t remember, December 2011, so, it’s been a while.
Jay: And so your blog came first and then you thought about writing a book or did they all come together as one and it became a content marketing strategy straight from the off?
Karen: No, first I wanted to write the book. I had this moment of clarity, I saw how I wanted to put the whole thing together and I just sat down and started writing. And then all of a sudden it dawned on me that I was not only going to have to publish this thing but I was going to have to market it. And I got very interested in that whole process and one of the first and best pieces of advice I got was to start a blog because you’re going to want to, somehow, capture the attention of readers. So, social media became very important. I’m also involved on Facebook, to a much lesser degree on Twitter. The book got started, then the blog got started and that was public for about six months before the book was published.
Jay: When you had your moment of clarity and you started writing your book, did you have your ideal audience in mind or did you just want to get your words out onto the page?
Karen: I find that there’s a natural collection of people that want to hear travel stories. And so I paid a lot of attention to the people in my immediate physical orbit who gave me good feedback. Then I applied the same techniques and awareness online. I really pay a lot of attention to comments. I encourage people to comment on Facebook and on my blog posts and I do get a lot of comments. It’s an ongoing conversation and each comment gives me a little bit more information about what people are looking for.
Jay: How did you take the raw information of your book and start blogging the content? Did you take sections from it or how did you approach that process?
Blogging in the Moment
Karen: No, I actually look at them as separate, particularly with the first book. Because what I did in the blog was tell all the stories that I really wanted to put in the book and I knew were not going to fit. I was trying to be really, fairly strict, about sticking to the topic in the book. And it was driving me crazy, because one story would spark a memory of another story and I really wanted to tell it and so, I just started doing that on my blog. I like to blog in a more contemporary fashion. In other words, I like to blog in the moment. I blog about things that are happening to me right now, when I can. I like to write about what’s going on my life now, what’s going on in the world now. When I write about Seville, I like to write about the festivals that are happening right this minute and I think it makes it more fresh.
Jay: How much does your target audience drive what you write?
3 Things your Blog Audience wants
Karen: Well, I know that what my readers seem to want are three things. They want some humor. They want some information that they can use, how to pack a suitcase. And they want just a little philosophy. Just a little take-home message that they go back and think about and maybe comment on in the comments below the post itself. I find that if I get all three of those elements into a post, people are very happy with it.
Defining Your Audience
Jay: At what point in your blogging journey did you decide that it was important to really look at defining your audience and, before you started getting the comments and the blog comments and your social media comments, what was your starting point for identifying your audience?
Karen: Well I thought about the content of my first memoir, the one about moving to Seville and I thought, who is moving to Seville, who would be the audience for this book? I looked into who travels and what their interests are and I found that my comments seemed to reinforce what my initial instincts were. For instance, readers are men and women, but I know it’s far more women than men, I have readers of all ages, but I know it tends to be people who are middle-aged and older who are thinking, “you know, I am going to have this incredible opportunity to start traveling, either when I retire or my spouse retires”. That’s the audience that seems to be most solidly into reading my posts. I started out with this idea in mind and it just keeps getting reinforced by the comments that I get all the time.
Jay: Part of the benefit of blogging or writing books in a specific niche makes it easier to identify your target audience.
Karen: Yes, I mean my audience travels, far more of them come from the United States but quite a lot come from Great Britain and from other parts of the world where English is spoken, often as a second language, I have a number of readers in Germany for instance. I have found that the audience that I am speaking to is a very interesting audience. Writing is like a conversation, it’s not just me spouting something off. If it was that, it would simply be therapy or a drunken rant. Nothing wrong with those, lord knows we’ve all done it. But, I really think that it’s important to think of writing a book or writing a post as a dialogue, not a monologue. I talk about things and I feel that my readers are able to understand me pretty well. One of the things I really strive for is clarity. I have friends who are bloggers that like to throw a lot of foreign terms into their posts. I do too, but I always explain them. I get very lost sometimes in my friends’ posts, interesting as they are, because they assume that everybody knows what this word means and I often don’t. I don’t speak that much French, I don’t speak that much tech-talk. I try to make sure that everything that I do is extremely clear and able to be understood by anybody, any generation.
Dialogue vs. a Monologue with your readers
Jay: Yes, I think the key there, that you’re talking about, is that dialogue versus a monologue and if you’re having a dialogue, you’re starting a conversation with your readers. And then they almost become part of the journey, because it’s then, “how do you deepen that conversation”? What kind of tools do you use? You said you read comments but is that just daily review of your blog comments and going on social media or is there something more complex?
Karen: Well, mostly that’s what it is. I read, of course Amazon as well, I read all of these comments and try to find the threads, the common threads that run through them. For the most part, I see that it’s that people love adventure. They love to think of me going off and doing some goofy thing and they’re thrilled that they don’t have to do it. They’re not armchair travelers, they’re real travelers. They want to know that I’m maybe pushing the envelope just a little more than they would. But that it’s also within the realm of a normal person’s possibility.
Jay: You think that no matter what topic you blog about, that you’ll be able to carry that core audience along with you because they have those key elements of the humor, the information that you were talking about before?
Karen: I think for the most part, I can carry them along. As a matter of fact, quite recently, I have been including a lot more social commentary in my posts. I find that this is an era in which people are pretty desperately interested in what’s going on in the world and I feel, for me, it would not be appropriate to completely ignore some of the issues that touch on my particular area. For instance, net neutrality, I feel very strongly about. I feel that freedom of the press is pretty important. So, I might talk about those things a little bit, when they are in the news, because I think that people are thinking about them in the context of the kind of work that I do.
Developing Your Brand
Jay: Are there any things that you blog about that you feel are key to the brand that you’re trying to develop around your travel writing, that if you didn’t have that element in a blog post or in a book, that it wouldn’t be your true voice?
Karen: Well, I think the humor. I like to laugh, I think people like to laugh. I find that travel often involves a certain amount of tension. People are anxious, to some degree or another, when they’re on the road. Sometimes pleasantly excited, sometimes absolutely stark raving terrified. But there’s always that slight edge of anxiety and what I think I’m doing is helping people to see how to be in a situation that might be a little bit disquieting or they’re a little bit uncertain that they don’t know how to handle it. And have a sense of humor about it. Have a sense of treating it as an adventure rather than as an annoyance. What I like to present people with, is some idea of how to deal with adversity, with humor and with an enterprising spirit, “let’s see if we can solve this problem”. That’s my trademark right there.
Jay: You’re attracting your readers to your blog and once they get there, what do you want them to do ? Is it just to entice them to read a blog or do you use it as an advertising and promotional forum as well?
Karen: Oh no, the, the goal is for them to fall in love with my writing and buy my books. It was originally designed, according to the business module that a friend taught me, the purpose of social media is to drive business to your website so that you can sell something. That was how it started out and it still is a big part of what I do. However, the blog has taken on a life of its own. I truly love the process of doing it, I publish every single week and I look forward to the comments. There are some people that comment a lot. Some people never comment but then I’ll run into them somewhere and they’ll talk all about the post as if they wait all week for it. The people who are my readers tend to be very loyal and stick with it for long periods of time and it becomes an ongoing conversation.
Advice for New Travel Writers
Jay: If somebody was a new travel writer, was coming to the internet for the first time and was thinking about writing a book or starting a blog. What’s the advice that you’d give them to get them starting?
Karen: Well first of all, I would really urge them to think about their readers. Because quite often I read new travel bloggers who just write a factual account of what happened and maybe it was really fun for them to sit on a beach at sunset and sip a really good mai tai, that’s not a good story. That’s actually rather dull. I mean it’s cool when it’s happening to you, but nobody wants to read about it. What they want to read about, are the things that went wrong. The disasters, the missed trains, the lost luggage, the slightly scary encounters or whatever. Something that gives it a little bit of zip and sparkle and shows how something is accomplished. You need to convey a sense of experience that they want to share and that they can share in. Another thing that I would strongly recommend is proofreading. I know that the internet is a little bit more forgiving of spelling errors and grammatical errors but to me it really makes a blog look very amateurish. When I see a headline that has at least two grammatical errors in it, it makes it hard for me to have confidence in anything else that the writer is doing so I would say that that’s really important. Another one is tons of pictures, people love pictures. Oh, and blog regularly, it’s very important. I do it once a week, some people do it more often. A regular blogging schedule is really important because otherwise it will never be the first thing on your agenda and it’ll be too easy for it to disappear.
Jay: How do you see your blog evolving?
Karen: Well I’m waiting to see. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, I travel a lot. We occasionally do what they call experimental travel. Like traveling without luggage or whatever. If we can think of some other weird things to do, we might do that. But generally speaking, what I’m doing right now works for me. As I say this, I’ve got a little bit more social commentary material in the blog and that seems to be popular with my readers. I will probably continue in that vain and see how it goes.
Jay: So do you have more books up your sleeve?
Karen: I do. I have another one that isn’t a memoir, although it certainly will have tons of my stories in it. It’s about travel and how it changes us. When we set out to have an adventure the first thing we discover is ourselves that is the theme of the next book, finding out about who we are by placing ourselves in strange and interesting experiences. People write to me all the time and say they coming to Seville and want to get together with me. It has been a really interesting experience, I was so shocked because I remember reading Peter Mayle and writers like that and I thought you had to be world famous and the most popular writer on the planet to have stuff like that happen. I am amazed, I get so many letters and have so many visitors. When I can, I do meet with people because I enjoy the conversation and writing and it’s really fun to meet somebody that you’d been corresponding with on the blog for months and years. That has been a real positive side of the whole thing too for me.
Jay: Lot’s of people don’t like reading blogs because they think they’re not as good as books. But there’s a core audience of people that just love blogs and love the interaction of that short form content.
Karen: I agree, that’s really true, there is a certain audience. The social media audience, generally, is attracted to short form, snappy, lots of pictures, that sort of thing. One of the problems with blogging is that it’s so informal and often there are people who, as I said earlier, are very sloppy about grammar, sloppy about facts. I read a lot of things that I think are a little questionable. When you are a blogger, it’s your job, I feel that it’s my job to be as factual as I can, to be as grammatically correct as I can and to make sure that what I’m saying is really the truth. I think that’s really important. I know that not everybody does that and I think that some people do not like blogs because they don’t trust them. The other thing that we haven’t really touched on is sponsorship. One part of my brand that is very important for me is that I don’t expect, accept sponsorships of any kind. A lot of young bloggers who have to make a living out of their blog and not from books or other means, feel that it’s necessary to have sponsors. I think that’s fine. It’s just a different business model than the one that I am following. But I think that there is a possibility, that again, you lose credibility. That’s another thing that people who don’t like blogs, sometimes cite, whatever bargain you make, you should probably tell your readers what you’re doing. If you are getting a sponsored hotel stay as a travel writer, I think you should let people know that. If I know that going in, I’m perfectly fine with it. I accept it, I take their praise with a grain of salt, and a dash of pepper and some Worcestershire sauce. But I will read the post if it’s got some interesting information in it.
Jay: Blogs are the cornerstone of an author’s brand, all content that you have on your blog has to represent who you are as a writer.
Building an Audience Connection
Karen: Yes, and it has to represent who you are in your books so that there is a seamlessness between the two. You may write somewhat different things on one than the other but I think that if you are drawing in readers with one kind of blog, it’s a good idea to have the books carry that same voice through so that people feel they know who you are. I tell you, people feel like they know Rich and me intimately now. It’s amazing. Just a couple of memoirs and people that we’ve never met come up to us at parties. Somebody walked up to Rich the other day and said, “I feel like I know you so well”. He was really disconcerted. Occasionally I do an interview with him, he is of course in my books and he’s beginning to feel like a media personality, just because I’m telling stories about him all the time.
Jay: Well it just shows the power of blogs and how people do feel that they know you, because you have obviously created a strong connection between you, your adventures and your audience, they feel that when they meet you, that’s it. Or you’re part of the family almost. Any new author who’s starting out, if they don’t have a blog, they’re missing a big trick there. This is relevant, not just for non-fiction but for fiction as well. How to get them to connect with what you’re writing by using your blog to reel them in. And then they fall in love with your blog and will become an avid reader and a brand ambassador for all of your books.
Karen: That’s the idea. That’s what I shoot for. Blogging is so wonderful, I was thinking about it today when I was getting ready for the interview. We are the first generation that has this tremendous gift of a constant dialogue with our readers. I mean in the past, maybe a few newspaper journalists, but really almost nobody had an opportunity to get the feedback and the interplay, so that they have this conversation that can last for years and years, going on in their blog. It’s a tremendous gift asa person and as awriter and, of course, it does build some brand loyalty and people seem to be happy to buy my books when they come out. That’s always very refreshing and very gratifying.
Jay: Ok great. Well Karen, thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. This is great. This has made me feel energized about blogging because sometimes it just gets overwhelming and you wonder whether if it’s having any value or purpose because it is a time consuming process. At the end of the day if you have integrity and authenticity in what you write, then I don’t think you can go wrong.
Karen: I absolutely agree.
Indie Author Joe Cawley: The benefit of Collaboration: Cross-promoting with other authors
Jay: Hi, the next guest in our How to Market and Promote Your Memoir interview series is Joe Cawley. Morning Joe.
Joe: Morning, how are you?
The Benefits of Collaboration
Jay: Ok, thank you. So Joe is an award winning author, screenwriter, travel writer and copywriter. And he’s talking to us from the hills of Tenerife where he lives with his family. Tenerife was the location of his two memoirs, the first of which, More Ketchup than Salsa, was voted best travel narrative by the British Guild of Travel Writers and it went on to become a Kindle bestseller. Today we’re going to be discussing the benefits of collaboration to find out how to sell more books by collaborating whether and why author collaboration provides so much more then just book boosts. So Joe, before we get started I wondered if we could just have a little bit of an overview of how you came to write your memoirs?
Joe: Yes, , back in 1991 I did what a lot of expats did. Came to Tenerife to buy a bar, which is a crazy idea when you have no experience whatsoever of doing that. Ran it for about about nine years. I think it was a successful business but as you can imagine there were a lot of ups and downs in there and a lot of strange characters. I decided to make notes about these characters, I’m not sure why. I’ve always been a bit of a note taker. After we sold the bar, I thought, “what to do next”? I worked for a magazine, and the magazine sent us books to review. They sent us one particular book about Majorca, but I said, “this is a magazine about Tenerife so we can’t do that, but I’ve got my own book, so would you like to read that”> And that’s how it started, I had three chapters written about the turmoil of running a bar abroad with no experience and they bought it and said, “can we have the last of it” and that’s when I had to write it.
A blog as a promotional tool
Jay: One thing that interested me was that I noticed you don’t have a blog.
Joe: Yes, I did have a blog. I quite enjoyed writing it and it got a good response. The problem was that I had to go back somewhere, I was spending something like twelve, fourteen hours a day at computer and I decided that the blog was probably, in some ways yes, it was promotion. But in other ways it was a bit more self indulgent and just me ranting about things. So, I gave it up and in some ways I regret that, because I did enjoy it. It can be a useful promotional tool but you can’t do everything and I had to choose what to focus on.
Cross-promotion with other authors
Jay: One of the things that you focused on was collaboration with other authors. How did you start?
Joe: It didn’t happen at first, it came along after. The book did better than I expected when it first started. But as all books do, if you don’t breathe a lot of life into them, they flat line after a while. And I was thinking, “well how can I get this book alive, how can I get more air into it to get it to float again”. I started talking to other authors about how they got their books promoted. And in those conversations, we decided we could actually tell our own readers about each other’s books. So, I contacted a few authors writing in the same genre, in the travel memoirs genre and we decided to do this cross promotion in various ways. We’re still doing it now, it was started about four years ago and we’re still doing it now and it works really well. If your book is flatlining and you think of exposure as a light bulb, you’ve got to keep that light bulb shining. If you have other authors promoting your book at the same time, it’s like having several batteries plugged into your light bulb to keep that bulb shining. So, when your particular battery runs a bit flat, you’ve still got these other batteries that will pump a bit of juice into it. And that’s what happened. At the back of all of our books we would link to each other’s books and promote and say, “if you like this book you would probably like this book as well”. That was the main thrust of it, how it started and it has developed a little bit since then.
Jay: It seems like the key is to find other authors in the same niche as you?
Joe: Ideally the same genre books, similar. In my own case it was travel memoirs. But they’re also funny books, so it’s funny author’s you could actually plug into as well. Or authors that write about Spain, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same genre.
Jay: How did you find the other authors to start collaborating with?
Joe: I was looking on Amazon, just browsing through Amazon in the genre that I was in as well. I emailed a few of the writers to get advice, to see what they were doing and then there were some particular ones that I got on with, better than with others. They had the same kind of humor and the same kind of ideas and, they also like me, asked what else we could do, how else could we expand. I imagine that most indie authors are happy to collaborate if they can, obviously if everybody gets something out of it, if it’s going to help their sales and exposure and get new readers. That’s what it’s all about. When it comes down to it, it wasn’t so much about whether they wanted to collaborate, it was how they wanted to collaborate.
Multi-author box sets
Joe: Certain parts of the collaboration, some people weren’t happy about doing but we used other ideas. Something like box sets. And that’s another way to cross promote, all the books in one box set and sell them that way. But one of the guys within our set wasn’t keen on box sets, he didn’t like the idea of it. It does depend on what style of cross promotion you do as well.
Jay: When you’re working with authors on box sets. There are obviously roles and responsibilities and who’s going to be the person to format the book and put it together. How complex was that process?
Joe: It was bit of learning curve and next time I do it, I will do it differently. We made it up as we went along, so it’s all very informal relaxed. Particularly with the box sets. I highly recommend that you do it in a more structured way, I certainly will next time. You’ve got to have defined roles. You’ve got to decide who’s going to take the payment, when can the others expect the payment. Whose name goes first, which book goes first in a box set? It really it should be written down so everyone understands the same thing. It needs to be contracted really. That’s the way I’ll do it next time.
Jay: Did you have discussions around what kind of marketing activities you are all going to do to make sure it was a fair spread of activity across all your audiences?
Joe: You never truly find out that some people will push the books on a box set more than others, that’s bound to happen. Sometimes you need somebody that’s going to jiggy the others up , say, “come on, you’ve not done enough. Or , you could do a bit more”. That needs to take place as well.
Jay: How important was it for all of the authors to have a robust mailing list?
Joe: It’s vital really. You all need to have roughly the same strength of mailing lists and ideally, the same strength of social media platform as well. That’s the only way you have to make it really fair. I mean I’ve had suggestions from other people and other authors that they’d like to cross promote with me, but, when you look into it, they haven’t got mailing lists. They’ve got a relatively small following on Facebook and Twitter and to be honest, it would be pretty much one sided affair.
Jay: It seems like there’s quite a lot of due diligence you have to do before you jump into bed, as it were, with another author to cross promote.
Joe: Yes, I think any kind of cross promotion is going to benefit you in some ways, but I think you want to have the maximum potential of the cross promotion, then yes you do. You need to go through these checks and make sure that you are all pretty much on the same, steady level.
Jay: Then, as far as pricing of box sets, did you set the price at a reduced rate that was cheaper to buy the box set than it would be to buy all the individual books?
Joe: Yes we did that and made it look like an appealing package. You have to do that as well. And we did try various price levels of the box set, see which worked and various discounted prices to give it a boost occasionally. All these things work, you really have to try them and see. It’s going to work better for some people than others as well. I mean the follow on, some people might gain more followers, might gain more social media followers or sign ups for the mailing lists and sales than others. That’s the way it works. You really have to try it and see. But you can at least try and set the ground relatively level. With box sets particularly, we almost broke even but in financial terms, it wasn’t a great success.
Jay: Besides doing box sets, have you done any other collaborations with authors?
Promoting other authors in your niche at the back of your book
Joe: It’s like you said, the main thrust before was permanent promotions at the back of other authors books. I do it with two other authors who write are in the some genre as me. We’ve been doing that for, possibly four years. I’m going to start it with another author who also writes similar material and those are permanent promotions. Those to me, it’s passive promotion in some ways. As long as your books are out there and selling, you’re promoting the other authors and vice versa. I think that’s probably the most important way.
Jay: Can you just walk through the mechanics of how you would set up that kind of passive, cross promotion with another author?
Joe: You’d need to prepare a page. Almost like a Kindle page with a picture of your book, the blurb and links on where to get it on Amazon. Then you send each other those pages and they are inserted into the back of each other’s digital books. And then there may be two to three pages of other books that were recommended.
Jay: Do you cross promote other authors in your newsletters that you send out?
Joe: We haven’t actually done it yet because there’s one or two in the group that haven’t used the mailing list enough. They don’t want to go out and do a straightforward promotion, like, “buy these books”. They’re trying to warm up their lists first, then we’re going to do the cross promotion through the mailing lists.
Jay: You mentioned earlier about doing Facebook advertising, have you dipped your toe into the Amazon ads yet?
Joe: Yes, I’m using the Amazon ads for my own books, we’ve not tried it on cross promotion. I’ve tried it with my own box set. It’s usually More Ketchup than Salsa books and that seems to have reasonable success. You have to constantly monitor and pause those keywords that cost a lot and don’t really get any results for. But yes, that’s working out. And it’s another way that you can do co-author or multi-author box set promotions. It’s something that we’ll be looking into after I’ve finished tinkering with my own version of it. Definitely.
Jay: As far as anything that you want to try in the future besides box sets with different authors or finding other authors to put ads at the back of their books, is there anything else that you’d like to try in the future?
Discounted bundled promotions
Joe: Yes, I want to try bundled promotions. Discounted promotions. Where you could find a bunch of authors that discount 99 pence or cents at the same time. And then do some discounted promotions with a book bundle. Not a box set, just a bundle, like a one off. I’d like to try that.
Jay: Because there’s Instafreebie where you don’t have to give away the whole book, you can give away a couple of chapters. Have you thought about doing anything like that?
Joe: Yes I’m looking into Instafreebie at the moment. I’ve signed up with Instafreebie. I’ve put the books on the site. Not sure, to be perfectly honest, how successful that has been for people where it’s a giveaway of chapters. I need to look a bit more into the research, how others have done that and whether it has been worthwhile for them.
Jay: You have an author website out there. How do you use that to help promote your books?
Joe: At the moment it’s pretty much a landing page. We were talking about a blog before and probably will start blogging on there. The occasional blog, not as much as I use too. And it’s just a library of where I keep the books if people want to Google me or Google More Ketchup than Salsa, it’s one of the websites that will come up and has links to Amazon obviously. I could probably do more with that website but at the moment, I’m prioritizing different things. I’m actually writing two more books and that takes priority at the moment.
Jay: Two more Tenerife books?
Joe: One more Tenerife book. I think that will be the story told completely and utterly. And I’m also getting into fiction now as well.
Jay: Oh, ok, great. Yes well, they do say that three books in a series is a nice round number.
Joe: I did find it the same with other memoir authors, that it’s kind of cathartic. It’s great to write these things but at times you’d like to take the ideas somewhere else, like this character did this. It would be nice to take those shackles off and just let fly.
Jay: Sounds like a good future for you. Because you can only get so much mileage before even you start getting bored with promoting the same thing again and again.
Jumping from non-fiction to fiction
Joe: One of the things for me, going into fiction. I’m a little bit wary because the mailing list has been built up on Ketchup readers, travel memoir readers. I need to hang on to that and do something that appeals to them as well. Probably base the first fiction book in Tenerife and then I can get some of the readers from the memoir series to find an interest in the fiction books set in Tenerife so I can maintain some of them and try and lead them down different a path slowly and gently.
Building a brand
Jay: It’s almost like an evolution, your brand is built around your books. But now you’re trying to build a brand around you as the author. And that kind of transition from non-fiction to fiction, you’ve got that thread of familiarity but you have to lead people down that path. Iit’s building that author brand which is something that we talk a lot at about at ALLi. If you want to be a full time writer, then you have to start looking at yourself as a brand and a one-person company and how you build that brand awareness and get your audience to be your brand ambassadors as it were.
Joe: Yes, I think it’s important and more people are realizing that. I think within the Alliance, a lot of people have that mentality already. I just started an authors group here in Tenerife so I can talk writing to people feel a bit lonely over here. It’s one of the things that I want to try and encourage, there are a lot of these writers are first time authors. I want to encourage this, the basics. It’s still to me a business, unless they’re doing it for a hobby, but you do need to treat it like any other business. As you said, branding is, is vital. Maintaining good customer relations is vital. It’s how you do that. ALLi is brilliant in actually just staying in and increasing the awareness that this is a business. Or, it can be a business for those who want it to be.
Jay: There are new authors all the time. It is a continual cycle and this is why it’s important to have the Indie Author Fringe to show authors what other authors have done so that they can learn from their mistakes and learn from their successes and , “here’s how we did it and here’s how you can do it too”. It’s inspirational and it sounds like that’s the same kind of framework that you’re trying to set up with your author group there.
Joe: Yes. I think it is. And showing examples of authors that have done it. One or two of the authors have had success, they treated it like a business and they want it to be full time. They’re concentrating on the business aspects as well. So they will see that yes, it can be done. They just need guidelines as to how to do it. For somebody coming into the business as a writer, it’s a bit overwhelming to begin with, it’s overwhelming writing a book in the first place but then…
Jay: And then when you’ve done that, that’s just the start of it.
Joe: Yes, you’ve created your product, now you need to create a whole business around it. It can be overwhelming.
Jay: I’ve had a memoir that I’ve been writing for years about our move to Turkey and it’s sitting on the shelf still. I love reading in the memoir niche and I think people that go to different countries to start a new life immerse themselves in those kind of books. It’s great to see authors like you that are collaborating with other memoir authors and how you can breathe new life into your book when the sales have stumbled and I see so many books out there on Amazon that are just sitting there. They’ve been out there for years and there seems to be no activity and there are no reviews. It’s quite obvious that the author has stopped promoting it or released it, and thought right, that’s it, it’s released and now it’s going to fly. It’s hard work to continually market and promote your book.
Joe: Yes, it is. To go back to what we were saying, ideally if you can find things that would be read in the background as well as constant day to day active promotion, it can really help. Like you said, this promotion at the back of other authors books in similar genres. That is one of the passive ways you can keep the book alive and keep it afloat. I’m sure that’s why my books have lived so long to be honest. When it was first released, More Ketchup than Salsa, in 2007, traditionally published, I got the rights back in 2011 I think it was. It’s still doing well, at the moment it’s still in top 2000 in Amazon U.K. And it rarely dropped out there and I’m convinced it’s because of, partly at least, because of this passive income and it’s still being promoted from other angles and from other authors even when I’m not doing anything. I’m doing my best and trying to promote as well. It’s definitely being helped.
Going from Trad to Indie
Jay: So what was the impetus going from traditional to indie and, and getting your rights back?
Joe: Quite soon they were offered back, which was nice. It went through two print runs, I think it was. Reasonable success, it sold maybe 5000 copies. Something like that, and the publishers just decided that it had probably reached its course. They handed me back the rights pretty much at the same time as Kindle was launching or, especially in the U.K. which I think was a mistake by them. But it was great for me. I thought, well might as well stick it on Kindle, so I stuck on Kindle, started selling without me doing anything and I thought how can I continue this momentum now. And that’s when the sort of story started about reaching out to other authors. I think really, it makes no sense not to collaborate with other authors in some way or other. There’s no point in not collaborating with authors. I don’t mean on the writing side, I do mean on the cross promotion side. If you can find authors with similar sized platforms, similar sized following, similar sized mailing lists and what all authors have is the need to get more readers and get more sales. You can’t really do much damage, you can only get pluses out of it.
Jay: Would you recommend new authors, if they’re publishing their first book, that they start collaborating straight away or to go it alone until they see their sales start dropping and then starting to collaborate?
Joe: Well collaboration is a big, broad term really. Collaboration can even start from just reaching out to other authors who have maybe had some success with books in a similar genre and asking the questions, how did you do it originally, how did you promote your book? Just start relationships with other authors. And then eventually, once you’ve built your list and your social media following, then I’m sure other authors will be very happy to collaborate with you in a cross promotional kind of way.
Jay: Ok, great, well that’s really some stellar advice there for new authors and authors that are looking to pump some new life into their niche books. Because the techniques that you’re talking about aren’t just relevant to memoirs, they’re relevant to any author in any niche to get more collaboration efforts and more book sales with other authors.
Joe: Yeah, exactly, it can be any genre really, it doesn’t really matter.
Jay: Thank you very much Joe, it’s really great talking to you today. Thanks for all your tips and advice about collaboration. It was good to collaborate with you.
Joe: It’s all collaboration.
Jay: Thank you very much and enjoy the rest of you day.
Joe: Will do, thanks Jay.
About Indie Author Fringe
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