My Guide to Influencer Outreach

With the prevalence of social media continuing to grow, influencers are becoming incredibly powerful tools in content marketing. In fact, a Tomoson study found that influencer outreach is “the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, outpacing organic search and email marketing.” For one, influencer outreach is incredibly useful when it comes to relationship development. We’re currently working on a couple of campaigns whose central audiences are geared toward the education market. So, how did we expand our outreach? We found popular teacher Instagram influencers with over 12,000 followers who we can approach with the latest series additions for optimal publicity. A simple Instagram post or story can go a long way in terms of making a lasting impact on consumers.

With that said, it’s imperative to implement tactics that best reach both influencers and your ultimate target audience. The key in initially building durable relationships, in my experience, is to come across as genuine as possible. Considering the numerous amounts of DMs these influencers sift through every day, taking an unorthodox, new approach can help achieve the attention you desire. Avoiding the clichéd, copied-and-pasted pitch will certainly help you stand out from the rest. Here are 3 tips to help you do just that:

1. Design your pitch around how your product or service can be beneficial to the individual influencer and less about how they can be beneficial to you. Any salesperson will tell you that people are of course more interested in what they stand to gain, so always keep that in mind. For instance, when reaching out to the teacher influencers we emphasized why our book would be a great addition to their classroom libraries. What teacher doesn’t love free books!?

2. Show them you know who they are. Instagram/Twitter bios are convenient, go-to places to find that kind of personal information- so utilize it!

3. Be relatable. It’s basic human nature to be drawn to people who you can relate to. It further shows these influencers that you’ve taken the time to scroll through their feed to find out what they’re all about.

All in all, influencer outreach can be extremely advantageous if approached properly. Authenticity is essential when building any type of relationship, so treat influencers more like people and less like brands.

Questions from Indie Authors

I was asked to speak this past Saturday, at an Indie Author Day at my local library.  It’s interesting to me that even when I speak to people who have heard me several times, there are always new questions.  I love that, because it gives me insight into what the world is like out there for indie authors–even those who have been doing this for quite some time.

For our Thanksgiving Week post, I decided to share some of what was asked and answered.

  1. I hired someone to do my Facebook and Twitter who was an expert in my subject area, but after six months I didn’t see a bump in sales.  I also had some speaking events and didn’t get any new attendees from the social media outreach.   Why is social media important given what I’ve experienced?   First of all, social media does not increase sales on it’s own.  Social media helps you build an audience or community, but you still need to motivate your followers to do something in order to see a result.  Combining consistent social media with some marketing of your pages or books (boosting posts on Facebook is an example) is a more strategic plan for generating book sales.  Also, I asked her why she was using Twitter and why not Instagram?  As it happens her books are about animals–and animals (especially cats) are super popular on photo based platforms like Instagram.  I explained that social media isn’t a generic platform.  It is made up of various tools that you can use based on what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach.
  2. I’ve tried to get reviewed in the major newspaper in my area.  When I reached the book person she said because my book was published by a self-publishing platform it wasn’t eligible for review.  Is that true and how am I supposed to get book reviews?  Yes, it is true that the major newspapers–think of the top 25 by circulation–will not review self-published books and even those published by very small indie presses.  There are simply too many books and too little space.  Also, reviewers haven’t achieved the level of trust yet with indie authors or perhaps your publisher, to determine what is going to be worth their time to cover.  Book reviews on blogs and in publications that favor indie books as well as some local papers and online sites are obtainable.  Some examples are Foreword Magazine, San Francisco Book Review, and Publishers Weekly’s “Book Life” platform.
  3. I was in the newspaper business but the local papers are all gone.  Or they’ve been bought out by corporate syndicates and they have little to no staff on hand to cover books.   How can I get local coverage?  It’s true that there are many local papers that have been absorbed into corporations.  Usually there is one features person who covers several at one time.   But there are also local glossy magazines, which tend to have staff writers because they reap the benefits of local businesses advertising.  Indie authors can check out people who are freelancing, because they may be submitting pieces to the syndicates or some of the locally focused online outlets.  Finally, try the “free” papers in your area.  They are often looking for very locally based stories and will copy information from a press release.

If you have a question email me at claire@clairemckinneypr.com and put “Question for Blog” in the subject line.  I will answer in a forthcoming blog.  I would love to hear from you!

Book Publishing 101: 1 Million Self-Published Books Means Quality is Key

Guess what?  Last week Publishers Weekly reported that, according to Bowker, over 1 million books were self-published in 2017.  You may ask yourself what this means to authors and potential book buyers?

Ten years ago, when I stopped working in-house and became an independent publicist and business owner I was introduced to the indie-author market.  There had been a swelling of this part of the market to which I and others in NY traditional publishing were unaware.  It was alarming to find that a significant portion of the titles that were being self-published, were of substandard quality.  One of the reasons for this was the plethora of inexpensive online book services that made a lot of money on DIY projects by aspiring writers.   The quality of the printing, the interiors, the jackets were often terrible.  Clearly there was a lot the indie author population needed to learn, and a network of bloggers and newsletters began to spring up to teach them the ropes.  But even with the resources that are available today, I still see a lot of titles that have quality issues and these problems will make it difficult for a book to compete in today’s marketplace.  With over 1 million books out there every year, appearance is at least 50% of the marketing effort.

Since I really dislike seeing books that look “self-published”, I’m going to share the beginnings of a list of telltale signs that I run into all the time, and some ways authors can avoid them.

1. A glossy jacket when it should be matte and a cover image that looks like a cheap template.

Narrative fiction and non-fiction should have a matte cover in paperback.  It looks wrong to have a glossy cover, in my strong opinion, and it doesn’t help sell the book.  To research this, go to your local bookstore and look at what is on the new in paperback tables.  Also, have a designer do your jacket.  Don’t use the templates provided online because a) you are likely to produce a jacket just like a bunch of others already out there; b) it will look like what it is; and c) you get what you pay for especially when it is free.  Visit websites for indie authors, especially the Independent Book Publishers Association, which has resources you can check out for different publishing services.  You can even call them on the phone!

2. Print is too small for the page or is printed in courier font.

Whatever you choose, please understand that courier font is not acceptable for a book unless it’s a narrative device.  Almost anything is better than that including the old standard Times New Roman.  Also, if you print using an online service get a copy or proof first to see what the type looks like.  You don’t want to publish a book that half of your market (over 40) can’t read because the type is too small.  I’ve seen it happen.

3. Printing your book straight from a word doc is not a good idea.

It looks like the book is “word processed” and not designed properly.  I believe some of the online publishers have interior formatting help that can give you some design options if you can’t pay for a professional.  If you can spend a bit of money, I suggest finding someone who does interior design in InDesign.

4. Empty rear jacket.

The back of the jacket needs to have a bar code, a brief author bio, a quote from a credible source (if available), and a brief snappy piece of selling copy.  Again, the local bookstore is a great place to do research.  Just because you are self-publishing, doesn’t mean you don’t need to meet publishing standards.  Ebook sales are declining, so the presentation of your print book is going to make a difference.

5. No Library-of-Congress number

Do you want libraries to have access to your book?  You need a “PCN” number, which you can obtain here and it’s free.  All you need to do is send a copy to the Library of Congress when your book is ready.

I will continue to add to this list over the next several months.  I hope sharing my observations as we all continue to navigate the indie market will be helpful.

Author Brand? How Do I Get One?

Last year I published my own book based on an article I wrote for Publisher’s Weekly many years ago, Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns.  To promote it, I hit the road and spoke to writers at universities conferences, festivals, libraries, etc.  What was the one thing writers looking to promote their books really wanted to understand?  What is an Author Brand? And further, how do they develop their own?  While I can’t present all the information I provide in a 45-minute keynote or afternoon workshop, I’m going to express some of the points that should start you on your way.

  1. What is an Author Brand?  A brand represents a product or person in different ways.  Primarily it’s about how people “feel” and “respond” when they hear the brand’s name; see the product; read about it; etc.  Recognizable brands are ones that the market knows like Coca Cola.  In the book world some recognizable brands are James Patterson, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, David Brooks, and David McCullough.  Audiences know what these writers represent and have a good idea of what kinds of books they publish, what causes they might represent, their political affiliations, where they come from or live, and what they look like.  These characteristics are parts of their “brands”.
  2. I’m not famous, I’m just a “…”, I don’t have a brand: These are some of the things I’ve heard from writers when faced with the concept of Author Brand.  Part of the answer is that all of those people I mentioned above were once where you are.  James Patterson published his first book in 1976.  He started publishing more than one book every year in the late 1990s.  I’m not saying that you have to wait twenty years before you establish your brand.  The point is everyone has to start somewhere so take any negative thoughts out of your mind and focus on what you have to offer.
  3. How do I get an Author Brand?  Here’s my favorite part of all of my lectures and speeches–you don’t have to “get” a brand because you already have/are one!  I don’t care if you train animals, have a podcast on car repair, and write romances–all of these things together constitute your brand.  What you really need to know is how to become your brand.
  4. Becoming your Author Brand: Take a moment to write down a list of items that describe you.  Think of answering the fundamental questions–who, what, where, why, and how.  Now, write down what you consider to be your best assets or what your are “known” for.  Even in the smallest community, you might be the one who always brings muffins to a book club meeting; or you have an interesting tattoo; you take hiking trips in the summer; you speak a foreign language and like to surf; and/or you are good with numbers.  Finally, note the kinds of books you want to or are writing; what the characters are like; where they are set; are there any common threads in your work?  All of the lists you have just made are the pieces of what can be your brand.  Look at what you have and highlight the ones that you want to project virtually or in person.  The intent is to become familiar to an audience that will respond to your author brand, and ultimately to create a community or people that will become your army of fans who will spread word-of-mouth about your work.  Having completed these exercises, you have the potential to accomplish different goals such as, sell your book(s), grow your business, gain visibility in the publishing world and get noticed by agents and editors, secure speaking engagements, and provide a much easier base to create a marketing strategy.
  5. Image as Author Brand: After you’ve dissected all of the parts of yourself and your life that can be used to promote you, consider some of the more cosmetic aspects of your brand.  Coca Cola has a distinct font, color, and packaging.  Even before you get to the taste of it, this is what we recognize.  What about you?  Look at some of your favorite personalities in entertainment, yes authors are part of the entertainment industry, and see what you like.  For a few years James Patterson always wore a crew neck sweater in public, in his ads, for his author photo.  He chose this look on purpose.  Amy Tan used to carry her dog in a Pucci Bag wherever she went.  What signature item would you like to have?  How do you want to look when you are in front of an audience?

All of what I’ve shared here will help you recognize and develop your Author Brand.  Most important is that you don’t try to twist yourself into what you imagine to be the RIGHT brand.   I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to create a brand that best represents all of you and what you hope to achieve.  But, It’s important that you feel comfortable with what you are selling and projecting.  You need to be able to maintain and protect the brand you create and develop.  So if you feel most powerful and connected to your work in the form of a superhero, don your Spider Man costume and head out on the town.  But if jeans and a T-shirt with a baseball cap is more your style; you are from a suburb of X city; and you write books about a bail bondsman named Al, you might want to tailor your brand.  Just a touch.

Book Expo 2018: What’s Trending for Independent Publishers

Javits Conference Center, where Book Expo 2018 took place!

A few weeks ago, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City.  It was my first visit in two years, having missed the Chicago show of 2017, and I was struck by the size and quiet on the floor.  The Expo may not have the same value as it used to for traditional, mainstream publishing. However, in the continuously emerging indie publishing industry there is a lot to see and learn.  Here are some of the things I brought back to share with the indie world—authors, publishers, and those who serve them.

1.BISC Book Expo 2018 Bar Codes:  I recently heard from some book professionals that it was imperative to have a price in the bar code on the back of a book.  I took the question to the highest authority on the subject at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group).  His answer was that the bar code is the identifier for the book, generated off of the ISBN and nothing else should be displayed in or on it. He mentioned that there is discussion in the industry about not putting prices on books at all.  What other product comes with a price engraved on itself?

2Independent Publishers Group Logo Book Expo 2018Distribution:  POD (Print-on-Demand) is used by many businesses in the indie publishing world, but this method often makes distribution to brick-and-mortar stores difficult to achieve.  I spoke with several different distributors at Book Expo 2018, including IngramSpark (a POD distributor) to find out how an indie publisher might be able to work with them.  In general, distributors are looking for publishers who release at least ten titles per year.  While there are exceptions to every rule, the increase in small publishers has encouraged companies to be more efficient and choosy about which ones they represent.  A few distributors to mention are: NBN; Consortium; Independent Publishers Group; and Baker and Taylor.

3. Fulfillment Options: Many indie publishing companies are selling books through multiple channels.  IngramSpark/POD is one channel, but you can also order copies in quantity and set them up for fulfillment by a third party.  One of these is Amazon Advantage.  The shopping cart on your site can link to your Amazon Advantage account, which allows you to have copies stored at an Amazon warehouse.  Customers will click the “buy” link on your site and Amazon will fulfill the order behind the scenes. You can still sell on Amazon through the POD channel, and also set up an Advantage account to sell direct.  Amazon Advantage also allows you to utilize many advertising opportunities that can help move copies.

Check back in the coming weeks as I go through my notes from Book Expo 2018 and bring you more insight into what’s going on in the indie publishing world!