Taking Advantage of a More Equal Selling Landscape for Indie Authors

What do all independent authors and publishers want most?  (Okay, other than an Oprah recommendation or a New York Times book review.)  Book distribution to booksellers.  But what if all of a sudden there are no bookstores and all publishers, indie and traditional, are vying for the same online sales?  It’s time to step up and take advantage of a more equal selling landscape for indie authors.

The Advantage for Indies

Indies have had to come up with ingenious ways of marketing themselves online for years.  While traditional marketing departments have certainly been utilizing digital marketing tactics, indie authors have developed their skills without the benefit of a big brand behind them.   And, in most cases indies aren’t promoting dozens of books at one time.  In an age where specificity, target audiences, and niche development are key, indies have the edge.

Also, from what I’ve been reading even after things “get back to normal” there may still be distribution problems such as supply chain issues, printing delays, and paper shortages while manufacturers and distributors try to stabilize their workforce and operations.  If you haven’t considered that this could be the time to take advantage of a more equal selling landscape for indie authors, start now by optimizing all of the aspects of your publishing and marketing tactics.

Five Things for Your To-Do List

  1. Book Product Presentation:  How does your book look?  Is your jacket professionally designed?  Is your interior designed?  Do you have a standard copyright page?  Did you have your book copyedited? Proofread?  Make sure your product can stand up to a traditionally published book as far as the quality is concerned.
  2. Website/Social Platforms: If you don’t have the money or time to revamp your entire website.  Or if your site already looks fabulous the way it is, make sure you have your new book on a page with all the requisite “buy” links and a synopsis.  Also, check all of your site’s social links to make sure they are working.  So many times I’ve gone to a website and tried an Instagram link and found it broken.   Be ready for any traffic you’ve generated to have a good experience and these basic things will go along way toward making that happen.
  3. Content Marketing/Social Media:  Go back to the basics of managing your shared media by posting at least two blogs per month and sharing on social media.  Facebook/Instagram at least twice a week and Twitter at least once a day.  Engage with followers and do a Google search every day on your topic/theme to see if there are any articles, quotes, or related content you can post in real-time.  Everyone loves to have their content retweeted or commented on, so be a friendly social user and engage, engage, engage.
  4. Bloggers/Podcasts: Reviews and interviews are still happening on these venues, even during this national emergency.  However, you should check the websites to make sure they are still accepting review copies the same way.  Some places may need you to contact them first and then send an e-galley to minimize contact points.
  5. Traditional media: If you have a topic that relates to what is in the news, can support a current story, or offer something new and credible, then, by all means, ping some journalists and producers.  But if you aren’t sure you should, don’t pitch people.  Also, subscribe to HARO so you can get a list of different stories/sources the media are working on.  You can respond directly to the HARO links to present yourself and your work.

To read more about the changing face of publishing today, check out these two articles:

New York Times, March 16, 2020

Interview, Nathan Bransford and Mike Shatzkin, April 1, 2020

Good luck and stay safe!

 

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Publicity 101: Publicity and Book Promotion During a Crisis

Unfortunately, “publicity and book promotion during a crisis” has been a recurring theme throughout my career in publishing.  I was the Associate Director of Publicity at Little, Brown when September 11th happened.  Since then there have been a series of storms, hurricanes, and financial crashes.  Our current state of affairs with an international pandemic is probably the most daunting.  But as I said in a webinar I gave last Friday, books entertain and inform us by telling stories that offer an escape.  They also document a history that we can look back on to try to find answers about what we might expect during and at the end of our struggles.  Since we know that books (and their authors) can be helpful in a difficult time, the question is how do we publicize and promote our work right now?

Important Questions to Answer

First, we need to be clear about our personal intentions, which are to “sell” our messages, brands, services and/or books.  Maybe selling products for money isn’t our main mission, but we are all trying to remain relevant and to continue to generate awareness of what we can offer.  I tell my clients that my rule of thumb is to consider how what we are promoting helps people during this time.  I  pose these questions:

  • Am I offering news-you-can-use and expert help for people experiencing stress or anxiety?
  • Can I provide information that will move the story forward in a meaningful way?
  • Does my promotion offer a welcome distraction from the negativity in the current conversation?
  • Can I express my message in a manner that shows empathy for people who may be suffering in some way?

Each of the above relates to a specific kind of writer, expert, and book.

    • News-you-can-use is usually provided by experts.  In this case medical doctors, psychologists and financial specialists.
    • The aforementioned types can move a story forward, but so can human interest stories.  News sites and networks are lacking original coverage and there are only so many times they can report numbers and government policies.  Real people and what they are experiencing can capture the attention of audiences who are looking to identify with others.
    • Promoting your novel, whether it is a mystery or historical, is a great way to offer a distraction from the day-to-day.
    • Finally, expressing empathy and hope is often related to religious leaders, spiritualists, and anything related to inspiration or mind/body/spirit topics.

Engaging with Media During CoVid19

Many people are wondering where they can promote and publicize when producers and journalists are overwhelmed.  The internet is the answer.  Original, quality content and distribution of it in a smart and thoughtful way is going to be the best practice for most people.  See our last blog post regarding social media planning and strategy for some ideas.  You can also visit the Hootsuite blog for articles about the latest trends in social media and content.If you have a human interest story or you are an expert hoping to get some air time on the national stage, you need to do your research.  Watch/listen/read the media outlet you want to be a part of and make sure your information fits in with what is being covered.  Look for journalists by searching articles on Google related to your topic.  One thing that is very important in these times is that we don’t bombard people who are already stressed, like everyone else.

If you have any specific questions related to publicity and book promotion during a crisis, you can email me at claire@clairemckinneypr.com.  You can also subscribe to our newsletter on our website which will notify you of free weekly webinars.  Thank you for reading and stay safe.

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Effective Social Media Marketing: Are we in denial?

 

Love it or hate it if you are promoting something you are waist-deep or at least dipping a toe into the social media marketing landscape.  For public relations professionals, we are always focused on effective social media marketing tactics that will build our clients’ audiences.  I’ve written about social media on this blog, often breaking down different platforms and their uses, listing the latest stats, and how to build a content strategy.  However, I am adding this to the conversation because I think many of us are in denial. Our expectations and feelings about how things should work are getting int the way of our own success.    Below are some statements related to social media conversations I’ve had.  If you relate to one or more of these, then you might want to read on.

  1. My follower count on Instagram only increases by 5 to 10 followers per week so my campaign isn’t working.
  2. Nobody wants to hear from me on Twitter because I don’t get likes or retweets.
  3. I post contests and polls on Facebook and I don’t get any audience participation.
  4. I post every day and I’m not growing.

Time for a reality check

 

It’s time to face reality.  There are 3.3 billion people on social media; there are bots and marketing agencies spewing generic content; advertising is cluttering news feeds; and if you aren’t a celebrity, you won’t gain followers by the hundreds.  So why does anyone even bother you ask?  Because there are 3.3 billion people using social media.  If your audience was just a fraction of that number you could be happy.

We are so fortunate to be able to reach out to all of these people directly.  But you have to be thoughtful, dare I say strategic about how you talk them.    If you do your homework and start talking to your “people” who want to hear what you have to say, then you will grow and you may even become an influencer someday.  If your social media platforms are not behaving the way you want them to, it is likely that you are not properly focused on who you are trying to reach and what you need to communicate.

Build Authentic Online Relationships

Relationship building online is about earning the trust and loyalty of your customers and audiences so you can maintain, and grow your numbers.   But how do you do that?  Is it by working with a company that will push out “snackable” content? (I was pitched that idea by a social marketer.  Let me ask you this: If you were at a cocktail party would you want to talk to a robot who can say a dozen sentences or a real person who can tell you about a trip to Belize)? Is it by talking about how great you are or how wonderful your product is?  Would having a roomful of cats posted on Instagram fit the bill?

Even though we can now hide behind our screens, it doesn’t mean that the skills and needs of human interaction are out the window.  If anything, you need to be even more thoughtful about your dialogue with others to practice effective social media marketing.  Your content needs to be authentic and you need to do your due diligence and research in advance to identify an audience that will be interested in receiving your messages.  After you determine your audience, you need to figure out how to reach it, what platforms to use, the content you will use, and when you are going to post and share.

It takes time and tenacity

To build an army takes an army and that’s what you are doing.  You are setting up a foundation of friends and followers who want to know about your ideas or buy your product.  If satisfied, they will help spread the word via retweets, shares, and referrals.  And as I’ve said, it doesn’t happen overnight.

When I was at a conference recently a woman asked me about an aggregation application that helped drive followers on Twitter, but she was losing followers as quickly as she was gaining them.  I told her that Twitter has been public about their attempt to rid the server of unattended accounts and spambots.  Aggregators are not a shortcut when it comes to quality, actionable followers.  The ones you end up with are often spam and other ineffective types.  You need to put a real engagement plan into action, stick to it, monitor the results, and take appropriate action when necessary.

We all need to accept that this process is going to take a lot of work.  I’ve got a business built around media with a heavy social focus, and I know about the time that goes into an effective social media marketing campaign.  But if you aren’t able to hire somebody to do it for you, then you can set up a schedule that works for you.  Block out time every day to work on internet engagement and research.  Find a tracking program or use the tools that the individual platforms provide so you can see how your content is doing.  Someone told me once regarding careers that you start with one brick and soon you will have built a wall.  So go ahead and start your construction and you will see how things progress.

The last thing I’ll add is for people who dislike social media or do not feel comfortable with it.  My advice is: Don’t establish any platforms you are not going to use.  If you feel super hesitant about social campaigning, then do not do it.   In a future post, I’ll present some ideas for alternatives that will still build your SEO presence online.

Additional Informational Resources

Here are a couple of  articles from around the internet that talk about current content and social strategies:

10 Important 2020 Social Media Trends You Need to Know

12 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020

 

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San Francisco Writers Conference: Digital platform a major concern for emerging writers

The omnipresent questions at the  San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) were about digital marketing, social media for writers, and platform building.    Over the weekend I delivered a couple of presentations and met with at least twenty people individually to discuss various public relations questions and options.  Some people were already building their audiences; others were daunted at the prospect, but willing to try; then there were those who just felt exhausted by the whole thing.  This is some of the advice I gave:
Q: I am a professional with a website and a Facebook account.  Should I create a second account and another website for my book?

A: If you have an existing website and your book relates in some way to what you already do, don’t add another website to the mix.  Instead, put a new tab and page on the current site.  If your writing is a complete detour from your professional life then try adding a page to your Facebook account that is for your “author self”.  I don’t recommend separate pages for different books, because that could get confusing and it dilutes your brand.  Also, for most writers, you should maintain an Instagram account, since that is where the largest demographic resides.  Facebook is skewing to an older set.

Q: I loathe everything about social media and don’t see myself doing it, so how do I gain any kind of online presence? 

A: A website and a blog will give you some searchable real estate online, but without social media, it will be difficult to drive people to it from the comfort of your own home.  I recommend a landing page or a more developed website and you could try to pitch individual pieces to other sites and blogs that already have an established audience.  Try writing 700 – 1000 words that reflect something about you, your writing, and the topics you are writing about.  If you can’t get something picked up by a site, then you can post on your own blog.  Some sites will allow you to send them items that have already been online, but others won’t.  Check out the submission requirements so you know how best to manage the approach.

Q: When should I start working on my platform?

A: Write your book first.  If you are the kind of person who does well compartmentalizing tasks and can write a book and tackle marketing at the same time, then start building yourself asap.  What you don’t want to do is jeopardize your purpose–writing the book.  So unless the writing and the digital marketing via social media complement each other, I would turn your attention to the latter when you’ve sent the first draft off to an editor.

Q: Should I buy advertising online?

A: I’ve tested various advertising methods on Facebook, in particular, and have found that the best thing is to promote the page itself.  Advertising individual books hasn’t worked that well for my clients in the past few years, although it used to.  I think the algorithms have changed and it’s harder to get your sponsored posts seen.  To measure this on your own, see how many engagements, shares, and clicks you get from an ad.  It doesn’t matter if your ad reaches 2000 people if you don’t get any interaction.  When Facebook talks about “reaching” they mean “impressions”.  The post can appear on a person’s feed but that doesn’t mean it has actually been seen.

Q: My Twitter followers have been dwindling dramatically, what can I do about it?  

A: Twitter has been cleaning house, getting rid of inactive accounts and spam accounts.  If your numbers have been decreasing it is because the quality of followers isn’t up to Twitter’s current standards.  It’s actually a blessing because you don’t want junk followers or spambots on your account.  It really doesn’t look good.

Q: Do I need to be in my pajamas to manage my social media?

A: Haha.

Yes, that was a question–there’s a clown in every class.  Seriously though the main point here is about generating awareness of you and your work.  There are other things that publishers look for beyond how many followers or cyber friends you have.  Are you an expert who could be lecturing about your topic?  Are you a member of a writers group?  Can you pitch yourself to a panel at one of the smaller writers conferences or can you offer to speak at your local library about writing?  Have you looked at what other authors you admire or whose work is similar to yours are doing to promote themselves?  Can you go to your local independent store and get to know the owner?  Are you telling everyone you know that you have a book that will be coming out someday?

Remember that although digital platforms can be a more convenient way to reach many people at the same time, there is no

the digital world is about people and relationships

substitute for building relationships in person.  Think about the things you have to offer and start sharing.  It’s okay to take it one step at a time and to learn as you go.  It’s a process and I know you can do it.

Here’s a link to where you can download a free guide that will provide a wealth of information about social media for writers and the most current platforms and their uses.

 

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Offerings by Michael B. Kim

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Offerings is a beautifully wrought coming-of-age story of a young man torn between art and commerce, conscience and obligation, Korea and the United States. I loved it.“—Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times bestselling author of Talking to Strangers

“A potent combination of a financial thriller and a coming-of-age immigrant tale, Offerings is a great book. A thoughtful and engrossing read.”—Gary Shteyngart, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Lake Success

“Michael Kim writes with the authority of an insider on the intricate workings of Wall Street and the high stakes for Korea during the Asia Financial Crisis, but at its core Offerings is a moving love story—about a young man’s love for his home country, his father and his newfound soul mate. Offerings is an elegant poem on the redemptive power of love.”—Sandy Weill, former chairman of Citigroup and bestselling author of The Real Deal

OFFERINGS
A Novel by Michael ByungJu Kim
Debut Novel Explores Conflicts for a Man Bridging East and West

Korea could be key to saving the world economy. With the rapidly cascading Asian Financial Crisis threatening to go global and Korea in imminent meltdown, investment banker Dae Joon finds himself back in his native Seoul as part of an international team brought in to rescue the country from sovereign default. Born in Korea and educated in the United States, Dae Joon, Shane to his American friends, is establishing himself on Wall Street. For his Korean family, however, Dae Joon – also known as jangnam, or first-born son – has much more to prove. In his debut novel Offerings (Arcade Publishing, April, 2020, 978-1-950691-62-3, $24.99), Korean financier and philanthropist Michael ByungJu Kim explores the depth of cultural and moral conflicts of a person raised with Western sensibilities but bound by Eastern family traditions.

As he and his fellow bankers work feverishly with Korean officials to execute a sovereign bond offering to raise critically needed capital, Dae Joon struggles with the knowledge that his own father is living on borrowed time, in the last stages of a degenerative disease known as the “family curse.” While trying to reconcile his career and moral traditions, Dae Joon meets a young woman from a prominent family who quietly shows him the way to a different future. And when his old friend Wayne, a scion of one of Korea’s largest chaebol, hires him for a mergers and acquisitions project that may save the conglomerate but also salvage a legacy of corruption, Dae Joon finds himself in personal crisis. He’s torn by conflicting loyalties, his identity tested. Whichever path he takes, Dae Joon knows that this choice will determine once and for all what kind of man he is destined to be.

About the Author
Michael ByungJu Kim is a financier, philanthropist, and author. He has more than thirty years of experience on Wall Street, in investment banking and private equity. Offerings is his first novel. He grew up in Seoul, Korea, was educated in the United States, and currently works in Seoul and Hong Kong. He has two sons working and studying in the US. He lives with his wife of twenty-eight years in Seoul.

OFFERINGS
A Novel
by Michael ByungJu Kim
Arcade Publishing
Publication Date: April, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-950691-62-3
Hardcover
Price:$24.99
Pages: 288

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