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!

Case Studies 3: Accepting the Audience that Wants Your Book and Reaping the Benefits

You have an MFA in Creative Writing from a respected program/university.  You have been carefully crafting your story and verbiage to create the best literary debut you can. Now for promotion and the audience that comes with it—Paris Review?  The New Yorker? Tin House? New York Times Book Review? Not likely.

Whether you are published by a traditional publisher with a lot of muscle, a small independent press, or your own book production venture, no one can count on that kind of coverage for literary novels.  For one thing, there just aren’t enough venues anymore.  The other problem is that there are too many books and too little time, and frankly, if you are not published by Knopf or Simon & Schuster, you just won’t command the kind of attention you need to get into one of those classic publications.

Whatever you do, don’t stop writing and don’t give up hope for promotion!  We need great writing and great books, and while you can’t market a work of serious fiction as a chick lit novel, you can consider what other audiences might be interested in your story.

Recently we worked with an author and a novel.  It was definitely a literary book, but it also had different attributes that gave it potential in some niche audiences that were actually bigger than the more esoteric fiction readers that serious writers like to reach. The author had supported herself in non-traditional ways while working on her writing and had achieved a position as a teacher and founder of a charity that promotes writing for children in underdeveloped countries. She definitely had the credentials of a writer.

Since we specialize in promoting fiction across multiple genres and niches, we maximized our focus to include media that covered fiction, literary fiction, romance, christian fiction, debut novelists, philanthropy, and New York City settings.  We approached bloggers, websites, print, radio, and when warranted, television.

We were pretty happy with the coverage from the general fiction audiences and the publisher secured a review in the top trade, but what really paid off was a review on USAToday.com from a reviewer interested in the romance/womens fiction angle.  This review was not only a good one, but it did a couple of things that benefitted the author in a number of ways.  First of all when it ran there was a spike in sales on Amazon.com.  We were able to use the review and its national print-to-online paper status to secure additional media including a local television station in one of her home markets.  Was she happy about the review?  Well, at first not so enthusiastic because she was concerned that she would be “pigeon holed” as a romance writer.  I say “who cares?” as long as you sell books at this stage of the game.

Now I am also a branding strategist, so I do know that is important to avoid being classified as something that isn’t appropriate for you or your career.  However, one review for a debut novel isn’t going to determine your path.  It is a milestone that needs to be appreciated for what it is and to be used in as many positive ways as possible.

One of the best things she got from the deal? She was able to get a Bookbub promotion on the first try.  If any of you have tried to secure a slot on this infamous discounted book marketing site, you may have tried two or three times and perhaps did not even get accepted in the end.  One of their requirements is that they have legitimate reviews or news coverage of a book, whether traditionally or self-published and USAToday.com definitely can help put you over the top in terms of qualifying.

Her promotion ran, and her Amazon rank went from five figures to the lower threes, somewhere around 300, which is a major leap in ranking.  Sales activity like this will increase her audience; garner more Amazon/Goodreads reviews and ratings; generate additional full price sales; and will help along with the press coverage when she wants to bring out her next book and is searching for a publisher.

A couple of lessons here: Try to find every possible way to promote your fiction even if it doesn’t lead you to the coveted New York Times review.  When you do get a big nod that isn’t exactly what you wanted, revel in it, celebrate, do the ten second dance of joy, take a breath…and get back to work.

Public Relations 101: Why are bloggers important for PR outreach?

bloggers and blogging

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that there are a lot of bloggers. Google the term “book bloggers” and you’ll ping a million results. Google “book review bloggers” and you’ll ping a million more search results. Researching and sifting through blogs and their contact information is a time consuming process, but they are an important part of a PR campaign.

Why are bloggers so necessary to publicists as part of their outreach? More importantly, why are they so necessary for an an author looking to establish their brand?

They have their own fan base. Each blog has a built-in audience that comes with it, whether it is five people or five thousand. If you’re looking to have your chick lit novel reviewed, you’ll want to check out some chick lit reviewers—their fans may be your future fans, too.

They may review indie or self published authors. As an indie author, it’s difficult to get yourself reviewed in newspapers like the New York Times. Book review bloggers can give you the support you need, especially if they decide to favorably review your novel. Always respect a blog’s review policy—many clearly state that they do not review independently published titles. You will find bloggers that are open to reviewing indie authors, but you must ensure that the book is professionally edited before deciding to contact a reviewer—you don’t want to find a scathing review of your novel’s numerous spelling and grammatical errors.

They provide you with an online presence. A social media presence is one thing, but a presence on the rest of the web is just as important. Because blogging equals SEO, tagging, categories, and all that great online marketing jargon, reviews of your book online will make you a more searchable term—and people Googling your name will see that you and your book exist.

They have their own networks. More than ever, bloggers are an important tool for publishers. This summer, Book Expo America even had a networking conference for bloggers with several seminars related to the profession. Attending a blogger networking event in your area could lead to a relationship with someone who could have interest in your future career as a writer!

They’re a supportive medium. A blogger who has their own book review site is going to be someone who supports books. Why wouldn’t you want to be friendly with a crowd that loves reading just as much as you do?

Are you an author who utilizes bloggers and blog tours, and do you find those parts of your campaign successful? Tweet us your insight at @MCKINNEYPR!