Tag Archives: selfpub

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We met Cynthia Hartwig in Seattle at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Cynthia teaches writing and storytelling at the Richard Hugo House and The School of Visual Concepts, and we learned right away that she had a knack for tackling topics writers find daunting. She joins us today to demystify what some consider to be the scariest task new authors face: marketing their titles.

Cynthia02The Top Five “Absolutely Positively Have-To-No-Matter-What” Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We need to talk. Yes, I’m talking to you, friend. I get that you’re a writer, a word nut, a lover of deep, heartfelt tales, more conversant in character arcs than target markets and audience splits.

Stop shaking in your boots. I’ve narrowed the marketing tasks down to the top five most effective steps for authors new to the marketing conundrum. If you’re stultified by the thousand things you’ve heard other experts telling you to DO RIGHT THIS MINUTE, start here and you’ll do better than fine.

Understand that a marketing hat is not a dunce cap, a cone of shame or a dog collar.

Writers are strange animals. They write books and they want people to read them. And yet when someone says, “be a marketer” they get all shamefaced and embarrassed.

If you can’t admit to the idea that marketing = sales, try thinking of marketing as an honorable way to find readers. Assuming you’ve got a great story, an inviting cover and a hook-‘em-hard title, this list of marketing priorities will get your book sales moving.

1.  Fill out your Amazon Author Central profile to help readers find you.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many new authors forget this basic task. Filling out your Amazon Author Central page is far more effective than paying for a sexy web site at the early stage of your author career. This is because Amazon attracts millions of readers to its site—and all of them have no idea who you are or why they should look for you UNLESS your book comes up in their search bar.

You have no real brand identity (yet), so it makes sense to help Amazon direct readers to your e-books and audio version(s). Amazon is the online mega-store equivalent, so naturally you want to be front-and-center, as close to as many reader “buy” buttons as you can get. Your author profile page is there to help you.

2. Give out free copies like candy in exchange for reviews.

Cynthia04Deborah Reed, pictured right, is a very successful writer of both literary novels (much harder to sell than genre books) and thrillers (written under the pseudonym, Audrey Braun). Deb recommends sending lots of free copies of your book to bloggers for review. “Be incredibly generous and polite to said bloggers,” she says. “Also give free copies to other writers and readers, including people you know, in exchange for an honest review.”  Don’t worry that giving your book away will steal sales away from you; while it seems counter-intuitive, free sampling is a proven way to build an audience. Once you hook a listener, they will clamor for more. (ACX gives you 25 free download codes that you can use as Cynthia recommends. Just email support@acx.com to request them.Ed.)

3. Reviews are worth mowing the neighbor’s lawn, changing diapers, and washing cars.

Reviews are social proof that your book is worth spending hard cash for. We’re herd animals and believe me, the more you can herd friends, hair cutters, garage mechanics, yard people and yes, even family members, to write a paragraph of honest copy about your book, the better your sales will be.

Your goal is to hand-sell 20-25 reviews. Call in every favor, every chit, every IOU or marker you have outstanding from people in exchange for a review. Do not worry one whit about whether the reviews or good or bad; in fact, I believe bad reviews have a positive effect because people are so cynical they will distrust you if all the reviews are glowing.

4. Build an email list of 1000+ and mail an e-newsletter once a month.

Books have always been sold hand-to-hand until the marketing snowball gets rolling. I hope you started an email list a long time ago but if you didn’t, immediately start collecting names and email addresses of everybody you come in contact with. My list includes business associates, past clients, social club members, PTA committee volunteers, neighborhood watch folks and a host of people I meet in a busy social life. You want to track everyone you meet because people who know you are more likely buy your book than people who don’t. It’s been said that an email list is the one marketing tool that traditional publishers most want to get their hands on. So it makes sense as a “self-marketer”, that you’d build your list into a marketing asset of at least 1000 names.

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Next, create an e-newsletter and mail it once a month. More often than that is annoying; any less and people will forget why they are getting a message from you and will unsubscribe. If you happen to blog, the best things to put in your e-newsletter are interesting and informative posts—just don’t make them posts about writing (most of your friends and associates don’t care a whit about the writing, just the reading). Always include a clear, simple call-to-action asking the recipient (nicely) to buy your audiobook. Show your cover with its short sales blurb and make sure they can click a link to buy on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes. If the e-news is informative and doesn’t bludgeon them over the head with a buy-Buy!-BUY! message, your newsletter will be the closest thing you have to your own storefront.

5. Create a blog that doubles as your web site (and isn’t about writing).

You won’t find social media on my “top five absolutely, positively must-dos” for a self-published author right out of the gate. Even though I’m a huge social media fan.

I believe a new author is better off creating a blog that will build credibility in a specific area and will later become the hub for social media. Instead of randomly tweeting or posting “Buy my book!” on Facebook (which doesn’t work and annoys people), create a strong blog designed to build both platform (aka who you are online) and proves your authority (why readers should care).

Don’t make your blog about writing, because the field is saturated. Instead of writing about writing thrillers, blog about weapons the good and bad guys use against each other; don’t write a blog about writing Regency romances, write a blog about the amazing fabrics (duppioni, muslin, jacquard, white weave, slub, satin!) of Regency-era fashions. Once you’ve got yourself established in the blogosphere, then links to your posts become the “there there” that all your tweets, Facebook posts, Goodreads comments, and Pinterest boards lead to. I use WordPress as my blog and website platform and by far, the Two Pens blog aimed at business readers is one of the most important marketing component I use.

6. Once You’ve Written a Book, Record It

I know, I said there would be five tips. But here’s a bonus. You’d expect that the ACX blog would recommend having your book produced in audio. But don’t do it just because ACX says so. Do it for selfish (i.e. marketing) reasons: people who buy audiobooks are way different than the people who buy e-books or print books—and the market is growing. Audiobook listeners are multi-tasking in some way: they’re driving to or from work, they’re riding the subway, enjoying a sunny day in the park – doing a hundred and one things you can’t do with your eyes glued to a page. A basic tenet of marketing is to be everywhere your buyers are. Why not expand your readership beyond books to listeners of audiobooks since ACX has made it so easy to have your words professionally recorded?Cynthia01

-Cynthia Hartwig

Have you tried any of Cynthia’s marketing tactics? Which have worked best for you? Tell us about it in the comments!

APE This: ACX and Guy Kawasaki Launch Open Casting Call

ACX and Audible Studios are proud to announce our latest open casting opportunity! Audible studios is seeking a dynamic narrator to perform Guy Kawasaki’s inspiring and comprehensive guide to self publishing, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. All actors are invited to participate by recording their read of the audition script and uploading it to ACX. Audible Studios and Mr. Kawasaki will select the winning audition and Audible will produce the audiobook immediately upon announcing the chosen actor.

Guy Kapeawasaki is the author of eleven other books, including The Art of the Start and Enchantment, and is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web.

“I’m happy to be creating an opportunity to encourage entrepreneurial actors. I’m continually amazed at how many great actors are embracing this burgeoning art form and I can’t wait to listen to all the auditions that come in.” Said Mr. Kawasaki.

The audition text for APE can be found at www.acx.com/ape. In order to upload an audition you’ll simply need to create an ACX account. Auditions are open Monday July 22 – Monday July 29 at 5:00PM ET. After submitting your read of APE, browse our 2,900 + additional titles and find your next audiobook gig.  We can’t wait to hear your voice!

Do you think you have the perfect voice for Guy Kawasaki’s APE? Tell us why in the comments!

ACX Success Story: H.M. Ward

2013 has been an incredible year for ACX user H.M. Ward: She’s been on The New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers lists, sold her 500,000th book, and was featured in Forbes, all after considering ending her romance writing career.  Her latest smash, Damaged, was just released in audio on Audible through ACX, and Ward couldn’t be happier with her experience. Today, she’s sharing her ACX experience and words of book-marketing wisdom with you.

Tell us about yourself.

mecolor Ward: I self-published my first book in 2011 after realizing that traditional book publication didn’t really jive with me. I wrote YA PNR (paranormal romance) and loved it. I created the characters, the stories, the worlds, and even shot and created the covers. It was awesome!

Then, in 2012, I tried writing a romance novel—Scandalous. The people who read it really liked it, but it didn’t really do anything impressive. I tried another stab at romance and wrote Secrets. Initially, those flopped too. It was pitiful. I was about to forget the whole romance thing, but decided to give it one more shot. I recreated the covers for Secrets, switching to something more traditional, and they got some traction. It was very noticeable. A book cover is like a stop sign. It needs to clearly communicate as much as possible about the book in a blink. Artistic covers don’t work well for romance.

Within a few weeks of the cover change, Scandalous hit the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. That book sat in obscurity for nearly 9 months before people noticed it. By the time Damaged hit the ‘shelves,’ I had a decent idea of what I needed to do for the cover and the story. I almost gave up on writing romance. I’m really glad that I didn’t.

Tell us more about Damaged.

Damaged is a new adult romance novel about a college student that has a one night fling and finds out that he’s her new professor the following day.

Why did you decide to produce an audio version of your title?

When Damaged hit the virtual shelves, it took off. I receive emails and letters from fans saying how the book strikes so close to home. It’s an emotional roller coaster. I made sure that the audiobook was a priority because of how the story spoke to people. It was completed within the first few weeks of the Damaged eBook and paperback going on for sale.

How did you hear about ACX?

Through KindleBoards. Other authors mentioned how easy it was to use. I produced my first audiobook last year and was delighted with the results. Not only did I get to hear my story brought to life by a talented narrator, but the additional revenue from audiobooks was unexpected. I’d heard that audiobooks weren’t very profitable. I heard wrong. If you’re an author, you need to get your books made into audiobooks. It’s worth it.

What is the most interesting thing you learned about the audiobook production process?

I love the creative process. The whole thing draws on aspects I love about storytelling, including talking to some of the very talented actors hanging out on ACX.

What are your marketing, sales or publicity goals for your audiobook project?

Audiobooks allows me to expand my fan base through another medium. There are a lot of people that listen to audiobooks and some novels never make it to production. I think ACX is the new KDP in that it gives authors direct access to everything they need to produce their own audiobook.

Tell us about your marketing efforts for this book.

I did the things I normally do and tried a few new things, including a blog tour with a giveaway. The winner gets a Kindle Fire, a signed copy of Damaged, and all of my eBooks. There were over 50,000 entries. The giveaway created additional buzz, and Damaged hit number 1 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I engage fans as much as possible. I respond to every email, tweet, and Facebook post. It’s very time consuming, but I think it’s worth it. These people took the time to write me and tell me that they loved my book. I feel like I should take the time to say thank you. Without them, I’d be nowhere. My marketing is fan-driven and personal. It’s that personalization that makes the difference.

Has having your audio version produced affected your writing?

Actually, I wrote my books with the thought of having them spoken or read aloud, and that hasn’t changed. I think that’s part of why people are drawn to my titles: they’re written the way people speak. That means they cross over very well into audio. It’s easy to listen to a friend talking.

What advice do you have for other authors who are considering producing their titles as audiobooks?

There are options to have your audiobook made using royalty share or to pay a flat fee. I was a total chicken with my first book. I did a Royalty Share, and ACX graciously put a stipend on the title. I was able to get an awesome narrator with nothing out of pocket. It’s a good thing if you’re totally broke. Do it. It’s better than not doing it. However, if you can possibly afford to pay for the production costs yourself, do that. I was kicking myself for doing the royalty share. I had no benchmark, no idea how many audiobooks I’d sell. It turned out to be more than enough to cover the production costs. Do the math. Figure out what you can afford, and go for it.

What’s your next project, and when will we see it on ACX?

My next project is still hush, hush. It’s a New Adult romance novel titled Stripped. It will be out later this summer. In the meantime, I’m working with some wonderful talent to get The Arrangement series converted to audio. I’m really excited about to hear those characters come to life.

As are we! Thanks to Ms. Ward for sharing her thoughts with us. You can share your story with us via our Twitter and Facebook. And stay tuned for more ACX Success Stories!