Friday, 29 March 2013

Social Media Tools - Part Two

In the last post I looked at TweetAdder, a very useful tool for gaining additional followers, without being over aggressive. Now I'm going to turn my attention to the tool I use on a daily basis to manage my tweets, namely HootSuite. One of the key advantages of HootSuite is the ability to manage all social media on one platform. On one dashboard you can manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well as other sites such as FourSquare, WordPress, MySpace and mixi.  

Let's start by looking at how incoming tweets can be managed. The Twitter element of the dashboard has a number of feeds, either already set up, or those that you can add later. The first feed is the 'home feed', which is the same as Twitter itself, in that you can see all tweets sent out by the people you follow. Once your following runs into hundreds, managing this feed becomes almost impossible, but more about that in a moment. The second feed is your 'mentions'. These are all tweets being sent out by other people, but which include your Twitter handle. This again you can view on Twitter, but you need to keep jumping around and changing pages to see this information. With HootSuite it's all there in front of you. Next in line are your 'direct messages' - DMs, then next to the DMs are the tweets you've sent out. So four feeds of data on one screen. Much more practical than using the Twitter site. But it doesn't stop there. You can now add your own feeds, enabling you to cherry-pick from the overactive 'home feed'. This part of the system can be as bespoke as you want it. For example, let's say you join The Independent Author Network and want to follow tweets which include their hashtag #IAN1. With HootSuite you can set up a feed to do just that. This would then sit neatly next to the other four feeds I have just described. Once the number of feeds increases, as you add to them, some will begin to move out of sight on your screen. However, it is simply a case of scrolling across the screen to look at them. So that is a quick overview of the incoming tweets.

HootSuite: Improve Your Social Media Efficiency 


The other element of HootSuite is of course sending out tweets. This can be done one of two ways. Manual or automatically. You can also set the time the tweet will be sent, depending upon when you believe your target audience is most likely to see it. I'm based in the UK, so if I have tweets specifically for a UK audience I don't want them going out in the early hours of the morning. You can schedule future tweets by using the HootSuite Publisher. HootSuite Publisher also allows the bulk uploading of future tweets. This will require the use of very specific CSV files. If you would like a tutorial on how to create these, then please visit my author website which describes, step by step, on how to build a HooteSuite Bulk Uploader CSV file. Using the CSV file I developed, I can now upload tweets in bulk, and it only takes a few minutes each day. So your presence on Twitter can remain, even when you are sleeping.

So that is a quick whistle stop tour around HootSuite. Happy tweeting!

HootSuite: Manage and Measure your Social Media

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Social Media Tools - Part One

Over the coming days I'll be looking at a number of tools to help with the management of your social media accounts. Today the focus will be on a highly popular product called TweetAdder.

As you can probably tell by the name, it is orientated towards Twitter. I've used the product for some months now, but like all the tools available, it has its advantages, and disadvantages. As yet I haven't found that one piece of software which does everything I want it to do. On a day to day tweeting basis I use HootSuite (which I'll be discussing the merits of in a later post) but TweetAdder has a place in my social media arsenal.



As with any worthwhile product, there is a cost. With TweetAdder it is a simple one-off cost, with no monthly fees. Many social media tools are free, but they generally only give you the basic operations which Twitter themselves provide. To get the added value features, there is normally a cost involved. Let me first outline what TweetAdder can do, then I'll discuss the features which will give you a time-saving advantage. TweetAdder can:
  • Follow new accounts
  • Unfollow accounts
  • Identify accounts via bio key words
  • Send automated tweets
  • Send automated tweets via RSS feeds
  • Auto retweets
  • Automated tweet search
The entire list is far greater than I've outlined here, and details of the total functionality can be found on the TweetAdder website

The main feature I tend to use it for is to find suitable accounts to follow. One problem with having a Twitter account is that it can easily be suspended by aggressive following/unfollowing. TweetAdder gets around the problem by doing this process gradually throughout the day. Rather than follow 100 new accounts in the space of a few minutes, and unfollow a similar amount in the same manner, the following and unfollowing can be automated over several hours, with random times between each new follow etc. Also, to make the following less random, TweetAdder allows you to search for potential new accounts to follow using keywords. Type in the phrase 'avid reader', and it will find all those accounts, which you don't currently follow, with that specific term in the bio. Want to connect with more authors? Then simply use the keyword 'author' (or 'writer') and TweetAdder will find all the relevant accounts. Also, you can select 'recency'. This filters out all those accounts which haven't been active within the time scale you set - therefore you won't be following accounts which have been inactive for months. If the accounts don't follow you back, you can unfollow in the same gradual way, 'releasing' accounts over a period of hours, at random intervals. You can also automate when the unfollowing will take place. If the account, for example, hasn't followed back within, say three days, TweetAdder will gradually start releasing the accounts automatically after that time has elapsed. If you are new, or relatively new, to Twitter, it is important to understand their 2000/10% 'unwritten' rule. Details can be found on an earlier post here.

There are of course many other advantages to the product, but the above advantage is my primary use. One final point, TweetAdder will only 'unfollow' those accounts which it follows in the first instance. If you follow accounts directly via Twitter you'll need to use another tool to identify if they follow back. Again, my post regarding Twitters 2000/10% rule will provide you with details.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How to monitor hashtags and interactions

Have you ever wondered if specific tweeps on Twitter are interacting with you in terms of retweets etc? Perhaps you are part of a group which has been set up to support one another. Often in these cases there will be some very supportive members, and then there's those who are looking for support, but are not so inclined to reciprocate. To weed out the less supportive ones is not that easy just using Twitter itself. However there is a tool, which I've been using, which does just that. You simply enter a Twitter handle, and within moments it shows you the tweets that particular account has sent out which include your Twitter handle. You can elect for the results to either include, or exclude, retweets.

That tool is hashTag Monitor



hashTag Monitor has other useful functions. It allows presetting and saving of certain scenarios. For example, you may have hooked up with a number of people who share a particular interest, say Formula One. Rather than seeing every Twitter user who uses the hash-tag “#F1”, you can select to see just the tweets of a select few who tweet about F1 using that particular hash-tag. There are many uses for hashTag Monitor, and at a level, the biggest limit will be how creative you want to be with it. 


Monday, 25 March 2013

Why Amazon book reviews are important

Reviews are vitally important as they provide a view of a book, other than the author's. Every book has 'blurb' on the back cover, which tries to draw the potential reader in, and encourage a purchase. A good review, however, is far more powerful, and will greatly assist in selling the book. Equally, bad reviews can have the opposite affect - and bad reviews are what most authors fear. However, so long as the good reviews outweigh the bad ones, there isn't a serious problem. Take this product:


The marketing campaign revolves around the fact that it divides opinion. People either love it, or hate it - and I'm talking about the product, not the marketing campaign. Personally I don't like the flavour of Marmite, but that doesn't make it a bad product - it's just down to personal taste (no pun intended). Marmite is probably the most famous product for splitting opinion, and the manufacturer plays on that point. 

The same can be said about books. Let's take one as an example - The Da Vinci Code. At the time of writing this post it had 4,276 reviews on Amazon.com. 18% of those were one star. Yet it is a book which has sold in its millions. Even with so many negative reviews, Dan Brown's next book, The Lost Symbol, was a big success in terms of sales, and looking at the reviews on Amazon, had as many bad as good reviews. Many of the negative reviews were perhaps as a result of all the pre-launch hype (there was a six year gap between the two books, and The Da Vinci Code had created a certain expectation for what was to follow), but that said, there were equally as many good reviews. Later this year Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno, will be released. It too, I predict, will receive mixed reviews, because like everything in life, it will divide opinion and taste. But I also predict it will sell in large volumes, as Brown has now created a solid fan base, and most of that will have been achieved via reviews and recommendations in the past. As authors we need to accept we will get negative reviews (see my post about how to handle bad reviews) and realise not everyone will enjoy our work. The alternative is that nobody reviews our books, and the good reviews are not written, which in turn means there's no one to help light the all important sales fuse.

To end this post on a light note, here is possibly the best (and shortest) book review of all time from Ambrose Bierce (b 1842 d 1913) - "The covers of this book are too far apart."


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Facebook promotion for your book

Early this month I introduced a very useful site which creates single universal book links to all Amazon websites. Your potential customer, regardless of where they are on the planet, gets taken to their 'local' Amazon website. The company offering these links, Viewbook.at, are now providing a Facebook promotion for books, in return for generating referrals to their site. In essence they'll give you a promotional link to use, and then if 10 authors you introduce sign up, to use their FREE global Amazon links, they'll promote details of your book to their 10,000+ Facebook fans. The link to this promotional page is - Viewbook.at book promotion


Another useful universal link they have now introduced is for Amazon author pages. Again the idea is elegant in its simplicity. You are provided with a bespoke shortened URL which is linked to your Amazon author page, and regardless of where your potential customer lives, they will be taken directly to their 'local' Amazon website. The link to create your own is - Viewauthor.at These links are very useful when promoting your book and author page on both the global platforms of Twitter and Facebook, as they provide all your followers the ability to go straight to their own 'local' Amazon site.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Should you judge a book by its cover?

Consider these two sayings:

'Never judge a book by its cover'

'You only get one chance to make a first impression'

Both make sense, in isolation, but when put next to each other, there seems to be a slight conflict. If your book cover fails to impress, it may get overlooked, and regardless of how good the content is, may not get read by as many people as it deserves. 

In an earlier post I discussed the marketing concept AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. A book cover needs to help you achieve the first two elements. If the cover doesn't grab a potential readers attention, and create  interest, it has essentially failed to do its job. The front cover of a book has three key components - a title, an illustration, and the author's name. Now unless your name is JK Rowling, Dan Brown, etc., it probably won't have a huge amount of impact on the buying decision. That leaves the title and the illustration to do the lion's share of the work. Putting the illustration to one side for the moment, let's consider the title. Assume you have just written a book and titled it 'Wanted!'. This could suggest a number of themes and genres. It could be erotica where one woman is wanted by many men. Alternatively a romantic theme, about a woman who only ever wanted to be loved. What about a thriller, where a dangerous fugitive is wanted by the authorities? To help the potential reader better understand the title, a well crafted illustration is required. So if you are on the look out for an entertaining thriller, and the book 'Wanted!' is about an armed and dangerous criminal being hunted by the police, an illustration depicting this theme will be needed to grab your attention. Below are two possible book covers for the same story. Which one is likely to grab your attention?



The book buying process goes something along the following lines. See a cover and title you like (Attention), pick it up (Interest), and read the blurb on the back cover. You like what you read (Desire). You then look at the price, and when you realise the benefit of reading it outweighs the cost, take it to the check-out (Action). What you don't know, until you've read it, is whether or not you think it's a good story. But that is now too late, you've already judged the book by its cover. . . and as authors, that is very important, because your thriller of the year could have been easily overlooked if the cover just didn't deliver.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sell more books with CreateSpace

What is stopping so many self-published authors, who are now selling their ebooks via Amazon's Kindle platform, from offering a paperback option? This question has puzzled me for sometime. Having gone to the trouble of getting the book formatted, and a cover designed, it seems to me the next logical step has to be developing another sales channel in the form of a paperback edition. Many pundits have predicted the demise of paperbacks due to the popularity of ebooks, but then other reports state paperback sales are still healthy. It doesn't really matter which report is correct, the simple fact is, BOTH formats sell in large quantities. With Amazon accounting for about 85% of ebook sales globally - again figures depend on which source you believe, but those I've read all believe they take the lion's share by some sizeable margin - it clearly makes sense for self-published authors to use their Kindle platform. The reluctance to go down the paperback route may come from a number of perceived problems, such as setting up the book, choosing which publisher is best, etc. However, these are not insurmountable obstacles, and once overcome will open up a unique client base - namely those who still prefer the feel of a traditional book in their hands, as opposed to an e-reader. 

Manufacturers of e-readers will talk of the benefits in owning one - 'x' thousand books conveniently stored in one place, downloading the book and having it immediately available, and so on. But it's not all doom and gloom for the good old paperback. You can read them safely in the bath, also on take-off and landing when flying, and they don't need to spend a lot of their time 'tied' to the wall, as they don't have batteries. 

With regard to choosing a publisher, opting for CreateSpace makes a lot of sense. To start with it is owned by Amazon, and therefore it's in their interest to make the interface with their website as efficient and effective as possible. As printing is done on a demand basis, there is no need to hold any inventory. Their set up programme is totally free, and the royalties very generous. My own personal experience is I sell many more ebooks than paperbacks, but the simple matter is, I do sell paperbacks, which wouldn't necessarily convert into ebook sales if I didn't offer the paperback option. I also gained a lot of exposure for the book when I offered a number of free copies via Goodreads 'giveaway' promotion. Over 1800 requests for the book, and several hundred people adding it to their 'to be read' list. This promotion at Goodreads is only available for physical books, and not ebooks.

If none of the aforementioned convinces you to offer a paperback version of your ebook, then hopefully this will. Ask any self-published author what it feels like to hold a physical copy of your own book in your hands for the very first time. It's a very special moment I can tell you.

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

Monday, 18 March 2013

Is your name on this database?

There are many free sites on the Internet where you can place your details, but one particular site is growing exceptionally quickly - namely AUTHORSdB. I mentioned them in an earlier blog, but think they are worth giving a further shout out. Not only are they building a database of authors at a remarkable rate, but they also offer some exciting benefits for those same authors, such as:
  • A blogger of the week - with free banner advert
  • Featured author - with free banner advert
  • Author of the week - again, with a free banner advert
  • Regularly sending out personalised tweets about their top 25 rated authors
As an author you can also add book reviews, a book synopsis, social network links (including Goodreads), book trailers, book covers, Amazon links, and links to blogs/websites. AUTHORSdB also provide a variety of 'badges' you can download to promote yourself with. Here's an example:



AUTHORSdB is growing by the day, and as an author I suggest you get your details on their database. It's free, so really there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

What is "Social Media Jail"?


At some point in your time on Twitter (or Facebook) you are likely to end up in a 'social media jail', without knowing why. So why does a post on 'Social Media Jail' feature on a marketing tips blog? The simple answer is that whilst you are being served prison food, and left feeling like a social outcast, your marketing machine is slowly grinding to a halt. Social media is very similar to a production facility in a factory – if the production line comes to a standstill, so too does the business . . . in your case, book sales.



Marketing is all about getting the message out on a constant basis. Companies such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, BMW etc., are all well-known global companies, but they too need to constantly market their product. So, if you do end up in a social media jail, you can’t be getting your message out. The first sentence you may face is with Twitter. There are two aspects here. The first is a short block from the system, based upon the transgression, and the other is suspension, which can last for several days. A short block occurs when one of the technical limitations is surpassed.

The current technical limits for Twitter accounts are:
Direct Messages: 250 per day.
Updates/Tweets: 1,000 per day. The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals. Retweets are counted as updates.
Changes to Account Email: 4 per hour.
Following (daily): Please note that this is a technical account limit only, and there are additional rules prohibiting aggressive following behavior. The technical follow limit is 1,000 per day.
Following (account-based): Once an account is following 2,000 other users, additional follow attempts are limited by account-specific ratios. (see my additional post about this ruling.)

Suspension from Twitter occurs without any warning. One minute you can be using the system, the next you just get a message to say the account is suspended. Also, your followers will appear as ZERO! Don’t panic though, because if you successfully appeal the suspension then they will be re-instated, but you may lose a few. The biggest cause of a Twitter suspension is aggressive following, or using prohibited third-party software. The ‘guidelines’ Twitter provide are very ambiguous and don’t come with any true guidance. If they don’t like it, they’ll suspend the account. It can be best be likened to speed limits on the road. If you exceed the limit, you’ll get a possible ban. However, in Twitter’s case, they won’t tell you specifically what the ‘speed limit’ is, which isn’t particularly helpful. More details about Twitter’s rules can be found here.

It seems Facebook also provides a similar ‘service’ to Twitter, and this happens when you ask too many people to be your friend. Again, limits aren’t made transparent, and if you try to befriend too many people in a short period of time, you could be serving a sentence of several days, or even weeks. In fact, the latest joke doing the rounds is that Facebook is an actual jail. You sit around, waste time, have a profile picture, write on walls and get poked by people you don’t really know. You have been warned! Smiley


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Handling bad Amazon book reviews




If you haven’t already had one, you can rest assured at some point soon you’ll get one. What am I talking about? That one star Amazon review where the reviewer has gleefully ripped your novel apart in public. Most reasonable people who don’t enjoy a novel will either choose not to provide a review, or if they do, will attempt to be as constructive as possible. However, as in all areas of the Internet world, trolls lurk around every possible corner, ready to pounce. If you only have five and four star reviews they’ll be eager to drag your average down. They’ll love saying things such as - ‘If I cud give no stars, or even better, minus stars, then this pile of rubbish would of got em. My advise is dont read it !!!’  Yes, so often they are littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

So how do you handle a negative review of this sort? My personal opinion is to completely ignore it. Don’t in any circumstances try to challenge what has been written by entering into a war of words. I have one character in my current novel who has a personality disorder. One reviewer commented that no one would behave in the way my character did in the novel. Part of me was tempted to say something, but I resisted the urge. What the reviewer didn’t know is that I sought advice from my wife about personality disorders, when developing the character . . . as she is a consultant clinical psychologist, and is well versed in dealing with people who have such disorders. So often a reviewer will make a comment, not knowing what they don’t know. All of which leads me on to perhaps the most irritating comment reviewers so often make - ‘It was too far-fetched’. Fellow author Jill Edmondson invited me to write about this very subject on her blog, so I won’t repeat verbatim here what I said, but suffice to say, people who think in black and white will very often not understand creative concepts, ideas or anything out of the ordinary. They’ll not see one shade of grey, let alone fifty, and will often write a review in total ignorance.

One other good way to make yourself feel better about the review is to look at other products on Amazon. Search for something you've purchased, and are delighted with. There is a very high chance that someone will have a totally different opinion. Just consider the music you like, and others don't, and vice versa. Opinion is totally subjective.

Finally, just remember you are one of a select few . . . a person who has actually written a book, and published it. Many people have the desire to write a book. Very few start one, and even fewer finish one, let alone publish it. It is very easy to criticise another person’s efforts, but it’s a lot harder, as all authors will testify, to provide other people with the opportunity to read something in the first instance. If the vast majority enjoy your work, then feel satisfied you’ve done a good job. Satisfying everyone is an impossible task.

Here is a clue about tomorrow's post.  Smiley


Friday, 15 March 2013

Every author should be on Goodreads!


Well, I’m sure you’ll agree that is a very bold statement, but I stand by it, and here’s why. Goodreads is the single biggest website on the Internet for bringing authors and readers together. Currently over 16 million members use the Goodreads website. It provides a platform both to share your books, read the books of others, enjoy engaging forums, promote new releases with a giveaway, link up with your followers from Twitter/Facebook etc etc.

I want to use this post to highlight three aspects of Goodreads (and there are plenty more) which you can use to help with marketing your book.


1) Giveaways
When I initially published my book I decided to give away a few paperback copies. I thought, optimistically, a hundred or so people on Goodreads would be perhaps interested in receiving a copy. I was staggered when over 1,800 people requested one of the free copies. That, straightaway, meant 1,800+ people (and all those who saw it, but didn’t request it) knew my book now existed. I also had over 300 people place it on their ‘to read’ list. There are a few rules regarding the 'giveaway' programme on Goodreads, but it certainly will create some immediate exposure.

2) Harvesting Twitter followers
This is a tip I was given by an author friend. You’ll find with Goodreads you’ll only be permitted to add a certain number of friends per day, before the system blocks you until you enter a new day. However, Goodreads do appreciate you may have Twitter followers on Goodreads, which you currently haven’t yet befriended on the site. These they will allow you to add as friends in bulk. You can do this by going to your profile page, scrolling down to your Friends list, clicking where it indicates how many friends you have, and then clicking on ‘Find Friends From’. Then select Twitter (and you can use the other social sites too) from the choices available. The system will then tell you how many Twitter followers you have on Goodreads that you can send a friend request to. Those who do agree to be friends on Goodreads will then slowly start to populate your 'friends' list.

3) Listopia
If you have a book riding high in one of the Listopia ‘lists’, it provides a good opportunity for further promotion. Currently I have a book which has been in the top ten ‘Thrillers You Must Read’ category for over 16 months, of which for two months during 2013 it was #1. This particular listing on Goodreads has given the novel some excellent exposure.  (I’m sure, now that I’ve just said that, one or two will see it as their duty to topple it, sooner rather than later. C'est la vie. However, any additional votes will be gratefully received.Smiley) 

In tomorrow’s post I’ll be looking at the painful issue of poor book reviews.


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Access ALL Amazon websites with just ONE link


With Twitter being limited to 140 characters per tweet, each character becomes precious, and if, as an author, you are trying to access a wide audience, it can create an issue as to where you focus your pitch. This is particularly problematic with Amazon.  My novel is currently on nine different Amazon platforms - .com, .co.uk, .fr, .it, .de, .ca, .es, .com.br, .co.jp – each of which has a unique link for my book. Clearly .com and .co.uk provide the biggest combined audience, but I also get sales from the other country platforms. Thankfully there is now a way around the problem of multiple links, namely - viewbook.at


This website helps you create ONE link that accesses ALL territories. I’ve used it, tested it with fellow authors in different countries, and it works. So, if you happen to be based in Canada, and click on this link – all territories – you will be redirected to Amazon.ca. If you are in France, and click the same link, you will be directed to Amazon.fr. This is great for using with Twitter, as it doesn’t then matter where your potential customers live, because once they click on your link, they’ll be taken to the most appropriate Amazon store. This is particularly important for books. I wouldn’t, as a customer, want to set up nine different Amazon accounts to make purchases. If I click on an book on the Amazon.com website, invariably I get redirected to Amazon.co.uk (because I reside in the UK). That’s fine, if I were always taken to the specific product page. On most occasions I get redirected to the Amazon home page. As an author I don’t want to put any unnecessary barriers in the way of my potential readers, so a ‘global’ link is an elegant way of overcoming that problem. (This service only works with links, and not the html code needed to create pictorial Amazon links, such as those on the right hand site of this site.)

So how does this all work? Viewbook provides you with a link, which directs the customer to the appropriate Amazon site, via their site. It is a seamless operation, and the customer isn’t aware of this happening. The next question you’ll probably want to ask is this – ‘Is this service free?’ – and the answer is yes . . . and no! Yes, the service is actually free, but if you have an Amazon affiliate account, you won’t be the one making the money if a sale is made – Viewbook will, via their affiliate account, which isn't unreasonable, as they are offering an excellent service. So you have to make the choice, a very small percentage of the sale lost, or the possible potential of more sales. Your royalties, by the way, will remain unaffected. It is just affiliate commission you’ll lose, paid by Amazon. Personally I’ve chosen to use the one global link, and not lose any sleep over lost affiliate commission, as I believe my chances of making sales significantly increases with the reduction in customer barriers.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Why you need to create a BRAND


As authors we generally have one goal, apart from writing books . . . and that’s to sell them. If you accept that as a key goal, then one thing is vitally important, and that is getting the message out there that your books exist. Without some form of marketing, your book will just reside on Amazon’s server as a Kindle file, and do nothing more. So what do I mean by an author having a brand? The picture below represents arguably the best known brand on the planet.


Certainly, if a company called Interbrand are to be believed, the Coca-Cola brand is the most valuable in the world, with a current estimate, for the brand alone, in the region of $67billion. No, that’s not a typo. It’s valued in billions of US dollars. Why? The answer to that is quite simple, although the calculation Interbrand use is very complex. Wherever you go in the world you’ll generally be able to buy a bottle, or can, of Coca-Cola. Compared to a ‘local cola’ or supermarket ‘own brand’ cola, Coca-Cola is more expensive. So it sells more than any other cola, and sells at a higher price than any other cola, and the logo is recognised the world over. That’s the value of the brand.

Now as an author you’ll never compete with Coca-Cola. Not even JK Rowling comes close, and neither should she. It is a different product, in a different market. But let’s get back to the Coca-Cola logo for a minute. It has remained unchanged for decades - hence why we immediately recognise it. So if Coca-Cola advertises on the TV, in the press, on poster sites, the logo is consistently the same. I now want to raise the question . . . what is YOUR logo? It can’t be your book cover, unless you only write one book, and most authors write several. Most marketing of books, particularly indie books, is done on the Internet, using, in the main, social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. If you do use Facebook, make sure it’s an ‘author fan page’ you use to market your book, not your page which family and close friends connect with you. Sure, mention the odd success on the latter, but leave the marketing to your author page. I digress slightly, but within intent. Your logo needs to be YOU! Until your books become a brand in their own right, like Harry Potter, the only common theme running across your books is you.

So how do you build a brand around you? The first thing is create consistency across all marketing platforms, and one way to do this is use the SAME photograph of yourself on EVERYTHING related to your books. Now, I loathe having my picture taken, and the photo I use is one taken by my youngest daughter (using my camera!) when I wasn’t looking. It probably looks posed, but I can assure you it wasn’t - but it’s the one I chose to use. You’ll not see another photo of me on anything linked to my books. I use it on Twitter, Facebook, my website, other websites which promote my book, etc. I know other people who do the same, and it helps me enormously. If I’m interested in their tweets, and I can see their face on my Twitter feed, I’ll click on the tweet. The same goes for Facebook, when I’m scrolling through the latest updates. However, if they change their profile picture, and many do, I’ll easily miss their message, and what’s the point of messaging in the first instance if you give people a barrier to seeing it.

So for me, rule number one is - select a picture you are happy with (or in my case find acceptable), and STICK with it. (Leave the profile picture changing for your family and close friends on your personal Facebook account.) Don’t hide behind a book cover, or some other artwork. People interact best with people, and are more likely to trust you if they can see what you look like. I very rarely follow back ‘Eggs’ on Twitter, and I certainly don’t start the following process with them.

Rule number two is - ensure you maximise the potential of your bio on Twitter. If you are an author, tell people that. Use the limited number of characters wisely, and also come across as a real person. I’ve had many people tweet me after following, making an observation about my bio, and in particular my comment about getting 100,000 words in the correct order. (Although that has since been updated to promote this blog.) I’ve seen some authors with just the word ‘author’ in their bio, and nothing more. If that’s as creative as they can be, do I want to look at their books, let alone read them? Probably not. Your bio should also provide a link to your website, not your book on Amazon. Your website gives people the chance to find a little bit more about you and your work. They can always go to Amazon from your website, if they like what they see/read. (See the post about AIDA to understand more why an Amazon book link on your blog isn't ideal.)

By creating a common ‘theme’ across all the marketing platforms you use, you will start to become more recognised, and recognition will, if established correctly, build a good reputation. That good reputation will then help to sell your books.

Finally, at the beginning of this article I drew your attention to the Coca-Cola logo at the top of the page. So ingrained is that logo in our brains, you probably didn’t spot the subtle mistake in the one I used. (See if you can spot it.) When you can see and recognise a logo, and not immediately see a subtle mistake, you know that logo is part of a very strong brand. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Do book trailers provide a benefit?


In this short post I want to consider the benefit of book trailers. Let’s first of all look at the benefits. If done well, they can help create exposure, in the same way as trailers to movies stimulate your desire to watch a movie . . . or not, as the case may be. Not everyone will want to watch the same movie, or read the same book – but if your target market see it, and like what they see, then it will definitely generate readership.

If you recall my earlier post about AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action – a good book trailer, like a good movie trailer, will deliver on all four counts. Once your viewer's attention is grabbed – either through something visual, or audible, the trailer should try to build on this interest and develop a desire for the him/her to want to read the book. Finally, there should be some form of call to action. In other words, details of where the viewer can obtain the book, or at least give them more information about it.

So the major benefit is additional exposure, and potential extra sales. But what about the negatives? The biggest negative is cost, and this is where a minefield exists. Some companies charge huge prices for the creation of a book trailer. An expense you need to re-coup from additional book sales.  Yesterday’s post outlined the number of hits you need to generate to make sales. However, if a book trailer can be created for a modest cost, then it reduces the number of sales required to cover the cost. My own book trailer, below, was produced by Tracy Stewart (www.allaboutthecover.com) for a very modest $50. (Tracy’s normal price is $75, which includes the sourcing of graphics – but I provided my own.)




Once you have a book trailer it can be used on any website, without the need for the website to upload a huge file. My book trailer is on a number of sites, including, for example, my author page on the Independent Author Network website. I’ve already had a number of people inform me directly that they have purchased the book as a result of watching the trailer. I took the view that the cost was low enough to warrant taking a small gamble, primarily due to the flexibility of being able to have the trailer on more than one website.

So in summary, book trailers can help create additional exposure, but you need to be very cautious about how much of your hard earned royalties you are going to invest in them. 


Monday, 11 March 2013

Do cost per click promotions work for authors?


The answer to this question is a simple case of mathematics, and considering a ‘conversion funnel’.  For many years I worked as a Dealer Principal in the automotive retail sector. Based on the performance of the sales staff, I knew how many people, on average, they would need to speak to, to make one sale. We constantly measured conversion rates. How many people who test drove a car would buy one? How many visitors to the showroom would take a test drive? How many people who rang in making any enquiry would make an appointment to visit the showroom, etc etc.

Below is a conversion funnel relating to online book sales.



Let’s create a scenario, relating to the promotion of books, using the above conversion funnel. We’ll say you’ve been approached by an online company who want to promote your book on their website. They state you’ll only get charged if a visitor ‘clicks’ on your link/advert on their site, and they want to charge 10 cents per click. We need to make another assumption – the royalty you receive from the sale of your book. If using the Amazon 70% royalty scheme it could be two or three dollars. Let’s be reasonably ambitious and say $2.50. In our scenario that $2.50 will pay for 25 clicks. If 20%, who click on the link, buy your book, that will provide five sales. So that’s $2.50 out, to get $12.50 in. That’s a pretty good return on investment in anyone’s eyes. But wait a minute. How realistic is it that 20% will make a purchase? We can examine the question by developing the scenario further.

The company approaching you has, say, an impressive 100,000 Twitter followers, and use Twitter to promote their service . . . and your book. The first thing to consider is how many followers actually visit the site, and how many of these visitors are unique? This is the first question to ask the promoter. That 100,000 audience will drop dramatically in terms of active clicks. Let’s be generous and say 10% do. So now the site has 10,000 visitors. What percentage will click on YOUR link? This could be 5%, or in other words 500 people (That would be a high percentage considering all the books being promoted on the site). If you are being charged 10 cents per click, those clicks have just cost you $50. You now need to make 20 sales to cover your costs. OK, so we now have 500 viewers looking at your promotional page on this particular site, with a link to Amazon. How many will click the Amazon link? 10%? If we are lucky. So now we have 50 visitors on the Amazon site. Yikes, you need 40% to buy the book just to achieve breakeven. What sorts of numbers convert to sales on Amazon? Sadly it’s a lot lower than that, and when I say a lot lower, I mean something in the region of 0.1%. Some items will convert higher, and some will be lower, but when I looked at a recent sample of 160,000 visits, across a selection of e-books, it wasn’t far from 0.1% in terms of those actually making a purchase.

I’m now going to turn the numbers on their head, using a 0.1% Amazon conversion. I think I’ve been exceptionally generous with all the previous conversions, but I’ll stick with them for the point of this exercise. To make one sale, you’ll need 1000 visitors to your book’s page on Amazon. If 10% clicked on the Amazon link on your promotion page, you’ll need 10,000 visitors to that page . . . to make one sale . . . and earn $2.50 in royalties. If those 10,000 visitors to your page came from a conversion of 5% visiting the website promoting your book, then the website will need to have 200,000 visitors, and if they arrived at the site due to 10% of all Twitter followers reaching the site, then this particular company need 2 million followers – not 100,000. If you think that’s bad news, remember you’ve had 10,000 visit your page on the promotional website, at 10 cents a click. That $2.50 sale has cost you $1,000.

I accept all the figures here are hypothetical, but one of the biggest mistakes people make in business is vastly overestimating conversion rates. I’ve seen it time and time again when looking at budgets and business plans. The only person who is going to win in the above scenario is the guy charging 10 cents per click.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Marketing Tips for Authors – Author Online Toolkit Part Two

Part Two - Measuring Effectiveness


In the last post I discussed the first part of your online marketing tool-kit, namely the tools of Twitter, Facebook and a website/blog as a minimum. There are of course countless other social media tools such as LinkedIn, Google+ etc. How many you use is a matter of personal choice, and time. But if we say the purpose of all this activity, is to eventually sell more books, we need to know what is, and what isn’t working.

Lord Lever Hulme once remarked – ‘I know half of my advertising works . . . but I don’t know which half it is.’ This is the biggest problem with marketing, most especially those marketing activities which cost money. It is very easy to spend money, and see absolutely no return for that investment. (I’ll cover the cost versus return in another article)

With so much sold online these days, and I’m thinking here specifically about e-books, a web presence is essential, and a website/blog is one of the essential tools. You can have a free blog such as Blogger, which won’t cost you anything for a domain name or server hosting – or you can go to the other extreme and have a bespoke site built and managed by a webmaster. Plus there are many options in between. Regardless which you choose you’ll still need to measure what is going on. Unless having a website is for vanity reasons, they need to work for you. The best tool for measuring online activity is Google Analytics. Blogger, for example, does have a certain amount of statistics, but Google Analytics is the real powerhouse in terms of measuring website activity. These days, just knowing the number of hits the website receives simply isn’t enough.

Google Analytics is a supremely effective tool for measuring a website’s activity. And even better news – it’s absolutely FREE!

So how does it work? Well, the first thing you need to do is attach some very specific “html” code to each page of your website (or just on the Master page, if you have one). Again, the good news is that Google will have automatically written the code for you when you sign up to use the service, and they’ll give you all the instructions required to insert it. To access Google Analytics just click here.

What does Google Analytics tell me?
Once you have set up your free account you can start analysing the data Analytics generates for you. The data is updated every day and you will be taken to your home page each time you log on. It is possible to manage several websites simultaneously within Google Analytics. All the websites you manage will be listed on the home page. By selecting “view reports” you will be taken to your “dashboard”. I don’t have the scope within this article to cover all the functionality of Google Analytics but I can provide a flavour of its power.

The Dashboard
The dashboard is where you choose what you want to view immediately you select “view reports”. The default provides the following information:

Audience Overview – A graph shows you day by day the total number of hits the website has received. Below the graph, there is other data, including – total number of pages viewed, average number of pages viewed per visit, bounce rate (the percentage of people who left the site from the same page they entered the site without visiting any other pages), the average time each visitor spent on the site and the percentage of people who visited the site for the first time. All that information in itself is very powerful, but as you’ll discover there is a great deal more to come.

Standard Reports
Real Time – This provides data on what is happening right now on your website

Audience – This is the default data, as described above. You can also drill down into areas such as demographics, behaviour and technology.

Traffic Sources – This element provides information on how your visitors arrived at your site. Was it direct traffic (those that type your web address into the address bar), search engines (and it tells you which ones) or from referring sites. This last one is especially important. The more sites that are linked to your site the more important Google considers your site. Think about all the sites that you have visited that offer you a download as a PDF (portable document format) file. Adobe are the creators of PDF files and as Adobe Acrobat Reader is used to read these files many sites provide a link to Adobe’s website where the free Acrobat Reader software can be downloaded. Adobe therefore have millions of referring sites across the Internet, making them a very important site as far as Google are concerned. Also within this section Analytics will tell you the keywords used, by those visitors that used a search engine, to find your site. This is invaluable data when trying to optimise your site for search engine visibility.

Content – This section provides deeper analysis on which specific pages have been visited. Look for the pages that have very high bounce rates and short periods of time spent on them. This may suggest that the visitor is not finding the page of interest – time for some action to help boost its ratings!

As we have already seen the default dashboard is a gold mine of useful information about what is happening on your website. However, other aspects of website activity may be more important to you. As Google recognise this fact they have structured Analytics to provide you with a dashboard that can be customised. I’ll be doing more Google Analytics articles in the future to look at some features in more detail.

So that is a quick guide to some of the functionality of Google Analytics. It’s intuitive, it’s powerful, it will add value to your web marketing initiatives and above all else – it’s FREE!

One final point – you should use Google Analytics to track how you your visitors get to the site and use the site. Don’t corrupt your data with activity from internal laptops and PCs. Make sure you use the Analytics filter to ensure that internal visits to your website are not included in your data collection. Each computer attached to the Internet has its own IP (Internet Protocol) address. If you wish to know the IP address of each computer then log on to www.whatismyip.com and it will provide you with the number, which is supplied in four blocks, such as: 123.45.67.255
You will need to type the number into the Google Analytics filter. This process should be done for each computer connected to the internet.


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Marketing Tips for Authors – Author Online Toolkit Part One


Part One - Creating a Presence

So you’ve published your first book and now you need to market it online. This will require a few essential tools, and they will fall under two categories – creating a presence and measuring. Let’s start with creating presence. As a minimum I’d suggest a Twitter account, Facebook ‘fan-page’ and a website.

Before you jump in with a Twitter account based upon the title of your book, consider this question. Do you intend to only write one book? If the answer is ‘no’, then avoid naming your account after your book. If you do, what is your strategy for book 2? Start all over again with a new Twitter account? Not the best idea, I’m sure you’ll agree. I personally believe people are more likely to engage with you on Twitter if you include three things within your Twitter account. 1) A photo of you 2) An informative bio and 3) The word ‘author’ in that bio. The reason for item 3) will become apparent in a moment.

A Facebook ‘fan-page’ is also a useful addition when trying to ‘get the word out’. Unlike a ‘standard’ Facebook page, a fan-page also provides a few tools for measuring your reach, and letting you know the most viewed/liked/shared posts. All useful stuff for deciding upon the content of your future posts.

The final key tool for creating presence is a website. I’d suggest avoiding just a blog, as it has its limitations. A website provides greater flexibility, but perhaps also have a separate blog, using Blogger or WordPress. (I've chosen Blogger as it is extremely versatile, and easy to use.) There are numerous pre-designed websites on the market, but if you are trying to display creativity, (and what author isn’t?),  then a bespoke solution is probably more appropriate. If you don’t want to be dealing with html coding you may want to consider Serif’s WebPlus x6. It’s inexpensive, easy to use and very flexible. My author website was built using it. You’ll also need suitable ftp software for uploading your updates onto your server. FTP Commander is available free of charge in its basic form. I've used it for several years for various websites, and it's both simple and reliable.

So, you now have your ‘presence’ toolkit. The next stage is to measure what you are doing, and to start using a few tools to help you become more efficient and effective online. This I’ll cover in Part Two of this article.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Generating even more exposure for your books


It's just a short article today. Well, actually it's hardly an article, it's more of a recommendation. As I've probably mentioned before, estate agents (realtors) say the three most important things about getting the best price for a house is 1) Location 2) Location 3) Location. As authors we have a similar triad, and those three keywords are 1) Exposure 2) Exposure 3) Exposure. The more people see details, reviews, recommendations, covers, you name it, about your book, the more they are likely to buy it. So get yourself interviewed, featured, and blogged about on as many websites as possible. As I mentioned in the previous article - back links to your page improve Goggle PageRank, which in turn makes your page more important for search engines. This too will increase exposure. So this week I recommend you get yourself on the Author Database, or AUTHORSdB to give it its official title. Just click on the link to go straight to the site, and register today. Oh yes, I almost forgot . . . it's FREE!! And on the subject of FREE, I've also placed details of other platforms on my author website, which will promote your book absolutely free of charge.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

How to move your Website/Blog up the Google rankings!


OK, so you’ve designed a website/blog, uploaded it onto an Internet server, but when you type the details into Google . . .nothing! It’s nowhere to be seen. Why is this? To start with Google probably hasn’t yet identified that it exists, among the 633 million, or so, websites in the World. The quickest way for Google to find out you have a site, is to tell Google. Sure, it will eventually stumble across your site, but that could take some time. If you visit their submissionpage, you can give them the details they need.

Let’s assume you’ve now done that. How can you stand out in a search among 633 million other sites? One method is to ensure you have keywords embedded in the different pages of your site. As an author, ‘books’ may be one of them. This should be done when the site is developed. However, Google has its own method of determining how important your site is, and it’s called PageRank. It uses a VERY complex algorithm, but it centres around one key aspect – back links to your site. Google consider your site to be more important the more other sites link to your site. And the more sites those sites have, with links back to them, the more important your site will be. If a site with a PageRank of 8/10 links back to your site; that is deemed more important than a site with a PageRank of 1/10.

Every website is given a ranking of 1 to 10 – with the exception of those sites which have so few back links, which then get non-classified, with a ‘N/A’ against their name. eBay.com, for example, has a ranking of 8/10. It gets more and more difficult to move up the rankings, so 10/10 is almost impossible, with only a few sites globally having achieved it. Google.com itself ranks at 9/10. One domain which does achieve the coveted 10/10 ranking is Twitter.com (Facebook.com, even with more users worldwide, trails it with 9/10) So, the more back links you have to your site, particularly from sites with good PageRank scores, the more important your site will appear to Google. To check out your sites PageRank (NB – Each page on your site has its own PageRank score) use the free tool which can be found at the base of my author website home page.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Marketing Tips for Authors – The 4Ps Part Four


So far in this series I’ve covered the first three Ps – Product, Price and Promotion. This then just leaves the fourth part – Place. Before I move on to Place let me first just recap on the other three. The idea of the 4Ps concept is it pulls the key elements of marketing together. First the product needs to be right. In the case of an author, a book, for example, needs to entertain the target audience. That entertainment comes at a price. The idea is to price it at an optimum price to get the balance right between generating sufficient profit per unit, whilst maximising volume. The next step is to then promote the product with the right message to the right audience. And it’s this last step which leads me on to Place. Place isn’t, necessarily, a physical place. A potential reader needs to know where to go to get the book. Prior to the digital revolution, this, in previous decades, would generally have been a book store. But now even physical books can be ordered from the comfort of your home, as indeed can be e-books.

In an earlier post I discussed the importance of online tools such as Twitter and Facebook as methods of generating awareness. Books can’t be bought directly from these platforms, so the awareness campaigns on these sites need links to other sites. This can be places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes store etc. But also your own website if it has e-commerce capability. If you have a Smashwords account you can download your own book in all the various different formats and put them on your site. (Please check the Smashwords T&Cs before doing this to ensure it doesn’t breach their contract.) So a Kindle user can download a Kindle formatted book from your site, as can an iPad user etc. However, the key point, regardless of where your book is sold, is that there is a link between promotion and place – in the case of online selling, this should be a hyperlink. I’ve lost count of the number of people promoting their book on Twitter and there being no link within the tweet. It is hard enough to sell anything these days, but make it harder for the customer to buy a product and the chances are they won’t. They’re not going to copy a book title from a tweet, then ‘open up’ Amazon and paste it into Amazon’s search facility. The purchasing ‘journey’ needs as few obstacles as possible. Let me finish by giving an example. People will only put in extra effort if they have a high desire for a product or service. Many shops in the UK selling clothes over more than one level adopt a simple policy. Men’s clothes are displayed on the ground floor, and women’s clothes on the first floor. Why? Because the shop owners know that women, generally speaking, will put in more effort to buy clothes than men. In essence, they’ve removed the ‘barrier’ of the staircase. I hope you’ve found this series about the 4Ps of marketing helpful.


Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Marketing Tips for Authors – The 4Ps Part Three


In the previous posts in this series I covered the areas of Product and Price. In this penultimate post in the series I would like to briefly discuss Promotion. Earlier this week I mentioned the concept of AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Our promotions need to grab the Attention of our prospective readers and generate Interest. This interest needs to build Desire in the prospect, so ultimately they take Action – and buy our book! As authors we have a number of online tools at our disposal to help us achieve this – Twitter, Facebook, Websites, Blogs etc. However, Twitter is NOT a selling platform. With just 140 characters at our disposal, the best we can hope to achieve is grabbing our prospects’ attention, at the same time as planting some seeds to generate interest. Therefore, it is important to always have a link within tweets promoting books. Links which take the prospect to either our website/blog (preferably) or Amazon book/review page (if you don't have a website). These are the platforms where desire must be created, with a carefully worded message. Now here is a challenge for you. I want you to carry out a sanity check on the sales message, within your website/blog, which relates to your book. (If you don’t have a website or blog, just go to your book’s Amazon page.) Imagine you’ve never seen the page before, and this is your first introduction to the book. Based upon your ‘sales pitch’ would YOU buy your book? If you hesitate in saying yes, then the message probably needs a bit of a polish.

The next aspect of promotion to consider is the small matter of cost. You’ll find plenty of people on the Internet only too glad to help you part with some money. You’ll hear terms such as ‘our site will provide great exposure for your book’. If you are not ultimately interested in making money from your hard work then look away now. If, however, you do want to make some money by SELLING your book, you will now need to disconnect your heart from your decision making process. Yes, we all love to see our books in all their glory, on various websites, with people waxing lyrical about them. But this section is about the cold numbers. Let’s assume you’ve been approached by a website owner, who’s given you the ‘exposure’ speech, and he/she just wants just $50 to place your book on his/her well visited website. You know that Amazon is currently paying you a $1 royalty on every e-book sale. You just need to sell 50 to break-even.

Before you go anywhere near your wallet or purse, grab a calculator and start asking questions.

Question 1 – How many unique visitors does their website attract each month? They proudly say 5,000. You quickly calculate you only need one out of every hundred customers to buy your book in month one to break-even. WRONG CALCULATION!

Question 2 – How many of those 5,000 will visit your page on the site? It may be only 10%. So that’s 5,000 reduced to 500.

Question 3 – How many of the 500 will click on the link to Amazon? That again may only be 10%. So 50 people visit Amazon from your page on their website.

Question 4 – How many visits convert to sales? It may be just 2% - not an unlikely figure by any means. 2% of 50 is ONE!  Yes, that’s one sale from 5,000 site visitors in the first month – and I believe I’ve been generous with my percentages. So, to get your money back will take over FOUR YEARS!!

The above scenario is known as a ‘sales funnel’. Each stage reduces the numbers going through to the next stage. Good use of AIDA will certainly help you to widen the neck of the funnel. I hope the above has been of help to you. My final post in this short series will be based on the last of the 4Ps – Place. Until then, happy marketing.