The Practice of Creativity

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For the past several years, I’ve been curious about self-publishing and have wanted to pursue a more hybrid approach to my author career. I’ve listened to podcasts, read books and have worked to become better educated about the opportunities and challenges of self-publishing. There’s still a lot to learn and I’m working up the courage to have something self-published by the end of the year. Maybe you are thinking along the same lines and wondering how to develop a plan that doesn’t result in overwhelm. I’ve got you covered. I’m delighted to welcome Desiree Villena who is providing today’s guest post. Desiree is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Over 2,500 books have been produced via Reedsy since 2015.

5 Tips to Transition from Traditional

Publishing to Self-Publishing

These days, the world of publishing has more choices than ever before. For perhaps the first time ever, authors are truly free to pick the publishing path that is both best suited to their personality and most effective at bringing their particular story to the right audience.

But if you’re used to having your books traditionally published, venturing into the world of self-publishing can seem rather daunting. So today we’re going to cover 5 things you can do to help make the transition seamless — and even fun.

Create your own publishing schedule

As a traditionally published author, you’re used to having deadlines assigned to you. Depending on how well the project is going, this can feel like either a blessing and a curse. When you do strike out on your own, it can be tempting to think this means your days of racing to meet strict deadlines are over. But whatever you do: resist that impulse.

There’s a reason publishing houses operate on carefully mapped out timetables, and it’s not just the volume of books they’re producing. By creating a production schedule, you’ll be able to budget your time, money, and resources, as well as lay the groundwork for a successful launch plan.

Now, when you’re new to self-publishing, it may take you a while to figure out a realistic release timetable for you and your books. That’s okay. Be willing to learn from your experiences and adjust accordingly. It’s much easier to fix a plan that’s already there, than to wander aimlessly and hope for the best.

Build yourself a team

Publishing houses understand that each aspect of building a book requires different skills and talents. Book cover designers do not necessarily know how to create beautiful interiors, and they certainly can’t copy edit to find all yourweasel words and grammatical mistakes!

Although it’s called “self” publishing, do yourself a favor: don’t try to DIY this. Not only will it add way more stress and take time away from what you should really be focusing on (writing), but it’s not good for your books either.

Instead, you’ll want to make yourself the head of your own tiny publishing empire. Being able to choose your own editors, cover designers, and marketing specialists means that you’ll always be working with people you believe in and trust to bring your book to life the right way.

Set a clear vision for yourself

That said, this is still your book and your career as an author. Successful self-publishers know what they want from their career, and every business decision they make reflects the goals, priorities, and guidelines they set out for themselves.

To start, ask yourself what you’re really looking for by turning to self-publishing. “Success” is not an answer — what does that look like for you? What kind of author do you want to be, what kind of books do you want to write? Do you want to publish because you’re trying to bring specific stories into the world? How often do you need to publish to meet your goals?

Make sure to be honest as you’re talking to yourself about this. There really is no “wrong” answer, unless of course you’re looking to publish purely as a get-rich-quick method. Spoiler: that doesn’t work. Self-publishing can be financially successful in the long run, but it takes time, patience, and smart business tactics. It’s important to find value and fulfillment in the process before you turn a profit  — otherwise, you won’t stick with it long enough to find success.

Do your research

Remember how much time you spent learning how to get a literary agent? Guess what: you’re going to need to invest a similar amount into learning how to self-publish.

This doesn’t need to be disheartening, however. Your experience as a traditionally published author will give you a leg up: you’ll already know how to work well with an editor and on a deadline, as well as being familiar with the nerves that come with book launches and marketing tours.

But yeah, it’s a different process, and you’re going to need to learn the details of how it works. Luckily, there’s a whole wealth of publishing courses and blogs out there where you can find the answer to just about any self-publishing question that crosses your mind. And as a bonus tip, make friends within the self-publishing community. Believe me, no struggle you encounter will be unique, and there are more than enough sympathetic ears out there willing to give you advice and encouragement.

Let go of your fear of failure

Rejection is a constant in the traditional publishing world. By the time your first book is out you’ve been rejected by agents and publishers so often that you’re probably pretty numb to it. And it’s not like you’ll ever get a feedback form from agents that explain to you why they turned down your book. Even successful, professional authors can’t get away from it: just because your first book sold, doesn’t mean the next one will, and one failed launch can be the difference between getting signed again or not.

But in the self-publishing world, there is no such thing as a complete failure. Even if you do everything wrong and your first book only sells one copy to your mom, you can pick yourself back up, brush yourself off, and try again. You can switch genres, try different pen names, or just re-release a title with a new cover and a stronger marketing push. Remember, a book that doesn’t sell well at first can find success even years after its release. Your career is truly in your own hands, and the only way to “fail” is to stop trying.

With that in mind, it’s time for you to get out there and start making your dreams a reality. Good luck!

***

Your invitation still stands, click here to get your ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’.

Over the last few years, several people have asked me about tips and strategies to promote their new book. I have often replied to each person individually via email. Since the publication of my novella in 2017, I feel like I have learned a lot about the mysterious world of book promotion.

I decided to compile some thoughts here, written similarly to the personal emails I have sent. I’ve also rounded up some links for you, too. Some of the ideas below apply to indie authors and traditionally published authors alike. Adapt and modify as you see fit. I can say that when I have asked traditionally published authors what they would do differently post-launch, they all say without hesitation—start preparing earlier than you think you should for your launch and spend money on a good publicist.

 Enjoy!

 ***

I’m sure you are excited about this next phase of getting your book into the world and you should be! Writing and promoting a book is something that most people dream about and that you are accomplishing!

Here are some suggestions for ways to get started:

 General:

-Your publisher should help you build a press kit. A press kit is a blueprint tool that creates a foundation for you as you promote the book over the next several months and years.

-I am also assuming that you have a website or some place on social media where people can find you. That is important, even if you have just one place (i.e. website or Author Facebook page).

Don’t be afraid to try new ways of promoting your book: https://insights.bookbub.com/creative-ways-authors-announced-book-launch/

Digital:

-I would conduct a Google search and target people that write blogs about YOUR SUBJECT and pitch yourself for either an author Q&A or a guest blog post. You’ll want to create a couple of formats and word counts; guests posts can run anywhere from 250-1000 words. People always need content. You can also pitch Huffington Post (which doesn’t pay its writers but has GREAT exposure) about an article based on your book. Blogs are still an important way for people to find out about new authors. I have provided a link to here to one of the interviews I’ve conducted with writers so you can get a sense of the kinds of questions most bloggers will want to ask you–so you can prepare some copy. Of course, bloggers will tailor the interview to your content.

-You might also start a channel on YouTube and post 1-2 minute videos of yourself reading from the book.

-Research podcasts that might be interested in having you as a guest. I talk about preparing for a podcast interview here.

 In person events:

 -Think about the various angles of your book–how does it inform or educate as well as entertain? What can you teach people or share with them at a book talk besides what is expected? Think about the kinds of “hooks” you can use to entice people to say yes to having you come and speak. You may not always sell a lot of books right away at local talks, but exposure is important as is word of mouth.

-Start planning your book talks early–do one locally where you can get your friends and family to come. You might also want to team up with another author as it helps with promotion.

-Is your book the kind of book that might interest civic organizations, including: Elks Clubs, Kiwanis, The Shriners, etc.  What about historical societies?

 -Don’t forget to pitch a talk or reading your local library and libraries near you.

TV/Radio

 -Getting onto local TV stations (or major networks) and/ radio tends to be a bit easier for those who are traditionally published. However, creativity and innovation in coming up with pitches that catch a producer’s eye will be rewarded.

-Consider pitching your book to the local National Public Radio station (NPR). They usually have a local show that will have authors on as guests. In NC, we have ‘The State of Things’. Think of how your work might tie in to current events, holidays, etc. There may also be community radio shows that would enjoy having you as a guest.

Remember:

You don’t need to do everything all at once (whew!), so choose one or two areas to focus on and then build out. Think about what success, as a new author, promoting yourself (besides sales of books) will mean to you in the next couple of months. A great book party? Lots of podcast appearances? An online presence?

Pace yourself and enjoy knowing that your baby is now going to have adventures in the world!

Here are some trends to watch: https://insights.bookbub.com/book-promotion-trends-bookexpo-2019/

Social Media for Writers: 7 Strategies

Saturday, March 23, 10am-3pm, Central Carolina Community College

Hi folks,

It’s March and I have a great workshop, Social Media for Writers: 7 Strategies, coming up in just a few weeks! I’d love for you to attend. At any given time, you can find writers talking, arguing and lamenting about the expectations of social media usage for writers. There’s often not a lot of joy in these conversations. The debates over how to use social media (and what for), also reveal ambivalence about other necessary skills writers most often need to develop–promotion and marketing.

Whether you aspire to be an indie writer, traditionally published or hybrid author, creating an online presence is part of a savvy writer’s toolkit.

Creating an online presence and managing social media helps writers build relationships with other authors, fans and industry professionals. It also can generate leads, provide exposure and advance your professional goals and aspirations.

With the millions of choices out there, potential readers need to know how to find your work, understand your unique perspective and connect with you.

Social Media for Writers is geared for writers interested in creating or beefing up an online presence. It is also geared for those writers who want to know more about how to use social media effectively in getting them closer to their writing goals.

We’ll spend time exploring the challenges and opportunities of various platforms (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and learn novel ways that writers have used these platforms to promote their work and engage industry professionals, readers and fans.

We’ll also talk about author websites (what should be on them?), blogging (is it still worth doing?), author newsletters (when should you start one?), and importantly–how not to get overwhelmed in managing your social media.

And, I promise you it will be FUN and of course, there will be door prizes, too! More below…

Social Media for Writers: 7 Strategies

Does the term author platform make you cringe? Are you overwhelmed by conflicting advice about how often and in what ways aspiring (and professional) writers should be engaging in social media? Do you think that talking about an author brand minimizes one’s creativity? Does talk of authors using Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram make you want to stay in bed and pull up the covers?

Find out ways to effectively harness social media to meet your goals and have fun while doing it.

This workshop will help you make informed choices about how you represent yourself online.

Writers of every level, genre, and background welcome.

Register here

 

I’m thrilled that author and friend, Jessica Yinka Thomas has stopped by to share her recent, and super successful, crowdfunding experience for her forthcoming thriller, How Not to Make Friends, a sequel to How Not to Save the World. Crowdfunding is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for authors to raise their profile, engage with an audience and raise money for their passion projects. I’m inspired by what Jessica has accomplished and excited to learn from her!

 Crowdfunding To Launch Your Next Novel

 “I will publish my second novel by the end of 2018.” That’s the goal I set for myself back in April of this year. I began thinking about the best way to raise funds to self-publish How Not to Make Friends and to publicize the book. After consulting with numerous friends, including fellow authors and entrepreneurs, I came to the conclusion that the two goals could be combined through a crowdfunding campaign. Running an effective crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work with many pitfalls along the way. But, I found it to be a very effective strategy to raise $8,000 in 30 days while strengthening my fan base.

My initial goal was $5,000, enough to break even, covering the costs of the campaign, professional editing, cover design and the initial print run. I was very fortunate to raise that goal several times over the course of the campaign. I think a huge part of my success was having an existing fan base and incredibly strong support network based on the success of my first novel. Knowing that I would be primarily speaking to existing fans and friends made it a lot easier to reach out and ask for support. If you’re considering putting together a crowdfunding campaign to launch your next book, here’s what I learned from the process.

Build your network

The platform that I used, iFundWomen, estimates that about 2% of your potential backers will actually make a contribution. When I combined my personal contacts who might be interested in the novel (500), the mailing list I built from publishing my first novel (800), personal social media contacts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (4300), social media contacts through my novel Facebook page (1000), I had about 6600 potential backers. The estimate of 132 backers was pretty accurate, particularly considering the overlap in the various contacts. Every last one of the 103 contributors to my campaign were friends, fans or friends of friends.

 

Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, very few, if any of your contributions are likely to come from strangers who are browsing the crowdfunding campaign platform that you select. Before getting started, make sure you’ve built a strong network of friends and fans on social media, through your blog or website and in your email distribution list. Give your network a heads up that you are planning to launch a campaign before it kicks off to begin to generate some excitement.

Select the right platform

Picking the right platform to launch your campaign is critical. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding network out there but it has an all or nothing model. If you don’t raise your goal amount in the time frame you’ve set, all the funds are returned to the contributors. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo, one of the larger platforms gives you the option of all or nothing model or a flexible goal. Keep in mind that if you reach your goal, Indiegogo takes a 4 percent cut; if you don’t, the fee jumps to 9 percent. Most sites charge a credit card processing fee that’s around 3 percent.

I decided to go with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women led startups and small businesses. iFundWomen provides a supportive platform with a rich set of free resources from expert coaching to in-depth campaign management tools. Not only can you make your goal flexible, but they have excellent customer service where you can change the closing date or even the goal amount of your campaign with a quick email. Every month the platform reinvests 20 percent of their standard fees back into live campaigns. I was fortunate to be one of a handful of campaigns to receive funding from the platform back in September. iFundWomen charges a 5 percent fee.

Pick engaging rewards

For a novel crowdfunding campaign, there is a pretty compelling reward, the actual book, once it’s published. I offered several different versions of my new novel at different price points: $10 for an EPUB version of the book, $25 for personalized autographed copies, and $50 for personalized autographed copies of my first and second novel. I was pleasantly surprised that the most popular reward was at the $100 level, an opportunity to be listed in the acknowledgement of the book along with autographed copies of both novels. I used the themes of friendship and international exploration from my novel, naming the reward levels after translations of the word “friend” in different languages represented in the novel.

 

 

One of the rewards was a book club bundle, 8 autographed copies for a $250. I was surprised that no one selected that reward, but later realized that it would be tough for a supporter to get their book club to agree to read the book during the brief campaign period.

The reward that I was most excited to try out was the opportunity to name a character in the novel. I was thrilled that 5 people select this option at the $500 level.

Market the heck out of your campaign

The crowdfunding campaign is your opportunity to tell your writing story. It’s an opportunity to share what motivates you to write and what you hope your readers take away from your novel as a way to engage and inspire your network. Once you’ve got your campaign in place, it’s helpful to send it out to a few close friends, both to get feedback and also to secure a few key initial donors. You want to demonstrate some initial momentum when you first share the campaign with your broader network.

After that, the challenge is finding creative ways to regularly reach out to your network via email, social media, text and yes, even phone calls, during the campaign period. iFundWomen has a comprehensive tool that is an end-to-end campaign planner from putting together your pitch, to mapping your network map, to laying out your campaign goals, to planning each week of the campaign. iFundWomen’s coaches playbook was essentially my business plan for the campaign.

Don’t’ discount the importance of the video as part of your campaign. I resisted putting together a video for several weeks, thinking it would be too much work and wondering who would watch it anyway. I spoke with several friends who had completed successful campaigns along with the coach from iFundWomen who stressed the importance of the video. Some people prefer to watch a brief 2 to 3 minute video, others will scroll through your campaign text. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I worked with a fantastic local videographer through Iron Worx Media, to pull together a series of photos capturing my writing journey, overlaid with an audio recording. I got some great feedback on the video during the campaign and now it lives on my author website.

Follow through

The campaign turned out to be a very effective commitment device. I had 103 people expecting to receive copies of my novel before the end of the year! The campaign also provided me with the funds to move forward with two rounds of professional editing to polish up my novel. I had the opportunity to work with The Book Smugglers on development editing and with Lystra Literary Services on content editing. I was able to work with the very talented Jen Rhoton on the cover design. And I’ve now published the novel on lulu.com, my favorite print-on-demand publishing company.

The result was a beautiful product I have now been able to share with all of my crowdfunding campaign supporters. Last weekend, I autographed almost 200 copies of my first and second novel, over a long weekend, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve started to see posts on social media from delighted fans and friends who have now received their long-awaited rewards. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Like many superheroes Jessica Yinka Thomas leads a double life. By day, she teaches social innovation and sustainable business at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. By night, she is a social justice novelist, author of the How Not to Save the World series. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Jessica’s iFundWomen campaign: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/how-not-to-make-friends

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicayinkathomas/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jyinkathomas/

Website: www.jessicayinkathomas.com

 

Affirmations-366Days#268: I learn new marketing ideas that can support and amplify my writing.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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