TKZ Marketing Survey

by Steve Hooley

After a recent post on marketing, by Clare, Marketing in the Time of Covid, (April 12, 2021), Debbie and I were discussing the topic, and decided to survey all the contributors here at TKZ to learn their practices and strategies, and see what differences exist between indie and traditional publishers. In today’s post you’ll see five of the nine responses. On Tuesday, 5/25/21, you’ll see the remaining four responses and Debbie’s analysis, so please return on Tuesday to finish the discussion.

Today, as you read the responses, please be thinking about your overall strategy for marketing and if you plan to change any components.

 

John Gilstrap’s answers:

Traditional Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing?
  2. The real answer here will sound flippant, but it’s true: My goal is to make my name and by books more recognizable to the public, and therefore sell more. I haven’t established any hard and fast metrics for this. And without metrics, my “goal” is more accurately classified as a “strategy.”
  3. What marketing do you do or participate in?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews

o   Speaking gigs as we once knew them are obviously dormant. As soon as more of America is released from house arrest, I hope to get back to more of that. In 2020, I did a number of Zoom meetings, from individual book clubs—which I hope to continue into the future—to speaking at virtual conferences.

  • Blogging – Website

o   TKZ is the only blog on which I regularly participate. I have a website that I keep current with book data, and I’ve populated it with short stories and essays about writing. That said, the website is fairly static. While I provide the content, I do not handle the design or manipulation of the site.

  • Newsletter

o   I have a newsletter list, and in theory, I send out newsletters, but I am not nearly regular enough with them. I send out publication announcements, but my life is too boring to send regular (monthly or quarterly) newsletters. I think I just don’t understand the purpose of newsletters.

  • Social media – Which platforms

o   Ah, social media. What a cesspool that has become. My SM focus has been on Facebook and YouTube. I use my Facebook author page as I think I’m supposed to use my newsletter. I post about the progress of the house we’re building and about selected life events. I also participate pretty actively in a 100K+-member FB group about fiction writing. I leverage many of those posts to point people to my YouTube channel which I call a Writer’s View on Writing and Publishing. The point of my YouTube channel is to get more invitations to speak at conferences and such.

  • Conferences – networking

o   Conferences are the great casualty of the pandemic panic. There’s no way to replace that kind of face-to-face interaction with readers, fans and other authors. That said, I have a standing date with some author buddies for virtual happy hours every Wednesday evening via Zoom. It’s not the same, but it helps.

  • Others

o   Kensington (my publisher) does a lot of work on my behalf with GoodReads, BookBub and the various retailers, but I don’t understand how most of that stuff works.

  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?)
  2. I dedicate probably an hour per day to Facebook. My TKZ posts take at least two hours apiece—often more. The videos for my YouTube channel take a few hours apiece, between scripting, shooting and editing. I tend to binge-shoot these in the weeks between books, and as my deadlines approach, I don’t do any social media.
  3. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective?
  4. I have no idea. I don’t even know where to look to find that data.
  5. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above?
  6. My publisher’s publicity apparatus has been very helpful in educating me on what does and does not work in social media. We work together to project the same messages around publication dates. Historically, they’ve also arranged for some speaking gigs on my behalf. As far as YouTube is concerned, the best education sources are on YouTube itself.
  7. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic?
  8. I haven’t changed things so much as I have backed away from them. The best analogy I can think of is this: If I were on a canoe camping trip through the woods and a freak storm turned the normally placid river into a torrent, I wouldn’t attempt to navigate the dangerous waters. Instead, I’d wait for the stormwaters to recede. That’s what I’m doing during the blind panic of the pandemic.
  9. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over?
  10. It’s been my belief from the beginning that there is virtually nothing an author can do to significantly impact sales. I think that book tours are terrible wastes of money and time. Conferences are better, but not by much. The Holy Grail of marketing is to snag the keynote speaker slot, but there are only so many of those to go around. The best way for an author to sell books is to write more books.

 

Jim Bell’s answers:

Indie Pub

What marketing do you do?
Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews
Blogging – Website
Newsletter
Social media – Which platforms     Twitter, Facebook (limited)
Paid ads – which onesBookBub, BookGorilla
Conferences – networking

3. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you
spend (per week? per month?)

It varies, of course. I try generally to keep things 90/10…90% on my writing because word of mouth (the result of really good book) is by far the best marketing.

4. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment?

In the back of my mind I’m always thinking I have an hourly worth based on my average writing income each month. So I tend to think “I’m losing money by spending too much time here” with regard to social media.

Which one do you think is the most effective?

BookBub.

5. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above?

TheCreativePenn.com

6. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic?

Obviously, more Zoom. Workshops, mini-conferences.

7. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over?

Nothing really. I’ve kept writing as #1 and that hasn’t changed. I’ve tried paid ads — cost per click — on both BookBub and Amazon, but haven’t cracked the code for fiction. Nonfiction has worked better.

8. Where do you sell your books?

Amazon.

 

Terry Odell answers:

Indie Pub

I didn’t answer because I don’t have a marketing plan. I’m random and haphazard, and don’t track much.

Best for me, IF you can get one, is a BookBub deal. For Audio, a Chirp deal. I’ve done ads with other newsletters, such as ENT, Bargain/Free Booksy, Fussy Librarian. I’ve done the occasional Amazon ad, but just let them handle it, and I keep my spending very low.

I have a blog, a newsletter that goes out when I have something new, a Facebook Author Page. My blog feeds to my author page, to Amazon, to Goodreads (which I never visit), and I’m not even sure where else it shows up.

The only thing that’s changed during the pandemic is I haven’t gone to any conferences, although I’d cut way back before the pandemic.

Social media is about engaging, not selling, but if it’s lumped into marketing, then I probably spend under an hour/day doing “marketing.” If you remove that from the mix, more like 10-15 minutes, max.

Can you tell I don’t like marketing? I’m not in this gig for the money; I’d go nuts if I wasn’t writing. Seeing sales is good, but I look at bad years as a way to cut back on our taxes.

 

Elaine Viets’s answers:

Traditional Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing?
  • To create a loyal group of satisfied readers who will return to buy my mysteries and help sell books by word of mouth.
  1. What marketing do you do or participate in?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews
  • I give talks via Zoom and I’ve been a podcast guest. Before Covid-19 I went on book tours. Now I participate in Zoom book signings. These are most successful if I team up with one or more writers for the event. My last Zoom book signing was with Charlaine Harris at Murder on the Beach Bookstore in Delray Beach, FL. Murder on the Beach asks participants to buy at least one book.
  • Blogging – Website
    • I’ve cut back on blogging, except for TKZ. I believe blogging’s popularity is waning. TKZ has an established audience, and it’s worth my time.
  • Newsletter
    • I have a database of about 3000 names and send out a newsletter two or three times a year, usually when I have a new book or anthology coming out. I don’t like to bombard my readers with constant newsletters.
  • Social media – Which platforms
    • Social media is a huge time suck. I use Twitter and Facebook.
  • Conferences – networking
    • Thanks to Covid, most of the conferences were cancelled. I really miss them. I’ve been a speaker at several virtual conferences and will be at Mostly Malice, the Malice Domestic conference. As for networking, I belong to MWA and I’m treasurer of the Sisters in Crime Treasure Coast Chapter.
  • Others
    • My agent, Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky, got the rights back for my Dead-End Job mysteries, my Josie Marcus cozy series and the Francesca Vierling series. He commissioned new covers and descriptions. Julie Smith at BooksBNimble does a good job of marketing the books. She places ads and has giveaways.
  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?) Blogging takes about two days per month. Social media is about half an hour per day.
  2. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective? Facebook gives me the best results personally, though BooksBNimble does well as an income stream.
  3. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above? I learned about BooksBNimble by networking.
  4. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic? I go to fewer in-person events, and I miss conferences and book signings.
  5. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over? If I were starting over, I would join MWA and Sisters in Crime earlier and go to the conferences as soon as I had a contract, rather than waiting for my book to come out.

 

Steve Hooley’s Answers:

Indie Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing? Leave a legacy for my descendants. Sell more books.
  2. What marketing do you do?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews Beginning to work on a target audience of schools with visits and zoom.
  • Blogging – Website TKZ only. Website needs updating.
  • Newsletter Once monthly to a sign-up group
  • Social media – Which platforms On Facebook, don’t use it.
  • Paid ads – which ones Want to learn about this.
  • Conferences – networking – In past. Not post-virus.
  • Others
  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?) Speaking – just starting – one hour per month. Blog (TKZ) about 2-3 hr every other week. Newsletter – one hour monthly.
  2. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective? No return with any, other than speaking to individuals and small groups when I was still in my office. Most effective – speaking.
  3. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above? JSB – How to Make a Living as a Writer. Dale Carnegie – The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. Kahle and Workhoven – Naked at the Podium. David Gaughran – books and newsletters.
  4. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic? Beginning to learn Zoom.
  5. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over? Build my website as a website rather than a blog site. Do a better job of updating. Build a bigger newsletter list. Start public speaking sooner. Experiment with paid ads. Begin use of Zoom earlier.
  6. Where do you sell your books? Amazon and local bookstores.

 

 

Okay, TKZ family, it’s your turn:

  • What is your overall plan or strategy for marketing?
  • Do you plan to make any changes?

 

Two final notes: 

  1. Please remember to stop back on Tuesday, 5/25, when the four remaining responses from TKZ contributors will be presented, and  Debbie will analyze the results and wrap things up.
  2. In two weeks (June 5th) Dale Ivan Smith, a former librarian, will present a guest post, titled “How to Break Into a Library.” Please join us, and bring all your library questions.
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Marketing in the time of Covid

Since the pandemic began my already sporadic social media forays sputtered to a halt – partly because I had nothing to say and partly because of the strange sense of apathy and introspection that seemed to accompany the social withdrawal associated with pandemic lockdowns. Now that I just got my second vaccine shot (yay!) and my boys are back to in-person school it’s time, it’s probably a good time to reassess my social media presence (or non-presence as the case may be)…which got me thinking about the whole issue of marketing and book promotion in the pandemic and post-pandemic world.

Sadly, some authors had the misfortune of having a book come out right when everything went into lockdown – which must have been extremely challenging. Even before the pandemic though many writers had already moved away from in-person book events (which rarely had great attendance levels anyway!) and turned to the virtual world to help bolster their marketing efforts. For many book-related businesses adapting to the pandemic was a necessity – one that was also accompanied by a host of new opportunities and options (I mean who would have thought about Zoom based author events before?!). Over the last year, I’ve been particularly impressed by how bookstores like Murder by the Book have adapted to the pandemic situation, holding virtual author interviews and other events, which I think helps foster an ongoing sense of community and support. The question is, what lasting (or at least lingering) effects will the pandemic have on the way authors (and bookstores) market and promote their work?

I still see author newsletters in my email, and many of my favorite writers are active on at least one social media platform. Only occasionally do I see a book promo video in social media, and print ads still seem reserved for the bestsellers. While there is obviously growing interest in online author events (like author Zoom visits to book groups) – it will be interesting to see how these pan out as we move into the ‘new normal’. You only have to look at the rise and decline in author/writing related blogs to see that there is constant evolution when it comes to marketing/promotion and connection building within the writing community. We here at TKZ are one of the few writing blogs that have really withstood the test of time (I remember how many more blogs there were when we first started out!) which indicates just how much the online landscape for books/authors continues to change.

So, TKZers what marketing or social media changes are you seeing for authors as a result of the pandemic?  Has Covid changed the way you market and promote your own books? Looking to the future, what do you think the ‘new normal’ might look in terms of author/book marketing and promotion?

 

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Video Marketing and Social Media Tips

Videos make a lasting impression. We live in a visual, media-rich world. Marketing via video continues to rise. Experts say 86% of all content will be in video format by 2022. Let’s look at current trends first, then move on to how writers can dip their toes into video marketing without suffering a panic attack. BTW, if you missed John’s clear and concise post about Zoom, be sure to check it out.

Video Trends

Instagram and Facebook Stories allow users to share short-form, vertical videos that disappear after 24 hours. Instagram Stories have 500 million active daily users. I know! That number shocked me, too.

Stories should be informal, relaxed, and allow viewers a quick snapshot of your day or a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your world.

Optimize for Mobile Users

There’s a higher demand for vertical videos that fit on mobile screens. Why? Because 75% of users watch videos on their phones and vertical fits better than horizontal.

Length

Try to keep marketing videos to under two minutes. The shorter the video the greater chance of viewers watching till the end. This “rule” can change according to platform. On Facebook, if you run over, I wouldn’t worry about too much unless it’s an ad. Ads should be kept as short as possible. On Twitter and Instagram, keep it bite-sized.

Live Video

Eighty percent (80%) of shoppers say they’d rather watch a live video than read a blog post. Shoppers age 18-34 watch live content daily.

Optimize for Hearing Impaired

Add captions for the hearing impaired. This tip will also add clarity if the speaker has an accent. Plus, some viewers prefer to watch video with the sound off.

YouTube

As far as SEO — Search Engine Optimization — goes, YouTube tops the list. To give you some idea of why, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. With this in mind, I created a nonfiction book trailer, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared the video across social media.

As you can see, I didn’t include captions like I should have. Yet, after I posted this video, the book rose to #1 New Release, proving (at least, to me) we can veer away from these “rules” and still be effective.

Writers & Social Media

Whether we like it or not, social media is a must for writers. With fewer book retailers, the discoverability of books depends on the author’s online footprint. Regardless of genre, it’s a fact that social media buzz directly impacts sales. More than 40% of book recommendations come from word-of-mouth, which often originates online.

Whenever a fellow writer asks me for help with social media, my top tip is to be yourself. Be genuine. Social media should be fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, people will notice.

Always conduct yourself as a professional, but don’t hide the real you while doing it. There’s so much garbage and negativity on social media. As writers, we need to rise above it and not get swept up in a pissing match over political views or coronavirus facts vs. misinformation. If we’re not careful, our opinions on certain subject matters can and will hurt our writing career. Non-writers view us as neutral, and we need to live up to that standard.

You might say: Gee, we’re not even allowed to have an opinion? Of course, we are. What we don’t need to do is broadcast it all over social media. Same goes for complaining about rejection letters, querying, writing, marketing, books we didn’t enjoy, critiques, fellow writers, etc., etc., etc. Use social media as if the whole world is watching, because the whole world IS watching.

The follow-up question I most often receive is, “Be genuine, got it. But how do I let readers know the real me?”

The answer is simple. Share your joys, your passion, your excitement. For example, I recently shared a video of my first reaction to opening the box of PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND paperbacks. I broke almost all the “rules” stated above here, too, but my Facebook audience didn’t care. They loved being included.

Your turn, TKZers! What are some ways you’ve used video marketing?

Join the giveaway for a chance to win the paperback of Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs. Winner will be notified via email and announced in my November 2, 2020 post. Good luck!

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How To Create Free & Easy Book Marketing Images

My eyes glaze over whenever I need to use photoshop or any other application with a steep learning curve. I’m sure I could figure it out eventually, but honestly, I don’t want to spend hours with the tutorials. I’d rather be writing. Sites that allow writers to shortcut the process make life so much easier. When they’re free and easy to use, these sites become invaluable tools.

This first little beauty is a gem. The site’s called DIY Book Covers. The section we want is The 3D Book Cover Creator You’ll Love to Use. And you know what? They’re right! It’s a game-changer for those of us who lack patience for sites like photoshop, which is why I’m sharing step-by-step directions with all of you.

Ready? Here we go …

Please excuse the lighting in some of these photos. I took them with my phone rather taking screenshots (long story).

The linked title above will take you to this page …

It automatically opens to “Single” image choices, as you can see here …

The cool part is, we also have the option of creating tablet, phone, and print combo images by clicking “Composite.”

Click the image you want to create, then click “Next” and it will take you to this page …

Click “Browse” and find your book cover on your computer. Then click the blue “Upload” button and the image will appear.

See the two orange buttons at the bottom? We have the option of saving as PNG or JPEG. I like to use PNG for marketing images because they tend to be crisper, but they do take up more download space. Once you choose your file preference, click “Next” and you’re done. The download will show your 3D image with a clear background.

These steps took less than five minutes from start to finish. Easy-peasy, right? Okay, now, we could use this 3D image as is, but it’s a little bland. We want readers to click our ad, so we need to add a background.

Numerous sites offer public domain photos that don’t require attribution. My top three favorites are Pixabay, Morguefile, and Unsplash.

Finding the perfect background image takes time. To help with the search, consider the following:

  • What type of mood do you want to convey?
  • We want our background to reflect our genre. Are you promoting a gritty crime novel, sci-fi, fantasy, or romance?
  • Will the background compliment your book or overpower it?
  • Where will your 3D image sit? Get creative!

The first and third promo pics below go against the norm; the middle one is more universal, but I’m showing them as examples of thinking outside the box …

 

The third image should be more centered, but you get the picture. The bookend photos are fun images to catch people’s attention. I wouldn’t recommend always using these types of backgrounds unless they fit your book, but taking a break from the serious side of marketing can be fun too.

Okay, once we’ve found our background, it’s time to insert our 3D image and text. As I mentioned in my first official post on TKZ, the easiest site to use is Canva.com.

Let’s go there now. This is the home screen …

See the dropdown menu under “What would you like to design”? Canva takes the guesswork out of social media’s various sizes. All we do is choose the social media site where we’ll be marketing our book, and Canva automatically gives us the correct size. Although, I’ve found that “Facebook post” images also work on Twitter. We don’t need to create two separate images unless we’re paying for ad space. In which case, it’s best to create an image that’s guaranteed to fit. Ads tend to run differently than a regular post.

I chose Facebook Post, which led me to this screen …

On the left-hand-side of the screen, you’ll find Uploads. Click that button and upload your background image as well as your 3D image. I’m showing you the background image I chose for SILENT MAYHEM so you can see how to drag the image to fill the screen.

See the white bars and corner dots around the outer edges of the background photo? Hold and drag until the image covers the entire template. Then decide where your 3D image should go. By clicking the book cover image in Uploads, Canva will stick it in the middle of your background, but positioning it easy and self-explanatory.

Next click “Text” in the left-side menu and a dotted bar will appear. At the top, you’ll find where to choose a font, color, size, etc.

Here’s the finished product that I created for my new release, SILENT MAYHEM …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Brush is another cool site. With the free option, our 3D options are limited, but they’ve combined everything we’d need to create a promo pic, including over one million background images, stamps, text, and fonts. The only catch is, they limit the amount of downloads to three per month. They also offer a Plus Plan for $8.00 per month ($96/yr), which grants access to all 3D templates, unlimited downloads, support, and five video templates per month. With Book Brush, creating a book promo image only takes a few minutes.

What sites do you use to create marketing images for your blog or book(s)? Do you have a favorite site for public domain photos? Any tips to share?

 

Some things in life defy comprehension, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Or deadly.

Pre-Order SILENT MAYHEM on Amazon and join the giveaway!

Email me your receipt and I’ll put your name in a drawing to win signed paperbacks of the first two books in the series.

Winners announced on Release Day (4/29/19).

 

 

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