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Thursday, September 3

Successful Self-Publishing: Build Your Brand

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Indie Authors Series 


JH: A successful writing career takes more than just writing great books. 
Laurisa White Reyes shares tips on how to build your author brand, and why it's a critical element of an author's career.

Laurisa White Reyes is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing. She is also the founder and senior editor of Skyrocket Press and teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Visit her website at www.SkyrocketPress.com.


Take it away Laurisa...

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Getting Personal


If you are not comfortable tooting your own horn, welcome to the club. Writers tend to be introverts by nature. Most of us do not like drawing attention to ourselves. In fact, give us a quiet corner in an empty house for hours on end, and we’d be quite content – as long as we have our computers to keep us company.

But if you want to sell books, you need fans – not fans of your books – fans of YOU! It’s not always about the story you’ve written. Yes, of course you want your readers to love your books, and they will. But before they ever hit that BUY link on Amazon, they must have a good reason for doing so, and that reason is their loyalty to you as a person.

There are three ways to establish this sort of loyal following. 

The first is a given because you already have a circle of dedicated fans among your friends and relatives. But naturally, you want to expand that circle to include readers who you don’t personally know – but that’s the secret – your readers should feel as though they do know you, like you’ve become a personal friend.

A good example is C. Hope Clark, author of The Edisto Island Mysteries and Carolina Slade Mysteries series. I signed up for her newsletter, FundsForWriters, more than a decade ago, and I read it religiously (you should too!).

Hope’s newsletters, while providing excellent content for writers about contests and other opportunities, always start with a personal note from Hope. She includes photos of herself at book signings, family events, and posing with those whom she cares about. She shares insights into her writing journey, her family, her ups and her downs.

Over the years, I came to feel like I knew Hope even though I have never met her. I’ve emailed her a few times about various topics, and her replies are always prompt and personal. So, one day, out of sheer loyalty to Hope, I ordered one of her books and read it. And guess what? I loved Murder on Edisto! In fact, I have read the entire series and can happily claim myself among Hope’s biggest fans. And I tell other people about her books too.

That’s what you want. You want fans who like you, who trust you, who will want to read and promote your books because they feel like they have a relationship with you.

(Here's more on Building YOUR Indie Author Brand)

You’re the Expert


Hope Clark epitomizes the second two ways for developing fans: Getting Personal and Being the Expert. First, she connects with her fans on a personal level, letting them into her life just enough so that they feel like they are a part of her life.

This does not mean allowing strangers to friend you on Facebook (that’s what your Author Page is for) or spewing out way too much information about your marriage or kids or finances or what have you. Your personal life should remain your personal life.

What I mean by “Getting Personal” is putting a personal touch on everything you do as an author. Your bio page on your website, sharing personal insights on your blog and newsletter, etc.

Next, Hope Clark’s newsletter is never just about her books. Of course, she always includes links to her books and keeps us all abreast about her new releases, but the content of the newsletter is for the reader. She provides information that helps the rest of us become better writers. She is literally the “Opportunities for Writers Guru.” She’s the expert.

I have a newsletter: Skyrocket Press News & Views which provides info to book lovers about giveaways, book sales, and reviews. My goal is always to help my readers find their next favorite read. Between my newsletter and my non-fiction books, I’ve become an “expert” in writing and publishing.

“But I’m not an expert in anything!” you might be thinking. Then BECOME an expert. What is your book about? If you’re writing a non-fiction book, this question should be easy to answer. You’re an expert in the topic of your book. It’s a little tougher if you’re a fiction writer.

For fiction, identify a specific issue or topic that is either a theme in your book or appears in your book somehow. 

My novel Memorable, for example, is about two teens tackling mental illness and drug addiction. I could, if I wanted to, write blog posts about depression, suicide, or how to cope with these problems. I could use my book to raise awareness, not just about mental illness, but about compassion and accepting people for who they are no matter what. That’s really what my book is about, not just the problems but about tolerance and acceptance.

What is your book about? 

Not just the plot and characters, but the theme? You don’t have to get as deep and dramatic as some of my books do. Let’s say you’ve written a cozy mystery about old ladies who meet every week for tea to discuss the local crimes they read in the newspaper. You could write about TEA!! Brands of tea, flavors of tea, the history of tea, tea sets, how to drink tea in different cultures...

Or maybe you have a picture book about a child’s first visit to the zoo. You could become the expert on zoo animals, zoos in different parts of the world, how to become a zookeeper…

Do you see where I’m going with this? If you’re not an expert in anything, become an expert. Be the person your readers go to for information and link that helpful information to your books.

Once you’re ready to become the expert and to get personal with your fans, the next step is to get the word out about your book. It’s time to get serious about building your brand.

(Here's more on Do You Know Who You Are? Building and Sharing Your Author Brand)

Shout It from the Rooftops


Step One: Tell everyone you know that you are a writer and are writing (or have written a book). This isn’t the time to be modest or timid. It’s time to be confident and to spread the word. How do you do this? As writers we tend to be secretive. Some of us like to work in complete isolation and may even hesitate about telling anyone what we’re up to for fear we might fail. But telling people and getting your very own cheering section will actually help spur you on – and lay the ground work for future success.

Step Two: Get on social media and make connections. Social media isn’t about you pushing your book every day. It’s not all about “me, me, me!” It’s about creating honest relationships with people. Read, comment, and share other people’s posts. Develop a sincere interest in other people’s lives, and they will do the same for you. Make friends.

Of course, keep them posted on the progress of your book, but talk about other things too, like your son’s swim meet, or the movie you just saw, or your favorite cookie recipe. Then, when it’s time to sell your book, your friends will want to support you. And hopefully, if they actually read and like your book, they will tell their other friends about it.

Step Three: Create a website. But your book isn’t published yet? All the more reason to set one up now. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Wix.com and Wordpress.com are two of several good website providers. If you can’t figure out how to design it yourself, hire someone to do it for you. A website is essential for writers. Your readers need a place to go to learn about you and your books. If your book is already published, be sure to include purchase links. Also, include a picture of yourself, a short bio, and contact information.

Step Four: Create a newsletter and start collecting subscribers. Ten years ago, blogs were all the rage. Authors could easily attract thousands of followers, but the problem is that unless the followers subscribe to email notifications, most never actually see your posts.

Newsletters have proven to be much more effective in actually reaching your true fans. Only those who want to sign up do so, and then you can email them directly. 

Not everyone on your list will always open your email or click on the links, but the percentage of those who do are much higher than in blogs or even on social media. If you’re not sure what content to include in your newsletters, I suggest subscribing to a few yourself and reading them for a few months. As mentioned above, my favorite is FundsforWriters, but many authors have newsletters. Just visit their websites and sign up.

How do you build your subscriber list? 

The best way is organically, meaning meet people face to face and invite them to subscribe. Invite new friends you meet at writing conferences or book events; have a sign-up sheet at your speaking engagements; invite your Facebook and Twitter followers. Many authors also invest in online promotions that host giveaways in exchange for potential readers’ email addresses, such as Booksweeps, My Book Cave, and Authors XP.

(Here's more on What’s Your Newsletter Plan? Part One)

One thing I suggest for authors who already have something published is to provide an incentive for signing up for your newsletter, such as a free book, excerpt, novella, or short story. This is called a READER MAGNET. Consider either attaching the free book to your confirmation email or providing a link to the book either in a cloud or a site like Prolific Works.

For more details about how to create a successful newsletter, I suggest reading Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque. [Edit from Janice: I concur with this. A great book on how to develop your list]

Step Five: SWAG. What is SWAG? Any tangible promotional material that you can give away, including bookmarks, business cards, post cards, pins, pens, posters, t-shirts, mugs, whatever you want!

Get into the habit of handing a bookmark to everyone you meet. I like to leave them along with my tip whenever I eat out at a restaurant. When chatting with someone in an elevator or in line at the grocery store, it’s fun to wish someone a nice day and give them a pen with your website URL on it.

But you know what the best swag of all is? 

Your book. I know, it’s hard to give away copies of your book that probably cost you five or six dollars to print, but what better way is there to win new fans then to put your book in their hands? Then when your next book comes out, that new fan will be the first in line to buy it.

For more about how to build your brand, especially on social media, I recommend reading Dorine White’s How to Build Your Author Platform.

Skyrocket Press is currently accepting submissions to their 2nd Annual Novel Writing Contest (non-fiction books also welcome). The winner will be awarded $250 plus a publishing contract. For more information, visit www.SkyrocketPress.com.

About 8 Secrets of Self Publishing

So, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Great! What next? Time to consider these questions:
  • Is my book ready?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is self-publishing worth the effort?
  • Where will I find readers?
Publishing a book is easy. Successfully publishing a book takes commitment, teamwork, and yes—money. In 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing, award-winning author and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, Laurisa Reyes, explains what it takes to give your book that special ingredient that will shoot it towards success. Learn how to develop your craft, gather a publishing team, market your book, and much more as you travel the road of self-publishing. Whether you're a veteran or new to the field, this book is a valuable resource that needs to be on every writer's shelf.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this helpful article, Laurisa. I'd like to suggest an alternative to a newsletter. Blogging. Does blogging work? My blog has 495,000 page views.

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    Replies
    1. As Laurisa mentioned, blogging used to be a huge way to reach readers, but it's not as effective these days for a few reasons. There are so many blogs now, readers don't have the time, and unless they subscribe, you have no idea who is reading it.

      That's awesome that yours is doing well. I like blogging myself, and if an author enjoys it then it can be a great addition to their marketing platform.

      A lot of it also depends on what your readers want from you. Are they interested in interacting with you and getting to know you, or do they mostly want to know when you have new books out. A "new books only" reader might subscribe to a newsletter, but they wouldn't follow a blog.

      Both can work, and both have pros and cons.

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