Monthly Archives: September 2010

Branding 101: Be Authentic

by Joe Bayern, Senior Vice President

Loyal readers, like any loyal customer, become invested in the person behind the book. They’ve read the creativity you’ve poured out on your pages. They feel a connection to you; they may even feel like they know you. So it’s important to be yourself.

Based on my experience working with some great brands, I believe a key component for success is maintaining authenticity.  Consumers want to know who you are and what you stand for.  This is especially important if your goal is to build a loyal following for many books to come, or perhaps looking to position yourself with a traditional publisher. 

You have tremendous power to connect directly to your consumers through the use of the internet and social networking, but in order to be successful you have to keep it real.  Consumers realize when they’re being marketed to, so start by simply engaging in a meaningful dialogue with them. 

If you have expertise to share with them, share it.  Consumers will see the value in engaging with you, and you’ll be able to build a loyal following in no time.

5 Ingredients to a Great Blog Post

by Maggie Hames, Social Media Specialist

The influence of bloggers is continuing to grow daily. eMarketer estimates that this year more than half of internet users will read blogs at least monthly. As an author, what better way to reach your audience, establish yourself as an expert and do what you love all at once? Blogging is the perfect social media outlet for authors to get started online. By trade, authors are writers and are well versed in their subject matter. So take it to the next level. Successful authors like Jackie Collins and Seth Godin are blogging about what they know and you can too.Here’s a go-to guide to writing a successful blog post:

  1. Be Interesting. No one wants to hear about what you wore to your grandmother’s 91st birthday party. So don’t write about it. Write content that will be useful to readers. Dip into the wealth of knowledge that you already have on your subject matter and write for your readers. The best writing comes from taking your personal experiences, theories and ideas, and turning them into content shaped for others.
  2. Tag, Tag, Tag! Tags are key to driving traffic to your blog. They make your blog post searchable and they link your blog to other blogs with a similar topic. Chose tags that are specific to your post and also choose a few from the most popular tags.
  3. Picture Perfect. Readers will get bored with pages of straight text. Incorporate photos or videos into your post to make things more interesting. This will get the readers attention and keep them coming back for more.
  4. Link Intelligently. Link keywords to outside sources with more information. To get started, Google the keyword and try to choose something off the first page of results. But be careful.  Be sure to choose sites that are reliable and add value to your post.
  5. Have fun! If you’re bored writing your post, imagine how your readers will feel. Have personality and show off your writing skills.

As your blog begins to develop, remember there are several ways to get more traffic to your blog. Start by sharing it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Next, we suggest reaching out to other bloggers in your community who are talking about similar subjects. Reach out to them by leaving thoughtful comments and suggestions. This will peak their interest and motivate them to visit your blog. You’ve got to give love to get love. Let us know what you enjoy seeing in a blog post in the comments section and happy blogging!

Twitter “Noobs”: 5 Things You Can Learn from @50Cent

 by Sandy Dunwoody, Literary Publicist

In my eyes, the introduction of @50Cent and @OprahTheDog has to be the most interesting (and educational) development in the Twitterverse since…well, Twitter itself.

For those of you who are still in the dark, platinum-selling rapper 50 Cent—who once left his Twitter account to his PR team—suddenly became active in the Twitter world, slinging grammar-challenged tweets rife with controversy into cyberspace. Since then, 50 Cent has been experimenting with fan engagement while gaining footing with a new medium to spread his message. He tweeted that he was looking for love online, which started an avalanche of responses and Twitter photos. He also recently created an account for his dog “Oprah,” garnering over 8,000 followers in two days, and his hints at the dog’s abusive “master” enflamed the animal advocate group PETA. 50 Cent’s garbled tweets even inspired a mock “Queen’s English” 50 Cent translation Twitter page (@English50Cent).

 I’d argue there are a few lessons to be learned from 50 Cent for those who are new to Twitter, both on what to do and what NOT to do (who would have ever thought 50 Cent could be educational?):

  1. Be Active:  At first, 50 Cent was leery of Twitter as a medium to reach his fans—much like many who still are unsure of the value of the popular social media site. But, once he jumped in and began tweeting regularly, he saw a quick response from his followers (now numbering over 3 million). Now, he tweets several times an hour and has mastered the art of links, attachments and replies.
  2. Be Personal:  When his account was maintained by his team, 50 Cent’s tweets lacked the singeing personality and pizzazz that they have now. Now, we can peek into his whirlwind life as a famous rapper (which, if you judged merely by his tweets, consists mostly of sex, money and “hustling”). By being humorous, personal and newsworthy, he’s given followers a reason to pay attention to him (besides his obvious fame factor).
  3. Engage!:  Inspired by the immediate buzz he made, 50 Cent created ways to engage his fans. His quest to find a girlfriend online started an impromptu contest, and even celebrities like Perez Hilton joined in for fun (although 50 Cents resulting homophobic tweets caused a stir in the gay community). While I wouldn’t suggest mimicking his behavior entirely, he has the right idea of using creative methods to engage your followers and keep them interested. If you’re an author, for example, offer a free chapter to your followers.
  4. Be Responsible:  A warning: exercise your power responsibly. I think most would agree that 50 Cent has been abusing his influence and his 3-million-follower soapbox by causing unnecessary controversy. Twitter is a great tool to use to your advantage, but be aware of the consequences.
  5. Be Professional:  It would be safe to say that if 50 Cent’s mother was next to him when he tweeted, he’d be getting soap in that mouth of his! Remember that Twitter is a very public platform, and if your account is public anyone can read what you write. Tweet as if your mother, child, teacher AND employer have access to your Twitter page. That means cutting out profanity, writing legibly, and not tweeting about anything you would deem embarrassing.

What are your thoughts about 50 Cent’s sudden arrival to Twitter? Does it inspire you to become more involved?

Events: Thinking Outside the Bookstore

by Jessica Barrett, Events Manager

Bookstores seem like obvious, ideal places to hold a book signing. While they seem obvious, they may not be ideal for your book. Bookstores contain thousands of titles on a multitude of topics. Where does your book fit into their shelves? And I mean fit in, tuck away, go virtually unnoticed among the myriad titles and non-book items stores now carry. Sometimes you need to think outside of the store. Literally, outside.

Have you written a gluten-free cookbook? Or a history of agriculture in your county? If so, consider setting up a booth at your local farmers’ market and conduct a signing there. Is your book about WWII? Consider setting up at your local VFW or during a Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day event.  Perhaps your book is about equine or large animal care? Then maybe a table at your state fair is the place for you.  Fantasy or SciFi book? Check out gaming stores, gatherings and conventions.

When looking to promote and sell your book through signings, get out a pen and paper, start brainstorming and consider the following:

Niche & Genre:  Let’s say your book is a gluten-free cookbook. Clearly, it falls under the Cookbook category, but couldn’t it also fall under Health & Fitness, Education, Family & Relationships and Medical? When you expand your book’s subjects, you expand your opportunities.

Know your audience and their habits:  Using the same book, think of who your audience is.  Those with Celiac and their families are potential readers, and beyond that, think nurses, nutritionists, health food store owners, chefs, and the list goes on.  After identifying your audience consider their hangouts – health food stores, hospitals, restaurants.

Search creatively:  Armed with your book’s subjects and audience, you’re ready to get creative. Start with Google. Enter your key words and search. I typed “gluten-free” and “recipes” and “Indianapolis” and over 100,000 results popped-up. Some aren’t helpful, but many are.  I found a local TV station’s site which has a community events tab.  There I found an upcoming food event where I could hold a book signing. Beyond the Google search, check your local hospital, parks dept, community newspapers, neighborhood associations and chamber of commerce sites and find out about upcoming events.

When you think outside of the bookstore, you step into a world of opportunity. Widen your subject,  go to where your audience is and watch your sales grow.

Branding 101: Find Creative Ways to Get Your Message in Front of Your Consumers

by Joe Bayern, Senior Vice President

Now you’ve established a message, but there’s a lot of noise out there. Even though you understand who your target audience is and developed a compelling message, you still need to find creative ways to get the message in front of those consumers. 

The good news is that the explosion of the internet, social networking and video sites has created cost effective ways to connect directly with potential customers.  The bad news is that millions of other people have access to those same consumers; so, you must find ways to stand out in the crowd. 

Try to find ways to tell your story in as many creative approaches as possible, including press releases, blogs and forums, print/online advertising and video.  Remember people are much more likely to buy your product if they’ve seen it multiple times across several different mediums. 

Also look for ways to leverage your marketing investment as many times as possible.  Videos and book trailers are great examples.  Not only are they engaging to watch, but can be used in many ways:

  1. Personal website
  2. Video press releases
  3. Email marketing campaigns
  4. Social networking sites
  5. Retailer websites

Check out the video book trailer for Deadly Encounter by Maria Johs:

San Francisco Writers Conference and AuthorHive Partner

by Shelley Rogers, Marketing Manager

The non-profit San Francisco Writers Conference and San Francisco Writers University announced they are partnering with indie book publishing leader Author Solutions, Inc., and its integrated author marketing division, AuthorHive, to launch the Indie Publishing Contest for writers. The winner will be announced at the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference, February 18-20.

The four category winners will receive their choice of a one-hour consultation with an agent or a free publishing package from an Author Solutions imprint, plus a certificate and publicity. The runner-ups will receive $50 and a 50% discount coupon for a publishing package from Author Solutions.

The Grand Prize winner will receive an indie publishing contract that includes:

For complete contest details, check out the following links:

Branding 101: Understand Distribution Channels

by Joe Bayern, Senior Vice President

You know who’ll buy your book. You know what to say and how to tell your readers about it. Now you’ve got to get it to them. Like any good product strategy, you need to consider your distribution options.  While most authors want to see their books in a Barnes & Noble store, it’s very difficult and typically expensive to get national distribution.  However, there are many other distribution channels available, including online distribution through national retailers and/or on your own website, distribution through traditional book retailers (independents), distribution through non-traditional retailers (for example if you have a book on wines why not sell it in wine stores), and, of course, through personal appearances and events (local fairs, festivals, conventions, genera specific gatherings, etc).

Take some time to understand which options are available and what the economics look like for each option.  Then you can make an educated decision about how much time and money you want to invest in each channel.

Video Made the Author a Star!

by Marcus Chait, Director of New Media

In 1981, the debut of the music video changed the way artists promoted albums forever. It allowed viewers to put a face and narrative to the song, and gave artists the chance to forge an emotional connection with their audience. A generation was captivated, and the public bought albums in record numbers. Big stars got bigger, and new stars were catapulted to unseen heights of success. 

Fast forward to 2010. The Internet has made video more accessible than ever, and the publishing industry has taken notice.  Authors have to find a way to make their book stand out from the crowd, and I believe having a video component as part of your marketing campaign is a prime way of accomplishing that.

While a video can be one of your greatest assets when trying to attract the attention of readers, you need to be an active participant in the pre-production process to insure the best possible result.  Before securing a production team for your video, keep the following points in mind:

  1. Clear and Concise Messaging – It’s imperative that you understand the message you want to convey through your video prior to your production start date.  You should be able to verbalize your message to your production team so they understand the overall intent and goal of the video project.  If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, your production team won’t know how to say it.
  2. Creative Vision – Just as important as your message is the creative concept.  Make sure you are communicating your creative vision to your production team before filming begins.  There is nothing worse than reviewing your video project for the first time and realizing the creative vision is not what you had expected.
  3. Be Open to Change – While you are the foremost expert on your book, be open to the fact that your production team might have some useful insight to share when it comes to their area of expertise.  Sometimes the minutia that makes reading your book such a unique experience doesn’t play as well on film.  It’s understandably difficult for some authors to let go, but try to be open to suggestions as to how your book might play best on screen.
  4. Communication is Key – It may seem tedious, but the more information you can provide to your production team, the more successful your video will be.  If you’re given a questionnaire to fill out, be as specific as possible. Delivering as much detailed information as possible during the planning process is the most effective way for you to be a part of the creative and execution phases.  
  5. Have a Launch Plan – It’s critical to have a solid launch plan in place once production has wrapped.  Creating a well thought out marketing and launch strategy can be the difference between a handful of impressions versus thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Check out author Tom Duerig’s author video for his book, Stan’s Leap.

Branding 101: Make Sure Your Message is Clear and Compelling

by Joe Bayern, Senior Vice President

Once you’ve established who will buy your book, you will need to develop a message for reaching out to them. Naturally most authors take tremendous pride in their work, but when you ask them what their book is about they find it difficult to provide a clear, concise synopsis of their book or—what I like to call—the elevator pitch.   As an author you have to position yourself with potential readers who are faced with an ever increasing number of choices.  If you can’t clearly explain what your book is about and why they should be interested in it, they’re probably not going to buy it.

What makes a good elevator pitch?  Check out this video from CBC’s business reality series, Dragon’s Den.  While the video is a little hokey, it’s worth viewing and remembering as you create your own elevator pitch.

Branding 101: Understand Your Target Audience

by Joe Bayern, Senior Vice President

The first—and possibly most important—rule in marketing is:  Who are my customers? When asked who their target audience is many authors respond, “Every man, woman and child in America.”  It’s great to be ambitious, but segmenting your audience is critical to success.  You can’t try to be everything to everyone and expect to be successful.  Be thoughtful and honest about the people who would be interested in your book, then develop a targeted marketing plan to reach those people.  Not only will you have a greater chance of success, but you won’t squander valuable resources marketing to people who weren’t going to buy your book in the first place.

Who is your target audience?