5-18 Powell's City of Books, World's Largest Indie Bookstore by Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Long and Winding Road Part 2 - Promotion

Hi everyone! I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  My newest book, Courage, is middle grade fiction that will be coming out next summer from Harper Collins.

If you are running a business, you know that promotion is a must have part of your overall marketing plan. And being an author is like running a business.

The problem is, I am a die hard introvert.  Among other things, that makes blowing my own horn borderline impossible.

But that is a requirement for marketing and promotion. That's one of the messages I received during the Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day (PWID) conference in October.

I learned about things authors should begin doing in the months before their book is published:
  • Aggressively build a social media platform (being sure to focus on “you” and not your book) 
  • Connect with other authors (social media, online communities, new author publicity groups, associations in common, etc.)
  • Get involved with author communities (i.e., volunteer to be a judge in writers contests, to become a mentor, etc.)
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas like holiday or seasonal tie-ins and different methods of outreach. Click HERE to take a look at a prior RTG post on the outreach efforts of one group of authors a few years ago.
  • Sign up for writers conferences or other types of professional conferences occurring after your publication date at which you can sell or promote your book.
  • Reach out to book clubs or other groups who might be interested in your book and/or in hearing you speak.
  • Coordinate with your agent or editor about submitting your book to eligible awards.
As with any other product, name recognition is critical to consumers. Experts explained that for the most part, readers buy books from authors they feel they know or have a connection to.  Or an author/book that someone they know or care about recommends. That's why name brands are important and why companies have learned to Trademark valuable product names and jingles. When a customer recognizes you by name not just by product type, that name has monetary value.

Having readers know an author by name is practically a holy grail. Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, James Patterson, Jodi Piccolt - these are all name brands to their readers who feel like they know these authors personally. They actively seek out new books bearing these author's names. Finding one is like being invited over to a friend's home for dinner.

The library market can be a big boost to any author. Public and school libraries are big purchasers of both physical and eBooks. But you have to go after that market. Do not assume that having a "library edition" on Amazon will entice any library to want your book, especially if you are self-published. Two things drive library purchases - award wins and patron checkouts.

Get your fans to go to their local libraries and request your books. Many libraries listen to patron requests. After all, librarians want books that will circulate, and a request means the book will go out at least once. Use your news letters, blogs and other venues to recruit volunteers to help spread the word. Sometimes we authors call them "street teams", people who love our work and will spread the word about our new books. Make them feel a part of your family with special news items just for members, treats and give-aways. In return, their enthusiasm can get their friends and relatives to become your fans.

Side note, you should also get your fans to check your books out of libraries. The more an author’s books circulate, the more likely they are to believe future books will do the same, and therefore will more likely buy your next book.

That brought the next lesson - Authors need to have marketing plans that include actively promote themselves. We have to communicate our product and brand...ourselves to potential readers. This is different from the "buy my book" advertising too many authors sometimes flood social media with. That kind of thing does not promote a feeling of friendship, it turns people off.

So, have a platform, something you are passionate about and are willing to spend the time and effort to share. Then find like-minded groups and do so.  Today, social media, twitter, facebook, instagram, etc., have groups and societies for almost any area. Get active. Post original content once or twice a week to show your expertise and opinions.  Also share the content of others. Comment on them early and often, but don't get sucked into controversies that could make people remember you for the wrong thing. Friend people, respond to comments on your posts.

Build a community, so when you do begin posting advertising and information about your new release, people who see you social media will know who you are. Because they know and care about you, you increase the odds they will want to get your book.  (It's kind of like not telling a lot of backstory until after readers have learned to care about your characters.)

I had a private consultation that included personalized advice from Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing and Publicity at Lee & Low Books. You may have noticed I have changed my opening picture for my posts. Those were her first words, to have the new cover out front and center everywhere. Her next piece of advice was that I needed to do more with my personal blog - The consultant told me I had information that others would want to know about, my knowledge of diversity and multiculturalism in the publishing and educational arena. Show people what I know. Transfer what I speak about to short blog posts. Twitter is actually more fun for me, I like twitter where I have to condense. I am not a fan of the longer length. Nevertheless, I have begun doing more blogging recently, and will try to pick it up. My consultant reminded me that twitter does take time to build an audience. Hence that cycle is another of the list of things that needs to begin long before the publication date.

As an author of young adult and middle grade books, I also market to schools, and gleaned some extra tips about that. The first is that the library and school market are different and need different approaches. Librarians are primarily interested in what is new. Schools want to see what fits into curricular needs. They can be interested in a book years after the publication date if it appears useful to them and their students. That means it is feasible to continue marketing backlists to schools, as long as it fits what they are looking for.

And that means this introvert has to start planning for even more school visits and conference presentations for next fall.  Please pray for me.


Maggie Lynch said...

Happy Winter, Barbara. You have listed most of the marketing "must haves" that authors face if they wish to compete in today's publishing landscape. The good news is there are people who have gone before you and accomplished some of these things, so do seek them out. There are also plenty of books written on these topics that you may find helpful.

Though your introverted self may not relish the idea of getting out there and networking, the Internet can be your best friend for doing that. Joining Facebook Groups, exchanging emails with authors, provide a nice way to stay connected without having to be "out there" all the time. I know it certainly helps me because it gives me time to think about what I want to say and put it together in a way that makes sense. The older I get the more I realize that thinking on my feet and remembering things is much more difficult. So, the Internet has become my best networking friend.

Regarding getting books into schools, I recently read an ARC for a book called "Getting Your Book Into Schools" by David Hendrickson. He provides a step-by-step guide as to how he managed to get his YA fiction books approved as part of the reading curriculum in a number of schools across the nation. It was a year long process, but turned out to be very lucrative. so if that is your desire, you should definitely watch for this book to come out. I believe he said it would be out in January.

You write some great books that definitely need to find a wide audience. I wish you the best in finding your way int he new year with these additional marketing tasks on your late.

Judith Ashley said...

Excellent post! And be sure and include the link to your BABinns blog in each RTG post and maybe vice versa. When I look at your list, it is daunting! But having seen how much you are already 'out there' I've no doubts you'll do well. And, just before I checked in here I was reading a post by BookBub about stacking promotions. Lots of detailed information about connecting books in a series or spin-offs from a series or box sets to increase sales.

One of the pieces of being an author I'm in the process of figuring out is how to do all that marketing and still write new books! Lots of information out there about how to do that. What I'm finally figuring out is that promotion and marketing one's self/books is similar to writing. I have a writing process that works well for me. Finding my marketing/promotion process is where I am now.

B. A. Binns said...

Judith, one thing that was told to me was to create a plan, with both short and long range goals. Most important was to keep the plan simple, with dates and measurable actions. But we do need to treat it like a business. I've been busy lately watching Shark Tank for pointers on ways to hook interest in real life as well as on the pages of a book.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, B.A. Good luck with your current book release!