Who knows your name?

Name recognition. That’s what it’s really all about when you get right down to it. But when you ask a lot of authors what book promotion is about, many will answer “selling books.” Ok. That’s a fair answer, but not exactly accurate. Selling books is certainly the desired outcome, but the promotion itself should focus on gaining name recognition for the author. The more name recognition the author has, the more books that author will sell.

One of the most frequent recommendations is to hire a branding company, but not many authors are inclined to do that. But there are plenty of things you can do for yourself.

Here are a few tips for increasing name recognition:

  1. Think long-term when selecting a brand image and stick with your name or your company, not a particular title or series. There’ll be time enough for that later, but ideally it’s the author’s name that should be etched in readers’ memories so that any title or series associated with the author will be desirable.
  2. Develop all collateral and image materials (website, stationary, logo, taglines, business cards, postcards, newsletters, etc.) to coincide with your brand.
  3. Develop a memorable tagline that reflects who you are and what you write. Do not make it specific to one title or series.
  4. Make lists of different groups you’d like to reach in the coming year, then develop a timetable and calendar to systematically get your information to them.
  5. Regularly (quarterly is good) write and issue press releases to the media and to your website. Of course, you need to do something worth writing about and it should be something associated with your brand. For authors, it might be speaking to local writing group, hosting a contest to read and critique short stories, participating in local Citizen’s Police Academy events – anything related to writing and the brand the author is trying to establish.
  6. Regularly write articles for publication, including your brand information in your bio.
  7. Regularly write and pitch feature story ideas to media. Sometimes the best way to get your own foot in the door is by pitching others.
  8. Participate (attend, speak, host) in at least two national and local industry conferences a year.
  9. Create and issue an online or direct mail newsletter.
  10. Participate in and sponsor local charitable efforts. The local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start for a variety of opportunities. Post your calendar of appearances on your website – not just book signing events.
  11. Make sure your website includes informational materials formatted for strong results from search engines; and make sure there is in-depth material demonstrating your expertise, whatever it is, so that website browsers can easily find and read it.
  12. Update your website with informational content at least 2 – 4 times per month.

Building name recognition for an author is a slow and steady process, not something that can be done once every few months. Nor will a 2 week media blitz result in lasting recognition. To develop a career as an author takes consistent effort, but persistence, as in getting published, pays.

The Defense Rests by Camille Minichino


Camille Minichino

With three releases this spring, I’m almost promotioned out! (You can tell how spaced out I am when I make up a new verb.)

I’m stepping over myself trying to remember which name to use for which book. Am I Camille Minichino talking about the new Kindle version of my out-of-print “The Hydrogen Murder” (February 7)? Or is today the day that I’m Ada Madison (“The Probability of Murder,” March 6)? Oops, never mind, I’m addressing a dollhouse lovers meeting, so I’m Margaret Grace, promoting “Mix-Up in Miniature” (April 2).

Fortunately, I decided a while ago to take all promotional material to all events. So I tote rulers, cover postcards, key chains, candy, and a miniature scene, looking too much like a bag lady to suit PJ, I’m sure, but it’s how I’ve evolved.

A big part of promotion is handling responses to my books, whether in print, online, or in person. The easy part is always thanking those who send good words my way. The hard part is dealing with the negatives.

Over the course of 15 books, I’ve developed a few techniques for dealing with negative reviews or complaints by individuals, justified or not.

For example: I made a huge error in “The Hydrogen Murder.” It was my first book and I was new not only to publishing, but also to California. In the book, my protagonist refers to Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day. Ay! Ay! I received a nasty email from a college professor in Mexico City – just like a gringo, she said, not to know any holidays but our own. It turns out Mexican Independence Day is in September and May 5 is . . .  I have no idea!

I emailed back, greatly apologetic, and offered to send her a complimentary copy of the next book, which, I promised had no such errors, hoping she’d give me another chance, and so on. Call it groveling, but it worked, in the sense that she wrote back apologizing for being so hard on me and telling me that, other than that gross error, she liked my books and would tell her friends what a good person I was.

It’s a little trickier when these things happen in person and you have a nanosecond to work out a response. In my second miniature mystery, “Mayhem in Miniature,” the setting is an assisted living facility—very upscale, with a theater, a beautifully appointed dining room, and even excellent food.

A woman in the audience at a conference raised her hand and announced that no such place existed. No assisted living facility anywhere was that nice.

I was about to launch into a lengthy explanation about how I’d modeled the home after one I’d visited, where a good friend resided, that I’d had lunch there often, and on and on.

Happily, I was prevented from doing so by a very well-known writer in the front row, a darling of the cozy world, who interrupted me to say “I thought Camille was writing about my mother’s residence. It’s just like that.” Soon others were nodding their heads in agreement and the complainant was silenced.

I confess to being a wimp by nature, so these guidelines work for me: right or wrong, and no matter how much a bad review wounds your ego, it’s unbecoming—and bad for future sales—to defend yourself.

When attacked, let someone else defend you, or spring up and offer a prize!

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer. Soon, every aspect of her life will be a mystery series.

Are you on the right road?

What did you do for your career today? Every step you take, every choice you make takes you down a particular path. The path you take may look exactly the way you think it should look, but it’s advisable to take a good look at the map. Make sure the path you’re on leads you to the destination you have in mind.

In today’s tumultuous publishing environment, social media is the new avenue of pursuit for marketing success. On the surface, it gives what appears to be almost instant gratification and something that’s relatively hard to come by where promotion is concerned – reasonably measurable results.  But it can also give you unsupported facts and figures that paint a distorted picture sometimes. Here’s an insightful article that talks about the performance anxiety that can cause.

Thousands of authors tweet their titles and post messages on Facebook and beyond, and get good feedback from other authors doing the same. Book reviewers and bloggers chime in and it seems all are making progress in their chosen fields. But when all is said and done, and pencil meets paper, do the numbers add up?  Have you hit your target?

That is certainly a question that needs to be asked and answered if you’re serious about a career as an author. But there’s another question that bears asking – do you even know what your target is?

I often ask authors who seek my help with promotion – what are your goals? Most don’t have a clear cut answer beyond “I’d like to sell more books.” When looking at your goals, make sure they’re measurable. In other words, if asked in question form, is there a definitive answer?

Example:

My goal is to sell more books.

That goal is admirable, but not measurable because it doesn’t tell you how many books.

Better:

My goal is to sell 5,000 books.

Ok, now you have a target you can see.

Even better:

My goal is to sell 5,000 books in the next 6 months.

Great! Now you have the information you need to proceed with significant goal setting. You know how many books you want to sell, and how much time you have to do that. Now you can use that information to guide you in setting short term goals designed to keep you on the path to reach your ultimate goal.

Of course that’s just the beginning and we’ve digressed somewhat from the initial discussion.  But not entirely because those short term goals are where so many get off track. Such as those who put all their eggs in the proverbial basket of social media marketing or any other facet of marketing. Any time all of your promotional efforts are invested in one small area, you’re probably missing a lot of opportunity and not making the wisest and most effective use of your resources.

There are several other areas to which you need to give attention to get the most out of your marketing efforts. These areas don’t replace social media, but they often enhance your social media efforts. They include:

  1. Establishing yourself as an expert. This step is a big one and the one most often overlooked. Many authors are hesitant to promote themselves, but if you want to really sell books, it’s critical. People want to buy books written by someone who is someone. In today’s market more than ever, it’s important for you to be perceived as an expert and not as someone who just tapped out a book on the kitchen

    Tactical consultant, Mike Witzgall

    table between chores (forgive the analogy, I trust you get the drift). But I write fiction, you might say, and I’m not an expert at anything! Then become one. Even the distinction of being a professional writer sets you above the vague someone who writes when time allows.  But almost every fiction writer has particular interests and passions that show up repeatedly in his or her writing. Maybe you did a lot of research for your protagonist’s background or expertise. Maybe you have a passion for geneology or herbal cures or a particular dog breed. It can be anything. But pick one, not several, and go with it. Become known as someone who knows all about that topic. Show up on topic specific blogs and make comments. Write articles for appropriate publications and newsletters, both online and print. Use those articles to schedule radio and television interviews on appropriate programs. Read the article by Brian Jud on pursuit of media here. Design a topic appropriate talk to give at community centers and civic clubs or libraries. Most of these venues will either mention your books in the bio or on the air, or will allow you to sell books after the meeting. Consider joining the local Chamber of Commerce or other civic group. Just remember, the goal of these events is to establish you as an expert and the success is not to be judged by how much it does or doesn’t increase your sales at the time. If you’ll just target one or two of these things each month, you’ll be surprised how quickly they add up and more importantly, how they change the way you think of yourself.

  2. Utilizing niche markets. This goes along with the above, but is listed second because it helps if you first establish yourself as an expert in the chosen field. Then zero in on niche markets that others often overlook. There are literally tens of thousands of industry specific newsletters and groups in this country and most of them are always looking for appropriate material for their publications. Some pay, most don’t, but the compensation comes in the form of the 2 – 3 line bio that first gives you expert credibility and second, mentions the title of your book. Think of it as planting seeds. They don’t grow immediately, but keep planting and sales will come. Be consistent enough and you’ll start getting invitations to speak and write in other related venues without having to seek them out.
  3. Making yourself known in the book industry. This is a tough one. So many who are published by small presses or are self-published   have seemingly given up on finding favor here, but that’s too bad. However difficult it may be, and it has become hard, being favored by local booksellers is worth a lot and you can’t really buy that kind of favor. Whatever your genre, do not forget the independent booksellers. They work very hard in the industry in which we all take part, and they, like many, do it for the love of the book. They’re overworked and underpaid, and generally great folks. Pick 4 or 5 of your favorites to start. Learn the names of the principles. If you can find out, learn their birth dates. Send cards. Put links on your website. Send review copies of your latest title and don’t be offended if they don’t review it or immediately agree to carry it in the store. Be nice. Support them with your own purchases, even if you might save a dollar or two buying elsewhere. I promise you, sooner or later it will pay. And besides that, you’ll make some terrific friends along the way. When a reviewer does review your book, don’t forget to say thank you. You’d be surprised how few do. Join an organization that best fits your writing style and get active. Don’t just join everything and do nothing. There are so many more possibilities that it’s not possible to list them all here, but I think you get the idea.

    Maryelizabeth Hart and Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy

    Maryelizabeth Hart and Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy

Constant blog tours, tweeting, FBing and general online presence may not all be enjoyable – I’m not saying it isn’t work. But I am saying in most cases it’s fairly easy, readily accessible, and usually inside your comfort zone. And that’s fine if you want to be average. If you want to excel, though, you’re going to need to go outside that comfort zone to soar. Continue to do those things – they do reach potential readers. But don’t ONLY do those things. Make a schedule for yourself and include the other items that you know will take you to the results you want most. For things you feel you need to do that just seem impossible, or you know you’re not good at – staff your weakness. Barter with someone who’s better at it than you are. Hire a local student. Or someone like me. Don’t just not do it. You deserve the best efforts for promoting something that takes as much talent and investment as writing a book does.

Oh, one more thing. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. As with any career or job, you need to punch out and go home sometimes. Do that. I’m going right now to blow bubbles with my granddaughter. She’ll only be two years old for a little while.  Talk to you soon!

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Blue Monday

By Nicci French

ISBN: 978-0-670-02336-3

Viking/Penguin Books

Hardcover, $26.95

March 5, 2012

This story starts in a dark part of London with the vanishing of a little girl. Years later, the abduction of a little boy brings the previous event back to light and along with it the feelings of despair that little Joanna was never found. Would they be able to find 5-year-old Matthew?

Frieda Klein is a skilled and dedicated psychotherapist, struggling to work out issues of her own while diligently trying to help her clients. She often spends sleepless nights walking the streets and wonders if there’s really any help in the world. Happy endings just don’t seem real to her.

One client in particular has her troubled. He’s been having recurring dreams in which he hungers for a child who is the spitting image of missing Matthew. Soon, she finds herself reluctantly involved in the investigation, still trying to ride the line between confidentiality and civic duty, and trying to summon within herself the hope that something she does might help them find the missing boy.

This is a very different kind of novel for the genre and, as such, is highly intriguing. The author’s voice is unique and captivating, leading readers through a maze of information and surprising twists that all make sense in the end. The end itself is satisfying, if bittersweet. And certainly unexpected. I look forward to seeing what the next in the series will bring.

The author of 12 stand-alone titles, Nicci French is the pseudonym for the internationally bestselling writing partnership of suspense writers Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. They are married and live in Suffolk and London, England. For more on Nicci French go here.