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!

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12 thoughts on “Are you on the right road?

  1. Thank you, I found this article to be very helpful!

  2. Love your thoughts on booksellers! They are truly the champions of writers, right after readers. Thanks for the post, and I hope you enjoyed the bubbles. I’m sure your granddaughter did!

  3. I love that you look at the “big picture” of promotion in this post. And all your ideas!!

  4. Great ideas. Sometimes we get wrapped up with everything on-line and forget there are still other things we can do to get the word out. Thanks for the reminders!

  5. Wonderful guidance as always, PJ! So often in our Internet outreach we can forget local on-the-ground resources. I’m probably more immune to this than most, since my novels are set at tourist destinations and fun places in Arkansas, and books for sale are welcomed in those locations, whether in bookstores, park gift shops, churches, or unique sales venues like grocery and general merchandise stores near where a novel is set.

    As for Internet outreach, the other day I read a comment on one of the many lists I frequent that popped open some new thinking. The writer of the piece said that, too often, authors are targeting other writers on genre lists, in their blogs, and even on FB or in Tweets. Big mistake, this person said — don’t talk about writing advice in your messages and blogs (for example), unless it’s a topic readers would be interested in. Gear messages to readers–not writers, who are already a captive audience.

    It’s a provocative thought, isn’t it! On radio interviews (for example) we target readers. What percentage of our Internet outreach does the same? I’m interested in other thoughts on this.

  6. P.J., explaining to folks that becoming an expert makes a writer a more valuable resource (and brings in extra cash) is something I have met with resistance when I try to get the idea across in speeches. I have posted the URL to your blog over at my site under Posse Posts. http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

    Thanks for saying it in a way people will understand!

  7. pjnunn says:

    Hi Sunny! Nice to see you here – it’s been a while! I find that authors promoting authors is probably the hardest thing they face. It’s just easier to try and focus on the book, but the book means a lot more to people when it’s written by someone with a certain credibility. I try to help authors develop that credibility without them feeling like they’re being arrogant or pushy. It’s a fine line as you know. My best to you and those over at Oak Tree. Tell them I said “hey!”

  8. Very informative post, Radine. Thanks!
    My first novel, “Mixed Messages,” will be released next month and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I can do to generate sales after the initial book launch. You’ve given me much to think about.

  9. corajramos says:

    Thanks for the reminders to know where you want to go. So often the general goal is, I want to be published. Yeah, then what? Specific and measurable goals help us to achieve them.

  10. sirsteve says:

    Thanks. Lets me know I can do more and to seek it.

  11. Brenda says:

    This was great. Thanks!

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