Post Christmas, Post Publication

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Well, it’s all over for another year. If you’re anything like me, I always feel a little bit let down just after Christmas. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the season, but that somehow, after all the anticipation, the reality just never seems to hit the mark.

I have had similar reactions after finishing a book manuscript. Typing ‘The End’ is thrilling but there’s always that niggling thought, ‘oh no, now what? ’We all know the work of publishing a novel does not stop when the writing is done. That’s just the first mountain to climb. Then there’s all the marketing and promotion that needs to be done and most of us dread it.

I’ve been in that camp for some time. Like many writers, I just want to write. I don’t want to be bothered with all that marketing stuff. But recently I’ve been trying to adjust my attitude. I was listening to an audio track about marketing and one line struck me – “Want reviews and endorsements? Then be a reviewer and an endorser.” Since hearing that quote I’ve tried to think of all the promotion and marketing as just another way to give. When I send out newsletters to my email list I try to think of ways to bless them, not just ways to entice them to buy my books. When I post notices on forums and Facebook about my books I try to think of my work as a gift to those who might need my words in some way, not just as a means to rack up the likes and raise my Amazon ranks. When I began thinking of it this way the process was suddenly much more enjoyable.

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It astonished me that I have not followed this path before. But then, we are self-focused beings. Giving is not always our first inclination, so it’s something we have to be trained to do, like little children who must be taught to share their toys.A humbling thought, isn’t it? Thanks be to God that we don’t have to completely rely on our own nature, because there is One living in us who will guide and direct, even in this. As 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, in our weakness we are made strong as we turn to Him and rely on His wisdom and grace. As we abide in Him, he provides all that we need to accomplish His purposes in our lives, even down to the details of our marketing strategies.

Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

I love that picture of the sweet spring waters gushing forth without fail. I imagined it as a geyser of words, flowing out into the world to help in the building of God’s kingdom on earth.

And suddenly, those post-Christmas and post-publication blues are fading fast.


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there he is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was shortlisted in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Make Eye-Catching Ads on the Cheap

by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor

As I write this, the holiday season is definitely happening. For me, the Christmas season starts on Thanksgiving Day. I just can’t get excited before then. No matter how many people or stores put up Christmas decorations in October or early November.

One aspect of the holiday season, of course, is shopping. People buy lots and lots of gifts this time of year. And thankfully, books make great Christmas gifts (which is what got me thinking about this topic for my December column).

As many Novel Rocket readers know, I transitioned from being traditionally published to publishing my own novels 3 years ago. That began an adventure that added a lot of new hats to my wardrobe. One of the biggest is marketing. My publisher had an entire department devoted to this. At Bainbridge Press (my imprint name), there’s only me. And very recently, my wife has jumped in to help.

Early on I realized I needed to learn how to create eye-catching ads to use on places like Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and newsletter. All the social media studies I’ve read said people will scroll right past even the best-written text unless it’s accompanied by a great looking graphic. I knew this was true because I do the same thing.

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The problem was, I didn’t have any money to hire a graphics expert. It was either me, or it wasn’t happening. So I began to investigate. Everyone was saying I had to get Photoshop. It’s the gold-standard for graphics software. So, I did (the cheap version you can rent one month at a time).

I’m SO glad I didn’t buy the whole thing.

It didn’t take long to realize this program was WAY too complicated for me. After watching about 50 YouTube videos, I was still miles away from figuring out how to make good-looking ads (I think it was less frustrating learning how to play golf).

Then I remembered when I was a pastor, I used to use PowerPoint to make nice-looking graphics for my sermons and Bible studies. I updated MS Office to get PowerPoint’s latest version and started playing with the art tools. Only instead of making overhead slides, I began working on ads for my book promotions. The program was so simple. Really, if you can use any Microsoft Office programs you can use PP. After a little experimenting, I was soon turning out some very satisfying ads.

Besides the art tools, there are all kinds of free graphics (backgrounds and clip-art) you can download off the internet (make sure you don’t copy licensed or copyrighted graphics without paying). I use different ones for every season or holiday. You can easily insert jpgs of your books and resize them, as needed. Add shadows to make them stand out. Then create the text for your ads in a variety of font styles and colors. They’re so easy to move around on the colored background.

When you have the ad just the way you want, use an app like “Snip It” for PC’s or “Grab” for Macs and select the Ad right on Powerpoint, then Save it as a jpg that can easily be uploaded to the internet. The Christmassy-looking ad for my brand new book, Saving Parker, was made using Powerpoint in about 30-45 minutes.

PowerPoint also makes for a great place to store your ads. As you create more, you can easily find the previous ones on the left margin. To save lots of time, I often copy and paste specific ad features from previous ads to make brand new ones.

Once your ad is finished, the next step is to create the Ad Copy that goes above it. I’ve included a recent one I put up on Facebook and Google-plus. I actually used the same ad copy for Twitter (though I had to trim off much of the text). Don’t be intimidated by this task. You’re a writer. You can do this part. You’ll probably even find it easier than creating the graphics.

Make sure to use the colorful Emojis FB offers now (I often create my ad text on FB, because these little graphics copy and paste well in other apps). And don’t forget to add hashtags at the bottom. Although they’re more often associated with Twitter, people are used to searching for topics and themes using them and they work just as well with other social media apps.

Well, that’s it for me. I’m sure others reading this have found some additional creative ways to make book Ads on the Cheap. If so, please share them with us.


Saving Parker

After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy is terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he decides to take him in. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free and Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell tries to hide a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He was also bullied as a child, the main reason he became a cop. But, really, what can he do? A series of tragic events occur. What vital role does Parker play in bringing these three lives together?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 18 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 4 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years. You can find more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.

Street Team: Your book launch’s secret weapon – Part 2

by Misty M. Beller, @MistyMBeller

Yesterday, we talked about how to build your launch team. If you missed it, you can read it HERE. Today, we’re going to build on that topic by covering some great ways to interact and inspire your team. Ready? Let’s jump in!

What should you give your launch team in return for their help?

Free ARCs (advance reader copies) are a given. (Sorry, couldn’t help the pun.)

Tip for traditionally published authors

Your publisher probably already has a standard format for distributing ARCs. Some larger publishers send paperback copies directly to those on your launch team, and only need you to provide names and addresses for each person.

Other publishers will provide you with a PDF or eBook files to distribute to your team. Still others use services like NetGalley to send out ARCs. Make sure you know what your publisher is planning and what they need from you, BEFORE you contact your launch team about a new release.

For indie authors

There are great FREE programs out there to help authors convert and distribute ARC files in formats that make it easy for your launch team members to read. Calibre is a useful (free) software to convert a Word document to mobi files (for Kindles) and epub files (for iBooks, Nook, and most other ereaders). Other options are Vellum (if you have a Mac) or Draft 2 Digital’s new ebook formatting options.

BookFunnel.com is a helpful resource to distribute the ereader files to your team. It makes the process to download the file onto their ereader as simple as possible, and BookFunnel’s customer service is top notch. Other options are Booksprout.co or Pronoun (if you use them to distribute your book to at least one retailer).

 

Beyond ARCs, have fun with it! Here are some fun freebies to share with your team, if you have the opportunity and/or means:

  • Insider info, such as the first opportunity to see cover art for your upcoming releases.
  • Let them help name characters or choose settings.
  • I like to give my team the choice to receive either eBook or paperback copies (signed with a note to them).
  • Book swag created for your author brand, such as bookmarks, mugs printed with your book cover, etc.
  • Christmas ornaments engraved with your author or book name. Etsy.com has some creative options here!
  • Generally speaking, the more you connect with your team, the more they’ll want to promote your books.

A word of caution above, Amazon’s review requirements are strict about giving gifts in exchange for reviews, so you’ll want to be careful to avoid any language about ‘requiring reviews’ in exchange for any of the benefits received by being on your launch team.

Make it easy to share your book on social media

 People are more likely to share your book when you make it easy for them! There are a couple of ways you can do this:

  • The simplest way is to create several Twitter and Facebook posts that people can copy and post to their respective accounts. (Make sure you include a buy link for your book!) You can simply include these in an email to your launch team, or paste them on a Word document you send out.
  • A more sophisticated method would be to create a share page on your website. Using a tool like com, you can create prewritten posts where people only need to click to post your message on any of the social media platforms you include. You can even add memes or other images for easy posting. People are more likely to share your message when you make it possible with only a click or two.

Tips on Interacting with your Launch Team

  • Know your goals for the team and be clear up front about expectations. Do you want them to focus on reviews only, or is social media sharing important to you?
  • Send ARCs to your team at least 2-3 months before release, or as early as possible.
  • Include links for where to post reviews in your emails to your list. Don’t forget Goodreads!
  • Even if you haven’t made a big deal about your team sharing on social media, make it easy for those who choose to do so!
  • Many authors like to create a Facebook Group for their launch team to interact with each other and spread the enthusiasm. If you do this, make your group privacy setting “Closed Group” so your members will be able to share meme’s directly from the group.

Book Marketing Group Coaching

If you’ve found this info helpful, take your book marketing to the next level with my marketing group coaching course.

Through this 10-week course, you’ll receive in-depth training in five critical areas, along with actionable feedback on how to apply what you’ve learned to your books. And don’t forget the built-in accountability to help you succeed!

Topics include:

•Find your Target Reader
•Grow Your Email List into a powerful tool
•Build an effective Launch Team
•How to get more Amazon Reviews
•How to find and work with Influencers in your target audience to widen your reach

Who is this for? If you have at least one book published or on preorder, and are ready to take the steps needed to move your book sales to the next level, this may be exactly the right course for you. Whether you’re traditionally published or an indie author, the concepts in this course will apply.

10-week course…6 students per group…Your chance to apply what you learn to your books and your life, then receive specific feedback to take your marketing to the next level. Get all the details HERE (http://the-ambitious-author.teachable.com/p/marketing-decoded-group-coaching).

Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is a hybrid author of thirteen novels, as well as a non-fiction book for authors, How to Market a Book Release. With over thirteen years working in professional project management and marketing, Misty uses her experience in the corporate world to develop best practices in her writing and book marketing efforts. It is her passion to help other authors on this same journey. Misty teaches courses and workshops at writers’ conferences around the U.S., educating authors on effective book marketing approaches and helping them apply that knowledge to their own books. Get regular marketing tips and learn more about her marketing group coaching courses at https://TheAmbitiousAuthor.com.

Street Team: Your Book Launch’s Secret Weapon – Part 1

by Misty M. Beller, @MistyMBeller

Street Team, Launch Team, Fan Club—the name varies, but the idea is still a great one!

What am I talking about, you ask?

A launch team is basically a group of readers who are ready and willing (and eager!) to get the word out on the street about an author’s books. When I think of my launch team, I think of my first readers, my inside circle, my front lines, my most enthusiastic fans.

What does a launch team do?

Members are given ARC copies and asked to read the book before release. From there, the role may vary depending on the author and team members, but the common theme and single most important job of a launch team member is to post reviews—on Amazon, Goodreads, and anywhere else the book is available! Reviews help jump-start both Amazon’s algorithms and reader confidence in a book, so I work hard to help my books gain at least twenty-five reviews within the first few weeks.

Beyond reviews, some ideas for the launch team are to:

  • Talk about the books on social media sites.
  • Blog about the books.
  • Direct people to author’s website.
  • Write a review for their local newspaper.
  • Purchase copies to give away as Christmas and birthday gifts.
  • Pin the cover and book memes to Pinterest.
  • Share favorite quotes from the book on social media.
  • Suggest the book on reading forums, like those on Goodreads.
  • Like and share the book trailer on YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Request that their local library or church library order the book.
  • Suggest the book to their book club(s).
  • And the list can go on!

Who makes a great launch team member?

Readers who have read and are excited about the author’s books, and want to share that excitement within their sphere of influence. Enthusiasm trumps all. Time availability is important, too!

Often, authors tend to lean toward asking other authors to be on their launch team. After all, only a compatriot would understand the importance of the role, right? In my experience, though, readers tend to be more enthusiastic launch team members, eagerly reading the book and posting reviews as soon as possible. While it’s certainly fine to have both, when I open my launch team to new members, I try to post the memo where my readers will see it.

So how does an author find launch team members?

I recommend having a form on your website that asks basic questions, such as what genres the potential candidate likes to read, and whether they’ve read any of your books already. You could also go one step further and ask for the link to one of the reviews they’ve posted for your books. How much or how little is your choice!

You can see an example form at my website.  When I was actively seeking to grow my team, this page was front and center on my site menu. Now, I have it tucked in as part of the ‘About’ page so it can be found by readers who are really interested.

Once you have that form in place, you can direct people there from a variety of places:

  • Call-out on social media.
  • Post the request on your blog.
  • Send an email to your list. (Another advantage of growing your reader list! Just make sure you screen respondents to find those who really want to help with your launches, not just receive free books.)
  • A note in the back of your eBooks, if you’re feeling ambitious!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where we talk about what to give your launch team and tips on how to interact with them to make it easy for them to share your book!


Book Marketing Group Coaching

If you’ve found this info helpful, take your book marketing to the next level with my marketing group coaching course.

Through this 10-week course, you’ll receive in-depth training in five critical areas, along with actionable feedback on how to apply what you’ve learned to your books. And don’t forget the built-in accountability to help you succeed!

Topics include:

•Find your Target Reader
•Grow Your Email List into a powerful tool
•Build an effective Launch Team
•How to get more Amazon Reviews
•How to find and work with Influencers in your target audience to widen your reach

Who is this for? If you have at least one book published or on preorder, and are ready to take the steps needed to move your book sales to the next level, this may be exactly the right course for you. Whether you’re traditionally published or an indie author, the concepts in this course will apply.

10-week course…6 students per group…Your chance to apply what you learn to your books and your life, then receive specific feedback to take your marketing to the next level. Get all the details HERE (http://the-ambitious-author.teachable.com/p/marketing-decoded-group-coaching).

Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is a hybrid author of thirteen novels, as well as a non-fiction book for authors, How to Market a Book Release. With over thirteen years working in professional project management and marketing, Misty uses her experience in the corporate world to develop best practices in her writing and book marketing efforts. It is her passion to help other authors on this same journey. Misty teaches courses and workshops at writers’ conferences around the U.S., educating authors on effective book marketing approaches and helping them apply that knowledge to their own books. Get regular marketing tips and learn more about her marketing group coaching courses at https://TheAmbitiousAuthor.com.