Archive for October, 2011
A while back, I mused about how I suspected that authors were going to start using apps to promote themselves (in addition to websites and social networking, of course), but I couldn’t quite figure out exactly how that was going to work.
Well, we now have our answer.
In this blog post on goodereader.com, I learned that Book Brewer, a well-known name in ebooks, created the first app as a marketing tool for authors and presented it at the SelfPub Book Expo this past weekend in NYC.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
The purpose of AuthorApps is to create a unique, customizable space for authors with several titles or series works in which readers can find all of an author’s titles in one easy-to-download free app. Within the app, fans can not only read sample chapters of the authors’ works, but they can also opt to buy a title by tapping the BUY button on the top of any page in a given sample, which gives the authors even greater royalties since the purchase is made within the app. Moreover, readers can receive updates via push notification whenever a new title is available within the author app.
According to Dan Pacheco, the founder of BookBrewer and CEO of FeedBrewer, Inc, their author apps, “are like an extension of the author’s Web site into the mobile space, but with one key differentiator from other apps: they include the actual books and the entire e-reading experience. This allows authors to have a more direct connection with readers as they’re reading, to promote new titles directly to their biggest fans, and to keep more of the revenue.”
He goes on to add: “The history of self-publishing basically boils down to this: the more control you put in the hands of the authors, the more they sell. This is why we think apps are a logical next step for successful self-published authors and small press publishers.”
I agree, Dan. Apps really are the next step. I’m glad you’re venturing into this space, and I hope some of our clients with Smart Author Sites will be able to take advantages of services like this in the future.
It’s one of the most annoying things about Facebook: the “higher ups” just keep changing the way it works. From privacy settings to profiles, just when you think you have this Facebook thing figured out, the rules change on you.
Thankfully, there are plenty of people following Facebook and keeping people like us informed about what’s going on and how we should adapt. I rely on The Internet and Marketing Report newsletter to give me the scoop on such things.
Here’s a summary of what I learned from the latest issue … and how you, as an author, should adapt your Facebook usage accordingly:
Facebook is adjusting its news feed. Before, Facebook showed you the posts that they felt were most relevant to you, sorted with the most recent on top. Now, Facebook decides which stories show up at the top of your page not by timeliness, but by the number of “Likes,” “Shares” and “Comments” that a particular post gets.
What This Means
Essentially, just investing the time in Facebook and posting frequently isn’t enough to get you seen any more. Unless your posts are getting lots of comments or likes, they’re going to appear momentarily … and then disappear when a more viral post takes off.
Tips for Getting Seen
In essence, all of this means that your Facebook posts have to be more sticky. Here are a few ideas on how authors can do that:
- Post valuable content. Avoid the purely marketing-oriented Facebook posts, and instead write fact-filled updates that people can get something out of.
- Have a sense of humor. People love sharing things that make them laugh. If you have a good sense of humor, use it.
- Don’t be afraid to stir up some controversy. Push people’s buttons. Ask provocative questions. The people who agree with you will share or like your posts; those who disagree with comment themselves. It’s a win-win.
- Ask questions. Again, make sure your posts are encouraging people to respond. Posing a question is a great way to do that.
- Mark my words. It turns out that some words get more interest on Facebook than others. For example, posts that use the word “dollars off” seem to do better than those that just say “sale.” Interesting, right? Apparently, news links that were shared the most on Facebook included the following words: why, world, how, health, bill, big, says, best, video, you, Apple, media, top, first, and Obama. The least shared included: vs., apps, down, review, poll, game, Twitter, social, time, iPhone, USA Today, TV and live.
Hopefully, all of this information will help you figure out how to tweak your Facebook strategy. But beware … what’s working today may not be working tomorrow. That’s the nature of the Internet. Sigh…
I’ve been telling authors for years that they need to blog, blog blog. Many authors are hesitant to do it, for a wide variety of reasons. Now, there may be some motivation to get authors started: advertising dollars.
According to this article, released yesterday, WordPress (the platform on which we build most of our author websites and blogs) has teamed up with Federated Media to give users the ability to place ads on their blogs.
The partnership will allow advertisers to find blogs that speak directly to their target audience and customize their ads to appear on those blogs.
There are millions of WordPress-based websites and blogs out there, and this will allow brands to reach the billions of eyeballs that look at them. Obviously, it will also help the bloggers to generate some revenue from their websites.
How this process will work is still unclear. No details have been released yet on whether or not the bloggers can seek out advertisers, or how the funds will be distributed between the companies and the bloggers.
Also, it is possible to run ads on blogs now, although I suspect this agreement will make the process a lot easier for bloggers who don’t have an in-house sales team.
The opportunity to have revenue coming in from your blog (in addition to book sales, of course), can be a huge difference-maker for authors. It can justify the cost of getting the site built, and it can motivate the authors to blog regularly. After all, no one is going to want to advertise on a site that hasn’t been touched in months.
I think this will be especially helpful for non-fiction authors, who tend to speak to a very specific audience. If, for example, you write about parenting, then your blog would clearly be geared towards parents. Get enough visitors on a regular basis and companies like Pampers or Toys ‘R Us may see your blog as a great medium through which they can reach their target audience.
I’m still waiting to hear more details on this agreement, but I’m hopeful that this could end up as another source of income for authors. Face it … no one needs it more.
I read this great article in Publishers Weekly about a bestselling YA author, Michael Grant, and the incredible multimedia marketing campaign that his team is launching.
Here’s a description of it:
GoBZRK is a six-month-long interactive transmedia prequel to Grant’s novel; it began in August and uses everything from multiple Web sites to social media, incorporating an elaborate layering of fictional subplots, character blogs, Web comics, role-playing games, videos, and mobile device apps in an intricately scripted gaming experience aimed at fueling online interest in Grant’s book before it appears in stores. It’s a born-transmedia project, plotted out by Grant and LeMay, an experienced film, TV, and commercial director, who has organized a team of writers, game developers, and social media experts to produce the project. GoBZRK is being paid for by Shadow Gang, Grant, and Egmont.
Now, I’m aware that most of the authors I work with don’t have the funds to launch such an intricate, complicated campaign on so many platforms. But that doesn’t mean you can’t steal an idea or two and make it work in a much more affordable way.
For example, here’s the paragraph that jumped out at me:
LeMay emphasized how the transmedia experience fuels interest in the story between books in the series. “YA readers hate the publishing cycle of waiting two years between books,” LeMay said. “We’re giving them the prequel and the sequel at the same time, and we’re attracting new readers and new audiences.”
He’s right. By offering readers a way to follow your first book after its published, and your second book before it’s published, you’re maintaining the interest of a readership that may forget about you otherwise. Here are a few ideas on how to implement a “prequel” and a “sequel”:
- While you’re still writing your next book, allow readers to vote on the names of minor characters or the name of the town that it takes place in.
- Before your book comes out, offer “teasers” (play on words, etc…) that hold secrets to what’s going to happen in the next book.
- Offer games/puzzles that readers can play related to your next book.
- After your book is published, use your blog as a place where readers can continue to follow the characters. For example, if your book ended in a high school graduation, chronicle your main character’s venture into college.
The ideas are endless. And you don’t need massive technology to make it happen. Be creative and remember … your audience will follow you as long as you give them a reason to.
Every author I speak to is different … in so many ways: Knowledge of SEO is one of them. I talk to some authors who have never heard of search engine optimization and don’t understand why it’s important. Others tell me that they’ve already written their metadata.
Regardless of your level of SEO expertise, the purpose of this post is to discuss the “musts” “shoulds” and “don’t bothers” regarding optimizing your author website.
First, let’s start by defining SEO. Search engine optimization is a segment of website development, with the purpose of “optimizing” the website for the “search engines.” Now the name makes more sense, right? Basically, it refers to efforts to ensure that the website shows up on search results when people go to Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… and search for terms directly related to the book and/or author.
SEO involves many different factors, from the actual text on the website to “metadata” (text that no one sees except the search engines) to “alt text” (text that is used to describe each image and link on the website). Whether or not you know or understand these terms is pretty unimportant. What IS important is recognizing why SEO needs to be done, and how to go about it.
Because search engine optimization requires focusing on specific keywords (i.e. the terms that people might go to a search engine and search for), the most important piece in SEO is figuring out exactly which keywords you should be optimizing your website for. That’s where we get into the “musts”
- Your name and book title: Most of the time, people will hear about you or your book and will go to a search engine and search specifically for your name or your book title. So it’s important that those are the first things you optimize your site for.
- Alternatives for your name and book title: Is your name commonly misspelled? Do you sometimes write with a middle initial and sometimes not? Make sure that you optimize your site for all spellings/phrasings of your name and book title.
- Book description: Let’s say you wrote a self-help book about how to save for retirement. You should consider optimizing for terms around “saving for retirement.” After all, if people are going to the search engines and looking for information on the subject, you want to make sure they find your book.
- Book genre: If your book is “paranormal fiction,” then you want to make sure that you get the term “paranormal fiction” in your keywords. Ditto for “steampunk” or “historical fiction.”
The “Don’t Bother”
- General terms: There are thousands of novels out there. So don’t waste your time optimizing your website for general words like “novel,” “nonfiction book,” etc… It’s only worth it for more specific terms.
If you’re still a little confused, here are some general guidelines for search engine optimization on author websites:
- Work with a professional. Unless you know SEO inside and out, have someone who knows what they’re doing research keywords related to your book and find the 5-10 with the most searches and least competition.
- Get your keywords into your website text. Your SEO professional can help write metadata and such to get your site ranked for the keywords you’ve decided on. But it’s also helpful to go back and review the actual text on your website. Is there anywhere you can change the wording to get keywords in without it sounding awkward?
- Optimize each page separately. Every page on your website can be optimized individually. So, for example, have your book page optimized with keywords specific to the book and your author page optimized for keywords specific to you. This allows you to include more keywords throughout the site. Plus, the search engines prefer sites that write unique metadata for each page.
- Fiction vs. nonfiction. My own personal experience is that nonfiction books get a better bang for their buck from SEO. Why? Because people who read nonfiction books are generally looking to learn about something, making them more likely to start by going to Google and searching for it. Most fiction readers don’t find their next reads this way. Think about it. When was the last time you found a novel through Google?
I’ve given you a lot of information here on how to optimize your site for search engines, how to find keywords, etc… But regardless of how much of this advice you take, there’s one thing that it’s important for every author to understand: building your website isn’t enough to make people visit it. Nor is simply giving out the URL on business cards and emails (although that helps, too). Optimizing your site is an absolute MUST today. If you skip this important step in the web development process, you’re wasting a lot of time and money.
As always, feel free to contact us for a free consultation regarding your author website, SEO … or whatever your needs may be.
Most authors out there who have created a blog are trying every method possible to get traffic to it (see my blog entry last week on the subject). But here’s one method they shouldn’t be trying: link dumping.
What is “link dumping?” It’s simply posting links to your blog post wherever you can: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc… Most users just find those types of links too self-promotional. And, in some circles (LinkedIn groups, for example), it can get your comments banned from the conversation.
So how is an author supposed to include links to their blog entries without being guilty of link dumping? Here are three ideas, courtesy of Internet and Marketing Report.
1. Write intriguing text to go with your link. Ask a question that people want an answer to, and then link to your blog for more.
2. Explain the post. Rather than just posting a link, be very clear about what people will get if they click on it.
3. Do more than just self-promote. It’s okay to post sometimes with a link to your blog. But don’t do that all the time. Sometimes, write interesting copy specifically for the site that you’re on. Also consider linking to other people’s relevant posts and comments. People will be more likely to read your comments/tweets/posts if they aren’t always self-promotional.
Good luck with your traffic driving!
I came across a discussion today on a LinkedIn group for authors. The conversation was started by the following question: How do you find people to read your blog – and on a consistent basis?
Here are some of the responses I found to be most interesting. I hope you find them helpful, too.
Here is an idea – write a daily blog, with ideas and extracts from your books. I was getting about 450 hits a month on my blog until December 31st last year, when I made it my new years resolution to write a daily blog. After 10 months and more than 200 blog posts, its 1527 a month. Many of them have become followers. The followers read the blog consistently. Its hard work, but worth it! — Althea Hayton
We ought not forget that the content has to be of interest in order to attract a following. To be of interest it has to be unique, well written and timely. if you meet those criteria (and if there aren’t 100 other people providing the same information), publicize it to those who you know would find it of interest and ask them to tell 10 of their friends and colleagues about the column. When people subscribe to your blog, thank them and urge them to tell other people. – Peter Pollak
I am doing something a bit strange these days — instead of a normal blog, I am writing my new book on my blog on my website, calling it A Book in Progress. I do get nice hits, whenever I tweet or mention it on Facebook. – Ilil Arbel
… the trick is to write just 500 words each day! That is as much as the average blog reader will absorb in any case. Drip feeding!! Lots of images off the net, links and relevant utube. Twitter and Facebook every post. Also do blog posts scheduled in advance to allow for busy times, holidays etc. Then my readers check in daily to see what I have written, and some even leave comments, which is lovely! – Althea Hayton
My blog features my “work in progress” on the book I’m doing. I only post about once a month – I spend three hours a day writing in addition to another full time job – so I don’t have time for a daily post. My posts are somewhat analytical about what I’m writing, and I ask the reader to comment on the subject if they wish to. I think it is a good gauge as to how the work is progressing and how it makes the reader feel. Moreover, the blog is an anchor for me – it is a connection between the book and the outside world, if that makes sense. – Sally DeSmet
If you have any more ideas to share, please post them in the comments box below. Otherwise, I will continue to add to this post as new ideas are posted in the conversation.
I must confess … I came across this press release weeks ago, and only now got around to blogging about it. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Let me explain…
According to the release, author Sandra D. Bricker wanted to do something really special for the final book of her four-part series, which is due out in the fall of 2012. Here’s an excerpt from the release, starting with a quote from the author herself:
“I think what I’ve come up with is going to excite my readers while rewarding them for sticking with these characters…and with me!…the way they have.”
On September 1st, a contest will debut on the author’s Web site (www.SandraDBricker.com) where readers will compete for the honor of choosing Emma’s wedding cake from a series of drawings provided by up-and-coming Canadian artist, Hanna Sandvig. Bricker says she talked to more than a dozen artists before finding and falling in love with the childlike wonder of Sandvig’s artistry. “Hanna’s talent just embodies the fun and whimsy of Emma’s personality.”
“What a great idea,” I thought, as I read this. After all, Sandra is doing what I preach to authors all the time: making her site fresh, interactive, and innovative. She’s allowing readers to feel like a part of the website and her books, and she’s encouraging them to come back regularly to see how others are voting. A win-win.
And then I went to the website. Now true, I visited the site today, October 4th, a full month after the contest supposedly started. But, boy was I disappointed. Here are a few reasons why such a brilliant idea seems like such a dud in practice:
- Who designed this website? Or, better yet, in what century was it designed? I don’t mean to be insulting, but the site, at first glance, looks completely unprofessional. I’m not sure if she designed it herself, or it just hasn’t been updated since 1995, but it leaves a really poor first impression.
- The site seems aimless. What am I supposed to do on this website? There are no “calls to action” (like encouraging me to sign up for her newsletter, buy her books, etc…). I see a picture of her dog, information about charity, etc… It’s more like a personal journal than an author website.
- And most importantly … what about the contest? According to the press release, the contest was scheduled to begin on September 1st. There was no end date mentioned. So I have no idea whether the contest ended already … or never started. Here’s what it says in a small area on the homepage: “CONTEST NEWS: Do you love the Baker book series? If so, a new and exciting contest is coming up in the weeks to come! Stay tuned!!” Huh? If there was a contest, and it’s over, then shouldn’t there be some mention of the winner? If the contest hasn’t started yet, then the press release was just plain wrong. Regardless, there has got to be more information about what the contest is, how people can participate, etc…
Sigh … a great idea gone awry. Other authors should steal ideas like this one … and execute them well.