Did you know that a New York Times survey found that 81% of Americans either plan to write a book or have already done so?
You may be painfully aware that writing a book and publishing a book are two very different accomplishments.
Writing provides great personal satisfaction. However, it’s when we share our stories with others that our work takes on a new life.
The past few weeks, I interviewed 43 writers aspiring to publish their first books. When asked why they were motivated to take the big leap into publishing, they gave brilliant wonderful answers.
Do any of these sound like you?
Tim Cahill, founding editor of Outside magazine had this to say:
Or perhaps you agree with Sylvia Plath who remarked:
Ready to realize your goal? Now’s the time to clear out your desk drawers (or computer folders) and get your work out into the world where it belongs!
I invite you to join my online course How to Self-Publish Your First Book. This course is specifically designed for those of you that need a lot of basic help to navigate the indie publishing world.
The publishing process doesn’t need to overwhelm you. Gain a clear understanding of what it takes to be an indie author. Confidently advance your project from rough manuscript to published book. Experience the satisfaction of holding your finished book in your hands and the joy of hearing from your first readers.
Through my work with Writer.ly, at the University of Washington and as a publisher, I’ve witnessed first-hand the thrilling moment when writers become authors. Man, that’s powerful stuff — the tasty fruit of dreams, effort and heartfelt aspirations. I would be so honored to work with you in my class and get to be a part of your transformation from “aspiring author” to “author.”
To reward you for bravely claiming your intention to publish, you’ll save $150 when you sign up right now.
IMPORTANT: This weekend preview deal ends Sunday night.
I would love to hear your reasons. Leave a comment and let me know!
Learn exactly what you need to do in order to take your work from rough manuscript to published book. Online course delivered over 4 weeks. Watch the recorded sessions on your own and join the live sessions for direct help.
Yep. Many extraordinarily successful authors use another goal to maintain career longevity.
Want to learn the big secret? Watch the video below to learn how achieve your writerly dreams by attracting true fans rather than chasing after book sales.
This lesson comes from my course Small Town Writer, Big World Audience. You can join the class and watch more lessons here. Enjoy the free class and good luck on your platform building endeavors!
P.S. Watch your inbox in the next few days for an invite to a free workshop for folks looking to set up their first marketing funnel. Watching the lesson above about true fans will give you the background you need to get the most out of the marketing funnel workshop. Not on my email list? Craziness. You should sign up so you don’t miss out on all the freebies. Sign up now and I’ll send you my Freebie Cheat Sheet with 33 giveaway ideas for authors.
Want to know the best way to entice someone to join your email list? Offer a high-value, relentlessly helpful or entertaining freebie. (Also called lead magnets.)
These giveaways provide excellent opportunities to nurture your relationship with your audience and move people down the path from mere online acquaintance to true fan. Make things easy on yourself with digital freebies that don’t cost a thing and may be instantly delivered through tools such as Mailchimp or LeadPages.
Fiction authors in particular may struggle with coming up with things they may offer for free. Even if you don’t publish instructional material, you can offer enticing giveaways such as audiobook samples, book club activities or even collections of journal prompts to help get other people writing.
If you write non-fiction, there’s a plethora of perfectly pleasing perks you may publish. People seem to really love checklists and how-to guides – anything that makes it easy for them to do whatever it is they’re trying to do!
I’ve listed 33 giveaway ideas for authors on this free download. I also included tips on getting your freebies out into the world and what tech tools you may use to collect email address.
Want help figuring out how to use these freebies to entice new readers to sign up for your email list? This is exactly what I teach in Small Town Writer, Big World Audience. >> Check out the class.
I’m opening my popular self-publishing course in September. Since it’s been over a year since I’ve offered this class, I must update the content to include the information independent authors need right now. The publishing world moves fast! So, for 48 hours only, I’m opening up the course for pre-registration to writers willing to act as course evaluators.
As a course evaluator, you’ll receive access to the entire course at a drastically reduced rate. In return, you’ll share your current self-publishing challenges and needs with me. Your input will help me update the course.
Why take the self-publishing course?
This webinar series will walk you step-by-step through the self-publishing process. If you would like to self-publish, but are overwhelmed with the process or simply don’t know where to start, this class is perfect for you. Even if you have no publishing experience and little technical ability, you’ll be able to publish a professional quality book and avoid the errors that plague so many un-supported indie authors.
By the end of the 4 week program, you will know:
You can view a course syllabus here. (Subject to change based on evaluator input!)
What does a course evaluator do?
The responsibilities aren’t difficult, just incredibly valuable. (Hence the extremely reduced class price.) As a course evaluator, you would promise to:
In return, you get access to the full course for $37. That’s $260 off the retail price of $297.
You will not be able to register for this course at a lower price. Once we hit midnight tomorrow, this opportunity is gone for good.
Course evaluator registration will only be open for 48 hours.
>> Register now.
I GREATLY appreciate the input you have. By signing up to be a course evaluator, you’re helping me understand the challenges independent authors and writers face now.
Plus, you’ll be able to access my well-reviewed and extensive self-publishing course for a fraction of the price offered to the general public. Win-win!
Thanks for taking a look!
Do you struggle with the same book marketing challenges as other authors in your field?
I released a book marketing challenges survey earlier in the year and received responses from 93 authors. Some authors were just starting out self-publishing their books, others have published traditionally for years and years. Despite the wide range of experiences, there were a few themes that kept coming up.
Here are the most-reported book marketing complaints:
Scroll down to read actual quotes pulled from the survey. But first, here are the numbers:
Primary income sources: 93 authors completed the survey. 10 of these authors make most of their income from book sales. The other 83 authors have another source of income.
Publishing cost: While many authors spent none of their own money publishing their books, others spent over $20,000.
Marketing budget: While most authors spent less than $500 marketing their books, many more invested thousands of dollars into their book marketing efforts.
Stage of career: Authors that answered the book marketing survey were in all kinds of stages of their writing career. Some were very well established, others were just starting out.
“My main problem is getting interest in my books.”
“I feel like I’m not reaching the folks who would buy my books if they knew about them.”
“I don’t know how to stand out in all the noise.”
“I thought i had a decent fan base but with a new book out this doesn’t seem to be reflected in sales or reviews. There’s so much online noise out there, how does one stand out? How do I make the most user of my time?”
“I don’t know which market or platform is the best for my books.”
“I don’t get noticed among the hundred and thousands of other releases. My blog is… a waste of time. No one visits except writer friends and colleagues.”
“I don’t want or need marketing tips that are fast and easy. What I want is marketing that is EFFECTIVE.
“Despite having consistent and topical blog posts, I also rarely saw a return on the effort, and I’m burned out!”
“Instead of wasting my time say buying useless adspace or sending free copies of my book to a website with only 3 visitors, I want to know where I should focus my energies to find people who want to read my books.”
“I have worked hard cold-calling book bloggers for reviews, sending personalized review requests, and soliciting free newsletters to promote price-reduction sales, and looking for guests posts for an author who neither will promote nor spend any money to promote. I have failed in both reviews and sales garnered.”
“I will probably do a guerilla marketing campaign, dropping cards and stuff. But I don’t know if that will help at all. I feel like such a noob.”
“I can promote until I’m blue in the face, but the only thing that seems to get results is giving away my books, something I am loathe to do on anything other than a one-time, limited basis.”
“Posts that I make are not always seen. I don’t know how many times to make a post or know when to make to reach my audience.”
“I deactivated my Facebook account a few years back primarily for lack of understanding. Although I have a Twitter account I have not taken the time to make it truly viable as a tool.”
“Social media seems like one massive endless swap and shop; people do stop to browse yet after piles of junk mail and slightly damaged articles offered as a real deal, they peruse seemingly legitimate offers warily.”
“I have trouble getting people to click through to blog posts and engage on topics surrounding the books. People are happy to approach and say that the books sound really interesting, but getting the clicks and better numbers is difficult.”
“I’m clueless when it comes to the internet. I’m sure I’m not using it properly to maximize sales.”
“With so many other novels flooding the market, it’s difficult for me to find the time and motivation to chase marketing avenues. Oh now I have to write a blog, oh now I have to tweet about this, oh now I have to make a Facebook page about that. “
“Marketing is a full time job but so is writing and I simply don’t have the time or the energy to do both.”
“I don’t have the time or energy to put as much into social media as authentic relationships would demand.”
“Can I do it all alone with no contacts, author involvement or budget?”
“Which social media sites have the potential to help you market and which are a waste of time and effort?”
“I’ve gone to conferences and read all the information but it’s not sinking in.”
“I have great ideas, but no time to implement them.”
“I struggle with being authentic while also promoting my book. I don’t want to be one of those authors who is always pushing a link to her book (and there are a lot of them!).”
“I don’t know what words to use to attract people without being cliché.”
“I hate being a salesman for myself. It feels awkward.”
“Plus, how do you promote yourself on social media without annoying people? I share when someone else says something positive about my work (through retweets, reposts, etc…) with a ‘thank you’ included, and I’m fine to share when my work is discounted, but otherwise, I don’t know how to promote my work without feeling like I’m being a slimy used car salesman.”
“I don’t like talking about my book or, worse, ‘selling’ people on my book. I just really hate being like ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ It is the worst.”
“Can I do it all alone with no contacts, author involvement or budget?”
“I don’t have the resources to do anything that will make a big impact.”
“I want to hire a professional to help me, but I don’t know if it will be a good investment or not.”
Do any of these book marketing complaints sound familiar to you? Clearly, you are not alone. Authors work very hard to identify effective ways to promote their books, while salvaging some time to write and work on their craft.
Did you find this survey interesting? Please share it using the buttons below. Thanks!
Promoting your books does not need to be a painful exercise in narcissistic flailing and squandered efforts. Approached with the correct mindset, it might not only be very effective, but also fun! If you would like to know how to use Twitter without embarrassing yourself or wasting time, here is what you must keep top of mind. It’s the biggie…
If you have ever worked in sales or marketing, you may have heard of the sales funnel. As you can see in the illustration below, social media sites (such as Twitter) are at the very tippy top of the funnel. This is where you get your first introductions. Potential readers may see your clever tweet and discover for the first time that you even exist.
This first discovery moment is not the time to ask for a book sale. Sure, if you ask 100 people, you might get one or two sales. Is that what you’re after, one or two sales? Is it worth annoying the 98 or 99 other people that didn’t take you up on your quick offer?
Use Twitter to entertain or inform your potential fans. Give them interesting content to earn their attention. Invite them to click through to your blogs, or freebies or collaborations.
Here’s an example of how I invite my Twitter followers to come visit my website:
— Kelsye Nelson (@Kelsye) March 11, 2016
Since my audience is full of writers, I offer the fun game as a way to interact (play!) and drive traffic back to my blog. It’s subtle and appreciated by those that participate. You’ll notice there is no sales push. I’m not selling anything with these games. I use the games as a way to move beyond introduction and discovery and give my audience a chance to get to know me.
More directly, you can offer information or freebies on Twitter. Here’s an example of just that:
— Avasta Press (@AvastaPress) March 15, 2016
This tweet really helps move potential fans through the funnel. Not only do we go past introduction to entice people back to the website, but we offer them something of high value for free. While they may watch the video right away, if they want the guide they need to provide their email address. Once we receive their email address, we have permission to continue building our relationship and provide them more offers leading to a single sale, or even a life of fandom. (So we hope!)
If you would like to know how to use Twitter without embarrassing yourself, just keep thinking of the network as a very first introduction to your potential readers. Give, give, give…. give resources, information or entertainment. Be yourself and don’t worry about “pushing” anything. Provide opportunities to invite your followers back to your website or to your events. Keep thinking about what you can offer to move your potential readers through the funnel and closer to fandom.
Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.
This is day two of my week of social savvy posts. Check back tomorrow to learn more about how to use Twitter to achieve your promotion goals.
So little time, so much to do, right? As an author, not only do you have to actually write your books, but you also need to promote your works to readers. This can be an incredible amount of work. While social media provides direct access to millions of potential readers, most authors fail to use platforms in way that effectively promotes their books. It’s easy to waste a lot of time messing around on social media without getting results. So, why should authors be on Twitter?
Here are four reasons why I highly recommend authors that authors check out Twitter.
1. It’s easy to find people on Twitter who have specific interests that align with your books.
This is also called “targeting’ your market, which sounds like a mean thing to do but is actually very thoughtful. For example, if you write historical fiction set in the Pacific Northwest, you can identify readers who might be interested in your books by searching what they are tweeting and which accounts they are following. In this situation, you might search for people tweeting about other historical fiction books they’ve reviewed on Goodreads, or using a #historical hashtag, or retweeting the @Smithsonian magazine account.
2. You can scale quickly.
Scale matters. If you only have an audience of 100 people, those 100 people won’t be able to provide enough support to promote or buys your books in quantities that will enable you to make a living (or break even!) as a writer. Simply by following people interested in topics related to your books, you can build a targeted, respectable following. (Here’s help on how to do that.)
3. You can use tools to dramatically reduce the amount of time you actually spend on Twitter.
Would you believe that I spend less than an hour or so each week maintaining my Twitter accounts? It’s true! This is possible with third-party tools that help you post content, manage your following and respond to mentions. Here’s my magic formula:
Feedly – Used to find excellent content worth sharing
Hootsuite – Used to schedule content and monitor mentions, conversations and topics
Tweepi – Used to manage and grow my following
4. Twitter can drive a lot of traffic.
Most importantly, authors that manage to connect with a decent amount of likely readers can use the network to drive a lot of traffic to their website. Twitter (and all social media networks) are at the very tippy-top of the sales funnel.
Twitter can help authors connect with potential readers, build a sizable following, save time on marketing and drive traffic home.
Do you need help using Twitter more effectively? Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.
Authors on social media often struggle in the beginning.
Aside from the fact that self-promotion seems daunting and distasteful, you must also contend with a vast number of social networks to choose from, each with their own best practices, unspoken rules and effectiveness. How can you possibly be expected to know where to start?
Good news! You don’t need to figure out everything right away. You have plenty of time to try out different platforms. You may explore each one-by-one if you wish, trying them on for audience, ease of use and enjoyment. This is my best piece of advice for authors on social media.
Do this right now:
What does this mean? This means creating an account on all the major social networks, as well as any niche networks you think might be a good match for your work and your readers. This does not mean that you need to start using all these accounts right now. This simply means that if you do decide to try them out in the future, you will not suffer the annoyance of discovering your name is already taken.
These are the social media networks I suggest for all authors. Do you already have your name claimed on these sites?
There are many other social media or community sites that may also be a good match for you. Check out:
There are a billion more. Ask your readers where they spend their time online and what sites they like. That’s where you need to be.
When you create your username, you will be very lucky if you can get your first name, or even your full name. Already taken? Don’t worry, there are many ways you can craft a well-branded, professional username that will likely work across platforms. Let’s say your name is Stephen King, you could try these public user names:
If possible, you want to find a user name that you can use on as many social media platforms as possible. This will make it easier for people to find you.
Tip: DO NOT create profiles in the name of your book. You’re an author for life, right? You are going to write many books, yes? It will be a big pain to have to start over again every time you publish something new.
Are you 8 for 8 for claiming your name on the primary social media accounts I listed? Do you know more social sites for authors and artists that I may add to the secondary list? Let me know in the comments below.
Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.
Imagine how honored I felt when asked to speak on the main stage at Geekwire’s Startup Day? The request made me giddy. I’ve long admired the Geekwire crew and the articles they produce. They needed someone with expertise in failure. Uh, thanks for thinking of me guys.
Yet how could I turn down the opportunity? Everyone loves the story of a fallen hero, and I’ve certainly fulfilled the “fallen” part of that criteria plenty of times. More compelling, I would be speaking to a crowd of about 700 entrepreneurial souls, many who have had their own experiences with failure and some who have their best and biggest failures still to come. If we fear failure, we will fail to endeavor, which would be the biggest loss of all.
In the interest of transparency, community and shared experience, I climbed up onto the tall stool on the stage at the Meydenbauer Center and spoke as open and honestly as I could about the failure of my beloved startup, Writer.ly.
Writer.ly was an online marketplace of publishing services. We connected authors and publishers with the freelancers they need to publish and market their books. We earned our money by taking a small commission on the jobs awarded through the site. We bootstrapped, graduated from the Founder Institute incubator and earned angel funding. Our run was about three years.
There’s an arc, of course. Every story about a failed startup is really a story about a whole collection of wild successes and tragic loses. In the scheme of things, we did well. We survived Founders Institute. We had 1200 users and our first revenue in the first month we launched. We beat out hundreds of other startups to pitch on a stage in San Francisco, where we got out first angel investor. Then we got another, and another. We kept winning pitch contests, or coming very close to first.
I scored a lunch with Guy Kawasaki – an idol of mine since Art of the Start. He didn’t just validate our idea, but he signed up as an advisor on the spot, bringing along two more publishing experts. He gave us his booth at Book Expo in New York, where he highlighted us in his keynote speech.
Suddenly we had over 4,000 users, and another angel, and another! And OMG, f* you gender bias and outrageous odds, we’re really going to make this thing go!!!!
Our revenue stalled. Authors needed more guidance than our DIY marketplace provided. The tech firm we gave most of our money to delivered a site that was a fraction of what we’d contracted. They also managed to break our intrepid MVP site of shame, so that for a week all money transactions happened in a virtual sandbox, but not in the real world. We had no more angel money. We needed to pivot, but to do so meant betraying our community of indie writers and focusing on the few with big bucks and the means to do well no matter what.
At this point, I was almost three years in, and very very tired. I was drawn to startups because I hate having to be at a particular place at a particular time. Now I had to be everywhere all of the time. My family had existed on minimum income for many years. They were sick of me always having something crucially important to do that would take all my attention and energy.
Personally, the breaking point for me came when I realized that if I started from scratch with all the learning and experience I’d gained, in one year, I could be further than this company would be in three. It was time to make my exit.
So what happened next?
No, I did not bounce back from failure lickety-split. Recovering from the death of a dream held tight-fast for many years was no simple or quick process for me. On the Geekwire stage, I shared how I got my mojo back. Click play on the video below and take a listen.
Part 2 to be posted 8/15/15: How to hit the reset button after creative burnout and disappointment
The effort of maintaining a public persona births special kind of exhaustion. This weariness finally caught up with me, overwhelmed me. I slowed and quieted. My blog posts became fewer and father between until they stopped entirely. My social accounts focused on trivial games or industry updates. I ceased Facebook entirely. I made no new videos, scheduled no social events, published very little.
At the start of the year, I rigorously challenged my assumptions of myself and my place in the world. When I could have succumbed to the down flow, instead I gathered smart, supportive people around me. I read thought-provoking books, tested out new theories and models of living.
Once fully vetted, I latched on the passion I know that will not only sustain my family, but also meet my needs of challenge, art-making and intellectual engagement.
So now is the time to come out of hiding, to show and speak and share again the project I have been privately pouring my heart and mind into. Yet, I tremble and pause.
Always, there is a risk when you step into the arena.
What if I fail? What if what I create isn’t as good as I hope it will be?
My twitter profile describes me as “hopelessly happy”. How true and easy this was when the stakes were low, when there weren’t other people depending on me for their paychecks, then my failures weren’t so painfully public, when all I needed was to show up on the job and be slightly better than the schmo’ on my right.
I come from a cowgirl family. We get back on the horse after a fall. We feed the animals before we feed ourselves. If the gelding kicks you in the chest and breaks your ribs, as it did to my mother, you shut your mouth, finish your chores and go take a handful of ibuprofen.
You do not feel sorry for yourself. You do not cause any additional burden for anyone else. You take care of things and do what you have to do. If you fail, or if you drink, or if you feel pain, or if you drink, you hide it away and we all pretend not to know about it – out of respect for you.
I’m proud of my cowgirl family, of our tremendous strength and resolve. I am so thankful that I can take a hit and stubbornly stand to try, try again.
Yet also, I need help. And if I hide my losses, I may not fully commit myself to the next big win. So here we are, at the edge of yet another arena.
I close my eyes, take deep breaths and visualize bravery. Pause. A small voice whispers: It’s safer to stay on the sidelines, to do regular work that brings the regular paycheck, to apologize, acquiesce, condense, quiet.
No. That is not the life I’m built for.
It’s good to be back in the saddle again.
And so, with that thought….