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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

I love my mother. She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders (and marketers! :D) and a very good proofreader. She loves just about everything I write, which makes storytelling fun because I know someone will enjoy it. She’s also pretty good at giving me honest feed back, but let’s face it… she’s my mother. Of course she’s going to like what I write. She’s great for my ego, but not necessarily a good measuring tool when it comes to my WIPs being something anyone else would want to read.

On the other hand, my husband, who has read everything from the latest Star Wars series to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo to The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, has usually been ho hum about my stories. What I write isn’t what he’s interested in, though he’s kind enough to read it if I ask. I know the best I’m likely to get is a “surprisingly not bad,” which is basically the same as “don’t call us we’ll call you.”

Imagine my surprise when I let him read some of my unfinished, unedited WIP and he begged for the as-yet-unwritten next chapter. To me, that means I’ve got something worth pursuing.

When we look for beta readers, we often go after those who read our genre and ignore everyone else. However, by doing that we miss a fantastic way to measure our product’s appeal to a larger audience.

Sure, most of the time the response will be “surprisingly not bad” (unless the person doesn’t care about your feelings, then it might be a more… honest… response), but there is always the possibility that person will love what we’ve written. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask and even if they don’t enjoy the work, they may point out problems that could turn off readers we are targeting.

Knowing I have at least two people impatiently waiting for me to finish my current WIP makes me want to work harder because where there’s two there’s bound to be more.

What are some of your experiences with beta readers?

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“People forget what you say, but they remember how you made them feel”–Warren Beatty

Caring for others, wanting to help our fellow humans, comes rather naturally for highly sensitive people, so why shouldn’t promoting ourselves and our products be just as natural? Most likely because we’re thinking of “selling” rather than “marketing.”

Sell: to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something: The salesman sold me on a more expensive model than I wanted.

Market: “on the market” (to make) available for purchase

Although the difference, linguistically speaking, is subtle, there is a huge difference in the way the two are carried out.

When we think of sales, we often think of a stereo-typical used car salesman — pushy, irritating, hard to get away from. I don’t know any HSP who wants to be that person. Trying to “sell” ourselves and our products leaves a sickening feeling in our psyche. And it’s no wonder since we’re consistently thinking of how the “other” feels. We know people don’t like to feel pushed into buying what they don’t want.

However, marketing is simply letting everyone know what we have available. To market ourselves we only need to do what we do best, be kind to others. The rest will slowly take care of itself.

Kristen Lamb and JP Aguiar have similar takes on using social media, Twitter in particular, to market ourselves that really speak to the way HSP’s live.

Kristen calls her suggestion the Rule of 3′s:

  1. Conversation:  Find someone to say something to. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy chat, just a word of encouragement or congratulations. Anything friendly will do.

  2. Information: Tweet a link to a post or article you found helpful, though not necessarily your own.

  3. Reciprocation:  Retweet a link from a fellow tweeter, preferably one you think others would really enjoy.

JP calls his suggestion The 5 Fingers To Social Media Learning:

  1. Index Finger – Know Your Goals: What do you want to accomplish through social media?

  2. Middle Finger – Share The Luv: Be human. Be available. Watch for opportunities to communicate with others, then do it.

  3. Ring Finger – Build Your Community: Sharing great information and being available naturally builds relationships, which will grow your following, your community.

  4. Pinky Finger – Share You Share Yours: Be yourself, but keep it to a minimum. Remember, it’s about building a community, not selling a used car.

  5. Thumb – Be Supportive and Helpful: Watch for the needs of others. All writers like, and need, some help getting the word out about their books, blogs, etc. Be that help.

Selling anything can be difficult, but making yourself available and letting others know you have something they might be interested in isn’t nearly as hard. Social media can be a marketing dream for a highly sensitive person, especially when we dig into our natural talents to be attentive and helpful.

What other ways have you found to market your products that hinged on putting your customer’s needs first?

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If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, then you’ll understand how stressful marketing yourself, your product or your business can be. If you aren’t an HSP, then today’s marketing landscape with its hurry, scurry push in social media probably doesn’t bother you. You may, in fact, thrive on the pressure, the excitement. The downside to that is that mistakes can be made at a faster rate and be more challenging to correct.

It’s also true that HSPs will suffer more stress and anxiety if we jump into all of the things we’re told we should be doing before we take the time to fully plan where we want to end up or if we don’t pace ourselves the way we need to — at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Regardless of whether you’re thinking about blogging or using Twitter or Facebook or any other social media, as an HSP it is imperative to think it through and take your time.

I’m currently working my way through Kristen Lamb’s WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, which I highly recommend, but I have to continuously remind myself that I am not in a race. As Kristen has pointed out in previous blog posts, writing is more of a marathon than a sprint. Building an author platform goes right along with that. I may not be able to fit in 15 minutes each for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (or whatever other social media outlet I’ve chosen) everyday, but I can certainly spend that much time on one per day, blog at least once per week and still have time left to work on my “masterpiece”.

Jumping into anything before you’re truly ready, or even mostly ready, gives a higher possibility of failure. It also means a greater possibility of losing your passion to write altogether. Still, it’s very difficult to reign in our enthusiasm, especially if we’re newer to the process. As Jody Hedlund says in her post The Pressure To Jump In Too Soon, “It’s hard enough to have patience. Therefore, when we get involved in the cyber writing world, eventually, we might begin to feel left behind or the pressure to keep up with what others are doing—even if we’re right where we need to be.”

Jody suggests 5 things newer writers can do to keep those feelings of pressure to a minimum, which I think really speak to HSPs:

  1. Concentrate on your writing because that is what will sell.

  2. You can put aside the book you’ve written without editing it. Consider it a project to revisit later when you’ve had more experience.

  3. If your story isn’t working or you’ve lost the passion for a project, it’s okay to put it away unfinished.

  4. Take the time to try out other genres. You may find your best writing isn’t in the genre you thought it was.

  5. Most importantly, spend less time thinking about what everyone else is doing and more time being you. As an HSP you know you’re unique. Capitalize on it.

It’s not the popular choice to take the slow lane when trying to forge ahead in a writing career, but for highly sensitive people it can be the best way. What other ways have you discovered to keep your career moving ahead while maintaining the balance you need as an HSP?

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One thing I never really considered until recently was who I expected to read what I’ve written.  It didn’t cross my mind even when I was doing the Problogger Challenge last year.  I always wrote stories and articles I thought I would like to read.  That’s not a horrible way to write, but it makes marketing a bit more difficult.  After all, you wrote it so of course you’d like it.  The problem with that is that you are one person.  Not everyone is like you.  This is why it’s important to create reader profiles.

I found the simplest way to do this in the article “Make Writing Fun: Methods Monitoring Student Writing,” which is written for high school teachers, but I think it’s a great way for anyone to start profiling potential readers.  Think of someone you enjoy telling stories to.  Write down specifics about this person from reasons you enjoy telling your stories to them to reasons they enjoy listening to or reading them.  This gives you a very personal idea of who your potential audience is.

From there you can begin to imagine others who might enjoy your works.  I highly recommend Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone to help develop a rounded out profile of your general readership.  If you’d like to get just a little more creative by doing several individualized profiles you could try Darren Rowse’s style of telling a little story about each imagined reader and including a picture.

Some basic information to consider including in your reader profiles, however you choose to put them together, include:

  • Demographics
  • Financial situation
  • Needs and challenges
  • How they use the web
  • Motivations for reading your work
  • Experience with topic (especially needed for non-fiction)
  • Hopes and dreams

Knowing who you’re writing for can help refine your manuscript as well as make marketing to them simpler on The Road to Writing.


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My Father has often said that, when you start having nightmares about your job, it’s time to move on. I can’t say I’m having nightmares, exactly, but I’ve certainly begun dreading doing anything remotely connected with being an Independent Author. However, I don’t think it’s time for me to “move on.” It’s time for me to go back to the beginning and rediscover why I became an Indie Author in the first place.

When I began, my first love was crafting entertaining stories. I spent a lot of time on Writing.com reading and contributing short stories, poems and monologues. I enjoyed giving editing tips to the authors there, especially to those in whose works I saw potential. When I sat down to work it was a pleasure, an escape even.

Flash forward to July 14, 2010. Spending 30 minutes to work on my current project, Prayerfully Yours, makes my shoulders slump, my brow pucker and my feet drag. I dutifully set my timer and check it every few minutes, trying to cheer myself on with the mantra “only X number of minutes left, then I can go play.”

What happened?!

I lost sight of the reason I began this journey in the first place. I began listening to all the “advice” out there that said I needed to market the hell out of myself to get anywhere. Marketing isn’t a bad thing. Independent Authors need to do a lot of marketing to get noticed. All of that is true, but the at some point each of us has to answer one question: what is more important, getting noticed or doing what you love?

For me it’s doing what I love most, writing. While I will be doing the Problogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge with the SITS community*, doing what I love most means I won’t be doing a lot of other things. It means spending less time following all those tweets, less time trolling the internet to find the latest self-publishing articles, less time doing anything that takes me away from what I’m meant to do — write.

In order to do less, yet be as effective as I’ve been (perhaps more so), I’ll be following my mentor, Marla Cilley’s (aka FlyLady), advice: “by letting go of your ineffective old habits and establishing simple routines” and “Take your babysteps to recognize when you are stressed out. Find a more fun way of doing the same old thing and reach out for help!”

How about you? Have you forgotten why you began your journey on The Road to Writing?

*The challenge for all us women bloggers begins July 19, so hurry if you want to sign up.

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An alternative to a business cardBusiness cards. Some say you should have them. Others say don’t bother. There are some Independent Authors that suggest using your book as your business card. Personally, I think that would be a great idea if you had a) the money to give your book away and b) a shrink ray. I have neither, which meant one thing. I needed to get creative.

As a Highly Sensitive Person, creativity comes naturally. It’s almost as easy as breathing. That’s why many of us have chosen the careers we are in, because it gives us a creative outlet. Yet, when it comes to marketing ourselves or our product, we can become overwhelmed by the possibilities, choosing either to do nothing or doing the same thing everyone else does. That’s where I was when I was trying to decide if I needed a business card or not.

My first decision was not to bother. Business cards aren’t expensive, in fact you can get free ones from Vista Print if you can’t make your own, but if you’ve ever been stuck with multiple cards that either have an error or just aren’t needed anymore you can understand my hesitancy. I’m an Independent Author who will have multiple books and using a business card to promote them would mean a reprint every time a new book comes out. Of course I could have gone with a plain business card with only my name and contact information, but, for me, it’s about the books.

After guest teaching a Sunday school class, though, I knew I needed to rethink the idea of a business card when one of the students asked for more information about the book and how to contact me so she could “pick my brain.” All I could do was hurriedly jot my contact info on a scrap piece of paper and hand it and a copy of Fear Not! to her. I was pleased she wanted the information, but embarrassed at how unprofessional I looked at that moment.

It was back to deciding how to design a business card that would be “timeless,” yet promote each book I wrote. At first I considered putting a small picture of each book on the card. I gave that idea up when I considered the need for more information about each book and the small amount of space available (not to mention that reprint thing!). I also considered going with just contact info, but I’m convinced I need to promote my books more than myself.

Suddenly I struck upon a very creative idea. Why not a bookmark for each book? If it’s the book that’s important, what better way to promote an Independent Author than with a bookmark? What I love about the idea is that a bookmark is small enough to be carried around in my purse for easy distribution, but large enough to put quite a bit of information on it. Not only that, but, since readers are the target market, what better gift to them than a bookmark? (In my Mom’s case, it’s another one to add to her rather large collection. :D)

I don’t know that a bookmark would work for everyone, or even every Independent Author. What I do know is that HSPs are great at creatively thinking outside the box when we give ourselves time and permission. Finding a creative solution to any challenge, marketing or otherwise, is one of the great things about being an HSP on The Road to Writing.

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If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, then you’ll understand how stressful marketing yourself, your product or your business can be. If you aren’t an HSP, then today’s marketing landscape with its hurry, scurry push in social media probably doesn’t bother you. You may, in fact, thrive on the pressure, the excitement. If that’s the case, then I wish you a fantastic journey. If not, then you may be interested in my new monthly series here on The Road to Writing: Marketing Monday.

Beginning June 14 I will be writing once a month about marketing strategies and techniques specifically tailored to the low-stress needs of highly sensitive persons. While each post will be designed for an HSP anyone can take advantage of these ideas. Although I will be focusing on the needs of Independent Authors like myself, I’m sure the creative entrepreneur will be able to adapt these ideas to his or her own business needs.

Do keep in mind that the results may be slower as the strategies will tend to be more subtle and low-key. But, as country singer Alan Jackson says in Little Bitty, “It’s alright to be little bitty… ['cause] Life goes on for a little bitty while.” Starting small and growing slowly, but steadily, suits this HSP just fine on The Road to Writing.

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As those of you who have been following along will know, I’ve been working with the BookBuzzr people to test out whether their service was a better choice for me as an Independent Author versus Scribd. After looking over their services and comparing stats from both, I’ve come to one conclusion… neither one is perfect for my needs when used alone. It’s not that either one is just a bad service, it’s that each one has different things I really like and things I wish were better.

Just looking at the stats, I’ve had 112 reads on Scribd since uploading my excerpt on April 13, 2010, and 203 full screen views (800 widget views) on BookBuzzr since May 4, 2010. If I looked only at the stats, then BookBuzzr would be the clear winner, but there is more to marketing than that. I need detailed information for one. I can get those details easily on Scribd, but BookBuzzr only gives totals (and yes I read each entry in the FAQ looking for info on getting more detailed stats with BookBuzzr).

I also liked that Scribd was so easy to upload my document to. With BookBuzzr I had to fill out three pages of forms, upload a .pdf version of my book excerpt and then a .jpg of my cover. I then received an error message that said something about my file either being too big or in the wrong format so it wouldn’t be converted. A day or so later I received an email that said my book had been converted into the BookBuzzr format. Huh? When I checked it out my book was there, just as the email said, so why the initial error message?

In marketing techniques, however, BookBuzzr was the clear winner since Scribd doesn’t have any marketing options included. With Scribd you have to do all of it on your own. BookBuzzr has numerous ways available to market your book from mini-widgets you can use just about anywhere…

www.bookbuzzr.com

…to automated tweets when your book excerpt is read. It all makes marketing your book just a little bit less stressful, which is all to the good for every busy writer since our main occupation is to write, not sell.

The main issue I’ve had with BookBuzzr is in it’s claims that their widgets can be easily shared in a variety of places. As ongoing readers can attest, I’ve had my share of difficulties getting their mini-widget to “stick” to a blog post intact. I have to thank the tech people at BookBuzzr for staying with me as we worked to solve that particular problem.

In that process I also found out that the larger widget cannot be shared on just any wordpress blog. You must have a wordpress.org blog for it to work. Sorry, but if you’re using wordpress.com BookBuzzr can’t be shared to your blog and you can’t put it in your sidebar as they say you can in their FAQ. I hope they will change that entry soon to let people know that little fact before the next person to try the share option is as disappointed as I was.

On the other hand, the widget works beautifully on my Facebook profile. It even has its own little spot on the sidebar that encourages visitors to “grab it.”

As for their claims to have an email signature authors can use, as best as I can tell it only works with Yahoo!Mail, at least easily. For any other email client you have to do a bit of work to put the widget in your signature. For instance, if you use Gmail, like I do, then you must:

1. Open the BookBuzzr.com / fReado.com website in Firefox
2. Login to your account which leads to ‘My Books’ profile.
3 Open Gmail in another tab of Firefox and click on Compose Mail
4. Click on the flipping book image (i.e. left click with your index finger)
5. Keep your index finger pressed on to the browser and move the mouse-cursor to the new tab. You will see that the image outline moves along with your cursor. When you get to the new tab, release your index finger from the mouse.

Please note that since Gmail does not allow for creating a default BookBuzzr signature you need to repeat the above steps for every email composed.

That seems like a lot of work to me. The other drawback is that you have to use a particular browser. Since I only use Google Chrome, that’s not going to work. I hope, again, that BookBuzzr will fix that problem in the near future.

Lastly, my attempt at sharing via the main widget to Twitter sort of garbled my book title: Fear-Not:-Discovering-God\’s-Promises-for-Our-Live. It should read Fear Not: Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives. It’s a minor thing, but one this perfectionist didn’t like. The auto tweets, though, have all looked just fine: My book ‘Fear Not: Discovering God’s Promises f…’ was viewed in the last 24 hours on #BookBuzzr by 7 Readers.

I like the ease of uploading and the ability to get detailed stats from Scribd, but doing all the marketing on my own takes up time I need to work on other projects. I like the marketing gadgets available with BookBuzzr, though I can’t use them all due to technical issues. In the end, until BookBuzzr makes everything easy to use across a lot more platforms, I’ll be using both to grab the attention of wayward travelers on The Road to Writing.

Update


For Further Reading:

3 Ways To Boost Potential Book Sales Using Samples

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Marketing is an essential element to book sales, but to market a book before it’s finished one must have some kind of cover art to show the masses. Crazy as it seems, I decided to “put the cart before the horse,” so to speak, and design a cover for my newest book before I’ve completed the manuscript. It’s a little difficult to explain why, but here goes:

If you’ve ever felt Called to do something, and by that I mean that God/the Universe/Divine Spirit/whatever you choose to call it has tugged on your mind/heart/conscience to do a certain task, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say I felt led to create the cover of Prayerfully Yours first. (If you haven’t had that experience yet, then all I can say is just wait ’til it happens. ;))

The book, obviously, is about prayer: what it is, why we do it, how we do it, and a lot of things in between. It’s always been my feeling that prayer is something very simple, as simple as having a conversation with your best friend — or even a lover. This book will (I hope) help people who still have questions about the specifics of prayer, things like, “Do I need to kneel, stand, sit or what?” It will also show how important prayer can be for our lives and how we can often “hear” God’s answers to our prayers.

Now, while I said I felt led to design the cover first, I didn’t have an exact design in mind. Instead, I’ve put together two possible designs…

So, readers, here’s your chance to help me decide which cover says more about prayer. Leave a comment, or shoot me an email. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@virginiaripple). I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Updates on Prayerfully Yours:

The Spiritual Side of Writing
Discovering Passion And Purpose In Writing
Game Called On Account of Computer Crash
Rediscovering the Joy of Being an Independent Author
4 Steps To A Less Frustrating DIY Book
Brave New World

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It’s probably every writer’s dream, secretly or otherwise, to make a living as a freelancer. Unfortunately, the reality seldom meets the dream and most of us either suffer until we die or, more likely, until we get a “real job.” Enter the idea of self-publishing.

Many Independent Authors plunge into self-publishing as a way to make more money sooner, or so they believe until reality hits them like a freight train. “The average number of sales for a POD book is 500…total, and I often wonder if that is an exaggeration,” writes Jeremy Robinson in POD People. That is a very disheartening fact, one we each have to come to terms with in our own way. A great number of would-be authors give up at this point. Most begin to at least doubt the possibility of reaching their heart’s desire. But does that mean the dream has to die?

Absolutely not. If it’s truly your dream, then it is imperative to keep working toward it. That means marketing by using both old ways (basic word-of-mouth and PR) and new ways (using social media such as facebook and twitter). There are a lot of great resources out there to aid the Independent Author in his or her marketing strategies. (I’ve mentioned a few in earlier posts, just take a look at the posts in the marketing category.)

Marketing, however, is not the only thing the freelancer needs to be concerned about. You are your own boss, which means you are the one in charge of the finances. That does not mean debt and financial struggle is inevitable anymore than having a 9-to-5 job means financial security. It does mean doing extra planning. As Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan say in The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs “Having your financial house in order brings peace of mind. It also puts you in a better position to survive and thrive, no matter what the economic climate.”

I am no financial wiz, but as an up and coming Independent Author I’ve come to realize that money matters — a lot. Like others of you struggling to “make it” as a writer, I want to succeed, to see my dream become a reality. I refuse to buy into the myth, as Joseph and Denise call it, of the “struggling artist.” I don’t just believe in the possibility. I know it exists and I will be following the financial roadsigns of success on The Road to Writing.

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