Monday, March 4, 2013

MONDAY MARKETING Publicity without Press Releases #indie #selfpub #pubtip #mywana #pr #promo

In last week's Monday blog, I discussed some of the various ways Indie Authors could pursue publicity opportunities by sending out press releases, including the acquisition of a "Keystone Placement" which could later be turned into a credential.

For instance, for Digital Publishers, a review by Publishers Weekly could deliver a high ROI (Return on Investment) because Publishers Weekly is the leading trade magazine of our industry. Unfortunately, for Indie Authors, there's a hefty fee of $149 to purchase a "subscription" to PW Select which entitles you to request a review and only 25% of the PW Select books actually do get selected and reviewed.

If you have $149 to spend on the gamble, however, your investment could produce a quotable quote that helps you sell books. It all depends on how good the review you get really is -- and how good a spin doctor you are in terms of extracting a marketable quote from the review.

Not all of us have money to burn on a risky gamble, myself definitely being included in the tight-purse-strings group, so this week, I'll look at how to publicize your Brand without sending out press releases. It's more work for you, but it's an otherwise no-cost effort. Your time is money but doing marketing work is time or money well-spent. Click through to learn how.

Making It Personal
First, let's agree on our understanding of publicity and from whence it comes. To paraphrase the famous NRA slogan: products don't create publicity (buzz); people do. When people talk about a product, it comes alive. Without people, products are just inert, inanimate objects that people may or may not know exist.

Furthermore, when people talk about a product, it's not even the product they're actually discussing. In reality, they're talking about their reaction to the product. The people to whom they make these remarks are interested in how a product affects others so they can make an educated guess at how it will affect them, personally. Publicity is always personal because it taps directly into a consumer's "positioning" strategy for their world.

That is, hearing something new, a consumer must either accept or reject the information heard, and if accepted, they must "position" it in the context of their mind. This is what's called their set of product ladders. Every person has a set and every set is different. Publicity buzz is what happens when mutliple people define their product ladders in the same way at the same time.

Books are definitely a prime example of this. When people discuss a book, as many Indie Authors know, they make it personal. Readers unfortunately talk about what the author did or didn't do, rather than what happens in the book. It's as though the author is under review, not the story. Why is that? Much as you might not like to hear it, the reason is that the Author is what holds interests to the readers. That's why the Author Name Brand is so critical. You are your brand--or rather, you, after the spin doctor's done fixing your hair.

News Media for Books
Just as Newsweek or the Huffington Post are called "news media," allegedly report events that affect the world in which we live, the "news media" for the book world should report events that affect the book industry. Publicity should focus on the Author Brands available from which we readers can choose, and not simply advertise individual book products. Book bloggers and book-sharing sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari, are the book version of news media networks.

When people on these sites talk about books or label/review/flag books, other readers listen. Other readers want to know what "someone they trust" thinks about this new Author Brand so they can decide if they, too, should try it out. Readers aren't actually determining anything about the book, itself, but rather, in their minds, they are assigning new connotations to the Author Brand's position.

Every time a review is posted or someone shelves your book or a discussion about your book is started, that event is publicity. Other users of the site will notice it and even if they don't know the person who shelved your book or flagged it or starred it or did whatever kind of interaction with it, each person who interacts with a book's page is making a "statement" about the Author Brand. Positive statements are positive publicity; negative statements are bad publicity. Pretty simple, right?

This is why, when one of the bullies on Goodreads creates a nasty-named shelf and labels your book with a negative connotation, it's deliberate negative publicity--and it does hurt your Author Brand. The key is to get enough positive publicity to drown out the negative. By the same token, don't collect too much positive publicity too quickly or it becomes less credible. Try other methods as well beyond reviews.

Getting Up Close - Not Personal
When an author makes a "guest blog appearance" or participates in a "blog tour" (collection of blog appearances), this is another opportunity for publicity. The truth is, readers want both an interview and a book review, so the typical book blogger will combine the two. Still, you'll find most focus more on discussion of how and why the author wrote the book the way they did, than on who the author is as a person. It is more about the public interface of the Author Brand through the book to the readers than about whether the author prefers rocky road ice cream more than strawberry flavor.

Trust me, unless or until you are a celebrity author, no one cares what you eat or wear or even what you look like. Well, okay, most readers want to see a picture of the author but they don't really want to think about that image when they're reading your book. They want to envision your characters, your world, not you.

Ever hear about Tom Clancy's personal life? How about Stephen King? Well, King is an exception; he makes his own rules but even at his level of celebrity, very little is known about him personally beyond his "personal" writing habits. That's on purpose. You are an Author Brand, not just an author. When you make a public appearance--like on a blog tour--don't be "you"; be your brand.

Give great details about how the book(s) developed to this point, what's in store for the future of the characters or new books coming and when. All of these things are important to the reader--it's "what's in it for them?" and honestly, that's all they care about at the end of the day. No matter what any interviewer asks, never answer with personal details. I made this mistake last year. I'll never live it down now.

The best author interviews will focus on the attributes of the Author Brand that make their stories unique; not on the author's unique personality.

Fans want to know what your plans are for their buying future. Remember, a brand's power lies in its ability to influence a purchasing decision. Letting fans know the future plans for your books is the #1 most-powerful kind of publicity you can deliver.

What's Next....
Well, I was going to do a little tutorial on how to remove all those nasty hidden bookmarks from a Microsoft Word file but this weekend and week all kinds of news has broken in the Digital Publishing world. Tomorrow's Tuesday tip will be another roundup of bits and pieces, starting with Amazon's latest and greatest destructive act: refusal to pay Affiliate Fees to anyone who promotes free Kindle books "too much."

Yeah, "too much" is a very subjective term. If you can't wait until tomorrow to read up on this, check out Michael Gallagher's blog here.

Also, since it's Read an eBook Week over at Smashwords, there are all kinds of free eBooks--including Kindle books! They're not priced at free; you need a Smashwords coupon code. Be sure to check out my Webbiegrrl Writer Facebook Page and my Phoenician Series Facebook Page for discounts and codes on all 4 of my books. The two short ones are free; the long novels are deeply discounted.


Anonymous said...

Really great advice, as always. I really loved the differentiation of your author brand is in talking about you in the context of your books vs. your personal life.

When ever I meet with readers--at a signing, at a book club, or virtually--the questions they ask are most often about how I wrote the book, how I came up with the idea, and why I chose to add something or leave something out.

There is one differentiator I wonder about. That is when a part of the reason for writing a book is based on a personal experience. For example, an author may include a character who's husband died and she meets another man and struggles with that relationship. If the author had the same thing happen in her life and used parts of that experience in the writing of her book, does telling readers about that make it more personal? More interesting? Or is it TMI?

At the moment, I'm on the side of "more interesting" IF the information is shared briefly. It is TMI if the author takes an entire blog to write about her personal experience. What do others think?

Kerry Kerr McAvoy said...

Wow! Another great article!

I have been using last week's author branding advice about "focus, focus, focus" and contacting other Christian nonfiction authors--particularly those who write devotionals (like me) for a blog interview. Today's article went a long way in helping me tailor the interview questions. Thank you!

One particular statement you made in this article stood out to me in neon colors. You wrote, "Readers unfortunately talk about what the author did or didn't do, rather than what happens in the book. It's as though the author is under review, not the story. Why is that? Much as you might not like to hear it, the reason is that the Author is what holds interests to the readers."

When I read that comment, it resonated with me. I subconsciously knew that fact, but had never recognized it. Thank you for elucidating that wonderful point. It is powerful and very helpful.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hey Maggie, I know you asked what others think, but I'll put in my 2 cents if you don't mind. I think for your specific example of a character's experience in a book being based on a real-life experience of someone you actually knew, I'd go with the less said, the better approach.

I mean, I tend to tell readers who ask--and readers always ask where my ideas come from--that all of life is story fodder. And I'm not just saying that. I think all of my characters have at least one trait that comes from me as well as people I've known; many have multiple traits from multiple people. I doubt any of my characters could be said to be "based on" me or any one person I've known. Is your character and his experience really a 1:1 basis? Even if yes, I'd still say it's based on "situations" you've seen in your life. Something vague so you're never claiming anything is actually coming from any one person. You'd be amazed at how that can backfire.

Hello to Kerry, too :) I'd warn you off playing into the readers' interest in you as a person. Keep it professional. Readers are curious. They want to know if, like Maggie's situation, you really and truly "knew someone like that" or just made them up out of your imagination. The important point to remember is that readers don't care which answer is true, they just want to know the answer.

Secondly, about composing interview questions for others, I have to say the very best interviews coax the author through promotion of their book. When I see the interview hostess asking a question like "What's your favorite color?" and the author answering "I wrote 12 because it resonated...." or whatever other total disconnect might occur. I'm making up Q&A here just to make the point. You want to either have read the work of the person you're interviewing (so you can customize their questions to HELP them) or you want to tell the author to feel free to edit the questions. Don't count on them knowing how to BE interviewed, though. If you can coach them, they'll remember you for it, for your kind helpfulness when you could have just been out to get their presence on your blog. Make it about them and it'll come back to you tenfold ^)^

You two are becoming regular addicts to my twice a week blogs, huh? Your comments keep me motivated! Thank you!


Webbiegrrl Writer said...

I hate that I can't edit a comment on Blogger :-(

I lost the end of my sentence here:
When I see the interview hostess asking a question like "What's your favorite color?" and the author answering "I wrote 12 because it resonated...." or whatever other total disconnect might occur.

That period should have been a comma followed by "it drives me up the wall!" I really dislike it and feel as though the interview host didn't even bother to read the book and/or the author didn't even bother to read the questions. It just invalidates the entire blog for me as a reader. Hosting others is a bit of work sometimes, but it pays off in spades later. Trust. Karma is a Bitch and she wears high heels -- we shop in the same store! :)