Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger: Annette Fix

Annette visits us via the WOW Women on Writing Blog Tour -- and I'm thrilled to have her. She even tells you how to obtain a free copy of her book in eFormat, so read through the post and find out how! My review of the book follows.

The Author Promotion Circus is in Town – Start Juggling Now!
By Annette Fix

Authors had it easy in the days before the internet: launch a new book, attend a cocktail party where the publishing elite toast your sheer genius, then return to your creative bubble and cash the sizable royalty checks when they begin rolling in.

Fast-forward to 2009 and you can see that Web 2.0 has thousands (maybe millions?) of writers juggling their online promotion like manic clowns in a cyber crack parade. And I’m doing everything short of learning to play the tuba, just working to get the word out about my book: The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir.

It’s a noisy world out there. So, like every writer should, I’ve had to make sure my book has its fair share of real estate in cyberspace.

The Website
The first thing I did was commission an elaborate static website.
It had:

* a video introduction welcoming readers
* an audio of me reading a chapter from the book
* two chapter excerpts
* a fun “How You Know You’re on The Break-Up Diet” quiz
* downloadable companion e-book for Surviving a Break-Up
* a break-up story forum
* reading group questions
* tabs for my bio, about the book, upcoming events, speaking topics, my blog, a shop, and links to previous interviews

Unfortunately, it was impossible to update without a webmaster (neither time nor cost effective) and it never showed up on the first page of Google search results for “The Break-Up Diet.” The results did show blogs that had mentioned my book by name, occupying the top positions.

So, I scrapped the static site and created a blog-based site on Wordpress with a custom CSS template. I’ll eventually transfer more of the fun elements of the old website to the new blogsite, but for now, I’m happy it ranks as the 1st hit in a Google search. Proof that search engine spiders love blogs (because the content is tagged, keyword rich, and frequently updated).

The Networking

The next step I took was to get connected in social networks: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Twittermoms. There are also great reading related networks: Shelfari, Library Thing, GoodReads. New niche social networks crop up every day. A couple caught my interest: Book Marketing and Speaking. The options are endless, but I wanted to join networks where my audience gathers, and a network or two where I can meet other writers, bloggers, etc.

The Events

Meeting and chatting with readers online is great, but I really enjoy the in-person events. I’ve had reading and signing events at Barnes & Noble stores locally and in my region—and was invited back to one for a pre-Valentine’s Day event this Friday. I’ve promoted my book in booths at The L.A. Times Festival of Books and the West Hollywood Book Fair.

Because my memoir contains themes of love, loss of love, aspirations, and balance of motherhood and self, it has lead to conversations with readers who share their stories with me because the core of my story resonated with them. Many women I’ve met and spoken with at my events email updates about their relationships. And, to me, nothing beats truly connecting with readers.

The Checklist

The number of ways an author can promote her book online is staggering. I’m still working my way through my personal list. Here’s a little peek inside my marketing plan:

* Contact reading groups via sites like Reader’s Circle and MeetUp, offering to visit with them in-person or via Skype. Post reading group questions to sites like Reading Group Guides.

* Register to blog directories like BlogHer, participate in blog carnivals, and take the book on a blog tour (like this one).

* Use the Amazon features like Listmania and So You’d Like To guides, and set up the RSS feed from the book blog to the Amazon sales page.

* Post podcast excerpts or commentary on audio sites like iTunes or Podcast Alley.

* Create vidcasts of commentary and/or interviews, and post a book trailer on video sites like YouTube.

* Do author interviews on Blog Talk Radio.

Enough about me. I’d love to hear what promotions have worked for you. What’s on YOUR online marketing agenda?

About the Author: Annette Fix is a freelance editor, a publishing industry and single parenting speaker, Senior Editor of WOW! Women On Writing, and the author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir.

Visit her writing blog at
Annette’s Paper Trail. She enjoys hearing from her readers and other writers. You can email her directly at annette[at]annettefix[dot]com.

For the length of her blog tour, Annette will be giving away free digital copies of her memoir. If you’d like a copy, send an email to
promo@thebreak-updiet.com, please put “Stuff That Make Me Crazy” in the subject line.

22 comments:

Annette said...

Good morning, Ladies!

I'll be checking in throughout the day to answer questions and respond to comments.

I look forward to chatting with you!

Devon Gray said...

Thanks for all the great advice, Annette (me taking notes...). Your book sounds absolutely fabulous. I think two of the best tools I've utilized are MySpace and Yahoo groups. Of course, I didn't know about half of the ones you listed ;-) I'll be sure to check them out.

Devon

Mysti Holiday said...

How do you find enough time in the day to effectively use all of these marketing techiques and social networks? I'm a baby still, and have dipped my toe into the pool, but don't want to end up losing all my writing time in order to promote!

Judy said...

My question was akin to Mysti's. Your promotional activities sound great, but between everything I have to do (LASR, work, our business, trying to keep the health department from closing my house down) I already struggle with writing time. I have MySpace and Facebook (and a Twitter account I never use), but I'm lucky if I even get on those once a month.

Also... are you working on another book?

Marianne Arkins said...

Annette, based on your book (and our conversations) it sounds like you do a lot of freelance work, too. Any suggestions for folks who'd like to do that?

Annette said...

Ok, I'm still half asleep, or maybe just a total dork. (The jury is still out.) I posted a comment to you guys in the book review post below. Check it out and I'll be back later!

Annette said...

Devon,

There are even more resources and opportunities for online promotion than I mentioned in my post. It's dizzying and often overwhelming to try to do it all.

Take a look at what you want to promote and ask yourself: "What does my target audience like? And where to they hang out?"

If you wrote a book about rock-climbing (fiction or nonfiction), look for forums and listservs devoted to the sport.

Write articles about the topic for magazines that cater to rock-climbers.

See about securing a booth at events set up for rock-climbers.

You may have to try different types of marketing to see what works for your material and what best reaches your particular audience.

Good luck!

Annette said...

Mysti,

Social networking can be horribly addictive--especially if you spend a lot of time on the computer and the only "live" conversations you have are with your son and your husband.

There is always the question: Does social networking sell books?

Yes and no. Don't expect a stampede to your Amazon page after you've posted a few times on Twitter. I've found that the people who I've met on social networking sites that bought my book did so once they had gotten to "know" me through message exchanges. The same is true of listservs that I'm on.

Can you lose your writing time trying to keep up with book promotion and social networking? Absolutely. I haven't written a damn thing creatively in about 3 years--not including articles. I don't consider that creative; I consider it business writing.

So, ration the time you devote to online promotion if you want to continue producing.

Now, if I could only take my own advice about that...

Annette said...

Judy,

Don't give the health department my address! My husband has been picking wrinkled clothes out of the clean piles in the chairs in our bedroom for two weeks. LOL

When it comes down to it, just do what you can do. See if you can get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later.

Space the social networking "duties" across the week. Maybe an hour a twice a week. Maybe 15 minutes every day to pop in and connect with people. Twitter is great for just that. And I've met more like-minded people on there than any other network. It's really a great place to meet high-profile bloggers.

Overall, you can't expect to have time to do everything on the list. Although, I'm crazy enough to try! But maybe that's why I've slept 6 hours in the last 48. No one can keep up a pace like that and have any quality of life, much less have time to write too.

I'm sure there is a balance somewhere. I have a screenwriter friend who is very regimented. She writes from 9am-noon, eats lunch and makes phone calls, then writes again from 1-4pm, then goes to yoga or for a power-walk for an hour, then eats dinner and attends screenings or goes to the movies at night. That is her schedule, every single day, M-F. That's her life and she guards her writing time. On the weekends, she goes out with friends.

I wish I had her discipline!

Annette said...

Marianne,

For the freelancers out there (particularly the ladies), I can recommend a resource that is invaluable for finding markets to write for. And I'm not just saying that because my website partner at WOW! puts it together. =)

It's called Premium Green. It's a 150+ page monthly ebook with calls for submissions in print and online magazines--fiction and nonfiction, anthology markets, contests, niche, and female-centric publications. It has freelance job listings, articles written by and for working freelancers, and a private Google discussion group. It's a monthly subscription that saves time searching the internet for markets and costs less per month than a single Starbucks coffee.

I'm not a working freelancer and every month when I go through the ebook, I bookmark pages and can't keep from saying things like: "Oooh, I could write for that one. Oh! I totally have a great idea to query this one."

Now, if I could just figure out how to manage my time better, maybe I could pursue freelancing, too!

Annette said...

Marianne,

Oh, now that I think about it, that last excited gush about Premium Green probably didn't answer the promotion part of freelancing.

So, my recommendation, have a place on your writing blog where you can link directly to articles you've written online. As an example, take a look at my blog site www.annettefix.com. I have a page for the articles I've written and the interviews I've done.

Beyond having a blog or someplace online to show your work, there really isn't any promotion a freelancer needs to do.

Come up with a unique angle on any calls for submission you see, write a bangin' query letter, deliver a solid, well-structured, well-researched article submission, and then go cash the check. =)

Michele said...

I'm blown away by all the marketing savvy an author has to have just to make it. Seems they've had to take a lot of the marketing burden upon themselves without the benefit of college courses in How-TO.

I mean, I read about book tours and such, but it seems that writers now adays are expected to advertise beyond what they used to. And the mechandising! You have Pens and book marks and book flaps and T-shirts and nifty magnatized calenders just to name a few, that you are encouraged to use as promotional gifts. Did I forget the coffee mug? That's a classic.

So, it seems to me that the financial burden is a killer before your book even makes it to the stand.

Perhaps that is why there is an influx of internet based ads and exposure. It's cheap in money, but not, I fear, in time. And I think when an author has to balance life duties as well, then time is a high-priced commodity that is hard to come by. And irreplaceable.

If a budding author does not have a laptop, has to fight family members for the one PC in the house...they go to bed at 10PM and get up at 5AM...where is the time to write when the brain isnt' fried from a day of work, house, kids and family politics? So to think about Marketing on top of all of that poop? Well, it just leaves me here exhausted just from reading.

I thought this was supposed to be FUN. lol

You've given me a new appreciation as to the harsh reality of selling a book. Daunting.

Annette said...

Michele,

The lion's share of the promotion burden is definitely on the author--at least until your books sell themselves just by virtue of having your name on the cover. I'm not quite there yet.

The financial burden also can take a toll. Just for this blog tour, it has cost me $75 in shipping to send the comp copies to the bloggers--not that I'm complaining--just letting you know that even something so minute as shipping adds up quickly. There are some blogs that are also hosting a drawing of the names of people who leave comments, then I have to ship them books too. But before you think I sound like a big cry-baby about it, all of the books and the shipping can be written off as marketing expenses.

And if it helps spread the word about my book, and people buy it, and like it, I'm one step closer to being Jen Lancaster! LOL (I really do admire her work.)

A word on promo items: don't go crazy getting expensive promo stuff created. If you are going to create that stuff, put a shop on your site (Cafe Press works well) and SELL promo material that is something fun for the buyer (or the person they give it to) that also promotes your book. Like a cute tank top or mug or hat with a particularly clever bit of dialogue from your book on it. Something like that.

For promo items, a bookmark is fine. Readers read. If they don't have a bookmark, they use dry cleaning receipts. Put something on the back of the bookmark that is either informational, funny, or whatever, and ties in to your book.

I have a sample of mine in a post I wrote on my Paper Trail blog about selling at book fairs. You can click on it to see the image so you know what I mean.

Internet ads? If you mean PAYING for them...out of your own pocket, don't waste the money. Buy a manicure for your cat--it would be a better use of the cash.

Ads. When was the last time you paid ANY attention to adds on any website you've visited today, yesterday, this week? I don't see the ads anymore--I'm focused on the site content and I'd be willing to bet 99.9% of people are the same way. But that's just my 2 cents.

I don't have the problem with fighting for computer time. I'm also the keeper of the TV remote in this house. ;-) I have the ultimate power. *laughs maniacally*

Yes, writing is supposed to be fun. Promoting the book is supposed to be fun. And meeting readers who love your story is supposed to be fun. (It's the best thing there is.) But, yes, the harsh reality of book selling is daunting.

Every morning, I wake up knowing 99.9% of my target audience has no idea my book exists.

Michele said...

99.9%???

Good Heavens! That's soooo....
I would eat a ton of chocolate to console myself from that thought.

But thank you for such an indepth answer!
Gave me a lot to think about.
And good luck with your book!
May you have more sales that you can imagine...so imagine a LOT!

Annette said...

Actually, something must be working. A little while ago, I got an email from the manager of the Barnes & Noble where I'm having a signing on Friday night. They already SOLD OUT of the 20 copies of my book they ordered! Woo-hoo!

Now I have to run over there with some books from the stock I have in my garage!

This is definitely a good problem to have! =)

BronzeWord said...

Great tips. I'm going to look into a bunch of them. Thank you for the information.
Jo Ann Hernandez
http://bronzeword.wordpress.com

Marianne Arkins said...

Annette,

I actually look at the ads all the time. I have a particular fetish for book covers, so will check out any book that has one that attracts me. I also like book trailers! I'm an easy sell...

I also know that sales and click through rates on some ads on particular sites are actually quite good. So, I wouldn't leap to discredit internet advertising altogether. I think if an author is discriminating, it can pay off quite well.

ddurance said...

What's your favorite way of promoting books?

Deidre

Annette said...

Marianne,

Ok, yeah, that's true. If I see a book cover that catches my attention, I'll take a closer look, but any other ads are invisible to me. And I've never bought anything from seeing an ad on the internet, though I guess some people must or there wouldn't be so many ads!

There are definitely some great book trailers out there. I like the one for Hillary Carlip's book "A la Cart" and also the trailer for Jessica Brody's "The Fidelity Files." Both authors created the trailers themselves and did a better job than some I've seen from professional companies!

Annette said...

ddurance,

Without even hesitating, my answer about my favorite way to promote is my book is to talk to readers.

I'd love to begin doing talks at reading groups either in-person or via Skype. That's the next wave of my promotion for my book.

Bryan - After5PC.net said...

This is a good tutorial on how to promote. It will work for anything, not only for authors, but for all sorts of online businesses.

Annette said...

Bryan,

I'm glad you found it useful for your other online promotional pursuits.

I taught an extended version of this blog post in a 1-hour session at the Missouri Writer's Guild Conference, and will be doing a much more in-depth six-week online workshop this summer.