Why Your Book Sales Numbers Tell Only Half the Story

book sales analytics lisa ferland

Book Sales Don’t Tell the Full Story

Indie authors, mainly, love to focus on SALES as a measure of success. Authors must understand that there are many models and paths to publication.

How many books did you sell? What’s your Amazon Best Seller Ranking?

A great benefit to social media is that we can connect with fellow authors around the world and learn what they are doing.

However, there is a dark side to seeing too often what our fellow authors are doing.

It can feel a bit disappointing to think that your well-written, professionally edited, and beautiful books are super successful only to see a Facebook post by another author with better book sales numbers.

It is hard not to allow doubt to creep into the picture if your amazing book isn’t selling as well as the rather mediocre books that claim to be “bestsellers.”

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”—Theodore Roosevelt

couple having a dialogue

Think back to the pre-Internet era where writers could keep their heads down and clack on typewriter keys until something slightly publishable emerged.

Professional comparisons and rivalries still happened to the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerlad, sure, but they weren’t reading daily claims of literary success by their peers in closed Facebook groups.

Perhaps that’s why Thoreau isolated himself on Walden Pond.

He was probably tired of seeing others’ books sales and massive book tours plastered all over his Facebook newsfeed.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.”

Henry David Thoreau

Maybe we should all find a virtual cabin in the woods. A place where we are insulated from Facebook notifications, and indie book sales brags.

If you find yourself peeking over at other author’s shoulders more often than writing your work, it might be time to turn OFF all social media notifications until your writing is solidly underway.

Comparison Can Be Useful

Sometimes, what we don’t know does hurt us. Knowledge is paramount to remove fictitious barriers we construct that block us from success.

For example, before I met children’s book authors Laurie Wright and Diane Alber, I had no idea that it was feasible to sell 50-100 books/day per title.

I had no idea.

After hiring them as mentors and learning from them, I discovered how much effort and marketing dollars go into getting those numbers. Without that knowledge, I wouldn’t know it was possible.

While knowledge is vital, we’ll still make mistakes even with those expert insights from mentors plowing the field before us.

Authors Don’t Usually Discuss Their Marketing Spend

One thing that many authors keep close to their vests is the amount of money they put into marketing.

Authors are thrilled to share their sales numbers, but they remain reluctant to share their ad spend. Why?

Well, it’s a lovely thought to believe that our books are selling well because they are wonderfully written, well-edited, and professionally illustrated or designed and NOT because we’re spending tons of money to market them.

But in many cases, mediocre books with large marketing budgets will routinely outsell beautiful, well-written books with smaller marketing budgets.

That’s how marketing works.

It takes a lot of money to stand out in front of potential readers in a crowded market.

For example, to market my Halloween book, I spent $5k on Amazon and Facebook ads over a six-week marketing blitz. I had studied, planned, and added fuel to the fire when my return on advertising was optimal. My SALES were terrific.

However, sales are only half of the picture.

If you looked at my balance sheet and saw all of the expenses I incurred to achieve those sales, you’d have a different story. You’d have the whole story.

comparison book sales apples to oranges

Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

So, in summary, comparing your progress to others’ can be a learning experience.

It’s important to be inspired by other authors’ success, but you can’t dwell in that space for long.

If you can’t help comparing yourself to someone, it’s better to become a measuring stick yourself. Compare your book sales with your previous years’ book sales.

If you have a seasonal book, use your first year as a baseline to compare future sales so you can see where you can improve.

Keep track of your monthly sales and marketing efforts so you can try to identify what techniques or marketing outlets were fruitful and which ones to drop for next time.

We are fortunate to be working in a medium that never expires, and books that are over 30 years old can be at the top of the bestseller charts.

Remember, it’s never too late to be a bestseller, so don’t let comparison rob you of your joy.

Go Deeper

Learn to Hook Your Audience using Tricks from Disney/Pixar
The Three Layer Approach to Writing Excellent Dialogue
Overcome Procrastination With These 4 Tips

Batching Writing Tasks to Boost Your Efficiency

batching-your-writing-lisa-ferland

The Power of Batching

If your morning work routine looks something like this:
—check your email, scroll through Facebook/Instagram, like a few posts, open your email, hop on a conference call, and back to checking email again, etc., then you’re not batching your workday.

Batching relieves the pressure of an overwhelming to-do list.

By breaking down your workflow into discrete tasks and dedicate time to them in your calendar.

Bit by organized bit, you can eat that elephant one scheduled bite at a time.

Way back when I felt overwhelmed in graduate school, I would tighten up my schedule and batch my work into one and two-hour blocks.

Every single hour of my day was assigned to a task, project, or activity from 8 am until 10 pm including time for exercise, breaks, and eating.

If you feel you are battling Shiny Object Syndrome, then consider batching your work for a month and see how it feels.

The Strain of Multitasking

Did you know that it takes your brain 15 minutes to refocus after every interruption?

Saying we are “masters of multitasking” is a lie we tell ourselves to excuse our very distracting work environments.

Constantly switching between tasks is mentally exhausting and ineffective. Neuroscientists say that this constant switching is what causes us to feel more tired than if we stayed focused on one task over a long period of time.

If you want to be more effective in your writing habits, marketing, and build rapport with your readers, you might want to test out the power of batching to help you achieve your goals.

What Does Batching Look Like?

Batching your writing tasks will look different for everyone depending on our maximum workflow and weekly needs.

For me, after years of figuring out my who, what, why, and how for my business, my batching looks something like this:

Annual batching

  • January—plan out six months of themed content that will be helpful for my clients; strategize my book publications; plan out my books’ marketing strategies and overall budget allocation based on projected annual revenue by project
  • June—plan out the next six months of content and marketing strategies for my consulting, courses, and books based on the last year’s baseline sales revenue
  • Review these plans on a quarterly basis or adjust as needed

Monthly Batching

  • On the first day of each month, I do the following:
  • Mondays: plan out my website’s content for the month and write out every blog article
  • Tuesdays—design social media graphics for each article
  • Wednesdays—upload, and schedule; keyword research, optimize SEO
  • Thursdays—plan out email newsletter content
  • Fridays—open

Weekly Batching

  • Block out my time for my clients for the week—every one hour-session takes me three hours in total—one to prepare, one for the session, and one for the wrap-up and deliverables
  • Schedule one hour/day for writing
  • Write down my priorities for the week

I also try to squeeze as much juice from every activity as possible and leverage it across platforms.

For example, If I am feeling in a creative video mood, I will write do the following:

  • write the script, create, edit, and upload the video
  • use the same script to create a blog post and embed the video into my blog
  • share across platforms, my newsletter, etc.,

By focusing on one project at a time, I’m really creating multiple forms of content to be optimized on each platform.

Batching Creates Consistency

When asked why McDonald’s is so popular, it’s not the taste or quality of the food, but the consistency of the restaurant.

Travelers worldwide know what to expect when they walk into a McDonald’s anywhere in the world. The restaurants all look the same, the uniforms are similar, and the entire experience is consistent.

We all need consistency in our writing, social media presence, and performance if we want to be effective in our writing careers.

Consistency is tough without a system in place to keep things running if we fall ill or want to head off to an island retreat.

To keep things consistent, create a schedule that you can commit to.

Batching Leaves Space for Creativity

“Lisa, that schedule looks very Type A. Where’s the freewheeling space for creativity?”

We all have our most productive times during our days, but sometimes, we get a surge of creativity at odd hours and simply must write.

Surprisingly, batching your work can lead to more time for creativity.

Your brain isn’t constantly overworked with task switching and interruptions are minimized.

When you can cross off those pesky tasks that you’ve been avoiding, you create more space for writing.


Batching Improves Action

When we take consistent action in our work, we will make progress toward our goals. The more goals we achieve, the more goals we can set.

It’s really easy to get stuck in Research/Learn Mode where we feel we must learn all about this new tool or software before we can begin to write.

By batching your work and protecting time on your calendar for your creative writing, you will end up taking more action.

It can become addicting to take course after course and listen to webinars on loop in an effort to continue learning and mastering your craft without ever putting it into practice.

Yes, learning is essential to growing as a writer and not wasting your money on Amazon ads, but you’ll learn just as much, if not more, when you start doing the work.

If you keep finding yourself in Research/Learn Mode, turn it into a reward after you’ve finished the thing you’ve been putting off.

“I can only watch this really cool TedX talk after I’ve written 2500 words.”

Win, win.

Hierarchy of Tasks

It’s important to remember that not all tasks are created equal—there is a hierarchy of tasks not all tasks deserve your immediate attention.

While it’s fun to tackle the low-hanging fruit like checking our email, we should always focus on the most important and most urgent tasks first. I know one freelancer who only checks her email once a week!

In conclusion, batching can help you organize your tasks, identify priorities, and help you focus on achieving your goals.

How do you organize your tasks?

Over to you: what systems do you have in place to keep yourself focused?

Do you have dedicated writing time? Dedicated creation time for blogging or podcasting? How do you schedule your work?

Sound off in the comments below.


You Might Also Enjoy

What tasks should you delegate? Find out here
4 Tips to Overcome Procrastination TODAY
Staying Focused When You Suffer from “Shiny Object Syndrome” (written by someone who occasionally relapses)

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Batching Writing Tasks to Boost your Efficiency and Productivty | LisaFerland.com

4 Tips to Delegate More Tasks as a Writer

woman writing at desk delegate

What tasks should you delegate as a writer? Jana Buchmann has 4 tips that will help you be more effective and productive in your writing business.

How many hats are you wearing?

It’s inevitable. As a small business owner (and you ARE a business owner as an author who wants to sell books), you will wear many, many hats.

Writer.

Marketing manager.

Bookkeeper.

Content developer.

Coach.

Technical support staff.

But while this type of task juggling is to be expected, you have to be aware that not all of your hats are created equal.

Marketing outweighs bookkeeping, for example, because without marketing, there will be no cash to manage.

Not only that, but you have to consider how much time you’re spending in each area as well. If you spend all day tweaking the design on your website and put off sending an email to your list, what have you gained?

Sure, you might have a prettier website, but you lost an opportunity to drive traffic to your offer.

Delegate more tasks as a writer

There comes a time in every entrepreneurial venture where you realize you simply cannot do it all yourself.

Sure, when you’re just getting started you really are the “chief, cook and bottle washer.”

But as your business grows, it becomes painfully obvious that trying to do everything is only going to lead to:

  • Frustration (when critical tasks don’t get done and deadlines are missed)
  • Burn out (when you’re working yet another 12-hour day)
  • Overwhelm (when your to-do list is longer at the end of the day than it was at the beginning)

There are many ways to combat this business-growth hurdle, but one of the best tools is automation.

Imagine a completely hands-off system that works for you even when you’re hiking on a remote mountain or lounging at a spa.

But here’s an even better reason to automate: it lets you scale your writing business.

Think about it, the less manual work you have to do, the more time you have to do the money-making tasks such as networking, marketing, and most important: WRITING.

What should you automate?

You can automate almost everything, but start with:

Email Funnels

What happens when a new subscriber joins your mailing list? Do they just sit in waiting on your list until you have time to send an email?

While broadcast emails have their place—especially in time-sensitive promotions—be sure to also set up an autoresponder series. You will want to set up this series to tell the reader more about you and give them that freebie they signed up for.

Chances are if they signed up, they already read something of yours they enjoyed and would like to learn more about you.

You can tell them more about the progress on your next book for a few days or share some illustrations to entice them. You can give away the first book in your series.

No matter what you use the autoresponder for, just make sure you’re starting that relationship.

And the best thing?

Once your autoresponder is set up, it will continue to work even when you’re not. MailChimp or Mailerlite are great options with free plans.

Email is a great task delegate as a writer so you can focus on creating more content.

Social Media Management

Yes, it’s important to be personable and engaging on social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to log in to Facebook just to post a link to your latest blog or be on Instagram all the time.

Automate that kind of update and save yourself hours of time each and every month. Not only that, but you won’t have to worry about missing an update, either! Check out the free plans of Buffer or Hootsuite.

There are dozens of options for automating every aspect of your small business. As you grow, you’ll find new and better tools to make everything run more smoothly.

But there is one thing you need to think about: You really can’t do it all alone.

No small business becomes a big business with a single person at the wheel.

It takes a team of experts to scale your efforts.

How to build a team

The problem is, building that team brings its own stress.

How can you know who to trust? Where will you find the time to explain your needs? What if you can’t afford to outsource?

These and other questions are what can prevent you from growing your sales and leveraging successful marketing. Here’s what to do about it.

Know Your Personal Work Style & Preferences

Not everyone works in a similar style. Some people love to touch base by phone, while others prefer email.

Some people require a couple of coordination meetings, others work better when you leave them alone until they have some results.

No way is right or wrong, but if you’re a phone person and you hire an email lover, there’s going to be conflict.

Look for team members who are a fit with your preferred work style, and you’ll be much happier with the end result.

Start small

Start by hiring one person to take on the tasks you most dislike, then slowly grow your team and their responsibilities.

Eventually, you’ll be left with only the work you truly want to do and that you enjoy: WRITING! (and your author’s business will run even more smoothly).

When you delegate as a writer, you avoid Shiny Object Syndrome, prevent writer’s burnout, and get more readers subscribing to your emails.

Bio

Jana Buchmann is a children’s book author assistant who takes on the tasks you don’t want to do so you can focus on writing.

Jana is a specialized author assistant who understands the importance of engaging regularly with readers and helps authors maintain their newsletters, social media, and ads.

Learn more about Jana’s author services here: https://www.jbauthorservices.com/

Learn to Hook Your Audience from Disney/Pixar Films

first words starting story lisa ferland

At the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival,  Julie Cohen presented on how to learn story structure from Pixar films and it got me analyzing everything in a new light.

Now, I’m much more mindful of the hook of a story and I notice when there is none.

What is it about a movie or book that sucks me in within the first minute of watching/reading? 

During her wonderful presentation, Julie went into great detail about story structure and how to create inciting events, climaxes, and resolutions but for this article, I’m going to focus only on the beginning of a story since so many of us (myself included) get it wrong.

Opening scenes should plunge you into the action right away

The scene in Cars starts in all black and you hear the main character giving himself a pep talk before his big race. There are bright lights, the cheers from the crowd, engines revving, and rubber flying.

There’s nothing but action in the first two minutes of the film.

That’s how your book should start—jump straight into the action—hook your reader and get them flipping the pages.

Almost every writers festival has a “first pages competition” where writers submit their first 2-4 pages of the book they are writing for critique. 

Make your first lines count

Why are those first pages so crucial?

Those first few pages are what hook your reader and get them to keep reading.

The judges from the Stockholm Writers Festival said that the first line of the story was the most important. They could tell if a story would deliver or not after reading the first line alone.

Since then, I’ve analyzed a lot of first lines of all books in all genres.

Here are a few first lines worth mentioning:

“The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant.”

Jade City by Fonda Lee

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White

“All children, except one, grow up.”

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.”

The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

“Jim Gallien had driven four miles out of Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow beside the road, thumb raised high, shivering in the gray Alaska dawn.”

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

“When the clock strikes one…mummies come undone.”

—When the Clock Strikes on Halloween by Lisa Ferland

(Hah! I couldn’t resist!)

Get to the point

Disney/Pixar movies are pared down, fast-paced, and simplified—that’s why they are so enjoyable.

All authors are competing for our readers’ attention. There is no time to waste because a whole digital world of “whatever I want to explore” is sitting right next to them or is resting in their front pocket.

Jumpstart the beginning of your book—children’s book, nonfiction, or fiction novel—with something magnificent.

The authors of the First Pages competition at the Stockholm Writers Festival said that they spent hours rewriting their opening lines.

Make your opening scene hook your reader and move quickly into motion.

 

Short stories should start fast

Like in a drag race, you don’t have much time to get your story going if you’re writing a short story.

Practicing flash fiction is a great way to exercise your short writing/sprinting muscles.

I subscribe to the Flash Fiction magazine newsletter to see what people are writing.

Testing out your flash fiction chops on Reddit is also a great way to get reader feedback and hone your writing for free

I recommend reading: How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark

This book has great tips for writing better emails to your readers, Twitter posts, and Kickstarter campaign pages.

It also has exercises at the end of each chapter so you can practice, practice, practice.

What is the first line of your book? Share it below! 

Writer’s Block is a Privilege

Did you know that the keyword, “writer’s block” is Googled 9,000 times/month?

Nine thousand times. It looks like a lot of writers experience writer’s block and while we all feel blocked or discouraged at times, writer’s block is a privilege.

“I don’t know what to write.”

“I know what to write but the words come out all wrong.”

If you are in a position where you don’t have to write to pay your bills, you are privileged. 

I’m privileged—tremendously. I’ve been blocked on my Christmas story for months. I had something written but it’s ridiculously awful and I can’t bring myself to mold it into something better.

Why?

Because I don’t have to.

I can work on other projects, tackle  my marketing logistics for my other books, and distract myself with other shiny objects. 

The privilege of being blocked

Cassie Gonzales cited writer’s block as privilege at the Stockholm Writers Festival when asked how she overcomes occasional blockages.

“It’s a total privilege to have writer’s block, isn’t it? My mom is a copper mine truck driver in Arizona and she has written her books on her iPad while sitting in the cab of her truck.

She has one minute while the truck is being loaded up and in that minute, she writes as much as she can. Her books read like they’ve been written in one minute chunks because they have. But she has manuscripts written down on paper.

Anytime I want to complain about writer’s block, I think about my mother and what she’s overcame to write her books.”

Tips from other writers on overcoming writer’s block

“I have a Spotify playlist for each of my characters and mood boards for each character. Whenever I start to feel stuck, I start to listen to that character’s playlist to get me back into the mood.” —Jess Lourey

“Set word count goals. Everyone can write one sentence at a time.” —Paul Rapacioli

Manipulate your emotions to break a block—it doesn’t mean your writing will be good but you’ll get unstuck.”—Cassie Gonzales

 

Everyone gets stuck sometimes

Your first draft is going to be horrible but nobody is going to see it so keep writing.

Everyone is really uncomfortable with their writing at first and it’s only until draft #10-#70 that you start to feel like a genius.

To break through my Christmas story rhyming disaster, I’m listening to Christmas music on YouTube, reading rhyming quatrains for inspiration, and putting words down on paper that will never see the light of day.

The best way to break writer’s block is to write.

Write down any words that come into your mind and eventually, your mind will spit out something worth keeping.

The Secret to Writing Great Dialogue: Three layers

Confession: I am horrible at writing dialogue. 

At the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival, I took Cassie Gonzales’ dialogue workshop and within minutes, I understood what made good dialogue and why I struggled so much with it.

My characters were communicating clearly.

Clear communication between characters = bad dialogue.

Quick clarification—every piece of dialogue advice in this article came from what I learned in Cassie’s workshop at the Stockholm Writers Festival.

I highly encourage every writer to continue to learn about the craft of writing and push themselves to be better.

couple having a dialogue

What makes bad dialogue?

  • Too much exposition
  • Doesn’t sound real/sounds forced
  • Not plot driven
  • Too many tags, “As you know, Bob…”
  • Repetitive
  • Mundane—”You don’t look well. How are you feeling?” (BOOOORING)

What makes good dialogue? 

  • Contains drama
  • Evokes emotion
  • Descriptive of the personality of a character
  • Creates curiosity for the reader
  • Raises a question

The secret to writing good dialogue:

Every piece of dialogue contains three layers: the said, the unsaid, and the unsayable.

1) Said: “Would you like some coffee?”
2) Unsaid: “…I hate you”
3) Unsayable: “but I’m afraid of being alone”

The unsaid and unsayable can never be in the dialogue. Characters cannot say exactly what they mean.

What is great for your marriage is horrible for your fiction.

If you need to clarify something for the reader, do it in the narrative, not the dialogue.

Every piece of dialogue should have the three layers—said, unsaid, and unsayable.

Start with strong characters in an interesting setting. 

The setting is where the dialogue will play out and the said, unsaid, and unsayable layers will be revealed.

Cassie Gonzales, Creative Writing Fellow at Emory University and overall creative fiction badass, introduced a simple rubric for evaluating all dialogue in literature, film, and your everyday interactions with friends and family.

Writing Exercise 

For example, imagine a story in which two characters are on the brink of divorce.

They can never say they hate each other and are on the brink of divorce, that must be revealed to the reader through their interactions and what they are not saying to one another (the unsaid).

The setting in which this plays out can be something with low stakes—picking out a birthday cake for their child’s fifth birthday party.

Put them in a bakery looking at cakes together.

What they say to one another (the said) is about the cake—but must convey the reader that their marriage is falling apart (the unsaid) and they are terrified about how they are going to co-parent this child together (the unsayable).

The unsayable is the engine for your fiction.

Trust your reader

Trust that your reader is intelligent—more intelligent than you are—and doesn’t need everything spelled out.

Build a puzzle for them to solve if you want to keep their interest. Your reader will be able to read between the lines and feel like the smartest person in the room (because they are).

Dialogue in children’s literature

While reading a bedtime story to my daughter, she chose Fancy Nancy and the Dazzling Jewels (aff link), I realized that the dialogue in Fancy Nancy, a book intended for kids 4-8 years, had these three layers—said, unsaid, and unsayable.

I knew that good dialogue is required for literary fiction but it often goes unnoticed in children’s literature.

We take good dialogue for granted.

In Fancy Nancy, the two characters, Nancy and Bree, have too much jewelry.

Their boxes are overflowing and they come up with the idea to swap out pieces with one another to refresh their collections.

Everything is going well until Bree selects a piece that has emotional value to Nancy and vice versa.

The characters are torn between wanting to be a good friend and needing to be honest about how they feel about the jewelry swap.

Without ever saying the words, author Jane O’Connor effectively tells the reader that both girls are feeling guilt and regret—two tough emotions for kids to understand at this age—about the swap.

The unsayable in this story is that both girls are afraid that if they are honest with one another they’ll damage their friendship.

Pretty deep for what initially looks on the surface like a silly story about jewelry.

It’s that type of complex storytelling and dialogue done in a simple way that keeps parents happy and kids wanting more.

Dialogue in everyday life

After taking Cassie’s dialogue workshop, I began to notice all of the dialogue around me and evaluate what was being said, what was unsaid, and what was unsayable.

I must admit that some people are horrible at communication (they’d make great fictional characters except they are REAL).

There is a lot unsaid in everything they say.

The unsaid is where the power lies.

One character can have physical or emotional power over other characters and this never needs to be said.

Start paying attention to the conversations you have with your friends and family about various topics. 

You’ll probably notice that the more difficult the conversation or topic, more is left unsaid.

Give your characters an interesting setting

People often suggest having conversations about difficult topics while doing something else—the third place setting. This enables the characters to focus on something other than what they really want to say.

Talking while going on a walk or while fishing is a great way to have difficult conversations.

Remember, characters can’t ever say what they really want to say or it becomes boring. Keep them at odds with themselves and one another.

The more insane the “third place” where the “said” things are happening, the more layers you can build into the scene.

If your characters are making funeral arrangements for their father at the county fair, there are tons of smells, sounds, and action happening all around them while they grapple with grief and loss. 

Read, write, write, read

The only way to get better at writing dialogue is to read more of it.

Flash fiction is a great genre for learning how to communicate a lot of information in a very short word count.

Here’s a free course about writing interesting and engaging flash fiction: https://learn.flashfictionmagazine.com/p/free-course

Flash Fiction Magazine has some great pieces and you can have them delivered to  your inbox for inspiration: https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

“If it bores you, it’s not working.” —Cassie Gonzales

The Secret to Marketing Your Book Without Annoying People

Marketing is cited as the #1 pain in the rump for most writers, which is funny because…

1) marketing and then selling our books is the only way we can continue to write and do what we love,

2) marketing is a great way to creatively express your ideas, and

3) you’re a writer so you are already skilled in the best marketing tool there is—more writing.

But, I totally get it because I often feel the same way. We are selling books, literature, art! We aren’t marketing gadgets or gizmos.

Our stories came from our hearts and it feels wrong to “push” them onto people. We want people to love them just like we do.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. 

If people don’t see your books, they won’t know they are available for purchase.

As writers, writing should be easy, non?

Facebook ads and Amazon ads, etc., are all great but you gain external credibility when another website publishes your personal essays or articles that are tangentially related to your book(s).

Is it slower and more work to market in this way? 

Perhaps, but it should be part of your marketing toolkit and you’d be remiss in not trying it.

Here’s an example of how to market your book in a personal essay

This personal essay in Conde Naste Traveler “How My Mother’s Travels Shaped My World View” focused on a the writer’s relationship with her mother.

At the end of the personal essay, the author mentions,

“She wanted to travel the globe, and she did. Because of my mom, I decided to work in food media after college, even though I had zero connections in that world and all my peers were going into finance. I wrote a cookbook while working as a full-time journalist.”

The author bio at the bottom linked to the woman’s cookbook and voilá! This author is effectively marketing her book to a very warm audience. 

In fact, she is providing entertainment value and making herself relatable to the audience before inviting them to buy her book.

That’s how you market your book without being annoying.

Do you think readers are more or less likely to share an article about a moving emotional essay about interpersonal relationships than they are an Instagram graphic that says, “Buy my cookbook!”?

Readers are more likely to share writing that speaks to them on an emotional level than they will a clear advertisement. 

You have to wine and dine your readers before you ask them to buy. It’s how it works.


Write essays and publish them everywhere

Once you write a killer personal essay with your audience in mind, start pitching it to external outlets.

The bigger the outlet, the tougher it’ll be, but the sweeter the credibility and ultimate reward (more readers).

Research the tone of the articles featured by the publication and match your personal essay to their audience.

This approach gets your book in front of a lot of people all at once without annoying anyone.

You can (and should) feel proud pushing the article on all of your platforms because it’s not screaming, “BUY MY BOOK!”

The downside is that it’s not easy to (successfully) pitch third-party websites your essays and it requires a lot of lead time.

There is a ton of rejection involved in freelance writing and if you’re not experienced, you’re going to become quickly frustrated.

Alternatives to publishing on third-party websites

Don’t have time to pitch and get rejected over and over again?

Here are some alternatives to third-party exposure:

—Publish your essays on Medium
—Publish your writing on LinkedIn
—Publish your writing on your own website (you should have an author platform, hello!)

—Publish your personal essays directly on Facebook itself. Facebook loves long reads because it keeps readers scrolling and scrolling. End with a strong call to action and link to buy.
—Coordinate with other bloggers who might have smaller-than-Conde-Naste-size audiences and see if they take guest posts

Follow the example above—offer authentic, genuine writing that is attractive to your intended audience and weave in the fact that you’ve written a book toward the end of your essay with a link in your bio.

Don’t forget to optimize your homepage

If the website doesn’t allow links to books/products, then definitely ask for a link to your homepage and make sure your homepage is optimized to send people to your book.

For my current children’s book Kickstarter campaign, I optimized my homepage to be a landing page. 

My homepage sent people directly to my Kickstarter campaign that way if any third-party website articles take off and link to my homepage, readers will be clearly directed to my book’s campaign.

So, in conclusion, forget the ‘Buy my book!” messaging and write another story. Write a behind-the-scenes story. Write something emotional or transformative.

Write your best work and when readers love your essay, they’ll rush out to buy your book when given the opportunity.

Book Pre-launch Audience Education: Why it’s so Important

Before you publish your first book or launch your book’s Kickstarter campaign, you first need to warm-up your audience.

Marketing experts talk about audience warmth and how warmer audiences have much higher rates of conversion (meaning, they see your post or ad and buy your book right away).

How important is it to warm up your audience?

Cold traffic usually sees 2% conversion rate vs. warm/hot audiences with 65%-75% conversion rates. 

Ooh, la la! How can we get more of that hot traffic? 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m spending money on Facebook ads, I want the best conversion rates possible.

Many authors haven’t a clue as to how to build OR warm up their audience. Fortunately, conducting audience education will do both.

Don’t underestimate the amount of effort required to build an audience

It’s easy to underestimate how much work is required in building an audience. We often see successful authors launching their next books with ease and a minimal marketing strategy with great success.

Established authors who have published multiple books have built a devoted following of hot or warm audiences.

Their readers are already familiar with their work and are hungry for the next book to come out. As a result, they don’t need to do a fraction of the education that we need to do as first-time authors.

They already did the work and developed trust over time by consistently delivering high-quality books and content.

These authors don’t necessarily need to do a book launch campaign that spans several months with each new release because their audience is already warmed up. 

In this article, I assume that we are all working with zero audience and need to build from scratch. 

Here are some tips for building and warming up your audience before you launch:

Cold traffic: These people have never heard of you or your book(s) before.

 

Direct cold traffic to things of value:

  • a podcast where you discuss the origin story behind your book
  • a blog about the important topics your book addresses
  • an infographic about something interesting about your audience, book, or topic area
  • research findings that support why your book is so important to read
  • a survey asking them questions that are related to your book’s topic
  • a behind-the-scenes look at creating the book

At the bottom of each of these ‘destinations’ invite them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can continue to engage with them in a meaningful way.

Warm traffic: These people know of you and follow you on social media or subscribed to your newsletter.

 

Direct warm traffic to next-level stuff:

  • download a lead magnet: free e-book, excerpt of your book, or a companion PDF
  • informational webinars
  • invite them to in-person events
  • special offers or discounts on your book(s)

Hot traffic: These people have purchased from you in the past.

Direct hot traffic to your books/offers:

  • straight to sales pages like your book’s Amazon link. 
  • Pay-per-click ads on Amazon and Facebook

Keep in mind that only a fraction of your audience will be hot but be sure to segment them from the cold/warm readers so you can send them the right messages.

Learning from Mistakes

I’ve made a TON of mistakes and didn’t realize why my Facebook and Amazon ads weren’t converting well.

The problem was that I was treating cold traffic like hot traffic and was directing people straight to my sales page in my paid ads.

I ended up wasting money on ads that never converted and even worse, I missed opportunities to engage with my audience.

I want to make it clear that I’m still learning and experimenting with all of these techniques. I don’t think that will ever stop.

As you grow and engage with your audience, send them different content and see what resonates

Maybe your audience loves to read blogs, maybe some love to listen to podcasts, maybe they love infographics. Who knows?

Discover what your audience likes, what you like to create, and either strike a compromise or do one or two formats really well.

For example, I really enjoy making videos and I think they allow a lot of my personality to shine through. But, I also know that due to my time zone, my audience doesn’t see my live videos until hours later. 

Because my audience (you all!) love to read, I write blogs and occasionally include videos at the bottom. I also include a link to the related blog in the videos that I post to YouTube. (Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.)

It took me time and some professional help to figure out a marketing strategy for my business. Here’s what I did to improve my conversion rates.

Bring in Some Experts

Overall business strategy help

I had no idea how to strategize the marketing plan for my business, so I invested in small business marketing coaching with Stephanie Ward at Firefly Coaching. We did a deep dive, six-month coaching plan where she met with me 45-minutes/month and gave me a huge to-do list at the end of each session.

Stephanie was great at analyzing my strengths and steering me toward bolstering my weak areas. Our sessions gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and take bigger risks.

Click here to visit Stephanie’s website to see if she can help you. 

Website optimization

My website was somewhat of a mess and my marketing friend, Amel Derragui, kept giving me tiny pointers here and there. It was clear that I needed to fully hire her services in order to improve the navigability of my website and grow my audience. After making her suggested changes, my website now receives TONS of compliments from visitors and my newsletter list is growing.

Click here to see if Amel can help you optimize your website and grow your audience.

Improving my cold traffic conversions

When it comes to cold traffic, you need to have the right keywords and ad copy in place. I’m currently working with Laurie Wright on my Amazon keywords, book blurbs, author bio, and ad copy.

Click here to see if Laurie can help you.

Improving your business requires investment, constant education, and involving experts when you’re out of your depth. Don’t be afraid to hire experts.

You can still learn everything on your own, but be prepared to spend a lot of time and money while you are experimenting and figuring things out  during the learning process.

Crowdfunding Authors Often Overestimate the Warmth of Their Audience

Don’t make the mistakes I did and send cold traffic directly to your sales pages (i.e., your book’s Kickstarter page).

I see this all of the time with authors who run Kickstarter campaigns.

Crowdfunding authors will often direct people to their campaign page, which has a much lower conversion rate than if they directed them to a blog, video, or infographic, throughout their entire campaign.

Also, most readers are unfamiliar with crowdfunding and don’t know what’s happening or how to proceed.

Instead of asking you, your readers feel overwhelmed and close their browser’s tab without doing anything.

Educate your audience first

You need to educate your readers about your book, send them to blogs, podcasts, and articles to warm them up before you can send them to your Kickstarter sales page.

Once they are there, you need the right copy, graphics, and engaging video to convince them your book is worth backing.

Not sure if your campaign page will convert? I’m happy to review your campaign page before you launch.

Overcome Procrastination With These 4 Tips

“Procrastination is self-hatred.”—Robin Sharma, The 5 AM Club. 

Woah, that’s a bold statement. I’ve heard of procrastination being related to laziness, anxiety, and depression but not self-hatred. 

I’ll admit, I’m no Superwoman when it comes to powering through and beyond procrastination. I’ve had to devise multiple systems, test out new theories, and come up with creative ways to hold myself accountable in order to stay on task.

Even with a ton of resources, prioritized action lists, a fancy new journal, and positive incentives, I still procrastinate on projects or activities that I need to accomplish in order to move my business and writing forward.

Positive affirmations

I’ve been listening to positive affirmations and even created my own affirmations specifically for writers in order to keep the mindset moving in a productive direction.

We all have the same 24 hours in the day to accomplish our goals.

Dedicated writing time

As part of a change in my routine, I scheduled dedicated writing time between 8:30 am-10:00 am every day. I have found that word count goals don’t work for me but dedicated time always does.

Sort of like cleaning where I give myself 20 minutes to clean whatever is around me, I give myself 90 minutes to write about whatever it is I want to write about. It doesn’t have to be going toward the word count of my latest novel if that’s not what I’m interested in writing about that day.

After 90 minutes of writing, I move on to responding to clients’ emails and creating content for my websites.  

Write during your most productive time

We all have “productive” times during our day. These are the moments where the words flow effortlessly from our brain to our fingertips. The time when we feel most energetic and excited about writing.

For me, the morning is when my brain is freshest and ready to tackle problems. 

Ideas often surface after I meditate in the morning before the kids wake up. I jot those ideas down and expand on them during my block of writing time.

Ideas for stories that come to me later in the day are recorded and I’ll write down as much detail as I know I’ll need to capture the idea and revisit it later. Sometimes, I rush upstairs and capture the flow before it disappears—my fingers clacking furiously on the keyboard. 

These moments of inspired writing don’t happen often for me, so it’s crucial that I capture them when they do.

Reduce your distractions

I’m the first to admit that I often choose to become distracted in Facebook groups under the guise of being helpful for others.

While I’m doing those authors a service, I’m doing myself a complete disservice because the time I spend on Facebook is time I’m not spending creating my next book or helping a client with their books.

I’ve reduced my distractions by limiting my phone time entirely and I don’t look at my phone between 7 pm and 10 am if I can help it.

I try to steer clear of Facebook group interaction until my scheduled blocks of time dedicated to email and social media in the afternoons when my productivity is already naturally waning.

You know yourself best

You already know what you need to work on and what distractions you face. 

Limit the distractions that are within your control (we can’t control when our kids need us or when our dog has to go outside) and make the most of your productive time.

I’ve made the decision to go to bed a bit earlier and wake up at 5 am in order to start my day with exercise, gratitude, and meditation. I feel it’s given me a competitive edge on starting my day right, owning my schedule, and outlining my goals for every day of the week.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals?

Pssst…

Are you launching your book on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo in the next 3-6 months?

If so, then you need to get started with a crowdfunding outreach plan and strategy.

Click here to schedule a no-pressure 20-min chat with me to see if crowdfunding your book is right for you.

Why Indie Authors Should Always Hire an Editor

There are some non-negotiable aspects in self-publishing that are needed for your book to compete in this oversaturated market—flawless text and a professional cover.

While many authors understand their writing can always be improved by a good editor, some children’s book authors think that editors aren’t necessary because they are writing for children.

I asked editor Tamara Rittershaus to share her thoughts on the importance of editing every book, but especially children’s books.

Here’s what Tamara has to say:

People will buy a great product.

 
“Self-published books have a bad reputation because they are often bad products. They’re often not edited, have cheap-looking illustrations, and grammatical errors in the blurb.
 
But with a good product and focused marketing, it can be successful. 
 

The Traditional Publishing Process

 
In traditional publishing, an author should have their manuscript critiqued, beta read, and professionally edited before sending it to their agent.
 
The agent offers editing. The agent sells the manuscript to a publisher, which would also have an editor.
 
So a book that is traditionally published has a stamp of approval from at least three editors (sometimes more than that).
 
Readers can trust these to be quality products. 
 
The indie-author community needs to focus on putting out better products.
 
In order to compete against traditionally published books, indie authors must hire professionals to work with them on creating the best book possible.
 

Here is what I recommend to an indie author:

 
After you write and revise a manuscript, find a critique partner!
 
Starting out, I swapped my picture book manuscripts with dozens of other writers through  a Facebook group called “KidLit411 Manuscript Swap.” 
 
Over time, I have found the four or five critique partners who I trust the most.
 
Once you’ve had it critiqued and made revisions, hire an editor!
 
Ask for developmental editing. A good editor will have an eye for how to really enhance the story.
 
They will explain how you can improve your story arc, the tone of the story, how to create better scenes, and more.
 
If you make significant changes, send it back to your critique partner or hire your editor for a second round of developmental editing. 
 
 
When your story is solid, have another round with your trusted critique partner(s) or look for “fresh eyes” in a beta reader.
 
Now is the time to have the story line edited. This is the final check through for grammar, punctuation, syntax and minor inconsistencies.
 
If you’re hiring an illustrator, I suggest you wait to start illustrations until the manuscript is ready for line editing.
 
A change to the manuscript text is easy, but changes to illustrations will cost you. 
 

Create a relationship with your editor.

 
Editors want our clients to succeed, especially the loyal clients that we know well. I offer my picture book clients a free once-over before publishing, because I don’t want to see any avoidable mistakes getting published. 
 
If you write in poetry, I suggest having your manuscript checked over by a poetry specialist.
 
I offer “poetry coaching” for clients who feel compelled to write in rhyme, but haven’t been trained in writing in meter.
 
I use the client’s own manuscript to teach them how the meter could sound. This is a very effective teaching method and my clients have great success learning to write in meter.”

Bio

Tamara Rittershaus offers editing services for children’s literature authors as a picture book editor. She will give you a thorough and honest critique of your work.

Connect with Tamara on Facebook or Twitter for more information: