Special Guests, LaShaunda Hoffman and Angeline M Bishop.
Writing a book is challenging, but marketing a book is another story.
Where does a writer begin?
What’s the most effective way to reach your multicultural audience?
Read on to discover the secrets of selling your book!
What pointers do you have for reaching the widest market? What works, what doesn’t? I feel like I have an excellent social media presence, have built a decent following, am actively blogging and interacting with folks, but that doesn’t seem to be resulting in a bump in sales. Any advice?
LH: Thanks for your question Madhuri. My best advice is to be where your readers are. A lot of writers are on social media and blogging because that’s what they are told to do. Are your readers engaging with you on social media and on your blog?
Remember promoting isn’t about selling it’s about gaining the readers trust. The more engagement you have with the readers, the more they trust you and then they are ready to spend their money on your books.
If they aren’t talking to you, you probably aren’t making many sells.
AMB: First, let me state many New York Times bestselling authors hire marketing firms to heighten public awareness of their new releases. The only thing you can do to compete is have a clear voice, strong writing, and a great story.
You should also remember writing one book will not make you rich. Successful authors have multiple books. Now, I know it’s possible for one book to take off but that’s the rare exception, not the rule. Multiple books will give your other books a better chance to sell. If someone buys one and likes it, they’re likely to buy your others.
Here’s a tip I was given from the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Books, Michael Hyatt: Form a launch team of 100 people to get the maximum exposure for your book. These people are tweeters, book bloggers, website owners, Facebook followers, etc. They will drive the book closer to bestseller status and help your Amazon algorithm rankings. So join Kickstarter.com and HeadTalker.com and learn more.
How do you market to the African-American Community successfully?
LH: Hello Alexandria, thanks for your question. As I answered Madhuri, you have to be where the readers you want to target are.
Are you attending AA events? Are you talking to AA bookclubs? Are you in AA social media groups? Are you commenting on AA blogs?
You have to be where the readers are.
As a writer myself, with upcoming book. I realized my target readers are writers, which meant I had to join more writer groups. I need to attend more writer conferences and I need to network with more writers.
AMB: It’s not about following marketing trends as much as it’s about being true to yourself while supporting diverse writers. So ask yourself, are you comfortable purchasing a novel from an author that ONLY talks about their books on social media? Most of us would say no. We need to remember what we give out to the world WILL always come back. So an author that enjoys writing multicultural stories should take the time to uplift and promote other authors regularly. This will help you gain the respect of their literary peers and the buying public. Authors also need to network with other writers and share what works and what doesn’t work. That’s why the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of RWA, the Shades of Romance Magazine Community, the Romance Slam Jam Conference, and other organizations exist.
I’m multiracial (Cuban/Puerto Rican/ Native American/ Irish/ African ancestry). I grew up very Latina. I have no problem marketing to the Latina community. My books feature multiracial characters, like me; and I often get comments like, “no, I don’t read that stuff,” I only read AA females/Caucasian men/ AA female leads/Asian men ect. Or “Why does the character need to be multiracial,” or “I’m sick of seeing light skinned green eyes characters?” Have any of the authors experienced this, and how do they deal with it, and still do effective marketing?
LH: Most of the authors I work with are AA, so this is what they experience every day. You put out the best book you can and start writing the next one. You will never please everyone; however there is a market who are looking for what you write.
When I started writing there wasn’t any AA romance book, but I refuse to let that stop me from writing. Look for the readers who are looking for what you write.
AMB: Promoting your genre of writing should never mean expressing your frustration at current trends. Let’s not forget, at one time, everyone gave people their home number when they wanted to be contacted. Today, everyone and their little kid sister has a smartphone on their hip on in their purse. So don’t worry, instead focus on the type of readers you want to attract.
Now here’s a few tips on effective marketing. The best time to promote your book is three years before it comes out if you haven’t published a book before and one year before if you are already published. The experts say three years because it takes that long to build a reputation, connections, a following, and credibility over the internet.
Tip#2 Social Media isn’t for selling books, it’s for building relationships. The key words are SOCIAL Media, not BUY MY BOOK Media. It’s the place to follow and engage with readers, book bloggers, and reviewers because they will influence your readership.
Tip#3 Book a blog tour to increase your visibility. Go to BookBloggerList.com. Over 1700+ book bloggers are listed on this free resource (recently shouted out by Publisher’s Weekly!) And check out book promo sites likeBookBub, BuckBooks, KindleNationDaily, Pixel Of Ink, Author Marketing Club, etc.
What is a marketing plan to get noticed more, besides FB? I was published in 2011, and have 25 books under my belt, 2 Paranormal series, 2 serial series, and a historical line; but every day I get a new reader saying, “I knew nothing about you,” LOL what do you write?
LH: That’s a good thing if you meet new readers everyday who are haven’t heard of you. That’s actually what you want. It’s hard to meet new readers because they already know who they like; they are slow to try someone new.
There is no magic market plan to get you noticed, if there was I would be a NY Bestseller by now. I have learned over the years, you have to try something new and if it doesn’t work move on to the next thing.
Find the fun activities because that’s what you will do. Set up a schedule and DO THEM. That’s the best advice I can give you. Meet a new reader every day.
AMB: Don’t feel bad about a new reader saying they didn’t know you existed. Instead, look at your author branding.
Now your brand is different from your writing genre. For example, there are countless numbers of historical writers, but what will make you stand out in a distinct way would be your approach to writing historical novels.
Think about the mega-branding of Nora Roberts, Stephen King, JK Rowling, and John Grisham. Forging brand recognition is a necessary part of being a writer. There’s no escaping it.
You have to find your voice and be very consistent in your writing. Your book covers and author websites are great places to show your author branding. One or two of the Social media sites (like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) should use consistently because readers have to know where to find you, So if you post something daily, weekly, or monthly just be consistent.
And since you write in different genres, I would recommend you take a long look at the ‘big picture’ of your literary works and ask yourself:
How can these books fit together? Is there one thread that ties them and can I articulate that into a branding statement?
Remember a brand will help potential readers know, like, and trust you. Once your brand is known, any marketing plan you create will have a firmer foundation.
Antiquated publishing rules state that when you write, “Write as though you are writing to the average 9th grade high school student. When you incorporate words and phrases of a higher learning establishment, people will assume that you are pompous, a know it all, and find you annoying; and often times won’t buy your books. Have any of the authors found this to be true? And when they write, do they gauge what level they are writing at?
LH: I’ve actually had this discussion with a few authors. You have to write what’s in your heart and then find your audience. There is a book for every reader. Some readers love the big word books and some don’t. You have to write what’s comfortable for you and not worry about if the reader will be at the level to read it. You’ll drive yourself and never finish the book. Write the book then find your audience.
AMB: Ah, the art of readability. As a rule of thumb, I believe all authors should ask themselves if the words they are choosing are too difficult for others to read and/or understand. Then they should ask their Beta Readers (which is a small group of their target readership demographic) about what they like and disliked about their novel.
Once those things are done, and the author has made their edits, I’d stop worry about it. Why? Because readability is dependent upon so many characteristics: age, race, culture, education and even slang. Don’t get hung up on some word that a reader may or may not want to add to their lexicon, instead focus on the story and your voice.
How do authors build a multicultural subscriber’s list?
LH: Hi Alicia, thank you for your question. As I tell my Virtual Tea clients, you build your list one reader at a time. There is no special formula to building one. You invite everyone you know and hope they sign up. You offer a freebie to those who visit your site, and hope they will offer you their email address in exchange. It takes time, but if you ask, people will begin to sign up.
AMB: This is a bit of a struggle for all multicultural authors because the amount of time it takes to build a subscriber list can take a lot of energy from your writing and your other marketing efforts. But the most effective way in 2015 is to have a visible subscribe form on your website home page with an ethical bride attached.
The gift should be something your website visitor would be excited about. It could be a free novella, first notification of your giveaways, or some free swag. You should also make the sign up easy so they can do it in five seconds.
What are some steps to take to create an active group of readers who love your books?
LH: My best advice for an active group is to create a plan for your group.
What do you want to talk about?
How often will you talk?
The more you talk, the more active your group is. Don’t be a drive by host and only show up once a month. Every day or three times a week, to keep the group active.
AMB: Get connected to the online line book clubs and offer to Skype in to connect to readers. You can also create a YouTube page and post vlogs to keep your readers up to date on your writing progress and to answer their questions.
Also, we shouldn’t neglect our local libraries. Librarians are our friends. Many people don’t go out and buy novels because they can get them for free at the library so look there for active readers.
Publishers have always known that cultivating readers means cultivating buyers. If you were given a piece of free chocolate, chances are that you would go out any buy more chocolate even if you knew you could occasionally find the exact flavor you wanted for free nearby. You’d eat both the free chocolate and the purchased candy, wouldn’t you? It’s the same with novels.
So make the local author pitch. Local authors do have an advantage. Libraries will often accept a donated copy – again assuming that it meets minimum production standards – as simple good community relations, and sometimes, as part of a local history collection. Note: libraries do buy additional copies of things based on demand (as determined by the number of people waiting for it on the hold list). So talk up your book locally to get it moving.
From Shonda Brock
Once you find readers in your multicultural genre, how do you get them to buy your book?
LH: Hello Shonda, thank you for your questions.
I’m laughing because I wish I had an answer for you. Think about what makes you buy a book. Now switch that to your reader.
AMB: Building an audience of readers typically takes months of research and trial-and-error. And most authors are too scared or too cocky to research their target audience but it’s part of our job. Getting published can’t be the end goal because that’s only the beginning.
You have to cultivate and build a small audience of readers before it can grow into a larger audience. The most popular ways to connect with readers typically utilize a blog, a newsletter, or a book trailer. Some authors use all three. You need to get to the point where your small audience becomes your ‘advisory council’ or your ‘street team’ so they will become great advocates of your future works.
I know there is no exact equations as to a “jack-pot” for finding readers, but what do you suggest is the best method to find readers vs. authors through social media.
LH: Engagement, I meet a lot of authors online because they talk about their books. A lot of authors are online, but no one knows they write unless they have a book about to release. You need to be talking about your book before it release, get the reader interest before it hits the shelves. Everybody is writing a book now days. Keeping your book to yourself will never sale it.
If you are on social media, talk. Visit other pages and talk, visit groups and talk. Share content, share wisdom, share writing tips. Engage.
AMB: What seems to work is finding other interests your target readership likes and interact with them on social media about it. So if your type of reader loves ABC’s Scandal or Tyler Perry movies, then go where those fans are and interact with your future readers. This will take large portion of your time so I only suggest doing this in your down time. So following the hashtags on Twitter and Facebook write a few blog posts to tie your novel to the latest trending topic.
What has been the best advice you have received over the years pertaining to the business of marketing literature.
LH: Tell everyone about your book. I was in a restaurant with my writing group this weekend and our member sold a book to the waiter. Yes the waiter. He was super excited to meet an author.
You never know where you will meet your next reader.
AMB: It would have to be to add a signature to your outgoing email – This is an oldie but a goodie. Many authors and bloggers do this. Simply add the name of your novels, buy links, and domain name to your outgoing email. Most email programs will allow you to do this automatically via a signature option.
If you could predict the future, what do you think publishing industry model will look like in comparison to its current fluctuating state?
LH: I actually see a lot more people publishing their own books. Twenty years ago I was advised to publish my own books and I looked at the man like he was crazy. I was waiting on the big publishing house.
Now we don’t have to wait to make our writing goals come true. My hope is that people will take the business serious and put out some excellent work, and the self-publishing side will no longer be the stepchild of the industry.
AMB: We’re still in the early days of the self-publishing revolution so the indie author movement will grow stronger in the next passing years. Traditionally published authors will continue to transition to indie, led by midlist authors. And we’ll see more hybrid authors (authors who are self-publish and traditionally publish) reorient their publishing strategies.
Digital ebook readers will continue to increase and traditional publishers will lower their price points to $4.99 and lower to compete with indie authors. That’s right, I see more publishers offering book for FREE days too.
So focus on making your books better. Please your readers and they will spread word of your book through positive reviews and recommendations. If you’re preparing a book launch and you have a couple dollars burning a hole in your pocket that you want to spend on marketing, spend that money on professional editing instead.
A huge thanks to LaShaunda and Angeline for taking the time to share their marketing secrets with us! Please connect with them using the links below.
About LaShaunda Hoffman
Thank you for inviting me to answer a few questions for you. I have an online promotion group and invite you to join. We discuss ways of getting our books in front of readers. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join. See ya on the net.
LaShaunda C. Hoffman took her love for books and turned it into an award winning online magazine, Shades of Romance Magazine. Her mission in life is to introduce as many books as she can to readers. She’s happily married mother of three who believes in dreams and working hard to achieve them. She started a coaching program – Virtual Tea With LaShaunda to train writers on promoting their books online.
This summer she will publish her first book, Building Online Relationships – One Reader At A Time.
Catch her online:
See Ya On The Net (her personal site)
or Twitter – @lashaundaH.
About Angeline Bishop
Angeline Bishop writes contemporary romance fiction and has a growing fan base. Angeline’s novels are thought-provoking, refreshingly entertaining, fast paced, and with a strong romantic elements. She was born in Washington, D. C., but lived most of her life in New Jersey and considers the ‘Garden State’ her home. Her childhood passion for writing led to a degree in English Literature and a membership in Romance Writers of America.
Aside from writing her own novels and blogging, Angeline is the Vice President of the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America. and enjoys helping authors strengthen their craft. She co-hosts the AMB Talk Radio podcasts each Fall with her pop-culture loving, college-aged daughter. And she’s the founder of the AMB Ovation Awards (The Angie) which provides honor and recognition of authors’ outstanding achievements in the multicultural romance literary profession.
South Beach, the second novel in the Sheridan Series, will be following by Wild West and Big East. Angeline has also launched the inspirational Jacmuir Series, a multicultural New Adult series inspired by her college-reader fan base.
Find Angeline M Bishop: