Marketing Insider — Editor Barbara Scott

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Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

We’re privileged to have Barbara Scott here today to talk about platform and book marketing. Barbara has more than thirty years of publishing experience, ranging from newspapers and magazines to Christian books. As a senior acquisitions editor, she is credited for kicking off a well-rounded series of bestselling YA novels at Zondervan and quality, highly reviewed novels at Abingdon Press. Barbara worked with both fiction and nonfiction authors and sold their work to numerous publishers while acting as a literary agent for WordServe Literary Group. She also is a published author, and her educational background includes a M.A. and a B.A. in English. Currently, she is writing and editing under the banner of her company Heartland Editorial.

Thank you for joining us today, Barbara! Platform is the hot topic right now, and one that makes most writers’ heads spin. How important is building a platform prior to seeking an agent or publisher?

A robust platform is essential for nonfiction writers before a publisher will offer a book contract. Most of the books will be sold through the networks an author has established through speaking to large groups, media appearances, and an active social media network. National recognition is a big plus. Pastors usually have large- to mega-churches and huge followings on Facebook and Twitter. Platform is not as important for a fiction writer, but rather professional, creative content is the key to success. Story and a fresh voice will make an agent or editor take notice.

If an author does want to focus on building a platform, what makes it most appealing to an editor or agent?

Again, platform is different for nonfiction and fiction writers. Debut fiction authors usually have nice followings on Facebook, but again for fiction, fresh stories are what connect with editors and agents. The first book needs to sell well to land a subsequent contract. Audience and a fan base builds with each new book.

So, essentially, it sounds like fiction writers should focus most of their time on crafting a great story. How do platform concerns change once an author has a book contracted?

For fiction authors, publishers expect them to network on social media. Some agents and editors, though, have realized that blogging does not necessarily translate to book sales, so there is less emphasis on an author setting up a blog. However, a nice website is a plus. Authors should spend their energy making friends with readers and book reviewers online. Nonfiction authors will be expected to have already booked speaking engagements and set up interviews with the media.

It probably isn’t difficult to convince writers to spend time online. If an author has limited time for marketing, where would you advise him or her to focus most of her energy?

Facebook. For as little as $5 or $10 a day for a few days or longer, you can run an ad on Facebook from a fan page and target actual Christian readers. If you have not set up a fan page, do it now. Personal pages are not allowed to advertise. Post comments that are helpful to readers.

What marketing effort do you feel is the biggest waste of time for an author?

Mailing slick flyers or postcards to people who don’t know the author. These are great for setting up a launch party, but not really effective for reaching readers. Bookmarks are helpful to bookstore owners.

That probably sounds like good news to a lot of our readers. What marketing effort do you think yields the greatest return, then?

Networking with readers and book reviewers. Authors tend to network with other writers, which is great for fellowship, but not every writer will buy the book. Become active in reader groups on Facebook before you ever publish a book. Comment on those sites and offer helpful advice.

That’s great advice, and something that we can all start doing right away with a little time and effort. Is there any other advice you would give authors as they’re building a marketing strategy?

There are some terrific books out there to help authors market their books. I would recommend Rob Eagar’s Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing & Publicity.

Thank you so much for your insights, Barbara! We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us here on The Inkwell.

To all you fiction writers out there, what are your platform building tips? What have you found works well, and what doesn’t work so well?

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Metrics: Measuring Your Marketing Success


Photo by Scott Akerman via Flickr.

Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker, Philadelphia department store owner and marketing pioneer

Metrics is one of the most important aspects of marketing, and yet one of the most challenging. In many ways, marketing is more of an art than a science, and it can be incredibly difficult to measure the results of your efforts, especially when you have more than one interconnected campaign. However, in order to know where to focus your ongoing marketing efforts, you must evaluate the success of your tactics in meeting your overall objectives.

Identify Your Successes (or Failures)

If you made your objective measurable and specific, as we discussed a few weeks ago, there should be no question about whether your marketing efforts met your goals. Let’s say your objective was to increase book sales by 10% within a particular time frame.

1. What increase in sales did you experience as a result of your marketing efforts (measured against the same period last year/last book launch/last quarter, etc.)?

2. Did this meet your goals?

3. If not, how close were you to meeting your goals? For example, an increase of 9% could be still considered a success, even if it did not technically accomplish your objective.

4. Questions to consider if you did not meet your goal:

Did your marketing efforts bring in sales/awareness from the quarter you expected? Perhaps you set out to increase sales on Amazon but found that your marketing efforts actually translated into an increase of bookstore sales. Or perhaps your social media efforts actually converted to an increase in newsletter sign-ups.
Was the time frame too ambitious? If you’ve seen results, just not to the degree you expected, it may be worth extending the marketing efforts another 1-3 months to see if you experience an exponential increase.
Was the objective too ambitious? While your objectives should be achievable, sometimes it’s difficult to set a reasonable goal the first time out of the gate. If you partially met your objective, you may want to reevaluate either the scope of your efforts (whether expanding them would yield greater results), the tactics (trying different options for reaching the same objective), or the objective itself (lowering expectations).

Adjust Expectations/Goals
Once you’ve measured the results of your marketing efforts and asked yourself the questions above, it’s time to reevaluate your objectives, strategies, and tactics. In some cases, you’ll find that while you met your goal, the investment of time and/or money required to meet it was too high given the results. You may choose to focus your efforts on other tactics instead.

On the other hand, you may find that some marketing strategies could be even more successful were you able to devote more time and effort to them. You might choose to expand your participation in that area and cut back in others.

Be Deliberate

If this all sounds very vague, it’s because there are dozens of ways to measure every type of marketing effort. You could certainly check out one of the excellent books on marketing metrics, but most of it tends to be MBA-level stuff, for which most writers don’t have the patience. The best advice for determining which half of your marketing is working is to change slowly. Maintain your marketing campaigns for a sustained period, changing one tactic at a time. If you see a spike in sales or web traffic, it will be instantly clear which tactic is responsible.

This concludes our series on writing your book marketing plan! Next week, we’ll begin a series of interviews with authors, editors, marketing professionals, and publishers on the topics of platform, marketing, and publicity… you won’t want to miss it!

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Implementation: Where the Rubber Meets the Road (Marketing Plan #8)


Photo by Nate Grigg via Flickr
Photo by Nate Grigg via Flickr

Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

Is anyone tired of the road map metaphors yet? Well, good news, we’ve just about reached the end of our, er, trip: implementation.

If you’ve been following along, by now you have a solid framework for your marketing plan, including a definition of you as an author, your competition, and a solid outline of objectives, strategies, and tactics. Now comes the tricky part: putting them into practice.

While we discussed the need to choose objectives that are measurable over a specific (and relatively short) period of time, the reality remains that whether because of time constraints or monetary concerns, you won’t be able to implement every tactic at the same time. So how do you decide which ones to do first?

Are any tactics time-sensitive?

If you are tying in promotional efforts to a specific event or awareness month, you’ll want to make sure you plan ahead since they come around on an infrequent basis. Do you have a book about a breast cancer survivor? Then you’ll want to make sure you plan well in advance of October for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

What gives you most exposure for the time investment?

This especially goes for social media, which can be a massive time consumer if you let it. With Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, and many other social media outlets to consider, you will find yourself overwhelmed (and out of time to write!) if you try to focus on all of them at the same time. Pick the top one or two efforts to focus on first, and add additional efforts as you master the previous ones. Check out this post from Dreamgrow with the latest social networking market share numbers, for example.

What gives you the most exposure for monetary investment?

If your marketing tactics require a monetary investment, there are a few ways to evaluate them. One is CPI – cost per impression, most often used in direct mail, pay-per-click ads, and magazine advertising. The formula goes something like this: Cost [per pay period] / # of Impression [magazine subscribers, site visitors, etc.] = CPI. To get the CPM (cost per mille, or thousand) just multiply the number times 1000. This way, you can compare disparate media/marketing tactics to see what gets you the most bang for your buck.

What gives you the most potential sales for cost investment?

Sometimes this is the same as the point above, but not always. Impressions don’t always convert to sales. Once you’ve tracked your marketing efforts for a single cycle, whether it be three, six, nine, or twelve months, you’ll be able to extrapolate that data for future marketing tactics.

What tactic excites you?

Granted, this isn’t a strictly objective criterion, but if there’s a particular marketing tactic that excites you, put it in the first round for implementation. You’ll likely do a better job in less amount of time.

Keep in mind that we often approach a marketing plan with enthusiasm, but it wears off over the long haul. Start with tactics that interest you and promise the best return on your investment and build slowly. Even after a book launch, authors must continue to promote their backlist to spur sales, so even if you’re not able to implement every tactic right away, you’ll have the chance to try them over the book’s life cycle.

This week’s action items: Evaluate your objectives, strategies, and tactics according to the criteria above. Choose two to three tactics to implement right away.

Next week: Metrics: Measuring your Marketing Success

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Tactics: Stops On Your Roadmap To Success (Marketing Plan #7)


Photo by Curtis Alan Jackson via Flickr
Photo by Curtis Alan Jackson via Flickr

Originally published by ACFW Colorado The Inkwell Blog.

The past two weeks, we’ve discussed the first two steps in the core content of your marketing plan: Objectives and Strategies. Today we’re going to get down to the specifics: Tactics. Tactics are the specific actions in your marketing road map that tell you exactly what to do and when.

Now, I know many of you are grabbing your pens, ready to jot down the notes on the tactics that will be sure to skyrocket your book to bestseller status. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are as many marketing tactics as there are books in this world, and not all tactics will work for all authors or books.

In this blog post, we’re going to look at what makes a good tactic and save the details for the end of the series.

1) Tactics must be specific. This section of your marketing plan should be detailed enough that someone else could implement the tactics without your assistance. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a personal assistant, that’s probably not an issue. It’s too easy, however, to forget your great tactics once you’ve written a few dozen of them.

An example of a bad tactic: “Spend more time on Facebook.” An example of a good tactic: “Choose ten Facebook pages that draw a similar audience and interact with posters on a daily/weekly/bi-weekly basis.” Then list the ten Facebook pages you have in mind.

2) Tactics must be action-oriented. A good tactic will focus on steps that you can do yourself.

Bad tactic: “Get twenty requests for interviews/guest blog posts.” Good tactic: “Approach top fifty bloggers in my genre about interviews/guest posts.” Then list both the bloggers you intend to approach, plus a list of topics to suggest.

3) Tactics must answer the question “What’s in it for my readers?” Too often, we approach marketing from the perspective “what’s in it for me?” Unfortunately, such author-centric thinking rarely yields good results. Every marketing tactic should be focused on somehow interacting with or giving value to your target market: the reader.

Bad tactic: “Establish myself as an expert on my subject.” (While this may be a bad tactic, it could make a good strategy.) Good tactic: “Blog twice a week on [specific topic of interest].” Then list out your topics and what value your posts will give to readers.

At the end of the series, we’ll discuss specific tactics, as well as resources from which to draw your ideas. For now, do a little brainstorming based on what you’ve found in your research on your competition.

This week’s action items: Come up with at least 3 tactics for each of your strategies (the more the better). Are they specific and action-oriented? Do they answer the question, “What’s in it for my readers?”

Next week: Implementing your objectives, strategies, and tactics.

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