Thursday, August 27, 2020

The ins and outs of promoting books by Echo Shea

Today, I want to introduce you to Echo and her promo company Psst… and Let’s Talk Promotions. Promotions is a big part of the book world because without it, no one would know about the books being published and that means no one would buy them to read. This post is meant to provide some insight into the book promo business and why it’s important to promote a book. There are some good tips provided along the way too. It's a long post, but I promise this is a worthwhile read. There's a lot of useful information here. So kick back, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

Welcome Echo!

Man with megaphone

Hi, all!

Book writing, publishing, and promoting is a scary business. Check out Deanna’s post here for a bit of a reality check/horror story. (And yes, it’s absolutely a horror story, from the finances to the insistence that we, as authors, peel off our pajamas and emerge into the world to interact with people that like our work. What do you say? How do you act? How long are you allowed to hug them while weeping “thank you, thank you for buying my book”?)

I’ve been on many sides of the publishing world—written, ghostwritten, proofread, edited, coordinated reviews, and now I do promotions. For the past twelve-to-fourteen years, I’ve been buried in everything bookish I can get my hands into. I’ve hosted the Facebook parties and wandered up to strangers in the real world with one of my books in my hands and sold it. Not at a convention. At a McDonald’s. I, even with a face hot from embarrassment, scrawled my pen name across the page to give them a signed book—and let me tell you, my handwriting says anything but author.

I’ve been the broke author desperately trying to tie things together via friends and fans and make it all work, so when you ask me if hiring someone to promote your work is worth it, I can honestly say—yes. (As an author I don’t want to say it because I’m cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap—have I mentioned cheap? But I have to admit the truth. It’s just another expense sneaking out of our cobwebbed and moth infested wallets.)

One hundred percent

How do I really know that we’re worth it? Well, my dears, did I happen to mention how cheap I am? My broke-ness has led to experiences.

I can say that I’ve written my own books. Edited them. Did the covers for them. Published them through Amazon. Promoted them. But I can’t say I’ve done it all well.

Because there’s a pressure that comes when you’re doing it all. There are different mindsets—where you’ll be writing a story and think—oh, I should do a blog post about that! And then you just feel defeated, because the thing you do to bring someone an escape, to tell a story, is suddenly secondary to the broccoli that is promoting.

This isn’t to say that promoting is bad. It’s good for you. You know it’s good for you. When the bills are coming due and you’re looking for avenues to try to make another sale and get the book you’ve put so much effort into in front of readers—you know that promoting is good. That you need to do more of it. That you have to work harder, be better, give more and more of a self that you don’t know how or if you want to share, because you know it’s good for you.

Stress

It’s also hard. It’s really, really hard. And maybe you’re the superhero-type author that can do it all and still breathe. The one working at a pace that takes a mere twenty-four hours of the day and stretches it into weeks.

Personally, I can’t. Maybe, one day, I can be every woman and have it all in me, but right now, I’m one woman. My business partner, Mindy, is one woman, too. (Though she could be two Springers and Whippet in a trench coat. It’s possible.)

But even if we’re just two women? Well, we’re two very driven women.

I decided to go into promoting when my friend published her first novel. I’d told her for years, that when she published, I’d have her back, and I wanted to keep that promise.

Old newspaper

I had a form from Let’s Talk Promotions and a can-do spirit. I contacted hundreds of blogs to be part of the blog tour. I contacted book boxes. I contacted book stores. I contacted newspapers. I remembered how it felt after I finished the edits on my, admittedly much smaller, pieces. And how I wanted someone to see what I was doing, how hard what I was doing was. How I was so obsessed with doing it all that I couldn’t think. There wasn’t enough quiet in my head to write a story—I had too many other things to worry about. I had to promote!

When I was younger, sometimes, I would go through the house and clean it while everyone slept. My mom would wake up as I was going to sleep and exclaim it was like Christmas. I wanted to give my friend that feeling—that things were being done and she didn’t have to pull herself apart at the seams to do them. I wanted to give her that feeling—and I enjoyed it.

I know that Mindy Mymudes feels the same way. We have a dream we want to make come true for others.

Are we worth it? I like to think so. We work damn hard to make sure that we are.

We can’t do your interviews for you. We can’t do the Q&A’s or the character interviews or the guest posts—but we can set you up to succeed. We can spit on our sleeves, scrub at your foreheads and throw you into the bright lights of the public so that you can shine like the diamonds you are. (I know, the visual is gross, but the spit is completely organic and volunteered by Mindy’s show dogs. It’s not just regular ol’ spit. It’s the spit of champions.)

Woman being interviewed

So, how do we do this? Walk with me down the page a bit and I’ll show you.

At our most basic, we do a one-week blog tour and a press release. This is us contacting roughly a couple hundred blogs and sending out a press release to newspapers, some local and some widespread.

At our most luxurious, we do a two-week blog tour, cover reveal, press release to smaller and bigger newspapers and press release sites, contact book boxes, book stores, bloggers, help create and maintain a street team (this is a heavy and hard maintenance resource), do graphics, and help with suggestions for social media, as well as promoting your book for a year, promoting your books at cons, PR parties at cons, virtual/non-signing parties, and always keeping an eye out for opportunities like guest posts and interviews when possible.

I’ve been in the book world a while. Mindy’s been in it even longer than me. She’s worked hand-in-hand with NYT-bestselling authors, hosted panels at conventions, helped use her expertise in genetics and most everything else to help authors when they need a bit of technical advice. So, as you can imagine, we’re buried quite deeply into the book world.

Notebooks with pen

Why is it easier for me to do this for others and not myself? I don’t know. It’s something I enjoy. Something I’m excited about. I don’t just promote one book over and over and try to talk about myself (I’m leaving that to you guys. Suckas!) I’m talking about others. It’s a difference. Promoting for myself used to make me feel hollow inside like I was giving away so much of myself for so little. I don’t feel that way about this. I’m excited to wake up and go to work and promote authors and call up bookstores.

I’m not a tired, struggling, barely functioning human being when I’m promoting. I’m a fairy godmother giving someone the ball gown and the carriage to go out and find their true love (only this is more of an R-rated reverse harem type fairy tale, because you’ll have a lot of true readers and book lovers will throw down over a book boyfriend.)

I’m really proud of what we’re doing. I feel useful. It doesn’t rob my mind and my soul, doesn’t leave me a shell, like doing it for myself did.

I haven’t stopped writing. That’s who I am, what I am. I’m a writer and I’ll be one until the day I die. But I like helping and in my world, this is the way I know how.

So—is it worth it for you to pay to have Mindy and I on your side?

You better freaking believe it.

Colored pencils

Some helpful hints on how to author out there in the wild:

One Be your best self. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be you.
We all want to be funny and original and articulate. And usually, someone else always seems much better at it than we are. Sadly, what works for them, might not work for you. One thing this world is interested in is kindness and compassion. (I mean, if you think Ted Bundy is misunderstood and want to marry him, we might have gone a shade too compassionate, but in general you see where I’m going with this.)

So, yes, you may have been writing for years, decades—a few millennia ago, you carved your first pictograph onto a rock. You’re a world-weary novelist that’s done it all and seen it all and you’re no longer impressed with any of it or the fact that these new authors don’t know the rules to the game like you do. The rules of humanity and karma still apply.

Try to be your best self, always.

Two Be consistent.
Do as I say, not as I do! You want to post regularly to social media, and each social media is a different animal. You need to be present enough to know what’s going on in the world and yet have enough distance from it so that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole. Good luck and may the Twitter gods have mercy on your soul.

Too vague? Fine, I’ll give you a teensy more information.

You’re a writer. You spend all day forcing your brain to spit out whole other worlds, and often by the time you’re done, your mind is goop. (Or this could just be me projecting.) So let’s not waste time that should be spent filling the proverbial well, by trying to string too many words together on social media. Five to six hours a week is probably the bare minimal norm, so use them wisely.

Social media

For Facebook, try to post something personal to your life, but not so personal they can do a Google search and find out where you live. Make sure you have no addresses or notable landscapes in camera view that they can find you through that pic of coffee outside your favorite coffee shop. Interact with the comments, but never in a negative way. I don’t care who started it first. You’re the professional, you be polite and respectful but firm—and when all else fails, give them the social media bum’s rush that is the block. There’s a lot of risk involved in trying to get your point across with an internet troll, and it’s usually to their benefit, because more often than not, they have waaaaay too much time on their hands.

A unique post on Twitter is great, and I do recommend posting, but what’s more? Interacting. Twitter is a large and grand place where you can spend hours shouting into the abyss. You’re not the only one shouting however, and that’s a good thing. You can comment on someone’s post and, let’s face it, we’re always excited when someone’s taken the time to talk to us, why wouldn’t they feel the same way?

Instagram is a merger of Facebook and Twitter. It’s more important to have unique content than it is on Twitter, but you can interact on it and gain followers through your commenting, usually a little better than you can on Facebook.

YouTube and podcasts? Monitor your mail and interact through that main platform. They get their name/idea mentioned on a show they love, and you get a follower that loves your content.

Smear all of these things together and, by golly, you’ve got yourself a social media presence! So cram it all together in an easily accessible row of icons on your website, add in a blog post once a month, and you exist online.

Frick it, I forgot newsletters. You’ll want one of them, too. You might like to put their sign-up form as a pop-up on your website, and also have the sign-up form for them somewhere on every page about midway down—that way the reader knows they’re interested in your content and can subscribe easily.

SPAM

Warning: Do not spam your readers! Newsletter rules are: send it out monthly or bi-weekly. If you have a sale—maybe, you can send out a notice, but do not spam. Squish all of your amazing brain goop that you somehow formed into original content after writing and keep it all in your monthly/bi-weekly newsletter.

Three What do you have to offer?
Say you want to go on a local TV show, because you’re a local author. Well, being local might not be enough for them to give you ad space, unfortunately. What do you have to offer? And how can you link it together with what you write? Any time you’re trying for a guest post, an interview, a spot on TV or radio or podcast, you have to think of something you have to offer them that’s relevant and newsworthy—and how can you connect that to your book. For instance, writing during the pandemic and how it affects releasing a new book. General, but relevant.

Four Reviews (the good, the bad, and the ugly)
You can certainly write up a thank you letter to send out to all of the bloggers on your tour. You can even share their posts on social media. Commenting on their blog post, however—that’s tricky. The review is supposed to be for the readers to know if they like your book or not. Having you lurking around isn’t really ideal, unless the blogger requests it. Can you lurk and read all of the amazing praise on the thing that took a hell of a long time to write? Absolutely.

Can you also tell off that a-hole that didn’t like it? Ack! No! Bad author! You can’t explain yourself to the reader. You can’t justify why the character did what they did. Maybe one day, years from now, when you’re really well-known and beloved, you can cleanse your soul and justify your character’s actions. But as far as giving that prick their comeuppance? That’s a special treat to be saved for your family and friends to know about, through non-social media channels. No griping online in a public forum.

Smiley face review

Five The Most Important Sales Tool
The most important thing you can do to sell your book, is to write more. Everything else is important, it’s an entire job of its own—but if you have more content, you can sell more books.

If you have a series and you do a sale on the first book, that’s called a lead, and every book after that is the tail. You may lose money on the ad for the lead book, but you can make it up in cost from readers that follow the series through. And we’ve all been addicted to a series, so we all understand the need to get your hands on the next book. That being said, if you can snap your fingers and create a book, that’s beautiful. But it has to be up to your standards. You lead the market, don’t let it lead you. Like any company, you have to maintain quality control.

That said, keep writing. Promoting has to be an important second, but you have to be good within your soul. You most likely have family and friends that need attention. There’s a global pandemic. There are bills that build up while you’re trying to put a saddle on your dream. I get it. Things will fall to the wayside on occasion. Breathe. Re-group. Big authors falter and small authors falter. We all have that one glaring fault and failure—we’re human. Embrace it. Feel it. If you’re having trouble getting back up on your feet, ask for help. Authors have a high rate of suicide, depression, alcoholism, and every other coping mechanism you can think of.

Our humanity is our failing and our saving grace. If you break, you can use it for character development somewhere way, way down the line. But the thing that keeps readers hanging on with bated breath after a character falls, is watching how they get back up. Get back up. Please.
You can also write anguished characters and good stories if you’re a completely content and happy human being. So don’t think you need to be a tortured soul to be a real author. We come in all shapes and sizes.

Blogger

Six Bloggers
I’m going to end my ramblings here, ’cause this has been an incredibly long post. But I wanted one last point about bloggers. They’re essential to getting the word out about your work, and most of them aren’t paid. They do it out of the love for the written word. So, read their review policy, remember they’re normal humans with outside lives if you come up against a scheduling error. Try to give them at least two weeks advance notice before contacting them for a blog tour. Double-check the spelling of their names. Make a note of their policies. If you can prepare an HTML post for a quick and dirty promotion, do it. They like that on occasion, so spoil them a little bit. And try to give them time to do up their own unique blog post.

Thank you so much, Deanna, for having Psst… and Let’s Talk Promotions on your blog! Mindy and I are grateful for the opportunity! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask!


To find out more about Psst... and Let's Talk Promotions, here are some helpful links.

Psst

Psst...: Facebook - Twitter - Website - Instagram


Let's Talk Promotions

Let's Talk Promotions: Facebook - Twitter - Website - Instagram


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3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for giving us time on your blog, Deanna!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome. It's great to have you visit. More people should know about what promo companies do and how much work that is.

      Delete
  2. Excellent advice, thank you so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete