Tweet chat 17th September 2021 Marketing 

Elastic Compute – Pixabay

Participants: Kathleen Marple Kalb, Anita Belli, Marianne Scott, Elizabeth Holland, Rik Lonsdale, Annie Whitehead, Chris Towndrow, Beth Hudson, Odessa Rose, Karen Heenan, Gerald Hornsby, Sandy Stuckless, Leah Bailey, Laury Silvers, Marian Thorpe, Eva Seyler, Deborah Klée

Please introduce yourself and tell us about something you have successfully promoted in the past other than your writing or books.

Deborah: Hi I will kick off. I am Deborah your host. I promoted improvements in health and social care. Wrote a national report which led to breakfast TV interviews, and other national media coverage.

Beth: Hi! I’m Beth Hudson, fantasy author from the American Midwest. Something I’ve successfully promoted? Ouch. I’m not really sure that I’ve done any real promotion. Being a hermit-crab introvert has its downsides. Actually, I sort of have promoted my editing gig, come to think of it, by doing a really good job and having good customer service. But Fiverr does the hooking up.

Karen (to Beth): I’d love to talk to you sometime about getting into editing. I’ve done a few paid gigs, but looking to set up more professionally.

Marian: I’m Marian….and I don’t think I’ve ever promoted anything in the past…I’ve never had the sort of job or done volunteer work that requires that.

Chris: Hi, Chris, multi-genre author from Richmond. Other than promoting myself and my video production business – every week for 9 years at networking events, as a YouTube whizz I’ve helped my clients get over 4 million hits on videos I’ve produced.

Rik: Hi, I’m Rik in Dorset UK where it’s warm and sunny (just promoting Dorset a little there). To be honest, I can’t think of any successful promotions I’ve undertaken.

Elizabeth: Hi all, I’m Elizabeth from Kent. I’ve promoted a theatre I worked for by dressing up as a 1920s school girl and handing out leaflets. Definitely not a career highlight 

Eva: Eva, historical fiction author! I can’t honestly say I can remember ever successfully promoting anything aside from the utter cuteness of my cats.

Marianne: I’ve used Facebook and Twitter, even paid $$ to promote for added views/exposures but didn’t get a single sale for the effort.

Anita: I am Anita, Author from Essex. I used to develop and devise all kinds of arts programmes. Still do when I can get funding.

Deborah: Hi Anita. This is something you are obviously good at as you have secured arts council funding.

Anita: Yes. I am spending my twilight years refreshing old pastures! I also devised and delivered a masters course when I worked in London. In all of those jobs, I had a team that included marketing and promotion so although I was responsible, the team delivered.

Maria: Hi, I’m Maria! I’m based in NW England and I write historical fiction and fantasy. Something other than books? Umm when I was at uni I got known always giving out flyers in the same spot for free lunch and talk events the Christian Union would put on.

Annie: Hmm, I’m not sure I’ve ever done much, other than promoting the pre-school music sessions I delivered in conjunction with various settings/charities/foundations.

Deborah: Hi Annie. Good to see you here. That is something! I am looking for ways we have used skills to promote things other than our work and ourselves because we all have transferable skills.

Annie: You’ve actually got me thinking now It was mainly a case of leaflet dropping, in school and other settings, posters etc. Mainly pre-internet days, to be honest.

Kathleen: Hi, I’m Kathleen! I write mysteries, and I’m a radio news anchor in my day job. So I’ve done plenty of promo stuff for the various stations where I work…and I’ve also pitched in to promote charity events.

Deborah: Hi Kathleen. I am sure you use all of these skills and experience in promoting your books today.

Kathleen: I try. A lot of my experience is more in terms of what NOT to do. I always ask myself whether this is the first thing I want people to know about me.

Odessa: Hello. I’m Odessa, fiction writer. I successfully promoted a television show with my husband called This Is Baltimore, Too, which highlighted the many, many good things and people in Baltimore.

Karen: I’m Karen from Pennsylvania and I write historical fiction. I do craft shows and online sales for part of my income and promote them on social media. I briefly had a job where I did some marketing, but it was working with local papers, not doing it myself.

Gerald: Hi Deborah! Bit late to the party. One of the things I promoted in t

Deborah: Hi Gerald. I remember! I expect you also used marketing skills in your job before becoming a full-time author.

Gerald: Yes. Meeting customers all over the world. Discussing requirements. Also representing various employers at exhibitions (again, all over the world). I loved meeting people and explaining what we did, and why it was brilliant 

Eva: This is hard because IRL I’m not at all good at talking myself up. Nor am I great at getting engagement on posts even on social media.

Beth: I get most of my engagement from answering other people’s questions. #WritingQ is a good tag for that.

Deborah (to Eva): I think it is important to recognise our strengths in marketing and concentrate on how we can use them. Your analytical skills must be valuable in understanding patterns and what works.

Sandy: I’m Sandy, and I’m involved with our local air cadet squadron. We’ve promoted fundraising events and other activities. As a group, we raised over $45,000 to send a select group (of which my daughter was one) of cadets to France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

Leah: I have promoted children’s writing in more than one school. The last time I did this in mainstream I used the resources from Young Writers UK to get 90 students an offer of anthology publication. Self-promotion I’m terrible at.

Pixabay

What skills, attributes, and networks do you bring to the marketing of your books from other aspects of your life? Strengths and experience that can be applied to marketing?

Maria: Interesting question! I’m not sure really. Pretty much all my marketing stuff I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. I’m not bad with technology and being self-disciplined about work, but I didn’t really know anything about marketing (or about how much I’d have to do!)

Elizabeth: My mental health has made me quite resilient and I won’t give up without a fight. This has greatly influenced my approach to marketing. I throw myself into everything and if it doesn’t work, I learn and move on. It’s also good to be analytic. Assess what works and what doesn’t.

Kathleen (to Elizabeth): So true! Resilience and determination is often what makes the difference.

Beth: I’m not exactly sure, because I’m not sure what successful marketing looks like. But I’m detail oriented, and have a good analytical mind. And one thing I can do is design things (such as my own ads).

Elizabeth: I think visual ads are so important! In a sea of social media posts you need to be able to catch someone’s eye.

Chris: From all the multi-channel marketing I did/do for my business, it’s critical to measure what’s working and what isn’t – and stop doing what’s not working, or at least get some input/training to see if you can use that platform/channel better.

Beth (to Chris): How long does it take to know something isn’t working? What is your metric?

Chris: Depends on the channel – you also have to know what you’re aiming for e.g. sales vs awareness. Calculating ROI is a good metric. e.g. I gave up a networking group when the time and cost outweighed the return I was getting in sales.

Beth (to Chris): I’m not even sure how I’d begin to calculate that.

Chris: It’s easy if you’re self-employed / run your own business – and if you’ve had marketing/entrepreneurial training! The key is to monetise your time as an hourly rate. e.g. should I do networking at £50ph or spend it on Google Ads?

Kathleen: My big strength is professionalism. Anchors are trained to be on-time and ready to go, and always polite and friendly no matter what. It’s been a help with trying to sell books in a difficult environment.

Elizabeth (to Kathleen): I think that’s really important on SM too. There’s an element of keeping your account professional.

Kathleen (to Elizabeth): Totally agree! That whole sense of polite and friendly and not “biting” on provocations has been very helpful!

Rik: I have done a lot of comms work, in depth with individuals and families, presentations to senior managers, day long workshops to professionals. There are a few things I can draw on if I have the audience.

Marianne: I think belonging to organizations and clubs (networking) is an asset for me. I am with a Cambridge Writer’s Group and have FB and Twitter accounts.

 Anita: I would say awareness of who your audience is; know where they are and how to reach them

Maria (to Anita): Good point! I’m still not sure if hit where exactly my audience are. It’s hard because I’ve tried going to more specific things (eg historical fiction fan groups on FB or internet forums) but on most of these you’re not really allowed to do any marketing posts.

Anita (to Maria): Maybe think around it and go for an indirect approach? Get to know people and answer their questions. If they like your posts, they may follow you outside of the group and that’s where they find out about your books. In theory, anyway!

Gerald: I’m quite tough and self-confident. I’ve spoken to large rooms of people, and delivered workshops and training. I’m quite empathetic, and listen to people’s needs and objections.

Deborah (to Gerald): Listening to and understanding people’s needs and then responding is an important skill in marketing.

Marianne: Does self-publishing count. I self-published my debut novel, Finding Ruby.

Sandy: My day job is a technical writer so I have skills in document / content creation and manipulation. 

Annie: I’m not sure if essay writing counts (!) but I do find that blogging around my subject helps to create interest, without being too unsubtle in terms of promotion.

Deborah (to Annie): That is a great example of using your strength in marketing Annie. Essay writing skills transferred to blogging as a way to promote your work. I like it.

Odessa: Being able to talk to people is a definite strength. I struggle with that when I’m talking about myself, but when I’m promoting someone else, you can’t shut me up 

Karen: I’m persistent and I’m flexible. If something doesn’t work, I’ll try the next thing. And there’s always a next thing. Having a network other than writing often helps – I belong to a large online sewing community, and they’ve been massively supportive of my work.

Moritz 320 – Pixabay

Do you plan marketing activity (including social media) and how much time do you spend on marketing daily/weekly?

Maria: I can find it discouraging because people tell me I’m doing all the right things (social media, website, blog, newsletter etc) but sales still dwindle tbh. I feel like I’ve got all the ingredients but the cake hadn’t come out right yet

Kathleen (to Maria): YES! I think nobody knows what works right now, so we all try everything in hopes that it’ll happen. But developing a good presence is never a bad thing!

Marian: (to Maria): I think that’s true for all of us, Maria. It’s very hard to keep momentum going and to find new audiences.

Gerald: Sometimes I plan – it depends on my book creative and production cycles. Several times a day, I’ll check on what friends are talking about on social media. I find helping out with problems raises my profile (especially since I have writing craft books).

Marian: I plan Twitter, FB, and Instagram graphics/messages; Sundays I spend 2 – 3 hours prepping, and during the week, another hour or so a day on specific prompts, conversations, networking.

Maria: Yes, I have a vague marketing plan – I don’t schedule social media as spontaneous seems to work better for me. I try to ask and answer qs, engage with tags, share writing snippets, put book tweets out. Then there’s my blog, newsletter, website etc.

Kathleen: Probably at least a couple hours a day. Some posts are scheduled ahead…and I love to jump in and engage when I can. Often in breaks between writing…it’s my mental break while I work on a project — so it all fits together.

Karen: I spend a day once every month or 2 scheduling regular FB posts – funny stuff or history-based news and book recs. Some of those get shared to IG, but IG covers my whole life, not just writing. On Twitter, I do writing prompts, scheduled chats, and some book promo.

Eva: I have a sale planned on my ebooks in December that I need to schedule some promo for. My hyper focus has had my nose in revisions for over a week and everything else takes second place to that including dirty dishes and laundry in other words… v sporadic

Anita: I try to. Mornings are for writing, afternoons for the ‘business’ of writing.’ I like to schedule tweets to promote a blog post and trickle out during the week. I try to tweet daily, but I have multiple products and platforms and like most of us, prefer to be writing!

Beth: To be fair, I don’t tend to think about it on a daily basis, though I do keep engaged via my Twitter account (I consider having my name out there part of marketing).

Eva: Yeah, I never shut up on Twitter, so there’s definitely that going for me this is definitely the platform I spend the most time on, even though I cross post a lot to IG and FB, it seems to pay off most here. 

Elizabeth: I plan SM posts – both marketing and engaging. I try to Tweet things I’m genuinely interested about. My focus is making everything authentic. I try to sit down one day a month and plan all my SM. However, there’s also things such as newsletter, blogs, etc…

Odessa (to Elizabeth): Yes, Elizabeth. It has to be authentic. I can’t fake the stuff I post. Feels too much like lying.

Elizabeth (to Odessa) Yes and I think people can tell when it’s not real. It also makes life so much easier if you’re just being yourself

Sandy: Noooooooooooooooooo… Not nearly enough.

Marianne: Here is the trap. A writer can spend so much time on adds, social media, etc. that it stops us from what we want to do – writing. I find the best results from local craft markets and fairs.

Chris: I plan sporadically – preparing assets, but am on SM daily. Probably amounts to an hour a day, averaged out.

Odessa: Yep. I think about what I want to post and when. I spend the whole day off and on posting. Saturday and Sunday not so much.

Annie: I don’t really plan it as such, I just make sure I stay active on the Social Media platforms I use, and try to engage every bit as much, if not more, as I actually market, so it’s hard to quantify how much time is spent purely marketing.

Leah: Until I learned how to schedule posts on the platforms. I spent too much time on the day I wanted to post remembering to do it every week. After I would spend a couple hours creating and then schedule the next month and a half of posts and not worry until they’re done.

What has been your most successful marketing activity/promotion in the past 3 months?

Maria: My sales have dwindled a bit in the last 3 months to be honest. Probably a few have come with people at my new church being interested at me being an author and a couple of people then buying them. That hadn’t been my main motivation for church obviously but it’s been nice!

Gerald: Running two courses at a summer writers’ school. Apart from renewing old friendships and making new ones, I raised my profile and made new contacts (online course coming, plug plug), and I also sold 46 books over the week.

Leah: I’m really, really, hoping that this one will be the most successful one. I’ve never done a book launch before, I’m excited and terrified but my publish knows her stuff. So, here’s hoping…

Anita: Like Gerald, I found #Swanwick saw an increased interest in my books and courses. Profile is important.

Kathleen: The Kindle special on my debut, coupled with the pre-order of historical #3 has definitely made a difference. It’s like readers have decided that I’m sticking around so they’ll take a look.

Karen: When A Wider World came out, Songbird was on sale for 0.99, plus on a blog tour. There were lots of sales but thus far they haven’t translated into sales for the second book. Yet. I’ve gotten more comfortable talking to people directly and have sold books that way.

Chris: The #Smashwords Sale yielded a big uptick in volumes – but sadly only free downloads of my short stories.

Eva: I was able to sell quite a bit on Etsy when i was actively promoting it earlier this year. I need to get some more things listed. I’m still plugging away at my email newsletter hoping it will eventually pay off but so far, it’s not really done a lot

Beth: Uh… probably having gotten a couple of people to read my book and having them recommend it.

Elizabeth: It’s a bit extreme but… releasing a new book. I find each new release finds a fresh pool of readers and then some want to explore your other publications. Other than that, just lots of interaction on SM and great visuals

Marianne: I’m getting my name out there on Twitter. Currently I have a ‘rage’ brand, tweeting about Covid and how poorly our Provincial government has handled policy. I intend to transition to a writing brand. #FriSalon is helping me do that.

Annie: I guess it has to be the pre-order and promotion of my new novel which was published this week, and the special promo price of the previous book in the series. It’s called The Sins of the Father.

Odessa: Believe it or not, the flea market at my church this year was the best marketing activity I’ve done. I sold books and promoted. It was really fun.

Sasin Tipchai – Pixabay

What have you found to be successful overall in marketing?

Elizabeth: Networking and saying yes to everything. Do as many author interviews, chats, zoom calls, etc… as you can. We all have our own following and so your content can reach a whole new audience. I’ve talked about this elsewhere when discussing marketing… I think it’s important to know your market. Some books have a limited audience and so a lack of sales isn’t necessarily a reflection on what you are/aren’t doing.

Maria: Connecting with people on Twitter. Then word of mouth with people in real life. Having the launch party for Lottie’s Locket went well, also going public about my pen name. Had a book swap event at my previous church where I was invited to talk about my books.

Karen: Throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’ve done podcasts (TY, Deborah!), blog interviews/tours, one in-person event (TY, Covid), and a lot of social media. But face-to-face works. I took books to a craft show Saturday and sold 3 – at full price.

Odessa: Getting out and talking to folk has been the most successful for me. I know when we were promoting the film version of my book, we were on every radio show, podcast we could book, and in the local papers. So, I’m using that to promote the next book. I’ve learned that there is no secret or magic bullet. Just work. Keeping at it no matter what. I think that is the biggest thing. Just don’t give up.

Gerald: Writing and publishing more books. Having matching books in a series. Also, I think, being a real person online. Engaging with people in discussions, and not just shouting: BUY MY BOOK!

Karen: Several writers I trust have told me that the best marketing you can do is to keep writing. What happens if someone does fall in love with your book – and it’s your only one? They’ll forget by the time you publish the next one.

Beth: For me, maintaining a social media presence. It doesn’t net me a lot of sales, but it does net a few.

Eva: I’m still figuring that out. To some extent word of mouths other than mine, I think?

Anita: The most successful thing is the thing I am worst at: being consistent! My posting rhythm is irregular and unpredictable; even to myself!

Marianne: My most successful sales days were at a local Christmas market in Cambridge (that’s before Covid). I could sell 50 100 copies of Finding Ruby.

Kathleen: Just going out there and doing my little dance every day. Consistency and persistence definitely help…or at least I can tell myself I’m doing everything I can!

Annie: Hard to quantify. I might look at my sales figures 1 day and see a spike, but not trace it back to any 1 thing. Talks with book signings are great, because the results are instantly visible, but of course 2020 put paid to those. Networking/reciprocation is always good.

Laury: I put my books on sale at 99 cents then two people on twitter with substantial followers vouched for the books and I made it to #1 on Amazon in my category during those days.

Odessa: Getting out and talking to folk has been the most successful for me. I know when we were promoting the film version of my book, we were on every radio show, podcast we could book, and in the local papers. So I’m using that to promote the next book.

What would you like to try in marketing if you had the time, knowledge, confidence? How might this group help you?

Maria: I think I need to be more strategic/lateral in my thinking and try to be more specific again in where to find my audience. I tried to look for this in the past but they were huge forums/FB groups so felt intimidated to post and not allowed to market either.

Beth: I had such poor turnout for my newsletter that I pretty much dropped it. I need to get that back into action. Also, I need to learn to schedule tweets.

Maria: Newsletters can be so tough/unpredictable. I often get a fairly good open rate but hardly any clicks. Last newsletter I got 3 clicks- one was from my husband and another was from my mother

Karen: I’m hoping to get more comfortable with in person events, because they work pretty well. I haven’t figured out how to get newsletter subscribers, or to get them to buy if they do subscribe. Getting shared knowledge and ideas from others in the same boat is helpful.

Sandy: Billboards

Leah: I can seem to convince main stream book stores to put my book on the shelves. Even though I’m on their distribution list as available. Not even the local branches as a ‘local author’. I always feel awkward asking… triggers my imposter syndrome.

Anita: I would like to try advertising but this requires fundage which I currently lack! I am willing to give most things a go and given the time, I would develop a youtube channel

Gerald: I’d love to do more video. We did do a series of videos for our channel, but preparing, filming and editing (especially) took up way too much time to fit around my writing schedule.

Elizabeth: If I had the confidence I’d like to do more local promotions. Craft fairs, radios, etc… It’s something I hope I’ll do in the future.

Deborah (to Elizabeth): This would play to your strength. You come over very well.

Kathleen: (To Deborah and Elizabeth) Yes! And can I tell you? I’ve been on the air for decades, and I’m always a little nervous…it means I respect what I’m doing. So don’t let any concern about how you’ll do hold you back — it will make you better.

Eva: I LONG to do more live/online appearances! (I’m looking forward to being on your podcast!) Trying to edge in is hard though being an indie- even a lot of indie booksellers aren’t interested in doing events for us or trying out our books in their stock.

Marianne: I’d like to try interviews but I have too many emotional hang ups. I am easily triggered. Once you have an ‘in’ with a media network, you can mention other writers. I need to build my image and brand.

Kathleen: I would love a real in-person bookstore event. My third and fourth books are coming up, and I still haven’t had one. (I AM working on it with a local shop!)

Eva: I was able to do a couple bookstore events with the first version of The War in Our Hearts (pre covid) and I actually really enjoyed it. It didn’t really pay off (few attendees, many of who were family/friends who’d already bought the book) but I still had fun.

Odessa: If I had all of that, I would just walk about the street handing out postcards and talking to folk. That’s what I do in my mind when I’m out walking around during lunch. But I don’t have the nerve. I should take my mother’s advice, which is, “All they can say is no.”

Annie: A bit (okay a lot!) more technical knowledge would help me, I think. I’m not especially savvy when it comes to online stuff, beyond using a PC and navigating round social media. Bookbub deals, Amazon ads etc all a mystery to me really!