Category Archives: Marketing

Common Publishing Industry Scams are ‘Evolving’

An entire industry exists to scam wannabe authors, taking advantage of their passion, naivete and eagerness to get published.

Many of the scams are presented by legitimate companies, who are simply trying to milk writers of as much money as possible. They charge outrageous fees for worthless marketing and promotional materials, even know they won’t help the author. One of the most glaring scams is the ubiquitous promise to craft a “press release” for the book, which no one in the press will ever read or publish (and most writers could craft in a few minutes.)

It’s not just “bald-faced liars” that writers need to watch out for, Victoria Strauss, author and co-founder of Writer Beware, recently said in an interview with Forbes. “Lack of skill and competence is just as big a threat,” Strauss said. “Anyone these days can call themselves an agent or editor or publicist or publisher, whether or not they have any relevant professional background or the remotest idea of how to run a business.”

“Ripoff promotional services that sell junk marketing,” including expensive press releases or email blasts; “pay-to-play publishers” merely posing as small presses; and awards events “that only exist to earn a profit due to their high entry fees,” are among the popular scams, Forbes contributor Adam Rowe notes.

Writers always must be skeptical that they are getting real value for their money. The list of “modern-day scams” includes organizations who charge a fee to for filing a copyright registration and publishing “experts” promising to “divulge the secret, no-fail path to bestsellerdom for a hefty fee,” Rowe wrote.

There is also a “fast fast-growing cabal of predatory self-publishing or marketing companies operating from the Philippines” targeting existing authors with high-priced re-publishing or marketing packages, Strauss says.

The focus of Rowe’s article is that scam are “evolving.” Once reading fees, vanity publishers and editing referral scams were among the common dangers facing writers. Now there is a whole new set of dangers.

“Reading fees may have lost their potency as a scam sometime in the mid-2000s, but publishing scams will continue evolving to fit the times,” Rowe writes.

Do Facebook Ads Work for Independent Authors?

Facebook seems like a perfect advertising platform for independent authors. Ads are relatively inexpensive, simple to produce and can be targeted in a Facebook environment, where you know readers are spending a good chunk of their quality time.

But there are challenges and pitfalls to Facebook, with no guarantee that the return-on-investment will be any better than traditional advertising vehicles.

Fortunately, Facebook advertising is one of those topics that is discussed in-depth in the independent publishing community. There are plenty of resources and case studies available to help authors weigh the pros and cons.

Author consultant Sandra Beckwith recently published what she calls a “Quick Start Guide” to dealing with Facebook ads. It provides a nice overview with plenty of links. Beckworth acknowledges she is a paid affiliate of one education program named in the report, but there is still plenty of useful information and resources. It can be found here.

Publisher’s Weekly offers a nice primer on the basics of Facebook advertising, “Facebook Ads: A Guide for Indie Authors.” Facebook’s huge user base makes it “an ideal destination for self-published authors looking to market their books and build their readerships,” the authors say. Find that article here.

Over on Digital Book World, author Mark Dawson refutes the premise that Facebook “cannot help you sell books.” He saw a “massive spike in business” when he started using Facebook. Read his experiences here.

What is the Best Social Media Platform for Authors?

FacebookEvery author dives into social media to promote their books, convinced that a few choice tweets and a wry blog post will lead to big sales. It’s one of those obligatory things every writer must do; there is no choice.

However, too many writers make a simple mistake – they try to star on every platform. If they don’t cover every base they are falling short, they tell themselves. So they become whirlwinds of social media, posting and tweeting and trying to reach everybody, everywhere. That’s wrong.

In reality, it’s impossible to succeed on every platform. Most authors are not very good at most of them. All the time spent on a lousy Instagram account is time that could be better spent connecting on some other platform, where the author might real traction.

Once that cold reality is accepted, the question narrows – which social media platform deserves time and focus? On one level, this is a personal choice, which has much to do with an author’s talents and interests. Some find Twitter fun and manage to engage the vast tweeting universe, while others are keen photographers with the ability to amass a huge Instagram following.

You have to go with what works for you. But which platform is most effective?

For many, the answer is obvious and often overlooked – Facebook. That’s right, good ol’ Facebook, the aging grandpa of social media. Many scoff. Facebook is very 2012, they say.

But Facebook still offers the best opportunities to create a community, a world of family and friends – with friends defined loosely – who will be ready and eager to support your work. A good Facebook account doesn’t need gaudy numbers. In social media it’s all about engagement and active Facebook users are more likely to read your posts and share them than on any other platform.

Many authors will disagree. There are a lot of Twitter lovers out there. And Twitter does give you access to the vast universe of Tweedom.

But how many people do you know who actually read Twitter? The Twittersphere is a blizzard of information, data and Kardashian posts. An occasional tweet might catch the eye or generate a few retweets. But it’s a tough way to sell a book.

These days the game is all about building a following and finding people who will share your interests – and your book’s interests. Facebook is where you can build that core group, the people to count on.

The first step in any rollout plan is to make sure your core network of supporters is buying the book, writing reviews and promoting the book. If they don’t, you’re in trouble. Facebook is the place to generate that grass roots effort, the venue to make sure that everyone of your friends and acquaintances has bought the book.

Facebook has its limits, but it provides the foundation and base for the marketing campaign. It’s the place to start.

Five Ways to Avoid Wasting Time on Social Media

TwitterUnless you’re a slave for attention or a glutton for punishment, you likely view social media as a business opportunity. You want to use Facebook, Twitter and the wide array of available sites and apps as promotional tools, nothing more. But far too often the “social media initiative” fades into frustration and irritation, a mechanical exercise that results in few sales or clicks.

For authors and media professionals, social media is particularly vexing. Self-promotion is often a novel concept for writers and publishers. They understand the need and importance, and they’ve ready all the necessary how-to blog posts, and yet the result is an astonishing amount of stale and boring Twitters advertising books and media, creating all the energy and interest of mashed potatoes.

In a sea of social media tips, please add ours:

1. Don’t be boring. Nothing is worse than boring. You want to post and Tweet items that are worth sharing. That means making people laugh or providing some relevant piece of information. As you’ve heard over and over again, nothing is more boring than a “buy my book” post.

2. Don’t Sell. It’s the number one rule of every “how to do social media” tips blog post. And yet Facebook and Twitter are awash with “Now for sale” posts. It’s not about pitching. It’s all about you. Not your book. Not your article. You want people to be interested in you. If you don’t like your personality, make one up.

3. Understand it’s a long game. There is no flipping a switch to online engagement. It takes patience and obsessiveness to create an audience and an identity. Talk to people. Find topics that interest. Find people that will be interested in your topics.

4. Find the medium that works best for you. Don’t try to hit every new app. If your voice is Facebook, use it and enjoy it. Don’t waste your time building an Instagram following if you don’t like taking pictures. Social media is about finding your voice and that means finding the right stage.

5. Commit. Social media isn’t one of those projects that can be picked up once a week. Carve out time in your day. Make it a habit. Don’t just post on social media; read it. Don’t schedule social media time; embrace it. Look for opportunity. And accept that you will be involved with for years, not just days or months.

Many authors are disappointed with the return on investment of social media. But if you compare it to the costs of placing ads or the reach of traditional media, the ROI is not bad and the potential far greater than wasting money on time on advertisements or other outreach platforms.

Social media is a way to build a brand and a real connection with an audience, elements hard to buy in traditional marketing.