The Many Marketing Categories of Your Novel

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Imagine we are in the hallway at a writer’s conference with a group of fellow-writers. We’ve been discussing highlights of the event and throwing out snippets of knowledge. Small incomplete bits that need further information. My post today is a snippet. One I need to understand more fully but thought you might find interesting. Or better yet you might have thorough knowledge and could share in the comments.

Marketing snippet

Here is my factoid about marketing. I’ve noticed it as I complete my second author kit for my upcoming Contemporary Romance. I’ve heard it mention by many publishers. I’m still a bit confused.

Authors define the genre their book falls in before they begin writing. We use that tag to focus our words toward those readers. This is the general category our book would be marketed in. Secrets & Charades is a Romance. More specifically a Historical Romance.

For marketing purposes, it can be placed in a variety of other categories. Because of its faith theme.

  • Christian Fiction
  • Christian Historical Fiction
  • Christian Romance
  • Clean Romance
  • Christian
  • Inspirational
  • Religious

Because of the cowboys:

  • Western Romance
  • American Western Romance

Amazon allows you to list your book under three categories. My understanding (this is where I remind you this is my hearsay in the hall) if you change the listing you could increase your sales. If a historical novel were a secular romance it might be categorized under some additional categories steamy romance, erotic romance, sexy romance.

Some of the categories cross over as far as audience appeal. If a prospective reader loves Historical Romance with lots of heat my novel might not be their cup of tea. But then again, they might love it because the storyline engages them.

My upcoming contemporary romance can be listed under Romance.

And because of its faith theme:

Christian Romance

Inspirational

My hero has a prosthetic leg so we can add Wounded Warrior Romance (yes, it is a thing).

It might even be classified under categories that appeal to dog lovers. My hero has a service dog.

Don’t choose wrong categories

Although we narrow our genre focus while we write our story we want to be sure we are marketing it to as broad a market as possible without missing the mark. My novels are not children’s books or sci fi. Neither contain gratuitous sex. Listing them as erotica will irritate perspective readers. (No need for angry reviews.)

Another example

A YA Sci Fi would be classified under YA fiction

Sci Fi

Fantasy

Dystopian

Again, if it has a Christian theme it might also be listed under Christian Fantasy

Christian Dystopian

Christian Sci Fi

Inspirational and Religious.

If there is a strong romance element it might be listed under YA Romance or Sci Fi Romance.

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Variety of categories draws more readers

Adults could find a YA book in the Sci Fi categories. Adults read YA, by the way. Men might find Secrets & Charades in the Western and my upcoming release in Wounded Warrior.

I’m too new to this publishing biz to have any idea what is the winning category. And some of the categories I mention may not be one anymore. Even so I need to have some alternative genre categories in mind to add in future marketing. And for me I leave the final decision to my publisher and my marketing gal. If your self-pub you might want to ask your successful Indie friends what they would recommend.

Okay readers, any of you have more snippets of information to share about this topic. Curious minds are desperate to know.

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Marketing Accountability

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Marketing tip # 5 Be accountable

I hate the idea of marketing. I’ve already mention how little I know.  One thing that is keeping me on task is having someone to be accountable to. She checks in with me every week to see how my marketing is going.

She is also doing research, searching for the best marketing options for me.  I don’t have the time or the inclination to figure it all out on my own. Erin is a godsend and I am grateful. She is a writer and aspiring novelist. But your marketing accountability person need not be a writer.

Your spouse, a family member or friend can be that person. It is so easy to let life interrupt your marketing goals. Knowing someone is going to ask about your progress and meet with you to achieve them can be the perfect catalysis.

Don’t settle for just anyone. Avoid the too helpful and bossy. They love to fix things. They’ll take over and make you crazy.

Instead find someone you feel comfortable with. And who understands your project and listens to what your endgame is.

Questions to ask yourself

Do you trust their counsel?

If they see you are going over budget and their suggestion is to trim it. Could you receive that sort of advice from them?

Do they respect what you do?

If your spouse, friend or family member doesn’t think being a writer is a real job why would you ask for their help? Look for people who admire your tenacity for taking on the hard task of writing a book. They will be excited to help you market it.

Are you open to criticism from this individual?

How the two of you relate can make or break your success. Criticism is not the same as counseling. Criticism may not come with an alternative solution.  Can you receive their criticism and evaluate the bones to find the truth behind the sharpness? If not, your stress levels are going to wreak havoc on your decision making.

 Do they keep their commitments?

I’ve known people who say yes to every project. But rarely finish any of them. The committee member who shows up once full of ideas. He never appears again until the celebratory banquet.

 Can they agree to disagree and work with you, anyway?

After carefully considering the counsel or criticism, you still decide to do it your way. will they walk away or stand by you? This is your show, not theirs. Your reputation and success are on the line. Can they stay supportive in the background and let your choice play itself out?

Once you’ve found that person treat them with the same respect and consideration you want for yourself. Together with the aid of your launch team you should create the right amount of buzz to push your sales consistently forward.

 

Do you have a marketing accountability partner?

 

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Learn What You Don’t Know

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Marketing tip #4 Learn Stuff

To quote Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) when he tells his agents to investigate. “Go! Learn stuff!” They need to do interviews, research facts, and revisit the crime scene and evidence. This same directive applies to marketing. When it comes to marketing “we don’t know what we don’t know.” And for me, there is a gob of stuff I don’t know.

I just spent time building my author page on Amazon. Once you get in there it is a step by step process. Clear instructions and examples helped me put all the components in place. Then I came to the part where I could add my blog address. I know my URL. It’s http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com. But the site asked for my RSS. Without it, my blog post would not be part of my author page. What is an RSS and how do I find it? I didn’t have time to email a friend and ask for instructions. As I pondered this, the words of a young member of my critique group came to mind. You can find anything on YouTube. Thank you, Erin. So, I googled “how do I find my blog’s RSS.” Voila! I clicked the first reference. A blog about it with a—wait for it—YouTube link at the bottom to find your RSS for WordPress blogs. The RSS for WordPress blogs is simply—feed. You add a forwardslash and the word feed. Other blog servers have different RSS that must be added after your URL. I didn’t bother to learn those. Sorry! I’m sure there’s a YouTube video for those as well.  So, my URL with RSS looks like this. http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com/feed. I learned what I needed to know.

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Learn what you don’t know

Educate yourself about any social media you don’t know. I’ve used Facebook for years. Twitter is fairly new for me. I’ve been reading blog posts about hashtags to figure out how best to mark my posts. Twitter is an awesome place to market because your tweets go out live to every one of your followers and on feeds that match your hashtags i.e. #amwriter. You can retweet the same thing often because unlike Facebook people usually don’t go back once a week to scroll through what they missed.

I accidently got a Pinterest account. How can you accidently sign up for one? I needed a picture for my blog. Signing up gave me access to all those Pinterest pictures from various boards. Now I have Pinterest and their admin constantly emails me boards I might like to pin to my site. I need to learn more about Pinterest and create some boards myself. It is easy to use. My sister loves it. Other authors swear it is an awesome tool.  That brings me to the next point.

Make time to learn stuff early on

The learning curve for new things for some of us is long. I do better if someone talks me through steps while I do them. But I can follow step by step instruction, it just takes me longer. Learning how to create a blog site and figuring out how to reach more people has been a big learning curve for me. Blogging is part of my marketing toolbox. I have been using it for a few years. Years before my novel got a contract. Years before my novel is due to come out. This is key. Don’t wait until your book is out to learn stuff. That is like reading about CPR while your spouse is having a heart attack. Your novel may die before it has a chance to be part of many reader’s libraries.

 

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Be proactive

Ask marketing questions and do what can be done long before your book is published. I couldn’t create an Author page on Amazon or Goodreads before I had an ISBN number for my novel. But I could create a reader page on Goodreads and post lots of book reviews. Goodreads is a great place to engage with other readers. My Facebook friends who are avid readers follow me on Goodreads. Now I’ll build an author page on Goodreads and those same readers may follow me as a writer.

Pay for what you don’t know or don’t want to learn

There are wonderful people out there who can design bookmarks, flyers, and postcards for advertising in no time. Then there is me. I would rather pay for someone to do it for me than do it myself. As I journey through marketing my novel, Secrets and Charades, I will pay for others to do some of the work for me. Research which marketing people are right for you. Ask around for referrals. Learn stuff.

Share what you know

Gibbs always gathered his team for a briefing. Each agent shared what they found out and all the pieces were put together. Share the stuff you learn. Even if it’s little. There is always someone who doesn’t know what you know. Don’t be a negative Nellie. Be sure the things you bring to the cooperative marketing idea table are truly helpful. And if you must warn someone of a bad experience, package it in carefully chosen words. The right attitude may set the stage for you to be offered an opportunity to share stuff in a speaking or teaching venue in the future.

Tell me what you’ve learned about marketing along the way that made a difference for you? What services would you rather pay for? How do you learn stuff? I’m anxious to hear your answers.

 

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You Gotta Ask

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Marketing tip #1  Ask

I absolutely hate to ask. Because I hate rejection more.

If you’ve been building a network with other writers, the asking is easier.

When my publisher asked me for a list of possible endorsers, my knees knocked. Then I recalled all those whose books I have reviewed and promoted.  They said anytime they could help me out they would and to just ask. So, I asked thinking I might get one or two. I got seven. Seven endorsers. Seven people who got a pdf copy to read and can easily do a review when Secrets and Charades is out. I secured Beta Readers the same way. Those awesome readers who look for typos and other weirdisms before it went to press. They too can post Book Reviews.

Phew! That wasn’t so hard.

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Another asking hill to climb

Ask people to be part of your launch team. That was a scary thought for me.  What if they say no. What if they say yes and really mean no. Helping other people promote their books is easy for me, but, promoting myself, not so much.  But I’ve been talking about my writing life with others on social media and in the real world. Gulp! Could I do this?

The easy way is to follow the good advice, the hard way is doing it my way.

I had to try my way.

An experienced author told me to send personal PM to Facebook friends. A personal ask.  But I was sure sending it out as an FB post would get better results. I got two. I got another at church because I asked her. That was three. I knew that was not enough. Fear of rejection nettled in my mind. I had to do this because well, I need help and my novel comes out March 15th.  So recently I sent out a lot of PMs and got 30. Wow! 1000% increase. Why? Because asking gets results.

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The scripture says “you have not because you ask not.” And as a mother, I often tell my children “Well, I can’t read your mind.” Often people think if you want my help you’ll ask for it. While those who need help, think people should just volunteer. We don’t want to volunteer and get rejected. (Do I see a theme.)

I’ve done the do-it-my-way before, and it hasn’t had great results in other ventures in my life.  Yet, I still struggled getting out of my comfort zone and doing things differently. It does take a village of helpers to raise your new novel up through the rankings on Amazon and other retail sites. It takes stepping out of our comfort zone and asking for help.

 

How many do I need on my team

Another wise author said you can never have too many team members. I think it is because as in any volunteer endeavor there are the doers and the joiners. The doers are reliable. The ones who will go above and beyond to help you reach your goal. The joiners do less, but without them, everything would fall on the few.

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Keep asking

Ok, I asked for endorsements, beta readers and Stage Crew (What I am calling my launch team.) Now I’ll keep asking my publisher, acquisition editor and other authors what is my next step and how do I do it. I’ve never done a launch party of any kind. I’ve never done a book signing.  Podcast and building a speaking platform are foreign to me. I read articles and blogs on these subjects. I listen to others talk about their success. Mostly, I ask lots of questions. I’m not done asking questions. My plan: stay teachable and step out of my comfort zone and ask. After all I want to sell my novel. And asking for help with marketing is one way to reach that goal.

How are you about asking for help when it comes to marketing? What wisdom can you pass on? I really want to know, that’s why I’m asking.

 

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Why Professional Headshots

cindy huff 2016If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve noticed I’ve changed my profile picture. I also posted two photos for my friends to help me choose which will go on the back of my novel. Headshots are essential if you take your writing seriously. It identifies you to future readers. So, it needs to be excellent quality. Whether you are traditionally or self-published, you need a professional headshot. Even if you haven’t gotten one item in print yet. Why would I need a photo if no one knows I write? To ask is to answer.

Business cards

You need it for your business cards so publishers, editors, agents and fellow writers can more easily connect. We all remember faces before we remember names. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, you will need business cards for conferences. But don’t wait until the last minute to get them. That might mean no photo which is not a good idea.cindy 2016

Publication pics

You need headshots for publications who want the photos of their authors with the article. Even e-zines request headshots. Selfies are tacky and scream amateur. It is better to send no photo than a selfie.  The photo embeds in people’s brains. They may be attracted to your book because your photo looks familiar. Torry Martin has funny photos. Comedians can get away with a bit of silliness. If comedy is your brand of writing, by all means, have a silly photo. Even that needs a professional hand to make it shine.

Poses

Your professional pose will appear on all your social media. Make sure it’s your best. Skip the “model” poses. You know what I mean. My six-year-old granddaughter strikes those poses the minute grandpa gets out his camera.

I once receive a business card from an up and coming writer with an odd photo. She was leaning sideways and her hair drooping in that direction. Her head at an awkward angle. Someone else noticed the photo while I was flipping through the business cards I’d received at the conference. They asked if the person was mentally challenged. So sad. Her latest photo is top-notch and speaks confident writer.

Update your photo

Over the course of my writing career, I have had five photos. The first one appeared in a column I wrote for the newspaper. I couldn’t find a copy to post here. That was back in the 90s before we had digital cameras.  It was face forward from the neck upward. Not very flattering if I recall. But face forward for a thumbnail picture is probably the best pose. The paper’s photographer took the picture and the paper chose the pose. Probably why I didn’t care for it.

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First photo taken by Hubby

 

Years later I needed a photo for an article. Here is the one my hubby took. He takes great landscapes and tries to make sure the lighting is good when he photographs family members. This was taken with a simple digital camera. Not bad and I could crop it as a headshot pretty easily. It appeared on my Facebook page when I first got an account. Not professional but at least I’m dressed up an smiling.

 

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Second semi-pro photo

The second picture was taken by a young lady just getting into photography. Like the first—no touch ups and easy to crop. This replaced my FB picture and was the first pose on my blog. (If anyone knows how to delete old profile pictures permanently so they don’t reappear when I post my blog or Goodreads reviews on social media, message me.)

Small head shot of Cindy Huff

Cropped professional shot

 

My third headshot was done by a pro. He canceled his day of appointments and forgot to tell me. So, when I called and said I was waiting at his studio, he came and took them anyway. The happy ending is he gave all the proofs to me for free for the inconvenience he caused. There was no touch up here either.

My most recent headshots are below. These are my two favorites from my professional photo shoot. These have been touched up.

Copyrights

I have all the rights. This is important. I can make a zillion copies, place them on anything I want. They are mine and not the photographers. These photos will be used for whatever advertising my marketing people will deem prudent.  Retail store photographer or those studios who focus on graduations, family photos come with watermarks. Legally I can’t make copies. Have you ever tried printing copies of your kid’s senior picture and found it less than satisfactory? Walmart and the like won’t reprint photos that are watermarked. Legal issues again.

Watermarks

These photographers want you to come back to them for copies. Copy sales are part of the meat and potatoes of their business. And there is nothing wrong with that. But for my purposes, the cost of purchasing additional pictures or working with their copyright license doesn’t work for me.

All Rights

I paid for my photo shoot, two photos, and touch-up from a very reputable photographer. He was so fun to work with. He tried a variety of poses and took several snaps to be sure he got the best picture possible. (Side note: Be sure to check references before taking the time and paying for the photo shoot.  And get quotes from more than one photographer.) He made sure the pixelation was suitable for any enlarging or reducing.  I can crop it to any size I want. I want to keep clear of violating any copyright issues, even by accident.

My photos span about 12 years, and I imagine I will be doing a few more updates before my career is over.

Headshot part of brand

DiAnn Mills mentioned in a conference class on social media that our headshot is part of our brand. She’s always wearing a turtleneck in her poses. I am not sure what my brand is. Notice in each photo I am wearing a different color. But, all of them are flattering. Flattering is always good. Some authors create a persona for their headshot. If they write westerns—a cowboy hat.  And as I mentioned silly poses for comedians. Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes Highland fiction so her back cover pose reflects that. Until I can wrap my head around the nuances of branding, I’ll probably stick with a professional pose with (hopefully) a confident smile.

 

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DiAnn Mills

 

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Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 

Do you have any tips about headshots or a fun story about your photo? Share it in the comments. I am confident there are things I have yet to learn about it.

 

 

Three Free Marketing Platforms For Novels

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Again today I want to share a few tidbits from the writer’s conference I attended last week. No matter how often I attend a conference I always something to learn. Last week was my tenth consecutive conference. The industry is constantly changing. Besides writing skills, workshops including marketing skills. The internet has ushered in new ways and creativity in marketing.

More and more marketing is done by the writer, not their agent or publisher. So, we need to learn it, use it and find ways to do it cheaply. The biggest marketing tool you can use—and it’s free—is social media. I took a continued class on the subject taught by best-selling suspense author DiAnn Mills.

Wow! So much to learn.

The number one social media tool is Facebook. Twitter following a close second. And if you write YA, Instagram is the go-to media. YA readers apparently think Facebook is for their parents.

All of these are free to use. You can grow your following and get readers excited about your books.

The key is not to talk a lot about your book.

I saw that. Your eyes popped for a moment while you scratch your head. Why use social media to market your book if you’re not going to talk about it.

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Facebook

The formula is 1 to 5. For every five posts only one should be about the sale of your book. The other four should be about your reader. Memes of fun things. (A meme is a cartoon or photo with a quote on it.) Comments about your life.

Author of The Final Ride, Linda Yezak posts silly things about her coffee addiction. And Shelley Arnold, author of The Spindle Chair, shares her cooking fiascos. Others post word-for-word humorous dialog that took place with family members or co-workers. Sharing sales of other authors’ books or favorite books is another option. You don’t need an author’s page to do this. Although if your goal is over 5000 followers, you will need one. (Or if you want to separate your author life from posts only for family and friends on a closed group page.)

Twitter

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Twitter

Same formula applies. However, Twitter gives you an opportunity to reach all your followers with the same sorts of things in 140 characters or less. Twitter unlike Facebook, has no algorithm that selects which of your followers get your posts at any given time. So, Twitter is a better promotional tool for announcing book signings and speaking engagements. Don’t understand Twitter? Google has lots of how-to info. And You-Tube has step by step instructions.

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Instagram

All I know about it comes from watching the young people in my life share photos. I don’t write YA so I’m not adding that to my marketing arsenal. I want to focus on the best tools for my genre. Women’s Fiction and Romance readers are found on Facebook and Twitter.

This is only a small portion of what I learned about using social media for marketing. I’m still digesting all the information. Later I’ll post some other insights as I perfect them myself. (Maybe not perfect. Rather, figure out. J )

How is marketing through social media working for you? Which of the social medium platfrorm do you enjoy using? Share in the comments.

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