29 November 2015

E-Book Marketing Doldrums? 2: Using Twitter

Twitter doesn’t sell books. Well, in the week since I’ve started this marketing upgrade it’s sold two of mine I wasn’t expecting and, more to the point, has added three people to my Newsletter list – this in the face of the previous eight months’ desert. Twitter can help build your platform. This is my ongoing goal.

I’d better mention that I don’t own a smartphone and haven’t come to grips with my Hudl tablet, so on-the-hoof interacting via social media of any description is anathema to me. I work on my laptop and the distraction of social media streams flitting past my eyes or pinging in my ears is beyond the pale. This means that scheduling is required, manual and automatic.

Twitter itself lives in the moment; applications such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite enable scheduling, and also ‘quoting’ which allows more than the bog-standard 140 characters. Whereas it used to be a text-only medium, it is now, as are all social media streams, image heavy.

I use Hootsuite, mainly because it was the first application I tried many moons ago. However, until this week I’d not taken the time (a morning) to learn how to use it properly (‘quoting’) or to discover via Googling the problem why my images only showed up as a link (change Hootsuite’s preference from ‘ow.ly’ to ‘pic.Twitter.com’). 

A first try. I'll sort the text, honest.
Most of my images are, naturally, portrait-shaped book covers, whereas Twitter arranges images as a landscape at a 2:1 ratio (1024pixels x 512px optimum) and cuts oddly those not adhering to this ratio. By viewing the Home feed I’ve found that other authors tackle this by creating suitably shaped billboards which can take a variety of interchangeable text. This is now an ongoing project for all my titles.

An adjusted Facebook header, so not quite 2:1. Needs work.

Of course, even clueless me realises that a deluge of book promotions will endear me to no one. Tweets should engage, inform and entertain with advertising one’s wares way behind. For me, this is where automated scheduling comes into its own. Hootsuite offers a dashboard of streams populated with Tweeters of my choosing.

Some time ago I set up a stream to include writers I know. This has been expanded to include people and organisations who Tweet information complementing the subjects and locales used in my novels, from @Medievalists and @BLMedieval - British Library Medieval Manuscripts (Hostage of the Heart), @Roman_Britain (The Bull At The Gate) to @NorthYorkMoors (Torc of Moonlight). Each evening I go through this handy stream and schedule RTs (reTweets) scattered across the following day.

Twitter itself offers a list facility, and I use private lists for authors grouped by genre as this is how I started, pre-Hootsuite. Any RTing has to be done manually, so I might check a list as I close for lunch and RT a couple of Tweets that draw my eye. If I RT’d ten my feed would look as if a bot was operating it, which is how I would be acting.

I also have posts from a few blogs coming direct to my Inbox, notably English Historical Fiction Authors whose posts could grace many an academic forum. Those within my time periods, or those I just find fascinating, I jump back to the blog and Tweet from the base of the post.

This is the time to ‘Like’ Tweets in which I’ve been ‘Mentioned’. People who take the time to RT my Tweets I Like and/or thank. A bit of appreciation goes a long way. Often I RT one of their Tweets as a thank you. However, I find it surprising how often a Tweeter does not use a Pinned Tweet, basically a flag indicating which of their Tweets they would appreciate being RT’d. Make it easy and keep it changing. I’m not going to RT a Tweet that has been sitting at the top of a stream for four months. As soon as this post is uploaded a Tweet to it will replace the Pinned Tweet from the first post in this series. Find it at https://twitter.com/LindaAcaster

As to promoting my own titles, for ease of counting characters I dedicate a Word.doc to hold previously used Tweets. I’ll copy & paste a couple into the scheduled mix ensuring the timing is right for the title. For instance, Beneath The Shining Mountains has sold reasonably well in the USA but hardly made a mark in the UK, therefore there isn’t much point Tweeting the title at 8am GMT; the USA is 5-8 hours behind London time. Anyway, who buys books straight after breakfast?

I use #hashtags, not very well I have to admit. During the week I came upon #CleanRomance (and later #CR4U) and I am certain that one attached to a Tweet for Hostage of the Heart sold me a copy in the USA. The novel is what I term a ‘sweet romance’ but there is no hashtag for that description.

I'm finding that Twitter need not be a distraction, it can be tamed and become a useful tool. I treat people as I want to be treated and my Follower numbers are steadily increasing. None of this is a one-week job. To think of it in fiction-writing terms, it’s a sub-plot that reflects and bolsters the main storyline.

Three links I found particularly useful this week:
http://louisem.com/50053/how-to-make-blog-graphics + resources list
It does what it says in its title.
A comprehensive infographic and list of Twitter hashtags.

Ongoing: study hashtag use in other people’s Twitter streams [obvious - doh!] and check who uses them. Would these people be good to Follow?

Launch Update: On Friday I announced on Facebook a tease, ie no title or cover image:
     “A week today I'm launching a new Supernatural Short for the dark nights of winter - the type of story where the sucking of the wind could be a disembodied voice, twigs scratch at the window, and doors creak where they've never creaked before. This story stars a shed.
     I'd like to say it is a paranormal, but unfortunately that word has become a euphemism for... obviously I'm writing in the wrong genre :-) ”

My Facebook account is linked to Twitter, so it was Tweeted automatically, though obviously not in that depth.

Finally, in this blogpost I’ve gone into more detail than I intended because I was contacted during the week by a writer who found the Make a Plan post useful. If you’ve found this one useful, please Tweet it – LOL! Thanks.

22 November 2015

E-Book Marketing Doldrums? 1: Make a Plan

I look at my web presence, and particularly my e-book sales, and I cringe. But it can happen to us all – life overwhelm, health issues, burnout – for whatever reason, we blink and our business enterprise falters. Or in my case falls off a cliff.

This summer I had routine, if major, surgery. I thought I’d planned my writing life reasonably well around it. Alas, the rehabilitation has extended far beyond what I expected. Moreover, it is liable to impact my life until the New Year. If you are one of my readers awaiting Pilgrims of the Pool, the final novel in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, I can only apologise for its delay. Life happens.

However, I do have a short Supernatural Suspense ready to upload. And this leaves me in a quandary. To do so at the moment would be to upload the title into a vacuum. Linda who? Not only will it need to be promoted, but a signposted path needs to be cleared to ease its launch, and that means marketing both my name and my current titles so as to ring a few bells in the ears of prospective e-book buyers. How to go about this?

My initial step has been to take stock. I listed available titles, indicating which could be aligned to the Supernatural Suspense. I then listed all titles in development, where each stands in its schedule, and sub-headed the sequence necessary to bring each to fruition. It was a bit of an eye-opener, to put it mildly, but the sub-headed sequences will help to break projects into manageable chunks. At the very least it gives me something to tick as and when completed.

My second step has been to check my current marketing plan. Ah... not so much a marketing plan as a badly corroded colander. Time for a rethink.

Nearly all e-book marketing gurus and would-be gurus emphasise the need to identify a target market – difficult, as I don’t write in a single genre – and to make personal connections across the spectrum of social media in order to hand-sell titles. The main problem with this is that it takes time and an awful lot of energy. The secondary problem is that Christmas is rushing up at speed.

So where and how to expend my limited time and effort?

I’m sure manufacturers of cars or laundry detergent have dedicated teams to hand-sell their products to their target markets, but they also use passive marketing. You’ve never passed a billboard or read an advertisement on the side of a bus? It is derided as a scatter-gun approach, renowned for its hit & miss effect; mostly miss. But the odds can be altered a little by targeting where, for instance, the billboard is placed.

Back to taking stock, this time of where I have, or have had, a digital presence: this website, other blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Yahoogroups... and that will have to do for the amount of time available. I again sub-headed possible To Do strategies for each along the lines of research promotional pages and add myself in; be active & helpful on... A bit airy-fairy? Of course it is, but even an airy-fairy plan is a plan of sorts.

How long to run with this before uploading the Supernatural Suspense? Good question.

I offer my titles for all the main e-reader portals: Kindle, and Nook, Kobo and iBooks via Smashwords distribution. Therefore, despite Amazon being my most profitable portal, I have no titles in its KDP Select. I can, however, offer Pre-Order to all. I’ve done this once and it wasn’t particularly successful. This time around I doubt I have enough wiggle space: both Kindle and Smashwords require a minimum of 10 days Pre-Order, so on this occasion I am counting that one out.

To give the title its best chance on launch I’ll pick a Friday to go live ready for weekend e-book buyers, which means 27th November or 4th December. As I type I realise that 27th is Black Friday sales day on the internet, and even an idiot with hardly a plan (ie me) knows that any squeak I can make will be drowned before its first breath. On the other hand, launching 4th December means that the title will still be listed in Amazon’s Last 30 days New Releases across the Christmas and New Year period.

Decision: 4th December will be Launch Day.

So when will I start to put the new marketing plan into action? You’re reading this . If you’re interested in seeing what and how I do, I’ll be posting regularly about my forays into segments of social media, so do call back or ‘Follow By Email’ to have the posts drop into your Inbox.

If you have made it all the way to the end of this post, many thanks for hanging in there. Like me, I'm sure you're gagging for a coffee. I both appreciate your patience and promise that following posts won’t be as lengthy. Have you been in e-book sales doldrums? Are you in them now? What are you doing to counter it? Please share your experiences, good or bad. They will be most useful.

Finally, may I ask a favour? If you found the post useful, quirky, or just plain laughable, please consider giving it a Tweet, or copy & paste the following handy RT. Y’see, every little helps, and so does saying... Thanks!

RT @LindaAcaster #Ebook Marketing Doldrums? How to Plan for a Christmas Launch http://ow.ly/UW4n7 #indieauthor