Jennifer Slattery is the marketing representative for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She has a weekly marriage column on the Reflections in Hindsight Website, writes for Christ to the World, reviews for Novel Reviews, and has written for numerous other publications including the Breakthrough Intercessor, Bloom, and Afictionado. In 2009 she won first place in the HAWN writing contest book category, placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane in the inspirational category, and fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen, also in the inspirational category. You can learn more about her and her writing at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.
Marketing. It’s perhaps the most dreaded word in the industry. That and the one-page synopsis. Probably because both require use from different sides of the brain than writers are accustomed to using. As free-thinking, day-dreaming authors, where do we begin? How do we turn that book deal into a moneymaker, without going crazy in the process?
I’m here to take the panic out of the M word by offering a few easy-to-apply tips that will help you increase your audience and your sales. These tips are just as important for unpublished authors as multipublished. If you’re still waiting for “the call,” now is the time to develop your reader base so that your first release won’t be a flop. According to agents and publishers, it is easier to gain a contract as an unpublished author than as an author with poor sales. Now’s the time to build your fan base.
As the marketing representative for Clash of the Titles, a literary Website aimed at expanding the Christian market, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. The good news? Effective marketing doesn’t require a large expenditure. Numerous free outlets are available to create sales-generating traffic.
Whether you’re a veteran author or a newbie, Clash of the Titles is a great place to start. We’re here to help you infiltrate the market. Each week on our highly trafficked site, we choose two authors to compete in the ultimate literary challenge. It is unlike any other contest in the industry because the power lies entirely with the reader. This creates a loyal reader base for participating authors and our site.
How it works:
On our site on the first day of the week, we post excerpts from two competing authors whose names remain anonymous. We invite readers to choose their favorite. They are also encouraged to leave comments in our Survey Monkey. Voting closes on Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, we highlight the competing authors through fun interviews and interactive discussions. On Friday, the winner is announced, and two randomly chosen readers win a book. The winning author remains on our site for four weeks and receives an "COTT Champion” button to display on his or her Website.
Why it works:
First, our site has generated a tremendous amount of traffic, providing our participating authors with great exposure. The day we launched, we had over 150 views. Not too shabby considering our marketing budget was $0. This creates a snowball effect that results in an ever-increasing pool of talented authors and book-buying readers.
Second, we engage the readers by eliciting participation. We toss the ball into their court and give them a sense of ownership. This creates a deeper connection between our authors and readers, resulting in frequent returns. Our interactive discussions and book giveaways serve to further increase our readers’ sense of ownership, resulting in continual growth.
You can do the same:
The more you engage your readers on a personal level, the greater level of loyalty they will feel toward you as an author. Find ways to encourage participation. Invite them to connect with you on Facebook, and periodically peruse your Friends list, looking for ways to engage. Perhaps you can comment on their wall posts or “Like” a comment. One kind word offered on their turf can create a lifetime of loyalty in return.
Ask open-ended questions on your blog or Website to encourage increased audience participation. If you write a post about time management, ask your readers to offer suggestions. Then make a point to respond to their replies. This will create a sense of “family,” which translates into loyal readership. The goal is not only to create momentary sales, but also to make fans that will anticipate books two, three, four, and so on.
Occasionally, display a dash of vulnerability. Readers love to know you’re human. A few moments of self-exposure can break through cyberspace barriers by placing you on equal footing with your audience. This sense of “equality” will encourage a greater level of site participation, which ultimately translates to sale-generating loyalty.
Create your own buzz:
Each month we have a minimum of eight participating authors. Each author brings his or her own traffic. It’s a win-win situation. We provide exposure for our authors, and they in turn point their readers back to us. They do this by linking to us through
their Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and online discussion groups. We link back to them from our site, twitter account, and Facebook pages.
Find ways to make your readers work for you:
Our authors work for us by creating continual buzz for our site. Their linking to our site helps increase our search engine ratings. Authors also initiate word-of-mouth marketing among their friends and saturate the social media networks.
Jenness Walker, coauthor ofBliss, uses book giveaways to generate audience-led marketing. At the end of author interviews, she provides four ways readers can enter the book drawings: post a link to her blog on their Facebook accounts, tweet the link, subscribe to her site, and post a comment. This ensures an ever-increasing reader base.
Utilize social networking sites:
Never underestimate the power of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Shoutlife, and other sites have a high return with zero expense. Most of the traffic we see on Reflections in Hindsight, another Website I participate in, comes from Facebook.
When Shannon Taylor Vannatter, author of White Doves, competed on COTT, she saturated the social media with links and posts. These weren’t limited to her personal wall. She posted links on numerous related sites and pages, like American Christian Fiction Writers. Take full advantage of the Facebook search engine to find related pages, and use them to promote author interviews and book signings.
Be a blessing:
One reason COTT has been successful is because we offer more than we get. Authors gain exposure; readers win books and gain a sense of power. Through this win-win blessing, our readers and authors work for us. Authors and viewers happily promote our site to readers.
Look for applicable tie-ins:
There’s always a way to tie your book into another site or news clip. When I set up interviews for COTT staff members, I cater my article proposal to the site I’m approaching. For example, if I want to secure a slot on an edgy Christian fiction site, I’ll explain how COTT helps to expand the Christian market. If I’m soliciting a spot on a writer’s Website, I’ll talk about the importance of a great opening hook then conclude with a related contest on our site. When I approached Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, I focused on the marketing aspect of COTT.
Writers can handle press releases in the same way. Around 70 percent of all newspaper articles come from freelance writers. Create press releases that tie your books or yourself to a hot topic or publication slant, then send it to every publication you can find.
For example, if you are a military wife, send articles to military publications explaining how writing occupies your time while your husband is on active duty. Or perhaps you could talk about how your travels as a military spouse have enabled you to expand your research.
If you are a mother of a preschooler, write an article about how writing enables you to stay home with your children. The possibilities are endless.
Finally, focus on quality not quantity:
This is a Catch-22. The more posts we have on our blogs, the higher the search engine ratings, but there’s nothing that turns off a reader like mindless drivel. Truth be told, your reader really doesn’t care which cereal you had for breakfast or how many acorns fell in your yard this morning. Find creative ways to engage and focus on quality over quantity.
Invite others to join you. I have a weekly marriage column on the Reflections in Hindsight Website. To free up my time to work on Clash of the Titles, I invite authors to guest write for me, leading to increased diversity and traffic.
The possibilities are endless, and most require very little, if any, out-of-pocket expense. Be creative and embrace risks. Never close a door yourself. Query publications with those out-of-the-box tie-ins and find ways to make your readers work for you.