Author Marketing Challenge: Online vs Real World (part 1)

Lynne M. Spreen headshot 2016

Guest post written by Lynne M. Spreen (pictured right). Lynne writes coming-of-age stories about people who are age 50 and over, including her award-winning novel, Dakota Blues. Look for subsequent posts to follow as real world vs online marketing is a great idea for an author marketing challenge.

A month ago a friend and I decided to challenge ourselves to an amped-up marketing plan. She was going to implement certain strategies in real life, like looking for opportunities to speak and sell her books in person, and I was going to use Twitter and blog more vigorously. To make it fun, we decided to compete with each other, but the real goal was to see if any of our techniques were effective.

Now it’s September and the results are in. None of our methods were overwhelmingly effective, but they did boost our sales a bit and we learned something from all of it.

What we did

IRL (in real life): Judy Howard basically threw herself into selling and speaking. She got a few extra speaking gigs and book signings over what would normally happen. Every time she left her house, she brought books and was “on.” She also handed out postcards and bookmarks with her author page URL on them.

Online: I increased my use of Twitter and blogging. I would assume most of the increase in sales was from Twitter.

What we sold

It was quite a bit more than usual, but that’s relative. Also, my KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) went way up (again, relatively speaking). And I got about 700 more Twitter followers, up from 3,350.

Here’s what we learned

  1. Middle Aged Crazy by Lynne M. SpreenIt was easier and more fun to market if you set up a challenge with a friend.

  2. You get good at what you focus on: The more we thought about marketing, the more we did it. More ideas bubbled up, and it got easier. It became more like fishing than working.

  3. I used Hootsuite to schedule over 400 Tweets, about a dozen a day. Of that, half were pushing my three books, and half were RTs (retweets). Would definitely recommend Hootsuite. This took me about 16 hours to set up because I made mistakes. Otherwise, I’d think it might take half that long.

  4. I discovered it was better to make up marketing tweets on Canva than just uploading my book’s cover image, because the graphic wasn’t always uniform. Plus, with Canva, I could invent some come-on (like quoting a great review) to augment the book cover. It was a good skill to learn.

  5. COAST TO COAST WITH A CAT AND A GHOST by Judy HowardYou get good at what you focus on, part 2: I found myself enjoying going on Twitter and finding out what was trending, and following new people. And since my sales increase was due to Twitter, it made sense. But was it the most effective way to increase sales? I don’t think so. Right after August ended, a friend told me she got many times the results I did from an Amazon ad.

  6. You get good at…Part 3: because I was focusing on building up my blog frequency and using MailChimp better and more frequently, I learned more about that and improved the look of my website, my links, my newsletter (appearance and also I attached it to my RSS feed). I started thinking of more blog topics and writing them became easier. My blog subscriber numbers are going up, although it’s still miniscule.

So my bottom line is this: although improvements were good enough to make me think Twitter and more frequent blogging are good ideas, I think there must be more effective ways to sell. While this was useful and fun, it’s more of a baseline by which to measure other tools. And I think that’s good in itself.

Lynne M. Spreen’s Amazon Author page – website and blog – Twitter

Judy Howard’s Amazon Author Page – website

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Draft2Digital Adds Ebook Templates

Draft2Digital templatesFormatting ebooks has always been a challenge for self-publishers. Smashwords, the original ebook distributor, literally wrote the book on universal formatting with the Style Guide that teaches authors to do it in ways that will convert and be readable at any retailer. Their system is all about keeping things simple, using basic structure and avoiding fancy aesthetics for assured conversion. A functioning solution that was perhaps a bit plain, plus the instruction was difficult for many authors to follow.

Years later when Draft2Digital came out as an ebook distribution service, it distinguished itself from Smashwords by accepting virtually anything uploaded and made an ebook from that using the artificial intelligence of its automated system. Big surprise, a lot of crappy-looking indie ebooks got produced.

Now D2D has done a smart thing, adding ebook templates where authors can display more creativity in titles, chapters and more. Obvious question: does it work? Next one: what took so long? Final question: why doesn’t Smashwords do this? Let’s answer those.

D2D Template for Drop Caps

With D2D’s templates you can have extras we thought we couldn’t have in ebooks. Dropcaps, headers, fancy scene dividers and more are now an option. It’s easy enough to do. Just upload your document and then check the Preview tab and choose a Style compatible with the new feature. Then check the Enable Drop Caps button and viola! It will convert the document and allow you to download it in epub, mobi or PDF format to inspect it.  You can use a free program like Calibre or Adobe Digital Editions to view it.

If you find it isn’t perfect, which is likely, you may want to play around with your font sizes and layout in your own document and try again. Or try one of D2D’s other styles: romance, sci-fi, mystery/thriller, etc.

It definitely does work but not flawlessly. In some cases of my experimenting, the drop cap letter overlapped with the 2nd or 3rd line of text beneath it. I had to play around with choices and options until settling on one which looked good instead of being able to use them all without issues. Clearly a work in progress.

Admittedly it’s a nice option and one that will hopefully see improvements in the following months. I doubt Smashwords will implement a similar thing since their model has always been based on teaching how-to-formatting for authors while D2D has always been about automation. In the long run, automation has plenty of advantages for those who are pressed to learn formatting or don’t want to.

For now, I’m sticking with self-formatting and using the basics I teach in my course on Formatting Ebooks.  However, this option from D2D isn’t a bad way to go. And for those who want to embrace the best of both worlds, there are ebook templates where you can copy and paste in titles headers and chapters one by one, even add drop caps one by one, although that is by far the longest way to get there.

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Draft2Digital now distributes to OverDrive

draft2digitalFor authors using Draft2Digital to distribute ebooks to retailers, the outlets just got better. OverDrive has been added to their list of partners. OverDrive currently serves more than 38,000 libraries and schools in over 70 countries, including public, college, and corporate libraries.

If you already have ebooks listed with Draft2Digital, you’ll need to opt-in to get your books sent to OverDrive. Very simple to do, just follow the prompts at Draft2Digital.

The update list of partners looks like this:

  • iBooks
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Inktera (formally Page Foundry)
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Tolino
  • Playster
  • OverDrive

It’s smaller than the list of partners for Smashwords, a common choice for essentially the same service, but the major players are there.

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Join Me at SBWC Santa Barbara Writers Conference June 18-23

SBWC Santa Barbara Writers Conference 2017Since 1972, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference has been connecting writers with mentors, agents and editors. Every summer, writers in many genres from around the world gather to participate in a magical week of intensive work focused on story, voice, craft, marketing, and networking with fellow writers and publishing professionals.

The conference has hosted a legacy of America’s best writers, including:

Ray Bradbury
Jane Smiley
William Styron
Eudora Welty
James Michener
Sue Grafton
Charles M. Schulz
Clive Cussler
Fannie Flagg
Elmore Leonard
T.C. Boyle

Join us this summer for our 45th anniversary, June 18-23, 2017, and become a part of this on-going literary legacy.

I will be there on a panel with Gail M. Kearns, Lisa Angle and Lida Sideris called Navigating the Amazon: Building Your Author Platform Friday, June 23rd at 4 pm. Looking forward to seeing familiar faces and some new ones too!

Register at http://www.sbwriters.com.

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Draft2Digital Adds Playster to Distribution Network

Playster

For authors selling books through distribution service, Draft2Digital, the outlets just expanded. D2D has been sending ebooks to most of the usual (non-Amazon) suspects for a while now including iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Scribd and more. Now they’ve added Playster.

Playster is a subscription-based service that allows readers to pay a low monthly fee for unlimited access to thousands of books (or movies, music, and games, if that’s your thing). Their mantra: Everything Unlimited. Your readers (past, present, and future) can get a 30-day free trial, giving them access to one of the fastest growing digital libraries around.

Amazon Prime and Scribd also use subscription-based business models. Smashwords, the main competitor to Draft2Digital, has more distribution channels but presently does not have ties with Playster. For the meantime, D2D may be the only way to upload self-published books to Playster.

Of note, Babelcube is a site many authors use for translating their books into many languages. Babelcube also uses Draft2Digital for distribution to retailers, so hopefully those of us with translated books through Babelcube should soon see our foreign language versions available on Playster.

If interested, you’ll need to log in to your author dashboard at draft2digital to opt into this new distributor, and start reaching new readers right away. And when you do, you may be prompted to add your books to Kobo Plus as well, another new feature at D2D.

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