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

Lynne M. Spreen headshot 2016Guest 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

Judy HowardIRL (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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

4 Indie Authors Readers Should Know

I’ve read books by all of the authors below. These women are talented, professional and have established deep roots in the publishing communities. All are enjoying a growing success.

My I present–Alana Woods. “I was born in England but moved to Australia with my family when I was three and I’ve been an Aussie in heart and soul ever since. Love the place.”

 Alana Woods automaton cover Alana Woods imbroglio cover Alana Woods 25 tips covers Alana Woods Tapestries cover

As a writer I took to heart the maxim ‘Write what you know’. My two published thrillers, suspense intrigue thrillers, were sparked by jobs I’ve held: AUTOMATON by five years in court reporting and IMBROGLIO after several years at a weapons research facility. I’m working on a third, DRAGLINE, corporate legal suspense, building on insider knowledge gained while working with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Once that’s published I’m off in to the great unknown, writing-wise, with an idea that’s right outside my present comfort zone—and I’m looking forward to getting cracking!

Alana Woods Alana Woods icon Facebook 2 icon Goodreads icon Twitter icon Google Plus icon linkedin 2

Next may I present–Lynne Spreen. “After spending a career in human resources, I was able to start writing fulltime. I wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column and did freelance work for magazines for a couple of years. Then, joyously, I was able to pursue my lifetime dream of writing a novel. In addition I have a VERY busy blog, at (“Midlife Magic”), and I invite you to join us there, as we explore the second half of life. Here’s what we talk about: At a certain point are we too old to start over? Should we be winding down or blowing things up? How best to travel this later-in-life pathway? Come sit around our electronic campfire. Let’s figure things out together.”

Lynne Spreen Dakota BluesLynne, what are you currently working on? The sequel to Dakota Blues. The title is Tropical Blues.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre? I write coming-of-age stories about people over 40.

Why do you write what you write? I have a compulsion to find the good in getting older.

How does your writing process work? Chuck Sambuchino said, there are five versions of your novel: the one-line, the elevator speech, the 2-page synopsis, the full synopsis, and the full manuscript. I start with the one-line and work my way up. And I’m a plotter. I outline, strategize, walk around the house mumbling, write a lot of notes to myself that I can never find later, and complain about life interfering with my progress.

Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen icon Facebook 2 icon Goodreads icon Twitter icon Google Plus icon linkedin 2

Next may I present–Sonia Marsh. Sonia Marsh is the award-winning author of the travel memoir, Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island.

Sonia Marsh Freeways to Flipflops coverHer story is about chucking it all and uprooting her family—with teenagers—to reconnect on an island in Belize. Her memoir has received 7 awards, including 1st Place, in the “Autobiography/Memoir E-Lit Awards 2012/13.

Sonia Marsh My Gutsy Story coverSonia is the founder of the “My Gutsy Story®” series. The first anthology in that series, My Gutsy Story® Anthology: True Stories of Love, Courage and Adventure From Around the World, was a silver honoree in the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards.

She has lived in many countries – Denmark, Nigeria, France, England, the U.S. and Belize – and considers herself a citizen of the world.

As a successful indie author, Sonia knows how to market books both online and in person. She is committed to helping authors succeed in selling their own books and now offers “gutsy” book marketing and coaching to authors. Contact her at: or visit her website:

Sonia, what are you currently working on? As an author, I realize that my first book (memoir) is a business card to speak. So now I’m focusing on two things: a). Motivating audiences to live a “Gutsy” life and to not postpone their dreams. b). Developing Webinars, presentations and consultations to help authors with their marketing both before and after their book is published.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre? My memoir is contemporary, and a quick pitch is, “I took my affluent teenagers to live in a hut in Belize.” Most people are intrigued to read a story about a family moving from today’s modern comforts, to a simple life in a jungle hut in Central America, and how my teens, adapted and changed.

Why do you write what you write? To inspire and motivate people to take action and overcome obstacles in their lives.

How does your writing process work? I spend hours on social media and marketing, and focusing on helping other authors and speaking to groups. Since I don’t write novels, I am hoping to live in another part of the world, so I can write more “gutsy” adventure type memoirs.

Sonia Marsh Sonia Marsh icon Facebook 2 icon Goodreads icon Twitter icon Google Plus icon linkedin 2

Next may I present–Marla Miller. Marla began her freelance writing career 25 years ago after birthing three children and ending a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. While still nursing her youngest daughter, she nabbed a columnist gig at a local newspaper. Her new found writing career kicked into high gear during her kids “wonder years.” For 16 years, she wrote columns for the OC Register’s lifestyle magazine before becoming founding editor-in-chief of an O.C. coastal lifestyle magazine.

Marla Miller The Booty Bible cover Marla Miller All American Girls cover Marla Miller Deadly Little Secrets cover Marla Miller Days Gone By Homage to Barnaby Conrad's Santa Barbara Writers Conference cover

Her first book debuted in 1999. Marla wrote All American Girls, the only authorized biography of the iconic World Cup/Gold Medal winning U.S Women’s National Soccer Team that Simon & Schuster published. Her sports oriented columns appeared in and International Soccer Magazine.

Marla began teaching MarketingtheMuse Workshops in 2003. Her message to writers is constant: It’s not good enough to write well. Marketing is key if you expect to sell; a lesson learned during the marketing phase of All American Girls. Though ‘indie’ publishing was still years away, this publishing experience taught Marla that most traditionally authors receive very little help from marketing departments.

Marla, what are you currently working on? The marketing of Deadly Little Secrets, my novel e-published at KDP Select , is never ending so every day I do something to promote this suspense tale set in 1985 and about the early years of the AIDS pandemic. Now that I’m deep into the indie movement, I want more books out here. Ebooks fit perfectly with my MarketingtheMuse teaching brand so I will be epublishing an ebook that includes literary agents and my favorite craft tool that most writers hate, query letters.  I’m gathering my data now.  I also have another novel I will epublish soon, perhaps serializing it on my site first. This one is women’s fiction and you guessed it, a guy is involved…actually a few.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre? I’m not published in one genre. Part of my platform includes teaching and workshopping with writers, a divergent group that usually reflect many genres as do my interests in writing/literature.

Why do you write what you write? For 25 years, I wrote for newspapers and magazines and when you do that, you tend to specialize. I specialized in nonprofits, food/restauranteurs, health/wellness/psychology  and sports. While I was getting paid and my writing edited by my employer/editor(s), I began to dip my toes into fiction.  I love crafting tales about my characters,  especially characters who aren’t what they seem.

How does your writing process work? My process varies but new ideas tend to be provoked by a psychological and/or societal circumstance that I either can’t figure out or want to know more about.

Marla Miller Marla Miller icon Facebook 2 icon Goodreads icon Twitter icon Google Plus icon linkedin 2

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Indie Authors #65 Lynne Spreen Amazon Bestseller Dakota Blues

Coming of age for Mid-Lifers? Award winning author, Lynne Spreen of Dakota Blues, discusses her bestselling novel. Hosted by Jason Matthews and Marla Miller. Join us live or watch later on YouTube: Indie Authors #65 Lynne Spreen. Please share with writers, coming of agers and Mid-Lifers.

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