Tips & Tricks
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Here I share what I know and learned about writing, publishing and marketing
With todays technology being a designer, artist, author… has become easy, not just in regards to production but also in regards to distribution. Nowadays we sit in front of our mean machines and create, then upload it and sell it all around the world through cyberspace. Yet many, especially newcomers, will quickly realize that is isn’t as easy as they thought. I know, I was shocked by how hard it is to make a sale. And, in most cases it has nothing to do with the quality of the design, rather with the fact that it’s hard to get word out that you even exist.
When you take a closer look at the distributers you chose, you’ll see most of them have thousands, some even millions of designers trying to make a sale. As much as internet and cyberspace gave us opportunity, it also gave us competition in equal measure.
I know my family laughs and snickers every time I get an email letting me know I made a sale, because I whoop, clap my hands, and do a little happy dance each time. They tease me about it, because after all, it’s just five, ten or twenty dollars. The thing is, those sales are still quite rare, for I’m one in a see of designers, each unique with their own style and ideas. I could now launch into a collection of ideas of how to promote your business online, but I’m not. What I’m going to say is something my mom used to say to me when I was little… “get out of the house!” Or in this case more correctly… “get out of the cyberworld!”
For those who don’t know me, I’m a typical introvert and most of the time rather antisocial. Yet, about two years ago, I decided to try out taking part in a mini mall around Christmas time. What I expected was lots of awkward moments where I would be forced to talk to people, and no sales. What I got was, a lot of awkward moment that I overcame and talked to people and several sales. In those two days of mini mal I sold more then I had sold in six months online, and back then I only had my books, some bookmarks, and some Christmas Cards. I made enough to pay for my table, food, drink and had some profit.
Encouraged by that experience but sadly incapable of figuring out how to find more of those kinds of events I tried again this winter season. This time not only with the two days of mini mall around Christmas, but with going to a bazar every month.
Now, the thing about going outside of cyberspace is that you need merchandise to present and sell. Meaning, unlike selling online, you have to make an investment. Since I have not much of an budget carrying a large inventory is hard. Yet even with just a small inventory I managed to make a profit during those five bazars. It wasn’t much, but what was even more interesting was that my online sales went up as well. It’s called word to mouth. When people see a friend wear one of your shirts, they might like one as well. If they see your art on the wall of their mother, they might want some of yours as well.
But there is more then just those kind of events, but let’s start with them.
If you’re not as shy and hesitant as me, go out and use your outgoing personality to ask around about bazar, flea markets, farmer markets (something I will do this year) and arts and crafts sales. Depending on the art you’re doing a comic con might even be of interest and a good stomping ground to make an impact with your art.
If you like me, don’t have a large budget to show a large inventory, just order a handful of shirts, prints, mugs or whatever you want to sell. That way you have examples of how they look. Then assemble a catalogue or if you have the means let a slide show run on your lap top to showcase all your designs and offer that customers can order them.
As to how to find those events, I found the once I participated in by flipping through the newspaper. Others like the bazar I found by accident as I went into the bathroom of the place hosting it. Talk to people, would be my guess is helpful as well.
Now, those events are often just once or in certain intervalley during a season. Yet you want to sell all year long, right? I know I want to. So… what else can we do outside of cyberspace?
Take a walk through your town, or if it’s a 500 soul town, take one through the next largest one. I bet there are shops that for example sell gifts, at least on the side. Maybe a clothing store, or one specialized in interior decorating, hell even our computer store sells T-shirts on the side. So don’t shy away from a place that doesn’t seem to fit, in the end it might. Take a selection of your shirts, prints, posters, mugs, and such and show them, ask them to sell them for you or in consignment. Some might order them themselves. However, consignment sales are more likely in the beginning.
If you sell canvas prints, photo prints and such check around if there is an arts council or gallery around and ask if they would display your art, maybe even sell it for you. If you have library, coffee shop or tea house ask there as well. Floral shops often sell gifts and decoration on the side, check them out as well.
There are tons of opportunities outside of cyberspace, take advantage of them wherever and whenever you can. I often, actually almost always, have a small selection of merchandise in my car. Stored safely away in a box.
If you can afford it, bestow a shirt or mug or bag to a friend, family member or co-worker. If they like and wear it, others will see it and ask where they can buy one.
If you have ideas of your own, that I didn’t have, feel free to add them in the comment section. Who knows maybe we’ll even see each other one day of one of those events mentioned.
We all know what commercials are, and what their intent result is. No matter how you call it, an add, commercial, book trailer or anything else, the result it is supposed to have is always the same. An increase in sales. Now, as with everything else, there is a science behind commercials which is based on human psychology/behavior pattern. Most of this I only learned myself recently as I tried my hand on my first commercial. Which by the way I pretty much half-assed and never thought through in the first place.
Now, here are some things that are working according to studies.
Commercials should be short, about 30 seconds long and moving, (no static pictures that just stand there like a poster)
They should not present a load of articles but only one to three.
Interactive… this means whatever you present you should present in a way that speaks to your audience and praises the product you have to offer. Talk to the watcher so to speak.
Music should reflect the emotion you want the watcher to feel.
These are some pointers that I was given not so long ago and then researched to learn a little bit more about them. However, I have always been someone going against the grain, making up my own mind and most of all judging things rather by observation then statistics. The thing with statistics is that they are compiled using a broad range of people. When 80 out of a 100 react the same way, it is considered working that way and only that way. But, what if I want to reach those 20 that weren’t affected? How do I know it’s those 20 I want to reach?
You don’t. Chances are you will never find out if you are trying to reach those 20 or those 80 with your products, and you don’t have to. Use common sense rather then statistics and most of all observe others during commercials, talk to people about it and make up your own mind then add whatever is useful from statistics.
How do you react to commercials, and what do they do for you?
Me—I ignore TV commercials almost completely. Sometimes there is one I look up at because of a good song, cute animals, or funny animations. However, they never made me want to buy anything, not even as a kid. And since we have a PVR I often skip them unless I need to use the bathroom, need a drink or some food.
By the way, watching others and talking to them I learned that many of them react to TV commercials the same way I do. Totally and utterly bored and unimpressed.
Online commercials, like on Facebook, on the other hand can in some cases hold my interest. Some of them show me new and innovative products from health care, or new technologies. Some will present me with new kitchen tools and others inform me about science in general, new computer software for designers or the next best way to publish my next book. By reading this you should already realize why I am more inclined to watch those commercials rather then the ones on TV. Because an algorithm handpicks them according to my interests.
It’s all about TARGET AUDIENCE.
No matter if you are a writer, designer, artists or business of any other kind knowing your target audience is key. Easy. Right?
Well yes, and no. I guess it depends on what you are doing. A romance writer has romance readers as target, a carpenter someone who needs furniture or a house. A designer needs someone who needs a design. And an artist needs someone who likes to look at pretty pictures.
Sadly, it’s not that easy and I don’t have a recipe or road map to success. Believe me if I had I would be sitting in Bora Bora and not in front of my computer with a view of a winter vista. Still, I do have some tips and theories and sometimes it seems they even work.
First of all, even as it sounded like you should disregard the science behind commercials, don’t. Pick and choose with common sense. For example, most people have a short attention span, so keep the advice of keeping it short. People want to be entertained, so keep the pictures moving, don’t have just a poster, and call it a commercial.
If you have the budget hire a company specialized in promotion and your area. However, I know that few do have that kind of budget, neither do I.
Meaning we are on our own, from start to finish. So, what is step one.
Step one is accepting that promoting your work, business or product is going to be hard, time consuming and headache creating. If you think it helps bang your head a couple of times against the door frame in advance.
First you determine WHO is your target audience and narrow it down. I’m going to use my own business as example.
Business = Nicole Kiefer Design
Brought spectrum target = art lovers, people who need an individual and unique design for private or business, Stores that might sell my art on shirts and other merchandise.
Now, this first target audience is for your whole business. You can create a commercial that simply promotes your business, (business name, contact ways, goals) and no specific articles. If you’re not shy make a video of yourself introducing your business and yourself. Keep it short, point out what you can do, and what your goals are.
Second tiered/ more specific targeting = T-Shirts with: aliens, fantasy, pattern, nature, animals, fun phrases, comic, humor, love, sexy, sarcastic, and so on.
This is still a brought target group. Here you can make a commercial pointing out that you do T-shirt design, showing the genres you specialize in, and one or two examples. Make sure all text and pictures are sharp and clear in any resolution. Again, if you can do a video shoot of sort use it, if not use something like PowerPoint or similar program.
Third tiered/get down to product = T-shirts with aliens, targeting sci-fi lovers, believers in aliens and such.
Here is the true hard work, deciding which designs you want to use to represent this category. To me that’s the hardest part because I like them all, after all, I designed them. If you have sold any of your artwork already use those you sold, or if you had some that won competitions, prizes, and awards use those. If not, listen to your guts and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work do it again with different designs.
If you can afford to buy some shirts, do so and ask friends, family, or the guy at the bar (but be careful) to model them for you. Take pictures and assemble them into an animated slide show with some fun copyright free music. (Copyright free music can be found and downloaded on YouTube)
If that isn’t an option try creating 3D models with DAZ or Poser if you have either of those, then dress them in your designs. I only started using those myself and know it’s not easy so don’t get frustrated when the first results don’t look so great. It takes practice. If you don’t have those programs or can’t manage to create what you need go to public domain photo sites like pixerby and download a model you like, then dress that one.
I know I said earlier that you should follow rules like playtime, keeping it short, and that’s still the case. However, animation takes time and if it happens to fast it get’s annoying to watch. If everything just flashes by I personally tune it out. If text vanishes too quickly I tune it out. Stay under one minute if you can. Present only a few examples of one category and choose music that reflects the mood you want to create, matching your designs. (Meaning if you want to sell a Valentine’s design don’t play death metal music.)
When you put your commercial/slide show together show it to friends, family, or the guy at the bar if you liked him. Ask them how they liked it, if they could read all the text you had in, if they liked the music or if they think you looked good in that shirt. Then make changes as needed or don’t depending on the outcome. If you don’t have anyone to ask, well, you can always hope and pray. Or you can present your commercial to groups and friends on Facebook, MySpace and such to help you find out what is liked and what’s not.
When you think, you’re done put your commercial on YouTube, your website, blog, send it by email to your friends, family and customers and promote it on Twitter and Facebook. Zazzle for example has an area where you can link and promote them. So, do many others, including Amazon for authors on their author page.
It doesn’t matter what business you are in; the basics are always the same. Know your product, determine your target audience, and narrow it down, then make short promotional videos, slide shows or recordings of yourself. Distribute that commercial as far and wide as you can. Don’t be generic, be your extraordinary self, be unique while sticking to some of the science behind promotion.
But most of all, don’t give up just because it didn’t work the first time. Go back to the drawing board, do some research into your genre of business and try again. I don’t believe that there is a single working road map to success, or that only one way works. What I do know is, you’ll never succeed if you give up. Keep on trying, experimenting, and retrying. Don’t give into frustration, don’t despair over a sale missed or not made. Celebrate each sale no matter for what amount of money, every sale is a success, even if it is a small one. Keep on going, be stubborn, be determined and keep on learning. Most of all, try to have fun while never giving up or giving in.
Here are two of my recently designed commercials on YouTube. They are still not perfect but better than my first, second or third.
Good Luck and have fun.
Thanks to a fellow author I discovered this wonderful website, which I want to quickly introduce to you. Readers in the Know is the ultimate website for readers and authors, and I just joined. Over time I will tell you how well it does in bringing in sales or connecting with your readers. For now, let me tell you why I joined and why I think you should at least give it a try.
Readers in the Know offers an all time free account for readers, they can put you and your books on a watchlist so when one of your books goes on sale, discount or you have a new release, they get an email telling them about it. They can find your Facebook author page, Twitter account, and website and connect to that way as well. No matter what you do as an author, they can get the news directly into their mailbox. An author account costs a little money per year but in my mind, it’s a fair price for what they offer. As author, you can inform your reader of events, and anything related to your brand. It also offers advertising options, which are optional. Readers in the Know also uses Facebook and Twitter to grow and expand their readership on a daily basis.
As I mentioned yesterday in Promotion Part 4, another way of gaining readers and keeping those you have happy is offering additional merchandise. I said as well that it needs some graphic and/or artistic talent for designing, unless you want to hire someone, or use crowdsourcing.
Whichever road you chose to get the design, there is always the bottom line, investment. Only the rare lucky indie author actually makes enough money to make big investments. Meaning the smaller the investment, the easier it is on us and the greater is our own profit, because in the end we all want to have something in our pocket instead of a wallet that has moths flying out the moment we open it.
Now how do I imagine this works, because as organized and informed as I usually get before starting anything, this is something coming from gut instinct. Usually my best ideas come from that, but well, you don’t need to trust my gut. The idea behind adding fan merchandise, before you have or while you try to gather actual fans, is this.
Scenario one: You have your book – people read your book and fall in love with it – those people buy fan merchandise
Scenario two: You have beautiful artwork on merchandise that relates to your books – people buy that merchandise because it looks cool – then they buy the book and read so they don’t look stupid when someone asked them about their T-shirt, hoody or mug and what it means. In addition they run promo for you and payed for it…
The second version is kind of stolen from big companies, actually the whole concept is, and since those companies make millions of dollar, it seems to be working. So why not copy it.
Ok, we all get the idea behind creating addition fan merchandise, but how do we do that without spending money we don’t have. The same way we do with our books, or many of us at least, by using POD services, that handle the selling for us as well, and we just need to help and promote.
From using Creatspace I know that importing a product can bring up additional costs, so if you are located in the US try to find a service located in the US, same for CA or any other country. Most of all check out prices and compare them. Sometimes, as – again – with Creatspace it can be more affordable to import them. Sadly that’s kind of a try and error run until you know for sure.
In any case here, are three companies that I thought have acceptable offers and concepts.
http://www.galloree.com/Site-Articles/Open-a-store.php this is the one I’m going to give a try, but finding those companies is fairly easy, just type T-Shirt on demand printing service into Google and add your country, lots of results come up.
Now, my criteria, and they might not be yours, are these.
I want a wide range of merchandise, not just T-shirts, all of them individually customizable with my own designs.
That I retain all rights to my artwork, so I can spread it over several platforms if I like to do so.
That they don’t have a minimum payout amount and either work via wire payment or PayPal, never by check, I hate that.
And that I can have my separate store, but chose to use their selling platform. Which is what sold me on this service.
If it will work is something I can’t tell you, now. In half a year I might tell you it was the best idea of my life or the greatest flop. The thing is, even if it won’t work for me, it might for you.
If you’re talented and have the software to produce high-resolution pictures, then you have nothing to lose aside from time.
In previous parts we talked about promotion options that are easily done and something anyone should be able to do. Now, these ideas are a little more complicated and not for everyone unless they want to hire someone to do them. These tips and ideas are for the graphically able.
Creating a fan base for your brand (you the author) and/or your product (the books) is a very important part of business. And it doesn’t really matter if you have only standalone books or a series.
Now, as much as I am against stealing or copying others, in this case it’s different. Look at what big publishing companies are doing, or movie companies, comic books and so on. Have you ever wondered why they use pictures, posters, or TV ads to promote? Why even the promotion letters you get in the mail, or promo postcards are colorful and filled with pictures?
Because the human mind works on a very visual basis. A smile will convey happiness, a stern look concern. From the day we open our eyes for the first time, images, colors and expressions bombard our brain and get connected to emotions, sounds and become part of our decision making.
What do the big guys do to make a use of that? Well, first of all of course the cover of your book. We say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in fact the cover is what makes people look and notice the book. It gives them the first glimpse of what might be hidden inside.
If you are graphically able you can design the cover yourself but get feedback through Facebook or Google+ groups. Or hire a cover designer.
You might wonder by now why I’m talking about book covers when this is about promotions, because your book cover can become a strong promotion part, in form of a poster. When you design a book cover, keep the background picture without the texts as a separate file. If you have one designed ask the designer for a copy of the picture.
You can use those picture and offer them on your website for free as poster or desktop background for free. You can use them for competitions as price. For example you could say “sign up for my newsletter and win a poster of my book” if you are able to print it, or have an affordable printer at hand, you can make that even a signed poster. Here is an example of the posters I offer on my website for free, http://www.nicolekiefer.com/Free-stuff/free-stuff.html as you can see I offer one version without text and one with the Title worked in.
But your book cover can be used for more, another thing which is promotion outside of cyberspace, is postcards. You can use your front cover and size it to postcard size for your readers to print out. Place a phrase like “I’m reading now…. Book Title” or “Look what I’m reading” on the front with your Title and Author name. If you can afford it you can print a few off yourself and have them with you on readings and signings. If you are willing to invest a little bit more you can send some out to bookstores, or other retailers to let them know of your new masterpiece.
Another thing you can do with some but not all of the covers is make them into bookmarks, which you can hand out with your books on signings.
If you are graphically able, you can use the elemental parts of your book cover and redesign/rearrange them to create several versions of all I said above.
At last something I haven’t tried myself, but seen on several occasions, using the same graphics for T-shirts. Personally I think this is something to be used when the book I want to promote that way is either a very good sale or if you can find a service that works similar to a POD service, just for shirts. I have it on the back burner for my Utopian Sage once more than half the books of the series are out. However, I can imagine that it is a wonderful way to promote, and it gives you additional items to sell when you’re at a convention or book sale, trade show and wherever you put up your table. If they are placed strategically they might lure people to your table that weren’t looking for a new read but are infatuated with your shirts and then buy the book as well.
In addition if you are really good with graphics you can add pins and keychains to the inventory, selling them or giving them away when someone buy’s your book.
All these things can be effective but in my experience work best with series. In addition to all I said so far, you can open a fan page on Facebook dedicated to the series you are writing or have written. It will help direct your target audience and keep the focused. However, share a post from your author page or other fan pages from time to time, to remind them that you have more than just that one series to offer. For example when you run a free promotion, or a giveaway, promote those things across all your platforms and social media.
There are all kinds of ways to promote, book trailers are one of them. Yet not everyone has the time, patience or talent to create one. Personally, I use PowerPoint to create mine, but I know that there are several programs and options, sadly I don’t know them. So unless you have PowerPoint or a program similar this won’t help you as much as those with. Yet the principles stay the same.
When I create a book trailer I start with a list…, yeah right the person that usually goes by gut instinct uses a list…. truly I do.
On that list goes, the mood I want to set for the trailer, meaning romantic or sad, action ridge or dark, or a mix of those things. That will determine the kind of music I’m looking for.
Then I write down the things I think are important to the book, things I believe might wake the interest to read it. In most cases, if you have a text for the back or description for your Amazon version, you already have those points/parts and just need to arrange them the way you like to present them.
Then you need to think of pictures that will go with those points/parts you just wrote down. For example, I would write down -exasperated child- for the part about struggling with learning, or -crying child- for the part where she gets bullied. So in the end, I have something like a shopping list. Telling me the kind of music and pictures or videos I have to look for. Again, as I said in part 2, make sure you don’t violate any copyright while gathering those things. YouTube has a large collection of copyright free music and melodies, and there are lots of websites offering graphics under CO0 licence. Or if you can afford it you can buy the rights to use them, which is up to you.
Now some trailer have nothing more than the pictures and video clips with music in the background and the title. Personally, I don’t like them and find them boring, but that’s my personal opinion. When I do mine I often use the text on the back and split it up into several slides. A fitting picture in the background and the same goes for the music. Others might only have a static picture that goes through all slides and moving text. I like both and have used both methods. Here are mine as example
This is the one to The Immortal Druid
As you can see the background is static, only the text is moving. With this one, I tried to have the text come and go with the change and speed of the music. To some degree I managed to do that, making the impact of the words stronger.
Now this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4e4GWW
Bank is for my bio, it’s a very long trailer, but that’s because I wanted this specific song and took a long time to find a version that would not violate copyright. Here I have impact rich photographs with text in addition to a song that many will recognize and some might even remember the lyrics or the video, which adds additional impact. However, I asked a lawyer who knows copyright law before I used the music to be on the safe side. Please do the same if you aren’t sure.
The third one was also my first trailer and was created for Waiting in the Wings. The story itself has pretty dark parts, some people compared those parts to horror novels or true crime novels. In the trailer, I wanted to bring out the lighter parts, without hiding the darkness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sWRCkAxIyw
As you can see I used bright pictures with the graveyard a sign for death is in the sunshine, even the picture of abuse is worked over so the figures have a bright lining, the man waiting on a cliff looking into the distance, stands there in brought daylight. This way I have the words that tell of loss, pain, and hope, but also the lightness in the pictures that make it lighter and represent the hope. Not sure if I explain that right, in any case, there is some logic in my madness.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide how you want to combine and represent your novel. If you want to know if it is a well working tool, I can’t really answer that. I don’t think that they made much of a difference in my sales, but I think that help spread the word and might make some people take a closer look at you and your book. In any case, unless you invest a lot into licencing, it’s one more free tool you can add to your tool box.
I have always been the kind of writer who has the title from the start. Often the title is the basic message or emotion behind my story. Until recently I never even thought much about the title at all, well at least not in regards of marketing. I chose my titles carefully, don’t get me wrong, but only with the goal of conveying a message. For example I chose Waiting in the Wings as the title because the male lead character did just that, he was waiting in the wings to get his second chance. I chose The Immortal Druid because, well, it’s about an Immortal Druid. Simple, right? But titles don’t have to be complicated, at least not in my mind.
To me a title has to tell you something about the story, the genre or the characters. Preferably all of that combined.
Yet when I chose the title for my biography I pretty much did the same thing as I did with my novels. I chose My Life with Dyslexia and other Shit… because that’s what life sometimes feels like. And it sounded better then, My life with Dyslexia, Nail-Patella-Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and social anxiety which seemed a little bit long. Maybe I’m used to profanity, or maybe I simply don’t react as strongly to it as others would, but soon after I started promoting I realized that my chosen title wasn’t all that great. Yet I already was promoting it, already had the ISBN which is connected to the title, and to be honest at first I didn’t give a Sh** about those two or three complainers. After all, there is always a handful that simply has to take you down a notch or two.
Over the time since it got published I had good and bad reactions to the title. But and here is the thing, when it comes to advertising, I chose poorly.
As indie author advertising is the most important part of selling, and I had made good experience with running ad campaigns with Goodreads. Yet I have more people looking me up on Facebook or Amazon but with both I can’t run any of my books as an ad campaign. Why?
Well two of my books have sex in them, and obviously since we all were brought by the stork or found on the bottom on an empty beer glass, sex is a bad thing. Only romance that’s considered clean romance is admitted to those ad campaigns. Because sex is dirty. Still, I get it. Those ads might be seen by teens or even younger people and they might get bad ideas reading a book that makes sex seem to be a good thing, a passionate thing and something natural. Anyway, I do get it even if I don’t like it.
My biography I can’t promote that way because of one word, Shit. It’s considered profanity, it’s a bad word, no matter that it is used a million times a day all over the world. With neither of the big social media platforms can I run that book in an ad campaign because of that one word. If I had it written like this Sh** it would go, if I had chosen the word Excrement it would have been eligible. But not spelled out like this.
I can’t and won’t go back and change the title, because it fits the story, my story and the meaning of it. Life can be shit at times but you have to live with it.
However, having learned my lesson, I will start choosing my titles so I can advertise them. At least the ones without explicit sex scenes in them. Ever since I learned this I also pay more attention to the titles of other authors and let them know when I think they might run into trouble with advertisement. There are words you just can’t use in your title if you consider running an ad campaign for it one day.
Cock, dick, slut, bitch, dickward, fuckward, fuck, shit, to name just a few. I bet if you google it you find an endless list of words that will block your book from advertising. I guess any word you would find in a word filter of a community is a word you should avoid in a book title. So, don’t make the same mistake and chose your title wisely.
This book here might help as well