Thursday, May 31, 2007

What'll ya have?

Good morning everyone! You guessed it! It's Q&A day here at TKA. Oh man, I think I've had too much coffee. So who's got a question? I'm taking the first FIVE.

A little disclaimer: While I am embedded in the publishing/agenting world, my specialty is marketing and promoting books and authors AND web stuff. So, if you really want somethin' special today--go for questions related to this area and I'm all over it (like white on rice...)

PS: If you aren't familiar with the great Varsity in Atlanta, check it out and you'll get the gist of the title!!! :)

18 Comments:

Blogger Keri Ford said...

In the marketing world, what’s the best bang for your buck? I know a lot of authors invest in bookmarks and magnets, but seriously, how many bookmarks does a person need? And I’ve got so many pictures, magnets, and menus on my refrig, you can’t tell what color it is. Typically I don’t pick them up, and rarely do I give them a second glance. What’s the best method to get your name out there so new readers will visit that regularly updated webpage?

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Terry Stone said...

How important is a website for a prepublished author? And would a site hosted by one of the online companies, like Bravenet, be a help or a hindrance to a wanna-be authors career?

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:23:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Do you put more of an emphasis on marketing the author, rather than the book? Does successful promotion of the author effectively promote the book? It seems the promotion of the two are tightly woven together, but I'd like your thoughts on any distinctions and any words you want to share about author branding. Thanks!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Hey Keri,
SUPER question! It's one that has a specific answer that is always changing. Darn. But, the general answer is constant. Figure out something (relatively inexpensive--cause money doesn't grow on trees) that is unique to your book. Recently, for example, I helped design a luggage tag for an author of time travel. I wouldn’t completely discount magnets and bookmarks though. I find that booksellers do enjoy receiving both for their shops and readers LOVE them when they are signed. In my experience, bookmarks work best, and magnets are better for other types of marketing (pizza phone numbers, menus, and theatre schedules). For bookmarks, place your upcoming release's mark in your current read when sending to reviewers, contest winners, etc... Biggest bang for your buck in a tangible treat? Give away copies of your books. Contests, giveaways, etc…

Now, the best method to get your name out there and hits on a webpage...(this is particularly best for genres with web savvy readers like paranormal...) guest blog. It takes time, but anything you can do to write on well read blogs or other sites and put a link to yours...that's the best. It's basically a high tech "word of mouth" situation. Ads, reviews, and other web stuff is not bad, but I find investing in a well written guest blog is the best (or even getting some other folks to blog about you...but make it more than just this is Jane Doe and this is her book... gimme some meat!)

PS: I really like the term "regularly updated"... makes all the difference in the world!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Keri Ford said...

Thanks, Julie. I figured if I didn't say 'regularly updated', that's what you'd would of told me!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:49:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Hi Terry!
Another great question! I think it is a great move to have a nice website before being published. When considering queries, we often go to the potential client's website right off the bat. (*please note that we do not base our decision on the website of the writer...this was misunderstood during a previous post). What I want to see in your site is that you are serious about making your writing a career and are invested in the craft as a whole (writing under contract and deadline, promotion, etc…). The site doesn’t need to be complicated at all. A well written bio, a few well placed pics/graphics, a pitch of what you write, and regularly updated blog would draw my attention. Wanna add a little more, put news (keep it at least kinda relevant to your work—you write historical…blurbs and links on what’s going on in the world with the historical genre or great reads in your genre), writing tips or links to your writing groups (RWA chapter, other critique groups) and any awards that your work has entered or even better…won!

ALMOST any website is better than none at all. However, if you can do it, I would stray away from geocities/bravenet like sites. You want to show professionalism and a commitment to you and your craft. You want a domain/site that you can build on when you are published! Go ahead and get your pen name’s domain www.mypenname.com and put a simple site on it. That way when you are published your agent, editor, and you can really work on adding and building your current site and aren’t starting from scratch.

Plus, having a nice site (even if basic and simple…sometimes far better in my opinion!) opens up opportunities to build an online readership that turns into book buyers, such as the guest blogging that I mentioned in my first answer for Keri. I know of several authors that have built quite a fan base from writing basic fan fic or great blogs and these fans have stayed true to these authors all the way through print!!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Keri--Who me??? Haha! You know it! Way to go!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Terry Stone said...

Thank you, Julie, for answering. I am shaking now, as you probably guessed, I have a site on Bravenet. I tried to keep it simple and tasteful, but then wondered, does Bravenet bombard people with pop-ups when they go on there? I suspect they do. I will look into changing hosting.

Another question, I am full of them today.

My critique group is talking about putting together a group blog. I have a personal blog, and I wonder if getting into a group blog would be more helpful, especially as I am a slow blogger. Would blogging as a group be more helpful than blogging on your own? Which would be more beneficial in the long run?

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 11:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Hey Diana,
You are completely right—the two are tightly woven together. Author vs. Book? I would say it really depends on where you are in your career and releases. For instance, Nora Roberts doesn’t have to promote books…just herself. But, until you get to THAT level, promoting the both yourself and your releases together is best. If you have a series, you have the balance the three with more emphasis on you and your series. Ultimately, I would put marketing/branding yourself just a tad above your books. Why? Because you want to have options to write multiple genres and be an author…not just a book. This gives you a little more staying power til you hit New York Times. I don’t think that you can promote only yourself as an author and it work for your books. You really have to do both.

Here’s some good examples:

Steven James: http://www.stevenjames.net/ (super example of visual branding from his site, “cool, hip guy, a little edgy, Christian writer”)

Gemma Halliday: http://www.gemmahalliday.com/ (the whole High Crime Meets High Fashion… I love it! Ties right into the High Heels Series)

Jaci Burton: http://www.jaciburton.com/ (Feel the Passion—You immediately relate her to erotica)

Shayla Black: http://www.shaylablack.com/ (“Wicked” is a great word that sticks in people’s heads)

Where to start: I would look at your writing and your voice. Then, brainstorm a few words that really captures the heart of what it is you do and who you are. Then, take those words and discover the most exciting synonym for each one. Play with the catch phrase til you have something that really hits home. Try it out on friends, family, loyal blog readers. Heck, hold a contest on what your readers would brand you as and give away a book or something that ties into what you write! That is a very solid place to start. Once you get down to the nitty gritty of what you are and then make it sizzle… the doors open. You take that phrase and apply it to the look and feel of your website, alter it a bit for you token item (bookmark, biz card, candy bar wrapper…) , your book and series trailer…

I find branding very successful when well thought through…

For more on Author Branding check out these sites:

http://www.bluemooncommunications.com/white_papers/author_branding.htm
http://www.brandchannel.com/features_effect.asp?pf_id=137

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 12:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

No shaking!!! Just gives you a place to start. I would check out GoDaddy.com. Check your domain. I’ve created some pretty simple sites for different people and organizations on a shoestring. Just takes more time. While I’m not that familiar with Bravenet, my inclination is to say: yes on the pop up bombarding or at least yes to lots of flashy, blinking banners and ads. Don’t freak at all. Just check into moving to a domain that is yours. I would rather see a simpler site on its own domain than a fancier one on one of these free site hosting gigs.

I think a group blog sounds excellent! Especially if you are a slow blogger. Super! Get on a rotation so you blog on a particular day… build a reading base and ALWAYS link to your new site (or your old one while you work on your new one). Capture all the contact if you can from your readers (in excel or handwritten if you want) for future endeavors (newsletters, giveaways, mail outs…) and watch your readership grow! Long winded a bit, but yes. I think the group blogging sounds like a great idea for you and your style.

PS: It’s a big bonus to pitch to an agent or editor “Ms. Thang has a newsletter readership of 5000+” (they like that sort of thing!)

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How perfect, grammatically speaking, does a manuscript have to be before submission to an agent or editor? If an author gets a request for partials will they need to be as grammatically perfect as the first five pages and query or is there some leeway? Should a writer enlist a professional editor before they submit if they are concerned about grammatical issues? Thanks for your time.

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 1:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shelley said...

Maybe I'm counting wrong, but looks like only four questions so far. So here's mine: When should an author use a pen name. I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon. That's why I'm considering a separate identity. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 1:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Well, you are asking a grammar queen over here. Heh. Honestly, I consulted Elaine just to be sure, but, yes, 99.9% perfect. We aren’t going to reject on a misplaced coma, but the more errors there are the more difficult the manuscript is to read (that’s the LAST thing you want!). If you are concerned about grammar, I would consult someone to help you out. Critique partner? Hire someone? You always want to put your absolute best foot forward with all queries and submissions. Reading and writing is our business (and yours too!) which does mean grammar too. *sigh* Good luck!!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 2:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Hey Shelley,
The choice is really yours! We really encourage pen names when the author’s name is very difficult to pronounce and spell. You don’t want people to give up looking for your book on Amazon.com just because they couldn’t figure out how to spell your name! And, every now and then, we’ll suggest it if you need a spicier name for say… erotica. Having said that, we have several authors on our client list that choose to write under a pen name to protect their identity for family, children, job sake… multiple reasons. If you would like to lead a “separate life” as an author, start thinking of a pen name. Gives you obviously more privacy, but you do have to respond to two names from then on!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 2:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Julie Ramsey said...

Thanks everyone for putting forth some great questions today! I truly enjoyed pondering and answering! Enjoy your afternoon and happy writing! Til next time...

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 2:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Terry Stone said...

Julie, thank so much for answering my questions. I really appreciate it and am going to take your excellent advice. Again, thank you.

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 2:27:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Katrina Stonoff said...

Wow, Julie! This was really helpful. I'm cutting and pasting this into my marketing folder (with attribution, of course). Thank you.

My website is hosted by American Author (http://americanauthor.com/). They cater to writers, so their templates are writer friendly. I had them customize a template: change the graphic & color, add my photo, some other small things. So for a few hundred dollars I have a unique site that looks professional (at least, I think so).

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 2:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Julie,

Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate the resources you've shared.

Monday, June 4, 2007 at 10:12:00 AM EDT  

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