No, You Don’t Need Facebook to Promote Your Book

© Can Stock Photo / Curioso_Travel_Photo

For the past few months I’ve had issues with Facebook over censorship and their flagrant privacy violations, both of which remain  ongoing.

It’s no secret that Facebook has become a data mining platform pursuing its own political agenda. But I’ve been told, over and over again by all the so-called experts, that because I’m an author, I had no choice but to put up with Facebook’s crap. If I wasn’t on Facebook, my books would surely languish on the shelf. Well, after being on Facebook for nearly a decade, I have to tell you that as usual, the experts are wrong.

Most, if not all, of my Facebook friends know I’m an author. Many have liked my Facebook author pages. Whenever I posted something about my books, they’d hit the like button. Wanna know how many of them actually followed through and bought my books? Well, I know of one who did. Maybe one or two others might have, but I’m not sure. I could probably count the total number of Facebook friends who actually purchased my books on one hand.

Likewise, I had hundreds likes for my author pages. Yet whenever I posted on those pages, I would, on a good day, maybe get twenty people who actually saw the post. And out of those twenty, maybe one or two engaged with it. Wow. If I were a betting person, I’d bet that out of all the people who liked my author pages, the number who actually purchased a book is close to zero. 

I stopped advertising on Facebook several months ago. My ads no longer had the reach they once had. It’s been well documented that fewer people are on Facebook these days. And those who haven’t left the platform spend less time there. But even before all the Facebook controversy, I wasn’t getting a good return on my investment for my ads because people weren’t purchasing my books. And that’s the bottom line.

The other morning I read a news article about how Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple, is saying that people need to delete their Facebook accounts. Wow. That’s coming from a credible source. An insider who knows more about cyber spying than the average Joe or Jane. So I’ve deactivated my account, which, to be honest, is something I’ve wanted to do for sometime now.

Yes, social media is a good tool for promoting your books. However, a presence on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ll sell more books. We want people reading our books, not just hitting a like button. So please, if you’re concerned about Facebook and its complete lack of ethics, and if you don’t want third parties spying on your every move without your knowledge and consent, then please don’t feel that you have to stay on Facebook to promote your books, because you don’t. It’s okay to shut down your Facebook account. And if you do, you’ll probably be better off for it.

In recent months I’ve an uptick in book sales. It started when I stopped wasting my time on Facebook. I got back into blogging. I’ve updated and optimized my websites and blogs. I’ve also started up a newsletter. Coincidence? Well, you tell me.

GM

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Book Signing Etiquette

Whether it’s a bookstore, a book fair, or other special event, book signings can be a lot of fun. They’re a great way to engage one-on-one with potential readers. However, we authors sometimes let our enthusiasm get the best of us. So please, consider this reminder to treat fellow authors respectfully.

The worst experience I ever had at a book signing was during a big event weekend in Tombstone, Arizona. The local bookstore had so many authors that they ran out of space inside the store. So, they seated me, along with another author, on the boardwalk in front of the store. This should have been a strategic advantage, as there was more foot traffic outside the store. Unfortunately, the other author was a non-stop talker

He talked and talked and talked about anything and everything. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. He wouldn’t shut up. Not even while I was trying to talk to potential readers, or trying to close a sale. And yes, his incessant talking actually killed some of my sales.

As if this weren’t bad enough, he started babbling about a controversial book he planned to write about his religious beliefs. So, not only was I stuck with him yapping my ear off while I was trying to talk to my customers, he’s now quoting Biblical scripture, chapter and verse, in a very loud voice. Not only were people no longer stopping at my table, they were literally running away.

I strongly believe in religious freedom. However, there is a time and place for religious debate. And it’s not on a sidewalk, in front of a secular bookstore, at a secular event. I normally do well at Tombstone events. This time, however I had a disaster. I hardly sold any books, all because one very self-centered author couldn’t keep his stupid mouth shut.

A book signing is where authors come to connect one on one with their readers. If there are other authors at the same venue, please show some respect and a little common courtesy. Keep your conversations with other authors brief. Try to limit those conversations to those times when there are no customers around. Most importantly, keep your mouth shut while other authors are talking to potential buyers. Nothing is more unprofessional than interfering with another author’s sale.

GM 

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Print Books or Ebooks?

The Amazon Kindle and other ereaders have certainly changed the way people read books. For a time ebooks were all the rage, and my sales reflected it. The vast majority of my books were sold as Kindle editions. However, it now appears that I’m selling more print books again.

Ebooks certainly have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded. You can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. Ebooks were also more affordable. At least they used to be, once upon a time. When ebooks first hit the scene, they typically cost a few dollars. However, I’m now seeing skyrocketing ebook prices, but here’s the thing. I’m not going to pay ten dollars, or more, for an ebook. Period. If I have to spend that much money then I may as well get the print edition. That way I’ll have something tangible to show for it.

Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those with vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read. And who among us hasn’t been disappointed upon finding their device has a dead battery. Ugh! I’ve so been there and done that.

I now publish a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans, and in my latest issue I included a poll. Did my readers prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. While not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.

Is the ebook fad finally coming to an end? Who knows. I’ll continue publishing both Kindle ebook and print versions of my books. In case you’re wondering, I personally prefer print books. They’re low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.

Gayle Martin

P.S. If you would like more information about my newsletter please click on the link below.

 Marina Martindale’s Musings Newsletter

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It’s Time to Go Without a Net

© Can Stock Photo / airn

Once upon a time I used to advise other writers that if the .com name they wanted wasn’t available to get the .net extension instead. Dot net websites were fairly common at the time. And whenever I registered a new domain, I would get both .com and .net. This was to prevent someone else with the same, or similar, name as mine from getting the .net and creating confusion.


The Internet, however, is an ever changing landscape. What may have worked five years ago, or even last year, may not apply today, Such is the case with the .net extension. Over time we’ve learned that people will automatically go to .com out of habit, even when .net was clearly posted. It’s sort of like my name, Gayle. Not a bad name, I suppose, but it has the less common spelling. And no matter how many times I spelled it out for people, they still give me the more common, Gail.


So please disregard my earlier advice. From what I’m seeing now, the .net extension is becoming extinct. And you certainly don’t make yourself look dated. If the .com isn’t available, you’ll have to come up with other variations. If you’re an author, try adding, author, writer, or books to your name. And even if the .com version of your name is available, I still recommend getting authoryourname.com or yournamebooks.com with it. Domain names usually aren’t that expensive. However, they’re crucial for building your brand and promoting your book. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to grab as much Internet real estate as you possibly can. 


GM

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Is Entering Your Book in a Competition a Good Idea?

From time to time my email box fills up with calls to enter various book awards, and I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about entering. So, here’s my list of pros and cons about book awards.

PROs

I’ve entered competitions in the past and my books have won awards. And I’m not going to lie to you. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that your book beat out dozens, if not hundreds, of other entries. Awards are also a nice marking tool. There’s nothing quite like having that award sticker proudly displayed on your book cover. In fact, I’ve included one of mine. Not to brag, but to point out that there is a downside to winning a book award.

CONS


I won the award in 2007. But by 2010 it had made my book look dated. I’ve since dropped it from my cover.


The other big con is the cost. The last time I tried to enter a book competition the early bird entry fee was $90. They also wanted four printed copies of the book. So, by the time I added in the cost of the books, and my best guestimate for the postage, I realized I’d be spending at least $120, if not more. Just to enter one title, in one category. Competitions aren’t without risk. So, as I thought it over again I realized I’d be better off spending that $120 dollars on advertising my book. 


So, is entering a book award competition a good idea? It’s up to you to decide. If you have the inclination, and the budget, then go for it. Who knows? Your book could be a winner. But if you’re not sure, or if you don’t have the money, then don’t. While it’s nice to win an award, it’s no guarantee that you’ll sell more books. 


GM

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So Who’s Responsible for Marketing Your Book?

From time to time I get into some rather interesting conversations with authors lamenting the fact that their book isn’t selling they way they expected. So, I ask them what they’ve done to market their book. Oftentimes they haven’t done anything. Many authors, especially newbies, honestly think all they have to do was list their book on Amazon, and people would come along and buy it.


“Build it and they will come,” may have worked in the movie Field of Dreams. However, that mindset doesn’t apply when selling books. Nor is your publisher responsible for selling your book for you. They distribute it, not market it. So, unless you, the author, go out and do some marketing, your book won’t sell. Fortunately, there are many things that you can and should be doing to help promote your book. 

How authors can promote their books

  • Have a website or a blog, or both, about your book.
  • Promote your book on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • List your book on other websites such as Goodreads.
  • Book signings.
  • Newsletters
  • Contests and giveaways.
  • Book Trailers.
  • Advertising.

If you only do one item on this list, make it a website. If you’re on a tight budget, you can do a simple, do it yourself blog on platforms such as Blogger, virtually for free. And if you have the means, you can hire a webmaster and have a state of the art website will all the bells and whistles. Either way, however, it’s up to you to promote your blog or website.


Social media is an absolute must as well. It costs nothing to open account on most social media platforms. Keep in mind, however, that it takes time to build a following on social media, so don’t expect instant results. I’ve also found contests and giveaways to be a nice marketing tool. You can do giveaways on Amazon, through social media, or in newsletters.


If your budget allows it you can hire a publicist. If you do, be sure that he or she has experience in book promotion, as book promotion is different from other kinds of public relations. Also be sure to talk to him or her about the cost. Some firms may charge as much as $3000 a month for their services. Others may charge much less, and may do just as good of a job as the higher-priced publicists.


No one ever said marketing a book would be easy, especially in a time when anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can upload a Word file onto Amazon Kindle and call themselves an author. However, unless your name is Stephen King, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, don’t expect people bust down the doors to buy your book just because you’ve listed it on Amazon. You really do have to get there and do some work.

GM

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Blogs vs Social Media

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000

As authors we’ve all been told, dozens upon dozens of times, to use social media to promote our books. Good advice. Social media is an essential marketing tool. However, just like anything else, it can also be overrated, if not overused.

Some authors go on social media and post nothing but, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” To which I say, “Enough already!” We all want people to buy our books. However, social media was never intended to be a vehicle for free book advertising.

Why I think the blog is still king

  • You Can Engage One on One with Your Readers. Like social media, a blog allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. In fact, a blog is a form of social media, as long as you allow comments. Blogger, WordPress and other blog platforms also allow multiple pages, which means you can also use a blogging platform to build your website. That’s a whole lot more than I can do with my Facebook business page.
  • No Trolls Allowed. Trolls are people who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than to harass others or even destroy an author’s career. They’ve done some serious damage to Goodreads, and they can be a problem on other social media sites as well. However, with a blog, you can eliminate trolls completely. All you have to do is set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve just created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.
  • Not Everyone Uses Social Media. Many people have either shut down their social media accounts, or they no longer use them due to privacy concerns and other issues. Others never signed up for social media in the first place. However, anyone with an Internet connection can read your blog. This makes you more accessible to your readers, especially if you include your blog address in your books. 

A word of caution regarding social media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites are great platforms for sharing your blog posts. However, they can also be extremely distracting, and they can easily take up too much of your valuable time. Try not to spend more than ten to fifteen minutes per day on any one platform, and don’t feel that you have to post something on social media everyday. Better yet, use Hootsuite or other social sharing services.

With Hootsuite you can post on multiple social media accounts at once. This saves time and prevents distractions. Hootsuite also offers you the option of changing your blog post URLs. This can be very helpful if you want to reshare your blog posts at a later time.

So there you have it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media, when used properly, can certainly help you promote your books. However, in my opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

Gayle Martin

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