What’s an Author to Blog About?

OK, your publisher or publicist or friends and colleagues have told you that you must start blogging. Why? About what? But, I have some serious writing to do. But, I haven’t a clue where to start or what to do. Then again, perhaps you have started blogging and are certain that the only audience you’ve developed are a few friends and family who visit occasionally out of a sense of duty.

Content is always king, form follows content, and the minutiae of your life isn’t going to gain you a following unless you are a humourist whose books are based on engaging minutiae. So choose a subject that is near and dear to your audience. Use your blog as research for your next book. If you are a poet and don’t want to give away all of your poems, use some of them for illustration in a blog on poetics. If you are a food writer, write about the aspects of food that you are researching and include tips and recipes. Let your audience know what you are doing with your latest book. Tell them the stories behind the development of your current book and how it is affecting your audiences. But most important, decide your strategy and target your audience in advance and build your following. That means marketing and promotion.

I’ve amassed quite a collection of resources in the past few years – books, ebooks, websites, blogs – on blogging and other social networking blather and am delighted to provide you with a free, straightforward, how-to e-book for beginning bloggers, courtesy of Maria Reyes-McDavis, the web success diva. Just go to her website at http://www.websuccessdiva.com, sign up for her newsletter and receive the no-nonsense Blog Success 2.0 Guide: “A complete step-by-step guide to turn your blog into a lean, mean traffic building machine that will target, engage, and convert your audience.” It’s the whole, meal deal without all of the choices and philosophical meanderings you’ll find in the various tomes on the subject. Not only that, but her newsletter is always filled with meaty, useful tips that you can put into action immediately. Maria’s expertise moved me from research into action. I hope she’ll do the same for you.

Launching Your Book

Most authors want a launch party – and once upon a time it was an important part of the publication of a book. However, times changed and now many publishers do not want to pay for a launch party. Why the change? Simple.

Times changed. Guests changed. It used to be that someone made coffee and cookies or bought cheap wine and sliced some cheese and put crackers in a basket and guests were so thrilled to be at the book launch, they bought books in quantity to support their friend. But then, the publishing process speeded up and there were more and more books being launched. So many launch parties were happening that guests compared them all to each other. They began complaining about the food and beverages at the average launch and expected to receive a free book along with the refreshments. So policies were put into place by many publishers. How could they know which launches would net a lot of book sales? How could they explain to their authors that one would receive a launch and the other would not?

So, have your own launch party. Why not? You deserve it. You probably want to thank the people who supported you through this long journey and you definitely should mark the event with a celebration shared with your friends and associates. So, why not go ahead and have the party that you want. If you plan it carefully, and well in advance, you might even be able to turn it into a media event with supporters who will continue to support you long after the event. Or, you could have a party your friends will never forget. Or, you could angle for a position on the local bestseller list.

An important consideration is how much you can afford to spend; another is whether or not your objective is to get on your local bestseller list – if your community has one. You could have a lush launch at an exclusive venue, and you could choose to give away your book if you wish. It would be lovely, but it isn’t necessary. Your local bookseller would probably be delighted to host the launch for you if you are inviting your friends and family and will contribute for refreshments. If your local bookseller is one of a few booksellers in your community who is asked for a report on sales for the bestseller list, and your friends buy lots of books, you might get on the list. To improve your chances, go ’round to the other booksellers and offer to sign books. If you decide to proceed with this approach, be gracious and understanding. If the bookseller you speak with isn’t familiar with your book, stay calm and positive. Take it as an opportunity to introduce your book to the local bookseller, as you introduce yourself as part of the local community. If the experience is a positive one, the bookseller may do a terrific job to handsell your book to uncertain buyers coming in looking for a gift for a relative or friend they don’t know well. Good stories go a long way to making sales.

If you have your heart set on a more expensive launch, bestseller lists aren’t an option or a concern, and you can’t really afford to do it the way you want, use the proceeds of book sales to offset your costs. Houseparties can make for splendid launch parties. For your launch or for potential future speaking engagments, you might offer a portion of the proceeds to your favourite charity. You can offer organizations a portion of book sales for their fundraising endeavours. It will give you greater promotional opportunities through their lists, and the many not-for-profit listings in your community.

For a public launch, invite the media, local politicians, important business contacts in the community. Call on your friends for help. Invite members of every organization that you hold membership, contribute the invitation to their newsletters if you can. Invite your neighbours, condo-members, fitness club or bridge club. In the process, collect information about future speaking opportunities at local groups that are appropriate for the topic of your book. Keep notes and follow up.

Send email invites, contact everyone via all of your social media channels and encourage them to pass it along via their social media channels if the event is in a public place. At the same time, consider printing some hard-copy invites or sending postcards. The personal touch is not to be disregarded. Follow up with phonecalls wherever you can.

As for the itinerary for the actual event, there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for a launch party, but here are a few guidelines:
Have someone introduce you – if you have a celebrity friend or well-known author that would be ideal, but your publisher, editor or a good friend will do nicely. Keep the introduction brief, and keep your response brief. The purpose of the event is to celebrate and introduce the subject of the book.
You may want to outline the journey that got you to the publication of the book and why you did it and what kept you going. You may want to thank your friends and family for their assistance and support. At the end of your brief talk, encourage your guests to enjoy themselves and make your way to the book signing table where you will hold court – selling copies of the book, personalizing inscriptions and answering questions. Have someone hustle you over to the book table if you are prone to social demands on your time.

And, there is no rule that says you can only have one launch party. Especially if you have friends in surrounding communities or travel a great deal.

Launching a book is a great sales and networking opportunity. Work it – and have as much fun as you can.

Facebook

Dear author, please consider setting up a Facebook profile if you are to make one single foray into social networking. Why Facebook? Well, you certainly have lots of choices of social networking platforms and if you are really keen on connecting online, take a look at Quantcast, www.Quantcast.com for a list and their general demographics, or see ToMuse, www.ToMuse.com for a look at the smartest, weathiest networkers and choose a number of them.

But, the problem with these very general demographics, is that they don’t take into account your niche market community. In my experience, there are more Canadian publishers, authors, and avid readers on Facebook than the other sites, despite the younger skew of the general demographics. So, if you are looking to try one tool, start with Facebook. Your correspondents will steer you in another direction if your niche community is making a bigger presence elsewhere.

If you are a real keener add MySpace and LinkedIn.

Here`s a video that explains how to get set up on Facebook, http://tinyurl.com/5jso56. Check the related videos underneath the window to see if you want further assistance. I must confess that when I was first invited to join Facebook, I was very surprised. In my mind it was something that teenagers wasted too much time on. However, my long, lost friend had gone to some trouble to track me down through the internet and made a compelling argument for me to stay in touch with her in this way. At first I accepted almost every invitation and gift and gadget until I found a way to really make use of Facebook. Don`t get me wrong, it was usually fun, it`s just that I`m extremely busy, and I engaged in a certain amount of time-wasting – because I went in believing it was a time-wasting activity.

So, get started with a serious plan and objective. Ask yourself who you want to be connected with and why. Once you`ve signed up, set up your profile and selected all of the settings to your satisfaction, go to the search box at the top right corner of the page for organizations in which you have membership or wish you did, and other interest groups whose members should know about your books and join. If appropriate, check out the group first, introduce yourself and your book or your latest undertakings.

You can set your notifications so that you receive few or even no email. But make a little time to connect. You can build an audience for your blog, find out about writing groups, conferences, calls for submissions, and build a launch invite list for your next event. Devote a few hours to do your initial set up. After that, you could decide to spend a mere 10 minutes over Sunday coffee to keep up.

Here are some great suggestions from Sachi Studios about how authors can develop their Facebook strategy – http://tinyurl.com/5jso56

Building a Marketing Plan

The best case scenario is one in which your book is part of your business plan. If you don’t have a business plan, there are many books on the market and plenty of online resources. I use this interactive template http://www.bdc.ca/en/business_tools/business_plan/default.htm
At the very least, you need a marketing plan for each book that you do. Here is an outline of a generic marketing plan http://www.canadabusiness.ca/ibp/eng/info.cfm In the coming weeks I`ll post a book specific marketing plan with suggestions.

Making News

In this section, I will be providing loads of suggestions for you to get yourself in newspapers and magazines, on television and radio. Stay tuned.