At the annual meeting of the American Society of Journalists and Authors in Manhattan in 2011, I had the pleasure of hearing Penny Sansevieri, President and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., twice. I walked away from her sessions with more than 30 action items to boost this blog and myself on social media and websites.
Penny graciously accepted my invitation to speak at the 2011 Jewish Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference in Manhattan but was unable to make it due to the flu.
So, The Whole Megillah has posed a few questions…I hope these are some of the questions you wanted to ask. If not, use the comment section below and ask away!
The Whole Megillah (TWM): If authors write in more than one genre, should they have more than one website?
Penny Sansevieri (PS): I would say that it depends on what the genre is. We had an author who wrote children’s books and also erotic romance so clearly she’d have two different personas. But for other authors it’s really about how they want to be branded. We have authors who write across two or three different genres but want to brand themselves so that’s the difference. Decide first how you want to get “out there” and then that will determine how many different websites you need.
TWM: What’s the best platform to use for a website?
PS: Again, it depends but I tend to lean towards WordPress. Our website is entirely in WordPress design and it’s fantastic. Once the designer is done we can now do all of the updating ourselves. Also, WordPress is very SEO friendly, what that means is that you get great search engine ranking with this platform. Be sure to get your own URL (domain name) and host it somewhere other than on WordPress so you actually “own” the platform. If it’s hosted at WordPress you don’t own anything and that’s never good.
TWM: What are the top three essentials of building an author platform?
PS: This is really very pivotal to the author’s goals. So, for example if the author does speaking, then that becomes part of their platform building. In order to determine what their platform is they first need to identify either their goals or the needs of the reader (often times it’s a combination of both). If you aren’t sure what the needs of your reader are, then go in search of other top authors in your market and see how they are building their platform. For some, a platform is a heavy trafficked blog, for others it’s a large social media base. Audience needs and goals will determine what this is and how to build it.
TWM: At what point should authors begin to think about promoting their soon-to-be-published books?
PS: As soon as they come up with the idea. Really. I talked to an author last week who has a book coming out in August and wants to brand a new term and get it into the consumer mindset. Do you have any idea how long this could take? Neither did she. Things like branding new ideas, new terms and new authors can take a long time – sometimes as long as a year (depending on what else is going on in the world). Start early, that’s important. OK so maybe early on you won’t know what your book cover will look like so how can you design your site? Well, then just get a WordPress template site and revise it later. There are 1,500 books published in the US each day, that number does not include the recent eBook surge. The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.
TWM: If an author doesn’t yet have a book contract, what are the top three things he or she should do to promote oneself?
PS: First the author should look at the needs of the audience. Are they on Twitter? Facebook? Pinterest? Google+? Or is this a very blog community? Figure out what your consumer needs and then serve that need. Often though, you’ll find that a blog (updated twice weekly at a minimum) and a Facebook Fan page are a must.
TWM: Should authors plan their own blog tours? What are the benefits of such a tour?
PS: I always believe that an author should be actively engaged in their own success so yes, they should do whatever they can to help market their book. Even if you hire a company to help market you, you should always do something. Blog tours? Love them. This is why it’s so important to start getting to know your market early. If you start to dig into your area you’ll know who the bloggers are and you can start getting to know them. How do you do this? I wrote a piece on the power behind blog commenting which, coincidentally, is a great way to get to know the high-end bloggers in your area. Here’s a link to it:. The benefits of a blog tour are getting the word out about your book. People sometimes devalue tours but truthfully, the bloggers can often be key to getting word out about your book. Don’t get stuck on the idea of getting book reviews from all of them because bloggers are really inundated with review copies. As an alternative offer content to bloggers. Bloggers are always looking for content. So you’ll end up with a mix of reviews and content that gets out there, all of it leads back to you and your book, which is what you can!
TWM: Are bookstore appearances worth the effort?
PS: Well, there are a lot of pros and cons to doing book events. We’ve done some where eight people show up and we did one that sold 500 books in one night. They key is promotion and going after the right market. So, if you are set on doing events consider this: maybe your market isn’t in a bookstore. We’ve done events in non-bookstore markets for years. Consider: coffee shops, electronics stores, Hallmark, gyms, etc. I have two articles on getting into bookstores and getting into non-bookstore markets that you might find interesting:
TWM: Some publishing houses ask for a marketing plan to accompany either proposals or full manuscripts. Are there templates for that for the author new to marketing?
PS: I’m sure there are but we’ve never used them. Sometimes we’ll do marketing plans for authors but we always start from scratch on those. Ideally you want to identify the following areas:
- Your market (so, the audience you’re doing after)
- Blogs in your marketing
- Key social media people you’ll want to network with
- Events (as appropriate) that you’ll want to go to
- Publications, media, etc. that will be key to the book
These are just a few areas to consider. Your market may have different needs, again the reader you are serving will often determine the points in your marketing plan!