Julie Schoerke is the founder of JKSCommunications, which specializes in book publicity campaigns that integrate traditional and new media, and in managing comprehensive publicity campaigns. A PR expert for more than 25 years, Schoerke built her business with a variety of corporate clients and high-profile individual clients and events before focusing on literary publicity. This is the first of a two-part interview during which Julie took time out to answer questions important to self-published authors.
Indie authors have limited time to promote their books. What are three ideas that will give them the most bang for their buck?
JS – Actually, in today’s environment, Indie authors aren’t much different than most mid-range or debut authors with big houses. Promotion, to a great degree, is on the backs of the authors no matter who their publisher is.
The three ways to most efficiently create a platform for yourself at low or no cost and with limited time commitment:
√ Jump into social media! Have a Facebook fan page, LinkedIn Page, Goodreads Author page, Twitter account
Do not use your personal FB page and lock down your personal page before you create a “public” page. Keep your personal life private.
Set a timer for 20 minutes a day – or whatever amount of time you allot yourself – maybe 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night if you can spare it – and then become a “citizen” of those outlets by commenting, retweeting, and “liking” other’s posts. 75% of what you post should be in getting to know others – not pushing your book.
Connect with those in the book world – bloggers, bookstores and other authors.
√ Create the very best website you can possibly have and be sure that it’s optimized for search engines.People searching for you or the title of your book – perhaps the topic of your book if it’s non-fiction or a fiction genre – should be able to find you easily on the internet, but you need a qualified web designer who knows how to optimize.
√ Get out and meet the people who can sell your book.
Make sure you’re a “good neighbor” to local bookstores – that they know you as a customer and member of the community as well as a soon-to-be-published author.
Speaking of bucks, should Indies invest in ads, and if so, on what sites have you found ads to be most effective?
JS – Often, the reason that books with big publishing houses get “ink” in traditional print media is that those houses have an accumulated record of supporting the media outlet with advertising dollars. Like it or not, it’s how the world works. And “blockbuster” books with big publishing houses have even more dollars behind them.
So, it’s not really, from a financial standpoint, that surprising that indie books don’t get the same kind of coverage. Print media is a business; while they love books and that’s their focus, they have to stay in business.
Advertise where your target demographics are. There’s not a “one size fits all” answer to where an author should put advertising dollars. Figure out what your budget is. That determines where you can advertise! Some considerations:
√ Do you want to hit the “trade”? Do you want your book picked up in bookstores or by libraries? If so, advertise beforeyour book comes out in trade publications – there are many, but here is a list of a few you can explore: Shelf Awareness; GalleyCat/Media Bistro; BookPage; Publisher’s Weekly
√ Do you want to hit the readers who may purchase your book? Try traditional media outlets that cater to the people interested in your topic. If you can’t afford a print ad, find out how much traffic the media outlet’s blog or website gets and if it makes sense, consider a banner ad. On-line advertising can be very effective too. You may want to do highly targeted advertising on Facebook or Google ads, Goodreads, the Shelf Awareness reader edition newsletter or a blogger site that will be especially supportive of your book, or websites that cater to book clubs
Lots of firms have sprung up anxious to promote Indies. How do you tell the good ones from the shady ones, and what should the author expect in terms of good customer service?
JS– There are several ways to “vet” publicity firms. Check out the publicity firm’s website, see who their clients are, then Google several books/clients and see how much is online. You can tell if they are effective if the book gets legitimate reviews (not just “free PR” posts). Email and request a call to interview the publicity firm’s leader. See if the person will take time with you and you are comfortable with their style and what they tell you. A clear sign of a good publicity firm is if they are honest up front and explain that they cannot promise you the moon. If anyone tells you that they can get you on a specific major television program, that’s a pretty good indication that there may issues on down the line. The media is fickle and capricious – they call the shots and no publicity firm has a major television program in their back pocket – but we have to love ‘em.
Also, decide if you’d like a formulaic approach – for a publicity firm to give you a set menu of how it lays out each of it’s publicity campaigns, or if you’d like something that is a little more flexible. This is a very personal choice with no right or wrong answer. In our case, the JKSCommunications team has found that when we create a publicity campaign that is specific to the author’s lifestyle, family considerations, budget, and the areas the author is most comfortable spending time (writing guest posts vs. public appearances for example), then our clients are more enthusiastic to do what they need to in order for their campaign to be successful.
Is it better for an Indie author to sell 800 books at $9.99 a copy, or 5,000 books for .99 cents a copy, and what is your reasoning?
Although it seems like every author would have the same goal – to sell as many books as possible – when it comes right down to it, when I talk with authors, every single person has a different, specific goal. Sometimes they don’t realize it until we’ve talked for a while.
Most authors want their books to be as widely read as possible, so common sense says that 5,000 books at $.99/ eBook format would be the most appealing. But, there are various reasons that some authors would rather sell fewer books but at a higher price. Of course, this is assuming that we’re talking about eBook format. If we’re talking about physical books, one of the most obvious reasons for selling at the higher price is that an author shouldn’t lose money by selling a book that is less expensive than it takes to produce.
Julie tackles more questions in Part II. Meanwhile, do any writers have additional questions or comments?