5 Free Tools Every Author Can Use

Limited budgets. Most of us live on them. We have limited dollars to spend on publishing and marketing a book.

The good news is that publishing a book is now very affordable, and promoting a book does not need to cost you a fortune. Here are five free tools to help you be a more successful author without having to spend a dime.

1. Get a Free Website

Every author needs a website. I am still surprised at how many independently published authors don’t have a website. In today’s world, you don’t exist if you don’t have a website. A website is one of your most important marketing tools. If you don’t have a website, you can create one easily and for free at Carrd. Now you don’t have any excuses. Go get a website.

2. Create Free Visuals

Every author needs to engage in marketing—promoting your book. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is on the Internet through your own website and through social media sites (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). To grab people’s attention, you want to create interesting visuals for your website and social media posts. One website that lets you create all sort of visuals for free including blog graphics, social media pictures, infographics, and web banners is Canva.

3. Host a Free eBook Giveaway

Any author with a book on Amazon Kindle can host a free ebook giveaway through Amazon. However, doing so only gets your ebook into the hands of readers. It does not allow you to capture emails of interested readers so that you can continue to communicate with them. Instead, host your ebook giveaway right from your website using Instafreebie.

4. Track Your Business Income and Expenses

When you publish your own book, you can now call yourself a sole-proprietor and begin using this to your advantage come tax time. If you choose this route, you will need to carefully track your business income and expenses. You can do this easily using the free online program provided by Wave.

5. Never Forget a Password

If you are using the Internet to publish and promote a book, then the number of websites where you have to remember a password increases. These include the sites where your book is published, the sites where your book is sold, your own website and social media accounts, as well as the resources listed here. Now you can use this free resource to never lose a password. Generate strong passwords and store your login credentials, securely, and locally at LastPass.

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Photo courtesy of LUM3N on Unsplash.

Age-Old Marketing Wisdom for Authors

Wise King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. His advice is still relevant today, and so are these eight common English proverbs. Let each one give you wisdom for your book marketing journey.

1.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Anything that takes a long time to finish begins with one step. Marketing a book can be overwhelming. The number of tasks can be daunting. Instead of looking at the whole picture, look at one step at a time. Ask yourself: What is my next step? When that one is done, then ask again and repeat the process.

2.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

An image not only tells a story, it draws people in. This is especially true on the Internet with social media. Use images to convey your marketing messages. Studies show that people engage more with social media posts that contain images. In fact one study showed that social media posts with pictures are 40 times more likely to be shared than those posts that don’t feature a picture.

3.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What is “beautiful” is different for each person. That means that not everyone will like your book. Not everyone will find your story beautiful. Don’t take it personally. Know that your book is not meant for everyone and seek the people who will find the beauty in your book.

4.  Better late than never.

Promoting your book should start about a year before you publish it. If you failed to promote your book before you brought it to fruition, take heart. It is better to start marketing your book late than to never market it at all. If you have stopped marketing, it’s not too late to pick it back up again and remind people that your book exists and meets a need for them.

5.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

In marketing, it is a little of this and a little of that makes the most impact. No one marketing channel or task will ensure your book sells well. Don’t just use social media. Don’t just advertise online. You have numerous options for promoting your book. Use as many as you can.

6.  Fortune favors the bold.

Those who are willing to take risks tend to be more successful than those who play it safe. Take some risks with your marketing endeavors. Some will fail, but some will pay off.

7.  Honesty is the best policy.

It is always better to tell the truth than a lie. Make sure that your marketing messages are truthful and that you can fulfill your promise to your reader.

8.  There is no time like the present.

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait. Do it now. Yes, it may be uncomfortable. But, if you don’t try, you can’t succeed. Start doing whatever marketing tasks you have been putting off today. Write that press release. Email that influencer. Call that radio producer. Schedule that book signing.

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Photo courtesy of Picography.co.

Is Your Book’s Description Enticing?

In my recent post “How Visuals Affect Purchasing Decisions”, I listed the survey finding that 63% of consumers said good images are more important than product descriptions. Your book’s cover is your number one marketing tool.

However, the second most important piece of information in marketing your book, after the cover of your book, is your book’s description. Also known as the back-cover copy, this piece of information is crucial in convincing readers to make a decision to purchase your book. Your book’s description should be alluring.

Most people read a book because they want to be informed or entertained. Therefore, a good book description will do the following two things:

1. Make a promise to the reader about what she will find in the book.
2. Answer the WIIFM question.

I recently received a Christian book catalog from a large Christian self-publishing company (which shall remain unnamed). The catalog listed close to 200 titles. Sometimes I thumb through unsolicited catalogs before recycling them. On a lark, I thumbed through this one.

When a book title or cover image in the catalog caught my eye, I took a moment to read the description. One cover with an engaging photo touted this book description:

The author’s story of her life and how she felt she had to wear different masks, thus projecting different faces to others at various time in her life. She had to learn that what makes her mighty is based on knowing God loves her. Knowing that God loves her is her power.

That book description told me about the book, but it did not make a promise or tell me how this book would “inform” me. In other words, the description did not tell me what I would get out of reading this book—other than the author’s personal story.

 

I don’t know this author. Therefore, I am not really interested in her personal story. I, like most readers, become interested in her personal story when I know what the book has to offer me for my life.

A better description for this book that both makes a promise and answers the WIIFM question might be:

We all long to be accepted. Susan craved acceptance so much that she felt she needed to wear masks to project an image of herself others would accept. Follow Susan on her journey as she learns that God’s love and acceptance gives her the power to be her true self. If you have ever felt that you needed to alter your true self be accepted, this story is for you.

I always find it disheartening when authors pay a large sum of money to have a book published and end up with a less than stellar product. Don’t waste your money.

When crafting your next book’s description. Remember that the job of your description is to entice readers to want to read your book. Make the information on your book alluring by delivering a promise and answering the WIIFM question.

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Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt.

How Visuals Affect Purchasing Decisions

Advertising photographs are airbrushed. Oranges are dyed “orange” and farm-raised salmon are dyed pink to make them more appealing to shoppers.

Visual appeal affects what we buy. Check out these interesting statistics:

 

  • Colored visuals are proven to increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.
  • The average person views only 20% of a webpage, but will view every image.
  • 67% of product users say images are very important when making a purchasing decision.
  • 63% of consumers said good images are more important than product descriptions.

I have frequently said that your book’s cover is your number one marketing tool. This last statistic—63% of consumers said good images are more important than product descriptions—emphasizes my point. Almost two-thirds of the people who buy your book will be largely influenced by the cover design.

Authors love words. We want to convince buyers with our words. Words are good and must be used effectively in promoting your books, but keep in mind the image is what will draw people in to read your words.

I recently received an e-catalog from a small publisher. To my dismay, the book images in this catalog were minuscule. I do mean tiny. Each book hosted a lengthy description with many words, but the book cover images were so small that I could not even make out the title of the book on each image.

Sadly, this e-catalog will not be very effective. Had an inverse ratio been used—large book cover images and few words—this catalog would pack much more punch. It could convert more viewers to buyers. After all, one study showed that including a photo next to an item on a restaurant menu increased its orders by 30 percent.

Research is showing that the more inundated we have become with information; the more visual decision making is growing. Images are becoming the biggest motivating factor in what we do, where we go, and what we buy.

Consider this. The most popular website after Google is YouTube, a highly visual medium. The two most popular social media platforms for younger generations are Instagram and Snapchat, both photo driven sharing.

If you want to be more effective in promotion your book(s), keep the important of visual decision making and appeal in mind when you create your next social media post, blog post, advertisement, or marketing material. Put an engaging image in every piece of information you share on the internet. Make your images central as well as large and appealing in all your promotional marketing and advertising materials.

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Photos courtesy of Visual Hunt and Pixabay.

How Not to Sell a Book

Nominations for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards are rolling in. One recent nomination demonstrates how not to sell a book. I thought I would share it with you, so you can know what not to do.

The Christian Indie Awards nomination form requests various information. The form asks the nominating party to list the publisher of the book along with contact information. This contact information is very important, because it is who we contact should the book win an award.

One recent nomination listed CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gave contact information for CreateSpace. Folks, CreateSpace is not a publisher. Yes, you can request that they assign your book an ISBN number and then they list themselves as the publisher of the book on Amazon, but they are not the true publisher of the book.

If you are an independent author, you are the publisher. If you use any print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lightning Source, BookBaby, or LuLu, you are still the publisher. These companies are simply printing platforms that allow you to independently publish your book.

So, this independent author lists CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gives the contact information for CreateSpace. Now, if this nominated title were to win an award, we would have to send the announcement to CreateSpace. Do you think CreateSpace cares? Do you think they would contact the author and let the author know that he won an award? No, they won’t. CreateSpace is simply a revenue stream for Amazon. The company exists so that Amazon has more books to sell, and thus can make more money.

In an attempt to see if I could scare up other contact information for this author, I Googled the book’s title. To my dismay, the only place this book is listed on the internet is Amazon. The author does not have a website for the book. Neither the author nor the book are listed on Goodreads. There is not even a Facebook page for the book. Nothing.

Next, I strolled on over to Amazon to check the Author Page to see if I could scare up some information on the author. This time, I was not too surprised when I found that this author had not even completed the author profile for his Author Page on Amazon.

The book in question was published in November 2016. That was a year ago. In that time, the author has done almost nothing (from what I can tell) to promote this book. That’s like saying you are a missionary, but all you do is put some tracts in a local café and spend the rest of your time sitting in your house. How will people hear about the Gospel unless you tell them? How will people know about your book unless you tell them?

Having your book for sale only on Amazon with no other online presence will ensure that your book won’t sell. You must tell people about your book for them to know about it. Telling on the internet includes (at a minimum) having a website and a presence on social media.

By the way, nominations for the Christian Indie Awards are open through November 15, 2017. You can nominate your books at www.christianaward.com.

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Kawamura.