Are You Using This to Build Your Author Platform?

To get published and sell books, you need a platform.

Most authors and aspiring authors have heard this message at least once, if not multiple times. But, what exactly defines a platform and how does one go about building one?This is the focus of the upcoming Learning Lab I will teach at the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference on July 26. This four-hour seminar, “Build Your Author Platform”, will teach attendees six manageable steps to build and grow an online author platform through content marketing.

Content marketing is simply sharing useful information that educates or inspires your target audience so that they begin to trust you and your message. You want people to trust you so that they, in turn, buy your books. After all, studies show that people do business with those they trust.

Brian Jud, president of Book Marketing Works and APSS, says:

“Repetition of your message is important to reach the decision-making tipping point. It may take up to ten “hits” on prospects to get them to buy.”

Using content to reach your audience provides repetition of your message and gains people’s trust.

Many authors feel that using content to market takes too much time and energy. In my seminar, I show authors how to create and repurpose content to save time and get the most out of every piece of content they create.

Repurposing content involves taking one piece of information and showcasing it in a number of different ways. This practice provides many benefits.

  1. It increases productivity and efficiency.

As an author, you have spent hours researching and writing your book. All your knowledge does not need to stay contained within the pages of your book. You can use the information you share in your book and break this down into smaller pieces to share on a regular basis through content marketing on the Internet.

  1. It expands your reach.

Sharing content and repurposing that content in a variety of formats spreads your message. The more places your content is listed, the more people will read and hear what you have to say. This way people are exposed to your message on the channels they prefer and in a way that speaks to them.

  1. It extends the life-cycle of your material.

Large amounts of data and information are uploaded to the Internet on a daily basis. With so much information, your target audience might miss what you are posting. Repurposing your content for multiple channels not only increases the changes that your audience will see it, it also allows your content to be made fresh in new formats, extending its life cycle.

  1. It increases your visibility.

This is a simple marketing principle. The more places your content appears, the more people are likely to see it. Visibility is extremely important in marketing books. The competition is stiff. Visibility allows you to stand out from the crowd.

If you are interested in learning more about how to use your content to market your books and expand your reach, I encourage you to attend my seminar on building an author platform at the upcoming Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference.

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Photo courtesy of SGPhotography77.

7 Social Media Facts You Should Know

Nothing stays static when it comes to technology. Just when you think you have the latest gadget or social media site figured out, either the current one changes its interface or a new one comes along that you have to adapt to.

Social networking is a constantly changing and evolving tool. To stay relevant and use social media to best connect with a target audience, authors can’t stay stagnant. Instead, we must adapt our strategies to fit the trends.

Following are seven social media facts from a recent Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults. I encourage you to use the findings from this survey to inform you of best practices in using social media to reach readers.

1. Facebook Is Still the Most Popular Social Network Site.

A little more than two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) are Facebook users. Nearly 75% of these users check Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans of all generations use Facebook. Facebook is still an important place for authors and publishers to connect with readers.

2. Most Americans Use Three of the Major Social Platforms.

The average American uses three of the eight major social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and WhatsApp). Know your target audience. Find out which three social networks these people use the most and be present on these sites.

3. Instagram Shows the Most User Growth.

Pew Research has been collecting social media data since 2016. Over the course of the past three years, seven percent more U.S. adults now use Instagram then did in 2016. The percentage of adults who use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest remains the same as it was in 2016. Instagram is now the second most popular social platform for Americans.

4. Women Are the Primary Users of Pinterest.

Pinterest has always been heavily used by women. The Pew study found that 41 percent of women use Pinterest compared to just 16 percent of men. Since women influence 83 percent of all consumer spending in the United States, books geared for men can still be promoted on Pinterest.

5. LinkedIn Is Most Popular With College Graduates.

Around 50 percent of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, compared with just nine percent of those with a high school diploma or less. Studies have shown that people with higher education read more. LinkedIn remains a great place to connect with people who read.

6. Most of Senior Citizens Don’t Use Social Media.

Only 37 percent of those over 65 use social media. If your target audience is retired folks, then don’t spend a lot of time on social media promoting your books. Use more traditional channels to reach this age group.

7. Few People Have a Lot of Trust in the Information on Social Media.

I found this finding the most surprising. Only three percent of social media users say they have a lot of trust in the information they find on social media. It appears that earning people’s trust via social media may be an uphill battle—and trust is required for people to buy your books.

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Photo courtesy of Tracy Le Blanc.

Google’s New Talk to Books

Sometimes I feel like I am beginning to live in a Science Fiction movie. The speed at which artificial intelligence (AI) is developing and becoming incorporated into our daily lives is accelerating.

Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are now allowing individuals to have conversations with artificial intelligence. Google has even taken their AI one step further and unveiled a new program: Talk to Books.

This new AI tool provides the ability to search based on semantic (meaning of phrase or sentence) rather than on keywords. Talk to Books allows anyone to search a database of books for information at a sentence level rather than an author or topic level. Using this tool, a user can input a statement or a question and Talk to Books searches over 100,000 books for sentences that best provide a response.

As you may be aware, over the past two decades, Google has digitalized thousands of books with or without the copyright holder’s permission. By integrating their new Talk to Books tool with these digitalized books, Google is providing a powerful search engine to help anyone seeking information to find that information within the pages of these books.

Google already has a book search engine. This search engine, https://books.google.com, allows you to search books by topic, author, or title by typing in text to the search engine. Talk to Books is slightly different. Instead of looking for books by author or topic, it searches within books for passages that are related to the question asked.

For example, if I type into the Google Book Search Engine the name of a bestselling Christian author like Max Lucado, I am rewarded with a list of books that he has authored. However, if I type or speak his name into Talk to Books at https://books.google.com/talktobooks, the results show passages from books that either talk about Max Lucado or quote from one of his books.

Some publishing industry experts believe that this new Talk to Books tool by Google will boost book discoverability. In other words, when individuals use Talk to Books to find information on various issues or topics, they are exposed to passages from books, increasing these books’ discoverability by readers and increasing the likelihood that the individual exposed to these books may make a purchase.

Sadly, Google has implemented a “popularity measure” in Talk to Books. This measure gives a boost to books produced by “professional publishing houses”—sorry Indies.

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Photo courtesy of Piotr Cichosz.

Marketing Tips to Reach Each Generation

I am a GenXer, a middle-child wedged between Baby Boomers and Millennials. I embody most of the Gen X characteristics including hard working, independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient. Sadly, my generation is also known as the forgotten generation when it comes to marketing.

Few companies specifically target Generation X in their marketing efforts. Yet, if companies don’t speak to me in a way that I will listen, I won’t stand up and take notice of what they are offering.

Marketing is not a one size fits all program. Effective marketing takes knowing how to talk to each generation so they will listen. Following are some tips to effectively reach each generation with your marketing messages.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, this generation makes up a significant portion of the purchasing public. Baby Boomers have longer attention spans than younger generations. After all, they did not grow up with the Internet and technology at their fingertips.

Baby Boomers are still tuned in to traditional marketing methods. As a result, radio and television ads and print ads in newspapers and magazine speak to this generation. In marketing to Baby Boomers, you can go into more depth with your information and even feature longer videos. Keep in mind that Baby Boomers are nearing or in retirement, so two big messages that this generation tunes into is how they can enjoy their leisure time and how they can save money to stretch their retirement funds.

Generation X

This generation, born between 1965 and 1980, is all about bargains. These people want to save money, time, and effort. So, in reaching this generation, offer coupons and ways for them to obtain your books and products without much effort or time invested on their part. This is a cross-over generation that can be reached through both traditional marketing and online marketing.

Millennials

Born between 1981 and 1997, this generation is on the cusp of surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation, according to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the texting generation. In fact, 100 percent of Millennials who own a smart phone communicate via text.

Millennials want content that is relevant and authentic. They like customized messages, not generic messages. Word-of-mouth is a driving influencer in Millennials purchases. Social proof—others talking positively about a product—is extremely important to this group. So, be sure to include testimonials in your marketing messages.

Generation Z

These are the new kids in town—those born after 1997. While young, this group is still a powerful buying force. These individuals are true digital natives. They have grown up with technology at their fingertips. This generation prefers to communicate through images rather than text. They are huge YouTube users. Use of video and images must be prominent in your marketing to reach this generation.

Generation Z is also the least churched generation in American history. This generation has grown up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where many of them have not even been exposed to Christianity or to church.

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Expecting Fast Results: What A Mistake!

We live in a fast society. A Boeing 787 can fly around the world in 42 hours and 27 minutes. With Google Fiber, Internet connection speeds reach up to one gigabit per second. FedEx allows you to have a package delivered the very next day to almost any location in the world. China’s new Fuxing bullet trains travel at 350 km/h (over 200 m/hr).

We have become so accustomed to fast, that we expect it. Except not everything delivers fast results.

This is true of promotion and marketing efforts. Rarely, do these activities deliver fast results. After all, research shows that it takes on average:

  1. Seven to twelve exposures of a product before a person decides to purchase it.
  2. Nine months of regular blogging to develop a strong, loyal readership base.
  3. Seven contacts to secure a media interview.

I recently received a call from a woman who heard about a book that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) represented at the CBA Unite International Retail Show last summer (in July 2017). The woman had recently talked with a gentleman who attended the show and told him of her need. He informed her that he had seen a book that met her need in CSPA’s booth at the trade show last summer.

The woman looked up CSPA on the Internet and gave us a call. She did not know that name of the book, but was able to tell me her need and I immediately identified which book the gentleman was referring to. I gave this woman the information on the book and the contact information for the publisher.

It has been six months since the 2017 CBA Unite show. Six months after viewing a book, a show attendee told this woman about a book he saw at the show that met her need.

Here’s the deal. Marketing activities usually don’t reap fast results. However, they do reap results for those who are patient.

Even though word spreads fast in today’s digitally-connected world, personal word-of-mouth can still take time. At the right moment, when faced with a need, a product or book is remembered and passed along.

Remember, marketing is all about exposure. It’s about introducing people to your books so that they know they exist. Your job is to get the word out. God’s job is to bring the harvest.

I have always said that promoting a book is a marathon, not a sprint. So, keep marketing. Keep spreading the word that your book meets a need that someone has. It may take months, but the people who need your book will hear and respond.

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