- by Dara Girard
I spent my childhood and formative years in the Middle East and attended college in the United Kingdom. In 1998, my husband and I moved to Washington State and I started reviewing for online websites and Bookpage.com. During this time, I also started learning about the publishing industry on many fronts. It opened up a lot of doors for me and since 2004, I’ve worked one-on-one with some of the best, award-winning authors in the romance industry on administration, publicity, and promotion. My clients have ranged from the newly published to fully established, New York Times bestselling authors.
Why did you decide to start this business?
I fell into this business quite by accident. In 2004, I reconnected with a multi-published author at a book signing and got into an email correspondence with her over the next several months. One day she mentioned needing some help with the business side of writing due to her packed schedule and time constraints and asked if I could assist. It was only supposed to be for a short while because I wanted to get back to my own writing… but I fell in love with the job and thanks to word of mouth, my client base has since expanded. In 2006, I officially launched my website, Author Sound Relations. (www.authorsoundrelations.com)
What are two big mistakes authors make when it comes to promotion?
I think in any business, you need to have realistic goals. You cannot put pennies into your business and expect to make thousands in return. That just doesn’t work. Be reasonable in your expectations. To achieve the best bang for your buck, you need a proper plan. You need a set budget for promotional costs and you need to know exactly what you want and hope to achieve by the end of the day. Of course, there are no guarantees in this market but having a plan helps you make better business decisions and spend your budget wisely. A proper marketing plan will help you stay focused.
Promoting your book, just like any other business, means investing. You’ve got to be ready to spend, whether it’s your time or your money. A lot of authors start out great but then fall by the way side in effort. Sure, time is an issue for anyone in this business but there’s no point in setting up a blog if you’re not going to make an effort to use it. What’s the point of a Facebook page to connect with your readers if you don’t take the time to check in with them regularly or engage them in conversation?
Be assertive but not aggressive. It’s always a turn-off for any reader when an author shows up on your radar only when he/she has a book to promote or if he/she only posts promotional messages about their book. As a team, my client and I get to work on different ways to keep her/their name in front of readers, even during months when there is no new book on the shelves. We come up with smart ideas to make an impact on the reader in an effective and memorable way. It’s interesting and unpredictable in so many ways and it keeps me on my toes!
If you’re hoping to create a solid reader base, reach out to your audience even when you don’t have a book coming out. Don’t forget to be social on social media sites. Take ten minutes every couple of days to make that personal connection on social media. Add value to your comments by sharing your experience, your ideas, your opinions or just sharing great resources with the community. You don’t have to stay long but do check in and let them see some personality in your comments or status updates. Let them see the real you so they can feel more connected to you.
I realize the question asks for two mistakes but I’m going to mention a third one – I hope that’s okay.
If you’re going to invest in promotional material like pens, notepads, nail files, mirrors, lanyards etc., please strive for quality rather than quantity. Seriously. A quality (and reasonably priced) product is going to last a lot longer and be used and remembered and shared by your readers. I understand authors want to reach thousands of readers as cheaply as possible but in a business where Perception Is Everything, the last thing you want your readers thinking is that you’re stingy or cheap so if you’re going to invest, do it wisely and with good taste.
What kind of promotion has the biggest return on investment (either time, money or both)?
The Excerpt. Online e-newsletters with an exclusive excerpt from your novel are a great way to entice the reader. Give them a peek at your story, let them get a taste of the tone and the characters in a riveting scene and you’ll have them hooked. Chances are strong that next time they’re in the bookstore, they’ll look for your book.
If you don’t have time to do a regular newsletter, there are several opportunities available on the internet where you can purchase a one-time e-newsletter slot and get the word out to a very large potential audience. Author Sound Relations offers a ‘NewsWire’ (authorsoundrelations.com/MTB/newswire.htm) opportunity – a personalized newsletter, with an exclusive excerpt and a contest, which goes out to over 18,000 readers. Feedback from authors who have tried this promotion has convinced me strongly that it’s very worthwhile in creating a buzz, helping sales and driving traffic to a website.
If your budget allows for a true ‘mailing’, get some flyers or rack cards printed with an excerpt on one side and get them physically in the hands of your readers. In my experience, excerpts are one of the ‘best’ tools an author can use to help get those sales numbers up!
What are key ways you think authors can connect and interact with readers?
The first and easiest way to connect and interact with readers today is via Social Media – sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Good Reads, Shelfari etc. Take advantage of it but don’t try to hit every social media site. Choose one or two sites and develop your profile steadily. Establish yourself by visiting them at least 2 or 3 times a week. Set yourself a time limit though, because social media can be a huge time-suck. Still, it’s a fantastic way to meet and engage your readers. And remember to take your author hat off once in a while. The more people connect with you as an individual first, the more likely they are to follow you, no matter what genre you write tomorrow.
Join groups. Whether it’s through Facebook or Yahoogroups, or even just the reader forums on high traffic websites, join a community. You don’t have to be active every day but at least spend 20 – 30 minutes a week, checking in and interacting with them.
Start a blog or sign up with a group blog. Build your platform by focusing on your author brand and make sure all your posts are relevant to it. Your focus and consistency must be steady. If you stick to it, your readers will know where and when to check in with you and what to expect. If having your own blog seems too stressful, or if you’re not keen on constant social exposure, consider joining a group blog where several authors participate so the pressure isn’t as intense for you but you can still have an outlet to connect with readers.
Do you think that blogging and book trailers are still a viable way to reach readers? Why or why not?
Yes, Blogging is definitely still viable. It can provide readers with a different platform to get in touch and stay in touch with an author. It’s a more personalized connection. I’d encourage authors to take it one step further by making sure their blog RSS feed is submitted wherever possible to enable them to reach readers who may not visit your website. It’s not just enough to blog if reaching a broader audience is your ultimate aim. Utilize your RSS feed to ensure your blog is going the extra mile for you. It can help bring name recognition and fresh traffic to your site.
Online videos / book trailers can be a good source of promo as well, provided they are done well. A huge percentage of today’s web traffic is geared towards videos and book trailers. However, cost is definitely a factor as well-made trailers can be expensive but there’s no point in using a book trailer that looks like it’s been slapped together at the last minute. It’s not going to appeal as much or as easily to readers and a cheap or badly made trailer can take away from the quality of your work. If the trailer is bad, the introduction to your book isn’t going to score you any points. So, if you’re working with a low budget, skip the trailer and put the money where it can be better used.
What do you like most about your job?
My job allows me lots of creativity with words and design too which is great because I love color. I love the one-on-one interaction with like-minded people, the brainstorming sessions on writing and publicity. It’s very involved, very hands-on and so stimulating! There are no regular office hours as such and that’s a definite plus. This job has also given me the opportunity to develop my design skills and play with color. (http://authorsoundrelations.com/design.htm) I love designing the newsletters, print and online ads for books and businesses. I’ve even had a chance to cultivate my web design skills and put together a couple of simple websites for non-publishing related businesses.
What’s the best way for a potential client to reach you?
I’m always available by email – firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone – 425.749.7418.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for inviting me for an interview! I’ve enjoyed it and wish you and all Novelist Inc. readers a very Happy New Year!