- by Dara Girard
Purple Papaya LLC helps authors use social networking (like Facebook) to build an online fan base. I was happy to get a chance to talk with its founder Sheri Brooks.
Why did you start Purple Papaya LLC?
I needed to find a job closer to home in order to spend more time with my family when I found myself at a party chatting with Jayne Ann Krentz. We discussed her website, book videos, and Facebook. The next thing I knew, I had promised to send her some ideas for increasing her visibility on the web beyond just having a website. Two weeks after that initial “ideas list,” I was starting Purple Papaya, LLC and my commute went from 3 hours in the car to 15 steps to the kitchen table. Thank you, Jayne.
How did you come up with the name?
I can’t take any credit for the name. I wanted a name that was fun, colorful, memorable, and at first I had picked Green Banana, but my husband suggested Purple Papaya. I will never say this again, but he was right. It’s a great name. Please don’t tell him I said so.
How can an author best use Facebook as a tool?
Facebook is a great tool for keeping people connected and that’s exactly what you want to do with your readers. Keep them connected to you year-round and they won’t need to stumble upon your next release, you’ll have them ready for it! Planning and editing is important on Facebook just as it is in your writing, so put a little thought into the type of relationship that you want to develop with readers and get started.
Facebook is a wonderful way to have a conversation with your readers and let them know how (and when) to find your books. Don’t wait until you have a book coming out, though. Social Networks take time to grow. A great way to seed your Facebook Page is with your current email list. If you don’t have an email list, you can get new fans with advertising.
Could you explain the broad aspect of your services?
Purple Papaya is a boutique marketing company. We can help you set up a Facebook Page and plan your posts, but we do much more. We’ve increased sales in stores where we’ve created and promoted “gift with purchase” packs to encourage loyal fans to pre-order new releases. We design and manage social network advertising campaigns, we worked with one of our clients to publish a serial micro-novel on Twitter, we help authors run online promotions and contests, create graphic logos for their book series, we’ve commissioned illustrations for fictional artifacts and maps, we’ve created online shops to brand mugs and tote bags with logos, and more! One of our all-time favorite giveaways was branded wildflower seeds “from the garden” of a botanist who was one of the characters in the novel.
In your work with authors, what’s the criteria for developing a customized proposal for each potential client?
We try to understand what the author wants to accomplish and the types of books she writes. How often does she publish? (If you have a longer interval between books, then reader engagement on Facebook becomes much more important.) We look to see where an author is in her publishing career. What are the demographics of her fan base? What is her publisher already doing for her?
Our multi-faceted marketing plan works to tie everything together so that what happens within and outside of Purple Papaya all build upon each other. We also understand that everyone has a different budget, so our plan is broken out with a variety of costs and authors can choose where they want to start and what fits their budget. The more facets you use, the stronger and more effective your message will be, but you can start small and build the message over time.
How are you different from your competitors?
We serve as a Personal Marketing Coordinator for our authors. There are some things that our clients want to do on their own, there are some things that our clients can do on their own, but don’t want to, and there are some things that are a bit more technical and our clients just don’t have the time to learn about them. We take on the work that our clients don’t want to do or don’t have time to learn about and this is different for each client.
We tailor a program to complement what the authors do and we bring a wealth of experience in social media, online promotion, and technical expertise to give our clients a service that meets their needs, not ours. As we’ve told some of our clients, “We’ll do anything for you, but we won’t write your novel.”
When an author is considering working with Purple Papaya LLC, what should they keep in mind?
You are always in control and you have approval over everything we do. We can do as much or as little as you need and as things change, we adapt with you. With Purple Papaya, you are never trapped in a contract. If you become busy with your writing, you can ask us to take on more work. If you find yourself with some free time, you can ask us to do less work. We’re approachable and eager to help.
Do you have a system to measure the effectiveness of various promotional opportunities?
Measurement is key to Purple Papaya’s services, and we provide our clients with objective, metrics-based reports each month. Of course, some promotions are more readily measured than others. With our very first “gift with purchase” campaign, that client’s local bookstore sold over 300 copies of her paperback original. Part of this campaign included sending the author to the bookstore to sign those 300+ books. And we tracked participation in this campaign across bookstores worldwide.
With Facebook, we look at the level of engagement and rate of fan growth that we get from your Facebook Page. If we aren’t getting the level of engagement that we want to see, then we make adjustments to find something that your readers respond to. We combine a number of metrics – click rates, site visits, sell-through, and more to assess social media ads. The bottom line, though, is how your book sales this time compare to your book sales from last time and where you landed on the lists.
To what extent is your role when working with an author?
Purple Papaya manages every aspect of the marketing campaign once we begin working together. If we decide on details of a plan, but something changes along the way, clients are always welcome to call me to request modifications. If you win an award and we find out about it through the grapevine, you can be sure that we’ll give you a call and recommend that we use the news.
Anything else you would like to add?
Bestselling Novelist Jayne Ann Krentz, Cissy Hartley of Writerspace, and I will be discussing “Twitter and Facebook and Websites, Oh My!” at the RWA Annual Conference in Orlando this summer. Thursdsay, July 29 at 2pm…please drop by if you have the time!
If you have questions and won’t be in Orlando this summer, please feel free to send us a note through www.PurplePapayaLLC.com.