[My Guest Post] An Author’s Marketing Mistake

First week of May? Must be time to tell you about this month’s guest post at the How To Write Shop. Today I take a look at a common mantra I hear time and time again from authors and artists. Many people I’ve talked to never want to promote or even mention their previously published work. In this post, entitled “Authors, Don’t Make this Marketing Mistake,” I dive into their objections with my responses.

Here’s a quote from the article:

By promoting your existing titles, you add depth to your marketing efforts because you’re adding new products to the mix. Don’t be afraid to talk about your previously published work in a way that’s new to those readers, either. After all, if you complain or talk down about what you’ve already done, then that will reflect in your sales and the way your readers/fellow authors treat you. If you’re that unhappy with your backlist, then what will that say about how you’ll treat your current releases a year from now? — SOURCE: Authors, Don’t Make this Marketing Mistake at the How To Write Shop

If you’re an author or an artist, I hope you drop by my article and add your thoughts. In a comment, Lori Devoti already pointed out another reason why authors don’t promote their backlist, and why that may need to change.

[My Guest Post] Aspiring Authors Should Think Twice Before Marketing

Hi everyone,

Today on the How To Write Shop I posed a question about whether or not aspiring authors should start promoting themselves before they learn how to write.

This is one of my longer columns where I cover the difference between website visitors and readers, mention why it’s important to focus on your craft, and where some of the confusion might be coming in. Many of the topics I brush on might be uncomfortable for people eager to write their first short story and hopefully sell a ton of copies, but I felt it needed to be said. I’m seeing a heavy-handed focus on developing an online presence and how necessary it is to get online traffic, but for new authors I feel this is greatly misleading.

There are benefits and drawbacks to jumping in to online promotion when you don’t have the resume to back it up. However, you have more flexibility to experiment because you have nothing to lose. Many people want to be a writer because, on the surface, it appears glamorous. No set schedule, work from home, make a ton of money, etc. But there’s a lot that goes on in the industry outside of writing that eventually you’ll need to pick up on. To survive, you need to be flexible, disciplined, determined and thick-skinned. Not everyone is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like books, there are many different types of writers out there. I know some who are perfectly happy writing for a few small presses; others want their books in retail stores like Target, Wal-Mart, etc. As a result, their online promotional efforts reflect their goals and life as a writer. — SOURCE: When Should You Start Promoting Online? at the How To Write Shop

If you’re new to writing, I hope you’ll drop by and read my article today. After all, if you’re going to chase the rainbow, you’ll need to put your running shoes on first…

My Take on Pepsi Refresh’s Social Media Campaign Results

Hi folks,

Not sure if you’ve heard this or not, but this past week in social media news an article entitled Social Media’s Massive Failure at The Ad Contrarian made a lot of refreshing waves. (Pun intended). In the article, the author talks about how Pepsi spent millions of dollars on a social campaign wasted their money. Why? Even though the campaign was successful in every way, shape and form according to what a social media marketer might expect, the campaign didn’t result in higher sales for the company. Hence, millions of dollars “lost.”

I’m going to be blunt. “Well, duh!”

Now, to explain my position. First, social media has its own currency and that unit of measurement is not in dollars and cents. It’s people. Yes, people buy things. That is true, but social media has the word “social” in it for a reason. It’s not primarily about shopping, it’s about sharing. Ergo, unless you make the social media campaign about getting people to buy a new product, it is not going to automatically result in higher sales. From the articles I’ve read, it sounds like the people at Pepsi knew this and were willing to test what they knew about the digital space to see what kind of an effect it might have. For that? I say: “Awesome!” Sometimes it’s the only way you learn. However, it does make me question what their goal was in the first place.

So, let’s look critically at the Pepsi Refresh campaign and see if we can’t figure out why this didn’t result in higher profitability for the company. I go to Pepsi’s Facebook page which asks me to click to support. Okay, if you were to show me this page before the campaign even started I would have said: “You will not make money off of this.” Why? Well, on the first page we see the word “support,” which means I suspect this campaign has something to do with a charity. The requirement for me to do something good is to click “Like.” That’s it. (No seriously, that’s all you have to do.) Sure enough, when we get to the page we see that I’ve done a good thing and I am automatically rewarded with the information about all the good things that this campaign is doing. So here, to pay for the charity efforts you have to take an action. Your reward is instantaneous. Out of sight? Out of mind. Boom. End of story. Immediate action, instant pay-off, no long-lasting impression.

In this regard, I argue their social media was successful if you look at currency in context.

To convert Pepsi fans into revenue-generating customers, here’s how I would have approached this campaign:

Stick with the “do good things” idea because that is a great angle to take. Set aside concerns about the volume of Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers. Nine times out of ten, those concerns are unwarranted — especially for uber-big brands like this. When it comes to conversion, it doesn’t matter how many visits you get or how many fans you have. What matters is what percentage of those people will convert into customers. Social media is never a one-to-one relationship because it depends on the volume of friends and followers you have in addition to a number of other factors. There’s no guarantee that you’ll even see a campaign which is often why so much money is dumped into these efforts.

In this vein, I’d build the campaign from the end goal up. So, if the goal is to increase Pepsi’s revenue through engaging people to work with Pepsi on a charitable campaign, then you absolutely need a financial component. I would have done small scale testing in this regard before launching the super big mega millions of dollars initiative, by looking at different options. First? Send a Friend a coupon. Now, Mr. Customer, that you’ve done this wonderful thing by helping us commit an act of kindness, we’d like to help you get refreshed. You can either a) have this fabulous two dollar coupon for yourself or b) send two of these coupons to two of your friends. Your choice. Get refreshed. Second? Micro-payments!!! Also would require testing, but what if you could buy a can of Pepsi for charity? The amount per can would be clearly disclosed and you could pick where you wanted it to go. For something like this, you’d have to streamline the conversion process (PayPal, Facebook dollars, etc.) so it’s a one-or-two-click sort of a thing. (Hint: this is the reason why social media campaigns can work well because it’s all too easy to “Like” or “RT” without having to invest anything into it.) Imagine the power of that campaign. If you had even twenty percent of the now three million people who liked the Facebook page spend a dollar… That’s a lot of cash.

After the conversion, I would have an optional screen that would say: “Thanks for refreshing the world. May we send you a follow-up e-mail to show you how you helped [charity of choice]?” Here you get the person’s e-mail address and you send them one e-mail later on with whatever information you have. Then you give them another, smaller coupon for themselves and ask them to sign up for your newsletter.

In the initial campaign, the event occurs within a span of five seconds (I counted!). In my version, the event still happens quickly but the first option has a viral component, so you potentially double or triple the effect and potentially monetize a portion of the campaign. In the second version, it would take a little bit longer, but it would give Pepsi another opportunity to remind them of how they did this really great thing, building a memory or recurring instance. No, there’s absolutely no guarantee whatsoever these ideas would work, which is why I would encourage testing on a smaller sample within a geographic location or demographic to offer some projected data.

So can social media make money? Yes, yes it can. The success of Ian’s Pizza on State Street happened organically through social media; people wanted to feed the protesters here in Madison, Wisconsin, Ian’s provided the service, business increased exponentially. In other words, social media was leveraged by its customers, in many cases without Ian’s knowledge, to pass the phone number and make it easy for people to donate. Emotionally-charged, customers had a reason to buy and believed the only place they could go to was Ian’s on State Street. No, this wasn’t a start-to-finish campaign, but there is a lesson I feel businesses can learn from this. Social media facilitates the sale by incurring people’s emotion, but you still have to have something for them to buy.

That’s why it didn’t surprise me that the Pepsi Refresh sale didn’t (and couldn’t) generate revenue — because they didn’t ask for the sale.

What is the Solution to Authors Not Getting Paid?

For some background on this post, I’d like to point you in the direction of Brian Keene’s website, author extraordinaire. In his Friday Frenzy wrap-up, you can read the latest and greatest on the Dorchester boycott debacle along with several other links. I’m deeply saddened by this event; in order to support a group of authors, you have to refrain from buying their books. That sucks. Incidentally, if you want to help Brian out or any of the other authors affected, follow up and ask them where to legitimately buy their latest and greatest.

My question for you today, folks, is not about the boycott. Instead, I’d like to ask you about what the solution might be. If you knew you were walking into an industry where there was a chance you could be a) plagiarized and b) not paid for your work — what would be your approach? (Note: both these things can and do happen. Even to people like myself.) However, these occurrences don’t happen to every publisher or author. I have very strong feelings about bashing publishers, agents or authors. Want to see my eyes glow red? Yeah… Let’s not go there.

Several websites and pro organizations exist to help provide communication on when deals go bad, but as far as I know pro authors don’t have groups like the Hero Initiative or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Is it time we started a similar group to support authors? Work more with pro groups like RWA, SFWA and the HWA to move in this direction? Should we place the onus on literary agents beyond the inking of the deal? Or, do we need to educate readers to ensure the money is flowing to the writer?

I’m not sure I have an answer. What are your thoughts?

UPDATE: I totally spaced. There is the Author’s Guild. Thanks, Yasmine!

Apex Book Company Revisited

Earlier this year, I had mentioned I had done some consulting for Apex Publications, which is the parent company of Apex Book Company, Apex Magazine and The Zombie Feed. A little over sixty days have passed since implementing a new strategy, and I all can say is “Whooo-hooo!”

In order to make the magazine soluble, I recommended amping up the subscription-based model and holding a drive for new subscribers in January. The tagline was simple. “New Year. New Stories.” This drive was a huge success and made possible by dedicated readers, newsletter subscribers, and fans of short fiction. Apex exceeded its goal and has continued that momentum. The magazine that wasn’t profitable has now broken even and there are signs of additional growth. What’s more, Jason is now able to start the arduous task of improving the magazine for existing subscribers and incorporating promotional aspects for the book line that provide value for readers. Previews or excerpts, for example, is something I just mentioned to Jason earlier this week. Instead of placing an ad, magazine subscribers can read the first chapter or two of a select Apex title in addition to the stories they read. That way, they get something new to read that allows them to make a decision whether or not they want to proceed with a sale.

The other thing that’s happened, is that I’ve seen an amazing groundswell of support from the authors who are publishing through Apex. The Apex blog has taken on a more focused tone; these talented individuals are talking about the things readers want to read — and the stats are backing it up, too.

These are nascent moments, but positive enough to spark Jason’s renewed enthusiasm. Unbridled excitement is an awesome thing to see, because when it’s unleashed it’s contagious. In other words, I coached him up front on what to watch out for and let him loose (so to speak). Now Jason is able to take off because he has a firm grasp on the core business, has seen a positive effect from the changes that were made, and he understands where he needs to go. So much so, that he’s planning long-term and releasing new things with a proper launch.

Businesses thrive when they have a strong core business with some amount of flexibility. It is important to be able to change-on-the-fly, but it’s also important to have long-term, measurable goals. Apex has all of these things and more.

I have no doubt that there are big things in this publisher’s future. What’s happened these past few months has been necessary for this small business to refocus its efforts, but there is a lot of room for growth.

Just in time for Spring. Yay!

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Monica Valentinelli > Work-For-Hire > Consulting and Marketing

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