The Future of Christian Publishing: According to 4 Agents

future of christian publishing

We love when experts dish on the Christian publishing industry. What are they seeing? Where are the trends? Who is driving the industry and who is falling behind? So today we’re sharing this excerpt of Publishers Weekly’s Agents Discuss the New Norms of Christian Publishing by Ann Byle. Enjoy!

With a bird’s eye view of which authors and topics get through publishers’ doors, Christian literary agents remain optimistic about an industry that is experiencing moreconsolidation as bricks-and-mortar stores close.

 “Christian publishing is a viable and growing marketplace,” Steve Laube, president of the Christian Writers Institute and Enclave Publishing, as well as longtime literary agent, tells PW. “The death of publishing has been forecast for 40 years, and it’s never been right.”

Though they are surviving and some even thriving, publishers remain cautious, according to agent Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Management, who says that publishers are more risk-averse now than ever before in her almost 15-year career.

“Advances are tied closely to past sales and we see less inclination to offer advances based on what they believe ‘might’ be possible,” Lawton tells PW, noting that prudence may be the reason for the industry’s viability. “Perhaps this attention to the bottom line is why Christian publishing continues to remain healthy and the future continues to be bright despite hundreds of store closings.”

Publishers continue to brace themselves for the loss of even more Christian retail outlets this year, but the strongest impact of store closings could be leveled at authors in the category. The shrinking footprint of Christian retailers is already leading to a new normal where writers are also expected to have a marketing team behind them, according to Blythe Daniel of her eponymous literary agency.

“Authors are going to have to make up for fewer sales channels,” Daniel says. “The future of publishing does not depend on retail outlets—it’s going to be important for authors to create marketing avenues around themselves that aren’t reliant on publishers.”

It’s not unusual for authors to influence book sales through strong followings on social media, podcasts, blogs, YouTube, etc., but the concept of an author platform continues to be “confusing” for all concerned, says Lawton. “Most publishers understand that numbers [of followers and website visitors] mean little; it’s the level of engagement and the care with which a platform is maintained.”

According to Alex Field, founder of The Bindery, if a publisher sees a connection to potential readers, “they are betting that his or her books will have a similar appeal to readers. Sometimes that bet pays off, especially when the author is deeply engaged in the marketing and launch campaign around the book, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says.

The key, according to Field, is that authors need to be “active and influential online in some way, because many book purchases these days happen online.”

Yet Laube notes that publishers still look beyond an author’s platform when considering a manuscript. “It’s rarely a cut-and-dried formula of platform=publishable,” he says. “Sometimes the instinct of ‘this is a great book’ can get someone past the publishing gatekeepers.”

In addition to changes to how books are acquired and sold, agents are also noticing several content trends in Christian publishing. Daniel sees more opportunities for agents to bring creative concepts that don’t necessarily fit with the usual Christian living titles. “Publishers are asking me to help create a book that might include DIY guides or recipes, and are looking at four-color or two-color books for, say, family gatherings or teen girls,” she says. “They are also looking at brand development, creative packaging, and concept-driven books.”

Laube sees an uptick in books on social justice issues, sexuality, and racial issues, as well as a wave of books for “disaffected young women—” or women dealing with issues such as the stress of marriage, job, and family. He points to Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face as an example. “I suspect acquisitions of this ‘trend’ will slow down and the best authors in the category will become those who fill this need,” he says.

Field, of The Bindery, says publishers are “chasing after ‘books for the church’ lately,” with some seeking books for leaders while others are looking for devotionals and gift books aimed at churchgoers. Many publishers are also developing new children’s book lines or deepening their lines to appeal to parents as well as grandparents. “Publishers are looking for authors who will appeal to a wide audience generationally and to millennials in particular,” Field says.

Remaining largely unchanged, perennial topics such as prayer, parenting, and marriage continue to be big business in Christian publishing. “It’s either tried and true authors or tried and true subjects presented in a fresh, new way,” Lawton says.

Laube adds, “There continues to be acquisitions of readily consumable and evergreen topics that can be seen as ‘self-help.’”

Fiction’s hottest subgenre at the moment is romantic suspense, but, according to Lawton, “We are beginning to hear calls for straight suspense.” Laube says publishers’ lines are relatively full of romantic suspense, and so interest may wane. He and Lawton both perceive a renewed interest in straight historicals, and agree that Christian fiction on the whole remains a strong category.

“The number of publishers offering fiction has dwindled in recent years, but the readers have not gone away, so we’re seeing growth in the publishers who continue vigorously acquiring novelists,” Lawton says.

Overall, agents are optimistic about the Christian publishing industry. The Steve Laube Agency averages a new contract every two business days, Laube says, while The Blythe Daniel Agency has 95% of its projects picked up, and The Bindery contracts nearly all of its projects.

“Publishers continue to look for new content and new authors,” Laube says. “Is it hard sometimes? Yes.”

We found these insights encouraging! What are your thoughts? Are you feeling the pressure to grow your “platform,” as they mentioned? The good news is that Certa Publishing has years of experience partnering with authors in this area. Need help? We’re just a click away. We would love to hear from you.

The Quick & Easy Guide to Writing a Bio

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Write a 40,000-word manuscript?

No problem!

Write a concise Amazon author bio?

Yikes!

Isn’t it funny how authors can struggle with some of the most basic writing tasks while excelling at those others would balk at? No worries. We’re here with a great post from the Grammarly blog titled How to Write an Online Bio — With Short, Professional, and Other Examples.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Which three words would you use to explain your personality to a stranger?

If you could only think of “human with face,” or “professional needs job,” you’ve come to the right place. Learning how to write a bio is not easy; defining yourself in a few words even less so. But never fear—you can do it! Taking a few minutes to think about what you’re about isn’t just a great writing exercise, it’s a clarifying moment of personal development. Here are a few ways you can get started on your professional, website, LinkedIn, or short bio.

What to Include in a Short Bio

When most people think of online bios, they probably can readily name a few common short bio examples first. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all have space for a short description of who you are and what you do. And you should make the most of the 1-2 lines you’re afforded here. Keep your social media bios short, sweet, and only filled with the most important things a stranger should know about you, such as:

  • Your name
  • Your current role
  • Your ultimate goal
  • Your biggest achievement

What to Include in a Professional Bio

Professional sites like LinkedIn, AngelList, or a speaker bio on an event site all have space for a bio or summary section. For each of these, you’ll probably want to write a mid-length description of both your current role, professional aspirations, and biggest achievements. Professional bios allow you to go into a bit more detail than short social media bios, especially on LinkedIn. It’s generally a good idea to include:

  • Your name
  • Your current role or professional tagline
  • Your company or personal brand
  • Your goals and aspirations
  • Your 2-3 most impressive and relevant achievements
  • One quirky fact about you (if it’s appropriate to the site)
  • What to Include in a Bio at Work
  • Writing a bio for your company’s website, HR system, or Slack instance? Be sure to give your coworkers a sense of both your professional expertise—and your personality!

You should include anything you’d include in a professional bio in a bio for your company, but don’t be afraid to personalize it with a few personal details. Have a hobby you love? A favorite book? A professional hero you look up to? Add them to give your coworkers a sense of who you are before they work with you.

What to Include in a Bio On Your Website

The “About” section of any personal website can be a slog. A drain. A hassle. You’ve already created a whole website about yourself, so it can be difficult to muster the strength to write that final description of who you are and what you’re about.

But never fear! Your website bio doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs context on who you are and what you’ve done. This is an open, larger space, so you have room to list a few accomplishments and give context on why they’re important. You can also add a short paragraph about who you are outside of your nine-to-five. For this type of bio, you may also want to include a contact form or email, to help prospective clients, employers, or collaborators get in touch. If you do, be sure to include a clear call-to-action for your reader to contact you.

An Easy Bio Template

Even after you understand different types of bios, it can be difficult to get started. The words may not be flowing, you might not fully understand how your professional bio will be used, or you might just be stuck. Never fear! Here’s a bio recipe you can use across most sites.

  • Your first and last name: Start by writing your name. That wasn’t so hard!
  • Your company or brand: If you have a consulting firm, a brand you use for your side hustle, or a company you currently work at, list that next.
  • Your current function: What do you do for work? You can either list your current title or a short, descriptive phrase about your role here.
  • Your north star: People reading your bio will also want to get a sense of who you are. Listing your overall goal, values, or a statement that describes your ethos will help them get to know you, even in short bios.
  • Your top three accomplishments: Especially in professional bios, you’ll need a few accomplishments to show off what you’ve done in your career. Choose the top two or three large milestones from your career (no more), and put them next.
  • Your cute closer (optional): This may not be necessary in a shorter bio for Twitter or Instagram. But for a website or similarly professional bio, you may want to add a sentence describing who you are outside of work.
  • Your contact info (optional): Depending on the site, you may also want to include an email, contact form, or another easy way for readers to reach you. List this information at the end of your bio.

The Polished Professional Bio: Yuriy Timen’s LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn summaries can read like either a list of accomplishments or a list of professional interests. Yuriy’s is neither. Instead, he explains his professional goals and lists his major accomplishment—building Grammarly’s user base.

The Website Bio Whiz: Jamie McKelvie’s Website

One could marvel at the efficiency of Jamie’s professional website bio. Using a descriptive headline about his work and a short list of only his most recognizable accomplishments, Jamie is able to sum up several projects in a relatively small space.

4 Quick Tips on Writing About Yourself

Even with all of this information on how to write a bio, it might still be difficult to write about yourself. Even for the most confident person, self-promotion can be exhausting. But never fear! There are a few ways you can keep your “about me” writing on point—without pulling your hair out.

Tip #1: Don’t Overthink It

Bios are usually formulaic—and that’s okay! For most professional bios, LinkedIn summaries, and speaker bios at events, you won’t need to stray from the norm too much to stand out. Even adding an adjective that shows your personality or an unusual accomplishment can make your bio different from the crowd. You don’t need to create the next Between The World And Me to write a killer bio.

Tip #2: Remember Your Worth

Writing a bio on a site like Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn can be daunting because there are already so many fantastic bios (and people!) out there. But don’t fall prey to bio comparison! Your story is only yours to tell, and it has value. Focus on staying authentic to your truth, and don’t worry about others’.

Tip #3: When In Doubt, Borrow

Bios can be repetitive, sometimes even tedious. So if you find a structure you like and think sounds unique, borrow it! You should never copy a person’s bio—after all, it’s their story, not yours—but you can mimic the structure if you’re feeling stuck.

Tip #4: Get Writing Help

You’re not alone in your quest to create a bio that stands out. Grammarly is here to help you choose powerful adjectives, clean up hedging language, and make your LinkedIn stand out.

Even after this great info, you may find yourself stuck. That’s where Certa Publishing can help. We can help you curate not only your author bios on various platforms, but also a comprehensive marketing strategy. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you.

Social Media Influencers: How to find and utilize them

social media influencers

Pretend for a moment that you are a new mom trying to decide on a brand of baby wipes. You’ve seen plenty of advertisement by the various brands, but it’s something else that makes up your mind. Not a Huggies ad or a Target mailer. No, it’s an Instagram post by your friend with 7 children. She mentions that she has tried all brands of wipes and settled, surprisingly, on the Walmart store brand as her favorite. You’re sold! And for the next few years, Walmart reaps the benefit of that one, simple word-of-mouth recommendation.

Why did that work? Because even though no one would have called that mother of 7 a “social media influencer,” in that moment, she was. In the mind of her friend, her expertise and credibility in the niche market of baby products trumped anything a Pampers ad could say.

This is nothing new. However, what is new, is that businesses have realized the effectiveness of the “social media influencer” and are intentionally targeting them to provide this valuable word-of-mouth marketing for their products.

And writers should do the same! So, how does it work?

1. Find your social media influencers

If you’re writing a book, hopefully you have spent a good amount of time narrowing down just who your audience is. Perhaps your audience consists of pastors looking to hone their speaking skills, or cancer patients looking for hope, or parents looking for Gospel-centered picture books for their preschoolers.

The next step is to determine who that audience looks to as an “influencer.”

For example, those pastors likely look to other successful, high-profile pastors with fantastic speaking skills. And those cancer patients probably look to oncology experts and well-known cancer survivors. Christian parents of preschoolers may look to mommy bloggers and Christian publishers.

If you’re not sure where to begin in the search for your audience’s influencers, there are some great tools available, both paid and free.

Trendspottr is a tool that will help you spot trends on Instagram, whether it is trending influencers, hashtags or posts. You can use this tool to discover what your target audience is liking and following. For example, if you write about healthy eating, you can use Trendspottr to stay on top of trending diets and ingredients, but also to discover which Instagram accounts within this space are getting the most attention. These are your niche’s “influencers.”

Buzzsumo is a site designed exclusively for finding social media influencers. And once you find them, the site will help you follow them, reach out to them and engage with them.

Followerwonk is designed specifically for Twitter. It will help you discover, follow and organize your niche’s social media influencers on this important platform.

Speaking of Twitter, this site lists all of the Twitter Chats that happen throughout the week, which can be a great way to interact with influencers. For example, if your writing is about post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a Twitter Chat on this subject every Monday night at 8pm, hosted by two influencers in that field.

While these tools are helpful, don’t disregard more traditional forms of online research, such as Reddit, LinkedIn groups, and good, old-fashioned Google.

2. Reach out to influencers

Now that you have a list of influencers within your niche, it’s time to reach out. Here are a few methods:

Comment on their blog and social media posts: Become an active commenter by offering authentic compliments and helpful commentary on their posts. As you do this more and more, the influencer will become more familiar with you. Be sure not to push your own product in the comments. Be patient!

Meet in person: Keep tabs on when influencers might be coming into town. Will they be a speaker at a local conference or hosting a meetup nearby? This is the perfect chance to meet face to face and give them your card. Although it may be a quick interaction, meeting you makes it much more likely that they will respond to follow-up messages from you.

Mention them in your own work: Everyone loves to be quoted and mentioned on blogs and social media (as long as it’s positive!) Look for ways within your content writing to do so, in hopes that the person you mentioned will share what you wrote.

Retweet and share their social media posts: Each time a person’s social media post is shared, they get a notification. This is a great way to keep your name fresh in your influencer’s mind. And be sure to include relevant hashtags and mentions when you share.

Offer to be a guest writer: Most prolific bloggers are happy to turn the reins over to a quality writer for a day. In fact, many post their guest blogger submission requirements right on their blog. This is a great opportunity to get your face in front of the influencer’s audience.

Go ahead and ask: Once you’ve established a relationship with your influencer, it’s time to confidently ask them if they would mention your book or product to their audience. This could be as simple as them retweeting you, or as elaborate as them reading a quote from your book on their podcast. This might seem like a big ask, but remember that all of these influencers were once in your shoes and they know how valuable this type of publicity can be. Plenty of them will decline, but you may be surprised at how many will say yes.

At Certa Publishing, we are working hard to stay on top of the marketing trends so that our authors’ messages can reach as many people as possible. If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, please reach out. We offer comprehensive marketing services and would be glad to take the reigns of your marketing plan or simply help you get started. Contact us today.

 

There’s still time to create a 2019 marketing plan

there's still time

Perhaps you had good intentions at the end of last year to craft the ultimate 2019 marketing plan. But then December flew by as December does, and you’ve found yourself at the end of January without a plan. But there is still plenty of time to make this happen. Glenn Leibowitz’s recent post at LinkedIn offers this advice:

If you’re wondering where to begin and how to structure [your 2019 marketing plan], here’s a set of questions you can ask that will help you generate the ideas you need to flesh out your plan. If you’re unable to provide immediate answers to some of these, go out and do some research: Talk to coworkers, customers, and suppliers. Read articles and books. Listen to podcasts. And then start filling in the blanks.

1. Who are your primary audiences?

Everything you say in your content marketing plan, whether it’s in written form or through video or audio, needs to address a very specific set of audiences. Who are they exactly? Can you define them beyond generic demographic categories like age, gender, and income? If you were to prioritize them, which two or three target audiences would you choose to focus on in your communications?

2. What do you want them to know you for?

There’s so much noise out there, cutting through it all and getting noticed can be incredibly hard. That’s why you need to be very specific about what you want to be known for among your priority audiences. More importantly, how will you set yourself apart from your competitors? What makes you different –and better– than them?

This one may require additional research and soul-searching, but it’s a crucial exercise you won’t want to bypass.

3. What specific topics will you cover in your content plan?

This is where you unpack what you decided in response to the previous question, when you determined what you want to be known for. Brainstorm topics and even specific headlines that you will publish content on, list them out and then sort them into a few key categories. Then sort them again into a month-by-month plan.

Maybe you’ll decide to focus on one key theme per month or quarter. Or maybe you’ll dip in and out of your pipeline and publish content on several different topics in a given month.

4. Which formats will you prioritize: Blogs, video, podcasts, email?

There are many possible formats to publish content in, but prioritizing and selecting one or two primary formats will help focus your resources and energy. Even the most prolific content creators who seem to appear everywhere usually pick two or three formats where they focus their most resources. They might repurpose content for other formats, but it’s clear that they’ve selected video, for instance, or long-form articles on Medium or LinkedIn, where they roll out their newest and best stuff, and where they engage most with their followers. (Check out this primer on creating videos for IGTVInstagram TVcourtesy of the folks at Facebook for Creators).

5. Which social media channels will you prioritize and what’s your plan for distributing content through them?

The social media landscape can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to underestimate the time and resources required to build a large and highly engaged following on any of them. That’s why you’ll need to prioritize and select the one or two channels to double down on. For you, that might be Facebook or Instagram. Or it could be LinkedIn. (Check out this free guide for content creators on LinkedIn. And if you’re looking for a social media scheduling app, try MeetEdgar.)

6. Who will be responsible for developing, publishing, and distributing content?

Having an ambitious content marketing plan in hand is not enough: Who exactly will be responsible for developing, editing, publishing, and distributing the content you produce? If your in-house team is limited in resources, or you’re working on your own, you’ll want to consider tapping into freelance resources that can give you the leverage you need. (Check out this free marketing calendar from Twitter).

7. How will you monitor engagement and measure impact?

How will you know whether your content marketing is working? What metrics will you track and measure? What applications can deliver the data and analysis you need?

You may have other questions you’ll want to ask as you develop your content marketing plan, but if you start with these questions, you should be well on your way to crafting a plan that works for you in 2019.

At Certa Publishing, we work with authors every day to formulate marketing plans, beef up their presence on social media and determine their target audience. How can we help you? Contact us today.

5 Quick Holiday Marketing Ideas

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It’s not too late to do some quick holiday marketing! Here are five easy tips to get you selling more books this Christmas season:

1. Tailor your message to the timeframe

During the weeks leading up to Christmas

The time for persistent browsing and highly-personal shopping is over. It’s crunch time and everyone is just desperate to get a gift to their family or friends before the 25th. Through your newsletters and social media posts, direct consumers to your Amazon link. As it gets closer to Christmas, remind them that an ebook is available to gift immediately.

After Christmas

Many of your consumers likely unwrapped an Amazon gift card for Christmas. Although they might be thinking of buying tools or music, it’s your job to remind them that your book would be a great purchase. Schedule an email blast for the morning of December 26th with “redeem gift cards” and “Amazon” in the subject line.

At the New Year

Now is the time to develop a marketing pitch related to the New Year. Finance writers should focus on financial New Year resolutions. Health and fitness writers… well, you have it easy! Religious and self-help writers can easily craft a message as well. This would be a great time to write up a short 500-word blog post pulling out parts from your book that will inspire your readers to want more as they plan their 2019.

2. Send more emails than usual

Many consumers will go most of the year overlooking marketing emails and avoiding the “promotions” tab in Gmail. But during the holidays, those same buyers will intentionally search through their inbox looking for deals. So, go ahead and send more emails than usual. Be sure to run a promotion that can be easily summarized in your subject line. We suggest doubling the number of marketing emails from now until the first week of January.

3. Set the mood on social media

People want to feel “Christmasy” at this time of year. So set a festive mood on your social media accounts. Take photos of your book surrounded by Christmas lights or next to a cup of cocoa… even if it’s not a holiday-themed book.

Does your book contain anecdotes about the holidays? Financial tips for gift-giving? Holiday-themed nutrition ideas? Now is the time to highlight those portions on your feed.

4. Do a 12 Days of Christmas promotion

You may think it’s too late to run a promotion, but this one is simple to do. Choose a 12-day period in December. Ahead of time, tell your followers that you will be offering a different promotion each day. Then (this is key!) schedule your posts ahead of time. You’ll need one for each day. Here are some examples of promotions:

  • Buy one book, get one free
  • Percentage discount on different books for different days
  • Free shipping
  • Free upgrade to Priority or Overnight shipping as it gets closer to Christmas
  • Free gift wrapping
  • Bonus gift included, such as any personalized merchandise you have (pens, mugs, tote bags, etc)
  • 99 cent ebooks

Be sure to use a custom hashtag, such as #12daysof[booktitle], so your followers can follow the hashtag and receive reminders.

No matter the sales, this type of promotion really ramps up your name recognition in consumers minds. If they don’t purchase your book right away, they will be more likely to remember it when the need arises in the future.

5. Involve the reader

This is a great opportunity to ask your readers to post photos of themselves with your book.  A recent post on Author Marketing Experts offered this idea:

Involve people on a more personal level as their favorite author! Encourage these opportunities!

Do a call on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and ask fans to share images of your book in their cozy holiday reading nooks, or your book with a backdrop of their fantastic tree.

Prepare to comment back because this is how these book marketing efforts make their biggest impact.

Simple, right? Even if you just pick one idea, you’ll see more clicks, traffic, and purchases. Although quick ideas like these can be very effective, at Certa Publishing we recommend a comprehensive marketing strategy that plans ahead for times like the holidays, and we have the resources and services to help you pull it off. Contact us when you’re ready to discuss a long-term marketing plan. We would love to partner with you.

Who are you on social media?

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As a writer, your presence on social media is key. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen us discuss follower counts, Twitter, platforms, and social media in depth. Today we’re looking at who you are on social media. You’re probably thinking, “Um, I’m me. Who else would I be? And why are you asking me to be someone I’m not?” Think of it more like a persona or a character.

Still not sure? We’re going to let Christy Huggins of Eventbrite explain in this excerpt of her recent post for Grammarly.

Refining your personality on social media can be a daunting process.

Individuals and brands get into trouble trying to create an entirely new personality on their social media accounts. Social should be a channel for you to deliver and develop a personality—but not to create an entirely new one. That can come off as forced and inauthentic.

If you’re writing social content on behalf of a company or brand, finetuning your personality is about writing copy that taps into your followers’ emotions.

That’s why we teamed up with Grammarly [on a] project where we unveiled five characters that accounts like yours should embody on social media. Find the one that most aligns with your personal or brand voice, and discover the emotions you can inspire.

Character #1: The Cool Curator

We all have that one friend who’s always in the know—the early adopter of new apps and the person we turn to when we need fresh music recommendations. Everyone wants to hang out with her. We want what she’s got.

The types of things your team will post:

  • Behind-the-scenes and in-the-know details
  • Artist or guest speaker sneak peeks
  • Breaking industry news

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Excitement, novelty

Newport Folk Festival is the oldest and most well-known folk festival in the U.S. The brand’s social media presence taps into its deep connections with folk superstars new and old.

Character #2: The Trusted Advisor

When you need advice, you know that this person has done his research, weighed the pros and cons, and possesses innate wisdom. He’s your “expert” friend, and you trust him implicitly.

As a brand, this persona is a thought leader of its genre. If you’re a rock music festival, you’re the rock music festival. Or if you’re a yoga and mindfulness brand, you know how to prove your mettle.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Insight on a theme, not just about your event or product
  • Friendly advice from well-known personalities
  • “Did you know?” tips

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Confidence

The 3% Conference shares career inspiration, articles with expert guidance, and job opportunities on their Twitter page, which has nearly 20,000 followers.

Character #3: The Feel-Good Friend

Sometimes, we just want to hang out with someone goofy and low-pressure. This is our friend who sees the humor in every situation and is always up for fun just for the sake of it. If this is your persona, your posts will run the gamut from whimsical to humorous, and will typically use bright colors and short, quippy text.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Colorful images
  • Whimsical captions
  • Funny GIFs
  • Cool memes
  • Inspirational quotes

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Happiness

National pop-up, The Museum of Ice Cream, consistently uses bright, ice-cream-worthy colors and whimsical themes in its social media posts. 

Character #4: The Tempter

The tempter knows the best bars and most picturesque hiking locations. Whether a foodie, a travel inspirer, or a fashionista, his posts always make you want to splurge on something.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Gorgeous, high-quality shots of refreshments and libations
  • Images and video of attendees enjoying themselves
  • First looks at new vendors

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Desire

 

Eat Drink SF’s social media pages are visual feasts, showcasing the best of San Francisco eats year round — not just when the annual festival approaches. 

Character #5: The Innovator

Your innovator friend is often a tech visionary or an artist. Whatever medium they belong to, one thing is always for sure—they do things their own way.

As a social media persona, the Innovator finds new ways to post and share content. Posts are eye-catching, with a certain spark that makes you want to know more.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Images and video from new angles
  • Videos capturing unusual situations
  • Think pieces and articles

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Curiosity

San Francisco Ballet is a legendary ballet company, and its social media presence is equally creative. Shots like this are made up of individual posts chopped into sections, then pieced back together in the profile like a visual puzzle.

See, we knew you would understand! So, as a writer, what will your online persona be? Often writers make fabulous “trusted advisors” on their particular topic. However, you could certainly use any of these characters as a voice for your social media brand.

At Certa Publishing we are constantly amazed by the creativity of our writers. But what if the creative marketing juices just aren’t flowing? We’re here for you! Contact us today to learn more about our marketing services, including full-service social media management.

Author Websites: Everything else you need to know

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Having a dedicated author website is more important than you think. It offers credibility, access and a one-stop resource for your readers. But where do you start?

Last week we shared part of Kimberly Grabas’ post entitled 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which clearly lays out everything you need to set up the perfect site.

We discussed the need for:

  • A good first impression
  • About/bio page
  • Contact information
  • Email sign-up/updates
  • Testimonials

Here is the remainder of her advice:

6. Social Media

There are two areas to focus on when it comes to social media and your site. The first, is to provide visitors the ability to find and follow you on your various social media platforms.

To encourage follows and Likes, add links to your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook) on your Homepage, About page, and Contact page. Then ask people to follow or Like you. It’s just crazy enough to work. Let’s try it

The second area to focus on regarding social media, is making it super easy for people to share your site and your content with others. To do this:

  • Write amazing content
  • Add a sharing plugin to every page on your site, so visitors can share your pages via all the major social networks.

The free plugin I use on YWP is called SumoMe, but there are many to choose from.

7. Books, Products and Services

Depending on what you have to offer, you may have separate pages for your books, products and services, or combine everything in one. For books, include a large cover shot, an enticing blurb and clear details on purchase options (with links).

You may want to feature your current project on your Homepage. Provide a link to your Book page for visitors to get additional information about the book, get some behind-the-scenes info or promotional materials. (A press/media Kit for each book would be ideal).

Tip: If your books are available on Amazon, join Amazon Associates and you will be provided a code to link your book. You will also get a percentage of whatever a buyer purchases after they click your link–even if it’s not your book (lets hope it’s a T.V.). Once you have signed up for an account, type in your book title. When your title pops up, click “get link”, and Amazon will give you a variety of options to customize your link. Just copy and paste that code where you want it on your site (sidebar, Book page), and your book will show up with a buy link.

8. A Blog

Websites with blogs get 55% more traffic than websites with no blog. As well, having a blog creates fresh, additional pages of content which is great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If your goals are to be seen by more people, drive potential book buyers back to your site, and establish yourself as an industry authority and thought leader, you need to include a blog on your site.

Here are a few more additional benefits:

  • You can entice your current and future fans with exclusive, unpublished content, inside information and downloadable extras, like sample chapters.
  • Readers find it especially appealing to find out who their favourite author reads or recommends. This is often a missed opportunity to not only engage with your readers, but network with and support your peers. No matter how famous, everyone loves recognition and appreciation, so share the love! This is also a great way to get inbound links–other sites linking back to your site. This too, increases your importance in the eyes of Google.
  • Utilize your blog’s comment section to converse and engage with your audience. You can even encourage interaction between your readers by encouraging them to comment or reply to each others comments.
  • You can have excerpts of your most recent blog posts on your Homepage, which will dynamically update each time you publish. This keeps the content on your Homepage fresh, and encourages people to return for more.
  • A blog gives you the freedom to add additional content and bonuses (see below) without cluttering up your Homepage.

9. Appearances/Speaking Engagements/Latest News/Events

Include a section or page on your site that allows you to inform your fans of your whereabouts and upcoming events. Include things like:

  • Latest News/Events: interviews, blog mentions, reviews and other media coverage items you can share with your audience.
  • Appearances: book readings and signings, speaking engagements, interviews, conferences and professional events, workshops and so on, so your fans can find out the details and attend.

10. Press Page/Media Kit

The purpose of a press page or media kit is to easily provide the media, or anyone wishing to profile you, with the info they need to feature you in their piece.

The contents of a press kit will vary, but here are some of the basics of what you should include:

  • Basic author bio, including contact info.
  • Author photo (use a professional-looking headshot), and any additional photos that can be used when writing about the book.
  • Information about the book, including a sample review, sample chapters.
  • Press release.
  • Testimonials.

The simplest way to make your media kit available is to turn the contents into a PDF. Provide a brief description and a link on a page on your site. Make it easy to find, and consider carrying around a few hardcopies at conferences/events, in case you receive a request for a copy.

11. Bonuses/Extras

Get the creative juices flowing! There are many fantastic ways to build value into your website for your readers and to keep them coming back for more.

  • You can include a slideshow of photographs, sketches, illustrations of characters and locations in your book, and other meaningful images.
  • Add other multimedia like audio files, a podcast, YouTube video and video trailers.
  • Additional research material.
  • If you are an expert in your field, and your book is an extension of your career, include things that spring from the larger context of your work and experience.
  • Younger fans are often interested in contests, games and prizes (autographed books).
  • An author’s favourite book, music, and movie recommendations are also fan favourites, so include these and some of your other influences.
  • Include sneak peeks, additional content that isn’t in your books, main character bios, extra chapters, alternate character POV’s and any other bits that didn’t make the cut. Your readers will love it!

At Certa Publishing, we believe that our authors’ content has the power to transform lives and communities, so we are passionate about people finding your books. An author website is absolutely essential to your marketing. If you still feel intimidated by the process, we would love to help. We can either tweak what you already have or help you find the perfect partner to create one from start to finish. Contact us today!

Author websites: Everything you need to know

authorwebsites

 

We have some bad news. Even if you have the world’s greatest social media interactions and thousands of newsletter subscribers, you’re still missing a key marketing component: the author website.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a killer Facebook page or YouTube channel can take the place of an author website. Having a dedicated URL means something to readers and publishers.

It means:

  • You’re the real deal and that you’re here for the long haul
  • There is an ever-ready source of information about you and your books
  • There is a reliable way to contact you
  • Your content and style can be previewed before someone buys your book

So what should your author site look like? What content is most important? We’re glad you asked! Kimberly Grabas authored the post 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which we suggest for anyone beginning to build their site.

This week we are excerpting Ms. Grabas’ first 5 essential author website elements here:

1. Designing Your Author Website: Ensure a Good First Impression

Your author website is an essential piece to the successful book marketing puzzle, but as always, first impressions matter. It is tempting to just get something up quickly, that requires little cost, and get back to the joyful torture of writing your novel.

However, while it’s certainly possible to set up your website quickly and with relatively little expense, it is extremely important to remember that your website represents who you are and what you have to offer.

A website will help to increase not only your book’s visibility across the internet, but yours as well. In many cases, it may be your future fans first impression of you–especially if you have not yet published. Make sure that your site reinforces the image you wish to portray.

With your author brand in mind, ask yourself the following questions about your current or new author website:

  • Will people know what I write within seconds?
  • Does the voice, tone, attitude and mood of the site resonate with my ideal reader?
  • Will they understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next?
  • Does the site appear credible?
  • Is it clear why they should buy my book or subscribe to free updates?
  • What does the site provide the reader?

Just like it’s important to have fresh eyes editing your novel, ask others for their answers to the above questions and get their opinions on the first impressions your site gives rise to. You might be surprised at their answers!

As you design your site, keep both aesthetics and functionality in mind. You don’t need to run out and hire a $12,000 designer to have a professional looking site, but do keep the following in mind:

  • Your site should look clean and uncluttered. Less is more, especially in your sidebar. And white space is your friend.
  • Your site is polished, legible (go for clear, not clever) and spell checked. Choose larger font sizes and colors that are easy to read. Light fonts on dark backgrounds or minimal contrast between font color and backgrounds are difficult to read.
  • Keep navigation easy and clear, so your readers can find the important stuff.
  • Use color to draw attention to select elements. For example, pick one color to be your “action” color. Whenever you want a reader to take action by clicking a link or subscribing, ensure you use that color only for the link or button, and no where else.
  • Avoid a chaotic mix of colors. Instead pick two to four colors for your design template and don’t try to make everything stand out–then nothing will.
  • Avoid anything unnecessary like Flash (Apple currently doesn’t support Flash), animated backgrounds or music. If your site takes a long time to load, or doesn’t work on a mobile device (iPad), you will lose a large number of visitors to your site.
  • Keep elements consistent from page to page.
  • Is your site branded for longevity? Is it book/genre specific or limiting, given your future writing plans? You do not want to rebrand or redesign the next time you publish.
  • Remember, your site has to be compatible with different browsers and devices, so check how things look on multiple browsers, tablets and phones.
  • Create content that is useful, engaging and well organized. Your posts and copy must be easy to scan. (Ugh, I know! As a fellow writer who bleeds over every word, I feel your pain!) People read differently online, so use bulleted lists, section headers and short paragraphs to convey your message, and learn the importance of writing a magnetic headline.

2. About/Bio Page

About pages are among the most frequently visited pages on the internet. Your readers want to know more about you, and this is the place to tell them.

Even as a visitor is delving into what you’re all about, what they are really thinking is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?) Keep this in mind as you incorporate some of these ideas into your about page:

  • Consider having a professional headshot and short blurb from your homepage with a link to your About page for more information.

1. Start with a persuasive headline, that lets your visitor know what they can expect.

2. Reassure your readers that they are in the right place and tell them what your site will give them.

3. Strengthen your credibility with some testimonials, reader quotes or other forms of social proof (more on this below).

4. Tell your personal story. Frame your content around what led you to writing, why you write the kind of books you do, what you love about it. Make sure your personality shines through! You can also include your writing credentials and professional associations.

5. If a visitor gets to this point in your about page, you’ve got them interested. Ask them to join your email list, and provide a link to your books, services or other products.

Here are more ideas:

  • What do you want to know about your favourite author? Include that.
  • Keep your About page and Bio up to date.
  • Link to your Media Kit/Press page if you have one.
  • Be personal, but be careful not to over share; stay professional.

3. Contact Information

It’s surprising how difficult authors will make it for their readers (media, agents, publishers…) to contact them. There might be a tiny email address buried at the bottom of their website or noted on some obscure page deep within their blog. DO NOT make your visitors hunt for your contact information!

If your goal is to engage with your readers online, don’t play hard to get.

Make it as easy as possible for someone to get a hold of you. Here’s what to do:

  • Have a contact tab in your top main menu that leads to a page with your preferred ways to be contacted. Don’t list every possible way you can be found, just the best ways. If you use a contact form, make sure it’s simple and you’re only asking for the info you require to get back to that person. If you note your email address, use yourname[dot]com to avoid spam harvesters. 
  • You can also encourage your readers to get in touch with you via the social platform(s) you are most active on.
  • Provide multiple ways for people to contact, follow and Like you. It’s not your readers’ job to find you. It’s your job to be where your readers are.

4. Email Sign Up/Updates

It is never too early to start collecting email subscribers. Early sign ups are the most likely to be your biggest fans and most ardent supporters. These are the people that will forward your new releases and insider updates to their friends, evangelize you on Twitter, attend your events or push up your sales rank on Amazon when they hurry to get your new book.

I highly recommend using Aweber to manage your email list. Using a high quality, industry leader for your email list management is important to ensure your emails get to your fans and not their spam boxes. It’s easy to use, with tons of step by step videos, and very helpful customer service if you get stuck. And putting your form on your site is as easy as copying and pasting.

A few additional tips:

  • Don’t panic! You do not have to produce a newsletter every week. Catherine Ryan Howard at Catherine, Caffeinated makes a point of letting you know up front that “nothing much happens… an email about once a month will cover it…” Just keep in mind that you should not be ‘selling’ something every time (and the only time) you contact your subscribers.
  • Just an email address, or first name and email address is enough info. You don’t want to scare people off by asking for more.
  • Your email optin box should be bigger and bolder than other elements on the page, but don’t overdo it.
  • Make all links and buttons your ‘action’ color (as above). And make sure your links and buttons look clickable.
  • Consider including a signup incentive, like a promo code for your latest book, a bonus chapter, a sneak preview of your next book, or a free chapter from a different character’s POV.

5. Testimonials

Social proof, testimonials and positive quotes from fans and reviewers can go a long way in increasing your credibility and authority with visitors to your author website.

Place real, short and powerful testimonials on your site. Include positive reviews, quotes from fan mail, notable media coverage, and if you have a significant following on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad and so on, note it.

Great locations for your fan testimonials are your About page, Homepage and on your sidebar, just under your email sign up form.

Come back next week for the remainder of this comprehensive list of must-have author website elements.

Keep in mind that Certa Publishing is here to help, no matter where you are in the process of building your author site. We can recommend who to partner with for website design or simply look over the one you’ve already built. We’d love to hear from you!

Book Translation: Pitfalls to avoid

 

TWO (1)

It seems simple. You want to sell your book internationally, so you need to have your book translated. Between your Spanish co-worker, Portuguese sister-in-law and French professor, it shouldn’t be so hard. Maybe you can pay them a bit or barter services. Simple, right? Not so fast.

Here are the translation pitfalls you’re not thinking of:

1. Translation can put your copyrights in danger

A little-known fact is that a translator can claim the copyrights to their work. Surprisingly, this is legal! According to their site, the U.S. Copyright office may consider “a translation of a novel written in English into another language translation” a “derivative work,” and its rights available to be claimed by the translator.

In order to prevent this, we recommend that you have a legally-binding agreement with your translator drafted before the work begins, which clearly delineates who will retain rights to your work.

2. Translation must include localization

Even a perfectly accurate translation can miss the mark. Why? Because localization is just as important. Localization is the process of evaluating your manuscript through the lens of the local reader. Do your examples make sense? Are your jokes still funny? Are there references that are acceptable in English, but offensive in another language?

In her post, What You Need to Know About Translating Your Book, Daniella Levy states:

Localization is a term used in the business world to describe the process of adapting a product to an audience in a new locale…

A good book translation is more than simply saying the same thing in a new language. It requires careful adaptation of the tone, message, and structure of the piece to maintain the power of the original without causing misunderstandings.

In order to localize your manuscript, Ms. Levy recommends that you hire a professional translator:

Not every native speaker makes a good translator! Because you usually don’t read in the target language or know a native speaker, you may never know the quality of your product. Your best bet is hiring a reputable translation service with good credentials.

3. Don’t forget the marketing!

Let’s think about all the work you have (or will) put into getting your book into the hands of English-speaking readers. Market research. Paid promotion. Building social media platforms. And so much more. These efforts will need to be replicated in your international markets as well. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that simply publishing your book in another language will ensure sales.

For this reason, before you begin the translation process at all, we recommend taking a big-picture view of international marketing to ensure that are ready to make such a commitment.

The solution

Surely now it’s obvious that your Portuguese sister-in-law is not going to be up to the task of translating your book, no matter her mastery of the language. It’s time to turn to a professional. Here’s where Certa can help. We recently launched our translation services.

First-rate book translation is now offered from English into the following languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. Not only that, we are also offering editing, proofreading and typesetting services in these languages.

Spanish is currently the most popular language pair for publishers and authors in the United States. If you have considered expanding your work to reach the Hispanic populationbut didnt know howthe time is now! The number of Hispanics in the United States is growing exponentially, with over 50 million Latinos in the US alone. Certa Publishing can now help you reach this vital market. The doors to new opportunities are now open!

Let the words the Lord placed in your heart be seen by the eyes of many. Even those you never thought you could reach. Contact us today!

 

Consistency: The key to building a platform

CONSISTENCY_

You’ve heard it before. Before you can sell books, you need a platform. A fan base. A loyal following. But how exactly is this accomplished? Just by being awesome? If only it were that easy. Platforms are built just like anything—one piece at a time. Social media posts. Blogs posts. Email newsletters. But if you’re going to build sporadically, waiting for inspiration to strike, you will struggle to gain traction. Consistency is key. Here are three ways to use consistency to build your platform:

1. Be consistent in your branding

When you see those golden arches, you know it’s McDonald’s. No guessing required. Same with the Nike swoosh. Would your “brand” be quickly familiar to your audience? If not, you can change that today.

James McCrae offered this simple advice in his post for Forbes:

Your brand voice includes a visual presentation. Choose a distinct color palette, typography and logo. Have a professional headshot taken and use the same photo consistently across all touchpoints. Make it easy for your fans to recognize your brand from a mile away.

Look at this example from the team at Risen Motherhood.

Their Facebook page:

rm fb

Their Instagram account:

Screenshot 2018-06-17 at 3.35.08 PM

 

Their website:

Screenshot 2018-06-17 at 3.35.37 PM

 

What do you notice? There’s nothing fancy here, but there is consistency of colors, logo and style. Now it’s your turn. Go to your website, blog, author pages and each of your social media accounts. Is your “branding” consistent? If not, take the time to make that change.

2. Be consistent on your blog and social media

The days of posting online only when inspiration strikes are over. In order to build your platform and keep your audience engaged, you need to be consistent on your blog and social media. Are you saying I have to write or post something every day? I don’t have the time or even the ideas to do that. Take a deep breath. We recently profiled author Natalie Brenner who went from having a very small platform to being a bestselling author. She explains how she became more consistent:

I honed my voice and began writing more consistently on my website.

Creating a blog calendar to post at least once a week helped.

Just write — goal was to spend less than 90 minutes per post, publish, and share.

We always encourage our Certa authors to make the most of their content by leveraging it for social media posts. Your manuscript is likely full of quotes and scriptures that can be easily dropped onto an image and posted on social media. Graphic tools like Canva and social media managers like Buffer make it easier than ever to do so.

Quick-format social media also makes consistency easier. You can easily jump on Instagram stories each day to share an inspiring thought, poll your audience or share a photo related to your work. Twitter is also the perfect place for shooting out a quick thought, interesting link or question.

3. Consistently ask your audience to take action

Building a platform is much more than gaining Facebook likes. It involves converting the passive “scroller” to an active consumer of your writing, both paid and free. So how do you create this funnel? By consistently asking your audience to take action. Most writers do this by inviting their followers to join an email list. James McCrae offers this advice:

It’s important to know what action you want your audience to take and gear your efforts toward that conversion. Having a large email list is the metric that publishers value most. Email lists are weighed heavier than social media followers because email is a more stable communication platform. Having an email newsletter creates a deeper relationship with your audience and is less likely to be ignored than social posts. Platforms such as Mailchimp make it easy to build and manage an email list.

Of course, once you have an email list established, you have to send emails! Not sure what to include? Check out 20 Ideas for Your Author Newsletter Email, which includes some great ideas like:

  • Fun facts about your writing process
  • Blog posts from other blogs you admire
  • Book Signing and Event Dates

At Certa Publishing, we recognize that many of our authors lead very busy lives and find it difficult to be consistent in building a platform. We would love to help you in this area. We can help you create a social media calendar, manage your social media entirely or even provide ghostwriting for your blog. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.