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.

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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

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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

 

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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

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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:

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Their Instagram account:

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Their website:

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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.

Natalie Brenner: How a first-time author became a bestseller without a large platform

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Most bestselling authors have several not-so-best-sellers under their belt. Or they have a massive platform from which to promote their book. However, the following story by author Natalie Brenner proves that with a little (well, a lot) of hard work and focus, a writer with a small platform can achieve fantastic success on the first try. Enjoy this excerpt from her post Why I Stopped Waiting to Win the Lottery and Just Published My Book:

It was nearly midnight when I desperately tweeted to my 300 precious followers, “Does anyone have any sort of literary agent connection they could hook me up with?

I had little to no idea how to go about getting the book burning inside me published. It felt impossible to get a publisher to bat an eye at little ol’ me. Because really, I had little to no platform and in order to win the lottery of a traditional publisher, I needed a platform.

None of my blog posts had gone viral.

I had been blogging for six years and had 56 dear subscribers.

I felt really successful when a single blog post had over 100 views.

Combining my Facebook friends, Facebook page fans, Twitter and Instagram followers, I had about 1500 names in my social circle.

Platform? What is that? Surely someone will just notice me.

Though my online community was small, I still had countless people asking me when I was going to start writing books. I wanted to have started yesterday, but I didn’t know where to begin or if I could start with so little of a following.

Nine months after tweeting that desperate request, my book This Undeserved Life was released. It became a bestseller in six different Amazon categories, sold over 500 copies the first week and 1000 copies the first month. It remained number one in the Family Health and Adoption category for most of its release. Within 3 weeks it had over 50 reviews on Amazon.

I have since had dozens of readers reach out and ask me about my next book. I have a traditional publisher inviting me to draw up a proposal for my next book. I have had requests to create and offer a course or coaching on various topics. To some, these numbers may be miniscule. To me, they are both mind-blowing and humbling.

In January 2017, I started my email list at a whopping zero when I transferred my website and lost my dear, dear 56 committed community members.

My goal was to build a list of 1000 subscribers by release day — September 18.

To me, this goal was big: I am a full-time photographer, a full-time work at home mom to two toddlers (both under one-year-old at the time of starting the book), and a wife to a full-time unpaid graduate student. And we are involved in church and community events.

My time to give my book and online community (platform) building was at zero, but I moved around priorities and worked my butt off. The goal was met. But not without hard work, determination, and belief in myself and my message.

Have I yet mentioned I began writing this book with two babies under one-year-old as well as a growing photography business? Just want to make sure that is clear: I am not sitting around with tons of time to pursue this, just as you aren’t.

So, how in the world did little ol’ me, a blogger of seven years with a minuscule platform — can I even call it a platform? — become a best-selling author nine months later?

Writing This Undeserved Life was a painful, difficult labor of love and it followed many years of unsuccessfully creating the online community I had hoped for. Let’s dive into the process.

Identity

It all began with grabbing ahold of my identity as a writer.

I grabbed ahold of it tightly and began calling myself and acting like a writer.

A mental shift happened: I began to take myself seriously.

The why

Since reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, I knew the importance to start with why.

Why did I want to write this book? Why did I think the world needed it? Why is this book anything different than what’s already available?

Study the pros

After I processed why I wanted to write This Undeserved Life and why I believed the world would be better if it was created, I began studying people who were successful in the book writing, marketing, and selling world as well as people who were successful in my genre.

Just do it

At the end of the day, I just had to do it. Here were the steps I took to write and self-publish This Undeserved Life, in nine months:

I just started doing it

No one is motivated to run a marathon before they start running. Maybe they are, but they’re crazy. When I was training for the Portland Marathon, beginning every training run was difficult.

It wasn’t until I started doing it that I gained motivation.

This was the same for writing my book: I knew there was so much work ahead, but I knew it wouldn’t happen over night.

I simply started showing up and doing the work.

Redesigned and used my website + blog

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.

Expand my circle — influencers

I set out to use my website as a place to interview other authors in my genre who I admire.

I sent emails and explained to them why I loved their book(s), how I’ve implemented their advice or tips, and asked if I could do an interview and book giveaway.

Most said yes, others said no. I conducted interviews via phone, Skype, and email.

I built my email list

After I read and heard how incredibly important email lists are, I began putting a good amount of energy into creating a safe community.

I created a grief guide ebook, Wholeness Despite the Brokenness, and offered it for free to anyone who wanted to download it. I also created an adoption fundraising guide, Financing Adoption with Fundraising.

I found a groove sending out emails to my dear community every other week.

I love this community; they helped me pick my title, my author photo, and more. I want to give my community only good and valuable things.

I wrote my manuscript

While doing these steps and chipping away at everything I could, I was also working on my manuscript. My first draft made my eyes bleed. I rewrote and erased and rewrote the next draft.

The important thing was: I got it out. I wrote the first draft (and then the second and third…)

Make an influencer list and ask for endorsements

I created a three-tier influencer list. These were people I wanted to write an endorsement, and give me a shout out or two.

My first tier was names of people who I knew would say “yes” to reading and endorsing my book. A few were writing and podcast friends, one was a best friend, and the rest were people on my email list.

My second-tier list were people of whom I wasn’t sure would say “yes” to endorsing my book, but I thought might. Most of them were influencers of sorts, whether a popular blog or podcaster or author.

My third-tier list were people who I highly doubted would respond to me, but would make my year if they read and endorsed my book.

I began with tier one: sending clear emails, asking them to read my book, and write a few lines to endorse it. This would be used either for the inside the book, or my website. I gave a deadline. When they responded with “yes,” I sent the PDF immediately.

Once I had a couple, I wrote to each individual influencer on list number two. They were similar emails, but specific to each influencer. I told the author, podcaster, speaker — whatever their respective title — why I was thankful for their work, and how I had used their advice. Then I shared two sentences about my book, along with an endorsement I had received. I asked if they’d be willing to read it and do the same. When they said “yes,” I sent it right away with the deadline. When they said “no,” I asked if I could send them a copy of my book to read for a giveaway or shout out.

I did this with the third tier as well. Each person who responded gave me their address. So even if I didn’t receive an endorsement, I have permission to mail them a copy of my book to share on their social media.

Book launch time — don’t do this alone

Nothing in my life that has been successful has been done alone. I knew I needed a community, and specifically the community I had been working hard to create and build.

I set up a Facebook Group to invite readers to help me launch This Undeserved Life. I gave everyone the manuscript digitally and asked their help on finishing touches of the cover.

This group remains a strong support network: I have loved the community built around This Undeserved Life through that group.

Tim Grahl has an entire podcast series and website that guides you on how to successfully launch a book. I listened to the entire series twice.

Publish and release!

My book is now available on Amazon and has been sold across the globe.

I believe in the message of This Undeserved Life.

There have been purchases from multiple countries and continents, and not because I’m someone fancy. I chose to do the hard work it required.

And, so can you.

At Certa Publishing, we can vouch for Natalie’s experience. We’ve seen firsthand that authors who demonstrate this type of determination and focus consistently succeed, often surpassing everyone’s expectations! If you would like a partner in this complex publishing process, contact us to learn more about our services.

A Quick Guide to Book Trailers

a quick guide tobook trailers

You’re already intimidated, aren’t you?

A book trailer?

You want me to make a video?

I’m a writer, not a video producer and editor!

Take a deep breath. We get it.

The idea of making a book trailer can be so overwhelming that most emerging authors skip it altogether. But give us a few minutes and you may find that the idea is much less daunting, and even more exciting than you realize.

Three types of book trailers

There are basically three types of book trailers and your choice depends both on how much money (if any) you can spend, as well as your technical ability:

1. The animated trailer – Think Powerpoint but better. You are basically using a presentation software to make slides containing images, book art, video and text. These slides are then merged into a video file that can be uploaded to YouTube or other mediums.

In his article How to Make a Book Trailer, Henry Herz offers a great overview of some apps you can use to create a polished, simple (and possibly free) book trailer.

  • Animoto: Make 30-second animated trailers for $8 per month.
  • Prezi: Make click-through presentations that are trailer-quality.
  • Photoshow: You’ll love how easy it is to use, but keep in mind that the free version only lasts 30 days.

Here is an example of a book trailer for Life of Pi, which was made in Animoto:

 

2. The author-driven trailer- This trailer focuses on the author. It can be an interviwe or simply you talking to the camera. This can be as simple or complex as you like. All you need is a camera, good lighting, some editing experience and a well-crafted pitch. The good news is that most newer iPhones and Android phones have both the recording and editing ability to create a quite professional-looking video. But if you’re not comfortable doing the recording yourself, you can hire a film student or local photographer with a nice camera.

The beauty of this type of book trailer is that the reader doesn’t just get introduced to the book, but also to you, which offers them an immediate connection. If they find themselves relating to you personally, they are much more likely to give your book a try.

Do you think the author-driven trailer is only for those on a budget? Well, check out this one that New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst produced for her recent book Uninvited:

 

3. The Hollywood-style book trailer– Yes, this one won’t be free, but it’s the most likely to go viral and hold the viewer’s attention. However, with some creativity, a Hollywood-style trailer doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. Free software such as iMovie (already installed on Apple computers) and MovieMaker (free to download for Windows users), make it easier than ever to create a very polished trailer. You can either hire a videographer to capture the footage you need, or you can tap into free stock footage resources like this one.

Here’s an example of a fairly simple book trailer that contains enough high-quality effects to keep you watching:

 

One last thing

Don’t make the trailer about you. Don’t even make it about your book. Instead, make the trailer about an idea. As marketing guru Jeff Goins says,

It doesn’t take a big budget, but it does take a big idea. Successful marketing is about spreading a worthy idea in an interesting and surprising way that makes your audience the hero. Video is a powerful way to do that, so long as you do it right.

Your video should be an engaging narrative that draws the reader in and leaves them wanting more. Just a like a movie trailer that elicits a “oooh we have to see that” response, your trailer should elicit a “oooh I have to read that” response. (Note that this is a different response than, “that author seems very smart,” or “that book is full of good information.”)

Perhaps you’re on board with the concept of a book trailer, but still unsure of your ability to pull it off. We would love to help you! Certa Publishing has created many book trailers for our authors and we would be glad to do the same for you. Head over here for more information, including pricing and some of our work. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Outside-the-Box Marketing Ideas

out-of-the-box (1)

If you’ve spent any time researching ways to market your book, you’ve likely found one common ingredient: cost. Marketing is expensive! And if you’ve just laid out money to self-publish or partner-publish, chances are that you don’t have lots of extra cash lying around to spend on promoting your book.

Fortunately, with a bit of creativity and ambition, there are plenty of out-of-the-box marketing ideas that are sure to increase your readership without significantly decreasing your bank account.

Check out these ideas:

Give your book away

Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Give your book away. But to the right people. We loved this creative idea from emerging author Brent Jones:

I called and emailed local libraries and independent bookstores, offering them free print copies of my book. Most of them agreed to take it.

Getting my book in the hands of independent bookstores (two free copies each) and local libraries (one free copy per branch) — 26 copies in total — cost me about $195 CAD ($140 USD) for printing and shipping.

I also bought some plastic business card holders and asked each independent bookstore if I could leave a small stack of promotional cards by their cash register. Every one of them agreed.

In total, my book can be purchased locally at seven different bookstores and six different libraries.

I’ve also been booked for four author events at local libraries.

Be news-worthy

Brent noted that giving his book away to bookstores and libraries enabled him to use our next idea… Be news-worthy.

[Donating my book] gave me a new angle: Fort Erie author supports local arts and commerce by donating his debut novel to bookstores and libraries.

I positioned my pitch to local media outlets as an opportunity to discuss the importance of local arts and literacy. And it worked:

snapd Niagara Falls came out to cover my donation to the Niagara Falls Public Library. CogecoTV, the local television station, invited me to appear on their show, What’s New? to discuss my book. And I was also interviewed by Niagara This Week, for an article titled, “Fort Erie author pens debut novel.”

Local media can be an excellent marketing resource and it’s free! You may think that scoring a spot on your city’s morning talk show would be difficult, but keep in mind that the producers of those shows have to fill several hours of airtime every morning, so they are always on the lookout for good content. And what better content than a homegrown author who is donating his or her books?

Not sure how to land a media interview? This post has great info, as well as our previous post, Three Easy Ways to Land Media Appearances.

Offer yourself as an expert

Is your book theology-based? Contact your local seminary and religious universities and offer yourself as a speaker in their weekly chapel or any upcoming seminars. More than likely you will be promoted in their on-campus literature and you will be able to set up a table for signing books. Be sure to donate few books to their library.

Is your book focused on a particular industry? Offer yourself as a free speaker at conferences and tradeshows. Even large companies may bring you in to speak at employee workshops and training sessions. Be sure to email them flyers with your info that they can use to promote your appearance.

Is your book inspirational in nature? Offer yourself to local counseling groups, such as grief and divorce support groups. Contact women’s clubs, retirement centers, and moms groups to see if they need speakers. Bring along a few copies of your book to give away.

You may not see yourself as an expert, but that fact that you’ve written a book on a particular subject offers you more credibility than you think. It means that you have put a great deal of time into researching, thinking and praying about your subject. Be confident in what you offer to others!

Support a charity

We all have charities that are near and dear to our heart. And don’t we wish we could give more to those amazing groups? Your book offers you a tool to do just that. Cathy Presland offers this creative idea in a post for Author Unlimited:

Run a big charity fundraiser so that for every book sold on a certain day or a certain week you give all or part of the profits to a charity of your choice (or better yet, run a fundraiser and then send everyone who donates a free pdf of your book…)

For example, if you have friends saving up for an international adoption, let your audience know that proceeds from your book sales will go towards that couple. Then ask your friends to share this information with their circle of friends.

Also, in times of national tragedy or disaster, such as a flood or hurricane, you can do the same, with proceeds going to the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, etc.

While these ideas may require a little legwork on your part, they can be highly effective, not only in their frugality, but also their marketing reach. At Certa Publishing, we have become an expert at helping emerging authors market their books. We would love to do some out-of-the-box brainstorming with you! Contact us today.

5 Publishing Trends You Can’t Ignore

5 publishing trends you can't ignore

Your content is amazing. Revolutionary. It’s been talked through, prayed through, sliced and diced from every angle. You’ve cut out favorite paragraphs, even chapters. You’ve sat through meetings and Skype sessions and sent thousands of emails. And finally, it’s time to hold that glorious, printed book in your hands.

But what if all of that work isn’t quite enough to get that book out of your hands and into the hands of your reader? Unfortunately, amazing content can easily get lost among the competition.

At Certa Publishing, we know that it’s the writers who anticipate the ever-changing market and readers’ needs that stand out from the crowd. So let’s look at some of the current publishing trends:

Getting personal

The trend in newsletter marketing can be summed up in one word: unsubscribe. Since readers are quicker to opt out of mass market email, authors must find a way to make their emails feel more personal. A recent post on Written Word Media quotes Kevin Tumlinson of Draft2Digital, who offers this insight:

To combat newsletter fatigue, authors are starting to become far more personal with their readers, simplifying newsletters to plain text, removing graphics, and refining their copy to something softer than a marketing pitch. The author’s personal empowerment will start, in part, with a more personalized email newsletter.

More non-fiction

The past year has offered a tremendous amount of political and cultural turbulence. You won’t find many corners of the country or the populace where these disruptions haven’t reached. As such, the thirst for non-fiction is on the rise; particularly non-fiction that helps the reader interpret current events. We suggest that you evaluate your marketing efforts in light of this trend. How does your book speak to an audience searching for meaning and a way forward during tumultuous times?

Covers: Bold, pink and clean

Many authors make the calamitous error of designing a book cover based on their own preferences and style. And yet, this entirely misses the point of a cover: to attract the reader. So which cover styles are currently getting the job done? The Digital Reader has compiled a list here, which we think is worth perusing. And yes… pink is on the list!

Cross-promotion

Another trend in publishing is cross-promotion. Writers are collaborating with each other through various joint ventures in order to tap into each other’s audiences and thereby grow their own.

In her post 15 Self-Publishing Trends to Watch in 2018, Jessica Ruscello offers this prediction:

We’ll see cross genre and cross-product promotion, as writers take cues from digital creatives with brick-and-mortar retail partnerships. Collaboration projects between digital influencers was common in 2017, and we’ll see authors, bloggers, and influencers in both the print and the digital space work together to leverage each other’s audience for mutual benefit.

Live seminars, webinars, and videos

Your reader wants more of you than the written word. They want to see images of your daily life (think Instagram), read articles you find interesting (think Twitter) and see what inspires you (think Pinterest). Yet among these many tools, the one trending most is live seminars, webinars, and videos.

It’s simpler than you might think. You simply prepare a discussion or presentation, based on the content in your book. Next, you invite the reader to log on at a specific time for the video. Using a service like Facebook Live makes this process even simpler by alerting all of your followers when you’ve “gone live.”  Another great feature is that your viewers can interact with you in real time and even ask questions or make comments along the way.

Think Media has created this great tutorial that will get you on your way to your first Facebook live event.

 

Whether it’s taking a second look at your cover design or a first look at live videos, we encourage you to stay on top of the trends in publishing so that your incredible, God-given content can make its way into the hands of those who need it.

How can Certa Publishing help you? Contact us today.

Five Ways to Grow Your Platform

5 Ways to Grow Your Platform (2)

If the thought of “building your fan base” or “growing your audience” overwhelms you, you’re certainly not alone. Creating an online platform isn’t a one click task, but there are ways to maneuver the often confusing road to successfully building your online reach.

The 5 major stages of the journey to grow your platform according to Michael Hyatt are as follows: Definition, Activation, Attraction, Monetization, and Optimization. If you’re tired of feeling like you’re writing to nobody and posting for no one to see but yourself, keep reading. I’ve adapted his 5 stages and action steps in order to best serve you, our Certa authors.


1. Definition – Gain clarity

As you work on finding your voice and creating a brand for yourself, you are considering the unique, God-given message you have to share. How will it impact the people that receive it? Determine exactly what your message is going to be.

Action steps:

  • Survey your readers
  • Write a core value proposition
  • Create a brand slogan
  • Develop your brand components (logo, photos, etc.)


2. Activation – Create content

Whether it’s a blog, vlog, podcast, or website, you’re launching your home base that will be the source of your main content. You’re beginning to work on gaining your first followers and learning how to serve them through great content in a consistent fashion.

Action steps:

  • Establish your home base
  • Select your primary content categories
  • Determine your voice
  • Commit to a publication schedule


3. Attraction – Attract customers

Your content is being created and published, but now you want to share it with as many people as you can. This is done by developing your social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), building an email list, and trying to increase your home base traffic.

Action steps:

  • Install an email collection form
  • Create a compelling email incentive
  • Choose a primary social media channel
  • Develop a social media strategy


4. Monetization – Generate cash

Once you have a solidified subscriber list and following, you want to serve them even better by increasing your income through online revenue. It’s time to explore affiliate links, selling ads, and creating original products (think eBooks, webinars, workbooks, conferences, etc.).

Action steps:

  • Understand your relationship to money
  • Consider advertising income
  • Maximize affiliate opportunities
  • Develop your own products


5. Optimization – Build a company

Finally freed from the demands of a day job, you can work on maximizing your impact and optimizing your results. By building infrastructure, developing workflows, and hiring a team, you can learn to empower others to spread the message that started this whole process.

Action steps:

  • Learn how to delegate
  • Establish a hiring process
  • Identify and define key workflows
  • Pay attention to the numbers

At Certa Publishing, we know that these steps can be intimidating, so we are here to guide and assist our authors. Contact us today!