Don’t Judge a Book by its (Back) Cover

Even if you’re brand new to writing, you’ve probably already given a great deal of thought to your book’s cover art. However, according to marketing consultant Rob Eager, you may need to give equal attention to the back cover copy.

Here is an excerpt from his recent post Write Back Cover Copy That Boost Book Sales:

What if the back cover copy for a book is more important than the front cover art with the title and subtitle?

You’ve heard the old adage “never judge a book by its cover.” I agree, because these days, people don’t judge a book by the front cover. Instead, they judge a book by the back cover copy they see displayed front and center on the book’s sales page at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and dozens of other website retailers.

Today, almost 70% of all books are purchased online. That means back cover copy is the new front cover. Those words are the first thing many shoppers see when looking at a specific title. Therefore, that text plays a bigger role than ever before. Bad text will bore readers and lose their interest. Good text will help persuade the reader to purchase. If a book lacks compelling back cover copy, a lot of sales can be lost both online and in the bookstores.

I’ve taught numerous clients how to write convincing back cover copy that helped their books hit the bestseller lists. Below is my four-step process that works for most non-fiction books. (For memoirs and fiction, skip further down this article):

Step 1 – Display an attention-grabbing hook
Present an attention-grabbing hook in the form of a statement or a question in large bolded font across the top of the back cover. Make it jump out from the other text. Use the technique, “What if I told you _____?” to help create an effective marketing hook. Here are examples of book hooks that help get people’s attention:

  • Everyone speaks. Not everyone is heard.
  • You can cure the disease to please.
  • What if you could say no without feeling guilty?
  • Discover how to sell books like wildfire.

Step 2 – Describe the need for your book in society
In the first paragraph under the top marketing hook, use 2 – 4 sentences to explain the big problem in society and the need for your book to exist. What is the big problem you’ve noticed that is affecting thousands of people? What are the consequences people are experiencing? Don’t get too dark or negative. But, state the reality that people are encountering. Below is a good example from the book, The Power of a Positive No:

Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to say No–to people at work, at home, and in our communities–because No is the word we must use to protect ourselves and to stand up for everything and everyone that matters to us. But as we all know, the wrong No can also destroy what we most value by alienating and angering people. That’s why saying No the right way is crucial.

Step 3 – Tell the reader the specific payoff of your book
Under the problem paragraph, use the transition sentence, “This book will help you…” and then list 4 – 5 bulleted statements that describe specific results people will experience from reading your book. Various examples of effective value statements might be:

  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
  • Increased confidence to control your emotions in sticky situations.
  • Connect and communicate well with team, family and friends
  • Break the “I’ll start again Monday” cycle and start feeling good about yourself today.

Step 4 – Clarify your credibility as an expert who can be trusted
In a final paragraph under the payoff statements, use 2 – 4 sentences to provide a brief bio in a way that explains why you’re an expert worth following. List your credentials and describe your track record of helping people experience the results described above in Step 3. For example, below is a brief version of my bio that summarizes my expertise and the results that I create for clients in the publishing arena:

Rob Eagar is one of the most accomplished book marketing experts in America and a leading specialist in the field of direct-to-consumer marketing. He’s personally coached over 400 authors, consulted with top publishing houses, and helped clients hit the New York Times bestseller list three different ways, including new fiction, new non-fiction, and backlist non-fiction. He even helped a book become a New York Times bestseller after 23 years in print! For more information, visit: http://www.RobEagar.com

We now live in an age where the vast majority of books are purchased online. Thus, the back cover copy is the first text that shoppers see when choosing to buy a book. Getting people to purchase hinges upon the words they read. Language is the power of the sale. Use my simple steps to insure that your back cover copy helps drive book sales like wildfire.

At Certa Publishing, we have helped countless authors navigate the complexities of book cover design and we would love to share our expertise with you.

I’m a Writer, Not a Salesperson!

You’re a pastor. Or maybe an elder in your local church. You might be a stay-at-home mom or a teacher. But you’re probably not a professional salesperson. So now that you’ve written a book, it needs to be sold and you’re feeling a little squeamish. Why? Because it’s likely that your initial “customers” will be friends and family, and that feels awkward. You don’t want to be that friend or family member who is selling a product and making everyone feel obligated to buy it. And yet, you need the support and word-of-mouth marketing of your inner circle. So how do you sell your book to those closest to you without it getting all weird? Here are three ways:

Be confident

More than likely your book is the result of years worth of prayer, reflection, research and sustained effort. You’ve sacrificed time and money to produce the manuscript. You’ve edited, re-edited and re-edited again. You’ve agonized over words, commas and even deleted entire chapters. This book contains your highest thoughts and deepest revelations. It may even be the result of God’s call on your life. If so…be confident. Be proud. Be assured that your writing is amazing and will greatly benefit those who read it.  The temptation will be to say something like this,

Uncle Mike, I hate to be pushy, but it would really mean a lot to me if you would buy my book.

Instead, try this,

Uncle Mike, you know how I’ve always been passionate about worship? Well, I’ve finally written down all the things that God has taught me and I would love for you to read it. In fact, you mentioned recently that you had some misgivings about your church’s worship style. I think you might find some helpful advice in my book.

See, your book has value. Don’t be embarrassed about that. Imagine that you are hosting Christmas dinner for all your relatives. You carefully plan the menu and even practice the recipes. After some refining, the big day comes and you meticulously prepare all the dishes. As you set the food in front of your guests, do you apologize for it? No. You are excited for them to try it! You truly believe that this meal will bring them joy as well as nourishment. You should view your writing in the same way. As a gift and a blessing to those who read it.

Be helpful

Which tagline for a stain-remover would be most effective to a mom of young kids?

Five ways to remove baby food stains

or

Buy our stain remover!

Of course, it is the first one. Why? Because it offers a solution to that mom. How will your book help people? Will it provide encouragement to the depressed? Hope to the addict? Maybe it gives pastors’ wives the tools to keep their sanity. Or it educates on the history of the Jewish people. As you promote your book to friends and family, think of ways that it can help them and become a tool in their spiritual toolbox. This approach will take you much farther than simply constantly asking, “Will you please buy my book?”

Be authentic

If you weren’t a pushy salesperson before you wrote your book, please don’t become one now. We’ve all seen it. The acquaintance who suddenly becomes ultra-friendly only to lay on the sales pitch for some product or another.

Books… actually most products… are best sold through meaningful connections. In his bestselling book Your First 1000 Copies (a book we highly recommend), Tim Grahl states,

Let’s sum up what marketing is and should be.

Marketing isn’t sleazy car salesman tactics.

Marketing isn’t tricking people into buying.

Markting isn’t unethical.

Marketing isn’t intrusive self-promotion.

Marketing is two things: (1) creating lasting connections with people through (2) a focus on being relentlessly helpful.

Be confident. Be helpful. Be authentic. These three attributes will start you off on the right foot as you venture into the world of marketing.

At Certa Publishing, we believe that our authors’ books offer tremendous value and we stand ready to help you reach the readers that need the wisdom your book offers.

Social Media: Going Beyond the Basics

It took you a while, but you’ve embraced social media. You’ve taken the plunge and established yourself on Twitter, Facebook and maybe even Instagram. You’re enjoying the feedback and extra exposure it’s giving you, and you’re seeing the value of the online interactions your work is receiving. But now you’re stuck. How do you take it to the next level? Now you’re back to feeling intimidated again. Never fear, we are here to help! Here’s a quick primer on the writer’s Big Three: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you think.

Tweet like a pro

Twitter is mostly comprised of strangers having conversations. Weird, right? It’s true. So keep that in mind with your posts. Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes (a book we highly recommend), says,

Tweets work best as dialogue, because dialogue establishes rapport and encourages interaction. [However,] even though you might be talking to strangers on Twitter, you’re still talking to people. So write every tweet as you would speak it… to your girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other, dog, cat… or whoever…

Key strategies for Twitter

  • Don’t just pitch your wares. Instead, provide help, information and problem-solving.
  • Put a face on your business by giving your followers a glimpse into your personality and perspective. But be careful of being too personal.
  • Show that your story is apart of a larger movement. Maybe you write books about how you overcame addiction. Use Twitter to champion causes and groups that work in this area.
  • Make your English teacher proud. Just because Twitter is a brief platform doesn’t mean you should sacrifice spelling and grammar. It matters, no matter the platform.

Get the most out of Facebook

  • Photos are essential for Facebook. There are lots of great sources of images: your personal photos that relate to the topic, images you’ve used in your blog, your headshot and your book cover. Great images can also be found online, either through paid sites like BigStockPhoto.com or through several high-quality free stock photo sites like those listed here.
  • Facebook is free, but it isn’t. Thanks to a change in their algorithms, Facebook has made it difficult to reach your audience without paying to “boost” your ad. However, just a few dollars can go a long way. And then you can take advantage of Facebook’s massive amount of user data, which allows you to target your post to a specific audience (i.e. women ages 30-60 who are interested in Bible studies and attend a Christian church).

The key to sucess, then, is being very clear about who your potential customer is – to think niche, not number of likes. – Ann Handley

  • Post less but post more. In other words, keep your posts brief, but write them often. In order to begin engaging with you, your Facebook friends want to know that you will be there often and will respond quickly. Here’s the reaction you don’t want when you post on Facebook: “Oh, wow, I forgot about him!” Instead, you want this reaction: “Oh, wow, I love when he posts… let’s see what he wrote today.”

Be an Insta expert

As you likely know, Instagram is completely image-based. You simply snap a photo, pick a filter, write a caption and post. While there are many creative ways that writers can use Instagram, we suggest that you use consistency of style in your posts. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer a behind-the-scenes look at the writer life. Photos of your favorite coffee mug, writing spot or cat sprawled across your keyboard are perfect.
  • Post selfies with fans and colleagues at book signings, speaking engagements, etc. Be sure to tag the people in the photo to gain more exposure.
  • Use an app like Studio (iPhone or Android) to add quotes from your writing onto beautiful images, like the stock images we mentioned above.

Be sure to set up your account to automatically post your Instagram images to Facebook.

For more great ideas, head over to The Creative Penn’s post How to Use Instagram As An Author Plus 10 Ways to Grow Your Account Organically.

Using social media can be intimidating, but with a little experimenting, we know that you can not only become comfortable with it, but really begin to enjoy the interactions and exposure it brings.

At Certa, we believe our authors have incredibly important stories to tell and we are here to help you tell them, whether in a published book or a quick tweet. Let us know how we can help you today!

So, What is Your Book About?

It may sound like a simple question. But the following excerpt from a post by Rob Eagar, author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, illustrates how crucial your answer can be.
College football fans were treated to an amazing game a few years ago as Michigan State upset highly-ranked Wisconsin on the last play of regulation. As time expired, Michigan State’s quarterback threw a last-ditch, 44-yard, “Hail Mary” pass that was bobbled by two players until receiver, Keith Nichol, caught the ball and crossed the goal line.
Some people called the desperate play a “lucky” win, and it was certainly a rare situation. However, Keith made an interesting comment in the post-game celebration interview. He said that Michigan State practiced that exact kind of last-second desperation play every week. In fact, they practice it so much that they have a name for the play called, “The Rocket.”
What does a lucky, last-second catch in football have to do with marketing a book? There are times in life when you suddenly find yourself in a desperate “Hail Mary” situation. For example, you might randomly sit down next to an important person on the airplane. Someone may suddenly introduce you to a high-profile leader at a party. You may be asked to fill-in for a well-known speaker who cancels the day before. You might get asked to appear on a major radio or television show with little advance notice. Each of these situations has happened to several of my author clients.
The question is: are you prepared to handle those “Hail Mary” moments when they arise?
Don’t avoid the work and think you can just “wing it.” Instead, do you practice reciting the value of your book? Do you have a powerful speech ready to give on short notice? Do you rehearse your sound bites so that you could give an effective interview if a TV producer called tomorrow?
Sometimes, the biggest marketing opportunities appear unannounced. If you’re caught off guard, you won’t be in a position to maximize those occasions. That’s why it’s important to continually prepare for those situations. For example:
  • Memorize the key value statements for your book.
  • Rehearse answering media interview questions while driving in your car.
  • Practice a new speech out loud by yourself until you own the material.
After the big win, Michigan State’s football coach, Mark Dantonio, said, “We always tell our players that they have to be ready, because you never know when your time will come.” As an author, a major opportunity to market your book may be just around the corner. Will you be ready?
At Certa Publishing, we want our authors to be the most prepared in the business. We’d love to help you market your book. We can even assist you in crafting a great pitch for those “hail Mary” situations. Let us know how we can help!

10 Essentials for Your Author Website: Part 2

10essentials

Are you struggling with how to build or update your author website? Whether you feel like your website is ineffective, outdated, or simply nonexistent, this article is for you.

Your author website must be a connecting point with your fans, a source of valuable information, a portal for communication, and always dynamic.

Simply put: more website visits translate into more books sold. 

So why wouldn’t you develop an effective, professional hub for your online presence and interactions?

Check out the final 5 essential elements of an author website. Did you miss the first 5 in Part 1? Find it here.

  1. Connect your social media

It’s important to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find and follow you on social media.

  • Add links to your relevant social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Goodreads, etc.) profiles on your Home page, About page, and Contact page.
  • Simply ask people to follow or like you.
  • Add a sharing plugin to each page on your site.
  • Next, be sure to consistently share content on your social media accounts that’s valuable and interesting. This will keep people engaged.

 “Optimizing social media requires you to focus on creating content that is unique, engaging and shareable.”

  1. Create a page for your books

Include a high quality image of your book cover, a concise synopsis, and purchase details with links. Make the Book Page obvious and easy to find for your readers.

  • If possible, have a media kit created for each book. (Don’t know what this is? Keep reading!)
  • Another option, in addition to creating a Book Page on your website, is to create a separate book website or landing page.
  1. Have an Author Blog

Websites with blogs get a significantly higher percentage of traffic than websites without blogs. A blog creates fresh, valuable pages of content perfect for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If you want to be seen by more people, bring potential buyers to your site, and prove your credibility as an authority on your topic, a blog is a necessity!

  • Intrigue your readers (both new and old) with exclusive content such as unpublished passages, the inside scoop, behind the scenes photos, sample chapters, etc.
  • Take advantage of this platform to network with your peers, recommend other authors, and review books similar/related to your own.
  • Use the comment section of each blog post to engage with your readers.
  • A blog is the perfect way to keep readers naturally coming back for more.
  1. Don’t forget an Upcoming Events page

Include a section on your site to inform your visitors of your latest news and any upcoming events.

  • Post your most recent interviews, reviews, radio appearances, blog mentions, etc.
  • Share the dates of your upcoming book readings, signings, speaking engagements, conferences, workshops, interviews, etc. with details so your fans can keep up with you.
  1. Create a Media Kit

The purpose of a media kit is to provide your information to the press or anyone wishing to profile or interview you. Having a thorough, professional looking media kit sets you a part. Be sure to make it an easy to find page on your site. The contents of a media kit can vary, but the following are a few of the basics:

  • Author bio and photo
  • Contact information
  • Information about the book, including a review and excerpt
  • Press release
  • Testimonials
  • Product Information
  • Potential Interview Questions

Which of these 10 essentials do you already have implemented on your website? How can you improve upon your current site? Or are you ready to start from scratch? Don’t let all of this information overwhelm you—take one step at a time.

If you put in the time and hard work, you’ll certainly see the benefits!

 

10 Essentials for Your Author Website: Part 1

10essentials

Feel like your author website is outdated or ineffective, but don’t know how to begin revamping it? Overwhelmed by the thought of creating one from scratch? Check out these 10 must-have elements for your author website.

Websites are no longer static, digital business cards—their purpose is to do more than just relay information.

Your author website must be a connecting point with your fans, a source of valuable information, a portal for communication, and always dynamic.

When readers visit an author’s website, they’re able to show their support and get to know their favorite writers better—and strong relationships between writers and readers means incredibly devoted fans, which leads to stronger word of mouth marketing.

Simply put: more website visits translate into more books sold.

So why wouldn’t you develop an effective, professional hub for your online presence and interactions?

  1. Make a good first impression

It may be tempting to whip something together and quickly share it with your fans, but it’s important to remember that your website truly represents who you are and what you can offer others. Develop an author brand consistent with how you wish to portray yourself. With this in mind, consider the following questions:

  • Will people know what I write within seconds of arriving at my site?
  • Does the voice and mood of my site resonate with my ideal reader?
  • Will visitors understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next? Does the site flow well?
  • Does my site appear professional and credible?
  • Is there a clear call to action, such as “buy my book” or “subscribe to my email list”?
  • Is there honest reasoning as to why someone would respond to the call to action?
  1. Include an About Page and Author Bio

Your readers want to know more about you, and this is the perfect place to tell them. About pages are some of the most frequented pages, so you don’t want to leave this element out. While the surface purpose is to share more about yourself, the deeper purpose is to quench the reader’s unspoken “what’s in it for me” question. Keep this in mind and consider the following tips:

  • Have a professional headshot taken. Whether you prefer a clean, studio portrait or a more relaxed photo in a natural setting (e.g. in a park or at your desk), it’s important to have a well lit, high quality photo. A grainy cell phone snap often gives off the wrong impression.
  • Introduce yourself.
    • Start with a persuasive opener, informing your reader what they can expect to find on this page, as well as your site as a whole.
    • Tell your personal story—focus on what led you to start writing, what has inspired your books, and why you love it. Let your personality shine while still keeping it professional. Browse some of your favorite authors’ websites to get inspiration.
    • Be sure to mention your writing credentials and associations
    • Then, gain some credibility by providing testimonials and reader quotes.
  • By now, your reader has invested in you and your site enough to provide them with a call to action. Provide a link to your books, invite them to join your email list, etc.
  1. Have a Contact Page

If you want people to engage with you, don’t make it difficult to find your contact information. Make it as easy as possible for people to get a hold of you.

  • Include a “contact” tab in the main menu of your website. On this page, include your preferred methods of communication.
  • If you have a contact form, keep it simple and to the point—don’t ask your readers too many questions about themselves.
  • If you list your email address, use the following format to avoid spammers: “yourname[at]gmail.com” or “yourname@yourwebsite[dot]com.”
  • List your social media profiles
  1. Build an Email List

Even if you don’t have grand plans for a newsletter or an impending book launch, it’s never too early to start collecting email addresses. These early sign-ups will most likely be some of your biggest fans, supporting your work by word of mouth recommendations, forwarding your emails, and sharing your posts on social media. Why is an email list so important, and how can you make one? Check out this article for more information on how to get started!

  • Don’t worry! You don’t have to send out a newsletter each week. You can be upfront about the frequency of your newsletter. Don’t feel pressured to send one out too often.
  • Don’t try to sell something every time you contact your subscribers. It’s important to add value (link) to your audience, not just use them to promote to.
  • Make your opt-in box or sign-up form very easy to find on your page, but not obnoxiously large.
  • Consider including a “sign-up incentive” such as a promo code for your books, a sneak peek at your next story, or a free chapter download.
  1. Gain Credibility Through Testimonials and Reviews

Your website visitors will instantly find you more credible if you include positive reader quotes, social proof, and testimonial reviews to your website. Without being sales-y, even your most critical visitors can be won over through the words of a third party. So gather real, succinct reviews from readers, and include them on your site.

  • Email your list of address for feedback, reviews, and thoughts from those who have purchased and read your books or who follow your blog.
  • Whenever you receive a great comment, tweet, or email from a reader, get permission to use their words as a testimonial on your site.

Keep an eye out for the next 5 essentials in the upcoming Part 2!

The Writer’s Guide to Building an Email List

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Written by Kimberley Grabas

 

Ahh, the ‘List’.

As a writer, building your email subscriber list may not (yet) have become paramount in your quest for an engaged audience.

Setting up and tweaking your blog, learning the intricate language of Twitter and ensuring your brand is hallmarked for longevity has, thus far, consumed every moment of your free time, right?

But if you spend any time online, and particularly within the marketing community, you will hear this important proverb ad nauseam:

The money is in the list.

The reason?

Building an email subscriber list is one of the best ways to ensure the long term success of your business.

How Does This Apply to You?

Building an email list is arguably the most important element to building a following and getting your message heard. It is the most direct and cost effective way to communicate and engage with your fans and subscribers on a personal level. The bigger your list, the bigger your online marketing asset—and the more interested publishers are.

A large Twitter following, significant traffic to your site, or an active Facebook community is great, but an email list is better. Here’s why:

You own your list. If Facebook deletes your fan page or Twitter kicks you off, you are effectively kicked out of the conversation. You don’t own the content, and what’s worse, if you don’t have an email list, there is no way to contact your followers to let them know what happened.

Blogs, websites and RSS readers can disappear. Once you have an email list, you can always stay connected with your audience and keep them informed of what you are doing.

Here are a few more benefits to building and maintaining your email list:

  • The conversation via email is personal, direct and private. It provides an excellent medium for staying in touch with your readers.
  • It’s cheap, cost effective and everyone online has an email address.
  • You will always have a way to communicate with your audience. Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income Blog and  Jeff Goins at GoinsWriter both had issues with their sites recently. They were able to communicate to their readers via email and mitigate what might have been significant and expensive consequences.
  • Use your email list to broadcast every time you have a new blog post and send a surge of traffic to your site.
  • Inform your readers and fans of a book launch, new product or freelance service and provide a link to your sales page.

Here’s a tip: Subscribe to successful authors, marketing gurus, popular self-publishing blogs and so on to get a free marketing lesson in each email you receive.

Look at the subject line for their email. Did it catch your attention or intrigue you? Did you open the email? Why?

Analyze the copy used in the body of the email. What was the tone they used? Was it conversational or salesy? Was there a ‘call to action’? (Were you asked to do something, like click on a link? Did you?) How did they get you to take that action?

So, If the Money is in The List, Should I Use My List to Sell?

Use your email list like you use social media–as a way to connect further with your readers and fans. Interact and inform your readers; don’t constantly promote and sell.

Use your own experiences as an email recipient to define what is great content. Spammy, hard selling is out. Remember, as with everything involved in building your writer platform, you are trying to build trust in you and your brand. It only takes one click to unsubscribe, so make it worthwhile for your reader to stay.

If your subscribers trust that your newsletters or updates provide awesome and unique content (and are not just filled with shameless self promotion), your open rate will increase and your subscribers will be happy to spread the word about you–and what you have to offer.

Provide a call to action or link that directs your reader back to your site where you are promoting your book launch, speaking engagements, new post or other events and services. Keep it conversational, engaging and have a single purpose or action.

Think quality, not necessarily quantity, and consider managing your readers expectations by letting them know when and how often to expect emails from you. By attracting relevant pre-engaged visitors (for example, through guest posting, social media and great on-site content) and providing the most useful information you can, you should see a steady rise to your email subscriber list.

Getting Started

One of the biggest oversights many writers make in their book marketing efforts is not starting an email list right from the start. In fact many successful online entrepreneurs have stated that waiting before developing their email lists was a big mistake they made early in their careers–and a costly one.

Don’t wait for perfect. It’s tempting to put off list building until your site is tweaked to perfection, you have a killer “ethical bribe” (more on this below), or you finally have a book to market. It also might seem easier to just work on your social media strategy and leave list building for a later project.

The problem is, that building your email list is just too important to ignore.

Online marketing strategist, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers urges those of us marketing online to stop promoting our social media profiles at the expense of our email list. He notes that “email marketing crushes social media marketing”, and he uses some statistics from his own extensive platform to prove his point.

With this in mind, move building your subscriber list to the forefront of your book marketing efforts and ensure it has a prominent position when developing your author blog or website.

Building your email subscriber list is a key component in creating and maintaining a ‘captive’ audience. By doing so, you will grow an accessible, thriving fan base that will be the cornerstone of your successful writing career.

Engaging with Readers on Goodreads

By Cynthia Shannon, Author Marketing Specialist at Goodreads

Whether you’re just starting out or have written multiple bestsellers, as an author you play an important role in promoting your books to readers. What’s one of the best places to connect with readers? With more than 50 million members, Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, and offers multiple ways for authors to gain a following.

Be a Reader First

One of the easiest activities you can do to engage with readers on Goodreads is to review and recommend books—after all, a love of books is what got you into writing in the first place, right? You can talk about why you loved a book you just read, create a shelf of your favorite books of all time, or recommend books you used to research your own—the opportunities are endless. Each time you shelve, rate, or review a book, it creates an update for anyone who follows you, making reviewing books one of the best ways to build a following and engage with your readers.

Encourage Questions from Readers—You Choose Which Ones to Answer

Another way to connect with readers on Goodreads is to let them ask you a question. Ask the Author is a Q&A platform on Goodreads that allows readers to submit questions to authors via their author profiles. Ask the Author is unique in that it doesn’t make questions visible to the public until the author chooses to answer them, giving authors control over when and how to respond. Once you have made your answer public, Goodreads’ social amplification then kicks in. Each answer is shared in the newsfeed of the person who asked the question, as well as anyone who follows you. In addition, the collection of your answers is available on your profile (creating a richer source of information about you) and on a dedicated Ask the Author landing page unique to you. They are also included in a weekly email round up of your content to your followers.

On top of that, readers automatically receive an email when their questions are answered. Readers can express their delight by liking or commenting on the answer to keep the conversation going. Since this interaction shows up in the newsfeed of all their friends, it raises even more awareness about the author’s activity.

Getting the Most Out of Ask the Author on Goodreads

Answering questions on Ask the Author is as simple as responding to email, and there’s no limit to how long your response can be—in fact, thoughtful and well-crafted answers work best. You can even include images! Any author who has claimed their author profile on Goodreads can participate, and 40% of all Goodreads Authors have already answered questions including Richard Russo, Sylvia Day, Alan Moore, Kristin Hannah, Michael Connelly, and Lois Lowry.

You can enable Ask the Author directly from your author dashboard (if you’re unfamiliar with the Author Program, click here to learn more). To ensure you have a great experience, follow these tips:

Set expectations.
Customize your Ask the Author message to state how often you’ll be responding to answers. It’s ok to let people know you’ll only pop in once in a while! You can also solicit specific questions, or indicate a specific time and date for when you’ll answer.

Answer at least 4 pre-seeded questions.
Give readers more content to engage with: Answer a few of the questions that Goodreads asks every author who turns on the feature, such as “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?” or “How do you deal with writer’s block?” This indicates to readers that you’re there to engage. You can always edit the answers with updated information down the road.

Leave Ask the Author on.
Don’t miss an opportunity to delight a potential fan. Keeping Ask the Author on allows readers to reach out to you when they first discover your Goodreads Author profile page. If you do have it switched off, make sure to turn on Ask the Author no later than six weeks prior to publication date of your next book so you can use Ask the Author to re-engage with readers.

Get alerts.
Make sure you see new questions when they come in. Adjust your email notifications from your author dashboard. You can elect to receive a daily or weekly email of new questions.

Respond to (some) repetitive questions.
Instead of simply telling the reader you’ve already answered a question, copy and paste your response or link to the answer. That particular reader will appreciate your response in the email she receives.

Encourage readers to follow you.
Build your followers so that more people see your answers. Add the Goodreads button to your website, include it in your newsletter, or insert a link in your email signature to help people find you on Goodreads.

No questions? No problem! Sometimes readers can’t think of a great question to ask (it can be a little intimidating!), so give them content to engage with instead. Here are some examples of things you can do:

Repurpose publicity kits.
Many publicity teams compose sample Q&As for media kits, and these become more visible when placed on Goodreads. Repost those questions via Ask the Author, and provide the answers through the author account. Share links to the complete Ask the Author landing page, or to just one individual answer when pitching media.

Point to media coverage.
Pull out an interesting question from an interview or media appearance, provide a partial answer, and link to the complete media hit.

Ask other authors questions.
Since answers show up in both authors’ respective newsfeeds, this is a great way to increase a debut author’s audience. Continue the conversation in the comments section!

Tell a story.
Promote an excerpt or writing sample by simply asking to “share a story.” The custom piece will delight readers, whose engagement on it via likes and comments further amplifies the reach.

Incorporate Ask the Author as your FAQ page.
Use the Q&A platform to your advantage by linking to them on the Frequently Asked Questions page on your website.

Supplement an author tour.
Authors can’t make it to every town in which they have fans, so delight those readers by adding a virtual tour stop to the author appearances schedule. Allow readers to submit questions throughout the tour, and announce on what day you’ll answer them.

Don’t Forget You’re a Writer!

Answering questions is a great way to show off your writing skills. Readers love funny stories, insights into who you are, and information that has never been shared before. It can be tempting to try and answer lots of questions with just 1–2 sentence replies but these can end up being disappointing. Readers are genuinely interested in learning more about you and your books. So browse your favorite authors on Goodreads to see how they’re answering questions!

Goodreads provides authors with many other tools to promote their books and engage with readers through the Goodreads Author Program. To learn more about the Author Program, click here

How to Craft a Compelling Elevator Pitch

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If you didn’t catch our last article on why you should create an elevator pitch, take a moment to be convinced! Read it here.

Now that you know how important it is to have your own, how do you actually go about crafting a good elevator pitch? 

Here’s what author/influencer Michael Hyatt has to say:

“First, understand that the pitch will be different depending on whether you are offering an information product (e.g., non-fiction book, speech, consulting service, etc.) or an entertainment product (e.g, novel, screenplay, comedy act, etc.). Note that when I use the term “product,” I am referring to your creative output regardless of the form. It could be an actual product, a service, or even a cause.

An elevator pitch for an information product should consist of four components:

  • Component 1: Your product name and category.
  • Component 2: The problem you are attempting to solve.
  • Component 3: Your proposed solution.
  • Component 4: The key benefit of your solution.

Here’s an example from my current project:

I am writing a new [Component 1] business book called Platform. [Component 2] It is designed for anyone who is trying to get attention for their product, service, or cause. [Component 3] I teach my readers how to build a tribe of loyal followers, using social media and other new technologies. [Component 4] I explain that it has never been easier, less expensive, or more possible than right now.”

An elevator pitch for an entertainment product should also consist of four components:

  • Component 1: Your product name and category.
  • Component 2: The main character’s ambition.
  • Component 3: The conflict he or she encounters.
  • Component 4: The real significance of the story.

Here’s an example from a mythical project about the modern composer, Eric Whitacre:

I am shooting an [Component 1] inspirational documentary called Cloudburst.[Component 2] It is about a young, extremely gifted musician who dreams of becoming a symphony conductor. [Component 3] The only problem is he can’t read music. As a result, no one in the music business will give him a chance. [Component 4] Yet he ultimately succeeds because of his honesty, optimism, and hard work.”

Obviously, pitches can vary widely, depending on your offering. Regardless, you want to create an elevator pitch that is clear and compelling. This is a prerequisite to attracting the partners and prospects you need to succeed.

Once you get your elevator pitch fine-tune, don’t deliver it like a mechanical parrot. Instead, do what Michael Port suggest in his excellent book, Book Yourself Solid, Chapter 4: use it as the foundation of a meaningful sales conversation.”

So what is your elevator pitch? We’d love to hear it!

3 Reasons To Create An Elevator Pitch

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As you make your way across the convention hall to find a particular publisher, you silently repeat your introductory sentences. You arrive at the booth, confidently shake hands with her, say your perfectly worded lines, and smile as she replies. Suddenly you realize she’s asking you exactly what makes your book stand out from the rest in your genre. Eyes wide and mind panicking, you search for a sufficient response, but you’ve only prepared so much…

Don’t get caught off guard.

Always be prepared to present yourself and your book succinctly, naturally, and confidently. An elevator pitch may sound old fashioned in this technical, fast-paced age we live in, but it is actually more important than ever! When you have the opportunity to make that in-person connection with someone, you’ll want to use it to your advantage!

When you don’t have an exciting and concise elevator speech, you will fail to connect with your potential customers and you will lose business. Why handicap your platform-building goals before you even get started?
                   – Michael Hyatt

It’s safe to say that people with successful platforms and products have spent a lot of time crafting and perfecting their elevator pitches. If a pitch is successful, then potential readers (or clients or partners) become connected and invested in you and your book. If a pitch is not successful, then an opportunity is missed.

Here are 3 reasons why you absolutely need an elevator pitch:

  1. Find Clarity.
    What could be more important for an author than to know precisely what their book is about? Yet, it’s alarming how many people don’t have a concise, compelling description of their work. By writing and practicing an elevator speech, you will not only gain clarity about your own book and its message, but you will also provide more accurate clarity when you present it to others. 
  2. Gain Perspective.
    If you’re trying to connect with potential readers, you must view your pitch from their perspective. What do they want? What problems do they have? What do they hope to achieve? Only once you’ve considered the perspective of your potential readers can you create a pitch that is effectively compelling.
     
  3. A Tool for Support.
    You can’t do everything by yourself. In order to successfully launch anything significant, you’re going to need help along the way. Whether you’re talking to a publisher, editor, marketer, or readers, you need to be able to quickly share what you are all about.

Are you convinced of its value yet? If you’re ready to start crafting your elevator speech, keep an eye out for our next article on how to do just that!