BLOG Marketing 101

Hi friends! Here’s another marketing post, by request. It’s another lengthy one, so if you’re in for the long haul, buckle up.

This post covers the bare essentials of setting up your blog for success. I didn’t cover reaching out to the blogging community, even though they are amazingly supportive, because I wanted to focus on how to breach through to a larger audience.

Is there something I missed? Comment below!

Note: If you’re wondering why the heck you should even read my marketing advice, check out my BOOK Marketing 101 post for my credentials. I’m not going to type them out again, I feel pretentious doing so. Also, with regard to email marketing, Dea Poirier has a wonderful post on Email Marketing as an Author which covers some of the legal and social aspects of having a mailing list. It’s mostly geared toward writers, but many of the points overlap for bloggers as well.

  • Figure out what you’re going to write about.
    • I know this seems fairly basic, perhaps you have a broad idea in your head. For ex. I’m a book blogger who focuses on YA/NA novels. That’s great, BUT A) there are a lot of different genres within YA/NA (ie. fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc.) and B) due to its popularity, there are A LOT of other bloggers that focus on the same thing. So why should anyone care about what I have to say?
    • I personalize my blog in two ways, A) in my About page, I emphasize that I hold a degree in English Literature from the University of Texas, so I am qualified to discuss ALL literature (sorry that I didn’t go to law school Mom), and B) I have a section on my blog for book reviews and a section for my  “rambling thoughts” as I like to call them. These are two ways in which I try to stand out, both by proving that my credibility and by allowing me to interact with readers. Thus far, my rambling thoughts section has consisted of requests made by readers, so thank you all for even taking the time to read it. I am truly humbled.
    • While it’s important to differentiate yourself, do not beat a dead horse by posting it at the beginning of every post (or video, if you’re vlogging, but that is a post for another day.) A great way to have it featured is to have an “About the Author” section at the bottom of each post, especially if you have a stable of writers who collaborate on the blog.
  • B-R-A-N-D-I-N-G
    • PERSONALITY IS IMPORTANT. Don’t be some emotionless voice on the internet. Unless you’re writing a science or tech blog, in which case by all means, feel free. But that’s still a part of your brand. As I said last week, branding deserves a post on its own, but I’ll go over some of the basics here and why it matters. I’ll also use my own website for an example. (Please note: I’ve technically had this website for a few months, but I hadn’t actually been active on it until last week, so it’s still being polished.)
    • As a blogger, you are the narrator of your blog, and maintaining the credibility of your narrative is essential to getting your readers to trust you enough to keep reading. What’s more, they are more likely to recommend your blog to someone else. It’s also important to figure out who you are as a blogger before moving on to this step. Why? Because that persona will effect the tone of your blog posts, your website design, and everything in between.
    • Ex. Lissa’s Library.
      • Lissa’s Library is not the first blog that I’ve run, but it is the first personal blog that I’ve launched.
      • Writing Style: You’ll notice that my writing style is a little ditzy and zany, with a touch of professional diction sprinkled throughout. This is intentional. It is a young adult blog geared toward a younger audience. I could easily write a post debating the merits and credibility of Bathsheba as a trailblazer for feminism in Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, but that would be off-brand. My audience doesn’t want that. (Side note: if you do want that, please let me know, because I can go for days on that one.) 
      • Website design: You’re probably thinking, but Lissa, what website design? The stark contrast of the plain white background with the vibrant colors of the book covers I have reviewed is on purpose. It’s meant to be an aesthetic representation of my degree in English and the literature that I review with it. It’s the first impression of my credibility that you get before falling down the rabbit hole.  It’s also a metaphor for the way that I, myself, am a storyteller for other peoples stories as an audiobook narrator. Without their stories, my voice is a blank canvas, but writers add their own color.
        • Less is more sometimes. Look at your homepage. Is it cluttered? Is it difficult to navigate? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, consider cutting back and simplifying it until you’re happy with your base. Once you have a homepage that is on-brand and that you are happy with, it’s easy to add on from there. If you aren’t quite sure, it can never hurt to get the opinion of a professional. There are some wonderful website designer’s out there who specialize in blogs, and many will also be happy to give a consultation.
      • Social media: I LOVE supporting the writing community of Twitter. What’s more, as a book blogger, it’s completely on brand for me to do so. I’ve pretty much composed my entire Twitter account around this premise. It has enabled me to connect with some great writers and even other bloggers in my niche. More on this in a second. That being said, there are a few things I strictly steer away from on social media. I won’t curse, I don’t talk about drinking, partying, and I don’t overly promote myself. Why? Once again, I blog for the YA/NA audience, so the first three aren’t on brand, and I don’t want to alienate them. Overly promoting yourself is also almost as bad as doing no promotion at all. If your social media feed consists mainly of promotions, then your followers will either A) silence your feed, B) unfollow you, or C) just grow immune to them. Here’s a direct quote from my BOOK Marketing 101 post: “If your voice can’t cut through the clutter on your own feed, then that’s a problem. Also, as humans, we have grown so accustomed to seeing ads everywhere all day that we naturally tune them out. ‘Cutting through the clutter’ is literally an advertising term for making your ad (in this case yourself and your books) stand out, because in America alone its estimated that on average each person encounters approximately 5,000 ads a day.”
  • Say it with me: CON-SIS-TEN-CY
    1. Post consistently and constantly. If you have to choose one though, go with consistency over frequency. If you have enough writers collaborating to post every day, or multiple times a day, then that’s great! If you’re working on your blog solo and can only commit to posting once or twice a week, that’s fine too! It’s more important for your readers to know that they can rely on your posts than for them to have a frequent flow of content. Why? That doesn’t make sense? Actually, humans are creatures of habit. If reading your blog becomes a part of that habit, and then suddenly your posts become erratic, you’ll lose- want to take a guess?- THAT’S RIGHT, CREDIBILITY.
    2. I’m not quite sure how it works with WordPress, but if you’re posting multiple times a week, then don’t email your subscribers after every single post. It goes back to the issue of clutter. Break through it, maybe send an email once a week with a summary of your posts as a kind reminder for the subscribers who haven’t already checked your site. No one wants to read those emails every single day unless they’re your mother. Even then, I don’t think my mom has even looked at my website yet. (HI MAMAN)
    3. Do some research and try to figure out what is the best time to post. Are you writing a trade blog? Then most likely, people will be reading it during their workday. I have a very talented friend who is a journalist for a cyber security news site based in DC, and they send out an email to their clients (they operate behind a paywall) at the beginning of the work day with breaking news. SIDE NOTE: News services are different from blogs and are expected to send out daily updates to their subscribers. Unless you’re running The New York Times, or BuzzFeed, please abstain from daily emails. Dea Poirier said it best:
       
  • Networking
    • Can you say guest blogs? Good. Go write about it. First, though, you must make friends who will graciously allow you into their home(page.) Guest blogs are a symbiotic service that allows bloggers to be featured to each other’s reader base, and increases traffic and flow to your blog. Try to maintain your credibility on these blogs though, don’t write about a topic that’s completely off-brand. Why? Well, say I were to write a guest blog for one of my Mental Health blogger friends. Hypothetically, let’s say Reader X liked my post on relaxation techniques so much that they decided to go check out my book blog. Reader X was expecting another mental health blogger, and leaves the website. See how that’s ineffective? Now, if I were to tie the post to my book blog somehow, perhaps on how to choose a good book for relaxation, it better prepares Reader X for what they would encounter when they come to my site. For a more effective guest post, I recommend writing for a friend who writes to a similar audience. I have some lovely author friends who have agreed to host me, and their fan bases happen to coincide with my audience.
  •  SEO
    • Search. Engine. Optimization. Don’t know what this is? That’s okay, it’s easy to learn. There are some great resources for learning online and at your local library. Or, if you decided to get a professional website designer, many include this as an add on to their packages. 
    • SEO is essentially a way of using key words in the metadata of your website to improve visibility in the results of search engines. It helps direct people to your website. Please note that SEO is not a one-time thing. The algorithms that search engines use are being updated all of the time, so I recommend refreshing your SEO at least once a month to maintain your place in the search cue.
    • SEO can be used on any page of your website, including each of your blog posts and articles, to help boost clicks directed from search engines. Make sure to direct your SEO toward your audience. For example, when my friend Virginia time to do my SEO on Lissa’s Library, she’ll gear each particular book review toward the fanbase of that author. Ie. the grishaverse for Leigh Bardugo, Potterheads for J. K. Rowling, etc.
  • Advertising (Optional)
    • If you have the funds, targeted ads at the niche market your blog applies to are a great way to boost your reader base. Clickbait, especially on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, entices the reader so that they are already invested in the piece before they are directed to the website.
  • Quality Content
    • I can’t help you here. This is entirely up to you. I can give you all of the tips and tricks to draw people to your blog, but if the content isn’t there then they might read one post and then move on. Stay on brand, interact with your readers, and edit until each piece shines. Remember to consider what unique perspective you can offer your posts, that no one else can.
  • Analytics
    • Most social media and blog sites have an analytics section where you can track impressions and clicks. These are extremely helpful for those who are DIYing it and help to perfect your process for your own blog through trial and error.

My post next week will be uploaded on Friday, instead of my normal Saturday routine. Thanks for reading. I love you all and good night!

To Kill a Kingdom: 4.8

To Kill A Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
Narrators: Jacob York and Stephanie Willis
Rating: 4.8
Genre: YA Dark Fantasy / Twisted Fairytale

“To them, the sea is never the true danger. Even crawling with sirens and sharks and beasts that can devour them whole in seconds. The true danger is people. They are the unpredictable. The betrayers and the liars.” 
― Alexandra Christo, To Kill a Kingdom

This is a wickedly stunning debut from Alexandra Christo, and I loved every minute of it.  I listened to the audiobook for this one, because I’ve been absolutely swamped this week and I can multitask much better with someone reading to me than I can with a book in my hands. Stephanie Willis and Jacob York did a wonderful job of bringing this dark fantasy world alive, and I couldn’t stop listening.

Lira is a siren princess. Actually, she’s the siren princess, sole heir to the throne. Think that’s a cliché? Well, when you add in the fact that it’s a sea queendom, sirens are reclaimed as the deliciously vicious creatures that they are, and Lira’s mother would rather get rid of her daughter than step down from the throne, I can be content with another princess story.

Lira, non-favored daughter that she is, makes a big mistake and her mother’s idea of a punishment is to embarrass her in front of the whole kingdom, weakening her in the eyes of the people that she is set to rule in a few short years. Lira then gets it in her head that bringing her mother the heart of the siren-hunting prince that is plaguing their waters will be a sufficient sacrifice to avoid this punishment.

Elian, crown prince of Midas, feels more at home onboard his ship than in his golden palace. He spends his days hunting the sirens that threaten the seas. Despite his murderous tendencies, he can’t help but stop when they encounter a drowning girl in the middle of the ocean with no other ships in sight.

I. Loved. This. Book. There are a number of reasons why, but let’s focus on the reasons it earned a 4.8/5 rating.

Stylistically, Alexandra Christo is amazingly talented. Since I was listening to the audiobook, her words combined with Stephanie Willis’ performance literally sent chills down my spine at times. The prose painted a refreshing re-telling of a classic tale, and even though the ultimate ending was easy to predict (it is a twist on a fairytale after all), it managed to keep me thoroughly engaged. It was smooth without being too simple, and the protagonists were pleasantly mature for their age.

The protagonists were refreshing as well in a love-to-hate, slow burn that had the perfect amount of sass. There were no gullible obsessions, no shy blushes, no butterflies in the stomach. Lira and Elian worked well together, because of how they were equals and I am here for romances like this. Both characters were strong enough to stand on their own, but they were stronger together.

As far as twisted fairytales go, this one is high on my recommended list. The extra oomph that brought it to the higher level of my ranking comes from Alexandra Christo’s subtle nods to various other myth and folklore tales and the dry wit that she infused her characters with. There was no shy innocence, nor gullibility. The purpose and reliability of her narrators allowed me to immerse myself fully in her tale, and not return from its depths until Jacob York read the closing credits.

BOOK Marketing 101

UPDATE 11/21: This post is for the bare basics of marketing a single book and building a good foundation as a writer. Dea Poirier has a wonderful post on Email Marketing as an Author that goes into detail on how to effectively (and legally) market yourself and your books via email.

Hi friends! Class is now in session.

Honestly, this week’s post was absolutely going to be a rant about Charles Dickens and his not so hidden misogyny (more on that later), but then one of my lovely Twitter followers started asking me some questions about how to market his book.

Fun fact, friends: my background is in marketing and advertising.

My actual degree from the University of Texas is in English Literature, but my minor was in advertising. I was about one semester short of a double major. I also worked at a marketing firm for several years before switching to audiobook narration full time. Before that, I spent several years helping to run a venture capitalist firm in Austin, Texas, doing everything necessary to help brand and launch entrepreneurs and their companies.

Anyway, credentials out of the way, I thought it might be fun to jot down some of the most basic essentials you need to market your book, and how to start your journey.

  1. Finish the book.
    • I know. This one seems obvious, but I don’t simply mean get to the end. Find beta readers and listen to them, edit and then edit again, polish that baby until it shines, take it on a pilgrimage to your editor and pray. (Side note: if you don’t have an editor, I highly recommend getting one. It is worth the investment. If you’re serious about selling your book, which I assume you are since you are reading this, then DO IT. Some of them even have payment plans, and you’ll be surprised how much you missed.)
    • Only once your book is beautiful and shiny should you continue. Why? Why shouldn’t you simply release it and test the waters? Because, my darling, there are terribly picky bloggers out there, like me, who will tear stylistic and grammatical errors to shreds. Not to mention major plot holes *shudder*. You can write the story of the century, but if it’s filled with issues:
      • It kills the credibility of your narrator.
      • It distracts from your overall story.
      • People will notice. Not just bloggers, but your readers. That is not what you want people to remember about your book. 
  2. Identify your target audience.
    • This is so important for about a million reasons, but it also helps you narrow your marketing efforts so that they are reaching the right demographic. How do you do this?
      • Start by determining the genre of your book. Find similar authors in your genre, and see who is buying their books, who they are marketing to. Goodreads is a great source for this, as their amazing users have compiled list upon list of books organized by genre, emotion, and pretty much anything you can think of. I was in Minnesota last week, and I looked up books to read when its snowing outside.
      • Another great way to find similar authors is to go to your local bookstore. Find the section with your genre and spend some time looking through their books. Jot down the names of authors with similar titles and look them up. Most authors have their own website, and many have blogs or newsletters in which they talk about their own experiences. Even if they don’t, you can see their marketing tactics when you look them up. Are their posts geared toward teens? What blogger community do they interact with the most? Keep in mind that many of these authors have publicists that are armed with statistics and connections, but there is no reason why you can’t make your own dent if you do your research.
  3. DO judge your book by its cover. Everyone else does.
    • I plead guilty. To be fair, I’m biased, but a good book cover is the first thing we see, be it online or in the store. A good book cover jumps out at you, and if it has an interesting summary to go with it, usually jumps right into my basket. This is one area where your earlier research in Section 2 comes in handy. What the covers look like of other books in your genre? What about the books most similar to yours? Obviously your cover shouldn’t look exactly the same as theirs, but there are subtle cues in the design that scream the book’s genre, and informs the reader where it belongs. A great multimedia example of this is how the Stranger Things logo is actually inspired by Stephen King’s book covers, because they wanted something that is automatically recognized as horror and sends a chill through the audience. Subtlety is an art form.
    • Not artistically inclined? There are several wonderful graphic designers who make a living doing book covers. Make sure to find one who specializes in your genre. They might even feature your book cover in their portfolio and on their social media.
  4. Network.
    • Talk with other writer, book bloggers, your readers. Even your graphic designers, you never know when you’ll be in a pinch and they’ll go the extra mile for you because they know your face. I did a book cover for a friend last month as a favor, and I hadn’t done graphic design in over a year.
    • Your peers are some of your biggest supporters. They know how hard it is to make it as a writer and with them, you get what you give. They’re in the trenches with you, and we all support one another.
  5. Social Media.
    • Okay, so technically social media should go under networking, and it does. There are some key points, however, that I feel need to be addressed here. Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
    • The number of followers that you have is irrelevant. That’s right. I said it. You could have ten thousand followers, and someone with one hundred could outsell you if their network is more interactive than yours. Why? Because people who interact with you actively care about your work. I don’t mean retweeting every tweet about your book, I mean actual conversations. Don’t get me wrong, retweeting is a great way to support your friends, but is your entire feed other people’s promotions? If your voice can’t even cut through the clutter on your own feed, then that’s a problem. Also, as humans, we have grown so accustomed to seeing ads everywhere all day that we naturally tune them out. “Cutting through the clutter” is literally an advertising term for making your ad (in this case yourself and your books) stand out, because in America alone its estimated that on average each person encounters approximately 5,000 ads a day.
    • How can you use social media effectively? Start by showcasing your own voice consistently. Post your thoughts, have conversations with your followers, tempt us with snippets from your book. In short, make people care about what you have to say. 
  6. Bloggers.
    • I’m sure that you’re tired of me yammering on about networking and calling it by a new name, but seriously this one is important because bloggers will give unbiased opinions on your book. If you do it correctly. That being said, a lot of book bloggers will post on their website whether or not they are open to unsolicited requests/ARCs. I know that it’s your book baby, and it’s hard to give it away for free, sending it on its way all alone to face the criticizing eyes of reviewers, but it has to stand on its own. You can tell the world that your book is amazing, and it might be, but why should they believe you? An unbiased opinion will give more credibility to your book baby, and their readers might be intrigued enough by the premise to go pick up a copy for themselves.
    • Also, on this note, do your research before contacting a book blogger. Every time someone calls me a novelist, I groan and roll my eyes, because I know that they didn’t take the time to read my profile. The stories that I tell are not my own, and I am proud and humbled that authors have trusted me to bring their books to life.
  7. Consider audiobooks.
    • As an audiobook narrator, I am of course partial to this medium, but it also opens up your book to an entire new spectrum of readers, including the people who *whispers* don’t read. Shocker! Those people do exist, which is sacrilegious, I know. *Glares at fiancé across the living room.*
    • Audiobooks open up your story as well, and the right narrator might even give it a new life that you hadn’t expected. The audiobook audience is loyal to authors and narrators alike, and once they find one that they like, they tend to go back for more.
    • Think you can’t afford to create an audiobook? Several production companies, the one I work for included, offer stipend programs for certain books to cover the costs of production in exchange for partial rights to the audio. They also might offer to buy the rights outright.
    • ACX, Audible’s contractor marketplace, also allows you to choose between paying the producer PFH (per finished hour) or via their Royalty Share program. ACX gives you more freedom when choosing your narrator, but many (not all) of their narrators work independently, and the quality can be hit or miss. If you choose to go this route, its important to address quality concerns during the audition process.

Don’t even get me started on branding, that would take an entire post on its own. Maybe two.

This was a long post and I’m exhausted. Honestly, I’m impressed if you made it this far. It’s about 2 am over here in Austin, so I’ll go back and edit in the morning. I know, you’re probably thinking “Whaaaat? It’s 2 in the morning on a Saturday night (Sunday morning?) and you’re writing a blog post?”

Yes. I just love you guys so much.

I hope you find this helpful, and feel free to ask any comments in the section below!

See you next week, friends!

This Savage Song: 3.8

This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Rating: 3.8/5
Genre: YA Dark Fantasy

“But the teacher had been right about one thing: violence breeds.
Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just she’ll casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.”

– Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

This is the darkest version of Romeo and Juliet I have yet to see, and of course, I loved it. In a city divided by monsters, the rich have sought protection from Kate’s father, Callum Harker. The poor struggle to stay safe, banding together in the Flynn Task Force, led by Henry and Emily Flynn, August’s adoptive parents. Except that August is a monster himself. He struggles with the reality of his world. He is a sunai, a type of monster who devours the souls of sinners. August and Kate discover that forces are at work to cause a war between the two sides, and are forced to band together to save the city.

Both August and Kate are unique anti-heroes that made this story refreshingly wonderful to read. It was Romeo and Juliet without the romance, and if Juliet was a courageous, independent, badass. And Romeo was a soul sucking monster.

Also, there’s the inherent message that the true monsters aren’t always obvious, which, cliché though it may be, works with the nature of this book.

Kate might be a delinquent, after all she’s been kicked out of 6 schools in 5 years, but everything she does is calculated and with purpose. She’s determined to prove herself to her father and to the world. Yes, of course, she has daddy issues. Most of the thematic motives are cliché and used, I mean, it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet, so what did you expect?

Honestly, I did not expect to like it as much as I did for that reason specifically. I love Shakespeare, but hated his star-crossed lovers. They were way too dramatic, even for teenagers. Seriously, HE KILLED HER COUSIN. That, however, is a post for another day. Or maybe a thesis.

*ahem*

Anyway, the characters motivations are thoroughly thought out, which makes the book predictable, but also enjoyable in its predictability. The world building is intensive and unique, as we’ve come to expect from Ms. Schwab.

My favorite part of the book was the lyrical tone of the writing. August feeds off of souls through his music, which doubles as an outlet for his (teenage?) angst. The prose of his narrative emphasizes the metaphor of music as a representation of life in a beautiful way. I also loved the way that Ms. Schwab toyed with the motif that all actions have consequences, in this case the darkest acts resulting in literal monsters. 

This review is starting to feel a little bland to me now… This book was a fun read, but nothing to write home about. If I hadn’t had the audiobook, I probably wouldn’t have finished it as quickly as I did. This is a great read for when you know you’ll constantly be interrupted, and of course a fun twist on a classic love story. Minus the romance.

Tempests and Slaughter: 4.2

Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Rating: 4.2

“Arram hated boredom.  That was the source of many of his problems.  Bored, he might tinker with the spells he was taught- just tinker, not actually cast the whole thing!  Then came visits to the healer, unhappy interviews with instructors, and labor or essays after that.”

-Tamora Pierce, Tempests and Slaughter

YES.  Tamora Pierce has built her own world and fleshed it out with rich cultures and a variety of adventures.  This time we get to experience the traditional training mages go through.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing Alanna develop her skills as a knight, and Aly grow as a spymaster, but a MAGE SCHOOL?  I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.  Sign me up.  For those of you hardcore fans, The Circle of Magic characters were privately taught, which is one of the major differences in this series.

Pierce sets the scene by showing ten year old Arram Draper saying goodbye to his family.  Alone in a strange country and years ahead of his peers in his studies, Arram is an outcast.  When he meets Prince Ozorne and Varice, he begins to open up.  The trio bonds as they take on adventures, mysterious tasks from gods, and exams.  Oh, and the mysterious deaths of numerous members of the royal family.

This book felt nostalgic to me.  I’m pretty sure I have an entire shelf in my library- I mean, home office- dedicated to Tamora Pierce’s books.  I started reading them when I was in elementary school, and clearly, I haven’t stopped.  So, opening up a story and returning to her special universe felt like coming home.

The world building is full of depth and wonderful, as it should be.  Ms. Pierce has spent three decades creating this world, and she is a master of her craft.  The story starts a bit slow, but once it gets rolling it’s hard to peel your eyes away.  And its a lengthy one, so I would set this aside for when you have some time.

I LOVED the character arcs and growth that were established in this work.  We literally got to see the characters grow up, for better or worse.  It was such a refreshing change to see the dynamic contrast of their development from innocence to maturity.

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

The one issue I, personally, found with the character development was the budding romance between Arram and Varice.  It’s obvious that it will happen and then that Arram has a crush on her, but there’s no buildup in their interactions, it just sort of happens.  And his love life is a mess.  Seriously, it’s just a free for all where there’s a random girl, and once again NO BUILDUP.  It’s not even emotional that time, it just feels as though Pierce threw that girl in there as a sacrifice so that Arram had some experience before forming her OTP with Varice. The romance with Varice feels forced as a result

Other than the romance, it was an exciting read, and I look forward to the sequel in 2019.

Do you agree? Want to change my mind? Comment below! Maybe there’s something I missed the first time around.