We all talk about book clubs as if they are one of the arteries of writers. And guess what? They are! Without book clubs, there’d be fewer forums (in person or online) to create a reading environment. Without book clubs, there would be less people reading in general. Without book clubs, there’d be no homegrown, grassroots way to get a following.
This was the second year I attended the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches, Texas hosted by creator and founder Kathy Murphy, the ultimate book club queen and founder of the PQs.
Because most of us who belong to WisRWA live north of the Mason-Dixon line, this club and the Girlfriend Weekend event is not well-known (yet!). The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys is the biggest book club in the world, citing over 750 chapters internationally, and thousands of members.
As an author, attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend is outrageously awesome. Hundreds of readers pile into a big ballroom, and they actively want to hear about your book, your process, the backstory and what makes you and your book tick. The best part? It didn’t end after my speech and panels. You interact constantly with dedicated readers all weekend long, and several end up on my Christmas card list.
While we Wisconsinites tend to be a little more reserved, the ladies in the south are fabulous at getting dressed up for any occasion. Each night of the event had a themed party, and the costumes were bigger and better as the weekend went on. The extra cherry on top turned out to be the personal relationships I made with fellow authors. I personally was in awe of most of them, and they were so welcoming, warm, and kind both during and after the event. Authors from around the nation and the globe attend, spending time with one another and readers alike, with fantastic keynote speakers from bestselling and local, small or first-time authors. Kathy Murphy, while selective of her reading list, is wonderful about supporting authors from the first book to their 30th, and celebrates them all the way. It is eye-opening and touching and overwhelming.
I walked away this year with more contacts, a renewed respect for what goes into coordinating a big book club bash, and rejuvenated from seeing wonderful author friends once more. Plus, seeing readers from other years, connecting with new ones, other first time authors, and wonderful established ones.
So, what’s the moral of this blog post? Book clubs rock. They’re meant to connect readers with words, and the words are yours. Make them count, connect with people through them, and create relationships. It’s a serious and real way to touch the people holding your books, to let them get a peek into who you are, why you write, and how you write. Let your inner passion for your work shine and blast onto them. Let them feel that glow, and they’ll likely fall a little more in love with your book because of it. And if that gives joy, that’s all the better.
The Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend event is always in January, so check your calendars for 2019 and consider a road trip to East Texas. If you want to read more about Kathy Murphy and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, here are three links: the first one is titled “Three Questions with the Founder of the World’s Largest Book Club,”, and the second (and most recent) one is a feature article from the November 29, 2017, issue of Parade Magazine. For general information, check out www.beautyandthebook.com.
P.S. 2019’s theme is How the West Was Won. Imagine the costumes….
by Sara Dahmen
Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Widow 1881, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at email@example.com.
While long-published authors put my meager knowledge to shame, I did learn a lot in the last year. Needless to say, getting attention for a novel with all the competition for attention is a tough assignment. Here are the most important things I learned during the process of getting my first novel published.
The writing is the fun and easy part. Right now, I am still promoting my first two books, editing my third, writing my fourth and partnering on a non-fiction project. There is so much work involved in all these that has nothing to do with writing—there’s a web site, social media (see below), PR plans, book events and planning, essays to help promote the books (you are reading one), “tip sheets” to help sell your book; meeting with book clubs……I could go on and on. You must use every skill you have—and develop new ones—to promote your book to the widest audience.
It’s a year-long process after writing your book. Lots has to happen from the time you finish your book until it is published. For me, the process began when I sent my final manuscript to my publisher in December, 2015. There are two windows for traditional publishing: spring or fall. As time was short to accomplish everything, we chose the fall cycle for my first novel. Even with that, the final title of my book had to locked down by March 1 with the cover design well underway. I know more about the cycle now and released my second book in August of this year because the timing fit perfectly with the PR plan. Choose the most advantageous time to publish your book.
Summarizing your book in one paragraph is the hardest thing to do. I failed at this, miserably! My friend and established author, Kris Radish, stepped in to help me. It is so hard to tell the story of your book in so few words without giving away key elements, but it is exactly this summary that attracts readers to your book on every platform there is, especially Amazon (more on that below). Work hard to create the fewest words to describe your work. Your short book summary is its biggest selling point.
Amazon is the big gorilla. I certainly knew this before becoming an author, but I now have personal experience with the biggest name in books. I learned that establishing an Author Central page on Amazon was critically important, and I did this by “claiming” my book as part of my page creation. My husband is English and we have tons of family and friends in England, so I wanted to make it easy for them to purchase my book, so I claimed my book on Amazon UK as well. Amazon can change the price of a book any time they want, and they did bring the retail price down on my book as part of the pre-sale. Amazon is king, so take advantage of it, but understand how it works.
Social media is king. As publishing is so fragmented, using social media to get the word out about your book isn’t a “nice to do,” it’s a “must do.” This means as a writer you must develop new platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. and connect your own web site to social media tools. Luckily, I knew a bit about social media through professional and personal experience, but I learned a ton more because of my book. Get familiar with social media and use its power to promote your book every day.
Friends and family rule. They know you and want to help, so give them the tools. I did mailing lists of all the folks I know in cities where I did book events; I sent a customized email to key friends and family about the book and how to buy it; I asked a few friends for their early thoughts and asked them to review my book on Amazon or Goodreads. I used Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to keep contacts informed of good reviews and awards and issued calls to action. You’ll be surprised at some of the folks who step up to help you. The people who know you well are best suited to help promote your book.
Be bold. To get your book out there, you have to take some risks. Unfortunately, many don’t work out, but if a few do, you may hit the jackpot in promoting your book. I sent my book to some well-known authors, reporters and others in the movie industry, and this hasn’t paid off in a big way yet. A few months before my book came out, I sent an email to a small, local magazine about publishing a notice about my first novel. They did a whole story with a sidebar about the book, and I ended up on the cover! Make a lot of shots on goal in promoting your book, as you never know which one will result in great exposure.
Incorporate what you know and love into your book promotion. I spent more than thirty years in corporate communication, so I wrote an essay that was published in an industry newsletter about how my career helped me become an author. I love to cook, bake and travel, and, of course, write, so I incorporate all of these into my book promotions, connecting across social media platforms. Make promoting your book fun for you.
It’s never enough or totally done. Here’s the bad news: promoting your book is never over, you just move on to the next one. Here’s the good news: my publisher tells me that it takes two or three books before an author can get established, so each subsequent book brings attention to earlier works, which can result in additional sales. Never give up on bringing your work to the world as your efforts today could pay off well down the road.
It’s all on you. Whether you are working with a publisher or self-publishing, you are the one who needs to do the lion share of the work to get your book out there. You must do something every day to bring your work to the world. I was lucky that my publisher had great people who taught me about the book business, but at the end of the day, it was up to me. Quick story: I had my screening mammogram recently and got into a conversation with the technologist, and she bought my book! She asked me to talk to her son, an aspiring fantasy writer, and I did. Engage and put yourself out there; you are the best ambassador for your work.
Phyllis Piano spent more than 30 years working in Fortune 500 companies, serving as an officer and chief communication officer in several. Her first novel, Hostile Takeover: A Love Story, was published in October 2016, and received the Gold Medal in Romance at the 2017 Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Awards and first place in Fiction: Romance at the 2017 Independent Press Awards. Her second, Love Reconsidered, was published in August, 2017, and was a finalist in the 2017 Best Books Award.
When posting on a page, Facebook provides amazing analytics. Under the insights “tab,” you can see your audience reach and engagement for each post. I have over 3500 Facebook followers and it’s near impossible to get more than a 1.8k organic “reach” on my posts (that means my post only reaches half of the users who followed my page). Sure, I could boost a post (pay to have it reach those users), but I’ve found that organic is just fine IF I pay attention to day-to-day user engagement.
User engagement is when someone clicks or comments on the post. That statistic is the other important listed number in the Insights tab. Keeping a higher engagement number plays into your reach.
How does one keep user engagement high? Post content that the encourages users to comment/respond. Think outside the author role. Honestly, my random, weird thoughts tend to really catch people’s attention.
Some of my best post to date:
Muffins vs. Cupcakes
Matched or Mismatched socks?
Those were the complete posts. Three words and four words. That’s it. A close runner up would be the time I asked, “What is the most annoying sound in the world?” Not only did my audience engage, they entertained the heck out of me.
I quickly learned that keeping a mix of fun, interactive posts versus promotional posts meant that the promotional posts would have a better reach. Here’s an example of a post that did reach 3.7k users without needing to pay for a boost.
As you can see in the post, I ended it with a fun call to action. “Friends don’t let friends miss deals…Please share!” The post received over 71 shares which helped the post surpass my page’s organic reach of 3k at the time.
In addition to a mix of content, post often, but not too often. I’ve seen pages that post daily or even hourly and have observed that do not help engagement, but hurts it. The perfect mix that I’ve found so far is every other to every third day. However, different readerships might have different needs. Be willing to play with your content and posting schedule to find what works well for you. And, keep in mind that social media is constantly changing. What works today may not work tomorrow.
What have you found that works well?
by: Melissa Haag
Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.
Join the Green Bay area for the March meeting with author and website designer, Elle J. Rossi. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Author, professional certified coach, and teacher Rochelle Melander has helped thousands of people overcome writer’s block, write more, turn their ideas into books, navigate the publishing world, and use speaking and social media to reach their readers. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She will be the featured speaker at the Milwaukee area meeting on January 21, 2017. Milwaukee Area Contact, Jennifer Rupp, spoke with Rochelle about social media and it’s importance to a writer’s platform.
How important do you think Social Media is to marketing your brand or your novels?
Social media provides unique opportunities for writers and readers to connect. Before social media, authors had to travel to bookstores and libraries to meet readers. Fans who lived in remote areas rarely had an opportunity to connect with authors. Social media transformed all of that. Now, anyone can connect with their favorite authors. And writers can build relationships with their fan base. And that’s crucial in today’s publishing world.
Publishers are spending less time and money marketing their books. Indie publishing has flooded the market with books. Authors need to use multiple tools to connect with readers and sell books. Social media marketing is an essential part of any marketing plan.
That said, authors need to use social media in multiple ways. In addition to research and building connections with other authors and publishing professionals, authors can use social media to develop relationships with readers and market their books.
As a coach, I recommend that writers spend more time building relationships with readers than promoting their books. Authors who focus solely on self-promotion can annoy colleagues and readers. And I’ve heard several agents say that a negative social media reputation is worse than none at all.
Approximately how much time per week or per day would you recommend investing in Social Media marketing or promotion?
This depends on the writer and their current social media goals. When writers are pre-publication or between publications, I recommend they use social media to:
During a book marketing cycle, authors might participate in a blog tour, advertise on various sites, run book giveaways, offer freebies to readers, and more.
I recommend that writers set a social media goal for the week or month, depending on what task they’re working on. Then, they can set aside time each day to work on these goals. For a writer who wants to build their platform, I would recommend spending a couple of hours strategizing. Once they have a social media plan, they can schedule time each day to accomplish their goals.
For a writer who is simply building a platform, I think 15-30 minutes a day is a reasonable amount of time to spend connecting on social media. For writers who are in a marketing cycle—promoting a book or other product—they might spend an hour or more a day working on social media. Of course, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can increase one’s efficiency and save time.
How do you reach or convince authors who might resist the use of Social Media?
Most authors resist social media because they feel overwhelmed. They might feel comfortable with one tool, like Facebook, but confused by Twitter or Instagram. I encourage authors to begin by building relationships on a single social media site. Once they feel comfortable on that site and see the results it offers, they’re more willing to try other sites.
How has social media helped you?
I’ve been publishing books for a long time, all through traditional publishers. Since social media, my sales have increased and my network has expanded. Readers who were fans before social media have sought me out on Facebook and Twitter and connected with me. I’ve developed new readers around the world through my presence on Twitter and other social media sites. I’ve also been able to connect with some of my favorite authors, building a wonderful network of colleagues.
What other kind of work do you do with authors?
My work with authors falls into three categories: supporting their process, strategizing around their product, and editing their work. Many authors come to me because they feel blocked or frustrated by the writing process. They have ideas but can’t find the time to write or overcome their fears and self-doubt. I’ve discovered that there are no blanket solutions. I work with each author to evaluate their situation, understand their particular blocks, and discover a solution that will help them write more. I also work extensively with nonfiction authors who need help planning books that boost their business. Other authors approach me to strategize their publishing and marketing plans. We work together to craft query letters or book proposals, develop a social media marketing plan, and connect with readers. Finally, I also do developmental editing for both novels and nonfiction books, supporting writers in creating books that sell.
We hope you will join us for Rochelle’s program on Writing and Social Media. She will be speaking at the Milwaukee area WisRWA meeting on January 21, 2017 in the Community Room at Mayfair Mall. To learn more about Rochelle Melander, visit her online at writenowcoach.com and follow her on Twitter (@WriteNowCoach).