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When my latest book, Creative Collaborations, was nearing completion, I decided to throw a local book launch party. For myself. I've NEVER done anything like this before and typically am not the party-throwing (or going) type. Hellooooooo, introvert!
Still, this party seemed perfect for the launch of this book and I'm so glad that I did this! Keep reading or listen using the player below (or on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app) to find out what I learned and if a book launch party is right for you!
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Disclosure: This posts contains affiliate links! That means if you purchase something after clicking through a link, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you!
Why I Threw Myself a Book Launch Party
There are a lot of reasons you could consider having a book launch party. For me? It started when I saw a really amazing space on Airbnb while researching for a retreat that I am considering in 2018.
When I saw it, I thought: I WANT TO DO SOMETHING THERE.
My book release date was approaching and happened to fall on the same week as my 40th birthday. Why not rent the space and have a book launch/birthday party? It simply sounded fun!
There were other more intentional reasons as well. The book is all about networking and working with others. It seemed fitting to have a party where I could invite friends, family, and the local social media and blogging community.
In a recent interview with Joanna Penn on the Creative Penn Podcast, Ryan Holiday (author of Perennial Seller) said that the marketing plan should fit the message or content. When I heard that, I KNEW that this was the right plan for this particular book.
WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE THROWING YOURSELF A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY
1/ Consider your WHY
There are a lot of reasons you may want to throw a book launch party. Before you get to ANY planning, you'll want to think about the goals. I love talking about WHY. My whole course, the Foundation Series (now a part of my bigger course, Blog Growth Boost), is all about applying your WHY to everything. It brings clarity and makes all the other details more clear.
Here are some reasons you might want to throw a book launch party:
To shed some light on these, don't have high expectations on many of these! A book launch party isn't necessarily going to sell tons of books (unless you have a big group that's interested and a lot of copies to sell). It can help people to see you as an authority, especially if you can do some PR outreach and get the event covered in local papers or magazines.
If you list the event publicly, like on Meetup or another site, this might increase discoverability. It also opens the door to people you don't know showing up, which might pose challenges like upping the cost if you have a lot of people simply show up.
You can definitely have fun (even if you're an extreme introvert like me!) and it's something special to celebrate with your audience.
2/ Consider the ROI
As I touched on before, you may not make tons of money throwing a book launch party. You're more likely to lose it. Depending on the sales price for your book (mine was $.99), you may not make tons of money. You COULD find that it helps you reach bestseller in some categories, which mine did.
Selling print copies could make more money, but if you're buying author copies from something like CreateSpace or Kindle Print on Demand, you won't see that affect your rankings.
Before you toss a lot of money at something, consider what you get back.
3/ Consider your finances
Throwing a book launch party may not be a smart financial choice. My party ran about $1000 for 40-50 people. You could absolutely do it cheaper than that, but I made a few choices (like location) that made the price jump. You can totally use a room in a restaurant or a free space for your party and make other cuts to do this on a budget.
But I was also able to secure sponsors (more on that in a sec) to completely cover the costs of the book launch party. Before you toss a bunch of money at a party, consider whether you'd make more money running Facebook ads or investing in another kind of marketing.
TIPS FOR THROWING AN AMAZING BOOK LAUNCH PARTY
Still want to throw a book launch party? I feel you. Clearly. I won't hold you back! Here are some tips to get the best results for the least amount of work and money.
Yep, circling back to this. It will REALLY help with the next few decisions if you know your goals and are clear!
You'll want these set up before you hit the next one, which is about sponsors. Keeping the goals of the event in mind, pick a location that fits what you want to accomplish. That will likely help set the date, because of availability, or if you want a specific date, that will cut out some locations. I would highly recommend looking at Airbnb and VRBO for some cheaper, out of the box options! Knowing the spot will help you plan for your budget.
This was huge in making my party possible! Start with the brands you use and love. I reached out to Convertkit and Mediavine, which are two companies I love and use. It helps if you already have a relationship and contact there and can actually get a person's email rather than the straight up info @ company name email. I also connected with the local rum distillery, Grateful Dane, and they were able to come out to the event. Kroger, a national brand, sponsored the food for the party. I had worked with them before as well and attended local blogging events, so had an actual contact.
Put together a sponsorship package, being very clear about what you can offer. This doesn't have to be in person! Grateful Dane came out to the party, but the other sponsors were digital. I linked to them in posts, talked about them on the podcast and social media, made cards with their logos for the party itself, and sent emails to my list talking about the sponsors. Give them the dates and your social numbers and be as specific as possible about the benefit to THEM.
If you want to learn more about sponsorships, you can read a lot more about this and pitching and follow up in Creative Collaborations!
You may want to pay a coordinator or ask a friend to help. I did EVERYTHING from the buying of supplies and food to the cleaning up and sweeping the floor after the party. It was hard. I knew it would be. Realize that if you don't hire someone, this will all be YOU.
I streamed the event live to my Facebook page and group. Well, not the WHOLE event, but the part where I had Madalyn Sklar from Twitter Smarter give my intro and then when I read from the book. That way the people who couldn't be there live could still take part.
In short, a book launch party is probably not the best way to launch in terms of ROI. It can be super fun and a great way to meet your fans and present your book, but if you want straight up ROI and sales, you'll want to follow more tried and true methods for making sales. (I'll have a few links below.)
I love innovation, so if you want to be creative and try something that may not work, just count the cost first! Can you afford it to fail? What can you gain and how can you leverage the event even if it doesn't result in tons of book sales?
I would not change a THING about my party (other than having the printed books arrive on time) and felt like it was the perfect thing to launch this particular book. Will I have another for my next book? Doubtful. But I would totally go back in time and do this one again.
I hope this has help you learn how to throw a book launch party AND if you actually should. Tips or ideas?? Leave them in the comments!!
Helpful Links for Making Book Sales:
See the show notes on Create if Writing for images and more!
Why isn't my book selling?
I've spent the time to write it. I got a great cover. I told my launch team. And...barely a blip on the radar. This is all too common! You're not alone if you have experience this!
Today author and podcaster Kevin Tumlinson joined me to give feedback on three of my community members' books on Amazon. We talk about what they're doing right and what they could improve to better their sales rank on Amazon.
Connect with Kevin Tumlinson on his site, listen to the Wordslinger Podcast, or check out Draft2Digital! (<- this is my affiliate link, which gives me a commission if you move past the free tools into paying for distribution)
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which will give me a commission for referring you if you make any purchases after clicking.
Keep reading because at the end of the post I'll share the common threads that we saw in all three of the books and some takeaways for you as you are writing and publishing your ebook.
BOOK 1: ALL ABOUT DOGS by R.V. Bowman
The author noted that the cover is different from others in the category. This shows that Bowman has done her research! You should know what other covers in your genre look like. Use a tool like Yasiv to see visuals on this. You may not always WANT the cover to look the same, but you also set the reader expectations with the cover, so this choice matters.
We both liked how the cover stood out, but (and this is a hilarious thing to say!) the dog kind of looks SAD. Which, just from the cover, made this look like one of those memoirs where the dog died. This is a little thing and not necessarily something to fix, but just something we both noticed.
The book says it's an "interactive" book, but without looking inside, it was hard to know what that meant. For me, I wouldn't buy because I'm not sure. The Look Inside! feature on Amazon is important here, but the author said the formatting looked weird on Kindle. Kevin suggested creating an introduction that would be fitting for the Look Inside! features so people could look inside and read a bit more to give them more of an idea. I wondered if a quiz book might not be the best fit for a Kindle format, especially for people like me who have the pretty simple Kindle with no bells and whistles. Without getting a sample, it's hard to know!
Chances are that the author may not want to do a huge overhaul, but considering the problems an interactive book may cause on different devices, the author COULD consider creating a more basic book for Kindle and a free companion course that would work on a website AND get email addresses.
Kevin suggested that this book might not be the best choice for KDP Select, because interactive works well on iBooks, so going wide might be a better choice. Part of KDP Select is the inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, which pays by page read and this might
Tips to increase sales rank:
BOOK 2: HOMESTEAD COOKING WITH CAROL by Carol J. Alexander
Kevin loved the cover right off the bat and felt like it struck just the right note paired with the subject matter and the title. (Well done!) I suggested taking out the "Cooking with Carol" part because I personally wasn't familiar with just-first-name-Carol the way I am with Martha. Or Ree. Or the Food Network Stars.
I didn't research how powerful Carol's platform is, but for me, I'd take that part off the title and then put the author name in bigger letters. I would also expect more Carol in terms of stories and more from Carol specifically with her name in the title. It seems more how-to inside, where it could be anyone writing, not just Carol.
Kevin said that the flip side is that keeping the first name on there would give a sort of social proof, where people thing Carol must have a platform deserving of having a single first name. He also said that it also helps humanize and make connections.
If you're trying to build a brand around a name, this can be a great strategy. Kevin agreed that this makes it feel more personal and home-town, so Carol would want to amp up the CAROL in the description and in the book as well. That way we see the reason for her first name.
Tips to increase sales rank:
BOOK 3: FORTY DAYS OF FAITH AND FITNESS by Marsha Apsley
The book sales (based on the info we have from the author) are great, so well done!
Kevin loved the title, thinking it was a sort of Christian alternative to yoga-- a book about physical fitness and health. The tagline about the devotional journal stopped him because it was different from the expectation the title set. Then he's not sure what to expect and what this means. His recommendation: take out the tagline. Maybe beef up the description to fully explain the book and what gets taken away from the tagline.
My suggested fix would be to change the title to something like 40 Days of Faith: A Companion Devotional for Your Fitness Journey. The current title leads you to think that the book may include devotionals and fitness suggestions, rather than being a sort of journal that goes along with whatever fitness you are currently doing outside of the book.
The image on the cover is fantastic, but the font might need a little play. As it comes across, it looks a little more self-made instead of professional. Not always a bad thing and readers in the christian sphere are a bit more forgiving.
Because this is a journal, but is on Kindle (which doesn't work for journaling), a great idea might be to not just mention the print version, but to have a free workbook or journal pages that people can get in exchange for their email. This is how I have my non-fiction books optimized and it's been really helpful for list growth!
Pro tip: Use a bitly or pretty link so that if you ever change the destination for where the signup will be, so if you change it, you don't have to reformat and upload a new book to Amazon.
Tips to increase sales rank:
BOOK 4: CREATING SUCCESS AT HOME by Sharon Hines
Kevin suggested working on the title and the subtitle right off the bat. Because I know the author and follow her blog, the title made sense to me, but without that context, I can see how the title might need clarity. A good suggestion might be Creating a Sense of Home or A Sense of Home. You want the title to capture the feel of the book and the current title doesn't quite give a clear picture.
As far as the subtitle, it should be trimmed. Not only does this help with clarity, but it also pushes all the info down on the sales page so you don't see a description. He suggested using most of the subtitle right in the description because they are what the book helps you learn.
The cover felt a little brochure-like with the white blocks of space, the color treatment, and even the image. Kevin suggested softening the cover a lot, looking at the Homestead Cooking or even 40 Days of Faith and Fitness covers for inspiration. Both are more warm and welcoming. Consider a full-cover image without the bars of white. Shortening the subtitle takes away the need for so much space.
Tips to increase sales rank:
The tips and suggestions for these covers fell mostly into two areas: covers and descriptions.
OPTIMIZING YOUR DESCRIPTION
Links mentioned (or otherwise related):
Pick fu - for split testing things
Influence - book talking about how marketers sell to us
KD Spy Tool - a paid tool to find better categories for sales
Free ebook conversion. Upload a word doc and transfer to an epub or mobi, for uploading on ebook platforms and Amazon.
Free ebook templates. I used these with my latest book, Creative Collaborations! (Read more about the tools I used here.) I love love love this tool. Seriously.
Free universal book links. Create one link you can send people to that will allow them to see all the different platforms where they can reach your book. So handy!
Distribution to all the major platforms. As of last week, you can now even distribute to Amazon! This means that you can upload your book in D2D and then push it out to iBooks and Kobo and Amazon and more places. This WILL give them a cut of your profits, but saves you a fat chunk of time and streamlines the process. You can still use all the free tools WITHOUT using Draft2Digital for distribution!
Create a free account at D2D get started NOW with their great tools!
Were there any surprises in this episode? I'd love to hear your takeaways in the comments!!
When I dove into Kindle publishing with my first book (Make Him Room, an advent devotional), the big thing I remember was staying up 'til 4am crying, cussing, and generally wanting to kill someone over...the TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I spent hours in formatting hell. No matter what I gleaned from Amazon's instructions or tried to do in Word, I could not get my Table of Contents to be clickable. (You know, where you can click on a chapter and immediately be taken to that part of the book.) I also had weird characters in between words that I couldn't see in Word, but appeared in the Kindle reader.
Now that I have five books for sale, I've got more of a streamlined writing and self publishing process for Kindle. (See them all here!) With Creative Collaborations, I feel like I finally got into a self-publishing groove and even put up another book on Amazon for sale that same week. (I had previously just sold it as a PDF on my site.) I want to share the tools that I used to streamline the process and make more sales with my self published books.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, purchasing products will give me a commission for referring you!
I love love LOVE to use Pages on Mac for creating PDFs and books. You can create beautiful graphic PDFs and also text-based books and export as .mobi or .epub or PDFs. I hate formatting, but Pages has really helped with a lot of projects.
For this one, I was actually able to use Word WITHOUT headaches because of Draft2Digital's total free book formatter. Draft2Digital is a company that works for authors (started BY authors) and can help you distribute your books across different sales platforms like iBooks, Kobo, etc. When you distribute with them, they will take a small percentage of the sales you make.
But if you don't want to distribute with them, you can still use their tools for formatting for free. Their new formatter lets you upload a Word doc and apply one of their templates. You can then export as a .mobi (for Kindle), .epub (for about everywhere else), or PDF.
My only beef is that right now their PDF option puts hyperlinks as footnotes right on that page. I don't want that when I self publish on CreateSpace or sell PDFs via my own site. I called and had a long talk with someone there about this and hope that it's something they'll change! But for the other files, they make your file look professional AND handle things like the Table of Contents. This is the top tool I'd recommend for formatting!
Check out Draft2Digital for free with my referral link!
If you really want to be competitive with Kindle self publishing, you HAVE to have a great cover that fits in your category. I have found a cover designer that does custom covers AND has premade covers at great prices.
James from Go On Write has handled my last three covers, including the print versions. I LOVE them. I paid for a branding package, which means that when I order a premade book, he'll match fonts and colors that go with my other books. I love how they look TOGETHER.
You can also get some good ideas for how books look in your category by using Yasiv. This is a tool that creates a kind of cloud of covers in a category so you can see them all at once. It helps with things like color, seeing trends, and just getting an idea of what covers look like in your category. It's free and really fun to use!
One of the biggest changes this time around was the research I did on keywords and categories. These are important because they help you sell books on autopilot with Kindle publishing. It's similar to SEO research because Amazon is a huge search engine. If you can hone in on the words that people use to search for books, you can help your book's discoverability and sales.
For keyword research, I use a paid tool called KDP Rocket from Dave over at Kindlepreneur. Rocket will let you do a few things that help with keyword choices in your description, the seven keywords in Amazon as you set up your book, and if you run Amazon AMS ads. (Check out Dave's free course on ads in my big list of free courses!)
I used the idea search to enter different keywords that might work for Creative Collaborations. I checked out words like collaborations, social media, influencer marketing, and blogging. What I found worked better than blogging was blogger. For whatever reason, THAT'S what people are searching for on Amazon. Social media strategy 2017 was a better search term than just social media.
Had I not done the research, my keywords would have looked different and may NOT have been related to what people are actually searching for. This can also help you when you write your description or blurb.
If you don't want a paid tool, you can also go into incognito mode on your browser and search in Amazon. Pick a term like blogging, type it in the search for Kindle store, then hit space and type in A and see what populates in the search box. Then B. And so forth. You'll get an idea of popular search terms related to that one. You can check out this big post on Kindlepreneur for more tips on keywords.
Or...save time and use KDP Rocket for more data!
Another fun tool that I found incredibly useful is KD Spy. This is a browser extension that lets you get a breakdown of all the books and info. You'll get data like what the rank of each book in the top 20 is, what the price of each is, how much average it may be making per month, and more.
It will give you an idea of the competition (how hard it is to get to the #1 spot in the category), how profitable the category is (the average authors make in the category per month), and the popularity (how many people are searching for books in that category).
You may have different goals for different times with your book, but when you are launching, it can be great for visibility to pick categories with lower competition.
I picked my category without using KD Spy and then tested it IN Spy to see how I would do. I realized quickly that I would NEVER break into the top 10 of the category I thought of originally.
This doesn't mean you should pick weird categories that don't fit, but for any book, there are probably ten or so categories that it might fit into, so it's worth checking with Spy so you can try to get to a top spot and get that bestseller tag. Had I chosen the first category I thought of, I never would have gotten the bestseller tag, which can be a great incentive for people to buy!
I have an ongoing launch team and also had fifteen contributors of the book that I wanted to send free books. Book Funnel is the best tool for this! If you aren't sending tons of books, you can get an account for $20 a year.
This tool makes the delivery of ebooks so much smoother! Rather than just sending a PDF, you can let people choose the book format: an .epub, .mobi, or a PDF. That way they can read on the device of their choice.
This also means YOU don't have to explain how to get that .mobi file actually ON your Kindle. Book Funnel does all the heavy lifting!
Check out Book Funnel!
These are the best tools for Kindle self publishing I have used and recommend to get great results and save yourself from headaches. To summarize, here's what I use for Kindle publishing:
I'd love to hear what tools you use for your Kindle publishing! I'm sure there are other great options out there that I don't use or haven't heard about yet. Leave those in the comments or let me know if you've tried any of these options for self publishing on Kindle.
Snag my new book! http://createifwriting.com/cc
Hear the introduction from my newest book, Creative Collaborations: What I learned about collaborations from playing roller derby.
Learn how to leverage one-time paid collaborations into more long-term partnerships and relationships.
Snag my new book for more! http://createifwriting.com/cc
Single or double opt-in? Now you have a choice with MailChimp!
That sounds great...except that your existing forms will be affected. Here is what you need to know about the two kinds of opt-ins and how you should update your forms before October 31, 2017.
For more: http://createifwriting.com/chimpdates
Also! My book, Creative Collaborations, is ready for pre-order! Get yours here: http://createifwriting.com/cc
Want to form lasting and lucrative connections?
You need to start winding up LONG before the pitch! Learn ways to connect with influencers that set the groundwork for a successful pitch to collaborate.
You can now order my book, Creative Collaborations! Head to https://createifwriting.com/cc to get your copy!
My book, Creative Collaborations, is just a few weeks away from release! In another episode on collaborations, I'm talking about bad pitches.
To kick off a collab, you'll have to pitch. We often think of pitching like a sales pitch, but really pitching is a wider category. It refers to the ask-- asking people about a potential partnership.
So how do you pitch well?
Let's start by bad pitches. With examples. You ready?
In this episode I'm starting a week series leading up to the launch of my book, Creative Collaborations: How to Form Lasting and Lucrative Partnerships without Being Smarmy.
Today it's all about connecting with people: where? How?
I've got two surprising (maybe?) places to find people.
Listen up to find out!
When you are trying to grow your audience, you are going to hit bumps and plateaus. To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse.
Bumps are when something might not work the way you hoped it did, like a Facebook ad that flopped or a webinar that no one registered for. It stinks!
Plateaus are when you go on for long periods with very little forward motion. You might grow a little here and there, but nothing consistent or worth writing home about. This also stinks!
You might even feel like you are learning and applying strategies and following best practices with no results. Maybe you followed this whole series (catch up HERE if you haven't!) and still feel like nothing is happening. Your growth is stagnant. THIS POST IS FOR YOU!
Subscribe via Apple Podcasts (the artist formerly known as iTunes) or you can check out the Create If Writing Playlist on YouTube. You can also listen right here on the blog on the podcast page with a player like the one right above.
While I feel strongly that we should all create the things we feel passionate about, this does NOT mean you will grow an audience. Your content may not be interesting to outside readers. You need to consider writing for other people, not just yourself. Unless you just want to write an online diary. Which is totally fine! Just know that if you are writing only for YOU, it may be hard to grow an audience.
You also may be struggling with your writing VOICE. I don't feel like people talk enough about this, but it's hugely important. Your writing voice is how you come across to other people. It's a mix of your tone and the personality and can even get as specific as whether or not you use emojis or ALL CAPS when writing.
If you don't have a writing voice (think: your writing is pretty vanilla and could be written by any person on the planet or be included in a textbook) OR if you are writing with a voice that doesn't jive with the audience you're trying to reach, you may get stuck.
When you are creating content, you need to ask yourself if you are meeting the needs of your ideal audience and speaking in their language. If you have a disconnect with the kind of audience you want to reach, you will get stuck.
Consider surveying your people you already have. I remember the big shock of finding out that the majority of my audience loves written courses...when I've been creating video courses. Doh.
I go back and forth on how I feel about automation and scheduling. I want to be live as much as possible on platforms that are social. But I also have over 300 posts (probably way more) between my two blogs. If I am not actively promoting that content, few people see it. (Except those that come from evergreen search traffic like Pinterest and from SEO.)
If you don't promote your posts (or bake in really great SEO), you will struggle to grow your audience. You have to do work to promote. People won't just find you.
Sometimes we think of promotion in a bad way, like self promotion, as in self-centered-ness. It isn't. I mean, yes, some people cross that line. But I know YOU won't. Right? :)
Another big reason that you may feel stuck in your growth is that you are stuck in your mindset.
Growth is hard. It's hard for all of us. It isn't just hard for the newbies. It's hard for the people who have full-time businesses. We all have to keep working. We all still have goals. You hit one, then you make another. No one has ever ARRIVED.
I mean this to be encouraging! Not discouraging. I mean to say that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I struggle with growth! Still! Always! Sometimes I see results and I love what I do. Other times, I feel stuck and feel like I'm going in circles or stuck on a plateau.
Growth Begets Growth - When you hit certain milestones (especially public ones where people can see your following or growth), growth becomes easier. I felt like it took forever to get to 1000 Twitter followers. Now I'm over 6k and felt like I tried WAY less hard to get the next 5000. This probably has some to do with social proof (people see a higher number and think you must be worth following) and may also have some to do with you hitting your stride with that platform and how you use it.
Passion Begets Passion - People can FEEL it when you are passionate. It comes across in your videos through your face, in your voice in your podcast, and in your writing itself. Embrace what you love because it may be much easier to do the work! It will be a joy, not just work. EVEN if you still struggle with growth. You may need to take a class and learn. You may need to step back. Find what it takes to tap into your passion!
If you know you are in a learning mode, there is a FABULOUS resource that I'm an affiliate for (and have a product in) called the Genius Bloggers Toolkit. You can get $6k worth of books, courses, and other resources for $97 OR attend some great free trainings! Click HERE to check out the trainings or HERE to see what's in the bundle. (Just through October 9!)
This week's featured patron is Kate Johnston, an author and a story coach who helps writers kick their writing dreams into reality through inspiration, hard work, and a little bit of ferocity. She knew she wanted to be a professional writer when she was 8 years old and wrote a story about a good wolf. (I totally wrote a book about a good wolf when I was 8!) You can find Kate's book, Writer Unterrupted on Amazon!
Want to get featured? Check out my Patreon page, where you can support the show for as little as $4 a month.
I've been talking about why your audience isn't growing and want to tackle how to get more readers and sell more books. I have a great interview with Chris Syme of the award-winning CK Syme media group and author of Sell More Books with Less Social Media.
Many authors struggle with promotion the same way that bloggers do. Content creation is awesome! But promotion...not so much. I think sometimes we need to reframe the conversation.
Think back to when you were young and fell in love with your first books. Did you ever wish you could write to your favorite author? I did!
But...back then there was no internet. No website for authors. Just the publishers' address on that boring page no one reads in the front of the book.
Now? If you want to reach your favorite author, you might be able to get a response in under an hour on Twitter.
Yes, social media means we have to do some promotional work. But what if instead of thinking of this as WORK, we thought of it as connecting with our readers. Directly. THAT'S SO COOL!
But it still isn't always easy. So I talked with Chris Syme to get some tips on using social media and I have some great tips for you to find more readers! (You can also check out episode 89 of the podcast, where Chris and I talk marketing strategies!)
Know Your First Book Is a Learning Experience
Your first book will likely NOT be your best. You should treat it as a learning experience. Learn from reviews and listen to beta readers if you have them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work to make it great, but realize you will learn more from failures.
Don't Start Copying Tactics with No WHY
Many authors start using tactics that other authors use...without focusing on NEW authors. You can't just copy a case study that a successful author shared and expect to have success.
Start with the Basic Platform that Succeeds
You need an author website, an email list, and Facebook. Data tells you that these three things WORK. You can branch out to Instagram and Tumblr or wherever you love to hang out, but start with the places that bring you ROI- a return on your investment.
The Best Marketing Strategy Is Writing the Next Book
Don't stop writing. Your marketing should NOT be the focus, no matter what level you're at! But when you start especially, don't freak out when your books don't sell and you struggle to find readers. Just keep writing.
Build an Author Network
Stay connected to other authors, both at the same level you are and a few steps ahead. You should connect to those in your genre and some trustworthy groups. Do be careful-- not everyone knows what they're talking about in Facebook groups.
Find Great Beta Readers
You want to find beta readers who aren't your friends, because you want someone to tell you the truth. Sometimes people in your genre will read a piece to tell you if you're on the right track. You could also hire a developmental editor.
Know Your Goals
You want to engage fans, moving them from readers to raving fans. In order to do both of these in the same place, you need to have a platform that encourages BOTH engagement and promo.
[tweetthis]"You don't win the right to sell to people without engaging first." @cksyme[/tweetthis]
You Don't Need to Be On all Platforms- Just the Ones Your People Are On
80% of online adults 13 years old and older are on Facebook. The end. This is still the biggest platform out there. Instagram is the second, and it's owned by Facebook. You don't have to work as hard to engage people there.
Know the Platforms That Sell
There is a funnel when it comes to sales. Discovery is where people find you. Awareness is where they begin to engage with you and getting more loyalty. Sales is the bottom of the funnel. Facebook and Youtube are at the top when it comes to sales effectiveness and discovery. YouTube isn't always the best for authors, which leaves Facebook as the most effective according to data.
Go with Engagement
Check what is working with Facebook Insights. Sort your posts by engagement. See what people are engaging with and then find a way to do more of that while being more of your authentic self.
PRO TIP- If you love Instagram, but know more sales are made on Facebook, consider how you can make Facebook into your Instagram by engaging around visuals. It's a mental switch, but think creatively how you can apply what you like about one platform and put it into the platform with the data behind it. The mistake that we often make is that we think that we like a platform, so we need to be there. Go with data FIRST and then find a way to replicate that other platform on the one that DATA says to use.
Ultimately, you don't want to be someone else on social media. You want to be YOU. Find a way to connect where you can be your authentic self.
For more insights from Chris, check out her books and her course on setting up your Facebook page (which is really fantastic!):
How to Set Up a Facebook Page That Sells More Books ( a great course I've taken!)
Or just connect through her blog at CK Syme Media Group!
One of the biggest questions that people have about social media is how to get followers. No matter how many you currently have, we all seem to want to get MORE followers. And more. We can never have enough!!
I especially know what it feels like to be just starting out where you have under 1000 followers. I remember my first year on Twitter with something like 300 followers, feeling like I would never grow.
Getting followers feels like an impossible task. You need more followers so that you have some kind of social proof, so that more people will follow you, but no one will follow you without more followers. And I have found it to be true that once you pass a certain benchmark of at least a thousand people, it gets easier to grow.
Getting followers is kind of like a chicken and egg problem.
So let's talk about how you get more followers on social media, especially when you are just starting out OR when you are stuck.
Note: This post contains affiliate links! That means at no extra cost to you, I will receive a commission if you purchase something through some of the links I share.
You can listen right here or on iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app. Or keep reading below!
Before we even get into the specifics of how, I want to talk about the WHY. Specifically YOUR why. If you are not super clear on your why, you are going to struggle to grow your social media presence, your blog, and your audience.
Your WHY is your purpose. My background is in writing, so I like to think of it as your theme. A theme isn't the beginning-middle-end of a story, but the ideas that run throughout, tying the story together.
For an example, my WHY is that I want to help writers and bloggers build an online platform without being smarmy. I love helping people connect with their perfect audience online, using all the tools and strategies that smart marketers use, but without the icky salesy tactics.
Knowing my WHY means that if I have a post idea that doesn't fit into that overarching purpose, I don't write it. Or I write it in a guest post somewhere else. Or on my other blog.
If you aren't clear on your why or the audience you serve, you are going to really struggle!
Take some time to write out a clear statement of purpose. This should include who you serve, how you serve them, and what is unique to you.
Once you have your why in place, you can both create and curate content that fits under the umbrella of your why. In the second post of this series I talked about curating content, which is essentially the way that you share other people's content on social media. I want to go even deeper on this idea of sharing relevant content.
Consider your perfect audience (see my series on how to find your perfect audience) when you are coming up with content ideas to create. In the same way, think about your target audience when you are choosing Tweets to Retweet or pins to share on Pinterest.
Ask yourself: Does this serve my perfect audience?
When you share awesome content (your own and others), a really cool thing happens. People start to see you as an authority.
You become their go-to for news, trends, and resources. You save them the time so they don't have to research all the latest trends or news. Sharing quality content will help you get more followers that are truly interested in you. That's why it's really important to share relevant content.
PRO TIP: On Facebook in particular, you need to not only consider the topic, but the kind of content. If you keep sharing viral videos because they get great reach, but you don't CREATE video, this may hurt you in the long run. When you share your blog posts as links, your page is used to doing well with video, so the reach may diminish for link posts. An active page doesn't help you if it's active for video, but you are trying to drive traffic to a blog.
Here are a few of my favorite creator/curators in different niches:
The Sell More Books Show - Each week Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral share five big newsworthy items and three tips related to book writing and marketing, especially in the indie space. I want to know what's going on, so I follow their podcast, follow them on Twitter, and like their Facebook page so hopefully I won't miss anything.
Jenn's Trends - Jenn Herman has a blog focused on social media, specifically Instagram. Even though I've temporarily told Instagram, "it's not me, it's you," I can count on her to share big news I need to know about social media. I joined her Facebook group to keep up with what she's sharing about social media.
Social Media Examiner - While this seems like a no-brainer because this is a hugely established site, I love Michael Stelzner's curiosity and passion for social media. (You can hear this particularly through his podcast, where he seems genuinely excited and interested in the guests.)
Sharing consistent quality content is HARD. Especially when you are also creating content too. I really rock at creating content. I love it. Give me content creation all. day. long.
And while I shared in my post on why your blog isn't growing that it's not just about promotion, YOU HAVE TO PROMOTE your awesome content. If you are trying to curate good content from other people as well (which you should do), then you have even more posts to share and schedule. Promotion is a lot of work, so you'll want some tools to help with that.
Note: Don't forget that you can't JUST promote. You have to engage with people as well! Read the previous post in this series for ideas.
So what tools can help you get followers on social media through content sharing?
Quuu - (Facebook & Twitter) This app will generate and autopost relevant content to your Twitter or Facebook feeds for you. Like most apps, you can use some features with the free version and then upgrade.
I honestly don't LOVE pushing out content that I haven't seen first. But they have a great vetting process for the posts that they take, so you will get great content!
Quuu Promote - This is a paid part of Quuu where you can submit posts to go in the Quuu feed. I've seen really great results from putting my posts in here. This means that when other people sign up for Quuu and autopost links, YOUR links go in the pool to be shared on a particular topic.
This has resulted in a good amount of traffic and also shown me what content is working well. Check out these two posts, both about email marketing. (For reference, another promoted post I did had 17 clicks from only 80 shares, as compared to the 300-something shares for only 8 clicks.) They don't accept posts automatically, but look through each.
Promo Republic - I love this social sharing tool because it comes with templates and stock photos that you can edit (think: Canva), but you don't have to LEAVE the platform to share them. Instead, you create them right there, write your text for a post, then choose to share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram (reminder, not autoschedule, since Insta doesn't allow that).
They share trends that may help you come up with post ideas and you can create a queue of content that will post at optimal times. Get this on AppSumo for a limited time with my referral code (that gives me credit at no extra cost to you) HERE.
Tailwind - I love this app for Pinterest! (It also does Instagram, but I don't use it for that.) It has one of the easiest scheduling dashboards I've used. You can click a button to shuffle them all, choose the best time slots you want per day, how many shares per day, and even join tribes of other Pinterest users to promote each other's content. If you use my affiliate link, you'll get a free month to try it out!
Hootsuite - I have been using Hootsuite maybe longer than any other social tool! It's very similar to Buffer, which a lot of people like, but because I have never seen a reason to switch! Choose which one works for you. You can manage up to three accounts with Hootsuite's free plan, including Facebook (page, group, or profile), LinkedIn, and Twitter.
I create Twitter lists within Hootsuite and then can easily go in and schedule content on a weekly basis. (Though I've been HORRIBLE about this lately.) It clears the clutter when you just want to pop in and see what's going on over on Twitter. This makes it easier to get in, engage and schedule, then get out without getting lost.
Iconosquare - Iconosquare is NOT a social scheduling platform and is strictly for Instagram. But it's a really helpful tool to manage your followers and to see what content people engage with so that you can create more of the same. You can even track details like which hashtags performed well for you. As with most tools, you can get more when you pay.
Social Jukebox - This is a great tool to create a content library (or "jukebox") of evergreen content that get shared again and again over time.
RecurPost - Similar to Social Jukebox, this tool will let you schedule posts to share again and again. If you don't want to pay for Edgar or SmarterQueue, you can use these two together to get the max number of posts without paying.
PRO TIP: Remember to share your own posts with as much gusto and passion as you share other people's posts. This tip comes by way of Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and her Facebook Group, Actionable Blogging Tips.
I know that in the past year, the idea of getting followers by following people brings out the eye rolls. Especially on Instagram, people talk about getting 300 new followers in a day, then losing 294 two days later. (True story.) That's a LOT of people doing it wrong.
The BEST way to follow people to get followers on Instagram and Twitter is to follow people you are actually interested in, interact with them in a way that isn't smarmy (ex: DON'T follow, then tweet at them telling them you followed and asking them to follow back), and then in a few weeks or month, unfollow the people who aren't following you back UNLESS they are stellar content creators and you want to keep following.
Give this practice a little more of a personal touch and a little more time to see it actually work for you.
I have not mentioned much about growing a Facebook page here. There are a few reasons for this. First, this can be one of the harder platforms to grow. Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, people often won't see your content. Even huge pages have very little reach on posts. I'll talk more about this in a separate post, because it's a HUGE topic.
Facebook groups - Many blogger Facebook groups have threads on a weekly or daily basis where you can link to your social profiles and then follow everyone and have them follow you. You really want TARGETED followers, so these don't always work well. But depending on your goals or while you're trying to get past that social proof number, this may really help.
Giveaways - You can definitely grow quickly and with big results using giveaways. But you are more than likely going to end up with people who don't care about you or your content. Particularly if you are giving away money or a gift card to a store. Try to be more targeted to your audience and give a great prize, but one that is specific to writers or moms or your audience.
Ads - You can run Facebook ads to get likes for your page, but this is something I would do sparingly. Facebook seems to drop your reach right after you pay for things to make you think you NEED to pay for things. So, realize this is an option in the ads manager, but don't rely on this.
If you are trying to get more followers on social media, don't forget your overall purpose. Think of the kinds of followers you really want and the long-term goals.
Consider all these tips in conjunction with the reasons your social media isn't growing, particularly thinking about the idea that you need to be SOCIAL.
What are YOUR tips for getting more followers on social media? Share in the comments!
Social media can be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal...but it can also be the most frustrating. It takes a lot of time, can feel like a part-time job, and sometimes doesn't seem to bring in results.
If you are one of the many people stuck wondering why your social media isn't growing, I've got some explanations and some tips for what you might do differently.
Here are three reasons why your social media isn't growing.
Back when I first started using Twitter and Facebook, I'd been blogging for a few years. But I NEVER shared my own blog posts.
Why? Because NO ONE DID. These social media platforms evolved to be a good place for promotion, but they didn't start that way. Now many people use them ONLY for link-sharing. (More on that in the next point.)
Part of growing your blog IS utilizing the power of you social platforms. (But your blog still won't grow without fixing the three mistakes we talked about in the first part of the series!) We should be sharing links on our Twitter profile, our Facebook page, on Instagram, and wherever you hang out online.
But if that's ALL you are doing, you aren't going to grow your followers on social media. Which means in turn that you won't have as much traffic to your blog. You do NOT want someone to come to your profile and find that every post or even every other post is your own.
If you really want to grow your social media platforms, you need to be a curator of content, not just a creator. Being a good curator means that you are picking and choosing things to share as a kind of collection or gallery. People often talk about the 80/20 rule: 80% of what you share should be from other people and 20% from your own content.
Ask yourself what kind of content would COMPLEMENT your own.
Consider how you can curate a collection of links and posts that will reach your target audience. Share your own, but share links from other sources MORE.
Social media isn't always the best name for Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus or Instagram anymore. It's often more like Self Media. You promote yourself. And, if you aren't actually being social, you're only talking to yourself.
If you aren't having actual conversations with people on social media, you aren't being social. This happens a lot when people automate their social shares. They use tools to send out links automatically so they never have to actually go ON Twitter or LinkedIn.
It also happens when people try the follow-unfollow method of growth. This looks like following a bunch of people and then unfollowing them the next day or week. (Um, that's just smarmy, PERIOD.Stop.)
Clearly, if you are automating everything, you CANNOT be social. Without showing up and talking to other people, you will not grow your social following.
Automation is great (see this post on the difference between scheduling and automation), but you need to have conversations. You must be social.
This means that in addition to scheduling and automating content, you must actually show up on those platforms and engage. Here are a few ideas for how this can look:
This is not rocket science. It isn't hard to do. But it also takes a bit more time and investment. Life would be wonderful if we could just step back and automate everything...but then we wouldn't really make connections or increase engagement.
One of the reasons your social media isn't growing is that you are trying too many things at once. You are on five platforms, trying to manage all of them at the same time.
Each platform has its own quirks, social media sizes, audience, and best practices for how often to post. (See my post on Seriously Simple Social for more and a free guide!) Unless you've been doing this for years or have an assistant helping you out, it can be near impossible to manage all of the platforms well.
I also see people often having one post from a social platform automatically post to all the others. So if I'm following someone on Instagram, I might see their post there first. Then I see it on their Facebook page. Then I see it on Twitter. Then I see it on their Facebook profile.
Each platform has its own nuances. You aren't going to get a ton of Instagram OR Facebook followers when you automate your Instagram images to post on Facebook. You'll look silly when you have 11 hashtags on Facebook or you tag people and it doesn't work because the original tag was on Twitter, not Facebook.
Don't cross the streams! It is more work, but even changing a few things about your post (image size, hashtags or NO hashtags, description length, etc) can help it do well on EACH platform.
Start with a focus. You may want to make sure you secure your name on several of the big platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for sure) before someone else gets it, but you don't have to be fully active on all of them.
Pick 1-2 platforms you really like where your ideal people also hang out. Consider an overarching strategy for the kind of content you'll post and how often. Set an alarm or set aside time daily or weekly to engage with people on that platform. Master the kinds of images and posts that do well there. (Again, get my Seriously Simple Social Guide for that!)
When you are really rocking 1-2 platforms and are in your groove, consider adding another. But don't try to be in all the places at one time. You will have a hard time posting quality content on many platforms and
Wait-- shouldn't we be using Facebook groups to grow? Yes. Ish. Facebook groups are great for connecting with other bloggers and getting our content out there! But share groups may be holding back authentic growth.
The kinds of groups I mean are those where content creators can post their links in daily or weekly threads. Then they are required to follow or like or share or comment on the other links in the thread.
While this SEEMS like a good idea, it's really not. It might boost your numbers a bit. It might give you some social proof when one post has 20 comments. (Note: whenever I see a post now with more than a handful of comments--ESPECIALLY if it's a newer post--I always assume these are from one of these share threads.) The problem with these groups is that you aren't actually finding your target audience.
Instead of connecting with that busy mom or that just-starting-out author, you are connecting with another blogger. Who, outside of the group requirements, is NOT likely to become a superfan. If you are trying to work with brands, they have grown wise to this (especially about Instagram pods) and they are NOT happy.
It's one thing to have a small group where you support each other and share content. (Like the content curation I just wrote about.) Follow-for-follow threads are another thing altogether. Required follow and share groups do not result in authentic engagement from your target audience. Period.
Be wise in the kinds of groups you join and what kind of threads you participate in. Ask yourself what you are REALLY gaining from your participation.
These groups are popular because they give a FEELING of success. Doesn't it feel nice when you have a bunch of comments on a post? Don't you love seeing other people share your content? If the groups you are in result in real engagement from your idea people, that's GREAT. If they don't, or if they require that you share content you otherwise wouldn't, it's time to rethink.
Though many of these fixes are a bit more time intensive and require more of YOU, that's the cost of real social media growth. A lot of the tactics people teach out there are just that: tactics. They are not a strategy. And they are not about engaged, authentic growth.
If you're looking for the main reason why your social media isn't growing, it's likely because you aren't investing enough of yourself. You are automating in order to create a Self Media that's all about your links and not about real engagement or serving your audience.
What are YOUR struggles with social media? Have you seen some of these reasons in your own social media?
I see people asking questions constantly in Facebook groups about growth. Specifically people want to know why their blogs aren't growing.
It's a complex question! But today I'm going to tackle the top three reasons why your blog isn't growing. And, NO. None of these three have to do with social media! (We'll get to that next week!)
Ouch. As a writer, this one really rubbed me the wrong way when I started considering my blog growth intentionally.
We all have different reasons for blogging. (And you really should know the why of your blog!) For many of you in my audience, those reasons have to do with loving to write. Yes, maybe you want to also sell books or sponsored posts or make money by having traffic an ads. BUT YOU LOVE THE CREATIVE WORK. I know you!
So it can feel like a personal insult to hear that you're being too self-centered about your work. (Plus, who likes being self-centered??) I'm not really telling you that you are self-absorbed, only that your blog isn't outward-focused ENOUGH.
Why do people read blogs?
Not sure? Think about why YOU read blogs. For me, I might click through to read a blog post if the title grabs me. It relates to me. It's interesting or relevant or solves a problem I have.
People read blogs because those blogs offer something. They GIVE to the reader. There is a benefit. Maybe that's a how-to or a series of tips. Maybe that's entertainment or encouragement or inspiration. But there is some kind of exchange wherein the blogger (that's you) gives something to the reader.
Readers will not read blogs that don't give them something. And when we write blog posts that are just like online diaries, focused on telling just our life story, people are generally not going to want to read. (The exceptions are if you are already a celebrity, you have a really unique story, you have some kind of "it" factor, or you're a really KILLER writer. Usually we are NOT as interesting as we think we are.)
We need to invite readers IN. That doesn't mean we can't write about ourselves and our stories. If we leave our own story out, our blog could be interchangeable with any other blog out there. Not good.
Our unique story and our voice NEEDS to be there, but readers need to know there is a place for them. It has to be relatable to them and give some kind of benefit. Even if that is a simple as a few minutes of enjoyment.
How to Fix This: If this is your problem (and MANY people struggle here), you need to consider how you can write what you want to write, but also think outward. Consider how you can use your blog to benefit other people and what you are giving them. What does your blog give? What does it offer that a complete stranger might want to stop and read?
Just when you thought the first reason was hard to hear...I give you this. But I just want to write! I don't care about blog design, you say. Plus I have no money and don't know blogspeak.
I know, friend. I know. I was there! I started on Blogger (which, unless you have a lot of money, will ALWAYS look like a blog on Blogger) and when I started paying more attention to design, I didn't want the clean, white look. I had bright colors and busy backgrounds. It was a hot mess.
Here's the thing about design: it impacts the way people read your words.
When Rob and I were looking for our first house, we looked at all kinds of places. Some were in pristine condition, some were foreclosures with no flooring and holes in the walls. We are good at vision, so we could see SOMETHING in most places.
Except one house. It was older and had original mustard-yellow countertops and shag rugs. It was clean, but it was just so much ugly. Most of all, though, we HATED the layout. We struggled with a vision for the house because we didn't like the floor plan. Countertops you can change, but layout is layout.
We bought another house and a few months after moving in, I had this realization as I walked into my master bedroom: this house had the same layout as the house we hated.
I couldn't believe it. Even with all our open-mindedness and visioning, we hated a house for (we thought) its layout, then bought a house with the same floor plan...but modern updates. Honestly, we were both floored.
THAT IS HOW MUCH DESIGN MATTERS.
You cannot underestimate the impact of how you package your words. So if you are a writer and hate thinking about this stuff and don't want to learn to code and don't want to pay someone...you have to consider the cost.
You don't have to have the most beautiful blog, but you DO need to have a blog that doesn't detract from your content.
How to Fix This: If you don't have a lot of money for design, you can use a simple free wordpress.org theme and just keep it SIMPLE. Simple looks so much more professional than busy. Or consider Squarespace, which is something like $7-10/monthly and is drag and drop. Very clean, very professional. If you're using Blogger, it is REALLY HARD (ie- expensive) to make it not look like Blogger. I love working with Merri from WPTech Cafe and I also love the themes from Restored 316. I'm an affiliate for Restored 316 and am currently using their Refined theme, if you want to check that out. (Being an affiliate means if you purchase a theme, I get a commission at no extra cost to you!)
This is where it gets confusing sometimes. Because I told you in #1 that it's not all about you, and now I'm telling you that it needs to be uniquely you. What gives?
Your blog DOES need to be about other people enough to draw them in. But your unique story and voice and perspective will keep them reading. If you don't have something unique, your blog will be like every other of the million blogs out there. Why should they read or come back to yours?
This can be really difficult and takes practice. It will also shift over time and depending on content. But learning to find your unique voice and find how you can weave your story and perspective through the posts makes you stand out. And, even though you're being uniquely YOU, it will draw in the readers and keep them.
What IS your story? What IS your writing voice?
You need to consider these questions in order to help your blog grow. It's not enough just to write helpful tips for people. Your helpful tips need to have YOUR spin. Otherwise they'll get lost in the sea of other helpful tips.
How to fix this: If you haven't been training in a lot of the writing spaces, these may not be questions you've thought about at length. But I've got just the resource for you! Check out my post How to Brand Your Writing Voice.
These three aren't the ONLY reasons why your blog isn't growing. The other big key to blog growth is promotion. We'll hit on that a bit in the second part of the series when I talk about why your social media isn't growing. But just so we're clear...you can't write a blog post and think people will find it. (Unless you are an SEO wizard.) Promotion totally impacts this.
But you can promote like a crazy person and if people don't feel included, are turned off by your blog design, and don't find something unique, your blog will not gain and retain new readers.
So...how are you feeling at the end of this?
I want you to know: these are not the only reasons your blog might not be growing. And they might be hard to hear. If they ARE, please take some time after you read this or listen to the episode. Be grumpy. Complain. Send me an email about why you disagree.
Then come back a few days later when it feels less personal and really LOOK at your blog. Could these actually be the reasons your blog isn't growing? Ask a friend who is impartial if you need help looking with honest eyes. I do NOT mean to be discouraging or hurtful.
If so: HOW BIG?
Because if you want to really grow and really want to grow large, you need to seriously consider these three things. But if you want to write for writing's sake or because of a particular passion, then you can worry about them less.
If you want to really grow a platform or build a giant blog, you need to take it seriously. You have to think about why your blog isn't growing...and then what you're going to do about it.
Preorder a copy of my book, 31 Small Steps to Grow My Blog, and get the accompanying course, Blog Growth Boost for just $27. (Normally $97!)
Want to support the show? I've got a totally new Patreon page with awesome rewards! Check that out here: http://createifwriting.com/patreon
After going through Hurricane Harvey this week, I wanted to talk about creativity in the storm. Here are some thoughts on how creativity works in hard times.
A week ago I was in California speaking at Podcast Movement. The weather was 75 degrees. Sunny. Breezy. AMAZING. I started getting calls about the weather.
"Are you coming home?"
"You know we're getting a hurricane, right?"
"You should really come home."
Living in Houston, you get used to hurricanes. We weathered through Hurricane Ike when Sawyer (my oldest) was a few months old. It was a harrowing night with high winds making the giant oaks outside bend to the ground.
We made it, but lost power for a few weeks with trees downed all over town and some rising water. It was a mess. But you get used to the warnings.
By now we've all heard how Harvey was beyond normal. I've heard it called the worst natural disaster in US history. Houston tends to flood anyway and getting trillions of gallons dumped on it in a weekend could not have ended well.
A few days later and we have sun again, shining down on all the piles of carpets and furniture by the curb. Some neighborhoods still have five or more feet of water. Up over the doors and windows.
Grocery stores actually have food on the shelves.
Roads are opening.
Helicopters are flying overhead.
Military convoys are parked at the football stadium.
Every other pickup truck has a boat in the back.
These are strange times.
Whether you are facing a literal storm or some other kind of hard time, creativity can flow...or get stuck.
For me, it's therapy. In the worst moments of the storm, I felt peaceful. But since, I have woken up terrified that water was coming in my children's rooms. I cried in the grocery store today to see food on the shelves.
I don't always process in the here and now. Writing? Helps me process.
But it isn't always that way. Sometimes you might get stuck instead. For now, I'm without childcare, so some of my creative things literally WILL be stuck. I have less than half the time to create. When I have the time, I want to write. I want to get back to the podcast and to connecting with my people.
Whether you thrive or get stuck in the storms, it's okay!
YOU ARE NOT A SLAVE TO YOUR CREATIVE WORK.
Rather, it's something that should bring a benefit to YOU. It should be life-giving.
That means No guilt if you don't want to be creative for a bit. If you need a breather, it's okay.
Your creative work serves YOU, not the other way around.
So whatever your storms this week, this month, this year, I HOPE that your creativity helps you flourish in it. But if it begins to feel burdensome instead, take some time off. Refresh. Then return when it feels more life-giving to you.
With a crowded internet filled with blogs and podcasts and websites to browse, it can be really difficult to stand out. Today on the podcast I'm bringing you tips for building traffic! I'm also going to share why I don't think traffic is the bee's knees (as in, my main goal is NOT to build traffic).
As a quick note, I am spending a whole MONTH talking about traffic in my paid membership community. We'll have exclusive interviews and resources and a guide to traffic. If you want to see what this exclusive community and training is all about, you can try your first month for $1! You'll have access to hours of video trainings and join our private Facebook group, plus get weekly email check-ins from me. Check the Create If Community Membership!
When we talk about traffic, we are talking about how many visitors you have on your blog, usually measured monthly. There is a difference between pageviews and unique monthly views, but for now, I'm talking about pageviews.
(If you REALLY want to know, pageviews are the number of times your site literally loaded and unique users separates out multiple visits from the same people, so you'll get a more accurate number of how many different people are reading your stuff. Sessions are kind of in-between-- the same user could have two different sessions and view six total pages, resulting in two sessions, one user, and six pagviews. Read this great breakdown here!)
In the old days of blogging, you wrote blog posts and people came. I like to think of this as Field of Dreams blogging: if you blog it, they will come.
When I started in 2007, that's how it worked. People found me. I didn't seek them out, and I certainly didn't promote my blog. Social media wasn't really used for self-promotion back then.
2017 is a different world. If you write a blog post, hit publish, and do nothing else, chances are that maybe like 10 people might read your post. No one will just "find" it (unless you do a great job with SEO). Few people will share it (unless you first share it yourself). These days, you have to WORK to get traffic.
There are two main ways that you can build traffic to your site.
The best idea is to use a combination of these two methods. When you have your SEO working for you, after the initial setup, you can expect to have traffic continue, no matter what you do. It's passive, long-term traffic. (Not to say that you shouldn't do updates or that you can't strengthen your game.)
Combine great SEO with promotions on social media, where you will see short-term spikes of traffic. It's great to diversify your traffic sources so that you can have a more secure foundation in case something major shifts or an algorithm kills off your traffic.
How can you grow the traffic you currently have?
In theory, this is simple. Choose #1 & #2 (or, ideally, both) and work on your game. In practice, this is obviously not as easy as it sounds. SEO is more of a long game, which means that you can put things in place now and hopefully see some increases in the coming months. But the benefit is that after you set up SEO, it keeps going.
Social media is more of a short game that will result in temporary traffic spikes. I've had a post go "viral" on Facebook that resulted in 50k pageviews in a few days. But then it dropped to 2k and then 500 and then...nothing.
Social media is something you need to do once and then do again and then do again. In fact, a lot of people will say that you should spend 20% creating content and 80% PROMOTING. Yikes.
If you are building an ads-based monetization strategy, straight-up traffic is what you want. Numbers = $$$. But it takes a LOT of traffic to make a significant impact. For reference, one of my sites gets between 10k-20k pageviews per month and I get about $200 or less in ads revenue.
Traffic is fragile. So if you are building on straight traffic and straight ads-based revenue, you are building something delicate. One algorithm change and everything shatters.
So it's important to think about how to capture traffic and what you want those visitor so DO on your site. My biggest recommendation is (surprise, surprise): EMAIL. The most permanent way that you can connect is by getting people on your list. Email is also a third, not as often talked area in terms of building traffic.
You also may want them to read more posts, check out your about page, or generally hang out for a while. So you can work on optimizing your site in a way that encourages reading, clicking around, and signing up for your email list. It makes #5 on Neil Patel's great list of ways to build traffic!
Make sure as you think about ways to build traffic that you are thinking about WHY. You need a purpose. You want people to DO something. At the least, try to connect in a more permanent way with your readers by getting them on your email list.
This is NOT an exhaustive list, but a few things that have been working for me in 2017. Also! I want to make a big note that in these things that are working, not ALL of them are about building traffic to my site. Many of the things I'm doing are about sending people to a landing page for my email list.
So...why am I including them?
The reality is that whether you are asking someone to click to a blog page or a landing page for email, these tips ask people to click through to something. And these tips are working right now to get people clicking. I am simply focusing on my list right now and making that a priority over blog traffic.
As I mentioned before, traffic is fragile. It can be awesome, and there is something powerful about having millions of pageviews a month. I have friends doing that and they are making more than full-time incomes on their blogs through ads and sponsored posts and other revenue streams. Since my main revenue streams are NOT related to ads or sponsored posts, I utilize my email list primarily to build relationships and offer products and services that fit their needs. Yes, I'd like to build my blog traffic. But it's not my main thing.
Utilize timely or time sensitive things. I did an experiment with social media over the last month. I scheduled out daily posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn advertising one of my big freebies, Seriously Simple Social. I found that I got less than 50 in total for the month. Meanwhile, I held a webinar and started signups for Summer School, a 6-week free class I'm holding this summer. In just a few days, I more than doubled the other signups. Even though these were events with email signups, you could try something similar by promoting timely blog posts-- like my boredom busters for kids, which I promote more heavily at the beginning of summer.
Post to popular Facebook pages. I've seen the power of large Facebook pages sharing your posts. See this list of pages who allow or encourage sharing HERE. Basically, you can post on their page wall, where the post isn't super visible to regular visitors, but the page owner will see it. If it's a good fit, they will share it themselves on their page so it IS visible. When I had that 50k pageviews in a few days, it was from several large pages sharing my post.
Post with GREAT DESCRIPTIONS to Facebook group share threads. If you are a member of 1 million Facebook groups like I am, you'll know that there is usually a no-promo policy. This keeps everyone in the group from posting their blog links 100 times a day. (As a group owner, trust me that I delete a billion of these every day.) There is often a thread once a week where you can share your links. Many people miss this opportunity by just literally pasting a link in that thread. The people who see the most engagement and clicks are those who put a description and actually talk about their link and give a mini pitch.
Get excited about your own content. This is a tip from Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection. (She shared it in her Quick Blog Tips Group, which you should join!) She pointed out that often when we promote other content, we gush and give a great testimonial for why people should read. Then, for our own content, we say something like "Read my latest post." We can tell people our content is great without being smarmy. I know it's often hard to talk nicely about ourselves and it can feel...off. But if you believe in your own content (and you should), then give people a reason to read!
There are TONS more tips for building traffic, but these are a few specific actions that are helping me see results!
You can choose to focus on SEO, Blogging, or Building Your List (or all three!) after you register. You don't want to miss these classes, which start on June 15!
There are so many ways to publish a book these days that when it comes to publishing tips, it seems okay to say: choose what works best for you! But it's great to trust those who have found success before us. Honoree Corder just released her FIFTIETH book and shares practical launch strategies, whether you should use a hybrid publisher, and more publishing tips in this episode! Read more or listen below!
Official bio: Honorée Corder is the author of dozens of books, including You Must Write a Book, The Prosperous Writer book series, Vision to Reality, Business Dating, The Successful Single Mom book series, If Divorce is a Game, These are the Rules, and The Divorced Phoenix. She is also Hal Elrod’s business partner in The Miracle Morning book series. Honorée coaches business professionals, writers, and aspiring non-fiction authors who want to publish their books to bestseller status, create a platform, and develop multiple streams of income. She also does all sorts of other magical things, and her badassery is legendary. You can find out more at HonoreeCorder.com.
This post contains affiliate links!
PRO TIP: Make sure your ideal reader team is targeted to the audience who would be likely to actually BUY your book because of interest. Not just friends or your mom. Probably NOT your mom. When these people buy your book, it can skew your also-boughts underneath the sale area on Amazon, which means that your book may not get shown to the right audience!
For a moment, let's define the terms. Traditional publishing is when you have one of the big five publishers or a small press publish your book. They pay you an advance and royalties if you sell more copies than the cost of the advance.
Indie publishing is the new term for what we used to call self publishing. It means that the author takes control for all aspects of the book (though often this means hiring an editor, a cover designer, etc) and publishes the book without an outside publisher.
Hybrid authors is a term NOT to be confused with hybrid publishing. These authors may have some traditionally published books and some indie books.
Hybrid publishing is when a company asks for an upfront payment from authors in exchange for publishing, printing, distributing, or other aspects of the publishing process. The contracts and terms vary.
There are horror stories. Many. I hear them all the time from authors who paid thousands of dollars to get hundreds of copies of their book that may or may not even look professional. At best, you may end up with a book that has been formatted and have a cover designed...both things that you could do yourself or pay someone to do for MUCH less.
But one of the big points to consider is WHAT ELSE COULD YOU DO WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY? (Or even less.) You could hire a top cover designer, editor, and even pay for Facebook ads or AMS ads for less than you would pay a hybrid publisher.
Can I just say that I LOVE that Honoree burned her own books? There is something freeing there. And humorous.
Amazon's Media Breakfast Honoree attended
Whether it's a podcast or a blog or a book or a course, launching can make or break you. Break is a LITTLE extreme, but your spirit can definitely feel broken after a not-so-hot launch! According to Jenny Melrose of the Influencer Entrepreneur podcast, it's all about the strategy. In this episode we are going deep to learn tips for a successful launch!
And don't miss a live workshop with Jenny (and me!) on May 24 at 9am CST where she's going to teach us how to run a successful challenge-- a key component to her launching success. Register HERE!
There are so many kinds of launches. You can launch tons of different products, first of all, and then you can choose to launch just to your list or do a joint venture (JV) launch with someone else. You can launch with affiliates. You can use ads. You can have open and closed cart or evergreen. You can use webinars. You can go on podcasts as a guest. YOU CAN DO ALL THE THINGS.
But what really works?
It will vary depending on what you're launching and what your goals are, but here are some great tips for a successful launch from Jenny Melrose, who has done a number of launches for different products and in different ways.
I've busted the Field of Dreams myth with books, blogs, and even podcasts that I thought would naturally bring in the right audience in DROVES because they were quality. Nope.
Without a strategic plan, your launch is not likely to be a huge success. It seems obvious, but I think most of us have done this at least one time. Do NOT build a book or product that you assume everyone will want and find without strategic planning.
Note: If you have something you truly love and want to build it for the sheer love of it, go for it! Just realize that this is not the most strategic path for launching success.
Jenny creates evergreen challenges so people can come as they want to. The challenges up engagement, give people a taste for the content and quick wins that make them feel successful.
To promote her challenges, Jenny utilized Facebook groups, but not in a smarmy way. (Read my full post on how to not be smarmy in Facebook groups.) She searched for questions that people were asking related to her challenge, answered the question as fully as she could, then let the person know she had a challenge and invited them in a no-strings-attached kind of way. After some time of this, even group owners started tagging her as the expert when people had questions related to her topic.
The purpose of the challenge is to show them that the next step is your product, whether that's your tripwire or your bigger course or product. You don't overwhelm with information, but give just what people can handle in a 5-10 day period.
Evergreen challenges connect to evergreen products or that add people into a group in your email list that you target with a related launch. Another option is to have a live challenge that runs during the launch of a course where every person in the challenge starts and ends the challenge on the same day.
Another place to use this same kind of strategy is Quora. See this post from Teachable for ideas!
Jenny recommends using a tripwire product, one that's less than $20.This could be an ebook or a video training that's evergreen. Many people fear selling too much, but this early introduction to an affordable price gets people primed as customers. Once people have given you money once for a product, they are much more likely to give you their money again (assuming you're creating quality content).
Start with what your final product will be and work backwards to the smaller, tripwire product, and then to the challenge (or other kind of funnel you'll be using to attract people). For an evergreen launch, you can pitch your larger product sometime after the time after the challenge (or email series) ends.
Evergreen or Open-and-Closed Cart?
Jenny has found better results with the open-and-closed cart, where there is a limited time for the sale. This urgency results in more conversions. People (like me!!!) wait often until just before the cart closes to make that decision. Other people know going into a webinar that they are planning to buy something.
The first failure you have can really keep you from doing more (read about my failed launch and thoughts on this), but you should consider where you can fix things.
Jenny found that doing more Facebook lives and webinars really helped with her launches. People don't expect Facebook live videos to be perfect, so you can put less pressure on yourself. Instead, they help people see the REAL you and are often winsome and attractive to people because they see the real person behind the product. Being authentic builds trust.
Links mentioned in the interview:
If you've been around for a while, you know that at Create If Writing, I'm all about growth without the use of smarmy tactics. The kind that make you feel gross in your SOUL. Who better to talk about non-smarmy marketing than Nathalie Lussier of Ambition Ally, one of my favorite companies, both in terms of products and values. In this interview, Nathalie shares about starting her company, what's working in list growth right now, and how she commits to non-smarmy marketing.
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something after clicking through, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you!
Links from the Show:
Nathalie recently shared a post on her blog about the dangers of income-claim marketing. This is essentially selling your product based on the success you've had in the past, not the value or service or outcomes they've provided.
These numbers CAN be a good thing because we are curious. We'd like to know what goes on behind the curtain and behind the scenes. But those same numbers may not be the best way to get people to BUY. It can be a trap for both the consumer and the producer because neither may be able to replicate those numbers. The consumer may be disillusioned or dissatisfied and the business may find themselves trapped trying to go bigger or repeat the same numbers. It's not a sustainable way to grow a business.
Whatever we are offering needs to solve the problem that people are having. Go back to your core values. For Ambition Ally, the values are solving problems through software.
(PS- I LOVE how simple that description is. Can you describe what you do in this concise, clear way??)
Exit Intent Pop-Ups - Since Google has made its update penalizing sites that are using intrusive pop-ups on mobile, it may be a good idea to consider that desktop might be next. An exit intent pop-up shows up when someone moves to click away from your site and doesn't impact the user experience while reading the post.
Scroll-Based Pop-Ups - On mobile, these don't show up until someone has scrolled through 80% of your post. This keeps you Google-friendly and is great also for the reader.
Content-Based Pop-Ups - Using a tool like PopUpAlly Pro, you can choose for certain pop ups to show up on certain categories of pages. This gives a more targeted invite to your email list.
Vanilla Calls to Action - When you run across a sign-up form that says "Sign up for my newsletter," there is no REAL incentive. Write unique copy that is inviting and clearly shares the incentive for signing up.
Make It PERSONAL - Your language should speak to a person so they read it and KNOW it's speaking to them. Being specific and speaking to exactly to what people are looking for really helps.
Don't miss the Idea Sanctuary, the newest video series from Nathalie Lussier helping you sift through all your ideas and refining and polishing them so you can launch them. (I just finished the first video and love it!)
What is YOUR biggest non-smarmy marketing tip? Share in the comments or hop into the Facebook community so we can discuss!
This episode is sponsored by Ambition Ally, the makers of PopUpAlly Pro! Learn how you can target subscribers by category and page on your site, rather than just throwing a random freebie at them. Learn more here: http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Thanks to Jasmine Commerce for the tunes for this show. Find more here: http://www.jasminecommercemusic.com
And sign up for my workshop on automated email series: http://createifwriting.com/auto
This month, I'm running a case study on how my list grows over social media with the same freebie! I'll return with Part 2 down the road to share my findings.
Thanks to my sponsor, Ambition Ally, the makers of PopUpAlly Pro! Find out more here: http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Can you help with my survey? http://createifwriting.com/2017survey
Today's show is sponsored by Ambition Ally - Check out PopUpAlly Pro HERE! http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Take the survey for this year - http://createifwriting.com/2017survey
Register for the Profitable Blogging Summit, which ends April 26 - http://profitablebloggingsummit.com/register
Join the community! http://createifwriting.com/community
A few weeks back I told you to stop creating content. Now I'm telling you to stop buying courses. What gives? Keep reading! Or listen to this latest episode.
Thanks to our sponsor: AmbitionAlly, the creators of PopUpAlly Pro! I use and LOVE this plugin. Check it out HERE.
Confession: I'm a course junkie.
Not even just a course junkie, but a resource junkie. I love to learn and I love to buy resources that help me learn. These days that's mostly courses. I LOVE courses. So why am I telling you to stop buying courses?
First, for context, you should check out my post about why you should stop creating content. The main point there is the same main point here: Be a good steward of what you HAVE. Whether you are creating or buying more, first take care of what you've got.
So...if you're a course junkie like me, what do you do? How can you be a good steward with the courses or information sources you have?
1.Make a List. Whether you are a spreadsheet person or something else, you need to make a list of the things you've purchased. Am I the only one who has bought a course and then FORGOTTEN I BOUGHT THE COURSE? Yep. Done that. So keep a running list in a Google doc or somewhere of what you own. Don't waste your money! Track it.
2. Make a Plan. There are two parts to this. The first is that you need to think about what gives you the most ROI. (That's return on investment.) What will bring you cash or benefit first? Consider what course might bring you a return for the time or money invested first.
The second part is that you may need to go in order. If you want to make money with Facebook ads, you need to drive them to something. So you might need to take the course that helps you to create a product that you'll sell through webinars through Facebook ads, you'll need to first take the course on courses, then the course on webinars, then the course on Facebook ads. Make sense?
First, plan around ROI. But within that, you'll need to plan in the order of how the pieces fit together.
The actionable part of this is that you need to plot this out on a calendar. Make an actionable plan to complete the courses & resources so that you have the space to apply it.
3. STOP BUYING COURSES. Once you have your list and have your plan, do not invest in any more resources. Yup. Stop buying courses until you've complete the plan and the list.
The caveat, of course, being if you find a really great deal that will expire. But you should ask these questions:
Do you NEED it?
Can you FINISH it?
Will you have time to APPLY it?
Ask those questions before you invest in any new resource or even tool. (Because often tools take time to learn and set up.) On then should you ignore the advice to stop buying courses.
With all this in mind, I DO hope that you'll sign up for the Profitable Blogging Summit. It's not a course, but it's a summit with 30 + actionable sessions that can act as a course in terms of training and information.
So why would I tell you to stop buying courses and invest your time in the summit?
I ask you this because you can go in with a plan. You can apply the three pieces of advice I gave you in a smaller sense with investments you make. Make a list of the schedule. Make a plan of what sessions you'll watch. And take some time off during the summit week to invest your time in the summit.
I recommend this not just because I'm biased as one of the hosts. But because it was so hard NOT to take notes during these interviews. That's how actionable the sessions are. I plan to watch them again and to watch the ones that I didn't record. This is GOOD STUFF.
So despite my advice to stop buying courses, you should invest your time and money in the things that move you forward. I really do think that the Profitable Blogging Summit will do that!
Whether you love to take your own photos or not, most bloggers need to find free stock images or free photos for their blog at some point. But as a few recent horror stories have shown, how to find free and legal images for your blog is NOT so simple. Here are three things you need to know!
Thanks to PopUpAlly Pro for sponsoring this episode! Find out more about PopUpAlly Pro!
Before I get to the tips on how to find free and legal images for your blog, I want to share the horror stories. You MAY have already read these, but they are scary. The first is from Allison Puryear who shares that she was sued for using an image that she got from a stock photo site. (Language warning in case that offends you!) Her malpractice insurance saved her, but the interesting thing to note is that the lawyer she spoke to said that this is COMMON. Because photographers are doing this on purpose as a cash flow. That stinks. But it's legal.
The second post is from Chrystie of Living for Naptime and she shares how several years ago, she used a photo from a Google Search (hey- a few years ago MANY of us did that ignorantly) and lost $7500. She also explains that this was an intentional practice of the photographer.
You might think that this won't happen to you, but there are three key things that everyone need to consider if using an image that they did not take. Let's get into it.
Often people stop at permission. We KNOW now that we shouldn't use an image we find on Google. But we may NOT consider the fact that we still might have to put a line underneath the image that tells where it came from and who took the photo. We also might assume that because we find a free photo or even PAY for a stock photo that we can use it on the cover of our book or sell t-shirts using the image.
But PERMISSION does not mean that you can use an image without attribution or anywhere you want. You MUST consider all three.
Every site for stock photos is different, but you want to look for the licensing and attribution information. It may help to email the company itself if this is unclear. This may vary from image to image on ONE site, which is the hard thing. You might get used to no attribution on a certain site because most don't require it and then not realize that ONE of the images does. Pay attention!
Or use a site like Pixabay, where all images fall under the Creative Commons 0 license, where you can use it for commercial purposes with no attribution. Be sure if you are searching for Creative Commons photos that you STILL read the license, as there are several different kinds of Creative Commons licenses.
Be sure that even if you are PAYING for a photo, you read the fine print. You want to be as careful as possible, especially considering that some photographers are intentionally using this as a means to make money. Smarmy, but they can. WE need to be the ones doing our due diligence on our photos!