The 'Poo Book' Blog Does Book Reviews
Last week, I shared the limited results of my traditional media PR campaign, for my self-published picture book. The feedback I’ve received from readers, many of whom are independent authors, has been encouraging. This is a topic ‘indies’ want to know more about and not just the success stories.
I’m learning more in this author journey from the obstacles I’ve faced, than the boosts I’ve had along the way. If you hit pay dirt from the outset with self-publishing, kudos but does this mean everyone can replicate your path to success?
What problems do ‘indies’ face with online marketing?
There are themes that arise frequently in discussion threads in Facebook groups for independent authors. Do the sample queries (below) sound familiar?
Hi, I’m just starting out in self-publishing and I have no idea how to market my work. How do I get my book out there on social media? I only use Facebook and I don’t really know how to use Twitter or anything else. Do I have to blog? Advice please.
Hi, I don’t really know how to use social media and I don’t have much time to promote my work. Any recommendation on people who don’t charge much to do your social media for you?
Social Media Public Relations (PR) and Marketing
I paid for a six-week professional social media PR campaign, to run alongside a six-week traditional media campaign.
It. Was. Not. Cheap.
I may never recoup this cost from royalties for the book aligned to the campaign. I realised this going in, though I hoped it might be the catalyst for putting my book ‘on the map’. At the time, I did not have the necessary social media skills, nor a developed author platform, to market the book myself, to a wider audience than Facebook friends and family.
So, if I had my time over again, I would do what the canny self-publishers do and build my online author platform, well in advance of publishing.
What if you don’t have the time or the skills for social media?
You need to somehow make time, i.e. build a manageable weekly schedule for interacting online professionally, whether 30 mins a week, or 30mins a day.
You also need to upskill yourself in the effective usage of some social media platforms, if not all.
Now, here’s the kicker for indies. If you don’t have social media and marketing skills from your day job and you can’t see a way forward, then:
a) you may have to pay for training, and/or
b) you may have to invest in some targeted third-party social media promotions for your book. Examples include a Goodreads giveaway or a boosted/sponsored post on Facebook.
Remember, if you are in business (or a commercial hobby), where you expect to make money off the sale of your work, I’m not sure if you can ever avoid spending money to make money. The degree to which you apply this is entirely up to you.
What can you expect from a social media campaign?
From my own experiences with a book PR campaign, I could have refrained from paying for traditional media approaches and concentrated my efforts (and funds) on social media promotion. The online space offers legitimate, visible channels for marketing and selling your work these days, even if you are an unknown. It is about finding your target audience (and I'm not pretending that is always easy).
To my initial surprise, the PR manager for my social media campaign did not blog, create my Facebook author page, or tweet anything for me.
She advised a schedule of weekly book blog topics and spent one hour each week in a video call, training me in social media platforms, tools and marketing strategies.
In other words, she taught me how to run my own social media campaign in the short-term and strategies for maintaining and building my long-term author presence online.
I asked sheepishly if she would post or blog for me, as part of the service. Response: this was not the firm's policy. There wasn't time or resource to devote to this level of service, within the confines of the package I had purchased.
What this meant in real terms is, you would need to pay more, a lot more, for a professional PR manager to execute your social media presence. Does this answer the question whether there is a cheap option for someone to do your social media for you?
What was the objective of the social media campaign? Was it met?
The point of the social media campaign service was to empower me as a writer and independent publisher, to manage and execute my own schedule of strategic social media interactions. It was also to understand how to blog as a promotional tool.
After all, I’m a writer, so shouldn’t I be able to frame creative posts on social media and put together a regular, coherent blog piece? And who better to know what I want to say to my audience than me?
What I may not understand as a writer, unless I’ve worked in this field, is how to effectively market my product and how to use social media tools, to at least an intermediate level.This is why I sought professional assistance.
After a six-week paid campaign, I have been professionally trained in how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Hootsuite and Google+. I have also been taught blogging strategies for building audience engagement. This for me, has been worth its weight in gold, though I am not advocating that every indie should pay for a professional PR campaign.
My advice is to acknowledge you need a social media marketing strategy. You need to skill yourself to execute this, within your means, time and budget.
I have broken the first rule of my blogging training (keep it to about 500 words or less), so if you are still reading and caring, thank you.
Next week, I’ll share some specific tips and examples from my campaign, that may provide you with a starting point for planning your own approach.
Have a productive week!
You’re an independent author and you’ve self-published your first book, via Print on Demand or an online publishing service.
When considering your public relations campaign, you may be asking: - do I pay a professional to publicise my book, or do I market it myself, through all possible ‘word of mouth’ channels?
I have seen questions appear in ‘indie’ author group threads, asking for recommendations on cheap publicity services. I think we need to be aware as self-publishers, that there is a difference between relatively affordable publicity opportunities like a Goodreads Giveaway, or a twitter book promo on Shout My Book, and an end-to end publicity service from a public relations professional. The latter will cost you and there is no cheap option and unfortunately, no guarantee of return on investment.
I’m coming at this from hiring a PR company to manage and execute a six- week traditional and social media campaign, for my debut picture book. I was prepared to invest money in a third-party professional service to promote my self-publishing project. I did not have the wherewithal at the time, to promote it myself.
Did I succeed? Do I have regrets? Well, I certainly have a lot of mixed emotions but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to offer my verdict on the value of a traditional media vs. a social media book campaign.
This week I’ll cover my traditional media PR experience (epic fail!) and next week, the outcomes of my social media campaign. That’s where the gems of true wisdom lie, so stay tuned…
Traditional Media Campaign – What to Expect
Traditional media is considered media that was around before online i.e. TV, radio and print magazines and newspapers.
Once you have contracted a publicist for an agreed period of service, they will read your book, interview you and write a press release to send out on ‘the wires’. This will be visible to media outlets (within the agreed geographical parameters) and they may pick up the story of your book’s publication.
This could take the form of requesting an interview with you for print, TV or radio, or asking for a ‘review copy’ of your book, to profile on their media service. The press release blast will be followed with a systematic plan of personal approach from the publicist, to targeted media outlets, identified as good prospects for interest in your book.
Sounds great, huh?
Even in adversity, I live in hope of triumph, so I would always encourage you to shoot for the stars. However, my biggest take-away from my traditional media campaign is manage your expectations. Your publicist may even warn you that media relations are a tenuous process. Best believe them.
My press release, which went out to media in five US cities and Sydney, was re-posted by a small handful of US media outlets on the day of release. Furthermore, there were two interview enquiries (one from a local newspaper in Sydney) and one other enquiry for a review copy. None of the enquries came to anything.
What I’ve Learned From This Type of Campaign
Fact. My book is not going to appeal to everyone and I accept that the traditional media campaign may have failed because my book missed the mark and lacked media appeal.
As an ‘indie’, what I also need to understand is that there is a big wide world of professional publishing out there and there are systems in place for traditionally published books to reach the right media channels through a publishing house or an agent’s PR.
It is also less likely that an unknown, first time author, who has published their own work, will be of any traditional media interest, or will be considered marketable, or saleable to the book-buying public. After all, who do you like to read about in the traditional media?
People you know.
My Verdict on Traditional Media Publicity Services
I would not recommend that an emerging, self-published author invest in a third party's traditional media PR services.
You are likely to know your own local media networks best, so approach editors with a copy of your book and gauge their interest. Don’t expect anything and be pleasantly surprised if something comes through. After all, a mention in a real-life traditional media source is still the best feeling and offers ‘cred’ for your work. I’ve seen many a traditionally published author get excited by this type of exposure.
Next week – Should I Pay for PR on Social Media?
Many indies I know are masterful at the art of self-promotion on social media and may laugh at me for paying someone to promote my work. I envy their nouse.
I also see questions on indie group boards from many who are struggling to understand how to best market themselves online. Next Tuesday, I’d invite you to return to this blog to hear my experiences with a professional social media PR campaign. This is where things started to look up for me, so don’t worry, there’ll be loads of constructive advice and you won't have to pay for it.
Have a wonderful week.
It’s that time of year again. The time dads in the UK, US and Canada, feign surprise on Father’s Day, as they open tool and gardening related gifts from their kids.
I’m an advocate for Father’s and Mother’s Day, so don’t get me wrong. I know it’s highly commercialized but we need to teach kids to show appreciation and to GIVE to others, even if it means putting their hands in their piggy banks. And sure, I agree, giving and showing appreciation needs to be a behavior demonstrated all year round, not just on one commercially decreed day.
Still, we live in a commercial society and most parents will go through the motions of choosing a present with their children, to give to their dads on the third Sunday in June (that’s 18 June this year).
A popular gift idea, apart from tools, or hand-made goods, is books about dads and grandads. I remember on my baby son’s first Father’s Day, giving a touching book about a baby bear and a grandad bear, to my father. I also remember my parents giving a copy of My Aussie Dad, a fabulous book from Yvonne Morrison and Gus Gordon, to my staunchly English husband, on his first Father’s Day in Australia. Fortunately, we are a bit cheeky in our family, so the joke was well received and we loved reading the adventures of a BBQing, sports-loving dad. They have those in England too, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch.
And what, might you be asking, is my point in all this?
I’m a children’s book author, so I would advocate giving a book to Dad or Grandad this Father’s Day, especially if your son or daughter need assistance with reading. Childhood literacy is important and experts acknowledge that the power of a male role model reading books to themselves, or to their sons, in particular, has an incredible influence on young boys, who may naturally favor more physical pursuits.
Humour is also a useful tool for encouraging young children to read and dare I say it, a funny book might just encourage parents and grandparents to read more with their kids.
So, can you take a joke? Are you ready to laugh at yourselves? I would venture that if you’re a parent or a grandparent, with precocious four to seven year-olds in your life, a sense of humour is the key to sanity.
My debut picture book, Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo (Lulu Publishing), is for every family who has ever laughed at a certain someone who sits on the toilet for too long. It’s for a Mum who’s ever wondered where her husband was hiding out for hours on end. It’s for a child who finds poop hilarious and most of all, it’s for a cheeky dad or grandad, who can laugh at himself.
"Daddy and the World's Longest Poo is a wonderfully whimsical book about one of life's greatest mysteries. Both children and adults alike will enjoy the authors wicked sense of humor as she explores where and why dads disappear for such long periods of time. With bright beautiful illustrations that at times reminded me of Dr. Seuss' art style bringing the funny story to life. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy this delightfully entertaining book." – Amazon Customer Review (5 stars).
For Northern hemisphere shoppers, Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo is available to buy online at Lulu.com (in paperback and eBook) and Amazon (in paperback). Don't miss out for Father's Day - order your copy now.
I, Daddy, from Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo, would like to thank the academy for this most auspicious of accolades. My author, Brydie Wright, would like to take the credit for this Sunshine Blogger Award but without my character, she’d be nothing and her book wouldn’t be the success it is (or could be one day).
But even I must give credit where credit is due. Without a nomination from Kim M Watt, blogger extraordinaire, my blog may well have been overlooked. Kim’s own interview for the Sunshine Blogger Award, won on behalf of Layla, the world-dominating cat, is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in recent years.
I read it on the loo where all my best thinking is done.
And It is now my pleasure to carry on the Sunshine Blogging tradition and answer the interview questions Kim M Watt wrote for me, before my author can get a word in.
i. Is your author disproportionately cruel to you, or does she enjoy embarrassing you for comic relief?
Yes, I think my author is cruel to me. Everyone deserves a bit of privacy when they are in the loo, bathroom, toilet – whatever you want to call it. For some of us, it’s a haven; a world away from our troubles. Can’t a grown man have five minutes’ peace without his author holding his bowel movements up for public ridicule?
ii. Are you named for someone in your author’s life? Why?
My name is Daddy. I have a sneaking suspicion that my author must have had a daddy like me at some stage or maybe even a husband. The more I think about it, it’s probably the latter. She seems to have a lot of ideas about why husbands spend ages on the loo. She thinks we are doing some sort of gigantic poo but it’s just secret men’s business and there’s nothing funny in that. Just good harmless reading, thinking or listening to our iPods.
iii. What quirks has the author given you that you really wish they hadn’t?
Where do I start? My author portrays me as this secretive dad hanging out in the toilet for hours on end, neglecting my domestic duties. When have I ever done that? Can I help it if nature calls, or I just need some time out? I’m a regular sort of guy and when you need to go, you need to go.
iv. Do you feel confident that you’re going to make it into a sequel? Why/Why not?
Isn’t anything sacred anymore? What could my sequel possibly be? Daddy and the World’s Longest Pee? I think my author needs to leave me in peace. Having said that, I’m a pretty interesting guy and there’s a lot more to me than my toilet behaviour. If there was a sequel about my son and my wife, then I’d have to be in it. Come to think of it, I I heard my author saying something about a short story she’s written, starring me and my son, all about our gardening exploits. Stay tuned for this later in the year…
v. How do you justify not doing what your author tells you to?
Pass. I seem to always end up doing what my author wants me to do.
vi. What is one thing about you that your author has edited out/is going to edit out, but you’d like to tell us?
Well, I think it’s important to say that my wife is not perfect either. Sometimes I catch her hiding from my son, watching The Bold and the Beautiful in bed. You know what they say, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We all have our own ways of trying to find a little peace.
vii. What’s the most interesting thing about you?
Maybe you should ask my son. He follows me around everywhere, even when I’m in the toilet. He’s always asking me questions. I think what you could say about me is I know when to take five and just breathe. I think it’s important for everyone to find their own place to meditate and have some ‘me’ time away from the family. The toilet is that place for me. It’s usually very peaceful, until my son discovered my hiding place.
viii. If you’re not the protagonist, do you wish you were? Why/ why not?
My son seems to be the protagonist but I think I steal the show. After all, it’s called Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo, not The Little Boy Who Wonders What His Daddy is Doing in the Loo. That title just wouldn’t work.
ix. Do you have a sidekick or helper? Who are they?
My son is my shadow, my sidekick and my helper. One day he’s going to grow up just like me… he’ll appreciate the toilet too.
x. What would you like to tell your author?
I think my author is on the right track naming her books after me and making me a central character but next time, spare a thought for my privacy please. I’m the laughing stock of my dads' circle now. As if they don’t love the toilet too. I’ll say it again, people who live in glass houses…
And now I must hand over the mantle of the Sunshine Blogger Award to four of my other favourite bloggers. I hereby nominate:
When I was having some quiet thinking time on the loo the other day, I came up with 10 questions and I’d love for my nominated bloggers to interview any one of their characters in either a completed work, or WIP.
- What genre did your author write you into? What makes your character a great fit for this genre?
- What is the hardest thing about being you?
- Do you agree with all the choices your author makes for you?
- Being a literary type, we really must know – are you a cat, or a dog person?
- Does your author play favourites with her characters? Where do you fit on this spectrum?
- If you could choose a love interest from the other characters in your book, who would it be and why?
- If you could choose a name for your own blog and write about what you know and love, what would it be and why?
- Do you have any plans to take over the world?
- What do you think your author’s best qualities are?
- If you could speak directly to your readers, without the author as a middleman, what would you like them to hear from the horse’s mouth?
This week: the 'HOW'
Anyone can throw a Facebook Party but as with a real-life party, or launch event, a bad or poorly executed party, could do more harm than good.
If your aim as a writer or writer's group, is to promote and engage, then there are ways to do this to a professional standard. On a public-facing page, we are always on show and every opportunity counts.
From my experiences, as both a party attendee and guest host (and former event manager), I’ve gleaned some trips of the trade, designed to help your party provide a better user experience and return on investment for the host/s.
Timing and Duration
Let’s be real. A virtual party is an awkward format for both the host and the user. Therefore, the best tactic is to keep it short and sweet. One hour works well, as the pace can often be frantic when the activity is live. Your users will appreciate a manageable timeslot they can devote themselves to, around their busy lives.
If you have good reason to make your party longer (for example, you might be co-hosting and providing multiple guest author slots), then keep the schedule tight. Publicise key timings for tuning in (i.e. cover reveals or Q&As) and accept that your audience and engagement will ebb and flow, as with any real-life party over several hours. Just give guests enough reasons to tune in and keep coming back.
If your audience is international, you are never going to please all timezones. As with Michelle Dennise’s recent Cover Reveal Party, the host invited US and Australian guest authors to take part, so found a morning/evening slot that suited US and Australian timezones. If your audience is local, around 8pm on a Sunday evening or weeknight might be a good time, to allow families to get their commitments out of the way before hand.
Inviting co-hosts: the pros and cons
A simple term for inviting other people to co-host your party is ‘group work’. How many projects have I seen fail as soon as responsibility becomes decentralised and the most conscientious person ends up doing all the work?
In terms of hosting a Facebook Party as a professional, promotional tool, it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work in this scenario should mean, strength in numbers, pooled talents, pooled resources, depth of content and variety of approaches. Michelle Dennise’s Facebook Party page is a good example of a group activity making for a richer promotional and user experience. Post-party, the page is still attracting more and more likes by the day!
When you bring others into your project, these tips migh help keep things on track:
- As host, you are ultimately responsible for how the party plays out, so plan, promote, rehearse and expect the same of your guest hosts.
- Invite people you know to co-host, or have some sort of vetting process, or agreement from your co-hosts that they will be able to commit to what is required (including cross-promotion of the event on their own feeds).
- Guest hosts are responsible for the success of their individual slots but don’t assume anything, as people’s knowledge of the technical capacities of Facebook will differ. If you are main host, make sure everyone involved is clear on the ground rules for posting and interaction and that they understand how to navigate and use the party page effectively, BEFORE the party goes live.
- Maintain pre-party communication with your co-hosts and perhaps set up a chat group on messenger (useful during the party, in particular). Don’t be afraid to ask for segment outlines from your group, so you know all is well in advance, or can help, if potential glitches seem to be arising.
- Provide 'trouble shooting' guidelines for your co-hosts, so they are aware of the technical gremlins that can plague Facebook Parties. For example, attendees need to regularly refresh their pages, so that they can see the newest content. Co-hosts will also do well to pre-schedule some posts and rehearse and plan the best way to post video material in the feed.
How to Deliver A Fun Party When You Are Live
For my money, here’s a summary of some do's and don’ts to get the most of your Facebook Party.
- Don’t leave too much to chance. Know what you are going to post, when you are going to post it and how. Audience interaction should be 'by the seat of their pants' but your's as host should be controlled wherever possible.
- Don’t leave too much time between posts. Think carefully of the user experience. How long will it realistically take attendees to read and interact with the post, leaving some buffer for delays and technical issues? If you leave it too long before your next post, it will break momentum and leave those with good WIFI connections and reflexes, bored.
- As with any event, provide some simple and friendly housekeeping rules for your attendees (and co-hosts). If they’ve never been to a Facebook Party before, they’ll appreciate it. The main thing is to manage EVERYONE’s expectations. Technology/WIFI is our friend but can also be our greatest foe. The more traffic to your site at one time, or the weaker a participant's internet connection, the more delays you might expect. Let everyone know upfront, that new posts will go up regularly and to keep refreshing their pages every few minutes to stay in touch with the latest posts.
- Use a wide variety of posts to enrich your content delivery including text, colourful or meaningful graphics, text with graphics, funny/cool gifs, book trailers, cover reveals, short presenter videos (pre-record preferably) and quizzes with prizes.
- Did someone say trivia and prizes!! This is a terrific drawcard and engagement tool and I’ve seen it used expertly by the Just Write for Kids and Creative Kids Tales Facebook pages for their group parties. The latter upped the ante and competitive spirit, by asking questions that required a live visit to its webpage. The former chose a fantasy theme, Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, to keep all of us writerly types enthralled and engaged.
- If you run a quiz, I do think it’s rewarding for those in attendance, to award a prize at the end of the event but you might also like to keep an avenue open for post-party engagement to the page. This could be done by running another competition for those who couldn’t attend and keep it open for a certain amount of time post-party.
- Invite real interaction from the audience, to make guests feel involved in the party and not just bystanders. A great technique I learned is to ask your guests to introduce themselves when they arrive and share their professional Facebook Pages. Writers love this!! Another idea is to run a live Q&A segment, or generally invite comments to any post. As host/s, try to reply during the party if possible and if not, acknowledge and respond to comments/questions after. Reward and thank people for their participation.
I hope that the experiences I’ve shared have been constructive. I appreciate not everyone might agree, or you might have better ideas on how to pull a crowd and achieve a high return on investment from a Facebook Party.
I’d love to hear from you either via a comment on my website or you might like to comment in the Facebook feeds where I share this post.
To all who’ve taken the time to read (and the parties I've cited as inspiration), thank you.
Now, good luck and get partying!