Monday, November 1, 2010

Promo School

Photobucket Before I start with today’s topic, I want to remind everyone to exercise their right as a citizen tomorrow and go out and vote. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit—even if you straddle it—it’s important your voice is heard. So please, VOTE.

Now, on with the show…errrr blog!

A day doesn’t pass that I don’t see someone ask a question on a group about promo. New authors who have no clue as to where to start, other authors looking for an opportunity that actually works. Lots of authors usually jump on and give the best advice they can—usually what works for them or what hasn’t worked for them.

But I was thinking that the information is always so scattered that it might be nice to try and nail down the bulk of what an author can do. So today we’re going back to school—PROMO SCHOOL. I’ll post part one today and next Monday part two. There’s so much to talk about with promotions that it really does deserve more than one post.

I hope that everyone who reads will comment about their own personal favorite ways to promote—what they have found to be most effective for them, and please remember that my brain has the tendency to short circuit from time to time, lol, so I’m sure there are things I’m going to forget to mention. So anyone with any ideas for promo should just jump on and shout them out. I’ll do my very best to integrate what everyone says in my post next week.

Let’s get started. But before we get into the specifics, let me ask you this: What exactly are you promoting? “That’s just an odd question, Tess. Are you short circuiting already? We’re promoting our books!”

No, I’m not short circuiting quite yet—give me time—I’ll get to that, lol. And yes, you’re promoting your books but actually NOT. You’re promoting YOU the author. That’s your main product. Book titles come and go, but the author name remains the same. Promoting your books is a way to promote YOU. And you don’t always have to show off a book cover, a blurb, or excerpt to promote yourself either. It’s a matter of getting YOUR name out there.

There have been studies done that say name recognition happens at a certain mark. Some studies say that an individual must see your name ten times before they will develop a certain amount of recognition. Other studies have it at fifteen and upwards of twenty-five times. Personally, I think it’s much higher—a big whopping fifty times. I used to work for a few politicians, and I know what name recognition is all about. Politicians thrive on it.

Basically, what we’re talking about here is branding. It’s the same thing that was done with the Gecko lizard, Colonel Sanders, and little Miss Wendy with her red pigtails. You see the logos for these companies or hear the names I just mentioned and you automatically think Quaker Oats, KFC, and Wendy’s. And you’ve got to do the same thing for yourself.

So where do you start? Well, in all likelihood, you’re going to end up on Yahoo groups chatting and posting excerpts of your books. And you’ll end up on social networking sites too. You’ll need a visible presence as many places as possible. You can’t be shy about promoting. The first thing I recommend is that you have a website or blog acct—a home for you. Lots of places offer free hosting services—Wordpress and Blogger are both free. And it really doesn’t cost all that much to buy a domain name, just a few bucks and you’re a dot com. Blogger and Wordpress are both easy to operate. If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me.

But how does all of this relate to branding? The design of your website or blog should reflect who you are and what you write. Natalie Dae just redid my website. which is a Wordpress site, and then she added a Blogger type blog for me because I love the functionality of Blogger. It was truly made for blogging. (Even with Blogger, though, you can buy a domain name and become a dot com.) So I basically have two sites that are linked together.

The design of my site is sort of retro, fun, and sassy. The colors are light and welcoming—at least I think so. The lady on the site is what I now use as my avatar on social networking sites. I also have a banner to match the site that I use in emails and any other place I can find.



I’d had the same avatar for three long years, but I decided I needed a new look. So you’ll be seeing my Tess Lady all over the place now. She is what readers will identify me with. Every time they see that avatar or banner, they should associate them with Tess MacKall—or I hope so—that is if I do the rest of my job correctly. One thing worth mentioning is that changing your avatars or banners often is not a good thing. I hadn’t really promoted in a while and decided I could afford the change. And now that I’m cranking up for promo again with new releases coming soon, I felt like this was the right time for me to give Tess MacKall a makeover. And Natalie Dae did a fantastic job of it too. Love her design. But you won't see me changing my avatar or design again--maybe not for years--or not even then if it's working. We'll see.

Why isn’t it good to change your avatars and banners often? You’re starting from scratch with recognition that’s why. I see authors using book covers as their avatars and banners are made for each and every new book. And that may work to a degree, but seeing the same thing over and over again works a heck of a lot better. Readers will learn to just see a flash of that avatar or banner—maybe only the colors—and immediately identify it with YOUR author name.

So what have we discussed so far today? That an author needs a website of some sort. Develop a site that reflects who you are and what you write. Make it YOUR home. That an author needs to think “brand”. Use a specific banner and or avatar for posting on groups and social networking sites—anywhere you can use those tools to give yourself name recognition. It’s the author name that’s important when all is said and done. You want readers to enjoy your books, but to remember your name so they buy YOUR books, whatever the title.

Next week, we’ll get into specific places and ways to promote as well as touch base on the appeal of pen names and what a website SHOULD have on it. So, please, everyone post your ideas. I’ll gather it all together and work those ideas into next week’s post. Looking forward to seeing what pops up in comments!


Regina Carlysle said...

Tess, I couldn't agree more about BRANDING. We hope to sell ourselves as writers because, as you say, books come and go. I've also done the branding thing linking my website and blog and use the same Regina banner and avatar for everything. To me it just makes sense.

Natalie Dae said...

I'm going to be learning the art of promo from you, Tess, because although I know where to promote, I'm crap at it. I have "issues" I need to get over. I'm hoping to enjoy the experience!


Elizabeth Black said...

I need a decent avatar so I may brand myself better. I'm guilty of using book covers as avatars and now I use my headshot. I figure that works as an avatar.

One way I've been able to brand myself is my goofy intro phrase on Yahoo groups: "It's time for hot, screeching monkey sex!" Then I post introducing myself. I always get a laugh with that intro and people remember me because of it.

All I want to know is which kinds of promos lead to sales? There are only so many hours in the day and I'm so busy I can't afford to waste time promoting in a way that doesn't do squat.

C. Zampa said...

Good post, Tess. So many things for a writer--whether new or seasoned--to think about.

I hope to be needing this info soon. And looking forward to your next installment.

And I think your new look is wonderful!

Madison Scott said...

LOVE the new site! I think its gorgeous! Nat does great work.

What you said makes a lot of sense. I think branding is really important. It's somthing I need to look into doing in the near future.

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

I decided to go with and drop the Brown off my name because it's so long, and since my web designer disappeared, I went with a new one and bought the new domain name. I use F.L. Bicknell as my author name now since it's my agented name too. Yeah, I've had to make my presence known again, but people caught on to it fast because they still call me by my given name on blogs and loops.

I'm not much of a chatter on groups except for the two I own and over at GotRomanceAuthors, because it's small and intimate, but I do schmooze on social networks, especially fb and Twitter and myspace.

I've always had more luck with promotion through those than I do on the loops. I think there are more authors on the loops than their are strictly readers i.e. non-writers, but I know there are a few who beg to differ. I feel connecting through blogs and the same people seeing you on them does me more good as an author and helps me with the branding. Most of my posts to the loops are blog announcements and I try to cater the subjects to something that catches the eye and specify if it's writing related for writers, something for readers, or both.

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

Whoops! I hit the button too fast, Tess. I meant to make a comment about your new site. I think it looks great, hon!

Tess MacKall said...

Makes perfect sense,Regina. I was so reluctant to get rid of my old avatar--but you and Nat did a fine job of talking me into it. LOL I love the new one--the new site too.

Branding is incredibly important.

Tess MacKall said...

LOL Yep, Nat, we know you have promo issues. Wonder if they have a twelve-step program for that ailment. LOL

We'll drag you into it kicking and screaming. You'll learn to deal I have no doubt. We all do. lol

Tess MacKall said...

Being busy writing and living a life leaves little time left over for promotions for sure, Lizzie.

Hopefully, with this blog and the one next Monday, we can nail down some successes promotion wise and take the mystery out of it.

Tess MacKall said...

Thanks, CZ. Love the look of your blogsite too. It's perfect for you. You'll be promoting soon enough. And hey, jump in with questions. Answering those questions is all a part of this two part discussion.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya Madison. Yes, branding is important. And it starts with the website and then gravitates to everything you do online as an author. That repeated presence is a must.

Thanks for the kudos on the new site. Nat is amazing. She reads people very well and seems to know just what is perfect for them.

Tess MacKall said...'ve touched on an issue that we can all discuss for sure. Authors promoting to authors. It gets tiresome. Even on FB and Myspace and Twitter, it seems that all my friends are authors.

We have to ferret out the venues where we can find readers. Good Reads was good for that once, and readers are still there, but I've been on it right much lately and I'm seeing the signs that it's more and more authors promoting to each other.

Soooo...what's the answer? Maybe someone can shed some light on this for all of us. But we'll keep plugging away in the meantime for sure. lol

Tess MacKall said...

hahahahahah...thanks, Faith. I adore my new site. It's perfect.

Word Actress said...

Hey sexy ladies - I was just talking to a friend about branding yesterday. I worked in advertising in NYC in the late 80's and there were exact steps we did to promote a product, very similar to how we all try to promote our books. We wrote taglines for the brand. We wrote print ads that reinforced the brand, filmed commercials reinforcing the brand, much like some of the better book trailers. 24/7 we thought about our product, pitching it's excellence to anyone and everyone. Now it's all about Social networking, websites and links. I keep books in the back of my car, always looking for new opportunities to promote it. Then of course I have to write and finish my second book which I'm hoping to finish in NaNo which started today. Oh, let's just sprinkle Pink's Glitter in the Air all over our precious book babies and hope they find their way into happy reader's hands. Can u tell I'm already crazed by NaNo???

P. Robinson said...

I love your new site as well Tess. As far as the branding goes- you couldn't be more right. A quick Google search will let you know if your name is getting out there or not. There are so many free ways to get your name up there on Google.

I leave cards everywhere I go, post on BDSM yahoo groups because that is a lot of what I write and blog as often as possible. Tags are a wonderful thing!

Great topic!

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

Tess, I've been trying to get back to Good Reads but it's one more site for me to have to keep up with.

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Word Actress. Yep, we can all take a page from the big guys/gals up in NYC with the issue of branding. You just keep shoving it in the faces of your target audience. Period.

Book trailers? I love book trailers. But to get the very good ones, it can get right pricey. I have one for one book that I absolutely adore. Great soundtrack, great pics and text. I plan on having a book trailer designed for each of my upcoming releases. Thanks for reminding me of that. I'll definitely mention it in Monday's post.

I wish you luck with NaNO. I can't do it. I'd be crazier than I already am. lol Let us know how NaNO works out for ya!

Tess MacKall said...

Kissa--I consider you the guru of freebies. Just emailed you a couple of days ago about all the freebies too. lol

Anything you can suggest for authors would be more than welcome. Leaving cards everywhere you can is a good thing. And branding yourself with a particular genre can help too. Focus in general, is good.

Tess MacKall said...

Oh Faith, I know. It's hard to keep up with all of them. But I tell ya, on Twitter, I just use it to put out blog posts. I can't get the hang of that 140 characters to save my life. I talk way too much for that. lol

I'm trying right now to split my time between FB, Good Reads, and MySpace. We'll see how long I hold up. lol

Nicole Zoltack said...

Your site looks awesome, Tess!

As for promoting, I've pretty much stopped promoting on the loops. Not sure it's worth it. Instead, I focus more on my blog, and my sales have remained the same, even increased a little. I try to comment on other blogs and just be available, and I think that is making the difference, being a person, not just promoing for the sake of 'buy my book!'

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Thanks for the info, Tess. I've always felt like we, as authors, were piranhas in a tank feeding off each other. We're not reaching many readers on loops at all.

Insanity is...doing something over and over just the same way and expecting different results. It's not gonna happen. I look forward to your next post!

Karenna Colcroft said...

I'm like Natalie... I know some of the stuff to do to promote, but I stink at doing it. On the other hand, I do what other authors say works wonders for them and get no result whatsoever.

When I was younger, no one ever came to the parties I invited them to... sometimes I feel like promoting is the same way for me. I invite the readers, but they don't wanna come to my party.

Anne Rainey said...

The website is gorgeous, Tess! I love it!

Great promo advice, too. No matter if you're new or a bestselling author, there's always SOMETHING you can be doing that you didn't know about! :)

Laura G. said...

Excellent post, Tess. Promoting is something I've been wondering how to do for awhile. And branding just makes sense. But now I have to give it some serious thought to what it should look like. I'm really looking forward to the next post!! Thanks!! :)

Tess MacKall said...

Excellent points, Nicole. It's important that you make yourself accessible. I tend to agree with you on the importance of loops these days.

I think blogging is much simpler to do and you show your personality when you do it too. Much easier to concentrate your efforts as well.

And commenting to other blogs is incredibly important. One thing I've found when reading commnents on blogs lately is that not everyone makes their profile public. I oftentimes click on an author or reader's comment and can't access exactly who they are. Something about their comment intrigued me enough to make the effort, yet I wasn't able to find out anything else about the person. So if you're an author, make sure when you comment, that someone can click on your name in comments and either find your website or your profile.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya Lisa. I believe you are thinking the same thing pretty much everyone else is. Groups are time consuming and not always produce the desired results. I've decided for myself that I'm going to target certain groups.

Belonging to a couple of hundred groups and never having the time to chat there makes no sense. So if an author focuses their efforts on just a half dozen or so groups, I think they might get better results. Something I'm definitely going to work on. Looking forward to seeing you back again next week, Lisa.

Tess MacKall said...

I think we all feel that way sometimes, K. Sometimes being an author feels an awful lot like a popularity contest. You just have to keep plugging away and getting your name and work out there.

Tess MacKall said...

Thanks, Anne. I'm definitely in love with my new site. I'm hoping that opening up the blog for discussion, we'll find out some new things. I already know we're all having some of the same issues.

Tess MacKall said...

LG! How's the packing going? Hope you're not stressing.

Since I'm researching promotions now and Nat and I are planning for a big promo push soon, this topic just seemed to be right. lol I'm hoping I can get some good tips here myself.

I know a lot based on my background in another career--in another life, lol--but promoting books is a bit of a different animal for sure. We'll see how it goes next week.

Unknown said...

I'm interested in learning about promo. I have trouble with branding because I write everything under my own name, erotica, various non-fiction that includes two blogs, book and film reviews as well as feature articles on television shows, films, etc. I have some horror stories and a steampunk novel that have yet to be published. I never planned on using a pen name because I thought it would get confusing with a new name for every genre.

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Melissa,

Well, you've come to the right place. First off, you don't really need a separate pen name for every genre you write. Lots of authors cross the genre lines and keep one pen name. Most do, for that matter. I write contemporary, historical, and paranormal under one pen name. I would never attempt another pen name. For me that would be PROMO HELL. lol But some authors do it and manage it beautifully. But they are much more organized and focused than I ever could be. lol I know authors with as many as five or six pen names.

If you're writing under your own name, branding is no different than writing under a pen name. You still choose a website and overall look with avatars and banners that reflect you the writer. My website, for instance, isn't about the genres I write, it's about me. Brand yourself. You're selling you!
I'll continue to ask authors for their input this week and next week I'll post more--try to incorporate what everyone says and get down to some specifics.

Stop back by.

In the meantime, Melissa, what I'd suggest you do is start looking at websites. Find the type of overall design you like and start thinking about what reflects you as a writer and person. You can even go to sites and look at pictures that you think would make a great header for your site. Come up with a tagline for yourself and what you write. Is there a repeating theme in all of your books regardless of genre? Target that and go from there.

My tagline is "Hotter Than A Sultry Southern Night." The tagline isn't about contemporary, historical, or paranormal. It's about erotic romance which is the thread that binds everything I write AND it's about the fact that I have a touch of Southern in everything I write. Southern locales are very important to me. It's also a bit of double entendre-saying that ME the AUHTOR is hotter, you get it.

Regina's tagline is: "Sexy. Sassy. Seductive." And that says it all for her, doesn't it? Visit her website:

Natalie Dae's is "Romance With Heat."

Anne Rainey: "Burning up the pages, baby."

And Madison Scott's: "Deliciously Erotic."

Not one of those taglines is about genre--but rather the overall theme of erotic romance. Find something that fits for you. I'm sure you have critique partners who would be happy to help you brainstorm something. Between a design you like for a website and a tagline---you'll have the great beginnings of the branding you need that reflects YOU the author.

Hope this helps some.

Debbie Gould said...

This is really great information Tess. Thank you very much. I will be sure to check in next Monday. Those leaving comments have some wonderful words of wisdom as well. Love it! Thank you.

JoAnne Kenrick said...

nice post! I'm glad you're all in agreement that the yahoo groups don't work, I don't like yahoo groups. They bug me. Forums are a much easier way to keep track of who posted what, and who replied -- which genius thought of a yahoo email chat loop? It's just annoying!
what do you all think about Good Reads groups? Is that a good way to reach readers?

Glad I stopped by. I have the author tagline, and the website design that fits. But I haven't got an author banner I can use for posting. Must get on top of that. Thank you!!

Loving this blog!

Tess MacKall said...

Debbie, I'm hoping more authors will weigh in with their thoughts. I'm going to try and be as thorough as possible next Monday. So I'm going to keep promoting the post in hopes others will pop on with what works for them and what doesn't. Experience is always the best teacher, isn't it?

Tess MacKall said...

Jo-Anne, thanks for the kudos on the blog.

Yahoo groups? I really think they are more about networking with other authors these days. I feel there ARE readers who lurk and do read excerpts, but the feedback is, for me at least, not worth a lot of my time. There are some authors who have their own groups and they have a great following with lots of chatter--but that chatter is directed at that particular author.

So my thoughts on Yahoo groups pretty much steer toward--well, if you're going to have one, have one that is for yourself, or for a group of authors that do one together. No outside posting from other authors. Fans only. That might work--then again--you might find yourself with an empty room. lol

Good Reads? I'm really now just getting into it again. I do think there are more "legitimate" readers there than other social networking sites, though. Not that authors don't read,lol, we most certainly do. But when all is said and done, I don't want that promoting to authors only feel.

Debbie Gould said...

I totally agree. This information is priceless when it comes to learning how to promo the right way instead of just bogging down the yahoo groups with the same ole' promos week after week. Which, btw, is what I did the first few years I was published. I didn't know any other way.

Tess MacKall said...

Debbie, I think Yahoo groups were great a few years back---even two years ago. But they have slowly but surely lost their appeal. Someone suggested to me that readers were turned off by the constant promotion. If so, a lot of that can be blamed on those who just drop promo and run and promo companies that do that as well. But, what is a busy author supposed to do. I'm thinking that either having your own Yahoo group and concentrating your efforts there or focusing on just a few groups which you frequent regularly as a chatter and not just a promoter.

Jo-Anne mentioned forums in her comments. I've personally never gotten the hang of a forum group. I notice some authors now going the forum route. Might be better. Not sure. But I'm not going to drop everything and run to a forum either. lol

Unknown said...

Thank you, Tess!! These are awesome suggestions and I will be stopping back for sure. I think it's wonderful that you and the ladies at 3 Wicked Writers are giving back this way and helping others by sharing what you've learned and are learning.

Debbie Gould said...

So far I hve been totally confused by forums.
I would love to chat with readers, but they never seem to reply anymore. I fully believe that if I'm going to drop off an excerpt, I should be ready to talk to anyone that replies to it. I would love to do that, but it just doesn't happen anymore.
Even the chats that are set up for the publishing houses seem to be all authors. Where did the readers go?

Tess MacKall said...

Thank you, Melissa. We look forward to having you back again. And don't forget to stop by and take a look at all the other posts we have here at Three Wicked Writers Plus Two. We like it funny, serious, and just plain out there sometimes. lol Lots of information and lots of things just for kicks too!

Tess MacKall said...

Forums confuse me too, Deb. But there are lots of authors who like them. But every forum I've been on was just more authors posting to authors.

As for promo drop? I agree. If you drop a promo you should monitor for responses. And there just aren't that many if any at all. I honestly believe that readers lurk--but still, I think they simply don't pay that much attention anymore because they have been bombarded by promo.

Haven Isley said...

Hey Tess, this is a topic that may require three days in total to discuss. Are you up for hosting a third day? Because I have another segment to add. You see my challenge is building the Haven Isley brand, but doing so with limited funds. So, if some part of this learning and sharing experience can address where to best spend promo dollars, it would be appreciated. Thanks, Haven

Tess MacKall said...

Sure Haven. Actually, I was thinking today that by the time I get through posting all the possible ways to promote (one way being paid advertising, of course) and then we discuss that--the next step would be to talk about paid advertising and where an author can get the most bang for their buck.

And I'm thinking that talking money might take a third post. I've got a couple of authors I want to email about promotions too and get some advice from them.

Tara Maya said...

Great series, Tess. And I LOVE your avatar! So sassy and sexy. :D

Right now, I have a blog, and a website for my latest sf&f anthology, Conmergence, but I don't really have a unified "Tara Maya" them across the board. I am guilty of changing avatars... not constantly but frequently.

Do you recommend using the same avatar for blogs, lists, facebook, twitter and everything?