The Black Hat Riddle Bewares Writing

There are serious problems in publishing right now with black hat authors. Nobody is talking about it either, because the cost of speaking out is simply too great. Scammers are increasingly litigious. Dirty tricks abound. White hat writers are suffering in other ways too as readers come to mistrust any name unknown to them, and the only entity with enough power to enforce any kind of justice doesn’t like going on patrol. But maybe there is something else we can do.

My first introduction to the concept of black hats and white hats was not via cowboy movies – I am not American and my own cultural milieu was less focused on that… frontier – but from Philosophy classes as a college student. Particularly what is known as the Hat Riddle (or the Prisoner Hat Riddle).

There are many variations, but in the version I heard, four cowboys – two wearing black hats and two wearing white hats – are captured by banditos who decide to have a little fun with them. They bury the cowboys up to their necks in sand so they can’t move or even turn their heads. The banditos swap their hats around so each cowboy doesn’t know which color hat they are wearing. And then they are asked to guess… and if they get it wrong, they die. Read More…

Email Marketing: Your Secret Weapon Marketing Resources

There is no question that email marketing is the most powerful tool at your disposal; not taking advantage of all the unique benefits of email marketing is really missing a trick. Here’s why.

I’m sure all of you know the power of having thousands of committed readers signed up to your mailing list, allowing you to send each new release into the charts. Even if you’re not there yet personally, this should be something you are aiming for. Every single author should have a mailing list and be seeking to actively grow it.

But before we fly through the basics and delve into more advanced topics, let’s be clear about something: email marketing is not about spam. It’s not about fake intimacy. It’s not about posing BS questions to create false engagement. And it’s not about bait-and-switches, contrived urgency, click-baiting subject lines, or other emotional tricks; that’s what cheesy internet marketers do. Read More…

Coming Soon: Big Facebook Ads Changes Marketing Resources

There is a huge change coming to Facebook Ads which could have a profound effect on the performance of all new and existing campaigns from next month onwards. You need to start getting your head around this now as the change is quite unpopular and the solutions for managing it are all a bit… fiddly.

In short, the new feature that Facebook is rolling out is called Campaign Budget Optimization. You might have seen it in your account already – it’s a feature which allows you to nominate a budget for your entire campaign and then hand the reins over to Facebook’s friendly neighborhood AI and allow it to determine how it should be spent.

Campaign Budget Optimization has been available as an optional feature for several months now so lots of people have been experimenting with it and sharing data – which we’ll get to. The big change is this: from next month, it will start being compulsory. Read More…

BookBub Ads – What the FAQ? Marketing Resources

BookBub is a wonderfully passionate community of over ten million book buyers – and its ad platform is the only one at this scale which is exclusively made up of readers. BookBub Ads is unique in lots of other ways too and I’ve received hundreds of questions from authors over the last few months who are confused about one aspect or another. Today, we’ll look at the most frequent issues… and give you solutions to all those problems.

I’ve been using BookBub Ads for two or three years, I’ve been covering the platform in some depth for my mailing list for well over a year at this point, my dedicated book came out a few months ago, and the course… I can’t quite remember when that launched. Around the same time?

I’ve also run some giant campaigns for authors in a range of genres, as well as my own ads, and compared data and strategies with hundreds of other authors writing every kind of book imaginable. These are the issues and questions which come up most frequently. Read More…

How To Find Your Comp Authors Marketing Publishing

Knowing your comp authors is increasingly important these days, but writers tend to tie themselves into knots with the concept. Today, I’ll explain a very simple way to cut through all the noise and determine your true comp authors, but also detail why that line-up should change considerably depending on the context.

Comp Authors Explained
Let’s start with the basics before scaling up the complexity and getting deep into ads: “comp author” is publishing shorthand for “comparable author.” You might also hear people these days in indieworld using it in phrases like “know your comps,” or “target your comp authors.” Or you might come across the phrase “comp title” more frequently in traditional publishing.

Originally, the phrase was used by publishing professionals as shorthand to describe a given author’s voice in marketing communications and sales pitches. An agent might shop your book to a publisher describing your sizzling romantic suspense as “EL James meets Lisa Jackson,” and the acquiring editor will know right away that she’s in for a dark, twisty story where the sex isn’t just open door – the windows are probably open too. Read More…

Reader Targeting Influences Everything Marketing Publishing

Reader Targeting is yet another concept we have to juggle. It’s no wonder many writers take to the drink, or otherwise lose the run of themselves. Or can be a little… kooky. We have to wrestle with a number of contradictory notions all the time — it’s enough to make anyone batty.

The most obvious is with the writing itself: we need at least some level of ego to push something out into the world and ask money for it. But we also must have the requisite critical faculties to see what’s wrong with it and to motivate ourselves to fix it, and to otherwise work on our craft until the things we make are as good as we need them to be.

(As a famous editor once put it — Nan Talese maybe? — those first few years, when our taste is much more developed than our skills, are tough.)

The experienced author isn’t done with these trying dichotomies though; one in particular that we all continue to struggle with is between our artistic natures, and our commercial sensibilities. It’s not so much about what to write or how to write it — most pros can navigate that part. The battlegrounds are elsewhere, things like cover design, series titles, descriptions, branding.

And one more surprising, perhaps: reader targeting. Read More…

How To Build An Author Platform Marketing Publishing

What is an author platform? Which elements should it contain? And is any of this stuff more important than just writing another book? Perhaps not. But certain aspects of an author platform are important tools for reaching readers and, especially, for holding on to them.

The topic can be confusing as everyone seems to be mean something different by the term. And then this problem is compounded by a lot of terrible advice proliferating, quite frankly. Number-chasing nonsense which doesn’t serve anyone.

Even the term “platform” seems to be quite nebulous and elastic — fertile ground for snake-oil salesmen. Let’s nail that down first: Read More…

BookBub Ads Expert Is Here To Help Marketing Resources

Many people try BookBub Ads and fail. There is a learning curve – no doubt about that. If you tried the platform without adequately preparing, and without knowing how the system works, you probably got cleaned out. I still have scars from my first time. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

BookBub Ads Expert will show you a whole range of uses for Bookbub Ads, from supporting a launch or reviving backlist, to boosting a permafree, creating an international audience, or pushing an entire series at once. And there’s also lots of ninja tricks and killer moves to take your ad game to the next level. Read More…

Book of the Year – Newsletter Ninja Marketing Resources

I’ve been self-publishing for seven years. That’s quite a long period to be screwing up almost the entire time, but I managed it! My whole approach to email was backwards. I did all the don’ts, ignored all the warnings, missed out on so many opportunities to build myself a happy and engaged audience of readers that it causes me literal pain when I think about it. I don’t say this to elicit sympathy. Rather, I hope that my long experience of doing exactly the wrong things can act as a deterrent—a giant sign made of bones spelling out “Here Be Wolves.”

What did I do exactly? I only emailed people when I had a new release. I thought I was being considerate and not clogging up everyone’s inboxes when, in reality, I was only turning up at their door when I wanted something: their money. This was compounded by my slow production speed, particularly with those painstakingly researched historical novels I seem to enjoy writing for some reason. That problem was further exacerbated by working in more than one genre, so the books came out even slower and the emails were even less frequent. Clearly, I felt I wasn’t antagonizing my most loyal readers enough with this set-up, so I decided to have one Frankenlist—my fiction and non-fiction peeps all lumped together—neatly ensuring that everyone really wouldn’t care about at least 50% of the (increasingly infrequent) messages I was sending out. Read More…

Clever Ways Authors Are Using BookBub Ads Marketing

BookBub Ads is the platform where I’ve seen most growth in the last year, to the point where it is rivaling Facebook on some campaigns, especially when you factor in the higher conversion rates you usually see. This means that the amount of ad money I can spend effectively on BookBub — and by that I mean get an immediate return on investment — has quadrupled in the last twelve months.

This might sound incredible, in the literal sense, to anyone who hasn’t cracked BookBub Ads yet. It can be an unusual platform for those more used to Facebook or Amazon Ads, leading to an unexpected learning curve, perhaps. But I find that if you take the time to understand what works on BookBub, it’s the most responsive and consistent ad platform out there. Getting over that first hump is where many authors seem to struggle though. I know that from running an eight-part series on BookBub Ads to my mailing list earlier this year.

Well, there’s help on the way. I’ll have a book called BookBub Ads Expert coming very soon — make sure to sign up to my list to hear about that first and get an exclusive launch discount that will be offered nowhere else — and I have a wonderful guest post today to give you a headstart while you’re waiting for that. Read More…

7 Ways To Market Books For Children Marketing Publishing Resources Writing

When I discovered self-publishing back in 2010 it was, as for many, a dream come true after the familiar cycle of sending out manuscripts only to get a rejection six or seven weeks later. At last I would be able to get my children’s stories out and take the world by storm!

Except, of course, it doesn’t work like that…

As we all know, books don’t sell themselves and Amazon and the other platforms (not to mention bricks and mortar bookshops) won’t sell our books without our help. Of course, a great story, great cover, compelling blurb, appropriate metadata and category selection are all critical to get us off to the right start. However, to introduce and sell your title to your target market – and, crucially, keep it in their line of sight – you also need a robust marketing plan that includes a mix of social media, advertising, email marketing, traditional PR, and (for some more than others) live events.

For authors who just want to be writers, this is a tall order at the best of times. And, for children’s authors, it’s even taller… Read More…

How To Advertise And Sell More Books Marketing Resources

I have a wonderful guest post today from author Nicholas Erik – a skilled marketer with a keen analytical mind, who will show you how to analyze the profitability of your paid ads, so you can sell more books. It’s easily the longest post we’ve had here – over 4,000 words – but it’s worth settling in for this excellent, comprehensive guide which will have something useful for all self-publishers, from beginners to experts. Here’s Nick with more:

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As the title might suggest, this guide is all about how to analyze the profitability of your paid ads to help you sell more books. The step-by-step system outlined within is effective for both promo sites and pay-per-click (PPC) platforms such as Facebook Ads, Amazon Advertising, and BookBub.

If you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll have solid numbers on which to base your advertising decisions—instead of making guesses regarding their profitability. Read More…

Granular Targeting 101 Marketing Resources

I’m pretty experienced with digital advertising at this point but when I got my interview for Google AdWords back in 2003 I had to… Google it to figure out what they did. And I still got it wrong!

I was quite lucky that I first interviewed with Overture (the former name of the digital advertising division of Google’s one-time rival, Yahoo) because I had absolutely no idea how these kind of ad platforms worked, let alone best practices. But I learned fast—Google’s training was excellent.

One thing that was drilled into us constantly was the importance of granular targeting. It might be a little more obvious in 2018, but back then the only really familiar advertising model was the broadcast one. Put your message in giant letters on the billboard. Flood the airwaves with ad spots. Take out full page ads in newspapers and magazines (for the kids: these are paper versions of websites that used to be popular). The basic strategy was a simple, brute force one; if the signal is strong enough, the right people will hear it. Read More…

Welcome to the Superfan Factory Marketing Resources Writing

It’s almost exactly a year since I gave a talk at a conference in Austin which introduced a concept I call “The Reader Journey” – which is a bookish version of a new marketing paradigm that is helping companies understand their customers better, and how to tailor their marketing accordingly.

I’ve spent the last twelve months researching and testing and experimenting, and then organizing all this information into a structure which will help you understand exactly who you are writing for, plus how to sway them with your marketing messages. But also how to treat them after you have convinced them to buy. How to turn them into the kind of superfans that will do the selling for you.

Strangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to The Reader Journey is out now and you can pick up your copy from all these lovely retailers: Read More…

How To Make Killer Promo Graphics In Canva Marketing Resources

One area where the bar has been raised over the last few years is that of branding. The savviest authors know that branding doesn’t just make you look more professional – although that is important too – but also something which acts as a bat-signal to your specific target audience. This book is for YOU.

I said in Strangers to Superfans — releasing in just six days on 25 April! — “If pacing is the secret sauce inside most bestsellers, branding is the equivalent outside of the book.”

As part of my research, I spoke to one author who is expert at it: Kit Rocha. She shared her view that, “branding is an extension of worldbuilding. My covers and my graphics and all of it combine to present an image that enhances what I want to say about my series.” Read More…