“At Your Service” is an ongoing blog where we ask a self-publishing industry professional to describe his or her services, in order to help self-publishers understand the intricacies of each step in the self-publishing process.
Today we talk to Mary Walewski, owner of Buy the Book Marketing, about how authors can market their books on social media platforms.
Walewski studied print advertising in the journalism school at the University of Colorado in Boulder and received her masters in library science at Emporia State University in Kansas. Prior to founding Buy the Book Marketing, Walewski was a “cubical slave,” she jokes, for a high-tech firm. She created a database for the company, managed its archive of information and dealt with emerging technologies.
Buy the Book Marketing has been in business for nine years, and Walewski has helped more than 100 authors market their own books.
Q: What services do you offer?
A: A lot of social media training. One of the things I’ve found with most authors, especially authors over 45, is that they are very uncomfortable with the technology. And so I think that a major part of what I do is to take the fear out of technology and teach them how to use social media first of all… Then I also do a lot of virtual book tours for authors; I will get them reviews with bloggers online. I also write complete social media plans. And occasionally I’m helping them get the actual book published, so I’ll find printers, editors and graphic designers for them. I really like the training. I like seeing (authors) suddenly become confident in what they did and suddenly email me saying, “Look what I did!”
Q: How much does it cost for an author to contract your services?
A: I have a rate of $75 an hour, but a lot of the time I price it out as a project, so it kind of varies by what they want. Sometimes it’s easier to just give them a dollar project figure, and if I go over, it’s on me not them, so I’m not nickel and diming them. But if they come to me and say, “I need to learn how to use Facebook,” and, “Help me put my Facebook page together,” that might be an hourly rate. I know roughly how many hours something will take and then maybe give myself a little bit of margin for error.
The other thing I like to do is combine services. I have a membership site where I have video classes; it’s called Social Media Express. I record webinars that I teach and have them available up there, so a lot of time if (authors) want to learn, say, Facebook, I’ll combine it with a membership to Social Media Express and then some private coaching so that they can watch the video classes. Then when we sit down together, we can get into the nitty gritty of it: what kind of content they need to be generating, how often they need to be posting, what kind of visuals they need up there, do they need to build a mailing list and if they do, what kind of freebies are we going to use to entice people to sign up. So there’s a little bit of back and forth with what they are comfortable with and willing to do.
Q: Do you guarantee results?
A: I don’t think you can guarantee marketing… If the book is no good, all the marketing in the world may not help it. On the other hand, if the author finds the correct niche for their book, even a “so-so” book can find the correct market.
Q: How do you determine what social media site to start with?
A: It depends who the audience is. If someone is trying to get to the youth market, for example, it doesn’t hurt to have a Facebook presence, but at the same time, I’m going to be looking harder at Twitter and Instagram, and maybe they need a blog on Tumblr. or something. If it’s a business book, they need to be on LinkedIn. If it’s something visual, use Pinterest. So it really kind of depends. The one that I’m telling every author to be on is Goodreads. It’s a social media site for readers — how great is that? Also, if they are selling the book on Amazon, which of course I recommend, they need an Author’s Central Profile, too. So start with those two and then maybe add a couple more, but don’t feel you have to be on all of them because nobody’s got that kind of time.
Q: How do you measure the results of social media?
A: A lot of it is through analytics, and luckily the platforms have a lot of them already built in. Facebook has an excellent one. I think Twitter is getting more than it used to. And then (look at the analytics) to your website. If you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, you should have an analytics program attached. Google Analytics is free and very comprehensive. You need to be able to measure how many people are coming to your website from a platform.
Q: What social media sites do you find most beneficial? Do these sites vary based on the genre of the book?
A: A business book is going to do better on LinkedIn, but I also see a lot of business people on Twitter; Facebook, maybe not so much. It kind of depends. If someone is a novelist, for example, and they are targeting women 50 plus, I would tell them to be on Facebook and Pinterest…There’s no real rule. You just kind of get a feel for it. There are so many variables that go into it.
Q: Is there a new social media platform people should be aware of and consider?
A: Instagram is becoming really interesting. It’s not new per se, but it is app-driven. If you are looking to go after a younger group, it’s something to consider. Google Plus has been kind of languishing out there for the past couple years, but when you stop looking at it as a social media and start looking at it as a SEO (search engine optimization) platform, then it becomes a lot more relevant to what you are doing.
Q: What is the biggest mistake you find authors making on social media accounts?
A: They may go crazy the first 90 days and post all the time. Content wise, they are focusing on (getting people to buy) the book too much and not taking the time to really build and engage an audience. Then, after the first 90 days, they may just get tired and stop doing it or they get really erratic in the posting.
This is kind of like dating: If (your date) first tries to bowl you over with attention and then disappears, that’s the end of that relationship. But if a date goes out of their way to engage you in conversation you find interesting, you start paying more attention to them and want to continue that relationship. Social media is like any relationship, you want to have some continuation. Think about the blogs and people you follow on social media and why you find them interesting. For an audience to find you, you need to plan out your content over a period of time and be consistent.
Q: What’s the most frustrating part of your job?
A: People have unrealistic expectations. They don’t see it (marketing) as being an ongoing process. They hope that once they put their book out there, everybody’s going to find it and think it’s wonderful, which would be lovely if it worked that way. There are half a million books published just in this country, and you’ve got to do something special to be above the noise. You’ve got to encourage them (authors) but give them the truth as to what they are going to be dealing with and encourage them not to quit. Most authors will market like crazy for the first 90 days and then stop. What’s real is that they will probably have to continue pushing their books for the next three years.
Q: What are some popular questions new clients ask you?
A: “Do I have to be everywhere?” “Do I have to be on social media?” The answer is no and yes. No, you don’t have to be everywhere. Yes, you do have to be on social media. “Can I hire you to just do it?” is a popular one. I do a certain amount of that for people, but it’s not that they just get to walk away from marketing because I need their input in order to represent them properly. It’s a conversation we have to have on a regular basis.
“Do I need to blog?” Yes, I absolutely think that is the most important part because their website should be the center of most of their marketing. And they always want to know how they can get more fans on Facebook…Facebook is interesting, because it’s becoming more pay to play. They have changed their algorithm to a point where only about 10 percent of your fans are seeing what you post, so you have to do two things: You have to do the organic outreach and have to pay for some ads in order to get yourself out there.
Q: If someone only has 10 minutes a day, what do you suggest that person focus on?
A: Blogging and also repurposing content they’ve already written. If they have written articles in the past, if they’ve given classes, if they’ve had a book, they can blog using excerpts from those things. I actually have a class on my website on how to repurpose content…I say really focus on solving people’s problems, solving your readers’ problems in your blogs…Bottom line, people don’t care that you wrote a book, they care that you have an answer to a problem that they have.
Q: What are your top five tips for beginning authors?
A: 1) Immediately start a marketing plan and start building your platform right away, before you publish.
2) Don’t be in a hurry to publish. If the book isn’t right, take the time to make it right. A lot of people rush it, and then they regret it.
3) Think about distribution. You want to be able to have that book available as much as you can. Really think about where you want to have that book for sale.
4) Consider speaking. At the very least, learn how to speak well in public….If you write a book, you are also the person most responsible for selling it. Being able to talk about your book — in groups, in a radio interview, when pitching a bookstore to carry your book and even to one person — is an important skill. Also, if you combine speaking and selling your book, you are much more likely to make a good living. The hardest way to make money is to sell a $20 book one at a time.
5) Assume it’s a marathon. Assume you will be marketing that book for the next three years.
6) Bonus! Start another book! This is especially true for fiction writers. Again, it’s really hard to make a living off one book. If the book takes off, fans are going to want more. You want to build on that momentum by talking about your next book in your marketing. That way, you have an audience primed and ready for the launch of your second book.
Q: Do you have any other advice?
A: I’d say learn everything you can about the publishing business because there are a lot of people out there who will try to take a lot of money from you. It’s unfortunate but true. They will make you extravagant promises. It’s really up to you to be as educated as you can so that you know what the realities are. And join an organization like CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishing Association) to network with other authors. You shouldn’t do it alone.
BlueInk Review offers credible and unbiased reviews of self-published books exclusively. Visit us at www.blueinkreview.com.
Cassidy Ritter is a junior at the University of Kansas, where she studies journalism, business and global studies and is a correspondent for the “University Daily Kansan.” She is BlueInk’s summer 2014 Intern.