Justine Bylo [00:00:16] And I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark.
Robin Cutler [00:00:21] Thank you all for listening and helping us to kind of build the popularity of this podcast. And it is fairly highly rated already on iTunes. We're so proud of it.
Justine Bylo [00:00:31] I know! I can't believe that people actually tune in to listen to the two of us. It makes me so happy. So thank you to listeners like you for making Go Publish Yourself a thing. It's really great.
Robin Cutler [00:00:43] So we're so happy today to actually talk about one of your favorite topics, which is digital marketing. And today, we're joined by Stephanie Chandler, the author of several books, including The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan: Online and Offline Promotion Strategies to Build Your Audience and Sell More Books. Stephanie is also the founder and CEO of the Non-Fiction Author's Association, a vibrant educational community for experienced and aspiring writers and the Non-Fiction Writer's Conference, which I love, and which IngramSpark sponsors, by the way. An annual event conducted entirely online, a frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, Stephanie has been featured in Entrepreneur, Businessweek, and Wired magazine. So welcome, Stephanie.
Stephanie Chandler [00:01:34] Hey, Robin and Justine. Thanks so much for the invitation to join you.
Robin Cutler [00:01:39] Well, you are one of our favorite people, and definitely I would call you a friend and colleague as well. And I love seeing your presentations, hearing some of the work that you do around non-fiction authors. But a lot of what you teach applies to all authors not just non-fiction ones. Don't you agree, Stephanie?
Stephanie Chandler [00:02:01] Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I have a heart for non-fiction because primarily it's what I write, but for sure, what we talk about certainly applies for fiction writers as well.
Justine Bylo [00:02:12] Yeah, Stephanie is a great colleague to work with, and I enjoy working with her and all she has to offer the writing community. She's fantastic.
Stephanie Chandler [00:02:23] You guys are so sweet. Thank you.
Robin Cutler [00:02:26] So, Stephanie, what do you consider like the most important aspect of digital marketing that authors need to make sure they have in their own programs?
Stephanie Chandler [00:02:39] A plan, I suppose, would be the start. I mean, you've got a foundation of your digital marketing is really your website and your messaging. And a big piece that I see a lot of authors miss is understanding who is your target audience.
Justine Bylo [00:02:56] Oh, that's such a big one.
Stephanie Chandler [00:02:57] It's a huge one. It makes such a difference in your overall success if you understand who your audience is.
Justine Bylo [00:03:05] How do you suggest people figure out who their target audience is?
Stephanie Chandler [00:03:10] So for non-fiction, often that decision is much easier. It's usually built around the topic of our books. For the fiction writers, I get, it's harder to find that. And so, my advice is, find the hook within your book. One great example is an author named Beth Albright, and she writes these really cute chick lit novels that are set in the South. And so, her whole hook is kind of about southern living, and she blogs about recipes for sweet tea, and she's just got this really cute southern living theme. And that's really paid off for her. Because just this past year her books were optioned for television with Lifetime. So, go find the hook within your book. If you're writing romance novels, I used to own a bookstore, and we had a local romance author who would put on romance parties. And she would teach people how to be more romantic in their relationships.
Justine Bylo [00:04:14] I love that.
Stephanie Chandler [00:04:15] I thought that was a really cute idea. So you got to get creative. You're a writer; find something creative to carve yourself out an audience.
Robin Cutler [00:04:23] Stephanie, I think I'm the only Southerner that doesn't like sweet tea.
Justine Bylo [00:04:28] She really doesn't. She really, really doesn't. Whenever she orders it at a restaurant, she always sends it back. It's true.
Stephanie Chandler [00:04:38] That's hilarious.
Stephanie Chandler [00:04:53] Especially when we're self-publishing, we need to do everything as professionally as possible. And a really great way to do that is to have a professional looking website. One that maybe makes you look like a bigger success than you are yet, right? So, think of it as your hub. It's your hub for your book sales, for media, for speaking opportunities. And so, a really professionally designed website can set you apart from some of your competitors.
Justine Bylo [00:05:26] Now, a lot of my authors have a really hard time actually building a website and find it really daunting. Do you have any tips for them to make that whole process easier?
Stephanie Chandler [00:05:39] Yeah, this is a place where, if you can carve out somewhat of a budget, I think it's really worthwhile to hire a professional to design that site. I know there's a lot of DIY options, and if that's all you can afford right now, that's fine, but work toward putting a budget together for a professional website designer. And look at sites that you like. Look at your colleague's sites. And perhaps get a recommendation to a website designer that you really like. It's a creative process. There are tons of freelancers out there that design websites. You can do it very affordably through a freelance marketplace like Upwork. But it's always, I think, good to use a recommendation from somebody whose site you really like.
Robin Cutler [00:06:27] So, Stephanie, do you have any like guidelines in terms of costs? Like what would it cost for someone to actually have their site designed and then hosted? What should somebody expect to pay?
Stephanie Chandler [00:06:43] Well, on the low end, if you are really creative with your outsourcing, you could probably get a decent site done for $500. If you can afford it, investing $1,000 or $2,000 could get you a really nice looking site by a pro. So, there's a big range there. Another little trick for the budget-conscious is to consider purchasing a WordPress template. Templates are very inexpensive. I mean, you can build a whole site around a $20 WordPress website template, and maybe just hire a freelancer to help design it for you or customize it for you. And that can be a huge cost savings.
Justine Bylo [00:07:27] Yeah, I'm terrible at anything that has to do with wedding, or with websites. And for my wedding website, I actually bought one of those WordPress websites, and it was so easy. It was not hard at all. So, that's a really good suggestion.
Robin Cutler [00:07:45] And I can attest to that. It was a really cute website that you did, Justine.
Justine Bylo [00:07:49] Aw, thanks, Robin.
Robin Cutler [00:07:52] Okay, so let's move off of website and talk about some other digital marketing. I know, Stephanie, you're really big on blog content on not only your own blogs that you post, but also being on other contributors to other blogs.
Stephanie Chandler [00:08:10] Absolutely, blogging is really powerful on the internet for a bunch of reasons. Really think about it as a traffic driver for your website. If you're blogging on your own sites, statistics show that the more you blog, the more traffic you're going to receive. So that gets back to producing content for your target audience, content that they're looking for. And that is going to help you. If you're regularly blogging, let's say you start out and you blog once or twice a week, watch your traffic statistics with time. Because if you are consistently blogging, Google's going to favor your blog, and hopefully your target audience is finding your content because you're writing the types of content that appeal to your target audience. So the more you blog the better. And then I love guest blogging as well. That's a great way to reach somebody else's audience, especially if they're your intended target audience, and bring them back to your website.
Justine Bylo [00:09:16] Yeah, and I know that at the IngramSpark blog, we do that all the time. We see what's trending out there, and see what people are interested in, and then go to our experts to have them write topics about what's out there so that we get the most up-to-date information that people are looking for. And it's really effective. So, great, great advice.
Robin Cutler [00:09:46] So in terms of just social media in general, Stephanie, I know I often hear from authors that go. When I ask them, "Do you have your content up on YouTube? Do you have a video of yourself talking about your book and your motivation for your books? Do you have Facebook? " They just groan and say, "It's hard enough for me just to write my book, much less do social media. " What advice do you have about that?
Stephanie Chandler [00:10:17] I hear that all the time. And the fact is, social media is, unfortunately, it's not a fad. It's not going anywhere. We kind of have to adjust and use it if we want to be successful. And my feeling is that successful authors build tribes. So, you don't have to embrace all of social media, and that's the good news, and maybe that's where people feel completely overwhelmed. Like, I have to do Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube. You don't. You don't have to master them all. Pick one or two and do those really well, and find your audience. If you're targeting a younger group, Instagram is where you should probably spend your time. If you're writing business related books, spend your time on LinkedIn. More general audiences are found with Twitter and Facebook. But the real key gets down to relevant content. If you think about your blog, that, to me, is the heart of your social media strategy. So you're sharing your blog content. And social media can often work like a search engine. People use Twitter and Instagram looking for content they're interested in. And if you think about sharing your blog content, you're driving traffic back to your site through these sites. And there's just so much power to be found in doing social media well, and it can be done, honestly, in 20 minutes a day or less.
Justine Bylo [00:11:45] Yeah, and tools like Hootsuite make that so possible because I am so lazy when it comes to social media, and I hate doing it like most authors. And yeah, I schedule everything, and then it goes out. It's great. And then something pops into my mind, yeah, I send that tweet. But, oh gosh, Hootsuite people. It's fantastic.
Stephanie Chandler [00:12:08] I totally agree. Schedule as much as you can, but also make sure you take a few minutes a day to pop in and engage with your audience. That's really important.
Justine Bylo [00:12:18] Social media is supposed to be social.
Stephanie Chandler [00:12:20] It is social. I've got to share a quick story. We have a member of our community who writes books about wooden boats. And this is his retirement passion. So he decided to start a Facebook group for wooden boat enthusiasts. Within a couple of months he had 2,000 members in his Facebook group.
Justine Bylo [00:12:43] What?
Stephanie Chandler [00:12:45] Social media can be really cool and really fun, and that's how you build a tribe. Think about when he's got thousands of people interested in his subject matter, and his next book comes out, imagine the power of that.
Robin Cutler [00:12:59] Yeah, and you're right about picking the social media where you have the most comfort, where you feel like your tribe is. I know that I actually spend more time now on Twitter. I have Facebook and Instagram accounts, but I tend to really focus in on my Twitter account the most, and that's where I have my biggest audience as well.
Justine Bylo [00:13:25] Robin's like the Twitter queen. She's so good at it and has such a following. I can only hope to obtain Robin's Twitter.
Robin Cutler [00:13:34] And I'm just totally lost on Instagram. I think it's my age, and I don't quite get it, but I know that's where my daughter is and where her friends are.
Justine Bylo [00:13:43] I love Instagram.
Robin Cutler [00:13:45] Okay, so--
Justine Bylo [00:13:45] I post pictures of sunsets.
Robin Cutler [00:13:49] Let's talk about, let's don't forget email. I know that that still is, Stephanie, one of the prime areas that people need to be building their audiences, even through their email list. Is that right?
Stephanie Chandler [00:14:03] It really is. One of my favorite writers is Seth Godin. And years ago he wrote a book called Permission Marketing. And really that's what email is. When someone gives you their email address, they're giving you permission to market to them, and I personally take that pretty seriously because we all hate spammy emailers. We all hate the daily emails or the over emailing. So you want to be building a mailing list, and then treating your list with respect, giving your audience content that they're interested in, and certainly giving them incentive to sign up for that mailing list. And many of us will offer maybe a bonus report, or a short e-book, or maybe it's the first chapter or two from your book, or it's some coloring pages, or recipes that tie into your book. But it's got to be something that makes your audience want to sign up, and then it's a matter of you maintaining that relationship with your audience by providing great content.
Justine Bylo [00:15:09] Yeah, I'm totally a sucker for those emails, and especially a discount code. Gets me every time.
Robin Cutler [00:15:17] Okay, so we've got just a few minutes left here, Stephanie. I know one of the things you talk about in your presentations, because I've heard this, or two things that I want to make sure we touch on, which are pre-sales and about using beta readers when you're actually creating your content. So, if you could give us some advice about both of those topics.
Stephanie Chandler [00:15:40] Yeah, so pre-sales are actually one of my favorite, favorite perks that IngramSpark offers, because you can set up your print book to go into pre-sale on Amazon, which means that you can build momentum ahead of your book release. And so, I like to suggest the strategy of a few weeks in advance of your actual launch date. And here's a big bonus of a pre-sale. If you're marketing, and you've got your tribe, and you announce that your book is available for pre-order, and people purchase that book, that can put you on a number of different hot new releases list on Amazon. So you get this extra traction because your book shows up on these hot new releases in your category. It gives you a chance to make sure your book is ending up in the categories you want it to appear in. And if it's not, you can email Amazon and request some changes there. But pre-sales just help you really come out of the gate with a lot of momentum, especially if you have something of a tribe. And along those same lines, your beta readers, getting back to that build your tribe, I'm such a believer in that. Beta readers are your tribe. They're the people you give early access to your manuscript. And there are two primary reasons you may want to do this. You give them early access for editorial feedback, if that's what you want. But for me, the main reason I work with beta readers is that I want early reviews and some buzz built around my book. So I had a book launch in September, The Non-Fiction Book Publishing Plan, and I put a call out for beta readers.
Stephanie Chandler [00:17:24] My goal is to get 100. I had over 300 people sign up, and said yes to every one of them. Because you may think, "Oh, I'm giving my book away for free," but those 300 beta readers are 300 people that are telling their friends about the book. They're writing the reviews on Amazon. They're updating Goodreads with putting it on their reading list. And what a fun relationship that was. I formed a private Facebook group. I really enjoyed that whole process, and then I tied it in with the pre-sale for the book, which put us on a bunch of hot new releases list on Amazon. So I know we don't have a ton of time to get into that, but I highly recommend both a beta reader and a pre-sale strategy.
Justine Bylo [00:18:07] That's such a great way to engage readers that you may have not engaged otherwise. That's so smart.
Stephanie Chandler [00:18:15] It was really fun. I have to say, I got to know my readers. They were really gracious. I was really grateful. It was a really much more fun process than anything I've done before. It'd been a long time since I'd had a book release. So I will absolutely utilize beta readers and pre-sales for all my future books.
Robin Cutler [00:18:35] And did you do that from your own site? Stephanie, how did you manage your beta readers?
Stephanie Chandler [00:18:41] I created a private Facebook group and invited them in. And not everyone joined the Facebook, because not everyone's in Facebook. But then I also set up a special email list because I had so many. I had 300. I had to use commercial email to reach them. So I was posting updates in Facebook and also sending email to them to keep them in the loop of the launch date plans, and where we were, and here's the marketing strategy. And I put together a partner's page where my beta readers could go and copy and paste pre-written tweets, and social media posts, and download images. And I tried to make it as easy as possible for them to share. And one other surprise that came from that is that many of my beta readers, even though they got to read it for free early, went and bought the book just to show support.
Robin Cutler [00:19:31] Yay!
Stephanie Chandler [00:19:32] I was so amazed and touched by that. It was just a really cool process.
Justine Bylo [00:19:38] Well, you made them a part of it. They wanted to show it off like a proud baby kind of thing.
Stephanie Chandler [00:19:46] It was really neat. Yeah, it was incredibly touching, just personally a really rewarding experience.
Robin Cutler [00:19:53] Well, I don't doubt it, Stephanie. You're one of the smartest people I know in terms of just things that you need to know to be a publisher, and you do such a great job in sharing your experience like you've done here today. So I thank you so much for joining us, Stephanie, and we look forward to reading your blogs. And actually, if you're a non-fiction author, I definitely encourage you to join the Non-Fiction Book Association, the Author's Association. I think that you'd find a lot of value there.
Stephanie Chandler [00:20:30] Thank you so much, Robin and Justine both. This is so much fun. I'm very passionate about all of this, and it's always fun to talk about it. I wish we could have hours to talk about it.
Justine Bylo [00:20:41] You'll just have to come back, Stephanie.
Stephanie Chandler [00:20:43] Okay, deal.
Robin Cutler [00:20:43] Absolutely. Well, thanks so much, everyone for listening to Go Publish Yourself. If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. The more positive ratings and reviews we receive, the more authors and publishers like you will be able to discover our podcast too. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. And for even more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and free online self-publishing courses available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon.
Justine Bylo [00:21:18] Bye!