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Posts tagged with: Sara Ramsey

Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Recap

I attended the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing conference in NYC two weeks ago, and I wanted to share my key takeaways with all of you. The conference was geared toward publishing professionals – marketers, publicists, and all the people responsible for launching ebooks and getting them discovered by readers. There were very, very few authors in the audience; I know Bob Mayer was there, and a few authors gave programs during the session, but this was truly a marketing conference. I’m kind of a geek for marketing (even though I also secretly despise it), so I found myself loving/hating all of it – but your mileage my vary, of course!

These are the most interesting insights/tidbits I heard during the conference…if you want more detail on anything, leave a comment and I’ll see whether my notes are helpful:

1) If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: the importance of mobile (smartphone/tablet) browsing is increasing dramatically. The head of industry for publishing at Google shared some Google search stats, and the eyepopping one was that in 2010, 93% of Google queries came from computers; now, it’s 72% and still dropping fast, with those other 28% of searches coming from mobile. Mobile search is only going to continue to grow.

What this means for authors: you must make sure that your website looks great on smartphones. For me, my website traffic in the last month (1943 unique visitors / 2571 total visits) was 41.9% on mobile devices – the iPad was 50% of my mobile traffic, iPhone was ~25%, and a variety of Android phones and Kindle/ereader tablets made up the rest. If someone is reading your book on a mobile device and searches your website to learn more, you want them to see a great website optimized for smartphones. This means *no Flash* (flash doesn’t work on iPads), quick loading, etc. Test your site on mobile devices, and if you don’t like how it looks, work with your web designer to fix it.

2) Your Amazon book page is like your book’s homepage on the web. We heard from Jon Fine, the Director of Author/Publisher Relations at Amazon, and his main point was that when someone searches for your book on Google or other search engines, they’re almost certain to see the Amazon page for your book at the top of the search results. You want that page to be as good as possible, with reviews, product descriptions, etc., and a robust author page that gives as much information as possible about your works.

What this means for authors: do as much as you can with Author Central. You may not be able to control your product descriptions (often the publisher is responsible for this), but you can do a lot on Author Central – regularly update your bio, add videos, add your Twitter feed, add your blog feed, etc. You can also add extras about the book through Shelfari (Amazon’s Goodreads competitor), which show up on the product page for your book. Just a little bit of effort on Author Central can make your presence more robust, which helps you show up higher in search results.

3) Email marketing is a bigger sales driver than any social media platform. Jessica Best from Emfluence Marketing said that for every $1 she spends on email marketing, they drive $28 in revenue. I don’t think that these stats are perfectly accurate for authors maintaining their own email lists – but purely from a time/money spent perspective, my (very infrequent) newsletter is more valuable than anything I’ve done on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It costs some amount of money every month to maintain a mailing list through a mailing list manager like Mailchimp or Constant Comment – but the people who sign up for your mailing list are interested in what you have to say, and you can use Mailchimp to track how many people open it, make sure that it looks good on smartphone mail clients before sending it out, and see how many people subscribe/unsubscribe every month.

What this means for authors: build your email list. Facebook or Twitter could go away tomorrow, but if you own your mailing list, you can always reach your biggest fans. Key caveat: do it ethically! Don’t violate CAN-SPAM law (or public opinion) by adding people without their permission. But I make joining my email list a key way to enter my contests, and I can track to see how many of those people stick around when I send out my next newsletter. I also have a link to sign up to my mailing list in my ebooks – this is easier to do if you’re self published, but it should be obvious how to sign up for your newsletter as soon as someone hits your site. Use something like Mailchimp or Constant Comment, which will help to make sure you don’t break CAN-SPAM law and also help you track stats.

4) Get a few metrics you can measure consistently and act upon – and then track them. Angela Tribelli from HarperCollins spoke about the importance of metrics, which I totally agree with. But it seems that most authors (and I’m guilty of this myself) obsess over their Amazon sales rank but don’t track anything else. Instead, you can track things that you can actually impact – visits to your website, newsletter signups, Twitter follows, Facebook likes, contest entries, etc. Then, if you do a blog tour, for example, you can see whether there’s any increase in averages for those stats in the days/weeks after the tour – if you don’t see any lift beyond your average, it might tell you not to do a blog tour again.

What this means for authors: pick your stats, track them, but don’t obsess. Daily tracking of things like Twitter or Facebook likely isn’t helpful. Instead, you can pick a day of the week or a day of the month, write down all your stats, and ignore them until the next time you need to track them. For me, this helps to decide whether to invest money in a giveaway, whether to spend more time on Twitter, whether to spend money promoting a post on Facebook, etc. This can also be helpful for showing publishers that you’ve built a platform – if you’re able to show steady growth and things you’ve done to grow your platform, this could theoretically help to get a deal.

5) Final thoughts: the jury is still out for me, but I’m starting to believe that it’s less important to do blog tours before a release and more important to spend that time making sure that your profiles and information on all the major platforms are thoroughly updated and have as much info as possible about your latest books. Obviously your website is key to this – your website should always be updated, even if you don’t treat it like a blog. But your Author Central page, Goodreads and Shelfari profiles, Facebook, Twitter, and any other outreach methods you use should be updated regularly so that search results are accurate. The primary goal is to make sure that anyone searching for you or your books finds out how to buy them! The secondary goal, with the help of a good web designer, is to figure out how to get your own site or book higher into the general search results for terms like ‘regency romance’ or ‘best contemporary romance’ – that’s a much harder nut to crack, but it’s worth thinking about.

But I’m not an expert, and I would love to hear what you think – what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, and where you’re focusing your efforts. I’m looking forward to your comments!

Top Five Lessons Learned From My Debut Release

My first book, Heiress Without A Cause, came out as a Nook exclusive at the end of January, and there was much rejoicing throughout the land. Or at least I rejoiced, and my friends all tolerated my rejoicing. The champagne flowed, the congratulatory calls/emails/tweets came in, and I even sold enough copies to be thrilled with it (it reached #69 in the Nook Store and is still in the top thirty there for Regency romance!).

Heiress is coming out on Amazon any second now (EDIT: it’s up now!! check it out here), since the Nook First promotional period is over, and I can’t wait. But on this anticipatory day between the end of my first month as a published author and the start of the rest of my life (cue dramatic music), I thought I would share what I learned and what I hope to change/replicate/avoid going forward.

Lesson 1: Promo Can Suck Your Brains Out If You Let It

Yes, promo can suck your brains out even if you write fun Regencies instead of dark paranormal zombie thrillers. All those guest blogs, Facebook contests, and Goodreads giveaways are like snarling, starving wolverines, and they will happily latch onto your throat, pull you to the ground, and gnaw on your bones. And yet you have to get through it, even if getting through it probably feels like being part of the Donner Party in January — you just have to hope you survive it, and hope your reputation survives whatever missteps you make.

But even though there are a lot of demands during your debut month, try to bat away the wolverines long enough to keep working on your next book. It helps (said with a crazed, maniacal laugh) if you have a deadline for the next project. Otherwise, you could easily keep promoting your first book forever and never write anything else. And that, my friends, makes for a very sad writer.

Lesson 2: The Best Promo Comes From Being Yourself

The best promo comes from being yourself — unless you’re Genghis Khan, I suppose. Although we all still know who he is  800 years later, so as a brand marketer, he was totally a genius.

That’s not my point. My point is that if you’re thinking of how to work yet another mention of your book into a comment thread on someone’s blog, or tweeting your book with every hashtag that has every existed in the history of twitter, you’re probably not having fun with it. And if you’re not having fun, your followers aren’t having fun. People sense when something’s forced and unnatural, or a strategy/gimmick. But if you write the way you want to write, in all media, and stop trying so hard to sell your *book*, you might just con people into thinking you’re a nice, interesting, funny person who must have written a nice, interesting, funny book. And then they buy it. And then you win. And you didn’t even have to conquer all of Central Asia to do it.

Lesson 3: Laugh At The Bad Reviews And Treasure The Good Ones

Note that I didn’t say “don’t read your reviews.” If you’re strong enough to never read a single review, you’re a stronger woman/man/alien (you must be an alien) than I am. But note that I also didn’t say “respond to your bad reviews” or “get your friends to form a posse and lynch the person who left you a bad review.” That’s the stuff of nightmares and will kill your online reputation faster than anything. I stay disengaged, and I don’t respond to reviews — but if I’m going to read them, I make myself laugh off the bad ones. And for me, at least, I can laugh off the bad ones because the good ones are so precious to me that it’s worth stumbling over a few rocks to find the diamonds.

Lesson 4: Do Everything You Can In Advance

And I don’t just mean on the promo side. I mean everywhere. Wash your sheets. Stock up on groceries. Spend time with your family. Give everything a good dusting. Because the week your book comes out, all you’re gonna want to do is refresh your sales rankings constantly, and you’re going to hate the person who wants to take you away from your laptop to make them a stupid sandwich or do their laundry.

On a more practical note, if you write some blog posts in advance, do up some FAQs, select your excerpts, and write up short/medium/long descriptions of your book, it’s all there waiting for you when someone needs it. And if someone offers you a last minute guest blog opportunity, you can say yes happily, knowing that you have a precious blog stockpile ready to send them. It’s like preparing for the apocalypse, except with words instead of canned goods.

Lesson 5: Learn To Let Things Go

Not everything will go well, and not everything will get done. I hate having a messy house, but I’ve let that go for now — which is fine, since I don’t have time to invite people over anyway. I’m not going to get workshop proposals out to every conference on the planet, but that’s okay too. If you can hit most of the important stuff most of the time (writing, promo, bathing, and seeing your family and friends just often enough that they don’t forget your face), everything else is secondary.

And really, it’s just as important to enjoy the ride as it is to, um, take the ride. Even though I felt ridiculously busy this month, I never said no to a celebratory dinner, or drinks at the bar the night my book came out, or anything else people wanted to do to celebrate. If you have people who want to share your success, share it with them. Success has a funny way of expanding to make everyone happy, if you don’t try to horde it like gold in a dragon cave. And the best part of my debut month wasn’t the sales numbers — it was treasuring those moments when my family and friends were there for me.

For those of you who have published, what did you learn from your debut? If you haven’t published yet, what are you most concerned/excited/scared/thrilled about when you think of your debut? I’ll give an ebook, either Nook or Kindle, to a lucky commenter – so fire away!

Sara Ramsey’s first Regency romance, HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, is out now on Nook and will be available at any moment on other ereaders and in print. Her second book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, is coming at the end of March. For more dubious wisdom and bizarre tweets from what she’s dubbed the #sarapocalypse, follow her on Twitter at @Sara_Ramsey or sign up for her mailing list.

Ruby Debut Release: Heiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey

Today I’m thrilled and privileged to host our very own Sara Ramsey as we discuss her inaugural release, the fun and fabulous regency romance Heiress Without a Cause.

After winning the Golden Heart in 2009 and being named a finalist again in 2011 (with the first two books she wrote, but lets all pretend we aren’t green with envy over that), Sara is launching her delightful Muses of Mayfair series with those Golden Heart recognized novels, featuring artistic, rebellious highborn ladies and the rakish lords who love them.

Sara grew up in a small town in Iowa, and confesses to an obsession with fashion, shoes (of course), and all things British. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in Symbolic Systems (also known as cognitive science) and a minor in history. After graduation, she worked at Google for seven years in a variety of sales, management, and communications roles. She left Google in 2010 to pursue her writing career full time.

And now she can add “published author” to her impressive CV.

Heiress Without a Cause

One title to change his life…

A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.

One chance to break the rules…

Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.

One season to fall in love…

Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?

The Latest Comments

  • Darynda Jones: I love this! I learned this fairly early as well. I also learned that sometimes I just have too many...
  • Heather McCollum: Thanks, Jenn! I forgot that you are also a free lance editor! Do you do both developmental and line...
  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: Very sound advice, Heather. I have done the same technique and often recommended it to some of...
  • Darynda Jones: Bwahahaha! I was so wondering where that was going! Did NOT see that coming. Great job, Evelyn!
  • April Mitchell: Congratulations Bonnie!

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