With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Rebecca Berus
Rebecca Berus is the founder of 2Market Books. She works with a variety of authors on strategic and promotional services to help them find and engage with their audience, improve their platform, and gain visibility. She works to help authors get seen and get read.
Rebecca graduated from Loyola University, Chicago, magna cum laude with degrees in Advertising/Public Relations and English. She is also an avid reader and loves to help readers find great books.
Rebecca has worked on marketing several books, including The Guestbook by Andrea Hurst, which made it in the top ten Kindle Bestsellers on Amazon in February of 2014, and was named a bestselling self-published title by Shelf Awareness and IndieReader.com.
How did you first get interested in book marketing?
I have always loved books and reading, but I wasn’t focused on marketing until I received an internship at Sourcebooks, Inc. as a publicity intern. I really enjoyed this internship, especially the writing and generating new ideas to publicize the books.
I didn’t get into marketing seriously until I became an intern at the Andrea Hurst Literary Management Agency. One of my jobs was to help Andrea Hurst market her self-published titles, and I found that I enjoyed using my skills to help authors find their audience in the midst of all the other books out there. I liked trying to find new avenues for books to be seen by their readers. It’s so rewarding each time my authors sell really well.
As a marketing consultant, you specialize in working with fiction and nonfiction. What is the first thing you suggest authors do to market themselves? And, when should they begin?
The first thing authors should do is to develop a platform. This means they should create an author website and social media pages where they can interact with and attract readers. This means creating whatever social media pages make sense for interacting with their audience. I often suggest that authors have an author Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Goodreads author page.
This should ideally be done in the three months leading up to the launch of an author’s first book, once it is known when the book is coming out, who the audience is, and what brand the author wants to convey. Ideally, authors want to have a professional website and up-to-date social media pages when the book is launched.
How is marketing different if you are a self-published author versus a traditionally published author?
The two biggest differences between a traditionally published author and a self-published author are control and reach.
Traditionally published books have the reach that self-published books—even in 2015—just do not have. What I mean by this is that there are still many organizations, blogs, magazines, and websites that exclude or charge self-published authors. Traditionally published authors still have an easier time getting any kind of pre-publication review, such as Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Shelf Awareness. Also, even when it comes to blogs, many traditionally published authors will be favored over self-published authors.
The upside for self-published authors is that they have more control of their books, so they can easily and quickly set up a price promotion. Self-published authors can change their keywords, product description, and even book cover, whereas a traditionally published author is unlikely to have much if any say on these things. Self-published authors also can change the price of their books and more readily set up a great price promo with advertising. Traditionally published authors are rarely going to have much, if any control, over the price of their book and won’t be able to make their book free, which is often a great way to draw in new readers and get way more reviews.
What does your average day look like working with clients?
My average day is often spent online, since a lot of the marketing I do is on the Internet. I help clients book blogs, set up promotions with advertising, utilize social media, and gain reviews. Some days, I will spend time on the phone consulting with clients. Most days, though, I spend my time online researching new marketing tactics, exploring social media, reading articles, and finding blogs.
What are some of your best strategies you use for marketing your clients?
One of the best strategies I use for marketing my clients is price promotions. A price promotion is when an author deeply discounts a book, most often either to $0.99 or free. Then, an author will book ads such as BookBub, BookSends, or BargainBooksy to draw readers’ attention to the promotion. Price promotions give authors lots of places to advertise and draw attention to their book. They also are a great way to help an author build a fan base and often readers will go on to to read more books by an author they like. Price promos also often lead to more reviews of the book, which is important in selling it to readers.
If authors only want to focus on a couple of social media sites, which ones do you think an author should focus on? Why?
Three of the most important social media sites for authors are Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Twitter is the second most popular social media site after Facebook and can be great for getting out tidbits about books or connecting to an interesting link. To get the most out of Twitter, an author should use hashtags so that a tweet is visible to everyone who searches for that hashtag, not just people who follow them.
Facebook is the most popular social media network with over 900 million estimated unique monthly visitors. Because Facebook is the social media site that most people are on—whether they spend a lot of time there or not—this is a great starting place for any author. Facebook also allows authors to post longer content than Twitter.
Goodreads has over 20 million readers on its site, which means it’s a great place to find and to interact with your readers. Goodreads also has groups where you can interact with fans based on genre. Goodreads also allows authors to create giveaways, and set up a read and review.
New authors often have a difficult time finding reviews. Do you have any marketing suggestions for how authors can get more reviews?
The first suggestion for getting reviews that I give to all my clients is to ask any beta readers they’ve had to post a review of the book. I also suggest to my clients that they ask friends and family to review the book.
The other best way to garner reviews is through a read and review on Goodreads. This is a great way to get a few more reviews to help sell the book and get important advertising spots for promotions. For a read and review, the author offers an ebook to the reader in exchange for a review within two to three weeks of receiving the book. This can often be done through Goodreads groups, which will mostly focus on certain genres.
A lot of the marketing you have mentioned is online. Is online marketing where authors should focus? Are book signings and other in-person marketing efforts valuable?
Most of the big marketing opportunities are online now. Online marketing allows an author to interact with readers in different states or even countries. Almost everyone nowadays is online to some degree and many people are online for hours everyday. This means that online marketing allows for interaction with many different people relatively inexpensively.
Book signings and other in-person marketing efforts are less likely now to lead to high sales numbers. These things still have a place in a good marketing plan, especially if an author’s book is more literary or if these activities are of interest to the author, but these aren’t necessarily where you’re going to sell the most books. A decent amount of sales for books now is done online, either through ebooks or through online purchases. Book stores are having a lot of their own issues and so book signing and author readings don’t draw a huge crowd unless the author is big name.
How important is it for an writer to have a strong author presence? Is blogging a helpful tool?
A strong author presence is always valuable, whether you want to go traditional or self-published. A strong author presence online will help an author sell his or her book traditionally and will help find readers and prospective buyers for books.
Blogging can be a great tool for building a presence online. But while blogging is definitely a useful tool, it’s not for everyone. To have a successful blog, you have to be posting at least once a week. Also, many fiction authors have no idea what to talk about on a blog and so my rule of thumb is that authors should only blog if they have a topic in mind that they will able to post about at least once a week. Also, ideally any blogging authors do should connect back to their book.
Blogging is often most useful to nonfiction authors because they can create short, compelling, and informative blog posts relatively easily by focusing on their topic. For example, if a nonfiction author writes a book on healthy food, then he or she can create a blog where a healthy recipe is posted once a week.
Blogging has arguably become as important a platform as social media. How can authors get their work promoted on blogs?
There are two main ways authors can get their work promoted on blogs. One is through hiring a blog tour company. During blog tours, authors have multiple blog appearances in a short time period, often through a combination of guest posts, interviews, and reviews. Ideally, blog tours should be on blogs that have fans who read book like yours, and that focus on your genre. There are many different blog tour companies out there and some are better than others, but almost all will guarantee you at least 10 blogs in a two week to one month long time period. Using a blog tour company gives an author less control over what blogs he or she appears on, but also guaratees a certain number of blogs in a certain time period.
The second way authors can get their work promoted on blogs is by creating a pitch for the book and sending this pitch out to blogs. To do this, authors must create a compelling pitch as well as compile a list of blogs that focus on their genre. Pitching the blogs themselves allows an author to have more control of what blogs are pitched to, but it also has no guarantees involved.
What do you see as the biggest mistakes that authors tend to make when marketing their own work?
One of the biggest mistakes that authors tend to make is feeling that they are bragging, or that it’s somehow bad to market their own book. Many authors don’t feel comfortable talking about their book with people or mentioning their book on social media. Authors have to be willing to push their limits in order to successfully market their own work.
Another big mistake I see authors make is being unwilling to spend money on the book’s production process and marketing. The cover for a book is extremely important and will often help readers make a decision on whether they want to read the book before they even look at anything else, so a professional cover is key.
In addition, price promotions, where authors giveaway or discount their book, are one of the most beneficial things for marketing, but many authors don’t want to spend money on advertising and/or don’t like the idea of discounting their book. Promotions, if done correctly, can have an amazing impact on book sales, reviews, and ranking.
What advantages can hiring a marketing consultant offer authors instead of them doing it all themselves?
Authors are busy people, often with outside careers, family, and of course, their writing. So, authors often don’t want to use their valuable time to market the book. A hired marketing consultant will alleviate the stress and time an author would otherwise put into marketing a book. Also, a marketing consultant will often be better informed on possible marketing tactics and opportunities than the author and can suggest new ways the author could market the book.
Thanks for interviewing with us, Rebecca!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is currently pursuing her M.A. in English at the University of Idaho, where she teaches composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.