14 Aug Marketing and Promoting Over the Mountain
Steep Learning Curve
One of the purposes of my blog, For the Love of Writing, is to share my journey as an author through the various steps of the writing process. Currently, I’ve been working to market and promote my third novel, Over the Mountain. See Marketing and Promotion for more on this topic.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times in former posts, the learning curve has been steep for me in this area. Nevertheless, I’m committed to mastering the needed skills and knowledge. I’m also happy to pass along what I’ve learned in the process.
Marketing Budget for Over the Mountain
For the past two novels, I spent most of my marketing budget on getting reviews to drive sales on Amazon. It seemed like every time I invested in services like SPR or OnlineBookClub, I’d get a few reviews and my sales would increase for the duration of the campaign. When the campaign ended, sales and reviews dropped off drastically.
This time around, I decided to invest in building my author platform and establishing my brand as a writer.
I reasoned that if I wanted to stay in the writing business over the long haul, I’d need to take a more farsighted approach to marketing that would reach beyond the day-to-day sale of my books. I’d need to build a base of satisfied readers in my genre, who would be eager to purchase future books.
Building an Author Website
I’d read that one of the most effective ways to build a following is to maintain an author website. It’s a way to provide a link for interested readers to preview and purchase my books, as well as learn about who I am as a person and as an author.
I’d set up my own website on WordPress where I’ve been publishing my blog, FortheLoveofWriting.net, since January 2015. However, I knew I’d need professional help in creating the type of author website I envisioned. Therefore, I reached out to several website designers to determine which one would be the best fit for my budget and circumstances.
The Only Thing You Should Go Local With is Your Produce
I settled on NuExpression.com, a Winston-Salem firm located only minutes from my house. As a courtesy, I contacted one of the out-of-state designers that I’d considered hiring and told him I’d chosen NuExpression because I wanted to work with a local firm. He replied rather defensively that the only thing you should go local with is your produce.
I guess time will tell if I made the right decision. However, I’ve found it helpful to be able to meet face to face with my web consultants whenever I get in a jam. Since I’m writing the content for both the website and blog, that happens rather frequently.
Most issues can be cleared up through e-mail. But when they can’t, I can always drop by the NuExpression office where someone will sit down and coach me through the problem.
In the preliminary meeting with Chris, the VP of Sales and Operations, we talked about the services I’d need to purchase to develop the kind of website I envisioned. I told Chris that I’d want them to design the website and link it to my blog. However, I wanted to write all of the content and I wanted to maintain my blog, with technical support from NuExpression.
The Service Package
We decided on a service package that would fit my budget, which could not exceed $5000. NuExpression would design and build the website, using the content I created. Additional service would include
(1) Web Training
(2) Professional Photo Shoot
(3) Technical support for the website as needed
I had to agree to use their server to host my website for a monthly fee of $75. I’d previously used BluHost, which was much less expensive. However, Chris assured me that their server was superior to BluHost in terms of security and speed. However, I do own the content of my website and can move it if I ever decide to.
I met with Tori, the Director of Content and SEO Marketing, for my web training. She took me through the steps of writing web content for readability and SEO optimization. She also made suggestions about what I should include on the various pages of the website.
My service package allowed for five pages. Based on my goal input and Tori’s experience, we decided on the following topics: Home, Blog, About Kathy, Books, Subscribe. I could have chosen to have Tori write the content. However, I wanted my own style and voice to come through as I reached out to my readers. Thus, I couldn’t find any real satisfactory alternative for writing it myself.
I’ll go into more detail in my next blog about the process of writing web content for readability and SEO optimization. I never realized what a special subset of skills that type of writing requires. For now, I’ll just say that this was by far the most challenging aspect of getting the website up and going.
When I completed the content and returned it to the design team, they presented me with several web designs to choose from. After selecting the one I liked best, they plugged in the content and create a professional, personalized author website for me to proof.
Professional Photo Shoot
The service package included a professional photo shoot to generate high resolution pictures for use on the website and in other promotional materials. Courtney, the Director of Website Design who managed my case, scheduled the photo shoot one morning at the new Winston-Salem Public Library. She’d used that space before and recommended it because the atmosphere is light and airy, with lots of interesting nooks and recesses to use for unique shots.
Courtney suggested I bring a few personal writing props as well as copies of my books. I chose to bring my iPad, two favorite coffee mugs, some pens and pencils, and a small mason jar stuffed with fresh hydrangeas which were blooming in my back yard.
Light was Draining
I decided on casual dress–some navy cropped pants, a white shell top, and a light navy sweater. At the last minute, I changed into a yellow sweater for fear of the navy being too bland. Then I threw the navy one in just in case I changed my mind. I wore my favorite, understated jewelry–gold loop earrings and a gold monogrammed pendant.
We did some shots with the yellow sweater downstairs on the main floor. Then I changed into the navy sweater and we took more upstairs in the study carrells.
Should Have Asked for More Direction
When the prints came back, the light in the pictures with the yellow sweater was harsh, draining my features. We ended up eliminating those pictures altogether for the website.
In retrospect, I should have asked for more direction on how to prepare for the photo shoot. All of the portrait-type pictures were really unflattering. However, a few of the candid shots looked good enough to include. Combined with the shots of the book covers and the props, which I loved, we got enough pictures to make the website look good.
You can see by the picture above that no one will accuse me of photo shopping, although I seriously considered it.
Now that the website is up and going, I will continue to write my own blogs as well as any content that may be added, e.g., new books. NuExpression will provide technical support for adding or changing features on my website. My plan allows one small “tweak” a month. Any extensive changes require additional charges.
I’ve owned the domain name of my blog, FortheLoveofWriting.net, since 2015. That’s considered to be a fairly new domain name. When we were discussing my new website, Chris encouraged me to buy an older name, with as much traffic as possible, to optimize my chances of being noticed by Google. He showed me how to look on Sedo and GoDaddy to find domain names for sale. He advised me to look for the oldest with the most traffic I could find to fit my budget.
I found one I really liked–historicalwomen.com. Since I write historical fiction about strong and independent women, I thought it would be perfect. But when I reached out to the broker, he told me the price had been set at $10,000. That was completely out of my reach, but the broker kept emailing back to get me to make an offer.
To sweeten the pot, he said he was bundling a deal for his client, and could sell it to me for $5000. That was still way too high, but I ran the idea past Chris to see if he thought it was a legitimate offer. Chris said that domain names can sell for outrageous prices–e.g., Las Vegas.com sold for ninety million dollars. However, he felt that we could find one under five thousand that would suit my purposes. He was also a bit reluctant for me to do business with that particular seller, who was apparently not a mainline broker.
Chris found historical novel.com, established in 2003. It was considerably less than $5000 and he thought it would be a good investment for me. I now own the domain name, which will be mine as long as I pay a small annual renewal fee. I can also sell the name if I choose to.
Local is Best
Once I purchased historicalnovel.com, my web designers took the necessary steps to connect the name to my website. Shortly afterwards, https://www.historicalnovel.com went live!
I am delighted with the results and am convinced I made a good investment in my future as an author. Thanks, NuExpresion, for proving that local is best for more than just produce. With my brand new author web site, I now have a home for my books and other writing projects.
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Stay tuned for my next blog on writing web content.