I was reading through the website of Michael Hyatt, the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Besides his marketing director’s advice on how to promote fiction, one thing that really thing that caught my eye was a particularly effective photograph of the author. A lot of authors have a photograph on their website and/or inside their books (sometimes even on the front cover in non-fiction), but a lot of these shots are not terribly effective. Here are some tips that might help you do it better.
A professionally-published novelist usually makes only $1 in royalties per paperback sale. Typically, I’d guess that a well-tailored cost-per-click Adwords campaign could get the costs per incoming reader to somewhere between $.05-.20.
If you’re selling a single book, you almost certainly can’t break even with ads*. If you spend $20 on cost-per-click advertising, you have something somewhere between 100-400 prospective customers and need to get 20 sales to break even. That almost certainly will not happen. If your material is good, I think you’d probably convert 1-3% of your readers into buyers. So attracting 400 readers would probably generate between 1-12 customers. You probably couldn’t break even with that.
However, there are several situations that might shift the numbers in your favor.
The difference between men’s and women’s interactions on Facebook
How to get your content shared on Facebook
One thing that I find both interesting and scary about Facebook is that its audience isn’t gathered around a single interest (like a political site) or even a group of interests (like DeviantArt). If you’re interested in marketing a book online but aren’t web-savvy enough to make your own site, I’d highly recommend giving this a look.
An independent filmmaker is raising funds for a documentary about American comic book culture. Superhero Nation: The Documentary is not affiliated with me or this website in any way, but if you’re interested in this sort of cultural work, please feel free to donate here. ($2 gets you a shout-out on Twitter).
Also, one brief note on titles… When you pick a title for your project, I’d recommend taking something that isn’t already being used as a URL. It’ll make it easier to place high on Google searches for variations on your name.
Site titles play an important role in search engine optimization. A site named “Superhero Nation: a writing advice site” has a much better chance to place for a search like superhero writing advice than a site named just “Superhero Nation.” Site titles also helps draw people into your website by explaining what viewers will get out of your website.
For example, check out how a typical search for Superhero Nation appears on Google. The site name plays more prominently than the name of the article does.
“It’s the most heart-warming phone ad of the year!” I’m not sure that heart-warming is the best fit for NFL Live. I think that the average American man likes his humor a bit more robust and, umm, funny.
UPDATE: We’re in the second quarter now and the ad has played three five times.
SECOND UPDATE: The ad ended up playing nine times, by my count.
Some authors are now marketing their books with videos (book trailers). Frequently they emphasize Hollywood-lite visuals over elements that would speak well of the book. For example, this one for Christine Feehan’s Dark Curse uses a live-action dragon and bats at a decent production level. But the trailer’s writing is atrocious. There’s no dialogue and the text that shows up on the screen is almost too bad to believe.
FROM New York Times BEST-SELLING AUTHOR CHRISTINE FEEHAN.
The bad news is that Hayden Christensen, the same “actor” that ruined Star Wars and Jumper, is starring as Case. Dare I say that John Travolta could do this better? Egads. How could we have come to the point where John Travolta is the lesser of two acting evils? Hayden [censored]ing Christensen.
The Hellboy Quote Generator is out, although it has been technically unreliable. On a comedy scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this a 5: amusing but uneven. It’s a well-done piece of viral advertising, though. (“Let me put this to you as delicately as I can.” *BANG*)
The New York Times has an interesting run-down of cartoon updates, from apparently successful endeavors like Strawberry Shortcake and the ugly-but-popular TMNT series to horrible flops like Magic Earring Ken and Warner Brother’s Loonatics…
Some starting authors expect that their work is over when their manuscript gets picked up by a publisher.No, not even close.Once the book is published, it falls largely to the author to market his work by running promotional events like book-signings.
Learning to host an effective book-signing is as crucial for authors as a good hand-shake is for a politician. Here is some advice on how to hold an effective promo event. Continue Reading »
Authors, particularly new and unproven ones, have to use promotional events to drive sales. Google Analytics can provide useful information about which cities are worth promoting in. The conventional wisdom is probably that the most readers for the typical book can be found in large cities (NYC, Chicago, LA…) But you can probably do a lot better than just hitting up large cities.
For example, we’ve tabulated our numbers for January 2008 and found that Atlanta and Toronto currently have almost as many Superhero Nation readers as NYC.
Seth Godin had an interesting, brief post on organization. He finds that alphabetical order is not the best way to organize most things– he argues that relevance is a better measure of organization than arbitrary letter rankings.
I think that applies to sites as well. Most blogging platforms organize posts chronologically by default, but that’s a terrible way to organize information. If someone leaves and later returns, it will be virtually impossible for them to pick up where they left off. If you wanted to send an article you read yesterday to a friend, your only hope is to search through all the posts again. The only strength of chronological organization is that it’s relatively easy to tell when there’s an update.
Avinash at Occam’s Razor has a better approach: a site-map. He splits his articles into a few rational categories and then orders articles within those categories chronologically. That’s effective because it ties articles together in a logical way. If you liked his first article on web analytics, you can run down the list and find ten more in a row. Avinash’s site-map wisely includes dates. That, too, is effective because it helps readers quickly identify if there have been updates and where they can be found.
I like Superhero Nation’s organization– a combination of widgets and chronological ordering– but that clearly pales before a real map. If you look at the widget on the left labelled “Writing About Superheroes,” you can see that we’ve only included links to six articles there and then added a link to a map for our superhero writing articles. Widgets are a great start, but they will probably grow inadequate as you accumulate content. How many widget-links can you use before people’s eyes glaze over? Probably 20, at most. But we have 500 posts (including 120 quotes of the day and 60 articles on writing).
Wow. Nice job, guys. The TWPL site started two months ago and has attracted 15 million hits (itself an astonishing achievement: I estimate they get 1800 times as many hits per day as we do).
If we assume that a publisher offers the same amount of money per hit ($.0233), then I’ve calculated that our site has so far created $600 worth of publishability. By my estimates, we work (collectively) between 20 and 40 hours a week for this website. I calculate that we earn $.83 per hour. [Update: for the month of September 2008, we earned between $1.20 and $1.75]
Final verdict: I shouldn’t quit my day-job.
By comparison, if we assumed that the author(s) of SWPL worked 20 hours a day for the last two months, Jess has earned $292 per hour. (Minus his/her costs, but I don’t know what those would look like. Traffic control, I guess).
*The publisher says the Observer’s $350,000 number is off but won’t say if it’s over or under the actual number. If I had to guess either way, I’d say the real number is likely lower…
10 days ago, I changed the title of one of my most popular articles from “Helping Girls Write Guys” to “Writing Male Characters” (I explained my reasoninghere). I think that it’ll take 20 or so more days until I have conclusive information, but so far the article has tripled in unique hits over the past ~9.5 days compared to the 10 days before the change. I had anticipated some change, because my target audience is much more likely to use words like male/writing/characters than helping/girls/guys, but the magnitude of the leap surprised me.
Additionally, the article has become more effective. I suspect that the new title retains readers that click the Google link more effectively. “Writing Male Characters” is very straight-forward and serious; “Helping Girls Write Guys” doesn’t sound nearly as helpful.
Before, the article bounced an unacceptably high ~60% of readers. That has dropped to 35%. My preliminary conclusion is that strong titles are critical to retaining readers.
Including readers that bounce after a very short amount of time, the average time spent on the article has increased from two minutes to three. Excluding relatively unpopular articles that are skewed by a few devoted readers (three people spent an average of 30 minutes on one of mine), only my review of Soon I Will Be Invincible and my article on naming characters retain readers longer. And my SIWBI review is 4000 words long.
With the exception of the main site at www.superheronation.com, more readers enter my site through this article than any other.
Post something every day. If you’re gungho enough to actually log on to your site every day, great. If not, write a few more posts than you need and set their timestamps so that they come out once a day. Having one post a day is vastly preferable to a few posts every few days.
Daily posts encourages readers to check your site often. It also reminds your readers that you’re still alive and why they love coming back. (Right, guys?)
Coming up with 7 posts each week is not too hard. I think we have 400 posts over the five months. Admittedly, we have a team of contributors, but to be fair I would venture to say that at least 200-250 of those are mine.
If interested readers see that you haven’t updated in the past few days, they may stop coming. I loved Your Webcomic Can Still Be Saved but it hasn’t posted in quite some time. I no longer check it.
Your readers won’t derive as much enjoyment from the second article as the first (diminishing returns). But it’s just as hard to write the second article as it is to write the first. From an economics standpoint, it makes more sense to stash the second article.
Strategic post timing. I think the most popular time to browse the web is (for adults) around 5pm-8pm. It’s probably around 3-5 pm for students. Target your posts to just before your audience is likely to check.
What should you post? That depends on what your site’s aim is. If you’re trying to market a novel, you can show your writing style with one-liners from your characters, strong scenes or a short conversation between two characters. Character profiles may be useful, particularly if your characters are fresh enough to draw us into the story.
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