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What is the best use of money spent on promotion? One publicity firm representative suggested that there is no firm guideline in terms of percentage of the advance, but rather, each situation must be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Many social media opportunities are free except for the time required, but an author’s time is money, so deciding how much time to invest in social media should be part of an author’s plan.

When the panel discussed popular social media platforms, opinions differed on their relative effectiveness. One marketing expert described Pinterest as a major “time suck,” claiming that to be effective an author must invest significant time in pinning and repinning items related to a passion such as cooking or crafting—but that simply posting book covers was not effective publicity. Facebook can be effective in communicating with readers, but authors should be aware that Facebook has changed its policies regarding post distribution, and that it may now cost $25 per week to push posts out to all your fans. If promotional dollars are available, this investment might be worthwhile in order to reach significant numbers of potential readers.

Twitter can be phenomenally successful, particularly in reaching people “in the moment” because they can immediately click through to watch video, etc., even if they are “on the go” with a phone.

What’s next beyond Facebook and Twitter? Panelists mentioned NetGalley, a service that makes ebooks available to librarians and bloggers for review. Video may be effective, but only if very short, made with high production values, and targeted to a specific audience with a specific plan for how to reach them. The most effective videos are less about the author and the book and more about an associated topic of interest, such as writing tips. One publisher has been experimenting with a live stream of online conversations between authors in a bookstore. The Shindig videochat service allows authors and readers to “gather” onscreen for conversation (Spreecast also offers this service.) Togather is a crowdsourcing mechanism that works similar to Kickstarter; it allows groups of fans to request an author appearance if they gather a sufficient crowd. Smalldemons is a website where readers can go for a sophisticated search of subject matter via metadata. Ganxy is an excellent source for free widgets that can turn your Facebook page into a website by including affiliate links.

The panel agreed that interacting with readers is the key to effective promotion. If you Tweet, you must do so in an authentic voice. Those one might hire for assistance with social media can post “with you” or “underneath you” by using your own comments, quotes, etc., but no one should be posting for you; the author must engage followers with their own voice, without typos, and tweet at least once daily. Answering all emails and letters is important; engaged readers will talk to others about their favorite authors.

Lastly, all agreed that building a list of reader email addresses should be a top priority. Indies who cannot do preorders can simulate the effect by setting up email lists to alert readers to the release; the email sent can then contain an affiliate link. By planning ahead to save interesting posts, photos, etc. for release two to three weeks before the book launches, an author can create his or her own “pre buzz!”

Edie Claire was traditionally published with cozy mysteries and contemporary romance in the late ’90s and early 2000s. After many years of feeling like a failure, she relaunched her career as an indie in 2010, reviving her mystery series and adding new YA romance and women’s fiction releases to the fold. She is now earning way more than she ever did before—and she owes it all to information gleaned at NINC conferences!

Business Briefs

New Condé Nast Writer Contracts Cut Into Film/TV Deals:

The most recent twist in Condé Nast’s attempt to profit from programs made about its publications appeared in new terms offered in its writer contracts. The new contracts reportedly give Condé Nast exclusive film and television rights ranging from 30 days to one year and cap the amount of money the writer is paid for an option or production rights at a level one agent called “bottom of the barrel pricing.” Previously, Condé Nast contracts did not claim film or television rights.

New York Times

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