Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ingela Hyatt And Embracing Marketing

Dr. StrangeAuthor: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Marketing...

In the old days (ten to twenty years ago), when an author got published, it was his/her sole duty to plant their butt in their comfortable leather chair, and pound away on the typewriter, producing book after book while the royalty checks came flying through the mail...

Unfortunately, in this day and age of multi-tasking, high-speed Internet, and fast food, once a writer is published, she must don many hats in order to further her career.

Yet despite the numerous articles and discussions on the Internet, and the many romance writer groups, I'm continuously surprised by the number of authors who don't seem to understand how to market themselves and their books. And this isn't limited to epub authors, but NY publishers also expect their authors to do their fair share of marketing as well. In fact, the worse the economy, the more the NY pubs tighten their belts (despite romance selling well), which means authors have to pick up the slack.

So how do you market yourself? There is only one thing an author needs to concern herself with: Author Branding.

What is Author Branding?

Think of Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and J.K. Rowlings. Upon reading these three names you instantly know who they are, what they write, and something of their personalities.

That's Author Branding.

Think of Author Branding as a giant umbrella which contains all your marketing efforts to promote you and your books. So how do you go about creating your Author Brand?

Your Author Website:

Once a reader has finished your book and enjoyed it, he/she is going to want to know more about you and your books. That's where a website comes in. You would think in this high tech Era that we live it would be a given, but there are many authors out there (both epubbed & NY pubbed) who still do not have one. As I reader, I find it extremely frustrating when an author doesn't have a website—that doesn't make for good business.

When I received my contract from Samhain Publishing, the very next day I bought my domain name and purchased website hosting, though it was a month before I actually launched my site.

Worried about the cost? Simply google “domain names” or “website hosting” and you'll finds lots of reputable companies (like GoDaddy.com) who offer their services at very reasonable prices.

A website is the hub of your Author Branding. It is the doorway to you and your books and the single most important marketing tool in your arsenal. But there are a couple of things you must remember to make your website a success.

Your website Must look professional: You have signed a contract with a publisher and are being paid for your book. That means you are a professional, and your website should reflect that. Having your second cousin on your mother's side who has a computer and will build you a website cheap, isn't always a good idea. Unless you've seen their work and are extremely impressed, don't give in to family pressure. Your career is on the line. Your website should not only look good and be informative, but should reflect you and your writing.

Again, worried about cost? Google “website design” and you will find a host of graphic artists out there, including many who create websites for romance authors without breaking the bank.

Updating your website regularly: To keep readers coming back to your website (so they can check out your latest release, etc.) it's important to have fresh content posted on regular basis. This can take many forms depending on the amount of spare time you have and what your interests are. Write articles; post free reads (very popular with readers and sells books!); post additional excerpts from your books (but not so many that the reader doesn't need to buy the book); host contests, etc. You don't need to update your website constantly if you don't have the time, but once a month is good enough to keep readers coming back often.

Here is a list of some authors who have done their websites right (either designed the website themselves or hired someone to do it for them):

Ingela F. Hyatt ( www.ingelahyatt.com )
Jeannie Ruesch ( www.jeannieruesch.com )
Kimberly Killion ( www.kimberlykillion.com )
Kris Kennedy ( www.kriskennedy.net )
Margaret Mallory ( www.margaretmallory.com )
Margaret Tanner ( www.margarettanner.com )

Your Author Persona:

The personality you display to the public is part of your Author Branding. I'm always a little disappointed when I read an author's bio at the back of the book and it says the same old thing: Jane Doe lives with her husband, two kids, three cats and a monkey in Lower Sloblovia. Okay, so maybe if there was a monkey in there somewhere it would be interesting.

Are we not writers? Do we not have fabulous imaginations which prompt us to write story after story? Why not use a little creativity when describing yourself and what you do? We are paid to lie after all (or hope to be paid soon), so why not let go and make yourself exciting, funny, or mysterious?

Lets look at History for an example: Every time the newspapers of the era asked Mata Hari about her past, she provided a different place of birth and nationality. In reality, none of it was true, but it created a mysteriousness about her that no one could ignore. Her fame grew because no one could pin her down.

When writing your Bio, consider using this technique. Be mysterious, or exciting. When I was first published three years ago, my bio read the same old boring way. Until I read about Mata Hari, and got a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) to write a completely off-the-wall bio. If you visit my website, you'll notice my bio has nothing to do with where I'm from, how many books I write a year, or who my family or pets are. It's pure entertainment. In fact, if you check out my profiles for Bebo, Myspace, and Twitter, you'll find that I'm currently living in several different countries at once. This creates mystery and nobody really knows where I'm from or who I am.

Unlike celebrities who are in the public eye on a constant basis, writers enjoy a certain anonymity, which allows us to create whatever kind of persona we want, just remember to keep it believable.

Your Author Photo:

Some of you may be surprised that I included this as an essential for your Author Branding, but believe you me, I've seen plenty of bad photos out there, so many that I just had to mention it.

In this day and age, image is everything. And despite the old adage, people do judge a book by its cover. So if you have a good website, and a mysterious persona, do you really think it's a good idea to have a bad Author Photo?

Case in point: A few months back, I was visiting an author website and, as always, I was reading her bio when I stumbled upon her author photo. It was one of the worst I'd ever seen. Not only was the picture blurry, but she wasn't wearing any make-up, her hair was a mess, and she was sprawled on the couch (either having just woken up or was about to pass out drunk-lol). It did not make for a good impression. Then a few months later, I returned to her website to find she'd had a professional photo taken of herself. What a difference! She was wearing make-up, her hair was done, and the photo was crystal clear—giving the impression that she was a successful published author.

If you still don't think a good author photo is important, think of Danielle Steel. Take a look at any of her mass market or hard cover novels and you will see a photo of her (always different BTW) which portrays a smart, wealthy, and sophisticated woman. All of which is part and parcel to Danielle Steel's Author Branding.

If you can't afford a professional photographer at the moment, then at the very least, get a Sears Portrait. Make a day of it by getting your make-up and hair done before the photo shoot.

Just remember, in everything that you do, you should always present a professional front. Be it your writing, conducting interviews, or marketing. This also includes electronic banners advertising your books (I had to mention this because I've seen way too many bad banners out there, which can actually hinder your Author Branding, not help it). If you don't have the “graphic artist” gene, then hire someone who does. There are plenty of websites who will produce a professional banner ad for a very reasonable price, such as:

Historical Romance Club (www.historicalromanceclub.com )
The Mystic Castle ( www.themysticcastle.com )
The Romance Studio ( www.theromancestudio.com )

So now you know a bit more about Author Branding and how it can help you. But keep in mind that writing is the singular most important point to an author's career, and everything else, including Author Branding and Marketing, is secondary.


Ingela will be giving away a copy of A Knight of Passion in ebook form to one of today's lucky commenters!



You can find out more about Ingela Hyatt and her latest release, A Knight of Passion, at her website at http://www.ingelahyatt.com.

23 comments:

Janet said...

Great advice, Ingela! I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to have the career of Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, or Stephen King.

I haven't registered my domain name, but I know some of the other Chicks have. And Jana has her own website. I've thought about it, but just never got around to it. Looking back, would you advise unpublished authors to have a website before they get The Call? You mentioned in your post that you did all of that after you signed a contract - do you wish you had done it sooner?

Went to your website (it's changed since I was there this spring) and it looks great. Must share that I, too, have a German Shephard (TAZ - Trouble from A to Z) so I loved seeing the pictures of your 'babies'.

I see A Knight of Passion has been re-released. Can you talk a little about that? You mention new and improved - did you re-write or is it just the cover that has been revamped?

And let me welcome you to The Prairies - we're so glad you're guest blogging with us today. I hope you enjoy your visit.

Helena said...

Welcome to our blog, Ingela, and thank you for sharing such good ideas with us. I will follow up on all the good examples you've cited, but later. Right now I need to get on the road to meet with my fellow SRW members. (Sorry you won't be here, Janet, but we'll be thinking of you.)

It's been a while since I've been to your website, Ingela. Must pop over and see the changes. I'm waiting to see how you answer Janet. I'm wondering if it's ever "too soon" to get started on that website presence???

Would love to be your winner today!

Silver James said...

G'morning, Chicks and welcome, Ingela. Thank you for the very useful advice. I'm still working on the branding, as I'm a cross-genre author. At the moment, I have two paranormal romances under contract (one releasing next April), but I also have a romantic suspense (with paranormal overtones series) I'd like to market, among other ideas.

I established a "net" presence fairly early on with a website and blog, and bought my domain name as soon as I determined my pen name. I discovered when I set up MySpace that someone else was using the name, too. I would also suggest getting a "dedicated" email address with your author name.

Unfortunately, with the demands of marketing AND writing, authors have to pick and choose what gives them the most bang for the buck. I'm curious as to what you've found to be the most useful. Any hints and suggestions?

Thanks again for dropping by today. The Chicks rock!

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Janet,

I'm really excited to be here.

Wow, you've given me a lot to talk about. LOL

I think it probably is a good idea to register your domain name in advance, especially since there are a lot of people out there with the same name. Also, I would try to get a .com domain. This is the most common domain ending and the one readers will be searching for the most. Unless of course, it's already taken, that try .net, etc.

As far as having a website before you get published, that's really up to each individual. I can't see what the advantages are myself, but I do know that some aspiring authors have had success because they had a website and sample chapters posted. I worry about people stealing your work. Even though it is copyrighted, we all know that theft is prevalent on the Internet.

Ah yes, I love German Shepherds. Those of us who have them seem to belong to a "special club." LOL What a fabulous breed. And of course, I love cats. ;)

It was a real thrill to have A Knight of Passion re-released, especially with a beautiful new cover. But no, I didn't re-write it, I really didn't think I needed to. But I was able to make some corrections and do some minor editing which was really nice.

And thank you for inviting me the Prairie Chicks! Did you know, I use to live in Saskatoon? ;)

Vince said...

Hi Ingela:

I like what you wrote about ‘branding’ but I have a few suggestions to add.

I’m not a big fan of branding. Improper branding or premature branding can be damaging to a career. I compare some attempts at branding to getting a tattoo because everyone is doing it. Branding, like tattoos, can be hard to undo.

Rather than thinking about branding, I suggest that authors learn about the marketing concept of ‘positioning’ by reading the book: “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. This is a classic and the best book on the subject. It is also so well written that it was very popular with the general public.

Understanding positioning will give you a very useful marketing education. This is especially true for new authors.

Let me give a little example of positioning.

Consider Nurse Nancy. She writes Harlequin Medical romances. She favors exotic locations. Should Nancy go out and get a glamour shot like Danielle Steel does? Nancy is young. Does she want to look like an urban sophisticate who writes Chick Lit?

I don’t think so. Nancy should look like what she is, that is, what the readers expect her to look like. As far as this is possible, of course.

As her picture, Nancy uses a snapshot of her with Machu Picchu in the background. She is wearing something that indicates the medical profession. Maybe a jacket, hat, or pin.

Nancy’s “About the Author” section mentions her medical experience and her travels.

Nancy’s Book has a wonderful acknowledgement thanking three doctors, two nurses, and three EMTs for their assistance in her research.

Even Nancy’s dedication ties into the medical theme in a heartwarming way.

Nancy’s afterward mentions more items of interest to readers. Perhaps she tells how to learn more about a medical location or disease.

If Nancy traveled to the exotic location, she can put actual pictures of the settings on her website. (She can also obtain these photos if she has not been to the location.)

Nancy is not ‘branded’ for life as a medical writer but rather positioned as someone who is well qualified to write medical themes of all types.This will not hinder her from expanding her career into other genres.

I strongly recommend that a writer look into positioning before jumping into branding.There is a big difference between the two concepts even if they seem to be the same at first look.

Good luck on your book.

Vince

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Helena,

I'm glad you enjoyed the article. And hope you have fun at your meeting.

I look forward to answering your questions later.

mmccall0911 said...

Ingela! Your advice is so timely. I've been looking into setting up a site and have been studying others while making notes for my own.
Thanks, so much and best of luck on sale for Knight!

Audra said...

Interesting insights into getting your name and books out into the public eye - keep up the good work!

Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

Really informative. The Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele mention was a great example. I think it al comes down to "what do we want to project?" and I think that takes some inner plotting and getting in touch with our long range goals.

Thanks for the post.

Kathleen

marieconley3 said...

Great info! Thanks!

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Silver,

Congratulations on your success!

Yes, writing and marketing does put a lot of demand on ones time.

One thing to keep in mind, is not to spread yourself too thin. When AKOP was first published, I went a little crazy and signed up for a lot of social networks like Myspace, Bebo, etc. And then had a problem updating them on a regular basis. In fact, I recently made the decision to purge some of these places that I don't update anymore. Best to stick with a core set of sites that you enjoy and are easy to use.

As far as marketing is concerned, I think authors need to get their name and their books out there.

Years ago I heard scientist had proven that once a person sees or hears something twenty times, they completely accept it.

That's why we are bombarded with the same commercials over and over again, so we associate a product with a brand name. Like when most people think of mustard, they think of Frenches.

Its the same with your name and your book. I've found that advertising your book cover and banner in as many websites (as you can afford) is a great way to get people to notice you.

As a reader hops from romance website to website and they see your name or book cover each time, they will eventually become curious about your book which could result in a sale.

I've also found participating in chats, be it by yourself or with a group of authors is great marketing. As well as joining in on publisher chats. For example, I've posted only a handful of post in Samhain's most recent celebrations (Last night was their birthday) and the response has been very strong. I always notice the numbers go up on my website and I'll have a surge in sales. Same with guest blogging. ;)

I hope to, in the near future, to conduct an experiment concerning what types of advertising works best. I think keeping your name in the public eyes important for your Author Branding.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for stopping by.

I'm so glad my article could be of help.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Audra,

I'm glad my article could be of interest.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Kathleen,

Yes, exactly. You do need to decide what kind of persona you want to project to the reading public. And if after writing one genre for many years, you want to start writing another, you can either begin changing your Author Brand, or use a pseudonym. In fact, there are some authors, who write in every romance genre, like Michelle M. Pillow and Mary Wine, and that IS the basis of their Author Branding.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Marie,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the article.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Ingela,
Welcome to the Prairies! Thank you for joining us.

You have some great insights into branding and promoting. I have to admit I'm a reluctant promoter; it's just not in my nature. But I know it's completely necessary. I'm not going to stay in business as a writer if no one buys my books.

I find it frustrating, however, that promotion takes up so much time. I'm not going to have anything to promote if I don't have time to write. Do you have any suggestions about better managing my time?

I too purchased my website after I was first published. It came with a .net but I went to Go Daddy about a year and a half ago and purchased the .com domain name as well and "pointed" it at my website. So now you can use .net or .com and either will bring up my website.

Vince, thanks for the excellent explanation about positioning. My question to you is, what if I don't have any particular expertise that makes me stand out from the crowd? I'm plain old Jana who likes to write in different styles and genres. How do I position myself in the marketplace?

Again Ingela, thanks for being here. And it's funny that you should have lived in Saskatoon at one time. When several of us were at a conference in Surrey BC recently, we kept running into people who used to live in Saskatchewan. It's such a small world.

Cheers,
Jana

Elizabeth said...

Interesting how much this has changed. Once upon a time we readers would turn to the blurb on the back inside of the cover jacket.
At the very least, I expect to be able to find out, clearly, what an author has published. My #1 reason for going to a site is not to find out personal details, but to get a booklist. If I can, I'll often copy & paste that list into a memo in my handheld. I am the kind of reader who likes to read "in order" if there is one.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Jana,

I'm glad you found my article informative. And purchasing both the .net and the .com domains is a great idea.

Yes, managing your time for marketing and writing is very difficult. I actually overdosed on marketing when AKOP was originally published. This proved detrimental to my career, because before I was able to get contract with a second book, my editor resigned, leaving 45 authors in the lurch.

When you lose an editor and you don't have a contract with that publisher, it's like starting all over again. But I digress.

Since I have gotten myself back on track, I really pick and choose the what kind of "events" I go to. Advertising doesn't take up hardly any time at all. All you do is purchase ad time from one of several websites and send them your book cover, etc. It's the chats, etc., that can really eat-up ones time. That's what you have to watch.

For example, yesterday was Samhain's 4th Birthday Party at their Samhain Cafe. I knew I HAD to attend as they have over 2000 people on their yahoo group who would be reading my messages. BUT I was determined to finish my chapter FIRST before I attended. And if I missed the party, then so be it, even if it meant missing a few sales.

This motivated me to complete my chapter, and gave me about an hour before the bash was over to wave high, post a couple of excerpts, and a contest then "run" out of there. I caused a stir, got people laughing, and interested in my book. And all it took was an hour of my time.

Same goes with being a guest blogger on Prairie Chicks. It was such an honour when Janet asked me, that I just HAD to do it. And it's been well worth the few hours I've spent answering questions, etc. I love talking with you chicks and trading ideas. This is what being part of the romance writer community is all about.

Just carefully choose your "engagements." Allow yourself time to promote, say three or four times a month (that's a full day's promotion), or an hour here or there during the day or evening once a week.

For example, most chats in a chat room only take one to two hours. And you only need to do two or three per book. Or less than that if you wish. Just do what you feel comfortable with. It's a delicate balance that all authors have to make.

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for stopping by.

You're right, an author's website should provide all the information that a reader wants. Be it a backlist, or bio info.

Which is why you'll find both on my website. ;)

Janet said...

Wow, great information about time management and promotional opportunities, Ingela. I'll be bookmarking this for when my time comes. And congrats on what sounds like a successful chat over on Samhain's birthday bash.

And thanks so much for joining us here on The Prairies. It has been a very informative and fun day :)

catslady said...

From a reader's point of view - it's greatly appreciated. The more I find out about an author and her work, the more likely I am to buy her book.

Kelley said...

Hi Ingela,
Great advice. Some publishers won't sign an author without a website or blog. It is essential now to have these promotion tools. Even before the manuscript is submitted, the author should at least buy her domain name and be ready to put up a website.

I agree with you on the author picture too. Some authors don't want to put a picture up, but I get mad when I can't find a picture of an author. Call it curiosity or whatever, but I want to see what they look like. I think some authors either don't like the way they look or want to create an air of mystery.

kelleyheckart.com