Book Marketing – What Works? (Part 2): Interview with Co-Authors Kym O’Connell Todd and Mark ToddPosted: September 11, 2017 | |
Last week we talked with self-published author, Cynthia Vespia, who shared her thoughts on social media marketing vs. face-to-face marketing opportunities. This week, we’ll take a look at other marketing strategies available to authors today and their effectiveness, when co-authors Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd join us on Writing to be Read.
Mark and Kym are not only co-authors, but husband and wife, who are peculiarly in sync with one another. As the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, I had the pleasure of reviewing their Silverville Saga books, which are filled with quirky characters who inhabit a small fictional mountain town where crazy antics are in abundance. They even wrote themselves into the first story, Little Greed Men, and as you will learn, they really are as eccentric as their own characters. They also dabble in ghost hunting and bring their experiences to us in their book Wild West Ghosts and on their blog site, Write in the Thick of Things. (They have a website by the same name, but there you’ll find their books, not ghosts.)
Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?
Mark-&-Kym: We got the idea for the first book in the Silverville Saga after a trip to the 49th anniversary “pilot” event for the Roswell UFO crash. The town was testing the idea of an annual celebration. It was crazy – researcher seminars, abductee interviews, parade, and alien costume contest. On the way home afterwards, we decided there was a book in the fanfare. We wrote half of the first book for fun and sat on it for ten years. An author friend one day put us in touch with his publisher, who loved the premise and said he was interested if we finished the book. We scrambled, completed the project, and he did publish it. Since then, we made a deal with another press, and all three books in the series now live at Raspberry Creek Books. The same press recently published our nonfiction book Wild West Ghosts, which is about haunted hotels.
Kaye: Your Silverville Saga books are about the people who live in a small mountain community in Colorado. Their titles are Little Greed Men, All Plucked Up and The Magicke Outhouse. How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Mark-&-Kym: For us, finding the right title is tough. Our publisher titled the first one! When we had a chance to republish it with Raspberry, we’d come up with what we thought was a very clever title, Little Greed Men. After that, the titles had a strategy: be clever or punny.
Kaye: Why do you think some authors sell well and others don’t?
Mark-&-Kym: So far as we can tell, it’s a mystery. Marketing is key, of course. And much of it falls to authors these days, regardless of whether you use a large or small press. It’s time-consuming and can take more time than it takes to write the book. There are so many additional factors that lead to success or failure, such as cover design, distribution, quality and voice of writing, distribution opportunities. The list goes on and on. The biggest factor of all might be luck.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
Mark-&-Kym: Yep. We’re doing it as we answer these questions. We write every sentence together. We’re so in sync that this isn’t difficult for us. One of us starts a sentence and the other finishes it. We massage the words and by the time we’re done, we have no idea who wrote what.
Kaye: For Wild West Ghosts you videotaped your research and then published the videos on your website/blog. Do you think that helped sales, or helped to grow your fan base?
Mark-&-Kym: As far as book sales, maybe or maybe not. It definitely increased the fan base. Over the six months before publication and the year following, we garnered over three-quarters of a million social media impressions for the book, and we have fans on six continents. We’ve even had invitations from ghost investigators to visit the Great Britain, Wales, Scotland, Germany, and France. We generated tens of thousands of followers through Google Plus and YouTube, but these fans were more interested in our ghost investigations than in buying books. Nowadays, we try to spend our marketing time on venues that cater to readers who buy books. Live and learn.
Kaye: You mention YouTube. Are you using YouTube as a marketing tool then?
Mark-&-Kym: Yes, YouTube is one part of our marketing campaign for Wild West Ghosts, right alongside the blog, FB, Twitter, and GoodReads platforms. And I think it does help grow our fan base — but primarily because of the nature of this particular book. Each blog relating to the book ends with a pitch to buy, and we have close to a hundred blogs relating to the ghost adventures, and each blog embeds the YouTube clips as part of the blog article package.
I haven’t figured out an effective analytics to measure YouTube alone so far as it relates to book sales, since the video clips point people to our blog, where we point people to our books. And we’re simultaneously using all the platforms in an integrated way to reach audience.
Kaye: What type of marketing strategies have you tried with your books? What worked and what didn’t?
Mark-&-Kym: We have a Website, Write in the Thick of Things and author pages on Amazon. We use blogging and blog hops, tweets, Facebook pages, Goodreads and, as mentioned, Google Plus communities to spread the word.
We’ve found book readings to be less productive. We’ve had anywhere from a smattering to three-hundred attendees. But that doesn’t mean we sold three-hundred books. And at one event, no one came. A lot depends on the publicity that your host provides. After spending the gas and taking the time to go, it’s often a wash in terms of generated revenue.
Kaye: Which social media is your favorite for promotion and why?
Mark-&-Kym: Mark likes blogging the best. The 400- to 600-word length is about right for explaining a targeted subject. And we’ve created RSS feeds to share those blogs on our Amazon author page as well as on Goodreads. We also have our Facebook author pages linked to Twitter, so we make sure the first 160 characters make sense.
Kaye: Have you tried any free promotions with your books? Did it help to boost your sales?
Mark-&-Kym: After Mark’s SF book Strange Attractors was left at the altar when a small press folded just two months short of street release and then orphaned (twice) at a large press, he decided to Indy-publish the novel using CreateSpace. The free promotions with KPD Select helped create buzz and boosted sales. We also use the Goodreads Giveaway program every time we publish a new book, and that’s also worked for us.
Kaye: You talk about free promotions. How does giving away your work help sales? Or does it?
Mark-&-Kym: The “free” promotion doesn’t count toward sales numbers but does generate interest in a featured book and often additional Amazon reviews, which is always a good thing. It costs us nothing as an ebook download, and KDP Select handles all that. For whatever reason, the new buzz tends to raise awareness about the featured title, so word-of-mouth usually generates legit spin-off sales. So it’s “free” marketing. 🙂
Kaye: How much work do you contract out? Book Covers? Editing? Marketing? Etc…?
Mark-&-Kym: None. We have an advantage: Kym designs book covers commercially, and Mark copyedits as part of his job as a college writing teacher. So those are already are a part of our professional skill sets. We do have trusted, honest beta readers and a good editor in our publisher. But don’t misunderstand the importance of having competent and professional book designers and copyeditors. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, you have to treat writing as a business and hire out what you don’t know or can’t do professionally. As for marketing, we’re about to try out BookBarbarians, which we’ve heard produces promising results. Stay tuned on that one.
Kaye: What is the single “What do you do” for cover art?
Mark-&-Kym: DIY usually looks like DIY. When Kym designs a cover for either a publishing house or an individual author, she first reads a good portion of the book to get a feel for the content and mood. She asks if there are specific elements the writer wants on the cover, and then she creates several mock-ups to show the client. People do judge a book by its cover. If that cover doesn’t look interesting, readers will pass it by.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Mark-&-Kym: Don’t be disappointed if your first book doesn’t turn out to be the Great American Novel. The market is incredibly competitive, and just because you write it doesn’t mean it will sell. But if writing is your passion, then that should be your goal. That’s why we do it.
I’d like to thank Mark and Kym for sharing a glimpse into their writing and marketing processes. Click on any of the links above to learn more about Mark and Kym and their work. Be sure to drop by next week for Part 3 of Book Marketing – What Works?, with YA author Jordan Elizabeth, who will talk about street teams, and social media marketing.
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