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Marketing Advice from Bestselling Author Catherine McKenzie
Posted by Cynthia on May 07, 2018

Catherine McKenzie knows that being a writer isn’t just about writing. “I run a business called "Catherine McKenzie”, and I’m the CEO and Chief Content Producer,” she says. “I’m also the accountant, the head of marketing. I involve myself in all parts of the publishing process.” The Canadian author has written several works of bestselling contemporary fiction, including Hidden, Fractured, and Arranged. Her latest novel, The Good Liar, is a mystery/thriller set in Chicago.

We asked Catherine to share some of her insights into the process of getting an agent, holding on to her stories, and staying active in her group on Goodreads.

Tell us a little about your writing career. When did you start writing, and how did you first get published?

I always wrote; poetry mostly, but I never considered a career in writing. Instead, I became a lawyer, which I still am today. I recall a few aborted efforts at writing novels in my twenties—after I read Foucault’s Pendulum, for instance, I sat down to write the next Foucault’s Pendulum, then discovered five pages later that I knew nothing and would have to do years of research.

Then, in 2006, I had an idea that would not leave me alone. I didn’t know what it was, but I had to write down. I did and it eventually transformed into my first (practice, lives-in-a-drawer) novel. I queried briefly with that work, but then decided it was too autobiographical to have out in the world. In the meantime, I’d had the idea for what became Arranged and decided to write that. I queried for months on that novel and eventually got an agent. She then queried for eighteen months without success.

In the meantime, I wrote the novels that became Spin and The Murder Game (which I published under a pseudonym in 2016). We decided to submit in Canada and got a “if you make some changes I might be willing to publish Arranged” from HarperCollins Canada. My agent submitted Spin to her instead, and it was accepted in a two-book deal for publication in January 2010. It took an agent change and until late 2011 to get a US book deal.

How did you find an agent?

I found my first agent in the traditional way—researching agents who were representing people in my genre and querying them. I must have queried hundreds of agents. It was certainly part of the toughening up process that all writers need to go through. I also had an experience where a “big” agent was interested in taking the book on if I made a significant change that I ultimately did not think worked for the book. I declined, deciding to believe in the story as I had conceived it.

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How have your marketing and promotional efforts changed over the years? What things worked then vs. now?

One thing I have noticed is a shift from Twitter to Facebook and, more recently, Instagram. Netgalley and BookBub are also more recent players in the publicity market. With Goodreads, I’ve placed a lot of emphasis in the last couple of years with running giveaways to increase my to-reads both pre-pub and afterwards. It’s helped in various ways, including when there has been a deal email that’s gone out and getting placement in the monthly newsletter.

What marketing activities do you believe have been the most worthwhile in helping you reach a large audience?

Placement is so important. I really don’t think there is any substitute for it—in stores, being on the front tables or walls; online, being advertised on Kindle screens or the various other ways that Amazon has to promote a title. The biggest placement for me was getting into the Kindle First (now FirstReads) program on Amazon; Hidden was free for a month to Prime members and this generated thousands of reviews and other metrics that have kept that book selling now, four years later.

What’s been your approach to using Goodreads? How much time do you spend on Goodreads, and what activities do you mostly do?

I use it in two main ways: I run a group called 52 Weeks, 52 Books where I pick a book each week for the group to read and people post their comments on a discussion thread once they’ve read it. I also have used it to run continuing giveaways of my books to increase my visibility on the site. And of course, I read my reviews, particularly pre-publication. It’s a good way to take the pulse of a book. I do learn from both positive and negative reviews.

What advice would you give to other authors aspiring to a successful writing career?

Read, read, read. Once you write a book, keep going. Too many authors get “stuck” on their first novel instead of moving on once it’s done. Figure out one or two online venues that you are comfortable working with and learn how to best maximize that venue.

Got a question for Catherine McKenzie about her publishing career or marketing? Leave a question in the comments and the author will respond to them the week of May 14. Be sure to follow her on Goodreads to see all her updates.

Next: The Business of Being a Writer: Turning Attention Into Sales

You might also like: Marketing Advice from Young Adult Author Jenni James

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

The Business of Being a Writer: Turning Attention Into Sales
Posted by Cynthia on April 12, 2018

Jane Friedman has spent more than 20 years in the publishing industry as a writer, editor, publisher, and professor. The following is an excerpt from her newest book, The Business of Being a Writer.

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To establish a full-time living from your writing, it’s essential to learn basic marketing principles. There is something of a formula, and it looks like this:

The right message + the right words + the right audience = success!

Typically, the biggest missing piece for writers (and publishers too) is the right audience. While you may tune out market concerns during the creative process, once that process is over and it comes to the business of writing and publishing, there’s no way around the discussion of audience. If you can’t reach an audience, your career will stall.

While “word of mouth” plays a powerful role in making anyone’s work more visible, a strong marketing plan can be integral to sparking that word of mouth in the first place. Nearly all great work has to be thoughtfully marketed to gain visibility, and thoughtful marketing starts with understanding of audience.

The wealth of online information and social media means it’s easier than ever to develop a portrait of your audience: where they hang out, what types of media they consume, where they shop. To better understand your readers and how to reach them, here are some starting points:

  • Come up with at least two or three established writers who produce work similar to your own. Study reader reviews of their work on Amazon or Goodreads. When you find a stellar review by a person who is active online, dig deeper—take a look at their profile and their website if they have one, and develop a portrait of someone who could be your ideal reader.
  • Think of a writer similar to you or one you wish to emulate. Which publications have interviewed or reviewed that writer? Do those publications serve your target audience? What can you learn about the audience from those publications?
  • Where do writers similar to you appear – both in real life and online? What events do they attend? Look at their social media activity: What does it say about who their readership is?

Once you know who you are approaching and where you can reach them, that’s half the battle. The other half is communicating well: the right message and the right words. Your marketing communications will usually have one of two objectives:

  • 1. To drive a sale
  • 2. To build a relationship

Platform building is directed toward the second goal and is what most of your marketing communication consists of. It’s an ongoing effort to develop your audience and reach new readers. Big corporations participate in this type of communication as well, and it’s typically called brand building. When Coke runs an advertisement that says “Open happiness,” that’s not a sales-driven message; that’s a brand-building message. Conversely, when McDonald’s advertises a $1.99 McRib sandwich available only for the next two weeks, that’s a sales-driven message meant to directly affect the bottom line.

Sales-driven communications are typically tied to specific marketing campaigns, product launches, or short-term initiatives. This is where you would be most likely to measure your effectiveness, and look at cause-and-effect outcomes. For example: Did my promotional posts affect my email newsletter sign-ups? Did my discount affect book sales? But when you’re building relationships, you typically do not measure cause and effect, because making a sale isn’t the point. Building a conductive environment or making a connection that will lead to a sale later is the point. Be aware that if you emphasize sales-driven messages across all your marketing communications for extended periods, your community will tire of you.

Established, full-time writers know that a large online following doesn’t equate to a sustainable business model. Instead, and engaged audience that helps spread word of mouth leads to success. Use analytics to identify how and where you get the best engagement, and what tools help you find the right audience, rather than the biggest audience. Ultimately, this is the most powerful feature of digital media: its ability to find and reach just the right person, who enjoys your work or who can benefit from your service.

Excerpted with permission from The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman © 2018 by Jane Friedman

Tips for Applying This to Goodreads

  • Find authors in the same genre or with a similar writing style and follow them on Goodreads to see what kind of activity they do.
  • Use Ask the Author to ask successful authors for concrete advice. Read Michael J. Sullivan great answer to one readers' question here.
  • Decide how your Goodreads activity will fit into your marketing plan. For example, figure out when you will run a Giveaway or take questions from readers using Ask the Author.

How do you approach book marketing? Share your tips in the comments below! Jane Friedman will be responding to any questions left for her the week of April 16, 2018.

Next: How to Engage with Reviewers on Goodreads

You might also like: Excerpt from Online Marketing for Busy Authors - Know Thy Reader

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

How Authors Can Engage with Readers and Reviewers on Goodreads
Posted by Cynthia on April 09, 2018

Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, and an attractive spot for authors to promote their books to readers to get reviews. Authors sometimes wonder how to effectively reach and engage with reviewers on Goodreads, especially when they can see how much Goodreads reviews can impact the success of a book.

There are two different approaches for authors when it comes to promoting books on Goodreads that authors should leverage together. There’s the “pure marketing” approach, for which Goodreads provides suite of advertising products for authors to use to build awareness around their books. The other approach involves investing in building long term relationships with readers that can pay off over time.

If you have the time and are willing to invest it, here are some ways to engage with reviewers on Goodreads:

Share your passion for books. The number one activity readers want to see from authors on Goodreads is the books they read and recommend. People go to Goodreads to talk about books, and authors who embrace this unlock the power to effectively integrate Goodreads into their overall online presence.

Successful authors like Celeste Ng and Roxane Gay spent years curating their shelves on Goodreads while concurrently writing their books. The authors have more than 500 books marked as ‘read’ and Ng even created custom shelves to give a better sense of what she’s reading.

Adding a few books to your WTR shelf once a week or updating the status of the book you just finished is all it takes to stay engaged with the Goodreads community. You might choose to take a more strategic approach: review books that are in the same genre as the book you have written, create shelves of books you used for inspiration, or mark books that you loved in high school.

Build genuine relationships. When browsing the reviews of the books you love, you’ll find readers who share your preferences. It might be tempting to shoot them a quick message to introduce yourself and your book, but there’s the risk that the message might be perceived as spam. Instead, follow the reviewer and see what books you both enjoyed, see their reviews and updates in your newsfeed, and then engage with them in the comment section of those reviews and updates. Engage with the reviewer over a shared passion for reading. Remember: relationships take time to cultivate so don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results.

Know when to mention your book. There are many areas where authors can talk about their own book, and guess what? Your book page is one of them. Reviewing your own book is allowed as long as it’s clear that the work you’re reviewing is your own. Approach the review space of your own book like you would writing a foreword, adding additional insights that didn’t make it into the blurb (see an example here) and sharing occasional updates.

While you’re on the book page, avoid responding to reviews about your own book. Even if you like a particularly positive review of your own book, resist the urge to hit ‘like’ on Goodreads. Instead, follow the reviewer to see what else the person might be reading (hey - if they liked your book, you already know they have great taste!) and start engaging with them about books you both enjoyed.

Let reviewers contact you. Ask the Author allows authors to take questions from readers anywhere in the world, at any time. The questions aren’t public until the author chooses to answer them, and it’s perfectly fine to skip questions. Check your Author Dashboard for new questions regularly and tell readers to ask you questions using Ask the Author by sharing the link to your Goodreads profile on your website, newsletter, blog, or social media account.

You can talk about your book through Ask the Author – in fact, we encourage it by asking “Where did you get your idea for your most recent book?” – but you can use it in many other creative ways as well: share some original writing or personal insights on yourself. Have a friend ask you a question that you can respond to, or even ask yourself a question!

Readers might occasionally send you a message telling you how much they loved your book, and if you feel comfortable engaging with readers that way, go for it. If they request for a free copy of your book, feel free to send them a copy, but don’t feel obligated to accommodate that if your budget doesn’t allow for it. A friendly decline “I’m out of review copies at the moment, but you can follow me for updates on when I get more” can work.

When authors take this long-term approach and invest in building a community on Goodreads, they find their time spent on Goodreads becomes much richer.

How do you engage with readers? Tell us in the comments below!

Next: The Business of Being a Writer: Turning Attention Into Sales

You might also like: Five Things Writers Need to Know Before Publishing Their First Book

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Marketing Advice from Successful Young Adult Author Jenni James
Posted by Cynthia on March 29, 2018

Jenni James wasn’t born a writer, but in 2008 she sat down to get a story out of her mind and onto the page. After numerous re-writes and feedback from readers on Wattpad, that story would eventually become her book, Pride & Popularity, which she published in 2011. Seeing how well a modern adaptation of a classic story resonated with readers, she kept writing. Despite plenty of personal and professional setbacks over the years, Jenni is now the successful author of forty books and several screenplays. One of her books, Not Cinderella’s Type, was turned into a movie and is currently streaming on Amazon. She released the third book in her Regency Romance Series last month, with quite a few more books planned to be written and released this year.

We asked the mother of eleven (!) to share her publishing journey with us and tell us how she arrived at her happily ever after.

Tell us a little about how you started out writing your stories. What motivated and inspired you?

I never wanted to be an author—like, ever. I loved reading books but thought writing one would be too hard. Then in 2008 a story wouldn’t leave me alone. It literally kept me awake for three nights in a row. I typed out the first chapter just so I could get sleep! The next day I began to wonder what was going to happen in chapter two. I ended up writing my first book, Pride & Popularity, in six weeks just so I could finish it.

When did you feel ready to publish your stories, and how did you decide to approach that?

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As I was writing that first book I knew it would be published one day. I had six kids when I started writing—I really didn’t have a bunch of time to waste on something just for fun. I couldn’t imagine putting six weeks of my life into something and storing it in a drawer. I did a ton of research trying to figure out the publishing world. I read blog after blog, book after book, and once I learned the craft of querying, I was able to branch out and get people interested. Landing my agent gave me the boost in confidence I needed to really get out there.

What challenges did you face in the publishing process?

My most memorable setback was the day my agent had Pride & Popularity going up for auction in late 2008, right around the time of the financial crisis. I had three publishers interested to buy the book when suddenly all three pulled out that morning. Everything was chaos. They told my agent to come back in six months.

When my book went up for auction again my agent went into preterm labor with her twins—three months early. She retired after that. By then I had done enough research to learn I wanted a little more freedom with my career than the big publishers would have given me. I queried a few small publishing houses. All of them were interested and I chose one and we went from there. The small publishers really helped me build a platform. Now that I have a following I can completely go on my own very easily, and I am now slowly buying back my works and republishing myself.

What else helped you stay motivated through the years?

I won’t go into the sordid details but halfway through 2012 I suddenly found myself on food stamps for the first time in my life, living in my parents’ home, with seven kids to provide for on my own. I hustled like I’ve never hustled before and wrote thirteen books the next year. I pushed through the grief, fear, and pain I was experiencing and eventually bought a minivan and the cottage and small farm I currently live in, all from the royalties of my writing. It is the greatest accomplishment I’ve achieved. Oh, and I found a handsome prince and married him too!

What’s your approach to using Goodreads?

I love to read what others are saying about other authors in my genres on Goodreads. It keeps me on the pulse in what people are reading and what they love. I’ve also had great success with Goodreads Giveaways. Goodreads lets me advertise and put up books before they’re written to drum up early interest. I’ve been able to connect not just with fans, but business professionals, conference committees, and school librarians and teachers. I also see a significant jump in sales every single time I review my own book with a message to my fans in the review. (See an example here.)

Any advice you can share with other self-published writers looking to follow your success?

Start a writing goal today. No more “If there’s time…” Make time. If you’d like to quit your job one day and write books for a living, then you’ve got to meet your goals today. Even if it’s just 500 words a day, it’s a goal. It’s a deadline, treat it as one.

You really need to be looking at ways to create a series as a fiction writer. Continue to build upon what is already there is the best way to get noticed. Don’t expect sales until you’ve got that third book out. Use your free online resources. Goodreads is an amazing way to connect with readers and authors that you love.

Learn to love edits. Realize very early on that all you’re doing is creating the cake. The rewrites and edits are the frosting that actually sells that cake. If you love them then you can whip through them easily, without the vicious pride factor taking over.

Learn how to query. You’ve got to be able to sell yourself and do it well, or no one will see your work. Query newspapers, magazines, conferences to get yourself on panels, query schools to do visits, query anything you can think of, but you’ve got to be able to write to professionals as a professional.

Librarians are your best friends and have all your friends, family, coworkers and contacts, who seem interested, request the book at your local library. If it’s being requested, it’s a great way for others to read the book and build a fanbase. That library might have you come and speak about writing too.

There is real money here, but you have to be in it for the long haul. You have to be constantly looking outside the box. Actually, remove the box completely. It’s not worth it to pigeonhole yourself.

And last but not least, enjoy the ride. This journey is a thousand different experiences and emotions, but it’s so rewarding as well. Your voice needs to be heard. Don’t hold that back.

Got a question for Jenni James about her publishing career? Leave a question in the comments and the author will respond to them the week of April 9. Be sure to follow her on Goodreads to see all her updates.

Next: How to Approach Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - An AWP Panel

You might also like: Marketing Advice from Self-Published Author Josiah Bancroft

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part II
Posted by Cynthia on March 06, 2018

As we're getting ready to talk about book promotion for writers at the AWP Conference, we asked our panelists to share their thoughts and tips ahead of time. Find the first part of the series here, where we asked a publisher and agent to share their advice about acting authentically on social media and building networks and communities.

In the second part of our two-part series, learn how to work with your publicist and why it's important to take care of yourself above everything else while promoting your book.

Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me

"Keep a list of ideas for potential essays, Op-Eds, or short stories that are related to your book, and start drafting them at least six months before your book's publication date, preferably longer. The lead time for print magazines is long, and you might have to submit to a long list of online venues before you find the right one. Ideally, you'll place a few things leading up to your book's publication, and few after it. The more time you have to do this, the better.

Share your good news (within reason)! I often hear debut authors, especially women, expressing hesitation or embarrassment about sharing their rave reviews, interviews, whatever. It's important! We toil for years and years to write our books and they deserve the best chance to be celebrated. It's not only acceptable but necessary to celebrate our successes, which are often very far between. It's good to model that for other writers. That said, everyone does know the friend who posts so many times per day that you have to mute them on social media until their book excitement passes. Be judicious and conscientious about not churning out ceaseless self-congratulations. There is a threshold.

Don't say yes to everything! It's okay to say no. It's important to say no. A lot is asked of writers when their books are published. It's tempting to try and do it all. But, you can't. You do not have endless resources of energy and must weigh the value of time spent against potential benefits.

So, consider each yes. Is there a built-in audience? Good. Will it reach a different audience for your work than you already have access to? Good. Does it sound like fun? Good. Getting burnt out is bad for your book. It makes for lackluster stage presence and interviews. Better to do fewer things and do them enthusiastically and well. You are your most valuable resource. Take good care."

Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart, the essay collection, Abandon Me, and a forthcoming second essay collection, Girlhood. She serves on the Board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Monmouth University and MFA faculty at the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Jessica Greer, Publicity Director at Other Press

"Collaborate with your publicist to aggressively pursue those 'off the book review page' opportunities to find alternative ways to generate buzz and exposure. Share ideas for your campaign with your publicist as well as relevant media contacts you're acquainted with that might be willing to help generate attention for your book. Work with your publicist to tease out the main ground your book covers, especially those points that connect to topics that are a part of a larger national or cultural discussion. It's always beneficial to think of the niche audiences and start building interest at a grassroots level.

Reinforcement across multiple platforms is key. The more active you are in leveraging your own network - among acquaintances, on your social media accounts, through your website - the better.

In cases where events are pursued as a part of a campaign, work with your publicist to be as strategic as possible in your efforts, by taking advantage of your already established connections with various literary communities and or engaging with local venues and bookstores that work hard to promote their events among their constituencies."

Jessica Greer currently serves as Publicity Director at Other Press. Named a 2017 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree, Jessica crafts and executes media campaigns for a wide range of titles, from NBCC Award-Winner Sarah Bakewell’s New York Times bestselling At the Existentialist Cafe, named a New York Times Book Review ‘Top Ten Book’ of 2016, to Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s breakthrough novel The Meursault Investigation, praised by NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ as a, “…tour de force…”. She is a graduate from UPENN and is passionate about generating buzz for the books she loves.

Missed the first part of this series, which includes advice from an agent and a publisher? Find it here.

Heading to the AWP writers conference in Tampa, Florida? Join the panel, Getting the Word Out to learn about book marketing and promotion on Saturday, March 10.

Panelists include Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books; Lisa Grubka, agent at Fletcher and Company; Jessica Greer, Publicity Director at Other Press; and Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me. The panel will be moderated by Cynthia Shannon, Marketing Specialist at Goodreads. See the event details here.

Next: Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part I

You might also like: What Authors Should Know About Joining the Goodreads Author Program

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part I
Posted by Cynthia on March 06, 2018

As a writer, all you want is for the writing to speak for itself. But readers, reviews, and book sales don’t magically appear the moment your book is published. Nobody reads a book they haven’t heard of, and most book promotion occurs months prior to the publication date.

We asked an author, an agent, a publicist, and a publisher to share some of their thoughts and tips about book promotion ahead of our panel at the AWP Conference. In the first of a two-part series, find out why it's important to act authentically on social media and building networks and communities ahead of your publication.

Johnny Temple, Publisher of Akashic Books

"These days, authors hear a lot about the importance of their presence on social media. While it's true that social media can be an effective engine for promotion, I would offer a fairly significant caveat that an author's promotion is most effective when the author is truly familiar with and comfortable in the arena of that promotion. If an author doesn't fully "get" social media, of if the author has to force her/himself to participate in social media, then this is a good sign that it might not be effective for promotion.

Potential book buyers are drawn to authenticity, so if an author isn't comfortable on social media, then authenticity will not come shining through. Remember that social media is just one of many "platforms" - too often it is treated as the platform. Some authors are much more effective talking about their work in face-to-face situations, or only with their peers. Peer-based and in-person promotion can be very effective too!

The key point of "promotion" - including advertising, book tours, etc. - is to get people talking about your book. An advertisement in the New York Times will be largely meaningless if it doesn't lead to people talking about the book, which usually happens as a result of people reading the book. The point of an ad isn't that people will immediately start buying the book in droves - the point is to hook in some people, who then love the book and start talking about it to their friends and community.

Ultimately, the recommendation of a friend or someone who is respected is way more effective in terms of selling books than something as passive as an advertisement. This isn't to say that books shouldn't be advertised, just that the goal of an ad, and pretty much all promotion, is to spark the larger goal: getting people talking about your book."

Johnny Temple is the publisher of Akashic Books and one of the main organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival. He also plays bass guitar in the band Girls Against Boys who have toured extensively across the globe. His writing has appeared in the Nation and Publishers Weekly, among other publications.

Lisa Grubka, agent at Fletcher & Company

"Think broadly about growing your platform even before approaching an agent. If you're not active on social media, pick a couple platforms and try them out. Not every platform is right for every author, so experiment a bit to find what's comfortable for you. While agents of course like to see a large following and high engagement, we understand this isn't possible for everyone. In some instances (certain genres of non-fiction, such as lifestyle), social media is a key tool in marketing the eventual book and is thus important to nurture, but in others (fiction) a website can also be important for showcasing one's writing. In general, it's nice to show us that you're involved in your online literary community in a way that makes sense for you.

Consider starting an e-newsletter. If you post regularly on your own website, or want to share writing you publish elsewhere, readers may be interested in signing up for updates. I've had authors successfully publish e-newsletters on a monthly basis; they'll include news about their own work but also interesting tidbits from elsewhere. A couple authors of mine that do this well are Kathleen Barber (author of Are You Sleeping) and Melody Warnick (author of This is Where You Belong). The newsletters keep their books top of mind for readers and potential book buyers, but they're also just interesting and fun to read.

Get to know your neighborhood bookstores and booksellers. If you're working on getting published, introduce yourself and attend store events. If you're promoting a book, talk to the store staff, and ask if you can sign stock (or very politely explain that you're a local author and ask them to consider stocking your book if they don't already). A novelist I represent recently introduced herself to the events manager in a neighborhood store, which led to a brainstorming session that culminated in an idea for an event (including my author) showcasing the work of several local novelists.

Lisa Grubka joined Fletcher & Company in 2012. She represents a broad variety of authors, including a National Book Award winner and several New York Times bestsellers. In fiction, she is seeking literary, upmarket, historical, literary suspense, YA, and more; and in non-fiction, narrative, science, food, and lifestyle. Lisa began her career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and then the William Morris Agency and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Continue reading the second part of our series, which includes advice from a publicist and an author, here.

Heading to the AWP writers conference in Tampa, Florida? Join the panel, Getting the Word Out to learn about book marketing and promotion on Saturday, March 10.

Panelists include Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books; Lisa Grubka, agent at Fletcher and Company; Jessica Greer, Publicity Director at Other Press; and Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me. The panel will be moderated by Cynthia Shannon, Marketing Specialist at Goodreads. See the event details here.

Next: Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part II

You might also like: The Benefits of Running a Kindle Ebook Giveaway

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

The Benefits of Running a Kindle Book Giveaway
Posted by Cynthia on March 05, 2018

With the introduction of the new Goodreads Giveaway program, authors who publish their books via Kindle Direct Publishing are, for the first time, able to run ebook giveaways and get up to 100 copies of their book into readers’ hands. This has opened the door for thousands of authors who were previously unable to take advantage of the popular giveaway program when it was available for print books only.

While giving away print books remains an option at both the Standard and Premium level, giving away Kindle books comes with its unique advantages.

Authors only pay for the listing, not the books being given away.

Whether you choose to give away 1 ebook or 100, it costs $119 for a Standard Giveaway and $599 for a Premium Giveaway. Goodreads automatically delivers the ebooks to winners at no additional cost, meaning you don’t have to pay for those ebook copies.

“We worked to ensure a seamless experience for both authors and readers,” explains Greg Seguin, Giveaways’ Product Manager. “Creating, entering, and winning a Kindle book should feel the same as winning a print book but with the added delight of getting the book the day you win.”

Authors can give away up to 100 copies per giveaway.

To get more people talking about your book, you need to get more copies into readers’ hands. Traditional publishers have been running large giveaways with 25-100 winners each to help create many bestsellers over the years.

But for authors who run print book giveaways, the cost of the books and shipping can quickly add up. Some authors have limited their giveaways to just one or a handful of winners, and missed an opportunity to create even more buzz. With Kindle book giveaways, that additional cost is no longer a concern for authors who publish via KDP. Authors can get up to a hundred copies of their book into readers’ hands, just like the largest publishers can.

Winners receive the book instantly.

While winners of print books can expect their book within 2-3 weeks, winners of a Kindle book giveaway can start reading the book immediately after they win. This means they’ll finish reading the book sooner and may post a review sooner as well. Run a Kindle book giveaway for 1-2 weeks to get a much tighter turnaround on driving buzz around your book.

Authors can use Kindle Notes and Highlights to promote your giveaway.

One creative new way authors can promote their Kindle Book Giveaway is by incorporating Kindle Notes & Highlights. By signing up for our KNH Beta for Authors (just send us an email at, authors can highlight their favorite passages in their book and share them on Goodreads. One creative strategy: Run a Kindle Book Giveaway right before publication and encourage winners to share their annotations on Goodreads to get their friends talking about your book leading up to publication day.

Depending on the timeline, budget, and goals, a Kindle Book Giveaway might be the more convenient and cost-effective way to promote your book on Goodreads.

Click here to learn more about running giveaways to U.S. residents and here to find some Best Practices for Giveaways.

Next: Know Thy Reader - Identifying and Understanding Your Audience

You might also like: Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Know Thy Reader - Identifying and Understanding Your Audience
Posted by Cynthia on March 02, 2018

Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, one of the first firms to specialize in online publicity and marketing for publishers and authors. The following is an excerpt from her book, Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide.

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There has never been a better time to be an author, because for the first time authors have direct access to their readers. While there is more competition in the marketplace, there is also more opportunity. To thrive in today’s competitive markets, personal branding is more important than ever. Your ability to successfully execute your online marketing plan will help you capture and hold your reader’s attention.

For every author, building a relationship with readers should be a top goal (after making sure the book is the best that it can be). By identifying your ideal audience and reaching out to them, you will be building connections with your readers. As marketing expert and author Seth Godin says, “Make a dent in the conversation among your chosen audience. As more people talk about your book, the more people will be buying your book.” He’s got that right.

Do you know where to send your readers based on what you know about them? Your answer is probably, “Kinda.” Even if you think you know your readers, your ideas are probably way too broad. Over the years, authors have told me interesting things when it comes to their audience. Most of the time it’s half the planet. “My audience is women,” they tell me, or “it’s people who have a job,” or “people who have families.” Being broad and general is not helpful when you are planning online marketing.

Understanding your readers is crucial because it will help you devise the best online strategy for you and your book. Online marketing is customized and personalized. It is essential for you to know your audience so you can serve them best. You should know their age group, gender, interests, and which social media outlets they use and where they hang out online. The more you know about them, the better your marketing will be.

Remember, not all marketing ideas are good. An author once told me that he wanted to tell people about his book from the rooftop of the Apple Store in Manhattan using a megaphone. That might be a creative approach, but it probably would not have sold many books.

Think about your readers. Who are they? Your inclination may be to answer, “Everyone”—but remember, there is no Just think about yourself as an audience for a minute. Do you read every type of book? Do all the magazine categories on newsstands appeal to you? Probably not.

The identification of your ideal readers will play a major role in the quality of your online marketing plan. Since we are all busy, we have to make choices about how best to use our time, and knowing our audience will help us make better decisions. Identifying the community you want to create may take more time and energy up front, but it will save you time down the road.

Excerpted with permission from Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke. © 2016 by Fauzia Burke

Tips for Applying This to Goodreads

  • Browse the “Genres” section of your book page to find out how readers are perceiving and shelving your book. A ‘historical fiction’ title might be getting shelved more frequently as ‘romance,’ so play that up in your advertising to reach those readers.
  • Find out what other books your readers are reading by checking the “Readers Also Enjoyed” section on the book page. This will help you find comparable titles to help you position your book.
  • Follow some of the top reviewers on Goodreads to learn about what kinds of books they like. Following people is the first step in engaging with the community, since everyone shares a love for reading. Comment on the reviews of books you like (animated gif optional) and start building relationships.

How do you learn about your readers? Share your tips in the comments below!

Next: Show Readers You Care with Kindle Notes and Highlights

You might also like: Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Show Readers You Care While Love is in the Air
Posted by Cynthia on February 12, 2018

Looking for that special something to share with your readers during Romance Week? Engage with readers in a whole new way by using Kindle Notes and Highlights.

Kindle Notes & Highlights enable you to create special content for your book and share it with your community on Goodreads. Readers will delight in reading the inspiration behind a scene, the meaning behind a character's name, or an alternative character's point-of-view... the possibilities are endless!

Here are the steps to give your readers behind-the-scenes insights on your favorite passages:

1. Connect your Goodreads Author profile to your Kindle account here.

2. Go to your book on your Kindle e-reader, Kindle iOs or Android app, or at

3. Highlight your favorite passages from your book. Be sure to highlight complete sentences, up to about 110 words.

4. Go to your Kindle Notes & Highlights on Goodreads. You can find them here.

5. Click on the book you want to share from. Add a note to each highlight, up to about 150 words. Share your notes by switching the toggle at the top to "Visible." Alternatively, switch the toggle next to individual notes to make only select notes visible.

To have a link to your notes appear on your book’s page, send an email to and include a link to your Goodreads Author profile and link(s) to the books(s) with your notes and highlights.

Click here to learn more about how to annotate your favorite passages from your own book—or your current sexy read—and share your notes on Goodreads.

Be sure to share the love with all your fans by posting the link to your notes and highlights on social media using #RomanceWeek

What activity will you be doing to promote your books during Romance Week? Share it in the comments below!

Next: Marketing Advice from Self-Published Author Josiah Bancroft

You might also like: How to Participate in Romance Week

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Strike a Pose: Optimizing Your Goodreads Author Profile Picture
Posted by Cynthia on February 10, 2018

One of the last things writers probably think about when publishing their books is their author photo, and yet it's one of the most important things about your author brand after your name. Check the back flap of any published book and you'll likely find a headshot of the author, and you'll see a similar one used online. Readers want to find out what authors look like, if only to satisfy their own curiosity.

You don't need to hire a professional photographer to take your portrait—a cell phone camera and some good lighting will do. Here are a few tips for putting your best face forward:

The optimal size for your Goodreads Author Profile photo is 400x400 pixels. Why so square? Goodreads places images into circles in some places, like Ask the Author, so you'll want to make sure your face is in the center of the photo (like Jenny Han's is on the right), which a square image will help you accomplish.

Get ready for your close up. This is the most professional shot you can pull off by yourself, but that doesn't mean you're taking a selfie. Set up the camera a few feet away from you so that it captures you from the shoulders up, then have the timer go off after a few seconds so you can get into position. By focusing on your shoulders upwards instead of your entire body you're ensuring the image renders correctly in the places where Goodreads crops the picture.

Light up. Make sure the primary light source is shining on your face, like on Tayari Jones' picture, not from behind you, otherwise you risk being an outline. Avoid fluorescent lights as they create a sallow complexion. Gather up a few lights around your house to point in your direction from multiple angles, or set up a photoshoot outdoors when the weather is agreeable.

Take a flattering shot. The Germans have a word for this: Schokoladenseite (the Germans have a word for everything). It literally means your "chocolate side" or the side the camera likes best. Everybody has one, so ask a friend to help you find yours or just take a bunch of pictures to identify what angle works best. Experiment with different types of smiles too, from a gregarious grin to a somber smirk, whatever you think works best for your genre and brand.

Consider your background. Busy backgrounds or 'action shots' can be distracting to the observer, while a simple white background will make it appear like your picture has no frame. Find a place that provides a little dimension, like next to a tree outside, or create the right backdrop at home in front of a book shelf like Lois Lowry did here.

Dress the part. Find an outfit that matches your personality… and your writing style. A Young Adult writer might choose a colorful T-shirt while a business book author looks better in a suit and tie. Make sure your shirt doesn't clash with the background, or blends with the background to make it appear like you're a floating head.

Be selective with your props. While you might choose to incorporate your favorite pet or some other item that fits your brand (like the whimsical puppets included in Christopher Moore's picture), make sure it's not the primary focus of the picture so that the observer's eye draws to you.

Update your picture at least every three years. Perhaps you want to do this more frequently if you change your look drastically (for example, going from brunette to blond or vice versa), or haven't published in a while and need a refresh, but three years is a good rule of thumb to make sure your look stays current.

Avoid using a book as your author profile. Readers are looking up your author profile to find out about the author, not the book. While there are no rules against using the book in place of your author picture, it doesn't match the intention of the page and quite frankly, looks a little odd.

Using a pseudonym? Create a pseudo-picture! Assuming you want to stay anonymous if you write under a pen name (like Lemony Snicket on the right), you'll need a picture of anything but yourself. Perhaps you use a filter to blur the lines or create a custom brand icon. If you don't mind being recognized under the pen name, perhaps change the look slightly to align more with each brand, like Sylvia Day, whose other pen names are linked in her profile.

Black and white vs. color. Both can be used on Goodreads, so it's up to which one you like best.

Keep your images consistent across all social media. Once you decide on the right author photo, use the same one on all your social media accounts, cropping the image to the respective sizes. It helps readers immediately recognize you when they search for you and helps you maintain your author brand identity.

Browse the list of authors on Goodreadshere to see for yourself how top authors are presenting themselves.

Putting some time, thought, and effort in your image will help you present a more professional package to a potential reader. While authors might not get hounded by the paparazzi like some actors do, you'll definitely appreciate the work you put into your author photo when when a person recognizes you at your local bookstore or supermarket and asks for your autograph.

How did you select your profile picture? Tips on taking the most flattering shot? Tell us in the comments below!

Next: Marketing Tips from Self-Published Author Josiah Bancroft

You might also like: Three Things Readers Want to See from Authors on Goodreads

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

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