According to a recent survey, many authors struggle with book marketing and book research. We turned to Marlena Smith, a social media and marketing expert, for solutions to these problems and more.  How can you generate traffic to your Facebook author page without spending thousands of  dollars on ads? Why are press releases still efficient and how can indie authors can use them? Find out the anwers bellow.

Many authors get confused when it gets to promotion and marketing. They can’t tell them apart. Could you shed some light on this topic?
Promotion is more specific, focusing on one idea or one event. It’s about your upcoming release or the big sale you’re having. Good promotion involves a little marketing.

Marketing is more widespread, more generalized. It’s about putting your name and your brand out there. You’re selling yourself, selling what you stand for.

What do you think are four key elements to successful book marketing in 2017?
To me, it really depends on the person and their goals. Here’s a sampling:

(1) Budget. When it comes to marketing, you know your financial situation better than anyone else. You’ll receive a lot of advice, a lot of suggestions of what you should do, but the decision is ultimately yours. Create a budget. (An author’s budget could have a lot of areas – marketing, editing, book design, formatting, graphic design, etc. Spread your money wisely, focusing on what you feel is most important.) Know how much you can spend on your marketing and respect those numbers. Don’t do more than you can because that means another area will suffer.

(2) Social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Google+, they all can be a great marketing tool for authors. Everyone is good at something, so don’t get overwhelmed by trying to use all types of social media. Focus on the one or two you excel at, and then market your brand like crazy. Put your name out there and make sure everyone knows it!

(3) Network. Connect with people. Be personal, be reachable. You can make lasting friendships when connecting with people that are in the same boat as you. Lean on one another, offer advice, share the love.

(4) Support. This is something a lot of people forget about and it really ties in with networking. I feel that giving support is one of the most important things to do. Support people that are doing the same thing as you. Support fellow entrepreneurs, fellow authors, fellow bloggers. Typically, the more you support, the more support you’ll receive. (I’ve learned how true this is in the virtual book club I belong to – Rave Reviews Book Club. Our focus is supporting one another. It makes a difference.)

What social media channels should indie fiction authors use? How about non-fiction authors?
I’m one of those that doesn’t take my own advice. I use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. BUT, each channel has a different focus, a different mindset. I even plan on adding YouTube to my list soon.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong social media platform. I think it depends on the person, their goals, and what they’re good at. Someone may be excellent at connecting with people and posting promotions on Facebook, but that same person may not understand the mechanics of Instagram. It’s all about what you’re good at, what you’re most comfortable with.

Marlena Smith

What benefits do you get from using  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest?
I like to use several platforms. Facebook is more personal to me, as that’s where I’m connected with family and friends. For me, Instagram is all about inspiring others. I’m always posting quotes and pictures that are encouraging and inspiring, at least that’s my goal. There’s less communication here, but there’s still that opportunity to network with like-minded people. Pinterest is just fun. Quotes, recipes, crafts, home improvement. The possibilities are limitless. I will say, though, I spend less time on this channel. Like I said, it’s more for fun and helps cure boredom. Twitter seems to be my best tool for connecting. It’s also the easiest one for me. I can spend an hour online and make hundreds of connections or at least possible connections. Plus, it’s a fun challenge to get your point across in 140 characters  ;).

 How can we generate traffic to our Facebook page without spending too much money on Facebook ads?
Facebook is all about word of mouth. Let the people you know, the people that are already supporting you, help you. You can even encourage with giveaways and fun games. It’s important to engage your followers, involve them, ask questions, get input. Facebook ads can be helpful, but I’ve seen people benefit greatly after only spending $5 or $10. Then, I’ve seen people spend triple that and not receive much reward. That’s why I say word of mouth is key. Network, connect, support and promote.

One of your top skills is research. Many authors complain about the amount of time they need to spend doing it. What tips can you give them to be more productive when it comes to research?
Let someone else do it! I’m kidding, although that’s an easy way to handle it if you’re not a research fan. Personally, I love to research. I find it fascinating and have spent a great deal of time online and at the library, with no real purpose, but just because I enjoy learning new things.

When it comes to research, it’s easy to get lost because we have so much access nowadays with books and internet. It can be overwhelming. It’s all about focusing on only what you need to do. Don’t let your mind wander with the excessive information you may find. It helps to make notes, too. Jot down specifics and that’s what you focus on. It also helps to give yourself a break. Research can be time-consuming so don’t push yourself to get it all done in one sitting. Cut yourself some slack. Work in increments, switching from different to-dos. For example, research for an hour, then move on to promotions for 30 minutes. Play around on Pinterest for 20 minutes, have some lunch, then get back to research. It’s easy to get burnt out, especially if you’re already not a fan of researching.

Do indie authors need press releases? Why?
I believe press releases can be really useful, especially if you live in a town where books are appreciated. Meaning, there are a lot of libraries and/or book stores. Press releases can be used as awesome promotional flyers. Pass them out at the library or bookstore. Post the pic on Facebook or Twitter. A press release can promote a book release or book tour. You have a lot options with them, which is why I believe in them so much. Plus, they’re fun to create!

How can authors maximize the impact of a press release?
A press release gives you an opportunity to get your point across, to get your promotion known. It needs to have the pertinent info, but without being overwhelming. The less clutter, the more attention a person will give it. Pictures are great, too. Including your author pic and book cover are critical, in my opinion. Pictures can speak volumes, like the old saying goes… ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’

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