It’s with great thanks that I introduce our friends at Pub Site, the premiere website solution for authors, are again joining us as a Gold Sponsor for the 20222 Women in Publishing Summit! Their support for a space of our own, as women in this industry, is a reflection of their commitment to an inclusive, accessible publishing industry.
I’m looking forward to welcoming my friend Fauzia Burke and her husband, John Burke, back to our conference this year. Since the day I saw Fauzia speak at BookExpo, I’ve been a huge fan of her transformative take on how authors can use their websites to grow their writing career. I’ve been privileged to see that happen in real time for my clients and friends using Pub Site in the intervening years.
The ease and elegance of Pub Site, quite simply, just works.
And in a world where so much doesn’t, I’m glad to share more about them with you!
What does Pub Site do?
In short, Pub Site works with authors to build functional, beautiful, smart websites that move their career forward.
That can happen several ways, depending on each author’s unique needs and wants. A variety of proven and specialized templates are available, or Pub Site offers custom design to create the website of your dreams, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Authors need different things on their websites than baseball leagues or jewelry stores or news sites. They need functional e-commerce, clear space to share creative content, places for landing pages and more. They need to have strong visual language and branding that tells potential readers what this writer is all about. They need to connect to all the important social sites, of course. And they definitely need clear, strong calls to action to get on the newsletter list.
Pub Site understands that. Fauzia has spent her whole career in book publicity and marketing – she’s built her company around knowing what authors need. Pub Site isn’t trying to sell you a template made for a realtor or a stone mason or a teacher. They’re giving you the opportunity to build a custom website for a working author that will attract ideal readers, aid in your marketing and become your digital home.
What kind of author needs Pub Site?
It’s long been my opinion – and my clients can confirm this! – that every author needs a website.
And I also think that there are very few folks who are better served by mucking around learning a new technical skill set when they could be perfecting their book. Every spare minute we have as authors should go first to making sure our book is everything it should be, so that every step we take in marketing is a step towards a successful book.
So unless you love web design or are truly committed to an ultra-low cost process, spending some money on your website is a very smart bet.
Pub Site offers both a semi-DIY option for those who want to flex their creative muscles and get involved in the hands-on work of the website, AND a done-for-you option. I’ve had clients successfully use both, because Pub Site’s team is supportive and helpful at every turn.
How can I learn more about Pub Site?
Head on over to their website to see if Pub Site is the right online home for your writing career!
I love Brené Brown. Like LOVE her. If you aren't familiar with her, google some of her TED talks on shame and vulnerability.
As writers, it feels there is really nothing more vulnerable than putting our words, our creations, out in to the world for others to consume. Sometimes they love it, sometimes they hate it.
Sometimes we are afraid to put our words out there because of shame we may have and certainly because of the fear of being so vulnerable.
I am reading her book Dare to Lead. I want to share a quote from Chapter 2, The Call to Courage.
To set the scene, she was talking about an interview with Admiral Jim Stockdale, a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. This interview is in Jim Collins' book, Good to Great. The question was asked about who didn't survive the POW camps, to which Stockdale replied it was the optimists. Because, “They died of a broken heart.”
Brené Brown continues:
“Stockdale told Collins, ‘This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.'”
At this point, you might be thinking, Alexa has gone off her rocker. She's now comparing authors to POWs!
But here's the deal.
A strategic plan for your book marketing can bring you closer to success.
As I was listening to this on Audible, the stark comparison came to me. So often, we as authors believe, I'm gonna make it! This book is going to be amazing! If I just throw more money here, or do this, or do that, I will sell more books!
Our FAITH in our book gives us the courage to continue… however, if we aren't doing the right things, if we aren't making the most strategic decisions, if we aren't powering forward in a way that puts us in a position to actually have that success, we can wind up completely exhausted, tired of saying, “it's gonna get there!” and our faith begins to dwindle if we don't see the results we were looking for.
We die a slow death of a broken heart from marketing fatigue and throw in the towel.
What if that didn't have to be the case? What if you could start with a better plan from earlier in your process, that wasn't based on guesswork, and actually led to results?
I fully believe that those authors who have a great book, have done the things to make sure they are positioned well and are taking the RIGHT steps to move their marketing forward, WILL get there.
It may take a few years. But following a plan that makes sense, you may achieve this faster than you thought. At a minimum, when you can track results, you won't be heartbroken, but encouraged to continue to see results.
I walk this journey every day with authors. Tweaking what they are doing, creating the strategy that works for them to build their audience, get their books into the hands of more people, and build incremental successes that WILL eventually pay off. (Disclaimer here – if your book is bad, you're going to have to start there first!)
Here's the deal. After launching book after book for new and unknown authors, the likelihood of New York Times Best Seller first foot out the door is rare. But not impossible. But even more important, you can still achieve a significant amount of success without that NYT BS accolade.
How do you know what to include in your book marketing plan?
There are things that we know work already. It starts with: figuring out your goals, your resources and your starting point, and, just like that, you can layout a path to success.
We are going to dig into how to develop your very own custom launch plan – something many indie authors pay thousands for, but that I know you can do yourself! All you need are the right tools! We’ll cover:
The key elements of your marketing plan to address both long- and short-term goals
How to develop a marketing and launch strategy that makes sense for YOUR book and YOUR budget
The ideal timeline for planning a launch
How to take small actions every single day to implement the plan
The best places to invest your time and money in your book
This will be an interactive workshop, but can still be watched after the fact if you aren't able to attend.
It's very important to me that by the time we are done with this training, you actually have some USEABLE information, and a plan for how to make some progress… IMMEDIATELY. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of getting training and then leaving feeling like I'm completely on my own. I don't want that for you.
I have done this work with clients over and over again in the last decade, and I’ve learned that every single book – no matter the genre, no matter when you’re publishing (or when you publishED – yes, this same strategy works for books that are already out there!) – needs a custom road map to success, based on BEST PRACTICES, not just hopes and wishes and FAITH.
I want you to have the foundational knowledge to identify your goals and to build a strategy to get there that works for your book and your LIFE, without all the noise. I want you to take the wheel.
If you’re ready – and I think you are – click here to get registered for the June 8 workshop – and if you can’t listen live, don’t worry – there will be a recording sent your way!
You'll leave this training with a plan of action and simple steps to start working on immediately.
I can’t wait to go on this journey with you to help you create a plan that won't leave you feeling hopeless, but encouraged to continue moving forward!
Beyond wanting to write a great book, what's our goal as writers? To have happy readers, right? To have those readers becoming raving fans, that want to review and talk about our books, and buy the next one as it is released.
It takes more than just writing a good story. While that piece is obvious, in certain genres, like Romance, you have to go a lot deeper than just writing a good story. Because a good story that doesn't meet the expectations of your readers will fall flat.
Let's talk about the Romance genre.
You’ve always wanted to write a romance book, but as you’ve started researching, you realize, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Maybe you’ve started connecting with other writers and when they ask what you write, you respond, “Romance” only to be asked: “what kind?”
What do you mean? Isn’t a romance book a romance book?
The genre Romance falls across a very broad spectrum, from squeaky clean, to full on smut. From period eras, such as Regency and historical, to contemporary fiction. Each of these subgenres has its own norms and reader base, and those readers have expectations. The readers expect that you know their expectations when you market a book to them, and they get really upset if you break their expectations.
Each genre has its own beats, or, if you’re not down with the lingo yet – the expected events that take place throughout the book – and you better know those beats, or your readers will chew you up and spit you out.
If you aren’t reading in the subgenre that you want to be writing in, you need to start reading now. And a LOT. Knowing your subgenre backwards and forwards can help you not only find the right audience for your book, but it’s crucial to making sure your book is written and positioned properly, has the right cover, and sends the correct message to the readers.
Who knew there could be so much to learn about writing a romance? Step one truly is learning everything you can about the type of book you want to write.
Happily Ever After is a requirement
The one thing you have to know and understand about romance as a primary genre, no matter what sub-genre you are writing in, is that the Happily Ever After component of the primary couple is a requirement. If they don’t wind up together, then your primary genre is not romance, it simply has romantic elements in the book. And that will happen a lot. You may have a women’s fiction primary genre that has romance in it. But it’s not a romance book if they don’t wind up together.
What are the subgenres of romance?
Let’s talk about the different sub-genres. It’s important to know your audience when writing and editing your book so you can meet reader expectations. Your sub-genre will guide several different elements of your novel including setting and plot. People often dismiss romance books as being “all the same.” While this is true in the beats, and expected that it will follow a predicted path, those expectations vary a lot in the subgenres. So we compiled a list of some of the most popular subgenres and a few key notes for each one.
Age targeting is one of the first things you’ll need to decide on as a romance writer, and choosing to write for the YA market will bring a whole set of important considerations. Young adult romances are typically meant for readers between the ages of 12 and 18. They deal with those issues that teens are typically facing including first love, family relationships, friendship, self-identity, and more. It’s important to keep the age of your audience in mind as you tackle topics that make them feel connected as a reader. YA has gotten confusing over the years with much more mature topics being covered, but if you’re writing primarily romance for this age group, it should be kept appropriate to that age range.
There’s also the emerging and growing “New Adult” category – it’s a demographic that’s blowing up the publishing world in many genres, not just romance. New adult romance books also have strong elements of identity and finding one’s way, but it skews slightly older (ages 18-29) and can address that first job, finding your place in the adult world and the higher stakes of adult relationships.
Historical romance refers to those novels set in a specific period in history, like the wildly popular Regency sub-category. Within this subgenre, you’ll find that authors and readers often prefer immersing themselves in a specific time period (such as regency romance). With historical romances, it’s important to study the time period surrounding your novel. Details on everything from geography to clothing is part of what people love about these books. Readers will pick up on discrepancies and it can take them out of the narrative. This is a great genre for writers who love research!
Contemporary romance is set in modern times. This means these stories are relevant to things happening in the here and now. Contemporary romance addresses issues facing lovers today, and the characters have similar concerns that most of us do when it comes to work and relationships. Novels set in the 1970s to present are typically considered to be contemporary romance, too, so there is a whole array of settings that would work for this subgenre.
Erotic romance is also referred to as “sexy” or “steamy romance.” These novels are definitely written for a mature audience. Erotic romance uses sex to show the development of a romantic relationship. So while sex plays a vital role in the plot and romance development of these novels, it’s not all there is to the story. These books are not erotica (where sex is more explicit and central to the tale), bur rather stories where well-developed characters grow their physical connection.
Paranormal romance (aka fantasy or sci fi)
Paranormal romance comes in many different forms since it involves fantasy and science fiction. These novels bring elements of science fiction and fantasy into the setting and characters while following a romantic plot line. Lots of shapeshifting in these types of novels. Think werewolves, time travel or other worlds. True Blood, anyone? Paranormal romance has been around for a long time – it’s rooted in the classic gothic romance novels people loved a hundred years ago! But while these tales exist outside our reality, romance is still the beating heart of this subgenre.
Romantic suspense novels use suspense, mystery, or thriller elements to drive the story forward. The characters are falling in love as a mystery unfolds around them – what could be more exciting? The story is turbo-charged by the element of danger, giving the protagonists an exciting setting for their romance to unfold. Like paranormal romance, this is another subgenre rooted in gothic traditions, with thrilling elements that have been popular since our great-great-grandmothers’ time. No matter how compelling the suspense is, though, the core of the novel must be the romance in order for a book to fall into this category. Otherwise, it’s a suspense with romance in it. For it to still qualify as a romance, it must have a happily ever after with the main couple.
We included these common subgenres for a starting point – there are so many different, exciting worlds in romance writing. Just remember, Happily Ever After, and of course, make sure you’ve got the expected beats covered.
Want to get started writing your own romance novels but aren’t sure where to begin? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Take a deeper look into the romance genre with our Romance Roundtable Talk happening soon! Click below to sign up!
2020 took me on a roller coaster ride of … well, grief.
You guys. I had such enormous plans for 2020. Like so many people, 2020 was going to be MY YEAR. I was finally going to burst forth from my chrysalis and sprinkle glitter and butterfly fairy dust all over the publishing world.
And then, March 13th, (Friday the 13th as it was!) I watched the news conference that changed everything. Our governor announced the children would not be going back to school on Monday or for the foreseeable future. Businesses would close. Life would shut down. Temporarily. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
What we hoped would be for just a few weeks dragged on and on and on and on and on and on.
In that moment, all I felt was intense fear.
What would I do? How was this going to work? My husband was unemployed, I was trying to launch WIP School (add that to the list of things that flopped, but we pulled out a win in the end!), I have three kids (2 in elementary school and 1 in Middle school), and now not only was I scared I was going to die from this mystery virus, but I needed to figure out how to homeschool 3 kids while keeping the business, that is our only source of income, afloat?
Somehow we figured it out. But we got some bruises along the way.
These things did NOT work for us in 2020:
Large program launches (WIP school went from being a $2997 program to $297 – the steal of a lifetime for the people that joined in)
Traditional launch strategies; especially those focusing on an in-person launch. We had to completely redesign our launch strategies…
NaNoWriMo – y'all my brain was so fried by November, I couldn't even write a grocery list, let alone a 50,000+ word novel
Chrysalis Press – the traditional press we launched at the end of December 2019… I was so busy trying to save the rest of my business, the traditional press took a back seat. But super excited that our sole author, Kasie Whitener, has a 2nd book coming out in 2021!
Sales funnel launches – for Jumpstart Your Book! and Publish Like a Pro. Neither of these lived up to my expectations, (especially considering the time and monetary investment) – largely thanks to the ridiculous cost of Facebook Ads because of all of the election insanity…
In person retreats. 🙁 2020 was meant to be the year I hosted my first in person retreat. But… never fear, we're going to do it at the end of 2021! WOOHOO!
Planning an in person conference for 2021. We planned on having the Women in Publishing Summit be an in person event in 2021. NOPE. Not happening. But… this year's line up is out of this world anyway! (Are you registered? Early bird pricing ends soon!)
But… it wasn't all bad.
In fact… 2020 wound up being a very surprisingly fantastic year, once I got my mindset straight.
Our biggest wins of 2020: (besides the WIP Summit, of course, which thankfully ended right before mayhem set forth)
1. Our Book Launch in a Box program was amazing. We covered a lot in one month and our students really performed well! I can't wait to run that again! We managed to completely re-envision our book launches, including some really incredible changes that we made with Instagram, resulting in some really big launches. We teach it all in this program. We'll be running it again in the Spring – you can get on the waiting list here: ADD ME TO THE WAITLIST!
2. WIP School was incredible. For a full six months, from April to September, we met twice monthly with 30 authors and trained on all things publishing and marketing. We had fantastic guest experts and really covered a lot of ground. We are converting it to a 4-month program in 2021, with several on-demand modules, but I'm excited about the improvements that we're making for the 2021 WIP School.
3. Email list growth! I've been focusing hard on growing the email list, through a wide variety of efforts.
This is so important for you as authors… the bigger your email list, the better book sales you're going to see. It's just a fact.
Why? Because people who actually give you their real email address and actually open your emails are interested in what you're talking about. And if you've done the work to convert them to actual followers / fans – even friends, people who take the time to read your emails are likely the people who want to read your book or sign up for your course or take some sort of action you're asking them to do.
To grow that email list, you have to have something that is worthy of someone handing over an email address. You might host a webinar or training event, you might give a free download of a tool that's necessary (for example, I recently downloaded a novel planning spreadsheet, which I was more than happy to give my email address to receive), or it might be a sample of your book.
I could provide a whole list of ways to collect email addresses, but the really challenging part comes in the next part… what you do with them, how you get people to actually open your emails, and how you make sure people want to stay on your list.
So this month's training workshop is on this topic. Not just why you need to grow your email list, but what tools you can use to do it, how you get people on the email list, how you KEEP them there, and how you create calls to action that, well, result in some sort of action.
Email Lists for Authors! How to build one, grow it, and keep your peeps (to sell more books!)
4. Small monthly training workshops. These have been a huge win for us and our audience. Digging into a specific topic each month has really worked well. And because the live attendance rate is general in the 15 – 20 person range, our attendees get plenty of personal interaction and feedback.
5. Amazing launches for our authors. This year we brought forth some books we are really proud of:
6. Partnerships and Webinars. Heck yes to this! I had a GREAT time running joint webinars this year. Some of it was already planned as continuing education with the Women in Publishing Summit, but I did TWO webinars with ProWritingAid (How to Keep Writing When You Feel Overwhelmed) and another on what you need to know to self-publish like a pro. I had the opportunity to appear on several podcasts and summits, and I made some really great connections with others in the industry. Networking and building relationships is always a win!
7. The opportunity to be authentically myself… for the BIGGEST WIN. 2020 allowed me the chance to open up, share some really personal stories, give everyone a peek behind the curtain, and see me for who I really am… a mom trying my best to make a positive impact in this world… fueled by a desire to show my children how to show up in this world, while helping other authors get their words into the world. I finally launched the PublishHer podcast, a place where I get to share the ups and downs of publishing, as well as really great interviews with experts in the industry.
So, we survived 2020… and some really great things came out of it. From the failures, we learned how to pivot and to do better. We're still learning. 2020 forced some major change to happen in so many areas, including book launching and marketing. These are not things that are likely to change soon.
What was your biggest accomplishment of 2020? And what do you have planned for 2021?
Yesterday in our Facebook group, we received the question I hear so often.
I've done my target audience research. I've looked at all the comp titles. I know my keywords and categories. But HOW do I get in front of the people who will buy my book?
This is one of the most difficult things for authors to figure out. And quite honestly, it's what makes a lot of authors give up…
But it doesn't have to be quite so difficult.
We were able to add 1100 readers for one of our authors, just by using Facebook Ads. But the key part about Facebook Ads is that, when set up properly, Facebook will cultivate the “just right” audience for you.
You may have noticed that if you have an interest in something, an ad shows up in your newsfeed on Facebook or Instagram? That's because the algorithm is always looking for ways to put the RIGHT ads in front of the RIGHT people. You might have just mentioned something to a friend, perhaps you need a new tire. And bam, Firestone ads fill your newsfeed.
The Facebook algorithm is GOOD. It's so good, I've managed to buy ALL of my Christmas presents this year just through Facebook and Instagram. 🙂 🙂 🙂 (PS, when you run ads on Facebook, they also go to Instagram if you have it set up to do so.)
The point is, it doesn't have to be as hard as you think to build your audience of the right readers.
But it DOES have to be set up properly to work well. Simply boosting a post on your Facebook page might get you lots of views. But it doesn't matter if it's hit the wrong people. You want to have people who take action on your ads… so you need to have your ads set up to find the right people.
When you do it right … the possibilities are endless. I spoke to a romance author that had over $100,000 in book sales in one year-directly from her Facebook ads. (Plus a good book, good sales page, etc, let's be honest, Facebook ads aren't magic… but they work well when you've done the work too.)
Join us for our monthly workshop all about Facebook Ads – specifically for authors! So that you can be knowledgeable and ready to go hunting (or let Facebook hunt on your behalf) for the right readers.
When you find the right people, you will see more sales.