Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ask PZM: July 2011

Q: There are more networking sites than you can shake a stick at. Are they an essential part of marketing? Or should the author stay with sites like Facebook and ignore the rest?

I will admit that I originally put information about my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant” on every book site I could find. But then I realized that there is only so much time in the day to be active on these sites. And if you’re not active, then you’re not creating relationships with potential fans.

I learned from my initial mistakes and, in the three years since then, social media has become ever more important.

Thus in my opinion you should definitely be active daily on what I call the “Big Three” – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And you can use the free version of Hootsuite to make it easier for you to be active. (See blog post about Hootsuite at http://budurl.com/tryinghootsuite )

If you have more time, you could choose a couple of specialized sites on which to be active. These can be book author sites or sites associated with the topic of your nonfiction or fiction book. Or you can actively blog in connection with your book.

For example, because of my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant,” I share information to help military personnel and their families at www.mrslieutenant.blogspot.com and author Theodore Knell has started the forum “Hushed Voices” in connection with his memoir “From the Corners of a Wounded Mind.” (See blog post about this new forum at http://budurl.com/HushedVoices )

I’m not recommending you ignore other sites. I am recommending you commit to being active on the number of sites that you can personally handle without feeling overwhelmed.

Q. What does J.K. Rowling’s announcement of the site Pottermore mean for other authors?

I believe this news will have a very large impact on the emerging opportunities for ebook versions.  And if nothing else, it should tell all of us that any new books we publish should have ebook versions.

On a personal note I’m particularly interested that she will NOT have DRM (Digital Rights Management) on her ebooks.  In other words, she will NOT use DRM, which would have prevented her ebooks from being viewed on multiple ebook platforms.

I’ve been wrestling with this decision myself for the ebook release of the novel “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” and have decided to follow her lead.  We authors should make it as easy as possible for people to read our ebooks in whatever format they want.

Q:  What steps can an author from a small publishing house take to land on the bestseller's list? 
If only I had the answer to this question!

Seriously, though, the question is also relevant for authors from a large publishing house.  And outside of certain phenomenon whose stories we all know (“Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” etc.) I’m not sure there’s an answer besides trying to get as much visibility for your book as possible in front of your target audience.

Sometimes circumstances make it difficult to get in front of our target audiences:

As a former Mrs. Lieutenant, I knew that the PXs on every army military base would be a natural market for my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant.”  But in 2008 I couldn’t get in the PXs because my self-published novel wasn’t returnable.  And although I did have a Kindle version, there were few Kindle owners at that time.

And even if “Mrs. Lieutenant” had been published by a small publishing house, the book might not have gotten into PXs because of the particular book buying system for PXs.

In addition, at that time BookSurge insisted on a price for the book that I knew was too high, but there was nothing I could do about this.  Now CreateSpace (into which BookSurge was merged) allows authors to set their own prices.

On the other hand, any online opportunity might be just the opportunity an author from a small publishing house can use to help her/his book sales.

For example, here’s an idea I just got from reading about the Pottermore site: 

My business partner (and younger daughter) Yael K. Miller already has the website www.HurricaneHoodoo.com for her as yet unfinished Middle Grade fantasy novel “Jack Strom and New Orleans Hoodoo.”  Especially given the story she is writing, perhaps she should plan on adding games or other activities to the book’s website. 

In conclusion, the world of book publishing is changing so rapidly, an answer that might work today could not work six months from now.  We need to try to keep up with the most important changes and see what opportunities these create for our own book marketing efforts.

And we have to remember to keep an open mind to new things.  We can’t assume, for example, that, because J.K. Rowling is such an incredibly successful author, her tactics won’t work for us.  After all, we’ll never know until we try.

© 2011 Miller Mosaic LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic. You can learn about her fiction and nonfiction books at her Amazon author page at http://budurl.com/PZMAmazonpage

* “Mrs. Lieutenant” is now available on Kindle for $2.99: http://budurl.com/MrsLTKindle



  1. Hi Joylene and Phyllis .. your approach seems to so right - ensuring that you can cope with the social media you take on; remembering your target market and then keeping an open mind to other products or services within that market .. as you mention games, puzzles, quizzes etc

    At the end of the day we're (you're) marketing to people and they haven't changed that much! (yet).

    Looking forward to the tour updates ...

    Thanks - interesting .. Hilary

  2. Love your sane and sensible approach! From what I've seen, the most common mistake is to settle on one of the opposite extremes -- either doing nothing, or trying to do everything, neither of which makes sense. But finding the balance that works for us is a challenge. My choice has been a blog, with initial tiptoeing into Facebook and Twitter, and that seems to be all I can handle right now. Google Reader helps consolidate and manage my online reading because interacting on blogs is what I most enjoy.

    Regarding Pottermore, Rowling's original animated website is well done, with enough of interest to keep readers coming back despite no interaction with her, and I suspect Pottermore will be equally innovative. Even though there is little personal relationship-building by Rowling, she and/or her team are skilled at using perfect timing to create buzz. Just look at seven well written books in ten years, 1997-2007, then the movies. Now dropping hints about Pottermore prior to the release of the last movie about the last book, and going live with the site two weeks after the movie comes out. I wouldn't be surprised if Rowling never writes another book, but whether she does or doesn't, her name will be a legend.

  3. I've never heard of Hootsuite. Will check it out. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day to do everything I should with the social network, specially when there's a day job and family involved. Blogging probably takes up spare time I don't use for writing or living the rest of my life. Having a site that connects all the networks would be ideal. I agree that all printed books should also be available in ebook format.

  4. Hilary, Carol, and Laila, thanks for your input. Because I'm just back from my book tour, I'm especially conscious of how much time marketing takes up. I have work to do, blogs to visit, a house to clean, and the hours are slipping by. I think it's important to recognize my limit and to proceed accordingly.

    I missed you all and can't wait for life to return to normal.

  5. Time is always a consideration, I think you pick what you can effectively deal with.

  6. And I think it is important to realize that different stages of our lives enable us to undertake more or less book marketing activities.

    I've hired Chris O'Byrne of http://www.ebook-editor.com/ to convert MRS. LIEUTENANT into the major eBook platforms and to do the same for my new eBook-only novel LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS. I had to accept that, while I could learn to do this myself, I can't do everything in a finite amount of time.

    If you want to see how many different eBook options there are on Smashwords, check out what Chris just did for me at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/71274

  7. Quick correction: Joylene, could you please change that Kindle link info in my guest post bio to $2.99 from 99 cents? The link is correct but, after consultation with Chris O'Byrne, I decided to make the price for MRS. LIEUTENANT on all eBook platforms as $2.99.

  8. So true, Anthony. Although, I do know several wonderful women who feel this overwhelming urge to do it all. I say "No, ladies!. Spare yourself the years of worn nerves and missed opportunities."

  9. Chris sounds like a marvel, Phyllis. I'll definitely check out his blog tomorrow.

    Thanks again for your wonderful and helpful answers.

  10. Interesting and eye-opening. I guess I should be doing LinkedIn.


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