Entries from February 2007 ↓

Ad Banner Photoshopping

If you’re not a graphic designer, I suggest making friends with one. Graphic designers are lovely people to know, and even lovlier people when they owe you favors, so be nice to them!

If you are a graphic designer or would like to try your hand at being one, I think having a really cool banner for all your forum posting is an awesome promotional tool. You can even use it to append to your email in your signature. Here’s a tutorial on how to make an animated banner with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe ImageReady: Step by step guide to animate a banner which has been created in Adobe Photoshop

I made these in about an hour each:

If you’re not a graphic designer, but you still want a banner, try this.

Press Kit, sans Pink Kitties

In order to do press releases and get yourself some media attention, you’re going to need a press kit. A press kit must include:

1. press release
2. book tip sheet
3. biography

It should also include:

4. photo
5. business card
6. book reviews (which should only be short blurbs excerpted from full book reviews, and can optionally go on the book tip sheet)
7. excerpts
8. copy of your book
9. recent newsletter
10. bookmarks and other promotional items
11. pitch letter

We’ll go over a lot of pieces of this in other articles, but to cover the most important aspect of the kit, the press release, I’d like to direct you to a how-to article. (Hey, why am I gonna rewrite what’s already been written by someone who knows what she’s doing a lot better than I do? Hm?) Check out How to Write a Press Release by Luan Aten. Follow it carefully. You’re a writer, so don’t whine about how hard it is to write a press release. You wrote a freaking novel. A press release is nothing. Here’s a word of warning though: Spin it. You’re not writing a release about how your book is coming out. That’s boring. Find an angle. “Local author published in emerging eBook format.” Something like that. Consider your audience. You might have a few different press releases to use, depending on where you’re submitting them.

Your book tip sheet is just a simple one-pager with the following information: title, author’s name, publication date, genre, page count, blurb, reviews. Format it nicely on your letterhead and don’t go over a page in length.

Each press kit will have a different pitch letter. I know, whine whine whine, it requires work, but in order to pitch yourself, you need to be targeting the specific place you’re pitching to. Think of it as a book pitch. Get those hooks and twists in there and think of a unique way to market yourself, beyond “my book is coming out.” I guarantee no one cares that your book is coming out besides maybe your mom.

Once you get everything together for your press kit, I suggest finding a nice way to present it. Since you’re an eBook author, have all of this stuff available (and formatted beautifully on your letterhead) in electronic format. You might even consider presenting the whole kit on a cd, though I would suggest presenting it in print format too for more traditional outlets.

To present it beautifully in print format, find a pocket folder that fits your brand. You don’t have to order custom folders, but consider getting folders in a color that goes with your letterhead. You can find pocket folders with a window in front to let your letterhead show through, or you can even print up stickers with your logo to attach to the front of the folders. Remember, be professional. No pink kitties. Some folders also come with perforations where you can insert a business card.

We’ll talk about where to submit your press releases in another article.

Letterhead, Cheddarhead

Now that you have your marketing plan in place, including ideas for your colors and theme, we can get started with some actual designing. If you’ve had someone design your website, you’re ahead of the game. If not, don’t despair. Designing is fun! One more time, with gusto: Designing is fun!

If you’ve done a good website yourself (and, I can’t stress this enough, “good” means you’ve had significant design experience and are pleased with the results) or if you’ve had someone design your website, use what you’ve already got to begin the process of creating a letterhead. You’ll need a letterhead for your press kit and your professional correspondence. You can’t use stationary with pink kitties on it. It’s not professional. You could probably get away with some simple, classy monogrammed letterhead, but this way is fun and cheap and stays consistent with your brand.

More than likely, you have some sort of banner that goes across the top of your page. This is usually a good place to start to pull our graphics to use for your letterhead. It’s usually as simple as right-clicking and saving to your desktop. Look through your website and find those little nuggets. (Disclaimer: It’s probably best if you check with your web designer to make sure it’s ok with her. She did design the graphics, after all.) Here are some pieces from my website (an older design) I might be able to use:

(Something like the About Sonja graphic might be good for other marketing materials, like my bio for my press kit, which we’ll talk about in a different article.)
If you’ve got a book cover, you might consider using that somewhere.

There is a possibility that, if you’ve had someone else do your design, you won’t find any piece that will work for a letterhead because it’s all chopped and spliced for the web. Now you have a few options: You can email your web designer and ask for files of the graphics in a format that you can use, or you can make something up on your own.

So let’s say you can’t get anything from your website for some reason. No problem. There are a wealth of images available on the internet. Surf, surf my darlings. But please keep in mind that most images floating around on the internet are copyrighted by someone somewhere. In order to avoid copyright infringement, I suggest either making sure the website where you’re getting your graphics says “FREE” really big on it, or you’re buying them for a nominal fee from a stock image place like istockphoto. In the long run, if you’re going to use the graphic on all of your marketing stuff, coughing up a dollar to buy a stock photo is not that big of a deal.

Ok, now you’ve got a whole stack of pretty stuff to use. DO NOT USE ALL OF IT. I’m serious. Imagine if I had to cram all those pictures I just showed you on a 1-inch section at the top of a page. No. Bad. Don’t do it. In fact, I would pull down a template from somewhere like Office Templates or just Google for letterhead template.

In whatever program you choose, play with all your pretty pictures in the layout. Keep in mind that your letterhead shouldn’t take up too much of the page. I’d say 2 inches would be about the limit, but use your judgment. Also keep in mind that you’re going to have to either print this stuff or get it printed at some point (that is, if you’re planning on doing anything in hard copy rather than electronic– we’ll talk more about this later), and you’ll want to determine how much ink you’re willing to use per sheet. Include in your letterhead information:

Your name
Your web address
Your mailing address (Yes, even if you’re working electronically, always include a mailing address for professional correspondence. If you’re uncomfortable giving out your street address, I recommend getting a PO Box.)
Your phone number (Same deal. You gotta give a number. I know you’re an introvert and you hate talking on the phone. Believe me, I feel your pain. I’d much rather IM. But listing your instant messenger name is not an appropriate substitute for your phone number. Suck it up and list it.)
Your email address (And the introverts rejoice.)

You could maybe stick your slogan somewhere in there, but don’t clutter it up. Keep things streamlined and simple. It’s letterhead, not a tri-fold brochure, people.

Et voila. You have a lovely letterhead to use for your press kits and professional correspondence.

Now, here’s the lazy method: Your web designer might do letterhead as well as websites, so if you’re already paying for a web design, see if she’ll throw in a letterhead design too. A note of caution: You must insist that she provide it in some sort of editable format (i.e. not a PDF) because you’ll want to use it for electronic documents as well as print documents.

Go forth and letter!

A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 2

In part 1, we covered some touchy-feelies of marketing: goals, brand, slogan, and pretty colors. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty: your audience and your budget.

Target audience: Without even meaning to, you’ve already begun to think about your target audience. Don’t act all incredulous. It’s true. When you mentally stuck your book into a genre, you picked a target audience. When you wrote about a horse trainer, you picked a target audience. I’m just here to help you tease all that out.

Let’s start really basic. I mean reeeeally basic. Your first and largest potential audience is the most general: readers. Nothing earth-shattering there, but, lest ye refer to me sarcastically as Sherlock or Captain Obvious, we’ll get deeper eventually. Next level would depend on the format, so if you have chosen the eBook format, for example, your audience is eBook readers. So now we have:

Readers
–>eBook readers

Now we can start getting into the specifics. Think about your genre. Think about subcategories within your genre. Think about specific plot items or characters in your book. Do you really have a horse trainer in your book? Then horse trainers might get a kick out of it. They’re a potential audience. To give you an idea of how this works, I’m going to give you my target audiences for “Love In Shadow,” available from The Wild Rose Press:

Readers
–>eBook readers
—->Fiction readers
——>Romance readers
——–>Fantasy readers
——–> Western readers
——–> Historical readers
——> Women
——–> Wives of widowers
——–> Mothers of twins

Now my story, “Love In Shadow,” is a whopping 6,500 words and has, seriously, two characters. If I can come up with that many potential audiences for my little bitty story, you can certainly come up with at least that many for your novel of epic proportions. Go make your target audience list. Write it down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Reaching your target audience: Here comes the fun part. Now that you’ve got your list of target audiences, you have to come up with ways to reach those audiences. Some of them will be easy, others won’t. Here’s a hard one: How do you reach the entire book-reading audience? Hopefully your publisher will provide some help in those tough areas, and we’ll cover more ways to reach general audiences in the future, but for now, think mostly about those niche groups you listed. Staying with the horse trainer example, do you participate on horse message boards? Can you put up a flier at the barn? Be creative, and think like a marketer. There’s a website for just about anything anymore, so chances are if you’ve got the audience, the audience already has a web community somewhere. Find it and infiltrate it.

Brainstorm, and write down your ideas. It’s not a plan if it’s NOT WRITTEN DOWN.

Budget: Think long and hard about how much time and money you are willing to spend promoting yourself. I can’t tell you how to do this, since it’s a very personal thing, but let me give you some pitfalls to avoid:

Do not spend more money than you will recoup. This might require some math. Sorry.

Get the most bang from your buck. Here’s a hint: If it’s free and doesn’t take much time, do it! So few things in life are free, so take advantage of what there is.

Don’t spend so much time marketing that you lose sight of writing. The best way to market yourself is to keep writing things that people want to read, and the only way to do that is to dedicate yourself to your craft, not to whoring yourself twenty-four hours a day (although no one said you couldn’t whore yourself for a little while every day).

I know I said I wouldn’t tell you specifics about what to do with your budget, but here’s one I just can’t shut up about: websites. You neeeeeeeed a good website, and by good, I do not mean the website your 8-year-old son set up for you on Angelfire. Nothing against your 8-year-old son, but, repeat after me, “publishing is a business.” Would you let your 8-year-old son design your company’s website? I think not. So if you’re going to spend money, spend it on your website. There. That’s all I’ll say about your highly personal budget.

Make a budget for your time and your money. Write it down. (It’s not a plan if it’s not blah blah blah.) Stick to it.

Look up. Take a breath. You’re done. You now have a beautiful and detailed marketing plan. You are stupendously awesome, and I’m not just saying that cuz you read my blog.

Now go out there and sell sell sell!

A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 1


I hear all your pantsers out there screaming, “Nooooo! We cannot plan! It is against our infallible (or at least highly quirky and charming) personalities to plan! We refuse!” To you I say: Marketing ain’t like dustin’ crops, boy. You gotta have a plan.

Your plan should include the following:

Goals: You need long term and short term goals, beyond, of course, “sell my book.” How many copies do you want to sell? What kind of a readership do you want to build? Is your eBook your foot-in-the-door for a brick and mortar press, or are you planning to continue publishing in the eBook format? You need to think about all this stuff when you’re thinking about your goals.

Got some goals? Good. Write them down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Brand: Brand is a word that generally makes authors run away screaming. I feel your pain. I was once one of the run-away-screaming unwashed masses. I’m going to simplify for you. Your brand is what you are, or what your book is. Simple as that. It is what you are selling. If I am selling my newest book, “Love In Shadow” (see me promoting right there? see? now you know why I’m called the promo ho?), then my brand is “Love In Shadow.” Done. That’s it. If you’re not yet published, your brand is you. So before I was published, my brand was Sonja Foust. That’s all. Don’t make a slogan yet. Don’t think of a color scheme yet. Focus. Brand. Good.

Write it down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Slogan: Now we’re expanding on your brand. We’re defining your brand. Here’s a simple example of a slogan: WRAL, the local news station where I live, uses the slogan, “coverage you can count on.” Their brand is WRAL. Their slogan is “coverage you can count on.” Clear as mud? Good. Come up with a slogan.

Easier said than done, right? I know. So here’s how you start. Get a sheet of scrap paper. Get a big one if you’re good at brainstorming. Hell, get a big one even if you’re not good at brainstorming. Maybe it will inspire you. Now fill the page with all the words that describe what you write. I’ll admit that this part isn’t easy, especially if you’re not quite sure of yourself yet or you haven’t had much feedback or, like in my case, you write across a lot of different genres. You have my sympathy. Do it anyway.

In my case, I ended up with a whole lot of different words, some of them actually opposites of each other. Instead of despairing, I came up with a slogan to actually use the opposites: “Sometimes tender, sometimes tense… always true love!”

You can’t steal my slogan, but I know that you great creative minds will come up with something from that big list of words you made. Circle them, draw lines between them, whatever. Do what you gotta do.

Write it down because (repeat after me) it’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Colors and theme: Now you artsy fartsy people get to do what you love best: play with colors. Go with your gut, within reason. I mean, come on people. If you write super steamy bondage threesome love-in-an-elevator stuff, don’t use pretty pink rose petals. Use red rose petals on black satin sheets with, like, handcuffs on top. Get my drift? Don’t be afraid to go with the cliche. The cliche is there because it helps people define that thing. Handcuffs and black satin sheets make people think of a certain style, and if that’s you, go for it! No need to beat around the bush.

Got some ideas? Good. Write them down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Congratulations, you’ve got a pretty darn good start on a marketing plan. Oh no, we’re not done yet, my leetle pigeons. A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 2 will cover your target audience and your budget. So take a break, watch some TV, note the marketing tactics, and come back ready to Expand That Plan!