Friday, July 1, 2011

Six Things Savvy Authors Should Know

Wait. Whoa. Jennifer! We're running after you--can you stop for a second?

I'm attempting to be clever here--but wow. Jennifer Fusco is always on the move. And man, does she know about everything about everything about marketing. She's the Creative & Brand Marketing Manager for the General Electric Company, North America. If you had her brain for one moment? Your head would spin.

And no, we're not trying to sell light bulbs--either is she, obviously--that was just a little lame GE reference. But what Jennifer's insight means for us around here? We are now going to get the inside scoop.

Yes, you've heard about Facebook, and Twitter, and whatever else that we all do or at least know enough about to complain about. But what do the pros do? What do they know that we don't know?

Jennifer knows. And now--she's gonna tell. Her new book is called Market or Die. Hey, when you put it that way....

JENNIFER FUSCO: First of all, thank you for having me on your blog to discuss the six things savvy authors should know about marketing. This list is what I believe that you, as a savvy author, can do to help control your writing destiny.

1. 1 – Search engine optimization – I know, you’re like, huh, what? No, I’m not speaking Klingon. I’m talking about the things that you as the author can do to help readers find your website, blog …your internet presence. Best of all, these steps are FREE.

Let me start by saying I’m no computer nerd and if I can do these simple steps to optimize search capability, you can too.

Go to your website. Look at the title bar. Are those words that people would type into Google to find you? Yes? Great. No? Um. Think of some new keywords.

Got your keywords but don’t know how to upload them? In your browser, go to view, then source. Up pops a menu of (what looks like Klingon) but is really metadata or metatags.

· There you’ll find title tags, description tags and keyword tags. Just update them in your website’s original source files, hit save and hit refresh. Ta da!

· Having trouble finding the right keywords? Think in Google search terms. What might a person type in Google to find you or ask people what they typed to find you.

Or the real secret trick: find your work on Amazon. com. Click view then source, like we did above. If you’re lucky (sometimes its locked) it’ll pop up and show you the metadata and keywords Amazon used to categorize you!

· Lastly, optimize your searches by linking your websites with other authors. The more links you have the more web visits you are likely to receive.

2. Keep your eye on price – In the business world, orders are largely won or lost on price. Price is a component to everything business runs on. In business, you consider how to get the highest price for your product. Once your product is in the marketplace, you want to keep generating demand for a set price.

For for writers, I know most of your pricing is contracted and we all have a good idea how much a 400 page paperback novel sells for. What I’m talking about – and where artists, like you, can seriously get hosed is the .99 cent sale. With the rise of e-book readers and self-published authors, there’s more competition in the marketplace than ever before.

To offset the mob scene of authors getting into the ring is the .99 cent sale. In some cases, it works. Let’s take Amanda Hocking for example. Nice writer, great stories and she makes money in the .99 cent game. But, for you guys who aren’t self-published, let’s think this through before we run down the road of .99 cent sales.

In my opinion, be wary of the .99-cent sale. Why? Multiple reasons, here’s one example, not of writer but of a popular musician who went down the road of the .99-cent sale. Let me paraphrase the Chart Watch June 5 on article for you:

Lady Gaga's Born This Way set another record, but not one that Gaga's team will be happy about. It was reported on that sales of the album dropped off by 84% from its sizzling opening week. Her sales saw the steepest drop-off in sales history.

Gaga's album sold 174,000 copies down from 1,108,000 when sales were goosed by a two-day, 99-cent sale at Amazon. A big drop-off was to be expected. But the fact that Gaga's drop-off was steeper than any of the other follow-ups to albums that had a million-unit week is troublesome. It seems obvious that the opening week tally for Born This Way was generated not only by hard-core fans, but also by casual fans who just didn't want to pass up such a deal. Last week's near giveaway worked in the short term (by giving Gaga the biggest one-week sales total since 2005), but it may have also served to devalue albums in general and Gaga's brand in particular.

But Jennifer, you say, my sales aren’t close to the numbers Gaga is pulling down. And girlfriend did make a quick buck. Maybe. But I think it will be hard to justify to the buying public the sale a novel for .99-cents one month then sell a future book at market price twelve months later.

All I’m asking you guys to do is not to jump so quick into the .99-cent sales arena. Think it through. What does an offer of your work for .99-cents say about you? Does it suggest that the work is sub-par and you’re giving it away? How will it affect your brand? And if you sell this book at .99 cents, where do you position yourself going forward?

If you still need a litmus test on whether you should enter the .99-cent arena, consider how many people you can get excited about this effort. Do you have 20,000 twitter followers or Facebook friends who are going to help you promote this sale? Can you position the .99-cent sale as a gift to all of your faithful fans? If yes, give it a try. If not, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3. Embrace Mobile Optimization – In February, I ran across a statistic that said 90% of all purchases will be made via mobile device (phone or tablet) in the next 12-18 months. With that in mind, savvy authors should start placing QR (quick response) codes on your book jackets. It’s a must have.

Here’s one:

If you have a smartphone, download a QR code reader. Scan your phone over the code and wha-la, my website. It’s an easy and a FREE way to attract potential new readers and drive traffic to your website. To make your own QR code, search “QR code generator” and input your information. It’s that simple!

If your book is stocked on the shelf, all a perspective buyer has to do is scan your QR code which will connect them directly to your website or blog so that they can find out more about you and make a purchasing decision right there on the spot!

4. Brand Continuity- In my marketing guide, Market or Die; I stress to authors how important it is to know yourself and your work before developing your author brand. Your brand has to be sustainable and it has to send the right message to your audience. Case in point, there’s a romance author (No. I’m not telling who it is) whose brand is “the author your mother warned you about.” I thought to myself, “Really? That’s what you’re going with?” Now, I don’t know about you, but my mother warned me against taking rides and candy from strangers, not about authors or books.

Double check your brand statement. Make sure it reflects a positive message about you and your work. You, your brand, and your work all go hand in hand --they have to send a singular, positive message in order to be believable in the marketplace and become something that you can build upon.

5. Selling Forward- I have many author friends and one thing I consistently see them do is promote one book at a time. Release day hits and they are on Facebook, Twitter, and email promoting one book at a time. In marketing, we’re always working six to twelve and sometimes eighteen months ahead.

Today’s gone.

In this marketer’s opinion I’d like to see an author say, “Thanks for your support of the release of Market or Die on sale now at, but be sure not to miss the next in my series, Market or Die: Integrated Marketing Plan Advice for Writers releasing this July and for you devout Market or Die fans, Market or Die: Sensible Advice on using Social Media will release in the fall of 2011.”

You see. I didn’t just sell one book – I sold three.

Don’t have an upcoming release that you can speak of? Sell your backlist. Sell yourself. Sell your upcoming personal appearances. Heck, sell something besides that one book. Maximize all opportunities to self-promote when you have a listening audience. You’ll be glad you did.

6. Market using an integrated strategy – Is #6 a shameless plug for my next Market or Die release? You bet. What did you expect? I’m a marketer. Shoot me if you like, but I wanted to write about the use of an integrated strategy because I don’t see too many authors doing it and, in this digital age, executing an integrated strategy is easy.

When you have a release, you want to promote a singular, positive message about that release, or next three releases, (see tip #5). List all the places where you can communicate that message and integrate them. Your integrated plan may include: Organic Searches (having people find your web presence WITHOUT costing you money), Paid searches (having people find your web presences which DOES cost you money), Mobile marketing (QR codes), promotions, print or digital advertising, social media (Twitter, Facebook and You Tube) and word-of mouth.

By implementing an integrated strategy authors can construct a social graph, which will help the author spot influencers (those who can help drive a purchasing decision), identify opportunities for collaboration and drive reader engagement therefore producing positive sales results. Just the kind of results we’re looking for!

HANK: Told you! Questions for Jennifer? She's here--and do take advantage of this wonderful access!
Jennifer Fusco is the Creative & Brand Marketing Manager for the General Electric Company, North America. In her writing life, Jennifer is a member of RWA’s PRO network, Vice President of the Connecticut Romance Writers Association and a writer of paranormal romance.

To contact Jennifer with your marketing questions or to purchase a copy of MARKET OR DIE, please visit her website


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I'd like to hear what you think is the biggest mistake writers making when it comes to marketing--other than not doing any.


  2. Hi, Jennifer--

    What do you recommend for branding when you write more than one series under your own name? Should I deal with only one at a time, or push a package ("if you liked my XXX series, take a look at my YYY series too")?


  3. Hi Darlene, I believe a big mistake writers can make is not being authentic to your brand. In the book, I talk about how your brand needs to be part of you in order to make it sustainable over a long period of time. Its too hard and too stressful to "fake it" every time you leave the house.

  4. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for Market or Die ... it was so full of great tips. When is your next one going to be available? Can't wait to see what other great nuggets of gold you have for us. Thanks for all you are doing for the authors.
    Gerri Brousseau

  5. Hi Sheila,
    Push the package, baby! As marketers we are always looking for that cross over (we call it market bleed) we want one buying group to purchase everyting from the same source (you being that source). Absolutely cross promote - especially since you already have a buying audience.

  6. Hi Gerri,

    I'm going to a conference this month on social media and hope to bring those golden nuggets to you later this summer. I'm working on a book about integrated marketing plans for writers. Its more complex so I would expect that to be more of an end of the year project. Thanks for your support.

  7. The QR code thing is the coolest I've ever heard. Could you put it on a business card?

  8. Hi Hank,
    Absolutely! Business cards, print ads, flyers, can put QR codes anywhere you can print.
    Great question!

  9. I gotta do the QR thing, too. I use them on the phone, but don't use them for myself. And thanks for talking about SEO. The way you explain it, I think I can understand it.

  10. Glad I could help, Rhonda!

  11. WOW. I will be saving that one. THANK YOU.

  12. Cannot wait to read it....just in case one of the thoughts in my head makes it to paper! Thank you!

  13. Hi Jennifer,
    Great stuff! Downloading your book tonight! Two questions: I have two series debuting in 2012--one under my own name and one under a pen name (had to it's a work for hire). Same publisher. Should I cross promote by always mentioning my "other" name when I market?

    Also, how do you get a QR code?

  14. Welcome to JRW Jennifer!
    Hypothetically, of course, suppose a writer has a substantial backlist, national sales presence, some concept of niche marketing, ebooks and social media, BUT said writer produces a book every 2 years, i.e. a shortage of new product and a disadvantage in today's fluid publishing environment.

    How might this affect branding/marketing strategy. i.e. tools/mix. Oh yes, and do book trailers on you tube and elsewhere actually help?
    Thanks, Ross
    PS I know an author who just ordered your book :)

  15. Great tips! I emailed the link to the article to my website guru (my dear hubby), with a note asking what we can do about Mobile Optimization, something I hadn't thought about yet. Thanks so much!

  16. What if you put your QR code on a t-shirt? Would that work?

  17. And Jennifer, HYPOTHETICALLY, what if a hypthetical author was going to have a new series--new character, new everything, multipleov, third-not-first person, everything different--but the prevous series was still in play.

    How would you acknowledge-this is different, but you'll still love it?

  18. Good morning, Jennifer. I certainly don't want to shoot you. Wow, you've given me hope.

    I worry about the amount of time we have to spend on line. What would you say to those of us who want to spend hours and hours :: gasp :: writing?

    Off to visit your website.

  19. GAWD, I love to see actual practical advice that can be used immediately--for FREE. Excellent, Jenn.

  20. Hi Meg,
    Regarding your series in 2012 you will want to postion them as Meg Last name, author of series # 1 on your series 2 books and Meg, Last name author of series # 2 on your series 1 book. So yes, cross promote where you can.

    Google QR code generator. There are several sites that make them. Its free!

  21. Hi Ross,
    In today's fast changing market, I see where you are worried about being left behind because of the time lag in between releases. For someone in your case, I'd look into community building. Building an online community (Readers of Ross) for example can help you stay in the mind of the buying public.

    And to your You Tube question. Any time you integrate your marketing it helps. So, if you use a book trailer in conjunction with your Facebook page and your QR codes and tweeting it helps. We've proven in business that video's 30 seconds or less get a larger # of hits, just FYI.

  22. Thanks for the kind words, Beth!

  23. Hi Hank,
    QR codes on a t-shirt. Yes. It was commonly used at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show)in Vegas this year on the models.

    I talked to one of the models. After the Tshirt was washed the QR code sometimes didn't work very well.

    AND! Beware of placement! People will hold their smartphones up to your boobs or photographing your Butt.

  24. SO funny! Exactly what I was wondering about the t-shirt. Who'd have thoguht we'd be thinking about stuff like this? Maybe it goes on the back..

  25. Hi Donnell,

    If the product is junk, the biggest marketing and online presence in the world can't save it.
    Your product (your book, writing) is the most important. That's why your readers come back because of your talent and their emotional investment in it.

    So, keep your online presence managable and do only the marketing activities you can handle and perform them to your very best.

  26. Thanks for dropping by, Toni. Good to see you my friend.

  27. Hi Hank,
    Responding to your two series in play question...

    Products do what you're asking all the time...In this case, we position the book using the author as the anchor of the marketing campaign...

    Using you as my example here. I'd list the differences from the exisiting series:

    "New characters, new challenging mystery, hotter sex" (I'm guessing)...then validate the claim with, "Along with everything you've come to expect from Hank Phillipi Ryan."

  28. Ooh, hotter sex. Why didn't I think of that?

  29. Hi Jennifer,
    I'm about to upload a light vampire/romance novel to Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Different genre from my mystery, which will be out Oct. 1 in paper. I'm going to use your ace tips (and thank you for the explanation of the QR codes!). Beyond putting a "Look for the next SNAP book, coming in winter 2012", I've included a sample chapter of the mystery with a "Look bookstores in October 2011 and ebook in November 2011." Is this the best way to do this?

  30. Good stuff -- many thanks. "(What you've come to expect from JRW -- and Jennifer!"

  31. Jen,

    Awesome, practical advice. I love it and thank you for sharing it with all of us! You rock, lady. Looking forward to your next books!

  32. Michele,
    It absolutely is!! That's selling forward, my friend. Nice job!

  33. Thanks Leslie and Casey! I appreciate your support.

  34. HI, Toni! Great to see ou here..xox

    Hey, Leslie! How's the book? You'll come to JR to tell us all about it, right? (And email me, okay?)

  35. Hey, Hank! "Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure" will be out in October -- and it's not just for mystery writers! And yes, I'd LOVE to come to JRW this fall to talk and answer questions!

  36. Thanks, Jennifer! You're amazing.
    You've changed peoples' lives today, that's for sure!Come back and visit, okay?

    xoxo Hank

  37. Anytime Hank!

  38. Thanks for the Q&A with Jennifer! Super informative and lots to think about. Love how you worked in a plug for your next couple books. :)