Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Guest: Margo Bond Collins

My Guest this week has some extremely important advice for what to do when you have finished writing the novel. Now comes the hard bit. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Margo Bond Collins

Marketing Strategies for Authors: 
Holding Successful Online Release Parties

Back in the old, big-six-only publishing days, publishers would host extravagant parties for their authors, toasting them with champagne and serving caviar on little crackers while discussing the literary value of the books they produced. At least, that’s how I imagine it. For all I know, that’s still how it goes. (Okay. Actually, I’m pretty certain that never happened to the great majority of published authors. But it’s a nice little daydream.)

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Now, of course, even authors who publish with the traditional houses are expected to have a “platform,” a means of marketing their work to potential readers. And authors who either publish with indie presses or self-publish can’t survive without a marketing strategy that encompasses a wide variety of social media: Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever else catches the public’s eye.

But it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of keeping up with the social media, easy to forget to do anything other than the online equivalent of shouting “buy my book!” into the (potential) void.  We’re told that we should “build relationships” with potential readers, but figuring out precisely how to do that remains a bit of a mystery to many of us, I think.

This issue was brought sharply to my attention just last week when a fellow author responded to my invitation to the online release party for my second novel, Fairy, Texas. She asked if I thought there was any real value to the kind of party I was having—one with giveaways and prizes—or if I thought people were there only to grab free stuff. She was considering cancelling the release party for her next book because she wasn’t certain that it would result in any sales.

I thought about her question for quite a while before I answered here. After all, even without a physical venue for the party, the prizes were going to cost me something. My indie publishers, while extremely supportive, aren’t able to provide all that much in the way of giveaways. I have three (and maybe four) books coming out in a twelve-month period—the result of sending all my completed manuscripts out at the same time—and holding release parties for all of them, then mailing out prizes, could add up significantly in terms of cash and time.

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But my answer was ultimately that yes, I think the release parties are a good investment. I don’t know yet if a release party will ever result in immediately increased sales—I don’t have enough data yet to make that kind of determination—but I’ve decided not to take those kinds of immediate sales into consideration when deciding to hold my online release parties. Instead, I am focusing on two specific elements that are crucial to a successful release party: building relationships and celebrating success.  And those two elements are built in to the basics of a successful online release party—if done right, an online release party gives readers a chance to connect with an author and join in celebrating the author’s success, something that helps create a relationship between the reader and author.

So I am including the Steps to a Successful Online Release Party below. These are a few of the things that I have done in my own release parties.

10 Steps to a Successful Online Release Party

1. Pick a Platform.  I use Facebook because it’s easy to set an event page and invite others to participate.

2. Choose a Time. So far, I’ve had 3-hour parties; this allows enough time to hold contests and have conversations, but doesn’t leave much lag time. I’ve seen all-day events, and my experience has been that there are often whole hours without any active conversation. I think it’s important to keep the party moving!

3. Arrange for Prizes. There are basically two kinds of prizes: the ones you (or your publisher) provide, and the kind that other people provide. For my first release party, I had lots of swag printed up to use as prizes, then mailed it all out. For the second party, I decided to spend the swag and postage money offering gift cards instead—less work for me, more perceived value to my guests. Although the first kind of prize was more fun for me, I think the second kind was more fun for the people who attended my party. 

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4. Arrange for More Prizes. The second kind of prize consisted of e-book giveaways. I contacted all the indie authors I know and asked if they were willing to donate a copy of an e-book. To date, I have had more than 70 authors share their work with my readers. I love these kinds of prizes because they introduce my friends, fans, and readers to other authors!

5. Have a Grand Prize. I start the party by announcing the grand prize and then offer several ways to enter over the course of the party.

6. Create Contests.  For the ebook giveaways, I have party-goers “like” the author on Facebook or follow on Twitter or add on Goodreads. For the other prizes (whether gift cards or swag), I ask them to do things connected to my novel: find theme music for the novel, or suggest actors to play various characters, or pick out their favorite phrase in a short excerpt. These contests give the author a chance to interact with the party attendees in fun ways!

7. Create a Basic Script Before the Party.  I create a file with all of the major posts already written and arranged according to posting time. That way I can spend the bulk of my time at the party interacting with the people there rather than writing up posts and contests. Remember, the prizes and the posts should be a gateway to actually communicating with the guests!

8. Interact with the Guests. Comment on the guests’ posts, on the actors your guests choose, on the music that’s being suggested. Discuss other things, too—it doesn’t have to be all about the books!

9. Keep the Prizes Open for a Day (or so). This way anyone who wanted to attend but couldn’t will still be able to enter to win. I also add a “Release Week Giveaway” Rafflecopter at the very end of the party that runs for an additional week.

10. Have Fun! This is probably the most important element—as long as you’re having a good time, the rest of it will work out!

I would love to hear from other authors, readers, and publicists. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? How can these ideas be improved? What suggestions would you give someone who was planning an online release party?


Margo Bond Collins is the author of a number of novels, including 'Waking Up Dead', 'Fairy, Texas', and 'Legally Undead' (forthcoming in 2014). She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters.

Connect with Margo:

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Thank you for an interesting and informative article, Margo. Best wishes for 'Legally Undead'

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