Archive for the ‘Business Sense’ Category

Book Marketing Advice From Penny Sansevieri

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.

Penny successfully marketed her first book, The Cliffhanger, which was released in 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign, it soared up the ranks at and held the #1 spot for three months. Her most recent book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, has been called “an indispensable guide to leveraging the Internet for success.”

Penny’s diverse background enables her to bring a multitude of talents to the table as well as a myriad of marketing techniques. Penny generously shared some of those techniques with me in an interview about author websites and online marketing. Read on for Peggy’s tips on websites, social networking and other goodies to help you get published.

First things first. What are some of the essential ingredients of an author’s website?

The website should be a platform for the book and the author, so it has to convey the benefits and messages of the book.

I could talk about how many pages the site needs and what specifically needs to be on those pages, but it really all comes down to the benefits of the book. Creating a website is one thing, but creating a website that delivers a message – that’s a big difference.

The website should be a platform for the book and the author.

Ok, so once I figure out my message, how do I get people to stick around my website long enough to read the message and hopefully buy my book?

First of all, I like to see a “sign up” link on the homepage of the author’s website. The reason is you want to capture information of the person landing on the site. So maybe you give them something like tips or a free chapter of the book in order to get their email address. Email capture is a big big big thing.

You always want to have a very clear call to action on the homepage, so put the latest book on the homepage with a buy it now button. You also want to have an “About the book” page.

And I also always recommend that an author have a blog.

A lot of writers debate having a blog. Some people think it’s too personal. How can an author use their blog to promote the book?

It’s all about the voice of the blog. For example, if the author’s written fiction, they could write in the voice of the character.

You can also blog about the book, the experience of writing the book and your publishing journey. 83% of americans want to write a book. So if you write about writing a book, you’re going to capture a large measure of the audience interested in what you have to say.

The other thing is, only write about what you had for breakfast if it relates to the book. For example, I worked with an author who’s book was about the experience of being a mom. So on her blog she writes about her daily life. It makes sense for her to do that, to even talk about the minutia of whatever deal she got at a grocery store because it dials into the book.

Once you figure out what your message is, you can get very creative with your message. You can review other books and products. You can review other experts in your industry. It just has to dial around the same topic.

A blog works as long as it circles around the book and enhances your platform.

A blog works as long as it circles around the book
and enhances your platform.

You say a homepage should do just one thing and have a focussed goal. What should an author put on their homepage to reflect their goal?

The homepage can get very tricky. First off, you want to limit your homepage copy to about 250 words, so you don’t want a very wordy homepage. Don’t go on and on about yourself unless your book is a memoir.

A lot of authors say “Hi my name is…” No one cares about that besides your mother. When someone lands on your site, remember it’s all about them and how book is going to enhance their lives. Maybe it’s going to teach them, maybe it’s going to entertain them.

Take a look at some of the really well known author sites. For example, look at a fiction author who’s written in the thriller genre. The first thing you see when you land on their homepage is a creepy, thriller-like appearance, and they’re doing that to speak to their audience. You want to speak to your audience.

And obviously you don’t want a ton of stuff cluttering the homepage. I like it when authors have some kind of a signup. And you definitely want to have the cover of a book.

You say it’s important for people to network. After building a website, what’s the first step authors should take to network with other people and drive traffic to their website?

The first thing you should do is what I call “cybershmoozing.” Start networking with other people in your industry. Follow some blogs in your market. Leave comments. When you write comments you can leave your website address. That’s one real way to network and get people to your site.

This does two things. First, it lets you get to know your market and helps them get to know you. But it also creates backlinks to your site. You could also start a Facebook fan page, a Squidoo page, or use a Twitter account. All of these add incoming links to your site. If you already have a book out, you could even start sending that book out and pick bloggers to review the book.

Another technique is article syndication where you write articles and then syndicate them online.

A lot of time with freelancers this can get tricky because they have a lot of content they are selling to magazines. But if you have articles of portions of your book you can syndicate them to places like articlecity and EzineArticles. This will create more backlinks to your site.

Which is the most important social networking site for authors?

Facebook and Twitter are two of the strongest sites because they get really good link juice going to your author website.

Say I’ve written a book but it hasn’t been published yet. Should I bother with a website? How can I use it to market my book before I’ve been published?

Absolutely. I really recommend an author start working on a platform as soon as they can. You can still do Twitter and Facebook.

A lot of authors tend to fly under the radar screen until their books come out – that’s actually a mistake. You want to be marketing your book even before you have a book. Network with your market, go after bloggers in the market, cybershmooze with them, comment on their blog posts, get to know them before the book comes out.

When we’ve coached authors in how to do this, we have them network with 20-30 bloggers so they get known in their area. Then, when their book comes out, they mail a copy to the blog author and that person already knows who they are.

A good author website all comes down to the benefits of the book.
Creating a website is one thing, but creating a website
that delivers a message – that’s a big difference.

Thank you, Penny, for taking the time to talk to us about author marketing. To find out more about Penny, visit Author Marketing Experts, Inc. and be sure to check out her latest book, Red Hot Internet Publicity.

Get Your Brand on On

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

The latest issue of WOW! Women on Writing is all about self-promotion and features an interesting interview with children’s writer Shelli Johannes-Wells. Shelli tells us all about branding, the difference between book brands and author brands, and ways to use the internet to promote your brand.

I like her advice to new writers on getting started with a personal brand, especially this bit:

Think about yourself as a writer. What kind of writer do you want to be? Who is your audience? What do you write? What qualities connect your writing?

She suggests that new writers start by creating a platform for their brand, using a website as a starting point, and stresses that you don’t need to be published to do that:

And if you are not published yet, think about how you want to market yourself to agents and editors. How do you want to get your name out to your peers and within the industry? You can do that before you get published. I did.

Home Page.jpgOne particularly interesting bit is her critique of the interviewer’s website. Among her suggestions, Shelli advises writers to NOT use their photo on the front page of their websites, which I’m not sure that I agree with (I have mine on the front page of But she has a point:

I don’t think an author should show her picture on the front page unless she is well known (like Meg Cabot). It automatically gives readers some impression of you before they read your writing. You want the reader to focus on the writing, not you as a person. Again, you can put your picture on the About Me page.

I guess it comes down to personal preference. My personal opinion is that a photo that looks professionally done may actually do more for your cred than a generic photo of a pen or a typewriter.

In any case, her critique may help you start thinking about your personal brand and how your website can help with that. What impression are you giving editors? What’s your style?

Read the rest of the interview at Wow! Women on Writing.

Your Website as a “Calling Card”

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

In writing my last blog post I happened upon the MPA’s How to Become a Freelance Writer, a 4-page PDF with some good tips for new writers.

The article includes advice on how to send clips and writing samples with query letters to editors:

Most magazine editors receive queries via e-mail, although you can send a query letter by mail or fax depending on your target magazine’s preference. When querying via e-mail, it is suggested that you use one of these formats
to send your clips:

* Copy and paste text into the bottom of your e-mail
* Send the editor links to your work at other sites
* Create your own website as a “calling card,” posting several of your articles online to show editors

Do not send an editor an e-mail attachment unless it has been
More often than not, it will be deleted, sight unseen.

One of our goals with Writer’s Residence is to give writers a place to host their writing samples so that it’s easy to send editors links to their work on the web. It’s good to hear that the MPA encourages writers to use the web in this way. I also like their “calling card” metaphor for an online portfolio. After all, online portfolios are pretty much replacing business cards as more and more writing work becomes entirely virtual.

Do Writers Need an Online Portfolio?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Today, I’m thrilled to bits to be guest blogging on one of my favorite writing blogs, Tumblemoose.

Tumblemoose is George Angus, a professional writer who lives in Alaska and has an amazingly smooth bald head that I swear tells the future. In fact, his head just told me that you’re going to head over to Tumblemoose to read my guest post about why writers need an online writing portfolio.

Here’s a snip to whet your appetite:

There comes a time in every writer’s life when she asks herself if she should set up a website. For me, that was in early 2008 while I was still working full-time at a bank but dreaming of going solo as a freelance writer. I decided to register a domain and hack together an online writing portfolio to promote myself as a writer. Although I would have rather spent the time pitching articles and writing stories, the effort paid off – I got my first commission, for a national newspaper, after sending the website address to an editor who asked to see some writing samples.

Do all writers need an online writing portfolio? My short answer: absolutely. This fact only becomes clearer as my career progresses and I build up my portfolio with clips and samples. Here are just a few benefits of putting your work online…

Read the rest of my post at Tumblemoose. And while your there, have a look around – George has written plenty of helpful articles for aspiring writers to learn from!

Seth Godin Interview: How to Become a Leader

Friday, February 27th, 2009

061AD8AA-279A-4D99-91BD-DC134B1E38BE.jpgPick up any how-to book on writing and chances are they will all contain this piece of advice:

Pick your niche and become an expert.

In other words, become a leader in your field of choice. But how does one become a leader?

Seth Godin’s latest book, Tribes, is all about leadership. Today’s copyblogger features an interview with Seth Godin in which he talks about the dynamics of tribal leadership. It’s worth a read if you’re having trouble picking your tribe (i.e. your niche) and getting in touch with fellow tribe members. For example, Seth shares a few “universal principles”, some of which are especially true for writers:

Charisma doesn’t make you a leader, leading gives you charisma.

When in doubt, work with small groups.

Talk to people with respect, don’t advertise at them.

Transparency is your only option, because the tribe will smell artifice.

While these tips might seem general, think about how they apply specifically to your writing life. Here’s an idea: have a look at your blog or writing portfolio. How do you present yourself? Are you a jack-of-all-trades? Or have you focused your writing on a specific genre? Do you come off as preachy or salesy? Or do you tell it like it is, in plain English? Are you trying to address everyone in the world, or have you targeted a specific market?

Being a writer is ALL about being a leader. Why else would someone read what you have to say?

Read on…

Find Success in a Subpar Economy: Capitalize on Trends

Monday, February 9th, 2009

It had to happen sooner or later.

Last week I sent out a few pitches to some UK newspapers and magazines. Today, the emails started rolling in…

I’m afraid I’m not commissioning anything at the current time.

We’re not commissioning at the moment. Sorry.

Would they have commissioned my article otherwise? I guess I’ll never know.

I’m not the only writer who’s struggling at the moment. Many of you out there are feeling the pain. But there’s good news for us freelancers: we’re in a prime position to weather the storm.

But how?

Yuwanda Black of Copyblogger explains, “we live in the information age. No matter what’s happening in the world, information needs to be disseminated.”

Yuwanda suggests that we start thinking of ourselves as “information consultants” rather than freelance writers.

“When you become an information consultant, your mindset shifts. Then you start looking to capitalize on trends.”

Kristine Hanson, a freelance writer and author, agrees that the ability to spot trends is vital to surviving a tough economy.

“Any person in any career right now needs to think outside of the box to not only adapt, but succeed,” says Hanson on The Golden Pencil.

Where do you spot these trends? There are plenty of places to look: newspapers, blogs, radio, the people around you. Still overwhelmed? Then check out Inkwell Editorial’s 2008-2009 free industry jobs report. The paper outlines hot niches in areas such as finance, technology, health, green writing, politics, online marketing and travel writing. This one got my attention:

Gerontology: The study of old people. With an aging population, this field will provide plenty of gigs for new and experienced freelance writers in the years to come… eg, diseases most likely to affect the elderly,
healthcare cost, care facilities for the elderly, careers possibilities for college graduates, medical advancements that increase life span, what living longer means for natural resources, etc…Get the idea?

Niches that never go out of style? According to Inkwell:

Some mentally challenging diseases like autism;
Smoking cessation;
Alcohol and drug abuse; and

2008-2009 free industry jobs report [Inkwell Editorial]

Where have all the freelance writing jobs gone? [Copyblogger]

Image credit: respres

Are you an Accidental Freelancer?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Have you found yourself out of a full-time job, suddenly forced to cobble a living from various freelance, contract and part-time gigs? Then you’re not alone. Tina Brown calls this “The Gig Economy”, and according to her poll in The Daily Beast, one third of Americans are now working either freelance or two jobs, with nearly one in two (45%) taking on these additional positions in the last six months.

Of course, just because you’ve been wooed into freelancing by the Gig Economy doesn’t mean it’s easy to run your own show. To help all you new freelancers out there, Michelle Goodman of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide has an article on ABC News sharing her 10 recommendations for navigating your newfound freelance status.

In addition to some softer recommendations such as “the alarm clock is not your friend” and “your bed is not an office”, she also includes some really useful advices about taxes (their not optional), contracts (don’t do work without one) and health insurance (a necessary evil).

Read on at ABCNews…

10 recommendations for navigating your newfound freelance status

Andrew Crofts on Writer’s Websites

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009


Ghostwriter Andrew Crofts is my personal hero of the writing world. His book, The Freelance Writer’s Handbook, is perhaps the single most influential book in convincing me to take the plunge into freelancing. More than a mere how-to guide, The Freelance Writer’s Handbook manages to deliver a solid dose of motivation along with all the essential tips on finding markets, making contacts and pitching stories.

skitched-20090204-122701.jpgOne of Andrew’s key messages in his book is the importance of marketing. Marketing is how you persuade people to pay you to write. Recently, I was very fortunate to have an email discussion with Andrew about marketing and how a website should fit into an aspiring writer’s marketing machine. Here’s what he said:

Setting up a website was the best marketing move I ever made. It has brought in a host of interesting enquiries and leading to a dozen number one bestsellers and trips to a variety of places from Bermuda to Lahore. Within a year of starting it was virtually my only marketing tool, permanently out there in the ether waiting to be discovered and followed up by potential clients. I firmly believe that every writer should have one.

Unsurprisingly, Andrew is using his website as a marketing tool to promote his new book, The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride. In this case, Andrew is taking web marketing to a whole new level by creating a website for Steffi McBride herself, with a Twitter feed and Facebook page to boot. Some say it’s going a little far, but even so, he’s getting attention and that’s what marketing is all about. But it also proves that marketing is tough and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it right, even with a simple website. No wonder so many people are nervous about biting the bullet and building a website – what if it doesn’t work?

One of our goals with Writer’s Residence is to take this worry out of the website process. As such, I was very happy to read Andrew’s kind words about our product:

A website can be expensive and time consuming, and seem a little daunting to a newcomer. What Writer’s Residence has done is create an easy to understand and easy to afford package which removes every excuse for avoiding taking the plunge. A brilliant concept, beautifully presented.

Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew Crofts
The Freelance Writer’s Handbook

Twitter: How Embracing The Mundane Could Be A Boon To Your Writing Business

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

A while back I wrote that social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to get people to visit your writing website and online portfolio. Today I took my own advice and signed up with a Twitter account.

Twitter is like a cross between a blog and an instant messenger, what the “tweeters” call a “micro-blog”. Twitter lets you post short, 140-character text updates to a public website, which people can follow and respond to if they feel like it.

At first glance, Twitter seems like just a bunch of people writing messages about nothing.

“I’m at the airport!”

“Politics is stupid.”

“Spilled an entire coffee in the back seat of my car. Starting the day off right.”

Sound pointless? That’s what I thought at first. But after a couple days of using Twitter, I am starting to see its purpose, especially for writers like me.

Publicize Your Website and Writing Portfolio

Like all social networks, Twitter lets you have a profile where you can add a link to your website. While this is great in itself, Twitter takes this a step further by letting you post a message whenever you’ve made a change to your website or blog. Write a tweet whenever you’ve published an article and post a link to Twitter.

Deborah Ng of does this whenever she’s updated her blog. She uses “Twitter Feed” to send these announcements automatically:

What I like about it is how posts are automatically tweeted out everyday, even if I didn’t do it manually, and even if I didn’t write the post myself. Anything on my RSS Feed is sent out over my Twitter Feed.


Freelance writer Robin Shreeves also uses Twitter to get feedback on her website:

It’s a good way to promote my writing – especially my blogs that thrive on page views. It’s also a good place to go when a post isn’t doing so well to ask people to trade a stumble or a digg.

Network With Other Writers and Make New Friends

This is undoubtedly the best thing about Twitter. Deborah Ng has used it to amass quite a following:

I started out with one follower and now have about 1200. I met new people, did some business, swapped ideas and stories, and received breaking news. Because Twitter is 140 characters or less, I’m not committed to some deep conversation.

In fact, this 140-character limit completely changes the face of conventional “networking” by embracing the small details of life. These may seem trivial at first, but as social media strategist David Griner argues, these trivialities let you get to know people in a more “three-dimensional way” than ever before:

…if all you do is post little tidbits like this, it’s true that you’ll probably never get much of a following. But if they’re sprinkled in with thoughts from your professional life, the result will be a well-rounded expression of who you are. (You might also find someone else to get coffee with in the same airport, or some suggestions for better places to buy scones.)

Find Sources

Need to interview someone for a story? Twitter is full of useful subjects. Robert Janelle follows people in the sector he covers, which often leads to insights that can lead to a story:

From the tweets I follow, I can see who likes or dislikes a certain product, who holds certain views on a subject and well, almost anything folks are willing to share with their followers.

Learn From Writers Like You

If you’re an aspiring writer, why not follow other writers and see what they Twitter about? As writer Stacie Connerty points out, you may learn a thing or two:

I also follow a lot of people on Twitter who I find interesting or seem to do the type of work that I would like to do. I learn a lot that way.

If you having trouble finding writers to follow, check out this list of UK journalists on Twitter for a start.

Show Interest In Others and They Will Show Interest In You

This is the golden rule of Twitter. Like all social media platforms, Twitter is a community and you’ll get as much out of it as you put in. What you put in may seem trivial at first, but those details will actually help people get to know you on a more personal level. That way, when you do post something work-related, people in your community will notice.

But don’t take it from me – I’ve only been using Twitter for less than a day. What do other writers have to say about it?

Robin Shreeves:

Building a network went slowly at first, but the more followers you have the more you’ll get. I now get a few new followers each day, and about once a week I actively go looking for followers.

Stacie Connerty:

I absolutely love Twitter. I have gotten some great leads and some fabulous ideas. Twitter really works and I think that I am developing an addiction but it sure is fun!!

Are you on Twitter?

Let us know, and don’t forget to follow me @MonicaShaw.

Writing as a Business

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Remember, you’re not just a writer; you’re an entrepreneur. Treat your writing like a business. Your words are your products and clients must pay in order to receive those products. It makes it much easier for you to take yourself seriously and to project a professional image.
Lori Widmer (via The Golden Pencil)

A couple weeks ago I took a free course on Becoming Self Employed offered by the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs. Although I always knew that I should treat writing as my business, I never really knew what that meant until taking the course.

I suspect I’m not the only freelance writer out there who takes business sense for granted. Most of us are so focussed on getting published that we forget about the business altogether. This is a mistake – learning to run a business is extremely valuable for freelance writers, and it’s one of the few things that make the pros stand out from the wannabes. It’s also the only way to keep track of your income, save on taxes and stay organized.

So where can you begin learning about business?

Take a course

I highly recommend signing up for a course or workshop that covers business basics. You could pay for a college or university course, but don’t neglect the wealth of free stuff out there.

In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs offers several free workshops, including Becoming Self Employed, and Self Assessment (Tax Return) for Self-Employed People.

In the US, the Small Business Administration offers free online business courses, including a Small Business Primer, Developing a Business Plan, and Marketing 101.

Read all about it

There are loads of blogs out there that regularly feature articles about the business side of freelance writing. Here are just a few.

Talk to people

And I don’t just mean freelance writers – get in touch with other entrepreneurs. I find that talking to other small business owners actually energizes me to be more business savvy.

There are plenty of online business forums full of people giving out free advice and support on marketing, accounting, PR, and anything having to do with running a successful business. I participate in the A1 Business Forums and ukbusinessforums, both of which have been great resources for advice and conversation.

You can also check the freelance-focussed forums, such as freelance folder, Absolute Write and Freelanceswitch, where you can talk with more people like you who are trying to make it as a freelancer.

And of course, never forget the value of talking to someone face to face. My friend Rory told me about something called The Tuttle Club here in London, a “loose association of people finding a way of working better together both online and off”. There are loads of clubs like this all over the place. Search Google or check on craigslist. And if you can’t find one, start your own, just like George is doing in Wasilla, Alaska.

Do you have business sense?

How did you learn? Where did you start? What have I missed? Leave your tips in the comments.