I never thought I would say this, but middle grade is a pretty awesome time. At that age kids have outgrown picture books and easy readers but aren’t yet mature enough for young adult topics. They are discovering themselves and what interests them, and they are ready for a little bit of adventure. As a middle grade author, you are inspiring young readers and helping develop their interest in reading more. So how does a middle grade author grab the attention of 8-12 year olds so that they will read their book?
You don’t . . . (well, not at first. Just hear me out.)
You grab the attention of their parents, guardians, librarians, and teachers. These are the gatekeepers, the ones who make the purchases, who are on social media, and who ultimately make decisions for your target reader.
Have an online presence
With that in mind you want to tailor your online presence to catch the gatekeeper's eye. Use your social media wisely, promote your book, but don’t ONLY promote your book. Teachers and librarians aren’t only focused on books, but also on bettering the community. There’s a 20/80 rule where an author should use their online presence 20% of the time to promote their book and 80% of the time offering useful content like writing tips for writers of all ages or sharing links that are helpful to teachers and librarians. Talk about your writing process and other things that they can share with their students that can inspire them to want to give writing a try. Have giveaways geared towards educators that will get your book into their hands. Who doesn’t love free stuff?! Also, pay attention and respond to comments by the teachers and librarians, this will help you to connect with them and can lead to more personal ways to promote your book.
Get out there!
Once you have connected with the gatekeepers, you now have the opportunity to connect directly with your readers!
School and library visits are a wonderful way to engage with MG students. This can be done virtually or in person, and it’s your opportunity to feel like a celebrity! Them getting to meet the person who ACTUALLY wrote and published a book can be very inspiring and this will make them want to read your book even more. When you do go to in-person events, have something to give away, like bookmarks or lapel pins, something that the student can take away and be reminded to read your book. Again, who doesn’t love free stuff?! It can be scary to speak publicly but it is such an effective marketing tool. If public speaking isn’t your thing, make videos that you can share with teachers to show their students. Just get yourself out there in some way shape or form.
Channel your inner Spielberg (or hire someone to be your Spielberg)
Speaking of videos, another great way to connect with your reader is to create a book trailer. Let’s face it, we are all visual creatures, especially at that age. A book trailer can be a fun way for the parents and other gatekeepers to show MG readers how exciting your book is and pique their interest.
Just Be Yourself
Finally, just remember to have fun! Kids are very honest critics and they can tell when you are not in your comfort zone. You want to be authentic. If sprinkling jokes in here and there isn’t your thing, have some interactive games for the kids to take part in. Do what makes you feel comfortable, this will build trust between you and your potential reader.
by Michael Hardison
Your book is written, it’s in production, and you are waiting for its release with bated breath. So, what do you do in the meantime? The short answer is . . . a lot. Writing your story is just the first of many steps in getting your book on the market and into the hands of readers. One important element to work on during this time is creating and building your author brand. Let’s touch on the main points of building your brand.
What is an author brand?
Your brand is how you represent yourself and how readers and industry professionals perceive you. It’s a mix of your personal and professional values, interests, and skills. Ultimately, your author brand is what people think of when they hear your name or see your book out in the wild.
How do I define my brand?
Step 1: Define Your Target Audience
Knowing who you are writing for will make it easier to know how to talk to your ideal readers. You want to present yourself in a way that connects to your readers, whether that is through the way your website is designed or how you talk to them. You want your readers to find you relatable, that way they want to follow you throughout your writing career.
Step 2: Define Your Style Guide
The main goal in having a style guide is to remain consistent. You want your reader to know that it is you when they visit your website or see a post on social media. Your style guide can be kept to a simple document, with a few key elements:
• Your color choices
• The fonts you use as headers and text
• How your logo (if you have one) can be used in different settings
I recommend looking up other style guides for examples as you create your own. Be sure to share your guide with anyone who will be helping you with marketing your brand and your books.
Step 3: Define Your Content
Again, consistency is key. Your content should be consistent with your brand. When a reader visits your website/blog/social media, you want them to know what to expect. People find comfort in the expected. If your posts are all over the place, your following will not stay for very long. Think about how many times you have followed a content creator for a specific reason and once they derail from the expectations you have of them, you click that unfollow button. No one wants that. Decide on what your voice is and stick to it. Post what you are passionate about, people can see right through you when you are just posting something simply because it is trendy. And when you do make a post that aligns with a current trend, make sure that it is clear that the post still aligns with your voice and brand.
Now that you have your author brand defined, it is time to project your brand across all platforms that you are using; this includes your social media, website, and emails. Are you doing anything with local or national press? Follow your branding guidelines. Are you going on a blog, vlog, or other media tour? Follow your branding guidelines. Just get out there and represent yourself the way you want people to perceive you. You got this! You know who you are and what you want to accomplish, so let’s make it happen!
Finally, there is one major note I want to share with you. You are going to evolve, as a person, as an author, and as a social media presence. During this time, your author brand will evolve, too. So don’t feel like what you pick now as your style and content is what you have to be for the rest of your writing career. Don’t stress while you are figuring out your brand, and if you need help developing your author brand, ask for it. If you are working with a publisher, chances are they will be more than happy to assist you through this process. A sound author brand can lead to a successful author, and that’s what we all want in the end.
by Michael Hardison
Wildling Press chats with The Book Bar’s owner, Krystle Dandridge, about why indie bookstores matter and why Black and brown books, bookstores, and book communities are so important (and how she manages to run a great bookstore in Richmond, VA!).
Mary-Peyton Crook 00:25
Today we have with us a very special guest, Krystal Dandridge, owner of The Book Bar in Richmond, Virginia, which is a Black-owned, woman-owned bookstore that centers BIPOC authors and brands in an effort to uplift and support a culture that is often silenced. Welcome, Krystle, and thank you for being with us!
Krystle Dandridge 01:01
Thank you! Thanks for having me.
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:03
Of course! I know you have a very busy schedule; you had a big event yesterday, which is awesome. Krystle, what are your pronouns?
Krystle Dandridge 01:10
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:11
So just give us a little intro to The Book Bar and tell us what it's all about.
Krystle Dandridge 01:15
The Book Bar is a bookstore and wine shop. It's really a boutique bookstore. We center Black and brown voices, Black and brown creatives, Black and brown authors, Black and brown wines, art . . . everything in there is very much to promote and uplift Black and brown people. And the events that we do also reflect that. And so it's just kind of a space for community, a safe space for people just to come in and take a load off, you know? A little self care.
Christina Kann 01:43
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:46
You can definitely tell when you go into that space, that it's set up for relaxation, and for community to be together. There's lots of space for seating and for groups to sit together. It's really awesome.
Christina Kann 01:58
Yeah, take away the books, and it even could be like a wellness spa, you know what I mean?
Mary-Peyton Crook 02:04
Absolutely. And I love the story on your website of how The Book Bar came to be, how you came to open a bookshop. Can you tell us a little about about that?
Krystle Dandridge 02:14
Sure! It's always a funny question, because I never remember what I say to people. But it really comes down to, I mean, I've been a reader my entire life, and growing up, the difficult thing was finding books by people who look like me with stories about people who look like me and had similar experiences. I've walked into bookstores, and they would have an urban book section, which is fine, that's great, except Black people are not a monolith. So what are some other stories that are not urban fiction stories?
Krystle Dandridge 02:44
And that's if I found somebody who looked like me in the store. If they were in the store, it was like, in a section in the corner somewhere in the back with very few books, and I just, I got tired of that. And that was growing up. And so to, you know, now be in my 30s, to still walk into some bookstores, and that's the same exact experience . . . to me, it was problematic. And so I figured why not create a space? Especially given Richmond didn't at the time currently have one, and hadn't had one for some years--well over, I think, two decades going on three decades, Richmond had not had a Black-owned bookstore. And so for me, it was just kind of like, well, this is what I want. Let's create it.
Christina Kann 03:21
That's so wild and so important, because there's so many wonderful Black writers and readers here, you know? It's such an important part of the readership community here.
Krystle Dandridge 03:32
Mary-Peyton Crook 03:32
Absolutely. Yeah, it's wild to me because Richmond . . . you know, I love living in Richmond, I've lived here for a long time, but I feel like it thinks of itself as a cool place to be, as really a more modern place to be, but it took until 2022 to get a Black-owned bookstore in Richmond, [a place] that considers itself a really literary town.
Krystle Dandridge 03:52
Richmond is full of bookstores. Which is a great thing! Richmond is full of independent bookstores, but you just can't find Black or brown bookstores. And I just, I never understood why.
Mary-Peyton Crook 04:03
And you talked a little about it, but maybe flesh out a little bit about why it's important that that kind of space is in our community. Why is it important to the community of Richmond or to any community to have that Black-owned, woman-owned, but specifically Black-owned bookstore?
Krystle Dandridge 04:17
Representation. Representation matters. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be able to see themselves in any role there is, any role possible, and when you have so many forces kind of working against you, like the media, whatever you have, everything that you're seeing is very much mainstream, very much white. It's like, "All right, so where do I fit in?"
Krystle Dandridge 04:39
And so to have representation right in your own backyard is extremely important because it's, you know, yes, times are changing, yes, things are reflected on the TV, but again, I'm in my thirties. That's not how this looked when I was growing up. And so while things are shifting, it's still important because there's going to be a little girl or a little boy who wants to own a bookstore or who loves reading books or who wants to see stories about people like them.
Krystle Dandridge 05:04
And so walking into a space where you know it's no question: there is acceptance (because we know that that's not everywhere you go), walking into a space where you know, without a doubt, you're going to be accepted, you're going to find people who look like you, and you're going to have something that you can aspire to--that's important. Representation just . . . it matters.
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:21
Absolutely. That importance has been so clear through the outpouring of support and community engagement that you've had for your year that you've been open. You just celebrated your first anniversary on February 5! Congratulations!
Krystle Dandridge 05:35
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:35
Christina Kann 05:36
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:37
And I know it's just gonna blossom even more as you're running it. What does it mean to you to know that you've successfully provided that space for the community for a whole year now?
Krystle Dandridge 05:47
You know, I don't know how to answer that, because I think I'm kind of still processing it. Like, I still am trying to process everything, the fact that I've been around for a year, the fact that it's not the easiest thing to do. And it's interesting, because everyone's like, "Oh, you just, you know, I'd love to own a bookstore, you just kind of read books all day." And I'm like, "I wish! I wish that's all I did!" You guys walk in, and you might see me reading a book; however, that's probably in the midst of everything else I have going on, because I still love reading books, but I also have to read books! So sometimes you walk in to see me reading a book, and I'm actually working, it's not just me lounging around reading.
Krystle Dandridge 06:23
So trying to process everything and still stay grounded, still keep the mission forefront, because it's not always the easiest thing to do. It's hard to really understand what it truly means, you know, that it's been a year. And so for me, I'm like, a year's not that long. But on the flip side, I'm also like, but it's been a year, it's been a year.
Christina Kann 06:43
So long, yeah.
Mary-Peyton Crook 06:45
Especially for a business!
Christina Kann 06:47
Especially for a business with a storefront. At Wildling, we don't have a location. So it's like, all you have to do is have an email account, you know?
Krystle Dandridge 06:55
The storefront, that's the other piece of it. The storefront has been around for a year, but the business opened Juneteenth of 2021 virtually. So, the storefront has been a year, the business has been around a little bit longer, not much, but a little bit longer. And like you said, that storefront makes the difference, because you don't pay rent on an email! Trust me, I remember those first six months or seven months, and I was like, "Okay, I got this," and then that storefront hit, and I was like, "Okay, what's this?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 07:25
Yeah, Wildling, you know, being remote, we still have plenty to fill our days and plenty of work to do all the time. Tell us a little bit about what a day in the life of a bookstore owner is like, because I know you're juggling a million things all the time. Do you get any breaks for yourself? Do you make sure to take breaks for yourself? And what's your sort of day-to-day look like?
Krystle Dandridge 07:47
I do my best to take breaks. Just because self care is important to me. So I do my best to take breaks. However, I am still a therapist. I'm still a licensed therapist, and so I am still doing therapy on the days the store's closed.
Christina Kann 07:58
Oh my gosh.
Krystle Dandridge 07:58
Mary-Peyton Crook 07:58
Krystle Dandridge 07:59
Yes, so I try to schedule--and I do have someone who works very part time for me, just to kind of give myself a day off. And that took a long time to get to, because for the longest . . . I went almost a year without a day off.
Christina Kann 08:11
Oh my god.
Krystle Dandridge 08:11
And so there's that. Chaos is probably how I would describe my days. There are some days where it's not, but for the most part, it's chaos, because I've been placing orders, following up on orders, trying to figure out what the next order is going to be, just trying to plan an event, getting events together that are already planned and making sure I have everything in order. . . . Or like if we speak of like yesterday's event, trying to figure out how I'm going to seat everybody, because those tickets sold out and people are still showing up! And you know, now I gotta figure out what to do.
Christina Kann 08:43
What a good problem!
Krystle Dandridge 08:43
Right! And it's funny, because everyone's like, "That's a great problem to have!" And I'm like, "Yes, after the fact!" In the moment, it's not a great problem to have.
Christina Kann 08:43
Krystle Dandridge 08:43
In the moment, I'm like, "I don't want to turn you away, but I don't know where you're gonna sit, and I don't want you to have to stand for two hours," which, you know, doesn't seem like a long time. But I'm like, you know, these people coming in, we're not talking about teenagers who don't have thirty-plus-year-old knees and backs.
Mary-Peyton Crook 08:56
That's so important.
Krystle Dandridge 08:58
We're talking about adults who can't stand that long. So you know, great problem to have, but like, this is where the day-to-day is like, "Okay, do I have all the inventory I need? Oh, shipping is delayed? Okay, how long is shipping delayed? Okay, so I won't have any books for the holidays, I have none, like none of my books are coming, none of the hundreds of books I ordered. Nothing's showing up? Oh, okay. No, that's, that's fine. I can be a bookstore without books. Why not? Who needs books in a bookstore?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 09:35
You have to really learn to pivot.
Krystle Dandridge 09:37
You adapt. But I'll also say the community has been super supportive. Because I'm very transparent. I will tell you, "Hey, I ordered books; I don't know where my books are. I can order some more for you." And they're like, "Oh, it's okay, we'll wait! Let's go ahead and place an order. It's okay." And you know, that to me is the support that I need and the support that is helpful because that's what kind of keeps me going. I feel bad when I don't have books, but I'm like, "I promise I ordered them. I just don't know where they are!"
Krystle Dandridge 10:06
I just had a shipment of over a hundred books come in on Friday, and I placed that order like three, three and a half weeks ago. And I placed it knowing I had this event. I was like, "Let's over-order, let's get some books." And I'm like, "Okay, well, you know, I placed the order. I don't know where my books are, but I placed the order, and I'm about to have over 100 people in the store, and I don't have a book for them! I don't have anything!" It showed up, thankfully, but . . .
Christina Kann 10:33
We can definitely relate to that, trying to get authors their books in time for their events as well. There's so many elements of buying books that are just out of your hands.
Mary-Peyton Crook 10:42
Krystle Dandridge 10:43
Most of it is out of our hands.
Mary-Peyton Crook 10:44
You try to really prepare well in advance, but it still can show up late even then. It's crazy.
Krystle Dandridge 10:50
It's, you know, it's part of the business. But again, it's that year, that year is learning. I learned over that year a lot.
Mary-Peyton Crook 11:00
Yeah, and it's great that you still have that support. I remember, on your grand opening day, obviously, you know, it's grand opening day, day one of the first year, so anything could happen. And I remember you coming out and right before we were able to go in you were talking about the fact that you didn't have the books that you had ordered yet, you were still waiting on so many books. And I walked in, and I know that it's much more full now, but it still was so beautifully set up and the books looked great. You had them facing out, which I love because that lets you see the cool covers. And people were still just flooding in and having the greatest time.
Krystle Dandridge 11:37
It was great.
Mary-Peyton Crook 11:38
You know, I think that's because you've created that sense of community and the sense of space over just a place to buy books. Ordering that book is important, but I don't think you'll ever run out of people that still support you and love that space.
Krystle Dandridge 11:52
That's the great part about it. The grand opening was a shocker for me. I don't know what I expected to happen, but when I walked out and saw the number of people . . . in my mind, I was like, "Oh, it'll probably be like twenty, maybe fifty people, it won't be a whole lot. Very naive of me, because I walked out and like . . . My family was there. If you came to the grand opening, you saw my family because they were everywhere helping everyone--
Mary-Peyton Crook 12:15
Krystle Dandridge 12:15
--behind the register, mostly, but they were definitely everywhere, them and my friends. And prior to the grand opening, as we were standing inside, I was like, "No, I'll cut the ribbon. A few people are coming, but you guys can probably just go back to my house and just, you know, relax. I won't need any help." And then we opened the doors, and everyone came in, and I was like, "So y'all can't leave. You have to stay, I just need all hands on deck. Don't ask me what I need you to do, because at this point, I don't know, I wasn't expecting everybody to be here, so thanks for staying. Sorry you're hungry, but we're here now. We're in this together, we're gonna make it through, and I appreciate the patience."
Krystle Dandridge 12:16
That line . . . if you were there, that line was wrapped around the store. And there were just all these people, and the store was packed. I'm in panic mode because I was like, "Oh, the city said my capacity is this, and we're like, way over that. Should I put people out? Like what do I do?" Again, I was brand new to retail. I was like, "What do I do? Do I not let them in? It's cold outside. It's February. It's freezing outside. Do I take a chance? Because I don't want anyone catching pneumonia trying to get into a bookstore! That's ridiculous.
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:32
Maybe those rules are a little bit soft for a grand opening.
Krystle Dandridge 13:35
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:36
It was great. It was so much fun.
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:37
What's your favorite part of running a bookstore?
Krystle Dandridge 13:40
Christina Kann 13:41
Yeah. That's a good answer.
Krystle Dandridge 13:44
Getting the books early, because if you're a book addict like me, then your TBR is ridiculous, but you still want the next book. I think it's a tie. I'll say there's a tie between the books and the authors. I have posted about it. I absolutely love meeting authors. Authors are my rockstars. You guys can have all the music artists you want. I love them too, but there is nothing like meeting authors, especially because they're down to earth! They're down-to-earth rockstars, or at least the authors that I've met. They are down-to-earth rock stars! They're like "Yeah, sure, let's chat!" And I'm like, "Really? You wanna talk to me?" So I think that's amazing. And the books! I have arcs sitting right in front of me right now. I get so many arcs (way too many sometimes, but I'm okay with that. I give a lot away, actually.) But getting those arcs, being front and center trying to see, like, what's coming out? Can I read it? When I read it, I'm like, "Oh, let me make a video about it. Let me post on social media but try not to spoil it. Let's talk about this book and not tell you all why it's so amazing when I just want to be like, "Oo, and then they did this and then they did that."
Mary-Peyton Crook 14:54
That's so hard, because the ending can really make or break (obviously) a book, and and it would be so hard if you're genuinely giving your reviews to not include that part of it.
Mary-Peyton Crook 15:06
And that brings me to talk about your social media presence @rvabookbar on Instagram and Tiktok. Those are my favorite places to find you, because your presence on social media on those channels is so authentic. I was thinking about it, and I think it's obviously because so many of the posts are just you talking to your followers, talking to this community of readers, and giving genuine book reviews. And you seem to post a lot, which I can't imagine with your schedule.
Mary-Peyton Crook 15:35
What kind of advice would you give to--I know you're in a particular position as a bookseller--but what advice would you give to someone looking to create sort of an authentic, compelling Bookstagram, BookTok, whatever channel they want to use?
Krystle Dandridge 15:49
Ignore what's already out there. And I say that because when I first opened my IG account, I was going with, you know . . . Well, when you're on Bookstagram, all you see is the mainstream, white faces, that is what you see. You have to literally search for people who look like me. What you see are aesthetic pics, that's what you see. And there is nothing wrong with the aesthetic pic; I actually think they're pretty, I just don't get anything from them, personally. But when I started, that's what I was doing. I was like, "Okay, well, people want to see aesthetics, because of course, these people's aesthetics got thousands and thousands of likes. So that's what people want." But then I realized I wasn't using my voice.
Christina Kann 16:27
Krystle Dandridge 16:28
And then again, going back to the [book] reviews, you would see the aesthetic, and then you would see the synopsis of the book. I don't like that, because I can read the back of the book myself. So because I can read the back of the book myself, you're not really helping me want to buy the book, because you just told me what the book was telling me anyway. How was that helpful? And what I learned was I was actually getting better traction when it was my voice versus the voice that matched what you saw on Bookstagram, which was, "Here's a picture of a book. Here's what the back of the book says."
Christina Kann 17:01
Krystle Dandridge 17:01
Cool. But I see that on the hundreds of profiles I see every day. So that's not helping me, versus people who are like, "Okay, but why should I buy this book?" which is what people want to know. They're looking for book recommendations.
Krystle Dandridge 17:12
There are a lot of people that are cover buyers; I'm a cover buyer. So yes, the pretty book catches my eye because I'm like, "Ooh, what's that?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 17:19
For sure, for sure.
Krystle Dandridge 17:20
But now what? Why should I buy it? So the advice that I have is for BookTok and Bookstagram, because BookTok is very much videos, Bookstagram is both pictures and reels. But I say use your voice. Like for me, my personality comes through in my videos; it's kind of like talking to me. I love books, and I love talking books. So I'm just kind of like, "Hey!" I'm animated. I like to be very animated. And so I'm like, you know, "What would make somebody really understand why you should get this book?"
Krystle Dandridge 17:54
And I'm recommending what I like, I'm not just kind of like, "I'm a bookseller, here's a book that's in my shop and I have to sell it." No. Some books are just not for me. And that's okay. So when people come into the shop, and they're like, "Well, what about this book?" I'm like, "Well, if you like XYZ, then you'll like it. It's just not my cup of tea, because I'm not an XYZ reader." But on my Bookstagram or my BookTok, I'm like, "Oh, did y'all read this? Let me tell you why you should read this. Because you're not going to regret it!" I like the books that I'm recommending. So I'm not just going to be like, "Oh, I have to sell this. Let me just shove this down your throat and hope that you believe me and come by. No, I thought this was amazing."
Mary-Peyton Crook 18:32
Yeah, I love watching your book recommendations, because you are so passionate about them. And for lack of a better term, you give more of the vibe of the book; you talk about what it's really like versus just, "Okay, this is a mystery. This is fantasy." You really give us the elements of the book that are a reason to read that book over others. Which is what what we're looking for as book readers.
Mary-Peyton Crook 18:56
And that's such a strong case for why it's so important to buy from local bookstores over things like Amazon over even looking on Instagram or Booktok. Because the bookseller should be a book reader like you are. And that's where you're really going to have a conversation with someone about what kind of books are coming up, what book recommendations they can make for you, and it just makes the process so much better than, say, just scanning on Amazon for a book. That's why bookstores are so important.
Krystle Dandridge 19:29
Bookstores will forever be important. Bookstores . . . first of all, they're in your community. So we're talking about tax dollars, all of that, that goes back into your community. So why would you not want to support a bookstore that's in your community? I understand the ease of shopping online and just having it delivered to you in a day or two. I get that. But there are so many reasons to choose an independent bookstore over choosing shopping online and supporting something that isn't in your community. It's not in your community, it's not benefiting your community in any way, shape, or form. And then the interesting thing is people wonder when they're like, "Oh, well, bookstores are obsolete" or "They don't stick around, they don't stick around," because instead of walking in and talking to a person, you decided to click on it.
Krystle Dandridge 20:13
And I'm not against online shopping, but there are also ways to shop online to purchase books that are not through Amazon so you can still support what's in your community: Bookshop.org! Independent bookstores through Bookshop.org. You can go through Bookshop.org, choose the bookstore you want to select (The Book Bar) and your purchase benefits that store. It still supports the store in your community, and you can get it shipped directly to you, easy.
Mary-Peyton Crook 20:40
That is so nice. We love Bookshop.org. I literally just used it the other day, and my purchase . . . I bought one book, one paperback book, and it said it gave $5.99 to a local bookstore, which is crazy considering that the book was like $18, you know, so that's a huge amount for online, which is awesome.
Krystle Dandridge 20:59
It's great. We get a huge portion of that percentage. And then you also have Libro.fm for those who are like, "I only do audiobooks." Libro.fm, same concept.
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:09
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:11
To sort of wrap up, what are ways that people can support RVA Book Bar if they don't live nearby?
Krystle Dandridge 21:18
Online! You can always support me online, RVABookBar.com, www.rvabookbar.com. Events are posted there, and there is a link to my Bookshop page. You go under "Shop," it'll say "Shop Books," and you can search all of the books you want. You can always come inside! You can't lose with that either. But there are so many ways you can follow me, on IG, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube @rvabookbar. Or come down to the store: 1311 East Main Street in Richmond, Virginia.
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:47
Well, thank you so much, Krystle, for being with us today, for taking time out of your busy schedule. I love The Book Bar, we all do at Wildling, and however we can support you, we are here to do that.
Krystle Dandridge 22:00
I appreciate that.
transcribed and edited by Mary-Peyton Crook
Christina Kann 00:24
Welcome to How Do I Book? by Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and, of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while. I'm Christina, and I'm extremely excited to be joined today by Jody Sperling, host of The Reluctant Book Marketer. Hi, Jody!
Jody Sperling 00:49
Hi, I'm excited to be here.
Christina Kann 00:52
We're so excited to have you. Before we go any further, what are your pronouns?
Jody Sperling 00:57
Oh, I'm a he and a him and all of that good stuff.
Christina Kann 01:01
Awesome. Please tell us a little bit about your podcast, The Reluctant Book Marketer, and any of your other work.
Jody Sperling 01:10
I started The Reluctant Book Marketer back in January of 2022, so it's pretty new. I came to a crossroads in my life where I realized I was doing a whole bunch of stuff that I was having fun doing, but I wasn't passionate about it. I thought, "I'm going to regret my life if I don't jump out into the unknown and get my books out there." So this is part of me building a brand. I want everybody to hear my name everywhere they go, and I want to teach people how to do that for themselves if they want to sell a million copies of their book. That's the goal.
Christina Kann 01:45
I love that so much. For all of our listeners out there, if you want to try out The Reluctant Book Market, or maybe sample an episode, I guested on last week's episode.
Jody Sperling 01:55
Yes, and it was a great conversation. It was a fantastic conversation.
Jody Sperling 01:59
I completely agree. I really enjoyed it. We got into some philosophical publishing industry stuff. I definitely recommend everyone check it out.
Jody Sperling 02:10
Yes, me too.
Christina Kann 02:13
We're here to talk today about publicity mindset. How do you get your brain in gear when it's time to publicize your book? This is something that you talk about a lot on your show. People don't talk about that a lot, but it seems pretty important, actually.
Jody Sperling 02:35
What I realized for myself is that getting in the right mindset is more important than every other action I take, and mindset and action can't be pulled apart. There are things I have to do every day. I woke up really low-energy today, for example; I had a really busy weekend. I just felt worn out coming into today. I realized I had to run up and down the stairs in my house like 20 times and do some push ups and stuff like that to get my blood moving, because I knew if I didn't come to the day with a lot of energy, I wasn't going to get anything done. And that's all about mindset. It's not about exercise. I don't take very good care of my body; I probably should. But really, I'm fully bought into the idea that if we get our mind right, the actions we take will result in big, awesome things.
Christina Kann 03:24
If another person is looking to get their Monday brain in gear, energize themselves, maybe they don't have to run up and down right staircases. You are certainly welcome to, but for somebody else, maybe that's a healthy breakfast or a cup of coffee or a brisk morning walk to energize you and get you in the right headspace to do whatever it is you have to do. When is the right time for authors to get into a good and energized publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 03:28
I've been having this conversation with folks over on Twitter quite a bit right now. I keep telling people: As soon as you know you want to write a book, you should start marketing yourself, and be really assertive about it and go overboard on it. Don't wait until you have the draft of the book done. There's disagreement there. Some people believe you should give your whole heart to the creative process and then think about marketing later. But that's where a lot of my regret lives: I waited too long.
Jody Sperling 04:26
That is the one trick question I'll ask people: When should you start marketing? Because the answer is: You should have already.
Jody Sperling 04:34
Yeah. 20 years ago, right?
Christina Kann 04:37
If you haven't yet started, start today.
Jody Sperling 04:39
Christina Kann 04:40
Yeah. Should an author's mindset shift at all when it comes to publicity? As they go through the stages of publishing, drafting, editing, publishing, to selling, does that mindset shift at all?
Jody Sperling 04:57
I don't think the mindset shifts. The best thing we can do for ourselves is get into the headspace where we're all in. We're not doing ourselves any favors if we're halfway in, half-hearted, taking smaller measures than we need to. It always benefits us to have an all-in mentality. That can sound really frightening to some people, because maybe you don't even know like how in you actually are. But figuring that out and then getting all in on it will will really prepare you for the journey. Practically, you're going to do a lot of things differently as you get closer to publication. So the actions you take will be different for sure.
Christina Kann 05:36
The actions will probably become more concrete, as you have a confirmed title and a cover and fun stuff like that. But the mindset stays the same. If authors have answered my trick question correctly, and they started publicizing themselves as an author before they even started drafting their books, should they write with a publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 05:59
I think we touched on this a little bit in our conversation on The Reluctant Book Marketer. I think so. I really feel that there is a strong benefit to thinking about your reader. The other day, I kind of went on a little bit of a rant, and I was talking about this. How did it happen -- in the art sphere, specifically -- that we use the phrase "I write for myself"? I get what that means, and I think some people also get what it means. You have to write what you're interested in. But if you write for yourself, you might as well journal, because you're never going to share it with somebody. In that way, think about your reader. It's pretty profound.
Christina Kann 06:40
I would agree with that. The publicity mindset is sort of about sales. It's about selling your book and selling your brand. So how can authors bring their publicity mindset to their personal network, when they're at the beginning of marketing their book and they're trying to make the most of their own personal network without being weird and salesy?
Jody Sperling 07:04
That's a great question. You know those people who started selling Amway, or they're doing some kind of diet program, and you hear from them after 14 years of nothing? They message you on Facebook, and they're like, "Oh, Christina, how are you doing? It's been so long." And immediately, you know they've been scammed. I really advocate for being upfront with what you're doing. "Hey, I wrote a book, and I think you would love it. Do you mind if I share it with you?" I think it gets rid of the awkwardness. That's how I do it. I'm kind of in a transformative point in my own mindset, where I was so focused on niche, paying attention to exactly who my book was for and who my podcast was for. Now I'm starting to realize I'm actually limiting my own opportunities. I just try to tell people what I've got, any opportunity I have, and be natural about it.
Jody Sperling 08:02
Yeah, be natural. Totally. That is the key to all interactions. But specifically, especially when you're trying to sell something, you just want to be really organic. Does the mindset and the approach change change at all when an author moves out of their personal network and into the public sphere, with cold emails and cold calls and trying to get get the attention of people they don't know personally? How does that mindset change, if at all?
Jody Sperling 08:33
When you start doing any kind of cold calls, or building outside of the network you've established for yourself, you're going to feel more frightened. You're going to have more negative interactions, and people are going to say things to you that probably don't feel good. It happens, even when you are just going out into the world. With a spirit of total generosity, I want to give you what I have to make your life better. Even if it's entertainment for a novelist or something like that, you are giving something generously. Some people will still be really angry at you. They will ask, "How dare you waste my time?" So I don't think your mindset changes. But those are the things you should be prepared for. I try to use that word, "should," very carefully, because I'm not here to tell you how to do what you do. But you should be prepared to get pushed back. And if you aren't, you're probably not pushing hard enough to get your work into the world.
Christina Kann 09:28
Yeah. So maybe starting with an author's personal audience, personal network can be a bit of a dress rehearsal before going out and trying to approach the public with it. Your personal network, even if they're not interested, will be nice to you because they value their relationship with you.
Jody Sperling 09:47
Let me share something with you, because I think this will be applicable for people listening. I do a lot of cold marketing on Twitter, and it's effective for me. But what I've noticed is when I go to reach out to some audience, send them a message -- If they are my target, I actually have a harder time sending a message than if there's somebody with esteem, if they have the the checkmark or something like that. If they have a bigger audience than I do, I get really scared. And I think that's something to pay close attention to, because the people you value are the people who are hardest to talk to. It's weird.
Jody Sperling 10:23
It's a higher risk because they are a more meaningful connection to you.
Jody Sperling 10:29
Yeah, and they could walk away. You could scare him away. But here's the truth. I've never scared anybody away so far. I have made some people angry, but I've never scared someone away.
Jody Sperling 10:40
Some people are just really ready to get angry on the internet, and there's nothing you can do about that.
Jody Sperling 10:44
Christina Kann 10:47
Your podcast is called The Reluctant Book Marketer, and I have always really loved that. And by "always," I mean in the couple of months since I happily discovered your podcast. I've found that a lot of writers are introverts; it just comes with the territory, I think. So I really like the notion of encouraging reluctant book marketers, people who have a hard time self-promoting. How can shy, introverted authors -- who started out writing for themselves and are now trying to turn it into a busines -- how can those people get into this mindset?
Jody Sperling 11:25
It's hard to tell somebody how to make that shift. It's a necessary thing. Embrace the the reality that we are reluctant, and accept it, and don't expect it to ever change. I think that's a really big piece of this: you're not going to change; you're always going to find this uncomfortable. If you do right now, you will continue to find it uncomfortable for the rest of your life. But you do it. Reluctantly, you do it every day, because what you're putting out into the world is so important. You can't bear to not see it out there. I wish I had something a little more concrete to help. But these podcasts, honestly, they're here for you. You can get in that mindset and slowly work your way up to new actions that bring results. When you do see results, when you see a measurable result, when you know, "Hey, I reached out to Katherine, and I asked her to buy my book, and she bought my book" -- that feels good, snd it makes you want to do it again. Success is a cool thing that way.
Jody Sperling 12:31
Yes, we are success-oriented at Wildling! We start all of our meetings by talking about recent successes, things that have happened recently that we're excited about. And then we're like, "Okay, let's move on to the nitty gritty of the meeting."
Jody Sperling 12:45
I love that. That is a great way to get your head in the right spot.
Christina Kann 12:49
I love what you said about listening to podcasts. These kinds of podcasts can really help because... Sure, if you're uncomfortable inherently as a person with something like promoting yourself, your brand, your work, it is always going to be uncomfortable. But by learning and educating yourself, you can make it a little less uncomfortable every day.
Jody Sperling 13:11
You can get familiar with anything, like speaking on stage. At some point, you're going to have to do a reading, and most likely, that first time, you're going to be terrified. But familiarity does breed a little more comfort.
Jody Sperling 13:22
Yeah, yes, absolutely. Hand in hand with that, a great way to get comfortable with something is to just dive right in and get that first terrifying reading out of the way so you can start to get better at it and get more comfortable with it.
Jody Sperling 13:36
Christina Kann 13:38
How has publicity changed in the past couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How has this forced authors to sort of pivot with their mindsets and approaches?
Jody Sperling 13:51
I love that. I love that question. I'm probably not 100% the most qualified person to to answer it in some ways, because my own personal journey is very much defined by COVID. I left the W-2 world, like so many people, because COVID opened my eyes and showed me things I was not doing in my life that I needed to be doing, and some things vice versa. I think what's changed is that there's a reluctance in people that you reach out to to want that personal connection. It almost feels like we automated a lot more. And I'm not sure why. But there are ways we can take advantage of it; I think that we need to push back. I've really been advocating in my own world for one-on-one connection as much as possible. I think writers can take advantage of that, especially early on. At some point, you have to pay to reach a larger audience. That's just the advertising part of marketing and your mindset, getting real clear on "I want to touch one person's life at a time and have a meaningful interaction." I think we lost a little of that during COVID; that's my feeling.
Christina Kann 15:02
Since we sort of lost that one-on-one interaction, like you said, everything became a lot more automated, because digital stuff can be so much more easily automated. What creative approaches have authors use to publicize their books during the pandemic, despite that lack of one-on-one interaction?
Jody Sperling 15:23
Thanks for asking this. I think there's a real, concrete, measurable way to have results. Think of whichever social media channel you're most comfortable with, the one where you feel you have an audience who is engaged with you. Continue to build into that. But then, instead of posting on your wall about what you're doing, go for the message. I know it can feel weird, but jump into people's messages and send them a message and engage with them there. You change the nature of the interaction when you're not performing publicly. And then maybe you can have a cup of coffee with somebody, if you want to dive deeper and have them be like closer in your network. But, generally speaking, I think there's more value in messages than we give ourselves room to operate in.
Jody Sperling 16:11
Absolutely. That kind of takes it back. Even though it's not a face-to-face encounter, it is a one-on-one encounter, and that person feels special. They also feel a personal obligation to respond, whereas people can ignore posts.
Jody Sperling 16:31
When I'm on Twitter, I do one of my normal questions. I'm sold out; Twitter's the best social media for writers, and you can disagree, and that's great. But I realized a normal question would generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 impressions; everybody was seeing it. But then, if I would promote my podcast or my book, I'd get nothing. I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. It felt really intrusive to try to go and message somebody, "Hey, would you check out my podcast?" But what I realized was that people who really like me and engage with me already didn't even know I had a podcast.
Jody Sperling 17:09
Wow. The dreaded algorithm.
Jody Sperling 17:12
Yes, exactly, it was suppressing that stuff. And people wanted the podcast, they were excited, and now they are listening to every episode. It's amazing. That applies to your book as well. You think you're doing a ton of self-promotion, but most of your audience has never even seen what you have to offer.
Jody Sperling 17:30
That can be a really great shift in an author's mindset: It's not that you're messaging them to ask them to buy your book, but you're messaging them to let them know your book exists.
Jody Sperling 17:39
Christina Kann 17:41
How can authors stay motivated when they're starting to feel that publicity burnout? I think everyone, at some point, feels, "Oh, my gosh, I cannot write one more social media post, I can't, I don't have the energy." How can authors stay motivated?
Jody Sperling 17:55
Motivation is tied to success. Like you said, if you're having success, you have limitless fuel. If you see the results of what you're doing, you will never be burnt out or feel tired or demotivated. But you're not going to have success all the time. In fact, a lot of times, it feels like you're speaking to nobody. When that's the case, having concrete goals is more important than I ever gave it credit for. If you're listening right now, and you're not a goal setter, and you hate goals, I really encourage you to to reflect on that. Something weird happens when you make goals, and you can at least see what you're striving for.
Christina Kann 18:41
It circles back to what we were talking about before: If you stay positivity-oriented, and look at what you've done, and set small goals for yourself you can hit, then it's easier to stay motivated, because you're constantly seeing small successes. What's one thing that authors can do today to start getting into the right publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 19:05
This one is so important. If you take me up on this, it will change everything for you. Talk to somebody you're not familiar with, and let them know you've got your book. It'll change everything.
Christina Kann 19:17
Just dive right in to it. Yes, I love that. I love that so much. Well, thank you so much, Jody, for coming and joining us. Where can people find you on the internet?
Everywhere you go. I'm @jodyjsperling on Twitter. And I have my website, www.thereluctantbookmarketer.com. But if you go to Twitter, it's all branching out from there. I love Twitter.
Christina Kann 19:39
You ask some really fun conversation starter questions on Twitter, some writing, some not writing and I love those. So everyone, please go follow on Twitter. Lots of fun over there.
Jody Sperling 19:51
Thank you, Christina was great talking.
And please check out The Reluctant Book Marketer episode featuring Christina!
In this episode of How Do I Book?, host Christina Kann sits down with Anne Claessen to chat about how authors can pitch to guest on podcasts to spread their networks and sell their books! Anne Claessen is the CEO of Podcast Babes podcast management agency and host of The Podcast Babes podcast.
Please note that this transcript has been edited for clarity and concision.
Christina Kann 00:27
Welcome to How Do I Book? by Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and, of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while.
I'm Christina Kann, and I'm extremely excited to be joined today by our first guest ever, Anne Claessen, host of The Podcast Babes. Welcome, Anne!
Anne Claessen 00:55
Thank you so much, Christina. It's so good to be here.
Christina Kann 00:58
Before we get started, real quick, what are your pronouns?
Anne Claessen 01:02
Christina Kann 01:02
Awesome. Thank you so much, and thank you for being here. I've been a longtime listener of The Podcast Babes. I've learned so much from your show. I'm hoping that you can share a little bit with our listeners today as well.
Anne Claessen 01:14
I hope so. No pressure, right?
Christina Kann 01:17
Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about The Podcast Babes and your other work?
Anne Claessen 01:21
Yeah, absolutely. The Podcast Babes is a podcast about podcasting. It is also a podcast management agency. I'm gonna say "podcast" like a million times in this episode.
Christina Kann 01:37
I've been listening to The Podcast Babes for a long time, and it has taught me so much about podcasting. I love how much you share parts of your own journey with your listeners. It's a wonderful podcast for anyone out there who's interested in learning more about podcasting.
Anne Claessen 01:53
Christina Kann 01:54
Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful work. Today, I want to talk specifically about authors. This is a book podcast; a lot of our listeners are authors. I want to talk about how authors can use podcasting to promote their books and make connections.
Anne Claessen 02:11
Christina Kann 02:12
First things first: why might an author want to guest on someone else's podcast?
Anne Claessen 02:18
I'm a little bit biased, but I think podcasts are awesome.
Christina Kann 02:21
Anne Claessen 02:22
The cool thing about podcasts is they are long form content. They are there every week -- or biweekly, or monthly or whatever -- but listeners of podcasts come back to that podcast over and over again for more content. They get to know the hosts pretty well. Christina, when we hopped on this call, you said, "Whoa, it's so weird to see you now because I always listen to your voice." As a listener, you get this feeling: "I know this person, and I trust this person." The cool thing is when you're guesting on someone's podcast, and they already have a relationship with the listener, you can really easily borrow this warm audience that is already there.
As the guest, that is a pretty sweet deal. You just rock out for the interview; you're usually there for maybe 30 to 60 minutes for most interviews. Then you just go about your day, and the podcaster does all the editing and all the backend work for you. It is definitely appreciated when you help share the episode -- but that is it. Right? So you can really easily borrow someone's warm audience, and I think that makes guesting on podcasts so cool. Also, it's long form content, so you can tell people a lot about your book.
Christina Kann 03:45
That's a really great point. It's a bit of a network exchange, you know? You get to go talk about yourself and your subject matter to their audience, and then in exchange, you plug their show to your audience. So it works out for everybody.
Anne Claessen 04:01
Christina Kann 04:02
Where should an author start? If they're interested in guessing on podcasts -- maybe they don't listen to a ton of podcasts, maybe they're not sure exactly what to do -- how can they find the right kinds of podcasts? Where do they begin?
Anne Claessen 04:14
I think question number one is: where does your audience hang out? The people that you want to read your book, where are they? Do they even listen to podcasts? Maybe not! That's probably not a good fit. But a lot of people nowadays do listen to podcasts. Knowing your potential reader very very well is so important in marketing in general, of course, but also when you're looking for podcasts to guest on. That actually already answers your question of which podcasts to pitch to. That's literally it. Now, I will add that usually you want to provide value to listeners. It may make sense if what you talk about aligns with the rest of the podcast. If it's a podcast about topic A and you talk about topic B, it can work, but it's easier if the whole podcast is about what you also talk about in your book. So know your audience well, or the potential audience that you want to reach, and then see how you can provide value. Value first.
Christina Kann 05:27
Yeah, absolutely. So maybe listen to some podcasts that are near your subject matter, and figure out, "Would the things I have to say fit in with what I'm already hearing?"
Anne Claessen 05:41
Yeah, absolutely. You want it to make it a win win for everyone: for the listener, for the podcaster, for yourself. It just kind of needs to make sense.
Christina Kann 05:51
Yeah, absolutely. Because otherwise, the listeners might be like, "Oh, what's this?" You know?
Anne Claessen 05:56
Yeah. And they're not going to buy your book then. I mean, if it's super random, they're probably not gonna buy your book. Maybe also the episode won't perform as well as when it is a good fit. And I also think it's gonna be a lot more difficult to get invited on a podcast.
Christina Kann 06:13
Yeah, that's very true. If the pitches don't make sense, they're not going to be fruitful.
Anne Claessen 06:18
Christina Kann 06:19
When an author finds a podcast, and they are like, "Okay, I like this podcast, I think this is my target audience, I think I would fit in nicely." What can they do to get ready to make that pitch? What do they need to do before they send the email or the DM? How can they be most prepared for that?
Anne Claessen 06:37
Know what you want to talk about. I think that is just so important. Everyone always says, listen to the podcast, research the podcast, and all that, and I don't disagree. But for me, as the person who is usually on the other side of the pitches, who just receives pitches of people who want to guest on my podcast, I love it when people are just really clear. "This is what I can talk about. This is why I think it's interesting for your audience." Maybe you even have a potential title for the episode in mind. I love that because it makes my work so much easier.
Christina Kann 07:09
Well, I'm I'm sure it helps people envision it, you know?
Anne Claessen 07:12
Yeah! True. I know exactly what I'm gonna say yes or no to. I know what to expect. I can really easily say, "Yes, that's a good fit for my audience." "No, that's not a good fit for my audience." I really love that. And I think a little bit of research about a podcast is also definitely something that you might want to do. If you just write me an email that says, "Hi there." Meh. That's like not usually the email I like to answer when they're just popping up in my inbox. If you say, "Hi, Anne!" then I'm like, "Okay, like this person, at least knows my name." Just the basics, you know? Just the basic stuff. I think you also don't have to listen to all the episodes, but just make sure that it is a good fit, or at least you think it's a good fit. Because if you just send out like 100 random emails, like, "Hey, I can speak about this topic," it's just a waste of your energy, and also of the energy of this person who's reading your email. So I would say, don't just send like a million emails out without really thinking about: is it actually a good fit?
Christina Kann 08:19
Yeah, it's quality over quantity. If you get a couple of really good pitches out, that can be so much more valuable than sending 100 stock pitches that are all the same.
Anne Claessen 08:29
A hundred percent. Yes.
Christina Kann 08:31
It seems like it's kind of on par with like preparing for a job interview, you know? You want to go in making it clear that you have looked into the company, you know what you're there to talk about. You're really going in with like a goal in mind.
Anne Claessen 08:45
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I'm not an expert in job interviews, but in a job interview, you also want to show what value you can bring to the company. When you're pitching podcasts, it's what value can you bring to the podcast?
Christina Kann 08:58
Yeah, absolutely. With all of this information that the authors have received doing their research, how do they craft the perfect pitch? How do you write a great pitch that's going to grab the podcaster's attention and really convey the value that you hope to bring?
Anne Claessen 09:14
What I really like is if the pitch is just short and sweet. I don't want to go through a really long email. It pops into my inbox, and I didn't ask for it, so you have to catch my attention immediately. The first sentence needs to be enticing, or at least like needs to say what you want from me. If it's just like, "Hey Anne, I want to come on your podcast, and I think it's a great fit, because..." then I'll probably keep reading. And also, if you say, "My name is blah, blah, blah, and I do this," that's also fine, but it needs to be really, really short because I don't want to read three paragraphs about you when I have no idea what you want from me. So you really want to keep it short. I always like it when there's bullet points or something; "These are some of the topics that I can talk about on your podcast," and then like three bullet points, maybe, or max five. Even if I scan the email, I know what you have to offer. So I think that just works really well. Yeah, I think those are my main tips: keep it short, and make sure it's easy to scan, and don't talk too much about yourself.
Christina Kann 10:24
Right. I think that probably sending a really long pitch email says to the podcaster that you might come on to their show and ramble, and say words that aren't providing value.
Anne Claessen 10:42
Yeah. I think also, when you talk about yourself a lot in your pitch -- I mean, yes, it is about you. But it's not really about you. It's more about the value you can bring. I don't know you, and honestly, I don't really care. I just want to provide really good value to my audience. That is why I do the podcast.
Christina Kann 11:04
Right. That's who you care about.
Anne Claessen 11:06
Yeah. I think it's really important to keep that in mind. Yes, I want to know a little bit of who you are, but if you just ramble on about what you do and what you accomplished -- I zone out pretty quickly when I get an email like that.
Christina Kann 11:23
Yeah, it's kind of like being a salesperson. It's not really about talking about how great this item is; it's about making the customer feel like they need this item. I feel like it's kind of the same way with podcasts pitches. It's not really about you. It's about convincing the podcaster that they need you on their feed.
Anne Claessen 11:43
Yeah, absolutely. Also, what a lot of people don't do after pitching is following up. If you don't get an answer -- not in three days, but -- if you don't have an answer after two weeks, then I would usually follow up and say, "Hey, maybe you missed my email," or "Also let me know if you're not interested. No worries," but at least I'll know then. A "no" is also a win, because then you know it's not a good fit, which is fine, and then you can move on. But yeah, you definitely want an answer, so usually I would follow up at least like five times, which sounds like a lot. You just really want a "yes" or "no." Maybe also people don't see the email. So usually, after following up two or three times, I would send a message on Instagram or on LinkedIn, on a different platform, because maybe it's the wrong email address. You know?
Christina Kann 12:39
Maybe it's the wrong email address. Maybe it's going to the spam filter. Something like that. Technology's weird. So I think trying to hit it from a different angle through social media, DMs, or something is a really strong move. "Let me know if there's a better way to get in touch with you."
Anne Claessen 12:55
Yeah, exactly. That always works really well.
Christina Kann 12:59
If an author is trying to pitch to several different podcasts -- maybe they're like, "Okay, this is the the week or the month where I'm gonna do podcast pitches" -- what's a good way for them to keep track of what they're doing, who they're reaching out to, whether they hear back?
Anne Claessen 13:14
I'm a spreadsheet girl.
Christina Kann 13:17
Anne Claessen 13:17
I have spreadsheets about everything. But definitely this. You definitely want to make sure that you know who you reached out to, where you are in the pitching process, when you want to reach out again or follow up. There is definitely a big spreadsheet involved in this work.
Christina Kann 13:35
Yes, yes, absolutely. I have a spreadsheet that I just call "Potential Guests," where I keep a spreadsheet of everyone I want to come on my podcast. I have a spreadsheet of my podcast episodes and when they're coming out. That's my life tip for everyone: get a spreadsheet for everything.
Anne Claessen 13:53
Absolutely. Yeah, I didn't do that when I started my first podcast, and it just got messy at one point. I had not really any idea where I was in my post production and also what episodes went live.
Christina Kann 14:07
It's a lot to keep track of.
Anne Claessen 14:09
Yeah, at one point, you're like 100 episodes in, and you're like, "I don't know who I spoke to." When it's like two years ago, it's becoming a problem. So yeah, definitely have spreadsheets. Another free bonus tip here: It always works really well to leverage your network that you already have. Sending cold pitches can be cool, but getting people to connect you and then sending a pitch? That works like 100 times better.
Christina Kann 14:40
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Definitely, no matter what kind of marketing you're doing, start with your network and your networks' networks. That's the equivalent of your first connections and your second connections on LinkedIn. If somebody can connect you to someone -- a podcaster or any other kind of blogger or social media influencer -- that can really get a foot in the door for you.
Anne Claessen 15:05
Christina Kann 15:07
After they have sent their pitch, they're keeping track of it, maybe they followed up, maybe they've heard back no, maybe they've heard back yes. If you hear back yes, then you get to guest on a podcast, and that's really exciting! I think we'll probably need to do a second episode about that someday, because that's a whole nother can of worms: how to be a respectful and valuable guest on another person's podcast.
Anne Claessen 15:33
Yeah, I think there's definitely a lot to learn if you've never done that. Yeah. I learned a lot over the past three years. Having my own podcast and guesting on other people's podcasts... There are a lot of different ways that people are guests on podcast, and some are really nice to work with, and then some people are really not that nice to work with.
Christina Kann 15:55
Right. I don't know if you've had the same experience as me, but I've been podcasting for about three years now as well, and I just feel like the only way to get started in podcasting is to just start.
Anne Claessen 16:06
Christina Kann 16:07
You just have to dive right in.
Anne Claessen 16:09
Yeah, just jump. See where it ends.
Christina Kann 16:12
Exactly. Because if you wait for it to be perfect, if you wait to have all of the perfect equipment, if you wait to feel really good about it, you might never get started.
Anne Claessen 16:23
Yeah, exactly. And as a guest, usually listeners are quite forgiving with audio quality and things like that. You don't necessarily need a mic, I think, when you're casting for podcasts. It also might depend on how big the podcast is. For my podcast, I don't require guests to have a mic. If the audio is really bad, I'm gonna say like, "Sorry, but this is impossible. We're not going to do this." But if it's okay, if you just have headphones and probably not your computer mic, but an okay mic, that is already fine as a guest. That's probably what you can get away with. You don't need the whole setup if you're going to start pitching.
Christina Kann 17:10
Most of my guests that come on my podcasts who are not professional podcasters, I'm like, "Honestly, if you just pull up the voice memos on your phone and keep it close to your face, that'll be totally good enough." But you would want to speak to each individual podcaster to see if they have different requirements. But I think you're right, that a lot of people are really forgiving with the audio quality of guests, especially those guests who are not podcasters. Why would they have all of this stuff set up if they're not even a podcaster?
Anne Claessen 17:38
Christina Kann 17:38
Is there anything else that you want authors to know about looking for podcasts that guest on and pitching to those podcasts?
Anne Claessen 17:45
it can be a little bit of work to find a podcast, craft a pitch, and things like that, but at one point, you just have some pitches out and you have to follow up. You just have to do this research maybe once or every now and then, but it gets easier. Yes, it is a bit of a time investment. But you'll figure it out as you keep pitching and you keep getting answers and yeses and noes, and you can tweak the pitch as you go. That is also a reason why I wouldn't send out 100 pitches at the same time, because you want to tweak your pitch as you go. And also, this never happens, but if you got 100 yeses, then you have a problem.
Christina Kann 18:31
Wow. Yeah! How do you book that?
Anne Claessen 18:35
Christina Kann 18:36
That's terrifying, actually.
Anne Claessen 18:39
Yeah, I had someone on my team at The Podcast Babes. She pitches me to be a guest on podcasts. She has gotten so good at it that I had to ask her to stop because they couldn't fit it on my calendar anymore, which is a really good problem to have. Be mindful that you don't over pitch because it would also be annoying for the podcaster. Maybe when you pitch, they say yes, and then you're like, "Okay, cool. I'm available in four months."
Christina Kann 19:05
Right! I think maybe like if you keep your open pitches to like as many interviews as you could do within a month or something, so you don't get too ahead of yourself. Awesome. Well, Anne, thank you so much for coming on the show. I so appreciate you sharing your expertise with our listeners.
Anne Claessen 19:23
Yeah, thank you for having me. It was so exciting to be on. I didn't even know that I was the first guest, so I feel really special.
Christina Kann 19:29
We're pretty new. We're only about two months into the podcast. So we're starting our guest phase. So everyone get ready for some other cool new guests in the future. And yeah, Anne, thanks for being our first.
Anne Claessen 19:42
Christina Kann 19:44
Where can people find you on the internet? Where can they catch your podcast? Where would you like for them to connect with you?
Anne Claessen 19:50
Yeah, come to my home on the internet, www.thepodcastbabes.com.
Christina Kann 19:55
A beautiful website, by the way.
Anne Claessen 19:56
Oh, thank you! You can find everything there. You can find The Podcast Babes podcast. You can find more of what we do what we offer. We also offer podcast guest pitching services. So that is pitching you to be the guest, not to get guests but to be the guest, which can be a little bit confusing. But we can also do that for you. Like I said, it is a bit of a time investment doing all the research and getting the pitch right and everything. If you if you want to just show up for the interview and just tell your story and talk about your book and not worry about all the research and you don't have time for that, then we can do that for you. Let me know if that is something you're interested in. You can find my email address and also a link to book a discovery call on the website.
A lot of new authors, when asked for their Facebook link, send us a link to their personal Facebook profile. What we’re looking for, and what we encourage all of our authors to develop, is a professional Facebook page. Pay careful attention to the language here -- for the purposes of this blog post, we will refer to personal Facebook profiles as “profiles” and professional Facebook pages (also known as “business pages”) as “pages.”
Sure, you already have a personal Facebook profile, so why add something else onto your plate? The answer to this question is that profiles and pages are not the same. They do not serve the same purpose, and you cannot simply trade out one for another. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
A personal Facebook profile is a great place to let your own personal audience, your friends and family, know that you have a book coming out. If you’re on Facebook personally, we certainly recommend making use of this audience. But profiles are not appropriate for professional, public author use.
For starters, unless your personal profile is “public,” your fans won’t be able to find you! The purpose of developing a Facebook presence as an author is so you can connect with fans and keep them updated about news and events. Even if your profile is “public” and fans can find you, you don’t want this kind of connection with strangers. When you accept a friend request on your personal profile, you become friends with that person in return. That means you’ll see their photos and updates in your feed, even if you have no idea who they are. They’ll also be able to see personal information that you have listed on your profile, like where you went to high school and who you’re dating -- details you may not want all your fans to know!
If you have a professional Facebook page, fans can “follow” you -- meaning, they will see the updates you post on your page, but nothing you post on your profile. You will also not see any of their updates unless they directly interact with one of your posts. This is a much more appropriate creator-fan relationship. Fans aren’t your friends, lovely though they may be, and having this boundary will benefit your personal life and your professional life at the same time.
You also cannot use your personal profile when collaborating with event venues, reviewers, or your publisher. For example, if we were to post on Facebook about one of our books, we couldn’t tag that author’s personal profile in our public post, because we are running a business page. If you were doing a book signing at Barnes and Noble, they could not tag you in their social media marketing efforts for that event. If a reviewer reviewed your book, they could not tag you in that review. It could lead to you missing some updates or even missing out on fans who would have followed you, if only they could!
Worse, someone might choose not to collaborate with you if you’re not on social media. If a reviewer posts their reviews primarily on Facebook, and you are not on Facebook, what good does that do either of you? Even if they read the book and publish the review, they’re not getting anything out of that exchange, because they aren’t getting exposed to your audience; you’re only getting exposed to their audience. That’s not a fair trade, and lots of reviewers would pass on that sort of one-sided transaction.
Furthermore, if people are searching on Facebook for “fantasy authors” or authors of your genre, you will not show up in their search if you’re only using a personal Facebook profile. In order for Facebook to categorize you in this way, you need to create a professional page and select the correct category for yourself -- in this instance, “author.”
Another benefit to having a professional Facebook page you use publicly for author purposes is that you’ll look like you know what you’re doing. If someone asks for your Facebook page in a professional setting and you send them your personal profile link, it will look like you don’t understand how Facebook works, and that would affect that person’s perception of you and your capabilities as an author. Every creator these days needs to be dedicated to learning about social media -- always learning, no matter how much you know now, because social media is always changing.
The bottom line is, your fans will expect to be able to find you in certain places. Just like they’ll expect your book to be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, they’ll expect you to have a website. They’ll expect you to be on Facebook, and possibly even Twitter or Instagram. If they can’t find you in these places, you will likely lose out on that connection, which could mean losing out on future sales or collaborations. Do yourself and your book a favor, and set up your professional Facebook page now.
by Christina Kann
Whether you call it a domain name, a URL, or a web address—you know, something like www.whateverforever.com (incidentally a silly clothing line)—choosing one is almost as hard as choosing your child’s name. Your domain name is so important and will be used in so many places that it’s crucial to think carefully before committing. Moving your website from a domain you weren’t set on to a new one is a pretty involved process, so it’s better to just pick the right one in the first place!
Here are some things to consider:
by Christina Kann
How Do I Book?
We'll try to find the answer to that question in our blog.