This is the first in my 2021 series of author interviews. Laurie and I have been connected on social media for some time. She’s a great example of what an author can do on social media!
Hopefully you’ve already set up a way to capture emails on your website and have a list of people waiting to hear about your book launch. A virtual assistant can put together an email template, add your content, and make sure it gets sent out.
Social Media Content & Activity
Hire a social media professional to design images branded to match your book cover image. The professional can also make sure your social media presence is active on a regular basis. The professional can do this by retweeting and sharing content, scheduling posts, and following appropriate accounts. Be sure you take an active part also in social media, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.
Website & Blog Posts
Hire a professional to create or polish up your website. A virtual assistant can use book excerpts to create and schedule blog posts for you.
You want to be sure to have a stock of visual assets to include book cover images, your headshot, an inventory of visual images for social media and any ads you plan to run. Visual assets may include video for a book trailer and book promotion and a virtual assistant to edit and post them to YouTube.
You will want to reach out to influencers, media, book reviewers, podcasters, and others about your book. These efforts can be managed by a publicist or marketing agency.
If you need any recommendations on who to outsource book marketing tasks to, I would be happy to see how I can help you or refer you to the right person.
This is the first in my 2021 series of book industry experts that will include editors, ghostwriters, book coaches, and other experts in the book industry. Cristen and I first connected a few years back when we both worked with the Nonfiction Authors Association.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
I’m a developmental and substantive editor and book proposal consult who loves developing long-term professional relationships with my clients and other publishing industry pros. I predominately work on nonfiction projects written by experts but am keen to work on well-crafted fiction with a literary bend.
Memoir with its nonfiction base and fiction-like narrative style is one of my favorite things to work on, but I jump at the opportunity to work on anything even remotely related to medical anthropology, sociology, sports, entertainment, or business.
My clients include a New York Times bestselling debut novelist, a GRAMMY Award ® winner, attorneys, researchers and medical doctors, competitive athletes, advocates and activists, and an international entertainment entrepreneur. I’m delighted to have worked with Linda K. Olson (triple-amputee, retired MD, and Parkinson’s advocate) on her recently released memoir, Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life, listed by Parade Magazine as one of the 24 best memoirs to read in 2020.
I love helping clients develop their writing craft and market acumen, so they can share important information and tell meaningful stories that attract the attention of literary agents, publishers, and readers. What I love most about what I do is the ability to partner with others to do work that has the potential to change lives and shape culture.
How would you describe your ideal client?
My favorite clients are Type As with a sense of humor, the type that are serious about the work but don’t take themselves too seriously. I also prefer working with clients who are multi-book authors and aspire to be traditionally published or published by a publisher that exercises editorial discretion. I also like working with authors who choose to indie-publish for strategic reasons.
Authors who are looking for a one-time, do-this-and-I’ll-pay-you-and-leave aren’t a good fit. The most fulfilling relationships for me are dynamic, collaborative, and strategic because they’re the most fun and get the best results.
How did things change for you in 2020 and how did you manage to weather through the year during the pandemic?
My pandemic year started the first week of January with the sudden death of my 42-year-old friend and brother-in-law. Another relative died suddenly in February, and in March, another one of my young relatives was hospitalized with COVID-19 and according to his doctor, “could have gone either way.”
By April, clients who’d booked large, multi-month projects had put their projects on hold or were moving at a snail’s pace due to interruptions in their lives and concerns about cash flow. The dip was brief. Within a few weeks, emails started flowing in. Lockdowns and layoffs allowed many aspiring authors to focus on their books. I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure I’ve done more projects this year than any other. Having said that, my income compared to last year is down because pricing and timelines got all out of whack early on, and I’ve done more lower-fee projects than high-dollar ones.
On the business side, I have to say that it’s been a great year. The pandemic exacerbated a project management and cash flow frustration I’ve had for several years and was the push I needed to eliminate the service related to it and start offering an hourly consulting rate service that’s been a surprising hit.
If I had to boil the change and the benefits that followed down into two words they would be “focus” and “efficiency.”
On the personal side, I’ve become more aware of how important my husband, sister, and children are to me. That’s given me perspective and a sense of belonging that I haven’t experienced in a while.
What is your favorite tip for using social media?
Well, first I want to encourage you to consider any tips I offer with a degree of skepticism because unless you’re an editor who works with clients like mine and share my goals, this is likely bad advice. But if you see yourself in anything I’ve said about myself, my tip regarding social media is to get off it as soon as possible.
Perhaps a better tip is to consider whether your ideal clients are hanging out on your favorite social media platform and if they go to that platform when looking to hire someone like you. Social media is a time suck. Each of us only have 24 hours in the day. If we want to succeed, we must keep customer conversion expenses low. Time and energy, like money, is limited.
I’m also an introvert (not shy, an introvert). Social media wears me out. My energy is best applied elsewhere. But when I started my business, I spent a lot of time on social media because that’s where authors who were willing to take a chance on a new editor hung out.
So, my tip is to remember that marketing isn’t a one-size-fits all deal. Marketing fiction requires a different approach than nonfiction and both require strategies that keep the ideal reader’s needs and habits top of mind. If you can afford to, hire an experienced consultant who knows your genre and understands your personality and goals and can help you develop a customized social media strategy that gets results. Sue has been doing this a long time and as an author herself can speak directly to what works and doesn’t. I’d start by talking to her.
What are your goals for 2021?
My goals for 2021 are the same as they are every year and are more strategic than specific, which allows me to take advantages of changes in the market and opportunities that always surprise me. In general, they are:
- develop more high-value industry relationships;
- stay connected to clients by celebrating their wins and promoting them whenever possible;
- submit more of my own writing to literary magazines;
- become even more effective and efficient, so I can serve more clients;
- and get more outdoor time by taking walking breaks each weekday and hiking, biking, paddle boarding, and snowshoeing with family and friends on weekends.
Where can authors find you?
The best place to find me is at cristeniris.com.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d just like to encourage anyone who feels beaten down, inept, and bone tired. I feel that way most days, especially when I feel forced to choose between answering emails that keep piling up and doing the actual work.
Running a sustainable and growing business is hard. We must keep all the plates spinning at least fast enough to keep them balanced on the pointy sticks they sit on.
It’s o’dark thirty, and I’m sitting in my bathrobe looking like a two-year-old that nobody’s bothered to hose down lately. It’s easy to feel like we’re doing something wrong, like we have little in common with those real professionals we admire.
But never mind Instagram, photoshopped headshots, and holiday everything-is-wonderful newsletters. That’s all fluff. The meaningful work is ugly work, but it’s the only work worth doing and the stuff that produces results that prove to ourselves and others that we’re competent and resilient.
May your 2020 failures and triumphs propel you into 2021 and may it be your best year yet!
Cristen Iris is a craft-focused, results-oriented developmental and substantive editor and book proposal consultant. Her clients include a New York Times bestselling debut novelist, a GRAMMY Award ® winner, attorneys, researchers and medical doctors, competitive athletes, advocates and activists, and an international entertainment entrepreneur. Recently, Parade Magazine listed client and triple-amputee Linda K. Olson’s book as one of the 24 best memoirs to read in 2020. Cristen’s personal essays and business columns have been published by, among others, IDAHO magazine, Idaho Business Review, Unbound Northwest, and on the Nonfiction Authors Association blog. When her nose isn’t stuck in a book or her fingers glued to a keyboard, Cristen and her feet can be found anywhere there’s dirt, trees, or water.
LinkedIn is my favorite social media platform for engaging with people and growing my influence with my community. I find I can connect and engage more deeply with people on LinkedIn.
I try to reach out to at least four or five people each week to make new connections and then follow up with at least one phone conversation each week. This has helped me build a community, not just of people who might do business with me, but also of other people in the industry I work in who may be good referral partners (my friendly competitors). I keep track of the people I talk with in a spreadsheet so I can refer back to it when referring to others. It also helps me monitor the effectiveness of my efforts.
One number on LinkedIn that I monitor is the LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI). The social selling index has been around for some time. It used to be available only to those who paid for the Premium account but now anyone can access their SSI. This is an algorithm that LinkedIn came up with after analyzing a group of top performing sales leaders and the results they achieved. The result is a score between 0 and 100. It was created by LinkedIn as a way for people using LinkedIn for sales to see how they rated. Of course most of my clients aren’t using LinkedIn for sales; but the rating can still indicate how well they are utilizing LinkedIn to establish their brand and build relationships. It’s something I track monthly for my clients.
A couple of months ago I decided to take a more proactive approach to see if I could improve my SSI score. After just a few weeks I was able to increase that score from 64 to 71. That score alone doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s important to note also where you are in your industry and network.
The formula for the LinkedIn SSI score is based on the 4 components of social selling, as defined by LinkedIn:
- Establish your professional brand
- Find the right people
- Engage with insights
- Build relationships
Let’s discuss each of those in a bit more detail and what you can do to increase your SSI score.
Establish your professional brand.
Be sure your profile is 100% complete with a profile photo (headshot), headline, and complete information that includes your keywords. When filling in your information, be sure to keep your customer in mind so they will want to contact you based on what you’ve provided. Include examples of your work in the Featured section – videos, SlideShare presentations, PDFs. You can boost your SSI score even more by publishing articles on LinkedIn and endorsing others. Also give and ask for Recommendations. All of this will help you become a thought-leader in your industry.
Find the right people.
I search for people in groups and through mutual connections. You can ask a first-degree connection for an introduction to a second or third-degree connection. Of course using LinkedIn’s paid Sales Navigator will increase the chances of this score being higher. If you use Sales Navigator you can unlock more of those who have viewed your profile and then potentially connect with them and their network. If you don’t pay for Sales Navigator, you are limited in what you see when you click on Who viewed your profile. For most of my clients who are not directly in sales, I don’t believe there’s a need to pay for Sales Navigator.
Engage with insights.
Do this by sharing conversation-worthy updates. Post content relevant to prospects and become a trusted source of insight. Participate in groups with thoughtful comments, questions, and content. Comment on other people’s articles and posts.
Strengthen your network by finding and establishing trust with decision makers. When you do invite people to connect, be sure to send a personalized note explaining briefly why you’d like to connect. Even a simple note such as, “We’re both in the ‘XYZ’ group here on LinkedIn and I’d like to connect to add you to my professional network.” Once you’ve connected, develop the relationship. Provide information they can use. Invite them to chat by phone or Zoom, assuring them it’s not a sales call. Here’s how I do that.
I have an interesting story to tell about using LinkedIn. Someone named Joe connected with me on LinkedIn and booked a complimentary phone consultation so I could answer some questions he had about using social media. Later he messaged me on LinkedIn because he needed someone in my area to do some handyman work on a property he owns in the area (he lives out of state). I was glad to send him the name and number of someone I know to help him out. For me this was the perfect example of using LinkedIn to engage and build community. Now Joe hasn’t paid me any money. He hasn’t become a client. But he was in need of a connection that I was able to provide. If he ever does need my services, or know someone who does, who do you think he’ll call? He did provide a wonderful review on my Facebook page as a result of the initial complimentary phone consultation we had.
Some people say consistently spend 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn and you’ll see the SSI score improve. Those same people say, “remember, it’s just a number.” I do check mine usually once a month and watch for the number to remain stable and rise. If it goes down, I don’t worry about it. But I do see why that may be the case so I can see were to focus my efforts to bring the score back up.
And, as one of my clients said, “if you think it’s just a tool to stimulate people to buy Sales Navigator, then fuggedaboudit!” (That’s how they tawk in the Bronx.) Can you tell she’s from New York?
Authors and book publishing industry experts, as well as everyone else, would no doubt agree that 2020 has been a challenging year. Yet, as one of my colleagues noted, since everyone has suffered in some way during the pandemic. It’s put things in perspective for us, helping us focus more on helping others.
In 2021 I want to focus on helping you, my readers and clients. One way I’m doing that is by introducing two new concurrent interview series in 2021. In 2020 I interviewed business podcasters so you could see if their podcast might be a good fit for you to be a guest on. You can read those interviews here. In 2021 the two interview series will be one with nonfiction authors and another with book publishing industry experts.
The Two New Interview Series
One series will start with authors I have worked with at some point over the past 15 years. In addition to providing exposure for those authors and their books, those authors will share how they weathered through 2020 during the pandemic and their favorite book marketing tip.
The other series is with experts in the book publishing industry will include editors, ghostwriters, publishing consultants, book coaches, and authors assistants. You will learn more about them and their business and find out if they are a good fit for you if you’re in need of their type of expertise. They will also share their favorite tip for using social media.
It is my hope that by highlighting the work of these authors and experts they might gain new readers and clients. And you will benefit by learning tips they share on book marketing, social media, and weathering through a pandemic.
Here are some of the people whose interviews you’ll be reading: Chrissy Das, Cristen Iris, Faith Wilcox, Jeanne Rodriguez, Anne Janzer, Laurie Buchanan.
If you know of anyone in the book publishing industry who would be a good fit for this series or a nonfiction author who launched a new book during 2020 amid the pandemic, please have them contact me.
Watch for our first 2021 interview here on the blog on January 5, 2021.