Jean Oram, author of Champagne and Lemon and now, Whiskey and Gumdrops, is a model for marketing and promotion. Knowing the market for sweet romances was tight, she forged ahead and took control of her own destiny by self-publishing her books and putting the first of the Blueberry series books out free. I hope she won’t mind my comparing Champagne and Lemon Drops to a cozy mystery, only take out the word mystery and insert romance. She writes the type of cozy romance that makes you want to curl up with her books before a fire, and just enjoy.
How long had you been building your Facebook page before your newest book released this month? Would you recommend starting well before you publish?
Oh, ages. But nothing really happened for the first few years with my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jeanoramauthor). I made it years ago to ‘reserve’ the URL (The ‘jeanoramauthor’ part) even though I felt like a poser calling myself ‘author’—it was while I was still aspiring to make the writer-to-author leap. I ignored the page for years. Then about a year ago I started using it a bit more. With the release of Champagne and Lemon Drops (my first book) last March I started using the page more and making sure I had links to it on my website and in my email signature.
I would recommend writers and future authors start a Facebook page ahead of time. For two reasons. 1) So they can reserve their URL—ideally their name. When you use a vanity URL (such as your name) with Facebook, it makes it easy for people to find your page—and for you to remember.
2) If you use Facebook ahead of time you can enjoy the bumps and spills without a big audience or higher stakes. Made up example: Readers like to friend authors which is really cool (this part is true). But do you want them popping over to your profile and seeing your old college roommate’s posted photo of you with a bong? Does that fit your Christian Romance author image and brand? Not so much. If you play around ahead of time you can do things like start two Facebook profiles or use Facebook features to sort out who sees what on your profile page, etc. Basically, you have time to prepare and figure things out while the stakes are low.
Why a Facebook release party? What can Facebook do that other forms of social media lack?
Everyone else was doing it. Oh, um I mean…
The easy answer is, Facebook is a platform that allows readers to jump to one place and interact and see the whole string of a conversation. It’s easier to interact than, say, Twitter, where using a hashtag can be unreliable (you see the same tweets more than once, or you miss some). In my case, a lot of romance readers are on Facebook. I didn’t use Facebook much before releasing my book, but now that I’ve figured out that is the best place to interact with my readers, it is where I spend the bulk of my social media time.
So, in my case, Facebook provided the platform I needed for the type of celebration/event/party I wanted to hold, and it was also where my audience was. (Or at least a good portion of it.) For the launch party, I created a Facebook event.
As for why a release party…it seemed like a fun experiment. I wasn’t sure what to expect and part way through the 2-day event of 14 hour days I questioned why I was doing it as well as my sanity. (This was coupled by the fact that I had moved house a week prior and was still living out of cardboard boxes and the Internet guy hadn’t arrived yet—meaning I held the event using my cell phone as a hot spot with its 1 bar of service. Oh, and Mother Nature threw in a snow storm which meant my go-somewhere-else-and-poach-Internet backup plan was yanked off the table.)
Anyway, the party turned out well. The readers enjoyed it. They invited friends. People bought my book. Left reviews for book 1 & 2. Downloaded the first book (Champagne and Lemon Drops which is a FREE romance!). And they subscribed to my newsletter so we can stay in touch—a place where they’ll hear about new releases and other goodies that are exclusive to newsletter readers. (By the way, you want to connect with readers on your own turf (like a newsletter) because what happens if Facebook suddenly disappears or everyone scatters to Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and twenty other new online places? Then where are you for connecting with your readers?)
But most of all…I connected with readers in the launch party. I heard their stories. I know who they are now—and vice versa. We had a ton of fun. And as a nice side effect, I also now I have more Facebook interaction on my page. I didn’t used to. I would post things and nobody would like, see, comment, share, etc. Now I post and people interact! HOLY MOLY. That has been one of the coolest results of the launch party (readers are thinking of me as a friend and are interacting!). It’s something I couldn’t have predicted and could never guarantee as a given result.
Did you also link to other social media, like twitter?
I have connected with readers on Twitter and my blog. But not in the same way I have with Facebook. I do still use Twitter for mentioning giveaways, newsletters, etc., but I find Twitter works best for networking with other writers.
Attracting a large Facebook following is an achievement, but do you have some hints on how you got such an active group of fans? I posted a comment to one of your status updates and my inbox was full the rest of the day with other people responding also.
Sorry about that. The inbox can be a casualty in all of this excitement. I don’t have a huge Facebook following, but they are, for the most part, people who are genuinely interested in my books or me. I haven’t jumped into ‘page liking’ events as I figure those people aren’t likely to be my real audience. For me, it is about gaining genuine, quality followers rather than quantity (same with my newsletter). (I have 391 likes at the time of writing this. About 100 of those came in the past two or three weeks—with the book launch activities—and the bulk are definitely readers.)
To find those quality readers, I mention my Facebook page in places where readers are—my readers (or potential readers—has to be my genre!). For example, in the signature of my email, in my newsletter, in the back of my book. And I try to post things on my page that would be of value (interest/entertainment/helpful) to my readers. As well, if I am doing cross-promotion with other authors, if it is fitting, when I am saying goodbye to readers I’ll reach out and say something like, “You can stay in touch with me on Facebook by liking my page at www.facebook.com/jeanoramauthor.” You’ve got to make it easy as well as give them a reason to connect that has value for them.
But the big thing is to interact in a genuine manner and show real interest in these really cool and intriguing people, offer them something of value, and then let them know where to find you. They aren’t likely to go looking for you if you don’t know you are there. And it’s all about relationships.
You asked fellow authors to help out with your release. What did you have them do?
Yes. I had 16 amazing and generous authors help me out. I didn’t ask them to promote me. I asked them to come and meet my readers. Hang out if they had time. Hold or sponsor a giveaway of one of their books or other item of their choice. And then I promoted them. I shared a tidbit about them around an hour ahead of their giveaway to make them real to the reader/guest and mentioned whether they had a free book, etc. I tried to always swing it so there was something of value being offered to the reader/guest. Many of the authors popped in to say hi, hold their own giveaway along with a little game or what-not.
I did not ask the authors to promote me. Although quite a few of them did. Readers seemed to enjoy meeting other authors, interacting, and getting free books, etc.
This depends a bit on your audience and what intrigues them. I’ve found that status updates that readers can interact with seem to work well. Ask them a question. Share a good book and ask if anyone has read it. Posts that not only show you are human, but also what it’s like to be you—the author—and ask them to interact with you seem to work well. Photos can be good too. (Watch out for copyright!)
And reply. If you are going to interact, you’ve got to show up. You can’t throw an update against the wall and run away. Some authors have found certain times of day work best for them or that a certain number of posts work well. Experiment. (It’ll change over time too.)
I noticed you had giveaways of small items, like hand-crafted necklaces. Where did you get the idea and was that successful? What other sorts of items do you believe would work well as giveaways?
I gave away about twenty necklaces and keychains that sported the cover art of Champagne and Lemon Drops or Whiskey and Gumdrops. They were made by a reader I met in another author’s launch party while I was doing cross-promotion. She was making them for other authors (with their cover art) and I told her they were wonderful and special. They truly are. She—the VERY generous soul that she is—made me a keychain and necklace for myself and my daughter and sent them to me. I was over the moon! In the end, she generously made some for the launch party as well. I can’t take any credit for those little treasures—it was all her and her generous soul.
As for what readers like to take away—I think something unique and special. A gift card for Amazon is nice, but anyone can get one of those. A signed paperback means a lot. As well, little mementos mean more, too. But, it is a funny thing. When I asked my Facebook page readers a few months back if they wanted Blueberry Springs coffee cups they said nope. So ask your audience. But generally, the true love-to-read-and-aren’t-about-the-iPad-giveaways folks love the items that are special. They don’t have to be big.
Did you include giveaways of Whiskey and Gumdrops as incentives also, or is that something you would save for later on in the book’s publishing timeline?
I was holding a giveaway of Whiskey and Gumdrops on a reader’s Facebook page during the launch party, but I didn’t have a giveaway of Whiskey and Gumdrops in the launch party until the very final hours.
Readers did want giveaways of the book.
I wanted sales.
You know… launch the book high and hope for visibility and for it to stick up somewhere good. With the giveaway—because it had been mentioned in the launch party—I heard from some readers that they were waiting to see if they won before purchasing the book. Nooooooo! Did they run out and buy it when they found out they hadn’t won? I dunno. The winners of the giveaway were announced after the hoopla of the launch party when the impetus to hit the ‘buy with one click’ button had been lessened.
If holding a giveaway for the book in the launch, I would do it early on. Really early.
There will be more giveaways for Whiskey and Gumdrops. I am currently holding one this weekend (Nov 15-18th) on a reader’s blog. I also am planning a paperback giveaway on Goodreads as soon as I can get my act together. Hopefully this week. No promises on that though seeing as a somehow blended a gasket in with my cream soup in the blender the other night. The black bits…not pepper, kids!
Do you include links to your Facebook page in your books and have you any indication that readers actually use them?
Yes, I do include a link to my Facebook page in the back of my books. Do readers use them? I don’t know. But they do sign up from my newsletter using the link at the back of the book and I do have likers pop up here and there on Facebook, so I’m going to say yes. But it isn’t an amazing outpouring of Facebook liking happening. I get more newsletter subscribers.
What’s the most important thing to remember when using Facebook as a marketing tool?
Always direct them home every once in awhile. In other words, make sure you exist off of Facebook (or other forms of online media that are run by others and not controlled by you) in case Facebook suddenly nixes Facebook pages or something equally rash. You are building your platform on someone else’s turf and using their rules. So, be sure to use a belt as well as suspenders (this is your income, after all) and direct readers back to something you (hopefully) have more control over like your website or newsletter as a way to stay in touch.
As well, read Facebook’s rules. Yes, it sucks reading the fine print. But so does having your page removed without warning because you broke a rule—it’s happened to authors. Beware!
Oh, and have funnnnnn! If you aren’t having fun, it’ll show. Make this journey yours. However that happens to look.
Anything you would change or improve for next time?
Yep. I would not launch right after moving house. I would ensure I had Internet coming out the wazoo. I would also likely spread out the giveaways in the launch party a bit more. Hold a book giveaway earlier. And most of all, remember to breathe. ;) Oh, and make sure my books were uploaded way ahead of time on places that are slower. It really sucks to have only 2 of 4 major vendors selling your book at launch. (Again, part of that was the Internet issue which was related to moving…but you get the picture.)
But there is so much I wouldn’t change. And that’s what really matters. J
This is what has worked for me. What’s worked for you and your readers, Michelle?
Jean Oram loves to read and has worked as a librarian--a job that is a serious contender for the best job ever as duties include buying thousands of new books with someone else's money! She also loves the great outdoors and has worked as a beekeeper as well as a ski instructor in Alberta, Canada. She loves to travel and people watch and now puts her experiences to the page with zany characters and a mysterious (very ugly) couch that keeps reappearing in different stories. Now... if she could only get those odd socks to pair up at home!
Jean's first novel (FREE!) is Champagne and Lemon Drops with many more planned in the Blueberry Springs series. She loves to connect on Twitter (@jeanoram) and share lots of great, free romance on her blog (www.jeanoram.com) as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jeanoramauthor) and more writing tips at www.thehelpfulwriter.com. She lives with her family and a multitude of pets.
WHISKEY AND GUMDROPS:
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whiskey-and-gumdrops-jean-oram/1117351986?ean=2940045404792
CHAMPAGNE AND LEMON DROPS:
Amazon.com: http://amzn.com/B00BR3AT9G / http://www.amazon.com/Champagne-Lemon-Drops-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BR3AT9G/
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/champagne-and-lemon-drops-jean-oram/1114971937?ean=2940044392212
Sony Ereader Store: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/jean-oram/champagne-and-lemon-drops-a-blueberry-springs-chick-lit-contemporary-romance/_/R-400000000000000990566