THE OM OF THE SOFT SELL:
EASY, LOW-COST MARKETING
FOR THE CRAZY-BUSY AUTHOR
How to Audit Your Author Platform
in Five Easy Steps
by Mary McFarland
Do You Feel Besieged by Offers to Help You Sell More Books?
Authors are besieged by sellers offering workshops, challenges, and online universities—gasp!— built around helping us sell books. If you’re struggling to keep up but still not selling books, it’s time to start using digital tools to audit your platform and build in a “soft sell” to attract readers.
Are You a Victim of the “Hard Sell?” If you’re making yourself sick—and broke—trying to sell, i.e., “market” books and keep up with digital marketing fads, you’re a victim of the “hard sell.” The hard sell puts immediate pressure on authors. Buy our workshop! Our app! Our system! Buy now! Since its introduction in the 1950s, it has today found a perfect spot in the digital marketing community, where fast, high-pressure selling occurs in nanoseconds.
If you’re a victim of the hard sell, your first step is to audit your author platform. Click To Tweet
If you’re a victim of the hard sell, your first step is to audit your author platform. First, however, here’s two preliminary steps toward recovery:
- Halt the desperate urge to get “likes.” Likes don’t generate enough traffic to buy a latte, and they’re a time-suck. Learn instead to identify what’s motivating social media use among prospective readers (See Figure 1). Note:“buying”is at the bottom of the list.
- Brainstorm the motivation behind your brand. What themes do your books explore that creates passion among your target audience? How do you want readers to perceive you? What exceptional reading and promotion experiences, what “value” do you offer that your competitors don’t? Who are your competitors?
Fig. 1: Top 10 Motivations for Using Social Media. Image courtesy of PRO Platform.
Why Do I Need to Audit My Author Platform?
Your platform is the locus of your author identity, where the impressions readers form over time become your author brand. There are two critical reasons to audit your platform. One, auditing your platform lets you control and build your brand and adjust it as readers’ desires change. Note: do you think the platform Amazon started with (See Figure 2) would entice buyers today?
Fig. 2: Early Amazon page. Image courtesy of Version Museum.
Two, your platform, in addition to conveying your brand, is also a place to use your “soft sell” to target and attract readers. Why would you want to do this? To find out, take this quick quiz:
- Who’s the greatest customer-centric, soft seller of books in history?
- Who sits on the Web, does nothing—that we can see—and attracts readers in droves?
Readers trust the Amazon brand and love buying in a bookstore where they rule but feel not one iota of pressure. That’s the “Om” of a digital marketing brand whose “soft sell” is the heartbeat of the most recognized brand on earth.
What Tools Do I Use to Audit My Author Platform? Figure 3 shows the digital tools you can use to perform a quick platform audit, tells you when to perform and audit, and lists the free digital tools.
Keep in mind that digital tools evolve constantly, so begin with the suggested list in Figure 3 and build on it as your platform evolves. Note: There are many digital tools available, but these tools are author tested.
Fig. 3: Digital Tools for Performing a Platform Audit. Image courtesy of Red Girl Digital.
What Are the Steps to Audit My Author Platform?
Follow these steps to complete your author platform audit.
How to Audit Your Author Platform: Five Easy Steps
Digital Tools Needed to perform this step
What to Do
Goal: Identify all social media channels on your author platform, where you are now or want your brand to be in the future.
1. Go to www.namechk.com and check your author name (your brand). Is it available across all social media platforms?
2. Go to www.knowem.com and check to see which categories are available or taken.
Note: These tools are helpful if you’re planning a brand. They let you see if it’s available on certain channels before you spend time brainstorming names.
Note: If your channel is taken, check to ensure it’s by you. If it’s not taken, go claim it.
Goal: Measure reader engagement on your social media channels.
Most social media sites have built-in analytics that break down the number of links, shares, clicks built into the site.
Go to each SM site on your platform, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and search on “analytics.”
Note: Keep in mind, you must interpret what these numbers mean across your author platform and find “digital strategies” to “tweak” them to increase reader engagement.
Goal: Check for brand consistency, i.e., look and feel across your author platform and intended branding.
Go to each social media channel and check the following:
Color palette. Are you using the same color palette consistently on all channels? What branding message does your color choice convey? For example, red and orange (McDonald’s) conveys friendly and affordable.
Author bio. Any inconsistencies?
Graphics. Consistently conveying your brand message? Is your logo use consistent?
URLs. Are they all consistently branding you?
Note: Use a consistent color palette and graphics, message and logo. If you find cleaning up inconsistencies difficult and time consuming, use the tutorials and help features of the digital tools. Yes, it’s time well spent.
Goal: Identify top performing channels based on engagement and social media ROI.
Social Media ROI formula: (Earnings – Costs) x 100/Costs
70,000.00 (earnings) – 50,000.00 (costs) = 20,000.00 x 100/50,000.00 = 40% ROI
Note: this example is not typical, but whether you made a few hundred or a few thousand from your social media campaigns, the goal is to increase earnings by keeping an eye on readers’ changing desires.
Goal: Identify basic Search Engine Optimization “SEO” for your Web site’s traffic, including page score and monthly traffic.
CONGRATS! YOU COMPLETED YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM AUDIT!!!
I’ve Audited My Author Platform? What’s My Next Step?
Good job! You did it! How does your platform look? Does it consistently convey your brand across all channels to your prospective readers?
Extra fun: If you are just beginning to grasp SEO and how important it is to your sales success, Author Imprints has a great article with suggestions for analyzing and improving your SEO. It’s located here: www.authorimprints.com/author-metada-audit/
A Challenge: A great challenge for any author is learning which sales strategies are working for competitors. Go to your competitors’ platform and identify what types of “sell” they are using with various promotions. Is it the “hard sell” or the “soft sell?”
Hi, I’m an aspiring author and like you I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking it anymore.
In 2015, I watched my post-launch sales ranking for Jump the Line climb to 40,000 in “romantic suspense,” a saturated category, and then drop. I let it. I paused my author platform to research how digital marketing and technology work together to promote—or impede—book sales.
We can’t see or control technology’s “back end,” but it’s driving digital marketing. Its twin is the “hard sell” that has formed around it to drive us all crazy. While tech’s front end (e.g., Amazon and Facebook, etc.) is a user-friendly “soft sell,” its back end is a hard sell. Do your marketing, i.e., your ad campaign and key word setup right, or you’ll spend tons and sell little. Crack the code with the latest fad or miss the sales bus!
The marketers have us believing we must know things like—gasp!—how Amazon Web Service (AWS) works, that we must know its secret “algorithms” to sell books. Friends, it’s unknowable except to the AWS army of geeks. What can beating our brains out trying to decipher Amazon’s algorithms possibly do but waste time and exhaust us?
We don’t need to knuckle to hard-sell digital marketing recipes, unless—of course—they are created by us to serve us. What we do need to know is how our own author processes, such as the book launch, work on top of and in conjunction with technology’s back-end. In addition, we must become experts in exploiting useful and, especially, free digital marketing tools.
What fuels my twin interests in digital marketing and technology? First, I’m out to disrupt the myth that authors must make ourselves sick fighting technology to sell books. My mission instead is to deliver the “Om” of digital marketing, the fun, easy and, especially, the healthy digital recipes for selling books. Second, my background as a technical writer in the software industry, and a Master’s concentration in using Web 2.0 technology, have long fueled my desire to both write fiction and serve fellow authors.
My research in digital marketing for authors is a journey. I’m inviting you along to share and support our community. If you find digital tools that support authors, share. If you spot a problem, and you think digital tools can fix it for our community, share harder!
www.redgirldigitalmedia.com (July 2021)
www.marymcfarlandbooks.com (July 2021)