Online Marketing/Blogging for books?
QUESTION: Hi Jared,
I'm an aspiring author of children's and picture books. Recently, I've come to be interested in ecological political action; that is, stopping the slaughter of dolphins and generally promoting oceanic conservation.
I've been reading a blog that is collecting donations in order to produce a documentary about saving dolphins. My question is: how can I go about starting my own blog that leads to collecting donations for self-published picture books about dolphin conservation?
I'd like to collect donations for funding a series of picture books related to oceanic conservation. These funds would allow me to self-publish, produce, distribute, and promote/market the book(s) as they are written and released, probably online in e-book format, but also available in hard copy (I hope).
My goal is to divert approximately 25-50% of donations for the cause of spreading awareness to children through this series of books; the remaining funds will be used for site upkeep, expenses, etc.
While I'm internet-savvy, I've never blogged. Can you please show the right direction and how to get started? Should I begin a charity/org first, before starting the blog? And once the site is established, how can I go about distributing/marketing the books on the internet? How can I maximize my viewership, reach maximum readers, and make this new blog a major part of the eco-conservation movement?
ANSWER: Hi Bobby.
Thanks for the question, and good for you for pursuing this venture! I'll jump right in, starting with:
"Should I begin a charity/org first, before starting the blog?"
From a top level perspective, whether you start a charity, or a not for profit, or even a proper business, the first step is to get your business plan completed (even a simple one looked over by an accountant) so that you understand how your revenues will be allocated and distributed and how that will affect you personally, and of course what provides the best tax relief so that you can spend more towards your cause. You can start the blog anytime and then add in the donations portion once you have the business end figured out.
"And once the site is established, how can I go about distributing/marketing the books on the internet? How can I maximize my viewership, reach maximum readers, and make this new blog a major part of the eco-conservation movement?"
You should start with an actual asset. In your case the asset would probably be an eBook (the first in the series) or at least a preview of the eBook. I realize that the point of the funding is to create the assets or products, but having an asset can significantly leverage marketing efforts (content marketing). So seriously consider whether this is something you can achieve before you start your marketing campaign.
Having a tangible asset helps in two ways:
1) People are much more willing to donate if there is an asset already in place. In other words, people are more apt to donate if you have book 1, and need the funding to 'continue the series', or if you have a downloadable preview of what the books will look like. In contrast, conversion will be much lower if you are getting funding to "publish the first book". People tend to have much higher trust levels when something tangible has already been created. Again, this would take some initial capital (not to mention the legwork in creating the book), but you wouldn't need to have it available in HC for marketing purposes, just an eBook to start. .
2) Internet marketing depends heavily on reach and visibility (obviously). When other websites link to you, it provides your website with traffic (called referral traffic) and it also provides your site with domain authority, meaning the more websites that link to yours, the better your performance and visibility will be in search engines (SEO), which in turn leads to more traffic, and ultimate that extra visibility can lead to more conversions or even more links, starting the cycle all over again. (Excuse the run on there...) Website owners and authors are MUCH more likely to link to your site if there is an asset for their readers to download.
"While I'm internet-savvy, I've never blogged."
Blogging is super simple. (You may already know this bit...) I recommend buying a domain and some web hosting that has 1 click WP installation. Itís very inexpensive and better (from a marketing perspective) than blogging on sites like blogger.com etc. Install WordPress, choose a theme and then go through the short tutorial. Once set up you can start blogging. Make sure the posts you write are engaging and unique.
Social: Apart from writing the content, you should immediately set up social accounts (Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Google+ to start). Anything you post on your blog, make sure itís also being posted to your social media (there are plugins for this that you can one-click install). Also make sure you are constantly trying to get people to follow you, friend you, etc. Invite your friends, co-workers, as well as other ocean conservation related charities and organizations, or businesses that list oceanic conservation as one of their commitments. The more followers you have, the more reach your posts will get, in turn creating more followers and so on.
SEO: The trick to SEO these days is 'donít try too hard'. Forget stuffing your articles with repetitive keywords, or adding novel-esque meta keyword tags. Just write naturally. Make sure all of your titles are unique. If you are writing an article, and it touches on the subject matter of a different article you've written, link over to it. The social marketing and the asset (content) marketing are all a part of your off page SEO (which is why all of these channels are now falling into the term "Integrated Marketing").
Associations, Affiliations, Partnerships: Once you have a tangible asset, make sure you approach associations and organization in the oceanic conservation or eco-conservation space. Check to see if they have a resources page where a link to your blog might fit. Reach out and see if you get a mention. Getting links or mentions from trusted organizations can significantly increase your search engine presence and your consumer trust, while elevating your brand. Sometimes social can be useful here - write an article on a new Green Peace initiative, and tweet it while tagging, say @Greenpeace (just an example). If they happen to re-tweet it, that's visibility to over 1M followers. Mentioning the organization in the article (or even linking to their website in the article) can significantly increase the chance they'll share.
Example for the channels mentioned above:
Let's say you notice that instead of "oceanic conservation", you're seeing new online discussions utilizing the term "Conserv-ocean". Your next article might be "Making Waves in Conserv-ocean - Educating our Children". By writing this article you've satisfied many criteria:
SEO: It's utilizing a keyword that will probably garner more searches as it gets more widely used.
Engaging: The pun is very much intended, and by using the new term you will attract readers (either because they know you have your finger on the pulse of the movement, or because they want to know what the heck conserve-ocean is and why they keep seeing it).
Social: Because the title is somewhat engaging, it's great for social sharing. Don't forget to tag an association or organization.
Product Tie-in: The article title also ties in to your product. Once the reader gets to the site and starts reading your amazing article, they'll be learning more about your company/organization/charity. You'll have a call to action right in the side bar or even in the article, with an asset just waiting for them to download.
Readership: Make sure that if someone downloads your asset, they are also added to your mailing list / blog subscription (they need to opt in). Also, aside from the downloadable asset, ensure that they can subscribe to your blog from every page.
Remember, this is not a fast process, it doesn't happen overnight. Even the most dedicated internet marketers need at least a year to get the groundwork laid and brand elevated for a sustainable campaign. Make sure that every time you blog, the piece is engaging and interesting. Make sure to blog at least once a week. Try not to create too many blog posts entirely about your products, let the call to actions take care of that.
Good luck - and hey, feel free to use Conserv-ocean.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Jared...whew, I'm not sure how the response notice got lost in my inbox, but it did. You've given me a LOT to digest and think about! I'm very grateful for your level of effort.
I studied internet marketing in college, but it seems like we didn't cover many bases. Instead of bungling around trying to get all this right, do you think maybe it's better if I hire an internet marketing firm to set all this up for me, and maintain it for me? I have some $$ I can dedicate to this purpose. Do you think maybe it's better if I let the experts handle this, so that it reaches my audience in a polished, professional way?
PS: I'm going to use Conserve-ocean. That's excellent. Thanks :)
What school did you attend with Internet Marketing as a course / program (just curious).
AllExperts emails get lost in Junk all the time for me too - even though I whitelabel the domain..
To answer your question, you have to be careful not to get taken for a ride when investing in Internet marketing, and you need to know exactly what you need.
Did you create a basic business plan yet? I still strongly suggest you do that! :)
That said, hiring can definitely expedite the process. Remember that quality agencies or consultants usually charge a flat hourly fee, so you want to make sure that the hours they spend are on things you cannot do (or a family member/acquaintance cannot do) on your/their own.
Here's a bit more detal on the tasks I suggest you complete, and you can decide what you would hire a professional to do:
1. Business Plan! (I hate to rub this in but seeing the numbers and writing down your goals, processes, etc will be instrumental in your success)
2. Branding. Here's where you might want to hire out. You need to have a brand to create a brand. Brand is a broad term, encapsulating how the public interprets your business or organization. It starts with a pallette / logo. The logo is very imporant and will be the basis of all of your design (social media, website, paid advertising, badges, and even the books themselves). When someone sees the logo it should immediately resonate "ocean" "kids" "learning" "dolphin (or aquatic mammal/animal protection)". A logo company worth their salt will be able to create a simple logo that conveys this message.
3. Once branding is complete, its time to create your website and all of your social channels. This can be relatively inexpensive (if youre not going all out on a sophisticated state of the art website). Find and buy your domain (after your branding package is complete and you are sure of the company and or product name). Make sure the domain reflects your brand. Then sign up for any one click hosting (you can just do both at GoDaddy at the same time, super simple and under $12 a month).
There's a one click install and Wordpress is installed. I would at this point pay a web designer to lay over a design and add the logo etc.
Once that's done, you can then create your facebook, google+ and twitter page, and use the graphics/logo from your website. The web designer might be able to do that cheap as well.
4. Next, hire someone or find someone local to create a newsletter signup or constant contact account for you. This will be an invaluable tool for reminding people of your cause. Implement on the website so that readers subscribe to your newsletter. As your subscription base grows you can use newsletter s to provide updates on your products and conservation news.
5. Lastly set up your account for accepting donations (usually paypal + a bank account).
You're ready to blog! Start blogging, make sure that your message is very clear, on what you are doing, and especially how the money used to purchased the book is helping specifically.
Whenever you blog, make sure to post that blog post on all of your social media channels.
Get a partial book and convert it into an ebook, and display it on your website.
You can also set up a crowdfund account for the "initial" round of capital to start the books. If your website and brand is strong enough, people will be willing to crowdfund the startup portion. You'd be surprised at what kind of successes have occurred there with the right branding (check out the "Coolest" cooler on KickStart - when I pre ordered mine he was at $30k looking to raise $50k).
Decide what you can do above and then pay someone to do the rest. Once these costs are out of the way you will know what you have left to alllocate to a marketing company or for your own guerilla marketing.