This is the second in a series of posts featuring the winners of the 2023 Christian Authors Network (CAN) Excellence in Marketing Awards. Leslie Anne Tarabella won first place in the nonfiction Web Presence category and describes her activities here.
The 2024 marketing awards will open in November 2023. CAN members, please be thinking of how you can enter the awards. See the guidelines at https://christianauthorsnetwork.com/marketing-award/.
Creating an Award-Winning Web Presence
by Leslie Anne Tarabella
Bringing Christmas Home is a true story about my husband’s grandmother who was born in New York City in 1916. Her father gave her the most perfect gift ever, but it was tragically destroyed and lost forever. She mourned the loss her entire life, but when she moved to Alabama as a great-grandmother, she experienced a Christmas miracle!
Since this was a Christmas book and it didn’t arrive until October, I decided to release it in a limited local area for this year as a “test run.” With only three months to sell books, I felt like I needed to hit it “hard, fast and furious.” It was a success because of God’s grace and also because I worked like a wild woman on fire. I don’t think I could have kept up that pace for an entire year, but knowing it was only for three months gave me a defined window of opportunity.
I used Instagram and Facebook along with my own website to promote events. I haven’t seen much success with Twitter, so I don’t use that much. My author Facebook page is open to everyone, but I keep my personal friend page private to approved family and close friends only. That way, if a publisher or agent looks at my page, it is mainly work related with a bit of personal info sprinkled in. Readers want to know who you are as an author and if they can connect with you, so a touch of personal info is okay, but they don’t need to see all 80 of your mother’s birthday party photos — that kind of thing is for the private page.
My book signing formula was:
- Announce the event on social media/blog
- When I was setting up for the event, I did reminder video/posts on Instagram and Facebook to refresh the memory of everyone – “don’t forget to stop by and see me today at such-and-so event.”
- Follow up after the signing with social media photos showing how much fun it was.
My local TV station interviewed me, then sent the segment to their affiliates all over the country. I also appeared on New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrew’s podcast/show to plug the book and then he allowed me to host the show once where I got to mention the book again. I reposted the TV Interview and Andy’s podcast on my own sites.
Although I won the CAN award for my social media marketing efforts, my favorite part of marketing is meeting my readers face to face. Men and women came to book signings and told me how the story made them cry, then bought more copies as gifts. As an author, this made me incredibly happy and humble. As a marketer, it made me want to say, “Um . . . could you please say that again a little louder? The people in the back of the line didn’t hear you!” Hahaha. But seriously, it’s greatly rewarding to touch someone’s life with a story. I love my readers!
In addition to understanding social media, I also relied heavily on Picmonkey, where I designed most of my online graphic advertisements. I used retro clip-art I found on Etsy for only a few dollars to match my old-fashioned book theme. My sons, who are professional photographers tease me for using “simple” Picmonkey, but it gets the job done, and I happen to like “simple” (they prefer advanced Photoshop).
I was most surprised by how quickly the books sold out and that some people actually collect Christmas books, no matter what they are about! On this first short three-month “trial run,” I only placed the books in a few local stores and had book signings in locations near my home in Fairhope, and one at Samford University in Birmingham. I sold the book on Amazon as well as through orders on my website. Everywhere I placed the book, I had to constantly restock, due to the demand. It made my head spin. Fun fact: my most successful signing was at The Piggly Wiggly! I think I sold 80 books in a few hours. If I could have signed faster and talked less (impossible), I could have sold even more. Hooray for the Pig!
If God gives me a story to share, I’m not going to sit on it. He wants us to share our gifts and bring joy to this world. That means marketing is showing appreciation and valuing God’s gift. Lots of people have stories to share, but God has equipped me to put mine onto paper and have readers in newspapers all over the country read them. Now that my stories are in books, I’m obligated to share them with people as best I can. I’m thankful and amazed at God’s goodness.
In today’s world, sharing means marketing, and marketing means social media. Don’t be afraid to put your book out there and let others know about it. No matter what genre you write, a touch of humor or mystery always helps grab attention in ads. Use professional photos when possible. There are online photography tutorials that teach you how to take great pictures of your book, but don’t use the same photo over and over. Take photos of different people reading your book or showcasing your book in different stores and displays.
I would advise authors to familiarize themselves with social media, even if it means paying the teenager next door to help. Video is the way to go now on Instagram and Facebook. It’s pushed to more people, so familiarize yourself with making quick clips of what you are doing. Also, refine a brief (VERY brief) description of your book to give on interviews like the one I posted at the top of the page. If you bore them with the description, they’ll never buy the book.
The other bit of advice I’d offer is to remember that podcasters, local TV shows, newspapers and some online blogs are always looking for content. If you can get a few reviews to hand them, they may ask you to be on their show. Sometimes smaller publications like neighborhood magazines or small newspapers are short-staffed and want you to hand them a pre-written review so they don’t have to do it themselves. Ask a writer friend to help.
I’m preparing to relaunch this same Christmas book on a national level later this summer. I’d love for you to follow me on social media and my website to see how it goes.
Authors run on encouragement and coffee, that’s why awards like this from CAN are so important, as is feedback from other authors. Thank you to Christian Author’s Network and to all my new followers. I am thankful for every one of my readers and writing friends.
I’d love to connect with other authors. You can find my work on my website:
You can go back and see previous videos about the book and follow me on Instagram:
my Author’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/leslieannetarabellaauthor/