Passionate Ink Conference: Aurora Publicity Q & A

Our wonderful owner and founder of Aurora Publicity, Samantha, was asked to speak at the 2019 Passionate Ink Conference this week! Congratulations, Samantha, on a job very well done.

The publishing world can be difficult to muddle through and can be a struggle to do on your own. Author assistants, or PA/VA as they’re also commonly called, can provide a huge relief to your already crazy schedule as an author, and the expertise they wield can truly help elevate your success. The work an assistant does can be a true godsend.

After the presentation, Samantha and Aurora’s manager, Ashley, were excited to dive right into a Q & A session with the conference attendees! You can find the transcript here:

Q: What are mistakes authors often make when marketing? 

A: Mistakes are a part of learning, and inevitable. We prefer to look at mistakes as opportunities for growth, change, or insight. They can be valuable! With that being said, we discussed the marketing funnel in the presentation and the biggest way to put the cart before the horse is to jump to trying to sell your book when you haven’t spent any time growing your platform and engaging those readers. You’ll only be discouraged when cold-calling doesn’t generate the sales you had hoped for. 

Q: What skills should every author work on? 

A: Many authors are an introverted lot, and in this business, you need to be able to connect with readers on a personal level. It’s important that you come across as a person and not an elusive author. So one big skill to work on is putting yourself out there and connecting with your readers. Think social skills, but in a virtual world. 

Q: For authors on a limited budget, what has the biggest impact?

A:  Writing the next book. There is nothing better than putting out the next release, and if you’re publishing once every few years, there isn’t much that marketing can do to keep readers waiting for you. Unfortunately for the slow-releasing authors, other authors are producing books every month or couple months, so readers will move on to them while they wait for you and might never find their way back. That’s why relationship-building is so important! If you engage your readers and nurture your relationship with them, they will wait for your next book no matter when it comes out. 

Q: How does an erotica author combat the roadblocks in social media?

A:  The biggest and most vital thing that should be done is for you to read up on all the community rules on all the social media platforms that you’re a part of and read Amazon’s rules for publishing. Then you build your marketing and publicity plan around that. If you don’t, you’re in danger of having it shut down. Covers should be spicy and engaging to the reader, but not so revealing that it toggles that line of discretion that Amazon has drawn in the sand. Figuring that out can be difficult. 

With social media, if you’re creating a group for chatting and takeovers with your readers, then it needs to be private. This way you’re ensuring your readership is of age and you’re giving disclaimers ahead of time that the content discussed is adult. There are some erotica groups that do this beautifully. Become a part of them and see how they work things! Ask to participate. The author and PA world is amazingly supportive. Share their work and you’ll see they’ll share yours as well. Network. AGAIN with the networking. This is huge. Same with blogs. Readers know it’s hard to find a space to talk about the books they love. Blogs are great because they can follow their favorite authors. They listen when another author recommends another author’s work. 

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge for promoting erotic romances?

A:  The biggest challenge is the new laws and restrictions of erotic content on the internet. All the typical social media platforms and marketing arenas we would use to promote authors and gather engagement are very strict in what type of content is allowed. The retailers that we use often filter the books to the extent it can be difficult for a reader to even find your book. So… the focus MUST be on engagement. It must be in finding those readers on blogs, social media groups that they belong to and letting them get to know YOU as an author. Fans are loyal. If they like you or like one book, they tend to come back. So, if you can get to them you can keep them. Blogs, FB groups, and a huge one is networking within the erotica community. Newsletter swaps are huge. If you can network with one another and share one another’s content, then you’re sharing your fan base and it all grows from there. 

Q: Do you read the books by the authors you promote? 

A:  Absolutely! The best assistants are fans of and believe in their author’s work! Reading our author’s books also help us to better market them since we know them intimately. 

Q: What’s something assistants wish authors did to make things go more smoothly between them?

A: Communicate! We also talked about this in the presentation, but the worst relationships are when they become one-sided instead of a partnership. Even basic friendship takes work and effort, so make sure you’re putting in that work and effort with your assistant or else it’s not going to work.

Q: A publicity company…what does that mean you’ll do if I hire you? How do you promote my book? 

A:  We’re a little unlike normal publicity companies. We specialize in pairing authors with author assistants who help them elevate their success. Some of our clients aren’t at the book promotion stage, and we focus a lot on platform (which you should be doing before your release!). When an author has a release, we put together a release plan based on what they’ve done successfully and what we’ve done successfully. Then we analyze the results, ditch anything that didn’t produce the results we wanted, and fine-tune that release plan for the next release. Our goal is to always have a better release with every book our authors put out. For promotion, we also work with a variety of partners who specialize in areas that bring our marketing full-circle.

Q: Do you help me set up release promo? Do you have contacts with bloggers, podcasts, magazines, takeover and release party groups? 

A:  Yes! To all of that and more. Aurora assistants are fantastic. Our assistants set up promotions, giveaways, work on engagement and growing your following, and more. So yes, we do all this and more. We have a lot of contacts in the community. However, that networking never stops. Ever. The author/reader/marketing world is continually growing and if you make the mistake of not reaching out for new opportunities you will get left behind. We don’t like to get left behind.

Q: I spent $1000 on a big-time publicity company and sold 50 books, mostly to family and friends, what happened? 

A:  Big-time publicity companies generally focus on PR. Public relations is earned media, and not guaranteed. You’re paying those large companies for the connections they have, and sometimes those connections don’t pan out. That’s the gamble you take. This is why it’s important to build relationships and turn those readers into buyers. Cold-calling (as we like to joke) doesn’t usually work so well. PR can be a great tool in your marketing belt, but do your research on the company, their outreach, their process, and their typical results. You can get to the end-goal on your own, it just takes time, but sometimes that’s worth it!

Q: Marketing is totally outside of my skill set; will you guide me because I don’t have a clue what to do?

A:  We seem to work with two types of authors: the authors who know what they want and hand their assistant a list, and the type of authors who have no clue and expect their assistant to guide them. We’re very comfortable working with both types. 

Q: I don’t have much money to pay for a publicity company! What would be the most cost-effective way to use one?

A: If you have a low-budget, work with a publicity company (or author assistant) one priority at a time. It’s going to take you longer, but you will get to where you want to be. Start with your goals, and do the homework we discussed in the presentation. Then if you can only afford to work with an assistant for a couple hours a month, you’ll have a game-plan for that time and will use it wisely. Keep in mind, this is a long-term investment, and not a quick get-rich-scheme. 

Q: Do you focus strictly on Romance authors or just fiction authors?

We have clients of all genres. From romance, erotica, fiction, thriller, MG, non-fiction and even children’s authors, etc. Our assistants have a wide range of experience with different genres.

Q: Do you pay monthly, yearly, or based on tasks?

A:  All our pricing is hourly no matter the tasks. We all know, priorities shift every month. We don’t do packages because they don’t always fit for everyone.

Q: I have to plan my money. Can you usually judge how much something is going to cost?

A: Typically we do have an idea, most definitely. You would start off with a 30 minute consult with our owner/director Samantha. From there you can discuss your goals and tasks you’re needing assistance with and then she can give you a pretty good idea what your needs vs. budget would be. Also, we invoice on the 1st of the month for a block of hours and that time is used throughout the month on the priorities set between the author and assistant. So we can plan for 5, 10, 15, 20+ hours a month depending on your goals and budget.

Q: Can you talk about your promotions? Specifically the differences between the free and paid promotions for non-Aurora authors and what the author should expect from participating in either?

A: We’ve been working hard to revamp our promotions, and the few offered now are just the beginning, with more rolling out in 2020. For now, for free, we have an opportunity to review a book, interview and feature an author on our website, or advertise a new release or discounted book on our reader website. For these, the author can expect a review to be posted on our website and shared on our social media, as well as given to the author to be added to their editorial reviews and in their marketing copy. The interview feature is also posted on our website and social media, and helps generate visibility for the author. Advertising on our website is exposure and another outlet to get your new release/sale in front of more (and hopefully new) readers. Our only paid option at this time is a group giveaway that we put together and run, and the cost to participate goes to Facebook ads. We’re currently running a few giveaways that are very successful when done with ads, and authors can expect to use these giveaways to grow their platform and/or promote a book/loss leader, etc. It also helps share readers among similar authors.

Q: Erotic Romance is often limited in how they can participate in Facebook ads. How do you work around this limitation?

A: Our FB ads expert is no stranger to running sexy ads, and she usually does this by modifying the images run on Facebook. Cropping covers, using non-cover images, etc. And then, sometimes the FB gods smile down on us and approve something more sexy. Sometimes we have to play with links and where the ads go, but overall, she’s been quite successful.

Q: What is one thing a Pre-published author should do to set them up for success? And on the other hand, what is the one thing you wish authors WOULDN’T do before they contact you?

A: When you say pre-published, I’m assuming you just mean an author who has books out (otherwise pre-published could mean you published traditionally, but are now re-releasing indie, etc.). I’m going to assume the first, but correct me if you meant something else. In the presentation, I talk about the marketing funnel. Growth-Engagement-Sales. It’s important for any author new or with a huge backlist to be spending time on their growth and connecting with readers online and in-person. That’s the only way to grow your platform and sell books successfully. So evaluate your platform. What are the weaknesses? Where are the holes? How can you be pulling in new readers and connecting with new readers? Back up before selling and really analyze and improve from there. One thing I wish authors wouldn’t do before they contacted us is think of us and working with us as an instant get-rich-quick opportunity. I would never tell an author I promise I can sell x amount of their books, because there’s no way for me to know that as absolute truth. I can promise to set them up for success in all the right areas that I believe will lead to sales, but it’s a long-term relationship and investment. It’s not a short-term thing. You aren’t going to sign up with us and sell a thousand books in our first month together. Well, you might! But it’s not a promise I make, and anyone who does swear they can move books I would be weary of. So come to us managing the right expectations.

Q: So, for authors who don’t have a book out yet, but are trying to build their platform/establish their brand, what can they do to help their efforts, what hurts their efforts?

A: Start the growth phase now. One important skill is social skills and applying them to a digital arena. Start making those connections with readers and becoming a real person in their eyes, and by the time you’re ready to publish, you’ll have a loyal fanbase waiting. I would also say work on your branding before you publish so you are a consistent, memorable, and recognizable author. What hurts your efforts is doing nothing and just putting the book out there thinking readers will come. There is a lot you can be doing before the book comes out, so work on that and establish some sort of foundation before publishing. You get one chance to make that first impression and if you publish having done nothing beforehand, you’re just sending a book out into the void and hoping cold-calling works out for you. It’s too much of a gamble, and often hurts the author’s potential momentum.

Q: I see so much about author branding. I have over 100 stories out, but still this author branding has me lost.

A: There is an information overload out there when it comes to branding, I know. I like to simply think of branding as the impression you want to give a new-to-you reader. Just like your book cover speaks to the words inside, your brand speaks to the author behind the books. Think about it this way: when you walk into a restaurant, you take in the decor, right? The way they’ve decorated, their color choices, even the menu all ties together to create an atmosphere that fits what they serve. You wouldn’t walk into an upscale, fancy place and all they serve are burgers and beer. Branding is about expectations. When a reader lands on your website or comes across you online (especially if they’ve never heard of you before) all those things need to tie together to instantly, within seconds, tell the reader what they can expect from you. And it helps them remember you and recognize you among all the others.

If you have additional questions or are curious about what Aurora could do for you, schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation today!