An Interview with Author Success Coach Deborah Riley-Magnus

I have a guest today. Deborah Riley-Magnus is the author of Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within your Manuscript.   She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction. She's also an Author Success Coach with a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction. She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and just returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years.

Even the odds for authors with this one-of-a-kind guide to marketing success. Deborah Riley-Magnus takes tried and true marketing, publicity and promotional strategies and tailors them for the unique needs of today’s author. Every element is outlined and explained for easy implementation. You will learn:

·         How to develop a functional and strong book business plan     
·         The power of developing effective, targeted platforms
·         The basics of publicity, marketing and promotion
·         How cross marketing works and why it’s magic for an author
·         How to personalize it all to your book
Finding Author Success will take away the mystery about gaining sales and increasing exposure for your book and you as a professional author.

A portion of the sales of this book will be donated to the American Literacy Council. The American Literacy Council’s main purpose is to convey information on new solutions, innovative technologies, and tools for engaging more boldly in the battle for literacy.

Especially with the current ease of self-publishing, every writer wants to know the secret of effective promotion. Can you share one or two things that today's authors need to know that they probably aren't aware of?

Absolutely! I’m so thrilled to get this chance to talk about what most authors are thinking of as the new plague called marketing, LOL. There are so many exciting and wonderful things about controlling your own marketing, promotions and publicity!

Let’s start with Marketing. The best way to do any book marketing is to look inside the manuscript you wrote. Everything you need to market your book as the unique, fantastic piece of work it is has already been put into your story. Things like location, character preferences and general plot elements, all go into setting you apart and above every other author out there … because, no other author out there wrote that book. For example, every author does the standard, average marketing strategies. They have giveaways, they talk to genre specific reader groups, they have contests and they all do it the same way and in the same places. Let’s say you do all that, only ADD a few things they can’t do. Does a major event in your plot take place in a coffee shop? Find all the coffee shop websites and blogs you can and ask them if you can post a weekly or monthly “grind” of the day about various coffee or coffee drinkers or the battle between coffee/tea lovers or whatever works. Of course you’ll always mention your book and have the book purchase link for it. A great tag would be “Nothing goes together better than coffee and a good book!” Going a marketing step further, of course your book is a romance and you do what you can to reach romance lovers at book clubs and blogs and twitter and facebook … but, you do realize that there are far more romance lovers than that, and lots of them are right in your neighborhood. Contact nurses groups, gardening groups, neighborhood ladies clubs and even quilting and knitting groups and offer to speak and read a passage from your book for them. Trust me, these groups are always looking for a change of pace at their meetings and get-togethers. You might be a perfect fit and you WILL sell books. (This works with ebooks too!)

The next tip I’d like to offer is to uncover the Public Relations power in your book. Look hard, it’s in there. Is there a cancer survivor in your book? A dog lover? A character who is an eco fanatic? Think seriously about donating a portion of the sales of your book to the American Cancer Society or the ASPCA or a local Green organization. This is a two fold activity … it supports an important cause, and gives you another buying audience. If you state on your tweets, facebook, platform websites, blog and the book itself that you’re supporting this charity, others who support the charity and love romance will buy!

Social media has changed the author promotion playing field. So much so that Amanda Hocking credits Twitter with a large part of her self-publishing success, and yet she signed a deal with a publisher because promotion was so time consuming. How can we protect our writing time and still build a following?

My biggest fear is that poor Amanda is going to discover that the publisher doesn’t do half of what she did to promote her book. Not only that, they expect the next book to sell as well, so she’ll still be doing what she did in the first place. It’s a sad but true fact of the industry today … ALL authors must market, promote and publicize themselves and their books.

The trick is to do it smart and manage your valuable time carefully. I suggest a strict schedule. For example, TWITTER. I tweet twice each day, Monday through Friday, 10 minutes each time … then I log out. I even use an oven timer to make sure I leave when it’s time to leave. Effective twitter use isn’t only about keeping your time to manageable clips, it’s also about what you’re tweeting. In Finding Author Success I have a funny list of 10 things authors should never waste time tweeting, blogging or facebooking about. Things like cleaning their toilet, the goofy dancing dogs vid they found on YouTube (who has time to look for dancing dogs on YouTube anyway?) and gossip about other authors, publishers or lit agents. Twitter is a networking tool and should be used as such. Promote your latest blog, but each time you tweet about it, do it differently so it looks and reads different. People hate seeing the same thing, over and over. Tweet important industry information you might find. I use the tweet deck and keep a column just for “Publishing”. It’s important to stay on top of the industry, and when you retweet an industry story link, your tweet has added value to others.

FACEBOOK is another networking tool. Find your targeted friends carefully. Never mix family stuff with your Facebook for promoting your book. Do one or two posts each day, have a little conversation then LEAVE. Again, make sure your post is relevant to your fans who are viewing your Facebook page.

BLOGS. Okay, ready for this?  Do not post more than 4 blogs a month. I know, really hard. Personally I do five a week and am struggling to back it off. This addiction is bad. Make your blogs informative, entertaining and fun … again, no discussion about toilet cleaning or your kid’s flu symptoms. Keep it “Romance” oriented so that your fans can enjoy and relate.

And finally, BLOCK OFF TIME EVERY DAY TO WRITE. I’m not talking about writing tomorrow’s blog either, I’m talking about writing your book. I write for three solid hours every day (1:00 pm to 3:00 pm) and try to catch another two hours in the evenings when I’m pressed with a deadline. These are uninterrupted hours. They may involve plotting or research, but nothing interrupts that time … not even the phone.

It's nice to know I'm doing something right, since I didn't want my followers thinking, "Oh, God, not another blog post," I try generally shoot for one a week.

Ebooks are great, but they make things like book signings a challenge. Are there any promotion methods that are easier with an ebook?

YES! And, no. It all depends on how you look at it. So many e-pubbed authors think only INSIDE the computer box, but the world outside the box loves ebooks too. I always suggest having a launch party for an ebook. Invite your fans and friends to a LIVE party. (Do an online event too, but for this question I want to talk about reaching another audience.) Set up one laptop showing your book video on a loop. Use the other for placing book orders. Do a reading, right from your Kindle, to the guests. Arrange the party in a coffee shop – if your book is about a coffee shop like the one above. Find the unique promotional things about your book and go wild with it. 

As far as a book signing, it’s not easy at the moment, but I feel technology will sure catch up with that issue. My publisher does a signed ebook for me when I have a contest for my fiction, Cold in California. It’s kinda cool. But if you don’t have that advantage, maybe sign something else? A tiny bag of coffee? A small coffee mug with the cover of the book on it? It’s too easy to just toss up our hands in despair and give up, but solutions are out there. E-pubbed authors just need to show their creative muscle a little more, that’s all.

You've got your own fiction book out. How did you cross market it? And did you consider your cross market when you were writing it?

Cross Marketing is an extremely cool way to create connections between your book and book buyers you hadn’t originally thought to target. It primarily focuses on finding cross markets outside of books to build larger fan base and it’s really fun and easy to do. (Like the coffee direction.)

It’s not something one usually thinks about between one book and another – especially between a fiction series and a non-fiction book – but I certainly did think about it for my fiction. Cold in California is an urban fantasy about a double-dead vampire. Seriously, ever thought about that? What really happens to a vampire after he finally dies? Heaven? Hell? Well, nope. For twice-baked vampire Gabriel Strickland, final death meant purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse with a mess of other dead supernaturals all hoping to gain a ticket through the Pearly Gates. Go figure. I loved the idea of redemption for a creature who found the mere concept way outside of his nature, LOL.

You may not know this, but for 10 years I was a professional chef. I love to cook, entertain and create wonderful flavor profiles and presentations. It’s my “happy” thing. I thought, why not a cook book … and why not a vampire cookbook? So I’m currently working on my cookbook entitled Who Says Vampires Don’t Eat: Recipes for the Loving Vampires in your Life. It’s a fun approach to all those energy sucking people we live with and deal with all the time – the nosey neighbor vampire, the hungry husband vampire, the angsty teenage vampires, the naughty kiddo vampire, the demanding boss vampire, etc. The book is sectioned off in categories, features original recipes and a short story for each category (all about elements and characters from the Twice-Baked Vampire Series). It’s a perfect cross marketing tool for the series, and I’m planning some fun with it.

The cookbook will hopefully be released after the second book in the series, Monkey Jump (release date March 2012) and the third book, AmsterDamned (tentative release date, December 2012).  

That's so intriguing. And so original. I love the concept.

I (and most of my followers) write romance. There are thousands of romances published every month, so I have a hard time believing any media outlet is going to care that I have a book coming out, but I took a peek at your book and see that you still tout press releases. Am I really wrong?

Not exactly wrong, but you are just a little uninformed of the vast usage for a well written press release. In the section about Book Platforms and Author Platforms, I talk about creating a media room on those websites. In those Media Rooms you would have downloadable copies of your current press releases among other things. Now, there is press, and there’s PRESS. I agree with you, in this day and age, with so many romance novels being released every month and so many of them ebooks, ebook novellas and ebook compellations or collections of short stories, no, the primary media is not really that interested. BUT, how many books are you putting out each year? How well are they selling? How large is your following? These are things the primary and secondary media can and will determine by what’s in your media room. You just may be someone they want to keep an eye on … but if you can’t write a clean, informative press release, will they even care? Not really.

Press releases are viewed by many people who are not even part of the press. If you ask a book store to permit you to do a reading event at their location, they’ll take a look at everything the media would be looking at. They’ll Google you to see how active you are and how capable you are of pulling off an event at all. They’ll check out your author website to see what you’re all about. And they’ll check your media room to see how professional you are and how you present your news information.

Beyond that, I’m a strong advocate of writing press releases because the writing style is extremely different from writing your book. It’s simple, clean, succinct and precise. It tells the viewer that you are an author who can treat your writing like a business. 

Okay, you've sold me. I see I have some work to do.

What is the difference between an author platform and a book platform?

I’ll make this super simple.

Your Author Platform is your business office. It’s where you, the author, can promote and talk about yourself, your work and your accomplishments. It’s not the fancy, fun place for all your books (although you will list them there with a link to the Book Platform website).

Your Book Platform is your store front. It’s where all the glitz and glamour happens. It’s where you wow readers and get them excited about your story and characters and what’s coming next. It’s where you can do all your wonderful announcements for promotions and blog tours and giveaways.

The most important thing about both platforms is to keep them separate, neat, fresh and alive. Update them with something at least once every month and tell everyone when you do. If someone is looking for your book on the internet, it’s your book platform website you want them to go to. If they are looking for you, the author (who may write in several genres and non-fiction too) they should be guided to your Author Platform website.

You're an Author Success Coach. What do you offer an author who comes to you for your services?

What I usually do for clients is help them build their Book Business Plan. This plan covers everything an author needs to have, know, and strategize to build a full, successful career. The Book Business Plan covers everything, from future strategies, budgeting, market expansion and creative exploration. It’s the Business Plan for Authors and it crosses left and right brain beautifully! Every author is different and every book they write is unique, so the Book Business Plan is a living, breathing thing that covers everything we talked about here in this interview and much more. It’s a realistic, practical blueprint for author success. And I bet you thought all you needed to do was write a book, LOL.

All kidding aside, if a writer wants to create a career out of doing what they love, they need to approach it like a business … an extraordinarily creative business.

HEY EVERYONE … I’d like to offer a FREE 10 Tools for Author Success downloadable handbook to all blog guests! Just go to and hit the button for your FREE downloadable PDF!

If you’d like to win a copy of Finding Author Success, just comment here at the blog, ask questions or just say you’re interested and Suzie will have a drawing for the winner. (The winner will be announced Monday December 5th.)

Thanks so much, Deborah, for visiting with us. You've given us a lot to think about. I hope everyone else has found your information as useful as I have.


Finding Author Success:
Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript.
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Want to Jumpstart your Ebook Sales?

Well, last week was an interesting week.

Monday, I got an email from Christine who runs The TBR Pile, a book review blog site, where I had submitted my debut novel for review. Based on her comments, I suspect it will be a very nice review, because the blogger who is reading it (it's a group review site) is so enthusiastic about the story that she went out and bought "cowgirl" boots. Here's a picture of the boots:

And that sort of response to a story is why so many writers are compelled to write.

And that was only Monday.

I've had a short story, All's Fair out there. It's a prequel really, to my McKnight romance Wip (tentatively) titled A Dark & Stormy Knight. It's been priced at $.99 on Amazon for the past month because Amazon won't let you list a book for free. You have to offer it elsewhere for free, report that to Amazon, and then wait for them to get off their duff and price match it. A real pain in the patootie.

When I got home from work on Tuesday, I checked my sales (yes, I'm still at the obsessing stage) and saw there were over 6k downloads. My first thought was, "Something's screwed up." Then my brain kicked in and I realized Amazon had finally made it free. I immediately checked my kindle rankings. #2. I know the rankings tell you how well you're selling compared to everyone else, but that was so beyond belief that my brain simply shut down and refused to process it.

My goal with giving  All's Fair away was to get on the Top 100 kindle list, and at that moment, I was #2 on the contemporary romance list. I was ecstatic (and more than a little awed.) By the time I got up in the morning (yes, I checked before I went to work) I was in the top ten of the general kindle list. WOW. Just . . . WOW. I don't think you can buy that kind of exposure.

A week later, All's Fair had downloaded 28 thousand copies.

Can I say that again?

28 THOUSAND downloads.

Now I don't expect everyone who downloaded it will actually read it. Or like it. But enough will. Or so I was hoping. The reviews on Amazon have been mixed (to put it mildly.) Some folks really dislike it, but according to the chatter on the kindleboards, for some unfathomable reason, negative reviews are to be expected when you make something free. The real test is what effect the freebie has on sales of A Knight in Cowboy Boots which was really my ultimate goal.

I don't have access to actual sales numbers (my publisher has those) but I can access a graph of the rankings. Before last Tuesday, the graph looked like the Sawtooth Mountains. The range swung from a hight of 65k to a low of 148k. The day All's Fair became free, the rating jumped to <10k and more-or-less flat lined, when meant it was selling steadily. I started seeing more reviews on Amazon (4 & 5 star reviews).

I would have to classify this little experiment as a great success.

Oh, and the To Be Read Pile's review? (Remember, that's how my week started.) I got great reviews, both for All's Fair and for A Knight in Cowboy Boots.

You can read them here and here.

To top off such an exciting week, Knight of Hearts appeared on Amazon. Hope y'all had as lovely a  Thanksgiving as I did.