Q&A with Lori Blantin, CEO of IndiGo Marketing & Design

Welcome Lori, instead of me giving a summary of your background and your experience why don’t you tell us about yourself and your company in your own words.

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life.  My happy place is curled up in a cozy spot with a great book.   In 2008 I discovered Goodreads and soon after joined several groups where I could talk books with other avid readers. A year later I read my first M/M romance and I was hooked! Eager to find other M/M readers, I joined the Goodreads M/M Romance group and was so excited until I realized that there were only 7 members and no discussion happening.  Not to be deterred, I reached out to the author who had stated the group and asked her if she would make me a moderator.  She did, and with the help of a few friends, we grew the membership to over 20,000 members.  That caught the attention of a small boutique publisher who approached me about helping them with their social media marketing.  That was the beginning of my passion for helping authors market their books.

What attracted you to marketing and PR and why did you decide to break out on your own?

Before becoming involved in the M/M Romance group, I didn’t know anything about marketing. My career as a Data Aggregation Specialist was dull and dry and aside from my passion for spreadsheets, not very creative.  When Silver Publishing hired me, I finally got the chance to grow my creative side and fell in love with book promotion.  After working part-time for several publishers, I decided to branch out on my own and IndiGo Marketing & Design was born.  IndiGo has always been a side hustle but it’s my biggest passion and I hope to grow the business into something I can do full time.

PR and Marketing are two areas that, not only authors, but others who want to create a brand for themselves aren’t always experienced with and have trouble with. I know I’m still learning and I have a background in marketing and events. Can you share with us five basic marketing strategies anyone can take to improve their brand?

Even as a “marketing professional”, I find marketing my own business much harder than marketing for someone else.  I think that’s a challenge that most entrepreneurs face and as an author, you must think of yourself as an entrepreneur.  Once you do that, you’ll discover that your marketing strategies are not that different from any other small business.

  • Create your brand. Before you do anything else, you must have a clear vision of who your target audience is, what your “author voice” will be and what “look and feel” will most adequately reflect who you are and the story you’re telling.
  • Once you know what your brand is, then you need to start applying that brand everywhere. You do that by creating a website and developing social media sites that consistently reinforce the message that you’re delivering about your persona, your books and your readers.
  • Develop a social media strategy. Now that you know what your brand is, you have a website and social media accounts, it’s time to develop a marketing plan that will put those to the best use.  Be consistent and follow the rule of thirds.  1/3 of your content promotes your books, 1/3 of your content consists of sharing content that others post and that is relevant to your followers and the final 1/3 should be posts in which you engage with your followers on a more personal level.
  • Take advantage of unexpected opportunities to promote your books. Develop your “elevator pitch” so you have something prepared whenever you get the chance to talk about your book.  Always have some free swag with you to hand out or leave behind.  Hand out cards with a promo code or have a few autographed copies of your book with you that you can offer up for charity auctions or gift baskets.
  • Don’t try and go it alone. Take advantage of the marketing assistance offered by your publisher.  Work with other authors in your genre and cross-promote.  Develop relationships with bloggers, readers and “influencers” to help you get the word out.  Consider hiring someone to help you with your marketing.  Consistent, effective marketing takes a lot of time and you may find that your time is better spent writing and letting someone else do the heavy lifting.

When it comes to authors what would you say are the three mistakes that writers make when it comes to marketing their work? How can they avoid these mistakes or fix them?

  • Don’t be a passive bystander. I see so many authors that don’t do anything to market themselves.  You must play an active role in the promotion of your book.  If you’re relying on your publisher or think that just having a book on Amazon will generate sales, you’re not going to be successful.
  • Don’t wait until your book is in the editing process to start thinking about your marketing strategy. You should start formulating your plan before you even start writing your book.  Have a checklist that includes marketing your book throughout the entire process.  Promo shouldn’t be an afterthought.
  • Don’t be “that” author. Even the most popular, bestselling authors get negative reviews or find themselves criticized in social media posts.  While it’s tempting to defend your work or yourself, it’s never a good idea.  I’ve seen too many promising careers implode because the author ended up on the “authors behaving badly” list.  Yes, there is such a list and you don’t want to end up on it.

Visuals, like book trailers, teaser sheets, sell sheets, or other videos are exceedingly important for marketing, what are the three or five things that all of these visual colleterial pieces must contain in order to be the most impactful?

  • Well designed, professional looking visuals are imperative for being noticed. It all starts with a great cover.  A bad cover can be the death knell to what may otherwise be a great book. Invest in a high-quality cover and the rest of your visuals will be much more effective.
  • Make sure that all your visuals reflect your brand and fit the theme of the book or books they represent. Someone scrolling though a crowded timeline or Facebook group should be able to instantly associate that image with the book and author.
  • Sometimes less is more. Focus more on why the reader should want to read your book rather than where they can purchase it.  If you’re sharing graphics on social media, it’s better to include purchase links in the body of the post rather than crowding the graphics with logos.  The only exception to this rule is if the book is available from Kindle Unlimited since this is something that many readers look for.
  • Entice readers by including snippets from reviews or testimonials from other authors. Quote a line or two from your book that is provocative and will leave the reader wanting more.
  • Include a call to action. Announce a price reduction, offer a prize for signing up for your newsletter, create a sense of urgency with a limited time offer or announcing a new book in a series.

Can you tell us why having a proper media kit is so important? And what is the best way to make use of your media kit once you have it?

Having a media kit that includes all the basic information about our book, the book cover, purchase links, your author bio and contact links is something every author should have as soon as that information is available.  You can’t market your book without one.  Your media kit should also be in different formats; text only, WordPress HTML and Blogspot HTML.  One you have a good media kit, you’ll use it for cover reveals, blitzes and tours, review sites and other promotional opportunities.  Your media kit should also include printed materials like a sell sheet that you can leave at events, book signings, libraries, etc…

A question that stumps so many creative types is how to build their mailing list, given the rules with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that the EU has enacted and California will be adopting next year, what are some ways to increase those names on our lists?

Giveaways using a platform like Rafflecopter are probably the most effective way of growing your email list.  You should also have a subscription form on your website and Facebook page that asks your visitors to leave their email address.  Having gated content, like a short story or serialized content, on your site is another way to collect email addresses.  This is content that is hidden until your visitor enters their email address.

No matter what method you use, be sure that you make it clear that by leaving their email address, they’ll be receiving emails from you and make it very easy for them to opt-out.   If you have a checkbox, make sure the default setting is that the checkbox is empty. Of course, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the laws so you stay compliant and they may vary depending on your location.

Now that we have those names on our mailing list or subscribers to our blogs, what do we need to do to keep them? What suggestions do you have for us keeping these friends engaged?

My best suggestion is to be realistic about how much time you’ll have to devote to email campaigns.  Unless you’re an author who cranks out a book every 3 months, coming up with content on a regular basis can be daunting.  Before you send that first newsletter, really think about what your content is going to be, where it’s going to come from and how often you’re going to send out a newsletter.  If you write cozy mysteries and feature a lot of food in your books then chances are good that your fans would be interested in recipes, food blog reviews, that awesome new sauce you just discovered, etc…  But if you struggle to identify what your target audience would be interested in, then a monthly newsletter is probably going to be overwhelming to create and not very effective.  And again, remember the rule of thirds that I mentioned above.  Don’t make your content just about your books.  Engage your fans by appealing to what their interests are and if you’re not sure, ask them!

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Lori’s had a love affair with books since childhood and grew up reading historical romances she borrowed from her mom. Sharing her love of reading became a passion which grew into a career. Her favorite thing is connecting readers and writers, then sitting back to watch the magic happen.

She joins us for the ‘Outside the Box: Social Media Marketing’ panel (Panel B2)

Check out the full schedule HERE.