Tag Archives: marketing

Selling Books at Conventions by Lydia Sherrier

Some authors have asked me before about how I sell so many books at conventions, so I thought I’d do a post here with some insights I’ve learned over the years for you all to pick through and see what might be helpful for you.

First of all, to understand my situation, I write a clean urban fantasy series that targets Harry Potter fans and cat-lovers (it has elements of cozy mystery and there’s a talking cat in it). So starting out I’m writing in a very popular genre targeting a very large fan base, so these methods aren’t necessarily going to get the same results as a book in some small niche genre.

Second of all, I’ve been publishing for 3 years and have 7 books out (5 in my main series, 2 spinoffs). When I first started and only had 2 books out, I still sold a lot of books comparatively, but keep in mind that the more books you have (specifically in the same series) the more books you will sell.

Third, I’m an extrovert, and have been selling things for a while. First it was Mary Kay, then it was art, now it’s books. There is a definite skill to engaging people face-to-face and pitching a product. If you aren’t an extrovert and you don’t like talking to people, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell books, but it does mean you will have to learn to put on your “engaging” face at an event and be willing to talk so that people have a reason to buy your books.

Okay, so keeping all that in mind, I just got back from the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention in Lexington Kentucky. It is a four-day convention, and this year they had about 20k people attending (which is down from 33k last year because the convention center is being renovated and has less space, but to my great surprise, I sold almost twice as many books this year as last year). In this weekend, with a total of 27 hours of convention time over four days, and with the help of my husband and one assistant, I sold 380 books for a gross profit of about $3800.

That is a lot of paperback books. How did I do it? Read on.

1. This is my third year at Lexington CC, and I’m a known entity there. A good third of my sales were from returning readers getting the next book/s in the series, and people who had seen me there previous years and finally decided now to buy a book. So, if you are just starting out, don’t feel bad if you don’t sell a lot of books. KEEP AT IT. Remember the law of 7 touches (it often takes a customer 7 exposures to a product before they buy, so the more you can get in front of eyes, the better).

2. I do a ton of bundle deals. Only about 10% of my sales were of just one book. Most of the sales were either the first two books (I do a 2 for $20 deal) or the first two books with my cat novella thrown in for $5 (so 3 books for $25). That is an easy deal for the customer, it is nice even numbers with clear savings (I have my individual book prices prominent so they can see how much they are saving with the deal). My other popular bundles are the 5 book series for $55, and all my books for $70 (though I don’t sell many full sets compared to just books 1 and 2). But a BIG help this year and upping my sales numbers was my novella about the talking cat in the series, which was normally $7 but I threw in for $5 if they bought any other book. First of all, my audience loves cats, and second, it is a very low amount to add on so it is easy to convince people to do it.

NOTE: I price all my books so that at a bundle discount, I’m making 50% profit (so sale cost is twice the cost of printing/shipping). That way when I do sell a few full price, I’m making some extra money, but if I do mostly bundle deals, I’m still able to profit and cover expenses.

3. I actively ask for sales. THIS IS HUGE! I. Ask. People. To. Buy. My. Books. I know that sounds super scary, or maybe super offensive and pushy, but if you do it right, you end up making a lot of people happy, and you make money. They key to this is asking questions to engage the con-goers passing your table and narrow down who is your target audience. Here’s my method. I could probably teach this method in a class and make a ton of money, but I just want to help other authors get the readers they deserve, so here it is free:

–1) Watch the crowd, and for anyone passing whose eyes linger on my table/banner more than a few seconds, I ask them “Hi there! Do you like to read?” (AND, anyone wearing fan material of my target genre, so people with Harry Potter t-shirts, robes, cosplay, etc as an example. I’ve also gotten good over the years at figuring out what my target audience looks like in terms of gender/age range/what type of clothes they wear, so I can usually spot them in a crowd. If that sounds creepy, it isn’t, I promise, it’s just paying attention over hundreds and hundreds of customer interactions).

–2) If they answer yes (which most do), I ask them if they like magical adventure, snarky humor, and talking cats (which are three “keywords” for my books, that is three things about them that my target audience like, so if you like them, you are probably my target audience). If they seem at all interested, I do one of three things:

–3a) Only slightly interested and looking like they want an excuse to keep walking, I hand them one of my flyers which is a picture of my book on the front and a blurb on the back, and say something like “Here, take one of my flyers, we’ll be here all weekend if you decide you’d like some really fun books signed by the author herself!”

3b) Somewhat interested but looking like they could easily move on if given a reason, I hand them one of my books turned so the back synopsis is facing them and say “great! well if you like those things you’d probably enjoy my books, would you like to read the back of the first one to see what it is about?” VERY FEW PEOPLE say no when you hand them something, so it is a great way to get them interested without seeming pushy salesy. This is also a GREAT method for introverts or people who are shy about talking/selling, you let your book do the talking for you.

3c) Looking excited and interested in the books (this is a fair number of people, especially when I mention a talking cat). For these people I give them my 15-20 second elevator pitch for the series and then hand them my first book and say 3b) because that gets the product in their hands and gets them thinking about buying.

–4) After they have read the back of the book, unless they ask a question and start engaging me themselves, I ask them “Does that sound like something you think you’d enjoy? Or “Does that sound like a fun story?” If they say yes, I go straight into pointing out my bundle deals. If they seem skeptical, I mention that the books are great for fans of things like Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, etc, and probe them a bit to find out what kind of books they like to read, looking for a way to relate that to my books (if applicable) so they can form a good comparison in their mind. Then I say something like “if you’re interested in taking home some books, I have these special bundle deals this weekend” and let them know about how they can save money while getting a fun book they will really enjoy.

Selling books is all about identifying your target audience, hooking them with “keywords” showing them they will enjoy what is in your books, then showing them the value they will get when they buy (a great story and book sales/bundles), as well as overcoming objections (taking card as well as cash, emphasizing the value of a signed paperback copy vs. getting an ebook online, etc).

4. This is sort of already covered in my selling method of #3, but UPSELL UPSELL UPSELL!!! No matter what they say they’d like to buy, always ask for that next sale up. So if they want Book 1, mention the value of getting Books 1 and 2 for $20, since “you know you’ll want the next book as soon as you’re done with the first” and “why torture yourself and make yourself wait for the next book” etc. Don’t be pushy, just make sure they are aware of the sale they are passing up on. At least half of my sales come from upselling. This is basic marketing, I’m not reinventing the wheel or anything. You know how at fast food places they always ask what else you want? And they always ask if you want to make it a supersize meal? That’s up-selling.

5. I have really pretty covers. Many, many people stop because my covers are colorful and eye-catching. I did my research of my target market, looked at bestselling books in my genre on Amazon, and hired a professional cover designer. I also put my book covers on all my banners, which can be seen from a ways away.

6. I buy TWO artist tables right beside each other (I’m in the artist section at conventions, I rarely buy the big 10X10 booths because that is extra space I don’t need and it puts me among comic book and toy sellers instead of among the artists and crafters where people are looking to buy indie type stuff.) That gives me enough space for all my books AND gives me space for two people to be selling books at the same time. I always do shows with either me and my husband, or us two plus a helper, sometimes two helpers so we can all get more breaks. You can only sell so many items an hour, so having two people pitching/engaging the crowd at the same time doubles the amount you can sell.

——–

So there you go. That is all after, of course, I know I’ve written a good book that my target audience loves to read. Obviously some of the things I do won’t work for you, or you’ll have to adjust it to fit your books/situation. But everything I do is based on basic marketing strategies.

If you have any questions about anything I mentioned above, or other questions about how I do shows, feel free to ask in the comments. As long as you know your target audience, know what makes them tick, and you are willing to engage the people walking by your table, you can sell a good number of books. Good luck!

***Addendum***

DO NOT STEAL CUSTOMERS FROM THE VENDORS ON EITHER SIDE OF YOU!! This is extremely rude and you wouldn’t want others to do it for you, so don’t do it to others. This is the exact reason why I try to make sure there is always a non-author vendor on either side of me so that I’m not directly competing with my neighbors. This is also why I prefer doing comic conventions as opposed to book fairs, where everyone else is selling books too. It just makes it easier to not accidentally steal a customer.

The way to avoid accidentally stealing customers is to make sure to wait until a person looks at your booth before engaging them. If someone is standing in front of your booth but looking at your neighbor’s booth, don’t say anything! Wait until they look your way. If they are standing in front of your neighbor’s booth and looking at yours, you might even want to wait until they are in your space before you speak, just to be safe.

Also, if you ARE around other authors and the person you are talking to happens to mention they like a genre you don’t sell, then immediately point them to your closest author neighbor who sells that genre. You might even ask the authors around you for some of their bookmarks so you can give them out to people who might like their books. Also, once you are done with your sale, you can tell your customer, oh by the way, if you like these sorts of books, you should totally also check out XYZ author over there because her books are also amazing!! This is NOT a zero sum game, readers love reading tons of books, and the more books they buy, the more books they will read (including yours). So support your fellow authors and share the love!

****Addendum #2****

Someone wrote how they have trouble asking for sales because they hate it when other people sell to them, and I thought my response might be helpful since it is a common problem:

I am the exact same way, I hate it when people try to sell me stuff! So look at it this way: if you follow my instructions, you will be weeding out the people who A) don’t like to read and B) don’t like reading your type of book (because you are fishing for what they like with your keywords and figuring out if they like reading your genre, etc). So if you get to the selling part, all you are doing is showing them the benefit and joy they will get from an awesome product that you can provide them.

Let me ask you this: you buy stuff you don’t need, right? Of course you do! You buy things for your enjoyment, things that will make you happy and bring you pleasure. Everyone does, and it is a good and right thing to do. It is good to find joy in life. So, why wouldn’t you encourage people to buy one of your books if you know it will bring them joy? That is why knowing your target audience is so important. I’m not “cold selling,” where I’m just trying to get everyone to buy my books regardless of whether or not I think they will like it. I KNOW my books are good, and I know the kind of reader who likes them, so when I find those readers, I do my best to encourage them to buy my books because I KNOW they will enjoy them. See? You are helping the reader find something they like and convincing them to pamper themselves a little. After all, it’s only $10-20 bucks, right? That’s like, a meal. Nobody’s life is going to be hurt if they splurge a little and get a good book that they are going to like.

Now, one thing that is hard to do is believing in your book and believing that it will bring your reader joy. I have imposter syndrome just as bad as the next author. I squirm inside every time I tell people my books are good and that they will enjoy them, and a little voice tells me “liar, your books suck and nobody should waste their money on them.” But, I have over 400 five-star reviews for my series between Amazon and Goodreads, and THAT MANY PEOPLE CAN’T ALL BE WRONG about my books being fun to read. So, instead of listening to that voice in my head, I smile and tell people they are great books and if they like XYZ (in my case Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Supernatural), then they will like my books too.

So, maybe you struggle with imposter syndrome and have trouble selling your books because deep down a voice is telling you your books aren’t good enough and no one should spend money on them? Only you can answer that question, but if that IS the case, that is certainly a hard struggle to overcome. You can do it though. You have to, and you will, because if you don’t believe in your books, nobody else will either.

BELIEVE IN YOUR BOOKS. BELIEVE IN YOU.

Award-winning and USA Today-bestselling author of magic, tea, and snark-filled fantasy, Lydia Sherrer knows the world is built on dreams and aims to add hers to the mix. When not writing she loves to play her ocarina (think Zelda), and also enjoys traditional archery, cosplay, larping, and art.

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Lydia was thoroughly corrupted by a deep love for its rolling countryside, despite the mosquitoes and hay fever. Having been instilled with a craving for literature early on, and her parents had to wrestle books away from her at the dinner table, and hide them from her so she would go to sleep at night. Though she graduated with a dual BA in Chinese and Arabic, after traveling the world she came home and decided to stay there. Currently residing in Louisville, KY, she is supported by her wonderful and creative husband and their two loud, but adorable, cats.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |  Amazon |  YouTube |  Instagram

Love, Lies & Hocus Pocus Book Cover

Author Platform: Using Facebook by Wendy Van Camp

author platform using facebook
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

The author platform is an important part of being a modern author. Your platform is how new readers find you and become intrigued by your writing. It is the way returning readers keep track of your events and your new books, stories, and poems. It is how your readers discover your book signings and other promotional events.

Your website and newsletter are the first tiers of your author platform. But social media can supplement these two powerful tools on the internet. The main social media outlets you should consider are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. I also recommend Medium. This article will discuss using Facebook as part of your author platform.

Facebook can be divided into three different categories. Your personal profile, an author page, and an author group. Each part has a unique use and you don’t necessarily need all three parts to function on this platform.

YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE

When you first signed up for Facebook, the first account you create is your Facebook profile. This is your personal account that needs to have your real life name. It is also a place that you should set to be private for yourself, your family, and personal friends. Facebook will only allow you to have 5000 followers on your personal account. This might seem like a lot in the beginning. All too quickly, you will use up that 5,000 follower limit if you use your profile as a promotional device for your books. I’ve found over the years that the personal profile functions best as a connection point with writers, magazines, and other personal areas of interest.

In my case, if I have not met you personally or if you are not related to me, I do not add you as a friend on my personal Facebook profile. I also keep my conversations there under a privacy filter. You want to remember that all people on the web are not your friends. Anyone can read your public profiles. This could mean people that you do not want to know personal details about you could read your information. Remember the security of your personal information is important.

I mainly use my personal account to access groups on Facebook on a variety of subjects. I belong to groups devoted to science fiction and fantasy books where I keep up on tropes. A couple of writing societies where I learn more about writing craft. Facebook is a place of many great connections that have been invaluable to me as a writer.

YOUR FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

As an author, your first task on Facebook after you set up your profile should be to set up a Facebook author page. This is a public page that you will use to talk about your writing. I use my Facebook page to post links to articles, stories, and poems that I publish in various online magazines. I promote the books and articles of my friends. Occasionally, I run promotion posts for my books and write general comments about my writing process.

I make a point to not show the emotions of my day to day life. I don’t post about my pets or life activities. I keep all discussion and links on my author page about the subject of writing. I try and not allow the author page timeline to be a time suck either. Facebook doesn’t show my posts to many people and I’m not willing to pay to “boost” my posts. I still believe that having the author page and making sure a few posts go on there each week is important. Most readers will expect to be able to find you on Facebook. If readers come looking for me, I want them to find relevant information that could prompt them to travel on to my website.

What you should use your Facebook page for is to host a Facebook launch party for your books. A Facebook launch party consists of several authors showcasing their books while you act as a moderator to the entire event. You will arrange for contest prizes for people who sign up for your newsletter. You will use the launch party as a vehicle to announce your new up-and-coming book. If all the authors make an effort to invite their personal profile friends to the party, you can have a significant crowd see everyone’s books.

Other than using your page for a launch party or to announce your blog posts and other writing, I would not use Facebook in any other way. While it is true there is a robust ad system that can be utilized to sell your books directly, promoting blog posts and short stories are not worth the money. Facebook ads are useful, but only if you can budget a large amount of money and have a book that is popular enough to make back that money in sales. These ads do not require a page to purchase, you could do it from your profile and bypass having an author page altogether if all you want to do is run ads for your books.

YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP

The final way to use Facebook is to start a Facebook group for your author brand. This group would be about your books and characters and be a place where your fans can chat with you directly. Some authors use the group to post excerpts from their works in progress and gain critiques from their readers. Other authors host online events in their groups. It can be a dynamic way to interact with your reader base. However there is one drawback, a Facebook group takes a great deal of time and energy to manage. You will have to deal with trolls and disruptors in the group. This can be draining on your creative time. While some authors are outgoing and thrive in this sort of environment, introverts may want to stick with only having the Facebook page. This is less intensive to use. It is the method that I personally have chosen.

In conclusion, the best parts of your author platform are your website and your newsletter. Both of these are assets that you own entirely. A Facebook author page is important to have because most people will expect to find you on Facebook. Make it easy for them to find you and find a way to your website and blog. Have links to your website and blog on your Facebook author page and have a sign up for your newsletter. If you use WordPress for your blog, WordPress can be set to automatically post a link of every new post on to your Facebook page. This makes populating posts into your page easy and effortless. In this way, Facebook and a Facebook author page will be an asset as part of your author platform.

Using Twitter For Your Author Platform

Using Twitter For Your Author Platform

Twitter is a powerful tool for an author to use as part of their author platform. It is a free and easy to use announcement platform that can be tailored to supplement your book launches, let your readers know where your latest article or story has published, and a great way to show support to fellow authors or causes you love. Many people like to use Twitter to stay up to date with the news of the day or to follow people that interest them, but that should all be done on your personal Twitter account. As an author, you should have a twitter account that is linked with your blog and other writer social media outlets that serve more like an announcement feed and remains free of personal comments except for those related to your writing process or about your stories and work in general.

Signing up for Twitter is free. Simply log into the social media website and select a name for your new Twitter feed. This name should be either your author pen name or your website name. It needs to be a name that your readers can recognize and connect with you as an author. My Twitter is @wvancamp. In retrospect, I should have chosen to use my blog’s name instead because this matches my website, but being a beginner I chose to use the account I’d already started for my personal use. When this account took off, I did not wish to change to a new name and start over finding new followers. Don’t do what I did. Choose your name more carefully.

Once your Twitter account is set up, you need to start finding followers. One way to attract and keep followers is to constantly have new content appearing in your Twitter feed. These tweets could be writerly quotes, links to various posts on your blog, links to articles you feel might be interesting to your readers, or other miscellaneous information. The key to remember is that your feed needs to be 80% content of other people and 20% content of your own. Remember, you do not want to be considered a spammer. make sure that the information and links that appear on your Twitter feed appeal to the sort of readers you want to attract to your platform.

On my Twitter feed for No Wasted Ink, I have set up certain systems to automatically post to my Twitter feed. For instance, via WordPress, every post that appears on No Wasted Ink automatically appears as a link on my Twitter feed. My Facebook page is set up the same way. Whenever I post on my author Facebook page, a link to that post appears automatically on my Twitter feed. Finally, I use a free account on HootSuite to schedule post to appear on my Twitter feed based on days and times that I choose. I use HootSuite to promote guest posts, author interviews, and essays on my Twitter feed. I also promote the stories and poems that publish on Medium or in independent magazines online. In bulk, I write out the tweets ahead of time and HootSuite trickles them out, one by one, at the designated time. In this way, my Twitter feed is always active even when I am busy living my life or writing my stories. There will be times when I’m at a writer guild meeting when one of my neighbors will stop and stare at me. They will have gotten a tweet on their phone from me, yet I am seated beside them listening to a lecture alongside them. Usually, once they figure out what is going on, they smile.

Another part of my Twitter feed comes from a third-party service called Triberr. There is a free version and a paid version of Triberr. In most cases, the free version of the program is all you will need for your author platform. Triberr organizes its users into tribes. Each tribe is lead by a single leader who chooses the theme of the Triberr tribe. I seek out tribes of fellow authors or tribes of Science Fiction and Fantasy readers and writers since this is in tune with the sort of readers I wish to attract to No Wasted Ink. Once I find a tribe I like, I apply to it and wait to be accepted by the tribe’s leader as a member. This can take some time but is well worth the effort. Once I am accepted as a member, I scroll through that tribe’s post and choose the ones I would like to promote on my Twitter feed. I checked them off and this puts them into a queue. My Triberr is set up to automatically post all the articles I have chosen to Twitter. You can set it up to drip post every 20 minutes or up to five hours. I tend to not have these posts drip to quickly because I don’t like to use up my queue of posts to quickly. But if you have a large number of tribes and wish to promote other people more fully, then setting your drip to be more often could be a good idea.

This combination of automatic posts from my website, Facebook, preset tweets from HootSuite, and Triberr all create a robust Twitter feed that attracts readers, keeps them informed as to what I’m doing as an author, and entertains and informs them. In this way, not only do I keep most of the readers that subscribe to my Twitter feed, but new ones find me every day.

One last thing you should know about Twitter and using it as an announcement platform for yourself as an author is that you need to keep your list active and pruned. Twitter is set up so that you need to be balanced between the people you read and the people that follow you. When you first starting to build your list you can add as many people as you want until you have 2,000 followers. After that point, Twitter slows you down with an add limit. You can only add proximately 10% of your feed at any given time to your Twitter followers. What this means is that if you follow people who are not following you back, eventually you will not be allowed to follow new people. Would I like to do is always add people who are following me. Then once a quarter, I use a free service called Tweepi to locate people I follow who are not following me back and remove them from my following list. Remember, this is an announcement list. If the follower is not following you back, they are not getting your message and are useless to you. Another thing I look for among my followers are people who have not posted on their stream for six months or more. I consider these followers to be inactive. I also remove inactive followers from my Twitter feed.

I hope that this has given you a better understanding of how to use Twitter as part of your author platform. While Twitter is only one part of your entire platform, it is one of the more important social media services you should be tapping into. If you are an Indy Author, Twitter gives you an easy way to promote your books and stories to a wide readership. If you use hashtags and Triberr, you can expand your reach significantly. For traditional authors, many book publishers look at the following potential authors can provide in support of their books. Having a large Twitter channel in addition to your website and newsletter can prove to be an asset for your consideration by these firms. Remember, some automation to simply your posting can make Twitter easy to use and not take up your valuable writing time.

Marketing SciFi Self-Pubs by Thomas Gondolfi

Galaxy Girl

Marketing a novel starts with, “What does a reader want?” They are after a strong story, engaging characters, no errors, and an eye-catching cover. Ok we’ve all heard this before. But there is one more key thing that most fans want – an author they can identify with. Think about your favorite author. Have you ever wanted to meet her/him? Wanted to find out why they made those choices in their book plot? Ever wanted to know what they do for fun? It’s the same whether its movie stars, political candidates, or authors. The public wants to get to know them, maybe even be their friend. In a sense, we need to sell ourselves as much as our product. This means we must interact directly with the scifi public, not from behind a website.

In one respect we, as scifi authors, are lucky. If you count scifi, gaming, anime, comic, furry, horror, and fantasy conventions you have literally thousands of shows of all sizes, shapes, and genres. We can participate in a different convention every weekend. While they can be draining, they can also give you that surge of positive fan energy to move you on with your next work. Convention success requires getting attention, sharing, helpfulness, measuring success/failure, and repetitiveness.

Conventions are like casinos with all the blinking, flashing lights. It makes getting attention difficult. The key is getting people to talk to you. You have to find a method that works for you. I’ve used any number of gambits here, but the one that works consistently is apparel – t-shirt slogans, costumes, football hats, diaper bags. What do these have to do with writing? Nothing, but they give you an inside track into what interests those potential customers. Use that strike up a conversation. Once you are talking half the battle is over.

As our goal is to sell books, our instinct is to launch immediately into our elevator pitch. In the words of Robin Williams, “Buzz – thanks for playing.” No one wants to be sold to. Sharing takes practice in spending more time listening than talking. Remember the reader wants to be friends. They want to be able to brag to their buddies that they know this great author. In the course of any convention I’ll spend 3/4ths of my time talking about anything but my products.

Karma for the win. Even if you don’t subscribe, remember people run the convention that you are attending. People run the conventions you haven’t found yet. Being helpful, with no attempt for immediate gain (no one likes a brown-nose), does pay off huge in the long run. People share your name as a good vendor. They help you get into other events or with problems you have. Going the other way, it takes no time at all to get a bad reputation and shut out of potential marketing / sales avenues.

Everyone has his or her own niche. A show that works for one person may not work for another. You want to be ruthless about those things that work and don’t work for you. That means measuring and math. Was your net higher at this show? Even with a slight loss, was the convention worth it in exposure or contacts made. You must clamp down on the downside outliers and exploit the upside to be successful.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. If I had one piece of advice, that is it. Again, think about it from a reader’s perspective. The worst thing that could happen is to get a great first book in a series and never hear about that author again. One show and you are noticed as something different but probably not many sales. Two shows and you are interesting – maybe there is something to this author. Your third repeat of a show, with new product each time, and you are someone that isn’t going away. You can be trusted.

Face to face marketing isn’t easy, especially for authors who are introverted as a class, but the payoffs are huge. Yes, online marketing is great, but it has a half-life of about three milliseconds. It doesn’t make that lasting impression that sharing about the time at a major convention a stool collapsed out from under you, signing their purchase with a personal touch about something you’ve talked about, or sharing about their book project can have. These things last in reader’s minds for years. The efforts are worth it and build the strongest fan base. Remember that this business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Author Tom GandolfiA father of three, consummate gamer and loving husband, Thomas Gondolfi claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt. Raised as a military brat, he spent the first twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on most regions of the United States.

Educated as an electrical engineer and working in high tech for over twenty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter for eight years, and even as the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.

Tom Gondolfi has been writing fiction for over thirty years and doing it professionally for at least fifteen. Most of his short stories have been commissioned for use in gaming products, such as Babylon 5 Wars and Star Fleet Battles. “Toy Wars,” Tom’s first commercially viable novel, was completed almost 20 years ago with a polish just prior to publication in 2013. “An Eighty Percent Solution” is the premiere novel of his cyberpunk “CorpGov Chronicles”. Tom has completed book two, “Thinking Outside the Box,” and book three, “The Bleeding Edge,” with a total of nine books already plotted out for the series.

Why Is Klout Good For Writers?

KloutA writer’s platform is centered on their blog or website. All channels lead back to it and it is the cornerstone of all the social media “legs” that prop it up, such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Yet, there is another “leg” an author should add to his writer’s platform: Klout, the most overlooked and unappreciated service on the Internet. Many authors view Klout as a popularity contest worthy of an eye-roll and a snort of derision. “Why would I need to waste my time on gaining a number that measures my social media popularity? Isn’t that too high school for me to worry about?”

Yes and No.

Like it or not, Klout is becoming a factor in many of the third-party services used to manage your writing platform or to find writing clients via social media. In these services, the Klout Score is offered to the author as a way to evaluate twitter or other social media followers. You will find it used in Wikipedia, LinkedIn Job Titles, +K, Odesk, Hootsuite, Tweepi, and the Bing search engine. Whether we wish it or not, Klout is slowly gaining favor as a means to measure your influence in social media. This number may translate into dollars when it comes to sales. It is not a perfect system, but it does give others a sense of how much influence you exert in the social media world.

How to Start with Klout.

The first step in adding Klout to your writing platform is to sign up for a free account. Connect whatever social media networks you frequent. Klout supports Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Twitter, Wikipedia and Instagram to create your Klout Score. As of 2013, after Microsoft invested in Klout, Bing was also added as a data influence to your Klout Score. You can also link up YouTube, Flickr, Blogger, Tumblr, Last.fm, and WordPress, but at present, these networks are not part of the algorithm that determines your Klout Score. Consider them to be optional.

The Klout Score ranges from 1 to 100, with the higher scores equaling a higher ranking in the users online influence. Of all the networks, Twitter is the one that Klout looks at the most closely and I would recommend that, at bare minimum, you have a Twitter account to link to before you start your Klout account.

Klout measures influence by using the data from Twitter, such as your follower number, retweets, list memberships, how many spam/dead accounts are following you, how influential the people that retweet you are and your unique mentions. This information is blended in with the data from your other accounts to get your final score. The average social media user has a score in the high 30s to low 40s.

Some authors believe that posting a thousand times and getting a few responses will raise their Klout Score. This is not the case. Klout doesn’t measure how much someone talks, but more about how many people listen and respond. Keep that in mind as you work on increasing your social media standing and your Klout Score.

Set It and Forget It

Once you have your Klout account set up it will give you your first Klout Score. Your score is based on your interactions for the past 90 days. Don’t be upset if your first score is low. This will change gradually over time as you work on the other legs of your writing platform. Don’t spend much time looking at Klout and worrying over your score. Think of it as a stock market with its ups and downs, it is more a long term response than short term. As you build your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ presence, your Klout Score will naturally rise. I check mine once or twice a month. It gives me an idea how my networks are doing at a glance. What I look for is a steady rise in the number that shows that my social media network and connections are growing at a slow, but healthy rate. If my Klout Score dips more than one or two points, I know that something is going wrong and I should look into my networks to see what is going on.

Your goal is to build up a Klout Score that is 50+. This shows that you have an above average social interaction rate and are more likely to be able to market your book successfully. Several publishers are known to look at an author’s Klout Score to determine if they have enough social media connections in order to market their books. If your Klout Score is too low, they may not offer you a contract no matter how good your book is. People on Twitter and other services will be more likely to keep you in their networks because your score will enhance theirs and the ball keeps on rolling as your connections grow deeper and more complex on the Internet.

So is Klout worth the effort? Considering that all it takes is the time to set up your free account, about a half hour at the most, and then letting it run in the background unattended, I say that it is. Klout also offers “perks” to those that sign up for the program and want to spend more time on the site. I feel that this aspect is optional. As a writer myself, I would rather put my time into writing for my blog and working on my books than seeking freebies on Klout, but this is a personal opinion. You might decide that free cups of coffee and other small goodies are worth the effort.