Debbie Richardson is one of those authors who, while marketing herself and her titles, enjoys bringing other authors along for the ride. In 2016, she introduced virtual coffee chats with Aussie authors and twice weekly hosts the chats on her website. Not only, is she meeting some great new writers, so are we! The virtual chats are laidback conversations that enable the reader to get to know a little more about what it takes to be a writer today. A fabulous idea! So I thought I’d have my own little virtual chat with the master and find out a little bit more about her marketing techniques, plans for 2017, and, of course, her apocalyptic and dystopian sci-fi novels.
I was going to post Debbie’s bio here, but I really think you should go visit her website, especially if you’re looking for layout ideas for your own website. So web address: www.dlrichardson.com and her bio is on the Contact page.
And now to the business at hand, a chat over the beverage of your choice, with DL Richardson, creator of Virtual Coffee Chats and author of Welcome to the Apocalypse Book 1: Pandora.
Debbie, I love your “coffee chats” on your blog and wanted to talk to you in depth about what prompted you to start them. I know you’re an author rather than a dedicated book-blogger yet you generously give of your time to help promote other authors. Do you feel there’s a gap or an impediment for independent authors and reaching new audiences?
I started the coffee chats because I wanted to have regular posts on my blog while I could still be busy writing my novels. A dead blog is an unhealthy blog and I didn't want my blog to be all about 'buy my book' or 'me me me'. They're not interesting blogs to check out.
I'd hosted a few coffee chats in the past with authors that I've and when I analysed the page views to my blog, I noticed that my coffee chats brought in the most consistent views. Again, these posts are not about me, so it's plain to see that readers enjoy reading these snapshot interviews with author and not the typical 'buy my book' posts they see in Facebook, Twitter and in their emails.
And because I like themes, I then posted a call out on a few Aussie Facebook writers groups I belong to asking for Aussie authors. The response was amazing. Over 26 authors signed up. Obviously that says a lot about the lack of avenues for promotion and maybe it says a bit about the limited experience some new authors have with knowing how to promote themselves. It can be easy to forget that I once knew nothing! about promotion. I'm a big advocate of knowledge sharing.
A writer’s time is valuable especially when they also need to self-promote; how do you manage your time so that your coffee-chats don’t overtake your writing?
Firstly, I set the days the coffee chats would appear, Mondays and Thursdays and it's written in the calendar so I can't forget! That means set up happens on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Set up doesn't take too long, I've gotten fast at it. What takes the longest time is researching the authors to find interesting questions to write, and my questions are rarely about their latest book, more about their writing style or personal life. I stalk the authors once a week, maybe before I head off to work or while dinner is cooking. Then I send out questions and then it's a matter of posting the link to the author to share and then I share on my social media sites.
Basically, this is something I committed to and I just have to make sure I set aside the time for it.
Do you see a return on your investment with these chats? Have they resulted in increased traffic to your blog or, even better, led to an increase in book sales?
Obviously there is an overall increase of traffic to my blog, and engaging with other authors has led to a few of them voting for my book when it was on Kindle Scout. Not sure if they've bought the book, but I imagine they're responsible for a few sales.
The coffee chats have become a marketing campaign that is helping to raise everyone's profile and knowledge sharing, including mine. I might not otherwise have had anything to say to authors in these groups, so the return on investment is long term. We are now a group of authors who have something in common. Allies are important when you're writing as it can be an isolating sport.
Are the authors you chat with co-promoting not only their appearances, but other authors you chat with? Do you see a viable network of independent authors developing from your chats?
Yes! For this coffee chat campaign to work, it requires cooperation and engagement from all authors. I call it a campaign because that's what it's become. There is a purpose and the purpose is to promote and engage and increase profile of Aussie indie authors. I often send emails to the authors with reminders to “Like” each other's social media pages, comment on the posts, and promote the coffee chats as this all helps to increase everyone's profile. I've offered these marketing tips because I really don't like to see people wander aimlessly in the dark. I've met many authors in writing group, at conventions, and online and one thing is very clear. We are not alone. We can all benefit from cross promotion.
Of all the ways you promote your work, which avenue do you feel is the most beneficial?
My newsletter is very effective. It took years of hosting giveaways to attract the membership. This is a personal hello to subscribers and they enjoy the exclusive offers. I think that's the key for newsletter subscribers - make them feel special. I limit the number of mails out because I hate it when I sign up and then I get ten emails a day. That's the surest way to lose subscribers.
Facebook and Twitter are my other two key ways to promote. I get the most engagement from these two platforms. Facebook ads work but they're expensive. I'm finding that Amazon ads are effective and not as expensive as I'd imagined.
My author blog is another avenue of promotion that allows me to write longer articles.
And which do you enjoy the most?
Facebook hands down, because it's easy to use and I get the most interaction. I'll get Retweet and likes on Twitter and followers, but rarely any comments. Same with the blog and Google + - a lot of page views, rarely any comments. But Facebook is the place where I get the most engagement, thus I know that at least people are listening or watching.
Where do you see the coffee chats going in 2017? Are there any plans for video or festival appearances where you actually can chat over a coffee?
I still have coffee chats planned into February, and Australia Day is going to be a huge coffee chat because it will be a feature of every single author - a photo and a link to their website, even those who haven't yet appeared. Then I'd like to request a few big name Aussies to the virtual cafe and see if they accept. Also, I'd like do some spotlights on Aussie publishers. That'll probably be it for 2017, and I will do another call out later in the year for Aussie indie authors. It has been so good for authors to get this exposure and I get blog content. Win/Win for all of us.
I attend one to two writer events a year so this could be a good idea for a panel suggestion. As for video coffee chats, it's something I haven't thought about but perhaps I should. I'd need to buy a camera for the computer first. It's an area I would like to move into, virtual workshops and coffee chats. But probably not for 2017. This year is already fully booked.
Finally, if you’d like to share a little about your 2017 writing plans, now’s the time....
"Welcome to the Apocalypse - Cybernexis" book 2 in the Apocalypse series, will be self-published and the expected release date is June 8. I'm madly completing the final draft now so I can start editing and have it done by end March so I can get it into production and beta read.
I'm also hoping to hear back from Harper Collins Australian and/or three agents in the US about my dystopian sci-fi series. Ah, the waiting process of pitching. Which means, I need to get Book 3 of the Apocalypse series underway in case this dystopian series is picked up. Not a bad problem to have.
I will be doing an online course on how to write a treatment for a novel to become a movie. And then I will be submitting said treatments and keeping my fingers crossed.
And finally, I'll be at SupaNova in Sydney on June 18, 19 and 20 at a stall with an author friend of mine, Mirren Hogan and we'll be meeting people and hopefully selling lots of books.
To see all the authors Debbie's been talking to, take a look at her Bumper Australia Day feature
Debbie's contact links:
So put Supanova Sydney in your diaries, dear readers. I plan to be there as well and am looking forward to meeting Debbie in person to chat, sip coffee, and discuss books and marketing.