Monday, February 3, 2014

Cassandra Carr On Marketing Matters

In January about a dozen authors shared their secrets to productivity. Nearly everyone commented on the challenges of promotion, so I decided to contact an expert: Cassandra Carr, author of Marketing Matters to get some answers.

Celeste Jones: Cassandra, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions. Before we get started, could you share a bit about yourself for folks who might not be familiar with you or your writing?

Cassandra Carr: Sure. I write contemporary romance and erotic romance for a variety of publishers. I write all manner of pairings – M/F, ménage, M/M, with a bunch of different themes, though I’m partial to sports romance. I’ve been a full-time writer for a couple of years now, but before that I was in marketing for around ten years and also pursued an MBA during that time.

Celeste Jones: Sharing bits of personal information on social media seems like a good way to connect with others without feeling like you are constantly saying "buy my books".  But, in a genre such as spanking fiction we are all careful not to share too much about ourselves for fear of being outed. Any suggestions for walking that line between letting people know a bit about you without sharing too much?

Cassandra Carr: Yes. Write under a pen name, don’t mention exactly where you live (I say “in the greater Buffalo NY area), don’t use your spouse or kids’ names and don’t post their pictures. You can be very generic and yet still engaging. For instance, this morning DD’s school was canceled. Again. So I said something along the lines of: “DD school canceled. I’ll try to work so be patient with me.” I told people a few days ago, “Took my daughter to see The Nut Job.” Those are all things that make you human and relatable to your readers but you’re not really telling them anything personal.

Celeste Jones: Similarly, I think many people suggest telling all your friends and family about your books to help spread the word. Again, we're trying not to tell our friends and family. Can you suggest any alternatives?

Cassandra Carr: One of my friends tells her family she writes “steamy romance” but not the content. And she refuses to disclose her pen name to them. That might be about all you can do. If you can’t hide that you’re a writer being vague is the way to go.

Celeste Jones: What suggestions do you have for effectively using your time on social media?

Cassandra Carr: Facebook should be the one channel you’re using even if you do nothing else. That’s where the readers are. On my personal profile, I pimp my books sometimes, my friends’ books, and talk about my life. On my author page I’m big on asking opinions (readers love feeling engaged in your career.) I also do a lot of “flash” (unannounced) giveaways. I’m running one at the moment for Superbowl recipes. People love to share recipes so I usually get a good response from that. Mostly my prizes for these flash giveaways are ebooks from my back list. That way they don’t cost anything for me to run. Be sure to put the word giveaway right at the top so FB can “read” it and know to disseminate it to a wider audience.

You *can* make FB auto-post to Twitter and vice versa, but I don’t recommend that. The two mediums are so different that you won’t be using one effectively if you do that.

Celeste Jones: What's the difference between a regular Facebook Page and an author fan page? Does a writer need both? 

Cassandra Carr: A personal profile is the thing most people on Facebook are familiar with. It's the area where people primarily interact with each other. Facebook currently has a 5,000 friend limit for personal profiles. You may laugh at what seems like an absurdly high number you'll never have to worry about it, but I currently have 2350 friends and gaining more every day.

A fan page is different in that you can see how many people viewed your updates, it offers Facebook Insights so you can see which posts got the most engagement (and thus do more like those), and is the only place you can run a contest or a giveaway. However, fan pages are limited in that you can't really interact with people outside of the page itself. For instance, let's say you're doing a Facebook release party for your book. You can't go over to the event's page and comment as your fan page, only as your personal profile.

Both are useful for different things and authors should have both. They suggest you post to your fan page two or three times a week (which I often forget to do). I currently have around 3000 "likes" on my fan page. However, with Facebook's new algorithm skewing toward making people pay to boost posts on their pages, only a fraction of those will see your update. I did a giveaway on my Facebook author fan page earlier in the week and it was seen by around 300, or 10% of my total fans. I boosted a post for a new release the other day and over 4,000 people saw it.

Celeste Jones: What's the difference between marketing and branding?

Cassandra Carr: Branding is all-encompassing. Branding is what makes you “you”. So my brand is Cassandra Carr, romance writer. When people pick up a book by Cassandra Carr they have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to get, despite how I write different pairings, lengths, etc.
Marketing is the process of getting your books into readers’ hands by doing things like maintaining a website and a social media presence as well as taking part in giveaways, book signings and the like.

Celeste Jones:  Finding blog topics is challenging for many writers. Any suggestions for coming up with ideas? How often should someone blog? Is it better to pick certain days and always post then rather than just hit or miss?

Cassandra Carr: I only blog twice a week and both of those are memes. Thursday is Thursday Thirteen, which can be about any 13 things you want. I recently did “13 reasons to go on a writing retreat”, “13 reasons not to use porn to guide your sexual activities” and “13 unusual ways to make a turkey”. Sunday is Sneak Peek Sunday – just post a snippet to one of your books, along with buy links. There are posts on my blog at other times, put together by my blog assistant, but I have little to do with those.

Celeste Jones: If you could give only one piece of advice on marketing, what would it be?

Cassandra Carr: Pick a few things and do them well and consistently. Your website, your Amazon page, and your Facebook presence are probably the best three things to tackle in today’s publishing environment.

Find out all of Cassandra's Tips in Marketing Matters

Cassandra Carr, an author of more than twenty-five works who also has fifteen years of marketing experience and an MBA, offers writers ten tips for marketing in the new age of publishing. The book is written in a concise, easy-to-understand format aimed at either beginning writers or any writer who struggles with marketing and promoting themselves and their books. 

Tip #1: Understand branding and platform and the differences between them 
Tip #2: Know what to do BEFORE your book launches 
Tip #3: Know what to do AT and AFTER your book launch 
Tip #4: Make a decision about blogging, touring, and hopping 
Tip #5: Publish as frequently as you’re reasonably able to 
Tip #6: Be a good citizen 
Tip #7: Use social media and author pages to your advantage 
Tip #8: Make your website and newsletter work for you 
Tip #9: Create a marketing plan and actually use it 
Tip #10: Don’t stop marketing yourself or your books 

If the idea of promotion leaves you in a cold sweat, let an author who's been there and has the track record to prove it guide you on the simplest path to discoverability.

Wait, there's more! Cassandra Carr also leads workshops on Time Management for Writers, Author Marketing and Branding and more. Click here for details. 

Need a break from all that marketing? Try this steamy read by Cassandra Carr. 

Public Affairs by Cassandra Carr

Nate O'Halloran is a PR superstar, an expert in crisis management for his image-conscious celebrity clients. When his college roommate, now a hospital director in Buffalo, calls to beg for his help-- a cancer researcher on staff has disappeared with millions of dollars' worth of government research funds-- Nate agrees to help right away, though this situation is pretty small potatoes for him. 

Val Chase, the hospital's PR director, is none too thrilled when Nate shows up; does it mean her boss doesn't trust her to handle this mess herself? Against her better judgment, Val decides she and Nate have to work together to save the hospital's reputation, though the explosive attraction they feel is making any actual "work" difficult...

Connect with Cassandra Carr and watch her work her marketing magic. 



  1. Thank you Celeste and Cassandra. I find it interesting that Cassandra advises to not get too personal, and Celeste asks how to market ones books without "outing oneself." I think one of marketing challenges with Spanking Fiction is that many of its authors are spankos first and writers second and have the tendency to (over) share personal information on social media while cloaked in the anonymity of a pseudonym. Conversely, they don't share their books/writing to friends and family because of what they fear they are revealing about themselves. The key I think is to treat one's books as works of fiction and separate them from one's personal life--even if they are based on one's personal life. Some authors have muddied the waters for themselves by mixing personal and business. It is different, of course, if one has a day job in a field where being outed as an erotic romance author could be detrimental to one's career.

    1. Hi Cara! Thanks for reading! Yes, some authors overshare. I wonder sometimes if I post way too much stuff about my daughter. It's generic, but are people sick of hearing about her? ;-)

      And yes, it's a shame that in this day and age we can't write romance/erotic romance without being labeled with the ole scarlet A. But it's the way the world (still) is.

  2. Thanks Celeste and Cassandra. I find it's difficult to market when you're hiding your identity to friends and family who are the ones most likely to spread the word. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Hi Leigh! Thanks for commenting! Truthfully, a lot of us are in the same boat as spanking writers. My entire extended family knows I write romance/erotic romance, but they're not exactly tripping over themselves to put my name out in the world. I don't hide what I write for my own reasons, but neither do I stand at the door to my daughter's school and tell all and sundry what my pen name is. ;-)

    2. LOL, I can picture you at a PTA meeting handing out SWAG.

  3. It occurred to me I didn't answer the entire question about blogging! So here's what I didn't answer and my responses:

    Any suggestions for coming up with ideas? How often should someone blog? Is it better to pick certain days and always post then rather than just hit or miss?

    As far as suggestions for ideas, I often take one small piece of a book or a scene and make it an entire post. For instance, I've written some western romances, and done blogs like "The Allure of Cowboys in Jeans". Even spanking authors can do this. Cara Bristol, for instance, could talk about why Melania chose red shoes in Unexpected Consequences. Maybe Cara just picked a color arbitrarily, but I doubt it. ;-)

    How often you blog is totally up to you. Like I said, I only do two posts per week on my blog, but I do have guests to fill in some of the days. The problem with blogging often is that it takes time away from writing. I think most fans would be happy with 2-3 times a week.

    Personally, I like to blog on the same days every week so my fans know what to expect. If I have a reason to blog another day - a blog hop, a new release, etc - I'll blog on that day too. But setting expectations is a big part of this business, and setting them about blogging is important so you don't get overwhelmed.

    1. LOL. I have blogged about Melania's shoes!

    2. I'm actually not surprised. You're one of the best author bloggers I know. :-)

  4. Thanks for all the comments everyone!

    Now that I think about it...even my friends and family who know about a vanilla book I wrote under another name are not particularly helpful in spreading the word, so maybe they aren't the best source for promo anyway. Or maybe I need to hang out with different people. I suspect that unless you have actually written a book and tried to promote it, you don't really understand these issues that well. Or at least that's the excuse I'm making for them.

    Cassandra---I agree that blogging on the same days is good. I know that I'll think "Oh, it's Monday and so and so always has a post about X on Mondays" so I'll make sure to visit. Other times, my blog visiting is more haphazard.

    1. Many of the authors I know who write more vanilla romance still don't have great family and friend support. Unfortunately I think that's just the way it is for many writers.

  5. Sorry to be late - Thank you both for this interview. I read your book today. I have plenty of ideas now, but could you write something on finding the time for everything. I'm working on it and I plan to fine it, but it's going to take some figuring.

    1. Hi PK and thanks for reading! The best way that I know of to find time to write is to look for the time sucks in your day. Do you play Words With Friends/Farmville etc? Stop playing. I know that's not fun - I was addicted to Mafia Wars, but think of the time you'll get back in your day. Also, do you watch TV? We've all got shows we love to watch, but how many of us are watching reality TV, home and garden shows, and other non-scripted shows? Limit yourself to 2-3 shows a week and DVR them if you can. That way you're not a slave to when the show actually airs. I'm sure there are more ways, but those are a couple I thought of off the top of my head. Good luck!

  6. I enjoyed this, thanks. Even though I am not a writer ...I do paint and draw and the advice is good!

    1. Thanks Minelle! I think a lot of the advice is applicable to anyone in a creative profession. :-)

  7. Loved the interview! Thanks for this, Celeste and Cassandra. I've read your Marketing Matter book, Cassandra, and found it very helpful. :)

    1. Thank you Sue! I'm glad you found the information useful! :-)

  8. Rollin Hand had trouble commenting to he sent me his comments. I hope no one else was having trouble. I appreciate Rollin's persistence. :)

    Great stuff, Celeste. Thanks to Cassandra and thanks for posting. Very interesting about FB. I'm new to FB, just getting my feet wet thanks to Cara B and some others and I can see the potential. As a spanking erotica writer I realize I serve a niche market and so far it's been my blog that's been my main marketing vehicle. I've learned 3 things about blogging that I'll share. 1-make it content rich, i.e., entertaining stuff like stories, drawings, reviews, excerpts; 2-update frequently; 3-it's not always about me, i.e., feature material by others ( like what Celeste is doing here--informative and entertaining).

    I like the answer Cassandra's friend gave to the secrecy problem--I write "steamy romance". I've thought of disclosing that in exactly those words, but I'm afraid the pressure to tell all would be huge. Don't know if I'm ready to go there.

    1. I don't think it's necessary to update frequently, but when you set expectations about when you'll blog, whether that's five days a week or two, try to stick to that. But yes, featuring other people makes you a good writing citizen, and entertaining or informative content will always be popular. Thanks for reading Rollin!

  9. Great interview, ladies!
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    I am a new (hopefully, soon to be published.) author, and don't have a fan page yet. But I do have a personal page. Phew, I guess I had better figure out how to do that soon. :)

    The blogging is my biggest difficulty, because of my busy schedule.
    I really like the idea of a set day.
    If I can start doing some small posts, maybe I can gain some momentum. :)

    Thanks again!!
    This was very helpful. :)

    1. There are tons of memes like Thursday Thirteen, Tasty Tuesday, Sneak Peek Sunday, Katherine. You might find using one of them as the basis for your blogging is easier than trying to come up with topics off the top of your head.

  10. Thank you for a very useful interview. I can see things I can do better or change.
    The anonymity is something I struggle with when posting as an author, I keep a separate blog about my personal life under a different pen name and have not made clear links between the two.
    I am curious to know how to increase likes to an author page and how to use my FB profile page and author page effectively. I seem to end up duplicating things quite a bit!

    1. Hi Jaye! Increasing likes is a tough thing. There are "like" parties but many of them are authors liking other authors, which didn't seem real effective. One way I get more likes is to participate in giveaways through reviewers and bloggers. Oftentimes they'll do a Rafflecopter and make one of the entries liking you. I can get 30-50 for the "cost" of an ebook.
      As far as using your profile and personal page, most of what I post is to my personal profile. Only things like new releases, questions, contests and the like go on my author page. I basically view my author page as an online newsletter. Does that help?

    2. Yes thank you. I like the idea of seeing my author page as a newsletter.
      The Rafflecopter causes issues because it doesn't seem to work on Wordpress blogs. I'm not sure if there is an equivalent way of doing it.
      Another question - hijacking here - do you use Google+ and is it as valuable as FB?


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