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Is it worth pitching traditional media for PR in an era of paid ads? Can PR build your author brand and attract opportunities you might not have had otherwise? What are the best ways to pitch your book? Dana Kaye answers these questions and more in today's show.
In the intro, Kobo Writing Life announces direct audio upload with the benefits of multi-currency pricing, higher royalties, and promotional opportunities [The New Publishing Standard]. Bookfunnel announces ePub to Mobi conversion because of changes to Vellum formatting software. Amazon Alexa announces Samuel L Jackson will be available to interact with on Alexa using their ‘neural text-to-speech' technology — yes, voice-synth AI is here! [The Guardian]. Check out episode 437 for my AI disruption predictions for more. Plus, Amazon also released earbuds, a ring (Loop) and glasses with voice assistants within. The Internet of Things is voice-enabled!
Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts, Second Edition, is now available in ebook, paperback, large print, hardback and audiobook — narrated by me!
Today's show is sponsored by PublishDrive, a global self-publishing platform distributing to 400+ stores and 240,000 libraries, with innovative marketing tools like integrated Amazon Ads. The writing process is hard enough, so the publishing and marketing process should be easier. PublishDrive helps authors write more, publish more, sell more and worry less. Go to www.PublishDrive.com/penn to learn more.
Dana Kaye is the author of Your Book, Your Brand and The Personal Brand Workbook. She's also a podcaster at Branding Outside the Box and the founder of Kaye Publicity, a full-service public relations agency specializing in publishing and entertainment.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- What author branding really is and why it's important
- The different aspects of book marketing and publicity
- How to successfully pitch your book to media
- Thinking about timely hooks when promoting your books
- How much (or little) marketing traditional publishers actually do for authors — and why you need to care about your own marketing
You can find Dana Kaye at BrandingOutsideTheBox.com. Check out Dana's course, Your Breakout Book, at www.TheCreativePenn.com/breakout (affiliate link).
Transcript of Interview with Dana Kaye
Joanna Penn: Dana Kaye is the author of Your Book, Your Brand and The Personal Brand Workbook. She's also a podcaster at Branding Outside the Box and the founder of Kaye Publicity, a full-service public relations agency specializing in publishing and entertainment.
Dana Kaye: Hi Joanna. Thank you so much for having me here.
Joanna Penn: It's great to have you on the show.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and how you got into publicity and marketing.
Dana Kaye: I'll give you the abbreviated version. In college, I was a creative writing major and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. There was an idea of moving to Prague and writing the Great American novel and bartending or did I want to do something else?
Through a freelance applications class, that taught you how to do all types of writing – interviews, reviews, grant writing, all types of things – I really enjoyed that so I started freelancing and I was primarily doing book reviews.
I was writing for the Chicago Sun-Times and timeout and Crime Spree and Bitch magazine and all kinds of things and so basically anyone that paid me to read and write about it. I did it and that was fantastic.
But I was seeing the writing on the wall. I saw that the Chicago Tribune had filed for bankruptcy. The Sun-Times was not far behind. Staffers were getting laid off and I saw the writing on the wall that my job may not be super secure and I gave it some thought about what I really loved about reviewing.
Why did I like it? Really what it was is I enjoyed pairing readers with books that they may have never heard of. I reviewed a lot of small press books and I really wanted to give light to books that were really good but maybe aren't going to be on the front table of Barnes and Noble or have a huge ad in the New York Times.
And so that's what I enjoy and I thought okay, what are the other ways I can do that? Of course, publicity and marketing came to mind. I had been pitched by publicist all the time so I knew how to write a pitch. I did press materials as a freelancer. I had to pitch my editor. So I knew how to pitch a magazine editor or a newspaper editor.
So I thought okay, publicity and I knew a lot about social media, so maybe marketing. I started applying for jobs at the publishers, but publishing is mainly in New York, and I'm a proud Chicagoan. I did not want to move. So I was applying but not really. I wasn't doing a great job. When your heart isn't in something you don't do it very well.
I had been at a writers conference in my reviewer capacity and I was speaking with an author Jamie Freveletti, who's a thriller author and her first book, Running from the Devil, was slated to come out that spring and she was saying that she was going to hire an outside publicist, an independent publicist.
So I said, I deal with publicists all the time. Make sure that they always follow up. Make sure they give you lead time, make sure they don't send packages of glitter. I was giving her all this advice of what she should look for and finally, she just turns to me and she said do you want to do it?
Should you just do this and I said maybe let's talk about it. After the writing conference, we got breakfast and we just hashed out a plan and said okay, this is what HarperCollins is doing. Let's see where I can fill in the gaps.
We did a lot of really cool things and that's what really spurred off the publicity company.
Joanna Penn: Wow, there are so many things that I want to follow up on.
First of all, I’ve got to ask, did you end up going to Prague and writing fiction?
Dana Kaye: I did live in Prague. I studied abroad in Prague and I was writing there. I got a few short stories published over there. And then I was freelancing to so you can write from anywhere and although it was very different back then.
This was in 2005. 2004. Internet cafes and spotty Wi-Fi at the pensione and so it's a little bit different. I was in Prague. I loved it. It was super cheap. They hadn't gone on the Euro. So everything was so cheap and I was like, okay, I'm going to finish up school had one more semester.
I came back to finish up school and I was going to move back. I had an apartment lined up. I was a freelancer, you can make a really good life as a freelancer there because I think the apartment I got was like $200 a month or something and I came back but while I was back in Chicago I met my wife and so life took a turn and I did not return to Prague.
Joanna Penn: That's brilliant. I just wanted to follow up on that one.
Okay, so let's talk about branding and we're going to want to come back to the Jamie Freveletti story a bit later, but let's talk about branding first.
Your books are about branding and your podcast is about branding and you talked a lot about it.
I feel that many authors don't necessarily get what an author brand is and why it's important. Could you talk a bit about that?
Dana Kaye: You're a hundred percent right that there's a lot of confusion and some people think brand is your pen name or brand is your logo. And those are parts of it.
But I think the main foundation of your brand is who you are and what you do. That's the essence of a personal brand or an author brand. It's who you are and what you write. And I think that if we can get clarity on that it takes the risk out for the reader.
The reason that James Patterson and Nora Roberts and Lee Child and so many other household names do so well is not because of their name necessarily, but because of what they deliver in each book. It's a safe bet you know that Reacher is going to blow into town, solve some problem, maybe get a girl and then blow out of town and be fine and that feels safe. With Nora Roberts and her romance novels you know that there's going to be obstacles but they're going to have a happy ending and so it takes the risk away from the reader.
If you're investing four to five hours of your time, and if it's a hardcover 25 bucks, we want to know that we're going to like it and so by having a really strong author brand and being really clear on who you are and what you write you're able to convey that to potential readers in a way that makes them feel safe and more inclined to take a risk when purchasing and reading your book,
Joanna Penn: What are your thoughts on someone like me who uses two different brands?
Dana Kaye: We just talked on my podcasts recently about that. You have very different audiences; the audience of writers, authors, aspiring writers is not necessarily the audience for your fiction. And so it's very clear.
First of all, it's very clear from your books. I know which ones are fiction and which ones are nonfiction without even reading the description. I know from the visuals the title, the book covers, the website pages all of that. I know which ones are which. But by targeting a different audience, I think that your messaging and you're speaking very clearly to who your audience is.
So if you're at a writers conference, you are there with your Joanna Penn hat and talking to writers. If you're at a library event or book festival, you have your JF Penn hat on and you're speaking very differently. So I think that it's okay to have two different lanes, let's say, and just being aware of the audience.
You guys all know as you always all have a sense of your audience. You think about your readers when you write and so having that sense of audience should translate not just in the writing, but also when you're speaking to people about you and your work.
Joanna Penn: Okay, so let's assume that people understand what their brand is.
So then there's sort of PR and marketing and I think a lot of people are confused as to what PR might be as opposed to something like pay-per-click advertising.
Could you talk about the types of PR and why they might be different?
Dana Kaye: Sure. I know my job is so confusing, isn't it?
I talk about branding and publicity and marketing and yes, I joke that my in-laws don't really know what I do, but I'm glad I can clarify it here.
To me, public relations is the overall relationship with the public at its core so that could take a variety of forms. To us, the main pillars that we work with are publicity, marketing and then community in-person outreach.
Publicity is earned media coverage
That's other people talking about your book. So it's a book review. It's a blogger an Instagram or posting a photo of your book and talking about. It's earned meaning you're not paying for it. It's someone else talking about it. It's also something that you don't have much control over.
We send books to reviewers. We send books and pitch radio producers or television producers, but it's very hit and miss. It's in their court whether or not that runs and even if they say it's going to run, if some breaking news thing happens, which has happened, then things may get cancelled and things may not go.
The positive part of publicity is that it holds more weight. There's more clout because if someone else is recommending your book that holds a little bit more weight than you talking about your book, but it's also out of your control.
On the flip side, marketing is how you talk about your book
So marketing is you control the message, you control when things run, for example, email marketing. If you send an email on this date, that's when it's going out, breaking news or not unless there's a huge server down into Gmail.
But if you are sending the message, you're controlling the message and you're placing it there that falls under marketing. So advertising is a part of marketing and advertising is paid placements, but there are other forms of marketing like your BookBub page or your Amazon author page. Those are all forms of marketing because it's how you are talking about your book.
Community outreach is a blend of both
I know some people think of it as publicity and some as marketing but doing bookstore events, doing speaking engagements, doing partnerships, corporations or nonprofits other boots-on-the-ground grassroots initiatives are something that we tend to focus on for most of our authors.
I think that in the digital age, it's easy to feel like oh, well, I can just make all these arrangements online. I can talk to my readers online. I don't need to leave my house. I can be JD Salinger. But the truth is when authors meet readers in person it forms a bond and it forms a loyalty that's really difficult to replicate online.
So any time you're able to either get yourself out there to meet your readers or to tap into somebody else's readership or someone else's market you will reach a new set of readers.
Some examples of this: We work with an author Greg Hurwitz whose main character Evan Smoak is a vodka connoisseur. Sometimes I say snob. And he mentions different vodkas in the book. So part of the marketing efforts is that when people sign up for his newsletter, they get a comprehensive guide to all of Evan’s vodkas. It's what makes it different, where it's from and where you can get it.
And then one of the vodka companies that is mentioned in the book we had reached out to them, I think they actually reach out to us, and they sponsored a part of Greg's book tour. So they came out to various locations did vodka tastings. Spec’s, which is a liquor store in Texas, like the biggest liquor chain in Texas, they actually have huge displays of vodka there and they had taken a photo of Greg talking about like Evans Smoke’s favorite and was featured in The New York Times bestselling series.
So like that's a whole new audience. People going into the liquor store aren't necessarily the same people going into the bookstore, but they may think it's cool that this vodka was featured in a book, so that may get them to buy the vodka. It also may get them to think about buying the book.
Those sorts of partnerships really are what fire me up because it's unique, it's different, a lot of the times if it's a non-profit they're excited that we're going to help them fundraise, if it's a corporation, they think it's fun and interesting and something different.
So that's the other piece that I always encourage authors to think about is like what can you do to get out into the community either to meet your readers or to expand your readership.
Joanna Penn: I love that idea. And now I'm thinking about it. I drink gin. I really like gin. So now I think I really should write that into my books!
Dana Kaye: You should. I get all of Greg's and mail to our office and so what’s really lovely is most of the vodka companies, if they're sending him vodka will son one for me too.
Although he's more of a bourbon drinker. So we always said I wish I made the character drink bourbon.
Joanna Penn: Obviously everyone's a big name or that they're going to get a partnership like that but it's thinking about things that might be different and in terms of pitching and what's different.
So many people pitch me for this podcast and they say I wrote a book, can I come on your podcast? And I imagine that that's what a lot of newspapers and magazines get from authors as well, which is I wrote a book, please interview me or promote me.
Why is that not a good pitch? And what is a better idea when we pitch this type of thing?
Dana Kaye: A lot of the authors say you do this for a living, you have the contacts so you can do things that I can't. But I started with no experience. The publications that I wrote for knew me but no one else knew me.
The difference is that by crafting a pitch that shows that you are helping them just as much as they are helping you and really showing that you did your research that it is a good fit, you're going to stand out. Like eons above the rest.
I'm sure Joanna you see so many pitches and it's like ‘hi,' like there's no name. ‘We would like to be on your podcast.' It’s a completely canned email. We forget that just by doing things a little bit better you're automatically going to be above the fold because there's so much schlock being pitched for any type of media outlet.
What I would tell authors is that you don't need to pitch hundreds of outlets. And we don't frankly, we tend to focus on 30 to 40, maybe 50 depending on the book, but we really look at the ones that we think are going to be a good fit.
Sure everyone would love to sit on the couch and talk to Ellen or everyone would love to have their book on the Today Show. We get that. But really taking a look at is this the best fit for this program? And if it is then crafting a pitch that demonstrates why it's a good fit, saying, “I saw that you had this author on your show. We write similar books. Here's why mine's a little different or how it’s similar. We're both romance novels but a little different because you don't want to have the exact same people on the show.
For podcasts, I'm sure you see this too, how are you going to serve their audience? What are you bringing to the table? Because a podcaster, their job is not to showcase you. That's not what it is. They want to serve their audience.
So the more you can show how you fit into their existing coverage, how you are the perfect person or book for their outlet or how you're going to serve their audience, they're going to take a second, third look and maybe even book you.
I think that so many people are just out there to serve themselves. And so if you can create this relationship with media contacts where you are helping them but also they help you you're going to have better odds of getting the placement.
Joanna Penn: Absolutely. It's funny because when I started writing, with my first book I got on national TV in Australia. And newspapers because I did all that. I did all that pitching and it was successful. But what I found is that they were far more interested in the personal story behind the book.
So the time I'd written a book on Career Change and they wanted to know about why I was miserable in my job and it also tied into this dream job on the Barrier Reef, which was in the news back then, a decade ago, and I think that's why I've shied away from PR.
Since then I've kind of dipped my toe back in and the questions they asked me were too personal. There is lots of personal stuff in my fiction and nonfiction, but I didn't really want to talk about it in a more sensationalist way.
Is that a fair comment that they always want more personal stories and you have to be prepared for that?
Dana Kaye: I think it depends on the book. A couple things I think what writers sometimes forget, and this is a mistake, is that we are mysterious beings to other people right?
I know a lot of authors complain when they get the question, like, where do you get your ideas? It's an annoying question because it comes so naturally to most authors but most people don't have ideas. Most people haven't written a book. They don't know how to get things published so it's a mystery to them.
It's also this voyeuristic trend towards wanting to learn more and for you, when you were leaving your job, how many people watching those shows are in jobs that they hate and need someone to give them permission to leave their job? I think it really depends on the person and the book but I do think a lot of the times readers and audience members are so interested in the person because this person has done something that they could never do.
If you think about reading thrillers, I can have a front-row seat to explosions and helicopter flights or whatever and I don't have to actually go anywhere. I can travel the world and not leave my couch. And so I think it's that same idea of readers want to experience something that they've never experienced when they talk to authors.
It's the same thing. They want to know how they do it because they honestly don't get it and for authors, I get ideas all the time. It's an annoying question. But other people genuinely don't know and they find it really interesting.
If you're pitching something and you don't want to talk about personal stuff, I think it's really framed in the pitch. So sometimes what will happen is authors just send their bio and then the producer or the journalists will see something in the bio that they'll pick out. So I also think that if you are done talking about something then you need to stop talking about it from your marketing as well.
I talked to an author recently who's a cop and he writes a cop series and he says I'm really sick of talking about cop stuff. Like I really am done and I said well, why do you keep writing cop books?
Joanna Penn: It makes money!
Dana Kaye: I understand that you're tired of talking about it and I know it's your day job. I understand this. But if you write a story about being about a police officer and you are a police officer, then people will want to talk about it. If you write something totally different you don't have to include that you're a police officer in your bio. Just make it more generic and just focus on the book.
So I think it's if there's something that you don't want to talk about publicly, then you have to be aware of what your marketing looks like because people will dig up all kinds of things and so just being aware of what types of bios you send to media, what you include in your press materials, what you put on your website. It should all be consistent with the things that you want to talk about.
Joanna Penn: That is a good tip and just really focus on the thing you want to talk about. For example, I love talking about the author mindset. So if people ask me to come on and talk about something like career change, I don't talk about that much anymore. But I love talking about mindset, which brings me to another question.
With indie authors, we often will write a book and publish it and we won't wait six months or a year. Most traditional publishing PR happens because you have this time lag. They know the book is coming out and you're getting all this PR for the six months or whatever prior or you're preparing or you're pitching for things that are months out.
Can we pitch for older books or does it always need to be the latest thing?
Dana Kaye: When you think about media outlets ultimately, these are news outlets. I know Woman's World or Men's Health or whatever doesn't feel like a news outlet, but it is.
So you have to think about what is the news hook? What is the timely hook? Why should they write about this now? For most fiction, the news hook is it just came out. That's the hook. So if it's already been out, you lose that hook.
For our nonfiction authors, we pitch media all the time because there's always various hooks and timely things that we can connect with on an ongoing basis and they can just be the experts that speak about those topics with their byline including she's the author of or the book speaks directly to something happening in politics or in culture or anything like that. We can pitch that all the time.
With fiction, it's not that common that a novel would address that after publication so if you think about what the news hook would be and if there's a possibility of news hooks later than by all means you can just put it out and then try pitching. But if there's no news hook it's going to be really difficult to get any sort of real media coverage for a book that's already been out.
Another way to get around this is if you're doing events. If you put the book out and then again I keep coming back to thrillers and romance for whatever reason, but that's it is what it is. So you have a romance novel and it's been out for six months, but now you're doing a panel at a bookstore for Valentine's Day and it's open to the public. You can pitch local media with the hook of that event is coming up.
You can also try to generate your own news hooks based on the month, time of year, what's going on in culture and the zeitgeist.
Joanna Penn: I was just thinking as you were talking there, crime thriller author Christopher Peterson writes books set in Greenland and when Trump started talking about buying Greenland that would have been a great hook for him to pitch. An author, having lived in Greenland, author of Greenland crime thrillers, talking about that as a fiction author, that might have been a good hook for him, so that I guess is kind of news hacking as a fiction writer.
And, as you say nonfiction, is much easier.
I want to move on to a broad idea. You've given us some great examples, but you've been doing this now for what, at least a decade?
Dana Kaye: Yes, we celebrated 10 years in February.
Joanna Penn: So obviously things have changed a lot in the last 10 years. I often feel like many authors still think things are the same as it used to be.
What's changed over the last 10 years and what are some of the things that might be working now that didn't and vice versa?
Dana Kaye: We've gone through so many life cycles and so many different things have come and gone in this past 10 years.
I think the main foundation is always the same: where are readers getting their information? Where are they finding out about new books? And how can we meet them there? That is the constant.
But where we meet them and where they're getting their information has changed.
Flashback to 2009, Facebook had just opened to the public. I had been in college so I had a Facebook account where most people did not so I already knew about the platform and how to use the platform and so that was really advantageous. When I went public I was able to coach other authors on this is Facebook, which is so weird to me to think about.
And Twitter wasn't a thing. I had Twitter. I was an early adopter of Twitter but it wasn't a thing. I was I remember going into a meeting with Harper saying this is Twitter. People follow you and they said oh my God, follow you, that's so creepy. But now it's so commonplace.
Book bloggers weren't really a thing. So the term book blog or book blogged or blogged I feel like was coined around 2009 and this stemmed out of my seeing what was happening in media where the book sections were being cut and people are getting laid off and there was lots and lots coverage for books.
I know that when I was reviewing, I got a hundred books a month. And obviously I can't read a hundred books a month. I would love to, but I can't, and I also didn't have a place to review all of them. So I would read maybe 10 books a month, maybe more, but I didn't have space to review all of them.
So anyone that I read and that I enjoyed but I couldn't place anywhere I would put on my blog. And so I knew about the blogging community from there. And so I was with Harper's. and this was my first foray into publicity. I kept telling them like there are these people called book bloggers and they write about books and I'd like to send them some books and they said, ‘No, we only send to media outlets.’
Book bloggers have peaked and now it's transitioning to something else, but then it became commonplace to send to bloggers and now it's even saturated and the blog market is in decline. Now things are getting moving more towards podcasting YouTube or social media, that sort of thing.
Now we're shifting more of our focus towards book podcasts, and bookstagrammers, booktubers, all sorts of people more so than bloggers and most of them have a blog, it's just the traffic isn't coming from there.
And so really it's the idea that figuring out where your readers get their information and then just meeting them there. That's constant. So I believe that not every author needs to focus on YouTube. Not every author needs to be on Twitter or not every author needs to have a podcast or pitch podcasts. I think it's really if your readers are consuming in these areas, that's where you need to meet them and you should focus your energy there.
So what's next on the horizon is kind of hard to say. I feel like we are kind of sliding back and this is completely anecdotal with no data. So I'm just throwing that out there. I feel like we're sliding back. People are getting screen fatigue. I think there's like this big burst with ebooks where everyone and their mother had an e-reader. We were like loading up on ebooks. We were reading ebooks all the time and now because we have social media and people are scrolling Instagram all the time, I think we're getting a lot of screen fatigue, which is why I think podcasts and audiobooks are rising because we don't need to have those in front of a screen.
I've also been noticing that print has been – I don't think it's going up a lot but it's holding steady in a way that ebooks and other formats are not. Audiobooks are skyrocketing and print is kind of holding steady, ebooks are in decline.
I've also noticed that there's been a slew of magazines popping up and I've seen more people reading print magazines, myself included. I have a whole basket in our living room of the magazines I need to catch up on, because I don't want to read screens at night and I think people are becoming more attuned to not wanting to look at screens at night.
If you don't want to look at a screen, how are you going to read? It's going to be in either print or in e ink and so I think we're going more towards that analog. I think people are shifting that way towards not looking at screens.
My gut is telling me that focusing more on pitching podcasts and like we discussed earlier that a lot of people are doing YouTube audio-only. Even if you don't want to do YouTube, you could at least put your podcasts up or snippets of your audiobook on YouTube just for listening as a sample because a lot of people do listen only to YouTube.
So that's my thoughts on where the trend is going is more towards things that are not on screens.
Joanna Penn: In the last week my mom, she's 72, has got her first smartphone. She's had one of those burner phones that are like seven dollars up to now. I'm like ‘Mom, only terrorists use these burner phones,' you need a smartphone!
Dana Kaye: Terrorists and the greatest generation!
Joanna Penn: It's so funny because I said to my husband, ‘Okay, my mom has got a smartphone and Spotify.' That means audio has gone mainstream because she was the last person to get a Kindle and when she got a Kindle I was like, ‘okay ebooks have hit the mainstream' and now I'm like, okay Spotify listening to music and podcasts on Spotify is a thing, even for people in their 70s.
So this is fascinating. There’s definitely a change.
I want to circle back. So you talked about Jamie Freveletti, who I've met at ThrillerFest. She's a wonderful author. She had a traditional publishing deal but you mentioned that she had a publicist with her publisher, but she also wanted to use an independent PR, so to use you.
I think this is interesting because so many Indie authors say I like being indie but I don't want to do the marketing. So I'd like to get a traditional publishing deal because then they will do the marketing. So where's the balance between an author getting a trade deal?
How much marketing and what kind of marketing do they do versus what the author still needs to do?
Dana Kaye: I hear this a lot too. They think that if they get a traditional deal that they can just again be the JD Salinger and hide out in their house and write books and do nothing else. It's not true.
If you're getting a seven-figure deal, your publisher is going to do some stuff. if you're getting a six-figure, five-figure or four-figure, it's really hit and miss.
Let's not focus right now on what they do, but also why you would want to hire an outside publicist anyway. The in-house publicist doesn't work for you. They work for the publisher. Again, going back to that control thing, you have no control over what they do.
We’ve had books where they are so jazzed and they’re going to do all this stuff for the book. And then Barnes & Noble doesn't make a good buy and then they start crunching numbers and see there's no way this book will be successful. Let's just cut and run and then nothing gets done.
The starting salary for a publicist is $24,000 a year in New York. They're overworked. They're underpaid. There is lots of churn. We’ve had multiple authors who have a book who have an in-house publicist who leaves the company. There's no loyalty. They leave a month before the person's book comes out and they're at a loss.
By having an agent who to manage your career, by having an outside publicist, you're able to take more control and have some consistency with all of your publicity and marketing.
You also have the ability to say I kind of want to do this and have ideas and an outside publicist can do that. Whereas an in-house person is beholden to their budget.
So that's what I would think about is that if you're with a traditional publisher that they're not loyal to you. They're not even probably loyal to their company. The individuals are not loyal to their company. So you have to think about building your team with people who are loyal to you.
If you're an indie author, which I assume most indie authors love having the control, that's why you go indie. By building out your team, you're able to have that control and just build that that team for yourself. The thing with traditional publishers is that there are some that indie authors cannot penetrate. Maybe if I tried hard enough I could but I haven't had to. We’re not getting co-op at Barnes & Noble or getting front placement on Amazon.com or some of the bigger distribution deals.
Joanna Penn: That’s very, very expensive though, isn't it?
Dana Kaye: It is well, that's the thing. But because it's like our health care. These big companies buy in bulk. They can afford it in a way that individuals cannot.
I've toyed with some. I have talked to Amazon reps and B&N reps and tried to get group deals for our authors, but it's still really expensive and then I don't really think that it actually will yield a return on investment.
There are some things that we cannot do or we could but it wouldn't make fiscal sense. So I think if you're looking at what you want from a traditional publisher, the marketing and the publicity is not that you're going with them because first of all, you want don't want to deal with distribution.
You don't want to deal with the production side. You don't want to deal with the editorial side. Those are the things that you won't have to deal with a traditional publisher. But again, you have a little less control.
My book, Your Book, Your Brand is traditionally published. I’m very happy with the edit, super happy with the cover. They did a beautiful job. I could not have done that myself. I couldn't even have imagined doing it. I couldn't even think about what a book cover would look like.
But the marketing and the publicity was nothing. They did zilch. And so thank God I'm a publicist and know how to do it. But like there were things that they had quoted, they had promised, that they did not deliver. One of the things, when I sold the book to them, was they said they had relationships with places like Writer's Digest and salon.com to sell their books on those sites, which to me is really advantageous to have another retailer, especially with something like Writer's Digest. It's very targeted. That never came to fruition and I don't have control over doing that like that.
So as an indie author I don't know that you can get your books into Target or to Walmart. And so those are the things that for traditional publishing that they can do. So what I always tell authors because I get a lot of questions about like, hey, should I keep publishing indie or should I try to go traditional or should I go traditional first? What should I do?
And I always just say is your book made for a wider audience or are you going to be really selling to your audience? If your book has a wider audience then a traditional publisher can help you reach that wider audience. If your book is really to be sold to your people, your platform, you have the readers and you're selling to them, then you should probably go indie because you're going to keep more of a cut. You'll make a better return on investments.
The Personal Brand Workbook was really created to give to my e-course students, and I did that myself. I did it through Ingram. I was like, okay, I can just throw that up. It can be on Amazon and I make money off of that.
I actually I think to date have earned more on that little workbook, that I didn't think that was really going to sell wide, than I have on Your Book, Your Brand because I only get a smaller percentage of sales.
So you have to sell less to earn more and if you're selling only to your people the math is better to do it yourself, you'll earn a return on investment quicker, but if you don't have a platform and you don't have an audience and you want to reach wider, broader audience then maybe do getting a traditional publisher to help you get your books into Target into a Walmart on to the front table at Barnes & Noble all of those things. But it is a crapshoot if that even happens, but that's your only chance at doing it.
Joanna Penn: I did want to point out that if you want your books in Walmart, you can do that through Kobo Writing Life and you can get your audiobooks and ebooks into Walmart. So just want to remind people about that.
But lots of people I know are now saying, okay well hiring a PR agency, much as we would all love to hire you, it's pretty expensive for most authors unless they have a budget.
You’ve got your books. But you also have a course, Your Breakout Book, which goes into how to do some of this yourself as an author.
Tell us about Your Breakout Book course
Dana Kaye: I had been, for a long time, figuring out how to serve authors who either couldn't afford us or who came to us when we were full because we are full a lot.
And so this went through a couple iterations, actually. I had a self-guided ecourse that did fine but what I saw was people weren't finishing it. I feel like that's really common in e-courses that people buy and don't finish and so then I was like, okay, they're not finishing. They need more coaching. They need more one-on-one support.
So then I did a group coaching program where there were trainings and there were group calls every month and that was okay, but I wasn't expanding that audience because I was investing a lot of time in it and it was very tailored and lots of my time that it was a higher price point. So that was I think hindering some of the authors.
I was like, okay, I need to find the sweet spot where I can coach people through the program but also have that self-guided element that they can pick and choose what they do. The other piece of it is the ecourse, I was constantly updating, because like you said so much changes. Every time Instagram changed an algorithm or something changed on Facebook ads or Tumbler is obsolete now, I had to change all those things in the ecourse, so I was spending a lot of time updating it.
Then I realized we need a membership site where new content is being added and updated all the time and authors can pay a monthly fee to have access to that content. So it is completely self-guided, although there is a live training each month. We usually get about half of the participants on the live training because they want the Q&A but most people just watch the video afterward.
I think a lot of authors just really want to do it on their own or watch and learn maybe at night or power through all the modules on the weekends. So we have a live training every month and the community picks the live training. I get emails from people. I put a poll and people pick what they want to learn about.
It's very author-driven. And then if you do want the one-on-one coaching, if that's of interest to you, you can upgrade and add on a coaching package where you can have unlimited 15-minute calls with me anytime. You just have a link you can get on my calendar even like this afternoon. You can get on my calendar at any time.
I'd say half the people right now opt for the coaching and then the other half are just doing the monthly membership and it's been really great to see that the other piece of the coaching, the former iterations of this is PR takes time. This takes time and also not everyone can work at the same pace.
It's been really great to see is that some of the authors who are really gung-ho and write full-time have made huge steps already and have seen success from the program while others are doing it slowly and every month I check-in and say how's it going and they tell me, I updated my website and I establish my email marketing today or this month.
That’s great. They're taking action and that's really what I wanted is to create a program that will not only teach but encourage people to take action. We had one of our authors got a feature in Entertainment Weekly, which is awesome. Another had a local event and was like the cover story of that small local paper. But she was on the cover and these are all things that they are pitching. So it's really it's working, which makes me feel good because if it wasn't working then I'd probably just shut it down.
Joanna Penn: That is fantastic and definitely having that ongoing element is so important.
I do have an affiliate link to this because I think it's a good course. So that is thecreativepenn.com/breakout and as ever it will be in the show notes.
I could pick your brains for ages, but we're going to have to call it a day.
Where can people find you and everything else you do online?
Dana Kaye: I would encourage you all, if you're going to sign up or even try it out, I said it's a monthly fee. So if you do it for a month, and if you tell me like this is not for me, I would give you a 30 days refund totally fine. But if you do check it out do it through Joanna's link because you're going to help support this podcast and help support more people coming on and helping you launch your books.
And then if you want to just find me, I'm at Kayepublicity.com. And if you want to hear more about branding and networking and more of the entrepreneur side of me, that is at brandingoutsidethebox.com
Joanna Penn: Fantastic and you have a podcast as well, which is Branding Outside the Box, right?
Dana Kaye: Yes, and our season premiere just dropped today. We do a season September through June where I interview mostly entrepreneurs that tell us about their journey in small business, but also giving tips and tricks to help authors and entrepreneurs.
We have Instagram publishing experts. Joanna, you're going to come on soon. I encourage you to check it out: Branding Outside the Box the podcast
Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time Dana. That was great.
Dana Kaye: Thank you for taking the time. It's been great.
Lindsey Fairleigh says
Loved this episode! Dana has inspired me to think outside the box with my upcoming release. Time to start researching how to pitch a podcast…
Blair Seibert says
I enjoyed the podcast with Ms. Kaye. I’m so excited to hear that your next podcast is going to be about writing for audio. As a narrator who often works with new indie non fiction authors it’s clear to me that they haven’t listened to many audio books. They don’t have a sense of what makes sense in audio. I’m actually writing about things to think about when turning non-fiction into audio. I’ll be interested to hear what you all mention. My current version of the blog had a link to your podcast with Sean Pratt but I think it’s more general in nature than what I’m thinking NF authors really need to help the listener engage. I’ll link to your next podcast with Jules for sure. Thanks for all your wonderful work. I send all my author/clients to your podcast.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Blair — I think you’ll agree with what we discuss 🙂 I also think there is a big gap in the market for editors who work with authors on making books ready for audio as it is a huge area for growth. Interesting times!
Loved this podcast. The next couple of months are going to be a marketing push for me, but where to start as the options are so overwhelming. What Dana said: “where are readers getting their information? Where are they finding out about new books? And how can we meet them there? That is the constant.” – that is super useful and a good foundation for my marketing efforts, whatever they are.
Joanna Penn says
I also think it’s about your own creative preference, so mine is for audio and podcasting over video or even writing articles/blog posts these days, so I am doubling down on audio and saying no to the rest.
Fantastic episode – thank you, Joanna! I’m about to launch my first book and, even though I’m in PR, I’ve bookmarked this one to refer back to because there are so many good ideas and things to think about!
Joanna Penn says
Glad you found it useful 🙂