Sunday, December 5, 2010

Promotion, Not Demotion

Last weekend I promised to talk about how to promote your book. I'll admit here and now, I considered backing out. After all, all you need to do is google "how to promote a book" and you get hundreds upon hundreds of hits. Then I started looking at some of the very first pages linked and, after picking myself up off the ground and wiping away the tears from laughing so hard -- yes, some of them were that bad -- I figured maybe I had better start a dialog about promotion.

Mind you, this isn't the end-all, be-all list. What works for one author may not work for another. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, time and personality being two of the biggest. Ask any author out there and none of them spend as much time as they think they should promoting their work. Why? Because if they did, they'd never have time to write.

Promotion is the evil that exists so you can continue writing books. Promotion drives sales, whether we want to admit it or not. This is especially true for those of us who are just breaking into the business. We don't have the name recognition of mid-list authors, much less best sellers.

So, what are some of the things you can do to promote your book? As Rowena said in her last post, you need a website. Now, this is where I'll diverge some from the general consensus. If you are a new author and this is your first book, you don't need a complete website. A very nice blog, preferably one that will allow you to have different sections or tabs or pages, will fill the bill nicely. This lets you talk about your road to publication, give snippets of the book AND post your cover. You can also link to your publisher, agent -- if you have one, other authors, Amazon, etc. NOTE: If you have a blog, you MUST update it regularly. Readers will come with the expectation of reading new material. If they keep visiting the site and there's nothing new, they will stop coming.

Probably the simplest way to promote your work is to have a signature line using the title of your book. You can make the title a link to where it can be purchased when posting to mailing lists and online fora. But don't make it a live link in emails as that very well might get your email marked as spam.

Be active in on-line groups that share an interest in books like the one you just wrote. If your book is available electronically, take part in the discussion boards that are dedicated to e-books and e-readers. And by being active, I mean doing more than just pushing your book. In fact, at the beginning, you shouldn't mention your book. It's enough that it is there in your signature line. Take part in other discussions. Let the other members of the fora get to know you. Then you can start promoting -- within the guidelines of the board.

Facebook and Twitter -- yes, that was me groaning just now. Social media are, in my opinion, a necessary evil. However, there are ways to keep it from becoming a major drain on your time. That is to set up your blog so it feeds directly into your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Wordpress has this capability. I'm sure others do as well. If your blog doesn't have the capability, then use a program similar to TweetDeck. It lets you "tweet" and posts it to Facebook and, if I remember correctly, other sites you set up as well.

Also, on Facebook -- and on any other social media site -- for it to work as a promotional tool, you have to go outside your sphere of friends and acquaintances. It used to be that a couple of hundred "friends" were enough. Now, if you ask an author or editor or agent, you may be told at least 750 friends or 1,000 or even more. As with your blog, post regularly. But don't be obnoxious about it. Post quotes once or twice a day. Link to a sales site daily. Give a snippet. But don't flood other people's fb page with entries and please, PLEASE, don't post quotes or snippets of your work on another person's wall without their permission.

Giveaways always work. Give copies to reviewers. Hold contests on your blog or fb. Offer free copies on boards such as the kindle boards in return for reviews on Amazon, etc.

Other methods you can use are contacting your local media, sending press releases and even "interviews". Make the acquaintance of your local librarians AND the friends of the library. Offer to do a reading/signing or other activities as a fundraiser for the library. Have freebies such as bookmarks, magnets, etc., to hand out whenever your are out and about. This is especially important if you are electronically published. When folks ask about your book, you want to be able to give them something with the title, your name, cover image and where they can purchase and download it.

Now, things you really don't want to do. And yes, I saw each of these listed in articles or lists online about how to promote your book. But come on, common sense needs to enter into it somewhere.
  • Put a chapter into an auto-responder. Think about this. Someone, possibly even your boss, or your doctor or who-knows-who, emails you. Instead of getting the response they are expecting, they get an unsolicited chapter from you. Not only does it come awfully close to spam, but it very well could get them in trouble with their employer.Do NOT do this. Please.
  • Volunteer to do book reviews. This is one of those that can work, but can also be a massive waste of time. Now, if the review is for a well-trafficked review site, that's one thing. But if it isn't, don't do it.
  • With regard to Facebook, I saw several suggestions to make a facebook app that has something to do with your book. Don't. Just don't. Most folks do NOT like apps. They see them as a security issue. So don't waste your time and effort.
  • Since I started with a "what were they thinking?", I'll end with one. Magnetic car signs. I'm not talking bumper sticker size. I'm talking those big ones you see attached to the car door. Not only does it scream, "I published this myself and printed it on my laser printer in my back room," but I have visions of someone ramming into your car as they try to read it.
Here's what our own Sarah has to say, sort of, about promotion.

Okay, that's a quick overview of some ways to -- and not to -- promote your book. Can you think of any others? What are the most unique ways you've seen books promoted? What have been the strangest (as in, OMG, what were they thinking?)?


MataPam said...

Amanda, how the heck do you pick up 500 facebook friends outside your circle of acquaintence?

Any how, short story freebies, the start of the story done as a graphic story and given away. Or, of course, go Full Baen and give away entire books.

The whole trick seems to be to get people to look at them in the first place.

Amanda Green said...

Pam, you choose one of your "friends" and click on "show all friends" or whatever it's called. It will open another window and you can see which of their friends you already "know" and which you don't. You can then send friend requests to those with whom you have some interests. My rule of thumb is that if I have 500 friends and am sending a request to someone, they need to have at least 75 common "friends" with me.

As for the short story freebies, that works, especially if you are established or have an established series going. The graphic story can also work. The warning with that is it needs to look professional, or close to it, AND you need to be prepared to eat the cost of producing it. Most publishers aren't going to.

As for the full Baen treatment, again, that works up to a point. Baen can do it because most of the books are either the beginning of a series or by established authors. There's an interesting debate going on in the Bar right now about whether the Baen Free Library has outlived its usefulness or not.

And, yes, the trick is to get people to look in the first place. That's why promotion on all levels is important. Your editor or agent can send out notices and post blogs or fb bits about it until they are blue in the face. But if the author isn't doing it as well, there are potential buyers being missed.

Dave Freer said...

Well I DID offer to do a U-tube trailer of me doing "you can keep your hat on" in the snow with Hat substituted for DRAGON'S RING... _IF_ I got my advance copies (or an ARC, which I have yet to see, although I believe they exist) in time for the snow. But as usual,the copies arrived LONG after the book came out and snow was a memory. Herein lies a message: do not expect much, if anything, from your publisher unless they spent $25K at least on your book's advance. If they spent a million on your book, and you can afford to hire publicist, and run a major campaign, don't worry, they'll do it all for you. But otherwise expect nothing, or in fact expect obstruction at worst and disinterest in supporting you at best.

Anonymous said...

I write twitter fiction, which is a fair bit of work but it has given me a bunch of interviews, and a thousand followers each on twitter and facebook. My biggest rule is "no more than three updates a day". All of them know that I'm a writer, and a familiar one. Hopefully it'll pay off when I'm published.


Kate said...

Promotion... weeble... eep. This is the person who quit facebook (in part because facebook on firefox on Linux does not play nice) and hasn't missed it. And who ranks self promotion somewhere close to self-stimulation in terms of evil.

Sigh. I know what I need to do. It's getting up the nerve and various other body parts to actually DO it.

Anonymous said...

Kate, I don't blame you for drawing back from social media. If it doesn't suit you, don't go there. If you're following this blog, maybe you'd like to write your own once a week instead of doing facebook updates or whatever. I recently found out that a lot of YA-author blogs just write about writing. I can do that!

Kate said...


Thank you! It's nice to know I don't have to go the Twitter/Facebooks/whoknowswhatallelse route.

I do blog here once a week (I'm the Thursday Mad Genius), and once I have my own set up and working properly, I need to start linking it in.

That's going to happen over Christmas, for the simple reason that I don't get much time to focus on much outside the essentials until I have a break from the day job.