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.
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?)?