How to Promote Your Book
Knowing where you can sell your work is only the first part of the problem. The real question is: how do we get anyone to buy it? It’s one thing to list your book for sale. It’s another to actually generate sales. One of the ways we do that is by establishing an online presence.Building a presence online is more than just building a website, though it includes that. It means, particularly, that you leverage the power of the internet to connect with readers. As an author, you have the potential to build a regular following of hard-core fans who will do the actual legwork of selling your books for you, provided that a) you are writing quality material that generates discussion, and b) that your readers can connect with you on a personal level.
Build A Personal Fan Base
So how do you build this following? It starts with a blog. A blog is your voice to the world at large. Your blog should be updated regularly with new content, something that gives your readers a sense of who you are as a person. Your blog should be part of your main website (the one which you use to sell your books to the world). Your blog should be related to your writing, and offer the opportunity for your readers to interact with you, whether it’s by discussing your book or by commenting on the ins and outs of being a published author. By the way, don’t overlook the mystique that carries. For us who’ve crossed the line into the world of published author, we don’t really see ourselves as all that different or special (and if you do, you might want to see a therapist about puncturing your inflated ego). But for your readers? There is something special about saying, “I know a published author.” Connecting meaningfully with your readers gives them the privilege of saying this (and most people’s ideas of published authors are more influenced by TV shows like Castle than anything real.), and the more people they say this to, the greater your potential impact and readership.
You can start by hosting your blog on sites like Wordpress or Blogger, but you should incorporate your blog into your main website (whether by hosting the site on the blog, or by putting the blog on the site). Your blog establishes your main presence to the world.
Next, you want to build a social network through as many possible means as you can. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, and so forth. Get followers and follow others. Post relevant content, not just sales pitches. The hard part is simply interacting meaningfully.
Update your social network with your blog posts, providing short-links back to your site. When appropriate, invite your friends and other social network contacts to promote your book via contests, giveaways, and other prizes.
In addition to regular blog posts, you’ll also want to craft a regular newsletter. The minimum amount of contact is quarterly. You can do bi-monthly, monthly, or even weekly if you want. Just keep people in the loop with what you’re doing (you can include things like countdowns to the next book launch, updates on the progress of your next novel, interviews and so forth.)
If you want to use a contact company to manage your newsletters, you can make use of AWeber.com or Constantcontact.com, among others. In the beginning, it might be easier to manage this piece yourself (though if you do send out mass emails, be sure you blind copy (BCC) your list, so that you’re not sharing everyone’s email addresses. Alternatively, you could do an email merge to a list. That way, everyone gets a personalized letter. Microsoft Word has an effective email merge function).
Build Your Online Presence
A lot has been written about the value of facebook pages. I’ve yet to see a consistent or effective facebook page that actually helps you stay in contact with fans and sell more books. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I just haven’t seen it yet.
The second place you want to build a connection is by setting up your author pages. Both Amazon and Smashwords have them. You’ll want to upload a suitable photo of yourself, along with biographical information, and if possible, the links to your website. You can include recent blog posts, facebook posts, Tweets, and so forth as well.
For Amazon, you’ll access this page via the Authorcentral.com portal. Here you can also claim all your books and ensure that both the print and electronic copies point are linked together.
Thirdly, you’ll need to update your Shelfari page and your Goodreads page. Because you are an author, you’ll want to set yourself up as one on each of these sites. Shelfari is Amazon’s answer to Goodreads, and it’s not a very good one. But because Amazon pulls their info from Shelfari, you’ll want to pay attention.
Goodreads is by far the more important site, if only because it has a larger following. Participating in the discussions on this site can be an excellent way to connect with your readers.
Speaking of discussions, we absolutely cannot overlook the importance of E-reader forums. There are several I’m going to give to you. You’ll want to explore these sites, and especially create posts on them whereby you self-promote your book.
Kindleboards.com, Mobileread.com, Booksummit.com, nookboards.com/forum, and the Amazon Discussion pages. Each of these forums are popular hangout spots for your readers. They have particular rules about self-promotion (relating to where and when), but if you follow them, you can build a strong presence and interaction with your readers. They can give your sales a serious shot in the arm, too.
Usually, sites like these have specific forum places where you can self-promote. They aren’t visited as often as some of the other discussion pages, but they do get traffic. On the larger sites, you’re allowed to update your posts once a week. I recommend doing a separate post for each book, and then updating them weekly. If someone responds to your post, then respond the following day (every time you post, you bump your post to the top of the line, thus putting more potential eyes on your book.).
You can and should spend time in the other parts of the forums as well, engaging in conversations in polite ways to build your reputation. Take advantage of the signature lines to either link to your books, to your posts about your books, or at least to your blog site. Make it easy for people to find out about your books.
You are permitted to recruit other people to participate in the forums and talk about your books. But you absolutely cannot create multiple versions of yourself. This is called “sock puppet” ing, and it is so frowned upon that it can get you kicked off. One user name per forum only.
A fourth place to build an online presence is in the various writer forums out there. These tend to be a little less successful than reader forums, if only because they consist mostly of other writers trying to do the same thing you are: sell books. That being said, you can find places on some of these where you can self-promote and gain readers as well.
There are several that are quite helpful, though, and which can give you plenty of insight into the realm of writing and independent publishing.
I recommend Absolutewrite.com/forums, Christianwriters.com, IndieAuthors.com, and Figment.com. There are undoubtedly a gazillion you could research and use, but this helps you begin the search, at least.
Secure Book Reviews
As you build your fan base and online presence, a second component of successfully promoting your book is by securing book reviews. You can acquire these through several methods, but a series of quality reviews is essential to effectively promoting your book. Opportunities to do more specialized promotion open up when you have anywhere from at least five to ten reviews.
So how do you get reviews? In short, ask for them. Ask friends to read your work. Try to steer clear of asking family members, as these are typically ignored because family members are supposed to like your stuff (unless they’re like my Dad, who actually left me a 2-star review for one of my books! It’s okay, though. He’s being honest, and other people have given me 5-stars. He just didn’t like it. Builds his credibility, frankly). So ask friends, other writers (trading reviews is very common and quite acceptable), BETA readers, and critique partners (both in person and online).
Another source of reviews, and one not to be overlooked at all, are book bloggers. Amanda Hocking credits a large part of her success to finding book bloggers who reviewed her stuff and told others. She writes,
‘In June, something truly magical happened. I discovered book bloggers. I had no idea such people existed. They just read books and write about them. And I don't mean "just." These people take times out of their busy lives to talk about books and have contests and connect with followers and writers and other readers.
These guys are honestly my heroes. I'm a little in love with all of them.
I asked several if they would be interested in reviewing my books, and most of them said yes, even if they didn't generally review self-published work.
Then something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling.
So, thanks in large part to book bloggers, June turned into a very good month. I sold 4258 copies of all three books combined, and I made a total of $3180.’I recommend checking out bookblogs.ning.com to find suitable bloggers. Like literary agents, many book bloggers have submission guidelines you’ll want to pay attention to. Some just do this for fun. Others do it for money. Some take their reviews very seriously. Pay attention to their guidelines and submit appropriately, and as always, be gracious and thankful no matter what.
· Personal greeting. Call them by their first name. [If you can’t find it after searching for a while, it’s fine to call them by their “blog name”]
· If at all possible, tell them why you think they would like your book. Try to use “proof” from their blog. [“I noticed you're a big fan of dystopia books. I think you might enjoy my dystopian book..."] It’s nice to know that the author really took time to make sure I would like this book instead of just bombarding the blogger with a random request.
· Title and author
· Summary of book
· Provide links to the Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) page for the book, Goodreads page for the book, and your blog or website.
· Cover image
· Is the book already out? When is it being released?
· If you need this review by a certain time.
· If you are willing to do a giveaway or interview in conjunction with the review.
· Any other information you want to pass along.
· Make sure you're friendly and personable. You don't want to sound like a robot spewing out review requests.
Make a Book Trailers
A final strategy for online promotion that bears mentioning are book trailers. These short little videos can get your book out to more potential readers through other forums than simply blogging about it or talking about it. You can post them on YouTube, your blog, your Amazon author central page, various ning sites, and many other places.
Book trailers should be short, no more than two or three minutes long. They should function like teaser commercials to interest people in your book.
You can build them fairly easily using the Movie maker software that comes preinstalled on most Windows systems, though there certainly are fancier programs out there. PowerPoint 2010 will even let you make a “movie” of a presentation that incorporates all the timings and transitions available through that program.
If you want, you can take advantage of still shots that can pan or move across the screen, or even video clips. Stock video clips can be purchased just like stock photos, often for little to no money, and then woven with text to connect the clip to the story you’re telling.
I recommend using as little text as you can, and avoiding any “fancy” transitions between images or clips. A simple fade or wipe is often quite sufficient. Anything more tends to distract from what you’re doing.
You can also get royalty free background music from places like Incompetech or PartnersinRhyme, and lay this under any dialogue you have. It’s also helpful if the music and image or video transitions connect in some way. Just be sure you credit any royalty free clips or sounds used.
At the end of your clip, be sure to include where the book is available. If posting on YouTube, for instance, you’ll also want to include a link of where to buy either on the clip itself, or just beneath it.
There is some question as to whether or not book trailers are effective. It’s hard to say unless you care to set yourself up as an affiliate marketer, and then track the sales figures from your clip (which, all in all, is not a bad idea). You won’t hurt yourself by making a good one. You might hurt yourself by making a bad one. You won’t hurt yourself by not making one, but you won’t help yourself, either. So it’s up to you, whether to use them or not.NEXT UP: DESIGNING AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING STRATEGY