Faced with a limited budget, other works in progress, a family to raise solo and a lot of misguided beliefs about 'promotion', I wasn't sure where to begin. I'm not a salesperson, I'm a writer. I'm an editor. I didn't want to come off as some pushy, "read my book NOW" type. How could I possibly get the word out there?
|Photo courtesy of National Lampoon|
In no particular order, here are some things I've learned about book promotion:
- Blog tours were my first introduction to book promotion. My first publisher, Siren-Bookstrand, had an author group where authors offered to host each other. From there, I developed my own author blog and began hosting authors every Monday. I've learned that, especially in this business, what goes around comes around. Be nice to other authors, help them and they'll help you (there are some jerks who don't reciprocate, but it is what it is--just don't be one of them). Blog tours give you a chance to do an interview, write an original guest post and/or feature an excerpt of your novel. There are also book promotors who set up virtual book tours for a minimal fee, but do your due diligence and make sure they have the reach they claim to have. For every legitimate book promoter, there are several others who don't do much at all.
- Speaking of a blog...do you have one? If not, get one. You may think that as an author you'll be too busy writing the next novel, which is true, but you cannot afford to not blog. Readers want content. Write about yourself, your love of hiking, your favorite recipes, short stories or poems--it really doesn't matter as long as it is fresh and interesting. Professional bloggers (not authors) do this for a living, which means you can even make money from your blog if you treat it with as much attention as you do your books. What I mean by that is to be professional, keep in mind that you are creating an image, and don't skimp on the grammar.
- Develop an author fan page on Facebook. By setting up a specific page for my author persona, I didn't feel like I was slamming my book down friends' and family's throats. My author fan page gives me free reign to talk about my blog, other writers, post reviews, and basically do as I please. Also, unlike personal profiles, fan pages don't have a limit on the number of likes. As a newbie, this may seem like it's not a big deal, but once you hit the 5000 friend limit on your personal profile because fans have joined, you'll feel the pain of starting over. Also, as your fan base grows, you'll be happy to have the separation between a public and personal persona.
- Twitter is my favorite social media outlet. Yeah, I'm surprised, too. When I first became involved with Twitter, I thought it was the stupidest thing imaginable. However, I've met so many connections there. I've gotten ideas from authors with a lot more experience than myself. I've received offers to appear on blogs and virtual book festivals. But there is a trick to Twitter--you need to be social, not just some auto-bot who's tweeting links to your book all of the time. Retweet, reply, give out useful information and, yes, sell your novel--but mix it up. Keep your conversations balanced. After all, it's called social media for a reason--so be social. The benefits have been through the roof for me.
- Instagram does work for authors. In this visual realm, you may think Instagram isn't the place for a blog post or an author. You're wrong. As long as you add images to your posts, have your website in your bio, you can add it to Instagram. Right now I'm mainly posting pictures of my dogs there, but there are a lot of dog lovers on Instagram! People are multi-dimensional and we live in a visual world. Make it fun!
- Pinterest! See above--it works. Whether you're posting your book covers or promotional graphics or simply a cool lawn ornament you found, create appropriate boards and pin away. People gravitate to you. Make it clear in your bio who you are and always link back to your author website.
- LinkedIn. Post an interesting blog post, update your bio to include new releases, join author groups to network.
- Reviews from professional book bloggers. Now, here I had an advantage because my publisher sent my ARCs to reviewers on my behalf and sent me a list of others for me to handle. I wasn't passive about it, I followed through. As time passed, I discovered other book bloggers via Twitter and my connections through the blog tours. Why are reviews from professional book bloggers better than reader reviews? Well, I probably shouldn't use the word 'better', but they do lend more credibility to the review. Savvy readers will look at glowing reader reviews and wonder if you simply have a team of loyal friends who came through for you; whereas, professional reviews always state that they are 'pros' and will gladly copy their review on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Goodreads for you. Don't be afraid to ask for a review! Also--be choosy about who you're letting review your book. Look through their past reviews of books similar to yours and see what their style is. t's your name on the cover so it's okay to say no to a review, too.
- Giveaways are a great way to get your name out there. Use these sparingly, but don't dismiss them because of the term "giveaway." I say to use them sparingly because I've discovered through trial and error that readers don't always value things they receive for free and, if they followed your page simply for a win, they may quickly unfollow once the contest is over. Be choosy, in other words, about how you go about this. When I first started, I gave away Amazon gift cards, Victoria's Secret gift cards, gift baskets, you name it and I thought I had the perfect idea...none of it led to loyal readership. As for giving away books themselves, some writers swear by it, but I value the time I've put into all of this and don't do it unless it's from my backlist. As a new author, though, you may not have that luxury so I warn you to think twice before sacrificing a profit for so-called exposure (that sometimes backfires--I've seen it happen to too many people).
- Google Plus. Yes, I'm aware that Google is transitioning into Alphabet, but I will continue to utilize Google Plus for my blog posts. It creates more buzz on the internet when your post directly to the site and gives you higher visibility with the search engine. Most blog posts have a button where you can simply click on it to share to Google. Do it!
- Creating a book trailer on YouTube. When I first heard about this, I had no idea what it was. Yeah, the name is self-explanatory, but in my frenzied newly published mind I didn't put the dots together. Then, thanks to another author who took pity on me, I figured it out. YouTube actually has an entire section of book trailers so take a look. I bought pictures from iStockphoto that depicted my novel's story, pieced them together in iMovie and put them to music. It's fun. There are many stock photo sites out there--make sure you actually buy your pictures so you aren't infringing on anyone's copyright. Aside from iMovie, there are sites like Animoto and others that help you create a book trailer. No, you don't have to be from Hollywood to do this so don't rush to pay for someone's help. Look around, experiment, and trust your inherent creativity. After all, who knows your story better than you do? There is nominal cost involved in creating this, but it goes a long way in helping your marketing efforts.
- Become involved with author organizations like World Literary Cafe, Authors Promoting Authors, Sexy Romance Readers/Writers, etcetera. Most of these organizations are all about helping authors unite, network and cross-promote. Word of caution: don't follow blindly.
- Interact with your readers! You can do this by attending reader conventions for book signings, arranging your own signings with local libraries or book stores, conducting Facebook parties where you talk about your book and give away "door prizes", be active on your author Facebook page, or have a twitter chat party where you instruct everyone ahead of time to use a special hashtag so you can interact with them live.
Okay, you're wondering how much time all of this takes, right? I spend about 90 minutes a day on marketing, mainly checking Twitter, my author website and Facebook fan page. If you think that sounds like a lot of time, then I need to remind you that no one cares about your work more than you do. You need to make an investment in marketing. There are many talented authors out there in the world--where do you fit amongst them? The world doesn't come knocking on your door--you need to go after it. With social media expanding in new and exciting ways every day, the possibilities are remarkable.
If you have any ideas that I failed to mention, please share them in the comments below. We're all in this together. Write on!
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.