There are a few rules that are so important I’m not even going to count them in my top ten. For the record, here are four givens: a) I’ve heard it put many different ways, but it boils down to the same thing: write good stuff. b) Pay to have your finished novel edited and/or proofread by a professional. c) Pay for a decent cover and make sure its laid out by a graphic designer. d) Write a good cover line and back blurb.
1 Make a marketing plan. It’s not enough to be a writer, you have to publicise your work. Don’t be haphazard about it. Make a plan, with dates. One of the reasons we’re advised to start marketing about a year before we publish, is because of how long it takes to immerse ourselves in on-line communities and build up a presence there. My next blog will cover Ten Tips For Successful Marketing (ebooks and print on demand) but the first thing to do is to consider every social media site and then choose the ones you feel most comfortable with, and join them. Google ‘social media sites’ and see how many come up. Facebook isn’t the only one out there. Which takes us to:
2 Generate a buzz. That means build an online presence. This doesn’t mean pushing your own work at every opportunity. It’s about so much more than that. Building a reputation online is like building a reputation in the bricks and mortar world – it takes time and effort. It’s a mistake to only promote yourself – people will switch off. Instead, be helpful. Offer something they don’t have to pay for: your knowledge, your advice, your experience. Share. Offer to do reviews on goodreads.com and then when you’ve built up some experience there, ask anyone interested in your particular genre if they’d consider returning the favour. Go onto sites such as youwriteon.com or reviewfuse.com – give and get reviews of your work. Make connections. Don’t indulge in petty squabbles, no matter how provoked. Be professional.
3 Get a digital signature. Keep it brief and pertinent. Don’t overload the reader with every book you’ve ever written. Keep it to your most recent, or a link to your Amazon Author Page (see 4, under), or your blog. To make your signature: go to the website you want to link to (for example, the Amazon page your book is on), copy the whole http:// address in the address box. Highlight the words you want to link to the particular website (for example, the title of your book, such as Treasure This), then use the ‘Insert hyperlink’ tool at the top of your computer and paste the web address into the top ‘Link’ box and press OK. If you always have a link on your name or book title, and you show yourself to be professional and helpful, people are more inclined to click on those links to find out about you and your work. If they like you, they might buy your book. And that’s what you want.
4 Organise your Amazon Author Page. Love it or loathe it, Amazon has clout. Use it. Make sure your readers know who you are and what else you’ve written. The Amazon Author Page is the place to give your book a human face – people like to know about authors. Here’s one example of an ordinary author page. This doesn’t mean offering up your life’s secrets online. Just show you’re accessible, approachable, human – and a writer they might like to read. Link to your blog.
5 Write a Press Release. Contact your local media with a one-page press release giving details of your book. Include the back blurb, a jpg of the cover, a picture of you (it helps the reader connect with you) and a brief letter telling a little about yourself. Make sure you’ve read the publication you’re aiming for. I worked in journalism for years and was always appalled at how many writers sent us details of their books, asking for a review when we didn’t even run book reviews. If they’d read the magazine, they’d have known that. Guess what happened to those letters …
Also, check publication dates in relation to your launch date and make sure you give the newspaper or magazine enough time to run a feature or interview with you, if they want to. They may even lift details from your press release, so make it interesting Don’t just land it on them on press day and hope they’ll squeeze you in. They won’t.
6 Get a blog. Or a website. There are so many options now for free blogs, it’s foolish not to consider one, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Blogs can even be set up to link to a Twitter account to you save time. Some free blog sites to consider: wordpress.com, thoughts.com, weebly.com. Different sites offer different services, so do some research first, to see what suits you best in terms of layout and style. And remember, something has to pay for your free blog – sites such as wordpress.com insert ads into your blog so others see them, but you don’t. Be aware of those kind of tactics when choosing. It’s always a good idea to check out what your blog looks like on a friend’s computer.
7 Consider a short video/book trailer. These are becoming more popular, especially for genre fiction such as romance and thrillers. If you don’t have the confidence yourself, get a friend to help out. If you write for children, get some kids involved. Have them act out a (short) scene from your novel – something fun. Make your potential reader smile and you’re half way there. Check out utube.com and see what works best.
8 Run a competition – your library or local independent bookshops might be interested. Make it fun. Give away copies of your book (if you have paperbacks) to whoever comes up with the best advertising gimmick for your marketing campaign (or whatever you’d like help with – a cool name for your website … anything). Or make up a bundle of three books as the prize. Two by well known authors and one by you; it never hurts to be associated with quality. Remember any costs involved here are tax deductible. If you prefer, run an e-competition and use it to drive traffic to your website, blog or Amazon Author Page.
9 Give your ebook away for free, for a limited period. People still love getting something for nothing. Since your aim is to get your book into the hands of as many people as possible and have them talk about it (word of mouth is still a powerful tool, even in this techno world), then it makes sense to have a short period when they can download it for free. A word of warning on this: some forum members suggest that this makes it easier for sites involved in online piracy to get a copy of books and offer them free. Yes, it probably does. This is something you have to weigh up for yourself against the possible benefits of spreading the word about your novel.
10 Forge connections. Suggest links with other writers and organisations. Be discerning. Don’t blitz everyone you know and ask for a link. And don’t just forge connections with other writers, build your fan base. Join the forums and online communities that appeal to you and meet like-minded writers, and readers. And remember – play nice!
If you have any tips of your own you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.