Monday, April 12, 2010

Guest Post by Wendy Webb

Here's a blog from my friend Wendy Webb, all about what she's done (and still doing) to self-promote her gothic ghost story debut.

Book Promotion 101 - What I’ve Learned as a Newbie Author by Wendy Webb

My first novel, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE, hit the shelves on March 30, and I’ve been swept along in a rush of promotion ever since. Two words: Whirl. Wind. I’ve had book signings and readings, and interviews for radio, TV, newspapers and blogs. I’ve guest hosted a literary chat group on Twitter. Reviews have popped up in magazines, on many blogs, on Amazon, Library Thing, Goodreads and Redroom, in addition to great features about me in my local Twin Cities’ newspapers. In the months ahead, more is to come. I’ll have more readings and signings and I’m participating on panels at book fairs and festivals, culminating with a reading on Mackinac Island, where my novel is set, later this summer.

But really, the book promotion started long before the first copy found its way onto a new release table, shortly after I got the deal that set all of this into motion.

As a first-time author, I know I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of building an audience. It’s not like I’m a Joe Konrath or any other writer with a sizable fan base. But I’m lucky enough to have my publisher’s fantastic marketing team behind me. I’ve heard from other authors that their publishers don’t do a whole lot to help them in terms of marketing and promotion— not so in my case. I have two publicists who are working very hard to get the word out about my book online, over the airwaves, and in print. I haven’t had to set up any of my own interviews, appearances or reviews — they’re doing it all for me and doing a spectacular job.

But even with all of the help that a marketing and promotions team can provide, authors still must do their part to promote their own books. I’ve found that, during the months leading up to publication and especially now that the book is on the shelves, I’m busier than I’ve ever been — and it’s all been marketing and promotion.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

• Build an online presence long before your book is published. Before your book hits the shelves, before you get the deal, before you get the agent, start building an online presence. Done right, it will help with all of those things. Hop onto Twitter and start following literary types. Start here http://tinyurl.com/7swo3a or follow me (@wendykwebb) and then follow who I follow. But remember, think of this as your professional communication. It’s not a place to dump negative thoughts. Write on Twitter ONLY the things you’d like a prospective agent or editor to read.

• Support other people on Twitter, don’t just write about yourself. Once you start gaining followers (it doesn’t take long) support them in their endeavors. One of the best things about Twitter is the supportive, caring community of book people. Be one of them. Bloggers, authors, aspiring authors, agents and editors have supported me, and I’ve supported them.

• Participate in @Litchat on Twitter. It’s a live chat about books on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 pm EST. Authors, editors, agents and aspiring authors tend to participate. It’s a great way to be a part of that community. To find out how to participate, just follow @lithchat.

• Start posting on book blogs. Get your name out there as a reader, even if you’re not yet published as a writer. Start commenting on book blogs — nothing negative, please — and you’ll increase your visability. It also supports the bloggers, who perform a fabulous service for authors.

• Investigate AuthorBuzz. This is a business run by bestselling author M. J. Rose with the goal of helping authors get exposure. Her team gets the word out about your book to thousands of online sites and is well worth the expense. If your publisher doesn’t provide this type of marketing service to you, plan on saving part of your advance for Authorbuzz. http://www.authorbuzz.com

• Get over your fear of public speaking. This was tough for me. But once your book gets published, you will be expected to do readings, be on panels, do radio interviews, and even TV interviews. The better you come across, the more books you’ll sell.

• Go into your local bookstores and chat with booksellers. Let them know you have a book coming out. This I learned from Joe Konrath, and it was invaluable advice. My local booksellers know me by name, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of me.

• A few months before your book is released, create a page for yourself on Library Thing, Red Room and Goodreads. These are online sites with huge numbers of regular visitors, all of whom are looking for the next great book. Join the forums and participate in the discussions.

• Once you get the book deal, invest in the creation of a good web site. This is going to cost money, so plan on saving some of your advance for it. You can link your site with other online forums like Twitter, Facebook, Library Thing, Goodreads and Red Room.

• Plan on spending 2-plus hours each day on promotion. Blogging, Twittering, attending live chats, tending to your own website — it all takes time. Make the time.

Joe sez: All fine advice. Here are some things Wendy could also be doing.

1. Have a sticky website. That means content, in the form of information and entertainment. Having a blog and Book Club questions is a good start, but I'd also a lengthy excerpt from the novel, a writing tips (and promo tips) page, more pictures, and anything else that makes people want to hang out at the website. Then I'd make sure it is updated often, so people keep coming back. Also, I didn't see a Links page. Reciprocal links are a great way to drive traffic and get better search engine placement.

2. Statcounter.com and BFNsoftware.com download tracker are every promoter's best friends, as they help measure effectiveness of campaigns.

3. LibraryThing is great. Real libraries are better. Contacting local libraries and offering to give talks about writing and publishing is an easy way to get some free local press and to sell a few books. Some libraries even pay you.

4. Conferences, conferences, conferences.

5. Booksignings. And a booklaunch party.

6. Writing more. Getting some short stories that tie-in with the novel up on her homepage, Kindle, and Smashwords will widen her reach. So will getting into anthologies and magazines.

7. Read my blog. It's got five years' worth of self-promotion tips on it. An older version of my Newbie's Guide Ebook is available for free download. The newer, updated version will be out this month on Kindle.

8. Meet writers. Either in real life, of in the virtual world. Trading tips and strategies with fellow authors is one of the most effecting things you can do. A good way to introduce yourself is by saying: I bought your book and I loved it. I'm getting so many emails these days from people who want my help. I try to help when I can, though I can't answer every email myself. But if one of my peers starts off an email with, "I just bought all of your books on Kindle" or "I have all of your hardcovers" I'm more inclined to give them personal advice.