Can Internet-only Promotion Really Work? by Velda Brotherton

newVeldaCan Internet-only Promotion Really Work?

By Velda Brotherton

It’s interesting to note how many writers do not use the Internet to promote their books. Is it enough to do personal appearances? How many of those can we afford to do nowadays with gas being so high and bookstores closing right and left? When my novels came out in 2012 and 2013 I could no longer handle physical appearances, so I made the tough decision to use the Internet to promote myself and my work. Occasionally I’ll do a book signing or conference appearance, but not often enough to make a spike in sales.

Just think of it. Sitting in an office and touching people all over the globe with information about your writing, your books, and your life as a writer. Yet it was a tough decision for several reasons. I like talking to readers and writers, and all I knew about my computer was writing and formatting manuscripts. So the first step was to devote time to learning what I’d have to know. Since I had a few manuscripts lying around, I could spend a full summer on that project.

First I submitted a couple of new manuscripts to small publishers, then went to work.

I had an Amazon Page, a website, and three blogs on Blogger. I belonged to a couple of organizations that had Yahoo groups online. I joined LinkedIn and Good Reads. Quickly I realized this was not enough to get my brand out there. It is more important to become known by your name than by an individual book. People know you and like you, then they’ll just naturally want to read your books.

So I added Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and then Pinterest when it arrived on the scene. I’ve discovered it’s not enough to use these sites, but it’s important to learn the secrets of using them well, which I’m still in the process of doing. Take one at a time and conquer the ins and outs.

I promote online for two days out of my six-day writing week. Joining writing groups on Yahoo, Linked In and Google has afforded me the most information on promotion sites online. There writers share sites they have found, they offer to host bloggers, to review books, or share sites that perform those tasks. With good organization, you can post on these quickly and efficiently. Ask friends to repost, re-pin, and re-tweet to double, triple and go beyond with your posts. A blog is a must, and I moved those on Blogger to Word Press where I could get more pages for my books and other subject matter.

There are also what I call virtual book stores online. These are sites that will display your book cover(s), something about ThePurloinedSkullFC300(1)you and the book and a buy link. This gives readers the opportunity to browse specific books without getting lost in the millions of books on Amazon. Most of these are free or have a small minimal sign-up fee. Ask David is such a site, and it is exceptional. For a basic small one-time fee it will exhibit all your books and promote them. There are many genre-related promo sites. Google for them.

Don’t forget that when you post on Facebook, you aren’t limited to your own personal site. There are many group sites that will allow you to join and post information of your own, such as Incredible Indie Ebooks. If you belong to a writer’s group, it often has a Facebook page where members can post.

Beware: Don’t turn into a spammer. Post interesting information about all sorts of subjects, like something from one of your books or something you learned while researching for that book.

For instance while researching for my recent book, The Purloined Skull, the first of my series, A Twist of Poe Mysteries. I learned that Edgar Allan Poe did not receive any royalties for his re-published short story, The Purloined Letter, because at the time there were no International Royalty laws.

cover4When researching for Once There Were Sad Songs, my hero rode a Harley Motorcycle, so one day I was driving through Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and there was a motorcycle gathering for the weekend. Spotting a few guys with their bikes parked, I pulled over. They were eager to answer all my questions, and I had a great time visiting with them. Did you know that if you jump one of those heavy Harleys you’re liable to ruin the shocks or worse wreck it? But it is often done by guys with a death wish. So, in my book, my hero, a veteran with a death wish, jumps his bike off a bluff down onto the sandy shoreline of a creek and lives to tell about it.

There I told you about two of my books without spamming you, because I included something you might think interesting. Make yourself easy to find by posting everywhere possible.

Website: http://www.veldabrotherton.com

Blog: http://www.veldabrotherton.wordpress.com

FB: http://www.facebook.com/vebrotherton

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/veldabrotherton

How about you? What can you add to share experiences in online promotion?

Indie authors moving up a notch by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

You’ve done it. You’ve taken the plunge and invested yourself in independent publishing, and you’ve achieved a modicum of success but you want so much more! I get a lot of calls like this so I figured it would be a good topic to address here. Of course, everyone is different, but I do see some repeating patterns that make for good discussion. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in there somewhere.

There’s an apparent hierarchy among “indie” authors when viewed from afar. Essentially it includes those who are just starting out, or who have plateaued early, never achieving more than $1000 a month in ebook sales, and those who excel, which is defined by racking up thousands of Twitter followers and breaking the five digit monthly sales figure. For the purpose of this article I’m addressing the latter, BUT if you’re in the former group, pay attention because sooner or later it will apply to you too.

If you want to move up to a new level, in recognition and in sales, by building a broader reader base, here are some things you need to do:

Change your appearance. Too many authors cut corners in the areas of photographs, websites, promotional material and even personal appearances. If you want to be a bestselling author, you need to look like one. Make sure your promo photo is current, professional, and is included on your website. More than one would be nice. It doesn’t have to be posed in front of a blue screen, but it does need to be high resolution and professional in appearance. It also needs to look like you today, not 20 years ago. When you attend meetings or even when shopping, dress the part. I’m not saying you can’t run out to the grocery store in shorts, flip-flops and a pony tail while wearing no makeup, but I am saying sooner or later someone will recognize you when you do. There’s a fine line. Study to learn where it is. Go to the bestseller shelves at a local bookstore and check out the author photos in the books there. You’ll get the idea.

Professionalize your presentations. Homemade looking websites can be a huge detriment. You can work hard to create a professional sounding press release with all the right elements, then undo it in a second when the journalist who reads it clicks on your website and it looks like your teenaged neighbor did it as a computer project in school. Or when they click on it to get more information about the new release the press page announces, only to find the latest book showing on your site is a year old. Your website is you to a lot of people. Make sure it shows you in your best light, and that it is updated at least every month. In addition to making sure your website is top notch, be sure your press material is, too. You may opt to use a bio page and a book page, or to combine the two into a sell sheet. Basic info should include a short bio and photo of you, a description and purchase info of your latest title along with cover art, and a list of your previous works complete with ISBN numbers. Depending on where you’re sending this information you may or may not want to include links for purchase and/or discount info for booksellers. Proofread. Seriously.

Don’t rely on social media alone. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many other social media sites have been a huge help in affordable book promotion in recent years. Certainly don’t ignore them, but use them wisely, and sparingly. They’re also an enormous time suck, for lack of a more accurate term. Even in today’s market, approximately 70% of readers do not actively use social media so to neglect promotion outside of that realm is missing the mark. First of all, while Facebook author pages are great, and they have added some wonderful tools to help you sell your books, they shouldn’t take the place of a standard author website. I know many are opting to go that route, to save costs I assume, but it will reflect on the way you’re perceived within the industry, by journalists in particular but sometimes by book professionals as well. You might have noticed there is some snobbery involved (gasp). A good author website does not have to be expensive. It should include an author bio, a list and description of published books, a variety of fun and newsy items, a media page with downloadable bio, photos, cover art and press releases, an events page that is current, and maybe even a subscriber’s page, newsletter, link to a blog. Whatever you feel you’d like to share that will be attractive to your readers and keep them coming back and sharing your page.

Utilize a mainstream approach. Maybe using the term “indie” author helped you get where you are. But think carefully about how you’d ultimately like to be known. A bestselling indie author? A bestselling romance author? A bestselling suspense author? Or a bestselling author? A bestselling Christian author? An African American author? None of those are wrong, but obviously they aren’t all the same. In most cases when a self-published author comes to me wanting to increase exposure, the first thing we have to do is lose the “self-published” or “indie” designation. Understand that we’re not hiding anything. We’re just not magnifying it. In other words, you want to be judged on the basis of your writing, not on who your publisher is, or what genre your book is, or what ethnicity you are, etc. And while people will always tag us one way or another at times, it’s up to us to keep the focus where we want it to be.

One of the biggest hurdles today for indie authors involves getting mainstream reviews. Five years ago that was because none of the major reviewers would review a so-called “indie” title. Today they will, but many of them have pre-pub date deadlines that authors don’t want to meet. In today’s instant gratification market, once a manuscript is ready it goes immediately to formatting and publication. That used to take many months. Today it takes weeks at most. So nobody wants to sit on a ready manuscript for 4 months to meet the submission guidelines. I suggest that you bite it and delay release if you want a chance at having your romantic suspense title reviewed by Romantic Times. You don’t have to do it with every title, but it would be nice to add one of their reviews to your press kit wouldn’t it?

Find your niche and get in it. It’s true many of the mainstream organizations like RWA or MWA and so many more originally didn’t have a place for indie authors, and some still don’t readily accept independently published works in some of their conferences. I say join anyway and make yourself invaluable to the group on a local level. Change in any established organization almost always comes from the inside. It’s a wonderful way to network within the industry and make friends across the country who will buy, read and talk about your work. But like with most organizations, if you join only for what they will do for you, you won’t get much. If you really get involved and give to them, it will come back to you.

That’s probably plenty of info for now. I wish you well and I’d love to hear what you think. What are some other ways you’ve found to start taking your career to a new level?

Book promotion: What really works?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  I wish I had the million dollar answer. But I’m a problem solver by nature. I enjoy that. That’s probably why I like mysteries as much as I do. There’s a puzzle to solve. A question to answer.

And, since I’m a book publicist by trade, I guess this is a question that I need to consider more than most. When it comes to book promotion today, what does really work?

Well, when trying to find any elusive answer, I often work backwards. The process of elimination. What doesn’t work?

For the purpose of brevity (something for which I’m not well known but I do try), assume that the point of said promotion is to sell books. There are many other apparent points to book promotion but I won’t go there now.

What doesn’t work?

Expecting the publisher to do it. I think we all know that won’t work. We once thought it would if the publisher was one of the biggies but I’m not sure that was ever totally true. Today, I’m sure it’s totally not true unless you’re the biggest author on the list, which most of you aren’t.

Expecting immediate results. I hear it all the time. “I was on the Blah Blah Radio Show and I checked my sales an hour later and hadn’t sold a single book. Guess that doesn’t work!” “I had a book signing at Buy a Book Store and nobody came. That was a waste of time!” Seriously. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard something like that. In our so-called microwave society I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it always is. Think about it for a minute. I’ve been at a lot of signing events, and I do always make a point to

Janet Evanovich signing event – I’m guessing her first book signing didn’t look quite like this one.

check out the author/book and usually buy one. But it’s really easy to see the difference in how the author behaves having a huge impact on outcome. Some authors are standing, friendly, laughing, engaging with customers who pass by, while others are sitting, often staring at the table or the wall, with body language that screams don’t come near me! I’ll post about book signings another time. The point is, when is the last time you heard an author interview on the radio and dropped whatever you were doing at the time to rush out and buy a copy of their book? Think repeat exposure – building name recognition and STOP expecting immediate results.

Expecting to wait on book signings until your third or fourth book when you’re better known. I understand the logic in this, but I’ve seen from experience how it can backfire. Book signings are challenging enough these days, but building a following – particularly for a series – starts with the first book. I represented one author who had a lovely series that I really enjoyed who had employed this line of thought and didn’t hire me until the fourth or fifth book. I was shocked when I started contacting stores to set things up and found repeatedly that they weren’t interested. The reasons given primarily focused on low sales and lack of promotional activity for the earlier titles. While it doesn’t seem like entirely sound reasoning from my perspective, I heard it often enough to know it makes a difference to a lot of booksellers. I completely understand why an author would want to avoid the what-if-nobody-comes fear of a book signing event for a little known name, but I think if you’re in it for the duration, you’ve just got to plunge in and start from the beginning.

Expecting social media to do it all for you. This seems to be the most popular one these days. Tweeting and Facebook pages are all the rage. Blogs, blog tours, LinkedIn, Pinterest, whatever. You could easily spend 8 hours a day or more in your jammies from the comfort of your own home without even trying. And you could genuinely be busy doing things (besides playing Farmville) during all that time. But is it working? Is it effective? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with the blogosphere, Twitter or FB so it must be at least somewhat effective, right? Yes. In fact, it can be quite effective if utilized properly. However, it’s deceptive in its ease of use. A HUGE majority of authors using these social media outlets either don’t use it well (tweeting incessantly something along the lines of “buy my book, buy my book”), or don’t know how to use it well, or find that most of their friends or followers are other authors who are trying to do the same thing. Be honest. Of your 739 followers on Twitter, if 500 of them are authors, how many of those 500 books have you bought? And how many of them have bought yours? Honestly, if all 739 bought yours, which is highly unlikely, how many days/hours of tweeting time investment did you make to get to that point and can you do it again with 739 more followers? Maybe in time. I’m not saying it’s not worth your time to tweet. I tweet. I’m saying look carefully at the time investment vs. outcome. Because even the smallest radio program can put your book in front of several thousand potential readers in about a 15 minute time investment. Sooner or later the numbers will win out.

I could probably go on and on. Those are some things that don’t work, at least not if you focus all of your attention in that one area, which leads back to the original question. What does work?

I wish I could offer you a magic wand that would make your work instantly appealing to every potential reader that sees your information. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? But wait. The key isn’t making your work appeal to every potential reader. Hopefully if your work is good, it already does that. The key is in getting your info out there so more potential readers can see it. Then we trust that many of them will make the right choice and buy it. Book promotion – the effective kind – requires that you consistently increase the number of potential customers who repeatedly see your product information in a variety of venues over an extended period of time. That requires a well-thought-out plan with specific long term and short term goals. In other words, the shotgun approach probably won’t work well for you. Then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day and a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.

What are your thoughts on what does and doesn’t work in book promotion these days?