I know, I can feel the cringe already among those who have to devote way too much time to this chore, and have to leave the art of writing to wait when it’s all we really want to be doing. At any rate, I thought I’d make a few observations, and this is my official disclaimer that all comments are my own thoughts and opinions in the event anyone gets ruffled or takes offense.
A lot of new authors don’t seem to understand the basics of marketing and branding yourself and your product. I see so much pushing of the same excerpt, or just endless postings of the same excerpt over and over. I know it’s very important to all of us to get our books out there before readers, but when entire Yahoo digests come from one author or your promo company, neither of you is doing your efforts any positive impact.
Promotion and marketing means more than getting your newest book in front of people, don’t kid yourself. HOW you present your material makes a huge impact on whether readers support you or avoid you. There’s also the fact that if you don’t focus at least some of your attention on creating a recognizable brand for yourself, you’ll never find that audience you want so badly.
I’ve observed several relatively new authors over the past couple of years, and they create Facebook pages for every new book, or if it’s a series, then a series of books will have their own group or page. This narrows your audience to who that book or series may appeal to, and I’ve never quite grasped why anyone thinks it’s effective. If you’re Lara Adrian and have a dozen best-selling titles in a series, then I can see creating something that is devoted to that series. If you’re Jane Doe in the publishing world–why aren’t you marketing Jane and her catalogue, rather than breaking it into pieces that would necessitate readers visiting various pages to see if what you’re doing appeals to them? Doesn’t it make more sense to market the author and her diversity, especially until you have an established readership? I’ve seen the same authors repeatedly get 50-100 likes on a Facebook page for a new series, and then do the same for the next book, etc., while their “official” pages are all but ignored. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d think consolidating all those pages and focus to the one author page makes a lot more sense. My page is visited daily, and has on occasion had a registered reach of almost 30K people in a single day. It’s take me a couple of years to build the presence, but every book I have out is listed on the Author App there, my blog is fed to it, and my Twitter stream–people can keep up all in one place and they visit often because of it.
I’ve pretty much stopped doing the blog tour circuit, as well. At least in terms of book blasts and spotlights. The problem with this is you have say ten spots on various blogs to promote your new title, but on all of those ten blogs is the same material. Readers will get bored and ignore them quickly. Unless you have a high traffic blog, it’s not likely you will have more than a few dozen views, and views don’t necessarily translate to people stopping to read the post that is featured.
Another HUGE no-no that shouldn’t require comment, but apparently does in many cases, is the tendency to post your book news on other authors’ pages on Facebook. If you haven’t asked and received permission, trust me, don’t do it! I’ve deleted more than one post over the past years that was promotion on my personal page. I’m quite willing to have you post on my fan page, or in my group, I’ll even do the post for you to insure it’s visible on the fan page, but my personal page has actually been shut down to other people posting because of the crap that was being posted. This is just rude any way you look at it.
Another torpedo to your efforts to be seen as a professional worth investing reading dollars into–don’t ever argue with a reviewer. Thank them for their attention, answer any question politely, but don’t “justify” your book. It will end badly. I’ve been known to post some of the more astoundingly odd comments made about various things, but I do not bash the reviewer. Some people’s motives are questionable, and you need to ignore them, even when you know what it’s all about–or discuss it with friends, not make it a public mud-slinging match. I did last week make a (non-public) post on my Facebook page about a review I’d seen because the reviewer not only posted her comments, clearly meant to needle, but when I ignored them, she inboxed me to make sure I knew what she’d done. So, yeah, I posted that and asked friends if I was the only one who thought it was totally nuts?
On the positive end of things, there are endless ways to create a brand and a presence, and wonderful people to help you out if you’re willing to invest a little time and a small amount of cash into your career.
Instead of having ten bloggers post your new release info, why not ask those same ten bloggers/authors if they’d like to do a theme blast – where each of you posts something unique, and you can offer individual prizes or one big prize from everyone. I’m not talking about the immensely popular and often large hops that are organized, but something that can benefit a small group of authors who may have things in common. It works. People love to win prizes. (On a side note here, if you are offering a copy of your book as a prize, speak to your publisher about getting a specially numbered or watermarked copy of your book in PDF to give away–it’s less likely to end up on a pirate site later if the watermark names the individual the prize is given to. Then keep a record of who you give those books to, their name and email address, and when/where the prize was won.)
Consider becoming a member of sites such as Coffeetime Romance and More, or The Romance Studio. Membership for a year with either site is inexpensive and gives you access to amazing promotional opportunities. With CTR you can request your own space on the popular forums, blog with CTR, interviews, etc. With TRS, you can post your own news if you’re a member, have your covers and a special page on the site. The same thing with Manic Readers, who allow you to create a page for free, and list your books, etc. There are many excellent sites to create a presence on–Facebook is not the only place to promote. Plus, it’s not even the best place to promote because it’s overrun with promotions and people are getting annoyed and immune in many cases. I recently tried a service where the company offered to promote on 300 Facebook groups within a 48 hour time frame. Not a single book was sold. Facebook is the information booth in the shopping mall, people may ask about things, but they still have to shop elsewhere and often expressed interest is quickly forgotten.
My final bit of observation for the day is this. No one writes a perfect book. We are all human, we all make mistakes, be it within the books, or in how we bring them to our potential audience. Trial and error is the greatest teacher, but use some common sense and manners when it comes to pushing your product into someone else’s space. If you want to write, you need to learn to read. You also need to learn to read the books that will enable you to write the kind of stories people want to read. I’ve known a lot of people who balk at the idea of Writing Guides and craft books, but I can tell you this, once you begin to read them, you will see whole new worlds opening and the potential for improving your work will astound and delight you.
At the end of the day, no amount of marketing strategy and know-how will sell a bad book. So, begin with creating a product you are proud to market, and something that is the best piece of merchandise you can possibly create. If you bring quality to the market, it will earn you respect and readers. From there, anything is possible.
Be well, and most of all, be creative and keep dreaming!