Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I was in a lovely conversation with a fellow writer who asked me about marketing and promotion. When you work a regular job and put in more than 40 hours a week; when you have a family who needs, craves, and actually LIKES your company; when every spare moment is dedicated to either working for a living or re-acquainting yourself with the progeny to which you gave birth or the person with whom you share a home; when any time above and beyond that is spent with the creatures who live inside your head, how do you find time to market and promote your work?

Tick-tock, tick-tock...all I have to worry about is my Evil Cat Overlord but trust me, I wish there were 12 more hours to the day.

It’s difficult enough to find enough time to write, much less pimp yourself out. And how effective is it to be an Internet ho? I don’t have the answers — all I know is what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned from those who have come before me (and you will find some very helpful links to some amazing blogs on my sidebar) and what I have observed all my years in the writing biz. The number one thing to keep in mind when you’re angsting about selling books is:

THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT.

It's gonna take a while. And you'll need to drink a lot of fluids. Probably alcohol.

The best, most effective way to sell more books? Write more books. This is the secret most writers blow off, think it’s too simple or think it doesn’t matter. It does. You see, you hook someone on your book, and the first thing an avid reader is going to do is buy every single thing you have written. And they’re going to talk about it. Readers are very loyal and once they find an author they like, they would rather buy from them than someone new. It’s the truth and that’s what’s behind all the big name success stories you see in the news. Amanda Hocking? Has a shit-ton of work for sale. Joe Konrath? Barry Eisling? Same thing.

That’s not to say you don’t have to do ANY marketing. It just means without the material out there, it’s not going to be effective. You need books, short stories, novellas, on the market, more than one. The more you have, the more you sell, and the more you sell.

Not a hook like this. Using this kind of hook to get readers will lead to an arrest record. Don't ask me how I know.

Marketing can be a total time-suck, but there are things you can do that take very little maintenance. Here are some of my suggestions:

Your blog is a great start, but put links in your email signature. I like WiseStamp because you can link it to update automatically with your blog posts and Twitter feed. Don’t have a Twitter account? Get one. Use a service like Buffer (free) to capture pages you surf and to schedule automatic posts, but set aside a little bit of time to actually talk to people. Twitter takes time to establish, and it has evolved over the three years I’ve been on it. It’s social interaction and if you don’t interact, it won’t do you much good. But, it’s great for networking and support, even if it doesn’t sell a whole lot of books.

Support other writers. I am in an awkward position as an editor for some of the best books I’ve read this year. As an editor, it’s a conflict of interest for me to pimp my clients out, and that totally sucks. (Because really, what am I going to say? They suck? Of course not, plus if I don’t give every one the same amount of time, that will cause problems. PLUS, if I don’t like the story, what happens when I don’t pimp that one out? PLUS, I’m an editor, not a promoter and I barely have time to pimp myself out. I hate being in this position, I really do, but there it is. Other than a link on my site — I do that for all my clients, but that’s the most I can do. Although I do post guest posts. It’s a problem for me because I love all my clients and some of them are great friends, as well. *sigh*)

Yeah, we've been here before. I love you, but I can't pimp you. *sad face*

Goodreads — get yourself an author page on Goodreads, and hook it up to post your blog posts there, too. Same with an Amazon author page. Make it as easy on yourself as you can by taking advantage of the RSS feeds and that way, all you have to do is update your blog and it will update on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ll be updating Goodreads with a video trailer once it’s done for “Athena’s Promise”.

Here are mine:

Annetta’s Amazon Author Page

Annetta’s Goodreads Author Page

Shelfari is another good site to set up the same way.

Use as many “set it and forget it” options as you can.

Get your book in the hands of reviewers.

Put together a media kit. You only have to do it once, and you’ll use components of it over and over. Here’s how: How To Construct a Media Kit

Do you have a Facebook Fan page? I offer exclusive excerpts from my book — a couple of lines from every chapter, then some blurbs, then the cover…that’s the only place people can see them. I plan on offering the book trailer there first and then I’ll post two or three sample chapters on the blog when I get closer to launch, which will then update automatically to all the sites I just mentioned. Here’s my page so you can see what I’m talking about: Annetta’s Facebook Fan Page

Instead of devoting huge hunks of time to marketing, you’re much better served by setting up as much as you can that requires the least bit of attention and using the time to work on the next book, and the next, and the next. That is honestly my best advice.

WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.

Now, get going.

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Showing Love For The Writer

This is a mountain. It takes up a lot of room on a fork.

Self-publishing your own work is rough. Actually, any publishing is a difficult road — even “traditional” publishers expect an author to shoulder the majority of the marketing it takes to get a book up and running. (The advantage of being picked up by a “big house” today is still their distribution channels, which is why many authors elect to explore this route.) While it looks like at this point a combination of self-publishing and big publishing is probably the best way to approach launching your career in writing novels or non-fiction tomes, it is still a writer’s responsibility to get the word out.

And you can’t do it alone. It’s a huge endeavor, like trying to eat a mountain. Or an elephant. Most of us are working a day job, have families and homes to care for, so that mountain or elephant is humongous. And there’s only one way to eat it — one bite at a time. Still, with the help of friends, family and like-minded writers with the same dilemma, there are things that others, like you, can do to assist in the process.

Too big for any fork most people own.

I read this article and learned a lot about what I can do to help myself, and even more about what you can do to help me, if you’re so inclined. With author John Kremer’s permission, I’m going to list three of the ones I feel most apply to my particular situation, but I encourage you to read his post and see what else is there that may appeal to you, little things you can do to help the writers you love to read, not just me. This applies to all writers, no matter their publishing route.

#4. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to friends. Blog about it. Tweet a review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Recommend the book to your book group. Review her book on Amazon.com, BN.com, GoodReads, Library Thing, and other reader social networks.

The reviews are a Very Big Deal, because in the self-publishing universe, there are a ton of fishes swimming in the sea that are not vetted — meaning, they haven’t gone through an agent, an editor, a committee — and your review is how others often make a decision on whether or not to buy the book. Even if all you do is rate it and leave a short comment about the book, that little bit counts for a lot.

#23. Seed your friend’s book. If you can afford to buy a few extra copies, start leaving them around town. Leave a copy on the bus. Donate a copy to the library. Leave a copy in a waiting room. Every additional book out in the world helps to generate exposure for your friend’s book while also increasing the word-of-mouth about the book.

I really like this idea, of books flying free on their own and ending up who-knows-where. You may be able to contact your writer friend and score a discount for purchasing a few copies, or s/he may even donate them. Hey, you never know unless you ask, right?

#25. Recommend your friend’s book to your reading group. If you belong to a reading group, suggest your friend’s book as part of your reading program. Or at least tell your reading group about the book.

Creating a buzz is what it’s all about. If you think your friend’s book is a good fit, you’re doing both the group and the writer a favor by introducing the two. You may be able to work out an arrangement where the writer supplies coupons through Smashwords for a discount for the group. I know I’m sure open to this — I would love to have a book club feature “Not Nice”. I’d be fascinated to know what they think.

There are lots of things you can do to help a writer promote their work, little things that don’t take a lot of time and help out so much. Even if all you do is offer a word of encouragement here and there, it helps more than you realize. Writing can be a lonely profession, and often writers can feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall or that they just can’t take one more bite of the mountain. One kind word about their work can give an extra encouragement that all that eating is not in vain.

Have you read a book lately that’s been entertaining, enlightening or has touched you in some way? Pay a little of that forward, if you would. It makes a difference, it really does.

Many thanks to John Kremer for his generosity.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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