Sunday, May 23, 2010
Ready, Set...Launch! Using the Internet to promote your work
Books don’t launch themselves–they need a big push. Most writers don’t have the luxury of having a big publishing house behind them to handle promotion. Except for really big names, most writers need to do most of their publicity. As soon as you’ve signed a contract with a publisher, it’s time to turn your attention toward promotion. Don’t wait until your book is published before creating your promotion–you’ll want to hit the ground running once you have your book in hand.
As a writer, your book is your product, but you are the brand. Success in selling involves promoting both the brand and the product.
It’s a good idea to start on promotion long before you have the book’s cover art. You’ll definitely want to include the cover image, so just leave a space for it and start working on text and layout.
As soon as your book has been professionally edited, find at least two well-known writers to review your book. Reviews are vital for publicity and promotion in a competitive market. Don’t expect a full-length review, but rather a blurb, a 50 to 100 word description, such as you see on the back cover of books. You can use these blurbs in much of your promotional material. Most reviewers will give you permission to tailor their comments to suit your needs. Blurbs are valuable.
Also seek reviews from established review organizations, such as Midwest Book Review. In the early stages, however, all you can offer them are unbound galleys. Later, when you have your book, definitely seek reviews that will appear in publications.
E-Mail Signature: One of the simplest forms of self-promotion is an e-mail signature. On most e-mail programs, it can be set to append to every outgoing e-mail message. With many programs, you can have a selection of signatures, depending on the nature of your message. Keep it simple, and keep it short. Ideally, an e-mail signature should not be more than three lines, four at the most. An example might be: List your name, your latest book, publishers website, your website.
Website: Today, people turn to the Internet to learn details of persons or items of interest. A website should answers questions and supply information about you and your product. For several years, I had a webmaster and he was very good. But the day came when I needed to make quick changes or additions and it was more hassle to go through a middle man than maintain it myself. There are several good website building programs on the Internet that make creating a website quick and easy, and many are free. I used Microsoft Office Live (www.officelive.com) and have had many favorable comments. I can dash in and out in minutes to make a quick change, such as changing “Coming Soon” to “Just Released!.”
It’s important to have your own domain–mine is www.MaryTrimbleBooks.com. Website building programs assist you in creating your own domain. Keep your website simple, easy to navigate, and give it a name that makes sense. One resource to check domain availability is www.GoDaddy.com.
Blog: I did not jump on the blog wagon until a couple of years ago. Once I took the plunge, I was delighted to find I could talk about many issues–it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes I discuss writing, sometimes my involvement with the American Red Cross. I review books, interview people–whatever strikes my fancy. Setting up a blog is very easy, most often free, and there are a variety of blog-creation sites on-line to assist you every step of the way. I use www.blogger.com and have been very satisfied. My blog appears on my blog host, but it is also set up to automatically appear on my website.
E-mail Announcement: Start building groups of contacts to whom you’ll send an e-mail announcement when your book is released. I found it more efficient to create separate e-mail sub-groups in my address book. For easy access, I began each group with the name “Book Promo,” then added the specific group name. You’ll be surprised how many people you know–your writing associates, prior customers, your spouse’s work contacts, family, friends, etc.
Because e-mail programs and browsers display messages differently, make the entire announcement a .jpg file image. Further, at the top I had a statement “Having trouble viewing this e-mail? Click here.” and linked this directly to my website where a similar announcement exists. In your e-mail announcement, include the cover image, a two-paragraph synopsis, a review blurb, ISBN and price, where the book can be purchased, and an invitation to visit your website for autographed or personalized copies.
When e-mailing the announcement, send it “Blind Copy” for recipients’ privacy and so that people don’t have to wade through a long list of names to get to the message.
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc. might be excellent means of promotion, but at this point I’m not convinced the time spent is worth the gain. I personally need to study this further and would love to hear your input in the Comments section.
Next time I’ll discuss hard-copy promotion–something tangible to give to prospective customers.