Congratulations on getting your book published! Months, maybe even years have passed since you began putting your idea into manuscript form, and now all those rewrites, revisions, re-everythings are over and you can relax….. but you shouldn’t.
You’ve accomplished one of two primary goals in the writing business: finding a publisher for your work. Now, if you care about your book’s success, you should apply your creative energies with equal vigour to the second step of the process: helping it sell well.
I’ve spoken to writers whose attitude is, “I’ve written the book- it’s the publisher’s job to sell it.” Theoretically, that’s true. But certain realities have to be faced: approximately 500 titles are published every day in the U.S., and publishers have a daunting job persuading bookstore buyers, reviewers, and readers to consider your book out of hundreds. There’s a lot that you as the author can do to create a demand that will give your creation a competitive edge.
Give the book, and yourself, an online presence. I can’t stress enough the importance of using Internet resources as marketing tools. A website reaches a much broader audience than a printed ad ever could, and its content can be updated instantly. Below are some suggestions that will help you get the most out of your Internet-based campaign.
Register a domain name (i.e. www.yourname.com) and build a site. If you’re technically challenged but want to take a shot at designing your own author web page, Yahoo! Geocities has a free site hosting service that includes easy-to-use tools for building your page. For as little as $8.95 a month, they offer an advanced hosting package that includes registration of your chosen domain name. If you’d rather be writing your next book instead of mastering a site builder program, Authors on the Web (www.authorsontheweb.com) offers slick site design and useful add-ons like blogs, message boards, and multimedia. Although Authors on the Web has an excellent reputation and writers like Nelson DeMille and Rita Mae Brown are among their clients, they are pricier: a basic package starts at $2,500. Determine what your budget is and take it from there. You can always hire a local design company at a reasonable rate.
Update your site regularly. Your author page shouldn’t be treated as merely a cyber-resume. Add fresh content that will keep visitors coming back. You want to maintain their interest in not only your current book but all those that you intend to write in the future. If you’ve written a work of nonfiction, write short articles about your chosen topic and post them on your site. You’ll come across as an authority on the subject. If your publisher gives you the green light to do so, post a sample chapter from your book. Fiction authors can provide additional background information on their characters and post some short stories- I know of one author who received such an enthusiastic response to one of her ‘shorts’ that she developed it into a full-length novel that continues to sell well. Authors of all genres can sign up for a free blog at www.blogger.com and post personal messages to readers.
Join a forum or e-mail list dedicated to your subject. Author M.J. Rose advises, “For every niche you can think of, you can find at least one newsgroup, e-zine, newsletter, or listserv on the Web targeted to that group.” She’s right. Unless your book deals with a really obscure topic, you’ll probably find several net-based forums containing potential readers. Make a list of the most popular and relevant ones, and then e-mail the owners / administrators directly to solicit a book review or see if they will let you host a Q&A or chat. Unless they’re territorial or competitive, chances are that they’ll love this kind of direct attention from a published author. Another, albeit lower key approach, is to choose three or four of the best groups and join them. Participate in their discussions without actively promoting your work, which could be interpreted as tacky and self-serving. You should, however, insert the name of your book in your e-mail or forum post signature. It won’t be long before other members begin commenting on the signature and asking you about the book. Personal responses to their questions creates a loyalty that will translate into sales, because readers love to interact with authors directly. Building a good relationship with your readers will turn them into a sales force for not only your current books but any future ones you may write on a related topic.
Set up a MySpace or Facebook page. Profiles on social networking sites are ridiculously easy to set up and use. Because they are so popular (not mention searchable, allowing you to locate fans of your book topic), several of my author associates forgo setting up their own websites in favour of having a presence on either of these networks. They have groups dedicated to all kinds of topics, and you’re sure to find one that caters to your target audience. When I was promoting my third release, The Starker: Big Jack Zelig, the Becker-Rosenthal Case, and the Advent of the Jewish Gangster, I created a MySpace profile that appeared to be maintained by Big Jack Zelig himself. True Crime fans got a kick out of it, and even learned to speak 1912 gangster jargon.
Sign up for an Amazon Author Blog. Once your title is listed for sale on Amazon.com, you can sign up for AmazonConnect, a program that allows authors to post messages to their readers and create a profile page with personalized information. All posted messages will appear on your book’s product page as well. This is a great tool for informing readers about future book signings, TV and radio interviews, and (fingers crossed!) movie deals.
Join GoodReads.com. I personally love this website. Founder Otis Chandler describes it as “a place where you can see what your friends are reading and vice versa.” It’s like a MySpace for books and book lovers. Authors are given profile pages where they can post messages, articles, stories, YouTube videos, and more. They can also host Q&A discussion groups. GoodReads is unique in that it sponsors contests to win free copies of pre-release books. Publishers can list their upcoming books, and readers can apply to receive one. Winners are picked randomly at the end of the giveaway period.
Contact local book clubs. If you don’t mind public speaking, spend some time researching book clubs and reading groups in your area. Your local library is a good place to start, and larger groups often have websites that will show up on an Internet search page. Once you’ve found a club whose members read the type of book you’ve written, e-mail or call the president, introduce yourself, and offer to read to them. They’ll probably be thrilled to have you make an appearance at a future meeting, and you’ll have a terrific opportunity to impress potential buyers.
Internet marketing tools and book groups achieve a dual objective: increasing awareness of your work and fostering communication between yourself and your readers. They allow you to, in the words of author Linda Richards, “fill the gaping hole that used to exist between the publisher and the reader.” Since a book’s author can be its best salesperson, you should be as crucial a part of the marketing process as you were in all prior stages of your book’s development.