By now most writers are realizing that in the face of the changes in the publishing business, marketing is an area which falls more and more on their shoulders. For newer writers with untested track records, this is especially true. I’ve had writers tell me they don’t believe in self-promotion. Not only is this foolish (sorry but it is denial of reality) but it’s often based on being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin or how to promote one’s self without being obnoxious or coming off arrogant. I could speak volumes on those topics and probably will sometime but first, let me demonstrate some easy ways to promote which don’t cost anything and are abundant. All you have to do is pay attention to what other writers are doing and do a few simple web searches to find them. Then just follow simple instructions, send a few emails, and you’re good to go.
1 ) Author Site/Blogs — I’ve already blogged about how important these are in previous Write Tips, but for the modern author your website is your number one most important marketing tool. No one can keep readers up to date like you can and readers want to connect and get to know the author behind the books. Blogs are often free on sites like Blogger and WordPress. Websites may cost more, although mine is set up using WordPress with the help of a friend. I pay for hosting and domain names, something I also suggest in my prior post, but if you can’t afford that just yet, you can probably do it simple on your own. Check my article for the essentials but the most important is to offer insight into yourself, your books and regular updates. Even if it’s once a month, giving them something new to keep them coming back is so important.
2 ) Author Profiles/Blog Interviews — There are tons of bloggers looking for authors to profile and interview. Some are authors themselves, some are not. Some interview specific genres and some cover anyone and everyone of interest. To find them, see where authors you admire are being interviewed. Look at what authors you know from Twitter and Facebook post. Do web searches on terms like “author profiles, author interviews, blog profiles, writing blogs, etc.” You’ll find more than you know what to do with. Many/most have guidelines posted. Read them. Follow the instructions. They’re usually fairly simple. Most provide a list of questions to answer in advance and an email to send them to. Fill them out, keep a list and do them one by one until you’re done. Then make a new list. Don’t get overwhelmed by doing them all at once. Try and change the wording in your answers a bit. Don’t just cut and paste. It makes each interview feel unique and keeps the bloggers feeling like they got an exclusive. I just answer them from scratch each time. I may say the same things but it always comes out differently.
3 ) Goodreads/Library Thing — There are other sites but these are arguably the biggies. Joining is free, so it becoming an author and building your profile. You can enter your own books and list them. Then you can join book clubs, interest groups, vote in polls, etc. You can review books you’ve read or are reading and you can interact with tons of readers and authors who love writing and books as much as you do. This is a no brainer and can take as little or much time as you’re willing to put into it. You can do giveaways, interviews, connect your blog, do Q&As, etc. The audience is already focused. It’s truly a nobrainer.
4 ) Press Releases — There may be an art to writing them but there are plenty of examples online and frankly, plenty of newspapers, magazines and sites which allow you to upload them for free. My latest is posted on the Kansas City Star, the biggest newspaper in my local region, and all I had to do was upload it on their webform. Within 48 hours, it was searchable for all to see. You used to have to work a lot harder and pay a lot more money for publicity like that. Asking around or simple web searches can find not only tons of examples but tons of outlets for them. Don’t miss this opportunity to let people know what you’re doing and when: every book release, every award, every signing or appearance, every new contract–put out a release and let people know. It builds your reputation, name recognition and audience. It might even get you interviews in newspapers on Tv, radio or blogs.
5 ) PSAs — Public Service Announcements are offered free by radio and TV stations to organizations and individuals and businesses announcing events of benefit to the community. Writers talking about writing should qualify, even if you’re paid. As long as you can convince them you’re running an event with public benefit and which doesn’t charge for tickets, PSAs should be available. You have to write them up yourself, per the station’s standards, and submit according to their deadlines. But they will announce several times on the air and get your event a lot more notice. Free advertising is priceless.
6 ) Signings — The average number of books sold at signings: four to seven for non-celebrities, according to a recent survey. The average number of books sold after signings? Immensely more due to word of mouth from bookstore employees and customers who attended the signing. In fact, the friendlier and more supportive of staff you are, the more you pay attention to other people, i.e. the more fun you are to have around, the more successful you’ll be, and they’ll invite you back again and again. The more signings before the same crowd means what? Increased sales and recognition. Recognition always builds word of mouth. See what I’m going for? They may sometimes seem a lot of effort for little return, but I think signings are very important. Anywhere and anytime you can appear in public is.
7 ) Appearances — So appearances: readings, book clubs, libraries, literary festivals, conventions, schools, you name it, are key to your success and marketing. If people like you, if you seem knowledgeable and like a friend they’d enjoy spending time with, they’ll want to read your book. They’ll want to know you better through your words. You can’t do enough appearances and most will not cost as much money as a con or fesitval. Most will be free. Be creative in coming up with ideas. Work with local nonprofits, schools, etc. There’s automatic prestige wo writing a book. Often you won’t have to work hard to convince people to invite you…as long as you’re not a jerk.
8 ) Book Clubs — Book Clubs, online and off, are a great resource. Offer them a discount for quantity, send them your sell sheets, send them arcs, send them press releases. Smooze them like old friends. You get in with them, you have a ready made word of mouth machine to sell a lot more books because Book Club people are book people and book people know other book people. And what do book people talk about with each other? Books. Books they like. And if they’ve met the author, all the cooler. Not everyone gets to do that. Built in free word of mouth sales.
9 ) Reading Group Guides — Yes, you can get a lot of sales and word of mouth by networking with Book Clubs and other Reading Groups. Not only can you use your Book Sell Sheet to get them interested but you can make reading guides to offer free as well all by yourself. Penguin Group has examples on their website here: http://booksellers.penguin.com/static/html/pop.html The basic idea is to assemble questions and examine themes which prompt discussion about your book, its characters, meaning, etc. Fairly simple to put together for most authors. After all, who knows your book better than you?
Well, there’s 9 free ways to get started with marketing your books. I’m sure there are more. Which can you suggest? Please add them in the comments so we all can learn from each other.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.