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How do you promote your work?

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Devor, Mar 3, 2012.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Simple question. I've been thinking pretty seriously about self-publishing and promoting a book online for a month or two. I've a number of thoughts about how I would go about it, and I'll be happy to share them if we can get a discussion going.

    What are you doing to promote your work online? Does it work for you?

    I've heard people talk about blogs and allude to a presence on other forum communities. What tactics do you use to try and make these activities successful?

    If we get a good discussion going, I'm going to update this initial post with a list of the ideas people put out. Maybe it can turn into a reference guide. At the very least, it'll be a copy of whatever reference list I put together for myself.
     
  2. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I want to preceed my advice with this little point:

    I'm not published, not even Self-, but I have studied marketing extensively at degree level.

    1) You could go the obvious route and look into some traditional advertising. Your work in banners where ever it is authors are allowed to do that. (In the world of webcomics the project wonderful banner exchange is a good example of the kind of thing I'm talking about here.) You could even make a book trailer.

    2) Traditional routes are often too expensive or time consuming for self-published authors. A way around this is to make good use of free advertising. This includes but isn't limited to the almost compulsory social media presence, but you may also definitely want to think about building relations with a variety of different communities. When done right there is typically no more powerful way to get noticed than word of mouth. Get people talking.

    2a) In the above sense pushing a blog is a good move. Make sure you don't ONLY talk about the fact you're selling something. People get very suspicious very quickly, and are far more likely to buy something from someone they know as a person first and a businessman later.

    3) If you can find a niche and exploit that. "Remember that guy who..." is a good a phrase to have on people's lips. Even if THEY don't buy your books they are spreading your name for FREE. That can't be a bad thing. In fact they'd be doing the majority of the work for you.

    If I can think of anything else I'll come back and post. My knowledge is failing me. I blame it on not having lunch yet haha
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
    Devor likes this.
  3. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    I'm not published nor looking at self-publishing, but a good way could be to offer a giveaway on GoodReads. First Reads: ending soon giveaway

    Also - and I'm not sure on the polite way to do this - but to try and get a few blogs who review books, to review yours.

    Perhaps you could print up a few bookmarks that are eye-catching and simply link to your site or where you can get a preview/buy your book, and see if a few local bookstores will keep them on the counter for you. My local bookstore asks if you want a bookmark with your book, and they shove a few in. Most of the time, they're advertising books or events.

    Could it also be a good idea to have a list of what NOT to do? Then we could see people who may say they would find the bookmark option rude or pushy (hence why my bookstore asks people if they want one first.)

    One way NOT to do it, in my opinion (others may not be bothered) is to try and friend people on GoodReads when you don't know them, just because you see they read the same genre.
     
    Devor likes this.
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    1. From the standpoint of someone who has lots of small press writers on his Facebook, I would suggest promoting very little on social media. For me, seeing endless streams of people promoting their books by just posting links to them with no explanation is kind of like spamming to me.

    2. If you're going to promote the book, one thing I would always do is make sure to offer samples somehow. If you upload to Kindle, there is the option to sample.

    3. Post excerpts in some places maybe. So many times people promote books and don't offer anything of what they wrote.

    4. Offer contests or giveaways to get your book for free. This always seems to pique interest in smaller communities. If people are interested in your book enough to enter a contest, then I think that's pretty good.

    5. Places like "Book Pimp" on Facebook. It's a place that welcome promotion of whatever you're doing. Utilize tools such as that because then it isn't considered spamming.

    6. Build connections with other writers. If you have good connections with other writers, they'll in turn help you promote your book. Publishing has always seemed like a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" kind of industry. I notice a lot of writers have formed "circles" of sorts.

    7. Make lists on Amazon with your book that may have similar content or style as yours. A lot of people get books based on recommendations and lists. At least I do. So doing that might help get the word out more. I'm not sure how Goodreads works, but there is probably a way you can do that without seeming awkward.

    8. Display your skill/personality any chance you get. If I notice a writer is really funny or witty in their interactions online, I'll be more likely to sample their books because they seem like interesting people. If someone is interesting to me, I'm more likely to buy something from them.

    These are just some things I think can work and I agree with what others have said so far.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
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  5. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    This is certainly a different take on what I was trying to say, though I would always suggest using social media. You are missing out if you don't have a social presence on the internet (how ever you end up going about doing that). It is by far one of the most important communication tools out there in the marketing tool-box. And it doesn't have to be heavy handed. People often get the wrong idea and use it simply as a new platform to spam, with little consideration towards effective use of the medium. Rather than a new way to post links, and plug like crazy, its a platform one should use to cultivate a fanbase, a following, a whatever you personally call it. A sly mention of a book in what at least seems to be meaningful discussion is surprisingly effective. People will be intrigued and go search it out for themselves.

    As you go on to say, seem like an interesting person and you'll sell far more books than if you were heavy handed with your strategy.

    Links help, but people are FAR more aware of advertising and marketing these days. Us in the industry have to be a little more crafty with it, and that's where things like viral marketing come into play. I'm sure you've heard of it.

    Summary: Use social media, but not to spam.

    The best thing I think anyone could do is try and use multiple platforms to get their work out there. Some people swear off certain websites, some people trust certain ones, some people simply may not heard of the place you're "advertising".

    Something about eggs and baskets...
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
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  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I didn't want to imply not to use social media. By all means, use it. But like you said, there are ways to use it that can be effective and then there is just "Wow, all that author ever posts are links to their book on Amazon." I eventually blocked people like that. When book plugs are clogging up my feed, then that's where I draw the line.
     
  7. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    LATE ADDITION: I have another technique to share that you may or may not be aware happens online these days. Its called SEO, or search engine optimisation. At a glance this is writing your communications, websites, blog posts, anything really using key words in such a way that makes it easier for search engines to bring in hits. It's also about spotting trending ideas and concepts and using those to bring in the hits. It doesn't even have to be about the obvious search engines, SEO can also include maximising the effectiveness of saaaay, blog keywords and the like within the individual websites/platforms.

    Having a social presence is one thing, but these days we need to think about a searchable presence. A unique name or ... well I'm sure you get the idea.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    What I like is that these are ideas for promoting the book itself. I can understand why people write blogs, but then you have to promote the blog just as much as you promote the book. In my opinion, getting people to your blog is kind of a bottleneck.

    I have a few thoughts, but I'm hoping to see a lot of discussion first. I want this to be a thread full of useful ideas, instead of me just rambling on with my own.


    Okay. Is this the right Book Pimp at 184 Likes? That doesn't seem like it would do much for you. Are there other places to recommend?
     
  9. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I'm going to agree to disagree with you on this one. The book is the product and the blog is the platform.

    By combining the two you only have to promote the one thing, the blog about you as a writer. People will visit the blog and among other things find information on your books and go from there. I haven't experienced this bottleneck you speak of, but surely if you treat your blog as a product and promote it like you would anything else (I don't know toothbrushes, or beer), then you can easily piggy back your book off that (hopeful) success and on the plus side you'll appear an interesting person above all else. Which is something people people will engage with more readily that if ALL you did was plug.

    But as I said, we all need to consider using multiple platforms. There is nothing that's going to cut down your work load in self-promoting your book, to do it right we need to put in the hard work - the work of a whole team of people at a publishing house in fact if you like.
     
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    That was just an example. However, even it if has 184 likes, that could be 184 people that might look at your book. If I find other similar things, I'll look. If you're using all sorts of avenues, big or small, you're potentially expanding your audience that much more.

    Another idea could be forming your own groups on social media. Get people to join and you can can plug your book that way too.

    Even doing old-fashioned promotion might work. Post fliers in places in your town with high amounts of readers: libraries, book stores, etc. Even if it's only downloadable, people may still be interested in the book. I think most of what has been suggested so far is marketing online, but there's slews of things you can do to promote in real time.

    Ask local places if you can do a reading. That could get more readers as well.

    An example of what JC said above about blogs is that I started following a blog of a guy I liked because of his writing advice only. Never read any of his books. I've since bought two or three of his books because his blog is so entertaining. He uses the blog as a tool certainly and it's worked.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
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  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    That doesn't mean it isn't a bottleneck, although I know that's an operations term and not a marketing one. A bottleneck is just the slowest part of a process. If it takes a year just to build reach with a marketing tool, that's a bottleneck, hands down.
     
  12. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    That's certainly true, now you mention it.

    Which is why relying on just a blog would be a waste of time, but a combination of blogging, twitter and perhaps facebook is a good place to begin building your presence.

    Marketing isn't an easy thing to do. You almost have to look in all directions at once, be on the pulse of whats trending and current now, but SOMEHOW anticipate future developments at the same time as learning from the past and the social consciousness. For most people promoting something takes time, in fact I'd go as far to say that for those who seem to be able to do it simply and quickly... well they probably already have some sort of following.

    So my conclusion is this: Even though it may be a bottleneck, it's still something to consider. Just because its a slow burner doesn't necessarily mean it's less worth it.

    That being said there is never a right answer in Marketing, either it works in your present situation or doesn't work. It's a case-by-case issue, that depends a lot on the product in question and its target audience. I would start off any campaign as you would in a traditional business... with research. Find out what your target audience uses most frequently and tap into that medium, even if you're not keen on it for that matter.

    Targetted marketing is key for me.
     
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    The things that worked best for me....

    1) Aggressively working to get reviews of the books from the book blogging community.
    2) Doing goodreads giveaway - then offering those people who signed up a free short story.
    3) Active on goodreads - and in particular getting the books selected for 'monthly' reads.

    Along with those I've done the standard social media stuff: twitter, blog, facebook. Although of those the thing I've probably done the most is the blog.

    I've heard people talk about blogs and allude to a presence on other forum communities. What tactics do you use to try and make these activities successful?

    If we get a good discussion going, I'm going to update this initial post with a list of the ideas people put out. Maybe it can turn into a reference guide. At the very least, it'll be a copy of whatever reference list I put together for myself.[/QUOTE]
     
  14. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    From what I've read and seen, social media is not a big driver of actual sales. It's good to have a presence on things like Twitter and Facebook, but not to necessarily 'market' on them.

    It's to meet people.

    Meeting people means you have more opportunity to impress someone with who you are, not what you're selling. If they're a fan of you as a person they'll spread the word about your work. On the other hand, if you're just using these outlets to constantly squawk about your book you are one-dimensional. Boring. Even annoying. Even if the book is good, you might not find a lot of people willing to help you out.
     
  15. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Who'll buy your book ;)
     
  16. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Not necessarily. Certainly, it's nice if they do by the book, but there are plenty of people out there who don't really read what I write (though I have a couple friends who have given fantasy a try in order to give my novellas a try). Even if they don't want to read it, though, they may have friends who read fantasy. I want to use social media to impress the non-readers enough so that they help me spread the word to readers, as well as impressing readers enough to buy.

    Pretty much, that just means maintaining a 'presence' in these communities and being the best possible version of myself.
     
  17. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    What I'm trying to say is that it isn't really possible to separate "maintaining a presence" (with a blog as part of your toolbox) from "marketing" and selling. One leads to the other and vice verse. If you are more well known, via a blog for example, you'll have more chance of a sale because you have more of a presence, and on the other side of the coin, if you have good sales you'll have hopefully have a found a group of people who are loyal to you as a writer and might want to know you more about you.

    I do think we're more or less on the same point despite how we're using opposite reasoning to make it.

    You see, my definition of marketing is thus. When I use the word I'm not just talking about the promotion a single specific product (this is probably the most common view of the field), marketing for me is about more than that.

    A company could have the best product in the world, but not understand their target market, come across as dull and perhaps immoral and not sell (even if they're perfectly environmentally aware and so on, in comparison they could well be seen as doing less than a company who don't reeeally care). Where as the shittiest company with an inferior product could sell more initially because they come across better in their communication material. The point is you can't think of any one part of "marketing" as separate. This presence we're talking about IS marketing, it's marketing yourself and as an extension the product, your fiction.

    Anyway, yeah, we're driving at the same point. If you seem like a nice, sensible (confidently spoken) person, people are more likely to shell out money for you.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Fair enough. The right 184 people can make a world of difference, so it's certainly worth trying to gauge how active and supportive the community is.


    Awesome advice. Nothing says "read this!" more than, well, a book review by a bunch of people saying "Read this!"


    What you're talking about is branding, which is probably the most effective long-term marketing technique. The author can be thought of as a brand (it doesn't have to be). But the definition of "Marketing" is about generating interest and qualifying sales, which is done through branding, promotions, setting a price, product evaluation, researching the market, and so on.

    The thing I think you're missing is that a self-published author is doing both marketing and sales, and the two often take very different skills. For the moment, let's say that if I'm linking to my blog I'm marketing, while linking to the book means I'm selling.

    To me, if I'm here typing a post on a forum, I'm going to hope that whatever I'm typing right now is already enough marketing for you to be interested in my book, especially when you consider that the most compelling marketing information for a reader should already be on that Amazon page. While a blog might be useful (it's another place to post that link, after all), actually linking to a blog and attempting to build an audience there seems to me like an unnecessary middle step in selling.

    Let's get a few new people and then I'll offload my own thoughts on how best to promote a self-published book. Then I'll start consolidating everyone's ideas into the original post.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  19. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Again, semantics. Branding is a marketing tool, therefore a form of marketing, and so my point (despite this inability to express myself properly I seem to have acquired since my degree) still stands.

    I hope you can see through my struggle with explaining myself ;)

    It all depends on how successful your blog is for you as a brand. When it comes to authors I don't know personally or yet know at all, I couldn't care less what is said on Amazon. Certain choice, impluse buys and recommendation from trusted friends aside, I'm more likely to buy a book if I feel I personally know a little something more about the author than a heavily editted promo paragraph tells me. e.g., its great that Bob Bobson live in Middle, Nowhere with 2.4 children, but what is his opinion on X?

    So, while it is an extra link to slog through, for readers like me (if there are any) social media, forums and blogs go have a large part to play in the decision making process. As I said, I don't think it can really be separated. The best thing must be to cover all the bases.

    But we're saying the same thing aren't we. Good brand, simplified sale network (but not to the point of complete anonymity), and so on.
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    We are. I just wanted to parse the difference because I thought it would help people think about and understand the whole process a little better. It might help someone when it comes down to really little things like which link to list first in your signature.

    Again, once I hear from a few more new people I'll offload my own thoughts on the subject and start compiling everyone's ideas on the original post. I think this thread can generate something that's helpful for a lot of people.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
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