Once in a while, a novel is published that seems to have wings. It takes off, without anyone really having to work at it. But most of the time, a novel takes off because the publisher and the author are energetically and enthusiastically promoting it.
There is no end to the books you can read about how to market your book. I’ve studied stacks of them, and here distilled down a bunch of the pointers. The result is a pretty easy checklist of things you can do to make your book a success. Do you have to do all of them? I?ll tell you what my dentist used to tell me.
?You don?t have to floss all your teeth, you know,? he?d say with a twinkle. ?Just the ones you want to keep.?
You don?t need to promote all your books. Just the ones you want to sell.
Before your book is published
Identify authors who might resonate with your work, and experts in your field. Email them, asking if they?d be willing to read your manuscript or galleys, and consider writing a short review. Be brief, and professional, but not stuffy. If you?d be honored to have a quote from them on your cover, it?s ok to say so.
Create a web site for your book (if your publisher hasn’t)
A website for your book is where people will go to find out whether it?s worth buying. Here are some of the things that can go on your book’s web page.
- Cover art
- Description or summary
- Information about the content. A timeline, for example.
- Links to related sites with reviews or excerpts.
- Purchase information
- A link to your author page. And speaking of that…
Create an author web-site for yourself
“Unless you?re already a superstar, don?t make your Web site about you. Make it about the reader. Provide compelling content that solves problems, entertains, sparks curiosity, or inspires. Everything else will follow.” — Steve Weber, Plug Your Book
Center your author website around the blog
- Find a theme to write about. Some ideas:
- Write about your life, your cat, your writing, your remodeling project. Only do this if you’re naturally funny.
- Write about “this week in Spanish history” or “This week in Ancient Rome.” Write about the period and locale that your book covers.
- Review books by other people that are similar to yours.
- Write consistently, at least once a week. Better: 3 times a week, or daily.
- Allow comments on your blog, and respond (in a friendly way) by commenting back.
Stuff to include in the sidebars of your website
- A contact form, so visitors can get in touch with you.
- Be sure you answer emails right away, and be friendly. Assume the person is considering buying or recommending your book!
- (End your emails to people who?ve read your book by asking them to write a short review on Amazon.com. Tell them it doesn?t need to be fancy. ?Just write what you told me in your email.?
- Your Bio, with picture
- Your schedule of appearances. Pictures and reports of how much fun an appearance was.
- Suggested interview questions and answers (reporters can use them to get ideas for interviews, or to quote you).
- A link to your book’s web site.
- Short stories, and previews of stuff you’re working on.
- A form for visitors to sign up for your announcement list.
Spend time on Amazon.com
Amazon.com sells 15-20% of all books. Even people who don’t buy on Amazon.com will do research there, and then buy locally. Make sure your book is presented in the best possible light.
About Your Book
Make sure you and your publisher do what’s needed to place a cover image on Amazon.com. Provide a copy for their “Search inside” feature. Let users browse comfortably, and they’ll be more likely to buy
Anyone who looks at a book’s page has the opportunity to place “tags” on that book. The easiest way to bring up the tagging window is to press “tt” quickly, but you can also scroll down on the page to find it.
Figure out what best descibes your book, maybe “historical fiction,” and tag it. Ask people who tell you they’ve read it to tag it too.
Your Profile Page
Everyone who has ever purchased from Amazon has a profile page. You’ll find yours at amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile.
Your Author Blog
Create an author blog. This is separate from your “real” blog. It only needs to contain one or two posts: just friendly messages from the author. Look here for more information. See an example of a book page with an author blog entry here.
Develop your reputation by reviewing other people’s books. Be thoughtful and honest.
When someone tells you they’ve read your book, ask them to write a quick review on Amazon. Assure them that it doesn’t need to be long or fancy.
You can also look at the listings for books similar to yours, and see who has reviewed them. Contact some of those people and ask if they?d be willing to review your book. You might want to offer to send a free review copy.
- Listmania (More info here)
- “So you’d like to…” lists (More info here)
- Ask Amazon to assign your book to the right categories. (More here)
- Add tags to your books, and encourage readers to add them too. (See here)
Tags and Categories
Other on-line promotion
Collect the email addresses of all of your friends and acquaintances— everyone —, and provide them to the publisher for publicity mailings. Write content for these mailings if you’re asked to.
Forums and Discussions
Visit on-line forums on topics related to your book. Be an active, interesting participant, and mention your book in your sig line.
MySpace and Stuff
Create a page on MySpace and Facebook. Figure out how to add friends and send out bulletins. Send announcements when you create a blog post, when you get a great review, and (obviously) when your book comes out.