Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Promoting your work

Paula K. Randall

Promoting your printed book.

If you're going to self-publish, then you're going to have to think about your own marketing and distribution. If you've self published a hard copy, perhaps as print on demand, then you're going to have to consider issues such as storage (even on print on demand you still need to be able to provide inspection copies), who you're going to get to stock it, and how you're going to reach them. If you have an obliging local independent bookseller you may be given a launch, and this will enable you to get your name out there and make some sales. But quite how you reach further than that is simply down to how much time and effort you're prepared to put into travelling and approaching other booksellers. Don't expect Waterstones or WH Smith's to bite your hand off and pile them up in their doorway. Publishers pay booksellers a lot of money to push their books under the noses of potential buyers, and you're not going to be in that game.

Using Social Media

If you've published an e-book, then you'll probably have heard or read about the power of social marketing, such as Twitter and Facebook. Well, as far as I know, I've sold one book through Twitter. And if you're a Twitter user, you'll probably already be aware of the amount of publicity that some writers try and generate to publicise their books, banging out tweet after tweet, bombarding you with endless tales of how wonderful and exciting their book is. Well, it might be. But have you read it? No. So what makes you think anyone is going to read yours? The same goes for Facebook. This is because blatant advertising is just annoying.

So just how do you make social media work for you? Well, the first answer is, with difficulty. The second is, with a lot of effort. And the time to start making that effort is actually before you publish your book.

Now, to be honest, I'm not really very good at this myself. However, I thought I'd share with you some things that have worked for me, and some things that could work if I put more into it.

The first thing you need to do is start chatting. Join a number of forums (or fora, I should probably say). These can be forums of writers (though to be honest, these are less likely to get you readers, because everyone there is on the same mission). Do you have any other interests? Photography? Knitting? Car maintenance? The forum that got me the most readers initially is one I've been chatting on for years, so I have a relationship of sorts with the other people on it. That gave me a couple of hundred potential readers. Not enough, but a good start. And that forum is nothing at all to do with writing, though I did discover that there are a couple of other writers on there. But the thing is, you have to give before you get. And on that site I've both given and received advice on all sorts of things, from what sort of towels to put in a holiday let, to how to optimise your website visibility. Even the copy I sold through Twitter happened because I began a conversation with someone because I noticed he lived in a very attractive place. I wasn't initially looking to sell him my book.

And that's the next thing, get a blog, a website, an author page on Facebook, on Google+. It doesn't matter if you haven't got all of them, but you need a web presence of some sort. When I was developing my website to advertise my holiday property I got myself on to all sorts of lists. And you can do the same for your book. At the end of this post I'll list some of the sites you can look at that will give you some coverage. One of the things I've done is write articles for an e-magazine called e-zine articles. At the end of the articles you can add your 'signature', which will include reference to your published work. Two of my articles have then been syndicated across a wide range of e-magazines. I don't know how much good it's done me – unfortunately there's no way of measuring – but it keeps putting my name in front of people.

Get your book reviewed. This is probably one of the most useful things you can do. There are a number of review sites (I haven't actually done this yet) who will review your book. The downside is, of course, that they may give you a bad review. The other downside is that they get an enormous number of requests for reviews so it can be months before they get round to you. Some sites will do it more quickly for payment. Others will do it for an exchange review. Either way it's worth pursuing some of these sites.

Something else you can do is get on other people's blogs. Begin by writing comments. Then offer to do a blog post. But it has to be something useful that you're offering. For instance, you could offer to do a review, either of the blog owner's book or of a book that's recently been published. Or offer to write on a subject related to the main theme of the blog. If you have a blog or a website, invite others to do a guest spot. Even if they don't host you in return they'll tell their readers about their guest spot on your blog, and some of them will then find out about you.

Join Goodreads. This works in a rather complex way, and I'm still feeling my way round it. It's really a site for readers, not writers, but by definition a writer needs readers! You need to do a lot of reviewing of published work before your own book starts to get noticed, but a lot of people have done very well from it. If nothing else you'll read some good recommendations for your own reading pleasure. At the bottom I give a couple of links to information that should help you understand how to use it as a writer.

Give stuff away. Don't expect the rewards to be always immediate or direct. For instance, I gave away a short story for an anthology of crime stories relating to the publishing industry. As a result, not only will my name be before readers of that anthology, with links to my novel on Amazon, but an unexpected return was that I was then interviewed for a blog with a very wide readership. See the link here:

Enter competitions. Even if you don't win, some competitions publish all entries, and they'll allow you to provide a link to either your blog, your Facebook page, or even directly to the means of purchasing your book.

The main message I'm giving here is that your marketing has to be subtle, but unrelenting and you need to use a range of techniques. Simply telling people that you've written this fantastic book won't get you very far. You also need to give something away first, and take the time to develop a relationship with your potential readers. Unless you have thousands of friends who're all just champing at the bit to read your work. Or you're already famous for something else. If your name's Jamie Oliver or Kirstie Allsopp, you have a blueprint to sell loads of copies, but otherwise……

Something I haven't got round to trying yet, but I intend to, is to read some extracts of your book to You Tube. You could even serialise it that way if you wanted. Or just read some short stories. Don't forget to include a link to any published work.

Printed or other conventional forms of marketing.

Don't forget more traditional forms of promoting your work. A review in the local paper can sometimes be the start of something bigger. If your local paper has a book review section, send a hard copy (if you have one) to the editor of that page. If you don't have a hard copy, will one of your friends write a review for you? Editors are busy people, and sometimes they're grateful for a press release to fill up an empty slot. Sometimes they don't want it themselves but will pass it on. As a result of one press release that didn't get published I was recently interviewed by the features editor of another paper with a much wider circulation, because the first recipient passed it on.

What about local radio? My local radio runs a series on local women of interest, and I was not only interviewed for that section, but invited to read extracts from the novel as well.

Whatever you decide, you will need to find the time and effort to really work at it. I wish you the very best of luck.

List of useful promotional sites:
And two sites to introduce you to using Goodreads: (I've just bought this)

If you're interested in writing articles: (and here are links to a couple of my articles on there to give you an idea how it works. and,-Rather-Than-Tell&id=7929107)

A site where writers help promote other writers:

And a list of free sites to promote your work: