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Promoting Your Book: What Works?

PrintingPress

I have a confession to make. I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s true! When it comes to promoting my book, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m learning, as I’m sure you are too. (Duh, that’s why you’re reading my blog.) I’m sorry to disappoint. I hope you didn’t think that I was an experienced expert on this subject. The truth is, I’m learning how to promote my book right along with you. We’re in this together. So I’m not going to advise you about a certain formula for promoting and selling your book, because I haven’t yet found it. But I believe I will. I’m optimistic, and here’s why.

First, I have been learning about what doesn’t work. Take for example, one of my author friends who recently posted this on Facebook:

I released my book back in June, and I haven’t been able to get any footing on it, even after doing some paid promotions and Facebook advertising.

There are plenty of offers that will be thrown in your face to part you from your money for advertising, email-blasting (aka spamming), website optimization, or some other form of promotion. What I have heard from trusted experts and my friends is that they don’t work. Period. Or that they get a small, short-lived spike in sales, then right back to where they were before the whiz-bang promotional event.

So what does work? That leads to my second reason why I’m optimistic. I have been learning what really works from a few trusted experts, some of whom are real live people, and others that I follow online. One that seems to make a whole lot of sense is Kristen Lamb, whose blog, books, and website seem particularly helpful, not only for promotion, but also for the writing process. At the risk of losing readers to traipse off and follow her instead of me, I strongly recommend her book, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.

There are some other helpful sources of information, which I will share in separate blog posts as we continue on. For now, let’s consider what doesn’t work because sometimes knowing what NOT to do is half the battle.

  1. Spending loads of money for advertising doesn’t work, or provides a small, short-lived spike in sales. Remember, this is #frugalauthor.
  2. Email blasts don’t work. How many emails that were sent to you as part of an en mass mailing have you actually read? Get my point?
  3. Spamming everyone on your email list repeatedly does not work. Again, do you read junk sent to you by your half-cousin’s friend’s co-worker? I didn’t think so.
  4. Over-promoting your book on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. Daily mentions of your book is a sure way to get people to automatically scroll past your posts without thinking.
  5. Promoting your book to other authors. Networking with writers is a great thing, and one that you and I should be doing, but you want to promote to readers, especially readers within your target audience. Writers are interested in writing. (Duh.) You want to connect with readers that are interested in what your book is about, whether that’s horses, cars, sci-fi worlds, dragons, the future, the past, historic figures, movie stars, or whatever. (I refuse to mention the reality star family whose last name begins with a K.)

So the next (natural) question is: How do I promote my book to 20-something steampunk warrior unicorn enthusiasts (assuming that’s what your book is about)? Hmmm. That’s a good question. Think about it. If you come up with ideas, post them in the comments. My next series of posts will be about what I’m doing now, and what I will be doing in the coming weeks/months/years. (It’s a process. I’m still working on it. But I have done some things. And I will be doing more.)

Stay tuned!

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Using Authenticity to Promote my Book

George-Washington-3

 

“The secret to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

(Quote attributed to a number of actors and businesspeople.)

Besides being an author, I’m a salesman. (I also wear other hats besides those two, but don’t get me started on that now.) I sell major home appliances. You know, refrigerators, washers, stoves, etc. Because of my sales work, I have encountered all kinds of sales people, from the most annoying to the most pleasant. When it comes to marketing my book, we’re essentially talking about sales. So how do I (or should I) promote, market, and sell my book to potential readers? The same way that I sell appliances: with authenticity. (Synonyms for authenticity would include honesty and integrity; or how about being real?)

So what does that look like?

For an example of the bad, think of a salesperson you have encountered that drove you crazy. My example was such a cliche, he actually was a used car salesman. He tried to pull the ancient tactic of bait-and-switch on my wife and I. “Oh, I’m sorry, that car just sold. But I’m sure you will be very happy with this one,” (showing us a more expensive model). Grrr. I walked off the property. Why would I do business with someone who was less than honest with me?

What about how I promote my book? Am I being real with people, both in person and in social media? “That’s a cute picture of your nephew in the swimming pool. That reminds me of a moment in my story where my hero is swimming with his friends. Have you read my book? You know, it’s available on Amazon. You should follow this link¬†and have a look. I mentioned my mom in the dedication, and she knows your mom from way back. Download my book today, and if you don’t mind, please write a review for me, and forward this to ten of your friends and family. Thanks!”

“What’s wrong with that?” you might wonder. There’s no lying there. No actual dishonesty. But here’s the problem: If I use this tactic, what I’m saying to my friend is this: “I’m taking advantage of our relationship (however shallow or deep it is) to hit you with a sales spiel.” Or put another way, “I only value you as a possible sale (i.e. a ‘mark’).” How many ways can we say “Ew”?

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From fallontonightgifs.tumblr.com

So what’s the alternative? How should we let people know about our book? We could go to the other end of the “sales annoyance spectrum,” which would look like this:

“Oh, you say you like to read? Well, um, I’m kind of, or at least I fancy myself to be kind of an author, so to speak, you know. I sort of wrote this thing, kind of like a novel. I don’t think it’s on the level of a professional, just my first attempt, you know. You wouldn’t be interested in knowing more about it, would you? No, never mind.”

So what I’m saying is don’t be an annoying tool, but don’t sell yourself short either. And share your book’s info with your friends in the context of a genuine relationship with them. And by the way, that can’t be faked. You can attempt to fake it, but people can spot a chameleon right away, even if he thinks he’s blending into the scenery. Here’s an example of a conversation I had with a young man (who fit my target audience) that I met on the train:

After talking with him for about a half hour about his life as a student and his interests, he asked me, “What do you do?” I said, “I’m an author! I’m also in sales, but I’m much more excited about the book I just recently published.”

“You’re an author? That’s cool! What’s your book about?” he asked.

“It’s a novel, set in the future, and my main character takes a journey, meeting friends along the way, and ultimately has to fight the bad guy. Here’s one of my cards, with the link to Amazon where people can download it. Take a look, read the description, and see if you’re interested.”

After he took my card, we went on to talk about other things. But from the young man’s expression and body language, I could tell that he was truly interested in my book. Before we parted ways, he said “Good luck with your book.” Of course there’s no way to tell whether or not he actually bought my book, but I consider it a sales opportunity that went well, because it was not contrived, manipulated, or awkward. It flowed naturally in our conversation about our lives and our interests.

So that’s how a live, in-person conversation went. But what about our online presence? Are you spamming people with advertisements for your book? If so, stop it, right now! You don’t want people rolling their eyes every time you approach them in person, or whenever they see a comment from you on their Facebook page. Worse yet, they may start avoiding you in person, and un-friending you online.

So far I know of at least two readers who have purchased my book as a result of my authentic promotional practices. And they were not from my pool of close friends and family–they were among acquaintances that I had recently met online or in person. One of them was as a result of the two of us reading each other’s blogs, which were both about an interest we have in common. And no, our common blogs are not about writing! (More on the use of social media later.)

Common Ground Venn Diagram Shared Interest Agreement Compromise

Have fun with this! Start conversations with strangers, whether in person or online. Listen, and get to know someone’s interests. Then share your passions, including but not limited to your written masterpiece. Promoting your book will actually be enjoyable. How great is that?

 

Our Friend, the QR Code

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In my last blog post, I mentioned a funny-looking symbol on the back of my business card. Is it a symbol for my new, unpronounceable name, like the one Prince used for a while? No, it’s a QR code, which stands for “Quick Response Code.” It’s almost magic. Almost. And you can get one for free. Really!

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The Artist currently known as the artist formerly known as Prince.

What is it? It’s just a label, like a price tag, that is scan-able and contains embedded info that directs the user to a particular website or other internet location. It’s actually a form of bar code. You know what those are, right? The stripey thing that gets scanned at the checkout counter? Remember when those things were new? (Oops, there I go dating myself again.) In other words, your potential customer scans the symbol with their phone or other device, and it brings up the website where they can buy your book. Whee! Pretty neat. Simply put, it just enables them to skip having to enter the address in their search bar, doing that little chore for them.

If you don’t get this stuff, don’t worry. All those young people these days have the app on their phone, and they will know what to do with it.

RetroPhone
Check out all the apps on this phone!

So how do you get one of these QR thingies on your business card? It was easier than I thought it would be. Rather than recommending one particular source for them, I recommend just simply doing a search on Yahoo or Google for “QR code generator.” Scads of sites will come up, and just about any of them will coach you through the easy process. At some point you will need to either type in or “cut and paste” the web address at Amazon or wherever else someone would buy and/or download your book. Save your QR code to your computer (somewhere that you’ll remember), and paste it into your business card when you’re designing it, paste it into your blog, make a bumper sticker, paste it onto the side of your barn, . . . you get the idea. Use it wherever you want, and wherever you think someone might be interested/curious enough to scan it.

When I meet someone and give them a business card, I tell them, “You can go to Amazon using this address, or you can search there using my name or the book title, or you can scan this thingie.” They will take it from there, using the method they prefer to find your book online.

Promoting My Book Frugally (So Far)

frugalpig

You have published your book on Amazon. Good job, you!

Now you need to promote your book. At least, that’s what all the advisers (both online and off) tell you to do. It’s practically a tsunami of voices chanting at you, “Promote, promote, promote!”

But how do you do that? And perhaps more importantly, how can that be done frugally? Which brings us almost up to real time. You see, I’m right here with you. I wrote my first book, a novel (see it here). And I published it like a boss on Amazon. And I have sold some (as of the writing of this blog post, about 26 ebooks and 7 paperbacks). But I want more people to become aware of and read my book! I’m sure you want that too.

Almost as soon as you’re done publishing, Amazon offers to promote your book with advertising. At a cost. No thank you. I want to do this for free, or at least cheaply. But how?

Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers. Yet. But I’m learning, and I have taken a few faltering steps. In this post, I will begin to tell you what I have done so far. After that, I will be posting what I do as I do it. That’s right, you and I will be learning to do this promoting thing together. Which will be a risk for me. Some things may not work. I may end up looking foolish. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

So here we go. Fasten your seatbelt, and get ready for a bumpy ride.

Now, to begin:

One of the first things I have done is to get some business cards made with my book’s cover art, title, and author on one side; on the other side are the links that will take the reader to Amazon where they can order my book. Here’s what it looks like, front and back:

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I designed this card myself at Vistaprint, caught a sale price of 500 of them for $20 (after shipping it came to $26.75). Whenever someone asks me “What’s new?” I tell them that I wrote and published a book, and hand them a card. One of my funnest experiences with this was meeting a student on a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train (in the San Francisco bay area), who fit the demographic of my target audience, handing him a card, and describing my book to him. He was really interested. Of course, there’s no way to tell whether he or anyone else actually buys my book, but I’m hopeful that for every 10 cards handed out, maybe one person will download my novel. Wishful thinking, perhaps? I don’t know. We will see. Meanwhile, it’s fun to say to people “I’m an author, here’s where to find my book.”

Notice the weird black-and-white square on the back of my business card. The one that looks like an aerial view of a labyrinthine castle. In case you didn’t know, that’s a QR code. More about that in the next post.

#frugaledit

Corrections Needed: Time For a Second Edition

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You have successfully published your book on Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Yay! And you have sold dozens of ebooks, and a grip of paperbacks. Double Yay! But then, your friends and relatives come to you saying things like, “Dude, did you not notice that you misspelled the word ‘friends’ throughout your whole book?” It turns out your main character’s friends are all fiends. Now what do you do? Don’t despair–It’s just an opportunity to offer a second edition of your book!

In my case, there were a few minor typos pointed out to me (e.g. my main character encountered a dear rather than a deer). But the two more glaring mistakes were (1) way too much space between the lines of text, and (2) the lack of page numbers in my paperback version.

BTW, do not be offended by people’s feedback about your mistakes. Rather, be grateful! They are helping you improve your work of art, making it potentially more respected by more readers, and thus potentially increasing your sales. You should be rewarding your volunteer editors with candy!

Once you have your corrected manuscript prepared, you can upload it to KDP, replacing the existing document with your new pristine version. Go to your “bookshelf” and find your book there. See where it says “Kindle Ebook Actions” and “Paperback Actions”? Just to the right there’s a button with three dots (“…”). Hover over that button with your mouse cursor. There you will be able to choose “Edit ebook content” and “Edit print book content.” Those choices will take you through the steps to upload your new manuscript. That process takes only a few minutes, but then there’s a wait for KDP to actually perform the update and make your new book available. Potential readers may have to wait up to 24 hours for the new edition of your book, so be sure you’re ready for that slight delay. Only once, though, did I have someone tell me that they went to download my book and couldn’t get it. I told them it was in the process of updating to a new edition, and to try again the next day. They did, and got the new edition of my book just fine, with all my corrections.

Amazon and KDP allow you to make additional corrections at any time, giving you opportunities for unlimited editions, at no cost to you. As a bonus, you can announce your new edition on social media, giving you another opportunity for free promotion. (More on frugal promoting in upcoming posts. It’s too bad that I cannot provide a link to a future post, here. See? Click on the word here and nothing happens. Harrumph!)

#frugaledit