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Promoting Your Book by Writing More Books

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In 1960 Harper Lee successfully published her first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It became a bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner, and of course went on to become an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck. So, who’s next? You? Me?

We can dream, right? But the dream of a one-off success is likely to be just, well, a dream and nothing more. On a rare occasion an author experiences the Hollywood-esque success story. The rest of us, to become successful authors, have to do such unseemly, daunting, and difficult things as marketing and promotion. Bleah! Why did I ever imagine that becoming an author would bring to an end my involvement in sales?

Anyway, one of the marketing techniques that I’m learning about online is something known as writing; that is, writing a lot.

Kristin Lamb, in her helpful book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, advises that one of the best ways to promote your book is to write another book. And then another, and another, and so on. In other words, you (and I) need to have a body of literary works with your (and my) name on it. Once I thought about this, it became obvious enough to pull out of me an “oh yeah, duh.” I imagined a potential reader stumbling upon my book at Amazon, and saying “That looks interesting. What else has he written?”

Readers, like people generally (especially Americans), like to be presented with choices. If my potential reader sees that I have, in addition to my first (sci-fi dystopian) book, its sequel and its third sibling, plus an unrelated historical fiction novella, plus a couple of short stories; he or she is more likely to choose one of those options. When presented with only one book, my reader-to-be will more likely think, “Oh, he’s only dabbling in this writing thing. Not a real author.”

My imagined potential reader is not mean-spirited; please understand. He or she does value their time, though, and wants to know that I’m a serious (aka “real”) author. So if I can trick him into thinking–oops, I mean convince him that I have actually written more than just one story on a whim, they’re more likely to trust me as an author. This will all make sense if you imagine how you shop for books. (Or how we peruse the library shelves.) Yes, sometimes I’m thinking “Should I read this? What if I don’t like it?” But more often I find myself thinking, “Should I read this? What if I do like it? What else has he or she written?”

So other than my first book, what else do I have to offer? Have I written a shelf full of books? Well, no, but I’m working on it. I’m taking the advice of the pros seriously. I just finished writing a historic fiction novella, and will soon publish it alongside my first book. And I have already started writing the first book’s sequel, plus I have the skeletal plot of the third in the series in my head.

So I’m on my way to becoming a prolific author! (One book at a time.) How about you? How much have you written? Feel free to plug your book series (or single book) in the comments below.

 

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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!

Using Authenticity to Promote my Book

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“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.

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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)

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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