Monday, April 12, 2010

Guest Post by Wendy Webb

Here's a blog from my friend Wendy Webb, all about what she's done (and still doing) to self-promote her gothic ghost story debut.

Book Promotion 101 - What I’ve Learned as a Newbie Author by Wendy Webb

My first novel, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE, hit the shelves on March 30, and I’ve been swept along in a rush of promotion ever since. Two words: Whirl. Wind. I’ve had book signings and readings, and interviews for radio, TV, newspapers and blogs. I’ve guest hosted a literary chat group on Twitter. Reviews have popped up in magazines, on many blogs, on Amazon, Library Thing, Goodreads and Redroom, in addition to great features about me in my local Twin Cities’ newspapers. In the months ahead, more is to come. I’ll have more readings and signings and I’m participating on panels at book fairs and festivals, culminating with a reading on Mackinac Island, where my novel is set, later this summer.

But really, the book promotion started long before the first copy found its way onto a new release table, shortly after I got the deal that set all of this into motion.

As a first-time author, I know I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of building an audience. It’s not like I’m a Joe Konrath or any other writer with a sizable fan base. But I’m lucky enough to have my publisher’s fantastic marketing team behind me. I’ve heard from other authors that their publishers don’t do a whole lot to help them in terms of marketing and promotion— not so in my case. I have two publicists who are working very hard to get the word out about my book online, over the airwaves, and in print. I haven’t had to set up any of my own interviews, appearances or reviews — they’re doing it all for me and doing a spectacular job.

But even with all of the help that a marketing and promotions team can provide, authors still must do their part to promote their own books. I’ve found that, during the months leading up to publication and especially now that the book is on the shelves, I’m busier than I’ve ever been — and it’s all been marketing and promotion.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

• Build an online presence long before your book is published. Before your book hits the shelves, before you get the deal, before you get the agent, start building an online presence. Done right, it will help with all of those things. Hop onto Twitter and start following literary types. Start here http://tinyurl.com/7swo3a or follow me (@wendykwebb) and then follow who I follow. But remember, think of this as your professional communication. It’s not a place to dump negative thoughts. Write on Twitter ONLY the things you’d like a prospective agent or editor to read.

• Support other people on Twitter, don’t just write about yourself. Once you start gaining followers (it doesn’t take long) support them in their endeavors. One of the best things about Twitter is the supportive, caring community of book people. Be one of them. Bloggers, authors, aspiring authors, agents and editors have supported me, and I’ve supported them.

• Participate in @Litchat on Twitter. It’s a live chat about books on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 pm EST. Authors, editors, agents and aspiring authors tend to participate. It’s a great way to be a part of that community. To find out how to participate, just follow @lithchat.

• Start posting on book blogs. Get your name out there as a reader, even if you’re not yet published as a writer. Start commenting on book blogs — nothing negative, please — and you’ll increase your visability. It also supports the bloggers, who perform a fabulous service for authors.

• Investigate AuthorBuzz. This is a business run by bestselling author M. J. Rose with the goal of helping authors get exposure. Her team gets the word out about your book to thousands of online sites and is well worth the expense. If your publisher doesn’t provide this type of marketing service to you, plan on saving part of your advance for Authorbuzz. http://www.authorbuzz.com

• Get over your fear of public speaking. This was tough for me. But once your book gets published, you will be expected to do readings, be on panels, do radio interviews, and even TV interviews. The better you come across, the more books you’ll sell.

• Go into your local bookstores and chat with booksellers. Let them know you have a book coming out. This I learned from Joe Konrath, and it was invaluable advice. My local booksellers know me by name, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of me.

• A few months before your book is released, create a page for yourself on Library Thing, Red Room and Goodreads. These are online sites with huge numbers of regular visitors, all of whom are looking for the next great book. Join the forums and participate in the discussions.

• Once you get the book deal, invest in the creation of a good web site. This is going to cost money, so plan on saving some of your advance for it. You can link your site with other online forums like Twitter, Facebook, Library Thing, Goodreads and Red Room.

• Plan on spending 2-plus hours each day on promotion. Blogging, Twittering, attending live chats, tending to your own website — it all takes time. Make the time.

Joe sez: All fine advice. Here are some things Wendy could also be doing.

1. Have a sticky website. That means content, in the form of information and entertainment. Having a blog and Book Club questions is a good start, but I'd also a lengthy excerpt from the novel, a writing tips (and promo tips) page, more pictures, and anything else that makes people want to hang out at the website. Then I'd make sure it is updated often, so people keep coming back. Also, I didn't see a Links page. Reciprocal links are a great way to drive traffic and get better search engine placement.

2. Statcounter.com and BFNsoftware.com download tracker are every promoter's best friends, as they help measure effectiveness of campaigns.

3. LibraryThing is great. Real libraries are better. Contacting local libraries and offering to give talks about writing and publishing is an easy way to get some free local press and to sell a few books. Some libraries even pay you.

4. Conferences, conferences, conferences.

5. Booksignings. And a booklaunch party.

6. Writing more. Getting some short stories that tie-in with the novel up on her homepage, Kindle, and Smashwords will widen her reach. So will getting into anthologies and magazines.

7. Read my blog. It's got five years' worth of self-promotion tips on it. An older version of my Newbie's Guide Ebook is available for free download. The newer, updated version will be out this month on Kindle.

8. Meet writers. Either in real life, of in the virtual world. Trading tips and strategies with fellow authors is one of the most effecting things you can do. A good way to introduce yourself is by saying: I bought your book and I loved it. I'm getting so many emails these days from people who want my help. I try to help when I can, though I can't answer every email myself. But if one of my peers starts off an email with, "I just bought all of your books on Kindle" or "I have all of your hardcovers" I'm more inclined to give them personal advice.

27 comments:

carl brookins said...

Good stuff Wendy. Keep it going. Yes it takes a ton of time and energy, but marketing self and writing is important today.

Susan Quinn said...

This is fantastic! Thanks Wendy, and Joe you continue to provide an amazing service. I have a book coming out next month, so I'm hopping to it!

Anonymous said...

I'm unpubbed but am saving this post for future reference. Thanks so much! By the way, the Wendy Webb link doesn't go to your website (url was typed in as wendykweb instead of wendykwebb). Thought you should know!

Anonymous said...

Wendy,

Great post. I have a book coming out in July and have been talking with marketing people and it feels a tad overwhelming. I don't really understand all of it but I am trying. You advice as well as Joe's has been invaluable.

Sean
Lost Treasure Series
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Dick Hannah said...

I've been reading your blog, Mr. Konrath, for almost a year now, and I've found it invaluable for its detailed advice. Love this most recent post, and always look forward to more.

RE: your posts on Kindle and eReaders in general, I have been posting on my blog about these same issues, and would love to hear your input. www.puborperish.blogspot.com

Keep up the great work.

Riane Herlihy said...

This is a FANTASTIC article all first-time (and second and third...) authors should read! I work for PublishingWorks (www.publishingworks.com) and my co-work hosts a chat every Thursday at 4pm EST. Follow the hashtag #bookmarket to read past chats (or contact me @firedancerriane for more info).

#Bookmarket is a weekly chat for EVERYONE in the publishing industry (author's, publishers, bloggers, literary agents, etc.) to bounce ideas around. We have had some great talks about self-promotion, marketing, blog tours, etc. I would love for you all to join in! The more ideas, the more productive the talk is.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Wendy said...

About the overwhelmingness of it all: You're right, it can feel that way. It's almost as though you get another full-time job when your book comes out. But here's where relentless time management skills come into play.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm going to give litchat a try today at 3pm. Thanks for the suggestion, Wendy.

E.J. Wesley said...

Wendy,

Thanks for sharing! As an aspiring author, I've just started the process of creating an online presence by placing a toe in the tepid blog pool, joining a couple of online writing communities, etc. There is just soooo much out there that it can be totally overwhelming! That's why I appreciate advice from writers (like yourself and Joe) so much: you've actually done it, and it hasn't killed you!

I'll admit that the idea of Tweeting seems a bit fanciful to me as I can hardly manage to keep up with a weekly blog and a personal Facebook page, but when the time comes I'll look to folks like you to help me figure it out. Thanks again.

Joe Konrath said...

That's my 3pm (cst), so 4pm est.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Useful, useful post, thanks Joe and Wendy!

JA Pak said...

I feel like I've opened a cookie jar filled with fantastic goodies! Thank you! That's what I love about blogs and places like Twitter -- you don't have to reinvent the wheel every single time. :)

Dawn Hullender said...

Wow, great advice Wendy. I love it.

P.S. Joe, you have an award over at my place.

Jude Hardin said...

Great info. Thanks!

Laura Marcella said...

Marketing and promotion seems so overwhelming! I'm nowhere near that stage yet and kind of glad, haha. Thanks for the wonderful advice on starting a platform early!

Moses Siregar III said...

Thanks very much, Wendy and Joe. This is excellent.

Wendy, do you recommend the main AuthorBuzz option? Looks like they have different services they offer.

Anonymous said...

Wendy,

I am also curious about Authorbuzz. My advance was very small because I am with a small publisher. Is the price worth it or is it possible to do on your own?

Sean McCartney
Lost Treasure Series
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Wendy said...

Sean: If you can possibly afford it, do Authorbuzz. If you can't, target a few blogs that cater to your readers, and start posting on those, building a presence.

I missed Litchat today because I'm traveling for a couple of book signings, and I'll likely miss it Wednesday, too. But Friday I'll be there. And I like the idea of #bookmarket on Twitter, too. I'll check that out!

Moses Siregar III said...

Wendy, Authorbuzz offers their services a few different ways. What do you recommend most?

author Scott Nicholson said...

As a journalist, I second Wendy's comment to "Don't forget local." The Web is great, but your community is your foundation. Local papers, radio, Web sites, cable TV, etc. can give you a good platform and endear you to the local book outlets.

Also, do things for your local libraries, or all libraries. They have little money and usually will let you sell your books, and the local papers in those cities will likely cover a real "visiting author." And if you can get into schools, same buzz. In other words, don't forget your service work!

Scott Nicholson
hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com

Wendy said...

With Authorbuzz, I'd say just do what you can afford. For a first-time author, building name recognition is critical, and she'll get the word out about your book, no matter if you use the least expensive option or the whole nine yards.

Heidi J. Johns said...

Thanks for these insights! We all know that writing the book is hard work, and we want to just sit back and let it market itself once it's finished. Getting it out there takes time and energy, but who better to promote my book than the one who knows and loves it best...me.

Tina said...

Great advice from both of you, Wendy and Joe. I'm looking for an agent for my first novel and it's fabulous to get this advice for the day when I get published (notice I said when, not if?! Positive thinking!) Joe, you did give me some advice recently and I really appreciate it. You're a good guy. Thank you.

The Clean White Page

WDGagliani said...

Congratulations, Joe, on being rated so highly in the new Writer's Digest list of the most useful websites for writers!!

Nice job!

Suzanne said...

Great post, Wendy! I'm about a year out for publication but know I need to get things moving. Great ideas here.

Moses Siregar III said...

I just blogged Joe's advice on self-publishing ebooks to Kindle.

Michelle Stimpson said...

Thanks, Wendy, for all the advice! I've got a few books under my belt, but I'm always forgetting to do something or another. I posted authorscalendar.com to help other authors as well.