We’ve discussed some general points and ideas to keep in mind as you create your marketing plan. Now on to a few specifics. How will you alert your readers about your newly published masterpiece? And do you need a professional?
There are some things for which you may need professional assistance, and there are other tasks you can do yourself. Obviously, some of this depends on your experience with publishing and marketing, your particular book, and your goals. Let’s take a look on some efforts where you may want a helping hand.
Unless you have professional copywriting experience, you are better off having your marketing materials written by a professional.
This service should include your press release, your pitch letter, back cover or flap copy, your book description for online retail sites, sell sheet copy, your website copy, and so forth. (If you decide to write these materials yourself, you should at least have these items proofread.)
If you envision a marketing campaign that focuses on print media, TV, and radio, then you may want to enlist the help of a publicist. A publicist has relationships with various media contacts–ideally ones who review and/or feature books like yours.
If you are considering working with a publicist, here are few tips to keep in mind:
• Discuss your budget and goals with your publicist. Ask your publicist what is realistic for a budget of your size. Make sure your money is going toward efforts that are most likely to produce results. If your publicist feels getting national review attention will be a tough sell, then ask her what she sees as the right plan for your book.
• Perhaps an aggressive social media campaign makes more sense. Or, if you’ve written a book on something topical, then perhaps a radio tour will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
• Avoid publicists who don’t have a specific strategy for your book: sending out hundreds of unsolicited copies to editors who are already flooded with books for review is likely to blow through your budget–but not all that likely to sell your book.
• Look for a publicist who has experience working with books like yours. If you’ve written a novel about vampires and your publicist primarily works with nonfiction authors, then you are probably not a good fit.
• Find out who will be working on your campaign. If you’re looking at a big firm, make sure you speak to the person who will actually be creating and executing your campaign.
• Make sure you are comfortable with this person and he is responsive to your questions. Ask about follow up. Sending out pitch letters and review copies is relatively easy. Following up with editors, producers, and bloggers is not. However, without follow up, the initial pitch isn’t likely to go anywhere.
Create a website
Many of your marketing efforts will direct readers to your website, so it’s important that your site makes a good first impression. Your website should have an attractive, professional design and be easy to navigate. Unless you have experience with web design, you may want to hire an expert to create your site for you. At a minimum, your page should include:
• A “book shot” displaying your book in its jacket or printed cover
• A brief description of your book
• Your author bio
• Links to e-tailers where visitors can purchase your book (or an order page if you are selling books directly from your site)
• Information for retailers interested in purchasing copies of your book
You should also considering including on your website:
• A table of contents (for nonfiction books)
• An excerpt that draws readers into your book and leaves them wanting more
• A link to your blog
• Reviews, endorsements or news about your book (such as speaking engagements or book signings)
• Social sharing buttons for sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit
• A way of contacting you regarding media questions, ordering queries, etc.
• An author interview or FAQ page
Discuss all of your ideas with the professional you are considering hiring to create your site. Ask to see samples of her work, and make sure you establish how updates can be made to your site after its initial creation.
You also may want to consider online search advertising, such as Google AdWords. Known as a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign, this type of advertising allows you to set your own budget and bid on certain keywords that, when users search for them, will bring up ads for your website on Google search results pages.
While you can do this yourself, it will be more effective to have an experienced professional monitor your campaign, making changes as necessary to improve your results.
There are certain things that you can, and often should, do yourself. For example, involving yourself in online communities relevant to your book is something you can do best. While you can certainly pay someone to set up your profile and load your bookshelf on a social book site, only you will have the passion and know-how to establish a genuine online presence in these communities, and to build relationships and create discussions that will interest others and make them interested in you.
Remember, being part of a community isn’t just about selling your book; it’s about participating and contributing in your own unique way.
Here are some other affordable and effective ways you can promote your book:
• Customer reviews: Customer reviews can influence a reader’s decision about whether or not to purchase your book. This is especially true if you are a new author. Be sure to send your friends, family, and colleagues copies of your book (or, even better, ask them to buy copies), and to write objective customer reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com. Follow these tips when it comes to reviews:
o Keep it real. The key word here is “objective”; if an acquaintance can’t be impartial, then don’t ask him to do it. If readers see a slew of glowing reviews that all look as though they were written by your mother, they are likely to develop a distrust of you and your book.
o Focus on Amazon top reviewers. For maximum credibility, solicit reviews from Amazon Top Reviewers. These reviewers have badges next to their names, such as “Top 10” or “Top 50” reviewer. You can find a current list of Top Reviewers at http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.
o Do your homework. Many of these Top Reviewers list their email addresses, as well as the types of books they prefer to review; send a brief pitch and offer to send a review copy. But first, check out their reviews, and see just how “brutally honest” they tend to be, and how well-written, thoughtful and fair their reviews are.
o Stick to type. Also consider the types of books they tend to review; someone who generally reviews romance novels may not get your post-apocalyptic zombie saga. To speed up your search, find books that are similar to yours, and focus on Top Reviewers who provided compelling and balanced reviews of those books.
• Alert the media: Once you have a press release, you need a way to distribute it to the masses. PRWeb (http://www.prweb.com/) is an online press release distribution service that releases the story to major news sites like Google News, Yahoo! News and Topix, as well as more than 250,000 subscribers, 30,000 websites and 30,000 bloggers and journalists. Prices range from $80 to $350 per release depending on the package you choose.
• Become an expert: There are websites that specialize in connecting journalists with subject-matter experts who can provide quotes or ideas for stories. This is free exposure that boosts your credibility and gets your name out there. Check out HARO (http://www.helpareporter.com/), FlackList (http://www.flacklist.com/home.php), Reporter Connection (http://www.reporterconnection.com/join/?11526), or NewsBasis (http://newsbasis.com/) to learn how to position yourself as such an expert.
• Workshops and Speaking Engagements: There’s plenty you can do from your computer, but sometimes nothing beats going out and meeting potential readers in person. When setting up face-to-face connections:
o Provide value. Make it worth people’s while to attend your event. If you’ve written a book on knitting, offer a free knitting workshop at your local yarn or craft store. If you’ve written a book on retirement planning, invite members of the local media to participate in a workshop (and give away free copies of your book).
o Consult a speakers bureau. A speakers bureau can connect authors with audiences. Newer authors may want to consider a site such as Maestro Market (http://www.maestromarket.com/), an online marketplace connecting talent with people planning events.
• Back to School: Your relationship with your college or university didn’t end when you tossed your cap in the air. Reach out to your alumni network: Pitch an article or interview to your alumni magazine, announce your book’s release in an alumni newsletter, or consult your university’s speakers bureau about being added to the bureau’s speaking list.
• Be their guest: Reach out to blogs relevant to your subject or genre, and offer to write a guest post. This allows you to reach new readers and grow your reputation, and to create backlinks to your own blog or website. Make sure you approach bloggers who share your passion, and that you provide unique content that offers real value to the blog’s readers (don’t simply pitch your book). You can reach out to bloggers on your own, or join a community like My Blog Guest (http://myblogguest.com/), which connects guest bloggers with bloggers seeking content.
• Solicit reviews: While your novel may not appear in the New York Times Book Review next to the latest release from Jonathan Franzen, there are various websites and blogs devoted to books that can provide thoughtful and engaging reviews of your work. A few of these include Blogcritics (blogcritics.org), The Midwest Book Review (http://www.midwestbookreview.com/get_rev.htm), and Bookslut (http://www.bookslut.com/contact.php). However, there are many others that may be more relevant to your book.
o Follow the rules. Before contacting a reviewer, read any book submission guidelines listed on the site, and make sure your book is eligible and that you submit the proper materials within the time frame indicated.
o Be selective. As always, try to assess if the reviewer or site has reviewed books like yours, to give your book the best chance of receiving a positive review.
• Give it away: Promote your new masterpiece with an online contest. Offer to send a free copy of your last book to the first 50 people who tweet about your new one. (A great use of any extra inventory sitting in your garage!) Or send a free eBook to the first 50 people who “Like” your new book’s page on Facebook. People love free stuff–and it’s great way to create buzz around your book.
As you can see, there are many ways to promote your book, and what you choose will be individual to your budget, your experience, and your content. Keep track of other books like yours that are experiencing success in the marketplace, and see how those authors and publishers are promoting their books. See what keywords pop up in their press releases or web copy, and which blogs and reviewers have featured them. But most of all, commit your time to promoting your work, and developing your own personal brand.
Ultimately, the followers you gain and relationships you build will help you to sell not just this book, but many more to come.
–Meredith Hale, Marketing Manager, Edit911, Inc. & Baldwin Book Publishing