Part 3: Taking Your Brand to the Book Buying Marketplace
Actively Promote Your Book
One of the first misconceptions about being an author is that all that you have to do is get your book published and it will go on Amazon.com and start selling like mad. The reality is that unless you have told them that it is there nobody is going to know and that isn’t going to sell a whole lot of books. This is the part of book promotions where you use your hard sell pitch to your prospective customers/readers and there are several avenues open to authors to directly promote their books. Not all of these methods are going to work for every kind of book or for every author but most authors will be able to apply one or two of these activities to their book marketing strategy.
1. Online Advertising
Online advertising is one of the least expensive ways of getting promotional material in front of a potentially huge audience. There are a few alternative forms that internet ads generally take and the best way to use them is probably to combine two or three different kinds of ads in every campaign. The cost of the advertising depends on the kind of format that is chosen and how much the advertiser bids on every click or impression.
The main options are Cost Per Click (CPC) ads where each click through via the ad to your website costs a set amount of money which is usually decided by the advertiser and can cost as little as 5c per click. A similar format is the Cost Per Impression (CPM) ads which is paid for at a set cost per thousand impressions, or views, on websites that they have been displayed on. There are also banner ads which are a variation on CPM ads and are paid for at a set rate for every thousand times that it was displayed on a website. Search engines also have paid search results which will place a link for your chosen keywords at the top of the SERPs and social networks like Facebook offer a variety of mostly CPC and CPM style ads on their sites as well.
Creating a book trailer that can be posted on sites like YouTube has also become a popular promotional medium. Authors are creative people and often they can make a short video that can be used to be a visual blurb of their book. For some books making a Powerpoint or a Slideshare presentation of their main points can be an effective way to make your potential readers/customers aware of the value of its information.
2. Virtual Book Tours
One of the most effective way of publicizing a book is to take it on a virtual book tour. This is essentially making a series of publicity posts and appearances on blogs that relate to your genre. Often the site will post an interview with the author, review their book and in some cases the author may post a guest blog or answer questions from the blog’s readers. There are several online services that will arrange virtual book tours for a fee (usually between $300 and $1,500 for tours of up to a month) but it is also possible to organize your own virtual tour of the blogosphere if you are engaged with enough bloggers.
3. Book Shows
One place where it is possible for authors to expose their books to the booksellers of the world is at book shows. While there are a few really big book shows around the world every year there are also smaller ones and it is usually able to find one that is happening in a major city anywhere. These book shows can be expensive to be involved with but for some sorts of books they can be a leg up to big distribution deals and foreign markets. My publishers are constantly sending me promotional material for book shows around the world and the registration prices are usually from $500 up. If you can afford to make the investment these shows can be great exposure for an unknown writer and it is one of the places where they can still wear their rose colored glasses and not feel out of place.
4. Personal Appearances
Bookstores still have author book signings and writers can usually make arrangements with their owners to meet their fans in the shop. Generally all of the marketing material and the books that are to be sold at the signing have to be supplied by the author who also has to do all of the promotion for the event. It is possible to find companies that will set up tours of bookstores but it can be an expensive exercise and the author would need to sell a lot of books to make it pay. Bookstore owners are likely to be a bit displeased with an author who doesn’t attract a crowd so if you are having a book signing make sure to invite everyone that you know and their friends.
Another way to get exposure as an author is to become involved in writers’ festivals. Many cities have these sorts of festivals for the arts and often there is a chance for authors to have book readings and to promote themselves by meeting their readers. Joining writers’ groups and involving yourself in their events not only exposes your work to your potential audience but it also puts you in contact with other writers and often with professionals in the publishing industry generally.
5. Writing Competitions
Writing competitions have been around for as long as writing and even the ancient Greeks found some of their greatest writers with them. There are usually writing competitions held as part of arts festivals but there are also many other groups that hold regular competitions, often with cash prizes. It can cost a few dollars to enter and sometimes the prizes are publication deals or other things associated with writing but the exposure from being in them is the real prize for authors.
Network with Other Authors
One of the most important activities in the business of writing is creating a network of colleagues. There are a number of places where it is possible to meet and interact with your literary peers and the advantages, especially to an author that is just starting out, make it worth the effort. While writing is by its nature a solitary pursuit there are a multitude of writers’ groups where authors share their progress on their latest masterpieces with their peers. These groups can have a constructive influence on a writer’s skill but they also offer an opportunity to work with one another on the business of writing.
Even if writer’s clubs are a bit too much like group therapy for your tastes there are dozens of groups for writers online and Linkedin has an especially good selection of groups that are focused around writing and publishing books. Often the members of these groups can help each other out by sharing links to their websites or reviewing each others’ books. I regularly get asked to review books by their authors and am always happy to give my colleagues’ works a plug on the internet. Not only does this expose their work to my online network but it also exposes my own profile to the people that buy their books which is a win-win strategy from my perspective.
Networking with other authors also raises awareness of your brand among the publishing professionals that are always involved with these groups and it often leads to opportunities to write forwards for others’ books. I recently wrote the cover blurb for Maria Clay’s book Conversations with a Scammer after meeting her on Linkedin and advising her on a few details while she was in the process of publishing it. This kind of exposure gives your public persona an air of authority and gives you a reputation as a professional writer. I have had other opportunities come out of the groups on Linkedin like my author spotlight and guest post on Lae Monie’s LaeLand website and while these sorts of things don’t always cause a spike in book sales they do add considerably to your online presence which in turn exposes you to more readers/customers.
The Bottom Line
Authors that are serious about succeeding will come to terms with the business of writing very quickly and take the opportunity to become masters of their own destinies. It is very easy to publish a book now and a lot of those books will hardly sell a copy simply because the author didn’t finish the business end of the operation. A great deal of the business of being an author is enjoyable, after all who doesn’t like chatting to their fans on Facebook? but there is also enough hard slog involved that it requires commitment, patience, discipline and a clear plan for world domination to make it a success.
The modern world of publishing is opening up a lot of avenues for people to get their books into the marketplace, many of which were once closed off to authors themselves and with the development of e-books and POD publishing authors have 100% control over their work for the first time since book printing began. While it may run against the grain of the artist to treat their creations as a marketable commodity it is really the only way to actually sell any books. The authors that are the best businesspeople will be the ones that will rocket to the top of the bestsellers lists under their own steam.