I’ve been contemplating a post on time management for authors (I know, scintillating summer reading), but I thought I’d define a couple of book-promotion ideas first so I can reference them in the later post. The ideas are high and low level promotion techniques. I made those terms up myself, so no need to head to wikipedia.
I decided on dividing the various marketing methods after reading a couple of forum posts to the extent of, “my sales tanked when I took a week off promoting my books.” To my way of thinking, that shouldn’t happen, not if one is employing high level techniques as well as low, but let me define my concepts before I get too in love with using them.
High Level Book Promotion Techniques
These are marketing techniques where you’re using or creating systems that do promotional work for you whether you’re at the computer or not. While they might not sell books for you indefinitely, they can chug on, working in your favor even if you take a week or two off from being an Internet Presence.
Giving away free ebooks (as I’ve mentioned before, short stories can work fine)
The more work you have out there, easily accessible, the more chances there are for someone to discover you. Don’t stop at putting free work up on your website, which gets an infinitesimal amount of traffic compared to an iTunes or Barnes & Noble. Have a cover made, and use Smashwords or another distributor to get your work into the major ebook stores.
Publishing a podcast/podiobook
This gets your name and your work out there in another medium, one where there’s less competition because there’s more work and a higher learning curved involved with production. If you choose to make the effort, people can continue to stumble across your name for years to come. I recently downloaded a podcast that started and ended in 2008 (It was good too…. They should have stuck with it!).
Starting a blog*
This gets an asterisk because every author starts a blog. Buuuut most of them aren’t anything that’s going to sell books for the author. (They’re the kind of blogs people would only find if they already knew about the author and were specifically looking them up.)
A blog that is informative and/or entertaining is far more likely to grow into something that helps an author create name awareness. Once that happens, you start getting people checking out your books because they’re interested in what you have to say as a blogger. If you want to start this kind of blog, consider learning about keywords and link building, as these practical tactics can increase the likelihood that people will find your old blog entries via the search engines months and even years after you publish them.
Running an advertising campaign*
This one gets an asterisk too because not everybody has a lot of success with this, but, if you can make the math work (my preferred platform is Goodreads though I’ve heard of a few having luck with Facebook and Google Adwords), it’s a fantastic promotional tool because it requires so little of your time. You set it up once, tinker a bit over the first couple of weeks (to tweak ad performance), and then let it run on its own.
Your time is a precious commodity so any marketing method that can work without regular input from you is worth exploring, even if the tradeoff is money (though I don’t believe in trading off more money than you’re earning back, so watch your bottom line carefully).
Low Level Book Promotion Techniques
If you look at my examples of high-level promotion, you’ll see they’re all about doing work today that continues to have a payoff down the line. I believe you can “make it” pursing nothing but two or three of those techniques, but most are the sorts of things that take time to build momentum. If you’re like me, and have the patience of a three year old, you may want to try some low level techniques to help sell books right now.
These methods require less work up front, but generally don’t have a lasting impact. They’re popular because they worked for enough authors early on that everyone holds out hope that they can still have a huge impact and rocket you up the bestseller list. There’s more noise out there today, though, and I’m skeptical that these techniques alone will work for most people.
That said, I certainly use them (usually when I don’t feel like working on something more demanding), and they can sell books in the interim. You may find a combination of techniques from both categories works well.
Posting on Facebook/Twitter
Fairly self-explanatory. Most authors who have success mix up their promotional posts/tweets with entertaining chatter and links to interesting articles, videos, cartoons, etc. Readers don’t join these services to be sold to, so you’ll probably get farther acting like a real person instead of a 24/7 sales pitch (who knew?).
Posting in Forums
While blatant self-promotion will get you “flamed” on a lot of forums, there are many places where you can hang out, chatting about books and e-publishing and the like, while including a “signature” with links to your books and/or author website/blog. If you’re into e-publishing, check out MobileRead.com, The NookBoards, and The KindleBoards. You may also try popular forums related to your genre (i.e. for fantasy authors, there are a couple of big steampunk ones out there). Make sure they allow a promotional signature.
Commenting on Blogs
Commenting on popular blogs where your target audience hangs out might get some folks to click on your name, which will lead them back to your website (or whatever link you leave — I’ve seen authors send people to their Amazon author pages).
The more interesting/relevant your comment, the more likely people will check it out. There’s also a lot to be said for being one of the first few to leave a comment (if you’re on a popular blog that regularly gets dozens of responses to posts), as most folks aren’t going to read through all the comments. On Blogger blogs, you can embed links (ie. to a blog post you wrote) into your message, though the site owner may be less likely to approve comments with self-promotional links.
That’s probably enough for today (congratulations if you’re still reading!). Do you have any thoughts on high vs. low level techniques?