There was an interesting discussion on a forum that I’m on about promotion. The question was raised about if an author needs to promote themselves or should the publisher handle all of the promotion (this is if the author is picked up by a publisher not self publishing). While it was a good discussion, most people agreed that the publisher (big or small) should handle all promotion so that the writer can focus on writing.
I do not argue that a writer should focus on writing; however, an author should know at least a little about promotion, just as they should know some about contracts, editing, and the entire publishing process. An author who lives in a bubble and simply focuses on writing, may not know what’s going on around them, which could bite them in the tail. There’s lots of little things that are involved with promotion. Some your publisher should be doing. But some of it, you really need to do yourself.
Now I’m not talking about being a marketing or promotion guru here. I’m talking about knowing some basics such as:
- Having a website or point of contact page
- Knowing how to approach reviewers/interviewers/etc
- Contacting local establishments for readings/signing
- Why Spam is a bad thing
- Being on panels or volunteering
- Being proactive about awards and “Best of” anthologies
None of these things are difficult, and they can help you greatly even if you only do a little.
Point of Contact Page
Whether you realize it or not, your contact page is an important part of your promotion. On it, you list your works, where to find them, and how to contact you. There are various types of contact pages including websites, Facebook author pages, Wiki pages, blogs etc., all serving the same purpose. They inform the reader about you and your work.
The most effective contact page is probably a website. On it you can link to your author page on other social media outlets, you can have a blog and even separate pages for different series. A page with a brief bio and where to find your work, and someway to contact you, is pretty much necessary. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. A simple, easy to navigate site, often works the best.
When posting news about releases, post on your contact page first then have your other social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) link back to that page. It’s also a great idea to link your accounts so that you are only posting in one spot and it filters down to the different sites.
Getting reviews and interviews can be a difficult process. Reviewers-especially well known ones-are often swamped with requests. They simply don’t have time to read every book that comes their way. So only a few books get reviewed, compared to the mountianous TBR pile.
To increase your chances of being reviewed, do your research. Do reviewers want a pitch before you send them a book or are they even open to requests at this time? What types of books do they specialize in? Is the readership large or small? Does your book fit the criteria of the site?
Next, write a good pitch. Yeah, you thought you were finished with pitches when you landed an agent right? Wrong! A good review pitch can increase your chances of getting a book reviewed. It should contain a brief synopsis, a brief bio, release date, pricing and links to your contact page and social media. All of this should be short and to the point.
Contacting local establishments for readings or signings
Not only is that review pitch necessary for contacting reviewers, but it’s handy when you contact local establishments for public readings or signings. We all get tongue tied and nervous when we speak about ourselves, but having that pitch helps keep you on track.
Before calling around to see if you can do readings, remember to do your research first. Many libraries and book stores are open to you coming in and doing a signing, but some don’t have the space available or they don’t cater to your genre. They also might have specifics as to how they do things, so it’s best to speak with the manager about an event. If at all possible, do it in person, so you have an idea of where you will be during the signing and can address any concerns.
And during your reading and signing, smile. Talk to the people who have spent some time out of their day to come see you. Also cookies or other treats can help draw people in.
So you’ve got a book or story coming out! Wonderful! We’d like to hear about it. Once. Maybe Twice. But…here’s the thing. We don’t want to hear about it every hour, for the next six months. We don’t want private messages when we friend you, with links to your book, unless we request it.
Spamming is not promotion. Spamming is well, annoying and most people will block and unfriend you for it.
Instead, a post once a day or even once a week is fine. Blog posts about how researching helped you solve an issue in your writing or learned some new skill is great. Better yet are posts were we learn more about you.
No it’s not a creepy thing. Most readers enjoy knowing you as an person enjoy skydiving, or finding great deals at antique stores. But don’t share all the details. Like where you live, what your kids names are, where you work. If you do share that type of information be vague–really vague. It’s much safer.
Being on panels and volunteering
Conventions are another good way to promote your work. Being on a panel is a great way to get some interest in your book. Many times, conventions will give you a chance to have a book signing if you are on a panel and sometimes you can get a private place to do a reading.
While you are there, talk to people. Yes it’s difficult sometimes but you never know where these networking opportunities lead. But again, don’t spam your work all the time. What you are doing is promoting yourself and your skills. Hand out business cards (leave the back side blank so people can write notes). Listen to conversations, join in when you can. Collaborate with your new friends on an exciting new project.
Even if you don’t get on a panel, there’s plenty of volunteer work to do. If you belong to an organization that has a booth, volunteer to help out. Even the convention needs volunteers: People to run errands for guests, make sure rooms are set up properly, answer questions. This is a great way to get into conventions for free or a reduced price if you are on a tight budget.
There are also other ways to volunteer. Provide a workshop for kids and local adults who like to write. Check with your library to see if they need story volunteers. Mentor another writer. Helping out someone else helps you.
Being proactive about awards and “Best of” anthologies
This is the one that really makes many authors uncomfortable. We’ve already gone over the Don’t Spam, rule, but this is kind of an exception.
At the end of every year, various groups begin to collect or receive works that fit the criteria for various awards or “Best of” anthologies. These awards can be for local authors and artists, certain sub-genres or very prestigious and well known awards. Nominations can be through individuals, by publishers or by someone on your promotion team and sometimes yourself.
This is probably the most important time you do have to advocate your work. Even if you have a great editor who sends your work off for awards, they might not know about that little award that a local writer’s group gives out. Information on how to apply for it might be hidden on the website or only spoken of during meetings. Or perhaps you wrote a great short story at the beginning of the year, and it’s been forgotten in the past 10 months. You can’t sit back and expect someone to know all of the places your work can be nominated for. Some of this you need to do yourself.
It’s okay to post about your work that’s available for nomination. It’s okay to send off a form and copies of your own work to different award communities. People might not know you published a novella or had missed that short story in January. Create a page on your point of contact site and point people to it. While it might feel as though you are pointing at yourself and saying “Lookie at what I did!” it really is important to let people know what work you have out there.
Smart promotion isn’t all that difficult. It’s a little bit of work taking only a few minutes a day. Even if you have a promoter or a publisher, it doesn’t mean you can just let all of this fall into their hands. Be aware of what is needed. Promote yourself as necessary. And most of all, have fun.