By Rebecca Talley
I write LDS fiction, but I don’t live in Utah. In fact, many people where I live aren’t even familiar with the LDS Church. In order to do book signings or other events I have to travel which is expensive and time-consuming. I want my books to be successful and understand that their success primarily falls on my shoulders. I’m ultimately responsible to not only write the best books that I can, but also to make people aware that they are available.
With my first book, Heaven Scent (2008), I had no idea what to do or where to go. Since then, I’ve had a crash course in online marketing. I don’t know everything, but I’ve learned some basics that I’d like to share with other authors.
1. Establish a website. This is a must. I don’t know how many times I’ve read a review copy of a book and searched the internet to find out more about the author only to find nothing. A website doesn’t have to be expensive nor does it have to be fancy, but it should give potential readers (i.e. customers) a feel for you and your work. I found that when my website was a staticsite I had few visitors. I recently changed it over to a blog format using WordPress and wrote over 60 blog posts about writing. I now have dozens, even hundreds on some days, of hits on my website. I installed StatCounter on my site and can see at a glance where visitors are coming from, how long they stay, what pages they read, and the most popular topics that bring them to my website. I can tell when someone downloads one of my freebies or if someone reads one of my first chapters.
If money is an issue, Blogger now offers static pages that have the feel of a website. Blogger is easy to set up and easy to use.
2. Create a blog.You can do this within your website. I have a separate blog because my website blog is dedicated to writing advice and tips. My Blogger blog is more personal. I share stories about my life, review books, uploadYouTube videos I like, discuss gospel topics, and once in a while post my political opinions. This blog allows readers to get to know me and to interact with me by leaving comments.
3. Join Goodreads.It’s free and easy to join Goodreads. People are there because they love books and you can meet potential readers there. I’ve met many people on this site. If your book is listed on Amazon it’s easy to find it and add it to your author page. You can also link to your blog through Goodreads. People read my blog through Goodreads.
4. Author page on Amazon.It’s easy to go to Amazon and upload a photo and a bio so potential readers can learnmore about you. You can also link your blog to Amazon providing readers with an opportunity to read your blog.
5. Facebook.You can have a personal profile on Facebook as well as an author page. Lots of people are on Facebook and you can establish relationships there with people who will then be interested in your book. Be sure to not useFacebook as a promotional tool only. It’s best to limit your marketing to a post or two every now and then. Of course, if you’re holding a contest or your book is hot off the press it’s okay to share more posts, but generally keep your posts on Facebook to friendly, interesting tidbits about you, your family, or your day. Facebook is more about establishing friendships than selling your book. If you include too much promotion you’ll end up losing friends.
You can use your author page to let fans know more about your writing and your books. Creating a fan page is fairly simple and once you’ve done it, you can invite others to “like” it. Be sure to link your blogs posts to Facebook so each time you update your blog, it alerts your friends on Facebook. This will increase traffic to your blog.
6. Advertise your book.You can place ads on Facebook and Goodreads for very little money. I’ve run ads on both sites. Facebook allows you to target your market effectively and it tracks the clicks. I’ve only used impressions as opposed to clicks. CPM, or cost-per-impression, is more reasonably priced. CPC, or cost-per-click, tends to be more expensive. Depending on the bid price for the ad, you can get 10,000 impressions for a dollar each day. You can put a limit on how much money you want to spend each day and once that limit is hit, your ad no longer shows up and you are not charged. I’ve played around with different price ranges and generally set mine at $1.00 a day. I am most interested in having people in my target market see my book cover over and over and over again so that’s why I use CPM.
Goodreads works a little differently. You pay ahead for your ads. Goodreads issues you a credit and then charges you against that credit. You can target your market somewhat and you can track how many people click on your ad. It’s easy to create an ad on Facebook and Goodreads.
7. Giveaways.You can give away a copy of your book on blogs or on Goodreads. I had over 1200 people register to receive a copy of my book, The Upside of Down, a few weeks back when I had a giveaway on Goodreads. You can determine how many copies you want to give away. Each person that registers for the giveaway is one more person who is exposed to your book.
You can also become involved in blog hops that feature giveaways. When I participated in a blog hop I had almost 100 entries to win a copy of my book. I also had numerous people become followers, signup for my newsletter, and “like” my fan page on Facebook. You can find out about blog hops through Goodreads and by going to this blog.
8. Twitter.I admit, I’m not a great Tweeter, but you can meet new people on Twitter. One of my Tweets about American Idol wasspotlighted on an American Idol site. In your profile be sure to mention your book and make it easy for people to find out more about you (why you need a website and blog). You don’t have to autofollow people who follow you. I pick and choose who I want to follow. It’s a good rule of thumb not to go out and follow everyone you can think of. Follow those who you are genuinely interested in following. You can also categorize those you follow into lists so it’s easier to keep track of conversations.
Twitter is like a conversation on speed, everything happens quickly. I check in on my account each day. You can link your Twitter account to Facebook so anything you post on Twitter will also post on Facebook.
9. Virtual Tour.You can send a free copies of your book to various bloggers (it’s best to find bloggers who have a large following) in exchange for a review on their blog. You can also coordinate the dates so if you have 10 bloggers willing to participate, your book will be featured 10 different days. You can also hire someone to coordinate the virtual book blog tour. I have had good success with virtual tours and they have created a lot of buzz about my books.
10. Contact Newspapers.Your local newspaper may be interested in doing a feature story on you – especially if your book has a tie in with a current event or a charity. I have been pleased with articles written about me and my books in the area where I live and it started with me sending an email to the features editor. I have an appointment this week with a newspaper photographer because the area paper is going to run an article.
Most of these options are low to no cost except for the investment of time and can be done from the comfort of your own home usingyour computer. I have recently stepped out of my comfort zone (my home) and contacted bookstores and libraries in my area. Remember, I live in a highly non-LDS area and still the stores were accommodating.
You may dream that your publisher will send you on an all-expense paid 20-city book tour, but that’s not realistic. You have topromote your book. Of course, you also need to find a balance. If you promote so much you don’t have time to write another book, you’ll lose any fan base you build. You also have to balance promotion with family and work demands. But, a little effort can go a long way in your book’s success.