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Now, that is a hopeful title. More honest would have been, How do I keep my e-book from wallowing in obscurity? -- because that's what my e-book is doing. In this diary, I'm going to discuss promotion: what I have done so far, what I plan to do, and what other folks are recommending. If you have successfully promoted your book (e-book or paper), I hope you'll comment on what has worked for you.

This is Part Three in my mini-series on e-book publishing. Part One dealt with honing your craft, networking, and finding an audience. Part Two dealt with choosing an e-book market, formatting and its attendant nightmares, and options for cover design.

If you've ever wondered how to promote your literary work, fiction or non-fiction, follow me below the quenelle.

Step 1: Get Oprah to choose your book for her Book Club. Yeah, ha-ha. But in fact, this is what we're all hoping for -- an Oprah Moment writ small. I know Oprah's never going to hear about (let alone read) my book, but would I be tickled if science fiction author John Scalzi mentioned me on his blog, Whatever? Sure. But Scalzi probably has no recollection of me. We interacted briefly back in '05 or '06, but I've done nothing since to nurture that relationship. (See NETWORKING in Part One of this series.) I'm a little more hopeful that Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books might remember me well enough to review my novel, but once again, I would have had a much better shot at being noticed if I had kept up a presence as a commenter on her blog.

I mention Whatever and Smart Bitches because these two bloggers have a large and passionate following. Ideally, you would be looking for several such places during your networking growth phase. If you've done a slipshod job of it like me, then you're scrambling to find such places to be noticed. What should you do?

Step 2: Play to your strengths. In my own crappy defense, I didn't realize I had written a YA science fiction until well after I had finished it. Yes, this was just cluelessness on my part, but now I'm stuck trying to find my audience. And for that, I've been hitting Goodreads.

Goodreads is seemingly a no-brainer. Their Alexa rank is 149 U.S., but of course that much traffic is diffused throughout the site. (By comparison, Whatever's Alexa U.S. rank is 22,402, but all of that traffic consists of fans and friends who respect what Jon Scalzi has to say.) Regardless of your genre, you should still be able to find groups with thousands of members. Getting their attention is another matter, but the usual rules apply: be respectful, comment intelligently, and keep the self-advertisement to a minimum -- and only do so in the correct locations.

What about my other strengths? In its prime, my blog got one or two hundred hits a day. I used to have a medical site that did even better than that. But now my daily blog traffic is in the single digits, and I folded the medical site because I didn't feel like I could give it the attention it deserved. That left Facebook and Twitter. As networking sites, I'd classify these as "remains to be seen."

And then there's Daily Kos. I've lurked here since 2005, and published the occasional food photo-diary or rambling memoir (about my grandfather, which I really wish had had more readers). But I've been absent way more than I've been present. I knew that if I wanted to slip in a plug for my novel, the "value added" would have to compensate for the "shameless plugging." Hence this series on e-publishing.

3. Take advantage of free promotions. In the KDP Select program, authors sign a ninety-day exclusivity contract with Kindle/Amazon. In those ninety days, they're allowed to host five promotional days, during which their book is free.

If you publish through Smashwords, the process is slightly different. You generate a coupon code that allows folks to buy your e-book for free. Can you do the same thing for Nook's Pubit (Nook Press)? I think so; in their FAQ, they call this "gifting your own e-book." It's not clear to me whether you can do this free of charge.

You need these promotional tools to get your books into the hands of readers, including reviewers. Simple math -- you'll move at least ten times more copies of a free book than you would otherwise (my ratio was about 60:1), and few if any reviewers will pay to review your e-book. Who do you think you are, E.L. James? So us noobs depend on these free offers to get the word out.

So . . . you have figured out how to offer your book for free. Where do you send offer it, aside from the venues already mentioned?

4. Google is your friend. It all begins with an assessment of your work. Here's the thought process: I know that my novel* has a fifteen-year-old protagonist living in a dystopian near-future, so I can call my story "dystopian YA SF" (yup, just like Hunger Games -- with which my novel has almost nothing in common). It'll appeal to a YA audience simply because the main character is a teenaged girl, but there's such a heavy dose of political satire, it should appeal to the Daily Kos crowd, too. Two of the main characters are gay, so perhaps I can target that audience.

I then use Google to find book bloggers and online review sites interested in my genre. (I won't list them here, since your work is likely not a dystopian YA SF with gay characters, but you get the idea.) I run my search, visit those sites, and look for a "review policy" or similar tab. Most of the time, this is fairly obvious. The depressing thing is that many of these sites exclude self-published e-book authors -- I imagine they're swamped with them -- but I'll send polite, hopeful emails anyway. Who knows, maybe they'll like my blurb.

You want to be noticed. You want people talking about your work. As much as I'd like to think I'll sell to people doing keyword searches on Amazon, I know I'm competing with works like Dormitory Slut and I'm Here to Fix Your Plumbing. (How was I to know 'gay' would turn out to be a misleading keyword?) The truth is, the only way folks are going to hear about my book is through word of mouth.

I can see this turning into a full time job. A quick search yielded 46 Top Websites to Promote Your Book for FREE, and my heart sank. Goodreads is number one, but that means I might have to work through forty-five more.

What about advertising? I haven't written much about advertising because I've heard it's a waste, and I know precisely how little attention I give to the dozens of ads I see every day. However, Rachel Thompson's The Top 7 Tips To Advertise Your Book! makes a reasonable argument for at least considering Google AdWords. She has a number of other worthwhile promotional tips, too.

Well, that's all I've learned thus far. It's still early days for me; I e-published my book last Sunday, and in my usual backasswards fashion, I've been learning about promotion ever since.


*Sorry -- yesterday was the last Free Day. But I hope you'll visit the Amazon page and look inside. If you're a typical Kossack and you stick with it through Chapter Three, I know you'll be hooked.

5:19 PM PT: Something I forgot to mention:

I have a friend who makes a tidy sum every month writing spanking erotica. She and her other erotica-writing buddies have teamed up to form a promotional group. When one author publishes, she lets the others know, and they buy her book all on the same day. This greatly boosts your rank at Amazon, thus increasing the likelihood folks might find you through browsing. I suspect the effect may only last for a day or two. On the other hand, with fast-reading literature like erotica, a day or two might  be sufficient to engender some serious word of mouth.

Originally posted to Balls and Walnuts on Sun May 05, 2013 at 04:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    Bet me the year of my birth doubled is an odd number . . . . Even numbers I win, odd numbers you lose. -- Guildenstern, in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

    You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

    by Hobbitfoot on Sun May 05, 2013 at 03:29:24 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for an interesting and helpful diary (5+ / 0-)

    I want to read your previous diaries on this subject as well.  This summer I'll be looking for an e-publisher for a book of short stories.  My genre is Goddess fiction, a.k.a. Pagan or Witch-fic.

    The thought of having to promote my work fills me with dread--I'd rather write than market--but I'll do whatever is necessary.

    Thanks for all the tips!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun May 05, 2013 at 04:19:03 PM PDT

    •  but you want readers, too (4+ / 0-)

      ... I'm assuming.

      One thing I didn't mention above: I'm putting together a short story collection which I will offer free through Smashwords. In it, I'll include a sample from the novel.

      I mention this because if you have enough short stories, you could offer one collection free, the other for $. That way, you could leverage the greater marketability of the free collection to generate interest in your paid collection.

      I "sold" 195 copies in my two-day free promotion. If and when I have a free-all-the-time short story collection available, I'm hoping the numbers will be great enough to direct some serious traffic toward my book.

      You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

      by Hobbitfoot on Sun May 05, 2013 at 04:24:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  DK book reviews (4+ / 0-)

    se portland is doing a series of reviews of books by Kossacks. I was pleased with the review of my book "The Wrong God."

    Why not get in touch?

  •  What about offline? Consider co-promoting (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, elfling, Hobbitfoot, RiveroftheWest

    With a real life offline business. Or doing a charity drive with a business with your book being the "free gift".

    So say there's a coffe house. You give the house 100 coupon cards for a "free" book. Say you both decide to donate 50% to a charity. So cashier asks every patron if they'd like to donate to XYZ charity. If they donate a dollar, theyll get a coupon for a free book download. Patron gives a dollar. Merchant gives you 50 cents for every card he gave away. (Or some other split).

    What about real life events?

    My feeling is that people rely so heavily on the Internet. What about having 250-1000 business cards printed to look like coupons and just hand them out at the subway or some event or in the airport, train station, bus station? Why compete with 6,000,000 online books? These are many times impulse purchases. Even the idea of a brick and mortar bookstore is about impulse purchases. i cant count how many times i went in for one book, came out with many. Take clues from how even major brands (not books) sell impulse purchase in real life. Gum and candy at the grocery store checkout register is no mistake because who's troweling the aisles at the grocery store for trident?

    Can you offer your book as a premium for an organization's fundraising? Something that serves teens? Or gay teens? Could an org pay you for, say, 500 copies? Look at PBS. Different level donations get you different premium gifts.

    I'd say step away from the book world for a moment and take some time to notice other marketing and sales strategies large and small brands and businesses.

    •  that's my problem right there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, mdmslle

      No marketing experience. There's a truism in medicine that doctors are poor businessmen -- it's because we get no formal training in it. So if you're thinking none of these things had occurred to me, you're right. Thanks :)

      You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

      by Hobbitfoot on Sun May 05, 2013 at 08:31:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I didn't even know there was such a thing as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hobbitfoot, RiveroftheWest

    spanking erotica...

  •  I am republishing you to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hobbitfoot, jabney, RiveroftheWest

    Readers & Book Lovers and adding tags.  I have to schedule you for 11:30 PM as we try to keep two hours between diaries and we have a regular up right now.

    The diary will go into over 1100 streams here at DKos and so if you will keep checking tomorrow you may get some more discussion.

    Best wishes!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun May 05, 2013 at 07:26:30 PM PDT

  •  If there is a "local" for you, that can help (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hobbitfoot, RiveroftheWest, cfk

    My area has a strong local vibe, and so for example a local novelist was able to get the local feed store to announce that her book would be free for a day.

    Do you have a local public radio station with some sort of local interview program? They might want to talk to you.

    Another friend of mine has many books in print and thus has quite a few older titles that have been quietly languishing. Conveniently for her, they are series, and as I understand from her, she has gotten pretty good results by making the first one a free download, and the second a 99 cent title, which then sucked people in for the rest. She also cross-promotes with some other author friends.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun May 05, 2013 at 08:03:39 PM PDT

    •  eventually (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, cfk

      I hope to rope folks in like that.

      I like the local radio idea. All I need to do is donate a little more to our local public radio, and I could get them to announce my book online. We also have a program, "Valley Writers Read," where authors read from their work. I'm not sure my stuff would be appropriate, though.

      You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

      by Hobbitfoot on Sun May 05, 2013 at 08:28:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  quick question for you about SF (0+ / 0-)

        Do you think series novels have become increasingly common compared to stand alone novels over the past decade or so? I can certainly see the advantages of series novels for authors and publishers. On the other hand I wonder if some authors end up more limited in the number and type of stories they get to tell because of this model. Of course that presumes there would be a big enough readership for those other stories, so the point may be moot.

  •  As a con organizer, may I add: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hobbitfoot, RiveroftheWest, cfk, llywrch

    It sounds as if your book might fit into several different genres of conventions.

    How conventions work for marketing:

    1.  They have a Promo Table where you can send "freebies" for them to set out.  These "freebies" range from book marks, business cards, book covers, and flyers to keychains, pens, notepads, sample chapters (either of several novels or in conjunction with other authors so the cost is shared), magnets, cup koozies, or other comparatively inexpensive items. You have to email the convention, ask if they have a promo table, and ask when, where, and how much of your promotional items to send. Expect to send at least 300 of whatever you choose and possibly (for really large conventions) as much as several thousand.  Yes, marketing costs. This is what traditional publishers are supposed to do for their authors (and why I am now pissed at trad pub because they are taking authors away from writing time and making them spend time and money marketing).

    2. You can email the conventions and ask if they'd like you as an author guest.  Some conventions still require you to be traditionally published, but others are more lenient. As a guest, you will still have to pay for your hotel travel, travel, and meal expenses.  You will be given free entrance into the convention and expected to participate in programming.  The convention organizers will give you a time slot to read from your book (half hour) and time for a book signing. The convention organizers will allow you to sell your book during your reading and signing, and good organizers will arrange for at least one bookseller at the convention to sell your book so you can work the programming (programming consists of you sitting at the head of a panel with a couple of other authors talking about various aspects of history, publishing, writing, or topics in your genre - you are allowed to promote your book by saying you are an author, wrote this book and to display the book or a cover from your book with the name plate the convention provides you)

    3. If you have a lecture, speech, or demo that can accompany your book, you can email the con organizer and ask to present the speech or demo.

    Aside from conventions - many bookstores will allow you to place bookmarks promoting your book in their stores.  Used book stores, public libraries, coffee shops, tea shops, doctor's offices (although they'd rather have a sample chapter book than a bookmark), any place where people have to wait for a time is a good place to place bookmarks. Some of the book stores may also arrange for a Local Author Book Reading and Signing, and sometimes, the libraries will, too.

    I recommend that if you are going the route of attending book readings and signings, that you print a hang tag/card that has a code hidden behind a scratch off or peel-away sticker so you can sell the card, and the buyer then has a code to download the book for "free" (works best with Smashwords, but might work with other POD publishers).

    One such card I saw had a window the purchaser would open and the code was behind the window.

    For a dystopian YA novel, I'd check out the SF conventions.

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:37:15 AM PDT

    •  wow, thanks! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, cfk

      I've spent the last twelve years learning how to write well. This is the sort of information I've been neglecting to learn, at least in part because my work and home life conspire to make it difficult for me to travel (my wife is disabled). Never occurred to me that I might be able to take advantage of a convention without being there.

      You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

      by Hobbitfoot on Mon May 06, 2013 at 07:13:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Conventions want authors to succeed (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, cfk, Hobbitfoot

        and are designed to connect authors with readers.

        If there are local conventions in your area, relaxa-cons, full conventions, library reading events, you should check them out.  Some coffee shops allow for book readings, too.  The mom-and-pop ones, anyway. I wouldn't expect a Starbucks to let you do that.

        You might also want to read Dean Wesley Smith's blog - it is chock full of information for self-promotion, self-publishing, the publishing industry and more. I do not personally know Dean Wesley Smith.

        All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

        by Noddy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 08:24:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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