One of the attendees at the convention I recently attended missed the panel on guerrilla marketing and asked me for some advice, so I thought I would try to encapsulate what was said in a blog post for all.
Even though I write for a large New York based publisher, I still do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting my books. I started out in epublishing, so I’m used to having to market my titles myself. Though it’s very difficult to tell exactly what sort of promotions are the most effective, I have a few pointers for those just starting out. As you go, you will be able to see your way, discover what seems to work best for you and your particular genre.
Since I come from epublishing, my approach is largely internet centered. Since I write romance, I have the advantage of a large, loyal (wonderful) online community of authors and readers. Let me run down a list of things I do to promote myself and my books.
Newsletters – When I first started out, I threw up a shingle on Yahoogroups and began to build my newsletter subscriber base. I did this by holding monthly contests and offering free stories. Interspersed with the contests and free stories were excerpts from my books. Sneaky huh?
I’ve never, EVER harvested email addresses of people from other sources and forcibly added them to my list. It is a 100% opt-in affair. No one wants spam they didn’t sign up for. (See not being a douchebag below.)
Little by little, I built my base to a nice size. Later on, I signed on with Writerspace and gained their enormous newsletter subscriber base. This is a good way to get the word out about your upcoming releases and build a relationship with readers.
It’s important to remember, however, that even if your subscriber list is 10,000 people long, only a fraction of those people are actually opening your emails. That’s why it’s important to keep your subject lines alluring, hold contests, throw in the occasional free story.
Free reads – Are effective, in my opinion. I have two free novellas up on my web site and I get email about them all the time. I’ve had many people tell me they were led to buying my books because they downloaded one of these free reads
Online contests that have a viral component – I hold contests on my blog usually a month before I every new release. I do an overarching contest for the time period with a prize for a book store gift certificate, or sometimes an ereader. Then every day I give away a book from my backlist, or I get some of my author friends to join in and give books away.
I usually try to include a viral component with the contest, like a widget at the top with the cover of my new release (that cover is key. You want that cover seen as many times as possible). Everyone who reposts that widget (with my cover), or tells someone else about the contest, gets an extra entry. I found this to be highly effective for reaching many people and bringing new readers to my web site.
Social networking sites – I’m on Facebook and Twitter, but I never do the hard sell. I just hang out there, talk to people, and am myself. The hard sell never works, in my opinion, and I suck at it anyway. I just want to have fun and make friends.
On not being a douchebag on the internet – The topic of social networking sites brings me to an important point. Be careful how you conduct yourself on the internet and try not to be a d-bag. Nothing will turn readers off faster than seeing an author insulting a reviewer, a reader or another writer, or just generally being a butthead. There are many people out there who will avoid buying your books if they don’t like you as a person. (I happen to be one of them.)
Bookmarks, reader groups & bookstores – I buy a list of addresses of reader groups and bookstores and send out bookmarks to them before every release. If you’re lucky enough to have a gazillion ARCs, (I never do), those would be excellent to send.
If you’re looking for a good place to have your stuff printed….Vistaprint is your friend, especially when you’re just starting out and have less of a budget. Got Print is also a great place to order bookmarks and other promotional items. They provide great quality and are not expensive.
Print advertising – When I wrote ebooks only, I would place a group ad in Romantic Times, which was less expensive and got me reviewed in the magazine (that’s where the real value lay). I didn’t spend a lot of money on print ads back then. Now that I write print books, I do more advertising in print. For what I write, I usually choose Romantic Times, the RWR (that’s the publication put out by Romance Writers of America), Romance Sells and, occasionally, Realms of Fantasy.
I think of print ads as an announcement of your book’s release. After all, if the readers don’t know it’s on the shelves, they’re not going to buy it, right?
Networking – There is power in numbers and in friendship. Get together with other writers and form a promo group. Be nice to an author, promote his or her books, and they will likely do the same for you.
If you have any specific questions about marketing and self-promotion, ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. If you’re an author, feel free to add your own advice.