So last week I wrote about what I thought didn’t work – mainly that boiled down to what I consider rude promotion or rather, spam.
Today I thought I’d get at what I think does work (again with the caveat that I am not an expert and there is no one true way, just how I do things and how you do things, etc)
In my opinion, the strongest kind of promotion an author can do is all about personal contact. It’s the least expensive, most time consuming but also the most fun. Talking to readers, just being yourself is your biggest asset. It’s mutually beneficial because romance readers are a lot of fun and they are on the loops and blogs because they love to read.
The easiest way, especially at the beginning, is through one of the kazillion and five loops and also via blog comments. There’s no way you can be a member of three dozen boards and give any of them any real amount of time or you’d never get any writing done so what I did was find three boards I really clicked with and I participate on those. I used to blog hop more often but I have less and less time so I try to visit my faves at least once a week but sometimes it’s once every two weeks.
In any case – build a relationship with your base. It’s free aside from your time and it’s actually fun. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years.
Something else I believe to be an incredibly important promotional tool: A well maintained, easy to read, easily navigable website.
The other day I was looking for an author’s website. It wasn’t under the author’s name, which was my first attempt. It had another name not really identifiable to this author (sometimes we can’t get our own .com, I understand). Worse it was black with a bright white font I saw every time I closed my eyes for the next ten minutes. It had music, sparkly cursor effects, it was a free site so there were popup ads and instead of being labeled simply so readers would be able to find things, it had cutesy names for things – so instead of “coming soon” or whatever it was like, “whipped cream”
Your website is a powerful marketing tool. Period. For many people, it will be their first contact with you. What do you want them to think when they get to you?
So: UPDATE regularly. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to look up an author’s website and have the information be a year old! Even if you just update the news or about me section with what you’re working on or whatever. Try to update when you can or get your webmistress to do it.
BE CLEAR. No. Not whipped cream – “coming soon” or something equally simple and to the point. Why make people look around aimlessly on your website? Yes, you want people to browse but you don’t want them to leave in frustration.
BE LEGIBLE. Think about font size. Think about the color of the font and how it will read.
DON’T USE FREE SITES. I know, people get shirty about this one but I hate free webhosts for author websites. They suck. Yes, yes, everyone will say, but my site is nice. But it’s not just www.author.com it’s www.freesitewebsite/author/freesite.com or whatever and that in and of itself is a pain. There are ads I have to minimize or that popup, they’re often slow loads, there are outages and it just doesn’t look as smooth as other sites. It’s not that expensive to get a basic webhost package. Save up if you have to, but it’s one of the best uses of your time and money to have a decent webhost.
JUST NO. No music. I’m listening to my own music. I don’t want to hear emo bands or loud faux classical or anything else. No big cursors with glitter, no fairy cursors – they cause lag and they’re hard to track sometimes. Also, they make my eye tic return.
If you have a blog – the above applies. You don’t have to update every day but you do have to update regularly or why should people come back? Blogs should have a voice – you can be writerly or craft oriented, you can talk about your day to day life or you can mix or talk about knitting or snowmobiling or whatever. You are who you are and this is also a powerful marketing tool. Give your voice to the blog – make it yours. And update it. Also, I’d caution against oversharing about intensely private things (like your money problems or your sex life) – but that’s just me. And please, please don’t litter your sidebar with oodles of ads. You can get free blogs that are customizable through Blogger, livejournal and wordpress. This is a wordpress blog hosted at my website. It’s pretty easy to update and I’m lucky enough to have the ever so wonderful Frauke at Croco Designs do my designwork (my blog and my website). But I had a blogger blog for many years before that.
Ads are a mixed bag and each author will find what works for them. I recently tried blogads as an experiment. Two sites were really good and I’ll do that again but the other five were only so-so and I’m not convinced they were worth it.
I don’t do banner ads. I don’t personally find them effective. But I have done cover spots with click throughs to my page with an excerpt and book info. There are many sites that offer cover spots. It’s all about experiementing but I like a site that gets regular traffic and also that aren’t too cluttered up with cover ads from forty other authors so my ad will simply be pollution. I think about bang for buck. Just because an ad is very cheap doesn’t mean it’s a value if the site only gets 4 visitors a day. Likewise just because an ad is expensive doesn’t mean those readers are going to click through with ads. It’s something you have to try out, watch your clicks and map out your numbers that way.
Print ads – I take out RT ads. Yes, they are expensive. Print ads in big magazines should not be about just one book. Or at least I don’t look at it that way. If you’re thinking of taking out a full page ad for an ebook release – I’d personally re-think because I don’t know if that would be a good value. But over time, it’s about your name and getting your books out there and RT readers are your perfect demographic if you write romance. They buy or subscribe to the magazine specifically to find books to read. In the beginning I did multiple author co-op ads and got the reviews. Luckily for me, most of the time, the reviews have been good (I’ve had a few that weren’t, just because you pay for an ad doesn’t mean you’re going to get a good review – people need to recognize that it could go either way with that review, LOL). I still do group ads, I think they’re a good value but I try not to do any more than 4 authors per page. RT does design services but others do so as well – Croco designs has done my ads and she always does a great job. In some cases your publisher might design an ad for you (Berkley has for a group ad Jaci Burton, Maya Banks and I did last year). Keep the design clear and professional. There are other magazines but some are teetering right now in this economy so beware. Realms of Fantasy is going under, I’m sad to say. Think about your demographic, think about your exposure and then figure out if you can afford it.
Bookstore contact – This is about the personal connection thing but I rarely meet a bookstore I don’t like. It’s fun to go in whenever I can and say hello, drop off bookmarks and ARCs if I have any to spare. Booksellers are made of awesome. When I travel I find the bookstores and go say hello and sign stock if they have my books on shelves. I also have a list of bookstores I send promotional material to. There are professionally gathered lists you can subscribe to and many publishers have lists they keep of their favorite bookstores. I keep my own list that has grown over the years, it grows every month!
Other things: Signings – meh. Listen, they’re fun and they get you out and into the world but I don’t think they move oodles of books. But it’s good to get out and meet readers, which is why I do it. Readings, same thing.
Bookmarks – I don’t think any bookmark in an of itself has sold a lot of books. But I think bookmarks are a good way to say thanks to your readers and also, to get your name out there when your friendly bookstore has them tucked into your books or up at the cash register. I send them to bookclubs and other places who’ve asked for them in the past. They’re pretty inexpensive and easily ordered through a multitude of online and local print houses. I use www.gotprint.com and I’ve used www.printplace.com in the past and had a great experience with both. Again, Croco Designs makes my templates but there are many authors who design their own – it’s about your comfort level.
Excerpt booklets – I’m of the opinion they work. They give readers something tangible, a chunk of your book to give them a flavor of your writing. The issue is, they’re expensive to have done professionally. You can make them at home for less money as well.
Conferences – again, they can be costly but a conference can combine many of the things I’ve mentioned above. Reader contact, lots of fun, giving out goodies, signings, etc. I’ve met so many people at conferences, they’re fun, you meet industry professionals, readers and other authors – if you can afford them, they’re wonderful. They range from 500 for several days to 50 for a weekend. Local RWA chapters often have conferences, as well as RT, Celebrate Romance, Lori Foster and RAW. Then there’s the big RWA National Conference with their huge signing and a kajillion people to meet.
It all boils down to promotion done effectively and professionally. Pick and choose, some things will work for me and fail for you, some things will fail for Book A but succeed for Book C. I keep a list, I add to it all the time.
Authors – any promo you love or hate? Readers – what do you all like to see? What affects YOUR decision to pick up a book?