Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest blog : The skinny on fat promo

It's easy for writers to become overwhelmed by the amount of promotional tactics out there. Even if we stay away from the blimps and bribes, there are still so many things we can try. Which of them are efficient and effective... and still give us time to keep writing?

Today I'm hosting a guest post from author Maria Zannini, who suggests several ways to promote books, especially online, and does so from experience. Take it away, Maria.


by Maria Zannini

Promo is scary stuff. I know. I used to be in advertising. We've been known to sleep with Marketing a time or two.

We of the advertising persuasion don't like to talk about that much.

It wasn't pretty.

When it comes to books, especially a debut book, you'll find yourself mired with options on how to promote it. There is no one right way. What I'm going to reveal is what worked for me, a writer on a budget and with limited time.

I want you to remember two things.

1. You don't have to do it all.
2. And you can promote your book on very little money.

The key to good promo is consistency and content. The more you can do on your own, the less expensive the experience.

I vote for less poor. And here's how I do it.

1. Start with a marketing plan.
2. Decide how much cash you can invest into marketing.
3. Build a marketing calendar around your venues.
4. Write the next book.

The Marketing Plan

If you check out Killer Campaigns on my blog, you'll see 40 posts on promotional outlets that are either free or nearly free depending on your level of expertise. Pull out ten good ones that you think you can handle on your own.

For example, for my promo I chose a web site, blogging, business cards, reviews, interviews, linking, email signature, guest blogging, podcasts, and volunteering. These are the things I thought I could do well without donating a limb. (Limbs are hard to replace.)

Web site: The very first thing I built was the web site, and I did it myself, teaching myself Dreamweaver and creating something that looks professional and unique. As my husband likes to say, sometimes even a blind pig gets lucky. Sadly, you will have to wait another month to see it due to…ahem…me forgetting to renew my domain name. It'll be back though, bigger and better than before.

Blogging: The blog came second. I am comfortable blogging and I use that as my main platform for communication. Unlike many authors, I chose to immerse myself in only a couple of networking venues. I decided it was better to do a couple of things well than spread myself too thinly. Blogging fits my schedule (and my personality) perfectly.

Business cards: I'm a graphic designer by trade, so I have a leg up on most people. But here's a tip. Don’t get too fancy or include too much information. I used the cover of Touch Of Fire for one business card with nothing more than my web site, blog and email address. I want people to remember me. When they go into a bookstore, I want them to hand the seller my card and say, "I'm looking for this."

Reviews: Choose your review sites carefully. Read their past reviews as a guide to the quality of their reviewers.

Interviews: Same goes for interviews. You want to be known, and you are often judged by the company you keep. Choose sites with a strong following of people who love to read.

Linking: I love linking! Regardless whether you blog, send an email or post on a forum, link well and link often. It will raise your ranking on Google.

Email Sig: Passive advertising at its best. Never send an email without an added line listing your book, blog or web site.

Guest blogging: Every guest post should be unique. Never repeat yourself.

Podcasts: This was amazingly fun and not as painful as I thought it would be. It was also different from the normal online stuff.

Volunteer: Nothing gets you on the inside track faster or deeper than volunteering. Planning on going to a conference? Offer to help out for a few hours. You'll be amazed at how much that builds your network, and for doing nothing more than putting out chairs or manning a booth. Talk to people and exchange information. It's a goldmine.

Now that you know what you'd like to accomplish in a marketing year, decide how much it's going to cost you. Any of you who follow me know I am the Original Frugalista. I don't buy anything unless it pays me back in dividends.

From the list above, I can tell you I spent less than $75 USD the first year. $60 went toward the web site and $15 for business cards. I even got a bonus on the business cards. Somehow the post office crunched the corner of the box and they sent a note to the manufacturer informing them. The company, in turn sent me a brand new batch of cards plus a discount coupon for next time. To top it off, despite the crunching, the original business cards were perfectly fine. How cool is that?

Marketing Calendar
Here is where you start to put everything together. You know what you want to accomplish and you know how much you're going to spend.

The next question is: When is your book coming out?

You'll get varying advice on when to start your promo, but here is the dirty nickel side. You have approximately ONE month to make the bulk of all the monies you'll earn on your book. E-book sales last a bit longer than print books, but the urgency is the same.

You must do the majority of your promo during the first month of the book's debut. If I knew then what I know now, I would have created a blitz and blogged, interviewed or networked in some way EVERY SINGLE DAY of the debut month.

It seems excessive, and it can be, but I can tell you an easy way to showcase yourself without becoming boring.

The answer is content. The reason some authors come off as dull or annoying is because they are saying the same things everywhere they go. So don't do that. If you blog, come up with thirty different topics to talk about. Even if you don't use them all, have thirty posts ready to go. Guest blog widely. Keep your posts upbeat and entertaining, and finally, make sure it somehow relates to your book—without letting it be solely about the book.

Write The Next Book
This is where I tell you to do what I say, not what I do. LOL! Due to some unexpected eye surgeries, my writing was curtailed not long after Touch Of Fire debuted. Oy! You should have heard me sobbing. But sometimes Fate will do that to you. The trick is to get back in the saddle and ride that pony out.

I've given you all my hard-learned lessons in capsule form to keep this post from getting too long, but I'd be happy to answer any specific questions, so fire away.

What sort of promo interests you?


Bio: Maria Zannini is the author of Touch Of Fire, a post apocalyptic story set 1200 years in the future. Aside from writing paranormal romance, she homesteads on six acres of land in the middle of nowhere.

To the west of her roam lions, to the east, the llamas. Hopefully the lions prefer llama-on-the-hoof to gimpy-legged authors. Hmm…llama.

Visit me on my blog.

Or friend me on Goodreads.


Angela Ackerman said...

Great post!! I'll be coming back to this when I start to have to think about this, because it is such a daunting task!

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

I think this is the best advice I've seen on author promotion and how to do it. Thanks for sharing both of you :) Off to follow Maria's blog now.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela, MRJ, and gypsyscarlet:

Thank you! Glad you found it useful.

Marian Perera said...

Thanks very much for the guest blog, Maria. Not only is it informative, it's inspiring as well. I wish I had more time to implement all those good suggestions. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Thank you for having me over!

Ref: I wish I had more time to implement all those good suggestions.

Hey, there's always the next book.

Shelley Munro said...

Great post, Maria. I think it's important to do the things you enjoy doing otherwise promotion is plain hard work.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Not just things we enjoy, but things we are comfortable doing.

For instance I really dislike chat rooms. By the time you type a response, the discussion could have wandered somewhere else.

People sometimes think they need to follow the pack, when really you're better off striking out on your own in venues you know you handle well.

Marian Perera said...

A chat room was helpful when I was brainstorming ideas for plot points.

I'd known the people who frequented it for years, so I'd go in and say, "Hey guys, if you wanted to spread an airborne disease quickly through a medieval city, what would you do?" The suggestions would come thick and fast (and the novelty of the topic tended to keep the discussion on track).

But that was a somewhat idiosyncratic situation, and I wouldn't use it for promotion.

Mary Witzl said...

How interesting AND useful this was! Not only did Maria share all this good stuff with us, she showed us how to do it on the cheap. Nothing pleases me more than doing things on the cheap.

Now I need to make my blog more about one of my books. Hmmm.

Marian Perera said...

Mary - I think you have a fairly large audience for your blog, so yes, that would be a good way to get promotion for your book. :)