For most novelists, the easy part is creating a story and getting it written. After the writing is finished, a writer might find themselves moving into an area outside their comfort zone.
But it’s important that a writer’s work is the best it can be. Is that final manuscript a quality product? To be certain that it is, it’s best to have it professionally edited.
As a writer with publishing as a goal, you are going to have a lot of competition. No matter how much you love writing, if you want to publish, you need to realize it’s a business. So make certain that what you’ve written can compete in a demanding marketplace.
My debut novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, was recently published, but it took a lot of work to get it to that stage. Once satisfied that I had written the best book I was capable of at the time, I found myself in strange territory. It’s a place that most writers find intimidating. It’s the land of query letters. And the creatures who inhabit it are better known as agents and publishers. The first time I found myself in it, I felt like putting up a white flag and retreating. I wanted the comfort of my familiar ‘writing’ territory.
But I didn’t feel the book would truly be complete until I found a publisher for it, so retreat wasn’t an option. I knew if I sent out a poorly composed query letter, my manuscript would never be read, and if I didn’t send out enough query letters, I’d be bogged down for years in limbo as I waited for some magnanimous agent to request a partial.
I blundered my way through that, lucked into a publisher, and then found myself with a new challenge — promoting my book.
I began talking to published writers, read some articles, and then started a campaign.
I originally had a year to organize a marketing campaign, but my publisher threw me a welcomed curve ball and moved my book’s release date up by seven months. I had to hustle to get going. I knew building buzz was critical for the book’s success. Everyone kept telling me that I needed to promote my book before it was released. This would ensure sales when release day finally arrived.
So, if you now find yourself approaching that landmark stage in your writing career, and you have a novel coming out, start promoting it early. Hopefully, you can get that going at least three months before your release date. The more time you build buzz, the better off you will be on release day. Of course, promotion doesn’t end when the book comes out. Once that book is out, start promoting it like crazy — as if every sale was your responsibility, because the truth of the matter is — it is… especially if you are with a small publishing house or if you’ve self published. Nowadays, even large publishing houses expect authors to promote their books.
When it comes to book promotion, the first and most important steps are setting up a website and a blog. If you are strapped for cash, use My Space to build your website and WordPress or Blogger to launch your blog. Your website should be as professional as possible, and your blog should be as interesting and valuable to the reader as possible.
Your blog should not just be one long sales pitch. Strive to make it entertaining, informative, engaging, or relevant. That won’t just happen. It will take some work. I’m slogging my way toward that goal myself. Be patient with yourself as you work at this, and realize that it’s a process and something well worth working for.
Your blog should also showcase you. You’re selling yourself as much as you are your book. If you aren’t interesting to your readers in some way, your readers may assume your book won’t be interesting either. Marketing a book is not the same thing as marketing aftershave or car wax. If someone reads your blog and decides they like you, when they choose which book to purchase next, they’ll be more likely to order yours as opposed to some other writer whom they know nothing about.
It’s about building relationships, and you can’t build relationships if you can only be found in one place. Don’t limit yourself to your own blog. Blog in as many places as you can. Join collaborative blogs or be a guest blogger at other blog sites. Go on a virtual book tour through blog-land. Blog about subjects that are of interest to writers and readers.
When you blog, blog about a variety of subjects. Blog about things that are of interest to readers or other writers. Blog about subjects that relate to your book. For example, if I had written a book about gambling in Las Vegas, I’d probably blog about strategies used by gamblers to win at different games, or how cheaters are spotted in casinos, or how security works in a casino. Then you could wrap up the post by bringing attention back to your book. You could say something like, “If you’d like to spend more time learning about the real, inside workings of a casino, then you might enjoy my new novel, Casino Casinova.” I worked for six years in casinos, so I’m familiar with those things, but research is a great tool for a writer if they don’t have the personal experience.
One of the most useful steps I took to learn about advertising was to Google writers who were doing well with book sales — not big name writers but writers at small publishing houses. (So I was comparing ‘apples to apples’.) Once I had researched what they were doing, I started emulating them. Success is a great teacher.
One thing I noticed about those writers, besides that they all blogged and had websites, was that they joined writing groups and organizations. They were members of online reading groups like GoodReads. I could see they were building friendships with readers. Through them I learned how important it is to build a web presence.
The more you’re out there, the more people will be aware of your book. Join different social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Having a solid Internet identity and building relationships is very important. The first thing my publisher does when a new writer approaches them is Google their name. They want to know if the writer has been building relationships and if they’ll be in a position to promote their book when they reach that point.
Another thing you can do to build excitement or interest in your book is to sponsor a contest. Make it a contest that people will have a hard time saying no to, and that will ensure that it’s a successful contest. You can advertise it in many different ways. I’m sponsoring a contest right now. I’ve purchased some newsletter ads, and I’m spreading the word through those ads. I’m also blogging about it, and I have a page at my website that announces it as well. You can also announce your contests by joining different groups, forums, and online communities that target writers and readers.
Up to now, I’ve just focused on building online relationships, but you need to build relationships offline as well — out in the real world. Approach the media and your local bookstores; find local book clubs and approach them about being a guest author. If you’re a romance writer in America, join a local chapter of the RWA. If you write for other genres, join organizations for those. Organizations like those offer invaluable promotional assistance.
Be proactive, take control, and get serious. There are two sides to writing. Most writers feel comfortable with the creative side, but to turn that book into a financial success, you need to conquer the business side of writing as well.
This is just a small sampling of what steps you can take to promote yourself and your book/s. When you do one thing at a time, it’s not overwhelming; and if you determine to learn something new each week and implement it, you will soon show bottom-line results.
If you’re already building relationships, and you haven’t even found an agent or publisher yet, then, chances are, you are way ahead of your future competition. Kudos to you. Keep up the good work. When you do find an agent or publisher, you’ll be in a better position to make a financial success of your book. Your future agent and publisher will love you for it.