21 November 2011

Marketing your book

So you've written your book and it is up on Amazon....?
 Now you need people to buy it.

By Helen Hollick &
Richard Denning

This article is particularly aimed at the self published author - but it is just as relevant to traditionally published mainstream authors who want to do some personal marketing

"Buy my book" you say on Facebook
"Read my book" you tweet on Twitter
"Want a fab novel? Mine is on Kindle" you write on your blog.
I assure you, after you've done this for several days running not a soul will look at your book, answer your Tweets or Facebook "Likes" or add comments.
You may even find you've been blocked as a spammer from some forums

There is one BIG rule of etiquette if you want to become a respected author - don't ram your book down potential reader's throats! Easier said than done, though.

Remember this simple rule: if you are on a forum, someone else's blog, Facebook Wall, or Tweeting like mad, you are a guest on those sites and a guest on the recipients VDU screen.

Say hello, talk about interesting things - answer other people's posts and comments, chat about history, or fantasy, or other thrillers & horror books (or whatever your genre). Basically, make yourself welcome. Then you can mention your book - at the opportune moment.
And you might just find that people are interested in you and invite you onto their blog, wall, whatever, to talk about your book.....


A word to the wise: it is easier than you think to spot those reviews on Amazon that are put there by supportive friends and relations. Yes, even with a made-up alias name. False reviews are obvious. Don't be tempted.
If you are unfortunate enough to get a poor review, shrug and ignore it. Everyone has their own opinion - again, readers of reviews know the genuine review from the deliberate trasher. Don't worry about it!
In fact - don't read the reviews - get on with your sensible marketing.

Good reviews can be helpful, especially those on the review blogs. Media reviews in newspapers are very hard to get - and I would advise, if you are self published, apart from your local paper, or a particular magazine that is relevant to your subject, it is probably not worth bothering. Most review mags do not even look at the fliers and advertisements sent out for self published books. There are better ways.

By the way - any form of marketing will cost you money: to review a book someone has to read it, which will mean YOU sending a FREE copy.

You will also need a website, or at least a blog. What is the point of trying to promote your book if there is nowhere for interested readers to find out more about it and you?

I came across an excellent article on how NOT to submit a book for review on Floor To Ceiling Books by Amanda Rutter (Magemanda) I have reproduced it here as it is so good:

Since I have started accepting self-published novels for review, I have been receiving a number of email requests to review particular books. These range from the very professional, to the charming, to the downright awful. I thought I would provide a few hints and tips to those self-published authors who are intending to start sending out requests for review. After all, if you’ve done all the work involved in actually writing a novel and then putting it into an acceptable format, and getting it on a website for sale, then why skimp on the details when it comes to publicising?

First of all, make it clear in the subject line of your email what it is about. I’ve received review request emails with the subject ‘Hello!’ which doesn’t reflect well on the author. Something along the lines of ‘Review request’ followed by the title of the novel would be best.

Second of all, personalise your email. I’m not looking for everyone to have researched my actual name (Amanda) – using my blog name (Magemanda) is just as acceptable. I am less convinced by salutations that state ‘Dear Blogger’ or ‘Dear Book Reviewer’ – that is on a level with using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ on a letter. It’s professional enough, but it doesn’t show a lot of personality or invite me to connect with you. Just as a suggestion – avoid anything like: “Dear Flr to Clg Bks” (yes, I received this) – if you can’t be bothered with vowels, I can’t be bothered with your book. Harsh, maybe, but fair, I believe.

Although flattery will get you everywhere in some cases, I actually find it very artificial when someone sends me an email that extols the virtues of my blog and then has a ‘by the way, review my book’ section on the very bottom. Sure, it’s lovely hearing that your blog is something that people enjoy BUT I don’t like flattery that seems circumstantial i.e. you’re only saying it because you think it might get your novel looked at.

This might sound obvious, but please spell check and grammar check your email. If I think that your poor spelling etc in your email is indicative of what I might expect from your self-published work, I’m not going to accept it, I’m afraid, no matter how good the story might be. I accept that there are more errors and hiccups in self-published work than edited books professionally produced, but I like to believe they will be limited.

A few details about the novel you’re offering would be appreciated. I received one email that simply said: ‘Will you review my book?’ The quick answer to that is ‘no’, because I know nothing to make my judgement on. At the least provide a little background – what genre it is, a few plot points etc. I actually like receiving a novel blurb – for me, if you’ve produced one of these, it shows you’re taking the endeavour seriously. Sometimes I’ve been sent the book covers as well, and I also like these, although it isn’t essential.

Please pay attention to the genres accepted by the book reviewer you’re pitching to! In my case, it isn’t AS important since I read most everything, but some reviewers are very definite about what genres they care to review. If you’re sending them a novel that doesn’t fit those genres, then be prepared for either a quick, sharp no or to be ignored (after all, if you’re ignoring their words, they’re more than entitled to ignore yours!)

Along with personalising your salutations, some of the best emails I’ve received have personalised the request. For instance, ‘I noticed that you enjoyed XXX last week, and I think that my self-published work would be something you’d also enjoy.’ It doesn’t hurt to let the reviewer know that you read their blog on a regular basis, and that you’ve recognised what novels interest them. All of this is going to make a better impression than a cold and formal request that looks as though it has been sent en masse to any blogger with a freely-available email address.

The best email I have received recently was the following:

Dear Magemada,

My name is Matt Xell and I am a writer and artist based in Zambia, Africa. TOWER OF PARLEN MIN is my debut novel and the first in a series of six books featuring Ves Asirin. It is an Urban fantasy/adventure epic (Speculative Fiction) that will appeal to young adult readers aged 14 to 18.

I would like you to consider the book for review on your blog .Unfortunately the book is not available in Hard cover or Paperback formats at the moment, but I will be sure to send you a free copy when it becomes available in these formats.

The synopsis of my novel is as follows: Ves Asirin, an orphaned and introverted boy with a complicated memory loss disorder, wins a trip to the TOWER OF PARLEN MIN, the home of the wealthiest inventor of the time, Jacobius Trent. There, with 19 other children, he must compete in the Sword Challenge; a series of intricate puzzles and daring tasks, for a prize of $12 million. As dazzling, glorious and liberating as the Tower seems to be for him, Ves finds that it keeps a dark and secret history that he has been unknowingly connected to for over 150 years, a secret that will define his future and destiny ... if he can escape The shadow; a powerful and seemingly unstoppable, supernatural serial killer.

If you are interested in reviewing my novel, please let me know the ebook format you prefer and I will send it to you as soon as possible (PDF, epub, .mobi, LRF, PDB), along with a PDF version containing the 'Black chapters' which encompasses these bonus chapters.

For more information, please feel free to contact me at this email address at any time.

Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Matt Xell - Tower of Parlen Min

If you look at the above example, Matt uses my blog name, which is a nice start. Then he gives a little bit of information about himself and the book he’d like me to review, including what age range the novel is directed at. This allows me to see if it is something that fits with my tastes. He is very clear about what formats the novel is available in – some reviewers don’t have eReaders as yet, so this query would probably be turned down by them on that basis, although Matt is clear that HBs and PBs will be available at a later date.

In all, the email is to the point, professional and gives all the details that I might require. It is personalized to an extent and, in general, shows decent grasp of spelling and grammar. When I receive a request like the above, I am more than likely going to accept a copy, depending on my review schedule, and then you, as a self-published author, are one step ahead of the person who didn’t send a professional query. At least your novel is being read!

I hope this helps, and would welcome other reviewers making suggestions that can be added for self-published authors, so that they can present the best possible review query.

My thanks to Amanda - excellent advice. I suggest you look at the original article, as the added comments are also very enlightening Floor-to-ceiling-books - advice for self published authors

What to do - what not to do

So, what is a blog? A blog is an amalgamation of the words web and log and is a type of website.
Blogs are usually maintained by one person, with regular entries - a commentary, description of events, book reviews, information etc. Usually entries are displayed in reverse order, newest first. 
To Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to an existing blog.
Most blogs are interactive and visitors can leave comments beneath each "page" (article) It is this interactivity that attract people to using blogs, and which distinguishes a blog from a normal website.

A typical blog combines text, images and has embedded links to other blogs, pages, or websites - just as this page does. The ability of readers to leave comments and be interactively involved is an important part of many blogs. 
According to Wikipedia (note the embedded link) as of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million blogs in existence. 

A Blog Tour is similar to a real book tour - but instead of going from town to town, book store to bookstore, you go from blog to blog as a guest. You will need to be invited as a guest - you cannot just make your own posts (similarly, you would not just turn up at a book shop and expect them to promote your book! )
First, you need to make a list of possible blogs - try following another author who writes in the same genre, when they are on a tour. Make a note of the blogs they are invited onto, then approach the Blogger - using the same crtiteria as Amanda has outlined above. And note, many blogs do not accapt self published authors, make sure you only select those who do. 
You will be expected to send a copy of your book - although several bloggers do accept electronic PDF versions now. The Tour is slightly different from a straightforward review in that the author is often invited to answer some specific questions : Why did you write about this subject? What inspired your characters? Have you always wanted to write? etc. Or you may be asked for an excerpt, or maybe the book will merely be reviewed. You will possibly be asked if you are prepared to offer your book as a prize. Some blogs give the review copy away - some expect you to send the prize out. On my own tour I have agreed that these giveaway competitions can be International - open to anywhere in the world. That is going to be costly for me, but all advertising costs - and that's what this is - advertising your book. You can't gurantee sales though. Just because your book has a nice review, and you have written a fabulous article, it doesn't mean to say the blog's readers are going to go out and buy your book.
So you've been invited on to a blog as a guest.
  • Have a look at the blog site so you can get a feel for what is wanted
  • Has your host requested anything in particular? If not ask. If the subject is open, try to think of something different to say - especially if you are fortunate enough to be on several blogs (on a tour for instance)
  • Unless specifically asked to do so, don't just waffle on about your book (or whatever) - blog readers are interested in you, or the subject you write about. The constant "buy my book" is a turn off.
  • So OK you have been asked to write about your book - you are going to write the "Buy My Book" article... fine, but make it the sort of article that tells the readers why they should buy your book! What is so special about it.....?
  • If you are given a word length don't outstay your welcome. Usually about 1,000 words is acceptable. So if asked for 1,000 don't send 1,001.
  • The blogger has been kind enough to offer you some free marketing - so if they have asked you to write an article, or submit something... that means you are to write it! Bloggers don't sit at home all day writing nice things about authors, artists, musicians (whatever). You want the exposure - you do the work!
  • Don't rely on the blogger to promote your guest appearance - again this is marketing for your work, the blog site possibly doesn't need to advertise itself. You put the link on Facebook, Twitter, whatever. You send the link to the required page to your friends & ask them to leave a comment.
  • Talking of comments - as soon as the article is up, leave a thank you comment. This serves two purposes: 1, to genuinely say thank you. 2. Most blogs have a box where you can request "follow up comments". Tick or click it - that way you will know instantly via an email if anyone else comments -so you can then leave a nice reply.
  • What if there's a not very nice comment? Be gracious and laugh it off. You can get into serious cyberspace trouble if you make a rude or sarcastic reply back! OK, so someone has said something like "This book was awful" - the most dignified answer is to either ignore it or respond with: "So sorry you didn't like my book - it would be a boring world if we all had the same taste though, wouldn't it?" And then move on! The Internet is full of "Trolls" people who deliberate set out to start an arguement. Don't rise to the bait. If you must answer - answer once only do not get lured into a pointless arguement.
  • Send images as attachments, not as a word.doc. If you want images placed in certain parts of the text, mark it on the text i.e. Image One goes here. But mostly, the placing of images is up to the blogger.
  • When the article is up check it through. Don't annoy the kind blogger who is giving you the exposure  by moaning about the layout or minor errors. If there is something obviously wrong (i.e someone else's book cover, not yours, by all means point the error out - but nicely: "Hate to say this, but that's not my book *laugh*". Is it really so important that you have to mark up every comma that is in the wrong place, or draw attention to an obvious typo? Layout is not always easy to set, as blog templates (unlike websites) have a mind of its own regarding spacing and layout.
  • Say thank you. You'd be surprised at how many people don't!
  • Call back to the blog site when you can to support other people coming after you. 
  • Leave comments on other people's blogs - but remember, if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. And unless it is appropriate, don't talk about you and your book every time. If you are commenting on someone else's book or article this is their spot, not yours.
  • Finally, being a guest is meant to be fun. If you don't enjoy it, don't do it.
One thing I have found that is difficult to deal with - how to advertise the next port of call in a tour, without boring your Facebook or Twitter friends. Again we come back to the etiquette of no going on and on about your book - but the idea of a blog tour is to promote you and your book. A conundrum! 
One way is to advertise the blog  "Great blog here: www.thatblog,blog" or "Why I wrote my latest novel www.blogplace.blog" or even "I had some fun writing this article - I'd like to share www.blogit.blog"
From experience, I can tell you this is hard work, especially when doing it all yourself. Mainstream authors with a large publishing house and an agent can rely on a bit of help - especially with the organising - self published authors have it all to do. 
But the hard work can be very worthwhile. The Internet is there - world wide. Make use of it!
And if you would like to be a guest on MY guest blog - well you know what to do now.... ask me nicely.

Spreading the word
by Richard Denning
Book promotion by authors

Many people have the urge to one day write a book. A recent survey found that 80% of Americans plan to do this and I am sure the figure is just as high in the UK. Many people have this goal but only a minority get as far as writing the book, getting it published and on sale.
So, if you have done this you have already proven that you are determined and have drive and commitment.

Even so, an author who believes that the hard work is behind them is soon rudely awakened.

You soon discover that a vast number of new books are published each and every day worldwide. I got very excited when I saw a copy of my book The Amber Treasure on sale in a couple of bookshops. I proudly took a picture of it on the shelf. Then I stood back and looked at the thousands upon thousands of books that surrounded it. How on earth, I asked myself, can I get this book noticed? It was then that I realised I had put all my efforts into getting the book on sale and had given virtually no thought to marketing it.

This post is part of a virtual book tour I am doing to promote Tomorrow's Guardian - my teen time travel novel - that has just come out in Paperback. This time round I decided I would do better. I would learn how to promote a book and - I hope - put that plan into operation. This post then is an outline of what I did: indeed what I am right now doing. I hope it is of use to other writers.

I am currently self published. I set up my own little publishing house - Mercia Books. Although I am hopeful of attracting a publisher and agent one day I decided on the strength of reviews and feedback that I was best getting my books ' out there'. So, as a self published author, I must promote myself. But whether self published, small press, subsidy published or mainstream published you need to get the word out.

A marketing plan
First. Write a plan. The plan should identify WHO your target audience is, who your competitor authors are and how to go about appealing to the readers who like their books. The plan should lay out what you are going to do in the next year or so.  You can easily find that you waste huge amounts of time and money on all sort of publicity activities that really get you little return. The plan should list the activities you feel are worthwhile, hopefully cost you little and mainly rely on trying to tap into that golden fleece of publicity - word of mouth. If you can get people telling others about your books then you have gone a long way down the path.
So get a plan together which lists some of what I am about to tell you and stick to the plan. By all means add on bits if some opportunity arises but try to remain focussed.

You need an author website (and if self published a Publisher one too).
Mine are http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/ and http://www.merciabooks.co.uk/ These were built by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics  at a reasonable price. You can do this yourself if you can code web pages but it helps to have that professional look. You need to have a bio about yourself, links to pages on the books, samples of the books, videos etc, reviews and links to where to buy them.

Email signatures
Every email you send out can be marketing your books if you add a signature to the bottom (done in the options in Outlook and other email programmes.) Mine for example is:
Richard Denning
Author of Young Adult Sci Fi and Historical Fiction:
Game Designer:
Director UK Games Expo:
Member of NWUK:http://www.newwritersuk.co.uk

So anyone casting their eye down that list might think - heh what's that about him being an author? And click the link.

Social Media
This is considered a huge part of the entire self promotion process. You need an account on Facebook and Twitter at the very least. Start by just talking to people. Gather friends and followers of like mind by requesting friendship or following them. At the start mainly try to engage people on subjects that interest you. If you are amusing , supportive and active then, when you post about your books, you may find that they share those links with their friends. This is how I met Helen actually -just chatting via Facebook. You can set up a page for each book and invite fans to "like" the page. Then you can post updates about the book there.

Book related social media
Goodreads and  Shelfari are social media sites which focus on books. So you post about books, put your books into collections, write reviews etc. As an author you can get a page there and make sure it lists your reviews, links to videos etc etc. Again you can collect friends and share reviews with them. In time when you post about your books you may already have some people who are inclined to listen.

Freado/ book buzzr and the use of free samples
It is a really good idea to put up samples of parts of your books. Freado is a site which offers the book buzzr widget. This converts your book into a really cool looking online version which readers can flip through and try out the book. Why not put 33% of the book into Freado and then link to where the e-book and hard copies can be bought.

The next few years will see an explosion of e-books. I got my own Kindle at Xmas and I love it. Before you ask the question, yes I love real books, love the feel and smell etc BUT a kindle can hold a library. It looks like a real book is very easy on the eyes and is not going away. Ipads are hugely popular too and so are other readers. There is less competition in the e-book market at present than in the hard copy market so you need to get your books into e-book versions and out there on Amazon and other sites.

Profiles and their value
You should set up a profile on every social media site you join. If they have author pages get them set up. Amazon has author central which you need to register with and get your books and videos on.  Make sure you have  a mug shot in these sites so people can identify with you. Fill in as many parts of profiles as you can because you never know when someone who was at your school or has the same hobby as you will read it and get in touch. Everywhere you have a profile you need links to where people can buy the book.

Doing talks and readings
Consider contacting Clubs, schools and libraries about going in and doing an author talk. In March there is World Book Day where schools invite in authors. Offer to do this for free if they will buy one book and allow you to give out bookmarks to the kids and sell books after the talk. Keep an eye out for book fairs such as the ones New Writers UK hold where you can have a table and talk to the visitors. You won't sell many books but you may make some contacts and if you get just one or two readers you have achieved something.

Use Windows movie maker - found on every PC - to make a book trailer (again someone like Cathy Helms at Avalon does these too). The programme is pretty easy to use. Grab some still images off the next or go and make some with your camera and combine with music and upload to Utube.
You can also do a book reading and record yourself and upload it. 

The virtual book tour
This is what I am doing in this guest post. Helen invited me to do this one but I also organised an entire Virtual Book Tour. Traditionally authors would tour book shops promoting their book. But rather than drive 150 miles to talk to only 8 people at a shop in Ipswich you can engage the world - at least in theory - if you organise stops, guest posts and interviews on blogs.
See: http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/blog_tour.html for the full itinerary of mine. What I did was research blogs who covered Young Adult and Teen fiction or Sci-fi and emailed them. You can offer free e-books or if you can afford a few paperbacks, those as well. Then ask for reviews and offer to do posts, answer questions or whatever they want. Many will not reply. Many will say no thanks but if you can get a few together then you get repeated mentions of you and your books for say a whole month popping up on the net. Many blogs are only too happy to have content and will oblige.

Local Media
It is worth sending news releases to local media. Sometimes they will contact you for an interview. I am a local GP and after a newspaper article recently many patients saw the interview and commented on it. Some even said they would buy a book.

Give away items and freebies
Consider running competitions and give aways of some books. But also look at cheap items. You can get 1000 book marks made for about £60. Get a graphic artist (someone like Cathy again!) to make the images and then upload them. Postcards are also good as are posters.

There are of course many others activities to try but if you did all this in the coming year you should start to see some interest in your book.
Best wishes and keep writing.

Tomorrow's Guardian Paperback Published:  January 2011
ISBN: 9780956483560 (Hourglass Institute Series Book 1) 
Published by Mercia Books.
Sequel is coming Autumn  2011
Richard's website


Thank you Richard - great Article. I also accept submissions from UK authors of historical self published novels for review by the Historical Novel Society. Email me for details HNSReviewUK@sent.com

see also THIS ARTICLE here on my blog 
excellent advice about how to market on Facebook, Twitter etc.

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