1. This one focusing on his pre-publication marketing for his book
2. Another focusing on his marketing activities after his book is out (The post-publication post is now out!)
I am a firm believer that watching people do something is a great way to learn. Rick has been kind enough to take us on this journey with him. He has also opened himself to questions that anyone may have from them.
Before we get to Rick's post, I just want to take a quick moment to ask you to sign up for my free video tips for authors newsletter. You can sign up and even check out a sample video tip before you start your subscription.
Now, on to Rick's post...
Pre-Publication Book Marketing Activities
By Rick Chesler
First off, allow me to thank Mr. Eldridge, author of The Samson Effect, for this, my first ever guest blog opportunity. Thanks, Tony!
I'm here to discuss pre-publication promotional efforts for my upcoming debut thriller, WIRED KINGDOM, scheduled for a May 2010 release from Variance Publishing / Breakneck Books. I'll start by giving a brief description of the book:
When a blue whale tagged with a web-cam as part of a television nature program broadcasts a brutal murder at sea, an FBI agent with a fear of water finds herself in a deadly race to reach the animal before an unknown killer can destroy the digital evidence it carries.
I sold this novel to Variance at the end of 2008 for publication by their mass market paperback imprint, Breakneck Books, originally founded by KRONOS author Jeremy Robinson.
Keep in mind that the publicity efforts I will describe have yet to have their worth proven by cold, hard book sales. That being said, as an avid reader myself I have reason to believe that any publicity effort is better than none (although writing the best possible book you can should always be priority #1), and while publicizing your novel is no guarantee of higher sales, it's not likely to hurt. I do make a point to keep the amount of time spent on promotion to a reasonable level, meaning that I'm getting the word out about the first book while still leaving enough time to work on the second book. Because for me, it's all about the stories. So I began with low expectations: just get the word out. No pressure, book doesn't come out for months and months.
I wasn't one of those writers who already had a web presence prior to selling their first book, nor did I have any kind of "platform." Up until the sale, I'd been putting all of my efforts into the writing of the novel itself. I had no blog, no website, no social network activity whatsoever. As soon as the ink had dried on my contract, however, I set to work, knowing that in the next year or so, in between editing the novel, writing the next one, and working my actual job, I still had time to let people know that there would be a thriller for sale called WIRED KINGDOM.
The first thing I did was to admit that my pre-publication marketing efforts would have to be a) low budget and b) web-based. Now, I know I said earlier I had no web presence. That is not to say, however, that I wasn't familiar with the web and how to create for it. Fortunately, my past "day job" experiences working as a web developer now came into play.
My first action was to register my domain name. This was also my first major marketing decision—do I want my address to be my book title or author name? (This also goes for the social network custom URLs). Other than my time, this was one of the few expenses in my entire promotional effort. I decided to go with my name, since I hope to publish additional novels and want to avoid confusing my readers as to which website they should visit.
After breathing a sigh of relief that my real name was available as a URL and was now owned by me, my next step was to create the web site. To save time and ensure a top-notch job, I hired the web design expertise of the fine folks over at Find the Axis to do the initial setup work for my site. Once that was in place, I added some further customization and fine-tuning, and now I handle my own routine updates.
At that point I had a working website that not many people knew about. How to let people—and not just any people, mind you, but potential readers—know about it? Enter the social networks.
I decided to establish and maintain an active presence on the three largest sites: Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. In addition, I established accounts at several smaller sites with a "set-it-and-forget-it" approach, meaning that I don't check in at them often, they just sit there with links to my website and/or pages on the Big 3. Any reputable place that will let me open an account and post permanent content online is good for this purpose. Also, since this whole endeavor is about books, I maintain an active account at Goodreads.
After I had spent a few months building up a network of friends and followers, as well as it being a little closer to WIRED KINGDOM's release date, I decided to add a Facebook fan page. At this point I was also able to add Twitter and Fb fan page widgets onto my own website, further integrating my online presence while making my site a bit more interactive.
So, to recap my early steps:
- author website
- social nets, all linked together and pointing to my website
- add friends / followers
Some writers do this with blogs. I'm not much of a blogger. Any time I have to write I prefer to spend writing novels, editing my novels, or outlining new novel ideas. That, after all, is what got me into this in the first place. Besides, you probably don't want to hear about what I had for dinner or that I wrote x number of words today.
However, there are many fascinating people, places and things in this world (and other worlds)—which is what led me to write in the first place--and thanks to Web 2.0, I can share these things with others.
Some books have obvious subject matter from which to draw parallels in real life, such as WIRED KINGDOM: it features a whale, and lucky for me, people love whales and there is no shortage of whale and ocean-related news items online. These make nice discussion points until some major development for my book comes along (e.g. release date, the cover, pre-order date, film rights sold, etc.).
I can hear some writers saying already, "But my book doesn't have whales in it, or any cute, likable animals for that matter." That may be true, but all books have a setting. Say you have a romance set in the American west. You can link to articles about restored ghost towns, or a bed & breakfast similar to one in your story. If you've written a space thriller, there's no shortage of space info and news online to share and discuss.
The point should not be to market to other writers, although writers do tend to be active readers, but to make sure that you're doing what you can to reach YOUR READERS, outside of the publishing community. That way, by the time your book comes out you will have established a group of people who at the very least are interested in the subject matter of your book, if not the story itself. After discussing various items with you over the months, they are likely to listen one day when you say, "Check this out."
So for me, it's really been about a slow buildup of trust between myself and potential readers--potential customers. It's about being able to say, when the book is finally ready to buy, "We've had some fun discussions talking about all kinds of things the last few months, and now I'm asking you to take a look at something I wrote. There's a sample chapter for free, and if you like that it'll cost you the price of a mass market paperback." As a writer who enjoys speculating on nature and technology issues, I like engaging in this kind of conversation. It can even help gauge public response to particular topics, which may come in handy when selecting future story ideas to write.
That's about it. I know many of you have questions regarding how to increase followings on the social networks (because I get asked these frequently), as well as technical how-to questions, especially with Twitter. While these details are beyond the scope of this post, feel free to ask any questions you like in the Comments section of this blog and I'll respond as best I can. I have agreed with Tony to make another appearance on this blog after WIRED KINGDOM is released to discuss my post-publication marketing efforts. So, I'll see you on the other side.
Thanks for reading,
-------- Tony Eldridge is the author of The Samson Effect, an action/adventure novel that Clive Cussler calls a "first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure." He is also the author of the Twitter marketing book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests.