Help for Overwhelmed Authors
by Stephanie Ridge
Whether I’m talking with authors who have several books under their belts or with publishers who need their authors to be effective promoters, one theme recurs: The authors are overwhelmed.
In fact, they feel so overwhelmed that when a speaker at one IBPA University session turned the discussion to a new Google tool, people began heading for the door. For many authors, the thought of learning and managing yet another social media platform is daunting. Check, please!
The Internet has brought unlimited ways to build a following (good news, right?), but all the options have many authors bewildered (not-so-good news). Their marketing and publicity to-do lists are growing daily, thanks to the Web, but getting started is often only the first of many hurdles.
Before you or your authors start looking for the nearest exit, clarify your strategy. Come up with a written road map, tailored to your specific goals.
This clearly defined plan will make book promotion more manageable. Here’s a sample set of guidelines for publishers to use themselves and share with their authors, broken down into six main areas.
Six Ways to Get Unstuck and Engaged in Online Book Promotion
1. Hone your online brand.
● Branding is step one in book publicity and marketing. Don’t skip it. .
● Develop and streamline your message and brand. Work with an in-house publicist or a publicist you hire for a given book to come up with the best plan for how you will be positioned online and in the media.
● Both consumers and media will visit your Web site before making a commitment. So make sure your online persona is ready to go prior to launch time. It should reflect you and your book accurately and look professional. You’ll be judged on design quality and content, so invest in professional help.
● Your Web site should have these key pages: Blog, Press, About the Author, About the Book, Appearances, Contact. It should also be integrated with your social media platforms.
● Build your social media network early. Start blogging at least three to five months before a book’s pub date. Same goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter: don’t wait for the book to launch to be active on social media.
2. Use NetGalley.
● Get your book on NetGalley three to five months before pub date with the help of your publicist or via the new IBPA NetGalley Review Express. Be sure to meet its editorial guidelines.
● Posting a book on NetGalley lets librarians, media, bloggers, and other publishing industry pros have early access to it, saving the expense of galleys and extensive mailings. Manage and track their downloads and other activity.
● A great benefit of NetGalley is the built-in community of reviewers and other book industry professionals.
3. Organize an online book launch.
● Rally your personal contacts for a special one-day promotion that can help push your sales and raise your Web visibility. Host a contest and entice friends and family and others to participate.
● Ask everyone to post an Amazon review and a blog review and share their reviews on Facebook and Twitter.
● For each post or purchase, offer a chance to win prizes such as a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad, a free consult, or something that relates to your book.
● Enlist the book’s publicist to help you manage this process and engage your network creatively and effectively.
4. Connect with bloggers.
● Explore online articles about virtual book tours. There are dozens, so if you’re going the DIY route, start early and allow significant time for research, shipping, and follow through.
● Try for online book reviews. They’re great for boosting a book’s visibility.
● If a blogger reviews your book, return the favor by promoting the review and the blog through your social media channels.
5. Reach out to online media.
● Although it hasn’t always been the case, online media are now treated with the same respect as traditional media. Follow all guidelines, and if you haven’t hired a publicist, don’t be afraid to make connections at your favorite sites.
● Ask if you can contribute a guest post, op-ed, or excerpt. Think about what you can do to make an editor’s job easier. Forging a relationship can and should be mutually beneficial.
● If you’re working with a publicist, keep in mind that editors may be more likely to act on pitches from a publicist they know and trust. A good publicist knows the inroads to your target media, has established relationships, and knows which outlets are hungry for content.
6. Measure your results.
● Figure out the best online publicity recipe for your book by looking closely at sales and visibility indicators.
● Look at Amazon rankings, Website analytics, social media connections, Google Alerts, and more.
● If you’re working with a publicist, ask about the reporting process. You’ll want to have regular updates and easy access to information about current activity and results—both positive and negative.
A Seventh Step
And when you’ve done all that, get the most mileage out of each media hit. Keep your Website up to date with incoming reviews, interviews, and other media appearances. And share them on social media. Each placement can help spur more coverage, so polish your press page with your impressive media hits. (That way, producers easily grasp that you are indeed buzzing.) Lastly, take time to step back and view the big picture. Publicity doesn’t always translate directly into sales, so the other factors, like distribution and social marketing, must be in play. So get a regular pulse on all those cogs in the wheel.
Stephanie Ridge, a publicist at PR by the Book (Austin, TX) has represented all kinds of authors—from chef to Mafia expert, first-timer to bestseller—over the past 10 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @StephanieRidge, and at prbythebook.com.