Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marketing 101

Indie and self-pub authors both face the challenge of promoting themselves. Many times, I have seen both types of writers take careful aim at their foot and fire away. There are ways to promote, and ways to ensure that you are avoided like the plague.

Here's a few things I would never do:

1. Drop into a forum group where I have had absolutely no input, or damn little input, and drop an advert. Groups around here tend to be like families. Few folks like strangers who just walk in, hawk their goods, and then leave without even bothering to check up on their post. Oh, you might get away with this in a few groups, but you run the risk of wearing out your welcome. Fast.

2 Spam. This is someone taking option #1 across multiple groups. Especially when the group is not aimed at readers.

3. Get on my knees and plead "Oh please pity me and read my book". Quite a few variations on this theme, but generally it is the author asking someone to read their book for a reason other than the book itself. Lots of confidence in their writing, eh?

4. Get on a mountain and proclaim that "I have the best book ever!" But wait - follow this up with the most annoying Flash adds, music, and God-knows-what. This is the positive variation of #3 and, for me, has the same results. Bye-bye.

5. Here's my all-time fave. Trick them! Yes, come in either as someone else gushing about their book, or otherwise lead in like you're really not selling your book. There is only one reason for any author to do this. A "trick" is meant to give someone other than the result they were expecting. Since, in this case, a reader is expecting a good read...

A promotional advert is very much like a query letter - except you are trying to draw in a reader instead of an agent. Most of the same rules apply, however. You have to bring your best to the table, and you have to engage your audience.

So, how do I do it? Here's how:

1. I advert only in groups that are already familiar with me through participation.

2. I only select reading groups. Writers groups are the other end of the spectrum. While I certainly hope they read my books too, I don't directly solicit them. Indirectly, yes, through offering what I help is constructive additions to the group forums. Sure, I will howl about new releases and such, but not in the same context as an advert.

3. I only advert in the Bulletins. Why? Because I don't want to knock anyone out of the top displayed messages. Because I am putting out an advert that does not require feedback.

4. My advert will contain a picture of the book, as well as its back cover blurb. More importantly (and I cannot stress this more) I include an excerpt. In an age where anyone with money and no talent can throw cash at a vanity press and become a "published author", the reader needs to see that you are the real deal. Not some wannabe who has trouble putting two words together without making three grammatical mistakes. Finally, I put up my author's website where they can read the entire first chapter free and buy the book too.

So there you are - my idea of what makes for a good advertisement.

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