The fact is that publicity and marketing isn’t going to look so different whether you’re a self-published author or an author with a book deal. Nowadays EVERYONE needs to do their own publicity. (The reason for this is yet another blog post.)
Most new writers wonder where to start, but the first question, really, is when to start. Answer: Start today. There are some easy and effective things you can do to start to at least get your feet wet.
#1. If you don’t have a blog, start one.
Free blog sites include:
Blogspot (what this site is on)
#2. Start a profile on Facebook and start building up your friend base.
#3. Get up and running on Twitter. Good news! You can link your Facebook status updates to Twitter, which means that you only have to update Facebook and you’ll be tweeting automatically.
Most writers understand the value of being online, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to convince you of its merits. It is important. And it can be less daunting than it seems. One word of advice: Start slow. If you don't even know what "tweeting" means, just sign up for Twitter and start following one or two people. Follow me! Most of my writers who stumble around self-promotion tend to do so out of overwhelm. But that’s where the 1-2-3 punch comes in: 1) blog; 2) Facebook; 3) Twitter. When you post to one, post to all three. This is what we call “repurposing your content.” You don't have to come up with new and exciting things to write about all the time. Post once a week. Think of it as writing a note to a good friend about what you're up to.
In September I interviewed a couple of self-published authors and shared their stories with you. One of those authors, Rosie Sorenson, generously shared her marketing and publicity strategies for her self-published book, They Had Me At Meow.
They Had Me At Meow is a memoir about the feral cats at Buster Hollow and Rosie's care and rescue of those cats. Though her book fills a very particular niche, Rosie’s marketing strategies can serve as a template for any writer who wants to get the word out there about their book. Here’s a sampling of some of the things she’s done, and things she’s still doing:
1. Set up a website and joined social networking sites.
Rosie’s site is www.theyhadmeatmeow.com. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as LinkedIn and Filedby. She also set up a page on the Poets and Writers website.
2. Created unique video content and posted it to YouTube.
Rosie created a book trailer that includes some of the cats featured in her books. In addition to being on YouTube, they’re also posted to her website.
3. Sent the book out for early endorsement.
Sent the book to prominent people in the area of interest of the book. Among them were the cat program manager of the Humane Society of the United States, who ended up writing the foreword, and the founder and former director of Fix Our Ferals in Berkeley, who wrote an introduction.
4. Set up her own book readings.
Rosie organized a reading at her local independent bookstore as a benefit for Fix Our Ferals, The Humane Society of the United States, the Marin Humane Society, and Marin Cat Connection. She invited representatives from each of these organizations to appear with her on a panel. In addition to reading from her book, she also presented a slide show. Eighty people attended and she sold 35 books. She also organized readings at a Barnes & Noble in Oakland, CA.
5. Secured corporate sponsors.
This isn’t possible for every book, but if you have a book with a cause, setting up sponsorship can be a wonderful way to get more promotional copies out into the world. Rosie used the books purchased with corporate dollars for community outreach, humane education, and fundraising.
6. Pitched herself to TV and radio.
Rosie appeared on a local show, “Bay Area People,” on KTVU-2. The broadcast is available at Comcast On Demand and YouTube, which Rosie highlights on her website. Rosie did a radio interview with Bonnie Colleen’s program, “Seeing Beyond,” which is broadcast throughout Northern California. Radio opportunities are vast, and pitching yourself to a radio show that’s in line with your audience can be a stepping stone to other publicity opportunities. Rosie has recently pitched two other radio shows and three other TV programs and she’s waiting to hear back.
7. Sent out post-publication copies for more endorsements and reviews.
Rosie was able to garner more reviews and blurbs for her book once it was out. She sent her finished book to Self-Publishing Review and the editor there wrote a positive review. If you Google Rosie’s name, this is in fact the first link that comes up. She was also featured in two (one and two) stories on Examiner.com.
8. Followed up on leads that resulted from these stories.
The Communications Director of Alley Cat Rescue in Maryland contacted her as a result of these stories, which led to her being featured in their newsletter (650,000 members strong!).
9. Speaking opportunities.
Rosie volunteered to speak at a local animal welfare conference in March 2010. This opportunity may well lead to other paid engagements and keeps the campaign alive and thriving even months after publication.
10. Opportunities for joint ventures.
Rosie found out about a documentary film producer who’s working on a film about feral cats. She is now going to be filmed with the cats featured in her book.
11. Keeps copies of her book on her at all times.
Rosie has given away about 150 copies of her book for marketing purposes. She recently ran into Halle Berry at a restaurant in Berkeley and struck up a conversation with her about her book. Halle told Rosie she had four cats and Rosie, on the ball, offered Halle an autographed copy of her book. You never know who you’ll meet, or where. So be prepared!
Rosie has been an incredibly active self-promoter who's found a way to get her very niche book out to hundreds of people. She's done a tremendous job of identifying her audience and focusing her attention on those people who care about cats as much as she does. This is part of the key to success. Don't dilute your efforts. Know your audience and go after them.
A few other areas of online interest for those of you who want more more more.
• Check out She Writes. (Men are welcome, too!) There's an excellent webinar by Lauren Cerand called “Innovative Publicity Now!” It's worth the $30!
• Shelfari! For people who love books.
• BookTour: A site for author appearances, book events, and literary happenings near you.
Two final points:
(1) Don't get so sucked in that your writing starts to suffer.
(2) And have fun.
Until next month.
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