Tips for marketing your title
The following tips are excerpted with permission, with minor modifications, from The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker. Download the entire Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for free.
Tip #1: Update your email signature
Your email signature is one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal, yet few authors take advantage of it. Most of us send emails to dozens if not hundreds of people each week, and each of these people (often friends, family, business associates, fans) represent potential customers for our book. By updating (or creating) an email signature, you’re providing email recipients a low-key, unobtrusive path to discover and purchase your book. Nearly every email program and service allows you to create a single email signature file, usually a simple text file, that then automatically appends to every email you write. For your email signature, add a direct hyperlink to both your author page and maybe even your book pages, so it’s easy for your readers to go straight to your book.
Note that when you compose an email, your email program or service will automatically compose the email either in plain text or HTML. If it composes an email in plain text, you can list your hyperlinks in your signature as plain text, such as http://hyperlink.com, and most receiving email programs will automatically make the link clickable (this is what you want). A clickable link usually appears as blue and underlined. If your email program composes your emails in HTML, however, it’s not enough to just list the hyperlink, because it won’t be clickable by the recipient. To ensure it is clickable, you should make the link clickable in your signature file. If this sounds confusing, study the help files associated with your particular email software or email service, because no single software or service handles this issue the same. After you compose your signature, send a test email to yourself to see if your hyperlinks are clickable or not.
Tip #2: Post a Notice to Your Web Site or Blog
If you have a standalone web site or blog, as many authors do, be sure to post a notice that your book is now available.
Tip #3: Contact your Friends, Family, Co-workers, Business Associates and Fans
Be sure to tell everyone you know, and politely ask them to share your email with their friends to spread the word. You don’t need to be pushy or salesy, just send them a short email, such as:
Dear friends and family,
Just wanted to let you know that my book, [insert your book title], was published today as a multi-format ebook. As many of you know, the book [is about/covers/explores] [insert a short one sentence description of your book]. I hope you’ll take time to check it out, and you can sample the first 15% of the book for free.
Here’s the link to my author profile: [insert the direct link]
Here’s the direct link to my book page, where you can sample or purchase the book: [insert direct link]
Won’t you also take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know?
Thank you so much for your support!
Your first Name
[if you completed your signature, your signature appears here.]
Tip #4: Post a Notice to Your Social Networks
If you’re a user of Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Twitter or other online communities, tell your friends and associates that you just published your book and provide a direct hyperlink to the book page. If you’re not already participating in some of these networks, why not?
Tip #5: Update Your Message Board Signatures
Most message board communities allow you to create a signature that appears at the bottom of every post. It’s a subtle, non-intrusive, and non-salesy way to tell people where they can learn more about you.
Tip #6: Reach readers with Twitter
Like all social media, it’s important to join and participate in the conversation. Make friends. Share ideas. Add value. Follow smart people and learn from them (this is the #1 reason I’m on Twitter). If you’re only there to flog your book, people will tune you out fairly quickly.
There are typically four types of Twitterers at Twitter:
- Sharers: Sharers find useful information, and then share it with their followers, usually in the form of hyperlinks to interesting articles. Often they will “retweet” other interesting tweets from people they follow. Retweets begin with the acronym “RT” or you can click the “retweet” link in Twitter. Twitterers re-tweet tweets from other Twitterers they think would be of interest to their fellow tweeps (twitterism for peeps, or people who follow them). Make sense?
- Conversationalists: these are people who spend most of their time in conversation with their followers and friends via @”username” messages. When you add a person’s screenname to your tweet, preceded by @, you’re saying, “this tweet is for you,” or, “at you.”
- Marketers: People who are trying to promote themselves or their product.
- Followers: People who use Twitter mainly to follow Sharers. This is actually my favorite use of Twitter. The tweetstream of the people I follow is like an incredible real-time curated news feed of important trends and news in ebook publishing.
Most Twitterers are a blend of varying degrees of all four of the above.
Use Twitter however it best suits your needs and personality. There’s no single one right way to use Twitter. For example, I’m a Sharer, Marketer and Follower.
Twitter etiquette tips:
Begging – NEVER NEVER tweet at people and ask them to follow you. You should earn your follows, not beg for them. Earn your follows by serving the followers you have. If you tweet worthwhile and insightful tweets, your followers will retweet your tweets and word will get out about you.
Spamming – Don’t spam your twitterstream with tweets only about your book. Noone wants to be sold to all the time.
Quality, not quantity – Every time you tweet, ask yourself, “will this tweet inform or entertain my followers?” It doesn’t matter if you have two followers or 2,000, you should respect the time and twitterstreams of your subscribers.
Tip #7: Issue a Press Release on a Free PR Wire Service
- The press release is a proven form of communication. Recipients of well written press releases, such as reporters and bloggers, know that it will contain all the information they need to evaluate the news value of your story and cover it. A good press release tells the reader what you’re announcing, why they should care, and where they can learn more information if interested.
- Press releases aren’t just for the press any more. With the advent of Google and other online search engines, press releases are commonly read not just by traditional media (newspapers, magazines) and new media (bloggers), but by your target readers too.
- Press releases help you build roads (hyperlinks) back to your profile page and your book pages. This means you’re building paths to help Internet users discover you and your book. The more paths you build to your book pages and profile page, the more likely you are to rank highly in the search engines, which means your prospective readers are more likely to find you.
There are several free press release wire services you can use to get good exposure for your press release. One I’ve experimented with is PRlog.com. If you’re willing to pay for more exposure, try PR.com or Prweb.com. For an industrial strength wire service, you might consider PRNewswire at http://www.prnewswire.com/. Try the free services first, because it can be difficult to sell enough books to justify the expense of something like PR Newswire, which will run you $300 or more. When you use one of the paid services, run your press release only on your “local” circuit. Many of the paid services offer so-called “national” or “international” circuits to give your press release broader distribution, but my experience over the last 20 years has shown that these broader circuits are a waste of money. The local circuit gets you 80 percent of the benefit by posting your release into all the online databases.
Many authors mistakenly believe that simply by running a press release, they’ll get press coverage. While this is most likely to occur with PRNewswire above, regardless of the wire service you use you should plan on doing your own proactive promotion of the press release.
Let’s say you just published a book titled, “How to Protect Your Garden from Squirrels without Killing the Little Buggers.” There are probably hundreds of gardening reporters at major newspapers across the country who would like to learn from your wisdom. Research who they are on Google, or pay the $650 or so for the print version of the Bacon’s Media Directories where you can find the gardening reporters at major daily newspapers and magazines. Better yet, call your local library and ask if they have the directory (you’d have to sell a lot of books to cover that $650).
What should you write your press release about? How about announcing you’ve published your book? That’s news worth sharing. Or announce a limited time promotion (and include the coupon code). Or, for the fictional book example above, you could publish a press release that shares the top five tips for ridding your garden of pesky squirrels. A press release must include information of value to receive press coverage.
How do you write a press release? Press releases have a fairly strict format, which you should follow as closely as you can.
Headline: The headline words are typically either ALL CAPS or Initial Caps. Summarizes the high level message of what you’re announcing.
Subhead: The words are typically Initial Caps. Provides additional context about your announcement.
Dateline: typically follows the format of City, State — Date. The dateline precedes the body of your first paragraph of the press release:
First paragraph: Usually follows common phraseology, such as “XYZ today announced….” A good first paragraph should tell the reader what the announcement is about, why it’s important, and who should care.
Second paragraph: More detail, or maybe a quote from you. Quotes should follow a strict format, such as “First sentence,” said [your firstname lastname], author of [booktitle]. “Second sentence. Third sentence.”
Third paragraph: Possibly more detail, if needed. If you’re writing non-fiction, this is a good place to summarize what the reader will learn from your book. If you’re writing fiction, this is a good place to provide some juicy details about your story, and the challenges faced by your characters.
Boilerplate: This is where you put the author bio, and summarize where readers can purchase the book. Add hyperlinks to your Smashwords Author Profile Page, your book pages, your personal website and your blog. Include contact information such as your email address, but obfuscate it (see below).
Contact information: Even if you put your contact information in the boilerplate (and you should), the press release should also contain a separate section for contact information. Typically an email address is fine. But don’t just put your address in there, because otherwise it’ll get picked up by the spam spiders (these are automated robots that scan the Internet for email addresses, and then add those addresses to spam lists). Instead, obfuscate it.
We can use the coupon system at this stage to motivate purchase.
Tip #8: Join HARO, Help-A-Reporter-Online
Each day, thousands of journalists across the globe are on deadline for stories they need to write, right now. These journalists often need to interview experts for the insights that build their stories. Merely because you’re an author, you’re probably more qualified than you think to serve as an expert on many topics. Journalists love to interview authors, and when they interview you they’ll identify you as the author of such and such book, which gives you free publicity! If you were a large company, you’d hire a PR agency such as Dovetail and pay them $5,000 or $10,000 a month or more to get you interviews (and press coverage) from these reporters. But clearly, most authors don’t have that kind of money, nor should they even consider spending so much, especially when there are some free publicity tools out there that allow you to do some of this yourself. One such tool is called HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Online. HARO is a free service that emails you a summary of what reporters are working on, and the types of experts they want to interview. Subscribe to this service today.
Tip #9. Encourage your Fans to Purchase and Review Your Book
Your prospective readers will feel more comfortable purchasing your book if they see that their fellow Smashwords members have already read and enjoyed it. Encourage your fans to write honest reviews. If you find shills (like your mother, grandmother, husband/wife, best friend) to write artificially glowing or embellished reviews, your book buyers will feel suckered and you can bet they’ll react with their own review that is perhaps more negative and mean-spirited than if they didn’t feel suckered in the first place. So encourage your fans to write intelligent, thoughtful and balanced reviews. Encourage them to state what they liked and what they didn’t like. Your prospective readers will appreciate the honesty.
Tip #10. Write Thoughtful Reviews for other Books
Whenever you review another book you get the opportunity to leave a link back to your own book/profile.
Tip #11: Participate in Online Forums
If you’re like most authors, you probably participate in a lot of online forums or newsgroups. If your forum has a location for book announcements, then post a note about your book along with a hyperlink to your author page or book page.
There are hundreds of great general ebook-related communities where authors connect with readers. Consider participating in Kindleboards.com, Nookboards, Goodreads, Ebookgab.com and Mobileread.com. If you write romance, check out the All About Romance message boards at http://aarboards.com/
You should participate in these communities. Don’t just flog your books. Join the conversations, add value to the conversations, and make new friends. Did you write a book about gardening? Join a gardening community. Did you write a book about overcoming, or coping with, some medical condition? There are communities for that too. Just Google “topicname community” for a long list of prospects. When you join a community, be considerate of the community’s rules.
Tip #12: Write Guest Columns for Blogs
Most literary blogs are run by people who love books and authors. Most bloggers do their blogs entirely as a volunteer effort. It’s a lot of pressure for a blogger to constantly “feed the beast,” which is how many bloggers feel when they can’t find the time to write new posts on a frequent basis. Many of these bloggers allow their readers to write guest columns. These guest columns offer you the opportunity to write about a topic of interest and reach a large audience, often thousands of people. Usually either at the beginning or at the end of your post, the owner of the blog will give you a quick bio, where they’ll mention who you are, your web address and your book. To write a guest column, first review the blog to ascertain if guest bloggers are allowed to contribute. If so, put together a great query for an article you’d like to write that you think would appeal to that blog’s audience.
Tip #13: Join the conversation on blogs
When you comment on another blog, you’re often asked for your web address. You could give your Smashwords Author Profile page, or your book page, or your own web site if you have one. Whatever you do, don’t spam other blogs with messages to buy your book. That’s rude. Instead, participate in relevant discussion. If readers think your posts are intelligent, they’ll be curious to learn more about you and will click on your name to access your link.
Tip #14: Use Google Alerts to discover where the conversations are taking place
Authors are special people, because it takes an enormous amount of talent to write a book on any subject. Because you’re a subject matter expert, there are probably dozens if not hundreds of online opportunities for you to join conversations and in the process, help promote and sell your book, and promote your own subject matter expertise. Let’s say you wrote a book on how to grow prize-winning pumpkins. There are probably hundreds of gardening web sites and online forums that discuss that very subject! You can join the conversations by commenting on message boards, blogs and news stories related to that subject. Share your knowledge. How do you track where the conversations are taking place? Create multiple Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts, and Google will email you whenever a new conversation, or a new news story or blog post on a given subject, appears. For this pumpkin example, you might want to track keywords and phrases such as “pumpkin growing,” “prize-winning pumpkins,” and “gardening tips.” Remember, the goal is to join the conversation and add value with your wisdom and opinions. Don’t spam.
Tip #15: Leverage YouTube Videos to Reach Readers
Another secret to book marketing is to engage the senses of your prospective readership. We humans are sensate creatures – we use sight, smell, touch and sound to inform us of our environment. When you simply write a textual book, you’re engaging only a sliver of the reader’s senses. Think of a YouTube video, possibly of you talking about why you wrote a book, or you reading a section of the book, or talking about your writing process or your muses, you engage the prospective reader on a completely different sensory level, because you’re touching them both visually (sight) and audibly (sound). You’re giving them a level of insight into you as a writer that they can’t easily perceive by written words alone. You’re engaging them, and with engagement comes action (like making the decision to sample or purchase your book).
Tip #16: Print up business cards
I realize it may seem sacrilegious for a digital publisher (who loves green trees more than pulped trees) to recommend printing business cards, but it’s important to realize that our lives are unlikely to ever go 100% digital. We humans still meet face to face, in the flesh, with our fellow humans at church, conferences, restaurants, bars and the grocery store. Print up business cards to advertise your authorship, and add the web address of where your books can be found. Post the cards on community bulletin boards at bookstores, and hand them out to everyone you meet.
Tip #17: Encourage your fans to become affiliate marketers of your books
Who better to promote your books than your fans? We can use the affiliate option and offer commissions of 11% (standard rate) or more.(c) Mark Coker/Smashwords.com 2012 – All rights reserved – Edited by Yvan C. Goudard
The Publishing Team