|Or two, or three... hundred.|
Setting Up Events
Events are typically what people think of when they think of book promotion. An author reads a short story to an eager audience on open-mic night, or holds a book signing at the local store with crowds of curious fans. These are good ideas, and they've become industry standards because they actually work. However, there's no reason to limit yourself when thinking about different venues to get yourself and your work out there.
|Always sign the book... even if it's not yours.|
Though we live in a world of instant gratification and 100 character updates, don't count traditional media out when it comes to your writing career. Most writers who don't have a big name, a blockbuster novel, or real clout (see for example most writers who are self-published, or who work mostly with small presses) will probably find a lot of doors shut in their faces when it comes to this step. Newspapers don't want to waste word count on an author no one's heard of, and magazines won't grant an interview to a nobody. However, sometimes being a local is enough to get their attention. Once you have the attention of an editor, if you can make a good case you can expect at least a little ink to flow your way in fairly short order.
|Where the hell is the refresh button?|
This is where a lot of authors unfortunately lose their minds, as well as any sight of their goals. Social media is like a bloody battle where making any progress at all is likely just as much an accident of your backswing as it is due to the countless hours that you practiced and refined your pitch so it would thrust home with your audience. While it's possible to save a lot of frustration by avoiding social media, this is a prime example of no guts, no glory. You need to be on as many stages as possible if people are going to notice you.
|Your career moves at the speed of Google. Watch for trees.|
Just having a social media presence isn't enough though; any 12-year-old can manage that. What you need to do, as the author, is to wrangle your audience and to keep them entertained. Let them know who you are, and what you're about. Update with news about your projects, your upcoming events, and post links to your stories, your reviews, and any write-ups about your events (see how cyclical this madman's mess is becoming?). Answer their questions, build a rapport, and try to recruit folks by always, always, always including links to your social media in articles published about you, or which you write yourself. Lead by example when possible.
Forums, Blogs, and Video Channels
The natural extension of social media is, well, the rest of the goddamn Internet. Climbing electronic Everest isn't going to be easy though, and it's very likely you'll have to fight hordes of trolls, deal with storms of withering abuse, and comment sections a mile long about how incompetent you are, and how unoriginal your stories and opinions are. I suggest you wear goggles and cover your mouth, this part gets nasty.
|This guy's got the right idea.|
The same is true for blogs. Starting your own blog is a great first step to building an audience (either that or I'm just sitting here and typing at myself), but it's not the only step. You need to provide something more than a constant barrage of "buy my book"; you need to offer them real information, real entertainment, and the ability to feel connected to you. If you know other bloggers then you should talk with them to try and get yourself, your blog, or your work featured over on their site. Guest blogging for someone that has a bigger audience than you do is a great way to build connections, and maybe to leech off a few of their fans for your own.
Lastly, videos. Not everyone should make videos. If you choose to, even if it's just rolling shots of you reading snippets from your book, make sure that you're smooth, that your lighting is good, and that you take a bit of time to tell the audience who you are, what they're about to hear, and let them know what they're in for. At the end of it all, make sure you thank them for watching, and list any and all pertinent information about yourself, the story, where they can find it, etc. Strike while the iron is hot, and that includes the opinion of people who might have stumbled on you by total accident, and now really, really want to have your book in their hot little hands.
|Seriously, you'll never guess what it's about.|
These things come in all shapes and sizes. Most authors turn their business cards into promotional materials, featuring a design from a cover, and links to their blogs and their published works. That's good, but it's just a start. Several authors I've spoken to swear by promotional bookmarks, where they can list out their credentials as well as hook people with a catchy design on a practical item. Others print up post cards, and others might make up stickers or give away other, small items. What you choose depends on your budget, but once you have them, take them to every meeting and keep a few in your pocket just for good measure. Most of them will probably be thrown in the garbage, but people will have to look at it before they chuck it.
This strategy is known by many names; communication science, interpersonal studies, and my personal favorite, fucking talking to people. Everyone reading this, even Taliban insurgents living in caves, knows people. You have parents, siblings, co-workers, LARP buddies, sword fighting peers, and a number of other folks primed for conversation. What's more, if you can convert even one of those people into a fan, then they act as a carrier for your message. They tell their friends, their friends tell still more friends, and you've gone old-fashioned viral. Word-of-mouth is a powerful force when it comes to books, and it can often lead to otherwise impossible connections. After all, your mother's best friend's landlord's nephew's fiancé just might have a senior editor at Random House as a father.
There are opportunities every day for making offline networking connections. You might be sitting at lunch chatting with your best friend about your newest plot when someone at the next table leans over and asks if you're a writer. You can smile, say yes, and offer them a bookmark. Hell, sign it for them if they want. It makes people feel special, it wins you admiration, and it could lead to a whole slew of positive results. You just need to make sure you keep your professional face as ready to hand as a business card and a pen.
|You'll meet all kinds. Shut up, and take their money.|
Firstly, for those who have an ebook and are looking to get some free marketing for it, I recommend checking out this list from Galley Cat here. There's some good stuff on that list, even if not all of it is right for your particular book.
There are so many things you can do that it can be hard to figure out precisely where you're going to strike gold. However, there are a couple of things you should definitely keep in mind in order to get the best results.
First and foremost, get your face as well as your name out there. Authors aren't typically thought of as on-camera personas, but a lot of the time a reader is buying you just as often as they're buying your book. If you're using a pen name, then create a persona. Make your audience pay attention to that persona, and make it a package deal with your other characters.
Keep your readers updated, particularly on your social media pages. No matter how great your books, you're bound to lose readers if you don't keep them in the loop about what's going on with you, your career, and your life.
Lastly, and this is a rule not just for you but also for your work. You can do nearly anything as an author. You can be profane, you can be disgusting, you can be controversial; you cannot be boring. As soon as you stop being interesting, that is when your numbers fall to zero, and people move on to find someone else to fulfill their entertainment needs.
As always, thanks for dropping in and staying for the whole of the mission briefing. If you've got any questions or concerns, drop them down in the comments below or put a message in the line at one of my social media pages mentioned above. The Literary Mercenary operates free of charge, but always appreciates support. Prod at the links on the page if you want to keep up going, or check out some of my stories available as ebooks. A good place to start looking is right here on Amazon, for those who are interested.