Tips on promotion for e-authors: When to start. Particular attention to the issue of print galleys and reviews, plus sell sheets, press releases, and more.
The following article appeared in the April/May 2001 issue of OUTREACHER Newsletter by the Outreach International Romance Writers. Also in the Spring 2001 edition of The Write Touch, publication for members of The Whole Thing through Outreach Int'l.
All the way.
As every author knows promotion can make or break a novel. You have to get your name out there. Get noticed. And stay that way. It’s particularly hard to do this if your book is being published in E-book format and/or POD. Since I just sold a mystery/thriller myself, I decided to investigate the promotional aspects—what my publisher is willing to do, and what I have to do. And I can tell you; I have to do much more than the publisher.
Ok, you just sold your novel, signed your contract, and you may or may not have a pub date yet. The sooner you get your name out there, the better.
You have a marketing and promotion plan, right? You’d better, because, unfortunately—until the e-publishers can gather enough steam and money, they don’t have the resources to give you much of a budget for promotion-- if you’re an e-author you’re going to be doing a lot of the work, and shouldering a lot of the expense, yourself.
Let’s talk Web page. This is going to be essential if you plan to market yourself and your books. Links to bookstores, publishers, search engines, organizations you belong to, sites that promote your kind of book, as well as linking to those sites if possible, are priceless. You can never start on this project too soon. And believe me, you’ll need the time to refine it. I’ve probably updated mine about ten times already, adding this link, or that piece of info, changing the picture, etc.
Most servers will provide you with free web space and a web page. You design it with their software (no html experience needed). FTP programs can be downloaded for free—these will allow you to upload files. My personal pick, however, is Microsoft’s Home Publishing program in Word 2000—because I’m obviously FTP/HTML challenged—which lets you design your own page with text, pictures, pages, links, etc. You see it, as it will appear on the web—html can be edited in Word, the site previewed in Explorer—then upload the whole thing in a step-by-step click. The program automatically creates the html file so you don’t have to do anything but design, save, and publish to the web. If you don’t already have a space on the web, the program will get one for you. If I can do it, it’s sure to be moron proof. Editing is a snap because you simple change the way you want the page to look and upload. The program will overwrite the old files and your new, updated page appears immediately on your site. P.S. You can also create bookmarks and covers in this program.
Moving on—Press Releases. Your publisher will probably send out a few, but let’s face it, you’ll either need to inform them of select places you’d like the release sent or rack up the expense of sending it yourself. In my case, the setting of my book was local, right here in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. So I want to take advantage of the all the local publicity I can get. Newspapers, TV stations, radio, magazines, you name it, and I want to use it. As a new author, I had no idea what a press release looked like or what info to include. Never fear, both http://how-to.com/ and http://netbusiness.aol.com/marketsell/ have excellent step-by-step examples. Press Releases are the best way to end up with interviews on radio and local TV. Don’t ignore them.
Sell Sheets are another useful tool for sending out to bookstore retailers, wholesalers, and even consumers. Information you will include: Title, Author, Category, ISBN, Format, Pub Date, # of Pages, Price, Trim (dimensions of your book), Availability from, First print run. Thumbnail of your book jacket. Short synopsis. Reviews. Short Author bio. If the sheet is for Buyers you’ll want to include pertinent parts of your marketing plan (events, publicity, advertising you will do).
Booksignings. Your publisher will help set them up and provide copies, but you should do as much local promotion in bookstores that offer your book as possible. Make a list of the places you would like to do signings at in advance, then contact them and get the scoop on the setup so you’ll be ready to rock when the book comes out.
Reviews. Now these can get a little tricky, especially for E-authors. Yes, your publisher will send out x number of copies (electronic) for review. But what about magazines, websites, newspapers, and media that will not review unless they have print galleys? Either way, most places require galleys 3-4 months in advance. Don’t sweat it, I have the answer. Get online and search out all pertinent reviewers, magazines, etc., for your type book, along with print mags and newspapers. Contact them about their review policies and whether or not they require print galleys. These reviewers should be added to your list of places you intend to submit to. Now, also in the dandy little Microsoft Word 2000 is a program for creating brochures, newsletters, bookmarks, resumes, professional presentations, etc. I opened the brochure template, customized it to 2 columns instead of three, copied and pasted my manuscript into it, and viola--print galley!!! Now I’m armed and ready to storm the gates of those who will only review books by way of print galley. All it will cost me is my time, paper, ink, and postage. What will I get in return? Hopefully, a heck of a lot more exposure. What have I got to lose?
Ok, now you’ve got a release date, the final ms is approved, its time to get cracking. Get out your list of reviewers (both e and print) and send ‘em out. Create your press releases and fax them if you can. If not, mail them. Be sure you know to whom you’re sending the information. Make up your sell sheets and distribute them to local bookstore that will be carrying your book. Make up bookmarks for free giveaway in libraries, from family members and friends, bookstores. Basically any local retailer who will allow you to place them in their stores. Call your local bookstore and arrange signings. Update your web page. Post your URL on message boards, in communities, newsletters, and on supportive websites.
While you’re doing all that, I have no idea when you’ll find time to write. But that, my friends, is the way the page turns.