Marketing Your Work of Fiction
I authored this article at the request of fellow author Cynthia Vespia. She has it posted on her blog as well, Cynthia Vespia: Author of Thrills and Chills. I hope you can benefit from my insights into marketing your work of fiction in the 21st Century Internet and social media age!
Unless you are among the top three or four best-selling authors at a major publishing house, your publisher and agent will expect you to play a significant role in marketing your work. This is true for many of the well-known authors, the mid-listers, and pretty much everyone else. The writing industry has always been competitive, and today it is much more so. Fewer people buy books in a recession, resulting in decreased revenue for publishers. This translates into smaller marketing budgets all around. The top horses in the stable will get the biggest slices of a shrinking pie, leaving almost nothing for the rest of us to graze upon!
But all is not without hope. There are several things an author can do to promote and market that treasured work of fiction. In this article, I focus on a variety of “virtual world” techniques for creating and maintaining a robust Internet presence to increase your visibility and help you sell more books.
Website. You have to have one, and this should be the first step you take before considering anything else I suggest in this post. Think of your website as your base camp. You want everything else you do to drive web traffic to your website where you have rich content about you and your stories. I recommend breaking away from a traditional HTML-based website and use a blog platform. I use WordPress (www.wordpress.org) because it is easy to use, has thousands of options for things like themes, plugins, and widgets (I’ll explain in a moment), and it is free. What I really like about WordPress is that the “control panel” sits on a server, and not on my home computer. This means I can log-in from anywhere in the world, on any computer, and make changes, post new articles, make comments, interact with people, and so on.
With a variety of themes (visual styles), plugins (applications that perform functions…like search engine optimization (SEO)), and widgets (stuff the reader can see and use, like my contact forms), I have created a site that looks like a traditional website, but has a rolling blog and hidden functions that integrate my content with the major search engines. What this means is that the search engines crawl my blog every day and pluck new content, resulting in moving my search ranking up on a real-time basis. As an author, this means I am more “discoverable” when people search certain key words.
Let’s face it, anyone can find you easily enough if they search for you by name. What you really want is to land among the top ten results when people search more generic terms, like mystery, thriller, author. The only way to get there is to establish a significant presence in cyber space. Your website is the most important first step you must make toward this goal.
Social Media. If you are not on sites like FaceBook or MySpace, create an account soonest and make sure you put your author website on your profile. Cross-referencing like this enables the search engines to make critical links. I also recommend you place links to your social media sites on your website so that your fans can find you there and “friend” you later. Another advantage to having a presence on social media sites is that it gives you an additional platform to market your books. Some sites like FaceBook even allow you to create a fan page…it may be best to have someone else start this for you so as not to appear vain, but a fan page is definitely something to consider.
Groups. Many sites like LinkedIn and Yahoo have “groups” you can join where you can post information about you and your work. Of course, look for groups that have something to do with writing! Be sure to read the rules for posting to these groups since they are all moderated to a certain extent, and some things may be considered inappropriate. Generally speaking, announcements like new book releases, a superb book review, or an award you won are great things to mention…and be sure to put your website URL in the post!
Author Profile Sites. There are many such sites out there, and the following is just a partial list: GoodReads, Authors Den, Book Blips, shelfari, and so on. Consider creating an author profile on these sites since they are well-indexed in the SEO community. One you are there, your “presence” will get picked up by search engines, and thereby increase your visibility. As with the groups, make sure you place a link back to your website. On my website, I maintain a list of links to my author profiles on every page on my site for additional cross-referencing.
Guest-Blogging. Seek opportunities to guest-blog on other authors’ websites, and offer to reciprocate (if you have a blog platform site). When you guest-blog, you will add more grist to the SEO mill that will enhance your visibility. Your name will be linked in the mysterious virtual world with other authors, so there will be a pathway that connects you with them. The more visible another author is in the search engines, the more visible you will be as a result of these connections.
Press Kit and Media Events. Maintain an up-to-date press kit on your website that a reader can view and download. There’s no prescription for what must be in a press kit, but on my website I have the following items at the ready: Press Release, Biography, Sample Interview Q&A, Praise/Reviews, Media Coverage, and various image files (face and book covers). I’ve been approached by various media outlets to do stories about me in their publications as a result, thereby increasing my exposure.
Media Pitches. Cold pitches rarely work, so I would avoid them. There are some free services that reporters and journalists use that I do recommend. You simply sign up for the service, create a profile, and on a periodic basis you will receive emails containing lists of queries that reporters are looking for “experts” to interview. I use three: “Help a Reporter Out” (HARO.com), reporterconnection.com, and pitchrate.com. If you are able to establish yourself as an authority on a subject the journalist wants to write about, make a pitch and use it as a platform to plug your book during the interview. I’ve been successful on several occasions with print, traditional radio, and internet radio venues in marketing my book this way.
Good luck and happy-marketing!