Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Key to Marketing Your Book: Time Well Spent

I was recently interviewed by Shelli over at Market My Words, and one of the questions had me stumped: what are the top three things every author should do to promote their work?

I stared at the question and stared at it and stared at it until I realized I could only think of one: every author should have some sort of Googlable web presence so that when someone sees your work or hears about you they have a way to contact you. This can be a website or a blog or a Facebook page... something, anything so that opportunity knows where to knock.

Beyond that, however, I think with so many marketing options available to authors in the era of the Internet there's sort of been a new expectation/conventional wisdom creeping up that the key to being a Good Hardworking Promoting Author is to blow out your blog, your Facebook page, your website, your Twitter feed, your Myspace page (still people there!), your Goodreads network, your Flickr account, and better yet, all of the above and by the way you need to set up your own author tour and try to get some media appearances going we'd love it if you placed some articles and stories and where's your book trailer oh also don't quit your day job and don't forget about your manuscript deadline and make sure the next book is incredible and amazing and could you spend some time with your family please?

Needless to say: unless you were born with more hours in the day than the rest of us, doing everything is not possible.

Nor is doing everything productive! If you don't have a passion for blogging it's going to show. Readers will notice and your blog will remain obscure. Not a newsflash: obscure blogs don't sell books. No one should be blogging (or Tweeting or Facebooking or etc.) for the sake of blogging (or Tweeting or Facebooking or etc.).

It takes time to make a good blog, a good Twitter feed, a good Facebook page, a good book trailer, etc., and if you dilute your time and try to do everything you might end up without a good anything.

Instead: do what you're best at. Don't make yourself miserable doing what you think you should be doing, do what you enjoy doing. Utilize your time where it's best spent:

- If you have a talent and passion for blogging: do that.
- If you enjoy Twitter and know the ins and outs: do that.
- If you are a great public speaker and love attending writers conferences: do that.
- If you have media connections and can utilize them: do that.
- If you love pounding the pavement and meeting with local bookstores to arrange signings and events: do that.
- If you are an amateur filmmaker on the side and have an idea for a killer book trailer: do that.
- If you think creatively and enjoy thinking of wacky publicity events: do that.
- If you are fabulously wealthy and you want to drop books from an airplane with $100 bills attached: do that, and please make sure to stop by San Francisco.

Mix and match as appropriate.

There's no one way to promote a book, and if there were a surefire way to get a book to take off and become a bestseller I would patent it and sell it to you for seven trillion dollars. Know your strengths, utilize your time well, and remember that at the end of the day the whims of fate and word of mouth are more powerful than any marketer.

Do what you can in the time you have. Just be smart about it.






150 comments:

Kiersten White said...

The airplane is gassed and ready to go for September. Also, my lawyer is ready for all those injury lawsuits for when my book totally brains someone.

(Also, all good points. People ask me how they can get more people to read their blog and it's always the same answer: like blogging and blog well. If you don't, why do it?)

lindacassidylewis said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have eased my mind immeasurably.

hannah said...

Hey Nathan--

Have book trailers proved to be effective marketing? The last I heard, no one thought they made much of a difference.

Nathan Bransford said...

hannah-

I think you'll find diverging opinions on that one. Basically though, it's not the medium that matters but how popular it is. So I'm sure wildly popular/viewed book trailers help, but most don't become wildly popular.

T. Anne said...

This is all great and I agree stick to what you can pull off. Better to do a few things well, than spread yourself thin and do them all terribly. Thank God for the internet and sites like Author Buzz. Marketing machines for hire are a great thing too. Although I do like where your going with this airplane thing...

Heather Kelly said...

I loved this piece of advice when you doled it out at Shelli's and I love it now. I can't wait to have the problem of trying to step out of my comfort zone to market my fantastic book. (Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?)

Danette Haworth said...

*reaches for cappuccino and sighs with relief*

Ink said...

Where does running naked and covered in sequins across the court at a Sacramento Kings game fit in?

Vanessa Wieland said...

Great post. Besides, with everyone already doing those things, what makes someone stand out from the masses? It feels like a lot of chatter, and I can't hear myself think.

It's all evolving, anyway. By the time I get my manuscript ready to query and send out, by the time I query and sell, there are going to be newer, different methods that we'll all be trying to take advantage of.

Samuel said...

At the end of the day, that's a really great post, Nathan, because, at the end of the day, we can only do what we're capable of doing. Ahem.

greg said...

I totally agree. Having clear goals and a plan for the time you spend online is vitally important. Also, we all have different goals, differing amounts of time we can spend online, and different comfort levels with the various tools so we're all going to use social media differently...and that's okay!

It's far better to do one thing well than to do 10 things poorly and stress yourself out, to boot.

Natalie Whipple said...

Completely agree here. I've tried out several online networking working things, and there's only two that ended up sticking. Blogging and Twitter. I'm still shocked that I like Twitter.

People have asked me how I can post everyday, and it's because I honestly like to blog. You can tell when someone is just using a networking site because they feel like they have to—and it's not as effective.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Knowing where your strengths lie is key.

There's a well known vanity publisher that pushes its authors to get on every available outlet and "promote, promote, promote", meaning SPAM Twitter, and every Facebook page, website, blog they can find with their name and title (and of course a link back to the publisher!)

They sell them on the idea that all they have to do is put the fact that they've finished a book in the public eye and it'll snowball from there.

Most of the people who go with this group (and think they're commercially published, on top of it) jump in all excited (they were NOT happy when Twitter tightened their Spam filters and prevented them from Tweeting more than 2 identical messages in a row). When the sales don't start pouring in, they're confused and hurt and confused some more because this is supposed to be "easy".

There's no cultivation involved, no craft or focus to the promotion. (A blog for kid's books probably isn't the best place to SPAM your romance novels.)

You also have to be careful with what you post. I don't mean content so much as quality. Those Google hits can backfire if your blog is full of spelling / grammatical errors. Readers will have to assume your books are done the same way.

It amazes me to read blogs by professional writers that are barely decipherable. If I find one typo in mine, I have to go back and fix it.

Ver word: peepi -- when Apple breaks into the marshmallow chicken market.

Christy Gail said...

Thanks Nathan! With all of the different tools available, it is good to hear some wisdom saying you don't have to do it all (especially if you aren't very good at it).

Nathan Bransford said...

samuel-

Haha, thanks! I knew that wasn't reading right.

hannah said...

Thanks, Nathan!

Sandra G. said...

About book trailers - do publishers recommend them and/or assist with production for their bigger authors?

Of the handful of homemade book trailers I've viewed, none were too impressive...

Rick Daley said...

You can also place strategic comments on blogs that are way more popular than your own.

Ink- If you are covered in sequins, are you still naked?

WORD VERIFICATION- disterdi. What a toddler says to indicate that something is not clean.

ryan field said...

"Do what you can in the time you have. Just be smart about it."

This is a great summary.

Mira said...

Lol, Ink.

Great post, Nathan! Love it - we should go with our strengths and use our time wisely. Not burn ourselves out trying to do everything and be everywhere.

Thank you - I really appreciate the compassion and realism in this post.

If we're happier and taking care of ourselves, we'll be so much more effective.

Dara said...

This post comes as a relief to me. I was beginning to think I had to do all of the above in order to market well. Knowing I could throw myself into one of two of those marketing ventures--and do so passionately--is immensely more realistic. :)

Kristin Laughtin said...

THANK YOU. That third paragraph especially...it does seem there is an expectation to do all these things, and it's just not possible for probably the overwhelming majority of people, especially if you're also supposed to be writing the next book and so on. I'm sure you've reassured many authors, present or future, and kept quite a few from having panic attacks with this post.

Ben said...

Great advice. I've felt the pressure several times to have a blog, etc. so that people will clamor to buy my book when it comes out.

Ultimately you have to try these things out before you can know whether they're a fit for you individually, but at least we don't have to stay in bondage to a particular form of social media if we don't like it.

Mark Terry said...

Amen. Too bad you weren't a fly on the wall when I had lunch with my publisher a couple months back and they suggested, mostly with a straight face, that I should aim for 65 bookstore signings for the upcoming novel.

I'm fairly certain my poker face is fairly mediocre anyway, but I'm also fairly certain that I might as well have stamped WTF!!! on my forehead at that point.

Michelle said...

I love your advice!! The airplane thing made me giggle.

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan, thanks for permission to stop worrying, or at least drop it to a manageable level. Great advice--do what you're comfortable with (and do it well).

Newsletters that beg recipients to talk up a novel may get results, but that's not me.

Twelve or fifteen Twitter posts a day pushing a soon-to-be-released novel strike a note of neediness.

I've talked with my agent about the airplane idea, but she thought it might be too flashy. Too bad. I liked that one.

Kia said...

You're like some crazy psychic agent-cum-author-cum-secret cyborg. I was going to suggest a 'You Tell Me' to ask Social Media: How much is too much?

The reason being that I have a (dying) blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed (which I think are more than enough) but I've been told I need a YouTube channel as well. Personally, I think that's overkill. What you said about not doing it just for the sake of doing it is so absolutely true and has made up my mind.

Thank you once again.

PS. I saw pictures of the damage done by a recent Cali mini-earthquake. I hope everything's ok.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Agree 100%!!

I don't really like book signings, so I do one around the book's release and that's it. Other authors love them, and enjoy traveling around on their own dime to do them and meet people. Works for them, not for me.

Plus I think if you don't like someone and are doing it because you feel like you have to, it will show.

Thermocline said...

Thank you for this post. I've been stressed thinking "I should be blogging, I should be blogging" while knowing, deep in my introverted soul, that I would hate it.

jmartinlibrary said...

Great advice. Really, really good stuff.

I work at studying whatmy author/mentor/superfriends do. I soak up what I can and try to implement it.

Rachel said...

This is great advice. Thanks!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Sometimes I drive myself nuts (short trip) thinking of all the things I "should" be doing to market my book. As a result, I feel horribly guilty and inadequate.

It makes total sense to focus on the areas of marketing that come more naturally to me. Thank you for giving me permission to forgo the bookstore signings! My time is much better spent on my blog, Facebook, and one-woman show. Fantastic post!

The Greens Committee said...

I'm not sure if this is helpful, because it is a different genre than most here. But, I decided to create a virtual setting within a blog to set the stage for a future book release. Very different, but feedback is strong. Posts in the blog are supplied by charachters in my novel etc. Have a read, and take away what you'd like.

Cary

www.IslandwoodCountryClub.com

Scott said...

Great advice, Nathan.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

Thanks for the advice. I'll share what helped me, years ago when I edited a collection of short stories for young readers by Latino authors: a web site with lesson plans.

It helps that I've been teaching, full-time or part-time, for many years and that I've written curriculum packages. When I assembled the lesson plans for the short stories and presented them at a conference session at which only a handful of people showed up (lousy time slot and distant room), I though nothing would come of them. Shortly afterward, I added the plans to my web site.

More than a year later, I saw that an urban district had adopted the collection as a textbook, and two years after that, I was touring with a new novel and heard from the youngsters at another urban library that the short story collection was a textbook in their middle school and the teacher had used the activity exactly as I'd presented it in the lesson plan.

Susan Quinn said...

Knowing your strengths is key to many aspects of writing (as well as being on a first name basis with your weaknesses). Most people who are successful (pick any field) are because they are very good at something - not because they are good at EVERYTHING.

Also: there's so much conflicting advice out there for writers - about writing, publishing, marketing - that it's dizzying just to try to keep it straight. At some point you have to know yourself and trust your instincts.

You provide a fantastic service by bringing the voice of reason to questions like these. Thank you!

p.s Ink-if you put that on YouTube, I'm pretty sure you'd get a few views.

catwoods said...

I think the best advice here is to do what you are passionate about. If you are dabbling just to self-promote but hate it, readers will see right through that and begin to question your integrity.

Thanks for a great post.

Dawn Maria said...

Thanks for the reasonable advice. I feel like there's so much emphasis put on promotion these days that the writing gets lost in the shuffle. I love Twitter and I blog, so I am busy enough for now.

Susan Quinn said...

Also: Say you have a blog-Twitter-FB groove going, and you land a book deal. Will publishers help you further develop your online presence to fit your now-published book? Or does that only happen for the big name/bestsellers?

Sarah said...

THANK you for saying that every author need not blog. I know dozens of hopeful novelists who blog because A) someone told them they should and B) it's easier than polishing the novel. Or at least they believe it's easier. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Corey Schwartz said...

What about getting a publicist? In your opinion, is that generally worth the money?

Dreamstate said...

A resounding *phew*! While I love to write, I'm not all that keen on the blogging (too much pressure to be funny, wise, clever...) A magazine that has published my short stories in the past just approached me about submitting more work.

I've been killing myself trying to figure out how to finish my novel revisions for the agent who asked for them, write the stories, and establish my platform. It's nice to know that maybe writing the stories *will* establish my platform!

Thanks again, Nathan, for helping us out!

Nathan Bransford said...

corey-

I think it depends on the author, the publicist, and the project. I'd say don't spend money you can't afford to lose, but I know some authors who have been happy to have the extra help.

Matthew said...

I was stressing about this very thing all last night. I'm just learning how to operate my own blog (no link; it's not ready yet).

Kings fan said...

nathan, apologize for the off-topic comment, but i was just wondering, in your opinion...

does this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD1IX13EiWY&feature=popt11us14

make up for this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efdC6qLHyk4

?

Kristi said...

Ink - I'd call that a wacky publicity event but it would probably be more entertaining than the game. :)

Also, Shelli's blog is great for those that haven't discovered it yet - especially for those like me who aren't marketing gurus. I am not a Tweeter and have zero desire to figure it out. Anything involving the term hashtags sounds scary.

Nathan Bransford said...

kings fan-

Ha. Nothing can make up for Kobe Bryant.

Keith Popely said...

You know, Nathan, I feel like you just talked me off a ledge. I started a blog because I thought we were "supposed to have one." But I freaking hate blogging. And I do think it shows. I'd rather spend my time writing my book than my blog. Thanks for saying it's okay to not have a blog.

Nathan Bransford said...

(but Tyreke Evans' shot was incredible)

Keith Popely said...

Blog. Perhaps I should have proofread that comment before I posted it. Blog. You know what I'm saying? Blog. Blog. Bloggedy blog blog blog.

Ryan said...

It's amazing how many times we have to hear something along the lines of: "Be patient and do what your good at."

You forgot to include a bullet point that says, "Limit yourself to less than an hour a day perusing blogs."

This blog is an amazing resource but also a gargantuan Time-Suck.

Back to trying to cut my trailer down to two minutes...

Mira said...

You know, just to add a thought, someday, I'd like to talk about blogging in general.

I'm thinking of starting a blog. Not now; I'm so busy it's ridiculous. I can't even participate much in your wonderful forums. But this summer, I could start a blog....

Blogs get my creative energy going like nothing else I've found...

On the other hand, what if I post thoughts or jokes on my blog that I later want to include in an MS? Have I watered my work down?

Also, I enjoy the creative expression of blogs - it really is it's own art form - but then all the social networking comes into it. It's so hard to social network with people when you can't see them. So, easy for misunderstandings. I like making friends, but blogs are tricky. You can alienate people without intending to, and never even know it.........on the other hand, I've met great people on blogs; it can go either way. It's just so tricky.

Anyway, just some thoughts about blogging.......

Jille said...

gotta love the "you can't do everything" advice coming from someone who agents, authors, and maintains this fabulous blog! Way to follow your own advice, Nathan :)

Ink said...

Rick,

It depends on which parts are covered by the sequins...

Paul Greci said...

Thanks, Nathan. Your advice rings true. I'm enjoying my blog and twitter so I think I'll focus on those networks.

Anonymous said...

Something a lot of writers don't realize--even if you don't want to actively blog, there's no reason not to have an account on the 3 major blog sites, for example, even if they just sit around with your website link on them. I mean, why not? It's free, SOME poeple will see them and end up on your site, and it ups your search engine visibility.

Anonymous said...

Aother key is just to always be doing SOMETHING. I make it a goal to add some type of internet presence at least once per week. Not on flickr? Why not post your book cover on there? Not on Bebo? Yeah it's ranked behind Fb etc. but still, why not set up a profile there with your book cover and links?

Free publicity!

And there's still a TON of peeps on Myspace, btw...also, MS is the most flexible of the SNs--you can post multimedia content, there's no limit to the # of friends you can have, etc. Silly not to take advantage of that kind of free exposure! You don't have to be on their everyday adding friends and chatting people up, but not to even have an acocunt is just shooting yourself in the foot, IMO.

Every week, ask yourself: What new presence have I set up for my book this week?

How bout Squidoo? Google Earth?! Google profile? Friendster?! Crimespace...The list is endless!

Lydia Sharp said...

I don't do twitter.
I don't do facebook.
I don't do myspace.
(Oh dear God no) I don't do book trailers.
I do belong to a few writing communities, though.

I'm a blogger at heart. That's what I love, and that's what has been the most effective approach for me. Even so, it takes time to establish.

The number one thing I've learned is that you have to continually adjust to meet the needs of your audience (it can't just be about you). And that includes everything from post content to color choice and layout.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Mira, I think you can absolutely use thoughts and jokes you post on your blog in a MS or other outlet. Sometimes while writing a blog post, I'll come up with a line I'll use in my stand-up act, and I'm incorporating quite a few lines from my blog into my show next month.

Writing blog posts is a great for getting the creative juices flowing, and when I come up with a gem, I try to get as much mileage out of it as possible!

Anonymous said...

I prefer to reserve all my writing time and energy for the books. Don't let blogging 'scratch the itch," I've heard it said, and agree.

However I do agre that there's o reason not to at least have a blog account, where your links are always there, and if you have announcements about your book, they can go there, or if you ever DO want to blog, it's already set up.

JDuncan said...

I think no matter what you do, you have to do it with enthusiasm. Give people a reason to stay connected with you. You don't have to be full of wisdom or insight about writing/publishing. You don't have to be full of wit and charm (though it certainly doesn't hurt), but you do need to give readers a reason to stay in contact with you. The longer folks stick with you, the more likely you are to build word of mouth and that has proven time and again to generate sales. My two bits anyway. Oh, and don't ask me what to do in order to keep readers interested. I'm still working on that one myself :-)

jongibbs said...

Great post, as always.

Thanks for sharing :)

dave malone said...

This is rockin' good. I tell my friend who's a sculptor that she needs to submit her works to galleries more often--so that, like your suggestions here, it's a very organic process. This ensures you're loving what you're doing.

Becky said...

Thanks for this.

Colette said...

Wow! Well that just goes to show there is no formula. Thanks for giving me permission to build a platform whatever way rocks my boat!

bookwitch said...

It must be something in the air (the plane dropping ideas rather than money?) since we have managed to blog on much the same topic on the same day.

Weird.

Cheryl Barker said...

Loved your third paragraph -- how you summed up the demands on writers today. Feels good just to have someone in the industry acknowledge how overwhelming it can feel. I don't have a book contract yet but still feel the pressure to build that ole platform...

Grimmster24 said...

Thanks, Nathan! One thing that HAS actually been on my mind at least in the last few days is the idea of having a website for people to contact me, and I am grateful that you made it absolutely clear that even just my Facebook page is one of those options.

I'll keep on keepin' on.

Oooh, and my word verification came up with "somandse." Sounds like an African dance. :-)

Karen said...

And while I'm doing all this, what is my publicist doing? Writing my next novel?

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great advice. Sometimes I get more afraid of being published thinking of all the marketing things there are to do while trying to keep my day job. You make it seem a little less daunting.

J.J. Bennett said...

Amen to that... A post with realistic expectations. You made my day.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I've just finished reading "Left Hand of God" by Paul Hoffman; for a writer the man is nearly a ghost. (Kind of appropriate.)But how can I send congratulations on the book that had me reading anti-socially, cringing and vaugely confused?
Cale, Kleist and Vague Henri rule - heroic anti-heroes?

Publicity - write well enough for other people to do it?

Kathryn said...

I LOVE this post. As a writer who is between draft #2 and draft #3 of her first novel, I'm really more focused on making the work good. But I've had several (published) writer friends tell me I should blog. I tried it a few years ago and it didn't work for me, but now two other writers have invited me to be part of their existing blog, and I said yes. This way, I can develop a bit of a presence and say what I want to say without feeling responsible for an entire blogging platform. And since I'm still juggling teaching with all this, time management has become an art and a necessity.

Naya said...

Thanks for this. Generally people hound you to start doing everything at once, but it makes more sense to find what you're good at and enjoy and just stick with that. Thankfully I enjoy much of the above. :-D

Munk said...

Started my blog last weekend... let's hope I like blogging (or that it doesn't show if I don't). Tried FB... hated it.
I like writing fiction not writing about myself... my personal life is... well ... boring, but I'll try to make up for it by providing pointless observations on real world events.

I know... it sounds riveting don't it.

Steve said...

Nathan,

Any thoughts on how to get an online effort initially noticed? Once you start to get noticed, you'll probably get noticed more, if your content is good. But how do you get noticed to start with? If you build it, will they come?

The internet is huge. What can make people be aware that your blog. twitter feed, or whatever exists?

-Steve

Naya said...

Oh and on the book trailers... I was actually thinking of finding someone popular on YouTube and getting them to produce a book trailer for me at some point. I figure, if they've already got a following, then I'd be stupid not to take advantage of that... now to find someone popular enough who has a following of people who'd be interested in my genre... that's the real trick!

D. G. Hudson said...

Everyone has their strong points, and that seems to be what you're emphasizing in this post. We have to trust our instincts as to which type of presence we promote.

Great post, and one which I agree with. Time is precious, and there's never enough to go around.

Laura Martone said...

Good advice, Nathan. And you're totally right. Although it's sometimes advisable to be a Jack of Many Trades, in this game, being a Master of One or Two probably works best.

Googlability, here I come! (You should trademark that!)

Marilyn Peake said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you and enjoyed reading your interview. I’ve tried many book promotion ideas, and eventually settled on a few so that I could continue to balance my life and find time to write. I started out online by joining writers’ groups, and many great opportunities came my way through networking. Here are some of the book promotion projects I’ve done:

Established a website, and purchased several domain names for it.

Wrote articles for Mike Geffner’s Newsletter in exchange for free publicity. I met Mike Geffner when I participated in his online writers’ groups.

Sent out copies of all my books for reviews, and entered them in award contests. I posted review sections for all my books individually on my website.

Most outrageous promotion I’ve ever done: hired a company that runs slide-show advertisements before movies in one of our local movie theaters to design an ad for my first novel and show it before every movie in that theater for a week, and rented a party room in the theater for a book signing.

Had excerpts from my books, book cover artwork, and poems I’d written included on a CD with similar excerpts from official STARGATE authors who were appearing at a convention with STARGATE actors. Hundreds of copies of the CD were handed out at the convention and offered online for a limited time.

Signed up with Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR) to be contacted as a radio show guest. Developed a topic with RTIR that combined my background in clinical psychology with my background as author of several middle grade children’s novels: topic of "overscheduled children". To my complete delight, I received quite a few phone calls from all across the United States and Canada to speak on the radio, and had a blast doing it!

Participated in numerous interviews, many of them online, but also had a two-page interview about my children’s novels which are set on an imaginary Celtic island in TBD, a print magazine associated with Io, the University of Glasgow Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. I was deeply honored, and thrilled when my free copy arrived in the mail all the way from Scotland.

Started an online newsletter through Yahoo! Groups. Invited small press authors and movie and TV people I met online to write articles for it. Two years of articles were published as small press books, and the books went on to win awards.

Had inexpensive video trailers made for several of my books. Chipped in with other authors to have an awesome B-Movie/Sci-Fi trailer made by a company using live actors. All the trailers can be seen here.

Gave away lots of bookmarks and pencils engraved with the name of my website.

Appeared as a guest author at elementary and middle schools to talk with children in their classrooms about my children’s novels.

Had articles published online, including an article entitled ARCHETYPES IN FANTASY WRITING.

I had a blast doing these and other book promotions, and sold more than the average number of copies for small press books. About a year ago, I scaled back on book promotion to write an adult science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE. I’m now working with Alan Rinzler on the editing, and am looking forward to seeing what happens with this book.

Terry said...

Thank you. I like this graph: "There's no one way to promote a book... Know your strengths, utilize your time well, and remember that at the end of the day,the whims of fate and word of mouth are more powerful than any marketer."

I so agree. The whims of The Fates, Fortuna. We rely on her. I pray to her every day.

And maybe word of mouth. Nice post.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ Steve: If you build it, they will come, but only if they know you’re there.

It’s a huge topic, but in short, the best way to draw traffic to your blog is to comment on blogs and forums of similar interest, especially those that already enjoy a lot of traffic. Make sure your comments are sincere and thoughtful; readers can tell when people are peeing all over the blogosphere just to expose themselves. (Yikes, that sounds so dirty…)

Shelli said...

awesome advice - thanks for saying that! :) I think its important for authors to know they must do something but to do what works for them.

Eva O'Dell said...

Being online is being part of the world at the moment. I am slowly starting to realize that more and more.

Marilyn Peake said...

Steve,

If you’re patient, taking part in friendly writers’ groups and blogs can lead to amazing opportunities for publicity. My Yahoo! Groups newsletter led to an incredible number of opportunities for me, including a publicist for the screenwriter of a movie featuring Jon Voight including me in several publicity campaigns for free. It took a while – maybe a year or more – before one thing gradually started leading to another. Most of it was spontaneous, the result of simply chatting with other people online and offering them free publicity in my newsletter. I’ve met so many extremely generous and professional people online, it’s been a sheer joy collaborating with them on book projects. But it does take time to find writers with similar goals who are also interested in the same type of book projects. Also, the more projects I produced, the easier it became to interest people in future projects. It took years before it really felt like things were on a roll. When I first got online, I had difficulty finding even one person who would agree to review my books. That’s no longer a problem, but it took a lot of hard work and determination.

ali said...

Most awesome, once again!

I want to add a hearty "hear, hear!" to an uninterested blogger is so obvious. And it doesn't do anything for me. I'd much rather run into an author with a great website and speaking dates as opposed to one who blogs because they think they should but has a terrible, unkempt blog.

I like your advice on going with where our talents/interests lie. :)

ann foxlee said...

Did you hear the huge sigh of relief all the way down in California?
Thank the FSM that you posted this Nathan! A blog? that's one thing. I can handle doing that, and it's actually been fun. But for some reason Facebook and Twitter make me want to curl into a little ball and go catatonic...which was only making me think I was going to be such an utter failure at promotion that no agent or publisher would ever want my work, and and-- sigh....

Thanks for reminding me its about the writing, and that I can use my creativity to promote myself in ways I actually ENJOY. :-)

Marsha Sigman said...

I think I'll just...do that.

Marilyn Peake said...

Vegas Linda Lou @5:26 PM -

That's quite a visual. LOL.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm usually a lurker around here, but I love this post. It made me feel better about being anti-Twitter (thank goodness for blogging!) and you made me laugh out loud.

If I were fabulously wealthy I would definitely buzz over San Fran with a $100 bill with your name on it. :)

Lisa Desrochers said...

You got me thinking... With a September release I've got nine months to build a buzz around my book, and I was thinking my imprint was nuts for doing it this quick. But really, It's about getting out there and networking the best way you know how.

And try to have fun. =)

Nine months is plenty of time. *breathe*

Lori W. said...

Good sound advice. I just did a post tracking the reasons I bought the books I did in 09 and there wasn't much rhyme or reason.

I will say that since I've been hanging out on the internet more, I have bought more books I've found out about on book blogs, author blogs, etc. And, I do like to be able to Google an author.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Great post. Enthusiasm and time management. In the end word of mouth is the best marketing tool. You can only be yourself.

Linguista said...

I just googled myself and the results were not pretty.

I have a blog, but I don't think my name is anywhere on it. ACK!!!

Dixy said...

I think all that you suggested works.. but I had few more queries...
Do I need to consult my publisher before I start marketing myself online?
I personally hated FB, Orkut and all social netwroking sites..blogging works maybe sometimes but then the blog posts are generally musings..do they count as bad marketing then?
how much of marketing is a writers work? I was under the impression that its something we do jointly with the publisher

Mira said...

Vegas Linda Lou - thanks for the feedback. That's good to know. Good luck, btw, with your book. It's really interesting to hear about it - I've been meaning to say that to you for awhile. :)

Marilyn, your list is awesome. I'm coping it for when I'm in that stage of things. Wow.

Nathan, some pretty cool people come to your site. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks, Mira! There are soooo many ways to build a writing career through the Internet, the possibilities are practically endless.

Diana said...

You nailed it, Nathan! You've described my dilemna as if you've lived it. I tried to do it all because all the pundits told me to (and yes, I still have a MySpace page, except I forget to check it on a regular basis anymore); all that happened was that I got frustrated and walked away from everything. Including the writing that got me here in the first place.

Your advice to choose one (or two) methods of promotion is a good one. I've recently decided the blog and the website are really enough with an occasional Twit to let people know about updates. I have also used Second Life to promote and I'm keeping that, too. The rest of my time is better spent actually writing the books.

Southpaw said...

Good post and here’s why I like it. You said we didn’t have to do everything! So many (other) sites write that we need to FB, tweet, blog, jump up and down, and do horse tricks. I’m not little Miss. Social so that doesn’t fly for me. I have started blogging and that seems to work for me (at least for now).

Shmologna said...

Another good post.

I've been sitting around thinking up ways I would market my book (agents want to know).

Perhaps I've spent too much time worrying about it. And no. I've quickly discovered that I can't do it all.

patty Sherry said...

What can I say but a big fat Tusen Takk ( Norwegian for 1000 thanks) or maybe that is a milliion thanks. My translation might be off, but reading your blog has me "on" and feeling fabulous.

Amy Sorrells said...

Love and so appreciate this. Thank you!

Ryan said...

Thanks Marilyn for your contributions. Your story about the Yahoo Groups and how it helped you is a good one.

Little bits at a time...At the end of the day I'm stoked just to have a new person leave a comment on my blog. I'm reading Tipping Point right now and Word of mouth(word of keyboard these days) is the most powerful thing that can drive popularity. It's like that take a penny and double it everyday formula.

I started "blogging" but it felt like clutter. I could literally hear people saying, "blah blah who cares."

Now, I'm using my Blog as more of a showcase of my best works instead of trying to gain an everyday-entry-type following.

Two of my favorites:

A story about a special kitten and a video
http://thechinproject.wordpress.com/memoir/short-but-fun/

About laughing
http://thechinproject.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/mansbestfriend/

katdish said...

Great article! It has been my experience that many writers are introverts by nature, so promotion is not something that comes naturally for them. My advice? Ask for help from someone you trust, that believes in your work and is more comfortable with this aspect of the business. This allows you to focus on the writing instead of all the other distractions.

Chuck H. said...

Okay, what about flag pole sitting? I have a touch of vertigo but that should just make it more interesting, right?

WV: sormit - what you get from slapping hard headed people up side the head.

Kory Wells said...

I've been making preparations for a workshop on social media and web-based promotions for a few weeks now, and in doing so have convinced myself of just what you say, Nathan: doing it all is probably too much for most of us, especially if we want time left for actual creative writing and are introverts, as katdish says. Thanks for a voice of reason amongst all this social media noise! I'll be sharing your thoughts with my audience this weekend!

Fawn Neun said...

I've decided to start dating minor reality show celebrities and have screaming rows with them in public places - what are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Wow, exhausted authors everywhere thank you for this great Public Service Announcement, Nathan! And we'll add ours:

THANK YOU!

The Shrinking Violets

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela K. Nickerson said...

I'd add one more suggestion to your list: a Virtual Book Tour. When my first book launched I made stops on 20-some blogs writing about my book in a variety of ways. I connected with bloggers who have been unfailingly supportive of my work since, and I connected with readers many of whom bought my book. Additionally, it increased my Google-ability because not only was I a presence on my own sites, but I also had links back from others and my name was flung far and wide. Every little bit helps!

I blogged about my experience here:
http://www.gypsysguide.com/2008/07/midlist-writer-my-virtual-book-tour.html

The best part: it is free!

Ishta Mercurio said...

How did you know that I have a blog, am toying with the idea of Twitter, have been pushed towards Facebook umpteen times, have a Goodreads account, and have a house to clean, a yard to manage, friends to keep up with, and a family to look after and spend time with as well? Did someone from China hack into my Gmail account, and pass on the details?

Regardless, I don't care how you knew, I'm just glad that you did. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this post. Now I can just focus on my blog and my writing without feeling like I'm going to be rejected by every single literary agent in the world.

Word Verification: pultifi - to beat to a pulp from all sides

Dawn Simon said...

Awesome post. And I still appreciate the advice you gave when I had a consultation with you and asked you about blogging. Thanks. :)

Genella deGrey said...

Thank you, Nathan - Everyone is always trying to drag me into joining networking sites I'm not on. I keep telling them I have enough going on with my website & MS page and all the blog-surfing I do.

I need time to write, ya know?
:)
G.

Anonymous said...

Some cool stats and a slide show on Social Media.

My favorite quote: Social Media is word of mouth on Steroids.

http://thesocialmediasource.com/

Rekaya Gibson said...

If I do just one thing a day to promote my book, that is 365 opportunities to lead to something greater.

Rekaya Gibson, Author
The Food Temptress
www.thefoodtemptress.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Nathan,
Corny, I know, but I just had to say I love your blog and I think I may have a little blogger crush on you. Your posts just make me smile. (Don't worry, I won't stalk you.)

BonSue Brandvik said...

Nathan – Thanks for this oh-so-timely and wonderfully written blog post. Self-promotion is the discussion topic for my next ‘Clearwater Writers Meet-up’ and I have been spinning in circles trying to come up with sage input for the exact reasons you outlined in your post. I thought I was expected to do most of the things on your list and felt incompetent for not being able to do them all. You really help put things in perspective. I have already recommended your blog to my writing group. Now I am going one step further. I’m going to print out several copies of this blog post for other members. Wishing you much success, Thanks again…BonSue

Julia said...

Thanks so much for the great info, Nathan!

I love to blog but have been lax at it lately. Need to change that leading up to my debut!

word veri = droppery (I love it!)

Vegas Linda Lou said...

You know, I’ve been thinking about this some more and have one additional thought to add. While it makes sense to pursue the avenues of marketing that align with our natural talents and follow the path of least resistance, that doesn’t let us completely off the hook. It’s important to push ourselves now and then, to leave our comfort zones even when we really don’t want to.

This one-woman show I’m working on is scaring the crap out of me; as I’m putting it together I’m deluged with insecurities and self-doubts. If I pull it off (fingers crossed), I’ll be rewarded with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment—and hopefully, back-of-room book sales. Best of all, my comfort zone will have been expanded and I’ll be poised for an even more challenging goal.

But in the meantime… so.not.comfortable.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm up against this right now! And I've realized that the best thing, in my genre, is for me to create a solid backlist. So I've done the stuff I like and am fairly good at online (interviews, blogging, Facebook) and it's sold some books cuz folks have told me so. But there are some other things I've just ruled out, or I'm never going to get those next books written.

I am going to build a new website though. I am, Sam I am!

Alice Anderson said...

Excellent points, as usually. You can always tell when someone views blogging as a chore...their posts are infrequent, lack enthusiasm, and just aren't much fun to read. Those blogs also make the good ones look even better. :)

Moira Young said...

I'm in a funny place right now. I'm still working toward getting published, and with any luck, that day will be sooner rather than later.

I *like* blogging, but I don't feel as if I have a lot to say just yet. I come up with a post about once every few weeks. I honestly believe I'll use it more when I'm a published author, because I'll have more incentive to use it. Is that reason enough to have a blog? Or should a serious blogger be posting almost daily?

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Moira, if I were you, I’d hold off on the blog idea for now. If you don’t feel you have anything to say, your sense of obligation will be obvious to your readers. Also, to build traffic you really need to post at least three times a week (my opinion). Once your book is closer to publication, you can set up a blog specifically for your book, and you may be able to get away with less frequent posts. In lieu of a website, I have a blog for my book (www.bastardhusband.com) that I post on every so often, but I post on my “real” blog (www.vegaslindalou.com) every Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday like clockwork.

Blogging takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication. Though it can be a fantastic way to build a loyal following, I recommend blogging only if it’s something you can approach with passion and a sense of long-term commitment.

Stephanie Cowell said...

Wow, thank YOU, Nathan! I have a new novel coming out with Crown in 3 months and I am in so many directions at once, there's not enough left of me for the new book. Last night at two in the morning in tears I went into my Must Do PR list and deleted half the stuff. Being a people-loving and productive person (and I guess somewhat gifted as this is my 5th published novel!)is really enough.

markiwrin said...

Anyone know how I can get my blog www.markirwin.ca on the list of writers' blogs on this blog?

G said...

I actually enjoy blogging. I got into it originally because a friend of mine from the chat rooms suggested it was a better place to utilize and polish my writing talents than in the chat rooms.

So I blog for fun, I blog for practice, and read about a dozen or so writing blogs (like this one) to pick up tips to improve my writing. Most importantly, I make sure I always do my best, because the people who read my blogs expect nothing else.

And yes I agree, unless you can manage the complexities of doing a blog properly, it can be a major time eater.

Great post and great tips.

Moira Young said...

Vegas Linda Lou - Thanks for the feedback.

As I said, I don't mind that I don't have much traffic right now. After some thought, I've decided to keep it, because it's not going to hurt anything for existing. I just won't pressure myself into posting unless I feel the need to do so.

Besides, I also set up a Facebook page, and I've set it up so that whenever I post on the blog, it copies the content there. :)

G. Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G. Jackson said...

Thanks for this post - a great topic. Have you found that it is beneficial to have websites both for an author and for his/her books?

I have seen authors do both and am curious to hear others' opinions on it.

-G. Jackson
http://www.thereaderswriter.com/

Carol Silvis said...

Thanks for great advice. My book came out last July, and I have been trying to do some PR without blatantly promoting it. I find blogging about different areas my book covers (career advancement) is helpful to others and will be for me, too, in the long run.

Ryan said...

I'd never heard of a virtual book tour. Thanks Angela for the links and info.

This has been a great thread since I'm in proposal-how am I going to sell this thing-mindset.

I'm a big fan of social media and the possibilities.

A few days ago I posted a link to an adapted short story from my memoir on a Cat Face Book page. The page has about 380,000 "fans" and sometimes a new picture or post happens ever 3 minutes.

Some guy in Texas with thousands of Twitter followers loved it and passed the word. I only ended up with 50 hits for the day(a big day for me) but I have a new fan with a huge network who will pass the word when the book is released.

I also just found out there's a Catbook and Dogbook so I plan on setting up profiles on both(both my cat and dog from New Zealand are in the book). They will be my promotional agents and earn their food! Dogbook and Catbook launched in June and already has over a million users.

Tipping Point by Gladwell is a great read too!

Thought I'd repost this. Some great stats.


The kitten short

SusanaMai said...

Does anyone else feel that terrible sense of combined laziness and despair at the thought of working to promote your book? I lament losing those days when I could be a hermit in some English town, brooding away my time.....

Thena Smith said...

I "accidentally" got published. Just before I retired from government work, I worried that my computer was failing and created one of those MSN clubs just in case. I saved around three hundred of my poems there for safekeeping. I had no idea that a new publisher was surfing the web looking for poems for a new book of poetry for scrapbookers and hobbyists. She spent several hours reading and then called me and asked me to meet her at a trade show in Texas to sign papers and get to know peple in her small company. She had business cards printed for me and I handed those out at the show.

I have been active for years in online communities for my hobby and I already had the support from many of them and in fact I had a contest to name my first book and got the perfect title (Where's Thena? I Need a poem about...).

I have several blogs and have written articles for a number of online magazines and have been on several on line radio shows. The funny thing is that I didn't really do these things to advertise, I just shared to be helpful and because I enjoyed doing them. I still enjoy doing these things 10 books later.

Thena

Meghan Ward said...

I think the trickiest part is balancing how much time you spend marketing with how much time you spend writing and revising. A great book won't sell if no one knows about it; on the other hand, a mediocre book won't sell no matter how many people know about it.

Steven Till said...

I completely agree. I've tried doing too much of everything (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Scribd, Tumblr, Digg, Squidoo, LinkedIn, MySpace, LibraryThing etc.) but it becomes way too overwhelming. Like you said, you should really narrow your focus to what works for you. I enjoy Internet marketing the most, so the tools I use most frequently now are my Web site (http://steventill.com) for blogging and Twitter.

I still use other tools like Scrib and LibraryThing but not as frequently now. And for Facebook, I just have notes imported from my Web site, so I don't have to update in both places. For Twitter, I use TwitterFeed to directly import my Web site posts to Twitter. Another time saver.

Patti McKenna said...

Absolutely wonderful advice. I've given up on several time-consuming, but obviously ineffective (for me) ways to promote my book. I do blog and do radio shows.I will happily guest blog, add my thoughts to others, help promote others, request reviews, and in turn, give reviews. But I still need to earn a living.

It takes a huge amount of publicity and a coordinated effort to have a bestselling book.

Unfortunately, some of us still have to eat - and we're the ones who have to cook, too.

The day job awaits...

david oneal said...

great blog post..it would be so much better if finding that extra 6-8 hours a day was really possible..

i'm now exploring computer generated 3d animation for doing my trailers..once development is in place, popping out a new trailer gets a bit easier..so producing that awesome one should be easier too..

now, i need that 6-8 extra hours for writing my next novel..

Eleanor Van Natta said...

Ditto lindacassidylewis! My new mantra is relax, breathe, focus, and write! Thank you for the permission to do just that :). I learned this lesson first about query letters and proposals - spent way too much time on that instead of writing or a platform. Its all in the balance of things...

Lia Keyes said...

Great advice, Nathan! Wish I'd read it before I spread myself so thinly across all social media, experimenting to see what worked. My final judgment? Blogging and twitter, in tandem, are powerful tools. Linked to Facebook's Networked Blogs? Even better. And there are unusual things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
Part of using Twitter effectively is to take part in chats for writers, like #scribechat, #writechat and #kidlitchat. But the final, and most important thing, is to start your campaign AT LEAST six months before publication of your novel. It takes TIME to build a following. Thanks for all the great advice you generously share!

http://scribechat.com

amanda more said...

http://bit.ly/5jARKt Thank you for your advice. I would like to add one thing: delegate. I went to the extent of writing a book with a coauthor. He had even run for mayor so loves the limelight. Freebies are good. But how to create for free?I ask for a day of food and tell someone the cost and calories (eatingon$1) facebook page.(they pick their own charity to donate savings)Then,I published Mom's super easy tuna casserole. Ideas? http://www.life123.com/food/main-courses/casseroles/how-to-make-tuna-casserole.shtml

Moira Donohue said...

This is the best advice, especially because it allows me to give myself permission NOT to do those publicity things that I find really painful and to concentrate on those that I like to do. I have found that sometimes fate, serendipity or whatever plays a part in all of this as well!

Anonymous said...

This is all great advice. However, authors ought to keep something in mind... As Nathan says, there is a lot of chance and fortune involved in having a successful book. But if you do not find yourself the recipient of the good bounces, the lucky breaks, it will be you, the author, who is blamed for a lack of success. And come next book, what will the publishers say????

Anonymous said...

In other words, nothing about this ought to EASE anyone's mind. If anything it is more scary yet, because it is utterly out of your hands...

scottmaiorca said...

Since I started posting a novel I'm writing to my blog for friends and family to read I've also started reading about how to get buzz about your novel. Which is what brought me here. Everyone seems to think you should do everything.

I'm glad to find other writers who think that's nuts.

jsmedia said...

Very smart post, and I agree with all of the above. I am an unusual hybrid of being an author and also a publcist with my own freelance business. While wear these two hats comfortably, even for me, every new project to promote is a new wilderness to conquer.

jenallnet said...

I Am An Author , In need of a literary agent. i want you to consider working with me if you are one of the agent that doesn't Charge for prove-reading please send to my email address: parlinsmith@yahoo.com
We'll talk about my manuscript and the rest of the deals.

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leslie said...

Just ran across this post - thanks for the words of wisdom. As a soon-to-be-published writer who is currently buried in revisions to book one, with two more books in the works, I'm feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. This is a good reminder that you simply can't do it all.

brian january said...

Good article!

I just published my thriller novel on Kindle and now I'm faced with getting the word out--the problem is time! Spending all day on forums and Twitter, etc. is pretty difficult, so I'm seeking out other ways to get my message out there!

Brian January

Helena Mallett said...

I'm a reluctant blogger trying to busk it with my 75 word stories and photos with the occasional haiku ... but other than that i think i'm one of the few people that Facebook has been brilliant for. The relationships on there have a depth that i have yet to find on Twitter. As for the rest ... am close to pressing that delete button or i shall never complete my next work!

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