Marketing and Publicity

‘Never respond to a bad review in public. You only make yourself look an idiot and people think you’re unprofessional. If you don’t like the review – suck it up. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion and you can’t please everyone so just get over yourself.’Sam Stone, author of Demon Dance.   

You’ve finished writing your book, found a publisher and it’s about to be released. All the hard work is finally done, right? Wrong!

The real work has only just begun. All the years you spent writing, editing, and re-editing were only preparation for what you’re going to have to do now.

There are many ways to promote yourself and your writing, it’s just a case of figuring out which ones work for you. But if you want your book to sell, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. People are not just going to stumble across your book, you’re going to have to make sure you’re easy to find. Marketing your book is not an overnight process. Some people will say that there’s only a short window of opportunity to market your fiction novel, but that’s rubbish. You should continue marketing your book for as long as it’s in print or in e-format.

Your own website:

Having a website is a great way to introduce yourself to readers and the world at large. Whenever I find out about a new author, the first thing I do is Google them, check out their website, have a look at what they’ve written, and only then consider buying their books. You should have a bio page, a page listing what you’ve written and where they can buy it, and a contact page. Have a look at other author’s websites. Having a website that looks professional is important. Your website is the first impression you give a potential reader. If it looks like it was put together by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, they probably won’t have a very high opinion of you or your books and won’t bother to buy your book. But if it looks good, they may just hit that buy button. Also make sure the website loads quickly. People are impatient. If it takes too long to load, they’ll simply move onto another writer’s website.

Blogging:

Having a blog is probably more important than having a website. A website is static, whereas a blog is interactive. Blogs are also free! I prefer the WordPress platform because you can set it up to look like a website. You can use your blog to showcase your writing far better than on a website. Only drawback is that you have to blog regularly. When building a following for your blog you should blog at least once a week. Have a link to your blog on your email signature. You want to point potential readers to your blog or website every chance you get. Post links to your latest blog posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Networking:

Being on social networks has become one of the most important weapons for any author to have in their marketing arsenal. There are so many to choose from. There’s Google +, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and way too many others to mention. But the fact is you don’t have enough time in the day to spend on every single network there is. If you did there wouldn’t be any time left to write. And as a writer, writing is what you’re supposed to do. So I would suggest you pick two or three and commit to those. I prefer Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I find them far easier to use and far more useful than the others.

  • Facebook:

Over the years Facebook has become the main social network. If you’re not on there, then you probably prefer living under a rock. I know a lot of authors are tempted to go out and get a fan page as well as a normal profile. It’s a good way to separate your personal from your professional, but don’t go bugging everybody to become a fan on your professional author page. It’s annoying. I, personally, hate it when some author I’ve never heard of friends me on Facebook and then five seconds later starts harassing me to like their page. My response is usually a quick unfriend and the chances of me ever getting their book drops from slim to none. I only like the pages of authors I’m actually a fan of, like Stephen King or Anne Rice.

There was this one writer who even went so far as to bother me on Facebook chat. I’d never spoken to him before; he hadn’t taken any interest in me or my books. The only thing he did was try and force his self-published book down my throat. Please, for your own sake, don’t do that! You’ve got to strike a delicate balance between marketing yourself and being social. If there’s a good review out on your book, post a link to it. But also remember to post things that have absolutely nothing to do with your writing. People also want to know who you are as a person. They want to connect with you on a personal level. They don’t just want to hear about your book.

  • Twitter:

Twitter is a little more complicated to get a handle on. A lot of people find twitter difficult, because it’s so fast. It’s hard to keep up with everything that happens on it. It’s like being at a very busy cocktail party and only getting snippets of conversations. There’s also a temptation to follow thousands of people, but if you do that do your really have a quality stream or are you simply following people to get them to follow you back? I prefer to follow people who I find have something relevant to say. I follow other writers, publishers, a few agents, publicists, and most of them are part of the horror industry. I would also suggest tweeting a few times at different times during the day. Once again, don’t just tweet about your book. Be a part of the conversation.

  • Goodreads:

What makes Goodreads so brilliant for authors is their author program and the fact that everybody on there is a reader. They’re the perfect audience to market to. You can also add a stream from your blog to your author page. You can add your book trailer if you have one. As you publish more books your Goodreads author profile is automatically updated. There are loads of forums where you can list yourself, your book and join the conversation.

Book reviews:

Book reviews are unfortunately something that authors have to get used to. It’s one of the main ways of promoting your book. Word of mouth is probably the fastest way to get the word out about your book and reviews are one of the main ways of doing it. Bad reviews suck, but when you get a really good review there’s nothing quite like it. Knowing that someone who doesn’t know you, thinks that you’ve done a brilliant job is incredibly reaffirming. When you get a bad review do NOT respond to it. Do not get into a debate with the reviewer. They’re entitled to their opinion. When I get a bad review, I go back and read all the good reviews and eat some chocolate. I feel much better afterwards. There are also lots of horror sites that give fair book reviews.

When looking for a site or a blog to review your book, have a look at the reviews they’ve written in the past. Are the reviews fair and well thought out? Or is it just a quick opinion piece? How much traffic does the site get? The site should also list their review policy. What are they looking for? Do they accept ebooks or only print books?  Do they have a contact page? Only once you’re satisfied that it’s an above board review site should you get in contact and send them a review copy. Be prepared for a long wait. Most decent review sites have a huge backlog. Some reviewers have taken a year to review my book. In some cases I’m still waiting for that review. Whatever you do, do not harass the reviewer for that review. They’ll get to it. You don’t want to poison their opinion of your book by being overzealous. Patience is the key here.

Blog book tours:

These are relatively new, but are becoming more and more popular. A single author blog tour should ordinarily last from ten days to two weeks. It consists of a guest blog post or interview on a different blog every day. It does involve quite a bit of work and planning, but the nice thing is you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home. When picking your blog stops make sure the blog gets a decent amount of traffic and that the blog has something to do with your book. Since this is a course on writing horror, I would suggest blogs that have something to do with horror or publishing or writing. I don’t think a blog on knitting would be a good idea. Here’s a good place to help you plan your blog tour: http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com/Join the yahoo group. Dani helped me plan my first blog tour. It was one of the most helpful experiences.

Another type of blog tour that’s making an appearance is the blog hop. It’s where a bunch of authors get together and promote it so that potential readers can hop from one blog to the others. Each blog offers prize’s etc. I took part in the Coffin Hop (http://coffinhop.blogspot.com/) this year, it was a great success. I had a couple hundred new visitors on my blog every day during the hop. It was great exposure and I met a whole lot of other horror writers I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to meet.

Live readings/book signings/panels

I hate public speaking. I absolutely loath it. Put me in front of a crowd of people I don’t know and I freeze up. I’m far more charming one on one or in front of my laptop. Strangely enough, I find panel discussions a lot easier to handle, maybe it has something to do with my not being all alone in front of everybody else. If you get invited to talk to a book club or at a restaurant or at a bookstore, don’t make the mistake I did on my first one. Start with a reading from your book. I found it calmed me right down. Take a few notes on what you want to talk about. I didn’t. The moment I stood up in front of all those faces, everything I thought I wanted to say flew right out of my mind and I was left with a complete blank. Question and answer sessions are great. It makes things move a lot quicker and the audience feels that they’re a part of it all and that they’re getting to know you better.

When you’re signing books afterwards make sure you get the correct spelling of the person’s name before you start writing. I had a guy scream at me when he’d bought my book for his girlfriend. I didn’t realise that she spelled her name differently to all the other girls out there with the same name. I ended up having to apologise to the girlfriend for the incorrect spelling as a part of the note I wrote. It was all rather embarrassing.

Radio/TV interviews

These are incredibly exciting and they make us writers feel like we’re celebrities, but they are not the staple in our marketing and publicity arsenal. Getting a radio or TV interview is incredibly rare, especially for a horror writer. Strangely enough I’ve never seen a pickup in book sales after I’ve been on the radio. I’ve been on small radio stations that only have a few thousand people listening to the big national radio stations and while it is great publicity, I’ve had more sales from a blog tour. Don’t fixate on what you perceive as the big prize, you’ll only be disappointed.

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