Friday, March 22, 2013

What you can do to promote your book: right now, while writing and post-launch

A few weeks ago, a post entitled, "Where do your marketing dollars go?" spontaneously combusted into a brainstorming session for how we can all promote and market our own work.  Because I SO love bullet lists, here's the bullet list version of those ideas, along with a few of my own thrown in for good measure.  Please feel free to make additional suggestions, and I'll add them to the list (because I have omnipotent editing powers...MUAHAHAHAHA!)  And without further delay...

What you can do RIGHT NOW to promote a book that will someday be forthcoming:
  • Social media:
    • Define your target audience
    • Build a website/blog
    • Give your target audience reason to want to see your website and blog
    • Join Facebook, Twitter, Book Blogs, Goodreads, She Writes, Sisters in Crime...
    • Read and comment on other people's blogs
    • Write guest posts for other bloggers
    • Participate in blog hops and giveaways
    • Retweet!
    • Review books
  • Person-to-person:
    • Create a logo 
    • Plaster said logo on cheap promotional items
    • Join a book club 
    • Join a critique group
    • Attend local book signings and events
    • Attend conventions
    • Attend book fairs and festivals
    • Scope out the local bookstores and specialty shops that might carry your book
    • Obtain a professional headshot
    • Build a media kit
What you can do while writing your book and in the weeks leading up to launch:
  • All of the above
  • Release a teaser chapter
  • Blog excerpts 
  • Design your cover (or at least *a* cover that captures the concept)
  • Solicit reviews
  • Set up Amazon Author Central page
  • Become a Goodreads author
  • Set up Shelfari account

What you can do after launching your book:

  • All of the above
  • Solicit reviews
  • Hold signing events
  • Hold giveaways
  • Keep track of who bought the book (did you reach your target audience?)
  • Review your reviews (was the book well received by most?  Some?  None?  Why?)
  • Write your next book with these lessons under your belt


  1. Kris,

    To me the most important thing on your list is to define your target audience. I think it starts with knowing who you are as a writer and a person. Once you know how you are, and what you are about. Then you can define who you want to reach with your words.

    It isn’t enough to say everyone. Everyone wants to reach everyone. That isn’t possible or reasonable. Bon Jovi pops into my mind as an example. In the mid-1980s, the band knew who they were and they defines their target audience. As they matured, the audience matured and they reached out to new people, reaching their peak ten years later. Refocusing and rediscovering who they were as people, they rebranded themselves in 2000. They kept their core audience with the old hits but developed a new core audience. Today they are still defining who they are and discovering a new audience with every record.

    Full Disclosure. I am not a huge fan of Bon Jovi, my musical tastes are a little heavier. I do not own a record although once in my life I bought a cassette tape. I did listen to an interview with Jon Bon Jovi a few weeks ago and enjoyed the story of the rise, fall, and rise of the group. No one can argue with their success. I think their story as well as others serve as a valuable template for all of us.

  2. Haha, Rob. Love the Bon Jovi analogy. You're right. People need to evolve. And I'll admit I idolized Bon Jovi before I discovered (early) Metallica and Pantera :)

  3. I knew you were cool. Metallica's career offers a great example of evolution, making music for yourself and staying true to the moment.

  4. You forgot

    - Breathe!

    which is the hardest thing to remember.

    Another bullet for your list is to get a good author photo. The photo should be something you wouldn't mind having on the dust jacket of your Big-5-published hardcover. You'll be throwing these around a lot. I'm lucky in that a friend of mine is a semi-pro photographer who was willing to take the pictures for free. Still, it was an afternoon of playing Zoolander that I hadn't originally planned.

    Another bullet: build a media kit. I had to scramble to put one of these together when I discovered a big review outlet required one as part of my review query. (Even in self-pub, you can't get away from queries.) That caused yet another crash research project. There's a lot of general hand-waving advice out there for this. The most comprehensive view of media engagement I've found is at Hyatt's a motivational speaker, but the sheer number of ideas he presents is almost demotivating ("I can't do all *that*!"). Still, it's nice to have it all in one place. I ended up with a couple press releases, an author interview, cover image, sell sheet, and that author photo.

    Speaking of review queries...Rachel Abbott (in her blog post talks about creating a one-page sell sheet for your book that collects all the vital information a reviewer needs in order to decide whether to commit to reviewing your book, and then to actually write it. She provides a downloadable version of the one she did for Only the Innocent. It's not hard to do so much as fiddly, so budget a couple afternoons for this. You'll also need to keep it updated.

  5. Oops, excuse my accidental deletion. Below is comment #2 from Lance:

    "I forgot -- bullets for immediate pre-launch if this is your first published work:

    - Set up your Amazon Author Central page
    - Become a Goodreads author
    - Set up your Shelfari account (because Amazon uses Shelfari to load additional information about your book, such as characters, settings, notes from the author, and so on. It's otherwise useless AFAIK.)

    You can't do these until you have a definite, near-term release date for your first book.

    A bullet for "weeks up to launch":

    - Solicit reviews

    That is, if you're not under the gun with your release. I had little idea how backed up the major review sites are. Reviews from the big sites come after weeks or months if they happen at all. Don't do what I did (wait until release)."

  6. Lance, thanks for the additions. And...DUH. One would think I would have remembered the professional headshot, as that's currently on my to-do list for this week.

    I'm adding your stuff into the bullet list.

  7. Hi Kris! Speaking of promotion... does Murder Lab have a button or banner? I'd love to put it on my blog down the right hand side with the others: ~Cory

    1. Cory, I love this idea...but I'm an idiot when it comes to html and haven't seen "buttons for dummies" on blogger. I just e-mailed you asking how it's done :)