Promotion between the sale and book releaseI've always been a proponent of beginning some type of author self-promotion even before you sell that first book to build name recognition. That way you don't have to start from total unknown when you sell. But when you do sell, it becomes even more important to increase your name recognition and to build excitement for your upcoming releases. All you have to do is walk in any bookstore's fiction and/or romance section and look at how many titles and authors are lining the shelves to realize that something will have to be done to make you stand out and generate good sales numbers. Granted, writing an awesome book and then getting publisher support are two huge keys to your success, but there are other ways to generate some name recognition that hopefully will lead to sales when your book hits store shelves.
1. Web site/Blog -- I've heard many authors say that the best promo dollars they spent were on a good quality Web site, many of which include a blog. Even if you had a perfectly fine Web site before you sold (which I did, thanks to a good friend who created it for me), when you sell may be the time to take the leap and get it redesigned. That's what I did. I went for a new look, one that incorporated both of my writing identities so that I didn't have to maintain two Web sites. It was also in a different format, WordPress, so that I could do updates myself easily and without additional costs beyond the initial design and launch.
As far as the blog goes, try to build a base of loyal readers. How? Put of good blog content and update often, every day if you can. Perhaps hold contests. Back in January, I took a look around my overflowing bookshelves and realized that I couldn't possibly read all the books in my office if I lived to be 200. So, I went through and culled hundreds of them, all perfectly good, unread books. But instead of carting them all off to the Goodwill, I decided to have a contest on my site. Each week from the beginning of the contest until my first book's launch date in September, I'm giving away three books to a winner each week, chosen from among those who comment on my blog. I get rid of the books and get a little promo; the winners get free books to read; and the authors of those books get exposed to potentially new readers. It's a win-win-win situation.
2. Appearances -- Even though I don't have a book out yet, I've been making appearances at reader events and will be speaking at this year's RWA National Conference. It's my fourth year as a conference speaker, which means three of those years were before I even sold. I think it's very important to act professional and confident that you will sell (not arrogant) even before you do. I was pleasantly surprised last month when I attended the Heart of Dixie chapter's readers' luncheon and had a table full of readers who were interested in my books. We had a fabulous time.
3. Branding -- Instead of branding the type of books I write (which currently stands at two types but could expand in the future), I decided to brand my name and the look of my site. My Web designer also created bookmarks and business cards with the same look. And it'll still work even if I suddenly start writing something totally different.
4. Booksellers/Librarians/Reviewers -- Start getting to know these people, both locally and online. I've introduced myself to several, and I've already garnered some interest for book signings.
5. Social Networking -- I created MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Shelfari, Manic Readers and GoodReads accounts and started friending people on each. This is free online promo, and it's fun to "meet" other writers and readers and talk about books. I'm trying to add 10 friends a day between now and when my first book comes out. If I accomplish that, I'll have almost 1,000 friends by then. That's 1,000 people who may see my MySpace blog posts or the bulletins I'll send out when my book is available.
There are plenty of other ways to do advance promotion, but I'll leave it at that for now. All this said, remember that the writing is the most important thing. Don't get so wrapped up in promoting your first book that you don't spend enough time working on the second.
What are some cool promotional ideas you've seen used or utilized yourself?
My Web site is located at www.trishmilburn.com -- come on by to find out where I'll be appearing, find links to my social networking pages, and to comment on my blog for the chance to win free books.