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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Promotion between the sale and book release

I'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.

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11 Comments:

At 5:50 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Trish, this is an excellent compilation of ideas! I especially like the one about branding your name and site instead of your books. I had never thought of that, and I'll have to visit your site again and pay better attention to how you've done that.

I think your contest idea is great. It's a win/win! :)

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Trish,
I totally agree with branding your name and site. I did something similar to encompass all my writing--southern short stories, historicals, and YA.

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I have not yet delved into the Myspace, Facebook, and other social networking places. This teleseminar I listened to yesterday warned against promoting your product on them. The sites will fine you apparently, but LOTS. But she did say that to join like-minded friends to discuss like-minded interests was okay. And you can mention your book.
It seems like a lot of work, though.

She did advocate blogs! And writing articles.

I found that I had some name recognition just because I'd finaled in so many contests over the years. But I did not think of promotion before I sold and I think that was a mistake on my part.

Good advice there, Trish!

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

I'd never heard of many of those sites you listed in Tip #5. Thanks, Trish!

I also did a similar thing with my site and bookmarks. The book cover is just part of a larger design that I call the ElvesAmongUs universe, and the new cover can be plugged in without changing the overall design.

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Wow, Trish. It looks to me like you are the social networking queen!

Name recognition seems like a good thing. For instance, look at Allison Brennan. She is EVERYWHERE! She's doing the Ask an Author and she was interviewed on the KOD chapter site and she blogs for many different sites.

Once I sell, I think I'll put myself out there as a guest to other blogs and forget about spending the time to do my own. Just a thought...

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Theresa, that could be a really good approach. Most people seem eager to have guest bloggers.

 
At 9:13 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Hey, everyone. Sorry to be late coming by. I was out of town all day today.

Diane, that is so weird about not promoting your book on MySpace, etc. I've never heard that before, and tons of authors have sites on MySpace, Facebook, etc.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger doglady said...

Great list of ideas, Trish! I too especially like the idea of branding. I really like the look of my website and I am trying to match my business cards to it. Once I hear that magic word "Sold" I fully intend to promote my considerable rear-end off! And you've given me some great ideas!

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Diane, that is so weird about not promoting your book on MySpace, etc. I've never heard that before, and tons of authors have sites on MySpace, Facebook, etc.

I think what she meant was that you couldn't send out notices to your "friends" that your book came out. THAT would be promotion and not social networking.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Nathalie said...

I have never realized that they were so many ways for authors to promote their books!

The Internet is really great for it!

 
At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Tiffany James said...

Trish,

Thanks for such a great post! I am happy to hear that the marketing I am doing before I get published may not be wasted. Thanks for the validation! :0)

Tiffany

 

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