Reviews are a key signal used in the ranking of online books. The more reviews, the higher the book ranks and the more books are sold. Of course, given this logic, reviews have been widely gamed by authors and publishers, to the point when they are sometimes not reliable guides as to a book’s quality and popularity. Authors round up their friends to review their books, or pay other services to generate reviews, or review other authors’ books in the hope of reciprocal reviews. Amazon has been fighting back against this degradation of the reviewing signal — the outlines of said epic struggle are described here, along with the latest strategies for independent authors.
For a glimpse of what a book promotion might look like when integrated with email and social media, this post is worth perusing. While it would probably seem somewhat exhausting to many authors, it does emphasise just how much work is involved in making a book visible to an audience, and encouraging readers to actually purchase it.
Abdi Aden, author of Shining and Yes I Can is very canny at promoting his books. Here are a few suggestions from him based on his experiences:
My PR is very basic and low budget.
- Word of mouth anywhere you can, such as my kids' basketball. Take-away shops, public places.
- Schools I visit and speak at.
- Making t-shirts.
- Websites, also other book-sellers websites.
- Calling places saying "I have a book." Like example some writers festivals, Dymocks Camberwell also run a book night every November for self-publishers.
- Social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Also learn when new social media come up like snapchat.
- Find small festivals, such as Clunes -- self publishers do well there. People attend from all over the world,
Experienced traffic engineer Rob Morgan has written a scathing critique of the current road safety paradigm, the so-called "Safe System". He sums up his argument with the following excoriation: "the Safe System’s demand to abolish the old order of evidence-based road safety and speed management has been a clarion call to action and — unless we put a stop to it — its continuation will put us on an inexorable path to the creation of an unchecked state.
The cover incorporates surveillance, Victorian roads, an image of Stalin and is set in Proxima Nova.
Most independent authors dread writing blurbs, and devote as little time to it as possible. Yet they are a critical tool for attracting potential readers. Seasoned author and promotional expert Joanna Penn enumerates several solid points to consider when engaged in the dreaded work of blurb construction. While many of the points (introduce key characters, describe the setting, a hint of mystery, etc.) might seem obvious, many authors opt instead for a leaden synopsis that gives away every important plot point.
Barry Weston writes entertaining detective novels set in Tasmania. Perhaps Australia's answer to Nordic noir? We wanted a dim, grimy and ambient feel for the cover -- the gumshoe on the cover is none other than the author. The title typeface is Veneer One.
Bestselling author Peter J. Ralph has turned his considerable research skills to the secrets behind the most successful promoter of ebooks, Bookbub. Our cover was intended to illustrate the dramatic effect that being selected for the Bookbub newsletter can have on the sales of a particular title. Typefaces used are League Gothic and Marianina.
Author M.G. Ryan uses the large banner above for promotional events. She says "it looks great and draws a lot of attention. When I have the second banner made up, they will look awesome next to each other." Her latest book "To Dawn" (sequel to "From Dusk") will be released with the assistance of In-House Publishing.
Cleo Lynch, author of "Careering Into Corrections" has documented her own promotional activities in the hope that some of them might come in useful for other writers. Hear more about Cleo here and buy her book here.
- Publisher provided package of book covers
- Author biography
- Updated photo of author (perhaps holding the book)
- Updated list of previous talks
- Business card
- Pamphlets (rudimentary, as befits the technologically and financially challenged or more professional)
How did I start this ball rolling?
- Friends, rellies: Cousin worked for charity — gave talk for their IWD luncheon; some coverage in their local press. Sold some books (book sales are never staggering – just a steady trickle).
- Contacted Service Clubs and Social Clubs via email addresses and websites along with promotional material outlets — Senior publications (my age group), radio stations, newspapers (need to be innovative with covering letter — try to think of a catchy opening sentence). Did get one radio interview with Radio National). Not sure what book sales resulted from these initiatives.
- Sent promotional material to libraries – this has had very limited response, but am a friend of my local library, which resulted in an author presentation for which they did the promotional work, with leaflets, posters, on-line bookings etc. (From this I was asked to do two more talks, one at the Friends’ AGM on my volunteer work, and another at a local writers’ group on the pitfalls of publication).
- Always carry a package of book cover with business card and promo pamphlet inserted, and a copy of book. Learnt from experience that sales can result in the most unlikely places, e.g. conversations on a bus, functions etc.
In any event, the most successful of these initiatives has been from service clubs.
- Rewards and outcomes vary, e.g some expect the talk to be free and may offer wine, chocolates, free lunch/dinner, however many pay varying amounts for travel expenses and your time.
- If they enjoyed the talk, they tell others.
- Usually sell a trickle of books
- Opportunity to distribute promotional packages to interested persons and so tap into potential future engagements
However, as much of my modest fame depends on my interaction with the audience I ensure that my delivery is as professional as possible. So I offer the following:
- Prepare your talk, i.e. compose it, type it out, go over it, rehearse it.
- Ensure that your talk will not go over the allotted time (many of these clubs have gratis use of community rooms and have to vacate by a certain time),
- Ask for a microphone (and any other technology you might require), lectern for your prepared talk and small table on which to display your book (I take a plate stand) and promo material.
- Don’t read your talk – but keep it handy for reference
- Be aware of your target audience, i.e. if elderly, many will be hearing impaired, many will be inclined to nod off, (yes even mid-morning!), may have posture problems that compromise their comfort (One compliment I often receive is ‘I looked around the room and no one was nodding off!)
- Introduce yourself, thank people for attending, give brief overview of your book, why you wrote it etc. and if possible, try a little humour (e.g. I say ‘I wrote this memoir originally for my children and grandchildren, who I might say, are completely underwhelmed by it’).
- Speak slowly, use microphone, engage all audience (while some speakers recommend you focus on one spot, it is good to try to sweep your gaze around the room to try to engage as many as possible).
- By all means include readings from your book in your presentation, but I’ve found it more useful to limit fumbling for pages, by identifying one passage to read from the book, and then to include others in my typed out presentation, and introduce such passages as excerpts from my book.
- If you use power point, don’t use it as a passive tool – you are the speaker, power point is an accessory. Some of the most boring talks I’ve attended have been when speakers spoke indistinctly, leaving power point to do the work.
While compiling this, I received a phone call for another booking. I took details, i.e. date contact name, name of Club, email address of contact so I can forward promo material (or postal address). I gave my address for confirmation and details of talk. This takes my bookings up to August.
As usual, our recent book design projects have featured a wide range of subject matter — a book of sonnets, a novel dealing with a huge telco and a guide for beginning singers. Projects currently in the works include a handbook for stroke sufferers, a novel about cultural contact between China and the West and a history of judicial executions in Victoria.
Guest Post by Jo Ettles, author.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you right? I had no idea when I wrote my first book in 2012 that it would be such a challenging experience in more ways than one. Ever the eternal optimist, I do believe self-belief is a huge part of achieving success. BUT it also takes real work, determination, dedication and commitment to marketing yourself and your books continuously to make it in such a competitive world.
I have a strong background in marketing and it is second nature for me to recognise that you need to actively market yourself as an author and promote your work consistently. You know that old line from the movie — Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come”?
Well, it may have worked for Kevin Costner, but if you take that approach, your amazing book might never reach anyone.
I recently connected with some gifted authors who have released incredible books. Each and every one of them wanted to know how to improve their marketing and share their work. Here is some of the information that has helped me get both of my books out into the world.
I think everyone needs to have a professional headshot for their author profile. It is amazing how people respond to a professionally taken image as opposed to one that was just taken randomly at a party or family dinner! Present a professional image to the world and invest in a decent author photo.
When it comes to writing your bio, keep it short and sweet but always write from the heart. Readers want to really connect with you. Be uniquely you.
Goodreads is a phenomenal way to get your books seen all over the world. Create an author profile and list your books as soon as you can. Goodreads runs a giveaway competition for readers. I normally giveaway 3 signed copies of my books every few months and it generates a lot of interest in my work. I highly recommend it.
There is a section where readers can review your work and also give it a star rating. Try not to take it too personally if a review isn’t as great as you had hoped. Not everyone will get your message or your writing but don’t let that stop you from moving forward.
I recently had a review of one of my books and the reader said, that it had motivated her to clean up but I had rehashed a lot of self-help stuff that was already out there and generally, my book would only appeal to an Australian audience. At first, I got my back up! In my book “The Shed” I share a very personal story so it is definitely not rehashed. After a couple of wasted hours trying to make sense of her opinion, I just accepted that my work is not for everyone and if I was going to continue writing, I had to respect everyone’s opinion and take it on board. The following day, I saw a post on the internet by an American man. He had recommended my book on a reader’s forum saying it was full of good ideas and it was a very decent entry into the self- help genre. Balance restored!
See Post 2 for more promotional suggestions from Jo.
Despite the presence of 'book' in the name of social media's behemoth, Facebook is usually not associated with book selling or promotion. But with 1.6 billion regular users (about which it knows a great deal), Facebook offers a massive opportunity to engage in savvy marketing. Digital Book World recently published an article by Mark Dawson, who describes himself as "pretty much the definition of a midlist author". He cites specific strategies, gives his own sales figures and engages with commenters. Well worth a read.
A very interesting discussion on the topic of content marketing. Mark O'Brien, CEO of Newfangled (a US-based agency partnering with agencies "to make digital business development platforms for themselves and their clients") makes a good case for highly targeted content-based marketing. He discusses the approach with one of his clients, who gives many examples of the effectiveness of this approach. The client has gone from trying to attract clients from many industries to focusing on one very small industry segment. Using social media tools and creating useful, responsive content, the client was able to reposition his business, resulting in a massive increase in client engagement, meaningful lead generation from his website, all through quality content. No hard-sell, no desperate cold-calling.
Deborah Benson recently wrote "Judicial Murder — the Crown VS David Young", published under the Eaglehawk Press imprint. Here is her account of a recent promotional trip to the Goulburn Valley.
My book has been welcomed in the Goulburn Valley book shops and newsagencies. Helen Sofra from Collins Bookstore in Shepparton suggested we arrange to visit to speak about DY’s story.
Jan Hutton the Project Manager of the Goulburn Valley Libraries went into action and had 3 venues organised, complete with media releases for each town. But before we began, we had an interview with the Shepparton News for the weekend edition. I say ‘we’ as my husband Chris shared the experience with me and during the course of the talk he read the hanging scene in his articulate expressive manner, resulting in numerous watery eyes in the room.
Numurkah library was our first appearance and the turnout of keen listeners was wonderful. Historical crime seems to be of interest and captures our imagination especially in the country areas where there is still a feeling of remoteness and a connection with the environment.
Our next engagement was in Nagambie again with an interested crowd of people and lastly at Shepparton. All venues supplied a good home made spread of delectable cakes and slices.
The fact that people were excited to actually meet an author said something about the way writers are removed from the general public who are their potential readers. Writers nowadays have to wear several hats to become known. A very enjoyable warming experience while sharing a story that has been waiting 150 years to be told.
A few ideas for a new edition of a work of fiction, centred on the cocktail bar scene of New York in the 1980s. Still a work in progress, but fun to work with bright colours, big, bold type and the very distinctive skyline of the Big Apple. Typefaces used so far include ribbon, Playfair and a photo typeface based on neon signs.