PART SEVEN: Your Promotional Plan
Trust me, you NEED a promotional plan. A good, strong, well organized and pin point targeted promotional plan. I’ve been in PR, marketing and promotions most of my professional life and this is truly a subject you simply can’t ignore. I’ve seen it happen in every industry, not just the business of being a writer. It goes back to the basics of being a professional.
The basics are the nuts and bolts and these principals have been vital since the cavemen convinced each other to trade shells and feathers for goods and services. If you don’t tell someone you’re an expert at something, how will they know? If you don’t show them your skill, how can they decide they want it? If you don’t promote … you basically don’t exist.
Promotion is vital and it’s vital early. As writers, we’re all told to have a web presence. I have heard several people tell me that yes, they have a website for their book but it’s basically static. Not good. You MUST update your book and your author websites often, just like your blog. Granted, a blog may receive far more self gratification through responses and viewer numbers, but don’t confuse numbers with creating awareness. Your sites are where your creative juices and polished talent get to really shine.
Update your websites at least once a month, more if possible with anything that works – news, snippets of cut scenes, interviews with your characters. Remember, a writer has an unwritten agreement with a reader. If they come to your website, they need to know that you were there too, that you continue to talk with them and that you are aware of them. The other side of the coin is a static website, one that gives a reader/viewer/follower no good reason whatsoever to pop by at all. If you write literary novels, add a page that can feature your research techniques. Fantasy? Explore fantasy through the ages. Update information as to where you are on your next book, or how to buy your current book. List where you will be speaking or signing your book and what events you’ll be attending. Do small pieces on your characters. Be sure to put sample chapters up (more than a small excerpt )to hook your visitors. Make sure you have a ‘contact the author’ button so visitors can communicate with you. Embed your blog.
Your websites should NEVER be stagnant. They need to be living, breathing sales entities AND you need to tell as many people as possible that there’s always something new to see there.
Another promotional tool is social networking to shout out your accomplishments, but always remember that social networking loses its power when all the viewers see is you trying to sell your book. Be a person, make some friends, have some fun and your new found circle will be interested in knowing more.
Find other venues to promote yourself and your work. Step outside the box. Find other websites to become visible and active within. Find interest groups and connect on a common subject with your book’s topic. Make friends with other authors. Share excerpts with them. Look for other authors to promote when you tweet or blog or update your own site. Friends help friends and friends trust friends. It’s a basic key to good promotion. Look into free and minimal cost promotional services. Book videos and wonderful interviews you give mean nothing if you don’t promote them and no one ever sees them.
When do you start all this? Here’s the kicker, you should have started when you got the idea to write a book. Honest. When an agent or publisher is interested in you, the first thing he or she does is Goggle your name. When was the last time you Googled yourself? It might be a good time to check your online presence by taking a look. If you have little or no presence, no matter how great your book is, you may discover that not only is an agent or publisher less willing to look at you seriously … but so are prospective buyers for your book. They just don’t know you exist and it’s your job to tell them.
Promoting yourself and your book should be easy and exciting. After all, you are passionate about your book or you wouldn’t have written it … and second, making friends and telling your story as an author is a fabulous, quickening experience.
Get out your notebook and let’s get started.
- Review your products (that’s you and your book) and clarify your message. This is vital, you do have a message, whether you write non-fiction how-to books or supernatural fantasy novels. Hone in on your message.
- Understand your competition. Take some time to look at other authors and books in the same genre. Examine what they’re doing to promote, track their success and understand how the market accepts, understands and embraces them. Nothing serves a promotional plan better than knowing what works and doesn’t work … especially when someone else did all the legwork. (BTW, with a little luck, someone someday will be shadowing your promotional efforts too.)
- Perfect your multi-level strategy. Determine how many powerful targets you want to approach and take aim. Good promotional strategy speaks to at least three targets in as many as a hundred different ways. Press releases. Social networking. Electronic media. Publications. Live appearances. And much, much more. Where, when and how do you want to shout out your message? Plan carefully and keep records. After all, any good promotional plan will happen again and again, but how do you know if, for example, buying a billboard on Sunset Boulevard actually worked if you don’t track its response? How many people came to a speaking engagement purely by word of mouth, how many from info in your Author Website Media Room, how many from press releases printed in newspapers or magazines, how many from a previous interview at a radio station or online blog? Know these things and every time you regenerate your promotional plan, you’ll be able to tighten it more and more until it holds nothing but the elements that work best for you and your book.
- Careful with your timing and budget. There are good times and there are not so good times to promote. If your book is about a tsunami and one hits an island somewhere in the south Pacific right before your book is released, is it good timing or bad timing? If your book is about zombies, still unpublished but represented by an agent and there are fifteen new zombie books hitting the shelves in the next eight months, is it a good time to promote or not? Is it worth the time to drive across the state (or across the country) to speak at bookstores, libraries and writing groups? Is $10 too much to pay for an online ad? Is $800 too much to pay for a book video? The answer to all these questions lies in just two more questions … What value do you get for your dollar and/or effort? What’s the payoff? The answer to those questions helps you be more careful and efficient with your time, promotional timing and budget. For example, an $800 book video that also offers promotion for the video that can be tracked, as opposed to a book video made by your geek video-making friend then plopped on YouTube, may make you think twice. Is the expenditure worth it? If you must spend not only the time working with your geek friend to create your free book video, then spend additional hours trying to get everyone to pop in and see it, maybe it just doesn’t compare to paying a legitimate company $800 for a professionally created book video that’s guaranteed to appear on real television. Think value. If driving across the country requires staying in motels then speaking to massive groups of people waiting to see you and buy your book, there’s the payoff. If your zombie novel kicks butt over any other zombie book because it’s so unique, that’s counting coup. If your book sales soar because your romance book video appeared on the Lifetime Channel, you win. If not? Back to the drawing board. Being careful with your timing and budget means doing all the homework first.
- Good follow-up matters! Even if you think it doesn’t, it does. If someone comments on your blog, respond immediately. If a fan sends you an email, return an email. If you send one press release to a newspaper and they don’t print it, keep that contact on your media list and send the next release and the next and the next. Eventually, they will print your news. If a reporter wants to talk, of course you would respond in a heartbeat. If someone wants to sell you a service, listen to them too, it might have value (if not for you, perhaps for another author you know, thus you’ll create two friends). If a fan writes every time you post a new entry on your book website, thank them for their loyalty. These follow up activities are easy, usually free and worth millions. Never leave anyone unanswered, and never forget to talk to that person, business, media outlet, agent, editor, publisher or movie studio when they ask to talk to you. And don’t ever forget – the lowly fan who simply posts a happy face on your blog is as important and Mr. Movie Studio Man. Good follow-up matters, because it’s how we build our public and fan base. It’s why people like Niel Gaiman and Russell Crowe use twitter, it’s the reason authors have facebook fan pages, it’s the reason the newspapers eventually do respond to your press releases and grow to respect you. Nothing makes a newspaper person happier than good follow-up.
Author Success Coaching
Publicity Marketing Promotions
Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future
Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson
Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles
Lesson 3, How Long
Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform
Lesson 5, Target Markets
Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan