Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting Your Name Out There

By Laura Marshall

So you’ve written the best book ever, had it accepted by a publisher, and it’s going to the printer.  One problem: no one knows your name . . . yet.  Having a great book does not guarantee your book will sell.  The publisher can only do so much to promote your book, and usually it’s not enough.  As the author, you need to take things into your own hands and do some self-promotion.  Here are some tips and tricks to getting your name out there:

Building Your Online Presence:
Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and social networking are excellent ways to keep in touch with your fans and to let them know what you're up to. Create a fan page for your book, tweet about any awards you might be up for, inform people of your readings and launches so they can show up and support you. Maintaining an online presence is an increasingly important way to promote yourself.
1)    Start tweeting – If you aren’t on Twitter yet go sign yourself up now.  Sure it may seem like a silly thing to tell your friends about every minute of your day, but it’s a great way for fan to follow updates about you and your book.
2)    Open a Facebook account – Nowadays everyone has an account on Facebook so create a fan page for yourself.  This is a way for people to get to know you as a person, not just an author.
3)    Create a website – This is perhaps one of the most important tools for beginning writers.  When someone hears your name or reads something about you they like, the first thing they do is Google you.  And if you don’t have a site they won’t be able to find out more and become a fan.  Make this your top priority for your online presence.
4)    Write a blog – You may be surprised, but people want to know your thoughts.  It doesn’t have to be just about your writing, but include stories from your life, your day job, whatever.  And keep updating frequently so people will keep coming back.  Tip: Make sure to link your blog to your webpage and visa-versa so you get more traffic to your sites.
5)    Get on book networking sites – Make sure you are on book networking sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, Connect via Books, LibraryThing, and aNobii.  These are a great way for people to find your books, even if they aren’t looking for them.

Dealing with the Press:

We all want the kind of media coverage that Robert J. Sawyer has—articles, interviews, radio shows, awards. The trick is to figure out how to get it. Your publisher likely has limited resources so while they do what they can, you are far more likely to succeed if you can do some of the work yourself. After all, your publisher can only do so much to get the word out there. The more you can do for yourself, the more likely you are to succeed.
1)     Press releases – It’s a good idea to get into the habit of writing press releases yourself.  By definition a press release is simply a statement prepared for distribution to the media. The purpose of a press release is to give journalists information that will catch their attention and be useful to them when preparing a story. Journalists receive hundreds of press releases each week so the trick is to make yours interesting, relevant, and writable.  You can include them on your webpage, send them out with review copies, to newspapers and magazine, and most importantly, remember to follow up!
Here are some quick tips for writing a good press release:
•    Use an active headline to grab the reporter's attention
•    Put the most important information at the beginning
•    Avoid hype and unsubstantiated claims 
•    Keep your release to one page
•    Include a contact
•    Keep lingo to the minimum
•    Be specific and detailed
•    Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

2)     Author Press Kit - Author press kits vary in context, complexity and appearance, but ultimately they are designed to convey basic information about a writer and his or her recent projects. They can help impress editors as well as provide useful information for media events, interviews, and for review requests. The cost of putting together a press kit depends on the quality of any hardcopy materials and whether you choose to build one yourself or hire an agency do it for you. Here are some tips for how to create one yourself:
Press Kit Ingredients: 
•       high-resolution author photo
•       high-resolution book cover images
•       a short biography
•       a publication C. V.
•       press clippings
•       press releases
 Of course, there are a number of additional documents you can draw up and include as necessary. An introductory letter can be a vital way to distinguish you from others in your field, to position your brand of writing as unique or cross-genre, or to highlight specific points of interest that may be newsworthy. Other possibilities include a quotes page which draws attention to positive reviews; sample writings from a blog or collection; description of current projects, etc. Every author has unique selling points so the key is to make a press kit that capitalizes upon yours.

Getting Yourself Out There:
So now you’ve got a great online fan base, you’ve sent out press releases, and compiled a press kit.  The next thing you need to do is get yourself out there so people know your name, and your face!  You can do this in a number of ways.  Here are some of the top ways:
1)    Organize a book launch/signing/reading – Your publisher may already organize some of these things for you, but once again they only do so much.  Take the initiative and organize these events yourself at book stores, private events, or in your hometown.  As The Writer's Handbook Blog says, “This a key activity for book marketing that authors can do better, more personably, and often more creatively than publishers. “ After all, this is a place to make sales, meet fans, spark interest and promote not just your book but YOU. Be personable. Be likeable. Be energetic. Give people a reason to want to read your book and follow your career.
2)    Attend Conventions - Genre publishing has an advantage over other kinds of publishing—you've got a lot of built-in opportunities for meeting fans and mingling. At a basic level, conventions offer you the opportunity to promote your book through readings, signings, launch parties and room parties. There are other possibilities too. Being on panels is a great way for fans to get to know you, and often times you can do a short promo for your book at the beginning. Being on a panel tends to be free and in many cases will allow you to get into the convention at a discounted rate. So don't just hide out in your room from the slobbering hordes. Go meet them. Go to parties. Go to the bar and hang out. Talk to people when they approach you.   Just don’t forget to tell people you are going to be there!
All of these are great ways to promote yourself and your book.  All it takes is some initiative, creativity, and persistence to get your name out there.  If you don’t have time to do all of these, talk to your publisher to find out what they are already doing and then fill in the gaps yourself.  Remember, just doing these things will not make your book a success, but they can certainly help!


Laura Marshall recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Masters in Material Culture and the History of the Book. Though not a writer herself, she has spent much of her life supporting and herding literary types through her work for organizations such as the Ad Astra Literary Convention, Word on the Street and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. She is currently the marketing assistant for ChiZine Publications and an intern at Harlequin Romance.

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