Chip MacGregor

August 21, 2012

Where do I start marketing my book? (Part Two)


Continuing our look at how an author starts the basic process of marketing…

Fourth, you already know this, and it may seem to simple, but you really need a good website. For some reason there’s been a movement in writing circles about websites being passe. I disagree — a site will give readers a way to find out about you and get introduced to your books. But don’t scrimp here. If you can, work with a pro to get a great web site — something interactive, that puts you in touch with your readers and keeps conversation going. Be sure to include an online store, so that interested readers can buy your books (either directly from you or linked to a web retailer like Amazon or Barnes& I frequently see author sites with no way to purchase books. 

Fifth, you might need a blog too. It’s not absolutely essential, in that many successful writers don’t keep a blog because they have all their conversations via the website. But if you can create the time to keep it going, consider it. Our culture is in love with interaction, and a blog allows the reader to feel that they get into your life. And that means you’re going to visit other people’s blogs — in fact, you’ll probably want to visit a lot of them. When you’re promoting your book, you’re going to want to participate in as many social media interviews as you can. You’ll go on as your book is releasing, answer questions from people, and chat up your work. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of reading group and book review blogs. It may seem tedious, but you’re going to want to hit as many of them that fit your audience. And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re hearing from people on your blog, you need to go back and connect with them, so that you begin having an online relationship.

Sixth, take steps to help get your site known. People will sign up if you offer them a free product of value at no cost — a short story or a special report or a special deal. It can’t just feel like marketing content — you’ve got to actually give people something they want. And in doing so, you capture their email addresses. This isn’t something you can do overnight… but imagine being able to tell your publisher, “I’ve got ten thousand devoted readers who have signed up for my e-zine every quarter.” That shows you’ve got a lot of readers. And, of course, when your book releases, you’ve got to tell all those people about it, and give them some sort of incentive to buy today

Again, to do this, you’ve actually got to have something of value to give away. Words, thoughts, or something else. So… what would you give away? I was just reading about a woman doing a novel about Ireland. She asked people to sign up for her e-zine (they had to give their name and email address), and she promised that when her novel released, she was holding a drawing and one lucky winner was going to win a trip to Ireland. She got thousands of subscribers. Let’s say a couple hundred of them bought her book when it came out. So she made several hundred dollars in royalties, and a ticket from New York to Dublin is only about $400. Sure, the author had to make the investment, but it didn’t end up costing her much, and the word-of-mouth marketing that came from it was great. 

So a question for you… What have been the two most essential marketing steps in your own writing career?

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  • David Todd says:

    Kind of late to this party, but I stopped checking the blog during the long sabbatical.
    Is there any difference in the marketing effort required of a first time author between a contracted book and a self-published book? From your two posts, it sounds not.

  • Tiffany Amber Stockton says:

    A web site has definitely helped me in spades. Then again, I design them for a living, so I’d better have a good presence of my own if I’m setting it up for others. 🙂

    But, the free stuff? That’s where I know I’m not succeeding. I need to develop something of value for readers and subscribers. A trip sounds great to me too, but I can’t possibly afford that even IF a couple hundred folks buy my book. Just haven’t reached that royalty level or price point that will make it a worthwhile investment for me.

    The one thing I *did* learn is to not offer free copies of your books. Otherwise, people will sign up, but they won’t purchase anything as they’re hoping to be a winner in the drawing first. By the time the drawing comes, they’ve lost interest in buying your books.

    Now, free copies of out-of-print books, or first chapters of sequels, or even chapters that will never be published but offer added insight, etc., could work on a smaller scale.

    Hmm…I’m going to have to think on this.

  • Jackie Layton says:

    Are you saying start a web site after you get a contract but before the book releases?
    I’ve got a blog but didn’t want to spend time on a website until I at least have an agent or contract.
    A trip sounds like a great idea. Thankfully I’m not writing about Ireland. What do you think about a bed and breakfast in the setting of my story?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      My suggestion: Start the website now, Jackie. Don’t wait for the contract. And a bed and breakfast is a great idea — that’s a contest I’d enter!

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