After announcing the unexpected news that my debut novel Sweet Inspiration was a bestseller at Fictionwise, various folks began to ask me what I did to promote my book. Since the jury is still out as to my actual sales, you can take this advice with a grain of salt. Also note, Sweet Inspiration was only available as an e-book, but the suggestions are still applicable for any on-line sales, including print books at Amazon or other locations. Here are some suggestions from the Promo Queen (I can't believe a found a photo of a dachshund wearing a crown!).
1. Don't wait around for your publisher to contact reviewers. The sites might be backlogged, and your review may come out 6 months after your book is released. That's good for long-term sales, but not helpful for your launch day push. Make sure you contact your own reviewers 3-4 months ahead, and schedule the reviews to be posted 1 wk before and several weeks after launch day to create buzz. How to find reviewers? Look for romance review blogs, ask your author friends (and make sure you offer to reciprocate), contact larger review sites and fill out their applications. Whatever it takes. As soon as you have good reviews rolling in, you can post them on your website, and announce them through twitter, facebook, etc.
P.S. No, you cannot insist that the reviewers write you a sparkling recommendation. Yes, it is nerve-wracking not knowing if the review will be good. Believe in your book and have faith. Readers realize that everyone has his/her own opinion about things. Don't send your sweet, rated-G YA novel to an erotica reviewer. Use common sense.
2. Run adds for 1-2 months prior, and 1-2 months during release. Pick places with high traffic and visitors who read ebooks or your particular genre. I splurged on All About Romance, and ran my banner there for the entire month of December. It's worth the investment if it gets you sales and exposure. Don't waste your time/money running ads (even if they are cheap) on places that are cluttered with banners and ads, or visited mostly by authors and not readers. Ads are fairly simple to make. You can either just take a jpeg of your book cover with a link (use your website if it's prior to the purchase link being released). Moving gif banners are also cool...my awesome website designer made me a gorgeous one.
3. Don't forget the golden rule...promo must reach readers!!!! It's OK to run promo on your publishing loops, but it's more important to reach readers. Try reader loops/bloggers who specialize in your genre, and have a lot of followers/traffic. However, be warned. Self-promoting on the reader boards at Amazon, AAR, Barnes and Nobles is not a good idea. Self-promotion is forbidden on some loops. Read the rules and regulations carefully before you post.
4. Contests are good! Why? Because it draws in readers, and announcements for contests get posted on a lot of other sites on-line. Lots of exposure! You could give away a $5 or $10 gift card from Amazon, which is not too high of an expense. Tie in prizes with your book theme... I gave away xmas ornaments, hot cocoa, cookies, etc--all tied into the theme of my Christmas story.
5. Post your cover, your blurb and don't forget a good excerpt. People want to see what kind of writer you are, so choose your excerpt wisely. Post on facebook/myspace, twitter, your blog, your friend's blog, your website, etc.
6. Get a Goodreads acct! Pronto! Goodreads is fantastic...you can do self-promotion without looking like a jerk. Make an author page so you can post book info, excerpt, trailers, announce contests/launch day, etc. Goodreads is viral....if you get one good review, "friends" read it, add your book, discuss on ami boards (there are a lot of cross over people on ami and goodreads, also AAR)--do it!
7. Invest in a good website designer. You want your website, ad banners, book trailers to all look polished and professional. You can post your book trailers on youtube and place links on facebook, websites, etc. You can do these things yourself, but make sure it looks professional. If you make a nice banner, ask your author friends to post it on their webs/blogs too if possible...
8. Book bloggers often post covers with the release date on their side bars. This is awesome free publicity.
9. Set up interviews and guest blog posts. Make sure most are on high-traffic reader sites. It's OK to do some author sites too. Everyone has his/her own followers and you might get into a new "crew" of folks! Make a big calendar with your schedule, try not to overlap or over schedule. Spread it out. Make sure you send confirmation emails, thank you notes to everyone, even people who might give you only mediocre reviews. Always be professional and polite.
10. Even mediocre reviews are helpful. Don't get into a sparring match with a reviewer you disagree with. It's totally uncool and unprofessional. Remember...what goes around comes around.
11. Do things to set you apart from the masses....be creative! My 5 Klaus brothers "took over" my blog for 5 weeks prior to launch day, gave away prizes, readers got to know the brothers and wanted more. It really drummed up interest, and the unexpected benefit was that it helped me get to know my characters better!
12. Visit other blogs and leave comments...your url is attached, so you will get visitors to your blog. However, don't waste too much time with this! The internet addiction can eat up a lot of time (and I should know!--that's new year's resolution #6).
13. Post about good reviews, good news to keep up buzz. Make it fun and interesting. Don't just say "I got another 5 star review!" Take a fun snippet out of the review ("The Klaus brothers really cranked my Christmas tree....5 stars!") and use that instead. Make it fun and creative.
14. Google yourself. Find out if anyone is talking about you/your book....then post good stuff!
15. Make your blog fun...post news snippets, reviews of books you're enjoying, do mini interviews, run contests...have fun with it. It should not be too much work or too stressful!
16. For those of you with print books: Don't waste too much time scheduling book signings, etc. Focus on on-line sales. A lot of people buy their books online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Always include purchase links when discussing your book....either to Amazon, your publisher, etc.
If anyone has any other good promo tidbits, please let me know!