(*Please note: this post originally appeared in 2012. I now have three books out.)
My two books were free for three days over Easter weekend.
So were 4,999 others.
So, how’d I do?
Results: I had almost 50,000 downloads between the two and as I write this, A Walk In The Snark is #1 on three paid lists, is outranking Anna Quindlen on Women’s Studies,The Girlfriend’s Guide To Pregnancy on Motherhood, and is ranked about #400 overall Top 100 Paid. Mancode: Exposed is also cruising nicely, around #1300 (though it got under 1,000 – my goal—at #943) overall Top 100 Paid, and is top five on two main lists (Parenting and Families and Essays – a hugely important list).
(No doubt, by the time you read this, those numbers will have dropped. I’ve found that three days post-free is the magical number. After that, numbers drop.)
More importantly (and this is key), my books are now back to regular price ($3.99 for Mancode and 2.99 for Snark) and I still have traction, which is your main goal. When you can stay on the lists even though your overall Top 100 ranking has dropped, that’s when you sell!
How did I do all this?
Is it possible to promote your books on a ‘dental floss’ budget? A very nice young man asked me this week on Twitter.
I only have time to promote my books on Twitter due to being a full-time mom and writer another writer told me on a blog post where I mentioned that spamming links to your books constantly is not a good idea.
When I asked my Facebook followers, “What else can you do besides post links to your Twitter/FB following to promo your books?” One gal replied I got nothin.’
(There are plenty of ways to get word about your book out there. Let me state this here and now: links are great. I love links. I’m not anti-link at all. I’m anti-NOTHING BUT SELF PROMO LINKS ALL THE TIME.)
Social media is free. Time isn’t. I get it. I’m a mom, writer, wife, and founder of BadRedhead Media, my social media consulting business. I’m busy, too.
Because I can’t be in all places at all times, and because social media won’t sell your books (more on that in a moment), ads are a necessary evil. Think about it: you buy stuff cause you are exposed to it, be it food, tech, clothing, whatever. Even word of mouth starts with exposure (well, it starts with a W, but I digress).
Ads: You can spend pennies on Google Ad Words. You pay per click. Let’s say you spend $1/day. That’s $30/month. If your book is priced at $2.99, you’re making $2.05/book. Will that ad help you sell fifteen books to pay for that ad spend? Probably more than the hours you spend on Twitter spamming links to fellow writers who are also hawking their books and in all likelihood not buying yours.
Budget: Give yourself a budget. Do you spend $1/day on a coffee at Starbucks? No doubt more than that, probably. Or $30/month on cable? I don’t. I write about Prada shoes but in truth I have two pairs I bought ages ago, on sale, when I worked full-time. (Just because writers write about stuff doesn’t mean we don’t use hyperbole for god’s sake.)
Doesn’t mean my next royalty check won’t go toward a new pair though. Ha!
But, in truth, it will probably go toward more Google ads. Sexy, isn’t it? Sigh.
(Facebook and Goodreads also have ads also. Try them.)
As mentioned above, we’re all busy, we all have lives. How we find time to write is beyond me. Oh yea, no sleep, dammit.
Toxic spam wasteland: (insert guitar riff here) Spamming other writers with links is probably the least effective marketing tool you have, yet Twitter has become the toxic spam wasteland for authors. Our sense of urgency takes over MY BOOK IS FREE! BUY MY BOOK! TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW! FREE! FREE! FREE!
Man, we all need to toke up and chill out. (If you do that sort of thing.)
Your readers ARE on Twitter, but screaming at them to find you is what I call ‘Bart Simpson Syndrome’ — me! look at me! pay attention to me!
Doesn’t work, does it? And it’s annoying as hell.
Yet I love Twitter. Why? Because when used correctly, with a proper ratio of content to promo, and intelligent targeting of readers, you will build an interactive following, a tribe of supporters and fans who will purchase your books, write reviews, like, tag, and give good word of mouth (which is how 81% of people with eReaders prefer to find out about books, according to the latest Pew report).
So what to do? Here’s what I did, feel free to tell me to sod off, but hey, 50K downloads is nothing to sneeze at:
Put your Amazon link(s) on your Twitter bio. (You can add TWO links to your bio now.) When you tweet “My books are free this weekend. Links on bio,” notice you are not spamming people with LINKS. Just informing them with content. They will look if they want to.
Participate in a blog hop. I timed my free days for Easter weekend, when there was a ginormous blog hop of over 250+ blogs taking part that happened to be my demographic (women, ages 35-50). This created traffic to my blog, and therefore my sell links, not generated by me directly. Sweet.
Interviews. I’m honored and overwhelmed by the sheer number of requests for interviews or guest posts at this point. I time them for my free days, if possible. People are generally very accommodating. If you’re just starting out, trade interviews with other authors you respect/admire or who are also just starting out. Again, this generates interest to my books from others. (Even better: create an interview page on your site!)
Hootsuite: Schedule in tweets/messages to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more allows you more time to write. Of course I still live tweet. I check in frequently throughout the day (and it pings you whenever you have a new message – up to you whether you want that feature on or off).
Gives you analytics. How effective are you tweets, messages, even certain keywords? It tells you.
Helps you avoid ‘the stupids’ which often occurs off the cuff. Write out an entire day’s worth of tweets/messages. Helps you stay on brand. Counts out characters for you. Shortens links.
Honestly, need I say more?
(Tweetdeck is also good. I simply prefer the layout of Hootsuite.)
I’m always a little surprised when, with the wealth of information out there about developing your author platform, people tell me they’re at a loss as to how to promote their books.
Books: Besides buying Lori Culwell or J.A. Konrath’s awesome books on their self-publishing advice and experiences, I cowrote a book about self-publishing and social media called DOLLARS AND SENSE: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING. I wrote the Blog to Book and Social Media portions but the whole thing is quite helpful for a few bucks investment (Ed. update: my understanding is that the book is no longer available in the US.)
Blog: In addition to having a full-on social media platform (that you can manage from one place as I mentioned above), you need a blog.
How to build it so they will come? Go to them! Der. This sounds so freakin’ basic but one of my dude friends, a top humor blogger in his own right (Delfin of @tfpHumorblog, who writes Thoughts from Paris — follow him, he’s hi-larious) and with whom I’m cowriting a biweekly he said/she said feature on my blog, said this is probably the best advice anyone has given him recently. Follow other bloggers, comment on five/day. Takes fifteen minutes. Surely you have fifteen minutes. Turn off the dumb reality shows and do this instead.
Other sites: Let other sites do the work for you. I paid $30 (Option FBH) to Kindle Nation Daily to mention my free books. Their reach is about 50k subscribers. That doesn’t include their Facebook page or Twitter. I pay $30 and all those thousands of people find out my books are free. That’s far more effective than me spamming links to my Twitter following. #justsayin
Copromotion: I hooked up virtually with another bestselling author in the same genre (humor) to promote his books and he promoted mine (@BenMWallace). We mentioned each other in a few messages but also on our Amazon copy. This helped us both and best of all it cost us nothing.
Social Media: Besides Twitter and Facebook, become active on Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest (huge!). And when I say active, I mean go clicky clicky on a few buttons to open your accounts and link stuff up. (I do it all on my iPhone when I’m standing in line somewhere, looking at some guy’s stupid pants.) It’s all very user-friendly. I know. YOU’RE BUSY. Take a half hour one day and go Nike all up in there.
Why? Social Media is the new SEO. You can whine and moan all you want about how much time you don’t have, or you can deal with the reality of getting your name out there, make it easy for people to find you and sell more books.
What do you want to do?
Website: You need a website. WordPress is easy, and has the best SEO and social media stuff. Lots of free plug-ins. I was a diehard blogger girl, and @sugarbeatbc made the switchover easy and painless. She still helps me out when I dork out.
YouTube. Free and popular as all get out. Get a Video Trailer: I had a branding trailer (not a book trailer) done and it’s awesomely cool and it only cost me $40. Prices vary. Check mine out and if you like it, contact @Bk36 and post it to YouTube — YouTube is the second most popular search engine. Read that again.
Triberr: join up! Free, it’s a great way to multiply your Twitter AND blog reach exponentially. Though I ‘only’ have 15K+ followers, my reach is about half a million due to belonging to several tribes. Downside: it does require a few minutes a day to approve posts (your tribemates blog posts are sent out on your stream, yours on theirs) and you need to balance the amount of links now going out on your stream with good content (no links).
More on Triberr another day. If you’re interested in learning more, head to their website or Twitter. Also, I’m teaching their Blog To Book webinar this upcoming Tuesday, 4/17 at 8am PST/11am EST for just $25, open to members and non-members.
Spreecast: Free and a fun way to interact with followers. Like a tweetchat or radio show but with video. Anyone can join in using their Facebook or Twitter credentials. It’s so easy it’s stupid. I just did one last week with @moha_doha and we had about ten people show up to discuss indie publishing and marketing. We’ll do it again in a few weeks. Tip: Many authors use Spreecast to do virtual book signings (also free) and use Kindlegraph to eSign their books (no Kindle required). Check it out.
Podcasts: free and you can download them to iTunes or YouTube. I have lots of friends who do these and it’s just another fab way to get your name and work out there. Plus you can interview other writers so you garner support for them and for yourself at the same time. Cool, right.
Email and smartphone sigs: Sounds basic, but include your links here as well. Wisestamp is free and cool to use.
StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, etc: There’s nothing more frustrating than going to an author’s site and not being able to find their freakin’ social media buttons. Do that right now for god’s sake. Now, make sure your posts all go to these sites. This ensures your name and blog (and ultimately, your books) will be picked up by the search engine crawlers.
Author Networks: Most author networks are either free or low-cost to join. I cofounded the Indie Book Collective which used to be free. (I left and am no longer affiliated.) They now have a membership fee. Other networks like the IAN (Independent Author Network) are completely free though they do offer low-cost paid advertising options. Look into it.
Virtual Back List: If you’re just starting out and have no back list, team up with other authors in your genre and promote each other on your pages, blogs and in your eBooks. This helps to instantly create a recommendation queue.
Newsletter: MailChimp is free. Kind of a hassle to set up but lots of interactive options that connect to your social media but don’t require you spamming them.
Enough! I’m tired. (I think that was 26).
No. I don’t sleep much. Yes, I sell a lot of books. Sometimes it pays my rent. Most of the time, not. As I write Book Three, also nonfiction but not humor, I’m more and more excited to see what will happen with all of these connections.
Listen, I don’t believe in limiting yourself, except in sending out spam. WE ARE WRITERS.
Twitter is a form of writing, my friends.
Share your ideas with me in comments. I’m sure there are other fab ideas I’ve missed!