Liz Fichera: "Marketing ebooks: the new frontier"
_Liz is an author from the American Southwest by way of Chicago. She likes to write stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things, oftentimes against the backdrop of Native American legends. Her historical romance debut CAPTIVE SPIRIT was published by Carina Press in 2010. Carina Press will publish her next novel, a contemporary romance, in July of 2011. Come visit her blog or web site. Virtual chocolate served daily.
Marketing e-books has been a little like living in the Wild, Wild West: There are lots of surprises, you never know what’s going to greet you around the corner, the landscape can be brutal, but the sky’s the limit.
Last year, I honestly didn’t know what to expect, marketing-wise, when I sold my historical romance novel to Harlequin’s digital-only publisher Carina Press. I had a few ideas but like most new things, you never really know until you’re right in the thick of it.
If you decide to publish with an e-publisher, here are a few lessons from the Wild, Wild West that I’ve learned. Hopefully they will help make your journey less bumpy and maybe even enjoyable:
1) Choose your publisher carefully. I went with a Harlequin imprint because they already have a large world-wide reader base and web presence. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t choose a lesser known publisher or even a brand-new publisher. But if you do, expect to do even more self-marketing to create the exposure and buzz that your book will need to generate sales.
2) Social media is your friend. Think about creating a social media presence long before your book publishes. So if you’re planning to publish one day, start now. Today. This moment. Yes, I know most writers are introverts (Me=guilty!), but this isn’t your mother’s book signing anymore. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (although MySpace has become the 8-track tape of the social media world) are places where you can build relationships with people all over the world. However, the operative word here is relationship, not follower. Ugh, I despise that ugly troll of a word follower! I have to roll my eyes at all the authors who are hell-bent on amassing hundreds—even thousands—of followers. Wrong! I think this is the absolute wrong approach. There is already so much noise on social media sites. The last thing anyone wants to hear is you peddling your book nonstop, two seconds after “friending” you. Build relationships first; get to know people. Share something helpful and humorous about yourself. If they have a connection with you, they’ll check out your book and/or your web site without any prompting. Don’t be the Acme Salesperson of Twitter or Facebook. That is a total turn-off, in my opinion.
3) I Blog; Therefore I am. Yes, blogs are hard work and you really have to commit to posting frequently, but it’s a great way to meet other writers, readers, agents, publishing folk, and just about anyone else you can think of. I created a blog through Blogger.com. Blogs are free. Again, it’s not about amassing legions of followers; it’s about creating a place where people can connect with you. Begin by meeting other writers and online book bloggers. I assure you that in a matter of weeks, you’ll connect with new blog friends and you may actually enjoy the process. If an individual blog is too daunting, consider creating or joining a group blog with other writers in your genre so that you won’t need to post as often. Also, there’s strength in numbers, assuming everyone involved in the group blog shares the same goals for the blog. Advertise your book or upcoming book on your blog, certainly, but don’t make that the focus of your blog.
4) Blog Tours. Yes, blog tours are cool after your book publishes but make sure you maintain a balance. Again, if you’re promoting your book all the time, people start to tune you out. Before your book gets published, visit book blogger sites and other sites that are interested in your genre—e.g. mystery blogs, thriller blogs, mother-daughter blogs, etc. Develop relationships. See if they’d be willing to invite you to guest post on their blog when your book publishes. Remember, share helpful and interesting information. Don’t just hawk your book 24/7.
5) Go where the readers hang out. One of my favorite sites is Goodreads, both as a voracious reader and writer. What a great place to find new books, keep track of the books you’re reading, and meet other people who eat, breathe, and live for books. There are also forums at Goodreads for people who want to connect with book clubs (e.g. chick lit, mystery, romance, etc.), specific genres of books, and even readers who only read downloadable books. It’s like a little piece of reader heaven. Other similar sites include Shelfari.com and Librarything.com.
6) Author Web site. I don’t know how you can get away without having a web site and development of your brand. Think of your web site as your “home” base and you’re like an item in the store. What will catch somebody’s eye? What will draw them to your “shelf”? What’s your brand? For example, do you write romantic suspense, historicals, young adult? At a minimum, your web site should contain all of your links—blog, Twitter, Facebook, even a YouTube button, if you have one. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be overly involved or expensive. Shop around for web hosting packages; the prices are all over the board, depending on the level of assistance you require. Finally, when someone googles your name, your web site should be one of the first search results.
7) Create an Amazon profile. As soon as your publisher has an ISBN number and book cover for your book, create an Amazon author profile. You can do this easily at Amazon Author Central. It’s free and takes a day. People buy tons of books on Amazon. Give them a way to find you. Ditto for Barnes and Noble and Borders, although I have found their sites to be less author-user-friendly.
8)) Click here. Did you know that you can advertise on Facebook and Goodreads? I’m sure you can do the same on sites like LibraryThing and Shelfari but I haven’t checked them out or used them as extensively. The cool thing about Facebook and Goodreads is that you set your own daily advertising budget. You can pay for clicks or impressions. In other words, if you come up with a snazzy ad, the better chance someone will “click” it to learn more. Obviously, the more you’re willing to pay, the more eyes (potentially) will see it and some of them may actually buy your book.
9) Advertise with reader communities. There are other large online communities where writers and readers congregate like FreshFiction, Manic Readers, and Dear Author. Get to know these web sites. Hang out in their forums. Contribute meaningful comments. They have various advertising packages for authors and publishers. Some offer weekly, monthly, and even yearly subscription services.
10) Hire a publicist. If you’ve got the cash and don’t have the time, there are publicists who will offer to do things for you like set up blog tours, create logos, set up contests, do your advertising for you, etc. The costs range all over the place. I would advise that you choose this option carefully and evaluate closely. There are some publicists who might be able to create great buzz with hardcover books but downloadable e-books? Not so much. Personally, I would prefer to pay a publicist based on the number of books sold, but so far I’ve only been able to find publicists who charge a flat rate. Many of the services they offer, frankly, are things I can do myself.
Of course, tell your family, friends, and anyone within the sound of your voice about your book. Yeah, I’m guilty of this too. I’ve told all of my family and friends, mostly because they’ve been with me on this long and sometimes painful journey. But that only goes so far and, really, you’ll give them free copies anyway.
The scary thing is that my list of options probably only scratches the surface. No doubt there are tons more ways to sell your e-books and promote yourself but at least here’s a down and dirty list to get you started. Jump in!