Friday, November 21, 2008

Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 1

In the rush to find new and exciting ways to promote our books, let's not forget the tried-and-true. Inspired by Chris Brogan’s article, Promoting Your Book Online, a post by the way that got just about everybody in the blogosphere commenting on his blog, I devised this piece about adapting offline book promotion techniques to the online world.

In the olden days (pre-web), authors had limited personal means of promoting their books. Even if you did somehow get someone to publish your book, it didn't automatically imply that the publisher would spend a dime to promote it, the advertizing budget usually reserved for their award winning authors. So, authors had to become creative.

One way authors found to get some buzz for their books was to write practical, hard-hitting articles drawn from the content of their books and submit them to magazines and other publications. If readers found the information valuable, they would be tempted to buy the book to get the additional info. Publishing excerpts of your book in ebook format does a bit of the same thing but without one key element: endorsement!

In Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort, author Steven Van Yoder suggests you write and publish magazine articles in order to establish yourself as an expert in your field. This works because as far as readers are concerned, the magazine printing your article is de facto endorsing your expertise. In simpler terms, they published you so you must know what you are talking about!

This can still be done today, online, with a twist. You can guest-post on different blogs. Many big blogs are regularly seeking out new content. But in order for this to work, you should follow these simple rules.
(See pro-blogger tips)

1- Pic blogs that are relevant to your subject, not just because they are popular. Don’t approach a tech-review blog with a pitch for your new romance novel.
How to do this? You can start with Google Blog Search and search for the topic of your book or for the sub-topics you would like to do as blog posts. See who the players are and don’t just go for the biggies. Smaller blogs that seem to be posting less frequently might be more open to a guest post. Do the same on Technorari and cross reference your results so you can choose the best for you.

2- Try to pic topics that are hot at that moment
Go to StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, or Delicious. Look at what topics people are digging, stumbling, etc. Is there a chapter of your book that relates to any of these topics? Have a look at the national and international sections of top news sites. What is hot in the news right now? Is there a tie-in to your book? If so, it could make a great post. A blogger will be much more interested in your offer if there is a strong likelihood that your post will bring in a lot of traffic.

3-When approaching a blog, offer tailored pieces that will fit in with the blog’s usual content.
Even if you did steps 1 and 2 and have already located great blogs and the perfect topics, make sure that the tone and style of your post fits in with the rest of the content. Some blogs are all about controversy. Others very news slanted or factual or all about reviews. Don’t approach PerezHilton with a bland, factual piece. It just won’t fly! Taylor your piece to the style and tone and voice of the blog and you will increase your chances exponentially.

4-Offer your post for free!
It might be tempting to try to make a few extra dollars by selling the post but the goal here is publicity, not straight cash. If the blogger or blog owner offers payment, I would turn it down and suggest that if he/she would like me to write guest posts for them in the future, on requested topics, then we can negotiate proper remuneration but for now, it’s a freebee.
The object here is not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg but to feed her and get her squawking about your book!

5-Be ready to answer comments
Once you have posted the article, subscribe to the comment feed for that post and go and answer each comment. Try to provide value and a sense of connection – it can go a long way to convincing the commenter to buy your book. It will also serve to answer any negative comments that might pop-up. Remember that every commenter is a potential lifetime fan of your books.

6-Include a link to your book
This may seem overly obvious but it is often overlook the very obvious. Include a link to your site for more info, your contact information, and link to Amazon if the book is listed there.

7-Offer something that is only available to readers of that particular post.
This is very interesting for the blog owner and potentially for his/her readers. Offer to have a draw for a few signed copies of the book. You can even offer to dedicate it according to what the winner(s) put in their comments (an incitation to comment on the blog). Maybe you can even offer to pick the winners from “the best comment according to my 6 year old daughter (or son, or nephew, etc)” This will incite people to comment and will help build the connection with the reader by revealing a little bit of personal information about you.

8-Let the blog owner profit from referenced sales
I would even suggest to the blog owner that he/she become an Amazon Affiliate so that they can profit from anyone buying a book from the link on their site. Yes, here again, you might loose a few dollars in the short term but this might be enough to convince the blog owner to put you in their blogroll or to post a more permanent link (side menu for example) to your book on Amazon (if they are not an Amazon Associate already, you can suggest they sign up) and this in turn will mean long term revenues for you.

Also in this series: Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 2: The Virtual Book Tour