Book Promotion Stressing You Out? Here's How To Survive!

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Marketing in the digital age is a whole new ball game for everybody, but especially for writers. We all know that publishers expect their authors to do most of their own promotion and it is rumored that if you don't have at least 600 followers on Twitter, you won't get a contract!

And those of us who've gone into self-publishing are provided with opportunities that didn't exist just two or three years ago but also experience the full blast of the digital revolution - I know, I'm a self-published writer! Once upon a time, I was "traditionally" published (here in Italy and in Italian - I'm multilingual) and I used to let the publisher handle marketing issues.

No longer.

All of us self-pubbed writers have to think of how best to reach out to our readers and grab their attention long enough so that they'll click on that damn buy button! We've got Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Joe Konrath as models! They've all used their Internet presence to make a splash! And so can we, right?

A great day and age to live in, no doubt, but the stress of doing your own book marketing is AWFUL! Think of it: you've got to be on Twitter, run your blog, set up a website, a Facebook page, and now Google+... Thank God, MySpace has (more or less) disappeared! Still, if you're serious about promotion, you have to do your own book trailer, run video chats and go on blog tours (guest interviews on other writers blogs), make comments galore, participate in readers' fora like Goodreads or Kindleboards etc etc

Enough to go bonkers!

So how do you survive?

I'd love to hear how you're doing it, and here's my take.

The pressure eased off one day when I suddenly realized that ebooks are on that virtual shelf in Amazon, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere FOREVER! That means you (and I) don't have to go rushing into anything! We can take our time, stop and think and ponder our next move.

Take the time to EVALUATE what you're best at, where your chances are to make a splash.

If you're photogenic and great at talking in public, by all means, go and make videos. If not, forget it!

Don't stress, there are other ways that work just as well. Because remember, when a book is out there forever, there's plenty of time to increase your Internet presence - because your Internet presence is the only thing that matters. And it can be increased through all sorts of ways - in primis, your blog.

If you're a writer, running a blog should be no problem. It's fun to write, right? (Notice the alliteration, ha ha!)

But if a blog is a drag and you'd much rather write your novel and cuddle your baby, don't worry. Set up a nice website (or get some expert to do it for you) and let it sit there. All you need to do is update it at reasonable intervals - and make sure you leave a contact so your fans can write to you (and of course you should respond!). Because the digital age is all about direct communication with your readers!

What about Twitter? Now, here's a place a writer can make a splash, provided you can come up with entertaining tweets within the space allowed: very little!140 characters - if you download Tweetdeck on your computer (it's free), you can double that length and easily schedule tweets several times a day. Very useful.

The trick is to come out with something that is arresting. Not easy. Because, let's face it, self-promotion sucks! You feel silly standing out there on Internet, hollering "buy my book"! Not only silly, but downright useless. People won't stand for it. The soap industry learned its lesson in the 1950s when it bleated on every TV screen that its soap washed whiter than white! Direct marketing does not work, never has.

The trick is to go into indirect marketing: get other people to sell for you.

How do you do that? This is not easy either. First you need reviews. This is where going into self-publishing really hurts the most: because if you're published by one of the Big Six, they'll do it for you. They'll send your book to the best critics in the land! But don't despair. Not everyone buys books on the basis of the New York Times Bestseller List (I bet a lot of people don't - I rarely do). Indeed, readers communities like Goodreads are a great place to get promoted - by real readers, not literary critics on a newspaper's staff. Readers have a sense of community among them, they tend to trust each other.

Okay, friends can help too. But be careful: what you need are honest reviews - not stuff that smacks of self-promotion. And that gushing 5 star review full of not-to-be-believed praise will hurt you far more than an honest 4 or 3 star review with a lot less praise...

So, once you've got a few, believable lines of praise, do use them in a Twitter campaign! Make sure you use hashtags to throw your net far and wide: these little # signs that you put in front of keywords. They pull together tweets under the said #subject and that's how you attract the attention of people who are not your followers. You can even run contests on Twitter, though that (to me) sounds quite stressful and I'm not at all sure how effective a contest can be: it all depends on how far you manage to throw your net (but that would be the subject of another post).

Anyway, that's my strategy: get reviews, build up interest in what you can offer readers as "useful content" and don't worry about book promotion.

Remember, in the digital world (unlike the physical), time is on your side!

What is your strategy to promote your book? How do you handle the stress? Please let us have your tips!




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