Online, Press, and Face-to-Face Exposure
It’s all about exposure—the more you and your books get, the more likely you are to increase sales. Here are some ways to increase your exposure and (hopefully) sales online, with the press, and through face-to-face communication.
Book Posting Sites
One way to expose your books to potential readers is to post descriptions of the books along with purchase information on websites that match readers to books. The more sites on which you post your books, the more you will potentially enlarge your audience and platform. Launched in 2007, Goodreads is the gorilla in the room. They claim to have over 9 million members who have added more than 320 million books to their shelves.
Here are some sites other than Goodreads to consider:
www.addictedtoebooks.com www.askdavid.com www.bookbrowse.com www.bookbuzzr.com www.bookdaily.com www.bookgoodies.com www.bookpreviewclub.com www.booksie.com www.booktalk.com www.bookzio.com www.digitalbooktoday.com www.ereadergirl.com www.goodkindles.net www.indiebooklounge.com www.indiebookoftheday.com www.kindleboards.com www.polkadotbanner.com www.selfpublishersshowcase.com
I post my books on most of these sites, but there is no way to tell if any of them have resulted in any sales. Posting details of each book (which you have to do just once) takes only about five minutes, so I feel it’s worth the effort and can’t possibly hurt.
A book trailer is a teaser or a promotional video that highlights the narrative arc of your book—a synopsis that doesn’t give away too many details. It’s pretty clear that the masses are into watching videos, and with audiences this big, one might assume book trailers are a great opportunity for authors to increase their online presence, reach a wider market, and ultimately sell more books. According to a January 2019 MerchDope article, YouTube is the second most visited website in the world with the following statistics.
The total number of people who use YouTube: 1.3 billion.
300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.
YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day.
In preparing to write this book, I viewed a lot of book trailers—surprisingly, 90 percent of them stank. I even found trailers for really good books that were just awful—lacking in creativity, professional image, and relevant content. Cheesy, boring, amateurish, and unimaginative videos—that’s what I found. I don’t know how much time and money was invested in any of them, but the majority appeared to have been shot with someone’s iPhone with little forethought and questionable music playing in the background. Maybe people don’t care about quality. Maybe I’m in the minority on this one.
But there are authors who claim book trailers on YouTube are an effective marketing tool, and here are their suggestions for making a good one.
Know who your potential readers are and cater your message specifically to them—what will catch their eye (and ear). Ask yourself what will inspire them to view the entire video and then (more importantly) press the “Buy” button.
A book trailer should highlight your book's hook—what makes it unique from all the others. You can do this with a headline. Keep it focused, short, and simple. A powerful hook lays the foundation for a great book trailer.
Keep in mind that most people, especially those online, have short attention spans. An effective book trailer should be thirty to ninety seconds in length. Don’t try to cram in a summary of the entire novel—just the highlights. You may want to consider creating a short and longer version of the trailer for different venues.
Use high-quality photos, graphics, audio, and actors. If you can’t pull this off yourself, hire a professional. Knowing how to incorporate these elements takes an eye for design and knowledge of the latest trends and software, so if you’re not in the know, seek help from others. Don’t plan to be in the video yourself unless you can come across as a professional actor. The same goes for voiceovers—spend time to find the right voice for your book trailer.
While the primary objective is to sell more books, you may have to come in through the back door to do this effectively. You can accomplish this by talking about the idea (the theme) behind the book as much as about the book itself. In other words, don’t make it a direct sell. Consider having the protagonist narrate the video and include some quotes from the book. Or minimize the dialogue and create intrigue with tantalizing music and footage. Regardless of the approach you choose, you will want viewers to walk away wanting to know more about the protagonist after hearing about his or her plight and the challenges he or she faces.
End the trailer with an invitation for viewers to do something that will hopefully lead them to buy the book. But don’t do a hard sell. Consider, for example, inviting them to visit your website or blog where you have “buy” buttons.
A book trailer doesn’t have to be super expensive or complicated to be successful—it just needs to be enticing enough to cause the viewer to want to know more about you and your books. Give readers a taste of what to expect without giving too much away. Leave them wanting to know more.
Exposure through Writing
What easier way is there for writers to gain exposure than by showing off their writing skills? Consider these avenues. Online Interviews
Many, if not most, book bloggers post author interviews on their sites. Not only does this provide an opportunity for exposure, it is also a chance for you to show off your creativity and writing style. (See “Suggested Reading” at the end of this chapter for a list of bloggers by genre.)
Articles and Blog Posts
A great way to gain exposure, increase your credibility as an author, and help your fellow authors at the same time is to write and publish articles. One platform in which to do this is EzineArticles.com, a searchable database of hundreds of thousands of original articles posted by people like you and me. After I post an article on this site, I can expect a big hike in the number of visitors to my website and many shared links. Other places to submit articles are trade publications, such as Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, Publishers Weekly, and The Writer.
Guest posting on author-related blogs is another way to get great exposure and an indirect way to get sales. More than a few times, someone has relayed to me that they bought my book because of one of my posts they read on someone else’s blog.
Another way to showcase your writing skills and potentially garner new fans is by writing short stories. Here are two links to sites where you can publish short stories.
While I haven’t done this myself, I know authors who scale their books way down, into short stories, and publish them as such. Since short stories can run anywhere from 1,500 to 30,000 words, this gives you lots of options.
Online Chat Groups
There are numerous online discussion groups you can join to get advice, give advice, and network with authors, editors, book reviewers, and publishers. The more you interact with fellow members of these groups, the more you learn and the more exposure you get for your books. Look for successful authors in these groups who have great web pages and/or blogs you can follow and learn from them.
Many groups have separate areas of the site that will allow you to post information about your book. Use these for promotions, but don't forget to provide feedback on postings from your fellow authors. Not only are you helping them gain exposure, but you will gain exposure for yourself. These groups are all about helping each other.
Following are the three most popular venues for group discussions. Facebook
Claiming over 2 billion active users, Facebook continues to be the largest social networking site. Numerous groups of authors support each other on Facebook by chatting about marketing ideas, writing techniques, and more. Here is a link to a list of some of the Facebook groups for writers. https://prowritingaid.com/art/630/Our-Favorite-Facebook-Groups-for-Writers.aspx
The world's largest professional network with more than 500 million members, LinkedIn is another good place to connect with other authors. Here is a link to a list of several of its groups. https://www.adazing.com/linkedin-groups-authors-should-join/
Launched in 2007 with over 85 million members who have added more than 2.5 billion books, Goodreads is the largest site in the world dedicated to readers where they can find, rate, and review books. Here is a link to their author-related groups. https://www.goodreads.com/group/topic/9-goodreads-authors
The news media (including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, web pages, and blogs) can help you get exposure to assist in building your reputation as an author and lead to book sales. Through these media, you will announce the release of your book and, with any luck, get interviews and media attention. In addition, these media can help you connect with editors, producers, reporters, broadcasters, columnists, podcasters, bloggers—people who have audiences and a platform from which to promote you and your work.
What are the chances that someone with an audience will hear about you through the press and promote your work? Probably slim, but all it takes is one person with an interest in your story at that particular moment in time. It's all about timing...and a little luck. A short time after the press release for my first book The Coach House, I was contacted by CPRTV, a local Chicago TV program serving the Filipino/Asian/Hispanic community. Its founder, Veronica Leighton, saw the press release and thought her audience might like to learn more about the ethnic thread that runs through the book. She invited me into her studio for an interview where we talked about what influenced my decision to write this particular story, the book writing process, and the research involved.
As with your other book promotion efforts, it's all about exposure, and the more you get the better.
Always have a press page available to send to the media when asked or to hand out at book signings, speaking engagements, conferences, and any other place where there is potential for self-promotion. Here’s the link to my website press page. https://www.florenceosmund.com/press. At a minimum, include the following:
· Book summary
· Author bio and head shot
· Image of book cover
· Where to buy the book
· Author contact information
Press releases get the message out about your books to hundreds if not thousands of people at TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, bookstores, book clubs, book discussion groups, book reviewers—people who may be interested in talking about your book.
Anyone can write a press release. There are templates available on PRWeb.com, pressreleasetemplates.net, and smallbusinesspr.com for do-it-yourself ones. If you want to engage a service, try mymediainfo.com, or cision.com. A free service is Mucktack.com.
Not everyone agrees that press releases are worthwhile. My thinking is that all it takes is one person—one right person—to read it and act upon it. The right connection can potentially make a big difference. You never know.
Here are some stats on the press release I used for my novel Regarding Anna in March 2015. I used PRWeb.com and paid $99 for the service.
Total Headline Impressions (cumulative)
Day 1: 16,179 Day 2: 18,241 Day 3: 20,120 Day 4: 21,911 Day 5: 22,007
Day 1: 715 Day 2: 88 Day 3: 62 Day 4: 53 Day 5: 5
Media deliveries: 1,561 Release interactions: 17 (1 pdf, 9 printed, 4 hovered over iFrame, 3 viewed iFrame) Other sites that picked it up: onenewspage.com and broadwayworld.com Picked up by Google 9 times and Yahoo 25 times
So, what does all this mean? It appears that PRWeb did a fair job at distribution, but my release was likely just one of thousands during this time period that was read by the people who read such things. Only 4.2 percent of the people who received it actually read it, and then only seventeen people did something with it. It would be interesting to know who they were, but this data was not available. All I know is that no one contacted me and said, “I just read your press release and...”
So are press releases really worthwhile? I think they are if you have something genuinely newsworthy. Unfortunately for most of us, the publication of our latest book does not qualify. Keep in mind that press releases sit at the top of a long list of other press releases for about one nanosecond, and then they drop down the list real fast. Perhaps if you’ve just sold the 100,000th copy of one of your books, it would catch some attention and be newsworthy. I’ll let you know if that’s true when I get there.
Most people currently spend more time engaging with their cell phones, iPods, and the like than they do hearing another person's voice, let alone looking people in the eye. But while electronic communication has certainly lent itself to a substantial increase in the quantity of communication we send and receive, I don't think we should lose sight of the quality and authenticity that face-to-face communication allows.
Adding the personal touch of face-to-face communication is still important when trying to sell something to another person or group of people. It sets the foundation for trust and hopefully establishes a relationship between you and the other person—the potential buyer of your books. It allows your audience to associate a real person to your book—someone with whom they can relate or perhaps connect.
I would argue that people are more apt to buy your book if they can look you in the eye as you talk about it. Moreover, when you're face-to-face, you can read a person's body language and then adjust your message as needed. And you can engage them in the conversation, pull them into your world to further pique their interest in what you're selling. When you talk to someone in person about your books, it allows you to show them that you are excited about what you do—excited about the characters, the story line, and the process you followed in order to get published—and hopefully get them excited about it too.
Here are some face-to-face opportunities to consider.
Speaking before a group of people is a great way to gain credibility and exposure. Here are some topics to consider given your qualifications.
· How to self-publish
· Promoting and marketing your book
· How to begin writing a novel
· Working with illustrators, editors, and publishers
· What inspired you to write
You may be surprised at the level of local interest in hearing from an author, even relatively new authors.
Here are some possible venues for speaking engagements.
· Public library
· Local writing groups
· Book clubs (see below)
· Someone's workplace
· Community centers
Book Clubs & Discussion Groups
Book clubs and book discussion groups provide publicity that cannot be bought. They meet in libraries, bookstores, club houses, and peoples' homes. Most everyone you know is likely either in a book club or knows someone who is in one. Spread the word—tell your friends and family you are available to participate in book club discussions if they choose your book for their monthly read. Book-club members love to have authors present for their discussions. Bring a copy of your next book as a door prize. (I give it away to the person who has the next birthday coming up.)
I love participating in book club discussions, and my experience is that the book club members are thrilled to have me there. I have participated in many, most of them local but a couple across the country by Skype, and the feedback I have received has been invaluable. They always begin with a discussion about the story line of my book, but it inevitably ends with a discussion about the writing process. I love talking about either.
If you want to cater to book clubs, be sure to include a list of discussion questions at the end of your book or link readers to a page on your website with the questions. Craft questions to stimulate the readers' intellect, as opposed to test their memory on facts about the story line. Make it personal—try to draw them further into the story.
There are thousands of online book clubs, but since they are online and accessible to anyone, they are inundated with requests from authors, so try to be genre-specific in your queries. Here is one book-club list I found http://www.book-clubs-resource.com/online/. I am sure there are others. And you may also find clubs in your area via http://www.meetup.com. Local Establishments
People love local authors, self-published ones included. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, newsletters, and trade journals. Call your local radio and TV stations and offer to do an interview. Contact your local library and bookstores and offer to do a signing or free lecture. Talk to everyone you visit about your book—your dry cleaner, dentist, doctor, and grocer. Look for bulletin boards wherever you go to post information about your website, blog, and books.
Writers Conferences and Book Fairs
Writers conferences and book fairs are great opportunities for networking, learning more about your craft and the industry, and promoting your books. You’ll have the chance to meet and seek advice from fellow authors, book editors, agents, and book marketing specialists. Here is a link to a list of writers conferences for 2020. https://selfpublishing.com/best-writers-conference/
Family and Friends
Don’t discount word-of-mouth with family and friends. If all my FB friends reposted one of my book announcements, I would reach close to 10,000 more people. That’s a lot of potential book buyers. Thank You
I have saved the most important advice for last, and that is to say “thank you.” Say it when someone has read your book, given you a review, recommended your book to others, reposted your announcement on their Facebook page, complimented your work, and even when they offer criticism. Take it a step further by sending them a handwritten note on one of your bookmarks, business cards, or postcards. Gratitude is its own reward.