Get reviews and give away free content to sell books online

When I interned for a book publishing company in Boulder, I learned about the importance of getting reviews for books and giving away some of your content for free to get results. We would then use the reviews for promotion of the book. We sent the review requests to people the publisher had developed relationships with or had expertise in the topic that the book was discussing. When a person agreed to review the book, we sent them a nice cover letter and a copy of the advance review copy of the book. We were able to get quite a few responses this way.

If you are not tied to a traditional publisher, you need to find these reviewers yourself. It will probably take a little bit of work, and you will need to dig into your network to find reviewers online such as on blogs or websites and offline such as from newspapers or magazines. There are some places you can pay to have someone review the book. Some services include Kirkus Reviews, America Library Association Booklist, Westword, and Bloomsbury Review among others. If you are lucky you might be able to get someone to do it for free. FSB Media has a database of book bloggers who you might be able to reach out to and get your book featured or reviewed. You can find them at http://www.fsbmedia.com/book_blogger_search.php. There are also several book social networking sites such as LibraryThing and shelfari where you can give away free books in exchange for reviews.

At this point, you have already given away your book to a few people in exchange for reviews, so you should be willing to give out free excerpts of your book in hopes that they might be willing to read your whole book. This is where having a social networking site set up will come in handy. By giving something away for free, you are showcasing the value of your content. You can add testimonials or those reviews that you just got to encourage people to purchase your entire book. Make sure that the free content you offer is a part of your book and not just a summary of the book, so people will feel that they are getting something of real value. Providing value makes the buying decision a natural one.

There are even videos on YouTube featuring book reviews. If you can get a reviewer to make a video talking about your book, you are in book marketer’s heaven. Here’s a link to one such video below:

The bottom line is that promoting books online is not easy. It takes time, flexibility, expertise, creativity, and patience. It might take just as long to promote your book as it took to write it. But it’s important to stick with a long-term strategy so that you will build a relationship with readers that will endure through many of your books being published.

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Use podcasting to sell books online

Next, we’re going to talk about podcasting. According to professor Hallahan, about one out of every seven Americans listens to at least one podcast monthly. So, here’s a big opportunity to position yourself as an expert in the topic you write about or prove to your audience that your book is worth reading.

You’re probably thinking, what’s the deal with podcasts? They are easy to produce, portable, readily accessible by audiences, and easily distributed by RSS syndication. It can even be on the blog that you have created. Convenient? Yes. Your goal is to provide information, enhance your reputation as an author, convince readers to buy your book, build community with your readers or fellow writers, and gain visibility for your brand as an author.

Remember that you need to provide something that is not accessible anywhere else. You don’t want to waste people’s time because time is precious and people will get very angry if you waste their time. A lot of people won’t be willing to spend a huge amount of time listening to what you have to say so keep it short, maybe 10-20 minutes. Keep it focused and relevant, but still useful information. You might want to take a magazine format where you discuss 2-3 topics in the same program.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun! Yes, you need to carefully plan out your content without jabbering on just to jabber about something. Let your personality shine through and talk to your audience like they are your best friends. Be silly. Be real. Be awesome. Your audience will love you for it, and they will buy your books.

Good luck.

Create video for online book sales

If you’ve paid any attention to online media lately, you would know that video is the king of the multimedia game right now. You see it everywhere. Modern society has become used to and even expect to be presented with information visually. Video does a good job of facilitating learning and understanding because people learn in different ways. You can grab people’s attention by graphics and sounds and engage audiences so they will spend more time with the messages you are giving them.

YouTube is popular and it is the place to be if you have an interesting message to get out to people. Your readers want to get to know you if you create interesting stories. They’ll want to know what makes you tick and where you get your ideas from. So appease your fans by making a short video featuring you talking to the camera about the ways that your book can help other people or provide entertainment. You can talk about the important information in the book to get more people to buy your book.

You can show a link to your website at the end of the video. It’s all about building traffic and getting people to your website. Share your video on your YouTube channel, include posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Videos have the potential to go viral very easily and you can use this as a marketing tool to your heart’s content.

Professor Hallahan has said that a good video attracts attention, entices audiences to view it to its conclusion, and prompts a desired action. The most popular videos online have the following qualities:

  • Entertainment
  • Oddity/offbeat
  • Inspiration
  • Shock value
  • Sensuality
  • Demonstration
  • Personal stories
  • Instruction
  • Curiosity/intrigue
  • Famous people
  • Human interest
  • Fun or humorous

Include one of these elements and you are sure to have results.

Some authors have effectively created book trailers to get interest built for their books. It works just like a movie trailer and get readers for their books. Some of the book trailers are professionally filmed and edited and look even more engaging than movies. Take a look at this video below.

Blogging creates book sales online

The next promotion tool is one that a lot of authors seem to grumble about. It is blogging. Why blog, they ask, when they could be spending their time writing their books. I recently spoke to a local author in Fort Collins and he said that blogging was so essential to his work that he didn’t think he could sell books without it. He said that as soon as he get up in the morning he blogs, or plans out his blog posts for the next few days or contacts people to feature on his blog. He said that it forces him to concentrate and put on his writing “hat” for the day and to engage with his readers and fellow authors.

I can admit that blogging does take a lot of time, but it is worth it. The first reason is that it increases traffic to your website. You have a website now, right? The more traffic to your website, the better and faster you will sell books. A lot of authors, if they’re serious about digital promotion, will plan out their blog posts and purposely drive traffic to their websites and social media sites. These people will see the rewards in increased book sales.

The second reason is that when readers read your blog they will see you as an expert in your field or that your work is entertaining. This is especially true when they see the value you offer is free. People will start to recognize you and be able to relate to your work when you blog. Open up to your readers and tell them about your daily life. This will allow them to see you as an average Joe or Jane and be able to relate to you even better. By blogging, you will help them overcome a common buyer fear of purchasing something that doesn’t have value. They will see the value and recommend others to your site.

As a blogger, you have the potential to connect to a huge community of bloggers around the world. They may be fellow authors or potential readers. When you have your own blog, you are able to reach out to other bloggers who might be able to promote your information. Grow your network, and you will find that if you scratch others’ backs, they will scratch you back.

Professor Hallahan says that blog postings need to be:

  1. Updated regularly and frequently
  2. Conversational, authentic, and written in a personal, conversational tone
  3. Succinct (400 or fewer words per post)
  4. Thought-provoking
  5. Easy to skim
  6. Timely and cutting-edge
  7. Original
  8. Informative
  9. Specific and concrete
  10. Professional

So, keep this is mind as you go about creating a blog and keeping up with it to engage the reading and writing community.

Author websites create book sales online

You probably are wondering why I have not brought up a website yet. Well, wait no longer. An author website is the most essential piece of digital promotions you can have. It is your home base online and a source of information where people go to get the most up-to-date information about a person or their work. Your social media sites are used to drive traffic to this site because it is the most important of all of them.

Professor Hallahan has mentioned that there are seven essential keys to effective websites. I will explain below.

  1. Visually appealing: Your website must be inviting. It cannot be boring unless you want to create negative attention online. No one will want to visit the site if they don’t enjoy looking at the information or design. I wouldn’t spend too much time on a site that I think is dull. The information must be engaging and up-to-date. People must be able to use the information they find. It may have constant reinvention to provide updates of what is going on in the author’s work or life.
  2. Valuable, useful, or fun: The website must provide a reason to return. Let’s take for example the website of my favorite author: Dean Koontz. Normally I wouldn’t spend too much time on an author site but it is updated with new information about upcoming books, articles by Dean or other parties, audio and video, links for fans, etc. Create a site that will keep people coming back for more.
  3. Current and timely: Pages must always be fresh. Whenever I see a website that appears to be out of date, I’m not likely to spend a lot of time there. I see it as irrelevant and something that won’t apply to me. Why would I come back when the author is not spending any time updating it?
  4. Easy to find and use: It should be registered on search engines and use keywords to find information. I have searched for a couple of websites in the past that I have not been able to find. I eventually gave up. I’m sure this is a problem for the people running the websites if their content does not come up. This is especially problematic for those who have a business and need referrals from the web to make a profit.
  5. Intuitive on-page navigation: It should include hyperlinks, guideposts, and returns on the website. You want your readers to be able to navigate your site and get to the information they need immediately. If they get frustrated or lost, you only have a few minutes before you will probably lost that reader forever. They won’t come back and you might have lost a fan for life.
  6. Involves the visitor: The site should engage each visitor through interactivity. The goal of any online marketer is to get people to stay on the site as long as possible. If you create games or interactive activities, you can keep your visitors on the site longer and they will come back for more.
  7. Responsive to all users: You want all readers to be able to access your site. This includes being friendly to text, dial-up, physically/visually/hearing impaired, and non-English users. There are a lot of different people in the world and you want to attract all of them.

Social networking sites drive book sales online

Found on business.pinterest.com

Found on business.pinterest.com

Now, I’m going to take some time to talk about other social networking sites that authors can tap to get their books out to readers. The first one is Pinterest. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, it is not as popular, but it is nothing to sneeze at with 70 million users. You’re probably thinking that Pinterest is only for crafts, recipes, and fashion, but you would be wrong. There is an amazing amount of material on Pinterest that is book-related. If you haven’t yet, check out Random House’s pinboards about books. They have 50 boards and almost a million and a half followers. Do you think they sell books with their pins? I’m going to say yes. There’s also Pinterest for Business where businesses can set up an account. I would take advantage of this website because it’s very helpful for anyone trying to market themselves as a writer. And as a writer, you have to be your best marketer because no one else is going to do it for you unless you are a bestselling author. Always take pictures of whatever you do and use software to turn it into a pin. Be creative and help others out and you should see a huge return on your time in the form of book sales.

Found on play.google.com.

Found on play.google.com.

The next website I will talk about is LinkedIn. Why should I use LinkedIn, you ask? The answer is because 300 million people use it. Business in the past has always been about the network. Network, network, network, the career experts say. You, as a writer, are a one-person business. It is essential for you to have a profile on LinkedIn. Here, you won’t find as many readers as the other social networking sites, but it will allow you to join groups and present a professional image to the world. You will be able to say to readers, “I’m in it for the long run. I want to sell books, and I’m committed to that goal.”
Of course there are other social networks that I will not cover on this blog, but I encourage you to research those on your own and find some way to tap the potential readers you will find. If you are consistently connecting with people, they will connect with you and buy your books.

I will discuss one more social networking that is specific to books called goodreads.com. I’m sure you have heard of it if you are an avid reader. I always recommend any authors I know to start a profile on here. They have an amazing promotion program where the more work you put into it, the more readers you will have. You can publicize upcoming events such as book signings and speaking engagements, share book excerpts, add a bio, advertise your book, and list a book giveaway. Since this is specific to books, I highly recommend it for authors. It allows you to take control of your book marketing on a site where people are looking for books. How awesome is this?
I hope you are able to take advantage of all of the sites I have mentioned so far. Social networking sites are a huge opportunity to generate readers and authors would be stupid to bypass the power behind these sites.

Tap Twitter to find readers for online book sales

Found on about.twitter.com.

Found on about.twitter.com.

If you guessed that I was going to talk about Twitter next, you are right. Twitter now has 284 million monthly active users with 500 million Tweets sent per day. Wow! If you could have an audience of 284 million people, would you take that opportunity? I would! Of course your audience would be limited to English speakers, but it would still be an enormous audience.

A lot of people view Twitter as a huge time suck, and it can be if you are not careful. But it also can be a valuable resource to help you network with readers and those who can help you such as agents, publishers, and other writers. If you give valuable content to those in your social network and are willing to help out others, you will be surprised by what happens.

Communities of writers and readers can easily find each other on Twitter. With social media, writers are no longer solitary creatures who spend hours and hours in an empty room, typing on a keyboard and hoping someone will actually read what they write. Now Twitter has given us an easy way to connect with readers. Here are just some of the many hashtags you could use: #AmReading, #BookGiveaway, #Books, #BookReview, #FreeBook, and #eBook. Believe me that this is a short list when it comes to possible hashtags. The possibilities are endless. Give something of value to your readers on social sites, and they will reward you by becoming fans and connecting with you.

Also, in my digital promotions class, we learned about promoted accounts and promoted Tweets. This would be a part of native advertising, which is something that is so cohesive with the design and content of the site that it doesn’t look like an advertisement, but just looks like it belongs. This could be a powerful mechanism to use if you would like to promote your books or content. Simply pay for your posts to show up in others’ feeds who don’t currently follow you. They could be interested in the information and click and decide to buy your book. This has worked for me when there’s a promoted account in Facebook. Recently, I signed up to attend a webinar because it showed up in my feed in Facebook.

Let me give you a few examples of what I have done on Twitter. My goal after graduating is to work in communications or book publishing. My dream job is to be an editor in a book publishing company. So, I have followed all of the publishing houses or book-related accounts that I could find on Twitter. Some of these accounts have followed me back. I also have followed authors. I’m not active right now because I am so busy with school, but I have posted book-related content on Twitter and used book-related hashtags. I find more followers this way because people know I am contributing valuable content to the site. I plan to use this network when I start looking for book jobs to find freelance editing work and a position as an editor.

So, if you’re not on Twitter, what’s the holdup?

Facebook for selling books online

After getting the basics done, cover design and professional editing, we can move on to the more important aspect of digital promotion. First let’s talk about social networking sites. I’d like to devote the next couple of posts to a few sites that work well with authors. The first one is—you’ve guessed it—Facebook. You will need a Facebook author page because this is an essential part of your online promotion. If people can’t find you on Facebook, they will quickly start to question your validity and seriousness of your wanting to be a writer. The new digital world is about connecting with others.

If you don’t know how to make a Facebook page, all you have to do is to log on to your regular personal Facebook page and look at the left column. There is a category that says pages and below that is a subcategory that says create page. Super easy! Start right away to make a page people will be attracted to.

As a writer, I know you are a reader, and if you aren’t, you should be. When reading, haven’t you ever wondered about the author? What was he thinking when writing a particular scene? What kind of writing schedule does he keep? What is his favorite book? With a Facebook page, fans can stay directly in contact with authors without going through his agent or book publishing company. When you connect with your fans in this way, you can create readers for life.

Traditional publishers highly encourage authors to have a Facebook page, so here I am encouraging you to do the same thing. You might think that Facebook is just for connecting with friends, but it has a huge promotional value that is better than traditional advertising. If the most well-known authors have Facebook pages, so should you. This will allow you to build your brand as an author and quickly build fans. It will serve as a place where you can host giveaways and contests and talk directly to readers. There is a plethora of information out there as to how to connect with Facebook fans. The potential is enormous as to what this site can do for you. Take advantage of it!

Professional editing goes a long way to sell your books online

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After spending some money to have a fantastic book cover, the second thing a self-published author should now worry about is getting the book professionally edited. And I mean, professionally. This is not your mom, your husband, or your best friend. These people have your best interests at heart, and they do not want to hurt your feelings. I would not want to tell my best friend that her book sucks and potentially risk the friendship. But if I was a professional editor, I would have no problem doing this for a client. Of course, I wouldn’t use the term “suck.” I would tell her what to work on, how to improve, and what to rewrite.

The people you ask to look at your book might have passed high school English and maybe even taken some classes in college, but they are not professionals. Professionals are those who have an extensive collection of grammar books, actually enjoy obsessing over usage issues, know the little particularities of language that others get wrong, have edited a couple of books in the past, and charge a decent amount so that they can make a reasonable living at their profession. Yes, it might cost more money to hire a professional editor than it would to have someone you know look over it, but it’s worth it.

In the past, I worked for a self-publishing book company. Some of the books were well written and just needed a few tweaks, but others were horrendous and in my opinion, not publishable. Some of them did not make sense as I was reading them. In one, I had to write down each character and details because the author kept confusing the characters. Some of the story lines were hard to follow or would be so random that there was no point of that scene being in the story. One author forgot the main character’s name and switched it mid-book. Some of the characters also did unrealistic things such as a police officer who found a crime scene and just left it, without calling for back up and for someone to help investigate. While he left, this gave the criminal time to come back and burn down the house to hide the evidence! How ridiculous.

Other books that I edited sounded like a third-grader had written it. It needed to be completely rewritten, and it should not have been published until the author took a couple of writing classes or spent significant time with suggestions on how to make it better. I also came across well written books that needed a lot of help with the grammar, spelling, and mechanics. You would not believe how many times in one page I had to correct something.

Even if you think you don’t need a professional editor, get one anyway. Everyone needs an editor, even professional editors at times. Spend the money so you have a professional book that people will read instead of getting annoyed with because of the poor writing or errors. I recently came across a book that had been edited by the author’s wife. There were probably about three to four errors on each page, and I became irritated and stopped reading. You don’t want this to happen to your book.

And even if you are getting your book published traditionally, I would still have a freelance editor look at it for improvements before submitting it to the book publisher. It should be free of grammar and usage errors. You will want to submit the best work you can. The book publisher or agent will work with you for bigger issues and for fine tuning.

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Book covers sell books online

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As this is my first post, let me introduce myself to my audience. My name is Emily Wenzl, and this blog will serve as proof that I know a little bit about digital promotion in the world of books. The blog is for a class I am taking at Colorado State University, but I hope that potential employers can read this and understand my passion for the literary world and what I can bring to your company through my digital promotion skills. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Found on en.wikipedia.org

The most basic thing that one needs to market a book is an outstanding book cover. Take a look at the books to your left. Do you think they would get much attention if featured online? Probably not. I know this is not a problem with traditional book publishers that have their authors’ book covers professionally designed. But it can be a problem with self-published authors. If you want to sell a book in a store, the cover has to make it stand out. People really do judge a book by its cover. I’m guilty of that too. Whenever I go into a bookstore or online store, I quickly disregard anything that doesn’t catch my eye. A cover needs to grab a reader’s attention, entice them to learn more, or create enough interest for a click. I’ve seen hundreds of unprofessional titles, and I’ve never bought one of them. For self-published authors, this is especially important and is something you need to splurge on to get an attractive cover that screams awesome! If the cover screams “self-published,” you won’t get many clicks. In the world of digital promotion, clicks equal sales.

Let me explain this based on what I’ve learned in my class. The world is becoming more visually savvy. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your Facebook news feed. In class, professor Hallahan said that 86% of content that gets attention in the digital world is accompanied with some sort of image. 86%! That’s a lot! So, if you don’t have a visually appealing image, your book is not going to be noticed online or in the bookstore. Even if you have the best written book, no one will notice it if it looks cheap. This means that the thumbnail or picture accompanying your content will not work to create sales online. Any attempt to use a website, social media, digital advertising, or any other way to sell your book will fall short compared to what you could be doing with a well designed book.