Writing a book is one thing. Getting people to read it, or even know it exists, is another.
The local library featured a speaker last night talking about how to get the word out, how to find free ways to market your book and – sorry, but it's part of the game – market yourself.
Anita Paul is the author of "How to Market Your Book Free," and for an hour and a half she talked about how to get people to notice you and your book.
Besides the book, and a couple of others, she's got a marketing service which runs the gamut from simple marketing plans to editing, design and cover art. You can find her online here. The audience was about 30 hopeful authors ranging from a girl of about 10 or 11, to a guy about 70.
Her first question was, "Why are you writing your book?" You want other people to read it, of course. Cynically, I wanted to say, "Well, I want other people to buy it. If they read it, that's gravy, but that’s up to them." Of course I didn't, and even if that were the complete, unvarnished truth, writing a book worth reading is of course a key component to getting them to buy it, and then buy the next one.
And that was sort of Paul's point. You have to build and constantly reinforce your platform. That means you have to know your potential audience – not something as ephemeral as "Oh, I'm writing this for women," but specifically which women, what are their interests, buying power, demographics, purchasing habits. Where do they "hang out," either physically or online, and how do you reach them?
Tori and I were satisfied that a lot of the things she was recommending we are already doing. Thanks to Talk Like a Pirate Day and the website and pirate festivals all over, the platform is pretty solid. And I know the target audience, hell, I know their names. As I've mentioned, I used Tori's fifth grade class as a test audience and it was a terrific experience. So I know my audience. I can see them.
Paul also talked about competitive analysis – how does your book stack up against the competition. That means you have to keep an eye on, and read, other books in your genre. To some writers this is anathema. I think that attitude is silly, and Paul certainly agreed. How can you know what's selling in your genre, what makes a book popular or not, if you don't read them? Don't steal from them (at least, don't be obvious about it) but you've got to know what's happening. I still don't understand people who think they can write in a genre that they never read. What are they basing it on?
She had some specific tools to use beside the obvious Facebook, Twitter, Amazon comments and other social media. There's a site called HARO – Help a Reporter Out – where reporters from media large and small can look for experts in a field and you can become a source for a story, giving you a little more exposure. And Radio Guest List is a place radio stations, especially smaller ones, go to find guests to interview online. Don't turn your nose up at the smaller markets – true, five minutes on a big city drive-time show will get you the same exposure as eight or ten interviews on smaller stations, but the converse is equally true, and a lot easier to do. The big stations are harder to break into. Trust me on this.
Have your talking points laid out, including the title of your book a really short precis, and your website. That exposure will help you get sales.
Because, as Paul emphasized, people like personalities. It's not enough to write a good book, although that's obviously key. But you have to convince readers it's worth their time, it will thrill or surprise or move them. It's entertaining. And the way to do that is to be entertaining. Writers, at least by stereotype, tend to be a quiet lot, uncomfortable in the spotlight. That's part of why we became writers. Because we can do that all alone, with the door closed and no one watching. Fear of public speaking is reportedly the biggest phobia of 'em all, and doubly so for writers.
Now, maybe I'm wrong about that, but if I'm right – and I think I am – I'm an exception to the rule. Because I like to talk. I'm a talky guy, chatty, even. I honestly don't mind talking, with one or two people or in front of groups of any size, on any subject, whether I know anything about it or not. Cap'n Slappy and I have done hundreds of radio interviews, once 80 in a 35-hour stretch. So I think I've got that covered.
I spent time this morning registering for both HARO and RGL, which are both free (although they have more advanced services you can pay for.) And Tori and I have been talking about what we need to do to promote "Chance" and "Chrissie" when – not if, when – they hit the market.
As Paul said, waiting until the book is on the shelves is too late to start planning to sell it. But of course, the first thing you have to do is write it. She has an answer for that, too. It's her book, "Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less." That sounds a little daunting, but it really makes sense, and I'm not talking about her formula. Writing a novel in 90 days sounds totally do-able.
But I'll have more to say about that later. This is too long, and I've got other work to do.