The moment you sign a book contract, that’s when the real work begins. Forget all that time you spent outlining, researching, writing and re-writing, revising, searching for an agent, waiting for a publisher to say “yes.” The real challenge for authors in today’s climate is book promotion.
Unfortunately, the lion’s share of work involved in promoting your novel will likely fall on you, the author. Yes, even if you sign with a major New York publisher, as I did. I won’t dwell on the why, or whether it’s fair, or even whether it makes good business sense from the standpoint of your publisher. That’s all irrelevant because it’s out of our control. What I’ll talk about is what I learned as a debut author and offer suggestions as to what you can do the moment the ink dries on your contract.
Of course, social media sites aren’t the only way to connect with readers on the Internet. Authors today must have a website. So go to GoDaddy.com and register a domain name. In having the website designed, you can go expensive or you can go cheap. But whichever way you go, be sure that your website looks professional. Include a home page, a biography page, a page about your novel. List your events and appearances, your reviews and awards. And be sure to add buy links and a way for readers to contact you. (By the way, I went cheap. I used a flash template from PhotoBiz.com. The set-up fee was $150, and I pay another $15 a month for hosting. I can change the site to my liking at anytime. Before finally going with the flash template I received quotes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 for design. You can visit my site at http://www.douglascorleone.com/ and let me know what you think.)
But enough about the Internet for now. You just signed a contract and now you want to sign some books. So let’s move on to author appearances. Live events are fun – unless no one shows up. This is a risk you take when you set up book signings, especially at the large chain stores. So be sure to recruit some friends. To promote my debut crime novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE, I scheduled book signings at each of the major chain stores on the island of Oahu - two Barnes & Noble and four Borders Books & Music. Debut authors often struggle at these events, and I was no exception. But the bookstore managers were friendly and invited me back to promote my second novel NIGHT ON FIRE, which was released earlier this week. I recommend setting up signings. Even if you don’t sell dozens of books, you get an opportunity to introduce yourself to bookstore managers and staff, who may later hand-sell your book. At the end of the event, be sure to ask the manager if he or she would like you to sign some stock. Signed copies sell better, even if the author is no longer in the store.
I also recommend setting up events at your local libraries. It’s a good way to meet readers and get your name out to the public. And librarians appreciate your efforts. Bring along some promotional materials, such as bookmarks and postcards with the cover of your book printed on them. In addition to these events, never pass up the opportunity to speak in public. This January I served as guest speaker at the Hawaii chapter of Sisters in Crime’s annual kick-off luncheon in Waikiki and gave presentations to two local book clubs. In March, I spoke to a local Rotary Club. All were grateful, I made some friends, and I think, gained some readers.
Of course, don’t pass up any media opportunities either. In fact, seek them out. Prepare a press release and send it to local newspapers, radio and television stations. Grant interviews. Send Advance Reader Copies of your novel to be reviewed. Not just to print outlets, but to bloggers as well.
Which leads us back to the Internet. You’re reading this article because I’m presently on a “virtual tour.” You’ll find my blog posts at approximately 30 other venues over the next few weeks. Each post will be unique, and hopefully engaging. One may even prompt you to purchase a copy of NIGHT ON FIRE. Most writing blogs are happy to host published authors. Send a request and carefully follow their guidelines. Make each post informative and entertaining, and be sure to return to each blog on the day of your post to respond to questions and comments from readers.
This year, in addition to the above, I had a book trailer produced by Trailer to the Stars. You can view the trailer for NIGHT ON FIRE on YouTube. I’m also using Facebook ads, which seem to be a cost-effective way for people to see the cover of your book. (You pay only for clicks, not impressions). The results of these new endeavors remain to be seen, but I’ll be certain to let you know next year when I return to Murder By 4 to promote the third novel in the Kevin Corvelli series, CHOICE OF EVILS. Until then, happy reading.
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