Today WU is happy to have guest blogger JA Konrath with us. I mentioned Joe in my post Tuesday, when I talked up his great blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, and free e-book, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing Book. He’s here with us today to chat about self-promotion and his new book. Welcome, Joe!
How Do I Self-Promote?
My name is Joe Konrath. Under the name JA Konrath, I’ve written six books in the Lt. Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series. The latest, Cherry Bomb, comes out July 7. Under the name Jack Kilborn, I’ve written a horror novel called Afraid, which is coming out March 31.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of self-promotion. A whole lot. I’ve mailed out 7000 letters to libraries, visited over 1200 bookstores, spoken at over a hundred conventions, book fairs, and libraries, and published more than 70 short stories and articles, all since 2004.
My blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, gets a few hundred thousand hits per year. I’ve been nominated for a bunch of awards, and have won a few. I’ve been reviewed by some major publications, and a slew of smaller ones. I’ve been on the radio. I’ve been on local TV. My books are available in ten different languages, and there are over half a million of them in print.
A question I get asked all the time is: What is the best form of self-promotion?
On the surface, it’s a simple question. But it’s actually a tougher than it looks, for several reasons.
Rarely, if ever, will your self-promotional efforts pay for themselves in books sold. Traveling to a convention and selling a hundred books–while spectacular–still won’t cover the cost it took to get to the convention.
Self-promotion has varying degrees of success, based largely on luck. Something that worked really well for you one year might not work at all the next year, even though you did the same exact thing.
The intangible effects of self-promotion are hard to gauge. I can say, for sure, that I’ve handsold about 15,000 books in my career. But I’m probably responsible, either directly or indirectly, for many more sales. I just didn’t witness those sales firsthand, so I can’t truly judge the effects my promotional techniques are having.
That said, I do have a few self-promo tips that I’m fairly sure work, and work well. As always, your results may vary. But keep in mind that promotion is an ongoing, cumulative process. It keeps building on itself.
Books sell one at a time. If you consistently follow these techniques, you will sell more books. Whether you’ll sell them fast enough or in quantities large enough to justify your efforts is something only you can answer. But remember that each book you have a hand in selling is one book that might not have ever sold. Also keep in mind that selling a book to a reader who loves it means you are selling more than just a single book; you’re selling every book you ever write, because you’ve made a fan.
Here are things you should be doing:
1. Sell Short Stories. It never ceases to amaze me how many novelists ignore the short form. Chances are, unless you’re already a bestseller, most magazines and anthologies will have print runs higher than your novels do. Selling a short story is a chance to reach a lot of readers, and to win them over with your writing. Best of all, this form of self-promotion earns you money, rather than costs you money.
I’ve been in a few big magazines and high-profile anthologies, and a lot of people have discovered my books after first discovering me through a short.
2. Provide Internet Content. People are looking for two things on the net; information and entertainment. They aren’t looking for advertising.
If your website or blog is just a big commercial, it will be ignored.
But if it offers, for free, compelling and constantly updated content, surfers will find you. Even more importantly, they’ll find you through the content, not through your name. Anyone who already knows you can find you on the world wide web–that’s not a victory. Your goal is to get people to find you when they’re looking for something else.
3. Link. The more people you can trade links with, the higher your Google ranking, the easier it is for folks to discover you.
4. Meet. Any time you have the opportunity to meet booksellers, librarians, media people, and fans, take the opportunity. A handshake and an autograph can create a supporter for life. Travel is expensive, and exhausting, but it’s still the best way to make a memorable impression.
5. Learn to Speak in Public. The better you are, the more books you’ll sell. Period.
6. Sign. Drop in as many bookstores as possible and sign stock. Meeting booksellers will help them remember your books, and help them handsell your titles to folks looking for your genre. Many booksellers say a signed book is a sold book, because it offers added value to a purchase, and is often then displayed more prominently than unsigned stock.
7. Media. It’s hard to get publicity if you’re a novelist, unless you’re already a bestseller. But everyone with a blog is a potential reviewer. Lots of folks have podcasts and are looking for interviews. I’m currently on a blog tour, which I set up myself. This blog tour cost me zero dollars, I set it up quickly and easily without using a publicist, and it seems to be benefiting me (you can follow the tour on my blog, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com). TV and radio and interviews in People Magazine are wonderful. But you can help spread brand-awareness and name-recognition by yourself, and reach a lot of people while doing it, just by using your own contacts.
8. Other Authors. This isn’t a competition. My fans can be your fans, and vice-versa. So it’s important to help each other. Than means blurbing, recommending each other’s books, sharing anthology and speaking opportunities, and basically paying it forward. We’re all in the same boat. We all should be rowing hard.
These are forms of self-promotion that have worked for me, and that will likely work for you as well. Of course, if you found this helpful, you can thank me by buying 47 copies of Afraid when it comes out March 31.
Or, if that’s a bit extreme, linking to this post would be nice.