Case Study: 10 Simple Steps to Promote a Novel, Part 2

I was grateful to be able to use Linda Cassidy Lewis as a case study on how to profile a Right Reader.  Since she’s a glutton for punishment, she’s graciously allowing me to use her again… this time to illustrate what I’d suggest be her next 10 steps for promoting her self-published novel, The Brevity of Roses.  Last week, we covered the first five steps to promote her novel. These are steps 6 through 10.

6.  Reviews, reviews, reviews. From readers this time.

Amazon. Barnes & Noble.  Goodreads.  This step tackles social proof, as well — that’s the thing that convinces people to try your book.  Even if they don’t know the other reviewers, if there are a lot of other people who say they’ve read it, good or bad, then people automatically think “well, there must be something worth reading here” and more easily plunk down their cash.

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews.  Even wretched reviews turn out to be helpful — they convince potential readers that you haven’t just rounded up your family and neighbors to put five-stars on your book page.  In fact, they often promote a sense of controversy: how can there be five star and one star reviews for the same book?  Obviously people feel strongly about it!

Don’t use reader reviews on your book page or your promotional items (unless it’s really colorful/memorable, and I mean really.  Like the World of Warcraft testimonial “my husband won’t have sex with me anymore” sort of memorable.  Or, on second thought, perhaps not.)  But you still want to get as many reader reviews as you can.

Two ways to do this:  offer a review based contest. This is where someone can enter for a prize of some sort (not the book! Because presumably they’ve already read it!) if they email you proof that they posted a review about your novel.  I’d suggest prizes be either a gift certificate (for Amazon or B&N, for example) or something similar… nothing too nuts, like a Kindle.  Make sure that you don’t say what kind of review it is (no “if you give me a five star review, you could win $25 worth of books!”)   Here’s a great example of Kalayna Price using a contest to “get the word out,” including reviews.

The other way:  a new service called Book Rooster.  I just found out about this.  According to their website, they have 2,750 readers signed up, although I’m still not sure what the split is among the genres they mention.  In Linda’s case, I’d recommend choosing reviewers interested in women’s fiction and perhaps literary fiction, as well as romance.  The cost is $67. If this gets more popular, I imagine they’ll be raising their price.  I’m also sure there are other services and “swaps” for reviews out there, but this seems simpler, if a bit pricier.  As I hear more, I’ll post about it.

7.  Guest post.

This is one of the best ways to generate both traffic for your site and sales for your novel.  The trick is finding places that are good for this particular project.

When I get a genre project, once I’ve read the novel and the author questionnaire, I start to plan the launch.  In a lot of cases, this means blog tour, a term I initially recoiled from but have since been won over to.  A blog tour is basically an organized set of guest posts and interviews, orchestrated as an event and promoted as same.  Either posted on an author’s news/events page or on a separate page of its own on an author’s site, sometimes with an advertising “badge” that can be distributed with a link to that page, every stop is listed & linked.  Every stop is also publicized on the author’s social media.  This helps the blogs where you’re stopping as well as your novel.I like to shoot for twenty stops, one week before to two/three weeks after a book drops.

Linda’s case is special, first because she’s self-published and a lot of review sites still exclude self-pub, and second because her book has already “launched” and many review sites don’t review already released material, preferring to emphasize new releases for their readers.  Also, there’s the previous women’s fic/literary fic thing that I mentioned earlier.

In Linda’s case, I would suggest she get in contact with the self-publishing tribe, which is very strong.  I’d look for other authors who write similar material, and offer to swap posts on each other’s blogs.  I would suggest targeting some of the writing sites I mentioned in step 2, like Writer Unboxed if at all possible, and write guest posts that fit the tone of the site.  Getting a guest post on a site like J.A. Konrath’s is obviously the holy grail, but worth investigating.

Beyond that, you might look for things that are similar to the subjects covered in the novel.  I don’t necessarily recommend spending a lot of tribe building efforts there, but if your Right Reader is a woman for whom family is important and journeys of self-discovery are fascinating, then websites, blogs and magazines geared toward those audiences are the perfect place to target for guest posts.  Someone as fascinating as Jonathan Fields might be approachable; possibly Think Simple Now or Goodlife Zen would be solid candidates.

8.  Consistent social media.

Linda already has the tools, and a very healthy tribe.  She’s got a blog with regular commenters, showing an engaged readership.  She’s got a good number of Twitter followers.  What do you do with that, though?

I would create a strategy.  First of all, you don’t want to spend your entire life posting to Twitter, and Facebook, and all of that.  There are ways to streamline the process.  If you use something like Hootsuite, you’re able to post whenever you post a blog, for example, to both social media platforms.  Some people think that this is “laziness.” I look at it this way: not everyone I know on one platform follows me on the other — and if I post it on Twitter, odds are good somebody will miss it but catch it on Facebook, and vice versa.  It’s hedging your bets.

Decide how often you’re going to post about what.  Promoting your blog posts is important, but if that’s all you’re doing (or worse, simply mentioning your book is for sale, or your multitude of blog tour stops, or whatever) then it’s going to be a “ME ME ME!!” fest.  Nobody wants to hear that — and few do, since most either tune out or unfollow.

The rule of thumb is 80% useful stuff to 20% promotion.  I’d add one element:  interaction.  It’s not simply broadcasting, it’s engaging with your fellow social media peeps.  Tweet or post about stuff you think they’d be interested in.  On Goodreads, post book reviews often, about books you enjoy that you feel your Right Reader would also enjoy.  Post about breakthroughs in psychology, or a blog that you found fascinating.  Share.

Decide on how many tweets/posts you’re going to do a day, and approximately when.  I’d say at least three — shoot for morning, afternoon and evening.  If you have a spare moment, peek in, and comment. I’m more of a Facebook girl than a Twitter peep, but I’m slowly being won over… and Google Plus looks like it may blow them both out of the water.  I think it’s okay to pick one that you love, and support it with the others.  That means you can post on all of them, but interact more on one.  I’d do that about twice a day.  Agree with someone, wish someone a happy birthday, give an interesting tidbit or an authentic point of view on a topic.

It seems so small… but it helps.

Don’t know what to say?  Again, 80% should be contribution, or useful and interesting stuff, usually re-tweets (shared links from someone else.)  Look for headlines that are clear, and obviously helpful.  Also, finding things that your Right Reader would find funny and resonate with are often the stuff that gets the most traction: here’s the place to share those YouTube videos you find funny, or web comics, or simply humorous blog posts.

9.  Track results.

If you don’t have Google Analytics on your website, it’s worth getting.  (Well, it’s free, so it’s worth even more.)  Why?

Not only will it tell you how many people (unique visitors, not just you jumping on every ten minutes to see how it looks <g>) visit your site on a daily basis.  It says how many people looked at what pages… which means you can see how many people read your blog versus how many people actually looked at your book page.  You can also see where they came from.  Wondering which people are coming from Twitter versus Facebook?  Or how many people typed a keyword combination, like “roses and romance”?  This will tell you.

Because I’m a beast with a spreadsheet, I would encourage a tracking metric of some sort, to see how many followers you’ve got (or lost) from month to month; possibly checking which posts were the most popular, via visits and comments; and seeing where traffic is coming from.  I’d also say check only once a month or so.  It’s easy to get obsessive about this stuff, and that’s not healthy, either.

10.  Write your next release.

This seems obvious, and perhaps tongue in cheek.  I couldn’t be more serious.  In the Wild West of electronic publishing (and self-publishing), there’s a documented reaction:  your next book boosts sales of your last book.  Those who are succeeding are often the most prolific. I’m not saying push productivity beyond all reason, or emphasize speed at the cost of quality.  I am saying that the best promotional tool is your next novel


So here, in a nutshell, is what I’d recommend for the next 10 promo steps for Linda Cassidy Lewis’s novel, The Brevity of Roses.

Sure this looks easy… but what if you’re stuck?

I was running an outrageous special this month, beta testing the Rock Your Promo service for $25,  but the ten spots are already gone.  Until the end of July, I’m still offering it at a discount, however.  For only $50, I can provide a Right Reader profile, a website evaluation, and ten “next promo next steps” for your project.  This price is only available until July 31st, because the amount of time it takes to tailor each is more than I’d imagined!

If you found this article helpful, please re-tweet… hey, it could be part of your “80% helpful sharing!”  🙂


14 Replies to “Case Study: 10 Simple Steps to Promote a Novel, Part 2”

    1. Thanks, Ara! I love this blog, and hope you guys find it helpful. 🙂

      They really are showing that there’s a jump in sales as you put out more books, whether they’re in a series or not. Especially with backlist being so easily available electronically, as opposed to the hit or miss “possiblyin print/possibly on shelf” dilemma that happens with the fight for shelf space in brick & mortar bookstores. While I mourn the loss of bookstores (goodbye, Borders) online book shopping has created some golden opportunities for authors!

  1. Okay, Cathy, I’ve been a good little student but now my eyes are starting to glaze over – kinda like the deep submicron meetings in Silicon Valley. 🙂

    But I do like step #10 – working on that today.

    Thanks for this wonderful series – have been tweeting it.

  2. Thank you, Cathy! These posts of yours have easily become my go-to place for ideas and guidance in the face of internet overload. I have yet to be anything but pumped-up and excited after stopping over here and collecting the latest words of wisdom 🙂 Most sincere appreciation for this excellent resource.

    1. Thanks, Barbara! I enjoy running this blog, and I love hearing people get invigorated around stuff that generally makes them drag. Promotion’s important, and it’s hard, but it’s worth it… and it doesn’t have to suck! 🙂

  3. Again, thank you for all you’ve given me to work on, Cathy. I’ve already started work on a few of the 10; some of the rest I’ll have to work on next month.

    I’ll have to figure out how close I am to following the 80/20 rule on Twitter.

    Unfortunately, Google Analytics can’t be used on, but my WP Dashboard tool tracks visitors, and I have another stats program tracking too.

    1. Linda, thank you again for letting me use you as a guinea pig!

      I’m bumping up against stuff a lot lately, with some other clients. The Dashboard ought to help, and at least you’re tracking. Of course, you might want to consider at least buying, even if you don’t host a site there, if you haven’t already. And if you have… you might consider migrating over. There’s some cheap hosting around, and you should be able to just move everything you’ve got. Again, not right-this-minute crucial, but definitely something to work towards! 🙂

      1. Yes, I own my domain name, and have considered going self-hosted. I have plenty of experience with that from my other domains (not writing related). Right now, I’m spoiled to using my Dashboard for a couple things I won’t have if I self-host. But I know I’m missing out on a few things by sticking with too. Probably, I’ll make the move before the next book comes out.

  4. Great advice. So why does it feel so daunting? I should be writing my next book, but instead I’m worried that I’m not doing enough to launch my first one into the world. Thanks for pointing me in some promising directions.

    1. Hi Mari,

      First — this case study was specifically for Linda. As I’d hoped, some people are getting helpful ideas, and even Linda herself can take what she likes, & leave the rest.

      I looked over your blog (greatblog, by the way, from what I could see!) and I see you’ve got a first book, AND a child that’s two. Under the circumstances, I’d probably have every other “step” be: “get as much sleep as you possibly can!” If I’m working with a client, I like to ask “what’s your budget” — not just from a financial standpoint, but from a time/energy standpoint. We need to look at our capacity before we set our strategy. Anything else is madness.

      Good luck on your novel launch. 🙂 And hang in there!

  5. Great ideas. I’ve been frustrated at the lack of reviews for my debut novel, Windmaster. But your study has motivated me to keep plugging away at my online promotion efforts.

    I am far ahead on one of the points. A sequel is under contract, although release is a year away. And three more novels are either under publisher review, working through the editorial process, or the hardest — being started.

    Helen Henderson Stories that take you to the stars, the Old West, or worlds of imagination

    Steer a course to adventure and magic with Windmaster. Ellspeth, Captain of the Sea Falcon, is determined to make her own destiny, but it isn’t easy when she has to decide between the sea, magic…or love. Now Available at Champagne Books, and All Romance.

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