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

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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!”  🙂