As a publicist at a large publishing house, my inclination has always been (and possibly will always be) that authors should more or less leave book promotion to the experts: book publicists (either in-house or those with book PR / PR firms). Publicists keep on top of the latest news, know how to craft pitches and press materials, work to establish — and maintain — contacts with the media, and have access to vast media databases. That having been said, I realize authors are playing a greater role in marketing and promoting their books — not to mention those authors who self publish — and there are, in fact, some sites / tools that specifically cater to those striking it out on their own (and which are pretty handy for book publicists too)!
Here are a few; feel free to add your own in the comments.
Booktour.com: As the name implies, the site lists author events around the country. It boasts several features I think helps set it apart from other event listing sites (and this is why I use the site religiously):
- Events listed on Booktour.com are automatically fed to many online calendars and also the Author Page on Amazon. In other words, when I spend time entering event information on Booktour.com, I know those details will not only be emailed to subscribers (a fairly typical feature for most such sites), but will also go to dozens of sites on the web.
- Booktour.com offers a widget that authors can grab for their websites. Instead of painstakingly updating the events section each time an additional event is booked or a time or venue is changed, an author simply needs to drop in a line of code on their website and if the publicist is using Booktour.com, the events will automatically update.
- Booktour.com also offers various other events and media services that authors might find helpful.
Maestro Market: You can think of Maestro Market as an online speakers bureau. However, unlike most speakers bureaus / lecture agencies which will only take on well-known clients, anyone can sign up to be a “Maestro.” They key is to properly tag yourself so that you can be found by people seeking speakers / experts. The site is currently in beta and should be relaunching later this year.
Square: a small device that plugs in to your iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch / Android phone that enables you to accept credit card payments. You open an account on their website and download the app, they mail you the device (for free) and you’re good to go. They take 2.75 percent of each transaction. I haven’t had an occasion to use this, but it seems like it would come in pretty handy for authors selling books at events (or for booksellers who don’t want to lug around a credit card machine).
Google Alerts: You can sign up for Google Alerts for free, even if you don’t have a Google / Gmail account (although, given the amount of free services Google provides from email to document sharing to e-commerce, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have an account)! The alerts allow you to track any online mentions of a name, title, term, phrase, etc. Set up one for your name so you can see when / where you’re mentioned and, if applicable, set up one for any topics or phrases that pertain to your book so you’re aware of what the media is covering and where you might fit in.
HARO / Reporter Connection: Both sites allow you to sign up as a source, i.e., author (or as a journalist if you’re looking for a source). Once you’re in their databases, reporters looking for an expert in your field will be able to find you. As a book publicist, I find these sites useful because I get to see numerous reporter queries so I can suggest one of my authors if their field of expertise is a good fit.
Who’s tried these sites? What do you think? Any others you like?
I think the brain fuzz is lifting, so here I am with the first non-NPR Books post in ages. As you are all too aware, we — authors, publishers and booksellers alike — have been racking our brains trying to figure out how we can use existing, emerging and evolving social networks and other websites to promote and sell books. So it was only a matter of time, I suppose, before someone jumped on Groupon.
Groupon, of course, is the site du jour: Google is supposedly chomping at the bit to acquire it, although some have questioned whether businesses can actually make money with it. (Although don’t ask me about the numbers because math never was my forte.) You may use Groupon, or any one of a slew of similar sites including BuyWithMe, LivingSocial, Yipit and Zozi. (Clearly not people we would want coming up with our book titles.) Or, if you’re like me, you might have bought a Groupon(s) but never used it. Then it expired and you lost the money.
This morning, Shelf Awareness ran a piece about a handful of independent bookstores taking issue with a large publishing house’s use of Groupon: in typical Groupon fashion, the house offered consumers 50 percent off their purchases. The stores were out of sorts because they felt this cut them out of the picture (since no bricks-and-mortar store can afford to offer such steep discounts).
Personally, I’ve cooled on these “daily deal” sites. Having signed up for what appears to be all of them several months ago, I’m now inundated daily with AMAZING DEALS! Every day!! Who knew I possessed the ability to ignore so many discounts? Or that bargain shopping could be so hard? (Although I do think interest-specific sites like Zozi — geared toward active consumers — can be slightly more effective in keeping users’ clicking.)
But what do you think? Can we use these sites to get more books to more readers? And is it more effective for the publishing houses or for individual bookstores to offer the discounts? Have you used a Groupon (or other similar deal) at a bookstore? Would you?
“Creating Author Platforms” is … the name of the course I’ll be teaching this summer at NYU’s Center for Publishing! It’s a weekly, evening, six-week course starting in mid-June. Here’s the course description:
A successful online platform is one of the key selling tools for a book. Learn the primary elements of reaching and engaging your target audience online through a robust website, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, e-newsletters, blogs, and online events. Discuss what it takes to “go viral” and how online publicity and careful Web positioning can help you create interest in your books that can translate into strong sales. Both book publishers and authors interested in self-publishing may benefit from this course.
So why would you want to take the course? Sure, it’s a lot of what I blog about, but it’ll be hands on. In other words, if you have been bookmarking my posts telling yourself that you’ll check back to set up your Facebook profile / Twitter account / blog but never got around to it (yes, I know how that works — I do it too) and if you’re in NYC, now you can have yours truly walk you through the steps!
For course details and to enroll , visit NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies site.
Last week’s AAP / Association of American Publishers and WNBA / Women’s National Book Association Book Marketing Online panel offered some interesting takeaways for book promotion. I’m not going to summarize all the issues raised here (for the complete Twitter roundup of the panel, check #wnba318 or watch the video at moderator @SueGreenbergPR’s Book Buzz site), but here are a few:
Panelists emphasized that although it might seem ideal to Facebook and tweet and blog and maintain a website, the reality is that most busy authors simply don’t have the time, the desire (or perhaps the expertise) to be involved in a myriad of online activities. So the smart thing to do when you’re pressed for time is pick one (or more) platforms and start building followers in that community, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or a blog. (Keep in mind, though, that interacting with online fans need not be a time suck. Panelist and author @abbystokes pointed out that she tweets for 15 minutes in the morning and evening without interrupting her writing and teaching time.)
Also keep in mind that quality can be more important than quantity when it comes to followers on Facebook or Twitter — you want followers who are interested and engaged, not just people who accept a fan request and then never bother to check the page. Also, use social media to listen as well as talk.
Location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl could one day be used — assuming they catch on — to build author tours and to promote books by offering badges / pins, etc. (I just suggested to Foursquare that they add a “Book Nerd” badge, which I thought would be fun and in the spirit of the “game” — we’ll see how that one works out.) At the very least, these LBS networks can definitely help us book peeps find one other during BEA, so sign up, folks. At this point Foursquare seems to be the most popular service with Gowalla a distant second. (Only one of my 500 Facebook friends is on Whrrl and I can’t find an obvious way to import my Twitter or Gmail contacts — not that it doesn’t exist, just that it’s not obvious — so that gets my thumbs down.)
In case you’d like to find out more about the panelists and their blogs, here’s the 411:
— Fauzia Burke, President of FSB Associates, Book Marketing on the Web
— Peter Costanzo, Director of Online Marketing, Perseus Books Group
— Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, Digital/Online Sales & Marketing Director, Workman Publishing
— Ron Hogan, Director of E-Marketing Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
— Kelly Leonard, Executive Director, Online Marketing, Hachette Book Group
–Kate Rados, Director of Digital Initiatives, Chelsea Green Publishing
— Abby Stokes, teacher, author of Is This Thing On?
http://abbyandme.com/ (Includes links to blogs and sites mentioned during the panel)
— Organizer/Moderator: Susannah Greenberg, Susannah Greenberg Public Relations
— A/V: Yen Cheong
The Book Publicity Blog (https://yodiwan.wordpress.com)
Were you at the panel / did you watch online? What did you find most interesting?
Mere hours after the iUnicorn announcement yesterday, I spoke on the “Get Noticed! How to Earn Attention for Every Book” Panel at Digital Book World together with online marketing / promotion pros @chapmanchapman, @debbiestier and @PeterCostanzo. @katerados did a terrific job moderating. At first I thought I’d try to summarize the panel, but then I realized this post would be more like a book. (And besides, you can see the recap at #dwbpr.)
So I thought I’d pick a couple questions that came up in the Q&A session after the panel that are pretty applicable to most of us, whether you’re a book publicist, an author, a literary agent or anyone else in the publishing industry. (The following is an amalgam of what we all said plus some commentary from yours truly.)
How do you drive traffic to author websites and social networking profiles?
If you’re going to take the time to set up these sites, you want to make darn well sure that you’re going to get the eyeballs. Traffic to an author website is comprised (mostly) of two components:
Searchability: How do you find most websites? How did you find this blog? Probably via a search engine. If you Google the term “book publicity,” for example, what do you find (in the number 1 spot, I might add)? Why, moi! So by dint of The Book Publicity Blog coming up in the top spot of a search of “book publicity,” I’m getting traffic. Now, getting to the top spot isn’t so easy — those of you who know about SEO / Search Engine Optimization will know why I’m gloating — but one really easy way to improve the searchability of a site is to make sure that the book’s title and author name appear in text on the home page and also throughout the site. (By “in text” I mean not in a picture file like a JPEG or PDF — or, God forbid, flash — because search engines are not able to “pick out” the words and therefore have no reason to list the site in a search of the author’s name or the book title.)
Linkability: The other way many people find websites is because another site they follow linked to it. Getting those incoming links is also tricky (and involves a lot of research, communication and networking), but again, one easy way to try to increase incoming links is by making sure a site includes permalinks. A permalink is a unique URL for a page, so this post, for example, has a different URL from the home page which has a different URL from the Contact page, etc. Bloggers want to be able to link to one specific page; they don’t want to send readers to a home page and leave them trawling through a site for additional information.
Traffic to a Facebook or Twitter profile, on the other hand, is all about the friend / fan / follower list since obviously the more people who see your status updates / Tweets, the more people will potentially click through to your profile. Just keep in mind that quality matters as much as quantity — if an influential person, i.e., someone with a lot of followers, links to / retweets you, your traffic will spike.
How do you make something go viral?
Sure, “viral” has a nice ring to it (as long as pigs aren’t involved), but how exactly do we go about getting something to spread like wildfire? While the following factors are not mandatory, they sure give you a leg up.
1) great content
2) an author platform
3) relationships with online big mouths
Great content: Pretty self explanatory (but if it’s not, take a look at this book trailer, “The Amputee Rap.” I know a lot of folks have cooled on book trailers, but I defy you to not laugh at this one.)
Author platform: How connected is the author, both online and in real life? Does an author have a following online on Facebook? Goodreads? Twitter? Do they write a popular blog? Send out a newletter? Have a highly trafficked website? Do they have a recognizable name?
Relationships: It helps if the author or publicist has good relationships with people with a lot of influence online and can get them to link to / blog about / retweet information.
Access: Think about how we stop a virus from spreading, by washing our hands, for example. Passwords / logins are the online equivalent of hand washing. So think dirty.
I didn’t have time to attend other panels — I really wish I had because I know I missed out on a lot — but Digital Book World has compiled coverage of their panels. I didn’t see links there to some of my favorite blogs (probably because the bloggers were speaking on panels and haven’t yet had a chance to post), so in the coming days, I’ll also be keeping a close eye on Booksquare, Follow the Reader, Richard Nash and The New Sleekness.
Did you attend DBW (IRL or virtually)? What caught your eye?
Book tours really hit big shortly after Jacqueline Susann drove across the country to promote her hit Valley of the Dolls. Today, some authors still draw large crowds while on traditional book tours; a lot of others, not so much.
As a book publicist, I do hope that bookstore events thrive (and I continue to schedule bookstore events with authors) but realistically, there are fewer events — and, unfortunately, stores — than there were before, so I think it’s important that we try new ways to get readers to stores. Enter the virtual book tour.
Facebook is an obvious application to utilize for a virtual event given that it’s free, easy to use and a lot of bookstores, authors and readers already use it, but the downside, of course, is that you can’t see or hear the author. Virtual author events could be conducted via Ning, Skype, Twitter or other applications too. A virtual event could be a stop on a book blog tour in which the publicist has made arrangements for the blogger’s local bookstore to sell signed copies of the author’s book. Or it might be a book club gathering at which an author is Skyped in. Here are some examples:
— Back in July, Barnes & Noble hosted its first Facebook “event” with an author, with author and readers trading comments on B&N’s wall and they recently hosted one for Sophie Kinsella. (I tried something similar with an author last month. We did tour him, but the Facebook chat gave still more readers a chance to interact with him.)
— Sometimes, the “new” way of touring is sort of like the “old” way but with a 2.0 twist: Stephen Elliott, the founder of theRumpus.net whose memoir The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Murder and Masochism, is just out from Graywolf, has been going on a reading tour (as in, reading in people’s living rooms) to about 20 cities in addition to where Graywolf was sending him.
The tricky part of the virtual book tour is making sure there’s a bookselling component to the event in addition to the conversation part of it. This may mean having a bookstore host the virtual event on its Facebook page. Or it may mean that a store makes some sort of arrangement with an author to make sure books (preferably signed) are for sale.
What do you think about the virtual book tour? Would you “attend” a virtual event with an author in whom you were interested? What kind of events do you envision? As a bookstore, would you host a virtual event?