you still call yourself an “Author by Night” if you rise in the wee
morning hours at 5:00 a.m. while it’s still pitch-dark outside, pound
out your thousand words for the day by noon, then
switch hats to one of those other income streams an author may have?
Mine include freelance editing, teaching various writing workshops, and
occasionally being a keynote speaker. On top of that, I’ve still got
one kid at home (out of three), one husband, one dog, and two demanding
But the hat I’m wearing today is
Marketing My Wares. People have to hear about your novel if they’re
going to buy it and read it.
Growing up, one of my greatest
joys was writing stories. One of my greatest fears was public speaking.
After high school, I got a degree in Journalism from the University of
Georgia, relishing the idea of becoming a writer. I believed authors
got to sit around spinning their stories all the livelong day. They did
absolutely no public speaking. What a perfect career for me! Imagine my
horror when my first publisher emailed a long list of speaking
When book marketing efforts
began for my novel Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes,
I was a reluctant book promoter. I almost never have a manicure and
would happily live in floppy, rump-sprung sweats were it socially
acceptable. So picture an almost forty-year-old woman with her mousey
brown hair in a glamorous upsweep beneath a sparkly tiara, enough
makeup to coat a barn, and brandishing a tomato-tipped scepter. It’s a
scorching hot Saturday in July and she’s standing on an outdoor stage
at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Her knees are knocking
beneath a long red, glittery, body-hugging evening gown. Why? Because
she is to address a crowd of a couple thousand at the park’s first
annual Tomato Day.
I did not feel like Tomato Queen
material. But I realized I could not hide in my writing cave. I learned
very quickly that if you want to sell books, you can’t say no your
publisher’s request of marketing events: “Well, I’m an introvert, and I
don’t like bringing attention to myself, and I’ll never be one of those
shameless self-promoters.” God helped me wage war against my paralyzing
fear of public speaking. It was not an overnight battle, but thanks to
PRAyer and PRActice (can you tell I love words?) I overcame to become a
bold and sassy Tomato Queen, a paid professional speaker, and a leader
of writing workshops.
Book-marketing guru Steve
Harrison got my attention when he wrote, “Writing books is like an
iceberg—ten percent is writing. Ninety percent is marketing.” Steve is
right that there’s a lot of marketing necessary for a successful book.
With the release of my sixth novel, Twang, I’ve
got to do my part in hawking this book! Nobody, not even my mama, cares
more about Twang’s success than I do.
Though now I am comfortable
speaking to large crowds, I am apt to put more time and emphasis on
virtual book tours. In this fast-changing publishing environment, new
technologies allow authors to do much of their hawking from the comfort
of home. Authors can get their names and book titles in front of
potentially thousands of new readers on a virtual book tour.
Conducting an effective virtual
book tour takes some work. There are about 150 million blogs, so if you
can get a spot on a blog, hopefully one with a sizeable following, you
get more than one day, or perhaps one week, of exposure. Your post will
stay there permanently, so months, even years later, somebody can still
find you. You also get permanent links to your press page, your
Website, your Amazon page, etc.
Over the years I’ve made contact
with and appear regularly on a number of blogs. Just a few minutes ago,
I checked my email inbox and found an acceptance note from a new blog
welcoming me for August. How did I do this? First I became a
subscriber, a loyal reader, and responder to particular blogs, and then
they either approach me with an invitation to be a guest blogger, or I
ask to appear as a guest.
my publisher, Abingdon
Press, has hired a company called Pump Up Your Book to coordinate a
month-long blog tour where I appear on twenty different influential
blogs promoting Twang.
Here are six tips on building an
effective blog tour:
Know your readers. Visit blogs aimed at the type of people who’re
interested in your theme/genre/subject. Once you find the most
influential blogs in your particular niche, subscribe and study the
blog, taking note of content, length, etc., and begin to interact. Ask
to be a guest.
2. Build your post around your
readers. Think about their needs and desires.
3. Choose post titles that
appeal to your readership.
4. Give away a free book. You
can give away an entire book to one lucky responder, or you can offer a
chapter download to each reader to get them interested in your work.
5. Tweet about the blog you
appear on. Post it on Facebook. Link it to your Facebook page or to
your press page on Amazon.
6. If people comment on your
blog post, answer them. Thank them.
The marketing manager at
Abingdon Press suggested I blog on what compelled me to write about a
girl with a childhood full of emotional landmines she’s trying to run
from. She advised to write about how music/art can be cathartic, and
how we have to look painful things in the eye to heal. From the advance
blurbs I’ve gotten for Twang, the word Brava! keeps popping up, so I’ve
decided to use this when I query potential blog hosts. I hope Twang is
brave. I meant it to be. In fact, on my Website, I quote Flannery
O’Connor: “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m
afraid it will not be controversial.”
I hope these tips help you get
started lining up your virtual appearances to promote your book. If you
need more help in understanding how to set up an effective blog tour,
you can do a Google search using phrases such as blogging as
a fiction writer and top author blogs.
It’s nice, this modern-day book
touring. I don’t have to put on my Tomato Queen crown or my glittery
red gown. I can sit with my hairy legs inside my grubby clothes as my
non-manicured hands click across the keyboard, transporting me through
cyber space to hawk my books.