Let’s pause for a minute to imagine those questions being asked of Hemingway or Austen. Dickens … well, maybe Dickens.
My third novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, makes its way into a considerably different world than The Language of Light did nine years ago, or even than The Wednesday Sisters or the blog I started in 2008. When I asked the publisher of my first novel what I could do to help spread the word, the answer was “we’re doing everything that needs to be done”—which involved a few bookstore readings and a lot of postage stamps and long-distance phone calls. They did allow that if I sent them a list of addresses—snail mail ones—they would send out postcards announcing the book to my real-life friends.
Now the question about online marketing for authors isn’t “if” but “where.” And it's doubly true for bloggers, where online is the entire game.
1. Goodreads and
2. Library Thing for book writers.
These are two of the most popular online forums for readers. Many publishers will do book giveaways on these sites to stir up early enthusiasm; ask your publisher, or consider adding giveaway books yourself. You can also host author chats. (One drawback: With so many authors on-site, it can be a challenge to get readers to come to your particular party.)
For bloggers, the folks on these forums are readers, and most of us who read do so online as well. But some other places to spread the news about your blog include BlogHer and Networked Blogs.
3. Amazon Author Central
Set up an author profile on Amazon, and you can stream your blog to Amazon, and—this is perhaps the main reason to do it—gain access to weekly Bookscan numbers, along with geographical sales data. Trying to decide whether to set up a Milwaukee reading while you’re in town to visit your Aunt Margaret? You can see how many readers you have there who might be interested in your next book.
You also get an easy way to register the mistakes Amazon makes—and like everyone, they do occasionally make mistakes. When The Four Ms. Bradwells page went up, the author line for the hardcover read “Karen White, reader.” It wasn’t even Karen White the actor, who is reading the audio version. And last I heard, readers still have to read hardcovers themselves.
This online site comes with a number of perks for authors, including a separate listing of author blogs. The folks who run it reach out beyond its own font, too, to help authors place work on Aol News. You can sell books there as well, and anyone can post a blog.
And anywhere else writers connect. Most writers are also readers (one would hope!). And they tend to be supportive forums.
I’ve certainly read books for authors I’ve met on these kinds of sites with a eye to providing blurbs for book jackets, and received invitations to join group marketing efforts. They’re also good for sharing knowledge about writing and publishing, and making writing friends.
Whenever I'm on book tour, I’m share in-person after-reading time with writer-pals I’ve met on these forums rather than returning to empty hotel rooms. And I’ve discovered some terrific books to read, too.
7. InLinkz or any of the other many sites now that allow you to set up lists where people can add their own linkz on your site. It's a great tool for hosting a blog hop, or letting your writer-pal link from your site.
And while you're at it, why not host a fellow writer or blogger on your blog, or tweet along their good news. Being nice to other writers not only feels good, it generally comes back around to others helping spread your own good news.
8. Your Local Bricks and Mortar Book Store. They often have blogs, and many love to host local writers. Plus, it's such fun to get to know booksellers, who are among the best people in the world.
9. Vistaprint or any of the other sites through which you can order cards. Aren't you more likely to take a look at a book or a blog written by someone you've met? Make it easy for folks with whom you've crossed paths to find you.
And last but not least:
10. Wherever your own target market hangs out
Your own mileage may vary on this one. Where do readers who might like your book in particular hang out online? If you’ve written about, say, a woman runner, you might try the Women’s Running forum at RunnersWorld.com. It may take some thought and some sleuthing around. Or you may already participate in these forums.
Which brings me to the most important point about online outreach. Consider this: If you look through your front door peephole and see someone obviously wanting to sell you something, does that make you more or less likely to open the door?
If you post jumbo-sized copies of your book jacket in places that rightfully belong to others—their walls on chat sites, their Facebook pages, their blogs—folks might then recognize your cover in stores. But they will also likely think “that’s the obnoxious author who is spamming my space,” even if it isn’t on MySpace. If they pick up your book, it will likely be only to stick it in the back of the frozen fruit case. If your every post says, “Buy my book,” your novel is more likely to end up in the technical books section than in the check-out line.
Be yourself. Be nice. Be a friend to the people you friend.
Don’t spam people, just interact.
If you’re an interesting, interested person online, folks you cross paths with will take a look at your page on whatever site you’re on, and click over to your website or blog—places where your book jacket belongs. They’ll recognize it in bookstores and think, that’s that nice author I’ve met online. And in the process, you might also find that you make some meaningful friendships, and broaden your own horizons, reading and otherwise.
I'm the nationally bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells (just out in paperback as a Random House Reader's Circle Selection), The Wednesday Sisters, The Language of Light, and the forthcoming The Wednesday Daughters.