Whether you are with a big five publisher or publishing a novel yourself, you must promote your book. I’ve learned six rules to do it right.
Rule One: It’s not all about YOU
Self-promotion should be about building relationships. As an author, your goal is to build long-term relationships with your readers. Naturally, your writing is what ultimately makes the difference, and you need to make it as compelling as possible. That does not mean you start building relationships once you have something about to be published. That would be all about you.
Relationships are two-way streets. If self-promotion is you force-feeding your promotions, you will not be effective for long.
Rule Two: Add Value to the Relationship
You have experiences and expertise that you can share with others to make their life [fill in your adjectives here.] Try to provide value within any promotion. Entertain, provide new insights into your writing, your work, your life—help others improve their writing, their work, their lives. Let people know what didn’t work and why so they can learn from your mistakes.
Help them along their paths without asking for a return favor. I will be forever grateful to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Steve Hamilton, two high-powered authors who took the time from their busy schedules to write blurbs for my books. Don’t you think I let people know about their helpfulness? (You bet. I just did, didn’t I?)
Rule Three: Be Yourself
I am a math guy; always was, always will be. I know that’s not everyone’s cup-o-tea, but it is mine. With my math background and ability to translate complicated concepts into English, I can help people understand the world in a different way. That’s my niche. And I write financial crime novels, so there is a practical tie-in.
Show your sense of humor. Some won’t get it—they never do, do they?—but those who are tuned to your sensibilities will form a stronger link with you.
Rule Four: Have Permission
How do you feel when a robocall interrupts your family dinner? For me, that’s a perfect reason to never buy the product, vote for the politician, or do whatever they had in mind for me to do. All because they did not have my permission to interrupt what I was doing.
I receive unsolicited author newsletters and email promotions all the time. The first time it happens, I chalk it up to inexperience. But when it keeps happening, I employ email junk filters to toss them into the spam pile that is deleted without delay. How likely am I to buy their books or retweet that their latest is on sale? You guessed it: not likely.
Make sure you have permission before sending newsletters. When someone like the ELF asks you to write a guest blog, follow their rules regarding content and promotion. It’s a courtesy to the blog’s owner, and its readers will be more apt to appreciate what you have to say.
Rule Five: If you don’t ask for assistance, you won’t get it.
If there is something you would like people to do, you need to make a direct, clear ask. I’d like you to buy my book, and maybe you would based on this blog. What I will ask you to do is to read the first four chapters of Empty Promises for free and decide for yourself if you enjoy my kind of writing. (If you prefer starting a series with the first book, Ant Farm’s first four chapters are here.)
Nothing works as well as a direct ask.
My order of preference is to ask in person. If that’s not possible, then by phone where two-way communication is still possible. Email or your favorite messenger app is a distant third because it is more distant. Of course, in a promotional situation like this, you need to incorporate your ask in a way you think makes sense.
Rule Six: Thank People When They Help You
Strangers, friends, and family do not owe authors their support. So when someone offers it, tell the individual or community that you appreciate the time and effort they took to help you out. This common courtesy goes a long way when people know you mean it.
That’s it: six rules that make self-promotion acceptable to my sensibilities. What’s been your experience?
A version of this blog appeared as part of the Empty Promises Virtual Book Tour (4/2/18 - 4/20/18)