Go on a Blog Tour

Remember in the old days when authors used to go on book tours to promote their books? That’s sooooooo 20th century. Now, authors can accomplish the same goals without leaving their living rooms. Yes, book tours have morphed into blog tours.

So what’s a blog tour? It’s basically an author making the rounds among bloggers that speak to their target audience. Sometimes those are book bloggers (who are always reviewing the latest books). Sometimes those are bloggers who have a following in the subject matter of your book. For instance, if you wrote a book about real estate investing, then you might want to reach out to a real estate blogger. Either way, the whole point is reaching people who are potential readers of your book.

So what do you do on a blog tour? That depends. Some bloggers simply like to review books. In that case, you’d reach out to them and ask if they’d be interested in your book. If so, you’d send them a complimentary copy and hope they like it! Other bloggers like to do interviews, so they might post a blog entry to their readers introducing you and allowing people to submit questions to you about your book. Those Q&As would then appear as a blog entry on the date of your blog stop.

Some bloggers may ask you to guest blog for them. Others may want to have a contest offering your book as a prize. The options are endless.

But here’s a tip: try to vary what your blog tour covers. Because you might have people who follow you around from blog to blog, so it makes sense to offer them something new and different with each blog stop.

No matter what the blog tours involve, always promote each blog stop on your website’s events calendar, and always include links back to your website and/or to buy the book from each blog on your tour! After all, that’s your goal, right?

Here are a few other resources to help you learn more about blog tours…

http://yodiwan.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/whats-a-book-blog-tour/

http://thedabblingmum.com/writing/hostevent/blogtour.htm

The Dos and Don’ts of Amazon.com Book Reviews

It’s common sense that having lots of rave reviews of your book on Amazon can increase book sales. But what’s the best way to get those reviews on there? Here are some do’s and dont’s:

  • Do send out an email to your full list of contacts, announcing when your book is released and encouraging them to go onto Amazon and post a review once they’ve read it.
  • Do not make up a dozen fake usernames on Amazon and start posting lots of similarly-sounding rave reviews of your book. How bad would that look if people figured it out?
  • Do ask your friends and family to post reviews of your book — in their own words. Also, make sure their usernames don’t match your last name!
  • Do not tell people what to say in their reviews of your book. Even if your friends and family aren’t great writers, it’s so much more natural when they choose their words themselves.
  • Do encourage your website visitors or people who write you to you to tell you how much they like your book to post book reviews on Amazon.
  • Do not allow your well-meaning mother-in-law or close friend to create a dozen fake accounts on Amazon and post glowing reviews of your book. That’s no different from you doing the same thing yourself.
  • Do approach people who are “Top Reviewers” on Amazon and ask them to review your book. They may or may not agree to do so, but their reviews are pretty well respected.

What strategy helped you get lots of good reviews on Amazon? Let us know!

7 Easy (and Free) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Author Website

So your author web site is launched. Congratulations! But the work is just beginning. Because what good is a website if no one is visiting it?

Here are some simple ways to ensure that your website gets looked at…

  1. Amass a list of contacts. It should include as many people as possible — anyone you may have worked with, talked to about your book, etc… Send a mass email to your all of them letting them know about your new website and encouraging them to visit it.
  2. Use social networks to promote your website. Tweet about it. Include it on your Facebook profile and tout in in Facebook posts as much as possible. Include it on your LinkedIn page.
  3. Add your URL to your email signature. Make sure that every email you send not only includes your name in the signature, but also a link to your website.
  4. Always mention your site at appearances. Are you doing book signings? Or speaking engagements? Make sure to mention your website and let people know what they can find there.
  5. Become involved in blogs. Find other blogs in the same genre as your website. Then start posting comments and getting involved in the conversations. Link back to your site whenever appropriate.
  6. Create your own video. Videos can go viral! So grab a little camera and make a brief (3 minutes or less) video about your book. Make sure to mention your website in the video. Then upload it to YouTube and send it around to friends.
  7. Add your URL to all bylines. If you write any articles on the web, make sure to include your site address in the byline.

Have any other ideas that have worked for you? Please share them here!

Building a Long-Term Relationship With Your Readers

For some authors, the main goal of building a writer’s website is to sell their book. But I encourage most authors to think a little more long-term than that. Because one of the best things you can do with an author website is to make it a long-term destination for readers. The benefits of that are many, including:

  • Building and maintaining a fanbase for future books
  • Providing additional information and resources for people interested in your subject matter
  • Getting a chance to interact with your readers and find out what they would like more of from you

So how do you build this long-term relationship? How do you get people to visit your website after they read the book, and then come back regularly for weeks, months, or even years after that? Here are a few ideas…

  1. Blog, blog, blog. I always tell authors that if they’re willing to make the commitment to a blog, they should do it. It’s the best way to keep an author’s website new and fresh, and encourage people to come back regularly.
  2. Talk to readers. Have a place on the website where people can submit questions or comments to you about your book, your writings, or your field of expertise. Then pick out a few questions/comments each month and feature them on the website. And, of course, include your responses to each one. Make it a conversation.
  3. Have contests. Hold writing contests on the website. Or design contests. Whatever best suits your genre. Then the “winner” each month will get an autographed copy of the book, or a phone call with you.
  4. Review other books. If someone likes your writing, they would probably want to hear what other books in your genre you’re reading, and what you think of them. So have a regular book review page, where you recommend books for your fans to read. You could even include a message board where fans can discuss your recommended book each month.
  5. Add resources. If you’ve written a non-fiction book (say, on, how to get the job of your dreams), then you should have a place on the site where you offer things you couldn’t offer in print. They might be a list of other websites that might be valuable. Or downloadable worksheets. And, again, make it interactive. Have a place where readers can share their own recommendations for resources.
  6. Tie in your social networking platforms. If you regularly Tweet or update your Facebook page, make it easy for people to connect with you through those platforms on your website. Again, it’s a new way to interact with people and let them stay in the loop on what’s going on.

These are just a few of the ways to make your website a destination. Remember, a writer’s portfolio only goes so far. A writer’s website can build a community of people that may make your next book a bestseller.

Do you have any other website features that made your author site a destination? Let us know!

Marketing Fiction Books on the Web

There was an interesting article in Publishers Weekly earlier this month that I thought I would share. It’s an interview with a variety of publishers and marketing executives dealing with how they market their fiction books, with a focus on their online efforts.

You can read the full article, but here are some of the highlights that are relevant to authors looking to build an online presence. No matter what your publishing status (not yet published, self-publishing, etc…), you might be able to steal some of these ideas.

How are you using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) to market your fiction line? What one strategy has been most successful?

Pamela Clements, associate publisher for marketing, FaithWords and Center Street: This is a significant growth area and, I believe, the most important new trend in marketing fiction. Online provides a virtual community that provides recommendations from peers that just did not exist five years ago. We have Facebook sites for all our Christian fiction authors. We tweet regularly about them and their books and retweet positive feedback that we receive. We also have been very successful with blog tours, blogtalk radio, prerelease and first edition giveaways, and encouraging the authors to blog.

Jennifer Deshler, senior director of marketing, Thomas Nelson: 80% of the Thomas Nelson fiction authors actively engage in social media, and this offers us great ways to build tribes online. The one strategy we’ve seen be most successful is a community approach to new releases—creating a series of messages, usually with a contest or free books offering—that is sent out by multiple authors and team members in a specific time period.

Nathan Henrion, national accounts manager, Baker Publishing Group: Blog tours are one of the best uses of social media that we have seen. E-mail blasts and all the various mediums (Facebook, Twitter) are at times hard to measure as far as effectiveness. An author’s established platform seems to be the key in social media, as they use their existing network.

Mary Burns, v-p of publishing, Barbour: We are using social media to help promote our fiction line on Twitter (@FictionforGals) and a Facebook fan page (Christian Fiction for Gals). Twitter has probably been most successful for us and has the most followers. It is fueled by book giveaways, which followers retweet to their friends.

What is something unique or unusual that your company has done to market fiction—either for just one book, or for a whole line?

Barb Sherrill, v-p of marketing, Harvest House: We created a consumer Web site around our Amish fiction: AmishReader.com. All our authors writing in this genre contribute content through posts, recipes, and exclusive material fans can get nowhere else (unpublished short stories, for example). We’ve also done giveaways on this site, which have been very popular. We wanted readers to have a place to not only engage with the authors they’ve read and loved, but also to discover a new author (or two or three) in a genre they love.

Don Pape, publisher, trade books, David C. Cook: I am so delighted with the book trailers we produce for every fiction title—they really do hook the reader who is accustomed to sitting in a movie theater with popcorn and soda waiting to see the coming attractions. Through those, we have gotten a loyal following online at Facebook.

Clements, FaithWords: For our YA series, All About Us, we created a Web site with people blogging as the characters in the novels. We have also done sell-in campaigns with treats for buyers to get their attention and get them to pay attention to especially well-written works from unknown or little-known authors.

Deshler, Thomas Nelson: We’ve recently launched a new social community at www.amishliving.com for those consumers who love everything about the Amish. From recipes to travel information to forums on the different areas of Amish networks, we’ve created a place where people can come together to share stories, pictures, and discussion topics.

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Have you done anything special to market your fiction book online? Please share your ideas!

3D Author Promo Videos

Here’s another online author marketing tip from our friend Michael Volkin at Social Networking for Authors…

I have been getting better and better at creating author promotion videos to help authors have a professional presence online.  Check out a couple videos I have recently created:

http://www.sellatonofbooks.com/author_video_promotion.html

By and large the author promo videos I see on many websites do more harm than good. They are nothing more than the author sitting in front of a scratchy web cam bragging about the book.  If you want to be professional, I would consider creating a high definition 3D author promo video.

The trick behind a quality video is your message and the effect. The message has to be a story, it has to invoke emotion. Books, by and large are an impulse buy. A customer will come across your book and find it interesting in 7 seconds or less. During that time, the customer will determine if he is willing to shell out 15 bucks for your book.  These kinds of sales are best done when you can invoke some kind of spark or emotion from the customer.

As for the effect of a video, avoid using common programs like Windows Movie Maker (WMM). Sure, WMM is easy to use, but it’s too common. So common in fact, that the videos I have created by comparison make just about any WMM movie look cheesy. Invest a few hundred dollars in a quality program (or contract to someone who does). The extra money spend will make your video stand out from the rest.

I can create one (or more) for you. Not only will it help you sell more books, but a great video can get lots of hits on popular video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, you can actually capture interest in your book from people who would have never visited your website.

Michael Volkin is the author of Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth, a new book that helps authors sell books online.

Building an Amazon Author Central Profile

For several years now, Amazon has had a feature called “Author Central Profile.” You may or may not have heard of it. That doesn’t say much about it, does it?

But there are two big reasons why you should build a profile: First, it’s free (can’t beat that). Second, Amazon will create a profile for you — whether you cooperate or not — and so it’s certainly in your best interest to provide as much information as possible on your profile and to make sure that what Amazon feeds in there is correct. With minimal work to get it set up, it’s simply another tool on the web to help promote yourself and sell books.

First, let’s discuss how readers find an Author Central Profile, because someone who shows interest in one of your books now can learn more about you and/or see your other books relatively easily. On every Amazon.com book page, about halfway down the page, there will be a photo of the author (if it’s been submitted) and a link to learn more about the author. Visit the Amazon page dedicated to one of my client’s books as an example. Then scroll down to his picture and you’ll see the link to be taken to Mark Hamel’s profile. (Thanks, Mark!)

Next, let’s talk about how to get this profile set up properly. Anyone who has a book for sale on Amazon can set up their profile by going here. To get started, all you need to do is provide Amazon with a photo of yourself and a short bio. That will at least provide the basics so that your profile doesn’t look completely bare.

The next step is making sure that your bibliography is correct. Amazon will automatically feed in the book titles associated with your name. But that list of titles isn’t always correct. If a book of yours is missing from that list, you can simply click on the “Add Title” button and submit the book that should be added to your bibliography. It can take a few days for your new book to show up, but it should get done. However, if you see a title that’s not yours that’s showing up on your profile, you will need to contact Amazon to request that it be taken off. Some people say that Amazon isn’t great at responding to those types of requests, but others have had no problem.

Now on to the fun stuff … the “extras” you can do with your profile. One great feature that Amazon offers is the ability to blog on your profile page. Or even better, if you already blog, to have your blog entries automatically fed into your profile page. So it’s one step to set it up, but you’ll have endless new content on the profile page. Some authors also include upcoming events on their profile page, which again is a great way to make it look new and updated.

Lastly, while there’s technically nowhere to plug your author website on your Amazon profile, there are some ways around that. For instance, by putting links to your website in your blog entries or in the bio you give to Amazon, you are letting fans of your writing know where they can learn even more about you and follow what you’re doing.

If you have a book currently for sale on Amazon, go to that book page now. Find your author profile page. Then do something with it!

Free Ways to Use Social Media for Book Promotion

Thanks to a blog entry from a graduate assistant at the Masters in Fine Arts – Literary Fiction & Nonfiction program at Southern New Hampshire University (Writing in the SNHU-MFA), I came across the website of an author who really is using social networking to her advantage … even before her book is published!

Maria Finn is a dancer and her upcoming book is a memoir of her life experiences. The book title is Hold Me Tight and Tango Me Home and her website is at http://tangomehome.com/.

Here are just a few of the things she’s doing with her website (at little to no cost) to really get the buzz out there prior to her pub date.

  • She’s got a  YouTube video that sends people to her website
  • She’s running a Heartbreak Competition (she was drawn to dance after her own heartbreak)
  • She has a Facebook Fan Page and she links to it from her author website

And do you know how the blogger found her?

“I bumped into her on Facebook when a tango dancer I know posted the YouTube video in her status. That’s how this stuff works — viral marketing.”

That’s viral marketing indeed! Someone who is interested in tango dancing came across her YouTube video thanks to a link from a friend. That video sent them to her website, where they could learn about her book, her upcoming events, her contest, etc…

And now all of us know about her and her book as well. Now that’s good work!

The ‘Musts’ of an Author’s Website

No two author websites are the same. But there are certain things that should be on every site. Notice I say “should be” … Search the web and you’ll find some authors’ websites that are missing some crucial information! While I’m a big supporter of making every author’s website unique, here are the no-brainers for author websites:

1. A domain name that supports your book. Even if you go with your name as the domain name of your site, you should also reserve your book title (if possible) and have it redirect to your author site. You don’t want people typing the name of your book into their browser and winding up elsewhere!

2. A “Buy the book” link on every page. The goal of your website is to sell books. So you need to make it as easy as possible for someone to buy your book or books throughout the site. A potential reader may be somewhere totally unexpected (i.e. a page focused on your other writings) when they decide to take the plunge, so the link to buy it should still be right in front of them.

3. Tie-ins to your social media profiles. What good is having a profile on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn if you don’t send people there? Have small buttons on your homepage that allow site visitors to follow you elsewhere.

4. An author bio. Even if you’re a private person who doesn’t want to share your life with the world, some sort of bio page is a must. Ideally, it should contain a photo of you and a description of your living situation, your career, and why you write.

5. A newsletter sign-up box. Don’t think you will send e-newsletters? Collect this information anyway. Getting the contact information for people who have shown interest in your writing is invaluable. You may not know it now, but you sure will appreciate having that list when your next book comes out and you want to tell people about it.

6. Book excerpts. How do you expect to get people to buy your book without whetting their appetite a little? You can choose to have one long excerpt from the book, or a bunch of shorter ones that give a taste of the different chapters in the book. When you go to the movies, there’s a reason they show trailers of future movies. Think of your excerpt(s) as a trailer of your book.

7. Contact information. A website is an interactive tool. So you don’t want to use it only as a way for you to talk to your readers. You want to let your readers talk to you, too. Whether you offer an email address or a simple contact form, make sure there’s a way for people visiting your site to communicate with you.

Anything I’m missing here? What do you think needs to be on an author website? Share your thoughts!

Interesting (though outdated) News

Here are some of the relevant author news stories that we had on the SmartAuthorSites.com website before we launched this blog. Some of it is still very relevant, so you might want to check it out. We will be adding links to and commentary on  new and interesting news stories from the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, etc… going forward. Enjoy!

HarperCollins Wants to Be Your Friend
New York Observer

See the Web Site, Buy the Book
New York Times

Author Websites: Separating Fact (a.k.a. Nonfiction) from Fiction
SmartAuthorSites.com

Author…Promote Thyself
Publishers Weekly

8 Keys to a Successful Author Website
SmartAuthorSites.com

Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales
New York Times

The Author Will Take Q.’s Now
New York Times

The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller
New York Times

To Meet the Author, Right Click
Times Online

Way Cool: Marketing and the Internet
Publishers Weekly

One-Fifth of Readers Visit Pub/Author Sites
Publishers Weekly