Let’s talk about promo on a dime. Anyone who has a couple billion in the bank need not apply. Actually they should, but that’s the point, actually.
My mother used to say that you can have things good, fast, or cheap, but you only get to pick two. If you want your promo to be good and cheap, you have to opt for a long, slow build. Speed and spread cost serious bank. Successful promo requires a balance of time, energy, and resources. Money can help, but it isn’t the only option.
If you don’t have a zillion dollars, the trick is to fall back on ingenuity and diligence so that the right people are always able to find your book at the right moment.
A-game Advice is a weekly column offering practical tips for winning promo that fits your personal style, strategy, and measure of success.
Take your show on the road, yo. That can be online or in person, but get your name in front of new eyes and ears. If you have stuff worth saying, go find people that need to hear it. Guest posting, guest blogging, and guest appearances on the podcasts of others are a great way to put your face and your work in front of a new audience.
When identifying possible platforms, the real issue is always attention. How many active users will engage with this content on a regular basis? Make certain that you’re not posting something which will only be seen by someone’s college roommate and their favorite relatives.
Beware the trap of going to the same watering hole as every other lion on the savanna; most hard-core fans are already inundated with book recs and freebies from authors they autobuy. What you want is new readers! Obviously, if you can reach millions of potential fans with a single perfect podcast, mazel tov. What’s more likely is that you’ll identify pockets of likely candidates with interests that overlap with yours.
Everyone in the media business is frantically looking for attractive, valuable content and if you can provide a fresh voice and a new perspective you’re also signaling other writing skills to potential readers. Not only that links directing traffic from those sites to yours will boost your SEO and weave you into the fabric of the web.
Share the load and spread the wealth. While it might seem counterintuitive, one of the fastest ways to develop a new audience is to help someone else do the same. Whether it’s colleagues, vendors, libraries, or organizations… Making an effort to attract a broader, fresher community will pay dividends on all sides.
Who can you partner with within (or without) your author circle? What local indie bookstores and libraries might be open to the kind of content and infotainment you can provide confidently? By partnering carefully with outlets and influencers, you build a reputation as a generous participant in the genre ecosystem.
With this strategy, the key is to take full responsibility for the work involved as much as possible. Rather than expecting the venue or your colleagues to accept the headaches, claim the lion’s share for yourself. It’s your plan, so you shoulder it. That may sound masochistic, but in fact it signals your strength and ambition by modeling the behavior you expect from others. It should also make you deeply cautious about who you include. And if anyone involved doesn’t give you credit and gratitude, that should put a question mark next to their name going forward.
Word-of-mouth has always been the number one driver of all marketing efforts. Even today, when our inboxes and ears are crowded with babble, most of our purchasing decisions are made based on referrals and borrowed opinions. Especially in the Internet economy, reviews play an overwhelming part in the decision-making of book buyers. Of course that means good promo benefits from honest, positive reviews.
If you have time and little money, encourage your fans and stans to leave meaty reviews supported by details and buoyed by emotional reactions. Please know I’m not advocating shill reviews or fakery, but rather substantive, articulate posts detailing what a specific reader found moving and valuable about the story you told. Fake-bake reviews will always bite you in the behonkus. Personal, impassioned testimonials and reactions can generate an exponential sales boost.
P.S. This isn’t a one off. You might consider an invitation to review annually to remind all your readers, old and new, how valuable their opinion is to your continued success.
Artists are egomaniacs and we spend a vast percentage of our time trying to outrun our doubts and deadlines. If you have the time, consider writing an article, a think piece, or an interview that features a mix of movers-n-shakers and up-n-comers in the genre. Shout outs to influencers don’t necessarily guarantee cross-postage, but a brilliant theory or legitimate insight might plant the seeds of a professional friendship.
Get bold and unleash your vision. Share your opinions about its evolution and trajectory. See if you can find wisdom in the triumphs of the past and the mistakes of the present. Offer your own insight about your niche and the tropes you love. Challenge your potential audience with the possibilities and peril of this exact moment in time by connecting it to the distant past and the looming future. Help the genre find its way forward.
Answering questions, offering opinions, and participating in meaningful dialogue is a great way to establish yourself as an articulate, entertaining voice who deserves trust from many quarters. Participating in positive, professional discussions will often bring you in contact with friendly folks in search of new reads. Likewise, if your expertise is uniquely sexy or intriguing, readers can’t help but get curious about how your know-how will inform your output.
If you have a special expertise sharing that info tacitly signals your mastery and ability to make complex thoughts amusing and accessible. That doesn’t mean you have a license to pimp your work or hard-sell books at any time, but enthusiastic participation in online communities will put you in the path of like-minded genre fans. Comment on blogs, not because you plan to trumpet your latest and greatest, but because you have something to contribute to the conversation underway. Jump in as a good citizen of the genre landscape.
When trying to boost discoverability one of the simplest fixes is to ensure that your name and your work can be easily referenced in high traffic info repositories. Verify that an up-to-date bio, titles and synopses, headshot, links, and/
Where do you look? Are you documented and cited in enough depth and with reasonable accuracy?
Amazon, Goodreads, and popular social media platforms are all obvious choices… But don’t forget about niche listings and fan groups looking to identify books that fire on certain cylinders. The goal here isn’t hard-sell, but neutral factual listings that will genuinely help the right books find the right hands. More and more, fans are turning to websites to identify the kinds of stories they want to be reading. Make sure you’re listed in the appropriate places.
All of us are readers. One simple Way to signal to your dedicated readers is to recommend legitimately fabulous books that are adjacent to your wheelhouse. Not only does this let them know that you two are a fan of your genre and subgenre, but it actually helps talented authors boost their bandwidth and reach readers of their own. Every time you read a book you genuinely love, take the time to give it a thoughtful review…preferably with some brilliant pull quotes ripe for the taking.
Few authors can resist the lure of mindful, generous support especially when it gets close to a book launch. Offer your colleagues the kind of net positive promo language you’d appreciate in a timeframe that makes it useful for their best efforts. Again this only works if you truly love the book. By paying it forward with positive, insightful support you’re also improving the health of your professional ecosystem.
More than anything, find ways to have fun as a professional presence. Don’t postpone joy. Offer kindness when you can. Take breaks when you must. Boost folks who may feel left behind. Play nice with the other critters. Look for activities, ideas, and partnerships that get you jazzed and keep you happy. Enthusiasm is infectious and universally appealing. The more fun you have, the more fans will seek you out and that’s a win-win-win-win for all of us.