Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Best Way to Promote Your Book Has Little to Do with Twitter or Facebook

 Surprise! Devin Briar is doing some serious sales numbers, though not from the sites you may think. Amazon is trailing Smashword by a wide margin. Barnes & Noble is a distant 5th place. So how does a new author get the word out in today's publishing world? Let's face it, debut authors aren't exactly at the top of publisher's spending lists when it come to promotion these days...

One of the things I've done was purely by accident. I have been writing articles for SBNation/Vox Media for the last couple years. Hard as it is to believe, there are actually people who read my articles and don't necessarily feel like I've stolen moments of their lives they'll never get back. If you haven't heard of SBNation, you will very soon. They are quite literally the fastest growing sports information site in the WORLD! 320 plus sites, and the number grows almost daily. Funds being rather small-ish for a debut author such as myself, SBNation created a huge - and I do mean HUGE - advertising campaign for my book - Devin Briar. I had over 20 million page-views of my Ads in just under two weeks BEFORE my book hit the marketplace, and that was just from the NFL and NCAA sites. BOOM!

I've received e-mails from around the world based on the Ads alone, plus I sold more than enough books to make a few genre specific best sellers lists. What's that you say? The Novel Road may have helped? Well, that's true to a point. But what I REALLY found interesting is that not only did my book's sale links get pounded to the point of giving me a toothy smile, but SBNation also linked everything to The Novel Road too. Traffic here hit all time highs to view my book's short description.

This is all to say the way to get the word out shouldn't be limited to things like Twitter and Facebook. Doing a bit of writing for sites like SBNation can be an unbelievable way to build a successful reader foundation too. Think about it for a second: Don't you want to have a ready made clientele who's familiar with your writing style across a broad spectrum of subjects BEFORE you launch your book?

While it's true SBNation is sports oriented, there are other sites looking for front page copy. My current writing resume features links to over 300 front page articles I've written for SBNation, and they contain some decent comment totals. I've posted articles on virtually every NFL teams' site. Check out the cities that have NFL teams. When you think about markets for your book, the NFL covers virtually every market, and not in just the U.S. "But they don't cover L.A. you say?" Wrong! They cover the L.A. Lakers, Dodgers, Kings, Angels; plus they cover college sports, so some extremely nice folks hammered the USC and UCLA sites for me. They have every NCAA division I school covered too, so reaching a broad demographic is so easy it should be outlawed. You want to know the best part? My book isn't about sports. Everything I've done for SBNation has sold people that I can write, and they want to see more...

Why am I telling you all this? The point I'm trying to make is you need to create a viable marketplace for your book. The only way you can do it effectively is to write. Write articles outside your comfort zone if you must, but you gain potential readers with every word you type. Relying on the hope you'll separate yourself from others in the cloud on Twitter is a pipe dream. Tweet a thousand times a day, and you still will not have proven to anyone you can write more than 140 characters. Facebook is nothing without the ability to back up your neat little page that looks like a thousand others.

Going to writer's conferences is fantastic, but don't you think the publishers and agents you may meet would be thrilled to talk to someone who has a broad writing resume? They want people who have proven ability to produce, so isn't the fact you write front page articles on a daily basis the easiest way to prove it? While it's true a great many writers for publications never write a book, you'll be able to prove the inverse is true. A novelist can write articles in massive amounts, and it speaks volumes about what you're capable of down the road after signing.

For those that say they don't have the time it takes to write articles, I say you're fooling yourself. I wrote an article just yesterday for the St. Louis Rams in 45 minutes, and these articles can be written at any time of day and scheduled to post later. It received around 1500 reads in an hour before it past on from the front page, and that was a low read number for my articles on average. Just for the sake of argument,  multiply that number by 300. Now this is on the low side for me, but it still adds up to 450,000 people reading the articles. The great part is, that same article is still being read, so the 1500 number is probably 5 times that high today, and it will grow each day since my articles are linked to Sports Illustrated, USA Today, ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and every other sports news outlet because of SBNation's growing power.

You can't write sports stories? Remember, I mentioned that you may need to write outside your comfort zone? I've actually written fiction based article for sports sites. These sites love getting different kinds of articles to show diversity of content. Have a look at this, this and this, then tell me you can't write something similar for another site? The kind of writing I'm talking about shows your character, your humor, and your imagination. The only way you can show the world you are in fact a writer - and not just a dreamer of Rowling-esk success - is to prove it.

For those of you who'd like to write about sports, drop me an e-mail and I'll find a site for you. Whatever you do, don't lock your dream of being a novelist to only social media. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are powerful players in the broad scheme, but they can't compare with a following you've created, and own, due to the articles you've written.

P.S. - A big thank you to J. Pearsall for creating all the pictures for this post from his fertile imagination!