Apparently it is all about the benjamins after all. I'm tired of hearing about money, sales, promotions, marketing techniques, etc. Let's get back to talking about writing. No? Fine, I'm outnumbered as usual so I'll join 'em. Saves me thinking up something original to say, cheers. I'll go over old ground and regurgitate that which has been said many times before. No, I'm not qualified but I listen more often than speaking so I pick up a few things here and there. Let's get to it.
So you write a book. (Hopefully) edit it. (Hopefully) format it correctly. Make a nice cover, concoct an intriguing blurb, pick a sweet spot of a price point, whack it on to Kindle, Smashwords and wherever else you can think of. Then you run around online throwing your link, your sales pitch and yourself in the paths of many. But nothing happens. Hmm. This was supposed to be easy. Where are all of those magical sales you were promised?
Promotion is not easy. Writing a book is the easy part. (In comparison I mean, I'd still find it easier to give birth than actually properly confidently finish a book.) People say things like - All you have to do is get yourself out there or Promote it everywhere you can or If you don't boast about it who will? We're left with a whole bunch of writers spewing about their book in random places and not really knowing what the hell they are doing or where they are going wrong. It works for them, they think, so why not me?
First of all, people lie. They exaggerate. There's no such thing as "all you have to do is" because there is no one magical route that works. One size does not fit all. Look at it from a reader's point of view. They are looking out for good books at decent prices but more importantly they are looking for books that interest them. Sure, you have to promote but you also have to make sure you're promoting wisely, as in, advertising to the right people. You can spend 100 hours copying and pasting your link & blurb on every thread and website going but you would be better off spending one hour getting involved in a community that actually reads the type of story you write. Getting involved means actually adding something substantial, not perpetrating link dropping hit and runs.
Find your target audience and concentrate on them. Don't try to trick people into reading a genre they aren't comfortable with by posting misleading blurbs. Don't sit there for hours trying to dream up convoluted methods of insinuating your book's title into random conversations. Involve yourself in a community and try not to act like a tosspot because the payback of vengeful readers is truly, gloriously vicious. And if you're a tosspot, you'll probably deserve it. If you get on somebody's badside and feel their wrath, rise above it. People will notice. And maybe even sympathise. Incessantly whining about it will reverse that sympathy.
Blog. Update it regularly. Try to be witty. Or informative. Or funny. Or take one for the team and post reviews/link love/updates on the publishing world in general. Try not to post about why people should buy your book in every single post. But be generous and do some promoting of books you didn't write. Let people trust your word and they will listen when you need them to. Visit other blogs. Post an opinion when you actually have one and not just because you want a link back or a chance to insert your book pitch. Problem with a blog is you have to promote that too. Be prepared. It is not a case of write it and they will come. You have to show them the way. Take part in blog carnivals, anthologies, charitable online events, blog tours and guest posting sessions. Anything useful that will give you a bit of exposure and a possible link back is terrific. Just make sure that you are just as useful or entertaining. Swapping chapter previews with similar writers is an excellent form of reciprocal promotion that doesn't come across as naff unless the writing isn't as good as it could be.
Try to make your blog and author website readable. If people go blind looking at it then odds are they won't return and they definitely won't take the time to read all of those free samples you'll provide of your work. Yes I said free. Add music and flashing lights and we are entering dodgy territory. Some people have their volume on loud, try not to embarrass them with an unexpected naff tune. Animations and fade outs are irritating, particularly if you are trying to read something on the same page. Most people cannot read white text on a black background for more than ten seconds without getting a headache. Fair warning. If people want to crawl inside their monitors and slap you one then there is something very wrong with your online presence. If they complain, don't get pissy about it, see if they have a point and then be brave enough to change things.
Look out for unusual avenues of promotion. They might not work well but don't be a judgemental git, give a variety of methods a chance. Who is at the top of your market? Check out what they are doing. Certain things might appeal to your target audience that wouldn't work in other genres. Don't be afraid to be innovative and try new things. The one who started it all is cool. A couple of years later. Don't forget that everything takes time. Social networking can be your most valuable tool. But only if you use it wisely and make it personal. Posting links and repeat links constantly can be wearisome for those reading it. Be relevant and of course add news about your book but make sure you show off some of your sparkling personality too.
Don't have a shitfit whenever you get a middling review - for one people are entitled to their own opinions, so take your head out of your arse for five seconds and see if you can figure out what exactly it is they are telling you they didn't enjoy or connect with. Develop a thicker skin and stop taking less than adoring comments as personal insults. Do not, under any circumstances, respond in a hostile way to negative reviews. Are you crazy? Nobody forgets those writers but for all the wrong reasons. And please, for the love of everything, don't beg people for great reviews because you gave them one. Or ask people who have never read your book to help you manipulate the biggest ego boosting reviews to the top of the list on your Amazon page. I hope I don't need to say this but don't create multiple personalities and review your own book. That's just wrong. In so many, many ways. Guilt tripping family and friends into leaving excellent reviews isn't much better. Some people say you need a task force around you and that may be so but make sure they actually believe in your book first.
Developing an online presence or brand doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to using a computer to get the word out. Give your books (and business card or flyer complete with web links) to libraries, donate them to raffles, ask the local newspapers to run a piece on a local kid done good. Go to bookshops and ask them to stock your book or allow you to do a signing. Bring your family and try and whip some enthusiasm up in the shop itself and online. Borders in Dublin, may it RIP, was always open to indie musicians and writers. Even the big shops may surprise you so don't be scared, the worse they can say is no. Don't cry if book signings fail, it happens to well known writers too. People are surprisingly helpful if they are just asked. (By the way, people who work in bookshops are amazing at promoting your book if they have read it and enjoyed it. Customers listen. Take note.)
Getting yourself out there doesn't mean you have to become Spammy McSpamalot and wreck the heads of millions. Promote it everywhere you can doesn't actually mean you can promote it everywhere. There's a time and place for everything. And if you don't boast about it, who will doesn't really mean you should mislead people into thinking your book is something it isn't. Your book does not cover every single genre out there so don't even try. Feel free to go forth and multiply your book linkage but remember who exactly it is you're supposed to be targeting. You have to give a lot more than you receive. The best publicity you will ever get is from the person who genuinely loves your book and recommends it unasked. You can't fake that. One of the greatest things you can have is a well written book. Know what's better? Two well written books. Keep writing, keep listening to advice and keep giving. Karma is a thing of beauty.
I could go on but this is already novella sized material. Pay attention to what people are saying and use some common sense. Hard sells are offputting in general. Arrogance is not generally seen as a good quality. T'would be excellent if you could learn from the mistakes of others but unfortunately sometimes you have to make your own. Pick yourself back up and keep on moving forward. In the words of the late but great Aaliyah - "If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again."