Marketing your book is such a difficult thing.
We’re told that our publishing house will do it for us, but after an in-depth discussion with my publicist, a few other authors and watching ‘The Tuesday Book Club’s’ episode with Lee Child, Matthew Reilly, Bryce Courtney and Di Morrissey, I think we’ve all decided that authors have to be responsible for part of their own publicity/marketing.
Look at Craig Silvey’s amazing success with Jasper Jones. He has got into his own car and driven around WA talking at libraries, book clubs and so forth. His book came out the same time as Red Dust, did for me (May 09) and Jasper Jones is still in the Top Ten Bestsellers for Allen and Unwin. He’s done all that by himself (of course, he wrote a brilliant book as well.)
There is a difference between publicity and marketing. Lauren, who runs my marketing ‘campaign’ for want of a better word, told me once, the difference is: publicity is free, marketing you pay for.
Nyssa, who runs my website and is basically in charge of my ‘out of house’ marketing, is a uni student who is majoring in creative writing and media and also is a freelance web designer (Nixel Web Designs). Being young, having a passion for books (which means authors, as well!) and understanding all the technology we authors can make use of, she has a wealth of knowledge.
She also has a passion for fantasy and science fiction. She’s turned this into a website A Writer Goes On A Journey that is full of info, reviews and so on. But not content with that, she is the powerhouse behind a new association, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, hoping to up and running before September.
One of the first things I remember Nyssa organising was a chat fest between many major USA agents, authors and publishers, which was run on her ‘A Writer’ website. We were able to ask questions through a ‘chat room’ (I’d never been in one before and found it quite amazing!).
So here’s Nyssa on marketing – but please do be aware: before you make any marketing decisions, do discuss it with your publishing house and read your contract.
Marketing is not a dirty word!
Every one of you holds a collection of unique cultural items, whether in your hands or in your head. Whether bestseller or dreaming of it, you need a place of your own to express yourself. You need a website!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money. A domain name (the URL, the bit that is www.fleurmcdonald.com) can be as cheap as ten bucks a year, the hosting package (the server, where all the information is stored) can be $5/year. For an Australian company, try www.crazydomains.com.au, or if you don’t mind it being overseas, I personally use www.hostgator.com. Don’t buy a hosting package or server yet though!
What you do need is someone who knows websites. Do not ever use a family member or friend to make one for you. There are all sorts of social reasons for this, but if you want to present the best image of yourself, use a professional (and no, don’t even have your professional webdesigner best friend make your website for you).
Hiring someone doesn’t have to cost the earth. Use an open source program like WordPress, which is free. It is what is known as a CMS – content management system. You don’t need to know HTML coding or design to be able to use it; it’s insanely easy to use. Some web developers design their own CMS, which means you are paying for their coding. The other great thing about using an open source CMS is that if you want to change designers or in the future want to update, there are lots of other people out there who can use the same program. You are not locked into only using one person for the rest of your web life.
You don’t have to pay thousands for a unique blog design either. With your webmaster/webmistress, you can find and purchase a nice theme and they can adapt bits of it to make it look completely unique, rather than coding and designing from scratch. You definitely never want to use the default theme that comes with the CMS you use.
So that’s the basics of having a website, now what to do once you’ve got one?
Make a facebook fan page and twitter account. You can link them together so you don’t have to spend all your time on both. The facebook fan page gives you direct access to readers, and a twitter account gives you direct access to…well…everyone! This is useful even if you haven’t sold your book yet. Agents and publishers and editors use twitter too, but whatever you do, don’t force it down their throat. Just be natural and they will come to you. Of course, this is not the only thing you should do.
Get out there. Do interviews with your favourite authors on your website, or review books. Talk about your writing process. If your character is giving you a hard time, you’re not alone! If you are published, there is a new fabulous method of travelling the world on a book tour without leaving your desk or getting out of your pyjamas. It’s called a Blog Tour. You can either sign with a company or go on your own and offer to do interviews, giveaways, guest posts on a variety of different blogs.
Talk to reviewers and send out your book to them, don’t just rely on your publicist to do this. You won’t always get glowing praise, but that’s a part of being an author.
Have any questions on websites or web marketing? Leave a comment here or go over to my business website, nixelweb.com!