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Expand Your Business: Successfully Promote Books Online

Expand Your Business: Successfully Promote Books Online

by Jake on May 31, 2010

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As a ghostwriter, I’ve found that offering ancillary services to my clients that are closely related to my core business is a great way to expand my business and revenue sources—and be a more valuable resource to my clients. With my latest project, a book on entrepreneurship by an author with a decent-sized platform, I’m working with both the author and a PR agency to help formulate a marketing plan that will include a number of social media elements.

I’ve written on this blog about the future of publishing and how it helps—not hurts—those of us on the freelance side of the business, Why the Future is Now for Ghostwriters and Freelance Writers. I still firmly believe that, and this latest project is further proof.

Because of my client’s platform, he has the luxury to bypass the traditional publishing route and is self publishing. In the process, he’s utilizing myself and a PR rep to market the book. These are things that would traditionally be done within a publishing house. Now, I and other small players are scooping the business. I believe this trend will only grow, and positioning yourself to take advantage of it should be a big priority.

Given that, it was awesome to come across Chris Brogan’s latest “freebie” post the other day, An Author’s Plan for Social Media Efforts. If you don’t read Chris’ blog, you owe it to yourself to head over there and spend some time getting to know it.

I thought I’d share some of the steps Chris gives for successfully promoting a book online.

  1. Set up a URL for the book, and/or maybe one for your name. Need help finding a URL? I use Ajaxwhois.com for simple effort in searching.
  2. Set up a blog. If you want it free and super fast, WordPress or Tumblr. I’d recommend getting hosting like Bloghost.me.
  3. On the blog, write about interesting things that pertain to the book, but don’t just promote the book over and over again. In fact, blow people away by promoting their blogs and their books, if they’re related a bit.
  4. Start an email newsletter. It’s amazing how much MORE responsive email lists are than any other online medium.
  5. Have a blog post that’s a list of all the places one might buy your book. I did this for bothTrust Agents and building blocks.)
  6. Consider recording a video trailer for your book. Here’s one from Scott Sigler (YouTube), for his horror thriller, Contagious.
  7. Build a Facebook fan page for the book or for bonus points, build one around the topic the book covers, and only lightly promote the book via the page.
  8. Join Twitter under your name, not your book’s name, and use Twitter Search to find people who talk about the subjects your book covers.
  9. When people talk about your book, good or bad, thank them with a reply. Connect to people frequently. It’s amazing how many authors I rave about on Twitter and how few actually respond. Mind you, the BIGGEST authors always respond (paradox?)
  10. Use Google Blogsearch and Alltop to find the people who’d likely write about the subject matter your book covers. Get commenting on their blog posts but NOT mentioning your book. Get to know them. Leave USEFUL comments, with no blatant URL back to your book.
  11. Work with your publisher for a blogger outreach project. See if you can do a giveaway project with a few bloggers (here’s a book giveaway project I did for Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years book).
  12. Offer to write guest posts on blogs that make sense as places where potential buyers might be. Do everything you can to make the post match the content of the person’s site and not your goals. But do link to your book.
  13. Ask around for radio or TV contacts via the social web and LinkedIn. You never know.
  14. Come up with interesting reasons to get people to buy bulk orders. If you’re a speaker, waive your fee (or part of it) in exchange for sales of hundreds of books. (And spread those purchases around to more than one bookselling company.) In those giveaways, do something to promote links back to your site and/or your post. Giveaways are one time: Google Juice is much longer lasting.
  15. Whenever someone writes a review on their blog, thank them with a comment, and maybe 1 tweet, but don’t drown them in tweets pointing people to the review. It just never comes off as useful.
  16. Ask gently for Amazon and other distribution site reviews. They certainly do help the buying process. And don’t ask often.
  17. Do everything you can to be gracious and thankful to your readers. Your audience is so much more important than you in this equation, as there are more of them than there are of you.
  18. Start showing up at face to face events, where it makes sense, including tweetups. If there’s not a local tweetup, start one.
  19. And with all things, treat people like you’d want them to treat your parents (provided you had a great relationship with at least one of them).

All of these are awesome points of advice, but I’d say the most important is the human element Chris talks about. When promoting a book through social media—or anything for that matter—you can do everything technically right, but you can still get it all wrong if you don’t interact.

I’m amazed at how brands and people don’t get the importance of human element. For instance, I Tweeted the other day about how much I love Famous Dave’s spicy pickles (don’t judge). Low and behold, Famous Dave’s followed me on Twitter. So far so good.

Here’s where it went wrong. They didn’t say something like, “Hey, thanks for talking about our pickles. We love them too!” Instead, they just followed me. And then when I didn’t follow them back (why would I?), they unfollowed me a couple days later.


Here’s a wake up call for Famous Daves (and anyone else marketing online): I don’t feel privileged because you follow me on Twitter or let me “Like” you on Facebook. I feel privileged when you actually show there’s a human on the other side of the account who has the freedom and gumption to interact with me.

That’s how you build loyalty—and how you build groundswell. Everything else just gets you to that point.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Collins June 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Jake, that list of steps is a first-class guide. Thank you.

The Twitter issue really had me smiling. A guy followed me the other day and as I was online at the time I immediately chased it through. Lo and behold, the man had 20,000+ followers and was following a mere 1,500. Did I feel honoured? Maybe. But what I did do was check to see if he was actually still following me one minute later. Sadly, no. The miserable prick was merely sculling around garnering follower numbers. He had truly lost your point.

Jake Johnson June 7, 2010 at 7:40 am

Michael, I find that happens a lot on Twitter. Seems everyone thinks numbers are more important than connections. A bad way of doing business in my opinion—especially when Twitter is abandoned for the next great thing.

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