Have been on a crushing series of deadlines, in the midst of which I’m doing the biggest online promotional push of my career to date. I have been lucky to be invited into a 12-author mega-set of military romances about SEALs. (It goes on sale July 22nd, by the way.) Many of my fellow authors are bestsellers with a TON of publishing and marketing experience. Working with them has felt like drinking from a fire hose.
The single biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is to get my electronic house in order BEFORE my career really shifts into high gear. I was partially there, but from these REALLY organized authors, I’ve realized just how much more I needed to do. By the way, all of the suggestions I’m about to make apply equally to print authors, e-authors, and self-published authors.
What exactly does getting your e-house in order mean, you ask?
It means having your website completely up to date, with a fresh look, a steady flow of new material populating it, all the links working, current bio, complete booklist with ISBN’s–number one reason people visit author websites is to find their books–so make that easy, and active buy links on the site.
It means having chosen how you’re going to do your newsletter. I use a website that generates newsletters and manages mailing lists. There are many excellent ones. Find one you like. Email is the number one way people communicate these days. You’d be crazy not to develop an e-mailing list for sending out news, information, and marketing material to your readers and fans.
Oh, you have no reader/fan list yet? Start building one! Now! This is an area I’ve been sadly lacking in, so I’ve signed up with an online contest manager to give away prizes for me for the next several months in return for the entrants to the contests signing up for my email list. The contest site is genre specific to the books I write and generates thousands of names over several months.(It’s not cheap, but I’m paying to make up for my lack of knowing to do this earlier.)
You don’t have to give away books on these contest sites. You can give away gift cards or electronics or something else relating to your books.
Even at the very beginning of your career, there’s no reason not to start aggressively building your newsletter list. Every time you make a public appearance, at a book signing or a speaking engagement, set out a sign up sheet for your newsletter. Collect business cards and throw those people onto your mailing list. Collect names and email addresses EVERYWHERE.
Everywhere you have an online presence, you should have an active link to sign up for your newsletter. It should be on your website, author pages at book retailers, in the back matter of your ebooks, on your blog, etc.
Become one with a URL shortening website. I use www.bitly.com and customize the names of each short link to show what it is. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, visit bitly and poke around. You need to know about sites like these.They make putting newsletter list sign-up and buy links easy and manageable.
Whether you like them or not, and whether or not you use them, you should have an account in your author name on every major social media site. If nothing else, block out your name so a Ukranian porn site doesn’t grab it and use it once you get famous! You may not use a particular platform now but may find you use it later in your career, or that your publicist/publisher wants to use it in your behalf.
Regardless of whether or not you use each social media platform, your bio should stay current on that platform, along with a complete booklist, buy links to your books (if they’re allowed), and a link to your newsletter.
Set up your various electronic platforms to cross-pollinate one another. When I make a blog post to my website, it automatically propagates onto several other sites, which saves me time and increases my exposure. You’ll see a double posting of this article on this page, in fact. I find that on FB, my fellow writers prefer to read the original article and not link through to my website to see the full article, so I do both. I actually compose the article here, then copy it to my website and let it propagate from there to a half-dozen other locations.
Guest blog now. You should develop a list of friendly bloggers who like you, your books, and your genre and who are happy to have you guest blog on their sties whenever you’ve got a new book coming out. These relationships take time and effort to develop. Do not wait until you’re in a promotion panic to find these people and cultivate relationships. Help them out now; they’ll help you out later.
Meet and schmooze reviewers now. Same as with bloggers, meet the important ones to your genre and make friends with them. Do anything you can to help them out now. They’ll be worth their weight in gold later.
Develop a list of your rabid fans right now. Ask them down the road to read and review your books on the big book retailer sites. Reviews are VITAL in increasing your sales. You may as well stack them in your favor and make sure you’re actually getting reviews. Even if this list starts at five or six people who are your friends and neighbors, EVERY REVIEW COUNTS. Build this list aggressively over time.
Start developing a list of free and paid sites that promote the kind of book you write. These can be review sites, promotion sites like BookBub, paid advertising sites, or free lists that send out freebie book deals. Try to find out the size of their distribution list, what they cost, and what it takes to get onto their site.
These are by no means the only things necessary to get your e-house in order, but they’re a start. The bottom line is, do EVERYTHING you can to be ready to hit the ground running when it’s time for your next book to come out and for you to promote the heck out of it.