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Ebook Promotion from "The Call" and Way Beyond

 

Marilynn Byerly

 

You've just gotten the email version of "the call." You've sold your book to an epublisher. First, you dance around the floor, call your near and dear, those not so near or so dear, then everyone else.

 

Then, it hits you. You've sold your book. It will be out in eight months. How will you survive those long months until the big day? What should you do ahead of time?

 

Don't panic. Here are some suggestions.

 

Pace yourself in preparing promotions, and don't burn yourself out early on. Keep doing a little each day or each week. It all adds up.

 

Start putting money aside for promotion expenses. You will need a financial war chest.

 

Get the bare bones of your press kit put together.

 

Take up jogging and lose 15 pounds for that promotion photo you will need.

 

Figure out something clever to put on your signature line at the bottom of your email. Later, you'll have lovely review clips, but now find a bit of dialogue or a pithy blurb to make readers want to grab your book the moment it is available.

 

Find out if your publisher's authors have a listserv to share ideas, gripes, and information. Join it. Ask questions there, and you'll have answers from people who have experienced what you are experiencing. If there's not an author's list, start one yourself.

 

Join EPIC , the e-published authors' organization, or a similar organization and ask questions. You'll learn even more. Educate yourself about ebooks and their hardware because you're not only going to promote your book, but educate readers about ebooks, as well.

 

Start checking out review sites, author promotion sites, and reader listservs. Find websites and listservs which specialize in your genre or subgenre. Go to the websites of other writers who write in your genre and look at who is giving them reviews and interviews, use search engines, and check out listservs like Yahoo and Topica for reader groups.

 

When you find suitable review sites, check them out closely. Are they reviewing similar books, are their reviews fair, are some books brutalized and can you survive being brutalized if you submit to that site? If you like the review spot, find out their submissions' policy.

 

Some review sites and magazines treat ebooks like paper books and will only review them three or four months before publication. This could prove a problem because your epublisher will probably wait until the last minute to do the final edit of your book, and many publisher contracts allow you to submit only the final edit for reviews.

 

Unless there is a time limit for a review, don't be in a hurry to get your book reviewed or yourself interviewed until you are absolutely certain your book will be out in a short time. (Ebooks rarely come out on schedule.) With the long life span of ebooks, it is better to wait until almost time so you won't lose momentum. A review/interview a month or two after your book is out is better than five reviews/interviews several months before. A series of reviews/interviews for the first six months of your book is even better.

 

When you send your ARC (advance reading copy), put "Uncorrected ARC" or "Unedited ARC" in a large font above the title on the first page if your book hasn't been edited yet. Also include the notice: "This copy is for review purposes only. It may not be shared or duplicated. To do so is illegal."

 

In the email I attach the ARC to, I always put this caveat: "This book is as free of errors as possible. If your copy has gibberish, missing punctuation, truncated words, or other strangeness, please contact the author or publisher to obtain a copy that will work properly with your computer software."

 

The magazine for romance readers, Romantic Times, won't review an ebook unless you buy an ad. A number of author co-ops have formed so you can buy into a group ad for less money. Still, be prepared to spend around one hundred fifty dollars. Science fiction and fantasy ebook authors are also using co-op advertising for cons and magazines.

 

Are these ads worth it? As of now, you won't make your money back in immediate sales with an RT ad. Not enough readers are willing to try ebooks. But I still do group ads to get my books reviewed and to keep my name in front of the NY publishing crowd. I want to build name recognition to build my career. I have also discovered that my advertised book peaks in sales after these ads, often with enough sales to put me on the bestseller lists, and the following month, my other books will hit the bestseller list because readers liked one book enough to try another.

 

Get your website put together. If you can afford to rent a site, pick one in a writers' community that has traffic. These sites often offer classes, chats, or reviews to attract readers. Some sites do group promotions. If a site has Frances Famous who writes in your genre, readers may check you out, too. What promotions or contests are these authors offering to attract readers? What kind of promotions or contests would fit your novel's subject or tone, not to mention your budget? If you can't afford to rent a site, look into the many free sites offered.

 

Remind yourself not to be obnoxious about your promotions because you can annoy potential readers to the point where they won't buy your book. Also, be helpful and polite on the reader listservs. Nothing is more annoying to readers than having a writer show up to dump a promotion announcement on them then go no-mail. They remember!

 

Be especially polite to all those reviewers and site owners who are giving you free publicity. Thank them and respect their time and be aware that your book isn't the only book in the universe. You'll have to wait your turn. Also, don't be surprised if some sites refuse to review your book because it is an ebook. These days, thanks to the diplomatic work of e-authors and the excellence of many ebooks, many sites do review them so politely thank that unfriendly site's owner and find a site that is friendly.

 

Also remember that you shouldn't post that complete review to every listserv you belong to unless you have the reviewer and review site's permission. A review is copyrighted, just as your book is copyrighted, and you don't have that right. You are also hurting the people who were kind enough to review your book. Reviews draw people to websites which often make their advertising money on the number of readers. Without readers, these websites go out of business.

 

Instead of sharing the complete review, send a "blurb" of the best part. Something along the lines of "Molly Newbook is the next Nora Roberts! Be sure to read ALL ABOUT LOVE. You won't regret it!" Randy Reviewer for Romantic Books website. To read the complete review go to http://www.romanticbooks.com.

 

Send a thank you to the reviewer or website owner even if they pan your book. Only in your heart, but never aloud or in writing, should you wish boils upon their rears for saying something negative about your darling book.

 

Some writers have success with bookmarks as a promotional tool, but I don't use them. (Where do you use a bookmark in an ebook?) Others create diskette or CD samplers and give them away at conventions and booksignings.

 

The diskette or CD contains the first chapter or an excerpt of the book along with review information and ordering information. If your publisher permits it, also include a graphic file copy of your cover. To give someone a reason to stick that diskette in the computer and open it, also include a piece of unpublished fiction, or an article.

 

When I gave a talk on the epublishing market at a sf convention, I handed out diskettes which contained a document of clickable links to the sites I mentioned, chapters of my books, chapters of friends' and fellow Hard Shell authors' sf books, and Karen Wiesner kindly gave me a sampler of her ebook ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE. I used my printer to create labels for the diskettes as well. If you want to get fancy, you can use legal sized envelopes, print your cover or other information sideways on each end, and cut it to create two diskette holders.

 

Hand out the diskette to only those at your talk who are interested. Otherwise, some jerk will pick up the whole lot as "free" disks, and no one else will see them. If you have a CD burner, a CD sampler is cheaper and more likely to be seen by a number of folks than the diskette.

 

Above all, pace yourself. The ebook author is a marathon runner, not a sprinter. I try to set aside one writing day a week for promotion unless I have a new book coming out, then I spend two to three writing days a week for about a month. I feel it's better to put a little promotion out here and there over a long period of time since my books won't disappear off the cyber-bookstore shelves. And a little here and there really adds up since many of the reviews, interviews, etc. stay online forever.

 

Also, keep working on that next book and submitting that next book so you'll have something else to worry about.

 

And, remember, even if the worst happens, and your book is panned by reviewers or doesn't hit the bestseller list immediately, you can keep slogging along with the promotions and succeed. And, if you don't, there's always the next book.

 

Copyright 2001 by Marilynn Byerly

 

This article may be reproduced, but only with the permission of Marilynn Byerly (marilynnbyerly@aol.com). It must contain the byline and copyright information.

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