“Now That My Book is Out, What is the First Thing I Should Do?”

A newly published author asked me an interesting question today: “Now that my book is ‘out,’ what is the first thing I should do?” I ought to know the answer to that since I was in the same position not that long ago and will be again next month when Daughter Am I is released, but I’m still a bit mystified about how to promote effectively online.

So much of book promotion on the internet depends on social networking sites, which means that one’s promotion efforts have to start long before the book is ever published because you need people to promote to. That was the big lesson I learned during my first months as a published author. The internet is so vast that any message thrown casually out into cyberspace has about as much impact as a child’s balloon set free to drift on the wind. If you hand a child a balloon, however, at least one person for sure will see it, maybe even two or three. If you have “friends,” on social networking sites perhaps a few of them will see the messages you post on your profile and be glad for you. Or at least they will pretend to be glad for you since chances are they are promoting a book, too, and responding to such messages is part of their promotion campaign.

(Do I sound cynical? I don’t mean to. I am a bit disappointed that promoting on the internet hasn’t had the impact on my sales that I’d hoped, but on the other hand, I’m having a wonderful time meeting new people, discovering new books, rediscovering old friends, creating new relatives. In essence, I’m developing a whole new life, which is a thrill in itself.)

Some new authors send email messages to all their contacts, but unless you know the people personally, I don’t think it’s such a good idea. I’m hearing through the grapevine that spamming generally doesn’t have much impact on sales, and it only irritates people, which might cause a backlash. On the other hand, status updates on MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter are good, especially if you link the update to a blog article that tells about your struggles to get published or something else of an equally personal or helpful nature.

The secret to social networking is to be social. I admit I don’t do the one-on-one thing that well. I have a huge list of people I owe blog comments to, but somehow the days pass, and the list keeps getting longer. I’ve started responding to comments on my blog, though, which is a big step in the right direction. I used to think it was better to give commenters the last word, but recently my blog readers have convinced me they like a bit of dialogue, if only to let them know I read and enjoyed their comments. And I do. Read them and enjoy them, I mean.

I’m starting to ramble a bit here.

The point is . . . heck, if I knew what the point is, I’d be sitting back and counting my millions. Still, I have learned one thing — websites, blogs, tweets and status updates all work together to create something more than the individual parts. Who knows, that something may eventually turn out to be book sales.

Daughter Am I will be released by Second Wind Publishing, LLC in October, 2009

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12 Responses to ““Now That My Book is Out, What is the First Thing I Should Do?””

  1. mickeyhoffman Says:

    Ahem, well that was good timing.

  2. ~Sia McKye~ Says:

    You say, ” I’m still a bit mystified about how to promote effectively online.”

    I think you’ve done a marvelous job Pat. And you make a very good point about the kid with a balloon. Everything works together. One thing I can tell you, if you hadn’t, you and your books wouldn’t be known at all.

    Granted, some authors are working at a disadvantage and competing against higher dollar publicity departments and simultaneous national releases of their books, but even they have to work to get interest in their books stirred up.

    I’ve learned much just reading your blogs.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I used to think that I was competing against the millions of authors who are published, yet no matter where I go online, I find the same thousand or so writers trying to find readers — and some of those writers are giving away their books to all comers or are selling them for less than a dollar. Are our choices for promotion really that limited? I am doing fairly well at getting myself known, but I keep thinking I’m missing something. Maybe time. Maybe the reason that I encounter so few authors (relatively speaking) is that the rest gave up? Only they know.

      I appreciate your encouragement, Sia. Thank you.

  3. owlandsparrow Says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m still kind of far away from that stage of the process, but your post was a great reminder why I should start thinking about these things now, and not just later.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It truly is never too early to start promoting. The more people who read about your failures and successes with your writing, and later your efforts to get published, the more people who will have a stake in your book. Always a good thing to get people involved. Hmmmmm. Maybe I need to find a way to involve people more!

  4. joylene Says:

    Who was it that said the way to succeed is keep publishing your books? It takes about 6 novels before people stand up and take notice, and before you start making money.

    I’m pretty sure I’m the skeptical one. I’ve met some wonderful people marketing on the internet. But I believe that real sales come from getting out there and meeting readers face to face, whether it be bookstores, libraries, or malls. Marketing online is a great way of meeting other writers, and to fellowship with like-minded people is essential to our sanity. But everybody knows, writers are the last people who can afford books.

    I’ve got a list, but I’m generally borrowing books from the library because eventho I’d love to have autographed books by all my favourites, I can’t afford it.

    Who else said, “Show me a rich author and I’ll show you…?”

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I hope you’re right that it takes six novels before people stand up and take notice — that I can do! My third novel will be pubished next month, my fourth next year, and my fifth perhaps at the end of the year. (Assuming I get the thing written!) So, as you’ve said before, the way to promote is to . . . write. Maybe it will finally sink in. (Incidentally, I like your new photo on your blog. Very authorish, successful-authorish at that!)

  5. knightofswords Says:

    If one knows a god or a sugardaddy, this would be a good time to ask for assistance.

    If one is sleeping with a celebrity, an agent, the editor of a major newspaper, this would be a good time to remind them that the relationship isn’t all about them.

    Let’s say none of that applies. This narrows down the odds of success unless you’re already famous or plan to do something outlandish–but not overtly illegal–to become famous.

    We need, I think, to open up our hearts as writers to prospective readers. “Friends” on MySpace, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and so on are more than numbers. They are opportunities for friendship. Look at that first while promoting discretely. The sales, we hope will follow as you create your own word of mouth campaign from an honest foundation.

    Malcolm

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      As always, you put things in perspective. I went for numbers to begin with, because I had no idea what to do with any of the sites once I got there. Some I still don’t. But in with those unknown faces are a surprising number of people I’ve actually had contact with. Where else but the internet can one communicate with people from Canada, Mississippi (that is a foreign country, right?), Germany, and New Zealand all in the same night.

  6. Sheila Deeth Says:

    I love the post Pat, though it’s kind of sad. I wish I could rustle up some more sales for you. I tell all my friends how great your books are and what a wonderful job you do on the internet. Still, you’re heading fast to that magical six, if it really is magical.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I appreciate all that you’re doing Sheila. I think it’s wonderful to have so many ambassadors. Another magical number is three years. I’ve heard it takes three years for a book to become known. If I keep up what I’m doing — having fun blogging and facebooking — then at the very least I will have made a ton of friends. (Are friends measured by the ton?)


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