On this, the second to last day of Write Nonfiction in November, I’d like to devote a blog posting to how to build your platform and promote books on the Internet. The Internet offers a vast resource of free promotional tools, if we, as writers, only know how to use them – and actually use them.
I was speaking with a POD publisher the other day who told me that she can’t get her authors to do enough promotion for their books. Not only will they not build platform before their books come out, they won’t do it afterward either. I have discovered that a lot of authors are interested in hearing about platform building, but they just don’t want to do the work. Here’s the deal, folks: As nonfiction writers, if you want to publish a book, the only way to get it sold (either to a publishing house or to actual readers) is to promote yourself and build a platform. Period. Platform and promotion = books sold. There’ s no way around this fact.
Before I even begin telling you what to do, I’m going to broach the topic that always comes up at the end: How much time will all of this take you? A lot. I know you’d rather be writing. I would, too. But, in fact, I spend about 80 percent of each week on promotion and platform building activities I’m going to tell you about…and there are so many more I could be doing as well (such as going out and speaking before live audiences). You have to do it, though. So, stop fussing. Stop procrastinating. Stop saying, “I just want to write.” The days when writers could just write have passed.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are my top five tips for promoting yourself and your book and building platform on the Internet.
Tip #1: Write articles for ezines and distribute them in ezine directories. Plenty of ezines exist for each subject niche. You can easily find these by doing a Google search. Most don’t pay writers, but a few will offer payment, and if they don’t know you are being paid with the fact that the online publication will include your author’s bio and links to your website or locations where readers can buy your book on line. This will increase traffic to your website, where hopefully you have ways to capture their email addresses (like with a newsletter sign up), or result in book sales.
Beyond individual ezines specifically related to your subject matter, I suggest you sign up for specific ezine directory services. These tend to be services for which you pay on a monthly basis or each time you post an article. (I have listed several ezine directory services I recommend in my ebook, Using the Internet to Build Your Platform One Article at a Time -scroll down the home page to find it at a reduced price through the month of December.) The benefit to using these services comes in the fact that rather than submitting your article to 20 ezines individually, these directories submit them for you to many more than that. Plus, your articles remain in the directory and are available for ezines to find at any time in the future. My articles and essays have been picked up and used by an assortment of publications all over the world. This gives me enormous exposure. Each time someone publishes one of my articles, my bio (including the links to my website) is published along with it. This sends more traffic to my website.
Tip #2: Comment on Other People’s Blogs and Articles: By leaving comments here and there on the Internet, you let people know who you are and what you do, while also letting them know where to find you fi they want more information. If, for instance, you are a medical expert writing a book on medicine, you would want to comment on other blogs about medicine – in particular the type of medicine about which you write. Each time you leave a comment, anyone who clicks on your name gets sent to your website. There they discover more about you…maybe they read your blog and subscribe; maybe they see that you have a book for sale; maybe they notice you’ll be speaking in their hometown and decide to come hear you and purchase a book there.
You can take advantage of the chance to leave comments by finding articles that relate to your writing projectsand that have been published and are available on line. A friend of mine has gotten a lot of traffic to her blogs and website in this way.
Tip #3: Use Google Alerts to help you find out when you need to leave a comment.The best way to discover when you should be leaving a comment somewhere online is to set up Google alerts to notify you each day of articles and blogs that relate to the subjects about which you write. Then you can look at these alerts and decide which ones are worth your time and energy. You can also set up an alert for you name.
Tip #4: Take time for social networking: Sign up for Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace and use them. I was a member of LinkedIn for a long time and didnt’ get much out of it until I joined a few groups and participated in the discussions going on there. Then suddenly I started seeing these people going to my website and commenting on my blogs or offering to link with me in other ways. I recently joined Facebook, and I’m thrilled at the result. I have been able to form groups of friends in many circles related to my book projects. I already called on several people to help me promote something for a friend, and it worked great. I’ll be sure to do the same when it comes time to promote my books. Plus, you always have a presence on Facebook if you are using it. And that’s really important.
Tip #5: Review competing or competitive books on Amazon.com. Okay, there’s a whole art to this, but let me just say that by reviewing books that are similar to the book you are about to publish or have published or are writing, you let readers know you and your book exists. Again, you can send them to your website and hopefully capture their email address or at least make them a unique visitor.
More and more books are being published on the topic of promoting your self and your books on the Internet. Find a book that speaks to you. Read up. Then, take the time to do what you can on line. It’s cheap. You can’t get better than free. All you are spending is your time, but it will be worth it. Then use the paid services, like a PR pro, when you really need them.
I can tell you this: Using these tips, in about two years I built my website traffic from almost zero to between 3,500 and 5,000 visitors (2,000-2,700 unique visitors) per month. (I attribute a small amount of this growth also to my monthly appearances over the last 11 months on Conversations with Mrs. Claus.) I see the difference in how many visitors I get by how many of these tips I employ each month. That’s how I know they work.
Since the Internet offers so many opportunities to promote yourself and build your platform, I asked Linda Lee to add a five more tips to my list. After all, she taught me a lot of what I know! If you recall, Linda offers website and blog coaching and consulting services as well as custom website development. The following information is just a bit of what you’ll find in the book she’s writing, You have a Website, Now What?
Tip #6: Find online “communities” that share your passion or interests. This can be a forum or a blog network, like the Moms Club, or Blogher or Red Room. There are thousands of choices out there. This is where you find readers. Whether your passion is writing, gardening, health, fishing, animals, politics, spirituality, there is an online community for those topics. Participate in those arenas. People will get to know you and want to hear from you. This will translate to readers for your site.
Tip #7: Network. As you are reading other peoples site, you can start to network with them. Leave comments and build a relationship. Ask them if they would want to “guest” blog on your blog. On your blogroll, link to other blogs you enjoy and recommend. Search engines love back links. Focus on the smaller bloggers rather then fighting for attention with the A list.
Tip #8: Participate in some of the newer social media sites. Right now the new kid on the block is YahooBuzz. I highly recommend you join and start using it. Then there is Digg, Stumbleupon, Friendfeed, and many others.
Tip #9: Use your a newsletter. Use your newsletter mailing list to promote a website article or blog post you have written. Only do this with your most relevant articles and posts. Encourage your readers to forward your email to a friend by inserting a button that will easily allow them to forward your email. Also be sure to invite them to leave you a comment on your blog.
Tip #9: Include email signatures. In addition to your website address, add a little line about your latest article or post and make it clickable so people can just click through to read your latest work. To see how to add a signature file to your email go here.
Linda concludes with the following advice: “All this can feel overwhelming at times. You may feel stupid or inept. You aren’t. Trust me, the Internet is huge and most people have the same feelings at one time or another. What I have found over the years is that you must stay focused. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked on other sites when you are working on your items. You can bookmark things and come back to them later.
“You are just as able and competent to promote yourself and participate in this online world as the next guy. Believe in yourself. Good luck and have fun!”
About Linda Lee
Linda Lee is a writer, speaker, educator, and website designer. Available for consulting and coaching, she helps people launch blogs and websites and trains then in how to get traffic to their sites and to maximize their website presence with the use of blogging and search engine optimization of their websites. Linda is passionate about empowering people to take charge of their computer, showing clients with laughter and enthusiasm that they can make it work for them. This explains Linda’s slogan: “Don’t Let Your Computer Outsmart You.” Linda is co-president of the Women’s National Book Association’s San Francisco Chapter and a speaker and volunteer coordinator for the San Francisco Writers Conference.
For information on my ebook, Using the Internet to Build Your Platform One Article at a Time you can check out the page on this blog, click on the link above, or go to www.ninaamir.com. I’m also available to give talks on these and other topics related to nonfiction writing and platform building.
Don’t forget, if you like this blog, please vote Write Nonfiction in November one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers by going to firstname.lastname@example.org. Write “101 Best Websites” in the subject line. Then, place the link to this blog – www.writenonfictioninnovember.wordpress.com – in the body of the email. If you want to add why you like the blog and the challenge, that’s helpful. If not, just send the link.