Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Marketing and Publishing: Best Web Sites and Blogs

Over the last year, I've subscribed to so many writing blogs that I'm overwhelmed, buried, and ignoring most them. Here are a bunch that I've found useful. These recommendations focus on the business of writing: book marketing, publishing industry news, or dealing with agents. Most of them are not daily, so they're easier to keep up on.

Book Marketing


- Copy Blogger: Great info on blogging and online marketing. My only gripe is that it arrives daily.
A favorite post: How to Increase Subscription Rate of Your Blog

- Publicity Hound: Lots of tips on P.R. that you won't find in most book marketing blogs. Fair amount of self-promotion by author, but, hey, she's giving away a lot of free stuff.
A favorite post: Authors: 9 things to do when you can’t afford a publicist

- SEOmoz: For geeks only, but some of the best info out there on search engine optimization and online marketing.
A recent favorite post: How Newsworthy Are Your Newsletters?

Writing and Publishing

- Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris: By writers for writers, not too frequent. I receive it as an RSS feed, which allows me to check recent posts at my leisure. Often she posts longer, detailed articles, which I prefer to other bloggers who post more frequent, short pieces that leave you with too many questions unanswered.
A favorite post: Beware the Seven Deadly Writing Scams, the title says it all.

- Business Rusch by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Also, written by a writer. She also will post longer pieces that fully explore a topic.  
A favorite post: Why Writers' Disappear

- Jane Friedman: Former publisher of Writer's Digest, she does a great job and often has guest bloggers with interesting stories.
A favorite post: Getting a Traditional Book Deal After Self-Publishing

Agent Advice


- Writer Beware: A blog by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Offers useful advice for all writers, regardless of genre.
A favorite post: Literary Agents -- though it's a little old, a must-read for anyone looking for an agent. Warning: This is a scary piece that may keep you up at night or drive you to self-publish.

- Bent on Books: Lots of agents write blogs, some are decent, some are great for beginners but tend to rehash the same stuff after while. Agent Jenny Bent's blog is monthly -- so you're not overwhelmed and often includes encouraging pieces for writers.
A favorite post: It's not WHO you know, it's WHAT you write in your query

A Successful Blogger with a Unique Voice

- Penelope Trunk: Topics often all over the place, generally related to careers, but a good lesson in the captive power of a writer's voice. She includes personal stuff about her marriage, her kids, her period leaking through her yoga pants. Always self-deprecating, very honest, hard not to root for her -- even if you're a guy.
A favorite post: How she got a big advance from a large publisher and self-published anyway.

Tip for Avoiding Inbox Overload

Sign up for the RSS feed instead of the e-mail version. With the RSS feed, you can check the blogs and topics at your leisure, instead of having your inbox deluged.

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing? 


- Book Marketing for Nitwits: Getting Started with SEO

- Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Results 

-Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

Had Enough Book Marketing?


 - Ski Trip to British Columbia: Local potheads, make mine a double and drink like Canadian, who said Canadians are nice?

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Image attribution: Hong Kong, Hong Kong (Overload!Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons Photo by Roger Price

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time for Old School Book Marketing? My 9-Month Progress Report

I just finished a book called "Social Media is Bullshit," which confirms what a lot of writers have been suspecting: The Web is stacked against little guys like us. So, I'm going to try old school marketing tactics that involve: the telephone, in-person readings, collecting e-mail addresses, and attempting to get coverage in mainstream broadcast and press.

Executive Summary: Nine Months of Book Marketing Hell

My monthly Web traffic remains stable (about 3,000 page views and 2,000 visits) and I'm adding blog subscribers slowly, but steadily (now have 142 subscribers). But I doubt I'll ever hit numbers big enough to impress an agent or publisher. (Interesting article on how big your platform should be to impress an agent.)

My Numbers

1) Web Traffic

- Page views in July: 2,428       (1,779 unique visits)
- Page views August: 2,977      (2,139)
- Page views Sept.: 2,774        (2,017)
- Page views in Oct.: 2,783      (1,996)
- Page Views in Nov.:  2,956    (2,037)

- Blog subscribers at end July: 48
- Blog subscribers at end of August: 71
- Blog subscribers at end of September: 95
- Blog subscribers at end of October: 114
- Blog subscribers at end of November: 142** 

What an agent wants to see: At least 20,000 page views/month. (For that many page views, I'd need about 14,000 visits.)

*includes this blog and about 150 page views for my resume and rarely-updated travel Web sites.
**includes 16 people who did not confirm their subscriptions. After subscribers sign up for my blog, they receive an e-mail asking them to confirm their subscription. For some reason, these folks never confirmed, so I put their e-mails into a Yahoo e-mail list and manually forward each blog post to them.

 2) Social Media and E-Mail Addresses

Twitter: 840, up 35 from 805 last month.
 - Posting links to my blog in Twitter generated 21 blog page views last month, an average month for me.
- What agents want to see: At least 5,000 Twitter followers.
- Note: This is easy to do by signing on to a Twitter follow group, where you agree to follow people who agree to follow you. The net result: you get a lot of people who have no interest in your work and will likely not buy your book.

Facebook: 2,043 Fans/Likes, up 7 from last month.
- I spent $20 to promote one of my Facebook posts to my Fans and 8,000 of their friends -- and added about 10 Likes, three of whom subsequently un-Liked me. My paid Facebook promotion was a waste of money.)
- Posting links on my Fan page generates very few visitors (33 last month). Posting links to appropriate Facebook groups is more productive and produced visitors (125).
- Worth noting: The "what agents want article" offered no stats for numbers of Facebook Fans and Link In connections. Hmmm.

Linked In: 1,167 connections, up 19 from last month
- Posting links to Linked In groups generated 457 visits, more than any other social media source.
- Note: In early fall, after I attempted to connect with a lot of people who declined my heartfelt requests, Linked In stopped allowing me to contact to people for whom I didn't have an e-mail address.
- As of this week, Linked In has restored my ability to contact people without having their e-mail addresses. However, Linked In wrote that it would revoke my account if I started spamming again.

E-mail Addresses: 439*
- Blog subscribers: (as note above) 142
- Newsletter subscribers: 7 (I just started this newsletter for Boston folks I meet at parties or readings. I added two more people last month!)
- Personal/professional e-mail addresses of people who might care about what I'm doing: 290
*What agents want to see: more than 5,000 addresses.

Banging Our Heads Against the Web-Marketing Wall?

For the next month, I'm going to focus my energy on old-school promotion and marketing.

Here's why:

- After reading "Social Media is Bullshit" I'm willing to believe that the days are gone when an average person can launch a blog and generate huge traffic. The book also says that most large blogs and Web sites are owned by large companies with large staffs and deep pockets that I don't have. Also, the odds of me producing a blog or other content that goes viral are non-existent.

- I worked as an SEO consultant for three years. The company I worked for spent $10,000 a month on a platoon of specialists (including me) who worked to drive traffic to the company's site.

- Social media is not designed to help the average small business person. Witness recent changes to Facebook Fan pages. Also, Linked In groups are increasingly filled with useless spam. Either people will stop participating in these groups or Linked In will come down on people like me who post links to multiple groups. Finally, have I mentioned enough times that I think Twitter is a torrent of crap?

- I am again considering some advice I got from a marketing consultant friend: "Find something you like doing and become good at it."

Old School Book Marketing

At it's most basic, marketing has two steps: Define your audience and reach them. Since I don't have a book to sell yet, I want to get people's e-mail addresses for the future. I can also sell them my chapbook of writing samples.

My Thought Process

1) Who is my audience?
Based on my Facebook Fan page stats, anecdotal evidence from folks who attend my readings, and the age and interests of the characters in my novel, my readers are mostly: aged 35 to 55, educated, urban professionals (modern yuppies.) Their interests include: travel, romantic relationships and sex, dining out, edgy humor, art and culture. (pretty broad, but enough to get me started.)

2) How to reach them
My favorite marketing technique is public readings and lectures. If I want to read to modern yuppies, where will I find them? Swank hotels, trendy restaurants, fund-raisers, corporate functions, adult education programs, retail stores that cater to them (furniture stores, erotic toy stores, wine stores, outdoor gear stores, sporting goods stores, and other stores with products related to themes in my novel.)

To reach a lot of potential readers, I need coverage in the mainstream media: radio, TV, and print. In the past my readings -- even at small venues -- have gotten some coverage in local papers. I've also gotten coverage on local cable TV stations.

3) What I plan to do this month:
- Send pitches for classes I could teach to local adult education centers. (I took a trip around the world and have lectured about that in the past. I could also lecture about the basics of book marketing.)
- Send pitches for my readings to colleges catering to older students. (I have organized my readings into what can be loosely describe as a one-man show.)
- Contact some event planners to see if they would consider me as "literary" entertainment at special events. (I would offer an alternative option to comedians, musicians, and Tarot card readers.)
- I posted audios clips of me reading to a site called, which sells content to public radio stations. (It costs $50/year. I have gotten a few nibbles but no takers. However, a friend has sold a number of pieces through this service.)
*Note: I am well aware that some of these are real long-shots, but the odds can't be any longer than Web marketing. I am also aware that some of this is a little haphazard. But another piece of business advice that I like: Sometimes it is better to just jump and make your mistakes than to spend all your time researching.

Note: Another book marketing book for old schoolers: "Talk Up Your Book," by Patricia Fry. If you've done some public speaking and readings, skip the first nine chapters -- they're repetitive and rudimentary.

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing? 


- Is online book marketing a waste of time? (readers weigh in)

- Do You Rate? Measuring Book Promotion Success

-Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

Had Enough Book Marketing?


 - One Day at Big Sky Ski Area: Encounter with a Snowboarder
"You're a grown man, you should know better than that," said the 20-something snowboarder as I lay face-down in the snow.

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*Attribution for "old school" image at top of page: PbakerODU at en.wikibooks [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons