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Self-Promotion - Online Marketing
by Lee Masterson

Promoting yourself and your work on-line involves just as much time and effort as the off-line techniques, but it is a worthwhile step in contributing to the overall awareness of you and your work. The main advantage to promoting yourself online is that you have the opportunity to begin creating a "brand-name" for yourself, thus ensuring that readers are following you as an author, and not just your book.

There are so many available options on the Internet these days that it would be impossible for me to list them all, but here are a few to get you started.

1. - Homepage
Create your own website. Or, if you don't know how to, pay someone to create it for you. There are plenty of servers and web-hosts around these days offering site-building facilities that are fairly easy to master, so you don't need to become a html-expert. Just click and drag the bits around your page until it looks right, and you have a basic page!

When you are designing your site, remember less is always more. You want your site to appear professional, so take care not to go too crazy with the
bright colors and weird fonts. Also, keep pictures and graphics to a minimum where possible. They take ages to download, and a bored surfer will not wait for a page that takes too long to appear. You are more likely to lose a potential customer.

To get you started, here are a few servers providing free web-page hosting as well as site-building facilities.

Bravenet.com - This is quite a helpful service, offering tutorials and heaps of webmaster freebies, lots of goodies to spice up any page, as well as the free web space.
Homestead.com - Offers an easy, interactive site-builder that will see your homepage up and running in no time
Freeservers.com - although their site building range is quick and easy, their advertising banner is quite large and becomes very annoying.
Geocities.com - Easy to use, easier to maintain, but remembering the long web-address (URL) they give you can be tricky, and their pop-up advertising can get annoying.

Of course, there are plenty of others around, but these seem to have the simplest, quickest, most effective systems for the beginner to master.

2. - Signatures
Create a signature for all your emails which includes a link directly to your site. People see this every time you email them, which is a much less invasive method of promotion than actively sending them the URL.
This is the one I use for all email:

Fiction Factor
The online magazine for writers

3. - Email
Email friends and family. Tell them about your book, or the impending publication of your next short story or article. Do not be tempted to send this same information to people you don't know. You could be accused of spam, and that can damage a reputation.

4. - Join in!
Join online writer's communities, workshops and mailing lists. This can be an invaluable way to 'meet' other writers from all over the world who can share your experiences and understand your needs. I actually met Fiction Factor's assistant editor, Tina, in an online writing workshop.

Don't actively push your work to them - they won't appreciate it. Try to become a member of the community. Offer help where you can, and make friends. You might even generate a few sales out of loyalty here, but only if your methods are subtle. Let your email signature do the promoting while you handle the friend-making.

5. - Subscribe
Subscribe to newsgroups that discuss the topics or genre of your book. Join in with the discussions and encourage the other members to visit your site.

6. - Ezines
Produce your own newsletter. Fill it with content related to your work, your specific genre, or the issues that your book explores. Include links directing readers to your site. Visitors should be given a choice whether or not they wish to subscribe. This is called an "opt-in" list - meaning that you cannot just add the addresses of anyone you want into your mailing list.

7. - Search Engines
Submit your website's URL to every search engine you can think of. Don't rely on the free URL submitters that are popping up everywhere. It may be beneficial to do it by hand and do some homework on keywords and meta-tags. This is not as tricky as it sounds, so don't be put off.

8. - Mutual links.
Approach other site-owners and ask if they will be willing to display your link if you agree to also display theirs on your site.

9. - Reviews
Reviews are a fertile source of sales. Approach some of the online publications that deal with your type of work and offer your book for review. Many publications have enormous followings and membership numbers, so a good review may boost your sales.

And the best form of online promotion is...

10. - Contribute to online publications.
There are thousands of online publications available these days. Writing an article or submitting a short story will increase reader familiarity with your name and your work. This means that you will be taking advantage of another ezines advertising, and reaching that 'zine's audience. This form of online advertising might also have the benefit of paying you a few dollars for your words. Most importantly, many publications include a contributor bio, in which you have the opportunity to mention your book or add your site's link. Use this opportunity well, and watch your traffic climb!

I'm sure you can come up with plenty of other ideas to promote your work online that I've missed. Be creative, but most importantly, be professional about it.

Putting a link to your sales-page on a website, or relying on people to randomly see your book on the shelf during a casual visit to the local bookstore isn't going to make your book a best-seller. And chances are all the promotion in the world might not either.

But, by taking your marketing into your own hands, you are guaranteeing that your sales are going to far out-weigh anything a single title on a crowded bookshelf can generate.

Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved


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