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by Moira Allen
This article originally appeared in Inklings
If you'd like to increase your book's sales, try these no-cost/low-cost online marketing strategies!
If your book sales haven't been so great lately, you might want to take advantage of some of the promotional opportunities available on the Internet. The delightful thing about an Internet marketing campaign is that, if you already have a connection, in most cases it costs absolutely nothing -- except, of course, a little time.
Step One: The Website
The best way to let readers know about your book is through a carefully planned website. The key word is "carefully." If your site is nothing but a commercial come-on for your book, it will be shunned. In fact, it's best to avoid thinking of this as a form of "advertising" at all!
Think of it, instead, as a resource: A service to those who have an interest in your subject matter. Readers are attracted to information, not hype, so ask yourself what sort of information you can provide that will draw visitors -- and customers.
Post an article (or several) that relate to your topic. Offer useful information; don't "tease" the reader by raising questions that can only be answered if they buy your book. Make your site not only worth the visit, but worth referring to others.
Post an excerpt of the book itself, if your publisher permits. (Pitch the idea as a "promotional opportunity.")
Provide answers to "frequently asked questions" (FAQs) about your topic. For example, what are the ten most commonly asked questions about your subject area?
Provide an e-mail address and express a willingness to answer questions personally. Post some of the most interesting questions and answers on your site.
Update your site periodically by adding new information and removing obsolete information or links. If your topic is in the news, provide coverage of "recent developments" that may not be included in your book.
If you're a fiction author, provide information about yourself and the books that you write. Include some writing tips, especially if relevant to your genre. Post announcements of speaking engagements, book-signings, or conferences where you will be appearing.
Put a counter on each page of your site to monitor what attracts visitors and what does not.
Don't clutter your site with unnecessary graphics. Avoid graphics that take a long time to download (such as a complex scanned image). Avoid being "cute" or "clever" with graphics-for example, by embedding your navigation instructions in images so that no one can find their way around your site without downloading the images first. If you do use images for navigation, include a text tag with each icon to let the user know what it represents without having to download it-and always include a text navigation bar!
Step Two: The Links
It would be nice to say, "Build it and they will come." To attract visitors to your site, however, you must do more than build it; you must promote it. Here's how:
Submit your site to as many search engines and directories as possible. Submit directly to the major engines, such as Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite, Infoseek, Magellan, etc. Each engine has easy-to-follow instructions on its home page for submitting your site information.
Check search engines and directories after a couple of weeks to make sure your site is listed. If not, submit again. Then, check at least every six months to make sure your site is still listed.
Enter your site into a "Handi-Links" list under an appropriate heading that relates to your topic. Look for other "shopping malls" that might host your site listing.
Seek links from, to, and with sites on the web that relate to yours. For example, look for individuals who have an interest in your topic (and cover similar issues on their websites). Other good sources of links are online newsletters and associations that offer links to topics of interest. Offer reciprocal links if appropriate.
Seek reciprocal links with authors of similar books, or authors you respect and admire. Another author's fans might well become your own! (This is particularly appropriate if your book is fiction.)
Include useful links in your own site that will guide the reader to other sources of relevant information. Be selective, however: Check the quality of an information site before offering a link. Check your links periodically, and eliminate (or update) those that have changed.
Include your site in a "webring" that relates to your topic. The best way to find one is to search for sites that address your topic; eventually you'll find one that is part of a ring. Then, just follow the instructions.
Find out who has linked to your page by conducting a "link" search. In Infoseek, for example, enter a URL search by typing in: link:www.YOURSERVER/ YOURLINK or url:http://www.YOURSERVER/YOURLINK
Don't send out mass e-mails about your book, or even your website, to lists of e-mail addresses. This is called "spamming" and will make you very unpopular. If you find a contact that might be interested in your book or website, send a personal message explaining why you are "calling" (e.g., "I just visited your excellent site about XXX, and thought you might be interested in my site, for the following reasons...").
Step Three: The Promotion
After going to all this trouble, you certainly want to say something about your book! Note that I didn't say you couldn't advertise; simply make sure that advertising is a secondary purpose of your website, rather than its primary content.
If your publisher has a website, link directly to that site, especially if it offers an order page. For example, turn the book's title into a "hot link" that will take the reader straight to the publisher's order form.
If your publisher doesn't have a website or on-line ordering capabilities, link your book title to the Amazon.com bookstore. To do this, visit and locate your book title. Copy the address that appears in the location field when your book's page comes up (it will include the book's ISBN). Then, create a hot link from your page by incorporating this address. It will look something like this:
Join the Amazon.com Associates program. When you do this, you'll receive a code to add to the hot link listed above, that identifies your site as the "origin" of a visit or order. Then, whenever anyone uses your link to purchase the book, you'll receive a 15% commission (or more) -- on top of your regular royalties! Look for information on the Associates Program at Amazon.com.
Locate your title in Amazon.com and complete the "author description" of your book. Keep in mind that a visitor can't "browse" by flipping through the book itself, so offer a good overview of its contents. Avoid purely promotional hype; focus on what the book has to offer. Also, fill out the author "interview."
Encourage satisfied customers (or good friends) to post a "reader review" of your book with Amazon.com.
Post a picture of your book cover on your site. If you can't get a GIF file from your publisher or cover artist, take your book to a local printer that offers scanning services (e.g., Kinko's) and have a computer file made. (You can also send a GIF file to Amazon.com to post with your book listing.)
Provide complete book-ordering information, including price, ISBN, shipping, and the address (and phone number) of the publisher. Place this information on a separate page that is hot-linked to your book's title; this way, you can use a counter to track how many visitors are actually interested in the book itself.
Promote your website (and book) offline as well as on. List your website and e-mail address on your business cards and letterhead, and be sure to include it in your author bio when you sell an article. When giving a talk or any sort of public promotion, encourage people to visit your website "to learn more."
On the Internet, as anywhere else, the key to a successful promotion is diligence. Think of the World Wide Web, not as a giant shopping mall, but as the world's biggest library. Your contribution to the flow of information will be welcomed-and with perseverance and luck, you should see the difference in the bottom line of your next royalty statement.
Copyright © 2001 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
Moira Allen is the former managing editor of Inklings/Inkspot, and current editor of Writing-World.com
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