A five-point program:
Sell yourself, not your books. Nothing is more annoying than an author whose every other post boils down to “Buy my book!” Sell yourself instead (using some of the ideas below). If you’re posting on Facebook or Twitter, say something clever or interesting that people will like. Share a joke or a video.
Make people want to read you. And if they like your posts and tweets, they’re more likely to want to check out your books.
Blog about something interesting. There are a billion blogs out there. No one wants to read your blog about what you had for lunch. Find something interesting to blog about.
I have two blogs I run: The first is this one, where I talk about writing and interview authors. When I began, I was astounded at how many famous writers I had always admired were willing to be interviewed. It’s easy — you email them questions and they email you back. And then their fans read it and see your name associated with the interview and look at the links to your books, and everyone is happy.
Go ahead and do an interview blog. It’s not like there can’t be more of them if done well. Interview people who write in the same genre as you do or who share an interest with you that is prevalent in your books. (Hey, I’m available to be interviewed…)
My second blog is my political one. My undergraduate degree is in Political Science and I have a law degree, so I write about things I not only know, but which I also have a bit of an expertise. The hits I get on that blog far surpass this one.
People go to my blogs because I have advice, comments, and analysis that give them something they can’t necessarily get elsewhere. Think about your own background. What are you an expert at? Gardening? Skiing? Science? Surely there must be something you can post about regularly that will interest people.
Blogs are important because, let’s face it, you’re a writer. If you can’t keep a blog active and interesting, how will you convince people you can keep an entire book interesting?
Be Yourself. Or at least the self that you want to present to the public. Some authors refuse to post anything controversial, for instance, for fear of alienating readers. I clearly do not do that, and I’ve found that my followers and the number of Facebook friends I have just keeps increasing. My thoughts about politics and religion may challenge you, but so may my books. If I avoided talking about politics on my blog while making it a major theme in my books, then I would feel hypocritical.
However, do what works well for you. If you don’t like talking about certain things, then don’t. People can smell a phony, and that’s not the image you want no matter what.
Use your tools. If you hired a plumber and he held up a screwdriver and claimed it was a wrench, how much confidence would you have in him?
Well, as a writer, your tools are words. If you constantly post poorly-written and misspelled tweets and have trouble distinguishing between there, their, and they’re, what kind of confidence would potential readers have in you?
Say something and say it well. Show that you know how to write.
Promote writing. There’s nothing wrong with reminding people that’s what you do. Discuss what you’re working on. Talk about what you’re currently reading. Make people interested in books.
I sometimes ask for advice from my Facebook friends (“What’s a good name for a steampunk gun for the book I’m working on now?”). Not only can this get me some great ideas but also helps to get people excited about the upcoming book.
And don’t just limit it to your own books. Talk about writing conferences and other issues of importance to writers and readers. If one of your friends has a new book coming out, mention it. Remember, you are not in competition with other writers — it’s not like there is a finite number of books out there. We can help each other. Networking will only help you.
And finally, remember: All the promotion in the world won’t help you convince someone to buy your book if they aren’t interested in it. Some of my best writing buddies online and at conventions write in genres and themes that I have no interest in reading. They could win tons of awards and I still wouldn’t want to read it. (There are award-winning movies and lots of music I don’t care about either, because all art is a matter of personal taste.) So don’t bug your friends or try to make them feel guilty for not reading your book.