There are some authors who believe that selling their books is a two-step process. Step one involves gathering followers. Step two is telling those readers over and over again about buying the author's books. There's more to it than that. In fact, spamming your dedicated followers could do more harm than good. Self promotion takes a certain finesse. Promote too much and you are labeled a spammer. Promote too little and nobody will know about your books. Here are some tips for walking the fine line between allowable self promotion and "being a jerk."
1. Think Like a Reader
Keep your own buying habits in mind when you promote yourself. Would you go to see a movie if the trailer just spelled out the words, "Buy your tickets for March 28," for 30 consecutive seconds? Of course not. Movie trailers include visually enticing scenes and close ups of the stars involved. Only after they've thoroughly wowed you will they hit you with the sell.
In book self promotion, you can't just tell people to buy your stuff. You need to show them why your book is for them. This might include testimonials and reviews, alternate covers and links to interviews about the book. Be inventive and think about what might get you to shell out the money if you were in your reader's position.
2. Build Anticipation
When you've been working on a book for several months, it's impossible not to get excited for its release. You assume your readers will feel the same way, but that's not always the case. If you build anticipation about the book among your readers, they too may share your fervor.
There are many ways to include your readers in the process of creating your book. You can tell them what part you're working on when you send your weekly/monthly email. You can share excerpts from the first few chapters. You can even hold a contest for an advanced review copy of the book before it's released.
If you want to take anticipation to the next level, recruit beta readers from your email list to be involved in the editing process and/or have your readers vote on which cover to pick out of three choices. Think of something that fits your list and book and go with it. Your readers will appreciate the extra effort.
3. Vary Subject Matter
If all you talk about is your books and when they're coming out, your readers will tune you out like white noise. Even salespeople don't sell 100 percent of the time. The best of them spend time building relationships. If you form a personal connection with your readers, they're more likely to trust you.
Mix up your correspondence with readers. For every email you send out promoting your books, send out three or four that barely pitch your work at all. For instance, you can send out an email with a story that tangentially relates to a blog post you've just put up. You can also talk about books and blog posts written by other writers. If you vary up your content enough, you're bound to stand out.
4. Provide Value
Readers subscribed to your RSS feed or your email list because they thought your work was valuable. If you punish those subscribers by constantly pitching them, they'll leave. The same will occur if you take a few weeks off or fail to put your full effort into several posts in a row. You need to keep providing your top content to keep your best readers.
If you give all that you can to your followers, they'll appreciate the effort. They might even like your work so much, they'll buy your books without a second's hesitation. That's the most rewarding kind of sale there is.
Everybody makes mistakes. I made plenty of self promotion errors when I first started my blog. I lost fans who could still be with me and following me today if it wasn't for my violations of the above guidelines. It's unlikely I'll get those folks back, but I've learned from the experience and I'm willing to put in the work to change. Doing self promotion the smart way is not easy, but it will help you get and keep fans for life.
PS: I wrote this post because I've been running around the internet lately doing a lot of promotion. Feel free to read or listen to my posts/interviews at the following links:
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.