Thursday, April 23, 2009
Interview & Giveaway with Plug Your Book! Author Steve Weber
In trying to market that book, I made the same mistakes most first-time authors do, I suppose. First, I thought people would automotically buy it, simply because it was available. When that didn't work, I tried advertising. Google's Adwords was all the rage, so I experimented with those pay-per-click ads and Yahoo Publisher ads also, because I'd heard they were so effective. But after wasting a few thousand dollars, I discovered that paid advertising -- even online advertising for a product that appeals to an online audience -- is not very effective. After about three months I gave up on advertising and, as a last resort, started blogging and participating on MySpace and other social-networking sites. Around the same time, I started recruiting some Amazon Top Reviewers to read and review my book.
That's when my book started selling, and it was such an epiphany: All those things I'd been spending money on to promote my book were basically a waste, while the grassroots techniques that cost nothing were extremely effective. So I thought it would be very helpful for other authors to discover this, too. So I wrote Plug Your Book!
QTB: I had the same experience with AdWords, and I know that some of the other QT Bloggers have had great success using social networking sites. How can joining sites like MySpace or Facebook help a writer’s marketing campaign?
SW: The balance of power is shifting to book readers, and away from traditional gatekeepers like professional critics in newspapers and magazines. As a matter of fact, nearly every stand-alone newspaper book section in the country has been killed off in the past couple of years. Online book reviews by "amateurs" are crucial now, especially for new authors. The word of mouth from Amazon customer reviews can be tremendous. So my book has a whole chapter devoted to getting customer reviews on Amazon and encouraging Amazon "Top Reviewers" to review your book.
I consider Amazon the ultimate social network for authors and readers. And Facebook, MySpace and Twitter can be used the same way, while the techniques you'll use (and the audiences of each) are a bit different. Of course, there's also Shelfari and LibraryThing for serious bibliophiles.
QTB: Agents and publishers are increasingly asking unpublished writers to have a platform, or an established “presence” of some kind. How might writers use some of the techniques you talk about to help get their names out there even before they’re published?
SW: Having a blog -- or a MySpace profile where you post your content or stories -- are great ways to build a platform, and they're essentially free.
QTB: Which of the techniques you talk about in the book do you feel is most underused by writers?
SW: Putting sample chapters or stories out there, so that people who've never read your work before can develop a taste for it. It's much more effective than advertising, and you don't have to spend any money doing it.
QTB: So, does this mean everything about publishing and book marketing has changed?
SW: The main thing hasn't changed at all, it's more important than ever: you must write a good book. Successful book marketing starts with a good book.
The Internet amplifies and accelerates word of mouth. So if you have a good book, people are going to find out, and it will work in your favor. However, if your book is weak, readers will figure that out pretty quickly, too. The Internet makes things very transparent, and it's getting extremely hard to sell books -- or anything else -- that doesn't meet expectations.