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DO IT YOURSELF WEEK: Day Four – Promoting Your Work


Welcome to the second annual DIY week at QSF. We’ve got a great line-up of topics for the week, some of which are moderated – but in general, we’ll just share information about how to start and manage a small press:

Friday: Loren Rhoads – Promoting Your Work

Saturday: Hannah Walker – Mistakes to Avoid, Mistakes to Make, Keeping Up Your Morale;

Sunday: Dawn Chapman – Starting Your Own Press/Crowdfunding

You’ve completed your grand opus. You’ve decided to self publish. You’ve got your first book edited, formatted, and ready to go. You’ve sent the files out to the world. What next? Loren Rhoads talks about promotion:

Promotion is a huge subject and each of these headings should be an essay on its own.  Because of that, I’ll just do a link roundup and we can discuss each topic more in the comments.

1. A Good Author Bio

The #1 thing you can do to boost your promotion is to write a good author bio.  The bio should do three things:  name you, name your book, and demonstrate your credentials to have written that book.

Some exercises on the subject:

Bad author bios:

2. A Good Headshot

Amazon wants an author photograph.  Goodreads wants an author photograph.  If you guest post, often (though not always), they’ll want a photo of you.  If you’re using your Facebook page to connect with people at conventions, they’ll want to know who to look for.

Theodora Goss had a great post about how to fake being photogenic:

There’s also this, if you need more inspiration:

3. A One-Sheet

When I worked for a record label, we wrote one-sheets to go with every new release. You should write one for every book you publish.  It will go in every paperback copy of your book that you send out to reviewers.  You can use it as the book’s homepage online.  Your one-sheet should include your book cover image, the book’s description, blurbs, and information on release date, publisher, and where it will be for sale: bookstores, Amazon, Indiebound, your website, etc. And of course it should be no longer than a single printed page.

This is the one-sheet I wrote for my space opera trilogy, even though it was published by Night Shade:

4. An Author Website

Now that you have the basics nailed down, you need an author website to display them.  This is your home on the web, where interested readers will come to find out what you are doing next.  It’s also where interviewers and podcasters will come to see if you’re worth their time.  It needs to look absolutely clean and profession.

I used to have a designer-created website, but it was frustrating because I couldn’t update the pages myself. I put together my own site on WordPress, because they are  set up for people who are not designers.

This is the easiest list of how to set up your own site:

Elements every author’s website needs:

5. An Amazon Author Page

Every author needs an Amazon page.  Amazon doesn’t make them easy to find, but you can set up a page at You will need your photo, bio, and website info handy.  If your book is sold on Amazon already, you can claim it as yours and Amazon will add it to your author page.

Personally, I think Amazon’s design is kind of busy, but it allows you to link your blog and add all the books you have stories in.  Here’s my author page, as an example:

6. A Social Media Strategy

You can’t do it all.  Seems like a new social media site pops up every month.  Usually it’s not worth being an early adapter, unless you want to stake your name, because it isn’t worth wasting time calling into a ghost town.

The most sensible social media advice I’ve read is this:

There are many theories about when you should post on social media. This one made sense to me:

7. An Author Blog

Blogging is a great way to draw people to your work.  There are many blogging platforms, from the abovementioned WordPress to Blogger to Blogspot for text, Instagram and Tumblr for images.  There are more blogging sites all the time.  (See above: shouting into a void.)

I’ve heard that Google’s algorithm prioritizes sites that update frequently, but you risk chasing readers away if you post too often.  People unsubscribe if they can’t keep up with you.  I’m an advocate of blogging once or twice a week with text, but daily on Instagram or Tumblr.

WordPress has a free online course for beginning bloggers:\

More useful, though, is Britt Bravo’s Juicy Blogging e-course, which starts early next month.  I’ve taken several courses from Britt, but I’m only an advocate, not a shill. Her courses are both inspirational and extremely useful.

8. Guest Blogging

I am a huge proponent of blogging for other people’s sites. I know there’s a long list of reasons why working for exposure will kill you, but your work isn’t going to magically sell itself to people you don’t know.  You need to get it out in front of strangers.  Either you can spend money on ads, or you can spend time writing a guest post.  You tell me:  which one is more likely to sway you to buy a book?

This site has annoying popups, but the information on how to pitch a guest post is on point:

9. Goodreads

Too often, writers make the mistake of joining writers’ groups, then trying to sell their books to other writers. If you want to connect with readers, go where readers are.  I lean toward Goodreads over LibraryThing because I like the way it is set up.  At the very least, if your books don’t have a listing, you should add them.  Beyond that, you should have an author page. They are easy to set up.

LibraryThing doesn’t accept giveaways of self-published books, but Goodreads will encourage you to do a book giveaway. While I’m not convinced that people who add your book to their reading lists will actually purchase copies, they will have at least seen your book and expressed interest in it.  The books you give away is your payment for getting onto their radar.

How to use Goodreads’ author program:

My Goodreads Author page:

10. Step Away from the Computer

After you’ve done everything you can online, it’s time to think about doing live events.  I encourage everyone to do readings.  If there isn’t a reading series where you live, set up an event at your local library, bookstore, or coffee shop.

The #1 thing people forget when they’re going to read in public – whether you set the event up yourself or you’re part of someone else’s show – is to ADVERTISE it.  Let people know. Invite your friends.  It’s awful to stand in front of an empty room.

I don’t necessarily advocate solo book signings. Unless you can count on all your friends’ support – or you have mad selling skillz and can seduce strangers out of their hard-earned cash – signings can be frustrating.  With a reading, they’re getting a free taste of the work you want to sell them. Do it right and they’ll be in the mood to treat themselves.

Here’s the distillation of my knowledge on giving readings:

So.  Whew.  That’s the quick list of ten things you should be doing to sell your books right now.  Have you tried any or all of them?  What worked for you?  What would you like to try next?

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