Promoting Your Novel Part 1: Networking and Social Media
You have spent years writing and rewriting a book. You’ve slaved over every sentence, often stressing over one word for days. Your paragraphs are works of art. They build into perfectly constructed chapters that entice the reader to turn the page. You are ready to publish.
Now it’s time to sit back and accept the praise for a job well done. Right?
Wrong! Absolutely wrong! It’s now time to work harder.
It’s been just over a year since my debut novel Mama’s Shoes was published by Abbott Press. At the time, I was querying agents in the hope that one would be interested in the book I had labored over for three years. In the midst of this, I discovered a contest on Twitter that was sponsored by Writer’s Digest and Abbott Press. It was called #Pitch2Win, and the object was to pitch your novel in the 140 characters allowed on Twitter. The winner received a publishing contract with Abbott Press.
I entered and went on to win the Grand Prize, and my dream became a reality. I had a book! When I got my first copy, I sat down and savored it, turning it over and over in my hands; touching every page. Then, I showed it off to my family and friends and soaked up their congratulations. When I finally managed to get my feet back on the ground, I realized I had just begun. It was not time to sit back and let Mama’s Shoes fend for itself in the world. On the contrary, the work on my novel had just begun. It was time to deploy a full-scale assault plan I had ready and waiting when Mama’s Shoes debuted.
Step One: Network — Before your book is published, network with other authors. A well-known author’s blurb on your cover is worth its weight in gold. I had the good fortune to be from the same hometown as bestselling author, Lee Smith. I have followed her stellar career since I can remember, attending her readings and workshops. When I finished my novel, she asked to read it and then gave me a wonderful endorsement for my cover. I met Amy Greene, author of the bestseller, Bloodroot, at an Appalachian writers’ workshop. She was gracious and read my novel before it was published and offered another “thumbs up” blurb for my cover.
Prepare for the release of your book by identifying and networking with the venues in your area that will sell your book. Being from a small coal town in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, there are no bookstores within a hundred mile radius, so I went to my local library. Public libraries have a “friends of the library” organization whose job is to bring in authors and other book related programs. My local library was thrilled when I asked if I could have my book debut there. They advertised the event with a display in the lobby and arranged for the local newspaper to run a story — one of those “small town girl makes good” stories.
In the meantime, I had a database of names and addresses. I sent glossy postcards showing my book cover with an enticing description, to everyone in my database. I compiled my database from contact information handed out at writer’s workshops I had attended over the years.
I joined the local chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club and became an active member. Even though there are no bookstores near my home, there are other places that sell books such as a local Appalachian Artisan Center. By the time my novel was a year old, I had done readings at every library in the four counties surrounding my home as well as schools and nearby colleges. My book was available in the gift shop of several upscale artisan centers for Appalachian artists, and an art museum’s gift shop in a nearby town.
Step Two: Social Media — When my novel debuted, I already had a website, blog, and Facebook profile. I added an author’s Facebook page that I keep updated with everything to do with Mama’s Shoes, including lots and lots of pictures of me giving readings, selling books at fairs, even reading to elementary school children on Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat Day.
I joined LinkedIn, a social networking website for people in professional occupations; Google +, a multilingual social networking and identity service owned and operated by Google Inc.; and Goodreads, a website for social cataloguing of books. Goodreads allows you to add books to your personal bookshelves, rate and review books, participate in discussion boards and groups on a variety of topics. Like Facebook, a user adds friends to her profile, which allows her to see the friends’ shelves and reviews and comment on friends’ pages. On Goodreads, I joined groups where I requested and received reviews for Mama’s Shoes. Another website I discovered is She Writes. It is the largest community of women writers online and offers a variety of support for writers.
Stay tuned for Promoting Your Novel Part 2, in which we’ll discuss the benefits of entering contests, how to prepare for marketing opportunities, and the three keys to creating success as an author.
How do you establish relationships with fellow writers and potential readers?
Rebecca D. Elswick is the award-winning author of Mama’s Shoes. Visit her website at http://www.rebeccaelswick.com.