Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Shameless" Book Promotion Tips from Brenna Lyons

Book promotion is a daunting task for a beginner, but fortunately there are generous veterans of the process like Brenna Lyons who are willing to help guide us in the first shaky steps of our journey. Brenna is a prolific, best-selling author of sci-fi and erotic romance including the Renegade series, the Night Warriors series and the Kegin series. She lectures frequently on book promotion at conferences, and her discussions on the topic are without a doubt some of the most useful and well-organized materials I’ve consulted. I’m thrilled that Brenna has agreed to an interview in conjunction with this month’s Shameless Self-Promotion column on creative uses of the Internet for book promotion.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I know you especially enjoy promoting your books as a featured author in chat rooms. What are the benefits of this form of promotion?

Brenna Lyons: All marketing is selling you first and then the books. Readers want a piece of you, personally. Even more than talking to them on mailing lists (and a less stressful environment than talking to them face-to-face), chat rooms allow the readers to get a real-time idea of what it's like to talk to you. No long, thought-out replies as you have in e-mail, for instance. It's more intimate and more real.

SSP: How do you arrange to be featured in a chat room? Any places that are especially friendly to erotica writers?

There are a lot of places that are friendly, but I find it's easier to join promotion groups like IWOFA (Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors) or your publisher in group chats to start. Once you've done some "buddy chats," built up a name with the readers there, gotten comfortable with the situation, go back and ask those venues if they ever do single author chats. Another benefit to belonging to promo groups is that they will sometimes post opportunities for single promo.

Now, if you do a single, it's easier to do it with several books under your belt. An hour is a long time to talk about one book. If all you've got is one, it might be better to do a buddy chat with a friend who is of a similar genre and temperament...or one of you is the nurturer in chat and the other needs coaxing. You never want to get into a position where you have one quiet chatter and one overbearing chatter that doesn't coax the former out. It's unsatisfying for the quiet chatter and for the readers in attendance.

SSP: Are there ways a beginner can prepare for a chat?

In addition to doing buddy chats to start? Sure.

Pick venues that are to your comfort level. Some chat rooms are moderated or have a strict stand-in-line-and-wait-your-turn policy about asking the author questions and/or have rules about what questions are too personal to ask. Others are no holds barred and fast-moving. I prefer the latter, but not every author does. Ask around and attend someone else's chat in the prospective room to see how theirs runs.

Go in prepared. If you cannot type quickly, have a DOC or RTF file open with things like your blurbs in it. Most chat sites allow a small amount of copy and paste instead of typing, so break the blurbs down into a sentence or two per "copy line." If you get flustered, have Post-It Notes around your desk with pertinent facts on them. Since so many people ask me for things like my current resume or how many releases I have in the next quarter, I tend to count it before chats and use a Post-It to keep the up-to-date numbers on hand.

Relax. Keep in mind that the readers aren't there to jump on you. They are interested in you and/or your work. They are looking to buy new authors. They WANT to like you. So, try not to get too nervous.

Typos are expected. In fact, we jokingly call them "chatroomese," and that's spoken in all chats. No one expects your typing to be perfect in a chat room.

And don't forget to promote your chat! On your site, Facebook, blog, MySpace, lists that allow a promo post for such things (but remember that it's considered rude to promote a chat at review site A's chat room at review site B's list). You'll find that there is a core readership that routinely makes all a certain chat room's chats, but you may draw in new readers, and they like that.

SSP: Any advice on mistakes to avoid while discussing your work in a chat room?

I already said to familiarize yourself with the chat room etiquette of the room you're in. Keep your responses to the room level. If it's a staid room with taboo topics, don't be too over the top. If it's no-holds barred, you don't have to go full bore, but you don't have to worry about it either.

These people want to know you, but they are not your confidants. Think about a cocktail party with strangers. There are just some things you don't want or need to tell them.

SSP: Can you tell us about one or two other favorite ways to promote your books?

One of the best (and most enjoyable) promos I do would be either free reads or writing stories for the byline (or for charity anthologies). It also tends to give me a good return on investment.

I also enjoy making banner ads (animated GIFs) and book videos. That's my down time...an enjoyable sideline to writing.

SSP: Do you have any general words of advice for a newbie promoter?

Like anything else in book marketing, everything you do will appeal to a certain percentage of the readership. You can't just do one thing. You want a wide variety of them, and then you want to net them together so you (for instance) use good reviews on your blog, in your signature line, your mailing list, etc.

Should chats be all you do? Of course not! That's one facet of marketing. All told, there should be several subdivisions of online marketing...

ONLINE PRESENCE- author web site, MySpace, Facebook, Amazon Author Central, Red Room Authors, Manic Readers page, TRS page, Ning, author newsletter or newsletter list, etc.

BLOGS- Blogger, LiveJournal, Amazon, Ning, MySpace, etc.

MINI-BLOGS- Twitter, Google Wave, Facebook, etc.

GROUPS- Yahoo or Google groups, and don't forget your tag line...not just reader loops but also author loops...don't heavy sell it; talk about whatever they are talking about

FORUMS- depending on your genre

CHATS- I think we've covered that. Grinning...

INTERVIEWS- not just print ones online but also internet radio and so forth...don't forget to use these other places...all promotion should be a web of overlapping and interlocking efforts

REVIEWS- it's not enough to have them...use them with your other efforts

CROSS-LINKING- with other authors, publishers, on sites that keep lists of certain genres and book content

BANNER ADS- not just pay ones on review sites but also free ones on all of your online presence (blogs, pages, etc.) and cross-banner with other authors

PROMO/NETWORKING GROUPS- places like IWOFA, BroadUniverse, and Bookwormbags

CONTESTS- not just on your own site but also group contests with places like IWOFA

SPOTLIGHTS- often held for several hours or all day on Yahoo or Google groups...or for a week or month on review sites...which means having representative blurbs and excerpts, which rank high in the online return on investment scale

FREE READS- at least for short periods of time and/or short stories that tie to existing worlds you write in

WRITING SHORT STORIES/ARTICLES for magazines or charity anthologies (for the byline) and anthologies (for small payment and exposure of the byline)...small investment from you and big returns

And so forth. For the best return, authors should choose at least one or two of the possible promo types in as many of these SUBDIVISIONS as he/she is comfortable with and then make them work together in a promo web.

In addition, though online marketing has double the return (in general) that physical promo does, a little physical promo is always a good idea.

ADS- online and in magazines...get into group ads, when possible, but don't overdo it, since research shows you need to repeat ads in the same venue upwards of 6-10 times to get the best return from it, and few people can afford that

PROMO CDS- especially if you can get into group ones with a low overhead

WEARING/CARRYING YOUR OWN PROMO GEAR- bumper stickers, t-shirts, carry the book, keychains...carry extras of small things with you...carry business cards with you

STREET TEAMS- wearing/carrying your promo gear and passing it out, wherever they are

CARD CULT- this is a fun one and very inexpensive

SIGNED BOOKPLATES- enough said...these are very popular with some readers

DODADS- pens, pins, etc. Pens are a good choice, because people are less likely to throw them away. Some people do collect signed paper promos, but they are more likely to be trashed than pens are; if people don't keep them, they pass them along, and that's good. Be sure to have a catchy tag line on them. Use them in group efforts like Bookwormbags. BUT...don't just leave them places or stuff them in bills or whatever, willy nilly. Pens are about the only promo that does well when left in places where people use pens (signing checks, making out bank deposits, etc.) Most left-behind promo gets trashed.

ALL promo is cumulative. What you do, combined with what they do, combined with what other authors with the publisher do that brings people to the publisher site, benefits you...and vice versa. So, don't be shy about passing along recommended reads of other books/authors with your publisher. Don't be shy about passing along special events the publisher is doing, even if they don't directly seem to benefit you. Don't be shy about teaching the other authors how to market, if you know more than they do.

I could go on and on, but the full class I teach on this is 30 pages of notes.

SSP: Thank you so much, Brenna, for this wealth of helpful information! You can read more advice from Brenna at Broadsheet or attend one of her talks at your next writer's conference.

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

5 comments:

  1. What excellent advice, Brenna! I have only one question. What is a card cult? I haven't heard of that before.

    Also, when you say byline ... can you define that for me?

    Thanks for sharing such good info. I learned some new things today!

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  2. Thank you so much for all this excellent information. Living in the UK, it's usually difficult for me to attend 'live chats' but sometimes there are 'all day chats' which is great for me, being about five hours ahead of Eastern time it means I can take part in the afternoon or evening which is the morning and afternoon for folks over the pond! Lots of other good info here too. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Very good ideas.
    I'm wondering what a "card cult" is too...
    I am some promo items (baseball cap, T-shirt) I got for free through Vista Print, but never thought of wearing them myself! Duh!
    Thanks for the enlightening interview.

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  4. Thanks for this information. It's great to know that this exists.

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  5. Hi Brenna, thanks for all the tips, they are great!
    Chloe

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