Friday, July 23, 2010

The Shy Writer's Guide to Promotion, or Why I Love the Internet

Please welcome historical romance author Victoria Gray to the blog.

Personality tests tell me I’m an extrovert, though I suspect I actually straddle the line between extrovert and introvert. It may seem a contradiction, but I’m a reserved extrovert. It takes me a while to warm up to people, and I don’t look forward to making small talk with people I don’t know. Once I’m comfortable with you, watch out – I’ll talk your ear off. But before that time arrives, I’m rather quiet. So, the idea of book signings and face-to-face promotion isn’t incredibly appealing to me. I’ll do what it takes to promote my book, but I’m a writer, and I communicate best through the written word. That’s where the Internet comes in.

The Internet is a wonderful tool for writers, shy or not, to promote their work. Whether you’re pre-pubbed or a bestselling author, the Internet is a tremendous promotion resource. However, with so many promotion opportunities offered by the web, sorting through the options can be a bit mindboggling. There’s no way you can keep up with every Internet promo option that comes along. So, prioritizing is essential.

In my humble opinion, every author needs a website. Your website is a way to showcase your work and give your readers and prospective readers a look at you as a person and a writer. Fortunately, the cost of a website is extremely reasonable. Internet hosts offer domain names (the name of your site) and often feature templates that make it easy to design and maintain your own website. It’s possible to set up a multipage website and maintain the domain name for about $100 per year. I created my webpage in one weekend and periodically update it. I’m looking to fine-tune and expand in the near future – for this upgrade, I may obtain the services of a web designer. Many web designers are reasonably priced and create beautiful sites. Ask other authors with sites you admire to recommend a web designer or share hints on designing your own site. You’ll be surprised at how affordable a great website can be.

A blog is another vital tool for authors. You can set up your own blog or participate in a group blog. I’m a monthly contributor to Seduced by History, a blog comprised of historical romance writers, and contribute to other blogs on a guest basis (thanks, Rebecca!). I’ve visited several blogs in the past few months to coincide with the release of my historical, Destiny. I’ve posted historical articles, interviews about me, interviews about my characters, and a few posts that were just for fun, such as my tribute to bad boys on Seduced by History last month. An author can readily set up a blog within a few hours. Oh, did I mention that blogs are free? Sites such as WordPress and Blogger offer free blog space with a variety of bells and whistles for a price no one can deny is a bargain. What could be better than free?

While we’re thinking about free resources, an author should invest the time to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. All it takes is an email and a little time, and you’re good to go. I’ve noticed many top bestselling authors have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they post a great deal more than information on their books. One of my favorites, Teresa Medeiros, frequently posts pictures of her pet cats and reports brief anecdotes on their antics, reflects on recent movies and book releases, and posts pictures of gorgeous men. Her posts and tweets display a personal touch. This is endearing and makes her all the more relatable to her readers. To be honest, I’m working on this aspect in my posts…I’m a work in progress. I’m held back by the question – Why would anyone care about this? After all, I’m not famous or bestselling. But hopefully, if one or two “friends” can relate to something I’ve posted, they might become interested in my writing.

Twitter is another resource I use. I have to confess to being very limited in my tweets. I try to focus on writing, not watching the Twitter feed, which can become somewhat addictive. Some authors are masters at using the tiny bits of information you can put out with Twitter to promote their work. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Online loops are another great free resource. I post excerpts and information on blog postings, new releases, and other items of interest (at least, I hope they’re of interest!) on my publisher’s online loop and also on my RWA interest group loops. Online loops are also terrific sources for networking, support, and research. The Hearts through History group is a treasure trove of writers with expertise in everything from medieval weaponry to the proper way to address a Baron. Other special interest groups discuss everything from erotica to the paranormal. Whatever your writing interest, there’s a group for you.

What Internet resources do you find most useful? What would you suggest to authors for promotion? What about advertising on websites? Have you tried it? Would you recommend it?

Victoria Gray wrote her first story soon after she started elementary school. When she was in the third grade, her mother bought her a Smith Corona manual typewriter. She was officially a writer! A trained librarian, Victoria uses her research skills to explore other eras in time. Her interest in research is a perfect fit with her work as a writer of historical romance. Victoria lives in Virginia with her own hero, her husband, Greg. The mother of two sons who are used to their mother burning food to a crisp when she runs back to her computer to write just a little bit more, she enjoys cycling, hiking and long walks on the beach when she’s not writing, reading or burning dinner. You can learn more about Victoria's writing on her website, her group blog, and her book trailer.

18 comments:

  1. I like your post from your heart, very interesting and Informative
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  2. Thanks! I've found so many ways to promote on the Internet...and most are free : )

    Victoria

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  3. Hey, Victoria! Thanks so much for being on my blog this week.

    Becky

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  4. Great post, Victoria! Another more passive way to promote is to leave comments on others' blogs. At the very least, it might get readers to my website or blog.

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  5. Susan--"passive way to promote"...LOVE it. That's my kind of promoting. And I totally agree. Good excuse to go read some blogs.

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  6. Hi Victoria!
    I have a blog and I belong to a few writers loops. When I get published I plan to create a website. I'm outgoing by nature and can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. That being said, I'm not a fan of crowds and I'm not a born salesperson who will actively seek out people to buy my book.....uh....when I have a book to sell that is. The thought of a book signing fills me with fear, not so much because I'll have to interact with people, but what if no one comes!!!

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  7. Hi Susan,
    I agree...leaving comments on blogs is a great, easy way to promote, as well as a chance to exchange ideas and make connections with other writers. You never know who's reading the comments as well as the post : )

    Victoria

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  8. Hi Wendy,
    I'm like you...I'm not crazy about the book signing concept. I'd be curious to see statistics as to whether book signings really drive up sales, especially with so many people buying books on the web rather than in stores.

    Victoria

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  9. Hi Victoria,

    Yes, I agree about making a presence on the net. But I've never quite figured out how to do some things such as writing on the wall. LOL Technology, technology, technology, gotta keep up!

    I love my website. Mine is less than $20 a year and comes with a nice assortment of templates and designs. It's not fancy but it's enough for me and the price is right.

    BTW, we have a mutual friend whose dad is a website designer. Well, he's a computer geek by day and has done his daughter's website. I want him to do mine when I can afford it.

    It's much easier to sit in pajamas and promote via the web then to attempt to do book signings at the neighborhood bookstore. (Are there any of them left?) Fortunately there are things that can be done in person and I do think readers like meeting authors. That human contact is still important.

    When I have to do something in person, I play ducky. Look serene on the surface and paddle like crazy. The web is so much easier!

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  10. Great suggestion for fact to face meetings. I love the playing ducky analogy. I'll definitely keep that in mind. :)

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  11. I've been lucky to have some friends get published before me. It has been a great exercise in do this, don't do that. One friend had an immense launch party. Restaurant downtown, hundreds of people. So not me! I now know I want just a small party at my house with family and friends, catered so I don't have to do anything. My idea of a fun time.

    I love Twitter and Facebook. I like to seem like an extrovert - online. LOL

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  12. Jill,
    You took the words right out of my mouth...uh...keyboard...I like to seem like an extrovert when I can do it without actually having to be around people ; )

    Victoria

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  13. I will admit to being a total introvert in person.
    But the internet makes it so easy. No one sees me, so it's so much easier.
    I like commenting on blogs. People work so hard at them and a comment makes their day sometimes. I like to think I made someone feel better. Less alone. When I see 30 comments I might just read it and leave. But someone with a few comments grabs me and I have found the most wonderful blogs that way!!
    I don't like twitter, I don't care what people are doing every second. I have yet to see how that helps much. But...
    Facebook I like and use it often. Though I wish I knew how to design a better page. Eventually I'll learn!

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  14. Mary,
    I use Twitter, but I don't go crazy with it. I use it more to put out announcements and very brief updates on where I'm blogging. Facebook is wonderful! I love the features that allow you to share links and photos.

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  15. Hi Victoria,
    I loved your blog and decided to answer the question you put to us. Similar to you, I had a book published and needed to promote it the best way I knew how. I asked my web mistress ( some of us just can't set up our own websites - lack of time, knowledge and stay-with-it-ness. Okay, you're right, being a techie-wuss does play into it some. Anyway,back to the subject, she told me that she had done a study of promoting and felt the best tool any writer could have was a newsletter that people would sign up to receive. That way, whenever you sent it out, it would go to people who cared about you and were interested in following your career.
    Made good sense to me aand so I've set one up.
    If you'd like to see what I mean, e-mail me at mimibarbour@hotmail.com and I'll send you a copy. It has the same template as my website and is really fun to work with.

    Mimi

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  16. The internet and email could have been made for me! I dread social gatherings but I really enjoy the whole online social etworking concept - I have to rein myself in or I'd spend all my time blogging etc and no time writing! You've made some great points, Victoria. Thanks.

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  17. I'm with you on the book signings. I'm quiet too until I warm up to people. It about kills me if I have to speak in front of people I don't know.

    Without the Internet, I would be lost. There's so many opportunities to promote and they're free. Yahoo groups are great, too.

    Thanks for sharing.

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