Regular readers know I use the Scoopit! tool to curate helpful stuff about indie publishing I find around the web. I learn a lot researching blogs, link to good content so you can find it and include my comments on the posts I recommend. Sharing and spreading publishing news is a happy bonus. If I believed in karma, helping strangers for free would be the good kind. Today, let’s talk about what makes your articles, posts and tweets attractive nuggets to link to.
But first, a true story: Anguished Author goes to A+ Agent for a meeting about her book. A+ Agent says, “The contract is signed but you need to build your platform more and you’ve got to make a viral video for the book trailer.”
Two thoughts about this story:
Writing helpful blog content and building back links is one way to build a strong platform. Author sites tend to be too much “Me, me, me,” and a more effective author site is more about “You, you, you, the reader.” Figuring out what helps people will help you build your platform. (For instance, my author site is plastered with information about my books, yes, but it’s also my fountain of free comedy/fiction/narrative/commentary podcasts to extend my reach beyond fellow writers to the reading public.)
Sorry, but you don’t get to make a viral video. You make a book trailer. It will go viral or not according to the whims of other people, unless you pay a bunch of kids and robots to pimp it in chatrooms across the Internet. However, since all book trailers (except this fake one) are lame, that won’t work and you’ll fail to dictate the world’s taste. Cute and funny are your best bets since your budget for movie production is not the same as the Prometheus trailer and the audience is jaded by all that amazing acting and CGI.
So what makes me want to retweet and spread the word about your blog? There are some solid rules that are universally applicable and then there’s my capricious, subjective taste. That kind of makes me sound like a prick, but everybody’s got topics that push their buttons. The words: “how to” are probably the most powerful words in a blog headline for anyone. (See the “how to” title at the top of this post? You clicked it.) Self-publishing is a new world and everyone wants a tour guide.
Here’s what’s going through my head as I decide what to link to and promote:
1. I’m reluctant to post something that is time-limited, such as headlines that say, “Final hours of the giveaway” or “Tuesday Only!” My Twitter followers and blog readers might not get the message right away and I don’t want to annoy them with what they missed.
2. (A) Don’t write too many headlines that are too spammy. (No one knows how many “too many” is.) I don’t mind blog posts that reference your books. I do that myself freely and it makes sense to draw from firsthand experience. However, a headline that says “Buy my book” is only for your hardcore fans who will buy it no matter what. That draws no one new into your tent for the revival meeting.
2. (B) But! A major caveat since this book promotion thing is tricky: If you balance the promotional content with free education, entertainment and jokes about your genitals, that’s reasonable. Blogging is a lot of free entertainment and information provision. If you can find a reasonable balance, that’s fine with most people. Ask people to buy your book on your own blog and your own feed as long as that’s not all you do. (And by the way, just because you don’t want to read it, doesn’t make it spam. Someone else may want to whisk it off to Paris and pledge undying love over cheap red wine and croissants.) Fortune does not favour the timid. Take it from a timid person who has resolved to pretend to be an extrovert.
For instance, I auto-tweet a welcome message when anyone follows me on my twitter accounts (@rchazzchute, @thechazzsays, @expartepress). The fun message (of doom!) provides links to my books. My guess is, people who hate that — and some really do — were never going to buy my books anyway. Others will either appreciate the heads up or suck it up, buttercup! Since adding the auto-tweets, my sales have gone up. So there. (I also don’t cooperate with the twit validation service thing. It’s slow and painful and if you want me in your feed, you want me. If you don’t, don’t. Don’t be a pansy about Twitter.)
3. No poetry. I wrote a book of poetry. I like it, but it’s too small a niche and outside what people expect when they come to ChazzWrites. It’s sad, but there it is. Margaret Atwood has written nine books of poetry last I checked, but even many of her fans would be surprised by the news that she’s one bad rhymin’ mammerjammer. Here it’s all about self-publishing, book marketing, writing craft, how-to, industry news and the occasional flambé of whimsy in your face.
4. Technical advice with specifics is great. Just this past week I linked to a post with step-by-step stuff about publishing to the Kindle. Hold my hand and I might get a crush on you. I’m easy that way. I might even whisk you off to Paris and pledge my undying love. Well, no. I’m borderline agoraphobic and I’m locked behind a hermetically sealed hatch in a subterranean bunker and you’re out in the real world doing…things. Blech! So we’re not going to Paris. However, I love tech advice and admire those tech-oriented authors from afar. Often I link to something I want to hold on to. Sure, I could just bookmark it on a reading list to get lost in the depths of my computer, but on my blog it’s easily searchable and organized.
5. Be a buddy. Long time readers may notice I mention Kit Foster quite a bit. It’s not just because he is a brilliant graphic designer. He’s also my graphic designer. Another ally in the fight is my friend Dave from the School of Podcasting. My podcast wouldn’t exist without Dave Jackson. We stay in touch on Skype and end up mentioning each other on our podcasts from time to time, too. There are certain bloggers and fellow authors who are my go-to people simply because I know them better than others. They consistently offer advice that is honest, positive and fresh.
Last week, Jeff Bennington posted a great article about working with ACX to produce audiobooks. That’s something I want to do and Jeff is consistently a trailblazer. And no, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve spoken with Jeff. We’re in touch on Twitter and the odd email. He designed my first paperback, Self-help for Stoners, and I’m quoted a couple of times in his book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. After he read my novella, The Dangerous Kind, he gave me my first cover blurb, too. I’m a shy people pleaser with an inferiority complex spackled over poorly with bravado, so anybody who’s nice and knowledgable gets links from me.
6. Be a thought leader in the industry. I often point my readers to Russell Blake, Dean Wesley Smith, Kathryn Rusch and JA Konrath. They talk real sales numbers and how scary the industry is. They say things I don’t want to hear, but argue their points well. (Also, please allow comments on your blog if you don’t already. I do not always agree with articles I link to, but if the comment thread is lively and informational, I’ll often point readers that way for the instructive debate.)
7. Join Triberr. I retweet my tribe on Triberr. Last week, I liked Caleb Pirtle’s blog post so much I linked to it from here, too. Triberr is one way I become aware of useful stuff.
8. Join a Tweet Team at World Literary Cafe. Book promotion is more effective when someone else is doing it for you and I’ve found great people that way.
9. Write a great book and be a great interview. Occasionally I run interviews with authors. Sometimes I discover authors through their books first, not through their blogs. Somehow Blake Crouch had been merrily successful for some time but, sadly, I didn’t know about him until I stumbled across Run. I subscribed and will be watching his feed for something useful that you’d enjoy. Through a mutual friend, I also just discovered Scott Bakker, author of Disciple of the Dog. It’s a brilliant book. He’s in my home town and we know the same people so I’m sure I’ll meet him at some point. I’ve promoted him on Twitter already and I hope he’ll show up here or on my podcast or both at some point.
10. Reciprocate. (This is #5 with a different angle.) Eden Baylee did a great thing in organizing Indies Unite for Joshua. I supported the campaign and Eden consistently supports my efforts as I support hers. She even interviewed me for her blog (Go ahead and check out that interview. It’s X-rated, fun and wow! I was way took honest!) Eden is a constant friend on Twitter, too, and sometime we’ll chat over coffee when next I escape the bunker for Toronto. I don’t forget people who are kind. Sadly, I also have an eidetic memory for pinheads, too, but the point is I especially try to help people who help me.
Sometimes I point to a kind of obscure blog. Other times, I say the obvious with, “Have you seen what Joanna Penn is saying?”
Sometimes it’s all “Me! Me! Me!” I try to find the reasonable balance, though.
- Quote Trailers vs. Book Trailers: What’s a Quote Trailer? (chazzwrites.com)
- A fantastic book trailer (fuonlyknew.wordpress.com)
- Book Trailer: Write A F*$%’ing Book Already (jimkukral.com)
- Author Blog Challenge: The Writing Mistake You Might be Making (chazzwrites.com)
- Author Blog Challenge 9: The key to a great critique group is… (plus a funny bonus) (chazzwrites.com)
- Day 8 of the Author Blog Challenge: Indie Self-defence (chazzwrites.com)
- Top 10 DO’s and DON’Ts for Self-Publishing – based on my experience (alisonwauthor.wordpress.com)