Building the Buzz: Day 31 Marketing is Never Done

We've finally reached the end of the month. Too bad you are no where near done.
Let's talk about your regularly scheduled programming of never ending marketing. Gah, please don't stab your eye out with a pencil. It would hurt and head wounds make a gigantic mess on your keyboard.

Here's the thing, unless your book takes on a life of its own ala Hunger Games or Harry Potter, it will only stay relevant as long as you keep it relevant. With new releases coming out all the time, your book has a shelf life. Without your help, it won't be very long.

But marketing is about more than just selling your book and keeping it in the public eye. It's about keeping you in the public eye. It means staying current so you don't have to start from scratch when your next book comes out.

You are going to write more books, right? Theoretically, the marketing should be easier each time as you build upon the previously established fan base. But this doesn't work if you let the fan base forget about you. Stay relevant with bonus content, twitter chats, and fan interaction. You don't have to be as present as during the initial marketing push, but don't disappear.

Also, spend this time between launches evaluating what worked and what didn't. Using your goals from yesterday, figure out what will stay on as part of your next marketing plan and what needs tweaking. It's never too early to start planning for the next book.

To make it as a writer, you need to treat your career like a business, because it is. Taking the time to evaluate and understand your marketing strategy is crucial in maintaining success.

I hope this month has given you new ideas and tips for your own marketing strategy. Take and use what works for you and toss out the rest. And when your neck deep in press releases, blog tour posts and arc requests, remind yourself that you're a writer. You have the best job on the planet.

For today's task, take a minute to appreciate that despite all the hard work, being an author is super cool. Then get back to work, you've got marketing plans to make. :)

Building the Buzz: Day 30 Measuring Success

We are getting close to the end of the month. It's time to figure out if you're successful.

I'm not asking you to evaluate your life here, but in marketing, everything we do is a test of the waters. We're looking for the secret special sauce that turns our burger into a Big Mac. But before we can decide if our efforts were productive, we need to figure out what success looks like.

Every author is going to have different goals when it comes to marketing. They will be based on your own experience, where you are in your career and what you want from your publishing.The key is identifying what that looks like to you.

Maybe you want to sell x number of books. Possibly you want to earn back your advance in six months. Maybe you are still building your platform and just want to grow your subscriber or mailing list.

Any of those goals are fine so long as you know what they are. If you set out to sell 5,000 books in your release month then that's your benchmark. But here's the danger of not setting that benchmark. Let's say you sell 6K copies that first month. If your goal was 5K, you're feeling pretty good. But if you don't set the goal, then hear that so and so sold 8K their first month. Well, what looked like a winning marketing plan, is now seen as a dismal failure.

The only way to know if what you are doing is working is to set a realistic goal. You may not make it, but then you know that you need to tweak the plan.

There is a caveat to this. Your goal must be realistic. If you are measuring success against getting an invite to co-host the Today show in the first month of your release, you are going to fall short. Not to be all doom and gloom here, but that's not going to happen. An unrealistic goal sets your plan up for failure no matter what you do.

So give yourself a realistic goal and then check in every month or so. How are you doing? Getting close? Great, keep on keeping on. No where near on track? Maybe it's time to reevaluate the plan.

Having an endgame in mind from the beginning lets you keep yourself focused on a single prize and, ultimately, success.

Today's task: if you haven't already, define what success looks like to you right now. No matter what it is, write it down somewhere and don't forget to check in with yourself.

Before I close out today's post, I want to remind everyone that today is the last day to bid in Brenda Novak's huge auction for diabetes research. Please take a minute to pop over there and check out the amazing items available.

Building the Buzz: Day 29 Thank You

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We've been taught since we were old enough to talk that when someone gives you something, you say thank you. Even us barbarian, cave dwelling writers know it. Yet, somehow, it doesn't always get said.

Oh sure, if someone physically gives us something we say thank you. And most of us remember on the occasion of grand gestures to show our appreciation. Unfortunately, it's the little things that get overlooked and are sometimes the most important.

Here are a few places that deserve a little adulation that might get missed:

1. The reviewer who wrote not just a review, but an absolute masterpiece of heartfelt appreciation for your book.
2. The reader who stopped by and commented at every single one of your blog tour stops.
3. The fan who sent a letter to tell you how much they enjoyed your work.
4. Everyone who is a part of an event. Not just the coordinator, but the staff who worked overtime to get everything ready, the nice lady who brought you an extra bottle of cold water, and the janitor who helped clean up when condensation caused that same bottle to slip from your hand and spill all over you. And don't forget the A/V guys. People always forget them.
5. Your blog readers.
6. Any and all media contacts.

Of course, a genuine "Thank you" is perfectly fine, but sometimes it's appropriate (and extra nice) to send a card. It takes only a few minutes, but an actual thank you note can have such an impact.

I used to give tours of the non-profit hospital where I worked. Everyone always said thank you afterwards, but one time, a tour attendee when above and beyond. He took the time to find out my full name and then sent an absolutely lovely note to MY BOSS, telling her what a great job I did. Talk about making my whole week. I still remember Mr. Jones (even though that event was several years ago) and made a point to find him to say hello any time he came to visit the hospital. And when his wife passed away, it was my turn to send a note. A simple thank you note created a friendship. Who knows what it can do for you.

So let me take a minute to say thank you to all of you. I have loved sharing my experience with you this month. I've been blessed by your participation and your willingness to spread the word about my little slice of the internet. Thank you!

Today's task, think about everyone who deserves a special thank you and make a point to send them a quick note of thanks.

Building the Buzz: Day 28 Ask for Help

It can be uncomfortable and, for some, it brings up feelings of inadequacy, but there's just no way around it. You are going to be a more productive marketer if you ask for help.

I touched on this a bit yesterday in how to build a street team, but it's important enough to warrant its own post. Why? Because for some reason, asking for help can bring out some very negative emotions. But here's the deal. You didn't write your book by yourself. No way. You had CPs who looked at those ugly early drafts, beta readers who pointed out your gaping plot holes, family members and roommates who talked you down off the ledge when you were certain every word coming from your fingertips was pure rubbish. You had help. Marketing your book isn't any different.

And here's a secret for you. There are probably a lot of people out there who want to help you, but don't want to offer because of their own fears and insecurities. They are just waiting for you to ask.

So what should I ask for? Anything! If you're going to be in a new town for a signing, ask for lunch recommendations. Then ask the people who gave you recommendations if they want to join you.

If a fan tweets about your book (see why you want a hashtag), after you say thank you, ask if they would be willing to leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

If you see a site filled with your core group of readers, ask if you can write a guest post.

The lesson here is don't wait around for people to approach you to make things happen. Nine times out of ten, they won't do it and you'll be left with nothing but a missed opportunity.

For today's task, think of something you've been wanting or have a hankering to do. Now ask for it. Don't wait. Don't take four days to craft the perfect email and then save it to the draft folder until the timing is right. Ask today. Make it happen.

Building the Buzz: Day 27 Street Team

When I first heard of a Street Team, I pictured a dance crew krumping in an alley wearing baggy jeans and high top sneakers. I realize now that Street Teams don't dance. I still picture them with high top sneakers.

So what is a street team? It's not nearly as complicated as you might think. Your team is exactly that. A team of people who have committed to helping you spread the word about your book in any way they can.

Who makes up a street team? Maybe your friends and family, but hopefully, it includes people you don't know since they will have different contacts than you.

How do you get a street team? Ready for this earth shattering news? You ask people to be a part of it. Ask you friends and family to ask people they know to join. Send out an invitation via your most comfortable social media outlets. In short, you ask.

How can a street team help me? Lots of ways. Here is a short list of things you can ask your street team to do. This is in no way comprehensive.

1. Write a review for their local paper/school.
2. Ask local book stores if they will be carrying your book.
3. Ask the local library/school library to carry your book.
4. Drum up attendance if you are at an event in their area or push readers toward your blog tour.
5. Tell their friends about your book.

What should I do for my street team? Above all else, thank them. After all, they are going to possibly do a lot of work for you that in no way benefits them. Lots and lots of thank yous are in order. Also, make sure that each of them has at least a digital copy of your book. They can't be ambassadors of your work if they've never read it. Last, ask them how they'd like to be thanked. Do they want swag or would they rather have a signed copy. Maybe they'd like to have a virtual author chat for a group they are apart of. Ask them, and then respond. It might not always be possible to meet their requests, but try as hard as you can.

A Street Team can help you spread the word and pick up the pieces of little things that easily fall through the cracks as your release gets closer. Having a team of fan volunteers can be invaluable.
For more information, check out this great post from Pen and Muse.

For today's task, start the process of recruiting your street team. Ask your friends and online buddies to help you spread the word and put together an introductory email thanking your new team for all the work they are about to do. 

Building the Buzz: Day 26 Video

Your biggest fans are going to want to get to know the author behind the books and the best way to do that is video.

Being the normally hermit like people that writers tend to be, the idea of a video of you hanging out on the internet for all of eternity is probably not your favorite idea. Too bad. Get over it. Sometimes we do things that make us uncomfortable, but we do them anyway. Sometimes we realize it wasn't as bad as we made it out to be. Video is like that.

Here's the thing. Readers like videos. They like knowing that you are a real person with dirty dishes in the sink and a cat that thinks your laptop is her personal heating pad. They like seeing you get excited about big news and emotional about happy news and all the other range of emotions.

Don't believe me?

I dare you to watch this video of Veronica Roth in a tub of marshmallows or this one of Kelly Hashway holding her book for the first time and not fall in love with these authors. Seriously? Kelly's video still gets me teary eyed. Why? Because it shows these authors are real people. They make us laugh and cry and have the feels. We like the feels so then we buy their books. And yes, for the record, I own both of these lady's books.

So don't worry about sounding silly or looking bad or not knowing what to say. Unless you stare at the screen and silently smile like a creepy serial killer, you're good. Just get in front of the camera and let your readers know who you are.

As a bonus, when media organizations are scheduling programming for tv, it makes it easier for them to call you if they see you are already comfortable in front of a camera and won't freak out on their morning show. 

For today's task, record a video. Seriously, any video at all. You don't have to post it. But if you don't, then make a commitment to make another video tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until you have one you like.Then post it. When you do, share the link in the comments so we can all go tell you how fabulous you look.

Building the Buzz: Day 25 Virtual Author Chats

Traveling around the US to promote your book can be lonely, exhausting and expensive. Thank God for technology. Now you can achieve the same thing without leaving your living room. Pants are optional.
There are literally tons of organizations all over the US (and other countries) that would love to have an author come visit them. I know everyone immediately thinks of schools (and then all the adult authors say woe is me). But they aren't the only ones who would benefit from an author chat. Adult literacy programs, ESL programs, national organizations that focus on literacy or even a subject that ties in with the theme of your novel. And this says nothing of libraries, the home base for book lovers.

What a lot of these organizations have in common is a need for programming and not a lot of money to make it happen. This is where you come in.

Sure, we'd all love to earn a fat speaker's fee, and that can happen, but first you need to pay your dues. That comes in the form of free or nearly free author chats. Little more than a decade ago, you would be limited to where you could travel for a reasonable amount of money, but not anymore. With Skype, Facetime and Google chat you can be anywhere.

I realize that some of you may be asking a very basic question. If I'm not there to sign and sell books, how is this marketing? This is where it might take a little elbow grease on your part. When you've found an organization that might be a fit and approach them about speaking, you don't have to give away everything.

One way to incorporate a little marketing is to ask if they can distribute one-pagers at the event. This is a flyer like handout that you would send for them to print and give to attendees. It can have all your basic bio information (See why you need a cool bio) along with information about your book.

Another way is to work your book into the conversation. Some topics will lend themselves naturally to a little self-promo, such as a discussion about the current publishing models. Others will be less obvious, but heck, authors are creative people so figure it out.

You might consider teaming up with a local bookstore in the area where your speech will broadcast. If the organization allows it, they can set up a small table and sell books at the reception afterward. These types of things almost always have food. It is both a positive and a negative that you won't actually be there.

And no matter how the speech is handled you should always include information about your book in your introduction and provide a link to your website as the sign off screen of your speech.

For today's task, identify two or three groups that are outside of your day trip travel zone and reach out to them about possible programming.

Building the Buzz: Day 24 Book Clubs

Oprah's may be the biggest and most famous, but she doesn't own the market on Book Clubs.

Book clubs are a great way to market your book to readers. Here you have a group of people who like books so much, they get together just to talk about them. These are your people, but it's up to you to find them and help them find you.

One great place to find book clubs is on Goodreads. They are often organized by genre preference and have open membership to include anyone who loves a good book. I would also suggest talking to your local librarian to see if she knows of any local book clubs. You can also find them on sites like And never underestimate the power of Google. A quick search of book club with your town name can pull up more results than you ever wanted.

But don't limit yourself to only local groups. Book clubs are everywhere and they all have  one thing in common, a desire to read a good book. It could be yours.

Once you've found an appropriate book club (reads in your genre and is attended by your ideal reader), it's time to reach out. I suggest starting out with a brief email introducing you and your book, suggesting it may be something the group is interested in. If you want to step up your game, you can offer an web video chat with the group if they decide to read your book.

Another nice step is to let the group know that you are able to send them a discussion guide.  A good guide will provide a brief Q&A that focuses on the more complicated aspects of the book in addition to a series of questions designed to provoke conversation around the books theme. So, "Who was your favorite character?" is a bad discussion question. However, "How does what MC did in X scene relate to the current debate surrounding topic Z?"

If you can swing it, sending a free copy to the group's leader is one way to get attention. Even if the group decides not to read the book for discussion, the leader may still recommend it to other members. If your publisher is open to the idea, you might also fair well offering a group order discount if the book club orders 10 or more books for their members.

For today's task, do a little research and identify at least 5 book clubs that might be interested in reading your book. Then reach out to them with your A-game.

Building the Buzz: Day 23 Bonus Content

When marketing your book, the holy grail is a reader turned evangelist for your work. But just like the media, readers won't talk about your book forever....unless you give them something to talk about.

If you want readers to keep spreading the word about your work you need to give them something new that reminds them why they loved your book so much in the first place. A great way to do this is through bonus content.

Bonus content can be any number of things. The only objective is to tie it to your work in a way that pulls the attention of your fans. Here are a few idea for bonus content you can share with your readers:
1. Deleted scenes: just because it didn't make its way into the book doesn't mean your readers don't want to see it.
2. Alternate ending/beginning: Most of us rewrite these scenes more than any other part of our book. Why not share some of them with readers as a 'what might have been' peek.
3. Alternate POV scenes: Your book may follow your heroine through the journey, but consider writing one of your more tension filled scenes through the eyes of the love interest. And it doesn't have to be just the good guys. Feel free to give your villain a little page time as well.
4. Off stage scenes: We all have action that takes place outside of the immediate action of the book (or offstage). For an example: The scene in Chamber of Secrets where Hermione figures out the monster is a basilisk in the pipes. We know this happens, but the scene isn't in the book.
5. Future follow up: Unless your book is part of a series, readers never get to know what happens next. Consider writing  a scene of your characters the next day, the next year, or the next decade.

Your bonus content doesn't have to be new scenes. Any of the ideas from the blog tour list that you didn't use can easily become bonus content.

The best way to disseminate your bonus content is through your website. It's the home base for your fans and the perfect place for them to see if you have any new work coming out. You can share these as an extra page on your site, but before you give them away, you might want to make your readers work for it.

You can announce the release of bonus content once you hit x number of FB fans, Twitter followers, blog subscribers, 5 star reviews, or pre-orders for your next book. If you offer something your readers will want, they will do what needs to happen to get it.

For today's task, make a list of specific bonus content you can share with your fans and plans for how and when to give it to them.

Building the Buzz: Day 22 #Hashtags

Snappy, memorable and trend creating: hashtags aren't just for Twitter anymore.

Hashtags started out as a way for Twitter folks to keep tabs on topics and people. Of course, now you can see hashtags permeating their way into other social media outlets and other venues. These little symbols are seen everywhere so they are a perfect tool for authors.

Creating a hashtag for your book makes it easy for fans to talk about your book and find each other. It also makes it easier for you to keep track of what readers are saying and engage with them. That's a heavy load from a free tool.

When deciding on a hashtag you need to keep a few things in mind. First, hashtags are still mostly used on twitter where posters are limited to 140 characters. You want to keep your hashtag short so it doesn't cut into their character limit too much. Second, unless you have a short title, you'll probably need to use something else, but don't stray too far. Your hashtag needs to be easily associated with your book. Third, make it memorable and distinguishable. For example #Amysbook is generic, has little to do with your book and can easily be confused for any other Amy's book.

You can use your hashtag anywhere and everywhere. I've even scene hashtags tucked into the corner of a book cover. For sure, you should include it on your website, especially on the page featuring your book. Include it in your online bio pages, too. I also recommend asking anyone else who posts about your book to use the hashtag. This can include reviewers, tour hosts, cover reveal hosts, and whenever you do a guest post. You can even tuck it at the bottom of your press releases.

Like all aspects of marketing, the more you put into it the better. If you want to see a great example of author interaction using hashtags, jump on twitter and check out #icons. Margaret Stohl keeps her fans engaged by retweeting thoughtful comments and posting updates and thanks, all utilizing the hashtag. On the day of release, there was no where on twitter that wasn't covered with #icons.

For today's task, select a hashtag for your book. Do a quick check on twitter to see if anyone else is actively using it. If not, run with it everywhere you can.

Building the Buzz: Day 21 More Press Releases

Remember all those people you sent press releases to a few weeks ago? You kept all their contact information, right? Good, cause it's time to send more releases.
Have you seen the movie "Newsies"? It's a little known Disney flick that they swept under the table, but a personal favorite. It follows a group of good looking, singing, dancing newsboys. In one of its many great songs there is a line that is important for authors to remember. "Tomorrow they'll wrap fishes in it, but I was the king for one whole minute."

What does this have to do with you? Everything. You may be lucky enough to score a bunch of profile pieces and draw some serious media attention. But even when the main source of news came from hand-sold newspapers, a story was only a story for a day. In today's age of constant information, it's even harder to stay in the spotlight.

It's up to you, as the author, to keep yourself newsworthy. A great way to do this is with updated press releases. You can send these out any time, but keep in mind that the media wants a story, not an advertisement.

I suggest sending new press releases out when you have events such as launch parties or book signings, when you reach certain milestones in sales or reviews, and when you win any awards. Don't forget that you are a story as well. What about a story six months after your book release to showcase what your life is like now. You are a local celebrity, but only if you make an effort to stay one. 

Since we are consolidating your marketing into a month, you may not have reached any milestones yet. That's okay. For today's task, make a list of all the reason you will send a new release such as 10K books sold, A spot on the NYT's book list, an upcoming signing. Now set a reminder for yourself either on your computer, your phone, your day planner, wherever, to think about press releases. Designate a day of the week to review your calendar and benchmarks and consider sending  a press release. Most of the time, you won't have anything to send, but setting the reminder means you won't forget when the good news rolls in.

Building the Buzz: Day 20 National Media

You've rubbed elbows (metaphorically) with all your local contacts and you're maximizing all those amazing reviews. Now it's time to swing for the big leagues.

Seeking out national media attention isn't really any different from your local media, but there are a few things you can do to boost your chances.

Doing your homework here can pay off big time, but it may take more digging than finding the book editor of your local paper. You may need to click through a series of pages to find the editorial staff. Another approach is to search for the contact information by a reviewers byline. The same thing is true of submission guidelines. A national newspaper might not make it easy to find their information, but submitting outside of the guidelines is an automatic "No".

Also, make sure you know who you are submitting to. With a lot of the national media, they have different staff for the print and online editions and they operate separately from each other. Make sure you keep them straight and find out if it's appropriate to submit to both of them.

This is also the time to haul out your media highlight reel. You can tuck a few of these at the bottom of your press release, but don't be afraid to work them into the body. If you've done several interviews or had feature stories, it's appropriate to provide an appendix to your release listing all your exposure with links where editors can find your interviews.

I know I've mentioned this before, but with this step it is especially important that you check with the publicist of your publisher before sending these out. Not only is sending duplicate requests a waste of your time, it can make you and your team look less professional to the decision makers.

Today's task is to research at least three national reviewers and three national media contacts and send out a fresh batch of press releases.

Bonus Content: There is a free Google+ webinar titled "Who Are Your Readers?" on Wednesday. There should be lots of excellent information.

Building the Buzz: Day 19 Contests & Giveaways

Everyone loves a giveaway. It's a pretty unifying human trait to be drawn to free anything. You can toss stuff at your readers like a handful of plastic beads from a Mardi Gras parade float. can maximize and make your giveaways work for you.

For giveaways, you need to focus on timing and product. Let's talk about timing first.

You can run a giveaway/contest whenever you want, but there are times when it will be the most advantageous. Running a contest when your readers can't at least pre-order your book is silly. The point of a contest is to get readers to buy your book. You can start one leading up to the release date, encouraging pre-orders, but don't go much earlier than that.

So obviously, at your book's release. Also, to celebrate good news. For example, if you sign a contract for a sequel or companion novel/novella, announce the blessed deal with a giveaway. You can also do this when you reach a milestone such as a certain number of 5-star reviews or hitting the NYT Best Sellers list.

Just be careful not to run too many. If it feels like you are running a new giveaway every other month, your contests will start to diminish in perceived value no matter what you're giving away.

So let's talk about what you are going to give away. The first reaction of most authors is to give away your book. This is a bad idea. You want readers to buy your book. If they are entering for a chance to win it, they aren't buying it. They will wait until the contest is over and then you have to hope they remember to buy it.

I would also suggest staying away from big ticket items. While these can be flashy and draw a lot of attention, they aren't going to be drawing in your readers. Instead, you will get lots of entries from people only interested in the prize. Now you might say, but if they are spreading the word as part of the contest then do I care if they want to read my book? Yeah, you do. If I'm a college guy just trying to win an ipad, what are the chances that my Twitter followers or Facebook friends are interested in your book. Pretty low. You want your contest to attract real readers who are going to spread the word about your book because they genuinely want other people to read it.

What can you give away. I'm a big fan of gift baskets. Who doesn't love a gift basket? Call it a prize pack, box o' fun or prizeapalooza if you want to, but the idea is lots of low cost items that packaged together contain a high perceived value.

Gift cards are a good choice, as is swag, but beware the curse of the cover. I love this recent post by Leigh Anne Kopans about resisting the urge to slap your cover on everything and passing it out like candy. She suggests swag that ties in with your book and makes the owner feel like part of the in-crowd. Think about it. Would you rather have a shirt with the cover of the Hunger Games on it or a shirt that says "May the odds be ever in your favor"? Yep, that's what I thought.

Think about items in your book that would make good giveaways. Does your character have a favorite snack food? Throw a box of those in. A favorite book or CD? Add that too. Does your main character have a catch phrase? Print it on something fun like a bumper sticker or button. Does your character wear a signature piece of jewelry or shade of lipstick? You guessed it. Add it to the swag box.

By adding a little originality, you can make your giveaway something every fan will want to enter.

Today's task is to brainstorm at least five unique items you could use in a giveaway. Be sure to price them out and consult your budget.

Building the Buzz: Day 18 Blog Tours

No marketing challenge would be complete without talking about blog tours. So let's do this.

Oh, the blog tour. A pain in the rear to organize and quickly becoming one of those must have marketing items that noone is sure about how effective it is. Know what I mean? But a blog tour doesn't have to be a hair-pulling shot in the dark.

Before we go much further, let's take a second to acknowledge that there are a ton of companies out there that will organize your tour for you. Some of them are wonderful, others will promise you the moon for a pretty penny and deliver a smooshed Moonpie. Get the picture? If you decide that going on your own isn't in the cards, do make sure you do your research. Talk to clients and not just the ones they feature on their site. Stick your nose into one of their active tours and see how it's going. Just make sure you go in with both eyes open.

Okay, moving on. When it comes to organizing your own blog tour you need to focus on the two Os: organization and originality. You need to get your act together well in advance of when you want the tour to run. This is not a plan it in a week sort of thing. You should know how many stops you want, when you want them to happen and exactly what you are asking of a host well before you approach anyone.

Make sure you keep a good log of who you've contacted and their response. You'll also want to make sure you have all the pertinent information everyone needs readily available and accessible. These are constants in a tour like a cover photo, blurb, author bio, head shot, purchase links, etc. Not only should these be compressed into a file you send to every host, you should make them available either on your website or via a document sharing site so your hosts never have to search for your information.

When it comes to the actual tour, originality is your friend. The standard tour of only the information listed above with the occasional review comment just doesn't cut it any more. You need to stand out and give your readers a reason to sit up and pay attention. The tour is only limited by your imagination and the amount of work you're willing to put in.

Here are my Top 10 tips for making your tour as unique as your book:
1. Create a scavenger hunt of sorts that encourages your readers to visit every stop on the tour. Make sure the content of each host is different.
2. Instead of the standard blurb, make each stop an interview with a different character from your book.
3. Feature all the locations in your book at each stop.
4. Incorporate your book's theme into the stops. For example, if your main character is a pastry chef. Include an amazing pastry recipe at every stop. Take it a step further and show a picture of you making it.
5. Run a blitz where every stop is on the same day and hits the internet like a literary tidal wave.
6. Share a favorite quote or scene from the book at each stop.
7. Share a different song from your writing playlist on each stop and how it influenced your writing.
8. Team up with a few other authors with release dates close to yours and run a team tour.
9. Tie your stops together with a Q&A reveal or a clever Choose Your Own Adventure like the one recently done by Eliza Tilton.
10. Include an awesome giveaway. Tune back in tomorrow for my best giveaway advice.

Today's task. Start planning your tour now. Brainstorm at least 10 things you can do on your tour that no one else can because of the uniqueness of your book.

Building the Buzz: Day 17 Maximizing Reviews

Now that you've got the buzz going and people are starting to pay attention to your books, you're bound to start getting reviews. You may not want to read them, and that is fine, but you need to pay attention to the ones with lots of stars.

As a writer, 5-star reviews are a nice little stroke to the ego and a firm piece of duct tape on the mouth of your inner editor. As a marketer, 5-star reviews are mini billboards saying "I can help you sell more books." They key is all in location, location, location.

I've seen a recent trend on the social media front that I personally am against. I'm not saying it can't be effective, but so could a human sandwich board with your cover on it standing in the middle of Times Square. Just because it might draw in a rogue reader or two doesn't mean it's a good thing. Why? Because you would look ridiculous standing in Times Square with a sandwich board. Ridiculous and maybe a bit desperate. And that's how I see authors who tweet, post and otherwise parade around every 5 star review that comes their way.

By all means, celebrate the milestones. The first one, the one-hundredth 5-star review. Heck, slate a contest around it. Toot the horn a little. But we've all seen the authors who post every good review they get. And this makes me think "Are you so hard up for good reviews that each one needs to be announced?". Your time as an author and marketer would be better spent writing or asking for other reviews via book bloggers like we discussed yesterday.

So now that you aren't going to broadcast your outstanding reviews all over the internet, what are you going to do with them? You make them shine.

Your book page on your blog/website will have your cover, purchase/review links, and blurb. Another nice touch is reviewer comments. So go ahead and scan Amazon and Goodreads for the very best 5 star reviews out there. Not just the ones that sing your praises to the moon, but the ones with brilliant lines that make you sound like the literary genius you are.

Now, find those reviewers. Follow them back to their website/blog and reach out to them. In private (not in a comment to their actual review) thank them for their kind words. Let them know how glad you are that they enjoyed your book. Then ask them for a favor. Tell them that you loved the line "x and y and z" from their review and would like to post it on your website. Offer to include their name and a link back to their review and their website.

This is a win-win. Getting their site linked to from a permanent page on your blog helps their SEO which means more readers will find them. Every reviewer out there wants more readers. By quoting them, you are recognizing them as a good reviewer which will also draw more readers directly from your site.

You may run into the occasional reviewer who doesn't want to be quoted, but I don't think you'll find many who say no.

What does this get you? Well, first, readers like to know that other people out there like your book. When they are on your site, having quotes from real readers right there is a nice touch that says "someone other than this author's mom and aunt enjoyed this book". The value of that can't be overlooked.

Also, what would you do if a new author offered to quote you on their website? That's right, you're going to tell people about it. And what does that do? You guessed it. It'll will drive more readers right to where you want them.

For today's task, take a peek at your reviews or ask a trusted friend/family member to pick out a few of the excellent ones for you. Reach out to 3-5 of these fans (cause that's what they are) and ask to quote them on your site with all the appropriate links.

Building the Buzz: Day 16 Book Review Bloggers

What do you want? Book reviews! How do you get 'em? Book Review Bloggers!

We've already talked about how powerful word of mouth can be with your first readers. Thanks to the power of the internet (all hail the mighty resource) you can create this same buzz virtually with your friendly book blogger.

This can be an easy step in your marketing efforts, but it can also be confusing and unproductive if you aren't doing it right. So here are my best tips for finding and soliciting book bloggers.

1. Be selective in picking bloggers. There are a gazillion book bloggers out there. And while most of them are good intentioned, they are not all created equally. Make sure that you are getting the biggest bang out of your free copies by selecting your bloggers carefully. Make sure you only solicit a blogger whose readership consists of your core audience (Alexa can give you all kinds of information about different sites). Just because someone says they are willing to review a certain type of book doesn't mean they are a match for you. If they mostly review category romance but are willing to review SciFi on occasion, most of their readers are going to be romance readers. They probably aren't interested in your SciFi even if the reviewer is.

Don't just look at the reviewers genre preferences; look at what they post reviews for. Only solicit reviews from bloggers whose core content lines us with your genre. Also, make sure they have a decent readership. A review on a site that only averages 10 hits a day is probably not worth your effort.

Another resource is your local first readers. Ask you new best buds if they have any review blogs they check frequently for new book recommendations. These will definitely be ones you want to check out.

2. Always, ALWAYS, follow submission guidelines for reviewers. This is the same rule to follow when you sent out queries. Not following the rules tells a reviewer you don't respect their time and will probably be difficult to work with . Reviewers get enough requests, they don't have to work with someone they don't want to.

3. When appropriate, be specific in your request. This is just like personalizing a query letter. This says to the reviewer that you understand their readership and tells them why your book will be a good match for their followers.

4. It is okay to follow-up with a reviewer, but don't hound them. They get a lot of requests and your submission doesn't guarantee they will read your book or review it. Remember that they don't work for you and don't "owe" you a review. Daily emails asking when their 5-star review of your book will be posted is a quick way to get yourself rejected. Many of these bloggers have formed a tight community. If you become known as a needy author, it will be even harder for your to get reviews.

5. Identify potential reviewers early so you can become a natural part of their community. If you regularly comment on a blog, this is a great segway into asking for a review. Also, so long as your book meets guidelines, a reviewer is generally going to be more likely to review your book over a stranger's.

6. Use Netgalley, but don't depend on it for your reviews. Most of the time, your publisher will be in charge of posting your book on Netgalley, so check with them first. If this isn't something they do, you can have your book added through services such as  Just remember that posting your work on a site like this doesn't replace soliciting reviews from your ideal review blogs.

7. There is no such thing as too many reviews. You are limited only by the number of free copies you have to give away. Most readers need to see or hear about a book several times before they make a commitment to purchase. The more reviews you have out there the better chance you have of getting in front of those readers.

These are my tips for finding reviewers. Share yours in the comments. Today's task: start researching reviewers today. Start by asking your first readers and then hit the web. Try to come up with a base list of 50 reviewers that you can narrow down into the best 20.

Building the Buzz: Day 15 Friends and Family

We've all seen the books on Amazon with a few 5-star reviews that all start out "I may be biased since I'm your aunt, but I love every word of this book!". While this is generally an eye-roll kind of moment, you can't discredit the role friends and family play in promoting your book.

You probably know a lot of people. Even the most introverted among us have a larger bank of acquaintances than we realize. No matter how loose the connection, each one of those people is a potential reader, but no if you don't reach out to them.

The first step in contacting your friends and family is to make a list. A great big giant list. Go back as far as you can and try to think of everyone you know. Good places to start your brain going is your Facebook friends list, email contacts  folder and your linked in account. I'm a big fan of linked in for this task since you can see not only the people you've connected with, but also the people your connections have connect with. This can be great for jogging the memory.

As you make your list try to categorize people. Is this a friend from high school, a co-worker from an old job, a friend of your parents (yep, they totally get added to the list)? Walk yourself mentally through an average week. Who do you see, talk to, run into at the grocery store? All these people belong on your list.

Now that you've got a list, you need to figure out the best way to contact them. Email is best, but you might not have email contacts for everyone. Think of the other ways you can reach out. Maybe a message on FB or Linked in. Maybe you only see this group face to face and can give them a card.

Once you've got a segregated list with contact methods, it's time to start sending the message. Here are a few tips:

1. Remind this group how they know you. Maybe it's a brief hello friends from the graduating class of 'xx. Or Hi, I'm so and so's daughter. Unless this is a group of people you are frequently in contact with, they will need a reminder for who you are.
2. Keep it brief. Think a paragraph or two. You aren't trying to sell a book here, only let them know you have a book. The tone of your message should be about sharing your good news with them, not selling them your book.
3. Invite them to join your mailing list and provide a direct link. Let then know you won't be filling up their inbox with messages, but if they would like to be kept up to date on your books they can join the mailing list. Do NOT automatically add someone from your contact list to your mailing list. This is tacky and goes against policy for all the major list hosting companies.
4. Provide links to your website and a direct link to your book on Amazon, but don't make a big deal out of these. Including them in your signature line is sufficient.

This is a one and done promotion tactic, but it can be very effective. Everyone likes the idea of knowing someone "famous". Remember that while the process of publishing a book is a long, arduous trial of errors to us, the general population sees it as a magical process. The minute you self-identify as an author, your non-publishing friends start picturing you as the next JK Rowling. Use that to your advantage and spread the word.

Today's task, get that list started and see how many names you can come up with by Friday.

Building the Buzz: Day 14 Alumni Authors

Two weeks down and two to go. Let's celebrate by branching out a little bit. Hey there alumni!

It's toot your own horn time, Buzzers. Remember how I said you're a local celebrity? Good news, you're also a hometown celebrity. You just have to let them know about it. Alumni newsletters are a great way to spread the word about your book. Colleges and high schools love making lists of "famous" alumni and as a published author, this includes you.

But they can't sing your praises if they don't know about it. You'll need another press release to do this, but the good news is you don't have to start from scratch. Use the one sent to local media, but change around the focus to your attendance at your illustrious alma mater.

You can send the press release to the alumni association. Even better, send it to the editor of the alumni newsletter/magazine. They may pick up the info in a short column. If you're lucky they'll want to spin your book into a feature story.

And don't stop there. If you were a part of any national organization in high school such as a sorority, fraternity, national honor society or a national writing society, send press releases to these organization as well.

Alumni associations and national organizations are always looking for content for their newsletters. Give them a story within a press release and spread the word.

Today's task, make a list of alumni publications and national associations you can claim membership in. Gather their contact information and send out press releases to these organizations.

Building the Buzz: Day 13 Author Teamwork

Are you ready to move away from home base? Too bad. We're still local in today's action item. It's time to team up with other authors in your area.

All the things we've talked about this week can be pretty daunting on your own. Especially given the standard issue introverted nature of most writers. The good news is there's no rule that says you have to do it all on your own. Chances are, you aren't the only writer in your town. I live in the middle of nowhere and there are at least two published authors that I know of. There could be more.

If you're uncomfortable at all about launch parties, book clubs or library speeches, consider joining forces with another writer. You may have to go slightly outside your city to find the right author to pair with, but I doubt you'll have to go too far. Unless you really are living alone on an isolated island in the Atlantic Ocean. Have you thought about moving?

Billing yourself as a double feature can be a way to get more attention for your work. I can't imagine any bookstore suggesting they'd rather have two separate events than one single event to bring in twice the readers.

Before you start listing the reasons this won't work for you, just do me a favor and try it. You don't even have to write in the same genre as your partner, though it's nice if you do. A speech about the writing process isn't dependent on genre. Plus, different genres can draw in new audiences who might not have seen your book otherwise.

The only time I suggest sticking solo is with your target first readers. The required unique nature of this group means you don't really want to share them with others. Other than that, collaborate away.

Today's task, look up and contact another writer in your area and discuss hosting an event together.

Building the Buzz: Day 12 First Readers

So far on the local front, we've talked about companies and organizations that can help you. Today we talk about the most valuable resource found in every town no matter where you live: The People!

Happy Mother's Day, Buzzers!
One of the most effective, and at the same time elusive, methods for promoting your book is word of mouth. We know from our own personal experiences that a friend telling you about a great book they read is more powerful than any blog tour, newspaper story, or book signing. But how do you get people to promote your book for you.

I suggest you find your local target audience and create your first readers. Unless you live alone on an isolated island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, there are likely to be at least of few people who make up your target audience where you live.

This means, of course, that you need to know who your target audience is. If you aren't sure, check out these posts: Who is your reader and Where is your reader. Once you've got this down, you'll have to step outside of the solitary writer box and engage your audience.

But don't think I'm sending you to the wolves unarmed. Behold, a secret weapon!

Lean in close, I don't want this getting out all over the internet. Ready? Everyone wants to be first.

Don't believe me? Drive by an Apple store on the release day of their newest product or try getting last minute tickets to the midnight showing of this summers next blockbuster hit. What you'll find is hordes of people willing to sacrifice a large chunk of time (and money) to be first.

When you approach your carefully selected group of target readers, keep this in mind. You aren't just offering to let them read your book. You are offering to let them be first. You are making them an elite group with special status that has the power to turn your book into a word of mouth phenomena.

A few things to keep in mind. This shouldn't be a group of people who will probably like your book. These should be your very best, guaranteed to love it fans. Readers don't spread the word about a book they only liked.

Also, while book bloggers are great for a lot of things (more on them later), they are not your ideal first readers. Why? Book review bloggers are first readers for lots of books. So while they will promote your book if they like it, they are moving on to something else tomorrow. You need readers for whom "being the first" is a new experience.

Last, you've got to sell it. It's more than just targeting your first readers and handing out a few arcs. Maybe you have a special kick-off event just for these readers. You can read the first chapter, sign their books and send them on their way. Offer to meet up again in a few weeks so they can tell you what they liked and didn't like about the book. It doesn't matter that by that point it's too late to change it. What matters is engaging this group and giving them special status. Up the ante with swag or other special events. Don't forget to invite your first readers to any and all events related to the book. You have to stick with them or they won't stick with you.

Today's task, identify your target first readers, figure out the best way to get in contact with them, and brainstorm ways you can engage with them and make them feel special. Helping others to be number one can help you on your way to #1.

Building the Buzz: Day 11 Local Book Stores

We've tackled local media and made friends with your friendly librarians. There's still plenty of resources for book promotion right down the street. Today: local book stores!

Sadly, oh so sadly, some of you may no longer have a local book store. You can't see the tears on my keyboard, but there are real...and probably the reason my shift key keeps sticking. I digress. If you don't have a physical book store in your town, think about how far you are willing to travel and see if there is one close to you.

As soon as you have a release date, you need to make friends with the manager of your book store. This person can be your new best friend. Bookstores survive by selling books. So do you! Hey there, it's another win-win.

Here are a few ways you can work with your local book store to help both of you sell more books.

1. Launch party. This can be during open times or after hours. Either way, you are offering to host an event and invite lots of people (Including the media. Don't forget you're a local celebrity.) When approaching the store, you need to be very specific about what you are asking. You need to have a general idea of how many invites will be sent out, what support you need from the store and multiple dates and times that can work for both of you. As a bonus, ask if your local writing group will help by "sponsoring" the launch. A bookstore may be more willing to host if they know you'll have several helping hands to handle the event.

2. Signing/Reading. This will be slightly less fancy than a launch party, but all the same rules apply.

3. Signing stock. This is a sneaky little trick I'm a fan of. You're book store doesn't know that you have a book on the market unless you tell them. Otherwise, you're just one of the hundreds of books they have to choose from among the publisher's catalog. When you're release is getting close, give your local book store a quick call. Let them know who you are and offer to come in and sign stock. If they weren't planning on ordering your book (or only picking up a few copies) they may be willing to stock up some extra if they know they can get them signed and set a special "signed by the author" display. If they don't carry "signed by the author" stickers, I suggest purchasing a few of these. Readers love signed stuff.

4. Book Club. If you're super lucky, your bookstore has a book club. Here's a great opportunity to suggest your book and offer to come in for a private chat with the members. This gives the store an extra way to promote the club and get more readers to come in a buy books. Yeah!

In addition to these ideas, I suggest a little friendly neighborhood stalking. If the store has a newsletter, sign up for it and keep an eye on the kind of events they normally have. Stop in occasionally on different days of the week and check out any special promotions and what traffic is like. Get to know the employees. They will be much more likely to recommend the book of a local author they know, than from someone they've never heard of before.

Today's task, go introduce yourself to the local bookstore. Even if you don't have a book out yet, it's never too early to make friends. I'd love to hear about any great bookstore events you've been to down in the comments.

Building the Buzz: Day 10 Love for the Library

Alright, we're making some progress. Hopefully, word will be getting around town about your book. But don't think you're done with the the hometown business. There is still more to do on the home front. We are staying local and showing a little love to the library.

Library's have a lot more in common with writers than just a love of books. We both operate on low budgets with not enough staff. We both want people to read more. We're both always on the lookout for creative ways to get people reading more.

This is good news, because it sets up a win-win situation.

Libraries love hosting writers, but usually lack the budget to bring someone in from out of town. By volunteering your time to the local library, you provide them with much needed programming while garnering some face time in front of a captive audience.

Just remember, that libraries should be approached just like media agencies. Keep in mind they are there to promote reading, not you. Think about what you can offer their patrons. What about a writing workshop or a seminar on a topic related to your book. Pair this up with a short reading from your book, a Q&A session and a book signing and now you have an event. Work with your publisher, local book store or a company like Book People to make sure attendees can purchase your book on site.

Another way to engage with your local library is to donate a copy of your book. Everyone loves free stuff. If you have any swag like bookmarks. Ask your library if you can leave some at the circulation desk for patrons.

I also recommend checking to see if your library has any book clubs or special interest groups. If you write in a genre that would be relevant to one of these groups, ask if you can do a private author chat with them to discuss your book. It may be only a small group of people, but for 30 minutes of your time you have the chance to create dedicated fans of your work.

For today's task, go make friends with your local librarian. Introduce yourself and your work and ask to set up a time to talk about ways you can help the library.

On an unrelated note, I want to let you guys know about an auction I'm participating in. Here is the link to my item in Brenda Novak's Diabetes Research Auction. There are hundreds of items donated from all over and all the proceeds go to Diabetes Research. Go check it out (after your library visit).

Building the Buzz: Day 9 Press Releases

You've got a list of great contacts from yesterday so now it's time to start contacting them. But before you go all willy-nilly emailing everyone, let's write a press release!

If you've never written a press release before, the idea can be a bit intimidating. But you're a writer so you've got this.

There are a few things to keep in mind with press releases. They have their own format that is a little different from what you may be used to. Following the right guidelines here will go a long way toward getting your news published. There are tons of templates online for how to write a press release and I've got a sample at the bottom of this post.

The most important thing to remember is that a press release isn't exempt from the WAM principle. Media outlets are constantly looking for stories, but they aren't looking to give away free advertising. If you want to increase the chances of your release getting picked up, you need to make it a story.

Keep the focus of your piece tight on what the media's audience is looking for. For your list of local media, you'll want to spin your press release as a local celebrity. No, don't call yourself a celebrity. But local people doing interesting things that put them in the public light makes you a bit of a celebrity. Go ahead and own it.

Your release should be written as clean as possible with the opportunity for a local paper to run the release as a story with little to no changes. An editor will be much more likely to run your story if he doesn't have to assign someone to write it. A well written press release that is ready to run is an editor's dream come true.

Do write the release in third person, but make sure that all of your contact information is included at the bottom. This is why it was so important that your website is up, running and easy to navigate with an interesting bio and book info. If an editor decides to give your piece a bit more attention (yeah) you want him to be able to hop on your website and easily find any info he's looking for. This is also why a phone number is crucial. You want to be available if they want a few fresh quotes for the story.

Now it's your turn. Write that press release! Even if you don't have a book coming out yet, write up a sample release for one of your manuscripts. Practice makes perfect!

Here's a sample release for an awesome book that hasn't been written yet. If aliens and unicorns float your boat, the premise is all yours. :)


Local woman brings a touch of fantasy to the Tri-State.

Jane Smith’s debut novel, SPACE UNICORNS, is a fantastical retelling of My Little Pony set in Ourtown.

Ourtown, State – June 12, 2010 -  SPACE UNICORNS (available in bookstores everywhere on August 1st) is a lifelong dream come true for Ourtown native, Jane Smith. After graduating from Ourtown University, Smith channeled her love of books into becoming a popular English teacher at Ourtown High School. Despite her success, she never stopped writing stories of her own. For years, Smith filled notebooks with her fantasy worlds, but it wasn’t until recently she believed anyone would read them but her.

“I was always writing, but never thought any of my stories were good enough to be published. Finding out that other people enjoyed them was a wonderful surprise,” Smith said. On a dare from her husband, Smith sent her novel out to a publisher calling for unicorn stories. Mythical Press loved her unique story telling ability and the rest is history.

SPACE UNICORNS tells the story of three sentient unicorns whose simple life in Ourtown gets turned upside down when aliens mistake them for cows and take them hostage on their mother ship. The unlikely trio is forced to work together to find their way back to Earth or risk becoming permanent fixtures in an alien zoo

Unicorns Weekly says that “SPACE UNICORNS is a must read for anyone who loves unicorns and knows there’s no place like home.” Smith is already working on the book’s sequel, DEEP SEA UNICORNS.

Smith will be at Ourtown Books on August 5th to meet with fans and sign books. To learn more about Smith’s books or other signing opportunities, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @HornGirl.

For more information about Jane Smith or SPACE UNICORNS, please contact Smith at (123)456-7890 or at

- ### -
(Just a note. These hashtag marks are a standard notation that indicates the end of your press release. Be sure to use them)

Building the Buzz: Day 8 Local Media

One week down. So far, we've concentrated on building the foundation and getting your affairs in order. Now it's time to take this show on the road.

Think Local
Have you ever been fishing? You can use worms, crickets, crawdads, all sorts of little bugs as bait. But if you want to catch the really big fish, you use little fish, minnows. You can buy minnows, but they're pretty easy to catch: a modified pop bottle and some bread will do it.

Getting big media works the same way. The big fish pay attention if you've got lots of little fish swimming around. A five minute spot on your small town morning news show probably won't sell a bunch of books. But you aren't planning to fry up and eat the minnows. You use them (I'm talking about the local show here, stick with me) to catch a bigger show, maybe the next biggest city in your county.

Don't overlook your local media outlets because they aren't big enough. They can help you reel in the big fish. So for today's task, break out the yellow pages or hit the internet. Your mission is to find every local media outlet you can.

Start with the obvious ones like a local tv stations, radio stations, newspaper, magazines. Then branch out into the smaller outlets. Head to the grocery store and check out all those free flyers and 5 page papers available by the door. Stop by your towns welcome center and see if there are other publications there. You might also find luck asking one of the front desk folks for help. They know a lot about where you live. The library can be a great resource as well. Look at special interest groups, too. Think large civic organization like Lions or Knights of Columbus or family and mom targeted publications.

Not all of these groups are going to work for you, but don't start screening them until you've got a list as big as you can get it. You never know when seeing a name on the list jogs your brain to think of another outlet. Make sure as you're building your list that you are collecting contact names and info as well. You need to know the right person to reach out to.

Building the Buzz: Day 7 Marketing Budgets

Now that your website is looking good, you're ready to start driving the readers there in droves. But first, we have one more foundation item to consider. It's time to show me the money.

The reality is that while most of the marketing ideas you can use to find readers are free, not everything is. Setting a budget ahead of time keeps you from coming to the end of your launch efforts and realizing you spent your entire advance on marketing.

When creating your budget, start with everything you think you might want to include from a launch day cake to promo bookmarks.  Once you have a huge list of items and their anticipated costs, you can zero in on only the things you really want to do (and can afford).

Don't forget a few items that tend to be overlooked in marketing budgets.
  • Travel: This can be for gas and oil changes for short road trips, food expenses, airfare, and hotel costs.
  • Conferences: This is more than just the fees. Don't forget to factor in spending money, bar tabs, and a new "professional author" outfit.
  • Shipping: Book giveaways aren't free. You need to include packaging supplies and postage.
  • Thank you gifts: No marketer works on an island. It will take the help of several others to get the word out about your book. Don't forget to factor in a little thank you, even note cards, to show appreciation for all those who help along the way.
  • Post Launch: Don't forget to add a little extra into your budget for marketing efforts past the initial launch efforts.
  • Surprises: You never know when a golden opportunity is going to come along that's too good to pass up. Add some room in your budget for items that aren't a part of the original plan.
Two final thoughts. Be honest with yourself. Don't create a budget you can't afford. You'll only set yourself up for disappointment when it comes to execution. And make sure you consider ROI (return on investment). An idea can sound super cool, but if evidence from others suggests it doesn't help with sales, make the hard decision to leave it out.

For today's task, make an honest budget. It doesn't need to be itemized, but you do need to know what your total expenditures can be. Be sure to keep a good log of what you spend. Not only to keep yourself from going over budget, but also for tax purposes.