"I don't care if you're writing a computer book, a science fiction novel or the next great self-help guide, you need to get your hands on a copy of Steve Weber's Plug Your Book! ... I highly recommend this one to every author out there."
-- Joe Wikert, executive publisher, John Wiley & Sons Inc., professional/trade division
"An amazingly rich collection of cutting-edge promotional tactics and strategies. Makes most other books about online publicity look sickly."
-- Aaron Shepard, author: Aiming at Amazon
"In-depth information about using Amazon as a marketing platform."
-- Christine McNeil Montano, Amazon Top Reviewer
"...I have launched online campaigns for more than 1,000 books. I've worked with most of America's largest book publishers, helping many of them build online marketing departments. The book you're holding now is the new training manual."
-- Steve O'Keefe, author: Publicity on the Internet
"Practical, pragmatic, low-cost ideas for promoting the heck out of your own book, whether it's fiction, nonfiction, technical, business or anything else."
-- Dave Taylor, author: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Growing Your Business with Google
"The first comprehensive guide to Internet book publicity."
-- Morris Rosenthal, publisher, Foner Books
"A wealth of ideas for making your book stand out, including many techniques for Internet buzz you won't find elsewhere."
-- Jane Corn, Amazon Top Reviewer
Also by Steve Weber:
The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site
Sell on Amazon: A Guide to Amazon's Marketplace, Seller Central and Fulfillment by Amazon Programs
eBay 101: Selling on eBay For Part-time or Full-time Income, Beginner to PowerSeller in 90 Days
No matter what kind of book you have, its success depends on two things: It must tell a good story, and you must find an audience for it. Easier said than done, but you might take a page from master storyteller Hans Christian Andersen.
As legend has it, schoolchildren in Andersen's 19th-century Danish town played hooky from school just to hear him spin his tales. Each time he felt like telling another one, Andersen signaled his desire by flying his kite. When the kite rose, word spread quickly, and the crowd gathered.
Can it be that simple in today's world? Can the modern author build an audience solely through community word of mouth?
Yes, you can, and you don't even need to leave your backyard. Today's authors can launch their kites to potentially huge audiences by participating in Internet communities. The big difference is, your online community isn't limited to your neighborhood--it can span the globe if you invest in some string.
More than ever, authors and readers are networking, even collaborating on books as peers. With simple Internet tools, determined writers--even beginners working on obscure projects--can find their audience. Using online communities, authors can bond with readers intimately, inspiring deep loyalty.
Internet social networking has handed authors their most powerful tool since the invention of paper. In the Networked Age, the stock of gatekeepers is going down, and the power of authors and readers is soaring.
Word of mouth is the only thing that can make a book really successful. And this has always been the challenge: How can the author break through? Until recently, it usually required "pull"--connections with powerful allies in the publishing food chain. Today, creative writers can connect with readers directly. The only requirements are a link to the Internet and the will to plug in.
Taking control of your book sales
This year, 150,000 authors will finish their masterpiece, but most of them will be horribly disappointed with their sales--only about one-third of new titles sell more than 100 copies. Most books fail in the marketplace simply because they never had a chance: Nobody ever heard about them.
Traditional marketing and advertising is less effective than ever; people aren't paying attention to it. But free advertising is alive and well. The catch is, you can't manufacture free advertising; you must get it the old-fashioned way--by earning it.
Now for the first time, authors and readers can ignite word of mouth using online communities to spread the word about good books. Anyone with the skills to write an e-mail can publicize their book worldwide, effectively and economically.
Internet publicity isn't the only way to promote your book, but it's a great way to start--it can open doors you never dreamed of. The real value of online publicity is that it endures, and spawns more publicity, the kind that can't be bought. More than ever, journalists and producers of radio and television programs use the Internet to find expert commentators and new story ideas.
One big caveat
Not every song is a hit, and not every ballplayer makes it to the Hall of Fame. Likewise, an online campaign won't make a bad book successful.
On the Internet, word of mouth is amplified and accelerated. Thanks to online communities, it's getting easier to sell good books, but it's getting harder to sell mediocre ones. Word gets around. For the strategies in this book to work, your book needs to be strong, because your best competitors are online, too.
Internet word of mouth depends on an educated consumer. You're asking the reader to help promote your book, and this requires a very good book, according to your audience. Bad word of mouth will hurt your sales. Online marketing only helps a bad book fail faster.
How to use this book
The beginning sections of this book explain the basics of online book promotion, techniques that provide the most bang for your effort. As we proceed, some of the methods will be more complicated, requiring more skill and resources. Perhaps not everything discussed here will be practical for your book.
Your job is to select which promotional techniques might work best with your audience, and then use them aggressively and tirelessly. Online publicity works particularly well with nonfiction, but can be applied to fiction, too. The more techniques you try, the better your chances of success. A single strategy won't work, but a combined effort will produce results, and the effect will be cumulative.
Many author Web sites are mentioned in this book. Take time to view these sites, instead of skimming ahead. Consider what you like and don't like about what other authors have done, and apply the best ideas to your own efforts.
This book is not a quick-fix plan; there is no such thing as overnight success. It might require a year or more of steady work to see appreciable results. If that seems like a gamble and lots of work, it is. But I assure you, it's nothing compared with what it took to write your book.
Read through this entire book once. Then read it again, selecting and prioritizing what you'll tackle first. Mark on a calendar when you'll start each phase of your plan. Then get to it. Evaluate your progress after three months. Determine what's been successful, and redouble your efforts there. Then try something new.
Your freedom to use all the techniques described here might depend on how your book was published. Self-published authors who own the ISBN and online rights for their book can promote it however they please. Trade-published authors should confer with their publisher's marketing department and get approval for their plans.
One more bit of housekeeping: Just in case anyone is curious, I have no personal connection or financial interest in any of the companies, services or persons mentioned here. There is no advertising or product placement in this book.
The techniques and tools of authorship and online promotion are changing at warp speed. By the time you read this book, several of the details will be out of date--Web addresses change, companies go out of business, and new tools emerge. That's why I publish a companion Web site and blog for this book:
There you'll find a link to Book Updates in the right column, a free reference to additions and changes that didn't make it into this book. While you're at my site, I hope you'll stay for a while to see what else is new, and post your own comments about how future editions of this book can be improved.
If you have questions about this book or anything else related to book marketing and publicity, please write to me at:
I look forward to hearing from you.
Falls Church, Virginia
Electric word of mouth
In 1988 a first-time author, British mountaineer Joe Simpson, wrote of his disastrous climbing accident in the Peruvian Andes. His book, Touching the Void, got good reviews, but wasn't too popular outside England. It sold modestly and then, like most books, began fading into obscurity.
A decade later, another climbing book was penned by Jon Krakauer, an American journalist who scaled Everest on a harrowing expedition that claimed eight lives. Into Thin Air, with a boost from its conglomerate publisher, was an instant No. 1 bestseller and worldwide blockbuster.
And then something really interesting happened. Bookstores started getting requests for the earlier book, Touching the Void. Weeks before, stores couldn't give it away, and now the book was sold out. Library copies went missing. The original hardback, if you could find one, was going for $375. Harper Paperbacks rushed a new edition onto shelves, and Touching the Void started outselling the new "blockbuster" by two to one.
What happened? Was it a stroke of brilliance by some publishing mogul? No, it was Joe Six-Pack, reacting to book recommendations from Amazon.com. The online store began suggesting the older book to millions of people whom it knew liked climbing books, based on their buying history. If you've shopped on Amazon, you've seen these recommendations yourself: People who bought this book also bought...
Many of the new readers liked Touching the Void so much, they wrote rave reviews on Amazon's site. These "amateur" book reviews, written by real climbers and armchair explorers, resonated deeply with the next wave of shoppers. More sales, more good reviews.
Ten years after the book's launch, Internet-powered word of mouth did something that no team of marketing wizards could do--it landed Touching the Void on the bestseller lists. The story was adapted for an acclaimed docudrama. Simpson, his writing career turbocharged, followed up with four successful adventure books, a novel, and lecture tours.
And this is only the beginning, for Simpson and all of us.
Readers are finally able to find the books they want, even in the smallest niches. Readers are finding their books at Amazon and other Web stores because they offer unmatched choice and convenience. All this is a godsend for authors, who finally have a way to build their audience effectively and inexpensively. Never has it been so practical, so straightforward, for writers to earn a living at their craft and build a following.
Today book readers are helping decide which books sink or swim. As an author, you can hope to be swept along with the tide. Or you can take advantage of this new environment, using the techniques described in this book.
Riding the big river
In just a few years, Amazon has demolished the barriers to book sales. No longer are new authors summarily locked out of the bookstore. Whether your book was trade-published or self-published, Amazon will not only stock it, but rearrange the whole store when a likely reader arrives. And if your book sells modestly well, Amazon will do lots more--like displaying your book right inside the door, at the end of each virtual aisle, on eight different category shelves, and smack-dab in front of the cash register. Think your local bookstore might do this? Maybe if you're William Shakespeare, but the rest of us are out of luck.
Book sales over the Internet now account for 15 percent of the average publisher's business, up dramatically from 1 percent in 1997. But the real impact is far greater--it's not just the 65 million readers buying their books on Amazon, it's the untold millions more using Amazon's catalog and book reviews to inform their buying choices elsewhere.
Amazon is ground zero for your online campaign. It provides free worldwide exposure--exposure to those readers most likely to buyyour book. Simply having your book properly listed for sale on Amazon can create demand for it everywhere. Whether you're a famous author or an unknown, Amazon is essential because it has a critical mass of buyers using its search engine, recommendations, and reader reviews.
Amazon's 'long tail'
Amazon helps create demand for niche books that have a widely dispersed audience that can't be targeted effectively through traditional marketing. These are the books readers often can't find in their local bookstore, or even the library--but they're easy to find on Amazon. Twenty-five percent of Amazon's sales come from obscure books that aren't even carried in a Barnes & Noble superstore stocking 100,000 titles. And the percentage of these "long tail" sales grows every year.
Sure, part of Amazon's appeal is its discount pricing and free shipping offers. But the real value for book buyers is being able to find exactly what they want, says Chris Anderson, author of the 2006 business bestseller The Long Tail:
It's not enough that things be available, you need to be able to find them. The big problem with brick-and-mortar stores is, all shoppers experience the same store. But the problem of findability is solved when you go online. You have searching, recommendations, and all sorts of narrow taxonomies--things can be in multiple categories at the same time.
For 50 years, publishers have been chasing blockbusters--the bestseller hits. They had to, because with limited shelf space, bookstores had to focus on the stuff that moved fastest. Today, chasing blockbusters is obsolete. Authors and publishers have a wide-open opportunity in serving niches.
These niche books are the ones people care about most, and the ones Amazon is most effective in recommending, says Greg Greeley, Amazon's vice president for media products: "The Web site is designed to help customers find books they didn't know existed."
Book sales are a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially on Amazon. The more people who buy your book, the easier it becomes for the next reader to discover it. When Amazon notices your book is selling, it automatically displays your book higher in its search results and higher in its category lists. And most importantly, Amazon starts plugging your book into book recommendations on its Web site and in e-mails to customers.
Book recommendations are Amazon's biggest sales engine, after keyword searches. Sixty-six percent of sales are to returning customers, many of them acting on automated recommendations for books popular with customers with similar buying histories.
Because they are personalized, Amazon's book recommendations are network-powered word of mouth--more effective than a highway billboard seen by everyone in town. And as long as your book keeps selling, Amazon continues recommending it month after month, year after year, to its likely audience. No longer are books sentenced to the bargain bin three months after publication. Online word of mouth can keep your book alive as long as it satisfies readers.
Each of Amazon's 65 million customers sees a unique store. The layout is personalized, based on which books the customer previously viewed or purchased. Each customer has a recommendations list, based on which books are bought most frequently by other customers with similar buying histories.
If you have an Amazon account, view your recommendations here:
As an author, here's how Amazon recommendations work for you: Let's imagine you've written the book How to Grow Organic Strawberries. It turns out that one of every five Amazon customers who buys your book also purchased an earlier book, Healthy Eating With Organic Fruit. Realizing this, Amazon starts recommending your book to customers who bought the earlier book but haven't yet bought yours. Why? Amazon knows the odds are good that once these readers discover your book they'll buy it, too, and Amazon makes another sale.
Buyers see book recommendations in several places:
On Amazon's home page, where it says, Hello, [NAME], we have recommendations for you. Click here to view all your book recommendations.
In e-mails titled Amazon.com Recommends ... and New for You, periodically sent to Amazon customers.
In the Gold Box treasure chest icon at the top right of Amazon's home page. Clicking the box reveals special offers on books and other merchandise on your recommended list.
In a book's Also-Bought list. Every book's detail page on Amazon includes a list with the headline Customers who bought this item also bought. The Also-Bought list shows the five other books bought most frequently by customers who also purchased the displayed book.
An extended Also-Bought list that includes many more titles is accessible from each book's detail page at the link Explore similar items. Buyers can view the same list during the checkout process by viewing Customers who bought [Title] also bought...