Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The One Thing You Should Do to Sell More Books—by Nick Thacker

by Nick Thacker, @NickThacker

6869768383_84f708306e_zTwitter, social media platforms, Facebook pages, Google+, Pinterest, in-store signings, KDP Select, etc. All of these things are great innovations for authors, and can certainly help you get your books in the hands of more readers, but there's only so much you can do.

· After you've built the coolest Facebook page in the world, you have to tell people about it.

· After you've scheduled a million tweets promoting your new follow-up guide to your main character's life, you have to tell people to retweet it.

· And after you've booked a solid month of in-store signings, bookstore visits, and airplane kiosk drop-ins, you need to tell people about it.

As you can see, if there's one thing all of these promotions have in common, it's that they only work IF you can figure out how to tell people about them!

The catch-22 of it all is that self-promotion is supposed to be ABOUT telling people what you're up to!

So what can you do to guarantee that you'll get in front of hundreds—or thousands—of potential buyers?

I could say write, but I think that's obvious. J.A. Konrath writes a lot about the fact that he’s so successful is because he has a large backlist of books available.

Instead, I'll say write for other people.

As in write guest posts.

You may have come across a blog or website that featured an article written by someone other than the owner of that site (like this post!)--this is an example of a guest post.

The benefits of having your work posted on another site are many. First, you're getting exposure—for free. You're able to send targeted, ready-to-buy leads directly to your site, or your book's sales page. You can start conversations with people whom you may never have had the chance to meet, and you'll be able to extend your reach through this leverage.

I'm currently on a guest-posting binge, and I call it my "blog tour." These days, you can pay someone else to plan and run a blog tour for you, but I think most of the hard stuff can done on your own. I've identified the main concepts behind blog tours, especially as they relate to authors. Feel free to add in your own ideas:

1. Figure out what your "niche" is. If you're a fiction writer, this can be tricky—the people who read vampire dramas aren't always the same people who frequent paranormal websites. Identify some target markets that coincide with some of the subject matter of your book, and see if you can write a few posts in that niche.

2. Write a lot. Obviously, you're going to need to have a lot of content ready to go when you start the tour. If you can, start writing immediately--there's not really a limit to how many posts you can run, but I do recommend trying to shoot for at least 10-15 posts, each on different sites.

3. Start planning early. When I started my tour, I prepared a spreadsheet of the target blogs and websites I'd like to see my post on, and then identified the ways I needed to reach out to the bloggers. Also, I planned some good post headlines so I wouldn't need to write the post and decide on a topic at the same time.

4. Go for broke. Don't settle for small, silent blogs that are so desperate for content they'll bend over backwards to have you visit. It's great to help out the little guys, but it's even better when it's mutually beneficial. Try to "target" blogs that have a decent amount of activity—a few comments on each post, a regular posting schedule, etc.

5. Make sure you have time to continue writing your books. You're probably not in it to be the next great blogger—you're just using your blog platform and guest posting to reach out to people and build your author brand. Give yourself space to continue writing the stuff you love.

So, how do you find the blogs that you’ll be guest posting on?

· First, look through your RSS reader for those blogs you currently read. Don’t be picky, either. There’s a good chance that since you read that blog, it’s a good fit for the audience you’re trying to attract to your writing.

· Next, look on the blogs to see if there are guest posters. You’ll usually see this at the top or bottom of the post. It’ll say something like, “This is a guest post by…” These sites are great to write for, since they’ve already established that they accept guest posts.

· Then what you’ll want to do is single out the blogs that have posted guidelines for guest posts. These are the easiest to approach, since they’re comfortable with guest posters already, and are most likely used to unsolicited guest post submissions.

When you have a list of some great blogs, start pitching. Here’s what a pitch for a guest post might look like for you:

“Hi there!

I’m a huge fan of your site—been reading it for years, actually.

I’m trying to promote my next book, and I was wondering if you’d accept a guest post from me? I have one that I think would match your target audience perfectly, called, “[blog post title idea]”. Let me know what you think!

[Your name]”

Change it to your liking, but be sure to:

1. Thank the blogger for their hard work on building an awesome blog.

2. Be concise. Don’t waste their time with links to your book, your background, etc. Just pitch and win!

3. Add some information about the post. If they want the entire post, send it in the format they prefer. If not, give them an idea for a title that would fit in well.

Last, but not least.

Finally, don't give up. I've built a few blogs over the years, and every time I've gotten discouraged from writing so many posts that no one seemed to be reading, I'd give up. Now, my blog is getting some decent readership and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.

The difference this time, I won’t quit. I've pushed through the initial phase of slow growth, and I think if I stick with it, people will start to notice. If you take the same approach, and consistently add value to your readers' lives, you'll start to build a platform as well!

What do you think? Having a blog can certainly be a headache when you've got so much else to focus on as a writer, but it can also be a huge blessing—publishing companies are looking for authors who've started to build their own platforms now, and if you can do it well, you might just have a book deal on your hands!

nickthackerNick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He likes to “hack” his life, and help people to get more done and write better. You can subscribe to his mailing list here.

Post Image: 401k/Flickr