The other day, three different people asked the same question: what can a beginning author can do to promote a book? Here are some ideas.
Build name awareness wherever you can. On Facebook, I post a different country song title every single day. It hopefully gives folks in my network a daily chuckle, and differentiates me from the many authors with nonstop cries of BUY MY BOOK. My novels take place mostly in Montana and I try to use humor in my writing when appropriate, so these daily posts are not entirely irrelevant.
Get active in online writers' groups. I’m most familiar with those on Facebook, and they are legion. There are many genre-specific, such as Suspense/Thriller Writers. For a group that’s more wide-spectrum, I enjoy Writers Etc because of the nice mix of newbies and very experienced pros. There’s also a nice mix of posts about improving the craft of writing, and those on the business side – getting an agent, promoting your book, self-publishing, and so on. It’s a closed group and I don’t add anybody to anything without their permission, but I'd be glad to add you to Writers Etc upon your request.
Keep your online activities focused on improving your craft and promoting your career. You may have strong political and religious opinions, but why on earth would you want to alienate potential mentors, fans and buyers? Even if I agree with the philosophy behind your rants, you might anger me with personal attacks on people I admire, or crude language. I have over 3,500 FB friends and I made the same approach to all of them – “I’m a writer, and I like to network with other writers and book lovers.” If I had added “and I enjoy tormenting Sarah Palin,” I don’t think my network would be nearly as large.
Review other books within your genre. Make any suggestions for change specific and positive. (“If you had done ABC, your characterization would have been even more effective.”) If you’re not giving a rating of at least 3 out of 5, consider keeping the review private, between you and the author. You’ve probably got enough enemies already, right?
Start a blog and post at least 2-3 times a week. Daily is better. Try to keep focused on just a couple themes instead of being all over the place. Capitalize on your unique expertise, or make yourself on expert on a particular subject. There are some wacky people lurking in the ‘Net so don’t be upset if you get wacky comments; on the other hand, you can control the comments you allow to appear.
Ask reviewers if they'd be interested in looking at your book. Be aware that there are excellent, professional reviewers who expect payment, and excellent, amateur reviewers who do it because they love all things bookish. Whatever the case, check out a few of their reviews first, to make sure they’re not cranky flamethrowers. If you happen to get an awful review, just thank the person for expressing an honest opinion and put it behind you. Trying to challenge a crappy review, however mistaken, will only make you look like an idiot. Really.
Get to know the local booksellers. In some communities, this might be your neighborhood grocery or big box store. Some of these folks have to accept buying decisions from their corporate headquarters, whereas others have a great deal of latitude.
Finally, be kind and helpful to other writers. (I wish I’d learned this earlier.) Resist the urge to criticize unless you’re asked for a critique. Even then, keep in mind the term “constructive criticism.”
Good luck and keep writing - Dixon