A recent discussion on the Five Star list prompted me to take a look at what passes in my life for book marketing and promotion online. I hadn't really given it much thought, taking on bits and pieces over the years as part of being a writer. Now was the time, it seemed, to take a look at where I go to sell books or get my name out there. For the last few years I've focused on the Anita Ray series, and with a new book coming out in April 2016, now is a good time to review my approach.
I drew up a list of the sites I think of as part of my online presence, something I would never have imagined in the 1950s, when I first started writing (yes, I was a teenager in the dark ages). This list is longer than I expected. Some of this online business I enjoy and some I don't, so I do what makes sense to me.
I still believe strongly in bookstore and library events, and any other opportunities to meet readers face to face and learn about their interests. That said, here are the sites I have come to frequent unevenly, and find useful. Your experiences may vary, but there are plenty of sites to try.
www.susanoleksiw.com Yes, I have a webpage, which always needs updating and tweaking.
www.susansblogbits.blogspot.com Yes, I have a blog, which I try to post to once a week.
Author Central Yes, I have an Amazon author page where I get to gnash my teeth over the occasional snarky review.
Goodreads This site is for readers to connect with books and, if they're interested, with the authors of those books. I post the titles I'm reading along with reviews, and occasionally other readers comment on the reviews. I've also heard from authors who have appreciated what I have posted about their work. I have an author page and occasionally answer questions. If I join a group, I join as a reader. It's considered bad form to push your own books on groups set up to discuss other topics but you can set up a group to talk about your own work. I do giveaways for ARCs, in exchange for reviews, knowing that most people won't review the book but they may pass it on to a friend.
LibraryThing This site is similar to GR, and can be useful for reviews and giveaways.
The Reading Room This site is a little different from the two above. It began in Australia, in 2010, and claims about 1.4 million members. It also includes the option of giveaways, but I especially enjoy reading the articles collected there.
Wattpad This is a site for posting stories for others to read. Most of them are written by unpublished writers but they attract readers who will then follow the writer and search for other stories or books by the author. Margaret Atwood posted something to the site and got a tremendous response. She wrote about the site also.
Pinterest This site allows you to post images in as many different categories as you want, such as food, flowers, or whatever. Here I post articles I have enjoyed, mostly on writing and publishing, and Indian recipes. I started one on book covers and then neglected it.
Twitter I have used this a handful of times. If I have something pithy to say I usually inflict it on the television while I'm washing dishes.
BookDaily.com This site has a lot of material directed to self-published writers but I enjoy some of the articles.
DorothyL I enjoy this chatlist for the variety of people who post and the book titles I come across. There is sometimes too much conversation about television.
Short Mystery Fiction Society This is a very interesting group of writers of short fiction who offer solid information on publishing including new venues, how-to articles, and general support. Some of the members have published over a thousand short stories and willingly share advice and opportunities.
Facebook I have a number of friends who live in other parts of the country and overseas, and I am grateful to FB for letting me stay in touch with them. There is little to no chance that I'm going to sit down and write a letter, print out photographs, and head off to the post office at least once a week in order to stay in touch with them. FB has allowed me to remain close to friends I rarely see. FB has its flaws but it also has its strengths. I announce books, blog posts, and events, but I'm otherwise interested in the general conversation among members/friends.
When I first began writing this post I thought it would be quick and easy, with just a few sites listed. I'm surprised at the number, but I know that other writers have far more sites they visit. I check in with certain blogs and occasionally leave comments, and I always appreciate comments on mine (like this one).
Marketing and promoting a book through the Internet is a time-consuming process. But it is for me a lot easier than promoting my book back in 1993. My publisher, Scribner, sent out review copies only to the big guys, and the rest was up to me. If I wanted more reviews or more anything, I had to call each individual newspaper and ask for an interview or the name of someone to send a review copy to, or buy a list of libraries and send out 2,000 postcards. In 1993 I sent a postcard and personal note to every single library in Massachusetts, and another thousand cards to other libraries in the US. I did the same for my next book, in 1994. No one sends postcards anymore.
Writers will always have to take a role in selling their books, and for many of us it will never be easy. But I'm willing to use whatever technology is available, even if I'm not very good at it. I count myself lucky to have the option and the support of a good publisher, Five Star.