Since I don't have the inclination (or the body) for peddling naked
pictures of myself to draw attention to my novels, non-fiction books,
and short stories on the Internet, I (and others like me) have had to
fall back on more respectable ways to advertise our works.
Online book publishers, and magazines (referred to zanily in Net-Speak
as "'zines") are appearing (and disappearing) like politicians'
promises, but an increasing number of them are proving quite durable
enough for writers to place their work with. But after we publish our
work, there comes the task of further expending considerable energy to
promote (or in Net-Speak: promo) it as widely as we can.
The process goes something like this:
1) Writer writes something. Sends it to Online Publisher A.
2) Online Publisher A reads it, hates it/doesn't understand it/lets the
cat whiddle on it, and rejects it.
3) Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have pulled the majority of your hair
out of your head.
4) Online Publisher X or Y reads your masterpiece, loves it, sends you
an acceptance letter/e-mail/contract.
5) You dance around the room frightening the cat/dog/goldfish.
6) Your masterpiece is edited and made available to whomever on the Net
(Net-speak: surfer) wishes to purchase it.
7) Depending on how the masterpiece sells, you treat yourself to a
yacht. Or a brand new box of Q-tips.
8) And that brings us to the cyberfly in the ointment.
The CyberFly In The Ointment
How will the Net surfers _know_your masterpiece is available so they can
buy it in the first place?
After all, they may or may not have heard of the publisher, whose
address is merely one of the katchillions out there in Net-Land.
The answer? Promo.
The publisher will no doubt put out some efforts to let people know our
masterpieces have descended from the mind of the Muse for the
edification and delight of readers everywhere.
But publishers, like writers and liposuction, can only do so much.
Writers will want to help in the process of notifying and building up a
potential readership. Now, not all of us are born with the genetic
aptitude for promo, or even an intimate knowledge of the workings of the
Net, so these suggestions of mine will be basic, ranging from the simple
to the um. slightly less simple, so that even the least technical of us
(meaning _me_ -- because I am the least technical person among any crowd
in which I find myself) can at least start to get the promo seltzer on
their new project bubbling away.
If you are online, you probably have some form of e-mail provided for
you by your server. (I don't know why they call them "servers" or
"service providers". I have phoned them repeatedly to have my breakfast
served to me in bed and have finally had to get up and make my own, so I
ask you, what sort of "service" is _that_?!)
If you have e-mail, then you probably have a signature line (Net-Speak:
"sig") which can be added to all your outgoing e-mails and replies.
This is a great place to start your promo fizzing.
In our sig line, we simply put the information about our masterpiece.
(Though _not_ the masterpiece itself. Mustn't give away the cow when
it's just the milk you want to sell.) For example, let's say our latest
opus, _Disciplining _Your _Kids _Just _For _Fun_ has been published by
Spanquenslap Press. You will have been assigned an ISBN (a number
identifying your book for sales purposes) and you would want to put that
in the sig line, along with perhaps a blurb about what the book
contains, or even a snappy quote from a critic. Folks can then get a
taste of our work, and use the ISBN to order our magnum opus.
Easy. Put the address of the publisher in the sig also. Now I know
that may sound like the "Duh" heard 'round the world, but you'd be
surprised how many writers forget that important bit of info. Buyers
need to know where to go to buy. So in our fictitious (I hope) case,
we'd put in: www. SpanquenslapPress.com (or whatever the publisher's
address might be). (Net-Speak: "eddress" or even "addy" -- which I know
sounds like a spinster schoolmarm from an old _Gunsmoke_ episode, but
there's nothing I can do about that now.)
Just by inserting the above info into our sig, along with maybe a line
about how you'd like your email correspondents to check out our Great
American Whatsis, our every e-mail becomes transformed (like Clark Kent
in a phone booth) into a tool for promo.
Everyone we e-mail is informed of our available tome and how to get it.
This will at least start to carbonate interest and, hopefully, sales.
In addition to that basic use of e-mail, you might want to try building
up a list of family, friends, and business contacts (more about them in
a minute) (well, _two_ minutes if you read slowly). Some writers even
develop newsletters about their work, and by means of servers (remember
them?) who offer free services in this regard, send them to anyone who
If you have readings in local libraries or book signings, or are going
in a for a root canal, you put it all in your newsletter and tell your
growing list of fans what is happening with you.
One thing I like to do, and my strange friends more or less expect it of
me, is when I am e-mailed a joke or hear a funny story, I will pass it
on to those who I think will enjoy it. Along with these jokes, I
include my current promo information. If I have a story up and
available to be read at an online zine, I put it into my sig line and
send copies of the whole thing (plus the joke, of course) to my friends.
This way, they get a chuckle (I hope) and are also kept up on my latest
humor or horror piece.
No matter what you write about, or what your interests are, there is
probably a newsgroup out there made up of people who share those
interests. Check with your server (ideally while it is fixing you a
snack) for the names of newsgroups available to you. Check out the ones
which involve the subject you've written about, then go to the online
newsgroup and visit it for a while. (Net-Speak: "lurk".)
Yes, I know saying that you are "lurking" sounds vaguely sinister, not
to say outright "Gothic". But I didn't make up these terms.
Anyway, go to the newsgroups and "lurk" for a while.
Read the messages other people are posting, and the replies they get.
When you are familiar with a topic or feel you want to jump into the
conversation, do so by introducing yourself to the group. When you do,
and read their responses to your message, you can share with them about
your available book (mostly via the sig line at first, unless they ask
you questions and want to know more).
The more you get involved with newsgroups, the more likely you are to
"meet" people with similar interests who enjoy discussing them and may
be very willing to see what you've contributed to the subject.
Supposing you've written the final word on the subject of _The _Social
_Infrastructure _Of _The _Marabuntu _Ant_. You could then go to the
newsgroup, alt.marabuntu.ant, and join in on the lively and stimulating
discussions in your chosen field. Other posters in the group will see
in your sig line that you have enriched the world's burning desire to
know more about the little devils and will rush off (we hope) to buy
Remember, though, while it can be an investment of time, it is worth it
for you to get involved personally with the newsgroups sharing your
interests. Newsgroups hate it when new posters (Net-Speak: "newbies")
show up just to bomb them with advertisements for books, knitted
submarine covers, or used nuclear weapons, and then just disappear
again. Stick around; you're bound to meet some great folks, who, when
they see you are creative, charming and intelligent (you _are_, aren't
you?) they will be interested in what you have to say, as well as what
you have written.
Along the same lines would be the Chat Rooms and Writer's Circles,
usually found as "links" on sites throughout the Web. Here you can talk
(well, _type_) in real time, back and forth, with folks who share your
f-ant-asies, and tell them about your Marabuntu masterpiece.
I know that sounds like something a psychic does with a client's palm,
but readings are also done by writers. For example, you can work out an
arrangement with your publisher to provide you with disks containing
your book (or CDs or bound copies if your book is available in Print On
Demand format, etc), and you can arrange to do a reading at your local
You might want to create interesting flyers announcing the event, and
distribute them; of course you'll probably invite your family and
friends too, unless the sight of them will frighten the other guests or
the horses. Bring a laptop if you have one available, or use the
library's computer to demonstrate what your online book looks like, and
after you read a portion of it (not an extremely _long_ portion, of
course, unless you've told everyone to bring their sleeping bags), show
anyone interested how they can order it for their very own.
Many local bookstores are interested in promoting local authors (that's
us!) and by meeting with the appropriate person there, you can set up a
similar reading and booksigning at their store. If you've published a
book online (Net-Speak: "ebook"), you will probably be signing a CD or
the paper inside of a disk's plastic jacket, but the main thing is:
you'll be signing, and attracting interest in your book.
If you live near a college with a radio station, you can notify them of
the advent of your book, and let them know you are available for
interviews. (And anything else for which you might be available, but
keep it relatively legal, okay?) Radio stations, even local television
stations (public access stations too), may accept announcements from you
regarding your book, even if only because ebooks are still enough of a
novelty that people will want to know about them. And _you'll_ be the
All the above suggestions, with a little modification, can apply if you
have published a short story or journalistic article in an online or
print zine. Announce to all and sundry that your article is up in
AntFancy zine at ruinyourpicnic.com, and ask everyone you know to check
it out and give you their feedback.
There are many places on the net that offer free (well.maybe on
condition of watching a few thousand banners) space where you can create
your own web page. This can be a lot of fun (especially if you have
someone who knows how to do funny pictures and graphics etc, and to whom
you can offer scads of money (or a romantic dinner) to liven up your
page with them.
But all the bells and whistles aren't as important as just having a page
where (by putting its address in your sig line of course) you can send
people who want to read more about where they can find your work. Maybe
even some free samples to whet their appetites for more!
By setting up a web page, you can write informally for visitors about
your work, what's out, what's coming out, whatever you want. By going
to your site, people find out a little more about you. Some writers put
extensive photos of themselves (in my case, not a good idea, since I've
got a mug that could stop a sun dial). Your imagination (and the amount
of web space the "host" allows) are your only limits.
If you or any of your friends are gifted in the graphic arts (unlike
myself, who is unable to draw a straight line even with a ruler and
three buff assistants), you might want to brainstorm over clever ways to
get your book noticed. For example, create bookmarks with your book's
title logo or art on them and give them to the libraries or bookstores
If your book is about, say, ceramics, you may want to make vivid
examples of your handiwork to give people a chance at "hand's on"
contact. (Do not, however, allow me within ten feet of said ceramics.
I am, among my many other failings, rather clumsy, and I confess to
being a serious threat to the well-being of delicate objects.) Anything
that might tie in with the content of your book can be a fertile field
for. um. fertilizing.
Any or all of the above suggestions are, as I said earlier, quite basic,
and by starting out with them, you will doubtless discover many other
intriguing possibilities for setting a-fizzle the promo seltzer for your
And I wish you the best of luck!
x x x