Marketing on a Budget
By Moondancer Drake
With my first anthology out (Chilling Tales) and a novel due this fall (Ancestral Magic) I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the idea of marketing. Being with a small publisher, a lot of the promotion lands on my shoulders, and not having a ton of extra cash to spare, I have to be frugal with the marketing tools I use. Some of these I have been working on for quite some time, whole others are new tools since the anthologies release or resources geared to the novel as its date of availability get closer. Whereas any artist can use these tool to promote themselves, as a writer I will mostly be focusing on that aspect.
The internet itself is a great tool to give your work widespread attention. There are no gas or plane fares to dig into your pocket book, you simply have the world at your fingertips. What you do with this connection is up to you. Here are some suggestions.
What a blog is for
This is something I suggest to do as early as possible. Establishing yourself as an online presence before you have work you are promoting is a great way to gather a fan base, as well as giving a place for people who want to know where you stand a way to get to know you better. You can do anything with blogging. Make a stand about social injustices, display personal art and writing, gather with other writers to offer advice on writing or to promote/support each others work. The possibilities are endless.
Be careful what you say
This is not to say you should do anything on a personal or professional blog. This is not a place to publicly bash publishers who reject your work, editors that get on your nerves, other artists you may be having a row with, or even complaining about your boss unless you are okay with these folks finding your blog and seeing what you say about them. It’s an easy way to shoot your career in the foot if you aren’t careful. That is not to say you can’t have an opinion, or vent your frustration, just remember folks are not only reading what you write there, but the wrong person would be just as likely to repost what you say someplace else to start trouble.
The subject of trolls
For those of you who have never experienced internet trolls, here’s a brief definition of what these creatures are. The term trolls has a connection to the technique of” trolling” a style of fishing that involves a bait to be dragged though an area looking far a fish to bite. Internet trolls do basically the same thing. They come to a blog or online community for the purpose to make off topic comments and cause trouble. They are generally a person who feels their life is out of control, so they victimize someone else to make them feel important,
Trolls are something any blogger who takes a stand on anything that could be seen as controversial, or who isn’t meek when it comes to commenting on other blogs, will have to do with at some point. Set your blog settings accordingly to protect yourself best you can, avoid posting personal pics or information you don’t want these trolls to have access to, and work to build a supportive online community who can all just to each other’s defense when these trolls come calling.
You can’t protect yourself completely, but don’t let them stop you from talking about the issues that impassion you, nor give them the power to derail an important topic with their idiocy. It will be up to you on whether to fight or just ignore the trolls, often the latter is the best you can do.
Assuming I haven’t completely scared you off of blogging talking about trolls, one of the best ways to bring traffic to your blog is to link up with other blogs as well. Post link to places you admire or find interesting, trade links with other writers or artists you admire or like. Helping promote each other is a great way to increase traffic for all of you. Marketing yourself as an artist isn’t about competing, it’s about giving the consumer all the information they need, and at the same time giving you a place to be creative and speak out. Whether you blog every day or only once a week, it’s a good habit to get into. Also don’t forget to spend time visiting other’s blogs. You may be surprised what you learn and what may inspire you.
Other great tool for personal promotion, and something that can be easily links your blog is the website. I prefer having a domain through a paid hosting source, but there is many free webhosting places out there you can use as well. Unless you have a friend who has the ability to build your site for you, you will have to do the web design yourself or pay to have it done. Be sure to keep it as simple as you can easily maintain, so you can make regular changes as you need to.
What to have on your site
There are several things that I think are crucial on any website as an author or artist. You want someplace where the casual viewer can learn about you, a bio page of some sort. This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. You want to display your work in some way so those visiting can get a taste of what you do, your style and skill. Also, here is a good place to add links to other artist, resource sites, ect…for the cross promoting I mentioned before. You have review of your work, post them on your site. Events you’ll be attending? News on upcoming releases or awards? Yep post those here too. This is your site, your chance to show new viewers who you are and what your about. Inlike the blog this is a much for the casual reader, as for the person who wants to learn much more about you.
Places like google, yahoo, etc have email communities and forums where you can connect with like minded people and talk about anything that interests you. This is also a great place to promote your work assuming personal promotion is allowed on the group, and you follow the group rules for doing so. My advice, join these groups long before it is time to promote your work. Be as active as you can so people know who you are, and don’t only see you as someone just here to promote themselves but a true member of their online community.
Places like YouTube or any other video hosting are fabulous places if you have the tech knowledge and equipment to do your own videos. Book trailers are a great way for you to attract the more visually geared folks to want to check out your work. A well done trailer can be a huge boost, and there are many places that give tutorials on how to do this. You can make your trailer or virtual gallery as simple or as complicated as you like.
Now many of you know about doing readings and panels at conventions, but with the growing cost of travel I’ve thought about how else to present my work in a less visual arena, for those like me who are more audiotorally geared. Podcasts are a great way to accomplish this. Whether you do them like a regular radio show, for example a writer workshop, or group promotion of several writers, or for accessible reading or you reading your work online, podcasts are a great tool. There are some great links under “Additional Resources” to teach you how to take advantage of this useful technology.
Now, in honestly podcast and web vids will never truly replace the feeling of live readings (for some of us the terror and the nausea of public speaking is like nothing else), and if you keep your author events local you can keep costs down as well. Remember, indy bookstores are just one place to do a fun author event. You can do group reading which can be a fantastic draw for attendees, slam session at local coffee houses, any place you can think of that fits the audience of whatever type of work you do. Be creative, and have a good time. If you make it fun, your prospective readers will have a good time too.
Well, I hope this information was useful to you. It’s never to early (or too late) to focus on self promotion. You don’t need tons of money, but you will need to plot your time so as not to get overwhelmed between you promotion time, your crate time, and everything else your life demands of you. Good luck!