Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES
Want to share your cleverest self-promotion gimmick? Was it your bookcover wrapped around candy? A costumed hero passing out fliers? Did you have success with a book fair? Or BookBub, Twitter, or Facebook? This anthology collects AUTHOR’S TRUE STORIES OF HOW THEY PROMOTE THEMSELVES. I’m thinking everyone writes one story, someone cute and memorable and original, something that ideally worked well. First person anecdote. You may use technical details from websites and social media and goodreads and so on if you like, but consider just saying “I went to this site and followed the directions.” This isn’t a technical book — it’s a clever ideas book. (Likewise, I’ll do a glossary at the back in case anyone doesn’t know what KDP free days or hashtags are. No need to explain the basic terminology).The audience is absolutely authors getting their start and looking for neat self-promo ideas. Ideally, this would be something other writers could replicate. If your experience was dependent on your particular genre or book subject, that’s still fine – there are many ways to adapt it. Authors writing about fiction/nonfiction/poetry/any genre/self pub/traditional pub/ebooks/audio books are welcome. Basically, tell me about your booth decorations, your free coloring books, your unusual chocolates, your custom sign, your party, your book fair event, your giveaway…whatever you did that was really neat.
I encourage you to describe your book IN A WAY THAT FITS YOUR STORY in order to slip in a sly promo, though everyone also gets a bio. See my example stories below to see how I got some description of my book in.
I’d like to get LOTS of these stories, say 50, so do pass on the information to other writers. 500-1500 words (not hard numbers, but I’m looking for short experiences after all). Since this is meant to be educational and also work as advertising, I plan to publish as free ebook only on Smashwords. Thus there will be no cash involved, but you and anyone you like may download infinite copies. The hope is that authors will not only benefit from your story but also be intrigued enough to track down your book or website. You’re welcome to give people a reason to go to your site – perhaps to see your sample press kit or social media links. And with 50 of us spreading the word and requesting it for libraries and so on, this anthology really might make an impression on the author community.
To submit, please send your complete story as well as a 100-150 word third person bio. I prefer that you paste it all in the body of the email. Email to Valerie @ calithwain.com, subject: SELF PROMO ANTHOLOGY. You may send 0-3 photos of yourself and your bookcovers (or you doing your self-promo) if you like. High quality jpgs preferred, though for the web, 72 dpi or so still works. Deadline of Nov 10, 2016.
Two sample stories:
The Power of Silly Hats (600 words)
My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.
Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.
At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona – someone would be Lord Voldemort or Tonks for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.
To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted a short endorsement from. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.
By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books
At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it (and a witchy dress, but this part isn’t terribly memorable) and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously matters, as I need them on the spot.
Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. Plus, I thought the parodies might be a good draw. The gracious lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic…
What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.
I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…
My KDP Experience (900 words)
As I write this, I just earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.
First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).
Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message which many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).
Goodreads and Facebook message:
Free Dr Who Guide Today!
Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/
With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.
Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.
Twitter message: Variations on the following:
Doctor Who: The What Where and How # free Nov 21-25 # freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ # ebook # freeebook # DoctorWho # DoctorWho50th #movies
I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but that would’ve given me a few more characters. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”
Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I check what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could go some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.
For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtages, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.
#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho
Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my picture was my book cover after all…
I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repining and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.
I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.
I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.
Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.