This page is full of tips on how to promote your book online. It follows my journey through cyber space with Letters to Leonardo. I hope you find it useful in promoting your own work.
Setting Up Your Own WordPress Blog
I must have been one of the last people in the country to convert to Broadband but thanks to the huge alien looking object installed on our ‘remote location’ roof, I was now what you might call a newborn in cyber space.
I had resisted exploring this ‘new dimension’ for as long as I could but once my Young Adult novel, Letters to Leonardo was accepted by Walker Books Australia, I knew that my days of cyber ignorance were numbered. It was time I ‘got with the program’ and learned how to communicate with my intended readers.
So began my journey through the cyber space wilderness. At first, I thought that a Blog was some bizarre new breed of Cane Toad, and wasn’t Twitter something birds did? You Tube sounded like a receptacle for tooth paste, and Face Book conjured up images of a bizarre and possibly painful form of beauty treatment.
Thankfully, I had a kind group of writer friends always willing to offer assistance with the technical aspects, and the finer points of blogging – but due to my close geographic proximity to nobody, I was pretty much forced into setting up the blog on my own.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a lot less daunting than I expected – and I discovered that experimenting was a great way to learn.
WHY DO I NEED A BLOG ANYWAY?
Blogging is a great way to reach your readers – particularly, YA readers who spend more time on their computers than in bookshops.
Your blog enables you to reach people all over the world without leaving the comfort of your own home. It allows you to tell them about your book/s and about you, as an author – it makes you accessible to your readers.
Blogs encourage regular readers so they allow more people to find out about your book and this can lead to increased sales.
As blogs are updated regularly, they are rated highly by Google and other search engines – making them easy to find – and leading more readers to you.
WHAT KIND OF BLOG
When setting up my blog, I had only heard of two options – WordPress or Blogspot. I chose to have a WordPress blog because you could add extra pages to it – and therefore make it like a live website. Some people find Blogspot easier to use however. It’s a matter of having a look at different kinds of blogs, thinking about what you like and what you are trying to achieve – and giving it a go.
If in doubt about something, you can always go to the FAQs and you will normally find that someone has already asked the question that you are seeking answers to.
Think about what you want your blog to do. Why are you setting it up?
As well as this blog, I have one at Writing Classes For Kids because I also wanted to have a blog that encouraged young writers.
CHOOSING YOUR DESIGN
WordPress offers pages and pages of different designs. It’s up to you to choose which one suits you and what you do. How your blog looks and what’s on it is controlled through the Dashboard.
On the left hand side of the Dashboard screen, you will find an icon for Appearance and this is where you can select the theme of your blog, the heading you want, and all the other things you might want people to see when they visit your site.
When you select Appearance you will be able to view different themes and see the different ways your blog can look. The theme will show you types of headings, number of columns, how your pictures will look, and the colours that will appear. Once you have chosen the theme you like the look of, click ‘activate’ and this theme will become the ‘style’ for your blog. You can insert your own image or logo in the heading to replace the one in the theme. You just have to select Custom Header from the Appearance menu/toolbar and then upload the image of your choice.
For my blog, I chose a theme called MistyLook by Sadish because I liked the large Custom Header which allowed me to use my logo, and it also had top level page navigation which I thought would make it easier for visitors to find their way around.
COMPONENTS OF YOUR BLOG
Your blog will normally have:
- PAGES – Mine has a front or home page which contains all my posts, a page about me and a page about my current works. How many pages you have and what’s on them is up to you.
- A CUSTOM HEADER – which can be your name, logo or any picture you want.
- A place where visitors to your blog can subscribe to receive your posts etc (Feeds)
- LINKS to other blog and websites (you can sort these by categories)
- A list of previous posts you have done (these can also be sorted by categories)
- COUNTER showing how many people have visited your blog.
I soon discovered that Widgets are not people behaving in an inappropriate or foolish manner; they are the things that make your blog look the way you want it to. So that when people put your URL into their search engine, this is what they will see.
Widgets are also found in the Appearance toolbar on the left of screen, underneath themes. There are many different kinds of Widgets, but there is only room in this article to examine the main ones.
LINKS: – Selecting this Widget allows links to other blogs and websites to be displayed on your blog.
PAGES: – This Widget allows more than just the home page to be available on your blog.
CATEGORIES: – This Widget allows your posts to be displayed on your blog in categories.
META: – This Widget allows you to say in a few words who you are and what you do. Mine for example says, Dee White, Children’s author. Writer of Letters to Leonardo, A Duel of Words and Hope for Hanna.
BLOG STATS: – These are good for telling you who visited your blog and when.
When you click on Widgets, you will enter a page with a list of Widgets in the left hand column and next to it, options to ‘add’ or ‘delete’.
If you want to add a new Widget, select ‘add’. When you make any changes to Widgets, always make sure you ‘save changes’
ADDING A NEW POST
To add a new post. click ‘Add New’ on the Posts toolbar. A screen will come up with ‘Add New Post’. Type the heading in the top empty box. The body of your post will go in the larger box underneath the formatting symbols. It is advisable to save the draft as you go in case you have a power or cyber glitch and you lose everything you have typed.
Once you have saved the draft you can see how it looks by selecting ‘Preview’. If you’re happy with the appearance of your blog, you can select ‘Publish’. You can even schedule your post to appear sometime in the future just don’t make the mistake I did of leaving the clock on US time so the post appeared a day late.
You can upload a video, picture or music by selecting one of the upload/insert icons situated above the formatting toolbar.
When you add your new post, don’t forget to select ‘category’ so that your posts are sorted into relevant topics. You can also select ‘tags’ for your post to make it easier for search engines to locate.
ADDING A LINK
To link your blog to your publisher’s website or other interesting sites is simple.
From the Links menu select ‘Add New’. Type in the name, web address and description of the site you wish to link to. Remember to select a ‘category’ for your links so they will be sorted according to relevance/topic. To add a new category for a link or a post, just select ‘Add New Category’ and type in whatever you want your category to be called.
Once you have typed in all the necessary information for the link you are adding, select ‘Add Link’.
This is just a basic outline of how to set up your blog. I encourage you to do what I did – which is to look at lots of other blogs and use those elements you like in your own site.
PART TWO – Taking Your Book on a Blog Tour
WHAT IS A BLOG TOUR?
I think Blog Tours were invented for people like me, with very busy family lives, and not a lot of time or resources to travel around the country promoting my book.
The best thing about a blog tour is that it allows you to do all this from the comfort of your own home. I’m even travelling to the USA on my blog tour, and I don’t have to worry about costly air fares, turbulence, travel insurance or any other potential travel issues.
So, what happens on a blog tour? You get to visit other people’s blogs and talk about different aspects of your book. Each blog you visit will introduce you to a whole new group of followers and let a whole new group of readers learn about your book.
PLANNING YOUR BLOG TOUR
It’s important to plan your blog tour in advance. The better organised you are, the more successful your tour will be.
The first thing to do is target your destination blogs. You may already know people you would like to visit. You can add new blogs to your tour by Googling blogs related to the types of books you write. For example, if you write YA like me, you might want to find new YA blogs to visit – there are some great ones out there. If you don’t know the blogger, email them, tell them about yourself and your new book, and ask if they’d be interested in featuring you on their blog – a great way to make new contacts.
Make a list of all your blog destinations; including name and URL of blog. So then you can plan your route.
WHERE DO I START?
If you don’t know other bloggers, a great way to start is to join a blog tour group like Aussie Blog Tours http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aussieblogtours
There you will meet other like minded bloggers who will be happy to host you on tour.
BLOG TOUR THEMES
In my Letters to Leonardo blog tour (24th June 2009 to 7th July 2009), I organised to visit 14 different destinations. Visitors don’t want to read the same thing at every destination so it’s important to vary your content.
I made a list of possible topics or themes that could be discussed at each visit, and each host got to pick a different one – that way, even the there may be some overlap, you are pretty well guaranteed that each blog stop will be different.
My themes were:
- promoting your book online
- author interview
- symbolism – how art has been used in Letters to Leonardo
- the research process
- dreams and writing
- the writing process
- mentors in YA fiction
- cyber launch – including obstacles overcome to publication
- how the author’s life paralleled the main character’s
- working with a publisher and the editing process
- Interview with the main character
- Classroom writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo
- Tips for young writers based on how Letters to Leonardo was written
- Discussion on bipolar (the condition that the main character’s mother suffers from) and how young adults are affected by living with a family member’s mental illness
HELPING OUT YOUR BLOG HOST
To ensure that materials didn’t overlap, I provided blog hosts with background materials related to the topics they had chosen.
They found this useful in compiling their questions – and some used the background pieces as their posts.
Make life as easy for your blog host as possible and they are more likely to invite you back.
Invite your blog audience to make comments and ask questions. Then over the next few days, return to your host’s blog to respond. Keep the conversation going.
At each stop on your blog tour, mention where you have been and where you are heading to next.
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT BLOG TOURS
One of the best things about blog tours is that all the information is still there months and possibly years later. For you, this means that your book is getting ongoing exposure. For blog tour visitors, it means that they don’t have to visit the blog on the day that the author is appearing there – you can visit a blog the following week or the next – catch up on the whole tour at a later date. It’s not like an actual tour where if you don’t visit the store on the right day, you don’t get to hear what the author had to say.
If you want to see how a blog tour works, feel free to revisit my Letters to Leonardo blog tour. Here’s where I went:
24th June 2009 http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com
Dee and Matt talked about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.
25th June 2009 http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com
26th June 2009 http://thebookchook.blogspot.com
How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo
27th June 2009 http://belka37.blogspot.com
The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo
28th June 2009 http://weloveya.wordpress.com
Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld about writing and dreams
29th June 2009 http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale
An author interview about the writing process – covering things like inspiration and perspective.
30th June http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com
Mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book
2nd July http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com
How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci.
3rd July http://bjcullen.blogspot.com
Working with a publisher and the editing process.
4th July http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com
Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson.
Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo.
Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written.
7th July http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com
An overseas stop before heading home
PART THREE – The Cyber Launch
WHAT IS A CYBER LAUNCH?
A Cyber Launch is the cheapest, healthiest and most environmentally friendly way I can think of to launch a book. And it can get you around the whole world in a single day! It involves hosting the launch from your blog – and other than that, you can do whatever you want – cross to other blogs – do interactive activities – anything.
But, if you want it to be just as fabulous and fun as a ‘real’ launch, you need to do just as much work. And like all successful functions, it needs to be planned
THE ‘TO DO’ LIST
This is important to help relieve the stress of planning such a big event. You just cross things off as you do them:
1. Make a ‘to do list’. (This is it).
2. Make a list of people who are going to be involved in your Cyber Launch. That includes:
- blog hosts
- anyone else you can think of
3. Make sure everyone who needs to be, is on the publisher’s list of people needing review copies of your book.
4. Make sure the review copies are on their way.
5. Plan your cyber launch itinerary.
6. Make a list of any articles/activities you might be having for your Cyber Launch (I know that’s a lot of lists – but lists are good – they take the pressure off, stop you having to remember everything).
7. Make a timeline/schedule of all the things you will have to do in the lead up to your launch.
8. Find out details of online booksellers so you can put their details on your blog and overseas Cyber Launch guests will know where they can buy your book.
9. Make your Cyber Launch invitations.
10. Send out your Cyber Launch invitations.
11. Write and prepare any articles or posts that you will need on the day, so you just need to insert them at the right times. This means you can enjoy your Cyber Launch day sipping cyber bubbles, greeting your guests and responding to questions and comments.
PLANNING YOUR CYBER LAUNCH ITINERARY
It’s important to do this early no so that you know who you will need to talk to, what you need them to provide and what materials you will need.
My Cyber Launch itinerary for Letters to Leonardo looked something like this:
- 10.00 am – a word from the publisher – and from me to welcome guests to this ‘unique’ occasion. And a reminder to leave your industry relevant blog details and I’ll add you to my blogroll.
- 10.15am Launch by Margaret Hamilton and cross to Robyn Opie’s blog http://robynopie.blogspot.com
- 10.30am – make available a Sneak Peek Ist chapter of Letters to Leonardo.
- 11.00am – cross to http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com where young writers will be able to find out all about ‘beginnings’ – how to get your reader’s attention and keep it.
- 11.15am – a book review by a YA reader will be downloaded to this blog.
- 11.30am – cross to http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com for a classroom writing activity and extension task based on the ‘Sneak Peek’ made available earlier.
- 11.45am – A fun “Word Search” based on Letters to Leonardo will be downloaded to http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com
- 12.00 – the link to a movie book preview of Letters to Leonardo will be downloaded onto this blog together with an article about how the movie book preview was made.
- 12.30 – Blog post – ‘Five Fast Facts’ about writing Letters to Leonardo.
- 1.00pm – another YA book review will be downloaded here.
- 1.30pm – Letters to Leonardo’s main character, Matt, interviews the author about how she used Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings to tell Matt’s story.
- 2.00pm – at the end of a BIG day, it will be time to put your feet up – and the perfect chance to start reading your copy of Letters to Leonardo
COLLECTING THE MATERIALS FOR YOUR CYBER LAUNCH
Another good thing about a Cyber Launch is that you can do all your posts and activities in advance and load them onto your blog, but just leave them as drafts until the big day. Then, all you have to do is hit ‘publish’ at the right time and everything should run smoothly.
Have a check list of things you need and make sure you have everything prior to the day including things like:
- A word from the publisher
- Materials from the person launching the book
- Appropriate pictures
- Articles and posts
- Reading activities
- Movie Book Preview
- A Sneak Peek at the Book if possible
- Details/links of where people can buy your book online
HOW THE CYBER LAUNCH WENT – AND WHAT I LEARNED
I learned that a Cyber Launch can be lots of fun – and a great way of generating traffic to your blogs and getting your name and your book out there.
My Cyber Launch went for four hours and involved over 20 posts. That day, I had over 250 hits and the following day, in excess of 100, so even though there was a lot of preparation involved prior to the Cyber Launch, it was well worth the effort.
Fortunately, I wrote most of the posts earlier so all I had to do was publish them on the day – and this eased the workload. I found that I had just enough time to respond to people’s comments – and then it was time to publish my next post.
The beauty of the Cyber Launch was that people didn’t have to be there on the day – visitors can drop in today and all the posts will still be there – and can be responded to.
So, what I have I learned from this? That a Cyber Launch can be convenient, comfortable (you don’t have to leave your own home) and definitely worth doing – but the key to a successful one is preparation!
Here’s a link to another great article about marketing your book. http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.org/blog/2012/12-marketing-skills-every-writer-now-needs/ hope you find it useful.