Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You've sold your first book...NOW WHAT?

I remember selling my first book and thinking...what now? Once I'd gotten past the thrill of it all, I knew it was time to think about promoting myself. But how? Nobody knew who the hell I was! No name recognition. No book out there in the cyber world. I was a big fat NOBODY. At the time I wasn't involved in any loops, I knew next to nothing about blogs, and I had no clue where new authors should advertise an upcoming release. I wasn't tech savvy (unless I counted my ability to punch the 'power' button on my computer). Really, it was pathetic how little I knew about things. Over the years, I've gotten plenty of advice...good and bad about promotion. I don't see myself as any kind of expert on the subject but here goes. The single most important thing you can do is to get yourself a nice website.

You've just sold your first book. What is the very first thing you need to do in the way of getting your name out there? A good website is a MUST HAVE investment. I know of many authors who weren't necessarily tech savvy who managed to figure out how to get a nice website up and running. Join some writers loops and ask around. Normally it's not too hard to get advice about this stuff and writers are the most generous people in the world. The main thing to keep in mind is...it must look clean, professional, and capture the imagination. You are a writer aren't you? You are creative. Your website should reflect not only your books but say something about YOU and leave visitors with an impression that will hopefully stick in their minds.

Right away I realized I wasn't savvy enough to achieve the classy look I wanted for my site on my own. Rather than botch it up BIG TIME, I hired someone to do my site. I didn't ask around. I just leaped. Biiiiig mistake. Please, please talk to other writers about websites and do your research. Look at the sites of friends or authors you admire and see what they've done. Make notes about things you've seen that you want included on your new site. My first website ever was NOT what I wanted. I depended on people who didn't know much about the writing world or about how to sell both an author and her books. I spent a fortune on it before my first book ever released. Stick with website builders who understand what an author needs.

Want to hear a sad tale? I have one and it's a typical newbie mistake. I never, ever made enough money from the sales of my first book to come close to paying what I spent on this bad website. Sad, I know. The book is now placed elsewhere but that's a whole 'nother story. What I learned from this big 'money blowing experience' was to NOT overspend in the beginning. Ask around. Look at sites. Find someone to build your site who has know how about putting together something geared toward books and authors.

It took a bit of trial and error before I finally got the website I truly wanted and that reflected both me and my stories. It didn't cost a fortune either. I wanted something that was easy to navigate and that I could manage myself. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I haven't totally gotten the hang of my wordpress site but I can blog on it, I can add and take away things. I'm not completely at the mercy of a webmistress who may or may not have time to make the changes I need. Webmistresses charge a monthly fee. Keep that in mind. If you have monthly releases, lots and lots of additions on a regular basis, it is just sometimes better if you can do it yourself. You might be one of those busy authors who is simply more comfortable paying someone but your income from the sales of books should justify that expense. Others may find it more comfortable being 'captain of her own ship' and maintaining complete control of her website.

You don't want to spend yourself into the poorhouse with a website but you must also keep in mind that this is the place where fans, potential new readers, and industry professionals will look when they want to know more about you. A shoddy website is a turn off but you don't have to break the bank to have one that reflects your professional face. Keep it clean. Keep it classy. Keep it affordable.

28 comments:

Amber Skyze said...

Great advice. I have one, but need someone to spice it up. I can do the basics, but like you said...I need it to POP

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Actually, I didn't waste money on a bad website, I wasted money on ads - poor investment. A great website is the best investment!

Paris said...

I got very lucky with the website because my local RWA group booked a website designer to explain the ins and outs and had his own company. The plus side of this was that he handled several other authors, including his wife. Very lucky:-)

Hales said...

First I think it's really important to research website designers go through portfolios, ask time frame questions on specific types, ask around and make sure they're reliable and good. Search the net for sites that hold appeal to you and decide if you want something classic,plain (in a good sense)glossy, ask about updates find out if your template will allow you to update yourself, if they say no. Ask them to create one that you can update w/0 paying someone else 125 for the first hour and 50 for consecutive hours for simple book cover adds,excerpts etc.

Find good a variety of costs for entire sites/hosting maitenence. Before entering into a contract. Money is slim why start off in the red.

There are the free websites that allow you to build. I've seen people use blogger as websites as well.

Make sure once it's up you do the meta data tags on each page. My website is ten pages so I had to do each one separate. Take time making your own specific brand. Name, Site and Tag.

Mine Mahalia Levey Tag- The Decadent Side of Sin

and then key words for what I write at least 15.

Update weekly if you can to refresh.

Make sure you're happy with the product and it screams you. It doesn't take a lot of money to have something nice, even if you can't afford a website in the beginning. Create a place for yourself, find an artist to build you a header for around 25 bucks and decorate your in the meantime home for others to visit you and get to know you.

I wasted 400 dollars and got ripped off by not reading the contract and becoming stuck with substandard work that did not yell this is Hales. :)

That is my advice :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Yes you DO want it to pop, Amber. I think it IS possible to do something that screams YOU and not have to break the bank. You might want to ask around on some of the loops you and I are both on and start from there. A 'highly recommended' person could, no doubt, take a look and have some great ideas for you.

Regina Carlysle said...

You found the ads to be a bad investment? I want to hear more about that, Julia. I am cautious about spending my money and when I DO spend I want to invest wisely. I was actually considering doing ads in the coming year. Hmmm. Might have to rethink that. I know many of these well known sites offer great rates on cover ads and it's tempting but I just haven't seen any figures about increased sales or more website hits due to them.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh yeah, Paris! That was just perfect for you. This was someone who knows what works best for authors! See, I didn't do that. I went with someone who had zero experience in what I needed and I blew $500 bucks on it. Big big mistake.

Kathy Otten said...

I knew nothing when I started out either. I sold an ebook and didn't even have a computer. The best thing for me, once I did get a computer was to join my publishers loop. From there I learned of other loops I could join.It's a great way to get advice, learn from the wisdom of others and get a bit of moral support.

Regina Carlysle said...

You're right, Hales. Great advice. You have to be smart about things. I once heard of a writer who was so thrilled about her first book that she spent SCADS of money on promotion for that single book. Her expectations were high high high about sales yet the pub folded shortly after the release of her book. It's easy to get drawn into 'good deals'and immediately find yourself in the RED. Yes, good deals are out there...free this, free that but you are still paying lots of money in the end for shipping costs, etc. And FOR ONE BOOK? Makes no sense to me.

You usually DO have to spend a bit to get that website up but research, do your homework. If an author has to pay $50 a month for her webmistress but isn't selling $50 bucks a month? She's in a losing deal.

Regina Carlysle said...

Without a doubt, Kathy. Networking with other authors is just a MUST. It'll save you money too in that you aren't floundering around clueless...as I once did. Many authors who have been around for awhile have a wealth of good advice and they won't steer you wrong. We all have horror stories about this stuff, too. We know the pitfalls.

C. Zampa said...

Wonderfula advice!
I'm lucky in having a nice blog and website, although I'm going to have to wean myself eventually to learn how to maintain the website.

Now all I need is that first book. LOL.

This was a very informative, full of valuable advice. Thanks!

Fran Orenstein said...

My wonderful publisher, Randy Young at Sleepytown Press got me started on weebly and with lots of hair-pulling playing with the site I now have a very satisfactory website and it's free....the operative word for an indie author with no $$$$. It's also a site I can control and continue to change, add things and upgrade. Weebly is very easy to set up, with 20/20 hindsight, of course.

I haven't written a word in months, just marketing my books takes up so much time. An author can spend hours just blogging, linking and what I call facebooking.

And yes, you're right, getting your name out there is paramount. Do you remember all or any of the book titles of your favorite authors? I don't. But you remember their names, I'll bet, and like me, you just wait for their next book to come out.

Tess MacKall said...

Great advice, Regina. And with that website, you can start that ever-important branding. Avatars, banners, etc. come in handy on social network sites and author pages that some review sites host. I think you should do a follow up post to this promo advice next week, Reg. Talk about loop chats and such. What your experiences have been. I'd love to see more of that.

Natalie Dae said...

Fab advice!

:)

Regina Carlysle said...

You did it right, Carol! You have the kickass website and blog. You'll be amazed at how fast you'll begin to feature more and more stuff at these places. It the perfect place to start and having something that you can maintain yourself is great. At first it's scary and can kind of rattle the brain trying to figure it all out but eventually it is easy.

Regina Carlysle said...

That's the key Fran. Get great advice from those who have been there but never spend beyond your means. If you are a NY times Bestselling author you can afford to do something pricey and pay someone to do updates, etc. Most writers just starting out don't have the bucks. Our goal is to make a profit with our writing, not go into the hole.

Regina Carlysle said...

Exactly, Tess. We have been talking about that a LOT lately. Tying in the look of your website with your blog and other promo materials (avatars, biz cards, bookmarkers, banners, etc) is the right way to begin Branding. You need something, a look, a theme, whatever that is your public face. You want it to be identified with YOU.

anny cook said...

That one thing you mentioned...don't spend what you haven't made...Oh, man, I know so many new authors that run right out and spend, spend, spend waaaaaay before they ever see one dollar.

Jo-Anne Kenrick said...

fantastic post! I'm in that frame of mind right now...now what?
I've got a website, it's cheap and I can manage it myself. Big hurdle out the way...isn't it?
But now what?
How do I get people to look at said website beyond social networking.
I mean, what cool promotional tips do you have for us newbie authors to get our foot in the door and some traffic at our site :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Exactly Anny. I hear some of these stories and just cringe. Great way to cause some major problems on the home front. Might be a way to project some kind of success publicly but in these hard economic times it strikes me as foolish. Build up a nice backlist and when you can AFFORD a few things, by all means, do it. But if you have yet to see a dime from the sale of your first book spending oodles and gobs of money just makes little sense.

Regina Carlysle said...

Jo-Ann, so glad you asked that question. You might get different advice from different authors depending on their personal experiences so I'll give you MINE. First off, make friends with some other authors on your publishers loop. Find out if any of them blog. Then build yourself a nice little blog spot. You could do a free and easy to use blog. Go to BLOGGER in your browser and set one up. If I can do it, you can too. Believe me I'm no techie. Once you've set that up, go back to the author loop at your publisher and ask everyone to "link' you and you will link them in return. Visit those blogs and post to your own. Before you know it you are taking even more baby steps toward getting your name out there. Blog on facebook too and even post the link to your current discussion there. It's a start. It gets your name out there PLUS is free. Don't forget to 'tag' things a the bottom of each post too. This gets you mentions at all the big spots like google, bing, yahoo, etc.

Regina Carlysle said...

Something else, Jo-Anne...chatting to promote your book is a great idea and can be fun and, once again, is FREE. Around release time (before or after) contact other author friends and see if they'd like to do a "chat" with you. There are lots of loop that host chats where readers are invited to come and visit, get to know you. You can all have fun. Post excerpts of your book and your friends will do the same. Don't talk incessantly about your new release. Mention here and there, post an excerpt and then just "talk". Let people get to know you as a person, talk about vacations, food, heck...talk about the weather but always include those folks you've never met, potential new readers. Let them get to know YOU as a person. If they like you and think you are fun, interesting person they might just check out your books, too.

My first time out with a chat I did the dumbest thing EVER. I scheduled it for just me. BIG MISTAKE. I was so embarrassed. I didn't know what the hell I was doing and didn't know what to say. I swore I'd never again do a chat ALONE. Chat with friends...at least two others. That way if few show up, you have each other. Make sense? Contact places that host chats, find some friends and schedule something. It's a great way to get your feet wet. Sometimes offering a contest during the chat brings people out too. It can be a really fun thing.

Jo-Anne Kenrick said...

Some great ideas there, thanks so much for sharing, Regina :) A chat huh? hmmmmm *goes into think mode* hehe

Regina Carlysle said...

Seriously, you can do this Jo-Anne. Evening chats that are around 2-3 hrs in length seem to work best, I think. Go on with the gal pals, pass around cyber margaritas, post excerpts and have some fun. Keep things light and fun with no hard-sell tactics. Always remember to post 'where to find Jo-Anne on the internet' and get that addy out there too.

anny cook said...

@ Joanna...Or you can get your feet wet at my chat on November 9th at Love Romances Cafe. It's called Anny and Friends. All authors who show up are free to post their excerpts and CHAT!

Heck--Regina even comes sometimes!

Madison Scott said...

I was so lost on what to do after I sold my first book. lol. I was lucky to end up with a site I liked though.

Regina Carlysle said...

It really is a frightening moment when you realize you have entered an entire new world. Most of us start out being pretty damn clueless but friends help us along the way. No question is dumb. Everyone is willing to offer support and advice because we all remember how scary it was in the beginning.

Anne Rainey said...

Wonderful advice, Regina!