A Canadian writer of electronic books wrote me the other day. He’s been writing a weekly blog to promote his wares, but it’s not doing much for him, and he wondered if I had any ideas.
Here’s a slightly edited version of my reply. Many of the suggestions I made apply to just about any business, so I’m hoping it sparks a few ideas for you, too.
Hi, Bob (not his real name). I don't know much about the business of selling e-books, so I can only offer a few general observations.
1. I don't see a lot of links to your books in your blog. Surely when you mention one of your titles, you should link directly to the page where one can buy it. It's easy to do in most blogging platforms.
2. You seem to promote your books in every blogpost. I would suggest you tone it down. Why not write more about writing in general, or Shakespeare, or other books you like? Make sure people know you are interested in the conversation, not just in selling. That may also free you up to write more straightforward promotional posts - but not all the time!
3. Blogs work best when you engage your audience to contribute, too. Why not ask your readers to share their favorite books, poetry or places? Why not hold some sort of contest, and the winner gets to be a character in your next novel?
3a. To increase traffic, participate in (and link to) other related blogs. Leave comments on other blogs with links back to yours. And encourage the authors of other blogs to visit your site in return.
4. More, shorter posts are always better than longer and fewer.
5. Why not look into supplying RSS feeds? That way your fans can be alerted whenever you write a new posting.
6. Come up with a purpose for your blog. Why should people come to read your stuff? What's in it for them? Think of your readers as customers you have to please. Once you've established what their payoff is, maybe you'll attract more of them.
7. Your style is thoughtful and warm, but why not mix it up a bit? Be funny, or outrageous. Imagine one of your heroes coming into Starbuck's: how would they behave, how long before the police are called? Or attack a hack genre writer for releasing a trashy book without substance or value. Or offer to lead a crusade to teach our children to read more. These may be silly examples, but they represent new ways you could engage with your audience and extend your relationship.
8. SELL! Think of five reasons why people should buy your books: A) they only cost the price of a latte. B) you can buy them for others as gifts, or to cheer up a sick friend... I'm sure you can think of lots more.
9. Why not launch a group e-mail exchange with other writers and share marketing and promotion ideas? Look for ways to do joint promotions. Maybe you could gang up on the publisher and get them to offer half-price books on special holidays.
10. Raise a fuss with Sony and Amazon and Best Buy and anyone else who is standing in the way of creating an e-book culture in Canada. Anything you can do to attract attention is good.
Sorry, no brilliant thoughts. Just lots of hard (but inexpensive) slogging.