Promotion 101 at Balticon

I had a great time attending Balticon 47 this past weekend. I was there to learn as much as possible about self-publishing. Now, one of the key challenges in self-publishing is discoverability. You’ll hear that keyword like a mantra whenever you talk to self-published writers. Basically, it boils down to this question: Given the multitude of stories available, and the many writers clamoring for attention, how can you stand out so potential readers will discover your work?

Many of the sessions I attended were focused on promotion. Which is why I was so shocked to see some glaringly bad promotion … on the part of some of the panelists from the sessions that I attended. Note that I’m not going to call out any panelists by name.

What’s my background in promotional activities? Well, I’ve been creating web sites since 1998, which led to me working off and on in the Internet startup world since 2000. In this world, promotion is everything, because your promotion has to make your business viable before your money runs out. I’ve done business promotion, leveraging Internet marketing techniques to build an audience. Additionally, I’ve been organizing and promoting events, such as conferences, since 2008. I don’t consider myself a marketing expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m not a layman either.

So, based on what I saw at Balticon, here are some promotion tips for writers:

  • Have a Bio and Picture Ready to Go: All panelists had the opportunity to have a picture and a short biography printed in the Balticon 47 Convention Program. It boggles my mind that, in this age where “discoverability” is so important, that anybody would neglect to provide both of these items. But some panelists didn’t, including a couple from the sessions that I attended. Never, never, never pass up any opportunity for advertising, especially 3rd-party advertising (having someone else promoting you is far more powerful than self-promotion). Bottom Line: Have a bio and picture prepared, and easily accessible. Any time a professional opportunity arises, provide them promptly to whoever the appropriate recipients might be.

  • Your Bio Needs a URL: If somebody asks you for a biography, make sure that it includes the URL for your web site (where you SELL your stuff, or link to somewhere that SELLS your stuff). If somebody is interested enough in you to look up your biography in the convention program, give ’em somewhere else to go where they can find out even more.

  • You Need a Web Site: I didn’t think I’d have to add this bullet point, but there was at least one panelist from the sessions that I attended who was promoting their work at Balticon, but didn’t have a web site (and couldn’t even be found on Amazon). Seriously, you need a web site. It’s not that hard.

  • Ask for the Sale: Your web site doesn’t need to do a “hard-sell,” But make it clear that your work can be purchased from your web site. If you have the technical capability, sell it direct in various formats (you get to keep even more of the money that way). Failing that, at least link to someplace like Amazon or Smashwords where a prospective reader can purchase your work.

  • Have an Elevator Pitch Ready: Somebody has just asked you about your latest book. You have 30 seconds to get them interested. You need two or three sentences that will engage their interest. You’re a writer — you can come up with two or there sentences, right? Here’s an example: “Well, it’s basically a bent fairy tale with delusions of grandeur, on steroids. Plus, you know, the prince doesn’t always deserve to get the girl, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.” Don’t give them the plot, plant a hook.

Impressing your audience is one of the first steps in converting potential readers into buyers. These simple tips will enhance your image as a professional writer and position you to more effectively take advantage of opportunities when they arise. As the famous philosopher, Anonymous, once said: “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”

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