Check out the competition
Go to amazon.com, Indigo Books or Barnes and Noble (or all three) and track down the top ten books in your literary category (or categories). Analyze what their authors or publishers are doing to promote their books — e.g., do they have websites, giveaways, videos? Are they on GoodReads? LibraryThing? Shelfari? Which of their techniques are ones that you have not yet put to use, that you might consider?
Don’t be a snob or a know-it-all, as I was when I started on this exercise – which I found online in a couple of places in slightly different versions (one said, “Check out the top 100 books in your category.” Who has time for that?)
The Whole Clove Diet is listed under “domestic fiction,” “humorous fiction,” and “literary fiction,” among other topics. When I checked out the leading ten sellers in the first category, first I came across a series of books for which I have no explanation for the unbelievable sales figures (that would be Fifty Shades of Grey and its progeny and their boxed sets. I tried to read the first one in the series, but found it too badly written to hold my interest — even in the allegedly “erotic” parts. People should check out some actual erotic literature, by Anaïs Nin and others). I thought I could learn nothing from E.L. James as she obviously knows something I do not know about the universe.
Another of my top competitors is Alice Munro, who could write even a very bad book (which I am sure she hasn’t) at this point in her career and still be in the top-ten list: how could I learn anything about book promotion from her?
Yet another was an author named Garth Stein who has apparently written a book from the point of view of a dog. Hmm. Maybe not him, either.
Besides having written books nothing like mine, all of these authors had been published by traditional presses (granted after self-publishing first, in the case of James). I was sure part of their rise to the top of the bestseller lists had to do with promotions departments and reviews in major media.
But when I bit the bullet and investigated more closely, I found that each of these authors did have something that I don’t have — that I could get quite easily — and that is a listing on Wikipedia. In addition, Stein has a video on amazon, and on his website and on YouTube. I guess I could create one of those. The more I looked, the more ideas I found.
One promotional idea I just loved came from another top seller in the “humour” category — Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She has a map on her website where readers can “pin” their locations in order to be part of the map of readers who have “seen” Harold. Very clever. And adaptable, no doubt, to many other books.
So with an open mind, and keeping my envy in check, I have come up with three promotional activities that I could pursue with little effort, simply by checking out what the competition is doing to promote their books and themselves.
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