Give it away give it away give it away now

What’s the best thing an author can do to promote their work? I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit, prompted by the realisation that the Facebook Page I set up as an “author” page was a complete waste of time (or, I was doing it wrong, which is quite possible). Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things an author can do, as opposed to anything a publisher or agent can do, to get their book into the public mind:

  • write something that people want to read (see, for instance, my post on Fifty Shades of Grey)
  • get well-known authors and celebrities you might know to say they like it (difficult if you’re starting out and don’t know anybody)
  • get onto Twitter (essential, I think, or at least it is for me – a public platform where you’re visibly active and easily available)
  • write a blog (as opposed to just “having a website”, a blog which is updated often has more chance of attracting links from other places)
  • attend events (something I’m trying to do a ?lot more of, and am getting better at)
  • have a pitch (again, something I’m trying to do better, and something I was rubbish at. It’s vital to know what your book’s about, know how to describe it succinctly, and know how to make it sound exciting)
  • give away copies, personally

It’s the last one I’m thinking about today. I’ve given away quite a few of my complimentary author copies of The English Monster, and am beginning to think this method might be one of the most productive things an author can do, in the long term?

Why? Because it puts the book into people’s hands. And if they read it (a big if, still), and if they?like it (an even bigger if) you’ve just sent an advocate for your work out into the world.

Buzz, word of mouth, whatever you want to call it, these are the things which make a book live over time. I’m convinced of it. Amazon recommendation algorithms, front-of-store positions and all the other dark retail arts are essential, but in an oddly indirect way; they simply serve to make more advocates possible, by virtue of more books being sold.

If your book’s good, and if you have confidence in it, my recommendation is to give it away, personally and with a signature and with thanks. And build out your army of advocates.

PS: This is?not the same as demanding your book be heavily discounted on Amazon or elsewhere. That may help, again by putting it into people’s hands. And it will happen anyway. The author can’t do much about it. But he or she can give their book away, to the right people at the right time and in the right way.

PPS: If I’ve given you a copy of my book, it’s not because I’m a cynical bastard exploiting your propensity to be nice to me. It’s because I wanted to. All I’m saying here is that this has nice, long-term effects. I love you. I really do.

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