Writing And Publishing: Online Marketing

Posted at 11:02am on 12th October 2009

I wrote, last week, about the futility of relying solely on book publishing houses to promote your new novel, and the need to think in terms of self-promotion. Publishing a novel is not an end in itself (you want people to read it!) and, sooner or later, the process of creative writing has to be transmuted into that of creative marketing.


Methods of online marketing lie primarily within the realms of website, blog and social media. Each of these three techniques has its own distinct features but, to my mind there is little parity between them when it comes to marketing. But before I get on to what each has to offer, let’s take a look at the marketing requirements when publishing a novel.


Just as an author is required to think in terms of readership when writing a book, so he or she has to look at marketing from the perspective of those readers. Intelligent online marketing means that you have to think yourself into being a prospective buyer.

WebProNews raises the interesting question of whether social media (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like) would ever replace search. So at this point, I would ask you to consider how you, as a reader, would go about discovering and purchasing a new book? Would you search, via a search engine like Google? Or would you ask around among followers on your Twitter account?

The answer I left, as a comment on the article, is as follows: “My instinct is always to use search for information. This, despite the fact that I have active accounts with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes that search takes me to a blog (or a website). I then use my own judgement about whether it is to be trusted or not.”


Let’s return to the three main methods of online marketing. A website, we’re told, is a necessity when it comes to selling your product, whatever it is. A novel is no less marketable a commodity than, say, a new car or a designer handbag. The only difference may be in price and desirability.

A website establishes you as a serious contender in the marketplace. However, the disadvantage, compared with other methods of marketing, is that it tends to be a static means of marketing.

There is nothing proactive about a website: it sits on the net, in much the same way as a spider sits in the middle of its web, waiting and hoping that a fly will alight and become engaged with its content. While it has its uses it is, therefore, unlikely to offer much in the way of adding to sales of your book on its own.


You could, of course, promote your website (which you’re using to promote your novel) via a social media platform. Twitter is littered with people doing just that. Facebook and MySpace are likewise inundated with people promoting their products.

But with several thousand followers connected to your Twitter account, you need to ask yourself how many of them are likely to buy your novel simply because you are promoting it there. Are your established followers going to become “ticked-off” by an excess of self-promotion? Or are new followers going to miss out if you fail to keep up the momentum?

Well – yes and no! According to research undertaken by Neilson – so the WebProNews site reports – approximately 18% of the online population now “uses social media as a core navigation and information discovery tool”. Information, however, is one thing; purchasing a product another. And as one of the issues raised by the WebProNews article points out: “Do you trust strangers more than search?”


Which brings me to what I consider to be the prime component of intelligent online marketing. Set up your website, stamp your image, your integrity upon it in what is termed website branding, and then blog.

This has been my strategy in promoting my books – and it’s worked. Having made sales of my novel, A Painful Post Mortem, via my own website, Amazon and Barnes & Noble because of my blog, I have been able to send hundreds of pounds of royalties to the two charities I support. In addition, the novel has now been adopted by the Bereaved Parents’ Network to be promoted in their catalogue at all their events. And my self-help book, Stepfamilies, has brought me numerous engagements to take part in BBC radio discussions on the topic.

From nothing at inception a little over a year ago, my blog now attracts thousands of page views a month. I can only conclude from this that, like me, most of my visitors "trust" Search over Social Media.

So what’s the secret? First, second, third and last, you need to put the needs of visitors to your blog at the top of the agenda. And to do this, you need to maintain a position of integrity. But those are the subject of the next post How To Blog To Sell When Writing And Publishing A Book. So – until then . . .

Do let me know what your take is on social media versus search. And leave a comment to tell us of your online successes - because that, in itself, is a means of promoting your book!

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