Drumroll please! My debut novel, Poison Bay, is finally PUBLISHED.
15 years since the idea first festered, two years since I “completed” the manuscript (the first time round), and in the wake of three months of late nights, intense pressure and high anxiety, I have finally launched my book-baby into the world.
It’s exciting, and terrifying, and a lot of other things.
This blog post will probably have more typos than usual, as I’m a complete wreck. 😉 (Feel free to correct them for me in the comments.)
During the final preparations, I’ve come across some great articles that have challenged me to rethink two basic tactics we can use to market our books.
These are solid-gold tools that take a little time in the original setup, and then keep working quietly for us for months or years to come with just the occasional tweak. And they needn’t cost us much at all. What’s not to love about that?
1. The Landing Page
Lots of people have their books in the sidebar of their website or blog, some have a dedicated “books” page, but some recent articles have challenged me to create a “landing page” for my book (and each subsequent book).
“Landing page” is just a name for a web page that people land on, and then get directed to somewhere else, or several somewhere-elses. Like when we land in another country, we don’t just stay at the airport (unless we’re in a Tom Hanks movie) — it’s the jumping-off point for other places we are heading.
A few weeks ago, I created a page on my author website (over at belindapollard.com) that was dedicated to my book, but it was fairly passive. It had a picture of the cover, the back-cover blurb, simple links to a couple of articles I’d written about the book, and I was going to add a “buy” link down the bottom, once it was published. It was also about as visually exciting as overcooked oatmeal.
Then Kimberley Grabas from Your Writer Platform published an article a few days ago called The 9 Must-Haves for a High-Performing Book Launch Page.
What excellent timing! (Thanks Kimberley, how did you know??)
It challenged me to think more creatively. I started thinking about my book page as a landing page, which to me is more extroverted and intentional than a static book page.
I spent a chunk of last weekend revamping my book page into something quite different. It’s not perfect, and I’ll keep tweaking, but I thought you might find it handy to see what I did and why, as it might trigger ideas for you.
You can check it out here to see the different features I’m talking about: http://www.belindapollard.com/poison-bay (it will open in a new window so you can keep reading here as well)
This is what I changed my mind about, after reading and mulling over Kimberley’s article:
- She suggests having a strong headline — I just went for my tagline: “When the wilderness is not your only enemy, who do you trust?”
- Instead of only having the “buy” button right down the bottom of the page according to my original plan, I also added one “above the fold”, where a visitor will see it very soon after landing on the page, and have an opportunity to act.
- Kimberley recommend a “sneak peek”. I’d been frustrated that my Amazon “look inside” preview ended just a few pages short of the first big turning point of my novel. Voila! A solution to two problems — I could offer a sample that goes all the way to the end of that crucial chapter instead of leaving readers hanging mid-sentence, and I had my sneak peek, ready-made. I also decided to make it a PDF from the print version of my book, as the pages look so much nicer — another point of difference.
- We’re constantly being nagged to build an email list of people who are interested in our work, so I decided to use that sample to help build subscribers to my author blog. (I have been VERY slack about building subscribers to that blog! Must try harder.) If you click on the grey “download sample” button, you’ll see how I did that. It opens a new page, with a description of what’s being offered, how it’s unique, and an email sign-up form to access the sample.
- Kimberley suggested adding an author bio to the book page. I seriously had NOT thought of doing that. I mean, this page is on my author website isn’t it? Surely they know it’s me? But then I realised how often I click on a page somewhere or other, and have no clue what website it’s attached to, or who owns it. I decided it was a great idea, so I added the bio that I had written for the book.
- I don’t have much in the way of reviewer response as yet, but when I have more, I’ll add a section of those. For now, I have a one-liner that one of my beta readers used in one of her own blog posts: “A breathtakingly fast-paced and original eco/wilderness thriller.” Karin Cox UPDATE: I’ve added snippets of reviews as they’ve come in.
- I also added a section called “Read about the making of this book”, which has snippets linking to some of my blog posts about my research trip and other aspects of writing the book. It’s much more interesting than the simple links I originally used. As I write some guest posts about the book in coming weeks, I’ll add those as well.
- Kimberley recommends putting a book trailer (promotional video) on the book page. I like that idea. I have a book trailer in the works, and will be adding it when I’ve created it.
- To create the visual layout for the page, I used a WordPress plugin called OptimizePress. (I bought it some time back to use in a project that didn’t eventuate, and it proved useful for this task.) I like the way it divides the page into sections both vertically and horizontally, but you don’t have to do that. Just a normal blog page with the items nicely arranged would be sufficient. Alternatively, Kimberley recommends a platform called Booklaunch.io for creating a nice looking page for about $10. I don’t know much about it, but it could be worth a look.
2. The Media Kit
I’m a former journalist and I’ve also worked in traditional publishing for donkey’s years, but even I was excited and inspired by some of the tips Maria offered in that article. She gave me new ideas and encouragement. Go read it, I’ll wait!
Now, you might be thinking: “I’m not famous so why do I need a media kit?”
I’ll let Maria answer that… she receives material from authors regularly in her work and for her blog, and she says:
“The difference between self-promoted and book-tour-company-promoted authors is the handy Media Kit the latter deliver. Where a self-promoted author will usually ask, “What will you need?” the book tour company sends a wealth of material I can choose from, no questions asked.”
Many of my clients are non-fiction authors with speaking careers. I always recommend they put together a Media Kit and even have it as a tab on their website menus.
I recommend they include:
- Book blurb
- Their bio in different lengths (eg 75 words, 150 words, 400 words)
- Book cover in low-res for web and high-res for print purposes
- Their author photo in low-res for web and high-res for print
- A set of sample interview questions (never assume an interviewer has read the book!)
That way when they get asked for a photo or bio, all they need to do is email the link to the person who asked. Just one link. And there it all is, ready to download.
Some people might not like having it as a menu tab, and in that case, it can just be a private page on the website that people can’t access unless they have the link. (In WordPress, you just click on “exclude this page from lists of pages”. It’s not visible then to casual browsers, although apparently search engines can still find it if they try really hard.)
It’s not just journalists who use this media kit… it’s conference organisers, bloggers, people who publish an author’s article in a magazine, and all sorts of other people who need information about an author to get their job done.
Maria’s article also mentions a swag of other things to include in a media kit, like teasers (an image with a quote), a synopsis, a set of excerpts, and several other great ideas.
Some of these extras are not things that would be included on a web page (particularly a synopsis with spoilers) but they sound like really useful things to have up our sleeves. If they are ready and waiting, they can be emailed to someone when the need arises.
My media kit is NOT sorted out as yet, but it is definitely on my to-do list. UPDATE: My media kit is now live (also opens in a new browser window, if you want to see it and continue reading here). I made a menu tab for it. I’ve started with photos in different sizes, a bio in different lengths, and a Q&A which covers some of the making of the book. I might add more things over time. I used the OptimizePress plugin to create the icon-in-a-box layout, after baffling for a while over how to get it to look nice in a standard WordPress layout.
And I will have two media kits — one for me as a blogger/speaker/publishing consultant, and another as a novelist….
A novelist. Crikey! What a word. Something I always dreamed of being and wondered if it would EVER happen. Thank you to all those who have helped make a long-term dream come true. (Getting a bit weepy here. 😉 )
And thanks to these stellar writer/bloggers who have shared their experience and wisdom to help us develop better book marketing tools.
What has been your experience with landing pages for books, your own or someone else’s? If you’ve got good ideas, please share. And what about a media kit? Have you used one? If you receive them in your work, any good tips to offer?
Featured image via Bigstock/monticello