The lowdown on marketing for writers, part two

Okay, we talked about brand. Now buzz.

Internet marketing is like regular marketing, there's really no way to know if it's doing a whole lot of good. But it's stupid not to do internet marketing because it's so easy and cheap.

Website—This is a non-negotiable. All writers must have a website, whether you’re published or not. It’s your business card on the web. Keep it updated once a month.

Blog—Only blog if you enjoy blogging. Too many people blog who don't really like it, and I think that a bad blog is worse than none at all. If you don't like blogging, don't let anybody make you feel guilty for not blogging. Only do what you like doing, because life's too short to waste on stuff you don't want to do.

Email loops and forum boards—This is something unpublished writers need to start doing early. And I'm not talking just writers loops and boards, but non-writing loops and boards. And if the loop topic touches on your brand, all the better.

Participation is key—you have to be a willing and frequent contributor. Again, if you don't like it, then don't do it. But if you do like it, then the contacts you make, especially on a non-writing loop, will help create buzz for you when you do sell. It's like magic—suddenly you have all these people who knew you before you were published and they're thrilled for you. They're an automatic readership who will buy your book and talk about it, who are most likely to love it when they read it.

Say your brand is New York humorous women's fiction with some mystery, but you always incorporate a NY restaurant. You can join a loop or forum board about NY restaurants. If Colleen Coble weren't published yet, she could join a loop on Rescue dogs. I've joined some knitting loops because I love it and my next books will incorporate some knitting.

Newsletter—start one now, even if it's only your friends. YahooGroups is free and easy, or you can think ahead and get a paid newsletter service with lots of features. If I'd been smart, I'd have started with a paid service rather than YahooGroups, but I'm also pretty happy with YahooGroups because they're easy to use and most people can receive emails from YahooGroups. I can also build my readership to as large as I want with YahooGroups without problems because they're such a huge system.

Commit to sending a newsletter quarterly, just something short, giving the scoop on your writing. Also, give some kind of "value added" in your newsletter, something people will get free out of it, that has something to do with your brand. Give free stuff.

I have free short stories for my newsletter subscribers, and because I like to promote Christian fiction, I also give away a free book each month to my subscribers—they email me if they want to enter. Other authors give away small cheap but cute things that are in their brand.

My suggestion—write a few short stories in your brand and make them available only to your newsletter subscribers. That way people can not only read your writing and like it, they have a reason to sign up for your newsletter.

Internet Marketing is all about interaction with potential readers. Anything you can do to find and interact with readers will help you in your internet marketing campaign.

It also helps if you start this before you're published. The people who know you now will be most excited for you when the book hits the shelves, and, in the words of Pyromarketing (Greg Stielstra), they're your driest tinder. They are most likely to buy your book and like it.