Promoting eBooks on My Blogs

In September, 2008, I began my first and primary blog, Catholic Writer’s Notebook, as a testing ground for some of the topics I planned to include in my manuscripts for publication. When, in January,2011, I actually published one of my manuscripts as an eBook on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and smashwords.com, the experience was so exhilarating that I decided to share it with fellow or aspiring eBook authors on the weblog which you now are reading.

Becoming a blogger, like becoming an author, is fraught with challenges. The blogosphere is a very crowded place. Even in my niche of Catholic life and spirituality, there are, at least, close to 2,400 active blogs; many of which posted by 194 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses, 126 of their Catholic newspapers, well-known Catholic authors, Catholic magazines and major publishers or retailers of Catholic books —all with a built-in following. How can some poor schlemiel with nothing but a penchant for writing religious books in the Roman Catholic tradition compete for their attention?

There are many competitive blogs, developed by pros who know the ins and outs of HTML, traffic-building search engine optimization (SEO), source code validation, Technorati ratings, etc. In order to compete with them, I have to concentrate on learning these things, too, if I want to make my blogs effective selling tools for my eBooks, and vice versa. After all, if I want the Holy Spirit to drive web traffic to my blogs and eBooks, it might be helpful if I gave Him something to work with. (Not that He needs it, but I’m sure that He expects me to do my part.)

Registering for placement in Catholic blog directories (e.g., CatholicBlog.com and StBlogsParish.com) is an important first step for spreading the word in my niche. For those who search for Catholic topics on these sites, they are a great opportunity to present my posts every time they search for a topic covered on one of my blogs. So, also, is registering for indexing on the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.).

Right now, I’m getting back into reading about blogging. I’ve dusted off the covers of such books in my library as Problogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, Getting Noticed on Google by Ben Norman, Blogging for Dummies by Susannah Garner and Shane Birley and, of course, WordPress for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, with a view to making my blogs better traffic builders to my ebook pages on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and smashwords.com.

I’ll update you with progress reports as I go along. In the meantime, keep watching on my two sites:

http://catholicwritersnotebook.blogspot.com
https://trialsofanebookauthor.wordpress.com

Developing Your eBook Platform

“Platform” is the publishing buzzword for a plan that you have developed to promote your eBook once you’ve published it. Your platform consolidates a number of tools to spread the word about you new or latest eBook. Since the responsibility for promoting your book is largely your own, you are not only the author; you are your own publisher, too. As such, you are totally in charge of getting the word out to anyone you want to buy and read your book.

I publish with three eBook publishers/distributors: all three of these offer a number of services to help me promote my eBooks to my chosen market segments.

Since mine is an eBook, published electronically for a potential readership who will acquire it, store it and read it in an electronic format, it stands to reason that I can reach that potential readership by electronic means. Here are some of the things I have used to publicize my first two eBooks:

Review Copies

Amazon and Barnes and Noble both enable me to offer a two-week loan of my book to a target list of potential book reviewers associated with Catholic newspapers, magazines and blogs, who might help me to spread the word about my book. Smashwords goes one better: through their unique couponing program, they allow me to send online coupons to this same target market, who might publish an unbiased review of my book for their specific readership. My combined target market reviewers reach a potential readership of millions of Catholic book readers nationwide.

Press Releases

In order to carry out my plan for book reviewer and book buyer recruitment, I develop several press releases tailored to each specific demographic or geographic segment. For example, in writing to the editors of Catholic newspapers or magazines in diocese or archdiocese in which I have lived over the years, I mention in the release the name of the parish or parishes in which I was active, or the parish elementary school which I or our children attended.

Author and Book Pages

Each of my chosen publishers supplies me with a free author page and a separate promotion page for each of my eBooks, which enable me to give relevant information about my eBooks and my pertinent background, as well as links to my pertinent blogs and an opportunity to sample and (hopefully) sell my book.

My Pertinent Blogs

I use two of my weblogs, Catholic Writer’s Notebook, and, of course, the blog you’re now reading, to publicize any new developments about my eBooks. If you’re a writer and/or an author, I strongly urge you to take up blogging. It’s a great way to express yourself on a regular basis, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. In fact, WordPress.com makes it very easy with step-by-step tutorials and ready-made, neat and clean templates that take all the techy part out of it. Also, WordPress blogs tend to have very few W3C Validation errors, which helps to maximize search engine optimization.

Social Networks

This is an arena that I am beginning to develop for my marketing strategy. Right now, I am limiting myself to Facebook and LinkedIn. With Facebook, I’m getting better results, and I am developing more of a fan base of family and friends, and of friends of friends. Facebook enables me to publish news about my publishing exploits, replete with images and direct hyperlinks to specific posts on my WordPress blog.

E-Mail Promotion

In preparation for publicizing my eBooks, I developed an extensive list of e-mail contacts, categorized into a number of groups: family, friends, fellow parishioners, Catholic newspaper editors, Catholic magazine editors, Catholic bloggers, Catholic book reviewers, etc. When I first published Jesus’ Six Keys to a More Perfect You, these sub-lists enabled me to tailor my promotional messages appropriately to each group.

Publish More Than One Book  

Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords emphasizes in his Smashwords Book Marketing Guide that a very powerful tool to multiplying your eBook sales is to publish more than one book, and to publish a list of each of your earlier book titles on the title page of each succeeding book that you publish. I’m about to publish my third eBook, and I will be listing the title of my first two eBook prominently on both the front cover art and on the book’s title page.

Use a Professional Front Cover Designer

It is axiomatic that, especially in the eBook publishing business, your front cover image sells your book. I am extremely fortunate to have a daughter who is a very talented and experienced magazine graphic designer, trained in her craft at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. When I asked if she might be able to design a digital front cover for my first two books, she did not disappoint. They were things of beauty! And now that I’m getting ready to launch eBook #3, she is doing it again. Even if you’re not so fortunate, I urge you to do whatever it takes to get a professional digital front cover image for your book. You will need it if you want to publish on iPad and some of the other major eReader formats. Shop for graphic designers in your community or region; compare samples of their work and what they charge. Then make the best informed decision that you can.

Upcoming posts will detail more specifically how I implement each of the strategies mentioned in this post.