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details from Bubonicon 2014 talk by

Robert E. Vardeman & Joan Spicci Saberhagen



  1. Twitter
      1. If you master the # you can get a snippet of information out to a lot of people. Great for announcements of book publications, sales, autographings
      2. Getting lots of followers is important but getting "retweeted" by your followers is better since it gets your message out to people who might not know you-great for expanding an audience
      3. Follow and be followed.
      4. A tweet is very transient unless it goes viral (and the chances of that, well, if you're that lucky, tell me the numbers for the next Powerball)

  2. Facebook
      1. May be passe but millions still use it and Mark Zuckerberg just became the richest man in the world by founding FB.
      2. Great way to keep in touch with fans through a fan page or personal page
        1. Don't inundate with ads for your books. Comment on others' posts, put up things that interest you and draw attention (can you say cats?), develop a more personal (albeit impersonally) relationship
          1. Be VERY careful what personal information you post-it ALL belongs to FB. This is wide open for the world to see. Forever. If you want that tatt in a personal place to remain personal then never mention it, much less post pictures of it.
        2. Focus on why you are here. Political comments will polarize. If you want that, go for it. Remember that half your potential audience now hates you, if you do. That's life in the virtual world.
        3. You can set up your page so all your Tweets and blog posts show up here automatically. Why not do many things with a single keystroke?
  3. LinkedIn
      1. This is more of a professional resume site. If you are looking for work as an editor, staff writer or other salaried (or freelance) writing gig, this might be the place to poke around. I've no good idea what use it is for a fiction writer, but I have a seminar coming up to find out and will post more here after I learn What It's All About
  4. Second Life
      1. Enter a virtual world where your avatar can be anything at all. A talking horse or minotaur or the other sex or...anything. There are a lot of writing groups. If you can't find a local one, online is great. Quillians is one I know of.
      2. Authors can use this to meet fans. Michael Stackpole has a weekly "office hours" to talk about current writing topics and to answer questions about writing. Mike has spent a lot of years building his reputation in SL.
      3. SL requires a big commitment of time since you need to construct your avatar and learn to navigate from one section of the world to the other. Another downside is the ease of getting lost in all the non-writing things here that will do nothing for your sales. But it can be an incredibly fun time waster. Be warned.
  5. Your own website
      1. Whatever else you choose to ignore in promoting your work, this one has to be first and foremost on your list of Do It!
      2. You have the chance to post book covers (visual is always very good). Drop in reviews, be outrageously self promoting. It's expected here.
      3. Other content can be minor or intricate. What do you think will lure fans in (and back)? That's what you need.
        1. samples of your fiction work here
        2. always put in hyperlinks to places where your fans can buy your work
  6. Your own online bookstore
      1. Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iTunes reach all over the world to people you don't know. With your own bookstore, you not only get to keep a larger chunk of the $, you can run specials, promote individual titles easily and have a forum where forthcoming work is available.
      2. You can sell material you might not want on Amazon, etc.
        1. Ebooks from the other sources are only leased. You sell your ebook and it is the purchaser's. It's not leased, it's bought. When Samsung got out of the ebook biz, anyone who had "bought" one lost it.
        2. Some sellers like Smashwords and iTunes don't like links to other sellers. You can put any link you like into an ebook sold on your store. Sell ads to others? Try. Swap ads? Let's talk about that.
      3. Once the store is set up, you really only need to add or remove titles. Most of the operation is automatic and not requiring your attention. You can set up stores through blogging sites and there are many standalones such as Zen Cart which I use. Zen Cart is a fairly complex program, so be warned about a steep learning curve.
      4. Most online stores have a newsletter feature. This is great for contacting fans directly.
  7. Author pages
    1. Here is my Amazon page, my Smashwords page and my iTunes page
      1. These are free and give browsing customers a convenient look at your bio
      2. You can link to your blog to automatically post, giving even greater exposure (though only the first line or two shows-remember that the first line of your blog is like the first line of your fiction-it has to catch the reader's attention!)
  8. Amazon
      1. If you post your own books, you have to be here. Amazon sells 85% of all ebooks worldwide.
      2. There are many good references (free) for how to post and Amazon's writeup is adequate
      3. To get the most bang for your buck from Amazon, figure out how to garner lots of reviews. Favorable ones are better, of course. The reviews do attract readers and Amazon is more inclined to mention your book in the (free) emails they send out to customers who have bought similar work
        1. How do you get the reviews? It's a chicken or the egg problem. Books with lots of reviews get seen by more readers. You get reviews by having lots of readers. Your job is to use as many of the ways of getting eyeballs on your work as possible to filter down to sales.
        2. Don't sweat the Amazon ranking too much. It is a relative ranking to their other sales. A day when a blockbuster sucks the oxygen from the room might mean your book selling two copies is great. Usually sales are apportioned over lots of titles which sell better, so your ranking is lower. But no matter what, higher ranking means better sales (or sales at all). The algorithm is complex and includes an inertia component, so if you sell a lot one day but not any the next, you won't fall off the face of the earth. Continue to not sell and you slowly sink.
          1. If you are the No. 1 bestseller in a category (no matter how esoteric) Amazon puts a #1 sales tag beside your book to draw attention. This Is A Good Thing even if the category is advanced left-handed yak milking for dummies.
      4. Kindle Unlimited is probably a bad deal for most authors since it requires exclusivity. If Amazon's not paying you for it, don't do it. Sucking up the froth from their monthly pool of money isn't likely to mean as much to you as individual sales of your books.
      5. The tags you put on your books is very important. While you can only get a general fiction/sf listing, on category, Amazon (and Smashwords and Nook) let you put 7-10 fine-tuning descriptors in. Is your book space opera? Military sf? First contact? Alien empire? Time travel? All of them? The more you can put in, the better the chance someone will find you. Consider this SEO (search engine optimization) for your book.
  9. Barnes & Noble
      1. The Nook is a weak player in a strong world dominated by Amazon. But even a few sales here are better than none. Once you put the ebook up, all you have to do is wait for it to sell (because of your promotions everywhere else).
      2. If Microsoft is serious about making the Nook a player, this might cause it to gain market share. If you're already there, great.
      3. The sales stats are primitive and not good for anything but seeing how much you'll be paid eventually. Most everything about the B&N/Nook store is primitive compared to Amazon or Smashwords.
      4. They do send out a newsletter urging people who have bought things similar to try yours-if you are lucky. Amazon is far more focused.
  10. Smashwords
      1. Publish through Smashwords and get your ebooks on iTunes, B&N (sort of does away with the weak player, Kobo and other minor sales sites.
      2. Gives you a free ISBN
        1. Publish here first, then publish with Amazon and use this ISBN
      3. There is a free book telling how to prepare a book for Smashwords by Mark Corker. The process is long but not complicated, even for someone like me who hates and only uses MSWord when forced to.
      4. Your take of sales is better here than with Amazon, but Smashwords does not now put books up on Amazon for you.
      5. Multiple pen names is something of a problem, unlike Amazon and Nook where it is simple. But creating enough "ghost authors" will do the trick, but the first one is the one you're stuck with as primary author.
  11. Itunes
      1. Their online book store is a nightmare and jumping through hoops makes me wonder if this isn't a governmental department.
      2. This is a minor POS (by that I mean Point of Sale <g>) but every sale is good, right? I make $10 or so a month from iTunes bookstore sales.
      3. Rather than going to Apple to post separately (as you have to do with Amazon), use Smashwords. It will save frustration and consolidate payment statements.
  12. Samples
      1. Giving your potential reader a sample of your work is a powerful lure. This is one place to do it.
      2. On Amazon, Smashwords, etc, always set up your book to give at least 10% free sampling. And remember to put a plug for your other work so it shows up in that segment of "freeness." This might be a few lines of blurbs or a link to your website. Don't overdo it, though. You want your work to show up in that 10 or 30% to entice the reader.
        1. It goes without saying, have a dynamite opening that engages the reader and pulls them along until...they have to buy to find out what finally happens.
      3. If you have your own online bookstore, do promotions where you include a free short story or chapter from a novel in your newsletter.
      4. Have a free story on your website.
  13. Blog
      1. You don't have to have a blog, but if you do it pays to concentrate on one topic. I violate this all the time and my blog hasn't anywhere near the readership it ought to. My piece on Billy the Kid hit over 400 for the day. Going to an sf con racked up 5.
      2. You can link your blog to Facebook, Amazon, Twitter.
      3. As with a story, give it a snappy, eye-catching title. Then that first line has to shackle the reader's attention. Many linked spots will only excerpt the title and first line.
      4. Blogroll is important-link to other blogs and have them link to you.
      5. Visuals work better than only text. Link to YouTube or pictures of your latest book cover or something that is eye grabbing.
      6. Swap guest blogs to increase your audience.
  14. Mailing lists
      1. This is a free mailing list generator
      2. Collect names of those interested and directly contact them. The people are self-selected as being interested. This is gold!
        1. Use your own bookstore customers to generate a list
        2. Get additions from people at conventions & talks you give
  15. Instagram
      1. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this might be the way for you to gain followers, interest them in your life and make them wonder if your books are worth their time.
  16. Free promos
    2. It is still pending but an RSS is starting up to give you a few lines of blurb for your books. The link would be back to your blog, store, Amazon, etc.
  17. Goodreads
      1. Get lots of people reading and buzzing about your book. If you garner good reviews, this only helps sales.
  18. Bookbub
      1. You pay to have notice of your (discounted or free) book sent out to tens of thousands of people who have expressed interest in, say, science fiction. Each genre is a different price to post but $400 is about the limit. They give good stats on how many copies you are likely to sell to those tens of thousands, but the important part is introducing new readers to your work.
        1. If you want free or cheap books, sign up for Bookbub and get daily notices. I've gotten a few books this way that I have enjoyed.
      2. You link the title to whatever seller you like. I don't know if you can link to your own bookstore, but this might be a bonanza if you can and do.
      3. The few people who have tried this all say they at least broke even-and if they gained new fans, the experiment is successful.
      4. Coupled with Amazon, this can be a powerful tool.
  19. Find reviewers
  20. Pay for reviews
      1. I have an aversion to this, but it exists, big selling ebook authors use ones like this, and it's up to you. It's not the same as paying for sex. But it seems like it.
  21. Podcasts
      1. Interviews authors about their books
      2. If you are inclined this way, start your own podcast.
  22. Book Trailers
    1. Check out the one I did on this page for Tales From Texas.
      1. The software to do it is free at
      2. I am not sold on book trailers, but the Big 5 pay huge amounts to promote their bestsellers. (That may be a good reason to avoid it!)
      3. Some gaming tie-in publishers will go this route, such as for Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three. These aren't too costly since they take scenes from an already imagined game. To do them from scratch would be very expensive.
        1. Have enthusiastic, knowledgeable fans willing to do this for you! On the cheap!
  23. Get inventive
    1. The Chain Story
      2. Mike Stackpole started this a few years back and it has run its course
      3. Short stories chained together by the conceit of an adventurer's club
      4. Introduces new readers to favorite author's links on either side
        1. It's free, so why not go up and down the chain and see what appeals?
      5. This brought a large number of newcomers to my website.
    2. Mysterious Islands
      1. Mike is nothing if not aggressive in marketing This is a new project just taking form. The idea is for authors to set their stories on an island of their invention, using characters from their (and others') stories. When it is well enough established, fans will be invited to contribute stories using their own and their favorite authors' characters in the islands.


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