THE BLOG

Why Authors Hate Social Networking and How to Promote Books Online, Anyway

08/02/2011 01:38 pm ET | Updated Oct 02, 2011

Publishers, faced with shrinking book promotion budgets, are more excited than ever about telling authors to promote their own books online. By online book promotion, publishers often mean social networking. They use the phrases interchangeably. The reason publishers are particularly excited about online book promotion is that, in their opinion, they don't have to get involved in it. They can simply suggest that authors engage in online book promotion, and then step back and wait to see the results. It's good for the publisher's budget and easy on their resources, and it keeps authors busy.

Authors, on the other hand, may have mixed feelings about online book promotion. It's hard to say "no" when your publisher tells you social networking can be good for book sales. On the other hand, social networking can be a huge time sink and present some vaguely disturbing possibilities. Once authors have opened the gate to social networking, it can be hard to close them again. Do authors really want to spend hours each week communicating with (and fending off luncheon requests from) playgroup friends, buddies from the old neighborhood, relatives with vaguely familiar surnames, or colleagues from forgettable jobs?

Becoming active on any of the social networks is like leaving your door cracked open in the summertime: it's tempting to enjoy the fresh air and a pleasant breeze, but you also could be letting the creepy crawlies through the door. Authors know this, which is why so many of them instinctively and wholeheartedly resist social networking.

But just because the former playground bully lies in wait, hoping for redemption on the social networks, is no reason for authors to avoid online book promotion opportunities altogether. There are innovative ways and effective ways to create online buzz for books. Here are four ways to begin:

  • Launch a contest. A giveaway is easy to host, and all authors have to do is provide winners with copies of their books. There are web sites that will help spread the word about contests. Each giveaway winner is a source of word-of-mouth promotion, and anyone who signs up to win but doesn't is a potential book buyer.

  • Connect with bloggers. Ask bloggers to review books. Most of them will be glad for the opportunity, and each online mention of a book is another search engine optimization gem.

  • Draft articles. Offer information that relates to a book (yes, even a novel) in the form of an article. Many blogs and web sites accept simultaneous submissions, so the process of seeing an article published online should proceed quickly. Submit articles to newspapers and magazines, too. Most of them have web sites as well as print publications.

  • Comment on news stories. Many news sites invite readers to submit feedback, and these posts are published instantly. Set up a Google alert to find news stories related to specific topics, and write a mini op-ed for each. Posts can include the names of authors' books.

  • For authors who like the idea of creating online buzz but lack the time or the contacts, book publicists who are on the cutting edge of online book promotion can help. They'll have ideas of their own, and authors can offload the time-intensive, research-related parts of the job to them.

    The good news is that online book promotion campaigns require far less start-up time -- and can even be far more effective, in the long run -- than traditional book promotion campaigns. So for authors who won't be forced or "guilted" into social networking, there are still opportunities for online book promotion now, and there are more cropping up every day as technology evolves.