Steve Weber is the author of Plug Your Book!: Online Book Marketing for Authors and The Home-Based Bookstore. His Plug Your Book blog is becoming required reading for those interested in selling books.
1. You have a new book out, Plug Your Book. What can you tell us about that work?
SW: The message is simple: Free advertising works better than paid advertising. People are paying less attention than ever to traditional advertising, and it's never been very effective for books anyway. But it's easier than ever for authors to get free publicity online, without having any special computer skills.
I recommend three basic things: blogging, joining social networks like MySpace, and strengthening your book's Amazon recommendations.
These techniques are virtually free, but they generate demand for your book everywhere -- online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
2. What is the one thing that most folks overlook when planning their online book marketing?
SW: Most new authors assume their book will sell itself; that once it's available in bookstores or on Amazon, people will buy it automatically. You can have the best book in the world, but nobody is going to buy it unless your book has real word of mouth.
Many authors hire a book publicist, but for most new authors, a traditional marketing campaign won't generate many sales. Spending money on marketing is satisfying because it makes you feel like you're taking action. But the truth is, nobody can market your book better than you can, using free or very low-cost online techniques.
3. In your book, you talk about blogging. Why should an author put in the time and effort to blog?
SW: Writing a blog enables your readers to find you.
Instead of trying to beat people over the head with an advertisement for your book, a blog enables your audience to discover you, and they get involved.
Blogging does take time, but the payoff can be huge. The more you blog, the more readers will find you, and contribute new ideas you can use in your books.
You're probably already doing several things now you could be using for your blog. For example, I get a few e-mails every week from readers who have a question about one of my book topics. I take the most interesting questions and post them on my blog along with my answer. This way, more people benefit from my answer. And once my blog post makes its way into Google, hundreds or thousands more people will discover my blog (and book) when they search for a similar question.
4. How useful is your book and techniques for older books? I'm not talking about books that are years old, but perhaps one that came out in the last year or two. What would you recommend for those readers?
SW: These days, with print-on-demand, books never need to go out of print, of course. So as long as your blogging is generating book sales, it's a no-brainer. Plus, with a blog readership, you have more knowledge, momentum, and motivation for your next book.
Also, your blog audience is a great way to try out new ideas. For example, Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine, posted much of his bestseller, "The Long Tail," on his blog first. What originally was a magazine article grew into this popular blog. Then his blog readers added fuel to the fire. They suggested some new ideas and corrected some mistakes, making the book much stronger. This created a built-in audience for the book because even though the blog readers had already read much of the book's contents, they still wanted their own copy. It's no coincidence that "The Long Tail" has been one of the best-selling books of the past year.
5. How did you learn the techniques in "Plug Your Book?"
SW: It was all quite by accident. I didn't relish the idea of spending time on book promotion. When I started promoting my first book, Google advertising was all the rage. I'd heard these "pay-per-click" ads were really effective, so I bought thousands of dollars worth of Google and Yahoo ads. I also tried other expensive things that turned out to be ineffective, like hiring an expensive publicist and mailing thousands of review copies.
All those things that sounded like great ideas were horrific failures -- I was spending $20 on marketing for every $1 of sales. So I ditched my traditional marketing campaign. I started blogging, joined MySpace, and worked at getting some Amazon Top Reviewers to read and review my book. That's when my book started selling, and it was such a revelation. All those things I'd been spending money on were a waste of time, while the grassroots techniques that cost virtually nothing were extremely effective. I though it would be very helpful for new authors to know about these techniques, and that was the inspiration for "Plug Your Book."