This may seem like an odd follow-up to my blog about commercialism in art, but word must get out about you and your work if you are ever going to find a following. And who is going to do that if you don't? Unfortunately, the days of the publishing houses taking a chance on an unknown author/poet are over. Big money is spent promoting books that don't need it - the ones that will be a commercial success no matter what - while almost none is spent on the small or choice book.
My daughter and I were talking about this very thing the other night. She is a poet. How is she to promote her work without simply giving it away? Indeed, what are any of us to do? We must have something to promote before we can promote it. And how do we promote without just giving everything away? The key is relationship building.
A while ago I was thinking that I wished someone would simply lay out what would work in the matter of promoting our work. I spent a lot of time gleaning book marketing sites and finally came up with some methods that take time but, to meet my specification, don't cost very much. Right here on the internet is the key.
1. Start a blog. Here is the place you can talk about your work, add a few sample chapters, or a poem or two, to get people interested in what you do. Why talk about what you had for breakfast (some experts recommend simply talking about your day), when you can talk about what is most important to you and probably to your potential readers - your work. Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? What inspires you? Who are some of your mentors in writing or poetry? What were their lives all about. I think you get the idea. Keep it interesting, and have fun while you're at it. Your blog is at the center of your promoting universe. It doesn't cost you anything and I actually prefer this over maintaining a web site, though it wouldn't hurt to have both.
2. Start MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter pages. From there you can set up your profile, and begin adding friends. Seek friends in groups that are along the lines of what you do. Poetry groups, writing groups, reading groups, all will have people who are interested in what you are saying. Add them as friends. No, you are not spamming. You are inviting them to be your friend based upon your common interests. I'm not as sold on Twitter as some people are, but you can go onto Twitter search sites and find topics that are along your line - reading, writing, literary agents, and so on. Keep in mind that the reason for all of this activity is to get people to read your blog and to pass the word along to their friends. Don't be afraid to ask for that referral. (I'm asking right now - please let all your friends know about my blog site).
3. Join other related groups: Author's Den. Poetry magazines or small press journals. Search the web for these sites and join them. Get a listing and then let it lie. (Too much internet time can be a drag on your real work. Don't let it consume you.)
4. Get the Word out. Send out free press releases. Post bulletins on your social network sites. Let people know that you are blogging and why it might be important for them to read what you have to say. I post a bulletin every time I create a new blog post.
5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This isn't going to happen overnight but as you build a group of friends and fellow writers/poets who will be your friends and read your blog posts, you are building a following of people who will, one day when the time is right, want to read your new book that was just published. All of this has cost you nothing but time.
6. Submit some of your work as articles or short stories or poems to magazines or e-zines or other online sites. This will get the word out far and wide.
7. Spend a little money on postage to find a good literary agent once you have written the best book you know how. Don't get discouraged. This is still pretty cheap promotion and if you can catch the interest of a good agent, you may be on your way.
8. Expand your efforts. Be always on the lookout for another place to promote your work. Start a second blog and a third to talk about your upcoming books. You can start this early, while still in the planning process. It is never too soon to start promoting your next book, and the one after that. Start a fan group. Post a Squidoo lens. Come on, you probably already know other ways of promoting your work that I haven't even thought of. (If so, please let me know). I spend about an hour every day promoting my work. That leaves plenty of time to keep creating.
Hope this has been helpful. I'm no marketing expert, but this is the strategy I'm using, and I'm loving having all these new friends to correspond with. (Answer all your e-mails and comments. You can ignore the requests to play online games or to add other applications, but answer your mail. Your friends want to know you are a real person.