Publicity on the Internet
marketing expert Steve O'Keefe provides writers
with invaluable advice on how to get their book
1994, Lawrence Canter and Martha Siegel flooded
the Internet with ads for their legal services.
The infamous "Green Card Lawyers" stirred
up some paying customers, all right; they also stirred
a hornets' nest of anti-advertising sentiment on
the world's largest computer network. Canter &
Siegel received hate mail and death threats, had
their Internet accounts sabotaged, and have been
stalked across cyberspace. It appears that no billboards
will be tolerated on the Information Superhighway.
And yet, you can advertise on the Internet, it just
requires finesse. Rather than bombarding innocent
users with junk e-mail, you provide useful news
and information and make your advertising materials
available only upon request. Marketing on the Internet
involves publicity more than advertising, and it
can pay big dividends.
The Internet is a global computer network; a well-placed
book review can lead to foreign rights inquiries
from countries you didn't even know existed. Built
to facilitate research, the Internet is home to
thousands of colleges, universities and libraries,
all of whom might be interested in buying your book
in bulk. Positive publicity on the net can lead
to the sale of electronic rights, serial rights
and reprint rights, as well as special market sales
to businesses, government agencies and other organizations.
These sales are in addition to the consumer market;
with 30-40 million consumers online, Internet publicity
can have a significant impact on retail sales.
Obviously, some books are better suited to publicity
on the Internet than others: books on computers,
business, careers, and cutting edge fiction are
net favourites. However, any book can benefit from
Internet publicity because of the ease of targeting
people by their special interests. Below is a simple
program for generating "heat" for your
books on the Internet.
Two of the Internet's most popular features are
"newsgroups" and "mailing lists."
There are thousands of them, devoted to specialised
topics, with strange names like "alt.books.reviews"
and "misc.fitness." People interested
in those topics can post messages and read what
others have posted. Private information services
such as America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, and
The WELL, have similar discussion groups, sometimes
called "forums" or "folders"
or "conferences." For convenience, I refer
to all of these as "discussion groups."
If you were to post an ad for a book to these discussion
groups, you would probably be "flamed,"
or verbally attacked for violating "netiquette."
However, if you post a legitimate book review to
the appropriate groups, you will be seen as making
a positive contribution. And it doesn't violate
netiquette to include contact information at the
end of the review. So here's the plan for publicising
a book on the Internet. Whenever your books receive
favourable reviews, request permission to reprint
them on the Internet. Sometimes there's a charge
to reprint, but usually the only cost is the time
it takes to find the copyright holder and get their
approval. Type-up the review and post it to the
appropriate discussion groups. At the bottom of
the review, include a tagline such as, "for
more information about this book, send e-mail."
You should have a flyer for your book stored on
your computer so you can send it via e-mail when
people request it. You also need to monitor the
discussion groups for a few days to see what feedback
your reviews generate. Hit & run operations
are not appreciated on the net. By participating
in the discussion groups, you earn respect as someone
who contributes to the net.
That's the basic plan: post news and reviews, then
follow-up with advertising materials when requested.
This simple strategy becomes routine after a few
books, and it only takes a few minutes a day to
maintain what you've started. Hunting down permissions
and monitoring discussion groups can be time consuming,
but this work can also be contracted out to people
who enjoy hanging out on the Internet.
The news release is the workhorse in the publicist's
toolkit, and you'll be riding that horse down the
"information highway," too. There are
thousands of media representatives with Internet
addresses. Whether it's Dateline NBC or Harper's
Magazine, they are cruising the net looking for
An editor at Forbes saw a review I posted and contacted
me for a review copy of the book. This resulted
in excerpts appearing in Forbes, which led to many
other inquiries. But you don't have to wait for
reporters to stumble over your discussion group
postings: you can send them your news releases directly.
Every time you issue a regular news release, consider
sending a copy to the online media as well. Whether
you're announcing a contest, bragging about a deal,
or just introducing new employees, you can benefit
from lightning-fast e-mail news releases. You can
post similar information to the net's discussion
groups, but you have to carefully edit your release
to stress news content.
This article has covered some basic strategies that
will help you market your books online. Take good
advantage of the Internet and all the potential
exposure it has to offer authors. The future of
bookselling is online.
O'Keefe is a prolific writer. He has edited
six newsletters and has written more than
100 articles and several books. His writing
has appeared in Harper's, The Wall Street
Journal, Outside, Salon, HotWired, NetWorth,
Entrepreneur, Curio, and dozens of other magazines.
He was one of the original writers for Internet
World magazine, a columnist for the COSMEP
Newsletter, and a frequent contributor to
Small Press, PMA Newsletter, SPAN Connection,
and other publishing periodicals.
Steve's writing has been anthologized in several
books, including Publicity Basics, by the
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.
His latest book is Complete
Guide to Internet Publicity (John Wiley
& Sons, 2002-2007), the successor to the critically
acclaimed 'bestseller', Publicity on the Internet
Adjunct Faculty, Tulane University College
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741 Saint Philip St. #241, New Orleans, LA
Voice: (504) 586-9517 Fax: (504) 586-9518
Web Site: http://www.patronsaintpr.com
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