What happens if you build a web site and no one shows up? You spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on a site that gets a few visitors at best and certainly isn’t selling your books. For the most part, authors assume that internet promotion stops once their site is up. But the harsh truth is that with all the sites popping up every day, yours will likely get lost in the shuffle unless you promote it.
Some years back, my company began pushing authors out to the Net to help increase their exposure and get into markets they might not otherwise have access to. In early 2005 I began pulling together what we’d learned and positioning it in a powerful new promotional program we call The Virtual Author Tour™, a campaign that exists only on the Net and one that you can implement too.
If the thought of virtual promotion is confusing, think of it this way: let’s say you build a wonderful store in the middle of an Iowa corn field. The only problem is there are no roads leading to it. A tour on the net is like paving a super highway to your “store” and to tell you the truth, it’s really the only way surfers will find you.
To begin your own tour you need to have a good understanding of who your audience is and where they hang out on the Net. For some readers it will be in Blogs (also called web logs), for others it might be chat groups, message boards or discussion groups but for most, it’s a combination of all of these. Whatever it is, you should be able to begin tracking them down by doing a quick Google search on your topic or market. Your first search will bring you back a slew of sites, some of them great and some of them not-so-great. The first portion of the tour will take the most time because you’re going to have to investigate the sites to see how effective they might be in your promotional efforts. One way to gauge this is to see what their Google page rank is. You can type the site into the following link and get a fairly good idea of where they rank: http://mygooglepagerank.com/ or you can load the Google toolbar into your Internet Explorer and get results each time you land on a page. Few sites will rank 10, but if the sites you’re looking at are 5 and above, you’re generally in the ballpark of sites worthy of a pitch. We will typically toss back anything that’s 4 and below unless the topic is very niche and the sites don’t get lots of hits because of a smaller market.
Once you have your list of sites, you’ll need to begin pitching them. Most often this is the area where authors get stuck. Why? Because they’re focused on selling their books. Regardless of who you’re pitching, you should never, ever sell your book. Always sell what your book can do for the reader and believe me, web sites, blogs, chat groups and discussion forums are always looking for books that will appeal to their demographic.
As you’re pulling together your tour, don’t overlook ezine article banks, these can be powerful too. If you’re unfamiliar with them take a peek at http://www.articlecity.com/ and you’ll see what I mean. This site archives hundreds of thousands of articles just waiting to be selected and placed in ezines. The good thing about this is that you never know the size of the ezine you’ll get placed in. It could have a readership of 500 or 20,000. Another good reason to do article submission is for the incoming links. Most of the main search engines change their algorhythms quite frequently, doing this causes sites to go up and down in ranking but incoming links from web sites, chats, blogs, and article placement can help give a site more consistent ranking rather than being at the mercy of an algorhythm change.
And no virtual tour would be complete without a web site so let’s circle back to where we started, that all important author site. Do you have one? If you don’t you should not begin your virtual tour until you do. If you do have one, take a long, hard look at your site and see if it’s ready for virtual exposure. By this I mean that often times, web sites aren’t nearly as “ready” as they could be. Why? Well for one your site design is really driven by your audience. Colors, styles, and wording will all depend on who you’re marketing to. Do you need lots of information or very little? All of this will depend on who your reader is. My site for example: www.amarketingexpert.com is packed with information. Why? Because authors and publishers arrive at my site hungry for knowledge so having articles, tips and lots of free information on there is necessary to not only get my audience to the site, but to keep them there.
Getting to know your reader is one of the most important components of any campaign and is especially true when you’re trying to go from a ho-hum site, to one that’s making the grade and converting visitors into customers. Do you know what your site conversion rate is? If you don’t you should; ask your web designer or site host for this information. It’s typically delivered in something called an Urchin report which is fairly easy to read and a wealth of information. If your site isn’t up to par, consider getting it internet ready before you launch your tour. If you’re spending all this time sending folks to your site, you’ll want them to convert into buyers otherwise your time spent on the Net is wasted.
Unlike a real tour around the country, a virtual tour isn’t associated with any timeline per se and it’s certainly not as expensive as the cost of travel and lodging. The impact from a tour, however, can be felt for a long time. The reason for this is that unlike print or broadcast media, every step you take on the Net leaves a footprint. And the more footprints you have, the more times you’ll come up in a search and the more hits you’ll get on your site. Also, consider this: the impact of going directly to your audience cannot be overstated. Rarely are you given the opportunity to gain direct access to your readers as you are on the Net. You can’t accomplish this in a bookstore or even in the best news piece. And while traditional media and bookstore placement offer great promotional leverage, the Net offers something that no other marketing programs do: a direct pipeline to your readers. So if you haven’t “gone virtual” you should consider it. No campaign is complete without it.
Wishing you virtual success!