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Top 5 Reasons a AYUGHF Needs a Promotion Plan

Congratulations! You’re an As Yet Unpublished Golden Heart Finalist! What are you going to do now? (Please don’t say “Go to Disney World” That was so last year!) ๐Ÿ˜€ My hope is that “Develop and Implement a Promotion Plan” is at least on your top ten list of things to do before RWA National, right up there with “Find the Perfect Dress” and “Book a Flight”.

This month, I’m going to do a three-part “Top Five” series on Promotion. Today, I’m going to give you the top five reasons you need to have a promotion plan. Mid month, I’ll talk about the Top Five things that should be in that promotion plan and how to implement it, and then late in the month we’ll talk about the Top Five things you should consider for your website.

So, without further ado, I give you the Top Five Reasons You Should Have a Promotion Plan Now. 1) You are a GH Finalist!

You have 3 months to capitalize on your sudden fame. Fellow GH Finalists, Past GH Finalists, Published authors, and many others are searching you out on Twitter, Facebook and on the web. If you have something that those searchers can connect with, then you’ve started building your future readership. Between now and the RITA/GH Ceremony you ARE the GH Winner in your category. (This is kind of a “Innocent until Proven Guilty” or a “Schrรถdinger’s cat” sort of thing. You are both the winner and the loser for the next three months! In three months approximately 1/8 of you will be the winner in your category. The other 7/8 won’t.)

2) A Promotion Plan will help you decide how to market yourself and your books.

A promotion plan is more than just a website, or a marketing plan.ย  A good one starts with a full analysis of your brand, and an in-depth contemplation of what you are reasonably willing and able to commit to. The whole process, if done right, can help you evaluate what’s unique, special and different about your books, which will allow you to present them to your future agent and publisher in a way that will grab them from the first word!

3) If/When you sell, you are going to be very, VERY busy!

The 12-18 months between your sale and the time your book hits the shelf will go by in the blink of an eye. You will be consumed with revisions, copy edits, your cover, and writing the next book. If you have your promotion plan in place (especially website, Facebook Fan page and Twitter account) before you sell, then there you much less to do once you make that sale. Additionally, with an in-depth promotional plan in place, you can spread out the time your promotional efforts will take (not to mention the financial costs) more deliberately, rather than taking the hit all at once.

4) Agents and Publishers want to know if you can promote yourself in a professional way.

Unfortunately, having a great website won’t get you published. Only a well written book can do that.ย  However, an agent or editor who’s on the fence might topple in your direction when they see that you are serious about your career, have obviously put some time and thought into it.ย  Conversely, a bad online presence could deter them. (Who wants to represent or work with someone who conducts themselves in a non-professional manner online?)ย  I’ve had a number of clients whose analytics have tracked Editors or Agents checking out their website right before they receive an offer. Many do check!

5) Starting now will allow you to experiment with what works for YOU.

By establishing and implementing a promotional plan now, you will be able to determine what works for youโ€ฆ and what doesn’t. Pre-publication, you can experiment with a number of different methods to find out ways you like to promote yourself, and those that send you into the fetal position under your desk.ย  Additionally, you will generate metrics that you can use as a basis of comparison for what works and what doesn’t!

I’ll be here all day answering your questions about Promotional Planning. Feel free to ask anything!

* – * – * – * – * – * -* – * – * -* – * – * – *

Liz Bemis is the Founder and Creative Director of Bemis Promotions, a firm specializing in websites, print and multi-media materials, promotion, strategy & branding for authors.

Liz has worked in the design and technology fields for more than seventeen years with clients in a wide range of industries, including publishing, restaurants, non-profit, small business, corporate, military/government and educational institutions. Through the years, her consulting and corporate work has included acclaimed site design and comprehensive eยญcommerce site development. Additionally, she has implemented Ad Agency-led international marketing campaigns and managed application development for the US Air Force.

Additionally, Liz has written seventeen yet-to-be-published manuscripts and is a five-time Golden Heart finalist.

56 responses to “Top 5 Reasons a AYUGHF Needs a Promotion Plan”

  1. I concur wholeheartedly!!! Trust me, people look. I was floored by the amount of people who were looking. This is the time to take advantage of a good thing. Don’t let this slip away, AYUGHFs!

    Great post, Liz!
    ~D~

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  2. I’m a big fan of planning ahead, so this is right up my alley. And yes, people do look you up online. Having a presence there is SO important. I’ve heard agents and editors say that they look at a person’s website to see what kind of impression he/she makes (especially if you’re submitting to e-publishers, since many of your readers may want to connect with you online). In fact, it’s on my agenda to update and revamp my website this month. That, and set up my Facebook author page.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Anne Marie — I recommend that everyone updates their site content at least once a month. Even if it’s just a new “Dear Reader” letter on the home page. If you have a blog, you’ve pretty much got that covered. But if not, then sometimes it’s a struggle to keep your site fresh! Good luck!

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  3. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    OY! More to do. We’re going to have to have a talk soon, you and I, I’m thinking. Laurie says I should get on the stick buying domain names and such, but I haven’t a clue about any of it. HELP!

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Gwynlyn, BUY THAT DOMAIN NAME. NOW!!!!! And call when you’re ready! I’d LOVE to help you with your site! ๐Ÿ˜€

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      • How? Where? If I buy it one place, do I have to post my site to that place? I know NOTHING!

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        • Liz Bemis says:

          You can purchase your domain at GoDaddy, which commits you to nothing except owning your domain name. You pay a yearly fee (about $14 give or take) for the domain name. Then, when you’re ready to post your page, you can buy hosting from whomever you like. (Though I use GoDaddy and have had almost zero problems in the 5 or so years I’ve been with them, so I recommend them highly!)

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          • I’m working on this right now. Thanks for the advice. (Gwyn, I’m in the same boat as you. How do I do this?)

            GoDaddy is asking if I should I get a “certified” domain name. Recommendations?

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          • Elise Hayes says:

            Laurie (and Liz), I want to know this too! I don’t know a lot about promo yet, but I do know that I’ll probably want to get a website going in the next year or so…

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          • Liz Bemis says:

            A “certified” domain name means that you’ve gone through a few extra steps of verification to prove you are who you say you are. This might be worthwhile if you were running TheOfficialBradPittSite.com ๐Ÿ˜€ Or TheCoolestProductEvar.com. However, this is not something an AYUGHF really needs to worry about.

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  4. Hey, Liz! Great start to the series. I agree with getting experimenting before you sell. It’s important to know what kinds of promo suit you best.

    Just touching on Anne Marie’s comment here. A few of my pubbed friends have launched their author pages on Facebook. Would you recommend unpubs set one up, too? What are the advantages of having an author page?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Vanessa, The benefit of establishing your author fan page NOW, is that you can separate your “Real” life from your “writing” life. Ask a bigger name author who had to go through her personal profile and weed out readers/other writers and get them on her fan page, whether or not she wished she’d set the fan page up to begin with. It will save you a lot of pain in the end!

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  5. Leslie Karen Witwer says:

    As an unpubbed, I feel as if I’ll be shouting out to the aether with a website. Any advice on how to attract an audience now and keep it for when the product is ready to launch?

    Thanks for this series. It could not be more topical for me and in an area I’m sadly deficient.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Leslie,

      A) Give people a genuine reason to come to your site. (Promoting your book isn’t the reason to get them there! You MUST think in terms of how the visit benefits the VISITOR, not YOU!) I’m talking contest, swag, insight, a good laugh… Give them SOMETHING.
      B) Rely on your friends to help you promote. (But don’t over do it!) The Rubies are very good about sending out notices to our individual groups when one of us is promoting something big. However, I think we’re all pretty good about not over-doing that request.
      C) Use Twitter and Facebook to get the contacts you already have to become the foundation of your readership.

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      • Leslie Karen Witwer says:

        “You MUST think in terms of how the visit benefits the VISITOR, not YOU!”

        This lovely piece of advice has shifted my focus and perhaps saved me months (or longer) of false starts and failures. I KNOW why I stop by the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood every morning–pure gold.

        Thanks!

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  6. YESYESYES!

    And Liz knows her stuff, girls. I can’t WAIT to start signing up judges and entrants for the Golden Pen, because Liz has made some absofreakinglutely amazing updates to the way the contest runs, and it’s all because she’s a WordPress genius.

    Also, if you’re an RWA-PRO, today begins a FREE new bootcamp that’s all about WordPress websites! You can still sign up. Just go to … maybe here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PRO-Class/?yguid=394319064 and click “join.”

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  7. Jenn Stark says:

    Liz hits the nail on the head here. Regardless of where you are in the post-GH haze, now is the time to think about how to leverage your “new-found” fame so that you hit the ground running at National (which is in less than 3 months!)

    There’s no cause for panic–and it’s better to think twice, design once when it comes to a promotional plan and your online presence–but put on your thinking caps now. It’s really happening! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Amanda Brice says:

    Listen to Liz, ladies…

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Ha! Thanks, Amanda! I need you following me around my life and just telling people that.

      Liz: “Pick up your room”
      Teenager: “Aww… Do I hafta?!”
      Amanda: “Listen to Liz!”

      I like it. It works for me.

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  9. Less than three months? Wow.

    So I have a domain name โ€” arlenehittle.com โ€” and my blog โ€” arlenewritesromance.wordpress.com. If I want to switch over to WordPress.org, how do I integrate my blog as a page on the main website?

    I know the first step is getting web hosting. My domain name is currently just set up as a free page from godaddy.com.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Arlene,

      If you use WordPress, you can Export your wordpress.org content out and import it into your domain site. This will allow you to integrate your blog and your site. As I said earlier, I’d highly recommend GoDaddy as a reliable host.

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      • You can?! Liz, I’ll give this another go. I’ve tried and failed in the past.

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        • Liz Bemis says:

          Go into the Dashboard of your wordpress.org site. Depending on your version of WordPress, you should be able to go to TOOLS>EXPORT to export an XML file containing all the data of your wordpress.org site. Then, go to your domain site, choose TOOLS>IMPORT and import the XML file. Yell if you need further help!

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          • (YELLS) Liz, I’ve hunted all through my Go Daddy domain site and I can’t even find the Import section. I’m such a dunce. ๐Ÿ™ I made my own site with iWeb for Mac. Do you think that has anything to do with my problems? In any case I just found some advice about building an iFrame in iWeb for my WordPress.com blog – http://web.mac.com/catucker/InsideOutside/iFrame.html. I’ll give that a shot now. Fingers crossed… Thanks for your help!

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          • Liz Bemis says:

            Vanessa, Totally my fault. I mis-read and thought your author site was also in WordPress. Feel free to email me offline if you need additional help!

            Liz

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      • So, of course, my blog is on blogspot. Yep, I can screw up without even trying! It’s a gift. *G*

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  10. Great post, Liz! How important is a blog on your site? I have one, but I’ve been really bad about keeping it updated because I always have such a hard time figuring out what to blog about. If I commit to, say, one post a week on my website, is that enough new content to consider myself “established”?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Cynthia — once a week is very respectable. You have to balance your need to write books with your need to promote. And the former is more important than the latter!

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  11. Nola Cross says:

    Hi Liz: When I created my FB “Writer” page a few months back, FB “forced” me to create it off of my personal page. The 2 are connected. Is there any way to have it stand alone without starting over? Also, on our 2011 finalist yahoo list, everyone is friending everyone’s personal FB page. Shouldn’t we be “liking” each other’s professional page? What am I missing?

    Enjoyed your blog, by the way.

    Nola

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Nola,

      I think a fan page needs to be connected to a personal page… but I believe you can hide your personal account from the fans of the fan page.

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  12. Diana Layne says:

    good info, Liz, and I really do need to get more on the ball, too few hours in the day, who do I talk to about this problem? ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Yea! The site is up again. Great blog, Liz! I love the Schrรถdinger’s cat analogy. Very apropos.

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  14. liz talley says:

    Nice post, Liz.

    I’m pretty challenged when it comes to promo, as you well know. I try to twitter and I maintain a FB page. I blog here, and on two other blogs, but I’ll confess to being overwhelmed by publicity. What do you think is the most important element to have promotions wise?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      The most important element would be the one that doesn’t make you want to hide under your desk… and the one that you can genuinely keep up with. ๐Ÿ˜€ Sadly, there’s no one magic bullet: “If you promote with X, then you will be wildly successful.”

      There are authors out there who make the NY Times List with every book, who have horrible, out of date, websites, and do zero publicity whatsoever. There are also authors out there who are (arguably) equally talented who do boatloads of publicity and barely break even between the amount that they spend on publicity and the amount they make from their book.

      My recommendation is try a few different things, and make sure you have some sort of trackability. (e.g. a separate page on your website or even a separate URL with analytics specific to your promotion). Figure out what allows you to reach YOUR audience best.

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  15. Thanks, Liz, for your wizardly website wisdom! For the past five years I’ve used a home-grown website that I call my “website for two.” It’s the site that demonstrates to ONE agent and ONE editor I’m serious about my craft and recognize the importance of an on-line presence. With my debut YA coming out next year, I must make the big step to “website for readers.” I’m really looking forward to your professional insight!

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  16. Elisa Beatty says:

    This is great, Liz!

    Right now I just have my little homemade site through register.com, which has been fine, if nothing fancy. It’s amazing, though, how many hits I get, even though I’m unpublished, and also amazing how many of those people spend at least a few minutes (some more than an hour!!!) looking around.

    DEFINITELY if you’ve finaled in Golden Heart, or final in almost any contest, you should get a website started. Even if you’re just visiting blogs regularly and leaving your name, people do come to check you out. You never know who’ll remember your name….

    I’m very much looking forward to the day when I can come to you as a client, Liz!!!

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  17. Amanda Brice says:

    If there are still any unpublished writers out there (particularly PRO members and Golden Heart finalists) who don’t think they need a website, let me tell you a story.

    In 2009, as soon as we got back from RWA Nationals, all the YA Golden Heart finalists received an email from a brand new executive editor at Harper Collins, congratulating us on finaling, and inviting us to submit to his new imprint. He found our names on the RWA website, and then Googled us to find our websites. Without a website, he never would have reached us to invite us to submit.

    Yes, that’s an extreme example, but it does happen. I remember another time when I invited an editor to judge my local chapter’s contest. I’d emailed her, and then she indicated she would call me to talk about what was required of her. Right below my signature line in the email was my website, so before we spoke on the phone, she clicked the link and checked out the website first. And in the “completed manuscripts” section was a description of one of my stories, which she apparently thought sounded good, so at the end of out convo, she said she wanted me to send her that story. She mentioned it by name, so it was quite obvious she’d seen it on the website.

    These things do happen. Not often, but they do. And I’ve heard countless stories of agents and editors who Google potential clients when they’re reaidng their submissions.

    So do yourself a favor and get a web presence!

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