Should I Enter a Book Competition?

From time to time my inbox fills up with calls to entry for various book awards. I always have mixed feelings about entering. While winning an award is certainly a good thing, there is also a downside.

PROs

I’ve entered competitions in the past and some of my books, such as Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War,  have won awards. I’m not going to lie to you. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that your book beat out dozens, if not hundreds, of other entries. Awards are also a nice marking tool. There’s nothing quite like having that award sticker proudly displayed on your book cover. In fact, I’ve included one of mine. Not to brag, but to point out the downside to winning a book award.

CONS

I won the award in 2007. By 2010 my book looked dated. 

The other big drawback is the cost. The last time I tried to enter a book competition the early bird entry fee was $90. They also wanted four printed copies of the book. By the time I added in the cost of the books, and my best guestimate for the postage, I realized I’d be spending at least $120, if not more. Just to enter one title, in one category. If I wanted to enter a second category the cost would double. Competitions aren’t without risk. There is no guarantee your book will win. As I thought it over I realized I’d be better off spending that $120 dollars on advertising my book. 

So, is entering a book award competition a good idea? You’ll have to decide for yourself. If you have the inclination, and the budget, then go for it. Who knows? Your book could be a winner. However, if you don’t have the money, or if you feel unsure, then don’t. While it’s nice to win an award, it’s no guarantee that you’ll sell more books. 

Gayle Martin

So Who Markets Your Book?


© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

From time to time I get into interesting discussions with other authors lamenting about how their book isn’t selling they way they expected. The first thing I ask is what have they done to market their book. Most of the time they haven’t done anything. Many authors, especially newbies, honestly think all they have to do is list their book on Amazon, and people will buy it. Or they think someone else, such as a third party publisher, or distributor, will market their book. 


“Build it and they will come,” may have worked in Field of Dreams. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to selling books. Nor is your publisher responsible for marketing your book. They distribute your book to booksellers, but they’re not in the marketing business. You, the author, are the one responsible for marketing your book, and not taking the initiative means your book won’t sell. Fortunately, there are many things that you can, and should, be doing to help promote your book. 

How authors can promote their books
  • Have a website or blog, or both, about your book.
  • Promote your book on social media.
  • List your book on other websites.
  • Have book signings.
  • Send out a newsletter.
  • Have contests and giveaways.
  • Create a book trailer.
  • Advertise your book

If you can only do one item on this list, make it a having website. If you’re on a tight budget, you can create blog on Blogger for free. Blogger has an array of nice-looking templates and it’s very easy to use. Godaddy, Wix and WordPress, offer templates so you can build your own website. If you have the means, you can hire a webmaster and have them create a state of the art website will all the bells and whistles. Whichever way you go, it’s up to you to promote your blog or website. This is where social media comes in.

Of you’re an author, social media is an absolute must. It costs nothing to open account on most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Keep in mind, however, that it takes time to build a following on social media, so don’t expect instant results. I’ve also found contests and giveaways to be a nice marketing tool. You can do giveaways through social media, or with newsletters.

If your budget allows it you can hire a publicist, but be sure he or she has experience in book promotion. Book promotion is quite different from other kinds of public relations. Also be sure to talk to him or her about the cost. Some firms may charge as much as $3000 a month for their services. Others may charge much less, and may do just as good of a job as the higher-priced publicists.

No one ever said marketing a book would be easy. This is especially true in a time when anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can upload a Word file to Amazon and call themselves an author. However, unless your name is Stephen King, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, don’t expect people bust down the doors to buy your book just because it’s listed on Amazon. You really have to get there and do some work.

Gayle Martin

Blogs vs Social Media

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000

As authors we’ve all been told, many times, to promote our books on social media. Good advice. Social media is an essential marketing tool. However, just like anything else, it can be overrated, if not overused.

Some authors post nothing but, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” To which I say, “Enough already!” We all want people to buy our books. However, social media was never intended to be a vehicle for free advertising. You’re also missing out on another valuable marketing tool. The blog.

Why I think the blog is still king
  • You Can Engage One on One with Your Readers. Like social media, a blog allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. In fact, a blog is a form of social media, as you can allow comments. Blogger, WordPress and other blog platforms also allow multiple pages. This means you can also use a blogging platform to build your website. That’s a whole lot more than I can do with my Facebook business page.
  • No Trolls Allowed. Unlike other social media, you can eliminate trolls completely with a blog. Simply set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.
  • Not Everyone Uses Social Media. Thanks to censorship and privacy concerns, many people have closed their social media accounts. Others never signed up in the first place. However, anyone with an Internet connection can read your blog. This makes you more accessible to your readers, especially if you include your blog address in your books. 
A word of caution regarding social media

Unfortunately, social media platforms can also be extremely distracting, and they can easily take up too much of your valuable time. Try not to spend more than ten to fifteen minutes per day on any one platform, and don’t feel that you have to post something on social media everyday. Better yet, use Hootsuite, Buffer, or other social sharing services.

Social sharing services allow you to post on multiple social media accounts at once. This saves time and prevents distractions. They also change your blog post URLs, which can be helpful for resharing posts later on.

So there you have it. Social media, when used properly, can certainly help you promote your books. However, in my humble opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

Gayle Martin