If anyone had ever told me that I'd ask my son to paint a face under his lower lip and wear a blond wig with a fuchsia boa on his chin, I probably would've stared at them in horror. (After laughing, of course, and noting that it's not a bad idea.) But that's the world of today's writer: book promotion, especially of the internet variety, has become as much a part of writing as wordplay. I should probably explain about the chin wig. I wrote a series of funny YA books called Queen Geek Social Club, and as I brainstormed how to help market the book, I started noticing something online called book trailers (short videos promoting books, much like movie trailers prmote movies) I decided I needed to hone my iMovie skills and make one. But how to do this with no budget or personnel? REcruit teenagers and their friends, of course. My book trailer is low-tech; I paid a few bucks for a karaoke version of a popular song, rewrote the words, recorded it, then bought pizza for my 15-year-old son and his friends in order to get them to be in the video, which is now on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. But why would I do this? Why am I not spending time cranking out prize-winning novels? The answer is something that pretty much every writer (especially of young adult books ) knows too well: if your book isn't in the public eye, it's in the voluminous vault of unnoticed literature. With the self publishing boom and the lack of money publisher put into publicity, every writer needs to be at least a little adept at pushing their product. And books are a product, whether we like it or not. Many writers have succumbed to the pull to create an "online presence" via a website, a myspace page, a facebook page, book trailers, or other methods including advertising. The problem is, for most writers who aren't in the New York Times bestseller list, advertising budgets are nonexistent, or have to be siphoned off the kids' college fund. So, the most effective way to internet market is to brainstorm the free, or low-cost, options for net survival. I am fairly internet aware, but I knew that I couldn't do this alone, so I elected to spend some money to work on my online marketing presence. There are places where you can create your own website without any cost, but I found that the time spent and the unspectacular nature of my graphic ability did not make the free site worth it. The best expenditure is really for a website, and unless you are really well-versed in html, it's best, in my opinion, to pay someone to create a great website for you. In some ways, it's more difficult to update your site if you have a webmaster than if you put the site together yourself. There is open source software available if you want to take the time to try and compose your own website, and although many of them are pretty intuitive and don't require knowledge of code, there is still a learning curve. However, if you do it yourself, you know whom to ask if you want an update, and if you don't do what you ask, you can always deprive yourself of chocolate until you do what you're told. As far as websites go, it's important for the site to reflect you or what you're doing. For example, my website (http://www.queengeeksocialclub.com) features a bulletin board on the homepage, with push pins, since it takes place in a high school. Each of four main characters has a locker, and you can peek inside and read about what the characters think about the items in their lockers. This allowed me to extend the voice of the characters from the books, and give fans a little something extra when they visit the site. This brings up another important feature of websites: interactivity. An active, frequently updated blog is important (although I am guilty of not updating it enough), and if you allow comments, be sure you moderate them. This means that before a comment can be posted to your blog, you must approve it. This will eliminate all the cheap pharmaceutical/hot date comments that inevitably pop up. Unless, of course, you want to sell pharmaceuticals on the side, but I wouldn't advise that. Contests are a great way to get people involved too, but be sure you have a goal and a prize posted. Also, the more clear you make the rules, the more likely you'll be able to follow through. I held a writing contest on my site, and forgot to limit the word count on the entries, and received book-length manuscripts rather than the two-hundred-word or so entries I had anticipated. The long and short of it is this: if you want anyone to read your book, you have to do something to help them find it.
The Things We Do for Exposure
by Laura Preble
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