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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Plug Your Book

Steve Weber's name couldn't be more appropriate. He makes money from the web. He's an ebay entrepreneur, selling used books and, he's published a couple of books of his own. Specifically, "Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors" and "The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site".

Weber Books
Amazon link to Plug Your Book
Amazon link to The Home-Based Bookstore

Marva: How did you get the idea for Plug Your Book. Just from selling your own book? This seems like ouroboros, it circles around: selling books, how to sell books, selling books on how to sell books

Steve: Exactly. When I finished "The Home-Based Bookstore," like most new authors, I mistakenly believed that the marketing would take care of itself. But I soon realized the book wasn’t selling because nobody knew about it. So I tried all sorts of advertising, I spent about $4,000 on Google Adwords and Yahoo search marketing. That was a complete disaster, I was spending $30 on ads to sell a $20 book.

So as a last resort, I tried grassroots marketing, and that’s when sales of "The Home-Based Bookstore" took off. The three most important things I did was starting a blog, networking on MySpace, and was getting Amazon Top Reviewers to review my book.

It was such a revelation: All the paid advertising I’d done had been a complete waste, but the free advertising was working wonderfully. So I put all those lesssons I learned into a new book, "Plug Your Book."

Marva: I see that you've put the entire contents of Plug Your Book on a website for all to read. Why do that? Don't you want people to buy your book?

Steve: Yes, I want to sell as many books as possible. But I do give away the entire text free online at Weber Books, on the theory that the more people who find out about the book, the more people will buy it.

My hunch is that the book is good enough that people who read a few pages online will be compelled to buy the paperback. Nobody enjoys reading something on a computer screen for more than several minutes. So if you can hook people with part of your book, I believe they’ll buy it.

So I’ve posted the entire book online using a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone is free to read, print and share the book for noncommercial use.

Marva: Will this work for any book, or is this a tool for non-fiction? Is "The Home-Based Bookstore" available on-line, too?

Steve: I think it will work for any book, as long as the book fulfills a need, whether it’s entertainment, business information, or whatever. Having said that, it’s much tougher for the non-superstar author to sell fiction than nonfiction. A competent nonfiction book is very compelling to its target audience – it solves a problem or promises to help the read make money. With fiction, you’re competing against all the other leisure activities your audience may want to do. But I’d argue that this makes it all the more important for your target audience to discover the quality of your writing. The best way to do this is to give them free samples. You don’t need to give the whole book away, you could give sample chapters or other short stories you’ve written.

I don’t have the entire contents of "Home-Based Bookstore" online, but I give away the first few chapters.

Most big publishers still don’t believe in giving away your book as a way of generating word of mouth. But many authors have been successful doing it. Forbes Magazine recently had an excellent piece about this by Corey Doctorow.

The book includes just about every conceivable technique you could use to promote your book online. To give you a few specifics, here are some ideas that appear in the MySpace section:

Create a MySpace profile for your book. For example, author Marcy Dermansky creatively used her MySpace "Top 8" friends list to help promote her debut novel Twins. Drawing from her 3,000 MySpace friends, Dermansky found several with names matching the character names in her book, like Lauren, Chloe and Smita.

She moved them to her "Top 8" friends list. For the more unusual names in the book, like J├╝rgen and Yumiko, she had to search for new friends using MySpace’s search engine. New friends who got invitations were so intrigued about the book, they often bought it simply to read about namesake characters, adding to the book’s buzz. Her MySpace profile is at ChloeAndSue

Become MySpace friends with well-known writers in your genre. Horror novelist Michael Laimo says he got more than a dozen big media interviews after reporters noticed his MySpace page, which is linked to several big-name writers. He inked his first movie deal through MySpace after an independent director sent him a MySpace message asking about film rights. Hundreds of fans have told him they bought his books after seeing his MySpace profile: MichaelLaimo

Browse the "friends" lists of similar authors. Find the MySpace profiles of authors with similar books, writing style and similar target audience as yours, and send them a friend invitation. For example, up-and-coming memoirist Josh Kilmer-Purcell sends friends invitations to fans of David Sedaris and Augustine Burroughs, bestselling memoirists in the same vein. Each time he makes his rounds on MySpace, Purcell watches his Amazon sales spike for days afterward.

Marva: Here's the place to add anything you'd like. Go for it. 500 words or less.

Steve: All right. Here are the most common questions and answers:

QUESTION: What are some other ways authors can get exposure?

I’m a huge believer in "amateur" book reviews. The balance of power is shifting to book readers, and away from gatekeepers like professional critics. Online book reviews by amateurs are crucial now, especially for new authors. The word of mouth from Amazon customer reviews can be tremendous. "Plug Your Book" has a whole chapter devoted to getting customer reviews on Amazon and encouraging Amazon "Top Reviewers" to review your book.

QUESTION: How do you approach an Amazon reviewer and convince them to read and review your book?

· Click on the pen name for anyone who's written an Amazon review, and you'll find their Amazon profile containing biographical and other information they’ve posted about themselves.

· Ensure your book is of interest. Some reviewer profiles explain what types of books they prefer--some reviewers stick with fiction; some review only movies or music.

· Contact potential Amazon reviewers from their profile page, clicking the link "Invite to be an Amazon Friend." This generates a pop-up form where you can enter a message, and Amazon will forward it in an e-mail.

· Safeguard yourself a bit by requesting that readers not post a review if they simply hate the book. But it’s the reviewer’s call, don't do anything to suggest you're expecting favorable treatment.

· Avoid sending your book to reviewers who usually post harshly negative reviews, but don’t shy away from those who offer frank criticism. These voices lend credibility to your book.

· Ask readers who praise your book to post an Amazon review. For example, whenever you receive an e-mail from a satisfied reader, you might respond this way: "Thank you for the kind words about my book. If you ever have a spare moment, it would be a great help if you could post a review of it on Amazon and let other potential readers know why you liked it."

Marva: Wow! What great advice. Thanks for shining some light on this for the many writers out there needing to publicize their books, be they traditional or self published.


  1. Great advice! I will try some of your tips to help sell my new book, CONFESSIONS OF A CATHOLIC SCHOOLGIRL, by Michelle Kane

  2. I don't know quite how I got in here (in over my head). It must have been TomCat who lured me in to this point. But I'll back out on tippy-toes. (I don't know how to behave amidst real published writers.)

  3. {TomCat engages evil laughter mode.}


  4. Interesting topic. This isn't the Steven Weber who starred on the old sitcom Wings is it. He has some type of online business.

  5. Steve was very specific saying he wasn't "Steven Weber" of Wings. I liked Wings, though, so it isn't so bad to be associated with it.

  6. Marva, I added you to my Blogroll :-)

  7. this is a fantastic little interview, thanks!

  8. {Waves at Benji}

    Marva, have you considered upgrading that Ofc 97?

  9. Marva, got the message. I used to love Wordperfect from 2.0 on, until Wordperfect Corporation sold out to Novell. Novell abandoned file compatibility in favor of a proprietary file format that is so unlike the standards other word processors use that file conversion is a nightmare. I'm sure you have fits converting your .wpd files to .doc when you need compatibility. The version of Office 2007 I use includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote (the best thing that ever happened to people who blog). It costs $147 (no shipping charge), but is restricted to non commercial use. I'd have to check with Microsoft to see if that includes a struggling writer, if you're interested.

    We gotta stop meeting like this. ;-)

  10. nice website
    very informative