The first thing we learned about self-publishing in 2010 is that there are no shortcuts. Wait, that’s not true. There are sites like this one that let you shorten and customize long links. You should take advantage and use each link to send a message. When steering readers to the Bella Amazon page, we used: http://amzn.to/catchingon.
The larger lesson is that paying attention to small details can pay big dividends. We could have called our web site bella.com, but wanted to plant an idea, so we called it getbella.com. We also wanted to distinguish the site in other ways. Months before launch we decided to:
- Include excerpts, but every site has excerpts. We added illustrations that you can see here.
- Create a video trailer. It took six months and was worth every rewrite. Watch it from the homepage.
- Highlight reader support from around the nation. Thanks, Google maps, and thanks to these fans on our reader map.
- Post an author bio, but nothing unique there. We added a clip that tells the origin of Bella’s “voice” at this site.
- Last, we built Bella Facebook and YouTube pages, and I began Tweeting whenever we added new content. Three important decisions: first, content would be different on all our sites; second, all new posts would be cross-linked, and third, we would try to solicit user-generated content on the Facebook page. You will find, for example, that friends have taken fun photos of Bella on their world travels. So far there have been sightings in Greece, Switzerland, France and Italy, and I’m told Peru is next. The photo at left is from Florence.
- There are additional photo galleries on the Facebook page, including one that explains the Bella cover, that do not appear on the other sites. Likewise, the YouTube page has videos that don’t appear elsewhere, such as an interview where I talk about dedicating the book to my mom, a one-time avid reader now suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
We soft-launched the book in late July. As expected, there were some glitches – kinks in the website, a typo in the text that had to be fixed, and so on – and then it was time to move forward. Turns out that introducing a book to the public is like starting a fledgling political campaign, or a neighborhood small business. You need to attend pool parties, host coffees, and ask book clubs to make your novel the
monthly pick. If you’re lucky, some clubs will take you on, and then you’d better be ready to come on book club night and explain why this character said such-and-such on page 92, and why so-and-so behaved so badly on page 273. The photo at right is from a book club in my hometown of Rockville, MD.
As you move from creative writing to creative marketing, you want coverage in traditional and new media, and that takes persistent pitching, a thick skin, and a willingness to recast words you may have already spent years putting in perfect order. Bella, for instance, can be described this way:
A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband’s death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either.
To build more suspense, we converted that to:
Isabel Moss knew she might lose her husband when he went off to war.
When the call came, she was almost ready.
What stopped her cold was the second call …
You need a press release, and you should also pay attention to the season. Over the summer, Bella was “beach perfect.” A few months later, with the holidays approaching, we saucily suggested that Bella was “looking good in stockings” this holiday season, and ran a homemade ad on Facebook with this photo. The ad linked to the Amazon page, where, incidentally, you could also read more than a dozen positive reviews while deciding whether to make a purchase.
Don’t overlook obvious connections. American University, where I teach as an adjunct, sent a reporter from The Eagle, who wrote this wonderful piece. (I used bit.ly to shorten and message the link). Another online publication that helps writers self-publish accepted an article I wrote and posted it here. And I got to speak on a California internet station. Click here to listen.
By November, we were ready for the official launch. A friend got us space at the National Press Club, and the turnout was awesome. We had the foresight to shoot some video, which we later posted on the Bella YouTube channel, which can be found here.
As has become the standard, we announced the video on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, using this photo from the event. We used additional stills to create a photo gallery that lives on the Facebook page. And, in a burst of new media inspiration, we built a page on Tumblr, another simple application that offers an attractive platform for videos and photos. Check out Bella on Tumblr at this site.
As 2011 approaches, I’m happy to report that book review bloggers in North Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan and Canada are preparing write-ups on Bella. I also recently taped an interview with a popular Florida radio host, and that piece will be running any day. We’ve reached out to mainstream media such as National Public Radio, and are hopeful for some big hits in the year ahead. It will take considerable work and persistence, but I’m optimistic that Team Bella – my network of friends, family and colleagues that has already done so much – is up for the challenge.
It’s been said that, “By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.” We have reached the ark; the task ahead is to get it moving at warp speed.
Happy New Year, all!