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A New Job Requirement for Authors


Who knew that one needed to be so thoroughly tech-savvy to be an author?

by Sherri Rifkin, author of LoveHampton

I’m not just talking about knowing how to create chapter headers in Word (I don’t but I fake it well enough) or being able to change your printer cartridge. Nowadays, you have to know how to in order to be an author, that is, if you have some hopes of being a successful commercial author. It helps if you have nice friends who know how to do all this stuff (I have a Jeff, a Mary and an Anthony) but there are only so many times you can sweetly plead for their help and certainly a limit on the number the exclamation points you can put after "Thank you!!!!!!" in your emails. (Six seems reasonable; seven is just desperate.)

I’ve logged several hours, possibly equalling days at this point, uploading my book-related videos to the various viral distribution sites, creating the first of what is sure to be many photo albums on, adding a fan page on Facebook—and boy is my laptop tired! And I still have a "Book To Do" list two pages long.

Believe me, as a former cable TV marketer for Bravo and Oxygen, I am very grateful to be publishing my novel at a time when all of these free marketing tools are available –especially since I don’t have the same (read: any) budgets to spend on paid marketing placements like I did when I was employed by someone else. Short of walking around Manhattan with a LoveHampton sandwich board strapped over my shoulders, sitting in front of my laptop waiting patiently for my uploads to be complete seems like a far lesser evil.

But I’m fairly certain that once I’ve mastered the twitter-blip and the blog-vlog, there will be yet another technology for me to beg a tech-savvy friend to teach me how to do. (Note: In addition to multiple exclamation points, treating your advisors to a nice meal or an expensive bottle of champagne are good ways to show them your appreciation.)

Now that I’m pretty much all uploaded, I just hope the other kids on YouTube play nicely with LoveHampton21. I certainly don’t want to be forced to send my 206 Facebook friends -and counting if all my viral marketing plans work - after them.


Five Tips for Promoting Your Book Online Without Spending One Penny of Your Tax Rebate (Or, At Least, Not All of It)

1. Think "Multimedia": No matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you can bring your book to life through video and photos—you’d be surprised how many different ways you can use such assets online. These days, more authors are making trailers, spoof music videos, how-to’s, mini-documentaries (especially good for memoirs and history), or like I did, video book excerpts. Plus, if you produce these pieces early enough, your publisher could show them at their sales conferences and/or the sales reps can use them when they meet with the big distributors and major chain accounts. Your publicist could even use them to help pitch you for electronic press.

If you’ve got an HD video camera (which I bought especially for this purpose) and an Apple computer, iMovie and iPhoto makes all of this immeasurably easier (or so I’m told; I’ve got a PC). Although, as is the case with writing, there is an art to this, so you might want to consider hiring someone with an expertise in this area to help you, like I did (the Mary mentioned above). 

Video Don’t: Do not sit in front of a stationary camera, read from your book for ten minutes and call it a "video book excerpt." Use the bandwidth—and your creativity—toward something that will not only help you sell books but enhance your readers’ experience.

2. Distribute your video content widely so it will do the promotion work for you—even while you sleep. Once you’ve created some killer videos, post them on all the free video-sharing community sites (YouTube and Blip.TV), social-networking sites that allow for video posts (Facebook—see below, MySpace, Twitter), as well as on your own web site (you’re getting one made, that’s a given) or blog, and your publisher’s site. Add relevant tags so the videos come up in searches. YouTube and Blip.TV are especially useful because they a) make sharing your videos across the web easy for you as well as for your fans using "embed codes" and b) offer free applications that can be used on third-party sites. Also, Google loves videos. The more places your name and your book’s title appear across the web, the better for you and your book sales.

3. Become an active member on at least one social networking site: This is by far one of the most time-consuming plays but could have the biggest payoff because you’ll be preaching to the choir, aka your friends and friends of friends. Since MySpace is kind of over unless you’re a musician, Facebook has taken its place as the social networking addiction du jour and has become my preferred digital diversion. (Some of my friends like Twitter but I don’t get it; business networking types prefer LinkedIn.) In addition to being able to create your own personal profile and start "friending" people you know, you can create a Fan page for your book for free. Anyone can become a fan of your book page without you having to know or approve them. There’s a whole viral component because all your activities are published via your News Feed, so be sure to play a lot on your Fan page (e.g. add your blog feed; post photos of all your Facebook friends—and i.d. them). I could write an entire book on marketing through Facebook, but I’ve got a second novel to finish… so my last word on this is: pick one social networking site and become active on it long before your book’s publication date. Nobody becomes a social networking star overnight unless you’re, uh, already a star.

4. Make Amazon your new BFF: Amazon has added some cool tools for authors to enhance their book pages, much of which can be done ahead of your publication date. Customize your book page through their Amazon Connect program (your publisher will need to verify you as the author). Create a profile specific to your book (I suggest creating one separate from your existing personal account, otherwise all your purchases and other community activities will be logged on your book page) and add your photo, favorite books, movies and anything available on Amazon, and even create a feed from your existing blog to automatically update to your profile page. If you don’t have a blog, you can write discreet entries instead.

5. Flickr is Not a Dirty Word: Flickr is a community-driven photo-sharing site with a super easy interface (take their tour to see how it works). You can create themed photo albums and allow public access to them as well as invite people to add their own albums under your given theme. There are countless ways to tie photographs into your book regardless of whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. To get more mileage out of your efforts, cross-post your Flickr albums on your own site or blog or use their applications to share your albums on Facebook.

Check out Sherri Rifkin’s tech-savviness at:




Flickr Photostream:

Amazon book page

Sherri Rifkin, a former TV marketing executive, lives in New York City, where she writes for a variety of entertainment and media clients, including Bravo, USA Network and the Style Network. Her first novel, LoveHampton, has just been published by St. Martin’s Griffin.

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List price: £14.99
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales rank: 2,041,367