Kingston WritersFest Workshop, September 23, 2010

(NOTE: these workshop notes have been revised, updated and moved to my website. I suggest you go there:

Where we're all at: Not enough time. We're writers, not bloggers.
But: the reality is that to be a published writer today, you really have to do a great deal yourself. 
You have to have what's called, today, a "platform."
A platform is exposure:
Classes, workshops and readings you attend and give.
Articles, essays, newsletters and blogs you write.
Anything you do that brings you to the attention of your potential readers.
See Pearl Luke's article, Why a Writing Platform is a Must: 13 Ways to Build Yours: (And explore her site while you're at it: there's a lot there.)
Because the Net can reach so many people, it's an important part of building your platform.
It's important in selling books, but it's also important in getting published in the first place. Consider this: the first thing an agent or publisher is going to do is search your name on Google.
What I hope to do here is explain how Internet Marketing can be done easily, and, hopefully, nourish your life as a writer, as well.
It's guaranteed to be overwhelming, no matter where you are on the learning curve. Just take on one new thing, get comfortable with it, and then take on another. Once you have the set-up, it's possible to maintain it in an hour a week or less.
Basically, what I'm going to propose you do is set up a hub.
You post to one site, and that automatically gets forwarded to several other sites. In this way, you triple your exposure, getting quite a bit of Internet exposure with little time investment on your part.
There are two parts to this process:
1) The first part is setting it up. This is the hard part.
You can do this yourself, or you can get someone else to set it up for you—family, friend, or Tech Wiz for hire.
A Tech Wiz would do in less than a day what it would take us weeks of work and frustration. ( is one place to find experienced people.)
2) The second is putting it in motion. This will be the easy part—and even fun.
But before you begin, review Internet Vocabulary (click here)

The one BASIC essential: a website
You have to have a home base, a site that provides information about:
  • you
  • your writing
  • the events that you're a part of
  • how to contact you, your agent and/or publisher
  • (if you chose) your blog
  • (if you chose) information for book clubs
One page websites are possible. 
See, for example, Zoe Whittal's blogger website:
Ideally, however, it helps to have the information divided into different sections—called tabs or pages—so that visitors can easily find what they are looking for.
It's best to have a site you can update yourself (rather than paying someone to change a comma, for example).
This is easily done now by using sites such as Blogger or WordPress, which are free. For specific information on setting up a Blogger site, click here
You can do it yourself, but you can also hire a designer to set one up for you. A 5-page site such as I'm suggesting might run $600 - $700.
A regular style website will cost $10,000 and up to launch, and you have to pay someone every time you want to change a comma.
Should you have a website for yourself and/or for your book?
   If you have more than one book published, I think you have to have one for yourself. And then, you could also have sites for your books.
Some amazing websites have been created about the world of a book. 
See, for example, the website for Room, the novel by Emma Donoghue:
Another amazing book website for The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds incorporates the research done for each chapter: 
Both of these have clearly been professionally designed. Some authors persuade their publishers to share the cost. In most cases, however, it comes out of the author's pocket. 
Your personal website would then include links to websites for each of your books.
For myself, with each book, I've simply added pages to my existing website—but I have to say, seeing the websites created for these books is inspiring.
Get your domain name address (i.e.
You have to pay an annual fee for this: it's rather like renting your URL, your spot on the Net.
There are many companies that do this (Google "domain name provider"). I use Domains at Cost. Because it's so important, I've set it to renew automatically every year.
Once you have one, hire a Tech Wiz to have your domain name be the URL address connect to your Blogger or WordPress website. 
The next step: engaging with the Social Net
The purpose is to get your name out there, post events and make announcements.
Publishers will no longer do this, so you must.
One great article on this is Anatomy of a Marketing Campaign:
You have to be on FaceBook (
There are two types of FaceBook accounts:
A personal page
A professional page (formerly called a "fan page", now simply called a "page," and which I will refer to as an "author page")
(There are also groups, but I think they are a waste of time, so I'm not going to say much more than that about them.)
How they differ:
A personal FaceBook page is a community—your community of friends, family and, should you wish, readers.
People must ask your permission to join.
Everyone in your "community" will read your news, and (unless you put in controls) you will read their news as well, so it's a two-way communication.
Your status updates will show up on the Walls of all your "friends".
A professional page is a place where people who know your work will come to learn about and communicate with you.
To create a professional (or "official") page, at the sign-in, don't fill anything in, but click "Create a page for a celebrity  . . . " under the "Sign In" tab.
Anyone may join.
Your updates will be sent to all members of a Page. They will get it in the "Updates" section of their inbox.
(For this reason, I think it best not to send out updates too frequently.)
You can send out inexpensive ads. For example: 1000 impressions for as little as 2 cents. There's no way of knowing how effective it is, but it is exposure, and it doesn't cost very much. 
How to do this: Scroll down to the bottom of your FaceBook page. Click on advertising. Click the "Create an Ad" green box in the upper right corner. And there you go.
You can define the geographical area, the target market (including specific interests), and how much you're willing to spend. 
Your ad could show the cover of your new book, with a click through to the Amazon page or your website or even back to your FaceBook page. 
Which type of FaceBook page should you have? Or should you have both?
There are many different opinions about this.
I think a personal page is a must, and you can set it up so that you're not getting news flashes from people you've never met.
To do this, make lists of the people in your life: family, friends, readers, other, etc. (Click on "friends" on the left side-bar, and then click on "+create a list" in the upper right.) When you "friend" someone, assign them to a list.
Or simply "hide" the news of people you don't know by clicking the X to the right of their post.
I also think a professional page is important, so I'm in the "have both" camp.
Your readers may simply want to connect with you as a reader, not as a "friend."
The news I post to my professional page is just that: professional, not chatty. The tone is different.
People don't usually have a professional page until they have a platform—but frankly, I don't see why not. But if you don't feel you have enough of a profile yet to have a professional page, consider setting up a dummy page that's not open to the public, just so that you can send out ads for your book.
Some recommend setting up a FaceBook page for each book. Frankly, I don't see much point in this, because it takes time to attract followers, and with each book, you'd be starting from scratch. I think it's best to have a professional page in your name, and speak to all your readers.
Some people title their professional page "Your Name (author)". In general, you should always use your name: you are your brand. Add "author" or something if someone has the same name.
For instructions on how to set up a FaceBook page:
When you first sign up, FaceBook will automatically set up a personal page for you, unless you click the tiny link at the bottom, which will direct you to setting up a FaceBook professional page.
A note regarding privacy concerns. The FaceBook default is to share everything with anyone. If that's not what you are comfortable with, click "privacy" in the lower right corner to change it.
Here's an article on it: 
How to do it: Click on "Edit my profile" under your photograph. Click on "privacy settings" in the paragraph on the left.
Once you have your page set up, fill it out: your bio, photos, videos, book covers, links to your website and blog, etc.
Then begin to build your community. Search for people you know, join groups. Ask people to "be your friend." I know, this feels like Grade Two. Just do it.
Scan the FaceBook pages of your friends. Some of their friends will be people you would like to invite to be part of your community, so ask them.
Post to your page regularly. Respond to news from others. "Like" a news post or make a comment. Every communication you make is recorded on the walls of all your friends: exposure.
A FaceBook story:
Therese Walsh is the author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, a story about sisters. She set up a contest on her FaceBook author page, inviting authors of novels with similar themes to contribute two books. The winner would receive one for herself and one for her sister or friend.
Her primary goal was to create buzz for the paperback launch of her novel.
A secondary goal was to attract new readers to her FaceBook author page (in order to enter the contest, you had to "Like" her page).
A third was to go viral by giving participants an opportunity for additional entries if they advertised the giveaway on FaceBook or Twitter.
In the end the giveaway had approximately 650 entries, and she received an additional 500 members of her fan page.
Note: In my opinion, FaceBook pages do not substitute for a website because visitors need a FaceBook account to view it.
Further reading:
Here is an example of an active Personal Page: Dave Bidini,  And here's an article about his page, and how FaceBook connections made things happen for him:
Next: you really should be on Twitter. (Plus: it's fun.)
This article from the Huffington Post puts it well:
This essay, "Twitter and the Book Trade" offers insights into the how and the why of authors on Twitters.
And this article by Margaret Atwood is on discovering the Twitterverse and other foreign realms: How I learned to Love Twitter.
Get started:
1st: create a Twitter account in your name.
2nd: design your profile page. Ideally, it will show the covers of your book(s).
Follow friends and family: they will follow you back.
Create catchy and/or helpful Tweets to fill out your page.
Explore: learn how to RT (re-tweet) and use hash tags (#).
Now that you are ready: go looking for your wider community.
Look at the pages of people you know—see who they follow. If someone looks interesting to you, follow him or her. Also look at the lists. Of the people you follow, some will follow you back, and thus you build your community of followers.
Many recommend Listorious: (I've never used it.)
Here is a list of book-related sites on Twitter you might be interested in following:
Set up two columns:
one for mentions of your Twitter name (@Sandra_Gulland is mine),
another a search column for your proper name.
You could also set up a column to search for your book title.
This way, you will see whenever someone Tweets about your work and you will then be able to respond, should you wish. This direct connection with readers is powerful.
On Twitter hash-tags: people can create a stream of posts about a specific subject by using a # sign, called a hash-tag. Some examples:
#litchat, #followreader, #bookmarket, and #pubQT are all conversations about books and publishing.
#amwriting is for posts about writing.
Hash-tags can create what is called a Twitter Storm when a lot of people get really riled up about something., for example, was forced to retract a loathsome policy because of a Twitter Storm communicated by hash-tag.
Hash-tags are fun when various people report on an event they are attending—for example, #kingstonwritersfest  (I created that hash-tag myself.)
For a good guide to Twitter chats for writers:
Follow a "conversation" on TweetDeck by setting up a search column for a hash-tag.
A Twitter rule-of-thumb I've read is the Law of Thirds: Tweet 1/3 of the time about your blog posts, 1/3 about subjects of interest to you, 1/3 in interaction with other Tweeters. Again, who's keeping track, but the concept is sound. 
One Twitter caution: if you get a Tweet from a friend that's strangely provoking or alarmist, urging you to click on a link, don't go there. That person's Twitter identity has likely been appropriated and is being used. When that happens, and it's fortunately rare, the person will have to set up a new password.
Twitter gives you the opportunity in the Privacy part of Settings to "protect your tweets." What that means is that only your followers can see what you post. This does not make sense if the one of the reasons to be on Twitter is exposure—so don't lock your Tweets.
Other Social Net sites:
You could go one step further and set up pages on LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr.
LinkedIn is mostly for business networking
MySpace is mostly used by musicians. You can send out bulletins.
Tumblr: a young, edgy crowd.
Connecting them all: the Hub
This is the key. You can connect your FaceBook pages, Twitter and other sites so that one post will be simultaneously posted to whichever sites you wish: your FaceBook personal page, your FaceBook author page, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace.
My favorite is HootSuite. I write one update and then click which of my sites I want it to go to. One update can be posted on all five, if I want. I can pick and choose, according to my message.
Some people suggest connecting your FaceBook page with Twitter so that every time you post a Tweet, it's posted to your FaceBook page as well. I personally don't care to do this: often my Tweets are relevant only to the Twitter world and I think they would annoy people on my FaceBook page. However, if you wish to do this, use this:
You can schedule your posts. Twitter tends to be quiet on the weekend, so aim to post on weekdays—this especially applies if you are posting a blog link. You can schedule a Tweet to be posted ahead. You can bank up several in advance.
And that is the basic set-up: a website, a FaceBook page or two, and Twitter. Connect them with HootSuite. Do that, and slowly build your connections. Enjoy yourself.

Other Social Net sites:
Participate in reader sites such as, LibraryThing, GoodReads, . . . 
Participate in chat groups relevant to your subject. Search for groups on Google ( and Yahoo (
Participate in writer sites such as
In general: don't join just to promote; get to know the group, participate. (But sign-off with a link to your website or blog.)
Set up Google Alerts for you and your book titles.
How to do this:
1) set up a Google account:
2) set up alerts: An Alert will let you know whenever anyone on the Net mentions your name or the title of your book. Respond, if appropriate.
Send out a newsletter
In addition to providing basic information for readers and the media, a website should, ideally, be a contact mailing list collector.
On the contact page of your website, have a way for visitors to sign up for your newsletter. (This is a Tech Wiz job.)
Caution: Make sure that you are also protected against spam. (Tech Wiz, again.)
Your mailing list is your core support. Add friends, family, readers.
Sign up to receive newsletters of other authors. Some are very simple, and come out infrequently. Others elaborate, and come out regularly. Chose what suits you and what you think will suit your readers. It can be as simple as an email, and as fancy as a small magazine.
Whatever you do, be sure to include links to your website, blog and, especially, your books.
It's best to use a mail service. Here are a few I've seen used:
Groovy Mail (which is what I use)
Such sites usually offer newsletter templates.
Consider having this set up for you by your Tech Wiz, and then all you have to do is write it (and pay). I have a mailing list of over a 1000 and it costs me approximately $50 to send out.
You get interesting "snooper" stats with a service: you'll see who opened your newsletter and which links they clicked. (A little strange, this.)
Create a blog
You would do this the same way you set up your website. For specifics, click here
Ideally, your blog will be a part of your website.
You can set it up any way that's comfortable to you:
You can post once a month or however often feels right.
Don't want to respond to reader comments? You can set it up to not have to deal with this.
Why blog?
It makes your website fresh and active, always changing.
It brings people to your website.
Each blog post you write gives you "news"--something to announce on FaceBook, Twitter and other sites through your Hub system.
You are a writer. Make writing a blog part of your writing process.
An inspiring article: How blogging got my book reviewed on Epicurious, by Dianne Jacob: 
Basic Blog Etiquette:
Again, one that's tooted, the 12-1 rule: post 12 times about others for every time you post about yourself. This is a little stringent, but the spirit of the rule is sound.
Post regularly (and, if away, say so). I don't follow this advice that well, myself. I think it's more important to write something worthwhile. But don't go silent for too long. It does make a difference.
Be generous, give something away—advice, knowledge, links, signed bookplates, for example. 
See Ami McKay's site:
A good article on blogging:  "7 ways to improve your Blog's Readability"
And another: "Blogging as Marketing."  
Beef up your and visibility
For your book: get your friends and family to post reviews, and ask fans to post their thoughts to
Review books that are similar to yours, and sign off with your signature line.
For yourself:  set up a profile on Be sure to set up a separate account as an author. You don't really want readers knowing the titles of all the books you've ordered.
Then set up an Amazon Connect account. (You will need your agent or publisher to vouch for you.)
This will allow your blog posts to be automatically reposted there. (Unfortunately, this cannot be done on Once it's set up, it's automatic.
Note: your "hot links" will not forward, so it's wise to sign off your blogs with a link to your website.
Other things you can do on Amazon:
Listmania: create lists.
Write a "So you'd like to  . . . " guide.
Contact one of their top reviewers to see if they'd like to review your book:
Caution: I've noticed that any change you make to your profile automatically clicks everything back to "public"—so always double-check.
Amazon can be difficult to navigate. They have set up a new site, called Author Central, which I think will make it easier. 
Get a page on Wikipedia
Study others, and write one for yourself in a similar vein
 You can't post it yourself. Have someone tech-savvy post it for you, your Tech Wiz or someone your publisher recommends. (It's not easy.)
For that matter, if you have an area of expertise, consider contributing to some of Wikipedia's entries.
Go on a Blog Book Tour
The purpose of a blog tour is to get exposure, interest readers, get people to visit your website and blog, increase your "visibility" on Google, and get reviewed (reviews that can then be posted to and other book sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing).
The nice thing about a Blog Book Tour is that it stays on-line more-or-less forever.
How it works: basically, you arrange to be a guest on various blogs over a short period of time. It is usually organized in a way to create a blast of exposure around publication.
You can set it up yourself, or hire someone to do it for you. Either way, you will be doing quite a bit of work.
Step 1: research (Google) to identify the best blogs for your book.
Aim to "visit" one blog a day (five a week). A tour can be for one to four weeks. (That said, it can go on indefinitely.)
Look at blog tours by writers who have written books similar to yours. Also look for well-organized, active sites. These would be blogs to approach.
How to evaluate the promotion value of a blog: 
the search engine Technorati assigns value ("authority") to blogs according to how many sites are linked to it. That's one clue. 
If you use Firefox or Explorer, download and use Google Toolbar. Type the URL of the blog in the space on the left, and then click on the "page rank" icon (just to the right of the middle). Ideally, you'd want a site with a ranking of between 4-6. (I'm both surprised and pleased to discover than my own blog ranks a 4.) 
That said, some excellent book blogs are not ranked by either Technorati or Google.
With respect to Canadian publication, it's a little confusing. In reality, all the information on the Internet is without boundaries. If a blogger raves about your book, it doesn't really matter if she's in Kansas. But your publisher (or you) will be sending copies of your books to the bloggers (and to the winners of give-aways), and many bloggers and participants are in the U.S.—so the border does come into play. It's possible to search for Canadian book bloggers. Here is one source:
Step 2: email the book bloggers you've chosen to see if they would be interested in being part of your tour.
Give the dates of your tour. You should be approaching them several months in advance.
Offer to send them your book to review and another to give away, if they do that on their site. In my opinion, a review is essential, and give-aways generate a lot of attention.
Offer to do a blog post and/or an interview. (If you write a guest blog post, I found it easiest for them to suggest a subject, and to restrict the length of your post to 300 - 500 words.)
Step 3: Schedule everyone. Send off the books (your publicist should do this), and email the bloggers an image of your book cover and a photo of you.
Step 4: Get to work. Every blog post and interview should be fresh.
Be sure to include the links.
Step 5: Sign off with a word (and link) to your next blog tour.
Step 6: Send a thank-you to the blog-host. They work hard for free!
Note: I've read that you can do the same for podcasts. Search iTunes for podcasters who might be interested in interviewing you.
If you possibly can, I suggest hiring someone to set up a Blog Tour for you.
Find someone who has experience setting up blog tours, ideally someone who has set up blog tours for books in your genre.
Advantage: they have a personal relationship with the book blogging world so you are more likely to have success.
Advantage: they will take care of steps 1, 2, 3 above.
Disadvantage: cost.
Publish articles, and link them to your website.
Post them to sites like IssuuIsnare, Ezine Articles and Article City. (I've not tried these myself—yet.) Another site to post to is Squidoo.
(Note: one I'm a bit wary of, however, is, because I was over-run with spam after I inquired—it was easy enough to stop, however.)
Make videos of a reading, a speech, or ...
More and more of our information comes through a video. Also, media and festival organizers may want to see you in action before deciding to invite you.
I use a FlipVideo camera: it's small, easy to use, reasonably priced, and its software makes it easy to upload the video to YouTube.
You can hire someone to make a book trailer for you.
First put the videos on YouTube, and then put them on your Blog and Website.
How to do this: on YouTube, click <Embed> (lower right) Copy the highlighted code that appears in the box into the (brace yourself) HMTL code on your blog. It's not as hard as it looks.
You can put videos on your computer (those under 20 minutes, that is) on your FaceBook Author Page. 
Some excellent book videos (called trailers):   
Peter Robinson's on his novel Bad Boy:   
Merilyn Simonds' and Wayne Grady's video for Breakfast at the Exit Cafe:  It cost them only $300 to make, hiring Leigh Ann Bellamy from Kingston. (You can easily find her on Google.)  
This trailer, "Transcending; Words on Women and Strength" by author Kelly Corrigan, was a made-at-home low-budget video of her readings. It struck a chord and "went viral," viewed by nearly seven million people.
Pay for buzz (most relevant to publishing in the U.S., I suspect)
Buy inexpensive ads through your FaceBook Professional Page: target specific groups.
Advertise on Google by buying keywords—you only pay when someone clicks. You have to wade through Tech Speak to set it up, but the idea is appealing: people see your "banner" ad, but if few click, you don't pay very much.
Place ads on relevant blogs.
Information gathering:
If you have a FaceBook Author Page, you will be sent regular updates on how well your Page is doing: how many have joined, the frequency of interactions, etc. As well, on the Page itself, there is similar statistical data. (It can only be seen by you.)
Google Analytics can tell you about the rising and falling popularity of your sites:
Set it up by listing the URL's of the sites you want analyzed.
You can find out:
How many people are coming to your site.
What they read on your site, and how long they linger.
What countries they are from.
What brought them there.
What keywords they put into Google that led them to your site. 
What you will inevitably find out is that the more regularly you post to your blog, the more visitors you will get.
An email mailing service will give you access to statistics and graphs showing how many of the newsletters you sent out were opened (and by whom), as well as what links were clicked.          

An excellent series on Book Promotion in general:
Part I:
Part II:

From my blog:
Six-part blog series on Net Marketing for Luddites:
      Part I: (Old-fashioned Face-to-face Promotion)
      Part 2: (Cracking the Social Net)
      Part 3: (Blog? Website? Both?)
      Part 4: (Friends & Followers)
      Part 5: (The Book Trailer)
      Part 6: (Your Fans)
How to Set Up a Blog Tour: