What would you suggest as the top three most effective ways for an author to promote his or her books?
Some authors feel they can't do much to promote their book because they can't afford a big ad or book signing tour, but that's not the case. The three items I've listed below can be done free or for very little expense. They do, however, take a commitment of time, energy and creativity.
1. Establish a quality web presence--this can be a website or blog or both. The best ones are frequently updated and have things that entice a reader to visit--like contests, newsletters, freebies. Absolutely have one that will let visitors sign up to receive messages and announcements from you. This is a good way to get news out about personal appearances and new releases. There are several free web hosting companies, and blogspot (this site) is free.
2. Make personal/virtual appearances--not just book signings. Go talk to church groups, schools, libraries. Even if you only do these within a 30 mile radius of your home, it will still help you to establish a readership. Create a platform or get behind a good cause that you believe in. When you speak in support of your cause, have your book mentioned in your introduction. Join a variety of online forums and participate regularly, using a signature that mentions your book and links to an online store where the reader can purchase it. The more that people see you, hear you, read you, make a personal and positive connection to you, the more likely they are to buy your book.
3. Tell everyone you know about your book. Don't be embarassed--be enthused. Mention it in your Christmas letter. Give your book as birthday and Christmas gifts to your family and close friends. Carry business cards or bookmarks and hand them out whenever you see old friends and acquaintances. Strike up conversations with strangers and when they ask what you do, whip out your BC or bookmark and give it to them.
If you're proud of your book and excited about it, let that bubble over and infect everyone you come in contact with. Your enthusiasm is THE most effective way to promote your book.