I'm not an expert, nor am I an author. I do however, have some tips that I'd like to share. Many of you have probably heard all of this, but I'm hoping that I'm able to help at least one person out. I've spent a lot of time coming up with these tips, if you find anything useful please leave a comment :)
1. Make sure you have an editor. No matter how many times you read over your own book yourself, you are going to miss things. You will read sentences the way you *think* you wrote them instead of how they actually appear. I do this just when writing reviews. I have to have my husband read my reviews for me to let me know if there are errors. I can't imagine how many mistakes I would make if I wrote an entire book. Also, if you have several mistakes in your book - that will make its way into reviews. As a reviewer, I don't mention anything if I see a few mistakes. If there are several though, that becomes distracting and I will mention it in the review I write. An editor I've heard good things about: Ashley's Freelance Editing.
2. Make sure you have an appealing cover. Honestly, I'm not just saying this because I design book covers. I think this is one of the MOST important things. If your cover isn't appealing, your book won't sell. I know there are several several graphic designers out there who do covers. Find one who is affordable and do whatever you have to do to come up with the money - have a garage sale, donate plasma, go a month without cable/satellite... People DO judge books by their covers. Everyone does, even if they won't admit it. People will buy a book just because it has a pretty cover. I swear. I've done it, lol...
3. Make sure you have a blog - not just a website. When you write blog posts, you seem more approachable. Readers can connect with you better. You can have "followers" and you can "follow" other blogs. Oftentimes, if you let a blog know that you are following them, they will return the favor. Find other blogs to follow by joining a "Follow Me Friday" type of feature - for example, check out Parajunkee's View.
4. Social Networking. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, ... Join them all! I think the best one at the moment is Facebook. There are tons of authors and readers out there to connect with. Facebook also has lots of groups you can join where you can trade advice with other authors, or see what types of things readers want to see in their books. One author, Stacey Kennedy, friended me on facebook back before I got into book reviewing. She seemed so nice and down to earth - and she interacted with her fans on there. Because of that, I decided to buy one of her books. At the time I didn't yet have an e-reader, but I bought her books in .pdf format and printed them out from my printer. Stacey Kennedy is now one of my favorite authors (and I am so thankful that I now have an e-reader).
5. Goodreads. Make sure you have your book on Goodreads - this is very important. Many readers use this site to find out more about books, read reviews, and see what their friends are reading. When somebody adds a book to their to-read list, their friends are notified of that. That's great exposure. There are also lots of groups on Goodreads for people to join. A lot of people go to these groups to get recommendations, and many of them have areas where authors can promote their books.
6. Book Reviewers. Make sure your book gets some reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc... People are going to be afraid to try a book that has no reviews. There are tons of book bloggers out there who not only post their reviews on their blogs, but these other places as well. Readers follow book blogs to find out what books and authors are out there that they haven't discovered yet. Yes, there are a lot of reviewers that have a review stack a mile high. There are tons of reviewers out there though, keep looking and inquiring about reviews. It never hurts to ask. A lot of book bloggers are also willing to do interviews, or have you write a guest post for their blog.
7. Blog Tours. It's not free, but there are places out there that will help you promote your book by lining up book bloggers to review and promote your book on their blogs. Here are some places you might want to check into: The Bookish Snob Promotions, Bewitching Book Tours, and Kismet Book Touring.
8. Have contests. Whether you have contests on your own blog, or giveaway a copy of your book on the blogs of book bloggers - this is a great way to gain exposure. People love to see the word "giveaway" - it attracts a lot of attention. It doesn't have to be an actual book - lots of people have e-readers now days. When somebody wins your book, let them know that you'd love them to post a review of it - even if it's something short.
9. Don't take things too personally. Yes, there are some awful people out there who will hate your book and say hurtful things. I don't know how many bad things I heard about Twilight - but look how many people love it. Only pay attention to negative reviews if there is constructive criticism involved. I think with being an author, you HAVE to be able to read bad things about yourself. I'll honestly say that I couldn't do it. I am a very sensitive person and I take everything to heart. I cringe when I write reviews on books that I didn't love. I'm so afraid of hurting somebody's feelings, but I know it's not going to help anybody if I'm not honest. Also, don't expect a book reviewer to give you a great review just because you gave them a free copy of your book. Most reviewers I know will give fair and honest reviews.
10. Don't assume that you have to be a published author. With the growing trend of e-readers, more and more authors are going the indie route. If you think you've got a great story, get it out there! Besides, lots of publishers don't even give you any say in your book cover. Go indie and do things your own way. There are several resources online to help you along the way. Lulu has some great info on self-publishing, and Smashwords is a popular place for indie authors to sell their e-books. Make friends with other indie authors online and find groups to join to ask your questions to.