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Promoting Your Book Online Through Social Networking:

Musings On Minutiae (Website) - 6/24/2010 by
Promoting Your Book Online Through Social Networking: is an amazing website that I stumbled onto several months ago through the internet (maybe you’ve heard of it?). The site is a community of readers and the premise is simple: have a shelf of books you don’t want anymore? Share them with others and you get a free book in return. Simple, right?

The cover price of the book is inconsequential. All you have to do is sign up, upload the ISBN numbers from those books on your shelf that you don’t want (they’re just taking up valuable space anyway!), and sit back and wait for other readers to request them. Once they do, you simple drop that book in the mail, wait for it to be received, and then go shopping! If you’re like me, you probably grew up loving a specific genre of book. Whether they were mysteries, romance novels, or suspense thrillers, your tastes have probably matured and now you’re hauling around eight boxes of books each time you move. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but those boxes are HEAVY!

As an author you’re probably more into reading your particular genre nowadays. Heck, maybe you want to build a reference library, or perhaps there are bestsellers you’ve been wanting to read, but for whatever reason didn’t pony up the cash for that shiny hardcover. Welcome to Paperbackswap, also known as your Salvation.

Now before we go any further, I’m sure this is all sounding too good to be true and you might be wondering what the catch is. The one simple catch is that after someone requests a book from you (you’re given the option to accept or deny the book request), you accept and are provided the name and mailing address of the receiver and you must take that book to the Post Office and pay for the postage. Since most paperbacks won’t cost you over $3.00 to ship, this is a small price to pay for building a great library. Books under thirteen ounces can even be shipped from your home mailbox and you can print the shipping label from home. The good news is that when you request that book you’ve been trying to get your hands on, someone will do the same for you.

You’re probably eyeing your bookshelf as you read this, considering how much shelf space you can clear up. I felt the same way, and I have cleared up a LOT of space. Now you’re snapped back into reality and thinking, “Hey, this is supposed to be an article about promoting my book and all you’ve shown me how to do is send books in the mail!”

You clever fox, you. Let’s get into the fun part: Promoting your book.
Once you’ve signed up for an account you can immediately begin uploading ISBN numbers to your Bookshelf (which displays all books you are looking to set free) or you can setup a profile for yourself. I’d suggest the latter since we are, after all, here to promote ourselves.

This first thing you’ll want to do is upload one of your standard author head shots so the world can put a face to the name that is sending them some awesome books. Make sure you smile, and ensure your photo captures the genre you write for. Since I’m a humor writer, I’m able to get away with all kinds of wacky pictures and no one can really say anything.

Next you’re able to input your age (if you want) and website address. Let’s make sure the link is to your book’s website, or link where people can quickly add your novel to their shopping cart.

Following those small text boxes you’ll see an even bigger box where you can input a full bio and write pretty much anything your heart desires. Let’s play it safe and copy/paste your professional bio, which discusses your awesome book and has a word or two about you in there. First impressions are everything. Don’t forget to add in any additional websites of importance along with reader quotes and the whole nine yards.

If you need some ideas, check out my PBS bio here:

Forum Settings
If you plan to become active in the Paperbackswap (PBS) forums, which I highly recommend, and will touch on later, you can upload a small avatar (I’d suggest your book cover) and a signature that will automatically attach itself to each post you make. This is a great spot to put a brief blurb, which should include the name of your book, a tagline, and a link to where people can pick up a copy. Make it short and simple. We all have ADD.

There are a handful of other settings you can mess with in this section, but I leave you to toy around with them and tweak them to your liking.

You navigate PBS through a series of tabs that take you to different sections of the site.
They are as follows:

My Account – Shows any incoming or outgoing books and your swap history (among other things)

Post Books – Lets you upload books you want to swap. You can upload one ISBN at a time, multiples, or even a spreadsheet full of them if you’re looking to clean house.

My Bookshelf – Shows all titles you have available for swap. If you’ve had a change of heart about getting rid of “Where the Red Fern Grows” you can delete it on this page. I don’t blame you. That one’s a tearjerker.

My Lists – This is the meat and cheese of the site. All of the books you want are found in this section. More on this in a second.

Buddy List – Because what would a social networking site be without the ability to make friends?

Personal Messages – An inbox/outbox for any communications you might have with other PBS members

Settings – Did you leave a typo in your author biography? Fix it here.

Lets go back to the Lists tab. This is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. As you’re cruising the site, your bound to run into titles that you’ve wanted to read along with about a zillion books that you never knew existed that you now want to read. Depending on availability, they will go one of two places.

Head to your wish list (I know you have one) and copy the ISBN numbers from the product page and paste them into the PBS search window. After searching, the book’s page will pop up (if it has an ISBN, it’s more than likely in the PBS database).

Either the book will be available, or it will be unavailable.

If the book you desire is available, you can click the “Order” button immediately, and if you have the credits (each time someone receives a book from you and clicks a button on the site, you receive a credit), the book will be on its way to your doorstep in just a few days. HOWEVER, if the book in unavailable, you can opt to add the book to your Wish List.

Wish List
If you’ve added a book to your wish list, you will be added to a queue and shown how many other users also want that book. You might be the tenth person in line, or the first. PBS is first come, first served.

PBS will attempt to calculate how long it will be until that title becomes available, but keep in mind that it’s all dependent on someone entering the ISBN and adding it to their shelf. If you are number one in the queue, PBS will be really nice to you and ‘hold’ the book for 48 hours. You’ll receive an email alerting you that the book is available and you can log in and accept or deny. If you wait longer than two days, person number two gets a crack at it. And so on, and so on.

PBS takes this system a step further and you can set certain titles to automatically accept the swap if that book suddenly becomes available in the system. Then all you have to do is sit back and wait for it to arrive.

Reminder List
If you find a book you want and there are copies available, you can add it to your reminder list if you’d prefer to pick it up another time. From your reminder list you can order that book with the click of a button as well as keep tabs on how many copies are currently available in the system.

I highly recommend searching YOUR book(s) in the database and adding them to your reminder list immediately so that you can see how many are available.

If there are lots of copies of your novel available, then that’s fantastic! You’re probably getting some great circulation. No copies available at all? Patience, Grasshopper.

BIR List
BIR stands for “Books I’ve Read.” On every single book page there are five stars. As you go through and rate books that you’ve read, they will show up on this list. From here you can see if any of these books are currently on Wish Lists of other members. If you see there is a demand for a book that you have, you can opt to add it to your shelf and put it up for grabs.

By rating books, PBS‘s FABIL (Find a Book I’ll Like) system generates titles that you might enjoy reading. You can sort them by genre or availability and delete anything that looks uninteresting. I’ve found quite a few great titles this way, so it’s definitely worth looking into when you aren’t busy promoting your own title.

PBS and Your Book
Now here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Hopefully you’re still with me. For all I know, you’re off packing up your bookshelf and shipping books across the state. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a ton of fun, but we’re here to promote a book, remember? Let’s get to promoting it.

Make it Available!
I’m willing to bet you have a box full of your books somewhere in the house. Whether they are in the garage, a closet, or even right on your bookshelf, you likely have some extras that you sell at signings, events, or just from the trunk of your car. Maybe you have some dent and scratch copies that you’ve been looking to move. This is the time and the place.

If you run a search of your book in the PBS database and see that none are currently available, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Grab a copy from that box or bookshelf and input the ISBN into the uploader. Voila. Your book is now available on Paperbackswap. If you look at your book in your reminder list it should now say “Copies Available: 1” and that means we’re in business.

I’ve yet to see that there is any rule against uploading a book you have authored, and I can’t imagine why there would be. If someone wants to read your book, they should be able to get it, even if that’s directly from the author. If someone requests your book and you ship it out, no worries, just upload another and keep a supply for the ensuing demand.

Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed that you are sending out your own book. Use the opportunity to make it special. Autograph it. Inscribe a personal message. Include handwritten sheet of paper in the mailing to thank them for taking the time to request and read your book. Ask for a review when they’ve finished.

Suddenly you’ve gone from sending a book to sending something that’s personalized and special. Readers will appreciate the time you spent in jotting down their names and saying thanks.

Some authors like to keep other promotional materials handy whether they are bookmarks to advertise their title or business cards. Consider sticking these in the package as well. Worst-case scenario, they love your book and decide to give the cards to a friend (and they BUY a copy).

What’s that you say? You’re giving away books for free? You’re not getting paid?

This is all very true. However, in return for giving away that book and losing a little bit of profit, you will soon get a replacement book for your collection AND you’ve possibly made a new fan if your first impression (and book) are good.

If you’re just starting out as an author, remember that word of mouth is the biggest source of sales and sometimes a new fan is worth more than the three dollars you might get from selling it online.

Promoting Your Book With Other Books
Since I write in the humorous essay genre, I tend to own and read a lot of other books in the same vein. Some of them I like to keep around, others were fun for a bit, but I probably want to swap them for something else that might make me laugh. Each time I send out a book (even if it’s not in the same genre) I include a piece of paper, which is printed from a simple Microsoft Word file on my home computer that contains all pertinent info about my book.

On this piece of paper I have a personalized note to the receiver congratulating them on being the new owner of the book, and a quick note suggesting that if they enjoy what they’re receiving (or if I’m mailing a book in a different genre, I suggest that if they like to laugh) they should also consider checking out MY book.

Also printed on the sheet is a big old color picture of my book’s cover along with the ISBN info, the synopsis (what you’d see on Amazon), and some short (but hilarious) snippets from its contents.

Now, depending on the genre of your book, you can probably put together your own one-sheet that will appeal to readers of that genre. If you write thrillers or mysteries, give them a pivotal moment from your book but leave a cliffhanger so they can’t help but track it down!

Next, I mention to look for the book on Paperbackswap, but also include my email address and a link to my website. I wouldn’t want to stop anyone from purchasing a brand new copy, now would I?

Lastly, I round out the page with my scribble of an autograph, tuck that sheet randomly into the pages (or into my favorite chapter) and drop that thing in the mail.

If you have bookmarks or business cards to promote your book, consider dropping those in as well for the reader to share with a friend.

I’ve had numerous occasions where I’ve seen an email response thanking me for the suggestion, or have seen a book order come through for the exact same address! As long as your printed page is well written and grabs the reader’s attention, you’ve just added a sale and gotten rid of an unwanted book simultaneously!

Follow Up
If you have sent out a copy of your own book and see that it has been received, wait a few weeks and follow up with the PBS member you sent it to. If you haven’t seen any reviews pop up on online from them, consider dropping a quick note to let them know you hope they’re enjoying your book and you can’t wait to read their review of it on Amazon. You’d be surprised at how often readers are willing to share their opinions, especially if they know the author will read them. Be warned that not all reviews will be the Five Stars you hope for, but take all feedback into consideration and let it help you improve your next book.

Additional Promotion Ideas
If you’re looking to ways to spice up your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc… then let your friends and fans know that they can get your book for FREE from

If they’re already members on the site, they should be able to locate and order it very quickly, but for those who are not on the PBS bandwagon, you may have brought them onto a new site that could change their lives… or at least their reading habits.

Keep an eye on the availability of your book. Sometimes, after a member has read it, they will add it to their bookshelf in hopes of passing it along to someone else. If your book doesn’t pop back up in the system, that simply means the reader probably wants to keep the book (take a second to be flattered) and you should consider uploading the ISBN number again to “keep it in stock.”

Discussion Forums
Paperbackswap has a rather in-depth forum system. By hunting around, you can find other users looking for all kinds of books. Some folks have specific titles they are hunting for (that you just might have) while others will ask for book suggestions based off of other authors they like.

Periodically search the forums for key words and similar authors and don’t miss out on an opportunity to plug your book and mention its availability on PBS. If there are a small amount of copies available, people tend to order them sooner than later.

Each book genre also has its own forum, so get into the community and contribute to discussions! If you set up a solid Signature for yourself, your book will be promoted each and every time you post a topic or reply. Your book will promote itself without you even needing to be at the computer, and that’s a wonderful thing.

As with any book-centric website, PBS allows you to contribute book reviews for titles you have read. Don’t bend over backwards here, simply copy/paste the reviews you’ve probably already written on Amazon, Goodreads, or Shelfari. If you leave solid and well written reviews for books in your genre, a reader just needs to click once to end up on your profile page where they will learn all about your book, and you’ll be mailing them a copy soon enough.

In Closing
As an avid reader and book lover, I find Paperbackswap to be an amazing site in and of itself, however, you should never miss an opportunity to market your book to your target audience, and if you go about things the right way, you have thousands of users from that target market right at your finger tips.

Remember, it’s all about building your credibility, creating and maintaining relationships, and having a great product to offer. Embody those qualities and word of mouth will take care of the rest. In the meantime, swap your old novel collection for some fresh reads and enjoy some great books.

Remember that in no way are my opinions and techniques the end all, be all on how to promote your book on this website. In fact, I welcome any feedback as well as tips and tricks I may have missed. After all, we’re all in this together.

Looking for more information on how to promote your book via social networking?
Check out my other articles in this series:
Promoting Your Book Online through Social Networking:
Promoting Your Book Online through Social Networking:
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