Forums provide a great way to network with people who share your interests, to build your reputation as an expert, to learn from others, and to subtly promote a book.
These free online communities (also called discussion groups, list serves, bulletin boards, and newsgroups) can be Web based or function as email lists. Either way, they let people who are interested in a particular subject ask questions, offer solutions, and share experiences. Some posts recommend resources of interest to the group or are otherwise informational. Many forums are moderated, so that each message is approved before it is posted.
To find forums related to a particular book’s topic and target audience, search Yahoo Groups and Google Groups, and type "[your keyword] + forum" into a search engine. You can also search for a keyword on Google—click Show Options (near the upper left) and then click Forums. Larger and more active groups will give you more exposure, so it's best to concentrate your time there.
On some forums, you can specify whether you want to receive each message as it's posted or receive a daily digest. If the forum has a place for member profiles, upload your photo and enter biographical information and links to your Web site or sites.
When you join a forum it's best to lurk for a while first, to get a feel for the group and the level of expertise. Also read each group's rules. Then look for opportunities to respond to posts in a helpful way. You can also gain visibility by posting a question.
Participating in Forums
For maximum benefit, you'll need to participate regularly. When you receive the digest of posts, it's easy to skim the text, looking for anything that you can respond to. After you make a post, check back to see if you need to respond to any replies it receives.
Forums usually allow you to list promotional information in your sig, but signature blocks may be restricted to a certain number of lines. Ideally, yours will include your name, your book title(s), Web site URL(s) and related specifics.
In most forums, it's okay to mention your book when responding to a question, as long as you are subtle. For example, you might say: "In researching my book XYZ, I found that …"
And some forums allow purely promotional posts, including posts that announce a new book or an author event. Just make sure you're following the rules for each forum you use.
Here are some general publishing forums to consider joining:
Forums on Social Networks
Many social networks, including Facebook and LinkedIn, allow users to join “groups” made up of people who are interested in a particular topic. These groups usually offer a discussion feature that works like a forum—members can post questions and others can reply with comments and suggestions.
To find groups on Facebook, type a keyword into the search box at the top of the screen, click on “see more results” at the bottom of the window that opens, then click on “groups” in the left column. To find groups on LinkedIn, type a keyword into the search box at the top of the page, use the drop-down menu just to the left of the search box to select “groups,” then click the blue magnifying glass to the right.
No doubt, you will be able to find other forums that are relevant to your book and target audiences.
Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing. and several other book promotion guides. For book promotion tips, visit The Savvy Book Marketer blog. Get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips e-book when you register for her free book marketing newsletter. For more book marketing tips, follow Dana on Twitter or visit TheSavvyBookMarketer.com .