Forums are online communities where people who are interested in a particular subject can ask questions, offer solutions, and share experiences. They are also called discussion groups, list serves, bulletin boards, and newsgroups. Some are web based and others function as email lists.
Forums are free and they are a great way to network with people who share your interests, build your reputation as an expert, learn from others, and subtly promote your book.
Typically, forum members post questions and others offer answers. Some posts are informational, passing along a resource that would be of interest to the group. Many forums are moderated, which means that each message must be approved before it is posted to the group.
To find forums related to your topic and target audience, search Yahoo Groups and Google Groups, and also type “your keyword + forum” into a search engine. You can also search for a keyword on Google, then click Show Options (near the upper left) and 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 websites.
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.
For maximum benefit, you’ll need to participate regularly. When you receive the digest of posts, it’s easy to skim over the discussion topics 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 the signature at the end of posts, but signatures may be restricted to a certain number of lines. Your signature can include your name and other details such as your book title and website addresses.
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 …” Some forums allow purely promotional posts, such as announcing a new book or an author event. Just make sure you’re following the rules for each forum.
Here are some publishing forums to consider:
Self Publishing http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/Self-Publishing/
POD Publishing http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/pod_publishers/
Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing, www.SavvyBookMarketer.com. For free book marketing tips visit www.BookMarketingMaven.com.