Q. I am half finished a men's fitness book and am about to put all the content on my forthcoming Web site. Each chapter will be a separate HTML page. I just became a regular columnist at a popular fitness magazine. My magazine articles will list my Web site and help drive traffic there. I will also engage in other promotional efforts to get traffic to my site.
My intention is to give away all of my writing for free to any visitor in order to build buzz around a forthcoming book. I believe it would be valuable to tell visitors exactly what I am doing and why the information is all free. I'd like to be honest and explain that I am now looking for an agent who can sell this book's concept to a major publisher, and I will encourage readers to buy the book when it comes out.
I will of course collect e-mails and let subscribers know when a new chapter has been added, offer people advice, perhaps blog on my exercise and diet routine etc. My goal is to build a large fan base that is enamored with my writing style and will be excited to buy the book once it is published.
This may seem like a silly question, but I fear making a critical mistake. Please tell me, and I making some kind of publishing faux pas? Could this approach anger your community in some way?
A. The problem lies in your idea of giving the idea away for free. You're going to be giving information away to the magazine in your column. And then you'll be giving more information away on your blog and Web site. People need to have a reason to buy the book! You don't want to post CHAPTERS online for free! Why would I spend $20 when I could read it for free on some web site?
What you want to do is post info out there - just not all your info. Keep plenty for the book. Think of it like ESPN.com, where a lot of stuff is free to see, but the Insider stuff isn't. That costs money, baby.
I know that a lot of people out there have started great Web sites and got agents. The Chuck Norris facts guy. Tucker Max and his stories. Etc. But I don't think it's a good way to go.
Get your columns published, and start driving traffic to your Web site, where you will post limited additional content. Maybe you can take reader questions to keep the content coming. Then, when you feel like your platform and fan base are big enough, you draft up a sweet book proposal and look for an agent yourself. Don't just post your stuff online and hope one comes across you. You need to be thinking up marketing ideas, comparing books in the market, differentiating your book from their's, proving there is an audience and a need for this book.
You sound like you're well versed in marketing and ideas, and those skills will all come in handy down the road. However, I say do NOT post your book online. You would be weakening its ability to sell. Whatever you do, I advise you NOT to flatly come out and say "Like this site? I need an agent." It comes off like an amateur. And that will turn off readers. They want to take professional advice from a pro.
I myself stay in shape by running.