This post is geared toward self-published, indie authors who self-promote, or established authors looking to expand their social presence.
When an author writes a book, they think, “Wow. I’m done now. I can sit back and watch the magic happen. I will get paid and be happy.” Well, unless you have a publicist and entire team working to promote your book, the work has just begun. Even if you have this team working for you, there is no guarantee that they are doing the right things to promote your book. You might have to help yourself and learn a few tricks to succeed.
Please keep in mind that I am writing a book series, and am working to finish my second book before I explore every option available to writers. I am using my first book as a learning experience so that I can understand the industry and find out what is involved. I’m not running out and screaming to the world that I’m an author. I’m taking my time to figure out what is involved and what works.
Self-promotion and marketing can be a fun, though a challenging experience. I’m still in the beginning phase, which is the hardest part. Personally, I had to piece together a media plan based on what I learned from different advice sites, or by trial and error. I wanted to help enlighten fledgling authors on the uphill battle ahead of them so that they are prepared for the long journey. These suggestions are based on things that I have tried, though I am always learning and happy to hear suggestions from other authors. Please feel free to add comments about your experiences, good or bad, with your promotions. I will add to this post once I tackle other avenues.
Let’s take a look at all of the steps needed to start the process. When I told a family member about all the things I had done to start promoting, she laughed and said that she had trouble reading her email let alone embarking on an online campaign to search for readers. It made me realize how much I had done in such a short period of time. So, let’s begin.
Load your book to an ebook site, and/or have it printed. If you don’t have a publisher, you need a platform for people to find and purchase your book.
Amazon.com is a great place to start. You need to load your book to their site, but you MUST have a well-formatted Word (.doc/.docx) file. Forget editing at this point, (that should have been done long ago) but you need to review your actual formatting. Are your margins consistent? Are the paragraphs tabbed correctly? Are the paragraphs spaced properly? Most importantly, does your Table of Contents link to the correct chapters? Forget about page numbers because Amazon uses locations, which mean nothing to the writer. Once loaded, REVIEW THE FILE TO MAKE SURE IT LOOKS CORRECT!!! I can’t stress that enough. Remove extra carriage returns, etc.! Check Amazon’s submission guides before uploading to review their suggestions and acceptable formats.
Smashwords.com is another platform to sell your book. I have to warn you, the formatting MUST be done correctly. Smashwords loads to different ereaders and will turn your words into a flowing river that will expand and contract based on the ereader’s requirements, so their formatting guide MUST be followed. I read through the 117 page Formatting Guide and nearly cried. You will have to rip apart all of your formatting and start over. There are people and companies that will do this for you, for a fee, but it will save you time.
Lulu.com and Createspace.com are sites where you can print copies of your book for a surprisingly low fee. I was shocked that I could print one copy and not pay a crazy amount. It was somewhere around $10.00 for a 250 page book plus shipping. It’s not the printing presses of old where you needed to print 100,000 copies to turn a profit. Since I’m still testing the waters of my self-promotion in print, I have only used this to print a few copies, but I plan to use it to sell print copies as well. Sadly, I only have so many hours in the day to investigate all the ins and outs of every site or program. (More to come on this once I devote my attention to it.)
Bring in the reviewers. You can have the best book in the world, but without feedback and reviews, you will have a hard time convincing the world to read your book. Think about how you purchase things online. Last week I wanted a rice cooker. I went to Amazon and what was the first thing I did? I scrolled down to the reviews. We all know that we have to take reviews with a grain of salt because there are tons of people online that LOVE to HATE, but you can usually get a good idea about the product. If there are more 4-5 stars than 1-3 stars, then it’s probably a good rice cooker. This is the same mentality that readers will use when looking at your book. Why do they want to pay for a book that no one else has bothered to review?
It’s time to throw your book in the murky waters of book reviewing. You will need to find online reviewers who are willing to review your book. Yes, you can ask every family member to go online and write a review, but people will start to notice that independent reviewers aren’t amongst your 5 star reviews. Do you need professional reviews? Unless you market a different way or already have a huge social media campaign that is working for you, it can’t hurt.
Putting yourself out there to professional reviewers is probably the scariest thing you will ever do, but it needs to be done. Personally, I stumbled on to a reviewer during a normal conversation on Twitter and it turned out to be one of the top 500 reviewers on Amazon who LOVES books. I was nice to her and she somehow decided she liked me and wanted to review my book. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but being nice pays off. It turned out that she LOVED my book and gave me 5 stars. I nearly fainted, literally! I will forever love her.
The key to submitting a review is finding the right reviewer for you. Search their genre, their likes, and dislikes. Most reviewers state very clearly what they will read and what they won’t read. Don’t send a sci-fi book to a romance reviewer or the results could be disastrous. You wrote your book with a type of reader in mind. Reviewers are no different. They love books, but they too have preferences. Pay attention to their requirements and ALWAYS be kind. Even if they don’t like the book, use it as a learning experience. Not everyone will fall in love with your book. Thank them for their time. Listen to their feedback and be willing to make changes if different reviewers are saying the same thing.
Build your website. Readers want to know more about their favorite authors and books. They will search to see if there are other books in your catalog, or look for more information about the book. Give them what they want. If they can’t find you on a Google search on multiple sites, you are dead in the water. As an amateur web designer, I used to create sites for my husband’s side business. I learned Photoshop and Frontpage (the only way of doing things back then) and had to teach myself how to do everything. Over the years, I became really good at it, but it was time consuming. Now, you can find sites that will help you build a page in a few hours, if you want more than just a page or two of basic info.
I use wix.com and it is a thousand times easier than finding a template and reshaping it into what you want. What once took me days or weeks to perfect, Wix helped me in a few hours. Updating is simple, which is imperative because I’m always adding content or linking to some other media site that I found.
On your site, talk about the book, add links to buy it, and tell the audience about yourself. The more interesting your site is, the longer they will look through your books.
Social Media time! Reviews are vital to a book, but even the reviews are just a stepping-stone. It doesn’t matter if you have written the book of the century if no one knows about it. What you need now are actual readers! Yes, you can make a Facebook page, a Twitter user name, etc., but you still have to speak to people to gain their attention. You have to interact with people. Find other authors or people interested in your genre and talk to them. Retweet their posts. Don’t just throw Tweets at people without taking the time to speak to them. Some people are only interested in promoting their own works, but others understand the importance of communication. Social Media has become less social and more one sided like a billboard ad. Put “social” into your tweets and see what kind of feedback you get.
I have met interesting and amazing authors along the way and I have learned something from all of them. Don’t miss out on the opportunity of making a friend or an ally. It will take you a long way. Also, for the love of all that is holy DON’T DIRECT MESSAGE PEOPLE YOUR BOOK LINK! Personally, if I have an interest, I will come to you. I have already downloaded interesting books that I’ve seen and tried sample pages from Amazon when I find something unique. I don’t need you slamming me with it. At least buy me a drink and take me to a movie before you try to get something from me.
Be interesting! Readers like a multimedia experience, as do other authors. Start a blog and talk about something, anything! You are a writer, so write! Talk about something interesting or entertaining. It can’t be all about your book. I started this blog as a way of talking about my experiences writing a novel/series, including the highs, the lows, and the problems associated with being a writer. I wanted other writers to know that they weren’t the only ones dealing with these issues. Now that I’m beyond the writing phase, I have made my blog into advice about writing and promoting. Who knows what I will write about next year. The point is, I’m trying to, as one follower on Twitter called it, “give back to the writing community”. Everyone needs help and advice, so share your experiences. Be funny, or helpful, or whatever, just be something.
Claim your book and your identity! As a part of your social media campaign, you will need to “claim” your book or your “identity” on some sites. Most people don’t know about this aspect of self-promotion, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. The first place you want to go is www.authorcentral.amazon.com to set your Author Page on Amazon. This author page is associated with your online book site. It’s a separate site, but you can load your twitter feed, blog feed, photos, and appearances. There is a section where you can add your bio. You can even see all of your Amazon reviews in one place.
Next is Goodreads.com and Shelfari.com where you can search for your book and submit yourself as the author. Once they accept you as the author, you can add details to your book, and add your blog or twitter feed. A separate author page is where you can add your bio and other fun details. Once you are set up, you can add your friends, make new friends, or join groups with similar interests. Regardless of how you interact with people, DON’T SHOVE YOUR BOOK IN THEIR FACE. Get to the know them. Find out what they like. They might be just cool people. Learn more about what they want in a book or genre.
Promoting at a price. You will have to decide which paid sites you want to advertise with. There are tons of Twitter sites and online promoters that will blast your book, but you will have to decide on how much to spend. Promoting takes money, so you need to invest wisely. Will you do a Book Tour? Will you do a Giveaway? Will you promote Free books? There are many different ways to promote, but the bottom line is how much are you willing to spend?
There is an excellent article written by Lisa Medly, author of “The Reaper Series” who wrote about her experiences funding her promotion campaign called, “The cost of self-publishing one book: By the numbers”. The article is well worth the read to find out about the stark reality of promotion expenses.
Learn from other writers and authors. The most helpful information I have found is from other authors. Sign up for sites where writers interact or give advice. Penbuzz.com is a newer site where budding authors can ask questions or write blog entries. Anyone can answer and give advice. Bookblog.com is another site where you can interact with authors and readers. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or find out how another author started. Again, interaction is the point of being on these sites. Put yourself out there and see what comes of it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you use a publishing company, or self-publish, there is no guarantee that your book will sell. It’s up to you to write a quality book and take the time to understand how best to promote it. You need to put in the effort to sell your book. Talk about it to whoever is interested. Highlight the points, don’t oversell. Tease the reader to gain their interest. Have your 30-second pitch ready. Talk about you as an author, not just about your book. The amount of time and effort you put into your promotion will show and hopefully people will be excited enough to read your master tome.