Today I want to talk about marketing. I know. Blech, right? You have probably heard about the dreaded marketing once you publish your book, whether you’re traditionally published, or an indie author. The truth is it doesn’t have to be awful trying to get attention for your work! Uncomfortable sometimes? Yes. But the fact is you will have to market if you want to sell any books. I’m going to share some of the things I’ve done to market and promote my Women’s Fiction novel Ditch Flowers (Penner Publishing, 2015) and what I haven’t done. I hope by sharing my experiences it may help you understand and get comfortable with the many ways to market your own book.
WHAT I HAVE DONE:
- SOCIAL MEDIA: I feel like this should go without saying because it seems obvious in today’s world, but you need to get on social media, stat. I did before my book was even published. Even if you don’t have a book deal yet, get yourself out there. Make a Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account. You can do Instagram, Tumblr, and more. You do not have to do all of these (because honestly, who has the time?) but pick at least two. I am a visual person, so I love Pinterest. I already had a personal FB so it was easy to set up an author page under my account. And then I ventured out and did one more out of my comfort zone—Twitter. Make a name for yourself. Even if it feels awkward promoting yourself before you have a book—it did for me, but I’m glad I had a “fan base” to celebrate with me once I did get that deal.
- BLOG/WEBSITE: This ties into the first point, and my advice is the same. Do it now even if you’re not published yet. Once I was published I went ahead and purchased my own domain name for an affordable amount, through WordPress. I suggest setting it up with your name. When people search for me, my website it one of the first, if not the first, things that show up. Blog about your experience with writing, your woes, and your successes. Someone out there will be reading it, I promise!
- AUTHOR PHOTO: In my opinion, it’s important to have a professional-looking photo on the back of your book, as your author profile pic, and to use in other things like newspapers. If you can’t afford a legit photographer (and some have mini-sessions for discounted rates), then ask a friend with a good eye to take your photo in natural light, in a few poses. You will probably end up with a nice photo of yourself.
- BLOG TOUR: This was set up by my publisher, so I didn’t have to do much but answer a few questionnaires and write a couple blog posts. But I think it helped to get my book release going. You can contact bloggers who review books if they’d be interested in reading your book. Often, you need to send an advance copy.
- ADVANCE REVIEWS: Again, this was mostly set up by my publisher through a review site, but I did ask a few friends and acquaintances to read my book before it actually came out, and to post their honest reviews on Goodreads and other sites. All you need to do is a send out a free copy of the book—digital or hard copy—to people you trust to read it, review it (and you know, not like send your book to a billion people).
- CONTACT LOCAL NEWS: I have had newspaper articles featuring my book release/author story because I contacted them. I called, I emailed, I pitched myself. If you have a local twist to your story, or can tie it in somehow to make it more appealing to the magazines and newspapers near you, all the better. Interviews are difficult for me, in that I really am not comfortable talking to strangers, let alone about MYSELF. But, I’m glad I did it. I know I got several sales from this publicity.
- BOOK SIGNINGS/EVENTS: Again, this was SO out of my comfort zone. I have done a few book signings and author events in the last year, and they do get a little easier. My worst signing ever was a grand total of four people, but you know what? Four is better than zero. I ended up selling an extra three copies to the bookseller and to a random shopper who wandered in before the event, so in the end, I had eight sales, and it was worth it. If nothing else, it helps to build connections when you talk to those in your community.
- COMMUNITY: Part of the perks of social media is you get a chance to connect with other writers, and readers. I have formed friendships specifically BECAUSE I am an author. I have met amazing people whom I probably wouldn’t have connected with otherwise, because we have writing in common. Also, it is a wonderful compliment when someone on Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever, tells you they loved your book, or that last article you wrote. It feels great to make a difference to someone.
- BOOKBUB: This was again on my publisher, as they set it all up, but the sales I got from my BookBub promo sale (.99 down from 3.99) were huge. I ended up becoming an “Amazon Bestseller” in four different categories. That’s nothing to sneeze at! If you get featured on the site, it will definitely boost your visibility!
- GIVEAWAYS: I’ve had several giveaways since I released Ditch Flowers, and just did a giveaway for my new short story The Peony and the Sun. I like giveaways (usually on Facebook) because they can sometimes bring people to enter that might not normally read your work. People like free stuff. They like entering contests. I recall doing a giveaway for DF a while ago, and the woman who won ended up giving me a fabulous 4 star rating on Goodreads, and became a beta reader for Peony! I’d say that’s definitely worth a few bucks for postage, and the discounted cost of a paperback.
- FACEBOOK BOOSTS: I’ve probably spent $20 total to boost posts, and my page on Facebook Ads. Sometimes it has seemed to help, with me reaching a much wider audience when I have news to share. Other times, I’m not sure it matters much. But if you want to try it out, wait for something news-worthy (like a sale, or book release, or news about an acceptance) and spend a mere $5 to see it reach more people. You may be surprised how many likes you get.
- BOOKSTORES/LIBRARIES: I am lucky to work in a library, and all I had to do was ask my co-workers to order and purchase my book. (A note for authors who aren’t librarians- you can ask, too! Sometimes they may say yes. They may say no. Ask then, if you may donate a copy instead.) My library ended up getting enough for a whole book club kit (13?) plus another 4 or 5 copies for the shelves. Every time I go through the stacks, I see how many copies are on the shelves at one time. Most of the time, there’s maybe one, or two. Frequently, they’re all checked out. And when I do see my books, they are curly-edged and dog-eared. They are well-worn, and I know they’ve been checked out by a lot of people. This makes me happy. I have reached a crazy amount of local readers just by having my books in a library. And because my library ordered it, and there were enough holds placed on it at one time, the other libraries in our library system HAD to order it. Whether they wanted to or not. HAHAHAHA. (Just kidding). But they did, really. That means I got readers in other communities and towns besides my own. I also called up several local bookstores- as far away as an hour+ from me, and pitched my book to them. I was ready with the ISBN, synopsis, and publisher info. This has resulted with many sales. Definitely worth it! Call up your local bookstores, or better yet, stop in with a copy of your book, and a short pitch. Breath slowly, stay calm. If you win them over, they may just invite you back for an event.
- BOOK TRAILER: I created a free book trailer with Kizoa. I found royalty-free images, and music, and after a couple hours tinkering with the layout and order, I had something I was happy with. I uploaded the video to YouTube, and it was as easy as that. If you’ve never seen book trailers before, check some out. They’re a great visual for books that help really set the tone for what to expect in the story. And then after you’ve watched a few, go make your own, and have some fun!
WHAT I HAVEN’T DONE:
- PAID FOR REVIEWS: There are notable review sites/magazines/journals which will review your book honestly, for a fee. I would rather not pay for reviews, but if you want to, go for it. I prefer to just beg my loved ones to take pity on me and review my stuff ::wink wink::
- CONTACTED BIG NAMES: I haven’t contacted any big media like national magazines, or sites, or celebs, to read and review my book. Why? I don’t know. It just seems like a waste of time. But maybe that’s my pessimism showing. If you have any chance of having the attention from one of these places, or a big-name celebrity, it definitely would be worth it to try.
- SPENT A TON OF MONEY: I think it’s rather pointless to spend a lot of money to market a book when I think we all know, most new authors are not getting rich on their books. Maybe when I have several books out, I can justify spending more to market, when the return I get is higher. As it is, five bucks here, ten bucks there, seems like plenty for now.
- PROMO MATERIALS: By that I mean bookmarks, fliers, postcards, business cards, etc. I haven’t because I’m really picky about how things look. I mean, really picky. One day I went on one of those websites where you can design your own stuff, and I was so overwhelmed by all the options, I just didn’t know where to start. Should I do navy blue with delicate font? Crisp white and gray? Should I have my own logo? It was just too much. But if you choose to do it, it’s affordable, and a great way to give people a physical reminder of your book. You can leave these things on the tables at book signings, or stick them in giveaway bags.
- AUTHOR NEWSLETTER: I know, I know. I have heard from multiple successful authors that having an author newsletter is crucial, but I also have that “can’t decide how to make it look, so I will just not to it at all” problem like with the above. I have a link on my website to a newsletter. I have an account with Virtual Response. I just haven’t had the time and patience to design an actual newsletter to my standards. If you are interested, there are a ton of sites to choose from to do this service for you.
- YOUTUBE VIDEOS: Besides my book trailer, which I did put on YouTube, I have not done any sort of videos there. I have watched cool authors talk about writing, publishing, and more on YT, but I personally don’t want to be alone on a video talking. Ever. But, if you’re braver than I am, and charismatic, and you have something to say, then you might give it a try!
The thing is with many of these categories there is no real way to know how many sales, reviews, or readers you will gain. It’s fuzzy. But you have to keep trying, is my point. I have worked my butt off to market Ditch Flowers, and I plan to do the same for The Peony and the Sun. Because generally, as much as we would like them to, books DON’T SELL THEMSELVES. You have to want it. You have to work for it, right?
The other super, duper important thing you must do if you want to sell your book, is to write more books. I think that’s the best advice I’ve personally heard. Time after time I hear you will sell more of book #1, when book #2,3, 4 are done. See, I’m still working on the “getting accepted” part, but I have a completed Middle Grade novel, and a completed short story collection. I’m querying for both now. And when I’m not querying those, I’m revising another new novel. And writing more short stories. Besides that, I sporadically submit poetry, single stories, and essays. You can’t be stagnant. You have to keep on keepin’ on. 🙂
So there it is. 19+ ways to market your book, and yourself as an author. Find what you’re comfortable doing, then push yourself to do more! Above all, keep writing. Write because you love it. The rest is just a bonus.
Thanks for reading!