I’ve been spending some time the last couple of days working hard on marketing Acceptance.
You should start marketing at least 6 months prior to your book’s launch (in the case of blogging, it’s better if you start a year or so in advance). And the general consensus is that you should devote a certain amount of time every day (30 minutes) or in a block of time once a week (3 hours) to marketing your book. You not only do this prior to publication, but also afterwards, until your book is selling enough copies every month to make you happy.
Here are some of the ways you can market your book:
1. Blogging. It takes time to build a blog readership, so you need to start this well in advance of the publication of your book. I think most authors (myself included) start out talking about what we’re writing (the blog-as-writing-diary), but if you really want to have followers who are not family members, you need to offer information or entertainment (or both).
Common blog posts for writers include the mechanics of writing (grammar, punctuation, etc. help), how to get published/self-publish, book reviews, author/blogger interviews, and/or free stories (like Bloodsuckers).
2. Blog Networking. In order to get people on your blog, you need to participate on other people’s blogs. Find people you want to follow and comment on posts. But don’t spam. Don’t mention your book unless it’s relevant to what you’re commenting on. And in most cases you should not put a link to your blog or book in the comment. Instead, it’s standard to provide your link when you log in to post (and it will be linked with your name and/or picture).
While you can certainly follow people’s blogs just because you like them, when you go looking for new blogs, think about the audience for your blog and for your book. Since most of my blog posts are about writing and publishing, and since my writing is, at the moment, mostly about vampires, I tend to hang out on the blogs of other writers and people who like vampires. Someone who is into contemporary literature isn’t likely to like either my blog or my book. Likewise, they’re not likely to be posting something I find interesting or useful (although you never know).
And once you start getting new followers, check out their blogs. More likely than not, they’re blogging about things that you like, so you can learn something. Maybe you’ll even want to post about something they’ve mentioned and share a link to their blog. They’re likely to reciprocate at some point in the future, so it’s like sharing your audiences.
3. Website. Some people prefer to have all their info on a blog, but I had so many extras associated with just Acceptance (that’s more common when you publish fiction than non-fiction), I felt it was really cluttering my blog, and it was just going to get worse as I added books. So I set up a website for my static information, like book info and extras that don’t change much. My blog remains fluid, with new content posted every week. (My blog is also a form of social media, because people can leave comments.)
Having both a blog and website means you have two ways for people to find you on the internet.
4. Facebook Fan Page. Some people seem to get more mileage out of their Facebook fan page than I’m getting right now. But you’ll never know until you try it. (And, like a blog, it can be something that takes a while to build up.) Create a fan page and use something like NetworkedBlogs to automatically post on Facebook when you do a new blog post (you can also have it post to your personal Facebook page).
But, in addition to letting your fans know there’s a new blog post available, put some other content on it. It’s a good place to put info that’s perhaps too short for a blog post or share your favorite links or short book reviews. Regardless, make sure the bulk of your content is something that’s informational or entertaining for your readers. No one wants an endless stream of ads on their Facebook wall.
5. Twitter. Like Facebook, only with even smaller amounts of info (160 characters, to be exact). It’s also like blogging, in that you should find other people to follow and try to interact with them. (I’m still working on the interacting part; Twitter is not my preferred environment.) You can also use NetworkedBlogs to announce new blog posts on Twitter automatically.
I suggest using Buffer to help you time your posts on both Facebook and Twitter so you don’t end up sharing loads of info one day, then go quiet for several days. Steady, consistent amounts of info is the way to go with those. Right now, I’m making one post to Facebook per day and three on Twitter (not counting automatic blog notices). Some people tweet 5-7 times a day, but do be careful about tweeting and retweeting too much, because you can quickly drive people crazy (or at least drive me crazy).
6. Newsletter. I’ve seen newsletters touted by a number of people, but I will admit I don’t have one and have no immediate plans for one. I prefer to just use my blog to share my promotional materials (announcements, coupons, etc.). If my blog had a huge readership–and especially if my blog readership tended to be different than the sort of people who would like my books–then I might consider running a separate newsletter to make book announcements. But, as it is, it’s not worth my effort. However, it might be something that you want to consider–especially if you don’t want to blog. You can collect followers on a website and then use the newsletter to deliver the sort of active content that others deliver on their blog. Newsletters really shouldn’t be put out more than once a month. The minimum is 3-4 times a year.
Catherine Caffeinated recommends Mailchimp. It’s a free service that mails out your newsletter for you. (You do not want to mail out a newsletter to a large number of people from your regular e-mail address host, or they will shut you down because it looks like you (or a hacker) is spamming. As me how I know this.)
8. Forums. Figure out who your target audience is going to be, then find the forums where they hang out. Again, you are not going to spam the forums with ads about your book. Instead, you’re going to actually read the posts and make your own comments. Many forums allow signatures, and you can put a link to your book or blog in your signature. This is also a good place to do some market research for your next novel(s). What do people like reading? Who is the hot author in your genre? If you’re still in the editing phase of your book, this can also be a good place to run ideas by people (e.g. “Do you think X, Y, Z would work in a historical romance novel?) or even find people to be your beta readers.
I like to spend some time over on the NaNoWriMo forums, especially during November, when they’re at their most active. Having a good knowledge of history, and having been through NaNoWriMo and produced a book, I like to help others who are just getting started writing or who are researching history. I always learn something while I’m there, and some people will check out the link in my signature.
9. Book Reviews. Once you have your book published, you need reviews to help generate sales. There are two different kinds of reviews: the ones on your stores (Amazon, Smashwords, et al) and the ones on other people’s blogs/Facebook posts. It’s good to have both.
Most people don’t want to risk their hard-earned cash on a book that may suck a lot. Having a few good reviews on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. helps assure people that your book is not riddled with spelling errors and plot holes. Your followers on your blog might be willing to read a copy of your book (send it to them for free or give them a Smashwords coupon) and give you a review at the store(s) of your choice. Not only does having a review help convince other people to buy your book, but it will help your sales ranking at most booksellers, which, in turn, will make your book easier for new people to find.
You’re going to have to hunt for the other kind of reviewer. Google book review blogs in your genre. The top results on Google are probably from bloggers/reviewers with a pretty large fan base, but look to see if they have their follower/view stats posted somewhere. If the blog is small, then I don’t think it’s wrong to ask the reviewer to give you a review on at least one store, in addition to their blog. Bloggers with a large audience, however, will probably only review on their blog. But if they’re getting a million page views every month, you don’t need their review on Amazon. Their review will reach more people and carry more weight on their blog. In short, it is a word-of-mouth recommendation.
A word of warning: make sure you read the instructions/about page and see if the blogger will read and review self-published work. Some won’t. Don’t waste your time or theirs trying to contact them. If your novel breaks through and becomes the shizzle, they’ll come find you.
10. Goodreads. I’ve heard Goodreads described as “Facebook for people who like to read.” You can post what you’re reading, see what your friends are reading, leave reviews, get suggestions from friends, and participate in forums.
Once you publish, you need to upload the info on your book and establish your author page. This way, Goodreaders can easily review your book, recommend it to friends (remember, word-of-mouth is by far and away the #1 way to sell your book), discuss it on the forums, or put it in their favorites list (which will help its popularity).
Once you’ve put your book info on Goodreads, you can “add ebook” from your book’s page and allow readers on Goodreads to 1) download your book from there, or 2) download a sample from there. I don’t know what (if any) tracking info Goodreads has on their website, so it might be hard to see how many people are looking at your book or downloading a free copy or sample, but they do make it easy to click through to a retailer, like Amazon, so the person can buy your book.
I put a 50% sample of Acceptance on Goodreads (you can get the same sample on Smashwords) and I’m going to upload The Bloodsuckers Volumes 1 and 2 for direct download.
11. Cross-Market Your Books. Don’t let one of your books go to market without using that opportunity to market your other stuff. Your first book should direct people to your blog, website, social media, newsletter, etc. Subsequent books (or short stories) should not only do that, but also tout a previous or new release. Kind of a “If you liked this book, check out my newest book, X” sort of thing. You can get a surprising amount of marketing info on 1-2 pages at the end of your book.
The beauty of ebooks is that they’re easily changed, so it’s not much effort to add sales info for your new books to your old ones. As any person with a business will tell you, you get most of your business from repeat customers. (You get most of your new business from word-of-mouth–i.e. those repeat customers telling all their friends.)
12. Pinterest. Have a board just for your book (or book series) and share pictures that are related to it.
13. YouTube. Make a trailer for your book and put it on YouTube. If you’re one of those people who is good on camera (definitely not me), then do some vlogs or otherwise share instructional material. Or you can do videos related to things in your book. For example, if your book is a contemporary romance and your heroine is a florist, you might make a simple video about flower arranging and mention your book once or twice. This way, people who come to see your video might end up picking up your book as well.
Pinterest allows you to pin videos, so don’t forget to cross-link your stuff by pinning your videos to your book’s board.
14. CafePress. I’ve found that CafePress has a definite learning curve to it, so I don’t have my store up and running yet, but I do intend to have Acceptance-themed merchandise available through it. That allows me to make a little secondary money from my book, and you never know; someone might see the shirt on CafePress and get curious about the book that inspired it.
15. Press Releases. Check out my previous post on how I did mine.
16. Real-Life Networking. Find local book or writer clubs. National Novel Writing Month is getting ready to start in November, and local groups are already starting to meet. While you’re not going to sell a lot of books for the time investment, you will meet people who have all sorts of connections in the book and writing worlds, and that can be worth more to you in the long run than selling a hundred books.
Also, get some business cards. I started out with some personal ones from VistaPrint (I think I paid $6 for them), but my husband and I were just talking about me getting some new ones which are specific to my book. That way, when I’m talking to someone about my book (be that at a writer’s get-together, synagogue, a re-enactment, Halloween party, work, etc.) I can give them a business card related to me and/or my book. Obviously it will have my name, a link to my blog and website, plus my e-mail address. For a book-specific card, I might use the short description of my book on Smashwords (you can get two-sided cards).
I’m poor (and you probably are too, if you’re just starting out), so I can’t afford to pay to market my book. I haven’t paid for anything except my website, which I funded through Kickstarter. But there are some decent, easy-to-build website packages out there for free, so even that doesn’t have to cost anything to start.
If you have some money to put towards advertising, don’t look at Google or Facebook ads; those are expensive and aren’t likely to hit many of the readers in your demographic. I’ve heard that Goodreads has good ad-targeting (at least everyone who sees it is going to be someone who is into books). You might also consider ads on some of those very popular book blogs that you found when you were looking for reviewers. You’ll know they’re being seen by people who like to read books in the same genre as yours.