This post is the third in a trilogy, which I am going to be happy to finish, because marketing is certainly not my area of expertise or comfort, like for so many of us creative people. From publishing the first book, to handling reviews , and then to marketing it and trying to get sales, I’ve had to employ my head over my heart all the way through this process, but the practice of doing this was something I needed to learn to set me up for the journey here on in with books to follow. That’s why I’m focusing this post on the marketing of a first book, because this is probably the first time in your creative life that you seriously have to come out of your creative bubble and join in with the teeming, rather frenzied, whirlpool of the book marketing world and promote yourself and your creative work.
Now this is of course a massive topic and I can only share what I’ve learned along the way so far, but be reassured there are some fun elements involved too. After reading a book on self publishing from cover to cover and from a one day workshop years ago now on marketing books, I decided to follow the advice I picked up – that being to aim to be as genuine about marketing as possible, as if the book is an extension of yourself (which in many ways it is), to only do what is comfortable for you, and also concentrate on your own and the book’s unique selling points, otherwise known as USPs. I probably did an eye roll when I first heard this expression, but now I see so much sense in it, so shame on me for being cynical.
Since there are marketing strategies I have done and quite a few I haven’t chosen to do or gotten around to, I thought I’d divide the post into what I have done and what I haven’t, and if relevant, why.
What I have done
1.I needed to read a book on self publishing, which would cover the whole process for me in step by step details, but which would also tackle the marketing and the ‘dreaded’ social media thing which I knew I would have to engage with. As you can imagine there are masses of self publishing books, there’s a whole industry of writers writing about how to write and publish. How on earth are you supposed to choose just one or two? And what if they have different opinions? Well, I was fortunate to be in a writer’s group for a time, and one of the members was going through the process before me, so I bought the book she’d just used and highly recommended to me: Self Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self Publishing, by Catherine Ryan Howard. 2014 edition. I’ve just looked it up on Amazon, and only the 2012 edition seems to be available at a reasonable cost, so I don’t know what’s going on there. But her blog can be found here where she has posted a good deal in the past about the whole process.
2.From Catherine’s highly entertaining book with plenty of instructions to ‘go get yourself another cup of coffee’ and ‘calm the fudge down’ , I learned how to set up my blog (that was a biggie) which I decided I was ready to enjoy doing, using Catherine’s advice of writing the sort of blog that you want to read, and to set up facebook and twitter accounts, as well as making me aware of Goodreads, and much more besides.
3.So after publishing, I was all set to go with a big sized notebook to neatly record my travels into marketing On Turtle Beach (OTB), with Catherine’s trusty book by my side. I did read another self publishing book, but the two disagreed with each other here and there, and the last thing you need at this point is confusion, but Catherine kept coming up with the details I needed so I stuck to her like glue, even though some of it was out of date – something to be wary of with this kind of book, as the publishing, marketing, and social media worlds are ever changing and shifting like tides. (I started out with a neat notebook, but it soon became a jumble – but par for the course, I expect!)
4. I paid for some author copies of my paperback to be sent to me, and used them for a Goodreads giveaway and for posting to a few friends. I also used a few in a stack on a picnic bench for a promotional picture with a holiday feel to suit the novel.
5. I did a blog post about the book, and updated other pages, whilst making sure (thanks to Catherine) that I had a direct link at the top of the page of my book cover which took anyone to my book on Amazon with a click.
6. I had put together a list of emails of friends, acquaintances, to let them know first (getting the email as a one to one, not a group email), with front cover and blurb, worded carefully to invite reviews, if they chose to read the book. So I did this first of all after pressing the ‘go’ button with Amazon. I used what is called a short link to my book page, there’s an envelope sharing button on the right of your sales page, which gives you a link you can copy and paste into your email.
7. Social media sites – pages on Facebook – first a personal page set up (you can set the settings to private for this is you like) in order to create an author page, where you can post about your book and related topics eg in my case, turtles, sea, nature, things that relate to what made me want to write the book in the first place with associated themes etc. Now, facebook wasn’t rated by Catherine as highly as twitter. It’s difficult to get exposure there for your ‘business’ page unless you pay for advertisements or for your posts to go to more followers than you have personally. I did pay for a small boost post for my first post about my novel being available when it was first out, but otherwise, I use it for themes, nature and my blog posts are directed there. You can also pin the post about your newly available novel to the top of your feed, so it’s always there to be seen by anyone who happens to pay a visit. I also updated any other sites I had enrolled in eg Linked In, putting links to the book with Amazon.
8. Twitter. I was really sceptical about twitter, but it has proved to be a very supportive place where you can easily ‘meet’ and make followers linked to your creative pursuits, business and personal interests. It’s like being able to connect with many like-minded people who weren’t around when you were at school, but you wished they were. It takes a wee while to get used to, but I made notes on the workings of all the social media sites (you may remember all those notes I write which add to my household clutter) because it’s easy to get confused in the early stages. Use the hashtags. You can study other’s tweets to see what these hashtags are and which ones are relevant to you eg #ebook, #novel, #writerslife. And so many other social media sites use hashtags too, you might has well get used to them, because every hashtag acts like a heading in a vast dictionary, and has a ‘stream’ feed of it’s own, so your posts will travel further this way and be seen by interested people outside of your usual followers. You can direct your blog posts here too. And here again, you can have a post about your new novel, with hashtags, links and relevant visual pinned to the top of your feed.
9. Goodreads. I set up my author page and profile here just after publishing OTB, but it would have been better if I’d joined earlier to get used to how it works and get into the habit of reviewing my own reads, as these are skills to learn in themselves. It’s also nice to reciprocate when other authors read your novel and leave a review. I did a little ‘giveaway’ (though it costs to do this now) where authors send a set number of their books to the ‘winners’ of the giveaway, to their home addresses. Now not much may come of this, readers are not obliged to do reviews, however the process highlights your book for a time, and it may well be added to members ‘to read’ lists, which I think has happened in my case. So reviews can trickle in through Goodreads, like with Amazon.
10. Amazon. I sorted out an author page at Author Central, with bio and personal pic and any other information I decided might be useful for potential readers to know. Now if you are in the UK, this author page only shows up on Amazon.co.uk, but you can do a search for how to get it onto the American site, and a few others like Germany and Japan, which I did, with the help of my techy hubby of course, and very soon, I had an author page further afield with my book. Satisfying? Oh, yes.
11. Headers/banners for social media sites. This is where my arty side gets a bit excited. I soon had to change my ocean header banner on twitter, because I was seeing writers using pictures of themselves, rather than an avatar, like my cat, and banners which reflected their book/s, so I felt I should do the same. In following in the footsteps of other writers, I became more invested somehow. I didn’t want to be left behind, which I think is the beginning of the determination ‘grit’ that maybe we need to develop to do our own marketing. And so the obvious thing to do was to take a slice of the book cover, and design around that. Then I put this same banner on my facebook author page for the all important ‘branding’ continuity. I’ve lately changed my twitter banner to show the novel and my paintings, to represent myself more fully. This kind of design work can be fun to do. So the message here, is that any banners/headers you create for your social media pages, can have a recognisable theme. They don’t all have to be identical, but they can in some way reflect you and your book. For example, I used pebbles or surf, for other sites, or slices of my paintings for art sites.
12. KDP Select – I’ve opted into this since publishing, but it limits you in that you can’t publish your ebook anywhere else, for example with Smashwords. What does KDP Select mean? Well, Amazon prime customers who pay a subscription can get your ebook for free and you may earn a share of the KDP Select Global Fund when customers read your books from Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Enrolling in this is meant to be good for a first release or for bringing new life to your book later on. You can also promote your ebook as being free of charge for up to 5 days in any 90 day period for which you are enrolled in KDP Select. So you can let people know through social media or otherwise, that they can download your ebook free of charge for the dates you give them, which may lead to more reviews and more exposure. (You can also run a countdown deal if you wish. I haven’t done this since it isn’t a ‘Lynne thing’ ;>))
13. Business card for you and your book I’d seen someone else do this at the writers group with a postcard, so I decided to get some small business cards printed.
Front image: cover of the book
Back info: where it’s available, web address and contact
I got them from MOO cards and a friend gave me a voucher to use, so it was very reasonable. You can make sure you have some in your purse, wallet or bag, and maybe some in the car, for any opportunity that may pop up, which naturally by now you are oiled and primed for!
14. Book Promotion sites. Hmm, a bit of a minefield. To let people know about the 5 days free of charge ebook, I found out about these sites, but they do vary between completely free of charge to use their service, or graded payments which will boost your book for longer and to more people, which is all operated through social media.
I used, and still do, AskDavid.com to tweet about my 5 days #free #ebook. It’s an easy service to use and delivers well.
Another thing you can do is enter your book as a listing on some free book promotion sites, such as AwesomeGang.com which I’ve used. Here is a link to what to expect. There are also author interviews you can do there, which brings me to:
15. Keep a document, let’s call it a ‘press kit’, with all your text and visual promotion in it – all your varied length bios, blurbs, interview answers, personal portrait pictures, banners, anything else you create that you might end up fishing around for again. And copy and paste any favourable reviews in here too. Also you can take ‘screenshots’ from where these occur and save them here, the idea being that they may be useful to share at some point. Having all this information handy saves so much time.
16. I tried to decide what my USPs were by drawing a mindmap for OTB and for myself, and was surprised how much came out of this. Anything from the wonderful real life place of Dalyan, Turkey, to handling bereavement. Other themes are sisters, family, holidays, endangered turtles, sea, Roman ruins, art, nature, craft, self development …you get the idea. Now if you can tailor your marketing in some directions linked to some of these themes, it means you are directing your efforts where there may be potential readers interested in exactly these topics and thereby may like to read your book. This way, you also get to ‘be yourself’ which I think is the most important thing of all.
For example, I got around to joining some Dalyan Visitors facebook groups, for people who love the place and go there every year on holiday, or expats who live there and locals. When I found the right group, and asked them if they wouldn’t mind me telling them about the novel set in Dalyan, I ended up being on the computer nearly all day. There was so much interest, sharing with other groups and sales too, I was quite staggered and people were very friendly and supportive. And this of course was enjoyable marketing, with my being able to be genuine because if I hadn’t been to Dalyan, this particular novel would never have been written.
So think about the themes in your novel, your personal passions and interests as possible selling points.
17. Take an extract from your book, a favourite passage, and you can post this on some sites to awaken possible interest.
18. Writers Facebook Groups. I joined some writers facebook groups for keeping in touch with information and advice and for mutual support. It is also possible to swap ‘likes’ for your author facebook page here when the moderator runs this service, so you can build up your facebook followers which is otherwise quite difficult to do without it costing you. It doesn’t matter a great deal, but it’s a mutually beneficial thing to do with other writers.
These are my two favourites after sampling a few:
Indie Author Support – you have to be an indie author to join this, but if so, it is friendly, supportive and you can find a lot of relevant information, as well as sharing experiences and getting opinions on book cover ‘drafts’.
10 Minute Novelists – again, very friendly, and I had a lot of great help from them with a plot problem I had for the current novel I’m writing.
19. A new marketing trend seems to be making a small video or booktrailer (or paying for one to be recorded) that demonstrates the story within your book to entice buyers. Not all of us can do this, but for OTB I had plenty of photographs of the places visited by my fictional sisters, so I enjoyed putting together a slideshow of this and finding copyright free music on YouTube as a sound track. So I now have a YouTube account too. Once your video or slideshow is there, you can copy and paste the link in from YouTube and the video will show up where you put it in it’s entirety, ready to go. So my ‘Delights of Dalyan’ got added to nearly all my profiles, including my Amazon author page.
20. I built relationships through all this social media and through following other writers and artists blogs. It hasn’t felt like ‘networking’ at all, and yet it is – but because you are being yourself, which is what I intended from the beginning, it mostly feels very friendly and honest, and I have to admit this has been somewhat of a revelation and a nice surprise.
21. Through this networking I was asked to participate in an online magazine for artists, writers and poets, with a question and answer style interview about myself and OTB, whilst also featuring some of my artwork. This was a pleasure to do and certainly increased exposure for me and OTB. So look for these kind of opportunities, and if asked to be featured, then say yes.
22. Generous help from friends. My friend, Clair, who does beautifully hand-crafted beaded and wire trees was my social media consultant, at the other end of a direct message or a phone call, and my artist friend, Sylvia helped keep me on track in so many ways throughout. And naturally they were my very first readers. Many thanks to them!
23. To finish this ‘what I have done’ section, here is a link to a very useful, currently free, ebook which I found to be a comprehensive resource, especially for future use, from Xana Publishing and Marketing. There are many links contained within to anything and everything to do with self publishing and marketing.
And here is a list of both free, and paid for, book promotion sites
And author, T.R. Robinson has written many great posts for indie writers, sometimes on some complex topics, but T.R makes them so readable and very clear. How else would I end up reading about the nature of computer viruses?
What I haven’t done
I’m very aware of the many things I haven’t done, but mostly, this has been through choice.
1. Doing the book release/launch
Either online -which works like a online countdown to your selected date of publication after you’ve pressed the button to make sure it’s up and running, maybe with some advanced reader copies of your book, known as ARCs sent out to wet appetites and maybe get some nice and early reviews. This requires pushing and basically shouting out about your forthcoming book release, every day until the day arrives, tweeting and posting, and of course, drinking lots of coffee. Then you are supposed to spend all of the big day connecting on a self-created online event and selling yourself and your book. (I decided, rightly or wrongly, this just wasn’t a Lynne thing.)
Or in a book shop, with invited guests to a book signing. Now if you are self published, you have to do everything. That is buy the books for the signing event, liaise with the bookshop owner, after getting them on board, and decide what cut to give them for any sales, invite the guests, buy the wine and nibbles AND have something to say to kick it off. If I was traditionally published, I would have to do this, but the events would probably be arranged for you, you’d have a support person on hand, and the books can make a decent profit on any sales, because they are mass produced as opposed to the more costly print on demand function with Amazon. So it was a no to this, and I’m happy to say that my trusted Catherine had tried this and subsequently didn’t think it was worth all the expense and hassle. (However, if you think you may really enjoy it, then why not go for it?)
Also, since my former days of sitting behind a table as the centre of attention manning my artwork ‘wares’ are over by design, I didn’t relish the prospect returning to this mode of being, albeit in a different area of art. Even in this picture of a previous art stand with my stuff, I am notably absent. But hey, I can be chatty if I want to, I just have to be made to turn up, that’s all!
2.Press Release – if you fancy trying this to engage local interest, then it might be worth it if you have a special angle. But as ‘just another indie author’ I felt I couldn’t justify it.
3.Getting your book into local shops – not really worth it because the shop will have to make some profit and so will you, and because the cost of print on demand books is much higher than with big publishing houses and large quantities, then it really isn’t viable. But that said, you might want to do it anyway for local area exposure and interest.
4.Paid advertising – there are many routes here you can choose from. Amazon has them, book promotion sites have them, facebook has them – but do you want them? Some authors swear by a particular route, with it paying off in sales, and yet just as many say that route has done nothing for them. I watch the indie author comments on these methods and basically get confused, and where money’s concerned, that’s not good. So I’ve steered clear, but if I was to choose to spend some money, I’d probably go for a small package with Ask David or Awesome Gang, and then you’d have to assess whether investing in this paid service has made any difference to sales – which leads me nicely to the question of whether or not to check your book sales analytics…
5.Book sales analytics – well once again, Catherine comes to my rescue. As long as you are doing everything you are happy doing and have time for, then what’s the point in looking at graphs and charts, of monitoring where exactly your book ‘is’ with Amazon’s algorithms. Especially if you’re only getting a trickle of sales, which most first timers tend to find, while trying to prevent their book from being swallowed up in what I heard being described as the book writers ‘graveyard’ . Apparently with indie authors, quantity of published books counts just as much as quality because we have to keep on producing to build on our authorial ‘presence’.
6.Newsletters and the building of email lists This is something I feel I should have done by now, and Catherine would be telling me off. A monthly newsletter to sign up for, (not with a drop down box prompt – not a Lynne thing) but just a click on it link if you want to sign up. I’d use a site like Parcel Monkey to get it started and I’ve jotted down content ideas and how to go about it ideas in my big notebook. A writers newsletter is really the only straight forward way to legally build up an email listing. Why do you need to do this? To keep readers interested or to tell readers about your next book, and along the way you can update them, post snippets of your writing, maybe a short story or two, or anything you think they might appreciate. So what’s stopping me?
Well, I recently found out we are legally obliged to provide our own home postal address, to be mentioned in each newsletter, so everyone on your list knows where you live, and in this day and age, it would seem a bit unwise to do this. You can pay for a PO box number, but it’s an expense I could do without. After asking the indie authors about this issue, there’s a lot of divided opinion and confusion. Parcel Monkey may or may not use their address for you instead. The jury’s still out on this.
Apart from that, it’s a matter of time. Do I have the time? I tend to put myself pretty fully into whatever I do and writing isn’t my only creative pursuit. So I’m still mulling this over, and any thoughts on this are most welcome.
7.Blatent direct messaging and pushy selling goes on with writers plugging their books, much of it set on ‘autopilot’. I don’t like receiving them, so I’m not going to send them. Simple. I’ve had some writers assuming that because my twitter profile says I’m a nature lover, that it means I will love their book because their book is about……..insert here any vague connection to nature you can think of. As is the ‘BUY NOW’ approach and the, ‘don’t miss this!’ with an overuse of the exclamation mark (topic for a future post on this !!!!) Thankfully Catherine is in full agreement with me here – it’s too in your face and it puts people off.
Conclusion – the best thing I’ve found with marketing as a writer, is that because it’s a creative pursuit, people are interested in you as much as your book. So this means you really can be yourself with it. I think this is what has surprised me the most and is why I don’t cringe quite as much these days when I hear the word ‘marketing’.
Good luck with yours!
This was a long post, for which I am grateful to the so called ‘beast from the east’ snowmageddon we’ve got right now in the UK, where we not going anywhere on wheels for a few days.
(Top pic Pixabay, lower pic, Lynne)