Ah, book marketing, the part of the publishing process that every author dreads. I’m just starting out, and it was painful for me too, but by sticking to my organized approach and breaking ithings down into smaller tasks, it’s turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. This approach isn’t for everyone, but hopefully, if you’re an indie author too, you’ll find a bit of comfort the next time you need to think about book marketing. It’s time to check in on The Process!
Before getting to the marketing, let’s take a quick look at the big picture. A while back, I wrote about bringing the rigour of IT project management into my quest to publish my debut novel, Sparrow Squadron. So how am I doing? Since we’re talking about an organized approach, let’s look at this in phases.
Phase 1: Writing
- The manuscript is with the editor as I write this (why do you think I have so much time to blog lately?)
- The draft back cover blurb is done, but it needs a lot of work, and many of the steps in marketing (Phase 3) will need this.
Phase 2: Publishing
- Xinlishi Press is up and running and I am registered to obtain ISBN’s. Yay! Many thanks to Sarah Ettrich’s blog for the advice.
- It was a no brainer that I would publish on Amazon (KDP and Createspace). Based on Jane Friedman’s advice, I’m going to add Ingramspark and another ebook distributor (probably Smashwords, but I’ll need to research that.)
- The formatting and uploading work for the novel will be done on an as-required basis. I was originally going to do this myself, but I’ve since opted to have my cover designer do this as well, based on my desire for interior art elements. I’m not sure if I’ll do that again in the future, but it was worth a try since the price was quite reasonable.
Get on with it, you’re saying. What about the marketing?
Phase 3: Marketing
First off, what have I done so far? As I mentioned, I have a cover designer now (after a bit of a weird false start, which I’ll cover in a later post.) I’ve also signed a contract with a promotional artist. Look for some really exciting reveals to come. Suffice to say, I’ve found some awesome, awesome people to work with.
So what’s left? In my original plan, I split marketing into pre-launch and post-launch activities, but after some study, I think it makes more sense to have three parts. I took the remaining items in my plan, which included things like putting sample work on Wattpad, blog tours and paid promotions, and reorganized them into the three remaining marketing sub-phases.
A word about advice on the internet. If you’re serious about writing, chances are you’ve been scouring the internet through a bewildering array of advice posts. If you try to do everything that’s suggested, I think it would take a hundred years to release your book. I’ve found the best way to navigate this is take the view that all of these suggestions are possible tools to use. I decided the key is maximizing my book’s exposure, so I pick the highest reward tools that I’m comfortable with, knowing that I’ll need to push those a bit harder to make up for the ones that I don’t use (many thanks to David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Digital for that advice.)
So this marketing plan might not work for you, it might not even work for me, but it has made it easier for me to get out there and do a lot of the things that I think need to be done.
Maximizing My Book’s Exposure
So how did I decide what would be the highest reward tools? I used author Nicholas Erik’s study as a starting point. He looked carefully at how different marketing campaigns impacted the Amazon algorithms and sales. Now, these worked for him and there’s no guarantee they will work for me, but at least it’s a plan. He identified that there were three marketing methods that had the most impact:
- Your author newsletter: This means getting people to subscribe to my blog. I feel like this is what “building an author brand” translates to in real terms. I am directing people to my website where they can sign up for my updates.
- Amazon recommendations/reviews: The key to this is getting people to read your book and leaving reviews, particularly influential bloggers.
- Pay per click campaigns: The three main tools Erik identified were Facebook boosts, Amazon AMS and Bookbub PPC.
While the third bullet point is primarily a matter of spending money, how do I plan to go about achieving the first two, especially being a natural introvert? I found two websites particularly helpful: Bad Redhead Media and Your Writer Platform. There are great posts on both sites from people who have had success with book marketing. What I found especially helpful was the way that many of them broke their success down into practical, achievable steps. I mainly used two posts, which I link at the bottom of this page, to design my marketing plan.
One other observation from Nicholas Erik that I should add is that he found that Amazon rewards the slow burn approach in its algorithms, rather than the big splash launch, which I think is better suited for traditional publishing.
The New Phase 3 (Marketing) In Detail
Note that the timing of the steps listed below will overlap across the time periods I’ve identified. I’m mainly sorting them by when I think I should begin the steps described.
1. Build my author brand
1.1 Continue working on my website: While I like the snazzy look of this new website, I’m going to keep building up a repository of posts that give me a unique voice, particular posts that might be of interest to readers of historical fiction and YA.
1.2 Put works onto Wattpad and this website: I’ll be posting sample chapters from Sparrow Squadron. I have seen some examples of authors putting up entire novels for an initial period on Wattpad, before cutting it down to just a large excerpt. There are also short stories that I’ve written and haven’t published yet. The tricky part is that none of my short stories are YA historical fiction, but I think there may be overlap in reader interest with my steampunk military fantasy stories. Building up a Wattpad audience is its own project, but there’s good articles on doing that here and here.
2. Connect with bloggers, podcasters, booktubers
This can be very daunting, especially for an introvert, so I find it helpful to break things down into lots of little, achievable steps
2.1 Identify potential reviewers: This can come from website lists of bloggers, as well as finding the top reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads. This isn’t a matter of being cynical and valuing some reviewers above others. The fact is, there’s so many reviewers out there, if I don’t keep the list of people I interact with manageable, I’ll never get noticed. It also doesn’t help to simply find the reviewers with the biggest followings. The reviewers need to be interested in the story I have to tell and they have to write about things that I’m interested in, so there can be a genuine, unforced connection.
2.2 Forge connections: All the tools are there. These people can be contacted by social media, they’ll have blogs to follow and comment on, they may be part of the same interest-based Facebook groups. This has actually been the most rewarding part of this process. Writing can be such a lonely journey, it has been fantastic to be able to talk to new people from around the world every day. When you have common interests, you can have fun and learn a lot at the same time.
2.3 Query for reviews: If I did step 2.1 properly, I will have read all review policies and will not be wasting anyone’s time. Top reviewers are busy people (they’re constantly reading, after all) so their time needs to be respected. And they don’t owe me anything. They’ll be doing me a big favour by reviewing my book. Most of the rules for interacting with potential reviewers stem from common sense and common courtesy, which apparently are not all that common!
3. Blog tour
I haven’t fully researched this one yet. There are a lot of providers out there, for a fee, so it pays to see which ones fellow authors have given the best feedback for. One of the main benefits I’ll be looking for is access to blogs that might not normally review unsolicited self-published authors.
After the Book is Available for Presale
4. Paid posts – Facebook, Amazon AMS, Bookbub PPC
This step isn’t as simple as sit sounds, as there are different ways to approach paid advertising. Often, it seems there is a bit of trial and error to see what works for a particular book. Again, I’ll do some more research on this as the time draws closer. To play my own devil’s advocate, I’ve noted one author who wrote about their disappointment when using paid Amazon advertising.
5. Traditional Media
This will involve writing up press releases and trying to get into local newspapers. My local community paper often spotlights new releases by local authors. I could also try the alternative weeklies. There’s limited upside to doing this, but I don’t think it hurts and you never know whose attention you might catch.
6. Newsletter/Social Media Promotions
At this point, I think I am mainly talking about running contests, giveaways and pricing deals. Again, more research to come later.
7. Other Outlets
All over the internet, I’ve found loads of ways to think outside the box when it comes to book marketing.
- I live in a big city, so I could pound the pavement to gain traction with some indie bookshops.
- It’s been suggested that donating books to BookCrossing.com can circulate them into the world and generate reviews and word of mouth.
- Libraries are another often overlooked source of readership. Toronto has an extensive library system that supports local authors and I know some librarians, so I’ll be researching how to get on the radar of library acquisitions. Getting into Toronto libraries may also open the door to other library systems.
- Because my novel is aimed at Young Adults and has a strong historically accurate component, I think it would fit well with school reading lists. I’ll see if my teacher friends can help in my research as to how to get on these lists.
- Finally, I need to always be ready to find readers anywhere. I’ll try to have paper copies available to give away. I’ll also see if anyone on social media is offering to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads if I send them the ebook.
Items I’m Not Sure About
Net Galley is a paid service that posts your ebook to registered users to review. The reviewers on Net Galley tend to be influential reviewers and bloggers. They also pride themselves on leaving honest reviews, good or bad. The jury is still out as to how much this is worth compared to the considerable cost. Net Galley is often used by big publishers to generate lots of reviews, so it’s hard for an independent author to break through. Here is one indie author’s somewhat inconclusive experience.
I have a suspicion that writers’ conferences and festivals are probably more beneficial for people hoping to break into traditional publishing, where pitching and querying is paramount. That said, I know indie authors who make connections from getting booths at these shows, but I imagine the gains might not outweigh the cost. More research is required.
What I’ve Decided Against
Other Paid Review Services
Beyond Net Galley, there are services that will pay people to review your book. From what I’ve seen, this seems to be one of those industries exploiting the explosion in self-published authors and not very helpful.
Book publicists are quite expensive, and they perform many of the same tasks I’ve outlined above. I think their work is more suited to traditionally published books and people who can afford it and are not up to building their own “author platform.”
Phew, that’s a long post by my standards. I hope the info I’ve shared can be of some use, and that getting all the way down here hasn’t been as painful as the picture at the top.
So what’s next for me? While the editor, cover designer and artist are working away, it’s time for me to finish that blurb and start making that list of bloggers. And, as always, TRUST THE PROCESS!
Here are those great posts that really helped me to put together my plan: