Promotion, especially for new Indie Authors, can look like a harrowing hike up Mount Kilimanjaro—fraught with slippery slopes, hair-raising heights, and dangerous cliffs. But it doesn’t have to be, not if you take it one step at a time. So let’s tighten our bootstraps and take a little hike.
Interact With Readers
These days, nearly every author I know has a blog. If you don’t have one, start one. Some authors focus on writerly content. I choose to go In All Directions (pun fully intended as this is the name of my blog). The way I see it, I am my brand. I’m selling ME. I want to attract readers by just being me—fun, positive, and upbeat—so I write blog posts from that slant. Yes, every now and then I write about the publishing business, but most of my posts are more personal. I’ll relate stories about locations I’ve visited or funny situations I’ve found myself in, I’ll offer quotes I find inspiring or some damned good recipes. I’m selling me, and that works for me. Blog about whatever interests you. For a few tips on blogging, read this. Above all else, aim to entertain and engage.
Now let’s talk about other social media. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Tumblr, and I use all of these accounts often. I find readers everywhere I go. I befriend and chat with everyone who looks the least bit interested in books—romance novels, in particular. However, these social media sites can become a time-sink, so limit your interaction to a certain number of hours per week.
People like free stuff. And ebook giveaways are an inexpensive way to show readers that you appreciate them. Every book that’s given away has the potential to lead to the sale of one or more of your titles. I offer my readers free ebooks and signed paperback copies for every milestone I reach. When my Facebook page reached 100 “Likes,” I gave away some ebooks, and I just gave away a paperback copy of my newest release because that same Facebook page has now reached 1000 “Likes.” Each and every giveaway is greeted with enthusiasm by my readers, and I think the giveaways compel new readers to “like” and follow my posts. Will every recipient of a free book become a die-hard fan of your work? No. But product sampling and giveaways have always been, and will continue to be, a solid marketing strategy.
Compile a Mailing List
Contact with readers is crucial. Whenever I have a new release available, I send out a special mailing to all the readers who have ever sent me fan mail. I have added a feature on my blog that allows readers to subscribe via e-mail. I know some authors who use Mail Chimp and like the service very much. It might sound tedious, but you should get into the habit of saving every reader’s contact information you can. You’ll be pleased by how many readers appreciate hearing about your achievements, and many of them will respond by buying your book.
Concentrate on Small Marketing Pursuits
Think of small review blogs as you would independent bookstores that “hand sell” books. Each blog has followers, some might have a dozen, others might have a thousand or more, and you can bet that some of the followers are devoted to the blogs they frequent. Submit your books to appropriate blogs for review. Or contact book bloggers and offer to do author interviews, a book giveaway, or a cover reveal for a new release. How do you find appropriate blogs? Well, I read a great tip on Writers In The Storm blog. In his guest post entitled An Insider’s Look at Today’s Book Reviewers, book reviewer BigAl suggested:
There are tens of thousands of book blogs to choose from. One way to quickly find those most likely to be a good fit is to find a directory of blogs in your genre or other niche. Google “YA Book blog directory” and you’ll find this directory of over 1,300 blogs that specialize in reviewing Young Adult books. Doing the same search on “indie book blog list” you’ll find The IndieView (a site I happen to run) that has a database of several hundred book blogs that are open to reviewing “indie books” (those that are self-published or published by small presses) with details on genre preferences and links to the site. Any search with your genre, “book blog” and a word like directory, list, or database as search terms will uncover multiple lists.
When it comes to paid promos, there are many small but effective sites that offer to feature books. Some of them are (PLEASE check to make sure pricing hasn’t changed before submitting your books):
People Reads (free)
Pixel of Ink (free)
Awesome Romance Novels (a site I run)
Digital Book Today
Addicted To eBooks
GalleyCat offers a list of Free Sites to Promote Your eBook.
Your goal is to sprinkle yourself all over the internet so that when anyone uses Google to search your name or one of your titles, there are many, many sites that pop up where you can be found.
Encourage Readers to Review
Reviews posted by readers impact Amazons algorithms and have an effect on your book’s sales ranking. In my opinion, the best reviews are those that are purely from-the-heart and reader-driven. However, I can’t count the number of times I have heard people tell me they’re incapable of writing a review or afraid to do so. Sometimes they need a little encouragement. Some authors shy away from asking for reviews from their readers, but I see such a request as an investment in my book. I always include a personal “from the author” letter at the end of my novels. I thank readers for taking the time to read my story, and I ask, if they enjoyed the book, that they to consider writing a short review. I explain that good reviews help other readers to find my books.
Once in a while, put some serious, solid advertising dollars behind your book. I have found great success in my paid promotions at Ereader News Today and BookBub as well as other promo sites. Of course, this suggestion depends greatly on your marketing budget. If you’re not able to invest this deeply, you can save this suggestion for later on in your career. But if you can afford it, these sites are well worth the cost.
Ereader News Today has a fantastic pricing system where the author is charged 25% of the total number earned on the book sales made directly from their site. As far as I know, no other site calculates their pricing this way. I wish more sites would because it means every ad is a money-maker for the author.
Let me warn you, BookBub is expensive. Period. However, I have never lost money on a BookBub ad. What you have to remember is, every time you sell a book, that book is going to show up in one more “also bought” bar on Amazon; 300 or 500 or 700 books sold, means you have 300 or 500 or 700 potential new ways for readers to find your title.
A word of warning: new book promotion sites are cropping up all over the internet. Do what you can to check out the sites before investing your hard-earned money. Ask other authors if they’ve used the site. Word-of-mouth testimonials from people you trust are probably the best deterrent against squandering your marketing budget. Oh, and I should mention Alexa; it’s a great tool that supplies analytics for any website.
Remember, when it comes to marketing, don’t be afraid to try something new and innovative. All advertising dollars you spend are tax deductible, and investing in your “product” is a good thing.
Remember that you are in this for the long haul. Also remember that YOU are in control. The marketing techniques that work for one author might not work for another, so you have to be willing to try different paths up the marketing mountain. A creative and innovative approach to your marketing tactics will pay off as you plant your flag at the peak with more followers, fans, and book sales.
Now that I’ve mapped out my trail, what critical marketing tips can you offer new Indies?
Donna Fasano wrote for Harlequin Books for 20 years. Her HQ books won her three HOLT Medallions, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Finalist Award, and an RWA RITA Finalist Award. In 2010, she began to self-publish her romance novels. Her indie books have won her a Books & Pals Reviewers Choice Award and an eFestival of Words Book Fair Finalist Award. Her books have sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide, have been published in nearly two dozen languages, and have made both the Kindle and Nook Top 100 Paid Lists numerous times. Learn more about Donna from her website and her Amazon author page.