You've put in the hours or, more realistically, weeks, months, or even years of creating your masterpiece. Writing, rewriting, editing, and rewriting some more, followed by layout, design, copyediting, proofing, and the countless small tasks involved in preparing your book for publication are finally behind you.
Now your book is done, and the publication date lies ahead. You heave a sigh of relief and savour this triumph. Then it hits youI have to sell this thing!
For some writers, finishing the book alone is enough. And it's true, writing a book is a laudable accomplishment on its own. Bask in that triumph!
But, for most authors, the desire to be read is almost as fierce as the desire to write. Chances are you're hoping to reach audiences beyond just your friends and family. However, the quickest glance at any bookstore or online retailer shows a market absolutely saturated with self-published works. In recent years, the number of self-published books has exceeded one million annually. So, how do you break through the glut and let the world know about your incredible book?
The answer is marketing. However, what that actually entails, and how it works, can be somewhat mysterious, especially for first-time authors. Here's the basics of self-published book marketing to help you get started on unleashing your masterwork upon the masses.
"Marketing" is a term that comes loaded with a lot of associations, not always positive. Writers are notoriously touchy about selling themselves or their workand often rightfully so. But, marketing your book doesn't have to mean compromising your vision.
At heart, marketing simply means creating and cultivating relationships with customers and audiences, often focused around specific products. That doesn't have to equate to pushy sales tactics or tricks.
As a writer, the product you're selling is, yes, your book. But it's also your ideas, stories, and personal vision. In that sense, marketing can be seen as simply another extension of how you present, share, and develop that vision. Think of marketing as just another dimension to the story your book tells.
One of the great benefits of self-publishing is the degree of control you wield over the final product. The downside, of course, is that you're also responsible for all aspects of creating that book, not just the fun partsand when mistakes are inevitably made, they're yours to reckon with.
The same goes for marketing. With marketing a self-published book, how you introduce your vision to the world is entirely yours to shape. And yet, you're also saddled with the hard workand, all too often, the disappointmentthat goes into making those introductions. All the more reason to have a realistic, practical marketing plan in place as early as possible.
There are as many philosophies toward self-publishing book marketing as there are books out there in the retail market. What works best, and what doesn't at all, is a highly contentious debate. Here's a few starting points.
Ready to launch. One of the best ways to get the word out is with a book launch. A well-timed and well-planned book promotion event is a great way to announce a book's publication and potentially attract local media coverage. Make it a party (albeit a literary one): invite a band to play, or host it in an unconventional location, maybe even one relevant to your book's subject.
Take it live. Presenting your work in front of audiences is an aspect of book promotion some authors adore and some loathe. But personal appearances can be a time-tested and effective way to capture eager reader's attention. Hit up your favourite local bookstore to see if they'd be interested. Pitch yourself to literary festivals and reading events. Wow the crowd and keep a stash of books for sale on you at all times.
Pitch, pitch, and push. In the weeks up to your release, send out a catchy but succinct press release about your book to relevant publications: literary blogs, weeklies, magazines, literary journals.
The key to making this work is to be realistic. A self-published author simply isn't going to be covered in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph. Instead, target publications specific to your genre or intended audience. Don't send off your book to a generic address in hopes of reaching an editor. You're better off reaching out with a personal appeal to a reviewer whose tastes intersect with yours. If you don't hear back immediately, follow up a few weeks later. Just don't annoy the very people you hope to impress.
Try advertising (or don't). Take out ads in print or online publications if your budget allows, but don't make this the focus of your campaign. A $5,000 ad in the New York Times promoting an unknown author is simply burning money. Unless you're a household name, readers rarely respond to this kind of advertising on its own. Which leads us to an important principle to keep in mind
Word of mouth is everything. Large publishing houses have publicity budgets that are the envy of every small press or independent author. But there are countless cases where even a massive push couldn't sell a book that readers simply didn't latch onto. Most of us buy books based on recommendations by friends or reviewers whose tastes we trust.
Social Networking. Yes, social networking is interwoven into our daily lives. And yes, those ads you see repeatedly on Facebook do attract eyeballs. But how effective they really are remains highly debated in the world of self-publishing marketing. Social networking is most effective when treated not just as a one-sided advertising conduit, but as a forum for creating relationships with readers. With thousands of books competing for attention, your "push" is only as effective as the content you create.
Get the word out on Goodreads, Twitter, and other networks, but create posts that will stimulate and entertain potential readers. Share compelling content related to your book's themes. If your work relates to a particular political or social issue, post provocative writing on your topic.
Many authors also swear by regular email newsletters. These shouldn't just repeat your press release. Use this as an opportunity to show off your authorial voice. Create engaging content in your unique style that people actually want to readfollowed by a quick reminder of where they can buy your book.
Hit the road. If you're truly ambitious, and can manage the time and expense, embark on a book tour. Find bookstores, reading series, or literary communities in other cities and pitch yourself for appearances. Warning: this isn't a tactic for the faintheartedbe prepared for the classic experience of driving many miles only to face empty chairs.
Keep up momentum. It can be discouraging when, mere weeks after your launch, your book seems to disappear from the public's radar. But remember, readers want great books, regardless of when they come out. Follow up on initial pitches and keep plugging your book as if it's new, and most people won't even know it's months or years old.
Don't get frustrated! The truth is, marketing and promoting a book is tough, often dispiriting work. Even celebrated authors often face small crowds of ambivalent audiences and dismissive reviewers, so look at every setback as a badge of honour; you are now among their ranks. Every venture can be a learning experience for your next book. Focus on winning over your audience not as some faceless mass of consumers, but as readers, one at a time.
|Tags: Andy McDermott / Director|