Promotion is the part of self-publishing that, frankly, terrifies me. There’s an old adage that “anyone can publish a book. The hard part is selling it.”
In a recent blog post, Kindle bestseller Kerry Wilkinson says that it is the marketing that really sets apart a professionally published book from a self-published one. The interest that a billboard advert can generate is simply staggering.
Wilkinson is a best-seller and few of us have ambitions to mirror that level of success and coverage. At smaller publishers, authors frequently get a fortnight of promotion before the publication date, as well as a couple of weeks after. Marketing Departments are busy and have a lot of other books to promote. Having said that, these departments know their stuff. They can get their authors an appearance on the radio, a serialisation in a national daily, and, best of all, a TV slot. I heard of one author who appeared on CNN and almost immediately received thousands of hits on her blog per hour. However, her book was non-fiction, something which can easily catch the interest of the public in the way that a new genre novel may not.
Nevertheless, there are ways of getting your message out there. Christopher Jory self-published a book about RAF Bomber command in the Second World War. He successfully promoted that through a series of personal appearances at Waterstones, a UK chain of bookshops. His technique was to use a mannequin in authentic RAF regalia to attract interest in his book. The best approach is get people to come to you. I have heard other stories of self-published authors who would chase customers around the shop trying to push their book into their hands. They were never invited back.
However successful personal appearances are, the main way to promote your book is through online channels.
First of all setting up a blog on sites like Blogspot and WordPress is a good way of joining a community of readers and writers. If you want people to read your self-published work, you have to return the favour. There is a degree of snobbery about this that seems to preoccupy newspaper columnists. They imply that if people read your book because they’re also writing one, that in some way this devalues them as readers. What nonsense. That’s like suggesting that soccer fans aren’t real fans of a major team if they happen to play in a Sunday league.
Amazing Stories blogger John Siebelink passed on this suggestion of how to work with your fellow bloggers:
Send copies of the work to some of the many bloggers who review books. Their reviews are a great (and usually free) way of getting a book known and have greatly helped some of my good friends sell their own self-published books.
Self-publishing maestro Michael J Sullivan describes Amazon reviews as key. He even argues that a self-published author should not bother promoting a book until they have 10-15 reviews for their book on the site, to establish some sort of credibility. As a highly successful self-published author, Michael also advises use of Goodreads above all, a site where people can review, discuss and share ideas about books. It is excellent, and I signed up as a member after reading his post on gathering reviews. Sullivan now enjoys mainstream success, with his books being released by major players, such as Orbit. (His latest work, Hollow World is released by Tachyon Publications).
Fellow Amazing Stories blogger, John Dodds had an unusual take on building up a readership:
Consider giving your first novel away free. Consider making a podcast novel. Podiobooks.com is a good way to potentially build an audience (Scott Sigler started that way, and I got my first two commercial audiobook deals from having podcast my first novel myself).
Promotion-wise, a giveaway is one route to hoovering up readers. One such is Kindle Direct Publishing Free Book Promotions.
If you self-publish on the Kindle, you can put your book up for free download during a specified time period. Morris Allen mentioned this as one technique for finding new readers, albeit with a caveat:
KDP free days worked well, but erratically—anywhere from <50 downloads to several thousand. I could never pin down what made one time different from another.
For users of other platforms, Morris also notes that
Goodreads doesn’t allow e-book giveaways, but people get around it. LibraryThing has a nice giveaway tool specifically for giveaways to reviewers.
Michael J Sullivan also suggests targeting particular bloggers who would be interested in your book as the best candidates for a giveaway. For a far more detailed look at this world, his articles are highly recommended:
- Author’s Guide to Self Promotion
- Do’s and Don’ts of Getting your Book Reviewed
- How to get your book reviewed
- An author’s guide to goodreads
- Marketing Resources for Book Promotion
- Getting your books free on Amazon
- Making the Most of your Amazon Categories
- Tips for writing book marketing copy
So after starting out completely bewildered regarding promotion and marketing, I’m now feeling ready for the fray. But first I need to set the book to type and develop the cover. And that’s what I’ll be talking about next time.
Next time: designing the cover image.