Publishing a book yourself is fun as well as hard work. But if you are going to sell your book, you need to adopt some commercial principles and practicalities. We often hear “sales and marketing” bracketed together, but they are two distinctly different things, although intimately connected.
Marketing as a way of building awareness of yourself, your work and your brand, thus creating a demand in the customer’s mind so that they will seek you out – basically, the battle for the mind.
Sales, on the other hand, is focused on persuading the customer to buy by meeting a need at the right time. But readers can be turned off by overly aggressive sales tactics.
Now I love talking to readers face to face and sharing the fun and fascination of my Roma Nova books with them. But there’s a lot of work leading up to the point when you sell that reader your book, and that’s all about marketing.
So let’s get down to marketing
The pre-requisite is a good product. A well-edited story, with professional layout and design, a great back cover blurb and stunning cover are all taken as given. (Well, the B.R.A.G. Medallion award sorts that out!)
Marketing is more than simply telling your readers your books are on sale or where they can buy them. It needs systematic planning, implementation and control and should include a broad range of activities, be long term and build on a brand. You need to look at the retailers, especially how titles and genres similar to yours are marketed. Public relations, advertising, promotional offers and customer feedback all come into the mix.
If this sounds daunting, you can start by making a list, chart or spreadsheet with goals, dates and types of activity.
Things to consider
- What makes your book unique? How is it different from others on the market?
- Who is going to buy it? Do you know the age, social background, type of interests of the most likely readers?
- Budget – do the free things first
- Time – be ruthless. Like most people you probably don’t have infinite time for marketing. This is why it’s essential to plan your activities and resist the urge to become diverted by e.g. checking up on friends on social media.
- Some techniques (mostly free)
Online presence – If you are publishing online you must make yourself known there. ‘Building your platform’, i.e. having your website/blog up and running before you publish your book will establish you in the eyes of potential readers. Pre-publication, you are aiming to build trust and interest about the subject area of your book. Post-publication you are reinforcing the value of your book by posting reviews, photos of events, attendance at conferences, talks you give.
On Amazon, apply to Author Central to set up an Author Page. It’s really easy to complete and enhances your online profile. And ensure you set them up on at least Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.
Reviews – Ask anybody you know – friends, acquaintances and colleagues – to read your book and post an honest review on Amazon; potential buyers are more willing to buy books other people like. If you can get an established author or specialist in your field to write one, that will give a tremendous boost. Do not dragoon your mother or BFF to post a 5 star review saying your book is so marvellous it’s a shoe-in for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Showcase your book on your website or blog with direct links to a buying page and/or to retail sites, particularly Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Post an excerpt, informative blogs about the background, awards or mentions in the national or local media.
Guests – invite other authors or people who are authorities on your book’s subject or period to be a guest and answer questions. Aim to keep guests within your genre. And ask other bloggers if you can be a guest on theirs. The gold dust is if they will review it.
Talk about your book – not invasively, but prepare a short and succinct sentence about your book so that you’re ready when asked.
Give talks at local attractions and events – if asked, always say yes; this is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Libraries, schools (if appropriate), clubs, associations, lunch groups and of course book clubs are always looking for speakers, especially ‘fresh meat’. If your book has a historical or local theme, shops attached to visitor attractions may be happy to stock it. Much more about the nitty-gritty of organising your event here
Social media (essential)
- A Twitter account, but use it to socialise and build up your personality; only 10% of your tweets should be ‘buy my book!’
- A Facebook page which is an add-on to your normal Facebook personal profile. Here you can build up a following by posting content about your writing, books, the background to your book, from your own blog and from other places.
- Support other writers and their activities; you won’t lose out by giving and you will gain some good digital friends who will support you in turn
- Be authentic – a phoney can be spotted very quickly – but remember that everything you put on social media is public. So that picture of you falling off a donkey with a glass in your hand on holiday may be hilarious, but isn’t one that will enhance your writing image
Marketing materials (not free)
Postcards and bookmarks really are essential – they are your book’s calling cards. I carry postcards in my handbag, in the car, in my hand luggage on airplanes and take a good supply to any events and insert matching bookmarks into print books I sell at events as a little bonus.
The jury is still out on how effective these are, but if you’re a computer geek, you can make your own with iMovie (Mac) or Moviemaker (Windows). If in doubt, ask a professional, but it will cost you money.
This is a milestone event for your book, especially if it’s your first. It doesn’t matter that you’re not (yet) famous, if it’s only a little family memoir or “just an ebook”. You’ve slaved away, often over years, dedicating all your spare hours, thinking about the book when not writing it and you’ve finally got there. Of course, you need to celebrate! It doesn’t have to be an upmarket literary lunch, nor does it have to be in a bookshop, nor need hundreds of attendees. It can be a simple drinks evening at home with a few informal words and a nod to a pile of your books. Alternatively, you could hold a Facebook online party with contests, guests and giveaways. Although free, it takes a lot of organising! But however you do it, do celebrate!
These are some marketing basics; this is an enormous area to cover in a simple post, but keep looking online for further tips and hints as trends change. And good luck!
Alison posts more writing life tips on her author blog
Four of Alison Morton’s Roma Nova thrillers – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and AURELIA – have been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion. The fifth, INSURRECTIO is under submission.
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site
Facebook author page