How to market your book? Well, the hard part is writing it. After that it’s easy; you just stick it on Amazon and sit back and count the money as it rolls in.
Oh wait, I wasn’t asked to write a piece of fiction… So, ignore that first sentence. Except, naively, that is pretty much the way I approached things in the beginning. After all, how can you know, when you’ve just published a book, what to do next?
I don’t have a marketing or statistics degree. I’m not naturally ‘pushy’ (and I don’t mean that word pejoratively.) In common with many authors, I suspect, I am an introvert. I communicate by writing, be it books, articles, or messages on Facebook. Face to face, I could no more brazenly ask someone to buy my book than I could gracefully roller-skate backwards whilst wrestling an irate baboon.
So this is not a piece about book fairs, organising talks or book signings. I actually live such a long way away from anywhere that few would be worth my while, financially, or logistically. Pavement pounding is not an option for me.
But it is possible to market ‘remotely’, and writers, unlike singers or actors, are well-placed to do this; we can hide, and still make ourselves known.
There are many advertising platforms out there – Bookbub, for example. I have no experience but I’ve heard mixed messages. Similarly I suspect the whole “get a certain number of reviews and Amazon will promote your book” thing is probably a myth. I have 37 and 20 reviews on Amazon UK for each of my books, and I know that when people search for a book that’s similar to mine, it will tell them that other people bought my books. My husband once had an email from them suggesting he buy my book!
I probably don’t do anything like enough in the way of marketing, but at the risk of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, here’s what I do, and how I do it:
Facebook promos do work, up to a point (you will need to set up an author page to do this.) But while I once paid for an advert which FB told me reached 10,000 people, I recently got a reach of nearly 13,000 simply by posting, for free. It was a simple link to one of my blog posts, and I must just have accidentally touched upon a popular theme. It was magic. It must have been, because it certainly wasn’t science!
So, blog about your subject, not about your book. Be subtle. The added benefit here is that people will discover that you know a lot about your subject and will ‘trust’ you to tell them a good story.
Mutual blogging is worthwhile because it reaches new audiences. But you must spread the word -share their posts, as well as your own, across your social media platforms. If anyone asks me to appear on their blog, I always try to reciprocate. If someone asks you to get a piece to them by a certain date, then, just as in all business, do it. Bloggers work to deadlines too, so it’s only courteous to get the materials to them when, or before, they are due.
Be professional and approachable – you are marketing yourself as much as your book. I once had cause to contact an author about a problem with ordering their books. Their reply was so brusque and ungracious that I cancelled my order and never read their books. It might not matter to them, but I’d hate to think I’d had that effect on anyone. When something similar happened to me, I remembered the incident and offered to send out a copy of my book to the person who’d contacted me. It cost me a sale, but it gained me goodwill.
You are building a brand, and you are the brand ambassador. You will have some ‘loss leaders’ in the form of giveaways. You might have a flurry of sales post-publication, but then it’s mainly a case of playing the long game. Unless you only plan to write one book, you are marketing yourself as a writer, not simply trying to sell one product.
As well as mutual blogging, be supportive of other authors. Be friendly, build up a reputation for professionalism, and it can lead to other things. Out of the blue last year, I was asked to join a project with eight other authors, some indie, some not, and quite a few who were Indie BRAG honourees. This project became 1066 Turned Upside Down, and hit #1 in the Amazon rankings.
This in turn led on to my current project, an anthology for Pen & Sword Books. I’m sure I would not have been asked to do this had I not been involved with the 1066 project. As this new project is non-fiction, I’m considering writing a short story as a companion piece, which I hope will garner some more publicity for the project.
Meanwhile, what else can you do? Win awards! Easy, right? Well, sometimes it can be relatively straightforward. Submit your book to IndieBRAG, for starters. If you have a product that’s worth buying, then it will pass these particular gate-keepers and you’ve got something you can use in promotion – IndieBRAG will add the logo to your book cover image. It’s an endorsement, and makes people more likely to buy. Similarly, search out reviewers (and here’s one of your loss leaders – you will have to send them your book, but you’ll hopefully get a good review, which you can then publicise. Ripples in the pond…)
But, ah, promotion. Don’t do it. Not as such, anyway. No-one will respond to screams of “buy my book.”
Get off social media and out to other audiences but beware, magazine adverts are expensive, and you will be hounded every month to take out yet more adverts. Set a budget and stick to it. Even a tiny advert in the classifieds can cost £200.
So think about the kind of people who might buy your genre fiction. I recently took out a relatively inexpensive advert on a site that blogs about the Anglo-Saxons, and sales rose. As a direct result? I’m not sure (as I said, I’m no statistician.) Sometime I see a spike in sales and have genuinely no idea why. Likewise there can be no obvious reason for a slump.
Social media takes hours, yes it does. Set out a way of making it work for you. Use TweetDeck or Hootsuite. Be nice to people, make sure the traffic isn’t all one-way. Respond, be chatty. While you’re there, be alert for any threads in which you could legitimately talk about your book. But don’t immediately post a link. Wait to be asked. Time-consuming, I know, but worth it.
Find readers on social media, but make friends with them first and foremost. No-one will take kindly to your joining a readers’ group only to bombard them with details of your book.
Likewise, don’t annoy people by sending material to inappropriate places. Check who you are sending your press releases etc to. At the EHFA Blog (English Historical Fiction Authors) we regularly get approaches from people wanting us to review, say, their contemporary novel set in LA. Wrong on three counts – we don’t review, we don’t do contemporary, and we only do British History!
Decide when and for how long you will log in to your social media sites each day, and stick to it. Yes, some things will help, and campaigns are good, but an everyday balance is required, especially for Indie authors – you need to make sure that you still have time to write, build your business steadily, and maybe sleep occasionally?
Both of Annie’s novels have received IndieBRAG Medallions. She writes novels, stories and articles about Anglo-Saxon England, is a member of the Royal Historical Society, and is an Editor for the EHFA (English Historical Fiction Authors) Blog, as well as being part of the HNS (Historical Novel Society) Social Media Team.
Or on her Blog
Excellent post, Annie. Thank you for all your useful advice!
Spot on, Annie. Totally agree! If I could tell my younger author self (of just five years ago) only one piece of advice, it would be that you are running a marathon in career building, not a sprint. Or to put it another way, you are driving a Mack truck, not a race car. It takes a 40 ton truck a lot more time to get up to speed than a Maserati!
Great article, Annie. Enjoyed reading and have taken your excellent advice on board.
Great article and very helpful, thank you Annie