May 9th, 2012
Getting a book written and uploaded is only the first step. Self-publishing is a long, hard road. You’ve probably thought of creating your own blog (gee, I did) and telling your friends. But there are tons of other things to do that you may or may not have considered (many I wouldn’t recommend). But, let’s talk about them anyhow.
Let me start with the fact that a quick Google search will reveal that each and every one of these methods (and probably more) are a SURE-FIRE WAY TO GET NOTICED! The Internet declares it so. But the key for each of the different types of marketing is not the method, but how well you use it. I believe that the deciding factor in the success of each methodology is not the inherent strength, but how well that method compliments your personality.
Getting on Lists
There are lists out there. Tons of them. If you are offering your first book for free – and I highly recommend that you do – getting on lists is a cinch. Just do a Google search for your particular genre, ebook, and free and you’ll end up with more than a few recommendations. I like to seek out book review blogs. Many will have a weekly “new and free” post that lists a few of the books that they came across. Believe me, if you can provide them your information, they’ll be happy to post it. This is a fairly easy and painless way of drumming up some recognition. It is, however, fairly time-consuming on your part (that’s going to be a common theme in getting noticed).
Virtual Book Tours
There are services that will set up Virtual Book Tours for you or you can do it yourself. This involves hours and hours of work in coordination, emails, and lots more. A virtual book tour involves seeking out blogs that either talk about or review eBooks and trying to coordinate a period of time where you or your book will show up. Usually, it’ll go for a couple of weeks or more. If you plan far enough ahead, you can have them review your book (this can be dangerous as you never know how the review will come out and a bad one could derail everything you’re trying to do) or you can offer to guest post. These will usually cover topics that, in some way, pertain to your book. So, if you wrote a YA (Young Adult) novel, you might do a guest post about how to get into the head of a high schooler.
The idea behind the Virtual Book Tour is to get a lot of people to buy your book in a short period of time. Since Amazon and others post “Top 100″ lists, rocketing your book to the top (or near the top) can create a sort of momentum that is self-perpetuating. After the tour ends, and your book is near the top of the list, people looking for books in your genre find your book more easily because they generally don’t read past the first few entries/pages. So you have a higher likelihood of making sales because you are on the top of the list and you stay on the top of the list because you have more sales.
If you can get this to work for you, let me know. I haven’t bothered. Virtual Book Tours sound exhausting, but I’m sure they can work.
Some of you may view the Virtual Book Tour as a way of scamming the system. And…I guess you have a point. But it is a legitimate way. As is asking your previous readers who have been waiting for your book to come out to hold off buying it until a specific day. Since it is the one day sales that determines your place on the Top Whatever list, having people wait is the same as having them all decide to buy at the same time because of a post on a popular blog. But there are other ways.
One of the most deplorable ways of scamming Amazon, in my mind, is the fake review. This goes beyond a family member with a blind-spot for your faults raving about you. There are groups of authors out there that band together and give each other glowing reviews to “trick” other people into your book. You’ll see these on Amazon all the time and I actively refuse to buy any book that displays this behavior (or anything else from that author for that matter).
You’ll know these underhanded tatics by the disparity in the reviews. There will be a slew of five-star reviews with a couple of really bad ones. The bad ones will usually start with something like, “I don’t know what book these other reviewers was reading…” They go on to point out really elementary mistakes and that they feel like they’ve been cheated. That’s not the feeling I want my readers to have so I always, ALWAYS encourage people to give honest reviews. Good or bad, knowing what to expect is often enough. If I know going in that there are some spelling errors, I’ll overlook them. But if all I read is five-star reviews and I find spelling errors on the first page, I’m going to be pissed.
If you are member of a forum in good standing, and they allow signatures, I highly recommend you add a link to your book in your signature. If you are a popular member, you should create a post in one of the off-topic areas. You should also add a signature line to your email preferences with a link to your book. It just makes sense.
I’ve read a lot of recommendations about joining forums just so that you can talk about your book. I did that at first with writing forums. If you can find the time, it is a fine thing to do. As long as you remember that the forum is there to address the topic at hand. It is not there so that you can pimp your book. That’s the sort of spam that will get you perma-banned pretty quickly. And rightly so. But if, like me, you can’t find the time to really contribute to a forum but you honestly think the members might be interested in your book, I recommend joining, PM’ing (private messaging) a moderator, and asking for permission to post about your book. They are usually ok with that.
Lastly, there are places like Goodreads and Amazon with forums that can get you a lot of attention. If you write a good enough post, it could generate you a lot of sales. The threads dedicated specifically to announcing books are pretty much useless in my experience. There are just too many posts. For forums, in general, you should either join and ask for permission to post about your book or join and really contribute. If you join, post about your book, and leave, you’re likely to be immediately banned and have your post be removed. Any of the forum members (people that might have otherwise been interested in your book) that saw your post will be turned off to your actions and may avoid your work.
I can’t stress this enough, reviews are likely to make or break your book. You’ve got to have them. With all the choices people have out there, a large number of reviews on a book, even mediocre ones, will make people stop and take notice.
It’s hard to remember when people are saying bad things about your book, but people aren’t stupid. They can read through a review, even a negative one, and filter out the stuff that doesn’t matter to them. I’ve seen it happen over and over. Even though any sort of negative in a review feels like someone punched you in the gut while slapping your wife across the face, you have to remember that any review is better than no review. Look at the reviews of your favorite book. You’re going to find some absolutely horrendous reviews. Remember that.
My recommendation is to seek out popular book review blogs. This is going to be a time consuming process. You want to look for blogs that will accept eBooks (unless you are doing a print version) and self-pubbed authors. You’ll also need to make sure they are popular. Just because they show up at the top of a Google search doesn’t make them popular. Look for comments from readers – the more the better. Some will post their stats but most won’t. You could use some of the online tools to see their traffic but I doubt this will be of much help. I look for comments.
Then you’ll have to submit. They all seem to want something different so pay close attention to the requirements or risk being rejected out of hand. Even if you get accepted (expect a greater than 50% rejection rate for various reasons), expect to wait at least 4 to 6 months for a review. That’s just how long it takes.
Twitter, Facebook, Social Media
My experience is that social media is of little value for the unknown author. Hell, starting a blog doesn’t do much. I’ve seen people start a twitter feed just to promote their book and it is sort of sad. They use a service to auto-post about their books a few times a day, throw in a, “Here’s a funny picture of my cat” post occasionally, and that’s about it (here’s just one example). They may have thousands of followers but all of them are likely to be doing the same thing. Which means they are all posting to each other and none of them are reading any of the other’s posts. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media is how you connect with friends. It isn’t how you sell books. At least not until you are popular enough that people are following you just to find out about your books.
One thing I’ve also seen people do is try to get celebrities to retweet or post about them. While this may have worked a few years ago when people didn’t know the value of a post like that, it doesn’t fly any more. If you want someone famous to post for you, be prepared to spend big bucks.
Write More Books
This should be self evident. A single book by an unknown author is very hard to get noticed. But write two, three, ten…suddenly there is a lot more for people to know about and more reasons to be interested. They see four books in a series and suddenly there is some validation. True or not, they’ll think that no one would write four books in a series if the first wasn’t good enough for people to read.
But you see the conflict here. Posting to forums, twittering, blogging, seeking reviews and lists…these things all take a lot of time. This is the marketing side of self-publishing and it is a dark and lonely place (as if writing wasn’t lonely enough). More importantly, you can’t write your next masterpiece if you are busy putting together a Virtual Book Tour and writing 14 guest blog posts. So you have to make a decision about how you want to break up your time. How much you are willing to spend marketing and how much writing?
Cons and Other Real Life Stuff
Most everything I’ve talked about so far has been virtual. That makes sense since most people reading this are likely to be publishing eBooks. But there are hosts of real life events where you can market your book. Look for conventions in your genre, local writer’s groups, and the like. If there are bookstores that are tailored to a genre, seek them out. The owner is likely to be well connected to what is going on in town.
Case in point. Recently, there was a science fiction convention in town. My wife found an author that had a few similarities with me. She has three boys (we have three boys), she used to live in Perth (we live in Perth), and we both write science fiction. So I emailed her. Long story short, Marianne de Pierres met with me for a full hour between talks to give me advice about my career. To say this meant a lot to me would be a massive understatement. It was invaluable. She talked to me about how to find an agent, what she thought was my next step in my career, and critiqued my website (she liked it). She even took me around and introduced me to a few local (meaning Australian) authors. In a short hour with her, I learned more than hours of research on the internet. I walked away from that conversation with a completely different demeanor. I entered confused and unsure of what my next steps should be. I left knowing exactly what I would do next and how exactly to do it. All this for the price of admission.
I twitter because I like it. I request reviews because I think they work (even if they aren’t glowing). I created a blog and wrote self-publishing guides and posts like this one that I think people will be interested in so that they might find my site and maybe buy my book. Of course, I’m constantly working on more books. The convention thing was my wife’s idea but, I’m telling you, I am so glad I did it. Since then, I’ve been to a local bookstore and got invited to participate in a local writer’s meetup in the works.
But the rest of it? For right now, I can’t be bothered. Honestly, think about it. That’s a lot of work. Guest blogs, forum posts, tours…they take time. Lots of it. Time that I’d rather spend with my kids or writing more books. Even submitting for reviews is a chore but one that I think is worth it. Does that mean I won’t ever make it big? Maybe. Or maybe it just means that I won’t make it as fast. I know that I can only do what works for me. If I spent all my time marketing, I’d stop writing. I hate marketing.
Those that start Twittering or Facebooking for the purposes of marketing often fail. Those that succeed do so either because they are already successful as a writer or because they are good at Facebook or Twitter. And you get good at things you like. Do you like to Facebook? Than market through that. But I don’t, so I don’t (even though I do maintain a Bob Moore Facebook page because I like to give readers an insight into his life between the books and hints as to what will happen next).
So, what works for you? How have you connected with your audience? Let me know either below or in an email. I’d love to know.