The reality of marketing a self-published book and finding your audience presents a challenge somewhere in-between the faint dream of online success, and the sense of screaming unheard into the web’s dark and angry void.
Traditional publishers target their marketing towards their network of book reviewers and buying agents who, in turn, bring a book to the attention of readers. As a self-publisher, not only do you probably lack this network, but you also face an image deficit when you try to piece one together.
They think you’re trying to sell a story from the slush pile of traditional publishers.
So don’t let them be right. The first step to marketing a good book is to let people know that you even have a good book. Brand your novel as a quality product by investing in a good editor, strong cover art, and a carefully written book blurb. But most importantly, make your book as strong as possible so as to avoid rushing an unfinished novel into the hands of critics.
The tools for web-marketing are straightforward and well-known. Make a webpage, update your blog, put your picture on Facebook, get five minutes of fame by posting something clever on Twitter. But the attitude with which to approach these tasks is what holds many authors back. To have a successful book, you don’t need to build a web audience of thousands on Twitter and Facebook, or to keep a blog that achieves a hundred thousand hits per week. The people who would follow you online may not buy your book. Most of the people who would read your book won’t care to follow you online. The web audience is a red herring.
You could spend years building your social networks and never put them to good use.
Remember, your goal is to get people to:
- Buy the book.
- Review the book.
- Look forward to the next one.
Towards that end, it’s important to prioritize your online efforts, rather than waste time with twice-daily tweets and giggles. A large web network isn’t necessary because there’s an audience besides readers you can appeal to, and you can use the content of your social networks to help overcome that image deficit which holds many self-publishers back.
Reviewers are the gatekeepers to your readers. How do you connect with them?
Build a Home Base for Your Book
Your webpage should be your bastion on the web, designed to present you and your work in the best possible light while leading viewers towards buying your book. A good sales page draws the eye towards your cover art, the details about your book, your writing samples, and the subscription button for your email list, while using your blog and any additional material as secondary content to address concerns about your credibility as an author. Bear in mind, you only need someone to visit your site once – if they go on to buy or review your book.
Sew Together a Social Media Mesh
In a social media mesh, everything you create connects fluidly. Your latest blog update can give you something to talk about. Being “Liked” on Facebook will bring in viewers. Twitter can help you make individual contacts as you pay them the favor of a retweet. Forum posts and comments left on blogs can help you reach out to other communities while you link to your book in your signature. Blog Hops and guest articles can give you a platform to a larger audience. GoodReads, above all, can connect your book directly with readers.
Tie these channels together as much as possible to create a social media mesh around your novel, under the banner of your cover art and the message of a quality novel, with a link to your sales page on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, or elsewhere.
Create Something of Value to Talk About
Half of marketing is about finding something to talk about, but it’s often inappropriate to talk too much about a book you’re selling. Instead, your work as an author should be ingrained into your web presence while you write the occasional web article, make insightful comments, tell short stories, and share helpful materials that you come across. Be professional, be genuine, and add value. You are part of your brand, and you want to build up enough good will and trust to make a positive impression.
Reach Out to People Directly
If you want to be successful, you have to reach out – there’s no avoiding it. Once you’ve established even a small web presence, then your book, your webpage, and your social media contributions will form a reputation firewall that speaks volumes about your character and the quality of your work. So if you need people to review your book, or to post a guest article you’d like to write for their blog, or to share the link to your site, then just ask. Ask with enthusiasm, ask because your work is good enough to review, ask because the quality of your contributions make it win-win for the person you’re asking. You’ll need people to review your book on Amazon, GoodReads, and blogs throughout the web. There’s a terrific post on the Mythic Scribes forums on how to solicit book reviews by author Michael Sullivan, something which every self-publisher should be actively engaged in.
Without an agent or a publisher, the perception is that you’re on your own to promote your novel, just as you were in writing it. But if you can reach out to other authors of comparable skill who appeal to the same audience – your writer’s group, for instance – then you can share the challenges of marketing and build your social networks together. Collaborative Marketing can help you to reach a larger audience faster, giving you more time to focus on making quality contributions to a community instead of maintaining a daily mass of forced commentary and status updates. There’s no reason to go it alone if you can partner with someone to help form a promotions network together.
But above all, to market your book keep writing, and improving your writing, so that you can get your next book out there. There’s no better way of building your image as a quality author, of overcoming the image deficit and getting the attention of readers and reviewers, than to write quality stories, and many of them.
What are some of the ways that you market your book online?