I’m not going to lie. I’m a writer, not a marketer, and definitely not a promoter. But guess what? I have to become all of those things to succeed as an author. Marketing and promotion aren’t difficult to do, they just require a lot of time. The big challenge for me, as an author with only one book published, is that I have to focus on writing the next book. No problem—I love this phase, researching and writing the first draft. But if I don’t market and promote The Girl from Oto at the same time, no one will buy it.
Like most first time authors, I don’t have a big marketing budget so I have to be savvy about my choices. There are so many ways to spend money in this game. It seems like every week I am invited to another free webinar that leads into a pricey yet essential online course that will teach me exactly what I must do to sell books. There are a growing number of sites that claim to promote your book or enter it into book award contests for a fee, with no guaranteed outcome of anything other than your money in their bank accounts. They lure us newbie authors by telling us not everyone’s book is good enough to be eligible for their services, but guess what? Ours made the cut! But when you check in online author forums, you can’t find a single person whose book didn’t make the cut. Hmmm….
It’s so important to be cautious about who gets your precious marketing dollars. With that in mind, here’s what I’m doing to sell more books.
- I’m giving books away. Huh? How can that help me sell books? My core marketing strategy is building word-of-mouth support. The best way to do that is to give books to interested people who like my genre and subject matter and encourage them to spread the word. Word to the wise: Amazon recently changed its policy about “incentivized reviews” for books. Until a few weeks ago, Amazon required the following language in reviews from people who received free copies of books: “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.” As of early October if that language is in a review, the review will be deleted forever! I’m not kidding. If you send your book to people to review, they need to say something like: “I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration.” Do not use the words free or exchange. Amazon is also cracking down on paid reviews, but as I haven’t shelled out any cash for reviews yet, I’m in the clear. Just for irony’s sake, I’ll point out that Kirkus reviews cost more than $500 and Amazon allows them to be plastered all over its website.
- I’m entering book contests and book cover contests. At the least I’ll get some feedback on my book, at best I’ll get an award.
- I’m doing a Kindle countdown deal. That’s been a tricky one to figure out, because it won’t go anywhere without simultaneous promotion, but I don’t have a big marketing budget. Here’s a link to KindleBoard discussions about how best to promote countdown deals. And here’s a good article about the best e-book promotion services out there, including Fussy Librarian and BookBub.
- I’m building a media kit. When I approach bookstores or send my book to a reporter in hopes of snagging a review, this will help a lot. A media kit includes things like a press release, book blurbs of varying lengths, author bios of varying lengths, author photos, and snippets of good reviews. I did spend money on the templates for my media kit, because it provides me with a professional, cohesive look, and saves me a ton of time that I can then use for writing.
- I’m networking with other authors. In online forums for authors, I’m asking advice from veterans who have done this many times before. People are generous with advice and encouraging words, and I’ve gotten a ton of great tips for marketing and promotion this way.
As this part of my job grows, it gets tricky to keep it organized. I’m keeping track of all this stuff on Excel spreadsheets. I have spreadsheets for contests, e-book promo sites, reviewer sites, etc. This is the only way I can remember every wheel I’ve set in motion. Seriously—if I don’t have it written down, it will vaporize from my brain. There’s only so much we can cram in our noggins, after all.
Up next: I’m dipping a toe into the murky waters of Facebook ads.