Helen Jones

So you’ve written your book, edited it, sweated and slaved and fretted over it. And now it’s published. Time to sit back and watch those royalties rolling in, right?

Um, no. Now you need to promote it.

Dun dun dun! *cue scary music* What? But I’m a writer. I don’t need to promote anything. Do I?

Well, actually you do. And, to make things even scarier, you really need to start promoting yourself months before your book is finished. Whether you’re traditionally or self published, having your own media platform is part of being a modern writer, as well as a useful tool for promotion. However, it can also be a massive time waster, so be selective and work with what appeals to you – for example, I blog regularly, have a public FB page and dabble with Twitter. I know I’ve made sales through these platforms and, just as importantly, have also made some nice connections with readers and bloggers, so it’s worth the time spent to maintain them.

I believe that the key to using these platforms effectively is to remember that they are for connecting with your potential audience, not just incessantly bombarding them with messages. After all, it’s called social media, not advertising media (which is a whole different thing). For example, imagine we’ve just met for the first time. Immediately I start talking about my book. About the cover and reviews and quoting the characters, about where you can buy it and can you please review it and DID YOU KNOW I'VE WRITTEN A BOOK PLEASE WILL YOU BUY IT. I make no attempt to interact with you in any other way. How does that make you feel? Does it make you want to buy my book? I would wager not.

So, while of course it’s okay to talk about a new release, an event or an award, you can’t hit people over the head repeatedly and expect them to feel positive about your work. Just like any other annoying repeated advertisement, they will tune you out. Moderation is key, whether on Twitter, Facebook or any other networking site. Choose your messages carefully, time them well and mix in a good dose of yourself and what interests you, and you’ll find you’ll attract an audience.

There are also plenty of ways out in the real world to spread the word about your book, but once again you need to target your efforts in the best possible manner. Does your book appeal to a certain interest or age group? Is it set in a recognisable locality? Approaching media and special interest groups specific to your story means you have a far better chance of them wanting to feature you and your book in their publication. Local newspapers and magazines are often interested in championing local authors, as are independent bookstores. Consider approaching reading groups, school and libraries within your community - volunteer your time, donate copies of your book and get your name out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to have support from our regional library – not only did they purchase several copies of my book, they also invited me to an author event to do a reading and sell copies, something I only imagined doing at the start of my writing journey.

All of these methods I’ve listed are free or for a minimal cost – for example, I pay a small yearly fee for my own domain name. While there are also plenty of paid advertising opportunities out there, if you’re working within a budget, as I am, it’s not always possible to go down this path. Also, it’s quite hard to track how much return you get for your investment, so think creatively about where to find best opportunities for free promotion. I prefer to invest the majority of my publishing budget in editing and cover design, so I can be confident I’m presenting the best possible product. This is because I believe that, to achieve consistent, ongoing sales, the best way to attract readers is by word of mouth. If people love your book, they’ll tell other people about it. Conversely, if your book is riddled with grammatical errors, has issues with structure or is poorly set out, they’ll tell people about that too. So make your book the best it can be before you hit ‘Publish’.

And finally, keep on writing. The more books you have to your name, the more opportunity you have to attract readers. Remember you are first and foremost a writer, and that telling the story is what matters most. The rest will come.

You can read more about Helen’s experiences as a writer on her blog. Her first novel, Oak and Mist, is due to be published soon through Amazon. She is working on the next five novels in the series, with more ideas following behind.