It's a simple fact that without some marketing your book won't sell well beyond your immediate friends and family.
While self-publishing is liberating, allowing you to publish you own work, when and as you want, it also means that the market is full of new products and that readers have a vast choice in selecting new reading matter. It's estimated that around 500 new titles are released each day. As an author, you are not only competing with established publishers and their books, but you are also competing with other authors who are self-publishing. Whatever route you've chosen to publish, whether as an ebook, via Print on Demand (POD), printing books in bulk or a combination of approaches, how you market your book will make the difference to the number of copies you ultimately sell.
In the second article in their series on marketing, Sarah Taylor and Jane Rowland explore the ways in which your marketing strategy needs to adapt depending on what you're promoting and who you're promoting it to.
Find out here why ebook marketing is different to print-book marketing; why marketing to the book trade is different to marketing to your readers – and make sure you're delivering the right kind of content for your audience.
The differences between ebook & print-book marketing
While there are some general rules you can follow for all book marketing, some formats lend themselves to different types of marketing.
Ebooks: The ebook market is heavily saturated. It's thus crucial that you're actively promoting your ebook – just making it available for sale won't give you sales or media coverage. As well as maintaining an active author presence online, it's important to market your book to the media as well.
There are two important facets:
- First, make your ebook available for review using a site like NetGalley, which gives it its own entry with information, cover and author biography, and makes it available for journalists, booksellers, librarians and bloggers to download a DRM-protected free copy for potential review.
- Second, draw up a targeted media list of people that you can contact about your ebook with a press release. Include media outlets in your local area, and publications relevant to your ebook and you, the author. Ebook marketing should be undertaken prior to and immediately after your ebook is released for sale.
Print on Demand (POD) book: Self-publishers can often assume that POD = self-publishing. Some think that to produce a physical book, you have to use the Print on Demand method. This is not so. Print on Demand is undeniably useful to self-publishing authors, and allows many to contemplate self-publishing because of the low entry level cost, access to distribution and reduced risk. However, POD books are usually not stocked by bookshops, because they work on a sale or return basis through wholesalers and publishers. POD books are supplied on firm sale (i.e. they can't usually be returned if a shop doesn't sell it). A bookshop will rarely take the risk of ordering a stock of POD titles, and knowing this in advance will help you form a marketing plan that does not assume bookshop availability.
Things still to consider when marketing a POD book:
- You'll still need to create a press release and draw up your hit list of targets.
- You'll also need to work out how the book will be available so that you can point the media and readers to the best retail sites.
- Have your own website and blog about the book, network online and cross-blog with other like-minded authors.
- Actively encourage readers to put reviews on sites such as Amazon.
- Connect with book bloggers and try to encourage them to review the book as well.
- Tweet any reviews you get. If your book is only available via POD then it might be hard to persuade a local store to hold an event for you, but you could organise your own launch and sell the book that way.
- Utilise all your contacts, and offer to give talks and workshops on your book to generate interest.
Marketing a longer print run book: If you've opted to self-publish but decided to print copies up front and store them in expectation of sales (which is what commercial generally publishers do), then you should follow a marketing model more akin to that of a mainstream publisher. Ensuring your have distribution set up and that the wholesalers know about your book before publication is essential. You can create pre-publicity buzz with readers by talking about and getting others to talk about your book on social media, offering pre-publication copies in exchange for reviews and endorsements well before the publication date. Create a press release and draw up your list of targets to seek review or media coverage.
Again, you need to be active online – can you do a Goodreads giveaway or sign up for a book tour via book blog sites? Offer competition copies for relevant publications to raise interest.
The differences between marketing to the book trade & marketing to your readers
Marketing to the book trade
The book trade will hear about new books via bibliographic data feeds, wholesaler catalogues, publishers themselves and a publisher's sales teams.
- Ensure you have released information about your book well in advance to ensure the book is listed on retailers' systems.
- Bibliographic data feeds from the ISBN, so once you've notified Nielsen Book Data about your book, the metadata should filter to retailers automatically.
- Strong metadata helps to sell books, so provide as much information as you can when initially setting up your ISBN with Nielsen.
- Create an Advance Information sheet, a one-page sheet about your book that contains all information about your book once you have the ISBN
- Send your metadata to bookshops, book chains and wholesalers and library suppliers.
- It is the Advance Information that triggers retailers to buy, not an ISBN listing on a database!
- Remember that as a self-publishing author, you are your own salesperson (though a couple of UK self-publishing services companies do have a sales force).
- Sales teams visit head offices and branches of the major retailers, plus thousands of independent bookshops, and pre-sell upcoming new titles on behalf of publishers.
- While you probably won't be able to replicate this, you can research the best way to supply your information to the UK book wholesalers (Gardners and Bertrams, both of which carry comprehensive information for new publishers on their websites).
- Waterstones have an Independent Publisher Coordinator and information online about how to notify them about your book that is also worth stocking.
Marketing to the Media
- Once you've ensured that your book will be available to buy, you can then look at contacting the media.
- Write a press release.
- You may need more than one press release – maybe one targeted at your local media and then others for niche or national media, playing on the aspects of your story that will be most newsworthy.
- A good press release will be one page long, have the cover image, title, author name, blurb (highlighting news angles of the story), publication date and, if possible, an endorsement or review about the book. Ensure your name and contact information is on the PR and that it's error free.
- Once you have a release you're happy with, you can start to draw up your media list and decide whom you want to contact and how you will do this.
- Send review copies, press releases and contact journalists and editors via post, phone and email.
Try to organise your efforts so that you get a maximum return, which means being familiar with the publications you are contacting and ensuring the story you are offering is something they may cover.
- The media offers several opportunities for coverage, such as news, reviews, extracts, features or advertising.
In summary, remember the key points when you're putting your marketing plan into action:
- Make your book available to retailers well ahead of publication by setting up the bibliographic data for the title at least four months in advance.
- Market your book to the retail trade before publication to increase the chances of getting your book stocked by retailers.
- When your book is available, market your book to a closely targeted list of media outlets and publications.
- Do lots of online promotion, including social media, leading up to and after publication.
By implementing a well-planned, rigorous marketing campaign, you'll give your book the best chance of success. Have fun, and remember – you only get out what you put in!
Want more information?
The Self Publishing Magazine is published four times a year and is full of crucial information for self-publishing authors (www.selfpublishingmagazine.co.uk)
This article was written by Sarah Taylor (Marketing Manager) and Jane Rowland (Marketing Director) at Matador, one of the UK's leading self-publishing service providers. Find out more: www.troubador.co.uk/matador