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 first in a series of four articles, marketing experts Sarah Taylor and Jane Rowland outline the various types of marketing you can use to publicise your book and raise your author profile.
1. Reviews: An unbiased, subjective review of your book:. This type of coverage is dwindling due to publications having less time/dedicated staff to be able to produce them; often they print a 'review' that is actually a re-hash of a press release. Local and regional press do fewer out-and-out book reviews, usually preferring feature or news-based coverage.
2. Extracts: a section from your book that the publication runs, usually with a link to buy your book. This can be done in a series across a number of issues/posts. It's a great way for readers to sample your book and see if they want to buy it – and you may get paid for extracts to be reproduced (depending on the publication).
3. Features: stories about you or your book. These will often be formed around newsworthy aspects of your book or you as the author – as it's important not only to market the book, but yourself too, particularly if you have an interesting story that's influenced the book. Features are generally the best form of coverage to garner and securing one can lead to more interest in your book than reviews or extracts.
National publications will need a strong feature angle to even consider your book. Newspapers and magazines want exclusives and content relevant to their readership, and self-publishing authors can often provide them with this as long as the press release highlights a usable story.
4. News: Local and regional papers rarely headline 'Local Author Writes Book', so have a strong back story when pitching to the news or feature team as the increase in local authors can make it harder to get coverage.
5. Advertising: As well as trying to secure editorial media coverage, another way of raising awareness is to place targeted adverts in publications that will be seen by people likely to buy your book. It doesn't matter if you can't design the artwork – publications often have in-house teams that do this for you. An increasing number of publications now only offer editorial coverage in exchange for the placing of an advert.
Print publications aren't the only outlets to consider when you're thinking about advertising – you can also try targeted websites (the most popular are expensive but receive a huge amount of traffic every day), and even Facebook, who advertise to users based on their users' information.
It's important to market yourself as well as your book, as this often results in more media interest. Nowadays there's a real emphasis on creating an 'author brand', and quite rightly so. Not only will it help market your book, but it will help market any future books you write. Many authors have full-time jobs alongside their writing, so it's important to focus on the important things and not try and spread yourself too thin! The key components are:
Website: set up your own website with information about yourself and your book, as well as links to buy it. Do blog posts, a really great, informal method of creating a fan base, allowing your readers to get to know you.
Social media: the two main sites here are definitely Twitter and Facebook. Authors also use Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn, but bear in mind that you'll have to keep them all regularly updated – do a few sites well rather than all sporadically! Twitter is great for sharing instant updates about your book, promoting any special offers and connecting to readers. Facebook is best for sharing media – videos, pictures and links.
Signings and events: lining up book signings at your local independent or chain bookshop is a great way of making sales and connecting with readers and retailers in your local area. Bookshops are generally supportive of local authors who have a quality book to sell, so once your book is published, take a copy along and see if you can get an event lined up. Signings are the most common, but you can also do readings, or if you're a children's author interactive events or sessions at schools.
Promotional materials: There are other great ways of promoting your book – including book trailers, which are often design or picture-led videos focusing on the book, or videos with actors portraying characters from your book.
Another popular tool is a podcast, often a mix of author interview, done by you and the podcast organiser, and a book extract, read by an actor. It's a great way for readers to find out more and also hear a sample of your work.
Author videos are increasingly being used, and are easy to make – providing you have the tools and skills to create and edit them. These can be in the form of author interviews (persuade a friend to ask a few questions), book readings and much more.
Last but not least, printed marketing materials are really useful – posters, leaflets, bookmarks, business cards. Posters are handy to promote your book in general or for specific events – often, booksellers will ask you to provide one if you line up a signing or event – while leaflets and postcards can be handed out to family, friends and other potential buyers. Make sure you include a link to buy!
The Internet is now a key part of most lives and therefore online reviews are also hugely influential. Amazon reviews often tip the balance between a reader buying a book or not – and there are dedicated book bloggers whose websites are dedicated to reviews in almost every genre. Review coverage is not just about what printed reviews you can achieve; it's about getting a wide range of coverage and discussion related to your book across all media, so work on getting those online reviews as well.
For ebooks and POD, where the book is not going to be available in traditional bookshops, then the internet becomes ever more important – many blogs will have a link direct to sites where the book can be purchased following a review, ensuring readers can buy immediately.
It's important to do lots of online marketing, as well as focusing on print publications and media outlets. The best thing about online marketing is that it's mostly free – although it can be time consuming. There are sites that exist to promote books like yours – for example, Goodreads – and by having your book featuring on these sites you can exponentially raise the profile of your book – to like-minded people and potential readers.
Many authors shy away from social networking. But why turn your back on a free marketing resource that can allow you to connect with thousands of potential readers? Part of creating an author brand is to be discoverable as an author, and the Internet allows you to do this. Try to get involved with social networks before your book is printed – so that you are ready to hit the ground running when you have your book available. If you've invested time in working on networking before the publication date, then you are already connecting with people and can announce the book to existing followers rather than to deafening silence.
An increasingly popular form of online book promotion is to do a blog tour – arranging 'stops' with a handful of blogs (again make sure to use sites that feature books like yours) for the bloggers to post content about your book on a specific date. Usually this is an author interview, but can also take the form of a review or an extract or piece by you. By arranging consecutive posts over a specific number of days, you can get your book seen by a lot of people. The most popular blogs and sites are obviously the best to go for, as they generally see the most traffic, but bear in mind that they all have their own time and space constraints. By using a slightly less popular blog you may be able to get more prominent or regular coverage. Blog tours can be organised with the blog owners, but there are companies that exist to do this for you for a charge.
Take a look at the second part of this article.
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.