You’ve written a book. You’ve had it edited, it has a fantastic cover, and it’s a masterpiece (of course!). You’ve uploaded it to Amazon (and B&N, Kobo, iBooks etc). So now what? Well, unless you have a mailing list or an established fanbase, readers/customer won’t know about your book. You need to reach out to them, and to do that, you need to promote/advertise your work.
Amazon’s algorithms give a certain amount of buoyancy to new books, by placing them in the ‘Hot New Release’ and ‘Popular’ lists (if you’re already selling). This enhanced visibility will keep a new book buoyant for around 90 days. But a new book without sales will very quickly sink from the lists, and lose its visibility. To maintain sales, you need to promote.
Promotion often doesn’t come naturally to authors. Hence why traditional publishing houses have dedicated marketing departments. But you’re on your own. So what do you do? Firstly, you need to define your audience. Who are your readers? Are they 18-35 year old women, or 30-60 year old men, young adults, or working professionals? What do they like to read (who’s your competition)? Once you know your audience, you’re in a much better position to reach them.
There are two main methods of reaching your audience:
Paid advertising (including but not limited to)
Free advertising (including but not limited to)
Combining both methods with a discount is a great way to boost visibility:
One tried and tested method of getting your book seen is to run a special discount promotion, by either setting your book to free for a limited period or 99c (UK-99p). Yes, I know, it hurts to think of your pride and joy selling for 99c, or worse – gasp – free, but the more people who see your book, the more people will talk about your book. And you want them talking, because that’s the best kind of long-term marketing there is. The holy grail of marketing: word-of-mouth.
Firstly, before you jump in, think about what you want to get from your promotion. Do you want to make a profit, or do you just want to get your book into the hands of potential new fans? (Doing both comes later). If you want to make a profit, don’t give away your only book. That’s not going to be particularly helpful. But if you have a series, or a backlist, then consider running a free promotion to get as many eyes on your work as possible. Make sure your promoted book has a link to the rest of the series, and has a sign-up link to your newsletter so you can capture all those interested readers for later. If you only have the one book available, consider discounting it to the 99c. You can make a profit running a 99c promotion, but most promotions will likely break even, or lose money*. Remember, your first book is not about profit, not yet.
So, which subscriber lists do you use? There are a few heavy-hitters, such as BookBub, ENT (E-reader News Today), The Midlist, Freebooksy/BargainBooksy and countless smaller subscriber lists (literally hundreds). You’ll need to pick and choose which ones work for you by trial and error. Some lists do well for romance, others do well for fantasy. Some are entirely genre specific, such as My Romance Reads etc. Some are a few dollars, others are $200+. I recommend trying a couple every few weeks and closely monitoring the results. Any underperformers, strike from your promo list.
There are many, many ways to lose money, especially promoting just the one book. Facebook & Google will gobble up your advertising funds. So I wouldn’t suggest you focus on Facebook or Google Adwords until you have a sizeable backlist or a generous budget to experiment with.
Sustained (monthly) promotions have the following effect:
The more promotions you do, the more readers will hear about you, the more reviews you’ll receive, and the more momentum you’ll build, and momentum results in more word-of-mouth marketing. Think of it like a snowball rolling down a hill. The more you promote, the more visibility you’ll generate, but of you stop (miss a few months), you’ll lose your momentum.
Word-of-mouth marketing is where one reader raves about your book to their friend, and that friend buys it, because they know and trust the source. Hopefully, they like it too, and they go on and tell their friends. You can see where this is going. You can’t buy word-of-mouth marketing, and you can’t plan for it either. This is where sites like Goodreads come in. Goodreads is often overlooked, and I’ll be writing more about Goodreads soon, because it’s worth it. Goodreads is the king of bookish word-of-mouth. Get yourself an author profile and explore the site. Join the groups where your target-market hang out, but don’t stomp all over their territory. Goodreads is READER territory, not author territory. Be professional and respectful. It’s a slow-build, but it can be worth it, and it’s free. Twitter & Facebook are also free. They offer a way to interact with old and new fans, but don’t expect huge amounts of direct sales from social media.
Those first few weeks can be tough, but keep at it. A little promotional push every month, and a dash of marketing every day, can really help build your brand.
And while you’re doing all of this, write the next book, because very little beats the promotional punch of a new release.
*If you’re in KDP Select, you can run a 99c countdown promotion, which pays the usual 70% royalty. Running a Countdown Deal is more profitable, but it’s only available if you’re in Select (your books are sold exclusively on Amazon).
**Due to the fluctuating nature of self-publishing, I can only impart advice on what’s worked for me, using that information together with information from similar authors in various genres. I cannot guarantee your success! But I can help you find your feet in an ever-changing, challenging, but deeply rewarding business.
Pippa DaCosta is a hybrid author. Before securing a traditional publisher, she published the Veil Series (a x5 book urban fantasy series) independently in 2013. She’s also published two science fiction books. Pippa is published by Bloomsbury & Random House Germany. Her work has been featured in the Galaxy Chronicles anthology. Pippa continues to self publish and traditionally publish. Pippa is represented by Hannah Sheppard at DHH Literary Agency.
Read Pippa's Self-Publishing as a Business article here.