Let’s face it – for 90% of us indie authors, marketing our books is the bane of our career. We love to write the book, but find it grueling to let potential readers know it’s out there. I’ve worked in broadcast marketing for almost twenty years and even for me, this line of self marketing for my works is something I find stressful at times and also a bit unusual. I say unusual, because it’s not like any business (either others or my own) I’ve ever had to market before. I mean, here I have worked, lost sleep, risen crazy early, forgot where I was at times, and just plain lost track of time while writing this book that I am now finally so proud of and can’t wait to publish and let readers enjoy, but now that the time is here…marketing it suddenly isn’t that daydream I had in my head all through the writing and editing process – now it’s real, I actually have to do it! Oh no!
Truth is, yes, marketing your book can seem daunting, but I promise you that it’s mostly psychological. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite fun and even something that now, I look forward to. Last year, when I first began my career as an indie author, I couldn’t market my books to save my life. Here I was, a marketing guru of nearly two decades and thinking I could ‘slay the dragon’ with both hands tied behind my back. What I didn’t know, was that marketing my books was going to be a whole other ball game. See, most of my marketing career was spent in broadcasting and media. That means I utilized the traditional forms of marketing (which I do believe can work for you if you live in a large town, which I don’t in my opinion), such as radio, tv, newspaper, billboards and so on. For those who do live in larger towns, these forms of advertising may prove quite worthwhile. Billboards can be salty depending on the populations of where you live. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $100/mo to $10,000/mo (median realistically being around $2500/mo in most areas). Keep in mind though, you typically attract what you pay for location-wise. TV can also be slightly salty, especially if you choose to advertise a :30 or :60 spot around your local weather segment on your local news station. Rather spend more wisely and attract potential readers through tv spots by spreading the money around on a local cable advertising plan. I can’t say I would ever waste my money at the local station and reason being, they typically have higher, more immediate need to take care of their overhead expenses and will bilk you out of how ever much you are dumb enough to spend for their one channel (or their one main channel and possibly a secondary channel nobody watches). Whereas, by spreading a portion of your advertising budget on your local cable channels, you’re getting way more channels, way more diverse viewers, and typically, way more spots for free (or courtesy spots) than your local station would ever even think of giving you. For me, the local paper has never done anything for me. Sure people see the ad (I guess) but then forget about it as soon as they fold it up and set down; so why waste money on newspaper advertising. Radio is typically quite cheap and if you can be lucky enough to hook up with a station representative who can actually produce a quality spot for you, may be worth some money. I’ve always said, radio listeners tend to be a ‘captive audience’. I mean think about it, when do you listen to the radio? Either in your office or like most, when driving in your car. I mean what else are you going to be doing? Nothing. You’re trapped and you’re listening to your station (that you’re not going to change) and you’ll end up listening to this ad (which you will find interesting right away since most authors don’t advertise on the radio) which sets your apart from all others and you hear it over and over again. Again, it will come down to the quality of the spot and if it can engage the listener enough. I think radio is actually the best local media buy we can do for usually meager marketing budgets.
But now you’re like, “Wait a minute Holmes…I don’t even have a budget!” Okay. Build one. Seriously. But let’s think about this first. Why did you start writing books in the first place? Was it just to have one out there or because you wanted to build something out of it…why? You have to ask yourself – heck, I ask myself that almost everyday, especially when I see that almost 80% of us in the self-publishing game do little or no marketing on books! I mean, for someone like me, I just can’t get my head around that. You’ve spent at times months on producing this book and now you’re not even going to market it?
I would say a majority of indie authors start to market their books, but then because they don’t have a firm grasp of how to accomplish that, they just give up. Fair enough. I was there for a moment myself…but I refused to quit. I instead, went through the frustration (which I had every time I built a business or company – it’s really just a learning bump), dusted myself off and studied the battlefield a bit more deeper until I had learned the right tactics. Marketing something nationally is just a more vast and (can be) exhausting task – but, it’s something that must be dealt with if you want your book (product) to make you money. Did you see how I nudged your brain a bit there by inserting ‘product’ next to the word ‘book’? There’s a reason for that; it’s because I don’t want you to be so attached or emotional to your book, that you stop it as what it really is. Yes, it’s a work of art, but to most everybody else who’s never heard of you or doesn’t worship the ground you walk on yet, it’s simply a book – a product they may or may not be curious about enough to actually lay down $0.99 or $2.99 for. Step back and see what you’re doing – whether you want to say it or not, the reality is you’re building a business. It is what it is, so let’s try to not get all emotionally tangled up in it. You have an idea, you write the book, you sell it. It’s as simple as that, but you can’t sell your product (book) if nobody knows it’s out there and available to them! Doh! You have to market this thing now. Traditional routes like I spoke of earlier intimidate you a bit or you just don’t have the budget? That’s okay. Let’s build.
One of the best ways to get started if you don’t have a budget, say it’s your first book or whatever, is to just get out there! Now, I want to say, if you do have some spending cash, I urge you to try the traditional methods, mostly radio though, billboards are effective too (but again kind of salty). “But Holmes, how do I get out there?” you ask. Any way you can. I promise you too, any author that is making a living as an indie author has done just that – they pushed themselves out there, they made the effort. It’s easy to sell your book once readers know it’s there and if you have an attractive enough cover and good enough storyline. Heck, by most standards, it doesn’t even have to be edited all that well, by some of the reviews I’ve seen on some of these authors. It’s kind of a static effect, especially on Kindle. If you can just push yourself out there enough to sell enough of your book that you get up in the higher rankings, you’re book will noticed by others who haven’t seen a hair of your marketing efforts, but now see your book because of it’s ranking, purchase it, and it takes off climbing even higher and higher…. and so forth. That’s the traditional “Amazon/Kindle” theory anyway and you have to admit, even with all the cluelessness about how the algorithms over there work, it does have some common sense to it.
So, back to getting yourself out there. I’m going to mention the obvious, but don’t expect them to do much for you; they might generate some first sales, but don’t look for them to turn the tide or anything: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Goodreads, Kindleboards, Google +, and sites like these are just a foundation for everything else – a starting point. You must have your own website, if you’re book is part of a series, build separate website for it as well. An author website and series websites are fundamental in opinion. Plus, when you think about it, it only furthers your efforts to spread yourself around more on the web.
You must hit up reviewers. Thing about finding reviewers is that you write in a genre that it’s easy to find reviewers. Case in point would be like when I wrote my Christian-fiction last year, I thought I would be able to find reviewers no problem. Ha! Most of the Christian-fiction reviewers I dropped a line to either didn’t reply or were going to make me go through hoops just to have them do the review at all and even then it wasn’t a promise they would. Whereas if your write in YA, or paranormal-fiction, perhaps fantasy or sci-fi, mystery even, finding a reviewer won’t be nearly that difficult and I’ve found most to actually be quite positive in these genres. Think about what genre your book belongs in and attack from there.
Interviews, whether podcasts or just print/website or also important. Some reviewers will interview you along with their review. Then there also folks out there that will promote your book simply to draw traffic to their website and build their numbers. You just have to log on and search. It will become a daily ritual, trust me. But soon enough, it also becomes a normal routine and usually good experience.
Take pictures of your book with your pets. People love animals! The ‘cute’ factor will attract readers every time. Have your pet ‘reading’ the book or look worn out from reading so long or what not. Thing is be imaginative with how your market images of your book.
Print flyer-size full-color posters of your book and where folks can buy it and post those suckers in every high-traffic area of your town. Cheap advertising right there. Do what you need to to make the paperback format of your book available to the regular distribution channels so your local and regional bookstores can order copies and go do your book signings! Have posters and things available at your signings and make sure where you are set-up at is decorated enough to attract curious passers-by to come over, meet-you and buy! Sell yourself at these things! 9 out of 10 times, they are buying you at a book signing, not your book (even though yes, technically it is the book) you know what I mean.
Another way to put this in focus is like this, consider your favorite music artist (simply because on the larger scale of entertainment, I think they have much more in common with us authors than say an actor or something). After recording (writing) their album (book), and then releasing (publishing) it they go out there and just push the heck out of it don’t they to ensure it’s a success? I mean they don’t go home directly from the studio and hope fairies or something will cause the album to shoot through the charts. No, they go out and endlessly tire themselves, for sometimes a full year, promoting, promoting, promoting…and while doing that, writing their next album, because it’s a cycle and there typically is no sitting still. So should it be with us indie authors. We’re really no different. We should be promoting as much as we can, everywhere we can (it’s in some of those odd places/media readers discover us that we never would have thought we’d attract a reader like that) and get out there as much as we can, get in front of the readers as much as you can physically- do readings, do signings, offer to speak at a writing class at a local school or university or library, anything! It all boils down to, they can’t buy if they don’t know. Also, don’t forget to continue your writing while your marketing. After all, it’s a cycle and like running or weightlifting, you may feel like stopping to take a rest, but when you do it can just be more difficult to get started up all over again. Just keep it going – and if the books you write are good, they have a good storyline, decent editing, and an attractive cover, you should be quite successful compared to the other 80% or more that doesn’t even make an effort in this business. Why would one ever put so much energy and time into writing a book if they didn’t want some level of success from it? I’ll never understand that.