October 30, 2011

A Few Words About Marketing

From time to time aspiring writers contact me and ask for any advice I might have about independent publishing.  I always refer them to the Indie Publishing and Writing categories of my blog, but someone recently told me that she’s already had her manuscript professionally edited and asked for the name of my cover designer (Sean D. Young of Young Creations, whether she should consider eBook, print, or both, and also for any tips on how she, about to put out her debut novel, could develop a readership.

The good news is that it doesn’t matter much whether you publish traditionally or independently, unless you are the next Kathryn Sockett, marketing is going to be your responsibility.  Publishers only get behind established superstars or those they feel they can build up into superstars.

In terms of format, I would advise that you consider skipping the print option altogether. You can always have a print book made at a later time if your sales warrant it.  eBooks are increasing in popularity, and they also cost less to produce...an important factor when a writer is on a budget. 

As a formerly traditionally published writer, I was fortunate to have already had a readership when I started indie publishing, but of course I wanted to expand on existing readers.  Some of the things I did were to widely circulate my book trailers prior to release to help build interest and to cross-market my eBook excerpts with other authors who write similar genres to get more readers after publication.

Because published authors are busy people who aren’t going to have time to read your book to determine if they want to include it in with theirs, only the book trailer option is going to be available to those previously unpublished.  A book trailer doesn’t have to be a Spielberg production, but make it as good as you can (no typos in the text, please!)

Get on Facebook and befriend book clubs and reading groups who are open to the genre of what you’ve written and ask if you can post your trailer on their wall.  Join genre Facebook groups (romance, mystery, thriller, etc.) and ask if you can post your trailer on their wall (or, if you see other members are doing this, go ahead and post).

Your website (and you definitely should have a website) should have an excerpt to the book plus links to purchase sites (plural).

Also, consider writing a brief prequel to your story and offering it as a free download, and make sure it includes an eLink to the purchase page for your book in the corresponding format (a link to a Kindle eBook won’t be of any benefit to someone with a Nook).  You'll want your prequel to have an air of completeness about it, though (no cliffhangers, please). It’s not fair to leave the reader hanging, with their only option for resolution to buy the book. You want readers to want to buy your book, not trick them into feeling the have to (you want readers, not enemies). And yes, I know that some published authors have put out books that don’t have defined endings, but I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone do this.

Contact book review sites and ask if you can send them a complimentary copy (Smashwords coupons come in handy here; you can make a 100% off coupon and provide the reviewer with the code) in exchange for a review. The caveat is that they might not like your book, which means you won’t like their review, but that’s the chance all writers take with the public at large.

I don’t much care for marketing one’s book as “in the tradition of (insert name of Bestselling Author here)…” but the fact is that you do want to approach readers who enjoy stories in a similar vein to yours about your new book. Sites like Goodreads are good for this purpose; you can see who’s read and enjoyed which books. Message them and tell them about your book; invite them to download your free prequel and read your excerpt (provide links to both). All they can do is ignore you.

Run a contest on Facebook, your blog (you definitely should have a blog) or both to win a free download (again, Smashwords is a good choice for this, because of the coupon and the availability in all formats—although I have to wonder how good the formatting really is).  Consider an eBook giveaway on reader sites like Goodreads. Their traditional Giveaways site is for print books only, but they do have a special eBook giveaway group.

If you can locate any blogs that feature new author interviews, ask to be interviewed.  Also look for blogs that allow guest posts.  You can always mention your new book plus links to your excerpt and free prequel in your two-sentence Bio.

Those are the tips that come to my mind right away (I’m writing this between answering the door to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters). Finally—and this one is really important—after you publish, devote most of your time to working on your next project instead of tracking your sales numbers!