I am going to preface this by stating I don’t have all the answers.
There is a lot of information out there that doesn’t tell you certain things, like signing up with certain marketing companies doesn’t work unless you write their genre, or your book isn’t ready, or you write a series. And most of all as an indie author, I made a lot of mistakes I am hoping to show you how to avoid.
Here is what I have learned, and I know its worked because I have sold books. Not recently but when I release and follow this plan its worked very well for me, and I’ve done it 3 times now for 2 novellas and one book, that sold a thousand copies in its opening month.
Here is what I have learned about marketing my book to get that kind of response, and its simple, and stupid, but I learned a lot of this the hard way.
- Is your book ready?
No really. Yes its been edited, yes its been gone over a million times by you and your editor, and a few beta readers, but is it *really* ready? I made the mistake all three times of rushing to my publishing goals rather than the book goals. I’ve backed off the last year to get it right, and I’ll still have made mistakes. One book I 100% thought was ready I haven’t published because it needs a rewrite, even though it got good feedback. I can just feel it. This is also the reason why trad published books take so friggin long to come out. They write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, copy edit, beta read, review, polish, re-beta, test, review, edit, polish… on and on until it is flawless.
Look at your book and ask if you’ve given it the same kind of love. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do a lot of it. I recommend GOOD creative critics and beta readers, and Pro-Writing Aid, even if you do have an editor. We all miss stuff.
This irks me a lot. There is nothing worse than looking at a really good book and people with terribly covers saying “But the cover shouldn’t matter! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”
Why not? You do it. You aren’t going to touch a book with a terrible cover, you aren’t even going to read the blurb. But here is the thing I do get. Finding people to do good covers at a price that don’t look like something out of a high school project is hard. Fiverr covers tend to be very hit and miss, and more miss, or you can spend close to $300US to get a good photoshop one.
There are two solutions here: Finding decently priced cover designers who sell predesigned covers at lower rates, & Gimp.
The first, I can recommend Violeta’s current page and her Christmas giveaway. She’s a kind person, and her prices are very reasonable. There are others out there, but you have to know who to go for yourself.
If you are going to use Gimp I can tell you two things; its frustrating but worth it. I recently ran into very tight financial situation because we are trying to buy a house and just couldn’t afford a cover artist. I have spent a lot of time looking at covers in my genre, and ended up designing my own, which is the last one below.
No, isn’t as good, but it does at least fit with the theme, and it wasn’t too hard after I followed a lot of tutorials. The most important thing about this though, is to be absolutely sure that the images you are using are fine for ebook commercial use. That is NOT a can of worms you want to mess with.
This is the other way you are going to hook your reader after your cover has engaged attention as it’s a LOT harder than it looks. I am happy to help rewrite blurbs but I’ve found these simple rules work:
- Limit of 150 words (180 for fantasy)
- Hook first and last
- Read the top 20 blurbs of your genre for flow and feel
There really isn’t much more to it than this, but it is important. Also get feedback for posting, say it aloud, review and polish. Its your first impression for your audience.
- Pick your Price
This may sound easy but its getting much harder. You don’t want to make your book too much but you want to be sure its not free. The trouble is that people are assuming the content isn’t very good if its only 99c, but how else to break into reader groups if you don’t make it as affordable as possible?
This is where promos come in handy, and you can get a lot of downloads for a free weekend, but you are better off advertising a more expensive book for a 99c weekend and then running a series of promos.
Check what everyone else is advertising in the top 100, and don’t forget to lower your pre-order price and up it when it goes live to what you want it to be.
- Get your platforms in order
Website, Facebook, Twitter. You should have all three and while its hard to maintain them all, its worth it for exposure. If you’re struggling for content look at what other people are posting and offering. What are you talking about? How are you helping? There are numerous articles about how to create engaging content, but most of all you’ve got to work out what works for you.
KEY POINT: Do a lot of research on what tags to use and when, check trending tags, reach out and grow your circle.
So now that’s the basics sorted, how to get it actually out there?
- Books Go Social
I owe an awful lot to what I know about self publishing to Books Go Social Facebook groups. They offer a lot of entry level stuff that is super helpful they have a dedicated and friendly team, all under the wonderful Laurence O’Bryan and his thoughtfulness. There are a lot of media groups out there, but I generally found that just being part of the community they created and engaging some of their services was a great introduction to self publishing on a marketing level. You can also ask questions, get feedback on blurbs and covers, they offer a helpful service to upgrade your cover at a good price, and generally it’s a great learning field.
Here is the thing though, not every part of them is for you. Its great for books that are one off’s but not for series, but series are hard to market when the whole thing isn’t out. If you sign up to their Netgalley offers make sure to get a couple of months worth as while it is worth it, you need a couple of months, because people read slowly, take their time, and you need it to still be there for them.
They also have reviewing sections which are great for getting (NOT SWAPPING) reviews.
Apparently you are supposed to get a magical unicorn that farts rainbows at 30 reviews. I heard recently that Amazon had upped it to 50, which doesn’t surprise me giving the amount of services that sell reviews (do NOT do this, ever, or swap, its against T&Cs).
So how to get reviews?
ARCs, Goodread giveaways, groups like BGS, Netgally, competitions for free copies on your social media sites. You have to work at it, its hard, and don’t expect everyone to give you a review, you quite often wont get one.
But you can ask, just don’t be pushy about it.
- Author Support Services
There are a lot of great services out there, but here are two I have used frequently in the past.
Alliance of Independent Authors is a great source of up to date clear information about what’s happening in the market. I am not a member, but will be next year.
You will see their members floating around and not only do I love these people I’ve seen them monitor and watch situations where people are buying reviews, faking popularity and other such great services that spoil it for the rest of us.
The best thing about them was that they had a complete list of safe websites to get promos from. It was absolutely golden, because it did 2 things. It helped you find good websites to advertise on, and which ones were dodgy as all get out.
The other cool one is Authors Unlimited and this very helpful and concise article about getting going.
This is the *HARDEST* sell (puns totally intended) because you have to spend money. After all the work you’ve done spending money seems like a complete pocket suck of the precious money you have for book selling. If you want your book out there though, it doesn’t hurt.
You basically need to plan months in advance for a promo weekend, book in with hosts of email services that for small fees will list or discounted (99c) or free book on their weekend newsletter. This is THE way to advertise for romance. It also gives you time to rack up the reviews.
There is also the magical BookBub deals, but I won’t go into it, because that isn’t for beginners. You need to have been doing this a while to get one, and they are VERY expensive.
- Books… write a lot of books.
A self published author who writes full time recently offered to answer questions. And I asked her how she does it full time, what was the kicker?
A book EVERY 3 to 4 months.
That is a lot of time, and so we return to point one of polish, review, edit, revise.
One book is never going to be enough all by itself. I know a lot of traditionally published authors turning to self pubbing for the books that their agents or publishers didn’t like the sound of, and they already have the reading base because of their traditionally published books.
So no matter how ready you think you are, you might not be. And that’s OK. This is a long game, and if you are here to make a lot of money then you aren’t my kind of writer. If you are telling stories you are doing what you love, even if its just a hobby for now, and if you want to get self published, you need to get to a point where you can release every 3 to 4 months, and you can’t do that if you stop writing.
So what are you going to do?