As a new self published author, I quickly realized that the main challenge facing me in selling my books is ‘discoverability’. Or, in other words, making your book stand out and be seen; a particularly difficult task when you don’t have a major publisher getting reviews on your behalf in national newspapers, or buying window space in Waterstones. That’s where BooksGoSocial.com helped me, but it’s a part of a very big puzzle. Book marketing for yourself is a time consuming, difficult and even creatively challenging, but ultimately of course, very rewarding.
Patriot, A Brooke Kinley Adventure is my first self published novel, I was surprised at just how much hard work is involved! I’m not even talking about writing it; that’s a whole other blog post! I approached publishing Patriot as professionally as any publishing company and just managing the entire process was a full time job for several months. First, I had to research all the options for self publishing, right down to the minutiae of ISBN numbers, distribution options etc. This took two months. Then, I had to organize the editing, the formatting, the jacket design, the publishing (print and ebook) as well as my own business administration.
Yet it is the marketing that has been the real challenge. Like many authors, I’m focused on actually writing books. That’s the bit I enjoy, the thing I’m pretty good at (and I’ve been doing it for publishers both global and regional, as well as self publishing for almost two decades now). So, when it came to getting word out about my first novel, I was left wondering; where to start?
With my traditional background – and a few handy contacts from my career as a freelance journalist – I began with the solid stuff; press releases to relevant publications, asking for reviews, offering articles on related topics, that sort of thing. First lesson learned; start early. I mean really early, like 3 months before publication. That’s a difficult thing for self published writers to get to grips with, as you need a supply of print galleys and a digital version to get any big print publications to even look at your work. Plus, that’s assuming you ‘forget’ to mention it’s self published and you have a demonstrable track record and/or a killer hook to get their interest in the first place. How many self published authors have the book ready to go three months before publication? Well, if you want your novel considered by a national women’s magazine, or a big player like Fresh Fiction in the USA, you have to hold back and show some patience. It may pay dividends!
Many self publishers have tiny or non-existent budgets and depend on social media to market their books. This was a real learning curve for me, and I’m still travelling. Twitter (great), Facebook (variable), website (essential) and a blog (definitely essential) all work together, but you need more. Sign up to book discussion and recommendation websites, such as Goodreads.com, engage with other writers and readers by reviewing books, commenting on threads. There’s a world of social interaction out there and while the measurable impact of any particular part is impossible to quantify, what is clear that without it, your book will almost certainly sink without trace.
What I have also learned is to evaluate all the offers from companies for a) track record; can they do what they are claiming? b) can you do it yourself? c) can someone else do it for less? There are a lot of people out there trying to sell you market exposure. Be very careful. It would b easy, for example, to spend several thousand dollars on getting reviews by top Amazon reviewers and other types of Amazon based promotion, but it is actually free and easy to find out who are the top reviewers yourself and contact them directly. Similarly, there are many guides and books out there (some free, most at very low cost), as well as uTube videos etc on how to make Amazon work for you.
Among all this cacophony of marketers trying to sell to you, BooksGoSocial.com are really useful. They offer to showcase your first page free (‘free’ is a great twitter hashtag to get noticed) and multiple twitter accounts promoting your work, not to mention plenty of good ideas for practical, low cost marketing techniques for you, as author to put into practice straightaway. They are a great example of a low cost, high promotion tool that can really help with that thorny problem of ‘discoverability’. I did my homework before I signed up and they passed with flying colours.
What it all comes down to is putting in the time and the energy. You are learning a new skill. The best thing is, you then apply it to your own business; your books. The market is out there, so get stuck in and get your book discovered.