How to Promote and Sell Your Self-Published Book
The Internet has given writers the opportunity to publish their books without waiting to make a publisher’s acceptance list. This could be considered an advantage for today’s writers. However, they are also at a disadvantage. Now, the author must do their own marketing, taking on the task of selling themselves and their work to get as much exposure as possible for their book. Who knew that while we were sharpening our skills with English and creative writing classes that we should have signed up for some business and communications classes too? Here are some tips that I have learned while marketing my own books.
Create A Professional-Looking Product
Utilize self-publishing websites like CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) to format your book. CreateSpace will develop both print and electronic versions of your books and format them into professional-looking products.
Also, give your books a decent cover. If you’re not an artist or don’t have the tools, I suggest: www.fiverr.com . Here, you will find freelance writers, artists, etc. who will create a cover for you for as little as $5.00. This site can also be utilized to find editors and reviewers as well.
My books have gone through multiple covers over the years. Most of them were drawn and designed by me, and I rushed through the process in my eagerness to get the books out to the public. Children's books especially have to grab their readers with a fun, colorful cover, and I'm only now satisfied with the finished products. Given the chance, I would have held off on self-publishing until the covers were just right. They're not just a place holder for the pages. They're the difference between a reader opening a book or passing it over on the shelf for one that looks more interesting.
Set Up Free Promos and Giveaways
Sign up for Amazon’s KDP select program (https://kdp.amazon.com/). This will allow readers to download your book for free on their Kindles for up to five days of your choosing. The exposure will help get exposure for your book. It may be painful at first to not make a dime from all of those downloads, but readers who enjoy your book will be looking out for more titles by you, and they will help boost the sales of future books.
That being said, you’ll need to promote your free days before your free days launch. Choose a date at least six weeks in advance and begin to spread the word. Visit the following sites for email inquiry templates and websites that will promote your free days:
Goodreads is also a great place to give away your books. Create an author profile on your site. Link your books to the profile. Then, start a giveaway. Goodreads giveaways are free to create and enter. However, you must give away hard copies of your books. Set it up for at least five winners, and let it run for at least one month (they recommend three). You must get approval from the Goodreads moderators in advance so make sure to set up your giveaway at least one week before the intended start date. Then, have your copies ready to mail out right away.
During the contest, participants will be given the option to add the book to their to-read list. This will give you great exposure and possibly even sales. The list of winners will be sent to you by Goodreads right after your promotion ends, and then it's up to you to mail the books to them. Postage is the only expense that you will incur, and with any luck, an increase in sales will follow.
Inside every giveaway book, I write a note to the reader congratulating them on winning the contest. I encourage them to lend the book to other young readers and ask that they write a review on Amazon and Goodreads, explaining how that helps independent authors a tremendous amount. I then, sign the book and include links to my social media pages and website. As a result, I have had winners write reviews of my books, and hopefully, my target audience is reading my work.
Create A Website or Blog
There are plenty of places you can go to create a free website or blog. I am currently using Wix (www.wix.com). There, I post published pieces (including poetry, books and articles I have written, reviews, screenshots of websites where my work has been featured, artwork, blog posts and links to other authors’ work. Promote your blog or webpage on your social media accounts, and include it in your signature on all review and promotion requests. Keep it up-to-date, and add to it often. Refer it to people who are interested in what you do or other professionals that you meet while you network. Having a place to store all of your work and writing accomplishments is better than scanning through your computer for samples of your work to show others.
Send out Requests for Reviews
Send out as many review requests as you can before you publish your book. I sent out over 100 review inquires for each book I have written and received only a handful of responses. Most reviewers do their reviewing on the side and don’t charge fees so their review schedule fills up fast. Many will need several weeks, if not months, to review your book. Give them time and be prepared to hand out free copies to them (mostly electronic but some require hard copies).
Encourage your reviewers to post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book-friendly sites. Even bad reviews are helpful in getting your book exposure, and despite the eye sore that they may look like to you, they help to make your book's rating look more legitimate. If all of your reviews have five star ratings, people may question the validity of the reviewers (are they all friends and relatives trying to help you out)? A bad review may even generate curiosity about your book. A reader may want to find out for themselves why a reviewer rated the book so low, especially when it's surrounded by positive reviews. If nothing else, just remember that you can't please everybody.
Participate In and Conduct Author Interviews
In your inquiries, mention that you would be willing to participate in an author interview if you notice that a reviewer or blogger offers them. Some sites have a form with standard questions that you can answer which they then post regularly on their site. Here are a few sites that offer this service:
- Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/
- Awesome Gang: http://awesomegang.com/
- Between the Pages: http://betweenthelinesandmore.blogspot.com/
- LitPick (children's books): https://litpick.com/
Another technique that has worked for me has been interviewing other inde authors about their books. This type of networking has helped me to gain followers on my social media sites. Authors have to help each other out. So, I posted on the Goodreads and Library Thing forums that I was looking for self-published authors to interview. Then, I started to post the interviews, pictures, and links to my social media sites once a week. While requests have slowed down, I have interviewed over 50 authors and even been asked to be interviewed back. I ask the same 10 questions in every interview so the format never changes, just the answers. Authors are grateful for the exposure, and I'm grateful for the new views that I get on my Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
Here are a few author networking sites:
- Addicted to Ebooks - www.addictedtoebooks.com
- Online Book Club - http://forums.onlinebookclub.org
- World Literary Café - http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/user
- KBoards - http://www.kboards.com/
Sell Your Books at Events
I write for an audience that does not typically shop online or read on their Kindles or other e-readers. So, I know how important it is to get hard copy books into kids' hands. Libraries and book stores generally don't want to shelf books by self-published authors (though I was able to get one local book store to shelf my books so it doesn't hurt to ask). So, I decided to try to sell my books at flea markets.This did not go over very well as I barely sold enough books to cover the costs of buying table space at these events. People are there for garage sale items, and while they do give you a pat on the back for your efforts, they generally pass you over for the arts and crafts tables.
So, instead, I started reaching out to local elementary schools and asking if I could come in to promote my books as a local author. In my queries, I outlined a few different presentations I could give and offered to give them a copy of my books to read over first and then decide on how best to present them to the students. My old elementary school responded to one of the queries and set me up with a table during their open house night. The school librarian talked me up in class so that when the kids approached the table, they knew what I was doing there. I sold a good number of books to several of my target readers, and I gained experience in interacting with readers at an author event. If you write for children, I highly recommend this approach. Otherwise, find age appropriate places to try to set up a table and sell your work.
Take a Creative Approach to Your Promotions
I began to notice while marketing my books that my posts and inquiries were largely ignored. As with any advertising campaign, no one wants to be bombarded with requests to purchase your book. So, I took a more subtle approach to marketing my books. Instead of the desperate, “Buy My Book Please!” message, I started to offer glimpses of my story. I created artwork, shared excerpts and gave flashes of characterization in social media posts so that my friends and followers didn’t feel like they were reading ads but interesting and entertaining snapshots of my work. My third book is set in the neighborhood where I grew up. So, I went on that town's Facebook page to promote my work and ended up selling a bunch of books from others who wanted to see their town in print.
I also made bookmarks which I include with every hard copy sale or giveaway. The bookmark is decorated with my name, images of my book covers, and where to buy them. Whenever I have a table, I bring several hundred copies of these bookmarks and give them out to anyone who approaches the table, whether they buy or not. It gives them something to take home and consider later if they are looking for a gift or decide they are curious enough to check it out. Readers can never have too many bookmarks so it's not something they're likely to throw away but just leave hanging around the house or stuck inside a book for anyone to see.
Write More Books
Even if they’re not connected (such as an ongoing series), readers who liked one book from a certain author will go looking for more. The marketing process never stops when it comes to self-publishing so the more titles that you have out there, the more opportunities there will be for readers to discover you as an author.
Things to Avoid
Finally, here are some tips on what to avoid when promoting your work. I've learned these lessons the hard way, and hopefully, these warnings will stop you from doing the same.
- Don’t pay sites to promote or review your work. They don’t pay off.
- Don’t expect overnight success. You’re one writer in a sea of self-published and signed authors trying to get their books sold. Consider every purchase a victory, even if it’s the only sale that you get that month.
- Don’t rush. Take your time with each step, and make sure it’s done right. If it takes you a week’s worth of writing time to send out review inquiries, so be it. Don't set deadlines for yourself unless you think you need one to stay on track. If you don't meet a deadline, don't think of it as a failure. Keep going until you get it right. You don't want to have to correct your mistakes later (typos, bad covers, table of contents, etc.).
- Don’t take rejection personally. Don’t quit over a bad review or think that you are a terrible writer just because you read about something that a reviewer didn’t like. Remember that we all have opinions, and not everyone is going to like or understand what you do.
- Don’t over promote. Take a break if you’re overloading your social media sites with your promos and the “likes” and “favorites” stop coming.
Good luck with your writing, and drop me a link to your published work and tips about what worked for you while marketing your books!