Book Promotion in the Land Before Time – Chapter Fourteen on Self-Publishing
I’ve been fretting about writing this because I feel I still haven’t cracked the giant dinosaur egg of book promotion. Through piles of research I feel I know quite a lot about it, the frustration is turning that knowledge into pennies. Preferably enough pennies to supplement my part-time income so I don’t have to worry about not being able to afford good cheese. Book promotion is a long game. I suspect many formerly enthused self-pubbers suddenly find a wall of apathy within them when trying to tackle this thing.
You see, you are an unknown in a saturated market, trying to get known on the cheap. The fast way to ‘get known’ is generally to throw money at it. But the point of this new era is that in theory, you can do this for nowt if you do all the donkey work. But it takes more time. Much more time. I’m feeling the January blues as well, which doesn’t help. Hopefully sharing some brain goo will help bring back my promotional mojo (promojo).
1. Get a Blog. I still can’t believe it when I chat to self-publishers & they don’t have a blog. You need a way to drive internet traffic to your amazon/smashwords page. It won’t happen by magic. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr. Get a free one. What to post? Stuff about your book, stuff about yourself that gives you a bit of a cyber personality, but don’t share too much. Write blogs about themes related to your novel, so people interested in those themes will be drawn towards your book.
2. Plan way ahead & do your research. Don’t rush your book to market and then find yourself chasing your tail. Get your blog & social media persona up & running way in advance. Hopefully build a little following. More on blogging & social media here. Plan your book launch, try to publicise a bit in advance building to your dramatic entrance. I found it difficult to launch print & ebook at once. In retrospect, as I was throwing a big party, I neglected the ebook a little. You will make mistakes though, don’t dwell on them, think ‘What can I do now?’
3. Don’t rely entirely on international cyber-reality. Local people tend to be interested in local authors. Do contact independent magazines who cover creative stuff. Again think about themes/topics unique to your book. What groups/magazines might be interested? This is easier with non-fiction, but still worth a thought for fiction. Dogtooth Chronicals has strong elements which may be of interest to survivalists, environmentalists, or dog/wolf enthusiasts. It is highly likely much of your correspondense won’t get a reply, but this doesn’t mean they haven’t taken notice.
4. Don’t get ripped off. You’re swimming in shark-infested water. Hopefully you’ve already avoided the vanity press through checking Predators & Editors but you’re not out of the ocean yet. Your stance on anyone who wants to charge you for promotional help or large sums to enter indie book awards should be caution. What will you actually get out of it? Do your research. Writer Beware has lots of good advice on this.
5. Find places to reach readers. There are hundreds of promotion sites for self-publishers. Most of them are only known to self-publishers. Yes, fellow indie authors are also readers & you will need peer support in this, but imagine a roomful of writers all shouting over each other about their own book. That’s what most of these places are like. The most popular sites to reach readers as far as I know are Goodreads and Library Thing. On both you can register an author profile in conjunction with your reader profile. Having a profile on big sites like these will also help with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, for more info see Blogpreneur).
6. Try to contact book clubs. Offer a group discount on your book and material to promote discussion. For an example, have a look at my Dogtooth Chronicals PDF. I admit I haven’t used it yet but apparently Meet Up is a good place to find local book clubs. Also ask friends if they’re part of/know any groups. People are more receptive to writers they have a connection with. If they do read your book, offer to join the group one night for a chat about it.
7. Find book review blogs that are open to self-published work. I will do another blog later with more details on this. You will find most of these sites have a huge backlog and may not be open to new submissions. I’ll be honest it’s a big slog. Try to find ones that are suitable for subject/theme etc. Always have a look at the sort of books they review and their submission guidelines first. You wouldn’t believe how many idiots cluster bomb any old review site with their requests. Have some respect, they’re doing you a favour! To find suitable subjects one way is to google e.g dystopian book reveiws and use googles subsection ‘blogs’. If they come up in the top couple of pages they’re likely to have decent readership. Try a variety of different keywords you want your book associated with. For Dogtooth Chronicals I use ‘magic realism’, ‘environmental science fiction’, ‘dystopian’, ‘speculative fiction’.
8. Speaking of keywords or tags, use these everywhere. Tag your book on online shops (amazon & smashwords give you most control) with these subjects & ask reviewers to agree with these tags. Use them (casually) in blog posts and social media profiles (e.g as #hashtags on twitter). This all makes it easier for someone looking for the next best book on ‘dystopia & dogs’ to find what they’re looking for (clue: it’s Dogtooth Chronicals).
9. Be nice. Share & help others. Be social and take time to chat with other bloggers or forum users about any old stuff. If you were at a party you wouldn’t just wander round shoving your book in people’s faces saying ‘This is great, read this!’. You need foreplay, and sometimes you’ll realise your book isn’t for them anayway, but you may still have made a cyber friend. Don’t over-react to bad press/reviews/trolls. You will be respected more for not rising to it. When writing Dogtooth Chronicals I named one of my chapters ‘The Same Things Celebrated will be the Same Things Berated’, because I knew not everyone would like the swearing/dialect/film references/Wolfgang’s mental ramblings in pigeon English. As a writer putting your work out in the world you must be ready for both constructive and unconstructive criticism.
10. Don’t give up. Even if you have a great product and you’re doing all the right things, it may takes ageas. Give it all the gusto you can for 8 months to a year. You may feel lost in a time warp, wandering plantively down the rabbit warrens of the internet. Take a look around you cos I’ll be there somewhere.
Boom. This is sort of the basics. As always I recommend Self Publishing Resources and the Flourish Blog for more of the good stuff. Also go on the Amazon KDP forums and look for a thread in General called ‘Newbies Start Here’, loads of good tips on the whole process. I will be doing further blogs on promotion. I particularly hope to crack a few specialist areas such as promoting awkward books/literary fiction in a landscape dominated by commercial serial fiction.
All the best, see you in cyberspace…