All authors have to be marketers these days. It’s true of those in the mainstream publishing industry, whose publishers spend most of their marketing budget on the biggest names. It’s doubly true for independent authors, who are entirely dependent upon their own effort to sell books.
The internet lies at the centre of modern book marketing. So how do you go about marketing there?
Getting the Package Right
First up, you need to master the fundamentals of your book as a product. Not the story you’re telling inside, but everything that’s wrapped in.
Get a cover that’s eye-catching and fits your genre.
Write a description for the cover and sales pages that accurately and appealingly describes what’s inside.
Make sure that your title gets across the tone of your story and will draw the attention of the right readers.
Setting up a website is both easy and important. There are plenty of different services that you can use if you don’t know coding. There is even a specialized tool for writers, Readership Pro (coming soon), which is developed by the same team as Re:Fiction.
Your website is a place to express your personality, to show readers why they should be interested in you and your books. It’s also a place you will use to funnel readers to those books. So include some information about yourself and pages dedicated to each of your books. Include links to where people can buy them. Add a sign-up form for your mailing list.
If you’re not sure what to write on your website then look at those of other authors. It may also be worth considering keywords, the words and phrases people will use to look for books like yours. That’s a whole topic in itself, but if you can think of a few and use them in your site that will help attract readers.
It’s impossible to market anything online without using social media. It’s where people go for their news, opinions, and much of their social interaction. Some platforms may be more useful to you than others, but the important thing is that you’re out there somewhere.
If a social media stream is just an endless series of adverts then people stop paying attention. So think carefully about how you use social media. Share other things that will interest your sort of readers. Spark conversations. Interact with fans. Make yourself useful if you can. It’s all about keeping people interested in you long enough to tell them about your book later.
Try to build relationships with influential people in your genre – usually other authors and bloggers. Read the things they write and work out what interests them. Try to create conversations with them on social media, and to respond to things they say. Share their news. If you have a blog or a podcast, you might try to get them on for a guest spot or interview.
Make yourself useful and interesting, make them care about you, and some of those people will help spread word of your book later.
Reviews are the life blood of sales. They tell people which books are to their tastes and which are well written. They create buzz around books.
You can read a whole article on getting reviews here. Other online marketing will help you get reviews, and reviews will help with your online marketing. The two are inextricably bound.
Consider a Soft Launch
Some authors, such as thriller author Joanna Penn, use a “soft launch” when starting out with a new book.
This means releasing the book for a little while before you start heavily publicising it. During that time, you approach reviewers and your mailing list, seeking to get reviews on sites such as Amazon. You check in case any early readers spot flaws with the book that you can fix. You get an idea of what people most enjoy about the book and so how to market it.
A soft launch can risk spreading out the early sales that boost a book’s profile. But done well, it can help you to achieve a really smooth launch.
Some paid marketing is worth using and some isn’t, so be careful. There are some services such as Bookbub where appearing in their mailings will almost guarantee a healthy sales spike. Others are little more than scams for the unwary.
Whatever marketing service you’re thinking of using, Google them first to see what other people say. Find out if they work well in general and in particular for your genre. Then consider spending a little money to get more in return.
Online marketing is complex and ever-changing in its details. But if you can master the fundamentals, it can become the backbone of your literary career.