Regardless of whether you are traditionally or self-published, you will need to be heavily involved in marketing your book. This means having a visible presence on a variety of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as attending a wide variety of events, either as a speaker or to mingle with other attendees from the publishing industry.
Most authors I know would consider marketing and promotion their least favourite part of the publishing process. I think, as writers, we tend to be introverts, happy to be locked away with our laptops for months or even years on end, creating fabulous characters or whole new universes within the pages of our books. The slog of trying to find an agent or publisher (if we tried that route) was exhausting, but at least it was mostly done via email, one agent or publisher at a time. Now, you want me to go outside and actually speak to people?! Noooooo!
While there is a lot you can do from behind the safety of your laptop, if you’re not comfortable speaking about your book in front of large groups of people or perhaps even on radio, then the life of an author may not be for you. Even if you have a traditional publishing deal and your publisher has sent copies to every media outlet in the world, ensuring massive media coverage, readers still want to hear from YOU. They want to know a little about your life and your background so they feel they know you. They want to know how you became a writer, how you approach your writing, where you get your ideas from, how long it took you to get a publishing deal, etc. You can have prepared responses to many of these questions which you can trot out on demand, but you will have to show up and speak to people. You will need to read from your book, over and over, so make sure you like the first few chapters! You will need to sign copies and chat with buyers or potential buyers. Constantly.
If you are self-published, the work needed to market your book is endless. Getting the book published was the easy part. Getting people to buy it is a whole different ballgame. You need to contact media outlets yourself, which means researching which journalists or radio presenters are most likely to be interested in your book and sending them free copies, along with a blurb that makes them notice your book above others in the sea of books they’ve been sent. Then you need to follow up with them, possibly a number of times, to actually get some airtime or print coverage. You need to contact libraries and bookshops, probably on an individual basis, to get them to stock your book. Going into shops and libraries in person is often more effective than contacting them by phone, so be prepared to do some legwork. You will need to organise your own book launch, possibly in your local library or bookshop. Generally, these are very supportive of local authors, so do be sure to approach them before you consider doing your launch at the local community hall!
You will need to print all your marketing materials, from posters to bookmarks, at your own expense. Unless you’re a whizz at Photoshop or a similar design application, it is likely that you will need to pay someone to design your materials for you in addition to the cost of printing. As you’re spending your own money with no guarantee of earning that money back in sales, you need to be savvy about who you engage to do the work for you – shop around and make sure you are getting quality materials at a good price.
Whether traditionally published or self-published, you will need a website, ideally with an address that matches your name, if it is available. (If you are writing a book, I would suggest buying your domain name as early as possible to ensure it doesn’t get taken by someone else. It only costs a few euro per year and you don’t have to do anything with it until you’re ready.) Your author website needs information about your book and about you. Ideally, you should have a blog page and write fresh, new content on a regular basis. This keeps readers coming back to your site, over and over again. If they didn’t buy your book this time, maybe they will next time! If you are self-published, you will need to design and build your website yourself or pay someone to do it for you. If you are traditionally published, the publisher may help with the design and build. However, it is likely that you will be responsible for all of the content.
In addition to your website, you need a regular presence on major social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. You need to share engaging content – not just a “buy my book – it’s awesome” post on rotation. On Facebook, you need to create a “Page” for yourself as an author – if you promote your book via your private profile, you risk being blocked from Facebook. On Twitter, you can use your regular profile, but I recommend updating your profile page to match the look and feel of your author website. You need to be tweeting often if you want to get people to follow your profile. Again, you need to be sharing interesting content or comments, not just sharing links to your website or photos of your book. You need to engage with other authors, book bloggers, readers, etc. by replying to their tweets or retweeting as appropriate. All of this takes a wedge of your time, every single day.
If you’re new to marketing and all of the above seems overwhelming to you, don’t despair. There are lots and lots of resources available online to help you. It is also well worth joining author groups on Facebook or other social media sites to chat with others about how they approach their marketing.
Marketing your book is time-consuming and hard work, but if you keep putting the effort in you will start to see sales of your book improving.
This brings me to the end of my 5 Steps to Publishing a Book series. I hope I have provided useful information and shown you that you can publish a book if you have the will and the determination. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work, but seeing your book published is a fabulous feeling that makes it all worthwhile. And who knows – maybe you might even make some money!
For more about this post series, see here.
I have now amalgamated all the posts from my “5 Steps to Publishing a Book” series into a short ebook, which you can download for free here!