For the past month I've promised and now I'm delivering a smorgasbord of marketing tips my fellow authors and I have utilized to find readers and sell eBooks. Remember, these are just ideas and should in no way be misconstrued as a guarantee. These authors have also graciously offered copies of one or more of their books for several lucky commenters, so stay tuned below to find out how to win. Now onto the meat and potatoes!
EBook give away time! William Brian Johnson is offering one copy of Hell to Pay, Heidi Ruby Miller one copy each of Ambassadora and Greenshift, Gordon A. Kessler one copy of Novel Writing Made Simple, Nicole Loughan one copy of To Murder a Saint, and me one copy of Running into the Darkness. Leave a comment on this blog post (and a means to contact you like email in word form ex: dabalepublishing at att dot net) by October 31st, 2013 and be entered for the drawing of one of the six eBook prizes. You will be contacted after said date if you are a winner.
Marketing your novel can be one of the most intimidating experiences for the self-published, independent author. Without a marketing degree or industry contacts like the major publishers, the full brunt of the responsibility can feel like you’re swimming against the current in a turbulent storm. Couple that with a lack of computer savvy in today’s wired world and you may feel like throwing up your hands and quitting before you even get out of the gate.
I’m here to tell you – DON’T QUIT!
Let me start by saying that I’ve been there. The eBook universe was changing the publishing landscape on a daily basis by the time I finished my first novel. After spending ample time querying, I decided self-publishing an eBook was for me. The Internet was rife with self-publishing success stories, and the stigma associated with such was dissipating.
So I built an online presence then realized the dream of publishing my first novel. I basked in the joy for a while as I worked the social media components like most of the “how-to” books instruct. I blogged, Facebook’ed, tweeted – you name it. Sales were minimal. Soon they were anemic. What was I doing wrong?
Reality check time – nothing’s wrong. The truth is the Internet has become flooded by other independent authors doing exactly the same things. Once again the publishing world is in flux. So what practical ways could I utilize to find actual readers out there?
I still haven’t permanently found that sweet spot, but what I want to share with you in this article are specific things both my fellow indie authors and I have utilized to find readers in the virtual world of eBooks.
1. Utilize established news outlets and bloggers
Recently I had a spate of sales through Amazon that caught me by surprise – over seventy eBooks in a twenty-four hour period, which was huge for me. A friend had sent me a link to a news outlet that regularly highlights independent authors. Figured there was little chance the commentator would pick little old me to highlight, but after debating over it for several months I finally decided it couldn’t hurt to at least try. I sent a brief email outlining my book title, the synopsis, and the Amazon link for my novel Running into the Darkness and thanked him for considering my book. A few weeks later, I was shocked to discover he’d chosen my book!
If you’d like to try this specific tactic, the site link is http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/. Email Glenn at email@example.com. He gets many requests daily so there’s no guarantee he’ll post your book, but I believe one of the reasons he picked mine was because of the brevity of my email. Just give the facts as mentioned above. He’s an Amazon affiliate so avoid any other links.
Since then, I’ve picked up some residual sales from word-of-mouth. It also gave me the confidence to approach other news feed sites with a brief request. There haven’t been any other takers as of yet, but I figure the only things the effort hurts are my wrists. :-) No matter who you contact, remember you are a professional and act as such. If they don’t respond, let it go and move on to the next contact. Don’t keep hounding anyone. Sometimes we all feel desperate, but never EVER act like it. Keep in mind what your momma taught you – treat everyone with respect no matter what.
2. Target your audience
With the Halloween season rapidly approaching, fellow indie author William Brian Johnson (http://fatherthunder.blogspot.com and www.ruminationofthunder.com) has a fun approach this time of year to marketing his horror novel Hell to Pay. Brian explains that he “…found a group of like-minded writers that promote themselves over Halloween on a blog hop called the ‘Coffin Hop’. We do guest blogs, giveaways, baskets and I’ve met some interesting folk.” This example can be utilized for other seasons throughout the year: romance at Valentine’s, inspirational at Easter, Christmas…you get the picture. With my political thriller, I even try to take advantage of the election season every other year. Search the Internet for other authors and groups within your genre and work together to promote one another. The old adage applies here…you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Another way to target your marketing efforts is to remember to utilize your genre identifiers. Heidi Ruby Miller (http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com), author of Greenshift and Ambassadora, explains it well. “Use your Amazon tags wisely. You only have two major categories and seven keyword categories. Take advantage of both your general markets and niche markets so that you can optimize the search results for your book. For instance, my latest novel Greenshift is listed in the broad main categories of Science Fiction and Space Opera, but I’ve included appropriate niche tags that are already popular like galactic empire, science fiction romance, futuristic, military science fiction, fantasy romance, science fiction adventure, and series.” You’ll choose your two main categories when uploading your eBook on Amazon. Once your book page is live, scroll down toward the bottom to input your seven keyword categories. As Heidi said – choose wisely!
Nicole Loughan (www.littlespotforstories.com), author of novellas To Murder a Saint and All Saints’ Secrets, had another great idea for targeting your audience. “Another thing I did that I think was helpful was getting Facebook announcements from my Alumni Association. I went to
, one of the largest universities in the country so I have a huge amount of alumni available to sell to.” Michigan State University
3. Participate in a blog tour
Now first thing I’ll say here is that this is an investment in your writing career. It is unlikely you will recoup the associated costs through your book sales during the actual tour. However, it’s a great way to ramp up interest in your novel and accumulate needed book reviews over a short period of time. Reviews help sales!
There are many blog tour companies out there. A quick Internet search will offer plenty to choose from. Some are al-la-carte while others charge an all-inclusive rate. Some are a rip-off. Others are so-so in what they offer. Just do your homework. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. And if you’ve written a thriller, don’t choose a tour company that focuses on romance. Yes, they’ll take your money just the same, but it will be money poorly spent.
If you’d like a recommendation to make it easier, I’ve participated in tours with Tribute Books (http://www.tribute-books.com/blog_tours.html) and highly recommend Nicole and the gang for their professionalism in communication and organization. They gather the tour stops, create a website with all of the tour dates and stops displayed and a banner you can utilize to drum up interest on your own website/blog. You choose whether you want stops for reviews, guest posts, interviews or even a mixture to keep it interesting throughout the month-long process. They blog, Twitter, and Facebook your tour and ask you to do the same leading up to and during the tour. You can even have a giveaway as part of your tour promotion. There are several different packages to choose from, and they’re all reasonably priced.
4. Give ‘em away
This may sound contradictory to what you hope to accomplish as a published author – I mean, you spent months and years working to create your masterpiece(s) and should be rewarded for your hard work. But the reality is that in the whole publishing realm you are a virtual nobody at this point. What you’re trying to do right now is get noticed, get your book into as many hands as possible, and garner reviews to help sell future books. Forward thinking at work here, folks!
Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) is a site that allows you to publish your book in all eBook formats – if you’re not on it you need to be. Once you’re published here you can also go in and create coupons on your books for percentage discounts up to 100%. Just access the Coupon Manager from your dashboard, create the coupon, discount, and expiration date then send the code or use it to gift a copy to whomever you wish. Best of all, this method doesn’t cost you a thing!
Rafflecopter (www.rafflecopter.com) is another site that is a great way to offer professional-looking giveaways. The basic level is free and the next level costs just $7.99 per month. You can build your giveaway by choosing the prize(s), the dates of the giveaway (I recommend 30 days), and even allow your entrants to Tweet about, like your Facebook page, or comment on your website/blog. Once you’ve built your giveaway and expiration date, the site prepares a widget code that you post under HTML on your website/blog. You can even provide the widget to others to post on their sites to help promote your giveaway. Entrants simply click the box to login and enter for a chance to win whatever prize you’ve set. At the end of the giveaway period, you go into the site, click on choose a winner and send them an email with their prize. The nice thing about this is that it collects the names and email addresses of the entrants so you can create a fan base to notify when you have new book releases. However, avoid abusing this information by sending random emails – makes you nothing more than a spammer and nobody likes a bunch of spam filling their inbox.
GoodReads (www.goodreads.com) is a wonderful site that connects writers AND readers. If you’ve not created your author profile here, do it as soon as you are finished reading this article (and remember to connect your books to your author page). Readers can find your books and put them on their “to read” shelf. You can let these potential readers know about your giveaways for your books when you have them. Many GoodReads participants also leave reviews and comments on your novels and make recommendations to other GoodReads readers. It’s a great way to help spread the word.
But we were talking about giveaways here so let me offer you another of Nicole Loughan’s suggestions. Even though the focus of this article is on eBook marketing, she had great results with a GoodReads giveaway of physical books at www.goodreads.com/giveaway. Nicole says, “What you do is offer a physical giveaway of your book for a 30 day period of time and people sign up to win a free copy. Between the two, more than 1,000 people signed up for the giveaway. And 600 of them added me to their to read list. Not that all of those people have purchased yet, that would be nice. But a few definitely did.”
5. Above all – ALWAYS present yourself as a professional
This should be understood, but you might be surprised what you’ll find out there in the indie world both in the material published and in author image. As a reader, I make a point of trying to support fellow indie authors’ works. But I’ve gotta tell you, sometimes it’s nigh impossible.
Many times I’ve downloaded material to my Kindle and just about had a cow when within the first few pages there were so many basic punctuation and grammar errors or formatting disasters. The storyline may be enticing and totally unique, but I never get that because I can’t get past all of the problems to even get into said storyline. You aren’t doing yourself any favors if you rush to publish without taking the time to get your manuscript into the best shape possible.
Gordon Kessler (http://gordonkessler.com), author of numerous novels and writing tools like Novel Writing Made Simple, offers some helpful guidelines in regard to getting your product into publishable shape:
a. Give it a catchy title that fits your story’s genre
b. Give it a professional, attractive cover design – when readers come across your novel, it’s the first thing they see, and that image needs to draw them in to take a closer look
c. It should be professionally formatted – the way your book is laid out on the inside is incredibly important. Since readers can sample your book on online bookseller sites, they’ll probably take a sneak peek at your story opening before they decide whether or not to buy
d. Ensure your book description (synopsis) is every bit as enticing as your novel. Think of it as a movie pitch to a producer. Give them a great opening line (a hook), then pitch the story in movie-trailer fashion
Heidi Ruby Miller also offers this little tidbit of advice, “Keep writing and writing well. The next book will sell the previous books, especially if they are part of a series or within the same genre. But don’t hurry a product out to readers that isn’t your personal best – they notice.”
For a reasonable editing option, try a website called Grammarly (www.grammarly.com). They offer an affordable online site to check your manuscript for grammar and punctuation errors. Again, we’re talking an investment in your future as a published author. Once you put something out there for public consumption, your abilities are on display for the world to see. Grammarly is one way to help ensure that whatever you put out will be seen in the best possible light.
Make sure your image is consistent. Utilize the same photo of yourself on your website/blog as well as all social media profiles. And when you use social sites, do more than just constantly yammer about your own novels. Most of us don’t like pushy salespeople that come across as the proverbial used car salesman – so don’t act like one yourself. Use the opportunity to also talk about what you’re reading, promote other authors, your interests (besides books), or maybe an insight you’ve had. Otherwise your followers will stop paying attention to your posts – you may even drop off of their radar completely. Just keep your image open and friendly to your audience. Perhaps then they’ll keep coming back for more – and that’s the ultimate goal when you’re trying to find that marketing niche.
So there you have it, dear readers! As an author, when you’re marketing your books you’re actually marketing yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in new and interesting ways to find your audience. William Brian Johnson even incorporates his novel sales into his storm photography booth at craft fairs, which I thought was pretty unique. The more eyes that see your book and the more hands you can get it into will only help in the long run.
Let me end this article with a final word from Heidi Ruby Miller. “Don’t panic. The long tail is your friend. There are millions of readers, which means you could see a jump in your sales at any time and for apparently no reason next month, next year, five years from now. No more trying to sell yourself in just a two-week shelf window.”
Now get out there, write your best, and then find your readers!