Promoting your self-published book begins way before you press “Publish.” Three, six, even twelve months prior to publishing is not an unreasonable time to build your author platform, create original content for your website, and grow your writing, authoring, and reading communities.
Have you read Seth Godin? If not, please do. He—and others—talk a lot about the idea of knowing your story. Your story is not the book you’re gearing up to promote. Your story is the foundation of all your social media platforms.
Your story is all about who you are and why you write the stories you write. Your story is not an “ask.” Your story is a “tell.”
Before I dive into sharing what I have learned during my first year as a self-published author, I want you to take a look at the following questions:
- What are your self-publishing goals for your first year?
- Is your book professionally edited, copy edited and proofread?
- Is your book formatted?
- Have you given your book a professionally designed cover?
- Do you have blurbs ready?
- Do you have 15-20 or more excerpts from your book, as well as images to use in order to create posts for your social media accounts?
- How many books to you plan to release in your first year?
- What is your distribution strategy?
- Will you publish e-books only, or e-books and paperbacks?
- Do you plan to go wide?
- If you go wide, will you upload the book files yourself to each e-retailer individually or use a service like Draft2Digital?
- Or will you enroll in Kindle Unlimited?
- Do you have an attractive, well-designed, easily navigated website?
- Are you creating original content for that website?
- Do you have a newsletter sign-up on the website?
- If you are planning to put out a newsletter, have you signed up for a newsletter service?
- Have you sent out test newsletters on Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.?
- Have you set up your social media accounts?
- Are you showing up consistently?
- Are your message and your brand consistent across those platforms?
- What platform are you most comfortable with, which one(s) are more challenging?
- Hashtags. Hashtags!
- Will you send out ARCs to reviewers?
- If so, will you send them out yourself?
- Will you utilize services such as Bookfunnel and Booksprout, or sign up for the more costly Netgalley?
- How many reviews to you want to have on Goodreads before your book release?
- Will you set up a preorder for your book?
- Have you set up a calendar for teasers, a cover reveal, etc.?
- Have you contacted book bloggers and book reviewers about taking part in a blog hop or reviewing your book?
- Have you set up author pages at each of your e-retailers, plus Goodreads, Bookbub, Book and Main?
- How will you deal with low sales, or even no sales?
- Do you have a budget for ads?
- If so, will you be placing AMS ads or Facebook ads, or boosting your Facebook posts?
- Who are your personal support people?
- Who are your professional support people?
- Have you joined any professional organizations geared toward your genre(s)?
- Once you have readers, will you engage with them one-on-one? If so, how?
And perhaps most important of all…
- When do you plan to publish your next book, and the one after that?
If that list is dizzying and most of your answers to the questions are no, or wha…? you might want to rethink your readiness to press “Publish.” There really is such a thing as putting a book out before you are ready*.
Before You Start
Before I started to self-publish, I was lucky to have a successful indie author offer me her wisdom. Here is the gist of what she shared:
- First and foremost, she recommended I have 3 books (minimum) in my publishing pipeline. The books could each be at a different stage of readiness, but dropping a book every 2-3 months creates momentum. And momentum means a lot in this business. (*see the above comment about publishing before you are ready.)
- Create a one-time list of everyone you know. Send them an email announcing you and your book. Let them know how excited you are. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter and to forward the email to anyone they know who reads books like yours. Include links to your website and links to buy your book. And if the people you email don’t respond, don’t bother them again.
- Cultivate your “uber fans,” those readers who love your book and are willing to tell people about it. We all start somewhere, and even one vocal fan can be an enormous asset.
- Keep writing. Get your butt into your chair and write. Make a writing schedule and stick to it. Create the stamina and muscle power to write and edit and market. And do it all again the next day.
Personal story break: I lasted a little over one year in the query trenches. At one point, my absolute top choice for an agent asked for a two-week exclusive on the manuscript I submitted to her.
I squeed myself hoarse.
The fourteen days she requested turned into seventeen, then twenty, and when I nudged her, she asked for more time. I gave it to her.
Three months later—THREE MONTHS—she said she just couldn’t fully get behind the story. I cried.
And then I looked hard at who I am and how I work best and I knew self-publishing was the route I would go.
I listened to my mentor and got two of those three books lined up, and while I was waiting for final edits on one of them, I wrote the 15K-word novelette that became my freebie, my introduction, and my calling card. I put that novelette up on Bookfunnel, spread the news everywhere to enlist readers (because I was being a bit scattershot), and pressed “Publish” before I was truly ready.
Why did I jump the gun? Because when you’re the one doing every single thing related to getting your book out in the world, by yourself, you’ll want to test your systems in the most fail-safe way possible.
Glitches will happen, so plug in your iron and press them out.
Now, I have a list of steps to double- and triple-check before I press “Publish.” I share my glitches and missteps with my writer/author friends, and they share theirs with me. Together, we’re getting it done.
I’ve got a few more questions/tidbits before you run off to promote your self-published book:
Is your book available in paperback? Carry a handful of copies with you.
Are there independent booksellers in your area? Approach them about carrying your book. Some will pay upfront, others will pay on commission. Carry an invoice book with you and keep track of what you’re selling, how many, and to whom. Consider asking boutiques or shops you frequent if they would carry your books.
Create business cards. Have your basic contact information and website on there, and consider adding the URL to your giveaway (think novelette, short story, something to introduce yourself and get potential readers eager for more). Hand the cards out like candy hearts on Valentine’s Day.
Be generous with potential readers. Be willing to give books away.
Be generous with your fellow authors. Read their books. Review their books. Talk about their books. You have platforms; use them.
Get your butt back in your chair and write.
Ask your readers for reviews. Let them know why reviews are important to you. Include links to the review sites at the end of your book and on your website.
Utilize the 80/20 Rule. Eighty percent of the time you show up on social media, let your readers get to know you. Twenty percent of the time, sell your books.
You can sell books with little to no financial outlay (aside from the costs of producing the book).
- Network your buns off.
- Ask other authors what has worked for them. Ask nicely. Thank them for their time.
You can sell books by pouring money into ads.
- In order for those ads to work, you need to understand how to use them effectively. At this point, I don’t. But I do notice a surge of interest whenever I do targeted Facebook boosts to popular posts.
Get your butt back in your chair and write.
The best way I know to promote your self-published books is to be authentically you and be prepared to toot your own horn twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is no sitting back and waiting for the book sales to roll in.
Put yourself out there. Widen your circles. Get out of your comfort zones(s).
Learn how to manage your time.
Get your butt back in your chair and write.
As far as social media platforms go, Twitter has been a great place for me to meet and connect with other writers and authors. Facebook is where I do the bulk of my engagement with readers, and where I found beta readers who are not writers. Facebook is also where I vet ARC readers and am building my “troupe.”
There is no one quick route, sure-fire to promoting your self-published book(s) such that you see the sales results we would all like to see.
But if you keep showing up to do the work of getting out the word about who you are, what you write, and why you write…
…and if you can figure out how to tell the unique story behind your stories…
…you’re going to build a readership that not only stays with you, they’ll let others know they might enjoy following along, too.
And always, ALWAYS, butt in the chair, words on the page.
There are many marketing professionals out there. Here are a few I’ve found knowledgeable:
- Alessandra Torre
- Chris Syme
- Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula
- Skye Warren
- Self-Publishing Advice (Alliance of Independent Authors)