I can't believe these Genre-istas think I'm an expert at anything. I have published three books and a number of short stories, but I still think of myself as little more than an amateur. I still take courses on writing and feel I have a lot to learn. But I also give workshops and teach because I like sharing what I do know, so here I am to discuss the one thing I want to tell writers before you publish.
First of all, congratulations. This is huge. But it's just the beginning of a humongous business adventure. You are an entrepreneur whose book launch faces the same challenges as any other product launch. Maybe more, because you have much more competition. Hundreds of thousands of books are published yearly in the United States alone, and that number does NOT include self-published books. That means your number one enemy is lack of Discoverability. If readers don't know about you or your books they cannot buy them. While established authors have followings (hopefully), as a new author you have to build a following. And that's why:
You can NEVER do too much promotion.
I'm not talking about the "Buy My Book" blasts that annoy people and drive potential readers to Unfriend or Unfollow you. I'm talking about letting the right people get to know you so well they tell themselves they should go out and find your book to buy.
If you are working with a traditional publisher they have developed a promotion path, one that begins months before the actual release day. If you are with a small publisher or self-publishing, all that falls on your shoulders. In fact, even with a traditional publisher it benefits you and your books visibility to do as much as you can in addition to their plan.
My tips -
1. Find YOUR target audience
I hear a lot of first time authors declare that "everyone" would love their book. Wrong. Even NYT Bestsellers are not beloved by everyone. More importantly, reaching everyone is costly. Marketing departments know they don't have the time, budget, and expertise to reach every potential person who might find your book interesting. If you do, more power to you. But most likely your budget, in terms of money, time and effort, is slim.
Narrow down your target audience to something you promotion budget can effectively reach. Sit down and honestly pick four or five categories of people that your book will have special appeal for.
Because I write YA and MG books featuring diverse casts dealing with family and relationship and written from the male POV (usually involving some sport), my audience includes
- Teens/tweens with parental or sibling issues
- Young males, especially those interested in sports
- Girls who are interested in what's going on inside a guy's head
- Kids who want to see a window or mirror into more diverse world
- Teachers and librarians who serve patrons with any of the above issues
This list makes up my primary market, the ones I actively seek. For example, my third novel, Minority of One dealt with a gay African-American member of the track team and the discovery that his family has been hiding an ugly secret from him all his life. Knowing this let me actively target the right bloggers and reviewers and activities to reach those groups.
When you reach the right people, you increase the chance of achieving the holy grail of marketing - word of mouth. Readers sharing the book they have discovered with family and friends. That costs you nothing but has the potential to connect to that all-important "everyone."
2. Plan your marketing efforts in advance of your release date.
Schedule activities the way an Olympic athlete trains so interest in your book reaches its peak right at your release date. Doing this puts you in alignment with other professionals and business people. A leak here, a mention there in the months leading up to the newest iPhone release and people are standing in line days in advance of the release. Take a tip from movie studios, you know, the ones already advertising their Christmas releases. Better still, the ones with 2016 releases filling the pages of entertainment magazines; movies like Batman vs Superman, or the next Captain America movie. These guys know how to create demand and make people save up so they can rush to spend once product is available.
- Make yourself available on social media for people to get to know you months before the book release. Talk with people, in person and on social media, about things they are interested in. During these months, let them begin to think of you as a friend. (Most people prefer buying things from friends.) In other words, promote yourself, not just your book.
- Hold a Goodreads giveaway. At this time they only do physical books, so you would need hardcopies, but the giveaway itself is a good way to spark interest and get the word out about the coming book. You can schedule it months before the book comes out, set the number of copies, and limit the physical locations of the winners (a good idea if your budget can't handle the expense of mailing books overseas, especially if your target audience has geographic constraints)
- Make a big thing about your cover reveal. Whether it's Instagram or a blog, get this out for people to look at, comment on, share and enjoy. I suggest doing this at least a month before release.
- Look for any kind of current issue or concern in your target market that your book touches on. Blog, comment, share and respond to those issues. You're aim is to let people know about you and your upcoming book. By doing advance work you can wet reader's appetites without overwhelming them with BUY notices.
Keep actual advertising to a minimum; bombarding twitter and Facebook with "buy my book" ads will turn people off. But having your friends share the information that they just found this really great book and... is a turn on.
3. Gather Reviews
The earlier you can get on a reviewer's schedule the better. If your publisher has sent you copies of your book, they are not just brag copies for your mom and dad, (OK, they can have one). Get them into the hands of people who will review and share. If you self publish, consider making print copies in advance of your official publication date for distribution to reviewers who prefer hardcopy. Don't forget your local librarians, they are more likely to consider a book for inclusion on the shelves if they have a chance to see it first. Just be careful to talk with the librarian first and not just hand the copy over to the people at the check-out desk, otherwise your book may find its way to the fifty-cent book sale table instead!
Post ecopies on NetGalley. Even though some authors think is is a Ground Zero for piracy, it is a place to distribute your book to serious reviewers. Yes, some people are on the site just for free books. But there are also book bloggers, librarians, and professional reviewers. When these people find a book they like, they share the information with their peers and readership. A Netgalley subscription is expensive, but there are author coops that may rent you space for a month or so. If you are truly interested in getting your books into libraries or schools, this is a place to be.
If you are looking for bloggers who review your book's genre, check out the Book Blogger List.
Different authors note different success rates from blog tours. Joining with other authors can increase your draw. Take the time to research the blogger. Do they reach your intended audience?
4. Publication and Release
Know that Amazon has literally millions of books with hundreds of thousands more being added every year. Unless you manage to work their mysterious algorithm (and I have no advice on how to do that) your books may never come to a reader's notice if they are just casually browsing. It will be easier for readers to discover that needle than to find your book in the haystack that is Amazon's lists.
This is where your promotion efforts help. You want people looking for you by name, or for your book by title, not just searching through a never-ending list of books in a specific category waiting for something to catch their eye.
click here to see my Ask The Librarian post interviewing a few librarians who serve everything from children to senior citizens.
5 Post Publication
A blog tour to coincide with the release can be helpful, although it helps more if your name is already out there. Don't go through a lot of effort or expense, authors note mixed results in terms of increased sales, but they can increase name recognition. Keep up your social media presence; continue gentle reminders to get people to know you and to remember that your book is out there.
Look for local opportunities for more notice. Here in Illinois you can ask your local librarian to nominate your self-published book for the Soon To Be Famous author contest. The finalists, the result is major publicity in the state, increased discoverability and promotional tie-ins. Many Illinois libraries and bookstores routinely stock the winning book. Check your area to see if something similar may be available.
6 Final TipThere are no guarantees. There is always the risk that a reviewer will say you did something wrong. Go ahead and be upset, even when your author credentials are questioned.
Before sending off an angry response, step back. Wait. Then take a second look at the feedback. See if there are some lessons you can use to do things better next time.Strive to write the best way possible and present the best characterization and plot you can.
Accept that you may make mistakes. Don't stop because readers or reviewers note a problem with your first efforts. Acknowledge the criticism and learn from it.
And then write again, because the journey never ends.
P. S. Sorry I got so wordy. Hope you find something helpful here.
Pull (2010), Being God (2013), and Minority Of One (2014). he first MG novel, tentatively titled Courage, will be released in 2016. Her first adult romance, The Last Logan, is also scheduled for 2016. For more about the author Like facebook.com.allthecolorsoflove