Monday, July 18, 2016

Self-Promotion – An Author’s Guide

We all have dreams of a publisher who does everything for us, but the reality is that authors are responsible for almost all publicity and outreach to the general market. This means that you have to put in the work and fork over the $$$ if you want to do a book signing, or place an advertisement. Only under rare circumstances…like your name is Stephen King…do they do everything for you. Whether you’ve signed with a publisher, or you are an indie author, it’s time to make your marketing plan. Let's get going!

Focus on Your Story/World: Until you’ve gained some traction, and fans, try focusing on extra content for your readers and going from there. If you’re a social butterfly and really want to get out there and share yourself with the world right away, it’s best to take a 50/50 approach – 50% of the time on your book (world, characters, etc.) and 50% of the time on you (interviews, events, etc.). 

I'm Ready for my Close-Up: Start locally. Look into book signings and author talks at local coffee shops, bookstores, schools, and libraries. Once you figure out what you’re doing and how to do it well, move to panels, online interviews/videos, major author events, etc. If you’re kinda shy, like me, the important thing to remember is to stay within your comfort zone. Do things that you really want to do, not the things that you think you should do. 

Set A (Realistic) Budget: Book advertising and appearances can get pricey fast, and it’s really easy to overlook this when you’re excited and full of GREAT ideas. Pick an amount you won’t go over and stick to it, then decide where to focus your marketing. All online? All events? Merchandise? All of the above? 

Don’t want to break the bank? You can still promote your work for free…it’ll just take some effort. There are tons of book sites out there where you can advertise your work for free (or for cheap). Start Googling similar authors/books and see what you find. Book reviewers will also read your book for FREE and post a review with links to purchase it. Almost all reviewers accept ebooks or PDF formats, so you don’t have to pay to ship your book. You get free advertising and they get a free book. :)

Where to start?
Get Social: At the very least you should have a personal website and/or a Facebook page. You can create an author website using a number of free templates like Weebly (this is what I use) or even Wordpress if you want to include a blog component. If you're not tech savvy, hire someone who can get the job done. It doesn't have to be fancy schmancy. Update your content frequently and be sure that links to purchase your books are easily accessible. Your domain name should be something simple like your name (if it's easy to spell or it's abbreviated) or the name of your book (again, if it's easy to spell). If you have a popular name, or just want to stand out more, try adding the words author, writer, or your particular genre to your name. For example, or

If you’re able, try to use at least one or two more methods of social media for regular promotions. Different media means different audiences. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, they’ll all work. If you want to take it one step further, get Google Analytics, or utilize the tracking metrics provided by your website carrier, and monitor where traffic is coming from and tweak your promos accordingly. I try to look at my metrics at least once a month and noticed early on that my audience varies widely from each of my social media accounts. I get the most traffic to my personal website from Facebook and subsequently more clicks to Amazon. I also get the most FB clicks when I post pictures. I limit my posts to once or twice a week. I don't get a lot of Twitter traffic to my site in general, or click-troughs to Amazon, but  I do get a lot of retweets and likes if I'm doing a giveaway or promo. My Twitter audience has also been more likely to sign up for my newsletter. Again, it varies depending on what you're putting out there, your intended audience, and your social media platform.  

Time-zones and days of the week are also something to be mindful about. I've read tons of articles about the best days/times to post for particular social media accounts, but never felt they were accurate. It's all about trial and error. Even then though, there is no set pattern. My what you want when you want

Look into writing guest posts on book blogs. You can write about writing, genres, reading, etc. Almost all book blogs are always looking to do author interviews as well. This is a win-win because you get free promotion and they get fresh content.  

Did you say free?
Free Stuff: Giving away anything, especially free autographed copies of your book, is a great way to gain free exposure from people who might not otherwise pick up your book. You can kill two birds with one stone if you implement a required call to action, like entrants have to sign up for your newsletter in exchange for entering your contest.

Amazon giveaways are my go-to for giveaways. It’s super easy to set it up and they ship everything for you. In addition, you can make it required for entrants to follow you on social media, etc. Score! You can also try hosting giveaways on Goodreads or on book reviewer websites. You'll have to package and ship your books/merch though.

Give your books to other authors in your situation. Why? Because authors know what it’s like to, well, be an author. They know it’s hard to get reviews, so they will be much more inclined to sit down and write a well-written review for you. They know how hard it is to promote books, so they will most likely promote your work. I’ve yet to encounter a fellow author, in my genre or other genre, that wasn’t helpful in this way. It can take awhile though. Most authors work a day job, in addition to having a buzzing personal life, so don't take offense if they can't get to it for quite awhile. If another author is kind enough to review your book or provide you with a blurb, always be sure to return the favor. Don't be afraid to make the first move either. Buy their book, read it, post your review, and tell them what you thought. I absolutely LOVE IT when other authors reach out to me in this way! I always add their book to my reading list and tell them I'll review their book within a certain timeframe. If you're not getting a response, you might be targeting authors who are too big and/or only allowed to review books that their publisher tells them to. In the beginning, I foolishly contacted some big names for a review and had to learn the hard way that not everyone will review my book.

Create Some Hype: Teaser trailers are super popular for a reason. If you can’t afford it, or just want to do it yourself, you can download a movie making program, although almost all computers and iPads already have a program on them. iMovie is probably the easiest. Everything is already programmed (music, transitions, etc.), so all you need to do is add your content. Get stock images/videos from a high-quality stock image websites like Shutterstock. You can also find tons of free stock images/vids, like on Photype, it just might take a little bit more time to find them. Before you publish anything, be sure to run it past your publisher first. If you’re an indie author, run it by other authors or friends to make sure everything looks as intended.

Other Stuff:
Bookmarks: Include your book cover, short summary, the ISBN numbers, and your name. Give them to booksellers, librarians, and pretty much anyone who you think would enjoy it. 

Introduce Yourself: Get out in your community and introduce yourself to booksellers and librarians.

Send Out ARCs or Advanced Copies: You can easily set up a template for readers to request a copy.

Thank Those Who've Helped You: Thank the people who read your book and took the time to leave a review. Thank your fellow authors who’ve supported you. Thank the people who took the time to promote your work on their blog, Twitter, or You Tube channel. Thank everyone who has helped you get where you are today. Having said that, I have to give a BIG thanks to the following authors who’ve helped me tremendously with writing advice, promotion, and awesome support: Christie Stratos, J.D. Estrada, Penny Warner, and J.E. Plemons. All of these authors are amazing writers and I highly recommend that you check out their work! Also, thank you to all the people who’ve walked this journey with me, especially to all those kick-ass book bloggers out there. And, a giant thanks to all those who’ve read and posted a review of Strange Luck. Your words mean the world to me. 

Have you checked out my other posts on writing? You might enjoy these too:

Comments? Questions? Marketing tips? Share below.

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