A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Novel, Part Ten – Marketing
Updated: May 23
In this episode we will look at promotion. I’ll include information about release parties, paid adverts, building connections, book signings, your Facebook page, your website, anthologies, Goodreads and more. This will be my last post in this series, but I’ve enjoyed it so much I would like to cover some of the earlier areas in more depth over the coming months. If there is anything you particularly want to go over please let me know in the comments.
You’ve written an amazing novel. It’s been published. How do you make sure readers buy it?
There seem to be many ways to market a novel. The old drop and run on Facebook groups still seems to be popular. You log into a group that is closely or distantly related to your genre, you throw a picture and/or a book buy link there and run away again. Some readers will click on your link and might even buy your book, other readers and probably the group admins will decide you are rude and annoying and try to ignore you. Is it worth it? Well it is free (apart from any damage to your pride) and it attracts a few book sales (you don’t need many to push your Amazon rank up a little) and it shows your publisher you are trying. I think we can safely say that if you’re harming no one then it’s better than nothing. If you design an eye-catching promotional poster and use that, it’s probably a lot better than doing nothing. At least your name is visible, right?
But there are other things, more creative things, that you/we can do to promote our work and often help others in the community at the same time.
On Amazon (and other online retailers)
Set up an author profile and write a bio. If your bio is old then tweak it. Make sure that all the books you have written or contributed to list you as an author.
Ensure that your book cover is attractive and your blurb is compelling. In case you missed it, I covered blurb writing last week. You want the highest conversion rate between checking out your book page and buying it as possible. Do not stress out about the odd bad review. Often a negative review will attract a new reader as effectively as a positive one.
I’ve been involved in release parties on Facebook and Twitter and I’m sure it’s possible to run one elsewhere on social media. They can be fun and even if you don’t sell huge numbers of books through them there is a good chance you’ll make new contacts. Allowing other authors in your genre to post on your event in exchange for inviting guests is a great way to put yourself in front of a new audience. You can do it for free (if you don’t include time as a cost) or you can pay to advertise it or offer prizes for participants.
Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, The Fussy Librarian, Awesome Gang, Bargain Books, Bookbub, Book Gorilla, Digital Book Today – there are many sites and social media platforms you can use to pay for book advertising. Bookbub is said to be the most effective but is also the most expensive. I’ve had some success with The Fussy Librarian. If you are launching a new book, especially if it is part of a series, it might be money well spent to invest in a little paid advertising, but target it to the right reader by looking at genre and understanding the themes in your book(s).
Follow people on Twitter (stats suggest that 20% will follow you back). Share other people’s posts on Twitter. While we’re talking about Twitter, if you struggle to keep up to date with trending hashtags you can use hashtagify.me but check what they refer to before using them, and whether you can get behind that message, to avoid potential upset.
Interview other authors on your blog. Ask fellow authors and reviewers to interview you – this can be on a blog, radio or video. Join and participate in writer’s groups – in real life and on Facebook – but try to actually add value with what you post rather than drop a promo and run. Comment intelligently on blog posts and newspaper articles. Attend conventions and speak to people there whether you are selling books at a stall or not.
Have a website that’s easy to use for you and potential readers. You don’t have to pay a website developer, but if you have the money available they could create for you a valuable tool. Make sure it’s possible to keep it up to date yourself though. Alternatively wix.com and Wordpress offer easy to use templates that allow you to build and manage your own website. Be aware of key words and use them. If you are a romance writer make sure you include those words in your text so that you will be easier to find on Google if someone searches for relevant terms. Use RSS feeds and/or a newsletter so you can keep your visitors up to date with news and encourage them to return to your site. Either sell your books on the site or provide links to where these can be purchased. Make it easy for a casual visitor.
Most websites will allow you to set up a blog, or you can use Tumblr or Wordpress for this purpose. If you feel like it you can cross post to all three. If you write a post that’s very popular or that you are proud of you can publish it on Medium.
Some of my fellow authors sell far more at signings and conventions than at any other time. A book signing might be something you arranged yourself at a book store or library or it might be an event arranged by PAs and groups of authors. The costs will include hiring a table, buying stock and travelling to the event. These can be significant, but if it’s a well run and well attended event in your genre it could be extremely successful and financially worthwhile. Some events allow for panel discussions or book readings. Try to get involved in as many of the opportunities offered to engage with your audience as you can. It takes courage, but it’s worth it.
Opinions are split as to how worthwhile a Facebook page is these days. Even paid adverts seem to fall flat. I would suggest that you build and maintain a page, but don’t rely on it for promotion. There is an argument that boosting once a week means more traffic to all the posts on your page. Perhaps it is best to play with this tool and decide what works best for you.
Anthologies and box sets
Many of the indie best sellers were propelled to that position by being included in a successful and well advertised box set or anthology. They can be career makers. Not all sell well and most that do have been promoted by the authors included in the collection. I am wary of expensive buy-ins and have heard of some authors being scammed, but there are definitely opportunities available to build your audience if you are accepted into the right book. Keep a look out for open submissions and write short stories between novels if you have the talent for it.
It’s not a place for the easily upset, or so I am assured, but the beauty of Goodreads as a social media forum is that it is dedicated to books and everyone there is a reader. At the very least ensure your books are listed, create an author page and link your blog to it. Like Facebook there are plenty of groups you can join, and there are lists your books can be added to, although they don’t usually allow you to add your own book. Like Facebook and Twitter you can build connections here by reviewing books and commenting on threads. As well as getting a profile set up on Goodreads you should also set up a free author profile on Bookbub while you’re at it, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly how that site works.
Real Life Hacks
Leave your books in odd places and encourage people to read and pass on – this can bring new readers to your wider catalogue and/or website. Ask your dentist or hairdresser whether you can leave business cards or custom made bookmarks at their premises. You don’t have to limit your marketing to online.
If you are self-publishing paperbacks you might also consider using a distributor who can access larger book store chains that wouldn’t consider your books otherwise.
I constantly hear that readers want to learn more about the writer's process. Making short videos regularly and engaging with your readers as a person. Displaying commonality between the readers' interests and your own or those of your characters. Sharing things you love, other than your books are all ways you can convert a casual reader into a loyal fan.
However, author beware, selling yourself is supposed to involve staying out of religion and politics. I have lost followers and readers by not heeding that advice, and being a bit of a blockhead I’ll probably carry on and lose more. Yes some people will be attracted to you because of your politics, for example if you write LGBTQ stories and publicly support LGBTQ causes, but it can be polarising. It’s vital to decide what’s important to you and whether you feel strongly enough about it to risk losing followers.
Do you want the bad news?
Successful indie authors claim they split their time 50/50 between writing and promotion. Without the backing of a publishing house or a PR company it takes a lot of time and effort to get your name out into the world. But you’ve written something you are proud of and now you want others to read it and hopefully tell you how much they love it. We’re not talking about spending hours posting links on Facebook groups or anything quite so soul-destroying. You can be just as creative in the way you promote your novel as you were when you wrote it.
I want your feedback
Please let me know what you thought about this series of how to guides. Was it helpful? Did it inspire you to try new things or add to your confidence? Were there things you hoped I might cover that I missed completely?
If you enjoyed it please do tell your writer friends to pop along and check them out. If you want to reward me then feel free to buy my books or share links with your friends. If you would like to interview me, or would like to submit a blog post to me for publishing please get in touch. I am always happy to make new friends and contacts.
Fellow writers. If you have thoughts about the process of writing, finding an agent and/or promoting and are willing to let me share a blog post written by you on these subjects, please get in touch.
Carmilla Voiez is a horror and fantasy author. Her novels have been published by indie publishing companies including Vamptasy Publishing, CHBB and Stone Circle Publishing and her short stories have been included in anthologies by Clash Books, Weird Punk Books, Siren Magazine, and Dragones Mecanicos. Her award-winning Starblood series is being adapted into a series of graphic novels illustrated by Anna Prashkovich. She has studied creative writing with the Open University and proof-reading with Chapterhouse. Carmilla also offers individually tailored editing packages for self-publishing authors.
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