Firstly, self-publishing is NOT vanity publishing, nor is it particularly difficult. Amazon and other online publishers take you through the process of formatting and uploading your book cover, text, blurb and the important bits like price and special promotions. Within less than twenty-four hours your book goes live.
Of course, there are lots of companies out there keen to divest you of your hard earned cash by offering professional services for a fee. By that I mean, they will copy-edit, proofread, format, design, and prepare your book for publication in all the outlets, not just Amazon. Be prepared to fork out anything from £500 – £1,000. You can find out more about these options here.
Marketing services are always an extra cost, and as with any marketing and promotion activity there are no guarantees of sales. Some self-published authors I know who have used one of these companies AND navigated the Amazon maze themselves have not sold a single copy except to their ever-supportive friends and family. Nobody can sit back and think the money will roll in without putting in some serious leg work.
This blog is really about marketing and promotion of your book. It is the most challenging part of writing, and if you have little or no experience of the commercial world, it can be depressing to find that whatever you do, and however much money you spend, your book is sinking faster than a lifeboat with holes. That means it’s not selling because nobody knows about it. It’s that simple.
I have to admit, I would do anything other than promote my books. That said, it can be rewarding when you come up with a plan and it works! I’ve tried lots of different avenues over the years and I’m going to share my favourites.
- Contact a book blogger and ask for a virtual blog tour. This is a great way to create a buzz about your book, especially on publication day. I have one arranged for mid-January 2021 for a book I published a year ago. Twenty-one reviewers around the world will publish their reviews and chat about my book over an intensive seven-day period. This often generates enough sales to cover the cost of the tour.
- Create your own website to promote your books and blog regularly from it. Keep blogs short and sweet with plenty of variety and images.
- Create a YouTube channel and make 2–3 min videos about your book and anything relating to you: where you live, hobbies, writing tips, reading interests.
- Social media – this is something I no longer do. Tweeting your book all day long is irritating to your followers and you can find yourself being muted. I’ve never used Facebook or Instagram but authors say that being part of writing and reading groups is really useful when it comes to networking. You can pay for ads on some social media sites but I’ve heard mixed reviews as to whether that’s worth doing.
- Guest blog posts – this is my favourite and of course, that’s what I’m doing here. Providing useful content to readers without asking for anything in return. Often, I get the opportunity to promote my latest book so it’s a win-win.
- Radio and local magazine exposure. This is a hit and miss affair unless you are connected to someone in the media. Since I’ve been writing, I have been interviewed on Sky News, Radio West Midlands, Radio Hereford and Worcestershire and in many online publications. It’s not possible to translate profile raising with book sales, but it does get your name out there.
- I’ve left the most important avenue till last: building a mailing list. This is something I have failed at. One way you can do this is by offering something free from your website: a short story, a ‘How To’ compilation, a short memoir, a prize or a competition. You ask people to sign up with their email address which you can then capture (in a GDPR-compliant way, with consent).
- Sending out a regular newsletter through Mailchimp to keep followers abreast of what you’re up to is a tried and tested method of building readership, but it needs to be monitored, pruned, and updated if it is to be any use.
It is trial and error. What might work for one author won’t work for you. Time, money and imagination are essential if you are to attract new sales. Most authors today reckon they spend two hours writing the book and four hours marketing it!
More next time.
Keep well. Keep writing.