How do you promote yourself as a self published author without the resources of a large publishing house behind you? The good news is that it is certainly possible.
Self published authors are doing very well today and making good money. Imagine writing a book and selling it for $10 on Amazon. You only need to sell it to about 1000 people to make $10000. You don’t have to boil the ocean and sell to billions of people. The numbers are in your favor, since majority of the money you would make as a self published author shall end up in your pocket, not in the pockets of giant publishing houses.
Two Facts in Favor of Self-Published Authors
Fact #1: Technology Gives Self Published Authors an Edge Against Giant Publishing Houses
The answer to the question, “how do you promote yourself?”, lies in using technology wisely. Technology is a great leveler – as a small indie writer, you have the same tools available as a great old publishing company. However, the keyword is “using technology wisely”. Instead of splurging your time and money on exotic ideas, it is best to set a budget and goal and focus on the important things.
Fact #2: Time is an Essential Ingredient in Any Book Marketing Strategy
Another thing to keep in mind is time. Instead of signing up for ‘get 1000 Twitter followers overnight’ deals, it is more productive to get 100 solid Twitter followers over a period of several weeks. When you create a website, Google ranks it based on its age (in addition to other factors). You will need to reach out to some of your friends even before (or right after) your book is published to request some reviews and social media mentions. All this takes time. Give your book marketing efforts some time before it starts showing results.
Three Questions Before You Start Marketing
Q1. Who are your customers i.e. the book readers?
If you have written a book about Italian cooking, obviously your customers are Italian food lovers, and perhaps people in Italy. There is no point in putting your flyers in an Indian grocery store.
Q2. Where do your readers hang out?
If your customers are foodies, not other authors, you may find it more productive to be active on foodie groups rather than groups for book authors on social media.
Q3. What will resonate with their emotions?
People in real world buy a book because they fall in love with it. Unless you are writing a book meant to be a mandatory course in a school, your book advertisement needs to inspire your prospective readers. In your blogs and videos focus on stories related to themes, characters and incidents in your book. Share with your readers your own successes, challenges and frustrations. Connect with your book readers at an emotional level not a scientific level.
5 Steps to Start Your Book Marketing Campaign
Step #1: Create an Author Platform
An author platform is a website for your book. It could be your personal website with a landing page for your book.
But what the heck is a landing page? A “landing page” for your book is really a page on your website which has a nice author bio and a compelling advertisement for your book including book reviews, FAQs and links to the online store where the book is available (e.g. Amazon), so visitors know how to purchase your book.
Avoid This Big Mistake with Your Author Platform
Purely relying on social media as an author platform is the biggest mistake that authors make.
While it is tempting to use your social media as an author platform, it is not a long term solution.
Facebook pages used to be an amazing tool to reach readers, and many writers (including me) spend thousands of dollars advertising for Fans to like the Facebook page. Then one day Facebook went and changed the algorithm so that now only a small fraction of people liking your page will see your updates. To show your Facebook page to a larger number of people liking your own page you got to spend a lot of money every time. So all the investment I and people like me did in nurturing the Facebook page went down the drain. This is an example of what happens when you nurture a platform which you don’t own.
Similarly, Twitter and Instagram and other social media full of people talking to other people like themselves. It’s a great place to connect with other writers, but it’s unlikely to be a magnet for your readers. It has in my experience, zero impact on book sales for most authors.
YoTube videos are great to make you popular but first each video requires a HUGE amount of work and second by themselves they can not function as an author platform. The YouTube video channel and the videos themselves start loosing their rank and sinking down in the oblivion unless you keep producing new videos. You got to turn yourself upside down on your head to make your channel even mildly successful. Constant hustling is not my cup of tea.
Your should have total control over your author platform which is not possible with social media pages. You need your own property on the web which accrues SEO juice, domain authority and can serve as a true reflection of your creative spirit. You need your own website with a unique domain name, hosted and managed independent of anyone else.
Step #2: Drive Traffic to Your Author Platform
You want people to come to your book landing page on your website (aka Author Platform) and be charmed so they go buy your book. For this you need to let people know about your book website. Mention your site on social media (mention it on your Facebook pages, and tweets), and request your friends to like your book or retweet your own tweets. Find out where your book readers hang out (e.g. if it is a book about cooking then find some cooking related Facebook groups) and mention your book in these groups. Don’t worry if people don’t buy your book immediately – your goal at this point is to let as many people know about your book as possible.
Step #3: Make Your Author Platform Easy to Find
So in step #1 you create your website (aka author platform) and in step #2, you tell people about it. But wouldn’t it be nice if people browsing the internet found your site by themselves? This is where you need to start thinking about “search engine optimization (SEO)” which means in simple terms that Google shows your site to people searching about topics related to your book. As an example, if your book is about cooking Italian food, then if a person in India types in “Italian food recipes” in Google, will your website show up? Consider the keywords which are relevant for your book and website (e.g. Italian cooking, Italian recipes, Italian dishes etc.). Your website should articles, videos, PDFs containing these keywords, so that when the Google crawler comes to your website, it will see a lot of these keywords mentioned and will know that your site is about Italian cooking. Then when people search for these keywords, Google will show your site to them. You can go an extra mile and get links to your site put in other blogs (contact the different blog owners from their contact pages) – this will allow your site to have a greater ‘authority’ in the eyes of the Google crawler – and your site will be more likely surfaced by Google when people search for topics related to your book.
Step #4: Make Your Author Platform Dynamic & Interactive
A static informational site which doesn’t change is sort of boring, right? Even Google finds such sites less appealing and ranks them lower. Granted it is better to have a site, rather than none – however, you want your website visitors to enjoy their visit. For this you should plan on a “content strategy”. This means regularly writing blogs or creating videos which talk about your book, what inspired you and what you plan to do next. Plan on at least one blog post (or video) every month (more if possible) and post it on your author platform (website) or YouTube and share it with your Facebook and Twitter followers. This makes your site dynamic and fresh for every visitor. Ask people to comment and encourage interaction.
Step #5: Use Social Media & Email as Low Cost Book Advertising Strategies
Instead of printing expensive glossy flyers or buying advertising space in premium locations, you can focus on a more intelligent approach using social media and emails. Avoid buying social media ads, quick follower schemes or email lists. Instead identify one or two social media channels (e.g. Instagram, Facebook etc.) and nurture those channels. Find groups in those channels where your customers hang out, post to those groups (don’t spam!); and if the group allows, connect directly to some people in those groups and invite them to review or read your blog or free portions of your book. Ask them for their thoughts on your book and also comment and like their posts.
In Conclusion: Get Going with your Book Marketing!
If you have made it so far, you already know more than most people in book advertising.
The difference between successful authors and unsuccessful is not in some magic recipe – but the simple fact that successful self published authors actually do these things. Unsuccessful authors are always in analysis and paralysis mode.
Book marketing or author marketing has many facets. In other posts we speak about launch ideas, how to get kindle book reviews, and examine the best book marketing campaigns. However it is best to start with a systematic, step-by-step framework which we have discussed in this post.
This is why I want to make these posts in bite size chunks so you can go out and actually try out a few things at a time. I would love to have your comments on how all this worked out for you.
We also talked about how to avoid some of the author platform mistakes. It’s possible that you may already know a lot of ideas that we discuss here. Even if everything you read here is already known to you, have you acted on any of them so far? Instead of dismissing this post as “another marketing mumbo-jumbo” which you have read a million times already, I ask you to write down at-least one thought that was inspired by this post.
How do we turn your visit to this post into a productive experience for you? Instead of merely reading and bookmarking this post for future action, I invite you to take a small action now to promote your book or blog.
What action you take doesn’t matter – sign-up for author spotlight, take a shot at creating a magnetic headline, or do a book review of a fellow author. Do something. Do anything. Act!
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” -J.S.