Releasing a book without a large publishing company behind you can be daunting; but also, highly rewarding. There are many reasons why people choose to self-publish. Sometimes, they are exhausted by querying big publishers and agents with the constant stream of rejections. Sometimes, they have published with large publishers in the past and wish to take back the process. Sometimes, it may be a book without large "mainstream" appeal that the author still wishes to be in the public's hands. Whatever the reason, to be successful as an indie author, you have to be able to do "marketing". I am going to talk through some of the things I have learnt while conducting my own marketing campaign to hopefully help others out there who are just starting this journey, or just wanting some fresh ideas. This won't be a step-by-step guide to follow, rather it will be more a set of guiding principles that will hopefully put you on the path to greater success.
I think the first thing I learnt when I started building a follower base for my work is you are not just selling your book, you are also selling yourself. This is particularly important if you are a first-time author. When you are putting your book out there for the first time, it is likely you don’t actually have much to advertise. I have seen many, many people who have waiting until their book was released to start marketing it, and this is always a mistake, because you have missed key opportunities to make your work successful prior to even putting it on shelves. The first opportunity is marketing yourself. This can be done in a number of ways depending on how you wish to build your author platform (see my previous blog about author platforms), including social media posts, YouTube videos, or even through blogs. The key point behind this though, is to put yourself out there and let people know who you are, what you do (ie a writer), and why they should follow you. To do this, you need to establish your public voice. This could be as a writer who posts funny videos on TikTok that other writers can relate to and lets them shut off for a bit after getting home from work. It could be establishing yourself as an authoritative blogger about your chosen field so people come to you to learn. Whichever it is, the first step in marketing is to start marketing yourself. Every bestselling author understands this point; readers will buy a book because they know the author more than any other reason.
Any author reading this will likely understand the excitement surrounding the release of their work. It is tempting to throw your stories out into the world the moment you have it, sharing your cover art as soon as it is done and showing everything, never leaving anything in your back pocket. My advice is, DON'T. All of this can be extremely powerful in building anticipation in the lead up to your release. You need to develop a phased action plan for your release, giving out details, artwork, promos etc in the lead up to build anticipation and a value statement for new people thinking about buying your book. This not only includes stuff, but also potential promo prices to get your work cheaper if they pre-order and free promotional material for people who leave a review for your book. This not only builds anticipation for your release, but it will also incentivize buying your work and leaving a review, which is critical as an indie author in getting on charts to be seen by even more potential future readers. What you ultimately want to develop is the FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out - for your book. You want people to want to get in early. Build anticipation, give your readers a reason to buy the book, and give them a reason to help market you. A new reader posting a positive review of your work early is a better marketing tool then anything you could ever do yourself.
So, you now have you plan to start marketing yourself as an author and an action plan for a phased release of your book - ensuring you build a FOMO. What the hell do you actually do once it is released? Do your marketing efforts stop? No. In fact, they will increase exponentially. The first thing you need to do is plan a book launch. There are many ways to do this, each with their own strengths and weakness, so the key is to do your research and pick the one that suits you best. Just posting your book on Kindle and sending out a Facebook post will not cut it though. This is the first time your book will be in the public's hands (absent beta and ARC readers), so you need to make a big deal about it. I will not list every potential book launch, others have likely done that already to better effect than I could, but consider whether to do a physical launch, maybe in a local bookstore, or a virtual launch via Zoom. The key point to consider here is your audience base. Do you have a large local following from your marketing efforts, or is your viewer base more dispersed? If local, a physical event may be the way for you. If dispersed, go virtual so people can attend without the need to travel large distances. Whatever your plan is though, make it a big deal. This is the release of something you have put countless hours into; celebrate that and make it a party.
But wait, we aren't done yet. You have successfully launched your book. People have bought copies and left reviews. You have posted about it to your friends who have shared your posts. That should be enough, right? Wrong. You now need to work to keep your book in the limelight, to not let it fade into obscurity. You won't become a bestseller with your first day of sales - it will take consistent effort to keep your book on centre stage. Again, there are more ways to do this than there are letters in this blog, but one extremely effective way is to do book signings and author tours. At this point, you are probably thinking you cannot afford to do a tour; you’re not a bestseller yet and need to keep your day job, you can’t go traveling around the world to promote a book. In this, you are right; but also, wrong. You don't need to travel huge distances to have a huge impact. Reach out to the bookstores in your local area and surroundings areas and ask to come in and do a signing. This will give you face to face public exposure and most decent bookshops will promote your event on their own media, and if they are located in a shopping centre, the centre will often also promote your signing. After all, getting more people through the door increases their success as well as yours, so leverage this. Do it on weekends, or after work on late night shopping days. Work it around your schedule, or if you are really keen, take your sick days. The key benefit of doing a book tour, of getting out there in the public and signing your work, is you are not only marketing your book, you are also marketing yourself. Remember that nice lady you just spoke to about your work and listened to the story about how much her nephew loves fantasy books so she is buying yours for him? Well, she is going to go tell her friends about the lovely author she just met and that they should come to your next signing to meet you. Boom, another book sale at your next event and more people to connect with. The real question here is, what will you lose by doing this?
So, what comes next? Well, more of the same really. Keep pushing yourself and your work out there for people to discover. Keep posting fresh content on your social media. Keep up the blog posts. But at the end of the day, start working on your next book if you haven't already. This is how you capitalise on the fan base you have just worked so hard to create; you need to give them something to look forward to. Announcing your second book will create hype, and get people to go back and read your first again, recommending to their friends and book clubs when they are asked what they are reading. This will not only help you market your first book; it will start the hype for your second before you have even taken a step towards marketing yourself. If you haven't picked it up by know, the key point is that your dedicated readers will eventually be the best marketing tool you can ever had. A dedicated fan will tell the world how amazing your work is, rather than you doing it. This is powerful. This is what you want when marketing as an indie author.
There are so many other tips that could help you on your journey to success, more than I could effectively write about in one post, but here are some that you may wish to research further. Guest posts and blog tours. Bonus material or swag. Podcasting. Becoming a 'book fairy'. Submit to review magazines or websites. Do a book trailer. The list goes on and on.
I hope these marketing tips for indie authors has helped in some way. By giving you a starting point or maybe just some inspiration to try something new with your current plan. Either way, keep writing and good luck.