Writers often ask how I market my novel. Questions about the effectiveness of specific promotions are difficult to answer. Because I often run multiple promotions at once, the source of an uptick can be hard to define. What I have found is that a multi-pronged approach works.
There is an old marketing adage called The Rule of Seven. If you’re unfamiliar with The Rule of Seven, here’s a terrific explanation by Andrea Stenberg. Essentially, readers need to see your message – hear about your book – 7 times before they feel comfortable enough to buy from you.
With indie books this is especially true. Unfortunately, many people still believe the old stigmas associated with self-publishers and self-published books: our books are second rate, not up to snuff. (My recent article, ‘Sticks & Stones: The Changing Politics of Self-Publishing” explains why this is no longer true.) Repeated exposure creates a sense of familiarity; people have seen your book on multiple blogs or heard about it in different contexts and this makes them feel comfortable.
Here are some things you can do:
Submit for Reviews, Contest and Awards
Awards and good reviews from trusted sources are great ways to increase value in the eyes of readers. Readers are often skeptical about new authors; they’re more likely to invest their time and money if they see that a book has won awards. Last year, I submitted In Leah’s Wake to the Book Bundlz Book Pick contest. Being the BB 2011 Book Pick gave my book a wonderful boost.
Virtual Book Tours
A virtual book tour takes place over a certain period of time – generally 1 – 6 weeks. Each day, your book is featured on a different blog. Features typically consist of book reviews, author interviews or guest posts. Some tours also include Twitter, Facebook and radio promotions. For a previous tour, with Orangeberry Book Tours, my lovely hostess, Pandora Poikilos, put my characters on tour. For this, I wrote posts from the point of view of the characters in my novel.
Tours give you a chance to meet and connect with book bloggers, who share information about your book with their readers and spread news across the Internet. Tours also provide the opportunity to meet and connect with potential readers. If you can’t or don’t care to pay a tour company, you can organize your own tour. You can find a list of bloggers, categorized by genre preference, in the book blogger directory. Tours are a tremendous amount of work; before embarking on one, be sure you have the time and energy to invest.
Like virtual book tours, guest posts give you the opportunity to connect with readers. The most effective posts are interesting and provide useful information. In most posts, you can discretely mention your book. For instance, for a post on creating dialogue, use dialogue from your book to illustrate your points. This soft-sell approach creates visibility and helps build your platform. I’ve also judged writing contests and regularly contribute to Indie Reader as well as Her Circle eZine.
Contests, Giveaways & Cross-Promotion
Contests and giveaways are a fun way to engage readers by giving back, rather than asking for something. I’ve done all sorts of giveaways on my blog, including a 10-day ‘For the Love of Love‘ promotion. Over 50 authors participated in For Love of Love; each wrote a 200 – 300 word themed guest post about some aspect of love. To enter the giveaway, readers were asked to vote for their favorite post. The authors promoted the feature across their social networks, reaching a far broader audience than any author could on his or her own.
I’ve also done several giveaways on Goodreads. These are effective for creating awareness and encouraging readers to put your book on their shelf. Blog hops are another fantastic way of getting your name out and I have two upcoming: Classic Reads 2013 (with authors Christine Nolfi, Rachel Thompson and Molly Greene), and the Meet the Family Holiday Hop.
Give Books Away
I’ve given away hundreds of books, both eBooks and paperbacks. In my view, giving away books is a terrific way to spread good will and generate interest in your work. Libraries are worthy recipients. With budget cuts, many libraries cannot afford to buy new books, so they’re grateful for yours. And your book is put on a shelf where it gains exposure in the library community.
Ads are expensive and, with a few exceptions, most authors tell me they have not seen much by way of increased sales. If you have an ad budget, Author Buzz is fantastic. Their promotions allow you to personalize your message. You can reach readers, librarians, booksellers and book clubs in a way that stands out from ordinary ads. I’ve had great success with their promotions.
Essentially, I do my best to keep my name and title in the public eye – without actively selling.
Caveat: repeated exposure does not mean relentless 24/7 self promotion. While it’s a good idea to post news on social networks – your fans are eager to hear that you’ve won an award or set a date for the launch of a new book, for instance, It is not, however, a good tactic to tweet nonstop about yourself or your book or post constant sales or promotional links. Messages saying, ‘Buy my book’ or ‘Check out my book’ or ‘You’ll love my new book’ rarely sell books; they are far more likely to turn potential book buyers off.
Book marketing is about building relationships. As with any relationship, we must respect the other person. To paraphrase JFK, ‘ask not what the reader can do for you; ask what you can do for the reader.’ Simply put, before tweeting or posting a link, ask yourself what you’re giving back. What value are you providing? Maybe you’re linking to an entertaining out-take or an informative post about writing your book or selecting your cover. These are terrific. Sure, the underlying message is still, I’d love it if you read my book, but you’re giving as much as asking.