Authors who have secured a traditional arrangement with a book publisher do not need to concern themselves with marketing or distribution, as this will be handled for them. However, self-published authors find themselves in a different position. Of course, some authors write simply for the joy of it, but for many people, one of the objectives of writing a book is for it to be bought, read, and enjoyed by as many people as possible. To achieve this, self-published authors face the challenge of marketing their work and securing multiple distribution channels. This guide does not include every marketing or distribution channel you might want to consider, but it introduces several concepts and marketing tips to get you started.
Create a website or blog for your book
Before you’ve finished writing the book, you could be securing your first readers if you build your own website or blog. Creating a website full of articles and engaging content on topics which are related to your target audience’s interests is a great way to gain visibility online. If your book is about divorce or family breakdown, you may want to create a website which focuses on professional insights and other books which are related. You can then start to add your own insights and excerpts from your book.
If you optimise your content for search engines, when internet users type related words or phrases into Google, your content could be top of the list of results. This is called Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. You could even create an email mailing list and encourage visitors to sign up to receive updates about your upcoming book or promote giveaways. The earlier you can create your website, the more buzz you can generate around your book and the more time you’ll have to improve your website’s ranking.
Maximise your online exposure
In addition to optimising your website for search engine results, you can also increase your online exposure by getting involved on other websites. This could be by contributing to forums on related topics or genres of literature, or you could write an article for someone else’s blog. Whenever you publish content, be sure to include your byline with a link to your website. Social media is also a great way to maximise your reach, as you can set up a profile on Twitter or an author’s page on Facebook. When you share updates about your book or promotions, you can include a link to your website or the platform where you are selling the book. You can also use social media to engage with your readers.
Hold a launch party
While it’s true that digital marketing is often the strongest force when it comes to promoting and selling a book, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for more traditional approaches. When your book is released, you could hold a launch party and invite influential people in your community. This could be at a bookstore or a library, but if you make enough of a splash you may be able to get it covered by the local press. In addition to selling your book, you could produce and sell promotional merchandise such as t-shirt printing or other products. If people wear or use the products which are emblazoned with the title of your novel, they will spread awareness in their social circles and the general public.
Take your lead from other authors
When it comes to designing a cover, choosing a title, the typography, etc., take a look at what successful books in your genre have done. You may not like all of what you see, but you may find some themes amongst them which could suggest they are more appealing than others. You may also come across repeated vocabulary in the books, which could be useful in your book’s metadata, i.e. the description of your book which search engines will use when trying to match an online query with a result.
Source reviews for your book
Reviews are a fantastic selling tool for many products and books are no exception. The author or publisher of a book can rhapsodise all day long about its merits, but until we know our fellow readers are in agreement, we are likely to be sceptical. If you have published books before you may be able to contact people who have reviewed a previous book with a free copy and a request for a review.
If you have never published before, you could look at the reviews on Amazon for books in the same genre, as they may be willing to give yours a try. It’s best to look for reviewers who write succinctly and seem to have real insight into the books they are reading, as this will result in higher quality reviews of your book. In addition, try to contact around 3-4 times as many reviewers as you would like reviews, as it’s not guaranteed that you will get a response.
You could also promote your book on Goodreads, which is an online community with more than 65 million members. Here you can create a profile page about your book and yourself as well as invite reviews, give books away or host forum discussions about your book.
Write an effective blurb
A blurb is a promotional description of your book which is used on the back of printed versions and online. They are generally around 100-150 words long and give the reader just enough information to grab their attention and intrigue them, so they want to read more of the story. It can include an introduction to characters, plot or the overall theme or it could be a particularly exciting excerpt from the book itself. Some blurbs will also include quotes from positive editorial reviews. Read more about how to write a blurb.
Hire a professional designer for the cover
Never judge a book by its cover is one of the truest sayings out there, but all too often that’s exactly what people will do. If your book’s cover is too plain, unprofessional, too garish or generally poorly designed, you are decreasing the likelihood that someone will give it a chance. Find a professional book cover designer who can work with you to capture the essence of the book in the most visually appealing way.
Use multiple distribution channels
You need to make your book available on as many sales platforms as possible, but it’s best to target the biggest in the early stages at least. Amazon is one of the biggest names in book sales in terms of both print and digital with two self-publishing services. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) handles eBooks and print books are by CreateSpace. Other popular eBook platforms include Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks, and Kobo. There are also eBook aggregator services like Draft2Digital, which will distribute your book to several different retailers, automatically adapting the book into the required format for each.
If you have an e-commerce website which can accept payments and process online orders, you can generate traffic to the website by linking from social media posts. The more people you can get to click through to your website, the higher the likelihood of sales. However, remember that you will need to convert website visitors into customers when they are there or they may quickly leave the website. This not only means fewer sales but also a higher bounce rate, which Google will penalise your website for, i.e. it can damage your ranking score.