I spent most of my time at the London Book Fair 2017 sitting in the front row of the surprisingly pink ALLi stand, listening to independent authors talking about their success and author-aid services sharing the tips and tricks of the business. And of the many things I learnt while sitting there, this one struck me as lightning: several aspiring writers think that the job is done after having written the last sentence.
How wrong they are.
You are not a writer until somebody starts reading your work, and nobody is going to read your work if you don’t market it. But hey, it doesn’t mean that you should quit writing if you are not naturally good at selling yourself and making valuable connections!
Quite the opposite.
There are plenty of DIY tools and guides available to help you with marketing and turn you – a writer – into a successful writer. I’m not saying that it is going to be easy or cheap. It will require either your money or your time (or both). But as every good investment, it will show a return: while not every book published will be as successful as the Fifty Shades of Grey, examples of writers taking home as much as $300.000 in royalties exist and possible to follow.
You can promote an ebook even a year before your book launch.
No, this is not a typo: there is no such thing as starting too early. If you want your marketing to be spot on, you have to decide certain things in advance. This is a good point to make a decision on your niche and imagine your audience. From this moment on, not only your book but all your communication has to be addressed to this imagined audience.
Research them: what social media platforms are they using? What are their reading habits? What time are they sitting in front of the computer? Remember to take the time difference into account; if you are based in Eastern Europe but your desired group of readers is in the US, you don’t want to be posting in the middle of the night.
If this is your first book, you should create a writer’s page on Facebook and Goodreads. You can also create a webpage. You don’t need to create any content yet (as you probably don’t even have a title) but it worth hiring a designer to help you decide on a branding. It helps your future readers to remember you better if you are using the same design elements everywhere.
2-3 months before your book launch
This is the time to ramp up interest in your book. Go to social media platforms (check out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc.), interact with your audience and try to become their friends. Be helpful and open. Mention that you are writing a book. Direct them to your webpage. But remember: no hard sale. Don’t write things like “Buy my book, it’s great!”
But you can look up groups and join conversations. Comment in groups or forums. Use popular hashtags that other writers use as well.
You can also create branded pictures with quotes on them. They can work as memes and get viral, reaching a wider range of people than any other method so far.
You can also share pictures and short descriptions of your writing process. Did you read anything exciting while researching for your book? You can only write while stroking kittens? Try not to be too much and don’t post too often, but be regularly present. We have already written a lot about social media, so let’s keep this short, but remember that social media is your tool to get people know about your book. If they know about it, they can decide whether it is for them or not. It’s free, accessible and used by practically everyone: do not miss out on this one.
This is also the time to start building a list. You can get people to subscribe to your email list (if you don’t already have one, make it on a platform like MailChimp), so they get reminded once your book is out, but do not use this channel too often. Otherwise you will lose your subscribers before the book is out.
You can offer privileges to early subscribers, like sending the first chapter in advance.
At this point, you probably will have a title and a cover. Use these to create a “book launch” package: write the author bio (attach a good photo), the book description (you can have a short and a long version), and different versions of the cover. If you have a 3D cover, this is a good time to use it.
Once you created some attention, set the launch date. You can have a “physical” book launch with a printed copy of your book, or/and an online launch date with live video or chat. You can also set “smaller” launch dates, like a cover reveal event.
Checklist for 2-3 months before your book launch:
- join important groups on social media in your niche
- make connections, get your name known
- share bits and pieces of your writing process
- share some quotes
- create your email list
- set the book launch date
A month before launch
My advice doesn’t consist of offering up limbs to journalists, but you might have to go some lengths to generate pre-reviews and much-needed publicity. Find influential book bloggers, visit your local newspaper and radio station (everyone loves a local writer), send them your book launch package and ask for a review.
If they agree, send them your book for free. Wait at least a week before sending a follow-up email. Be grateful for any reviews you get (even the bad ones): these people will read your book in their free time.
You can also upload your book to the stores for pre-orders, and – more importantly – reviews.
Create a GoodReads page and an Amazon page for your book. When uploading your book on Amazon (or through PublishDrive’s platform), you can set your “selling date” the date of your book launch (make sure you don’t accidentally start selling yet!).
Apart from getting people to review your book on their own blog or newspaper, get some of your reviewers to write a review on Amazon. If there is previous activity on your book page, it will rank higher in search results right from the beginning.
When choosing the proper categories for your book (you can pick two), try to be very specific and go for something with little competition: you simply have better chances of your readers finding you and getting to the top of the bestseller list.
Book trailers are getting more and more popular. They are a great way to appear in another form of media and easily pitch your book to a different group of potential readers. You don’t need any video editing experience: there are plenty of websites like PowToon to help you. Make it short and catchy, upload it to YouTube and share it on every possible platform.
- upload your book to stores (but do not start selling them!)
- get reviews. get more reviews. get even more!
- create a book trailer and share it
- find the right categories and subcategories for your book
A week before launch
By now you are probably emotionally and physically tired. You have put a lot of effort in writing and marketing your book, but you didn’t hear anything back yet. You don’t know if you will have any readers (and sales) at all. Don’t give up! During the last week, there is no such thing as too much coverage. You will need every attention you can get.
This is the time to use the email list you carefully built: send out emails (a week before the launch, three days before it and a final reminder on the day). If you are on a budget, ask your carefully selected friends (your “book launch team”) to tweet and write about you on every possible platform.
If you have some money to spend, you can also write a press release and send it to PRWeb, or pay people on Fiverr.com to tweet about you. At this point, you have to remind yourself that you are selling a product, so try to communicate the benefits of buying your book.
Is it going to change lives? Is it going to make them think or laugh?
There are millions of books for sale and only a set amount of readers: the message you have to send is “choose me, I’m writing just for you”.
- send out emails to your mailing list
- write and distribute a press release
- put your book launch team in motion
During your book launch
Having a book launch that is not a complete waste of time is a tricky business.
Always be available during your book launch. Be prepared for interviews and meetings. Yes, be happy because your book is finally out, but this is not the time to relax yet, you are only halfway through.
- organize interviews
- be fun
- be accessible
The week after your launch
Personally (and publicly) thank every single person who helped you to create and promote your book. Thank your reviewers. If possible, thank those who bought your book.
Now that your book is out, you can further spread the word using dedicated book promotion websites. These sites distribute the link to your book to their mass of followers on social media and email lists. Some of them are completely free, some work for a percentage (they are using an “Amazon Associate” link for promotion) and some of them offer paid packages: it depends on your budget which ones you can afford. Visits, purchases and reviews coming from these sites can do a great job pushing you up in the store toplists.
These websites have various requirements: some don’t accept erotic content or hate language, you already need a certain number of reviewers to qualify or to be a certain genre (like Christian fiction). The Kindlepreneur did an amazing job of collecting and listing 127 book promotion websites with pricing, requirements and other notes. He also lists the ones offering successful indies a contract. If you don’t have time to send the details of your book to 127+ websites by yourself, you can always hire somebody on fiverr.com or get a virtual assistant to do it for you.
- send follow up thank you notes to everyone involved
- use book promotion websites to distribute your book
A month after the launch
After the first couple of weeks, the sales might start to decrease. You can have a flash sale or a free distribution campaign (just a day) to give it a second boost and bring it up in the rankings again.
And then, it is time to relax and enjoy your royalties flowing in. Or rather get working on your next book!