This stage is probably where most self-published authors need to spend their time but it usually falls through the cracks and is an after-thought. Pieces of this stage excite me (social media, blogging), but others are outside my wheelhouse. Let’s continue the Write Stuff: Self-Publishing Tools series this week on showcasing creatively what your book has to offer!
We are in the digital age, so it makes sense to put our time and energy into technology that gets to readers who want information quickly! Self-publishers have been utilizing electronic tools for their success. They have been able to find and connect with their readers through social media and doing so in inventive ways (Sargent). Whenever I am scrolling through my Instagram feed, I usually save or screenshot the bookish posts that are beautifully crafted – physically in the photo AND in the caption. If possible, authors should be engaging their readers in creative ways that celebrate the book such as sneak peaks and cover reveals (McCartney). This builds excitement for the book even before it is released – or before you have finished it haha. What I like most about the social media feeds is that you can tell when it is authentic, when the content you are seeing is organic and truthful of who the author is and the message they are conveying in their book. One of the worst things authors could do is set up a generic Facebook page that basically just says ‘buy my book’ (Daniel). I honestly scroll past those ads without a second look. Looking at Goodreads, I appreciate the way they use their banner image at the top of each page and has interactive highlights of a book they are promoting – using quotes, review snippets, and appealing graphics to pull you in. Humans love feeling connected to another human, so whenever you have the chance to talk about your inspiration or in a cool place, livestream it (Daniel)! The readers will feel like they are there with you and are on the same level.
Thinking about promoting the book in advance, pre-orders can be used to your advantage to build interest and keep a pulse on what markets are engaged. If authors offer “e-book preorders…all the accumulated preorders credit toward unit sales on the first day of release, which causes the book to spike in the bestseller lists” (McCartney). We see this all the time in newsletters from publishing companies and major bookstores allowing readers to jump on the train early by ordering in advance before the release date. Authors must be cautious though in their marketing when it comes to advance ordering since they “are promoting their new releases to fans months in advance of an upcoming release, yet without a preorder, the author has no way to capture the order in the moment” (Palmer). I am guilty for sure of reserving books from the library before they are shelved, but it is kind of a high for readers, to be one of the firsts to read the book! Use that excitement to boost visibility of your book.
Some authors choose to send out their books for free as review copies or ARCs. If that is a route you would like to take consider creating “a press release to send out with review copies and to distribute online, and come up with fun promotional materials such as postcards, bookmarks, T-shirts, and mugs to share at parties and special events” (Lupton 58). As a blogger and book reviewer, I LOVE getting bookish freebies like these and of course they go on my social feeds, and there authors get influencers! It’s a win-win. For those influencers, there are more perks with a service called BookGrabbr, where authors share extended previews with readers who post about the book on social media (Daniel). We in the book community are here to support each other, in whichever role we play.
Although in the word self-publishing there is an assumption that you are your own, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a number of resources and collaborators out there that are willing and able to support indie authors. Libraries and independent bookstores are a couple of brick and mortar options that can yield positively if it is a beneficial partnership. When I walk into my local libraries and bookstores, I am always drawn by the shelves highlighting different themes or local authors in the front of the entrance. One store sees this display as a form of community service as they limit the selection of self-published work to authors who live nearby (Nawotka). It makes a lot of sense, they are a part of the community and communities help each other out. On the downside, although the libraries and stores feel like the books are fantastic, some of them don’t get picked up at all. Something to think about is what genres do better in these markets.
Those writing commercial fiction are better positioned. Self-publishing success stories are predominantly within genre fiction, and that’s where patron demand often lies, as well. Also, it’s easier for librarians to assess the quality of adult fiction than nonfiction. With nonfiction, librarians need reassurance that someone is vouching for the integrity of the information, as well as the author’s credentials (Friedman)
On the other hand, if an author has proven success and has readers, self-published books are consigned to stores regardless of the genre. In terms of the partnership, stores and libraries may ask for publicity of their own organization. For example, they may ask authors to advertise on social media that their book can be found at their location (Nawotka). Authors must take initiative in these avenues since both booksellers and librarians have more pressing issues than the indie market. Most titles can be found in trade publications like Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, but self-published work is harder to find (Friedman). Social media can be a tool to assist in the discovery of your work among these communities – tagging the locations and/or handles in your posts, giveaways, attending events at the organization, blogging, etc.
A couple other options are KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and crowdfunding. The latter allows the author to create an early buzz and tests for what the market for the book is before committing to producing a high-quality self-published book (“What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books”). What should be stated additionally is that most of the above options do better with ISBNs. The International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) is the best way to get the bare minimum advertising out there. If you are only publishing your book through your own web page, you probably won’t need one. However, the ISBN identification is one of the long-standing systems for classifying books (Curtis). This along with metadata in e-books makes it easier to find your book and other important information. Once the ISBN is purchased, the big e-book stores can list it in their catalog. For KDP Select, “Amazon pays authors who join every time one of their books is rented. Authors can also offer their books for free for up to five days every 90-day opt-in period, enhancing an author’s sales rank and discoverability. The catch in all this is that authors have to publish exclusively through Amazon” (“What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books”). Depending on your desired reach, this may or may not be the best option for you. At Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, the process is the same for both. There are marketing forms and pricing that can be found in the Amazon Advantage program for booksellers and under the For Publishers and Authors page on barnesandnoble.com/help (Curtis).
For each post in this series, I keep thinking that they’ll be shorter haha. Writers work so hard to finish their book that having marketing and partnerships knowledge should be strongly considered in their self-publishing plan! It is not just about your current book, but future publications. We must “(r)emember these efforts are investments in a long-term career. Social media and marketing work are as much about selling your new book as boosting sales for your back catalog – and building connections to help your next book succeed” (“What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books”). Can you believe in thinking of your future books at this point? I’m just trying to finish my first, for the 4th time! Along the lines of wanting to see high engagement in your personal social media posts, I’ll leave you with this last quote that rings humbling to me:
Don’t use book sales as a measure of success; instead, gauge how much attention or the number of new opportunities the book has brought you (Lupton 59)
What are some other tips in marketing and communication that would work for self-published authors?
Next Up: Next Steps