So...you finally did it.
You wrote your book, packaged it just how you wanted, researched keywords, priced your book and it’s now available for sale on Amazon—perhaps other stores too—worldwide! Congratulations!
But what now? How can you give your book the best opportunity to succeed?
As we've discussed in previous blog posts, part of the joy (and the pain!) of self-publishing comes from being in charge of every aspect of getting your book launched. Each step along the way you can choose to do the work yourself, pay experts to help you, rope in your friends and family, whatever it takes to get your book published. Getting your book in online (or brick and mortar) stores is just the beginning, and you want to be sure you don't neglect promoting your work!
For some authors, you may have a good sense of how you'll promote — maybe you've already got a few books out and a decent sized following on Twitter, or maybe you're writing in a niche genre without a lot of competition. You're already on a path to getting eyeballs on your book.
But if you're like many of us writing a book in a more popular genre, then you’ll be going up against a million other books by a million other authors, some of whom might already be well known, or backed by a savvy (and expensive) marketing campaign. It can feel impossible to get your book noticed, but there are things you can do to help give your book a little boost and encourage readers to take a chance on you!
Let's break it down starting with the most important — the book itself!
You could spend all of the money in the world on ads, you could sign up for an ARC service (more on that later!), you could join readers and writers Facebook groups and you could have written the very best book on the market… But, if your book doesn’t look good in the store then it’s likely to perform badly.
You could bring a thousand people to your book with ads, but if your cover looks bad then the majority will quickly back away. You might grab those who look past a low-quality cover with a killer well-written blurb. But if the blurb doesn’t pull your reader in then they’ll be unlikely to give the book a second chance. If it’s written poorly, the assumption will be that the book will be equally as poor.
Put simply, money spent trying to promote a poor product is money wasted. If you have money to spend, spend it first on your book cover. The cover is the most important way that you’ll promote your book and it can make a massive difference in your sales. Even a book that is set for for a free run will see better downloads if it has a good quality cover, compared to a book with a badly designed one.
Word of mouth
People in business often talk about ‘low hanging fruit’ - those customers who are easier to get than others. Being a self-published author means that you’re now in the business of selling books, and you should do your best to grab as much of this low hanging fruit for yourself as you can!
Your friends and family are most likely going to be the easiest customers to get. These are people who know you, love you, want you to succeed. You’ve written and published a book—this is a big deal! Share the link on Facebook (feel free to tag us or message us if you'd like us to share it on our FB page!) and encourage your friends to share it as well!
The more books sold in the first few days of publication, the better chance your book has. Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet, and don’t hesitate to ask people to recommend your book and leave reviews!
While you’re on Facebook, consider finding groups of readers and writers in your genre. You don’t want to just go into these groups and spam your book, people hate seeing that! But you should engage in conversations, talk about your experiences, and become a voice in those communities. The more that people start to know and respect you, the more likely they are to check out your book.
Consider an ARC service
We will talk more about ARC’s in a later blog post, but let’s talk briefly about them now. An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy. An ARC service will match your book with a list of willing readers, who will read a free copy of your book—prior to publication—in exchange for leaving an honest review on Amazon when the book is released. A book with a lot of good reviews will encourage those unfamiliar with your work to click through and see what the fuss is about. And those potential readers are more likely to buy your book if a bunch of readers before them have rated it highly.
Note: this does not mean you should buy, cajole, swap, or otherwise finagle good reviews in a scammy way. Authors have done it before and lost their publishing account with Amazon.
As with ARCs, we’ll discuss ads in more detail at a later date. Ads can be your biggest expense—but they can also bring you a lot of sales. Facebook and Amazon are good places to start, both giving a lot of flexibility in how you target your ads to your core demographics. Facebook will allow you to target customers and will let you set a max budget (often starting at just a few dollars) so you can spend a little to test the waters. You can even run two versions of the same ad to see which performs best, and then rerun the top performing ad with a bigger budget.
Promoting your book can be daunting, but if done right it can be the difference between a book that crashes and burns, and a book that launches beautifully. As always, if you have any questions about this, or any other topic—please feel free to reach out and ask us! We have over 6 years of self-publishing experience and if we don’t know the answer, we'll find out and learn together!