This month we're sharing tips and support in the realm of writing, publishing, and marketing, to be collected and published as part of a free eBook in December, entitled The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. For my potential contribution, I decided to focus on the area I know best, and to look 'beyond' publishing to the realm of marketing.
Self-Promotion (the ‘beyond’ part of publishing)
Okay, so you’ve written your book, ran it by a team of beta readers, edited it, polished it, found a publisher, and are currently staring at the first copy - congratulations, you’re halfway there!
Scary thought, isn’t it?
Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have your work acquired by a major publisher, you’re still going to have to work to find yourself an audience. Friends and family are great, and they can certainly generate some local buzz, but they’re not going to push you onto the bestseller lists. No, for that, you need to engage in some serious self-promotion.
1. Social Reading: This is actually something you should be doing long before your work is published. Don’t just join, but get engaged on social reading sites like Goodreads, Librarything, and Booklikes. Engaging is key, since few things make a reviewer more suspicious than a request from somebody with hundreds of random friends, but only 1 lonely book on their shelf (their own). Add your favorite books to your shelves, rate them, like other people’s reviews, and comment on some groups. Not only will it help to demonstrate that you are a real person, but your reading habits can help reviewers (and readers) make a connection.
2. Review Blogs: Compile a list of potential book bloggers, look at what they read, find out if they have any submission guidelines . . . and then read them! It seems like such a simple thing, but a lot of authors are just mining for contact information. The problem is, if your book is a YA Christian Romance, and the blogger specializes in Erotic LGBT Horror, then you’re likely wasting your time (and theirs). Similarly, if they have a form to fill in, and you’re spamming them with emails, you’re likely going to be ignored, even if your book is a good fit.
3. Book Tours: If you don’t mind investing a little money in your own success, then book tours are a great option. The good ones already have a database of bloggers, and will know who to reach out to (and how) to get your book the right exposure. Do yourself a favor, however, and do a little research. Check out what kind of tours they do and how long they’ve been in business. Take a look at some of their tours, see for yourself how well they worked, and ask for references. Sadly, there are some unscrupulous organizations out there, along with some who have the best of intentions, but no ability to follow through.
4. Public Appearances: This can be as simple as arranging a public reading at the local library, or a book signing at your neighborhood bookstore. If you’re a little more ambitious, then hitting a convention – whether as a guest or an attendee – can instantly connect you with a very targeted, very focused audience. While registering as a guest does have great benefits in terms of publicity (at a cost, of course), the truth is that you don’t need a table or a booth to walk around, talk to people, and leave them with a bookmark or flyer (or even a copy of your book).
Regardless of what option(s) you care to pursue, the number one thing to remember is to always be polite and respectful. Keep in mind that readers and reviewers have their own lives to lead away from the bookshelves, and try not to take their silence or their criticism personally. Even the worst reviews can bring new readers your way, and so long as you haven’t burned your bridges, you can always follow up again with another request at a later time.
Bob Milne is an aspiring author, a teller of ghost stories (he wears a top hat & cape, so you know he's professional!), and voracious reader who regularly reviews at Beauty in Ruins.