When I jumped into the world of self publishing, I was like a lost little duckling wandering around aimlessly, desperately trying to figure out my place and what I was meant to do with my time. I mean, marketing is supposed to be a constant, never-ending task, right? But what happens when you don’t have the slightest idea of where to start and what to do?
Well, that’s probably why my first book launch failed miserably. Okay, let me clarify a bit here. The book itself has not failed (exactly the opposite, really, as Breath of Air made it to the bestsellers lists in both Fantasy AND Contemporary Fantasy on Amazon) but that’s only because I, over time, have corrected all of the mistakes I made in the beginning. Here’s what I did when I launched book one:
NOTHING. Yes, you read that right. I did nothing. Nope, I just threw my book up on Amazon after creating a beautiful cover and interesting blurb and all the fun stuff. Then I sat back and said, “Okay readers, come find my book!” Boy, if only I’d known then what I know now…but, alas, I didn’t. So this is what I did after my book was published (and I realized the big, crucial marketing mistake I’d made!):
Step one: Facebook fan pageWell, my husband actually made it for me as a surprise a couple of days after the book was on Amazon, and I didn’t even know if I was going to keep it. No one’s going to want to “like” my fanpage, they don’t know who I am or what I do yet. I don’t need it. OH HOW SILLY I WAS.
See, for those who don’t know, there is this nifty website called World Literary Cafe. If you haven’t joined yet, then promptly smack yourself on the forehead and go to that website and join for God’s sake!! They are an invaluable community for self published authors. See, they have this awesome thing called the Facebook Like Program where you submit your information and thus join a long list of other authors. Then you proceed to “like” all of the pages above you on that list. And then, BAM! the “likes” start rolling in and people start spreading the word about you on Facebook. It’s genius!
So see, my early fears about no one bothering to like my Facebook fan page were very, very misguided. And see my mistake here (as I stated before) was that I didn’t set up my Facebook fanpage BEFORE I launched my book. Wow, what a concept, right? See, if I had had my Facebook page set up for me as an aspiring author with a book to be released in the near future, I could have started spreading the word, drumming up excitement for my book, etc. Instead, I had a book out already, so there was nothing fun to announce to my new followers.
Needless to say, while my savvyness on Facebook has finally improved to a reasonably practical level, I still lament that I was so clueless about what to do in the beginning!
BTW, while we’re on the topic of Facebook…let me offer a GEM of advice that I suggest fellow authors take immediately…you know how they are pushing us to buy Facebook ads now? Okay, well I had some promotional credits from GoDaddy for Facebook in the amount of $50. I used them to make a cute little ad for my fanpage. FOR THE FIVE DAYS THAT THE AD RAN MY “LIKES” TRIPLED!! Yes, you read that right. I went from just over 100 “likes” to over 380 “likes” in a matter of days!! So, if you think these ads are not worth it, think again! I will be putting another $50 in very soon because more “likes” means just that many more people see my posts and may buy my books. Win!!
Step two: Author BlogI’d read somewhere that authors were supposed to keep blogs in order to connect with readers and stuff. And while I don’t know if any of my readers have discovered my blog and read it on a daily basis (lol) I still have found it a very good asset for connecting with the writing community. That’s why so many of my posts are related to the practice of writing and not to promoting my own work. The readers perusing Amazon are probably not going to stumble upon my blog. But fellow authors who are seeking advice or an interesting read are going to see my blog. And connecting with people and helping them is like the golden rule…treat others the way you want to be treated, you get what you give, good karma, etc. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made in just the last few months from networking within the author community. And so many of them are amazing people who have not only been a joy to meet, but they’ve helped me grow and prosper as an author. So see, a blog is such an important tool, not just for promoting your work (which you should of course still do!) but for cementing yourself in the Indie community by helping others!
Step three: TwitterAgain, something I should have done BEFORE launching my book (poorly planned, Katie, geez. What kind of Virgo are you??). But as soon as I did set up a Twitter account, it was fairly easy to get followers. Again, I used WLC and their awesome Twitter Follow Program to connect with other authors. And by following other authors, I was invited by Twitter to follow self described book lovers, book reviewers, publishers, cover art designers, book clubs, aspiring authors, etc. This is the exact community you want reading your tweets, and they will be the most helpful in retweeting for you.
I like to use the hastag #authorRT whenever I create a tweet, as many great authors also use this and will seek you out and retweet for you. It’s a great system and it really works! Just make sure you retweet for them too as a courtesy. Again with the “get what you give” thing…
Step four: Utilize Amazon’s KDP Free DaysI didn’t use my first free day promo until nearly three weeks after I published Breath of Air. I guess that’s okay, but I sure wish I’d done it earlier! See, my first promo I went in completely blind. I just scheduled it, and then let it happen without doing much about it. I may have posted on FB, but I think that was it as far as my marketing went for it. So, low and behold, I had like 1,500 downloads. MEASLEY! I mean, at the time I was bouncing off the friggin walls with excitement, thinking that was just incredible. Little did I know…
See, here were my mistakes: as said before, I had a poor social network set up for my book, few followers, no author friends, I could barely create a functional tweet to save my life, etc. Secondly, I didn’t announce my free day to any of the websites (Pixel of Ink, Digital Book Today, E-Reader News Today, Frugal Reader, etc!). So, in essence, no one knew my book was free, and since it was so low ranking anyways because very few people had bought it seeing as I had done NO marketing to speak of before launching my book, my free promotion went largely unnoticed.
NOT SO THE SECOND TIME AROUND! Oh no, I’d learned, you see. I did another free promo about two weeks later (so soon, I know, but I had realized my mistakes and was determined to try again!) and by then I had become more established online in all the ways I should have been from the start, AND I had sent out my info on the free day to all the good websites. Lucky for me, I was picked up by all of them (including the gold mine that is Pixel of Ink!) and I sat back that day and watched 13,000 copies of Breath of Air go walking out the door. Yep, TEN TIMES as many downloads. Thank you, marketing! Lesson learned, right? lol
Alright, so those are the steps I took AFTER book one was launched. Do you see which BIG one is missing? Let’s just say I was in denial for many weeks, either out of laziness or spite or something, I don’t know. But I was determined to NOT set up an author website.
I know, right now you’re going “REALLY?!” I don’t blame you. It was pure ignorance on my part thinking that my blog was enough of a draw for readers. Stupid, stupid, stupid!! Anyways, I think sometime after I published book two it occurred to me that I was being foolish and that I had to get off my ass and make a damn website. And not one of those freeserver ones, no. I had to cough up some dough and pay for a legit domain name so people would start taking me seriously. GoDaddy has great prices and an easy to use platform, so I would suggest using them. BUT PLEASE, PEOPLE, MAKE A WEBSITE BEFORE YOU PUBLISH YOUR BOOK!
Don’t make the same mistake I made. It all goes back to branding and marketing. You need to have an established persona, per se, online before you even put your product out for sale. You want your book launch to be as successful as it can be, and the only way to do that is by having all of these items done BEFOREHAND.
Okay, so I had all of the abovementioned things, and went ahead and published book two. I did some Facebook posts, some tweets, did a blog post about it, etc. Andddddddd……not very exciting. Sure, I sold quite a few given that people who had snapped up book one for free during my awesome free day were now excited to discover book two was available, but I didn’t do anything special really to announce the release. I didn’t drum up any hype, no excitement, no thrill. I just published the book after a few posts and that was that. UGH – still stupid, Katie. Geez, didn’t you learn the first time?
Well, I was determined to learn my lesson when it came time to publish book three. And this time, I was going to do something REALLY different.
I was going to do a Release Day Blog Party and Blog Tour. Sounds fun, right? Fortunately for me, an awesome blogger who had discovered Breath of Air and loved it offered her services to me for this release party. I had no idea how it was going to go down, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. BTW, if you’re interested, you can find her here: Shadow Blog Tours.
So she set up a great blog post announcing the release, showing book covers and blurbs and trailers for the books and an author bio with my picture and an excerpt from book one, all the fun stuff. She also did a raffle (I was offering a set of signed print copies of the books). To my surprise, in the 6 days of the raffle, over 350 people entered! Very cool.
Here’s the kicker. While planning for the release party and doing all the appropriate website/blog/FB/Twitter/Goodreads announcements and events (the way it should have been done from the get-go!) my husband suddenly had the bright idea that I should release book four at the same time as book three. See, I had had all four books written since late last year, so there was really no reason to wait. It just seemed unprecedented to release two books in the same series at once (to me anyway, I’m sure it’s been done but I had never seen it). But I went ahead with it and so the Release Day party included both books.
The blogger was able to get seven or eight other great blogs to participate in the blog tour/release party, and so my information went out to all of those different blogs. It was tweeted by all of them and drew quite a bit of attention!
Needless to say, my sales numbers for the final two books in my series (compared to what I saw with the first two books) was just incredible. I mean, we’re talking a dramatic, hefty increase. And it’s all thanks to the RIGHT kind of marketing.
But I still didn’t do EVERYTHING I could have done. You see, I’m still learning, too. We are all still learning, even seasoned pros. And it’s because the world of self publishing is (as I always say) an ever-changing landscape. New ways to market are always popping up and are tried and tested in the field for all to see.
Here are some things that I wish I had done before, but that I definitely intend to do when I release my next book in August:
1. In the month leading up to the release, post just the cover image of the book out there along with the release date. Come up with some cool tagline to go along with it to catch people’s attention. Continue posting this cover image on different FB pages in a cycle all the way up until release day, the heaviest promoting being done of course in the week prior.
2. Do a “BUY ON THIS DAY!” type promo where you create a raffle to win a Kindle or an Amazon giftcard, and to enter people have to buy your new release on release day and send you their receipt in an email. I saw this on another blogger’s site and I really think it could work! If you can get enough people to do it, your book’s rank will jump dramatically and give it the exposure it needs to get going!
3. Create a Twitter hashtag specifically for your new release. In the month prior to the release, use this hashtag and request that others do too when referring to your new book.
4. Send out Advanced Review Copies of your book to your author friends in exchange for a written review for you to include in your book (cover, inside, Amazon page, etc).
5. Every week, release something new about the book. For example: first week, book cover. Second week, some good quotes from the book. Third week, a Review from one of those ARCs you should have sent out. Fourth week, a snippet of the book for people to read and get excited about.
That’s all I can think of for now, but trust me, there are countless other options out there, and I suggest trying them all. What have you got to lose? This is a game that is always changing on us, and the best we can do is work our hardest to stay on top of it all.
So good luck, fellow authors. I wish you the best!