My last post was about the excitement I have about being part of the self-publishing revolution. For me the pros of doing it all myself definitely outweigh the cons. But I don’t want to paint the picture that going this route is in any way easy. By self-publishing you also take on the task of self-marketing. This is one aspect I actually enjoy, but that hasn’t made it any less confusing and at times overwhelming.
Part of the challenge in being part of a revolution is the rapid pace of change in the industry. Since it’s a free-for-all when it comes to ideas or ways to market your book some clever soul is coming up with a new idea every day. Occasionally someone hits a jackpot and their idea launches their work into the stratosphere where they reach million upon millions of potential readers. And when that happens, the rest of us struggling self-publishers (and most likely publishing houses too) take note and want to jump on that band wagon. We reason that if fanfiction (or social media, or blogging, or giveaways) helped launch a top seller, then that’s what I will do to get similar results.
There’s a two-fold problem with this formula. First there are so many of us in this revolution. Viva self-pub is being chanted by thousands of authors with more joining the fray everyday. This can be a shock to a new author. Just finishing that first novel and getting it on Amazon and/or another site feels like such an enormous accomplishment that it can be a letdown to realize there isn’t an immediate line forming of readers clamoring for your work. Worse, you find your work lost in a very crowded space, struggling to even be seen.
Not to fear, once you identify as a self-pub author help will come pouring in. This is good, but the second part of the problem. What worked six months ago for an new author, might not work now. Last year there may have only been a few authors doing blog tours, so their work stood out. When fewer authors were using Pintrest or Tumblr their posts and pins stood out. As each medium becomes saturated, your messages becomes diluted and eventually lost.
I love to follow other authors on Twitter. They give me insight into their writing process and share their ups and downs, but I’m getting frustrated with those who only tweet ads for their books, ad nauseam. I get the feeling that someone told them about how bombarding twitter with book ads blew their sales through the roof. And that may have worked at some point in the past, but I honestly skip past tweets that simply say, “get your copy of my murder mystery” with an Amazon link. I want to know you, are you a self-pub? Is this your first book? Why did you write it? Why is it different?
One hot current marketing debate is the value of free. At first this promotional idea was very effective and you can read about authors experiencing huge bumps in sales following a free promotion. As more authors tried this technique sites emerged that solely promote free books. Unfortunately, it looks like people that follow these are constantly downloading books solely because they are free, accumulating more in their e-libraries than they could possibly read in a lifetime. Its now more common to get lost in the free sea than to stand out for offering readers a chance to try your work.
So how do you market your self-published book? Having only been pondering this question for less than a year I am hardly an expert, however, I can offer my been-there, done-that advice. First, prepare to be in this for the long haul. It’s all about making connections. As I pointed out with Twitter, social media can be used to connect with others; other authors, other romance novel lovers, etc. Connection is what will get others to want to try your work and/or share it. If you dedicate time to connecting on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. you will eventually get a following of people who genuinely like you and your work. These are the people who will be looking for your second novel, not the thousands who downloaded a free copy of your first then forgot about it.
Talk to teens. Even if your book is not marketed to teens, they are the ones truly in the know when in comes to social media trends. Whatever they are using today will become mainstream tomorrow. This is the way to be one of the first to try a marketing technique and stand out.
Know your audience and your niche. Each genre and especially subgenre has an audience who is looking for new books, especially those recommended by others within that community.
Find the indie author supporters (and support them!). There are some seriously crappy books in the indie world (unedited, poorly written) that give all of us a bad rep. Not every blogger or reader is willing to keep giving indie a try, so find and support those who do.
Finally, beware ads promising you the moon. Yes, there are companies who will get your tweet seen by tens of thousands of others on Twitter. Which sounds great, until you realize that most of those volume numbers are not targeted. It’s just random accounts, with no breakdown into romance readers or really even readers. Shouting out the name of your book at any public event might be more effective. Stop and analyze the odds of reaching your specific market then look at the number other authors using the same technique. If yours is one of hundreds of books being promoted in the same way I can promise that mode has become saturated and you should consider spending your money and time elsewhere.