Self-Publishing Part 5: The Dark World of Advertising

Are we already done? This is the last day of the self-publishing Q&A series! Read the previous posts here:

So… what remains? We have, seemingly, covered everything about self-publishing. Or have we?

Our final question is an appropriate one. Olivia asks:

Do you have any tips on advertising your book once it is published?

Rubbing hands together. Evil laugh. Glad you asked! The world of advertising your own books is a dark and scary one, indeed, and a lot of people (myself included) don’t know what to do at first. Do you have to buy a marketing package? Pay hundreds of dollars to Facebook and Google for ads? Host book signings? It’s downright terrifying.

But- ahem- it doesn’t have to be. About a year ago I started the research on this subject, and I came up with one big, yet reassuring, rule for marketing:

Friends are the ones who buy and sell your books. Therefore, make more friends.

Maybe I sound utterly Machiavellian. After all, am I just blogging, tweeting, and even writing stories just for the purpose of making money? Of course not! You see, I only share my ideas and writings because I have something valuable to say. Which brings me to the first thing to know about marketing: if you want to sell anything, you have to actually care about creating quality content that is worth a reader’s time. Write what you love and are good at. If you aren’t writing that stuff now, find a genre in which you can succeed. (I might add that it goes for everybody, too, not just writers… but that’s for another blog.) Now for some practical tips.

First, if you ask any experienced self-publisher what is the best way to grow a network, they will almost always tell you to start blogging. Seriously. You get to practice writing skills, explore new concepts, engage in dialogue with other writers, and meet new writing buddies. And, once people know about your blog and all the cool stuff on it, they are more interested in the other writing you do.

Image result for social mediaNext, use social media. This was a hard one for me, and I’m still not great at it. I had to figure out that on Facebook, images are more likely to catch people’s attention than plain text. I had to track down public domain gifs for Twitter. I had to learn exactly what a hashtag is (and why one always precedes “majestic thorin”). However, it’s starting to pay off. I’ve met other authors and fans, and we share the word about each others’ favorite books. Win-win!

Try Goodreads. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have some experience with this database of books and authors. But did you know that Goodreads also has an author program? Authors can sign up for an account (and link it to Amazon) and upload their own books. This way, you can get word of your book right to your intended audience: real readers. Besides marketing, you can write book reviews of your old favorite classics, search for other authors and books, meet other story enthusiasts, and keep a record of your most recent reads. (Check out the links below.)

Then you can do giveaways. You probably know what these are; I recently did one for Alen’s War. Rafflecopter (see below) is my favorite tool, but I know of other favorites among bloggers. You sign up for a free account- upgrades available- and create your own giveaways, which can be embedded in your blog and shared on social media. The best part? Rafflecopter automatically collects information and chooses winners for you, and all you have to do is send them the prize.

Chat on forums. Introverts, this isn’t as scary as you think, and that is coming from one of the most socially awkward masterminds on the internet. In a forum, you can chat about the things you have in common, discover new interests, argue politely about ideas, and ask for writing advice when you’re stuck. Besides, chatting with other writers is fun once you get to know everyone. (Christian teens, I’d start with the KingdomPen forums- see below.)

Image result for five stars

Ask for reviews. This doesn’t mean you have to chase readers down waving bayonets and torches; just ask your readers to leave you a quick review. For example, when you send an ebook to a giveaway winner, ask them to share their thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads. Or reach out to your blogging friends and let them know about your awesome book (which they might have helped you edit). Readers- fantasy fans in particular- are usually quite willing to rave about a book they loved, and they just need a reminder to tell their friends.

Finally, you can use writing networks. This includes sites like Figment, Wattpad, and CritiqueCircle. We talked about this a few weeks ago. With an account, you can submit stories for critiques and reviews from fellow writers, making friends and editing your work at the same time. Of course, you shouldn’t use these databases as your summer reading list, but you can definitely improve your writing and critiquing skills. Full confession: I’m not very good at this sort of thing yet, but I’m learning. Go ask writefury or Sarah Spradlin for more advice on networks.

Well, that about wraps it up! See, self-publishing isn’t all that scary once you know about it, and in fact it may be the best option for a lot of us new writers. Feel free to ask your remaining questions in the comments, and I look forward to seeing your indie novels on Amazon someday soon.

Want to know more?

General marketing skills: Selling books the old-fashioned indie way

Five-minute book marketing

A month of book promotion, from a writer’s perspective 

Social media: A thorough overview of social media sites and how to use them.

Blogging: Tips for designing a website. I don’t utilize all these tips, but they’re helpful.

Blogging posts from Self Publishing Today

Goodreads: Goodread’s Author Program page

An Unofficial Guide to Goodreads for Readers and Writers

Giveaways: Rafflecopter, my trusty giveaway platform

Forums: The official KingdomPen forums. Seriously, teens, check this one out.

Reviews: Good ways to collect book reviews

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