There are hundreds of ways to market self-published books. However, if you don’t get the following nine marketing strategy basics right first, you could be wasting a lot of your time, energy and money.
Many, if not most authors who self-publish for the first time make mistakes. It is completely normal because you are trying to do something totally new and you don’t have much experience to fall back on to help you.
On top of that, you don’t have money to burn, so you try to launch and market your book on Amazon on a shoestring budget. Some new authors take this even further and try to do absolutely everything for free.
In both cases, authors try to do everything themselves, which is fine up to a point.
If you don’t have the knowledge or certain skills that are necessary for self-publishing, it will show.
This will reflect badly on both you and your new book.
Cutting on expenses is one thing. But it is very rare to find a business of any kind, including self-publishing, that has succeeded on the back of the skills of one person and without a cent of investment.
I will begin my advice on how to promote a self-published book with the three key elements a book needs to stand any chance or success.
If you think your book fails on any of the first three points, you will probably be wasting your time trying to implement the remaining book marketing tips and advice.
First, have you got the three book basics right?
1. Have you written a very good book?
Of course, this is subjective. But by a very good book, I mean a story or a topic for non-fiction, that is interesting and worth reading.
Did you use beta readers to give you feedback about this question? Have you had anyone read your book apart from you?
Can you be certain that your book is a good one? A self-publishing author must get independent feedback. It is impossible for an author to judge their own work.
A good book needs to develop over time. When you finish your first draft, you need to get external ideas and helpful criticism.
An author doesn’t need to pay a fortune for a professional editor. But for a book to be worth reading, and to hopefully get book sales, it does need external input to help an author polish and refine a manuscript before publishing.
Rough, mistake-ridden first drafts never sell well. Check your manuscript very carefully for grammar errors, spelling mistakes and typos. Use a premium online grammar checker to start the process and then proofread meticulously.
Grammarly is the choice of many writers.
However, a much better option for authors is Prowritingaid, which is also less expensive. It is particularly suited to working on long documents such as book manuscripts. It comes with over 20 different reports to help you analyse your text.
2. Will your book cover attract potential readers?
Did you make your own book cover?
You did? So you used MS Word by popping in an image and a title and then saved it in pdf. Then you discovered that it had to be in jpeg, so you converted it again.
Homemade covers always look flat and dull because they are low resolution and are usually lacking in eye-catching elements.
Your book cover is the first impression book buyers will see. But it will almost always be in thumbnail size. Your cover needs to be clear and sharp when it is reduced in size on book retailers.
If you have very good expertise in book cover design and Photoshop, fine. If not, forget about creating your own book cover and get a professional on the job.
Your book cover is the absolute number one book promotional tool you have, so don’t cut corners. Without a professional killer cover, your book will stand little or no chance of being noticed.
A flat, dull, boring, amateur book cover is a sales killer, especially for a printed book.
If you don’t spend a cent on anything else, spend a little to get a professional cover designed for your book.
3. Will your book description hook potential book buyers?
How much time did you spend writing your book description? How many versions did you write? Did you ask a few people which one worked best?
Which words in your book description did you write with the clear intention of hooking a reader?
Or did you just reduce the essence of your story to 100 words or less and then tag on a “What will happen question” at the end of it?
Second, only to your book cover, your book description is vital (read critical here) in attracting readers and then encouraging them to buy your book. A weak, poorly written book description will not help you at all in gaining sales from your sales page.
Take the time necessary to write a truly fantastic book description.
Do some research on what makes a book description work. Then put all your writing skills to work to create two or three versions, which you can then get feedback on to see which one works best.
If you are certain you have the first three elements covered, then read on.
4. Use the search listing tools Amazon gives you so readers can find your book.
For most new self-publishing authors, the biggest percentage of your sales income will initially come from Amazon, and especially Kindle ebooks.
If you want to take advantage of how Amazon can help promote your book, make sure you select and use the best categories and keywords to ensure that your book is discoverable.
To get even more search exposure, you should publish in both paperback and Kindle ebook, as you can then use different genre categories and search keywords for each version of your book.
If you decide to enrol in KDP Select, make sure you use the additional promotional means that Amazon allows. Use your free book days to try to give away free copies of your book, set up countdown deals, and if your budget can afford it, use Amazon Ads.
Also, don’t forget to set up your Amazon author page.
5. Your blog is your best selling point after Amazon.
You can certainly have a website and an email list. But a well designed and regularly updated blog is by far the best means of effective book promotion after Amazon.
If your blog posts are well written, Google will index them. Then hopefully a good proportion of your blog visitors will come to you organically.
For book promotion, this is absolute gold, because Google and Bing search is how people discover you as an author and your books.
You can also consider writing guest posts for other blogs. It is a proven way to find new readers.
From my own experience, about 80% of my blog traffic is organic. This traffic spends three times longer per visit on my blog than the traffic I get from social media.
For most authors, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account and a Goodreads page are the three essential social media platforms for book promotion. Some also use Instagram, LinkedIn and Medium
The key to using social media for promoting books is to do a lot of communicating. You want to inform, but go easy on the blatant book buy links, such as your book cover image with a link to Amazon.
Also, as I mentioned above, using social media to promote your blog is fine and well worthwhile. But because of the fast-moving nature of social media, site visits tend to be short. Usually to the linked page only, so it pays to carefully select what pages you share.
Social media is about getting known, which takes time, so don’t expect any overnight miracles.
7. Spread the word as much and as far as you can.
Look for sites or services that can help get the word out about your book. There are many free sites. But as always, what you get for free is usually a lot less than what you can get if you spend a little on reliable and effective book promotion.
A mixture of the two is often the best means. But you should be selective when choosing which book promotion services you decide to use.
Spending a lot of money on book promotion doesn’t necessarily equate to gaining sales. Especially so if points one through to four in the list above are not right.
One skill a self-publish author needs to master very quickly is how to create and use links.
It is so important that I have written two articles that delve into all the types of book links you can and should use.
Good use of various types of links to your books and blog articles is essential in getting your promotional word out effectively.
9. Put away the scattergun!
Don’t try to sell your book to everyone in the world, and especially not on social media.
A very small percentage of readers will be interested in your book. So you need to get to know your target readers and aim your promotion at your target market. This is an important point if you are building a mailing list.
If you write contemporary romance, it won’t be of much use following bricklayers and car salesmen.
If you write teenage fantasy, you should be looking for where younger readers can be found. Perhaps Wattpad or Goodreads might be good places to start.
The same applies to the topics you write about on your blog. Select subjects that will be of interest to your target reader.
Promoting a self-published book is hard work and there are no shortcuts.
Quality sells. So make sure you have a fantastic book first and foremost. Then do your very best to implement the basics of book promotion that I have outlined above.
Most importantly, have a fantastic cover, a killer book description, and get your categories and keywords working for you on Amazon and you will be 70% of the way there.
Then, every day look for opportunities to promote your books. There are many ways you can help promote your books in less than ten minutes.
So always be on the lookout for new ideas.
I started my working life as a lithographer and then spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of the Alps.
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