Monday, June 2, 2014

Marketing Your Self-Published Books

In 2012, I self-published my latest novel, Unraveled, through Amazon Create Space. It was a relatively easy process, once I learned the intricacies of preparing the manuscript to upload in Microsoft Word.

As an aside, let me just say how much I hate Word. My family and friends know it's my favorite soapbox subject--how much I hate Word. I've used Word Perfect since the dawn of computer time and there is no comparison between the two. Word Perfect is so easy to use and so user friendly. For example, if I want a header on one page and not on another, it's two easy steps to make the change. If I don't want page numbers on some pages and I do on others; or if I want one style of page numbers on some pages, and a different style on others, simple, Simple, SIMPLE. Not so in Word. It's a complicated process that brings me to the edge every single time. I. Hate. Word.

But once I passed the manuscript-preparation hurdle (and I have to pass it with every manuscript I prepare), I was good to go. Katy Popa designed my cover (as well as the covers on my re-released novels) and did a beautiful job, and voila, my book was ready for print. Even with four proofreaders, one of whom was a teacher for 30 years, it took about four read-throughs to find all the typos. I think I corrected them all, but if you find one, please let me know!

So, what then? Marketing. Talk about throwing a damper on the party. Marketing is the hard taskmaster you'd like to murder in the night. But alas, he's indestructible and all you can do is bow to his authority.

I've helped several authors put their books on Create Space, and they always ask, "How do I market my book?" I want to say, "How the heck should I know?" But that would be so unprofessional. So I act like I know what I'm talking about when I advise them, and I'm going to try to do the same thing here.

Social media is a friend of any author, whether traditionally published or self published. And I advise my author friends to take advantage of it. Facebook especially. Plan a Big Launch for the release of your book and get all your FB friends in on it. Prepare a beautiful graphic for your release for your own use, and for the use of those you've been able to enlist to help you. On the release date, have everyone publish the post you've prepared and ask everyone who receives it to Share it. It's like a pebble making a splash, then creating a ripple effect. The idea is to get the ripple to grow into a tsunami. No, it's not easy, and mostly it won't happen, but the bigger you can make that ripple effect, the better for you.

Another thing I do is appeal to book clubs. I'm still working on the details as to how to make that work for me. But of all the publicity-type marketing things I do, participating in book clubs that have read one of my books is my all-time favorite. I love hearing complete strangers talk about what they did and didn't like about my book, and interacting with them. It's tremendous fun. The challenge is finding the clubs, but again, social media is a good place to begin.

When I have a new release, I have postcards printed that I send to everyone on my mailing list which I continue to grow every change I get. For example, when I speak, I have my audience fill out a slip of paper with their name and address that goes into a drawing for a free book. I make it clear that the ONLY thing I use their information for is to mail a postcard to them when I have a new release. One the front of the postcard is my book cover. On the back is a blurb about the book, where it's available, and a place to address the postcard. You can get postcards, bookmarks, etc. at a good price from Vista Print.

I also do extensive marketing to libraries. I've done that with all my books, not just my self-published titles. I have a large file of libraries that I market to with close to 2,500 libraries on my list. I found them at Library Technology Guides, which list all the libraries by state, city and county. In preparing my list I first added library systems, state by state, which have more than one library in their group. For example, Los Angeles Public Library System has more than 70 libraries, and may purchase multiple copies of your book to put in their libraries. Next, I added to my list libraries in cities with a population of at least 40,000. And I barely scratched the surface with my 2,500 library list.

I prepared a nice one-sheet with my book covers, blurbs about them, where they're available, and added a link to my Amazon author page. At the top of the one sheet, I invited the Library Director to consider purchasing my books for their library patrons. In the early days, I mailed my one-sheet to the libraries on my list. Now, thank God, they can be sent electronically. I sell a lot of books to libraries, and though I don't make much money per book, I am finding new readers, and that's the whole point. I often hear from them, and that's a nice bonus. After I've marketed to the libraries on my list, I go back through the list a couple of months later to see who's purchased my books, and often find that my books are "Checked Out." I love it.

In balancing writing versus marketing, I usually set aside about 4 hours on Saturday afternoons to market to libraries. I start my playlist on Spotify and get to work. I don't do it every Saturday, but I work hard to get through my list, state by state, with every new release. It takes several months but to me it's worth it.

Finally, at least for purposes of this post, I try to set up radio interviews to promote my books. You can scan radio programs on to find the programs that will fit with your book. Those are done from home, on the phone, and are fun to do.

So these are ways I work at marketing my books. What suggestions can you add to the list? The more we know, the better it is for all of us working hard to get our books out there.


Anonymous said...

What about the markets Amazon doesn't cover? Have you thought about publishing through Smashwords? I am pretty sure you would get better coverage/distribution that way. And I believe your profit margin would be higher. Just a thought.

Megan Sayer said...

That's good advice Sharon, and I especially like the systematic way you approach libraries. Well done.

My cousin self-pubbed her first novel about 18 months ago, and watching the way her husband has taken up the marketing reins has been really inspiring. The novel is historical (Sydney in the 1920s) so he approached all the historical societies, the museum bookshop, places like that. The cover art was a famous painting of the Harbour Bridge from that period that happened to be featured on the promotion for a big art exhibition at the state Art gallery soon after, so he brought it in to them and asked to sell it there. The novel is about a group of young classical musicians, so he approached music groups in places he had connections and told them about it. They took a family holiday in two capital cities, and in each one he organised a book launch (as well as the Sydney one), even contacting a member of the local orchestra (a cold call) who came to play at the launch. They seem to be very happy with the way the book has sold, and are looking at (if they haven't done so already) another print run.

I do understand that having crates and crates of books in one's garage isn't always an option for self-publishers, but I do think their physical presence certainly helped them want to move them, and maybe work harder on marketing than many self-pubbers (not you!!) to make a return on their investment. They've certainly inspired me.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Anonymous,I haven't done much research on Smashwords, but I certainly will at your suggestion.

Megan, how very creative of your cousin and her husband. Thank you for the great ideas.