If you’re reading this, that means you probably have a book ready to self-publish. Or maybe you’re just starting to think about the idea —either way, you’ve picked the right time in history to self-publish. But you might be ready to paraphrase a line from Hamilton, “writing was easy, my friend, marketing’s harder.” You’re an indie author, not a business guru. Where do you even start? We’re here to help and show you how to market a self-published book.
Setting Up Your Book’s Final Touches
Think of this section as your final check before take off. Look at the panel in front of you, there’s still some lights flashing —our job is to turn all those lights green before you start focusing on book marketing. What up’s first?
Book cover design. You know the old phrase, “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Be real. How often have you NOT picked a book by its cover? When was the last time you thought “that cover is truly horrible, but I’ll still give it a try?” Book covers are your first way of catching a reader’s attention. It’s been said, if you spend money on nothing else, invest in your book cover design. This is not a place to cut corners; view your book cover as an investment. You know, and we know, that your story is good, but make sure your book cover design is working for you and not against you. Bottom line: a good book cover will aid your journey and make your social media marketing even more effective.
Back to our control panel, that next light that is flashing orange?
Book description and endorsements.
A book cover catches your eye, what do you look at next? The book description. If you’re using Kindle Direct Publishing, your book is going to join a sea of other books. What will set it apart? Here’s where some good old-fashioned sleuthing comes into play. Figure out the best keywords for your book —because yes, keywords in your book description are going to direct traffic to your book. Use your keywords to create a compelling description. This is a hook to snag your readers interest. Don’t be afraid to compare, “perfect for fans of . . .” can be a good eye-catcher.
And don’t forget endorsements. If you are hoping to gain fans from some established authors, a well-written endorsement from an author in your genre could be perfect. But please, don’t be that person who cites three obscure or random endorsements in your description. Create a book description that fits your book and will attract your target audience.
Did that just raise a lot of questions in your mind? Let’s break down the process a little bit.
How to market a self-published book
One of the biggest keys to marketing is knowing your target audience.
What kind of person is going to enjoy your book? What authors do they like? What is their age demographic? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you in effective social media marketing. (And we’ll talk more about that in a little bit!)
Moving beyond your audience, know other authors in your genre.
Think of this as networking versus competition. Readers can read much faster than authors can write, and if they like an author, they’ll accept their endorsements and recommendations.
Besides, who doesn’t want a group of cool author friends?
As you get to know other authors, take notes for yourself. What do you like in their marketing? What could you do differently? Part of marketing is having a brand with a distinct voice.
As an indie author, building an audience is crucial, and one great way to start is with . . .
Your website and email list:
Readers are curious. They want to get to know you. They want to know what you like. . . what books you read. They want to know if you’ve written anything else —or if you’re working on something else. So, you need a website. (WordPress is a good website option if you like seeing code while Squarespace is better if you want ready to fill-in templates.) A simple website will help you answer your readers’ questions, and it will help generate organic traffic.That means you will need a lede generator.
What is a lede generator? It’s something that readers will receive access to IF they subscribe to your email list. Maybe it’s a sneak preview of your book’s first chapter. Maybe it’s a short story or novella. Whatever it is, your readers will have to want it enough to give you their email address, so take some time to make sure it’s eye-catching enough for sign-ups. (One way of marketing this beyond your website is to advertise your lede generator at the end of your book.)
Once you’ve figured out a lede generator, don’t forget your email list. It will be a great way of keeping your readers informed as you market future books and flash sales down the road.
But before any of that happens, let’s take a look at . . .
Your book launch
What is the job of a book launch? First off, it’s usually a team effort. Put together a group of friends and potential reviewers. These aren’t beta readers or editors, but they are your last line of defense, reading advanced review copies of your manuscript and giving feedback. They are also your first line of social media marketing as they write reviews of your book and share it online.
If you are using Kindle Direct Publishing, you’ll want to make sure your launch team knows the rules and requirements of reviewing on Amazon. (This could be its own article, and it’s worth taking the time to understand the system —like how your launch team reviewer’s amazing review won’t be posted if they haven’t spent $50 on Amazon in the last month.)
As an indie author, you’re bringing your book up to the starting gate. The moment you self-publish, your book launch is going to the initial fuel that creates momentum.
And that’s where we have to look at:
Social media techniques
Social media marketing is one of the best ways to build awareness for your new book and increase book sales. That means a Facebook author’s page, a potential FB group, and don’t forget Instagram or Goodreads. (If you’re an active Twitter user, then by all means use this platform, too.)
Encourage your book launch team to interact with you on social media. A live launch party with a book giveaway at the end is one way to do this.
Think about social media marketing in terms of a sprint and a marathon. As you head toward your book launch, you’re going to want a flurry of posts building your potential reader’s interest.
This could include character sketches, behind-the-scenes glimpses, a cover reveal, author endorsements, etc. Once your book is published, the sprint is over and the torch passes to the marathon. Now you’re going to use social media as a place for ads, and a way to direct traffic to your book.
And speaking of traffic, don’t forget the power of . . .
Who doesn’t like winning something? Strategic giveaways can aid your book launch and help your journey as a self-published author. Take time to think about the platform you use for your giveaway. What do you want to accomplish with it? Do you want to build your email list? (Have them subscribe to your newsletter.) Grow your social media audience? (Have them tag a friend.) If you can’t tell, there’s a lot of strategic ways to use a giveaway. Another potential is offering a review copy AND a giveaway copy to a potential reviewer.
At the end of the day, giveaways are a great aid to marketing but the bottom-line is that you want to encourage people to buy your book. So let’s talk about . . .
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to pricing. You can read articles talking about how to break-down your calculations for pricing.
Whether you’re using Kindle Direct Publishing, or another publishing platform pricing, you’re going to have to consider ebook pricing, and, if you’re publishing a physical copy, paperback/hardback pricing.
There are tons of factors that go into pricing —most importantly how much you’ve spent on self-publishing your book and how much you will spend on marketing. But there’s also another important factor —how much other books in your genre cost,
Take a look at other books in your genre — what are the prices your target audience is used to paying? You’re going to have to make a decision: will you match their expected prices or give a slightly lower starting price to encourage buying? Don’t undersell yourself, but don’t underestimate the power of a low price, either.
The bottom line for pricing is to know your audience and know your own budget.
Take a deep breath. You just read a TON. That’s because there is lots to consider as you learn how to market a self-published book. (Maybe you’re not even done writing your book. In that case, we have some tips for you. Take a look at How to Self Publish a Book in 2021.)
But the bottom line is, you know the basics. You now have the indie author’s map to book marketing and a toolbox of ideas to boost your book sales. The keys to how to market a self-published book are in your hands. Remember that control panel we mentioned? There aren’t any red or orange lights flashing anymore. Instead there’s a big green light. You are ready to go!