If you’re a regular reader of IU, you know that writing a book is only part of the recipe for success. You’ve taken all the advice about punctuation, plot, characters, and story arc to heart, you’ve written the best book you could, gotten first-class editing, paid for an eye-catching cover and now your book is up on the web just waiting for the orders to roll in.
But they’re not.
Okay… you’ve sent out an announcement to your email list, you’ve posted on Facebook and Instagram, tweeted on Twitter, touted your book on LinkedIn. You’ve sent press releases to the local media and to any distant locations that might be interested (i.e. the setting for your book, your old home town, etc.).
Still no sales spike. What’s up with that?
When I teach self-publishing classes, I always tell my students that writing the book is a sprint; promoting it is the marathon. Writing it is a finite task; promotion goes on forever. The reason for that is two-fold. The first is that regardless of who buys your book right off the bat, you’ll always be looking for new readers. The second is that most people don’t buy a book the instant they first hear of it.
Think back to the last book you bought: Did you stumble over it on Amazon? Hear about it from a friend? See it on a best-seller list? Now, the big question: did you buy it the second you heard about it? Or did you jot a note to yourself, or put it in your Amazon wish list, or think, “I’ll get that next week when I get paid”? Do you remember how long it was between first hearing about it and the time you actually bought it? Did you remember to get it on payday, or did mention of it pop up somewhere else that reminded you of it?
What I’m getting at is that book sales are not a nice, neat equation. It’s not a matter of tweeting on Twitter = X number of sales. Blasting it out to your email list does not necessarily = X number of sales. We wish. If it was as simple as doing Y = $, we’d all do it and we’d all be millionaires. But buying books is a process, and sometimes it’s a very long, convoluted process. In order to bend that process in our direction, we have to exert a constant pressure.
A few years back, our own Lynne Cantwell wrote about Effective Frequency, and we refer back to it quite often. It very definitely is a real thing because it takes into account how the human brain works. Our brains process so many particles of information daily, they have to decide what’s really important and what isn’t, and the what-isn’t gets cleared out pretty quickly. Our jobs, as writers and marketers, is to move our names and our books from the what-isn’t compartment to the what-is compartment so the reader acts and buys the book.
Ok, how do we do that? Obviously the above tactics are important: the email list, the social media, posting links to our book so people can access it with a just a click. Make it as easy as possible for people to find the book, and as easy as possible to buy it. But then what?
How many ways can you think of to get your name out there in front of readers? We’ve got a few ideas.
Book Promotion Sites – Of course most all of us know about these. We’ve got a comprehensive list here on Indies Unlimited – Martin Crosbie’s list, lists for new releases, and even a tutorial on how to purchase book promotion. Don’t forget, for free, we’ve got Thrifty Thursday and Print Book Party right here on IU.
Book Fairs – This is an obvious choice, and for a reason. The thing about book fairs is that people who attend are coming explicitly to browse and buy books; it’s a targeted audience. If you don’t sell a book, don’t fret. Just make sure you connect with people and hand out as many business cards as possible. I wrote about tricks for successful book fairs here.
Book Signings – These will require more effort from you than simply setting up at a book fair. That’s because it’s a one-off; you’re the main attraction and the organizer. You’ll need to get out there and find a venue and pitch your plan, but we’ve got some helpful hints about how to do that.
Craft Fairs/Farmers Markets – Yes, these are places you can sell your books, as well. Don’t be limited by the idea that you can only sell books at book fairs; anyplace you can set up alongside other vendors is an opportunity. Our own Kathy Rowe talks about setting up at a farmers market and selling eggs—and books.
Libraries – Your local library is your friend. Offer to come in and teach something helpful to their patrons and they’ll love to have you. Whenever you approach anyone concerning your book(s), make sure you are doing something for them instead of just expecting them to do something for you. It will definitely help you get your foot in the door.
Author Interviews – There are many avenues for giving author interviews, but again, you have to think outside the box. Do a web search on “author interview” and you will get a ton of hits for bloggers and reviewers who do this on a regular basis. The trick here is, don’t be shy – and be courteous. Check out their blogs and offer them something valuable. Contact them, ask for an interview, and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. I posted about interviews a while back, as did Martin Crosbie. Also, remember earlier when I mentioned sending out press releases? If you don’t get a response from your local newspaper or TV station (which is not unusual), go ahead and follow up with a phone call. Ask them if they would like to interview you and talk about your new book. You might be surprised, because local media is very often looking for stories of local folks doing interesting things. Additionally, think about making your own video for Facebook, YouTube, or chatting on FaceTime. You don’t need someone to pitch you questions; you can just talk about your book and the writing journey.
TV – Speaking of TV, do you have a local station that does its own morning show or talk show? If so, call that puppy up and see what you can arrange. Again, local media are usually very interested in local talent. I wrote about my own experiences and lessons learned here. And if you can get a video of your appearance, do so. Post it on your social media, YouTube, or website.
Newspapers – Aside from sending press releases and/or asking for an interview, there are other ways to get your name out there. Think about writing a guest post for your local paper. What are you passionate about? What knowledge do you have that you could share with your neighbors? Lately I’ve started contributing articles to a statewide dog magazine, and I wrote about doing a photo blog for my local paper (which has since gone behind a paywall). But if you’re an expert birdhouse-creator, a whiz with a chainsaw, or can make a mean peach cobbler, you can offer that to your newspaper. Just make sure you can attach a brief bio or byline mentioning your (ahem) writing skills and books as well.
Continuing Education/Community Colleges – Now, speaking of sharing knowledge, think about developing a class or workshop where you can showcase your talent and share your experience with interested people in your area. I regularly teach a self-publishing class through my local community college. What do you know about? Essential oils? The history of baseball? Rocks and minerals? Think about developing a way to share that knowledge with others. Most community colleges (and libraries) would love to have you volunteer your time. And again, just remember to include your bio with your writing accomplishments on any class description or PR materials.
So, will this send your sales numbers into overdrive? Maybe, but probably not right away. Probably not in a way you can quantify. But the trick is getting your name out there. Achieving that effective frequency. Putting your name in front of people over and over, until that day they think, “Hmm, I’ve heard that name before. Maybe I’ll buy that book…”
Let’s get creative. What other ways can you think of to get your book in front of readers?