Marketing Isn’t an Afterthought

Unfortunately, most new self-published authors don’t consider marketing until after they have published their books. When sales are dismal, then they see firsthand the importance or marketing. Or they ask other authors on a community forum, “Why isn’t my book selling?” One of the answers will be marketing.

It sure would be nice if we could just throw our books out there and watch them sell like hot cakes. Everyone hopes for this.

But there’s a major problem with this approach: When the book doesn’t sell all by itself, the best marketing opportunities have already passed by. Now it’s too late. So most authors settle for better-late-than-never.

The problem is that after you publish, if you haven’t yet marketed, you’ve lost your chance to create buzz for your book and your lack of sales history will be a challenge to overcome. When you effectively market early sales and build a healthy sales history, this gives you much more exposure on Amazon – e.g. through Customers Also Bought lists and 100 bestseller lists (if you really succeed).

Marketing is something that should begin before the book is published – when the book is still being written:

  • Generate “buzz” for your upcoming book. You want people talking about your book in person and via social media before it’s released. You don’t have to spend money on advertising to achieve this.
  • Let people discover that you’re working on a book. “What have you been up to lately?” People tend not to like advertisements and salesmen, but they like to feel that they’ve discovered new things.
  • When you meet people, let them discover that you’re a writer. People like to buy books from authors they’ve personally interacted with.
  • Show your passion for your work. When others see your passion, it makes them more interested in your work.
  • Get feedback on your cover design. First, you get valuable suggestions and find what puts people off and turns people on. It also helps to create a little buzz.
  • You can also solicit feedback on your title and blurb. Do this in person and online.
  • Carefully let people know on occasion something that’s special about your project – e.g. if you spend an abnormal amount of time writing or doing research, or if you’ve had a few edits from a professional editor.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you talk about your book every time you interact with friends, family, and acquaintances, you’ll get tuned out. Let them inquire about how your project is coming along.
  • Publish a paperback with CreateSpace and use Amazon Advantage to enable preorders. Customers can then order your book before it’s even published.
  • Preorders give your book a headstart in sales rank and help to quickly develop Customers Also Bought associations. A tremendous jumpstart can give you mega-exposure on 100 bestseller lists.
  • Send out advance review copies. Goodreads can help with this. This gives you a chance to earn a few early reviews.
  • Realize that your cover is a valuable marketing tool. A striking image attracts attention, relevant imagery signifies the genre. A memorable cover with one main image makes your book easier to recognize and describe to others.
  • Perfect your blurb and Look Inside before you publish because these can have a profound influence on sales.
  • Perfect your editing, formatting, and storyline before you publish. If people love your book and the writing, they are far more likely to leave good reviews and recommend your book to others by word-of-mouth.
  • Start a blog before you publish your book. This may only help you create a small following, but that’s not the point. The point is when your About the Author section directs readers to your blog, you don’t want them to show up and find an empty blog with one post, two followers, and three likes. Have some content available and gathering started before you publish.
  • Don’t just blog about yourself unless you’re already a celebrity. Try to develop useful content that relates to your book and genre that will attract not only fans, but perhaps others from your intended audience, too.
  • Develop your author websites before you publish so that you can include the links in your books.
  • Get your social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) started before you publish. This can help you create buzz for your book and get early sales and reviews. Get your pages setup and have active content before you direct traffic there.
  • Setup fan, book, author, and/or imprint pages at Facebook.
  • However, be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. If you have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, separate accounts for author, book, publisher, fan club, etc., you want to be able to manage everything and keep content up-to-date. Some pages may not need updating (like a simple page for the publisher), but some do – like your blog and Twitter.
  • Choose one author photo that you can use everywhere. This recognition helps you create your brand/image as an author.
  • Develop a logo before you publish so that you can use it on all of your books and websites.
  • Choose an imprint before you publish and develop a website (free, perhaps) to help lend it some credibility.
  • Setup your AuthorCentral Author Page at Amazon. Setup your Goodreads author account.
  • Use your own passion for your book to motivate yourself to market diligently. Believe in your book enough to want to share it with others, to want to market actively so that others will learn about it.

The longer a book sits on Amazon and doesn’t sell well, the greater the history of no sales counts against you. If you suddenly market some new sales, your sales rank still skyrockets quickly because of that lack of history. Market effectively out of the box to build a strong early sales rank. Get your book started off on the right foot.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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A Negative Indie Image?

What do you perceive is the general image of indie authors? Good? Bad? Ugly?

There is certainly some loud criticism:

  • Some nefarious websites have developed large followings by criticizing indie cover art.
  • Publishers and authors (including indies!) disparage a growing “slush pile” of self-published books that lack editing, formatting, or well thought-out storylines.
  • The reputation of free-promo books is on the decline.
  • People are speaking out against shorter and shorter eBooks, including those that are just the first chapter of a book.
  • Then there are the infamous authors who have abused the system with fake reviews. Who hasn’t heard about this?

Loud voices do carry much weight. The complainers are marketing a bad image for indie authors.

There are easily a million indie authors out there. They have many friends and family. Almost everybody knows an indie author, or at the very least knows someone who does.

Complaints and disparaging remarks affect all indies. The reputation of self-publishing affects the sales of all self-published books. The reputation of eBooks, in general, affects the sales of all eBooks.

The more people blast eBooks, the more customers won’t want to purchase eReaders, which affects all eBook authors – including traditional publishers that make eBooks.

Yet there are many authors, editors, and publishers out there contributing to the negative image of eBooks. Every time they refer to the “slush pile,” disparage free-promo books, or remind us of past review abuse, it affects the image of eBooks in general, which affects everybody’s sales.

Even some indie authors participate in the complaining. All of the work these authors do to market their own books is negated by the advertising that they do to bring down the image of indie authors.

Indie authors are not powerless. There are things that every indie author can do to help restore our image. I’m not saying that we should just call an “orange” and “apple” to change the image. Part of the solution has to do with marketing, but part also has to do with product. Yet every indie author can impact both – creating a positive perception through both marketing and product improvement.

Here are some ways that all indie authors can help to improve our image:

  • Don’t disparage other indie authors or indie works. Every time you do this, you contribute to the problem. It doesn’t just affect those at the bottom; it affects everyone.
  • Don’t complain about the slush pile, free-promo books, or review abuse. When you mention things that create a negative connotation in people’s minds, it reinforces a negative image.
  • Strive to paint a positive picture for indies, rather than a negative image, when you discuss self-publishing with others in person, in your blogs, in community discussion forums, etc.
  • Bring attention to great indie covers, great indie books, and indie success stories. Anything positive you can say about indies goes a long way to establishing our overall credibility.
  • Don’t give good reviews to lousy indie books. Do give good reviews to good indie books. Be careful what you say in any bad reviews of lousy indie books – or at least the way you say it.
  • When you hear someone disparage indies, refer to the slush pile, etc., make a quick, positive, tactful, “Actually…” comment. Don’t get in a debate, don’t sound defensive, keep it short.
  • When your friends and acquaintances self-publish, give them honest feedback and help them improve their covers, blurbs, Look Inside, storyline, and writing (e.g. suggest finding an editor).
  • Do your best to perfect the covers, editing, formatting, and storylines of your own books.
  • Highlight quality indie books in your blogs and on your websites.
  • Once you have achieved mild success, occasionally lend a hand to help a newbie start out on the right foot and avoid some common mistakes.
  • When someone asks you, “Don’t you hate the effect that all of those lousy self-published books have on your image,” politely and quickly refute this without sounding defensive.
  • Take a moment to think of things that you like about being an indie author, and about other indie authors. This will help you focus on painting a positive perception.
  • Think about some good indie books that you’ve read and what you enjoyed about them. These ideas may come in handy in your interactions with others.
  • Recommend quality indie books to others.
  • When you’ve gained ample experience and have become a formatting expert, offer some advice or instruction to newbies.

With a million or more indie authors, there is potential power in numbers. If we want to improve the indie image, we need only make a few changes in what we do and encourage a few friends to do the same.

To those of you who are already doing these things, you have earned my sincere appreciation. J

Who holds the mightier pen – the critics or the authors?

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers