One of the biggest challenges is behind you. The book is written, the proofs are back in your hands, and you’re ready to share your future best seller with the rest of the world. Now comes the tough part. How do you get the word out that your book is ready to be consumed by the ravenous, literary public?
You could spend a small fortune and advertise deep and wide on places like Facebook, Amazon, or Goodreads. (I don’t recommend you spend too much money on this tactic. And if you do go that route, at least make sure you narrow your focus to appropriate age group, genre preferences, and do they even read books…)
But for most of us, we don’t want to spend too much cash on promoting our books. As a new writer, if you’re going to invest in a book, that money is better spent on things like editors and decent covers. So if you’ve come by looking for tips on how to spread the word about your book without breaking the bank, I’m happy to give you a few pointers. Pull up a chair, and listen up.
• WRITE A GOOD BOOK
Obviously, first things first. I’m going to continue under the assumption that you’ve already written your book, it’s printed, it’s ready for sale, and you’re trying to inform the book-reading world that it exists. Honestly, until you get that hurdle cleared, everything beyond this paragraph are Things You Don’t Worry About Yet.
• CREATE A WEBSITE
It’s amazing that so many authors don’t bother with this very important step. Creating a proper website that offers direct links to purchase your books, excerpts from your novel (and upcoming projects) and a short biography is information you should definitely include. They are many good website providers, and you can definitely maintain a professional looking site for under $20 a month. Look up some of your favorite authors (or even some unknown authors) and see what they’re doing. With some research, you should be able to craft a good site that strongly represents your own personal brand.
• START A FACEBOOK PAGE
This is the obvious easy one. Most of us have a Facebook page. But I’m not talking about using your own personal Facebook page to pimp your book. Trust me, friends and family members are going to quickly get bored with daily reminders that you wrote a book.
I mean you should create an entirely separate Facebook page that identifies you as an author. Invite people to “like” your page, but give them a reason to like it and to visit often. Put something on your page every day, but keep it varied. Share brief passages from the book. Host giveaways for free copies. Share funny stories that readers might find interesting. Give updates for future releases. But remember, this isn’t your personal page---it’s your author’s platform. So remember, this isn’t the place for your endless photos of your kids, inflammatory rants or hardcore political views. You don’t want to alienate your potential readers.
• START A BLOG
I have a blog that I try to contribute to on a weekly basis. I try to keep it short, entertaining, and random. Make them articles that you have an opinion about, and keep it interesting for your followers. Here’s a few examples on my list: My opinions about the ten worst movie sequels of all time. How do I successfully cure my hiccups every time. Why are most of the protagonists in my novels female? Whatever tickles my fancy that week, something that I think other people might find interesting. I don’t use the blog as a platform to beg people to buy my books. No one would visit your blog every single week to hear you repeatedly ask them to throw money your way. But there’s nothing wrong with leaving a nice postscript at the end of your blog entry reminding them who you are, what you’ve written, and a link to your website or Amazon author’s site. If people like how you write and they want to read more, they’ll follow the links.
• START AN AMAZON GIVEAWAY
If you’re reading this because you’re searching for a cheap way to promote your book, it’s a good bet you’re a self-published author. And that means your book is likely listed on Amazon. (If not, why not? It’s definitely going to provide the biggest reach.) When you start an Amazon giveaway, you have to pay for the prize itself. (Generally, the cost of shipping and the full retail price of the book.) But hey, the upside is you’ll see you’re sale numbers go up and you’ll at least get a portion of that money back when the royalties come in. Think of it as necessary promotional costs. And it’s far less costlier than taking out expensive ads on-line. Anyhow, when you start a giveaway, it costs nothing for people to enter. But you can require them to do something, such as take a small poll or follow you on Twitter. I recommend the latter, holding a contest can add a couple hundred followers to your Twitter account.
• DON’T FORGET TWITTER
You held a contest, and now you have a bunch of extra folks following you on Twitter! Coolness! Use that to your advantage, and engage with Twitter. Maybe not President Trump levels of engagement, but you know what I mean. Don’t flood it every day with relentless ads for your books. That doesn’t work on Facebook, and it won’t work on Twitter. You’ll get unfollowed so fast it’ll make your head spin. Instead, make interesting comments on current events. Post links to your newest blog entry. Triumphantly brag about a new positive review you just got. Post a link to a new giveaway your hosting. And of course, occasionally post an image of your book cover to remind people what a swell writer you are. Like your blogs and your facebook account, it’s all about growing your brand and gently guiding potential readers back towards your books, and that all important ADD TO CART button.
And make sure you follow other authors, agents and publishers instead of just your favorite actors and musicians.
• GET CREATIVE
My most recent book was about a woman who is forced by the government to impersonate a super-hero she accidentally killed. I made a deal with a local comic book store. They would add flyers I printed into the bags of their customers for a couple of weeks, and they would carry copies of this book on their shelves. In return, I’d give them some shout-outs on my website, Twitter and Facebook account, as well as give them a third of the sale price. If the books didn’t sell, the comic book store didn’t lose anything, and he did get some free promotion. And either way, it did put my name out there to a new segment of customers. Hopefully, this would lead readers to check out my website where they would learn more about me and my other releases.
In short, getting the book written is only half the battle. I recommend spending one hour every day on the keyboard, writing and fine-tuning your future best-seller. But you also have to spend a little every day on promotion. Unless your have an affluent publisher standing behind you, no one’s going to promote the book for you. (And even then, it’s still up to you to get the word out.)
Publishing is a tough business, and there’s a lot of competition out there. If you want to attract some readers, but you’re not ready to dig in and spend some time working at promotion, you might want to consider a different hobby. There’s always stamp collecting.
JOHN YEO JR. is the author of THE INFINITE LEAGUE, THE KING'S TOURNAMENT and MAMA SAUVETERRE'S CURIOSITY SHOPPE. You can add them to your library by visiting his website at www.yeoniverse.com. (They're also available on Amazon.)
His next book, THE BARREN DAGGER, arrives in 2018.