To Begin With, Develop a Book Promotion Mindset
If you ever tried to submit your book to an agent or traditional publisher, you were bound to encounter these questions:
Who is your audience? (who would buy this)
What kind of platform do you have? (how many followers do you have and who are they)
How are you going to promote your book? (you are expected to do that even if you manage to get a publishing deal)
Thinking one could avoid dealing with these by self-publishing a book is rather naive. If you want to sell anything, you will have to market and promote it and unfortunately there’s no two ways about it.
Why you simply have to promote
There is a lot one can learn from traditional publishers and the kind of questions they ask. Publishers have to survive, and in this new era of unprecedented competition and a flood of self-published books that’s not easy.
Publishers have to sell or they will go down, and the same goes for those who self-publish.
The only difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing is that you stand the chance to keep more of the earnings. But that, on the other hand, also means you’ll have to do everything yourself.
You’ll be the one who will have to invest and then also cope with the loss in case that your book falls through. Unless you can afford to not care, this can hurt.
It’s also safe to assume that most writers would like to see their books in the hands of many readers. For that to happen, one must invest in promotion.
How much does it cost?
To put things into perspective and understand what this means in terms of numbers — Mark Dawson, one of the Amazon’s self-publishing superstars, recently reported that he spends about $400 on Facebook ads per day.
Yes, $400 per day and I assume this excluding the cost of ad and video production — just so that you know what to expect and what kind of competition we, self-published writers, are faced with.
Derek Murphy, another self-published author, is a master of email marketing and an expert in gaining new subscribers. He uses unique approach of top-notch giveaways, such as a free writing retreat in an European castle. This sure was so something else and even CCN reported on it.
This wasn’t exactly cheap either. The less money you thus have or are willing to invest, the longer it will take for your books to get noticed.
For seasoned self-published writers, book promotions starts before they even write a book. Everything is thought of in terms of promotion and everything becomes a potential marketing tool — book cover, blogging, preorders...
There are many who go even further and write for the market only. This means they start by researching the market, find the niche that seems profitable, buy and study the bestsellers in that niche, and then write their book with a single goal in mind — to sell what the readers want.
I, personally, write fiction because there are stories that are nagging at me and need to be told, and non-fiction because I want to help others. I haven’t studied the niches or wrote anything with the main goal of selling.
Nevertheless, I managed to get my second book to #1 in 3 categories on Amazon by investing in ads and testing different types of promotion and activities: preorder, free ebook offers, regular blogging, email marketing, and building a platform.
I could only afford to invest a couple hundred dollars in this, so my efforts didn’t exactly translate into making a profit. The results, however, showed me that promotion without a doubt works but also that it costs.
How and where to begin?
Book promotion can be overwhelming at first. With my second book, I researched, tested, and tried all sorts of options. In contrast, I invested no money in promoting my first book and the sales reflected that.
But the sales of the first book also showed me that you can sell quite a few copies solely by having a platform. With the second book, though, I could clearly see how well promotion works.
The key to making a profit and not just sales is finding what works and avoid throwing away time and money on the things that don’t.
For a start, go back to those question traditional publishers and agents would ask:
Who is your audience? (who would buy this?)
What kind of platform do you have? (how many followers do you have and who are they?)
How are you going to promote your book?
Now apply them to your book. For some genres that will be easy, for others much harder. But knowing or at least understanding that you have to find your audience is the first step.
When you have an idea of who might be interested in your book, it will be much easier to decide which media to use for promotion and you will be able to target the ads better.
But above all, start by building your platform. One of the fastest and cheapest ways to do this is by blogging and guest blogging. Medium and its publications, for instance, might be a good place to start .
It took me two years to finally build and launch my website (a story for another post), but I was able to build my audience on Medium to thousands of followers without it. A platform is not necessarily your personal website, it can be a blogging platform where you publish.
One of the mistakes some writers make is neglecting social media. Maintaining social media accounts takes time and can be tedious, but it’s necessary and, above all, free of charge. At the very least, focus on two or three accounts.
Finally, make a book promotion plan. To do that, you will have to decide what kind of budget you are willing to invest. Create your plan based on that.
There are many options available and I found that confusing when I first tried to promote my book. But after many tests, I finally figured it out.
I’m writing my third book to save others the cost and trouble of facing the same challenges and I’m offering it for $0.99 preorder price. ‘You Self-Published, Now What? How to Promote Your Book’ is an easy to follow introduction to book promotion.
But no guide will be of much help if you don’t get into the right mindset first.
The importance of the right mindset
Many writers have issues with promoting their work (I’m no exception). We would love nothing more than having our work and books promote themselves.
The first step towards developing the right mindset is thus to understand and accept that that’s not how this works.
It’s just NOT.
It can be very hard to accept that you have to promote and there is no way around it. The sooner you do that, the better. But why is it so hard?
There are many reasons for it, such as being uncomfortable with ‘selling’ yourself, not being an expert and not knowing where to begin, feeling that it’s a waste of time or that somebody else should do it…
Identify these and then deal with them one by one. So what have you written? Is it any good, is it helpful, do you think it would be of use to others? Then you are not ‘selling’ yourself, you sharing and doing something good.
As for the second one, no one was born an expert, but once you learn how to promote, it becomes much easier.
Is book promotion really a waste of time? I guess the answer to this one depends on how important is it for you to sell anything. Well, how important is it?
As for the 'somebody else should do it' option, yes, if you can afford it, but it's risky since it might increase the cost while not leading to the desired results.
Cover image: Kamboopics
Get You Self-Published, Now What? How to Promote Your Book for more useful tips!