Big thank you to Megan for inviting me to be a guest blogger here. It was lovely hanging out with you at the Hunter College Writers' Conference!
The decision to bring a book to market wasn’t one I took lightly. I did my research on self publishing and talked to authors who’d done it and done it well. I spent months weighing the pros and cons. I hired freelancers for editing, formatting, and cover design because creating a stellar book is the first step. Then I created a marketing plan and hired a publicist because a book has to get noticed. Without a big publisher’s distribution network and marketing push, discoverability can be the hardest part of self-publishing. For my book to stand out in the overcrowded marketplace, I had to chase discoverability.
There are a couple hundred thousand books published each year. How many do we hear about? Dozens? Hundreds at most. So how do you help readers find your book? Word of mouth is the biggest driver of sales, but how do you get people talking aboutyour book?
1) Build a strong social media presence
Have a well designed website with content that is regularly updated and keywords that make you Googleable. Be active on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram. Be interested in others, and they will be interested in you. If blogging is your thing, post regularly, interact with other bloggers, and build a place where people actually stop by to chat.
2) Get out there and find your readers
You need to be contacting libraries and bookstores to have signings. You need to be creative with venues and events. If your book involves wineries, have a wine tasting at a winery. If you have a character with cancer, do a signing to benefit the American Cancer Society. You need to be visible in your community. You need to be findable. And having a physical presence helps.
You have to build a readership one reader at a time. Sure it’s hard and time consuming, but it’s what you sign up for when you self-publish.
3) Use targeted advertising
You need to understand who your target audience is. My best advice on how to do this is to read Jennifer Fusco’s Market or Die series for authors and do all the exercises. They will teach you how to create your own integrated marketing plan. When you do this, you will identify your target market and can then figure out where to reach them.
If there’s a popular blog about YA books and you wrote a YA book, consider buying a banner ad.
Find sites for readers and offer to do a giveaway. Goodreads giveaways are a great way to build an audience.
Goodreads ads are worth investing in too. You can target the ad to your market or to comparable authors (both of which you will know from creating your integrated marketing plan).
4) Get reviewed and awarded
You need to give readers a sense that this book is worth reading. You haven’t been vetted by a traditional publisher, so you need to give them clear signals that your book is worth their time and money. Submit your novel for a Kirkus Review or a Publisher’s Weekly review. If you know a USA Today Bestseller or a NYT Bestseller, reach out 6-8 months ahead of time and ask if they will consider blurbing your book.
Awards are another seal of approval. Enter your book in award contests like the National Indie Excellence Awards, USA Best Book Awards, EPIC Ebook Awards, Readers Favorites Awards, Independent Publisher Book Awards, and International Book Awards. If you win or final, it signals to readers that this is a book worthy of their time. These contests promote their winners and finalists on their website and via press releases, which increases your discoverability.
5) Gently encourage readers to write reviews
Amazon uses reviews in its algorithm to determine what books it promotes. Ideally, you want 100+ reviews. But it will take a lot of time to get them. When someone says I loved your book, you can politely mention how it really helps sales to have reviews and ask them to spread the word on Amazon and Goodreads.
6) Reach out to the press
Learn how to write a press release and reach out to local and regional media for your book’s debut. Give them an interesting angle/story and you might get press coverage. If you are having a special event, like donating half your profits to charity, fire off another press release. It might get mentioned in the local paper. Maybe not. But you won’t know unless you try.
My publicist reached out to a local afternoon talk show, CT Style, and booked me an appearance on the show. I reached out to the local newspaper, The Republican American, and got a feature. The article was picked up by the Associated Press and ran nationally.
Kourtney Heintz is an award-winning author of cross genre fiction for adults. Her debut novel is The Six Train to Wisconsin.
She also writes for young adults under the pseudonym of K.C. Tansley. Her debut YA gothic mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, will be published by Harlequin and is represented by ICM Partners.
She lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents, and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables and write about them.
The Six Train to Wisconsin:
When Kai’s telepathy spirals out of control, her husband Oliver brings her to the quiet Wisconsin hometown he abandoned a decade ago, where he must confront the secrets of his past to save their future.