Whenever I’m asked how to promote a self-published book, I am reminded of Aesop’s Fables.
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, but when life seems to move at the speed of sound and the 24-hour news cycle constantly reminds us of everything that is and isn’t right in the world, it’s remarkably easy to forget that slow and steady wins the race.
Most indie authors feel like they need to do everything when it comes to marketing and promoting their books. Many of them become so overwhelmed that they make like another member of the animal kingdom and stick their heads in the sand.
Don’t ostrich! TORTOISE!
Today I want you to marshal your inner Zen warrior, forget the word slow, and concentrate on STEADY. Because if I were to list all the qualities of a successful book marketing campaign, number one on my list would be CONSISTENCY.
What does that look like when you’re trying to figure out how to promote a self-published book? Read on!
In his book Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age, Mark W. Schaefer reminds us that it takes, on average, 30 months to get “known.”
If that number elicited an expletive, take heart. I did the same thing when I first read that statistic. But then remember that the answer to how to promote a self-published book is an action verb: promote.
During those 30 months, you’re supposed to be out there doing stuff, building your list, getting attention for yourself and your books. If you do, you won’t be languishing in obscurity – unless you’re doing all the wrong things.
Doing the right things, on a consistent basis, will drive more exposure and more sales. So what are those things? Well, let’s have a look.
Mobilize Your Super Fans
Not only can an avid fan base help you gain more readers, but solid fans can also help you promote your self-published book. When they aren’t writing great books, successful authors spend a lot of time working on fan outreach. And I’m talking one-on-one connection with fans.
This includes, for example, thanking fans for reading and reviewing, including them in book launch activities through special offers (like advanced reader copies), or involving them in cover reveals. You could even invite fans to name a character in a new release.
If you don’t have a fan base, build one. Make sure your readers have a way to directly contact you and include an invitation for them to do so in the back matter of your books and on your website.
Small Is the New Big
Micro-influencers are the new big thing (pun intended). Why? Because when it comes to social media, users with smaller numbers are often bigger influencers.
This is important information for authors wondering how to promote a self-published book.
We used to be so swayed by huge, staggering numbers – a million followers and more! But now what we’re seeing is that these big social media accounts often have very low engagement.
So if you’re looking to push your book to a solid market, choose engagement over numbers. For example, how many comments do you see on a blog? How often does an influencer get a response to a Facebook post? How many people interact with them on Twitter?
Interaction matters over follower numbers. If you’re investing a lot of book marketing and promotion sweat equity in going after big fish but you’re getting very little response, maybe it’s time to reconsider your focus.
Success Leaves Clues
Before you assume that your marketing isn’t working, take a look at what you’re doing.
When was the last time you looked at similar authors in your market? Ideally, ones who are seeing a good deal of success but are not necessarily a household name.
Authors who are successful can guide you as you consider how to promote a self-published book. Take some time to peruse their blogs and social media presence.
I promise you that ideas will start to percolate. This is also a great opportunity – if you feel like you’re just treading water – to dump social sites that aren’t helping you gain traction.
Remember, it’s not about being everywhere, but everywhere that matters.
As you run the book marketing and promotion race, keep track of what’s happening. If you’re putting in the time but aren’t getting any love on social media, or if no one is commenting on your blog, then you probably need to rethink your approach.
At the same time, remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Many times, authors who hire us want to see immediate results. Marketing isn’t cup-a-soup; you can’t just add water and voila, a bestseller!
As you progress through your campaign, stuff will start to happen. For example, maybe you will get consistent reviews. Or you’ll continue to add followers to your social media platforms and these followers will also begin to respond to your posts.
Ads Aren’t a Marketing Strategy
In my consultations with authors, I ask what they’ve already done to market their books. Many times they’ll say, “I’m running ads.”
Though I realize there was a time when ads were very popular, ads are not a marketing strategy. They can be used in conjunction with other things you’re doing, but ads should not be a stand-alone plan for how to promote a self-published book.
One Book Wonder
Often authors want to write one book and “see how it does.” This is fine if you pay the bills with another line of work.
In my 20 years in business – Happy Anniversary to AME! – I have never seen an author gain enough success with one book that it pays for the marketing they’ve done.
Once those second and third books hit, however, the marketing machine starts to pick up steam. And that’s another thing: if you’re going to write a second book, don’t wait too long to do it!
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
Need reviews, interviews, or a location for local events? Beg – or, if you prefer, ask very, very nicely.
And follow up; this is often key in turning a maybe into a yes.
As you put requests out there, make it easy to give that yes answer. Be prepared.
Make sure the person you are asking knows why their customers or followers will benefit. Have the logistics figured out. Tell them how you’ll also promote your collaborative efforts.
So often we forget that we’re connected to a lot of folks who would actually love to help us, be they readers, friends, or family.
Maybe your Aunt Jenny knows someone at a bookstore or coffee shop or other market-appropriate retail outlet who could host an event. Perhaps a former colleague is great friends with a local A&E journalist.
Never be afraid to ask for help; always tap your connections when you ask.
At the end of the day, you don’t need 1,000 marketing strategies. You only need a handful that will continually build your platform and fan base and that makes sense for your buyer market and the way they receive information. And, to successfully promote a self-published book, you need to execute those strategies consistently.
My homework for you is this: choose 3 things you can do better to promote your book over the next 30 days. Hold yourself accountable and be consistent.
A quick list? Post on social regularly, thank reviewers on Amazon via the comments, and pitch some bloggers. Whatever you choose to do, keep at it.
Research says it takes 21 days to form a habit – your habit should be book marketing.