It’s a sad fact of life that authors can no longer sit in their ivory towers reading books and writing unputdownable stories of indescribable beauty and profound insight.
Self-published authors have known for years that if they don’t promote their books then no one is going to buy them. But even traditionally published authors are expected to dip their toes (or tweeting fingers) into the overcrowded and murky swamp of book promotion.
But before you begin signing up for every social media platform available, do something low tech first. Take a moment to think about who your ideal reader might be. You might save yourself an enormous amount of time and energy if you tailor your promotional activities to the types of people you think might enjoy your book.
Your idea readers might be
- Male, female or both
- A child, teen, parent, other adults in a variety of age ranges (e.g. young adult, middle-aged, retired)
- Married, single, widowed, divorced
- A person from a particular demographic, ethnic group, culture or geographical area
- A person of a particular political or religious persuasion
- A person facing particular difficulties
- A person with particular interests or hobbies
- A person who loves fiction or who prefers biography, memoir, non-fiction or a how-to book.
- A person in a particular income bracket or who is struggling financially
- A person with a particular occupation or no occupation – student, homemaker, self-employed, employed, unemployed, retired
Back of an Envelope Stuff
The first thing I do when trying to find the audience for my books is to mind map some of the themes and issues covered. From this, I concluded that the people most interested in reading my debut novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, would be
- Readers of contemporary commercial fiction
- Men and women, probably over the age of 30
- People who had family members with special needs or needing care
- People who live in Suffolk
- Dog lovers
Tailoring your Promotional Activities to your Audience
Once I had a better idea of who my book would appeal to, I tailored my promotional energy in that direction.
For example, I contacted a Suffolk Arts Magazine, who were kind enough to review the book. I also drafted an article for a dog magazine. I sent review copies to special needs bloggers and talked about the book in various autism forums online. I had a book signing in Bury St Edmunds Cathedral bookshop because I have a scene in the Cathedral. I was also able to write articles for a couple of magazines to help raise awareness of autism.
As well as looking at the content of your book here are some other things you might like to consider.
- If you are writing a children’s book, you need to target parents and schools. Your local primary school might appreciate a visit from a local author, particularly if they can link the topic of your book into the National Curriculum and you can offer an author visit/talk/assembly. There are loads of possibilities on social media, e.g. Mumsnet, local online parenting groups etc, and literally thousands of mums blogging about different parenting issues. See if you can find any that review children’s books and offer to send them a free copy or the ebook.
- If you are writing a biography/memoir, this is the kind of material that might be shared with Women’s Institutes, U3A meetings etc. These kinds of groups are always looking for good speakers (check out the National Association of Women’s Clubs at http://www.nawc.org.uk/speakers.php).
- If you are writing a ‘how to’ book, you could offer to run a course at a local school, college, church, library or village hall, as well as giving talks to WI meetings and women’s clubs (see above).
- If you are writing general fiction, you could connect with local book groups, independent bookshops, book bloggers and virtual book groups and reviewers on Facebook.
- If you are writing a theological or political book you will probably be receiving invitations to preach or speak at churches, or talk at political gatherings or conventions.
- If your book is historical, or touches on local geographical features, you might like to contact your local library, historical society or environmental group.
Spread Your Nets Wide
Ideally before publication (but this can be done at any time you want to give your book a boost) draw up a list of all the possible people you could tell about your book. These include:
- Friends and family
- Local newspapers
- Local radio
- Your local library
- Your Parish/Church Magazine or website
- Local or special interest bloggers
- Relevant special interest magazines
- Groups you belong to and would be willing to support you (mine were dog walkers, my writing group, parents from school)
- People on your Christmas card list
- High profile names relating to your area of expertise or the type of book you are writing
- Facebook groups – search for book groups, groups interested in topics covered in your book, and Facebook groups in your home town who would be interested to hear news of a local author
- Use Twitter hashtags. It’s a bit like tagging a person but relates to a topic. It’s a good way of connecting yourself to other people with similar interests, e.g. in promoting The Girl at the End of the Road I sometimes used the hashtags #autism, #aspergers and #walking the dog. Other useful hashtags for writers inclue:-
#WIP (work in progress)
Ways to get the message out
As well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, there are many other ways to get the message out, depending on who you are contacting, e.g.
- Sending out a press release to all appropriate newspapers and magazines with a personalised covering letter/email from yourself.
- Producing tailor-made articles in advance for local newspapers and magazines, together with a good photograph of yourself and the cover art of the book. They might not choose to publish, but they are much more likely to include a piece on you as a local author if you have done all the donkey work for them and written an article which all they have to do is edit.
- Give a free copy of your book to your local library, and have some bookmarks printed advertising your book to go on the front desk.
- Get some flyers/posters printed and ask if your local shops, community centres, church or school would be willing to display them for you.
- Send out invitations to your book launch to as many people as you can, in particular Facebook groups sharing things to do in your home town.
- Photocopy a small flyer for inclusion with your Christmas cards – this can be done even if your book is going to be published in the Spring. (The run up to Christmas is the busiest time for bookshops. If you include a small flyer with your Christmas cards and send them out on 1 December it will remind people that they still have time to buy your book to give as a present.)
- Contact local radio stations to ask if they would be willing to interview you.
- Ask your friends if they know any bloggers, book reviewers or journalists you can contact about your book.
- Ask local shops if they would be willing to stock and sell your books. It doesn’t have to be a bookshop. You might have a small gift shop or newsagents that would be willing to take copies direct from you as a local author at a reduced price so that they can sell them on.
- Create an author page on Facebook, if you haven’t already done so. Here you can share every step of your journey to publication, build a sense of anticipation among your followers and generate online pre-orders.
- You could organise a blog tour. If you want to see how you could do this, check out my blog here: http://www.kahitchins.co.uk/how-i-organised-an-author-blog-tour/
- Try and always have a copy of your book with you in case you bump into someone who wants to buy one.
- Have a card or bookmark to give away or place in each copy of your book so people know how to contact you or follow you on social media.
- Ask people to give you feedback. Tell them they can always leave a review on Amazon. They don’t have to have bought the book on Amazon to leave a review.
- Never ask to do a review swop – this goes against Amazon’s review policy.
- Never pay for a review – this goes against Amazon’s review policy and if they find out they will remove all the reviews from your page. However, you can give a free copy of your book to someone and ask for honest feedback.
- Always have a visitors’ book or sign-up sheet with you when you give book talks or signings. Encourage people to leave their email address to sign up for your newsletter. This means you can contact interested parties about any price reductions, events or future book releases. Don’t send newsletters too often, and only send them if you have something meaningful to say.
- Actively encourage people to follow you on social media.
- Personal recommendation is still the best way to sell books, so ask people to recommend your book to a friend if they enjoyed it.
- One of the best ways of promoting your book is to find other people who will promote your book for you. Try and encourage your friends and family to leave Amazon and Goodreads reviews. If you know any bloggers, ask if they would interview you or review your book on their blog. Once you have received reviews or been mentioned in blogs, you can share these on Facebook and Twitter. Lots of activity on your social media about the feedback you are getting increases the credibility you have as a writer.
Instead of focusing all your energy on your book, spend a little time thinking about your readers – where they hang out, what they enjoy doing and how you might be able to connect with them in a meaningful way. After all: