I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about marketing. Then I’d be rich, and I wouldn’t have to worry about marketing. Not every indie writer has a huge budget. Or even a modest one. Most have no marketing budget at all. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need one. This article explains how to grow your platform, and maximise your marketing potential with minimum financial outlay.
The mistake a lot of inexperienced writers seem to make is in assuming that there’s ONE thing they can do, one trick they can employ, which will guarantee sales, and they spend a lot of time and energy trying to uncover this mythical secret. I’m going to tell you right now that there isn’t one. Or if there is, I’m yet to discover it. Promotion is an ongoing project, a constant battle, and there is no quick fix. Keep in mind there is a lot of trial and error involved, and what works for one may not work for another.
A good place to start are those social media channels which most of us use daily anyway; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Bebo, LinkedIn, whatever your poison. You don’t need all of them, but you do need several, and link them so if you post on one, it automatically feeds to the others. This is easily done under ‘settings’ on most platforms. Post a lot. More than once a day. Get in the habit of using relevant #hashtags and be interesting. Don’t just post links to your book and expect people to rush out and buy it. They probably won’t. Engage your audience and make them care about you. When people are being bombarded by ads and spam at every turn, you have to stand out.
On these platforms, search for and follow like-minded people, join groups based around genres you write in, and get involved in public discussions. Be a presence. Actively seek out other writers and share their links. Be selective, though. It’s no good championing period drama books if you are trying to build a true crime audience. You often find that writers and other creative types reciprocate. This is how you gain new followers who can then be converted into readers. When someone shares your link, always ‘like’ the post and say ‘thank you,’ because this influences algorithms and suchlike which bumps the post so it becomes visible to more people.
Perhaps most importantly, you are going to need an online hub, a base. A professionally-built website would be advantageous, but these cost money. The next best thing is a WordPress or Wix site which, with a bit of love, can be made to look just as good. Again, post regularly, weekly or bi-weekly, and link it to your other social media platforms. It’s the only way to build a following. You need a steady stream of content, but this isn’t too difficult to achieve. If, for example, you have a new release coming out in August, pre-release you can whet people’s appetites with an announcement post and a cover reveal, then follow it up with a celebratory post on the day of release, and later an extract or an explanatory post or two explaining to readers why you wrote that particular story or focusing on some aspect of the process. It’s not difficult to get six or eight posts out of a single release. In and around these, write the occasional book or movie review or opinion piece, and you have that steady stream of content. Don’t forget to devote a section of your blog to your books, and be sure to provide cover images and buying links.
Now we are getting to the nitty gritty. The stuff that not every writer does, but perhaps should. Firstly, set up specialised author pages on Facebook and Amazon so people can find you easily. Be mindful that Amazon has different ‘branches’ in different locales, so you need to set up two; Amazon.com and your country’s Amazon if you are based outside the US. Also think about joining or starting a ‘collective,’ of authors who cross-promote and support each other and arrange a few ‘personal appearances.’ Most libraries, education centres, and even coffee shops welcome local authors who arrange signings or readings there. It’s good for business. Post about these appearances on social media.
Next, consider undertaking a blog tour. This is a simple matter of identifying a selection of websites and blogs within your niche area, contacting them, and asking if you could write a guest post for them, or do an author interview, or maybe even a giveaway or competition. This is a great way of reaching a wider audience, and some places even pay for content. When each piece comes out, share the links on your social networks. Spread your ‘appearances’ out over a few weeks or months to maximise impact, and when the tour is over write a blog post about it.
See how all the components fit together?
Yes, all this requires time and effort, but if you want to sell books, it needs to be done. Nothing in life is truly free.
C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor from Wales. His work has appeared in over 70 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, including Loaded, Maxim, Record Collector, Fortean Times, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, Crimson Streets and the Literary Hatchet. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being X3, his third collection of short fiction, which is available now on Deviant Dolls Publications.
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