I have been an independently published author now for nearly four years, and not until 2010 did I really do any kind of promoting/marketing for my novels, mostly because I had no idea where to start. Since about late 2009, there have been all sorts of assorted experts in the field all over the internet who have popped up with a book on the subject, and if you buy their book, they’ll tell you what the secret is to selling thousands, or millions even, of books. I think what works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another, so if you’re willing to waste $2.99 or $4.99 or $6.99 for someone to make money off of your naïveté, then go right ahead, since I was one of those people who has done that more often than I’d like to admit.
When I first published in 2008, it was suggested by iUniverse (now I go through Createspace, best money I have ever saved!) that authors create a website to promote and market themselves. So, I found Geocities, created a very basic site, posted the novel cover, the description, and the link to purchase, then forgot about it. When I finally remembered I had it, Yahoo apparently had shut down Geocities, so I searched for another server. Eventually, I came across Freewebs.com, now known as Webs.com, and that’s where I now have my website hosted, and trying to build my “brand,” whatever that really means. Since then, I’ve gone from idea to idea, gimmick to gimmick trying to promote and market my novels. Some have worked, and some haven’t, but here are my top 10 ideas. Your experience may vary.
1) Websites/blogs — With a website, you should know some html, or you can plug in whatever others have built for such a need, and then you can customize it to your heart’s content. You can add videos, pictures, links, etc. The suggestion from across the vast wasteland of the internet is to do SEO (search engine optimization), build back links, trade links with others, or pay for thousands of hits so that your Google Ranking will bring people to you. Let me tell you, that’s mostly nonsense, your site will be listed in Google, Yahoo, and Bing within a matter of days, but you can submit to directories, but I’ve never actually seen a hit from one of those. Only hard work on your part in promoting yourself will people begin searching your name, names of your novels, or similar sounding names before you notice hits to your site. As for a blog, if you want to keep it updated every day, you can submit it to RSS feed sites and link up with others who have sites. With some blogs, like Blogger, your feed will be seen on the side panel of the blog (if they’re on Blogger) that you’ve linked to. A website/blog is good for having a place for readers to come to find out what you’re up to, or if you have a new novel on the market. Plus, if you’re in the market for a job, it’s something potential employers will see, showing them that you have some skills and creativity (or, so I’ve been told).
2) Social Networking — What did we do before Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and all of those other social sites? To be honest, I don’t remember! ha ha. Anyway, I do know that if you join every forum involving writing, e-books, and marketing, you’ll never write, you’ll just be talking about writing, and getting to know other indie authors who are also talking about writing. Facebook is useful for authors in that they give us the ability to have a page for ourselves and our work. Thousands, and maybe even millions, of users can eventually come across your page, they can like it, and even share it with anyone in their social circle. Twitter used to be useful in my opinion, but there are way too many voices out there now, and one can get lost in the “noise.” My best advice for social networking is to do it in moderation, otherwise, you’ll never get that next book written.
3) Press releases — I use free sites like Prlog.org, which is good for visibility, but I really don’t know if it results in sales. Doesn’t hurt to try though, and it’s free. If you want to pay for high visibility, try PRWEB, but it’s really expensive if you’re on a tight budget.
4) Libraries — I used to work in a library, so I know something about this. A lot of indie books go almost directly to the Friends of the Library Bookstore, even though the Acquisitions Librarian “promised” that your books will get on the shelf, eventually. Although, it could’ve been just the one I worked with, because he wasn’t too particularly thrilled with putting my novels on the shelf. My suggestion is to get to know the library staff, usually the poor souls stuck at the Circulation Desk. Sometimes they get to sort through all the donations, so if you let them know that you really, really want your book in the library, they will mark your book for the acquisitions librarian, who will set it up for circulation. Be patient, books arrive at the library from B&T and Ingram every day, so it may take months for your book to show up in the catalog.
5) Book trailer — You can do it yourself by downloading Microsoft’s Live Movie Maker for free. It’s fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it. Of course, if you want something like the “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” trailer, then you’ll have to spend a lot of money for someone else to do it or have taken a video course in college yourself. Once you’re done with it, upload it to Youtube and a few other video sites. Very useful in the fact that the reader may get your book cover and the idea impressed into their heads, and then might eventually buy a copy of your novel.
6) Guerilla Marketing — Basically, this is putting bookmarks or business cards in books at stores like Walmart, B&N, and maybe Half Price Books (if you have one in your area), or even at the library. I have also put bookmarks in those envelopes that have the paid postage from the credit card companies and other spam mailers, and sent it back to them. You can do this for everything you mail out.
7) Bloggers — There are bloggers who will post your novel, review it, help with a blog tour, or give you an interview that will be posted on their site. Some require you to pay for the exposure, and some are free. Even if you get no returns on it as far as sales, it’ll be on Google and other search engines for as long as that post is available. So when someone does a search, that’s another impression you get, and it might even get you some sales out of it.
8 ) Paperback book giveaways — When you first finish your book, have it uploaded, and then available on Createspace, you can then contact some bloggers, or go to Goodreads and post your book giveaway. With bloggers, they can target specific readers who actually want to read your novel. I’ve received a couple of great reviews that way. With Goodreads, people will sign up for the giveaway just because it’s a freebie, not really caring about the genre. I had one person return a book because they thought it was something else, and others who reviewed, who didn’t like that genre, and thought Goodreads required a review. Remember to be choosy about doing paperback giveaways if you want specific readers that are looking for a specific genre.
9) Free e-books — One way to get your novels seen is to give away free copies of your e-books, usually with a coupon from Smashwords. If you want it free on Amazon, set the novel free on Smashwords, distribute it to B&N even if you’re using their publishing platform, and then wait for Amazon to price match. You’ll get a few thousand downloads for a week or two, copies into hands of people who normally wouldn’t have known about you and your work, and possibly some good reviews out of it. You may also get hit and run reviews that aren’t exactly glowing reviews of your work, mostly on Amazon. These are usually 1 star, they question your writing skills, and sometimes even your IQ. The advice to authors is never to respond, be above it all, and have a thick skin. There are instances of authors responding to their critics, and it developed into a clusterfark. Never ever a good thing.
10) Ads — Unless you have a lot of disposable income, creating ads on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other sites is a complete waste of your time and money. But, if you get a free coupon for one of those sites, then knock yourself out. I have also advertised on Craigslist and other classifieds all over the States from time to time, and I get the occasional hit to my website from those sites, but I don’t know if they actually result in sales. Mostly, it’s about being visible, and that’s not really a bad thing.
Finally, marketing your novels comes down to hard work, time, and sometimes spending money to make money. There are times you may want to give up, but being persistent will get you and your novels seen, and you’ll see success. These ideas are only some that indie authors may or may not try to promote their books, and it’s really an experience may vary kind of thing.