Last week, I talked about how you, the author, are ultimately responsible for marketing your book and finding your readers. This week I’m back with a few tips for how to do that.
Let me start by admitting that I’m no expert in this area, but if you’re just starting out as an author, these tips should give you a place to start.
1. Start right now.
You don’t have to wait until your book is published to begin gathering readers. Start building a following now, creating anticipation for when your book does come out.
Book launches are a big deal in the life of your book, not just for its rating on the New York Times Bestsellers list. It’s much harder to gain momentum when you start your journey crawling instead of bursting out of the gate. And the sooner you start, the more momentum you’ll have on launch day.
2. Make social media work for you.
Those of us who didn’t grow up in the age of social media often fail to appreciate what a powerful tool it can be. But the fact is if you or your book can’t be found on social media, it may as well not even exist for a significant portion of your audience.
And there are so many platforms to choose from: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, even LinkedIn. Or if you want to reach the younger crowds, you could play with newer platforms like TikTok.
If you’re new to social media, you might start with the platform you’re most comfortable with, but you’ll eventually want to start looking at which ones can get you the best reach. If you have tons of friends who would be willing to like and share your posts, Facebook could work just fine for you, but you’ll get much better reach on Instagram.
Also, keep in mind that pictures are more powerful than text, and video beats both.
The bottom line, though, is that some presence on social media is better than none.
3. Do you need a website?
Honestly, yes. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but you do need some central place that you control to present information about what you’re doing.
If you don’t want to invest a lot of money or time at this point, most website hosts offer free versions that at least allow you to get something up. Sure, it looks nice to get the premium package or have a custom domain name, but it’s not something you have to do starting out, and you can always go back later and upgrade. And most hosts try hard to make their sites user friendly, so you could even try out a couple by building some free test sites and sticking with the one you like best.
The point of having a website is that you control what goes on there, while on social media, you’re at the mercy of their policies and decisions. No one can edit or dictate your content on your own website.
It also gives you a central location to send people for information on your book and what you’re doing now.
4. Start a blog/newsletter.
Once you start building a following, a blog or a newsletter is a great way to keep people up to date on what you’re up to and how you’re progressing. Once you pique people’s interest enough to get them started following you, they’re doing just that: following you just as much as they’re following your project.
It’s a great way to keep readers engaged and excited for when your book finally comes out.
5. Offer free material.
Whether you tease with sample chapters and snippets or offer independent short stories, giving away bits of free material is a great way to let people know what kind of writer you are and what you can do.
Also, everyone loves free stuff, especially if it’s good. And if the little tidbits you give away for free are awesome, the stuff you charge for must be even better, right? That’s what your readers are going to be thinking, anyway, and they’ll want to share their good fortune with others, too.
6. Collaborate with other authors.
You should be socializing and networking with other authors anyway in writing groups, but you can also collaborate to promote each other’s work. That way, you’re combining your audiences and growing your reach.
You can feature their book on your blog, newsletter, or social media, and they can do the same for you. Instead of thinking of other authors as competition, build a mutually beneficial community. I can’t tell you how many new authors I’ve found to read because an author I was already reading featured another author’s book in a newsletter.
7. ARCs produce valuable reviews.
Next time you sit down to read, take a second to notice the list of reviews either on the cover or on the first few pages. Where do you think they came from? And I don’t mean the specific writer of the review.
In order to get those reviews, someone had to read the book before it was finalized for print. It’s common practice to send out ARCs (advance reader copies) of a book to various bloggers and reviewers.
This practice produces two useful results. First, the positive reviews are featured in or on the book itself to improve its appeal and give it legitimacy in the eyes of readers. Second, those reviewers and bloggers have their own audience, and if they like your book, they’re likely to feature it, helping you reach even more potential readers.
8. Promote your book in person.
This is that part of the process most of us think of when we talk about book marketing, but it can be more than signing events at bookstores.
Because of the pandemic, authors and bookstores are having to rethink and adjust how they do things. A lot of events are going virtual; an author might do an online Q&A with readers and patrons of a particular bookstore. It’s one of the ways small independent bookstores are working to stay in business.
Also, libraries love to promote local authors. You might reach out to see if they’d be willing to organize an event featuring your book.
In-person appearances can even extend to social media, both your own and the platforms of others. Video can be intimidating, but its effectiveness can’t be ignored.
I hope these tips prove useful or at least give you a place to start. There are too many great books and writers that get lost in the crowd simply because they weren’t promoted well. Readers are starving for good material; they just need a little help finding it.
If you have some experience publishing your books, you could probably add to my list. Please do! Just drop a comment below and share your wisdom and experience with the community.
You’ve written, revised, edited, and designed your book. You’ve gotten peer reviews, and everything’s ready and how you want it. But what now? How do you get people to buy and read your book, and just as importantly, who’s in charge of seeing that happen?
As painful as it may be to hear, you are ultimately in charge of your marketing. That can sound like a daunting statement, considering you probably didn’t become an author to sell books. You had a message and a calling to share it with the world. Surely, other people are responsible for getting it out there?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The company I’m using for self-publishing promised to do marketing.
With widespread access to the internet today, self-publishing has become a booming industry, and there are countless vanity publishers popping up to serve that market. For a fee, they promise to handle all of the duties normally performed by a traditional publisher, like editing, printing, marketing, and distribution.
However, with a few rare exceptions, what they deliver generally falls far short of expectations. The author ends up paying a large fee and having to do a lot of the work themself anyway.
I’m publishing through a traditional publishing house.
Check the terms of your agreement carefully, especially if you’re a new author. Chances are the publisher expects you to at least be heavily involved in the marketing of your book, if not almost completely in charge of it. They have to weigh the investment with the possible returns.
Also, you taking an active role could mean the difference between a successful launch or even a bestseller and your book being quickly relegated to the publisher’s backlist, never to reemerge.
Can I hire someone to do the marketing for me?
Of course you can. In fact, many successful indie authors hire people to help with their marketing. However, if you’re just starting out, if this is your first book, there are a couple of problems with this approach.
First, hiring another professional to work on your book costs money, and if you don’t yet have a history of successful publication and a good, solid expectation of sales, it may be hard to justify the expense. Unless you have a pile of money lying around. In that case, have at it. It’s your money to spend how you see fit. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t in that position.
Second, you and your book are what people are buying, not the reputation of the publisher or the marketing pro. Most people pay no attention to the name of the publisher. Can you name the publisher of the last book you read?
So, even if you hire a marketer, you’ll still need to be involved in the process. No one knows your book better than you do, and no one cares about its success like you do.
You might be able to get away with delegating your marketing to someone else, but chances are you’ll have to be involved in and responsible for the process, especially if you’re still establishing yourself as an author.
However, while marketing may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. As the internet has created new avenues for independent publishing, it has also made marketing more accessible to the average person, and in a later post, I’ll discuss some ideas for how to get word out about this awesome new book you’ve written.
If you’re going the traditional-publishing route, this question probably won’t come up. The publisher arranges all of the steps of the publishing process, and your book will go through the proofreading process.
However, if you’re self-publishing, you’re probably looking for ways to cut out any unnecessary costs. A professional copyeditor has already done a thorough cleanup of your manuscript, and the book may have even gone through a designer. So, is another step really necessary?
Is a proofreader strictly necessary?
Think of it this way. Publishing houses are in the business of making money in an increasingly tough market. They’re just as budget-conscious as you are, if not more so, and they employ proofreaders. That should tell you, right there, something about the value of proofreaders.
What does a proofreader do?
First, it may help to clarify what exactly a proofreader does. Proofreaders are not copyeditors. Their job isn’t to make major editorial changes; they don’t change wording or meaning; they don’t make stylistic choices. They’re there to catch true errors.
Simply put, proofreaders are the last cleanup stage before your manuscript meets the public.
If I hired a good editor, why do I need a proofreader?
Even if you hired the best editor in the world, a proofreader can still be a huge asset for three reasons.
First, no editor, no matter how skilled and experienced, is perfect. While the number of errors should be small, we all miss things, like that its that should be it’s. The proofreader is a second set of trained eyes to catch those few errors the copyeditor missed that could still be potentially embarrassing.
Second, designers and typesetters aren’t editors, and occasionally, errors get introduced during that process, after the copyeditor has finished their work. Every time another person works on the manuscript, there is a chance for new errors. Again, it may not be negligence on the designer’s part; human error occurs any time humans are involved.
However, there have been instances where an overly helpful (but misguided) designer makes unauthorized changes, thinking they’re fixing mistakes when they’re actually introducing errors. In either case, having a professional do a final pass before production prevents costly and embarrassing issues from making it into the hands of readers.
Finally, as I said above, any time human hands touch your project, there is the potential for human error, and those human hands include your own. I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of authors being shocked by scathing reviews only to discover that what went out to readers wasn’t their final manuscript. And when they traced the problem back, it turned out the author themself had given the designer the wrong text file, either the wrong version of their manuscript or the wrong manuscript altogether. Since the contents and state of the manuscript aren’t the concern of the designer, they didn’t see any problem, and the book went to market with the completely wrong content. And because the fault lay with the author, the author had to eat the cost of pulling the book and paying the designer to get a completely different manuscript ready for publication. A proofreader would have caught the problem and at least reduced the cost, embarrassment, and headache.
Ultimately, as a self-published author, you are responsible for overseeing the process of getting your book to market, but employing the right professionals along the way is essential, especially in areas that may not be your expertise. A good proofreader is one of those professionals. We all need that final check, and since you’ve put so much of yourself into your book, it would be a shame to fall down on that last step.
Writing can often be a solitary practice. Even if you’re collaborating with another author, it’s probably just the two of you who see the manuscript until you finish with the first or second draft.
Eventually, though, you’ll need to get others involved in the process, from editors and proofreaders to beta readers and peer reviewers. Feedback from readers is essential to making your manuscript into something that will appeal to readers.
However, not all feedback is useful. Have you ever handed a friend or family member something you wrote, only to receive “Looks good!” or “It could use a little work” in return? That is not helpful feedback.
But often nonprofessional reviewers don’t know how to provide you with useful criticism and suggestions. So, the task of guiding them falls to you. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most from reviewers and readers.
If I asked you to make a list of the qualities of clear writing, what would go on that list? What qualities make something readable and easy to understand?
At the top of that list are probably attributes like vocabulary and tone. Maybe you included good grammar and punctuation. But for many writers, there’s one way to improve readability that doesn’t involve changing a word: paragraph length.
Perhaps your high school teacher or college professor gave you a rule for how many paragraphs should be on each page. Perhaps you’ve never even given it a thought. It’s a bit more complicated than X number of paragraphs per page, though, and it’s more important than you might think.
Several months ago, I posted a list of commonly misspelled words most spelling checkers don’t flag because the misspellings are legitimate words themselves. They’re just not the word you were going for.
Recently, an online discussion among my fellow editors provided me with a wealth of new words to add to that list. So, with my thanks to my colleagues around the world, I’ve listed the new additions here for everyone to access freely. Enjoy.
*At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to download the PDF versions of the list of these new additions, the original list, and a combined list of all of the words I’ve gathered so far.
With each passing year, our world is gradually becoming more and more concerned about respecting the voices and experiences of people and groups who, historically, haven’t had a say in how and if they are represented to the general public. This may have been due to race, religion, gender, cultural background, or physical and mental disabilities, among other reasons.
We’ll put aside the argument of political correctness for the moment. The fact is that writers have a responsibility to their readers to represent the world in the most honest and genuine way possible.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t include elements and characters from other people groups. That wouldn’t be true to the diverse world we live in. However, it’s impossible for any one person to be an expert on all peoples and groups, especially if they’re not a part of that group.
Sometimes, we need to bring in an expert. That’s where sensitivity readers come in.
There are so many services out there offering to help you become a better writer, from master classes with acclaimed authors to professional writing coaches. But one of the most valuable resources for aspiring writers is at the same time one of the most readily available and one of the most overlooked.
All you need is a library card and a bit of free time for research.
I’ve read the writings of and listened to interviews with numerous experts, whether published authors or publishing professionals, and one of the most common pieces of advice they give is to read.
But what does that entail?
We’ve all seen that text message or social media post where it looks like the writer hit the Caps Lock key and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. People often laugh about it as a marker of older generations, but the truth is that all caps is often overused in writing, regardless of the age of the writer.
But all caps (also known as shouty caps) does have its place and and purpose.
It used to be, if you wanted your book published, you either had to go through an established publishing house or spend stacks of cash at a vanity press and still not see your book get into the hands of more than a few readers.
As we advance farther and farther into the digital age, though, self-publishing becomes an increasingly viable option, but it’s still not ideal for everyone.
So, which one is best for you? There are pros and cons to both options. Here are a few points to help you decide which one best fits your circumstances and your book.
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.