Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my pleasure today to welcome Melanie Smith, who would speak to you about book marketing as a self-published author. In today’s publishing world, traditionally published authors must also learn to market their books, so some of what follows would be useful book marketing advice, irrespective of the mode of publishing you choose.
I published my first novel in 2014 and immediately faced the familiar dilemma of how to market my product. I thought back to my college days and one concept seemed useful: how to turn a consumer’s needs into wants. Now, I know that sounds backwards but it’s really not. Everyone needs entertainment in their life. That need takes many different forms, depending on a customer’s likes and dislikes.
To excel at marketing, all we require is to determine that need, be creative and think outside the box. Focus on your product and ask yourself, if I were in the market for this kind of book — how would I find it? Once you can answer that question, sit down and begin to formulate a book marketing plan.
Basic Book Marketing Strategies
Book marketing can be complex and overwhelming. Don’t stress if you aren’t familiar with the intricate details. Just focus on the basics. There are four basic strategies to consider when marketing any product.
Product – as authors we need to determine what products we are willing to sell. Will we only be producing full-length novels? Short stories and novellas? Will we team up with other authors and produce an anthology? Or, like me, will you offer additional services like promotional items, editing, formatting, cover design, etc.? Consider the rewards and the pitfalls — then move forward from there.
Distribution – How will you distribute you work? Will you stick with eBooks? Paperbacks? Audiobooks? Will you sell those products exclusively with one distributor or will you choose a wide distribution channel where you can sell the same book through multiple companies? There is no correct answer, you just need to decide what is correct for you and start your plan.
Promotion – What is the most effective way to promote your work? Do you have a budget? How will you drive traffic to your website? Do you have a website, or will you strictly use social media to advertise your work? How will you drive potential customers to your product (book) page? Will you use third party platforms like BookBub, the Fussy Librarian, and Goodreads? Magazine articles that catch a reader’s attention can be a great way to get your work and your writing style in the hands of potential readers. For anyone that is interested, get in touch to be published on the Connections eMagazine. MPSmith Publishing produces a free publication to help authors connect with readers, reviewers, and bloggers. The magazine is produced quarterly and is free to both authors and readers.
Price – What is your pricing strategy? If you have a completed series, will you offer the first book below fair market value — or even give it away for free — then make up the loss with the other books in the series? How often can you afford to reduce the price for a promotional event? Will you create the promotional material yourself or will you need to hire a professional? If you are in the market for a professional, skim through the products we offer at MPSmith Publishing.
Promotional Videos – MPSmith Publishing offers a small variety of videos to help authors promote their work. We try to keep the price down as low as possible because, as an author, I know very well how expensive it can be just to publish one book. Just like movie trailers, book trailers are a great way to catch a reader’s attention. Before you being, decide where you plan to use the trailer. Thirty second videos are great for social media promos and Facebook covers. General trailers for use in paid advertisements should be around one minute long. If you do a lot of book signings or other in-person events, consider creating longer videos that are between two to three minutes. They will keep your customers engaged while they are waiting for your autograph or to purchase your books. Here is a trailer I produced for my newest release, Divergence – Immortals Series Book 1.
You can find other ebook and author trailers on my YouTube Channel
In additional to trailers, we also produce short (about 30 seconds) Facebook Cover videos and videos to highlight audiobook samples.
Brochures – As a multi-genre author, I quickly realized it’s difficult to promote a new release because my readers do not all fit into the same demographic. This is where my marketing brochures come in. I have three – one to promote my Criminal Suspense and Police Procedural novels. One that features all of my Paranormal and Fantasy novels. And a third that encompasses everything else. These brochures contain taglines, a synopsis of the book, purchase links, samples, and video trailers to make it quick and easy for a reader to get more information immediately once their interest has been piqued.
As much as the branding of your books via marketing strategies, you also need to give them your story: create an author brand.
In my case, being a multi-genre author led to the birth of Paige Carter. I call this series my Crime Blog and it was originally created as a marketing ploy. Each month from April to December a new short story — or what I call an episode — is published exclusively on my website. It’s a way for my fans to read the story before they can buy it. It also drives traffic to my website, which increases the chance my fans will discover my other work. Increased traffic also appeases the search engine wizards and bumps my site further up the line so more people will find me.
The 5th Season of my police procedural series is now underway and I’m a little surprised to admit this has become one of my best sellers. Paige Carter is a forensics expert who quit her job with the FBI to return to Manti, Utah — a small rural town where her mother was murdered. When the series opens, Paige is frustrated that her mother’s case has gone cold and a killer is still free. The series follows Paige in her new career where local crimes are solved, and secrets are revealed.
Once the season is finished, all nine episodes are compiled into a box set and sold through the regular distribution channels as a complete season. Everyone loves FREE stuff, and this is a way to give my readers a free sample of my work once a month for nine months out of the year. Some follow along like you would a television series, others wait for the entire compilation to be published and purchase one season at a time. Either way, it’s a win.
Another question you should ask yourself is how you feel about newsletters and email marketing. If you generate a subscriber list, it’s always a good idea to give those who follow your newsletter a free gift. I offer the entire first season of Paige Carter to my subscribers just for signing up.
Graphic Design and Branding – I am also an amateur photographer and I use my images to create promotional material like annual calendars, magnets, bookmarks and even book covers. When you produce printed material always make sure you include your web address. It’s also a good idea to generate a QR code and include it whenever possible. You want to make it as easy as possible for potential readers to find your work. If they have to search for you, they will get bored and move on.
In photography we like to discuss the different techniques professionals use to get that perfect picture. The same holds true when promoting your book.
First, consider developing an author brand. This could be a logo, a specific font used for your author name, or a tone or color palette. Whatever you decide to use, make sure it’s consistent and communicates who you are to your readers every single time. Do you have a tagline that fits your writing style, your genre, or just you as a person? If so, use it and use it often. When promoting your book, try to use publication graphics (make your book appear as a book and not a cover) whenever possible.
Use basic, tried-and-true design techniques to create eye-catching graphics:
- Color (know your palette and always use contrasting or complimentary colors)
- Contrast (often overlooked and underused but impactful)
- Blur (use this technique to create a graphic design that really pops)
- Last but certainly not least Less is More – If your ad is cluttered and difficult to read, it won’t appeal to readers.
I hope some of these marketing tips were useful. Feel free to contact me through my website with questions or input. If you’re a fellow author looking for a little help promoting that next great book… visit my ‘For Authors’ section for services and pricing offered through MPSmith Publishing. Good luck and keep writing!
What are some book marketing questions you’d like to ask Melanie? How have you been marketing your books so far? As a reader, what sort of book marketing efforts annoy or attract you?
My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.
It is available in India here.
Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.
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Great information, Melanie and Damyanti, thanks! Marketing is a difficult one for me and I’ll take any tips I can get!
Hi Damyanti and Melanie – what a great post … love the idea of having your own publishing organisation – while having a series ready to go – be it an instalment, or another book … keeping that momentum up, as well as being in contact with commenters and interested parties. All the best to you both – Hilary
Useful tips and information
I think I commented at the wrong place. So this seems useful though I don’t need it at the moment but I’m saving it for future. Meanwhile some self published friends may benefit from this.
I like the idea of offering an episode every week or month. Probably monthly for me as slow as I write.
Alex– If you decide to try posting a monthly episode, I recommend writing at least two to three episodes in advance. Life has a way of interfering (a poem discussing the “best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” comes to mind). I learned this the hard way as I scrambled to complete an episode knowing my followers were expecting the next installment by a particular date and I didn’t want to let them down.
To answer the title question, no marketing strategies have been successful for me. I’m trying to become the greatest unknown author, and I’m well on my way to achieving that goal. LOL I always enjoy your blog posts. Keep up the good work.