Community organization events (any event that allows vendors)
Writing groups (guest speaker)
Art collaborative events (art walks, art fairs/festivals)
Craft fairs (schools, senior center, maker markets)
Community festivals (seasonal, renaissance, kids)
School or library talks (information presentation, career day)
Informational presentations (conferences, comic cons, literature events)
Setting up a book signing
Book signings are not limited to book stores, but if you do want to hold a signing at a bookstore, focus on local and independent stores. Chain bookstores often don’t work with indie authors because of buyback restrictions and they may not take consignments either.
Local stores are more flexible and offer better royalty splits on books sold during a signing or on consignment books. A 60/40 split is common with many indie bookstores when books are excepted on consignment.
If you wat to branch out from bookstores, pitch libraries, restaurants/cafes, or a business related to the book’s theme. When working with a for-profit organization or an event center, you will likely need to rent the space or give a percentage of sales to the venue or owner.
Be sure to book your signing 1-2 months in advance. Venues or organizations who hold regular events need plenty of time to fit you into the schedule. It’s also important to give yourself enough time to make sure you will have books available.
You don’t have to wait for someone to ask you to speak to their group or organization. Prepare a presentation and pitch yourself to groups.
Author talks or informational presentations are great options when you don’t have a new release or something to celebrate but still want to stay active in the community. Pitch yourself to bookstores, libraries, charity events, schools, Comic Cons, writing conferences, or festivals.
Have a topic ready to pitch. Write out a 100-word synopsis of the content and have a sample ready for consideration. Don’t just talk about your book. Focus on the issues your book deals with or pick a writing or book related topic you feel comfortable speaking on.
Charge a speaking fee or ask to sell books in lieu of payment.
People do not buy goods and services. The buy relations, stories, and magic.
While marketing can be intimidating and time consuming, the more you focus on building relationships with readers, the more success and satisfaction you’ll experience.
A solid long-term marketing plan is a big factor in determining success.
Daily Marketing Tasks
Social media posts should be going out daily, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it daily. Schedule a full week in advance to free up time by using services like Buffer, Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or Sprout Social. Which will work best will depend on which social media platforms you plant o use, how far in advance you want to schedule, and your budget.
Once you have your posts going out, make sure to engage! Respond to comments and messages, like and thank shares, and follow/friend as you see fit. Join conversations about books and publishing as well.
If you’re going to blog, always be on the look out for content ideas and plan your schedule. Even if you aren’t going to blog weekly, you should always be gathering topics and ideas.
Starting pinning on Pinterest and engaging with followers by liking/pinning their pins. Posting around 5 pins per day has been shown to help grow traffic on Pinterest.
Keep a running list of links, stories, pictures, etc. that you can share as content on social media. Also curate a list of posts that get good engagement and reshare them every so often.
Answer all messages and emails you receive, even if it’s just a quick thank you.
Review analytics of posts and ads daily so you know what’s working and what’s not.
Research new information and opportunities. Never stop learning because the marketing world never stops changing!
Weekly Marketing Tasks
If you are going to blog, blogging is a good way to keep fresh content rolling in and keeping your website relevant in search results.
Small focused promotions also work well on a weekly basis. These may include small giveaways ($5 gift card, ebook, bookmark, etc.), contests with small prizes, newsletters, questions posed to readers on social media, etc.
To break up your promotion submissions, send a few each week. Rotate through your books if you have more than one. Keep in mind any upcoming promotions you have as you submit and plan accordingly.
Review ad performance over the past week and make changes or turn off ads that aren’t performing well.
Cross promote with another author through newsletter or social media post swaps.
Send out relevant email blasts if you have news that wasn’t included in your last newsletter and can’t wait until the next schedule newsletter. Don’t overuse this!
Pick a day to sit down and schedule daily posts for the next week.
Monthly Marketing Tasks
Plan a medium-sized focused promotion, such as a giveaway with a slightly bigger prize ($10-$20 gift card, paperback book, etc.), offer a book for sale or make a special offer with purchase, or hold a contest.
Send out your regular monthly newsletter (if that is the schedule you choose), and include all relevant updates from the previous month and news about what is coming up in the next month.
Seek out reviews from fans, bloggers, services, etc. Set a realistic goal for how amny reviews you want to get each month through direct interaction.
Focus on one book or series each month. Plan your social media posts, review offers, free books, Pinterest board activity, character interviews, etc. around the book or series you are featuring that month.
Incorporate any holidays or events into your posts and promotions. If you want to include listing sites or ads, plan these well in advance if it’s around a holiday.
Plan the next months ads and create the graphics you will need so you aren’t wasting time later trying to create or purchase them at the last minute. Review monthly analytics and make adjustments as needed.
Yearly Marketing Tasks
Schedule 2-4 big marketing pushes for the year. These may be centered around a new release, holiday, event, birthday, etc. If you can plan a few outside of times when everyone else is engaging in marketing pushes (holidays), you’re likely to get more interest.
Be as creative as possible with events, posts, and prizes. Try new tactics and evaluate whether or not they worked.
Plan your release schedule for future books and, if possible, spread them out evenly throughout the year. Be realistic, though!
Set goals for the next year for growth and plan for how to reach those goals.
Launching a new book typically takes extra marketing and a specific plan in order to make it a success. In this post we’ll discuss what extra tactics you can take to launch in each of the three phases of planning a book launch: pre-release, release-day, and post-launch marketing.
Pre-Release Marketing Planning
Start as early as possible with your pre-release marketing! Plan out what promotional materials (physical or digital) you plan to use and have them prepared as early as you can so you can start sharing them.
Gather reviews for release day by recruiting book bloggers, beta readers, or review services. Remember that you should NEVER pay for reviews. Keep track of everyone who agrees to provide an honest review and follow up with them on release day. Ask them to send you a link to their review so you can share it. Thank reviewers who follow through and keep a list of those who don’t so you can decide who to send review copies to for your next releases.
Another pre-release marketing option is to make a book trailer. This can be posted on YouTube for long-term availability and shared on social media in marketing posts. Video consistently get more interaction on social media than pictures and text.
Setting up your book as a pre-order is another marketing option. This requires you to have your book files and cover ready further in advance, but it gives you a link to use in your marketing as well. It allows readers to buy your book when they are interested instead of hoping they will remember to purchase it after it releases.
Blog tours are not as popular as they once were, but they can still be useful for boosting visibility. They are not typically helpful for revenue producing, so evaluate where your budget can be best spent before paying for a blog tour.
If you plan to host any in-person events, set these up several months in advance and make sure your book files will be ready early enough to be able to order copies of your book in time for the events.
Release-Day Marketing Plan
Release day (week/month) sales within the first 30 days are important for rankings retailer sites. This is a prime time to focus on ads, promos, and social media marketing. Watch ads closely to see which are working best and turn off or adjust those that aren’t in order to keep your marketing as effective and efficient as possible.
Send out an email newsletter blast to your subscribers on release day, and then a few days to a week later as a reminder or only to those who didn’t open the first email. It’s a good idea to also ask readers to post an honest review when they finish reading as a way to help you reach more readers who might like your book. It often helps to mention that a review doesn’t need to be more a few sentences so readers don’t feel intimidated.
Host a release party (virtual or in-person) to celebrate the release. Digital options include Facebook parties, livestreaming a reading or Q&A session, Twitter chats, live YouTube video, or utilizing TikTok or Instagram. In-person options include a book signing, author reading, or party with friends and readers.
You can also schedule (or have a PR company set up) blog features, radio or podcast interviews, or media appearances. Traditional media is less effective for launch marketing than avenues such as podcast interviews and live social media appearances.
You can also off incentives for readers to buy your book, such as giving them a free gift like a bonus short story or signed bookplate or digital authorgraph. Be sure you check Terms of Service on retailers regarding incentives, especially in relations to asking for reviews. Amazon is very strict about this.
It’s also important to update all of your social media and website with links and graphics, including cover art if that hasn’t been updated already. Update your social media bios with a link to your book. You may only do this temporarily if your regular link is to your author website or something specific you are promoting.
Post-Release/Launch Marketing Plan
The goal of post-launch marketing is to continue the momentum you’ve built in the previous two phases. This takes consistent marketing for several months that is focused on your new release, but not as robust as during the launch period.
In the months after a release, make use of free social media group posts and paid ads as your time and budget allow. Schedule newsletter spots with companies that permit new releases. Once a month, remind your newsletter that you new release is now available to catch anyone who hasn’t opened your newsletter recently but might be interested in your new book.
Share positive reviews, blog posts, and pertinent links you cultivated during the previous two phases. Continue to seek out reviewers and build your reviews up on retailer sites. Utilize your street team members to share and post about your new release, what they liked about it, or to recommend it to likeminded readers.
The key of post-release marketing is to keep the book fresh in readers’ minds by incorporating it into what you’re already doing with your others books. If this is your first book, blend in updates on your next project while still promoting your book to keep readers excited for more!
With so many options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Get involved, but don’t over do it.
The Point of Social Media Marketing
It’s not just about selling, it’s about building a community of loyal readers. Social media can connect you with readers all over the world. Building a community of like-minded readers will keep them engaged and interested for longer.
Social media allows you to go to where buyers already “live” instead of trying to make them all come to you. Find out which platforms your “ideal” readers use regularly and start interacting. Don’t spend precious time on platforms that aren’t a good fit for the type of community you’re trying to build.
Social media provides opportunities for interaction and relationship development. It’s more than just serving ads to users. Take the time to interact, comment, answer questions, share engaging content, and invest in the long term.
It also allows you to show personality and express yourself to readers. In the digital age, readers want to hear from authors. They want to learn about their lives and writing and find the intersections. It adds more layers to their reading experience and provides community.
Choosing Social Media
How do you decide which social media platforms to use? Define your ideal reader and examine which platforms they are most likely to be using. It’s also important to consider your own skill and preferences as well. If you dislike using a platform, you’re unlikely to interact on it consistently.
Facebook Pages (NOT profiles): Facebook is the most used platform. It provides opportunities for building long term communities and relationships. It is easy to start and carry on conversations as well. The Facebook audience is mainly adults in the 18-49 age group, with slightly more female users.
Twitter: Ongoing conversation is an important aspect of Twitter. It’s interface is geared toward “in the moment” types of conversations. It’s also a good platform for news and updates. Twitter is popular with both men and women in the 18-49 age group, and nearly half of users are on the platform at least once per day.
Instagram: Instagram is mainly a visual platform geared toward creatives. It offers author/creator/business accounts which give different statistics and options to users. Because it is owned by Facebook, it’s easy to link accounts and simplify posting and messaging. Instagram has an easy conversation style. It’s main user groups skew toward a younger audience, with 18-29 year olds being the largest age group.
YouTube: This is also a visually-driven platform. It provides opportunity to express style and personality. In general, video gets the most interaction on social media. Authors can make use of this platform with book trailers, readings, Q&As, etc. YouTube is popular with pretty much everyone.
Pinterest: Another visual platform, it is also informational and filled with users ready to make purchases. Pins are shareable between users and the board format easy to use. Users can easily follow specific interests and save pins to their own boards. The platform is very buyer-centered and has high conversion rates. The user profile is mainly female and popular in the 18-64 age group.
Setting Up Author Profiles
Author profiles on book-related sites are similar to social media, but require less ongoing interaction. They do allow you to connect with more readers and may open up promotional opportunities as well.
Amazon Author Central: This not only allows you to set up your public profile on Amazon, it also gives you access to sales reports and the ability to manage your books. Create your account, claim all of your books and update or fix any necessary information, track sales of paperbacks, fill out your profile details, connect social media accounts, look into the ability to utilize paid ads. You can also get followers on your Amazon profile.
Goodreads: Creating or claiming your author account allows you to manage your public profile and start collecting friends and followers. Be sure to add your books to your profile, connect a blog (if you have one) and connect your social media accounts so interested readers can easily follow you. You will also have the ability to host giveaways, though they are a bit pricey at $119.
BookBub: Create or claim your author account and start collecting followers. BookBub offers paid ads and features, as well as newsletter spots. Newsletter spots are very effective, but also more expensive than many other newsletter promotions.
My Book Cave: Create an account and set up your author profile. Add all of your books as reader magnets in order to see stats and give each book a content rating. MBC offers features and promotional opportunities and listing-building magnet promotions. Magnets are a good way to build your email list and collaborate with other authors.
LinkedIn: Create your account and set up a professional profile. Be sure to list your work and education experience, then list all of your books as publications. You can also list any writing or literary awards you have received. This is a great place to make professional contacts in writing and publishing. You can also publish blog-style articles directly on LinkedIn.
Another reason to set up these profiles is that Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, and MBC will often send out new release alerts to your readers/followers for free!
Setting Up Accounts and Profiles
Fully set up all accounts with an author pic, bio, social media links, books links, contact info, and “verify” where available. Use the same profile picture on all accounts for consistency and recognizability.
Customize where possible to stand out from others. This is different on each platform, but make sure to add custom cover photos, customize background images, choose unique colors when possible, and get rid of any tabs or features that don’t apply to you and your writing. On Facebook you can customize tabs, choose what your call to action asks and leads to (buy now, sign up, contact, etc.), and you can add one landing page to your profile (book link or website).
Update images often. Always use professional looking graphics, and only use images you own the copyright to. If you update a profile photo, be sure to update it on all platforms.
Pin posts/tweets to top of the page and update them often. This is a great place to highlight announcements, new releases, questions you want readers to answer, or giveaways you’re hosting.
Next week we’ll talk about how to make use of your social media accounts!
It’s never too early to start building your author platform and marketing base. This week, we’ll do a deep dive into what an author platform is and how to use it.
What is an Author Platform?
An author platform brands the author, NOT the book. Set up your social media accounts and fan pages under your author name instead of your book or series name. It will save you from trying to manage multiple accounts or pages, or from being difficult to find.
An author platform presents you as an expert in your field. Many writers balk at this because most of us feel we fit the meme of an author knowing a little about everything but is a master of nothing. The truth is, you are the expert of your book and your characters. Start there and expand your expertise.
An author platform is also a means through which to share your message with your target audience. The more fans you accumulate, the more quickly and easily you can disseminate information about you and your books to an interested audience.
An author platform tells readers what makes your work unique. Your platform should reflect your personality and the aspects of your writing that set you apart from other writers.
An author platform implies a promise of quality. Always make sure you are putting out quality products, images, information, etc. Present yourself online as a professional and release professional quality work.
An author platform says something about you as an author. What keeps you writing? What fills your spare time (if you can find any)? Share more than just your books. Share your writing process and experiences in publishing. Remember that you’re building a community with your platform, not just a customer base.
What does an Author Platform do?
It gives authors an opportunity to shows their personality to their readers. In today’s interconnected world, readers want to know their favorite writers. It adds to their reading experience to have some insight into who wrote the book.
It fosters relationships with readers, turning casual fans into super fans who will help promote you and your work. Friendships are also developed which can help authors feel more engaged with the reading community.
It establishes expertise as an author, writer, and whatever other areas of knowledge you have to share. If you write police procedurals, share some of your research. If you write a character who likes to cook, share recipes. Create a world for readers to explore with you.
It builds communication with readers and opens up opportunities for feedback, help, and encouragement. Many writers get bogged down with deadlines, stuck in the middle of a manuscript, or overwhelmed by life. Open up a dialogue with readers.
It creates community with other writers and with readers. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Use your platform to gather similarly minded book lovers to talk to and engage with.
It builds visibility and extends reach. The more you build your author platform, the more eyes you will have on your books. Engage regularly to encourage readers to do the same. The more welcome a person feels in a group, the more likely they are to invite others to join or talk about how much they enjoy participating.
Whether an author hires out marketing duties or takes them on personally, it’s important to understand the basics.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is still the best way to sell anything because the recommendation is coming from someone the person likes and trusts.
To get good word or mouth for your books, you need a professional, high quality product. Make sure your editing is clean and the book cover does not look homemade.
You should also actively encourage readers to share your book and talk about it publicly. This can be accomplished through street teams, contests that require sharing a post or writing a review, or putting a reminder the back matter of the book.
Post on your social media platforms regularly to keep people engaged. Utilize a mix of informational, funny, promotional, or talking point types of posts.
Utilize social media ads to sell directly to interested readers who already like/follow you. You can also target lookalike audiences of similar authors and unique to reach new customers.
Free advertising options including posting to book-related Facebook groups (there are tons of these), newsletter swaps, blogging, creating Pinterest boards for your books or characters, and adding books to book sites like My Book Cave and Goodreads.
Paid advertising options include social media ads (pretty much all platforms are willing to take your money in the form of ads hosting), Amazon ads, book-related paid newsletters like FreeBooksy or BookBub, print ads in literary magazines or your local newspaper or circular, sponsorships, and paid online takeovers and parties.
DON’T pay for reviews, ever! It’s against retailers’ terms of service and you can be penalized. Paying a fee to have your book listed in a review catalogue is okay because you are not paying for individual reviews, just the listing.
Get involved with group promos and events with other authors. You can usually find out about these by joining online authors groups like Alessandra Torre Inkers. These types of collaborations expands your reach and allows you to share fans with and of other authors.
Learn to write engaging ad copy and book cover copy in order to catch the interest of readers. Blurb writing is challenging, and can be hired out if you don’t feel comfortable writing in short form.
Test different ads through A/B testing and determine what type of wording and what styles work best with your audience. Update your ads often because tastes change frequently. Study blurbs for books in your genre to learn more about the style and conventions readers will look for.
Use professional graphics (Pixabay, Canva, Deposit Photos) in all promotional material. DO NOT pull images from a Google search, because the may be copyrighted and you could end up with legal action and fines. There are plenty of free options out there, like Pixabay, if you’re on a tight budget. The same rules apply to music if you post videos.
Determine how much time you REALISTICALLY have each week to put toward marketing, and build your marketing plan around that. Set daily, weekly, monthly tasks AND stick to them. Good things to include are social media posts, submitting books to newsletters, reviewing and updating ads, and engaging with readers.
Plan major campaigns (new releases, holidays, etc.) at least a month in advance, more if possible. Holidays need advanced planning more than almost anything else because newsletter slots will fill up quickly and ad costs may be higher than usual. Bloggers are also much busier and so are readers.
Ideas for major campaigns include hosting virtual parties, running giveaways, participating in takeovers or having other authors takeover your pages (especially popular on Instagram lately), running sales on your books, or hosting a live or online event to celebrate new releases or writing milestones.
Marketing is one of the biggest chores for indie authors. There are so many avenues it can be overwhelming. Breaking it down to the basics can help you get started developing a plan and getting your book in front of readers!
Websites are important, even though readers often tell me the biggest reason to go to an author’s website is to find the order of books in a series.
Readers aren’t always your main target with a website, though. So who is? Media, agents, publishers, and other industry professionals. They go to websites to find a bunch of information all in one place.
Many website services are free or low-cost for a basic setup. Popular sites include WordPress, Wix, and Square Space. Yearly hosting fees for paid websites are usually in the $60-$500 range, depending on how intricate the website is and what special features you want.
Domain name registration is $10-$20 per year and well worth the cost! A .com site looks WAY more professional than a .wix.com or .wordpress.com site.
Custom designed sites are the most expensive options, for the design work and for hosting costs.
Blogs can be a great way to drive traffic to your website on a regular basis, but only if you’re willing to put in the time to blog consistently. If you don’t have time for that, don’t start a blog.
Social media account are vital in today’s marketing world. Not only are they great places to grow your fan base and develop relationships with your readers, an account is required on most platforms to be able to run ads.
This doesn’t mean you have to run out and join every social media site known to man. ONLY sign up for the ones you’re actually going to use consistently. The most popular and effective right now are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon ads.
Most social media platforms are free to set up and running ads can be done even on a very small budget.
Sign up for author profiles and popular book related sites. Unlike social media, you don’t have to actively do anything on these sites. Having a profile allows you to add your books, run ads, and gain followers, though.
Popular book-related sites right now include BookBub, Goodreads (don’t read reviews!), and My Book Cave. Most of these types of sites are free to sign up, but may be a bit pricier to run ads or features on and you have to be approved for features.
There are a million book-related newsletters out there that accept free and paid feature spots. The biggest the list, the higher the price. However, many smaller ads (free or $5) can be very effective. Most writers have a hard time getting features on bigger lists without a lot of reviews.
Making a Plan
There’s a lot of trial and error involved with book marketing. Everyone’s book is different and will speak to readers in different ways.
Start small. Test out multiple avenues and keep track of what does and doesn’t work. As you evaluate the effectiveness of different tactics, you’ll be able to start making a solid plan.
Without a traditional publisher, what do indie authors need to handle on their own?
The list may be long, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Breaking everything down can help you decide which tasks to learn to do yourself and which to hire out.
I’ll break these down in the coming weeks, but here’s a broad list of what indie authors devote their time to when not writing:
These costs include editing (developmental, copy editing, proofreading), cover design, formatting, setup, distribution fees. Next week, I’ll break down costs for each of these as well as options for reducing the overall cost of book production.
Marketing includes building a plan and carrying it out, learning about paid advertising and booking ads, setting up and managing social media accounts, participating in online and in-person events, writing and sending out press releases, and much more.
When it comes to networking, it’s important to engage with the author community, join groups and lists, make friends for support, find beta readers or critique partners, and learn from others in the industry.
Collaborations that are popular right now include box sets, worlds, promo groups, etc. These collaborations help authors expand their audience and reach, as well as learn more about marketing and promotion.
Reaching out to media, stores, businesses, etc. is part of marketing, but for many people it’s a different skill than interacting on social media or booking ads. Different types of stores have different requirements for booking an author signing, and bookstores aren’t the only option for signings. Learning how to approach a business, radio station, newspaper, etc. the right way can make a difference in being accepted.
Without an agent or publisher, indie authors are often responsible for organizing their own signings, publicity events, participation in books fairs, speaking engagements, conferences, etc. Learning about what types of events are worth while, how to get involved, or what type of classes to submit to a conference can help you make solid plan.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be discussing each of these topics in more detail. Follow the blog to make sure you don’t miss a topic!