First and foremost, you must get your marketing plan put into action as soon as possible.
There are a lot of decisions to make, and often the biggest mistake made when self publishing is to put off considering a marketing plan until AFTER publishing. Writers want their book to be the best in its genre – but to stand out from the crowd, you must market your book very carefully and start early. There’s a reason “Product Launch Formulas” are so popular in the Internet Marketing world – you have to get your customer’s attention if you’re going to get people to purchase.
Your target demographic is the most critical aspect of your game plan.
Before promoting your book you should be aware of your target audience. Who do you want to buy your book? The correct answer to this question is not “Everyone, Everywhere!”
Look at Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” series – you may remember the ABC TV show starring Robert Urich as Spenser and Avery Brooks as Hawk. Parker wrote something like 50+ novels centering on his soft-hearted, gun-toting private eye, and every one was a bestseller… but shortly before Parker’s death, he released a Spenser novel that was pretty roundly panned by both critics and readers. Why was this one book, from a writer who seemed all but guaranteed a success, far less popular than usual?
Because Parker failed to appease his existing audience – adults, usually (but not limited to) women over 35 – and on top of that, he failed to grab the interest of the NEW audience he was trying to court – the “young adult” market. This particular novel focused on the never before revealed childhood of the protagonist. The readers considered “young adults” could care less about the character’s origins, and the existing market found the story too juvenile.
To reach your target audience, you must be focused on them.
Identify your target audience and gather as much data on them as you can. Outline your goals and objectives (what you hope to achieve) and determine your budget and implement your strategies (how you plan to reach your goals).
Then, determine what form your book should take. For example, the dimensions and typography, number of pages, type of paper, etc. If you’re going the e-book route, consider very carefully how you want your book formatted, protected, and in what type of file format you want to publish (Kindle, iPhone/iPad, simple PDF, LIT file, etc).
Bestsellers are NOT always the best written books!
Marketing and promotion can make a huge difference. Common wisdom used to be that the only way to become a best-selling author was to go through a major publishing house. However, many bestsellers have actually been self published and even self promoted – Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle was first published by his parents, and Cassandra Claire and Jim Bernheimer have both gained fame by writing free stories online and have successfully crossed over to become published writers. The online blog Julie/Julia was picked up by a major publishing house (and then turned into a Hollywood motion picture!). Has something similar to your book already been published? Make sure to do some initial research before putting all your effort into selling something that’s been done before. Capturing your target demographic is critical, so choose a title carefully.
Believe me, a cover IS worth a thousand words.
Your cover should be very directly targeted to catch your audience’s eye. What appeals to the reader for whom you are writing? Jim Baen (the founder of Baen Books) was well-known for choosing book covers that attracted an audience, rather than necessarily reflecting the content of the book.
The cover of John Ringo’s There Will Be Dragons is a perfect example. On the cover there is a woman scantily clad in chain mail with a bow and arrow in her grip, next to her is a dragon with spread wings, and above everything is a rocket ship speeding through the sky. The dragon is a metaphor for voluntary genetic modifications, and there are no scantily clad women in the book or rocket ships. However, what better way to catch the eye of browsing shoppers, and still manage to explain to the reader that this is a fantasy novel with a lot of science fiction elements?
Writers are sensitive creatures!
The first thing you need to learn is that if you plan to handle the marketing and publicity of your book on your own, you need to get serious, quick. Marketing requires a thick skin and a strong backbone. Sensitivity may be great while writing your book but you must be practical when it comes to marketing. Don’t take anything personal, especially reviews! Bad publicity is still good publicity – just ask all the female pop singers who seem to go crazy… and then become even more popular. Or ask the creator of the Buffy TV series – his show Firefly got cancelled by the network, only to be picked up as a Universal movie!
Books promoted online have several advantages over those that are not. Marketing can be cheaper, managing and TRACKING your campaigns can be far easier and more accurate, your startup costs are lower, and there’s a greater opportunity for interacting with your audience. Most importantly, your book should have its own special website (if you have multiple books, each one should have a site and you should have a separate author site). Show off your book’s cover, offer exclusive excerpts, display reviews and testimonials on the home page and provide links to stores and distributors. If your online publisher has an affiliate program, be sure to use that system (every penny you earn is well-deserved, right?).
Submit your book to books in print databases
Many online and brick and mortar bookstores use these databases and that means more potential sales for you. Use an email promotion campaign to promoting your book, and consider online advertising (Google AdWords) or affiliate systems like ClickBank. Write a sales letter that you can distribute online or mail to bookstores (go to the Baen CD archive and look at the CD listings starting with “P” for examples).
Having a blog has now become one of the most profitable ways to promote online. Using popular blog software like WordPress is an easy way to manage your entire website and market your book – it’s search engine friendly, it’s easy to update, and it’s easy to customize with options that let your readers promote for you. A small, custom designed WordPress site will not cost you a lot to have professionally done, and will reap many benefits.
Marketing your book is an ongoing process and will require constant re-evaluation. Always be aware of what works for other authors and incorporate ideas when they make sense for you.
After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?