Marketing Your Self-Published Fiction Book

Well, here I am, one year after publishing my first book. What's changed? I'm going throw you the candy and then the broccoli in the next two paragraphs; hold onto your seatbelt.

What makes me feel qualified for writing this blog is that, since publishing my book, I've gotten a full-time job in marketing. I've been getting on-on-one, customised advice from my colleagues. Since publishing my first book, Elemental Links, I've read dozens of blogs on how to market my book. In this blog, I'm putting that information together for you.

As for the broccoli, my book hasn't taken off yet. The reviews are promising. One professional reviewer loved my sequel so much that she asked if she could let her thirteen-year-old son read it. Out of all the books she's read, she wanted to pass along mine. It was very flattering.

However, publishing your book is a three-year haul. At least.

Be prepared.

I've given out hundreds of free copies of my books. Some blogs I've read say you need to give out thousands. I know the readers are prompted to rate the book at the end when they're done reading it; I've seen the alert myself when I've read Kobo or Kindle books.

Why have I only gotten twenty-three ratings on my book then? Well, put yourself in the reader's shoes. If they're picking up free books, chances are it's not their first rodeo. They've picked up quite a few few books in their time and getting around to yours can take months to years. In fact, I see my book's ratings randomly increase over time. My brain goes, "cha-ching, someone finished my book!"

I'll state again: self publishing is a long road. If you're not prepared to chip away at it for three to five years, just know there's a decent chance your book won't take off.

- I've put a LOT of information in this post, so skim through the headers to find what you need -

Write a Book. Now write another.

One phrase I read online advised, "write a book. Now write another." If you're a writer then you were probably an avid reader at some point in your life. Do you remember looking through books and wanting to find a series instead of the one-off? Wanting to invest in a story that won't end after 300-400 pages?

If you want readers to invest in your book and it's part of a series, get the second one out. There are multiple reasons to do so, which I'll list below.

First: the reason I just offered. Get people interested. Help them not be afraid of investing in your book because they know the journey will continue in the next book.

Secondly, get the sales out of your second book, not the first. To be blunt, even if I read a series that isn't very good, I still usually want to know how it ends. So, I'll fork over the $5 to buy the next book, and then another $5 after that. God I'm a sucker.

On a side note, don't trust your readers from the first book to remember to buy your second book when it comes out. They've moved on and will probably only remember your series in months or years to come. Once you release your second book, start all over again. Promote your first book like it's brand new again.

What I mean is, put your first book on sale, promote it on your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Spread the news one way or another. It'll make your second book your money-maker; not the other way around.

Give something away

This strategy is called "content marketing." And yes, that's something my marketing colleague drilled into my head when I started my job. Apparently content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads. Marketers who pursue blogging over paid advertisements are 13x more likely to succeed.

What does that mean for us? We need to give something for free to suck readers in. Give them a taste of what you offer, rather than just the front cover of your book and a blurb about what's inside.

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, began the novel by offering it in sections online. For Free.

He got such a huge fanbase that a movie company approached him and found him a publisher: sealing his fate as one of the best authors of our time.

Now, giving your book away for free is a hard thing to do. It's your baby. In my case, I'd rather see my baby succeed than make me money, and that's the non-sticky attitude that I believe will give me success. I'm okay with giving it away if that's what it needs to become a success.

Aside from giving your book away for free, what can you do?

There are two avenues I'm pursuing with my book series. Pursuing one strategy, I've crated a page on my website to intrigue potential readers and to encourage the ones I already have. The page has a world map, character descriptions, glossary, and a fun dragon vs. drakon comparison guide. I want to give back to my fans, as meagre as their numbers might be, and offer something to prospective readers. Have a look here.



Second avenue: down my roadmap, I plan on writing a related short story to offer for free. This short story will correspond to a section of my first book and will be written from the perspective of one of the other characters.

By publishing this story, not only will I be rewarding my current readers with a free taste of Steel and Magic while they wait for the third and final book, but I'll also have material to give potential readers a taste of my work.

Trade Shows

Go to trade shows. They're one of the few places that you won't look questionable sitting at a booth with your books.

I once mentioned to my husband, "being at a trade show won't make a dent in my online sales, which is where I really need reviews and readers to boost my books." His answer was that it would get people interested in me. He was right.

I can be personable (honestly, I can) and gracious to my booth visitors. I don't have a bad personality, so realistically people will be interested supporting me in simple ways such as following me on Instagram or Twitter.

Getting yourself out there gets you love. I don't mean "all you need is love" or "if it’s wrong to love you then my heart just won’t let me be right" love, but the love fans have for their idols. Love gets you people who support your endeavours.

Not to mention, go to book stores and ask pretty please for them to let you set up a table. Make your own book signings happen. It's all about exposing your personality for people to fall in love with more than your books; your books aren't the only avenue you need to succeed.

Advertising platforms not to invest in

Take the title of this section with a grain of salt. You might still find value in using these platforms.

Facebook and Instagram adds will not get your book sold. There may be the odd sale to prove me wrong, but they're not great for book sales. What they will do is get you followers. So, if you're okay with spending about $7 per follower, go to town promoting via Facebook and Instagram.

Twitter

This isn't a suggestion for promoting your book so much as getting support for you. I've only recently started to crack into the world of Twitter where other authors, or people just like you, support each other. If you follow them, they might follow you. Magically, their fans or followers might see your profile pop up in their follow suggestions and voila! You have followers.

For tips on how to grow your Twitter followers, check out my article on Twitter Tips.

Also, share yourself. Be you on all of your social media. That's something I'm weak on (see the PS below). I have two sides of me: one is an extremely anal designer who needs everything to look uniform and good. The other is this super cool, fun person who loves dogs, has horses, and a ton of dreams.

The posts people have loved the most are the ones of me and my book, me and my dog, me and horses... etc. However, the anal part of me won't post those pictures of me unless I make them look good. I have to stage them.

That's all great and goes back to the whole "creating your image as a self-published author" thing, but I need to find time to get it done. So far I've specialised in fancy marketing graphics that look like I'm a well-established author who has the income to pay for professional marketing. The bottom line is, get your followers to love you and then they'll want to support your book.

PS: The thing holding me back from doing this the most is the damn Canadian winters! I love Canada to pieces, but me bundled up in two winter jackets, boots, and mittens doesn't exactly speak "natural" if I'm trying to show me writing or reading a book outdoors. Stay tuned for spring.

PS: If you want more tips on how to make your social content look professional, check out my post on Self Publishing: Mastering Your Social Front. It's a much shorter article, I promise.

KDP promotions

For me, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) promotions did absolutely nothing. That's possibly because I'm not signed up for KDP Select: the book-publishing option that restricts you from publishing your book on any other platforms in exchange for more promotional tools.

Kobo's Writing Life promotions

I love these. Not because they get me money. Surprisingly, I've been getting the most income from Amazon, even though it's not substantial. I love Writing Life because they offer wonderful, glorious promotions with a very simple user interphase.

What do these promotions do? They get me reviews. No other platform has gotten me as many reviews as Kobo's Writing Life platform. I have seventeen reviews and they keep coming. I can give as many books away for free as I'd like, unlike KDP who make you sign up for KDP Select to give your book for free. Go figure.

Plus, I can submit my book for as many promos as I like; some paid some free. What power!

BookBub

Check back in with me late this year. From what I've read, BookBub's featured deal is quite smoking. Typically, authors make up to 75%-150% of the money they've put into this advertisement with the BookBub featured deal.

A few things to consider though. Firstly, the deal costs anywhere between $700-$5000USD. Ouch.

The more expensive your book "deal" is, the more you have to pay to promote it.

Because KDP won't let me post my book for free without being a part of KDP select, I'm going to have to post my book for $0.99, which will probably cost me closer to $1,000.

Even if I could, why would I take the risk and post my first book for free when I'm spending $700+ do to so? Because I have the sequel out, that's why. It would be a longgg road to return on investment, but giving my book for free would give me the potential to reach thousands of customers, and I bet a lot of them will want to read my second book.

You might ask, "what about the regular BookBub adds?" Well, I personally think they're decent. If you're going to put money into any smaller advertisements, those are the ones. They got me about two more book sales, which is more than any of the other advertisements (except the Kobo ones when my book was given for free or sold for $0.99).

When I create these smaller adds, I chose the Pay Per Click option. That way, I'll only be paying if people actually interact with my advertisement, rather than merely look at it. Over all, my two book sales cost me about $1.50 each, after six people clicked on my link and only two bought my book.

It was a good experiment and I am all the wiser.

Professional Reviews

You can pay hundreds to thousands for companies to review your book and post their review on their social media. I'll probably sign up for this service later this year, now that I have a sequel out.

However, there are some book bloggers that you can find through Instagram, Twitter, or Google searches who will in time, read your book for free and post their review to their followers.

Also, I've used an inexpensive review company, The Prairies Book Review, to read and review my book. They say in their contract that they will consult the author before posting reviews less than four-star reviews. Thankfully, both of my books have gotten five-stars and the woman who read my book is the one who passed it down to her son to read. Again, so flattered.

Audiobook

I'm pushing for an audiobook. You might be thinking "OMG why? they're such a huge investment." They are for sure; especially when I haven't been making even my cover art costs back.

Two reasons. In today's busy society, not many people have time to read words. They have time to listen to them though.

I love to read. I love physical books, I love words, I love the smarts I get from reading them. But I don't have time. I binge listen to audiobooks for about 10-16 hours a week.

So, developing my own audiobook will hit the markets that don't have time to read, which are more prominent than the ones that do right now.

Additionally, making an audiobook makes me look established. This is my dream; my baby. I have the leisure to not have my comfort and wellbeing on the line. I have an aim to make the $2,000 back someday; it just might take a few years.

For more advice on how to get started developing your own audiobook, read my Should You Publish With ACX? article. It's about more than just ACX.

Conclusion

I'm not going to say I'm an author who has experienced the fruits of my labour. I'm not going to say I've worked magic promoting my book. However, this blog post is a collection of advice I've found from authors who have, plus my own failings in trying things that were never recommended. My goal is to provide other, self-published authors like me with a central repository of my research and also the marketing advice I've been so lucky to get.

Your takeaways from this post are as follows:
  • Hold off with hard-core promoting until you have a sequel
  • Sign up for the long-haul
  • Give something away for free
  • Appear established
  • Be smart with your promotions
At the end of the year, when my third and final book is available for pre-order, I'm going to town promoting my series like never before. The essence of my strategy is to lead people down the "funnel" to the next books. They are my key commodities.

Have you had any other experiences? Successes? Let me know in the comments below!


Written by M. A. Leon — Author of the Steel and Magic series
                  www.leonauthor.com

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