Simply making your book available for people to buy is not enough to build a writing career. Building an audience and attracting potential readers is a task that you need to be willing to undertake, whether you are publishing your own books, or being published by someone else.
As Caroline Smailes said in an article called ‘When being published is not enough’:
“Today, a writer’s job does not end when the last word is typed. Instead, as the book goes through production and then print, the role of author switches from writer to a self-marketer and internet promoter. Signings, book events and launches are just the start. In addition to the ‘real’ world, many authors are learning to harness the power of the internet to engage potential readers and try, somehow, to turn them into book buyers.”
Here’s an overview of the options you have when it comes to promoting your book, and some advice on how to go about making a start.
Asking yourself who your audience is going to be is really important. As a single writer or small publisher, you are not going to have the mega-bucks needed to throw at mass market advertising campaigns that try and get everyone’s attention. You need to be smart and target your efforts effectively.
If you have written a non-fiction book on a specialist subject then this might be a bit easier as you can focus on the communities both online and offline who develop around that subject.
If you are a novelist writing a particular genre of book, then you can research forums, fan clubs and festivals that relate to that genre and start from there.
If you’re writing literary fiction, or something that isn’t so easily put into a box, then it’s harder but not impossible. Try and think about the type of person that you can see enjoying your book (age, sex, geographical location?) Where might they hang out? What other things might they be interested in? Which aspects of the book would be most appealing to them?
If you try and put yourself in their shoes then it will be much easier to select the best tools for reaching them and figure out how best to persuade them to read your book. Otherwise you’ll end up with a one-size-fits-all-scatter-gun approach which will have little chance of achieving your goals.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ’It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Personal contact is especially important in the world of books where the highest factor influencing someone to buy a book is the recommendation by a friend. So it is even better if those friends happen to be booksellers, literary agents or even publishers. Get networking!
Book festivals, seminars, conferences, writing courses and readings by other writers are great places to meet people who are likely to be interested in hearing about your book. Anybody you speak to, keep their name and contact details and try to follow this up with a quick email to say that it was nice to meet them (and including a link to your website, blog or page on CompletelyNovel). It’s also worth getting business cards printed so you can easily give people your details to keep for the future.
Online forums are also a good place to make contacts. Read our tips on social networking on the right hand side of this page to help you make a good impression.
An online presence is a great asset to you and in fact, many in the industry would say that it is now essential to show that you have shown engagement in some kind of online community. A blog can be a particularly good promotional tool if it contains lively and up-to-date information. For anyone new to the world of blogging, a blog is a ‘weblog’ and is basically a personal website which you can update regularly with news, your views, samples of your writing or whatever you think will interest your readers!
Why be a blogger?
Having a blog or a website has two main advantages. The first is that it is a great way of attracting new readers to buy your books. A blog or website is an opportunity to give your readers a taste of your style and convince them that they want to see more of your work.
The second advantage is that your online space, particularly a blog, is a great way to keep your readers informed of what you are up to and maintain their interest in your work, so they are more likely to buy the next book you write. An online space provides you with a great opportunity to interact with your readers and get feedback quickly and easily.
You can use your profile page on CompletelyNovel to tell people a bit more about yourself and your books and link to your website or blog if you have one.
Want to know how to get started?
We recommend this course from The Creative Penn:
Take a look at the CompletelyNovel blog too!
Grab the reader’s attention with your book blurb
The back cover of the book, or the blurb accompanying your book online, will need to grab the reader’s attention as soon as they pick up the book in a shop, or click on it. If it is for a work of fiction the book blurb needs to give an idea of the atmosphere and feeling of the book without giving away the plot. You should also aim to leave the reader hungry for more! If you are stuck for where to start, browse your bookshelves and have a look at what you think works best.
Get a recommendation for your book
If you can include a recommendation from someone with some standing in the book industry, this is a great way to publicise your book. This could be either a reviewer or someone who is well-known as an expert in the field in which you are writing. It’s time to start sending out some review copies! Talk to as many people as possible, (friends, relatives and colleagues) about your book and find out if they know anyone who might be a suitable candidate for a ‘recommendation’. You can then send a copy of your book to them and then approach them for a comment. The worst thing they can say is no, and it will help to sell your book if someone else has rated it. Make sure you ask permission before using someone’s comment or recommendation on the back of the book.
Decide on a media angle to generate publicity
Before you approach the press, see if you can think of any possible media angles. Perhaps the subject of your book is particularly topical due to something in the news, or a national/international event? This will all help to give journalists a ‘hook’ to hang the news of your books release on.
Your local media is always a good place to start if you are trying to generate some publicity. Approach your local newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations to see if they would like to review your book, do a feature on it or maybe interview you. There are lots of other specialist publications that might be interested in your book, particularly if it is non-fiction, so get researching and get in contact with them too. If you are approaching a newspaper or magazine, give them a ring to check who you need to contact first.
The national press will often draw their stories from local or specialised news items so it’s good to cover all of those bases first. If you do get in contact directly, it’s a good idea to be as targeted as possible. For example, if there is a particular columnist who you think would be interested, send them an email explaining why you have chosen to get in touch with them and giving them some information about your book. Remember to keep it brief, but try and get them excited about your book. Don’t be downhearted if they say no – they simply can’t feature every book they hear about.
Read tips from the winners of the Author Blog Awards. Emily Benet offers her advice on how to be ‘top of the blogs’ and Sam Starbuck explains how having a blog can improve your writing.