It’s not long after publishing your first book that you, as a self-published author, will realise your job is only just begun and that you have an entirely new skill-set to learn. After all, the joy of finishing to write a book and having it published is second only to the joy of realising that people are actually reading it.
So, you’ve finished your first novel. Then, whether you did it yourself or used a service like our Quantum Dot Press, you spent a lot of time and effort working through the editing, formatting, and book cover design for self-publishing. You hit the button on ‘publish’ and your book has gone live to the world. Now the fear and uncertainty sets in.
Surely it will do well. You’ve written a great book! Everyone will want to read it. Right?
Well, maybe, but first they have to find it and there’s a huge ocean of books they would have to dig through to discover it by chance. Enter marketing and promotion, accompanied by visions of door-to-door salesmen pushing shoddy products on unsuspecting housewives.
That doesn’t have to be you, nor should it be. Honest and ethical marketing — which you should strive to practice at all times — is about connecting with your audience and providing them with something of value that they want. But how do you go about doing this?
I’m glad you asked. It’s all about the 3Cs of book promotion.
The essense of being a writer is creating a body of work. It’s easy to forget that truth when you’ve finally finished all the writing and editing and designing of your first book, and you’ve just published it.
It’s easy for your attention to change focus to the new challenges of marketing, while the long process of writing another book seems to grow more daunting each day. But write you must if you are to call yourself a writer.
While promotion and marketing can, and should, take up the majority of your time for about 2 months before and after the release of your book (and as part of your regular routine from then on), that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some writing here and there.
Three Types of Writing to do Between Books
After the first book is done, while you’re catching your breath before starting the next one, is the time to start writing short pieces that your growing audience will find interesting and enjoyable.
Fans of your books will eventually come to your website looking for any extra and interesting content. This can be anything, but should typically revolve around the following:
1. Inspirational Stories of Your Journey
Your inspirations or your life journey that has led to this point make good topics for blog posts. Remember, readers like stories and you are the main character in your own story! So write your life that way.
2. Short fiction
Especially interesting to fans of your book(s) would be short fiction that features a character from your book in some episode that ties into the main story. You could also try out new characters or stories from new novels here.
3. History, Lore or Research
If you write science fiction or fantasy and have created your own worlds, you might consider writing bits of lore from your world-building. Historical fiction or Crime would lead naturally to inclulding interesting bits of research on your website.
This is the free content, the extra value, your fans can come to expect from you — a person who values their support. Just, please remember…
Do not make the mistake of writing ‘how to write’ blog posts (unless your book is about writing).
This will get you hits, but you’ll attract and audience that is most interested in learning to write, rather than an audience most interested in reading your books. This is an incredibly common mistake for authors to make and I’ve even seen well-respected traditionally published authors make this mistake.
The Importance of 'Free' Content
There are many who say authors should never work for free. That, however, does not mean you shouldn’t create work that you give away. Nor does it mean you shouldn’t attend free events. There are social currencies that can be just as meaningful as money.
For an author, there are two types of content you might release for free with the hope of building your audience.
- Short content on a website
- blog articles about inspirations
- short stories set in the worlds of your books
- character biographies or histories of the lands/worlds you’ve created
- The first book in a series of three or more
- in other industries this would be known as the loss leader — it allows readers to see if they enjoy your writing (and hopefully become hooked). The ones that do will become your core fans.
Your goal with any free content or events you attend is to demonstrate value for your audience so they return to you when your next book is ready.
However, now that you’ve got your book and you’ve started creating free additional content for your audience, what’s next?
Connecting with an audience is what most people think of when they consider marketing and promotion. Without question, it is at the heart of your outreach strategies. But if it’s so important, why do so many authors get it wrong?
Connecting with your audience effectively is much more than just asking people to buy your book. You are:
- finding people who are receptive to the story of your book
- presenting them with your book
- convincing them your book is something of value to them
- creating a meaningful connection with those people so they want to buy your future books
- continuing to provide them with content meaningful to them
When connecting with your audience, it’s important to realise that you are bringing them two stories.
- your Story (i.e. your novel)
- Your story (i.e. the story of how you wrote it and, if relevant, your life journey to the point of becoming an author)
While casual readers are generally not very interested in (2), anyone who becomes a fan will be. In addition, it’s worth spending some time crafting Your story into an interesting tale because you will be asked about it during almost any interview regarding your writing.
We are fortunate to be living in a time when there are a huge number of avenues the individual indie author can use for promotion. Just a few of these include:
- social media
- e-mail lists & newsletters
- live events (less common at the moment, but the online landscape will be adapting to create a more realworld environment for this soon).
Whether you use your favourite social media platforms, or providing content for multi-author platforms like our Indie Book Showcase, you need to provide a consistant image and consistant content. This helps your audience connect with you as a person in addition to connecting with your books.
One of the great things about being an author is that it’s not a zero sum industry. If a reader loves one type of book by one author, odds are they’ll also love — and read — similar stories by other authors.
Therefore, collaborating with other authors, and sharing their audience, is a great way to grow your own audience.
Collaboration comes in many forms. A few examples are:
Nor do you have to collaborate strictly with other authors. It almost goes without saying that there is a huge indie network of book bloggers/vloggers/podcasters who are desperate to find authors to interview/review.
As indie authors increasingly realise the value in a strong, unified voice — both for sharing information and for negotiating with larger segments of the industry — it becomes easier to find other indie creators.
Groups like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLI) and the Society of Authors are leading the way, but gradually more regional groups are being created as a way to foster face-to-face connections with authors living in a common area.
And if no such organizations exist in your area, you can always create one!
The 3Cs of book marketing and promotion are a general guide. They represent the three major categories of activities an indie author (and, indeed, any author) needs to be doing to succeed. How you go about fulfilling the task within each category is largely up to you, although we have some suggestions (see some of our other articles).
But what about you? Which part do you find challenging to stay focused on? How do you manage your time so that you can both write and promote? What are your favourite ways to reach out to other authors? to other indie book professionals?
We’d love to hear from you on our FaceBook page the Utility Fog Forum, where you can leave your thoughts on this and many other topics.