OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
As I write, the book has spent 36 days in the Top 100 sold overall on Amazon.co.uk, oscillating between #1 and #2, a place I'm sure many of us would love to be! It's also #1 in Thrillers and British Detectives.
When I first launched Only the Innocent I literally had no idea what the next few months had in store for me. I honestly believed that it all came down to uploading my Word file to Amazon (big mistake), and then waiting for the sales to come rolling in (bigger mistake).
It became clear to me from my early research that :
- I needed to take more care with my book than just uploading it as a Word file
- I would actually need to do some marketing
- There is a seriously massive amount of information on the web to help with all this.
When it comes down to it, though, there are a three key factors that will help you to market your book effectively.
The way in which your book is formatted will be key to how your book is judged by some readers. It is rare that a Word file uploaded without any tweaking will come out as a professional looking book. So spend some time getting this right.
The cover is so important too. I have seen many debates about this – do you judge a book by its cover? Well, hopefully the answer is “no” – but with so many books to choose from, you need something that will attract attention. The decision to buy may be based on the product description or on reviews, but you need to catch the eye of the potential purchaser to start with.
Everything that you do should be about taking a professional approach – even the way that you ask for reviews is important. The reviewer will immediately have a view of you based on your approach.
Think of yourself as a professional, and it will become natural to work in this way.
Some of my top tips relate to social media. Don’t do as I did – only start marketing after the book is published. Be prepared for the big day, and build yourself followers and a community of interested people. Consider sending out pre-release copies to reviewers too – having some early reviews could make a big difference.
This is the key to it all. Your book needs to be visible. Amazon has loads of ways of making your book visible, and you need to exploit them all as far as you can. One of the best periods for doing this is in the first 30 days after your book is published. A lot of people check out new releases, and you need to increase visibility here. Those pre-release review requests could do it – if there are some ready to go immediately after launch. This is a time to push your sales as hard as you can. You are looking to get your book linked to others – as in “customers who bought <this book> also bought <your book>”. Think of ways of maximizing that visibility, and build it into your preparation.
These are the underlying principles. What actions can you take that might make a difference?
(1) Prepare a marketing plan
Start this well in advance of launch of your book. A plan will keep you focused. Break your plan into sections : Channels (eg Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords), Social Networking (eg Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Forums), Web presence (eg. Blog, website). You may want to include a PR section, or a face to face section (which I can’t do because I live in Italy).
For each section of your plan, identify the issue, and create a action list. For example, under Amazon the issue was visibility, and my action list included Listmania lists, Author Central, etc.
Give yourself a time limit for each activity on a daily or weekly basis so that you don’t get completely carried away with just one task.
(2) Request reviews
Get yourself well prepared with a list of reviewers. There are a huge number of websites that offer reviews of books, so have the list ready and make some inquiries. Create a professional review request document – it takes a bit of time, but once you’ve done it, it’s always ready to send. It should include an image of your book cover, your book blurb, and details such as genre, number of words, etc. Do this before release, if you can, but if your book’s already been released you can use the opportunity to include any review extracts that seem appropriate, and list where the book can be purchased.
(3) Create a polished product
This is where the professionalism mentioned above comes in. Make sure that your final product looks as if it has come from a professional publishing house.
(4) Write a really good blurb
This is what goes onto Amazon (and elsewhere) and you might upload it at the same time as your book in the first instance. But then make sure you have joined Author Central and go into the US version. There are various options that enable you to edit your blurb so that it looks more professional, such as bold face and italics. So make that look as good as possible, and make sure it includes some of your best reviews – if you have any.
(5) Think carefully about your categories
When I launched Only the Innocent, I just put it in the Thriller category. That’s what it is! But one thing that made a big difference was narrowing those categories down. Look at the subsections in the main categories, and see if your book fits into any of them. Mine is in British Detectives, and as soon as I put it in that category, it showed up in the charts – and then it’s all back to visibility! If it’s in any charts at all, the visibility increases.
(6) Create tags for your book
Some people think the tags on your book are irrelevant – but they’re not! And we’re back to visibility again (now you know why I wanted to talk about it!). Amazon frequently displays “similar” books – and although they could just do this by genre, the evidence suggests that they do this by tags. But think of fairly unique tags, or look at books that you would like to be linked to, and see what their tags are. If their tags apply to your books (and ONLY if they do) add those tags. Then try to encourage people to click to agree with your tags. But no funny stuff, please! I looked at my tags the other day, and people had added tags – the names of their own books.
(7) Use social networking wisely
I have never been a huge Facebook fan, but if you are, then look at how it might help you. For me, Twitter was the way forward. You will find many people who will claim that Twitter doesn’t result in sales. Okay – it may not be responsible for huge volumes of sales, but in the early days you are interested in the ones and the twos. You need to find the right sorts of followers – the ones that follow other authors that write in a similar genre. There are tools like TweetAdder that will help you with this. You name a Twitter account, and it will find all the followers of that person. It will then (over time) automatically follow these people for you, on the basis that a lot will follow back (if you’ve made your Twitter personal info interesting enough).
(8) Get chatting
Use the forums – Goodreads, Amazon – there are plenty of them around that are designed for people who love to read. Set up a thread about your book, and get to know people. I have enjoyed so much the chat with readers that it actually distracts me from writing (which is why, of course, you need a marketing plan with timescales!). Some of them will read your book, and if they like it they will recommend it on other forums too.
(9) Web presence
Think about your own web presence. I have a website which is really aimed at readers, and a blog which I write for other authors. You don’t have to do it this way. You could write about other books in your genre, get guest posts from authors. One author that I know actually writes about cooking, with a recipe once a week. You have to write about something that you love, or you won’t keep doing it.
(10) Which bits hurt?
This is less of a tip, more of a warning. When I reached #1 on Amazon UK, a well known author contacted me and said it was time to develop a thick skin. He said that this is when all the nasty reviews start. Until then, I had only had 4 and 5 star reviews – and found it hard to believe that people would just choose to try undermine the success of an author. But he was right. The scams are relatively easy to spot, because they have normally never written another review. But if you do start to get them, make a decision to read the ones that appear genuine, learn from them and take them in your stride. And ignore the others. Don’t take it personally – they’re not criticising you, they’re commenting on your book.
If you’ve written a book and published it, it’s a massive achievement. Be very proud, and accept that you can’t please everybody.
Good luck with your writing, and I wish you every success with your marketing.
Rachel Abbott is the author of the #1 bestseller Only the Innocent which is available from Amazon.com and Amazon UK as well as in other formats. Her blog is designed to help other indie authors through the maze of publishing, including a new series of posts entitled Hitting the #1 spot on Amazon : A Killer Plan or Lady Luck? and her website provides information on her writing.