Deciding how to advertise your book can be overwhelming. Many authors who self-publish have had success targeting their books to specific audiences and demographics, but just as many have done well with a blanket approach. Finding out what works for you may be a matter of trial and error.
Here are some of ways you may choose to go about advertising your book to potential readers.
Advertising your book on Facebook can be enormously successful. Some authors, like Adam Croft, do most of their advertising on Facebook. As Adam said in an interactive Guardian discussion, “I’ve used an enormous range of audiences. I’ve spent six figures on Facebook advertising over the past few months and have something like 20 or 30 audiences running at any given time. I’ve done everything from tiny audiences to huge ones. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’d say experiment and see what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something different, either. You might be surprised.”
The usual strategy for Facebook ads is to choose an author whose work you feel a kinship with. You target your book’s ads to people who already “like” that author’s work, or even a specific book. You can also specify an age range, or a group of associated likes and geographic locations.
More information on advertising your book on Facebook can be found in this Publisher’s Weekly article, “A Guide for Indie Authors.”
While it isn’t a prerequisite, having an audience on Twitter can make it much easier to advertise your work there. There is a thriving community of writers on Twitter; start by following anyone whose work you admire, and make tweets and replies of your own to build up a group of interested followers.
As with Facebook, you can narrow and hone your advertising audience on Twitter using keywords, topics, and demographics. One advantage Twitter advertising seems to have is the ability to open up a conversation more readily with readers. Aside from advertising, you can use Twitter to organize read-alongs, book tours, and the like. It’s also a great way to learn from successful authors about how they spend their time and energy.
This Publisher’s Weekly article offers more information on using Twitter to advertise your book.
Every self-published author should be on Goodreads. Unlike “traditional” author websites and social media platforms, Goodreads offers a reputable place for you to share events like book signings and hold giveaways to get people talking about your book. Goodreads has over 55 million users, many of whom use the site’s recommendations system to find new things to read. If your book is successful on Goodreads, you can count on finding new readers who are willing to go out of their way to get their hands on a good book.
For more on using Goodreads to promote your book, read their post on joining the Goodreads author program, or this post from Author Media that also covers the use of Goodreads’s Listopia feature and more.
One of the first things you’ll want to do when your books are printed is send copies to reviewers. This involves several fairly easy steps:
1) Develop a list of potential (and relevant) reviewers. While you may wish to include reviewers from national papers, don’t get your hopes too high; papers like the New York Times hardly ever review self-published books. Instead, concentrate on local papers and magazines (where you can use the “home-town” angle), and magazines that focus on the same special-interest subject area as your book. (Use the Writer’s Market to locate magazines related to your topic area.) If your book is fiction, you may have a tough time getting reviews — but look for publications that cover, or publish, the same type of fiction. Also, don’t overlook online sources; in addition to sites that provide general book reviews, many special-interest sites that relate to your topic can also provide reviews, and a good source of sales. (Often, such sites will add your book into its electronic “bookstore” — usually an associate program with an online store such as Amazon.com — which is likely to increase your sales.)
2) Create a set of mailing labels for all reviewers. If you don’t have the address of the publication, e-mail or call to ask for one. (Often, you don’t need to know the name of the actual book reviewer at a particular publication; just address your package to “Book Review Editor”.)
3) Develop a press release to accompany your book. Your release should have a brief description of the book, plus all necessary information for ordering. It should include:
The name of your publishing house
The book’s ISBN
The number of pages
Any additional ordering information, such as a toll-free number, website, etc.
In many cases, your press release may actually be published as the book’s “review,” so take time to prepare a good one. Write a clear, concise description of the book, emphasizing its benefits to the reader. Avoid hype at all costs; don’t puff and praise your own book. Write in third person: “John Smith’s book on Nantucket cuisine,” not “My book on Nantucket cuisine”. Feel free to “quote” yourself: “John Smith notes that ‘Nantucket cuisine offers a fascinating variety of flavors and ingredients.'” Include a brief list of your credentials for writing the book.
4) Prepare “advance review copies,” if possible. Some library and bookstore trade publications require “advance” copies — copies that are produced before the book is actually “on the market.” Commercial publishers are able to prepare galley proofs or uncorrected advance printings for reviewers; you, however, will probably have only a single print run. One option is to have stickers printed that state “advance review copy” and paste them on the covers of your review books. If, however, you want to start selling your book as soon as it comes off the press, you may simply have to do without reviewers who require a book six months in advance.
5) Mail the books in high-quality mailing envelopes, with professionally typed labels (preferably preprinted with your company name and address).
6) Sit back and wait. Some reviewers will never respond; others may take months (or even years) to review your book. When your book is reviewed, the publication will usually send you a tearsheet of the review; you can then use those comments (presuming they’re positive!) in your ongoing promotional efforts. Don’t bother following up; no reviewer wants to hear from a self-publisher asking “are you going to review my book?” (If you have to call, the answer is likely to be NO.)
7) Don’t stop looking for reviewers. It doesn’t matter how old your book is — there’s always someone who hasn’t seen it yet. Look for writers who cover your topic, or columnists. Every review creates more potential sales.
8) Don’t be “cheap” about the number of books you “give away.” It’s common for self-publishers to start out with the idea that a book “given away” is a book that isn’t sold — i.e., a book that doesn’t produce revenue. The reality is just the opposite: Every book you “give away” is likely to lead to more sales — ten, twenty, or more. The value of a good review is far higher than the revenue you might have earned on a single book. And you never know where a book “given away” may lead; it may go to a person who wants to order fifty copies for a professional organization or a support group or a class. Instead of thinking of every book you give away as a “missed sale,” think of every book you don’t give away as a lost opportunity.
If you know of any experts or noteworthy authors in your field who would be willing to review your book before it is produced, contact these individuals and ask them (nicely) if they’d be willing to review your manuscript. This is not a critique process; you are seeking actual review comments, which you can then include on the back cover (or first inside page) of your book. Contact people who know you and are familiar with your work; don’t “hit up” total strangers for reviews. These pre-press reviews can also serve as an excellent promotion and marketing tool before your book is even off the press. Be sure to thank everyone who reviews your book, and make sure that they receive a copy of the printed edition.