Taking more inspiration from the brilliant Book Connectors Facebook group, I wanted to answer some questions about what sort of marketing/publicity things writers can do for themselves. Previously, I wrote about what a publishing house can do for you, and this post will cover some of the things you can do to add to that.
- Grow your Facebook following. Facebook is still one of the largest tools we have for connecting with a wide platform – although other mediums such as Twitter and Instagram are obviously having lots of success too, Facebook still tends to be the best way of getting your book seen by as many people as possible. If you don’t already have an author page, create one. An author page is important because it allows you to run Facebook adverts (more on that later). Facebook is great because you’re not restricted to a character limit as you are with Twitter, so there are more opportunities for you to share your writing life and deliver interesting content to your audience. Mine is still in pretty early stages, but if you have a look at more established authors, you will see that content is key – make your page somewhere readers want to visit by posting snapshots of your writing process, giving writing tips, running giveaways, supporting other authors and encouraging readers by responding to their comments and messages. An author Facebook page will also allow readers to private message you if you choose to keep that function on, and this can be a nice way to hear from people who have enjoyed your book (NB there may be the odd negative message – just don’t engage!)
- Run Facebook advertising. For this, you need an author page. Facebook adverts are used by large publishing houses as well because they allow you to tailor your audience, so that the only people seeing your ad are those who are likely to be interested in your book. For example, you can start with the broader things such as location – if you’ve only sold UK & Commonwealth rights you probably don’t need to advertise to people in the US yet, and then you can narrow it right down so that you’re targeting people who like psychological thrillers, watch Doctor Foster, own a Kindle, work part-time, etc. etc. Once you begin setting up your ad, you will see that there are lots of different filters that let you build your own audience, and you can then edit that audience at any time. Once you’ve set up your audience, you create your actual advert. Facebook doesn’t like images that contain too much text, so it’s best to have a single image of your book cover on a background, and then use the Facebook boxes to add text above and below the ad (it will prompt you to do this). You need a ‘call to action’ (usually ‘shop now’) which drives readers to your Amazon/iBooks/wherever page, and if the price of your book is cheap, I’d suggest making sure this is included in one of the headlines too. If you have any good quotes from authors or readers, you could include those in the text above your advert. I’ll be honest, it isn’t the most user-friendly experience in the whole world, but Facebook should walk you through it and once you get the hang of it, it’s easy! You then will need to decide on a budget for your ads, and how long you want them to run for (suggest 2-3 days depending on your budget.) Once Facebook approves your ad, it will then run from your author page and at the end of the ad running time, you’ll receive a summary of how many link clicks you had, and your cost per link (the lower this is, the better really). You can also see how well your ad is performing as it’s running by going into your ‘manage adverts’ tab on your author Facebook page.
- Run giveaways. Running competitions on social media is quite a fun way to engage with readers and spread the word about your book – I ran recently asking people what their favourite childhood toys were (because my book is about a doll house) and had some good results. Encourage people to RT, and use your book hashtag, and try to reply to the comments if you can. You could start your giveaway at 8am, as people are going to work, and close it by announcing a winner at 5pm. You can then email the winner and send them a physical or e version of your book. It’s nice to be creative with these and I think Twitter is a good medium if you have a decent following.
- Connect with other authors. I’ve been invited to join some lovely Facebook groups recently, including The Book Club, The Fiction Writers’ Cafe, The Book Connectors and a couple more. Everybody in these groups is really supportive and they’re nice places to ‘meet’ other authors, who might be going through the same things as you are. They’re full of advice, encouragement, tips and events, so I’d suggest requesting to join one or more if you want to get involved. Sometimes these events will also have Facebook Live sessions – I did one of these with the Fiction Cafe and it was really good fun (despite my internet cutting out halfway through!) It’s in 2 parts if you want to watch it in the group, and lots of brilliant authors have taken part in these as well so it’s very interesting to watch other writers discuss how they work.
- Encourage people to post Amazon reviews. The way Amazon works is it will favour novels who have garnered 50+ reviews, and it’s algorithm is more likely to give those books higher visibility. I know it can be a bit cringe doing this, but it’s worth asking family and friends to do a quick review if they’ve bought the book, and explaining to them how helpful reviews are to writers (not everyone realises this). If you’ve had a blog tour, you can also ask the bloggers to transfer their reviews across to Amazon and they’re always so nice and helpful about that sort of thing too.
- Experiment with Twitter advertising. Not everybody swears by this, as it’s sometimes not as effective as Facebook, but I wanted to add it on as it’s something I’ve tried recently and I’ve been happily surprised by the click through rate – so worth giving it a go if you want to. Again, it will let you choose your audience and narrow your categories in much the same way as Facebook, and it will walk you through the guidelines fairly easily.
- Contact magazines with short stories. Quite a few weekly magazines are happy to hear from authors rather than going through publicists, so draft an email which you can send out which briefly introduces yourself, gives a short (1 paragraph, no more!) blurb about your book and ask if there are any opportunities for short stories – you might be pleasantly surprised!
- Ask other writers to read your book. It can sometimes really help if your book is endorsed by an established writer, and although often authors may not have the time to read your book, if you know them or have a connection with them, you’re allowed to ask (as long as you do it politely and understand you may get a no!) Definitely don’t hassle anyone into reading your book, but if you think another author may enjoy it and you admire their work too, you could politely ask if they have time to have a look as you never know – they may love it! Endorsements from authors are often reassuring to readers, and could make a difference between someone deciding to take a chance on your book or not.
- Visit local bookshops and libraries. This is easier if you have a physical copy of your book, but one of the things I encourage my authors to do (as an editor) is take proofs of their book into their local stores and ask if they can leave a copy behind. Local bookshops can be brilliant at getting behind authors, so it never hurts to ask – in the past I have had authors do this and the result has been an entire table dedicated to their book! That doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice to introduce yourself as a local author, buy a book (!) and leave your details in case they want to get in touch. You could volunteer to do an author talk if they’d be interested, too. While this sort of thing won’t always pay off, if you have the time and are brave enough, I think it’s a good idea. You never know – you might meet the member of staff who absolutely loves crime thrillers and decides to showcase your book with a little review card – it does happen, I promise. Plus, supporting local bookshops is always a good thing.
- Check out Pigeonhole. This is a digital marketing company which I am trying for the first time with my book – they serialise your book over ten days and it is FREE for readers to sign up to! I think it’s a very interesting premise and worth having a look at (promise I don’t work for them!!) As an author, I will be able to share extra content with the readers who sign up, and reply to their comments as they read the book in real time (slightly scary, but fun!). My serialisation starts on Monday and there are about 30 slots left of 350 so if you want to see how it works, have a look and get in touch with their team if you want to try it for your own book. You do have to pay to use it for your own book, but the team will be able to explain the pricing to you and how it all works.
I hope these tips are helpful, and if you have any questions or comments, just pop them below! It might seem as though there is a lot of hard work involved in some of the suggestions above, but honestly once you get into it it’s not too time-consuming really, and I’m always of the belief that every little helps.
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