Note: I revised this article today with this addendum about an annoying requirement in joining BooksGoSocial to promote my new novel. In the body of this article – published here last week – I declared that I would try BooksGoSocial. Today I changed my mind and will shop elsewhere. Here’s why: It appears that BooksGoSocial is PayPal exclusive – you must have a PayPal account.You can use a regular credit card but you must have it processed through PayPal. This is a big turn-off to many customers. I know this from experience. I once had a stand-alone-store for which I paid $40 monthly for nearly a year until I finally figured out why I was getting such low sales: apparently customers would get all the way to the purchase point after spending who-knows-how-much time figuring out which items they wanted before realizing they had to either use a PayPal credit card account that they already had or needed to set one up and then use either PayPal cards or another credit card. Either way, PayPal was doing the processing and the customer was given no real choice. Beware.
By Gary Dorion
(Updated for my current book, “Jack: Part One in the Trilogy,” published August 20, 2015)
A friend of mine once gave me some very valuable advice when I was starting out in a retail business in Portsmouth, N.H., some years ago: “You’ve got to keep shooting.” I’ve relied upon that wise saying for the multiple businesses I’ve been involved with since that time. True, sometimes you have to stop when it is clear that you are just “throwing good money after bad.” It’s sometimes difficult to tell when to quit one approach to start another. But with the tremendous changes in publishing that have occurred in just a few years, it is clear to me that independent writers/publishers must wander down many marketing avenues before, during and after publishing a book.
If you are swimming in money you can hire promoters to market your book but, if you are like most of us, you need to do as much self-promotion and marketing as you can. Right now I am considering a $119 book promo from a company called BooksGoSocial who claim to be able to tweet one’s book details to a half-million followers with a 60-day satisfaction guarantee. Of course the company doesn’t guarantee sales but it does guarantee a minimum number of “hits” on one’s Amazon page. But this sounds like a good deal. I’m considering the mid-priced package and also another $99 for the company to do a book video trailer (about 30-45 seconds). Here are the online details for the mid-level package I’m thinking about: (READ NOTE ABOVE. I HAVE DECIDED AGAINST USING BOOKS-GO-SOCIAL)
- 1. Includes three weeks of daily Tweets, at least 6 a day, to our 518,456+ real followers
- 2. A web page for your book on the 100k hits a year BooksGoSocial.com site
- 3. 1 year of membership. No further payment required
- 4. Facebook promotions & email promotions for 1 year. We send 180,000+ emails a year! Your book will be posted to our 9,429 member Facebook Reader group when your promotion starts
- 5. Guaranteed minimum of 1,050 hits to your book’s Amazon page – independently tracked
- 6. Global book promotion service. 50% of our followers are in the U.S., 20% are in the U.K., 30% rest of the world
Sounds like a win-win, right?
Many of the experts in social media book marketing say that an email list for potential customers to join is absolutely essential. I joined in a great webinar last week hosted by Joel Friedlander with guest Yaro Starak. There is ample free information in this recording that I am linking here: How to sell Thousands of Copies of Your Book Using Your Blog. But the course – which I would take if I had an extra $900 plus in my budget – is not inexpensive. These guys, however, claim to have a formula that works. Bascially, your blog is used as a funnel to attract readers, get them to join your email list, and then market your book to them. Of course you need a targeted email list. If your targeted market is high school students who like to read historical fiction and English/humanities teachers who would be the ones who would select such books, then you don’t want to target rock stars and their followers for your email list.
Once you decide on your target audience – it should be narrow in scope, so say the experts – then how do you find these people? And how to you stop yourself from annoying them? Well, if for instance part of your audience are teachers, then, go to their Twitter websites and see who they follow and who follows them. You can follow them and later send links to them for your blog. But you also have to offer high quality content – material that a teacher would find useful – not just one time but every time the teacher visits your site. Keep it fresh. Recycle older posts if you have to but freshen them up – make them current!
If your product is custom high quality furniture that sells between $1000 and $14000, then more than likely apartment tenants would not be your target audience but people who buy Mercedes cars might be. You have to really define who you are marketing to or you will definitely miss the mark. You’ve set up a great blog, you’ve gotten your first premium WordPress site, you’ve positioned a “follow this blog by email” button on your blog, but, instead of shooting your arrow at the target you’ve mindlessly turned around to shoot at some trees.
The writing is only the first half on the way to publishing success. You need to be the force that connects your book to your identified audience. I say “identified” because, if you don’t have a very good idea who you are trying to sell to, then your business plan needs attention in a major way. Don’t have a business plan? Okay, well you need to start on your marketing plan or your book will be dead in the water. No-one else, really, is going to do the basic leg-work. Nobody knows your book like you do. You invested all of this time in the writing and maybe the editing and revision. If you just tell yourself, ‘my book is great and my readers will recognize it because the cream comes to the top!’ – then you’re dreaming and you need a reality check. You need to study the expert book marketers. Really, do yourself a big favor and start with:
a) Joanna Penn: https://twitter.com/thecreativepenn
B) Kimberley Grabas: http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/book-launch-page-must-haves/
C) Joel Friedlander: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/
D) Yaro Starak: http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/about/
CreateSpace – an Amazon company – can be a valuable resource that can get you professional results if you are willing to invest the time into learning book design and marketing. I have published all of my books through Create Space and I have done everything from writing the book, telling my illustrators specifically what I want, designing and formatting the book, learning everything I can about the quirks of Microsoft Word, and marketing all of this on numerous of my websites in addition to news media and selling it in my retail stores.
CreateSpace has numerous resources and tools that can guide you along in the process of putting out your own book for very little money. They also will do a minimum amount of marketing. You must build your author pages on various web sites including your Amazon site, set up a blog and/or web site toward which to drive social media and other contacts, and send out press releases. Use Mailchimp – a free email service – or similar to start your email list.
I provide press release services if interested ($40/hour) and I had my own news business for more than ten years in which I wrote articles for some 40 Metropolitan Boston client newspapers and the Associated Press. Contact me at email@example.com if I can be of assistance. I also can review your developing book or book plan at reasonable rates – $25-$55/hour.
One of the major problems you could expect with getting your book reviewed by newspapers is the expense of providing hard copies to those media. Many newspapers want two books. You would think that, in this day of digital publishing, news editors would wake up to the needs of independent writers who aren’t usually loaded with funds – otherwise they likely would not be independent writers/publishers, right? I haven’t seen any newspapers yet that accept PDF digital copies of books for review which would cost the writer almost nothing. As happened with the major New York publishers, newspapers will, I predict, eventually incur the wrath of an increasingly powerful mass of independent writers who now are made to jump needlessly through extraneous financial and other ridiculous hurdles even though they may have a great book. Someday – and I hope it will be soon – writers won’t have to be at the mercy of book publishers, newspapers, magazines and agents to get their product to the reader. Writing – like art – should be accessible without the gatekeeper trivialities and maybe the continued development of the internet will render them all anachronisms.
But we’re dealing with reality here and, as independents, the marketing begins during the writing process and must become more intensive as you move forward and particularly in the first few weeks and months after you have published the work. Once you put out the book, you must work harder! It’s like giving birth to a baby. You don’t quit at birth! I’m still paying $1200/month for my daughter to go to UConn. Apparently it doesn’t end – the book promotion that is.
For many years of my writing life I found marketing distasteful but – having been forced to learn marketing as a survival tool – I’ve now really like it and I have studied it for thousands of hours.
The day that you publish isn’t the day that you get to sit back on your butt and say, “great, I’ve finally made it.” No, this is the time when you have to work harder so that you do justice to your creation. This is the time that an independent writer needs “to keep shooting.” If one thing doesn’t work, you need to believe in your product and try another approach. In fact, you need to try numerous approaches concurrently. However, some approaches do not bear fruit for weeks, months or more. Social media, for instance, looks like a great vehicle through which to directly connect with your potential readership and this can happen. But it seems that everyone on Twitter or LinkedIn is trying to promote their own thing and so a shotgun approach – trying multiple advertising avenues – is very likely going to be necessary. It is not enough to tweet.
But – and I stress, you must have great content – you don’t want to what I call the Blitzkrieg approach to selling your book or promoting your blog. Just this morning I had to click the “report spam” button on my g-mail because two full pages were taken up by the same blogger who decided it was a good time to recycle dozens of his posts over the last year or two. Some or many may have been great but I’m not going to listen to anyone who bombards me with that kind of promotion. If I learned one lesson from my own semi-blitzkriegs – it’s very tempting, you know, especially when I was a newbie way back – to just keep sending emails and tweets that say, essentially, “Buy my book! Buy my book!”
You must take the subtle approach – I didn’t say bury your creation – and let your book lie on the sidelines or – such as how I (subtly I hope) – weaved some of my own book promotion into the fabric of this post. Good luck with your promotions and remember to “keep shooting!”