We see hundreds of indie and self-published books every month here at City Book Review. Some authors are just testing the waters with their book; others take their publishing as a professional commitment. We get so many questions on how they can better prepare their book, sell more copies, or reach more review or publication outlets.
So we asked more than 1,000 professional publicists the most important thing they think every indie author should do when publishing a book. We were blown away with more than 100 responses in 48 hours. So here are a good selection of different ideas – from editing and cover design to marketing plans and launch parties. We have so many ideas left over that we made a bonus collection of them if you sign up on our Author Marketing email list (about once a month we send you a roundup of tips and suggestions for marketing yourself and your book) and we’ll probably make a part two of this post sometime soon. We’re also preparing a series of upcoming webinars covering many of these ideas in more depth (join the email list to get those announcements too.)
Each suggestion is organized into categories, and we also shared the publicist’s info. We hope these marketing tips for indie authors is helpful to you or other authors you know.
Start Thinking About Book Marketing Soon Rather Than Later
To get the most bang for your marketing-and-publicity dollars, a professional book publicist needs to start working on the promotional campaign BEFORE publication date. In order to make deadlines for the media, some require submission 3-4 months before publication. Calling a publicist after publication date to help with your title is often too late.”
Invest editorially in your manuscript.
Participate in writing groups, use your critique partnerships, and take the time to thoughtfully revise your work. If you have the room in your budget, you can commission manuscript critiques, ranging from developmental editing to line editing. (You don’t have to pay for editorial services in order to produce a have a good book, but it is an option.)”
Elizabeth Singer Hunt
Published Children’s Book Author (Hachette)
Before you move into the production of your book, you should first get feedback on your manuscript. This can either be done formally (where you solicit feedback from strangers and offer to pay them for their input) or informally (where you ask your friends, family and/ or their children to provide feedback over nibbles and refreshments). Note, you’ll need to share your manuscript ahead of time. Since some folks are reluctant to provide their true feelings, you might want to give them an anonymous questionnaire. Remember, sometimes the criticisms are hard to take, but they are important. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money developing and printing your self-published book and you want to make sure that it gets the attention that it deserves. ”
Let your first draft sit for awhile.
Don’t publish your first draft. Let it age for a while. Think about it, re-read it, think about it some more. Make changes and edits as needed. The biggest mistake I see self-published authors make is rushing to publication. What’s the hurry? Let it simmer a bit before clicking the button.”
Sarah Ann Shockley
Any Roads Press
Read your manuscript aloud.
Reading your manuscript out loud can really help you catch some of these things. I will often read a section into a Quicktime recording file, then listen back with a critical ear. Be willing to be ruthless with yourself. Rewrite or cut text as needed to make your manuscript more accessible and clear. Editing one, two, three or even four times over will be well worth the time you put into it–you’ll have a much tighter, more professional product.”
There’s no substitute for professional book editing.
After putting months, if not years, into a manuscript don’t leave this critically important step up to proofing software or an inexperienced editor (i.e. your daughter who recently graduated with an English degree or your best friend’s spouse who writes a nifty blog.) Having a book in the marketplace that hasn’t been edited according to Chicago Manual of Style and is riddled with grammar, punctuation and spelling errors is a red flag to book reviewers, buyers and the media and will quickly ruin an author’s credibility. ”
Do NOT ever skimp on professional editing.
A professional editor is not your best friend who is a high school English teacher. You need an editor who is experienced in book publishing for both content and line edits, not just proofing. No author is so great a writer that they do not need to be edited if for no other reason than the writer knows what it is supposed to say, so therefore may not catch mistakes. What you write may make sense to you, but it may not make sense to the reader. It’s one of the first question I ask when screening queries, and it’s the first thing that turns me off when starting to read.”
Don’t rely on a friend to edit your book.
Always be sure your book is professionally edited. It is important to take your time when publishing a book and be sure that it has been fully edited by a professional editor. Never rely on a friend or family member to edit your book. You always want to go with the best editor you can find or afford. Remember, a book is like a pearl. No matter how long it takes to cultivate, you want it to be the very best pearl created. This is the only true way to get noticed.”
Your book title is everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it’s really important.
Spend (almost) more time on your title than your book.
Titles are headlines. Almost spend more time on your title than on your book. Headlines can grab attention. How-to’s work; short, snappy main title/headline with a provoking secondary headline/title work. You care about your book but nobody else does. Write a headline that MAKES them interested. Than back it up with a solid book that delivers.”
Do your homework before finalizing your title
Titling is key. This is especially true for nonfiction. I’ve seen many self-published books with titles that might have seemed cute or catchy to an author (or relate to a motif the author’s using), but tell the reader absolutely nothing about the content. When picking a title, do your homework. Go through the competitive titles for your book. Why do you think one sells more than another? What stands out about the title? What keywords does it use that also describe your book? How can you make your title stronger so that readers buy your book over another on a similar topic? Focus on content, not cleverness. Titles can make a first impression as strongly as a cover. Do yourself a favor and make it a good one.”
Get your book reviewed
Use NetGalley for early buzz
Submit your ebook to NetGalley.com at least 6 weeks before your publication date because they reach thousands of bloggers, media book reviewers and others who use NetGalley as a resource for finding new books to review.”
Seek advice from industy pros
Seek advice from people with industry experience before you publish. If you don’t have money to spend, go to your librarian, or to your local bookseller and show them your cover and interior. Industry people will tell you if a book “looks” self-published, a judgment you want to avoid even as you embrace indie authorship. Traditional publishing is the gold standard to which all indie authors must aspire, and people who work around books can give you pointers or tell you if you’re on the right track or not. If you can afford it, consider hiring a coach or paying an expert for a single consult. Level the playing field for indie authors starts with publishing well.”
Get your book reviewed
City Book Review (publishers of San Francisco, Manhattan, and Seattle Book Reviews and Kids’ BookBuzz) have been professionally reviewing books since 2008. A well-respected outlet for reviews and author services.
Have a professionally designed book.
Don’t be afraid of white space.
Margins, leading, and kerning all help to make a book more visually appealing and reduce the strain on the reader’s eye. White space between sections is like a breath that allows the reader a moment before the next section begins. What is not on the page can be as important as what is on the page.”
Make sure your book is polished and attractive
Making sure your finished product is polished and attractive to publishers, book buyers and consumers! If you’re trying to self-publish enlist the help of friends to be your editors: check proofreading, grammar, correct citations. Is the topic of your book interesting. Make sure the cover art is attractive, the title engaging, the quality of paper stock has a nice feel/weight to it. Ask for honest opinions and go over your book two dozen times if need be so that the final product is as picture perfect as possible! You get one chance to make a lasting first impression. If the cover, title and overall look of your package is engaging enough, you just might make the cut!”
Need a designer?
With more than 9 years of experience in the book industry, we know how to design covers that sell. Hire us to either redesign or design your book cover.
Price your book appropriately.
Price your fiction ebooks at $2.99
Price your fiction ebooks at $2.99. You have no overhead and as a self-pubbed author, you won’t be making money based on the dollar/book value, you will make money on the volume of total sales. Take advantage of free days and promos and periodically price your book at .99. Having worked as a book publicist for Amazon Publishing, I am certain that small releases have the best odds at the lowest price point. A last note: some authors worry that a low price point will cheapen the reputation of their book, particularly in paper sales, but to a certain extent the opposite is true. Nothing is more obviously print on demand than a paperback selling for $25.”
Offer your book for free for promotions
I recommend offering the eBook edition of your book for free (or a dollar or two) for a period of time on Amazon and the other major book e-tailer sites. As an unknown author, there is a lot of risk involved for the reader. They do not want to invest money to take a chance on a book that might not end up to be good. Offering it for free eliminates that risk and gives more people the opportunity to read your book, tell others, and hopefully post a review. Be sure to tell eBook specials sites about your sale so that they can list it online. There are many, many sites/blogs/social media accounts like this online (Google it) and most of them will not charge you. The only place I would highly recommend that you spend money to promote your eBook special with is BookBub (www.bookbub.com). They are highly selective in what specials they will promote in their e-newsletters, but if your book is chosen, your eBook sale will get a ton of exposure and it will be worth the cost of advertising.”
Host a spectacular book launch.
Celebrate launch day with an event
Call it a tip or call it advice, but when you self-publish you may enjoy a nice launch day if you have secured a venue and invited friends, friends of friends, and family, and they buy your book. What happens on day two? You see, your book is like your child. You don’t just give him or her attention for a day or two, and then start working on the next child. When you are a self-published author, you absolutely must build momentum from day one. Your launch may be over, but that is just the beginning. If you want your book to be successful, you can never stop feeding the marketing monster. Think of your newly launched book as an infant. You feed it, bathe it, clothe it, send it to school, teach him or her to ride a bicycle, and on and on the nurturing goes. Well before your book is released, become a Goodreads author, create your Amazon profile, commit to blogging about things that interest you. Do the same with social media. List author in your profile, but NEVER beg people to buy your book. Let them ask you about your writing. Then all holds are barred. You can talk to them about your kid…um…book to your heart’s content. Just be careful, and play it humbly. There is nothing worse than a parent who never stops talking about how perfect little Johnny is.”
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Put on your marketing hat.
Find your theme and be unique
Find your theme. Then create something unique within that theme. If you are writing about food, add recipes; make pot holders and recipe cards for a special package. Writing about post-apocalypse? Create small pieces of steampunk art from found junkyard objects and tie them to the threads of handmade bookmarks. Writing a YA about outer space? Have a space-themed book launch with rocket cookies, astronaut ice cream, and a scientist-magician hired to do parlor tricks. Do a reading at a NASA-type location. People remember themes, and they will forever tie that feeling to your book; when someone mentions “space” in a future conversation, your book will come to mind, and you’ll gain more readers through word of mouth.”
Be the expert on your topic
When it comes to print and digital media, be sure to go after non-bookpage coverage and instead of pitching the book, pitch yourself as an expert on your topic. Create compelling pitches tied to current events and position yourself as the expert. Explain why you’re the perfect source for the story, and then mention you’ve also written a book on the subject.”
CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group | PR Professional
Strategic Vision PR Group
Tie your book subject into current media.
One of the best things an author can do to market their book and generate publicity for it, particularly if it is self-published, is to tie the book into something in the news. For example if you wrote a book on dieting or healthy eating, tie it into such ideas as healthy holiday eating tips or eating healthy for the summer. Reporters are looking for sources who have authored a book so to get noticed, tie your book into a news item and let the reporters know why you would be a good source for them to quote and mention your book.”
Creating that buzz about your book.
Start marketing months in advance of your release.
Publicists at publishing houses begin sending out advanced reading copies and pitching trade, radio, TV, blog, online, and print outlets anywhere from 4-6 months before a book’s release date. Do you feel comfortable pitching yourself to outlets that regularly cover books in your age range/genre? Do you have the time to research the appropriate media contacts, and hunt down their email addresses? If not, consider getting a freelance publicist. The benefit of having a freelance publicist is that they already have the contacts at the local, regional, and national level, and they also have experience creating a press release. They will know what types of pitches work for each outlet, and know when checking in with an outlet is appropriate. Hiring a freelance publicist can make the publicity process much smoother.”
Prepare regular press releases.
Prepare regular press releases and distribute them to the media, or hire a publicist to handle this task for you. The reason for doing this is to keep your name top of mind for the media. Also, when you see a story in the news that you would like to comment on, don’t just think about it, do it! Those authors who send out regular press releases and make themselves available for interviews are more likely to become sources for reporters than those who don’t. The release of your book should mark the first time you reach out to the media, not the last.”
Marketing through social media.
Own your name on social media
Take the time to ensure your social media handles and domain name match. You won’t build an effective author brand if your Facebook page is “HorrorWriter666” and your website is named “myadventuresinwriting.com.”
Automate your social media.
Automate your social media using tools like Buffer and Quuu. First sign up for a free account with Buffer, and add your social media accounts/pages (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin – you do have profiles with all of these, right?). Once you’re done, sign up for a free account at Quuu and add a couple of content categories you’d like to share with your followers. They have a lot– from social media to literature to creative writing. Once you’ve set this up, Quuu will send out regular hand-curated content to your followers one or two times a day, without you ever having to think about it. It’s a great way to stay “active” on social media, even when you don’t have anything personal to say. And it gains you followers, little by little.
Take advantage of social media.
Make sure you have a Facebook author or book page and promote it on social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest. These platforms are all vital in getting the word out about your book. Consider Facebook ads—for as little as $5, you can boost a post for your target audience to read.”
Make sure your social media is up and running
Before you even think about publishing a book, be sure to have your social media accounts up and running and be very thoughtful, authentic and strategic about your social media voice. Most media outlets won’t even look at a book for review or feature until they’ve explored more about the author and taken a look at their social media profiles. The owness of most media outlet editors is to increase their own outlet’s social media numbers and engage with their readers online, so they’re always looking for authors and experts who already have a built in following. The more polished and professional you look and the higher your numbers are, the better. And be sure to have an author page on amazon and a book/author website that is well designed.”
Be consistent in your social media
Pick the type of social media that works best for you and your audience and stick with it! Uneven or inconsistent social media presence is worse than having nothing at all. Also, you don’t need to be a pro at all of them. Pick one and make it really robust.”
Put out a 100% top notch professional product
If you want to be treated as a professional, then you need to look like one. Put out a 100% top notch professional product (your book). Everything needs to be professionally presented, your cover, content, website, product page, social media etc. If you aren’t technical enough to do those things, then hire someone to do them for you. One of the first things a top publisher or agent interested in you will do is check you out online, and you might not even know its happening so be prepared by putting forth the highest level of professionalism possible.”
Let us do the driving!
If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn the social media tactics that actually work, then hire City Book Review to do all of that for you – from setting up your accounts, creating the graphics for them, to making your posts.
Commit to your book, follow through on publicity
My biggest tip to a self-published author is commit to your book. Follow through on publicity and marketing, and keep it going. Your launch is just the beginning, and you absolutely must continue marketing your book to build your brand. With the advent of e-books, there is no longer something called a “backlist.” Finally, knowledge of your book grows as long as you nurture it. Never get discouraged, and never give up.”