Lemur, who is in my books, has the fluffiest tummy in the whole world, and I want to rub it. I like it when my blood is inside my body though.
Today I want to talk about visibility and doing the legwork to get yourself out there. One of the ways self-published authors sell their books is through their online presence. If you don’t have the backing of a major publishing house, then it’s a lot harder to let people know who you are, which is why you should get started sooner rather than later. Probably the most well known platforms are social media and blogs, but you have other options too– if you’re willing to work and sometimes pay for it.
Let’s take a look at social media and blogging first. Blogs are a good way to keep in touch with your audience, share your journey, and show a more personal side of yourself that you can’t always portray in your published works. You can share the ups and downs of your work in progress, your fears and struggles, your victories, just ramble about your day, talk about your pets and significant other, describe what you made for dinner last night, the possibilities are endless. You can also tie a blog in with most social media sites and author pages, thus spreading your reach even farther. One of my biggest takeaways from blogs is that they give the author a human element and make them more relatable. You certainly don’t have to go that route, but sometimes it can be nice to have a more relaxed, casual style of writing.
Blogging doesn’t work for everyone though, so if you can’t commit to it and create engaging and relevant content, skip this option. There’s also no one-size-fits-all template for blogging. I chose to make it about my self-publishing journey. Nonfiction writers can use their blog to establish themselves as a subject matter expert, and I’ve seen blogs from historical fantasy authors that detail their research.
Social media is probably the most well-known platform. It’s really important to do your research here and know what your target audience most likely uses between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Yes, I said TikTok. BookTok is a real thing, and it’s launching careers. If your audience consists of Gen Z or Millennial readers (or even a few of us Gen X’ers– we still exist!), consider breaking out the ring light and brushing up on video editing, because you could go far with that platform. And if you don’t like being on camera or hate the sound of your own voice, look at options like page flips, character creations, and staging shots with your books against a relevant and eye catching backdrop. Or you can be like me and shamelessly exploit your pets for views.
Like all marketing efforts, social media takes a time commitment. You have to post and engage fairly regularly (and by “regularly” I mean at least once a day) if you want algorithms to show your content in feeds and timelines. If you have a little extra budget, consider sponsored posts. It can be a nice way to get extra impressions and engagements. Even if people don’t buy your book right away, you still got in front of eyeballs, which is important when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
One of the things I always strongly recommended to clients in the past is to humanize your social media posts. Don’t make it all about selling your product, because ad fatigue is a real thing, and that is a fast way to get people to glaze over when your posts pops up. Make posts about the journey, reader feedback, relevant parts of your life (again, my cats), and pepper your content with information on where your books are available.
One of the beauties of social media and blogging is that they can be preemptive strategies. You can start teasing your book, share your journey, engage with other authors, set up preorders and giveaways, really build your brand before you launch your book.
Yes, ads. Sponsored ads can be intrusive and annoying, but they can also generate impressions (when someone sees your ad) and clicks, which can lead to sales. You can have ads show up on e-readers or on an author’s page (okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I did that and got some great follow through, but it made me feel icky), and you can have ads show up for keywords you select. You can also do automatic keyword targeting in which you let the algorithm choose keywords for you and then, after the campaign has run for a few weeks, switch to manual keyword targeting. With manual keyword targeting, you look at which keywords generated clicks and impressions, which ones didn’t, and create a list of targeted keywords and a list of negative keywords (search terms that will not trigger your ad).
Most ad platforms are not that expensive and come with very handy tutorials. Amazon in particular does a good job with educational follow up emails explaining the difference in match types, keyword targeting, and tweaking your campaign. Before you buy ads on a platform, do a little research (my favorite word in the whole world). What other ads do you see on those sites? How many organic engagements like reviews and shares do books similar to yours receive?
Claim your author page on as many sites as you can including (but not limited to) Amazon and Goodreads. Join sites and get your book on them, especially ones with a proven track record for linking authors to readers (don’t forget to do your research!). Most of these sites have some kind of ad or giveaway program, and if you have the income to buy into those, then it could be worth it in impressions, clicks, and awareness.
In some cases, like Book Funnel’s promo lists, the only investment you need is the time it takes to get the link out there. Others charge a fee to do giveaways and featured promotions. Make sure you understand what you’re getting out of this! How many readers will really see your book? What is your projected ROI (return on investment)? How many books do you need to sell to see a return on your investment? If you do a giveaway promotion, what follow up do you have in place to guarantee sales down the road? How many impressions can you expect to get?
Award and Event Submissions
It may seem like hubris to submit your own book for an award, but it’s actually fairly common and expected. Now it seems that there are awards all over the place, but some still carry weight. Plus, at the most, you’re out a submission fee, and meanwhile you could get some publicity and impressions. If you win, you have an accolade for your site and that you can use if you apply to be a guest at conventions or to make author appearances. Before you jump into submitting for an award, check out the author awards and contests watch list from ALLi. There are some pretty unscrupulous platforms that charge hundreds or more in submission fees with little to offer in return.
We all know about conventions, and let’s face it, if you’re a new author, you’re up against a lot of competition when it comes to applying to the larger cons as a guest. I’m not saying you shouldn’t apply at one of the big ones– it never hurts to try. If you’re not sure whether or not the con circuit is right for you or you don’t know what to expect, look at smaller ones that fit your genre and start there. Most have an author’s alley with pretty reasonable prices for a table, and it can give you a chance to learn how to interact with your audience, get to know other authors, and start to get a feel for your personal needs and limitations when it comes to appearing at an all day event.
Don’t underestimate art shows and local markets either. A book can be a fun addition to a more traditional art or craft fair, and it gives people something to read when they get home. You can include swag, flyers, and coupons as an incentive to buy. I recently did one that I really enjoyed. I gave everyone who talked to me a non-expiring coupon code. If they didn’t want to commit to the purchase right then, they could use the coupon later. I also made sure people who bought my book at the market had the coupon so they could buy the sequel when it comes out in March.
You can also submit to hold an author appearance at your local library and bookstores, and you can reach out to a local coffee shop or bar to hold a release or signing party. Check out local magazines, especially ones that focus on the arts and community, and see if you can get a review. If you see a submission for an interview or a way to get your site or book listed in a local publication, take it.
This is a good way to get your book in front of a fellow author’s audience. With an author swap, you basically promote each other’s books, most commonly in newsletters. You can also promote them on social media or on your website, but it’s a nice way to support the community and get some new reading material in the process.
If you don’t have a publicist, PR team, or marketing team, then the burden of getting yourself out there is on your shoulders. Research, join groups, see what works, and make sure you can meet the time commitment for whatever platform you use. I spend about thirty minutes to an hour on days that I work at my other job and one to two hours on my days off looking into ways to get my book and name out to the world and following up on social media and publicity strategies. I’m at the point where I can’t commit to more than that, so if I find something that looks like it could generate more success than what I’m doing now, I’ll have to give up one of my existing strategies. I didn’t mention Kindle Unlimited or major platform book deals like BookBub and Goodreads, but there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of those either. The more people read your book, the more likely they are to come back for the sequel.
Good luck, and happy writing!
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