Getting the Word Out: Writer as Nascent Book Marketer

In 2013, I wrote a book. I got the opportunity to work with a professional editor and graphic designer. The experience was enlightening. I loved the cover and learned a lot from the editor’s feedback, but everything was orchestrated for me, by someone else. The book was written and posted on Amazon, where it sat, for one year. Did you know Amazon will take books that don’t sell off their digital shelves? I didn’t know it then, but I do now.

So, I wrote another book and worked through Amazon’s CreateSpace website to self-publish it. The cover’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it works. Thankfully, it still exists online and every once in a blue moon, someone will download it. At the time, I priced it at whatever was suggested. I even ordered print copies (just 5). Somewhere along the way, I lost the box.

Maybe in these last few years of travel, it simply got lost. I don’t know, but here’s the onus of the whole situation. I wrote these books, stuck ‘em on a shelf and imagined, I suppose, they would sell themselves. They won’t, they didn’t, and they haven’t and for good reason. I’m responsible for getting the word out, for marketing and selling my work.

So, how does one market and sell their book? Well, after a bit of research, I’ve come across tips and suggestions that make sense and some that seem counterintuitive. I’ll start with the counterintuitive tip, since that seems be the most prevalent, which is this: begin to promote your book before you write it. Huh? Don’t you need to have the product available before you can sell it? Well, no. I used just that tactic with one of my husband’s CDs.

He’d been playing for over a decade throughout Texas and in the last few years across the US to play live at art festivals where he played his instrument and sold his CDs. All instrumental, his CD genres are a wide range of classical to 60s and 70s classic rock and Celtic. But, in Texas, he had a target audience who had been requesting a gospel CD.

We came up with a title for the album, a track list, and cover art for the sleeve. In our eagerness, we ordered the sleeves, before any of the songs had been recorded. So, we tried an experiment. Along with all the other CDs, we set out the latest CD’s cover sleeve and you know what happened? Two things. We pre-sold over $800 of that one CD and grew his mailing list. The demand was there. Now, we had a problem, we’d also set a deadline of 3 weeks; to record ten songs in 3 weeks – it was a wild ride, but he did it.

The world of books and music has shifted into the digital age, though you can’t beat a scratchy vinyl album or the smell of a book’s pages. We still stop at libraries when we can and in my wallet, instead of credit cards there is a library card. If I could collect library cards from all the amazing libraries I’ve visited, I would, but I digress. This is about marketing.

In pre-selling his CDs, it helped that he already had a following and people knew his work. They’d been visiting with him regularly face-to-face for years. He had a following and had built up trust. So, how do you do that with books?

Build your fan base, if you haven’t already. Reach out through social media, but don’t forget about face-to-face. Reading, writing, and music – like every buying decision is about emotion. How does the product, book, song, make you feel? Does it bring back memories? Does it remind you of home, another time or place, or make you want to travel and experience the world?

If your book is about love and loss, maybe you’ll connect with someone who needs to know they’re not alone. If your book is fiction, your reader will connect with a character – identify with their feats and failures. And if you do have a manuscript already, you can even build your fan base through beta readers.

It might cost a few dollars to find good beta readers, but the feedback can be priceless. In fact, remember that book I mentioned in last week’s post? The one I’ve been working on for three years? I’m going to need beta readers, so give me a shout if you’re interested in a magical realism love story.

Beta-readers, social media author page, website, blogging even, and so on are just a few ways to build your author platform, grow your fanbase, and begin to promote your book. Guess I should get on my own bandwagon. I’m getting there, it’s a process you know. Baby steps.

Interested in reading more about how to market your book? Check out this article from Author Marketing Experts.