Creative Writer's Boost blog a few days ago. Liz is the author of indie novel Recycled Prisoners and I know Henry Roi from his PR work at Crime Wave Press. I've reviewed several good Crime Wave Press books on Literary Flits so was interested to read his take on indie and small press book publicity. Not being an author myself, the effort required for successful book marketing on no budget astounded me. Getting blog readers is tough enough and that's for just a few hundred words! There's far more to this authoring lark than 'just' writing a book. Henry proposed sharing his essay here too which I am delighted to do. Having blogged myself about finding indie author books from a reader's perspective, I can now turn the tables:
Basic PR on Social Media for Authors: no-cost marketing that works by Henry Roi
Here's the deal: You have a published book and you need to get sales. And you're full of questions.
What's the best way to promote a book? Do I need to hire a social media marketer or spend a lot of money advertising? How do I get book reviews and author interviews? Where do I start?
Finishing a book is a momentous event. All that work, the research and brainstorming, the writing and rewriting… and rewriting. The edits and queries and simultaneous submissions and rejection letters… and more rejection letters. Then, ding ding ding, you hit the Literary Lottery and sign the coveted Publisher’s Contract. Or, after the first couple of rejection letters, you completely freaked out and embarked on a different venture, studying every article and pro tip you can find on the very excellent alternative: self-publishing.
However you achieved it, you are done, and with a glance can walk past your bookshelf and snatch a taste of euphoria like a chocolate lover doing drivebys on a bottomless jar of M&Ms.
You can kick back, relax, enjoy the accolades and plan to spend your royalties in a place where your fame won't interfere with your privacy.
So, yeah. That's a bunch of (BLEEP). I'm glad you caught on. Since you're still rooted in reality (or recently returned…) let's get out our note pads and discuss a few things that will help you get yourself rocking - and your book rolling! - out there in the brutally competitive book market.
The best way to sell your book is by promoting yourself. A well-written, professionally edited book with a sharp cover graphic is important, of course. But no matter how good you write or how attention grabbing your book design is, if you aren't likable or don’t put in the work to make yourself available, your target audience will never discover you. You won't make sales. Your publisher won't, either.
Making you, the Author, marketable, is vital.
Let's say you aren't the type to go on book tours or can't afford it. You don't have an agent or anyone familiar with the business to pitch for you. You have social media accounts, though you aren't sure how to best use them. And even if you were an expert FB user, you have no idea how to sell yourself.
Shouldn’t I let the publisher handle all the PR?
No. You have to make yourself available to readers and genre fans. To do that you have to create content and get it circulating on social media, blogs, and in the search engines where your audience goes to hunt books. You want them to give a flip about another book (yours) in a market bursting with them.
Your publisher will appreciate the help. I've yet to hear of a publisher denying one of its authors marketing content. Always use their graphics and digital files, except when sharing your work from blogs or Amazon. Any posts, tweets, interviews, etc., your publisher has generated can be recycled. Keep a document for logging down the links and periodically re-publish them. If you are self-published, you can create high-res graphics on free-to-use websites.
My favorite is: www.canva.com
Another good source is: www.unsplash.com
Shop there for royalty-free, high-res graphics.
Don't ever use low-res graphics for promotions.
If you don't already have an Amazon Author Page, have a look at some from bestselling authors as references and set up your own. A polished bio no more than three paragraphs, a sharp, punchy book description, and upload your author photo. Just the one. No cars, siblings, spouses or pets. This is about you. Be sure to update the events section and share updates on your Facebook Author Page and Twitter account.
Yep. You need those, too. New ones. Again, have a look at the bestselling authors, see how their FB and Twitter accounts look before you do yours. Add your Amazon Author Page link in the caption of your cover banners. When someone clicks to view it, they'll see your link. It's also a rich spot for search engine indexes.
Let's assume you have the basic social media accounts ready for business. Now that you have them, when will you have time to work on them? Take a breath. Developing a search-and-share routine is the key to running multiple sites without ruining your eyes from screen time.
Stay off Facebook! You won't sell very many books there. You have to establish a daily routine, though, right? That takes time. Once you get faster, have your search-and-share spots mapped out, and know where to find friends lists to request-bomb, get through your routine and leave. Ignore all the fun stuff until you finish working.
Post daily. At least one post (don't spam your Author Page) about you, your personal interests - arts, hobbies, inspirations, etc. - excerpts from your book, and, of course, book reviews and author interviews. Don't use hashtags on FB book/author posts. Keep those clean with double spaced paragraphs and no typos.
Whoever likes or shares your posts or Page, reciprocate. Go to their Page or personal account and like or share something. Doing so will put your content - your future book promotions - in their news feed. Respond to all comments you receive. At least the bare minimum. If someone shares your post, say thank you or share one of theirs. Cultivate share/tag partnerships with as many as fifty friends, preferably ones that get a lot of traffic on their accounts. Tag them when you post promotions. They tag you in their promos. Quid pro quo.
A couple times a week invite friends to like your Author Page. On your personal FB account, begin growing your friends list so you have people to invite to your Author Page. Avoid porn accounts and unstable people. Drama is fine for your fictional characters, though has a tendency to run off readers and bloggers, and sales and your reputation poof on their unfollow buttons. Find reputable people such as known authors and bloggers and scan their friends lists. Friend request away.
Join Facebook Groups that cover your genre. At least twenty. Share your book promotion posts in your Groups a few times a week. Find popular authors in the groups by looking for posts with numerous likes and comments. Like, then share those on your personal account. Everyone that liked or commented on that post will receive a notification with your name on it. Getting your name out there is pointless if you don't maintain the circulation; old content gets buried under a mass of news and becomes irrelevant.
It sounds like a lot, and is at first. You're doing all this to build your friends list, get your posts in their feeds, and invite them to your Author Page. Keep it rolling and you'll have thousands of people on your list who read books.
So, why do all that work if there's no sales? Even with five thousand friends, your posts would only reach a few hundred. Reciprocate likes and shares to increase the numbers reached. On your Author Page, let's say you've been established a few years and have tallied up two thousand followers. That doesn't mean your posts will be seen by all two thousand. FB limits reach to only a small percentage of your followers. You have to pay FB to “boost” posts if you want more reach.
Don't pay them. You won't sell enough to get your money back. If you boost a post, it should be a newsletter (you should research reasons for having a newsletter) signup post, and don't spend more than $1/day. Stay away from China, Mexico and the Philippines when selecting countries to reach.
Then what's the point of establishing myself on FB?
Authors need to start thinking of themselves and their works as one package, a brand that needs a public face in a central hub of resources. There’s no better platform for that than FB.
Okay. I'll quit screwing with you and tell you why you just went through all that tedious mess to establish a search-and-share routine and missed all the cat videos and SNL parodies of the president. The reason: to build a list of book reviewers.
Out of your (eventual) thousands of friends, only a small percentage will accept your invite to like or follow your Page. Reciprocate, then send them a private message and offer them a free digital copy (PDF or Mobi) in exchange for a review on Amazon.
Write and polish a brief form letter you can send to everyone that follows you or likes or comments on your posts (well, not everyone. Most everyone). Start your letter by thanking them for their interest, and say you would like to include them in a special offer: a free copy of your book. Ask them to show their support of indie, self-published, etc., authors by leaving a review on Amazon. Provide your email address (a new, author/book stuff only one) and ask them to contact you when they post the review so you can share it on social media. If they agree, get their email address and send them the digital book.
[The form letter I send to new Crime Wave Press followers is included at the end of this post. Read it. The special offer stands good for anyone on Stephanie Jane]
It's important to keep the reviewers’ names and email addresses. A spreadsheet or docx works fine. Over time you will grow a list of emails you can send promotions to.
So all that for Amazon reviews?
Absolutely. Imagine seeing your book on Amazon with forty reviews. Not bad for your first year out, right? It appears to be selling. If it only had five reviews, well, guess what? Customers shopping for books in your genre will pass your book over, searching for a higher number of reviews. In marketing, it's called “social proof”: If everyone is doing it, then it must be the thing to do. Amazon kicks everyone’s ass in book sales. Higher number of sales gets your book ranked higher in the category your book is listed in. Do customers buy books ranked in the two hundred thousands? Hell no. They buy the books with the best rankings.
More reviews = more sales = higher rankings. Once you have fifty reviews, Amazon will automatically include your title in their promotional catalogs that are seen by shoppers everywhere. Every few months, schedule a book giveaway or $0.99 sale. Not for royalties. To generate sales and climb the rankings in your category.
Several websites offer free hosting of giveaways and $0.99 sales. Utilize them. Schedule a sale, list it everywhere, and hope you push a couple hundred or more in forty-eight hours. Keep an eye on your ranking. A hundred or more sales in two days will jump you way up there. But only briefly. During that time shoppers of the high rankings will finally see you, and you can share screenshots of your category ranking on social media, showing everyone that Amazon ranked your book in the Top 5, next to the BestSellers. Take full advantage of the attention.
Twitter should be used for the same purpose: adding to your reviewer list. Although, you can actually sell books on Twitter; they don’t limit the reach of tweets or require you to pay them. Google search for a list of hashtags used specifically for selling books. Don't use more than two, sometimes three, hashtags per tweet. Use full sentences when possible. Find catchy lines in your Amazon reviews to quote on book tweets. Using graphics with tweets gets more responses. Gifs work great, too, and there are plenty book related Gifs.
Find reputable people on Twitter and look at the people they follow, not who are following them. Go crazy with the + button. People will follow you back. Send your form letter to new followers if they look like potential reviewers.
Doing author interviews are the most effective way to sell books. The only expense is the effort to answer questions. And author interviews are generally hosted by bloggers with followings of serious readers. Your reviews on Amazon will be seen by millions of shoppers. Your author interviews will be seen by hundreds (or even thousands) of readers, people who visit and follow book blogs to read reviews, interviews and other features published by bloggers they trust.
You can find listings of book blogs that cover your genre. Contact the blogger directly with your form letter, though customize it for each blog. Do they only do book reviews? Offer a freebie for a review on their blog. Do they host interviews or guest posts? Those are what to shoot for. Pitch your work but let it speak for itself. Read author interviews. A lot of them. Familiarize yourself with the type of info bloggers want to learn about you and your book. Then pitch yourself.
Keep all contact info and links to your book reviews and interviews on your spreadsheet. That will be a single source you can work from to post on social media. Utilize apps like Buffer to schedule tweets, and schedule posts for your Author Page on FB, too. If you aren’t able to be on FB and Twitter daily, you can schedule content publication for a couple days or more at a time.
Some days I don’t have an hour or two for search-and-share. What should I do? It's one or the other, not all.
Don't sweat it. Spend a little time searching for good book blogs to send your pitch to. That is far more important than Facebook or Twitter. The reviews bloggers publish on their sites are usually posted on Amazon (request it specifically in your pitch) and Goodreads. And interviews that get sales usually result in reviews on Amazon.
What if my book is listed in Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books and other stores? Should I use links from those stores in promotions?
No. Forget about those. Direct all traffic to Amazon. Don't even share from your publisher's book page. Always share from Amazon. Sales elsewhere take away from your category ranking.
Here's the bottom line: you have to get Amazon reviews. Use FB and Twitter to get them. Getting reviews on blogs (hopefully) earns sales and Amazon reviews. On blogs, author interviews get more hits than book reviews. The quality of the blog and the number of followers is the deciding factor. Radio blogs that host authors are a great way to reach large audiences. I recommend Authors on the Air:
Set up a Google Plus account. It operates like Facebook, though you don't have to worry about growing a following and cultivating share buddies. The sole reason is to post your book and author content in a place where it’ll be indexed in Google’s search engine. This is where you go hashtag crazy. Tag everything - author name, book, genre, sub genres, and anything else you want.
That should get you started. And you didn't even have to hire a PR person for assistance.
PR Manager, Crime Wave Press
Follow us on Twitter: @crimewavepress
Reviewer Form Pitch
We appreciate your interest in our works and would like to include you in a special offer.
As you likely know, we are Crime Wave Press, a small independent publisher of crime fiction. Our website, featuring all our published titles, can be found here:
We are currently expanding our list of reviewers and we'd like to know if you are interested in being part of the Crime Wave Press review family.
Reviewers can get free review copies (mobi or pdf) of any of our titles they like to review. Furthermore we will contact our reviewers offering pre-release review copies of new titles when they become available.
We have just published 4 new books and we are hoping you'd like to review one or more of these titles:
Brace yourself for HEIST, the sequel to our prison escape thriller SHANK, written by Roy Harper, who gained nationwide notoriety for two highly publicized prison escapes, HEIST is the second novel in a two-part series that centres around David "Tool" Roney, a dangerous man who is doing life for armed robbery and consumed by only one thing – escape.
SAIGON DARK by Elka Ray is the gripping, frightening story of a mother who loses her child and picks up a street kid in its place. A decade later she receives a note: 'I know what you did'.
Benedict J Jones, author of Skewered and other London Cruelties and Pennies for Charon, both featuring anti-hero with a heart Charlie Bars is back in THE DEVIL’S BREW. Expect horse mutilation, dog fighting and a family of maniacs in the bleak Northumbrian countryside.
Tom Vater republishes his second acclaimed Detective Maier thriller with Crime Wave Press. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN MIND takes the former conflict journalist turned detective to Laos, against the backdrop of the CIA’s secret war in the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
Thank you for your interest. Do let us know if you’d like to review any of our titles (new or old) and we will be pleased to send you the relevant file(s).