A session with Kathryn Le Veque
It’s not just writing the book… it’s selling it.
You can write the greatest book in the world, the next War and Peace, but unless you can get it in front of a million hungry readers, it won’t make any difference how good your book is.
In the world of a writer, the right hand writes – and the left hand markets!
Like many other writers today, I find a huge part of my day is spent on the marketing and business side of writing. Notice I didn’t say just “Indie” writers – that’s because even those writers who are traditionally published find themselves marketing their books as well. In this publishing climate, you can’t sit back and let your publisher get the word out about your book. The keyword with marketing is being proactive.
Where to start? That’s a very good question.
It’s one I get asked a lot, actually, so let’s start from the beginning with the basics. You’ve written a book. Now what? When I think back to my early days of Indie publishing, I was really a marketing novice. For about the first four months, I had no idea how or where to market. There are several books on the subject, but the truth is that marketing in this industry is an ever-changing beast. It’s fluid, just like the industry itself, so discovering what works for you takes time and research.
Let’s talk about ads.
Now, the first thing to understand about marketing ads is there are paid ads and free ads. My paid sites ad list is a cultivated list that I’ve acquired over the past four years. It’s extensive and I use it every time I release a book. It’s a little difficult to gauge where you get the most bang for your buck with these sites, so I usually budget my marketing dollars toward:
- The sites with the biggest following, and;
- The sites with the most reader interaction.
For reader interaction, just look at their posts and see how many comments they have. How many bloggers like their posts? Posts are the little articles that bloggers do on their website. Usually, people comment on them. You can get a good feel for how popular a blogger is by the comments on her posts. Or how about the website itself? Some sites will tell you how many followers they have and with others, it’s kind of a mystery. But you can usually tell by the response to their blog posts. Many responses = a serious following.
Where did I start?
Paid ad sites:
When I first published, my first paid ad was with Kindle Nation Daily. It’s a fairly comprehensive site. The ads can be costly, but I have gotten a good response with them. Other sites to place ads with are sites like The Fussy Librarian, The E-reader Café, and Storyfinds. I’ve had good responses from them. Again, they do cost, but they’re much cheaper than Kindle Nation Daily. We’re talking $30 as opposed to $150. Also, most of these sites require free or discounted books – make sure to check the site requirements before you run the ad. A discounted book is usually $2.99 or less. Anything above that is considered full price.
Is there a Holy Grail of ad sites? The answer is yes – there IS a magic bullet…
Enter the almighty BookBub.
The Pros of BookBub –
BookBub is a discounted site. Your book needs to be $2.99 or less. BookBub started out a few years ago as a subscription site that sends daily e-mails to its subscribers on featured deals. They have a massive following but a BookBub ad can pretty much guarantee you some visibility in your genre. My first ad for a free book back in 2013 wrangled me 52,000 free downloads. Yes, you read that right – 52,000.
The Cons of BookBub –
They are expensive and competitive. BookBub has become so popular with Indie and Traditionally Published authors alike that it’s very difficult to get an ad with them. When you manage to, for Historical Romance for example, the ad is $600.
BookBub costs – but their results are measurable.
Now, let’s talk about free ad sites and free or very inexpensive marketing –
These can work very well if you strategize correctly. Here are a few essential suggestions:
- Cross-promotion with other authors. No man is an island and certainly no author is, so reach out to other authors. Meet them, greet them, make friends. Network at author/reader cons so you get to know your fellow authors.
- Do book giveaways with fellow authors if possible – buy their books and give them away to readers with your own. Hopefully your author friends will do the same!
- Do book bundles (I’m the queen of those) because they WORK. Looking to gain readership? Do a book bundle with three or four other authors in a similar genre. Price the book at $.99 (remember these bundles are about exposure, not revenue), and draw in new readership that way. Chances are, a reader will pay $.99 for an author they’ve never read and, if they like the author, the readers are very likely to run out and buy the rest of the author’s library or series. A $.99 bundle is worth its weight in gold in that respect.
- There are several free sites out there for free and cheap books and promotions. I work with Aurora Publicity, and they have a list to share here: http://www.aurorapublicity.com/free-author-promotion/
- The best thing you can do for your career is make friends with other authors and learn from them. The community of authors, as a whole, is very friendly and helpful. Where to reach out? Facebook! There’s a massive community there. Twitter is also good for that. You want to find groups where you connect, grow, and learn.
- One of the biggest places I found new readers was Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program on Amazon for books – think the Netflix of books. For a monthly fee, readers can read as many books as they can possibly handle. The only downside is that readers can’t keep the books – when they’re finished, they must return them. But that’s a good thing for an author, because if they like your book enough, they’ll buy it to keep it. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they found me in Kindle Unlimited. It is free for an author to participate in Kindle Unlimited, but be aware that your book must be exclusive to Amazon for the 90-day term you are enrolled. However, to find new readers (and that’s what marketing is all about), I have found Kindle Unlimited to be the best free marketing site for me.
- Seriously – if anyone asks you to do an interview, or donate a prize to a giveaway, or be a guest at a virtual release party, DO IT. You want all of the (free) exposure you can get.
- Don’t be shy about reaching out to other authors or bloggers or websites and ask if you can be featured on their websites or blogs – or read their guidelines and find out how you can be featured. Remember – be proactive!
- Sit back and wait for things to happen. If you want to get your name out there, then YOU need to make it happen. This is a constantly changing business, and very competitive, so it is essential for you to be smart and proactive in your marketing.
- Behave badly – readers remember. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be kind, be generous, be available to your readers and to other authors. The last thing you want to do is get a not-so-nice reputation. Be professional in your ethics, and that includes marketing ethics.
- Watch out for scams. That usually entails someone reaching out to you and “promising” to promote your book with some kind of guarantee. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed in this business, so watch out for those people who want a lot of money and make guarantees. Who can you ask about them? Ask your fellow authors and see if they’ve had any experience with them. Fellow authors are usually very willing to share what they know.
Marketing with Social Media –
This is a huge part of your marketing strategy. Readers are hungry to have contact with their favorite authors, so make sure you have a Facebook page, a Twitter, page, and a website. Make sure they are on every piece of marketing material you send out or print up. You want to make it easy for readers to click and find you.
Newsletters or blogs are essential – make sure visitors can sign up for your newsletter or blog via your website.
Giveaways and contests draw readers in. I run contests on my Facebook author’s page like this – I’ll give away something (book, swag, whatever). Winners are selected by random. But you WANT referrals – I will select a winner at random and not only give them a prize, but also the person who referred them. Gift cards go over well. It doesn’t have to be big – a little $5 gift card is fine.
The point is that you want that interaction with readers. It’s all part of marketing YOU!
These days, my marketing needs are bigger. I have hired a P.R. company to extend my reach. But until you reach that point, sticking with free marketing sites and cross-promotion strategies will help a lot. Reaching new readers won’t happen overnight, but with hard work and a solid marketing strategy, you will see steady growth in the months and years to come.
But one last bit of advice: to keep readers, you must write a quality product and sell it at a reasonable price. The object is to keep ‘em coming back for more, and quality and good prices will do that every time. All of the marketing in the world won’t make up for a poor product, so make sure yours is as perfect as you can get it.
You know that movie tagline “If you build it, they will come?” Let me change that a little: “If you write it (and use a little strategic marketing), they WILL read.”