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Self-publishing, self book marketing: How to tips

So you’ve finished your book! Good news, if you’ve already invested in editing and purchased a pro cover. Now is the time to shoulder the wheel of marketing and distribution. Self-publishing is not real publishing until it includes self book marketing. My concise list gives you tasks to accomplish.

You need to write sales copy. That’s the brief and enticing copy you will find on every book’s page at Amazon. You will also use this copy in a fact sheet (sometimes called a tip sheet in traditional publishing). It’s not all words in a fact sheet. A photo of yourself is essential in one. You send the fact sheet out to reviewers and bloggers you’d like to cover your book. You send the sales copy to Amazon and any other retail outlet you’re using. For example, IngramSpark needs this copy. So does Bowker, where you registered your ISBN numbers for the book.

Try out promoting at Goodreads. You set up an author account there (mostly by “claiming” your book as your own.) Once you have an author status, Goodreads promo tools like giveaways and book feeds (think Facebook-style) will be in your grasp. In the meantime, tell your tribe to review your book on Goodreads. They can put it on their to-read lists, too. Goodreads is the best place to encourage your fans to post their reviews. Of course, if they’re buying from an outlet with a website, a review is good there, too.

Make your website your hub

Double down on your author website. Bare minimums: a fun About Me page (tell a story or two about how you came to create your book, how you decided to be a writer) and links to the places your book is on sale. A blog is super useful to create writing you will offer for free to interested readers. Have links on your website for the social media accounts you will be feeding with delicious snippets. One big plus is a way to take orders for your book from your website. There’s an easy way to take these kinds of orders using Aerio, a service run by IngramSpark. They print your books on demand and fulfill orders. You can also hand-ship signed copies to your greatest fans if they order through your website.

Not only do you make more money per sale by moving books through your website, you also connect to readers (more on that in a minute). Amazon will never tell you anything about who reads a book you’ve written.

Create Advanced Reader Copy files (called ARCs) to send out to reviewers and allies of the book. Digital files should be in PDF, EPUB, and Kindle (MOBI) formats. Have your cover designer help out. You need these copies to help you land some endorsements of the book. Those are sometimes called blurbs. They give your book some validation, and praise, if you’re lucky. Don’t leave home without a few blurbs and endorsements.

Get those ARC files into the world for automatic download. Bookfunnel is a good and inexpensive service to use for this process. In some cases, places like Bookfunnel can even round up a few reviewers. Bookfunnel is like NetGalley but less costly. They both have promotional offers.

Make your outreach

Create and feed an author newsletter. This can be an email with just three links to interesting webpages where something happened that relates to your book. It’s much better if you write a snippet about your writing life and an aspect of your story. It’s best of all if it links to your blog. You create an emailing list of your own to send this newsletter to. Simple ways to build email lists are to swap with other authors in your field or genre. You will be doing a lot of asking with humility while you market. It’s not so bad once you’re used to it

Your author newsletter connects you to fans and readers of your books. Again, Amazon will never do this so you can see who your fans are.

Build a reader magnet to build your mailing list. You might have had good stuff from your book that just didn’t make it into the final cut. Revive it. Write histories of your characters. Write an author’s guide to the best books from your genre. If you’re unsure what a good reader magnet looks like, seek out authors like you who are creating this bonus content. Look over what they’re doing.

Develop posts for social media. People use various kinds, but you’re never far away from connecting to readers and potential fans when you use Instagram and Facebook. Create a Facebook account for your author life, not just your personal Facebook account. Your book is represented by a Page, which lets you attract Likes. Those Likes are a way of pushing your news into the Facebook Feeds of your readers. Instagram works differently — hashtags and listing the accounts of others gets you into feeds.

There is more, always more

Some of the rest will cost you more. Contest entries are the least expensive. Paid reviews will be more, and some people don’t think they’re that important. There is advertising at Amazon and at Facebook you can purchase. Take great care with that, and measure and test as you go. For more connection, you can use YouTube or Facebook for chats with fans: tell them when you’ll be live by putting the date and time in your newsletter. You can even record a little video for use on Instagram, or post one on your YouTube channel.

What, you don’t have a channel yet? It’s easy to set up. Use it to get the word out. Buy a ring light to illuminate your smile for the camera. Tell the world about your book. Then you can revel in the life of a self-published author who is doing their self book marketing.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Buy books if you read. Pay authors, to be fair

Some studies show that only 35 percent of Americans read a book last year. Out of that modest number, there might be the same percentage who read paperback editions. The paperbacks which pay authors are purchased new. Those paperbacks are available at bookstores, at spots like Amazon, even from the authors themselves.

Authors get paid when sales take place in those places. That’s fair, because to most authors, their compensation is under $2 a book. One habit drags down their livelihoods. Used books cut authors out of the equation.

The roughest part? In one misguided column, a writer for BookRiot is promoting “only buy used books.”

If you don’t know BookRiot, it’s a tremendous website that writes about books and literature. Millions of viewers and thousands of dollars in ad money taken. Money from authors and their publishers. I see a big problem there: authors pay people like the website columnist Anna Gooding-Call. Her column Buy Used Books. Here’s Why tells us that reusing a paper book is good for the environment — and you’ll find great things to read, too.

Used books also help ensure there are fewer books to read, if the only thing you do is, as she suggests, “reserve purchases of new paper books for special occasions.” If authors only wrote for such special occasions, the world might read only authors like George R.R. Martin, or Donna Tartt. Great to have their books around. Genius there, those novels. Readers waited 10 years for Tartt’s second book. Martin is still holding out on his many Game of Thrones readers. They published on the timeline of “special occasion.”

Shelves of free books

Our columnist has her viewpoint, so her home is probably full of used books. Since she writes for BookRiot, though, her shelves might be full of books that were sent to her for review. Or passed along by reviewer friends, all in the name of saving the planet and maybe gaining a fan. I hope she’s not carrying the free books to any place but a library or a charity.

If you’re truly into saving the planet, ebooks do that job well. Any kind of paperback, used or new, sticks a fly into that environmental oatmeal. Selling a paperback a second time flies in the face of pure environmental concern. Also a plus: an ebook is a one-time sale on behalf of an author. Most ebooks can’t be resold.

This isn’t theoretical for me. My latest book, the memoir Stealing Home, was released in August. A used copy already has a permanent spot in Amazon as the book’s most affordable purchase. You get this sales treatment as an author, and it’s customary for the book business. The good news is that that used copy helps homeless people in New York, where any profits from the sale go to a charity.

So hey, remember that if you fill your bookshelves only with used paper, you cut out the creators of the work that you admire and enjoy. Pay your tribute to an author you admire: buy a paperback from them directly if you can. Author website sales help us keep writing. Bookstores selling paper help everyone discover new voices. You can help yourself to used books, but keep your purchases spread across the whole ecosystem of reading. There’s a creative environment there to preserve, right alongside the climate of the planet.

Watch out for website wags

I recently ran into a web designer who said in a glib tone, “WordPress sucks.” I tried to share my history with Joomla (ouch!) with him, but he was all “there’s a Frankenstein of code inside WordPress.” Yeah, and countless companies doing good web commerce and connection using it. I’m pretty well versed with a WordPress dashboard.
I didn’t cut code. I make content and thought up business products and services.

With Joomla it didn’t help that I had a web designer who could build-out just fine for a shoe store or a garden center. Making modifications and tuneups and the interface with customers, not so good. Building for anybody but yourself is graduate-level work. Plenty of people are ready to help build simple websites. Mine was anything but, since I come from editorial work. Mine looked good, but oy, did it ever show off its open-sourced roots. My designer never wanted to use anything that was built on a pro basis from the start. Cheap was important to her. Joomla and her build-out was all so lightly documented. It’s hard to improve a site fast with something that someone else built. With my designer, learning always involved a phone call.

It didn’t get better once my Joomla site was injected with malware scripts. Twice. I changed hosting (now at SiteGround) and got an intermediate firewall company (SiteLock at $60 monthly) to keep the security problems away. When you make your living off a website and Google’s searches on you include “This website may be infected,” that’s a moment of panic. That was on the old hosting company, yes, but it’s also on me for having a Joomla install that wasn’t auto updated and had a lot of those hobbyist plug ins and extensions which the “gee-it’s-free” developers roll out. And then don’t secure.

SiteGround auto-updates my WordPress (and believe me, I know people are trying to hack into WordPress. It’s everywhere, like Windows) and my designer who built wants to secure me as much as I do. I come to the WordPress use from much more direct experience. I get lost in theme modification and configurations, though. If a developer can modify the CSS, that puts me so much closer to the pro look that I want.

My problem is I that learned publishing in the paper era. We controlled every user experience because the medium was the same everywhere. Losing that control, and giving myself over the the dynamic nature of web, still annoys me. Three different sizes of smartphones and two operating systems always alters the experience. When I want a border to be 5 pixels outside of content, I want to know where in the theme I modify it.

There’s another website out there selling books and collecting reader names.  Slick and sweet. It’s a WordPress installation with a Leadpages plugin. $48 monthly for Leadpages. Spend money to look like a pro and make money, I always say.

Sell your books easier than the Big 5 does

Independent authors can count on more resources than it seems, sometimes. The latest advice of the day is that your author website needs to be a sales portal. I don’t mean a check-out cart. The landing page for your site should have links to your sales outlets, though. You don’t have to take orders from your site. At the least, you should point to Amazon (where many of us sell books) and collect the sale there.

Amazon’s not on the list of links at the website of Juliet Marillier. She’s got a fleet of award-winning historical fantasy novels, having written since the early 2000s. The Big 5 publishing house imprint Tor publishes some of the books that run in excess of 700 pages each. Such a book demands a lot of resource to put into print. Macmillan, one of the Big 5, is Tor’s mothership company.

A Big 5 deal is supposed to include the full outfit for an author: website, reviews, publicity, editorial direction, sales resources. Marillier is a generous and accomplished author, and one whose website has no links to a sales outlet. Oops.

Fair enough oversight, and if you have 23 novels and 20 years of career, you can be excused for not driving sales. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s job, right?

Except the publisher seems casual about driving a sale, too. Marillier’s landing page at Penguin Random House doesn’t include any link to purchase a book, unless you click on a cover.

What the publisher is doing is collecting email addresses for the author. Sign Me Up for News, says the box on her Penguin Random House webpage. (It’s not clear who’s holding and using those email addresses.) It’s one more click onward to get to the Penguin Random House purchasing page, where this morning the checkout through the publisher’s sales cart is down for maintenance.

You can do better yourself. Put a link on your author website’s landing page that directs readers to an outlet to purchase. Get your book for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iBooks, and more. (Bookbaby and Draft2Digital sell books, too.) Take care of your author webpage at Goodreads as well.

You might be an independent author who wants to sell books more easily than the Big 5 do. Retail booksellers stock just a fraction of the titles available, though. An agent can argue for better sales resources on your behalf, but it’s up to the publisher to sell your books. Indies take care of their own careers. Give yourself the leg up on sales from your author website.