(Pssst… This post takes several ideas from Laura’s book 77 ways to find new readers for your self published book!)
I’m sure you’ll no doubt agree that the indie author community is wonderful and supportive, and that there is no shortage of authors willing to help each other out.
But it is, still, a rather small indie world out there. Readers who read and accept self-published books tend to follow several indie authors, and when an author does tout a fellow author’s book, it can often be to the same, smallish, crowd. Add to that the fact that several authors are only promoting to other authors (yes, they’re readers too; no that’s not enough) and it’s no wonder that book sales are not what they could and should be.
Photo courtesy of goXunuReviews
So how do we break beyond the “interbred” community and reach readers outside of the network of people promoting to each other online?
I’ve got 31 ideas here to get you started, leave a comment if you’ve got anything to add!
1. Visit the B&Bs in your area and ask if they’ll sell your books on consignment. Visitors to these B&Bs are often looking for a good read, are more likely to spend money on their vacations, and will be excited to read something by a local author.
2. Get in touch with all of the schools, women’s organizations, local festivals etc in your area, and ask if you can speak or join an event. Email the folks in your network and ask if they are a member of any such organization that might be interested in hosting you. You’ll be surprised at some of the opportunities that arise when you ask for them!
3. Contact someone at your local Chamber of Commerce and ask for introductions to people who might be able to help promote your book locally. (In every community there’s a connector that will open you up to new opportunities. You just need to locate him/ her!)
Example: Around launch time for Dancing Naked in Dixie, I wrote a press release for 30 Day Books’ client Lauren Clark announcing the book release. This somehow got in to the hands of someone at the Chamber of Commerce in the town the book was set in (Eufaula, Alabama). I had a phonecall from the President of a heritage site in the town who wanted to read and review Lauren’s book. She loved it and invited Lauren to visit the area to do a book signing: http://www.laurenclarkbooks.com/2012/08/03/eufaula-rolls-out-red-carpet-for-dixie/. Not only was the event covered by the local newspaper, but Lauren has been invited back for two more events in the near future!
4. Book clubs and groups can help you to sell 10-15 books a time. Try Meetup.com to find book clubs in your area. Message the organizer through the site’s internal messaging system and introduce yourself and your book. Write a reading guide if you get any traction this way. Advertise SKYPE book club meetings on your author website.
5. Offer to write for your local newspaper or magazine, or any niche magazine you know of that shares an audience with yours. Magazine pitching and publicity is a world of its own (I recommend Melissa Cassera’s National Magazine Publicity Program to learn more) but remember the basics of getting featured in a magazine: they are looking for stories NOT products (including books) and the story must have a strong appeal for their reader. Customize your pitch appropriately and always put them – and their readers – first.
Example: I got 30 Day GMAT Success featured in Graduate magazine (readership circa 1 million) by pitching an article titled the “Perfect Time to Take Your Test”. We only mentioned the book in the blurb at the end, and the post was full of valuable tips and advice for young graduates hoping to take a standardized test.
6. Contact your alumni magazine and ask to write for them or be featured on their achievements page.
7. Speak! If you’re a children’s/ young adult writer, try schools (www.schoolbookings.com). Otherwise seek out organizations or companies whose members may benefit from the message in your book.
Not sure what the message of your book is? Brainstorm with a friend or relative who will give you the outsider’s perspective you are looking for, and help you to hone your message. It could be anything from overcoming tragedy, dealing with disaster or grief, travel, friendship, etc. Of course for non-fiction the message of your book is much more obvious ;)
Example: Seattle-based author Ingrid Ricks speaks to schools and companies about embracing life and focusing on what really matters: http://ingridricks.com/speaking-engagements/embracing-life/. This helps Ingrid build her “author brand”, sell books, and get covered by the local press.
8. Leave flyers in your local coffee shop. You can get these printed at VistaPrint.com. The most successful way to utilize flyers for publicity is to give people an incentive to take action. For example, mention a contest on your site, a reason to sign up for your newsletter/ mailing list, or a limited edition price reduction of your book – and always leave the URL of a specific page you want them to visit on your site or book retail site.
9. Be a guest on a radio show – locally, or BlogTalk radio has tons of online radio shows that are always hungry for content!
10. Get your book into local and national libraries – see this interview with Dana Lynn Smith for more info.
11. Are you a mystery or thriller writer? See if you can find a Mystery dinner company in your area. Offer to read at an event, or come up with a mystery puzzle for their audience.
12. Get together with 8-10 other writers for a “local author event/ signing” – you’ll benefit from the synergy of a group of authors by drawing a bigger crowd, cross-promoting, and possibly getting local media coverage. Plus, it’s far less daunting to do an event as a team!
13. Become an expert by getting familiar with journalists and freelancers in your area of expertise, and introducing yourself to them. Let them know that you are available for interviews and commenting on stories within your subject field (non-fiction) or some of the hooks from your fiction book. List these out and send them to the press page on your author website. Be sure to make it clear why to use you as a source – over anyone else – by providing specific examples of your achievements, qualifications and experience.
14. Take out an ad on your local paper’s website. Online ads work better than ads placed in a physical newspaper because very few people will type a book name/ book site into Google, but many will click through a link to your purchase page.
15. Pitch articles to reader-centric sites such as Digital Book Today. A little birdie tells me that they love posts that are written for readers NOT writers, but most authors continue to pitch writer-centric articles.
16. If you have the budget, try Facebook ads. The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can target a gender, age group, location, or even those with a specific interest. One strategy is to target similar authors’ fans (e.g. those who have ‘Liked’ the Emily Giffin page). Facebook ads are amazingly targeted but somewhat pricey.
17. Google ads are a little pricey too, but you can specifically target websites that your readers will be on (i.e. a cat website or Texas-specific site). Since you can often find $70-$100 vouchers online, it’s worth at least trying. This works better for non-fiction books and books that are sold at a higher price. They are a big part of our 30 Day GMAT Success promotional strategy. For every $0.30 we spend on Google Ads, we make around $1- $2 in royalties from that source of traffic. (It did take some experimenting to get to this point though!)
18. GoodReads ads – the jury is out on how successful GoodReads ads are. Readers tend to add the book to their ‘To be read’ shelf, but whether this means they will ever actually purchase the book is questionable. They are certainly worth a shot and are much more reasonably priced than Facebook and Google ads.
19. Guest post on other non-writing/ author sites. Try lifestyle blogs, specific interest bloggers and so on.
20. Blog. blog. blog. Stick to a few topics that somehow relate to your book or book’s target audience and create content regularly and consistently that will engage and interest these potential readers.
21. Change your Amazon pen name (e.g. Laura Pepper becomes “Wedding-book Author Laura Pepper” or “Wedding expert”) and write reviews on similar books. Browsers on Amazon may well click through to your book. You can do that (and learn more about it) here.
22. Participate in a GoodReads giveaway (Paperback only). Even those who don’t win will be exposed to your book and may buy it anyway.
23. Try a LibraryThing giveaway (eBooks and paperback).
24. Create lists on Amazon that feature your book – and tie you to other books in your genre/ field. These include Listmania and So You’d Like to… listings.
25. Post your blog posts on Reddit.com. You can get a ton of traffic from sites such as Reddit, but be sure that your post is posted in the right group (or ‘subreddit’) and is not overly promotional otherwise you’ll get a very negative reaction from the community. Users tend to be, ahem, opinionated!
26. Submit a blogpost to Digg.com.
27. Start a YouTube channel – if you’re a-okay with being on camera, consider talking about something in your niche online. YouTube has a huge number of browsers just waiting to be entertained. Speaking on camera is a great way to connect with new readers. (Find my YouTube channel here – please subscribe if you’d like to see more interviews!)
28. If you have a non-fiction book, publish your full table of contents on your website, and make it as key-word rich as possible! When people are searching for the answer to a problem or a solution, your book will rank higher in search engines.
29. Which reminds me, be sure to implement some form of SEO to your blog or author website. If you can’t afford a professional SEO consultant to do a few hours of work optimizing your site, learn the basics yourself. There are tons of eBooks on this, including free ones. Be sure to add a plugin to your WordPress website such as All-in-One-SEO – and learn how to use it. It will improve the ranking of your site in Google’s search results significantly!
30. Are you a children’s author based in the US? Check out America Writes for Kids! Ask to be included in their list of authors –> http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/.
31. Upload your posts, articles and first chapters to open-submission platforms – sites that describe themselves as reader-writer communities and allow users to publish and discover writings. They tend to get a ton of traffic each day, and are therefore a great way to “grow your platform” and drive more traffic to your blog. There are several out there, but include Scribd, DocStoc, Wattpad and Open Salon.
[Edit September 15th 2012: I updated and expanded this post into the eBook 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book. It's a far more polished text, complete with actionable steps on how to best implement the tips and over 45 more ideas to try. Check it out here!]
This post was inspired by the lovely Marianne Spitzer. Marianne has been an online friend of mine since I started Ladies Who Critique in 2011, and she’s a consistent, warm and loyal supporter of both LWC and 30 Day Books. Her book Gypsy Spirits is a supernatural thriller, and I’d like to give it a plug here!
Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!
Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.