Last time we featured Alannah, she was talking about building an author platform and having a long-term plan. Check out that post HERE, or read on for the second part of Alannah’s post on launching and marketing your book.
How did you approach the marketing of the book once it was launched?
I have to admit that marketing isn’t my favourite subject, but one change in my attitude towards marketing is that I no longer see it as activities like sending out a ridiculous amount of tweets, hoping people will see me waving my virtual arms around to flag up that my books are for sale.
I think the best marketing is that which is much more targeted and less ‘salesy’.
At the end of 2015, I signed up for Mark Dawson’s Facebook Advertising course because I was moving into the cosy mystery genre and hoped this would allow me to target an interested audience. To date, I’ve put quite a lot in place from the course (which also covers landing pages, etc), but I won’t be looking to advertise on Facebook for a short while yet… My rationale being that, if I wait until the third book is out, my adverts will be more effective, as I’ll have more books out for readers to move on to. (And, as I’m currently writing full time, I envisage having that third book out around the summer of 2016.)
– Where did you promote it?
As mentioned, I have it in mind to promote on Facebook up the track. The course I signed up for at the end of 2015 with Mark Dawson also includes a Twitter ads now as well, so I’d definitely consider doing that as well, because you can target readers via their interests, too. That said, the whole Facebook/Twitter ads thing seems to me to be quite a steep learning curve, and I’m not quite sure how far down this road I’ll end up travelling. They do say you only need to spend ten minutes a day checking your stats, but I can’t help thinking that this only kicks in once you’ve really got your head around the whole thing and spent a bit of time & money experimenting… But, we’ll have to see on that one!
I know some authors are spending surprising amounts on their Facebook advertising and getting a very high ROIs (Return on Investment) so I think it’s worth trying. From what I can tell, the authors who are having this kind of success also have all the basics in place (mailing list, great covers, etc), they are writing in mainstream genres, like romance and thrillers, and they also have several books on their shelves in the same genre which readers can move on to.
– Any tips for new authors with marketing / promotion?
Apart from what I’ve already mentioned, I’ll go back to basics here by talking about book covers. Because, whilst you don’t tend to think of a cover as marketing or promotion in the normal sense of the word, your cover does advertise your product. It’s the first thing people see. It needs to look professional (or, at the very least, that it isn’t homemade) and it needs to signal to your potential reader. Ask yourself: does it fit in with other books in the genre?
As I’ve had previous Photoshop experience, I’ve always made my own covers. However, I began to realise that using my own photography wasn’t going to cut the mustard – it just didn’t fit the mould for certain genres. So I had to let go of some ‘stuck thinking’, and upgraded my skills. Unless you have some decent skills like Photoshop, I wouldn’t tackle book covers, though.
It’s fairly typical to pay a few hundred pounds for a cover. But if you can’t afford the expense right now, don’t despair. At the very least, you can create a free one when you upload your book on Amazon. That’s better than nothing – at least your book will be out there, and you can change the cover later. But a much better option would be to pay a reasonably small fee instead to get a premade cover from someone like San Coils – check out covers like hers and see if one fits your genre.
If you want to delver deeper into cover design, I suggest you start by watching Derek Murphy’s video on the topic, as well as checking out other covers in your genre – especially those selling in the top 100.
Another basic – yet overlooked – tip is to use keywords. Thriller author Nick Stephenson talks a lot about using keywords on Amazon. I don’t personally use the Kindle Spy app he subscribes to, but the main thing to bear in mind with all this is that Amazon is a large search engine which helps readers to find books they like by entering keywords in the browser. If you as an author have relevant keywords in your title or subtitle, or have entered keywords on the settings/account page of your sales platform, this will more likely help readers to find you. Romance author, Cora Seaton says she named her Email Order Bride books based on keywords, because that was a term frequently searched in her genre.
In combination, a relevant, professional-looking cover and keywords improve your chances of visibility. If your book is picked up by the wrong audience – through a cover that doesn’t signal the right reader, or incorrect keywords – you increase your chances of getting negative reviews.
If you’re putting out just one book, I’d advise starting off on Amazon’s sales platform. If you’re exclusive with them, you can enrol in their KDP Select program. You’ll be able to promote your book for free on Amazon for five days out of every 90-day period. To magnify this promotion, you can put your book on free or cheap ebook promotion websites. There are many around who will advertise it for free and who don’t require you to have a host of 5-star reviews. I use an affordable program called KDROI to make light work of letting these sites know about my free promotion. Bear in mind, though, that just because you submit your book to these sites, doesn’t mean they’ll always promote it. (Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose!)
If you’re in KDP Select, your book is also available to all those Kindle users enrolled in Kindle Unlimited who pay a monthly fee to download as many books as they like for free – all of which means you’ve got another potentially-hungry audience to cater to.
I’ll mention here a downside of putting your books out for free… Free isn’t what it used to be. With the glut of free content around, readers often download a whole bunch of freebies, only for them to sit on their Kindles for extended periods of time. And often, readers will download a freebie even if it isn’t their cup of tea. Many top authors understand that there’s a risk nowadays of putting out a free promotion, only for it to increase their 1-star reviews. So brace yourself for that possibility, because your books don’t always end up in front of the right eyes!
I’ve noticed this happen myself, and was pleased when I heard successful authors bemoaning this phenomenon, because I thought it was ‘just me’. My book, Campervan Capers 2, is on Amazon as permafree and either gets 1-star or 4/5-star reviews. (The marmite effect, indeed!) The interesting thing is, though, that sales of a related paid book have increased. I can only guess that this is off the back of the freebie (which I put out with no marketing strategy in place whatsoever!).
- Can you give us2 or 3 key pieces of advice for new authors looking to launch their first book
(1) Don’t be impatient! As you approach your book launch, you may start to get a bit antsy. Just like a woman at the end of her pregnancy, you just want your ’embryonic ball of goodness’ to be birthed out into the world – NOW! But try to keep your feet on the ground and make sure everything’s in place – proofreading, editing, decent cover, etc. There will be more books, so there’s no hurry!
(2) I’ll reiterate the importance of a mailing list here. This is the one thing top authors say they regret not putting in place earlier, so don’t skim over this and think it doesn’t count! Currently, you can sign up for a Mailchimp account for free – and it stays that way so long as you have below 2,000 subscribers.
(3) Think things through and plan for the long haul. Success with writing doesn’t often come overnight. So stop, take a breath and consider what you want your writing life to be into the future. Do you want to earn money writing – or might you be happy just seeing your work published? If you do want to earn money, which of your current ideas might be the best to focus on from a business perspective? If you haven’t much time to write, can you break things up so you can publish shorter works, or make them into a series?
We don’t always have all the answers right now, but stopping to really thinking things through once in a while, I believe, gives us the space to become happier, more productive authors who have a better chance at success – however you choose to define it!
Here’s my cheat sheet of TOP 7 THINGS I’d have in place when drawing up a long-term author plan:
There’s so much advice out there that you can never possibly hope to accomplish it all. So if I had to be selective and advise a handful of top things to focus on, this would be it:
(1) You need to write books, so make sure you plan time to do it. When’s your best time? Diarise it, make sure you have support to make sure it gets done. No excuses, or you’ll never finish a book!
(2) Pick a genre that people are actively interested in reading. Then outline & write three books in a series.
(3) Set up a mailing list so you can capture email addresses of readers who are interested in hearing about your new releases.
(4) Write a series prequel or back story (can be a short story – doesn’t need to be a novel!) as a freebie to incentivise readers to join your mailing list. (Nick Stephenson’s Reader Magnet book goes into more depth on that.)
(5) Invite readers to join your mailing list – a nice image with the freebie cover is better than a few lines of text. Put this on your website and in the front & back of your books.
(6) Make sure you have a decent cover, and one that a reader will be able to recognise as belonging to their genre.
(7) Make use of keywords – whether in your book title, subtitle, blurb, or in the keyword field of your sales account page. Use hashtags in social media posts to increase invisibility, too.
Alannah Foley… aka ‘The Pyjama Writer’
Author of cosy mysteries, Campervan Capers, Cycling Widows, and more…
Born in Australia, raised in the UK, Alannah writes both fiction & non-fiction, spanning topics as diverse as capers in a campervan, the vagaries of living with an obsessive cyclist, light-hearted tales – and, more recently, cosy mysteries.
If you want to visit her site, and see what’s on offer, click here.
It just remains for me to thank Alannah for her time and for sharing her experiences with us.
Where and how did you promote your first book? Was is a success?