Welcome back, readers! In today’s post, I want to share my thoughts on how you can best promote your book once it is published. Publishing a novel is an intrinsically rewarding achievement, but we all want more. We want our books to be read and we want to profit from our efforts. Now that our manuscript is complete, how do we make that happen?
In this article, I will list ten steps that I believe are critical in promoting your new book. If you have additional thoughts or suggestions, please include them as a comment. Let’s get to it!
Step 1: The Cover
A book’s cover is the very first thing that catches a potential reader’s eye. The cover design sets their expectation on what they might get out of the read and is the single most important marketing tool that you have in your arsenal.
While I’m sure that you have all heard the phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover,” the reality is that most people do just that. Try to imagine walking into a bookstore where all the covers are solid white with a title in black. How would any of them gain your interest? They wouldn’t. By nature, we are visual beings. If the cover of a book is provocative, artistic, or compelling, it will gain our interest. If it looks like something a child drew in art class, we’ll pass right by it.
While this may seem like bad news for the self-published author, it’s actually good news since it means that a good cover can solicit sales even if your writing is under par. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but I mentioning it due to the fact that I have bought many books solely based on the cover only to find the stories disappointing. The point is that a good cover sells books.
Most would tell you that the cover design of your book is too important a task to take on yourself. You are, after all, a writer, not a graphic designer with years of training and experience. They would be right in doing so, but I believe there is an alternative for those of us who can’t afford to spend the extra $500 or $1,000 dollars to have our covers created by an established professional.
With the right software and a little concerted effort, you can do it yourself, but it won’t be easy. I dealt with this topic in a previous post and I’ll address it again in the future, but, for now, let’s move on.
Step 2: The Synopsis
Aside from the cover, the synopsis you create to describe your story is the most significant method that you have to influence sales. A book’s description is not to explain the entire premise of the story to the reader, but to whet their appetite. I like to think of it as an elevator pitch.
Consider this scenario: You’ve got a brilliant idea for a revolutionary invention. You just stepped onto an elevator only to find that none other than Elon Musk is standing beside you. He presses the button on the panel and you’ve got seven floors to pitch your idea to one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the world. What do you say? With the limited time, you can’t go into great detail, but you do need to tell him enough to gain his attention if you want his support.
With that scenario in mind, make your synopsis brief but compelling. Grab their attention with the very sentence and expand on it. Strive to make it somehow relatable to their own life experiences. If pain is involved, make it personal. If a disaster takes place, make it believable. If technology is involved, make it realistic. If science is involved, make it relevant to the current times. Remember that the goal here is not to tell them your story in a few short paragraphs but to entice them to read your book.
Once you’ve written a compelling description, rewrite it a dozen more times until you have polished it to perfection. Remember that your synopsis is more influential in gaining sales than the contents of any chapter of your book will ever be. If you have any accolades, don’t forget to mention them. Readers are more tempted to buy books that were written by award-winning or best-selling authors.
Step 3: Compelling Front Matter
In general, front matter includes copyrights, dedications, a quote or two, blurbs about your previous works or writing achievements, a table of contents, and, in some cases, a prologue to your story. Take these pages seriously as they will be the first pages that your readers see. Let’s go through them one by one.
On your copyright page, be sure to include your editors. Even though most readers barely look at this page, it shows the ones who do that you took your work seriously. As an added benefit, the legalese included in the copyright information indicates that you are a professional who takes his work seriously.
Dedications can be powerful. If you don’t oversimplify, you can use them to make your story even more compelling. For example, I would never write a dedication that simply said, “For Mom.” However, I might write a dedication that said, “For the angel who catered to my every need when I was a child in spite of the fact that she had meager means. I love you, Mom.” This poignant dedication becomes even more significant if the protagonist of my novel is struggling to get by.
Famous quotes are also influential. By choosing the right quotes, you can set your readers up for what they are about to experience. I’ll give you a quick example. If our story is about a protagonist that overcomes all odds when faced with a litany of challenges, then we might use the famous quote by Hank Aaron: “The only thing that feels better than winning is winning when nobody thought you could.”
If you have previous works, include some blurbs about them. If one of your books got a great review, then quote it here. If you received an award for your writing, then list it here. If your educational or employment background gives you a unique insight into the topic that you covering, then let your reader know that before they begin the first chapter.
As for the table of contents, I wouldn’t recommend including one unless the section titles are descriptive enough to gain the reader’s attention. “Scene One” or “Act II” isn’t going to cut it, but “The Day The Ship Went Down” or “The Night When Everything Changed” might. Aside from ebooks, I don’t find a table of contents to be very useful, but the decision to include one is yours and yours alone.
Prologues can be powerful, but I wouldn’t recommend using one unless it establishes a necessary baseline for your story. Typically, readers like to get right to the heart of the matter rather than wasting time on the background, but, in some cases, providing the context upfront can make a big difference. This is a concept that you will just have to play by ear. If you need a primer to better understand the idea, read through the prologue at the start of any Star Wars movie: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”
Step 4: Content
If your story isn’t good or your prose isn’t well-written, then there is no point in promoting it as readers will quickly discourage others from purchasing it. Sometimes, bad reviews can boost sales by creating controversy, but, in most cases, they destroy any chances that the book might have of becoming a best-seller, especially if the disparaging review comes soon after the release.
Don’t publish your manuscript until you are certain that it is ready. That’s not an easy thing to do as we all crave instant gratification, but it is necessary. Think of it like this: If you were one of the Wright brothers, you wouldn’t recklessly jump into the cockpit of your first plane design and attempt to ascend to ten-thousand feet without relentlessly testing it on a much smaller scale first? While you might think that analogy outlandish, it’s actually quite apropos.
Before sending your books out to the masses, have your editors make several passes. When you’re done with your revisions, take the time to get the input of proofreaders. Once you’ve made all the necessary adjustments, you’ll be ready to take flight.
Step 5: Image
If you want your books to sell, then you are going to need a legitimate and professional presence online. People like to know about the authors and books that they are reading. If they can’t find any information on you or your novels online, then they will likely not follow your career even if they have bought one of your books. I’ll quickly cover two ways that you can accomplish this.
First, you need to have a professional author biography available on a variety of platforms. I recommend using Author Central on Amazon, Goodreads, and a personal website. The first two are free and the third is relatively inexpensive. As an added benefit, having these accounts will get your name or brand boosted up the list on Google searches.
With Author Central and Goodreads, the goal is to establish your name, your experience, and what readers might expect from your books. The priority here is to list any education, achievements, or experience that might make you look well-suited for the material you write about. For example, we don’t need to know that you played the trumpet in high school if you’re writing science fiction novels, but we might find it interesting to learn that you served in the military if you’re writing war stories.
When creating your author accounts, be sure to include some personal details. Readers like to get to know the authors that they follow. Let them know where you grew up, what challenges you faced in life, and what you trying to achieve with your writing. Be honest, because they will see right through the lies.
For your website, purchase a domain that reflects your name or your work. The best bet is to go with your real name or your pen name, but you can use something a bit more obscure if those options aren’t available. For example, my website, as you well know since you’re here, is www.maxwellssilverquill.com.
Once you’ve purchased the domain, you need to decide what content you will host on it. In my case, I went with a writer’s blog, but you might elect to do something different. As an alternative to a blog, check out my friend’s website, author Davyne DeSye at www.davyne.com.
Step 6: Networking
Word of mouth is more powerful than any other type of advertisement campaign. Seek out bloggers and social media influencers who cater to your target audience. In exchange for an interview or some content that they might feel is relevant to their audience, ask them to promote your book. You would be surprised by how many would be happy to take you up on the offer just to gain the new content, especially if it sounds like it will gain them more followers.
The most incredible thing about this powerful tool is that it is completely free to use. You might have to invest some time to answer a few questions or write a compelling article, but won’t you won’t be needing your credit card.
Any one of these influencers can single-handedly boost your book onto the best-sellers list.
Step 7: Reviews
Before I get into the specifics of this step, I want to make one thing very clear: never pay for a review! Yes, there are services that will give you fake reviews for cash, but that’s not a path you want to go down. What you want, good or bad, is real reviews by real readers. How do you get them? I’ll tell you.
Personally, I like to start with Readers’ Favorite. If you’re patient, they will have someone review your book for free. If you don’t want to wait, then you can pay a small fee to expedite the process. Either way, you’ll be getting an honest review from a reputable source. As a bonus, you might even receive their 5-Star Seal award if your story impresses them. While that may not seem like much if you’re not familiar with their program, including the emblem for the award on your book cover makes it stand out from the others.
Next, I would recommend that you reach out to everyone that you know, friends, family members, classmates from high school or college, neighbors, the girl who walks your dog, the maid who cleans your home, and anyone else you can think of that you might be able to convince to read your book and post an honest review. At this point, the content of the review isn’t what matters, it’s the number of reviews and the overall rating that generates the initial sales. Optimally, you should shoot for twenty to thirty reviews in the first week after publication, but that is not an easy goal to achieve. Perhaps you will have better luck with it than I have.
Finally, I would recommend using the Goodreads program to offer a free copy of your book to those who are willing to post a review. Even though it will cost you a bit of money to send them a copy of your book, you’re not paying them for the review as you have no control over whether they will say something good or bad once they finish reading it.
Step 8: Social Media
Almost everyone uses social media in one form or another. This is a great way to get the news about your new book out to the masses and it has the potential to follow the snowball effect. Send out a tweet, and someone might retweet it. Post a Facebook message and someone might share it. Publicize your achievement on every platform that you use. Once again, this is a free way to promote your novel.
In addition to flooding your social media accounts with the news, don’t forget to promote your new novel on your website. By the same token, take advantage of any websites that freely promote new books as they are released.
Step 9: Paid Promotions
This is where things begin to get expensive, but you have to think about it as an investment in your future. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other Internet outlets offer paid promotion services. Do your research and set your budget.
When drafting an advertisement for your book, keep it simple but make it eye-catching and intriguing. You’ve already created a compelling cover, so use it. You’ve got a well-written synopsis, so use a few excerpts from that. Start advertising campaigns on multiple platforms, but carefully track them all and invest the majority of your budget in the ones that are providing the most significant results.
Step 10: Book Signings
The final piece of advice I will offer you today is to take advantage of the benefits of book signings. Most libraries and bookstores will host your book signing event free of charge. You might need to provide your own table and chair and you will need to have plenty of your books on hand, but you can purchase them at your author rate and sell them at their retail value.
I recommend doing this for a variety of reasons. People get excited when they meet a celebrity even when they have no idea who they are. If a customer walks into a bookstore where an author is signing books, she’ll likely want a signed copy of her own regardless of genre or content. I equate this phenomenon to the herd mentality similar to that of when one person in a crowd looks in a particular direction and the rest follow suit.
You will not only be selling more books, but you also be creating a memorable experience with your readers who will likely go on to tell their friends about meeting you and reading your book. As I mentioned earlier, word of mouth is your most powerful tool.
With that, dear readers, I am out. It’s now two o’clock in the morning in Vietnam and I am completely spent. Thanks you so much for reading! I’ll see you soon.