The London Book Fair 2015 Insights: Promotion tips for successful indie authors
I was not the only one to notice that, as Jay McGregor puts it in his recent Forbes article, the advice from authors who’ve ‘made it’ seemed to have resonated most with attendees of London Book Fair 2015. I truly hope that all the people I’ve seen there will fulfil their dream and that their work will bring joy into millions of souls. And it will, if writing is their calling. If they believe in themselves and their work. If they have discipline. It won’t work if writing is just an escape route out of an ordinary life or if they are in it for the big bucks or fame (better be a football player). It won’t work if writing is not their life purpose, their gift to the world.
Make sure you were born to write (fiction)
It’s a waste of time to be in it just because some people believe that being an artist is cool. Nobody at the London Book Fair said openly: ‘if you don’t feel it in your gut, just quit.’ Writing as well as any other occupation in the world – even gardening or hair styling, isn’t for everybody. But almost all of the authors who made it hinted at it by emphasising their passion for writing. Something that they can not live without, an activity they would pursue despite not earning any revenue from it (but they are with indie author Mark Dawson making 450K dollar a year). Young Helena Coggan (signed by Hodder & Stoughton ) spoke about the upcoming holidays and negotiations with her parents to spend a week away from pen and paper. A rule she finds it impossible to abide to. “I will find a way to write”, she said with a smile.
Talent and promotion, two necessary ingredients for success
You are born to be a writer, you decide to self – publish and you have completed at least one manuscript (two is better in order to capitalise on the marketing efforts for the first one says C.J. Lyons). It’s time to roll up your sleeves and start doing some promotion. I believe that marketing and promotion are the two necessary ingredients for success. We need talent to generate awesome and inspiring pieces of art but we equally need promotion and marketing to let people know that we exist.
Identify your target audience and build communities
As much as down to earth and corporate like it sounds, the first step is to identify your audience. Who is likely to read your book? Are they teenagers? Young women? Men? Than reach out for them online and offline. Build your social media profiles according to what you enjoy. Some authors, like me, who are visuals and enjoy taking pictures and who target young women in their 20s, will want to create an Instagram account. Other may go on Pinterest or Wattpad or Tumbler. There are three social media channels not be missed though – Facebook (where young people are), Twitter (the place to interact with publishing industry) and Goodreads (the place to interact with readers and authors). Facebook and Goodreads are exceptional tools for creating online communities (through contests, reviews, events, previews of your work). Offline activities may include lecture and conversations afternoons with your readers or special treats like having a half an hour 5 o clock after noon tea. Being nice and polite, answering messages and questions will pay off. You may need to spend one or two hours managing your social media activities (until you hit it off and afford to hire someone) but in the long run it will turn rewarding not only in revenues but also in terms of human interaction – getting to know amazing people and finding inspiration for your characters.
Build a strong author brand
Building a story about you, as an author is crucial. Readers are avid not only for books but also for knowing their authors in their tiniest details. Keeping your private life and creating a catchy public profile are altogether possible. There must be some interesting details about your life that you will want to share with your audience. For example, in my bio, I speak about my mixed origins. Readers will be also interested about your other passions, your writing routines, your values and vision of life and world. This is why I created an author website that allows me to post different stories about my daily experiences in areas I’m interested in. The website also gives you the opportunity to create a strong mailing list – via subscription form (I use Mail Chimp).Mark Dawson has a 15,000 person mailing list through which he disseminates his new work. The website as well the social media channels plays an important part in building your author brand. It needs to be professional, appealing, consistent with your personality and work. Keep it up to date and clean.
Build a strong relationship with bloggers and journalists
More than a century of public relations went by and word -of-mouth remains the most powerful tool. Get people talk about your work, recommend and spread the word. Make it go viral. Word of mouth have the advantage of being cost free and credible. Aren’t you most likely to read something based on a friend’s recommendation than on a, let’s say, ad? Yet, journalists and bloggers are not be overlooked. They are an essential part of the promotion process. Look them up, follow them on their social media channels, get to know their interests and when the time is right, send them a press release and / or a copy of your book.
Create a story around your book
Journalist and bloggers as well as readers will connect faster and easier to your book if there is story about it. Maybe you can create a link to a real life person, a cause or a community, a real life event of big interest. Distill the message of your book in a single line that will kindle readers’ imagination and make them plunge into your book.
A promotion campaign needs to start as early as maybe six months in advance you officially launch your book. You need to time to build up the community (if it’s the first book), get reviews and generate enthusiasms around it. The purpose is to build a momentum that will boost your sales from the day one. Offering your first book free of charge for a limited amount of time is a strategy that may work on the long run. It worked for Mark Dawson. Invest in the cover even if you self publish it as an eBook. Who knows who might want it as print on demand? And, bad news, people still judge a book by its cover. Or, to be more accurate by the … thumbnail because in virtual bookstores the thumbnail is the first thing people see.