January-February I start thinking about writing and publishing again, as this blog was born of the publishing of my grandfather’s manuscripts. Not having a clue what I was doing, of course, realized then I was faced with marketing. And marketing proved to be a huge hurdle, not unlike me to get things backwards.
This time of year also reminds me of all the writing contests that the new year begins, and I wrote about that recently listing six popular sites—some free—some a second mortgage. If you missed that post, you can read here. On that same vein, and quite coincidentally (or maybe not), I was contacted by Savannah at Reedsy, wondering if I’d be interested in sharing an article from either she or Ricardo Fayet, CMO and one of the original founders of Reedsy, and it appeared his article following is just what I was talkin’ ‘bout! (By the way, they also have their own writing contests that you might check out.)
So I’m thrilled now to present Ricardo!
5 Must-Know Indie Book Marketing Tips
The day you thought would never arrive is finally here: your book is complete and it’s time to start getting it into the hands of readers. Executing a successful marketing campaign can be a daunting prospect, though, especially if you don’t know which strategies work best or where to even start — a great writer does not automatically make for a great marketer, after all.
But don’t worry! I’m here to help you get that wide readership you always dreamed of. The following tips focus on getting organized, drumming up the right kind of “noise” around your book, and mastering the more technical elements of SEO marketing and advertising for an absolutely optimized launch. Let’s dive right in.
Draw up a game plan
A well-considered timeline is an important part of any successful marketing campaign — but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to know which steps to take when. What’s more, you’ll need to think about both discoverability (how people find your books) and conversion (converting clicks on a page to sustained interest, and hopefully an eventual purchase) as early as possible.
This is because book marketing isn’t something that comes solely after your launch; it’s a process that should be integrated into every step of publishing a book. Drawing up a chronological game plan will help you keep track of what needs doing and when.
To give a few examples: market research on categories should ideally occur before you even write your book, so you can spot gaps in the market to try and fill. Book reviewers should be contacted months before your launch so they have time to read your book and write thoughtful reviews. In terms of plans for closer to your launch, algorithm-optimized advertising copy should be nailed down a few weeks ahead of time — and in the days before and immediately after, you should be reaching out to your own followers (more on that in a bit).
Secure early book reviews
Again, getting early reviews of your book — or at least drumming up some conversation and a “buzz” around your release — is a crucial thing part of your marketing campaign. However, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. How can you get good reviews to attract a readership, if you haven’t yet attracted a readership to leave you reviews?
That’s where book review blogs come in. You’ll want to get quality reviews of your book, so take the time to find trustworthy reviewers who a) have reviewed in your genre before (and therefore have a relevant audience) and b) are able to give a fair, comprehensive assessment of your work. Once you have a shortlist of places to contact, reach out way ahead of time (we’re talking months) with advance review copies of your book.*
Building a street team is another great way to get reviews from reliable people. Street teams consist of fans who get access to your work ahead of time, so they can read your book before publication and have reviews ready for your launch day. Just make sure they don’t identify themselves as your friends in Amazon reviews, as this is against Amazon’s guidelines!
Beyond this, you could reach out to blogs that organize reading challenges to get your book included; offer to write guest posts about your book for blogs; or consider more formal editorial pieces in newspapers and journals. All this should generate excellent fodder for cover quotes and pull quotes** for Amazon.
Grow a mailing list
A mailing list is a tried-and-true way to develop a dedicated fan base for your work and keep readers in the know about your output. That said, the catch-22 at the heart of mailing lists (one not dissimilar from the book review paradox) has likely occurred to you — how can you promote your work and gain a following if you don’t already have one?
The best way to overcome this problem is reader magnets: what item(s) of value can you offer someone in exchange for their email address? Whether it’s an excerpt from an upcoming book, an exclusive webinar in which you share your most valuable skills, or exclusive illustrations to accompany a future release, an effective lead magnet can really help you build a strong mailing list from scratch. Of course, once you’ve attracted those readers (no magnet pun intended), you’ll need to keep the content coming so they stay engaged. Don’t be afraid to get creative — you will want to stand out from any other email lists to which they might be subscribed.
Finally, rather than going full-DIY with sending out these emails, find a suitable mailing list provider for your budget and timeframe. There’s MailerLite, ConvertKit, Flodesk and a whole host of other software that each have different price points, functionality, and features***. Shop around and have a look at what they offer to find the best fit for you.
Hone your Amazon efforts
SEO, KDP, A9: it can be hard to cut through the jargon if you’re a marketing novice, but it’s essential to familiarize yourself with these things (search engine optimization, Kindle Direct Publishing, and the Amazon keyword algorithm) so your book can rank well in Amazon’s search results — and succeed on the marketplace overall.
This may seem like an impossible task when you consider just how many books there are on Amazon, but don’t lose hope! For indie authors (and honestly anyone publishing for the first time), it’s unlikely you’ll be climbing the Amazon Best Sellers or the Best New Releases list anyway. So what should you really concentrate on in terms of Amazon SEO?
Your best bet is getting your book added to specific niche sub-categories on Amazon. By avoiding the oversaturated categories, your book will have a much stronger chance of performing well. To go extra-niche, you can even reach out to the KDP support center to get added to more than the allotted two categories — and when it comes to keywords, make them as long and detailed as possible for maximum search matches from users.
Evaluate your advertising platforms
Amazon, Facebook, and BookBub are widely considered the “big three” of book advertising. Most indie writers will use one or multiple of these platforms to promote their books and, with any luck, boost their sales.
Of course, external ads can be costly, so you’ll need to make some calculations to assess the viability of your adverts (in terms of cost of advertising per unit you end up selling). But even if you’re strapped for cash, don’t discount such platforms without at least trying them first — for many authors, especially those without much of their own audience, major ad platforms are the best route to move copies.
Just keep in mind that you’ll eventually want to prioritize one over the others, based on whatever works best for you. Also make sure to test this separately from your other advertising efforts (e.g. don’t do Amazon ads and a big reader magnet push at the same time) so you can measure the effects as concretely as possible.
Get your plan in order, grow your audience, and master the relevant platforms — if you can manage all of this, you’re already exponentially closer to success than you were before!
Ricardo Fayet is one of the founders of Reedsy, and an avid SFF reader with a particular passion for high fantasy. He reads mostly indie-published fantasy series, and enjoys lighter YA themes as much as darker ones.
Looking for a more comprehensive guide to book marketing than what’s covered here? Check out Ricardo’s new book, How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market. It’s free to download (and always will be!), but you can also buy the paperback version on Amazon.
The Reedsy Mission Statement
“Crafting beautiful books is at the heart of everything that Reedsy does. We’re changing the way books are published by giving authors and publishers access to talented professionals, powerful tools, and free educational content.
“Reedsy was founded in the summer of 2014 by Emmanuel Nataf, Ricardo Fayet, Vincent Durand and Matt Cobb. Since then, we’re proud to have built a network of world-class publishing professionals and helped produce over 10,000 books.”
Thank you so much to Ricardo for the guest post contribution to my blog today! I appreciate it and the contact from Savannah as well. And to my readers, please check out the Reedsy website where you’ll find a wealth of information in all things editing, writing, cover designs, marketing and a great deal more!
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Content Marketing, England
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*Note: And I might add that your advance review copies should be available in multiple popular formats (digitally: mobi, ebook, and pdf)
**i.e., “editorial reviews.”
***US based MailChimp
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