About two weeks ago I did a little Top Five Tips on reasons not to self publish (see here) . I have to admit I thought I was going to get some backlash from this post in case people thought I was coming across negative or “preachy”. Thankfully, I got a lot of good praise and emails about it so it seems to have gone well.
Let me make one thing clear – I was NOT trying to discourage anyone from self publishing. I was merely trying to clear up some pre-conceived myths that people have come to believe about the process. But I also said that self publishing is a great way to get your book out there and I truly recommend it. It is hard work and I always make sure that there are no illusions in that fact. It seemed only natural that I should do a little post giving writers some ideas of how to self publish their book.
My only reason for not doing that is the simple fact that, despite what some people may think, I am NO expert at the self publishing process and there are plenty of self published authors that have had more success than me and I’m sure can give better advice than I can, which is why I avoided doing a post like that before. However, I have learned a wealth of information from other authors and Trial and Error exercises that I think have made me a stronger person. And I do like to share tips with other authors in the hope that we can both learn something from each other.
So rather than do a definitive guide of how to self publish and promote your work, I thought I’d do a Top Five Tips based on things that have worked for me PERSONALLY. These are the five things that I have done myself that I think have helped the sale of my books substantially. Obviously there are plenty of other ways to promote yourself other than the ones listed here and I’m sure more experienced authors will be able to assist, but I can at least share the basics.
Disclaimer: Doing the below things is NOT a guarantee that you will get hundreds of sales – but they will certainly help.
1. Start a website/blog
This may seem like an obvious thing to do – but you’ll be surprised how many authors I’ve met that don’t have EITHER of these things. Given that we live in a world that is pretty much controlled by the Web, it makes it a necessity to have these things. However, I think a lot of people that don’t have any web experience can be intimidated by creating a web site of their own as they don’t know where to start.
However, fret not! For there are plenty of online companies that can help you create a website. I use Wix (which is also where I have my blog) and speaking as someone that had no prior web experience before using it, I find it a very easy tool to use. It’s all based on “drag and drop” technology which you can also add links to, photos, etc. It’s by far one of the easiest ways to create a website if you have no experience. It also has a lot of great, user friendly advice on how to create web pages if you’re not sure. And it’s free to use as well (so long as you don’t mind Wix adverts going round your website). Maybe it’s not the absolute best website creator in the world – but I never had any problems with it and recommend it for beginners.
As far as blogging goes, this is also a must for any author. I actually shirked at blogging before trying it myself, now I wished I did it sooner! A blog is a great way to get your name out there and get more potential sales for your work – because if they like your content then they’ll definitely check out your work. I actually think I got more readers through doing a blog than putting up adverts about my work on Youtube or Facebook.
When doing a blog, there are many schools of thought on how often you should write and what you should write about. For me, I’d say you should update a blog at least once a week – more so if you can. When writing content, try to mix it up a bit and don’t just talk about your books as this may come across as boring, or sometimes pretentious. Yes, you want people to read your work and you want to tell them when you have a new book out – but you also want people to respect you as a writer, so it helps to be varied.
I blog at least 4 times a week and have a kind of rota. Mondays I talk about my writing, Wednesday I host guest blogs/interviews or talk about other authors/films I’m into. Friday is a general blogging day where I talk about anything that interests me or any general subject and Saturday is my Top Five Tips day. Occasionally I’ll blog about other stuff if I feel the need to on other days – but I find that this schedule works fine for me just fine.
Blogs are a great way to communicate with potential readers, so I highly recommend it.
2. Do guest posts/blog tours
If you run a blog, then doing guest posts and blog tours on other blogs comes highly recommended. Many bloggers are always on the lookout for people to do a guest post – so don’t be afraid to contact them, especially if they are asking for bloggers. Guest posts are a great way to get your name out there on other blogs – especially if that blog has thousands of readers! By the same token, you can also offer to host guest blogs on your OWN blog/website. If you host a guest blog from a popular blogger/writer, then it will bring all their readers to your site, thus increasing your range. Potentially you could get thrice as many readers as you have already.
Blog tours are also a great idea – although it’s best to plan them months in advance to gauge how many dates you’ll need. I’m currently organising a blog tour for my novel Trapped on Draconica in the next few months. Many believe that you should only do blog tours for new books that you have out – but my belief is that if you have a book out, why not do a tour about it?
Guest posts and blog tours aren’t only a great way to promote your work – but also make great contacts. Having done guest posts myself, I have made friends with other authors/bloggers and I’m thankful for them giving me the time to host on their site. And you can always repay the favour to them when they need a guest post or blog tour. So if you’re running a blog, this is something that I also highly recommend.
3. Use social networking, like Facebook, Twitter, etc
With social networking pretty much dominating the world right now, there’s never been a better way to get your name out there. Obviously, just having Twitter or Facebook alone doesn’t guarantee you any huge success – but it certainly doesn’t hurt!
If using Twitter or Facebook, don’t just post or tweet about your blog/book, try and mix it up a bit. Even if you just want to tweet about making yourself a drink or whatever, it’s ok to just tweet general stuff. Also, retweeting posts from other authors/bloggers is a great idea as they will often do the same for your posts. With Twitter you’ve also got the added advantage of being able to use hash tags to tag your posts. Put in the right hash tag and you can potentially get more people to read your posts – you might even find your posts trending on Twitter if you’re lucky!
One thing I would advise – and I only say this because this is a pet peeve of mine – if you get followed by someone on Twitter or added on Facebook, DO NOT automatically message them with links to your books or website, or asking to like your Facebook page. This is something that really winds me up as it sounds like a hard sell and it can gain the ire of people. If people want to check out your website or whatever, they will – but they don’t like being pressured into things.
However, it is perfectly acceptable to send them a message thanking them for the follow or like. In fact, I actually don’t mind people sending me a DM when I follow them on Twitter thanking me for the follow – as long as they don’t try and sell me something. It makes it even better if you personalise your thank you (i.e., if they say on their Twitter they like a certain author you like, tell them you also like it). I personally don’t send DM’s to anyone that follows me because I have a pretty tight schedule and it would take me too long to reply to EVERYONE that follows me – but I am always grateful for the follow regardless.
Like anything, there are certain do’s and don’ts with using social networking. But as long as you don’t try and sell anything to your new followers or try to force them towards your website, you should be fine. Leaving a link in your description and tweets to your information is more than enough.
4. Approach bookshops
For those who prefer the more “traditional” approach to self publishing, there are still many book shops out there that may be interested in selling your book, so don’t be afraid to contact them. I myself had copies of Trapped on Draconica sold in my local Waterstones (one of UK’s largest book chains) and this was without needing to contact their head offices first.
Naturally, not EVERY bookshop will want to take copies of your book – but don’t be afraid to approach them. In the old days, bookshops used to refuse to take self published novels – but if I can get my book into Waterstones, then that surely proves that bookshops are more willing to accept these types of printed books if the quality is right.
Here’s the best tip I can give if you want to do this. Try and get a name of the person you need to speak to at the bookshop. Tell them you are an author that would be interested in doing business with them and find out a name of who you need to speak to. If it’s someone you need to speak to in store, find out when they are next in then pay them a visit on the off chance that you can speak to them. You could also try calling or emailing them, but I find it much more effective to try and speak to someone – although I’ll be honest I can get quite shy and nervous when speaking to people direct so it makes me even prouder that I was able to get my book into a Waterstones with that insecurity.
Like I say, if you prefer the more “hands on” approach, then try this by all means. Even in this day and age of digital ebooks, many people I know still prefer holding a book in their hands – so if you can exploit this then go for it.
5. Attend conventions as a seller
Out of all the above tips above, this is one that I thoroughly recommend – especially for those who write Science Fiction and Fantasy as there are tons of conventions for those genres. I myself attended a Manga convention earlier in the year and I felt that it was a huge success for me. I may not have sold as much as I thought I would, but I got more readers in those two days then an entire month of trying to promote my book through Amazon.
Conventions are a great way to network and promote your work. Even if you don’t sell everything – you can make some great contacts through other dealers that may be able to sell your book. Of course, attending conventions aren’t cheap and you often have to supply your own costs. Not to mention that trying to get into the most well known conventions is next to impossible unless you’re an established name – but some of the independent conventions are always on the lookout for exhibitors and people to attend.
Even though you aren’t guaranteed to sell a huge amount of your works, you never know what contacts you might make. Just by doing the first convention I did, I was later invited to attend a convention in Newcastle later in the year – so that’s certainly one way of getting my name out there. And that’s the point of conventions – getting your name out there.
If you can attend one then I recommend it without question. If nothing else it will be a fun day out for you! If you want to see how I got on, check out THIS LINK.
So those are my Top Five Tips. Please feel free to comment below if you found this helpful or not. I welcome all comments. Like I said, these are not a guarantee for success – but just things that I have done and have worked for me. I’m sure that other can recommend plenty more ways to get your name out there and if you wish to share them, please do. Whichever way you want to promote your work, I wish you all possible success!
Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.