(Disclaimer: What worked for me MIGHT NOT BE YOUR CUP OF TEA! So don’t take this as the only way to go about things. The purpose of this series is to encourage indie/hybrid authors with ideas of how to launch your debut self-published novel. If you disagree, I totally understand. The beauty of self-publishing is that you can do it your own way and learn on the job.)
So…if you’re following the steps I’ve outlined so far, you have an edited draft of your MS (manuscript) ready…you’ve got the working cover art and blurb…you’ve listed your book on Goodreads…and you’ve gotten the MS out to early readers for endorsements and/or reviews.
I think the next crucial steps, in those (maybe) two months you’re waiting for early reader feedback/endorsements, is to build buzz.
This means marketing. You might not like marketing. Most authors don’t. I just happen to get a kick out of it. Formatting gives me much more angst than marketing. We’re each drawn to different aspects of writer-dom. If you hate marketing so much you feel yourself getting depressed just contemplating it, and if you have money to outsource it, by all means, please do. If I’m ever able to outsource my formatting, I probably will because it drives me nutso.
I’ll share a few marketing strategies I used and the relative success of each one.
1) Design pinnables with select quotes from your book. For this, I used PicMonkey to edit free pics, like from Morguefile. You can see my God’s Daughter pinnable “gallery” here. I do think this campaign was a relative success, as many people did pin them and get excited about the book. The longhouse quote below was a favorite.
It’s tricky, because you don’t know who’s saying what, in what context…but for me, it was a way to highlight my writing style. I also made sure to include the title, genre, and release date on each one, so people who glanced at the pic would know what it was advertising.
2) Share the first chapters of your book. I put this off until about two weeks pre-launch day. After much finagling and bugging fellow authors about it, I figured out how to upload to Scribd. This is where it is IMPERATIVE that your first chaps are as edited as you can get them, because people will be sampling your writing/grammar/presentation through this sample. You can check mine out here. Scribd is wonderful because it lets you embed a code on your site and then you get that totally epic box that scrolls down. Now, this was NOT my final layout for the book, but close to it. The good thing is, you can also update Scribd. So as my endorsements came in, I was able to plug those in and reload.
As for success rate, I got a lot of hits right off the bat, but things did slow down once the book released–probably because those first sample chapters can be downloaded for free on Kindle. But the Scribd sample still gets hits, and it’s a great way to give possible readers a taste of the book, directly on your website.
3) Do a Facebook photo campaign. I saw traditionally published authors doing this, with great success. But you need a tie-in with your book. For one campaign, the readers held teacups and dressed for tea. For mine, I asked readers to hold their favorite Bibles, since my main character doesn’t HAVE a Bible. I wanted to increase appreciation for our easy access to Bibles, as well as give people a chance to share their fave Bible stories. You can see that gallery here on Pinterest (I posted pics to my Facebook author page, and then to a Pinterest board). I didn’t get as much participation as I’d hoped, but the pictures were wonderful and the stories were GREAT. So I consider it a success!
4) Prepare guest posts. Depending on the blogger, you might be answering interview questions or concocting your own blogposts on various angles on your book/writing journey. By the end of about six months, you’ll be sick of your story and explaining why you wrote it. But it’s not all in vain. For each blog you visit, there are readers who have not yet heard your story/heard about your book. I do recommend asking for interview questions, whenever possible. It takes the load off you, so you can focus on your launch. I have a personal policy to try to knock out guest interviews/blogposts as soon as possible after I receive them. That way, things don’t fall through the cracks.
5) Do a vlog or some blogposts leading up to it. I always find vlogs an excellent way to connect with readers. I was blessed to have my crit partner (and friend!), Becky Doughty, visit the week of my book release. Becky spent hours formatting for me and showing me how to format (kind of like “teach a man to fish, feed him for life…”). I can NEVER repay her for that. We also took goofy pictures in our sleep-deprived state and fueled ourselves with black coffee…but we were able to vlog before Becky had to take off for the West Coast. Even though my computer camera left much to be desired, it was great to just capture the excitement we both felt for this release on a vlogpost. You can view that here.
Remember, these are just things I did to gear up for launch. I’d love it if you share your buzz-building steps and ideas below!