Here’s what indie authors need to know about new trends in book formats and marketing.
There’s nothing more exciting than finally being at the point where you can launch your incredibly amazing, brand-spanking-new book. You’ve put so much time and effort into this project, and now you’re going to see things really take off.
The truth is, launching your book isn’t a cakewalk - in fact, the work you put in after your launch is every bit as important as the work that came before. And the last thing you want to do is stop the momentum before it even gets going. Here are a few mistakes that might be killing your progress, and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: You have an unclear target audience
Of course, it’s natural to want to spread the word about your product to every single person you can reach. The more awareness, the more sales, right? But a lot of times, this just ends up wasting time and money. If you’ve written a self-help book for young entrepreneurs and you’re advertising on platforms that cater primarily to middle-aged parents, you won’t be seeing as many sales as you might hope. By spreading your resources and your time too thin, the audience that is most interested in what you’re selling might not hear about you until it’s too late.
A good way to avoid this mistake is to plan ahead and determine a) who your target audience is, b) where they spend their time (i.e. what online platforms they visit, places they might hear about your book, if word-of-mouth will influence their choices, etc.) and c) the most effective way for you to reach them.
For example, if you’ve written a cookbook filled with healthy recipes that are easy to prepare, you probably want to focus your advertising efforts on stay-at-home parents, since they are a very large audience and are always looking for ways to help their families eat well in the midst of a busy lifestyle. Stay-at-home parents often visit blogs, Pinterest, and the grocery store, so look into options for getting your name spread in these places. Don’t try to cover too many bases at once - just make sure the bases you are covering are relevant and accessible to your target audience.
Mistake #2: You’re over-saturating your social media platforms with launch content
It’s tempting to post every single day about your new book once it’s time to launch. The cover is gorgeous, the blurbs are winsome, and you want to show the world what you’ve got to offer. However, we all know how annoying it is when someone overshares on Facebook; who wants to see 38 individual posts about what your coworker had for breakfast?
It’s the same with books (although, books are decidedly more interesting than breakfast choices). Seeing a few posts throughout the week will keep people interested and will ensure that your audience is aware of your launch - seeing 4 posts a day, on the other hand, will eventually start to annoy your followers, and might have the opposite of the desired effect.
Keep it simple: don’t post more than you need to. Does your audience really need to see a multi-paragraph Instagram post about the title font of your book? Probably not. Think about what things your audience would actually want to know about your project, and favor fewer, better-quality posts over excessive, low-quality posts.
Mistake #3: You’re prioritizing ads over people
While it’s true that a good chunk of marketing happens through ads and the “website algorithm beast”, sometimes authors get caught up in the online formula and forget the importance of real people. Word-of-mouth is one of your best friends when it comes to selling people on your book - and yes, the difference between selling people your book and selling people on your book matters. Any vendor can sell a book, but it takes an author who forms and nurtures relationships with their friends and buyers to really make them believe in the book.
One person who read and enjoyed your book can be more effective than a dozen costly online ads, if they decide to share their love for it with their friends and family. Given time, you might find yourself with a whole network of people who recommend your writing to others for free, simply because you took the time to reach out and connect with them personally about your project.
In other words, don’t fall down the algorithm hole and then wonder why you’re only receiving a handful of reviews or comments about your work. Remember that books are bought by people, and people are who you want to impact most, during all stages of the launching process.
Mistake #4: You’re taking shortcuts
Ah, shortcuts. Those ever-enticing sirens who sing of “cheap” and “easy” ways to sell your book. Some shortcuts are worthwhile, but most of them will only serve to stab you in the back.
Some of the more notorious shortcuts are skimping on the editing, spamming your email subscribers instead of taking the time to plan and schedule your emails, and not serving refreshments at book launches. These might save you time or money in the moment, but in the long run they’re going to hurt your success more than bolster it. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.
Making mistakes is inevitable, and it can be scary to go all in without knowing how things will turn out. But book publishing is a learning process, and as long as you keep moving forward and being thorough in your endeavors, you’ll become more and more skilled at launching your books, and the effort will pay off!
Bios - where to start? Literally and figuratively, author bios can be difficult to figure out. To help you out, we’ve laid down four straightforward steps you can take on your personal journey to craft the perfect author bio.
Tell a story
Your author bio is essentially an elevator pitch about your life; in order to be effective, it needs to get the relevant information across in an engaging way. So don’t start listing facts and expect readers to care for very long!
Look up examples of author bios, keeping in mind which ones inspire you and which ones have you falling asleep after three words. Think about what you’ve accomplished, and figure out how much you want to include in your “story.” Chances are, you’ve done some pretty amazing things already, and if you incorporate them as a good writer would, you’ll have readers coming back for more before they’ve even read your book.
For example, try starting with a strong intro sentence, then tell the reader what you do, why you’re qualified to do it, and then add a personal touch that makes you stand out from the rest. If you want, you can include a call to action at the end to give readers a way to continue learning more about you and your work.
Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about your readers
This may seem counter-intuitive. It is your bio, after all, right? Well, yes, but you already know all this information about yourself -- you’re not writing this bio for you. You’re writing it to address what your readers want to know.
Understanding that your bio is for your readers will keep you from putting in those little details that no one really cares about, like where you went to middle school or how many states you’ve visited. Of course, if you can find a way to make those facts interesting or humorous, by all means put them in. But try to approach your book and your bio from the reader’s perspective and ask yourself, “what would I want to know about the author after reading their book?”
Find the line between over-selling and under-selling
While it’s important to brag about yourself in your bio, you don’t want to make wide, sweeping generalizations that make it look like you’ve got a puffed-up ego. On the flip side, you don’t want to undersell yourself either! This is the space where you get to show off everything you’ve got, and you should take advantage of it. So the question is then, how do you find the balance?
Naturally, dancing this fine line can be a little difficult. One way to make it easier is to change the names and pretend you’re reading someone else’s bio. How does it come across to you? Another way is to get a second or third opinion from an unbiased party. What do they think? Imagine you met someone at a cafe and told them your bio out loud - how does it sound? Typically, writers are quite good at picking up on these kinds of things, so as long as you’re the one crafting your bio, chances are you’ll avoid over- or under-selling yourself.
Keep it short and sweet
One good tip is to treat your bio like a business card; use it to impress readers, to show off what you can do, and to keep your name in people’s minds long after they’ve tucked the card (or in this case, book) into a drawer or briefcase. You can’t do these things if you’ve written five paragraphs and a postscript for your bio. As awesome as you are, and as wonderful as your accomplishments look in writing, your bio isn’t supposed to be a full-length memoir.
So keep it short, and keep it sweet -- well, as sweet as you want. Everyone loves when a writer throws in a funny tidbit at the end of a bio, so don’t be afraid to spice things up with humor! There are a lot of creative ways to put one final spin on your bio, so put your pencil to your brain and start cracking some eggs.
Many authors wonder, “Do I need to be a public speaker?”
It’s a tricky question; plenty of authors are skilled with pen and paper but hate the idea of speaking to a crowd. You don’t need to be a professional public speaker in order to reach your audience, but in order to effectively market your book, you should probably have some public speaking skills in your back pocket. At the very least, you’ll want to be comfortable enough with public speaking to do readings and similar events to promote your book. To help you out, we’ve put together some tips on how to feel more comfortable in the podium spotlight.
Tip #1 - Talk about topics you enjoy talking about. If you’re trying to speak on an unfamiliar topic, you’ll most likely be stressed on the stage, and that stress will show. It’s much harder to engage with your audience if you lack passion for the subject matter. Before agreeing to speak at an event, ask yourself what you know the most about. What are you interested in (related to your book, of course)? Is there a subject area that you have spent time and energy learning about? What do you think your audience wants to hear?
Tip #2 - Find a way to personally connect with your audience. One effective way to do this is to open with a personal anecdote that relates to your overall topic. Do you have any life lessons to share based on your past experiences or mistakes? What are some relevant life hacks that you have discovered and want to share with your audience?
Tip #3 - Make sure you’re speaking to groups at locations that connect with your book topic or genre. Ultimately, it isn’t worth spending a lot of time and energy on a speaking engagement that won’t bring new readers to your book. Look for places that cater to your audience’s demographic and seek out speaking opportunities at those locations.
Every author is different, and thus every author’s approach to using promoting their book via speaking engagements is going to be different. The amount of public speaking you want to do is up to you, but it’s somewhat inevitable when it comes to selling your book and promoting yourself. Practice makes perfect, though, and the more experience you have with speaking to an audience, the easier it will become.
Joining a local literary community can seem like a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with the options in your area. Not only can it be difficult to find a group that fits your individual style - there’s also the issue of finding groups in the first place. To help you get started, we’ve made a list with a few different places that often host or advertise such groups.
- Community centers
- Art centers
- Independent bookstores
- Literary magazines
After finding a few groups that interest you, attend their meetings to learn more about the groups and see if they’ll be a good fit for you. It can be a little awkward at first, especially if the members of each group seem comfortable and familiar with one another. You might feel like you’re trespassing, or like you don’t belong. But just remember - they advertised the group for a reason. They want to bring in new people.
The next step is figuring out which of these groups is the best match for you. You want to find a community that fits you and your writing.
- Does the group fit your writing genre?
- Do you already know any of the people in the group?
- Have you attended more than one of their meetings?
- Is there a group that is focused on a topic that you are passionate about?
Don’t forget to consider the necessary time commitment. If you really like a group but don’t think you have time to be a full member, see if you can do an event with them or speak to them about your experience as an author. Most literary communities are always looking for new people to share their stories.
If you truly can’t find a local group that meets your needs, consider starting your own. You never know; there might be a dozen other authors nearby who are waiting for a group like the one you could create. But don’t give up hope in the meantime. When you find the right literary community, you’ll know - and you’ll thrive with them.
Social media is a key point in marketing your book…if you are good at it. It doesn’t have to be complex just something to get your name out there and connect with your fans and readers.
Below is going to be a list of a few different social media platforms and some pros and cons about each one for marketing purposes.
* Easy to use and boost posts
* Wide reach
* Easy to interact with groups of potential audiences
* Easy to track events and invite people to your events
* No post length limit
* Hard to keep track of who is seeing your posts
* Several competing groups
* Hard to separate personal and professional pages
* Some posts can be lost in the many posts generated by others
* Perfect for authors with business books
* A great place to network professionally
* Not great for fiction authors
* Still a growing platform not the biggest audience reach
* Super easy to use
* Twitter chats are a great connection tool
* Hosting a giveaway is very easy
* Great way to engage an endorser or pitch to a blogger
* Character limits can be challenging
* Hard to get a tweet noticed with all the other tweets out there
* Again, limited audience reach
There are several other platforms that can be used it just depends on what you like and what works best for you. If you are uncomfortable on a platform it will show in your posts and interactions so be comfortable with what you are on. Also, don’t over stretch yourself by trying to be on too many platforms at once if you are not able to keep them straight and give them the attention they need. It is better to be confident and great at one platform than struggling to stay up to date on many. You may be able to reach more people but if you are not putting in the effort it shows and can do more harm than good.
Finally, whatever platform(s) that you are on try to make the connections two way. Comment on posts share things from others. Create interactions that connect you with your target audience in a stronger and more meaningful way.
The point of marketing is to convince people to buy your book. (Duh!) Some of the best ways to do this is by using social media, events, blogging, and promotions. But it’s more complicated than just that!
* What is your style?
* What is your mission?
* What do you value?
All of these questions go into making a brand and figuring out who you want to portray to the public and how your book fits into that brand.
Here are a few different things to consider about your possible brand and how to incorporate it.
* What is your email address/website address that is available to the public?
o Is your name in it?
o Do you use/check it often?
o Does your audience know about them to be able to reach you?
* What is the content of your website? (if you have one)
o Is the information complete and up to date?
o What other ways can you use them to connect to your audience?
o Does the design of your website match your brand?
* What information is in your author bio?
o Does it market you well?
o How personalized is it and does it sound like you?
o Is it on your website?
* What marketing materials do you have/use?
o Do you have any business cards?
o Do you have any other easy to hand out materials?
o Again, does the design of them represent your brand?
* What social media do you use, if any?
o Are you on it often?
o Do you like to be on it?
o Are you willing to promote yourself on it?
Marketing your book can be as intensive or as relaxed as you want it to be. When you market yourself and your book your sales can be better, and you can reach a wider audience when your name is recognizable. If you are putting yourself out there, people will find you and once they do they can help you spread your name and brand more if they like what they see!