So, you’ve done it: you’ve slept with a woman (sorry, Monty Python flashback). I mean, you’ve written a book and self-published or found a small indie press to put it out there for you. Hooray for you!
That was the easy part.
If you ever hope to sell more than a hundred copies, total, you’d better start marketing like your life depends upon it.
Where to start, though?
Since 2013, I have tried just about every approach there is, on every existing – and some now defunct – social media platform(s). I’ve made posts or paid ads on:
- Author websites
- Author blogs
- School newspaper ads
And now I’m here to share some hard truths:
- No single effort will achieve what you’re looking for – assuming what you’re looking for is a fanbase and book sales.
- You are going to spend far more than you take in for years. YEARS. Or, you know, you’re just not going to be a factor in your genre.
- If you invest in swag, you’ll get stuck with a lot of it, or, if it’s something wearable, be prepared to never see it on the backs and chests of your friends, even if they frantically request said wearable.
- You will encounter assholes who mock your efforts, your work or your ideas. Are they jealous? What does it matter? Meanness sucks and is hurtful. And you’ll experience it.
- You will encounter saints, who are always in your corner and work tirelessly to promote your work for no apparent reason. Some of them are your colleagues and putative competitors. Nonetheless, they persist. One of these people for me has been author C.T. Phipps.
- You will be suckered into buying something with sky-high promises that never come close to delivering what you’ve been made to expect.
- The best things, the most spiritually fulfilling, are free.
Facebook, to me, remains the best bet for your advertising dollar. But be careful, it can get very expensive in a hurry and you need to know when to end a campaign before it breaks your bank. Also, its ad-making engines have gotten more and more byzantine as time has gone, and you practically need to know how to code to understand the damned stuff nowadays.
If you can get the fabled Bookbub, it is rumored to be the gold standard and ridiculously helpful. But Bookbub rejects many a successful author for reasons known only to them. I have not been so lucky, nor have many of my more-talented colleagues.
TikTok feels promising to me, but, so far, I haven’t found the right formula.
Book trailers are a necessary part of your larger campaign, but, in and of themselves, they don’t seem to have tremendous impact.
Colleagues who are friends. You must have them. You will need their advice and support, even if they don’t read your work – and most won’t. Don’t be a bitch about it. They have lives, family, illnesses, dreams and TBR lists like you wouldn’t believe. Quid Pro Quo is very, very rare. Get used to living without it. Support others because you’re a good human and don’t expect a reciprocal effort.
Do read the top indie and small-press authors in your genre.
I’ve already suggested this, but allow me to reiterate: spend everything you take in, and, if you can afford it, more. Do NOT look at your royalties as a supplementary income stream unless and until you have at least ten books published. But spend wisely. I’ve made every mistake you can make, so if you’re tempted but confused, email me at email@example.com
Build your internet presence, be everywhere you can possibly be, so that the actual “web” of the world wide web leads to you through multiple, redundant paths. Make it more than easy for readers to find you, make it inevitable. Yes, you’re going to say goodbye to a fair degree of anonymity if you really want to sell your books. You can’t be both successful and anonymous.
Breathe. As John Lennon famously wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”