Book publicity and marketing, what’s an indie author to do?

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Image: Pixabay

Wouldn’t it be great you could just write and not worry about the business of selling books?  The explosion of self-publishing has made book publishing possible to new and creative talent, but a big question for indie authors remains.  What’s the best way to market and publicize a self-published book?  Top on the list are building a presence on social media, implementing ad campaigns, and obtaining reviews.  To some extent, a self-published writer’s time and budget will determine the plan, but learning what to focus on and deciding whether to buy marketing and promotion services can be hard.

For writers who are making these decisions for the first time, I’m wondering what experiences other indie authors can share.  So I’m starting a discussion about some specific marketing services listed below.  What has worked best for you?  What would you do differently?

  1. Social Media – do it yourself or hire a publicist? We all know how time-consuming social media is and let’s face it – you either like doing it or you hate it.  But for writers who do enjoy being on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., is it still better to have someone else do it?  Many indie authors wear a lot of different hats and time is a limited resource.
  2. Advertising on Facebook – do people read and engage with these ads? I know a lot of people who use ad blockers.  Do you?
  3. Creating a Facebook Page for Your Book – seems like a good idea, despite my frustration with Facebook. Can you create a page that is not connected to your personal account?
  4. Advertising in Publishers Weekly – Does advertising here help give your book a push in the right direction?
  5. Obtaining Reviews – as a book blogger, I’m sensitive to the need for indie authors to get reviews. Asking someone to review your book is hard to do!  What are your strategies?
  6. Buying Reviews – you can purchase reviews from Kirkus but they are expensive. It’s great if you get a positive review, but is it worth the risk of getting a bad one?
  7. Book Stubs – these little plastic cards display your book cover on the front and offer a free copy of an e-book on the back– they sound fun but unless you’re on a book tour, how helpful are they?
  8. BookGrabbr – this online tool invites your social media followers to share your book with potential readers by offering a preview as a reward or the whole book (a “grabb”) to certain followers. Sounds clever.  Has anyone tried this?

How many hats do you wear?  Do you like social media?  What other marketing methods have helped you sell books?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

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27 thoughts on “Book publicity and marketing, what’s an indie author to do?

  1. Social media takes time, but for me it’s worth it. I’ve met some valuable contacts both through Twitter and Facebook. I now concentrate on three main sites, and keep a minimal presence elsewhere, otherwise I’d never find the time to write. As for reviews, I ask for them: in person, in posts on my social media, and in the back matter of my books. I actively seek out book review blogs in my genre and follow them. If they seem a good fit, I’ll ask for a review. Thanks for your post. I’m looking forward to what others have to say about your list of tools.

  2. Social media can be time-consuming for sure, but I wouldn’t feel authentic having someone do it for me. Supplementing me, sure, but replacing my personal input, probably not. But that’s just me. It might work well for someone else.

    As for Facebook, I’ve tried some ads and they haven’t worked. Others have had good success with them. Maybe I’m not targeting them well enough.

    I have read you shouldn’t have a Facebook page for each book. Rather have an author page. If you’ve had seven books published, seven different pages would be a lot to keep up with! But honestly, FB pages aren’t so great anymore. They don’t seem to get a lot of traffic. It seems friending people on our personal sites is the way to go, but I’ve been slow to do this.

    Great discussion, Barb!

    1. Hi Carrie – thanks for these great comments! I agree that the authentic feel is important. Since we both seem to like social media a lot, that works! I wonder if writers who aren’t comfortable with social media are getting good deals when they buy publicity. I think having a central author website linking all the platforms is a good way to go. Everything you don’t do yourself certainly has a price tag!

  3. I really, really hate marketing and I know I don’t spend enough time on it. Giveaways and short periods of reduced rates and bundling if you have more than one book will help.

  4. Marketing seems all-consuming at times. As I have one book about a specific region in Italy, I put up a book page on which I focus almost exclusively on Calabria, the region in the toe of the boot. I have a handful of enthusiastic followers, but it’s difficult to get that wider reach amongst general Italy fans, even though so much of what happens in Calabria applies to Southern Italy and all of the country, for that matter. As for whether Facebook helps with book sales, I don’t know, but I do know that when I’ve made presentations and have talked to people who have read my book, they often aren’t on Social Media at all and have never been to my blog. Interesting comments above about advertising on Facebook. I haven’t ever done it, but Facebook sure sends me enough messages about “boosting” my posts.
    So the blog is another story. I spend a lot of time writing my posts – just 2 per month, but most of them are like magazine articles, so it’s quite labor intensive. With my blog, I practically have another book, and thus I haven’t written another one yet… Does it help book sales? Here again, it can’t hurt, but I’m not sure to what extent. There’s the possibility of buying my book on my website, but the overwhelming majority go to Amazon.
    I also have a Twitter page and as with Facebook, I’m on it everyday, but I don’t think I’ll ever get the hand of interacting. It’s a whole different skill from meeting someone in person. I often feel as though I couldn’t possibly approach someone as we haven’t been properly introduced. Of course, that’s the beauty for those who do well on social media, they’ve mastered that form of social contact.
    I have made some very nice acquaintances through blogging, Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve had several articles written about my book because of it. As I’ve said, it all helps.
    With reviews themselves, I followed all of the advice, sending out requests, books with requests, etc. and received very good results from a handful of my inquiries. You have to toss a very wide net. I haven’t paid for a review. I got an excellent one from Publishers’ Weekly and would be curious to hear from someone who’s advertised with them. I did pay to have my book in the Combined Book Exhibit at the ALA convention in Orlando this past year, and I honestly don’t know if it had an impact. The CBE listed it as one of the books that garnered top interest, but I couldn’t possibly measure it in sales as libraries take a while to put orders through.
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss!

    1. Hello Karen! Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. As with you, every writer’s book and market is different and has special audiences that are unreachable through social media. I think it can also be hard to measure the impact of interacting through a blog and other platforms but I have to believe that it contributes positively. The relationships we develop through our blogs etc. help us define our markets and polish our spiel, don’t you think?

      1. Personally, I don’t think that social media has helped me polish my spiel, but as I said, I haven’t mastered the platform. However, there is no question that each form of marketing definitely contributes to the whole. The question that remains is whether or not it is worth it, and of course, “worth it” can apply to not only financial reward, but social contact made, time spent, personal and professional development, etc. Every person is different, as is every book and every blog, and you really only start realizing that when you begin to engage with all that’s out there.

      2. I guess it’s smart to look at the big picture. I try to do that. I do know that having a blog helped be get a job after 20 years at home and the skills I learned doing social media and being in the internet are definitely making my job easier. So you never know how all this stuff can help you.

  5. I have to admit that marketing is the first hat I drop when I’m super busy. It’s not a hat that sits comfortably on my head because I worry people get sick of hearing about my books/art. Still, I know it must be done. Unfortunately, I’m great at coming up with marketing plans (mostly social media and blogging) but terrible at executing them.

  6. I haven’t ventured into the world of self-publishing yet, and am still not even quite sure how to do it. So reading through the comments above has been very educational for me, and I appreciate this post! Like most writers, I would prefer to simply write my books and let someone else worry about selling them, but I know it doesn’t work like that.

  7. Good question! I haven’t been able to do much marketing, but so far a Goodreads giveaway that’s going on now seems to have helped the most. Before the giveaway, only a few friends had marked my novel as to-read and now more readers have done that. I don’t know if that will translate into sales after the giveaway, but it’s nice to see more people taking an interest in it. Readers’ Favorite also helped with a few reviews before my novel was published. Other than that, I’ve been trying to promote it locally because of the Cape Cod setting. The local newspaper did an article on it but I didn’t see much of a jump in sales after that.

    1. Hi Sheila – thanks for joining in. I guess the answer might be to keep trying new things because you never know which is going to lead to more book sales. Although it’s little different, when I had my own business it took me a full year of making sales calls to get enough good clients. So you never know!

      1. That’s good to know – it puts it into perspective and shows that we can’t expect much in the beginning. I guess it takes a while for word to get around with any business (especially when there’s not much time for marketing)! 🙂

  8. I can’t stand marketing and promoting. It’s painful for me, as you know. 😉 I also have a love/hate relationship with social media. Then there is the time-suck aspect of it (which I don’t have…um…time for).

    These are great comments and I’ll look into some of the suggestions here and in your post. I’m hopeless, as of now, with publicity. Perhaps that will improve? Thanks for the post!

  9. Firstly and foremostly, none of this applies across the board. What works for one person may not work for another and vice versa. In regards to Social Media, I shall always recommend to do it yourself if you’re an indie author. Time may be a limited resource, but my experience is that it shows who does their own social media and who uses a publicist and it’s a big letdown when that happens.

    I’ve been skeptical of Facebook ads for a while because I know how much FB inflates numbers to make it seems as if the ad was effective. FB in general is a weird platform to crack and odds are fairly high that a small investment will do wonders, but it’s still a meh experience for me.

    I’ve held off creating pages for my books or different channels on youtube because it seems like added work but it might be worthwhile.

    Again, very skeptical on the whole ad usage especially since I work in advertising, but results do speak for themselves.

    As for reviews, it’s the biggest challenge ever for me and has actually backfired. Case in point, one particular project doesn’t get much attention so I sent 5 signed copies to a book club that seemed interested. The book wasn’t the best fit (they were reading intense things about transgender topics, human trafficking and civil rights and my book is a collection of whimsical short stories lol. Got three 3-star reviews and a 1-star review on my Goodreads but nowhere else. Still trying to find more places to get more reviews but would rather it were organic rather than paid for. So that’s DEFINITELY another topic I suck at lol.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences- I tend to agree with you about not hiring a publicist to do your social media because I think it’s obvious when that happens. I feel like it’s just a machine you have to keep churning at to get results. Like sales and everything else, it’s a numbers game so the more you get out there the more results you get. I really appreciate you telling your story! Have a great day!

      1. Happy to share my experiences and indeed, it’s sad how obvious it is. But this is my 4th year running the indie gauntlet and again, even if it isn’t easy, it’s always worth it. Some days are frustrating, but such is life. you also learn what gives better results. Me being me has been the best option always and in regards to promoting books, having a presence in a few places helps but interacting with people on Booktube (i.e. youtube) has helped give a lot more exposure, me thinks. Anyways, cheers to you and all the writers going for it

  10. Booktube is a subculture within Youtube. I participate in Booktube (which has been around for a while) and Authortube (much younger). Basically I label my videos as being part of Booktube because Youtube outside of that bubble is pretty nasty. I do a ton of videos ranging from book reviews, to writing tips, book hauls, TBRs, Wrap Ups, and book tags (i.e. random questions that are related to the books we read).

    I’ve been able to meet a lot of people through there, increasing followers on Twitter, Instagram, and facebook and just another way to connect. I invest a lot of time in it, but mostly because honestly it’s fun and it’s also good practice for public speaking. I’ll put the link below to my channel so you can see the variety of things I do on there. Again, fun, but requires time because apart from producing content, I also watch a lot of vids and interact with people, which has been my key on all platforms.

    (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwnLN0q3ewrxEkvOLI4o5Q)

    1. Oh wow – there are so many networking worlds out there. I just joined (for my father’s book promotion and interaction) something called BookWorks. I hope it will be helpful in getting the word out about his book. And for connecting with other indie authors. Always something to learn!

      1. Such is life, my friend. Always plenty to learn. Best of luck with BookWorks and if you need another reader for your dad’s book, let me know and I’ll see when I can squeeze it in the schedule lol. 😀

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