This is the hardest part of being a self published author. I like to engage people, talk about my work, talk to people who have read my work and so on. But selling myself? Convincing people to buy my work? That’s another story all together.
As a self-published author, the work doesn’t end after you have written the book. Just because you have found a way to get your book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble website, it doesn’t mean that it will sell. Telling friends and family that you have published a book does not mean they’re going to go out and buy your book either. Besides, they are not your core audience. The people who read your genre of writing is your audience and that’s who you need to reach.
And even though you plan to attend that huge book fair near you, remember you are in competition with other writers. In some cases you may be up against big named writers so you have to step your game up. You need to make a business plan.
When you self publish a book, you are selling yourself to the public. You want them to read your novel but to get them to do that you have to get them to know you. So you have to get out there and sell yourself, right? But how? Here are some ways to get both you and your work out there.
WEBSITE: Build a website. You can either hire someone to do it or maintain your own. The website is your home base. It’s where you direct people to find out who you are, what kind of books you write, to get in touch with you and to sell through. Now when I say website I mean a site with multiple tabs and pages, not a single webpage with everything thrown on it. Not a blog page with multiple links to things. You have an opportunity on the site to offer people what you can’t in person such as discounts on books, contests where people can win copies of your book and sneak peeks like sample chapters of current or upcoming work. Make it inviting, easy to navigate and interesting. Be sure to update it regularly and keep your readers informed.
On my Hobbcat Website I have pages devoted to certain books, a library with links to my books as well as a photo gallery and media section with my reviews and interviews. People can easily track what’s going on with my work.
SOCIAL MEDIA and BLOGS: Social Media is another way to reach the masses. It’s free, it’s easy and the best way to reroute people to your website. The most important thing you should keep in mind is that your social media page should be kept separate from your personal media page. It’s always good to share your business information to friends and family but you want to keep business contacts and readers closer. They visit your page to be a part of your work. They don’t need to know about your family reunion in Vermont. Unless of course, you were selling books there.
On Facebook you should create a separate page for your company. Create a fan page for yourself and a group page that you can directly link friends and family to. Link your Facebook page to Twitter because when you update your status, Twitter is updated too. You don’t have to go back and forth. Use Linkedin for the more profession and business feel. Scribd is a popular site for writers you can also join as well.
Blogs are a great way to reach people who are interested in the same topics and dynamics you are. You can raise questions that attract both fans and other writers who may be able to help you in numerous ways. I like to use mine to pass on information to others and discuss my upcoming work. A blog can also inspire others and add to your fan base. That’s always good.
BOOK REVIEWS: You want to do this. Send your book to reviewers 6 months before the book is due to come out. You want to send it to reviewers no family and friends. They will not be a critical. You will want a write up done, especially if it’s a positive one. Taking a blurb from a positive review and putting on the book always helps.
You will also have to grow a thick skin which is not easy to do. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, people can go online and review your books who are not even book critics. They maybe avid readers of a genre you write in and if they feel strongly about what you do, they will voice it. Take into account you have to have a strong stomach for this sort of thing. Not everyone is going to like what you do. I have had some solid reviews come out about my work in the papers. But I had one online about a horror anthology I wrote that got a very mean review. I wasn’t prepared for it. In the review I was informed by the reader of errors in the book but they didn’t stop there. But the reader went on to not only bad mouth the work but bad mouth me. Naturally I pulled the book again and reworked it, but his review was seen by a lot of people and it cut me deep. I wasn’t sure what prompted such a mean review but I had to get over it if I was going to keep going. In the end, I needed that review because as a writer and, more importantly as a business man, I didn’t want my readers/customers unhappy.
INTERNET RADIO: There are so many book review radio shows out there. Blog Talk Radio is a large site that you can go through. I have been interviewed on at least four of them and soon after the interview I post them to my website for people to hear. These can be a great way for you to reach a mass audience. It’s free and the hosts are always looking for guests. Who knows, you could become a regular on one if the host likes you. You can also host your own. Talk about your work or talk about the genre you write in and have people call in. The more you put yourself out there the better.
PRESS KITS: Always have a press kit ready. You never know when a member of the press will pass by and you can give them a package. Put the essentials in there; Book launch announcement, post cards, business card, information about the book(s). In some cases you can even include a copy of one of your books. Get the press hungry for your work.
SAMPLE COPIES: This is the real tricky thing. We want to make money from our books; after all we are a business. But there will come times where you will have to give the product away to gain attention. Reviewers, book clubs, press and interviewers are usually the best people to give sample copies to. You will have to accept the fact that you will have to eat the money on this. But also use your judgment. For example, you may give a sample copy to the head of a book club but don’t give the entire club the book. The idea is so that they will go out and buy it. You may, if you are selling the book through your own website, want to offer them a bulk discount.
BOOK FAIRS: What you have to understand about book fairs is that it’s a double edged sword. Yes, you can sell books and yes, it’s a great place to network and be seen. But what you want to do is market yourself here. You need to reach out to the readers, talk with them and get to know them. You are on display here, not the books. The books are the bonus.
An example of this was at the Brooklyn Book Fair in 2007. I had unveiled my new book The Hooky Party. Unlike my first time going to a book fair with A Gamble of Faith I came prepared with postcards, a book review on poster board and a couple of friends willing to spend the day with me.
The book is a young adult novel so that was my target audience for the day. There were many young adults at the fair, most were with parents. So my friends would go over to the parents with the book and postcard, ask them did they remember when they were teenagers what it was like to be at a hooky party. The reactions to the question drew their attention to the book then to me. When the parents came over, I would just reminisce about the days when we were young then segue into the book. Meanwhile the teen is looking at the book and reading the back. They were so taken by what I was doing, boom, I’d make a sale. The fact that I was the author and willing to talk was the plus.
To the teens, meeting a ‘real author’ is the treat. So I would talk to them about school and trade stories and soon they wanted to know more about the Hooky Party so they bought the book. In that instance, I never really talked about the book but about me and why I wrote it. So they think there’s some secret in there they will learn so they bought it. At the end of the day, I went home with only three books left.
Book Fairs can be slow going and if you don’t have patience you may want to think twice before going. While you do want to make money that day, remember readers look for bargains and take little risk on new authors. So you have to sell them on you and why they should put money down for your book. My advice would be never to sell the book for cover price unless it’s already cheap. Meaning that if your book is $15, don’t sell it for $15 as an unknown author. No one will touch it. Shave off a couple of bucks. If you have more than one book, do a bundle pack. My books range in price but I will do a bundle if people are interested. If I have 2 books priced at $15 each, I will sell both for $25. I personally don’t charge for an autograph but some authors do. They will charge $12 for a book with the autograph, $10 without it. That’s completely up to you but I don’t do it.
My final word on book fairs is to do your homework about them. What do I mean?
The Brooklyn Book Fair is a book fair, meaning the only thing you will see being sold and displayed are books. I have been to book fairs where there are people selling music CD’s, jewelry, t-shirts, scented oils, food, none of which have anything to do with books. Some even invite street vendors selling popular book titles for dirt cheap which, of course, takes away all potential customers from you. Then, peppered throughout the fair, are actual authors trying to sell. In essence the fair is more of a flea market than a place to sell books. There is a 99.9% chance you will sell nothing at all and worse, draw no attention to yourself. That’s a complete waste of time and money. So you should always plan to visit the fairs first and plan to sell the following year. Get out and experience them.
CONVENTIONS: Always great for networking, not always a great place to sell unless it’s a genre convention like Comic Conventions or Fantasy Conventions if that is what you write. If you plan to sell at one of these, build a fan base before you do. People who are familiar with you, your blogs or your marketing will want to meet you and thus bring potential buyers of your work to you. But networking, making yourself seen and getting your name out here is what’s important.
You should attend a couple of conventions first so you can get an idea of their set up, what people sell and how you will fit in. Unlike a book fair, Conventions are filled with a host of other events like panels and signing by celebrities. There are also a wide range of vendors selling collectables and other paraphernalia.
As a self published author you cannot be a recluse. Nobody knows who you are if you don’t come out or people meet you. The best promotion is self promotion. Be seen, talk about what you do and get people interested in your work.
GRANT APPEARANCES: For book clubs, offer to come and meet with the club about the book and answer questions. Make yourself accessible.
In the end, it boils down to the amount of time, effort and money you feel you want to put into being a self published author. Not everyone is cut out for it, not everyone can afford it and not everyone wants to do what I have above.
Writers write, that’s what we do, end of story (no pun intended). For the majority of us, getting published is the goal but it can a long time to reach. I’m not saying that self publishing is the quick and easy way to get published, it’s not. But is an option you have available for you.
- Marc L Abbott
- I am a self published author from Brooklyn, New York. I have been publishing my work since 2004 and currently have four titles on the market in print and ebook format. I write horror and fantasy fiction as well as books for young adult. I am also a playwright with stage productions in and around New York City. Visit my website at www.hobbcatpublishing.com