*****You Get What You Put In – Marketing Your Self-Published Book*****
I am a self-published author. It’s still absolutely surreal to say those words, but as of July 24, 2014 they are true. But, that’s not all I am. I work full-time, I go to grad school and I’m a wife and momma of two fur babies. Why do I bring up my crazy schedule? Because when it comes time to publish a book, we are ALL busy but you are going to get out of this book what you put into it.
And, not just the words. You poured your heart and soul into the words. You wrote and rewrote and edited and cut and started over and wrote some more. You let beta readers critique it and editors slice and dice it. You let go of words you loved and embraced criticism you kept repeating to yourself was constructive and not demeaning. You’ve already put so much into this book and yet, it’s not over. It’s just beginning.
My full-time job is marketing. For the last three years, I was specifically entrenched in media relations (which meant my whole job was getting my clients press coverage). I am not your stereotypical introverted writer. I have an absolute fear of failure and I will do anything and everything to make sure my book is a success. I tell you all of these things because I can absolutely say that they made this process easier (sometimes), but you can do this, too. Even if you aren’t crazy like me.
So, here are my top tips for marketing your book:
- Start MONTHS before you publish. Get your social channels in order. You don’t have to have every single one out there, but figure out which ones you will actually consistently engage in and own them. Don’t always post about your book once you have them. Show the audience who you are. Give them little teasers, character intros and small snippets that will keep them excited, but post about YOU. You are the one they are building a relationship with. A good rule of thumb is for every one promotional post about your book, post three that aren’t. And, I would caveat that “Buy my book” is promotional, but “Banged out 2000 words today, feeling awesome about what I’ve got for you guys!” is not. Be smart – you got this.
I had been out of the Twitter space for years and forced myself back in after hearing it was a great engagement tool and here’s a snapshot of what I like to post (because I’m a total nerd ball).
Also, use If this, then that – it’s a phenomenal app that allows you to cross-post to multiple channels at once. Like you can post to Instagram and it will auto post the same thing to Twitter and your Facebook Fan Page (versus your personal profile, which is what Instagram defaults to). But be careful – your Facebook posts won’t make sense on Twitter. Think about your audience and what they expect from a specific channel. Don’t just blast everything everywhere.
- Engage in the community. Indie authors are amazing people. And they are still completely down to earth, awesomely-regular people. A lot of them have day jobs still and kids and life happening, just like you, and yet they will do everything they can to help each other. So find Facebook groups to be a part of. Follow other authors and book bloggers and genuinely engage in their posts and social dialogue. And when the time comes to start communicating with them about reviews, be real. Don’t send a total form letter. Ask the bloggers and authors you’ve built relationships with to suggest bloggers who like your genre. Tie your messages back to those people. Be real.
And when you start sending those review request emails, make sure you do your homework. Read review policies to make sure they are truly accepting requests, make sure your book fits in their genre and that you provide all information necessary. And if you find a blogger not willing to accept reviews, politely ask if they would consider doing a promo post or allowing you to do a Facebook takeover of their page (if they do that). I initially paid for a blog tour but wasn’t thrilled with how it went, so I spent three weeks sending 3-5 emails A DAY to bloggers I would come across. I “liked” tons of other Indie authors on Facebook so I could see which bloggers they were out liking. I clicked on the review posts put up by those authors in my genre to see what people were saying and which blogs were talking about them. I spent hours every night online sending out messages, links, promo posts and mobi copies.
- Make spreadsheets. Don’t do the work multiple times. As soon as a blogger confirms to me that they want to do a post or review, they go in my spreadsheet. Their name, blog name, email and web address. Because I’m going to publish more books and I don’t want to have to google my own name to find my allies.
Also, use spreadsheets to track your launch details. I queried tons of bloggers to do release day posts for me, I contact my college alumni office to see if they would promote me, I emailed local bloggers in my hometown to see if they would talk about me, I pitched myself to the local paper and they ran a profile the day of my release. I needed to pre-draft tweets and Facebook posts and create teaser images and on and on and on. And the only way I could keep it all straight was to map it out and give myself deadlines. It kept me from being overwhelmed because I could break it down into pieces, and it also gave me a roadmap for next time. Did I mention my asinine fear of failure? I needed the spreadsheets to remind me that it wasn’t all due today and that I wasn’t Superwoman.
- Consider a launch party. I have a large extended family and a huge network of friends in Des Moines. I decided to hold a launch party at which I had cool prizes (metal-stamped bookmarks with quotes from my book, “Bound” jewelry, signed copies of my books and my other writing group members’ books, and the opportunity to have a character named after you). For every person who posted on my Facebook fan page or tweeted using the #BoundbyDuty hashtag, or bought a pre-order print copy of my book or showed me the e-book on their phone, they got an entry. I had a cake, but held it in a restaurant so kids could come and people could buy their own drinks.. If you’ve been working to build your following, then this could be a huge success for you!
- Always talk about your book. Everywhere I go, I have a stack of bookmarks in my purse. I tell the lady at the bank and post office and the girl behind the counter at the mall that I wrote a book. I leave bookmarks in nail salons and hair salons and even throughout the Minneapolis airport as I walked around during a Labor Day trip. I post on the boards at my office and have the cover of my book taped outside my cube. I find ways to bring it up to strangers as often as possible because you never know if they are a target reader, and more importantly, you never know who they might know!
- Have a new release newsletter sign up. Let me be crystal clear – this is not a newsletter attached to your blog. It is not full of promotional crap or your random ramblings. This is 100 percent new release information ONLY. You name it that. You promote it as that on all your social channels, your website and in the back matter of your book. And then you ONLY send one out when you are talking about a new release. Are print copies now available? Is the Kindle copy out there? Are you doing your cover reveal? This is the place where people get information first. And in every rafflecopter you participate in, you give them extra entries for signing up for that bad boy. It will be priceless.
There’s so much more I could say, but this post is wretchedly long already. So, I’ll leave you with this – be prepared to be overwhelmed. But, be organized —it will help. And know that you aren’t alone. If you do these things, I can’t guarantee you’ll have a best seller but I can guarantee you will sell if you have a good book. The month before and the month after launch are the most painful, but it evens out. And if you need anything else, hit me up on facebook or twitter. Good luck!
*****Q&A with Stormy Smith*****
Q. When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always loved words. I talk a lot and read a lot, and when I was younger I wrote poetry by the binder full. I had thrown the idea of writing a book around but it was always directly followed by “About what?” and I let it go. On July 24, 2013 I had just finished reading Rachel Higginson’s Star-Crossed series for the umpteenth time and kept thinking, “What if this happened or she was more like this or the story line went like that?” and BOOM, it was just in my head. Since that day I haven’t been able to stop the characters in my head! One year to the day from when I started, I published Bound by Duty.
Q. What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
My life…oh, I don’t know where to start. There have been too many. But my writing, I continually point to Rachel Higginson and Jessica Park. Rachel inspired me both with her words and her realistic attitude about what it takes to be a writer and Jessica with her no-holds-barred style and genuine reader engagement. They showed me the kind of risk-taker I wanted to be and how to make sure my readers knew the real me. But every day I read another story that makes me think, “I want to write like that.” Being an author means you never stop learning how to do it better.
Q. Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?
They haven’t! They came at me from nowhere and were initially inspired by the people in my life. Descriptions started out looking like my friends or family, but as I wrote more and I listened to what they had to tell me, I saw who they really were. So as drafts came and went they became more themselves and less people I had known before. But truly, they just showed up one day and haven’t left me since. And now, I don’t know what it would feel like to not jump into their heads every few days!
Q. What motivates you to write?
It’s for me. There are a lot of very personal reasons but suffice it to say that for a lot of years I lived my life for other people and gave every part of myself to them and not to me. Writing is mine. It’s my story and my characters and my words. It’s my passion and my blood and my tears. It’s hard to make time and I give up a lot of other things to do it, but it’s no longer a choice. I have to.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing?
Doing it. Haha. I don’t get to write every day, especially right now as I’m also balancing book marketing with writing my second book. So it’s often one or two days a week that I sit down for hours at a time. Every time I need to sit down I get nervous. What if the words won’t come? What if they suck? Right now, I’m 20k into my second book and I don’t love the direction it’s going in some respects. So I think about it constantly and I worry that I’m writing crap. But you have to write through the crap to find the gold, so I just keep sitting down.
Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I used to think that I was defined by my career – as in the job that paid me a full-time wage. I gave all of myself to that and it was unknowingly sucking the life out of me. Then I wrote a book. And I didn’t know how much I would love it. I didn’t know all the places in me that it would light up and allow to shine. And I realized that my career – full time check or not – is to be an author. That is the word that defines me.
Q. What does your family think of your writing?
They are so amazing about it. My husband is wonderfully-supportive and even though he is a science-minded guy and doesn’t get writing, he sees what it has meant to me and done for me and that is amazing. My parents are literally my biggest fans. They organized a book signing in my home town, have plastered fliers everywhere and have pushed to get my books in the school and local libraries. And my extended family just keeps spreading the word. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to have my back!
Q. What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Just sit down and write the book. Stop thinking about doing it and do it. And while you’re writing, take the time to learn about the industry and the process. Hire an editor. Find someone to create a cover that doesn’t look slapped together. And put the work in. The hardest work you do will come after you finish the book so be prepared for that. And find a writer’s group — you will need people who understand the crazy world you’re living in.
Q. What book are you reading now?
I just started Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and I’m so enthralled with her writing style. I love her drawn out descriptions and metaphors. It’s absolutely brilliant.
*****Information for: Stormy Smith*****
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, and Paranormal
Bio: Stormy Smith calls Iowa’s capital home now, but was raised in a tiny town in the Southeast corner of the state. She grew to love books honestly, having a mom that read voraciously and instilled that same love in her. She knew quickly that stories of fantasy were her favorite, and even as an adult gravitates toward paranormal stories in any form.
Writing a book had never been an aspiration, but suddenly the story was there and couldn’t be stopped. When she isn’t working on, or thinking about, her books, Stormy’s favorite places include bar patios, live music shows, her yoga mat or anywhere she can relax with her husband or girlfriends.
Sites where your book can be purchased: Amazon http://amzn.to/1lxz3Mg
Synopsis: Amelia grew up in a world of half-truths. She knows she’s an Elder, but has no idea what that means. Her father reminds her daily that she must maintain control, but he refuses to explain why. Even worse, she’s betrothed to the prince of the Immortals and doesn’t even know his name.
Finally breaking free to live a few normal years at a community college, the last thing Amelia expects is to find her best friend in a cheeky southern girl, or fall for a self-assured human who sees her for who she is, not what she will become.
As she learns more about herself, Amelia realizes the line between love and duty is a thin one. As her power continues to increase exponentially and her questions are slowly answered, Amelia must make the ultimate choice. The question is, will her head win the battle, or her heart?
******Excerpt: Bound by Duty – Prologue*****
Her stark white hair fell down around her face. For the first time in one hundred years it wasn’t pulled back in a waist-length braid. Her crimson robes were torn and stained. She bit back a groan, her lips a tight line as the pain ripped through her once again. The invisible knife raked its way up her back as wounds no one could see flayed her skin and weakened her resolve. It had been days of this and she wasn’t sure if she could continue. As she looked up and met the queen’s eyes, Lavignia pushed the anger down and forced compassion to rise yet again.
“What is it you hope to learn, Julia? What is it you think you have to gain from all of this?” she asked weakly as she tugged on the restraints that kept her tethered to the heavy wooden chair. Her power was already weak when the Hunters had found her, and the enchanted chamber had dampened what remained to a tiny flame.
The room was dark, but the sun was slowly rising. An orange and pink glow filtered through the small window above Julia’s head. The colorful rays that should have resembled hope of a new day only shed light on the reality that Lavignia would never leave this room alive.
Julia stepped from the shadows and walked slowly toward Lavignia. She stopped and crouched down, putting herself at eye level.
“Oh, Livvy, dear. Don’t do that,” she said, her tone patronizing as her ice crystal eyes narrowed. “Don’t pretend you can still look down on me from your Elder tower. Don’t pretend you can utter your polite words and suddenly I’ll remember who you are versus who I am. I know exactly who I am. I am the one who rules them all. I am the one they will bow down to and worship. I am the Queen. Not you. Or your sisters. Your time is done.”
She looked back over her shoulder to the Hunter who stood in the still dark corner of the room and nodded. The Hunter’s eyes burned bright orange as Lavignia’s screams echoed off the walls. Julia raised her hand and the screams dropped to whimpers. With that same hand, she reached out and took Lavignia’s.
“Livvy, look at me,” she commanded. Dazed, dim violet eyes struggled to focus and find hers. Julia tightened her grip, digging her scarlet nails into Lavignia’s already tender flesh, making her yelp and their eyes connect.
“Livvy, you need to tell me,” she said. “I know you see it. You knew this day would come and you know I won’t stop until you tell me. I scoured the lands for you. I know there are others left, but they can be saved. You can save them, old friend. You just have to tell me.” Her tone was persuasive and gentle, but the frantic look that passed through her eyes told Lavignia the truth the queen couldn’t hide — she was scared.
“You won’t harm the others? You will let them live out their lives hidden and free? You will swear an oath?” Her words trailed off and Lavignia’s eyes closed, the torture of the last few days taking its toll. She could only hope the oath would keep her people safe.
She didn’t see the triumph that straightened Julia’s posture or the sneer that twisted her thin, painted lips. “Of course, my dear. I swear to you that I will not seek out and harm the remaining Elders. I swear that I will not take their freedom.”
“Your blood,” Lavignia said, her words barely audible.
Julia removed a small dirk from the folds of her skirts and repeated the words as she slid the blade down her palm. As the deep red drop hit the floor, she sent a small wave of power through to heal the wound, reveling in the knowledge that she had won.
“Now, Livvy, darling, you must tell me.” When Lavignia didn’t respond, Julia whipped back around to the still silent Hunter. “Help her. Give her what she needs. NOW!” she commanded, panic finally breaking through her controlled facade.
The Hunter flicked a wrist at Lavignia and she suddenly straightened, her eyes luminescent and shining at the welcome invasion of power that flooded her system, giving her renewed life for a few precious seconds.
With sudden clarity, she saw the future that had eluded her. She looked down on Julia with authority and pity as the words that would cement the queen’s fate fell from her lips.
“You will have your time, but it will end. She will be born to the one who got away. Inside her, the five families will merge and only a man who is both king and companion will tame the wild and set her free. She will be your undoing. She will lead them all.”
Julia reared back, Lavignia’s words not the ones she expected. Seconds later, her dirk was buried deep in Lavignia’s chest. Lavignia collapsed back against the chair, a content smile mocking the queen from her lifeless face.
Julia’s breath heaved in and out in short bursts as she turned to the Hunter. “I made an oath. You did not. Find them. Kill them all.”