Book Marketing 101
Below is the article I wrote for Cape Women Online.
It appears in their Winter 2014 issue.
On January 23, 2014 UNDERTOW hit #2 on the
Teens Bestseller list for Myths and Legends on AMAZON!
Book Marketing 101
by K.R. Conway
You’ve finally finished your novel.
A beast that has been edited no less than ten times and torn apart at least twice that number. It has gone through the hands of a fabulous team of Beta readers who give you the brutal truth.
You bawl over their feedback and then suck it up, heading back to reshuffle and edit once again. You edit and rewrite, over and over, until you are rooting for the bad guys to simply hurry up and kill your main character before you do. Finally, when it is flawless in plot, characters, world-building, and basic line-editing, you are done.
And then you think, “Woo hoo! I’ll just slap it on Amazon and people will be knocking down my door!” Think again, because if you are really in it to win it, you need to be a marketing maniac.
I can say, without question, I nearly committed myself to the nuthouse when it came to marketing. Thankfully it paid off. REALLY paid off. Care to know what devious plan I developed? Thought you might . . .
#1 Have an ACTIVE blog. Post weekly (if not more) about all things related to writing, books, literature, agents and your own book. This needs to be established well before the book launches. It is a connecting point for you and other bloggers, reviewers, and media. I prefer to work in WordPress.com and yes, I pay $100 year to upgrade it to professional status. Your blog is the center of your media hive.
#2 Build buzz BEFORE you put the book up for sale. This is one of those, “Well DUH?” steps, but amazingly it is often overlooked. Facebook helps if you have a bunch of friends and connect with the numerous writer and reader groups. Agent Query Connect can help as well (post your query letter, your synopsis, and pay it forward by helping other writers as well). Use Twitter, Wattpad, and FictionPress to build a fan-base too.
At the end of the day though, what really counts are reviews from bloggers, book reviewers, other writers, avid readers, etc. Your ten family members and a handful of friends won’t cut it. You need to be visible in cyberspace on other blogs, because each blogger comes with hundreds of followers. Get on one blog and be seen by many. Get on many blogs and be seen BY THOUSANDS.
Blog hopping can create the ultimate domino effect of virtual visibility. The best way to get there is to post your e-book for free on NetGalley.com. I used Patchwork Press and their NetGalley co-op. I paid $45 a month and the book was requested by bloggers, teachers, librarians and reviewers all over the world. By the time I launched UNDERTOW, I had 100+ reviews on GoodReads, which brings us to #3 . . .
#3 Build a Goodreads page and link it to your blog.Goodreads allows you to “add” your book BEFORE it is published. Once you add it, you must email Goodreads and have them link your profile to the book as the author. If you do use Goodreads, for goodness sake, have a thick skin and don’t reply directly to reviewers.
#4 Don’t rely only on e-books. The worst idea you could have as an indie author is to only distribute e-books. Care to guess why? Come on – guess! Sigh . . . fine, don’t guess. E-books, while great, cannot be given from one reader to another. They cannot pass from one fan to another. But a printed book can be physically handed off, again and again. A reader who loves the book can tell their friend about it excitedly and say, “Here! You MUST read this!”
As a journalist, I knew the importance of selling the story by having it physically available to the reader. I used Country Press in Lakeville MA to print the first 60 ARC copies (Advanced Reader Copies). These look like the final run, but had a different cover that also was marked with the following: ADVANCE COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOF, NO RESALE. These copies did not have an ISBN, because they would never be for sale.
I posted on multiple reviewer sites that I had physical copies up for grabs and I would ship to anywhere in the USA in return for an honest Goodreads review – they were all gone in four days.
Each book went with a letter that gave details about what an ARC copy was, what I asked of the reader, and what they should do if they wished to hand it off to someone else (the letter stayed with the book). This is not cheap to do, but worth it.
#5 Schedule Blog Tours. I used YA Bound, which I have been very pleased with. For about $250, I had a bunch of bloggers and Twitter writers “tweet” about the launch of the book, and 40 bloggers sign up to post my book and a review on their site over a 5-day period. If you decide to use the Kindle Select program, I highly recommend offering the book for free during the blog tour.
#6 Brand your book. When I was writing UNDERTOW, I knew that I wanted full creative control of the cover, even if some magical agent-fairy fell on me. I wanted to use REAL high schoolers from Cape Cod to be the faces of my characters.
The logic was simple – if I used real kids from the Cape to become my characters, then what newspaper would ever pass on such a crazy story?
Even if they didn’t review my book, the book went with the kids. And each kid, had friends, family members, etc. who all became followers of the book because of their pal’s involvement.
In addition, by having my own cast of models, I had hundreds of photos in different poses of them, allowing me to use them on blog headers, badges, and posters (I learned Photoshop just for this reason). They became REAL characters and an outrageous, supernatural crew. Basically, I branded the book, like a movie.
Launching a book correctly is a time-consuming task. Even worse, if your book isn’t quite polished enough, spending all that time and money marketing can really backfire (you go from positive press to negative in a heartbeat). Which brings me back to my opening statement: Have a Beta team that cuts you no slack. People who read your genre frequently and know your characters.
Listen to them, because you can’t defend what you have written to the world or reviewers. Once it is out for the public, it’s out. If your team tells you something is wrong in the book, listen to them. Take a hard look at what you have written and where the holes are. Why would it sell? What makes it unputdownable?
And, above all, be a reader of your genre and read all the time. Writers who are not readers fail to study the craft of writing and storytelling. Such a lack of “studying” can ultimately cause them, as writers, to fail their own readers in the process.