by Toni Tesori (@Duolit)
Toni is one half of the team at Duolit, a self-publishing blog and author services company (the other half is Shannon, Toni’s BFF). I’ve been impressed by the way Toni and Shannon have set out to help indie authors market their books, and I asked her for tips that would help you, too. Here’s her response.
When you make the decision to self-publish, you join a crowded marketplace: the number of indie books has more than quadrupuled since 2006!
With thousands of new authors taking the self-pub plunge every year, it’s becoming drastically more difficult to distinguish yourself from the pack and find success.
This is reflected in the (rather depressing) statistic that 8 out of 10 books sell fewer than 100 copies. Doesn’t that make you sick to your stomach?
Every day, I hear from indie authors sadly confirming this statistic; frustrated and disheartened after selling just a handful of books to family and friends!
To be honest, it’s not their fault: the root of this selling problem lies with the DIY nature of self-publishing itself.
Learn as You Go
Unless you have a money tree, to travel the indie author highway you must quickly become a jack of all trades.
And you know the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none?” Well, that’s particularly true for the marketing part of the publishing process. Indie authors are forced to figure out selling as they go, often picking up tactics from other authors, (wrongly) assuming those tactics are effective.
As a result, we see the same book marketing mistakes repeated over and over again.
Do me a favor: decide right now to help reverse that 80% failure rate. You’ve put too much effort into publishing your book to let it flop!
7 Common Book Marketing Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)
Mistake #1: Having unreasonable expectations.
I’d love to say otherwise, but book marketing is much more an art than a science. The variables involved (quality, genre, target market, etc.) are endless, and there’s no whiz-bang silver bullet for success.
Many authors, however, come into self-publishing convinced they’re going to retire the day after their book is released (after making a quick pit stop on Oprah’s couch, of course).
If that fantasy has crossed your mind, don’t let me deter you: that type of self-publishing success is possible! To achieve it, however, be realistic about the time and effort you must put in to get there.
Like it or not, when you self-publish, you’re running a business!
Think back to your childhood lemonade stand days. I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time selling that delicious cool drink, even in the heat of summer. And those customers only had to hand over 25-cents to an adorable (I hope) child!
Just because you’ve gotten older doesn’t mean selling is any easier. Remember, you have more than 300,000 others publishing their work at the same time as you!
Mistake #2: Rushing to release.
I totally understand how easy it is to make this mistake.
After you put the finishing touches on your book, you’re exhausted…but pumped. You’ve spent weeks, months, or years of your life writing this masterpiece and want nothing more than to share it with the world.
When you rush your book’s release, however, you’re shortchanging the immensity of your accomplishment!
You did something millions only achieve in their dreams: you authored a book. Don’t release it with a whimper. This is your personal moon landing, build up to that massive moment. It’s a big effing deal!
Basically: take a breath and give yourself ample time to plan an epic book release. Set a launch date three to six months down the road. It may seem like a long time, but you’ll still release your work faster than you ever could with traditional publishing!
Mistake #3: Being a “Survivor”
Remember when Survivor premiered? Millions tuned in each week, shocked to witness the lengths folks would go to in hopes of winning the million dollar prize. Backstabbing, bad-mouthing and all-around nastiness were the name of the game.
What’s shocking to me is how many indies possess this Survivor mentality today, seeing their fellow indies strictly as competition.
The scenario here, however, is totally different: there’s not only one big prize for which we’re all competing. Readers don’t read just one book, or even just one author. There’s room in the book-selling world for everyone!
You’ve been there; you know how hard it is to market your own book. Forming an indie alliance can mean doubling your audience in a flash!
When searching for a partner:
- Only approach authors whose work you truly adore; for your alliance to work, it must be genuine.
- Don’t feel pressured to stick to your own genre; many YA fans enjoy “chicklit” and quite a few sci-fi fans enjoy fantasy.
Mistake #4: Selling to everyone
It’s only natural to want (or assume) that everyone will enjoy your book. While that may be true, marketing to everyone is not only impossible, but also ineffective.
Finding your target market gives you a powerful tool: a group to center all of your marketing decisions around.
As an example, let’s check out how having a target market helps you answer common book marketing quandaries:
- Q: Where do I find new readers? A: Where does your target market hang out?
- Q: What do I include in my newsletter? A: What would your target be interested in reading?
- Q: How do I encourage readers to purchase my book? A: What makes your target decide to purchase books?
Okay, so sometimes the answer to a question is a question, but reframing it from your target market’s perspective often allows you to answer your own question.
If you want to go all out, you can even give your target market a face. That’s right, picture one of your target market members and give him a name, background info, personality traits—just like a book character. When you get stuck, ask him what he’d like to hear/read from you!
Mistake #5: Neglecting your fans.
A huge benefit of self-publishing is the ability to form relationships with your readers on an individual basis.
Growing up, I adored Ann M. Martin (author of the Babysitters Club series—don’t judge). The closest I could ever get to her, however, was the “About the Author” page in the back of each book. I could never dream of communicating with her directly!
Nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media, readers can do just that. And that connection is a powerful selling tool!
To communicate with your readers, create an email list. Encourage folks to sign up by offering an exclusive excerpt, short story or other freebie.
One note of caution: your emails must be (1) consistent and (2) useful. Our inboxes are super-cluttered, so you must condition readers to expect your emails and give them a reason to open those updates.
When your readers take the time to email you back, respond to each one thoughtfully and genuinely. Don’t take for granted the opportunity to build real relationships with people who love your work. In yo’ face, Ann Martin!
Mistake #6: Unintentional spamming.
While social media has allowed readers greater access to their favorite authors, keeping up with social networks can quickly become a drain on your precious marketing time.
Luckily, there’s plenty of apps to help out, so you begin to implement some automation. First you simply send every new Twitter follower a welcome message, but soon you’re scheduling a week’s worth of tweets and Facebook updates in advance.
I’m not going to argue that automation has its place, but at what cost? Too much automation dilutes the effectiveness of your social media efforts; you may even (unintentionally) turn off fans by seeming like a spammer!
You know that whole thoughtful and genuine thing I mentioned in regards to communicating with your fans? It applies to social media as well.
Believe me: your followers can tell when you’ve over-automated and will respond appropriately (that is, by not responding at all or by unfollowing you).
There’s nothing wrong with scheduling some updates in advance, but make an effort to check your networks and personally respond to a few replies and mentions every day. You don’t need to set aside too much time for this; 15 minutes will do it. It’s better to have fewer updates (that are truly entertaining and personal) than a continual stream of spammy content.
Mistake #7: Undervaluing the importance of professional editing and design.
Like it or not, pro editing and design affect the perceived value of your work (and, thus, your sales).
I understand how painful it can be to depart with your hard-earned cash, but (just like that lemonade stand) your book is a business, and these professional services are an investment in that business.
Learn from successful business-y folks: they know when to spend some money to make a lot more!
This is another great reason to avoid rushing to release your book—holding off gives you more time to save up for these services.
If you’re already released your book but didn’t invest in editing or design the first time around, plan a second edition launch 3-6 months down the road and start saving now!
What Will You Improve?
If you’ve made any of the mistakes above, don’t feel bad! Like I said at the start, with all the work indie authors do themselves, there’s simply no way to perfect your book marketing in one shot. You must continually experiment, refining your approach once you find out what works for you.
To wrap up, I just want to say that I’m a huge cheerleader for indie authors. Your resourcefulness and dedication to the success of your book is the inspiration for everything we do over at Duolit. Give your marketing efforts a bit of time and patience, and I know you’ll achieve success!
I’m curious, though: did any of the above mistakes resonate with you? What can you do today to begin patching things up? If you’re mistake-free (rock on!), have you noticed any oopsies from your fellow indies? Let’s chat in the comments!
Toni Tesori is one half of Duolit, two gals who help passionate fiction authors sell more books by building their crazy-dedicated fanbase. If you’re ready to become a book marketing whiz, check out their FREE 4-week training course. A new session starts later this month!