Today’s post features self-published author (and savvy book marketer) April Klasen. Over to you, April!
Marketing when you self-publish is a bitch. You have a good story wearing a nice cover and it’s available from all major online retailers. So all you have to do is tell people about it and watch the money roll in. Not that hard, right?
The problem: no one trusts you.
With an author the reader already loves, they know what to expect when they buy another book. There is trust that they’ll get their money’s worth and have a good read.
New authors have to build that trust, and unless you have spare cash to hire an assistant, you should be prepared to do the hard work yourself. Writing the story will seem like a walk in the park once you get started with shouting out your book.
How do you do it without being too pushy? Think like a reader.
Guess what I forgot two years ago when I first self-published? That I am above all else, a reader. It took me two years and seven books to realise I’ve been doing everything wrong, because I’ve been thinking like a writer and getting frustrated that nothing I did had worked.
Two years. Yeah, I’m an idiot.
So what do I like to see as a reader?
I love free stuff. It’s great. When someone gives me something, I’m already half in love with whatever it is, because it’s free. And then when it turns out to be a great story… oh my God! Then I have to tell people about it and go find the rest of the author’s books.
As a writer, free is frustrating. It costs both money and time to produce a book and I want to make a living from my pen. How do I do that if I’m giving it away for free? Look at it this way: if your book hasn’t been purchased for months and there are few to no reviews, what is the likelihood of a reader stumbling across your story and taking the risk on you? It’s extremely low.
Trust me, after two years of nothing, I am bowing down to free shit.
The theory behind giving an ebook away is to draw attention to yourself and get people reading. The risk is having people download because they only ever download free books and then forget they have it and never read it.
They’re the book hoarders. They’re always going to be there, you just have to accept that some people will have your book and never read it. Just look at your own to-be-read shelf. How many books do you have that you’re getting around to reading?
Back to those who will read. Because it is free, the risk is lower; all they can lose is time.
Like I said, after two years I hadn’t sold my books even though they were priced at $0.99. When I decided to upload a revised copy with a message inside asking for reviews, I made them free. My books’ page views skyrocketed (going from zero to forty over night was amazing) and the downloads were about half that. So those who liked what they read of my blurb took the risk because it was free. Those who weren’t awe-inspired moved on to something else.
So now I was taking the risk on the readers. Will they like my story? Will they want to read more? Will they leave a review and encourage others to give my books a try?
Even though I had confidence in my writing and the story had been edited and most of the gremlins had been caught (how could I miss “goof” when I meant “good”?), I still needed that validation from readers.
Once a book has x amount of reviews, the algorithm the system is using will recommend the book based upon a reader’s browsing/purchasing history. The more reviews, the more likely your book will pop up. So numbers matter.
If the reader likes the look of the book that has popped up, then they go to see what other people have to say about the book. This is the most important thing for new authors. Short reviews are great to get the numbers, but it will be that long paragraph that will sell it because it’s like a friend recommending a story.
Here’s how to do it:
- You can get reviews from family and friends. Ask and get that first review up quickly. If you have writer friends, you could do a review swap. But be careful; Amazon doesn’t like it when people close to the writer leave a review, the system is suspicious and thinks it won’t be an unbiased view.
- Contact book bloggers in your genre. There are a couple of ways of collecting contact information and all it should cost is time and effort (avoid the places that say “pay us and we’ll give you 100 contacts”).
- On Amazon, go to the reviews for a book that is similar to your own and click on the name of a reviewer. If it comes up with little information, move on to the next. If it comes up with a website, follow the link. Most likely they will be bloggers and you can contact them with a request to read your book. The same method works for Goodreads.
- Alternatively, google “book review bloggers.” If you keep it vague enough, there is the possibility of coming across an updated directory. This list can be easy to go through to find those looking to read and review books.
- Ask on Facebook. Join some relevant groups, find out the day or the thread to ask for help, and just ask for reviews.
- Add a message inside your book asking the reader to leave an honest review. Make it easy for them by providing the link to your review site of choice.
- Speak to your local library; they might help you in surprising ways. If the library has a book club, they might like to read your book and put up a review.
A Fan Club
Inside your book, have contact links for the readers to follow if they want to know more, such as your website where you’re constantly putting up good content that people want to read.
You should also be encouraging them to sign up for a newsletter or to join a Facebook group.
So they can talk to you, score awesome stuff, stay up-to-date on new releases, and feel special because their favourite author is taking the time to interact with them.
Once you have a fan club, the next time you release a book, you can send them a message and ask for them to download it and leave an honest review, and the system starts to work for you again.
It’s only recently (after doing a lot of reading about what other authors are doing for marketing) that I have figured out how to get noticed by readers. My books are up for free, I’m looking for reviewers, and I’m trying to grow my email list.
If you would like, jump over to my website www.aprilklasenauthor.com, fill in the form, and we can exchange books. If you read mine and review it on Goodreads.com, I’ll read and review yours.
April Klasen lives in rural NSW, Australia. She is a blogger, a plotter for total world domination, and an independently published author of seven books (Pure Pop Asia, the Blair series, The Annual). One day she will travel to Japan. To read more from the J-pop and K-pop influenced grey matter of this writer, please visit www.aprilklasenauthor.com, or follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.