Chapter 30: 10 Things To Know About Promoting Your Book

When I was in college, I majored in Finance with the School of Business.  Numbers are my other love, and I work as an accountant as my nine to five.  You can’t know finance without also learning about marketing and sales.  While of course that doesn’t make me an automatic expert, I like to think that it’s given me a little edge on understanding how to work the business side of being an author.  I’m actually using a lot of these practices for my upcoming trilogy, The Witch’s March.  So, next year once those results are in, I plan to share what worked and once didn’t.  Let’s get into those need-to-knows, shall we?

  1. It’s never a bad time to talk about it.  For me, this is a hard one.  As passionate as I am about my work, I clam up as soon as someone asks me about it.  Being a writer gives me the shield of not being there to physically see their reaction.  It’s not like actors on stage, that feel the awkward tension when their scripted joke doesn’t get the desired laugh.  I’ve always like that about writing, but you simply have to be vocal about it.  I’m not saying shove its way into every little conversation you have, but be open to talking about it.  When the time comes where something’s said and you think “oh, now I could make a good segue”, do it.  My best advice so you don’t feel guilty about constantly monopolizing the conversation into it all the time is finding a one to two sentence tagline to sell your book.  Get them interested, and they’ll do the rest
  2. Figure out your budget.  It sucks, but we don’t have an infinite number of cash to throw into promoting our books.  Once you set your publishing date, decide then and there how much you’re willing to spend on promotion.  Once you have that number set, look into the different costs of different strategies and decide which ones work for you.  For example, as a Young Adult Fantasy writer, book tours have been known to have success for my genre so that’s where the main chunk of my money is going.
  3. It’s never too soon to start.  The early bird gets the worm.  That stands true for promotion too.  I’m not saying throw all of your money into an unfinished project.  Make sure that your book has its voice first.  But once you know what direction your book’s going in, start talking.  Have that line waiting for you once the figurative sale doors open.
  4. Go to where your target audience is.  For example, Facebook is by far the most universally used social media with almost 70% of adults reporting that they use it – 94$ of 18 to 24-year-olds.  Other good avenues are YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.  If you want to stay away from the social media outlet, don’t.
  5. If you have a publisher, talk about promoting expectations.  When you’re not self-published, a lot of this is thought of for you.  While that’s nice, that doesn’t mean you just get to cruise through while the agency does everything.  Talk to them about what they expect from you as far as press and make sure you have the support you need to accomplish it effectively.
  6. Get book reviews.  Did you know that a Dimensional Research study found that 90% of those surveyed considered positive reviews when making a purchase decision?  And guess what.  The more reviews you have, the quicker you’ll shoot up that Amazon search ranking.  Search for people who review your genre and apply to have yours read.  Ask family and friends who you know plan to purchase to leave a review.  It’s not annoying; it’s necessary.
  7. If the books a part of an established series, use it.  If you don’t have the complete list of your series in every single book of that series, I don’t know what you’re doing.  Of course when you’re still in the process of getting them published, you’ll have to go back and make some updates.  Do it.  It’s worth it.  If it’s Kindle format, I’d say go as far as to put in the link right there for your readers to click and buy the next of the series.  Make your series a unified social media account.  A one-stop shop for your readers to find to learn where they can keep reading.
  8. Blast it on your website.  If your thought to that was “I don’t have a website”, fix that.  I will say that they are time and money, so don’t make one for every book and/or series unless you have the time and money to, which most people don’t.  Name the site after yourself and then build small sections within your site for each book/series.  Make sure to always include direct links to buy the book once that becomes available.  Besides traditional ads, one way I’ve chosen to promote my upcoming The Witch’s March series is by posting relevant historic facts, as the series takes place over a large chunk of history from WWI to WWII.
  9. Test Your Title.  Basically think of it as an ad or article headline.  This is especially true in non-fiction books.  Look up key title words in your genre and see if you can add them in.  For example, fantasy loves the word “Queen” right now.
  10. Give them a little something extra.  The best example I can give of this is what movie marketing teams thought of for post-theater money-making.  When people stopped buying the VHS/DVD experience, what did they do?  They added bonus material or footage.

Chapter 29: When To Publish Based on Genre

While it’s true that a series (or an author) with an active following has a bit more wiggle room for when they choose to publish, it’s an indisputable fact that the timing of when you publish will affect sales.  Yes, most readers have one or two (or three) genres that they like to stay within, but why not have your book published at the right time?  Like in the early summer months when they’re dreaming of their summer vacations?  Or if your audience is YA, giving them self-help non-fiction for when they realize they get back into the mind-set of school?  Or a self-help book when the new year is starting and they have resolutions to keep?  Or even a cook book they decide they need because they’re trying to be healthy again?

Please notice that there’s some wiggle room of when to publish.  Also, please note that if you’re doing a series, when to publish the sequel and so on should rely more heavily on when the first is published than the month.  Also, please recognize that in addition to some genres appearing in more than one month, some of these items/genres might overlap in reference to your book (e.g. Romantic Fantasy), so when in doubt, choose the stronger theme of your book – or which one  best fits with your timeline.  Below I have the list, including some successful books published during the window:

January (“New Year, “New Me”)

February (Least published month adds to marketing visibility opportunities)

March

April

  • Mystery (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn published on April 22nd)
  • Women’s Fiction (The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton published on April 11th)
  • Design

May

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies (Robin by Dave Itzkoff published May 15th)
  • Mother-targeted

June

July (similar to June but quieter month so similar visibility opportunity as February)

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies

August

September

 

  • Paranormal
  • Academic
  • Political (Change We Can Believe In by President Barack Obama published on September 5th)
  • Fantasy Sequel (Legendary by Stephanie Garber published September 29th)
  • Cooking
  • Debut novel

October

  • Horror (Gilchrist by Christian Galacar)
  • Political
  • Cooking (holiday recipes)
  • Non-fiction (established writer)
  • Photography
  • Art

November

December

  • Children (A is for Adorable by Elizabeth Sarpong published December 4th)
  • Illustrated
  • Quiz
  • Novelty
  • Dictionaries

 

Fun little-known fact is that the holiday season is actually not the best time to publish.  Some recent numbers show that there was about $3.5B book sales made in summer when there was only about $2.5B for holiday gift giving.  With that said, don’t let trying to make all of this fit into your novel stop you from publishing at all.  The best way to publish is to publish at all.

Chapter 25: Hearing From Your Readers

The hilarious screenshot you see above is from my Sarah in regards to The Freedom Game.

First I’d like to say please excuse my friend’s lovely vocabulary.  She has a wonderfully colorful mouth and the drastic inability to sugarcoat.  That second fact is what made me so beyond nervous when she originally purchased my novel.  If she didn’t like it, she wasn’t going to be able to sugarcoat it.  I would know.  While that is of course valuable to hear back honest feedback, it had me wriggling nervous since I had dedicated so much to this book.

Instead of her attempting but failing to not hurt my feelings and not enjoying then novel, however, I received texts like this.  Not only this, but I received a long snapchat video of her reading around the climax.  The video consisted of her yelling at me for what certain characters had done, and her desire to need to know what happens paired with the fear to read on in case it’s not the ending she wants to happen.  Her cheeks got red, her voice got loud – and she was midshift at her job without a care of the people staring at her.  That right there honestly made me tear up like a wimp.

But honestly, what more could an author want?  Than someone that into your story and that invested in your characters and what happens to them?  She felt betrayed by characters when they did not-so-great things, and then sounded like a proud mother when they did something shockingly heroic.

No matter if sales aren’t where you want them and marketing is more expensive than you’d like, experiences like these are what make writing so much more than worth it.

Chapter 20: Victory Lap

This chapter will be entirely dedicated to my happiness, so be prepared for cliches and annoying tears of joy…

When I started writing this blog, The Freedom Game was in the editing stages.  My sister Kristen read it for the first time last summer and as we were living together at that point, I was able to see a lot of her reactions.  She was happy when I wanted her to be happy, and furious at me when I wanted her to be furious at what was happening to my protagonist, Ethlynn.  When she finished it, she said she could genuinely see it on a shelf at a bookstore and my heart nearly exploded.  She also pointed out to me how much I had improved since the last book I finished (one the world will never read due to it simply not being good).  It was then that I decided that nothing would stop me from publishing that book.

The list of rejections goes past being able to count on my fingers and toes.  Several of the agents only responded with template responses, and the rest didn’t respond at all.  Each ‘no, but remember that this is a subjective field, so keep trying’ was another piece of my heart breaking.  The template emails were kind, but they weren’t ‘yes’, and that almost made it harder.  It made me sad rather than angry.

That’s where my sister Kristen and best friend Courtney stepped in.  They were the only two at that point who had read the book.  Not only would they ask about the agent’s responses, but they would ask about my characters.  It hardened my resolve, and I can say now that I doubt this book would be published now without them.

In January I reached out to Y. Nikolova at Ammonia Book Covers.  Several emails and six days later, she had the first draft of the cover drawn up.  That was when I purchased Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn.  With my degree in Finance, I knew that I wanted to do everything right from a business prospective as well as a creative one.  I published in May, because that’s when “Fantasy/Sci Fi” sells the best.  I had people read the book prior to publication because I wanted their reviews posted on the first day.  I studied pricing so that I knew how much I could afford to ask for as a debut indie author.  I did everything.

On May 23rd, it published.  I was at my full-time job for eight hours that felt like eight years.  How dare the real world not put itself on hold for my special day?

I had people texting me pictures of the screenshot ‘Thank you for purchasing The Freedom Game by J.E. Brand’ and every single text was like picking up a piece of my once broken heart and putting it right back together.

It was that same week that I had my first unaccounted for sale.  I couldn’t trace it back to anyone I knew, and my heart might’ve possibly stopped beating all together.  I was also getting reads through people could read it for free (I get paid per page read) and I knew that anyone I knew wouldn’t choose to read it that way.  Within two days eight hundred pages of it were read, which is it being read nearly three times!  Then, on May 25th, a complete stranger rated it 4 stars on Goodreads and my heart might’ve stopped beating all together.  This meant two things: (1) a stranger had read my book from start to finish and (2) they had actually liked it.  It was my first completely unbiased review, and it was still good.

The thing about debuting as an indie author is that it’s a marathon, not a race.  I get a sale here and there.  That review from the 25th is still the only review of my book, and that’s okay.  I write because I love to do so, and I publish because I want to share what I love with the rest of the world.  An expression you often hear when depressed involves “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but let me say when it’s reversed, and every little victory is like conquering a mountain, the world is a very good place.  Every time someone buys my book, it’s another reminder that my dream actually came true.

None of it felt real until the picture posted above.  It was when I held my book for the very first time.  A book that I wrote was in my hands.  I could hold it and it was real.  I could flip through the pages and see words that I had written.  In the back was an ‘About Author’ section with my picture at the top.  The picture was taken after my freakish sobbing finally calmed down and my eyes weren’t as red, but definitely still producing a tear or two.  It was surreal but undeniable.  I’m now a published author, and I couldn’t be happier.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I need to take a moment to give props to JK Rowling on the entertainment front.  She’s literally dipped into every almost avenue possible: books, movies, amusement parks, and the stage.  (Pictured is my best friend, Courtney, standing outside the stage of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London England.)  Being an author is (sadly) about more than just writing good work.  You have to think about it as a business.  Not necessarily in the same way as Rowling.  But here’s the question I give you: how can I reach a wider audience?