Today I have a guest post from Desiree Villena
If there’s one thing most writers have in common, it’s this: we’re all working on a budget these days. Sure, there’s a lucky few among us whose books take off without much effort, or who have deep enough pockets to invest in heavy advertising and surveying.
But that’s just not an option for most of us. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to boost your book without breaking the bank — that is, if you’re willing to be a little creative with your marketing and put in the work.
1) Organize a newsletter swap
Let’s start with something pretty simple — reaching out to your friends. As an author, it’s important to form relationships with people in your corner of the book community, and a big part of that will be authors who write in the same genre as you. Far from being competition, these people can often become your most steadfast allies.
Now, no one wants to have false friends, so it’s important to reach out to your fellow authors from a place of genuine interest and comradery. That said, once you have made strong connections with a few other authors in your genre, there’s no shame in teaming up!
Putting together newsletter swaps is simple, and when done well, it’s an ongoing way for all of you to introduce your book to new audiences. All you need to do is have one of your friends shout out your new, discounted, or free book on their mailing list, and then in the future, when your friends have a new title to advertise, you return the favor by spreading the word through your list. Ideally, you all will have similarly-sized mailing lists, so that everyone gets a fair share of new readers. But as long as all parties are up-front about what they’re bringing to the table and everyone is happy, you can arrange whatever form of cross-advertising you like.
2) Host a giveaway
While we’re on the topic of free things: everybody loves a giveaway, right? Giveaways can take many, many different forms — and while some of them can get quite expensive , they don’t have to cost you a dime. It all depends on what you decide to offer as a prize.
Organizing a giveaway can be as simple as having a comment/like/share contest on your social media platform (you can also include a link to your author website) and then sending the winner an ebook. Or, if you want to get more involved while also increasing your visibility, you can see if any of the author-friends you do newsletter swaps with are interested in teaming up for a group giveaway. This would allow you to offer multiple books to the winner, or, by pooling resources, give a larger prize like an Amazon gift card or a Kindle. If all of you spread the word through your own mailing lists and social media channels, you’ll reach a much wider audience than doing it alone, though don’t let that stop you from going solo if you’d like!
3) Go on a blog tour
You may not be able to get out there and visit bookstores all across the country, but you can hustle to get yourself invited onto book blogs all across the internet!
Blog tours are pretty straightforward, though a little time-consuming to set up. The basic idea is that you find a bunch of bloggers who both a) write about books in your genre, and b) are open to guest posts or interviews, and pitch yourself as a guest. At the same time, pitch your book to a variety of bloggers who offer reviews in exchange for a free copy of your book. This is an especially good strategy if you’re launching a new book, but can also help with a price promotion on a backlist title.
To start, make a list of all the blogs you can find that are relevant to the genre or subject of your book — places your target readers may realistically hang out. It’s okay if the related interest is only peripheral; what matters is that you can find an angle for a guest post that ties back into your work and pulls the audience in. Next, find out if the blogs have policies or submission guidelines for guest posts. If they do, make sure you follow them. No one likes being “cold-called” as if you haven’t taken the time to understand their site and what they offer. Create a pitch, tailoring it to each of the blogs. It doesn’t need to be too complicated: just introduce yourself, explain that you’d like to offer a guest post on [topic], then give them the titles of a few posts you have in mind that might appeal to their audience. Provide links to examples of your previous posts or writing experience and thank them for their time. Done and done!
Remember that a lot of the sites you approach are probably going to say “no” — or nothing at all. That’s okay. It’s nothing personal: blog owners get a lot of emails like this all the time, and if your pitch doesn’t quite interest them, just move on to the next one. Repeat until you’ve booked up enough spots for your tour!
Note: There are services that offer to arrange blog tours for you, but the results vary wildly. If you truly are trying to market on a budget, I’d recommend putting in the work yourself.
4) Optimize your Amazon page
If you’re looking for something a lot less labor-intensive, there are two big ways to adjust your Amazon page that may help boost sales with minimal effort.
First, make sure that you’ve chosen your book’s categories and keywords with care. These are a big part of how Amazon determines what kind of books to show to readers when they type something into the search bar. It’s crucial that you select categories and keywords that accurately reflect your book, without being so over-crowded that you’ll never compete. Finding that sweet spot can take time, but once you do, Amazon will do much of the work of helping readers find your title.
Next, you’ll want to make sure your book description is pulling its weight. An effective book description has a compelling hook, focuses on the characters and central conflict, and leaves readers with questions they’ll be dying to have answered. Throw in a few cleverly-placed keywords to help Amazon understand what your book is, and you’ll have copy that appeals to both readers and the all-important algorithms.
5) Boost your book on “readathon” hashtags
Lastly, if you’re comfortable on social media platforms, you might want to keep an eye out for some of the many, many readathons that happen all throughout the year.
If you’re not familiar with readathons, they’re pretty much what they say they are on the tin: for a set period of days, readers around the world build TBRs trying to cram in a bunch of books all centered around a theme. It’s a way of turning the solitary act of reading social, as well as allowing readers a chance to prioritize books around a particular topic. Often, these readathons come with particular challenges for participants, such as “read a book with green on the cover” or “read a book that features a protagonist over 40.”
There are so many readathons out there, it’s really just a matter of keeping your eyes out. From general-interest events like The Reading Rush or Tome Topple, to readathons promoting diverse perspectives like a Prideathon, Blackathon, IndigAThon, or the Disability Readathon, to ones centering on indie books like Indiecember, there’s sure to be something your book would fit under.
Once you’ve found an appropriate readathon, browse through the hashtag and see if there’s anyone asking for recommendations. Don’t be pushy with a sales pitch, though — unless they’ve asked specifically for authors to pitch them your own books, you’ll want to tread lightly here.
Still, there are plenty of people ready and eager to hear about books like yours. Even if you can’t find anyone open to being approached directly, drop your own post in the hashtag and get involved in the community! Share other people’s recommendations and TBRs, or even jump in and participate yourself. After all, if you write the genre you probably love reading it as well — and the more you genuinely hang out with your readers, making friends and being approachable, the more likely someone will decide to check out what you’ve written. At the very least, you’ll gain valuable insight into the tastes and reading habits of your market audience, and that’s never a bad thing!
Thanks for this Desiree.
I suggest that authors make sure they have an Amazon Central account where they can easily make changes to their product pages – both ebook and paperback – and make sure it looks the way you want it.
If you like fantasy stories with action, romance and a contemplative element, you’ll enjoy my fiction, so take a look in my bookshop before you go.
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