Monday, 12 September 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: Media exposure and reviews

Advice for Indie Authors: Media exposure and reviews
The Drought is now less than two weeks away from official publication date. On September 24 my novel will be available to the masses of book lovers everywhere. I can’t wait! The only thing getting in the way of my excitement is that tumbleweed which seems to be hanging around.

Let’s face facts – as an indie author I don’t have the benefit of a well-oiled marketing machine promoting my book and drumming up a buzz that every book launch needs. What I have is me, myself, and I. So what have I been doing for the last few weeks I hear you say? Allow me to explain.

At the start of August I received the first batch of printed copies of my book. As I explained in one of my previous blogs, it was time to sell, sell, sell! I am pleased to say that sales have been going reasonably well with about 60 copies sold already to friends and family. Not a bad start, and to encourage those sales I offered signed copies through my website.

I have been plugging the signed copies at every opportunity via my social network feeds and emails, and as a result I have made sales to people who I haven’t seen in years. It might not be a huge number, but these people are going to be key in my future promotion sales plan. I now have people who have read the book and if they like it, they can tell their friends about it, or like my Facebook page, or Tweet about it. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. These are the people who will write those first initial reviews on Amazon, and anyone who shops online knows how a good review can influence your decision to buy.

However, I knew I couldn’t simply rely on sales to friends and family. After all, I’m not that popular! Sales would soon start to dry up. My next step was to start circulating the press release that the marketing team at Pen Press had put together for me as part of my self-publishing package. I decided to keep it local to begin with. Having a background of being a reporter on a local paper, I know what sort of hook to use when approaching local newspapers to cover a story.

Think about your connection to an area and send it to papers where you live, where you work, where you went you school. Send it to as many local newspapers as possible and make sure to mention early on what your connection is with that local area. Local newspapers want stories about local people – it might sound obvious but it’s amazing how many times people miss an opportunity by not flagging that up early.

From this I have already managed to get some good media coverage. As soon as I had a story in my local paper I took it into my local Waterstones and asked if I could do a book signing in their store. I have now been pencilled in for a Christmas book signing!

The one mistake I made in this whole process was not sending the press release out earlier. I identified other titles and media I should target by matching up the audience I was trying to target with the readers of different magazines or newspapers. I sent it to all of the lads mags and a couple of women’s magazines. I actually had a response from a features writer at Glamour magazine, but they had just put their October issue to press, so I had missed the boat. However, they did ask if I would mind being kept on file if they ever needed a funny male writer, so something could potentially come from that in the future.

You must have an entrepreneurial way of thinking. No one is going to sell your book other than you, so think about what else you can do to open up access to a wider audience. There are a large number of forums out there on the world wide web, full of book lovers discussing what they want to read next. Join these communities and instead of just plugging your book, engage with these people. I have already started selling copies of the eBook and yesterday, someone from Australia came on to my website and bought a signed copy of my book. This marked the first sale of my novel to someone I don’t know – an indication that my marketing plan is starting to work!

Facebook, Twitter, and blogging are a great way of engaging with people who might be interested in your book. Last week I decided to start a competition where I offered a signed copy of The Drought and a £25 Amazon voucher as a prize to one winner (chosen at random) who followed me on Twitter or ‘Likes’ my Facebook page. Using the hash-tag #competition and asking people I know to help promote this on their status updates or tweets has resulted in over 150 new followers and Likes from people I don’t know in under a week. This is all free publicity (well, apart from the £25 Amazon voucher!) and now I have an audience to promote to that I didn’t have a week ago.

This is the sort of promotion you will have to keep on doing long after your book has been published. I am already working on a new strategy that I am about to unleash on the unsuspecting world this week, but I’ll save that for another blog!

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