Congrats! You’ve finished your novel! You’ve edited, revised, and polished that baby until it’s not only a well-crafted story, but flawless in execution. Here’s what you need to do next before you hit publish. These are marketing techniques that I’ve found effective as an indie author.
Hire a professional editor.
If this is your first novel ever, it’s likely you need a developmental or content edit before you even think about a copy or line edit. Hire someone experienced in editing books in your book’s genre. A good developmental editor will not only make sure your story has proper plot development, character arcs, and other craft essentials, but that your novel fits market standards of your genre.
Make sure once the developmental edits are done that you get a copy/line editor for your book.
Hiring a good editor is your most important marketing strategy because if the book has plot holes, questionable content, poor grammar, and typos, reviewers will skewer your book and give it low ratings, or worse, give no reviews at all.
Don’t think just because X, Y, or Z book is awful and still gets sales means yours will too. Chances are those books have a publishing company’s marketing team behind it. Indie authors simply don’t have that clout.
Hire a professional cover artist.
Despite the old adage, people do judge books by their covers. Unless you are a professional artist and designer, it will show if you try to slap something together in photoshop. For the love of all that is original, don’t use free stock images.
Those are fine for blogs or social media, but you don’t want the same cover as seventy other self-published novels out there. If the image you’ve used for your cover is all over the internet because you don’t own the rights, then readers will assume your work is poor quality too.
A poorly formatted book will not only look unprofessional but will turn readers away. If you don’t have money upfront for a professional formatter, there are formatting services out there that will do it for a percentage of your royalties. For example, Draft2digital (https://www.draft2digital.com) formats your book for 10% of your profit.
Fiverr.com features freelance formatters that will format your book for a fee. Always check references before hiring anyone to work on your book!
Another option is a formatting program like Vellum. Unfortunately, Vellum is only available for Mac.
Now that you have your professional cover, editing, and formatting, let’s talk marketing strategy.
Create a Marketing Strategy
Now that you have your professional cover, editing, and formatting, let’s talk marketing strategy for independently published books.
Do you have an advertising budget?
Sounds scary right? Investing in your indie author business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Advertisements don’t have to be costly to be effective. All it takes is research and knowing where to place your money where your dollar (or whatever currency you use) is most effective.
To run a Facebook ad (or boosted post) you can invest as little as ten dollars and reach a thousand readers or more. Facebook ads will also be featured on Instagram for no additional charge.
Be careful, they’ll use messenger as part of their ad service. Turn the messenger ads feature off, (unless you don’t mind getting a lot of angry messages for spamming and no clicks on your ad).
Facebook ads can be as targeted or as broad as you’d like them to be. Facebook allows you to adjust your target audience by demographics.
Make sure that you select “website visits” as the goal for any FB ads and use a link to where you sell your books as the “website” link. If you allow Facebook to select, they will select “audience engagement” which means FB will display the ad to people likely to hit “like” or comment on your ad, but not actually click on the link and buy the book. I attribute this to many indie authors’ Facebook campaigns failing.
You can also select the type of audience that will likely buy your book by selecting authors in genre under “interests” section.
It will take some research to find your target audience and when your ads will be most effective to run.
(Note: From American Thanksgiving until January 1st, major publishers and other companies invest into Facebook ads. Your small-time budget ad will get fewer views.)
Twitter Ads (promoted Tweet) will be more costly, the lowest starting at $50, but you’ll reach tens of thousands of potential readers in a short amount of time.
TikTok: I haven’t paid for ads on TikTok, but if you decide to reach out to fans through this app, seek out BookTok and AuthorTok. I have increased my sales simply by engaging with these communities. Do your research: watch what other authors in your genre are doing on there and emulate them.
Rather than spending on ads there, I’ve done a giveaway for signed copies of the second book in my series. This led to an increase in sales of the first book. BookTokers love to share their book mail, so I got free ads/promotion through this giveaway.
Pinterest Ads (promoted pins) are a per-day bid. You can set how much total you’ll spend. Pinterest ads are a shot in the dark, but I’ve received a lot of clicks on my ads on Pinterest. (This is part of why investing in a good cover is important. The cover is the reader’s first draw.)
Amazon ads are set up as a bid type of ad. Honestly, I’ve seen the least results from Amazon despite Amazon being the place I sell my novellas. I’m researching more on how to change that, but I think it might boil down to my budget versus the budget of other indie authors and publishers bidding for ads.
Book Promotion Sites:
For a fee, some book promotion sites will place your book in large number of book blogs, book rec sites, feature your cover on Bookstagrammer’s Instagram account, Tweet promotions for your book, send out newsletters to their subscribers, etc. Bookbub, Bookbuzz, and Bookfunnel are a few of these services. As with everything else, research which promotion site authors in your genre use since that will likely be the most effective for you.
What is an ARC?
ARC is an acronym for advanced reader copy. Publishing houses have used ARC readers for years with success, and the indie author industry has caught on. While some publishing houses send out free copies of a book to editorial review companies or periodical publications tailored to genre, an indie author might not have the sort of money or clout to pay for a professional editorial review. If you do, awesome. I don’t, so I can’t write on that experience.
If you are planning on using Kindle Direct Publishing’s Kindle Unlimited Service, I would look up their terms of service before giving anyone a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Some authors were paying for good reviews (Yes, that industry exists. No, I don’t suggest it. It’s unethical and often illegal, going against most bookseller’s terms of service.
Here are a few places you can temporarily place your book for a review before your release date:
Netgalley: (https://www.netgalley.com) For a fee, you can place your books for free for honest reviews on Goodreads, etc. That fee is pretty steep, but the reviewers on this site are ranked pretty high in the Goodreads rank stack and have big followings.
Book Sprout: (https://booksprout.com) You can place books here for free in exchange for an honest review. For piracy protection, they ask for a fee.
Pubby: (https://pubby.com) This site works more like a review swap. You read and review books for points. After you’ve collected points, you can feature your book on their site. You can choose to offer your book for free or have the reviewers purchase the book.
Free Ways to Market Your Book:
If you consider your time as money, there are no free ways to market your book, but if you have more time than money, there are ways to promote your book.
Social Media Presence: As an indie author looking at social media to market may seem overwhelming. There are so many trending platforms that come and go.
- Assess your target audience. Where is that demographic on social media? That’s where you need to be. Seek out the social media accounts run by the popular authors in your genre and ascertain where they get the most interaction.
- Make it relevant: Content is everything. How can your social media add to your target audience’s social experience so that they want to invest in more of you, or, in other words, your books?
- Do you know authors who are targeting the same audience? How can you collaborate on social media? One example of this marketing strategy is a group of women authors created a genre called Paranormal Women’s Fiction (PWF) and a fan group on Facebook with lots of interaction.
- Schedule your content. Most social media sites have an option to schedule your posts, tweets, videos, etc. If you’re not available 24/7, reserve an hour a week to schedule the content.
Author Website/Blog: On my blog, I write about writing, complete book reviews, and conduct interviews with indie authors. I have 200 followers of my blog, and a lot of them are also readers.
Newsletter Swap: If you have a newsletter, find other authors in your genre willing to feature your books in exchange for featuring theirs in your newsletter.
Again, these are methods I’ve personally found effective for steady sales. There are no guarantees that your book will sell, even with all that I’ve suggested. The market is fickle, and art is subjective. Regardless, I wish you luck on your indie author journey.