Friday, 26 August 2016

So you’ve brought out a book – now what…? [Guest post, by Jo Zebedee]

There are millions of books on Amazon and all their authors are sure they’re the best thing ever produced. They’re all chasing sales and reviews. How on Earth does yours get found?

I’ve been published just over a year now, and I have three books out, two traditionally published, one self published. For the purposes of this blog I’ll focus on the self published book with the big caveat that none of this is a whole lot different for any indie book (or, indeed, I’m told, for any author.)

This then is how to promote – what I did right, what I did wrong, what I’ve learned for the future.

So, let’s blow my own trumpet. What did I get right?

  1. Promotion sites. These are a catch-22 in some ways. You need reviews to get accepted – but you can’t get reviews until you get readers (see later, in what I didn’t do so well.) Once you get the reviews, however, assuming you do, this is where Kindle Unlimited comes into its own. You can discount to 99p for a week and retain your 70% margin. If you can combine that with a good promotional campaign, you can get a lot of sales.

The king of promo sites is Bookbub. It’s expensive – because it works. I’ve had two campaigns in the UK and each has paid for itself and resulted in additional reviews. But don’t discount some of the others – I like Book Barbarian a lot, and always get good results, and there are many others. Google and ask around – see what works well for your genre and how much it costs for your genre.

If you do this sort of promo, work out your break-even and make sure it’s realistic in terms of sales.

  1. Word of mouth. This, I am good at, apparently. Building some SM presence, and some support. A couple of tips come to mind:

Don’t spread yourself too thinly. There’s a temptation to be on every SM site and every forum, and you’ll end up exhausted. Pick a couple and do them well. My main platforms are Facebook, Twitter and two specialist science fiction and fantasy sites (as well as a few Facebook groups).

Be yourself. There will always be people who don’t like you, of course. But, mostly, if you engage, you’ll find some that do. But a fake persona stands out a mile after a time.

Promote others. Good will is important. Call out for others, share their events and news. Nothing is more boring than a timeline with one subject, and only one book, on it.

  1. Blogging. I started my blog ( in 2014, having blogged previously on a specialist forum. I reckon in the first year I had about 20 hits per week. Sometimes less. Now I’ve passed 20,000 hits.

Blog regularly. Blog only if you like it, and it’s not a chore. Try to stay around some sort of theme. Try to keep some sort of voice – mine is relaxed and chatty. Try not to use it for promo – no one wants a bore.

So, great, I did okay with those. What didn’t I do so well at:

  1. Using my website. I have one and have done for a long time, and the nice domain name of But I used it mostly as a placeholder and not as a live site.

Not anymore. I now update much more regularly and intend to keep doing so. I’ve started a mailing list in the newsletter section (see in a moment), that’s slowly building. I plan to release exclusive content onto it and hope to build it more.

Why, since I already have a good Facebook platform? Well, Facebook pages are very ineffective at delivering content with a very low spread unless you’re prepared to pay for them (Facebook ads are another place I want to explore.) Plus, you don’t own them. That content could be taken down at any point. My website is mine….

  1. Reviews. This is where I wasn’t cheeky enough, or aggressive enough at the start. Reviews are important. The number of reviews is very important. Ask people, nicely, if they’d consider doing one. Offer free copies in exchange for reviews. Politely ask bloggers etc it they’d consider one. You want to be hitting 50 or so for both the Amazons – I’m crawling up there at the moment.

  1. Mailing list. I’ve been slow on this one (but, really, no one can cover all this, write, have a job – as most writers have to – and any sort of life. Do the best you can, bit by bit.)

Basically, if you’re an author, you want one of these. I use a mailchimp extension to Wordpress and it’s reasonably straightforward. What it means is that if people sign up I can launch one email (which takes about 10 minutes) and send it out to everyone.

Don’t spam. Only release one if you have something relevant. For me that’ll be free content, launches and events. Anything else goes in my blog.

And, really, that last point is the most salient – know what goes where. Each platform is different, each brings something else – and if they don’t, they’re not worth the additional effort.

Good luck with it!

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