In today’s world, it is easier than ever to become a self-published author. Websites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords make it not only easy, but absolutely free to publish your eBook for availability to millions of Kindle, Nook, and iPad/Pod/Phone users. Print-on-demand services make it ridiculously easy to have printed editions of your book available for sale. With eBook retailers offering up to 70% royalties, why would anyone bother to even try to go through a traditional publisher?
I’ll tell you why: reputation/credibility, target audience reach, marketing channels, and marketing budgets.
Does this mean that going the indie route with your book is destined for failure? No, it doesn’t. Can your indie book be a success? Maybe. Is it possible to market your indie book without the thousands upon thousands of dollars spent by a major publisher? Of course it is. Heck, if you are willing to take the time to do a little digging, there are tons of resources available for the budget-conscious indie writer.
I know that like the majority of indie writers out there, writing is not my primary occupation, nor do I have the money to spend thousands on marketing my book. I hope that I can give a few options to those of you out there who are in the same boat. Successfully marketing your self-published indie book can be done without bankrupting your wallet.
Be prepared for some website name dropping.
Let’s start with the most important marketing tool available to any writer: reviews. You know the whole “word of mouth” method of advertising? With books, that starts with reviews. For the burgeoning indie author, reviews are critical. Positive reviews bolster your credibility as a writer and encourage potential readers take the plunge in trying out a relative unknown. And guess what? You can get these reviews for the amazing low cost of(drum-roll)...nothing.
There are dozens of blogs and review sites out there who, time allowing, would love to read your book and give it an honest review. These free reviewers understandably receive a lot of submissions, so you may be waiting a good couple months to get your review. Remember, though, it’s free. These reviewers(usually bloggers) will typically post reviews on whatever sites you wish(Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc.) as well as on their site which could have a few dozen to a few thousand followers.
And don’t think that these reviewers are hard to find. Here, I’ll start you out with over 100 of them listed on the following site: http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/. Just make sure they accept your book’s genre, follow their submission guidelines, and send them a copy. If you want reviews to coincide with your book’s release, just make sure to submit a copy well in advance. Some will even prioritize advance reader copies to get the review up by the time of release.
There is no shortage of sites that will review your book in a timelier manner, but they usually involve a fee. Here’s a couple examples:
www.thebookplex.com – ($45 for 5 detailed book reviews, $85 for 10, 3 week turn around)
http://readersfavorite.com/ - (Free for 10-12 week review if accepted, $59 for 1 express review, $129 for 3, $199 for 5. Express reviews 2-3 week turnaround)
These are just a couple(but not all) of the cheaper options available. There are loads more sites such as Kirkus Reviews, for example, that are not quite as budget friendly. With places such as Kirkus, you’re not just paying for the review, but the reputation of the Kirkus name on your review.
Reviews mean little to nothing if no one actually sees your book and therefore all of you new, (hopefully) great reviews. Here’s where the more time-consuming portion of your marketing effort comes into play.
Having a good web presence can allow your prospective readers to get to know you: profiles on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, personal blogs, etc. There are countless forums for writers and readers where you can plug your new book (just make sure you follow their guidelines for self-promotion or they’ll be none too happy with you). Search out forums specific to your genre with a simple Google search. Join some writer/reading groups on Facebook. Join Goodreads and gain access to the dozens of groups where your release can be posted. All of this is monetarily free, but a little taxing on your time.
Okay, so you’ve got your reviews, posted on a few dozen message boards/forums about your new release, and you’re starting to see some sales. But, you want more. Your book—your pride and joy—deserves more exposure. You want to try some traditional advertising, but it’s just prohibitively expensive, right? Not always.
Time for a little more name dropping. For a mere 5 bucks, you can have your book displayed as the featured book on www.indiebooklounge.com for five weekdays, or the weekend. Want to instead have a banner ad listed in your genre’s section on the site? 5 bucks.
If you want to spend a little more money and your book is available for Kindle, www.kindlenationdaily.com offers a wide range of advertising options from 30 bucks to highlight your book as a free book of the day(if you’re a member of Amazon’s KDP Select and you use a free promotion day) to 500 bucks for combination packages. Many of their moderately priced advertising packages ($100-$200) will get your book promoted to tens of thousands of potential buyers through notifications on their Facebook pages, Twitter pages, etc. This site even lets you look at the results of every single book they have advertised. They are that sure of what
they can do for your book sales.
Another great site (warning, this one is Kindle exclusive and usually requires your book to have a certain number of reviews with an average of 4 stars on Amazon) is http://thekindlebookreview.blogspot.com/. Have 40 bucks and at least 10 reviews with a 4 star average? Try their Twitterlicious Social Buzz option that can get your book promoted to a potential group of nearly 500,000 Twitter users. This particular site also offers many author services for formatting/editing your book, free reviews, and marketing tips.
These are not in any way your only choices. For example, you can advertise on Goodreads or Facebook and are even able to submit how much your marketing budget is to find out just what they will do to advertise your book for how much you’re willing to spend. See, even the budget-conscious indie writer can find effective, yet affordable, advertising.
If you feel that your book is great enough to stand up on its own in its genre (and you should if you’re thinking on self-publishing), many different sites and organizations run contests to determine the best books of the year. Some of these contests are indie-specific. Many will even offer downloadable images to tag onto your book cover that will display that you were a finalist/winner in their contest. Your book will be judged in its own genre and some of these contests even include a guaranteed review of your book(which is a good thing, remember?).
Many of the 2012 contests are rapidly approaching the submission deadline if not already closed, but 2013 submissions will be focused on before the end of the year. The costs of submissions vary and can get up to $100+, but the exposure you gain if you become a finalist (or even better, a winner!) can be well worth the cost. Plus, some offer cash prizes or advertising bundles for the winners. Here’s a couple examples to check out:
http://readersfavorite.com/ (review of your book included)
(review of your book included)
This list is by no means all-inclusive. I have personally registered for two of these (Kindle Book Review - $15, and Reader’s Favorite - $89). Even the budget-conscious indie writer can participate in some of these contests.
All the things I have mentioned are in no way the only ways to affordably market your book or necessarily the best places to use. I just wish to convey that getting your indie book out there is affordable and not that difficult if you’re willing to invest the time (if you’re not willing to invest the time, you may want to rethink your self-publishing aspirations). I intend this information to simply offer a starting point. Plus, I’m sure Scott, as gracious as he has been to allow me to write this guest blog, wouldn’t appreciate me taking up any more room on his page with my rambling.
Just remember, not all of these options will give you immediate results (free reviews and contests especially), so a little patience will be necessary. Do not give up on your dreams of indie success just because you don’t sell a thousand copies on day one(and if you do, maybe you would be better qualified to write this guest blog...).
Brian Beam has recently self-published his debut fantasy eBook, The Dragon Gem, on Amazon, giving him the opportunity to get to experience the ins and outs of the indie community.