There are hundreds of ways to promote a self-published book.
However, if you don’t get the following nine basics right first, you could be wasting a lot of your time, energy and money.
Many, if not most authors who self-publish for the first time make mistakes, which is completely normal because you are trying to do something totally new and you don’t have much experience to fall back on to help you.
On top of that, you probably don’t have money to burn, so you try to launch and market your book on a shoestring budget. Some new authors take this even further and try to do absolutely everything for free.
In both cases, authors try to do everything themselves, which is fine up to a point. However, when you have very little knowledge or expertise in a certain skill that is necessary for self-publishing, it will show and reflect badly on both you and your book.
Cutting on expenses is one thing, but it is very rare to find a business of any kind, including self-publishing, that has succeeded on the back of the skills of one person and without a cent of investment.
I mention these issues because I will begin my advice on how to promote a self-published book with the three key elements a book needs to stand any chance or success.
If you think your book fails on any of the first three points, you will probably be wasting your time trying to implement the remaining tips and advice.
First, do you have the three book basics right?
1 . Have you written a very good book?
Of course, this is subjective, but by a very good book I mean a story, or a topic for non-fiction, that is interesting and worth reading. Did you use beta readers to give you feedback regarding this question? If you didn’t, how do you know your book is good? A self-publishing author must get independent feedback, as it is impossible for an author to judge their own work.
A good book needs to develop over time after the first draft and the only way this process can work is with external suggestions and criticism. An author doesn’t need to pay a fortune for a professional editor, but for a book to be worth reading, it does need external input to help an author polish and refine a manuscript before publishing.
Rough, mistake-ridden first drafts never sell at all well, if at all.
2. Will your book cover attract potential readers?
Did you make your own book cover? If you did, it probably screams out that you used MS Word by popping in an image and a title and then saved it in pdf before realising that it had to be in jpeg, so you converted it again. Homemade covers always look flat, due to low resolution and are usually lacking in eye-catching elements.
Unless you have very good expertise in book cover design and Photoshop, forget about creating your own book cover and get a professional on the job. Your book cover is the absolute number one promotional tool you have, so don’t cut corners. Without a professional ‘killer’ cover, your book will stand little or no chance.
A flat, dull, boring, amateur book cover is a sales killer.
If you don’t spend a cent on anything else, spend a little to get a professional cover designed for your book.
3. Does your book description hook potential book buyers?
How much time did you spend writing your book description? How many versions did you write? Did you ask a few people which one worked best?
Which words in your book description did you write with the clear intention of hooking a reader?
Or did you just reduce the essence of your story to 100 words or less and then tag on a “What will happen question” at the end of it?
Second only to your book cover, your book description is vital (read critical here) in attracting readers and then making sales. A weak, poorly written book description will not help you at all in gaining sales.
Take the time necessary to write a truly fantastic book description. Do some research on what makes a book description work and then put all your writing skills to work to create two or three versions, which you can then get feedback on to see which works best.
If you are certain you have the first three elements covered, read on.
4. Use the listing tools Amazon gives you so readers can find your book.
For most new self-publishing authors, the largest percentage of your sales income will initially come from Amazon, and especially Kindle ebooks.
To take advantage of how Amazon can help promote your book, make sure you select and use the best categories and keywords to ensure that your book is discoverable.
To get more search exposure, you should publish in both paperback and Kindle ebook, as you can then use different categories and keywords for each version.
If you decide to enrol in KDP Select, make sure you use the additional promotional means that Amazon allows. Use your free book days, set up countdown deals, and if your budget can afford it, use Amazon Ads.
5. Your blog is your best selling point after Amazon.
You can certainly have a website, but a well designed and regularly updated blog is by far the best means of book promotion after Amazon.
Your blog posts, if well written, will get indexed on Google and then hopefully a good proportion of your blog visitors will come to you organically.
For book promotion, this is absolute gold, because it is how people discover you as an author and your books. From my own experience, about 55% of my blog traffic is organic, and this traffic spends three times longer per visit on my blog than the traffic I get from social media.
6. Use social media, but use it wisely.
For most authors, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account and a Goodreads page are the three essential social media platforms for book promotion. Some also use Instagram, Medium and Google +.
The key to using social media for promoting books is to do a lot of communicating and informing but go easy on the blatant book buy links, such as your book cover image with a link to Amazon.
Also, as I mentioned above, using social media to promote your blog is fine and well worthwhile, but because of the fast moving nature of social media, site visits tend to be short. Usually to the linked page only, so it pays to carefully select what pages you share.
Social media is about getting known, which takes time, so don’t expect any overnight miracles.
7. Spread the word as much as you can.
Look for sites or services that can help get the word out about your book. There are many free sites, but as always, what you get for free is usually a lot less than what you can get if you spend a little.
A mixture of the two is often the best means, but be selective when deciding what book promotion services you decide to use.
Spending a lot of money on book promotion doesn’t necessarily equate to gaining sales, especially so if points one through to four in the list above are not right.
8. Learn how to link effectively.
One skill a self-publish author needs to master very quickly is how to create and use links. It is so important that I have written three articles that delve into all the types of book links your can and should use.
Good use of various types of links to your books and blog articles is essential in getting your promotional word out effectively.
9. Put away the scatter gun!
Don’t try to sell your book to everyone in the world, and especially not on social media.
A very small percentage of readers will be interested in your book, so you need to get to know your target readers, and aim your promotion at your target market.
If you write contemporary romance, it won’t be of much use following bricklayers and car salesmen. If you write teenage fantasy, you should be looking for where younger readers can be found. Perhaps Wattpad or Goodreads might be good places to start.
The same applies to the topics you write about on your blog. Select subjects that will be of interest to your target reader.
Promoting a self-published book is hard work and there are no shortcuts. Quality sells, so make sure you have a fantastic book first and foremost, and then do you very best to implement the basics of book promotion that I have outlined above.
Most importantly, have a fantastic cover, a killer book description, and get your categories and keywords working for you on Amazon and you will be 70% of the way there.