by Susan DeFreitas, Collaborative Editor and Marketing Strategist
The process of publishing independently is often the end of a long road for you as the author, one that may include years of writing, rewriting, revising, and polishing—not to mention the complex process of choosing a cover design, determining printing and distribution options, and, oh yeah, actually letting people know that you’re publishing a book!
As a consequence, questions concerning publicity and marketing are often the furthest thing from the author’s mind, at precisely the point when they’re most critical.
At this point, authors often just want to be done with this thing (in fact, by the time everyone is cooing over your “book baby,” you may never want to set eyes on it again). But if you’ve invested both the time and the money necessary to produce a professional-quality independently published book, you owe it to yourself to take your marketing and publicity seriously as well.
Here are three tips for independently publishing authors:
1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Not sure what genre your book fits in? Not sure how books like yours are generally described? Unsure as to comps (comparable titles)?
If so, you’re not alone—many indie authors have written books that don’t quite fit the traditional mold (which may be part of their motivation for independently publishing). The process of reducing your sprawling, complex work of art to a few pithy sentences of promotional copy can feel painful—maybe even impossible—but it’s absolutely essential to that book of yours getting read.
Traditionally publishing authors tend to get a jump on this part of the process because they must “sell” the book to agents and editors before it’s accepted for publication. However, for indie authors, this part of the process can easily get lost in the shuffle, especially with their first book, creating a lot of stress at the end.
For that reason, I recommend that independently publishing authors begin the process of working out their basic promotional copy—e.g., what will appear on the back cover of the book, as well as the way it will be described on online retailers like IndieBound and Amazon—as soon as they’ve finished their line edit. (It’ll give you something to do while you’re waiting on your proofread!)
Oh, and this: consider getting outside input on your basic promo copy, as it can be difficult to get enough perspective to see what really pulls.
2. Don’t Forget Your People
Book bloggers, book reviewers, journalists, and podcast hosts—the list of folks who should know about your book might seem like it goes on and on.
Reaching out to industry insiders, influencers, and mavens is essential, because that’s what will ultimately produce some buzz for your book, helping you reach potential readers who lie beyond your current circles.
But in that hustle to pitch and connect, don’t forget to engage with the group of people most likely to actually run out and buy your book: the people you do know, including friends, family, coworkers, and old classmates.
3. Research Your Pitches
If you’ve hired someone to handle your publicity, great! But if you’re handling this yourself (and not just going with paid reviews), here’s a tip that’s likely to make a big difference in your results: research the tastes of book reviewers and book bloggers before you pitch, and show that you’ve done your research in the first line of your letter.
Wait, you might say—doesn’t that take a lot of time? Sure. But so does sending out all those publicity materials that you worked so hard on, about the book that you worked so hard on, to folks who have no interest whatsoever in reviewing books in that genre or style.
The internet offers a wealth of resources for getting to know the tastes of reviewers and bloggers, and doing so before you send your pitch is really no more than a common courtesy in this day and age. (No one wants to get a generic pitch for the sort of book they don’t even review.)
Along those lines, here’s a time-saving tip: If there’s a recent book that you consider a comp and a given reviewer loved it, there’s a good chance they’ll love your book too—and that’s definitely the sort of thing you’ll want to mention in the first line of your pitch!
Finally, remember that there are a million things to learn about book marketing and publicity, just as there are a million things to learn about writing. You’ll never be able to learn, much less do, them all, so just pick a few tactics you can do well rather than trying to do them all.
And then get back to work on book two! Your fans will be waiting for you.
Susan DeFreitas is a collaborative editor and marketing strategist with Indigo, as well as the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a 2017 Gold IPPY Award. With a background in marketing and publicity, she’s somewhat unique among writers, in that she doesn’t find this sort of thing in the least bit distasteful.