You thought the hard work was done. Your book is published either through a deal with a lesser known publishing company or you self-published. Either way there isn’t going to be a huge marketing campaign to sell your book. If Penguin, Little, Brown and Company or Harper Collins is going to publish your novel, you need to read no further. But like most struggling authors, it is up to you to publicize and sell your book. You need to find an audience, establish your name, and build a following of readers. In other words, it is up to you to create a desire to read your book.
You thought you just had to write the book, sorry, now you must learn how to sell the book. You may think that you have no clue about merchandising products, so let me help you go through the process.
- Set Up Website – One of the first things you need to do is set up an author’s website. This is so important as it will be a tool where your readers can find you and your books. This will become your “residence” on the web. I can’t think of any author who doesn’t depend on their website to communicate with their readers. It is important to update your website frequently and make sure it is easy for your readers to use. Check out your favorite author’s website to get a feel how it works.
- First you must set up a “domain” or web address for your “residence”. This is usually the author’s name, i.e. jdsmith.com. This is accomplished through a hosting site, i.e., GoDaddy, iPage, or Bluehost. Hosting is the service that connects and runs your website on the Internet. There is a monthly fee for this service.
- Next you need a “theme” which is a frame on which to design your website. It is important to have a theme that is easy to create and change. Of course, you need a theme that specifically shows off your books and you as an author. You can pay someone a lot of money to design a custom website, but once you start feeling comfortable working with the software, you will probably want to change it and it isn’t that difficult to create your own. There are so many themes out there and a lot of them are free; do a search and see if one appeals to you. A custom theme will cost some money (around $100), but if you choose one that is customized for authors and you feel comfortable using it, you can save without the expense of having someone design one for you. Some good themes are on Square Space, Word Press, and Web.com.
There are several step-by-step tutorials to help you set up your website and design your theme, i.e., www.godaddy.com or www.websitesetup.org. The one I liked can be found on https://www.thecreativepenn.com. It explains everything very simply step-by-step. (Suggestion: watch the video all the way through before doing anything. Once you feel comfortable, you can start, stop, rewind, and review each step. I watched the video on my tablet while I created the website on a desktop. It made it very easy to review steps before acting.) Before you start the process, you will need to have readily available:
- A bio,
- Image of each book,
- Both a brief and long description of each book,
- Links to retailers where your book will be sold,
- Contact information,
- Links to your social media,
- A picture of yourself.
- You need to include in your website:
- Your latest book. Most authors have their readers directed to a picture and brief synopsis of their latest book.
- What you want your reader to do once they connect to your website? Do you want them to buy your book? Add their name to your email list (we will cover this later)? Have them contact you?
- Social Media Sites – Ideally, you would already have a large group of people following you before your book is published, so when you announce your newly published book, buyers will be ready to buy it. You need to spend some time building followers on Facebook, Twitter, email, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. There are so many books available, if people don’t know about you or your book, they can’t buy it.
- Set up email List – Starting an email list is a great way to form a bond with your readers and share your information with them. You can notify everyone with one email – where you will be appearing for a book signing, any special offers or free books you decide to sponsor, or what new book you are working on. It would be a good idea to set up your website and email list before you publish your book. That way, you can add a page to the end of your novel with a link for the reader to give your book a review and sign up for your email list. It does take time to build a good list, but you need to start. There are several email services out there – Mailchimp, Aweber, and ConvertKit. Most are easy to use and provide a simple step-by-step setup. There is a charge for these email services, but most are offered on a free trial basis. Basically, this service will be a link to your website and will provide the reader with an easy way to send you their email address. They will receive confirmation and your list will grow over time. The nice thing is that when you want to contact your fans, you can do it with one email message.
- Where to Sell your Books – Deciding where to sell your book is a huge decision. Some publishers have their own websites, which can earn you more money. For example, Book Baby’s Book Shop pays a higher royalty percentage than Amazon. However, Amazon is known worldwide. Also don’t forget neighborhood independent bookstores. A bookstore called Changing Hands exists in my neighborhood and has been extremely successful in keeping and increasing their customers. They encourage local authors to submit their published books on consignment for a small fee. This bookstore gives special attention to children by creating a section with large floor pillows, couches, and lots of books just for young readers. The management knows that children who learn to love books at an early age remain book lovers the rest of their lives.
Whichever options you choose, be sure to make your book available in several forms – print, e-book, Kindle, and especially POD – Print on Demand. The good news is that today, books don’t have a short shelf life, your book can be available online for a long time. But it is up to you to keep it alive – do interviews, write blog pieces, join a book club, contact local newspapers, and post notices on public bulleting boards. Also another thing to remember is the price, especially if you are a new author. Remember it is better to sell fifteen e-books at $1.99 than two at $12. People are more apt to take a chance on a new author for a couple of dollars. Selling more books is your goal
- Seek Reviews – Everyone knows that good reviews can drive the sale of books. You can request your friends and family to buy your book and submit (hopefully) a good review. The more online reviews you receive will increase the likelihood more people will learn about and purchase your book.
- Reviews that are written by readers who post them are called “crowdsourced reviews”. They are posted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads. Contacting Amazon Top Customer Reviewers list is a time-intense process, but if you can get a few people to agree to review your book, it will pay off. You must research categories similar to your book, before contacting that reviewer. Finding their website, email address, or any contact information is another problem.
- There are some professional reviewers you can request such as Kindle Book Review, Readers’ Favorite and BookRazor.
- For additional information on finding reviewers, check out reviewsbythebanks.com/19-legitimate or www.ingramspark.com/blog/book-review
Submit your book for reviews and share those reviews with the online stores selling your book. Also update your social media outlets and let your followers become excited to read your book. When readers discover a book they enjoy, they become curious about the author. Keep you website up-to-date and interesting. Stay engaged.
I know this is a lot of information, but just take one step at a time. You will be surprised how easy it is to set up your website and email list. You will be very proud of yourself as you begin your journey towards becoming a full-fledged successful author.
Carolyn Grady lives in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, with her husband. Carolyn spent most of her career in the field of education working for a large Phoenix public school district. Her latest novel, The Girl in Hemingway’s Studio, was given a 5-star review by Readers’ Favorite and was featured in Midwest Book Review’s magazine “Reviewer’s Bookwatch” in their August 2019 issue. (www.clgrady.com)